Chapter 1 : I
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--Saint Ignatius of Loyola
He should have gone home when he had the chance.
Though, would it have made a difference? He sometimes stopped to ponder this. Maybe it was actually safer this way. Yes, he was isolated, and easier to control because of it. Yes, he lived under constant threat. He had nobody to depend on. But perhaps his vague allegiances were actually helping to keep his family alive.
That was what he told himself, anyway, in his darkest hours.
Percy was quite good at justifying things these days. Actually, he was quite good at justifying things, full stop.
It was going to drive him mad, thinking about this. It was pointless and unconstructive. It was impossible to guess how things would have gone. Dwelling on what might have been only made things worse. So he tried to avoid it, the way he tried to avoid thinking about what his mother might be cooking for dinner that night, or how his sister was doing at school, or just trying to remember what it felt like to not be so alone and utterly lost.
He was ashamed to admit he hadn’t seen it coming - not until it was too late, at least. Who would have thought it was that easy to cripple the Ministry? Weren’t there supposed to be goddamned safeguards in place to keep these things from happening? Millennia of evolving systems of government and they still hadn’t gotten it right.
It seemed he had made the unfortunate choice of building his house upon sand, and the foundation had eroded away while he wasn’t paying attention. He put his faith in something that failed him - and this, if he were being perfectly honest, really pissed him off.
It was impossible enough to admit when the Ministry had been wrong. Now it seemed it was just Percy who’d been wrong. And impossibility aside, it was simply too late to try to set everything right. He didn’t dare try anything now.
He was left a free agent when the old Ministry fell. It was anyone’s guess where his loyalties lay. He’d only ever been a bureaucrat, not a Death Eater. He knew they knew that. So even though he hadn’t spoken to his family in two years, he was still a threat.
It was all very easy to speculate about this in retrospect - it seemed so obvious now - but in reality, he had to do some quick thinking on the day he arrived at work and discovered that something was very wrong.
After the fact, he would realize that something in the air was not right - that the people milling about the Atrium that morning were speaking more softly than usual and that the tension was stifling. But the nuances of atmosphere were not Percy’s forte.
No, what caught his attention was the Fountain of Magical Brethren - or rather, something that was formerly the Fountain of Magical Brethren but was now… well… what the hell was it? Something insane and grotesque and just plain wrong. He came to an abrupt halt on the slippery tile floor and almost lost his footing. Looking around to make sure nobody had seen, he noticed several other people regarding the new statue warily, but silently.
Don’t act shocked. That was important. That much was clear to him.
He appraised the statue as one might a mildly interesting piece of architecture. It was disgusting, and he was rapidly working out in his mind exactly what it meant in practical terms, but he kept a look of academic interest on his face.
“Impressive, isn‘t it?” came a voice over his right shoulder.
Percy turned to see Yaxley, who was watching him in such a careful way Percy knew he’d be stupid to even think about disagreeing with the opinion.
“Masterful, sir,” he said evenly.
Arms crossed, Yaxley stepped forward until he was standing a little too much in Percy’s personal space, but now looking up at the statue, nodding in appreciation of Percy’s comment. Without taking his eyes off the statue, he spoke again.
“Things are going to change around here, Weasley.”
“Better benefits, sir?” was the dry response Percy wanted to give, but he bit his tongue and settled for a politely puzzled expression. This was going to be a tiresome game to play. Percy knew that Yaxley knew that Percy wasn’t this stupid.
Yaxley was silent for a moment before turning to Percy again. “I’ll see you shortly. We’re going to be doing some… redistributing.” With that, he walked off.
As far as Percy could gather, “redistributing” either meant administrative reassignments or some sort of gruesome torture method.
The conversation achieved its purpose. Percy knew right away he would have to be very careful. He had never been skilled in the art of subtlety and keeping his head down, but he was going to have to be a quick learner.
“Redistributing” turned out to mean that Rufus Scrimgeour had resigned (Percy didn’t believe that for a second) and the new Minister was bringing in a new support staff. In the world of Percy Weasley, this meant that he was given some new, vague, nonsensical job title and stuffed into a tiny closet that housed a desk and a lamp. His job was apparently to do whatever was asked of him by any of the Minister’s staff or Heads of Department, and ninety-nine percent of it was pointless, tedious, and almost certainly an inefficient use of time and resources. A distinct amount of effort seemed to have been made to keep him miles away from important decision-making and classified information.
