Harry Potter, Third Party Loyalties

Title: Third Party Loyalties [Percy/Draco]
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for swears and Death Eatery.
Summary: Percy’s been promoted, but even he can’t ignore how the Minister of Magic isn’t what he pretends to be, and Draco won’t get the hell out of his office.
A/N: For Icarusancalion‘s Percython, this is for thetreacletart, who requested denial!Percy in combination with one Malfoy or the other. Enjoy!

Third Party Loyalties

Percy Weasley read the memo over several times, very carefully, so that there could be no mistake what it said. Finally he turned the sheet of parchment over to make sure that it was really addressed to him, resting his eyes on the official block lettering that spelled his name.

Another minute passed and he set the memo down on his desk, feeling lightheaded. He was being promoted. Promoted! Percy had been sure it would never happen again after that whole Barty Crouch disaster.

He wanted to leap out of his chair and do a mad Quidditch dance on his desk, even if the only one he knew was that ridiculous Quaffle Waffle, the one Charlie used to do at the drop of a hat. Percy didn’t do any such thing, however, because that was really not becoming the Chief of Correspondence for the Minister of Magic. Percy settled for taking his glasses off and twiddling with them excitedly. After a moment, he picked up the memo and read it again, just to be sure. He squinted at it myopically before remembering to put back on his glasses.

The memo said he should report directly to the Minister’s office the next morning and not to worry about his things because they would be moved to his new desk for him, and not to worry about the plant either because it was self-watering.

“Plant?” Percy asked out loud, wrinkling his brow. “What pl—”

He was interrupted by a soft ‘pop’ as a decorative potted fern, the type that office workers have on their desks to make them look less sterile, materialized on his desk. A cheerful little card, stuck into the plant on a plastic spike, was giggling “Congratulations!” over and over. The fern itself waved some fronds at Percy in greeting.

After thirty seconds of listening to the card, Percy plucked it out of the pot and finite incantatemed it hurriedly. The fern twitched in relief. Percy rubbed the glossy printing on the card absently before dropping it into his dustbin. It was exactly the sort of thing his mother would have sent him, and Percy’s excitement soured slightly.

Excited enough to even brave familial contact, Percy snatched up a quill and a blank sheet of parchment.

Dear Mother—I wanted to be the first to inform you that I have received a sudden promotion. I will receive a larger office and will be working in direct conjunction with Lucius Mal—

Percy stopped writing mid-word, quill still poised above the parchment. His family wouldn’t be proud of this promotion, they’d be furious, they’d start up again with all that ‘dangerous Death Eater’ nonsense from two summers ago, even though the Minister had been completely cleared of those charges, and hadn’t it been proved after all that it was Fudge framing him the whole time? But none of that mattered to his family, they’d hear the name ‘Lucius Malfoy’ and that would be the end of that.

Scowling, Percy crumpled the parchment up into a ball and tossed it into the dustbin on top of the congratulations card, which let out a muffled giggle. He took a few deep breaths to clear his mind, and nearly jumped out of his skin when something touched the back of his hand.

He looked down to see the fern stroking his hand soothingly.

“Er,” he blinked, “thanks. Um, good fern?”

The fern waved its fronds back at him happily.

******

Percy arrived at work a half hour early the next morning in case of any emergency with his new office, but found it with little trouble. The office was small, but tidy, his furniture consisting of a desk, a filing cabinet, and two chairs. All his files and what few personal effects he had were already there, and the fern was so excited to see him that it over-watered itself.

As he was wiping up the fern’s puddle with a piece of scrap parchment, there was a knock on his office door.

“I hope you find your situation satisfactory,” Lucius Malfoy said from the doorway.

Percy shot to his feet, startled, and struggled to maintain some semblance of calm in front of his new superior, even with his heart lodged in his throat.

“Very satisfactory, sir,” he answered, relieved that at least his voice hadn’t cracked.

“Excellent,” the Minister of Magic nodded. “I have a task for you, something I would like you to take care of personally.” Minister Malfoy hung his cane on one arm before drawing a small sheaf of papers from a robe pocket and offering them to Percy. Percy willed his hand not to shake as he took them. “You may ask my secretary if you have any questions. I trust you will soon feel comfortable here, Mr. Weasley,” Minister Malfoy said. With a final nod, he took his cane in hand and left Percy’s office, leaving Percy to flop back down in his chair.

“The Minister remembers my name!” Percy said to the fern, grinning like a fool. The fern waved its fronds happily in response. Percy’s grin faded a little when he took the sheet with the addresses off the top of the pile, and saw what it was he was supposed to be mailing.

It was a stack of publicity photos of the Minister, all nodding in a dignified manner. He glanced at the top parchment again, and noticed a note that said a quill that would write Minister Malfoy’s signature could be found in his desk and would he sign each photo before mailing them and could they be out by lunch.

