May 2, 2008:
On the left-hand side of the entrance to the Great Hall, there is a rectangular brass plaque dedicated to those who died in the Battle of Hogwarts. Their names stretch from eye level to one's waist, in two columns, in mostly alphabetical order.
The last name on the list, Fred Weasley, shines just a tiny bit brighter than the rest. Nobody is quite sure why.
May 2, 1998:
Just because the Dark Lord had been defeated, doesn't mean there weren't still regulations. Procedures to follow. Percy could hardly expect that his offhand remark to Thicknesse constituted his two-weeks' notice. No, he must write an official letter explaining his intent to leave the Ministry, and he must write it as soon as possible.
And as soon as they figured out who exactly the head of the Ministry would be, he would send it.
Hogwarts was a school; they must have spare parchment and quills somewhere. He rises from his seat in the Great Hall and begins toward the door. The sight of his mother, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Hall, stops him. She has Fred's head in her hands, stroking his hair out of his face.
Ginny hovers nearby, a peculiar mix of anxiousness and grief on her face, and a quick look around the room reveals to Percy that every other (living) Weasley is watching their matron just as carefully.
Percy takes a step toward his mother—at the same time Ginny does. Molly looks up at her daughter and holds her arms open wide; Ginny falls into them easily, in a way that Percy never would have been able to.
Right, then. Percy sets his mouth into a thin line and leaves the Hall in search of writing implements. He isn't needed there.
October 6, 2009:
Percy unfolds the parchment, but there are no words. What, then, could Teddy have been looking at? He taps the parchment twice with his wand and demands that it reveal its secrets.
Mssr. Moony knows he should insult Percy Weasley, but can't bring himself to, as he is too pleased that Percy has become a professor.
Mssr. Prongs thinks Percy Weasley ought to remove the stick from his arse, as it can cause no end of medical trouble.
Mssr. Padfoot agrees, because Percy needs a good shag to loosen him up, and the stick gets in the way a bit.
Mssr. Wormtail is cringing at the thought, and would like to request that Mssr. Padfoot stop being such a flaming poofter.
Mssr. Weasley would like to remind his brother, as he did so many times in life, that there's more to life than rules.
Percy folds up the parchment abruptly. "I'll be keeping this, Mr. Lupin," he informs Teddy in the most officious of voices he can summon. "Twenty points from—actually," he says, abruptly changing his mind, "walk with me, Mr. Lupin."
"Where are we going?" Teddy asks, falling into step beside Percy.
"Back to Ravenclaw tower," Percy says briskly. "And to answer the question that I'm sure is on the tip of your tongue, no, I won't be taking House points from you tonight." He gives Teddy a stern look. "However, if I catch you out after lights-out again, you will receive three times the normal punishment. Is that clear?"
May 6, 1998:
When Percy opens his kitchen window to let Hermes back in, he isn't surprised to see that the owl is carrying a return message for him. What he is surprised to see, however, is that the message is written on the back of the letter he'd just sent Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Resigning? Poppycock. Report to my office at 10.00 tomorrow morning, where we can discuss this in person.
May 7, 1998:
"I was a Ministry man at a time when it was more acceptable to be a mass murderer," Percy explains with a perfectly straight face. "Now that the government is no longer wildly corrupt, I'm afraid that being a Ministry man is about to come back into vogue, which means I should be on my way out."
Kingsley quirks an eyebrow. "But what if there is a very important question on cauldron bottom regulations? To whom shall I turn? I hear you're the Ministry's expert."
Percy scowls. "I suppose my father told you that. One of my brothers, perhaps."
"None of the above, if you'll believe it." The Minister gestures to a file open on his desk. "It's in your work record. Which, by the way, is flawless except for that slap on the wrist you got about Crouch. After that, it's nothing but glowing recommendations from all of your superiors."
"Of course," Percy answers. "I was blindly loyal to them and everything they asked of me, when really I should have been doing everything except that."
"I can only hope you'll be as blindly loyal to me," is Kingsley's wistful reply.
Percy resists rolling his eyes. "If it's all the same to you, sir, I'd rather be blindly loyal to you from afar. I'd prefer to quit government entirely." A look at Kingsley reveals that the Minister doesn't intend to allow that. "If you really need me, I suppose I could stay on as an ambassador, or a similar position. Something that takes me outside this building."
"You don't like this building?"
"I spent an awful lot of time in it during the war, sir. Each room and corridor, each elevator and staircase, brings up memories I'd much rather forget," Percy answers honestly.
Kingsley frowns. "Did you spend much time in the office of the assistant to the minister of magic, Mr. Weasley?"
Percy answers honestly: "No." He can feel his resolve slipping. Assistant to the Minister of Magic at age 23? Certainly it's never been done before. And working with a man as fine as Kingsley Shacklebolt on a daily basis would be quite an honor.
"Then wouldn't that actually be the best place for you to spend your time? I believe I have all the ambassadors I need, and I'd like to keep you close. As you must have already guessed, I'd like you to be my assistant."
