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“...So we bushwacked from the MINSAR station up to the North Woods,” Sib was telling them.  He looked up from staring down at the scratches on his right hand.  His left was holding Willow’s.  She was sitting next to him; both leaning up against the spirit stone.  Sib had just finished telling them about his escape from Spellhold with his father and their jump to Gamp Island.   

 

“Then there was this poppin’ noise,” Sib continued, “and MACUSA agents were apparatin’ all around us.  I told my pa to run and he jumped down into a ravine.  He dropped outta sight…”

 

She must have been waitin’ for him in the ravine.  Were Ursula and Hendershot and the manticore waitin’ there too?

 

“I was runnin’ after him but a hand reached out from behind a tree and grabbed me.  I started clawin’ at it, but he held me tight.  So then someone right next to the guy holdin’ me cast a killin’ curse.  I turned my head to look and her wand was right next to my face.  The green flash blinded me and I heard the sound of screamin’.”

 

“This was your vision,” Lily said.  

 

He nodded.  He had shared it with the others, but not with Willow.  “Yeah.  But my vision always ended there.  I thought the green curse was bein’ shot at the manticore, ‘cause the scream sounded like what we heard when Miss Pyx shot him in the face with a stunnin’ spell.” He turned to Willow.  “That’s why I didn’t tell you,” he said.  “I didn’t want you to be upset about it.”  

 

“It’s okay,” she said and squeezed his hand. “Lef told me anyway.”

 

Sib flashed a smile at Lef and continued.  “So I blinked to clear my vision and there ain’t no manticore.  There’s only my pa screamin’ in pain.  That’s when the guy holdin’ me whispered in my ear.

 

“What did he say?” Lily asked.

 

“Sib, you have to stay away.” 

 

“How did he know your name?”

 

“I didn’t think about that at the time. I was just tryin’ to bust loose. Well, I stomped on the guy’s foot holdin’ me and broke free, runnin’ toward my pa as fast as I could.  I jumped down into the ravine and then I got hit with a stunnin’ spell and fell to the ground.  Three more killin’ spells hit my pa and then he collapsed and slid down the slope to rest right next to me.”  

 

He looked down.  Willow’s hand was holding his hand so hard, her fingers were turning red.  She saw and let go a little.  He smiled at her.

 

“So I was lyin’ there when the rest of the MACUSA mages and the medics from NNMC come hoverin’ around.  The medics checked on my pa and said he was dead.  I didn’t believe it at first since I gave him my ring.”  He glanced down at it on his finger, reflecting a slice of the blue morning sky. “One of the medics asked about how they had found us and she said that the trace that was on my pa got lost when the devourers ate spellhold, but that she had bugged all of us.”

 

“The bugs!” exclaimed Lef.  They all reached up and rubbed the back of their necks.  All except Quinta.  

 

She was petting her mother.  “Is that what that was?” she said. “Mother told me to kill it right away.  We thought it was some kind of parasite.”

 

“So how did they plant them on us?” Lef asked.

 

“It was Miss Knox,” Sib replied.  “She walked around to where I could see and it was her - plain as day.  She must'a used her ‘Woman in Black’ illusion to get past the Hunter and trash our lounge too.”

 

“Her illusions were so good, she even fooled a ghost,” recited Incheon.

 

“The medics picked me up with ‘pluma’ and then did the same with pa’s body and then they started carryin’ us out of the woods as the MACUSA mages all disapparated.”

 

He tried remembering the details of the conversation.  “It’s strange now that I think about what they talked about,” he said.  “First one sends off a patronus sayin’ that ‘both are secured’.”  It was a bobcat.  Uncle Andy’s patronus is a bobcat.  He was sendin’ that to ma!  He smirked at the thought.

 

“Then he said he wanted to take my pa’s body for the reward.  I wanted to kill him somethin’ fierce by that time.”

 

“There was a reward for your father?” asked Hye-lin. “You had just broken him out a few hours before.”

 

“I guess there wasn’t,” Sib said.  “But I didn’t know that at the time…  Anyway, one of ‘em picks up a rock and asks if the first one can turn it into somethin’ that looks like my pa.”

