|Still, where did the lighter fluid come from? (emiime) wrote in percy_ficathon,|
@ 2008-07-14 10:13:00
|Entry tags:||fic, percy/teddy, r, slash|
A gift for lesyeuxverts!
Rating: PG-13/light R
Word Count: about 8,000
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Making no money.
Summary: The truth, underneath the shimmering, twisted veneer that Percy Weasley had laid upon it, was a dirty little thing. A wrong thing.
Notes: Thanks to E and B for the betas! Special thanks to emiime for her patience with me. I hope you enjoy it, lesyeuxverts.
On paper, the end of the war was a tidy affair. Percy Weasley liked tidy affairs. He liked returning to a Ministry office. He liked being given more respect than he'd known in the years prior to his 'resignation'. And most of all, he liked being able to pretend that he'd adhered to the right side all along. It wasn't that Percy Weasley prized dishonesty—he most certainly did not—but long years of experience in government had taught him that the truth was pliable at best.
The truth, underneath the shimmering, twisted veneer that Percy Weasley had laid upon it, was a dirty little thing. A wrong thing. And if he were to admit to it, he was sure the entire Earth would tilt on her axis, and nothing would ever be orderly again. He picked up the business card in front of him. Eeylops Owl Emporium. He watched the owl blink, then slowly tilt its head, and then flipped the card over between his fingertips.
I need to talk to you. Something big.
Teddy knows that his father was a werewolf. He also knows that his mother was a metamorphmagus, and an Auror. He knows that he has wide brown eyes, and plain brown hair that he likes to wear in a style his grandmother refers to as "far too shaggy", and that he was born in the middle of a war. He knows transfiguration like the back of his hand (though he'd rather say 'like the palm of his hand', since that's the side he's more familiar with), and he knows advanced arithmancy as well. He knows enough to hide this latter fact so as to avoid getting cornered by Hermione Granger-Weasley at family gatherings and interrogated about the quantification of magical systems of travel, or something equally mind-numbing. He knows that his grandmother is right when she tells him that he can't spend the rest of his life working as a clerk in an Owl Emporium, but he'll never tell her that.
Despite knowing all this, there are days that Teddy Lupin feels as though he knows nothing at all.
Victoire Weasley, Teddy's girlfriend, is standing at the foot of the bed, looking into the mirror and cinching her waist with her own breath as she inhales. She turns sideways, shakes her long hair back off her shoulders, and finally exhales in satisfaction. Teddy's eyes wander to Victoire's t-shirt draped over the footboard, and his gaze follows the folds and shadows across the pale blue fabric.
"I've decided to quit the banking program," she says, and Teddy looks up at her half-dressed reflection.
"Gringotts," says Victoire. "I'm quitting. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life working in a bank like my parents."
"Uh…" Teddy really wishes he had something to say here, but he doesn't. He doesn't particularly care about what Victoire is going to do three or four years down the line. In fact, he doesn't like thinking about it at all, because thinking about it implies that he's going to be with her three or four years down the line, and he's not sure he likes that idea at all.
Victoire huffs. It's a sound he can imagine her mother making.
"Sorry to hear that," Teddy says.
"Sorry to hear what?" asks Victoire, and it's with that tone of voice that presupposes his inadequate answer.
"That you… uh, quit your job. What are you going to do now?" Teddy says, but before he's even asked the question, his mind is drifting again, and hours later, he'll lie in bed next to Victoire and struggle to remember her answer.
Teddy has always neatly categorized Molly and Arthur Weasley's children by character: the cool one (who later becomes "Victoire's father" in Teddy's mind), the gay one, the troublemaker, the tall one, the girl. The smart one. He's always liked the smart one best, even though it makes no sense that a guy like Teddy would. Percy is abrupt and fastidious and socially awkward, everything Teddy is not. Maybe that's why Teddy likes him so much. It's fascinating, in a way.
Apathy, Percy once told Teddy, was a young man's privilege. The problem with growing older, Percy said, was that things happened that forced you to care, and if you were a man of apathy, the shock would be terrible. Percy looked thoughtful then, and somehow older and younger all at once, but then he blinked and stiffened, and the moment was gone. There's irony, Teddy thinks, in the fact that the memory of that moment is one of the few things he's not apathetic about these days.
Teddy knows that Percy was talking about his late brother Fred. Maybe that's the reason Teddy likes him so much. Fred Weasley died on the same day as Teddy's parents. From the stories Victoire has told, Percy didn't speak to Fred, or anyone else in his family, for years before that day. To Teddy, it's as if both Percy and Teddy lost someone they didn't actually know. Some days, Teddy thinks it's better that way, that he never really had a particular grief. Most days, he thinks it's worse.
