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Chapter 5: Miss Peabody's Peril Purger
Percy suffered from quite a lot of anxieties.
He had a fear of the London Underground, even though he’d never had to take it. Sometimes he woke up at night with cold sweats, dreaming that George or Charlie had dared him to try it and, prideful man that he was, Percy had allowed himself into being bullied thither. It wasn’t so much the claustrophobic space with dark tunnels all around that bothered him as it was the idea of germ-infested children touching everything with their fingers and wiping their noses all over the place.
It was terrifying.
In addition to this, he had a fear of developing holes in new pairs of socks, sea lions, paintings of sea lions, stories of sea lions, lions anywhere near the sea, Muggle technology (he couldn’t tell the difference between alarm clocks and bombs), rabbit food (it looked suspiciously like rabbit droppings), birds that flew in continuous circles over his head, and board games with unpleasant traps in them. Percy was always getting himself stuck in those traps and then he never won, and that simply would not do.
He disliked his job, his peers were woe, and Ron had made an annoying habit out of getting some of his post rerouted to Percy’s Diagon Alley address so that their mother wouldn’t discover all of the violent stories he’d been submitting to magazines under the pseudonym ‘Foxy4Granger’.
To alleviate himself of these crippling anxieties, Percy sometimes had to discreetly rely on potions (only over-the-counter, of course, and no more than one mild dose every other Tuesday). On the day after being told that his new name was Peasley, Percy was desperate to calm his rattling nerves. He decided it would be in the best interest of his eloquence and blood pressure to ingest the proper amount of Miss Peabody’s Peril Purger and have a nice lie-in. He surmised that this would grant him at least eight hours of serenity so that he could sleep and have a more productive morrow.
“Take two spoonfuls with dinner,” he read, shifting his horn-rimmed glasses so that he could better read the potion’s label. “Better be safe and make that one spoonful. Can’t be having any more bizarre dreams about chasing a beaver around St. Mungo’s.”
Percy measured exactly one spoonful of Peril Purger, poured it back into the bottle when he thought he’d added a drop too much, and measured it out again. Then he funneled the potion into a cup, placed another cup (of water, since if this potion was anything like the last kind he tried, it would taste like catnip) on its right, and cooked everything in his kitchen to satisfy the ‘with dinner’ portion of the instructions.
When he was finished with his enormous meal and had drained his potion as well as cup of water, Percy did the washing up and tidied his flat a bit. Midway through refolding all of the tissues that had run afoul of his tissue box and gone all wonky, Percy suddenly fancied writing a letter.
“This must stem from an unconscious desire to improve my penmanship,” he said decidedly, seating himself at an old-fashioned writing desk. He dabbed the tip of his quill on his tongue and then dipped it into an inkwell.
Dear Miss Bellpepper, he began.
But wait a moment. Why was he addressing her so formally? Were they not now cordial enough acquaintances to justify referring to each other by their first names? Percy himself much preferred to be called Percy rather than ‘Mr. Weasley’, as in his opinion there were far too many ‘Mr. Weasley’s in the world that such a title could pertain to.
Percy grabbed a new sheet of parchment.
He sat there for a moment before continuing, furrowing his brow. For some reason, that salutation didn’t sit well with him, either. He was a man of many words, Percy. How could he possibly endear himself to a woman of so many marvelous attributes unless he was as forward as he dared? Certainly when it came to romance, more was always better. ‘Dear’ would not suffice. ‘Dear’ was for lesser mortals, such as Fleur and Hermione. It was not for someone as positively perfect as Audrey Ballerinapepper.
Dear Visually-Pleasing Goddess, he wrote. I have a proposition that we have tea together –
But he didn’t want tea. Did he want tea? Percy pondered this. No. No, he did not. If he had wanted something to drink, he could quench this desire at home all by himself. In fact, he preferred to always fix his own drinks whenever possible, as one could never be sure about the dangers of E. Coli lurking in tap water.
