[summary]Percy needs a backbone, so Moody gives him a footstool instead.
Percy Weasley spent a lot of time hitting his head on things.
He wasn't clumsy-- it was a very intentional, very deliberate, and very soothing thing to find a nice desk and hit his head against it for several minutes. Most specifically, when he thought his brain was going to explode from being the Ministry scapegoat.
It was always, "Weasley, can you take some dictation?"
"Weasley, be a good lad and get us some coffee."
"Weasley, there's a terrible scuff on my boot. Oh, yes, there's a good lad."
"Weasley, do you think I would look better in red or blue?"
"Weasley, for Merlinsakes, get a damned haircut. It's touching the tips of your ears. And can't you make it a nice respectable color? You look like a tart with all that bright red."
And so Percy would take dictation, get the coffee, shine boots, tell Shacklebolt that the red was too tomato-colored for everyday use, and trim his hair in the Ministry men's room.
It never did him a bit of good, for the very next morning, a similar gauntlet of tasks awaited him. There were always little changes, for instance, tea instead of coffee or eggplant and evergreen instead of red or blue, but Percy remained...
"...the Ministry's personal whipping boy," he groaned, with a particularly loud soothing thud of his forehead against his desk.
Of course, he hadn't expected to be lauded for his bravery or dedication to the Ministry when he'd stuck with it during the changeover of administration, when the Order of the Phoenix had taken over. Most of the Ministry had fled for warm sunny islands far away, or had been hauled off to Azkaban.
However, the general opinion of the new administration, his father and Lupin especially, was that Percy had been dazzled by the glamour of the Ministry and deeply in a denial rooted from his fear of Voldemort returning, and that he should be allowed to stay on as a junior staff member of sorts.
Nevermind that he had nearly run the damned Ministry at one point.
Everyone made mistakes, and Percy's had clearly been to be born a Weasley. Oh, to hear the others tell it, say, the twins or his classmates, the mistake had been on his part entirely, something to do with not removing the rod from his arse, letting it ride up and obscure his vision. But he knew the whole of it had to do with being born into this family, of sidekicks and practical jokers and of...of cool. A kind of cool Percy watched his brothers fling about as they grew up, whether it was Bill and Charlie's jobs out in the world or the twins' practical jokes and flippant attitude, or even Ron now, Quidditch genius. He looked the part of a Weasley, but something was definitely missing. The gap between his brothers and himself, especially the twins, was astounding.
Blast the twins, he frowned, tugging his jacket tightly around him as he headed out to his flat. His Muggle flat. Refusing to live at home again, he'd resorted to renting a Muggle flat and changing in and out of Muggle clothing in the men's room each day. Blast the twins, he thought, with mounting perturbment. And blast the whole lot of them that thought of Percy Weasley as a shoe-licking lapdog who hated his family. He didn't hate his family, but it hadn't helped that for the most part, they treated him no differently than the world at large. Because he had ambition and intelligence and...
"That's quite the rant there," grunted a voice from behind him.
Percy turned. "Mr. Moody," he said, turning pink. "I'm sorry, Mr. Moody, I hadn't realized I was speaking out loud."
"Quite all right, Percy," grunted Moody. "You're got some points there. Don't exactly fit in at home, do you?"
"Sir," said Percy, trying to salvage his dignity, "I get along with my family quite well."
"Yeah, I'll say you do, you let them walk all over you." Moody's eye roved over him, and Percy shivered. "Think I liked you better when you were a Ministry arsehole. Least you had a spine then. What do you do for us now, except bend over to--"
"That's hardly appropriate or true," bristled Percy.
"Hit a sore spot, did I," snickered Moody. "Maybe if you were getting bent over on a regular basis, you'd have a spine."
Percy sputtered at him, finally coming up with, "I am not punched in, so I do not have to take this from you!" He turned on his heel, and began to walk off. It was very much the wizarding thing to do, to turn on your heel and walk off. He had learned it from his parents, who had learned it from theirs, and theirs from their own.
"Run along, little Weasley," said Moody, the words rattling around in his mouth. "Run along. When you're ready to grow a pair, come see old Mad-Eye."
Percy would have been very happy to have been able to go straight home after the encounter with Moody, which among other things, had reminded him that he wasn't getting bent over on a regular basis, or indeed, at all. The homosexual question, as he'd been calling it, even though it was more of a sentence than a question, with more of an exclamation mark than a question mark, was only added weight on his shoulders. A few fumblings with a certain graduated Slytherin Quidditch seeker in the dark was certainly not the sound and unquestionable experimentation and data he'd have liked to have, but it had left him with the wanting of more.
More apparently meant, if one were to pay close and riveted attention to his fantasies and daydreams since the age of seventeen, being bent over his desk and taken by--
"Well, yes," said Percy aloud, quite surprised. "How--"
The reporters shoved him into a street sign as they scrambled to get a glimpse, or, Merlin willing, an interview with the Quidditch star himself as he strolled down the street. Rubbing at his hip, Percy watched them with a frown.
