“Can you believe that Mr. Woodhead accused me of breaking Corey out?” Willow fumed. They were huddled in the Pathfinder lounge the following week, waiting for the bell to signal the start of the first class of the day.
“Uh…” started Sib. “You did break him out.”
“That’s not the point,” she said. “He said I was responsible and he wanted me to tell him where Corey was - like I was hiding him in my back pocket or something.”
“So what did you tell him?” asked Lef.
“Nothing,” she said. “I started crying, so he got all awkward and told me I could go.”
“Were you really that upset?” asked Sib.
“Of course not,” said Willow.
Sib was confused. Can they just start crying like that?
“So what are you going to do?” Lef asked her.
“Well, for one I’m quitting COMC Club. I only really cared about Corey anyway and with him gone, the only thing left is scooping pegasus poo.”
“Are you goin’ to any club then?” Sib asked.
“I’m going to start my own,” she said. Sib noticed she had that same look in her eye that meant that there was no use arguing with her. “I’m going to start a club for Quidditch tactics and strategy. I’ve invited all the other Quidditch teams and we can get together and learn from each other. What do you think?”
“Uh...sure,” said Sib. “You really think other teams will be willin’ to share? They seem to take Quidditch kinda seriously.”
“Of course,” she replied. “Why wouldn't they?”
“I can’t believe they won’t share!” said Willow the following week, blocking Sib and Incheon’s attempts to leave the lounge to go to class. “They all showed up and then they just sat there, glaring at each other.”
“What did you think was going to happen?” asked Incheon. “Everyone was just going to tell each other their best moves?”
“Well…” Willow paused. “...Yeah.”
“Oh, Willow,” sighed Incheon. “I love your hopeful deluded optimism. Like how you think that Sib and I won’t lose more points if you don’t let us leave right now.”
“Are you still hiding?” she asked, still not letting them go. “Don’t you think it’s getting a little ridiculous?”
“They’re just lulling us into a false sense of security,” Incheon said. “The moment we let down our guard, then -Bam!- we’re goat cheese.”
“By the way,” Willow continued to block their departure. “Did you talk to Mr. Zolock about the language in the prophecy? Did he say it was wrong?”
“He didn’t say it was wrong,” Incheon said. “He said that it wasn’t the way he remembered, but he admitted that he’s never actually heard the prophecy and he has all of his information second-hand. To be fair though, he did say he doubted that the version in the newspaper was accurate.”
“So how are we going to find out what it actually says?”
“I don’t know. Goat cheese?” he added, pointing toward the door.
“Fine,” she said. “But don’t lose any more points!”
Mr. Puterschmidt had not docked them points that morning, almost expecting Sib and Incheon to show up late and out of breath. He had even moved them to the table closest to the door in the back of the room so they would be less disruptive when they got there. By the end of the day, Sib and Incheon were congratulating each other for getting through another day of no jinxes and no lost points. Sib told the others he was going to stick around in the Mysticism classroom to talk to Miss Pyx and waited for the room to clear after the lesson.
“Miss Pyx?” he asked after the last student had left. She put down her quill and nodded to him. “I think I might take you up on your offer.”
“Good,” she said. “Tell me what changed your mind.”
“I had a vision that day,” began Sib. “The one that knocked me out of my chair. It was like I was inside the crystal and a manticore came chargin’ out of the mist and stabbed me with his stinger in my left shoulder.”
“No wonder you fell out of your chair. Go on.”
“So...I...uh.” He paused, not realizing until this moment what he was about to confess to. “Can you keep a secret, ma’am?”
“Does it involve putting a student in danger?” she asked.
“Just me,” Sib said. Miss Pyx nodded and held up a finger for him to wait. She went over to the door, pulled it closed and cast ‘muffliato’ on it so nobody could overhear their conversation.
“I swear,” she said, turning back to him. “I will keep what you say to me in confidence.” Reassured, Sib proceeded to tell her about Corey’s breakout, the vision coming true, and the use of the rattlesnake-plantain. He left out Willow’s part in the breakout, claiming the whole idea was his.
“I have about a thousand questions,” Miss Pyx began. “But I’ll save most of them for later. First, I want to know if you can come work with me after school during club time.”