"You could send me to work as the Muggle Prime Minister's secretary," Percy suggests as a last resort, hoping Kingsley doesn't pick up on the desperation in his voice. He wants so much to accept the offer, but doesn't think he deserves it. "For protection. Like you did, during the war." His father would like that, he supposes. A promotion the family could be proud of.
"Mr. Weasley," the Minister says gravely, "if that position were still necessary, I would not currently be the Minister of Magic. No, I quite need you here, and I won't hear of you quitting."
Percy sighs. "No, sir. Consider my resignation revoked."
Kingsley smiles brightly. "Excellent!"
November 10, 2009:
Percy is coming up the stairs as Madame Hooch exits Headmistress McGonagall's office. She gives Percy a bright smile as they pass each other. "I'm retiring, Percy my boy," she informs him.
Although Percy can't, for the life of him, figure out why she's so pleased about it, he nonetheless offers his sincerest congratulations. He knocks on McGonagall's door, and she calls for him to come in. "Hello, Percy," she greets.
"Good afternoon, Minerva," he says, and nearly cringes. He still isn't used to that, and he's not sure if he ever will be. "You asked to see me?"
McGonagall nods. "I heard Madame Hooch telling you her good news just now."
"Yes," Percy says. "She seemed very pleased."
"Well, it makes sense for her to be," McGonagall replies wryly, "but it leaves me with a fair bit of work to do. Replacing her won't be very easy, but I do have two people in mind already. One such candidate was a schoolmate of yours."
"Really?" Percy can't help being interested.
"I was wondering if I could count on your complete honesty," McGonagall continues, "and tell me if you believe that the candidate would be suitable, before I send him an owl. I, of course, approve of him based on what I know of him, but teacher-student relationships hardly show the complete picture. What's missing is the knowledge of how he interacts with his peers—how he did with fellow students, and how he probably would with fellow teachers. That's where I need your help."
Percy's heart sinks a bit. McGonagall must know that what she's asking is impossible. His position as prefect and then as Head Boy prevented him from interacting with his "peers" in a truly student-to-student fashion. Even among his friends (if anyone could really be called a friend of his), there was always a faint edge of superiority that Percy held over them, and that he didn't ever try to do away with. "I don't know if—"
"Certainly you know," McGonagall says, her voice sharp. "I'm talking about Oliver Wood."
After his initial shock wears off—Oliver Wood, on the Hogwarts staff with Percy?—he has only one objection to raise: "But he's a professional player now. He's living his dream. I hardly think he'd give that up to become a teacher."
McGonagall raises her eyebrow. "Surely you know that Wood retired from professional Quidditch three years ago. He's now a coach for your sister's old team, the Holyhead Harpies. And while I imagine that teaching at Hogwarts may be a step down, both pay- and excitement-wise, I am confident that if we decide Wood is the correct choice, we will be able to persuade him to—" she quirks her eyebrow—"come over to the 'dark side'."
When Percy says nothing, she continues, "My biggest concern is that he would put too much pressure on the students to succeed. While it's no secret that I had quite a soft spot for the Gryffindor team and allowed the captains to do more or less what he or she thought best, this was the one issue upon which Wood and I often came to blows, so to speak."
Percy nods. "That's exactly what I would have brought up too, Profe—Minerva." He ignores the slip and continues, "He's quite the perfectionist. But he's also quite a bit like me in that respect."
September 4, 1987:
"You're going to want to say that with a bit more conviction, Weasley." The quiet brogue seems to come out of nowhere, and Percy jumps. He reaches down to snatch his broom, hugging it protectively to his chest and looking around for the voice.
A boy—his roommate, Oliver—comes out of the shadows by one side of the stands. He's dressed for flying, but still wears his tie, the scarlet and gold a stark contrast to the green and silver of the Slytherin banners bedecking the stands.
Percy scowls. "What are you doing here?"
"Practicing flying, same as you," Oliver replies easily. "Only I've already got the basics mastered." It is only then that Percy notices the broom in Oliver's hand.
"Yes, I know," Percy tells him, thinking of their very first flying class that afternoon. Oliver had breezed through everything as though he already knew it, which Percy supposed that he must have, since the broom Oliver was holding now didn't belong to the school. It must be his very own.
"I could help you if you wanted," Oliver offers. "I saw you in class."
Quite against his will, a blush spreads over Percy's face, mirroring the shame that washes over his entire body. "I'm excellent at everything I try. I don't see why brooms should be any different." He sounds petulant, he knows, but he can't do much about that.
"Flying isn't like everything else." Oliver smiles, and it's different from all the other smiles that people have shown Percy since he first arrived at Hogwarts. It's not the gentle, fond smile that Dumbledore gave each of the first-years as they were sorted. It's not the slightly forced smile Professor McGonagall wore when she welcomed them to Gryffindor and explained the rules. It's not the pleased, slightly surprised smiles of professors as they discover that this Percy Weasley boy is exceptionally bright. It's a smile full of kindness and sympathy and an eagerness to help, and it reminds Percy of his brother Bill.
