Life Changes on a Breeze

He sits in his room, and everyone thinks he's working. He should be -- he has a lot to do, and he finds that he is clumsier with reports and forms and memos than he ever was at schoolwork.

Real world stuff isn't anything like school, and for all Percy's pride in his position and his work he knows that he is only steps away from losing it all; miss one stride and he will go down, surely as any Quidditch player flung off his broom.

Of course, Percy doesn't play Quidditch much. As rabid a fan as any in the wizarding world, he still has never played the game like his brothers and sister do. He has heard them give each other their reasons for it -- he's stuffy, he's busy, he doesn't want to break his glasses. All reasons they give for whatever else he does that they don't like and don't understand.

The truth is, he can't bear to play Quidditch. At school, he never played because he was never good enough to be asked. Informal games were still competitive and only the better players were chosen for teams. Pick-up games at home, with siblings who had only each other to play with on long summer days, were all about having fun and no one really cared how well you played.

At least that's what his mum would tell him. Sometimes she'd knock on his closed bedroom door and stick her head in, smile in that trying-not-to-look-worried way, and tell him his brothers and sister would like another player, and wouldn't he go on down for just a bit. Get some exercise. Have some fun.

He'd give her his excuses, as fake as the ones his siblings created. But she'd leave him alone -- like he has been left now. Sitting at his desk with the curtains at the window spelled to let him see out, but let no one see in. He can watch their games, that way. Watch but not be seen, watch but not be drawn out to join them.

Sometimes the brooms fly past his window and he hears them shouting, and he knows they're trying to draw him out. Or taunt him -- with his brothers it's hard to be sure. Ginny sometimes flys by and calls to him, asking if he wouldn't like to come out for just one play.

He doesn't think they know how much he wants to play. How much he wants to leap on an old, nearly broken broom and spin around the yard, playing with his siblings and letting nothing but the game interfere with his thoughts.

But his thoughts betray him before he can ever twitch back the curtain to accept the invitation, or grab the doorknob to force himself downstairs, outside, to join them. His thoughts send him back to his desk, or sometimes to his bed, ears burning and face bent down, hidden from everyone even though no one can see him.

No one sees him, and he is grateful. Much as he sometimes wishes he could trade this secret for the comfort of his family, he has never found the trick to doing so. It comes to him when he least wants it to, and he has to drive himself away from his family -- from his siblings, from-- He has to hide himself away where it cannot be read on his face. Where he has no chance to say a word, or betray himself with a look, or worse, a touch.

He cannot play Quidditch with them, because it reminds him of the last game he played with them. He and his older brothers playing half-Quidditch, and the twins on their child-size brooms, racing around trying to play a game they barely understood the rules of. And he, Percy, flying around like he had no cares in the world than Quidditch, than playing, than laughing with his brothers.

Then the smash up, crashing his broom into his brother's, knocking them both to the ground amidst a tangle of limbs and shouts. More shouts as the others swooped in, checking to see if everyone was OK, helping them stand, brushing them off of grass and leaves and dirt. And those moments in between: when he lay flat against his brother's body, and he realised what he was feeling.

His brother said nothing about it. Like it never happened, and perhaps nothing had. But Percy remembers the feeling, and from that moment on he knew nothing except that he wanted it again.