For BSLS, using the dialogue "(Were) you going to tell (me)?", the pairing Perciver, the phrase "too many to count", the emotion "calm", and connecting to Sam's in that both of us wrote about a first relationship, a breakup, and then a second relationship.

For Camp Potter for Archery: Write about a first love. Cabin: Lestrange.

For Amber for GGE. Amber, lovely, we haven't talked enough lately, but I want you to know that I still love you dearly.

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Thanks loads to everyone who helped me write this in two days — to Liza, who both rat raced and read along and encouraged, to teddy and Roo for the ratraces, and to Sam, for the last minute beta. I couldn't have done it without you guys.

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The weight of it settles heavily on your shoulders. Guilt and grief and secondhand pain, and above all, the feeling of utter helplessness. You hate this, hate watching him suffer, but you don't know what to do to fix it, don't know how, because every time you bring up the subject he draws away from you.

But you've seen the bruises. You've seen the fingerprints traced in broken blood vessels beneath the skin of his wrist and the sight of it makes you want to cry, makes you want to hunt down the hand that made it, makes you want to wrap him in your arms and never let him go, never let anyone hurt him ever again.

You are watching him crumble, and it is killing you.

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At first you are… hesitant. You don't trust Marcus Flint, you never have. You highly doubt you ever will. But Oliver seems blissed-out-happy at the thought of this date, and you aren't going to be the one to ruin it for him. Honestly, it's good to see him excited about something other than Quidditch — not that you'd ever mention that to Oliver, of course.

So you just smile as he paces the length of your dormitory, worrying. Eventually, you unfold yourself from your position on the bed and stop him with a hand on his shoulder.

"Calm down, Ol. Pacing a path into the carpet isn't going to do any good, and it really wouldn't look good either."

He chokes out a nervous laugh: your intention.

"I'm not sure how to do this," he admits.

It's not like you have any better idea than he does — you've been on a few dates with Penny, but you aren't any good at it. Still, he needs to hear something, so you look him in the eye and say, "Be you. If he doesn't like you when you're being yourself, you don't want to be with him anyway."

And Oliver smiles at you, just a little bit, and you feel like you've gotten it right.

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For a while, it is… all right. You aren't sure how Marcus feels, but Oliver cares about him and he seems happy. Most of the time. You're aching inside because you've pretty much known you were in love with him for years, but you're happy that he's happy. It's your own fault that you waited too long and you know that. You tried to figure things out with Penny — because you cared about her, truly, just… not like you care about him. But you can't expect people to stay in stasis with you forever. You're glad that he's happy.

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Then things get… strained. You notice it slowly. His stress begins to show in the circles beneath his eyes, the heaviness to his gait. He takes longer and longer to get up in the mornings, not that he's ever been a morning person, but it's worse. He looks completely drained. And, well, it's seventh year and things are stressful, and it's his last shot at the Quidditch Cup and he doesn't want to screw that up, and that puts a lot of pressure on him, but…

But.

There's more to it than just that. There are shadows in his eyes that don't mesh with the happy smile he plasters on. You can see him cracking.

But you don't know how to ask. You don't want to break the fragile calm he's created.

So, for a very long time, you don't say anything at all.

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Then… then. Then you see the first one. He was switching into practice gear when you walked into the dorm — not a big deal, or, shouldn't have been, because you've seen him change before; he's your roommate. But your eyes land on the biceps of his right arm and he sees your gaze linger. Sharply, he tugs the shirt on over his head, covering the marks, as though covering them will make you unsee them.

The slowly purpling handprint is seared into your memory as though with a branding iron. That was not I tripped and fell. That was Somebody grabbed me.

Fury roars through your veins. Nobody is allowed to touch him. Nobody.

"Oliver—"

He's already gone.

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"It's… nothing," he says when you ask.

"Don't give me that shit, Oliver." He blinks up at you, startled at the obscenity. You don't normally… but you're angry beyond recognition right now. Which, really, probably isn't the best mindset for this conversation, but he's been ducking away from you all week and you're a big ball of fearangerfuryworrynerves and you need to do this now.