"They'll never get an interview that way," said a young woman beside him, quite assuredly. "That's probably a decoy anyway. Wood never just strolls around to have his picture taken like some." She eyed Percy, rubbing her hands on her apron. "You look rightly exhausted. Come have a seat, have some tea." The woman nodded over at a nearby cafe, with a brightly painted sign reading, 'Zodiac Cafe'. "It's my mum's place, she won't mind, and it'll be on the house, poor thing."
"That would be..." Charity, thought Percy. His hip was bruised, he could feel the thing spreading painfully under his skin. "...lovely." He followed her round, swinging hips, disheartened by their lack of effect on him.
He dropped on an ornately carved black chair, limbs sprawling out over it more than he'd meant to let them. There was a dull ache in his legs. And in his feet, and everywhere, to be exact. He glanced up as the woman bustled back over to him with a steaming cup of tea, and plopped herself down.
"Tell me, pet, what's got you so down? Job? Family?" She grinned. "Your love life?"
Percy manfully resisted the urge to tell her to shut the hell up.
"Oh, pet, that's it? Not getting enough of the old in-out?" The woman laughed, and then leaned forward conspiratorially. Her bosom, Percy noticed with a grimace, was large and quivering and pale and dusted with a very frightening coat of shimmering powder. "You're a looker. I've always fancied redheads...." The bosom quivered again and Percy bit down the whimper of dismay.
"Jennalyn, if you don't mind," quivered the bosom.
"Miss Jennalyn," said Percy. "I don't think that's an appropriate--"
"Bugger. You're a queer."
"I-I...what would make you say that?" Percy turned roughly the shade of Jennalyn's alabaster cleavage. "I'm not...I wouldn't...I don't..."
"You don't like to stick it into other men, pet?"
"Oh, sweet Merlin," choked Percy.
"Other way around, then, m'dear? You like it stuck in you?" She snorted. "You filthy little pervert! I should have been able to tell. Are you lusting after Mr. Wood, then? Banged yourself right into a sign at the mention of him."
Percy put his head between his knees. McGonagall had taught him this handy manuever when he was a first-year, and he'd used it so many times since it was almost as natural as sitting or standing.
Jennalyn snorted and flounced back in her seat. "You little camp-follower."
"WHAT did you call me?" gasped Percy, looking up at her.
"A camp-follower. A groupie. A slut for the Quidditch boys!"
He stared at her, face now bright red, the air wheezing in and out. Percy Weasley was no GROUPIE. He was no CAMP-FOLLOWER. He worked for the Ministry and his adoration of Oliver Wood was pure and deep and borne from knowing the man for so many years.
Percy bolted out the door and tore down the street at a dead run.
"Oh, Percy," sighed Ginny as she steeped a cup of tea for him. "You shouldn't fight with the cafe girls. Don't you remember that time one called Fudge a candyass crackhead? She broke your NOSE, Perce."
Percy glared up at her from the couch. "She said I was a camp-follower for Oliver Wood."
"You've wanted to shag him since you were eleven and didn't know what shagging was," said Ginny practically. She sat down on the opposite end of the couch, drawing her hair off the back of her neck and into a high ponytail. Ginny was the only Weasley to visit him on a regular basis, bringing food and tea and ways to boost his self-esteem. The latter made him suspicious. Percy didn't quite see how standing in front of a mirror and telling his reflection that he was an intelligent young man with a lot to offer did him any good. Most days his reflection simply advised him to take the stick out of his arse, because he'd look a lot better without it jammed up so high he couldn't swallow.
"That's not the point."
"Touchy, Perce." Ginny swung her feet up on his lap. "You can't just let people walk all over you like this. It kills me to see you so...so...subservient to everybody all of the time!"
"What do you advise me to do? I'm nothing but a whipping boy," spat Percy. "What am I supposed to do? Tell them all to go...go..."
"Go fuck themselves." She tilted her head. "Come on, you can say it."
Percy turned his head from her.
"Oh, giving up this early on me?"
He didn't respond. Ginny sighed noisily and joined him in silence for several moments.
"Sorry, Gin," Percy said finally. "I didn't mean to...be like that." Raking a hand through his hair, he asked, "How are you? I'd meant to ask. After all, your mystery man and all."
Ginny flushed. "I'm fine. He's fine. He still hasn't got a clue I'm lusting after him."
"For a young lady who just spent the last five minutes scolding me about my lack of boldness..."
"Shove it, Percy," she said comfortably. "It's different when you're still in school. After all, there's cliques to think about, and...the looming and terrible fact that he would never speak to me."
Percy began to rub her feet. "You're not so different from your big brother as you'd like to think."
"Bill only has one ear pierced. I have two," she pointed out, and squirmed as he pinched her calf. "Fine, fine, we're both gigantic cowards, you and me. Me, I don't have a problem flirting with the unimportant ones, like Dean and Seamus and Neville and Professor Flitwick. But the one I really want..."
