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Title: Hey You
Author name: Icarus
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sub Category: Suspense
Keywords: Ron Draco Percy Death Eaters
Summary: Captured by the Death Eaters and working for Lucius' Ministry of Magic, Ron and Draco plot its downfall. Hey you. Don't help them to bury the light. Don't give in, without a fight. Part three of the 'Beg Me For It' series.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Copyright © 2004 by Icarus Ancalion. All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually quite generous.
Author notes: Thank you to CLS (go read her Stag Night at www.schnoogle.com/authorLinks/CLS) and T’boy (check out the Severus FQFest at http://www.sockiipress.org/~luthien/snapeff/index.html) for the beta review, general insightfulness and brilliance. This story only makes sense because of them. Thank you to Justacat for the corrected song lyrics to Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ (I knew ‘I’m dead beyond the wall…’ was probably not right). And a big hug to Bugland and Alchemia Dent for their Quassios (in the delightful ‘A Bittersweet Poison’ at http://rodentfancy.com/fanfic), which was the inspiration for Quaissis. Now, don’t mistake the two, Quassios will crush the bones in a victim’s body. Quaissis is quite different. This is part three of the ‘Beg Me For It’ series. The other parts can be found at http://home.earthlink.net/~dinkbird.
I'll pick up the narration of the story at this point. Oh, this is Percy Weasley. Sorry.
So, I assume you've read 'Beg Me For It' and 'Sex, Drugs and Death Eater Rock', and are familiar with our situation? We held the Ministry for as long as we could -- during which time I was the `Interim Minister of Magic' -- but it fell to the Death Eaters, through no fault of my own. We were simply overrun.
It had been nearly eight months since Ron and I were captured, and quite frankly, `house arrest' was looking more and more like `prison.' I didn't think we were ever getting out of there. Of course, there were rumours of Dumbledore's forces regrouping, but I was in a position to know better. And... eight months... It was a question of survival, and the best way to survive of course, is to be indispensable. Ron did all right at first, and I'd really hoped that my engineering his rescue of Lucius' son would cement his relationship with Lucius, who was, after all, our `boss' at the Death Eater's Ministry of Magic. Ron was never all that, ah, politic, you see.
But I hadn't counted on Draco Malfoy's bad influence, or their crazy plan to fight the Death Eaters from the inside....
Ron woke to a miserably loud clanging, and the sharp jab of what he blearily realised was the second or third kick in the leg. Little bastard. He groaned, tried to feel around the bed-table for the alarm clock, before Draco took revenge on it and broke the damned thing. Clocks were hard to get.
"Turn that obnoxious Howler off!" Draco tried to kick him again, but met air as Ron rolled over and sat up, eyes blurry and unfocused. Ron hit the wrong button, turned the clang up to full shriek, then managed to shut it up - thank God - into blissful silence. He sat there a moment; tried to collect a thought. Remember why he was getting up.
Work. It wasn't the weekend.
`Cause there weren't any weekends anymore.
Fuck, he hated the Death Eaters.
"You're so lovely in the morning," Ron said, rubbing his eyes. For months they'd shared a bed and everything that implied, including things that would shock his brothers. A matter of convenience, right? Yeah, he didn't believe that anymore either. But if there was any time he hated Draco as much as he ever had, it was first thing when he woke up. Neither of them were morning people. And here Draco was teaching him all sorts of ways to kill. It wasn't, if you thought about it, very smart. Pillows could smother... the tie on the floor could choke... Ron's mind did the inventory of weapons in the room automatically now.
Draco cuddled his pillow and promptly hogged both blankets, muttering something that sounded suspiciously like "fuck off."
"Not in the mood..." Ron growled as he shambled, naked, to the shower.
Out there in the cold,
getting lonely, getting old.
Can you feel me?
He felt better after a shower, still sleepy, but alive. He even made breakfast for Draco, who had finally figured out that food got cold when you weren't allowed to use magic. There weren't any house-elves to make him his mid-morning snack either. Ron glanced over his eggs at the pale form across the table; Draco nibbled his toast as daintily as a princess. Heh. A rather tough-looking princess.
Good thing, that. Draco was getting way too thin.
Well. There was no better time to ask.
"Do you know how to cast Quaissis?" Ron asked casually, as if it were a Quidditch score in The Daily Prophet. Like they'd seen that paper in a year.
Draco spluttered crumbs, coughed, then glanced up at him with dark, sharp eyes. "Keep your voice down," he hissed.
That was a yes, unless Ron missed his guess, and entertaining at that. He should startle Draco more often. He had a whole list of ugly spells in a certain dark corner of his mind.
"Do you?" Ron asked, his eyes intent, studying him. He hoped he could tell when Draco lied by now.
"What the - where did you learn about that?" Ron had expected Draco to be surprised, astounded, maybe even impressed; but he sounded angry.
Ron raised his eyebrows.
"The answer is no," Draco said, and answered Ron's snort. "Look, Weasley. Just because I've heard of it doesn't mean I learned it."
He was telling the truth.
"I'll teach you then," Ron said softly. They might need to stop a man's heart when it came down to it. It was no good in a crowd, that eerie memory told him, but one-on-one it could be very effective. "You can't practice, but you can memorize it," he continued, taking a last bite of his eggs. He wiped his mouth and carried the dish to the sink. Ron felt sick listening to those memories that weren't his. But he'd take any advantage.
"Of all the hypocritical..." Draco had slowly recovered his composure. "Years of hounding my family for dark trinkets, and you Weasleys have been practicing murderous black spells in your barnyard! No wonder you live so far from civilised wizards."
Ron turned on him. "That's not where I learned it."
Ron didn't answer. Instead he asked:
"Why did you leave the Death Eaters?"
