“Did we really huv tae dae this sae early Da?” Orlando said as he stifled a yawn.
“The earlier we do this in the morning,” Giles grinned, “keeps us away from any prying muggle eyes.”
Danny mumbled at the ground. “Keeps us away from any civilized eyes.”
“Besides it gives us mair time tae teach everything,” Rhane pulled her wand and flicked it into the air. Suddenly six steaming mugs of coffee floated in front of the group, “Drink up, it’s gaun tae be a long day.”
“Thank goodness for this,” Tom grabbed the mug in front of him and took a sip, “it’s almost even too early for me.”
“Tae earlie fur ye?” Both boys gave Tommy a sideways glance.
“What? I like early mornings,” Tom grinned as he pulled the mug to his lips.
“Ye’r lik’ th’ ainlie yin,” Céilidh grumbled as she sipped on her mug.
The Gents drank up as the two older wizards prepared the area. Giles and Rhane waived their wands, and four wooden hoops appeared on the ground.
“Alright kids, gather around,” Giles called out. “I want each of you all to stand behind the hoops.”
Each of the teens did as they were told.
“The key tae apparition is in yuir three D’s. Destination. Determination. Deliberation.” Orlando’s mother strode along the far side of the wooden hoops. “Whare ye want tae go. Hou bad dae ye want to get thare. And finally, hou you will… An tha’s the hardes part.”
“Now then,” Rhane continued, “the foremaist thing we want ye to dae is fix yer minds on yer destinations. In this case, the center of the hoops in front of ye.”
Everybody looked down into the center of their hoops, and then shot glances at each other, before returning to studying their hoops.
“Now the next part, is to concentrate on the center of the hoop and make every part of your body want to be in that spot.”
Tom focused on the center of the hoop. His eyebrows knitted together in concentration. The whole thing felt mad. Wanting every part of your body into the center of the hoop? Putting the silliness that he felt out of his mind his eyes narrowed again on the center of the hoop. Finally it seemed like nothing else in the world existed except the center of that hoop.
Body in the hoop, turn body into an animal, not all that different, he thought. Too bad he hadn’t figured the animal thing out either. He stared at the circle for a moment, contemplating how it might work, willing every fiber of his body to be there.
Céilidh did as she was instructed, concentrating on the center of the hoop. She knew the theory well enough, having probably been the only one out of the four to actually open a book on the subject. Execution was always a different story, however. She stared at the inside of the hoop until the image of the green grass rimmed by that thin strip of wood was burned into her mind. She closed her eyes, picturing first the hoop, then its leafy green contents. Then she imagined herself inside the boundaries.
Foozle’s scarred brow rose, looking down into grass. He had been exercising his force of will so much these days, more than he’d been able to let on to the others. He examined the wooden hoop. “Hoop,” he said to himself. He examined the grass, every blade waving in the morning breeze. “Hoop, hoop hoop…” his voice inflected the words in a little absentminded tune. “Tae the center o tha hoop…” He concentrated, picturing it bending under his feet, his weight crushing the blades. “Hoop, hoop, hoop. Tae the center of ha hoop.” He closed his eyes fixing that image in his mind.
“Alright then, the next step is a little tricky. You must turn on the spot where you are standing and with deliberation, apparate into the hoop.” Giles explained it as if it were the most commonplace activity they had ever done.
“Ye know whare yuir going. Ye wanna be thare.” Rhane paced back and forth. “Ye see it in yuir head. Feel yuirself thare. Make yuirself gae.” She stopped and drew her wand. She shot a look to Giles, the grin they shared spoke volumes of their expectations for this first attempt. “All of ye, on three…”
“Is tha… ane, twa, three gae?” Foozle asked, half sarcastically, “oor ane, twa, gae?”
“Orlandae…” She shook her head with that half exasperated sigh that was reserved for her son. It wasn’t irritation. It couldn’t be. He reminded her too much of his father.
And Giles too. “One, two, three go, son.” The older man chuckled. “Now… One. Two. Three.”
Danny took a deep breath and focused on being in the circle. He turned slightly, more in his head than with his body, and all of a sudden felt as if he had been pulled through a glass pipette. When the world righted itself, he found himself standing in the wooden hoop. A broad smile crossed his face just before he fell over and left his breakfast on the ground.
Céilidh executed a perfect pirouette, spinning about in the grass and thought about being in the center of the hoop. She wasn’t sure what she was expected to feel, but when she opened her eyes, she hadn’t moved an inch.
Holding his breath, Orlando closed his eyes. He focused all his thoughts on the grass and the hoop around it. His shoulders shifted and and he felt his body lighten as if thinning. His heart raced as he felt his body pull in and his feet pull off the ground. The sensation was… disorienting. “Ach!” There was another rush as he felt himself sink like a stone dropped from a great height, falling out of the sky to the ground.
