Patrolling the corridors, mindful of a group of first years that immediately stopped running upon seeing the shinning Prefect badge on his robes, Percy Weasley wondered how the new school year had become so disastrous so early on. Summer had been nothing short of wonderful. The memory of his constant exchange of letters with Penelope Clearwater, the radiant fourth year who stood next to him and eagerly cheered on Gryffindor during a Quidditch match against Slytherin, brought a shy smile to his face. They had exchanged pleasantries during the match and parted ways, not expecting to see each other again. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised when he felt a tap on his shoulder during Gryffindor's second match and turned to see Penelope standing behind him, long chestnut hair cascading in curls around her face and a wide smile gracing her features as she told him that they really must stop meeting like this.
They saw very little of each other during the rest of the year, which is why he found it slightly odd that she had sent him a letter four days after school had ended for the year, announcing that she had been made a prefect, which Percy triumphantly congratulated her for, and claiming that it would be beneficial for the school if they conducted their duties together as a way of uniting two houses together and if she was to be associated with any particular Prefect, she would rather it be a Gryffindor who shares the same intellectual logic as her fellow Ravenclaws. His pride instantly swelled at the unexpected compliment, recalling how the Sorting Hat had um-ed and ah-ed over which house Percy was best suited to. His unfathomable thirst for knowledge had pointed towards Ravenclaw; however, his spirit leaned closer to Gryffindor.
There had even been, to Percy's great horror, a mention of Slytherin at one point due to his dedicated and somewhat blind ambition, something that Percy wasn't even aware of at the time; however, he refused to be the proverbial black sheep of the Weasley clan any more than he was. Thus, he was sorted into Gryffindor.
He had even mentioned this in his return letter to Penelope, conveniently leaving out all mentions of Slytherin, as he did with everyone else. This was one secret he would be taking to the grave.
Not expecting a reply, Percy had been pleasantly surprised when Hermes returned the next day with another letter from her, curious about the lingering scent of lavender that tickled his senses but decided against inquiring about it in fears of offending her after only two days.
Their correspondence continued daily and Percy found himself warming up to the budding friendship that was developing between them. Penelope was genuinely interested in what he had to say and her own replies were just as long and engaging. She did not mock or ridicule his plans for the future, unlike the members of his own family. Instead, she listened and explained her own ambitions of becoming a Healer and wanting to make her own mark in the medical field. With only a few weeks until the start of the new school year, Percy found himself anticipating the first day back, eager to see Penelope and continue their engaging discussions in person.
He was perfectly aware that his newfound behaviour was causing his family, especially Fred and George, to become overly suspicious. The twins would take every opportunity they could to sneak a peek into his room, desperately curious about what was in the multitude of letters that he was receiving. Their pranks continued and even when he accidentally drank a potion that caused his hair to resemble an overgrown cabbage patch (darn his luck in inheriting the curly Prewett hair while his sibling inherited the tameable Weasley locks), he merely laughed this off and returned to his room, eagerly awaiting his reply from Penelope. Seeing the twins flabbergasted and at a loss for words had made it almost worthwhile.
The letter that had landed on his desk had not been from Penelope but from Oliver Wood, his friend and fellow roommate at Hogwarts. Spending the summer with his grandmother in some remote town in the Scottish Highlands that he didn't know even existed, Oliver wrote to Percy, stating that his grandmother (affectingly called 'Gram') had confiscated his broom, claiming them to be unsafe after an incident as a child left him with only several functioning bones, and that other than talking to a rabid cat and people over the age of fifty, Percy was the next best thing for any form of communication. Wondering whether Oliver was still lamenting over his lack of broom, he did not expect the reply he got:
The uniting of two houses? That's obvious, even by Gryffindor standards, let alone Ravenclaws. Hope you let her know that. Man, Perce, of everyone to bag themselves a girlfriend, I didn't expect it to be you (no offense, mate!).
Anyway, I've decided to devise a new training programme because last year was just abysmal! Of all the years for Gryffindor to face its worse loss ever, it just had to be during my rein as Captain. Bloody typical, I tell you!
What on earth…
Was he really that detached from the world of socialisation that he failed to realise he had a girlfriend? Well, what did Oliver Wood honestly know about the world of relationships anyway? The only relationship he maintained was with his broomstick. He would need to discuss this startling revelation with Penelope.
School started and he could not contain his smile upon seeing Penelope again. He decided on a different approach in discovering whether Penelope was indeed his girlfriend. He had taken her to a secluded corner and politely asked whether it would be possible to keep the fact that she was his … girlfriend … to themselves so early on due to the fact – well, due to his family really.
