“There were American Indians at this school?” Willow asked the others. They had found an empty Thaumaturgy classroom and were huddled over the things Willow had stashed in the hidden pocket of her bag. Willow was staring at one of the paintings: it showed five young American Indians in leather outfits standing next to two wizards in dress robes. They were under a purple and white banner, but the symbol on the banner had been badly smudged and Willow couldn’t make it out. The figures in the painting moved around and opened and closed their mouths, but no sounds came from them. Meanwhile, Lily was looking at the other painting while Sib, Lef, and Incheon looked through the books.
“Let me see,” said Incheon, reaching out for the picture. “I can’t read these books. I don’t know what language it is, but it hurts my eyes just to look at it.”
“Well,” said Lily, “that’s easy – we can just ask him about it."
“I wouldn’t,” said Lef. “We spend most of our time avoiding him. He’s fine as long as you don’t set him off.”
“What sets him off?” asked Lily.
“Talking to him.”
“I guess that might put a damper on our plans to ask him then,” said Incheon.
“What do we do now?” asked Lef. “We can’t read the books and I don’t know what to do with the pictures.”
“I think we should give the books to Mr. Zolock,” said Willow. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the writing, but I think he might be able to figure it out. Besides, I wanted to ask if he knows anything about ‘imperious’ or whatever it was that Esbee said.”
“Good heavens!” exclaimed Mr. Zolock when they mentioned the word. “Are you going to tell me you heard that in a dream?”
“No, sir,” said Willow. “We heard it from Esbee.”
“Now Willow,” said Mr. Zolock, slipping into his lecture tone of voice. “Would you have me believe that our kind-natured Suncorn ghost went spouting off about unforgivable curses?”
Willow stared back at him, speechless. Why would Esbee talk about curses?, she wondered.
“We heard it too, sir,” said Lily, speaking up for Willow. “Both Sib and I heard her say…that word.”
“Is this true?” Mr. Zolock asked Sib.
“Yessir,” replied Sib. “She said imper...”
“Enough!” Mr. Zolock interrupted. “In what context?”
“Just that word,” said Willow. “I asked her how she died and she told me she was standing outside the Suncorn homeroom and couldn’t remember any more. She sort of glazed over and then said that word. Then she drifted through the wall. I just thought it might have something to do with how she died.”
Mr. Zolock walked over and stared out the window for a minute, then he turned back to Willow.
“Twice now you have come to me with dark magic that you should not have known...could not have known. I need you to tell me truthfully how you learned of it the first time.”
“It was a dream, Mr. Zolock,” said Willow. “Honestly.”
“We all shared it,” said Lef. “Everyone except Lily. It was the one where the Hunter said ‘Ava...”
“Stop!” interrupted Mr. Zolock. “Never repeat those words. So this was the shared dream that you mentioned.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Willow.
“This has to be part of the prophecy,” said Mr. Zolock, half to himself.
“The prophecy sir?” asked Willow. “Do you mean the same one that Miss Pyx mentioned?”
“Yes, but nobody outside of MACUSA knows the entirety of it. I only know a few pieces:
The end of the era of magic is nearing;
The nomaj will rise and replace the mage;
Gampton Hall's fifth house will mark the beginning
Only those who follow the path of darkness can avoid the end
Mr. Zolock was pacing nervously around the room. “That’s the part of the prophecy that MACUSA used twelve years ago to ban all dark magic. It's why the dark arts have been banned for the past decade, why the Defense Against the Dark Arts corridor is closed down, and why you shouldn't know anything about either of those two curses. Everyone is convinced that the end of the era of magic will be the end of the Statute of Secrecy...that the nomaj will find out about us.”
“But my mom’s a nomaj and she knows about magic,” said Willow.
“She and the other nomaj parents of students here are the exception, Willow. I’m talking about all the magical protections being gone and all three hundred million nomaj in America suddenly realizing that there are spells and mages and manticores all around them. What do you think would happen?”
“I...I don’t know,” said Willow.
“I think we would be in danger of total extinction,” Mr. Zolock said.
“But what does that have to do with us?” asked Willow.
“Gampton's fifth house will mark the begining,” Mr. Zolock replied. "The Chancellor thought the Sorting Hat’s strange behavior during the induction could have been related to the fifth house and he’s been on pins and needles all year. Then, when Miss Pyx took him the news of your dream - the darkness that it contained - his greatest fears were confirmed.”
“But we didn’t do it on purpose!” said Willow.
“I know,” said Mr. Zolock soothingly. “And so does Miss Pyx. She knew the Chancellor was going to overreact and so she came to me for help. I didn’t really believe that you dreamed all this...until now. I’m willing to help however I can.”
