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“Oh,” said Sib’s mom when they had reached Sib’s grandmother’s hospital room.  “Who are you?” 

 

“Security, ma’am,” replied the mage.  “From MACUSA. I’m on protection duty for Mrs. Hooplander.”  He was huge - easily six and a half feet tall and thick like a water barrel.  Sib was sure he could squish anyone who came near without even trying.

 

“Does she really need it?” questioned Sib’s mom.

 

“Not for me to say ma’am.  I was posted here right after the prophecy was published.”

“Oh.  Okay.” The two of them passed the security guard and walked into the hospital room.  It was as Sib remembered, stark white - ceiling, floor, walls and bed linens, but as soon as he saw his grandmother’s eyes, the room seemed to warm.  Sib’s mom made to shut the door as usual, but the guard stopped them.

 

“Sorry,” he said.  “Open at all times.” Sib’s mom nodded and then continued into the room.

 

“Hi Gramma,” Sib said to her.  “I love you.” She blinked four times rapidly and her eyes flicked to Sib’s mom.

 

“Hi Teresa,” Sib's mom said.  “I love you.” She got four blinks in response too and Sib’s mom set the flowers they had gotten - purple mums - on the table at the end of the bed where Sib's grandmother could see them.  “I got letters from Turus that I can read to you.” One long blink for ‘yes’. Sib’s mom went to get a chair. “Arc sends his best.” Sib’s gramma glanced at Sib.  

 

“He ain’t got no best,” Sib whispered as his mother pulled the chair over.  His grandmother smiled with her eyes.  

 

“Sib, hand me them letters from your pa so I can read them,” his mom said.  Sib sat on his chair and pulled the letters from his Stor-All, handing them over.  While he had his bag open, he pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill thinking he might need them later.  

 

Sib’s mom made herself comfortable and grabbed his grandmother’s hand.  “I know you can’t have no Thanksgiving feast,” she said. “But if’n there’s anything we can get you, you just let us know.”  Sib’s grandmother blinked once.  

 

“I saw you have protection now, Gramma,” said Sib.  He was shocked at the sudden look of fear in his grandmother’s eyes.  He was about to say something, but it passed as quickly as it had appeared and he knew she hated it when people made a fuss over her.  

 

Sib changed the topic.  “Listen, Gramma.  Ma told me that you gave the prophecy that’s been published in the papers and I was hopin’ you might be able to tell me what you said.”   She blinked three times and her eyes flicked to the door. Sib glanced up to see the guard looking in the room. When Sib’s eyes met his, he turned back to the hallway.

 

“I don’t understand,” Sib said.  “You don’t remember givin’ the prophecy?” She blinked twice.  

 

“Sorry, Sib,” his mom said from the other side of the bed.  “There are some things that she just don’t remember anymore.”  Sib glanced at her and she blinked twice. Sib sat back in his chair in disappointment as his mom opened up a letter and began to read.  She don’t remember nothin’, he thought.  What’re we gonna do now?  Feeling at a loss he looked up at his grandmother who was listening to his mom.  It’s now.  This is the vision.  He reached over and grabbed the parchment and quill. 

 

His grandmother’s eyes flicked from his mother to him.  With urgency in her eyes, she started blinking ‘yes, I love you’ and then Sib started writing. ‘long short long long / short long short / short long long / yes / long short long short / I love you…’

 

*******

 

A day later, they visited a place that was as black as his grandma’s room was white.  The entrance hall to Spellhold - the mage prison - was a windowless jet black room. They arrived using the Firejump Network and proceeded with the few other visitors to the screening line.  Beyond the screening, Sib knew, they would board the lifts that would take them to the prison itself.

