Ron had it right. You never get anything new, with older brothers about.
He's got it worse, of course, since he's got five older brothers instead of just two. But d'you see how hard it is, following Charlie and Bill's acts? At least Ron's got the twins to soften things a little, to remind people that not all the Weasley boys have to be overachievers.
It had to be a big deal when Bill and Charlie were both home, since they almost never are. I took a logical, sensible job, close to home until I could afford my own flat. They're off running all over the place, making mum and dad go visit them --
Anyway. It was late summer, and it sort-of reminded me of when we were getting ready for the Quidditch Cup, last year. Harry was around again, of course, and Hermione'd come down. I quite like Hermione; she's a bright girl, reminds me of myself at her age. Which isn't that long ago, but that's not the point.
The point was that Bill and Charlie'd both brought dates. Charlie had met this Romanian girl -- I think she went to Durmstrang, but she still seemed charming enough. Bill, damn him, always did have to make trouble. He'd brought Fleur Delacour, and...well, you'll see.
The big outdoors table was loud with conversation, requests to pass the butter, or the potatoes, or would someone please grab the gnome that was bothering Ginny? Along with Ginny's protestations that she could perfectly well handle a little gnome on her own.
Arthur was presiding over the family with the happy air of a patriarch who has managed to raise six sons and a daughter without any untowards piercings, pregnancies, or dabblings in the Dark Arts. Harry and Hermione were deep in some kind of plot with Ron, as usual, and the rest of the family were talking over and around each other, Molly managing to hold down eight conversations at once.
"And what have you -- Percy, pass your sister the olives -- been up to, dear?" Molly asked, turning to the slim girl sitting next to Bill.
Bill smiled encouragingly at the girl he'd brought to meet his parents, Fleur Delacour, who looked back at him as if she'd like to remind him that she was French, not stupid.
"I aff been studying zee 'Gyptian cusztoms of burial and rebirth," she said, inclining her head. "Iz faszcinating, really."
The eyes of every male at the table were suddenly on her, and a tinge of red crept over her cheeks. Veela charm, even the mild, inherited version she'd gotten from her grandmother, tended to embarrass at times.
"Zee cutting up of zee body of Osiris, you szee..." she stammered. "And zee...use of gold to preszerve wizards and witches..." she lapsed into silence, waiting for people to look away.
"I've read about that," Percy said, glancing around the table. Ron and Harry had gone back to talking with Hermione, and Ginny was pestering Charlie's girlfriend to tell her how to do a levitation spell in Romanian. Molly beamed.
"That's very -- Ron stop it I see what you're doing -- interesting, Fleur!" she said, ignoring Percy.
"Fleur's brilliant," Bill added, putting his arm around her. Fleur smiled, but there was a slight chill in it.
"What about you, Percy?(Arthurdoyouwantthelastroll?)" Molly asked. "Where's Penelope? I thought for sure she'd be able to -- Ginny! Settle down -- Apparate over for a while. At least for dessert. You did get the ice cream, Bill?"
"Yes mum," Bill answered.
"She's busy," Percy said shortly.
"Oh? I'd have thought she'd be taking a bit of a break after her NEWTs. She did pass her Apparate test, didn't she?"
"I don't know," Percy muttered.
"Sorry, Perce?" Arthur said. "Couldn't hear you over the lovebirds over here," he added, gesturing at Bill and Fleur. Percy scowled.
"I said I don't know," he repeated.
"Well, I would imagine she'd tell you if she'd failed," Arthur replied, falteringly. He seemed to have noticed that Percy wanted to drop the subject, but Molly was not paying as much attention.
"I do think she'd have wanted to at least visit. Bill and Charlie's girlfriends are here. And Harry's harem," she drawled, with a smile. Both Hermione and Ginny blushed.
"She couldn't come," Percy repeated.
"Why on Earth not, dear? Did she tell you why?"
"No," Percy answered, wishing the ground would open and swallow him up. Or that Bill would stop looking quite so simperingly at Fleur.
"Well, that was rather rude," Molly continued.
"Molly," Arthur warned.
"I just think if she's not going to come round, she could give her own boyfriend -- "
"I'm not her boyfriend!" Percy said suddenly. Once again, the attention of the entire table was focused -- this time, not on Fleur, but on him.
He hated it when the whole family did that. They'd just decide, as a group, to look intently at one person. He always seemed to miss the cue, or be off somewhere, or -- worse -- be the centre of attention.
