Disclaimer Sadly, I'm just a JK Rowling worshipper. No ownage here.
Author's Note Hi, everyone.
I decided to rewrite this chapter completely, turning it into a prologue featuring Percy and taking the story in a totally different direction. It still runs from the basis that it is the romance story of two children of rivals in a race for the next Minister of Magic, but I have added a slight twist. It's going to be a modern (/modified) take on the fairytale Rapunzel, by the Brothers Grimm, featuring Lucy as the title character. I'm more of a mystery/dark writer than a flat out romance novelist, so I think this will be easier to write. I hope you all enjoy the chapter!
Percy Weasley stepped out of the frigid January air and into a small, dingy pub situated between a run down record store and a flower shop with a tan sign hanging in the front window indicating that it was closed for the night. The space was a modest size for a pub, about half the size of the Leaky Cauldron, with shadows hanging in the corners, dim lighting, peeling sun-faded crimson wallpaper, and about a dozen dusty wooden tables dotted throughout the space. He’d only visited the place once before, and it had not seemed any more welcoming that day than it did tonight.
The door shut behind him with a quiet click as he crossed to the bar, sliding onto a scratched leather bar stool and slipping out of his wool coat as he took a look around. It was Saturday night, but there weren’t a lot of people in the pub tonight – not that it could accommodate any more than two dozen or so; a man with a scruffy beard and his robes in tatters sat a few tables away from Percy, fidgeting absently with a spoon; there was a boy who looked no older than fourteen or fifteen in an off white apron cleaning up a few plates and mugs from a table; and a shadowy figure sitting at a table in the corner by the window, with the hood of their cloak pulled down low over their face and a mug of butterbeer on the table before them.
None of them seemed to have noticed that he had even walked in.
It was both a relief and slightly disappointing. It was a relief because for weeks, he had been hounded by reporters for every magazine known to the wizarding world, while it was disappointing because he had sort of enjoyed everyone knowing his name – his real name, not like back at Hogwarts, where he had only been known as Weasley, or worse, at work, where he was only known as Weatherby. Here, he was just another guy.
He didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.
“‘Ello, dear,” somebody said, giving him a slight start as he looked round. A woman had appeared in front of him on the other side of the bar, looking in about her mid-twenties, with the same curly black hair as the boy who’d been cleaning up tables a few minutes ago, tanned skin, and olive eyes. “What can I do for you tonight?”
“Give me the strongest drink you’ve got,” he said, running his fingers through his uncharacteristically messy red hair. “Please.”
“Alright,” she chuckled, eyeing him skeptically as she turned to get a glass from the back shelf and turn on a rusted blue radio set nestled between a stack of plates and a row of mugs. “Rough night?”
Percy smiled sheepishly as he loosened his blue silk tie. “Was it really that obvious?”
“‘Course it was,” admitted the barmaid. “No respectable man would come into the dodgiest pub this side of London and order the strongest drink we’ve got unless he had something on his mind that he desperately needed off,” she told him wisely as she slid the small shot glass of amber colored liquor across the bar to Percy.
“Well, I don’t know about respectable,” Percy replied, chewing on his lip for a second, before tossing back the drink. He winced a bit and coughed as it burned his throat on its way down, but pushed his glass back across the bar to her nonetheless. “My youngest daughter clearly hates me, and my wife left me a month ago.” He shook his head and ran his hands over his face. “They all think I’m a joke.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true,” she countered firmly.
“…I have it on good authority that your biggest competition in the current battle for Minister for Magic, Percy Weasley, is considering withdrawing because of the recent events regarding your son and his daughter. If this is true, Mr. Nott, how do you feel about it?”
The crackled, broken voice of the woman on the radio floated over to Percy, making him clench his teeth and swallow hard as he glared at the old blue radio set just above the barmaid’s shoulder. So they hadn’t forgotten about him yet. Sure, he had considered withdrawing from the race, but he had chosen not to let his daughter’s tiny indiscretion get the best of him. But the media just wouldn’t let it go, and it was causing his chances to become the next Minister dwindle faster and faster to nothing as each day passed.
Theodore Nott chuckled. “Well, Faith, I am not at liberty to discuss whether or not Percy has decided to give up,” he claimed, although his tone hinted more towards agreement, “but if he has, I would be thrilled about it, of course.” They both laughed this time. “It would mean that I had inevitably won the position and who wouldn’t be happy about something of that magnitude?” The reporter – Faith – made a noise of agreement with her throat.