 

“No wands, weapons, fireworks, familiars, or potions please!” the guard called.  Sib and his mom surrendered their amulet and wand to the guard as well as Sib’s Stor-All and passed through the connecting archway onto an outdoor platform.  A gondola car waited for them and they climbed inside with two other families. Sib sat on the side facing the prison knowing the ride up and over would take at least a quarter of an hour and he wanted something to look at.  The prison itself hovered in midair, five hundred feet above the ground. It was a tremendous rock with a fortress perched on top as if a giant as tall as the clouds had picked up the fortress to look at it and the ground beneath followed like a turnip being pulled after its stem. He was amazed at the amount of magical energy that it would have taken to create it; and about how foreboding and hopeless the place made him feel.  No matter how many times he’d been to visit his father in the two years since he’d been imprisoned, he never got used to this ride.

 

They reached the prison and disembarked from the gondola on the very bottom tip of the floating fortress.  They would have to pass one more high-security screening before they could get to his father’s wing and they quickly moved to the lifts to take them up inside the heart of the prison.

 

The lifts weren’t labeled with levels, they were simply graded by the level of security warranted by the mage’s crimes.  Petty crimes were near the gondola, in the bottom end of the rock. As the crime became more and more serious, the greater the security and the higher the prisoners were housed.  Sib’s father was in “the Max” for maximum security. Sib’s mom stepped into the lift, stated where she was going and sped upward and out of sight. Sib followed her a moment later, shooting upward through the lift like a pea through a straw.  They arrived at the Max and were ignored by the two tired-looking security guards who were talking about the professional Quod-Pot match that had been played the day before. Sib and his mom approached a small table next to a doorway that led to the visitor area; the guards sitting on either side.

 

“...so then he passed the ball to McClatchey, right, and he was like, hey, who do I give this to before it explodes.”
 

“...and everyone was bolting from him like he was givin’ away Dragon Pox! Har! har!”  


Without even looking up they just gestured toward the small container in the middle of the table.  Sib’s mom had nothing magical on her, so she bypassed the table and walked through the doorway. Sib thought he didn’t, but when he tried to follow his mom, he was jerked to a stop as he tried to go through.  He stepped back and checked his pockets, pulling out a piece of candy with three 'W's printed on it - it was a Red Hot Jaw Breaker from Three Dubs. Incheon was a huge fan of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and slipped stuff into Sib's pockets without him knowing it all the time.  Well, it's better than the fart noisemaker he planted on me last week.  The guards hadn’t even stopped their conversation, they just pointed again at the small container and continued their play-by-play rehashing of the game.  


Sib walked to the table, dropped the candy in the small box and walked to the doorway but was unable to go through again.  This time, his hand caught on the doorway as if someone had grabbed his finger and was refusing to let go. The guards leaned back in their chairs and exhaled audibly, clearly bothered by this interruption.  

 

“All magical items in the bin, kid.” 

 

“You've been here before,” the other said.  “You know the drill.”

 

Sib looked ahead.  His mother had already gone in.  He stepped back out and looked at his hand.  The only thing there was his silver ring.  Maybe ma put a spell on it when she was cleanin’ it, he thought.  He pulled off the ring and dropped it in the container.  This time, the door let him through.

 

He caught up with his mom who was already talking to his dad through a transparent barrier.  Sound carried through like it didn’t exist, but it was impervious to anything physical like an object or even air.  Sib pulled up a chair next to his mother and said hello to his dad.  

 

“Ma said you found a ring a couple‘a months ago,” his dad said to him.  "Tell me about it.”

 

“Found it in a niffler’s den,” Sib explained.  “I tried to give it to Ma, but she told me to keep it.  Said it was my ‘lucky ring’.”

 

His dad laughed and Sib looked over to see his mom smiling as well.  “That’s a bit of an inside joke between us,” his dad said.

 

“How’s that?”

