The Sugar Quill
Author: Julu  Story: Hiding  Chapter: Chapter 1: Penelope in the Park
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Hiding – Chapter 1
Penelope in the Park

Percy walked quickly through the woods in Regents Park. It was uncomfortable to be off the path, not to mention the fact that he was never quite as confident in Muggle clothes, but he knew his apparition spot like the back of his hand. He knew the bench where he would find her. The sun was sinking quickly, casting an amber glow through the branches above, where tiny tree fairies were just beginning to emerge. Ahead he could see a burst of color as the sky reflected on the lake, and small red boats bobbed against the dock. He grabbed a trunk to steady himself as he started down the steep slope and his heart beat faster in anticipation. Soon, he would see her soon.

She was sitting on the bench drinking a Muggle soda with those odd Muggle music players in her ears. Honestly, his father would go mad for this girl.

He stopped to just look at her for a moment. The figure was almost too slender. The dark curls falling over her shoulders were controlled by a neat clasp. The nose was anything but a button. He held his breath as a smooth leg crossed and a narrow foot bounced in a gleaming white trainer. Oh God, Penny.

He slid next to her on the bench, stretching an arm behind her, but she put up a finger in warning, looking left and right before she removed the headphones and drew her wand from her purse.

“Repelio,” she said calmly as she drew a circle around them.

“No Muggles?” Percy grinned.

“No Muggles,” she replied, leaning toward him.

“You do that quite well, Miss Clearwater.”

“What is it I’ve always told you, Mr. Weasley?”

“Practice Makes Perfect,” they both recited, lips moving in perfect unison before locking together.

It was like sinking into a warm bath and Percy was just enjoying the sensation of her fingers under the collar of his shirt when she broke away.

“Quiz time,” she laughed against his lips.

“Ugh,” he groaned. “Kiss first, talk later.”

“Sorry, my friend, that isn’t how it works,” Penelope giggled. “Today’s subject is Muggle music. Listen, I’ve made you a tape.”

“A what?” Percy asked stiffly.

“A tape. It’s a way that Muggles trap music so that they can hear it over and over again. But you have to have a Muggle machine to make it work. Here, you put these over your ears.” She placed the contraption over his ears and pressed a button. Percy jumped.

“Not very comfortable, is it?” Percy shouted as Penelope pointed out the off switch.

“You’re yelling, dear,” she smiled. “You get used to them pretty quickly. Now, here’s your quiz,” Penelope continued with a mock serious expression. “Name the Muggle group who is playing.”

Percy listened intently with a puzzled look on his face and then removed the headphones.

“I think it’s the bug band.”

Penelope rolled her eyes to the sky.

“Well, am I right?”

“The Beatles, boy, the Beatles. What country were you raised in?” She laughed and grabbed his face between her hands, which led to another round of heated kisses.

“Ah yes, the Beatles. I’ll have to remember that,” Percy muttered distractedly. “God, I’ve missed you.”

“And I’ve missed you,” Penny whispered against his ear. “And I have some important news for you.”

He pulled back and surveyed her, trying to keep his expression blank. “I have some news, too.”

“Really?” she bubbled. “You go first.”

“No, no.” He braved a smile. “You first.”

“Okay,” Penny grinned with excitement. “I have been accepted at St. Mungo’s! I start first year Healer training next month!”

Percy puffed with pride, “Outstanding, Penelope, I knew you could do it!”

Penelope rushed on, “And I told my grandmother and she said, ‘witch or not, healing was a noble profession’ and she is going to help me pay for a flat. My own flat, Percy! What do you think? Should I look in Diagon Alley or should I get closer to St. Mungo’s? Of course, I don’t mind a Muggle flat if you’d help me with the protection charms. Can you believe it? My own flat - some place private,” she slowed and looked down coyly while she traced a circle on Percy’s knee with her fingernail.

“Private is excellent,” he answered quietly, as he gazed across the lake.

Penelope’s smile faltered at his troubled expression, “Percy, what’s wrong?”

He sighed, and turned, taking both of her hands in his own. “I need you to listen to me very carefully. I have a present for you and then I have something serious to tell you.”

Penelope looked confused and opened her mouth to speak but somehow thought better of it. She nodded slowly.