Jonathon Wilde left Hogwarts the same year as Teddy, and to Andromeda Tonks's dismay, the boys have remained in touch in a fleeting, inconsistent sort of way that makes Teddy wonder if Jonathon only calls upon him when there's trouble afoot. Teddy has met some wizards with astoundingly fitting names—his own father was one of them—but none with a more fitting name than Jonathon Wilde. He'd once heard Professor McGonagall say that if the Weasley twins and the Prewett twins had been crammed into one body, and fitted with the mischievous nature of a thousand Cornish Pixies, that child might come close to causing the havoc of one Jonathon Wilde. Teddy never knew the Prewetts, though his grandmother remembers them, and there's only one Weasley twin left, George, whose particular brand of mischief makes it hard for Teddy to conceive of two of him, but Teddy can imagine it must be true.
Jon Wilde. Gone Wild. The joke was old by their second year at Hogwarts, but Jonathon never stopped living up to the reputation. And Teddy, while he never entirely faded into the background, turned out much duller outside the walls of Hogwarts.
"Here, take these." Jonathon Wilde is sitting on the stone step outside McLaggen's Second-Hand Quidditch Supplies, holding out a packet of Muggle cigarettes to Teddy, who is leaning against the alcove wall.
"No, thanks," Teddy says.
Jonathon looks up at Teddy, one eye hidden beneath a loop of dark hair. "You afraid I'll get you in trouble with your gran?"
Teddy snorts. "Trouble, no. Not with my gran."
"Take them anyway."
"I thought you didn't like Muggles." Teddy takes the smooth box in his hands, cupping it like a baby bird, and he can feel the pulse of it beneath his palms, the fluttering heartbeat of something dangerous about to happen.
"I don't," says Jonathon. "That's why I'm trying to unload these."
Teddy tucks the package away and swallows. Since they left Hogwarts, Jonathon's exploits don't seem quite as impressive as they once did. Teddy has been preoccupied lately, and the less time he spends around Jonathon, the less he misses his friend. The more he realizes that he's never known who he really is without Jonathon's influence. He's not sure it's something he wants to know, though: whether or not he really exists in a world without Jonathon Wilde.
When Jonathon's not around, all Teddy thinks about is Percy, and lately, even when Jonathon is around, Teddy's thinking about Percy too. It's like this crazy thing that wove itself into his brain and won't let go. It's like being sick, but with a good feeling all the time, and Teddy knows that Jonathon won't understand. He tries not to mention Percy's name. That always turns out to be harder than he expects.
Teddy is alone with Percy again. Somehow, this seems to happen on a regular basis. It doesn't make sense that Percy Weasley would want anything to do with him, but here they are, again, and Teddy's not complaining. Teddy's just been to visit Victoire at her parents' house, Shell Cottage. Percy was there, speaking to Bill about some Ministry business, and then Fleur and Victoire were leaving for an afternoon of shopping in London, and Teddy, expectedly, declined to accompany them.
Now he's walking the length of a field adjacent to the Weasleys' property by Percy's side, and they're talking about Percy's favorite subject: politics. Teddy's struggling, a bit, to keep up, but Percy doesn't seem to notice. Teddy likes the way Percy's face lights with enthusiasm when he talks about the regulation of foreign magic. He talks to Teddy like an equal.
Teddy is so enthralled in the conversation that he doesn't even notice they've reached the marsh, and his feet are still moving as Percy stops fast. Teddy takes another step and starts to sink, his leg drawn into the soft earth with a violent tug as his arms flail for something to hang on to. He reaches for Percy, but Percy isn't there.
Instead, Percy has taken a sweeping step back, and has his wand drawn, pointed at the Swallowing Swamproot that is pulling Teddy in. He shouts a spell that Teddy has never heard before, and suddenly the ground all around Teddy is surging upward, thick chunks of mud and Swamproot flying in every direction.
When he opens his eyes again, he's lying on his back, staring up at the sun-brightened sky and squinting. Percy's shadow blocks out the light.
"Let's go," says Percy.
Teddy gets to his feet, stumbling at first, glancing back over his shoulder at the crater in the swamp where he was nearly pulled into the earth only a few seconds ago. He follows along with Percy's long strides, until they reach a small grove of trees, and Percy sits back against the rail of an old neglected fence. Teddy leans back to join him, starting as Percy casts a cleansing charm without warning. Teddy looks down at his feet for a moment, mourning the conversation that seemed to disappear into the marsh.
"Where did you learn that?" he asks finally, tilting his head sideways to look over at Percy, whose glasses are still broken from the explosion.
Percy looks up, his face half-hidden in shadow. "My brother Charlie."
"The gay one," Teddy says.
"The brave one."
Teddy watches Percy Weasley, the subtle flair of his nostrils as he breathes, the darting of his eyes beneath the cracked lens of his glasses, and Teddy knows that he'd just been told far more about the man in front of him than about the brother. These are the things they never quite talk about.
"That's why she left you, isn't it?" Teddy watches his hands in fascination as he speaks, and sees that they are trembling. He fumbles for the pocket inside his coat, where he's been keeping those cigarettes. "Because you're gay."
Percy's intake of breath slices through the air between them, so sharp that it takes Teddy by surprise, and he juggles one cigarette on his fingertips for a moment before dropping it to the ground. Percy stares at it, frowning.
"That's a disgusting habit," he says.