He doesn't meet your eyes and you realise suddenly that he hasn't in too long. He hasn't been meeting your eyes for a while.

You lean forward carefully. "Please, Oliver. I just want to help."

"You can't, okay? You can't help because nothing is wrong!"

You probably shouldn't — anger is whirling in your head, rage clouding your thoughts — but you step forward and poke your pointer into his arm, right where you know the still-healing bruise is. He recoils, wincing. "Nothing?" Your voice hits a dark note you didn't even know your vocal cords could produce.

"Accidents happen."

"That is a handprint; it is not an accident!"

"Leave it alone, Percy!"

He storms out, leaving you alone and even more concerned than you were before.

.

Things are… awkward. Stilted. Like there's this massive thing between you and neither of you really know how to work around it; it's just there. You don't know how to bring it up again without him getting defensive. He doesn't change around you anymore; a stark departure from his usual complete lack of shame when it came to his body.

Something in you aches at the change in him. Long sleeves become a fixture, as does the smile plastered across his face and the gradually increasing deadness in his eyes.

He's slipping away and you don't know how to pull him back because he won't talk to you. You want to help him, but how do you save someone who doesn't want saving?

You don't know the answer.

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He moves… slowly. Gingerly, as though every motion disturbs some bone-deep ache. You can't take it any more. You flick your wand at the door, sealing it. Let him finish getting ready as you put the finishing touches on an essay. He strides across the room and you tense automatically. He tries the doorknob, once, twice, then whirls around to face you.

"What the hell, Percy?"

You keep your face calm. Barely. "We need to talk about this, Oliver."

He closes his eyes, breathes deeply. "There's nothing to talk about."

"The hell there isn't!" His eyes snap up at your choice of words, but you are so beyond caring about propriety right now. "You aren't leaving this room until you admit that something is wrong here."

"It's none of your business!"

"I'm your friend. Or, at least, I was." The last part you whisper, because you're not sure you want him to hear it.

"If you were my friend, you would believe me when I told you it was nothing. If you were my friend, you would back off when I asked you to."

"…No. No. That's what acquaintances are for. Friends are for saving you from yourself. Friends are around to tell you when you're being an idiot."

"Dammit, just leave it alone!"

And you don't know what to do, don't know how to defy him verbally so you quit trying. Instead, you jerk your wand and vanish his shirt and—

And.

A string of profanity runs through your mind but doesn't make it out your mouth, which is frozen, gaping. The marks — bruises and scars — are too many to count. You want to take him in your arms and sooth the pain away, you want to hunt down and murder Marcus Flint, you want to ask him why, why did you let this happen, why didn't you tell me, why didn't you leave?

When you finally regain yourself, all that comes out your mouth is, "Oliver," a soft, strained exhale of breath. The fight drains out of him. He curls in on himself, defensively.

Rage and pain war inside of you until finally you take three stuttered steps forward, twist your wand to give his shirt back, and curl your arms around his shoulders. He stiffens, recoils, and something inside of you breaks as you pull away, give him space.

He still won't meet your eyes.

You struggle to find the words, knowing everything you say could be wrong, knowing you have one shot to get this right.

"This is… You don't… He doesn't have the goddamn right… Shit. I don't…" And you sound like some sort of idiot because you can't even get the words you want to come out properly, but finally you forms a sentence. "It's not supposed to be like this."

"It's not like anything!"

You should protest that, but you're stuck on something else. "God, Ol, were you ever going to tell me?"

"There's nothing to tell!"

And the first of the tears you've been trying to force back slips out and rolls down your cheek. You shove it away angrily. Now is not the time for that.

You pitch your voice at a whisper. "What are the bruises from?" You know, but you need him to say it.

"I… He… It was an accident. He apologised!"

"Apologised and then did it again? And again? You're not especially coordinated on the ground, Ol, but even you don't repetitively fall into someone's fist."

"I'm not— No. I'm not going to stand here and listen to this!"

He's gone.

The door slams behind him.

Your tears start to fall in earnest this time. You let them, because if you can't cry for this, what can you cry for?

