Percy Weasley stood in an alleyway off of Diagon Alley in front of the entrance to a small, somewhat shady-looking building, checking the address he’d written down on the scrap parchment against the number on the wall. He seemed to pause, chewing a little on his lower lip, as if steeling himself to doing something completely against his character. One side or another eventually won, however, and he opened the door and went inside.
There was a middle-aged woman sitting behind a desk in the small, dimly-lit waiting room. The room itself was nice, if a little less-than-classy, as was the woman behind the desk. The desk was designed for show rather than use, as was obvious; the only objects on her desk were a nameplate that read “Madam Em,” an appointment book, and a Witch Weekly, objects that somehow failed to give the desk a sense of propriety. As Percy entered, the frizzy-haired woman sitting behind it fixed him with a cheerful smile. “Hello, there,” she said, gesturing for him to come closer. “Do you have an appointment, Mr…?”
“Weasley,” Percy supplied. “And, no, I don’t—is that a problem? Felix didn’t tell me I needed an appointment, but I could come by later, if it is a problem. Tomorrow, maybe, or the day after that—“
Madam Em silenced him with a wave of one crimson-nailed hand. “No, no, Mr. Weasley. I’m sure we have some openings within the next ten minutes, and from the look of you, I don’t think you could wait until tomorrow. If you don’t mind my saying so.”
Percy blushed a slight pink, but didn’t say anything. The woman was flipping through an appointment book on her desk. She landed on the current date and time and pursed her lips, reading. “Well, Mr. Weasley, there are three openings—one with Melena, one with Nessa, and one with Fabala. Which would you prefer?”
Percy, who had rather stiffly taken a seat in the small waiting room, shrugged hesitantly. “Well, I don’t really know. I’ve—I’ve never been here before, you see,” he said, a slight hint of embarrassment creeping into his voice.
“Really?” She blinked at him. “Where’d you used to go? Did somebody go out of business?”
Percy’s cheeks, which had lost some of their blush, reddened again. “I’ve—I’ve never done this. I mean, paid for it. Before.”
The woman laughed, a sound that she most likely thought was charming but just came off as unfortunately patronizing. “And, let me guess—you asked one of the other lads at work where they go, and he told you about us, and we seemed the cheapest, so—“
Percy smiled, a little wryly. “Actually, the cost wasn’t a factor. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I’m rather desperate.” He seemed to realize how offensively his words could be taken, and added, “But Felix did say that the ladies here are quite… nice.” He said the last word with an only slightly-concealed dubious look at the receptionist.
Fortunately, she didn’t notice, and sat up a little straighter, grinning. “Well, isn’t that lovely? So, Mr. Weasley, do you know what you want? Perhaps I can help you decide which girl would be best for you.”
Percy seemed startled by the question. “Well—I don’t know. Just something, you know, normal.” He mulled over the words. “By normal, I mean, nothing too exotic. I’m not a terribly exotic person, if you know what I mean.”
Madam Em smiled. “Oh, I know exactly what you mean. I think you’d do best with Fabala—I think she’d be just your cup of tea.” She seemed to consider what she had just said, and offered, “Speaking of, would you like something to drink?”
Percy blinked in surprised. “Er, no thank you.”
She shrugged. “Many of the young men who come here like to have something to relax with beforehand. Just thought I’d offer.”
As Percy watched, the woman rose from her chair, walked into an adjacent corridor, and opened a door. “Fabala, you have another appointment.”
He didn’t quite hear the reply, but the woman came back and sat down, saying, “She’s almost finished with her current client and will be able to see you in a moment.”
Not five minutes had passed when a rather pleased-looking young man with almost artistically disheveled hair emerged from the hallway. He nodded to Madam Em, who in turn smiled and said, “Lovely seeing you, as always, Mr. Pritchard.” After the other young man had left the building, she stood and gestured for Percy to follow her.
They didn’t go very far down the corridor before she opened a door and indicated that Percy should enter. “Fabala, this is Mr. Weasley. It’s his first time here, so be gentle,” she said with a twinkle in her eye, and then she was gone, with the door closed behind her.
The other occupant was in a shadowy corner of the room, so Percy was unable to see the face that accompanied the low, feminine voice that said, “Please, have a seat, Mr. Weasley. I’m just cleaning up, and then I’ll be right there.”