"I—just—oh." Teddy tucks the rest of the pack back into his coat. Then he reaches out with his foot, grinding the wasted fag into the ground.
"I was always a good father to those children," Percy says, staring straight ahead. "She never denied it."
"Of course you were," says Teddy. "I saw that." He smoothes the raised crease on his jeans compulsively.
"I… I used to think there were some things we could overcome, if we just tried hard enough. If we just… made ourselves forget."
"Who was it?" Teddy asks. "Who were you in love with?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Was it my dad?"
Percy makes a short, humorless noise and flicks his wand, fixing his broken glasses. "No. Merlin, no."
"Good," Teddy says, out loud, though he hadn't meant it that way. "I mean… uh… That'd be weird, you know?"
"Right," says Percy. "Weird."
"Why do you care, Ted?"
Teddy's cheeks grow so hot that he's certain Percy can see the glow without even looking in his direction.
"Ted was my grandfather," he says quietly.
Percy snorts. "I know. And Remus was your father, and Nymphadora your mother, but she preferred—"
"Tonks, yeah. I meant that I want you to call me Teddy. You still haven't answered my question."
Percy gets to his feet. "I know what you meant. You're young," he says. "Love is different for you. Grow up. Make your mistakes. Then perhaps we'll talk."
"That's bullshit," says Teddy. "I'm twenty years old. By the time you were my age, there was a war on—"
"And I was an insufferable fool who didn't know the first thing about life. You don't know what you're speaking of. You're too young."
And before Teddy can answer that, Percy has turned so sharply that his robes crack in the air between them. And then he's gone.
"Are we too young?" Teddy says. He's lying on his back, eyes closed against the sunlight, bottle of ale resting on his chest.
"Too young for what?" Jonathon asks. "I've done just about everything I'm too young to do."
Teddy snorts. "I know. I meant too young to… to know. To really know stuff."
"Are you hanging around that Weasley again? Vic's uncle?"
"Which one?" Teddy says, knowing the answer is obvious. None of the others sound a thing like Percy.
"The one whose arse you're dying to lick." Jonathon's words belie his grin, and without opening his eyes, Teddy can feel it, feral and blood-thirsty.
"You're disgusting," Teddy says, shielding his face with his arm and looking away.
"Oh, come on," says Jonathon, "you're dying to lick that arse. Or have him lick yours. It's not so bad, really. Some girl I met at the Viper's Eye let me do that to her. Doesn't taste as bad as you'd think. At least she didn't. She was clean and everything." He snorts. "I'll bet that Percy Weasley's arse is so tight that he's never even taken a shit, so you've got nothing to worry about."
Teddy drops his arm and turns to glare at Jonathon.
Jonathon laughs. "What was the question again?"
"Nothing." Teddy presses his lips together, but chuckles from somewhere in his throat. "Wanker."
It happens more abruptly in real life than it ever does in Teddy's dreams. There's a lull in the conversation, and all that Teddy can seem to see is the swollen pout of Percy's lower lip, where he's been chewing on it thoughtfully as he contemplates his answer. Teddy's just asked him about the implications of the new trade agreement with the Russian Ministry, even though he doesn't particularly care.
And then it happens.
The first time Teddy kisses Percy, he squeezes his eyes shut so tightly that his temples start to throb. He doesn't want to see the look of reproach on Percy's face. And there's a moment, as Percy gasps from between parted lips, still pressed stiffly against Teddy's, when Teddy is certain Percy will pull away. But he doesn't.
Suddenly, he throws himself at Teddy, and Teddy's arms are wrapped around him, and they're caught in a tangled mess of clothing and glasses and hair, but Teddy doesn't notice that until he reviews the moment in his mind much, much later.
When the kiss ends, they're both panting, and Teddy wipes the corners of his mouth idly with his fingertips. Percy gives him a faint smile. Then he starts talking about trade again.
Teddy breaks up with Victoire a week later. He's in love with Percy Weasley. He knew this before, of course, but now the taste of Percy's lips on his seems to be permanent, and he's certain he can never kiss Victoire again. He's dying to be alone with Percy, but his moment doesn't come for three long days.
They are at the flat that Percy rents in London, to be close to the Ministry, and Percy has called Teddy here for a talk. Teddy knows the talk was supposed to be about how wrong it was for Percy to kiss Teddy, and how ill-matched they are. Teddy wants to tell Percy that he's broken up with Victoire, that he wants to be Percy's, but in the end, it looks like neither of them gets to say what he really wants to say.
The first thing Teddy notices about Percy's flat once the door closes is that the walls are lined with press clippings, framed and arranged as neatly as photographs against the stark white walls. They're all political, and there's one name that stands out to Teddy, over and over again, in the grouping of frames that adorns the wall beside the kitchen door. But the flash of recognition Teddy feels when some earlier conversation clicks into place in his mind is gone the moment Percy addresses him.
"Um, Ted," Percy says, and he reaches out to touch Teddy's arm. That's all it takes.
