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Page 17

He’d reached the end of the corridor, where the door to the library was. Long ago the word “Biblioteca” had adorned the door in gold lettering. Now only the outlines of the letters remained, and the hinges squeaked like distressed mice when Diego shoved the door open.

The first time he’d been shown the library, he’d thought it was a prank. A massive room, it was on the top floor of the Scholomance, where the roof was made of thick glass and light filtered down through it. During the time that the school had been deserted, massive trees had taken root in the dirt beneath the floor: Kieran had commented that they seemed to have the strength of faerie oaks. No one had had the time or money to remove them. They remained, surrounded by the dust of broken stone; their roots had cracked the floor and snaked among the chairs and shelves. Branches spread out wide above, forming a canopy over the bookshelves, dusting the seats and floors with fallen leaves.

Sometimes Diego wondered if Kieran liked it in here because it reminded him of a forest. He certainly spent most of his time in a window seat, somewhat grimly reading everything in the section on faeries. He had made a pile of books he considered accurate. The pile was small.

He glanced over as Diego came in. His hair was blue-black, the color of the lake outside the window. He had put two books into his accurate pile and was reading a third: Mating Habits of the Unseelie.

“I do not know anyone in Faerie who has married a goat,” he said irritably. “In either the Seelie or the Unseelie Court.”

“Don’t take it personally,” Diego said. He pulled a chair over and sat down facing Kieran. He could see them both reflected in the window. Kieran’s bony wrists stuck out below the sleeves of his borrowed uniform. Diego’s clothes had all been too big for him, so Rayan Maduabuchi had offered to lend Kieran some—he didn’t seem bothered that Diego was hiding a faerie in his room, but nothing much ruffled the surface of Rayan’s calm. Divya, on the other hand, Diego’s other best friend at the school, leaped nervously into the air every time anyone mentioned they were going to the library, despite Kieran’s uncanny ability to hide himself.

Divya and Rayan were the only people Diego had told about Kieran, mostly because they were the only people currently at the Scholomance that he trusted. There was only one professor in residence—Professor Gladstone, who was currently in Idris for the Inquisitor’s funeral. Besides, while there’d been a time that Diego would have trusted a professor without a second thought, that time was past.

“Have you heard anything from Idris?” said Kieran, looking down at his book.

“You mean Mark,” said Diego, “and I haven’t heard anything from him. I am not his favorite person.”

Kieran glanced up. “Are you anyone’s?” Somehow he managed to ask it as if it weren’t an insulting question, but something he merely wished to know.

Diego, who sometimes wondered the same thing himself, didn’t answer.

“I thought you might have heard from Cristina.” Kieran closed the book, marking his place with his finger. “About whether she is all right, and Mark—I thought the funerals were today.”

“They were,” Diego said. He also thought he might have heard from Cristina; he knew she’d been fond of Livia Blackthorn. “But funerals for us are very busy times. There is a great deal of ceremony, and a lot of people who visit and express condolences. She might not have much time.”

Kieran looked pained. “That seems as if it would be annoying. In Faerie we know to leave those who are grieving to themselves.”

“It’s annoying, but also not,” Diego said. He thought of the death of his grandfather, how the house had been full of velas, candles that burned with a beautiful light. How visitors had come and brought gifts of food, and they had eaten and drunk together and remembered his abuelo. Everywhere there had been marigolds and the cinnamon smell of atole and the sound of laughter.

It seemed cold to him, and lonely, to grieve by yourself. But faeries were different.

Kieran’s eyes sharpened, as if he had seen something revealing in Diego’s expression. “Is there a plan for me?” he asked. “Where am I to be sent, when my time hiding here is over?”

“I had thought you might want to return to Los Angeles,” said Diego, surprised.

Kieran shook his head. Locks of his hair had turned white; his hair color seemed to change with his mood. “No. I will not go back to where Mark is.”

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