Sib was unable to focus on his homework. His mind kept wandering to how he was going to remove the guard from outside his grandmother’s room. He was gazing off into space through the lounge windows at the wooded grove, looking for inspiration to solve either his homework assignment or his guard problem. The ongoing argument between Lef and Willow wasn’t helping him figure out either.
“You told me I could quit anytime,” Lef said, walking away from Willow. “So I quit.”
“But now?” Willow replied, following her. “There’s only one more game.”
“One more game against Hammersmith. They’re even better than Featherpenny.”
“But we…” Willow started.
“Don’t even say ‘we can’t get any worse’,” interrupted Lef. “I know how that ends.”
“Please, Lef” pleaded Willow. “It’s the last game of the season.”
“Why can’t we just forfeit?,” Lef asked. “The result is the same.”
“Actually better,” Incheon interjected. “Forfeit games are scored as two hundred and fifty to nothing. It would be our closest game of the season.”
“You stay out of this,” Willow scolded him.
“But he’s right,” said Lef. “We could have forfeited the whole season and done better than how we played.”
Willow’s eyes took on the thousand-yard stare. “It’s not about the score.”
“Here she goes…” whispered Sib to Incheon.
“...It’s about being part of the school,” continued Willow, the exasperated look now replaced by one of single-minded focus. “We did this to come together as a house. We did this to become part of the school. We did this to show the others that we weren’t going to be a house of misfits…”
“Speak for yourself,” interrupted Incheon.
...We are going to be a house on equal standing with the others.” Willow finished, ignoring Incheon. Lef stared at her without speaking.
“Are you gonna harass her until she says ‘yes’?” Sib asked Willow.
“Yes,” Lef responded without waiting for Willow to answer. “Yes, she’ll be relentless about it.” She paused and then sighed in resignation. “You get fifteen goals, then I walk.”
“I swear,” Willow put up her hand. “If Hammersmith scores fifteen goals you can walk away mid-game.”
“Do you think she’d be that relentless if I quit?” Incheon asked Sib while packing up his things to head to class.
“She don’t gotta worry about it,” said Sib. “You ain’t gonna walk away from the worst team in the history of Gampton Hall.”
“Oh, right,” he replied, smiling. “We’ve got that pretty well locked up, don’t we?” He reached in his Stor-All and pulled out a small box. “Here,” he continued. “I got this out of the latest Three Dubs catalog.” He held out a small box, not much bigger than the sandwich-sized ebony book that the five of them used to exchange messages over the summer.
Sib looked at the box, but knew enough about Three Dubs to know not to touch it. “What’s it do?” he asked.
“Listen,” Incheon said, cracking open the lid. Suddenly, the entire room was filled with raucous cheers as if twenty thousand fans were celebrating a victorious professional QuodPot Championship game. Sib rocked back in surprise and the others all put their hands over their ears.
Incheon snapped the lid shut, cutting off the noise. “It’s for when we break the record on Saturday,” he said. “I looked it up and we’re already the lowest scoring team in the written records. We’d have to score ten times to match the worst team ever.”
“Well, that ain’t gonna happen,” replied Sib.
“Exactly. We are going to be immortalized in history.” Incheon looked positively gleeful at the prospect of being obliterated on the Quidditch field.
Sib stared at the box. Could I use that to distract the guard? Then he shook his head in dismissal; he was getting desperate for ideas.
After taking their normal circuitous route to Herbology, Sib and Incheon caught the tail end of the line of students as they headed out of the greenhouses and into the woods again. Sib pulled his cloak tight around him as the wind picked up. He noticed that Incheon’s ears and nose were already starting to get red within two minutes of leaving the warmth of the school.
“Come on,” he said to Incheon. “Let’s catch up with the others.” He figured that if they moved faster, they might feel warmer. They caught up first with Lily, who was walking with her head down towards the back of the line.
“Lily, you look upset,” Sib observed. “What’s goin’ on?”
“The Featherpennies,” she hissed as if she wasn’t one of them. “They’re absolutely horrible to me because they couldn’t rack up more points against Pathfinder.”
“But that wasn’t your fault,” he responded. “I wasn’t real coy about blockin’ you during the game.”
“No,” she replied. “And that was brilliant, by the way,” she added, with a half smile. But as quickly as it appeared, her smile was gone again. “It doesn’t matter. They couldn’t score enough points against Suncorn, so now they’re only in the lead by thirty points. There’s no way they’ll win the championship and they’re taking it out on me.”
“You mean there’s no way we’ll win in the first thirty seconds against Hammersmith,” said Sib.
“The team is pretty bad,” she said apologetically.
“Oh, we gave up on that a long time ago,” Incheon added. “At the beginning of the season we aspired to be pretty bad, but now we’re just hoping to be horrifically abysmal.”
Lily laughed, “I wish I was in Pathfinder.”