“Ah did it!” Elation surged through is body and the threw up his arms. “Ah did i-” He looked down and saw the hoop less than a foot in front of him still. “Damn…”
Giles threw his arm around the boy. “Almost, my boy” He squeezed his shoulder with a laugh. “Just a little further.”
Tommy focused on the center of the hoop, and turned on the spot. As he turned, his feet tangled into each other and he landed backside first on the dewy grass, “Bloody hell.”
“Language, son,” Giles chuckled as he helped his son up.
Rhane carefully helped Danny to his feet. “Very nice, Danny! Almost naebody makes it their fuirst gae. Ahm very proud.” She beamed for the boy, and gently patted his back, handing him a glass of water. “Are ye alright?” Danny took the water nodding as he rinsed the acrid taste from his mouth. “Dinnae wirrie, most git sick at least their fuirst few gaes.” She helped him back into place, smiling over the others.
“Guid efforts all aroond. Remember yuir determination. Focus yuir deliberation.” The four of them reset. Rhane counted off again. “Let’s try this again. One, twa, three,”
Again, Orlando closed his eyes. He heard his mom telling him to remember to breath. He set his mind on that hoop… He set that will on putting himself in it. “Hoop. Hoop. Hoop.” He took a deep breath and slowly let it go, his leading shoulder soon over come by his mind. That thinning started to take him. He held through the disorientation and in a moment everything sped up considerably. He felt himself yanked in his entirety through the air, replaced with wisps of Yellow and black with thin lines of blue. He shifted through the air with a rush of that smokey colors. It was a flash of a moment.
Orlando stumbled a little, but when he looked down… “Ach!” Orlando’s grin was wide. He stood in the hoop.
Rhane threw her arms around her son, embracing him in a tight hug. “Verra nice job, Orlandae.” As a mother and a teacher she didn’t hide her pride in the boy’s accomplishment.
“Well done, sir,” Tom grinned as he concentrated on his own hoop. Tom took a few deep breaths and then stared reciting the three D’s to himself, Destination. Determination. Deliberation. Destination. Determination. Deliberation. Finally Tom spun on the spot where he stood and then he suddenly felt like he was pressed very hard from all directions; he could not breathe, there were iron bands tightening around his chest; his eyeballs were being forced back into his head; his ear-drums were being pushed deeper into his skull. Crimson and Gold wisps of smoke, with twin streaks of Dark Blue and Yellow covered the spot where he stood and there was a loud pop. The wisps of smoke rematerialized inside the hoop. As the wisp faded, Tom screamed in pain. All eyes turned to Tom’s hoop, where he was kneeling inside the hoop cradling the area where his left arm should have been. Red streaks of blood ran through the fingers that covered the wound. On the ground, in the original spot where Tom was, lay his arm.
Céilidh stopped her attempt and ran to her boyfriend, “Ach Tommy!”
Danny’s jaw dropped. “Oh man, Tommy!” He dropped his water cup and sprinted to the Gryffindor.
“Tommy!” Orlando wrenched from his mother’s arm and ran to the wounded Gryffindor, right behind the swift Ravenclaw. “Och, noyd!” Of course Orlando knew about splinching. Every wizard did. But he had never seen it… The sight was horrific.
“Giles,” Rhane MacFoozle was surprisingly calm given the situation. She hurried over to the front of Tommy’s hoop and scooped up an arm.
“Out of the way! Out of the way!” He didn’t yell. The raising of his voice was simply to clear the others as he dropped in beside his boy. “It’s okay, son. You’re going to be fine.” His wand was drawn, and he gave Tom a good smile. “Happens all the time.” He helped his son stay upright. The laugh was a reassuring one. “Of course, most people need several tries before even getting this far.”
Céilidh cradled Tommy – his face now white as a sheet – in her arms. “Tis gaun tae be okay. Tis gaun tae be okay…” she repeated over and over to him.
Tommy attempted a weak smile, “S-sure it will be,” he coughed, “‘least I won’t h-have to worry about you punching me in the shoulder.”
“There’s a good lad.” Danny said encouragingly.
“Aye, his sense o’ humor maun be in th’ ither arm.”
Rhane stripped away the bloody cloth that had the arm of Tom’s sweatshirt. Her voice was calm and measured, “Ye’r going tae have tae shift yer hand, son. We’ll handle this as quickly as we kin.” Then her eyes went to the redhead, “Céilidh, Ahm needin’ ye tae hold him steady. Kin ye dae that, dear?”
The girl swallowed an nodded, not trusting herself to say anything. Her stomach flip-flopped however, when Rhane gently pulled Tom’s hand away from the stump and blood flowed from the wound like a river. The onlooking boys visibly blanched as Rhane pressed the limb in place with a sickening squelch and nodded to Giles. The elder Llewellyn nodded in reply and held his wand over the wound.
