The first time he sees her, her hair is divided into two pigtails that glide almost all the way down her back. Her eyes, stormy and startling, are skidding hawkishly around the platform, judgmental and elated all at the same time. Her knuckles are white as she clutches onto her wand, seeming to expect somebody to take it away from her. Mostly, what Percy remembers about the first time he sees Annabeth is that she is not smiling.
It takes all of his strength to turn his gaze towards his mother, whose eyes are filled with tears at the sight before her. Upon seeing the look on her face, Percy lets out an embarrassed, “Mum!” and she turns to look at him, reaching a hand up to ruffle his hair.
“I can’t believe this is real,” she admits, voice low and musical. Percy wants to roll his eyes at her, but he can’t. He feels the exact same way. Except he’s not crying. He doesn’t cry anymore- after all, he’s eleven now.
“Do you have everything you need?” his mum questions, brushing a tear from the corner of her eye. “Socks? Underwear? Your w-wand? Mrs. O’Leary?”
At the latter sentence, Percy heaves an enormous sigh and glares down at the tiny gray kitten curled up in a basket at his feet, fast asleep.
“I can’t believe I let you name her.”
His mum releases a watery laugh and brushes his bangs away from his eyes before she leans down to kiss the crown of his messy head.
“Have a wonderful time, my love.”
He allows his arms to stay wrapped around her for longer than he’d care to admit before kissing her on the cheek and ducking quickly onto the train. Most of the students are still on the platform, so only half of the compartments are full. Percy locates a seat where he can look out the window and see his mum; he plops down in it, being careful not to shift Mrs. O’Leary’s basket too much in his hurry to see his mum again before the train starts moving.
“Hey.” Percy looks up to see a boy with fair hair and blue eyes giving him a curious smile from the doorway to the compartment. “We met in Diagon Alley, yeah?”
Recognition dawns on Percy’s face, and he nods slowly.
“Yeah, hi.” For a moment, the two of them stare at each other awkwardly. Then Percy lets a shy smile etch its way onto his face. “Do you wanna sit down?”
“Yeah!” the other boy says in a quick breath, plopping his cat carrier onto the bench before he sits. “I’m Jason, and this is Trident, my cat.”
Trident blinks up at Percy, distrust shining through his yellow eyes.
“I’m Percy.” His eyes are still trained on the cat as he says it. “And, um, this is Mrs. O’Leary.”
“Hey,” grins Jason, making himself more comfortable on the seat.
They sit in silence, staring at each other uncertainly. Percy knows that he could make the decision to talk, or he could allow the two of them to sit uncomfortably in their seats together. And even though he was abandoned by the man who had given him the power to go to Hogwarts in the first place, Percy desperately wants to belong in this world.
“So… what House do you wanna be in?”
It’s kind of easy to slide into a friendship after that.
The first thing that Percy notices about the Great Hall is the way his classmates stare at it. More specifically, he catches a view of the blond girl from the platform before he sees the actual hall. She’s ahead of him in line, but she’s stretched out on her tip toes, her long legs not enough for her to be able to see everything. The girl’s gray eyes flicker everywhere, vulnerable in their amazement. Percy feels like he’s getting to know her just by looking at the slight flush in her cheeks and the way her lips part in amazement.
The hall is beautiful, he gives her that. He especially likes the candles that float near the arches in the ceiling, casting a unique glow on the room. It illuminates everybody’s face in a wash that only serves to perpetuate how magical Hogwarts is. And ever since Percy saw the view of it from the boat, he’s realized that he’s only just beginning to understand the magic of this place.
His eyes are drawn back to the girl as they move through the hall, something in his stomach tugging him toward her. Percy wants to leap forward, grab her shoulder, and start talking to her; to ask her what she thinks is so fascinating about this hall and how that fascination might correlate with his. But instead, he points out the ceiling to Jason and Jason nods enthusiastically, a boyish grin crossing his face as it registers different aspects of the hall.
The girl’s name is Annabeth Chase, and when the old, raggedy Sorting Hat gets placed on her head, she remains completely cool and collected as it announces that she is a Ravenclaw. Her expression doesn’t change at all; she just allows Professor Chiron to remove the hat from her head, stands up, and trounces off to the Ravenclaw table.
Percy keeps his eyes on Annabeth the entire time he’s being sorted, but he isn’t put in Ravenclaw and that’s okay because as soon as he sits down at the Hufflepuff table and sees the smiling faces adorned in yellow, something like hope grows in his stomach and he starts to believe that he can do good here.
“Are you lost?”
He says it without thinking, and because he’s spent the past two days wanting to talk to this girl, and now that both of them are alone and in the same place, Percy thinks that it’s a perfectly good time to open his mouth and say something. He does not count on the way her eyebrows immediately constrict and her face turns sour.
“I’m not lost,” she says, lips a thin line. “I’m fine.”
“Okay,” Percy says simply, getting closer to her. She takes a step back, expression haughty. “I’m lost. Can you help me?”
“Where are you trying to go?”
She looks like she’s balancing something on the edge of her nose. She’s taller than him, and she stares down at him with an expression that borders on offended.
“Astronomy. That’s where you’re going too, right?”
Annabeth quirks an eyebrow.
“Yes. How did you know that?”
“Our Houses have the class together,” Percy points out, allowing his finger to jab the place on his schedule where the information is revealed. “Anyways, can we walk together if you know where you’re going?”
She stares at him as she dithers, clutching the book that is folded in her arms close to her chest. Percy takes this time to stare up at her, adjusting his yellow tie for something to do. He wants to seem like he’s casually observing, not like he’s drinking in her face. But, really, he’s trying to figure out why he’s so drawn to her.
He’s pretty sure it’s her eyes. Percy has never seen eyes like that before.
“I don’t know where I’m going either.”
She chokes the words out like they’re something scary or disgusting, biting her lip as soon as they’ve left her mouth.
“We’ll figure it out,” he says. When he smiles at her, it isn’t a real grin. He doesn’t want to scare her away with a large smile or a big laugh. She seems like the thing balancing on the tip of her nose could fall off at any moment, and although he wants it to, he isn’t sure that she’s quite ready for it to go away. So Percy shrugs and smiles and pulls out his map and tries not to make any sudden movements when her hair brushes his arm as she bends over the map.
He really likes her hair.
People have been talking about Quidditch since September, so it only makes sense that the stands are completely packed during the first game of the season. Percy files dutifully into the stands with everybody else, trailing behind Jason, who is practically wetting himself with excitement. Percy’s mom never really told him about Quidditch, and he wonders if his dad had talked to her about it when they were together. Maybe he hadn’t. There isn’t much that his mom hadn’t told him before he came to Hogwarts, as many of his bedtime stories had come in the form of tales that his father had told his mom.
With Jason leading the way, it isn’t surprising that they end up in the Ravenclaw stands. Percy feels out of place with his yellow Hufflepuff scarf, but that’s nothing to how he feels when Jason stops short right next to Annabeth and sits down next to her. It’s suddenly as though his limbs are separated from his body. He clears his throat awkwardly before taking his seat next to Jason, who is chattering casually to Annabeth, oblivious to Percy’s reaction at unexpectedly being thrown into her midst.
“Hi.” A voice to his right causes Percy to turn, and when he does, he is assaulted with a view of bright red, frizzy hair, barely tamed by the Ravenclaw knit cap that is perched on top of it. “I’m Rachel.”
“Percy,” he replies, giving her a smile. He’s usually more vivacious than this, but being around Annabeth makes him nervous. “Nice to meet you.”
“You too,” she sees, scrutinizing him closely. Rachel glances between Percy and Annabeth, squinting her eyes slightly as she sees the widening of his own. “You should sit next to her.”
“I think she likes you.”
“You think she… what?”
“Well, I think she could like you,” Rachel corrects, a grin crossing her face. “There’s a difference.”
Before he can say anything else, or ask one of the million questions that have popped up in the two minute conversation he has had with Rachel, Jason has turned around at the sound of her voice.
“Is it true, Percy?” he asks, looking shocked.
“That you’ve never seen a Quidditch game,” Rachel presses, nudging her elbow into his side in a way that could only be considered wrenchingly painful. “Because I haven’t either, so I think you need to sit between Jason and Annabeth so that they can explain stuff to you.”
“Oh, that’s not a problem-” Percy begins to say, but he’s cut off by Jason standing up and indicating that the two of them should switch seats. Which is how Percy ends up seated right next to Annabeth, his arm pressed up against her smaller arm, his hands carefully placed on his knees so that he won’t accidentally touch her and incur some sort of wrath.
“So,” Jason begins, clasping his hand around Percy’s shoulder. “That’s a Bludger, and that’s a Quaffle, right there, and what he’s looking for is the snitch, which is a tiny-”
Percy doesn’t pay attention to Jason because a gust of wind has just alerted him to the fact that Annabeth’s hair smells like lemon.
“So,” he says, cutting off Jason mid sentence and turning to Annabeth. “Quidditch is pretty amazing, huh? Actual human beings flying on broomsticks in the sky for an organized sport. Who would have thought that could ever happen?”
She looks down at him, slight disdain in her expression.
“I’ve been playing since I was little,” she says finally, her voice stiff. “So… sure. I suppose so.”
He doesn’t understand how someone who seems so magical could be so utterly unimpressed by magic.
Piper plops her books down extra hard when she pulls into her seat next to Percy, and he raises his eyebrows at her with a slightly amused smile.
“My dad just sent me a letter- he’s starring in another awful muggle romance film.”
She likes to talk to Percy about these things because he, unlike many of their classmates, understands what’s going on without Piper having to explain. Although he hadn’t known that Tristan McLean was a wizard until he met Piper, Percy had been fully aware of how disturbingly campy his blockbusters were, a fact which Piper took to deep shame.
“Why don’t you mention to him that all of the films that he does are terrible and then offer to become his agent and tell him exactly which films to take?” Percy suggests, teasing her. Piper shoots him an annoyed look.
“I know you’ve talked to human beings, so I’m certain that you realize what a bad idea that is.”
“What’s a bad idea?”
The two of them look up to see Annabeth standing in front of their desk, clutching her books to her chest and giving them both a small smile. She smiles like that a lot- smiles that are small and reserved and never seem to grow into something bigger. Percy wants to see what a huge Annabeth Chase smile looks like. He doesn’t know if he ever will.
But the first step is smiling at her. He lets a grin stretch across his face, big and goofy.
“Leaping into the Black Lake so that I can ask the giant squid to come home with me for Christmas.”
Her hair swishes across her elbows, the curly tips of it swaying back and forth, as she shakes her head.
“And you go to him for advice?” she chides Piper, setting her books on the desk next to her friend and adjusting her skirt carefully before she sits down. Everything about Annabeth is careful; slow, even. She wants things done meticulously all of the time. That’s why Percy is pretty sure he could never be partners with her in class. Frank couldn’t either, to be fair.
Maybe Annabeth and Jason could work well together. They’re both smart- way smarter than Percy. And they’re both more organized, and from the magical world, whereas Percy is just a half-blood who grew up with a muggle mother. Annabeth and Jason are intrinsically Ravenclaws and they have much more in common than Percy and Annabeth. Which is why they’re probably never going to be good friends.
“I need your help.”
She says it with her mouth twisted in the sourness of the words; it looks like she’s just suckled a lemon. Percy sets down his quill and looks over his left and right shoulders, motions exaggerated.
“Are… are you talking to me?”
She knits her eyebrows together.
“Yes,” Annabeth says shortly.
“Annabeth Chase needs my help twice in one school year? Surely this is a joke.”
“When was the first time?”
“Remember? You were lost and I saved you?”
“You didn’t save me.”
Annabeth slams her books onto the table in front of him, pulls back the chair, and rams herself down onto it.
“You did not save me.”
She looks so murderous that Percy decides to dial back on the whole ‘pissing her off’ thing.
“What do you need help with?”
The nervous look is back in her expression as Annabeth licks her lips.
“I have to get into the Hufflepuff common room.”
Percy picks up his quill again and busies himself with the paper lying in front of me.
“That’s a terrible idea. No.”
“Why not?” Annabeth complains. He wonders if she’s accustomed to not getting what she wants. “Look, my friend Luke is in that House and his birthday is coming up and I really want to surprise him with his gift.”
“And you felt comfortable asking me for this because…?”
She starts to blush.
“Because… you helped me last time.”
“Aha!” He raises his head triumphantly. “So you do remember?”
“Shut up, idiot.”
“I will help you-”
“-if you promise to help me with Transfiguration for the rest of the year.”
“The rest of the year?”
“It’s a very risky thing that you’re asking me to do.”
“But you like risk, don’t you?”
He quirks his lips up at that.
“What makes you think that?”
“Just a hunch.”
For the first time, her eyes seem clear, not clouded by something that separates her real feelings from the rest of the world. It’s this that makes Percy concede.
“Okay. Four months of Transfiguration help. Take it or leave it.”
She takes it.
“Wait, so you actually kicked him in the head?”
He tosses a grape in his mouth in a manner that could only be described as self-important, watching as Annabeth’s eyes narrow suspiciously from where she hovers above him, elegantly cross-legged on the blanket.
“Don’t play with me, Jackson.”
She’s dithering on the edge of the smile, which is a corner that he always gets her into when they’re having their study sessions together. Lately, these have been less study sessions and more ‘getting to know you’ sessions, but Percy isn’t about to bring that up and ruin the whole thing.
“I actually kicked him in the head.”
Her entire face explodes in a smile, one that blooms out across her mouth and spreads through her eyes. Percy feels his stomach leap in a self-satisfied way as he watches her amusement take over her face. He loves seeing her smile like this.
“Did you get in trouble?”
“I’m not allowed to go back to flying lessons for the rest of the year.”
