|Still, where did the lighter fluid come from? (emiime) wrote in percy_ficathon,|
@ 2008-06-09 11:45:00
|Entry tags:||fic, percy/harry, pg-13, slash|
A gift for teamjustice! (Part 2 of 2)
After he had changed into his pyjamas for the night, Percy noticed that the blanket wall had slipped a bit and was gapping open in the middle where the two blankets usually overlapped. He grasped the edge of one of the blankets, prepared to pull it straight, but stopped as he caught a glimpse of Harry. Holding his breath, Percy leaned forward so he could see through the crack.
Harry was changing, and Percy bit his lip as Harry pulled his shirt over his head, revealing a thin back and shoulders. Percy's eyes traced the flex of muscles as Harry tossed his shirt on the bed. As Harry's hands went to the front of his trousers, Percy jerked his head away, feeling ashamed that he had ogled the other man. Quickly he pulled the blankets into place and then crawled into bed. He ignored the erection that was insistently rising, and went through Arithmancy equations in his head until he fell asleep.
Percy dreamed of Harry. He dreamed of kissing those sharp shoulder blades, of sliding his tongue down Harry's spine. He dreamed that Harry turned and smiled at him, and kissed him back.
For the first time in years, Percy woke to sticky pyjamas. He flushed, hoping that he hadn't made any unfortunate noises that Harry would have heard, and reached for his wand to clean himself up.
"You're being ridiculous," Percy told himself in the shower. "He just needed a place to stay for a while. He doesn't need you… being perverted over him."
His cock didn't want to listen, and, with a sigh, Percy pulled himself off. It would only be for a few more months, and then Harry would move out and everything would go back to normal.
As Percy expected, once Harry was working all day, the flat got messier. Percy restrained himself from cleaning Harry's side of the room, and simply toed the clothes that slid under the blanket wall back into Harry's side of the room. At least Harry seemed to keep it confined to the bedroom, however. The living room was reasonably presentable, aside from Harry's ever-growing stack of books on the table, and the kitchen, thanks to Percy's insistence, was spotless.
Harry still got home before Percy did, and so started dinner. Percy found himself coming home earlier and earlier, however, just to help Harry in the kitchen. Despite the mess and the fact that Harry always seemed to get something on himself, with or without the apron Percy sometimes offered him, it was fun. Up until now, Percy would have sworn that he much preferred living alone, no roommate for him, thank you very much. But now Harry was slowly becoming a part of the pattern of Percy's quiet life, and Percy wasn't so sure that he didn't like it. Messy bedroom and all.
"They've settled down now," Harry told Percy one night as they lay in their beds, separated by the blanket wall. "Hermione was thrilled that I'd found a job, and Ron… well, he's calmed down a bit. I think Hermione helped with that."
"She does seem to have a calming affect on him," Percy agreed. "When they're not arguing."
"Less of that these days," Harry said. "Seems that shagging more means they argue less."
"A more positive direction for their excess energies."
Harry laughed quietly. "Suppose so."
They had fallen into the habit of conversing through the blanket wall at night. Harry almost always initiated it, and Percy thought that it might be the darkness that made it easier for Harry to talk about personal things.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," Percy said.
"You seem to have, you know… reconciled with everyone." There was a pause, as if Harry wasn't quite sure how to ask what he wanted to ask.
"You want to know how it went?"
"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Percy admitted. "After Fred… it seemed important… No. It was important that we be a family. It's still a bit awkward at times, especially with Ron and Ginny, who, for some reason, decided that they were most offended by my actions. I had a bit of a yelling match with Ginny, which seemed to clear the air. Bill and Charlie were the best, though I've always got along with them. Charlie in particular still kept in contact with me, when no one else did. And I still kept in contact with him, even when I didn't want to hear from anyone else in the family."
"I didn't realize how close you were," Harry said. "At least not until he brought me here."
"He always looked out for me when we were younger. He's said more than once that if he hadn't gone so far away, he might have broken away from the family as I did. He's very independent. And sometimes…" Percy thought a moment, trying to find the right words. "My parents – my mother especially – sometimes has a hard time letting her children leave. Or make mistakes. Or makes what she thinks are mistakes. You weren't around for them, but the fights before Bill and Charlie left for different countries were almost as bad as my fight with them."
"She fought with, um, Fred and George too," Harry said. "I did hear that one."
"She loves us," Percy said. "None of us have ever doubted that."
Harry was poking at his food, seeming somewhat preoccupied.
"Is something wrong?" Percy asked. "Did work not go well?"
"No, work is great," Harry said, scooping up some peas and then letting them drop back onto his plate. He set down his fork and looked up at Percy with a determined expression. "I have this idea."
These words were usually ones Percy had heard from the mouths of Fred and George, and rarely presaged anything good. But he was willing to give Harry the benefit of the doubt.
"The thing is," Harry went on. "The thing is that you've been really great to me, letting me stay here and eat your food and helping me find a job…"
"It was WIMS that found you the job," Percy said.
"But you took me to WIMS," Harry said. "I'd never even heard of them before."
"They're not a terribly big department," Percy admitted. "And they're sort of a subset of Muggle Relations, except they don't really relate much to Muggles. More helping Wizards manage to get into Muggle society."
"Yeah, sure," Harry said. "Now back to my idea."
"Yes, of course," Percy said.
"Since you've been helping me out," Harry said. "I'd really like to help you out. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, because you've got almost everything you want, you like your job, you get along with your family better… it was hard to think of something."
"Harry, you really don't owe me anything," Percy said. "I'm glad to have you here, even if I didn't think so at first."
Even if his traitorous body had decided it wanted Harry.
"I'm going to find you a boyfriend."
Percy stared at Harry. "I beg your pardon?"
"Find you a boyfriend," Harry repeated, looking dreadfully in earnest. "You said you wanted one, but didn't have time to find one. I have plenty of extra time, even with my job, so I figure I can help."
