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“Well lookee here,” the Hammersmith student said to three of his friends after they had cornered Sib and Incheon the following Monday.  “I guess you don’t have your little wonder kid to protect you this time.”  It was the same one who had dangled the two of them upside-down before he ended up on the wrong end of Quinta’s spell.  He pulled out his wand and brandished it at the two of them.  “What shall it be?”

 

“Look,” said Sib, his hands in the air in surrender.  “We ain’t charmin’ no badges off anymore.  Can’t we just call it quits and go to lunch?”

 

“Oh, I think we can,” the Hammersmith boy said.  “It’s just that my friends here need to get their retribution.”  He smiled as the other three pulled out their wands.  “Care to pick your poison?”

 

“Ice cream?” replied Incheon.  The four Hammersmiths laughed and then froze in mid-mirth.  Sib didn’t understand what was going on.  The four of them were completely immobilized.  He inched closer to see what had happened to them.

 

“What do you want me to do to them?” a familiar voice asked.  Sib turned to see Quinta, her hand pointed at the four Hammersmiths.

 

“Quinta!” Sib said.  “I thought you weren’t escortin’ us no…” Sib corrected himself. “...any more.”

 

“I’ve been a bit of a babo,” she replied.  Incheon laughed.  “I felt I should make it up to you,” she continued.

 

“I still don’t know what a babo is,” said Sib.  “But I’ll take this as an apology.” She nodded.

 

“So what do you want me to do to them?” she said, nodding toward the Hammersmiths.  “Make their teeth rot out?  Crush the bones in their hands?  Make their eyes…” 

 

“Stop!” interrupted Incheon.  “Dark, Quinta; just dark.  How about we put a nice Three Dubs sweet into each of their mouths?”  He reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of candies.  “I only have three random ones.” 

 

“Wait a minute,” Sib said and fished around in his bag for the Sweet Stunning Sweet Incheon had given him before the break.  He tossed it to Incheon, and he then unwrapped the four candies and put them inside the laughing mouths of the Hammersmiths.  Sib knew that as soon as they were unfrozen, the magical sweets would take effect instantaneously.

 

“You go ahead,” said Quinta.  “I’ll stick around to clear up any misunderstanding with these four.” 

 

“Are you comin’ for Lily’s wand transformation after classes?” Sib asked.

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

"Oh, and Quinta...Thanks."

 

*******

 

“So I can just dip my wand in?” Lily asked.

 

“Yes, you just submerge it and it will change into an amulet,” Willow explained.

 

“Do you have a good hold on that rope?” Lily asked Sib, who had tied a harness around her and was holding on to the other end.

 

“Yeah, I got you,” he said.  “Go on.”  Lily took a deep breath and plunged her wand into the pool. 

 

Nothing happened.  There was a collective exhale from everyone watching as Lily remained where she was, her hand wrist-deep in the pool.  “So...was something supposed to happen?” Quinta asked.

 

“I…I guess not,” said Sib.  “Did your wand change?”

 

“Yes,” said Lily, holding up her yew amulet from the pool.  “Tell me again exactly what you saw in your vision.”

 

“Well I saw you put your head in the water..” Sib explained.

 

“Where were you?”

 

“Uh, out there,” Sib pointed to the outside of the circle, along the path that led back to the lounge.

 

“Go there and tell me what you saw.” 

 

Sib dropped the rope and walked to the path, searching his memory for the details of the vision from two months before.  “Well, I was here, and I saw the liverwort bloomin over there’” he said.  He looked at the base of the tree and saw the green liverwort shoots, but no flowers yet.   “And then I looked over and saw you with your face right next to the water.  I called out your name just as your face touched the surface and then you got sucked into the pool.  I ran over here to pull you out and as I reached down and touched the water the vision ended.”

“What did the water look like?” she asked.  “Could you see me inside?”

 

“No,” Sib said, trying to remember.  “It was all cloudy.”

 

“You mean muddy?” 

 

“No, more misty-like.  Like our crystal balls get when we’re havin’ a vision.”

