love hurts (but sometimes it's a good hurt)

Love hurts
But sometimes it's a good hurt
And it feels like I'm alive.
- Incubus, "Love Hurts"

Percy can barely sleep the night before the Hogwarts Express will take him off to start his seventh year at Hogwarts - this is his year, Head Boy, N.E.W.T.s, not to mention his last year having to sneak around with Penny in classrooms - but just as he's finishing off rereading Penny's most recent owl for the third time and starting to fade a bit, there's a knock on the door.

Ron mutters in his sleep and smacks his lips. Percy glances over at him, then sits up and pulls on a robe before he opens the door and looks out. "... Mum. Is something wrong?" he asks immediately.

Molly looks at him, her fondness clearly outweighed by worry, and fixes his hair. "Just step out for a moment, dear, I need to speak to you and, well." Ron snorts in his sleep and turns over. "... Ron needs his rest."

"Of course," Percy agrees, already wary.

"Even though youshould be sleeping as well. Your first day as Head Boy tomorrow," she reminds him.

"Yes, well. Awful lot of excitement." Penny's proud of him, so's Dad, but the glow that Mum gets when she thinks about it makes him swell with pride. It's almost worth the fact that it's already half to midnight and he's standing in a stuffy corridor in his pajamas. "Now what's going on?"

"Just... look after Harry," she says.

A familiar instruction. One he's gotten every year in owls and in person. "Naturally," he says, puzzled. "I always - "

"No, Percy, it isn't - " Molly purses her lips. "We're all that poor boy has and you know it, and he's had quite enough excitement in the last few years, don't you think, do what you can to keep Harry and Ron safe and out of trouble. I know I hardly have to ask, this is after all your duty as Head Boy of Hogwarts, but..."

"Well." Percy thinks that getting Harry and Ron to behave and follow the rules is as likely as getting Scabbers to do backflips, but it doesn't mean he won't try. "Yes, I'll do my best, Mother."

Molly kisses his cheek. "It's very important," she says, and he frowns as he sees the worry-lines get clearer in her face, her own frown mirroring his. Then she smiles, forced. "Go on, Percy, get some rest. You don't want to sleep through your last trip on the way to Hogwarts, do you?"

He smiles for her sake and lets her hug him, stiff and dignified as always, and she pats his cheek before she goes back to her room with Dad. He glances out the window, out at the London street, before he heads back to his own and reads the letter from Penny one more time.

Yes, he thinks, and cracks a smile before he sets his glasses and the letter on the bedside table. This is going to be a good year.

Penny can't stop grinning once they've gotten in the compartment, and appraises him and the badge. "Oh, Percy, look at you. You look so important."

She might be teasing him - all right, she probably is - but he doesn't care. "Penny, Penny. I am important," he says, and when she laughs at him and leans over and kisses her. He stays close when she pulls back, more than a little color in her cheeks. "I arrange prefects' rounds and everything."

"Well then." Penny presses her hand to his chest and tries to look serious but completely fails. "Lucky for me that I'm on your good side."

Two years and he can still hardly believe how pretty she is. "I hope you aren't suggesting I would favor you improperly."

"Well, no, but it would be nice if you did," she concedes.

The compartment door opens and before Percy has the time to make it look significantly less like the scene it in fact was, he hears Oliver Wood saying, "Wow, Weasley, train's just leaving, you really don't waste time."

Penny pats Percy's cheek when he starts going red and sits back, pushing her hair out of her face. "Hello, Oliver," she greets him, friendly enough.

He just knows Wood's going to be wearing that But Percy, you have to admit this is sort of hilarious look when he looks around - and there it is. He wills himself to stop going crimson. "You could have knocked. Did you need something?" he asks, with great dignity.

"Get off it, Perce," Oliver says casually, and sends him a grin. "Just inviting you two down a few cars, the girls packed a picnic basket and there's more than enough to go around." He jabs his thumb towards the door to his left.

