Actions

Work Header

Twenty-nine

Chapter Text

ooOoo

THE FOLLOWING DAYS

Blended together in confusion

ooOoo

The Quibbler was a Sunday magazine but occasionally it could make a special edition during the week if it was under pressing and exceptional circumstances such as: the main writer swearing she would kill every single person in the room if they didn’t give her a special edition.

So that Tuesday every subscriber of The Quibbler, and there were quite a few of them nowadays, received a special edition with Skeeter’s story on the front page. NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN CORRIDAN CASE. REAL MURDERER DISCOVERED AND ARRESTED.

In contrast The Prophet was opening with Magda Marlowe’s coverage of Ministerial spending. Nobody cared about Ministerial spending when you had a murder case to fuss and fret about.

It was the drive to kill and eat and chew and spit on the enemy, as Percy had observed. And Skeeter had done it with one of the most desirable pieces of journalism. It was well known: everybody liked to have the latest picture and quote of someone who had recently died, and everybody liked to be the first to get the news about a death and possibly a gory picture too. But what everybody wanted most (and had led to some inventive and dangerous journalism) was to get that middle instant, that hinge that changed everything, the moment of the death itself.

Skeeter had gotten that.

Of course the rest of the paper was a mess because they had had to print the Monday draft. Lots of empty space and headlines that said GOBLINS ARE FRIENDS. 3 COLUMNS. or DEATH BY POTATOE. But the article written by Rita Skeeter was perfect. She had stayed up all night to write it and even had a quote from Harry Potter, and he was notoriously difficult with the press. Harry had said that Oliver was very nice.

The paper had a nice, if slightly dark, picture of Berric Summerwind suffocating someone with a cushion. Enzo, the photographer, had also managed to snap the last seconds of Berric casting the second avada kedavra. Probably out of terror, but still. Very few things could beat that, especially considering that Berric was a minor to medium celebrity.

Skeeter was pretty decent about it. Oh, she was absolutely poisonous in how she described the investigation and the ineptitude of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol and she also criticised those journalists who didn’t do their due diligence. But she exhibited something close to a work ethic. She didn’t name too many names.

The next Sunday The Quibbler ran a special issue. Sadly people were left to wonder about the possibly deathly qualities of a potato because the space was used for something else, but it was the most popular issue of the magazine since the one with Harry Potter’s interview about Voldemort. The Z mannequin was advertised on the back cover.

The Sunday edition had an interview with Percy. Percy didn’t want to do it and after seeing how much Berric had said he had wanted to even less, certain that he too would end up saying too much and some keen-eyed reader would notice how utterly mad he was.

Surprisingly, Rita took offense when he told her to write whatever she wanted since she tended to make things up either way. So Percy had to sit with her and let her ask. He even gave her a copy of some of the lists he had made to help him think. Certainly not the one about how to seduce someone for information, but the others, the ones about Oliver.

The interview was four pages long and had a couple of pictures of Percy in which he managed not to look extremely awkward. Rita titled it “The Nagging Voice of Conscience,” which both Percy and the voices found hilarious.

The people from the Department of Transportation didn’t care much about any of it. They hadn’t cared when the news of the murder broke and they didn’t care now except for the mention of their boss. In the last couple of weeks they had seen him counteract a curse, put some sort of hypnosis spell on Judith so she would stop being a shrew and allegedly eat the egg of a manticore or whatever that fuzzy green thing was in front of those bastards from Health and Safety; his involvement with a murder case wasn’t particularly shocking or interesting. His Judith-taming had produced much more gossip.

There was a brawl between the Auror department and the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol that luckily broke up before Minister Shacklebolt had to intervene. For once Potter wasn’t involved and he even sent a sassy letter saying so and noticing how he was still in the Hebrides and how he had an unfounded and unfair reputation as a troublemaker.