“He just laughed it off, really,” Percy says casually, lifting his wand in the air so that he can practice wrist movements with it. Annabeth reaches over and grabs his wrist immediately, trying to help him perfect the movement, but it causes Percy’s head to turn sideways so he can look up at her. His hair is getting messier as it spreads out on the blanket, but he doesn’t care as he looks up at her and watches the way her hair makes a halo around her head. “Although he’s in the hospital wing now.”
“Poor Frank,” Annabeth snickers, covering her hand with her mouth when she realizes how mean she sounds. Percy smirks at her. “I mean, I feel absolutely terrible that he’s in the hospital wing, of course.”
“You feel bad for him?” repeats Percy, aghast. “Annabeth. I can’t go back to flying lessons. Did you not hear that?”
“I think you’ll live,” she snorts, brushing a bit of her hair back from her face. Her gray eyes soften as she stares down at him, and Percy lifts his lips in another smile. He smiles a lot in general, but when she’s around, it’s even more than usual.
“Why are you sitting like that?” he inquires, wrinkling his nose judgementally. “Lie down. Join the party.”
For a moment, Annabeth hesitates. Then she nods slowly, unfolding her legs out from underneath herself so that she can lie down on the blanket next to him. Together, the two of them stare up at the light blue sky, reveling in the first warm day of spring.
“Are you excited to turn twelve?” she asks. As always, there’s an air of maturity that surrounds her voice. She’s turning twelve a month before him, but he doesn’t say anything about that.
“Yeah,” he nods. “My mum always makes a blue cake for my birthday.”
“Blue?” Annabeth crinkles her nose. “Why blue?”
He turns his head sideways to look at her.
“Have you never had blue cake, Annabeth Chase?”
She shakes her head.
“I’ll send you a piece. You have to experience it to understand its brilliance.”
They lie there in silence until the rest of their friends find them. Even then, they don’t move.
He turns around to see a twelve-year-old girl waving excitedly at him, her tanned arm thrown into the air. He can barely see her from her spot all the way across the platform and doesn’t really know how he heard her, either. Maybe he was just subconsciously searching for her voice.
“That’s Annabeth, isn’t it?” his mum asks, her voice certain. Although Percy has told her about all of the friends that he made over the course of his first year, she seems to immediately know which one is Annabeth.
“Yeah,” Percy grins. She comes closer, trailing her mother behind her. From Annabeth’s few descriptions of this woman, Percy takes an immediate dislike to her upon seeing her. Even if Annabeth hadn’t told him about her mother’s distance, he’s pretty sure he would hate her. She carries the same snobby look that Annabeth had at the beginning of their first year. But it’s different now. He thinks that Annabeth is happier. This woman, on the other hand, does not seem happy.
“Hello, Mrs. Chase,” Percy’s mom greets, her voice courteous and warm.
“Hello,” Mrs. Chase says politely. Annabeth’s smile falls slightly at the lack of warmth in her mother’s voice. Percy knows that she likes her dad better, but she doesn’t really talk about either of her parents much. He knows that her dad is remarried and has a new family, but it’s difficult to get information out of Annabeth and he doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
Percy turns away from Mrs. Chase and directs his attention towards her daughter, who, he realizes with a pang to his stomach, is taller than him. She doesn’t make comment when his face turns from content to horrified in a matter of seconds, instead giving him an odd look before he turns around to introduce her to his mother.
“I’ve heard so much about you,” Percy’s mum says genuinely, her voice still holding familiarity in spite of the cold greeting that Mrs. Chase had offered her. “And Jason and Piper and Frank and Rachel as well.”
What she doesn’t say is that these people are the first group of people that Percy had been able to tell his mum about; school had been a lonely place for Percy until he had finally been able to come to Hogwarts. He feels like he’s waited his entire life to get here, and now that he is, it’s so worth it that it makes his stomach ache like he’s had too much of something too sweet.
“I’ve heard lots about you too,” Annabeth replies smoothly. “Percy says that you’re taking creative writing courses!”
He frowns and tries to remember when he had told her that; he had just found out himself when he had come home from break. It must have been in one of the letters that they had exchanged- Percy had been terrible at correspondence with most of his friends, but getting a letter from Annabeth had felt like a special treat and he had always sat down to reply to it immediately, etching out his answers in an inky blue pen. Her letters were always written with a quill, but Percy had enjoyed the luxury of using a pen after nine months of garnering his quill callus.
“Hey!” Jason strides up to the two of them, already dressed in his uniform. He has eschewed the robes and is just wearing his white shirt, gray sweater, and Ravenclaw tie. When he stretches his arms out and links them around Percy and Annabeth’s shoulders, he gives Percy an affectionate nuggie. “I’m Jason.”
He’s introducing himself to Annabeth’s mother because he’s already met Percy’s. They had hung out over the summer, the two of them and Frank, and they had all practiced Quidditch together. Percy is actually starting to get pretty good, but he’d never say that to Annabeth, who is fiercely competitive and plays the same position that is his favorite. He’s not quite good enough to challenge her, but he will be one day soon, and when he is, he wants to be able to take her off guard.
Taking Annabeth off guard is his new goal in life.
As the three of them board the train and weave their way through, looking for Piper and Frank, Percy feels a large chunk of discomfort settle in his stomach as he realizes that he wasn’t nearly sad enough to leave his mum behind. He loves her, but he’s so excited to go back to school and be with his friends and be surrounded by the magic of the place.
When they finally find Piper, cooing over her new tawny owl, who she has named Dagger, Percy forgets about his mum. This is where he is. This is what he’s doing.
He’s on his way to being raised by Hogwarts as much as he’s been raised by her.
The common room is loud when Percy gets back from the library, toting a half-asleep Frank behind him. In general, the Hufflepuff common room isn’t really rowdy, but all of the upperclassmen have just gotten back from Hogsmeade and are currently regaling their experiences, in excruciating detail, to the first and second years.
Percy has learned to avoid all common areas during Hogsmeade weekends, instead choosing to spend his time in the library with Annabeth and Piper or playing Quidditch with Jason, Frank, and Leo, a Gryffindor that had gone to school with Jason when they were little kids. Leo had been a muggleborn before Jason’s mother had recognized the signs in him and came to the realization that he was a wizard. It’s a story that Jason likes to rib Leo about a lot, teasing that he never would have come to Hogwarts had he not met Jason so why won’t he go get that library book that Jason really wants?
The bright yellow common room brings cheer to him in spite of the fact that it’s filled to bursting with Hogwarts students.
“I’m not convinced that all of these kids are actually in Hufflepuff,” Frank jokes, but Percy agrees with him- he’s not sure if their common room has ever been quite so overstuffed.
The two of them are just about to reach the dorms when a small, dark haired girl approaches them, her brown eyes lighting up when she sees Percy.
“Hey!” she says, moving closer. “Annabeth’s looking for you.”
“Annabeth’s looking for me?”
He had just left her in the library with Piper and she had seemed completely fine.
“Well, actually...” She slows herself down, taking a breath. “Piper’s looking for you because she wants you to go cheer up Annabeth. Or something like that.”
Percy’s heart speeds up.
“Is she okay?”
“She’s… well, I’m not really sure. Piper instructed me to get you and I saw Annabeth looking upset. I don’t have a ton of information. I’m Hazel, by the way.”
The girl isn’t bold, but she’s not shy either. Percy likes her immediately; there’s something easy about her demeanor even though they’re in an anxious situation. Hazel isn’t twisting her hands in her skirt or wringing them together. She’s calm and put together.
“Hazel, this is my friend Frank.”
“Hi,” he says shyly, barely lifting his eyes to hers. Percy pats Frank comfortingly on the shoulder.
“I’ll be back, okay?”
“But curfew!” Frank calls after him. Percy ignores this.
He’s expecting to have to hunt around the castle to find Annabeth, but when he climbs out of the portrait hole, she’s sitting right outside of it, leaning against Piper. Her eyes are vacant, her expression hollow, as she stares down at the floor.
“Percy!” Piper looks relieved. “Hey. I need your help.”
“I’m getting that,” he says, eyes still on Annabeth. “What’s up?”
“She got a letter from her dad and she… I don’t know… You’re her best friend. Fix it.”
He’s startled by the idea that he is Annabeth’s best friend and Piper isn’t, but now that he thinks about it, he realizes that she’s probably right. Annabeth and Piper are friends, and they certainly have a good time together, but she always sits next to him at meals and studies with him in the library and supports Hufflepuff when they’re playing Slytherin or Gryffindor.
“Thanks, Piper,” he says, grasping Annabeth’s elbow in his hand. “Have a good night.”
His firm voice tells Piper that it’s okay for her to leave now, so she flashes him a weak, grateful smile before scurrying away towards the Gryffindor tower. Percy, on the other hand, walks Annabeth in the opposite direction, leading her with his hand.
“So what are you pissed off about?” he asks, his voice clear. She looks up, eyes bewildered. In the light of the candles that line the wall of the candle, her gray eyes seem to move like liquid.
“What are you talking about, Percy?”
“You’re mad,” he says clearly. “Angry. Why?”
Her mouth parts slightly, uncertain of how to react. For a moment, Percy watches the myriad of emotions flit across Annabeth’s expression. He tries to keep his face supportive, knowing that she doesn’t need to be scared out of her vulnerability.
“I thought my parents were going to get back together,” she says finally. “Did you know that? For a couple of years, they were both civil to each other, and whenever they met, they treated each other exactly how they did when they were married. They were cool towards each other, casual. Indifferent. And I thought that it meant that they were still in love because I didn’t realize that the marriage that they had wasn’t love. It was arranged. Not specifically, but by society. Pureblood norms, you could say. And when I see him with the new wife that he loves and the kids that aren’t purebloods, it makes my blood boil. Because I’m the product of this marriage that he never wanted, whereas they are… they are his in a whole sense. In a way that I never will be.”
“So you’re pissed off because you think that he doesn’t love you as much as he loves them.”
“I don’t think that, Percy. I know. Every time I write him, his letters get shorter. He doesn’t talk about me or ask me about myself. It’s all her, and them. And he never asks me to stay with them, even when I hint and I hint and…”
She trails off, and he knows that her next thought must be really bad if she isn’t able to say it to him.
They’ve stopped walking, and they’re so close to each other. He can see everything she is feeling on her face, maybe for the first time since they’ve known each other. They’re Percy and Annabeth. He makes stupid jokes that everybody laughs at and she chides him for their lack of artful craftsmanship in spite of the fact that she’s laughing on the inside. She gets good grades because she tries harder than anyone he’s ever known, but she expects more of herself too, and then she tries to teach him how to do the things that he cannot figure out how to do on his own. He tells her that she’s smart and pretends to be angry about it and she tells him that he’s an idiot even though she doesn’t mean it. That’s just how they are- what they do.
But they don’t usually get into the deep, nitty gritty aspects of their personalities, and on some level, Percy is glad Annabeth is doing it first.
“I want to get revenge. Punish him for not thinking that I’m good enough for him.”
“You are good enough for him. Better than him, actually.”
“I think you’re right. But I want to hurt him into seeing it, and that’s my problem. That’s what I’m mad about. I wish that I could just not care about him instead of letting him rile me up like this. I’m angry that he contributes to my imperfections.”
Percy wonders exactly how much time Annabeth spends analyzing herself. She must have picked apart every little piece by now. The thought wrenches him.
“You mean the cut on your upper lip?”
“And the way you always pronounce the word ‘integral’ wrong?”
She glares reproachfully at him, but Percy lets a small smile creep onto his face.
“We’ve all got stuff like that, Annabeth.” For some reason, he can’t look at her right now. He digs his hands deep into his pockets and lets his foot scrape back and forth on the floor. Percy feels older than his age, but then he’s glad about that because it means that he’s going to be able to say what he needs to say to her. “I have a scar on my eyebrow and I pronounce the word ‘façade’ wrong every time I say it even though I know that I’m not saying it right. And when I was ten, I got so angry at my dad that I decided it would be a good idea to punch a wall.”
He looks up for the first time, seeing her studying him intently.
“And my mom couldn’t afford to get it fixed so she had to buy a poster to cover it so that nobody would see.”
Percy hadn’t meant to be so candid about their financial status to her, but he can’t take it back now and a part of him knows that she won’t ridicule him for it even though she’s from a completely different station in life.
He trusts her.
“We’re all crappy people,” he points out, shooting her a lopsided smile to punctuate his statement. “Just don’t let that measly little fact ruin your life, I guess.”
“You guess?” she teases, starting to smile.
“I’m all out of maturity for the day,” Percy laughs. “Would you care for a fart joke?”
“Ugh, no. Save it for Jason.”
“Jason doesn’t like them either. Grover, on the other hand-”
“Hufflepuffs,” Annabeth sighs dramatically, shaking her head. “The lot of you are ridiculous.”
“Oh, and Ravenclaws aren’t?”
“We’re ridiculous in a more dignified way,” Annabeth tells him, nodding her head importantly.
“Well, you’re not going to have much dignity left if you’re caught out in the corridors after bedtime and get a detention.”
“That’s a good point.” She doesn’t look worried, though. “Goodnight, Percy.”
She pauses, uncertain, before darting forward and kissing him on the cheek.
“Thanks for making me smile.”
Just because she’s looking at her shoes when she says it, doesn’t make it any less awesome.
“You’re stirring the wrong way.”
He looks up from the top of their potion to see Annabeth, her book positioned carefully above the cauldron, staring critically down at the contents of it.
“No I’m not!” Percy protests. “It said clockwise.”
“And you’re stirring counterclockwise.”
He frowns before letting his eyes drift down to the direction of the large wooden spoon that he is using to stir the contents of the pewter cauldron.
“Oh. I was, um, looking at it in the mirror.”
Annabeth starts laughing.
He looks sheepish as he begins to stir in the other direction. Okay, so he hadn’t really been looking. Potions has never been his best class, and if he’s being honest, he usually depends on Annabeth to catch his mistakes before he can screw something up so royally that there’s no going back.
