Chapter 6 : VI
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She stopped outside the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower. The bronze door handle gleamed in the evening candlelight. Lily glared at it. It made a hollow thudding noise when she knocked at the door.
The strongest magic makes men fall but is treasured by all. What is it?
“Avada Kedavra,” Lily said with an eyeroll.
The door didn’t open.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Do we have to do this every time?” Lily hissed. “I need to get in. It might be an emergency.”
The door still stayed closed. Lily groaned.
“Can I try a different one?” Lily suggested.
The strongest magic makes men fall but is treasured by all. What is it?
Lily hit the door with her fist, knocking on the wood instead of using the eagle knocker.
“Why can’t you have a fucking password like a normal fucking Common Room?”
The knocker, predictably, did not reply.
Lily wasn’t sure what to do. She’d never managed to answer one of the riddles by herself. There was probably a good reason why she hadn’t been sorted into Ravenclaw. Usually, she managed to persuade somebody else to help her out, but there was nobody around. It was like the whole castle was already in mourning for a girl nobody had even noticed the previous day.
Eventually, Lily turned away and started the climb back to the Hospital Wing. Apart from Hugo, she had a grand total of one friend in Ravenclaw, and luckily she knew exactly where he was.
“I need your help,” she called as she entered the Hospital.
She was met with an empty mattress where Robin Parsons had been an hour earlier. Lily frowned and walked over to the bed.
“Hannah said he could go,” a girl said.
Lily turned. Lucy was sat in her chair by the next bed along, sitting beside a sleeping Mei Chang. Lorcan Scamander perched on the other side of the bed.
“But I need a Ravenclaw,” Lily said. “Where is he?”
“No idea. We had a meeting with McGonagall but that finished half an hour ago. Use the map?”
“Hugo’s got it,” Lily frowned.
“Why do you need a Ravenclaw?”
“Looking for Hugo and I can’t get into the Tower.” Lily felt a little bit embarrassed to admit it. She knew Lucy wouldn’t laugh at her, but it wasn’t nice to reveal that she didn’t have control over everything.
“Is he okay?” Lucy sounded worried.
Lily lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. Lucy would understand.
“It’s dinner time,” Lucy said. “Maybe see if there are any Claws in the Hall?”
“Maybe.” Lily was unconvinced. “Hey, Chang’s a Ravenclaw, isn’t she?”
“Wake her up,” Lily instructed.
Lucy sighed. “I’m not going to do that.”
“But I need her.”
“She’s in shock. I’m not waking her up until she’s ready.” Lucy’s voice was patient but firm.
“W..w...what’s the riddle?” Lorcan spoke up. His voice was unsteady and quiet. He didn’t make eye contact with Lily.
“What’s the riddle?” Lorcan said again. “M...maybe we can help.”
“Oh.” Lily thought for a moment. “The strongest magic makes men fall but is treasured by all. What is it?”
She looked at Lorcan. His head was bowed, meaning all she could really see of him was pale blonde hair and the rim of his glasses on his nose. As if he sensed her gaze, he bent further forwards, staring fixedly at his knees.
“Love,” he said simply.
“Love. Makes men fall but is treasured by all,” Lorcan explained, his voice stronger now.
Lily thought about it for a moment and then nodded.
“Right. Love. That makes sense.”
She left the Hospital Wing without saying goodbye, rushing back to Ravenclaw Tower.
“I’ve got it,” she told the knocker. “Love. Love is the strongest magic.”
The door swung open.
Ravenclaw Common Room was full but eerily silent.
Clusters of students gathered around sofas and desks, leaning on each other and looking glazed and lost. The sixth years were curled together beside one of the window seats. Nivetha Divani and Collette McLaggen were holding each other and sobbing. Dennis Jordan, class clown, had red eyes, and Tristan Gorgovitch, the usually swaggering Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain, looked unsteady on his feet even as he held up a trembling Ming Liu. Ravenclaw Tower was in mourning. Hugo was nowhere to be seen.
Lily was aware that she might be the only person in the room that didn’t particularly feel the absence of Lyra Goldstein, but she ignored the questioning glances of her classmates and climbed up the stairs to the boys’ dormitories.
The blue velvet curtains around Hugo’s bed were drawn. The rest of the dormitory was empty.
Lily pulled open the curtains.
Hugo was shaking, knees drawn up to his chest and arms wrapped around his shins, holding himself curled up in a ball. He wasn’t by himself. Abdi Karimi lay beside him in the bed, not touching him, but close enough to offer comfort.
Lily didn’t say anything to Abdi, and instead lay down on Hugo’s other side, curling one arm through the crook of his elbow and around his ribs.
“I’m here,” she murmured. “I’ve got you.”
Hugo shook more violently and let out a choked sob. Lily tightened her grip around him.
“It’s okay. We’re okay.” Lily kept her voice soft, but knew that Abdi could hear every word she spoke.
Hugo took a deep, shuddering breath.
“That’s it. You can do this. Breathe with me.”
Lily focussed on keeping her breaths slow and steady, and could feel Hugo’s ribs lifting and falling as he tried to copy her.
She kept whispering to her cousin, her words low and calm, until Hugo straightened his legs and turned to hug her.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
Lily shook her head. “Nothing to be sorry about.”
“I just...I thought…”
“It doesn’t matter.” Lily squeezed him tighter.
“I thought it was you, today, I thought…it made me think...bad things.”
“I know. But I’m okay. We’re okay.”
She held him for a moment longer, and then he sat up.
“I need a minute. Stay here?”
Lily nodded. Hugo climbed over her and headed into the bathroom. She could hear him running a basin full of water.
Abdi finally stood up. Lily had almost forgotten he was there.
“You’re kind to him,” Abdi said. His voice was deep and slow; soothing.