Draco closed his mouth and stared as Ron slipped his tie tighter and checked himself in the mirror. He hadn't taken another bite of his toast.
With that, Ron went out the door to work. Come off it, Malfoy, he thought, there are worse things than Quaissis.
And unfortunately, Ron worked for them every day.
Standing in the aisles,
with itchy feet and fading smiles.
Can you feel me?
Ron followed their dingy branch of the hall, lit by an ugly bare bulb. Though it once was washed with light from high, magical windows, those were now dark. He turned the corner, and joined the flood of robed bodies that strode, shuffled or otherwise moved through the half-light towards their jobs at the Death Eater-run Ministry.
The crowd slowed as it approached a sloppy wall of new brick and oozing mortar, at odds with the elegant marble floors. One could almost feel all the protective spells radiating off it. Ron wished for one of Percy's passwords so that he could walk right through it. Though, since his robes were green - Lucius' staff - Ron could move to the head of the line if he wanted. But he never pressed for the privilege of being pawed by trolls any quicker. One stood outside a metal door in that wall, and, one at a time, the Ministry prisoners were allowed in.
There used to be two guards outside that door. Ron wondered at that. It was one of a number of odd things he'd noticed recently. Like, there were fewer human guards around these days.
The Ministry `employees' shuffled forward in a vague, disorganised queue.
Ron's turn came, and he sighed. The door clanged shut behind him, and in the pitch-dark, rough, meaty hands patted him down, made him turn out his pockets, then flipped down his cuffs. Trolls were nocturnal and saw better in the dark. It was only scary the first couple of weeks. Well, maybe a little longer than that. But by now it was routine, though the room smelled like a troll's armpit.
He was pushed out the other side of the room, and stood blinking in the light before a spiralling, revolving door that appeared and disappeared in and out of another brick wall. Now this he never got used to; but if he waited too long, they shoved him into it.
He stepped quickly into the revolving glass, the brick wall came up to his face, fast ---
and then the door spun him into the Atrium of the Ministry. Ron staggered slightly. Mentally he could hear Draco criticizing his balance again, saying it was his main weakness as a fighter as he made him run along the top of the couch to improve.
Huh. Balance didn't matter much when he had that skinny runt pinned to the floor.
The high ceiling of the main hall was lost in the listless, shifting light of torches and echoed with the din of voices. The air was stifling, as if they'd sealed off one too many of the air-ducts when they made the Ministry a prison. Long queues stood unmoving before the lifts, and more trolls, like grotesque statues, were spaced evenly between each beaten brass door. Ministry workers were neatly sorted by colour, red robes in one line, yellow in another and so on.
The fountain had long since been torn out, to keep the prisoners visible at all times, and the place always smelled somewhat of damp, and sweat, and dusty grime. A film had gathered along the edges of the hall if you looked, and the floor was lighter where Ministry employees trod every day. The wide fireplaces stood like empty cavernous eyes to either side of Ron, lined with cobwebs, though he took no notice of them anymore - they weren't hooked up to the Floo network - as he made for his elevator line on the far left.
Each elevator went to only one floor. Security. He was lucky; not too many people on the Executive Staff. He pitied the poor sods who worked in Yellow Section, crammed two and three to a cube. Their line stretched around a bend and pooled against the wall. They leaned, chatted, and looked thoroughly bored.
"'Lo, Lawreys, Jewitt," Ron said as he approached. The line of green robes parted for him.
"Good morning, sir."
"G'morning, Mister Weasley." Yeah, He was `Mr. Weasley' here: personnel manager for the Ministry of Magic, and head of Green section -- Lucius' staff. Too bad the pay was zero. It never ceased to amaze him, and confuse him, too, when Percy was in the room as well. Mr. Weasley this, Mr. Weasley that, huh? Huh?
"Like to go to the front of the line, sir?"
Ron snorted. "That would mean I was in a hurry to go to work, now wouldn't it?"
His staff chuckled, if a trifle nervously.
That was borderline, but his bad attitude was legendary. Paradoxically, it also made his Section the most efficient in the Ministry. Though he tended to phrase his instructions, `this is stupid, but I'll have Lucius' boot up my arse if we don't do it' and `I'm hanging over a frying pan with this one, so if you don't mind -'
Ron had a feeling that if his Section weren't the best, if Lucius didn't chalk it up to an unexpectedly effective "management style", he'd catch hell for those comments. It was refreshing though, to say what he thought out loud.
Someone groaned, and Ron saw a notice pinned next to the lift. "Our section has Rec hour tonight -- and Percy's got us down for an extra ten laps!" she complained. "What did we do to him?"
Of course, Percy wasn't the one who came up with these things, but there was no point in saying so. They'd only think he was defending his brother. Then he caught the headline, `Healthy Bodies Make Healthy Minds' and winced. The annoying presentation, on the other hand, was one hundred percent Percy.
The doors to the lift squeaked open, and Ron stepped in. He instinctively glanced at the ceiling. Of course there was nothing there. He missed the fluttering memos still, strangely enough. It was one thing that never left him. But `unauthorized communication between floors is not permitted', per Rule sixty-seven, Section five of -- oh hell, Percy could quote them. He and Draco usually distracted each other too much during the weekly Death Eater meetings to recall much.
He missed the little bugger already.
Hey you, don't help them to bury the light.
Don't give in
Without a fight.
Percy woke in his wide double bed. Sheets slithered, satiny, cool and pleasant on his bare skin -- a birthday present from his boss, Lucius Malfoy, which was much appreciated. It was six am, his favourite time of the day. He liked these quiet moments before anyone was underfoot; it gave him a chance to get a head start on everything.