"Oh," Percy said. He wondered if Harry would consider himself one of the candidates. Probably not.
"So I need to know what you like," Harry said, summoning parchment and a self-inking quill to the table. "Hair?"
"Dark," Percy said automatically. "Harry, are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Of course it is," Harry said, his face assuming a very stubborn expression. "Eyes."
"I don't know," Percy said, not wanting to say 'green'.
"Come on, Percy."
Percy couldn't resist Harry's pleading look. He sighed. "Green."
The quill paused, and Harry gave Percy a thoughtful look. "Height?"
"In bed?" Percy asked before he could stop himself.
Harry turned bright red. "I… uh… I mean, you know… like you prefer Quidditch players or something."
"'kay," Harry said, marking his parchment.
Percy proceeded to answer a number of questions, all of which seemed designed to prove to anyone listening (which would be Harry) that Harry was the object of Percy's interest. To Percy's relief and chagrin, Harry still seemed clueless once all the questions had been asked.
"Right," Harry said when he was finally done. "That helps. Now I can find you someone."
"How exactly do you propose to do that?" Percy asked.
"Well, I know a few people," Harry said. "And at work, there's this thing called the internet. I think it will help. You'll leave your weekends free, right?"
Percy didn't hear anything about the "find Percy a boyfriend" plan for several days, and he began to relax, thinking perhaps that Harry had not found anyone and had given up the idea. But then Friday night while Percy was cooking dinner for the two of them, Harry came bouncing into the flat, clearly excited about something.
"I've found him!"
"Did you?" Percy asked, heart sinking.
"Yep," Harry said proudly. "This guy I work with – you did say Muggles were okay – said he'd go out with you. I said you'd meet him tomorrow for lunch."
Percy stirred the vegetables with a little more vehemence than was necessary. "Harry, I'm not sure this is a very good idea. Going on a date with a complete stranger…"
"It will be great!" Harry insisted, his eyes big and pleading. Percy could feel himself caving. "Besides I've already said you'll meet him."
"Fine," Percy said, already regretting his capitulation.
Percy felt as though he were walking toward his doom, not a date. He took a deep breath and opened the door to the Muggle restaurant. When Percy came in, a man with light brown hair shot to his feet with a wide, strained smile and gestured Percy over to the table. Apparently there were advantages to looking distinctive when showing up for a blind date.
"Hello. I'm Richard," the man said, shaking Percy's hand.
"Percy. It's nice to meet you." Percy took the seat across from Richard.
There was an awkward silence as they each stared at their menu. The waiter finally showed up, took their order and left. Richard and Percy stared at each other.
"I have to admit," Richard said after a few moments, "it took a lot for Harry to convince me to do this."
"Yes, it was the same for me," Percy said, feeling rather relieved. "The idea of a 'blind date' simply was not very appealing."
"Indeed," Richard said. There was another silence, though now it felt a bit less awkward.
Percy took a sip of his water. "I think Harry said you work together?"
"Yes," Richard said.
"And what do you do at Harry's office?" Percy prompted, when it appeared that the one-word answer was all Percy was going to get.
It seemed that Richard's opening sentence had used up his daily quota of words. Richard's grey-green eyes met Percy's steadily. The food came, and Percy used the ensuing busyness to examine what type of man Harry had chosen. Average height – this had been confirmed when Richard stood to greet Percy. Light brown hair – lighter than Percy usually liked, but still not blond or red. Greenish eyes – acceptable. Well-defined cheekbones – though that could have been because Richard's cheeks were rather sunken in. Average nose and mouth and build – acceptable.
Really Richard was not unattractive. It was simply that he was not Harry, and Percy did not find himself attracted to the man at all.
Plus there was the effort in conversing with him. Percy directed and prodded and pleaded with questions, receiving one or two word answers for his effort. He was overwhelmed with relief when the lunch was over.
Outside the restaurant, they both agreed that a second date was out of the question, shook hands, and walked opposite directions.
Harry was curled up on the couch reading when Percy Apparated in. He turned a page, then looked up with a studied casualness. Percy hesitated, and Harry's face fell.
"You made a good effort," Percy said, sitting down beside Harry.
"What went wrong?"
Percy stretched out his legs and kicked off his shoes, sending them walking to the wardrobe in the bedroom with a flick of his wand. He flexed his feet as he considered.
"While on the surface it seemed as though we might be each other's… type, we had no spark of attraction," Percy said. "Plus, we had trouble conversing."
"Oh," Harry said. "I never had any problem talking to him."
"Did he ever talk back?"
"Um. Now that you mention it…" Harry looked sheepish.
"Well, I, for one, prefer more give and take during a date," Percy said.
"Not like that," Percy said, and Harry laughed. "At least, not on a first date."
"Noted," Harry said. "So – able to converse and more attractive."
"Not more attractive," Percy corrected. "Simply more attractive to me."
And unless Harry was the date, such a thing was hardly possible.
"I'll do better next time," Harry promised. He leaned over so his shoulder was resting against Percy's. "You'll like the next one."
"Must we?" Percy asked.
What do you mean Harry is setting you up on blind dates? That isn't what I meant to happen at all!
PS – How is everything?
Everything is as you left it. A mess.
And yes, Harry is, unfortunately, setting me up on blind dates. The first one went badly. The second one is tomorrow. I am dreading it.
PS – What exactly did you mean to happen?
" – so then Kevin told Mike that he thought that I was awful sexy, but he wasn't sure that he really wanted to date me, which even if he did it wouldn't really matter because I didn't want to date him anyway…"
Percy felt his eyes glazing over again and blinked a couple times, forcing himself to focus on his loquacious companion. When he'd complained about Richard not talking enough, he hadn't expected Harry to set him up with someone who spoke enough for five people.
"… and then he scolded my little Foofy-bug…"
Percy wondered if he was supposed to intuit what a 'Foofy-bug' was or if he'd missed that part of the conversation.