So when Oliver Wood repeats his offer of help, Percy finds himself accepting, even though his pride screams for him to go it alone.
November 10, 2009:
"I expected perfection from myself when I was a student, and when I was Head Boy I also expected it from the prefects under my charge," Percy finds himself saying. "But it never went beyond that, it never went as far as the students I would tutor. I had more patience with them. I think," he finishes carefully, "that you will find that Oliver approaches Quidditch in much the same fashion. As a coach, yes, he expects perfection of his team and he expects them to work as hard as he does. But as a professor, I think all he would expect is for his students to do their very best."
McGonagall nods, making a note on the paper in front of her. "I think you're quite right, Percy. I think I shall send Mr. Wood an owl this very evening." She glances up at Percy. "Now, if that's all."
Percy rises to his feet immediately. "Yes, that's all." He thinks of asking her to let him know what Oliver's answer is, but decides against it as he's sure to find out sooner or later.
"And you will, of course, be notified as soon as I receive Oliver's response," she adds. "Though you'll probably know before I do."
May 7, 1998:
For the life of him, Percy can't remember why he agreed to visit the Burrow for dinner. His father had found him in line for the floos at closing time, invited him home. Percy said yes without thinking, and now he's sitting around the dinner table for the first time in over three years.
Fred not being there unbalances the table.
"Kingsley summoned me to his office today," Arthur says, to break the silence. "Tells me Percy here accepted the position of his personal assistant. The youngest assistant to the Minister in history." He smiles broadly.
Percy looks around the table: Ginny seems genuinely excited. Ron is still sulking a bit, hasn't quite forgiven him. Bill is giving him a thumbs-up, Fleur inclines her head in a gesture of respect, and Charlie (sitting directly across) kicks Percy in the shin to express his pleasure. His mother, he can't read: she is proud of him, of course. She is proud of all of her children. But she hasn't been able to smile for almost a week now. George wears much the same expression.
"Congrats, Perce," Charlie says, with an almost manic glint in his eye. Percy is bracing himself for another kick. It doesn't come, only: "We know you've worked hard for this."
Percy clears his throat. "Actually," he informs his family, "I was promoted exclusively so that I could keep an eye on Harry Potter. It had everything to do with Ron being my brother, and nothing to do with my personal merits or hard work."
The smile he attempts is met solely with raised eyebrows and blank stares, and convinces Percy, once again, that he should never attempt humor around his family. The results will inevitably be disastrous—though, he supposes, none as bad as the first. Perhaps the fact that nobody died this time means there's hope for him yet.
Arthur speaks first. "Percy, I—"
"No," Percy says, stopping him. "I... I'm excited to be working directly with the Minister. Shacklebolt is an excellent man, very competent. That's what I meant to say."
November 14, 2009:
At breakfast, Percy receives two letters. The first is dropped rather unceremoniously, and unexpectedly, into his porridge. As Percy glances up to see from when it came (the storm of owls overhead makes that impossible) a snowy-white owl perches neatly on the table behind his glass of orange juice, her parcel still tied to her leg.
Percy uses one hand to wipe a splash of cooked cereal off of his face (Neville, glancing over, smirks and Percy shoots him a look); with his other hand he gestures for the owl to have some of his bagel. The owl coos softly and puts its head to one side, so Percy sighs and breaks off a piece himself and holds it out.
"I haven't poisoned it," he tells the owl stuffily, and it is only at this reassurance that the owl snatches up the proffered morsel. As she eats, Percy unties the letter. He doesn't open it. "I'll send Ginny my response later," he says, and the owl departs.
Next Percy gingerly fishes the first letter out of his porridge, holding it by the tip. Casting a quick scourgify, he unfolds it to reveal a page of rough handwriting that is at once both familiar and unfamiliar.
McGonagall wrote to me a few days ago to offer me Madam Hooch's position at Hogwarts. Can you imagine that? – Well, of course you can. You knew before I did, didn't you? (Don't try to deny it, McGonagall specifically mentioned that she asked you first.) Honestly, Percy. You couldn't've owled me a warning? I thought we were friends, Weasley. I'm very disappointed in you.
Now that that's out of the way, I also want to say thanks. McGonagall said you had a lot to do with her final decisions, so—thanks, mate. I know you probably only told her I'd be good for the job because you thought I'd never take it in a million years, but I suppose the joke's on you in that case, as I've already said yes. The owl that brought you this letter also brought McGonagall a little something.
Merlin on a bicycle, Percy, I hate writing letters. You know that. So. I'll see you soon.
Well, that was unexpected. Percy glances down the staff table to the center, where McGonagall was watching him carefully. Upon meeting Percy's eyes, she smiles slightly and held up a piece of paper. Percy nods. McGonagall inclines her head almost imperceptibly, and goes back observing the students.
"Oliver Wood's agreed to replace Madame Hooch," Percy says absently. He is half-expecting Neville's snort of laughter, and doesn't object.