Oliver was being transported to Azkaban when the news about Berric came out so he spent half of Tuesday travelling to Azkaban, arrived there, and was immediately sent back to London where he was formally released late that night. Percy hadn’t been planning to be there because he felt he had done enough and this was a private moment to be shared with family, but Alice Sudworth came personally to take him, dressed in pink and looking much better. Mrs Wood gave him a trembling kiss on the cheek and Oliver hugged him tight when he finally came out to the Atrium.

And then it was almost Christmas and Percy had presents to buy and they had to get things ready in the department for the few days they were taking as holidays right at the time when people travelled the most. 

ooOoo

Christmas was something to be dreaded rather than enjoyed. There were many voices inside and outside Percy’s head and Fred’s absence was still a loud howl. Mum did everything by herself and expected Ginny and Fleur to help, Ginny invariably got angry at her and her brothers and Fleur engaged in passive-aggressive warfare. Angelina was excused from all this because she spent the day with her family and joined them later. Percy tried to help but he was very anxious about it, and in any case Mum acted as if he would burn the house down or drown himself in the pot with the soup and ruin the potatoes for dinner, so doing anything more than taking the dishes to the table was a real struggle.

The worst of it was the situation with Fleur, without a doubt. Percy was very confused because he hadn’t been there for the beginning of the relationship between her and Bill or her first visit to the house. All he knew was that there had been a fish soup that was a very grave insult, the consequences of which they were all suffering still.

When Harry was around he was always willing to help and he was so sweet and eager that there was no way to refuse him. He also did something to the meat that was amazing. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Seasoned. But Harry wasn’t coming this year, just as he didn’t the one before. He was still very welcome in the Burrow, of course, but the year before he and Ginny had broken up for good and agreed that it would be awkward, for the others if not for themselves. Especially for Ron, and to a lesser degree Molly and George.

It wasn’t as if he was spending the holidays alone in that dark house of his. If that were the case Mum would slap them all silly and bring Harry by the ear. He had picked up another long case even though he had just finishing with the dementors. He said that he didn’t mind, Christmas had never been that special for him, and the other Aurors were very grateful.

This year Mum and Fleur argued over the salad dressing. Ginny put a curse on the chairs so someone would have to go help her peel the potatoes. Percy retired to a corner of the kitchen and silently dealt with the green beans. After ten minutes, Ron wandered in and began to help too.

It was noisy and loud and there was an insistent clapping in his head, but the voices weren’t saying anything awful other than how they missed Fred.

ooOoo

On the morning of the 25th all the Weasley family members had hot chocolate together and exchanged gifts. Molly put on the earrings, which were very nice, and said that they shouldn’t have, and it was too much, but she looked very pleased.

They all got knitted sweaters. Percy additionally received three pairs of wool socks from Charlie. Ginny got a pretty nice pink scarf with little stars sewn on it. It was from Ron, and Percy was surprised that he had managed to choose something so beautiful. He suspected that he and Hermione were talking again, which should be good news but would probably only bring more heartache. He so wished he could spare him that.

George’s face when he received Basic Sign Language for Dummies was a poem. He liked it, though. He liked it very much. It was one of those things he had always meant to try. He and Fred, actually, although they didn’t need a secret language to talk between themselves when they already seemed to share a single mind. It was going to be painful for George when he didn’t have anyone else to learn with, but George would still like to learn another language and a silent language was incredibly cool.

The voices hummed a lullaby.

It was well after the Christmas dinner was done and they had played at least one hand of exploding snap. There was music on the radio and the room was warm. It was just about that time when people were debating whether they ought to leave now or have another glass of hot cider even though their stomach told them not to. Percy had retreated a little bit from the room, listening to Charlie tell him something about owls in Romania when precisely two owls arrived.

One brought a message to Percy from Oliver. If he had time later today, Oliver would like to see him so he could give him a present in person. The other was for Molly and even though it was Charlie who caught it, Percy still recognised the handwriting on the envelope. He decided immediately that it was time to go and that he could send Oliver his answer from his flat. He wished everyone goodbye at top speed, kissed his Mum and left before either Ron or George might raise any questions about his behaviour.

