Break - Chapter 8

Percy wakes up knowing that something's gone wrong, and he is certain that he doesn't want to know what it is. The bed Zabini placedhim in is comfortable, and he revels in the cool sheets for a moment. The changes of environment he's been through are tremendous; from a sweaty room at the Burrow, to a cramped efficiency flat perfect for yet another Ministry drone, to a blood-soaked cell that in retrospect does not feel real, to the simple luxury of Zabini Manor.

Percy is sweating. He sits up, rubs at his eyes, reaches for his glasses. After a moment, he turns to greet Zabini's crisp gaze on him as he stands in the doorway.

"Scrimgeour's dead," Zabini says, delivers it with the right timbre for a rigid fence-sitter.

Percy always liked Scrimgeour. There was no first-name status, no good-old-boy talk, Scrimgeour was all business and rules and orders. He was always in the head of the enemy, no matter who the enemy was, Voldemort or Harry Potter himself. It was all about strategy. Minister Fudge was one kind of man, but Minister Scrimgeour was another, more efficient type. A bastard, truly, but a smart one.

He's surprised to find himself saddened. He didn't think he could mourn for anyone anymore, not with the sheer numbers of the dead, but he was wrong. "Who killed him?"

Zabini walks in, all aristocratic grace. Long ago Percy would have envied him this, this house and this life. Well, at least he had never been faced with the decision; the Mark or your life, or the lives of your family... "There's some debate on that, but I personally suspect it was Theodore Nott."

The name is not familiar to Percy. "A Death Eater?"

Zabini laughs, a sound of pure appreciation. "No," he nearly sneers, and takes a seat on the bed. "Shall I give you a lesson in recent politics, Weasley?"

"Recent politics, see the obituaries in The Daily Prophet," Percy says dully; he's the last of their kind to survive, isn't he? How ridiculous.

Zabini seems annoyed with him. "The Ministry isn't everything. I told you of the resistance?" When Percy gives a weary nod, he goes on. "These things aren't simple, Weasley - this was my job, to know these things, to be able to predict their movements. It's just pure logic." He raises two fingers. "Two resistance groups. One. The 'blood-traitors,' shall we say, those who give a damn about rights for Mudbloods. The ones who believe Potter is still alive... et cetera. There's more to that, but we'll start out slow..."

Percy desperately wants a cup of tea, but even now politeness seems to matter. He gives Zabini a withering glare for that "slow" comment, but fixes his glasses and continues to listen. "And the second group?"

Zabini looks to his impeccable fingernails instead of Percy. It's strange in such an intimate setting, and for Zabini who rarely seems awkward at all. "The second group are the real purity fighters. Some former Death Eaters, not many. They realize the truth of the matter, that the Dark Lord is ... is mad, and not really fighting for purity. Not anymore. It's all about Harry Potter. One halfblood for the lives of several hundred purebloods?" He speaks with pure disgust. "No."

"But of course they work separately," Percy reasons. Ideology makes every difference in the world, from Fudge to Scrimgeour to Mr. Crouch, all of whom had the right ideas but simply couldn't unite the people.

The vitriol recedes, leaving Zabini as dry as before. "They bicker," he says, with weariness aging his voice. "Padma and Theo had a particularly heated exchange over Draco Malfoy, before she was captured."

"You're in the second group," Percy realizes.

Zabini shrugs, running his fingertips over the patterned duvet. "I dabbled, it was brief, I had bigger and better things - "

" - You're still talking to them now, though," Percy clarifies, sitting forward. His robes are constricting, and he sees a disgusted look on Zabini's face, so he looks down. His robes are stained with blood.

"We must get you out of those," Zabini says, nearly spits as though the words, the concept, taste bitter on his tongue. "It's disgusting."

Percy finds the idea of a squeamish Death Eater very entertaining. He looks at the other man discerningly, and smiles. "I'm not sure your robes will fit me."

Zabini appears not to appreciate that remark. "My mother's might. Remember who your savior is."

Percy slips out of the bed, sheds the robes. His underclothes, a thin shirt and trousers, are in equal disrepair, and once the robes hit the ground, it becomes very obvious that he smells. It's only logical, but it is an awful smell; blood, sweat, tears, urine, nearly every human emission possible.

Zabini gives an offended cough at the odor. "Go shower. Now. It's three doors down on the right." A command from the master of the house. Percy shucks clothing off as he goes - just to irk Zabini - and steps into the shower.

