Lucy was stuck. She’d managed to get into the carriage okay. They’d been queueing next to the Hufflepuff Quidditch Team, who had spent long enough sharing a Common Room with Lucy to understand that it would be a group effort to get her chunky wheelchair into one of the elegant horseless carriages to get from Hogsmeade to the castle. The Quidditch Team must have overtaken them during the journey, though, because there was no sign of them and Lucy was rammed into a carriage she couldn’t get herself out of.
Lorcan was dithering around outside the carriage behind her. Lucy knew he must be getting drenched in the heavy rain but she couldn’t muster much sympathy for her friend. They’d been there for nearly five minutes now and had come no closer to finding a way to get her safely to the ground.
“I could levitate you,” Lorcan said hopefully, as if he hadn’t already made the same suggestion three times.
“You drop 50% of the things you try to levitate,” Lucy said, trying to stay patient.
“But the other 50% stay safely airborne,” Lorcan said. His smile was audible. Lucy decided that she’d probably hit him once she was out of the carriage.
“We’re going to be late for the Feast,” Lucy sighed.
“No we’re not.” Lorcan sounded determined. “We’ll figure this out. How have we done it every other year?”
“Every other year I’ve had a small army of cousins to help us,” Lucy explained. “James used to pick me up and pretty much charge into the Hall with me while the others sorted my chair. And then when he left I still had Rosie and I trusted her Wingardium Leviosas rather more than I trust yours.”
“That’s hurtful,” Lorcan said, but his voice was still bright and cheerful. He was always bright and cheerful. “Well, what about your other cousins? You’ve still got some here.”
“Only Lily and Hugo,” Lucy said gloomily. “And let’s face it, I’m hardly going to be on either of their minds right now.”
“But they’re your family. They should help you,” Lorcan insisted.
Lucy sighed. “Well, yeah. And they do help me. If they walked past right now they’d definitely stop. But they’re the babies in the family. They’re not used to having to make time to look out for the rest of us.”
“It just seems unfair,” Lorcan said. “You never ask for anything. People should help you when you need it. That’s the right thing to do.”
“Well, not everyone can be as nice as you, Lorcan,” Lucy said. “Okay, I need you to do me a favour.”
“Absolutely not. Go and see if you can find someone else to come and levitate me. Or if the Quidditch lot are around to lift me out of here.”
“Someone to levitate you, or the Quidditch lot,” Lorcan repeated. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”
“If you get a levitating person, try to go for a Ravenclaw,” Lucy called out after him. “No Hufflepuffs!”
The rain was getting heavier. Her chair faced into the carriage so she couldn’t see out the door, but she could hear the water hammering down on the entrance to the school. Tears of frustration were burning the back of her eyes but she was determined not to cry. She’d already decided that seventh year was going to be a good year. This was just a small setback.
“Lucy?” Lorcan raised his voice over the rain. “I’m back. I’ve brought help.”
“Who is it?” Lucy asked. She thought she might sound rude, but she didn’t want to be dragged backwards out of the carriage without knowing who she was trusting to get her out.
“It’s Mei,” a girl’s voice called.
“Mei Chang? From sixth year?” Lucy felt relieved. Mei Chang was a Ravenclaw and a prefect and always seemed like she was very sensible.
“Yep.” Mei had obviously come closer because her voice was much clearer. “Okay, Lucy, if it’s okay with you I’m going to conjure a ramp and then summon you down it.”
“Unless you’d rather I tried something else? That just seems like it’d probably be safest.”
“As long as it gets me out of here I’m fine with it,” Lucy said.
Mei Chang must have been quick with a wand because within seconds Lucy’s chair was rolling out of the carriage towards the ground. Lorcan caught the handles and brought her to a stop just before she rolled into a deep puddle.
“Thank you,” Lucy said earnestly, looking up at Mei.
Mei ran a hand through her cropped hair and looked bashful.
“It’s no problem. Really,” she said, her eyes flickering over to Lucy’s other side.