He pulled the shower curtain aside with a rasp and stepped in. He lathered under the hot stream, thinking of a certain someone with tangled dark curls. Ron had his `little fling' going... perhaps he could... but, no, it was too dangerous. He shook the beads of water from his hair, sighed, and shut off the water. She was a halfblood, and he had a position to maintain after all.
Percy finished his shower and dressed quickly, as Lucius often fire-called from home first thing. He kept a small quill and scroll on the table among his little knick-knacks just for that purpose. Unlike everywhere else, his fireplace was hooked up to the Floo network, though it only worked at Lucius' discretion. Ron's job title might be technically over his, but as Lucius' assistant at the Ministry he had a great deal more responsibility than he'd ever imagined.
Sure enough, while Percy watered his plants and breakfast sizzled on the stove, Lucius' head appeared in the fireplace. Percy could see the hands of a house-elf brushing his hair, weirdly hovering in and out of the flames. The edge of The Daily Prophet twisted into view and Percy peered curiously at a glimpse of a headline that read `East London Recovered by Ministry Forces! Rebels Pushed Back.' Strange, he didn't know it had been lost. He felt faintly guilty for reading it, yet it was always best to learn as much as you could.
"Mister Weasley?" Lucius was always so polite, even when he was in a hurry; if one had to work for Death Eaters, well, one really could do worse. "Ah, there you are. Good morning."
Percy smiled at him, "Good morning, sir. You're up a bit early, aren't you?" He reached for the quill and paper.
"I find it's best to make an early start on the day, before anyone has the opportunity to trouble me with their petty concerns," Lucius said with a smirk. "Though someone arrives at the office even before I do. We must do something about your work habits, Weasley."
Percy blushed, pleased.
So they began their day as usual, with Percy taking notes over his breakfast.
Naturally, Lucius flooed him directly to the cool marble fireplace outside his office so that Percy could rearrange his schedule and contact a number of very important officials. Avery was refusing to send more prisoners to the Ministry because it was `too soft', an ill-disguised attempt to undercut Lucius politically (as if Avery had any chance of unseating Lucius as Minister - or rather - Lord of Magic). But it could prove troublesome later; it was time to call the press secretary for another article on Lucius' impressive accomplishments. Then Lucius' order for the Mudbloods to have a separate lunch from pure-blood prisoners was going to be a complicated logistical mess, but well, Ministry policy. On top of that there were more problems overnight from Yellow Section... tsk, they'd lose more than efficiency points if they kept that up.
Well, he could take care of that problem. Before Lucius did.
Lucius' personal guards nodded to Percy curtly as he stepped out of the fireplace, and one of them unlocked the heavy door to his office. Daniel, Percy thought his name was. Sunlight streamed in through the magical windows.
"Daniel?" he interrupted the soldier as he turned to leave. "Could you have the head of Yellow Section brought to my office at her earliest convenience?"
The young Death Eater had started at the use of his name and gave Percy a sharp look; then he nodded.
Out there on your own,
sitting naked by the phone.
Would you touch me?
Draco finished his last push-up, and rolled over onto his back with a sigh. So Ron knew Quaissis.
It wasn't an Unforgivable really, as it could be reversed -- if you got to the victim fairly quickly. There was a time he would have killed to learn it (quite literally, given the nature of the spell), but he wanted to know where on earth Ron got his information first. He sat up. If it was Fred and George, well, he could forget it. He didn't think that a duel for his life was quite the time to, say, have a bouquet of flowers pop out of his wand.
Perhaps that older brother of his, barricaded behind the Gringotts goblins in Egypt? No, no, Ron clearly meant he didn't learn it from family. And he didn't lie, not about important things; Draco knew that.
He tinkered for a bit with his latest Muggle toy, but the damned thing had a tail that dangled limp, and it refused to animate like it ought. He threw the tiny screwdriver at it. The Black Market dealer had sworn this `telly' would show pictures like a working crystal ball, but he should have known better than to trust a Mudblood.
Draco prowled the tiny flat, bored, working this Quaissis problem in circles. Potter taught him? No. Dumbledore? Don't be ridiculous. Dumbledore taught Potter, who then had taught Weasley? No, not possible. Snape? But he hated Weasleys.
Hmm. Maybe. She could have found it in a book somewhere.
That was bad news, as Ron couldn't possibly know how to cast it then. Essentials were left out of such texts, for the sake of secrecy.
He stalked to the kitchen and pulled open a certain drawer. It jingled and clinked as he pawed through a collection of bottles -- all empty, damn. The day was far too dull to face sober. Fortunately, he was due for a pick-up.
It was past time to visit his contact in Yellow Section.
With your ear against the wall,
waiting for someone to call out.
Would you touch me?
Mabel Pensicotti squirmed uncomfortably on her chair in Percy Weasley's office. Percy walked calmly to the window, staring out of it in an unconscious echo of Lucius Malfoy, then turned.
The head of Yellow Section was an obese, soft-faced woman, whose black hair spilled over her shoulders in flamboyant ringlets. If she were a little thinner she would have been stunning. Though there was nothing wrong with being curvaceous. And she would have been of a good pure-blood family, too, if her grandfather hadn't married a Muggle. Percy thought it odd, these fine lines of chance that marked the difference between one life and another. She stared at Percy with huge brown eyes.
"Miss Pensicotti. You do understand why you're here?" Percy began.
She took a hesitant breath and began in a pleading voice.
"Mister Weasley. I'm sure I can find the ones responsible if you could just give me a little time --"
"This is not the first instance of contraband coming in through Procurement," Percy said firmly.
"It's a large department, Mister Weasley. Nearly four hundred people --"
"Please," he interrupted. "Call me Percy."