Oh well, Percy shook himself a little, it is only my first day after all.

Percy was most of the way through the stack, and very pleased with his progress, when his door slammed open, startling him enough to drop his quill and leave a large ink splotch on a photo. The Minister brandished his cane at this loss of dignity and demanded he be attended to at once.

“Here again?! This damn place is a labyrinth!” the invader demanded angrily while Percy was blotting the Minister. “Listen, I’m looking for my father…”

Percy looked up finally and blinked in surprise. A familiar pointy face blinked back at him.

“Weasley?” Draco Malfoy asked. “Percy Weasley? What the sod are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same thing.” Percy pressed his lips together, irritation making him stiffen his spine. “I’m the Minister’s Chief of Correspondence.”

“No you aren’t,” Draco waved him off, “I was in here yesterday and it was somebody different. Are you temping or something?”

“I most certainly am not!” Percy snapped.

“Fine, if you’re really my father’s Chief of whatever,” Draco raised an eyebrow, “then where’s his office?”

Percy glared.

“I thought so,” Draco said.

“It’s my first day.” Percy took calming breath. He paused. “In fact, didn’t you come in here because you don’t know where your father’s office is?”

“It’s only my second day,” Draco sniffed. “They’ve built this place so you can never find who you’re looking for straightaway.” Draco sauntered over to Percy’s desk and threw a hip up on the corner. The fern perked up and undulated a greeting. Draco eyed the stack of photos piled on the desk with a smirk. “Doing important work too, I see.”

“It’s not like they’re going to give me encrypted communiqués on my first day!” The tips of Percy’s ears reddened. “I’m only doing what I’ve been asked.”

“Which explains why they’ve hired you,” Draco commented. He tickled the underside of the fern with a finger, and it curled up its fronds in pleasure. “It’s a wonder you Weasleys don’t do better in government positions with that sort of thick-headed loyalty, but then again it seems like most of you prefer Dumbledore to my father when you’re gripping your ankles for somebody.”

“Mr. Malfoy,” Percy interrupted, trying to wrest control of this conversation back, “since we’ve just established that I do not know where the Minister’s office is, perhaps you could go ask someone who does know and let me get back to work?”

“No hurry, actually,” Draco shrugged. “Once I’ve found him, he’ll only tell me to go back to my own department. I’d rather they pay me to sit in your office and irritate you, which should tell you something about the enjoyment I derive from my own co-workers. Father could’ve picked a more interesting department to dump me in.”

Percy stifled a pained snicker as he recalled telling his brothers on several occasions “the worst thing the Ministry is guilty of is nepotism.” He hadn’t quite realized how serious an accusation he’d been making.

“No more tedious than your job though, apparently,” Draco eyed the photos, and Percy scowled.

“Fun as this has been,” he said, “I’ve really got to get back to work now. I’m sure you can at least find your way out of my office.”

“Feisty little photo-signer, aren’t we?” Draco asked, but slid off Percy’s desk. “Don’t do too much work on the first day, Weasley, you’ll burn out your brain and then who will I have to visit?”

After the door had swung shut behind Draco, Percy hoped that the visit would be a one-time affair. Much to his frustration, Draco’s invasions soon became a daily occurrence.

“So then I said, ‘Look, Crabbe, you moron, it isn’t like you’ve never seen an oyster fork before’…I mean honestly, the idiot was trying to eat his salad with it, can you imagine?”

It took a moment for Percy to realize that Draco actually seemed to want an answer, or at least was taking a breath before launching into another story about how he was the only Slytherin worth two Knuts. He looked up to find Draco, who had transfigured the extra chair in his office to a loveseat and was now sprawled across it, watching him through half-slit eyes with a glimmer of interest.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

“I’m your father’s Chief of Correspondence,” Percy said. “What do you think I’m working on?”

“He’s probably making you send out invitations to his dinner party,” Draco raised himself up slightly on his elbows to get a better look, “Mother’s been going on and on about it.”

“I’m sure I have more important letters to send than dinner party invitations,” Percy narrowed his eyes.

“I just bet you do.” Draco pulled himself nearly to a sitting position, the most initiative he’d shown all afternoon. “If you see anybody who you like in your pile of recipients, do them a favor and tell them that my mother’s wearing periwinkle and if they’re wise they’ll wear something else. When you’re done with all the more important letters.”

Percy said nothing, but simply kept on scribbling, lips pressed tightly together. Draco stood up and approached Percy’s desk, reaching out a hand.

“Then you won’t mind if I…”

Percy snatched away the papers before Draco’s hand came anywhere near them, and Draco smirked knowingly.

“Listen, I’m trying to work!” Percy snapped. “Can’t you go irritate your father for once?” Percy winced as he realized what he’d said and he glanced towards the door, expecting to see Mr. Malfoy standing right there.