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Things between you are… broken. He doesn't look you in the eyes anymore, doesn't seek you out in the common room, doesn't pick you as a partner in classes. You miss him fiercely, like an ache you don't know how to fix. He won't let you talk, won't let you say a word. He shuts you out, and does a spectacular job of making it appear that he truly doesn't care that he's lost you.

You don't have other friends, exactly. You have people that you talk to — like Penny, you can still talk to Penny — but Oliver has been your best friend for the past seven years and you… you define yourself by him. He's the one who can make other friends. You put them off, accidentally, inadvertently, just by being you.

You are alone, but it's not the loneliness that hurts so much as it is the lack of him. People say you don't know what you have until it's gone but that's not true, not in this case, not for you. You knew exactly how lucky you were to have Oliver — Oliver, who could be friends with anyone he pleased if he just tried. You never did understand why he chose you, but you always felt that it was transitory. Always felt he would eventually figure out that he could do better.

But you do not define Marcus Flint as better. You don't hold yourself in high esteem, particularly, but you would never hurt him. Ever (Not that you could, probably. But either way).

You lie awake in bed at night and stare at the curtains of your four poster, trying to figure it out. Trying to figure out why Oliver would believe him when he says he's sorry. Trying to figure out what's holding him there.

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You are… stagnant. You don't know what to do, how to fix this. You can't leave it where it is but you don't know how to move forward from here, because he won't let you.

Then you hear the soft, almost indiscernible sound of sobs coming from the lavatory attached to your dorm, and you can't leave it alone.

You push the door open softly. He is curled up on the tile, back to the wall, his shoulders shaking. You sit next to him, curl your arm around his shoulders. "Please," you whisper. "Let me help. Whatever you need."

You hold him as the sobs taper into gasping breaths which morph into a shiver.

"I can't, Perce… He… I can't. I'm so sorry."

But, contrary to his words, he curls into your arms. "Please." His breath is warm on your chest. "Please, just…"

You know without him needing to say that he just wants to be present, to be in your arms — he doesn't want words right now. You can give him that.

"Of course. Always." Your words are a gentle exhale into his hair. Your arms tighten around him. It is not enough, but it is a beginning, and for that you are grateful.

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Things are… changing. He can't do this on his own and you know that, and you refuse to let him push you away any longer.

You tell him something every day.

You tell him he deserves better.

You tell him that he's beautiful.

You tell him he's clever, talented, fun.

You tell him that he is everything to you, that you don't know who you are without him.

And you watch him change. You watch him stop ducking away when you compliment him. Watch as he goes from shaking his head to ducking it to hide the blush, goes from ducking his head to smiling slightly, goes from smiling to saying thank you.

Then you watch him with Marcus and you see everything you are building up crumble at the same rate.

But the next time it happens, the next time Marcus gets a little too angry, he comes to you — and you know how much that means.

At first, he doesn't say anything. He just crawls into your bed in the middle of the night and curls up against your chest. It should be alarming, but somehow it isn't.

Finally, he says, "Percy, am I doing something wrong?"

Your arms, which have automatically wrapped around him, tighten. "No." Your voice carries a note of fierceness which cannot be denied. "No. You are not doing anything wrong. Nothing."

"I just… if I were better at this, maybe it wouldn't happen."

"No!" You catch the yell in your throat too late to stop it. "No, no. No. Please, don't think like that. Please." Your voice breaks. "This is not your fault, Oliver. This is him. This is his brain, stuck in a bad cycle. This is him."

"I loved him, you know?" The words are a breathless whisper. "I did. Because he was so… intoxicating. So real, you know? So… alive. And I want to believe that what I saw in the beginning is still there. Just, maybe, buried a bit. I want to believe that, because otherwise… Otherwise I'm a fool for believing him again and again." He buries his face in your shirt and breathes deeply.

"You are not a fool." The words come out soft, but sure. Certain. "Being human and having flaws that other people can misuse does not mean you're a fool. It means you're human."

"…He's not going to change, is he? No matter how many promises…"

"No, Ol. I don't think he is."

A deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah. I think I knew that."

You begin to hope.

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He is… regressing. He comes back to the dorm with tears in his eyes and new bruises and he collapses on his own bed without a word.

Your breath catches in your throat.