 

“Mine doesn’t get cloudy,” Willow remarked.

 

“Mine either,” said Lef.

 

“Whatever," said Sib.  “It was cloudy, not muddy.”

 

“How long before that liverwort blooms?” asked Willow.

 

“I say we got a week, tops,” Sib responded.  “What should we do?”  There was a collective shoulder shrug from the group.

 

“What did Miss Pyx say about it?” Willow asked.

 

Sib looked down and kicked his shoe.  “I never talked to her about it,” he mumbled.

 

“What?” she responded.  “What are you doing?  Your friend is going to get sucked to her watery death in a week and you’re kicking at the dirt?”

 

“I was mad at her for not helpin’ me figure out the vision about my grandmother’s grave, all right?” 

 

“No, it isn’t all right!" she yelled.  "Do you think your grandmother would still be alive if she had helped you figure it out?”  Sib shook his head.  She's right.  It wasnt' Miss Pyx’s fault.

 

“You’re going,” she continued.  “Right now if Incheon and I have to drag you there.” 

 

“Leave me out of this,” Incheon said.

 

“Then I’ll ask Quinta very nicely to escort you to Miss Pyx’ room.”  Sib looked at Quinta.  She raised her eyebrows in expectation of Sib’s response.  He knew Willow was right again and he knew that Quinta would have no trouble ‘escorting’ him to see her.

 

“I’m goin’,” he responded and turned to head back to the lounge.  It wasn’t Miss Pyx’s fault that I couldn’t figure it out.  And there was nothin’ that any of us could do about it anyway.  Maybe that was what the Orenda were tryin’ to get me to learn. I think it’s time I apologized and got back to learnin’.

 

Miss Pyx was behind her desk working when Sib knocked on her door.  She looked up to see who it was.

 

“Sib…” “Miss Pyx...” they said at the same time.  

 

“You first, ma’am.” 

 

She nodded.  “I’d like to apologize to you.” Sib started to protest and she put up her hands.  “Hear me out first…”  She took a deep breath.  “I failed you.  I was so intent on the idea that people have figurative visions because that’s all that I ever have.  I recognize now that all you ever have are literal ones.  I should have helped you figure out your grandmother’s grave and I understand if you don’t want to work with me anymore.”

 

“There ain’t nothin’ you need to apologize for, Miss Pyx,” he said.  “Whoever decided to show me that vision didn’t want me to figure it out.  No matter what I’m able to see about the future, there are just some things that I can’t be prepared for.  My Gramma’s death is one of ‘em.  I’m okay with that now.  I’ll see what they want me to see and learn what they want me to learn.  I’m back because I need your help.”

 

She welcomed him in and after they sat down he went through the vision again with Miss Pyx, working to remember every detail he could think of.  “...so we got less than a week before the liverwort is bloomin’," he concluded, "and we don’t know what to do.”

 

“Tell me about the pool,” she said.  “What does it do?”

 

“It transforms our wands to amulets,” he responded.  

 

“Does it do anything else?” 

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Who would know?  That’s where we need to go next.”

 

“Mr. Zolock had all those books from last year.  He might have found somethin’.”

 

“Excellent,” she said.  “I have to head home now, but I’ll arrange to have Mr. Zolock meet us here for our session tomorrow afternoon.”  She paused.  “You are coming back tomorrow afternoon?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he replied.  “But do I really need to tell my Mysticism teacher that?”  She laughed and Sib walked to the fireplaces with her to jump home.

 

When he reached his cabin, he was shocked to see the state of the place.  It had been completely ransacked.  There were boxes and bags scattered all over the floor.  Every container, cupboard, and canister had been opened and rifled through.  He pulled out his amulet and held it ready.  Not that he knew a single counterjinx, but it was better than nothing.  “Mom!” he yelled.

“In here, Sib.” His mom’s voice called from her bedroom.  He walked through the mess to find his mom’s room equally trashed.  She was slowly folding and putting clothes back in her dresser, a shell-shocked look on her face.