"Percy. Four hundred people and our oversight is... a little stretched -- but," she added quickly, "we're tracking them down even as we speak."
He sighed into his hands.
"You understand that there is only so much I can afford to overlook. The situation has been reported to Lucius now. There's nothing more I can do. We give you a lot of leeway in how you handle disciplinary matters." He leaned on the back of his chair. "Perhaps if you were a little more firm with them, Mabel." He sat down and folded his hands primly on his desk. "Ron's staff runs like clockwork. I just don't understand why Yellow has so many problems."
She laughed nervously. "A little more firm with them? Mister Weasley -- Percy -- I... the conditions in Yellow are at the breaking point. The barracks... if we could have private rooms, even four to a room would improve matters. I know there's space on other floors. It's not as though we're asking anyone to relight the windows."
Percy was already shaking his head, even as she spoke. "Your people are of Muggle descent. We can't have pure-blood prisoners and Mudbloods in the same areas. You know that." He shrugged. "And your people, well, they're proving the Death Eater's point."
Her shoulders sank.
"And now, well, we certainly can't reward this sort of behaviour," he added.
"Percy," she said with a helpless gesture and a note of exasperation in her voice. "I will do all I can to track down the trouble-makers, but the conditions are the problem. They know that the other staff have their own rooms, there's rumours of day trips outside, lighted windows..."
She looked around the spacious, elegant office, with its graceful well-lit windows. He took her point immediately.
"This is Lucius' floor." Percy tapped a pen on his desk. "You know, there are those who say that their Muggle relations are the cause, bad blood and such. The contraband is, after all, mostly Muggle." He glanced up at her. "It's very... problematic."
Not to mention embarrassing to Lucius.
"You don't -- you don't believe that?" She stared at him.
Percy rubbed his temples, an unconscious gesture surprisingly like his father. "I don't think I believe anything anymore."
There was a long silence.
Mabel licked her lips. "There's a rumour that pure-blood wizards are trading for Muggle goods. From other Sections."
Percy froze, carefully schooling his expression into one of vague disinterest. He knew who that would be. And it would lead directly back to Ron. How much did Mabel know? It became more important than ever to cut off Draco Malfoy's drug sources. Quickly.
He finally broke the silence.
"Moving them to other floors is quite out of the question. But maybe -- maybe -- we can do some magical expansion -- I don't know." With Avery turning up the heat, even Lucius' hands were tied. It would be hard to convince him, but, perhaps over the long term... "But of course there's absolutely nothing I can do if they act like common criminals. You have to catch these bad apples."
He escorted her to the door and held it open for her. "Get your people under control, Mabel. Remember: ultimately, Lucius holds you responsible for them."
would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart.
I'm coming home.
Draco returned from Yellow Section feeling a bit wide-eyed.
It had been a simple matter to bribe a troll with a fine, half-rotted leg-of-lamb which remained a bargain on their little Black Market; a simple trade for some of his cheaper cosmetics (though no doubt the price would go up if that cook guessed why it had to be rotten). So there had been no trouble on that score. It was always best to know your enemy's weaknesses. He slid two bottles out from under his robes and set them on the counter. Yellow was an appalling pigsty, of course, and if he could find a cleaner source for these `little essentials', he'd give it a wide berth. He pulled out a glass and poured himself a drink, and made it a double while he was at it.
The state of Yellow Section wasn't the shock. He had news for Ron.
He emptied his glass.
Leaned into the bedroom and peered at the clock. It was almost lunchtime.
It seemed he was going to go to work for the first time in his life. Quickly, he changed out of the ill-fitting yellow robe into one for Green section.
He checked himself automatically in the mirror, slicking his hair back carefully. If he hurried, he could intercept Ron before he left for Percy's office.
Ron and Draco shuffled forward slowly through the noisy lunch line in what used to be the Ministry cafeteria. Ministry hospitality and selection had somewhat diminished of late: at the end of the line was a large vat of some kind of `stew.' Draco dearly hoped that that leg of lamb wasn't in it. A notice hovered in midair `Please take only one dessert. A balanced meal is essential to good health. ~ Percy Weasley,' but there were no desserts in sight.
"This had better be good," Ron nudged him. "Percy has actual food."
Draco scowled. "I'm here, aren't I?" He gestured disdainfully at the masses of bodies collecting their swill. He had never been in this place before, not even when his father and he had visited the Ministry before the war. Looking around, he planned to make this his last visit too, if at all possible.
They found an unobtrusive corner, leaned close together over the table to hear each other in the cacophony of voices. There was food spilt on the table, and something encrusted, too, so Draco held his bowl over it gingerly, wrinkling his nose. After a sample, he made a face, set the bowl down and ignored it. Ron gave him an amused look and somehow managed to swallow a spoonful of the horrid stuff.
"Still want to complain about my cooking?" Ron smirked at him. He stirred his spoon in the bowl.
"Oh, put a sock in it. This hardly makes you a master chef. But where are the desserts? Not that I'm looking forward to it given the entre, mind you," Draco asked.
"That?" Ron shrugged. "Oh, they discontinued those when they stopped the performance awards, months ago."
Draco frowned. "Why don't they take down the signs?"
Ron snorted. "I don't think Percy's ever been up here. Anyway, people know there's no dessert." Draco scowled and said nothing. It was a mistake - it was the little things that got under people's skin -- but far be it for him to help the Death Eaters prevent a riot.
Which seemed to be already underway. There was a loud scuffle at the doorway, and one of the Troll-guards roared at a group of people in yellow robes, who edged back from the entrance.
Ron grabbed a passer-by in a red robe. "What's going on?" He nodded in the direction of the door.
"Percy!" the young man snarled. "He's issued a new order to ban the Muggle-born from eating lunch with us -- but their lunch-hour's from noon to one, just like everyone else's! God knows what they're going to do about dinner."
