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Who: Melinda and Kenneth
Where: The Greenhouse
When: Friday morning [backdated]
Rating: PG

*****

Kenneth Towler, a bit bemused by the random gender switches (and his own apparent immunity to them), had betaken himself to the greenhouse shortly after confirming with the Head Girl that a few people from his house had, indeed, eaten the chocolates and switched genders. It would be the hols soon enough, and miraculously, he was mostly done packing. Just a brief check on the Tabula Rose plant that he'd been working on, and perhaps the Common Room would be somewhat less chaotic when he returned.

Melinda Bobbin was quite annoyed. She could seem to find several of her Herbology related texts, and she was going to want to have those over the holidays. She had a lot of packing to do and a trip to the greenhouse was not a distraction she needed. Thus she was not looking particularly sunshiney when she strode through the door and began hunting about for her books, completely oblivious to the fact that she wasn't alone. Because, really, who else would be in the greenhouse now?

"Hello there," Kenneth looked up with an automatic, friendly grin at the sound of approaching footsteps, and gazed at the Slytherin girl cheerfully. He spoke to Melinda Bobbin now and again-- mostly him doing the speaking-- but neither her taciturnity nor the sad, aloof look in her eyes fazed him, and he considered himself on reasonably good terms with her. "Are you looking for Professor Sprout? I think she's off speaking to Professor McGonagall about something or another."

Melinda started at the sound of Kenneth's voice. She really didn't know what to make of Mr. Kenneth Towler. He had such an odd way about him. He was always so... happy, and chatty, and optimistic. Pretty much everything Melinda was not. Normally Gryffindors of his calibre drove her crazy, but he liked plants, and he acted like he cared what she had to say. And he was just so damn NICE. She offered him a small smile, "No. I'm actually looking for some books of mine."

"Oh," Ken cocked his head to the side and put down the pair of pruning shears he held in his hand. "Hmmm... I've not seen any in here, but I've only just gotten here about ten minutes ago and wasn't really looking around." He laughed a bit wryly. "I'm not the greatest at finding things, but I'll help you look if you tell me what their titles were."

Melinda glanced under the table where she normally sat in class. Sure enough there was her stack of books. She nodded towards them, "There they are, but thank you for offering."

She picked up the books. She was going to leave it at that, but forced herself to stop and try to be social, "What are you working on?"

"Oh, I just wanted to check on the Tabula Rose before leaving for hols... it's actually survived," Ken grinned widely. "I thought for sure, at first, that it was going to die, it was so raggedy and puny-looking, but it's better now. There's even a bud on it." He walked back over towards the plant in question and continued shearing away wilted leaves. "I'm going back home for the hols, you see, and I wanted to check on it before leaving."

Oh, her interest was piqued by that. She'd been dying to examine the plant ever since Kenneth had first posted in the journals about it weeks ago. She took several steps towards him, eyes on the plant, "May I take a look?" she asked softly.

"Oh, sure, go right ahead," Ken grinned and stepped back slightly to give her some room. "You were absolutely right about the fertiliser. It's rather smaller than normal roses, hmm? The thickest stalks are thinner than my little sister's fingers-- she came and took a look at it with me last week. But it's still thorny, and the leaves are kind of the same shape as those of normal roses."

"It's beautiful," Melinda breathed, reaching out to gently examine the plant. It was incredibly delicate so she was careful to use extreme caution and tenderness as she touched the leaves and the stalk. If she'd been paying attention to anything but the rose she probably would have stopped the happy smile that was creeping across her face.

Ken noticed the smile, though, and unconsciously, his face mirrored the expression. It was gratifying to see, he thought. It always saddened him somewhat to see anyone looking sad, and particularly anyone who looked sad and didn't seem to have anyone to make her happy again. Bending his head over the plant together with her, he touched one leaf. "I know. Professor Sprout says they're normally bigger, but I don't mind this one being small and fragile. Some things just are, you know?"

"I suppose," Melinda replied, not looking at him. Melinda didn't consider herself fragile, if she had she might have thought he was alluding to her. No, Mel put up with too much to consider herself fragile. She was a fighter, and so was the Tabula Rose. Reaching out to run a finger along one stem, being careful of the thorns, she added, "I don't think it'll stay fragile forever. It's got fight in it, it's already proved that."

"Yes, and I'll just make doubly sure to take good care of it, since it's going to survive," Ken murmured. "Someday it may be as strong as it's supposed to be, but either way is fine by me."