 

“He wanted to turn a rock into your father?” asked Hye-lin.

 

“Just his body,” said Lily.  “You’ll learn about that in Alteration class next year.  You can’t bring something to life that isn’t already alive.”

 

“That’s so creepy,” Hye-lin said.  “Why would he want to create a second body?”

 

“I thought it was because they wanted to claim the reward twice,” Sib told them.  “That was when they started talkin’ about what to do with me.  The one holdin’ me looked down and I saw his eyes.”

 

“What about them?” Willow asked.

 

“It wasn’t him; it was her.”  They all knew who he meant.  “Then, I started freakin’ out inside.  I thought the Wendigo was behind everythin’; that she had busted out my pa just to collect the reward money after he got tracked down and killed.”

 

“But there wasn’t any reward...” started Lily. 

 

“Let’s just say I wasn’t in my right mind at that point.”  They all nodded.  “The Wendigo cast a spell on me that put me to sleep through all of Sunday.  I woke up at home after sunset last night.”

 

My ma and Arc; they had to have known...  Why did they want me to go for a walk?  Why didn’t they just tell me?

 

“So what happened after you woke up?” Willow asked.

 

“I…” he hesitated and looked down at the ground.  “I kinda blew up at my ma and brother.  They were actin’ strange…” like pa wasn’t dead, he now realized,  “...and I didn’t understand why.  They kept tellin’ me to go for a walk.”

 

“Why?” Lily asked.

 

“I still don’t know,” he said, shaking his head.  “But then I got real upset and I… sorta cursed at ‘em... and jumped here.”

 

“So you’ve been here all night?” Willow said.

 

“Yeah.  Right there,” he said, pointing to the wind stone on the opposite side of the clearing where Lily and Hye-lin were propped against the obelisk.  “I was pretty stark ravin’ mad last night.”

 

‘Not all is as it appears…’ Did the Hunter know too?

 

“So how did you find out that your dad is alive?” Lily asked.

 

“This,” he said, holding up the orange and black feather.

 

“A feather?”

 

“It started to click after Incheon told me how the Wendigo turned them into birds.  That wouldn’t make no sense if she was just after them for the reward money.”

 

“What about what you saw in the woods?”

 

“I saw my pa disappear over the edge of a ravine,” he said.  “Then I saw someone who looked like my pa go scramblin’ up the other side.”

 

“But not your dad?” Lily asked.  

 

Sib shook his head. “Not my dad.”

 

“But someone died?”  

 

Willow was squeezing his hand tightly again.  “Yeah,” Sib said.  “The person who looked like my dad did get hit with those killin’ curses and he did die.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Corey,” he said.  Willow released the pressure from his hand.

 

“The manticore?” asked Hye-lin. “But how did it look like your dad? Did someone transfigure it?”

 

Sib shook his head.  “Manticores are highly resistant to magic,” he said.  “They won’t transfigure...it was an illusion.”

 

“Someone made a manticore look like a person?” Lily asked, incredulously.  “Who can do that?” Incheon got up and walked over to pick up the newspaper where it had been lying next to Willow.

 

“They were all there,” Sib said.  “The medics who carried my pa’s body.  I forgot to tell you their names were Christopher and Winnie.”  

 

“Hendershot and Ursula!” Willow cried, sitting forward.

 

Sib nodded. “Ursula is the only one who could control the manticore and only Hendershot could have done an illusion good enough to fool another illusionist like Miss Knox.”

 

“What about the other one?" Hye-lin asked.  "The one that wanted to collect the reward on your dad?”

 

“It was your uncle, wasn’t it?” asked Incheon, holding up the paper.  “He’s got welts all over his left arm.”

 

Sib nodded.  “That’s how he knew my name.  He was talkin’ about the reward on the Manticore.”

 

“And the rock that they wanted to turn into your dad’s body?” Hye-lin asked.

 

“I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re gonna bury at the funeral in a week or so.”

 

“What about your father?” she continued.  “I mean, the real one?”