Percy pauses; he can feel Penny's disapproval without even looking at her. "Well - "

"We'll be there," Penny says, and when he looks around at her, surprised, she's managing an impressively genuine smile. "Thank you, Oliver."

"Take your time." Oliver gestures for them to carry on - Percy tenses, a little offended, and that just makes Wood give a good-natured laugh before he leaves.

He raises his eyebrows at Penny. "You don't have to," he starts.

"He's your best friend," she says, and winds her fingers with his. "I do."

"Alicia does know how to pack a picnic," Percy concedes, and ignores the look Penny is wearing because he doesn't like talking about this. "It should be good. There's the feast - "

She cuts him off with a kiss, smirks at his surprise, and pulls the shade over the compartment window with a charm. "Percy," she chides, a finger to his lips. "Soon it'll be all Oliver and N.E. and Head Boy duties. Our last year. Let me have you to myself for once."

Percy is in no position to resist, just draws her closer into a kiss, because as it happens there's only two people he's ever met who can keep him from worrying (about family, the school, marks, money, his career, politics, Harry, even Hermione Granger, all of it) and Penny as always proves to be a very good distraction.

With some people there's just no point in skirting around an issue, so Percy just goes right to it the next time Oliver's taken over the dorm in his fervor.

"You need to start getting more sleep," he says to Oliver, plainly as he can manage.

OIiver is wild-eyed about this year's season of Gryffindor Quidditch. Oliver has always had a touch of insanity about the prospect of being able to hold up the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup on behalf of Gryffindor, and this year it's worse than ever, because it's his last chance.

He doesn't even look up at Percy, though, drawing on the sheet of paper with his wand. "Oh, come on, Weasley, not now."

"I'm serious," Percy says, his tone going flat.

"You generally are, yeah."

Well. He can still mock, so he's not totally lost. Logic might work. It's worth a try. "You were up at 5 in the morning yesterday," he points out.

Oliver stops drawing and sends him a bemused look. "So were you."

Percy pauses, because Wood has a point. "I was working on my revision schedule for the year," he excuses.

"There you go. It's nothing different," Oliver says with a note of finality, and goes back to drawing out his play.

"There is more to life than Quidditch. There's N.E.W.T.s," Percy adds, and leans over the bed in an attempt to catch Oliver's eye. "Even I have a girlfriend and you don't. What does that say?"

Oliver just cracks a wry smile and focuses on the play, moving his wand in a sweeping motion from one side of the parchment to the other. "It says that I'm busier than the Head Boy of the entire castle of Hogwarts," he says dryly.

Percy gives a slightly exasperated sigh. "What would the Headmaster say if he knew I couldn't handle the students in my own dorm?" he wonders.

"The same thing he probably says when we keep losing the damned Quidditch Cup," Oliver says, and sets his jaw before he goes on. "You can't win them all."

There's a sound of a small explosion audible from the common room, and Percy sits up instantly. "... The twins," he says to himself.

"Yep," Oliver confirms offhand.

Percy's to the door when he turns to half-ask Wood, "There's no way you can convince them to stop."

Oliver raises his eyebrows at Percy. "What do I look like? Head Boy?"

Percy just sends him a stern look, because it's faster and more dignified than saying I'm serious, they're much more likely to listen to you and you don't even have a badge.

Oliver looks like he's fighting off laughter, and any sign that he's not going to be swallowed alive by Quidditch stress has now made whatever explosion his brothers triggered totally worth the trouble. "Too big a favor, you'd owe me one."

"Some friend you are," Percy deadpans, and starts yelling before he's even out the door.

Sirius Black takes a knife to the Fat Lady and the letter that his mother sends is practically apopletic. Percy's read his history and he remembers the very few stories his father's ever told about the war, and Black is not a figure to be underestimated.

