|Still, where did the lighter fluid come from? (emiime) wrote in percy_ficathon,|
@ 2008-06-19 10:34:00
|Entry tags:||fic, nc-17, percy/harry, slash|
A gift for juniperus! (Part 1 of 2)
Title: Great Escape
Pairing/Characters: Harry/Percy (mentions of Ron/Hermione, George/Angelina and Harry/Ginny)
Word Count: 13,334
Warnings: DH spoilers, and post-DH spoilers (i.e. things JKR revealed after DH).
Disclaimer: The world and characters of Harry Potter are the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. I own nothing and will not profit from this story.
Summary: Over a year after the war, Percy still has some issues he needs to work through, and Harry seems to be just the person to help him.
Notes: A big thank-you to eeyore9990 and florahart for their betaing services. Another big thank-you to emiime for this amazing ficathon, for procuring the aforementioned betas for me at the last minute and for being cool about giving out extra time. And finally, thank-you to juniperus, my giftee, for prompting me to write Harry again after not writing him for years, and for making me pair him with Percy, which I'd never done before. These two won't stop shagging in every corner of my brain now. *g*
The lift doors opened and Harry wandered in with his nose buried in a stack of memos. He turned to face forward as the doors closed and cut off the low murmur of people bustling around the Ministry. He was so preoccupied, it took a moment for him to realise there was someone in there with him, besides the lift operator. He finally glanced over to see who it was. Percy Weasley was standing on the other side of the lift, straight and stiff as a board, with a stack of folders tucked under one arm. Harry sighed at the fact that Percy refused to look at him, instead choosing to keep his face forward and eyes up, watching the numbers change.
"Good morning, Harry," Percy finally said when Harry didn't look away.
"How's your week been?"
"Good, good," Percy replied brightly. Harry wondered if Percy had heard him properly.
"Percy, we need to talk."
Percy's jaw muscles twitched. "Would you like to set up a meeting for later today?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"I have a half-hour free after lunch if that works for you."
"I was thinking something a little less surrounded by co-workers."
Percy's eyes darted in Harry's direction just a little bit, but they almost immediately went back to staring up at the numbers. "Is this a business matter?"
"You know it's not. We can't go on like this. It's absolutely mad."
Percy's eyes darted down to the lift operator, whose head was at least a foot below Percy's. The operator shifted his weight from foot to foot, but otherwise kept his eyes forward, giving no indication that he was listening.
"I don't think this is an appropriate place to discuss–"
"Look, I don't know about you, but I can't work like this. I spend half my day trying to avoid bumping into you and the other half thinking up the best ways to avoid bumping into you. And it's not even like it's partially me. It's you! It's all you! If I didn't feel like you were making a big deal out of this, I wouldn't care."
The lift came to a bumpy halt and the doors opened. "Level Two," the operator announced. "Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Harry took a step toward the door, but then turned and looked back at Percy, who was still determinedly not looking at him. "Just come and talk to me for a minute, will you?"
"Sorry, Harry, I'm a very busy man."
"This is your floor too, you know."
"No, I… missed my floor."
Harry rolled his eyes. "No, you didn't."
"Lots of things to do, Harry, must be off now." Percy finally looked down, as the lift and its numbers were now stationary, and began shuffling through his stack of folders. "After lunch, then, yes?"
"So, what, I have to keep dodging you for the next three hours then?"
"I'll see you after lunch," Percy insisted through clenched teeth.
"Going down," the operator announced, shooting Harry a stern look. Harry decided it was useless to hold up the lift any longer. He backed out and watched its doors close.
"Oi!" Ron's voice came from behind him. Harry turned to find his tall, lanky friend approaching. He was chewing a bite of the half-eaten apple in his large hand. "Where've you been? You're usually here by now."
"Yeah, sorry," Harry replied distractedly, scratching his head.
"What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing. I'm fine."
"Your schedule's been off this week."
Harry frowned. "What's that mean?"