 

“Your Grampa had a ring like that.  He insisted it was his lucky ring. The fool never took it off for nothin'.  I remember one time when I was growin’ up, we had this old stove that he and your Gramma used to cook on.  Near the top, the stovepipe had come unhinged and every once in awhile, sparks would escape and fall down on the wooden floorboards.  We would have a game of runnin’ around like crazy chickens to stamp out the embers. Gramma was after his hide to fix it. Well, one day when I was about ten, your Gramma was out, and there he was, cookin’ us up somethin’ for dinner on that stove and the stovepipe ended up catchin’ the roof on fire.  We was crazy chickens alright, but there weren’t no stampin’ out that blaze.”

“Well, that old place - full o' dust and junk of all kinds - went up right quick.  Me and your uncle Andy, we bolted outside; but Grampa - he was caught between a solid wall of logs on one side and a wall of flame on the other.  Weren't no way he was gettin’ out. Me n’ Andy could see him through the side window. A'fore the smoke started gettin’ too thick, we seen the old man’s sleeve caught fire and he was wavin’ it around like a crazy fool.  Right then, the roof busted in right over his head, dumpin’ a load of snow right on top of him and puttin’ out the flames on his sleeve. Then the wall next to him collapsed outward, lettin’ him scramble away. He comes walkin’ out of the fire without a scratch on him.  He comes over to the two of us as we’re shiverin’ in the snow and he holds up his hand with the ring on it.”

 

“‘I knowed I’d get out okay,’ he said.  ‘I had my lucky ring on.’ Meanwhile his clothes was half burnt and the house and everything we owned in the world was goin’ up in flames.  Damn fool. It might’ve been a ring of luck, but the only kind my old man ever had was bad.”

 

Sib smiled and looked at his mom.  “Is that what you meant when you said it should be my lucky ring?”  She just smiled without responding and got up to use the restroom. Sib turned back to his dad as she left the room.  

 

“How are you, pa?”

 

“Well the food’s pretty good, but I could do with a few more trees if you know what I mean.”  Sib nodded, knowing how depressing this rock must be to someone who loved the woods like his father.  "Hey, show me that ring."

 

“I can't," Sib responded.  "When I was tryin’ to get through the sniffer portal just now, I found out my ring had magic cast on it - dunno what it does, but I couldn’t get it through the sniffer.  Pretty sure ma cast a spell on it.”


“Magic, huh?  Well, just be careful. There’s magic and there’s magic.  You don’t want to end up with a ring of foolishness.”

 

“My friend Incheon would ask how I would know the difference.”

 

“Ha!  That Incheon’s a funny one, ain't he?” 

 

“Yeah, Pa, he’s funny all right.”  Sib pointed at his head and twirled his finger.

 

His dad laughed again.  “Now you’re goin' on! Well, I ain’t laughed a spell in a good while.  Thanks, Sib.”

 

“What are you going to do now that they made them new laws?”

 

“Heard about that, have you?”

 

“Yeah, I read it in the paper.”

 

“Well, I talked to the lawyer about it.  He tells me I ain’t got but two options. I can either keep sittin’ in here, or I can choose exile if’n I want to.” 

 

“Exile!  Where you gonna go?”

 

“Well, that’s the thing with exile.  The only place they want you to go is ‘out’.  I been thinkin’ about it, I’ll tell you that much.  The problem is you, Arc, and ma o’ course. I don’t rightly feel good about yankin’ you out of the country with as poor off as we are and I don’t feel that great about never sein’ you again neither.  I ain’t in a hurry to decide anyways.”

 

Sib's mom returned and they told his dad about the visit to see his mother in the hospital - in which Sib left out the part about the blinking; about Arcturus - in which Sib left out the part about the broken bones and broken wand; and about himself - in which he left out the part about his visions.  Pa’s got enough on his mind to worry about without me heapin’ on.  

 

“I’ll see you again at Christmas pa,” he said as they got up to go.  “I’ll write like usual every week.” His father stood up and Sib could tell his eyes were glassy as they turned to leave.

 

“You alright, ma?” he asked as they crossed through the sniffer door.