To be honest, he doesn't even need the order from his mother to justify looking after Ron and his friends anymore. Harry doesn't seem to be taking any of this seriously, despite the genuine danger that Black poses, and Ron (and Hermione, though she's always been more sensible) seem to be more than happy to plunge themselves into any trouble right beside him.

Percy likes looking after people. He's good at it, though they usually protest, for some reason.

He's midsentence when Harry disappears into the crowd, and after he skims the corridor he thinks he spots Ron dragging Harry into a loo. He shrugs it off and turns as someone grabs at his sleeve. "Penny," he says, surprised.

"Oh, good, are you finished playing guard dog for the day?" She laughs fondly at the indignantly embarrassed look that flashes onto his face at the comment, and kisses his cheek. "Come on then, if I remember your revision schedule right we only have ten minutes until I lose you to a Charms book."

"That's - you can always revise with me, Penny," he informs her, still a little embarrassed, and does his best not to look like she's leading him, though she definitely is.

She leans up to whisper in his ear. "I'm starting to wonder if I need to make a schedule for us as well."

He feels the start of a flush at his neck. "Ah. Well. Not a bad idea, quite honestly," he says, in the serious tone he would use to speak to any prefect.

"Good." Penny sweeps away and as a group of chattering second years flounce past, she takes the distraction to open the door and seize his hand. "Come on."

Percy follows her obediently and gives her an affectionate kiss. "I - ah," he starts, unable to keep from voicing the thought as it passes through his mind. "Penny."

She manages not to roll her eyes, with clear effort, but not without affection. She smoothes his robes and smiles up at him. "Yes, Percy?"

"I need your advice. You're the only person who listens to me about this sort of thing," he excuses.

"Well, you're clearly bothered, go on then." Penny takes a seat in one of the classroom chairs and watches him expectantly.

Percy pauses, then nods and pulls up a chair of his own. "Harry Potter clearly isn't safe from a madman - a madman and a Dark Wizard like Black," he emphasizes. "Therefore - well - you're keen enough on Quidditch, in all honesty, do youreally think the pitch is a secure place for him to be for all that time, with only students protect him?"

"You're suggesting that Harry Potter leave the Gryffindor Quidditch team?" Penny repeats, somewhere between shocked and completely aghast.

"Right. It is that bad. I thought so." He grimaces. "Oliver is not going to be happy about this."

"Of course he isn't, they haven't got a reserve," she says, dismissing that.

Percy sighs. "He's quite intent on Quidditch as a career, Penny, if Gryffindor loses it isn't just the House Cup or the Quidditch Cup, it could hurt his chances - what?"

Penny picks at a thread on the sleeve of her robe, looking patently bored with this turn of the conversation. "You're Head Boy, Percy. If you have a valid concern, and this oneisvalid, take it to McGonagall and Dumbledore. Oliver should be mature enough to handle it, don't you think?"

He knows that tone; every time that she makes that face or drops that tone he can feel the knot in his stomach tighten. "... Penny - "

She cuts him off. "I'm not wrong." She softens after a second of seeing his face - he wonders what of the ten or twenty things running through his head is visible there, now - and takes his hand. "Just do what you feel is right, that's taken you this far."

"Of course." It's the obvious thing. He should have been able to tell himself that. He runs his thumb over the top of her hand and opens his mouth to say something, then closes it and reconsiders. "Thank you."

Her smile has a tinge of weariness in it, but he can't blame her for that. It's already been a long year. "It's no trouble." She doesn't hesitate when he moves in to kiss her, and nonverbally locks the door before she slips into his lap.

As it turns out, Oliver never finds out that Percy was the one who had the brilliant idea to have the Gryffindor practices supervised. It doesn't seem to bother him much, but it doesn't seem to have made Harry much safer, either.

The silence falls over the pitch once the dementors arrive and the cold sets in, but it sinks over them like a horrible fog when Harry slides off his broom and starts to fall.