Lucy turned and for a moment thought that Lily had come out to help her afterall. But then she looked more closely at the girl and recognised Lyra Goldstein, Mei’s friend. Her hair was shorter and redder than it had been before the summer and from a distance she could have passed for Lily.
“Lorcan was worried you’d be late for the feast,” Lyra said. “And we couldn’t have our Head Girl missing the Sorting.”
“Would have been quite embarrassing,” Lucy admitted. “I think my first act as Head Girl will be to speak to Professor McGonagall about how unequipped Hogwarts is to support physically impaired students.”
She started to wheel herself towards the Entrance Hall, Lorcan at her side. Mei and Lyra walked next to them.
“It is really bad once you think about it,” Mei said. “I mean, you’re hardly the first student here to be in a wheelchair. And it’s a magical school. Surely there’s a way they could get you here that would mean you didn’t have to use the carriages.”
“Lucy likes the carriages. She enjoys an added element of risk in her journey to school,” Lorcan said.
“Yeah, you know me. Ever the thrillseeker,” Lucy laughed.
Mei and Lyra both giggled and helped Lorcan lift Lucy’s chair up the steps into the Entrance Hall.
“Well, let me know if you ever need help with anything like that,” Mei said. “My mum’s in a chair too, has been since the war, and I know how infuriating it is when places just don’t accommodate it.”
“Thank you,” Lucy said warmly. “Really thank you.”
They said goodbye at the entrance to the Great Hall, Mei and Lyra heading off towards the Ravenclaw table and leaving Lucy and Lorcan to make their way over to Hufflepuff. The wooden floor was slippery from hundreds of damp footsteps and it was hard for Lucy to navigate by herself. Lorcan reached out and held onto her chair, wheeling her over to their usual place at the head of the Hufflepuff table.
In first and second year, Lucy had felt self conscious about needing to sit at the very end of the table. The long wooden benches down the sides of the tables left no room for her chair but sitting at the end felt like everyone was looking at her and she had thought she looked attention seeking, like she thought she was better than everyone else so should get special treatment. By the time she reached third year, she’d realised that nobody was actually paying her any attention and that even if they had noticed her, they probably didn’t care where she sat.
Lorcan straightened Lucy’s chair so that she was facing the table and then sat down at the end of the bench round the corner from her. He wore thick tortoiseshell glasses that had steamed up in the rain, and now he took them off to wipe them on his robes.
“I hate wearing these,” he said as he returned his glasses to his face.
“They make you look very intellectual,” Lucy teased.
“I’m sure. Hey, look, your remaining family members.” Lorcan jerked his head towards the doors.
Lily and Hugo entered the room together, closely followed by Paige Parsons and Isidore Flint.
Lily was rarely seen without the other girls and they made an intimidating trio. Isidore was tall and statuesque, black hair straightened so that it fell to her waist, lips painted a deep purple that definitely violated the school uniform policy. She walked at a leisurely pace, smouldering at people who looked her way. Paige was small: pretty and feminine. She didn’t look like she should be intimidating but she placed herself immediately behind Lily, asserting her position as Lily’s most trusted advisor. Lily ignored them both, deep in conversation with Hugo.
Lucy had spent the second half of the summer with her mother’s family in India so hadn’t seen her cousins for over three weeks. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw how thin Hugo was. He’d always been good looking: tall and thin, red hair dark like Lily’s rather than ginger like his sister’s, with a scattering of freckles across high cheekbones. He still looked striking, but his face was pale and gaunt, and Lily’s small hand easily wrapped all the way around his elbow as she spoke to him.
“And now my family member is joining them,” Lorcan said. “How delightful.”
Lysander Scamander strolled over to Hugo and the girls. He said something to Paige that made her giggle and then stepped between her and Lily to drape an arm over Lily’s shoulder and give her a long, slow kiss that Lucy thought was probably inappropriate for school. The feast hadn’t officially started yet but she thought she would have been embarrassed to be kissed like that in front of the teachers. Then again, she’d never been like Lily.