He already had one foot in the fireplace when he heard his mother yelp.

“How did she know??” cried Molly. She was looking with a dismayed expression at George and Angelina who, for the first time, had joined them after the meal. “I swear, this woman.”

Percy wasn’t there for the Aunt Muriel’s Informant Investigation.

ooOoo

Oliver was spending Christmas with his muggle side of the family in Bristol, but he was happy to apparate to Diagon Alley and meet Percy there.

“This is not a thank-you gift,” Oliver said after the first exchange of greetings. “I have no idea how I can thank you, but I know this is not it, it will be something bigger and much better.”

Oliver had already thanked him multiple times and Percy insisted that it was plenty. He had just done what was right, he had done a right to fix a wrong. There had been others who had helped too.

Of course they hadn’t risked being murdered. Oliver was very aware of that and very insistent.

“I didn’t bring anything,” mumbled Percy when he was presented with a big, heavy square package wrapped in gold and green paper.

“See? Excellent. Now you can feel awkwardly in debt too.” Oliver smiled as he spoke and it was a magnificent smile. He had been out of it for the first few days, which was to be expected considering he had been right at the door of the fortress in Azkaban. Of course he was a mess of feelings and emotions when he returned. Now, though, in this moment, sitting at small table in a tiny goblin café (only place open since goblins didn’t observe Christmas), he looked grounded and comfortable and handsome as ever.

Percy chuckled at his words. “Who keeps count between friends?” he said, desperately hoping that Oliver would listen and take his words to heart. He didn’t want Oliver to feel that he owed him. Oliver owed nothing. Percy had done what he had done because he wanted to do so and he had expected absolutely nothing.

He opened the package carefully. He knew it would be a book even before he lifted the first corner of paper, but he burst out laughing when he saw the title. This always happened with Oliver, he made Percy laugh despite himself.

“I know you like lists,” said Oliver, scratching the back of his neck. “Hell, if it weren’t for your study lists I would not have done so well on the NEWTs. My Seeker kept fainting, they took his Firebolt away, there were dementors and an escaped murderer around. It was a difficult year.”

The book was titled Lists of Note and it seemed to be exactly that, a compilation of lists. Percy had only seen the cover and already loved it.

“I saw those other lists you wrote,” added Oliver, softer, running his fingers through his hair. “The ones in The Quibbler.”

Percy had no idea why he was suddenly blushing, but he wished he could stop. He clutched the book with both hands. The book was good and real and contained a hundred lists. Lists were soothing.

“I was nervous about the interview,” he confessed. “Rita can make you say things you didn’t mean to say. She is terrible.”

Oliver had had to give her an interview too. He understood. “But you had written those lists,” he said.

Percy nodded. He felt as if he were participating in a different conversation altogether and he had no idea how to navigate it. Alice could probably help explain what was going on. Either of the Alices.

It is not a sky blue, though.

         Merlin’s pants. Are we back with the blue again?

But not ice blue, either. Storm blue.

“I really like this,” Percy looked down at the book, where it was safe. It was big and solid and it felt good to hold it in his hands. “Thank you.”

Oliver smiled with delight.

“How is everything?” Percy asked, knowing that it was an awful question but he still had to ask.

Oliver sighed heavily. Sometimes, even when things have taken a turn for the better there is still a lot of stress and fear and a hundred little problems.

“Alice has been really nice,” he said, voice full of relief. “I mean. I didn’t know if I was going to accept the Magpies’ offer, but it fell through after the arrest and now they don’t want to make another one even though I have been cleared. They were talking about kicking me out of the Puddlemere too, after the end of the season. They fear I might drive the public away.”

“And?”

“Alice said no way. The team is hers now, you know.” Percy nodded. Magda Marlowe had interviewed The New Princess of Quidditch last week. She was the owner of the Puddlemere and everything associated while her cousin had gotten half of the money and one house.

