FIC: "A Hand, Outstretched" for snapelike Recipient:snapelike Author: ??? Title: A Hand, Outstretched Rating: PG-13 Pairings: Viktor Krum/Percy Weasley Word Count: ~4,420 Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): * None *. Summary: Percy was almost the diametric opposite of the athletes who usually attracted Viktor's attention. And yet Viktor found himself more than simply attracted; he was intrigued, perhaps even fascinated. Author's Notes: My betas are truly women without price. Any mistakes you find are not their fault.
Viktor Krum knelt beside the newly hatched dragonet and carefully wiped it with a soft cloth until it was clean and dry. The green scales and wings of the newborn Common Welsh Green shone in the light from the fire they'd used to finish the hatching. The dragonet keened and looked around, shaking free of Viktor's grasp. It stumbled around the small hut, clearly searching for its dead mother.
"I'm sorry, little one," Viktor said. "Your mama couldn't wait for you."
The dragonet turned to him and tilted its head. Then it stretched out its wings, using them for balance, and tottered back to Viktor. It butted Viktor's hand and hooted.
"Hungry?" Reaching back, he picked up the large bottle he'd prepared earlier and rubbed the tip over the dragonet's snout. "Not as good as mama, but it is what we have."
Another hoot, another tilt of the head, and then the dragonet opened its mouth to display rows of tiny sharp fangs. Its eyes closed as it drank, the mild sedative in the milk putting it to sleep.
"Boy or girl?" Charlie Weasley stepped out of the shadows near the doorway. The Disillusionment charm slid off him as he moved.
"Girl, I am thinking." Viktor pulled his wand out of its holster. "Usual wager?"
Charlie squatted down on the opposite side of the dragonet from Viktor. "Not quite," he said. "If I win, you watch over my brother, Percy, when he arrives."
"You expect there to be problems?"
"Percy is too damn smart for his own good. Of course, I expect there'll be problems. And it doesn't look good for the director to give his brother special treatment. Besides, Percy would rather be hexed into oblivion than let me help him."
The half-disgusted, half-bemused look on Charlie's face brought a scowl to Viktor's face. "You don't need to win this wager. I will help your brother as you helped me."
"You're too easy, mate."
"Perhaps." Moving his wand in a tight spiral, Viktor began casting the designated series of spells on the dragonet. "A girl," he said, "and fertile. If we can keep her alive for the next six months, she will lay many eggs."
Unable to be sure how long the sedative would keep the dragonet sleeping, Viktor and Charlie began to move quickly. Within minutes, they had her bundled up in blankets and warming charms. Then, Viktor carrying her and Charlie holding the protective spells, they raced across to the dragon nursery.
After Charlie left, Viktor stayed in the darkened nursery and watched the dragonet sleep. She was curled around one of the toys they'd placed in her cushioned pen. Her wings fluttered with each breath, and the fingers of his left hand flexed with the urge to stroke her scales.
"Sleep, little one," he murmured and, after making sure he was alone in the nursery, began to hum the lullaby his baba had once sung to him. He was off-key enough to make himself wince but didn't stop. Working with dragons might not get him on the front page of newspapers, but he loved it almost as much as Quidditch.
Within a month of arriving at the Welsh dragon reservation, Percy Weasley had made a place for himself in the bureaucracy as if he'd always been there. He chivvied everyone into filling out the correct forms and submitting them on time. The accounts balanced for the first time in decades according to Peter Tomlins, who had been managing the offices for longer than anyone else had been at the reservation.
What Viktor saw, however, was the vertical line between Percy's eyebrows that deepened as the week moved from Monday to Friday. The multi-coloured ink stains that spread across his hands and were splotching his hair and smearing his glasses by the end of the day, no matter how many Cleaning charms Percy cast. Viktor was disconcerted by how arousing that image was, especially since Percy was almost the diametric opposite of the athletes who usually attracted Viktor's attention. And yet Viktor found himself more than simply attracted; he was intrigued, perhaps even fascinated.
As he had done every Friday morning for the past three weeks, Viktor rested his palm against the protective wards that shimmered in the open door to Percy's tiny office. When they permitted him entry, he went over to Percy's desk and placed a cup of Turkish coffee and a square of his grandmother's halva in the small empty area.
"Viktor, I'll just be a few minutes." Percy gave him a distracted smile and pushed his glasses back up his nose, leaving them crooked. "Roger may have identified the line item in last week's ledger that was causing all the trouble."