"This entire week, you've been either late or too early for everything. And I wouldn't bet on no one else noticing."
"I'm sorry, Ron," Harry sighed, running a hand down over his face from nose to chin. "I've been forced to take some creative routes around the building."
"I've been avoiding someone."
Ron swallowed and pointed at him. "It's Genevieve down on Five, innit?"
"No, it's not Genevieve."
"'Cause she's been up here several times, sniffing around for you." Ron grinned. "Already has wedding invitations printed up, I expect."
"I know," Harry groaned. "But no, it's actually your brother."
"Percy? Oh. Say no more." Ron turned around and headed for the doors that led into Auror Headquarters. "Been avoiding him since birth."
"Ron, wait," Harry hissed and motioned frantically for Ron to come back. "It's not the usual thing with him this week. Has he been acting weird lately? Around you and your family?"
"Has he been weird?" Ron had wandered back to stand with Harry before the lift. "I'd like to know when he hasn't been weird."
"No, I mean in a different way."
"Could you be more specific?"
Harry hesitated. He glanced to his right, listening to see if anyone could be heard approaching, and then to his left, at the closed lift doors. He then looked up at Ron and said in a hushed voice, "Percy dropped by my place Monday night and… apologised to me."
The hand holding Ron's apple stopped just short of his mouth and Ron's eyebrows went up. "He apologised to you?"
"Yeah. About things he feels he's done wrong in the past or something. It was…" Harry paused and took a breath, shaking his head as he remembered Percy's visit. "It was so unlike him."
Four days earlier…
Harry opened his front door and stared in silent disbelief at the person he found on the other side. "Percy?"
"Harry," Percy nodded at him. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Er, no. How've you been?"
"Very well, thank you. I'll get right to the point: I've come to discuss something with you. It's a matter of some importance to me and I didn't feel comfortable discussing it at work."
Harry couldn't imagine what this could possibly be about, but he had to admit his interest was piqued. He stepped aside and opened the door wider. "Come in."
Percy entered the flat and Harry led him to the living room. "Can I get you something?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"Have a seat."
Percy glanced around at the living room, which was all warm browns, rich reds and rustic wooden furnishings. The men took seats facing each other on opposite sides of the coffee table.
"Let me begin by saying," Percy said, "that including you in this process was my choice."
"I feel that in order to do this properly, you need to be included. You are practically part of the family, after all."
"Thank you… What exactly are we talking about?"
"My therapist and I think that it would be–"
"Wait, whoa, time out. Your what now?"
Percy looked slightly put out. "My therapist."
Harry gaped at him. "You're in therapy?"
"Yes," Percy replied tersely. "Is that strange?"
"Well, it's… unexpected. How long's that been going on?"
"That's none of your concern."
"Course." Harry held up his hands. "Sorry. That was rude of me. Go on then. Your therapist and you think that…?"
Percy let out a sigh of irritation. "My therapist and I believe that it would be beneficial for me to sit down with certain individuals and own up to some things."
"It's been over a year since…" Percy lowered his gaze for a moment. It was only for a second, however, and he was right back to addressing Harry as though they were in a business meeting. "It's been over a year since the war, and while it was devastating, I think we all have enough distance from it now to deal with certain things."
Harry didn't respond right away. The word "war" echoed in his head and he was afraid to let Percy start speaking again. Finally he said, "No, you're right. There are a lot of things that probably need to be said."
"Precisely. I'm glad you agree." Percy reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small, square slip of folded parchment. He unfolded it, laid it on his lap, adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. "All right, number one–"
Harry held up a finger. "How many numbers are on that piece of paper?"
"Oh, uh…" Percy flipped the parchment over and frowned at the other side. He then looked up at Harry and said, "Sixty-two."
Harry slowly lowered his finger.
"Right then. Number one: it has recently come to my attention that I can be a bit of a know-it-all."
Harry's eyebrows went up. "I'm sorry? Recently?"