“We are sort of friends, she and I, you know?” Oliver went on. “Days and days locked together with no one else to talk to. Well, there was that man rambling about a sword. And you! Of course! But – ” Oliver was inexplicably surprised by something that seemed only natural.

“I know what you mean,” Percy assured him. “You two were the only ones on that side of the bars. Plus you spent a lot of time together. Of course you will forge a bond. Shared experiences and all that.”

Oliver was staring at Percy with a very curious and attentive gaze, as if Percy were explaining to him some deep mystery of the universe. Percy was quite puzzled by it.

“She doesn’t like Quidditch,” Oliver said at last.

Ah, there he had it. That was why Oliver talked as if he were excusing himself.

“Neither do I,” pointed Percy, laughing.

“Nononono. This is different. She doesn’t like it at all! And she went to school in France, and she played some magical equivalent of cricket.”

“It’s a wonder you are friends at all,” Percy said drily. It was also a wonder why he and Oliver were friends if they only considered their likes and habits.

“See?” Oliver exclaimed and immediately chuckled, aware of how ridiculous he was. “We talked a lot, though. And I do mean, a lot. We talked about things we hadn’t told anyone, not because they were secret but because we hadn’t even thought about it.”

They must had discussed some very deep topics, because Oliver was looking at Percy with an intensity usually reserved for Quidditch’s tactics. Percy wasn’t sure why the idea bothered him, that Oliver had forged such a strong bond with Alice. He liked that Alice.

“Marcelus the Elder wrote his History of the Donnington Castle while locked in prison there. I think it helps a lot with reflection and meditation,” Percy said, more for his benefit than Oliver’s. People thought a lot and got weird while locked up.

Oliver nodded as if satisfied, as if Percy had said something much more illuminating than a random tidbit of History.

“Anyway, she said that she wasn’t letting me leave the team even if she dropped dead that instant. She would return as a ghost to make her will known and everyone should be ashamed of their wickedness, forcing a nice young lady like her to forsake eternal rest so she could state her will after-dead. But they insisted, the people from managing and communications strategies – I really don’t know what they do, it has nothing to do with real Quidditch, I think they design our robes or something.”

Percy grinned helplessly at Oliver’s aside. He was furrowing his forehead as if only now realising that there was more to Quidditch than the game.

“They were super worried about brand image and Alice said the Puddlemere’s brand is that we are an honest, hard-working team who stands by its people, and to prove it we will complete the rest of the season without replacing Berric.”

Percy took a second to understand the meaning of this.

“He was a Chaser, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“You have two others, then. It’s not too bad.”

Oliver laughed, honest and open, at Percy’s dismissal of the player who was often considered the most important part of the team together with the Seeker. Head Chaser, the one on point leading the attack, the one scoring all the points.

“If you do your job well and your Seeker is fast, you can win in no time,” added Percy, who gave no consideration whatsoever to the spirit of the game. It seemed very reasonable to him.

“That’s what she said to our coach, after he finished explaining the rules to her.”

They laughed together for no good reason because it wasn’t that funny. The old goblin lady sitting two tables down from them rolled her eyes.

“Oh! Alice is hosting a party on New Year’s Eve,” Oliver said. “Well, it is sort of a tradition for the Puddlemere, but since she is the new owner she wants to make it something special. Do you want to come?”

No. Percy didn’t like parties and the last one with his family was extremely recent and he hadn’t recharged his energy yet.

For some reason, though, he stayed quiet and said nothing.

“I know you don’t like parties much,” Oliver said as if he could read minds or something. He also scrunched his face self-deprecatingly, as if he ought to have started with that. “But… it’s so weird. I am back. Berric is gone. Corridan is dead. We have a new and terrifying owner.”