Ron released him. "You know, Percy doesn't make up these rules..."
"Whatever." The young man brushed him off, and Ron stared after him with a helpless expression.
"I don't know why you bother." Draco glanced carefully over his shoulder, and said softly, "Well, here it is: I heard back from our friends. `They' have got someone on the inside." Ron's eyebrows went up into his hairline. Rumours had flown with each new prisoner that Dumbledore's forces had taken the outlying areas, and might soon strike at the Ministry itself. Naturally, those hopeful rumours had always been tossed about, but this, a deliberate infiltration, was new. And it came from unpaid sources with no reason to lie. "Though my friends didn't know who or where. At least, not yet at any rate."
"It's going to be soon then. No way they'd risk it otherwise."
"That's my guess."
Ron was silent a long moment, thoughtful.
"Any word if they got the `stuff'?" Ron had spent many long hours carefully mapping guard positions, shift changes, indicating any spells and wards he knew were in use. Then Draco's careful embezzlement had paid a long string of drug dealers handsomely to get them to someone -- anyone -- connected to Dumbledore. But there was no telling if they just took the gold and ran. Which frankly, is what Draco would do in their places. He shook his head.
Ron took a deep breath. "Okay. Well, here's hoping. Guess it's time to talk to my brother."
Ron started to speak but Draco cut short the complaint. "Do what you like, just you keep my part out of it; you know my opinion of that supercilious rat."
"Spoken like a true ferret."
Ron nudged him under the table. "...elf."
Draco couldn't help but smirk a little at the reminder of their first time. "Boss," he said, with a lascivious smile. And the look Ron gave him promised a pleasantly long night. Weasley was never boring, he'd hand him that.
Oh. Yes. And there was one last pressing matter.
Draco leaned back in his chair with a self-satisfied smirk. "So. Did you learn it from Granger?"
Ron should know by now that he wasn't easily distracted by minor matters. He looked puzzled, however, so Draco mouthed "Quaissis" at him across the table. He was so sure he had him.
"Answer my question first," Ron said, implacably, without looking up from his stew.
It was only a fantasy.
The wall was too high, as you can see.
No matter how he tried, he could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.
Ron's weekly report to Percy was at two o'clock. He stretched in the same chair, if he'd known, that Mabel had that morning, though considerably more comfortably. His legs were crossed in front of him and Percy tossed him a chocolate.
Ron snapped it out of the air. "Thanks."
"Missed you at lunch."
"Sorry, something came up," he said casually. His report, as usual, was stellar.
Ron's visits always put Percy in a pleasant mood; nothing like good news for the boss. Lucius had little enough these days.
"Developing a work ethic this late?" Percy snickered as he jotted down his statistics for Lucius. Ninety-nine percent efficiency was impressive.
"Fat chance. No," Ron said, "interesting news though." His next words were enunciated very carefully: "Remember the party?"
Percy looked up. Ron met his eyes.
How could he forget? He had woken, half-drunk, to find his brother and Draco Malfoy entwined virtually naked on the floor. Discussing treason, casually, as if they'd planned it a long time. And then they had... oh, yes, he'd say it had been memorable. "Ah. Yes."
"Have you thought about it?" Ron continued.
Percy's expression grew serious. He cleared his throat and stood. "Um. Why don't I walk you back to your office?"
He nodded to Daniel and the other guard as Ron turned towards the main exit. But around the corner, Percy pulled him towards the fire escape doors and gave the password:
"Paraclesis. Technically I shouldn't know this but..."
As they climbed the dusty, echoing stairs, Percy apologized. "Sorry about the grime. The statues, down the main halls... they're all golems."
"The eyes are hooked up to a central command post, they can see everywhere. They've always obeyed and protected the Minister of Magic, it's common knowledge -- but the thing with the eyes, that's new. Lucius' invention. I'm not sure if they can listen, too, but I don't fancy taking the chance." He stopped at a landing.
Ron took that as his cue, and began in an urgent voice. "It's a go, Percy. It's going to happen. Soon."
"No, Ron! It's too risky. In fact, you'd better watch your little comments from here on out. This is the worst possible time! Avery's undercutting Lucius --"
"-- you'll get us saddled with Lestrange, we're short-staffed and Dumbledore's not doing well!"
"What -? Lestrange? Dumbledore -- how do you know that?"
Percy lowered his voice. "The Death Eaters have retaken East London."
"You mean they lost half of London?" Their voices echoed weirdly on the stairs.
"Whatever -- the fact is they've retaken it. There was an article in The Prophet." Percy rolled his eyes at Ron's stunned expression. "Oh, don't look at me like that, I don't get newspapers; I just caught a glimpse of it. And I had to put pressure on Mabel today; things in Yellow are getting ugly, so for God's sakes keep Malfoy out of there."
"His little `business'? Don't think I don't know he's still at it. His `friends' are in Yellow Section. He's going to suck you down with him, Ron, if you're not careful. There's going to be a crackdown. I can smell it."
"There's always a crackdown," Ron said. "It's getting worse and worse! Haven't you looked around lately? Have you seen Yellow Section? And what's with them not getting lunch now?"
"That was a mix-up." Percy rubbed his eyes in frustration, knocking his glasses askew. "There was a memo with their new one o'clock lunch hour and it wasn't supposed to start until tomorrow but then Lucius countermanded me -- he wanted it effective immediately. I told you: Avery's turning up the heat. He can't afford to look soft on Mudbloods."
Ron was silent a moment.
"You said `Mudbloods.'"
The realisation hit Percy with an almost physical force, and he stared at the floor. Their footprints made a rough circle in the dust where they stood facing each other.