Before Teddy knows it, their clothes are in rumpled piles on the floor and Teddy's fingers are tentatively wrapping around Percy's cock—the most beautiful prick he's ever seen—and Percy's making a little whimpering sound that vibrates through every cell in Teddy's body.
An hour later, Teddy flops to the side, breathless and spent, naked and glossed with sweat.
"It was Harry, wasn't it?" he says, and he tries not to be too proud of himself, but he can't help it. He's figured it out, finally. 'Potter' was the name in every headline on the wall near the kitchen. He knows this isn't the conversation that should follow what they've just done, but the other one, the conversation that Percy wants to have, isn't one Teddy is ready to deal with yet.
"What?" Percy stops breathing.
"That you were in love with. Harry Potter. You know, the bloke married to your sister."
Teddy holds his own breath as he waits for Percy to inhale again, wondering if the other man is trying to suffocate himself in lieu of giving Teddy an answer.
"Why does my unrequited love life hold your interest like this?" Percy asks. "It's unhealthy."
"Are you over him?" Teddy rolls onto his stomach and props his chin up on his palm.
"For years," Percy says, and he's watching the ceiling fan with disinterest.
"Good. That'd be weird, you know?"
Percy coughs. It might be a laugh, Teddy's not sure. "Right. Weird."
"Did you tell him? Ever? That you loved him?"
"Why would I do something as foolish as that?" Percy says, ever disgusted with Teddy's thoughts on the matter. "Why do you want to know?" His gaze slides over to Teddy, heavy and searing, like a branding iron.
Teddy is suddenly ashamed. He shouldn't have asked because now Percy has turned the question around, and it's sitting in the bed between them, bunching up the covers and shoving Teddy to the side. It won't leave until he answers it. Jonathon would have answered it without hesitation. Teddy looks at the pillow.
"I thought it might be relevant… you know… to me."
"Oh?" The question between them has evaporated, but the coldness of Percy's voice fills its space before Teddy can get there. "Who are you in love with?"
And just like that, Teddy's whole world becomes irrelevant.
"I… oh." It's not the reaction Teddy was hoping for.
"Forget I said anything," Teddy says.
"I didn't mean—"
A long silence passes now. A silence in words only, Teddy thinks, because everything around him is unbearably loud: Percy's breath, the opening of a door down the hall, the sound of a bird's wings beating in uneven time as it tries to find a perch outside on the narrow sill. When Teddy swallows, the sound is so loud it's deafening, and when he sits up, the sheets fall back to the bed like thunder.
Charlie Weasley, the gay one—the brave one—has always made time for Teddy when he needs to talk. Even though Charlie lives in Romania, he's made it clear that Teddy is another little brother, even though Teddy's young enough to be Charlie's son. They're standing in Charlie's workshop, in the Romanian dragon sanctuary, which is just one nauseating portkey trip away from Teddy's home in London.
Charlie licks the tip of his finger then runs it along the rim of the phial he's holding. "Well, I'm listening," he says, flicking open the bag and sprinkling the powder lightly over the phial.
"I… I broke up with Victoire," Teddy says, flinching a little. It's the first time he's said it out loud.
"'Course you did," says Charlie. "You weren't any good for each other."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Charlie shrugs and then pours something yellow and iridescent out of a glass beaker and into the phial, leaning away as a cloud of green smoke streams from the phial in billows as soon as the liquid touches the powder.
"Perfect," Charlie says, one side of his mouth curling up in a grin as he caps off the phial. "Just as good as mother's milk. For a fledgling Ironbelly, anyway." He turns away to set the phial into a sleeve where dozens of similar potions are stored side by side. Teddy wonders if the conversation is already over.
"I s'pose it means that you're incompatible." Charlie's talking again, and Teddy's disappointment quells. "I overheard her talking with Mum. She's thinking wedding bells and babies, all that rubbish. And you're what, eighteen?"
"Twenty," says Teddy.
"Christ, already?" Charlie says. "Anyway, Vicky wants to play house. S'too early if you ask me."
"She hates being called Vicky," Teddy says.
"I know." Charlie grins, and Teddy imagines that grin looked exactly the same when Charlie was twelve, and taking the piss on Percy. Percy still complains about it.
"I dunno if I want to take your word for it," Teddy says. "Aren't you the one always saying you're still too young to settle down?"
"Hey, I'm only forty-five," Charlie says. "I'm still a hatchling."
Teddy chuckles, but his gaze falls back to his lap. "I, uh, didn't break up with her because I'm not ready to settle down."
"Ah," Charlie says. "It was for the other reason, then."
"Other reason?" Teddy asks.
"The same reason I made Meghan McCormack slap me across the face and storm out of the Yule ball in tears sixth year." Charlie gives Teddy a look that makes him squirm. "Told her I was gay."
Teddy nods. "Oh. That other reason."
"Yeah," says Charlie. "That one. So, what do you need to know?"
"Well," says Teddy, "rumor has it you're a veritable fountain of gay information."
"My mythic stature's been exaggerated a bit, but yeah, I've been around." Charlie bends down on one knee, lacing his boots more tightly. "All done in here," he says as he gets to his feet. "C'mon."