“He’s a lot less fun to irritate than you are,” Draco shrugged, throwing a hip up onto Percy’s desk and jostling aside some parchments. He reached down and picked up the umbrella that was leaning against the side of Percy’s desk. “Not only that, he doesn’t seem very amused by me. You think I’m amusing, don’t you, Perce?”

“Don’t call me that,” Percy said automatically, straightening his parchments with obvious distress. “And don’t you dare transfigure my umbrella!”

“His office is no picnic either,” Draco plucked a quill out of Percy’s holder and dipped it in his inkwell, “the furniture is uncomfortable, the art is atrocious,” he began doodling something on the curved handle of the umbrella, the dark ink showing up clearly against the pale wood, “not to mention, then I have to talk to father himself, and you should know better than anybody how dull that can be.”

Draco dropped the quill back into the holder and inspected his handiwork for a moment. He showed it to the fern, and Percy wondered how something that made no noise could manage to snicker.

Percy had given up trying to work several sentences ago and now was just staring at Draco in mingled frustration and curiosity. He noted that Draco had drawn a little face on the umbrella, complete with a jagged, squiggly line for a mouth and angry eyebrows. The umbrella looked rather constipated.

“You know what he’s like, it’s always the same speech…”
Percy stared in horror as Draco twisted his facial expression into a perfect replica of Lucius’ condescending frown and held up the umbrella as a makeshift cane.

“Draco, you are a disgrace!” ‘Lucius’ sneered, his back so ramrod straight that Percy thought his head might snap off from the strain. “You need to show initiative, boy! Discipline! Ambition!” ‘Lucius’ thumped the top of the desk with his ‘cane’ for emphasis with each key word. “You’re the heir of Malfoy, and by Merlin you’re going to act like it or so help me I will inquire with your mother about the chances of a second go! Isn’t that right?” ‘Lucius’ demanded.

Percy clung to the shreds of his composure when the ‘cane’ bobbed its head in frantic agreement.

“Absolutely, sir!” the ‘cane’ squeaked, Draco’s negligible ventriloquil ability obvious. “Couldn’t agree more, sir! May I suggest a caning for motivational purposes, sir!”

“Stop it!” Percy demanded, barely contained snickers making his voice shrill. “Dammit, Malfoy, I don’t need this!” Percy was more than a little relieved when Draco’s expression smoothed back into his own instead of his father’s.

“You need this more than anybody I know,” Draco replied, letting the umbrella roll off his fingers to thump on the carpet. “You kiss my father’s arse like he’s Godric Gryffindor.”

“He’s the Minister of Magic!” Percy shouted, patience snapping. “I’m his employee, not his son, and it’s me he’ll fire if he comes in here and sees you prancing about with my umbrella! But you wouldn’t know anything about that, because you don’t have to work or support yourself, or do anything besides come in here and drive me mad!”

“Dry up, Weasley,” Draco narrowed his eyes, “you don’t know a thing about it.”

“I know all about it, as a matter of fact!” Percy pressed his lips together. “You’re just the same as you were in school, spoiled senseless, and running right back to your father at the first sign of honest work!”

“Because that’s exactly what one would go to my father for, honest work!” Draco sneered. “That’s him all right, moral fiber and upstanding citizenship! Not like he didn’t lie, cheat, and steal his way into his current office or anything as underhanded as that!”
“Your lack of character is no reason to slander the Minister in my office!”

“It’s only slander if it isn’t true.” Draco slid off Percy’s desk and stormed for the door.

“Draco…” Percy started, already sorry for losing his temper, but Draco was striding out of the room, slamming it behind him. Percy sighed, told himself he should go back to work, and went back to addressing envelopes.

RSVP Narcissa Malfoy via owl

*******

Percy was relieved at first when Draco didn’t return to his office that afternoon or the next morning, relishing the chance to get some work done in peace. The relief evaporated shortly after, leaving behind the sudden epiphany that his job was dreadfully boring when he wasn’t being interrupted all the time. And he was out of invitations to address.

He decided to go see the Minister and ask if he had anything Percy might do.

Straightening his desk on the off-chance that someone might come in while he was gone and form a bad impression of him, Percy closed his office door and headed down the hall to Minister Malfoy’s office, dodging the slew of paper airplanes shooting by his head.

Stepping into the out waiting room of the Minster’s office, Percy nearly ran right into Draco storming out of his father’s office.

“Hello, Weasley,” Draco said, mouth pinched.

“Malfoy,” Percy nodded cordially, then cleared his throat. “Listen, about the other day. I lost my temper and said unpleasant things…it was very unprofessional, and I’d like to offer my apologies.”

Draco opened his mouth, then paused and the light seemed to shift in his eyes.