Finally, he spoke softly. "You could be killed."
Ron's jaw was set. "Don't try to stop me, Percy."
Out there on the road,
always doing what you're told.
Can you help me?
Ron opened the fire escape door and stopped at a sudden shrill, ululating shriek. He waited for the hex, helpless without his wand. But nothing happened. He slowly entered Green Section, looking for the source of the noise, when a junior Clerk, Dawson, spotted him.
"Oh, thank goodness, I didn't realise you were here!" he shouted over the din. He pulled Ron forward.
"What the hell is --" then Ron saw. Scattered throughout the office, men and women were trapped inside what looked like large, dark soap bubbles, hammering frantically inside them. "Omigod."
"Don't touch the cabinets!" Dawson warned. "Percy's new restrictions on parchment? There's a hex! Someone took an extra roll, and half the staff... we're not sure how much air they have!"
"Oh, for fuck's sake! And Percy couldn't be bothered to tell us? Pop them!" Ron ordered. The clerk gave him a dismal look. "Okay, you tried that. Eunice!" He ran for his assistant's office.
Quickly, he had his secretary fill out a requisition form that he back-dated, and then he reached for the cabinet.
He stopped. And then handed the form to her:
Glaring and terrified, she shifted her glasses up the bridge of her nose and opened the drawer. A smoky black bubble immediately coalesced and expanded about the horrified woman, just as the paper slid into place. On the parchment, blue light traced his signature, flowing around the firm, dark strokes, agonizingly slow; it glowed white-hot with the Verification Spell...
...and then the bubble melted around her. The shrieking noise in the office suddenly stopped. Eunice glared at him furiously.
Loud gasps and panting could be heard throughout office in the sudden, painful silence. Several people sat on the floor, exhausted. It would have been so easy to banish the bubbles if they'd all had their wands, but they were as helpless as Muggles. Ron felt like an insect trapped in an experiment gone badly wrong.
"All right." he said at last, folding his arms; he caught their eyes one by one. "Whoever did this, I want you to look around." The men and women nervously glanced at each other, trying not to look like the culprit.
He continued. "You need anything? You come to me. If you need to bend or break a rule -- that's fine -- you still come to me. Got that? I don't care, nor do I want to know whose fault this is. But after I leave tonight, I want that roll of parchment on - my - desk."
Ron stormed into his office.
"You're a hard man, Weasley," said an amused voice from the corner.
His blond hair gleamed in the dim corner where he sprawled, elegant and casual, on the little couch. Ron's office windows were dark, but the furniture was comfortable, if a bit worn. Eunice hustled anxiously into the room.
"This man here, says he has an appointment, I was going to tell you --" She was clearly irritated with the young man who stared down his nose at her; though she was probably still mad at Ron, too.
"You must have forgotten to write it down," said Draco, calmly studying his nails.
"No, she didn't." Ron rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, Eunice. He works here."
"He does?" she said, disbelieving.
"If you stretch the definition. A lot."
"Yes. And I'm here for your `status report', Ron."
She sniffed at Draco, set a stack of scrolls on Ron's desk and left. The door shut behind her crisply.
"So. You had your secretary nearly suffocate for you, oh-brave-man?" Draco asked with a rather smug smile on his face.
"Don't look at me like that. If it hadn't worked and I was in a bubble, what would they have done then?" Ron said. He moved behind his desk and shoved the scrolls aside. They were all routine. "But you're right. I'll talk to her."
"Tsk. And here I thought I was rubbing off on you, giving you a little Slytherin sensibility..."
"Shut up, Draco," Ron said with forced calm. "He said no. There's your `status report.'"
Draco's chin lifted with a sudden intake of breath, and he paused. Then his mouth made a defiant line:
"We don't need him."
Ron leaned on his hands over his desk. "Like hell we don't."
The door opened before they could say anything more. Everyone knew not to knock for Mr. Weasley.
"Sir?" It wasn't Eunice, but a senior staff member, Lawreys. "Percy dropped a load of work on us at the last minute again..."
"...and now we need you to draft a job description."
"Just use the old one," Ron snapped.
"Uh... I don't think we can, sir. It's senior management, and top level at that." Lawreys said nothing more, but his serious eyes spoke volumes.
"Top level?" Ron's eyes grew wide. "My God. Who?"
Lawreys shook his head. "Mister Malfoy said he needs it today."
"Lucius requested it," Ron repeated, as his blood ran cold. He'd hurriedly dipped his quill. His hand froze, and the ink pooled on the form like dark blood. "Why -- where's Percy?"
Lucius Malfoy leaned back, his hands folded, his elbows resting on the arms of his chair. The crystal windows behind him were lit with sunset, and the high ceilings of his office gave the effect of a cathedral. Percy's shoes clicked on the polished marble floors as he approached for his end of day report; he felt he had done rather well today, if he didn't say so himself.
In his usual chair, however, sat Daniel. The guard. Percy glanced about in confusion -- there was no other seat -- then finally simply stood. Lucius studied Percy like a specimen for a long, slow moment.
"I understand you had a little meeting today."
Percy's throat went dry. Ron hadn't said anything directly incriminating in his office. There were no listening devices in the fire escapes... nobody had the passwords so there was no reason to... "Sir?"
"Apparently, you spoke with Miss Pensicotti this morning," Lucius continued, skewering Percy with a glare.
"Why," Percy couldn't believe his relief, "yes. I took it upon myself to resolve the problems in Yellow, sir."
"You take much upon yourself," Lucius said in a dangerous purr. He leaned forward. "And you promised them you would expand their quarters? The Mudbloods?"