He leads Teddy out of the small workroom and into the kitchen where he opens the cooler and pulls out two beers.
"So, go on, then," Charlie says, using the edge of the counter to pry each bottle cap off in turn. He presses one into Teddy's hand. "What's it that you want to know? Blowjobs? Cockrings? Rimming?"
Teddy's expression falters, and he can feel the corners of his lips quivering childishly.
Charlie laughs heartily and knocks back a huge gulp of beer. "Matters of the heart then," he says. "I hate to break it to you, mate, but there I'm about as inept as anyone you'll ever meet. You in love with somebody?"
Teddy swallows, but the saliva sticks in his throat, round and swollen. "Uh, not love, no. Nothing—nothing like that. I just… I was wondering about… Wondering if you've ever been… Ever been with anybody who's older than you. Like, a lot older than you?" He takes a quick drink from his bottle, as if that will wash the words away.
"Why do you wanna know?" Charlie asks, and suddenly, the jovial timbre of his voice is gone.
"I, um… Oh, Merlin. I'm not trying to chat you up or anything, Charlie!" Teddy says. "I swear that's not what I meant!"
"I didn't think it was," Charlie says, and his smile relaxes, deep dimples creasing at the corners of his eyes.
Teddy stares at Charlie for a moment, trying to read his face. Charlie Weasley is an open book, straight-forward and sincere. Teddy's breath dies in his throat, and his chest starts to feel ridiculously heavy. This is one of those moments when he horrifies himself, when his brain works too fast, too well, and makes connections it's not supposed to make.
"Oh, Christ. My dad."
Charlie turns a shade of red that Teddy's never seen on a human being before, and Teddy's stomach seems intent on trying to hide inside itself. He's nauseous. Finally, Charlie lowers his eyes, and pulls in a slow, long breath.
"Ever been to the World Cup?" he asks, and Teddy watches as the color slowly washes away from Charlie's freckled face.
"Uh… no," says Teddy.
"My brothers and I have a few extra tickets. Why don't you come with? It'll be great. You can stay at the Burrow the night before, and we'll all take a portkey to Corsica in the morning."
"Um… okay," says Teddy.
"Brilliant," Charlie says, and he claps Teddy on the arm. A little too hard. A little too friendly.
Teddy swallows and blinks, and realizes that for a whole five minutes, he's barely thought about Percy at all. He feels as though he's been away from home for a month.
Teddy's lips are still red and swollen as he watches Percy leave the tiny room he's been given for tonight in the Burrow. He's grinning dumbly and straightening his bedclothes as he listens to Percy's footsteps in the hallway, but his heart stops beating when the sounds outside halt without warning.
"Pardon me." Percy's voice is slightly muffled, as if he's looking down. Teddy shifts over to the edge of the bed to hear better.
"So, Perce," Bill says, and he's using that tone of voice that always made Teddy want to have Victoire home on time, no matter their plans, "you want to explain what you're doing in my daughter's boyfriend's bedroom at two in the morning?"
"We were having a discussion," Percy says. "About confidential matters."
"Yeah. I'll bet."
"If you're implying what I think you are, Bill, you should watch yourself. If it were Charlie in my place, then I'd understand your suspicion."
"If it was Charlie in your place, I'd've laid him flat out on the floor by now."
"That's assuming you got off the first punch," says Charlie, his voice drifting in from down the hall. "What the hell's going on here?"
Teddy exhales for so long that he starts to feel dizzy.
"Brotherly chat," says Bill.
"Bill is under the impression that I was conducting some sort of lewd business in Ted Lupin's room just now." Teddy knows Percy's voice well enough to be sure that Percy hasn't taken his eyes off Bill.
"Were you?" Charlie says.
"Charlie, that's ridiculous. You know as well as anyone else that Ted is involved with Vic—"
"No, he's not," Charlie says. "They broke up three weeks ago. Because he's gay, Percy. Bill, didn't she tell you?"
"No, she didn't tell me. How would you know that?" Bill asks.
"He told me," says Charlie, as if it's the most obvious answer in the world.
Teddy pushes his hair away from his face with both hands. Percy's going to kill him if Bill doesn't.
"Oh." It's Percy's voice this time, thin and uncertain.
If he were really as mature as he keeps assuring Percy, he'd step out into that hallway, and tell Bill and Charlie exactly what to do with their speculation, but he's not. Instead he sits on the bed and looks at his lap and lets Percy hear this all second hand.
"Did he leave her for you?" Bill says, and Teddy can feel Percy recoil.
"Billy, leave it alone." Charlie's voice again. Teddy exhales.
"Charlie, you don't—"
"Bill, I'm serious. Leave it alone. Percy's not doing anything wrong. If he said they were just talking, they were just talking. Besides, Victoire can take care of herself, yeah? She's got her old man's blood, after all."
There's silence now, for the space of so many breaths that Teddy loses count. Then footsteps.
"Thank you. For that." Percy's voice vibrates in Teddy's ears. Bill must be gone.