Percy smiled at that description of Alice. Sweet, sweet Alice Sudworth, the girl from spring. She didn’t seem the kind of woman to be intimidated by a shareholder council or to keep her absolute ignorance of Quidditch from managing the team well.

Oliver was about to say something else. About how, for three weeks, his teammates had thought him a murderer. Maybe they hadn’t really believed it, maybe they had been just as shocked and incredulous as Percy, but the idea had been there nevertheless, fed and nurtured by Berric. Now there was the space the idea had occupied and the children the idea had delivered.

“I’ll go,” Percy said. He smiled broadly to make himself believe that the idea was fine. “I can answer questions too.”

“You don’t have to, if – ”

“No, no. It’s fine.” Percy was smiling so much. He tried to surreptitiously check his reflection in one of the engraved mirrors on the wall because he didn’t want to look like a crocodile. The goblin lady caught his eyes and pursed her lips.

He didn’t remember what else they talked about. Probably about the lists included in the book.

ooOoo

It was a goblin jewellery shop so the floors were carpeted and the counters, with the exception of one, were pretty low. They were already helping someone at that one, a human wizard wanting to purchase a necklace, so Percy went to the next and didn’t mind that he had to squat.

“I have this,” he said, getting the ring from his little finger on the left hand. He really, really should stop wearing it. What was wrong with him?

Do you want a list?

Number 1: Giving your address to someone planning to murder you.

         Number 2: Wearing a ring of unknown origin that may very well be cursed.

                   Number 3: Eating a kiwi whole, fuzz and all.

“I don’t know if it has any properties,” Percy said, easily ignoring the voices chiding him. They used to be terrible. Now they were only annoying.

The goblin waiting on Percy had green eyes that were nothing like Alan’s or Harry’s but were striking nonetheless. So light they were almost white. He looked at Percy with an assessing look and then at the ring. His face showed nothing. His mind was thinking a very loud How? and a dry What.

“I’m pretty sure it is not cursed,” Percy offered because he thought the goblin was judging him precisely for that. He was also thinking that he would like to have a lock of Percy’s hair to examine its colour better.

The goblin looked at the ring under three different lights, studied it with a lens, measured the width and thickness and even the distance between the five small holes and the depth of each one. Then he called a colleague, a goblin woman with pale blue eyes, who did some magical tests with salt and bread and seven liquids in tiny glass bottles.

“It is not an engagement ring, is it?” Percy asked, suddenly assaulted by a thought. It would serve him just right to accidentally marry someone.

Both goblins looked at him and the woman bit down on a smile. They had rings, too. The green-eyed goblin had a thick silver band on his thumb and two others on his middle and ring fingers, one of them with a greenish hue over the silver that was quite enchanting.

“Not if you don’t want to, sir,” he said.

The woman lifted her hand, she had two rings on it with similar gaps (five and seven) only there were little stones embedded in them.

Since Percy had read the goldsmithing book he understood most of what they said. The ring could become whatever he wanted, although they warned that it was difficult to control what magical properties it acquired. It was a personal ring, a life ring, and you could add stones to it to symbolize important events. Birthstones were a popular choice, so you could have the whole family represented. But it could be for something else, marking different triumphs or struggles or quests.

Percy’s ring, they told him, was already starting to get a personality. Apparently this ought to be evident but they weren’t too surprised that he hadn’t noticed, because he had also failed to realise it was made of gold.

“Gold is yellow,” Percy said weakly. They scoffed. Gold could be many colours, a fact that interested the voices immensely. Percy’s ring was pink gold and already awake. Percy was advised to stay away from Dark Arts if he didn’t want the ring to become too powerful and desirous. Goblin artefacts had a mind of their own about who should wield them. This explained a lot about Gryffindor’s sword, actually.

“Hand cut, maybe head cut too,” said an old goblin over his shoulder on his way to the back of the shop.

Percy thanked them and insisted on paying for the consult and they gave him their card and told him to come again when he was ready to get a stone embedded.