“Do you have the armadillo bile in your kit?” Annabeth asks, rummaging through it. “I can’t find it anywhere.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” Percy responds, trying not to smile. “I may have used that to make Grover fall down the stairs.”
Annabeth doesn’t know whether to laugh or scold, so she settles for quirking her lips up while saying his name in a voice that she considers to be properly offended.
“And why, exactly, did you make Grover fall down the stairs?”
“It was because he had turned my hair blue with a spell and I wanted to get him back for it, if you must know.”
“Your hair hasn’t been blue this year,” Annabeth observes as she triumphantly pulls armadillo bile out of her own potions kit.
“I got Professor Chiron to change it back before I went down to breakfast. And Grover is fine, you’ll notice. We called it even on prank wars and I can even sleep with both eyes closed now.”
Annabeth shakes her head, her ponytail swishing back and forth behind her. She doesn’t wear her hair down anymore; Percy wonders why she keeps it so long if she doesn’t like it. Annabeth always has it tied back somehow- in a braid or a bun or a ponytail behind her head.
He wonders if it’s normal to observe so much about one person.
“I thought you liked the color blue.”
Her words pull him out of his thought process, and Percy struggles to recalibrate himself in the real world.
“I like turtles, but that doesn’t mean I want to be one,” Percy retorts. “Hazel likes horses, but that doesn’t mean-”
“Okay!” Annabeth chuckles. “I get it. You win.”
He pauses for a moment.
“Is that the first time you’ve ever said that to me?”
Her hands don’t still on the bat wing that she is chopping into fine little pieces.
“That I win.”
“It probably is,” she says smoothly, effortlessly scraping the wings off of the cutting board and into the potion. They both stare at it anxiously until it turns the dark red color that the textbook promises. When it does, Annabeth sits back, satisfied with herself. She turns to look at Percy again. “After all, I don’t let you win a lot.”
“Okay, I agree that you’re right more often than not,” Percy admits. “But still. I must have corrected you on something over the course of our friendship. Something. Anything.”
Her hand is high in the air as she calls him over. Percy recoils at the annoyed look that their Professor gives the two of them, but Annabeth just gives him a pretty smile, coaxing him over to their work area.
“Did you finish?” he asks as he sidles up.
“Yes,” Annabeth nods, “and I think that you should add an addendum to the written instructions the next time you teach this potion, sir. You can skip step two if you just double the amount in step three and add a smidge of flobberworm mucus.”
Idly, Percy ponders the difference between being smart and being a perfectionist. He wonders where Annabeth lies on that line. Then he wonders how she’s lucky enough not to have been punched in the face by Professor Dionysius. Yet.
He thinks it’s ridiculous that there was a time in his life when he thought he could actually fancy Annabeth. He doesn’t fancy Annabeth. She’s his best friend, so obviously he could never be in love with her. He brought a blue cake to her house on her birthday because she’s his best friend. He wants to spend every possible moment of his day with her because she’s his friend. He wants to make her laugh and make her smile because she’s his friend.
When he sits at the Hufflepuff table during the opening feast and she sits at the Ravenclaw table, he actually misses her. Yeah, they’d seen each other on the train. But the opening and closing feasts are the only two times that people bother with the constructs of sitting at their House tables, and because of this, their group of friends is scattered all around the Great Hall. Percy raises his hand in greeting when he sees Annabeth looking at him, and she smiles and sticks her tongue out at him. He purposefully spins around on the bench, sitting up prim and proper as though teasing Annabeth for her casual nature.
She’s his best friend, and that’s all that matters.
The walk down to the Care of Magical Creatures hut isn’t long, but it’s lengthy enough that Percy doesn’t want to take it alone. When his watch beeps, alerting him to the fact that he has a half an hour to get to class, he hops off of his bed, places his robes over his right arm, and then makes his way to the Ravenclaw tower.
Annabeth is just leaving when he arrives, Piper and Rachel trailing behind her. Her face brightens as soon as she sees Percy, and she speeds up her steps as she approaches him.
“What did you get on the History of Magic test?” she asks in lieu of saying hello. Some of her long blond hair floats behind her, lifting in the air as she bounces closer. He loves the way it tickles his elbows once she’s settled in next to him, ready to walk to class.
“An EE, thanks to you,” Percy says, his voice content.
“I got an ‘O,’” Annabeth brags, spreading her lips wide in a smile. Percy knows how hard she works in school; academics are important to her, but she doesn’t necessarily excel in all areas without effort. Classes like DADA and Transfiguration are natural for her, but a course like History of Magic is something that she genuinely has to work hard to be able to succeed in.
He knows because he’s spent several long nights in the library, reading to her or reading over her shoulder or watching her read and trying not to fall asleep to the comforting lull of the way she turns pages, being sure to lick her finger before she does so. It sounds boring, but it’s one of his favorite things to do with Annabeth. He loves the glow that the soft lighting in the library casts on the features of his best friend, making her seem calmer. And he loves the way her hair falls across the table when she gets tired and lies with her head on her arm, reading the words over the tip of her nose.
“You earned it,” he says, meaning it. “And thank you for all of your help.”
She shrugs, modest now, which is something that she’s just learned to be in the past few years. At the start of their friendship, modesty was nonexistent with Annabeth. But she’s different now. Both of them are different, really.
“Thanks for your help.”
Percy scratches the back of his neck awkwardly.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“No, you did. Whenever you need help studying, you were helping me study too. Doofus.”
They make their way through the castle, gliding effortlessly across the shifting staircases. It used to be scary, trying to make their way up and down, but now they know exactly what to do. Being a Hogwarts student is officially second nature.
The front doors are open in preparation for students coming and going. Even during the winter, the students are forced outside for Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, and flying lessons for the first years. But it’s a much more pleasant experience on a crisp day like today, and Percy gladly tightens his cloak around himself as they exit the castle and start to make their way through the greenery outside.
Annabeth takes in an enormous breath, greedily gulping the fresh air into her lungs.
“I hear we’re covering unicorns in Care of Magical Creatures,” she says, oblivious to the way Percy is staring at her.
“Do you think he’s going to have an actual unicorn?” Percy asks. When Annabeth turns to him, her eyes are sparkling.
“There’ve been rumors,” she says mysteriously.
“Rumors? What rumors?”
“Nothing you should concern yourself with, Jackson.”
He shoves her playfully.
“You owe me!”
“Owe you?” Annabeth laughs, a bark-like sound that causes Percy to start chuckling in response. “I owe you?
“You do! After all the studying that I help you do? I’m the reason you’re so successful. You’re welcome.”
“This plant doesn’t even have magical properties! Why do we have to learn about it?”
“God you’re grumpy today,” Jason sighs, snapping Percy’s goggles.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” grumbles Percy, making a rude face in Jason’s direction.
“He’s just mad because they ran out of sausage at breakfast this morning and he didn’t get any for himself,” Frank tells Jason, conspiring against Percy.
“How can we bear his wrath?” Piper says sarcastically. Then her eyes brighten. “Annabeth, quick! Tame the dragon.”
She’s bent over the seaweed, purposefully wringing out the excess water so that the plant will dry properly. They’re going to be able to keep it and use it in their potions kits, so she’s doing her best to meticulously dry it out.
“What am I supposed to do?” she asks evenly, making a small note in her Herbology notebook about one of the properties of the plant. “Make sausage appear out of nowhere?”
“Could you?” Percy inquires pleadingly, bumping her hip with his hip. Annabeth looks up for the first time, only to give him a disapproving glare.
“I see that you’re extremely behind on your work,” she says pointedly. “Maybe you should stop thinking about sausage and start thinking about seaweed.”
“You’re right,” says Percy, looking as though the sun had suddenly come through the clouds on a cold winter day. “You’re absolutely right, Annabeth. From now on, every single moment of my life will be dedicated to seaweed.”
“She woke the monster,” Jason stage whispers. “Pipes, she made it worse.”
“Every day, I will wake up thinking of seaweed. I will eat it for breakfast. I will shower using it as soap-”
“Percy,” groans Annabeth, trying not to laugh at his antics. She fails epically, he might add.
“At night, I will dream of seaweed, taking the ghostly fantasy of it into the very marrow of my soul until the two of us- me and seaweed- become one.”
“Shut it!” Annabeth says. Percy stops talking, flashing her a goofy smile that makes her roll her eyes. “Seaweed Brain,” she adds under her breath.
He perks up.
“What was that?”
“Seaweed Brain,” Annabeth says more clearly, straightening her posture and looking him dead in the eye. “I called you Seaweed Brain.”
“Do you want to come to Christmas dinner?”
He doesn’t mean to say it; it just slips out before he can control himself. She’s standing at the center of Honeydukes, looking at the different types of special edition Bertie Botts flavored jelly beans, set out just for the holidays. Annabeth’s hand, clad in a purple glove, pauses on the display as she takes in his words. For a second, she keeps it lifted in the air. Then she lowers it to a box of jellybeans and tightens her fingers around it.
He hesitates, so she turns around, frowning as she stares at him intently. Percy feels his stomach lurch nervously, unsure of what to do now that he’s opened up this can of worms that he never meant to open. Well, maybe he had meant to. But it hadn’t been something that he had considered beforehand. He’s an impulsive person, but when it comes to Annabeth, he doesn’t normally make comments that would cause him to put his foot in his mouth. They’re so easy around each other that Percy is unused to this awkward, gnawing feeling in his stomach.
“You never seem to have a good time going between the two of your parents and I thought… I dunno… maybe you could come to Christmas dinner with me instead? And… and mum, of course. I mean, it’s nothing big like you have at your mum and dad’s house. I know that you have these big feasts. But we always have a really good time… we watch movies and have ham and mum figured out how to turn mashed potatoes blue a couple of years ago so-”
“Blue mashed potatoes?”
Percy stops looking at the ground and decides to look up, attempting to gauge the look on her face. She’s got her head tilted to the side and her teeth are on her bottom lip, scraping it delicately.
His throat feels weird- thicker- and he thinks that his eyes are going to burn from the humiliation of it all.
“How does she do it?”
“She won’t tell me. I think it’s illegal.”
“Maybe she’ll tell me.”
He looks up, quirking a smile.
“Yes. I’ll try to worm it out of her using my pureblood charms that I learned so well from my mother.”
They start heading towards the exit of the store, in spite of the fact that neither have bought anything. Percy always waits until the very last minute to get his Christmas gifts, and he has no doubt that Annabeth has already sent in mail orders for hers.
“Ah, at least she’s good for something,” he notes darkly, tugging the door open so that she can walk through it.
It’s so chilly that they can see their breaths, and as they trudge slowly through Hogsmeade, the snow crunches festively under their feet.
“Three Broomsticks?” Annabeth asks as she pulls her scarf closer to her neck, and Percy nods vigorously, suddenly desperate for a warm butterbeer. They begin to walk off in the direction of the restaurant, walking close together to keep warm. Every once in a while, Annabeth’s hand will brush against Percy’s, but he doesn’t mind.
He doesn’t mind at all.
Their friends are already in The Three Broomsticks when they arrive. Hazel catches Annabeth’s eyes and waves her over, so Percy and Annabeth immediately start towards their five friends, taking off their scarves, hats, and gloves as they go. Annabeth sits down next to Piper and Percy grabs the seat right next to her, seated next to Leo.
“Where were you guys?” asks Frank, setting down his pumpkin juice. It’s too late in the season for pumpkin juice, but Frank doesn’t like butterbeer, something that they all tease him about.
“Honeydukes,” Annabeth responds, placing her gloves in the hood on Percy’s cloak to keep them together. She flashes him a thankful smile when he doesn’t say anything about it. “I wanted to get some Bertie Botts for my step-brothers, but I’m thinking that maybe I won’t be seeing them over the course of the holiday.”
Percy doesn’t say anything about that in spite of the soaring feeling that he’s got in his stomach. Instead, he turns to Jason and claps his hands together, rubbing them against each other for dramatic effect.
“So I see that you’re nearly done with your butterbeer.”
Jason stares at him suspiciously.
“And you owe me for letting you copy my DADA homework…”
“Which you got the answers for from me,” Annabeth coughs in a way that is not at all meant to be subtle.
“So you should get both of us a butterbeer.”
“That would be the polite thing to do,” Piper says, nodding seriously. “As well as getting me another one.”
Jason grunts in annoyance as he launches himself up from the table and towards the bar. Annabeth gives Percy a little high five where his hand is resting on his thigh under the table.
“To laziness!” they toast when Jason comes back with their drinks.
“You should be glad that none of you are roommates with me,” he mutters. “I would find you at night and do bad things to your hair.”
“Oh, you mean what you do to your own hair? Yeah, I am glad!”
Percy doesn’t think he’s ever gotten a glare so intense.
Their feet are too loud on the stone steps that lead to the basement. Although Annabeth moves smoothly in her flat shoes, Percy’s trainers clomp loudly against the large, gray stairs. She glances over at him and rolls her eyes, but he just lifts a finger dramatically to his lips and makes a shushing motion at her.
“Oh, you’re telling me to shush?” Annabeth asks in a harsh whisper. “I’m not the one making all of the noise.”
“I could see it in your eyes,” Percy argues, “that you were about to talk.”
“Stop looking at my eyes and maybe you won’t make the same mistake again.”
“But if I did that, how would I be able to see the awe that you feel whenever you gaze upon my face?”
She glances over her shoulder one last time before they steadily begin to approach the portrait of the bowl of fruit.
“Are you sure you’re not mixing up the word ‘awe’ with the word ‘revulsion’?”
“Pretty sure, yeah.”
“Might wanna glance in a dictionary,” Annabeth advises as she lifts a finger and tickles the pear. It giggles before turning into a door handle, which Percy unceremoniously grabs and hauls open.