"It's the sheep," Roger Davies said. "We've got incoming for the wool and other assorted items used for potions ingredients, and outgoing for the animals themselves, and some of the numbers may have been reversed."
"I see." Crossing his arms over his chest, Viktor waited while the two of them became involved in a discussion of accounting minutiae that seemed to circle back on itself over and over again. He watched as Davies leaned closer and closer, until the ends of his dark hair were brushing Percy's ear. One of Percy's hands made an abortive movement towards his face, as if to brush away an annoying fly or scratch an itch. Or push Davies away.
The last thought had Viktor moving so fast that he bumped into the corner of the desk, shaking it and drawing their attention to him. Swearing under his breath, he said, "Perhaps it will make more sense after a coffee break?"
"Is it that time already?" Marking the page with a tap of his wand, Percy closed the ledger and placed it on a side table. He brought the cup to his nose, sniffed deeply, and then took a sip. "I don't know how I lived without this coffee."
Davies's face darkened, and Viktor gave him a sour smile.
"Oh." The ecstatic look on Percy's face, the way he licked his lower lip to gather up the tiny smear of halva, distracted Viktor and made it worth giving up the last piece of his monthly treat. "There's nothing like this over here," Percy said.
"I'd rather have a cream cake," Davies said, "or a nice bit of Victoria sponge. I still have dreams about the one they served at Hogwarts."
Percy turned to him, but before he could say anything, the wards on the office door chimed a warning. Viktor's mouth curled into a snarl, but he bit back the curse when he saw who it was.
"Ah, Weasley, there you are." Tomlins smiled, as if finding Percy there was a surprise. "Do you have a minute to meet with me?" His smile faded when he glanced from Percy to Davies and then to Viktor. "Perhaps in my office?"
"Of course." Discarding his half-empty cup on his desk, Percy pulled his wand from its slot. A quick wave sent the ledger into a cupboard full of matching books, and another flick sealed the door closed.
Picking up the cup, Viktor said, "We shall be going, of course, as we have our own duties," in such a way that he gave Davies no choice except to leave as well.
"There you are!" Percy spoke as if he'd been looking for Viktor for a while. He hesitated at the door of the dragon nursery, then took a couple of steps towards the crib where the new dragonet was chewing on her favourite teddy bear.
"She won't hurt you," Viktor said. He had to work to keep his attention on the dragonet. Percy had never sought him out before. It was always him going to Percy. Still, even with that, he was sure Percy would not explain until he was ready. He gestured at the dragonet. "She is simply hungry."
As if understanding that his attention was not truly on her, the dragonet threw her half-chewed teddy bear at Viktor. He dodged smoothly and offered her a bottle, which she snatched out of his hands. The tips of her tiny claws scraped lightly over his gloved hand.
Percy edged closer and picked up the teddy bear. He poked at the rip in its side. "Does... does she have a name?"
"Not yet. She cannot be given a name until we see her fly. A few weeks yet." Deciding to make things easier on Percy, who kept darting uneasy glances at the dragonet, Viktor pushed himself to his feet and went over to join him.
They stood in silence. Viktor watched Percy out of the corner of his eye, saw the way he fiddled with the teddy bear, alternately pulling stuffing out through the rip and pushing it back in again.
Eventually, Percy reached for his wand and began to repair and clean the bear. Without taking his attention off what he was doing, he said, "I'm not always the best judge of anything. I used to think I was, but—"
Viktor remained silent and waited for Percy to continue, hoping that he would do so before the dragonet finished her bottle.
After a moment, Percy asked, "Have you ever thought you knew something? Researched it, looked at it from all sides, only to discover that you'd missed the core of it? That you were completely, fatally wrong?"
"Yes." The word rushed out of Viktor's mouth abruptly, in a flat hiss of sound. His fingers twitched and, for the first time in years, he missed the feel of a Snitch in his hand.
"I made a lot of mistakes," Percy said, concentrating on replacing the teddy bear's missing eye. "I trusted some people who turned out to be... not who I thought they were, made some decisions—" He sighed. "How can I be sure that I'm capable of judging anything now?"
Running his right thumb along the seam of his left glove, Viktor said, "War is different. For many people, success comes from simply surviving." He watched Percy, saw the way he flinched, and wondered what it meant.
"Maybe." Percy sounded dubious.