"Not anymore," he mumbled, stabbing at the mashed potatoes on his plate. And Molly finally took the hint.
"Oh," she said softly. "Oh, I see."
Arthur's eyebrows knotted as he searched his parental memory for an appropriate thing to say when one's son publicly announces his breakup in this fashion. Percy could see his face. It'd never happened before, had it? Bill and Charlie didn't ever have real girlfriends, or if they did, they always lost interest first and brought a new girl home... "Well, the path of true love never did -- "
"I'm not feeling very hungry, Mum, can I be excused?" Percy said quickly. The last thing he needed was Bill and Charlie trying to give him love-life tips. Or worse, Fred and George.
"You stay right there, Percy, nobody else has finished yet," Molly said. Percy completely missed the sympathy in her eyes.
"Yes, mum," Percy mumbled, adding a few choice words in Latin under his breath. Ginny, who was rather good with languages, snorted into her drink.
"And Harry!" Molly called, cutting off Bill's preparation to expansively explain just how Percy ought to go about keeping a girl. "How was your summer?"
Harry, who -- despite Molly's stuffing him with food since he'd arrived yesterday -- was looking rather thin, gave her a broad smile.
"Uncle Vernon had a triple-bypass," he said cheerfully. "Couldn't move at all for a week."
"That's terrible!" Arthur said.
"Is it?" Harry asked mildly. Ron snickered. Percy, fuming, saw that Bill and Charlie were exchanging significant looks, glancing at him, then at each other. He laid down his silverware with a clatter.
"Lots of work to do," he said. "Loads, really. Sorry, Mum, just..."
Molly called after him to come back to the table, but Percy was already rushing inside. He didn't realise he'd brought his plate with him until he was in his room, leaning on the door.
Damn. Now he had not only been dumped, but made a fool of himself in front of his entire family, Fleur Delacour, Hermione Granger, some anonymous Romanian witch, and the Boy Who Lived. On the plus side, things couldn't get that much worse.
At least he had his dinner. He had no fork with which to eat it, but he didn't really want the mashed potatoes anyhow.
He crossed his room, setting the plate on his desk. Through the curtains on his open window, he could hear his father telling his mother that she should let him alone for a while. Goodness knew, the boy probably wanted some time to think about things.
"He's not like Bill and me," Charlie offered helpfully. Percy winced. "Quiet, Percy is."
"Aye," Bill mused. "Always was."
"Middle child," said Fred. Then a pause. "No wait, guess that's me, isn't it?" he continued. "Well, close enough."
"I just don't see why he doesn't want to -- " Molly began.
"It's men things, Molly," Arthur said soothingly. "Just let it be, and it'll blow over."
"Well, I don't like seeing him unhappy. And if I run into that Penelope -- "
"You'll be polite and not in any way embarrass him further?" George asked brightly. Percy slumped to the floor and leaned against the wall, as the conversation below turned slowly to other topics.
Why couldn't he be like Bill and Charlie? They never seemed to care. Not about breaking up with girls, certainly not about dating girls. And yet the girls who went out with them were interesting and pretty and smart -- except Bill and Charlie didn't seem very interested in them. Or at least he could be like Fred and George and just take out a different girl all the time and have fun...at this rate, Ron was going to outstrip him in no time. And it'd be a sad day when Ginny decided she was qualified to give him dating tips.
Besides, Bill and Charlie got to do everything first...so what was the point in being different, obviously it worked for them...
He drew his knees up and rested his elbows on them, letting his head hang down. And Ron thought he had problems. Bill and Charlie were special, and Fred and George were twins, and Ron was best friends with the Boy Who Was Currently Having Second Helpings Of Pumpkin Ice Cream. That left Percy to be the Brain and the Perfect One and never be impolite or angry or --
Lord, what if mum did run into Penelope? Or worse, Penelope's mum?
He looked up as his doorknob rattled, and narrowed his eyes.
"Who is it?" he asked, walking to the door, so that the dessert-eaters outside couldn't hear.
"Oh, am szo sorry, wrong room," Fleur's voice drifted through from the other side. "Please, where is zee powdair room?"
"End of the hallway, next door on your left," he replied. There was a slight pause, then he heard her walking away. He flopped down on his bed, covering his face with his hands. It wasn't long before there was a knock at the door.
