Spring comes warm and lush that year, the grey giving way to green and the night air carrying the delicate scent of flowers. Percy can't remember a spring like it. Even here in the heart of the city, in a fourth-floor flat with the windows nailed shut, he can smell it—something lighter and sweeter than the thick, cloying damp-earth smell of the cemetery a mere two weeks ago—and he lies awake well into the night, his nose itching and his mouth dry.
It's too warm to sleep. He finally takes off his nightshirt and throws it over the side of the bed. What he really should do is get up and try to juryrig some sort of fan charm, but the prospect of putting on the light makes him wince. The noise would be even worse; eighteen years of the Burrow and the Gryffindor dormitories failed to make him a sound sleeper, and having his own place has spoilt him.
He closes his eyes, but the rest of him buzzes on restlessly, his nerves thrumming and his skin flushed. The world is wakeful and so is he.
His twentieth birthday falls on a Thursday, not that it matters. It's been twelve-hour days Monday to Sunday for two months straight ever since the imbecilic stunt that nearly got Ron and Ginny killed and forced Minister Fudge's resignation. The departments are still in disarray despite—because of, an insubordinate little whisper insists—Minister Scrimgeour and his reforms. Audits down to the last Knut and half-sheet of parchment, hierarchical restructurings, hirings and firings. Percy keeps waiting for the pink envelope to fall into his inbox, with the same mingled dread and resignation with which he watches for letters from home.
He's going to be sacked, he's sure of it. He's going to run through his savings and lose his flat, forced to slink home with his tail between his legs, and every day it doesn't happen only twists him up tighter inside.
It's six o'clock in the evening, and he's working at his desk when the Minister passes by. Look busy, he thinks, even though he actually is. He feigns a thoughtful frown and re-tallies the column of figures he just scratched out. Scrimgeour circles his desk with an unnerving, prowling gait. Percy straightens his papers, and nudges aside the sandwich he bought from the lunch cart five hours ago and still hasn't touched, and tries not to look as if he's about to be interrogated. It's become a refrain around the Ministry: 'You can take the man out of the Auror division....'
Percy looks up. Breathe. Make eye contact. "Yes, sir?"
Scrimgeour peers at him over his spectacles. "You've been here since dawn. Go home and have your dinner."
He blinks. "Sir, I'm almost finished the—"
But the Minister doesn't let him finish, already walking away with an impatient wave that clearly says Percy shouldn't be here when he next makes his rounds. Frowning, he gathers up the papers that are allowed out of the building. He can finish up at home.
Cripes. The Minister knows his name. He's going to be sacked.
He clocks out and takes the lift up to the surface, where the day is still uncomfortably warm and sunny. It's usually dark when he gets to work and dark when he leaves, and he's dressed for the subterranean chill of the office, not a hot summer's day. He stands in the street, overheating and hesitating, and then sets off in the opposition direction from his flat. He doesn't want to be home if his mother decides to fire-call. He doesn't want to be home if she doesn't. The Alleys, then. There are errands he's been putting off, and he supposes he should eat, though the temperature is already killing off any appetite he might have been nurturing.
It's quiet, far too quiet. Even over the dinner hour, the Alleys aren't supposed to be this lifeless. It's the London of his earliest memories: dark windows, and boarded-up shops, and strangers passing quickly and silently in the street. The sky is starting to cloud over now, but the stale humidity lingers, making him feel itchy and dirty under his robes. He pauses at the corner of Whittington and Circe, wiping a trickle of sweat from his brow.
Then, his stomach cramping, nearly tearing itself in two, he turns west towards Knockturn Alley.
The shop is located behind an unmarked entrance between the back doors of a fish and chip takeaway and a voudoun practitioner's, and if it has a name, Percy has never inquired. It's dimly lit inside, and it always smells strongly of cleaners even though the place has a permanent film of grime. He keeps his head down and browses a shelf. The shop floor is deserted save for him and a greasy-looking clerk behind the counter, but he can hear the faint sounds of at least two someones in the back room.
It doesn't encourage him to linger. The astringent air turns his stomach, and the grunts in back make him nervous. He grabs two magazines wrapped in parcel paper and brings them to the front, dropping exact coin on the counter. He's out the door by the time the register rings, back into the shady heat of the alley, sagging briefly against the bricks and taking a deep breath full of the smell of grease and vinegar and raw chicken.
That's when someone grabs him.
