Paola DeMarco

Sept. 26, 2020, 1:44 p.m.

A good book that's just out of reach

It was the second weekend of term, and Paola had finished all her homework sooner than she had expected. She was a little disappointed by that, since she’d actually enjoyed most of it. If she’d been asked a couple weeks ago, Paola would have said that she was most looking forward to the practical work of casting magic (or brewing, although Paola found Professor Rob’s sense of humor mildly alarming and the fact that a couple things had blown up already in class mildly terrifying). But the hows and whys of things were also really interesting, and Paola had plunged into her stack of reading and short essays with more enthusiasm than she would have anticipated. Hence, finishing early.

Paola twined a strand of hair through her fingers as she considered how to fill the rest of her afternoon. She could work ahead, to a degree. But she’d already read her entire astronomy textbook cover to cover, and the next section of the potions book had more math than Paola wanted to do for fun. Reading one of her own books for fun was always a good idea, but as Paola scanned her overcrowded bookshelf, none of the titles caught her eye as being a good one to reread right now. Rhia had a ton of books as well, but Paola was reluctant to risk losing what goodwill she had from her roommate by asking to borrow too many books too soon.

And besides, there was an absolutely enormous library she’d barely explored at all.

Paola was over halfway to the library when she realized she was still wearing her polka-dotted pajama pants and slipper socks, no shoes. She’d thrown on a thick sweater this morning, so it wasn’t like she was wandering around in just her pajamas, but she found herself feeling underdressed for a moment. But then again, it was the weekend, and weekends were for pajamas, rather than school uniforms or whatever mildly dressy clothes she’d worn around all the formally dressed adults at the embassy. And if she went back to change, she’d have to duck around Rhia to change and then return to the library, and that would leave her less time to find a book and read it. And none of the other students she had passed so far had given her a strange look for being out of robes, or were in robes themselves. Relieved, Paola continued onward, only having to backtrack once for a wrong turn.

Paola hadn’t made it more than a few steps inside the library before she stumbled as something bumped into her shins. She glanced down, hazel eyes widening in surprise, to see a cat (or maybe a Kneazle) rubbing itself against her shins, its back arched and a look of slit-eyed pleasure on its face. Paola bent and stroked her hand through its soft fur and broke into a wide smile when the cat started purring. After a few minutes, it wandered off. Still smiling, Paola took that as her cue to move into the stacks, feeling as if the library had claimed her for its own through the cat.

It took Paola a while to find the literature section, and then she faced the choice of Muggle or wizarding literature. She’d been exposed to both, since a few of the older Muggleborn kids had the embassy had passed their old books onto her (which had been kind even if they hadn’t wanted to spend much time with her) and some of Dad’s business contacts had passed books along for her as well. Even though those books had been immensely outnumbered by the wizarding literature, Paola thought that in general they were more imaginative, especially when it came to how Muggles portrayed magic. So she turned into the Muggle shelves, searching for an author she recognized or an interesting sounding title.

Because of how the shelves were filled, one of her favorite authors had just two books on the bottommost shelf. The rest of the books were on the top shelf of the next row...and yes, most of the titles Paola hadn’t been able to get in Tunis were there. Paola stretched as much as she could, and then went looking for a stepstool. She wasn’t short for her age, but her age made her short. There was probably a spell that could get the book down for her, but it was her second weekend of magic school and she hadn’t learned it yet.

Before she found a stepstool, she found a taller student. “Excuse me,” Paola asked them. “Could you help me get a book down from the top shelf?”

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