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Nighttime Wanderings

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"…and if their Seeker decides to lead, then that leaves… no…. it's… it would… but, if they decide to follow… hmm… Chang did that… but Diggory… ah, damn him…" Oliver scratched his chin with the quill he was using to mark up a model of the Quidditch field. "Hmm… Slytherin plays dirty, but Malfoy's not great. Chasers and Beaters… Chasers…Chang and Diggory practiced last summer… they they've got different… but we played them before… and Malfoy… Damn."

Oliver sighed and put his head in his hands, narrowly missing his eye with the quill.

"Careful," Percy said distractedly, then cursed himself for his lapse in attention; he'd just spattered ink all over his notes. That was what he got for staring at Oliver.

Oliver rubbed ink off his cheek. "As if you're any better."

"I don't have ink on my face."

Oliver snorted. "Check your chin, genius."

"I do not—" Percy huffed. "I do. Fine."

He carefully moved his quill and inkpot off the bed. It was the second time he'd spilled the ink over his notes—not that he'd tell Oliver, as it was only the first time as far as he knew. He'd been writing for ages, but he couldn't help but feel that something was missing.

"Why're you frowing?"

Percy looked over. Oliver, still hunched over the model of the field, was looking at him. Percy huffed and gestured to the paper. "I'm missing something!"

"Like hell you are." Oliver snorted. "You're perfect, as you usually are. I'm the one that missing something."

"Oh, yeah?" Percy crossed his hands. "What's that?"

"Well…" Oliver took a deep breath. "There's only a week until we play Slytherin, the game that determines whether or not we get the Quidditch Cup, and it's my last chance to get it. And because of that spectacular defeat earlier, we have to be at least fifty points up in order for Harry to get the Snitch. We're training every day, but I'm not doing enough! I'm not planning enough, I'm not training enough, I'm not dedicated enough, I—"

"Bullshit."

"What?"

"You're the most dedicated Captain I've ever seen, and I'm related to Charlie!" Percy abandoned his notes and crawled to the edge of the bed. "You haven't slept properly in two weeks! You haven't been studying—"

"Which is even worse than not sleeping, I know."

"Of course not!" Percy scowled. "Sleeping well is mandatory in order to achieve good grades, as is eating a proper breakfast and taking breaks to go outside."

"You do none of that."

Percy bristled. "Well… I—"

"Put your notes away. You're overworking yourself. You need a break." Oliver turned back to the table he was planning at. "Let me roll this up. You never know what might happen if I don't lock away the tactics, Slytherins play dirty, I don't trust them to not break in and steal them."

"Right," Percy muttered. "I'm overworking myself."

But despite grumbling, he began gathering the notes. NEWTS were still two months away, but he was already drowning in homework and staying up all night to study. He wasn't the only one, he knew, but Oliver was right: it wasn't good.

As he watched, Oliver locked the Quidditch plans into his trunk, using several concealment charms as well as locking charms to protect them, before grabbing his pajamas and quickly changing.

"Good, you're already changed," Oliver said as he straightened up, looking at the pastel blue pajamas Percy had been studying in. "Bedtime."

No sooner had he said this that he was turning off the lights and jumping into Percy's bed.

It should have been easy to close his eyes and fall asleep, cuddling with Oliver as they sometimes did since they'd first started dating. The lights were off, it was probably past midnight, and they'd both been working all day. But sleep did not come.

Percy sighed softly. Was Oliver asleep? He listened. No… no… Oliver's breathing was less controlled when he was truly sleeping.

"I'm awake, too," Percy whispered.

"Hmm…" Oliver turned over. "Why are you whispering?"

"I don't know, it fits the atmosphere, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess it does." He sighed. "How long has it been?"

"I dunno, maybe a half hour?" Percy's watch was on his bedside table, as were his glasses; Oliver's watch had broken the last time he'd flown into the goalposts.

"Hmm…" Oliver was silent for several minutes then, before sighing again. "I quit."

"Sorry?"

Oliver sat up, taking the blanket with him. "I'm bored."

"I… can't help you with that." Percy sat up and put his hand on Oliver's shoulders. "Give it a few more minutes, maybe—"

"Can't, I'm too restless." Oliver swung his legs over the side of the bed, waited another minute, then stood up. "Come on."