Percy reached into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out a round rock the size of a Golden Snitch.

“This is for you.”

Penelope took the rock and turned it around in her hand. This was a puzzle. She tapped it with her wand and muttered a few spells over it. Percy leaned back admiring her frustration.

“It’s a Lapis,” she said.

“Very good,” he nodded.

“It’s locked though. How do you release the magic?”

“That, my lady, requires that you answer a riddle.”

“A riddle?” Penelope grinned slyly. “Alright then, bring it on, Weasley.”

Percy recited slowly,
“Think of the thing you hate most of all,
It’s fevered and ailing, defective and flawed.
Now look in the mirror, invert it and such.
It’s an expression of love,
An affectionate touch.”

Penelope repeated the first part of the poem. “The thing I hate most of all, that’s fevered, ailing, defective and flawed…well, it has to be your brothers…”

“Don’t be catty, Pen.”

“Okay, okay, fevered, ailing…could it be diseased or,” she paused as she turned the round stone in her hand, “sickness…sick.”

Percy nodded and smiled. “Now look in the mirror, invert it…”

“Sickness inverted is health, but you said an expression of love. Let me think…sick backwards isn’t a word, but phonetically it would be…kiss…it’s a kiss!” Penelope smiled triumphantly. “So if I kiss you, will you…”

“Not me,” Percy shook his head. “You have to kiss the stone.”

“Really, Percy, you’re doing this to make fun of me.”

“No, not at all. Go ahead. The magic can only be unlocked by the kisses of the fair Penelope.”

With a roll of her eyes, Penelope brought the rock to her lips. Suddenly, the lapis began to glow and its rough exterior changed to crystal. Inside a scene began to form – flowers and trees, a lake. A red-haired boy and a dark-haired girl sat on a bench, close together.

“Percy, it’s our spot, here in the park. Oh it’s beautiful. I love it.”

Slowly, the light left the sphere and it began to darken, turning back into a plain gray rock.

Percy lifted Penelope’s chin as she gazed sadly down at the cold stone.

“You see, Penelope, it isn’t what it appears to be.”

“What do you need to tell me?” she whispered.

Percy locked eyes with her, “Do you trust me, Pen?”

“You know I do.”

“I have been offered a position at the Ministry as a Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic. It is a position I cannot refuse as it offers a tremendous opportunity…”

He paused for a moment letting his words sink in. Penelope sat in silence.

“This position will require the appearance of the utmost loyalty to the goals and aims of the Ministry. This, of course, conflicts with my family’s views, so I therefore have found it necessary to move out of my parents’ home and I am not speaking to them.”

The color drained from Penelope’s face and her lips tightened.

“What is more, I will not associate with anyone who is a supporter of Dumbledore or who believes the statements made at Hogwarts…”

“That’s enough,” she interrupted.

She stood rapidly and walked to the edge of the lake. Percy watched her aim her wand at the water causing little fountains to spurt up before he rose and walked down to stand beside her.

“It’s just like before, you know,” she said bitterly. “I’m tired of it, Percy, sneaking and hiding. I, I thought we were ready for more.”

Percy placed his hands in his pockets. He knew what she meant, knew where they were headed, but the time wasn’t right. Not yet.

“I want more too,” he said softly. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but you have to be patient.”

“It’s just not fair.”

“No, it’s not. I’m afraid nothing is fair right now.”

They stood in silence at the edge of the lake, watching as the sky turned from violet to indigo. At last Penelope looked down at the round stone in her hand and brought it to her lips. Once again, it changed to a glowing crystal orb, then faded to a cold grey rock.

“I do love my Lapis,” she said slowly, “but I am afraid for it. No one will know its secret. What if it should become lost – or, or broken?”

Percy pulled her close. How he loved this clever girl. “You don’t need to worry about that old stone. It’s sturdy. And as long as you keep it close, it will never be lost.”

She brushed her fingers against his cheek, “Then I will keep it safe because I know what’s inside it.”

He took her lips and kissed her with such honesty that he thought his very soul might leave him.

If anyone had walked along the lake of Regent’s Park that night they would have heard the sound of water lapping against boats, a lonely screech owl crying from a willow tree, and the whispered pledges of two young lovers.

Of course, no one ever heard a thing.

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