Harry's unconscious in the hospital wing, apparently in no danger of death, but Percy has to wonder how much of the dementors' arrival had to do with his own concerns about security (McGonagall and Dumbledore would have known better, right?). Oliver hasn't shown up at the hospital wing, and that really only leaves one place.

It's where he usually winds up. The pitch isn't an option, not really, it's still dreary outside and it'll remind Oliver too much of what's just happened, but there's nowhere he's more at home.

It's obvious enough when he hears the water running.

Percy rubs steam off of his glasses from the heat wafting out from the showers, turns his back and leans against the wall by the showers. "Oliver?" he calls. "It's been an hour."

"Don't start," Oliver warns after a moment, his voice echoing through the tile room.

He tries another tack. "You can still win the Cup. You know that. I did the maths."

Oliver snorts. "You did the maths," he says, skeptical.

"All right, Penny did the maths, but she says you can still win," Percy insists. "So I don't see the problem."

"We couldwin, it doesn't mean we will," Oliver retorts, and Percy flinches as he hears him hit the wall. "They told you I was here?"

Percy waves it off, even though Wood can't see it. "It wasn't exactly meteorological arithmancy. You wanted to be alone."

"I'm in the shower, of course I want to be alone."

There's a strange tension in his voice, but Percy ignores it. "Would you like a towel?"

This is followed by another long, tense silence. "This is getting a bit queer," Oliver says.

"Don't be ridiculous," Percy says, dismissive. "You sound like Flint."

Oliver doesn't answer that one, either. "I'll be back before curfew, Perce. I promise."

Percy can play at that game, then. "Dinner," he says firmly. "I won't have you sneaking out to the kitchens tonight, I know you know where they are - "

"All right, fine." He sounds a little less like he's contemplating standing under the showerhead until he drowns, so Percy's going to count this one as a success. "I've got a towel, you can go."

"Good," Percy says, staying upbeat for a good example if nothing else. "Two more matches, remember, the season's not over yet."

Oliver makes a noncommittal sound and Percy takes the moment to leave, startled to see a flash of green and silver before he runs into... Marcus Flint and Adrian Pucey. "What are you doing here?" he asks them sternly, straightening his robes.

"What does it look like we're doing?" Pucey asks with a sneer. "I thought you were supposed to be smart."

"Ah, give the Weasley a break, Adrian," Flint says, and smirks. "Can't expect him to be his brightest after giving Wood a pity shag."

Pucey laughs openly and elbows Flint as Percy's jaw tightens. "Hope he's better at polishing brooms than flying them."

Percy has heard his share of this sort of childish insult and he's learned how to block them out now, just like Celestina Warbeck songs on the wireless, but he just has to hope Oliver's taking his time because this is the last thing he needs to hear at a time like this. "I couldn't say. Go on and practise, you're going to need it when you finally stop running away from your match with us," he says, with great dignity, and straightens his cloak before he walks away.

Oliver jokes that Percy's loyalties are divided even if he won't admit it when it comes to Gryffindor and Ravenclaw's match, but it's not even a question. Nothing would make Percy's year (besides the apprehension of Sirius Black, of course) more than the House Cup for his house and the Quidditch Cup for Wood's sake.

Penny certainly seems to think that he should be siding with Ravenclaw, though. "You're just saying that because you haven't seen Cho in action. You really ought to come to our matches more often," she says, and nudges his foot with hers. "You are Head Boy of the entire school, you know."

"If I attended every Quidditch match would I find the time to do everything else?" Percy returns wryly. "I'm sure Miss Chang is a fine Seeker, but Harry is better."

"Oh, I'm sure that's what Oliver's saying," she says, with a tinge of sarcasm.

A Ravenclaw's passing by the table at that point and the second he hears Oliver's name he stops - Percy only recognizes him then. Davies. He purses his lips. "Don't tell me," Davies deadpans. "Wood's usual line - Potter'll be playing for England a year out of Hogwarts, right?"