But every once in awhile, something interesting would cross his desk, sometimes by “accident,” and he began to think specific information was being deliberately revealed to him. Was it a coincidence that only the “C” list of Muggle-borns who had failed to present themselves for registration - which included the name Clearwater - had been misdirected to him?
“Was I supposed to do something with this, sir?” Percy asked flatly, holding out the document to one of the Minister’s assistants.
“Hmm,” mused the man - Jugson was his name - “No, no, we’ve got someone else handling these problems.”
Percy tried not to dwell on what the phrase “handling these problems” was supposed to mean. He walked stiffly back to his office, shut the door, allowed himself to hyperventilate for a minute and a half, then resumed the important task of keeping his head down.
A lot of people were keeping their heads down these days. He noticed it particularly after about a week. Everyone realized, as he did, that things were just not right. The sudden policy changes. The openly declared manhunt for Harry Potter. The fact that you had to get to work via toilet.
Percy found that last one aptly symbolic. So there was some poetic value, at least.
But his morning walk to the newly designated entrance happened to take him right past a church. It nagged him silently. He hadn’t been in three years - well, once, at Christmas. He hadn’t confessed in four. He figured if he went back now, he’d have to be there for hours. Lord knew he had plenty to talk about. And really, who had that kind of time anymore?
So he kept walking past it.
Some days he thought that maybe his mother had been right. Maybe it could have made him feel better. Maybe he would have felt more peaceful. Maybe even less alone.
But other days he just couldn’t bring himself to believe those things. They were nice thoughts, but any person who lived in the real world knew that faith wasn’t always enough. It didn’t mask unfairness. It didn’t stop the disappearances.
And then there were the Muggle-born interrogations.
On the fifth day of the interrogations, he was ordered to fill in as court scribe. The air in the courtroom made his skin crawl, and he forced himself not to look up at the swarming dementors. In the seat next to him, Dolores Umbridge was talking about something ignorant and nonsensical, and Percy gave a few vague nods to appease her.
He didn’t really know what to expect. It would be a total kangaroo court, he was certain of that. But that still didn‘t prepare him.
To his shock, the first accused brought in was Mark Emmens, who’d been a Ravenclaw in the same year as Percy at school. Mark’s eyes darted around the chamber before meeting Percy’s. His eyebrows raised in recognition and he opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but didn‘t.
Rattled, Percy dropped his gaze to the blank parchment on the desk in front of him and took a deep, steadying breath.
“Are you alright, Mr. Weasley?” asked Umbridge.
“Fine,” he replied quietly, beginning to write.
Percy didn’t look at his old classmate once throughout the entire interrogation. Just listening was bad enough. Mark’s fear was evident in his voice as he answered Umbridge’s questions about his family, his wand, his current profession. With every word he became more distraught.
He was crying by the time Umbridge ordered him taken into custody.
“I told you I didn’t steal anything! Please - ”
Percy glanced up warily and saw Mark, with his hands bound behind his back, trying to wipe his tears off on his shoulder. Mark caught Percy’s eye again and latched onto the opportunity.
“Percy, come on, man!” he pleaded.
Percy’s head snapped back down to his notes.
“Mr. Weasley, do you know this criminal?” asked Umbridge. She made a show of asking as though she found the idea completely ridiculous - but something in her tone made Percy feel she was rubbing it in his face.
Percy cleared his throat and managed, “Not really, ma’am, no.”
He could only imagine the look Mark was giving him. But Mark said nothing further as he was led from the chamber.
Percy couldn’t say the interrogations that followed were necessarily any better - but it was easier when they were strangers. He wondered how much easier it would have been if they hadn’t started with Mark. He considered whether he could have sat there with almost total apathy. He decided he could not have. Still, he hated himself for thinking about it.
Half a dozen men and women were taken away. Umbridge was forced to let one girl go because she could point to magical blood four generations back on her mother’s side - but the girl was ordered back for further questioning the following week. Percy knew they’d find a way to lock her up anyhow.
Umbridge read the last name on the list for that day.
Percy watched as a girl with short black hair was led into the courtroom. Her gaze was cast down toward the floor, and Percy looked away quickly before she could catch his eye as Mark had. Grace had been a Hufflepuff Prefect one year behind Percy. He recalled she was a bright girl with tremendous poise but a certain lack of self-confidence.