Sib thought for a moment. He would have to quit COMC, but honestly without Willow there he found he didn’t care much. “Yes, ma’am. I’m gonna drop COMC club anyways.”
“Okay, good. Next, I think you’re leaving something out. If we’re going to do this, I need you to be completely honest. I swore to you that I would keep this between us. In return, I need you to tell me everything. Including the role of your partner in crime.”
“How did you…” began Sib.
“Are you really asking that of your Mysticism teacher?” She smiled.
“Right.” He sighed and told her everything about the plan including Willow’s part in it.
“You mentioned this didn’t put anyone in danger. Where’s the manticore now?”
“Miss Mercana has him,” replied Sib. “She said she would take care of him.”
“Good,” she replied. “If anyone can manage a manticore, it's her. How is Ursula?”
“Not great. She looks like she’s been livin’ rough.”
“I can imagine. Okay, next question. Why did you happen to have rattlesnake-plantain in your bag? Did you learn about that from Mr. Diatomungi?”
“No,” said Sib. “I guess that’s really the thing that made me come to get your help. It turns out the manticore wasn’t the first vision I had.” Sib told her about being chased by the harpy over the summer and the four visions he had about each of his four friends. He told her how the vision about Willow’s tunnel idea had helped him get away from the harpy and how the vision about Lef’s identification of checkered rattlesnake-plantain had made the difference between his own life and death.
“So if you hadn’t paid attention to the vision and trusted that what you saw was true, you’d be dead right now,” she summarized. Sib nodded.
“Sheesh. You’ve certainly had enough to think about.” She put her hands on her desk and stood up. “Okay, that’s enough for today,” she said. “ I’d like to start next time with literal visions. That seems to be what you’ve been experiencing so far.” Sib nodded again and then gathered his things.
“Are you going to tell your friends?” she asked as she opened the door and ended the ‘muffliato’ spell.
“I reckon so,” he replied. “I’ll just need to figure out the best way.”
“Sometimes, your visions themselves are the best way.”
That night, Sib’s mom was sitting at the kitchen table with a cloth, polishing the two pieces of jewelry she owned; a necklace and her wedding ring. Sib’s brother had retreated to the bedroom, so Sib was avoiding going there until he knew that his brother was asleep.
“Hey ma,” Sib opened up his bag and reached inside. “While you’re polishin’ up jewelry…” He found what he was looking for and pulled out the tarnished silver ring that he had found in the niffler’s den.
“Oh! Want me to polish it up?” she asked.
“I want you to have it, ma.”
“Did you find this?”, she said, holding it up to the light.
“Yeah,” he said. “It was in a niffler’s den along with a bunch of other junk.”
“Sib, that’s awful nice of you. But look, it don’t fit on my finger.” She had tried it on and couldn’t get it past her knuckle.
“You could wear it on your pinky finger. Or you could sell it.”
“An old tarnished silver ring like this?” she said. “Wouldn’t be worth the floo powder. You found it. You go on and keep it. Wear it for good luck.” She polished it up with her other jewelry and handed it back to him, gleaming in the light. He put it on the middle finger of his right hand. It felt odd having a ring on, but somehow it made him feel better wearing it. Like I own somethin’ worth havin’, he thought.
“Ma, we’re goin’ to see Gramma over Thanksgivin’, right?”
“Sure,” replied his mom, setting aside the jewelry and the polishing cloth.
“What happened to her? I know she’s paralyzed. But I mean… what happened to make her like that?”
“I don’t know,” his mom responded. “And I don’t think she does neither.”
“But you said it had to do with Mysticism...with her tellin’ fortunes or somethin’, right?”
“She weren’t involved in no parlor tricks, Sib,” she scolded. “Your gramma was a true seer.”
“What do you mean?”
His mom paused for a moment. “Well, I guess you’re old enough to know…” she started. “He didn’t tell me not to...”
“Ma, what are you talkin’ about?”
“Your Gramma - she’s the one that made that prophecy about the nomaj. The one that’s been in the papers and all.” Sib was dumbfounded. The prophecy. All I had to do all along was ask my Gramma about it. “Does she remember?” he asked. “She knows what it says?”
