Tiffany had her own cottage now, with a dairy shed. Even though people were happy to give her cheeses, she still enjoyed making her own, especially with one of them mumbling around her feet. Harold seemed to be in a good mood, inasmuch as a sentient blue cheese can have a mood. The Feegles were spying unobtrusively, and she had plenty of firewood for tonight's snowstorm. All was well on the Disc –
Spinning around, Tiffany saw a girl slightly older than she was huddled against the corner, where no one had been before. Odd, things like that usually happened up in the Ramtops, not here. She rushed over to her side.
The girl wore some kind of black robe, with long, frizzy brown hair. The girl, not the robe. Everything appeared covered in blood, mud, and sweat, like she had been through a forest of thorns amidst rain. Her face was so drawn, it could have been something done by Leonard da Quirm in his anatomy sketches.
"It would be silly to ask you if you are all right, because in my experience sudden apparitions are not all right, but how may I help you?" Tiffany knelt by her and felt her forehead, which burned to the touch.
"Idiot…mispronouncing spells…broken wand…Ron's fault…Mother! Father!" With such mutterings accomplished, the girl opened her eyes a fraction. "Where?"
"This is the Chalk. I am the witch of the Chalk Downs." Tiffany said this with an element of pride, since no witch before her would have dared to say so openly. "Considering that you're speaking in disconnected phrases, I would guess that you're disoriented."
The girl simply groaned.
"Tell me where it hurts." The girl made no reply, so Tiffany clenched her teeth and entered her mind. How very strange! She read something about a battle, and people using wands for magic as if they were fairy godmothers, and torture. When Tiffany emerged, she saw no marks on the girl and no breaks in the skin. What kind of physical torment left no signs?
She took the girl's pain and made it into a little ball, placing in her pocket, just as Granny Weatherwax taught her. Instantly, the girl's eyes opened again, and she sat up. "What happened?" she asked.
"First things first. What's your name? Are you hungry? If you're in need of highly nourishing yogurt, I have that available."
"Hermione Granger. Where am I?" Hermione's gaze took in the stacks of wrapped cheeses, the churn, and the window. "I think there's a little blue man looking at us, but I might be hallucinating."
"Oh, them." Tiffany looked over her shoulder, and put her hands on her hips. "Is it Daft Wullie or No'-as-big-as-Medium-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock Jock? I know you're watching me on rotation."
"Ach, no, it be the hands on the hips! And the pursin' o' the lips!" The speaker had enough heavy Glaswegian accent for several full-grown humans.
"It'll be the 'tappin' o' the feets' if you don't show yourselves," Tifanny threatened.
Hermione groaned. "I think I'm in a coma. Hey, I don't hurt anymore."
"I took your pain away."
"Are you a witch, too?"
"The pointy hat would indicate it – what do you mean, 'too'?"
"I'm a witch." Hermione looked around her. "But where's my wand? I lost my wand!"
"That's what this stick was? It doesn't look like a wand. It doesn't have a star or mystic runes or anything. Feegles, I'm waiting!" Tiffany handed her the wand that had rolled across the floor.
A tiny blue blur scooted over and tugged on the edge of Tiffany's skirt. "It's me, hag." Rob Anybody stopped picking his teeth and removed some grass from his beard, which for a Feegle was extremely formal and courtly. "Who's this bigjob? Is she a hag, belikes?"
"She says she is. Listen, I know you're in contact with the Long Lake Clan."
"Ah, them's those with t'verra comp-li-cated documents. I can read them noo, at least the farst sentence. I been practicin'." Rob Anybody waited for applause.
"I appreciate it," Tiffany said. "Could you tell the Long Lake Clan to tell Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg that a new witch has appeared, and I may need to see them about it?"
"We'll do it oursel's. Nothin's too good for our former kelda."
"Thanks. You may take one of Mr. Niles' sheep, and I will answer for it. One of his sheep had triplets last year, and I had to untangle all of them, and he didn't give me anything in exchange."
Rob Anybody grinned. "I would'na suppose ye'll have any o' that Sheep's Liniment?"
