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There were only three of them sitting outside the Chancellor’s office in the waiting area.  Willow, Lef and Incheon were all staring at the floor, waiting for the inevitable punishment.  Sib had been excused to see the school nurse after he told the Chancellor he had slammed his hand in a door.  Lily had never been caught.  Sib was the last one to turn the corner and he told the Chancellor that there were only the four of them and then winked at Willow when the Chancellor’s back was turned.  After a cursory look down the hallway, the Chancellor had escorted the four of them to his office and then had Mrs. Scheunemeyer assist Sib to the Nurse’s office.  He left them and went into his office, closing the door behind him.  It was understood that they were to wait.

“It was Felicity, I just know it,” whispered Willow to the others.  “I saw someone moving in the hallway and I’m sure it was her...just like when we were in the kitchen.”

“Well it doesn’t matter now, does it?” said Lef.  “It’s not like we can jinx her when she turns her back anyway.”  Their conversation was interrupted by several teachers who entered the outer office door and proceeded to the Chancellor’s office without looking at the three of them.  Willow saw that it was Mr. Puterschmidt, Miss Pyx, and Mr. Zolock.  As soon as the door was closed, Incheon started digging in his bag.  He pulled out a set of extendable ears and the pink string wound its way across the floor and slipped under the Chancellor’s inner office door.  

“I thought the chancellor took all your Weasley items,” said Lef.

“Yeah.  I had to express order this one by owl post,” Incheon responded as he put the end of the pink string to his ears.  “Miss Pyx is talking now,” he whispered.

“Immediate expulsion!” roared the Chancellor a moment later.  Willow didn’t need the extendable ears to hear that through the door.  Incheon put his ear back up to the end of the pink string after wincing away when the Chancellor yelled.

“Mr. Puterschmidt is sticking up for us, saying that going into that hallway isn’t that bad,” Incheon relayed.  “Now the Chancellor is saying we don’t respect authority and we’re a menace.”  Incheon looked at Willow and Lef.  “He’s right about us not respecting authority,” he said.

“Not his authority anyway,” muttered Willow.

“Now Miss Pyx is telling him that we should just get a detention,” continued Incheon.  “She says she’s done some divination and...”  Incheon stopped talking.

“And what?” whispered Lef.

Incheon dropped the string from his ear and started pulling it back into his bag.

“Well?” said Willow.

“She’s done divination and none of us are going to pass our final exams, so he doesn’t have to worry about expelling us,” Incheon said, finishing putting the extendable ears back in his bag.

The three of them sat in silence.  Willow’s thoughts were interrupted by the Chancellor’s office door opening.  Mr. Zolock, Miss Pyx and Mr. Puterschmidt walked past them, again not looking in their direction and left the outer office.  

“You three!” called the Chancellor, “into my office.”

 

The lecture from the Chancellor was unpleasant, the loss of fifty points from each of their houses worse, and the impending detention more so, but Willow thought the letter home to her mother was the worst of all.

“Willow, I’m so disappointed in you!” her mother said that evening.  “What were you doing out of bounds, when you knew better?”

“We were trying to find a way to get our magic to work,” replied Willow.  

“But why couldn’t you ask for help?”

“Nobody can help us, mom, I’ve tried and I don’t want to be expelled.”

“Expelled?  Who’s talking about expelling you?”

“If we don’t pass our final exams, then we’re automatically expelled.  None of us except Lily can do any magic.  I don’t know what else to do.”

“And you bring this up now?  A month before your final exams?  What were you thinking?  I need to go speak to Mr....McCracken.”

“But he wants us to be expelled!” 

“Why would he want that?”

“I don’t know for sure, mom, but it has something to do with a prophecy and us being in the fifth house.  He’s close to being fired and he thinks he can save his job by getting rid of us.  I’ve talked to everyone already.  Nobody can help me.”

“Willow, I want to help you!”