“I don't know,” his mom replied. “We've never talked about it. But you can ask her yourself when you go.” She nodded toward the bedroom door. “You’re brother’s started snorin’ so you get off to bed.” Sib got up, hugged his mom goodnight and went to sleep, knowing that one part of the mystery of the prophecy was going to be easy to solve.
Sib and his brother were eating breakfast the next morning. Sib had toasted a couple of pieces of bread from the previous night’s dinner and was eating them dry. His brother was half-awake, shoveling generic cereal into his mouth on the other side of the table and ignoring Sib’s existence. Other than when he was asleep, Sib found this time of day to be the safest to be in his brother’s company. Their complete lack of conversation was interrupted by an owl which flew in the open kitchen window, dropped a letter on the table and then flew back out with an impolite ‘screech’.
“Hey look,” Arc said, grabbing the letter. “Ma got some magic mail. Wonder what it says.”
“That’s ma’s. You shouldn’t be openin' it.”
“Shove off dogbait.” He tore open the letter and read it out loud. “Dear Cass,” he began. “Thanks for offering to try to get me a wand.”
“Stop it! That’s ma’s!”
“Shut your face and let me finish. It’s about magic so it must be important.” He turned back to the letter. “I’ll definitely take you up on that. To answer your question, Willow uses a white oak wand with a griffon feather core. Sincerely, Heather.” He crumpled the letter into a ball and threw it across the room.
Sib got up and retrieved it, opening it back up to see his friend’s name and her mom’s name. Why is my mom askin’ about Willow’s wand wood and core?
“Hey fartbreath,” his brother said, shoveling cereal in his mouth again. “Ooh fouldn’t wead ma’s maol.” Sib folded the crumpled letter and put it back on the table, smoothing and resealing it with a charm. Arc’s eyes caught something. He swallowed and stood up from the table staring at Sib. “Nice ring. Give it to me.”
“I ain’t givin’ you nuthin’,” replied Sib. He bolted to the side and grabbed his Stor-All, but his path to the fireplace was blocked.
“Give me the ring, or I break your arm again.”
“I said, I ain’t givin’ you nuthin’. Now get out of my way.” Sib made a move to the left, but his brother shifted and grabbed for Sib’s arm, barely missing. Sib braced himself. If I can just barrel him over long enough to escape... He started charging and his brother fell over unexpectedly, choking on a fly that had flown into his mouth. Sib stumbled forward, caught his balance and was able to grab a handful of floo powder and jump to school just before his brother recovered. Lucky break, he thought as he stepped out of the fireplace and started for the lifts.
As he walked into the third-floor lounge, his thoughts were still overwhelmed with the letter to his mom. How is she gettin’ a wand for anybody? And why ain't anybody me? Without letting on that he had read her mom’s letter, Sib started questioning Willow as soon as she showed up. “Hey Willow,” he asked. “Did your mom ever get that wand before the regulations came out?”
“No,” she replied. “It was more bureaucratic paperwork. Now I don’t know if she’ll ever get a wand.”
“Has she, uh, ever mentioned maybe gettin’ a wand from somebody else?”
“You mean other than Miss Chantrix? Wouldn’t they all have to go by the same rules?” It was enough for Sib to realize that her mom wasn’t sharing anything with Willow.
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” He decided to change the topic. “Listen, you are never gonna believe what I found out last night.” Without waiting for a response, he jumped right in. “My Gramma is the one who gave that prophecy.”
“Your Grandma!” she exclaimed. “Then you could just send her an owl and…” She stopped when she saw Sib shaking his head.
“Naw, she can’t talk none. She’s been paralyzed and in NMMC for the last fourteen years.” Sib pronounced it 'nimmick'.
“Nimmick?" she asked, and then she remembered. "Oh, right. The National Magical Medical Center where Lef's Grandmother works. So you can’t talk to her at all?”
“We communicate,” Sib said. “She uses blinks to talk to me. For other things, we can spell out words to help her say what she likes. I’m goin’ to see her at Thanksgivin’ break, so I’ll ask her about the prophecy then.” Incheon and Lef walked in and Sib shared the news with them about his grandmother.