It’s not the first time they’ve snuck down into the kitchen, but usually they bring their friends with them. Tonight, however, everybody has gone to bed and Annabeth and Percy are stuck studying for their Ancient Runes test tomorrow. Piper, Jason, and Rachel had all had the foresight to take Divination while Percy and Annabeth toiled away in Ancient Runes. He had told Annabeth that he just wasn’t interested in the “inner eye,” but in reality, he didn’t want to bother being in a class that she wasn’t in when there was a chance that they could continue to help each other study. It makes sense to him, and he hadn’t missed the grateful smile that she had offered him when they had selected their courses.
But they’ve been avoiding studying by playing seven back to back games of pick up Quidditch, and the result of this is staying up until midnight in the library, frantically trying to avoid being caught by the teachers. Annabeth has a new invisibility cloak made out of Demiguise, an expensive gift that will only last her a decade but is still useful while they’re at school. Her mother had given it to her for Christmas, and Annabeth has already used it several times to aid Percy in his ongoing prank war with Grover, Jason, and Leo.
It would probably be easier to just study in their respective common rooms- after all, they could get detention from still wandering around the school at this time of night- but Percy and Annabeth are accustomed to studying together, and they’ve gotten into such a good pattern that it seems pointless to waste it. Studying without each other just doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. At 12:30, however, their eyes are beginning to water with fatigue and Percy feels like somebody just put a brick on top of his head. It had seemed pretty evident that they needed a snack.
Once they have a basket of food, Annabeth begins to head off to the tallest tower in the building, where they have their astronomy lessons. It seems obvious that they need some fresh air, even though the air is still a bit chilly from the winter. Once more, it seems that her steps are feather-light while Percy’s slam against the floors of Hogwarts. Annabeth cuts him a glare, but Percy just shrugs guiltily and gives her a weak smile.
“It’s your fault if we get caught,” Annabeth whispers furiously. They’re almost at the tower now, and when they’re more than halfway there, it feels a bit safer to talk.
“Actually, it’s your fault,” Percy corrects. “I may be loud, but you’re the one who chose to become friends with me. Therefore, if we get caught, it would technically be your fault, because it was your idea to befriend me and lure me up to the astronomy tower late at night.”
“You’re evil,” Annabeth sighs, dragging her willow wand out of the waistband of her school skirt and directing it towards the door. “Alohomora!” she hums, and the lock clicks before the door springs open towards them.
Once they’re inside and the door is closed, they speak normally again. Annabeth begins to place the food methodically on the floor, dividing it evenly between the two of them. She doesn’t say anything when Percy snatches the custard creams out of her hand before she can place them on her side.
Annabeth neatly arranges her skirt before crossing her legs and picking up a pastry between two delicate fingers. Percy, on the other hand, grabs a tart and shoves it into his mouth, moaning loudly as the raspberry explodes across his tongue.
“Percy!” Annabeth protests, her eyes wide. “You can’t moan right now! They’re going to think-”
She stops talking as her cheeks begin to burn red. Realizing what she’s getting at, Percy lets a lazy smile stretch across his face.
“They’re going to think what, Annabeth Chase?”
“Oh, c’mon, Wise Girl. You know everything. What are they going to think?”
She fiddles with her skirt nervously.
Percy loosens his Hufflepuff tie and stretches back, yawning hugely.
“I’ll wait. I have all night.”
“You’re actually going to make me say it?”
“You know, Percy.”
He finally takes pity on her.
“Well, I can think of one thing that you might be thinking about, but I know that you’re not.”
“And why is that?”
“Because both of us are too smart to get cooties, Annabeth. It’s a ridiculous suggestion.”
“You’re a ridiculous suggestion,” she mutters darkly, throwing a biscuit at him.
He catches it and eats it, ignoring the murderous look on her face.
“So it looks like I’m finally taller than you.”
He says it offhandedly one day, not counting on the flare that it would bring to her eyes. When Annabeth looks up from her Transfiguration homework, he can tell that he’s pissed her off. They’re sitting in the library and Percy is practicing wand movements while Annabeth etches her handwriting neatly onto a piece of parchment with a long, black feathered quill that her father had given her.
“So?” she says, quirking an eyebrow. “Why should I care?”
He fumbles with his wand for a moment and the wood almost slips from between his fingers when he sees the cold look that Annabeth is giving him. It seems to slip away from him all at once- why did he say that? Why does it matter? There’s no reason why Annabeth should be interested in the fact that he’s taller than her. And it’s just by a little bit; it’s nothing that most people would bother to notice. He doesn’t even know why he noticed.
“I don’t know,” Percy mumbles, face suddenly burning bright red. “I guess I just thought it was… notable.”
She sets down her quill and stares off into a distant corner of the library for a moment. The only movement that she makes is her fingers kneading together on the surface of the desk.
“We’re growing up,” she says quietly, and when she looks down at her hands, her long, blond eyelashes flutter with her movement. For a moment, Percy just focuses on them, and how pretty they are. “It’s… strange. I don’t like it.”
“You’re going to be fine,” Percy says. “Just because you’re shorter than me, doesn’t mean you’re a failure in life.”
She gives him an exasperated look that lets him know that she wasn’t just talking about height. He’s glad that he isn’t sitting next to her because Percy’s reasonably certain that she would have shoved him had he been in shoving distance.
“No, it’s just… everything seems to be happening really quickly. We’re at the halfway point in our Hogwarts careers and I’m already panicking about what I’m going to do when we get out of here.”
“That’s because you’re Annabeth,” Percy observes. “You do that because you’re you. But everybody else knows that you’re going to leave this place and take the world by storm.”
“Do you know what you want, though?”
He raises one of his eyebrows while keeping the other one low, creating a comical look on his face.
“I’m going to answer your question with a question: do you know what you want?” She shakes her head. “Well, if you don’t know what you want, how could you possibly expect me to know what I want?”
Annabeth laughs in disbelief.
“Your future goals don’t have to piggyback mine, Percy.”
“Oh, that’s not what I was commenting on.”
“I just meant that it would be kind of dumb to assume that I could get my life together before you got yours together.”
“Oh. Of course. Duh.”
“You know what they say about assuming, Annabeth Chase.”
He leans across the table, lifting himself out of his chair so that his elbows are right in front of her. This close to her gray eyes, he feels like he can see the storm that brews within them. He likes staring at the tiny intricacies of her irises, so instead of pushing back, he just remains there, studying her closely.
“Please don’t say it,” she teases, but her voice doesn’t sound as strong and sarcastic as it usually does when she’s discouraging his bad behavior. “I’d have to storm out of this library and I happen to be extremely comfortable right now.”
Only now can Percy find the strength to push back, and he does so with a laugh that just comes out awkward. The two of them stare at each other from across the table, not knowing what to say.
He is fourteen years old and he cannot fancy his best friend.
Percy almost drops the quaffle when he hears the words leave Jason’s lips.
“I said,” Jason replies, throwing the quaffle back to him, “you fancy Annabeth.”
“I most certainly do not fancy Annabeth!” Percy says indignantly, throwing the quaffle a little bit harder than usual. Jason gives him a disbelieving look. “What? I don’t.”
They have the Quidditch pitch to themselves because it’s freezing cold outside and nobody in their right mind wants to be outside playing Quidditch. But Jason and Percy both want to get onto their House teams, and doing so means practicing all of the time. Which is why they’re sitting on brooms in the freezing weather, tossing a ball back and forth. And apparently, Jason thinks that this is a good time to talk about Percy’s relationship with Annabeth. Which totally makes sense. Yeah.
“You don’t fancy her,” comes Jason’s flat reply. “Sure, fine. Then you won’t mind if I ask her to go to Hogsmeade with me, then.”
His stomach swoops with anxiety and his chest suddenly starts to feel cold.
Percy throws the quaffle so hard that it slams into Jason’s chest, nearly knocking him off of his broom. Jason swears loudly as he catches his breath, and Percy zooms down to retrieve the quaffle, which is now soaring towards the ground at an alarming speed, having used Jason’s chest as a diving board.
“I WAS JOKING!” Jason shouts in his direction, coughing and laughing at the same time. Percy directs his broom back towards Jason, contemplating flying at him and mowing him down, school rules be dammed. “I wanted to see how you would react- and I was right.”
“You’re not right!” Percy refutes. He can feel his face starting to turn red. Jason just flashes him a knowing smile. “You’re not. Ask her out! It’s fine! Go ahead. Have fun.”
“You’re an idiot,” Jason says, nodding wisely in Percy’s direction. He starts to tilt his broom downward, motioning that Percy should follow.
“I’m going to stay and do a couple of laps,” he says, not trusting himself to be on the ground with Jason.
And it’s not because he’s upset about the Annabeth thing. He just wants to get in a few laps around the Quidditch pitch. Because, really, why would he be upset about Jason taking his best friend to Hogsmeade? Everybody in their year is starting to pair off now and it shouldn’t be surprising if Jason wants to do the same. With Annabeth. Percy’s best friend.
They’d probably have a great time in Hogsmeade together. They’d hang out, and have lots of fun, and then they would end up spending tons of time together after that. Jason would join Percy and Annabeth in the library when they study every night, but instead of being reluctant to go back at curfew, they would head back to the Ravenclaw common room before then because they would have each other. And at the end of the night, Annabeth and Jason would vanish behind the large wooden door with the ornate knocker and Percy would not be able to follow them, which is probably good because they’ll spend all of their time snogging in that common room anyways.
He’s going to die alone. And, worse? He’s going to lose Annabeth as his best friend.
No. No! He’s not going to die alone and he’s certainly not going to lose Annabeth. One day they’re going to start dating people, and then they’re going to grow up and leave Hogwarts and get married and have kids, and that doesn’t mean that they have to lose each other. It just means that their lives are going to change a little bit. But they’re fourteen right now. They don’t need to worry about that yet.
The future is far, far away.
“The future is right around the corner,” Professor Stoll reminds them as he passes back their quizzes. “It is extremely important to begin thinking about what you want to do with your future. Certain jobs require specific qualifications, and therefore, when studying for your O.W.Ls, you should add extra focus in certain content areas.”
A glance at Frank shows that he’s experiencing a look of panic that is similar to the panic that Percy is feeling. O.W.Ls are more than a year away! Why would they be worrying about them right now?
“Of course, all areas in which you are taught at Hogwarts are crucial in being a functioning wizard in our society. You need to put copious amounts of time into studying everything that you’ll need to know for your O.W.L exams. Failure is not an option. You will notice that the teachers in your main subjects will be giving your more work than usual. Yes, school is about to become even more rigorous and time consuming than it has in the past. There’s very little time until you take the O.W.Ls, just about a year, so now is the time to begin preparing yourself.”
He stops pacing the classroom long enough to see the entire classroom of fourth years looking at him with shock on their faces. They don’t usually get pep talks, admittedly, and nobody is ready to talk about fifth year yet. Fifth year is hell year. This is fourth year. Fourth year is supposed to suck way less.
“What?” Professor Stoll says, looking only a little bit guilty. “I’m just the messenger!”
He happens upon her sitting on a window seat in a random alcove somewhere between the Hufflepluff dorms and the Ravenclaw tower. It’s purely coincidental that they’re both there at the same time, but it doesn’t stop Percy from sneaking up behind her and pressing two fingers into her sides. Annabeth shrieks and whirls around, her long blond ponytail slapping Percy in the face. As he splutters and spins away from her, she rams her book into his arm, causing him to catapult himself into the wall.
“Ow!” yelps Percy, grabbing the wall to keep from falling down. “Merlin, Annabeth!”
“You scared me!” she shrieks at him, her cheeks still red with surprise. “And you are not allowed to poke me ever again. Ever.”
“Hello to you too,” grumbles Percy, rubbing his arm where Annabeth hit him with her large, heavy textbook.
“Stop being a baby,” she tells him, jutting her chin at the arm. Percy’s mouth drops open.
“A baby? Annabeth, you attacked me with a book! It hurts.”
“You’re fine,” she scoffs.
He stares at her, face tense for a moment, before shaking his head and letting his robes fall off of his arms. After reaching behind his neck to pull his gray Hogwarts jumper over his head, he is left in a short sleeved undershirt and a bare arm that proudly displays an enormous red mark.
“Do you see?” demands Percy, thrusting his arm in her direction. “See what you did to me?”
She inspects it carefully.
“Are you sure I did that? Lots of people want to punch you in the arm. Leo does it quite a lot, you know.”
He laughs, reaching to the floor to grab his jumper and tug it back over his head.
“And by the way,” Percy adds, watching as Annabeth turns around and begins collecting the school things that are scattered all around the floor, “why did you attack me the muggle way? You know that you’re a witch, right?”
“It was my first instinct,” Annabeth admits, a small smile stretching across her lips. He can tell that she’s proud of herself and is trying hard not to show him exactly how thrilled she is. “And if the red mark on your arm is any indication, I did a damn good job. As a matter of fact, could you leave the robes off? I want people to see my marksmanship.”
“No way. I’d be a human target.”
“No more than usual, what with your general Seaweed Brain-ness and all that.”
“Haha,” he replies drily. “Very funny, Annie.”
“What did you just call me?”
“Oh, nothing at all. Beth.”
“Percy, you stop it right now!”
“Sure thing. Anna.”
“You know I hate nicknames.”
“Yes, I’m aware. Beth.”
This time, she actually does use magic to curse him. As he’s standing in the middle of the hallway, watching her walk away and feeling a thousand hands viciously tickle his body simultaneously, Percy actually feels kind of proud of her.
It’s been raining for weeks, courtesy of their lovely Scotland weather, and Percy just wants to get out of the castle. However, it’s also a lazy Sunday, and their group specializes in lazy Sundays. Currently, they’re all spread out across the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, where they’ve been ever since lunch. Leo and Frank are playing a rousing game of Exploding Snap, already having nearly burnt off their eyebrows several times. Jason and Piper are playing wizard’s chess with Annabeth’s new set; they’re bent low over the table, with their eyes narrowed and their brows creased as though this will help them catch every detail. Hazel, Grover, and Rachel are pouring over a divination textbook and discussing different techniques for the subject.