"… so when he went outside for a fag – not like that… for a cigarette… I try to say fag because it's so Brit and, hey! I'm in Britain and when in London and all that – and so then Dickie started talking behind his back and I was just appalled, because I think that if you've shagged someone – such a cute word, isn't it? Shaaaaag - not two hours earlier, you shouldn't be saying nasty things about them. Unless it's an awful shag, of course, but you should have excused yourself politely and then called all your friends to complain about it…"
Was it too soon for Percy to excuse himself politely or would he have to fake a bad shag?
"… so anyway, he moved back to Chicago, and I so would have moved with him, but I wasn't asked, even though we'd been together for, wow, at least four months and I was so convinced…"
Percy eyed the dessert fork and contemplated fashioning an unfortunately incident that would require his immediate departure. The thought that they might try to take him to a Muggle hospital stayed his hand.
"… and, wow, is dinner over already? The evening just flew by, didn't it? Now, I had a decent time, and Harry is such a sweetheart for trying to make sure I knew someone here, but I'm just not sure we're… you know. Compatible. Maybe on your next date you should… talk a bit more. You were just a bit too quiet."
"Thank you for dinner," Percy said, and made his escape.
Luckily Harry wasn't home when Percy crept through the front door. He breathed a sigh of relief and let the door almost bang shut behind him. It was probably silly of him, not wanting to explain to Harry why another man hadn't worked out, but at the moment all Percy wanted was to crawl into bed early and savour the wonderful silence of his flat.
In ten minutes, Percy had readied himself for bed. He checked to make sure the blanket wall was up and then curled up into bed, wrapping the blankets tightly around himself.
Percy jerked awake later that night, sat up in bed and then froze. Harry was talking to someone. Maybe he thought Percy would have gone home with… whatever his name was. Percy had forgotten it after the deluge of names throughout his conversation.
Holding his breath, Percy listened, debating whether to let Harry know he was here and awake. Perhaps if Harry and his visitor were in the middle of something, though, it would be embarrassing to everyone should Percy walk into the living room. And yet, if Harry should bring the man into the bedroom and… surely that would be more embarrassing than Percy interrupting at an early stage.
He went back and forth on it, until he finally decided it was best to get it over with now. Shoving the blankets back, Percy stood, then took a deep breath. A sick feeling roiled in his stomach at the thought of seeing Harry with some one. Some nameless, faceless, gorgeous, sexy man-from-a-club that Harry wanted to have sex with while Percy was out with the man Harry had picked for him. Percy nearly climbed back into bed at the thought.
"Harry?" Percy called out before he could stop himself again. "Are you home?"
He waited tensely behind the blanket wall for an answer.
"Yes," came a sheepish response, and Percy's heart sank. There was someone here and he'd interrupted Harry… "I was just talking to myself. I didn't think you were here."
"Oh," Percy said, voice rather faint. He swallowed, then came around the blanket curtain and went out into the living room, where Harry seemed to be organizing some papers. "I was just asleep."
Harry somehow looked both relieved and disappointed. "Didn't work out?"
"Did you know he had a pet named Foofy-bug?" Percy blurted out. "At least, I think it was a pet and not another ridiculous nickname for one of his ex-boyfriends. Of which there seemed to at least a hundred."
Harry doubled up with laughter. "Foofy-bug?"
"Harry, he never shut up," Percy said, dropping down into the armchair. He almost didn't care that it jolted several inches out of place. "I must know all the names of his ex-boyfriends, his pets, the places he lived, but I'll be damned if I can remember his name."
"Nicky," Harry gasped, still laughing. "It's Nicky."
Percy waited until Harry had calmed down and wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes. "I hope you're happy with yourself."
Harry giggled, then clamped his lips together.
"Really, Harry. Won't you please give up?"
"You've only dated two people," Harry protested, sliding along the couch until he was closer to Percy. "I'm sorry this one didn't work out either, but I'll find someone."
"I still don't understand why you have to do this to me," Percy said with a sigh.
"I told you," Harry said, reaching out to grip Percy's forearm. "You deserve something nice."
"I have lots of nice things," Percy said. His heart beat faster at Harry's touch. "I'm perfectly happy."
"But you could be happier," Harry insisted.
"Everyone could be happier," Percy said. "So your argument is a fallacious one."
"A what one?"
"Erroneous," Percy said. He hesitantly rested his hand on top of Harry's. "No one is perfectly happy, and if I'm content with my life, then why not leave it be?"
"Because I can do something to make it even better," Harry said, looking determined. His fingers twitched, but he didn't pull his hand away from Percy's. "And if setting you up means that you'll be happier in the end, then I want to do it."
Once again, Percy gave in. "Just don't be disappointed when none of them work out."
"One of them will," Harry said confidently. He sat back, pulling his hand away, and the place on Percy's arm that Harry's hand had covered felt cold.
"If you say so. Just make sure they're not like… Nicky," Percy said, wrinkling his nose.
"I won't," Harry said. He started to laugh again, and Percy couldn't help but smile.
"Are you sure you don't want to come for dinner?" Percy asked. "It's been a month. I'm sure they won't pressure you anymore."
Harry gave him a look.
"Fine," Percy said, and Apparated away. He felt guilty almost immediately for leaving so abruptly, and he thought about going back to apologize. In the end, he just straightened his tie and walked through the garden to the Burrow.
Percy blinked as he approached the back porch. "Charlie?"
"Hey, Percy," Charlie said, twirling a blue flower around in his fingers.
"Is that for me?" Percy asked, and Charlie laughed, handing the flower to Percy.
"Sure, why not."
Percy tucked the flower in his shirt pocket, charming it to stay, then cast a cleaning charm on the stairs and sat down. He didn't say anything, and finally Charlie broke down and started talking.
"I probably shouldn't have bailed on the family. I just… they did need me at the dragon preserve, and things here…"
"They've been bad," Percy said. "Dad even told me not to come for a few weeks, to try and give everyone space. He changed his mind this week."