"You should be proud of it. You've done wonderfully already," she said, shooting him a brief smile.

"I am, but I couldn't have done it without help, and... ohh, look!" The tiny bud that tipped one of the stems, not much bigger than an almond, started to slowly unfurl before their very eyes, above their hands. "It's blooming!"

Melinda watched in awe as the bud opened. She couldn't quite believe it was happening right at that moment. What luck that she's gotten to see this! She whispered excitedly, "My, it's stunning, isn't it?"

Yes, yes it is," he enthused, and a sudden notion struck him. He considered himself somewhat less brash and impulsive than most of his housemates, but the idea took root, and the decision he made on the spot was a quick one. Carefully, he lifted the potted plant and handed it towards her. "You can have it."

She stared at him. He couldn't be serious. He hardly knew her after all, and he'd worked so hard to keep the plant alive! He couldn't give it to HER now that it had finally bloomed! She opened her mouth to answer him awkwardly, "I, I couldn't possibly. It's yours. Your project. I couldn't."

"It's as much yours as it's mine, really," Ken's mind was made up, and there was no dissuading him. He gave her a warm, guileless smile. "I mean, it would probably have died without your help, and besides..." He peered at the flower, which a moment ago was but a bud with petals pale and translucent as frosted glass, but now deepened to a delicate, soft green. "It's green, like your eyes." He wasn't quite sure when he'd noticed that, but he wasn't one to overthink that sort of thing. "Consider it a Christmas present, hmm? It's a nicer one than I could usually afford, actually," he admitted candidly.

"But..." Melinda started to protest again. This was weird. He wanted to give her this absolutely stunning, precious plant. Plus he'd said it was the same colour as her eyes. It was all very odd. Melinda didn't have friends. It really wasn't the way she operated. Making friends meant letting people in, and she simply did not do that. She had Demelza, her cousins, and, to an extent, Adrian, and that was all she needed. Giving gifts had to count as some sort of intimacy, and she didn't know how to feel about that. She shook her head, "But I don't have anything to give to you."

"You don't have to," he laughed lightly. "I'm not giving it to you because I want something back, okay? It's just something I feel like doing, and because really, it wouldn't have survived without your help, so... is that okay?" He shrugged his shoulders and gazed down at her, holding the plant in her hands. "Besides, I know you'd take good care of it. You should have it. I don't know of anyone whom I'd rather give it to."

Melinda took an involuntary step backwards, the plant in her hands. Being that close to him, with him being so kind was just too much for her to deal with right then. Why was he being like this? It wasn't like she was particularly nice to him! She usually tried not to be particularly nice to anyone! She looked at the ground, and said quietly, "Well I won't argue with you about it. If you're sure. It's terribly nice of you. Thank you."

"I'm sure, and it's not a big deal, really," Ken said easily. "You're very welcome. I'm not being particularly nice. Besides, it's Christmastime, you know? I like giving presents when I can."

She felt a little better when he said that. Kind of. Maybe. She wasn't really sure. She really ought to get out of the greenhouse, "Well, I think it's a lovely gift. Thank you. I love it." She lifted her chin and said in a more even tone, trying to regain her normally carefully maintained composure, "I've got a lot of packing left to do, I'm afraid, so I probably should get going. Thank you again. Are you really sure?"

"Oh yes, certainly," he nodded firmly. "It belongs to you. And I'll let you get back to your packing. I'm nearly done with mine, but wanted to get out of the dorm a bit. It should be an interesting Christmas... I'll get to see everyone again, but hopefully everything will go smoothly. But it shouldn't be too bad." In the very least, this year dad still had a job around this time, so that would be an improvement from last year.

"I hope it's a good holiday for you," she said honestly. She knew her holiday would not be good. Her holiday would consist of waiting for her father to show up, and being sniped at by her mother. Trips to see the Robins family, and even trips to see Mirah would seem a blessing. "Happy Christmas."

"You too," he said sincerely, picking up the books that she'd set down earlier when she went over to look at the rose. He held them out to her and smiled. "If I don't see you around before term starts up again, have a happy new year, too."

"Thank you," she answered, taking the books from him. "See you."

He nodded, and watched her walk out, before exiting the greenhouse himself. Many would've called it foolish to give something he'd worked on so carefully away on a whim, but Ken had no regrets about that decision.

Besides, she'd smiled and for a while, didn't look so sad. That was a good enough reason for anything, right?

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