 

“When he jumped over that ledge, the Wendigo must’a been right there.  She turned him into an oriole.  I saw a flash of orange and black in the branches right before I got blinded by the spell.”  He twirled the feather in his fingers again.  “I saw him again as they were haulin’ me out of the forest.  He was up in the branches - singin’.”  He was singin’ to me...

 

Quinta stood up.  “I’m going early to Alteration to ask Mr. Puterschmidt to help me with Mother.”  

 

Sib pushed himself up and pulled Willow to her feet.  They still hadn’t let go of each other’s hands.  “We’ll go with you.”  The others all stood up as well.

 

“I can go alone,” Quinta said.

 

“You will go alone,” Sib replied.  “And we’ll be right there with you when you do.”

 

*******

 

“Do you like her?” Willow asked him as they walked down the third-floor corridor toward the stairs.  Lef had hustled the others down the hallway already - Incheon complaining all the way - so that Willow and Sib were walking alone.  

 

“Who?” he asked. “Quinta?”  She nodded.  “Sure I do,” he replied.

 

She stopped holding his hand.  “More than me?”

 

Sib stopped. “You’re kidding right?”  Her pouting face let him know that she wasn’t.  “No,” he said emphatically.  “I like her as a friend, but she’s insane!”  He pointed down the hall to where the others were jumping the stairway.  “You’ve seen her. She’s brash and rude and treats us like we’re idiots.  I don’t like her like that.”

 

“Then why are you always helping her?”

 

“Because she’s alone,” said Sib.  “She don’t have anyone except us and I remember what that feels like. Don’t you remember when you and Lef found me last year?”  Sib had been excluded from Featherpenny house where he had been incorrectly sorted the year before.  Willow and Lef had found him alone and crying in a basement room.  When he asked them to leave, they refused… and had been his friends ever since.  “Her brothers are all much older than her and she has never had friends.”

 

“Never?”

 

“Until she joined the second-years this spring.”

 

“She’s just so weird,” Willow said.

 

“Yes, she is,” he replied.  “But she’s also amazin’. She could cast a fully-formed dragon patronus on our first day at school.”

 

“Is that what that was?”

 

Sib nodded.  “She can freeze people in mid-motion without utterin’ a word.  She stopped three simultaneous stunning spells with her bare hands.”

 

“I’ll never do those things,” Willow said.

 

“I don’t care,” said Sib.  “I’m never gonna do those things either.  All I’m sayin’ is that I’m glad she’s on our side.”

 

“So you only like me...like that?” she asked awkwardly.  

 

He pulled his Stor-All off his back and reached in for the manticore.  "Here," he said.  "I been meanin' to give you this for a long time."

 

She looked at it and a tear fell down her cheek.  "It's beautiful."

 

He stepped to her, kissing her on the lips.  

 

“Hubba, hubba!” Henry’s voice called to them from the picture frame behind Sib’s back.  The two of them broke into a laugh.  She wiped her cheeks, took his hand, and they walked down the stairs to Alteration.

 

When they got there, it was still several minutes before the bell.  They heard Mr. Puterschmidt’s voice as they walked into the room. “...but that would be a clear violation of the International Transfiguration Agreement - not to mention the Geneva Wizarding Convention,” he told Quinta.  He was looking at her rock which was sitting on his desk and his nervous tic of hard blinking had increased in his agitation. 

 

“But can you fix her?” she asked.

 

Mr. Puterschmidt picked up the rock and turned it over in his hand.  “I can try,” he said.  He put the rock on the floor and pulled his wand from his coat pocket.  He moved his wand in a careful, twisting motion and then swung it down until it was pointed at the rock, the tip of his wand vibrating from the pressure of his grip.  

 

There was an explosion and a flash of light.  Sib and Willow had brought their arms up to cover their face.  When Sib glanced above his arm, he saw the room was filled with a blue haze and Mr. Puterschmidt was on the floor, leaning up against the wall.

 

“Mr. P!” they yelled and went over to where he had collapsed.  Sib got out of the way so that Lef could be right next to their very dazed-looking teacher.

 

“Are you okay?” asked Lef, looking him over.  “Are you hurt?”