 

“No, but you already knew that, Sib.”  She dabbed her eyes and then hugged him after he had gotten his ring and candy from the guard’s table.  They were still discussing the game and still ignoring Sib and his mom. “We’ll be alright,” she said as they made their way back to the gondola.  “And so will your pa.” 

 

I just hope you’re right. They boarded the gondola for the long descent.  He made sure to sit on the opposite side and stare through the window at the wind blowing through the endless sea of wheat so his mother could weep in privacy. 

 

*******

 

“I’m tellin ya.  My ma cast a luck spell on it.”  Sib was talking to Incheon in their lounge the following week before they headed out to classes.  “She even called it my ‘lucky ring.’”  

 

Incheon just shook his head.  “Doesn’t look lucky to me.” 

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because I’m not wearing it,” he responded.

 

“Listen,” Sib continued.  “Remember the snitch hittin’ the bludger instead of my face and then bouncin’ the quaffle into the goal?  It’s luck.” He held the ring up to make his point.  

 

“I don’t know,” replied Incheon.  “As I recall we lost that game by two hundred and eighty points.  I still think we should keep a lookout.”

 

Sib gave up.  “Well, alright,” he said.  “But I still feel pretty good about today.”

 

Willow entered and Sib quickly dug in his bag and pulled out the parchment that had the code of blinks on it from his grandmother.  “Here, Willow. I did as you said.”  

 

As she took it from him, she farted loudly.  Her face grew red and she reached in her pocket.  Pulling out a small device, she whirled and threw it at Incheon's head.  "If you plant another one of your stupid fart machines on me again," she yelled at him.  "I will murder you in your face!"  Incheon was doubled over laughing and just nodded at her threat.  She turned back to Sib, took the parchment and looked it over.  “Okay. It might take me a day or two to work it out, but I’ll get it done as soon as I can.”  Sib nodded and then he and Incheon made their way out to their first class, the two of them bursting into laughter as soon as they were through the portal.   

 

“Yeah,” Sib said.  “I definitely have a good feelin' about today.”

 

*******

 

“Lookin’ good down there,” said Incheon’s voice from somewhere above Sib.  “If I’m not mistaken, they’ve changed you into a rather gooey flobberworm-type thing.”

 

Whatever they had changed Sib into didn’t have eyes, but he could hear well enough.  He wiggled an appendage.  

 

“Yeah, I know,” Incheon replied.  “I’m thinking maybe we should have kept a better lookout.”

 

They attacked us from behind, thought Sib.  That was your job.  Sib tried to say something but just spit up on the floor.

 

“Apology accepted,” said Incheon.  “Now, I wonder which jinx is going to wear off first - the one that makes we weigh a thousand pounds, or the one that reversed gravity so that I’m stuck to the ceiling?”

 

Sib squeezed some liquid out of an orifice in response.

 

“Yes, I think so too.  I want you to know that I’m really sorry about what I’m about to do, but you happen to be directly below me.”

 

Sib heard a whooshing noise and knew that the jinx that held Incheon’s thousand-pound body to the ceiling was the one that ended first.  Incheon hit hard directly on top of Sib’s flobberworm body and goo shot out of every one of his openings as if Incheon had landed on a dozen tubes of toothpaste.  Sib gurgled pathetically.

 

“Me too, buddy,” Incheon responded, lying motionless on top of Sib’s squashed form.  “Me too.”

 

*******

 

“So were you hurt?” Lef asked Sib when she heard about their adventure the next day.  


“No,” he responded.  “That flobberworm thing may have been gross, but I didn’t feel a thing the whole time.”

 

“Easy for you to say,” added Incheon.  “You weren’t the one covered in flobberworm goo.”

 

“Well if you had kept a better watch…” started Sib.

 

“Let’s not go placing blame,” Incheon interjected.  “Let’s just say that mistakes were made.”  

 

Sib just shook his head and turned to Willow.  “How’d the codebreaking go?”

 

“Well, I decoded it,” she said, "But it doesn’t look like anything.  Here’s what I came up with.” Sib looked at the paper.  

