“Good thing you have this book stipend,” Sib’s mom whispered to him. The cashier was waving his wand at Sib’s school books and the prices were rising in the air and adding themselves together. “Second hand or not, these books are worth more than I earn in a week.”
Sib wasn’t paying attention. He was looking through the window towards the Quidditch sporting goods store across the way. His focus was on the broom in the display window. It was jet black, but what drew Sib’s eye were the bristles. Instead of being made of twigs or straw, they were made entirely of flame. Red, orange and yellow gouts of fire shot from the back of the broom. “Ma, can we go check that out?” he asked.
“Sure. We ain’t in a hurry,” his mom replied, putting Sib’s books into her own battered purse. “But don’t get no ideas,” she reminded him.
They headed into the store named 'Quod (De)pot' to look around. Inside were rows upon rows of Quidditch and Quodpot supplies. There was a wall with about twenty different brooms on display, aisles of balls, collapsible goals, cases, and other supplies. There were other aisles filled with clothing, hats, and other gear supporting a number of teams that Sib had been reading about for years. Passing by one of the aisles, he saw shirts with the Sweetwater All-Stars on them and a poster showing the Fitchburg Finches flying around the frame. Sib stopped at the window display to look at the flaming broom.
“It’s a Firebird,” said a voice behind him and Sib turned to see a saleswoman approaching. She was older, maybe in her fifties - but Sib found it hard to tell since her long straight hair was bright powder blue.
“It’s amazin’,” said Sib turning back to the broom. “Uh...how much is it?”
“That one? Oh, it’s only a prop. It won’t even fly. A real Firebird would go for something like eight or nine hundred thousand dragots...but one hasn’t gone up for auction in years.”
“Excuse me?” exclaimed Sib’s mom, who had caught up to them. “Eight or nine hundred thousand? That’s more than I’ll earn in my entire life...for a broom!”
“They are exorbitantly expensive,” replied the saleswoman. “Only twelve were ever made and five of those have been lost or destroyed. Each one was crafted by a true grandmaster broom maker. Nothing has ever been made before or since that could match it for speed and maneuverability. Quodpot and Quidditch professionals would do anything to get their hands on one of them.”
“I bet,” said Sib. “Maybe we could find a broomstick on sale?” he said wistfully to his mom.
“And maybe you got tuna fish casserole for brains,” his mom responded. “You need all these supplies plus dress robes this year. Long as you keep goin' to school, there ain’t no way I can get you a broom. You just use the school ones. Besides, you don’t even have enough people in your house to play anyways.” Sib knew she was right, but couldn’t help but walk away disappointed.
Sib’s mom went into the nearby potion supply store called ‘Alchemy Alcove’ and Sib waited outside near the wand store for her to return. He was staring through the window at the glassy display cases, bright neon lights and the general ice cream parlor-like atmosphere when he saw the reflection of his friend in the front glass of the store.
“Willow!” Sib called as he saw his friend for the first time since the beginning of the summer. “I’m glad you were able to come when we were.”
“Hi Sib,” she responded, pulling her shoulder-length dirty blonde hair back into a ponytail and putting a hairband around it. She was tall with deep brown eyes and was as focused and determined as anyone he had met. “Are you getting your things for the year?” she asked him.
“Yup,” he said. “But we gotta stop in here next.”
“Me too. But why are you going to the wand store?”
“Oh,” Sib replied. “My brother busted mine, so I’m seein’ if Miss Chantrix can fix it up. What about you? Is your wand busted too?"
“No,” Willow started and her face lit up as she began to talk. “Do you remember when we were learning about applied magic last year and how I borrowed that spell removal potion from Mr. Hendershot?”
“Borrowed?” Sib smiled. “I don’t recall you ever thinkin’ to put it back.”
“Whatever,” Willow continued, dismissing the detail. “And you remember that my mom accidentally drank it?” Sib nodded and she continued. “Well, it turns out that she has been a mage all along. She had a spell cast on her when she was eleven that caused her to forget all about her magical ability and the spell removal potion made her magical again. Isn’t that awesome?”
Following only about half of what Willow was saying, Sib responded. “Sure, but I don’t understand… she has her power back, but she don’t remember anythin' about what happened?”
“No, Willow said. “She was born as a mage and apparently when she was eleven, she went to Gampton Hall with my grandfather, but for whatever reason, they decided not to attend and when you make that decision, there’s a spell that erases your memory of ever being a mage and it suppresses your magic so that you can live your life as a regular nomaj. When she drank the potion, she became a mage again, but she doesn’t have any memories of anything about it.”