"I can't flirt with anybody at all," murmured Percy.
She leaned over and patted his hand sympathetically. "You should really do something about this, you know. Get a spine, Percy! Grow a pair! ...something. Set the example for your little sister." Ginny sighed, collapsing back into the couch.
...grow a pair, thought Percy. Where had he heard that--
'When you're ready to grow a pair, come see old Mad-eye.'
He looked at Ginny, with her eyes half closed, and a funny little smile on her face that he knew was the result of daydreaming about a certain someone. He looked at his tiny flat, with the trashy furniture and the half eaten ramen on the kitchen counter. He looked over at the picture on his wall of his graduating class. Picture-Oliver slung an arm over Picture-Percy's shoulder and gave him the thumbs-up, grinning as Picture-Percy blushed madly.
"Time to grow a pair," he murmured ruefully.
Percy arrived to work early the next morning, before dawn had even broken, and jogged down to the Department of Cursed Artifacts, where Moody was spending most of his time.
To his shock, the man sat draped over an antique looking fainting couch, dressed in a scarlet dressing gown, sipping from a wine goblet and smoking what appeared to be a very fine cigar.
"Mr. Moody, it's not even five o'clock!"
"Eh, it's cocktail hour somewhere in the world, Weasley." Moody grinned, puffing on the cigar and rolling his eye around in his head. "Came for a little help in the testosterone department, did you? Wanted a little help in generating a spine?"
"I...yes," said Percy helplessly.
"I've got just the item for you, then."
"...but wait, isn't it against Ministry policy--"
"Your first assignment in not being a pussy, Weasley, is to stop giving a rat's arse about policy. What I have here," growled Moody, stalking over to a stack of furniture and fishing around in it, "is a very fine footstool."
Percy stared at him. "A footstool? A footstool is going to solve my problems?"
"Damned right it will. But it is, of course, not just any footstool. It's cursed. It's a footstool of the Dark Arts!" Moody grinned too widely and set it down in front of Percy.
Percy crouched to look at it. "It's...lovely enough." It was indeed lovely, dark cherrywood and scarlet fabric with gold overlays, dragon's claws and luxurious tassels. He glanced up at Moody. "A footstool of the Dark Arts?"
"Belonged to a Death Eater. Been enchanted ten ways from Sunday. I've been studying it. Most of the enchantments look to be spells to empower the owner. Give them raw masculine strength and charisma."
"I could certainly use that." Percy stroked the footstool. "Belonged to a Death Eater?" That wasn't very appealing, but then, most Death Eaters, he imagined, weren't lacking in raw masculine charisma. Malfoy, for instance, appealing in a very frightening way.
Moody took a long draw on his cigar. "You heard me right, Weasley. You want backbone? You want testosterone? You want respect around here? Take this footstool home, and use it."
Percy picked it up, and hugged it to his chest, chewing on his bottom lip thoughtfully. "I...I'm not sure if this is right, Mr. Moody."
"Shacklebolt's got a cocktail party tonight," advised Moody. "Gonna bring in his whole wardrobe for you to look over, I hear."
Percy paled now, his fingers clutching at the Dark footstool. "Merlin, no."
"Man thinks since you're a poof, you've got fashion sense." Moody laughed until he hacked on the cigar. "Who's going to tell him otherwise? You?"
"...maybe I will."
"You try that." The older man settled himself back on the fainting couch. "Y'know, no one ever asks old Moody for fashion advice. In my day..."
"Right, thank you, sir," stammered Percy, and headed upstairs to his desk, preparing for another long day.
Percy's first indication that there might be something to the Dark footstool after all was when his day was interrupted by a visitor to his desk. A young man, only a bit older than himself, stood before the desk, turning a hat over and over in his hands.
"Higgs?" questioned Percy, looking up from his mountain of paperwork. "It's been a long time." He watched the man flush and square his shoulders.
"Hello, Percy. I didn't know you worked here," said Terence.
"You didn't?" Percy pushed his glasses up his nose. "I thought it was common knowledge. Percy Weasley, lowest on the Ministry totem pole," he added bitterly.
"Okay, maybe I did know. But I needed to come down here today, and um, you know, register myself. And I thought, hey, Percy, he works down there, he can get me all signed up!" Terence nodded, honey colored hair flopping around a bit.
Percy leaned forward on his desk a bit. "Signed up for what? And I don't think you know very much about the current Ministry if you think I'm much help to you."
"Well, also, I just thought maybe it'd be nice to see you," said Terence. "We had a good time in my seventh year, you know, that time behind the broom shed--"
Turning a bright scarlet, Percy scrambled up over the desk and clamped a hand over the other man's mouth. "That was just...just...you know, a physical thing," he hissed quietly. "To figure some things out."
Terence blinked mildly. "Mmmphmphrrmmph," he said muffedly.