Charlie breathed out sharply. "She hasn't left her bed most days. Ron and Hermione moved out. Ginny won't leave her room. George…"
"Yes," Percy said. There didn't seem to be anything else to say, so they sat there in silence until Bill, Fleur and Victoire arrived.
Bill pulled Charlie into a hug, and then, to Percy's surprise, he grabbed Percy as well. Fleur kissed them each on the cheek, and Victoire babbled and reached for Percy's glasses.
"Non," Fleur said, firmly pulling Victoire's hands down. She looked around at the three brothers. "Shall we?"
Charlie opened the door, and Fleur swept inside, head high and voice cheerful as she greeted those in the kitchen. Bill entered next, and Charlie gestured Percy inside.
"You wrangle dragons and yet you make us go in first," Percy said, but he went in before Charlie anyway.
"You know dragons haven't got anything on Mum," Charlie murmured in Percy's ear. "The rest of the dragon keepers all wondered how I was so good at calming the dragons down. Plenty of practice here at home."
Percy repressed the urge to smile and went to give his mother a kiss on the cheek.
Dinner was better than it had been, though it was still somewhat awkward. Ginny was now visibly pregnant and made no attempts to hide it. George cracked a joke and looked around as though waiting for Fred to laugh, so Bill and Charlie laughed twice as hard and Percy forced himself to let out a quiet chuckle. George seemed pleased.
They all ended up reminiscing late into the night, even their mother, who got teary-eyed but not upset. Ginny sat with Victoire asleep in her arms, refusing to let Fleur put the baby upstairs on a bed. By the time Percy left, his family almost felt normal.
Since it was so late, Percy Apparated down the hall from his flat and let himself in as quietly as possible. Harry had left a candle burning on the table, and Percy smiled, then leaned over and blew it out. He slipped off his shoes and padded into the bedroom, slipping past the blanket wall and to his side of the room.
Percy winced. "I apologize for waking you."
"No, I was awake," Harry said.
There was a short pause. Percy set down his shoes and prepared to apologize.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, before Percy could speak. "Are you angry at me?"
"Of course not," Percy said, a wave of relief going over him. He sat down on the edge of his bed and pulled off his socks, then his tie and shirt. "I'm sorry I was so abrupt. I… I merely did not wish to go alone."
"Oh," Harry said. It sounded as though he sat up in bed, and Percy paused in putting his shirt and socks in the hamper. When Harry didn't get up, Percy let the clothes go and began pulling off his belt.
"It wasn't too bad tonight, though." Percy hung his belt up and tugged his vest off. "Charlie came home, though I don't know how long he's staying. There wasn't any yelling or bad moments." Percy paused, vest in hand. "I think they're healing."
"Good," Harry said, sounding immensely relieved. A Lumos lit the other side of the room. "Do you think I should go next time?"
"Only if you want to," Percy said.
Acting on impulse, he tossed the vest in the hamper and then went over to Harry's side of the room dressed only in trousers. Harry blinked, then squinted, fumbling for his glasses. Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, Percy crossed his arms over his chest. He hadn't been so undressed in front of someone for a long while; most nights Harry saw him in nothing less than pyjamas and a dressing gown.
"You have a scar," Harry said, once he'd managed to get his glasses on.
"You could see that without your glasses?" Percy asked, somewhat surprised. He hadn't thought it stood out that much. He held his arms out to the side and looked down to where a long, thin scar went from the centre of his chest to his right hip.
"It looked like a pink stripe," Harry said. " I couldn't tell it was a scar until I put my glasses on."
"Ah," Percy said.
"Can I see it?" Harry asked. Percy refrained from pointing out that Harry was already looking at it, and moved to stand beside the bed. "How'd you get it?"
"Some sort of slicing curse," Percy said. "I twisted enough to avoid most of it, but part of it caught me. It was apparently Dark, which is why it's still visible."
"Yeah, I know the one," Harry said. "Nasty."
"Well, it certainly wasn't enjoyable," Percy said dryly.
Harry's fingers hovered just above the scar. "If it had hit you dead on…"
"Yes," Percy said, when Harry didn't seem inclined to finish the thought. "I believe 'dead on' would be a very accurate description of it."
"I had no idea," Harry said. "I'm glad you're okay."
"There were more important things to worry about than a non-fatal injury," Percy pointed out, willing his voice not to crack as Harry ran his fingers lightly along the scar. He felt his groin stir and yanked away from Harry. "Good night."
Percy fled to his side of the room, leaving a bewildered Harry behind him. He quickly finished getting ready for bed, and Harry put out the light.
"Night, Percy," Harry said, sounding rather confused. "Um. Sorry."
Percy didn't respond, and cursed his traitorous body, with its erection that wouldn't go away. Much later that night, he drifted off to sleep.
The next day, Harry seemed willing to forget the awkwardness that had ended their last conversation. He even went so far as to owl yet another candidate for Percy.
"Much better than the last two," Harry assured him. "And he's magical, which might be a nice change."
"If he's magical, that just means I'm more likely to run into him when things go badly," Percy said, but gave way and showed up at the assigned restaurant to meet the new man. His date had suggested a Muggle restaurant for dinner, which Percy, in the end, decided he approved of. It at least showed that his date was unprejudiced, which was a good thing after recent events.
Percy was the first one there, and he waited at the table, facing the door. An attractive man walked in, spoke with the head waiter, then headed for Percy with a smile. Very dark hair, light green eyes, tall, nice body and very nice smile. The external was promising; if the internal matched, Percy was possibly on his way to getting over Harry.
It was a nice thought, even if a small part of himself insisted it was a deceptive one.
"Hello, Percy," the man said, offering his hand as Percy stood. "I'm Castor Ringwold. I was in the same class as your brother Charlie, though I was in Ravenclaw, not Gryffindor."
Only a few years older than Percy. He didn't remember Castor, but he hadn't paid too much attention to the older students at first.