 

“Ma,” Sib said.  “What happened?” 

 

“MACUSA,” she replied.  “They had a search warrant and tore the place apart.”

 

“What were they lookin’ for?”

 

“Dunno, Sib,” she replied.  “But I guess they didn’t find it, ‘cause they left all in a huff.”

 

The memories.  He had to warn Willow.  He grabbed his bag and ran over to his room, climbed over the floor covered with his and his brother’s clothes and sat down on his brother’s stripped bed.  He searched through his Stor-All to get to the instant message book.  It flipped open to the latest message which was from Willow and had been sent just minutes before. 

 

‘MACUSA had a warrant and searched my house.  They didn’t find what they were looking for.  Remember what your grandmother said in her message.  It’s still true.’

 

He was about to write a response when he realized what Willow was saying.  His grandmother's message: 'they’re watchin’ me…'  The books must not be safe!  He slammed it shut and stuffed it back in his bag.  They must want those memories somethin’ fierce.  We gotta find a penseive soon.  He walked back to his mom’s room and started helping her clean up.

 

*******

 

Sib couldn’t sleep.  He sat up in his bed, listening to his brother breathing deep in a slumber.  Arc had returned home later than Sib and helped them set the rest of the house back in order and was now blissfully asleep.  MACUSA had nothing on him.  Sib’s mom on the other hand was deeply shaken.  Sib had to help her after he noticed her folding a sweater for the fourth time.  

 

He crawled out of bed as quietly as he could and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. He noticed that his mom’s door was open, so he glanced inside and saw her empty bed.  Where’d she go?  He walked to the front door and found it cracked open as well.  He peeked through and saw his mom pacing up and down outside of the front of their cabin talking to herself.

 

“I can’t keep them here no more,” she said.  “How did they find out?  Maybe Heather said somethin’ to the wrong person.  God, I shouldn’t have trusted her.  Maybe I should cancel the whole thing.  But she’ll be furious…”

 

Sib’s attention was drawn to a white ghostly figure that was winding its way toward the cabin through the woods.  It was a glowing white creature made of mist.  As it came closer, Sib recognized it as a bobcat, gliding to a halt in front of his mom.  It spoke to her without moving its mouth.

 

“Tonight.  At the appointed time.  At the appointed place.  When you make a deal with these people, you keep it.”  The bobcat dissolved into mist and drifted away.  Sib opened the door and stepped out on the porch.  Hearing him, his mom turned toward him.

 

“Ma,” said Sib.  “What’ve you done?”

 

She sighed.  “I made a deal with the devil, it seems,” she said, her shoulders hunched.  “I been gettin’ wands for wandless mages.”

 

“Ma, why?”

 

“I lost my job, Sib.  As soon as they found out what your pa done, they let me go.  I didn’t know what else to do.”  Sib walked to her and gave her a hug.  She started crying.  "I went to the only person I knew would help...your Uncle Andy."

 

"Was that his patronus?"  She nodded.  Dear Lord, what have you gotten us into, Uncle Andy...  “It’s alright ma.  We’ll get through this.”  She held him out and nodded, wiping the tears from her cheeks.  Sib knew he had to go with her.  “Gimme a minute to get dressed and I’ll go with you where you need to go.”

 

“But Sib…” she started to protest, but he had already walked through the front door.  He quietly snuck some clothes from his dresser, got changed in the dining room and met her back outside, pulling on his coat.

 

“Let’s go, ma.”  She nodded, took his hand and then twisted. The world went black.  Sib felt intense pressure all over his body and he found it impossible to breathe.  He felt like he was deep underwater and he kicked his legs subconsciously as if to propel him back up to the surface.  An instant later, he landed and fell to the ground, gasping.  His mom leaned over and helped him up.

 

“Sorry, Sib.  I forgot what it feels like the first time you side-along apparate.  Are you alright?” 

 

Sib nodded and brushed off his clothes. “Where are we?” he asked. 