Uncertain of what her response would be, Percy absently fidgeted on the spot, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Penelope, however, smiled and threw her arms around him, gently pressing her lips against his cheek and whispering a soft "of course" in his ear before nestling her head in the crook of his neck.
Percy composed himself fully after he uttered the password to the Fat Lady, stepping through the portrait that would lead him to the Common Room. Nothing was out of place – he was poised and self-contained, holding himself high as he strode past the Gryffindor students and made his way to his dormitory.
"Didnae I tell you?" came an amused voice to his right, laced with a thick Scottish accent.
Turning swiftly on his heel, immediately recognising the voice, Percy looked around for the speaker. He saw Oliver sitting in front of the roaring fire, delicately polishing his broom and ensuring that not a single bristle was bent out of shape. He never looked away from his broom, even when the twins, who were playing a game of Exploding Snap on the floor, looked in his direction in hopes of having the big secret disclosed.
Refusing to take the bait, Percy tried to suppress a smile but felt the corners of his mouth twitch. Who would have guessed that Oliver Wood would be so observant about things that didn't involve Quidditch terminology? It did little to change the fact that Percy would rather face Madam Pince's wrath (not that that would ever happen as Percy was as fervent about books as she was) than openly admit that he was wrong about something. Instead, he continued his way to the dormitories without a word.
This action alone caused suspicion to Fred, who threw his cards down and stared in the direction his brother left, loudly exclaiming:
"Something's definitely going with him."
"He didn't even parade around, telling us it's after curfew," George nodded, gathering the cards together.
Before George had the chance to deal another hand of cards, Percy suddenly appeared at the entrance to the boy's dormitories.
"It's after hours," he announced loudly, casting a measured gaze over the few remaining students in the Common Room. "If you're not in your dormitories within the next five minutes then I shall issue a detention for each and every one of you," he added gravely, crossing his arms as he leant against the stone archway, silently observing the students collecting their things and leaving for their respected dorms.
"Spoke to soon, ay, lads?" Oliver laughed heartily, giving his broom one final wipe before standing up and leaving the Common Room too.
"Fred, George: please don't dilly-dally," Percy huffed, eyes narrowing behind his horn-rimmed frames.
The twins grinned. Fred pocketed the cards, seemingly not noticing a single card fluttering to the ground as he walked away.
"Dilly-dally?" he said, looking to his twin.
"Us?" George responded.
"Never," they coursed simultaneously, throwing an arm around Percy's neck, relishing in the fact that they were now a couple of inches taller than their older brother.
"You've ten seconds and counting," Percy said shortly. George nodded his head and removed his arm, making a move backwards before looking around the Common Room and turning his attention back to his brothers.
"Fred, you've dropped a card. How careless."
"Very careless indeed," he agreed, removing his own arm from Percy's shoulder and pulling out his wand, pointing it in the direction of the card. "Wingardium leviosa."
The card fluttered on the ground for a split second before gently floating upwards. It stopped in mid-air once it reached a certain height and then began to twirl and spin, dancing slowly towards the archway. It fluttered above Percy's head, tapping his hair before jumping in the air.
Percy sighed as he reached to grab the card, his patience wearing thin.
Fred and George shared a silent grin as they observed and George removed his own wand, whispering something under his breath, gently flicking his wrist.
Percy touched the card, wrapping his fingers delicately around the edges and jumped back as he felt the card explode, a cloud of black soot encompassing his head.
"Good night, big brother," they laughed in a sing-song voice, disappearing upstairs.
"Wretched twins," Percy growled, face and hair now smeared with powered darkness. Using the back of his hand, he unsuccessfully removed the soot from his glasses, his sight now hindered by dark blotches. He sighed once again, turning swiftly and storming up the stairs, hoping he would be able to sneak into his dormitory without being mocked by Oliver…
So, how had the new school year had become so disastrous, barring the twins constant shenanigans because that was a given really when ones surname was Weasley and the first name Percy. No, the twins had nothing on this. His gripe was with that simple minded being that had the audacity to call himself a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. How could that man hope to teach when he was barely familiar with a patronus charm? Percy had naturally assumed the man to be joking. He had read all the books and was familiar with the great accomplishments of Gilderoy Lockheart. Now, however, he was beginning to doubt all he had read now. What could possibly be worse than having his education ruined by an incompetent buffoon?
Percy was jolted from his reverie when he felt himself being pushed aside, colliding with the wall.
"Watch where you're going, Weasley," sneered a gruff voice that sounded like someone had a flobberworm stuck down the wrong side of their throat.
Percy instantly recognised the voice.