Ghost followed Harry and Severus across the lawn, looking curiously around as he did so. The shaman wasn't used to seeing large castles, despite his recent sojourn in the Society castle. On his shoulder, Shriek peered about, her eyes taking in everything. Suddenly the familiar turned and cawed at Skull, "So, are you the only raven here, or are there more of you?"
"Until now, my lady, I was the only one here," Skull replied quietly, giving his tail a roguish flip.
"I see. You must have gotten lonely then."
"Sometimes. But Sev and Harry keep me busy."
Severus snorted. "Don't let him fool you, he's always into mischief."
Ghost grinned. "A typical raven. Their mischievous nature is part of their charm."
"Until it drives you crazy," Severus said. "But, Skull has saved my life many times, so I'll put up with it."
"I understand completely," the shaman chuckled.
"Is there a reason why your raven is white, sir?" Harry asked curiously.
"Just Ghost, Harry. No need to sir me," Ghost corrected. "As for why Shriek is white, it' because she came from the spirit realm. When I went on my vision quest when I was thirteen, and was chosen by Raven, Shriek came to me. She is not only my familiar, but my spirit guide, thus she is white."
"Do all shamans have raven familiars where you're from?"
Ghost shook his head. "No. A shaman's familiar can be any sort of animal, though usually it tends to be similar to one's manitou. One shaman I knew when I was a boy had a black bear as his familiar."
"A bear?" Severus exclaimed.
"Yup. Now there was one guy you didn't want to mess with," Ghost said.
They entered the castle, and Severus said, "I've arranged for a suite for you and your familiar, next to my quarters. You can settle in and discuss your tutoring schedule with Harry and me, then we'll go to breakfast in the Great Hall and you can meet Headmaster Dumbledore and the rest of the staff."
"Thank you, Severus. I appreciate the hospitality."
"It's the least I can do, since you won't accept a fee."
"I'm a Windfar shaman, which means I believe in a duty to instruct an apprentice in need." Ghost told them. He looked at Harry and said, "I heard you've been having difficulties with your Travelling ability. Don't worry, I'll get you sorted out, Harry. Shriek and I have trained many young Travelers."
Harry smiled up at his new tutor. He had a feeling that studying with Ghost was going to be a very interesting experience.
Some of the students they passed, heading towards the hall for breakfast, stared at their unusual guest. But seeing he was in the company of the Potions Master and Harry, they did not stop and talk, figuring Snape was in a hurry. Ghost nodded pleasantly at them as they passed.
When they reached Ghost's quarters, Shriek said, "You unpack, Ghost. Skull offered to show me around the castle. See you!"
With that, the white raven took wing and Skull did as well, calling, "Meet you in the hall, Sev! Come my bright winged lady, and see the finest castle in Scotland."
The two ravens flew off and Severus gave Ghost the key to his quarters.
Ghost unlocked the door and beckoned the other two wizards inside.
The interior of the suite was similar to Severus' own, with a comfortable sectional couch in black leather, a fireplace, a cherry wood table, two end tables, a recliner, a potions cabinet stocked with standard potions, and a combination bedroom and bath. There was a bookshelf with a few volumes next to fireplace, and a rug on the floor with all sorts of animals. Mageglobes hung from the ceiling, able to be brightened or dimmed at word, providing plenty of light. There was also a false window, showing a bright sunny day with a view of the lake. In a corner stood a perch and two attached food dishes.
"Very nice! It appears you've thought of everything." Ghost said, looking about with approval.
"Not me, the house elves," Severus clarified. "Once I explained you were coming, they fixed this up."
"I'll have to thank them then," Ghost said, reaching into a pocket and withdrawing a mini knapsack. He enlarged it and then began to remove a few items from it. First came a medium sized rug, the same size as a person, woven out of wool and with many stylized designs on it. Ghost set it on one side of the fireplace and then pulled out a floating table set with a clay bowl and a few sticks of incense. He set that in front of the rug, against the wall.
"My prayer rug and smudging kit," he said. "We'll do a smudging ceremony to begin with, Harry. That will help you center and focus your magic and thoughts and purify you of any negative influences."
Next he pulled out a beautifully carved oak staff with a raven's head. A rawhide strap threaded with multi-colored beads and several white and black feathers were tied to the top of it. The staff was over six feet tall and had Mesquakie symbols carved on it. "My thunder staff. No shaman worth his name is without one." He set the staff gently in the corner reverently.
"What's that do, Ghost?" Harry asked, he could sense there was a great magic in the staff.
"Many things, I'll tell you a few later. If I do it now we could be here all morning."
"It's magical, right?"
"Oh yes. I made it myself. It's the last great test a shaman has to pass before they complete their apprenticeship, the creation of their own staff of power. Like your wands, it can amplify my magic, and also store spells."
