WARNING: THIS FIC IS SLASH!!! M/M RELATIONSHIP AHEAD! Mild, of course (I'll wade into the limes and lemons later on, right now I'm just testing the waters) but if you don't like this sort of thing, then please leave. Flames are pointless and unnecessary.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter and associated entities. I am not J. K. Rowling. I have no money, and am not making any from this li'l bit of writing, so please don't sue me.

Long Nights

by Bekquai

Prologue: Moonkist

The throbbing, magically enhanced beat pounded in Percy's ears as he watched the ebb and flow of people in the Great Hall. He brooded in his seat, wondering why on earth Mr. Crouch had wanted him to come to this ball. He disliked the press of moving bodies all around him, but he found himself envying and being intimidated by the people all at once. He daren't show it, though, lest someone noticed his vulnerability and chose to prey on him like they always had before.

*No reason to be envious now. I've graduated; I've a job with the Ministry. I'm self-sufficient. I don't need their approval anymore.* he said to himself.

He may as well have been talking to a wall for all the effect his mental pep-talk had. There were just too many familiar faces around here. He knew almost everyone, and certain individuals stood out more, such as Cedric Diggory, the closest thing he'd had to a friend when he was in school. Cedric didn't notice him, though, as he danced with that Cho girl. Others saw him though, but only a few came to ask him why he was there. They were surprised at his presence, and not altogether pleased with it. Of course they were polite, but he could tell how they drew back as quickly as possible.

*God, I feel like I'm thirteen again.*

He'd never been popular, and his classmates had always teased him and made fun of him. They weren't intentionally cruel, but it may have been the fact that they said things so casually that stung Percy the most. Uptight. That's what they called him. He pressed his lips together in a frown. He disagreed with the word. He wasn't uptight, he was just serious and organized. Nothing wrong with that. So he didn't like to set off dung bombs in Potions, or gallivant around saving the school, like his brothers. So what?

He'd been an outcast in the Hogwarts society to start with. There was no reason to think it would change now, just because he had a job.

He fidgeted in his chair, wishing for a friendly face. He found himself longing for Penelope, but stopped when he realized what he was doing. He was still hurt, that she had left him. She hadn't even bothered to break up with him in person, she'd just sent him an owl saying she ran off to Istanbul with a vampire slayer. Guess she finally decided that "serious and organized" wasn't her type. Still, he missed her comforting presence, which had shielded him from so much of the loneliness...

Yet a part of him was relieved that she was gone. She wasn't his girlfriend anymore. No more awkward conversations or long boring letters. He felt guilty, though, about his relief. She had, after all, been the first and only girl to notice him. She was very kind, very sweet, but their courtship went awry almost from the get-go. Everything had been so... formal. Passionless. It had seemed that everything they did was for the sake of keeping up appearances and not for any real affectionate reason.

He was a bit upset that he never found her physically attractive. He knew she was pretty, but he never found himself wanting her, desiring her. Every touch had been sort of like a Muggle machine's movement, devoid of feeling. Every kiss had left him wondering when it would all just click into place, or ~if~ it would. They were both frustrated by the time Penelope left. Percy didn't really blame her. He'd felt suffocated, stifled, as if someone had shoved him into a cupboard and locked the door like the Slytherin upperclassmen did until he was made a prefect. He felt helpless, fearful, because he couldn't end the relationship by himself. He hadn't wanted to hurt Penelope, hadn't had the guts to stop what was happening himself. So it had fallen to her to break it off.

Release was sweet, but he still was afraid.

He frowned harder and grit his teeth. He had a headache from the music - he didn't like hard rock - and he was getting claustrophobic. He stood, straightened his dark blue robe, and started to maneuver his way to the entrance hall. Eventually he made it out into the rose garden. The cold air quickly bit through his clothes to his skin, but it was a welcome change from the overheated indoors.

The conjured garden was quite beautiful, what with the fairies flitting about, casting their glow on lightly-frosted rose blooms, making them sparkle and shimmer. The moonlight added to the wonder, turning everything to spun sugar and glass. He could hear couples' noises from all around, and quickly made his way to the outer rim of the garden. Usually, it would be the most busy place, but in this weather no one wanted to be so far away from the warmth of the castle. It would be the perfect place to go for some private thought.

Percy looked up at the crystal clear sky studded with stars, and sighed gustily, his breath leaving in a cloud that fogged his glasses. He was nearing the edge of the rose garden when he heard the first sniffle. He paused, listening. There it was again, followed by a soft, muffled sob. It came from behind the taller hedge to his left. Curious, he crept up and looked around the corner.

A semi-plump figure of middle height stood with his back to the path, his shoulders shaking. Small gulping noises and sobs filled the chill air, and Percy felt a pang of empathy. This was his brother's classmate, Neville. The boy had often come to Percy when he had still gone to school, and so he, Percy, knew that their situations were quiet similar. Both were not part of the group within their house. Both were ridiculed by those outside of their house. Both had difficult childhoods, though for different reasons. Yes, Percy felt the same pain Neville felt. He knew he couldn't leave without at least trying to comfort the younger boy.