Tea, Percy decided, was a euphemism. He did not have the time or patience for euphemisms tonight. He was a man in love! He was a man with needs! Might as well cut to the chase if he wanted the goddess to return his innumerable feelings. Feeling somewhat giddy now even though he wasn’t entirely sure why, he scratched out the proposition for tea and continued:
I have grown tired of this coquettish cat-and-mouse game. I would very much like to have sexual relations with you, schedules permitting. I would prefer for this affair to take place at nighttime, per the usual standards when it comes to couples engaging in adult behavior. Does ten-thirty tomorrow evening sound suitable? If you wish to rearrange the time, please send an RSVP with necessary details; otherwise ten-thirty shall be the default setting. Do not arrive late or my bellman might be in a temper and decide not to let you up.
I ask that you wear something tasteful, such as a rubber dress or an animal print two-piece (zebra and cheetah are acceptable, but leopard is tacky; be warned, I may have difficulty suppressing well-placed zingers about leopard attire). I would not mind at all if you used my owl for services including but not limited to 1) Personal exchanges with family and friends (excluding male friends) 2) Petting purposes, as he is fond of petting as long as you do not maintain any eye contact – DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT, IT IS LIFE OR DEATH 3) Emergency use. For example, if intimacy results in cardiac arrest and I am lying unresponsive on the floor (and if cold water on the face does not work and all other basic measures have been exhausted).
You may eat my food if you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself to be in want of nourishment. I have a tin of gluten-free biscuits in the pantry that are usually reserved for guests with a gluten allergy. If you have such an allergy, you are welcome to them. If not, I will not begrudge you a biscuit, but may pass judgment that you chose to partake of a gluten-free biscuit, thereby limiting the number of gluten-free biscuits I may have in future when entertaining guests with such an allergy.
Refrain from the fatiguing female convention of criticizing your physical appearance so that I might compliment it out of obligation and/or a feeling of awkwardness you intentionally created because of deep-seated insecurity and/or desperation issues. You will only make yourself feel awkward if I do not fulfill my expected half of the conversation. You are warned in advance that I do not like square buttons and will point it out if pressed to.
I have a miniature working model of a carousel on my nightstand. You are prohibited from touching it. If you go against these wishes, I may glare at you out of the corner of one or both eyes, depending on my peripheral capacity at the time.
If you try to leave in the middle of the night, there is a high chance I will speak ill of you to my peers. I have several of them. Do not ask for my sources because I will not list them. If you leave your 1) Coat 2) Hat 3) Plethora of wigs 4) Lady products behind, I am keeping them. Do not ask me what I will do with them because that will no longer be decent to inquire.
(Also if you try to leave, you will trigger a silent alarm that I will have rigged before your arrival that will prevent you from ever leaving, ever.)
Please do not make any noises, animal or otherwise, as I do have neighbors. One of them is elderly and has scoliosis. In the event that you come across her in the corridor or on the stairs, you are socially responsible for asking about her day/grandchildren/health complaints, assisting her with any groceries she may be carrying, and are strongly advised not to comment on the state of her severely humped back. It is a faux pas.
If our experience pleases you and you would like to organize more carnal binges, I would recommend drafting a list of your likes and dislikes (nothing with the lights on) for my review. I cannot guarantee that any of them will be approved of. If it would be easier, you may use the back of this parchment for your list.
I am looking forward to the lovemaking. Yours, etc. ~
Percy Ignatius Weasley
(Senior Undersecretary to the Undersecretary of Trolley Luncheon Preparations, Inc.)
Smiling with his satisfactory letter (and excellent penmanship), Percy went through and dotted several of his I’s with tiny hearts, sealed the letter in an envelope, and jotted down Audrey’s genuine address that he’d called in many favors around the Ministry in order to obtain.
“Deliver this to Audrey Batpopper at once!” he told Edmund, his owl. “Without delay!”
He thought that Edmund responded with something like, “Only when the time floats right-side-up, the cows say nay when the marshmallows come singing home.”
“It’s kosher,” Percy assured him. “They told me so at the shop.”
Then he tidied up some more, realizing that he had not yet put away the bottle of Miss Peabody’s Peril Purger. He skimmed the instructions label once again, just for fun, and newly noticed the fine print. Contains: Essence of Insanity. Do not take less than the suggested dose. Side-effects for under-dosing include indigestion, disappearance of fingerprints, and painful, embarrassing honesty that will make you a social outcast for the rest of your life.