“I don’t suppose you would like to do a favor for me to make up for it?” Draco asked.

“What favor would that be?” Percy asked, feeling he should atone for his rash actions—what if Draco told his father?—but uncomfortable with the way Draco was eyeing him.

“Nothing untoward, I assure you,” Draco waved a hand. “How would you like to come to a dinner party with me?”

Percy stared at Draco, unable to come up with a single plausible reason for this request.

“You know, the one you sent out all the invites for?” Draco coaxed. “It’s free dinner, isn’t it, and the chance to rub elbows with the most influential people at the Ministry? You’ve seen the names on those invitations, don’t tell me you aren’t interested.”

“If it’s such a good time, why do you want me to go?” Percy asked.

“You’ve obviously never been to one,” Draco said dryly. “I didn’t say it was a good time, they’re dreadfully boring, and I have to make conversation with people who think I’m still five, and my mother’s friends are throwing their revolting daughters at me left and right. It’s horrific.”

“Hm.” Percy fought a smile, imagining dowagers pinching Draco’s cheeks.

“Look here, Weasley,” Draco added, “it’s practically a fair exchange. You keep me from expiring of sheer tedium, and I give you a shot at high society. What do you say?”

“I suppose that’s fair,” Percy said guardedly.

“Splendid!” Draco slapped Percy on the back with a grin that doubled Percy’s suspicions. “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 Friday night sharp, and don’t forget what I’ve said about the periwinkle.”

“The Minister will see you now,” the Minister’s secretary chirped at that moment, startling Percy, and Draco slipped out in the moment of confusion before Percy had a chance to ask how Draco knew where his flat was in the first place.

********

“You didn’t have to pick me up,” Percy said when he answered the door and found Draco eyeing the apartment building’s carpet in distaste. “It’s not like I’m your date or anything.”

“Gets me out of the house before mother’s last set of hysterics,” Draco answered, stepping inside, “and that’s all to the good, believe me. Besides, someone’s got to get you past the wards if it’s the first time you’ve been. Very, er, quaint place you’ve got here, Weasley.”

“It’s serviceable,” Percy said, torn between agreeing and defending his flat. “I’ve only got to get my cloak and we can go. If something that looks like a sentient dustniffler comes up to you, don’t provoke it. It’s my flatmate’s cat, and it would just as soon shred your kneecaps to ribbons as look at you.” Percy left Draco in the lounge and went to retrieve his cloak from his bedroom

“You have a flatmate?” Draco called after Percy, sounding horrified. “Sweet Merlin, it’s like being back at school!”

Percy opened his mouth to answer that it wasn’t like he had a choice and it wasn’t that bad, but as he stared into the yellow eyes of the sentient dustniffler that was digging its claws happily into his only decent outdoor cloak, Percy realized that it really was that bad. He had never thought that he would actually miss the days of sharing a room with Oliver Wood and his broom (nicknamed the eighth roommate), but there it was.

A lesser Weasley would have Unforgivable’d the cat right then and there, but Percy gritted his teeth, tugged the cloak out from under the cat with some effort, and tried futilely to shake the cat hair off it. A yowl and a curse from the other room told Percy exactly where the cat had gone. Percy shrugged on his cloak and hurried out of his bedroom before he had to explain a crisped pet to his flatmate.

He found the cat huddled under a chair and a grimly satisfied Draco with his wand drawn. Percy wasn’t positive, but he thought he saw a curl of smoke rising from the end of Draco’s wand.

“Had to be done,” Draco reported.

“Don’t tell me what you did,” Percy held up a hand, “I’ll need to claim ignorance later. And do you know a charm for getting cat hair off clothes?”

Abite felicis,” Draco replied, flicking his wand casually. Every hair on Percy’s cloak dropped immediately straight down onto the floor, making a gray heap. Percy wrinkled his nose at the pile of fur and filed the charm away to be used on the rest of his wardrobe as soon as possible.

“More like school by the minute,” Draco said dismissively. “We’d best get going, Father’ll cane me like a House-Elf if I’m late.”

A short Apparition later, Percy was striving to not look like he was gawking shamelessly at the main reception room of Malfoy Manor. The room was so large that it must have been enchanted to even fit in the house, and one corner was occupied by a large orchestra whose soft playing added an underlay of sophistication to the chatter of guests. The guests themselves no more than half-filled the room at the moment, but Percy supposed that most people preferred to be fashionably late. He recognized many of the people present as Ministry members, and was stunned by the sheer opulence of the dressrobes and jewelry weighing down most guests.
Percy informed his hands that they were to remain at his sides and not under any circumstances to wring themselves, no matter how under-dressed he felt.

“Draco, darling,” a voice purred behind them, startling Percy. Draco turned, and Percy followed suit.

