Chapter 2 : Two
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Tucking himself away in the library was almost second nature to Percy, but knowing he had to be doing those awful Herbology questions with smelly books took the fun out of it, somehow. He hadn't dared to lift them from his bag yet, after having done so in the common room a couple of nights previously.
"Urgh, what's that smell?" Someone nearby had asked. "It stinks worse than dragon dung!" another piped in, as they stared around the common room for a culprit. Percy had averted his eyes and slipped the books back into his bag, before darting to his dormitory inconspiciously. He'd tried all the cleaning spells he could think of, but it wasn't the dirt that was the problem. The smell just insisted on lingering. Dragon dung was a fairly accepted scent in the greenhouses, but apparently it wasn't welcome anywhere else.
On the table in front of him, Percy lay out everything he'd need to answer the questions, bar the books. After much deliberating, he decided he had no choice but to find a spare copy in the rows of tomes that surrounded him. Failing a Herbology assignment wasn't what he had planned for his first week back, and the thought of getting anything less than the best grade made him cringe.
The library was silent apart from the occasional cough or the rustling of pages. Outside, the sun was beaming happily, and Percy frowned, realising that it was probably the last time it would shine that brightly until spring, and he was stuck inside. Dust floated down from the ceiling, dancing elegantly as he rose to his feet and prowled the wooden floor.
"Spore...Spore..." Percy muttered under his breath, scouring a row of books under the 'Magical Plants' section. "Phyllida...where are you?..."
What kind of a library doesn't have a basic fifth-year subject text book? he thought to himself angrily, huffing and starting his search again.
"Everything alright, dear?"
Percy looked up to see Madam Pince at the end of the row, eyeing him suspiciously.
"I'm struggling to find a book I need," Percy replied politely. "It should be here in the library."
"Should it, indeed?" the librarian said vaguely, cocking an eyebrow, and turning on her heel, back the way she came. "Title, please."
She wove her way back to her large wooden desk and grabbed a faded old piece of parchment from inside a drawer. Percy knew from experience that this was the masterlist of all the books in the library.
"Erm - One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. By Phyllida Spore," He said loudly, cleaning his classes carefully on the sleeve of his robes as Madam Pince impatiently tapped the sheet with the end of her mahogany wand.
"Well, looks like you're incorrect, Master Weasley," she sniped, "because its never been in our library."
"But its a textbook!" Percy tackled, laughing incredulously. "I use it for Herbology, for my fifth-year studies! Have another go,"
Madam Pince's face hardened, and she placed the crumpled magical masterlist back into the drawer, shutting it forcefully.
"I assure you, it's not here." She sniffed. "You should know to visit your subject teachers about lost textbooks before bothering the library staff."
She stalked off down and aisle, levitating a towering pile of books behind her. Percy sighed angrily, returning to his desk.
A small voice called his name from behind him, and he turned to see Penelope Clearwater rising slightly from her seat. She was wearing wire framed spectacles, which weren't the most flattering, and rushed, blushing, to take them off once he had turned to her.
"Have you lost your textbook, Percy?" She asked gently, her big eyes full of kindness.
"Oh, no, they just sm-" He paused and reconsidered, "Yes, I have,"
She slid her rucksack off the chair next to her, and beckoned him over with a modest smile.
"Come on. You can share with me,"
After collecting his parchment and bag, Percy settled down beside her, trying to work quietly through the questions in the book that lay between them. He glanced sidelong at her, bathed in yellow light, and smiled at her kindness, returning to his work. It didn't take him long, however, to come to a halt.
"What is the ideal nutrient balance for a Screechsnap over four years old?" He wondered aloud, scratching his chin with his quill.
Penelope glanced at him and paused as though she was thinking, casting her eyes onto the notes he'd already written.
"Well..." She began, slipping her glasses off again and shyly shooting him a glance. "You already know the nutrient balance for an 'adult' plant of three years, don't you?"
Percy nodded and furrowed his brow, disheartened that he didn't understand.
"Spore said in a paragraph earlier on that the 'eldery' Screechsnaps needs are half of what they were as seedlings, added on to their prime nutrients."
"Oh, so that means..." Percy read over his notes slowly, and his eyes widened, "Oh!" He frantically scribbled down the answer.
Penelope smiled slightly and continued with her own answers unabashed, but Percy hesitated for a moment, before nudging her forearm gently.
"Thank you," He blushed. "It's not often I don't understand something."
She smiled, her eyes scanning his orange freckles and bright blue eyes. She blushed too, glancing back at her work.
"You're very good at Herbology," Percy continued quietly, feeling suddenly very shy. His neck, too, began to rise in colour, as he noted the tension of the moment, and the beauty of her yellow hair, tumbling over her shoulders, framing her lovely face. He hadn't been this close to a girl before, and he began to wonder why. It didn't feel too bad at all. "Much better than me."
"Thank you," Penelope laughed lightly, looking at him again, her wide hazel eyes meeting his own, pink heat creeping into her cheeks, too. "You'll learn it all soon enough."
"Maybe, if I get stuck again...could you, maybe, help me more often?" He asked lamely.
"Well - yeah - if you like." He stammered.
Penelope chewed on her lip and smiled thoughtfully, her eyes still downcast, twiddling her quill between her fingers.
As minutes slipped by, Percy's mind began to settle, and he decided it wasn't just her pretty face that he liked about Penelope. She was ever so timid and gentle, and as she carefully explained the questions he couldn't do, he couldn't help but notice the kindness and care in her features. It helped, too, that she was a flower as bright in her mind as he, and as they drifted off the topic of Herbology, he found himself heartily laughing at every witty remark she made, and (although joking was dangerous territory to him) telling a few himself.
"Percy Weasley," Penelope giggled, "You really are more fun than you look!"
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