When Dawn was working on the shelving upstairs, she went past the study rooms. Since she didn’t seem to have a huge amount to do today (there was only one cart of books to shelve, and not very many books left out on tables), she peeked in to see if Edie and Derwen were sitting in one of them. They were; she gave them a little wave and they waved back. Then she had to go on—she wasn’t supposed to socialize while she was working.
She wondered how much longer the two of them would be studying in there. Midterms were this week—they were probably studying even harder than usual, if Ginny was anything like Professor Lal—but that meant that the practical part of the magic curriculum was about to begin. It wouldn’t be very nice to practice elemental magic in the library, for either them or the librarians.
Well, the weather was getting noticeably warmer and the days were getting longer. They would probably go outside to practice. Meanwhile, she was stuck inside on Sunday evenings.
Not that it was all bad. The money she earned at the library gave her a little extra to spend; she was saving most of it, hoping to ease the burden of her student loans once she graduated, but she didn’t have the self-control to save all of it. Not when she could use it to buy cute new clothes and the occasional treat, like pizza.
Lost in thought, Dawn was surprised to turn a corner in the stacks and come upon Elrath. He dropped the book he had been holding, stared at her like the deer he slightly resembled, and then ran. She stared after him for a moment, but it was easy to disappear from view in the stacks—though she could still hear his footsteps.
Shaking her head, she picked up the book. They were in the history section, and the book he’d been holding was on the American Civil War. Had he been trying to brush up on some history that he’d missed? Learn more about the time that his brother had been ruling the area around Chatoyant College? Or was the book just an excuse to stand in a certain place?
She checked the book for bent corners and torn pages and found that it was fine; he hadn’t dropped it at any strange angles. She found the spot where the book belonged and put it back, then stood quietly and listened.
If Elrath was still in the room, he’d stopped running or walking around. Good. The door opened, and a burst of sound followed it as three or four students walked in—then one hushed the others and the voices turned to whispers. Maybe Elrath had left.
Dawn tried to swallow her discomfort. Elrath had just as much right to be in the library as any other student—since he was officially enrolled as a student—and he probably needed to learn about history. If he was going to pretend to be a real human, he needed to get his cultural context right.
And there had been no reason to run away from her. Why had she freaked him out so much? Was it because she knew the truth about him, or just because she was a library worker? She wasn’t going to be the one to tell him he was perfectly within his rights to look at books, but maybe that wasn’t what he’d been up to anyway.
The guys who belonged to the voices she’d heard a moment ago walked past the shelves where she stood, whispering. “Seriously, what the hell,” one of them said a little more loudly, and they all stopped and looked at her.
She raised her eyebrows and gave them a fake smile. “Can I help you with something?”
“Uh, no, we’re good,” said one of the others, pushing the one who’d spoken more loudly so he stumbled.
“Did you see that girl run out of here?” the first one asked, looking at Dawn.
She shook her head. “Sorry, no.” It wasn’t a lie for many reasons—not just that she hadn’t seen a girl at all. “But really, if you’re here for a book, I can help you find it. It might not be on the shelf.”
“No, no, we know what we’re looking for,” said the third guy. He walked on, and the other two followed him. The last one gave her a thumbs-up.
Dawn rolled her eyes and turned back to her shelving. So Elrath had run out of here, had he? Had he really been doing something he shouldn’t be?
Maybe that girl who’d asked about him was more than just an innocent person trying to be friendly. Dawn was going to have to keep an eye on her. If only she could remember her name.