“Interesting,” he mused. “It is most fortunate that I am immune to such happenings.”
He touched his ear, noting that it was wet with green goop, and dislocated the green goop by dunking his head in the toilet until he could no longer hear his shoes speaking to each other in Greek.
Thirteen hours later, Percy’s eyelids shot open in heart-pounding terror.
“No,” he said to the ceiling, pulse accelerating. “No. It was a dream. No.” He sat straight up in bed, clutching his hair. “OH GOD, NO!”
The very first thing he did upon remembering the full contents of the letter he’d written the previous night was to vomit all over the floor. Then he ran to the loo, slipping in said vomit, and hit his head on the floor, blacking out.
When he woke up again thirty seconds later and ruled out the rational possibility of having died on the floor and he was now a discontent ghost with unfinished business, doomed to plague his flat complex and the poor old scoliosis lady, he seized all of the potions in his cabinet with a pair of gloves and threw them into the dustbin.
He then carried his rubbish outside and put it on the neighbor’s porch. He considered covering up the rubbish bag with a welcome mat but only had enough soap for two more post-lavatory sterilizations. He would have to be choosy with his bacterium exposure.
Some woman walking her dog gave him a bizarre look, gaping at him. He waved tentatively and hurried back inside.
Percy dashed to his writing desk, heart skipping when the evidence sat plainly before him in the form of ripped-out, scratched-out drafts. He sped to the loo to throw up again, but it was a false alarm, so he sprinted to the kitchen because he thought he heard the doorbell and was terrified it was Audrey coming over to judge him. He then vomited in the hallway without warning. After a few minutes more of madly flying all about, Percy realized he wasn’t wearing any clothes and had just been standing outside waving to the lady walking her dog.
On the brink of losing his mind, he Floo’d to George’s flat above Wheeze-o’s. “George!” he panted, falling out of the fireplace with his trousers down around his ankles. Someone had reached into the Floo Network while he crossed paths with another spinning fireplace and yanked them down. “George!”
“Is that your lovely voice I hear, Perce?” George called from his kitchen. His voice was muffled, as he was speaking into an empty jug of milk.
Without asking why his brother was speaking into an empty jug of milk, Percy pulled up one of George’s chairs and began to relay what he’d done. George listened, nodding in all the right places.
“So,” Percy finished with an air of extreme anxiety beyond any he had ever felt in his life, “what do you think?”
George leaned against the table. Still speaking into the jug, he said, “Have you got any bacon? I really fancy an omelet. I asked Verity if she’d go get some but she said that wasn’t her job.”
“You self-absorbed troll!” Percy grabbed the jug and threw it out the window. “I’m spilling my guts here!”
“Hey!” George ran to the window, looking wounded. “What’d you do that for? And mind you, fetch your guts before I step on them! Don’t know who you think you are, going round leaving guts all over other people’s floors uninvited. It’s not polite, that.”
Percy cursed at him in Mermish, since it was the most severe language he could think of and he was certain his brother wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if Percy got some of the adjectives and adverbs mixed up, and left in a huff.
There was nothing else for it. He would have to face the beast and reap his due.
Percy materialized outside of a small powder-blue house in a well-to-do neighborhood that smelled of ink and parchment. A wooden placard hanging from the letterbox read ‘The Bellpeppers’.
Oh, hell. If she turned out to be married, he was going to go home and eat raw eggs until he contracted salmonella. And then he was going to lie in his salmonella goo, making goo angels in it with his arms and legs while feeling sorry for himself.
Before he could raise his fist to knock at the door, a voice on the other side barked, “State your business!”
“Er…” Percy blinked, inching back a step. “I’m Percy Weasley?” He winced, hoping no one was peering through the peephole. “I’ve come to speak with Audrey Bellpepper.”
“Identification!” the voice commanded again. He recognized that it was Audrey’s voice, though exceptionally more shrill even when separated by a door. “Dental records, birth certificate, library card.”