A hand claps over his mouth. He struggles, but a strong arm locks around him, nearly lifting him off his feet when he tries to kick. Oh, fuck, he's being robbed. That's his first thought, at least, before his attacker growls in his ear: "Are you one of Arthur Weasley's boys?"
He freezes. Takes stock: his arms are pinned, and there's no purchase to bite, and his fingertips are less than an inch from his wand.
"Yes or no?"
He nods. Then, the moment the arm around him loosens just a little, he slams his head back so hard his vision bursts into black and blue.
He wrenches out of the clasp and draws his wand, nearly tripping over his feet as he stumbles back—and comes face to face with Mad-Eye Moody.
Or at least someone who looks like Mad-Eye Moody.
Percy wavers, thinking about what happened at Hogwarts, thinking about poor Mr. Crouch's son. He has either just drawn his wand on a Death Eater or on a retired Auror. Either prospect is equally terrifying.
"Put that thing away, boy." The man has his wand out too, levelled right at him. He rubs his forehead with his other hand, looking suspicious and amused all at once. A Death Eater would very likely be firing curses. But a Death Eater who wanted someone to think he wasn't one might not.
"...how do I know you're Alastor Moody?"
The man looks him up and down, peering so keenly that Percy is briefly, madly certain he can see right through to his hammering heart with either eye. "You'd be Percy—the clever one."
His arm begins to tremble, and he fights to steady it, glancing behind him just for an instant into the empty street. He licks his dry lips. "What's my parents' house called?"
A nod, almost approving. "The Burrow. It's down in Ottery St. Catchpole. Green door, lake in the garden, red floor in the kitchen."
Relief floods through him. He exhales a shaky breath, slowly, cautiously lowering his wand—then lets out a yelp when his bag is summoned out of his hand.
"And what do we have here?"
Percy dives for it, crashing into Moody as he tries to yank it back. They scuffle violently for several desperate seconds before a hard shove sends Percy slamming back into the wall. He lets out an 'oof' as the wind is knocked out of him and he's pinned bodily, crushed under Moody's solid frame. Heat floods through him from his face to his groin, something trembling in the deepest pit of his stomach, terrified and embarrassed and excited.
The earth fails to swallow him up on the spot.
He's held with an arm across his throat as Moody draws back just far enough to read the titles scrawled on the parcel paper. Percy stares in sick fascination as his mouth silently shapes the word 'fantasy', the word 'cock'. He closes his eyes in humiliation when those lips smirk.
Then Moody steps back and tosses the bag at him. Percy fumbles it when it hits his chest, picks it up, wishes he were dead.
"Stay away from Faustrum's, boy," Moody says. "They're dealing in more than smut these days."
Percy straightens, pushing his glasses up. He attempts to appear unruffled. It doesn't work. "What are you even doing here? I was under the impression you were retired."
That's completely illegal, of course. Only active Aurors have any right to be carrying out surveillance, or accosting Ministry employees in deserted alleys, or conducting searches of said employees' personal belongings. He should be pointing that out, because his own actions, while...unsavoury, are not illegal.
But all that comes out when he opens his mouth is: "You're not going to tell anyone about this, are you?"
Not illegal, no, but if the Ministry found out, if his family found out...
Moody snorts. "Don't ask stupid questions. Just keep your nose clean."
With that, he turns and limps back up the alley, disappearing into the shadows and leaving Percy breathless and blushing in his wake. He stares for several moments until a noise from inside the shop startles him back to his senses, and then he makes no delay in getting the hell out of Knockturn Alley, out of Diagon and back to his flat.
There, he tosses the magazines onto the couch and runs a shower as hot as he can stand it, scalding his skin under the half-boiling spray and pulling at himself furiously. The next morning, he writes in sick to work for the first time in his life.
Percy is five years old the first time he's introduced to Alastor Moody. It's winter, after Christmas, maybe, and though he's started school a year early, he's home sick with the flu. He doesn't want to be here. He wants to be at Mrs. Fawcett's table with his sharp pencil and soft parchment. He wants to be listening to a story. He likes school, and it means getting out of the house besides, away from Fred and George, who scribble in his books. Away from Ron and the new baby, who both have nappies that need changing, and him old enough to be a help because Mum is tired all the time.
Still, he was made to stay home after he made sick in the kitchen, and while he can tell that Mum's not happy about it, she's at least barred the twins from coming upstairs. They're in the sitting room below, banging on pots with spoons, and the racket has woken Ron and Ginny from their naps. Percy can almost block out the sound of their wailing if he curls up under all his blankets.