“That’s great,” said Incheon. “Now I can stop working on who gave it.”
“And what work have you done?” asked Willow doubtfully.
“Okay, now I can stop not working on who gave it.” Incheon smiled and gestured for Sib to head out of the portal. They had to make it out to the greenhouses for their first class and their path was now more convoluted than ever to avoid the Hammersmiths. Sib waved to Lef and Willow and headed out.
It was the last Saturday before Thanksgiving and he still hadn’t told any of his friends about his visions. He felt that if he just started babbling, they wouldn't hear him out. He didn’t even know if they were aware that he was working with Miss Pyx after school. None of them had asked him what he was doing, assuming he was still in COMC Club. Now, with their second Quidditch game just a quarter-hour from starting, he didn’t think this was the time to tell them either.
“The Murgatroyd seeker is really tough,” Willow was saying. “She has the same broom that I do, so she probably can’t outrun me, but she’s really aggressive. Her tactic will be to just stick right next to me and then smash me out of the way when we go for the snitch. I don’t know how to get away from her. I wish Lily were here. She would know.”
Sib saw Lily approaching through the window and remembered the vision from the summer. Sometimes your visions are the best way, he remembered Miss Pyx saying. He turned to Willow. “I’d start with an inside loop and then transition to a bell tailslide,” he said. “There’s no way she could follow that.”
“Thanks, Sib. Now, what’s a bell tailslide?”
“Beats me,” he replied. “Ask Lily. Here she comes now.” He got up and started putting on his equipment. Lily entered and wished them all good luck. Willow quickly relayed her concern to her. She nodded and thought for a second. “I’d start with an inside loop and then transition to a bell tailslide,” she said. “There’s no way she could follow that.”
Willow looked over at Sib, confused about how he would know exactly what Lily was going to say. Figuring he could tell her afterward, he exited the locker room and kicked off the ground to do a few warm-up laps before the game began. He was sure Lily was busy explaining the process for the bell tailslide to Willow.
This match against Murgatroyd, like the one against the Suncorns, was not about Pathfinder scoring goals. Either Willow caught the snitch before the other team scored fifteen goals or they would lose. Sib looked at their team and thought about their chances. The dimwits, even on their best day are more of a hindrance to Hye-lin than a help...and this is not their best day.
As the game progressed, Sib and Incheon did their best to keep the bludgers flying at the Murgatroyd chasers, but Sib knew it was only a matter of time before they would pull away and make the match unwinnable. Willow had called a timeout with the green and silver team up one hundred and twenty to zero.
“It’s like I thought,” she told them. “The seeker won’t get off my tail. I just know she’s going to block me and Mrs. Broombreaker is too busy watching for collisions to call a foul.” She glanced at Hedges who was picking grass and Beene who was picking his nose. She shook her head. “As soon as I see the snitch, I’m going for the tailslide.” Now she glanced at Sib with a questioning look on her face, but she dropped it and the familiar look of insane confidence returned and she pointed at him and Incheon. “You keep them out of the goal for as long as you can and I’m going to win this thing.”
They kicked off again as the game resumed, the Murgatroyd seeker taking up her position in Willow’s shadow and the opposing team dominating play on the rest of the field. The score was one hundred and forty to nothing when Sib saw movement from above and glanced up in time to see Willow streaking through the air, performing a full loop and then continuing into a steep climb straight up into the air. The Murgatroyd seeker followed right on her heels, but as Willow’s climb petered out, she dropped tail-first back towards the ground, twisting on her broom as she fell and passing the still climbing Murgatroyd seeker behind her. Turned around, she was now in a power dive, plummeting toward the ground and she was all alone.
“Willow sees the snitch,” Sib called to the others. “We gotta hold ‘em off!” He charged toward the nearest bludger, smashing it toward the opposing chasers, more to slow them down than make them drop the quaffle. They easily avoided it, but the chaser with the quaffle ran into his teammate and fumbled the ball anyway. The quaffle dropped and Hye-lin grabbed it from underneath, sprinting to the opposite end. Sib followed, chasing Hye-lin as she worked to make a shot. He turned his attention back toward Willow who had pulled out of the dive and was now charging at full speed toward a point just off to his left. He heard a cheer from the crowd and turned again to see that the Murgatroyd goalkeeper had caught Hye-lin’s shot and was getting ready to throw it back into play.