Percy opened his mouth to reply, but closed it and narrowed his eyes at Harry. "Was that a jab?"
"What? No – Well, maybe a little. But it was mostly just surprise. Honest."
"So, it's everyone then."
"That knew that I can be a bit pompous."
"Oh, um… well…" Harry's shoulders slumped. "Yeah."
"It's all right, Harry. The only person who swore she hadn't noticed is my mother, and to be honest I think she was fibbing to spare my feelings. At any rate, I've finally come to this realisation, and I just wanted to apologise if I've ever caused you to feel that you weren't being heard or that you were being talked down to."
"Oh. Well, that's nice, I guess. Er, thanks. But, um, what's that got to do with the war?"
"It's not directly connected, that's true; however, in the wake of all of that, I've begun to look at what's really important in life. Needless to say, much of what I used to think was important didn't make the cut, so to speak, and I feel the need to clear the air with some important people."
Harry nodded. He was surprised that Percy considered him important enough to be included in all this.
"Number two: it has also recently come to my attention that some of my past actions may have caused undue stress or upset to loved ones."
Harry immediately thought about Percy having turned his back on his family because of their involvement with the Order and Dumbledore, but that couldn't be what he was apologising to him, Harry, for. "Um, I'm not sure that one has anything to do with me."
"But it does. For starters, I gave more than one interview to The Daily Prophet about your… condition."
"This was, of course, back when everyone thought you were an attention-seeking unstable youth. Far from trying to dispel those rumours, I added a great deal to them and completely believed them for quite some time. I apologise for my mistake. I am very sorry."
Harry had begun frowning as Percy spoke. He remembered very vividly some of the newspaper articles about his mental state and questionable motives. He hadn't bothered to read them all and he'd always been sure that there were many more than he'd actually seen. Then he remembered something that made him look up and glare at Percy. "You tried to turn Ron against me."
"Er, yes." Percy looked down at his list. "That was number three, actually–"
"I saw the letter you wrote to him."
"Did you?" Percy fidgeted. "You weren't supposed to see that."
"Well, you should've known he'd show it to me. You called me unbalanced."
"Now, I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but–"
"You called me violent!"
"Well, that's possible, but I probably only implied that you might be–"
"'Nothing could put you in danger of losing your badge more than continued fraternization with that boy, Ron,'" Harry quoted.
"Now, Harry, you have to admit, it was important at that point that Ron be careful–"
"'You do not want to be tarred with the same brush as Potter, Ron.' I mean, who even talks like that, anyway?"
"Well, now there's no need for insults. I am attempting to apologise here."
Harry's nostrils flared as he stared at Percy. He wanted to say more, but he held his tongue for fear of what he might say. He took a breath and tried to calm himself, and only spoke when he trusted himself to do so. "I'm sorry. I appreciate you acknowledging it now."
Percy nodded. "It's all right. I understand your anger. I was only trying to look out for my brother."
Harry nodded. "I know. It wasn't easy for me to see it then, but it's obvious you love your family and only want the best for them."
Percy lowered his face. "I do," he said quietly. He gripped the edge of the seat cushion he sat on, hunched his shoulders and exhaled heavily.
"Oh, hey, Percy, I didn't mean to upset you," said Harry, sitting a bit forward in his seat.
"No, no, it's fine." Percy straightened up again and gave a little sniff. "It isn't you. It's just… sometimes I forget that it's really over."
Harry stared straight into his eyes and gave him a nod. He understood.
"Even now," Percy went on, "over a year later, I still wake up sometimes thinking…" Percy looked away and took a breath, and Harry thought he noticed Percy shiver just a bit. Harry stood up from his seat, moved around the coffee table and sat next to Percy on the loveseat. Percy, who'd been looking in that very direction, turned his face away.
"Oh, the hell with this," Percy suddenly muttered, and crumpled up the sheet of parchment, scrunching it into a tight little ball, making his knuckles turn white. He finally looked at Harry again. "I don't need a list to know that I've been an arse."