“So,” Sib asked. “You think Miss Chantrix will be able to give her a wand if she ain’t had no schooling?”
“They gave us wands and we didn’t have any schooling,” Willow responded. She turned as her mom approached carrying a long thin package. Sib smiled because she looked like an older version of Willow, the only difference was that her shoulder-length hair was darker. “I’ll see you inside,” Willow said to him as she and her mom entered the store.
Sib had always liked Willow and thought she was beautiful, but had never gotten up the nerve to tell her so. He knew he was dirt poor and his grammar was awful. He had written it off as something that couldn't happen. He waited outside for his mom wondering if it would be as easy as Willow said for her mom to get a wand. From what he knew, MACUSA had about a thousand government regulations about wand ownership. He saw his mom coming and held the door open for her.
“Willow!” Miss Chantrix cried when she was finished with her previous customer. She was in her early thirties and had large-framed glasses that changed neon colors in time to the display cases around the store. “I’m dying to see that wand! I heard all about it from Ruluff Hendershot, but I have to see it.” Willow took her amulet off of her neck and handed it to the eager store owner.
“It’s amazing,” Miss Chantrix fawned, “and it works?”
“Perfectly,” said Willow. “At least as far as I can tell.”
“Here,” Miss Chantrix said as she handed it back to Willow. “Do a charm for me...” She looked around for a moment and then found a quill. Breaking it in half, she pointed at it. “Do a mending charm from your Thaumaturgy lessons.”
Willow held the amulet in her hand and concentrated on the broken quill while she called out “reparo”. The quill jumped on the table as the two halves pulled themselves together. Miss Chantrix picked up the fixed quill and glanced at it before turning back to her.
“I’m so glad it works,” she said, “and the others...?" Willow nodded and turned to Sib. Miss Chantrix looked at him "Does your wand look like this too?”
"Not exactly, Miss Chantrix," Sib said, holding up the mangled remains of his amulet.
"Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “Let me see." Sib placed the broken amulet in her outstretched hand. "How did it happen?" she asked after inspecting the damage.
"My brother busted it over his knee," Sib responded.
She evaluated it carefully, holding it up close to her eye level. "Early sixties vintage..." she remarked. "Well, no magical damage, so that’s fortunate..." She flipped the amulet over and then looked up at him. "The good news is that I don't think it's beyond repair, but this might take us a while. It's no 'reparo' if you know what I mean." She looked around her and then went over to a swinging pink door that led into a back room. Pressing it halfway open, she called into the space beyond which was piled with boxes from floor to ceiling. "Binky! Do you have a minute?" She turned back to them while she was waiting. "Binky really has a gift for this sort of damage repair." When the elf arrived at the door, Miss Chantrix spoke to him for a moment and then turned back to Sib. "Just wait around for a few minutes while Binky sees to it. He should be right out for you." Sib nodded and waited while Miss Chantrix turned back to Willow.
"Thank you so much for letting me look at your wands," she said. "I’ll tell you, I’ve never heard or seen anything like it.”
“That’s actually not the only reason we came in,” said Willow. “My mom needs to talk to you.”
“Ah, Ms. Carter,” said Miss Chantrix, looking up at Willow’s mom. “How can I help you?”
“I’d like to see about getting a wand,” she said to Miss Chantrix.
“I’m not sure I understand. Willow already has a wand.”
“It’s not for her. It’s for me.”
“For you?” questioned Miss Chantrix. “Why?...just for decoration, you mean?”
“No,” Willow’s mom explained. “I just found out two months ago that I’m actually a mage. I’ve been magical all my life, but it was hidden until this last spring.”
“That’s unheard of...,” replied Miss Chantrix shaking her head in disbelief. “How in the world did you just find out that you were a mage?”
“It turns out that I was magical as a child and I was invited to attend Gampton Hall when I was eleven, but for whatever reason, my father opened the blue envelope."
"Blue envelope?" questioned Miss Chantrix.
Willow's mom looked confused. "Doesn't everyone get the choice between the red and blue envelopes?"
Sib piped up to clarify since he had heard the story from Willow's own envelope experience last year. "Ms. Carter," he interjected. "There ain't no red or blue envelope for anyone but nomaj students."