“Hello, Mother,” Draco answered coolly. “I’d like you to meet Percy Weasley, Father’s new Chief of Correspondence. Percy, this is my mother, Narcissa Malfoy.”

“Charmed, Mr. Weasley,” Mrs. Malfoy said, obviously anything but. She turned back to her son. “I was under the impression that you had gone to fetch your companion for the evening?”

“Yes,” Draco nodded, “Percy has a charming place right off Diagon Alley.”

Suppressing amusement at Draco’s characterization of his flat as ‘charming’, Percy was wondering why Draco had changed the subject until he noticed the corner of Mrs. Malfoy’s eye twitching and realized that Draco hadn’t.

Oh merciful Circe, Percy moaned silently, I’ve only been promoted a week and I’m going to be fired for being the Minister’s son’s date…

To Percy’s horror, Draco kept right on explaining.

“Father said I had to find someone suitable at the Ministry,” he said easily. “He can hardly argue about members of his own staff. Or has Father got into the habit of hiring unsuitable people recently?”

Narcissa was opening her mouth to seal Percy’s fate, when something over Draco’s shoulder caught her eye and caused her expression to tighten. “Macnair’s trying to liberate a champagne tray from one of the House-Elves. If you would like to make yourself useful, get over there and keep him from embarrassing himself before dinner is even served. And take your companion with you.”

Lightheaded with relief, Percy had trailed Draco halfway across the room before he could breathe easily enough to rage properly.

“Just what do you think you’re on about?” he demanded, glancing around to make sure no one was near enough to eavesdrop.

“Oh relax,” Draco replied. “You’re only one of the minor disasters this evening. By the time Kathryn Mulciber starts handing out drunken sex advice, Mother’ll have forgotten all about you.”

“Look here,” Percy fought to keep his voice low, “this may be all fun and games to you, but I have to work with these people! You’re putting my entire career in jeopardy!”

“Number one,” Draco rolled his eyes, “Father knows that I’m being purposefully taxing, and for that matter so does Mother. That’s how our little game works: he makes silly threats, like ‘find some brainless boob job to bring to my party or I’ll disinherit you’ and then I subvert him by finding the loophole, in this case his lack of gender specification.”

“I am not a boob job!” Percy started, but was immediately interrupted.

“Number two, if there’s anybody who’s in absolutely no danger of being fired, it’s you.”

“I…what?” Percy blinked. “Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Weasley, you have to be the only person in the entire Ministry who still fantasizes that my father really is innocent,” Draco said. “I mean, you can’t buy that sort of stubborn ignorance. My father could ask you to send a ticking package from Vol D. Mort to A. Dumbledore and you wouldn’t even blink.”

“You’re changing the subject,” Percy snapped, his ears burning.

“Haven’t you noticed the questionable nature of the guests here? I mean honestly, there’s Macnair, Dolohov, Mulciber, Rookwood…”

“They’re all Ministry officials!”

“Your naiveté is adorable.” Draco patted Percy’s shoulder. “However, If I’m going to have to listen to you prattle on about the wonders of government, I am going to need a drink. Fortunately, our dear friend Macnair has liberated a tray of champagne from a House-Elf, so if you’d kindly follow me…”

*****

Percy arrived at his office Monday morning, wishing vaguely that he was still hungover so that he’d have some excuse for feeling like he’d been trampled by a Chinese Fireball. What he really needed was some time to sit and think.

What he did not need was a fern which was practically de-potting itself in excitement and had turned everything on top of his desk into soggy pulp over the course of the weekend. Percy thought about dropping the plant in the dustbin right on top of his ruined desk calendar, but reasoned that it would probably just crawl out again.

Additionally, he did not need a paper airplane zipping into the room and nearly poking out his eye, especially one which demanded he come and see the Minister first thing that morning.

I’m going to be fired, he thought mournfully. Again. Just once I’d like to be fired for something that’s actually my fault. Embezzling perhaps. There’s some glory in embezzling. At least you get your name in the papers…

Percy considered simply quitting just to save the Ministry the trouble of firing him over and over, but in the end it was no surprise that he was standing in front of the Minister’s door at 8:55 AM precisely. When Minster Malfoy’s secretary waved him in, Percy squared his shoulders and entered, determined to spend his last moments as Chief of Correspondence with his head held high.

By the time he was actually standing in front of Minister Lucius Malfoy’s desk, Percy had entered a numb stage, which is why his voice did not crack when he said “Good morning, Minister” and he did not curl up in a fetal ball when the Minister replied “I want to talk to you concerning my son.”

“You are friends with him, are you not?”

Percy opened his mouth to say no, but then realized that he’d spent more time with Draco in the last week than he’d spent with his roommate ever. And he had invited Percy to a party.

“I suppose so,” Percy replied. Lucius raised an eyebrow at the tone of vague surprise, but continued.