"Don't mention it," Charlie says. "You know how Bill is. He'll forget about it by morning. I think you should know, though…Teddy, he, ah… He didn't come to me for anything other than a chat."
"I never suggested otherwise."
"Yeah, but the way you're looking at me… Perce, just be careful, all right?"
"Why? Because he's still a child?" Percy's voice is thick like venom. "Because your poor, socially awkward brother is preying on some confused boy in order to make up for his own ineptitude?"
"That's not what I meant! I'm worried about you, Percy. Ted can make his own decisions. He'll be all right. But you… It wasn't long ago that Audrey—"
"Spare me your pity, Charlie."
"I wouldn't waste my time to pity you, mate," Charlie says, and for the first time ever, there's an edge in his voice that makes Teddy jump. "But there's obviously something going on with you and Teddy, and I don't want to see you… I know—I know things are hard for you when it comes to this stuff."
"But it's never hard for you, is it? It never has been. You can shag anything on legs and never come out the worse for it."
"Go fuck yourself, Percy," Charlie says, and he sets off down the hallway with heavy steps.
Teddy waits for a long time before he finds the courage to open the door. He knows Percy's still standing out there. Their eyes meet, and Percy's head bobs like a bird's as he swallows.
"It's all right, Ted," he says, and there's a kindness in his voice that Teddy's never heard before. "Go back to bed." Then he turns and retreats toward the stairs.
Teddy stands in the doorway for what feels like hours.
The Quidditch World Cup isn't as awkward as Teddy thought it would be. Charlie provides a friendly, boisterous buffer between Teddy and Bill for most of the match. Percy is talkative, and friendly in his own way, but a little too willing to hand Teddy off to Ron and Ginny and Harry whenever he gets the chance. Hermione, thankfully, has stayed home, and there's no chance of Teddy getting cornered for a lecture on the rights of centaurs in wizarding society today.
At the end of the night, Percy looks around nervously, then leans down and brushes his lips across the corner of Teddy's mouth before disappearing into his tent for the night. It's the only time he's touched Teddy since last night at the Burrow, and it's the only time he will for the rest of the weekend.
Teddy takes the stairs outside Jonathon Wilde's building two at a time. He needs someone to talk to right now, and somehow, Jonathon has become the only someone in Teddy's life who's not related to Percy in some way. Teddy thinks to himself that he really needs to fix that.
It's bright outside, and Teddy opens the door to Jonathon's flat blinking hard, his eyes adjusting slowly to the cave-like darkness of indoors. He is standing there in the doorway for an embarrassingly long time before he realizes that Jonathon has a girl pressed up against the wall, her skirt hiked up over her waist, her sharp bare knee bent upward, above his hip, knickers dangling from her ankle.
"Teddy," Jonathon says, and his voice is as calm as if he's simply sitting at his desk, as if he's been waiting for Teddy to walk in that door. "Can I help you?"
"I can come back later."
The girl lets out a watery giggle and buries her face in Jonathon's neck.
"I wouldn't want to put you out," Jonathon says, and he grinds her against the wall.
Teddy feels a little ill. "You're not. Really." He grabs for the doorknob but his reach is heavy and clumsy. He can only think about Percy right now, and he knows why. Percy is safe, and steady. Percy's the home Teddy never got to have.
"I'll work it out on my own," he says, but Jonathon isn't listening anymore. The girl's laughter has faded to breathy whispers and Teddy wants to be with Percy so badly that it paralyzes him.
"It's about that Weasley guy, isn't it?" Jonathon says, and he finishes off the question with a sickening grunt.
"No," says Teddy, "it's not." But he's lying, because everything now is about Percy. Somehow, he forces his leaden legs to carry him out the door, and by the time he hears the latch click behind him, he can't even feel his fingers wrapped around the handle.
After he left Jonathon's, Teddy sent an owl to Eeylops, telling them that he'd not be in for the rest of the week. Then he went home and lay down on the sofa, and didn't get up for nearly twenty-four hours.
Now he's sitting with Percy, in the London flat, and he's trying to explain it all, but everything keeps coming out wrong. He shouldn't have started the story with Jonathon, but it seems to Teddy that Jonathon is where everything out of control in his life began. He'd have more sense if it weren't for Jonathon Wilde. He's certain of it.
"It's not about him, though," Teddy says. "That friend of mine. I mean, I dunno why I even brought him up except that he makes me stupid, and I know I've fucked this all up because of his advice, or non-advice, or something. It's you… Percy. I'm…" He pushes the words out with a wince. "I'm in love with you."
"So you have this friend and he makes you an idiot," Percy says flatly. "And he drives you mad and he's all you can think about, yet you expect me to believe you're in love with me."
"But I am."
"You said yourself—"
"You're not listening—"
"I've lived more life than you, Teddy! I know—"
"Goddammit, Percy, shut up!" Maybe it's the sheer frustration of the situation, or maybe it's the use of Teddy's preferred name, for the very first time, but Teddy's voice commands attention now, and Percy's reaction is dutiful.