 

‘YRW’ ‘C’ ‘NMEG’ ‘R’ ‘D’ ‘FGARDA’ ‘XMAS’.  

 

“Well that don’t make no sense.  Except for the Xmas.”

 

“I’ll keep working at it,” she said apologetically, but Sib could tell that there wasn’t much more she could do.

 

“It’s alright,” he said.  “Probably don’t mean nothin’ anyway.”  He put the page in his Stor-All. “Besides,” he added.  “We need to get prepared for that game against Lily on Saturday.  If we’re gonna keep improvin’ we’d best get at it.” He smiled, but it didn’t take away the deep disappointment he felt.  I really thought Gramma was tryin’ to tell me somethin’.  

 

*******

 

“We need to meet Lily on the two and a halfth floor,” Willow told them that Thursday morning in the lounge.

 

“One,” Incheon started.  “Why do we have to meet Lily?; and two, what is a halfth floor?”

 

“Well, obviously she wants to talk to us about the game,” Willow explained.  “And there’s a half floor right below the third floor corridor. Haven’t you ever wondered about the doorway halfway down the corridor stairs?”

 

“What do you mean, 'corridor stairs'?”

 

“There’s a stairway right outside the portal on the left.  It was closed last year when this hallway was out of bounds, but now it’s open.”  Incheon’s eyes grew wide and he sprinted through the portal. He re-entered a few seconds later.

 

“Hey,” he remarked.  “There’s a stairway just outside of the portal.”  He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.  

 

“Yes,” replied an exasperated Willow. “That’s what I just told you.”
 

“Well, why didn’t you tell me and Sib before we got shellacked by the Hammersmiths?” Incheon asked.  “Do you hate us, Willow?” 

 

“I didn’t know you didn’t know and I’m beginning to,” she replied.  “Now will you shut up and listen?” She turned back to the others.

 

“Lily was really secretive about it and doesn’t want anyone to find out she’s talking to us, so it’ll have to be quick.  We can’t go this morning: we go straight from Thaumaturgy right outside to the greenhouses.  But this afternoon after COMC, we need to take the north stairs on our way to Astronomy - got it?” She looked around with her usual penetrating focus.

 

“Need us to synchronize watches?” asked Incheon.

 

“Just be there, beefcake.” She gathered her things and started off for Thaumaturgy.

 

“Beefcake?” Sib said to Incheon.  “Think that was a compliment?” 

 

“It has ‘beef’ and ‘cake’ in it, so I’m going to take it that way.  Now come on, there’s a new stairway I just discovered.”

 

*******

 

Sure enough, halfway between the doors to the second and third floors, there was a landing with another door.  Willow and Lef were waiting for Sib and Incheon who had lagged behind on their way to Astronomy that afternoon. Willow pointed her amulet at the door as they arrived.  “Alohamora!” she called. The door clicked and Willow turned the handle and walked inside.

 

Everything was covered with dust.  It looked like this particular part of the building hadn’t been touched in a century.  Sib ran his hand across the frame of one of the paintings and coughed from the cloud that he brushed up.

 

“Why here?” he asked Willow.

 

“Because nobody has been here in decades.  Look, even the pictures are empty.” Sib looked and each of the frames along the wall were devoid of their subjects.  Empty tables, bowls of desiccated fruit and a wilted bunch of flowers were all that greeted them. 

 

“What is this place?” Lef asked.

 

“I don’t know,” replied Willow.  “It was Lily's idea.  But it’s probably the only place in the school where we can have a private conversation.”   A moment later, the door opened and Lily slipped in, out of breath from running up the stairs.

 

“I only have… a minute... “ she panted.  “Listen...they’re going to run up the score.”  She paused to take a few big breaths.  

 

“Really?” said Incheon.  “And I thought they were going to bring us doughnuts.” Willow cast him a look that shut him up.