“Well, you gotta be where the hat put you,” said Sib. There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment as if the two of them knew something that he didn’t.
“You’re sweating,” Incheon said to Lily, breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I did an environmental charm to keep myself warm, but I think I overdid it a little.” She pointed her wand in her mouth and cast ‘aguamenti’ to get a drink of water. They were interrupted by one of the students ahead of them dropping suddenly to the ground.
“What happened?” asked Mr. Diatomungi as he charged back to tend to the student. He was looking around at the plants to see if he had touched something he shouldn’t.
“He took something out of his pocket and ate it,” one of the students told him. Mr. Diatomungi reached down into the student’s hand and pulled a green pod out of his unconscious fist.
“Hollow stemmed asphodel seeds,” he said. “These aren’t native…” He held it up to inspect it. The students were still staring at Oliver’s unconscious form on the cold forest floor. “Oh don’t worry,” he told the class when he noticed their attention. “He’s just unconscious. The interesting thing about these asphodel seeds is that they have the ability to knock out a subject of any size - from a salamander to an oliphaunt, but only for a few minutes. Oliver will be up and around in a moment.” He started heading back the way they came. “He must have thought it was sweet bean…,” he said to himself. “Well, that’s going to be our lesson for today.”
As Sib and Incheon walked away at the end of the lesson going back toward the school, Sib was trying to figure out how to get his hands on more of those seeds. Lef, Lily and Willow were just ahead of them, separated from the other students. “Do you think we could look around for a couple of minutes?” Sib asked Incheon.
“Why?” Incheon responded. “Especially when what you’re looking for is in your pocket.” Sib pulled out two asphodel seeds that Incheon had slipped to him.
“Would you quit doin’ that?” Sib was upset and impressed at the same time. He had never felt a thing.
“I need the practice,” responded Incheon
“I have no idea.”
Sib just shook his head. “Well, I’m thinkin’ that’s what I can use to knock out the guard.”
“Nice,” responded Incheon. “Now how are you going to get him to eat them?”
Sib hadn’t thought through that part. “I dunno,” he responded. “Maybe I’ll bake them into a cake or somethin’.”
“Don’t you remember what Mr. Diatomungi said?” replied Lef, turning around. “They lose their potency if they’re cooked. He would have to eat them raw.”
“I could hide them in a candy or somethin’,” Sib said, grasping at straws.
“It won’t last,” Lily added. “Oliver was only down for a minute.”
“Why not give him a real knockout?” Incheon asked, reaching in his pocket. “A nice Sweet Stunning Sweet would put him down.” He held one out for Sib to take.
“Only an idiot would eat a Three Dubs candy offered by a stranger,” Lef responded. Sib looked ahead and saw Willow wince. She had done just that the previous year and it had turned her hair green for a day. He took the candy from Incheon anyway and put it in his bag. The group devolved into a roundhouse discussion while they continued their walk.
“What if we get Lily to put that environmental charm on him and then he’ll be thirsty and want a drink”
“That might work…”
“But we can’t just leave him in the middle of the hallway, it’ll draw all sorts of attention.”
“We could transfigure him.”
“I can’t do that yet… can you?”
“Well no, but…”
“But maybe we could make it look like we transfigured him.”
“But he’d still be there.”
“Hold up right now,” Sib spoke over them to make them stop. “I don’t know what you’re all arguin’ about. I’m the one’s gotta get that guard out of the room.”
“Right,” said Lef. “And we’re going to help.”
“I ain’t gonna put you guys in a heap of trouble over somethin’ that’s my own problem,” Sib argued.
“Like busting out a manticore?” replied Willow. Sib started to argue, but he wasn’t sure what to say. He hadn’t even thought twice about helping Willow. Corey was definitely not his problem.
“Y’all could get in real trouble,” Sib responded. “I can do this alone.”
“You will do it alone,” Willow responded. “And we’ll be right there with you when you do.”
Sib again opened his mouth to respond, saw the look in Willow’s eye, and closed it again when he saw Incheon shake his head. Best let them get on with it, I suppose.
“Now,” Willow turned back to the others. “We’ll need a distraction…”
“Easy,” Incheon said and pulled a deck of cards seemingly from nowhere. “Pick a card,” he said as he fanned them out.
“I mean we need a distraction for the guard,” Willow scolded.
“So, how’s it coming?” Sib asked Willow the following week while he gathered his things at the end of the day to go see Miss Pyx.
Willow frowned. “Not great. Incheon is convinced he can get the guard to eat a Three Dubs candy, but I doubt it will work. Have you ever seen the guard eat or drink anything?”
“He was only there this last visit and no, he didn’t eat anything that I could see.”
“Do you think you might, you know, use a vision to see what we should do?”
“They really don’t work that way,” Sib explained. “I don’t get to pick what I see.”