"Practically," Penny answers, barely cracking a smile.

"You can tell Wood he should get himself a Seeker who doesn't need luck to shove the Snitch right in his face," Davies tells Percy. "I guarantee you, Cho's going to get it."

"Roger! You'll jinx her," Penny warns, pressing a hand to her mouth as she starts to smile.

Percy is unamused. "Really. You guarantee it?"

Davies leans on the table, supremely confident in this way that completely irritates Percy. "I guarantee it."

Rules be damned, this is house pride. "Five Galleons. I'll put five Galleons on a Gryffindor win, will either of you take that?"

Penny hides a shocked laugh into her hand and Davies looks to her. "Is he serious?"

"Oh, Percy," she manages, amused. "Do you really think so?"

"Yes, actually," Percy says, a little stiffly.

"Ten. Make it ten," Davies says suddenly to Penny. "A real bet. Do it for me, Pen, come on!"

"Fine! Fine." She flashes a grin at her team's Captain, then sticks her hand out to Percy. "Ten Galleons or nothing."

He is a reasonable young man and the reason that he dislikes Davies so much right now has nothing to do with jealousy or blind loyalty to Oliver and everything to do with house pride. Obviously. "Ten Galleons," he agrees, pompously as he can manage, and shakes her hand.

Davies looks a little astounded, and Penny is wearing this strangely pleased look. Percy has this feeling that he's done something very stupid, the tips of his ears burning, but there's no taking it back. "Way to make it interesting, Weasley," Davies says.

"You'd better win," Penny says frankly to Davies.

"You'd better believe it," he returns. "Well I'll let you revise, I've got players to find. Impromptu practice."

"Right," Percy answers, gaze already back to his books so he doesn't let his mouth run further.

"Oh, Percy, I really hope you're right about Potter on this one," Penny whispers to him.

Percy sends her a strained half-smile. "A bit too much talking for the library already, don't you think?"

Her smile fades, but she nods. There's been enough Gryffindorian nonsense on his part already; breaking the rules to bet ten Galleons you don't have on a match on behalf of your best mate's honor is enough to fill a day's quota at least.

Oliver and Harry come through, and Percy even manages to forget himself a few times and cheer along with the rest of the Gryffindors through a rather fantastic match (at least in his admittedly limited opinion of Quidditch). It takes Lee Jordan, Fred and George ten minutes to turn the Gryffindor common room into a victory party, though Percy spends the entire ten minutes trying to convince them to put some of the more questionable items away or that he's really obligated to confiscate it, after all.

There's no point. The victory party goes on. Somehow, Fred and George have managed to smuggle Hogsmeade items into the common room, but Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell start in on him for two solid minutes, trying to push a bottle of butterbeer into his hands, giggling all the while.

He excuses it to himself - he's caught up in the spirit - he opens it and takes a drink. Before they can wave Fred and George over, though, he quickly leaves the girls on the couch and is about to grab the chair by the fireplace when someone pulls on his sleeve.

"Um, there's a girl outside asking for you," the first year girl standing there says, wincing as a Filibuster flies past her ear.

"I SAID NO FIREWORKS," he bellows as a reminder, and adds to the firstie, "Thank you, Jessica. It might be best to nip up to your dormitory."

Once he's sure she's safely up the stairs, he heads for the portrait hole, but Oliver appears out of the corner with Angelina Johnson cozily wrapped around his arm. "Oh come on, tell me you're not leaving," he asks, almost pleading.

"Don't let me interrupt you," Percy says dryly, nodding to Angelina.

"Oh, no, no," Angelina starts, exchanging a look with Oliver.

"No," Oliver agrees.

"Of course," Percy says, not finding that even remotely believable, and exits the portrait hole anyway. Oliver extricates himself from Angelina and follows him, and Percy watches Penny's expression flicker from warm to cool the instant Oliver emerges beside him. "... Hello, Penny," he tries.