"Wicked!" Harry cried. "You don't use wands, then?"
"Not usually. In Windfar, a shaman is trained to do wandless magic as much as possible. Our staves are used for self defense or to give us an advantage when we're doing ritual magic." He sent the pack into the bedroom then took a seat on the couch.
Harry went and sat beside him at the shaman's beckon. "Uh . . . is it true that you Americans don't have blood status?"
"In a manner of speaking. We still have purebloods, half-bloods, and Exceptionals—what you in Britain call Muggleborns. In Windfar, the non-magic half of the community is called Ordinaries. And they all know about magic. Windfar is unique in that regard, it is a place where Ordinary and shaman live side by side together, without prejudice. In Windfar, the half-blood is truly king. Most of us there are of mixed blood—Mesquakie and white, Ordinary and magical. When a child is born with magic, we make no distinction between pureblood or Exceptional or half-blood. That's the beauty of my home, we have tolerance for other cultures, religions, and customs. When Windfar was founded by my ancestor, Alyssa "Silverflash" MacKenzie, a white woman who was adopted into the Mesquakie and became their war chief and shaman, its sole reason for existing was to provide a haven for Indians and whites to live in peace together, with no group better than the other. She and her husband, a Ranger scout named Will "Shadow Fox" MacKenzie, who was a half-breed, made tolerance of others a prime requisite of staying in Windfar. In the outside world white and Indian were killing each other, in a war that the whites eventually won. But none of them could get inside Windfar, for Silverflash had placed powerful earth wards about the valley, forbidding anyone with evil intent or discord in their heart entry. Only those willing to set aside the prejudices of the past were allowed past the border. And strangers had to be invited in by a resident. It's been that way for over two hundred years."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "It sounds almost like a paradise."
Ghost shook his head. "Even Paradise has Coyote, Severus. Windfar isn't perfect, and neither are its citizens. There have been misunderstandings and fights on both sides, though no one with a true resentment and hatred in their heart are permitted to stay. The earth magic will force them out eventually, and once they leave, they cannot come back. But those of Windfar are more willing to compromise than most, and being a community of half-bloods it comes easier than normal. It's nestled in a huge valley inbetween three mountain ranges, and there is always enough game to hunt and space for people to build houses and wigwams. The valley provides enough for all who live there. The enchantment Silverflash worked atop Summoner's Hill still endures today."
"How many of you are there?"
"At last count, I believe a thousand of us are there. And like I said, most are half-bloods, both magical and Ordinary."
"And everyone knows about you?"
"No, those on the outside don't, unless we specifically invite them into the valley. Oh, people know there's a community somewhere called Windfar, because we do go outside the valley sometimes, but they don't know about magic unless they grew up there, or are wizards themselves."
"So you don't have a Statute of Secrecy?" Severus queried.
"Windfar doesn't, but the rest of America does, though there are exceptions to that rule, depending on the circumstance." Ghost replied. "Harry, to start off with, I think two hours a day practicing meditation and other techniques to center and ground you is enough. How does an hour in the morning, say at 7AM, and an hour in the evening, around 7PM, sound? Will that fit into your current schedule?"
"Uh . . . I think so. I'll have time to do my homework before then, or I can do it after." Harry agreed. "And right now I don't have too much since we're reviewing for finals."
"Once you're done with school, we can arrange more time per lesson," Ghost said. "I'm flexible, so if you need to change times just tell me. Most of what I'll be teaching you is practical magic, you learn by doing, since most of my tribe didn't believe in writing things down. I will occasionally give you a few quizzes to test your memory, but mostly your tests will be in the Place Between Worlds, as you learn how to master the skills you need to survive. That's my ultimate goal, to teach you how to Travel and survive in the Other World. In return I expect you to learn what I have to teach and to respect me as a teacher. Give me an attitude and there are plenty of chores for you to do in repayment." He cleared his throat, suddenly looking as stern as Severus on a bad day. "That's how my people punish a child who misbehaves, by a succession of chores. Mesquakie don't believe in spanking a child, unless they lie or put themselves in danger. Which I'm sure you won't be doing, correct?"
"He knows better," Severus cut in. "If he gets in trouble with you, he'll get twice the punishment from me."
Ghost merely nodded. "We'll begin lessons tomorrow. So get a good night's sleep tonight."
"I will, Ghost." Harry promised. He just hoped he didn't sleepwalk tonight.
"All right, I think we'd better stop gabbing and get to breakfast. I don't know about you two, but I'm starving and could eat a flying pig."
"A flying pig?" Harry exclaimed.
"Yup. Don't you have them over here?"
"No. You mean there really is such a thing?" Harry asked, wide-eyed.