"It's not Jonathon," Teddy says. "It's never been Jonathon! Jonathon is straight, all right? And he's… He's not my type. You are.
"It's always been you! Since I was old enough to know what to do with a hard-on, I've been thinking about you like that. And I look like a bloody idiot doing it!" Teddy's voice has taken on a hysterical shiver, and it makes him sound so much younger that he wants to die. "Do you think I was stupid enough to ever even consider that it would work between us? Do you think I ever even imagined that I'd end up in bed with you?"
Teddy folds in half, dropping his head between his knees, holding his own hair at the nape of his neck like a lifeline. He doesn't want to see why Percy is silent now. He wants to hold on to this moment, in all its piercing agony. He wants a few more seconds to cling to before he knows for sure how deeply the rejection will cut.
The words that follow are so unexpected that Teddy thinks he must have imagined them.
Teddy's sure that he's supposed to be doing something right now, but it seems that all he can force his body to do is sit upright, and then he's just looking at Percy, blinking.
After the silence of a minute that passes like hours, Percy rolls his eyes and adjusts his glasses.
"It's hardly the first time I've ever spoken those words," he says. "Don't look at me as if it's unthinkable."
"Sorry for what?" Teddy asks.
"For being a certified wanker, as Charlie's so fond of calling me," says Percy. "You don't disagree, do you?"
Teddy grins and it feels a bit like flying. "No. You're dead right about that."
"You could have argued a little bit," Percy says, and a slight smile tugs at the corners of his lips.
"So why out here?" Teddy asks, feeling decidedly uncomfortable lurking about outside the Romanian dragon sanctuary. If Charlie catches them, they're dead men. They passed a sign a few minutes ago, in Charlie's own handwriting, that stated what would happen to trespassers, though Teddy is fairly certain that Charlie doesn't have the jurisdiction to feed interlopers to a hungry Fireball.
"I need to be with my people," Jonathon says, and his eyes are glimmering with danger. "You've gotta see this. It's the fucking coolest thing."
Jonathon raises his wand and Teddy glances back over his shoulder in trepidation. Teddy hears the magic crackle in the air, and turns back to Jonathon, watching first in awe, then horror as his friend grows massively in size, then, suddenly, something goes wrong. Jonathon screams but the sound is hollowed out, as if all the life has been sucked from his body, and he crumples to the ground, half man, and half dragon. His eyes are wide and glassy, and his mouth is parted with a bubble of saliva glistening in the sunlight between his lips.
The surfaces of Teddy's eyes are stinging and he can't blink enough. His mind can't process what's happened here, what his friend has done to himself.
"Stay here," he finally says, in a raspy voice that must belong to someone else. Then he runs toward the entrance to the sanctuary, screaming at the top of his lungs for security to find Charlie Weasley and get Teddy to a hearth on the Floo Network now.
The first person Teddy floo calls is Percy. Charlie is tending to business on a Greek dragon reserve, and they can't find him right away. Teddy keeps picturing Jonathon lying dead on the grass in that forbidden area behind the sanctuary. Dead and alone, all because Teddy ran away.
When Percy steps through the fireplace, Teddy can't get the words out fast enough. They race, side by side, toward Jonathon, and some vague, rational part of Teddy's mind realizes that Percy has surprising stamina. They stop in unison once they reach the spot, the smell of burning flesh acrid in the air.
Jonathon coughs and a stream of flame shoots from his mouth, singing off what little hair is left on his arm. One of his legs is huge and green, his sharply clawed toes digging into the earth beneath him. He has the tail of a dragon, and his clothes have torn from his body under the strength of one half-formed wing.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," Teddy whispers.
Jonathon's breath comes fast and quick, like a terrified rabbit, and he's drawn his human knee into his chest, cradling it against him as he whimpers. At least a dozen breaths, each so hard and heavy that it beats at the inside of Teddy's chest, must pass before Teddy realizes that Percy's hand is on his arm. He looks down, watches Percy's knuckles go white, white as the uncaring clouds drifting merrily through the sunny blue sky while Jonathon lies here dying, white as the tips of the waves Teddy used to watch from the shore when his grandmother took him on holiday as a child, white as the thin rim of skin around Jonathon's blue lips. Teddy wants to be sick.
What feels like another hour's worth of breaths passes before Charlie's heavy footsteps shatter that mesmerizing rhythm of inhale—exhale—tremble, and Percy snaps away, commanding the situation, while all Teddy can do is force himself to breathe.
"He was trying to transfigure himself. Dragon animagus, I suppose. Unregistered. He apparently wandered into another male's territory. Ted—Teddy found him and called for me immediately."
"You did right not to move him," Charlie said. "But we're gonna need a Healer down here. If he was still dragon, I could handle it, but…" Charlie shakes his head, and presses his hands flat against the scaly skin on Jonathon's side.
And just like that, the pressure of Percy's fingers is gone from his arm, and Teddy feels nothing but cold.
"What's your name?" Charlie asks Jonathon.
"Jonathon," Teddy supplies, and Charlie looks up over his shoulder, as if he's only now noticing that Teddy is there at all.