His headache eases in the muffled darkness, and he's nearly asleep when he hears a knock at the front door. That makes him sit up. They never have visitors, and his heart leaps, thinking that maybe Bill has come home sick, or even Charlie. It's enough to urge him out of bed. He tiptoes out of his room and down the stairs, peeking around the corner. In the instant before he sees the strange man, he notices that Fred and George are quiet for once.
Then his own mouth makes a silent 'oh' of surprise. The man in the kitchen talking to Mum doesn't look like anyone he's seen before. His hair is black and grey and wild, and one of his eyes is little and dark and the other is huge and blue. His face is rough and craggy like stone, and his coat has a hundred pockets, and he's leaning on a great big carved stick.
The man hands something wrapped in cloth to Mum. "I thought Arthur would want it back. Doesn't look like I'll have much use for it anymore."
Mum purses her lips. "I'm just glad to see you up and about again, Mad—" She stops, turning red.
Whatever's the matter, the man just laughs. It's a low, rough sound that makes Percy smile. It occurs to him suddenly that while he's never seen this man before, he's heard him. Those times when there would be people in the house very late at night, grownups talking in the kitchen. Back before Hallowe'en, when everything was secret and no one could go outside alone.
"I don't see why anyone should stop calling me that, now that it fits even better."
Mum smiles, but it's not her happy smile. They're quiet for a moment, and then the man suddenly turns, spotting him.
"And which one's this?"
Mum frowns. "Percy! If you're feeling well enough to be traipsing around out of bed, I might as well send you to school."
He blinks. "All right."
She sighs, shaking her head. "Alastor, this is Percy, our little scholar. Percy, this is Auror Moody."
Mr. Moody looks for a moment like he's going to crouch down to talk to him, but then he pauses with a funny look on his face and just steps forward instead, his leg swinging strangely to follow.
Percy offers his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Moody."
Mr. Moody shakes on it, smiling broadly. He's missing two teeth. So is Percy, from when Fred hit him in the mouth with his jack-in-the-box, which was an accident because Fred is too little to know what he's doing, but it hurt all the same. His were just baby teeth, though. Those are supposed to fall out anyway, and Dad gave him a two Knuts because of it.
"How many are you up to now?" the man asks, and Mum shakes her head.
"Seven." She sounds sort of happy but also sort of not. "Seven, and this is it. Go back upstairs, Percy. I'll bring you up some juice in a minute."
Reluctantly, he goes, slipping back into bed and listening to the quiet murmur of conversation until the door opens and shuts again. Then one of the twins starts screeching, and Ginny starts crying, and Mum forgets to come upstairs. Percy falls asleep anyhow.
Two weeks after the horrifying incident in the alley, Mad-Eye Moody turns up at the office. It's the lunch hour, and everyone is gone but Percy, who's halfway through addressing a stack of invitations when he hears the lift ping out in the corridor and then a crooked, thumping set of footsteps. The sound is unmistakable, and the quill nearly falls from his fingers.
Breathe. Don't look up.
He keeps his eyes on his work as the footsteps come closer, until the door flies open and Moody comes stomping in, yelling for the Minister—by his first name, no less.
"Excuse me, sir," Percy interrupts, "You can't be in here."
It comes out as utterly waspish and he knows it, but to his relief Moody actually looks surprised to see him. The relief is short-lived, however, as the man looks him over with both eyes, an unfathomable expression on his gnarled face.
"I'm here to see Scrimgeour. Where is the idiot?"
Percy tries very hard not to think about being pushed up against a brick wall. He tries not to think about that hand clapped tightly over his mouth, and a threatening whisper in his ear, and the sharp, twisting excitement in his stomach. It doesn't work. "Do you have an appointment?"
Moody plants his hands on the desk, leaning in so close that Percy swallows hard. "Do you think I have an appointment?"
"I happen to know you don't." He stands up and immediately regrets it. Oh, for God's sake, he's not sixteen anymore, but in his imagination he's pinned down in a dirty alleyway with Moody on top of him; in reality he's grabbing a folder to hold in front of him.
But there's no hiding. Moody's enchanted eye immediately fixes on the folder, and his eyebrows twitch in what looks like surprise. "I don't suppose that's for me?"