Harry's eyebrows went up again and a smile tugged at his lips. "Did… did you just say 'arse'?"
Percy stared back at him for several seconds until finally he had to look away again to hide his own smile.
"I've never heard you talk like that."
"Sometimes the situation calls for an arse, don't you think?" Percy smiled over at him. It wasn't something Harry had ever gotten used to; seeing Percy genuinely smile. The corners of his eyes crinkled up behind the small lenses of his glasses.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, smiling back at him.
"If there's something you feel needs to be addressed that I haven't mentioned, please feel free to bring it up now. I know what I think I've done, but it might all be completely different than what you've experienced with me."
Harry shook his head. "No, I think I'm good."
Percy looked unconvinced and even worried. "You're sure?"
"I am. I forgive you. Even for calling me unbalanced and violent."
Percy winced. "I’m sorry."
"It's okay." Harry laid a hand on Percy's shoulder and squeezed it. "You sure you don't want to go through the rest of your list there? I know you like lists."
Percy glanced down at the ball of paper now resting between his thigh and the arm of the loveseat. "No. My therapist would be proud of me, actually. I think I just figured out that the list was a silly idea." He looked up at Harry again. "She'd call it an epiphany or something. Do you know I calculated the approximate time it would take to discuss each and every one of the points I had written down?"
"We're still talking about you?" Harry nodded. "I believe it."
"Apologies come from the heart, not a schedule or an agenda."
"And I believe yours were genuine," Harry said honestly and smiled. "Despite the fact you were reading them off a piece of paper."
Harry let his hand fall from Percy's shoulder. "So, I guess that's it. You accomplished what you came here for?"
"Yes, I believe I did."
Percy thought about that for a moment. He shook his head and his eyebrows knitted together. "No. No, I don't think so."
"Hmph. But isn't that the point of the exercise? To unburden yourself or something like that, so you can move on?"
"But it hasn't worked?"
"Perhaps it takes a while sometimes."
Harry shrugged. "Maybe."
Percy shook his head as though to clear his mind. He then turned to Harry and smiled. "Thank you for allowing me this time to talk, at any rate. My therapist will be pleased that I've completed this step."
"You're welcome. Um, if you don't mind my asking, what happens now that this step is complete? Is there another step? Or… no, that's probably none of my business."
Percy shook his head. "No, it's all right. I don't know. She won't tell me. And to be honest, I'm not sure she knows, either. Frankly, I think she makes it up as she goes."
Harry grinned at that. "But it's helpful?"
"Yes, I believe so. In fact, I suggested to my family that they might want to give it a shot as well. After… what happened, I think we could all use a bit of therapy."
Harry nodded. He hesitated and then asked quietly, "How's George?"
Percy sighed. "As good as can be expected."
"I haven't been to see him in a long time," Harry admitted, his chest knotting with guilt. "And Ron doesn't talk about George, really. He only mentions how much things have picked up at the shop in the last few months."
"Well, on the surface, he's doing better than he was several months ago."
"On the surface," Harry echoed. It wasn't a question.
Percy gave him a knowing look. "He's thrown himself into his work. That's why the shop's doing so well now. He hardly does anything else."
Harry sat quietly, unsure what to say, or if he should say anything at all.
"When I apologised to him," Percy continued, "I told him I was I sorry he and I couldn't have been closer growing up. I told him I was sorry that I never really listened to him. I was always too busy criticising him and telling him what he ought to be doing. You know me," he said with a wave of his hand, in an almost annoyed tone. Harry knew that Percy was annoyed with himself, not him, Harry. "The irony is, I don't know if he really heard me. I think he might still be too devastated."
Harry fidgeted. He wasn't sure he should be hearing this.
"I told him I was sorry I never said…" Percy paused, lowered his face and shut his eyes.
"Percy, you don't have to tell me this stuff." Harry reached for a box of tissues on the coffee table and offered it to Percy. "It's really isn't any of my business, you know?"
