Chapter 3 : Three
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Over the weeks, meeting with Penelope became more frequent. They'd decided for it to be a weekly-basis thing, but, what with Prefect duties in the midst, Percy ended up seeing Penelope more and more. The more time he spent with her, the more they grew close, though Percy had to admit, he felt something more than just friendship towards her.
There was something about Penelope that made Percy light up, and it wasn't just human attraction. She was calm and subtle, and would think before she spoke, differing from Percy in one hundred different ways. Every glace and smile was new and unexpected, and though sometimes he fumbled with his words, he delighted in her wholehearted responses, and the way she'd give him the time to speak, to ramble, to rant - whatever it was that he'd stammered upon and couldn't stop.
"It's half past ten," Percy addressed the two second year Hufflepuff boys, who had been roaming the darkened corridors, presumably to get to the kitchen. He'd stopped them whilst on Prefect duty, the light streaming from the end of his wand brightening up their guilty expressions. "Don't say you didn't know it was past curfew."
One of the boys began to protest, but Percy held up the palm of his hand.
"Enough of that." He said severely. "Go back to your common room, and if I see either out of you out of bed again, I'll personally escort you to the Headmasters office."
Glaring and grumbling, the boys shoved past him, but another set of steady footsteps approached him, along with the amber glow of a wand.
"You're ever so authoratitive, Perce," Penelope noted, siding up to him and watching the milky light of the boys' wand light disappear.
Percy smiled primly and folded his arms, glancing at her in the wandlight. Her wavy hair looked bright and magnificent, the tender petals of a flower against the shadowy corridor.
"I do try to be," He bragged. "People who don't respect the rules deserve no respect themselves."
Penelope smiled in agreement, and they proceeded down the dark corridor.
"Besides, I want to be Head Boy in seventh year," he continued, "so there's no point going soft on them. They'll only flaunt it in later years."
"You really believe you're going to get it?" Penelope asked, impressed with such an eager ambition.
"I certainly hope so, but I don't see why not." Percy replied confidently. "It'd look fantastic when I apply to work at the Ministry."
Penelope fell silent, and smiled to herself as they walked along. He could talk about the Ministry all day, she knew that, but although other students percieved Percy to be pompous, she believed his determination would pay off in the end. She caught his eye and glanced away again, continuing to walk in silence, the hairs on Percy's arm beginning to stand on end as the tension grew thicker.
"How about...I - I walk you to you common room?" He asked, his voice a little higher than he expected.
"Okay," Penelope replied gently, her voice bouncing softly off the walls.
Again, they reached a lull in their conversation, and Percy felt all the more under pressure to crack a joke, to make her smile, to be confident and charismatic and the perfect kind of guy she would like to be walking her to her room. Their footsteps on the flagstone floor sounded too brash and loud, and Percy was suddenly very aware of how he was walking. His chest was puffed out too much, his shoulders too far back. Really, who did Penelope think he was?
Another set of foosteps, however, pierced the silence between them, step by step, echoing through the halls. It was impossible to tell how close they were. His eyebrows furrowed, Percy advanced on the sounds, Penelope close by. They paused, peering around a corner.
"Percy...that's not..." Penelope began, shaking her head and squinting through the darkness, "they aren't your brothers, are they?"
Immediately, Percy's heart sank, and he suddenly wished he wasn't walking Penelope back to her room. His cheeks began to burn and his heart beat rapidly in his eardrums when he imagined the teasing he'd get if they saw him with her... He'd never be able to face up to seeing her again.
It wasn't that he was embaressed of Penelope - in fact, he was really rather pleased to get to know her; she was undeniably pretty and lovely and caring...but he knew his twin brothers would ruin his chances with her, and make him stumble all the more over his words. They'd bring up some embaressing story (like the time Percy fainted when he was stung by a bee) or turn to Penelope instead, mocking her for one thing or another. Besides, what were they doing out of bed? Was it even them? He craned his neck again.
Sure enough, their red hair advanced, like a deep fire in the bowels of the castle. How ominous. Percy cursed to himself. They must be up to no good.
"Oh, Merlin," He slunk back around the corner, hastily cleaning his glasses lenses, Penelope tiptoeing to stand with him too. "I...I..."
Brilliant, Percy, he thought angrily, I look like a gaping fish.
"Aren't you going to say something t..." Penelope began, bemused, her eyes bright. Percy blushed further.
"No, I...I've got to dash, I've left a book in the library..."
"Oh, Perce, you can get it in..."
"Ta ra, Penelope!" He stumbled, hurrying down the corridor and extinguishing his shaky wandlight, plunging himself into darkness.
Penelope sighed and shook her head, heading to her domitory alone.