Hugo left his cousin without saying anything and Lysander walked Lily and her friends over to the Slytherin table, kissing her again as she sat down. She left a space on the bench beside her but he didn’t take it. Instead, he started to parade around the Hall, stopping next to all the beautiful, important people to give out small black envelopes.
“That’ll be the invites to the welcome back party,” Lucy observed.
Lysander practically bounced between his guests, giving them charming smiles and making them laugh before moving on. He was nothing like his twin brother. Lysander was brash where Lorcan was calm, and while Lorcan found it difficult to talk to people, Lysander was always the life and soul of the party. They even looked completely different. Lysander had thick, dark brown hair and was tanned and muscled from long hours running and training outside for Quidditch. Lorcan’s albinism made him thin, pale and translucent beneath white-blonde hair. When they’d first joined the school a lot of people hadn’t even realised they were related.
“Shouldn’t think we’ll make the cut for the party,” Lorcan said, nudging Lucy’s arm with his shoulder.
“Seems unlikely, doesn’t it?” Lucy reached out for a jug of water and filled both their glasses. She was tempted by the pumpkin juice but having lots of sugar before she’d eaten properly tended to drain her energy for the next day.
“I guess you could shut it down this year,” Lorcan said casually. “Being Head Girl and that. It can’t be that hard to figure out where it is and it’s definitely against school rules.”
“I’m sure it would be possible,” Lucy agreed. “Although it wouldn’t make for a very popular start to the year.”
Lorcan nodded. “I know. Would be nice to see him get in some trouble for his rubbish though.”
“I’ll find something else to give him detention for.” Lucy patted Lorcan’s arm.
They went quiet as Professor Longbottom led in the new gaggle of tiny first years and the Sorting Ceremony began. Lysander Scamander sauntered back to his seat, stopping to give out another two invitations even though he was holding up the Ceremony. Lorcan’s eyes stayed fixed on his brother as he leant in to give Lily another kiss when he was sat back down.
“Stop staring,” Lucy whispered. “He’ll notice.”
“He’s my brother. I’m not scared of him,” Lorcan retorted.
Lucy shook her head. “What’s the point in staring, though? You’ll only annoy him.”
She couldn’t resist following Lorcan’s gaze, although she still wasn’t sure why he was watching his brother so intently. Lysander had an arm tucked firmly around Lily’s waist and was kissing her neck while she whispered something to Paige. Isidore sat opposite them, glaring at anyone who looked too interested in what was happening.
“What do you think of him and Lily?” Lorcan asked, finally tearing his eyes away.
Lucy frowned. “What do you mean?”
They both broke into applause as the first student - “Ackerley, Ingrid” - was sorted into Hufflepuff. Lorcan waited for the cheering to die down before responding.
“She was at our house a lot in the holidays. I didn’t like it,” he said.
“Of course you didn’t. You’ve been scared of her for years.”
“No,” Lorcan said, shaking his head. “That wasn’t it. I just...the way he was with her made me uncomfortable.”
“Did he do something to hurt her?” Lucy put down her water glass so she could listen carefully.
“No. Not that I know of. It just all seemed a bit off. Like...she’d come round and not talk to anyone and then they’d go straight up to his room, even though Mum had cooked for them. And sometimes when Mum and Dad were out I could hear her...you know…with him.”
“Well, that doesn’t surprise me to be honest. We’ve all seen their displays at school.”
“Yeah, but I’ve known her since we were kids. And this doesn’t seem like her. She used to talk to everyone, remember? But when he’s around she just, like, shuts down and goes quiet.”
Lucy nodded slowly. Lorcan looked genuinely distressed.
“I’ll try to keep an eye on her, okay?” She said, squeezing his hand. “But I think she’s happy with him. He contributes to her whole Queen Bee thing, you know?”
“I know.” Lorcan sounded disappointed.