Percy sighed, taking his hand away. "Please, I'm in enough trouble with the current Ministry anyway, without them knowing about my adolescent liasons with a Slytherin."
A flicker of something dark passed over Terence's usually good-natured face, and Percy was struck by its resemblence to his own face, night after night, in the mirror. And then Terrence shrugged, and it was gone. "Right. Anyway, I do need to register. Being a Slytherin and all."
"You know? Or has the Ministry kept you in the dark on that one too? All graduated Slytherins need to register with the Ministry in order to prove where their loyalties lie."
Percy sat down, reaching down to run his fingers over the footstool under his chair. "I see. Well, I suppose it is a necessary protective measure, for the common good."
"So I thought maybe you could speed it along for me."
"...I don't think I could," said Percy.
Terence looked at him levelly for a moment, and then raised his chin. "I don't suppose you've heard, but last week I was traded to a new Quidditch team. We've the youngest captain in a very long time."
"It's Oliver Wood." Terence settled himself on the edge of the desk. "We'll make this simple, because you're obviously not going to scratch my back unless I scratch yours, and I've got..." He sighed. "This is what I have to offer."
Percy eyed him suspiciously.
"Get me through the paperwork in three days instead of two weeks. Day after it's done, I set you up for a dinner with Oliver Wood."
It took Percy a moment to respond. He opened his mouth, only to close it again. "I get you through the paperwork, and you get me Oliver Wood?"
A nod from Terence. "I get you dinner with him. The rest is up to you."
Percy sat very still. It sounded like exactly the sort of offer a Dark Arts footstool would bring to him. But this sort of thing was what he had wanted, wasn't it?
"Very well," said Percy briskly, unable to help a bit of a smile as Terrence lit up. "I'll push you on through. Come back here at eleven, tomorrow morning."
Terence stuck out his hand, and Percy shook it, feeling a shot of electricity race through him at the touch of broom-roughened fingers. Perhaps he was a bit of a Quidditch lover after all. "Tomorrow, then," said Terence, and left with a lazy, confident smile that was completely Slytherin.
Ginny wasn't at his apartment that evening, and for that, Percy was glad. He rather wanted to get acquainted with his new Dark Arts footstool alone. Collapsing on his couch, he held it in his lap, tracing his fingertips over the gold patterning. It looked like some poncy old piece of furniture. A little threadbare, if he looked closely enough. Definitely not like something that would change his life in anyway.
He was also rather surprised Moody had given of it so freely. The old man was notoriously protective of his department. On the other hand, he was also notoriously eccentric.
"Merlin, I hope he doesn't have designs on me," Percy muttered. How odd-- the patterning on the footstool seemed to be shifting from inscrutible circles and curves to tiny lions. Tiny gold lions roaring and prancing on a scarlet field. "...no wonder the Death Eaters let you go so easily," he said to the stool. "You're a virtual advertisment for the competition. Gryffindor bravery..." Percy snorted. "Well, perhaps even a Death Eater could use a bit of that. You're still a Dark footstool, though."
Naturally, it didn't answer him, and he set it on the floor, kicking off his shoes and resting his socked feet on it. Felt perfectly normal, but then again, Percy thought, it might be charmed to feel perfectly normal.
He was drowsy, but that, he knew, had nothing to do with the footstool. It'd been a long day, with Moody's gift and Terence's visit and several errands. Watching the pictures on his wall, most of them Hogwarts-related, he was pleased to note the grin of several picture-Olivers. He really must be getting sleepy, he thought, as they zoomed around him on little picture-broomsticks, smiling happy Quidditch smiles. There was a flash of darker eyes, worried, and Percy stirred just a bit. He hadn't realized Terence was in any of the pictures, but there he was, zipping around Oliver and Oliver grinning at Percy from the picture. The strange image was the last behind his eyes as he nodded off.
At nine in the morning, Percy awoke with a start. Late. He was late. He'd overslept. How had this happened?
Swinging off the couch, he skidded into his bedroom and began to dig for clean clothes, frantically. Must have been the damned Dark Arts footstool. He cussed in an unPercylike manner, and tossed a clean shirt on the bed.
Wait, he thought. Wait. If the footstool had done this, it was probably for a reason. Percy sat down on the bed, holding a pair of trousers. After all, it was charmed to make him more masculine and agressive. "...by making me sleep late?" he mused.
They would certainly want his head for being late. It would mean getting their own cups of coffee early in the morning, doing their own memos, picking out their own clothes...
Percy blinked, thunderstruck. "...bloody brilliant footstool. It's making them do their own work!" He grinned, for the first time in ages. "I can go to work, and even if they haven't been able to do anything, it's still because of me. I've struck back, without doing a thing."
Now he took his time in dressing, in combing his hair and brushing his teeth. He took his time on the way to work, strolling along the sunny streets and nodding at the passerby as if he were Important again. So Percy was late. Percy Weasley was late. It was as if the world had turned over, and Percy liked it.