“As you may have noticed, my son suffers from a severe lack of maturity,” Lucius said, “a situation which needs immediate repair. I have tried everything I can think of with no result. It was my hope that you, as someone who spends more time with my son, might have some suggestions.”

A moment of dead silence followed, in which it slowly dawned on Percy that he was not in fact being fired.

“It’s becoming rather a large issue,” the Minister said.

“Er,” Percy cleared his throat, stalling for time while he thought, “I suppose there are many ways to foster maturity, but the way I would recommend would be, hm…” Percy suddenly remembered telling Draco that his problem was that he didn’t have to support himself. “I think Draco would benefit most of all from having to live on his own.”

“I am not convinced setting my son loose on society would do anything but exacerbate the problem,” Lucius said.

“With all due respect, sir,” Percy figured now that he actually had a reasonable idea he might as well stick with it, “I think independent living might be exactly what Draco needs. He’d have to pay his own rent, keep a job, do his own laundry…life without House-Elves might do very positive things for Draco.”

The Minister stared at Percy for a long moment, but Percy didn’t drop his eyes, confidant his suggestion had been a good one, and finally the Minister said he would consider Percy’s suggestion. Percy wandered out of the Minister’s office in a daze and returned to the office that was surprisingly still his.

That afternoon, Percy was sedating the fern with a fertilizer spike when Draco resumed his daily visits. Striding in with his customary lack of greeting, Draco sat on the edge of Percy’s desk and regarded him.

“Do you want to be my flatmate?” Draco asked.

“Do I what?” Percy demanded. “Malfoy, you have already wreaked quite enough havoc in my life for one day!”

“My father’s on some new trip,” Draco waved a hand vaguely. “He thinks living on my own will make me a man or some such thing. Mother’s paying for the flat of course, but Father’ll never believe I can afford the place on my own, so I’ll need a flatmate as well.”

“As…interesting as that is,” Percy said, wondering how his suggestion could have managed to backfire so badly, “I’m going to have to say no thank you, since I already have a flat. You’ve seen the flat, in fact, you might remember it.”

“I have indeed,” Draco agreed. “It’s a hole. A pit. A closet. You could put two of it in my closet and still have room for my shoes. You’re never going to have a better offer than this.”

“What exactly,” Percy inquired, “is your offer? Mind you, I’m only asking out of morbid curiosity.”

“You be my flatmate, and you can take care of the cooking and all that sort of thing.”

“And?” Percy prompted.

“That’s it, that’s the offer.”

Percy shook his head and went back to looking at his papers.

“I won’t charge you rent,” Draco announced. Percy sighed and set down his quill, rubbing his temples for a moment before looking at Draco.

“I mean, it isn’t like I’m paying for it, so what do I care if you chip in?” Draco shrugged. “On the other hand, I’ve no idea how one procures food and clothes without the intermediary of a House-Elf. So, to sum up, I free you from your hovel, and you provide me with sustenance and laundry.”

Put that way, even Percy had to admit that it was a very attractive offer. Which is why that evening found him trailing after Draco to inspect the new flat, and the evening after found him Flooing his things to his new room and Apparating there for good, after delivering a very satisfying Staticus hex to the hated cat. Percy had been on the receiving end of that particular hex more than once, and it made touching anything metal, such as the cat’s food dish, extremely unpleasant for the duration.

Details of Draco and Percy’s arrangement came under some finagling during the first few days of their cohabitation, and ended with the understanding that Draco could demand anything he wanted for meals, so long as he submitted to helping Percy cook it.

“You have to learn sometime,” Percy informed him, crossing his arms firmly and refusing to take back the whisk that Draco was waving at him.

“Life’s too short to worry about rubbish like this!” Draco whined. “It’s impossible, I’ve ruined three already, nobody can do this without magic, I think you’re cheating somehow!”

“They’re only omelettes, Draco,” Percy rolled his eyes and pushed Draco back towards the stovetop. He spared a moment to wonder how Draco had managed to get green peppers stuck to the ceiling, but supposed that for a man who could make instant pudding explode, anything was possible.

The summer was passing surprisingly quickly in this manner, until the night Percy came home to a flat that smelled extremely odd. Percy sniffed the air suspiciously, and the fern, cradled in the crook of Percy’s arm, took a tentative swipe at the air with several fronds.

“You’re late, you know!” Draco called. If Percy didn’t know better, he would have said that the voice had come from the kitchen.

“Am I in the right flat?” Percy called back, crossing the front room and heading for the kitchen. “It’s smells rather odd in here, almost as if someone was making…” Percy trailed off as he entered the kitchen and saw Draco setting a dish of potatoes on the table with a self-congratulatory smirk. “…dinner.”