 

“Yes!” he said, angrily.  “My ego is severely bruised!  Now help me up.”  He put out his hands and Sib and Willow helped pull him to his feet.  He looked at the rock that was still sitting where he had set it.

 

“That is beyond my skill,” he said, nodding at the stone.  “There is protective magic on that rock that I cannot penetrate.”

 

“So who can?” asked Quinta.

 

“The mage who put it there in the first place,” he responded.  “Think of it like a magical safe.  Only someone who knows the combination can get inside.”  Quinta sighed heavily.  “I’m truly sorry Miss Rodriguez.  If that rock is indeed your mother, then I’m afraid I’m no help at all.”

 

Quinta went over and picked up the rock, tucking it under her arm.  She walked to Mr. Puterschmidt and put her hand on his.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “We’ll figure it out.”

 

“Something tells me that you will,” he responded, patting her hand.  The bell rung to signal the start of the day and Quinta calmly walked to her seat and sat down, putting her mother in the center of her desk.

 

It was then that Sib realized that he didn’t have his Stor-All.  He had left it at home the previous night.  He didn’t have his books or his alchemy kit and he couldn’t even take notes.  He sat dumbfounded at his desk while his other classmates came into the room.  He was about to get up to ask Willow for help when there was a knock at Mr. Puterschmidt’s door and Mrs. Black requested for Sib to step out into the hallway with her.

 

He noticed she was carrying his Stor-All bag, but she didn’t hand it to him right away.  She walked him away from the classroom to where they had privacy.  “How are you, Mr. Hooplander?” she asked.

 

“I’m fine, ma’am,” he replied.

 

“I’m aware of what happened this past weekend,” she said. “You needn’t be here.  You can grieve with your family.”

 

That’s right.  Everyone else thinks my pa is dead.  “I’m… I’m fine, Mrs. Black.”

 

“I find that hard to believe,” she replied.  “But perhaps it has not hit home yet.  Are you sure you want to stay?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he replied.  

 

She nodded and handed him his bag.  “Your mother sent this over this morning.  We have counseling available to you and your friends if you would like to take advantage of it." She paused and took a breath. "I, myself, have found it useful to talk through ...difficulty... with someone.”  Sib thought it was a rare glimpse inside Mrs. Black's demeanor.  He always assumed she was as cold inside as she was out.

 

“Thank you, ma’am.  I’ve been talkin’ to Miss Pyx quite a bit and she’s been helpin’ me.”

 

“This may be beyond what she is comfortable dealing with, but I will offer support to her as well.  Is there any message you’d like me to convey back to your mother?  She sounded concerned.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.  “Please tell her that I’m okay...and that I’m sorry.”

 

*******

 

The newspaper for that day turned out to be a treasure trove.  They were all huddled around it at lunch and Quinta had even made copies of it for everyone using a charm. Most of the other houses in the banquet room were abuzz with rumor and discussion of the weekend’s events.

 

“Listen to this,” said Lily.  “Due to the outbreak of devourers resulting from the infestation at Spellhold, both locations of the prison crash had to be scourged with Fiendfyre.”  She looked up.  “What’s that?”

 

“Were those two locations in California and Oregon?” asked Willow.  “Reports of massive wildfires are all over the nomaj news.”

 

“I love this part,” read Incheon.  “Despite the insistence that no prisoners escaped the cordon of mages that surrounded the prison during the breakout, no prisoners were recaptured and only one was killed during the escape.  ‘They were all gone...just vanished,’ one guard stated on condition of anonymity.  Ghost reporters on the scene confirmed that the anti-apparition and disapparation charms were still functioning well after the prison relocated at sunrise on Saturday.”

 

“Poof,” Incheon said and made a little exploding gesture with his hands.  He flipped to the next page and kept reading.  

 

Willow continued reading from the same article.  “When asked how many of the forty three criminals who had been in Spellhold successfully escaped, MACUSA replied with ‘no comment’.  Unofficial sources have confirmed that every one of the prisoners escaped with forty-two still at large and one prisoner killed while attempting to flee.”

 

“Oh my god, Sib,” cried Incheon.  “You’re in here!”

 

“What page?” said Sib.