You tread carefully, pause at the side of his bed. He looks up at you with dead eyes. He sees your question and nods, though. You curl up beside him, placing your hands carefully, avoiding tender spots. "Ol."

"Not now."

And you don't try to say anything else.

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In the light of day he looks… wrecked. There is no better way to describe it. "I'm sorry." His voice is strangled, the words caught in his through.

"Don't apologise."

"I'm not good at this. I don't know how to make it stop. I don't know how to let him go. I don't mean to care about him, but I do, I still do. How messed up is my head?"

"Caring too much is not, all things considered, a bad weakness to have. You can let him go. You can. Please, just let me help."

"I need you." The confession is no louder than a whisper, but you hear it anyway and it sends a thrill down your spine. He doesn't mean it in the way you wish he would, but it still matters.

"I am here. Whatever you need. I promise you that."

"Why, though?"

"Does there have to be a why? Because you're you. Because you're worth it. Because you don't deserve this. Because you need me. Because I want to be. I don't know. All of the above."

His eyes shine. "I don't deserve you."

You choke out a strangled laugh. "You've got that backwards." He doesn't seem to hear your muttered words.

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It happens twice more, that Oliver comes back to you all battered, but he doesn't try to put up the pretense of his own bed anymore. He crawls in beside you without question and you think this means that maybe he's beginning to trust you.

He seems to have a compulsive need to be near you. You're not sure what this means — frankly, you'd expected him to shy away from human contact for a bit, but he either trusts you more than you can fathom or he wants you to shield him from the rest of the world, or both.

You don't try to talk with this happens. You just hold him as gently as you can and let him sleep in a safe place.

You trace the artificial patterns on his skin and try to hold your anger at bay, because you know how upset it would make him if you tried to confront Marcus. This is… his battle. His war. And you can hold him up, you can stand in his corner, you can be there for him, but you can't try to fight for him. That isn't how this works. It doesn't matter how satisfying it would be to hex Marcus Flint into itty-bitty pieces at this point. What matters is Oliver.

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Everything… changes. You aren't even sure what catalysed it. You aren't sure if it was slowly building below the surface and it just all came bubbling up at once, or if something changed and caused it. You find that, for once, you don't even care. What matters is that it happens.

It occurs in the middle of the Great Hall, in front of everyone. Marcus walks by, leans down to say something to Oliver quietly, subtlely — few even know about the relationship, and Marcus wants to keep it that way. Oliver hears the words. Stiffens. Stands abruptly, leaping over the bench. He whirls around, faces Marcus, places a hand on each shoulder, and shoves. Hard. "You don't get to control me anymore."

Oliver marches out. The entire student body freezes collectively.

You are the first to spring into motion. You leap up and stride after him. (You do take a moment to memorise the sight of Marcus covered with pudding, to laugh at later).

You find him in an abandoned hallway not far from the Great Hall. He is shaking like a leaf in the wind. "I can't believe I just did that." His voice sounds awestruck and terrified at the same time. "God, he's going to kill me. He is literally going to kill me."

You tuck your arm around his shoulder, the motion quickly becoming familiar. "That's not going to happen."

"No, I'm serious. He is quite literally going to hunt me down and murder me. He will. He doesn't like it when I talk back. He doesn't like it when I disagree. And he values his pride far too much to let that pudding incident go by without maiming me permanently."

Something sticks in your throat at the fear in his voice. You don't like that Oliver has been so utterly crushed by him. So much so that his own opinion on the subject is clearly secondary to what he knows Marcus disapproves of. You don't like seeing Oliver, normally so fierce, now so cowed.

He looks up at you, his eyes heavy. "When does it end? Because I can't see an ending, Perce, and that terrifies me."

You don't have a solid answer for him. You can't give him a number or a time. That isn't how this works.

"I don't know. But… it will."

"Will it?"

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You are both… walking on eggshells. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. You gravitate toward him and try not to leave his side, because he looks like he's spun from glass; one little puff of air and he will fall, shatter.

You watch the way Marcus looks at him, see the simmering rage underneath the surface. You ache at thought of what this simmer could become.