 

“They told me I can't get the snitch,” Lily continued looking at Willow.  “But you can’t get it either. They’re thinking they can get five or six hundred points racked up.”

 

“Holy…” Sib replied.

 

“Yeah,” Lily agreed.  She turned back to Willow. “You’re going to have to find the snitch because they won’t let me.”  Willow nodded. “Then you’re going to have to beat me to it. The only way I can grab it is if you’re about to.”

 

“But..” Willow started.

 

“No time,” Lily said.  “I have to go.” She bolted back through the door and Sib could hear her footfalls as she took two steps at a time.  The four of them were silent as they contemplated what Lily had said.

 

“Just beat Lily to the snitch,” Incheon said.  “How hard can that be?”

 

Sib knew Willow was good, but Lily was off the charts.  He looked at Willow, expecting to see the look of insane confidence on her face, but all he saw was worry.  “This is gonna hurt, ain’t it?” 

 

*******

 

The team was huddled in the locker room, waiting to go out and face Featherpenny.  The weather couldn’t be worse. It was a miserable day with sleet, freezing rain, and wind.  Sib had gone out to take a few laps around the field but came back inside after only one circuit, his broom already starting to ice up.  

 

“Any visions for how I should beat Lily?” Willow asked him while he rubbed his hands together for warmth.

 

“Nope,” he replied.  “And somethin’ tells me an inside loop followed by a bell tailslide ain’t gonna do nothin’ to lose her.”  

 

Sib surveyed the team.  Hedges and Beene were on opposite sides of the room.  Willow had figured out that the only way to keep them from fighting with each other was to keep them separated.  Instead, they took this opportunity to loudly insult each other’s mother. Hye-lin was huddled in a blanket, shivering.  She had been practicing without a winter cloak earlier that week and was suffering from a rather wicked cold and fever. Willow had told her not to play, but with no substitutes, she really had no option when Hye-lin insisted.  Finally, Incheon and Lef were pulling on their equipment, clearly dreading the beating they were about to subject themselves to.  

 

“It’s time,” Willow announced.  They all stood up like they were heading to an execution.  We’re gonna get killed all right.

 

Sib thought it was going to be bad, but it ended up being so much worse.  They were all half-frozen within the first fifteen minutes and Sib had to use his bat on his broom just to knock the ice off.  Within thirty minutes, they were down a hundred and sixty points and Willow still couldn’t find the snitch. At the forty-five-minute mark, Willow saw the snitch and bolted for it, only to be blocked by Lily who swerved in front of her, blocking her vision and causing Willow to nearly plow into her.  Mrs. Broombreaker finally called a blocking foul with the Featherpennies up two hundred and ten to nothing.  

 

The Pathfinder team was granted a penalty shot, and huddled up to discuss it.  Willow took one look at Hye-lin who was a complete shivering wreck and made the mistake of asking the dimwits which one wanted to take the shot.  The two of them quickly claimed the honor, insulted the other, threw several punches, and then devolved into the icy mud, pulling hair and twisting arms.  

 

“You take it,” Sib said.

 

“But I’m supposed to find the snitch and end this thing.” 

 

Sib took a deep breath. “Just take the shot.  We’re all going to look for the snitch. Even Lef.  I want this over.” Willow dropped her head in defeat and took the quaffle over toward the goal to take the penalty shot.  Sib didn’t care to watch. He turned to the others, giving only a glance to the dimwits, who were now lying in the mud, too exhausted to spit at each other.

 

He looked at Incheon, Hye-lin, and Lef in turn.  “Forget the bludgers, forget the quaffle, and forget the goals.  Just spread out and find that snitch. As soon as you see it, yell out and I’ll block Lily from blockin’ Willow.”


“But you’ll get called for a foul,” Hye-lin pointed out through chattering teeth.

 

“Take a look at Miss Broombreaker,” Sib said.  “She wants this thing over almost as much as we do.”  Glancing up, they saw that it was true.  Her face was red and chapped and she kept rubbing her hands on her arms.   