Percy's face flushes so hot so suddenly that he nearly faints. He sets his jaw. "Minister Scrimgeour is out of the office. Please make an appointment, and I'll let him know you came by."
Moody's crooked mouth curves into a smile that makes Percy want to take a step back. He's so close that he can smell him, a smell of leather and strong soap, and he can hear him hold his breath for a long, considering moment. Then a hand clamps around his wrist, and the next thing he knows, he's being dragged towards the supply closet.
He's pushed inside as the door slams shut behind them. His back hits the shelves, knocking a startled cry from him and sending a box of quills toppling to the floor. His breath catches as Moody presses up against him. He's so hard it hurts now, his throbbing prick trapped against the firm warmth of Moody's hip.
"What—what are you doing?" Terrified that he's wrong, terrified that he's the subject of some sick joke.
A breathy chuckle tickles his ear. "Stupid question."
Then—breathing room—an instant of space before Moody's hand finds his prick and the world contracts again. He can't breathe, he can't stand it. He's never had a man touch him, not since school and Oliver when they were young enough to get away with it. Moody's hand is broad, rough, strong. Insistent, squeezing and kneading until Percy nearly lifts up on his toes with every rub.
"Please what?" Moody's voice is ragged and hot in his ear.
Percy squeezes his eyes shut, breathing the words out in a whispered rush: "Please don't make me come in my pants."
He expects another laugh, but there's only a pause and then a sucked-in breath. "Turn around. Get your robes up."
He obeys, legs shaking. His fingers are numb as he pulls up his robes. He braces an elbow on the shelf, bent over, hissing when his pants are yanked down and catch on his prick. Then he's completely and utterly exposed, feeling the cool air on his bare backside. His breath is coming hard. Someone's going to hear. Someone's going to open the door and see. The thought is excruciating and elating.
A near-silent whimper ekes from his throat when Moody's fingers briefly rub over his entrance. They withdraw, and then there's the coarse sound of spitting. Then the fingers are back, wet, pushing. He bites his lip as he's opened. It's too much in the best of ways, making him burn, making him really feel it. His back arches shamelessly as he's roughly fingered, that spot he can never reach just right being relentlessly, mercilessly scrubbed until his hips are twitching helplessly and a moan snakes up from deep in his chest.
"You need a good unwinding, don't you," Moody murmurs in his ear.
All he can do is nod in the dark, gasping a faint 'uh-huh.'
Another finger forces its way in, stretching him to the brink. Oh God, he's going to break, he's sure of it. His prick twitches hard, leaking steadily.
"I wonder..." A callused palm ghosts over the underside of his prick, nearly making him flinch before it withdraws. "I wonder if you spend just like this...not a hand on you."
There's no question. "Yes..." he hisses, then swallows the word, hiccuping as Moody's fingers quicken.
He holds on for dear life, fucked senseless on what has to be all four fingers. His eyes squeeze shut, and he lets out a soft sob as the terrible burning pleasure builds up to its peak and pushes him off the very top. His hips snap as he comes in a jolting, aching rush that steals the breath from him.
Oh God, oh God, oh God...
Panting, shivering, he slowly gets his bearings back. His knees will barely hold him, his palms sweating. He makes a sound of protest when Moody's fingers pull out, and he clumsily reaches back, meaning to reciprocate, but Moody steps away.
"Coast's clear. You'll want to clean that up."
Percy frowns, puzzled. Then the sudden light makes his eyes water when Moody steps out, and he hurriedly puts himself to rights, fumbling for his wand and cleaning up the mess.
Ten minutes later, when Minister Scrimgeour returns from his lunch break, Percy is sitting lightly at his desk, sore and loose-limbed. Moody is across the room, fiddling with what looks like some sort of dark-detector. Percy is trying very hard not to stare at his hands.
"Mr. Moody's here to see you, sir." He stands up with a slight wince. "I asked him to make an appointment."
Minister Scrimgeour sighs. "Never mind, Mr. Weasley. Alastor, come in."
A great deal of shouting occurs in the minutes that follow, and Percy does not eavesdrop but conscientiously returns to his work, fussily dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't'. He finishes up with the envelopes and moves on to the incoming afternoon correspondence, certain he smells like sex, certain he smells like another man. This can't happen again.
Not at work, at least.
When the door to the Minister's office flies open, Percy is holding a small slip of paper with his address neatly printed on it. Moody stomps past and, without missing a beat, plucks it from his hand.
Percy gets back to work, but it's hours before his mind stops wandering to the closet.
