A sly smile played on the Apprentice’s lips as he wondered if he could grab Jenna all by himself. How pleased his Master would be with him. Surely then his Master would forget all his past failures and would stop threatening to send him into the Young Army as an Expendable. Especially if he had succeeded where even the Hunter had failed.
He was going to do it.
Taking everyone by surprise, the Apprentice, although hampered by his sodden robes, flung himself forward and seized hold of Jenna. He was unexpectedly strong for his size, and he wrapped a wiry arm around her throat, almost choking her. Then he started to drag her toward the door.
Aunt Zelda made a move toward the Apprentice, and he flicked open his pocketknife, pressing it hard against Jenna’s throat.
“Anyone tries to stop me, and she gets it,” he snarled, propelling Jenna out the open door and down the path to the canoe and the waiting Magog. The Magog paid the scene no attention at all. It was immersed in liquifying its fifteenth drowned Shield Bug, and its duties did not commence until the prisoner was in the canoe.
She nearly was.
But Nicko was not going to let his sister go without a fight. He hurtled after the Apprentice and threw himself onto him. The Apprentice landed on top of Jenna, and there was a scream. A trickle of blood ran from underneath her.
Nicko yanked the Apprentice out of the way.
“Jen, Jen!” he gasped. “Are you hurt?”
Jenna had jumped up and was staring at the blood on the path.
“I—I don’t think so,” she stammered. “I think it’s him. I think he’s hurt.”
“Serve him right,” said Nicko, kicking the knife out of the Apprentice’s reach.
Nicko and Jenna hauled the Apprentice to his feet. He had a small cut on his arm but apart from that seemed unharmed. But he was deathly white. The Apprentice was frightened by the sight of blood, particularly his own, but he was even more frightened at the thought of what the Wizards might do to him. As they dragged him back into the cottage the Apprentice made one last attempt to escape. He twisted out of Jenna’s grasp and aimed a hefty kick at Nicko’s shins.
A fight broke out. The Apprentice landed a nasty punch to Nicko’s stomach and was just about to kick him again when Nicko twisted his arm painfully behind his back.
“Get out of that one,” Nicko told him. “Don’t think you can try and kidnap my sister and get away with it. Pig.”
“He’d never have got away with it,” mocked Jenna. “He’s too stupid.”
The Apprentice hated being called stupid. That was all his Master ever called him. Stupid boy. Stupid birdbrain. Stupid beetlehead. He hated it.
“I’m not stupid.” He gasped as Nicko tightened his grip on his arm. “I can do anything I want to. I could have shot her if I’d wanted to. I already have shot something tonight. So there.”
As soon as he said it, the Apprentice wished he hadn’t. Four pairs of accusing eyes stared at him.
“What exactly do you mean?” Aunt Zelda asked him quietly. “You shot something?”
The Apprentice decided to brazen it out.
“None of your business. I can shoot what I like. And if I want to shoot some fat ball of fur that gets in my way when I am on official business, then I will.”
There was a shocked silence. Nicko broke it.
“Boggart. He shot the Boggart. Pig.”
“Ouch!” yelled the Apprentice.
“No violence, please, Nicko,” said Aunt Zelda. “Whatever he’s done, he’s just a boy.”
“I’m not just a boy,” said the Apprentice haughtily. “I am Apprentice to DomDaniel, the Supreme Wizard and Necromancer. I am the seventh son of a seventh son.”
“What?” asked Aunt Zelda. “What did you say?”
“I am Apprentice to DomDaniel, the Supreme—”
“Not that. We know that. I can see the black stars on your belt only too well, thank you.”
“I said,” the Apprentice spoke proudly, pleased that at last someone was taking him seriously, “that I am the seventh son of a seventh son. I am Magykal.” Even though, thought the Apprentice, it hasn’t quite shown itself yet. But it will.
“I don’t believe you,” Aunt Zelda said flatly. “I’ve never seen anyone less like a seventh son of a seventh son in my life.”
“Well, I am,” the Apprentice insisted sulkily. “I am Septimus Heap.”
He’s lying,” Nicko said angrily, pacing up and down while the Apprentice dripped dry slowly by the fire.
The Apprentice’s green woolen robes gave off an unpleasant musty odor, which Aunt Zelda recognized as being the smell of failed spells and stale Darke Magyk. She opened a few jars of Stink Screen, and soon the air smelled pleasantly of lemon meringue pie.
“He’s just saying it to upset us,” said Nicko indignantly. “That little pig’s name is not Septimus Heap.”
Jenna put her arm around Nicko. Boy 412 wished he understood what was happening.
“Who is Septimus Heap?” he asked.
“Our brother,” said Nicko.
Boy 412 looked even more confused.
“He died when he was a baby,” said Jenna. “If he had lived, he would have had amazing Magykal powers. Our dad was a seventh son, you see,” Jenna told him, “but that doesn’t always make you any more Magykal.”
“It certainly didn’t with Silas,” muttered Aunt Zelda.
“When Dad married Mum they had six sons. They had Simon, Sam, Edd and Erik, Jo-Jo and Nicko. And then they had Septimus. So he was the seventh son of a seventh son. But he died. Just after he was born,” said Jenna. She was remembering what Sarah had told her one summer night when she was tucked in her box bed. “I always thought he was my twin brother. But it turns out he wasn’t…”
“Oh,” said Boy 412, thinking how complicated it seemed to be to have a family.
“So he’s definitely not our brother,” Nicko was saying. “And even if he was, I wouldn’t want him. He’s no brother of mine.”
“Well,” said Aunt Zelda, “there’s only one way to sort this out. We can see if he’s telling the truth, which I very much doubt. Although I did always wonder about Septimus…It never seemed quite right somehow.” She opened the door and checked the moon.
“A gibbous moon,” she said. “Nearly full. Not a bad time to scry.”
“What?” asked Jenna, Nicko and Boy 412 in unison.
“I’ll show you,” she said. “Come with me.”
The duck pond was the last place they all expected to end up, but there they were, looking at the reflection of the moon in the still, black water, just as Aunt Zelda had told them to.
The Apprentice was wedged firmly between Nicko and Boy 412, in case he should try to make a run for it. Boy 412 was pleased that Nicko trusted him at last. Not so long ago, it was Nicko who was trying to stop him from making a run for it. And now here he was, watching exactly the kind of Magyk he had been warned about in the Young Army: a full moon and a White Witch, her piercing blue eyes blazing in the moonlight, waving her arms in the air and talking about dead babies. What Boy 412 found difficult to believe was not that this was happening, but the fact that to him it now seemed quite normal. Not only that, but he realized that the people he was standing around the duck pond with—Jenna, Nicko and Aunt Zelda—meant more to him than anyone ever had in his whole life. Apart from Boy 409, of course.
Except, thought Boy 412, he could do without the Apprentice. The Apprentice reminded him of most of the people who had tormented him in his previous life. His previous life. That, decided Boy 412, was how it was going to be. Whatever happened, he was never going back to the Young Army. Never.
Aunt Zelda spoke in a low voice. “Now I am going to ask the moon to show us Septimus Heap.”
Boy 412 shivered and stared at the still, dark water of the pond. In the middle lay a perfect reflection of the moon, so detailed that the seas and mountains of the moon were clearer than he had ever seen before.
Aunt Zelda looked up at the moon and said, “Sister Moon, Sister Moon, show us, if you will, the seventh son of Silas and Sarah. Show us where he is now. Show us Septimus Heap.”
Everyone held their breath and looked expectantly at the the surface of the pond. Jenna felt apprehensive. Septimus was dead. What would they see? A small bundle of bones? A tiny grave?