"Sure is. We have flying pigs, cows, and horses. Used to have flying buffalo too, but they died out." Ghost said. "Back when I was a boy, us apprentice shamans used to have contests trying to rope the flying calves from the back of a Pegasus, or tackling a flying pig."
"That sounds kind of neat. Did you ever win?"
"A few times. And a few times I got knocked off my horse on my ass too," Ghost admitted candidly, his eyes sparkling. "Until I learned the most important thing—how to stick on the saddle no matter what."
Harry giggled at that and even Severus smiled. Then they all rose and headed up to the Great Hall.
When Harry entered the hall with Ghost and Severus, the students all turned to stare curiously at the shaman. Harry made his way to the Gryffindor table, where Hermione, Ron, Neville were sitting. All of them looked at the tall shaman with something like awe. "Who's that, Harry?" asked Ron.
"My new tutor," Harry informed them quietly.
Ghost stepped up beside the dark-haired boy and said, "Introduce me to your friends, Harry."
"Uh . . . right. Hermione, Ron, Neville . . . everyone, this is Darren "Ghost Walker" MacKenzie. He's a shaman from Windfar, in America."
"Just call me Ghost," Ghost said, smiling genially. "Pleased to meet all of you."
"Hey, don't leave us out," Draco said from the Slytherin table.
"Sorry. Ghost, over here's the Slytherin table, Uncle Severus' Head of this House, and I'm an honorary serpent. Draco, Blaise, Marcus, and Mark, meet Ghost, my new tutor."
There were hellos and pleased-to-meet-you-sir's all around. Draco came and shook the shaman's hand, as he had been taught by Narcissa.
Then he asked quietly, "Are you an Indian, sir?"
"I'm a half-blood. Half-Fox and half-white, though the true name of my tribe is Mesquakie, which means Red Earth People."
"Can you shoot a bow and arrow?" asked Ron.
"Yes. And also throw a knife and shoot a rifle. Most people in Windfar know how to defend themselves, including the women."
"Wicked!" Hermione exclaimed. "So you live in a wizarding town?"
"No. Windfar is composed of wizard and non-wizard, and are mostly half-bloods, both magical and non-magical."
Several gasps followed that.
"You mean, you get along with Muggles?" Neville queried.
"We call them Ordinaries, and yes, we do. They respect us and we respect them."
Just then Skull and Shriek flew into the hall and when they landed on their wizard's respective shoulders, more questions poured from the students' mouths.
"Wow! What kind of bird is that, a crow?"
"No, I think it's a raven."
"But ravens aren't white!"
"I am, youngling," Shriek spoke up, fluffing up her feathers and crest.
"She talks! Like Skull!" exclaimed Tarrent.
"Naturally. I am Shriek, spiritual advisor to my shaman, Ghost Walker." She hopped down on to the Slytherin table and walked among the plates. She paused at Draco's place and eyed a piece of bacon hungrily. "That looks wonderful! Do you mind sharing?"
"No, here," Draco held out a strip and Shriek ate it in a few gulps.
"Tasty!" Then she moved down the line, eating something from everyone's plate.
Ghost sighed. "Don't be a glutton, Shriek."
"Mind your own business, Ghost. You forgot to feed me," the raven called back, then swallowed a piece of melon.
"I did not, we just didn't have time to wait for breakfast at Raven Castle," Ghost said defensively.
"Excuses! Excuses!" Shriek trilled.
"Well, don't come crying to me when you stuff yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey and can't move."
"Like I've ever done that, O Wise One!" Shriek mocked, taking a grape from a Slytherin girl, her amber eyes glinting.
"Seems to me you did that at the Summer Fruits Festival this year," Ghost reminded.
"That wasn't food I was tasting, it was wine," Shriek claimed. "So I was a little drunk, so sue me. Everyone was, including you, mighty warrior." She blew a raspberry at Ghost insolently, making the kids giggle at her audacity.
Skull flew down on the Gryffindor table and began dancing across it, and the Gryffindors gave him tidbits from their plates as well.
Severus and Ghost exchanged commiserating glances, then Severus told the students to stop pestering their guest and eat. "You can speak to him later, children, for now let us all eat breakfast." He gently steered Ghost away to the dais where the faculty sat.
The ravens didn't follow, neither one would pass up free handouts.
Dumbledore rose as they approached, beaming like Ghost was a long lost relative. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Mr. MacKenzie." He shook Ghost's hand rapidly. "I am Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster."
"Ghost, or Ghost Walker, please. I'm not one for formality. Thank you for having me."
