I am there. Waiting, watching, keeping to the shadows.
But when you need me I'll step out of the shadows
And protect what's mine
It was a Friday night when Hecate Hardbroom walked towards her chamber after a very long detention with Mildred Hubble. Just last minute she had prevented the potion from exploding for the second time today. She knew that she needed to have patience with Mildred. Ada had told her many times when she was complaining about the girl in the headmistress office. But she just couldn’t understand how that girl managed to brew the same potion wrong both times. If she hadn’t been paying such close attention to Mildred she would’ve missed that Mildred had put Lilium Martagon in her potion instead of Lapageria Rosea. After telling the girl again that she had done it wrong, she had sent her off with the instruction to write an essay on the difference between the two.
She had been in such deep thoughts that she didn’t notice that something was wrong with the wards she had set up around her room to keep students out. She also didn’t notice the hand that was stroking her cat, who was laying on the armrest of the chair she had in her room which faced the fire. The first thing she noticed was the fire. She had put it out this morning but now it was burning, the heat of it was warming her room.
She turned around and faced the chair. The hand stroking Morgana, who was known for not liking anybody besides Hecate, stopped. “I’m sorry I broke into your room” the voice was soft but so familiar. “I re-set the wards don’t worry”.
“You should be at Miss Amulet's,” Hecate said shocked. Had she flown here, in this weather? It had been raining for two days straight now and today was definitely worse than yesterday.
“I know” she whispered and stood to face Hecate. Her black hair wasn’t in her usual Dutch braid but hanging loose around her face. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she was very pale. “Hillary is something wrong” She was almost afraid to hear the answer. Of course, something was wrong. Something had to be very wrong for her niece to skip school and fly all the way over here. “Did something happen with Joy?” she asked as she still hadn’t gotten an answer from the girl. “No, Joy is fine. More than fine really, she is doing so well at school” Hillary spoke with so much pride over her little sister.
“I know it was stupid to come over, but I didn’t know who else to go to” a tear escaped. Hecate crossed the room and placed a hand on the girl’s arm. “What is it Hilly”. That did it. The girl broke down crying in Hecate’s arms. “I’m sorry” she gasped, “but they want to send me away”.
Hecate didn’t understand. Her younger sister Constance had always been so proud of her daughters. Always boasting about the competitions they had won and all the spells they knew and the complicated potions they could make. “Why would they send you away darling”
Hillary buried her head in the curve of Hecate’s neck. “they want to….. they don’t want me… I” she started but didn’t know how to tell her aunt. “They are sending me to miss Broomhead” she blurred out. Hecate stiffened.
Deep breathes Hecate she reminded herself, she can’t hurt you anymore. She took a deep breath before another dark thought crept into her mind. No, she can’t hurt you anymore, but she can hurt Hilly. Her arms tightened around the girl. “Tell me everything, start at the beginning” she stirred the girl towards the couch and sat down next to her.
“We were talking about which college I should attend. I mentioned that Jasmine was going to Weirdsister College that we would like to go together because we’re always together. And then mom got angry and started talking about how Jasmine would just hold me back and that I should only focus on school. I don’t know what I said wrong, I don’t understand why she got so angry” Hilly wiped away a tear. “they ended the mirror call and I went back to my room. I just thought that we would discuss it later, you know in person. But I got a letter this morning informing me that I had been accepted at Witches' Training College with as private tutor miss Broomhead. I tried to contact mother, but father said she didn’t want to speak with me”
They both said in silence lost in their own thought. “She mentioned you” Hilly whispered. “When she got angry, she said I was just like you. I don’t know what she meant by that, do you?”
Hecate sighed, she knew what Constance had meant by that. Even thou Hecate had been the eldest, Constance had always looked down on her because of her preference for witches instead of wizards. “When I was younger and still at Miss Amulet's, I had a best friend. My grates were top of the class but father, your grandfather decided that my friendship took away my focus from my studies. I tried to tell him that having a friend wasn’t a bad thing, but he wouldn’t listen”. Hecate closed her eyes. How much should she tell her?
Should she mention that the friendship had become a bit more than just friends? That she had fallen in love with Pippa Pentangle and was working up the courage to tell her that when her father had ruined everything. That since then she had always felt like the black sheep of the family. How would Hilly take it if Hecate told her all of that after her mum had told her that she was just like her? Making her feel ashamed of the feelings she was feeling, so she choice to shut them all out. But Hilly wouldn’t judge her. Her niece was always kind, never bragging about her victories and her skills. She was also sensitive, too sensitive to survive mistress Broomhead. She would crush the girl with her harsh comments and make her doubt herself so much.
“I think they found out that I was I love with that best friend,” she said quietly.
“Is that a bad thing?” Hilly looked up at her, “being in love with another witch.”