"I see the victory party's already started," she says.

"Oh, yes," Oliver says cheerfully, as usual quite comfortable ignoring Penny's utter disdain for him. "You can join us, if you like - "

"Oliver," Percy hisses.

Penny doesn't look amused. "I didn't think you'd - well."

Percy follows her gaze and sees the bottle of butterbeer in his hand. He immediately offers it to Oliver and says to Penny, "I'm glad you've come, unfortunately it's against the rules, of course - "

"We're due to study Potions today," Penny says, as though he hadn't been speaking at all. "Right now. A half hour ago, actually. I was waiting for you."

Oliver still hasn't taken the butterbeer but Percy can't bring himself to look away from Penny. "... Yes. Well. I'd thought..."

Penny gives him a pointed look, but approaches him to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Tomorrow," she says, and she looks up at Oliver coolly. "Congratulations."

"Cheers," Oliver echoes, wearing this half-smirk.

The last time Percy's seen a standoff like this, it ended up with his father throwing a punch at Lucius Malfoy. He takes the moment to tell the Fat Lady the password and briskly excuse himself to Penny, "Good show, everyone, back to the party I suppose, have to keep order - " He pulls Oliver through the portrait hole by the sleeve.

"Hey," Oliver protests, shaking him off after a moment. "What's all this?"

Maybe it's the butterbeer, but Percy is losing his patience with this whole thing. "You tell me."

Oliver hesitates, then eyes the butterbeer. "Merlin's sake, you're actually drinking one of those? Thought you said - "

"Yes, I'm a great big Gryffindor at a victory party, you've won," Percy says, pointed. "Oliver, come on."

Oliver only really looks like this when he's pressed for questions in class, like a first year lost in the Hogwarts corridors trying to remember what connects to where and if there's any good answer he can hazard to stall for time.

A moment is all he can bring himself to bear of this. "Well?"

"Do you love her?" Oliver asks suddenly.

It is not even close to what Percy was expecting to hear. "What?"

Oliver shrugs, like this is a totally reasonable query. "Do you love her," he repeats.

"Well." He's comfortable with her. She likes hearing him talk about politics, or at least puts up with it, which is a start. She's a good kisser, and he couldn't even bear the thought of losing her last year. Not to mention Davies. "I. Yes, I think so."

"You think so," Oliver repeats, skeptical.

"I - " Percy balks. "What does this have to do with anything?"

Oliver is starting to get that unamused Captain look on his face. "You're practically eighteen, Percy, you've been dating her for three years, come on, you have to know by now, do you love her or not?"

"Is it - are you two - " It's possible. More than possible. She likes Quidditch more than politics, and if she's stuck with Percy instead of Oliver and they're friends, that's... "Oliver, tell me you're not... interested in her," he forces out, trying to maintain his dignity.

He actually laughs at that. Not in amusement, not hardly, and it jars Percy into grabbing Oliver by the arm and giving him a push into the nearest wall. "I have been your friend for seven years, I deserve an honest answer," he hisses. "Tell me."

Oliver exhales and sinks against the wall. "No, I'm not going to steal your girlfriend," he says. "And that's probably a yes, don't you think?"

His metaphorical Quidditch match rained upon, Percy glances around and drinks the butterbeer until it's gone, coughing into his sleeve as he sets it down. "This is a good night," he says, easily moving on. "Let's not ruin it."

Oliver sends him this half-disdaining, mostly disappointed look and heads past him, right back to Angelina, who calls him over with "My favorite Captain!"

Percy leans against the wall, glances over at the portrait hole, and steals a bottle of butterbeer to take up to the dormitory, rules be damned. It's been a good day but a rough night, and when Oliver sneaks a girl into his bed for a snog, he keeps his hangings closed and says nothing the next day.