Percy just wants to play Quidditch.
“Does anybody want to have a fly?” he asks to the general group, even though he doesn’t feel very hopeful. Getting them to move on lazy Sunday is nearly impossible.
Unsurprisingly, his question is met with general silence. Percy sighs and reaches into his bag to pull out some paper, hoping to doodle on it if he can’t think of anything else to do. When he resurfaces from under the table, Annabeth is looking at him, her finger marking her spot in the book.
“When was the last time we raced?” she wonders out loud, her eyes on his face.
Percy shakes his head as he tries to think.
“A while, I guess. You won.”
“Well,” Annabeth says, smirking. “I always win.”
“Is that a challenge, Chase?”
“I think it is, Jackson.”
They get up at the same time.
“Bye!” Annabeth calls over her shoulder.
“We’ll be back soon!” Percy informs their friends.
They barely even raise their hands to acknowledge a goodbye.
Annabeth goes to grab her expensive broom from the Ravenclaw tower and, when she returns, is holding a second broom in her other hand. Percy raises his eyebrows.
“It’s Jason’s,” she admits. “I wanted the race to be fair. Can’t allow you to lose to me while on a subpar broom.”
“Awww,” says Percy, “You snuck into the boy’s dorm just so I could beat you on a better broom? Bless you, Annabeth.”
The Quidditch pitch is mercifully empty when they get there, as most kids are lounging on the grass to enjoy the first dry day in a while, or, in the case of the upperclassmen, studying furiously instead of enjoying the post-lunch lolling about that most Hogwarts students choose to partake in on Sundays.
They practically sprint to the field, slightly winded by the time they get there and get their running jumps onto their broomsticks. For a moment, Percy just savors the feeling of being able to soar through the air, feeling the wind flying through his hair. He’s actually flying, and it’s something that will never cease to amaze him.
Annabeth does not share the same amazement.
“Five times around the pitch,” she says in a professional voice, hovering by one of the goalposts. “If you bump into a goalpost, you have to start that lap over.”
“Please,” Percy responds, rolling his eyes. “Neither of us are amateurs, Annabeth.”
“Fine. Whoever reaches the goalpost first wins. On the final lap, you have to touch it so that there’s no mistaking of a tie, in case it’s that close. Ready?”
“Yep,” Percy says, voice cocky even though he’s never beat her in one of these races. She’s had far more practice than he has even if she doesn’t savor flying as much as he does. “Let’s go.”
He doesn’t plan on beating her- he really doesn’t. He never has before, and he’s more than happy to see the rosy pink that tinges that she gets when she’s excited about something. He likes seeing the giant smile on her face when she wins, even when she’s gloating about something. He likes the pat on the back that she gives him, letting her hand linger for a little longer than necessary, and he always analyzes it for several minutes after she does it because best friends don’t let their hands linger on other friends’ backs. Right?
Percy totally doesn’t mean to beat her, which is why they’re both taken aback when it happens.
He drifts slowly to the ground, a strange feeling of regret mixing with the euphoria in his stomach. Annabeth follows more quickly than he does, clambering off of her broom far more gracelessly than she usually does. Despite the fact that she didn’t win, she still looks beautiful. Her face is bright from the exercise, her hair is windswept and tangled, which is a look that the public rarely gets to see on Annabeth Chase, and a gloriously enormous smile is on her lips.
“That was phenomenal, Percy!” she praises, her voice loud and deliriously happy. “The way you took those corners was unbelievable. You’ve been practicing a ton, haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” he replies slowly, trying to comprehend her mood. Annabeth isn’t usually happy when she loses. Not that she loses a lot. Or ever. “I actually read some of the books that you gave me about flying technique and I learned some good body positions for rounding corners.”
“It definitely worked!” Annabeth praises. “I think that you could make the House team next year for Hufflepuff.”
He’s still not smiling, even while she radiates her glee onto him.
“That’s cool,” Percy says, and Annabeth frowns, biting her lower lip. He can’t look at her. He turns around and starts to walk away.
“Percy?” comes her questioning voice, and he feels her hand on his arm.
He doesn’t want to turn around. How is he supposed to explain that he was looking forward to the consoling pat on the back and the way she would sympathetically meet his eyes? But when her hand clasps more tightly around his arm, he turns around anyways because it’s not in his nature to refuse Annabeth Chase anything.
Which is why he doesn’t refuse when her lips quickly meet his and mash forcefully against them.
Well, that’s one reason.
Among other things.
Annabeth is kissing him.
And her hand is still on his arm while the other one twists into the fabric of her skirt, and that’s when Percy realizes that his eyes are still open so he makes the conscious decision to close them, leaning further into the feeling of her lips pressed against his as his hands hang uselessly at his sides.
When she pulls back, he wishes that he had kept his eyes closed so that he didn’t have to see the look of horror in her expression.
They both run off in separate directions.
They’ve never gone this long without talking to each other, and now that Percy knows what kissing can do to a relationship, he has decided that he never wants to kiss Annabeth again. Ever. After all, when she had run off that day, panic in her eyes, he hadn’t thought that it would lead to an entire summer without any communication. He hadn’t written her because he hadn’t wanted to seem like he was hitting on her or trying to get her to go out with him, and he has a feeling that she hadn’t written him because she feels ashamed of what she's done.
That said, it’s with less enthusiasm than usual that Percy pushes his cart into the brick wall that will lead him and his mother onto platform 9 ¾. It’s buzzing with cheerful, excited voices and teeming with Percy’s fellow Hogwarts students, and normally the sight would make his heart explode with delight. But today, all he can do is keep his eyes open, waiting for Annabeth to appear and find out how they’re going to approach the situation. She’s always been the alpha in their friendship, so it makes sense that she’s going to lead the way. She’s the one that hadn’t spoken to him after she’d kissed him on the mouth, so to Percy, it had only made sense to not speak to her either.
He takes her cues. He always has.
If his mum has noticed, she doesn’t say anything. She hasn’t asked about Annabeth all summer- not since he had come home from school and promptly dropped himself onto his bed, allowing his frustrated, angry yell to be swallowed by his pillow. He spent a lot of the summer near his pillow. It’s always there for him. It’s dependable.
Of course, he’d also gone to one of Rachel’s vacation houses with their friends, and he had been genuinely expecting Annabeth to be there as well. When he casually tried to ask why, Rachel had given him a sympathetic smile and told him that Annabeth had declined the invitation.
The female voice that leaps up to him isn’t Annabeth, so Percy is able to take his time turning around to look at Hazel.
“Hey,” he says, voice disheartened at the sight of her.
“Not the girl you wanted to see?” she asks knowingly, and she gives him a sad little smile when she sees the angst on his face.
“Nothing personal,” Percy says as he nods.
“I know,” Hazel replies. “She’s going to have to talk to you eventually, Percy.”
Their friends don’t know what happened, but they do know that it got really weird really fast between Percy and Annabeth, and that’s probably enough to figure it out on their own. Of course, Percy doesn’t know who would ever assume that he and Annabeth would kiss each other. It’s so out of the blue.
Hazel has turned to his mum and begun a conversation about a television program that they both watch, so Percy has the chance to look for Annabeth. His green eyes dart purposefully around the platform, skimming desperately for the person that he’s been missing since the end of the year last year. When his gaze lands on her, she’s already looking at him.
Percy wonders if it’s coincidental that she’s biting her bottom lip.
When Annabeth sees him looking at her, her first instinct is to lock her jaw and square her shoulders. When he makes no movement to walk towards her, instead staring at her, she lets out a breath and starts making her way towards him. As she walks, he observes a shiny prefect badge resting right above her left breast. He also observes the fact that her face seems older- much more mature than it had the last time he saw her. He wonders if he looks any different.
It wouldn’t be surprising if she grew up and left him behind.
“Hello, Percy,” Annabeth says stiffly. “Hi, Mrs. Jackson.”
“Hi, Annabeth,” Percy’s mum says, her brows knitting together with concern. “Did you have a good summer?”
The ‘no’ is on the tip of her tongue, but at the sight of Percy’s eyes clamped onto her, Annabeth tightens her jaw again.
“Um, yes. I suppose. It was alright.” Which in polite pureblood means ‘it was utter and complete shit.’ Percy bites back a smile. “Listen, Percy, I have to get on the train to do my prefect duties. But I was wondering if we could talk before then?”
His throat starts to feel thick, but all he can do is nod and reach up to kiss his mum goodbye.
“Have a good year,” she whispers in his ear, her voice musical. He loves her voice. “I love you.”
“I love you more,” he promises, even though she rolls her tear-filled eyes. “I’ll see you at Christmas.”
Annabeth helps him hoist his trunk onto the train, and as they get onboard early, there are several empty compartments to choose from. Annabeth picks one on the left side of the train and holds the door open for Percy, giving him a weak smile as he passes her. When the door closes, she is all business.
“So,” she says, “I think we need to address what happened last year.”
Percy sits down on a chair, his face neutral.
Annabeth takes a breath.
“Percy… I’m so sorry. I never should have done that. I have no idea what came over me. I got caught up in the moment and lost my head. It’s all my fault and I promise that I will never do that to you again. Our friendship is just too important to screw up over something as stupid as a random, spur of the moment… you know. So… please forgive me.”
His throat feels like it has peanut butter in it as he nervously swallows and then scratches the back of his neck. For a moment, he wonders why she can’t even say the word ‘kiss.’ Then he ponders if anything in her statement had left an opening for him to say something about it- to start a discussion. Then he realizes that he’d much rather have her back as a friend than be able to kiss her again.
“Of course I forgive you,” he says, allowing a fake smile onto his lips. He hopes that it seems more genuine than it feels, because while he’s glad that he has her friendship back, there’s a small part of his heart that feels like it’s breaking.
“Thank you!” Annabeth exclaims, leaning forward to hug him. She changes her mind at the last moment and reaches out her hand to shake his instead. “I have to go to the prefect compartment, but I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay,” he replies, the smile still plastered onto his face.
As she exits the compartment and he sits down on the seat, the words I promise that I will never do that to you again ring through his head in an endless loop.
“Would you stop pacing? You’re going to make the team. I know it.”
He stops pacing long enough to flip her off, which just serves to make both Annabeth and Athena flash him annoyed looks.
“Okay, I get why you’re pissed off, but why is your owl giving me the stink eye?”
“She’s very protective of me,” Annabeth coos, scratching the owl’s head. “Aren’t you, Athena?”
Percy wishes that there was someone to exchange a sarcastic glance with, but it’s just the two of them sitting in the owlry while Annabeth catches up with Athena. If Mrs. O’Leary were here, she’d probably side with Percy, but she’s a cat and cats only understand their own sarcasm. As it is, he’s reasonably positive that she’s curled up somewhere in the yellow folds of his bedcovers, taking her 80th nap of the day.
“Whatever. I’m still going to pace.”
He starts walking again, treading the same path over and over again as the anxiety rolls in his stomach.
“Percy. You’re going to make the team.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know!”
“Did they say something about me?”
Annabeth gives him a look.
“No, Percy. No they did not.”
Percy racks his hands through his hair, making it even messier.
“Why aren’t you nervous?” he demands, turning to Annabeth. Her tryouts had been yesterday, and she hasn’t shown a single sign of weakness since they had taken place. “Did Jason guarantee you a place on the team or something?”
“He’s not captain,” Annabeth reminds him. “He’s only been on the team for half a year!”
Jason had gotten onto the Ravenclaw House team because one of their keepers had fallen off of his broom when going for a particularly spectacular save in a game against Slytherin. He had needed to be replaced for his physical injuries and then, because he was a seventh year, had decided that he didn’t want to play anymore. Jason Grace had, per usual, gracefully answered the call.
“Still. He could put in a good word for you.”
“I certainly hope he does,” Annabeth admits. “But that doesn’t guarantee me a spot on the team, especially if I don’t deserve it. He’ll only put in a word if I’m the best one for the job. He doesn’t play favorites like that.”
“When is your list going to go up?”
“Tonight. In the common room.”
Percy finally gives up on pacing and hauls himself onto the ground next to Annabeth, wincing in pain at the feeling of hitting the hard, cold floor so hard. Annabeth doesn’t say anything about it, instead choosing to put all of her focus on Athena. The gray owl seems particularly pleased at the attention that she’s getting today; Percy knows that Annabeth doesn’t have as much time for her at school. At home, however, when Annabeth is locked in the gigantic mansion that her mother lives in, Athena is basically the only contact she has outside of her mother and the house elves that they live with.
“Did you talk to your dad over vacation?” Percy asks, giving Athena’s chin a scratch. The owl hoots in response, moving away from Percy and closer to Annabeth, who tries not to giggle at the indignant look on Percy’s face. “What the hell did I do?”
“Nothing,” Annabeth promises. “She’s just picky like that. I guess she doesn’t really approve of you.”
“Approve of me? She’s an… you know what, never mind. Your dad. Did you talk to him over vacation?”
Annabeth’s eyes seem to turn a shade darker as she stares down at the floor.
“I didn’t talk to anyone over vacation, really.”
Her voice is so sad that he wants to reach over a hand to comfort her, but he doesn’t do that because that would be weird and they’re already in such a tentative place. It’s getting easier to pretend that things are normal, but sometimes he just wants to come out and say it. Tell her that he fancies her and that he dreams about her all the time, and when he wakes up, he doesn’t even realize that they’re not together until halfway through brushing his teeth because it seems so real and so natural. He wants to look over and say I like you and have it not be weird, because he does. He likes her.
“So you didn’t see your dad,” he surmises.