 

“Twelve.  It’s the continuation of the story from the front page.  They say you are wanted for aiding and abetting a known criminal.”

 

Sib rifled through the paper and opened to the page.  He was confused.  The only image was a picture of a young, very shapely brunette woman in a white tee shirt.  She was standing next to a man holding a Firebird.  That’s my pa! The picture was from the top of Spellhold and Sib recognized that moment in time.  This was a second before pa threw me over the edge.

 

“Was that me?” he asked.

 

“You bet your sweet bippy it was,” said Incheon.  “How’d they get the photo?”

 

Sib looked at the image.  It moved in slow-motion unlike the other pictures in the paper.  It was as if one of the mages who had shot spells at them shared a memory and someone took a picture from inside.  Can they do that?  

 

“Mr. H made you look like that?” whispered Lily.  “I can’t believe him.  I mean, just look at the size of her…”

 

“Owls!” interrupted Willow, pointing toward the ceiling.  Sib looked up as dozens of the birds flew into the banquet hall delivering copies of the Ghost to the other tables.

 

“I am so saving this picture,” said Incheon.

 

“I am so destroying that picture,” muttered Hye-lin, loud enough for Sib to hear but not enough to carry across the table.  “Did you hear about Mr. Woodhead?” she asked the others.  Seeing no response, she continued.  “He resigned this morning.”

 

“So who’s teaching COMC?” Lily asked.

 

“I don’t know.  Apparently, he only stuck around this long to make sure that the manticore didn’t attack the school again.”

 

“And with Miss Knox gone, that makes two vacancies,” Lily observed.  “I wonder what other changes we’ll have for next year?”  

 

“We have to get through this one first,” Willow said.  “Finals are only a couple of weeks away.”

 

*******

 

“I’ll catch up with you in a bit,” Sib said to Willow after Mysticism that afternoon.  She nodded and headed out with the others back to the Pathfinder lounge.  Sib waited until the other students had left before he approached Miss Pyx.  She was vanishing the prophecy from the board in the front of the room.

 

“So what do you think the prophecy really means?” asked Sib.  They had spent the class discussing and brainstorming possible meanings of the whole thing now that the true version had been published.

 

“Like we talked about in class, it could mean many things,” she said as she walked to the classroom door.  She was talking strangely, as if her response was meant for someone else, but the room was empty except for the two of them.  “Mysticism is very difficult because we try to pin specific events on vague words or visions.” She stood aside and gestured for him to leave the classroom.  “Come take a walk outside with me,” she said.

 

Confused, he grabbed his Stor-All and walked with her to the stairs.  “First floor,” she said as she stepped over the edge of the center of the stairs.  She dropped out of sight.  Sib followed a second later and then met her as they walked to the front door.

 

“Mrs. Black came to me this morning and told me what happened this past weekend,” she said to him as they emerged outside.  Sib was momentarily blinded by the cloudless blue afternoon sky.  “I’m so sorry to hear about your father.” 

 

“I’m alright, Miss Pyx, I found out…”

 

“Not here,” she said, cutting him off.  She pointed to the riverside on their right.  “I’m just so emotionally upset by it all that I need to get some fresh air and sit down.” Sib glanced at her.  She don't look upset.

 

He opened his mouth to respond but she just shook her head.  “Please Sib,” she continued.  “I don’t want to start crying here.” Her eyes weren’t even glassy.

 

Oh!  he realized.  We can’t talk freely anymore.  She led him to a small overlook on the river side of the school.  To the right, Sib could see the school building extend right up to the side of the river; the Murgatroyd lounge jutting out below the falls.  To the left, the river flowed freely downstream toward the town of Gampton.  It was loud here; the noise of the waterfall carrying to where they were standing.  There was a slight mist that was blowing toward them from the churning water below.  

 

Miss Pyx looked around and then cast ‘muffliato’. “Put your bag over there,” she said, pointing to a nearby bench.  Sib did so and returned.  “Any knots in your neck or anywhere else?” she asked.  Sib realized she was talking about bugs like the one that Knox had put on her.  

 

He shook his head.  “I know about the bugs and the one I had is gone.”