After thinking for a moment, she nodded her head. "I guess that makes sense. The other families wouldn't have a blue envelope to go back to. Anyway, the red envelope is to accept attendance at the school and apparently my father or I opened the blue envelope which erased our memory of the event and masked my magical abilities. I've been living the last thirty years as a nomaj."
"I've heard about mages living as nomaj," Miss Chantrix said. "But not like this... Fascinating; go on."
"Then, midway through last year, I accidentally drank a potion that washed away the spell that was hiding it.”
"You mean a dispel potion? How did you accidentally drink it?" Willow, who had stolen the potion from their Thaumaturgy classroom was squirming. Sib, seeing her discomfort spoke for her.
"We was tryin' to wash our wands with it last year when they wasn't working," he said. "Seems some got mixed up with what Ms. Carter was drinkin'."
“That’s incredible...” started Miss Chantrix, but she stopped mid-sentence, shaking her head. “But even if it were true, Ms. Carter, I still couldn’t sell you a wand.”
“Because you’d be listed as a wandless mage. We are forbidden by law to sell wands to wandless mages...I could lose my license.”
“So how do I get off this list?” Willow’s mom asked.
“I have no idea,” said Miss Chantrix, “but I’d start with MACUSA's Wizarding Resources Department.”
“Okay. Remind me what ‘macoosa’ is again?”
“Sorry,” Miss Chantrix shook her head. “I keep forgetting that not everyone knows that. It’s the Magical Congress of the United States of America. The acronym is pronounced ‘macoosa’. It’s America’s magical government agency.”
“Right, and how do I get to the Wizarding Resources Department?”
“Oh, I can show you,” Sib’s mom interjected. “We have to head over there anyways.” Sib’s mom introduced herself. “I’m Cassiopia Hooplander; Sib’s ma. But I go by ‘Cass’.”
“Well, Cass, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Heather Carter.” They shook hands. The two of them exchanged pleasantries while they waited. Sib looked around when he saw the door to the back room open, and the elf, Binky, exited and walked over to him.
“Were you able to fix it Mr. Binky?” Sib asked the short, bald, bat-eared creature.
“I think so,” he replied. “Let’s give it a shot.” Try ‘aguamenti.’”
“But it’ll make a mess,” Sib said, looking around.
“Yes, but then I’ll have you use “vacuo” to clean it up,” Binky clarified, smiling.
“Oh, okay…aguamenti!” A stream of water shot out of the center of Sib’s amulet, splashing the wand case in front of him. He stepped back to avoid the puddle and raised his wand again. “Vacuo!” The amulet started sucking up the water from the floor, the stream disappearing back into the nothingness where it started.
“Seems like it works like new,” Binky said.
Sib looked it over, but it really was as Binky said; good as new. “Thank you Mr. Binky, I don’t know what we would have done if it couldn’t be fixed.” Sib’s mom approached the counter to pay for the repair and Sib held the door open for all of them as they left the store and walked toward the entrance to MACUSA.
As they walked, Willow held out a long wrapped package. “Sib, guess what?” she started, and then without waiting she answered her own question. “I got a broom for my birthday present! I’m going to start a Pathfinder Quidditch team!”
“Are you…” Sib was going to say ‘insane’ but changed mid-sentence. “...sure? Last I checked, we only had four people in our house.”
“Yes, but we’re bound to get more. We’re the fifth house, remember? I just know we’ll have new members.”
“New members who can fly,” Sib clarified. “Won’t do no good if none of them can get off the ground.” He saw that he was making Willow feel bad and quickly added “I mean…Incheon and I are half decent, but...well...we ain’t likely to win a game all year.”
“Oh, I don’t care,” Willow responded. “I just want to play. You know, be a part of the school." She stared off into the distance wistfully. "Sib, I finally feel like I’m somewhere I belong and I want to make the most of every second.” She opened the wrapping slightly so Sib could see the model. “It’s a Quantum-3,” she continued. “Really at the mid-point in terms of speed and agility. It’s not as maneuverable as the Yggdrasil X-30, but at a quarter of the cost, I really couldn’t justify the better model to my mom.”
“Sounds like you been doin’ some homework,” Sib responded, impressed that a nomaj-born like Willow knew so much about brooms. Did you memorize that whole book that Incheon sent?”
“Just about. I think having our own team is going to be amazing.”
“There’s no talking you out of this, is there?” Sib asked.