"Partly. My ancestor, William MacKenzie, was half Scottish and half Asakawaki. The Sak, or Yellow Earth People, are a sister tribe to the Mesquakie, or Fox, as the whites called us. Will's father, Ian, was a Scottish immigrant, a farmer and fir trapper who married the daughter of a Sac chief, Winter Wren. Once they all settled in Windfar valley, Ian remarried, this time a half-blood woman, and had a few more kids. As did Will and his wife Silverflash. Today, the MacKenzie clan is huge, I have four siblings and dozens of cousins, aunts, and uncles. The joke is that everyone's related to a MacKenzie somehow."
"And are you all wizards?"
"No. But a lot of us are. We inherited the magic from my ancestor Silverflash, and other shaman lines who married into the MacKenzie family. All of us bear some Mesquakie or Sac blood."
"How very interesting," Minerva said. "You know, the McGonagall clan intermarried with the MacKenzies some years back. I have MacKenzie cousins still in the Highlands."
"Perhaps we're distantly related too," Ghost said.
Minerva laughed. "In that case, welcome cousin! My name is Minerva."
"It's an honor to meet you, cousin." He shook her hand.
"Please, sit down. You must be starving." She waved him to a seat inbetween her and Severus.
The rest of the staff introduced themselves, clearly fascinated by their visitor, but allowing him to eat before they started talking to him.
Ghost, for his part, took all the curious looks and questions in stride. He was just glad none of these British wizards and witches bore prejudice towards Indians, he'd dealt with altogether too much of that sort of thing out West and even down South. He liked Severus and Minerva right off, as well as the librarians, who were also Society members. In truth, he liked everyone he had met so far, and looked forward to teaching Harry.
Just then Shriek flew to him, and Irma exclaimed, "Ceridwen! A white raven?"
"How remarkable!" Lena added.
"This is my familiar and spirit guide, Shriek."
"I'm his better half," interjected the snowy raven. "You wouldn't happen to know of any young single ladies around? He needs to find a wife, before he's too old to do her any good. His mother is so disappointed that he hasn't married yet."
Ghost covered his face with his hand, blushing. "Shriek, damn it all!" he growled. "I am not here to look for a wife!"
"Maybe you should be!" the raven purred saucily. "You have a whole different class of women here. You should take a look around."
"And you should mind your own business, you matchmaking featherduster," Ghost scolded.
"I'm only trying to help, you boneheaded fool. By the time you make up your mind, you'll be ready for your burial shroud, and you promised your mom some grandchildren." Shriek squawked.
By then all the witches were laughing.
"Please ignore her, she had no manners," Ghost said apologetically.
"No raven does," put in Severus. "They're all insolent brats."
"But if we weren't you'd be bored to death," purred Shriek. "Like you are with an owl. Owls are so dull! Ravens at least know how to have a good time and make you laugh, Master Snape."
Severus coughed. "You and Skullduggery are two of a kind, madam."
"But of course. We're ravens. And you are lucky to have one."
"I know." Severus said softly.
"Skull was right, you are a smart man." Shriek declared, making Ghost chuckle.
"That should be obvious, considering he is a raven's choice."
"And we don't pick idiots," stated Shriek.
"That goes without saying," Skull chimed in. "Who wants a dense wizard? Not me!"
"Too true, darling! There are too many idiots out there, why should we bond ourselves to one?" Shriek queried. "I'm not a big fan of self torture."
"Unlike one of my cousins in the Tower. Now there was a raven who liked to wallow in misery. Talk about stupid . . ." Skull began.
While the ravens bantered, Harry fended off questions from his friends about his new tutor. "He's here to help me with my sleepwalking," he told them.
"Oh, yeah, you need some help with that, mate," Ron said.
"Before you hurt yourself," Neville added.
"Gee thanks," Harry muttered.
"I think Ghost is awesome," Hermione said. "And what a beautiful raven!"
"I didn't ever think ravens came in anything but black," Ron said.
"She's white because she's a spirit guide," Harry informed him. "She came to him out of the Place Between Worlds." He began to eat hungrily, having some pancakes, ham, and fruit. When Hermione looked as if she was going to ask him two dozen more questions, he said, "Please, no more questions right now. I've told you everything I know and I want to eat before Transfiguration. You can ask me more after I've had lessons with him tomorrow. Or, even better, just ask Ghost yourself, I'm sure he'd be happy to talk to you."
With that, he continued eating, hoping that today's classes flew by. Tomorrow couldn't come fast enough.
A/N:Sorry for the delay but I was having trouble with my eyes, I have a floater in them and it was driving me crazy and still is, but I have to adjust to it.
The story of Windfar and its founders is from an original series of mine, and the first book, Silver and Shadow, will hopefully be published in ebook some time in the upcoming year.
Good luck to all of you on the Eastern seaboard and elsewhere in the path of the Frankenstorm, which includes me, stay safe!
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