"Well, well," Neville says. Percy doesn't even have to look over to know how broadly Neville is grinning, because he can hear it in the younger man's voice. "On a scale of one to ten," Neville continues, "how pleased are you about this news?"
Percy glances over, folding the letter perfunctorily. "I don't know, Neville. I'm sure you're about to tell me."
"Oh, about eleven, I'd guess," Neville says, unable to keep a smile off his face. "Maybe twelve or fifteen. Right this very minute, you're conjuring up an elaborate fantasy involving the Quidditch locker room showers, some broom polish, and a Sni—"
Percy clears his throat. "That's quite enough of that." He turns his attention to the next letter, which, to his surprise, is not in Ginny's handwriting. (If Neville continues with his ridiculous little scenario, Percy doesn't hear it.)
I supposed you expected this to be from Gin, seeing as Hedwig II only ever brings you letters from her.
Anyway. Teddy wrote to me a few days ago, and mentioned his after-hours run-in with you. He mentioned you took something away from him. Before you get any ideas, no, I'm not asking you to give it back to him—I understand the rules
and how much you love them. I'm just asking you to take good care of it. It's something of an heirloom—my father and Teddy's father both helped to make it.
I got it from your brothers.
Please take good care of it, even if just looks like a silly bit of paper to you. It means much more than it seems like it should.
June 21, 1998:
Molly corners him at the end of the family dinner one Sunday. "Percy, would you be a dear and help me with the washing-up? There's a good lad."
Percival Weasley wasn't born yesterday. He knows something is up, especially when he takes his wand out of his pocket and his mother waves it away. "I think we should do it the Muggle way tonight." She smiles brightly and reaches up to pinch her middle son's cheek, stopping just short.
She doesn't quite know what to do with her hand. Percy does the only thing he can think of, which is to reach up and give it a gentle squeeze. Her only response is a grateful smile, and: "Be a dear and get us some towels."
The linen closet hasn't changed since before Percy left, but, quite to his shock, the contents have. At some point during his estrangement from the family, every single towel and bedsheet had been replaced (with the exception of Ron's Chudley Cannons bed-set—Ron is too old to keep it on his bed, but unable to give it away entirely, Percy supposes). These dishcloths with the flowered pattern—peonies and roses—are new. The fluffy, pale yellow towels have only a year or two of wear, not an entire lifetime.
"Percy?" comes Molly's voice from down the hall, and Percy realizes he's been staring at the inside of the linen closet for several full minutes. For no real reason.
He grabs some of the dishcloths and heads back into the kitchen. He's being silly. There's no reason for him to react like this, he tells himself. They're just towels.
But replacing all the towels and sheets in the house must have been awfully expensive. When and where did his parents get the money? Why did they decide to spend it on linens? It's true that the old ones were threadbare relics, and gravely needed replacing, but the same went for most everything in the house.
They are both elbow-deep in suds (Molly is wearing large yellow gloves; Percy simply rolled up the sleeves of his plum-colored button-down shirt) before Molly speaks. To her credit, however, she gets right to the point.
"Percy, dear, I'm concerned that you work too much."
"...Oh?" Percy very carefully waits for her to elaborate. He's got a response, sure—'I don't work enough'—but he thinks that perhaps he should hear her out first. Best to know all of her points first, and then prepare a response that refutes them all.
"Yes," Molly decides. "Kingsley is a good friend of your father and I, as you know. I bumped into him on Diagon Alley yesterday and asked how you were getting along at work. He had nothing to say but good things, except he asked me if I knew that you often stayed much later than everyone else, and was a little early each morning." She pauses, scrubs a little harder (at a dish that's already clean). "I said no, that I didn't know, but that I wasn't surprised either. When you were working for the Ministry and living at home all those years ago, I noticed you doing the same thing. Now that you don't live at home anymore, I can't keep an eye on that sort of thing."
"There's so much to be done," Percy says finally. "Most of the departments are only just beginning to perform to their proper functions, and it's been over a month since—well. A lot of the staff needed replacing, and I must make sure that I select the best possible candidates for each position. Minister Shacklebolt gave me that task specifically. I can't disappoint him."
History has borne out the painful fact that Percy is far less adept at judging character than he'd initially thought. Shacklebolt knew that better than anyone in the Ministry—knew his family history, too—and yet he assigned Percy this task. There must be no-one else to do it, so Percy must work twice as hard, think twice as carefully, put in twice as many hours in order to produce the same results.
"You're certainly not doing anything of the sort," Molly says firmly. "His only criticism is that you never seem to take time off, or do anything for yourself."
"That's not true." Percy frowns. "Every Thursday I leave promptly at five p.m. and floo directly here."
"Would you, if your father didn't come by your office?" Molly asks, and Percy doesn't answer because he isn't sure. Finally he says:
"I haven't missed a single Thursday or Sunday dinner since the Dark Lord was defeated. That's a far better record than the last time I worked at the Ministry."
Molly smiles, a little sadly. "I know, dear. It's just hard to know that you're still overworking yourself."