"It's good to meet you," Percy said. "Please sit down."
Castor did so, and Percy was surprised at how easily they fell into conversation. Arithmancy was a favourite class for both of them, and Percy was fascinated by Castor's use of Arithmancy in managing the family business. Castor was suitably impressed by Percy's position in the Ministry, and somehow had enough connections to have heard of Percy's role in convicting the Ministry employees who had committed crimes supporting the Dark Lord. Percy spared a moment to wonder if Harry had told Castor about it, but was soon drawn into further conversation about family – Castor had several brothers and could commiserate appropriately with Percy.
They talked and laughed for hours, until the restaurant was deserted and the waiters were quietly cleaning up around them.
"Well, we should go before they kick us out," Castor said, setting several large notes on the table in lieu of asking for the bill. He grinned at Percy's surprised look. "I've been here before, so I know how much to leave. Shall we?"
A waiter locked the door behind them, and Castor began walking down the pavement, gesturing Percy to walk beside him.
"I've really had a good time tonight, Percy," Castor said. "More than I've had in a long time with anyone. I was wondering if I could floo or owl you sometime."
"Certainly," Percy said, feeling rather conflicted. He liked Castor very much, but couldn't deny that he was still interested in Harry. Except that Harry was the one who kept pushing him at available men, so he might as well give Castor a try.
"Harry said that you two are roommates, right?" Castor asked. After Percy nodded, he continued. "Then it's probably best that I contact you."
Percy frowned, a bit puzzled. "Why is that?"
"Well," Castor said, rubbing his chin. "My wife doesn't mind when I see someone on the side, but the children are old enough… you know."
"I'm afraid I don't," Percy said. He stopped, and Castor turned to face him. "You didn't mention you were married."
Castor shrugged, sliding his hands into his pockets. "Convenience. I was the eldest, the heir of the business and needed at least an heir or two. She has her own dalliances. As I said, she doesn't mind."
"How lovely for her," Percy said. "I, on the other hand, mind very much."
"You do?" Castor asked. He looked startled. "I thought you, of all people, might understand, being from a traditional Wizarding family yourself."
Percy raised an eyebrow. "I had no idea that committing adultery was a time-honoured Wizarding practice."
Castor flushed. "If both husband and wife agree to it, I see nothing wrong with it."
"Wrong is apparently a matter of interpretation," Percy said. "Whether it be wrong or not, however, I have no desire to be someone's bit on the side."
"It would be a relationship," Castor insisted. "I would be completely faithful to you. Now that we have the children, Polly and I don't sleep together anymore. And I would spend as much time with you as possible."
"How very generous," Percy said. "But I prefer seeing someone who is willing to devote time to the relationship and would be willing to take it further. To the point of moving in together, at some future date. I also prefer someone who would not have to hide my existence from his children."
To Percy's surprise, Castor looked more sad than angry.
"You wouldn't be the first," Castor said. "The men I don't like seem to be the ones that don't mind being hidden. The ones I truly do like, don't. Maybe that's why I like them."
Percy took a deep breath and let it out slowly before speaking. "I am flattered that you like me. I liked you as well. But I am unwilling to enter a relationship on such terms."
Castor nodded, then offered his hand. "It was good to meet you, Percy. Best of luck."
"To you as well," Percy said, shaking Castor's hand. And despite everything that occurred, Percy found that he meant what he said.
Harry wasn't home when Percy arrived, so Percy sat down on the couch to wait for his return, intending to give Harry a piece of his mind about checking whether the blind date was married before setting Percy up. Despite his ire-fuelled intentions, Percy fell asleep on the couch and woke to Harry's worried face hanging over him.
"Percy? Are you okay? Are you… drunk?"
"Did you know Castor is married?" It wasn't what Percy had meant to say first, but it worked fairly well.
Harry's eyes went wide. "No! I didn't, I swear!"
"Hmmm," Percy said, pushing himself upright. "I'm beginning to think you're purposely setting me up with men I won't date. I liked Castor."
"I'm sorry," Harry said. He looked miserable, standing in front of Percy and twisting his hands together. "I really didn't know."
Percy sighed. "I believe you." He patted the seat next to him, and Harry sat down.
"You really liked him?" Harry asked after a moment.
"I did," Percy said. "I found him fairly attractive. We conversed on a variety of topics throughout the night. I enjoyed his company, and was willing to see him again, until I found out he has a wife and children."
Harry winced. "Children?"
"Children," Percy repeated. He dared to rest a comforting hand on Harry's leg. "You're getting better at choosing men, though. I truly did have a good time with him, much more than I did with the first two."
"Well," Harry muttered. "I suppose I'll just have to add 'ridiculously attractive' to the list of requirements."
"It wasn't that he was physically attractive, Harry," Percy said, pulling his hand away. Or that he looked the most like you. "It was the conversation and the interaction with him that I enjoyed the most. Yes, the physical is important, to a certain extent, but it means nothing without a personal bond. Richard was good-looking and Nicky was very… pretty, but I didn't want to go on a second date with either of them."
Harry rubbed his leg where Percy's hand had been. "True. I'll just keep trying then."
"You don't have to," Percy said. "I keep telling you…"
"I know," Harry interrupted. "But I really want to do this for you."
"And whatever Harry wants, Harry gets," Percy said, but his voice had no heat in it.
"Not always," Harry said as he got up, and Percy couldn't get him to explain what he meant.
It was a lovely afternoon, and the Burrow seemed full of lively, chattering people for once, so Percy slipped outside for a while and found himself walking down the path toward the pond. Ron and Hermione had announced their engagement, and their parents had turned the usual Saturday family dinner into an impromptu party. Percy was glad that things seemed to be getting back to normal, but it was rather overwhelming at times.
Harry had come, though separately from Percy so as not to give Ron and Hermione any hints as to where he was staying, on the condition that no one mention marrying Ginny. Percy thought that his mother had finally recognized that it was not going to happen, and was focusing on Ron and Hermione. Ginny seemed genuinely delighted that someone was taking the attention from her.