“Who’s that at the door?” an older woman’s voice wanted to know, drifting from somewhere deeper in the house. There was a scurrying of hushed voices, a vase falling over, and Audrey opened up the door just a crack. Her eyes were watching him like he was a very full glass of water sitting precariously on the edge of a table.
“I heard that Bill Weasley was promoted within the Ministry,” she said instead of greeting him. Her face was flat. “What are you playing at, eh?”
“You know damn well he was!”
“Audrey!” the older woman behind them gasped. “Language!”
“My language is English!” Audrey yelled over her shoulder. “You should know, you taught it to me!”
“Do you live here?” Percy asked, straining on tiptoe to see around her. “You live with your parents?”
Her eyes narrowed, disregarding this. “And your father. I hear he’s up for a promotion, too.”
Percy nodded. That didn’t sound at all out of the question, since Bill and his father were both dedicated workers who’d taken on much more responsibility within the Ministry since the turn of the war. He wondered why Audrey was scowling at him about this.
“At this rate,” she went on, “either of them would be eligible for Minister for Magic years before you could dream of climbing to their current positions.”
Percy stared at her. “Well, yes. I suppose that’s true.” He side-eyed her, bewildered. “So?”
Her eyes were slits. She was poking him in the chest with her fingernail. Did this touching constitute as affection? He didn’t have time to evaluate it. She was still speaking. He tried to appear like he’d been listening. “So you’re not trying to become Minister on the sly?”
He scratched his head. “Whatever made you think I was?”
She popped up, straightening. Her face slid from I-caught-you-red-handed to a blank canvas. “What’d you come here for, anyway?” She sucked on her thumb, which had a dollop of pudding on it, and squinted. He liked that she wasn’t wearing a wig today – probably because her parents were around. Her natural brown color was nice.
Fresh nerves washed over him in response to her question, making blotches crop up around his neck and ears. He cleared his throat. “Ahem. I – ahem.” He yanked on his collar. “Hot out!”
“No, it’s not. It’s perfectly temperate, I just checked the weather.”
“You’re halfway inside, what do you know,” he muttered irritably. “But I came to…well…I think you probably know already.”
She gnawed on her thumb. He wondered if she was going to try to fit her whole fist into her mouth. That would have been fascinating to watch. She let her hand fall to her side and Percy felt a pang of disappointment. “Know what?”
“I trust that you received my letter?” he hedged.
Her eyes widened. “That was you?”
Percy stood there for a moment, rereading the letter in his head. He’d signed it with his full name, complete with flourishes and hearts. Who else could it have been?
“Of course that was me. Can’t you read?”
She stared for a minute longer; when it became apparent that it really had been his letter, Audrey burst into laughter. “Were you drunk?”
“No,” he replied defensively. “I –”
“There’s no way you weren’t drunk.” She pointed accusingly at him, though she was still grinning, and with her other hand she withdrew something from her pocket. It was smudged with pudding, but still legible:
Dear Sir or Madam:
Butterfly hergsh. Koala hergsh. Turn off the wireless to listen better, feather. Inclement. Top of the tree is where you will find the most birds. Chirp twice if you want to get in or the boss will braid your hair.
Forgot the cup. Saucer too. Two? Haa!
I collected star berries when I was four but Mum through/threw them out. She said: No. She said it! Twice, for all I know! There’s nothing wrong with burning the candle at both ends if it’s in the shape of a horseshoe. This should be in books.
Angelina isn’t that good at Quidditch. She has legs like Beater’s Bats. I tried to tell her this in my sleep but she wouldn’t stop putting on earmuffs.
Edgar Rhino Has a Horse. His name was built from sandcastles with a fish finger flag on top.
(that was a joke!)
When Percy glanced up again, puzzled that this was indeed written in his stately script but not at all what he remembered writing, Audrey was still smiling incredulously at him.
“You’re not so bad, Peasley,” she mused, studying him. “You’re a sociopath and your owl nicked my necklace after dropping off this letter, but I’ve met worse.” She held up her finger, which somehow had more pudding on it than before. “Just wait a second while I go get my garlic hat and I’ll show you my collection of mouse helmets I made out of walnuts.”