He walked up to Neville, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket. He silently offered it to him, and Neville took it, murmuring thanks before he jumped, startled. He turned to look up at Percy with wide, sad eyes, his face stricken with embarrassment. Percy gave what he hoped was a comforting smile.

"P-Percy?" Neville said in a quavering voice as he dashed his tears away. "What are you doing here?"

"I was just walking and I heard you... And well, I thought you might like some - er - company, or something..." Percy said, his haughty air leaving him in mere moments. Neville had always had that effect on him. The boy was too like him, so earnest that Percy didn't have the heart to act superior to him.

"Oh. W-well..." Neville trailed off, his face darkening perceptibly even in the dim light of the moon. "I-I'm all right..."

"D'you... wanna talk about it?"

The younger Gryffindor shook his head mutely.

"Weren't you dancing with Ginny earlier?" Percy asked, recalling glimpsing his younger sister on the dance floor.

"Yeah... She went back to the tower a while ago," Neville said, sniffling.

"Is that what's got you down?" Percy asked, hoping he wasn't being too forward.

Neville shook his head. "No... it's just that... I feel so..."

The redhead felt his heart swell, his own emotions echoed in the lost look on the other's round face.

"Lonely," he finished, though he hadn't meant to say it out loud. Neville nodded and seemed to fold in on himself, biting his lip with his eyes squeezed shut.

Percy cleared his throat after a moment's silence. "You know... you ~can~ cry... if you want. I won't tell anyone."

Neville's lower lip quivered, and his thick, girlish eyelashes shimmered with unshed tears. Then, quite suddenly, he threw himself at the redhead, wrapping his arms around Percy's neck as he wept quietly into his shoulder. Taken aback, the Weasley boy dazedly put his arms around him, not knowing what else to do.

"It's just.. it's just - she's really pretty- and, and I like her - but she - and I - I can't - and I'm so scared!" Neville stammered between soft sobs. "It's not fair! Why can't I just - just -"

"Just what?" Percy asked before he thought. Half fear and half hope warred withing him. He didn't want to hear the boy say it, but he knew that he ~had~ to hear it. If he was wrong, if this wasn't what he thought it was - He just had to know.

"Just - just be like a n-normal boy!" Neville almost whispered. "Just be able to - like a girl, really ~like~ her. To not think ~things~ - about the others..."

He trailed off, and stiffened against Percy, as if he was afraid he'd said too much.

*He has... Oh God, he has...*

It seemed to fit now, why the other boys had been awkward around him. He could see it clearly now, and the wanting had been there too. But he didn't admit it, he hadn't wanted to see it. Easier to pretend some reason than to face the truth about himself. And Neville, unpretentious and honest as ever, had realized what the difference was right away. He'd unsuspectingly triggered this revelation, this overwhelming understanding in Percy's mind.

"I-it's all right, Neville," Percy told him in a hushed voice, much shaken. "It's all right."

"But it's ~not~!" Neville whispered back, pushing away from Percy's chest but not pulling out of his arms. He looked up at him, tears sliding and shining down his face. "It's not all right, because - If they ~knew~ -"

"It hurts to have a secret," Percy heard himself say gently, and he found that he meant it. "I know."

"You..." Neville trailed off, surprise making his liquid eyes wide. Percy realized how warm the boy's body was against his, how different from the cold all around them.

Then Percy found himself kissing him, and he felt the startled gasp against his lips. He himself was equally

*What am I ~doing~? Have I gone ~mad~? What will he do? What if I misread everything? He's ~Ron's~ age, for Christ's sake!*

But despite his jumbled thoughts, he was aware of the sweet rush filling him. Neville was kissing him back now, and it was like nothing else. His hands traveled up to caress Neville's tear-streaked cheeks; he felt hands in his hair, holding him against the younger boy's lips. His heart pounded in his chest, his cheeks were flushed as their mouths worked tenderly, if inexperiencedly.

*This isn't like kissing Penelope...*

Finally, they broke apart, panting for breath. Percy was shocked at himself, and felt the first tinge of guilt around the corners of his mind.

*What have I done?*

Neville gazed up at him uncertainly. It was like looking into a mirror of his own emotions. Confusion and want was so plainly written on the short boy's face it made Percy ache. They'd have to sort this out, somehow...

"Is... that all right with you?" Percy asked softly, still cupping one of Neville's cheeks in his hand.

"Yeah," Neville replied a bit breathlessly.

"Good," Percy said, heaving a sigh of relief. He smiled suddenly, feeling light-hearted for the first time in a long time. "Feel better now?"

Neville smiled as well, though it was a little wavery around the edges. "Yes."

"D'you - d'you want to go inside and get a cup of hot chocolate with me?" Percy asked quickly.

The smile on Neville's gentle face firmed. "All right."

Percy lead the way, and Neville slipped his soft, almost girlish hand in Percy's long-fingered one. The tall lad gave it a reassuring squeeze, and they walked unnoticed back into the warmth and noise of the castle.

END .....???

^^;; Dunno if I wanna make this a series or not. What do y'all think? Can it be done? Review and let me know!