I'm trying. Habits are hard to change. "Not to the same extent," Percy replies, trying not to get angry. "It's different this time. I'm not trying to get ahead, or get promoted—I can't, unless I mean to take over for Shacklebolt when his interim term is up. Which I don't, by the way," he adds. Percy sighs, and dries his hands on a strange towel. "Almost everyone from the old administration is gone. I'm one of the few people left who was there, and in full possession of my free will, throughout the entire war. I don't want to be there, but I have to. I can't leave until I've helped make things right, because I was one of the ones who let them go wrong."
Molly doesn't say anything. If Percy were keeping score, he would have considered himself the winner of that debate. As it is, he just wishes his mother would say something instead of just standing there, cleaning tomato sauce off of a plate.
A full minute passes.
"These are nice towels," he tries, desperate for the awkward silence to end.
"Thank you," his mother answers. "The twins restocked the entire linen closet for Christmas a while back. It was just after they opened their shop, so that must have been—"
The year he sent back his sweater. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see his mother's mood deflating even further. He can't tell which has upset her further: a reminder of her dead son, or a reminder of the son that used to be dead to her.
Percy doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything at all.
January 31, 2010:
"Oliver," Percy says abruptly one day, "do you ever miss Fred?"
They are in Percy's office—Oliver stops by after the end of classes each day 'just to chat' and generally ends up staying for a few hours. Percy doesn't mind; he's found that Oliver being around reminds him of the days when they shared a dorm, and, like so many years ago, they each do their own work in comfortable silence.
Oliver looks up in surprise. "Of course I do, Perce."
Percy nods thoughtfully and opens a drawer in his desk. "I want to show you something." Pulling out the piece of parchment he confiscated from Teddy Lupin, he says, "You remember sixth year, when Ginny was missing and presumed dead?"
Oliver only nods, face slightly scrunched in concentration. Percy remembers that look well; it generally meant that Oliver was completely lost, but making an effort to understand. It makes Percy smile a bit.
"I don't remember how much I explained to you about everything afterwards, but essentially Ginny was... conversing. With a magicked diary. She would write things to it, and it would answer." Percy can tell that Oliver is still completely lost. "In any case, the diary was the key to the events of sixth year, with the basilisk and everything. When mum found out she scolded Ginny for trusting something even though she couldn't see where it kept its brain."
Oliver grins. "That sounds familiar." Pitching his voice higher, he elaborates, "Don't trust anything if you can't figure out how it thinks. Don't cross the street without holding my hand. Don't go around telling strangers I'm a witch, honestly, Oliver."
Percy raises an eyebrow. "That's a poor imitation of your mother. And anyway, did you actually go around telling people she was a witch?"
"Yeah," Oliver laughs. "It's a good thing we lived in Puddlemere at the time; in a Muggle town it would have been disastrous."
"We're getting off topic," Percy remembers. He pushes the parchment across the desk at Oliver. "Go ahead, take a look at this."
Oliver unfolds the parchment. Finding nothing, he turns it upside down. Flips it over. Finally: "I don't get it, Perce. It's just a blank old piece of parchment."
"I took it from young Mr. Lupin about a month ago. He was wandering the halls after hours with it in his hand. When I cast revealo on it, it only insulted me." He frowns. "Mostly. See for yourself."
Oliver gives Percy a glance, then pulls his wand out and taps the parchment. Percy watches as Oliver's eyes widen and he scans the words that Percy knows are appearing on the page. "Some French men are insulting me... my mother's a hamster and my father smells of elderberries, apparently. And... oh. Is that—"
"Yes," Percy says. "I believe it is. Only I can't figure it out. Harry owled me the week after I took it from Teddy, and said that it had been made by his father and Professor Lupin. I'm assuming they account for two of the names on there. Fred was two years old when Mr. Potter died, so I can't imagine how or why he got included."
"Huh." Oliver looks up from the parchment. "Do you think it's actually your brother speaking?"
Percy frowns. "No, I don't. I can't see where it keeps its brain. I don't trust it." He pauses, then shrugs. "I wish I could."
"Have you shown George?"
Percy bites his lip. "Not yet. I can't decide if it's a good idea or not. That's what I was going to ask you about. You know George as well as I do, but in a different way. As a brother, I hope he never sees this or hears of it."
"Imagine if you had a twin brother, and he died," Percy says simply. "You'd have lost the other half of you. Then you hear about a piece of paper that responds to the person holding it, and your brother is among the personalities contained within it?" He glances at the parchment, wanting to say more.
Oliver falls silent, thinking. "I can see your point," he says, after a long moment. "Perce, you're not—you haven't...."
Percy holds out his hand, and Oliver only reluctantly hands over the parchment. Percy doesn't say anything for a few minutes, concentrating only on putting the parchment back in the drawer. He fidgets with a few objects on the top of his desk, rearranging some paperclips. His mouth moves slightly, as if he is rehearsing his next works before he says them, organizing his thoughts.