 

“As for what I think the prophecy really means,” she said now that she knew they wouldn’t be overheard, “I think the five-year revolution has already begun, and I think you would agree with me.” Sib nodded. “I also think MACUSA has made things worse, not better.” 

 

“They’re the ones who put all the restrictions on the wandless mages and human-hybrids,” Sib said.  “Do you think they did that ‘cause of the prophecy?”

 

“Definitely,” she responded.  “And made enemies of all of them in the process.  The idiots practically made it self-fulfilling.”

 

“So what is the path of darkness?”

 

“I really don’t know, Sib,” she said.  “I hope it’s not the dark arts and - although I don’t agree with their methods - I understand why MACUSA banned them a decade ago.”

 

“So what are we all supposed to do now?”

 

“Like we do with most things in Mysticism,” she replied with a sigh.  “We wait for events to unfold.”  She gestured for them to sit on the bench right next to the banister separating them from the river below.  

 

“So it’s safe to talk here?” Sib asked.  

 

She nodded.  “But if you want to continue these conversations in the future, you will need to be more upset than you are about your father’s death.  We can pass it off as shock for now, but it’s going to get obvious shortly.”

 

“So you know?” said Sib.  “That he’s alive, I mean?”

 

“Are you really asking that of your Divination teacher?” she asked, smiling.

 

I guess I should’ve known.  She probably knew before I did.

 

“We can’t talk in the school building anymore,” she continued. “It’s safer outside.  I know Mrs. Black has been pushing back against MACUSA as hard as she can in an attempt to remain neutral, but we’ve already seen they aren’t above breaking the rules to gather information.”

 

Sib thought of Quinta’s mother.  “They’re transfigurin’ people into rocks,” he said.  “Quinta’s mom is one of ‘em.”

 

“Is that why she was talking to it?” asked Miss Pyx.  “She’s always been a little...off, but that would explain quite a bit.  I’m sad to hear that they have sunk so low.”

 

“Mr. P said it was a violation of international agreements,” Sib said, “and he couldn’t transfigure her back.”

 

“Just be careful, Sib,” she said.  “Mr. Puterschmidt is not your ally.”  She thought for a moment.  “Neither is Mrs. Black now that I think about it.”

 

“What do you mean?” he asked.

 

“It’s time to choose sides,” she said.  “Some of the teachers have already chosen, some are undecided, and some - like Mrs. Black - are actively trying to stay neutral.”

 

“So who’s on our side?” he asked.

 

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “It’s not like it’s something we discuss in the staff lounge.”

 

“So why did you say Mr. P is not my ally?”

 

“Because as far as I know, he hasn’t chosen either side.”  She stood up and put her hands on the carved marble bannister.  “Look,” she said as she looked out on the river.  “It’s safest just to assume that everyone has chosen to support MACUSA.  With where we are now, one wrong word at the wrong time to the wrong person could get someone killed.”

 

“Has anyone been killed yet?”

 

She turned around and leaned against the railing.  “Is Quinta’s mom alive?”  There was a moment of silence between them, and then she came back to the bench and sat down.  “Tell me everything,” she said.  “Assume I know less than you think I do.”

 

Realizing that he could be completely honest with her, he retold the entire story like he had done that morning with the Pathfinders.  He included every detail and how he had figured out earlier this morning that his father was alive.

 

“It’s been an eventful weekend for you, hasn’t it?” she asked when he concluded.

 

“Yes ma’am,” he replied.

 

“Remember to be upset about your father’s death, Sib,” she said.  “His life might depend on it.” She stood up to leave.

 

“Miss Pyx?” he asked.  She paused and turned to him.  “I guess the only thing I don’t understand is how the Wendigo knew where my dad and I were gonna be.”

 

“Are you really asking that of your Divination teacher?”

 

Sib’s mouth fell open.  “You!”  She just smiled and walked away.

 

*******

 

“There you are,” Willow said as Sib emerged from the portal into the Pathfinder lounge.  She got up and started walking toward him.  

He held out his hands to stop her. “Let’s go outside to talk,” he said.  He turned to Hye-lin.  “Where are Hedges and Beene?