The pond was empty when Percy reached it, and, after looking around to see if anyone was watching, Percy gave in to temptation. He pulled off his socks and shoes, then rolled up his trouser legs and sat on the edge of the pond, slipping his bare feet into the cool water. He moved his feet back and forth, splashing a little, though not enough to get his trousers damp.
Percy had always liked the way water felt flowing over his skin. It was soothing. He used to sneak down to the pond to float sometimes. It was different when all his siblings came to the pond, much more chaotic. But now it was peaceful and quiet and Percy could enjoy the water, even though it was only his feet dipping in and out.
The sound of someone tromping down the path made Percy sigh, but when he turned and saw Harry heading toward him, he couldn't help but smile.
"There you are," Harry said, coming to a halt next to Percy. He crouched down next to Percy, putting a hand on the ground to balance himself. "Escaping the madness?"
"Always," Percy said. "The story of my life."
"This has always been one of my favourite places," Percy continued. "A place to get away."
"It's nice," Harry said. He stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Your mum sent me to find you. Dinner's almost ready."
Percy sighed, but pulled his feet out of the water and dried them with a charm before pulling on his socks and shoes and rolling down his trouser legs. Harry offered him a hand up, and Percy thought Harry's hand lingered a bit after Percy was standing. They stood together a moment, looking at the pond and out over the fields.
"You know," Harry said. "If anyone else had been here, they would have pushed me into the water."
"How do you know I won't?" Percy asked.
"Because you're Percy," Harry said, turning to him with trusting eyes. Percy planted a hand on Harry's chest and pushed. Flailing, Harry fell backwards into the pond, causing a wave of water to splatter on the shield Percy had thrown up. Harry floundered a moment before gaining his feet, sputtering and pushing his soaking wet hair out of his eyes.
"I may be Percy, but I am still a Weasley," Percy said smugly, then took off for the Burrow as Harry heaved himself out of the pond.
There had always been one advantage to having long legs. Percy had always been able to outrun his siblings, and apparently he could easily outrun Harry as well. Harry was laughing, though, so even if he caught up, Percy didn't think it would be a bad thing.
"I still can't believe you pushed me into the pond," Harry said for the seventh time that night. They were home now, and Harry had been dry for hours, but he couldn't seem to let it go.
"As if you've never heard of a drying spell," Percy said. "And it made George laugh."
"True," Harry said.
He stretched his legs out onto the couch so that they rested against Percy's thigh. Percy had been choosing to sit on the couch instead of the armchair for a week now; he refused to examine his own motivations in that regard. Harry was clearly uninterested in Percy, as was demonstrated by the multiple dates Harry had been and was going to be setting Percy up on.
"It does seem like things are getting better," Harry continued, obviously unaware of Percy's train of thought.
Harry shifted his feet a bit, and after a moment's hesitation, Percy let his arm rest on Harry's lower legs, one hand curled loosely around an ankle. Harry grew still and focused back on his book, so Percy picked up his own, managing to hold the book and turn to the correct page with only one hand.
They read for a little while, though Percy could hardly have said what words were on the pages he was turning. His body seemed unnaturally warm where it touched Harry, and it was difficult to concentrate on his book. Though it probably didn't help that the book in question was a rather dull tome on the development of the Liefer equation in Arithmancy. His mind kept going back to Castor, and from there went to Harry and who he'd picked out for Percy next. Though after this last debacle, Harry seemed to have backed down.
Percy gave up on the book, and, with a sigh, set it aside.
"Everything okay?" Harry asked, looking up.
The cover of Harry's book was blurred with a charm, which had Percy wondering if it were something naughty or simply embarrassing. He hadn't undone the charm to find out, but he had been severely tempted to peek inside the book. He had, however, managed to resist. Barely.
"Yes, everything is fine, thank you," Percy said, after realizing he'd been staring at the cover of Harry's book for several moments. "I am, perhaps, a bit tired."
There, that was a good excuse.
Harry grimaced sympathetically and set his own book aside. "Going to bed?"
"I think so," Percy said, but made no effort to move.
Harry gently prodded Percy's thigh with his toes, and Percy smiled, squeezing Harry's ankle in response.
"I am getting up now," Percy said.
"Sure you are," Harry said, laughing. "Do you need help? Shall I carry you to bed?"
"I highly doubt that you would be able to… hey!"
Harry had rolled to his feet and grabbed Percy's hand, tugging him to his feet. Percy staggered, and his chest bumped Harry's. Harry's face ended up too close to Percy's; their glasses clacked together and Percy could feel Harry's breath on his cheek. They stood there a moment, too close together, and if Percy tilted his head just so… But then Harry pulled away and he stopped laughing and began to look very uncomfortable.
"Well. Night, Percy," Harry said, sitting back down on the couch and picking up his book.
"Good night," Percy said. He felt rather cold after the strange and abrupt dismissal. They had been about to… hadn't they? Perhaps he was misinterpreting. Perhaps Harry had seen something in Percy's face that made him realize that Percy was misinterpreting. It was best to go to bed now, before he did something completely foolish. Like lean over and kiss Harry goodnight.
Percy had felt a need to get out of his flat, away from Harry and the dangerous thoughts that seemed to be happening more and more often around him, so he went shopping in Diagon Alley. After a blissful hour or two in the bookshop, Percy wandered contentedly along Diagon Alley with a bag full of books. He stopped a moment in front of Eeylop's, but still couldn’t bring himself to replace Hermes. One day, maybe. Not now.
He moved on, and, to his surprise, saw Ginny as he glanced into the front window of Madame Malkin's. Percy hesitated a moment, then walked inside. Ginny was setting aside a dark green robe when he came up to her.
"That's a good colour on you," Percy said.
Ginny started a little, then picked up a light blue robe and met Percy's eyes in the mirror. "Very Slytherin, though."