“What’ve you brought that plant home for?” Draco wrinkled his nose. “You spoil that thing rotten.”

“I couldn’t leave it tonight, I had important papers on my desk and it gets very destructive when it’s lonely,” Percy replied, but he set the fern down on the counter. He shook his head at the contents of the table, which looked actually edible. “You couldn’t have done this on your own, out with it, what’ve you done with the take away containers?”

“Ha ha, feel free to search, you won’t find anything.” Draco smirked harder as he produced a box of matches and leaned forward to light candles that Percy hadn’t noticed on the table, which were sitting next to a bottle of fairly decent wine. Percy narrowed his eyes as he suddenly became aware that the wireless was warbling something in Italian.

“Dinner, candles, music, wine,” Percy raised an eyebrow. “Malfoy, you aren’t trying to seduce me or something ridiculous like that, are you?”

“You have no taste for presentation,” Draco replied, shaking out the match with a deft flick of the wrist. “I live here, Weasley, if I wanted to seduce you, I’d just crawl into your bed naked in the middle of the night.”
“I’d toss you out on your bony little arse,” Percy snorted before flicking off the overhead light and sliding into his chair. Draco wiggled the offending arse in Percy’s direction before sitting down himself.

The food was the most respectable thing that Draco had managed yet, which Percy grudgingly admitted out loud, and Draco made a face that Percy had never seen before. It took him a moment to recognize a genuine smile on Draco’s lips.

Under the influence of good wine and an impending weekend, Percy felt no immediate need to get out of his chair and do the dishes, and Draco seemed unlikely to disagree. They remained at the table long after they were finished eating, trading amiable insults over the remains of the meal.

After a while, as Percy watched Draco refilling his wine glass, he realized that he had no idea how many glasses of wine he had consumed. He covered his glass with a clumsy hand and protested that he had work the next morning, but Draco nudged his hand with the bottled and talked him into it anyway. Draco poured the rest of the bottle for himself and wrinkled his nose when it didn’t make quite half a glass.

“Can’t have that.” Draco held out a hand and called a bottle from a cabinet with a lazy Accio. It fell into his hand with a satisfying slap and he finished filling up his own glass before leaning over to top off Percy’s.

“We both have work tomorrow, you know,” Percy reminded, jabbing a finger in the general direction of Draco. He had a bit of trouble making all the fingers go the right way, which Draco found to be rather funny. After scowling for a second, Percy started snickering as well. Draco reached over the table and folded Percy’s fingers in the proper configuration. Percy tried to look severe and pointed again, but it didn’t work so well since Draco hadn’t let go of his hand yet. Draco let go at last to pick up his wine glass.

“Fucking Ministry.” Draco returned to the subject at hand, taking a long draught of wine and leaning his chin on his free hand. “It’s an awful job, really. Awful place, the Ministry, mucking everything up.”

“Worst thing’s the Ministry’s ever guilty of is nepotism!” Percy declared automatically. Realizing who he was talking to, Percy covered his mouth with a hand, but snickers crept out around it. Draco narrowed his eyes.

“Are you calling me a nepot, Weasley?” Draco demanded, brandishing his wineglass. Still giggling, Percy reached over with his own and clinked their glasses together in a mock-toast.

“S’not a word, nepot.” Percy took a long swallow of wine, considering. “But if it was you’d be one. Or would your father be the nepot?” He noticed that the word felt funny rolling off his tongue. “Nepot. Nepot. Nepot…”

“Leave my father out of it,” Draco ordered. “We’re talking about the Ministry.” Peering closely at Percy, Draco furrowed his brow. “You’re always on about the bleeding Ministry. Just what is it with you and it, anyway? Why’re you always defending it when most of the time it couldn’t find its own arse with two hands and an Accio?”

“Why’re you always bad-mouthing the Ministry?” Percy shot back, reluctant to relinquish his pointing now that he had managed it. It was proving useful. “It isn’t like you could do any better.”

“The hell I couldn’t!” Draco exclaimed. “I could get myself appointed as Minister without getting anybody Kissed, I can tell you that much.” He waved Percy off when his usual spluttering started up. “Oh don’t start, we all know you think my father’s the pinnacle of innocence and Fudge framed him, but what I want to know is why.”

“Man’s got to believe in something,” Percy shrugged, slumping against the back of his chair and feeling very pleasant. “Like some people believe in Dumbledore, or You Know Who, or Quidditch. For me it’s the Ministry. Without government, we’d be back in the trees, flinging our shit at each other!”

“What about your precious Boy Who Lived,” Draco asked. “Potter’s the savior of the wizarding world, isn’t he? That’s what the rest of your family’s always on about, along with every wizard in England and most of the Muggles. Why don’t you believe in him?”

“Haven’t seen him in years,” Percy shrugged, contemplating the swirl of his wine when he moved his glass. “You’ve been to school with him till now, why don’t you believe in him?”