What did she say? "No sir! I did no such thing. I said I'd look into the possibility. For -- for the future." When Lucius said nothing, he added, "Miss Pensicotti has reassured me that --"
"Miss Pensicotti has been taken care of." His tone was final.
She was gone. Executed; or else transferred to Avery's dungeon at best. She would not last long there. A traitorous thought was grateful that Lucius had already spent his ire for the day, before he could do even more damage.
Lucius turned to his guard and inclined his head graciously. "Daniel. Please bring in Mister Weasley."
The guard smirked at Percy as he crossed the floor. His soft boots made barely a whisper of sound. Then a very frightened Ron Weasley was led into the room, slowly crossing the sunlight-washed marble. No binding spells were on him though, and he was free to move on his own. Percy only hoped it would stay that way. He had seen far too many prisoners, and knew all too well how Lucius liked to catch people off-guard. Percy schooled his face into an expression of polite interest, though he doubted it fooled Lucius: they had worked together too long now.
They both waited patiently for the Lord of Magic to speak. "Mister Weasley. How good of you to come. I trust it wasn't too difficult for you?"
Ron nodded, with a slight puzzled frown at these words.
"I appreciate that you found the time in your rather busy schedule." Lucius examined his carefully manicured nails.
Percy's mind frantically spun on all the extra activities Ron might have been involved in today. He had skipped lunch with Percy -- where was he then? -- there was the conversation in the stairs who knew what else...
Lucius continued smoothly. "I understand, Mister Weasley, you made a comment this morning... what was it, Daniel? Oh. Yes. `That would mean I'm in a hurry to go to work' Or words to that effect."
Ron boggled at him. "Yes, sir."
"You realise of course this diminishes morale amongst the staff." Lucius unrolled a scroll on his desk and scanned it. "Now, I see from Percy's reports that your department, Green, is only at ninety-nine percent efficiency."
"That's the best in the Ministry!" Ron said, and then caught himself. "Sir."
Lucius' eyes glittered at him. "I expect one hundred percent from all of my departments."
Percy couldn't stand it any longer. "Sir, if I may point out, Green is short-staffed. Young Mister Malfoy has yet to report for work even once. That is the reason for the... shortfall...."
Oh, he should not have spoken -- he knew it already. But where his little brother was concerned... Percy wiped his palms on his robe and tried to remain calm. His mind grasped at swiftly disappearing straws.
Lucius' mouth hardened. "Mister Weasley is responsible for his staff. No doubt he has some influence, else he can make up the difference himself. I trust I don't need to explain to you, at least, the expectations I have of my managers." He smiled at Percy, who swallowed. The reference to Mabel Pensicotti was all too clear. This was his fault. He had overstepped his authority. "Good."
"That is, if it's not too much trouble for you, Mister Weasley?"
Ron's Adam's apple bobbed. "No, sir."
out there beyond the wall,
breaking bottles in the hall.
Can you help me?
Ron fumbled with his keys at the door to his flat. Bloody Muggle locks.
No help from Percy... close call with Lucius... He was going to be glad when this day was over.
They had to go to recreation hour that night but there was probably enough time for a bath. Maybe he could even talk Draco into a massage. When he was smashed, he'd do pretty much anything, and just coming back from Yellow meant... Ron finally jiggled the door open, stepped through...
...a lead weight landed on his back. His jaw thumped against the carpeted floor, began to throb as Ron struggled to catch his breath -- the wind was knocked out of him. Draco shouted:
"Damn it, Ron! Always look up! How many times do I have to tell you? Never - ever! - drop your guard."
With a snarl, Ron wrenched himself over and swiftly pinned the little wretch beneath him. Draco squirmed like a trapped rat while Ron swore a blue streak. Finally he stopped struggling.
"Missed me?" Draco said. Grinning, too! The rotten-little-crazy-bastard! Ron swore louder.
"Dammit, Malfoy, I have had a shitty day and -- training or no training -- I do not need you pouncing on me at all hours. For once I'd like to come home to some peace and quiet!"
He got up, and Draco rolled aside. "So sorry, Ron. We'll simply put the war on hold till you have a better day." He dusted himself off. "I'll contact the Death Eaters and let them know you are not in the mood."
Unfortunately, the little prick was right. But Ron needed some ice for his jaw now.
An hour later, Ron rolled over with a lazy sigh. "Hmmm...."
He wasn't sure how this had led to the bedroom, but hell, he had no complaints. He'd even got his massage. Nights were his favourite time, when all the worries were gone and he didn't have to think about tomorrow. Draco stretched out alongside him, leaning up on an elbow, his eyelashes flickering as he took Ron in, from head to toe, with a pleased expression. He leaned in for another kiss. Ron was happy to oblige, so long as he didn't have to move. Why he and Draco didn't kiss in the early days, he couldn't remember.
"Last call," Draco warned, glancing at the clock. "Rec hour's in forty minutes."
"You're going to have to pour me into my clothes... by the teaspoonful...."
"I'm in no hurry for you to be dressed..." His fingers stroked in and out of Ron, who squirmed playfully. "So tell me... where did you learn that spell, hmm?"
Ron chuckled. "Mister Curious. You never give up..."
Draco merely smiled, as his thumb traced under Ron's balls, teasing the hair.
"Hmmmmrrrm. All right... I remember how to do it. Some bad business in fifth year... got tangled up with a dark wizard's brain. I don't like to talk about it." Ron opened one bright eye. "Your turn. Why won't you tell me why you left the Death Eaters?"
Draco's face darkened, and his hands stopped. "You wouldn't understand."
"I can understand leaving. Joining in the first place, now..."
"You're a Weasley."
"Last I checked." Ron snorted.
Draco ignored that. "You're not really one of us," he said.
Ron squinted up at him. Us?