He's fourteen years old the second time he lays eyes on Alastor Moody. It's a Monday over the winter holidays, and he's finally convinced his father to take him on a tour of the Ministry. It's practically his Christmas present, and it proves to be an education. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement is a sprawling labyrinth of offices, of which Dad's is the tiniest. Percy is enraptured by the modern office supplies, the crisp business robes, the whooshing message tubes. This is where he wants to be.
Dad knows everyone here by name, and they all greet him in return: "Hello there, Weasley—what are the Muggles up to today?" He's supposed to be impressed, he thinks, but it only makes him uncomfortable. He's just old enough to realise that they all like his father because his father is silly and harmless. They probably snigger at him behind his back. That he knows this and his father doesn't sours his stomach.
The Auror Headquarters are on the second level, and Dad sneaks him in with a wink. "We'll just have a peek."
This floor is nothing like the previous one. It's all glass and metal and cheap tile, one sprawling, cubicle-filled room that puts Percy in mind of a beehive. It's crowded and noisy, buzzing with activity. The walls are plastered with crookedly hung maps and wanted posters dotted with messy stick-up notes. Percy immediately decides this is not the office for him, but he shakes hands with Auror Scrimgeour when he's introduced nonetheless, and answers that yes, he's taking Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Charms, and Transfiguration, and yes, he knows it's important to stick with History too.
He's eager to leave, and they're waiting for the lift to come back when he hears a familiar voice. He pauses, trying to place it—oddly thinking about loose teeth for a puzzling instant. Then he turns towards the source of the growl and spots Mad-Eye Moody arguing with an important-looking man in posh robes. He looks just the same as Percy remembers him, just the same as he's pictured him whenever he hears a story from Bill or Charlie or Dad. Sturdy and scarred and dangerous.
Moody's voice is too low and far away for Percy to hear what he's saying, but the other man is holding his hands up, saying over and over again: "Alastor—Alastor—you don't work here anymore."
Percy desperately wants to say hello, but it would be rude to interrupt, and the man probably doesn't even remember him. Still he finds himself staring at his broad shoulders, his square jaw, his angry hands, painfully aware of his own body and everything he is at fourteen: thin and awkward, nervous and knock-kneed, clumsy and shy. He blushes just to think of shaking Moody's hand again, and he's old enough to know something else—that it's the same way he blushes when he thinks about Penelope Clearwater or Livia Winters.
He distantly registers the chime but cannot turn away, not until his father gently shakes his shoulder. "Percy? Perse, the lift's here."
"Oh. Right. Sorry." He turns away and returns to more sensible places, trying to put the matter out of his head.
Moody comes over once a week, sometimes twice, every week for a month, then two, then three. It's usually a Sunday evening, but every once in a while, Percy will be woken up in the middle of a weekday night by a knock at the door, and Moody will come in with a grumbling lecture on why he should always ask who it is before opening up. His door has a peephole, but that is apparently beside the point.
Those late nights, he'll offer to put the kettle on, but Moody will decline, and the next thing you know, Percy is being backed up against the wall or toppled down on the couch.
Sometimes they'll make it back to his bed while the sheets are still warm, and Moody will strip him naked and roughly put his mouth to him. He never ties him up, but if he tells him to hold on to the headboard, Percy won't let go for anything, hanging on until his hands lock while Moody rubs a raspy cheek against his thigh, bites at his nipples until they're swollen red, sucks him off so roughly that Percy bites his lip and curls his toes and nearly cries.
He's long since figured out that it's not all generosity. Moody just...doesn't. Doesn't take his trousers off, doesn't come, doesn't even get hard save on the rare occasion, and even then it seems to pain him. Percy can guess, but he doesn't ask. He just kisses him hard on the mouth and gets his hands under his clothes to stroke his chest, to clutch his back, to trace the bumpy scar along his side that feels like something once took a bite out of him. He lets Moody do whatever he wants to him, shutting off his brain and lying back, submitting to rough handling. It's the sort of thing he's been fantasising about since he was a teenager, and sometimes it occurs to him to think that all this debauchery should make him feel wounded and sorry and dirty the way he used to in his dreams, but it doesn't.
He sleeps through the night after Moody's done with him, and he stops feeling ill at work. He's...happy.