“I hate him, self-righteous little bastard,” Draco sneered lazily. “Thinks he’d better than everybody else, breaks all the rules, but he’s Dumbledore’s golden boy so he can do what he likes and get made Head Boy besides…just like his father and all his miscreant friends, my mother says. Tell you a secret?” Draco offered, leaning across the table and Percy moved closer obligingly. “Potter’s a bit of a nutter. That sort of rhymes, doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” Percy asked, leaning closer and making his chair tip a bit, “what do you mean, he’s a nutter?”

“He went a bit…you know…” Draco twirled his finger in the general vicinity of his ear. “Started in Sixth Year, he’d be in class and just snap, stand up and start screaming, he’d hex you for no reason, violent stuff really, but never got in trouble for it naturally. Had to do with Black I think.” Percy stared at Draco uncomprehendingly. “Black, Sirius Black, twit, he was killed three years ago, remember?”

“So what?” Percy wrinkled his brow in intense concentration. “Wasn’t Black trying to kill him? Killed Harry’s parents…”

“You really are dense, aren’t you?” Draco reached across the table to pat Percy’s hand condescendingly. “Sirius Black was his godfather, idiot, he was innocent, spent thirteen years in Azkaban for something he didn’t even do. Even your darling Ministry pardoned Black two years ago, after Pettigrew turned up again, during that break-in at the Department of Mysteries. Anyway, my Aunt caught Black right in the chest,” Draco let go of his wine glass to slap his own chest over his heart, “and sent him through the Veil. No worries about pardoning him if he’s dead, is there?”

“S’not right!” Percy sat up, ready to defend his Ministry against unjust accusations no matter how wobbly his chair had suddenly become. “Black killed all those people! He caused all that ruckus up at Hogwarts the year I was Head Boy!”

“Was th’other one, Pettigrew,” Draco shook his head. “Framed him, was an Animagus or some such thing, everybody’s a sodding Animagus these days, thinking of becoming one myself just so m’not out of fashion.”

“What sort of Ani…ma…gus?” Percy asked, having to say the word very carefully to get all the syllables out. His glass was empty again too, and he thought somebody might be stealing his wine since he didn’t remember drinking any of it.

“Rat,” Draco informed him, trying to point for emphasis but unfortunately using the hand that was propping up his chin, and his head flopped over onto his arm.

“I had a rat once!” Percy announced. “My brothers bought him off M’dungus Fletcher and he was missing a toe and he was a good rat!”

“You had a secondhand rat, Weasley?” Draco giggled, staring up at Percy lopsidedly. “Good lord, your family couldn’t even afford new rats? Couldn’t you just catch them in your hovel?”

“You, sir, are a snob, and m’not going to sit here and take it!” Percy lurched to his feet far too fast and nearly took a spill onto the linoleum. Still giggling, Draco climbed more carefully to his feet and slung an arm around Percy’s shoulders.

“You need to get t’bed,” Draco said, swinging them towards the door. “You’ve got work tomorrow!” Percy tried to retort, but a huge yawn took over and he leaned heavily against Draco as they staggered towards the doorway. They both tried to go through at once and got wedged in, stuck halfway into the living room.

“Couldn’t you manage to get a flat with decent doorways?” Percy asked, struggling and getting them wedged in even tighter.

“They were perfectly serviceable,” Draco said loudly between snickers, “until you tried to shove your Muggle-loving arse through one!”

Percy shouted “Snob!” again before he started to snicker too, and Draco yelled back “Weasley!” and by then they were laughing so hard that they would have been leaning on each other anyway if they hadn’t already been jammed in a doorway. Percy’s giggles died away as Draco’s head lolled forward, his nose pressing against Percy’s neck, and Percy was suddenly aware of how tightly they were wedged into the doorway, Draco’s chest pressing against his with every gasp for air.

Draco stopped laughing suddenly, and Percy bent his head to look, and their faces were so close that Percy wasn’t sure at first if Draco really was kissing him, or just breathing.

It turned out to be kissing, Percy was fairly sure, because breathing didn’t tend to go on this long, nor was it as wet. Percy was too surprised to even shut his eyes, although Draco’s had fluttered closed, and Percy thought to himself that his flatmate was actually attractive when his face wasn’t scrunched up in irritation. His lips weren’t half bad either, actually, and Percy found himself kissing back and leaning back against the doorframe.

Draco broke the kiss when he noticed Percy’s limp state, and managed to slip free of the doorway.

“You kissed me,” Percy said, feeling far too floppy to move his weight away from the doorframe.

“It was a goodnight kiss,” Draco informed him. “So goodnight.”

Draco weaved his way towards his bedroom, and Percy heaved himself into motion a few minutes later.

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