“Well, just try for us. We need to figure out something if we’re going to go next Sunday.”
He thought about what Willow had said on his way to meet with Miss Pyx. It was the last full week before the Christmas break. The Quidditch game against Hammersmith was on Saturday and they had planned to go see his grandmother the following day. What if they don’t come up with anythin’? Sib was debating whether an open attack on a MACUSA guard would land him right next to his dad in Spellhold when he arrived at the Mysticism door.
“You look troubled,” Miss Pyx said to him. “Want to talk about it?”
Sib wondered how much he could really tell her. Since every plan he’d come up with so far involved jinxing a government official, he thought better of it. “Can you choose what you want to see?” he asked her instead.
“Not that I know of,” she responded. “For the most part, you just have to take what you get.”
“But how do you know whether a vision is important or whether it’s just...you know…”
“Tell me something that happened to you at the end of last year.”
“You mean like when we were figurin’ out about our wands and then sprintin’ to make it in time for finals?”
“Yes - that will do. Picture the memory. Can you see it clearly?”
“Yeah, I don’t know that I’ll ever forget it.”
“Now, tell me about what you did last Tuesday.”
Sib racked his brain, but couldn’t remember anything specific. “I dunno,” he said after a moment. “I was here and I went to classes, but I don’t have any specific memories.”
“Exactly,” she said. “Your visions work the same way as memory. You remember the things that have an emotional impact and the mundane disappears. Visions are the same way - it’s always of things that will be memorable to you. All of the future junk just fades away. Think of it as memory in reverse.”
“That’s messed up.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes it is. But it keeps me employed, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
“Are you ready to give it a shot?” she asked.
He nodded and then sat down at the table near the window. The only visions that he had been able to conjure had been from this spot, so he got comfortable and tuned out Miss Pyx moving about behind him. He found it easier to slip into a vision if he was near the outside. He cleared his mind and hoped that he would see something new today. Other than the vision of his grandmother blinking, his visions over the past month had been stuck on a pile of dirt with a dusting of snow on the top, and despite what Miss Pyx said about deeper meanings, he thought it was nothing but junk.
He reached out with his senses to connect with the world around him. A fire was burning behind him, and he could feel the heat from across the room on the back of his neck. The wind outside was starting to pick up as it will before a storm and it rattled the windowpanes. He drifted.
He was standing near the circle of stones. The grass was starting to green and there were a few small pink and white flowers in bloom at the base of a nearby tree. He moved to look to the interior of the circle and saw a girl kneeling over the shallow pool with her head inches from the water. Her long dark hair was covering her face, but he recognized her right away. “Lily?” he said. The figure didn’t respond - she just leaned closer to the water. “What are you…?” Sib started and then was silent as Lily’s face broke the surface of the water and she was dragged under; her whole body disappearing under the cloudy surface. “Lily!” Sib rushed to the edge and saw shapes swirling in the pool, but he couldn’t make any of it out. He started to reach toward the water to save her and the instant his hand touched the surface, the vision popped like a needle piercing a balloon.
He was back in the Mysticism classroom. “Was it the mound of dirt again?” asked Miss Pyx, who had been sitting behind him. She walked around to the window side of the table.
“No, ma’am,” Sib replied. He told her about what he had seen and done. “...It was early March,” he concluded.
“Wow,” she replied. “That’s some skill to get that specific.”
He shook his head. “Sorry. That ain’t skill. The liverwort was bloomin’. That’s early March.”
“Oh,” she replied. “Well, good that you noticed a detail like that. That’s something. So do you think Lily was in trouble? Was she in danger of drowning?”
Sib laughed. Miss Pyx cast a questioning eye at him, so he clarified. “I know a couple‘a fools who could drown in that water, but Lily ain’t one of them. It’s only six inches deep.”
“But she fell in?”
“All the way - past her boots.” Miss Pyx was silent. Sib gave her a moment as he didn’t know what to make of that either.
“Well,” she said finally. “It’s a shame this is our last meeting before the break, you finally have a really good one to work through.” She turned to stare outside at the first patter of cold rain against the window. “Either you’ve just had another figurative vision like the mound of dirt; or there’s more to that pool than meets the eye.”
The weekend before the Christmas break marked their last Quidditch game of the year. As Sib and the other six Pathfinders slogged out of the front door and down to the field, none of them exchanged a word. Hedges was dragging his broom on the ground, pressing down the dewy brown grass like the trail of a giant slug. Sib, who was bringing up the rear, saw that everyone had their head down.
He thought about their situation. Pathfinder was in dead last place with only ten points. Hammersmith was in second place in the standings, thirty points behind Featherpenny. All Hammersmith would have to do would be to score three goals and they would share the title; four goals to be the outright champion; or they could just catch the snitch to win the Quidditch Championship. It's as good as guaranteed. Pathfinder had given up at least thirteen goals in every game and although she had come close to catching the snitch, Willow’s chances against the Hammersmith seeker were...well, zero. Willow's broom was no match for the Yggdrasil X-20 that the opposing seeker used.