This is luxury, this is comfort, the water always warm and the soap full of moisturizer and all those useless, wasteful things. He washes himself, scrubs his hair clean, but is very nearly reduced to tears as soap enters the knife wound from Flint -

The pain raises the memory, and it only takes that much to stoke the sick lust in him again. To his horror, his body again reacts, but this time, he accepts it, and nurses it. He bites his lip, finishes it, and afterwards as tile bites into his thin back, he imagines a naked and smiling Penelope, as though that will erase it all.

He cleans himself, turns off the water, towels himself and his hair dry. He reaches for his glasses and the towel at the same time. He wraps the towel around his waist, and realizes there is a crack through the left lens of his glasses. It's been there for at least four days, and he hasn't even noticed. It has been a very busy week, he thinks with a wry smile.

Percy stands up straight and feels renewed, as though he's cleansed Flint and his torture away, until he leaves the washroom and he sees that Zabini has been standing beside the door. For how long? "Do you have robes for me?" he asks, ignoring the ill feeling of being caught at perversion.

The look Zabini gives him is tinged with amusement. Percy knows that he heard. "Of course, do you prefer any color?"

Forgetting that he is half-naked and his ego is at the mercy of Zabini's unsparing humor, Percy stares at him. "Funny," he says, voice flat.

Zabini releases a snort of laughter. It is so apparently unlike him that Percy automatically smiles at the change. "It's on the bed. Get dressed. We'll eat, and we'll go." He walks away from Percy with his brisk I'm-too-busy-for-this strides, and adds without turning back, "And don't toss one off in there again, my mother bathes in that bathtub."

Percy could not be more relieved at such a mild joke; it could be much worse than that. "Where are we going?" he calls after Zabini.

Zabini doesn't stop walking, he doesn't even turn. "The resistance. What's left of it." Then he has disappeared entirely down the stairwell, and Percy returns to the bedroom to put his new clothes on. They fit well enough.

Percy eats breakfast ravenously, only noticing Zabini watching him as he takes his second-to-last forkful. "You're going to have a scar," Zabini says.

"So?" Part of Percy wants a reminder of his dark side, of Flint's swaggering perverted charm. The other imagines how he'll have to lie to any of those who see, explain stutteringly that the Death Eaters were not so kind to him at first... but Percy is a good liar, at least. He takes another forkful of eggs in order to make Zabini speak in turn.

"Daphne's a Healer. She may help you, she may not. They are all aware of the offer Flint gave you, but they are not aware that you are now free." Restless, Zabini twirls the fork between his fingers, a delicate and hypnotic action. His eggs remain untouched but for a few cursory bites. "I have my doubts that Flint's little plan would have worked."

Percy sits back in the chair, deciding against that last bite of food. "Why wouldn't it?"

"I'm not saying they're smart," Zabini says. The fork's movement is reversed. "They would cast the Imperius Curse on you. This would not be because they would expect you to rebel, but because they are a cult of fear, and they feel that they must have control over everything. Every person with that Mark on their arms feels the need to control something."

"So you're saying I'd have just wound up a pawn and of no use to either side of the resistance." Percy's gaze remains on the utensil in Zabini's long fingers. The agitation in the way it is being manipulated...

Zabini drops the fork, and Percy starts as it clatters to the floor. Percy's gaze returns to Zabini's face, his cheeks beginning to flame. "Exactly," Zabini says. He tilts his head and dons an amused expression. "Aren't you going to ask me?"

The next Percy Weasley. Percy considers it apt, but not too much so; Zabini is almost an improvement. "Ask you what?"

Zabini's grin is grim, wry, and sets Percy on edge. It fits the musty scent of death and cold feel of stone in the Dark Lord's dungeons more than the easy luxury of Zabini Manor. "It's time to leave." He throws Percy the spare wand, and Percy catches it.

Percy wonders if Odysseus intended to be a hero, or if he even expected adventure. Percy isn't an Auror or a Hit Wizard; he does not want to face Dark Wizards, and yet he's done little more than that for months now. Born in the midst of war, to the wrong family, as the middle child, was he destined for this? He doesn't want it. God or Merlin or whoever is watching over him, he does not want this. From here, it can only get worse.

Zabini Disapparates. He has no choice. He follows.