“We want to know about the fifth house,” said Lily.
“As I told Willow,” Mr. Zolock said, “I don’t know anything about it. To my knowledge there has never been a fifth house at Gampton Hall.”
“Well,” said Willow, taking a chance, “you said that there was a fire that destroyed the archives in 1764. Esbee led us to a couple of books that we can’t read, but we know they were written before the fire. We were hoping you could take a look and tell us if there’s anything in them about the Pathfinder house.” Willow took out the three books and handed them to him. Mr. Zolock took them, set two of them on his desk and opened the third. He flipped it open to the first page and then after a second, started thumbing through the entire volume.
“You said she led you to these?” he asked. “How exactly?”
Willow took a breath. Well, he said he wanted to help, she thought. We’ve got to trust someone...and we can keep the paintings just in case. She proceeded to tell him about her hunch about the kitchen, their finding the fireplace opening and the strange room beyond.
“Hmmm. You found the old salamander pens.”
“Yes. In the early years of the school, the salamanders were kept indoors all year in a central pen. The door that you found was opened to have the salamanders crawl into the cooking fires so that they would burn hotter. Once the house elves were replaced by nomaj in the late 1800s, we sealed up the salamander pen and changed to nomaj appliances.”
“But the chest that held the books was just sitting in there,” said Willow. “How could nobody have seen it for a hundred and fifty years?”
“Nobody ever went in there, Willow. The chamber was fed wood from the top and magically emptied. The chest that held the archives must have been protected against the flames by a spell. Once the room was built, there was no reason to re-enter. There is nothing in there...which made it a perfect hiding place.” He turned back to look at the book. “And as for this, there appears to be a confundus charm cast on it.” He reached across his desk to grab his wand. “Deliquo!” he said, and then when nothing happened, “discutere!”...“summoveo!”…“abstergo!” accompanying each spell with a wave of his wand. He looked Willow. “Someone doesn’t want this book to be read.”
“Do you think you can break the spell?” asked Willow.
“I’ll certainly try. Will you leave these with me?” he asked, gesturing at the three books.
“Yes, sir. There are some others that we left with Mrs. Moore.”
“Very well,” said Mr. Zolock. “And Willow…?” Willow looked up at him. “The same rule as last time applies to the curse. Not a word to anyone…ever. That goes for all of you.”
“Yes sir,” they all replied before leaving.
They were sitting in the potions dungeon at lunch a week later. It was the first time they had been able to sit together since they dropped off the books with Mr. Zolock. They had spent every lunch period of the past week washing dishes as part of their detention. Willow’s hands were still dry and cracked from all the washing the five of them had done. Sib and Incheon were playing wizard chess, while Lef was busy working on her homework and Willow and Lily were looking at the paintings.
“Lily, why don’t you ever play wizard chess with us?” asked Incheon, who had just been beaten by Sib after twenty minutes of play. Incheon was twirling a piece of leprechaun gold in his fingers and wearing a bright green shamrock pin that flashed back and forth between ‘Kiss Me’ and ‘I’m Irish’.
“It’s not really a challenge,” she replied.
“Prove it,” Sib said, and turned the wizard chess board toward her.
“Fine,” Lily said with a sigh. “Pawn to e4.” At her command, the pawn in front of her king moved forward two spaces.
Willow looked up from the painting. “Where are we?” she asked nobody in particular. Sib mirrored the move that Lily had made, moving his king’s pawn.
“Duh, we’re at Gampton Hall.” responded Incheon, watching as Lily moved one of her bishops.
“No, I mean where is Gampton Hall,” Willow asked again.
“Duh, where we are,” said Incheon. Sib called for his knight to move.
“Where in the nomaj world is Gampton Hall?” Willow asked, ignoring him. “Lef, where do you live?”
“Dinwiddy,” she replied, now absorbed in the game as Lily called for her queen to move out diagonally to the far right side of the board.
“What state is that in?” Willow asked her.
“I don’t know...Maryland maybe? I was never very good at nomaj geography.”
Willow shook her head. “Look, there were hundreds of American Indian tribes in the United States. I could research the American Indians that were here if I knew where this school was located. I thought it was 20 minutes from my house in Pennsylvania, but it seems to be 20 minutes from everywhere.”
“Knight to f6,” called Sib, a note of excitement in his voice as he moved into position to take Lily’s queen.
“How can we find out where the nearest nomaj town is?” continued Willow.
“Duh, ask a nomaj,” Incheon responded.
“You’re not being helpful at all,” said Willow, turning to him.
“Yes, I know,” said Incheon, smiling.
“Queen to f7,” Lily said absently. As her queen slid diagonally and crushed the pawn in front of the queen’s rook, Sib’s king fell over. “Checkmate.”
