What a Difference a Year Makes
Summary: Percy Weasley wonders at the changes in someone he respected.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Author's Note: This was written for the Public Embarrassment challenge on 30minutesfic, in which a normally competent teacher was supposed to have a spell backfire in public. I started thinking about Quirrell, and how he was described prior to his ill-fated year off, and how a young Percy might have gravitated to him.
"Now, its important to take good care of your books. Even though we're getting secondhand copies, we'll find you the best ones we can, and you should keep them in that condition. They'll be a great help to you through all your years at Hogwarts. And as for your robes…" Percy Weasley paused to cast a glance back at his brothers, only to find that they weren't there. With a frustrated sigh he looked about, locating the two red heads easily enough.
They had been distracted by the window display at Quality Quidditch Supplies. How was he supposed to prepare them for school if they couldn't even manage to follow him through Diagon Alley? The twins were certainly never going to be good students if left to their own devices.
He stalked over to them. "Oh, honestly. You'll never be ready for your first year if all you care about is brooms."
"Brooms seem to have done all right for Charlie," George shot back.
Percy ignored the reference to their big brother's star status as the Gryffindor seeker. He got grips on the backs of both their robes and physically steered them away. "Now listen, you two…"
"Hey, what's going on over there?"
By the time Percy turned to see what they were talking about, they'd already run off in that direction. Trouble drew the twins like moths to a flame. With a frustrated sigh, Percy followed.
The ruckus turned out to be a crowd of people gathered around, watching but giving a wide berth to something huge…it was a troll!
Percy hurried forward, grabbing hold of the twins again to keep them from rushing right into the thick of things.
"What is that?"
"It's a mountain troll! Or is it a forest troll…"
"They don't have trolls of any sort in Diagon Alley."
And yet, there it was. As they watched, it lumbered through an outdoor café, overturning tables and sending screaming witches running.
After a few moments of mayhem Fred piped up with, "Hey, who is that they've got to take it on? He doesn't look quite up to it."
Sure enough, the group of nearby wizards was nudging a rather skinny-looking man towards the action. Percy squinted, then felt a smile come over his features as he identified the man. To the twins he said, "That's Professor Quirrell. He's our defense against the dark arts teacher; brilliant man. Watch this--he'll take care of it, easy."
With his intelligence and his enthusiasm for knowledge, Quirrell had been Percy's favorite teacher first year. He'd been terribly disappointed when the man had decided to take the next year off. It looked like he was back now. This was brilliant, now Fred and George would see what studying and learning could help a wizard accomplish.
He watched with something akin to excitement as the Defense teacher approached the troll. Quirrell, however, did not look excited. In fact, he looked rather terrified.
He raised his wand, and managed a "S-s-stupefy!" that was barely audible from Percy's distance. But his hand was shaking so badly that the spell missed the troll entirely and instead hit a rather burly-looking fellow on the other side of the street. He went down like a brick; the troll got agitated.
Quirrell glanced around at the crowd, as if determining whether he could make a run for it or not. He apparently decided against it, for he raised the wand and tried again.
This time, Percy had to duck and cover his brothers. It shot over them, taking out an owl for sale out front of the Magical Menagerie.
Standing again cautiously, Percy's brow furrowed in confusion as he wondered what was wrong with the man. Had he not had a clear view of his face, he would have doubted that was Quirrell at all.
The crowd stood in silence for a moment, and then a low, concerned rumble went through them.
The troll was equally unimpressed. It unceremoniously reached for the man and plucked him up by the front of his robes, dangling him over the crowd. Packages he'd had in his robes began to tumble out to the pavement as he squeaked in a decidedly un-Professorly way.
Luckily, a new witch arrived on the scene at that moment. She was unfamiliar, but Percy suspected she was an auror, for she easily cast the spell Quirrell had tried a few moments earlier.
Stunned, the troll dropped the Professor. He fell to the ground with an ominous thunk, and the troll toppled over backwards beside him.
"Okay, okay, nothing to see here," the witch called, motioning for people to move on before she stepped closer to the troll.
Beside Percy, George snickered. "Oh, yeah. Right winner we've got there."
"Yeah, I can definitely see you growing up just like him, Perce."
With matching smirks and devious giggles, the twins ran off.
Percy elected not to run after them, deciding he had more important things to do. He glanced uncomfortably at the people still milling about, staring at the Hogwarts professor with derision. Then he slowly made his way over to where Quirrell was attempting to gather all of his things.
The man jumped and gave a small yelp, dropping everything in his arms. Then he squinted at the redhead before finally saying, "Mr. Weasley?"
Percy nodded dumbly, staring at the man.
"G-g-good to see you. You l-look w-w-well," his professor stuttered before stooping to the ground again.
Percy knelt beside him, assisting him. He wasn't quite sure what the etiquette was when insinuating that one's teacher had gone 'round the bend, so he finally asked, "Did you have a good trip?"
"Oh, q-quite. Met many in-interesting th-things."
Things? Percy didn't question it, for the man went a bit pale as he stood up. "Sir, are you all right? You seem a bit…off."
"Oh…coming d-down with s-something, perhaps. M-must be going," he said, now seeming a bit agitated and hurried to be off.
"All right," Percy managed a wan smile. "It is good to see you back, Professor. I'm looking forward to your class."
"C-class? Ah, yes. Class. S-see you there."
So Percy stood, brow furrowed, as the man scuttled away. He didn't know what was going on, wasn't even sure it was his place to wonder, but it was obvious that something had happened. Gone was the brilliant young man who'd had such enthusiasm for learning and experience. In his place was this stuttering, sickly coward.
"Oy! Percy!" He turned to see his older brother waving him over. "You're missing the bookstore!" Charlie called, clearly wondering what the twins had done to him to distract him from books.
"Coming!" he returned.
As Percy retreated to his older brother with one last glance at the downed troll, he knew one thing for sure. If this was what time off did to a person, then he was going to work every day of his life.