“Sib, look out!” He turned in time to see a bludger bearing down on his face and had no time to duck. At the same time, a small golden ball buzzed past his left ear, struck the oncoming bludger and diverted it just past the other side of his face, brushing his right ear. The bludger whizzed away toward the Murgatroyd goal just as the goalie threw the ball. The quaffle and bludger collided, the bludger bouncing back toward the field of play and the quaffle rebounding past the Murgatroyd goaltender and through one of the three hoops.
“Pathfinder scores!” the announcer called. Sib looked around at the others in amazement. What a lucky break, he thought. What are the chances?
The only one who hadn’t seen the goal was Willow, who had lost sight of the snitch and was now chasing the Murgatroyd seeker who had spotted it. Just as Willow wasn’t worried about the opposing seeker outpacing her, she wasn’t able to catch up herself. Before the quaffle was even put back into play, the snitch was caught and the game was over.
Sib and Incheon were in the locker room, taking off their equipment. Willow was consoling a distraught Lef. “Look,” she said. “We’re improving.”
“We lost two hundred and ninety to ten,” said Sib. “How’s that improvin’?”
“I almost had that snitch. It changed direction right as it was going past Sib’s head and then I lost it when it hit the bludger.” She paused for a second, lamenting the lost opportunity. “Hey, we scored, didn’t we?”
“By amazing, inexplicable, crazy luck, yes,” said Incheon.
“But we’re still getting better,” Willow responded.
“Just think,” added Incheon. “If we keep getting better at this rate, we’ll win a game sometime in July… of our senior year.”
Willow pulled Sib aside as the others were leaving the locker room. “What was that?” she asked. Sib knew what she was referring to.
“I knew what Lily was going to say before she said it.”
“Like you read her mind?” she asked.
“No. It ain’t like that. I knew back in August that she was going to say what she said. I just didn’t know until that moment when or what the context was. I might as well tell her everything at this point, he thought. “I’ve been havin’ visions.”
“Like the one you had in Mysticism that knocked you out of your seat?”
“How did you...?” he started.
“With the look on your face? You aren’t scared of much, Sib. It was pretty obvious you saw something you didn’t like. You didn’t seem like you wanted to share, so we didn’t press you on it.”
“All four of us. Me, Incheon and Lef who saw it and we told Lily afterward. We all know you saw something that day, but I didn’t know you had other visions. Are you doing anything about it?”
“I’m goin’ to see Miss Pyx after classes.”
“So you quit COMC too?”
“Yeah, but it’s alright. I don’t really like dirt that much.”
“Never mind. Just somethin’ Incheon said” he waved it away. “Listen, Willow. Thanks for not buggin’ me about it. I wasn’t ready to talk about it ‘til now.”
“Were you scared?”
“Thinkin’ that Corey was going to stab me in the shoulder? Heck yeah.”
“Wait!” she gasped. “That was your vision?” Sib nodded. “And you helped me get him out anyway?”
“Well...yeah.” She hugged him. Sib didn’t know what to do. He caught a strange mix of honeysuckle and sweat and his heart started racing.
“Sorry,” she said as she released him. “That was incredibly brave of you.”
Sib felt his cheeks get flushed and he looked down in embarrassment. “Thanks.”
“So…” she began. “You knew about the rattlesnake-thingy? The stinky roots?”
“Yeah - that was one of my visions too. I heard Lef tell me they were a cure for manticore venom.”
“But I was there. She said that after you’d been stung.”
“I know. Messed up ain’t it?” She nodded and they walked silently back up to the school, both lost in thought. Maybe there's a chance she does like me...
“Oh, hello Sib. I didn’t expect you today,” Miss Pyx said as he came in.
“I figured you didn’t want to be here late the day before Thanksgivin’ so I came a day early,” he replied. “Are you still good?”