A loud crack echoed across the field and a cloud of purple smoke briefly covered Tommy and Céilidh before being carried off in wisps by the slight breeze. Once the smoke cleared the lads could see Tom lying in Céilidh’s arms, pale and breathing shallowly. The only evidence that the Gentleman had suffered an amputation was an angry purple scar that encircled his bicep. That and the blood.
“I think I like brooms better,” Tom said weakly.
“Tom,” Giles knelt next to his son, “I know that was incredibly bad what happened, but like I said it is common,” he looked up and into each of the other kids faces, “this is a good lesson for all of you. You must be mindful of following the three D’s every time. If you let your mind unfocus splinching can and will occur.” He turned his attention back to his son, offering him his hand, “Let’s move you over here for a while so you can rest up,” he helped his son up and over to a large rock where he could sit. Giles handed Tommy a potion vial from his jacket pocket, “Here drink this, it’ll help you feel better soon.” He placed his hand lovingly on the top of his youngest son’s head,
“Alright,” he turned back to the others with a smile, “Let’s try this again shall we?”
Foozle followed over and stood beside Tommy. “Ye alricht?” He put his hand on Tommy’s good shoulder. He smiled as he crouched beside the other Gentleman. “Tha wis a bit… intense.”
Tommy finished downing the potion and looked at the red ring scar that circled his bicep, “Just a flesh wound,” Tom said a bit dead pan. He looked up to see his friend not quite laughing but with the same thin worried smile on his face that was there before, “Truth be told, that scared the hell out of me.”
“Ye hear aboot it,” Foozle nodded, “But seeing it is a wee bit…” He shivered a little.
“See it?” Tom managed the smallest of chuckles. “You should try doing it.”
Foozle shook his head, squeezing Tommy’s shoulder. “Nae thanks.”
“Chicken,” Tom said, his characteristic grin returning.
The Hufflepuff’s scarred brow rose in mock surprise. “Bringing up chickens, Tommy?” He laughed, “Ah think ye left ahint mair than juist yuir arm.”
Tom’s eyebrows knitted together, “What do you mean?”
“Chickens, Tom.” Orlando spoke flat and plain. “Fire. Breathing. Chickens.”
Tom shivered a little bit, “Now that’s just mean.”
“Yuir gaun tae be richt as rain.” Orlando laughed.
“Och, ye twa,” Céilidh’s smile was slightly mismatched by the look of concern in her eyes. “Urr ye sure ye’r okay?”
“I’ll be fine in a bit I think,” Tom nodded, “Just a little shaken. Nothing I can’t handle though.”
Céilidh leaned up and kissed him, “Ye shouldn’t lie tae yer burd lik’ that. Especially whin ah wis a’ duin tae mak’ a fuss ower ye whin we’re dane ‘ere.”
“You want the truth,” Tom’s eyes began to glisten a little bit, “I thought I was,” his words hung in his throat, “well you know,” his right hand moved up and took hers, “Thank you for being there.”
“Ah wouldn’t wantae be anywhere else,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze. “Noo ye micht wantae compose yersel’, or th’ lads ur ne’er gaun tae let ye lee this doon.”
Tom chuckled, “Yeah and you better go back to practicing. I’ll be back up in a bit.”
Céilidh leaned up and kissed him one more time before reluctantly moving back to stand before her hoop. Tommy watched her go, unable to miss the raised eyebrows and half-smirks worn by his mates. Despite what Céilidh had said, there was a very good chance that the lads were never going to let him forget this episode anyway.
Rhane and Giles counted off again, and once again Orlando and Danny disappeared and reappeared with resounding double-cracks. Meanwhile, Céilidh failed to move anywhere beyond spinning in a circle, gouging up the turf as she did so. She’d never had so much trouble learning or applying herself to anything before. Even without what had happened to Tommy, she couldn’t seem to keep her focus.
After a while, Danny and Orlando started apparating into each other’s hoops. It was perhaps at that point that Céilidh’s natural competitiveness re-asserted itself. Destination, determination, deliberation. Determination. Céilidh was determined that she was not going to leave the field that day without having apparated at least once, vomiting or splinching be damned.
She pushed everything else from her mind as if she was going to change into her animagus form, focusing solely on the green grass inside the hoop. She coiled like a spring, then released. And everything went black. Pressure forced in on her from all sides as though she had been pressed into a ball and placed in a vice. Crimson and gold smoke with traces of bright blue and yellow intermixed appeared where she had just stood and just as quickly flared up inside the hoop, and with a loud pop Céilidh suddenly found herself standing in the middle of the hoop.