“Of course,” she said, a small smile in her voice. “Now, you said in your most recent interview for the Daily Prophet that you…”
By this point, the barmaid had noticed that Percy was glaring so hard that she was afraid that laser beams would erupt from his otherwise soft, blue eyes and blow up her radio at any moment. She set his refill down in front of him and turned to turn the radio off.
It was silent for a moment. “I take it you’re the Percy they’re talking about?” she asked tentatively, eyeing him, both wary and curious.
“How’d you figure that out?” he inquired with a half-hearted laugh, tearing his eyes away from the glass in his hands to look up at her. She chuckled softly, absently wiping her hands on a wash cloth.
“Well,” she began, “you were just looking at the radio like you wanted to jump through it and strangle that man a moment ago, so it wasn’t all that hard to put two and two together.” She met his eyes and smirked. When he exhaled solemnly and looked down at his glass again, raising it to his lips, she put her hand on his arm and leaned towards him. “Hey,” said the barmaid, brushing a tendril from her face, “so… are you going to tell me what that was all about?”
Percy stared at her hand for a long moment, before slowly pulling his arm from her grasp and downing his liquor again. “Well the woman on the radio just told you –”
“Yeah, but I want to hear it from you,” she pressed, her eyebrows pulling together. “I know there’s more.”
“It’s a long story,” he replied in a futile attempt at placating her, his eyes following her wearily as she walked round the bar and slid into the seat next to him and looking fairly serious. Percy figured that getting rid of this broad would not be an easy task.
“I’ve got time,” she assured him.
Percy studied her face for a long moment as she ran a hand through her thick hair, leaning one arm on the counter. She had dark circles under her eyes and a small, pinkish-white scar on her chin, wore a faded grey t-shirt and slim fitting ratty, torn jeans, and her attitude reminded him of his sister, but she still looked beautiful, and it was hard for him to string her along for much longer. What was he so afraid of? Sure, his daughter had embarrassed him with her actions, making him look less like the next Minister and more like an out of control father who couldn’t get a grip on his own daughter, but she hadn’t even known who he was.
Maybe she might even be a little understanding, if not helpful.
Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by the sound of dishes crashing to the floor a few feet away. They both jumped and looked round, and her features darkened quickly.
“Riley!” the barmaid groaned, clenching her teeth as she slid off her seat, half-turning to her brother before looking back at Percy apologetically. “I’m really sorry, but I have to take care of this,” Percy nodded for her to go ahead, earning an appreciative smile before she stormed over to the flustered boy scrambling to pick up the plates and glasses that were still fully or partially intact.
Percy turned to face the bar again, staring down into his empty shot glass. He exhaled, his mind going back to the interview on the radio. I am not at liberty to discuss whether or not Percy has decided to give up… Theodore had said. His tone had been biting, like he had known that Percy would be listening in. Well, his smug little smile would slip right from his face when he showed up at the Ministry Monday morning and found out that Percy was not, in fact, giving up anytime soon. Perhaps that had been his plan from the beginning – to sabotage him through his daughter, by secretly setting her up with his son and making sure that he found out so that he would get angry and ruin his picture perfect image of a family on his own. Theodore had known that his temper was short, and had used that knowledge to his advantage, expecting the vast amount of bad publicity to make Percy back out.
And, in truth, he had wanted to.
But once he had realized what Theodore was doing, Percy squared his shoulders and held his head up high, refusing to give Theodore the satisfaction. But he still could not forgive Lucy for consorting with the enemy, and he could not make his ex-wife forgive him for valuing his work higher than his family.
Percy swallowed hard against his dry throat and rubbed his forehead with a sigh. He needed another drink. He took off his glasses and cleaned them off on his pale blue button down, and when he put them on again, he found that his glass had been refilled.
His brows pulled together.
“Drink up, Percy,” said a silky voice. “It’s the least you can do, after the past few months you’ve had.”
At these words, Percy’s hand pulled a few inches away from his glass as he slowly looked to his right, finding the shadowy, cloaked figure perched on a stool two down from his, tracing the rim of their mug of butterbeer deliberately and looking straight ahead. As he was starting to doubt that they had been the one to speak to him, he caught their lips curve up slightly in a small smirk. The figure turned their head to look at him.
He still could not see their face, but he couldn’t help the sudden chill that crept up his spine. “Who are you?”