He reached the Ministry, and pausing at the door to the main office floor where he worked, took a breath. Letting it out, he repeated to himself, I'm late. I'm late, because it just happened, and they have to deal with it. Chin tipping back up, he pushed through the doors, and with the same lank ease he'd possessed on the streets, he strolled to his desk, casually bidding a good morning to some stunned onlookers, and sat down.
Shacklebolt stormed up in a flurry of evergreen robe. "Weasley! Where have you been? I need you on this."
"You need me?" Percy smiled hopefully. Better than he'd thought! Perhaps some sort of policy decision?
"Is pink a daring choice or a limp-wristed failure? For a brunch, if that helps."
Percy blinked. Right, that would have been expecting too much. However... "You know, Mr. Shacklebolt," he said calmly, pulling a paper from the top of his most recent pile, "I'm rather busy at the moment. If you would really like to discuss which color suits a brunch best, it would be best if you asked me after hours. If this is a real emergency, you could always owl my sister. She's very sharp."
Shacklebolt's mouth dropped open. "Certainly, Weasley," he finally said, and ambled off, looking dazed.
"Way to take down the man," said a laughing voice from Percy's right, and he turned.
"Terence," said Percy, surprised. "Oh, that's right, you were coming at eleven...I was running a bit late this morning. It's not a...not a big deal," he said thoughtfully, hiding the smirk as one of his superiors passed by, nursing burned fingers and a nasty coffee stain.
"Percy Weasley, master of punctality, says being late is no big deal," whistled Terence, settling with easy grace in the chair opposite Percy's desk. "Things have changed, I see. You know," he added casually, "it was always a bit of a turn-on when you'd get all aggressive as a Prefect. There was a degree of stuffiness, but underneath it, I could see why you were put in Gryffindor." He picked up a quill from the desk and began to toss it up in the air, catching it as it fell.
"That's not exactly the sort of thing we're here to discuss," Percy reminded him, though a rush of pleased heat ran through him.
"Right," said Terence, and tossed a packet of papers on Percy's desk. "This is. You can go ahead, I can't make head or tails of any of it."
Percy shot him a peturbed look as he began to leaf through the papers. "Well, they're...very thorough. I mean, your family line, classes at Hogwarts, your..." He gaped a moment, trying not to turn scarlet. "Your measurements?"
Terence smirked. "Don't remember them, Percy?"
Percy gulped. Slytherin. "I don't recall ever getting the exact measurements. It was quite dark..."
There was a pause, and Terence began to laugh. "Percy. I'm quite sure they mean my robe measurements."
"...I knew that." He was abashed a moment, and then he began to laugh as well, long and hard. And he found that just laughing with the other man was something he'd missed-- the general feeling of male companionship, he told himself sharply. Nothing special about Terence. The goal here was Oliver Wood. "...favorite Muggle band?"
"Ah, you've reached the section where we're to prove our love for Muggle culture." A shrug from Terence. "There's a whole bunch of them. My personal favorite is the essay I'm to write on which Muggle piece of architecture best fits my personality."
"Oh, and what would that be?" Percy was amused as he reached for a quill.
"I don't know shit about Muggle architecture, Percy. Oh, but the band...there's this group called the Backstreet...Backstreet something or another. Boys?"
"Clearly you are a danger to society." With a grin, Percy began to scrawl things down on a piece of parchment. "I'm not exactly well-versed in Muggle culture myself, but I do think Ginny knows a bit about it, so I'll ask her when I see her tonight."
He was becoming more and more aware of Terence's heavy dark-eyed stare on him. Ordinarily, it might have disturbed him, or made him uncomfortable. After all, why should anyone be looking at him in that fashion? As if they might like to devour him.
Today, with the help of his Dark Arts footstool, he liked it. It made him feel powerful and desired, and not just a little hot under his collar. After all, he knew what it felt like to have those eyes boring into his as Quidditch-roughened fingers slid under his waistband and trace around his navel before slipping lower...
Was the footstool supposed to make him this easily aroused, he wondered. Because Terence was talking and Percy was focused less on his speaking and more on the movement of his mouth, the way his lips pressed together and parted, and the way he drew his lower lip between his teeth, worrying it there for a moment before releasing it.
"...and finish this in bed?"
"Yes," said Percy, agreeing automatically. "I mean. Sorry, what?" He shook his head, trying to clear it.
"I said, you look awfully distracted. Do I need to take this home and finish it in bed?"
"Not at all. Though..." Percy glanced around. "I could use a breath of fresh air. Let's talk a walk. We can finish it in a bit."
Terence's gaze glowed darkly at him. "That sounds like a good plan."
Arriving back home that evening, Percy tossed himself down on his couch, sprawling out and throwing his feet up on the Dark Arts footstool.
"Someone looks like they had a good day," observed Ginny from the kitchen.