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It all happens very… abruptly. You'd been early to breakfast because you still had a passage to read before Defence, but he needed sleep and so you let him, but it's been too long for comfort and you'd been done with your reading anyway, so you left the Great Hall to look for him.

You'd found him pinned to the wall, Marcus's hand gripping his throat, lifting so that only Oliver's toes touched the ground.

The scariest part is that he doesn't squirm. He doesn't move at all. He's just… still.

You can't say you immediately leap to his defence. You freeze, first. He is your best friend and your everything but you are not a physical being — Marcus is about five times stronger than you. You're taller, but you know that you don't know how to use that height advantage.

But it doesn't take you long to decide that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that you have no clue what you're doing. It doesn't matter that you are far outmatched.

What matters is Oliver.

That doesn't mean you have to be stupid about it, though. As tempting as it is to just hurl yourself at him full body, you resist. You pull out your wand, send him flying backward. He hits the wall with a thunk, and Oliver slides to the ground with a sickeningly limp sound.

You shoot a stunner at Flint to make sure he stays down. then dart over to Oliver. You wrap your arms around his shoulders and tug him upright. Your hands trace frantic patterns over his skin, trying to make sure that nothing is damaged, nothing is broken. Your breath is gasping through your trachea with furious intensity, not enough oxygen entering your system.

"—it, Perce, are you even listening to me?"

You jerk back into focus. "Erm, no. Panicking. God, Ol, are you okay? How long were you there? What did he do to you? What do I need to do to him?"

The startled chuckle that tears from Oliver's throat reassures you that Flint hasn't done irreparable damage. "Not long." His voice rasps as the air scrapes against the torn tissues of his throat. "I'm fine. Didn't have time to do anything. And don't you dare. You're not allowed to get involved."

"…You still don't get it, do you? I am involved. I have been since the beginning."

"…why?"

And you can do nothing more than smile sadly at him. "Because it's you."

The words fall off your lips before you can think about the consequences, and once you've said them, you don't regret them. You only regret the timing — you are trying so hard not to make this more difficult for him, trying so hard not to push him. So you smile fondly to let him know that you mean it genuinely, then you stand, pushing yourself easily up the wall, unfolding as you do. You offer him a hand up. He takes it, pulling himself up easily, letting his momentum carry him forward until his lips are crashing into yours and it is intoxicating. You are drowning in sensation.

It is perhaps the hardest thing you have ever done, but you pull away, hands lightly on his shoulders to maintain the distance. "We…" And you hesitate in your attempts to find the right words and he flushes and starts stammering.

"I'm sorry… I… God, I thought you meant… shit, Percy, I'm sorry, I'm so—"

You put a finger on his lips to shut him up. "No. Not what I was going to say."

He looks at you, eyebrows furrowed in confusion and you smile gently. "I… want this. Have for a while. But not now, Oliver, not like this. We are not going to attempt to build this on a pile of rubble. We've got to clear it away first."

Oliver mutters something about Percy's insufferable need for metaphors but there's a spark of a smile in his eyes.

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You feel… somewhat guilty for this. But you do it anyway. You sit across from the Headmaster in his office, leaning intently across the large desk. You explain what you can without betraying Oliver's confidence — which isn't exactly much, if you're perfectly honest, but you can tell from the look in his eyes that the Headmaster is hearing more than you are saying.

"I will file the paperwork — privately — as soon as possible, Mr. Weasely."

You nod. "Thank you, sir."

Marcus Flint will never touch him ever again. He will not be able to. He will not be able to get within three feet of Oliver — a physical impossibility, unless the spell is broken, which is nearly impossible.

It does not guarantee anything against spells. It does not guarantee that this is over. But it's a good place to start.

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You have long since lost count of the number of times you have told him… Told him that he is clever and beautiful and kind, told him that you were never going to hurt him, told him that he could trust you, told him that you would always be there in the morning, always be around when you wanted him to.

He tells you on his better days that he doesn't know where he would be without you, tells you that he trusts you, tells you that you are smart and amazing and everyone else are fools for being blind to that.

Marcus does not go away — he will always be the skeleton in your shared closet, but you won't let that ruin what you are creating.