Percy grabbed his glasses. "'Come on' where?"

"You'll see."

Oliver began walking to the door, Percy right at his heels. "Is this dangerous? Are you breaking the rules?"

Oliver scoffed. "It's not dangerous, your brothers do it all the time!"

"Yeah, that fills me with confidence!" Percy hissed. "Where are we going?"

But he knew perfectly well where they were going. The Common Room was dark and quiet, the only light coming from the still-dimming fireplace. They slowly walked down the stairs, and saw the clock over the fire showing it to be just past one.

"Come on," Oliver whispered, leading the way across the room.

Percy knew where he was leading them. He knew, but he didn't say anything. Maybe he had been working too hard, but he had absolutely no desire to say anything; he wanted to see what Oliver had in mind. He was excited.

They were almost at the portrait hole when something brushed past them.

A pause, and Oliver laughed. "Aw, Perce…You can always hold my hand."

Percy flushed and scowled. "I'm not that scared. And I'm not scared at all. Just startled. And maybe I just felt like holding your hand. For no reason. Definitely nothing connected to the large hairy thing that just jumped out in front of us and turned out to be Hermione's cat."

"Right." Oliver laughed again. "Not scared at all. Come on."

They were still holding hands despite Oliver's teasing. He tugged Percy forward, ignoring the cat just as it was ignoring them.

They quietly opened the portrait hole and Oliver led the way out. Percy frowned at the knowing look that the Fat Lady gave them as they tiptoed past, but he wasn't going to delude himself: they weren't the only couple sneaking around at night.

It was likely that, so late at night, Filch was prowling the halls looking for errant students, Mrs. Norris at this heels. Even Percy hated them—Filch was cantankerous, and he didn't have the students' best interests at heart, which really should have been the main motivation of every adult in the castle.

They went down two flights of stairs, past some classrooms and past a picture of some monks, who whispered, "Aren't you the Head Boy?"

Percy didn't answer them.

He hoped that the monks hadn't attracted Filch. Neither he nor Oliver had brought a wand, which was an oversight, but it was too late now. Percy didn't even have his Head Boy badge.

They went down one of the side staircases that led to the Great Hall, but didn't go inside. Percy looked at the large entryway and heavy doors, but they didn't stop. They weren't walking in a pattern, and after a while, Percy didn't even think they were walking to a specific location.

"Hey, Oliver?" he said.

"Yeah?" Oliver stopped walking, right in the middle of the corridor. "Why are we whispering?"

Percy pulled him over to the wall. "Because we're out after hours. We're breaking the rules. But that's not why I stopped. Where are we going?"

"I… didn't really think that through."

"What?"

"I wanted us to go on a nice, peaceful, relaxing nighttime stroll. We'd get back well-exercised and just in the mood to fall asleep. No destination in mind, just us and the castle." Oliver squeezed their still-linked hands. "That's alright, yeah?"

"Yeah. No destination in mind, that sounds good." But just as they began to walk again, something caught Percy's eye. "Wait."

"What?"

"I found a destination." He pointed at the library entrance with his free hand. "I was taking notes earlier, and I was sure I was missing something, but this is the perfect time to try to find it and get ahead—"

"I thought you were going to relax."

"I am! I just want to relax with a book. And you. You and a book. Mostly you. I'll find it, I won't even look through it much, and then we can go right back. No studying, just checking out a book."

When Oliver didn't immediately reply, Percy led the way into the library. It was a good place to learn, but it was also the least likely place for Filch to be, and Percy was already getting quite paranoid about the temperamental caretaker finding them.

Percy knew what book he needed to find to complete his study notes. Snape had mentioned it in class—Professor Sweeney's Guide to Potions of the Middle Ages—but Percy'd forgotten to look at it. It was in the Potions section, right next to Professor Tjäder's Guide to Advanced Love Potions.

"It's just here," he told Oliver quietly. "I'll just check one chapter, and that's it."

"Alright." Oliver said.

He moved over to look out the window as Percy pulled the book off the shelf and settled at a table. It was dark in the library, and difficult without their wands, but the moon provided just enough light for Percy to be able to distinguish the words.

Oliver waited a few minutes before turning back to him. "How're you doing?"

"Well, I found it—"

"That's great!"

"But I can't read it."