The figure tilted their head to the side slightly, running their long, scarlet finger nail down the side of their perspiring glass of golden liquid. “Someone who can help you,” they replied in an urgent whisper.
“Well,” he said, looking away and downing his glass in one gulp and shaking his head, “I don’t need any help,” Percy paused, glancing at the mysterious figure briefly. “Especially not from a stranger in a pub.”
“I could make all of your problems go away,” she murmured coercively, her voice nearer this time. “I could make your life so much easier for you at the snap of my fingers.”
Percy looked at her again, finding that she was now sitting on the stool right next to him. Her voice was spellbinding and musical, and suddenly, he felt a little sleepiness lingering just underneath the buzz from the alcohol. “Right,” Percy said, rolling his eyes. “I’m assuming you’ll be wanting something in return?” The woman’s smirk widened into a satisfied smile.
“You’re much smarter than your friends give you credit for,” she replied, gently brushing a lock of his hair out of his face.
He inhaled sharply, looking away from her and shaking his head.
“That didn’t answer my question,” he countered, picking up his miraculously refilled glass again and tossing back his drink, shutting his eyes against the burning sensation in the back of his throat before looking over at the woman again, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
This time, when he looked at her, he could see her face. Her hood was still drawn, casting shadows across her sharp features, but he could make out a long nose, smooth cream colored skin, strong cheekbones and full lips that matched her nails in color. Her eyes were cat like and a striking violet; so striking in fact, that he could not look away.
Percy Weasley found that he didn’t want to.
“Of course it wouldn’t be a proper deal if there wasn’t anything in it for me,” the woman grinned, her teeth sharp looking and dazzling white. “All you must do is think of the last person who has wronged you, the last person who has betrayed your trust, and sign on the dotted line.” Her smile remained intact right to the very end of her sentence as she gestured to a sheet of parchment that was now lying on the counter in front of them, complete with a quill, though no ink.
For some reason, though, he did not find this at all peculiar.
He let his eyes flicker between the parchment and the woman, swallowing as he set down his glass and picked up the quill. Percy thought about this for a long moment. Think of the last person who has wronged you, the woman had said. The last person who has betrayed your trust…
It was the first person to pop up in his mind. Just the thought of his daughter and Theodore’s son in bed together was enough to make his blood boil angrily. Grinding his teeth together, Percy scribbled his name on the line, each stroke creating a prickly feeling in the palm of his hand. He ignored it and then, once he had finished, stared at his signature glaring back up at him in some red substance he vaguely recognized. But he disregarded this as well, and with a blink, the parchment was gone.
He heard a quiet chuckling in his ear. “When you wake up on Monday morning, you will find that your life has changed,” the woman told him vaguely.
“What –” Percy tried to ask, but when he looked round again, the woman was nowhere to be found.
Percy reached under his glasses and rubbed his eyes, feeling the exhaustion set in finally. Maybe he had been seeing things, and he needed to go home and get some sleep. He pushed his empty glass back across the counter before grabbing his coat and standing up. As he shrugged into it and turned around, he found the barmaid standing behind him.
“Hey,” she said, looking him up and down and furrowing her eyebrows in confusion. “You’re leaving already?”
“Yeah,” Percy told her, his eyes darting round the nearly empty room. Still no sign of the woman. “I should, uh, head home before it gets too late.” He ran a hand through his hair, not meeting her eyes.
She swallowed, then nodded stiffly. “Oh. Yeah, right. Well, I’ll see you round, then,” she replied as he headed across the pub to the front door. Just as he was about to push it open, she called out again, taking a few steps forward. “Hey!” Percy half-turned back. She chanced a small smile. “I’m Audrey, by the way.”
Percy smiled back, giving her one last, long look before pushing the door open and getting a face full of frigid January air. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his coat, taking a deep breath as he tried to placate his sleepiness for a while, until he could find a safe, muggle-free place to apparate home. As he walked, he felt the prickly feeling in the palm of his right hand again, a burning sensation accompanying it as the cold winter air rushed over it.
He pulled his hand from his pocket to examine his palm, and when he saw what was there, he stopped walking abruptly. In the weak, flickering light of a nearby street lamp, he saw two words etched into his palm, and shimmering with fresh blood – his blood:
AN 2 So? What did you think of the new and (hopefully) improved prologue? I hope it was decent. Well, all general feedback/questions/comments/concerns/suggestions is welcome and appreciated as always!