Times like this gave Percy a migraine.
There he stood, a sack of food from the market in his hand, surveying the Muggle-style refrigerator in his equally Muggle-style apartment. The sack contained yogurt. There was a shelf in his refrigerator that he used specifically for the storage of yogurt. This should have been simple.
"George," Percy called, "could you come here for a moment?"
His brother, who was eating Chinese takeaway out of the carton, shuffled into the small kitchen. "Yeah, Perce?"
Percy rolled his eyes at the seldom-used nickname and indicated the door of the refrigerator. "What do you see on this shelf?"
George stuffed some lo mein into his mouth. "Looks like some yogurt and... some other stuff, why?"
Percy pressed the fingers of his free hand to his temple. "Specifically, there are three cartons of peach yogurt, a jar of wheat germ, a squeeze-bottle of lemon juice, and a half-empty container of Tongue-Searing Wizards' Hot Sauce with Essence of Jarvey Saliva, which, by the way, I don't think is even legal. Or sanitary."
George hopped up to sit on a countertop. "And?"
Percy gave him a very hard look. "George, when I offered to let you and Fred stay at my apartment while the construction was being done on the rooms above your shop, I never expected you to change things."
George poked around in the takeaway container with his chopsticks before abandoning it, empty. "Is this about the Sleekeasy's we put in your medicine cabinet? Because really, Perce, you're not doing those Weasley good looks justice."
Percy shook his still-curly-haired head. "This is about the yogurt shelf."
George hopped off the counter to walk closer to the fridge. "There's a yogurt shelf?"
"Well, there ought to be," Percy responded, "but there isn't. Instead, there's a yogurt-wheat germ-lemon juice-hot sauce shelf. The system has been destroyed."
"What system?" George asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Exactly!" Percy exclaimed as if experiencing a great triumph. "There is no longer any system. The system is gone."
"The system is gone because there's hot sauce on the yogurt shelf?"
Percy nodded. "It's not only that there's hot sauce on the yogurt shelf—never mind the fact that there's another shelf specifically for the storage of condiments, because that's another tragedy altogether—it's that since there's hot sauce on the yogurt shelf, there's no room for further yogurt." He brandished his sack for emphasis.
George stared. "Couldn't you put the yogurt somewhere else?"
Percy heaved a mighty sigh. "At least now there's some recognition that there ought to be a system. If I just put the yogurt in, say, the cheese drawer, there would be no indication of a system whatsoever."
"You know," George said, "the wheat germ actually sort of belongs on the yogurt shelf. It goes with it, like."
The side of Percy's mouth twitched. "You're not helping. The point is, the non-yogurt items—the wheat germ included—have to be moved off of the yogurt shelf before more yogurt can be put away. The thing is, when I go to put away the lemon juice and the hot sauce, I find that the condiment shelf is quite full itself. This brings me, as I said, to the tragedy of the condiment shelf." He set the sack of yogurt on the counter, reached into the refrigerator, and pulled out three identical jars. "Do you know what these are, George?"
George took one of the jars from him. "Looks like green olives."
"Exactly." Percy nodded again. "Do we need three jars of green olives?"
George shrugged. "I guess not."
"Do any of us even eat green olives?"
George shrugged again. "No, not really."
"Fine, then. I'll just bin them, then, shall I?"
George snatched the other two jars out of his brother's hand. "You can't just throw them out!"
Percy seemed to have to work very hard to retain his composure as he took back all three jars. "Yes, George, I can. Very easily. You see, there's a trash bin over there, and there are too many jars of green olives over here."
"Aha! I knew you had a sense of humour!" George clapped roughly him on the back, catching him by surprise and inadvertently sending all three of the jars on an unexpected voyage downward.
The jar of olives hit floor and shattered. Both Weasleys found themselves doused in a smelly green liquid.
"You see?" Percy said. "You see what happens when there are too many jars of olives in my refrigerator?"
"Percy. Is this really about the yogurt shelf?"
Percy tried to shake off some of the olives from his shoe. "Not anymore, it's not. Now it's about the deuced olive juice all over my kitchen!"
George grinned. "'Deuced'?"
"Well, bloody hell, Perce, don't burn me away with the strength of your tongue. I don't know if I can take the cursing."
"Ho ho, very witty. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pick up the mess you're responsible for."
George flung a hand to his forehead. "O! Alas, but my life has been ruined by the mere presence of my younger brothers in my apartment, whatever will I do? Alas, alas!" He staggered around the kitchen, stepped directly in a pool of olive juice, and fell straight on his hindquarters.
"Now, before you say anything," he said while staring up at the ceiling, "I want you to know that this could have happened to anyone. I don't need a lecture on home safety, and I don't need to hear that I would still be upright if it hadn't been for the olives I'm responsible for smashing. I also don't want to hear about how this ties in with what is apparently the Great George and Fred Scheme to Ruin Percy's Refrigerator, so if you were planning on saying any of those things, don't. Just don't. And, you know, it's not like we wanted to live here and ruin your yogurt shelf anway. You know Mum made us." As soon as the words left his mouth, he fell silent, waiting for a response. None came.
He finally shifted his gaze to look at his older brother. Percy was gripping the edge of the counter with a knuckle-whitening intensity. "Look, Perce..." George said at length. "I'm sorry. About the olives. And the, er, yogurt shelf."