“Of course.” She gestured for Sib to have a seat and grabbed a crystal ball for him to use. “I’d like to try something different today,” she said as she set it down in front of him. “We haven’t had any luck with me talking you through the vision. This time, I’m going to leave. I don’t want you to have any distractions. Remember to look at the sharpness of the vision like we talked about.” Sib's recent visions had just been the same pile of dirt. Neither of them had any idea what it was supposed to mean.
She had talked to him over the last few sessions about how sharper images mean the vision is more imminent than more fuzzy ones. He supposed that’s why the manticore vision he had was so sharp and clear - much clearer than the visions from the end of the summer. She closed the door as she left and Sib turned, staring at the crystal. He found his mind wandering and after about ten minutes of nothing, he got up from his seat. “This ain’t workin',” he said to the empty room.
“It’s stuffy in here.” He walked over and opened a window. A gentle afternoon breeze was blowing and he could smell the moldering leaves from the surrounding forest even up here on the third floor. A shadow passed over the sun and he could feel the air temperature of the breeze slightly drop. He shivered, but didn’t step away from the window; his hands pressed down on the cold stone windowsill.
He thought about going to the hospital to visit his grandmother in a few days and remembered the sharp antiseptic smell of the room mixed with the smell of the fresh flowers that he and his mom always brought her. The white of the room always overwhelmed him with stark coldness, but his grandmother’s eyes contained a warmth that he always found reassuring and comfortable.
He could see the three of them now. His mother reading something to her on the far side of her hospital bed and his grandmother listening and then turning her eyes to Sib. “Yes,” she blinked, and then “I love you.” Then came a series of blinks that Sib didn’t understand. Over and over she blinked at him, short blinks and long ones without a pattern. There was a look of urgency in her eyes that he didn’t understand.
“Gave up, did you?”
Miss Pyx’ voice startled him out of the vision. He turned back to her and shook his head a little to get his bearings. “Pardon?” he said.
“The crystal ball. You seem to have given up on it.”
“Uh…yeah. I...I didn’t need it.” He told her what he had seen - about how the daydream had transitioned seamlessly into the vision and about how clear it was - as clear as the manticore that had charged out of the tunnel.
“And what she said,” Miss Pyx asked. “She said ‘yes’ and then ‘I love you’ and then started blinking?”
“She’s paralyzed,” Sib explained. “She communicates by blinking. One blink is ‘yes’; two for ‘no’; three for ‘I don’t know’ and four for “I love you.” We made up that fourth one so she wouldn’t have to spell it out for us every time we were gettin’ ready to leave."
“Oh. So she blinked out ‘yes’ and ‘I love you’ but then she kept blinking?”
“It was weird,” Sib replied. “Fast and slow, and not the same. Can you tell me what it means?”
“Your visions have been extremely literal so far. Does the phrase ‘yes, I love you’ mean anything?”
“Nothin’ more than what they are.”
“Well, perhaps we’ll know more once you’ve had a chance to talk to her over the break. We’ll pick up then. Have a happy Thanksgiving.”
The next morning, he was telling Willow about his vision from the previous day. “She was blinking at you...like what?” Willow asked.
“Well, first she said ‘yes’ and then she said ‘I love you’ and then she started blinkin’ somethin’ I couldn’t follow. It just kept goin’ on - kinda' freaky.”
“What do you mean she said ‘yes’ and ‘I love you’. I thought you said she was paralyzed. Did you hear her talk?”
“No, she blinked ‘em out,” he explained. “We set up one long blink for ‘yes’ and two short for ‘no’. Three long blinks means ‘I don't know’ and four quick blinks means ‘I love you’. But then she kept blinkin’ away all jumbled together.”
“Wait,” Willow paused for a moment. “You mean like long blinks and short blinks? Without a pattern?”
“I wonder… Sib, if this happens while you’re visiting her, I want you to write down the blinks - long and short - including the gaps in between. I think she might be trying to talk to you without other mages knowing.”
“You mean like a code?”
“Not like a code. A code. Nomaj use it, but I doubt mages would know what it means at all.”
“But how would my Gramma know a nomaj code?” Sib asked. Willow blinked at him slowly three times. “Oh, very funny,” he said.
“I thought so,” Willow replied, smiling. They grabbed their things and headed off for their last day of classes before the break.
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