Sib looked up when they reached the stadium and realized that the team had stopped. All of them were looking at Willow as if waiting for something from their team captain. Inspiration? A pep talk? Sib didn't think any of those things would help. We just want this to be over.
“Look, we all know how this is going to end,” she said to them. “Hammersmith is already playing their victory song, for pete’s sake.” She stopped and they could hear the band blaring away in the stands.
“I kind of like it,” said Incheon, nodding his head to the beat. “You can really get a groove on to it.” Incheon dropped his broom and started to gyrate his arms and legs in the worst dance that Sib had ever seen. After a moment, Sib followed his lead, dropped his broom next to Incheon’s and started dancing like a fool. Lef and Beene dropped theirs next and soon six of them were dancing like a group of exotic birds in a mating ritual. Willow broke into a smile. She dropped her broom and joined them. For a short moment in time, not one of them cared that they were about to be destroyed on the Quidditch field.
When the Pathfinders finally reached midfield to shake hands with the other team, the Hammersmiths were already shaking their fists and brooms in the air, soaking in the victory cheers from the stands. The Pathfinder side of the field was empty. That’s not true. A few of their parents were there and he spotted Lily in the front row. She was standing in front of the lone banner which read ‘Believe in Miracles’. “We need one,” Sib muttered to himself.
Mrs. Broombreaker called them to the center of the field where the box that held the Quidditch balls was resting. “Let’s have a good, clean game. Are both sides ready?” Willow nodded at her and when Mrs. Broombreaker got the okay from the Hammersmith seeker, she released the box latch. Two bludgers, a quaffle and the golden snitch burst from the box and the game was on. Sib ducked quickly, remembering how a bludger nearly took off his head in the first game. He felt it brush the hair on the back of his head as it rushed by. He pushed off the ground and followed in its path. The Hammersmith bludger reached it first and hammered it towards Willow, who was in hot pursuit of something. Ducking, she appeared to have lost sight of the snitch and she flew off to try to find it again.
The first Hammersmith goal was scored before Sib had even had a chance to hit the bludger, let alone make a difference in the game.
The red and gold-decked crowd cheered and Sib could see Lef hang her head as she flew around the goals. Maybe we could still win this thing. Sib's hopeful thoughts peaked for a moment as the quaffle was released again into play. He chased after the nearest bludger but was blocked by one of the Hammersmith beaters, a giant hulk of a student named Whimpey. Whimpey simply flew right into the side of Sib like he wasn't there; and he might as well not have been. Knocked sideways, he was barely able to hang on his broom. When he glanced down he saw the Hammersmith chaser was just below, grabbing the quaffle that had been dropped from above. The chaser made two moves to get by Beene and Incheon and then scored the second goal past Lef's outstretched arms. Sib heaved a sigh. Oh, who am I kidding? This is over.
Sib didn’t even bother to look around for a bludger when the quaffle was put back into play, accepting the inevitable end of the match. The Hammersmiths had regained the quaffle and were driving toward the goal. Sib looked up and saw Willow, floating high above, not even looking for the snitch. I guess she sees the end too. Still looking at her, he saw her absentmindedly swat at a bug that was buzzing in her ear.
Only it wasn't a bug. She caught the snitch! Oh my god, she caught the snitch and she wasn't even trying!
Sib heard the cheering from the Hammersmith side that could only mean that they had scored their third goal. Then the distant roar of the crowd faded as the announcer called out. “No goal! No goal! Willow Carter has captured the snitch! Pathfinder wins! What a miraculous turn of events! Pathfinder wins!”
Everything and everyone was silent. The players, the fans, and even Mrs. Broombreaker were mute. Sib could hear the wind rustle through the dry brown grass just below his feet. Suddenly, he heard a lone voice screaming with joy. Looking over to the Pathfinder side, he saw Lily yelling her head off and jumping up and down.
Willow slowly descended to the field while Sib and the other five teammates circled around her, finally celebrating. Sib flew over to her and took her hand, holding it up in the air in victory. I could kiss her right now. His thoughts were interrupted as Incheon flew up and handed her his noisemaker. “Here, I was saving this for when we set a record for the worst team ever, but I think you might want to celebrate something different.” Willow smiled and when she cracked open the box, the sounds of the eight people cheering swelled to twenty thousand screaming fans.
Willow left the noise box open until they made it back to the locker room. Lily was waiting for them when they came through the door. “We won!, we won! Can you believe it?”
“Yeah,” replied Sib. “I guess Hammersmith only scorin’ twenty points means that Featherpenny wins the Championship.”
Lily looked at him quizzically for a moment. “Oh yeah,” she said flatly. “I guess they did.”
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