Viktor turned to him, waiting until Percy looked up and met his eyes. "There is no maybe. If you trust yourself, everything else will come from that." His mouth twisted into a lopsided smile. "Or at least that is what your brother, Charlie, told me when I came here."
"That sounds like Charlie." Percy shoved the teddy bear into Viktor's hands. "Here. It's all fixed and ready for her to tear apart again."
The dragonet made an imperious noise, drawing Viktor's attention away for a moment, and when he turned back, Percy was gone. He stared at the exit for a few seconds, then shook himself and returned to work.
"Tomorrow," he told the dragonet, stroking the scales at the top of her head and making her croon, "I shall find out what that is all about. But for tonight, I am yours."
Late the next morning, after too few hours spent doing far more thinking than sleeping, Viktor opened his cold cupboard. The halva was gone, as were most of the other treats he'd received from home. Picking out a piece of the Turkish delight he'd bought on his last visit into town, he wrapped it carefully in a white silk handkerchief, tucked it in his pocket, and went in search of Percy. He walked slowly along the path that wound down the hillside to the administrative buildings. It was Saturday, but Percy was just as likely to be in his office as anywhere else.
He was about halfway there when he caught a flash of light out of the corner of his eye. Percy was standing on one of the side paths, talking with Davies. A shake of Percy's head had his glasses catching the sun again.
They were deep in conversation. Percy was a few inches taller than Viktor and too thin for his height, one reason that Viktor had begun to share his sweets. Even on his day off, Percy's pale blue shirt was buttoned all the way up, and his navy v-neck jumper matched his pressed trousers. A thick book weighed down his cloak on one side, the top sticking out of his pocket. As he walked towards them, Viktor had a sudden urge to take Percy up on a broom, let the wind blow his hair around.
Davies caught sight of Viktor first. His eyes widened, and he stepped closer to Percy.
Ne, Viktor thought and moved faster. He reached them as Percy was turning around, just in time to see an odd, incomprehensible expression cross Percy's face.
"Hullo," Percy said, holding his hand up over his eyes to shade them from the sun.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Davies said, "Krum."
Viktor knew he should say something, acknowledge their greetings, but in that moment, he could not think of anything suitable in English. He grunted something that he hoped they would assume was a word and inclined his head in a nod.
"My shift starts in a few minutes." Davies touched Percy's shoulder. "Are you sure?"
"I'll be fine, Roger," Percy said. "But thanks."
Davies nodded at Percy. "All right. You know where I am if you need me."
In the brief silence that followed, Viktor's English came back to him in a rush and he said, "I will ensure that Percy comes to no harm."
Giving Viktor a look of deep distrust, Davies asked, "Will you?"
"He will," Percy answered and made a shooing motion towards Davies. "Now go on before you're late. Charlie has even less patience than usual these days with the annual visit of the board of directors coming up next week."
"You'll be cleaning out the infirmary pens if you're not careful." Viktor bared his teeth at Davies. "Ask Smethwyk how much he enjoyed that yesterday after he got on the wrong side of Charlie."
"Fuck," Davies said. And with that he was gone, racing down the hillside with his cloak flaring out behind him.
"That wasn't very nice," Percy said.
Viktor shrugged. "I have never claimed to be nice."
Percy's cheeks flushed red, and he blinked. "If you say so."
Reaching into his pocket, Viktor pulled out the handkerchief wrapped bundle and thrust it at Percy. "I was bringing you this."
Percy opened the small square. Sugar-dusted, pink-smeared white silk hung off his palm, and he licked his lips. "I love Turkish delight, especially frost-rose flavoured." He took a small bite, his eyes fluttering closed as he savoured it.
"My baba calls it rahat."
"And in Turkey, it's called lokum," Percy said. "Did you know that it was first created by a Muggle?"
They began walking slowly along the path as Percy ate the square in small, precise bites and talked about Turkish delight. Viktor listened, more interested in the way that Percy came alive as he was sharing his knowledge than in the information itself. When they reached the fork in the path, Percy stopped.
"I'm probably boring you to tears."
"I would have told you if that were true," Viktor said. "I enjoyed listening to you."
"I didn't give you much chance to say anything, running my mouth off like that." Percy said the words by rote, as if he was repeating something that had been said to him once too often, with none of the expressiveness that had marked his voice earlier.
"If I'd felt the need to speak, you would have let me."
