" I put your photograph away. I can’t look at you today. I put your letters upstairs; but it’s no good because you’re everywhere. I can try to hide… but why waste my time? Since the round of you, everything I do says you’re everywhere."
In my family, which is the Clearwater family, when there’s trouble, we go to sleep. So when Percy died I fell into my fluffy middle class bed and pulled the covers over my head for a few weeks. It didn’t take long to rationalize his death, as I’ve begun to do with everything these days. It was wartime. Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark, Voldemort’s army vs. Ours, and Ours wasn’t very good. It was, in fact, horrible, and Percy was no solider. When he got drafted, it was likely that he would meet the maker before too long.
I had been in Spain at the time, living with my mother’s sister, a Gypsy with a beer belly and a friendly laugh. I didn’t speak the language, but I didn’t care—I was having a hell of a time, painting and getting into all sorts of magic that the Ministry in England might have hung me for. I was wild, in those days, driving along the coast of Spain on my old motor scooter and laughing it up with Muggle boys at the hotels on the Italian islands for holiday.
I got the news about Percy by owl, from a cousin of mine named Ray Clearwater, who was stationed in Miami at the time. He said it was a damn shame—old Mrs. Weasley had already lost two sons to the war, and her young daughter had just married a man who had recently been sent to combat. He said with Harry Potter being the commander and chief he might have thought to keep the Weasley boys out of the war, somehow—they were never cut out for that sort of thing. Maybe Bill and Charlie, but they were important scientists now, and not to be sacrificed to hand to hand combat on the front. Anyway, I wasn’t really surprised—Harry had become somewhat frigid over the years as the Ministry pushed him to grow up too fast and take over for the army, and I bet he scarcely remembered his old friends from school.
I have to say Ray’s letter didn’t effect me much at the time. I hadn’t seen Percy in five years, not since I turned down his marriage proposal at 19. He was my childhood love, my high school sweetheart, and a hell of a guy, sure, but not good enough to marry. He wasn’t the only boy in my graduating class who asked me to marry him—years later Oliver Wood did the same, and his proposal I seriously considered. But still, I was so young—barely 22, and not ready to get married. I felt like they’d only hold me down, and especially Percy, who was very possessive.
And I had made the right decision, hadn’t I? Well that’s what I thought when I got the letter, still racing around Spain in a halter top and wrap-around skirt, the fabulous witch who intrigued all the Muggle boys. But now I’m not so sure. Now Percy is dead, and I’ve gotten to thinking.
It’s one thing to remember stolen kisses, and the way he was always so adorably nervous while he stubbornly pretended to be sure of himself. It’s quite another thing to let them float through your head all day—your memories—until you’re imagining them happening all over again; impossible things.
Percy Weasley DECIDED to be my boyfriend. It was our fifth year at Hogwarts, and I was the aloof artist with the long, wild blond hair, while Percy was the well-put together prefect with the little wire-rim glasses. Little did I know that they’d make me a prefect the following year. They must have had a shortage of applicants or something.
Anyway, he’d follow me back to the Ravenclaw quarters after class sometimes, talking idly and ridiculously about Quidditch, or Arithmancy or some other dumb thing. I knew he had his eye on me, which was dumb because I was dating Lee Jordan at the time.
Lee, however, proved to be something of a flirt, especially with the younger girls, and I got disgusted with the whole situation and with him after a while. It was then that Percy got really adamant. He’d write me notes in class—not really poetry, but just little observations. I still have some of them.
Your hair smells like watermelons. How do you do that? –Percy
I’d always start laughing and thinking how moronic I must be to attract someone like Percy. While we all sort of respected him for his ambition, he was the laughing stock of the upper classmen, thanks to his brothers. Everybody had a crush on Fred and George then, we all just wanted to be them. They never seemed to have any problems.
But Percy was impressive. He must have sent me one hundred letters that summer. These are all saved, still, in a box that I even took with me to Spain. Percy, who was probably perfect in some respects, thought I was perfect, which was crazy and wonderful. My parents were getting divorced that summer, and Percy’s letters kept me alive, however silly they were. So maybe it was only by a stroke of his own luck that I fell in love with the awkward boy while reading his letters that summer.