“There’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing anyone can do!”  Willow yelled and ran upstairs to her room, slammed the door and collapsed on her bed.  Her body was wracked with sobs.  She was going to lose everything.



The sky had faded into dusk when her mother knocked on the door and came in. 

“Willow, please tell me what’s going on,” she said, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

Willow had told her about the sorting long ago, but now she told her about the shared dreams that she and the others had had about the Hunter and the grove, about finding the archive, what she learned from Mr. Zolock and Miss Mercana about the prophecy, and her latest visit to the grove through the door in the school hallway.  She left out the part that Miss Mercana was a werebear, thinking that this was not the time.

“Mr. Zolock hasn’t been able to break the spell on the archive books, so none of us know what to do next,” Willow concluded, wiping the tears from her cheeks with her sleeves.  “The Chancellor wants us expelled and there doesn’t seem that anyone can do anything about it.”

“Well, that would explain why he cancelled our parent-teacher visit for the spring and won’t return my letters,” her mom said, getting up to pace the room.  After a minute, she paused.  “Besides the Chancellor, was anyone else upset that you were in that corridor?”

“Uh...” Willow thought for a moment.  “No.  They didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.” 

“And while you were in the grove, did you put your wand in the water?” 

“No!” exclaimed Willow.  “In the dream, it destroyed the wand, splitting it in two and twisting it.”  Her mom got up and stared out the window for a minute before continuing.

“Or changed it...” her mom muttered.

“What?” asked Willow.

“Honey,” Willow’s mom turned back toward her.  “You have to find your magic if you’re not going to be expelled.  We know there’s nothing wrong with your wand after visiting Narrowway over Christmas.  It’s just waiting for something, but there’s no way to know what that something is.  I believe you were shown all of these dreams for a reason.  You said the grove in your dream is real and the doorway is real, why isn’t the transformation of your wand real?  And you’re right in that I don’t understand any of this, but I think you need to go back.”

“But what about the ghost?  The Hunter?” said Willow.

“Your school is full of ghosts, and nobody is troubled about them.  Why should this one be any different?”

Willow thought about the killing curse, but didn’t bring it up to her mom.  

 

They didn’t talk about it any more that night, or in the two weeks that followed.  By the second Saturday in May, the date of the last Quiddich game of the year, Willow told her mom that she was going to stay late for her detention and probably wouldn’t be home in time for dinner.

“I’ll have dinner for you when you get home,” her mom replied.  “And Willow, see if you can’t get back to the grove while you’re at it.”

“Uh...okay mom.”

Although it was a warm day, the skies were overcast and gray.  There was a steady rain falling and the Ilvermorny Team was in dead last place of all the five schools playing for the North American Quiddich Championship.  Willow, Lef, Sib, and Incheon didn’t even stop by the Quiddich game.  Instead, they sat in the conservatory sipping hot chocolate while Willow told them about the conversation she had with her mom.

“She wants you to go back!” exclaimed Incheon.

“I know,” replied Willow.  “I didn’t tell her about the Hunter using the killing curse.  I’m sure she’d feel differently if she knew about that, but I didn’t want her to know that we had almost been killed.  Still...do you think we could just see if we can get there?”  They weren’t doing anything else except waiting for the game to end, so they climbed the stairs to the third level and started toward the forbidden corridor when they saw Miss Pyx standing in the middle of the hallway.

“Ah, there you are.  I’ve been waiting for you,” she said to them.

“Waiting?” said Willow.  “Why?”

“I have something for you.  It’s something you’re going to need.”  Miss Pyx held out a small white sphere, about the size of a pool cue ball and handed it to Willow.

“What is it?” asked Willow

“A light in the darkness,” replied Miss Pyx.

“I…I don’t understand,” said Willow.

“If you’re going to get your magic back, you are going to encounter darkness.  It’s a sunspot.  When you hold it in the air, it will produce a brilliant light.”

“But I thought you said that we were all destined to fail our finals?” said Incheon.