The redhead was elated that she’d finally managed to apparate, but the feeling quickly fell away as she realized that something was most definitely not right. It was, perhaps, the feeling of the cool breeze on her suddenly very naked backside that alerted her to this fact. Her eyes went wide as she glanced over her shoulder to see the seat of her jeans lying in the grass.
No sooner did she notice this, but there was a loud cat call from the direction of where Tommy sat. Her head spun around to meet Tommy’s eyes and the broad smile that was now on his face. “Now that makes me feel better.”
There was a roar from the two boys who had stopped their apparating the moment they heard her crack. “Och, Ginger,” Foozle barely managed to get out between laugher, “We’re no suppoed tae hae a fou muin fer anaither twa weeks!”
Danny opened his mouth to react, but only laughter issued from the lad. As he blinked away the tears, he got control of his breathing. “Ah think she’s embare-assed! Her cheeks are turnin’ rosey!” the Ravenclaw managed to get out, before nearly collapsing against Orlando.
Céilidh crossed her arms across her back, trying in vain to cover her bare assets. It was hard to tell whether she was blushing from embarrassment, or trying to hold back her own laughter at the situation. Or both. “Nae a word tae a’body,” she threatened.
There was a crack of thunder and Céilidh was encased in a thick circle of black smoke that surrounded her hoop, abandoned jeans and all. “Boys,” groaned Rhane MacFoozle with the slightest trace of a smirk on her own face. Almost instantly she was right behind Orlando and Dan, her hand swinging with a mother’s swiftness as it slapped across the back of both their heads with one fluid motion. “Dinna be crass…”
The two of them rubbed their noggins as their head knocked together. “Och!”
Rhane flourished her wand a second time. The smoke blew away under a swift breeze, leaving the fiery haired Gryffindor standing once more, still trying to cover herself but now with nothing needing to be covered. “Verra nice, Céilidh.”
“Ah’ll say!” Instantly the boys started laughing again.
Another smack cracked across the back of Orlando’s head. “Clam it…” Still, even she couldn’t help the small smirk.
“How come Tommy didn’t get smacked?” Danny said rubbing the back of his head.
“Acause,” she said, falling into the thick Scottish tongue she usually kept reserved for special occasions, “Fur amurnay gonna punish th’ lad fur th’ foremaist time he gat tae see his girlfriend’s bare bahookie.” She gave a small wink.
Tom, still a little white from his loss of blood, managed to turn a very bright shade of red. He looked over to his father, who nearly doubled over with laughter and then to Céilidh who was as red as he was.
It was too much for her; Céilidh finally succumbed to the infectious laughter, which helped to lend no weight to her threats of violence, “Ah swear. Yin word o’ this, tae a’body, ‘n’ ah wull end a’ o’ ye.”
After the laughter died down, Tommy stood up, a little wobbly at first, but gaining in strength as he walked toward his hoop. “I think,” he said still a bit unsteady, “I’m ready to try this again.”
“Tommy,” Céilidh said, her voice filled with worry.
Rhane looked between Tom and Giles, “Ah dinnae ken. It hasn’t been that lang yet, Tommy.”
Giles studied his son for a moment before smiling and winking at his boy, “Take your hoop son.”
Giles said nothing, he just simply nodded again towards his son.
Tommy took his place in front of the hoop. He stared down at the large stain of blood that soaked the grass inside it. His blood. Tom could feel the trumped up courage from a few moments ago fade quickly. He could feel the sweat drop down his brow again. everyone watching him. There’s no shame in just begging out and going and sitting down, he thought to himself. I almost lost my arm, I almost died. I don’t have to worry about this, I have an excuse. Tommy sighed, looked at the target, turned on the spot and nothing.
Tommy’s shoulders dropped for a moment, he had given up. He looked up for a second, and into Céilidh’s. He looked into her bright green eyes. The red head’s forehead was wrinkled with worry, but she smiled at Tommy and nudged him on.
Tom’s nerves steeled. He stared back at the hoop again. His jaw set. Tommy spun on the spot. Crimson and gold wisps of smoke, with twin streaks of crimson and gold covered the spot where he stood and there was a loud pop. The next second, Tom was standing in the hoop that was in front of him. Tommy looked around nervously. Did I do it? He ran a quick inventory of all of his body parts. They were still there. He looked up at his father and smiled.
“Well done,” His father boomed as he clapped his hands together.
“Aye, Tom.” Rhane smiled. “Verra nice.”
It was at that point that he was practically tackled to the ground by the others. “Awesome, Tommy!” Foozle picked him up in a squeezed him.
“Well played, Sir!” Danny said, joining in on the hug.
With a squeal Céilidh hit the pile, finally pushing everyone to the ground. A scrum of laughter and friendship. Rhane and Giles looked over them with pride and fond memories of when they were the same age.