There was something they didn’t say because it was so very obvious to them that it didn’t occur to them that it had to be said. They didn’t say it and they didn’t think it and Percy didn’t learn about it until he got a second book from the library. Even then it was just a passing reference because it was so evident. Although Percy, and the voices agreed with him, thought it was not, it was not evident at all and it should had been mentioned before.

Of course – the book said – the use of these rings, both in the sense of their magical properties as well as status symbols, is restricted to the community.

Which meant that it was a goblin ring meant for goblins. One didn’t just hand things meant for goblins to humans. Percy might be the first human (wizard or muggle) to be handed a goblin artefact since Tobias the Strange and Tobias was usually represented as a human but he had probably been a half-something.

Percy saw in his future a difficult conversation with Aunt Muriel in which he explained that he had been informally adopted by the London goblin clan. There wasn’t a Maltesers box big enough.

She doesn’t have to know.

                   You didn’t realise it. She might not realise it either.

Do we really want to keep a secret from her?

Bill better hurried up and have a child already so Percy could be the bringer of the news.

Also, the voices said they wanted something green for the ring. Percy thought that maybe this would be good for the voices, to ground them a bit.

ooOoo

The New Year’s Eve party wasn’t that bad.

There was some tension, but Percy was surprised to find that it was nothing compared to a multi-departmental meeting that was running late or one of Judith’s worst days. At the first opportunity, Percy proceeded to tell the attendees why it would never have been Oliver because he was too nice and also how if he were to kill someone it would be unplanned and nearly unconscious, like the time he wanted his Seeker to ride a broom that could have come from a dangerous lunatic or Lord Voldemort himself given the pattern of those school years.

The Puddlemere Seeker, a small mousy boy, or possibly girl, a small mousy person, nodded with enthusiasm.

“Oliver helped me move. Got the bed upstairs and everything. But he yelled at me for letting the snitch go when I got a concussion.”

Everybody laughed, Alice chastised Oliver, and just like that the tension dissipated and it was a party and they had fun.

They missed the countdown to the New Year though. Not the party, but they, he and Oliver, they missed it. Percy had retreated to a quiet corner where he could take a break from all the socialising; Oliver had joined him and they had chatted just like they did at Hogwarts when they shared an after-dinner snack.

Just like at Hogwarts, there was a lot of noise. There were footsteps and clinking glasses and laughter and music in the background and a heated discussion about the best wood for broomsticks and voices and voices whispering over each other.

One of the voices was saying:

It is not aquamarine. It is blue like a happy song, blue like flying and magic.

Perfectly absurd, except Oliver was staring at Percy with the absorbed and goofy expression of someone enraptured with a work or art.

This idiot, said a voice with an awed tone, is thinking of your eyes.

Which were very boring and simple eyes if you asked Percy. Blue, true, but like many other blue-eyed people. They were not electric or innocent or reminiscent of the sea. They were perfectly devoid of any poetry and not even very good to see with, hence his need of glasses since age nine (probably earlier).

“KISS HIM ALREADY,” yelled Jamie, the big blond Beater. (Not to be confused with James the big brunet Beater.)

Percy had already been feeling a bit awkward because he was at a party and he wanted to make a good impression on everyone for Oliver’s and Alice’s sake, if nothing else, and discovering Oliver’s completely unfounded opinion of his eyes had left him discomfited, so he could be excused for jumping to action and kissing Oliver on the lips before it even occurred to him than the order had been directed to someone else. To Oliver, actually, as he would learn later.

By then Oliver had both of his arms around him and was kissing back with enthusiasm and dedication so it didn’t really matter. The countdown and the cheer and the toast to the New Year, went by unnoticed. Percy’s ring was shining on his finger and the noise in his head was taking the shape of a song.

When they parted for breath, he spotted Alice standing across the room with a glass of champagne giving him the thumbs-up, only why would she – ?

Oh.