"Oh." Percy licked his lips like he was tasting the idea. "Of course." He examined each of the directions of the fork. "What..." he trailed off, looking down at his hands, at the handkerchief that he'd been twisting.
"We can go in any direction you wish," Viktor said. "I have today off."
"You don't have anything better to do?"
"Better?" Viktor's brows drew together, and he frowned at Percy. "What could be better than spending time with a friend?"
Tugging on the handkerchief, pulling it taut, Percy changed the subject. "Do you miss who you were? Playing Quidditch, I mean. The Prophet still talks about it, you know. As if it's quite a comedown for you, flying after dragons rather than the Snitch."
"Dragons are harder to catch."
Percy's laugh was sudden and unexpected. It made his blue eyes light up and Viktor's chest tighten with the urge to hear it more often. He reached out, took a step towards Percy, only to have Percy move backwards and pull a watch from his pocket.
"I have—" Percy began and then shook his head. "I'm sorry. I have to go."
And Viktor was left standing there, staring after him, going over their conversation, and trying to work out where he went wrong.
"Percy's not like the rest of us," Charlie said. "He comes across as a complete twat, pompous as all get out, but he's fragile for all that."
"I think you underestimate him," Viktor replied. "Percy is a strong wizard."
"Well, yeah. He's a Weasley, isn't he?"
The ice-cold vodka burned its way down Viktor's throat and warmed when it reached his stomach. He leaned back in his chair. "You didn't answer me."
"And I'm not going to." Charlie reached for his own glass. "You can't get me drunk enough to betray Percy's secrets."
"Is that a challenge?"
"Nah. Even I know better than that."
The logs in the fire popped and settled. Light from the flames flickered against the walls of Viktor's sitting room and turned the large front window into a mirror.
"You should talk to him," Charlie said. "I think he'd tell you what you want to know."
"Unlikely." Viktor sipped his vodka, delaying, before picking one of the questions that had been circling through him since the previous week when Percy had all but run away. "Why did you ask me to watch over him?"
"I told you. It's not something I can do. Everyone would accuse me of playing favourites, and I'm not sure they'd be wrong. Percy's a good part of why I took this job in the first place, after all."
"That's not the question I asked."
Dragging a hand through his hair, ruffling it, Charlie sighed. "You're smarter than you look."
"So I've been told."
"It's pretty simple, really," Charlie said. "Percy needed a job, and we needed to be sure that no one came after him. He wasn't exactly on the wrong side of the war, but some folks don't see it that way. They blame anyone who worked at the Ministry while Voldemort was running it." He drained the last of his vodka. "It's easier than paying attention to what they didn't do during the war, isn't it?"
"Anything is easier than thinking about the war for most people."
"Now there's a truth I can drink to," Charlie said. And, after Viktor refilled their glasses, they did just that.
"You've been courting me," Percy said, as if it were an accusation. "All those sweets. The Turkish delight in a silk hanky. Everything."
Placing his tail-twig clippers in their slot in his broomstick servicing kit, Viktor carefully laid his broom on the top step behind him. A flick of his wand banished the bits of twig that he'd scattered around. Finally, there was nothing left to do except look at Percy.
"You can't deny it."
"I didn't." Shifting to one side, Viktor made room on the step.
"Didn't deny it," Viktor finished for him.
Percy pursed his lips and stared at the empty space next to Viktor. "You shouldn't."
"Do you want me to stop?"
"It's not that simple," Percy said.
Percy could go on like that for days, Viktor realised. Neither asking questions nor answering them. He stood up. "I do not have time for games," he said, stooping down to pick up his broom and kit.
"All right." Percy took a step back. "I should—"
"No. I can't." Percy's back was even straighter, and his face was so pale that his faint freckles stood out.
It was an answer, but not the one that Viktor had been hoping for. He scowled down at his broom and bit back the curses that he wanted to throw at Charlie and his whole damn family. This was not a simple matter of a man needing sanctuary from the British Ministry.
Viktor gave Percy a formal bow, clicking the heels of his boots. "As you wish." He pivoted and reached out to open the door of his cottage.
"That's not what I meant."
Viktor stopped but didn't turn around.
"We could—" Percy coughed and cleared his throat. "Could we talk out here?"
Relief and anger clashed inside Viktor. He nodded. "I'll bring coffee." And then he moved inside swiftly to avoid taking out his anger on the one person who didn't deserve it.