"No," Tiffany responded. Rob Anybody sped away.
"I don't believe this," Hermione sighed.
"The Nac Mac Feegle are all right when you understand them. Let's leave the shed and go into my cottage, and we can sort things out. Don't put your hand in your pocket, because it will be unpleasant if you do."
Her cottage pleased Tiffany. Roland wanted to build her one made of stone, at the very least, but she said she wouldn't have one until ever other person on the Chalk had one, too. It only had one room, but that room had her paintings on the wall, a rocking chair, and ordinary chair, a cozy fireplace, some pots and pans for cooking, and even a few books beside her little bed.
Hermione must not have seen it that way, because she said, "I'm sorry to impose anything. I understand if you can't spare much."
"I'm a witch. It's my job to help people. Would you prefer the rocker or the standing chair?"
"Standing, please. I feel sort of sick. Where am I again?" Hermione rubbed her temples.
"I told you, you're on the Chalk. Where were you before?" Tiffany brought out the kettle and set it over the fire to brew. She knew Margrat Garlick used to make all the tea for Granny and Nanny, which seemed funny when she thought of her as the Queen of Lancre now. Queen Magrat was sending her letters about how to make the transition from witch to royalty, though Tiffany thought if Roland didn't want her to stay a witch, he could go back to the Underworld.
"Where is the Chalk?"
"Hubward and downhill of the Ramtops, on the Continent, widdershins of Ankh-Morpork. It's all sheep around here, along with the Nac Mac Feegle. Where were you, again?"
Hermione hugged herself, and her voice shook. "This is all gibberish to me. I was in England."
"I know the geography of the Disc, and there is no land of Eng, unless it's on the continent of XXXX, which nobody knows about except the people there."
"Great. Just great." Her words came in liquid spurts now. "Ron and I were fighting the Death Eaters. They killed my parents, and they were going to kill me, and I meant to do a nonverbal spell, but I couldn't think about anything except how I wanted to be anywhere but there, and I must have Disapparated wrong."
"The spell did work," Tiffany pointed out, puzzling over the new word, which Dr. Sensibility Bustle failed to translate for her. He must have not known it either. "You weren't specific enough. That always happens if you're not specific enough. What were your exact thoughts? Care for some tea? It's a cold afternoon."
Hermione nodded. "I haven't eaten anything for a while. My thoughts were 'I need to be in a better place. The world is torn up by this war, and I can't take it anymore.'"
"This is about as peaceful as anywhere gets." Tiffany handed her a chipped mug. "We only fear the weather. Nobody wants to steal from us, because all we have is sheep."
"My parents are dead," Hermione repeated, hollowly. She sipped. "Your tea…"
"I'm not very good at making it. I make cheeses well, though. Speaking of cheeses…" Tiffany heard a knocking sound at the door and opened it. "Harold! Aren't you with the Feegles now?"
"Hnr hnr hnr," said Harold, crouching in his bit of tartan cloth.
"Well, all right. Don't come too near the fire, or you'll be melted sentient cheese, which would be a terrible thing, and very confusing." Tiffany let him in and came back to Hermione. "A lot of witches have another job, too, and I'm a dairymaid. One day my jobs got mixed, and I ended up with Harold."
"It's alive," Hermione pointed out.
"He is. I think of Harold as a 'he'. I'm sorry about your parents. It must feel terrible to not be there to sit up with their bodies."
"You don't have that tradition? That's one of the witches' duties here, to watch over the dying and lay out the dead."
"You mean you let everybody know you're a witch?"
"Everybody needs witches. In the cities you have doctors, midwives, veterinarians, lawyers, therapists, and judges, but here you need witches."
Hermione pondered this. "Where I come from, we don't let people who don't have magic know about the people who do."
"If they would kill you for it, that makes sense." Tiffany sat down with her mug of tea and Harold jumped into her lap, still making 'hnr hnr' noises.
"They wouldn't believe it, and if they did, they'd be bothering us all the time."
A hard look entered Tiffany's usual intelligent, kind face. "How very selfish!"