“Okay then,” Sib mused. “I guess we’ll see what we get in the sortin’.” They walked the rest of the way to the MACUSA main lobby discussing Quidditch; Sib growing more and more impressed with Willow’s knowledge of the sport.
They eventually reached the lobby, took the elevator to the 87th floor and stopped at the Wizarding Resources Department. “Here you are, Heather,” Sib’s mom said when the elevator doors opened. “I hate to be a bother, but would you be willing to keep an eye on Sib while I go…”
“Sure,” replied Willow’s mom. “You go on.”
“What’s your mom doing here?” asked Willow as they stepped off the elevator.
Too embarrassed to tell her the actual reason, Sib quickly thought up another. “Uh...she’s gotta see about some plant she found.”
“But she pushed the button for the Magical Law Enforcement floor,” Willow responded, confused.
“Oh, she does that all the time,” Sib said, immediately feeling awful about saying that as his mom had an amazing sense of direction. “She’ll figure it out soon enough.” Luckily, Willow’s mom had found the receptionist and Sib turned his attention to their conversation.
“...So you’re a squib,” said the mage behind the desk - a young man in blue robes and thick glasses, his dark brown hair sticking up at odd angles. It was clear that he was struggling to understand what Willow’s mom was saying.
“What’s a squib?” Willow’s mom asked.
“It’s a person born to a magical family who doesn’t have any magic,” he explained.
“No,” responded Willow’s mom. “I have magic, I just don’t have a wand.”
“Oh, so you’re a wandless mage?”
“Okay,” he replied. He reached in his desk, flipped through a few files and pulled out a form. “Let’s see here…” they went through the usual name and address information before he got to his next question. “...And why did you have your wand taken away?”
“I didn’t have it taken away, I've lived the last thirty years as a nomaj and I’ve never had a wand.”
The man paused for a second and adjusted his glasses. “So you’re a nomaj?” he asked.
“Look,” said Willow’s mom, pulling her handbag from her shoulder and holding it up. “This is a Granger that I bought at a shop in Narrowway. I’ve certified with everyone I could that the magic of this bag does not work for nomaj.” She proceeded to open the bag and put her arm inside to the point where the bag was hanging on her shoulder; making it appear as though her arm was gone.
“So you’re a wandless mage?” he asked again.
“Yes,” repeated Willow’s mom, clearly beginning to get frustrated.
“But you have to report how you lost your wand to begin with,” he said, working through frustration of his own.
“Until three months ago, I was nomaj,” started Willow’s mom, “I’ve never been to magic school or had a wand. I lived my entire life as a nomaj with no idea that I had any hidden magic powers. In April, I accidentally drank a magic potion and my hidden magic was revealed. Now that I’m a mage, I wanted to get a wand but Caitlyn Chantrix said I have to get a waiver or something.”
There was silence for a moment as the man behind the desk thought about what he had just heard. “Wow,” he said, sitting back in his chair. “I don’t think we have a form for that.” After a second, he got a pad of red paper out of his desk, wrote a short message on it, crumpled up the paper into a ball and threw it in a can beside his desk. “Take a seat over there.” He gestured toward a few chairs lined up against a nearby wall. “Someone will be right with you.”
They ended up waiting about five minutes until a man who looked exactly like the one they were just talking to came over and greeted them, carrying an uncrumpled red piece of paper in his hand. Sib had to look back at the man they were talking to first just to check that this person was different. Sib missed his name, which he mentioned while they were led back to his office, a spacious cavern of a room with a single desk and a few chairs located in the center. Willow’s mom began the explanation all over again.
“...So you’re a squib?” the man asked.
“No, I have magic, I just don’t have a wand.”
“Oh, so you’re a wandless mage?”
“Oh, then you need form twelve-c”
“You mean this form?” Willow’s mom held up the form that the first version of this man had given them.
“Yes, that's the one." Willow's mom handed it over. He glanced it over and then noticed a problem. "Wait, you need to fill out box fourteen.” He turned the paper around on the desk and pushed it back toward Willow’s mom who leaned over to see what the question was.
“But I didn’t have my wand taken away, I was never given a wand.”
“So, you don't have form forty-nine sixty-five from DCI?”
"I don’t know what either of those things are."
"It's a release from the Department of Confiscated Items for you to get your wand back. All wandless mages need it for reinstatement."
“But I'm not being reinstated.” Sib could tell she was beginning to lose it. “I was never instated to begin with."