"What?"

"I can't read it," Percy repeated. "The writing's too small and it's too dark. I have everything else, this book's almost a copy of the medieval chapter of Advanced Potion-Making, but this one sentence… It's the only thing that's different, and I can't read it!"

"Let me try?"

"Here." Percy pushed over the book and leaned back so he wouldn't obstruct Oliver's view. But he could see, almost immediately, that Oliver was having no better luck. He shook his head sadly. "I'll just have to come back tomorrow, then."

Oliver grinned hopefully. "At least you'll know the page number?"

"But I'll still have wasted twenty minutes! I found the book, I found the sentence, but it's too small and it's too dark, and we don't have our wands, and because we don't have our wands and we're out so late, we can't hide properly if Filch finds us!"

"Well, yes, but we've been lucky so far. And it's only twenty minutes."

Percy made to slam the book shut, but remembered that they could get caught, and closed it quietly. "It's still twenty minutes. NEWTs are coming, and I'm not ready, I haven't been studying enough, and it's bad enough that Black and the Dementors are here, but there's still so much stuff to do, and you've got Quidditch, and… I don't know, I guess it just started to seem like too much."

Oliver crouched next to the chair. "What brought this on?"

"I don't know, too-small print in a book?" Percy ran his hands through his hair. "Maybe I'm finally cracking under the pressure. Or just cracking up. The book's always going to be there, but it's not about the book, it's about exams, and our futures…"

"Just breathe, Perce, alright?" Oliver rummaged in his pocket. "Here: leftover Easter egg."

"You keep Easter eggs in your pajamas?"

Oliver took his hand and laughed lightly. "You don't?"

"No."

"Lucky I do, then." He pulled Percy to his feet. "I think we've stayed out here too late, we should go back."

"You're right." Percy nibbled at the egg as they started walking away from the book and out of the library.

"I am." Oliver nodded. "And for the record? You'll be brilliant."

Percy laughed lightly and shook his head, feeling pleased. "Thanks."

They chose a more straightforward way back to Gryffindor Tower. Percy didn't have his watch, but he figured it to be a bit past two, and well past time for them to be sleeping. No matter, though, they would sleep as soon as they got back to the dormitory.

"And then, Poland's Keeper flew around all three hoops and caught the Quaffle at the last second, just as their Seeker caught the Snitch. 360 to nothing," Oliver finished with a grin; he'd been telling Percy about the 1817 Quidditch World Cup. "Legendary, absolutely—"

"Shh!" Percy pulled him behind a tapestry.

They heard footsteps in one of the classrooms nearby, then an oily voice. "There, there, my sweet, the monks said they saw two boys out an hour ago…"

"Filch," Oliver breathed.

Percy could only nod. He could see it now: Filch, dragging them out from behind the tapestry, mocking them, taking them to McGonagall, dragging them to Dumbledore, demanding a swift and cruel punishment, and ruining Percy's spotless record and reputation as Head Boy.

Please let him go away, he thought, clutching Oliver's hand harder than ever. Please let him think it was nothing. Please let something distract him, Peeves, anything! Please…

But just as suddenly as Filch had appeared, he was gone. No footsteps, no raspy, oily voice, no foul cat. Nothing. He was probably hiding, biding his time, probably inches away from the tapestry and ready to grab them, but Oliver was already dragging Percy back into the corridor and up the remaining set of stairs up to the Fat Lady.

"Flibbertiggibet," Oliver hissed at the Fat Lady.

"You should be in bed." She gave them a reproving look as she swung backward to let them into the Common Room.

"Oh, Merlin," Percy sighed. The familiar red and gold room—even dark as it was—let him breathe freely. "We are never doing that again."

Oliver nodded. "That was too close."

"Never ever!" Percy felt a laugh bubbling inside him; nervous energy, elation at having escaped Filch. "That was… wow…"

"Yeah." Oliver nodded again, grinning. He pulled Percy towards the staircase. "Come on, I think we should go to bed. We've been up half the night."

"Oh, not half!" Percy protested. "Just a few hours! But you are correct. We do need to sleep, and we can't miss breakfast tomorrow, because—"

"Eating a full breakfast is mandatory in order to achieve good grades." Oliver gave him a light kiss on the cheek. "Yeah, Perce, I know."