Moody likes to watch. He supposes that shouldn't come as a surprise. One evening in November, they're on the couch kissing when Moody pushes him onto his back. Percy stretches out, his mouth warm and his prick half-hard. He fidgets slightly under Moody's gaze—he always looks like he's about to eat him alive, and sometimes he does.
"Get your kit off," Moody says.
He's almost past blushing at that now, almost. He unbuttons his robes and shrugs out of them. That's easy enough. His socks and undershirt follow. He hesitates just a moment with his pants, thumbs hooked in the waistband. Then he takes a breath and pulls them down, awkwardly managing to kick them off.
Moody's eye slithers over the length of his body. He wets his lips but makes no move to touch him.
Percy squirms, his hands twitching with the urge to cover himself. He settles for taking his glasses off, the world rendered soft and fuzzy around the edges, and then forces himself to lie still, bare and waiting, his prick rising up until it's curved over his stomach. "Well?"
Moody's lips twitch. "Go on."
His face goes hot as the meaning registers. "I don't..."
"Don't wank?" Moody gives him a look. "Pull the other one—it's got bells on."
Percy fidgets. "Not with an audience, I meant."
"So close your eyes." He knows that tone of voice, and there's no arguing with it.
He does. He tries to pretend he's alone in the dark, hands under the covers, but he can hear Moody's breathing, can almost feel him watching. He takes himself in hand, thumb and two fingers moving back and forth, hesitantly at first and then finding their rhythm.
"That's it," Moody growls and touches his thigh.
He spreads his legs wider, stroking himself in earnest now. He can't bear to open his eyes and look, but he pictures it nonetheless: Moody watching him hungrily, leaning in closer for a better view, weathered hands on his too-pale skin. There's a faint sound of cloth rustling, and Percy's ears prick up. Moody rummaging in his pockets, then the click of a plastic cap flipping open.
Moody takes his left hand, and something chilly touches his fingertips, something slick. His right hand slows.
He opens his eyes and promptly flushes straight to the tips of his ears when he sees the greasy smear of oil coating his fingers. He shakes his head hard.
Moody breathes a faint laugh. "Don't tell me you don't like having something up there."
He can feel his cheeks turning purple. His prick twitches, making a liar of him. He's done it before, countless times, with his fingers, candles, even his wand—not that he'd admit that to Moody, because as much as he wants this conversation not to be happening, he doesn't need a lecture about wand safety. "I..."
Moody takes his hand and guides it. Almost despite himself, Percy bends his leg back. His eyes shut again when his fingertips brush against his entrance. His pulse quickens as Moody makes them circle.
"That's right...get yourself good and slick."
Then the faintest push, and the rest is all his own doing. He sinks two fingers in straight to the knuckle, letting out a helpless groan as Moody helpfully holds his leg back for him. The flush spreads to his chest, the heat stealing his wits until he's eagerly stroking and riding his own fingers. Moody steals brief little phantom caresses, driving him mad. A brush along the base of his prick. A soft squeeze of his thigh. A brief tumble of his stones.
He can't last, embarrassing noises slipping from his throat as he lashes himself to a fury, hips rolling and fingers thrusting deep. He comes all over himself in a desperate peak, feeling the hot seed drip over his hand and spurt onto his chest. He trembles, biting down on his lip and stealing the briefest peek from under his eyelashes. Moody is red-faced and panting.
His leg is let down trembling, and his fingers slip from inside him. He flinches when Moody touches his prick, still half-hard and sensitive, and then feels him gather up the slick mess on his fingers. A probing touch, and they start all over again.
A few weeks after that is the disastrous Christmas. The Minister at the Burrow. His barbarous family. The parsnips. Moody is trying to cajole the story out of him when there's a knock at the door. Percy freezes. "Who is it?"
"It's Dad, Percy. Open up."
Moody looks at him narrowly, then gets up and clomps over to the door and opens it. "Arthur."
Dad blinks. "Mad-Eye? What are you doing here?"
"Just leaving, actually." He grabs his cloak and hat from the peg by the door and brushes past him into the corridor.
Percy's shoulders slump as his father comes in and shuts the door behind him. He's carrying a wrapped present and what looks like several containers of leftovers. He's also frowning suspiciously.
"Why was Mad-Eye Moody here? You aren't in trouble, are you, Perse?"
It's a low blow and the final straw after all that's happened. "Am I in trouble," he echoes. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
His father's frown turns nervous. "If you've done something, Percy...if that's why you've been acting so strangely..."
