Percy looks up in surprise as he hears the dull thud of a book hitting the wall and an accompanying moan of frustration. He calmly tucks his bookmark into his book and swings his legs off the side of his bed from where he was reclining against the headboard.
He gently picks up the book from where it lies pages-down on the floor, the spine cracked open. A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration. He glances over at Oliver, who has his head buried in his hands. For a moment, Percy wavers. He cannot decide whether it's best to leave Oliver alone – as he has been doing for the past three weeks – or attempt to help the frustrated boy.
Eventually, Percy takes a timid step forward, and then another until he's standing silently beside Oliver, who still hasn't noticed him. Percy puts the book down on the bed lightly. As Oliver still hasn't raised his head, Percy resigns himself to speaking first, although he knows he'll muck it up.
"You oughtn't throw them, you know. The spines are rather fragile."
Oliver's head snaps up, his brown eyes fiery.
"Is that all you do, Percy? Tell other people what they 'oughtn't' do?" He draws out the word oughtn't, turning it into a complete mockery. Percy recoils, tipping his head down.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs softly. "It's just…" He stops. He doesn't need to make this any worse. "I'm sorry," he says again. "For everything," he adds after a moment. "I didn't… I didn't know how much it meant to you. I should have realized."
Oliver twists his mouth wryly at Percy. "But you'd still have done it, just the same."
And Percy finds that he cannot lie. "It's rather likely."
"I thought so." Oliver frowns. "Why?" he asks carefully. "Why does it matter so much to you?"
"Because it's right. Because it's the rule," Percy says emphatically.
"And I've already explained my opinion on that."
Percy frowns, pursing his lips. "Yes, you have." His tone is frigid. After a moment, he sighs. "What you don't seem to see, though, Oliver, is that without rules everything is chaos. If everyone decides that the rules don't apply to them, then society cannot function efficiently."
"Everyone blindly following the rules would cause just as many issues!"
Percy blinks, startled. That's actually the first time anyone has ever made that argument, and Percy is hard pressed to refute it. Eventually, he shakes his head.
"The rules of Hogwarts are created by a just Headmaster and a just school board. They are designed for the safety of the students. I have to believe that rules created by an authority that is trustworthy are rules that should be followed."
"I'm not really in the mood to argue over this, Percy." He glares at the Transfiguration book on his bed. "I've got work to do."
Percy hesitates. He hesitates for a long time. But then, eventually, he says, "I could help you, if you'd like?"
Oliver meets his eyes carefully before glancing at the book again. "No, thanks," he finally says. Percy nods, refusing to show his disappointment.
"All right. If you ever need any help…"
Oliver nods, and Percy returns to his book.
"Mr. Wood, Mr. Weasley, if I could speak to you for a moment," Professor McGonagall says as they pack up their things after class.
Percy is still rolling up his parchment of notes as Oliver approaches his desk. "What is this, Mr. Wood?" the Professor asks softly, tapping something on her desk. Percy watches Oliver duck his head as Percy dries the tip of his quill and sticks it in his bag, standing up.
" 'M sorry, Professor. I just… I read the textbook, I promise. But I couldn't make sense of it," he mumbles quietly. Percy, sensing Oliver's embarrassment, stands still until Professor McGonagall beckons to him. Standing beside Oliver, he can't help but glance at what the Professor was gesturing to – it's an essay. Oliver's essay. The mark across the top is a large, red-inked T.
"Sometimes, Mr. Wood, we need to hear things phrased differently, in order to process them properly." She looks at Percy. "If Mr. Weasley is amenable, I'd like to assign you tutoring sessions with him. Twice a week, for at least an hour."
Percy nods. "Of course, Professor."
Oliver, on the other hand, looks mortified.
"Two hours a week?"
"Yes, Mr. Wood. Until your marks improve, at least."
"I will accept no protests, Mr. Weasley. This is not an option." She taps the essay. "I know for a fact that you are smarter than this."
Oliver ducks his head again. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good." She nods in satisfaction. "I'll leave it to the two of you to decide the place and time. Mr. Weasley, would you mind keeping me informed of any progress?"
Percy nods. "Of course, Professor."
"Very well. That is all, boys."
Oliver drops his head to the table with a loud thump. "I just don't get it, Percy! No matter how many times you say it, it doesn't make any sense!"
Percy frowns. "If you just tried-"
"I am trying! I know you don't think I am, but I am! I'm just stupid, apparently!"
"You're not stupid," Percy murmurs.
Oliver finally stops his ranting. "You don't think I'm stupid?" This fact appears to come as a shock to him.
Percy shakes his head violently. "No, I don't. You just think in a different way than I do. That's all right. I just have to figure- That's it! How could I have been so blind?"
Oliver looks utterly baffled, but Percy pays him no mind as he leaps out of his seat and disappears in the stacks. After a few moments, he finds what he's looking for.
He flops the massive pile of books down on the small library table with a bang. Oliver groans. "No, Percy. I am not reading all of those."
"They're not for you to read," Percy says, distractedly flipping through the titles. "They're for me."
He pulls out one of the ones near the bottom and shows Oliver the cover. Quidditch Terminology for the Quidditch Impaired. Oliver grins. "They've got you pegged, don't they? 'The Quidditch Impaired.'" Percy scowls, but he knows his eyes are dancing with amusement. He can acknowledge his own inadequacy in this area.
"I'm going to teach you Transfiguration – in your language." He smirks, and Oliver laughs.
And while their friendship is now as tentative and fragile as a spider's web, it exists once more, and that's progress.