"All right, Jonathon," Charlie says. He takes his own wand, pries two of Jonathon's fingers away from the injured leg, and tucks the wand beneath, covering the hand with his own. "We're going to try to finish the transformation together. You remember how to do that, yeah?"
Jonathon gurgles in response, and a breathy "Christ" slips from Teddy's lips.
"I might still be pants at Apparating," Charlie says, "but I did all right for myself in Transfiguration all those years ago. Ready, now. One, two… three!"
There's a flash of light from the tip of the wand, and the horrible sound of an animal being wrenched from its own skin—a sound that Teddy would realize later came from Jonathon himself—and then the jolt of magic is over. The heavy tail is gone, and Jonathon's lizard-leg has lengthened and regained its form. It bends out at a strange angle from his hip, clearly broken. The scales are still there, covering his left side.
"Good job, mate," Charlie says, gently turning Jonathon's head to the side as a trail of something foul oozes from the corner of his mouth.
The dragon sanctuary medics are dressed in green uniforms, each carrying a bag of potions and tools, and they line up like wooden soldiers at Charlie's command. One of them conjures a stretcher, while two others set to work on Jonathon's wounds. Teddy looks around, but doesn't see Percy anywhere.
Once Jonathon is loaded onto a stretcher, and safely Apparated to the nearest wizarding hospital, Teddy gives Charlie a statement, but as soon as it's over, he hardly remembers what he's said.
"You did all right, Teddy," Charlie says, sincerely.
Teddy tries to smile, but his lower lip only trembles. "We wouldn't've been here if that was true," he says.
"All right," says Charlie. "Say you weren't here. You think this was the first time you friend tried this trick in this spot? If you hadn't been here, he'd be one hell of a mess right about now."
"Maybe," Teddy says. He looks away.
"I gotta contact the Ministry about this, then check in with the kid at the hospital. Will you be okay?"
Teddy glances back at Charlie, blankly.
"He's in my cabin," Charlie says. "I sent him back there to get cleaned up so he could help you keep your head on straight."
"Percy," says Charlie, and it finally makes sense.
"Go find him," Charlie says. Then he claps Teddy on the arm and starts to trot off. "Now."
Percy hasn't done much washing up, but he drapes a cool cloth over the back of Teddy's neck when Teddy arrives at Charlie's cabin, and guides Teddy over to the couch.
"Thanks," Teddy murmurs, and he leans a little bit closer.
Percy doesn't speak for a very long time, and Teddy's glad for it. He has no words right now. There's no way to describe what just happened, or what he's feeling.
Percy waits for a while, then decides that Teddy needs to eat. He busies himself in the kitchen as Teddy dabs the washcloth against his forehead, against his lips. After his mind grows quiet again, and Percy sets down a tray of dry toast and fruit in front of him, he tries to find his voice. He can't talk about Jonathon. Not yet.
"It should've been more of a moment," Teddy says.
"What's that?" says Percy.
"The first time you called me Teddy."
One dimple slowly creases on the right side of Percy's face as he smiles slightly. "You noticed that, did you?"
"Of course I did," Teddy said. He grabs for a piece of toast, anything to steady his hand and keep his mouth preoccupied.
"I…" Percy lowers his gaze. "I know you've always hated that I called you Ted, but… It provided a certain… distance, one that I needed."
"And you don't need it anymore?" says Teddy.
"I suppose not."
"You apologized," says Teddy.
Percy sighs. "Again, it's not the first time it's happened."
"It's the first time you've apologized to me."
"And likely not the last."
Teddy grins. "So you're going to stick around for a bit? Give me a few more chances to call you a certified wanker?"
"You're lifetimes younger than me, Teddy."
"You like that about me."
Percy's shoulders fall, as if he has been wearing a heavy yoke that has finally been lifted from his back. "Perhaps I do," he says.
Teddy leans over, tentatively at first, but with increasing comfort when Percy doesn't shy away, and he rests his head on Percy's shoulder. Percy's arm rises awkwardly, and he pulls Teddy in.
"S'nice," Teddy says.
"Mmm. When you're ready to talk about it—"
"I know," Teddy says. "But not now."
"No," Percy agrees. "Not now."
Percy Weasley never apologized for taking a younger lover. He supposed that some people might have expected him to, but as far as Percy was concerned, they could go fuck themselves. And he would have told them so to their faces, too. Teddy Lupin was not the spitting image of his father, and not a magical rarity like his mother. He was his own man entirely, and the man Percy had fallen in love with to an embarrassing degree.
There was nothing tidy about it, no neatly folded corners to tuck beneath the mattress in this relationship. There were times when Percy thought the utter chaos of it all would drive him mad, but never once did he wish to be anywhere else. He was scarred, in so many ways, from the war, from his own mistakes, from the mistakes of others, but Teddy didn't seem to mind. And the world, which had cracked and shifted the moment Teddy Lupin became a light in Percy's life, had somehow righted itself over time, until Percy couldn't imagine that it had ever been any other way.