The really strange part is that the three of them seem to have simultaneously decided to pretend as though the night of the Gryffindor Quidditch win never happened. Percy and Penny keep talking about the school administration, prefecture and N.E., they study, they carry on as normal. Percy keeps trying to get Oliver to sleep, eat and do things other than Quidditch, while Oliver keeps on terrorizing his Quidditch team and bouncing strategy off of a relatively clueless Percy.

It's almost as though nothing happened, which is something of a relief.

Percy realizes something midway through N.E.W.T.s. He has three left, spread out across the next two days, but Penny's got three the next day and she's stiff and cold when he tries to give her shoulders a quick rub.

It was a truce for N.E.W.T.s. That much is obvious now.

"Penny," he says, rests his chin on the top of her head, and resists wrapping one of her curls around his finger like he used to. "Tomorrow night - when you're finished - well, I've done enough revising for Charms as it is, don't you think?"

"I don't know, have you?" She softens, though, when she glances up at him (if fractionally). "What were you thinking?"

"Let it be a surprise." He kisses her cheek.

"I suppose," she says doubtfully, but there's a tinge of color in her cheeks and he can just see a bit of that tension gone.


Penny looks completely undone, her curls even loose and weary, but she's relieved to see him and takes his hand as they head outside. "Oh, you did not," she realizes after a moment.

"What?" he asks, feigning innocence.

She gives him a chiding look, and once they reach the trees in the sight of the lake, he pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and shakes it out until the charm releases and a blanket spreads out across the grass.

Penny shoves his arm and kisses his cheek within the same instant. "Like fifth year," she says, with an approving nod.

"Like fifth year," Percy agrees. "Except now we hardly have to hide."

"I respectfully disagree, Percy. We're adults now, our reputations are veryimportant."

He pulls a face at her and she hides a laugh into her hand. "Percy."

"What? What did I do?"

"You - that face." She imitates it. "Like a silly first year, Percy Weasley, Head Boy!"

Percy covers his mouth in mild mock horror and excuses, "I'm sorry, I was revising Potions with the twins."

"That is no excuse. No excuse. You are going to be an important Ministry official. You need gravitas."

"Pardon. I have gravitas."

"When you aren't making faces like a preteen across a dinner table."

He sent her a serious look, then pursed his lips like McGonagall and she can't help but giggle. "Our reputations do matter," he concedes. "But we're... well. It's been some time, there's no point hiding."

The smile starts to drop off Penny's face. "It has been some time, hasn't it."

"Fifth year," he confirms, not sure what to make of the look on her face.

"And we're leaving Hogwarts."

The pause after that is very meaningful, although he's not sure what the meaning actually is. "So what are we going to do?" he asks her finally, as serious and responsible as he can manage.

"I don't know," Penny confesses, and takes his hand. "Percy, it's not that I - "

"No, I know, I understand." Percy hates that they've voiced this, though. Maybe he does love her. "If you would... I would be happy to." It all sounds so stiff. So ridiculous. His brothers are right about him. He squeezes her hand and looks into her face. "I love you," he says.

It takes the breath out of her, and then him, at seeing the look on her face. She didn't expect that. What did she expect. "Percy," she starts.

It's not true. He doesn't. It's something else. "I'm sorry," he says, at a loss, because what kind of man manages to ruin a moment like this?

This look that's almost like pity, this terrible compassion, crosses her face, and then she's kissing him. Whatever it is he feels for her, she feels the same, and they fit hand in hand, lips to lips, mind and mind, but whatever this is, it's not it. It's not love. He doesn't know what love is but now he knows what it isn't.

"Davies will be happy you're single," he murmurs to her after a moment.

She tries not to laugh, though the shudder through her shoulders is almost like a sob. "Percy!"

He hugs her in answer. They settle in against each other and only once the truth's sunk in do they feel comfortable enough to talk about the past and the future because the present is just waiting, it's just the movement forward, and seventh years have had far too much of that in the past few months.