"I'm beginning to regret giving you a key," Percy said, stretching his arms above his head. "You don't live here, and yet you're here constantly. Don't you go to school?"
"I'm a favorite with the Order," she grinned. "You know, Percy, they like redheads, if you'll just give them a chance..."
"Ugh," said Percy quite eloquently. "No thank you. I've other birds to bag."
"You don't go for birds, Perce. You go for blokes." Setting the kettle down to boil, she wandered over to fling herself down on the couch as well. "And from the glow about you, I'd say you caught one."
"Not yet," murmured Percy. "I mean, the deal hasn't come through yet."
"Still waiting for a bit of the old in-and-out?"
"Gin, you're filthy. Have you ever been told that?"
"Only every day," Ginny laughed. "What, not even a kiss?"
"No. From either of them." Shit. He hadn't meant that to slip out.
Ginny's eyes lit up. "From either of them? What do you mean? There's two? Percy Weasley has two men on a string?"
"Hardly," snorted Percy. "Listen, you remember Terence Higgs? I'm helping him with some paperwork, and in return, he's getting me dinner with Oliver Wood."
She sank back into the couch thoughtfully. "Terence Higgs. He was a looker...Slytherin, though."
"I...we...there was...a thing," Percy said carefully. "When I was a fifth year...same as you are now."
"An ex-flame, 'helping' you capture the current flame?" Ginny tapped her fingers against her lips. "Poor guy, having to listen to you blather on about Oliver."
"I didn't mention him once today!"
She raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you? I'm impressed. Or was there a little spark with the old flame?"
Percy turned pink despite his best efforts. "It's just...I haven't seen anyone in a long time, Ginny, and there was a bit of...attraction..."
"D'you mind that he's a Slytherin?" questioned Ginny suddenly. "I mean, does it bother you at all?"
"That's the paperwork I'm supposed to be helping with," Percy said. "To prove he's a good Slytherin, and not like any Malfoy."
Her face fell. "Yeah. Like Malfoy...well, he was around him, and he's just fine, right?"
"He was certainly no henchman to the littlest Malfoy, unlike most of the current Slytherins. And that's a good thing, yes."
Ginny's features fell further. "Oh. Well..."
Percy looked at her. Wait, what was this about? He tipped her chin up. "Ginny...you..." Oh, dear. Not his little sister and...Malfoy? "There's a...Slytherin...a Slytherin is the one who's caught your fancy, isn't it?" And the worst one, of course.
"Yes," she whispered. "Oh, Perce, he's the only one for me."
He couldn't bring himself to say the name. Too hateful. "Well..." Percy thought about it, eyes wandering over the patterning on his footstool. The footstool would encourage her to go after it, fuck what everyone else thought. Fuck what everyone else thought. And the footstool would encourage him to encourage her. "Well, then bloody go and get him!"
Ginny's eyes shot up to his. "You think? But Percy, what if he turns me down?"
Percy ran a hand over her head. "You're my baby sister, and it's all right for me to say this because I'm completely and utterly homosexual. You're beautiful, and smart, and from what I hear, smashing in the sack. You take excellent care of your poor outcast big brother and any bloke would be lucky to have you. Any."
She laughed, her eyes a bit teary. "You know, that's the first time you've said it."
"How wonderful you are?" Percy frowned. "I'm sorry, Gin. I have been critical in the past..."
"No," laughed his sister. "That you're completely and utterly homosexual."
The next morning, Percy decided not to go in his customary hour and a half early. He would arrive to his desk exactly on time. On the dot.
He strolled along the streets, tipping his hat to each and every person who made eye contact with him, and even whistled at the paper boy.
"Oi! Filthy pouf!" It was the woman with the heaving bosom. Jennalyn?
"What?" he snapped, halting in his tracks, and turning to face her where she stood in her own doorway.
"You dirty little bastard, I saw you whistle at that boy," the bosom sneered at him. "Going to bend him over and bugger him here on the street, are you? I ought to call the police."
"As I ought to call them on you for indecent exposure, miss--I mean, you...you...you whore." That had to be the footstool. "You complete slut. You're just angry I won't be bending you over!" Good Merlin, had he really just said that?
It felt good. It felt so good that he said it a couple times more, with amusing twists of language. And then he stalked over to the paper boy, smacked him on the arse, and headed off to the Ministry.
The Aurors and other Ministry workers stayed far away when he arrived, perhaps because of the swagger in his step. Terence was waiting at his desk, playing with one of Percy's quills.
Percy flounced to his desk and sat down. "Hullo, Terence. Let's get this bitch done."
Terence gaped. "Percy? Good Merlin, man, what happened to you?"
"I grew a pair, Higgs. Learn to like it or leave."
"It's perfectly all right with me," said Terence, with a slight flush to his cheeks. His dark eyes gleamed at Percy just so, reminding him, yes, of that time in the broom shed and behind the broomshed and then in the boys' toilet. What else was Percy to do?