I finally wrote back to him, one night when I thought I might have to call the police. My parents had gotten into another fight over their formerly shared belongings, and dad had smashed mom’s treasured Gilderoy Lockhart commemorative plates. I got out a parchment and quill and told Percy Weasley to come get me as soon as he could. Love, Penny, I signed.
Percy arrived at my window three nights later in a big blue car he’d stolen from his father’s workshop, nervous and sweating, but breaking all those laws for me. Percy knew every spell in the world—he was a far better caster than I was. He put an invisibility spell on the flying car, and later on the two of us, and we crept inside a Muggle concert hall, watching a 200-piece orchestra play from the lighting booth above the theater. Percy said he loved this kind of music, and smiled at me, and I kissed him because he was my hero then.
We had a weekend to remember, and I let myself be totally absorbed in someone else for the first time in awhile. He was so trustworthy, and loyal, it blew me away that he was even human. But he was human—that I knew. I don’t think anyone had even kissed Percy Weasley before me, and I used to send him into dizzy spells just sitting in his lap and playing with his hair.
The next year I got frozen by some sort of snake creature—I don’t remember it very well. But I had secretly been dating Percy all year, and we’d gotten pretty close. I didn’t want anyone to know yet—mostly I was afraid that Lee would pick on him non-stop if he knew. Not to mention the twins. And Percy was reluctant about letting the truth come out, too. I knew he wasn’t ashamed of me, but somehow I think his pride would have been damaged if everyone knew he had a weakness for a leggy blond Ravenclaw girl.
Well, he couldn’t keep it a secret forever, and in the end neither of us minded. The world did not end when everyone found out that we were dating. My mum even let me take him on holiday with us to Switzerland that summer. It was an odd sort of place to be in July, and I remember the trip in a haze of numb-lipped kisses and laughter-inducing spills in the snow. Percy helped me survive the horror of my mother’s new boyfriend.
During our seventh year Percy was changed, different. He was still a fool for the rules, still ragging on his brothers all the time for having no work ethic. But with me he was different. He had this look—and I knew I was in for it big time, cause he would want to marry me once he found a job. And I just didn’t want to marry Percy. I wanted to keep him forever my secret, like I had in our sixth year, and hide him in my pocket, petting his head from time to time to make sure he was still there. I was only 18—anything else would have frightened me.
Percy would take me into Hogsmeade for the weekend, and sometimes even to Cambridge, where we’d stay by the lake and lie in each other’s arms forgetting everything else. That was when I loved Percy—quiet and lazy beside me, without his glasses, close to my face where I could see his cute little freckles. I loved him for being not so frantic only around me. I was his down time, where he could relax and not try so hard to impress everyone.
I used to wear his too-big cotton jacket with the huge buttons, and let the sleeves fall over my hands, let Percy hold me and push my hair out of eyes, thinking, This is how I want it to be, always.
But after graduation things got different, as I knew they would. Percy was trying desperately to get the best job possible for a wet-behind-the-ears kid just out of school, and meanwhile trying to hold onto me for dear life. For me, it was when I could finally see the whole wide word stretched out before me. And it was all mine—I had graduated with honors and somehow I felt I could do anything.
Percy did persuade me to move in with him for a while, and I saw what kind of husband he would be. With Percy there was a place for everything and everything in its place. A call to his mother every Wednesday, breakfast in bed on Sunday, friends from work over each Friday night. His life was so scheduled and comfortable, I grew to hate it where I once loved its security.
When we were 19 he took me out to a big restaurant near the Thames in London, and I knew what I was in for. I was wearing the most delicate and beautiful dress, but I was sweating like crazy because I didn’t want to break his heart. But I wasn’t going to get married simply for not breaking his heart.
" Penny," he looked so nervous, and I wished I could have a clone of myself—one to marry Percy for me so he could always have the part of me that loved him. " I’ve been thinking a lot about the future…" he twirled his wineglass, and we were too young to drink but nobody asked.