Percy raised his face, sniffled with as much dignity as he could muster and took two tissues from the box with an appreciative nod at Harry. "It's been three months since I said these things to George, and he hasn't said word one to me about it since. Which is fine, of course, I don't expect him to want to have a chat about his feelings."
"But you need to talk about yours."
"Apparently. Of course, I don't expect you to want to listen to this. I'll go if you prefer."
"Er, no, it's okay. I'll listen. I… I've never seen you like this, Perce."
"Yes, well," Percy said, dabbing at his nose again, "neither have I, to be honest. It's quite interesting to me, so I can only imagine what a show it must be for you." He chuckled at that. He then took a breath, seemed to be gathering his thoughts, and then he continued. "I told George that I was sorry I never said 'I love you' to him and Fred. Can you believe that? I never said it. I think I hugged them when we were little, but I never said the words. So, I finally told George that I love him. I think…" He looked down and shrugged. "I think he was grateful in his own way. When I finally told him I was sorry that it had been me, not him, who'd… brought the body back to the family, that's when he asked me to leave."
Harry looked away, trying not to remember that day. He shook his head for several quiet seconds. "I'm so sorry, Percy."
"No, I don't deserve the apologies. George does. Fred was his."
Harry wanted to say something. He wanted to apologise again, to console the man somehow, but he couldn't think of anything that wouldn't sound small and inadequate.
"And he hasn't said a word about it since. He pretends the talk never happened." Percy looked over at Harry. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to unload all of this on you when I came here."
"It's okay," Harry said quickly. He stared into Percy's eyes and for the first time realised how heavy they looked. Percy had always had bright, inquisitive blue eyes, like his father. Now they appeared clouded and leaden with what Harry could only imagine was a world of hurt.
"You've been a good friend to Ron throughout everything. I have to thank you for that. I'd be remiss if I didn't."
"Ohh, no, you wouldn't." Harry shook his head emphatically. "Really not necessary."
Percy looked down and began pulling at his tissues. "Life's too short, you know?"
Silence grew between them then. Harry once again felt completely useless. But Percy seemed to need something from him, otherwise why would he have felt the need to open up the way he had? Would it be rude not to hug him? This seemed a situation that called for a hug. He glanced at Percy, but he couldn't read him. Percy seemed perfectly fine, if a little sniffly, sitting there without Harry's arms around him.
But the silence was growing louder. Harry could barely stand it. One of them had to do or say something. And since he didn't know what to say, Harry leaned in, wrapped an arm around Percy and pulled him close. The following seconds that Harry had to wait for Percy's reaction were just horrible. But to Harry's relief, Percy only took a deep breath and let it out.
At least a minute went by and Percy didn't move or speak. Percy's body felt unyielding, much like Harry had expected it to; Percy had never struck Harry as much of a hugger. Percy also felt tense, as though ready to spring into action at any moment. This didn't surprise Harry either. Percy didn't seem at all interested in physical displays of support, and yet he wasn't moving away. So, Harry waited patiently, his arm draped across Percy's shoulders.
Finally, Percy found his voice, and said, "I should go."
Harry slowly disengaged. "You sure?"
"Yes. I'll be fine."
"Um…" Harry's eyes went down to where Percy's fingers were shredding his soggy tissues.
"I'm fine. Really. God, listen to my voice. I sound terrible."
"Well, you've been crying a bit," Harry pointed out unnecessarily.
"Well, I feel ridiculous. I don't cry."
"I don't. I'm sorry, I have to go." At that, Percy stood. He clutched his tissues and the balled-up sheet of parchment in one hand and headed for the door. Harry scrambled to follow him.
"Okay, but it's on record that I didn't chuck you out, right? Because I wouldn't."
"Of course." Percy stopped and turned at the door and regarded Harry with his usual business-like demeanour. "Thank you, Harry. Have a nice evening." And before Harry could say goodbye, Percy turned and slipped out the door.