Percy Weasley sat in a quiet booth at the back of the restaurant. There were groups of people chatting, eating their dinner, or dancing out by the band. He was sitting alone, nursing a glass of water, waiting to meet someone. He could see what went off outside the booth, but thanks to the excellent privacy spells set on the tables here, it was as quiet as if he’d been the only one in the place.
I hate this. I hate that I’m early every week, I hate sitting here alone, waiting for him, I hate that he’s going about this so… so unprofessionally. This is it. This time I tell him I’m not humouring him any more, he can deliver his report like a normal person.
Percy looked up as a man slipped onto the bench across from him. "Hello, Oliver."
"Hullo Percy, how was your week?" Oliver asked jovially.
Percy restrained a sigh. They went through this routine every week, and had for well over six months now. "I’m quite well Oliver, and you?" he said politely.
"Great!" said Oliver, "I don’t know if you saw in the paper, but we won the game against the Cannons by a landslide the other day."
Percy couldn’t help the half smile that appeared on his face, as Oliver practically bounced in his seat. The other man’s single-minded obsession amused him. And as it so happened, he had seen the article on the game. Oliver’s playing had been described as ‘innovative’ and ‘brilliant’. And knowing Oliver, he had no doubt the description was accurate. "I heard," was all he said.
The waitress brought them their usual meals, smiling at them in her motherly fashion. Throughout the meal, Oliver chatted about inconsequential things, and despite Percy’s resolve to get the information and leave, he found himself relaxing, and enjoying the meal. At last, the waitress came and collected their plates, asking if they wanted dessert. They both refused, as always, and paid for their meals.
Percy looked at Oliver expectantly. "Well?" he asked.
Oliver looked amused. "Don’t rush me Percy, I’ll get to it."
Trying to summon up an exasperated look, Percy replied, "You know this is bizarre. Penny sends me reports in with my work papers, written in code. I meet Daniel and Ahmed at a different location every three days. You are the ONLY person who insists on going out for dinner, at the same place every week no less! We’re going to attract notice eventually." This too was part of the weekly routine. Even though it did no good, Percy felt obliged to point out the idiocy of Oliver’s plan once again. He braced himself for the usual answer.
Oliver grinned. He really did seem to relish saying this every week. Lately, Percy had been wondering if he shouldn’t redefine ‘unholy glee’ from being the expression the twins got over another of their godawful inventions to being the expression Oliver got when he said this. "But Percy, the food here is great, and besides, we’re regulars here now." He paused for effect. "Besides, everyone thinks this is just the slowest courtship in wizard history."
Percy winced despite himself. He really didn’t understand the other man’s sense of humour in the least. Before he could continue with his traditional tirade, however, Oliver broke the script.
"So you said that the twins had been bugging to help your dad so much now that they’re graduated that your dad was actually going to bring them into the ‘family business’" he remarked.
Percy felt the delighted smile grow on his face at the memory. "Oh yes, he sat them down and had a little talk."
"And they report to me every Sunday at dinner," Percy announced with a smirk.
Oliver laughed. "How’d they take the news that you were head of the largest network of spies in the country, answerable only to Dumbledore?"
"They were – " Percy paused for reflection. "-Exceedingly surprised. Not as angry at being kept in the dark as I expected. Just very…shocked." It had been a very strange experience, really. As much as he’d gotten a certain vindictive entertainment from seeing their view of him turned upside down, it was a little disconcerting to have them now treating him like a total stranger. But then, he supposed he really was a stranger to them.
"Well, I for one am glad that they were finally set straight," Oliver said firmly. "Used to set my teeth on edge when they’d dismiss you or assume the worst of you. You started this whole thing!"
Percy flushed, trying not to show how pleased he was by the other man’s compliment. "Well, someone would have, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time." He said uncomfortably. With someone who didn’t know who he was, he would have put on his customary front of blustering pride. That was merely for show though, and he couldn’t even consider doing it around Oliver.
"Well," said Oliver, backing away from the subject graciously, "time to report, oh captain my captain" He stood, and held out a hand to Percy, which Percy took with a sigh. They walked out to the dance floor together, and fell into a gentle swaying.
Against his will, Percy relaxed against Oliver. This was the part that really disturbed him. That every week he looked forward so much to dancing with Oliver.
"Terrier had a meeting with Lucas, Wednesday evening. They were discussing the new location of some of the weapons and stores they’re accumulating. It’s about 3 miles out of North Umbridge. I did a night flyby. It’s fairly heavily guarded Percy… they’re not taking any chances this time."