He stood up, leaned over his desk, and kissed Terence quite forcefully, fingers burying themselves in hair that dripped over his fingers like honey, tongue parting those lips abused by nervous habit. He kissed him hard, and slow, taking his time in flicking the tip of his tongue over the roof of the other man's mouth, biting gently those lips. And by the time he pulled back for breath, he was on top of the desk with Terence's hands in his robes.
"Merlin, Percy," gasped Terence, biting at his neck. "You grew a pair indeed. I..."
"Shut it," growled Percy, taking his mouth again. Terence surrendered easily, crawling up on the desk with him and working his hands under Percy's robes, seeking out bare skin.
"Right here? You're insane," Terence managed to get out between kisses. "The Ministry..."
"Can see how it's done." Percy climbed on top of him, pressing their hips together in a rhythm he hadn't quite forgotten in those four years. This was bloody amazing, he thought, and Terence tasted so good beneath him, he hadn't remembered it being so good.
"...'ve wanted you...years...finally got the chance..." murmured Terence, and Percy bit his earlobe, making him arch deliciously. "Did you...miss me at all..."
"Beginning to think I did, and didn't know it," groaned Percy, hiking up Terence's robes. There, under his shirt, warm soft skin...
"Bloody fuckin' hell, is this what I came here for, Higgs?"
Both men sat up in a tangle of limbs and robes. Oliver Wood stood before them in full Quidditch glory, looking mightily brassed off.
"Shit," said Terence, biting at his swollen lips. It was Percy's first thought to tell him not to do that. His second was: shit.
"You come to me after a match and say, oi, Wood, I got someone you oughta meet, a fan, and we both know what that means--"
"What does it mean?" Shacklebolt was leaning against a filing cabinet, looking interested.
"It means free sex!"
Percy looked aghast at Terence. "I didn't mean it," the Slytherin stammered.
"And I finally get here," Oliver took back over, "and you're takin' what's mine. You fuckin' slut!" His cheeks were bright red with indignation. Ministry workers had gathered around at this point, watching wide-eyed.
"DON'T CALL HIM THAT!" bellowed Percy.
"THAT'S WHAT HE IS! LIL' SLYTHERIN SLUT!"
To the complete amazement of all assembled, of Oliver and Terence, Shacklebolt and Percy's father and Moody and Lupin and a dozen others, Percy roared and jumped off the desk--
onto Oliver, who he immediately began to pound into the floor. "Don't you EVER call him that!" he howled, and broke the Quidditch star's nose. Oliver howled as well, though this time in pain.
Finally, the Aurors scattered into action, Shacklebolt and Mr. Weasley prying Percy off and holding him back while Lupin escorted the bleeding and shrieking Oliver Wood to another floor.
Terence sat on the desk, his robes mussed, looking floored.
As Percy realized he'd just tried to beat the living daylights out of the man he'd been in love with for most of his school life, he let out another kind of howl, this one directed at Terence. "It's YOU, you made me do this, you damned Slytherin with your kissable mouth and your gorgeous eyes and your EVIL FOOTSTOOL OF THE DARK ARTS!"
"I didn't make you do anything," spat Terence as he stood up. "Finally come to your senses, I see. Made the mistake of almost trading in the golden boy for a filthy little Slytherin like me." He straightened his robes. "You listen to me. All that time you were making eyes at Wood, I was watching. He didn't see you, but I did. I saw your ambition and your intelligence and the way you looked after your House like you looked after your siblings and I saw that you had a spine hidden under there, even when you didn't want to use it. I saw the worship of Wood in your eyes, and I also saw how they got darker when you came out in the broom shed." Terence picked up the bundle of his registration papers and threw them at Percy. "Fuck you, Percy. He would have fucked you, but I would have loved you."
Percy could only watch, panting, as Terence stormed off. "It's the footstool," he whispered, voice cracking, and mercifully, strong hands dragged him to the bathrooms to clean Oliver's blood off of him.
"Oh, Perce, I heard what happened and Dad let me come right away!"
Percy looked up as Ginny burst into Moody's office in her school clothes. She threw her arms around him. "I can't believe you did that!"
"Which part?" he asked sickly.
"Any of it! Making out with Higgs on your desk, pounding Oliver for calling him names! Oh, Percy, it's romantic and wonderful!"
Now Percy looked sick as well. "It...it wasn't me. It was...the footstool." He turned to Moody. "That damned footstool. What spells were on it? I...they ruined my life!"
"Being overdramatic," growled Moody, crossing his arms and sitting on the edge of his desk. "Weren't any spells on the damned thing either."
Percy went very, very pale. "There were too. You told me. It was a footstool of the Dark Arts!"
"I lied," said Moody with a grunt. "Thought you needed a kick in the ass. Gave you one, all right."