“I was… studying.”
“And he was busy.”
“And, okay, it’s kind of my fault.”
She hits him on the arm.
“Percy! You weren’t supposed to agree with that!”
“Well, it sort of was your fault.”
She looks repulsed by him, but he doesn’t know what she wants him to say.
“Just because he has another family, doesn’t mean he’s your evil step-father, Annabeth,” Percy reminds her, his voice gentle.
He feels like pushing a piece of hair back from her face and tucking it behind her ear, so he does.
“But he doesn’t want me.”
“Okay, so he’s made some extremely shitty decisions in the past. But life is about giving people second chances. Right?”
“So if your dad came back, you would just let him into your life?” Annabeth inquires skeptically.
Percy shakes his head.
“No. But it’s different.”
“He walked out when I was a baby, Annabeth. And the divorce wasn’t a mutual decision- or even anything that my mum saw coming- and he never sent me birthday cards or Christmas gifts and he never tried. Your dad tries. You have to award him something for doing that.”
“I never thought that my dad would look like the more attractive parent in any situation.”
“Also, you never thought that I would out-logic you,” Percy points out, looking a little smug as he crosses his arms over his chest. “How does it feel?”
“Please. I taught you everything you know. You’re welcome, Percy.”
He shoves her and she shoves him back and in that moment Quidditch doesn’t seem to matter as much.
“We’re going to beat you tomorrow.”
She says it like it’s most obvious thing in the world, when Percy doesn’t really think it’s true. Hufflepuff may not have the best House team, but neither does Ravenclaw, and he’s pretty sure that they’re reasonably evenly matched. Still, Percy doesn’t say anything as he pulls open a tapestry that leads to a hidden passageway and allows Annabeth to duck under his arm.
“What? We totally are!”
“I’m sure,” he says absently, knowing that it will drive her up the wall to hear the lack of competition in her voice.
This is totally gonna be his strategy whenever they have games against each other. He’s just going to pretend like he doesn’t care and it’s going to rile her up so much that she’ll be completely distracted during the game tomorrow and Hufflepuff will reign victorious.
“You don’t seem upset enough about the fact that we’re about to kick your ass.”
Her eyes are tired from spending so much time in the library, but it’s fifth year and they’ve both emotionally prepared themselves for the hell that they’re about to go through.
“Well, you beat us the last time you played us, so I guess I’m just reconciling myself to the fact that we’ve already had dinner tonight and there’s no chance for me to go downstairs and get another slice of cake.”
“Hey, do you think we could bribe the house elves into making us blue cake? I mean, we do have kind of a friendship going down there. We’re pretty tight, us and the house elves.”
They’re nearing the Ravenclaw tower and Annabeth is struggling not to laugh. When they pull up to the wooden door, Annabeth hesitates before putting her hand on the knocker. She turns around to Percy, who is still standing there, trying not to stare at the way she looks when she’s only illuminates by the moon coming in through the windows and the torches that are alight on the walls.
“Well, have a goodnight,” Annabeth whispers, smiling at him. The grin that he gives her is kind of lopsided because of the way that she’s staring at him. He wishes that he could reach out and touch her hand, but he digs his hands into his trouser pockets instead, lifting his shoulders up in an elongated shrug. His foot scuffs back and forth when he looks back up to her again, seeing her studying his movements.
“You too,” he replies, far too late.
“Goodnight,” she says again, savoring the word.
She’s way too close to him. Before he can do anything stupid, like kiss her again and completely wreck their friendship, Percy whirls around and practically sprints down the hallway, leaving Annabeth standing behind him, alone in the corridor.
She’s like a princess. A beautiful, badass warrior princess who beats people up with books and has amazing quidditch skills and is the smartest, funniest person he’s ever met. He loves fighting with her, and he loves talking to her in general, and he never gets sick of her and never wants her to leave him alone. He loves watching her interact with his mum and he loves playing Quidditch with her and he even loves studying with her in the library, which is weird because he absolutely hates studying.
And he isn’t sure, but he think he might actually love her.
If he is in love with her, that means that their friendship is totally destroyed anyways, right? So what cause does he have to not tell her? What’s the point of not kissing her? She kissed him once, and that has to mean something, and she was standing so close to him in that hallway. So ridiculously close.
He changes directions without even thinking about it, and then he’s sprinting the wrong way- away from the Hufflepuff living quarters and back towards the Ravenclaw tower. When he gets there, Rachel Elizabeth Dare is standing right in front of the door.
“Ha!” she says, enthralled. “I knew I was supposed to be here right now!”
Percy stops, nonplussed for the first time.
“I just had a feeling that I had to get to the tower, and I was right.”
He raises his eyebrows, deterred.
“Really. So you want to see Annabeth, right?”
“Right! And, Rachel?”
“Can you grab her fast? Before I completely lose my nerve.”
She beams at him.
Rachel answers the riddle quickly and the door swings open for her. She disappears and Percy tries to compose any form of coherent thought in his head, jumping up and down to keep his heart pumping. There’s no way he’s going to be able to do this if he’s calm or relaxed. He’s going to do it like a normal boy: he’s just going to tell her, and then see what happens, and he’s going to worry about their friendship later because he needs this, he’s fancied her since they were eleven and they’re nearly sixteen and if he hasn’t gotten over her year, he isn’t going to be getting over her now.
But all of his plans go out the window when Annabeth has exited the Ravenclaw common room and is standing right in front of him. Her hair, usually tied up in a bun or a ponytail or in a braid, is loose around her elbows. She’s wearing soft shorts to sleep in and a Ravenclaw t-shirt and a look of confusion on her face.
“What are you doing, Seaweed Brain?” she asks, voice warm. “You’re going to be out after-mmph.”
He wasn’t supposed to start off with kissing her, but his heart is pounding so fast that he can’t hear anything and can’t think anything and the only thing left to do is to press his lips against hers, light at first, and then, as her lips come alive underneath his, harder. He decides to place his hand in her hair, tangling it up in the curls there, and the other one is on her cheek, cupping the skin there. Annabeth, for her part, moves her hands from pressing against his chest to winding around his neck so that she can crush her body harder against his.
“I thought we said we weren’t going to do that anymore?” Annabeth reminds him, pulling back breathlessly. She’s smiling so hard that Percy has to kiss her again.
“I change my mind,” he murmurs. “I really, really changed my mind.”
“Fine by me,” she says against his lips before threading her fingers into his hair and pulling him back down again.
“Would you stop laughing?”
He breaks away for the third time in the past five minutes to glare at Annabeth. She’s biting her lip, looking guilty but not nearly chastised enough for laughing while he was kissing her. At the thunderous look on his face, she bursts out laughing again.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! It’s just weird. I’ve wanted to kiss you for a really long time and now that it’s actually happening it’s like… you’re Percy. And we’re snogging.”
She bursts out into laughter all over again while Percy stares at her in shock, thoroughly put out. She’d been happy enough to find a corridor to hide in with him after they had their second kiss, but she hasn’t been able to hold it together since they started snogging and she’s making it awkward. He presses his lips together, dejected.
“I’m not going to keep trying to snog you if you’re going to keep laughing about it. We don’t have to try a relationship. We can just be friends.”
They can’t just be friends. There’s no way he’d be able to handle that now that he knows that she fancies him too. Now that he knows what it’s like to kiss her and hold her and feel her breasts brush against his chest as he twists his fingers into the curls that lie at the bottom of her hair.
“No, I can do this. I can keep it together.” She smiles awkwardly at him. “I want to be with you, Percy.”
It’s the latter statement that melts him, and his lips are immediately on hers again, coaxing her tongue into his mouth with a little bit of nonverbal communication. But as soon as she sighs into the kiss, she becomes conscious of what they’re doing and starts to giggle again.
“Shit! I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing,” Percy sighs. “Maybe we’re just not supposed to be-”
“No!” She places a finger on his lips, stopping him. “We’re supposed to be together. I just have to… I don’t know… work at it?”
“Are you not attracted to me?” he asks her, stumbling over the words because they’re just too awkward to get out.
“I am extremely attracted to you,” Annabeth promises. “I’m just not used to this.”
“Neither am I,” he reveals. “Okay, hang on. I have an idea.”
He stands up, stepping away from her for a moment to take off his jumper, his tie, and then his collared shirt. Annabeth’s eyes widen and she bites her bottom lip.
“Oh,” she says, and Percy starts to smirk.
“Quidditch,” he says by way of explanation. “We’ve been practicing a lot lately.”
“I can certainly see that.”
She looks up at him, not smiling at all. When he sits back down on the bench, directly in front of her, Annabeth’s cloudy eyes don’t leave his face. She leans in, eyes still wide open, and hesitates for a moment before fitting her lips to his. Something warm and tender blossoms in Percy’s stomach, and he brings his hand to the side of her neck where he can feel her pulse point beating against his thumb.
This time, when Annabeth sighs, she doesn’t start laughing. She just swipes her tongue over his bottom lip and allows her hands to travel off of his shoulders and onto his chest, making him moan at the feeling of her fingers dusting all over his flesh and making him feel like tantalizing feathers are ghosting over his skin.
As he tentatively moves his hand from her hip to her lower back, he has a feeling that they’re going to be okay.
They hold hands when they walk into the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning and don’t say anything as the entire table begins to gossip about the fact that Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase are officially in a relationship.
“I missed you.”
He grins and rolls his eyes as he backs her against the wall, pressing her against it as gently as he can.
“You saw me three days ago,” he reminds her, lips ghosting over the skin at her neck. Annabeth sighs and puts a hand in his hair, stroking it tenderly.
“And I missed you.”
Percy really likes kissing her. He likes the way they figured each other out- how to be together. They’d spent the entire summer at Percy’s house, going to movies, spending time with his mum, and snogging when she wasn’t at home. At first, being able to touch Annabeth whenever he wanted to- and having her do the same- seemed strange. They had spent so much time purposefully not acting like a couple. But now they are a couple, and everything is different all over again.
“Okay. I missed you too.”
They’re in a broom cupboard in the basement because Annabeth had been walking Percy to his dorm when they had suddenly realized that they hadn’t kissed in three days. And that was completely unacceptable. But he likes being this close to her, and he’s not really complaining about the size of the broom cupboard because her scent seems to be surrounding him and he’s never loved lemons so much.
His jumper is hanging on a broom that’s in the corner of the closet, and Annabeth’s hands are now tugging his white button down out of his trousers so that she can slide her hands up the warm flesh of his back and press him closer to her. He lifts his lips back up to hers when he feels her do that, smiling into their kiss when he sucks on her tongue and she sighs into his mouth.
“Do you know what you want now?”
She pulls back, tracing a finger along the side of his face.
“Like, in this moment?”
“No. Like, the future. Remember how we were talking about how we didn’t know what we wanted out of life and we didn’t have any plans?”
Annabeth lifts an eyebrow.
“And you’re thinking about this while we’re snogging? Am I boring you, Percy Jackson?” He kisses her thoroughly to prove that she most certainly is not boring him. “Okay. I see your point. But that was two years ago. Why are you thinking about it now?”
“We have to pick classes tomorrow at breakfast,” he tells her. Annabeth’s eyes widen in realization. He wishes that he’d had the good sense to have this conversation after they were done snogging. His mind is half on what he wants in the future and half on what he wants in the present- which is, incidentally, to get Annabeth’s shirt off. Although he’s pretty sure that he’ll want that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, so it technically is a long term goal.
“And you don’t know what you want to do?”
“Not really. No.”
“Take the courses that make you want to work hard,” is Annabeth’s sage advice, but Percy doesn’t know what to do with that because he usually studies with her and being around Annabeth seems to make him want to work harder and to do better in general. “Take the stuff that seems to have meaning behind it and isn’t just about wand work for you.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question seems to startle her; he can see the surprise in her eyes. Then she squints her eyes in the darkness, letting them drift away from his face and up to the ceiling. She chews on her bottom lip contemplatively and Percy leans down to kiss her, gently prying her lower lip from her teeth as he does.
“I want… this,” she says clearly. “My best friend and my boyfriend. I like how they blend together like this.”
“Me too,” he agrees, pressing his forehead against her head.
“It just feels like we’re already growing up so much… the concept of ‘when I grow up’ is too close, Percy. I don’t want to leave this school.”
“I don’t either,” he grouses. “Let’s just stay here.”
“In this broom cupboard?”
“In this broom cupboard.”
They’re silent for a few moments, holding each other.
“I like architecture.”
Percy pulls back.
“That’s what I want to do when I grow up. I like buildings. I like things that are enormous and undefeatable and permanent. And I like the art of them. The way they curve and dive and the fact that they can be so pretty and so strong at the same time.”
He thinks that Annabeth herself is pretty and strong, but he doesn’t know if it sounds too cheesy to say it, so he kisses her forehead instead, savoring the feeling.
“That’s incredible, Annabeth.”
“I know it’s not a very magical job, but there are Ministry architects, and people that work for the National Quidditch Association that design pitches and stadiums, and I can also work in the muggle world as well, even though I wouldn’t need to use my magical background. I was thinking about going to muggle University and getting a degree. Professor Hunter told me that there are specific universities that partner with Hogwarts and allow the students to get degrees that will enable them to work in the muggle world.”
“You’ve been researching this.” He feels something odd nagging at his stomach and takes a few seconds to try to figure out what it is. “You didn’t tell me that you were interested in it, but you were… researching it…”
Annabeth catches his hurt immediately and extends her neck so that she can peck his lips.
“It’s not you, I promise,” she says. “I just didn’t really know if it was what I truly wanted and I didn’t want to excite you if it wasn’t. And, besides- I would be going to a muggle university and I’m not really sure how you feel about that.”
“Annabeth, I’d be fine. I’m a half-blood, remember? I spent my entire childhood in the muggle world.”
She makes a face.