Percy sat down on the only piece of furniture in the room, a reclined chair, which made him look twice before it occurred to him that professionals would have especially-designed furniture. There were, in addition to the chair, several tables with various objects on them, presumably tools of the trade. His back was to Fabala, and the only sign that there was anybody in the room at all was the repeated utterance of “scourgify” as she cleaned up around the room. “I’m terribly sorry for the delay,” she said suddenly, breaking the uneven silence, “but my last client wanted something rather extensive, and—well, you know how things are.”
Percy didn’t know how things were—as far as he knew, there was no way such things could be ‘extensive,’ as he only had experience with one way—but he simply made an attempt at a sagely nod, which Fabala probably couldn’t see anyway from her position on the other side of the room.
“So, Mr. Weasley—scourgify!—Madam Em tells me it’s your first time here?”
Percy mumbled an affirmative.
“Why is that, Mr. Weasley? Did you just move to London?”
“You’re not from America, are you?” Fabala’s voice suddenly interrupted.
Percy face showed the confusion he felt. “Er, no.”
He heard a sigh. “Ah, good. I never know what to do with Americans.” He heard the noise of several bottles clinking together. “Why have you moved to London, Mr. Weasley?”
Percy was glad that the woman couldn’t see him blush. “Well, to be honest, I had rather a fight with my father, and moved out.”
“Ah,” Fabala said knowingly. “What was the fight about—was it about a girl, perhaps?”
Percy shook his head. “No, not a girl.”
“A boy, then?”
Percy’s mouth dropped open. “A—a what?” he sputtered.
“I was only asking,” Fabala said. “You learn pretty soon, Mr. Weasley—scourgify!—that in this business it’s best not to make too many assumptions. Especially when it comes to sexual orientation.”
Percy crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I like girls.”
“I’m sure you do, Mr. Weasley. So, if it wasn’t about girls, and it definitely wasn’t about boys—what was your fight with your father about?”
Percy sighed. “Politics, actually.”
There were more clinking sounds. “Now, that’s not something I’ve heard recently. Hope it wasn’t too bad.”
Percy shrugged. “It’s just—they’re sort of getting up to their necks in something quite dangerous. My father could lose his job, or worse.”
Fabala laughed. “Usually, it’s the children taking the big risks.”
“Yes, well, sometimes I think I’m the only adult in my family—and I have two elder brothers, as well.”
“Merlin!” Fabala exclaimed. “Three sons? How did your mother manage?”
It was Percy’s turn to laugh. “Not three. I also have three younger brothers and a little sister.”
Fabala gasped appreciatively. “There are ten in your family? I’ll bet it was never quiet, was it?”
Percy shook his head. “No… no, it never was,” he said quietly.
The noise of Fabala moving things around suddenly stopped. “You miss your family, don’t you, Mr. Weasley?” she asked, her low voice full of concern.
Percy didn’t say anything, but traced the grain of the wood on the armrest of the chair with his fingers. “Yes,” he said at last, “I really do.”
Fabala clicked her tongue sympathetically. “Scourgify! So Mr. Weasley, what with all of this moving out of your house, what exactly brings you here?”
“Actually, it’s because I’ve moved out,” Percy said. “My mother, you know—“
“Ah, say no more!” There was a final sound of glass containers being stacked together, and then footsteps approached from the corner of the room. “I know exactly what you mean, Mr. Weasley,” Fabala said from Percy’s right.
Percy turned to look at the woman he’d been talking to and only barely managed to suppress a sharp intake of air. Fabala managed to notice his surprise anyway, and gave Percy a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, Mr. Weasley. I promise I won’t do anything to you like I’ve done to myself—certain people have certain tastes, after all, and I know you wouldn’t appreciate this!”
“No—no,” Percy said lamely, “It’s quite nice, really—“
“Now, now, Mr. Weasley,” Fabala said, unfolding a plastic cape and draping it over Percy, “Green streaks aren’t for everyone. Now, what will you be wanting—just some off of the top, or the sides as well?”
Percy shrugged. “I’m not sure. All I ever remember about my mother cutting my hair is a lot of wand-waving and severing charms. I’m not quite sure what she did.”
Fabala laughed. “Goodness,” she said, running her fingers through his red hair, “You certainly are in need of a cut! Don’t worry, Mr. Weasley. I’m sure I can come up with something.”
A/N: Would you believe that this was originally meant to be a deep, meaningful exploration of Percy’s character, as he realises how separated from his family he has become? Too bad I’m a sucker for innuendo… and ten points to whoever identifies the “true identities” of the girls who work at the shop.