 

"Just find it,” Sib told them.  Willow came over to apologize for missing the penalty shot, but Sib gave her a look that made it clear they didn’t care.  As the Featherpenny goalkeeper put the ball back in play, the five of them split up in every direction, with Willow flying straight up.  

 

With the goal empty, the Featherpenny team had no problem scoring points, but since Lef had to put the ball back into play after each goal, it bought the team more time to search as she flew back to the three hoops after each shot.  After five goals, Incheon called out and Willow streaked toward where he was. Sib saw Lily making a move to block her and Sib didn’t even try to hide his efforts to get in Lily’s way. As he expected, Mrs. Broombreaker turned a blind eye to his blatant foul, and as Willow approached the snitch, Lily had no choice but to get out of Sib’s way, quickly catch up to Willow, dart around her and grab the snitch to end the game.

 

The Featherpenny team complained to Mrs. Broombreaker, but the Pathfinder team didn’t stick around to find out the result of the argument.  They bolted straight for the locker room. The dimwits collapsed on a bench and silently glared at each other. Sib was helping Hye-lin who had collapsed on the floor as soon as she walked inside.  Willow was consoling a distraught Lef and she looked up to see the carnage around her. “Incheon,” she asked. “Why are you smiling?” 

 

“After our first game, you said it couldn’t get any worse,” he replied.  “Challenge accomplished.”

 

*******

 

The team had not spoken to each other about the match after they left the locker room.  For the next week, it was as if the subject was taboo. Willow didn’t even talk about practice for their last match against Hammersmith and the others didn’t remind her.  Sib was surprised to see her smiling as she walked into the lounge the following Friday morning.  “I have something for you,” she said to him. He sat up and put away his History of Magic homework.

 

“Remember the code that I wrote out for you from your Grandma?” she asked.  Sib nodded and fumbled through his bag, pulling out the scrap of paper she had given him before.  He looked at it, the letters making no more sense after a week and a half.

 

‘YRW’ ‘C’ ‘NMEG’ ‘R’ ‘D’ ‘FGARDA’ ‘XMAS’. 

 

“I was totally baffled by it,” Willow continued.  “But that 'Xmas' kept bugging me. It made sense even when the rest of it didn’t.  And then - as I was stewing over that last Quidditch game - I remembered that you have a code for ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘I don’t know’, and ‘I love you.’ I had taken out all the ‘yes'es and ‘i love you's the first time I decoded it.”

 

Sib looked at her in confusion.  She handed him another page. “It turns out that ‘yes’ is the same as ‘T’, ‘no’ is ‘I’, ‘I don’t know’ is ‘O’, and ‘I love you is ‘H’.  Sib looked at the new string of letters.  

 

‘YRWTCHNMEGITRIDOFGARDATXMAS’

 

“Did she say anything to you before she started blinking?” Willow asked.

 

“Yeah,” Sib thought back.  “She said ‘yes, I love you.’”  

 

“That makes more sense.”  She took out her pen and wrote ‘TH’ at the beginning of the string of letters.  “How’s your Gramma’s spelling?”

 

“It’s worse than mine.  And that’s sayin’ somethin’.”

 

“Here’s what I think she was saying.”  She tapped the paper with her amulet and spaces appeared between the letters.

 

‘THYR WTCHN ME GIT RID OF GARD AT XMAS’  

 

“It only makes sense with the first ‘yes, I Iove you’ turned into ‘TH’.” 

 

“Willow!” Sib said in amazement.  “This is incredible!” He got up and hugged her. “How did you figure out how to break the code?” 

 

“It’s just Morse code,” she said, blushing.  “It was nothing.” 

 

“Heck no, it ain’t.  You figured all this out on your own?”

 

“Yes, but I don’t know if the second word is ‘watching’ or ‘witching’.” 

 

“Don’t matter,” said Sib.  “I know one thing... We gotta’ get rid of that guard.”

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