"It's open, mum," he sighed, reaching over to flip the latch. Eyes still closed, he continued. "Yes, I'm sorry I left the table early, I know it was unpardonably rude and what will Fleur and that lovely Romanian girl think, not to mention Harry and Hermione -- "
"Pairhaps zey zink because you have lost your girl-friend, you are unhappy," said a voice that was definitely not his mother's. He turned his head, and pushed himself up on one elbow.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, realizing he really was going for idiot question of the year with that one. Fleur gave him a small smile.
"I do not like ice cream," she said. "I zought I would come up and szee you."
"Well, now you've seen me," he replied crossly. She laughed and closed the door, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Zey caire ver' much for you," she continued. "Eet must be hard, having szo many to szee you when you aire upset."
"Maybe," he answered, closing his eyes again. "It's none of your business if it is."
"I make it my business!" said Fleur, in a cheery voice. "Of all zee Oeasleys, you aire zee only one who talk...oh, English is difficult. To me, yes? Not...at me. Zey can't help it, I know, none of Bill's girl-friends aire around long."
"You've got that right."
He heard her shift her weight, slightly, on the edge of the bed. "He is...fun, Bill."
"Yeah. Fun's the word."
"Difficult for you, yes," she said. "Depth is difficult."
"Bill and Charlie, zey are good boys, but zey do not...take life ver' seriously," she said. "You understand, yes?"
"Zey do not take girls ver' seriously. No depth," she answered. "I szee zat you cared for your girl-friend?"
"None of your business," Percy grumbled. He heard her move again, and felt her lean over him with just enough time to open his eyes before she kissed his lips.
"I make it my business," she repeated. She'd kept her eyes open too.
"You're Bill's girlfriend," he said softly.
"I zink zat is my decision to make," answered Fleur, just as softly. Her body was light, graceful, as she moved to lie on top of him, arms folded on his chest. He felt her fingers begin to undo the clasp at his collar.
"No -- my parents are downstairs -- " he protested.
"I haff charmed zer door," she said, into his neck.
"Zey will not hear us nor zink of us, until one of us again leaves." Her mouth on his collarbone. "It iz not your choice," she added gently.
As if he was really going to be able to say no...
"Useful charm," she continued. "Beauxbatons teaches szuch things."
"Oh," Percy said thoughtfully. "Oh..."
When it was done, they lay twined on the bed, Fleur's silver hair falling over him like moonlight, her body wrapped in his arms, curled against him. He breathed in the scent of her -- sharp, like cold blueberries.
"That was...really really good," he said. She laughed. "I mean, that was some kind of good. I never -- "
" -- I know," she said, cutting off his confession. He tensed. "Don't worry. A woman knows zese szings, zat's all. You were fine." A slight grin. "Bettair zan fine."
"Better than Bill?"
She laughed again. "I would not know," she answered.
"You mean you and he never -- ?"
"Oh no. What kind off girl do you take me for?"
"Well, you did just burst in on me and..." he gestured. "Do things."
"Zings. Yes. We did do zings," Fleur said, resting her head on his chest. After a moment, she sighed. "We had bettair go downstairs."
"I suppose so," he answered, watching as she gathered her clothes, dressed. She handed him his own clothing in a bundle.
"Fleur..." he said, slowly.
"Why...?" he asked, as he pulled his shirt on, hoping she would understand. She ran deft fingers through her hair, straightening it, and winked at him.
"Because you were interested in me," she said. "You are...depth," she finished. "And, well..."
He waited patiently.
"Now you will 'aff somezing zat I promise you, Bill will never aff," she finished, with a wicked grin. He rose, did up his belt, followed her to the door. When she opened it, he heard shouting outside. He put his head out just as Ron, stark naked, came dashing down the corridor.
"Hi Perce!" Ron cried as he passed. "Bit of a practical joke, nothing to worry about..."
The younger boy was followed by Harry, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, and Molly, bellowing in rage.
"WhenIcatchthepairofyou -- oh, hallo Percy, feeling better? -- Iamgoingtogiveyoubothsuchahiding..."
"Zis house," Fleur said slowly, when the three runners had passed. "Iz a bit mad, yes?"
"Oh," Percy answered with a grin, "Oh yes."
"I should like to come back, szometime," she said, and brushed past him, descending the stairs to where Bill was standing, at the bottom.
Percy's smile lasted the rest of the evening.