 

“The less you know, the better,” she replied.  “But suffice to say we’re meetin’ someone here, exchangin’ a little money for a wand and then I’ll exchange it again for a lot more...if MACUSA don’t search our cabin again before I can make the deal.”

 

“Is that what you think they were lookin’ for?”

 

“What do you and Arc have that’s worth tearin’ our cabin apart?”

 

“Ma, I think maybe I…” 

 

“Hush,” she said.  “She’s coming.”  Sib saw a figure moving through the woods.  She was small and bent like an old woman, but she moved with a grace and speed that suggested that there was much more to her.  She carried a staff and was draped from head to toe in a long black robe, the hood completely hiding her face in shadow.  Sib was struck by how much she looked like the illusion of the Dark One that Miss Knox had conjured the previous week, only much older.

 

“I have the dracots,” Sib’s mom said, holding out a small leather purse.

 

“And I have the wand,” she replied in a deep rasping voice.  His mom and the woman exchanged the wand for the bag. Sib was staring at her staff which was carved with creatures that kept moving over and around each other.  He recognized a crow, a viper, a scorpion and a wyvern all snaking their way up and down the shaft.  

 

“I can’t do this no more,” Sib’s mom told her, putting the wand in her jacket.  “MACUSA got a warrant and searched my place.”

 

“That’s not what they were looking for,” the woman replied.  

 

“How would you know…” Sib’s mom started, but the woman lifted her staff to cut her off.  

 

“Best not to speak of what we know to anyone.  You never know who’s listening.” Sib swore she was looking at him even though he couldn’t see her face under the hood.  “The time is coming to openly choose sides, Cassiopia.  Do not linger too long to make your choice.  It’s those in the middle who will be most in danger.”  She whirled and vanished with a ‘pop’ that marked the disapparition of a mage.

 

“What did she mean ‘choose sides’ ma?  What side is she on?”

 

“I feel like the world is about to explode, Sib.  Like a giant balloon filled with mud.  Ain’t nobody gonna come out clean.”

 

“So what are we gonna do?”

 

“Well, first things first,” she said, pulling herself upright and taking a deep breath.  “We’re goin’ home and then we need to be at your pa’s trial tomorrow."

 

The trial!  He couldn’t believe it had snuck up on him.  He nodded and hooked his arm around his mom’s.  He remembered to take a deep breath as she apparated back home.  The feeling of pressure was the same, but he didn’t have the need to kick to the surface and was able to land on his feet as they arrived.

 

********

 

Sib thought trials were supposed to last for days, but he had only been in the courtroom for an hour and a half when the judge called for closing arguments from the defense.  The prosecution has already spoken, but they had just fumbled through regulations and requirements and hadn’t made any sense to Sib anyway.  So far, Sib thought there was no way they could convict his dad.  He listened as his dad’s lawyer - a portly, balding young man - got up to make his statement.

 

“The life of this mage rests upon the idea of intent.” He gestured toward Sib’s dad, who was sitting at the defendant’s table looking forlorn.  “We have established that hunting for food is not a crime and my client is not accused of doing so.  Or is he?  I ask you to consider the following: is a sward evil?  A sward is a weapon whose only purpose is to kill and maim others, and yet it is not illegal to own one.  Therefore, the only thing that matters is the intent of the person who holds it in their hand.”  

 

“As it pertains to this case and the defendant, I ask a similar question: is a spell evil?  We have clearly established that the intent of the wielder was not.  Throughout this case, we have demonstrated that the spell in question was no more than a tool used for innocent purposes and does not therefore warrant punishment from the court.  We ask that the defendant be found not guilty on all counts.  Thank you, your honor.”

 

Sib wanted to clap, but his mom’s look told him to stay still.  The prosecuting attorney spoke next in rebuttal.  

 

“The defendant, by his own admission, used a curse that has been identified as a dark magic spell.  This spell, namely Avada Kedavra, is specifically forbidden by the Dark Magic Abolishment Act of 2008, section 2 (b), paragraph three.  In light of recent extraordinary circumstances, we ask that the defendant be found guilty and held without possibility of parole until sentencing.  Thank you, your honor.”