“No darling, Love is love. No Mather if you love witches or wizards.” The voice of Pippa Pentangle said right before she appeared. “When you didn’t show up for our weekly chess game I became worried” Pippa explained. “It’s alright” Hecate smiled at her before looking at Hilly again.
“You can’t go to that college,” Hecate said, looking up at Pippa. Remembering how she had been forced to go, unable to say goodbye to Pippa. She couldn’t explain the reason why she was being sent away, so she had just left. Leaving Pippa was one of the hardest choices she ever had to make. But she couldn’t lose her friendship with Pippa if she found out that Hecate was in love with her. Knowing now that Pippa had felt the same way. Not daring to say anything because she was scared to lose Hecate. Eventually, they lost each other because neither of them dared to admit their feelings.
“Should I leave?” Pippa asked, knowing that she had transferred in at a private moment. Hecate didn’t know. She wanted Pippa to stay, help find a solution. But Hilly might be uncomfortable.
“You can stay,” Hilly said, her eyes still teary but she smiled at Pippa. “you’re her friend from Miss Amulet's, aren’t you?”
Of course, she had worked that out. “Yes, I am” Pippa answered and sat down in the chair and conjured up three cups of tea. “Tell me what happened,” Pippa said as she reached for her pink teacup.
Hecate told Pippa what Hilly had told her, while Hilly sipped her tea and nibbled on a pink donut. “I still don’t understand how that woman is still teaching,” Pippa said. “I do because none of her students can speak up” Hecate muttered. The only reason Pippa sort of knew what had happened all those years ago, was because she had guessed. Hecate, and she suspected many other witches, were physically unable to talk about what happened during those college years. Hecate didn’t know how that was possible or when mistress Broomhead had done something to silence her.
“Well, we’re a bit in a difficult position right now. Since you’re a minor your parents decide what is best for you. Except, in this case, they are making the wrong choice”. Hecate noticed that as Pippa spoke she didn’t blame Constance for making the decision to send her daughter to mistress Broomhead. Of course, Constance didn’t know what had happened and only saw the success Hecate had, she was one of the best potion mistresses in the country.
“I could go talk to them” Hecate suggested but knowing how stubborn her sister could be, she wondered if it would make a difference. “You know they won’t listen,” Hillary said quietly, she also knew her mother would never listen.
“How bad is the first year Hiccup,” Pippa said, a little lost in thought. Hecate blushed at the slip up with the nickname. “Bad, it gets simultaneously worse and easier as the training goes on. You learn her methods, the way she asks questions, what she wants you to notice. That way you can prepare better, but the assignments will get harder and trickier. The first year is definitely the worst”
Hecate thought back at when she had just gotten there. All alone, she had just lost Pippa. Pippa, who was the only person who knew how to make her smile and enjoy life a little. Now she had nobody anymore. And Broomhead had latched onto that loneliness.
“Okay, so going there for a year till she comes of age is no option. Speaking to her mother is no option” Pippa sighed, there must be a way to protect the girl. “I’m doomed, aren’t I?” Hilly asked tears in her eyes again.
“No darling,” Hecate said as she put her arm around the girl, pulling her into a hug. “I’ll always protect you”
“But there is no other option then that I go there. You can’t convince mother not to send me there, she’ll never listen. I’m a minor I have no choice. I’ve heard the stories about how harsh she can be. People that have met her and say how mean she is and those people aren’t even her students. Oh, Hecate I don’t want to go, I can’t go” Hilly’s voice got higher as she started to panic and then she started crying again. “we’ll figure this out. Deep breathes Hilly” she said softly, stroking the girl’s hair.
“There is one option” Pippa had so quietly that only Hecate could hear her. Hecate understood that Pippa didn’t want to tell her with Hilly here. She nodded. “Hillary, why don’t you go to the kitchen and see if miss Tapioca can make you some hot cocoa,” Hecate said, Hilly nodded and stood up. She took a deep breath and wiggled her fingers. Her hair pulled itself up in a high ponytail and then she walked out of the room.
“Why do I have a feeling I’m not going to like what you have to say,” Hecate said as Pippa stood up and started to pace the room nervously. “because you probably won’t,” Pippa said. “It’s a bit extreme if it comes to that, but maybe her mother will see that she really can’t go to that college and let her go to Weirdsister”.
“You’re not making much sense pipsqueak,” Hecate said as Pippa still paced the room. And then she stood still. “She can request an emancipation. That way her parents can’t force her to go to Witches' Training College. She’ll become self-sustaining. Her parents probably won’t like it and she will need a guardian” Pippa said. “I would say it’s a last resort, please don’t do it unless there really is no way out”.
“You mean…. You want me to become her guardian?” Hecate said.
“Yes Hiccup, that’s exactly what I’m saying”