“So you're a squib?”
“We’ve had this conversation already. I’m a mage who never went to magic school, never went to Narrowway, and never got a wand.”
“But that’s the definition of a squib.”
“Look, I'm whatever you call someone who was born magical, but had their magic suppressed when they were eleven and lived as a nomaj for thirty years but then drank a magic potion and got their magic back all of the sudden without ever having gotten a wand or going to magic school."
“Oh,” he paused for a moment and leaned back in his chair. “I don’t think we have a form for that.”
Willow’s mom had left the office in frustration; the second man having referred the issue to his boss for another day.
“He probably looks the same as those two,” whispered Willow as they walked back to the lobby, making Sib laugh out loud.
“Thank you so much for watching him,” Sib’s mom said when she returned to meet them outside of the Wizarding Resources Department. “I had to put in another petition for my husband’s release.” Sib looked down at his feet, but he could feel Willow’s eyes boring into the side of his head.
“Release?” Willow’s mom asked.
“From prison,” Sib’s mom responded. “He’s being held on some trumped-up charge of dark magic use, but he was just out huntin’.”
“That’s terrible,” Willow’s mom said. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Like tell the truth?” Willow whispered to Sib.
“Sorry,” he responded. “I ain’t proud of it.” He was silent for the elevator ride down but said ‘bye’ to Willow before they split up in the main lobby of MACUSA.
“Well?” Sib asked after he and his mom returned to their cabin using the Firejump Network.
“They ain’t lettin’ him go if that’s what you’re askin’,” she replied to Sib’s question, dusting the floo powder from her hands.
“It ain’t like he hurt nobody,” pleaded Sib. “What’s their justification?”
“Simple...dark magic. He used what they’re callin’ dark magic and there ain’t no leniency.”
“He used a killin’ curse to get us a deer. What was he supposed to do? Hit it with a rock?” Sib balled up his fists and pounded the top of the kitchen table.
His mom pulled him into an embrace. “I know. It don’t make no sense.”
“When we goin’ to see him next?” Sib asked, resting his head on his mom's shoulder and willing away the tears that were forming in his eyes.
“Let’s go at Thanksgivin’. Right after we visit your Gramma.”
“And Sib,” his mom added. “Hide your amulet in your Stor-All so your brother can’t get to it. That repair was almost as expensive as the Thunderbird.”
Sib smiled. “Firebird, ma. And maybe not quite as bad as that.”
Sib had hidden his amulet in his Stor-All, afraid that his brother would break it again before he started classes. At the same time, he worked diligently over the last weeks before school to avoid his brother at all costs. The day before the first day of school, his luck ran out. Sib was just coming back from a day spent exploring the woods around his cabin when his brother jumped off the roof of the storage shed and wrestled Sib to the ground. After pushing his face in the dirt, Arc let him go. Sib scrambled upright and tried to dust himself off.
“If pa was here, he’d tan your hide good.” Sib threatened.
“Well, pa ain’t here, is he?” said Arc. “And why not? ‘Cause he used magic and those rat bastards came and took him away.”
“We’re tryin' to get him free,” Sib said, but his brother ignored him.
“Pa gets taken away ‘cause he used magic; ma despises me ‘cause I can’t use magic; and you…”
“I what?” Sib dared him.
“You...replaced me,” Arc said, his glassed-over eyes looking past Sib. “You...made me not matter.”
“I don't know what you're talkin' about.”
“Magic's caused me nothin’ but pain.”
“Pain? Lack of magic is what’s caused me pain,” Sib retorted. “If I could use my magic, I’d curse you every time you came near me.”
“Try it,” Arc threatened. “And you’ll rot for the rest of your life in Spellhold with pa.” Sib’s blood boiled over and he rushed his brother, trying to knock him over, trying to punch him, trying to make him hurt...like he had made Sib hurt. His brother quickly overpowered him and wrestled him to the ground with Sib’s arm pinned behind his back.
“You’re the one who charged me...and you deserve a lesson.” Arc stood up and slammed his foot down on Sib’s arm which felt like it had exploded. Sib heard the snap of the bone and the agony swept over him like a landslide.
Arc, realizing that he had gone too far, ran off into the woods. Sib sat up, seething with fury and cradling his broken arm. He was too filled with rage to feel the throbbing pain. “Next time you come after me and I have a chance to fight back, I ain’t gonna hesitate.”
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