 

Without adjournment and without a moment of deliberation, the judge took up his gavel and announced his verdict.  “I find the defendant guilty. He is to be held without parole. Sentencing will be scheduled for the fourteenth of April pending appeal.  Court adjourned.”  'BANG!'  The gavel hammered down and Sib jumped at the finality of it.  

 

Sib looked at his dad as he was led away by the bailiff.  He appeared to Sib as if he had long given up hope.  He glanced at Sib and his brother and then nodded to his mom before he disappeared behind the door that led back to Spellhold.

 

“We’ll appeal of course,” the lawyer said to Sib’s mom.  She nodded but didn’t respond.  “I’m sure another judge will see things differently,” he said, but Sib didn’t think he sounded convinced of that himself.  Again, Sib’s mom just nodded and they made their way out of the courtroom and back to the fireplaces.

 

“Ma,” Sib said as he stood next to the fireplaces.  “I’m gonna jump to school and finish the day.” 

 

She looked at him and checked the time.  “You know you don’t have to go back.  You won’t even make it in time for your last class.”

 

“I know ma.  I have some after-school stuff to do.”  

 

She took his face in her hands and looked him in the eyes.  “We’re gonna be alright, Sib...and so is your pa.” 

 

“Sure ma,” he said, although he didn’t have the faintest idea how.  She kissed him on the forehead and then grabbed Arc by the hand to jump back to the cabin together.  Sib stepped in after them, tossed the powder at his feet and jumped to Gampton Hall.

 

He emerged at the worst possible time.  Apparently the bell ending the day had rung just moments before and there was a line at the fireplaces of students rushing to get home.

 

“Ow, watch out!” “Gerroff!” “Move it, kid, you’re blockin’ up the works!” Sib was momentarily stunned by the cacophony of insults and shoving students pushing him toward the back of the line.  After having his feet stepped on at least three times, he found himself near the windows that faced the front lawn.  He looked back at the crowd and saw that the fireplaces were popping and snapping as the students jumped back to their homes.  He turned and started heading to the lifts.  

 

He had a few minutes before he had to meet Miss Pyx and Mr. Zolock in her office, so he decided to go to the lounge to tell the others what had happened over the past day.  He felt hungry and thirsty from not eating anything all day and along the way, he tried to slake his thirst with ‘aguamenti’, but cast from his hand instead of his amulet.  Because it didn’t shoot out where he thought, he ended up missing his mouth entirely and soaked the side of his head, leaving a puddle of water on the floor outside of the third floor hallway.  When he finally got to the lounge, it was empty except for Hedges and Beene who were standing and slapping each other on the head for no apparent reason.

 

"No slapbacks," said Beene, hitting Hedges on the side of the head.

 

"Backsies," called Hedges, slapping Beene. "Double no slapbacks."

 

“Where is everybody?” Sib asked, still wiping off the side of his face with his sleeve.

 

“What do you mean?” asked Beene.

 

“Everyone else in Pathfinder house who isn’t you, where are they?”

 

“Hedges is right here.” 

 

“Thank you Beene.  And everyone else?”

 

“They went that way,” he said pointing at the door leading to the grove.  Sib left the lounge and started walking through the path in the woods.  He saw patches of pink and white blooms at the base of several trees.  Oh, look., the liverwort’s bloomin...  

 

The liverwort!  He broke into a run and as he reached the edge of the circle of stones he skidded to a halt.  The liverwort was in bloom at the base of the tree from his vision.  He looked and saw Lily kneeling over the pool.

 

“Lily?” he said.  She didn’t respond, but just leaned closer to the water.  “What are you…” he stopped as her face broke the surface of the water and she was dragged under; her whole body disappearing into the cloudy liquid.  Sib rushed to the edge and reached out his hand into the pool.  His fingers touched the surface and he felt himself being pulled in.

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