They didn’t talk about Lily and Lysander for the rest of the Feast, instead spending their time trying all the dishes they hadn’t tasted in previous years and giggling about the fwoopers Lorcan’s father had brought home from his recent trip to Ghana, that now lived in the Scamanders’ kitchen and kept eating everyone’s food.
“You should have brought one with you,” Lucy said. “They’re more fun than owls.”
“They have to have their silencing charms renewed once a month and I was worried I’d forget to do it and accidentally drive the whole of Hufflepuff insane with its song,” Lorcan explained.
“Yeah. That actually sounds very likely. Might be for the best that you left them at home.”
Lucy scraped her spoon around the edge of her bowl, scooping up the last of her sticky toffee pudding before the plates and food all disappeared.
They went quiet to listen to Professor McGonagall welcome them all back to school and dismiss the students, reminding prefects to stay behind for their first meeting of the year.
“I guess you’re running the meeting then?” Lorcan looked sadly at the empty space on the table where his unfinished trifle had been moments before.
“Yeah. I’ve got a bit of time though. We need to wait for the fifth years to take the new kids to the Common Rooms.”
“Are the meetings always in here?”
“No. There’s a prefect Common Room upstairs but it seems like too much hassle to try to get up there. I asked if I could just keep them back here instead.”
Lorcan nodded and then yawned. “You want me to hang around? I can take you back to Hufflepuff after?”
Lucy smiled at her friend but shook her head. “I’ll get someone else to help. You should go. You’ll get bored waiting.”
“Okay. I’ll wait up for you. I have chocolate cauldrons.”
He squeezed Lucy’s hand and left the Hall, bowing his head to avoid making eye contact with Lily Potter when he passed her.
Lily didn’t seem to notice and strode over to sit down next to Lucy. She was wearing her prefect badge on her collar but it was hardly visible under her hair. She looked bored at the prospect of the impending meeting but, to her credit, she’d never shirked on any of her responsibilities since being given the position a year ago.
Once Lily had sat down, the other prefects trickled over. Robin Parsons, Head Boy badge gleaming in the centre of his chest, took the seat on Lucy’s other side. He raised an eyebrow at Lily’s bored expression and Lily smirked and straightened her posture. Mei Chang gave Lucy a little wave when she sat down before turning to talk to the other sixth year Ravenclaw prefect.
The end of the Hufflepuff table filled up with prefects from each House and Lucy looked at Robin to see how he wanted to start the meeting.
Robin cleared his throat. “Hey guys. Thanks for hanging around. We really appreciate it.”
Lily raised one perfectly arched eyebrow and Robin stuck his tongue out at her. Lucy felt a little bit left out sitting in between them. Lily was her cousin and she wished she felt as comfortable around her as Robin seemed to. He had a kind of easy confidence and Lily clearly didn’t intimidate him at all.
“Don’t want to keep you long,” Robin continued. “I’m Robin, Head Boy this year. Think I’ve met most of you before.”
He nodded at Lucy to give her the chance to introduce herself. Her voice was high and quiet when she spoke and she wished he’d just introduced her himself.
“And I’m Lucy. Head Girl.”
Robin gave her an encouraging smile and she kept talking.
“We’ve put together a timetable for patrols but we’ll get that to you later in the week.” Her voice grew more steady as she spoke. “For now we just wanted to remind you that as prefects you need to set a good example.”
Robin nodded. “And that means following and promoting the school rules. We don’t want to hear that you’re involved in anything against those rules, and especially don’t want to hear that you’re involved in anything against the law.”
Lucy wondered whether he felt hypocritical talking like this when everyone knew he was top of the invite list to all the big parties. His sister and girlfriend, under Lily’s careful guidance, pretty much coordinated the Hogwarts party season.
“We know that you want to have fun,” Lucy said. “And obviously we’re not telling you to stay shut up in your Common Rooms all year. But please think carefully about what your actions say about the values of our school.”
Robin looked serious. “The American Ministry has just published a report about the unprecedented abuse of drugs and alcohol by teenaged witches and wizards. The UK hasn’t had anything like that yet but it means Hogwarts is being looked at closely this year. As prefects you’re all responsible for making sure students are safe and sensible.”