When Percy still didn't say anything, George added, "And, you know, I'm sorry about the Sleekeasy's. I suppose. I mean, you and Charlie are the only ones of us with curly hair, and he doesn't do anything to his, so I imagine it's not a horrible faux pas."
There was still no response, so George said, "I know you're trying to make it up to us, the family I mean, for... last year. That's why you offered to let Fred and me stay here. So I'm sorry if it's been too awful for you." He squirmed a little; the smelly liquid was seeping through the back of his shirt. "Though you deserve it, you know. I'm not begrudging you for being all prodigal and all, but you do deserve it. That's all I'm saying."
Percy's silence was unnerving to George. "And, you know, I'm... I'm sorry about the whole 'Mum made us' thing. I mean, yeah, it's true, but it's not like it's been awful here. I mean, you clean up after yourself, which is more than I can say for me and Fred. Though you could help, like. Maybe act like we're not a total inconvenience. We haven't always been an inconvenience to you, have we?"
Percy closed his eyes, drew a deep breath, and burst into laughter.
"Have you gone mad, then?" George asked from his position on the floor.
"You!" Percy wheezed. "There you lie, after falling on your arse, and you're lecturing me about decorum!"
"Look," George said, "It's not that funny. I know funny, and this isn't it. This is you, going 'round the bend."
"No, no, no," Percy gasped. "This is quite funny. You know you've got olives all over your face?"
"They're all the rage in America, olives. Surprised you didn't know." George removed one from its position on his forehead. "The least you could do is help me up, you know."
"Fine." Percy, who was still laughing, extended one hand to George. This resulted, of course, in George pulling him down and mashing olives in his hair.
"Augh!" Percy exclaimed. "That wasn't fair at all!"
"Oh, come on, Percy, it's the oldest hex on the scroll." George was rubbing the vegetables into Percy's cheek with great gusto.
Percy made an unintelligible growling sound and placed his hand on George's face in an attempt to push him away. George bit him. Percy withdrew his hand, took his glasses off, tossed them up on to the counter, and proceeded to engage his brother in what is can best be described as a tussle—a messy, olive-y tussle that involved much cursing.
George was heavier than Percy, but the older boy had a longer reach, and so George found himself pressed to the floor with his arms behind his back. "Say it!" Percy screeched.
"What, 'Percy is a great prat'?"
Percy tightened his grip. "Say it!"
George made a muffled sound.
"What was that?" Percy let his brother's head up off of the floor.
"I said I can't breathe."
"You can breathe now, so say it."
George tried to escape from Percy's grasp and failed. "No. I haven't had to say it to anybody besides Bill since I was twelve."
"Yes, but now you've lost, so say it. Say 'I'm a great poncing nancy-boy and I bow to my brother's superior fighting skills.'"
"Fine. You're a great poncing—ouch! Watch it!"
"I don't think you meant that."
George struggled. "Let me loose a bit so that I can get the circulation back in my arms, and I'll say it."
Percy did, so George wriggled out of his grasp, turned around, and tackled him.
"You've no sense of the rules!" Percy exclaimed.
"Forget about the rules!" George shouted back. "Screw the system! It's a fight in a puddle of olive juice in the kitchen! There are no rules!"
"Fine, then!" Percy declared, and pulled George's hair.
Both boys heard the door to the apartment open. "Oi, kids!" Fred's voice called. "Guess who I found lurking on the stoop when I got here?" Fred appeared in the kitchen doorway. He took in the scene, said, "Oh, good," and launched himself onto the pile.
Not a minute had passed when another voice from the kitchen doorway said, "Er, Percy?"
All three boys froze. "Ah." Fred shook an olive out of his ear. "Like I said, guess who's here?"
Percy spat out George's sleeve. "Hello, Penny."
Penelope bit her lower lip. "Hello. Hello, Fred, George. It's... nice to see you."
"Corking," George responded, his head still caught between Fred's knees.
Percy extracted himself from the tangle of limbs on the floor. "I'll just, er, freshen up a bit, then?"
Penelope nodded, and wrinkled her nose when Percy brushed past her towards the bathroom. She stared at the twins, who had managed to separate themselves into two different olive-covered masses. "What... what happened here?"
George grinned. "Three jars of olives are too many for one refrigerator, but just perfect for one floor."
Fred picked up a glob of four olives that had stuck together and lobbed it at his brother.
Percy reappeared in the hallway with wet hair and fresh robes. "That was fast," Penelope said.
"Well, we can't be late, now can we?" Percy said. "Do be sure and compliment Mr Balfour on his promotion when we get there, Penny."
"Of course," Penny said. "Shall we walk? It's a nice day out."
"Certainly. Why don't you grab your coat, and I'll be right with you."
Penelope smiled and left the room. Percy walked across the kitchen to his younger brothers, leaned down, and whispered, "I'll be back in four hours. When I come back, I expect you to say it." He grinned wickedly and left the room.
"What did happen here, brother mine?" Fred asked.
George considered his words at length. "I put hot sauce on the yogurt shelf. But it's okay, now."
Fred flopped onto his back. "That's it. You've both gone completely mad. I am the only sane Weasley in this apartment, and I've olives in my hair."
George nodded. "You've got olives in your hair, and I'm a great poncing nancy-boy."
Fred snorted. "Well, we already knew—ouch! Watch it!"