It's like Percy's ears are ringing with the truth now. He and Penny didn't dare touch it but part of the puzzle is still very much in pieces that no one wants to put together. He tucks the blanket square into his pocket as he enters the Gryffindor common room.

He gives the twins an impatient wave; he's a man on a mission. He heads up the stairs two at a time to get to his dorm, and thankfully when he opens the door it's just Oliver, stretched out on his bed and staring at an owl, his fingers raked into his hair and a look on his face like he's just won a million Galleons.

"Good news?" Percy guesses.

Maybe it's the running; it's probably the change. It's probably the spontaneity of it all. He never liked spontaneity, it made him nervous, it reminded him of all the pranks the twins have pulled on him over the years, but as it turns out, nerves are good. Right now, this is a rush.

Oliver starts to grin at Percy. "Yeah," he says. "You too?"

Percy doesn't really know how to answer that. "You first."

Oliver is on his feet in a second, and thrusts the letter at Percy. "Look. Read. Go," he orders, in his Captain voice.

"All right, all right," he answers briskly, and reads - but when his eyes reach the words the position of Reserve Keeper with Puddlemere Unitedhe lowers the letter and stares at Oliver. "You..."

"Me." Oliver looks as though he might explode with excitement with any provocation. "I just got it. Just now."

"Merlin," Percy breathes; he might not know Quidditch but this is the sort of thing Oliver's talked about for all of Hogwarts. He pulls Oliver into a brief, very masculine embrace that only vaguely resembles a hug. "Congratulations."

"Reserve Keeper for Puddlemere," Oliver repeats, and paces. "This is all down to - God, Perce, I'd given up." On the way pacing back, he pauses. "Didn't you say you had news?"

Oh. Right. Percy balks. "... Penny and I broke up," he admits.

There's silence for a very long beat there. "What?" Oliver says finally. "I thought you had some sort of romantic thing tonight, what happened? Was it Davies? I'll kill him for you if you like. Or hold him down," he offers.

"What? No. No, well." Maybe. Percy has his doubts. "Ah. No. We just... agreed to go our separate ways."

Oliver seems stunned by this. "You let her go."

This is making Percy nervous. He's not sure if it's the good sort of nervous or the bad, but it's creeping over him at an entirely unprecedented speed. "We were better friends anyway." The tips of his ears start to burn. "... She had poor taste in Quidditch teams anyway," he tries to joke.

At this Oliver actually starts to laugh, but only for a second, and he swipes a hand over his face, seemingly lost for words. "Well. Congratulations?" he echoes back ironically. "Is this good?"

"I know you didn't like her, so you can congratulate me if you like." It's a non-answer, but it works.

"Percy. It's not that I didn't like her," Oliver starts.

"It's fine," Percy says automatically, in his gut fairly sure he doesn't want to hear what follows that. "Really. It's over."

Oliver slaps a hand to his forehead and looks completely exasperated, and Percy raises his eyebrows until Oliver at last manages to find words. "So we're just going to walk past this again? To be clear? Then again, if not now, we probably never will - you'll be some important Ministry whatever, and - "

"Excuse me," Percy interrupts shortly. "What exactly do you mean? I'm not walking past anything."

It takes Oliver a moment to process that - for a second it looks like he's going to punch Percy, but doesn't, much to Percy's relief - and finally he says, "I'm sorry, but - "

"What are you - " Percy starts, and is promptly shut up when Oliver closes the distance between them and kisses him on the mouth. At first he's just standing there in shock because his best friend is kissing him and it's not really a kiss at all but when he feels Oliver start to withdraw it all snaps into place.

"Don't," Percy blurts out, and shuts himself up by kissing Oliver again.

Everything is changing and just for now it's stopped mattering to him, this week, this insane week where Percy's badge barely matters anymore but Oliver's a real professional Quidditch player, because everything they were is vanishing and everything they are is just starting to materialize. Anything is possible now, right now, and for the first time in his life, Percy feels really and truly alive.