He stares. Something sour rises up in his throat. He wants to shout. He wants to hit something. But when his voice finally comes, it's very soft and cold and quiet. "If I were Bill or Charlie—if I were Fred or George, who break the law on a weekly basis, or Ron or Ginny who broke into the bloody Ministry—you wouldn't be asking me that. Now get out."
His father says nothing. He doesn't try to refute it. He only puts down the stack of parcels and turns to leave, and Percy sits down hard the moment the door is shut, head in his hands, feeling like he's going to throw up. He doesn't want to hate his family. He loves them, he really does, in the way you just have to love your family no matter what. But he's outnumbered, and sometimes he wishes he were as blind and simpleminded as the rest of them—that he couldn't see how his younger siblings are ruining their lives, that he didn't know it's his parents' own fault that they're poor. He's not one of them, not anymore, if he ever was to begin with.
He's startled when there's another knock at the door, and he strides over angrily and yanks it open. "I thought I told you—"
It's Moody on the other side of it, unruffled. He's holding a bag from the Indian take-away up the street. He nudges Percy aside and pushes his way in.
Percy frowns, feeling prickly and stubborn. "I already ate."
"Who said this was for you?" Moody sits down on the couch and opens up a few cartons. "Got any forks?"
He stares for a moment and then with a sigh goes into the kitchen for two, and plates besides because that rug is new. Then he sits down and takes a helping of tikka masala and eats in silence for several minutes. His eyes are stinging, but he refuses to weep. He hardly tastes the food. "They all think I'm some sort of—some sort of Death Eater collaborator."
Moody looks him over. "You? No."
"Well of course, 'no'. But they all think it."
Moody snorts. "You're different, that's all. The black sheep bureaucrat."
He shouldn't say it, but he does. He's never told a single soul this in all his life, and yet suddenly he has to. "I almost sorted Slytherin, you know."
Just-turned-eleven, sitting on the tall stool with the hat covering his eyes. Whispers in the dark: "Oh, plenty of ambition, this one." Silently pleading to be put with his brothers.
He waits for the blow-up, but Moody merely shrugs. "And what's wrong with Slytherin?"
"You of all people..." Percy pauses when Moody gives him a mild sideways look. "...oh, you didn't. You aren't. Are you?"
Stupid question. Moody doesn't dignify it with an answer. He only takes another bite of his curry, chews thoughtfully, and says: "Having a vision. Being willing to do whatever it takes to get what you want, that's Slytherin. Knowing where to draw the line, that's just being a decent human being."
Percy considers that quietly. He budges over just a little, and without a pause, Moody ruffles his hair and puts an arm around him. He leans uncomfortably into the embrace at first, and then he slowly relaxes, the tension bleeding out of him.
Moody stays over that night.
It's another uncharacteristically hot summer. July comes to London hazy and miserable, and it's nearly a year since the first time he and Moody shared a bed—a wall—a closet. The world has gone mad. Albus Dumbledore is dead. He goes back eleven months in his work diary, back to a time when the world still made sense, and traces the little 'x'. That's all it is. He's never kept a journal—that would have been idiocy with Fred and George for brothers—and he thinks Moody would approve of his discretion if not the sentiment. Percy gives him his own marks. Bruises from holding on too tightly, deep scratches down his back, a swollen bite-mark on his shoulder. They're fleeting amidst the deeper scars, but they're there.
The last time he sees him before it all goes to hell, they quarrel bitterly. It's a wretched afternoon in his flat, the first time Moody has ever come over in the middle of the day. That's enough to put him on edge to start with. The stony look on his face is icing.
Percy paces the floor. "Let me get this straight. You're all going to polyjuice yourselves to look like Harry."
Moody nods. "It's the only way."
He wheels around, staring at him incredulously. "That is the stupidest idea I've ever heard of in my life! You can't just play roulette with people's lives—someone's going to get killed!"
Only silence, careful and guilty. That's when it truly strikes him. Moody never tells him what he's up to. It's safer that way, or maybe he simply doesn't want to—maybe like Percy he just wants one place where he doesn't need to think about the world ending. But he's telling him now. Someone is going to get killed, and it's going to be the person who's brave and foolish enough to make himself look the most like Harry.
"Oh no," he says. "Oh no, you are not. What the hell is wrong with you?!"
Moody's mouth quirks humourlessly. He's silent for a long moment, and then he shakes his head grimly. "Damned good question."