"Since I took it away from Teddy, it's stayed in my desk drawer," he says finally. This is the first time I've taken it out, although I've wanted to almost every day. I've thought very seriously about trying to use it to apologize to Fred, but—"
"Apologize?" Oliver asks. "What for?"
Percy hadn't been expecting that. "The last thing my brother heard me say was that I was resigning my place at the Ministry. As you know, I ended up agreeing to stay on for quite a bit longer than I'd expected. It bothers me that my final conversation with Fred was based on a lie, albeit unintentionally."
"I doubt he'd fault you for that. You did good work while you were at the Ministry."
"Irrelevant," Percy persists. "It was still a lie."
June 22, 1998:
There is a knock at the door to Percy's office. "Come in," he calls, without looking up from his work.
The young woman clears her throat politely, and only then does Percy look up at her. She has very long, blonde hair and looks vaguely familiar, but not enough for Percy to know where he has seen her before. "Mr. Percy Weasley?" she asks, with a surprisingly childlike, dreamy voice. Now she is even more familiar.
"And you are, miss?" She has not shut the door.
"Luna Lovegood," she replies promptly. "Your secretary. Minister Shacklebolt hired me about ten minutes ago."
"At least fifteen, I'd say," comes Shacklebolt's voice, and a few seconds later he appears in the doorway. "Hello, Weatherby. Miss Lovegood here was meant to be my secretary, but as you seem to have hired me one already, I gave her to you."
Percy smiles. "Thank you, Minister. Don't you have better things to be doing than hiring my secretary for me?"
"Very probably!" the Minister answers cheerfully. "Have I done them? Absolutely not. Am I about to go off and do them now? Reluctantly so. Have a wonderful day, Weatherby. Miss Lovegood, don't let Weatherby here intimidate you. He's a softy, really." And with that the Minister wanders back into the outer office (and, presumably, back to his own office).
Luna looks over her shoulder, then turns back: "He told me to call you Weatherby," she confides. "Does he think that's your name?"
Percy only barely keeps himself from audibly groaning. "He knows what my name is. It's a long story, but it boils down to this: the Minister does what he wants."
February 13, 2010:
Hogsmeade is really a very pretty town, Percy admits to himself. Especially in the wintertime. If only there weren't pink and red hearts bedecking literally every square inch of public space.
"Come on," Neville persists, tugging on Percy's sleeve. "You're so slow, we don't want to make the girls wait."
Percy throws a look at Oliver—as if to say, 'see?'—before telling Neville, not for the first time, "I think I liked you better when you were a shy, forgetful little second-year."
Neville snorts. "That's a lie and you know it. I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that you'd rather fuck a war hero who killed Voldemort's snake, than deal with a thirteen-year-old that accidentally let Sirius Black into the Gryffindor common room. Oliver, wouldn't you agree?"
Percy resolutely does not look over at Oliver, too embarrassed by this rather careless outing of his personal life. They pass the rest of the short walk to the Hog's Head in complete silence.
Luna is the only one waiting. "Where's Hannah?" Neville blurts out, in obvious worry, and Luna reassures him that she's only in the bathroom.
They pile into the U-shaped booth. Oliver goes first, and ends up at the bottom of the U between Luna and Percy. Neville is on Percy's other side.
"Oliver, this is Luna Lovegood," Percy says. "She was Ginny's year at Hogwarts, but in Ravenclaw. She was my secretary while I was at the Ministry, and introduced me to Neville. Luna, this is Oliver. We roomed together at school."
"Hello, Luna," Oliver says, flashing her his most winning smile. "Would you like to be my valentine?"
Luna's eyes are perfectly round in surprise. "Oh. Oh, dear." She looks between Oliver and Percy. "I was under the impression that Percy was my valentine this year."
Percy laughs. "And what impression is Rolf under?" he asks.
"That your intentions are friendly and pure," she replies, innocent as Percy's supposed intentions.
"Sorry, Oliver," Percy tells his friend. "My intentions are apparently analogous to driven snow; yours are not. You're a strong man, but I don't know if you'd be able to take Rolf in a fight. He has the advantage of being completely devoted to Luna."
"Speaking of complete devotion," Neville interrupts. "I want to show you all something before Hannah returns. It's meant to be a surprise for later this evening, so nobody can say anything. Is that clear?" There are general nods from around the table, and Neville, satisfied, pulls a small box out of his pocket.
Luna claps her hands together with glee. "You're going to ask her to marry you?"
Neville nods. He opens the box to reveal a small diamond ring, but Percy only gets a quick look at it before someone clears her throat, and Neville snaps the box shut. Hannah, unnoticed by the others, had returned from the bathroom and obviously caught the tail end of the conversation. Neville gets up starts talking to her quietly, earnestly.
Percy glances over at Oliver, who is looking rather confused. And Percy can guess why. He leans over and speaks softly, without taking his eyes off the couple of the hour. "Neville and I broke up on truly friendly terms. He was making a joke earlier. We haven't been together for almost seven years now."
Neville gets down on one knee. Hannah begins nodding happily. Oliver doesn't see either of these things happen, because he is too busy studying Percy's profile.