 

“Somewhere else, being idiots,” she said.  

 

He nodded.  “Good.  Everyone...outside.”

 

“But…” Willow started.

 

“Outside,” he said, cutting her off.  He pointed toward the back door.  “You too, Incheon,” he said as he walked by.

 

“Always with the effort…” he mumbled, but he got up and followed. 

 

As soon as Sib was out of the lounge, he called for the Hunter’s help at the circle of stones.  The ghost was waiting there when they arrived.

 

“What’s going on...?” Willow started, but Sib ignored her and addressed the Hunter.

 

“Can you tell whether we’re being listened to?” he asked.

 

“You are safe here,” he replied.  “The Orenda watch.”  He looked back toward the lounge.  “I will hunt elsewhere.”  He faded away and Sib walked into the circle of stones.

 

“Who’s listening to us?” Willow asked.  “I thought the bugs were gone.”

 

“MACUSA,” Sib responded.  “They're listenin’ to what happens in Gampton Hall.”

 

“Why?” asked Hye-lin.

 

“Because they suspect,” said Sib.  “And for good reason.  We already know one teacher who helped the breakout at Spellhold.  I suppose they’re lookin’ for who might slip up and say somethin’ they shouldn’t.” 

 

“Is that why we’re here?” Lily asked, gesturing to the stones.

 

“Yeah,” replied Sib. “If any one of us mentions that my pa is still alive and they overhear it...he won’t be safe anymore.”  He turned to Willow and took her hands. “I gotta stay out of school for the rest of the week too,” he said.  “I’m supposed to be grievin’ with my family.”  She nodded in understanding.

 

“The picture in the lounge is connected to the others,” the Hunter said and they all jumped at his sudden return.  “Henry’s pegasus will not fly.”  

 

“Do you think they could listen that way?” asked Willow.

 

“I don’t know,” said Sib.  “But somethin’s off and we should assume so.  Did y’all say anythin’ in the lounge after classes?”

 

“No,” Willow replied.  “I was just talking to them about our house points.”

 

“I still think zero is a terrible number,” said Incheon.  “It looks like the cross-section of a cucumber.”

 

“Incheon has decided that if any of us get enough points to get to zero, he’ll immediately lose some,” said Lef.  “Apparently, no house in the history of Gampton Hall has ever had negative points two years in a row.”

 

“We’ll be immortalized,” he said, looking dreamy.  

 

Sib turned back to Willow and took her hands in his again.  Lef corralled the others back to the lounge, Incheon complaining all the way.  When they were alone, Sib leaned in and kissed her again.

 

“I’ll see you next week,” Sib told her.  “But we need to find some way of communicatin’ this summer. Those instant message books aren’t safe.”

 

“Lef and I will work on something,” she replied.  “But I can always just come visit you by Firejump.”

 

“I thought you said you didn’t have a fireplace?”

 

“We’re moving to Gampton,” said Willow.  “I wanted it to be a surprise, but my mom got offered a job...here.”

 

“At Gampton Hall?  Doin’ what?”

 

“Nomaj studies,” she said.  

 

“That’s…” he started, but she cut him off with another kiss.

 

“...amazin’.” he finished, smiling.
 

*******

 

As he jumped home, he smiled at the thought that today had been the best day ever.  He emerged into his cabin and came over to the dining room table where his brother was sitting.  His mom was cooking something on the stove that smelled delicious.  He dug in his pocket.  “Dad’s alive,” he told them, holding up the feather.

 

Sib’s mom carried over a pair of giant foot-long mad dogs.  “You’re just in shock, honey,” she said, setting one mad dog in front of his brother.  “Your father was killed by MACUSA.”  She set the other mad dog at Sib’s place and winked at him, smiling.

 

He opened his mouth to reply and his brother shook his head.  Arc tapped his ear.  That’s why they wanted to get me out of the house...it’s been bugged! Sib nodded in recognition and then sat down at the table.  As he bit into his mad dog, he thought he had never tasted anything more heavenly.  I’d best be careful from here on out.  You never know who’s listenin’.

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