It was meant for Oliver too. They really had talked a lot, hadn’t they?

ooOoo

They each went to their own place to sleep because it was late, they were very tired and (at least in Percy’s case) needed to scream into a pillow to let out the giddy energy. Plus, Oliver was supposed to have lunch with his family on New Year’s Day and there was a Weasley New Year’s Breakfast tradition too.

Mum interrogated them about Aunt Muriel’s sudden demand to know more about Angelina. Ginny and Ron were her primary suspects and she completely forgot that Percy existed or could ever speak to anyone. Just in case, Percy made sure to have his mouth full of food at all times. George tried his new book on sign language with him until Angelina pointed that it worked the other way and Percy should be the one signing.

“She. Clever,” signed Percy, after a quick search in the book. And then: “Too Good For You.”

“Don’t I know it,” George said, looking at her fondly and giving her a kiss.

Instead, he and Oliver met for tea at Percy’s apartment. While Percy went to the kitchen to get the water boiling Oliver stayed in the living room, looking around like people do.

“I see Orion is in a place of honour,” Oliver said, raising his voice so Percy could hear him. “Still your favourite, isn’t he? You know, no one else has ever made me think about my favourite constellation.”

Percy could feel himself melting inside.

Oliver’s favourite constellation was Monoceros, the unicorn. You would think that he would prefer something that flew, but he liked the simple lines that made the unicorn. He also liked that Percy still sorted such things into lists and categories.

There was cake and tea and a deep conversation about everything, including favourite star arrangements and the unbelievable depth of human cruelty. It was a long talk.

“How did you know?” asked Oliver with a closed-up throat. They were sitting on the couch very close together and Oliver was looking up, at the scorch mark the killing curse had left and that Percy still hadn’t painted over. “You said that you never had any doubts about me, but how did you know? That it was him?”

He should really have painted over that stupid mark. Funnily enough, Percy had barely given any thought to the fact that a man had broken into his apartment to kill him. It didn’t upset him.

“I just…” Oliver continued, “I need to know. Because I thought he was my friend. No,” he stopped and said more firmly. “He was my friend and I never, I never thought – ”

Like everyone else on the team, except the Seeker, Oliver was wondering if there was something he should have seen, some clue, some sort of hint of what had lain under Berric’s amicable exterior. The mousy Seeker had never liked Berric so he, or she, Percy still wasn’t sure, hadn’t been surprised to learn how awfully rotten Berric was because it had been confirmation rather than news. But for the others it was news and it was upsetting and shocking. An actual shock to their world, like a jolt, something that took things and set them upside down.

Percy hadn’t mentioned his hook-up with Berric to Skeeter. He just made it seem that he had investigated the case and taken note of everything and just like that arrived to the right conclusion. In her article she had written that Percy had an unerring ability to judge a person’s moral character which had made every single member of the Weasley family roll their eyes and purse their lips internally. Percy? Percy, who took Fudge at his word? Please. Didn’t he have a boyfriend who was a spy?

Ron was the only one who was still wondering how Percy had known. He knew that Percy had omitted something and he was only waiting for a good time to ask.

Just as the Weasleys didn’t buy Skeeter’s explanation, but didn’t pry further, it also wasn’t enough for those who knew Berric. What was there to see that Percy had noticed but not them? Were they really that blind?

Oliver had considered him a friend. Not a close friend, but a friend nonetheless.

Percy sighed. He really didn’t want to do this, but it might be good to tell the truth to someone, and Oliver would keep his secret. If he thought that Percy was too mad and it was too much and didn’t want to have anything else to do with him, so be it. Oliver would still keep quiet.

He touched his goblin ring with the pad of his little finger, took a big deep breath, and began to talk. He told him everything. Just. Everything. Once he had started it was actually difficult to leave anything out, although he glossed over the part when he went to Berric’s place. He shared everything else: the voices, the different quality to some of them, the things the voices knew, the things Percy had learned. Once he knew the truth it had been a matter of making his way backwards to a piece of evidence, to something more tangible than a whisper inside his head.