April 16, 1999:
"Percy," Luna calls softly, knocking on the open door to his office. "The Minister has something he wants your input on."
Percy nods, putting his almost-completed report aside. "What is it?" He can remember when an interruption like this would have annoyed him; so close to finishing his report, why couldn't they have waited ten minutes? Now he is only curious as to what is so important.
Luna walks further into his office, gesturing to the folder in the crook of her arm. "The design for the plaque for the Battle of Hogwarts." Sitting in the armchair in front of Percy's desk, she pushes the folder across to him.
"I think it's lovely, but he wants a second opinion." She leans forward slightly. "Confidentially, I think the Minister believes I keep Wrackspurts as pets, and oughtn't be trusted."
"I'm sure he doesn't think that," Percy reassures her, trying to remember exactly what she'd said Wrackspurts were. It probably didn't matter, with Luna.
"Or perhaps someone told him that my nickname is Loony," she muses.
Percy shakes his head decisively. "No, if the Minister knew you had a nickname, he'd use that, not call you 'Miss Lovegood'. Why do you think he calls me Weatherby?" Intending it as a rhetorical question, he opens the folder.
Luna's right: the plaque is lovely. Fifty names, Percy can't help noticing, in two columns just like the bodies were. It was obviously unintentional—simply the best way to use space—but Percy thinks it's rather fitting. He likes that the names are alphabetized (in the early stages there had been talk of putting them in order of time of death, and Percy's glad that nonsense had been thrown out as soon as it had been suggested). Only—
Percy taps the first name in the second row. "Luna, look at this."
"It says Remus John Lupin." She peers a little closer, obviously not understanding the reason for Percy's concern. "That's right, isn't it? Is the middle name wrong? I seem to remember it starting with a J. James, perhaps?"
Percy shakes his head. "No, look at the name at the bottom of the first row."
"Nymphadora Tonks Lupin... oh," she says. "Oh. They've been split up."
"I don't like that very much."
"Neither do I."
Luna looks up at him. "Maybe I should do something about it...?" she suggests.
"I can't imagine what it is that you'd do," Percy says. "The names are in alphabetical order, you can't change that." He gives a significant pause. "However, if between now and the plaque being made a couple of the names happen to be put out of order, I'm sure nobody would blame you."
Luna stands abruptly. "Right. Well, I'm sure you have quite a bit of work to be doing."
"As do you." When Luna reaches the doorframe, she stops and turns her head to smile at Percy. Percy only winks at her, and goes back to his report.
April 22, 2010:
"Oliver?" Percy calls. The Quidditch pitch is entirely deserted, until Oliver walks out from the side of the stands, holding a broom. This all seems terribly familiar, Percy notes. "You wanted to see me?"
"Right you are, Percy." Oliver grins, and Percy is highly unsettled. He knows that that smile means. It means Oliver has a Plan, and Percy is probably going to find himself dragged along. Lucky that they're not still students, or he would probably have to take House points from himself again.
He never did like doing that.
"Percy," Oliver begins thoughtfully, "do you remember the time I taught you how to ride a broom?"
Percy nods. "Of course. It was an awfully long time ago, Oliver, but I haven't begun having senior moments quite yet."
"Do you remember how finally I just had you sit on the broom behind me, and I took you for a trip around the pitch, so you would get used to what flying felt like and not be so nervous?"
"Oh, Oliver. Tell me you didn't do what I think you did." The last thing Percy wants to hear is that Oliver, with the purest of intentions, did the same thing with a first-year and has now landed himself in no end of trouble.
"I haven't done anything!" Oliver says quickly. "I just... I wondered if maybe you wanted to do that again. For old time's sake."
Percy quirks an eyebrow, and can't quite decide if he's surprised or not. In the end, he decides that he is surprised, but only mildly. "Oliver, I do know how to ride a broom." Seeing Oliver's face, he comes to a quick decision. "Fine, if you'll tell me why you agreed to come work here."
Oliver brightens considerably. "It's a deal."
Percy doesn't fly very often. Once he learned to Apparate, there was no need for it. When he worked at the Ministry he would use the Floo network like everyone else, and the Hogwarts Express always took him to the school. He hasn't been on a broom in about five years—since the last time Charlie and Bill were home, and pressganged everyone into a game of pickup Quidditch.
And the view from atop a broom changes considerably when one is over the lake at night instead of at the Burrow in the afternoon; even more considerably when one is clinging to Oliver Wood's waist rather than trying to get the Quaffle away from Angelina. Come to think of it, that had been the day before George and Angelina's wedding, so the lawn had been in quite a state of disarray.
Yes, this broom ride was much more enjoyable.
"I believe I promised you the reason why I decided to accept McGonagall's offer," Oliver says, breaking the silence.
Percy shifts a little bit but is careful not to unbalance Oliver. "Yes."