"You're pure-blood, but not one of the true wizarding families, that keep to the old ways," Draco said in a patient voice, as if explaining to a small child. He began pulling on his trousers.
"Let's just say that there are certain things that make a pure-blood wizard who he is. If you take those things away... well. You just can't. And only a Mudblood `Dark Lord' would ever consider it."
Which didn't answer his question exactly; but then, Ron hadn't really answered either, had he?
At Rec hour, Ron did the required laps about the track, giving Draco the finger where he lounged against the wall, yawning theatrically. All right, the ferret might be faster, but Ron could still bench more, and all the push-ups in the world weren't going to change that. Yeah, he knew Draco was working out on the sly.
Ron trotted his last lap, glancing about for Percy. He had new arguments to persuade him to at least give them the passwords to the fire escapes. Mentally, he'd timed the steps earlier -- it had taken about twenty seconds per flight -- which made fifteen minutes from the Atrium to the bottom floor. That would solve a lot. Unfortunately, Percy was nowhere to be seen, exempt (as usual) from Lucius' whimsical decrees.
He flopped down next to Draco, who had already commandeered the Muggle chess set. It was missing some pieces, but worked for what they needed.
"What floor today?" Draco said softly, leaning rather close. They didn't bother to keep their love life a secret: too convenient for one thing. When Draco was around, the uncomfortable prisoners gave them both a wide berth, though it was hard to say how much the name `Malfoy' had to do with that.
"Atrium," Ron mumbled. Then he set out the pieces in a conformation that had nothing at all to do with chess; black pieces for Death Eater guards, white for themselves. The trolls ignored the two young men playing with `toys,' too stupid to comprehend even normal chess, let alone this. "If it were me, I would try to draw all our ugly `friends' there and take them out: no cover..." he murmured in Draco's ear.
"Ooo, checkmate." Draco examined the board and snuggled closer, as if they were having a little tte tte, but his eyes were coolly calculating as he scanned the board. "However. Doesn't that block my route to the lifts?"
Ron nodded grimly. "But there's a way around it."
Draco raised his eyebrows questioningly, in a quick, subtle gesture.
Ron mouthed: "Percy."
"I thought we already established you were barking up the wrong tree there." Draco sighed.
don't tell me there's no hope at all.
Percy decided to skip recreation hour, as he had far too much work left to do. He had the freedom to set his own schedule, though it came with additional responsibility. The day's events had made that very clear. Outside his windows, the magical light mimicked the soft glow of early evening.
He still had to polish up that article for The Prophet for one thing. They couldn't have a reporter write it. Too chancy that they might ask to visit to see the Ministry for themselves. The Death Eaters could do as they liked, but Lucius meant to win the people. No... a carefully vetted article was best.
He also had to draw up a list of `approved' candidates to replace Pensicotti.
He set the job description on his desk, written in Ron's looping handwriting. Then he padded across his wide marble floor to the `employee' files, the rasp of the drawer loud in the silence of the empty office. Percy had a list from the last turnover; Yellow went through managers like water, though Pensicotti had lasted longer than most. He'd even gotten to know her.
He took the list out with shaky hands.
As he'd suspected, it was too old to be of much use. Half these people were gone. And the department would erupt in chaos if it didn't have a head soon. Percy fervently wished Lucius would inform him before he did anything... so drastic.
He squatted and from the bottom drawer, took out a thick stack of C.V.'s for the current members of Yellow Section, wondering if maybe he should make sure the next one was someone he didn't like. Who wasn't rather soft and pretty. Percy ran his hand through his hair, and sat on the floor like a child.
She was dead. She had been there just that morning. In that chair. And now she was dead. It didn't seem real.
And all he had felt was relief that the tentacles didn't extend to his little brother. That was wrong somehow. He forced himself to scan the list of C.V.'s, looking for any possible management experience. He got back up off the floor and sat behind his desk. And Ron insisted on putting himself in harm's way.
Percy absently reached for a chocolate; his replacement for a dinner he hadn't eaten, Ron would say. If he were here, he'd probably take the box away, hold it out of reach and say `Go home. Eat. It can't be that important.' Ron was taller than him now.
Percy paused. He suddenly gazed about his office. At the expansive marble floor. The wide desk, with his nameplate. The little palm tree in the corner and the sound of water from the fountain outside his door. The elegant pictures on the walls, and lovely windows.
The small, comfortable chair that sat empty.
He held a chocolate in his hand still. Chocolates from Lucius.
He could save himself. But he could not protect Pensicotti.
He swept the chocolates off his desk in a swift gesture. They scattered with a loud pattering; he heard one roll under the desk. Percy lifted a shaky hand to his forehead and recovered his composure, fought back the hot tears.
Then, carefully, he picked up the chocolates, one by one. Lucius couldn't suspect a thing. The door opened a crack.
"Sir?" It was one of the guards. Percy glanced up. It wasn't Daniel. There were such fine lines of chance between one life and another; between life and death. He was the only one in the Ministry with two guards outside his office.
"I dropped something," he explained. "Sorry to disturb you." The guard nodded, disinterested, and walked away.
Together we stand.
Divided we fall.
Ron roused from a doze, spat out a lock of Malfoy's hair, and realised someone had knocked at the door. The sound came again.
It was midnight.
What the hell?
The door cracked open, and wide, sleepy eyes blinked at Percy. Typically, Ron wasn't dressed, Percy snorted to himself. It didn't take many guesses what he'd been up to. Draco emerged from the bedroom, slightly more decent, wearing an enormous shirt that was probably Ron's. A mixture of curiosity and irritation played across his face.
The door admitted Percy, then shut quietly behind him.
"So. Um. What is it you need from me?" Percy asked in a soft voice.
Next a short piece. But first, please review!
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