“Four moves?” laughed Incheon. “I can’t believe she trounced you in four moves, Sib! Move over and watch a master at work…but I’ll be white this time.” After the pieces were reset, he called out “pawn to f4.” The pawn in front of his king’s bishop moved out two spaces. Lily countered by calling for the pawn in front of her king to move out one space.
“Pawn to g4,” Incheon called. The pawn in front of his king’s knight moved out two spaces. “Check it out,” he said. “I’m building a wall of pawns.”
“Queen to h4. Checkmate.” Incheon’s king fell with a thud on the board.
“Two moves, Incheon?” said Sib. “I don’t think it’s possible to lose any faster than you just did.”
“So you mean I set a record? I’m good with that.”
Lily handed her painting to Willow. “Look at their wands,” she said.
“Well,” Willow asked. “If they didn’t have wands, how did they use magic?”
“If they were nomaj, you could ask one where we are,” joked Incheon.
“Still not helpful,” said Willow, frowning.
Lily looked up from where she was sitting. “He is being helpful,” she said to Willow. “Go ask a nomaj.”
“In the kitchen!” said Willow.
“But how are you going to get in the kitchen?” asked Lef. “You can’t just go waltzing in.”
“If I could go during class, I would be sure that Felicity wouldn’t turn me in,” said Willow. “The kitchen is near the nurse’s office. If I can just fake an illness, maybe I can get down there.”
“Why fake an illness when you can suffer through a real one?” said Incheon. “Here, I’ve been wanting to use these forever.” He pulled a small box from his bag and set it in front of Willow. She looked at the lid which labeled it as a ‘Skipping Snackbox’. “I got it from my brother for Christmas,” Incheon continued. “Luckily it wasn’t in my bag last week when the Chancellor pilfered all of my best stuff. It’s from Three Dubs. Do you want a terrible nosebleed, a raging fever, or uncontrollable vomiting?” He raised one eyebrow in expectation of Willow’s response.
“Um…The fever sounds the least disgusting,” said Willow after thinking for a second. “I’ll take that. How long does it last?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just take the other half of the candy and the fever goes away. I’m glad you didn’t pick the barfing. I want to save it for after I eat some blueberry pie. Maximum effect, you know.”
Willow wasn’t sure what to say. “Well that’s…uh..”
“…gross,” finished Lily.
Willow made the mistake of taking the candy before she walked up the four flights of stairs to the Astronomy classroom. By the time she reached the door, she was already burning hot and had chills running through her entire body.
“Willow!” exclaimed Mr. Cosmuto. “You look awful.” He came over to her and as soon as he touched her arm said “You’re burning up. Off to the nurse’s office immediately.” He turned to Lily, who had helped Willow up the last flight of stairs. “Lily, will you go with her to make sure she makes it okay?”
“Of course, sir.” Willow stumbled back out the door and was reaching out for the railing to the stairs when Lily caught her.
“You need to take the other half of that candy…now,” she whispered to Willow. Willow felt completely disoriented and started looking in her bag. She almost instantly forgot what she was looking for.
“Wha?...” began Willow. Her vision was blurry and she couldn’t focus on anything.
“The other half of the candy,” whispered Lily. Realizing what she was looking for again, Willow found the other half of the candy and shoved it into her mouth. She felt better with every downward step so that by the time they reached the basement level, she could walk on her own. She felt sticky from sweating through her clothes as her fever broke, but there was nothing she could do about it. They followed the hallway around to where the Nurse’s office was.
“All clear,” whispered Lily, after checking the empty Custodian’s office. The Nurse’s office was lit, but the door was closed. They snuck by and Willow said goodbye to Lily at the door under the stairs that led to the kitchen. Willow watched Lily retracing their steps as she closed the door behind her and turned around to go into the kitchen.
“Oh, hello dear. Are you lost?” said the first kitchen worker she saw.
“No, ma’am,” Willow remembered back to what she would have said in her nomaj school. “I’m doing a school project on...commuting and I...I was just wondering where everyone lives who works here.”
“Well,” she said. “We live all over....Jonie there lives in Millersville, Rick lives over toward Quarryville and I live in Lancaster. What about you dear, where do you live?”
Willow hadn’t counted on being asked this question. She blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Oh…I live just west of here.”
“You mean on the other side of the river? What, from York? Your bus ride must be forever,” she said.
“Oh it’s not that bad…” Willow said, edging back to the door before she was asked more awkward questions. Before she left, she thought she had to make sure of something.
“That’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania, right?”
“Are you all right, dearie?” the worker asked, a worried expression on her face.
“Yeah...I’m just…getting over a fever. Thanks.”
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