"You," Oliver says simply. When Percy doesn't say anything, Oliver explains, "You and I were good friends, and then I lost contact with you. After my injury, I started coaching again." Percy feels him shrug. "It didn't matter where I was coaching, or for what team. It was the part of Quidditch that was available to me.
"I did follow your career, even if we had stopped speaking. Hell, even if I had wanted to forget we were ever friends, I would have known. Youngest Assistant to the Minister of Magic in wizarding history; it was impossible not to hear about it! Everyone expected you to be Minister some day, you know."
"Not everyone," Percy answers. "Kingsley knew I would never let it happen, and so did my mother. And me, of course."
"But... ministry liaison to Hogwarts!" Oliver protests. "You're going to go down in the history books twice: once for being the youngest assistant minister, once for making the most shocking career change, possibly ever. And what on Earth made you decide to become a professor?"
Percy laughs slightly. "I spent rather a lot of time in the library after I accepted the liaison position. Around NEWTS time, one of the seventh years approached me. I'd tutored his older sister when I was Head Boy, apparently. She told him I would probably be able to help him with Defense."
Oliver looks over his shoulder at Percy—a daring move on a broomstick, doubly so at dusk. "And, obviously, that lead to you being a professor."
"Turn back around, Oliver, for heaven's sake. Look where we're going," Percy lectures, before softening his voice and adding, "and yes, that is how I ended up as a professor. Once word got out that I helped one student, and he ended up with an Outstanding on his Defense NEWT, the next year I was approached by more students. And more the year after that. Eventually McGon—Minerva asked me which I liked better, my Ministry work or the tutoring."
"Let me guess," Oliver interjects. "You said tutoring, and she offered you a job on the spot."
Percy's glad that it was getting dark, and Oliver was not facing him. (Weasley blushes are quite uncontrollable, and quite embarrassing.) "There's a bit more to the story than that, but essentially yes. I was Defense teacher for one year until Vector decided to retire, and I took over for him."
"Nice to know the Defense position's still cursed," Oliver remarks, and Percy laughs, tightening his arms around Oliver's middle.
"Yes," Percy answers dryly, "I may have been the youngest Assistant to the Minister of Magic, but even I can't break the curse of Defense Against the Dark Arts. I will leave that to a more noble man than I." They both chuckle quietly, and Percy takes a minute to really look at their surroundings.
They're flying over the Forbidden Forest. He can see the lights of the castle—and it looks wonderful, all lit up the way it is—but it's getting very dark outside. He suggests that they head back soon.
"There's just one more thing," Oliver says.
"We're not going to be able to find our way back to the castle if we let it get much darker," Percy warns.
"Tough," Oliver answers. "See, this was all part of my master plan to combine the two things I enjoyed the most: Quidditch, and Percy Weasley."
Percy only raises an eyebrow—a wasted gesture, he realizes. "Go on."
Oliver lets out a breath in a puff. "That's really it," he says. "I'm in control of the broom, and I'm not going to land until you agree to go on a date with me."
"You're awfully confident," Percy observes. "What if I never say yes? What if I do, but I take a very long time, and you die of exhaustion before that happens?" They're heading back to the pitch, Percy notes. Oliver really is a self-assured bastard, he decides, and Oliver's response only reinforces the fact:
"You're not going to take that long," Oliver says, as if he knows.
And Percy supposes he does know. "Very well," Percy sighs. "I shall go on a date with you." He is pleased—and somewhat startled—when the broom wavers for a small moment, betraying Oliver's surprise.
After a moment, Oliver says, "I don't believe you. I think you're just saying that so I'll put you back down on the ground."
"That may be true," Percy agrees gravely, and then doesn't shriek as Oliver falls into a dive. "Oliver Wood! What are you doing?"
"Prove to me that you're not just saying things," Oliver calls back. He must be shouting, but Percy can barely hear him over the noise of the air rushing past. "Don't just say that you'll go on a date with me, ask me on a date."
The ground is coming up fast, Percy notes. "Oliver!"
Oliver shakes his head and lets out a whoop of happiness. Percy suspects he is manic; it is likely a Quidditch thing, as he has heard Charlie make the same sort of noise in the face of coming doom. The ground is now so close that Percy can't even say anything.
So this is how he's going to die. On the back of a broom piloted by a half-insane Oliver Wood. Somehow, he never pictured this particular situation. The ground is impossibly close, so Percy squeezes his eyes shut, squeezes his arms tighter around Oliver, and waits for impact.
It never comes—only a sharp jolt as the broom abruptly changes direction. They are about a hundred feet in the air before Percy is able to open his eyes again.
"Well," Percy says when he's recovered his wits as far as humanly possible, given the situation. "After that, Oliver, I may just refuse to date you anyway."
Oliver laughs. "Where's your sense of fun?"
"I believe I dropped it at some point during that suicidal dive we took." But he's laughing, and so is Oliver.
May 2, 2010:
On his way into the Great Hall, Percy lets his hand drop carelessly to his side (with the practice of someone who's been doing it for years) and lets his fingers slide over Fred's name. Over the years, the oils from his fingertips have made it shine.