“Oh yes. How could I forget when you annoyed me so fervently when we were first years?”
“My awe for the wizarding world was annoying?” Annabeth nods vigorously. “I would hypothesize that you were just extremely confused about how attracted your eleven-year-old self was to me and got the emotions that you were feeling swapped up with annoyance.”
“You would, huh?”
“I think you’re wrong.”
She peppers kisses down his jawline, moving slowly over the smooth flesh that is there. He’s sixteen years old and he wishes he would have to shave more, but Annabeth doesn’t seem to mind and he doesn’t care because she doesn’t care.
“We’re going to figure this out for you, Percy,” she says, placing her hand over the spot that she has just kissed. “We’re going to find out what you want to do with your life. You and me. Together.”
“You don’t have to,” mumbles Percy, looking down at the floor. Annabeth places her hands on his cheeks so that she can, lift his head up, forcing him to look directly into his eyes.
“I know I don’t have to, Seaweed Brain. Now c’mon. We’re going to get caught by the prefects if we stay out too much longer.”
“Hey,” he says as he moves to get his jumper. “You’re a prefect. Do you have to turn us in?”
“Shut up, Jackson,” Annabeth instructs.
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
Annabeth looks up from her Ancient Runes homework with a confused look on her face.
“Why would you ask me that?”
“Just… something I heard Piper say.”
Annabeth sighs and sets down her quill.
“I’m staying here for Christmas.”
He suddenly feels like somebody has dumped icy cold water over his head. All this time, he’s been talking about how excited he is to go home for Christmas and be with his mother and experience their yearly traditions together and Annabeth’s been planning on staying at school.
“Come to Christmas with us!”
She looks so uncomfortable. She’s actually fidgeting in her chair.
Annabeth looks up, eyes frustrated.
“Percy, my mother is going on vacation, okay? I don’t have anywhere to stay. I can’t stay with you for the entire vacation, especially because you don’t have a guestroom. And I’m not allowed to go home while she’s not there and all of the elves are going to be celebrating together anyways. I would just get in the way of their vacation.”
“Stay with your dad,” he suggests. His eyes widen at the murderous look on Annabeth’s face.
“Okay, fine, you’re right,” he concedes, backtracking before she can get so angry that their relationship is irreparable. “I’ll just stay here.”
Annabeth’s body freezes.
“I’ll stay here. We’ll have Christmas together. Our first Christmas as a couple.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You didn’t ask. I offered.”
“You’ve been looking forward to going home and seeing your mum for months. You love spending Christmas with her. You have absolutely no responsibility to spend it with me whatsoever.”
“Annabeth, I realize that it’s not my responsibility. But I want to spend it with you. I want to spend every day, every night, and every holiday with you because I love you. Remember? We’ve definitely been over this before. I can pull out the transcripts.”
“Transcripts? Are we testifying in front of the Wizengamot?” she asks drily.
“Hey now. Be nice to me. I’m sacrificing my Christmas for you.”
“Percy, I told you that-”
“Relax. I’m joking.” She continues to scowl at him. “If you smile, I’ll help you with your Ancient Runes homework,” he coaxes.
It’s the only subject that he’s better than her in, something that he likes to remind her of quite often. Annabeth wrinkles her nose as looks down at the long translation that she’s doing.
“Alright. Only because I owe it to you. All the extra practice, you know. You’re welcome.”
Percy nods understandingly.
It’s a mark of how important today is that all of the students are out of bed before 9:30. Usually, the Great Hall is empty before that time on Saturday mornings. Today, however, is different. Today is Quidditch. If the whole school doesn’t get out of bed in the morning to watch Quidditch, you know there’s something wrong.
The Gryffindor and Slytherin tables have split amongst themselves, all wearing pieces of clothing that indicate whether they support Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. Over at the Gryffindor table, several students sport badger puppets that they made to support the Hufflepuff team. Down the table, another Gryffindor has a raven hat.
By the time Percy gets out of the shower and gets into his Quidditch uniform, the entire school seems to have gathered in the Great Hall. Annabeth, Jason, Piper, and Rachel are all sitting at the Ravenclaw table, clustered together. Frank and Hazel are there too, looking thoroughly out of place in the yellow and black that loudly shouts their House affiliation. Hazel moves over as soon as she sees Percy, giving him a welcoming smile. He smiles in return as he slides onto the bench next to Annabeth, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her in for a kiss.
“Good morning,” he says, voice low and quiet.
“Good morning,” she echoes, adjusting his sweater and smoothing it out over his shoulders. “You look handsome.”
“You look like a very skilled chaser, Ms. Chase.”
“It’s the ponytail that does it.”
“Oh, I agree.”
When Jason sees them holding hands while they eat, he groans dramatically.
“You two are disgusting.”
Piper nods her head in agreement.
“And fraternizing with the enemy, I might add,” she puts in.
“Hey, you,” says Percy, “what’s with the Ravenclaw garb? Are us Hufflepuffs not good enough for you?” Annabeth elbows him deeply in the side. “What?” he demands, turning to her.
“Hufflepuffs are fine,” Piper says, turning bright red. “I just felt like supporting Ravenclaw today. That’s all. There is nothing to read into it. Nothing at all.”
Annabeth kicks him under the table.
It’s a clear, sunny morning when they make their way down to the pitch. The players go first, Annabeth, Jason, and Percy all walking off towards the changing rooms for their pre-game pep talks. It’s Percy’s second year on the team, and he’s the only sixth year player. Everybody else is either a seventh year player or an underclassman, so he knows that the school has high expectations for him. It’s this, and not the actual game, that makes him nervous for the game.
His hand tightens in Annabeth's, and she looks over at him at once, scrutinizing his facial expression and body language.
“Go on without me,” Annabeth says to Jason, eyes still on Percy. “I’m going to trash talk my boyfriend and I don’t think you need to see the carnage.”
He knows that she’s joking, but he laughs and walks off anyways, saluting her as he walks into the Ravenclaw changing rooms.
“Hey,” Annabeth says, reaching up to brush Percy’s bangs off of his forehead. “What’s wrong?”
“Lots of expectations,” he says, gripping her waist tightly. She frowns.
“But you’ve surpassed them all before.”
“I know,” he admits. “I do. I just… we’re older now and it feels different. There’s more at stake.”
“Because you’ll probably be captain next year?”
Percy pulls back slightly, startled.
“Oh come on. You have to have thought about it. You’re probably going to be captain next year. You’re going to be the oldest player on the team and the one that’s been playing longest. Hufflepuff’s been top heavy for years because they kept selecting the seventh years for their team, and now that there aren’t any sixth years in your year, they need a leader. That’s you, Percy.”
“Was that supposed to make me less nervous?”
“No.” Annabeth shakes her head, then leans in and kisses him sweetly. “But that was. How did I do?”
“We might need a second go. Just to get all of the jitters out of my system, you know.”
This time, it’s he that kisses her and he that pulls away.
“So I think Hufflepuff is going to win today’s game. Just a casual, unbiased observation.”
“Yeah right!” Annabeth crows, pulling out of his grasp. “Dream on, Percy.”
“I don’t dream, Annabeth. I do.”
“In that case- I do believe that Hufflepuff is going to get smashed by Ravenclaw today.”
“Probably,” Percy lowers his voice, “but I hear there’s some crazy sexual tension between two of the chasers on opposing teams, so at least that’ll be worth a watch, eh?”
Percy and Annabeth are both too young to get their apparition licenses, even though they’ve been taking the class. Still, they have the pleasure of waving goodbye to all of their friends as they all stroll gleefully down to Hogsmeade, excited to get out of the castle. Percy, for his part, isn’t that upset about not being able to go to Hogsmeade. He loves the school building more than anything, and even though Annabeth is disappointed that she’s not able to go and take her test, Percy knows he’ll coax her around.
“I have a present for you,” Annabeth says after they walk everybody to the gates. Percy wiggles his eyebrows suggestively and she shoves him good naturedly. “You’re incorrigible.”
“You’re my enabler.”
“So you’re saying that I should stop having sex with you? Because I can do that. It wouldn’t be that hard.”
“Please,” he snorts, tousling his own hair and flashing her a winning grin as they start to walk back up to the school. “You can’t resist my charm and good looks.”
“Hmmm,” she hums thoughtfully, lacing her fingers through his and swinging their hands between the two of them. “I don’t know. It could go either way, really.”
“We just started having sex,” he points out. “You definitely couldn’t stop now. We need lots of practice so that we can start kicking arse at it.”
“Are you complaining about our current level of arse-kicking?”
“I am not, as such,” he affirms, stooping down slightly to give her a kiss on her cheek as she laughingly tries to squirm away from his affectionate grasp. “So my non-inappropriate and therefore utterly useless present?”
“If you’re going to be so ungrateful, maybe I just won’t give it to you.”
Percy allows his face to drift into a neutral expression.
“Okay, okay. I’m totally serious now. I’m going to love whatever you give me. Unless it’s a large box of Bertie Bott’s vomit flavored beans.”
“Then let’s go.”
She begins walking forcefully across the grounds of Hogwarts. Normally, he would enjoy a leisurely stroll with his girlfriend, but he can see that she’s actually got a destination. He follows her quickly as Annabeth speeds away from the greenhouses, the Quidditch pitch, and the Care of Magical Creatures hut, eventually leading Percy to the Whomping Willow. She grabs her wand from her pocket and pulls it out, swishing and flicking it in the direction of a branch, which then proceeds to lift into the air and float to a knot at the base of the willow. The tree stops moving, causing a sly smile to flit onto Annabeth’s face.
“Where did you learn that?” Percy questions, awestruck.
“Oh, just a little conversation I had with Professor Waters. He had some information to share and I had a listening ear. It was nothing, really.”
“…Did you drug him?”
She grabs him by his Hufflepuff tie and tugs him forward, moving through the branches that are suspended in movement. When they come to a large hole in the tree, Percy and Annabeth slither down it, finding themselves in a dirt hallway.
“Follow me,” instructs Annabeth.
“Where does this lead?” Percy asks, ignoring how much he enjoys it when she’s bossy in favor of getting answers.
“You’ll see,” Annabeth responds.
They walk in silence until they finally arrive in a room.
“Annabeth, where are we?”
She turns around, beaming.
“The Shrieking Shack.”
“Seriously!” She looks so proud of herself that he has to high five her. “And look what else.”
With her pinky finger entwined in his, she pulls him forward and leads him into a room in the house where there’s a small picnic resting on the floor.
“It’s my thank you for Christmas.”
“That was months ago, and you don’t owe me anything for that. It was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
“But you were amazing to me and I wanted to do something for you. That’s the way being in love works, right? One person makes you happy and then you try to make the other person happy because you owe it to them for making you feel this good.”
“Something like that,” he says, voice husky as he moves closer to her, pressing a series of soft, simple kisses on her lips. Annabeth wraps her arms around his body while he puts his hands on her waist and dips his head so that his nose is resting in the crook between her neck and her shoulder. “Love you,” he mumbles into her skin.
They sway back and forth like they’re dancing, even though there’s no music to dance to. Annabeth takes the opportunity to play with Percy’s hair, which she does far too often, but he doesn’t care. He likes to play with hers as well.
“Percy,” Annabeth murmurs, and he feels her heart thumping a little faster as he responds in an affirmative moan to let her know that he’s listening. “Do you want to eat now?”
“Not yet,” he says, the words rumbling deep. “We’re having a moment, sweetheart. You gotta enjoy them when they come along.”
“Okay,” she agrees, “a few more minutes.”
And then they take a few more after that.
He can’t believe that this is his last opening feast at Hogwarts. It’s unbelievable that he’s already been at Hogwarts for seven years. He knows that he’s never going to be back in this place again, something that makes his heart splutter with anxiety.
Annabeth bumps her shoulder into his, a playful smile flickering at her lips as they watch the first years get sorted into the Houses that will be their homes for the rest of their time at Hogwarts. The returning smile that Percy gives her is wan, but when Annabeth bites her lip and reaches up to fix the pointy hat atop of his head, he knows that she feels the same sense of melancholy.
It sucks to be sitting in this room and knowing that he has such a limited number of days left in it. But, at the same time, he’s glad that at least he knows that he’s not alone.
“So, you’re good with girls, right?”
Percy and Annabeth both look up at the same time and exchange confused glances.
“Me or him?” Annabeth inquires, looking as though she’s holding back a laugh at the strangeness of Jason’s question.
Underneath the table, Percy places a hand on her thigh, just because he wants to be touching some part of her.
“Percy,” Jason amends, “but… I guess you can stay, Annabeth.”
“Gee thanks,” she says sarcastically before returning to her Herbology textbook.
“So you,” Jason says, turning back to Percy. “You’re good with girls, right?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“Yes you are!” Jason is frustrated now. “You and Annabeth are practically an old married couple.”
“We are not!” refutes Annabeth, dropping all pretense of not listening as she looks up from the book. She points at Jason with her wand, which she’d been using to make important bits of text bounce off of the page for the next time she wanted to go back and review for an exam.
“Oh please, don’t argue,” Jason snorts. “Everybody thinks so, Annabeth.”
“Well, why are we an old married couple?”
“Maybe because none of us have gotten together and you two have been together since fifth year. Maybe because you bicker all the time and you’re the only people in our group to have sex with the same person for such a long time. Maybe because everybody knows that you two are going to move in together after we graduate because Annabeth doesn’t want to live at home and Percy’s mum won’t mind.”
Percy blinks a few times before turning to Annabeth.
“Do you want to move in together after we graduate?”
She scrunches her nose, thinking.
“I always assumed that I was going to be roommates with Piper.”
“But that kind of sounds kinda awesome, doesn’t it?”
“Living together?” She grins. “It does sound pretty wonderful.”
“Think of all the uninterrupted sex. And we don’t have to be quiet all of the time!”
Her eyes harden.