" You’re always thinking about the future," I chirped with a phony cheeriness.
" Haven’t you always wanted us to be married?" he asked carefully, placing a hand on mine, which rested on the table.
The fact that he assumed this irritated me, and I looked up and considered him for a moment. Red hair that was neatly combed and parted in the middle like a school boy’s, light freckles under the rim of his glasses, big, pretty blue eyes blinking at me from behind the lenses. I would miss him, yeah.
And I did. I wouldn’t marry him, and I had to leave. I first went to the Orient, which held magic and a way of practicing it that had fascinated me for years. But it didn’t suit me—I wasn’t disciplined enough. It was more a place for someone like Percy—perhaps that was why I went there; to pay my last respects. I still loved him, and I don’t think he knew that. It upset me that he would never be able to understand love without marriage.
Now it upsets me that I couldn’t comprehend a marriage with love. Marriage seemed like a kind of death for me; the end of something wonderful that Percy had started when he saved me from watching my own parent’s marriage fall to pieces that summer. Why couldn’t we just be sweethearts forever? Or even, just high school friends that saw each other from time to time? Why did he have to have that want, that need to possess me completely? However did he come to love me like that?
I wonder over these things nowadays. The war is making everyone miserable, and while it’s mostly being fought on England’s soil, here in San Francisco, where I live now, I think about it, the war that took Percy’s life. I think about it like that were its only evil purpose, to put him out of the misery I sent him into that night in London, so long ago.
Percy never married anyone else, and so far I hadn’t come close since I turned Oliver down. I still see Oliver from time to time. He and I didn’t love like Percy and I had—we can stand being around each other without being driven mad by the obsession that remained and the closeness that was forever lost.
As it turns out, Harry Potter himself came to Percy’s ceremony. I didn’t stay long—it was a small military affair that they were doing for all the soldiers that died on the field. How scared he must have been! If only I could have shown up in that old flying car, to save him like he had done for me. How easily we would have fallen back together.
I spoke to Potter briefly as I was leaving. He talked of Ron, Percy’s little brother and Harry’s childhood friend, who had died in the Battle of Liverpool earlier that year.
" I regret that I couldn’t have done something for him," said the young but emotionally aged commander of his old friend, " Ron just didn’t deserve to go out that way. Not him."
" Percy, either," I said.
Potter looked at me and cocked an eyebrow, " I wouldn’t say so," he said, " Percy was a damn good solider."
" You don’t say…" I said, wondering if Potter were only being proper by speaking well of the dead. But, remembering Harry from childhood, he had never been proper.
He nodded, " He had a fire in him—same as when he was in school. Had to get it done right, and the right way, too—he always fought fair, which isn’t worth a thing against Voldemort’s army, but what the hell did Percy care. He had to do it the way he thought was right—you have to respect a guy for that, as dumb-assed as it may be."
I sighed. Percy on the battlefield…I couldn’t see it. Every time I shut my eyes I saw the laughing eyes of the quiet boy who’d snuck into the empty classrooms of Hogwarts to kiss me. Not the man he might have become, aiming perfectly with his wand, trying to properly disarm a Dark Arts wizard.
So I left the service and went to bed for those weeks, back in San Francisco, away from England and the war. But not away from my memories. He was in my dreams; so prevalent that when I woke I thought he might be there with his arms around me. I finally got sick of wallowing and got up, walked outside, looked at the sky.
Percy was never very artistic. Always by the book, always seeing the flat surface of things. I don’t think he would have appreciated that I see his face in the clouds—see his spirit shooting toward heaven with every jet stream that an American aircraft leaves streaming through the evening sky.
But I see him here, there and everywhere. It may sound like a nuisance, but like Percy was while he was alive, it is my comfort. He’ll be watching out for me, I think, until my time comes, hopefully sometime in the far future.
But what will I have to be afraid of? I know what to expect. When the time comes to leave this world and move on to the next, I’ll look to my window, and see Percy. Percy waiting to take me away in that big, blue, flying car. Percy, who will still be my awkward red-haired hero.
For Laika, with love.