Percy tried to ignore the warmth of Oliver’s breath, as he whispered the report into his ear. Tried to focus on what was being said. Knowing the location of the new storehouse could make a big difference for their side. "How many wizards?" he asked quietly, as Oliver pulled him closer still.
"Only 4 wizards, but they’ve hired Muggles, and there are 20 of them there, at least at night." Came the reply, and Percy fought off the customary dizziness that seemed to result from dancing with Oliver like this.
"They’re bringing Muggles into this?" Percy instantly saw the advantage to the enemy. While they had no qualms about what the Muggles found out or what happened to them, Dumbledore’s people did. Plans began to spin through his head. If a diversion could be arranged, he could apparate into the building, and if not destroy it, at least get a clearer account of what weapons they possessed. Maybe a bit of light sabotage.
"Percy…." Oliver whispered warningly into his ear, before resting his head against Percy’s. "Don’t even think about it. Our job is to collect the information. Your job is to collate all of it, figure out the sense of it, and notify the correct people, discreetly."
"I wasn’t thinking of doing anything else," Percy complained.
"Were too," muttered Oliver. He raised his head to look Percy in the eye. "I mean it Percy, I don’t want anything to happen to you okay?"
A feeling almost like pain went through Percy as he looked into the soft brown eyes. He hated it when Oliver did things like this… at least, he was almost certain he hated it. Either that or it was possible that he lived for the moments Oliver looked at him like that. "I’m sending the information to Dumbledore," he said, resigned. "If he says we’re to get further information, you’ll be one of the first ones I pull to help," he said. There, a compromise.
Oliver’s look was all too clearly understanding. "At least that way I can make sure you don’t do anything ridiculously brave," he said, with a faint smile. When Percy started to protest, he leaned in again, and murmured, "You’re never going to live down the Patagonia incident, you know that."
Percy, who was considering fainting at the thought of how close they were, and how little movement he’d have to make to kiss Oliver, replied half-heartedly, "There was never any danger. And I DID free the prisoners, so I don’t see what the fuss is about." He really didn’t. The wizards had needed to be rescued before they could be interrogated too closely. The fact that he’d gone in alone had nothing to do with foolhardiness, and everything to do with the fact that one person could get in and out easier, and Percy just happened to be the one ‘in the area’. Oliver had never forgiven him for not taking him along.
The song ended, and they stepped apart. Percy found himself breathless and tried to hide it. If Oliver had more news to pass along, they would dance again. If not, he would leave now, and Percy wouldn’t see him for another week.
Oliver looked at him and shook his head slightly. That was all. Trying not to show his disappointment, Percy reached out to shake his hand. "Well, it was nice seeing you again Oliver," he said pompously, wincing as he fell back into his act.
Oliver took his hand with an amused look, and then brought it up to his lips, and kissed it. Very gently, very slowly. Percy’s heart stopped, and he frantically tried to remind himself that this ‘courtship’ was Oliver’s idea of a joke, not something serious. He must have decided to make it look like it was going somewhere. Percy could feel his face burning with embarrassment. When Oliver let go of his hand and said goodbye, he just stood there looking at him, unable to muster the words. For whatever reason, Oliver looked pleased as he walked out.
Percy sighed and went back to the booth to fetch his cloak. He was going to need to pay Dumbledore a visit tonight; he’d wasted enough time on this nonsensical meeting. Next time, I tell him, enough is enough. He can deliver his report like a normal person.
The waitress stopped by as he was putting on his cloak. "He’s getting pretty serious now, isn’t he boy," she said with a smile and a raised eyebrow. "If I were you, I wouldn’t let him walk out of here alone next week."
He stumbled trying to come up with a response, but she simply gave him another motherly smile and headed back to the kitchen. Don’t let him walk out alone. As if it were that simple.
As usual, this meeting had left him with a tangled knot of conflicting feelings. As he walked out the door he admitted to himself that regardless of Oliver’s intentions, the mock ‘courtship’ had been an unparalleled success. He brightened abruptly as he realized that he might be able to use the waitress’s comment as an excuse to take their weekly pretence up a level. He was quite certain that when confronted with the simple fact that they had to keep things believable, Oliver would be willing to do so. He was whistling to himself as he disapparated.
Oliver Wood smiled to himself from the shadows of the alleyway, looking fondly at the spot the other man had vanished from. He didn’t even notice the watcher in the building across the way. But then, neither of them ever did.