"It still looks good," Percy said. "And I've never thought House divisions should interfere with what one wears. I have several green robes myself."
Ginny hmm'd thoughtfully, and set the light blue robe in what Percy hoped was the discard pile. It had the magenta and pink robes, at least. The green robe lay with robes of soft yellow and deep purple. Percy glanced around the shop and noticed the shopkeeper staring disapprovingly at Ginny's rounded stomach.
"How are you?" Percy asked. He set his bag down and slid his hands in his pockets, wondering if she would answer truthfully.
"I'm healthy," Ginny said. "Four more months to go."
"Maybe February, if she holds out," Ginny said.
Percy smiled. "A girl?"
Ginny met his eyes in the mirror and gave him a cautious smile. "Yeah. Haven't picked out a name yet, so don't bother asking."
"Will you tell me when you decide?" Percy asked.
"Maybe," she said, looking down at a heavily embroidered robe and wrinkling her nose. "If you promise not to tell Mum. She'd only find something wrong with it."
Percy took the robe from her and set it firmly in the discard pile, making her laugh a little. "I won't tell. Are things… is it better at home?"
"Sort of," Ginny said, giving a little shrug of one shoulder. "They still want to know who the father is."
Percy nodded, but didn't say anything. Ginny turned and looked at him.
"Don't you want to know?"
"Only if you want to tell me," Percy said, and saw a tenseness he hadn't realized was there disappear from her face. "It's almost dinnertime. Would you like to eat with me?"
Ginny smiled at him, a bright, happy smile, and Percy found that he'd missed that smile very much. It had been a long time since he'd seen it. She bought the green robes and the purple robes, and then they headed for a restaurant that Ginny had been wanting to try.
"Mum didn't want me to go out," Ginny said after they were seated. "But I'm tired of being hidden away. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"I agree," Percy said.
"Who would have thought you'd be the reasonable one in the family?" Ginny said, which made Percy chuckle.
"I've always been reasonable," Percy pointed out. "I was just not always correct."
Ginny tilted her head thoughtfully. "You've changed a lot."
"I think everyone has in these last few years," Percy said. "I'm still Percy, though."
"You are," she agreed. But the way she said it, as opposed to previous times, made it seem as though being Percy wasn't a bad thing at all.
They chatted quietly over dinner, and Ginny told him about her sixth year of school and her part in the battle. It almost felt like when they were young, and she would follow him around and tell him everything about her day. When she was done telling her stories, Percy found he had a newfound appreciation for Luna and Neville.
"They sound like good friends," Percy said.
"The best," Ginny said, brightening. "Luna comes almost every evening. She climbs up the tree and talks to me and brings me books and other things. And Neville sends flowers, though he doesn't put his name on them. We don't want Mum to get the wrong impression."
"I'm glad you have them," Percy said. "I wish you weren't stuck at the house so much. If… well… I could have offered you a peaceful place, but…"
"Harry," Ginny said with a smile. "Mum definitely would have got the wrong impression if I'd started coming over after Harry moved in with you."
Percy narrowed his eyes at her. "How did you know he'd moved in with me?"
"It was my idea," Ginny said, with an insouciant shrug. "Harry talked to Charlie about leaving, and Charlie talked to me, and I suggested you. Who would think to look there?"
"True," Percy said.
She was quiet a moment, picking at her dessert, before looking up with a sly expression. "How is that going?"
"Well enough, I suppose," Percy said. "He has a job. He's been setting me up on blind dates in order to procure a boyfriend for me."
Ginny dropped her fork. "He what?"
"He seems to feel that he's repaying me for allowing him to stay in my flat," Percy said, allowing some of his irritation to show in his voice. "Though none of them have worked out so far."
He gave her a short summary of the dates so far. Ginny laughed long and loud at Nicky, but grew more sympathetic when Percy admitted that he had, in fact, liked Castor. Then he mentioned that Harry didn't seem inclined to give up the idea, despite the fact that all of the dates had been disasters.
"I just don't understand why he's doing this," Ginny said, resting her chin on one hand. "I mean, you know that he… um."
"Prefers men," Percy said in a low voice after looking around.
"Yeah," Ginny said. "The thing is… after we broke up, one night he got all drunk and maudlin and – don't you dare tell him I told you this – he admitted he didn't half-fancy you."
Percy's jaw dropped. "Me?"
"Mm-hmm," Ginny said, leaning forward. "So why is he setting you up with other men instead of going after you himself? Did you reject him?"
"I would never reject Harry," Percy said, then felt himself flush.
"I wondered," Ginny said. "Especially when you let him live with you. You hate it when you have to share your space."
"I didn't like him that way before he moved in," Percy protested, but Ginny just gave him a knowing look. "I didn't! I don't like straight men. It's pointless."
"If you say so," Ginny said. "Anyway, that's not the point. If you haven't rejected him, then why…"
She tapped her fingers on the table as she thought.
"It might be he's afraid of rejection," Percy said, recalling an earlier conversation he'd had with Harry. "The night I found out he preferred men, he asked what to do if he didn't know whether someone returned his interest. I suggested the direct approach of asking, and he was horrified. If he did like me… does like me… but that still doesn't explain the blind dates."
"Gauging whether you have interest in him?" Ginny asked.
"Perhaps," Percy said.
"Well, in the end it doesn't matter why," Ginny said. "If you like him and he likes you, we need to develop a plan to make him act."
"He's acting already," Percy pointed out. "Setting me up on blind dates is definitely acting."
"You know what I mean," Ginny said. "Now, listen. I have a plan."
Ginny's plan was fairly simple. Go on the next blind date, then pretend everything had gone smashingly and continue to "date" the other person in order to incite Harry's jealousy, which would drive him to reveal his feelings for Percy. If the blind date was not amenable to the deception, fake having met someone else while on the bad blind date.
Percy's plan was simpler. He would tell Harry what he felt and that he knew what Harry felt. There would possibly be kissing after the telling.