“Do you only want to live together because of sex? Because if that’s the case, I can still move in with Piper.”
“No. There’s other stuff, too.”
Percy glances over at Jason for help, but he just sits back in his chair, crosses his arms over his chest, and gestures for Percy to continue. Percy shoots him a dirty look, but Jason just shrugs and plops his feet up on the table. Percy, in the meanwhile, turns back to Annabeth. He finds that he can’t say what he needs to say with his eyes on her judgmental expression, so he allows them to drift to the table, where his fingers find hers.
“I don’t know. It’s like, all those nights that we had to study in the library and we couldn’t stay together without sneaking because there was a curfew. And we probably could have stayed in this library or in the hallways that we used to find to study in and we could have talked all night if we wanted to. But we never got to do that. And, like, if we lived together, we could fall asleep together, which would be pretty brilliant, and then we could wake up together, and figure out how to cook together because neither of us know how to do that, and even when we both have shitty days, we could know that we have the other one waiting for us at our little flat with a bright blue couch. And, I dunno, that sounds pretty fantastic to me.”
Jason and Annabeth are both staring at him in awe when he looks up from his and Annabeth’s entwined fingers.
“That was… oh, Percy.”
“Yeah,” Jason agrees, nodding vigorously. “Wow. Can I live with you?”
“Go away, Jason,” Annabeth says flatly, eyes still on Percy. She’s giving him the ‘I want to kiss you’ face, which is why it’s extremely annoying that Jason is lurking like this.
“Hang on!” he says, indignant. “I came for girl advice and Percy just proved that he’s more than equipped to give it to me.”
“Girl advice?” Percy echoes, breaking his gaze from Annabeth for the first time. “What are you talking about?”
“I want to ask out Piper.”
Annabeth claps her hands and spins around on Jason.
“Aha! She finally got you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Um, nothing,” Annabeth replies, gathering herself and biting her lip.
“That’s great, Jason. You two are going to make a great couple.”
“But first,” Annabeth says. “You have to-”
“Wait, stop,” Percy interrupts. “I know that voice. That’s your logic voice. Do you really think that this is the time for ‘logic voice’?”
A worried look begins to take over Annabeth’s expression.
“It’s just… there’s a lot of things that could go really wrong when you’re going from best friends to girlfriend and boyfriend. You have to consider whether you love the person so much that all of the risks are worth it, because other than that you’re just screwing up your relationship with your friend for a few good snogs, and is that ever going to be worth it when you can just go off and snog somebody random to almost the same effect?”
“Is that really what you think about friends dating?” Percy wants to know, feeling slightly horrified at the fact that kissing Annabeth when they were fifth years could have gone so handily wrong. She shrugs.
“Well, not with us.”
He’s starting to smile now, a feeling of hope poking at him.
“No. I knew that we weren’t just going to breakup. I’m not an idiot.”
Percy and Jason exchange amused glances.
“So you would associate the assumption that two people in a relationship breaking up to… stupidity?”
Annabeth is beginning to look slightly embarrassed.
“I don’t know. I just knew it was going to be okay. Once I knew that you wanted the same things I wanted, it didn’t seem like a problem anymore.”
Jason slaps the table with the palm of his hand.
“See, that. That’s what I want.”
“Piper wants that too,” Annabeth admits. “Just… don’t fuck up, Jason.”
Percy covers her mouth with his hand immediately.
“Annabeth! You can’t say that in the library!”
She licks his palm until he lets go.
“Why not? You say that in the library all of the time,” she reminds him.
“I know, but… you never say it in the first place… it’s weird.”
“Don’t fuck up,” Annabeth says again, trying to ignore Percy’s laughter. She keeps eye contact with Jason as she tries to cover Percy’s face with her hand. “And don’t make me say it again, Jason Grace.”
She’s been carrying three enormous books for the entire Hogsmeade trip, and Percy hasn’t said anything because it’s Annabeth and Annabeth reads books all of the time. But when she suggests that they go into The Three Broomsticks and she carefully sets the books on top of the table where they are supposed to be enjoying their butterbeer, Percy finally breaks.
“What are those?”
She licks her lips as she looks over at the books, a mischevious smile on her face.
She smacks him lightly on the arm.
“Keep up, oh boyfriend of mine. Remember when I told you that I was going to help you find out what you’re going to do after school? Well, now is that time.”
He’s completely taken aback- they haven’t talked about this in months. Percy had just resigned himself to several months of stress after school ended in which he would become insufferably anxious and never shave.
“You’re choosing now to do this? In Hogsmeade?”
“I figured that it would be easier for you to figure out what you want to do when you’re away from the school and not worrying about tests that you could be studying for or essays that you could be writing.”
“I never really stress about essays.”
“Probably because you copy off of mine.”
“Definitely because I copy off of yours.”
“Focus, Jackson. By the time we leave Hogsmeade today, you’re going to have a career. Are you ready?”
“I don’t see how this is going to help,” he grumps, taking a sip of his butterbeer as Annabeth picks up the first book. A very large, heavy, official looking book, he might add, with the words Wizarding Careers stamped on the front in gold lettering. “It’s not like I’ve never heard of any careers before.”
“Ehem,” Annabeth says, opening to the first page. “Career number one: Accountant.”
At that point, the door opens, allowing a blustery wind to billow through The Three Broomsticks as Frank, Hazel, and Leo enter the bar. Upon seeing Percy and Annabeth, their eyes brighten and they begin to make their way over to their table, but Annabeth shakes her head and scowls, causing the three of them to turn around.
“How are you so good at that?”
“I’m Head Girl. I’m formidable.”
“I’m Quidditch captain and nobody runs in fear from my wrath.”
“But you’re never wrathful. Try summoning true wrath and then see what happens.”
“Hmm. I’ll consider it.”
“Also, though, you’re Hufflepuff’s Quidditch captain, love. Nobody’s afraid of Hufflepuffs.”
“One day I’m going to start insulting your House and we’ll see how well that goes.”
“Like I said. Nobody’s afraid of Hufflepuffs.”
“List,” Percy says, jamming his finger on the page where Annabeth’s mighty list of careers rests. “We’ll talk about the fear that I inspire in the hearts of children later.”
“Accountant,” Annabeth repeats.
“Actor… actuary… acupuncturist… administrative assistant…”
“I have an idea,” Percy says, placing a hand over the book to stop her from reading. Annabeth looks up at him, eyebrows lifted. “What if you just read the ones that you think I might have a semblance of an interest in.”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Because you know me better than anybody else has ever known me,” Percy says genuinely. “And also because I strongly suspect that you’ve already got a few careers in mind for me and were never intending on reading me the entirety of all three of these books.”
Sighing, Annabeth closes the book.
“Okay, I might have an idea.”
“And the reason that you didn’t tell me this idea is because…?”
“I wanted you to discover it on your own so that you could feel like you found it yourself. And, also, if I told you what career to pursue and you didn’t like it, I would feel absolutely terrible. I mean, think about how disastrous that would be for our relationship! Every single time you came home after work and needed to complain about your job, you would be complaining to the person who told you to go after that job, and then you would pin it on me and our relationship would end in this giant fight about how I don’t really know you and how your future unhappiness is all my fault.”
“My future unhappiness is only your fault because you broke up with me in this scenario,” Percy points out. “Now tell me what I’m going to be when I grow up, dammit!”
Annabeth looks down at the table, tracing random shapes in the ring that her glass has left on the light wood.
“I think you should be a teacher.”
Percy stares at her for a moment, then starts laughing.
“A teacher?” he chortles. “Seriously?”
Annabeth is immediately defensive.
“It makes sense to me!”
“Yeah. Sure,” he laughs.
“No, seriously, Percy. You’re not the best student, but because of that, you understand students. You’ll be able to help them the way we helped each other going through school. You know what kids like and what they don’t like because you’ve been in the exact same position as they have. And once you grasp a concept, you’re phenomenal at it. Remember how much trouble you had with changing charms? Now you can do them without even thinking about them- you can even do them non verbally. That’s impressive.”
“A teacher,” Percy muses, his throat beginning to tighten. “Really?”
“And you’re amazing at Ancient Runes,” Annabeth reminds him. “You help me in that class, not the other way around. You’re probably the top in the class.”
“Well, that’s because it’s easy for me.”
When he looks up at her again, she’s twisting a strand of hair around her finger, apprehensive of what he’s about to say.
“A teacher. Yeah. Okay.”
The look on Jason’s face is so earnest, so enthused, that Percy almost wants to agree. Doing this might make him feel better- might make them all feel better. Things have been really heavy lately, especially with the N.E.W.Ts. But they’re over, and everybody thinks that they’ve passed all of their subjects, and instead of feeling relieved, there’s an odd, choking feeling that comes with realizing that school is almost over. They’re almost adults.
With one look at Annabeth’s expression, he knows it’s not going to happen.
“That is a terrible idea,” Percy says, channeling his inner Annabeth. She looks approving, but Jason’s eyes narrow with suspicion almost at once.
“Hang on,” he says, stabbing angrily at a piece of steak. “This was your idea!”
Now Percy’s actually confused. His eyebrows knit together as he tries to remember what Jason is referring to.
“I said it would be a good idea to jump into the Black Lake on the last week of school?”
“Yes!” Jason says fervently, his eyes wide.
“Follow up question: How drunk was I?”
“It was in, like, third year,” Jason shrugs. “We thought it would be a great idea back then, and I seriously thought that we were going to be doing it. I got Piper and Frank and Rachel on board as well. We’re all ready to go. I thought you knew!”
“So, when exactly were you planning on doing this?” Annabeth puts in, leaning over Percy so that she can speak to Jason without anything intercepting.
“Tonight,” Jason says, his voice sounding as though this is very obvious. “Graduation is tomorrow. It has to be tonight. Seriously, I thought you knew. Haven’t you heard us making classy jokes about it all week?”
“Forgive us for assuming that telling each other to ‘go jump in a lake’ and then laughing really hysterically afterwards was just a sign of immaturity,” says Annabeth drily.
“We’ll come with you, though,” Percy says, and Jason perks up.
“Yeah. We’ll watch.”
Annabeth doesn’t say anything, but she nods, and that’s how they end up at the Black Lake in the middle of the night watching Jason, Piper, Rachel, and Frank leap into the icy cold water. Percy and Annabeth, on the other hand, lounge on the shore, lying on a blanket and staring up at the stars that illuminate the dark castle.
“Seven years,” Percy says, whispering it to Annabeth and the sky. He is so grateful for everything that the castle has given him- for the magic that flows through his veins, for the friends that are bouncing around in the lake, and for the girl that is lying beside him with her hand in his. He loves everything about this school.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Annabeth says, her voice catching over the words.
He can tell she’s about to cry, so he kisses the top of her head, letting his lips rest there for an extra moment before he places his chin on top of her head.
“I can’t believe it happened in the first place,” he chuckles, shaking his head.
Annabeth sits up very suddenly.
She reaches up and pulls her hair out of the bun that confines it behind her head.
He’s about to ask what she’s talking about, but his question is answered when she reaches behind herself and unfastens her school skirt. It drops to the ground, leaving her to pull her jumper over her head. Percy quickly follows suit until they are both left in their undergarments.
“I love you,” he says ardently. Annabeth shrugs.
“HEY!” Piper shouts, jumping up and down in the water. “LOOK WHO’S COMING!”
“The old married couple takes a risk,” Jason teases while Frank splashes him. Rachel, for her part, is just floating effortlessly in the water, her thick red hair spreading out underneath her. She shoots Percy and Annabeth a lazy, content smile as they jump in.
By the time Annabeth and Percy have gotten a few good splashes in, they’re having just as much fun as their friends. Annabeth wraps her legs around Percy’s waist so that he’s giving her a piggyback ride, and he swims around the lake with surprising agility.
“You could’ve jumped in without me, you know,” Annabeth murmurs when they’ve slowed down slightly.
Percy turns his head so that he can look at her, their lips almost-but-not-quite touching.
“I wouldn’t want to.”
The ceremony ends more quickly than any of them would have ever assumed, and when they are all carrying the certificates that proclaim them graduates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Percy feels the sort of emptiness that comes with the completion of school. He can never go back to this place or this time. Who knows if he’ll ever be able to go back to having the same relationships with the same people.
He’s going to miss everything about Hogwarts.
“You’ll come back,” Annabeth says as they make their way down to the boats. Her voice is soft and reassuring, but her hand shakes as it clutches its arm. “I know you will.”
He lets her get into the boat first, wanting to linger on the grounds for as long as he can. He, Annabeth, Piper, and Jason all sit together, their eyes almost as wide as they were the first time they came to Hogwarts.
“Remember the first time we were on these boats?” Jason asks, gruff in tone. “It was just me and Percy and a bunch of other first years that I don’t even remember anymore.”
“I don’t remember either,” Annabeth shrugs.
“Hey, I think you were on the boat with me!” Piper gasps, mock offended. Jason laughs and smiles at her from where he sets next to her, his arm loosely around her waist.
Annabeth clutches his hand tightly as the school fades into the distance, and it’s only then that he sees the tears as they fall from her eyes. He kisses them away, not wanting her to feel the same hurt that he is feeling but knowing that he can’t protect her from it.
He meets her eyes when he helps her out of the boat, and then she’s standing on the platform right next to him, her eyes bright in the sunlight. Tear tracks still stain her face, and for a moment, he can picture the haughty vulnerability that pervaded her countenance the first time he ever saw her. She had two pigtails gliding down her back and she was clutching an owl and looked as though the entire world was beneath her and her beautiful gray eyes and that was Annabeth Chase.
But this is Annabeth Chase. The girl that was his best friend for five years before they fell in love and lost their virginities to each other and then fell in love even more, again and again and again. She’s been bewitching to him ever since their first day at Hogwarts, but that only makes him love her more.
Everything changes. Everything has to end. But this never will.