"It...it wasn't enchanted?" Percy started to hyperventilate. That meant...he'd done it all of his own accord. Everything. He'd told off Shacklebolt and the Bosom, and smacked the paper boy on the arse, and made out with Terence on his desk and beaten up Oliver and then...screamed at Terence...Terence...who...loved him. "It...it has to be, sir, it has to be. There's no other explanation."
Ginny guided Percy's head between his knees, and glanced at Moody, who shrugged. "Muggles call it the placebo effect. You thought it was cursed, so it might as well have been. I think it did you some good," said the man.
Much to Percy's own dismay, he burst into tears, right in front of Moody and Ginny. "Oh, Merlin, I ruined it all, all by myself." He wanted to curl up into a ball.
Moody groaned, eye rolling around in his head. "Shut it. You'll be fine. Just don't forget about that spine you developed, and it'll work out." He limped out, calling back, "Miss Weasley, your boyfriend is here."
"Oh, just what I need." Percy buried his face in his hands. "Malfoy."
"Malfoy?" echoed Ginny with confusion. He looked up to see her tucked up against Gregory Goyle. And looking quite comfortable too.
"I...I'm so confused." Percy wanted to hit his head on something.
"Uh, Weasley. Hi." Goyle appeared to be trying to shake his hand. Percy let him. "I...uh, I don't know what happened. I heard you beat the shit out of Oliver Wood."
"Don't do that. Great big poncy pussy needed it," Goyle clarified. "And it was kinda cool to imagine. I guess Ginny's family isn't a complete loss after all." He smirked, and Ginny laughed, elbowing him.
"Perce. Moody told me about the footstool before he gave it to you. Enchanted or no, it got you out of your rut, and that's what matters. Look what it did for you! You were so happy yesterday! And you encouraged me to go after what I really wanted," Ginny said softly, squeezing Goyle's arm. The Slytherin smiled down at her, and she up at him.
It made Percy's heart ache.
"I know what I want," he said softly. "Just not how to get it, or how to fix things."
Ginny blinked balefully at him. "You've got a pair now, like it or not. Use 'em."
Three days later, Percy stood outside a crowded bar. A Muggle bar. Why Terence had chosen, he wasn't sure. It wasn't even very clean looking. However, inside was his objective. In his hand, a Muggle device that played music.
He strode inside, pushing his way through the crowd with nary an apology. Grabbing a crate, he stood up on it. Those in the bar looked expectantly up at him, save one young man nursing a whiskey.
"Hello," Percy shouted to the crowd. "My name's Percy Weasley."
"Hullo, Percy!" cried the crowd.
"I've something to announce," he continued. "Turns out, I'm completely and utterly homosexual." Mixed laughter and applause from the crowd. "I know. Took me a while to figure it out, though. Would you believe it took an enchanted footstool?" Silence. "Me either. Footstool wasn't enchanted. Don't worry, you don't need to understand that part. The point is, I'm gay. Very gay. I like to have sex with men, and I especially have a thing for athletes." Now the crowd cheered again.
"But...I've been stupid. I was in love with someone for a very long time, and it was really quite stupid of me, because he didn't love me back." Percy clutched the Muggle device in his hands. "But I kept hoping, a bit stupidly, even when something...someone amazing fell at my doorstep." He pointed to the bar. "Terence Higgs."
Terence looked up, dark eyes unreadable.
"We had a fling when I was young, and then he came back into my life, and I was too stupid and cowardly to realize what an amazing thing that was. All I could think about was chasing some stupid dream. And so, I did more stupid things, and I lost both the dream and Terence." The crowd booed, and he nodded. "So, please, all of you...and Terence, please, hear me out."
There was a hushed, expectant silence as Percy pushed play on the tape player. Chords of music filled the bar, and he began to sing along. "You are my fire...the one...desire...believe...when I say...I want it that way..."
Terence stood, letting the drink drop from his hand. He walked towards Percy as the young man continued to belt out the song, badly.
"But we...are two worlds...apart...can't reach to your heart..." Percy's breath caught and he stopped singing as Terence stood before him. Softly, he said, "Listen, Terence, turns out I'm completely and utterly in love with you."
It took only a moment for Terence to shove his hair from his eyes and open his mouth to say something, but to Percy, it was years. Oh, Merlin, don't let him turn me away, Percy prayed silently.
He didn't, grabbing Percy and crushing the young man to him in the sort of kiss that made the crowd cheer wildly. The tape player fell to the floor, the Backstreet Boys crooning out their love and devotion as Percy and Terence devoured one another's mouths before the applauding and very impressed crowd of patrons.
"I love this stupid, brave bastard," Terence announced to the bar, hugging Percy tightly to his side. "So the plan is to take him home and bugger him silly."
Percy raised an eyebrow. "You think you're doing the buggering?"
"Merlin, I love it when you get snippy, Percy." Terence grinned, and murmured against his mouth, "We'll trade off then?"
"Absolutely," said Percy, smiling into the kiss. Between the two of them, they'd give the footstool a good home.