“I did say that,” said Miss Pyx smiling, “but it wasn’t meant for your ears.  I lied to the Chancellor about what I saw in my divination to have him drop his attempt to get you expelled.  I have no idea how you’re going to do on your finals.  What I really saw was five students in darkness, headed into deeper darkness...which is strange, since there are only four of you.”

“So can we go down the hallway?” asked Willow.

“No,” replied Miss Pyx.  “The Chancellor is in his office.  He knew you would be on the grounds today and is paying close attention.  Going down this hallway today would mean a third violation and would certainly get you expelled.  You’ll have to get through another day.”

They couldn’t do anything but turn around and go back the way they came. After thanking Miss Pyx for the sunspot, they sat in the conservatory not saying anything until they heard the roar of the crowd outside which marked the end of the game.

“I suppose we’d better get started if we want to finish before dark,” said Lef.

They met Mr. Zolock near the stadium entrance as the last of the fans were leaving and using portkeys, brooms, or walking toward the school to use floo powder to get home.

“Ah, there you are,” he said to them.  His clothes were perfectly dry and the raindrops appeared to be avoiding him as they fell.  “Come on inside.”

They walked into the stadium and looked around.  It was a disaster.  Wet streamers, cups, wrappers, banners, and all sorts of debris were all over the field.

“This is going to take forever!” said Incheon.

“You said it,” agreed Sib.

“So,” said Mr. Zolock, “you went through the portal?  What was on the other side?”

They were all stunned.  Willow spoke up first.

“How...how did you know?” she asked.

“It was Sib’s injury,” said Mr. Zolock.  “He couldn’t have slammed his hand in a door because I locked them all myself.  He had to have done it somewhere else.  Now, how did you get in?  What did you see?”

“I’d love to tell you about it, but shouldn’t we get started with cleaning up?” asked Willow.

“Ah, yes, the clean-up,” said Mr. Zolock and he took out his wand.  “Scourgify!” cried Mr. Zolock and as Willow watched the stadium began cleaning itself up.

“But didn’t the Chancellor say we couldn’t use magic?” asked Lef.

You didn’t,” said Mr. Zolock, smiling at them.  “Now, tell me what happened.”

Willow told him about using the word ‘Andaste’ to get in and what they found when they were inside.  Sib jumped into the conversation to explain how Lef had saved him from losing his hand on the Devil’s snare.  Incheon added how Sib had figured out how to get inside the ring and Lef told Mr. Zolock what they had found inside the circle of stones and the flight back to the gate after they had seen the ghost. 

“Andaste...Andaste...of course!,” said Mr. Zolock.  “Say our name and enter.  ‘Andaste’ must be what they called themselves.  That’s why I kept seeing that word all over the archives in my feeble efforts to decode it.  I think you need to go back,” 

Willow looked at the others and they were as confused as she was.

“What about the Hunter?” she asked.  “He was the one who used the killing curse!” 

“What did he use it on?” asked Mr. Zolock in a calm tone of voice.

“What do you mean?”

“Did he use it on a person, or did he use it on a deer?”

“What difference does that make?” Willow asked.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” explained Mr. Zolock.  “Are bullets and arrows evil?”

“Evil?  No, I guess not, but they can be used to kill.” 

“True, but you said the key word - ‘used’.  Evil is all about what you mean to do.  Magic is the same way.  Certain spells aren’t necessarily evil, it’s how they are used that make them so.”

“But the killing curse?” asked Lef.

“Can be used to humanely kill a deer...and has been used by indigenous witches and wizards for ages to do what would otherwise be done by a bow and arrow or a spear.  How do you know the Hunter, as you call him, wasn’t hunting?”

“I...don’t know,” said Willow.

“It don’t matter anyway,” said Sib.  “We can’t get back into the hallway.”

“Well,” said Mr. Zolock.  “I’ll talk to the Chancellor and see what I can do.”

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