“Are you surprised?”
Abdi didn’t say anything. Lily sighed.
“You were looking after him?” She asked. “Before I got here?”
Abdi gave a slow nod.
“Thank you,” Lily said. She didn’t often thank people, but she had a lot of time for anybody who was kind to Hugo.
Abdi shrugged. He didn’t speak. Lily wasn’t sure what to make of him. Usually people were desperate to talk to her, and she could respond with cool indifference.
“Look...would you mind not mentioning this to anyone?” Lily waved a hand in Hugo’s direction to make it clear what she was asking. People around the school didn’t know how much Hugo panicked.
“I’m not a gossip,” Abdi said.
“Right. Of course.”
They both stayed still, waiting for Hugo to come out of the bathroom. When he came back into the room, face damp, Abdi took a step forward.
“Thanks. For today,” Hugo muttered.
Abdi pulled Hugo into a tight hug and then pulled away and left the dormitory, not looking back at Lily. Lily frowned. It was a long time since she’d seen Hugo accept a hug from somebody who wasn’t her.
Hugo came back to the bed and sat down next to Lily.
“You weren’t in Herbology,” he said. “It made me scared.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Where were you?”
Silence. Lily felt guilty. She hadn’t known skipping a lesson to be with Lysander would cause Hugo so much panic. How could she have known? On a normal day he probably wouldn’t even had noticed.
“He had a free period,” Lily said, feeling like she ought to explain herself. “And I hadn’t really seen him properly yet. I was with you on the train and then left the party early. We wanted to spend some time together.”
“Neville asked where you were,” Hugo muttered.
“Yeah. Paige said. I’ll go and see him later and say I was feeling anxious or something.”
“He cares about us. We shouldn’t take advantage of him.”
“Are you telling me off?” Lily raised an eyebrow. Usually Hugo didn’t care much about her attitude towards school.
Hugo shrugged. “I don’t know. I just...we’re doing NEWTs now. And you were with Lysander at the party. I remember seeing you two, when I was outside with Mei. I don’t get why you had to see him again this morning.”
“I wasn’t with him,” Lily said with a frown. “I told you that this morning. I lost him once you arrived.”
“But…” Hugo’s voice trailed off.
“You were really out of it. You probably saw somebody else.”
“No, it was definitely him. He came out when Mei was looking after me. I looked straight at him. I thought he was with you.”
Neither of them spoke for a moment. Hugo obviously felt uncomfortable. Lily ran his words through her mind a few times, making sure she’d drawn the right conclusion.
“I have to speak to Chang,” she said eventually. “Will you be okay?”
“I’ll owl you if I’m not.”
Lily kissed Hugo’s cheek and then stood up to leave the room.
The Common Room looked much the same as it had when she’d walked through it before, although Abdi had now joined the cluster of Sixth Years in the corner. He caught Lily’s eye as she walked past and gave her a reassuring nod. Tristan Gorgovitch looked confused. Lily didn’t acknowledge either of them.
She rushed back to the Hospital Wing, hoping Mei would still be there. When she arrived, Mei was sitting up, one hand in Lucy’s. Lorcan was now sitting on one of the other beds with a book. He followed Lucy around like an extraordinarily loyal puppy. Lily ignored him.
Lucy turned to face Lily and frowned. She didn’t look happy to see her.
“Chang, I need to ask you something.” Lily was surprised that her voice still sounded calm.
Mei looked apprehensive.
“It’s about Goldstein,” Lily said.
“Do you really think now’s the time?” Lucy looked exasperated.
“I need to know.” This time, Lily’s voice cracked a little. She stopped talking so that she could take a breath and collect herself.
“What do you need to know?” Mei slid down the bed and pulled her knees up to her chest. She looked tiny, like Hugo did when he was anxious. Lily found it irritating.
“Lysander,” Lily said shortly.
She sort of hoped that Mei would look confused, but a flash of worry crossed over her face instead, and Mei turned her face into the pillow.
“You need to tell me what was going on. Hugo saw them,” Lily said.
Mei nodded, still hiding her face. Lucy reached out a tentative hand and stroked her hair back. Lorcan was still reading his book and ignoring them.
“Was he sleeping with her?” Lily was aware that her voice was getting higher, but didn’t try to remedy it.
Mei sighed and rubbed her eyes, turning to look at Lily again. She didn’t speak but her expression made her answer obvious.
“But...why?” Lily felt small.
“I don’t know much about it,” Mei said eventually. “They wrote to each other and met up a couple of times over the summer.”
“And they were together last night,” Lily added.
“Yes,” Mei muttered. “They were together last night.”
“And then this morning she turned up dead in a lake.” Lily ignored the way Mei winced when she spoke.
Lily looked into Mei’s eyes for a moment, frowning into the stormy grey, and then turned and walked out of the room.
She wasn’t sure where she was going, but it had suddenly felt unbearable to be having that conversation.
She leant against the wall, closed her eyes and took deep, shuddering breaths to calm herself down.
“Lily? Are you...are you okay?” Lorcan’s voice was timid and hesitant.
Lily opened her eyes and looked at him. He was so pale he sort of looked translucent in the evening gloom. He kept reaching up to push his glasses further back on his nose, and he was looking at her but didn’t make direct eye contact. His face was kind.
It took her by surprise when she burst into tears.
She didn’t really know Lorcan. She hadn’t had a proper conversation with them since they were children, and only now spent time with him occasionally when she spoke to Lucy. But she was glad that he was there now. Because as soon as the tears slipped through her eyelashes, Lorcan stepped forwards.
He didn’t say anything. He just stood in front of her and opened his arms, looking nervous but some kind of determined at the same time.
Lily moved into him and Lorcan’s arms wrapped around her.
He stayed still while she sobbed into his shoulder.
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