They hadn’t talked much about what they wanted to say at their first meeting but Lucy was glad that Robin seemed to have the same priorities she did.
“If you see anything against the rules or illegal tonight, please let one of us know,” Lucy finished.
She looked at Robin and he gave a tiny shrug to show that he had nothing else to add.
“I reckon that’s enough for tonight,” he grinned. “Welcome back everyone.”
Lily wheeled Lucy’s chair out of the Hall without waiting for her to ask. Lucy was glad. She could have managed by herself but her arms were tired and she’d struggle to get down the stairs to her Common Room without help. Her cousin was self-centred and often wouldn’t think to help, but she was one of the few people who truly understood Lucy’s weaknesses and realised when she needed extra support.
“How was Goa?” Lily’s voice was soft and kind. She always sounded different when she was just with family.
“Beautiful,” Lucy smiled. “Sunny. Nicer than here.”
“I’m so jealous. Wish my parents came from somewhere warm.”
Lucy laughed. “Well, you got the famous superstar parents and I got the sunshine. It’s only fair.”
“Perhaps,” Lily conceded.
They continued in silence for a few moments, broken only by the smooth, skidding roll of Lucy’s wheels against the stone. The corridors were quiet, students already cosied into their Common Rooms, and the flickering torches mounted on the walls made it feel later than it really was.
“I saw Hugo,” Lucy said quietly.
Lily’s breath caught in her throat, releasing in a sharp hiss, but she didn’t reply.
“You can talk to me, Lils,” Lucy said. “I know you spend your whole time protecting him, but it can’t be easy just...not ever mentioning it.”
Lucy shook her head. “We’re family. If you need me, I can listen.”
“I know,” Lily said.
“Is he going to be okay? He doesn’t look good.”
“I hope so,” Lily sighed.
Lucy frowned. She knew her cousins. Lily was so used to fiercely defending Hugo and trying to look after him all by herself that she was unwilling to discuss his problems with anybody else.
“Rose owled me,” Lucy said. “She wanted me to look out for him. She said he hardly ate over the summer.”
“I’ll let you know if we need you,” Lily said shortly.
Lucy felt like she was being dismissed. Lily kept wheeling her forward, past the kitchens and closer to Hufflepuff, but the conversation had dried up and she couldn’t think how to get it to flow again.
“So are you, like, making drugs a big thing this year?” Lily asked.
Lucy turned around, startled by the sudden shift in topic.
Lily removed one hand from the wheelchair to tuck her hair back around one ear.
“You spent the whole meeting talking about it. I was a prefect last year. Don’t remember it coming up at all. Is that going to be your thing?”
Lucy sighed. She’d been hoping that Lily wouldn’t want to discuss it.
“It’s just been in the news a lot. We need to be careful.”
“Right.” Lily’s voice was hard.
“I know they’re your friends. And I know the kind of things they do…” Lucy began.
“I don’t do drugs.”
“Yes. I know. Of course. But you’ll be at the party tonight…”
“Just...keep an eye on them, okay?” Lucy knew she sounded tentative but she was reluctant to offend Lily when they’d been getting along.
Lily stopped walking. They’d reached the Hufflepuff Common Room and that probably meant it was the end of their discussion.
“I’ll try,” Lily nodded.
She walked away without saying goodbye. Lucy watched her walk down the corridor. Her school skirt was short and she kept pulling it down with small, self-conscious tugs. She was wearing over the knee white socks that left a strip of bare, freckled thigh visible above them. She wasn’t wearing a cloak - one of her friends must have taken it back to Slytherin for her before the meeting - and she shivered a little, pulling her arms across her chest to keep warm.
Lucy watched her cousin until she left the corridor, and then turned to wheel herself into her Common Room. She didn’t mind not being invited to the party. Lorcan would be waiting for her with chocolate frogs and gobstones and that might not have been enough for Lily, but for Lucy it was perfect.
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