When Viktor came back out, two cups of strong coffee and a plate of his baba's best treats floating behind him, Percy was sitting on the bottom step. His legs looked too long, graceless, stretched out awkwardly in front of him, as if Percy had forgotten the trick to making himself comfortable anywhere but in an upright chair.
Viktor joined Percy and handed him a cup. "It is one of the smallest cottages," Viktor said, "but worth everything for the view. It is like living in the air some days."
They were quiet for several minutes after that. Percy's eyes were firmly fixed on the valley spread out below them, only occasionally distracted by a dragon in the distance, rising on the currents. Viktor nibbled on a piece of halva and watched Percy's hands as he fiddled with his cup. One long, ink-stained finger traced the rim, around and around, occasionally pausing when the coffee sloshed up and onto it, then starting again with a soft squeak.
"I don't do well in small spaces," Percy said quietly. "Not anymore. I loved my tiny bedroom growing up. It was my space, safe from all my brothers, with a door that not only closed but locked. And now I can barely stand to be in there with the door open."
The halva squished between Viktor's fingers, scenting the air with sesame.
"They didn't hurt me," Percy continued. "Not in any of the ways you're imagining, at least. That would have been too simple for them, I think."
The tone of Percy's voice had changed so much Viktor hardly recognised it. The pompous edge was gone, replaced by a softness, an insecurity that reached inside Viktor, touching a place he'd locked away years ago.
"It was words at first. Pointing out the tiniest mistakes. Even creating them if I hadn't made any. I started working harder, just like I'd done at school, needing to be perfect. The son who did everything right." Percy's laugh was harsh, self-mocking. "I had absolutely no idea what I was up against."
Viktor stared at his hands, at the thick paste that coated his fingers. There were spells to get rid of it, he thought. His father had taught him so many of them, each designed to handle a different kind of mess. He shuddered.
"Every few weeks, when I arrived at work, they'd tell me I'd been assigned a new office. Each one was smaller than the last. Cramped and overflowing with more paper than I could have possibly sorted through, even with the help of charms."
Scourgify was the simplest spell, the one that caused no pain when cast correctly. It cleaned away the halva without removing any skin.
"Eventually, I was placed in an office that was taller than it was wide. Cabinets teetered over my head on all sides, even attached to the wall above the door. That's when everything changed."
Percy's cup fell. Coffee spilled from it, spattering the floor, staining it dark between the shards of white bone. Viktor blinked, and the image changed. Became a shattered cup and coffee soaking into cracked pavement.
"It didn't matter what I did, what I could do. Nobody cared how smart I was. All that mattered was my last name, Weasley. That was enough to have me tried and condemned on behalf of my entire family. By a Ministry that considered them traitors."
Viktor reached out and took Percy's hand, twined their fingers together. Percy's grip was so painfully tight that Viktor tossed his cup on the ground next to Percy's and held on to Percy's hand with both of his.
"They used hexes and curses that I'd never heard before. Spells that left no scars, no visible signs that they'd been used on me, for all they twisted me up inside." Percy's voice wavered and a shiver went through him. "I kept working, because I didn't know what else to do, processing paperwork that I couldn't bear to read in case it bore the names of people I knew, of my family and friends."
Skin shouldn't be so cold, Viktor thought, as he eased one hand free of Percy's grasp, so he could wrap an arm around him and pull him close. Percy was stiff and rigid at first, worryingly so. Viktor pressed a kiss against Percy's temple.
"You shouldn't, you know," Percy said. He twisted around to face Viktor. His blue eyes were dull, the whites bloodshot. "This kind of thing is for those who deserve it, not for the likes of me."
"Hush. That is my decision to make." And then, before Percy could say anything else, Viktor kissed him. As gentle a kiss as he'd ever managed. A soft brush of lips, a damp sweep of tongue, and the heat of their mouths joining as Percy sagged towards him.
"Hush," Viktor repeated, and he held Percy close, through the shaking of his body and the dampness of the occasional tear that slid down Viktor's neck. Unable to shape the words in English, Viktor whispered reassurances to Percy in Bulgarian.
"If we leave the door open," Percy offered.
Viktor ran a thumb over Percy's lips. "I would banish the roof for you. Let the stars rain down upon us."
But they didn't move, not then at least. Instead, Percy rested his head on Viktor's shoulder, and Viktor held on to Percy's hand. They sat on the front steps, watching the sun set and the dragons rise, and Viktor thought that perhaps he could grow to love this more than Quidditch.