Percy runs his hands restlessly through his hair. Then he turns and punches the wall so hard that something audibly cracks. "Bugger!"
Moody's on his feet in an instant, trying to see what he's gone and done to himself. Percy struggles, lashing out. His elbow makes contact with Moody's middle, driving a grunt out of him. Moody grabs his wrists and shoves him up against the wall. His mouth comes down hard on his, maybe just to shut him up, but Percy pushes back desperately, certain he'll unravel completely if he lets him go.
He manages to wriggle his wrists free, wrapping his arms around him. "Please..."
Stay. Don't go.
What follows is rough and graceless. His robes are pulled up, and his pants yanked down, and all of Moody's weight is against him, rutting hard. The scrape of cloth over his prick is almost painful, but he can't stop, whimpering into a bruising kiss as Moody's breathless, reckless thrusting demands a spending from him that's more relief than pleasure. In the fever of the moment, he swears he can feel Moody hard against him, swears he can hear a soft, strained groan before a hitching breath.
He clings to him, burying his face against his shoulder until he can breathe again. "Be careful," he says. "Please."
"All right," Moody says softly, and whether he means it or not, all that matters is that in that moment, Percy believes him.
The days and weeks and months to follow are a blur. The Ministry falls, and in a perverse way, Percy hardly notices. He goes in every day and does his job, does it well. He receives a promotion, quite likely because the vast majority of his superiors are dead or imprisoned or sacked. Everyone likes him because he's harmless and does not ask questions. They smile at him in the corridors and greet him by name.
He writes to Bill and tells him that he's sorry for missing the wedding, and that he's been sleeping with Alastor Moody for the past year. Bill floos in from the middle of his honeymoon and sits up with him all night as he gets floor-tiltingly drunk and tells him the whole pathetic story.
"Shh," Bill says and strokes his hair. "It's going to be all right, Perse."
Bill writes almost every day after that, introducing him to Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks, whom he remembers from school, and to Aberforth Dumbledore, that strange man from the Hog's Head. He keeps his mouth shut at work and reports what he hears back to them, and it's only then that he realises everything Moody could have asked him to do if the means and end weighed out the same. He cannot bear to think about that for very long.
He waits, and he gets by, and when the time comes, he runs through the tunnel to Hogwarts as fast as his body can carry him and prays he's not too late:
They all stare at him.
He closes his eyes briefly, Moody's voice in his head. Be a man.
"I was a fool!" he blurts out. "I was an idiot, I was a pompous prat, I was a—a—"
Fred interrupts, his voice brittle. "Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron."
His shoulders slump, more in relief than any disappointment. "Yes, I was."
"Well, you can't say fairer than that."
Life is too short not to swallow his pride, and it's too damned long to never figure out where to draw the line. Wand in hand, he stands with his family, all of them together for what will prove to be the very last time. He's not afraid to die. And, he thinks, for the first time, maybe he's not afraid to come out the other side of this either. He wonders if Moody would be proud of him, if he ever came back.
No, he thinks. 'If' is a stupid question. 'When.' Now that's a better one.
Percy may be ambitious, but he's never been a dreamer. He deals in facts, in knowables, in logic. They never found a body, only a dent in the earth where Moody might have fallen and a set of tyre tracks nearby. In 1789, Hendric Goodman fell from the top of the St. Paul's Cathedral and bounced without a scratch. In 1948, Constance Carrow was knocked off her high-altitude broom and survived a fall into Burleigh's Field. A Muggle woman once fell 33,000 feet out of an aeroplane and lived to tell of it. Alastor Moody has survived innumerable hexes and curses, and the loss of a leg and an eye besides. He has spent six months of his life in healing comas and ten months unconscious in a trunk.
Not long after...after Fred's funeral, he has Ron show him where they buried the magical eye, and when his brother has gone off with Harry and Hermione, he digs it up. Moody will want it back.
Percy sighs and rolls over onto the cool half of the sheets. For a pleasant moment, he shivers, his nipples hardening. It's a new spring, perhaps the first true spring of his lifetime. There's a certain comfort in the thought, some tangible proof of life in the face of all they've fought and died for.
He rubs his cheek against the pillow and then pauses at a sound in the distance. He frowns and sits up, trying to listen past the sudden pounding of his heart. The noise slowly grows louder, coming closer, and if he shuts his eyes tightly and holds his breath, he could almost swear it's the slow clomp of weary, uneven footsteps.
He's waiting at the door when the knock comes.