“I am quite mad, you see,” Percy finished. That was the big conclusion. He was quite mad indeed. “You can go, if you want to. It’s all right.”

Oliver didn’t look in a rush to move. He was still sitting very close and looked relaxed and at home. They had been talking for ages now.

“So you are a legilimens,” he said, opening his hands.

“What? No!” Percy said quickly with that certainty pure-bloods had about how the world was supposed to work. “Legilimentia doesn’t work like that. You have to train and practice, like animagi, and you have to cast a spell each time you want to read a mind.”

Oliver scoffed. It was very annoying. His eyes were deliciously dark and untroubled. He was a glass of iced coffee on a summer night.

“It’s like my Mum always says,” Oliver said, obtusely wrong. “Wizards will create the most random limitations and put up lines that aren’t even there. Well, she doesn’t say it like that. She says: Oh, so you are telling me that talking dragons are too much, Benedict? You just admitted that there are multiple dragon breeds, with different colours, but suddenly having them talk it’s too much. Well, maybe they don’t want talk to wizards, not with that attitude.”

He closed his mouth and looked at Percy with a mix of defiance and satisfaction and in that moment Percy could totally believe that there were dragons capable of speech who simply weren’t interested in talking to wizards. Before Percy could say anything else, Oliver thought of another argument.

“And supposedly you don’t survive a killing curse, but I know of a little Seeker who begs to differ, so I don’t see why you can’t be a natural mind-reader.”

Which was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to Percy. Percy couldn’t really do anything about it other than grabbing Oliver’s shoulders tight and kissing him with everything he had.

They had sex, sweet and warm and with an interesting note of spice. Percy on top of Oliver, thighs burning as he rode him, and maybe it wasn’t sex but making love.

It was, the voices told Percy and was later confirmed by Oliver himself, Oliver’s first time. Oliver was objectively handsome and highly desirable and looked like an August dream and had been a virgin until that night because he simply hadn’t been interested. It was a strange sign that perhaps Percy wasn’t as broken or weird or different as he liked to think. He had thought that in this, too, he was irredeemably different and wrong and funny but apparently he wasn’t or, if he was, it didn’t matter and all he should care about was kissing Oliver again.

If Oliver didn’t have any experience Percy had plenty to make it work for both of them. He showed Oliver how to move and how to touch and held him close when he spilled inside him. Oliver was a fast thinker and a fast learner and he mouthed at Percy’s neck and chest while he wrapped a hand around him and brought him to orgasm. Oliver’s voice was the only thing Percy heard.

They did it again, not much later, Oliver on top of him and moving with a perfect rhythm, Percy’s legs wrapped around him and, and, and holding hands, too, both of them, kissing clumsily and licking and biting everything within reach. Oliver shivered when Percy bit on his earlobe and Percy gasped when Oliver freed a hand and grabbed his waist and pulled him closer and all he could hear was the sound of rain on the windows and gasps and moans and a very low sound of a vibrating string.

They had to take a break when they realised that it was past ten and they were hungry. They wolfed down some hastily made sandwiches, sitting side by side much like they used to do, only this time they were naked and Oliver, who had a beautifully inventive and strategic mind, was busy trying to broadcast filthy thoughts right into Percy’s mind with moderate success.

Blowjob.                                            So soft.

         A penis in a mouth, yes.

Hot. Warm.

“Are you offering or requesting?” Percy said, swallowing the last bite.

Oliver smiled brightly and didn’t say, satisfied with having passed the message. So they did both and it was fantastic.

When Percy came back to his senses he was lying on his back in bed, his legs spread open and cum leaking out of him. He was feeling wet and filthy (Slut?) and very relaxed. Oliver’s head was resting on his inner thigh and Percy reached down to caress him blindly. It was glorious. The voices agreed. Not one of them had anything different to say. Nothing else was important.

It was an excellent beginning of the year.