Altogether much simpler. And much more terrifying.
He was getting agitated and nervous as he thought about it, so he did what he always did when he needed to calm down.
Percy went to work.
His floor was quiet and peaceful at the weekend, and Percy felt himself relax as he organized and filed and caught up on the minutiae that he sometimes had to let slide in order to get the major paperwork done for Minister Shacklebolt. When that was done, he sent a series of specialized cleaning charms around his desk and room, until the way his office looked satisfied him.
Then there was nothing else to do, and Percy sat on the edge of his sparkling clean, completely clear desk and took a deep breath.
Time to go.
When Percy walked into his flat, Harry's trunk and several boxes were by the door. Percy stared at them uncomprehendingly for a few moments, and then his stomach dropped.
Harry came out of the bedroom, rubbing his hands on his jeans. He seemed uncomfortable, much more than he had been the entire time he'd been living with Percy.
"Are you leaving?" Percy asked, quietly shutting the flat door behind him.
"Um. Yeah," Harry said. His hands moved in random patterns, as though he didn't know where to put them. Finally, he shoved them in his pockets. "I found a bedsit. Thought I'd get out of your hair. Out of your space."
"You are more than welcome to my space," Percy said. He wanted to move toward Harry, but it was as though he were rooted to the ground.
"You've been great about it," Harry said quickly. "I just… it's time for me to go. Probably past time."
It was the kiss, Percy realized. Or the almost-kiss. Harry had almost kissed him last night and it had freaked him out. Or, since Percy had been gone most of the day, he thought it had freaked Percy out. It was up to Percy to clear things up.
"I've got another blind date for you," Harry said. "Details on…"
"I don't want it," Percy interrupted.
"Uh. Okay," Harry said. "Sorry."
He turned to go back to the bedroom, and Percy took a step forward.
"I don't want you to leave," Percy said in a low voice. "Please don't leave."
"I talked to Ginny today…"
"Oh, God," Harry muttered. He leaned against the doorframe, still with his back to Percy.
"What she couldn't understand," Percy continued doggedly, "is why you would set me up with blind dates when, in her words, you 'didn't half fancy' me. She had Charlie bring you here specifically to throw us together."
"I knew I shouldn't have drunk that sherry," Harry said.
"You got drunk on sherry?" Percy asked, then shook his head. No time to be distracted. "That's not important."
"I need to finish packing," Harry said, but he made no move into the bedroom.
"What is important," Percy said. "What is important is that you know your feelings are returned."
There was silence for a moment, and Harry turned his head so that Percy could see his profile. "Returned."
"Yes," Percy said. When Harry didn't say anything else, Percy continued. "I have had feelings… attraction for you for some time. However, I assumed they were futile, as you made such a point of setting me up on blind dates, as horrific as they ended up being."
Percy thought he heard a stifled laugh from Harry.
"Though really, I thought you would guess I was attracted to you when I answered all those questions," Percy said. He walked up behind Harry and reached up to run a hand over Harry's hair. "Dark hair, green eyes…"
"I really am an idiot, aren't I?" Harry asked, finally turning to look at Percy.
Percy let his hand fall to his side. "We were both a little blind, I think."
"Yeah," Harry said. His eyes fell to Percy's lips. Percy deliberately bit his lower lip before he spoke.
"You're not leaving?"
"Hell no," Harry said.
"Good." And Percy leaned down and kissed him.
Percy pulled the blankets off the rope and folded them with quick, precise motions. A finite and a sharp tug took the rope down, and Percy coiled it and tucked it back into his box of odds and ends. Harry came back into the bedroom, shirtless and damp from his shower, and gave Percy an almost shy smile.
"Feel better?" Percy asked.
"Feel brilliant," Harry said. He came up and slid his arms around Percy's waist. "Maybe next time we'll manage to get out of our clothes."
"Plenty of time for that," Percy said, pulling Harry into a long kiss.
One of them turned their head the wrong way, and their glasses caught. Harry pulled away, laughing as his glasses slid down his nose. Percy pushed them back up for him.
"If we don't leave soon, we're going to be late for dinner," Percy said, and reluctantly disentangled himself from Harry's arms.
"We're going together?" Harry asked, his voice muffled by the shirt he was pulling over his head.
"If you want to," Percy said.
Harry grinned at him. "Definitely."
Their arrival together caused a stir among the family. Charlie was grinning ear to ear. Ron seemed a bit gobsmacked, but after judicious elbow movement by Hermione, joined in the congratulations and teasing.
"No wonder you didn't want to marry Ginny," Molly said, shaking her head, but pulled Harry into a hug anyway.
Everyone finally settled down and went to the dinner table, but Percy frowned as he looked around.
"Where is Ginny?"
"I'm not sure," Molly said. "At Luna's, maybe. They've been spending a lot of time together."
There was a noise at the door, and everyone looked toward it. Ginny appeared, looking somewhat shy, and Percy's mouth dropped as a sheepish Dean Thomas followed her in, holding her hand.
Ginny cleared her throat. "Mum? Dad?"
In the ensuing chaos, Harry leaned over to whisper in Percy's ear, "I think we've been one-upped."
"I am quite all right with that," Percy said, and took advantage of everyone's attention being elsewhere to give Harry a quick kiss. "And I, for one, am going to sit back and enjoy the show."
After Apparating back into their quiet living room, Percy and Harry breathed matching sighs of relief, then laughed.
"It really is much nicer here," Harry said, following Percy to the bedroom. "Though we're going to have to rearrange."
A few flicks of Percy's wand shrunk the camp bed and moved the furniture around a bit. He eyed his own bed.
"We'll need to get a bigger bed," Percy said thoughtfully.
Harry slid his arms around Percy from behind and kissed the back of his neck. "I think we'll manage for a night or two. If you don't mind me invading your space a bit."
"Somehow," Percy said, turning to wrap his arms around Harry, "I don't think I'll mind."