Grace answered Umbridge’s questions in a voice so quiet she had to be asked frequently to repeat herself.
“You were top of your class, I see,” commented Umbridge at one point.
“Yes,” responded Grace, a little more loudly, with a trace of pride in her tone.
“You cheated, didn’t you?”
“I don’t believe you. You are not a real witch. You stole magic, and you cheated your way through school.”
“I am a witch! What you‘re saying is impossible!” argued Grace. Panic now started to creep into her voice. “I studied! I earned it! Percy! You remember me!”
Percy’s hand shook as he wrote.
Of course he remembered her. He had recommended her for Head Girl.
Umbridge sniffed. “Mr. Weasley?”
He couldn’t bring himself to look at Grace. “No, I’m afraid I don’t,” he said to Umbridge. He clenched his jaw and felt lower than dirt.
“But - ” Grace began.
“Miss Wu,” interrupted Umbridge, “I would suggest you stop trying to drag real wizards through the mud and instead concentrate on your own transgressions.” She surveyed Grace’s dossier. “You applied to be a wandmaker’s apprentice, I believe?”
“Yes,” answered Grace, quietly again. Percy got the feeling she was still staring at him.
“So you could attempt to steal more magical secrets?”
“It wasn’t enough to steal one wand, was it? You had to - ”
“You’re mad! And this is - this is a sham!”
Umbridge drew a breath. After a pause, she said very sweetly, “I think we’ve heard enough from Miss Wu.”
Percy was taken aback by Grace’s reaction when they tried to take her away. She didn’t go quietly. In fact, in contrast to the placid girl he knew, she completely and totally freaked out as the significance of the situation finally hit her. She panicked and shouted and resisted. It was terrible to witness. Percy clenched his fists and stared more intently down at the desk.
Grace had to be Stunned before they carted her away.
“Well,” said Umbridge in a self-satisfied way, “I think we’ve accomplished a lot today. Thank you, Mr. - ”
Percy was already out of his chair. He couldn’t leave that room fast enough.
When he reached his own office, he shut the door and placed his face in his hands and told himself to pull it together. He had five minutes to himself before Yaxley barged in.
“Word is you met a couple of old friends in the Mudblood trials today, Weasley.”
Percy didn’t meet Yaxley’s eyes. “You’re mistaken, sir.”
“Am I? Well, that’s good to hear. Unfortunate associations are… well… unfortunate.” He laughed a little at his own joke. Percy didn’t so much as crack a smile.
“Now,” continued Yaxley, “I know you’re a good boy and this is a silly question to ask. But you understand I have to ask everyone.” He leaned forward and placed his hands on Percy’s desk so that his face was inches from Percy’s. “Is Harry Potter one of your unfortunate associations?”
Percy blinked. “Sir?”
While one part of Percy wouldn’t really have been shocked if Yaxley had gone around asking everyone this question, another part would have bet half his salary that the question was being targeted at specific individuals.
Anyone named Weasley, for example.
Yaxley confirmed Percy’s thoughts. “Potter has known connections to your family. You see my concern.”
Percy shrugged slightly and concentrated on keeping his face and voice neutral. “He’s no friend of mine, sir.”
Yaxley studied him for a moment.
“I have a problem, Weasley.” His voice was low and ominous. “In fact, I have several problems. You see, every person who seeks to undermine this Ministry, is a problem. And any person who makes it difficult for me to fix those problems, is just an additional problem. This creates a great deal of extra work for me - and simply put, it irritates me.”
Not once did Percy break eye contact. “I’m not sure I understand you, sir.”
“Well, let me explain it this way. Sometimes some of us - well, let me rephrase, because I’m certainly not talking about myself. Some people have family trees that require… pruning. And I don’t like anyone interfering with me when I’m gardening. Do I make myself clear now?”
Percy’s face grew hot, and breathing seemed difficult. His stomach tied itself in knots. Yaxley just stared at him, waiting for an answer.
With a great deal of effort and control, Percy whispered, “Yes, sir.”
Something had been building in his stomach all day, ever since Mark was dragged into that courtroom, and he suddenly felt sick. He waited ten seconds after Yaxley had left his office, then ran for the bathroom.
He left work as early as he could manage, and walked home slowly. All he had there were four walls and total isolation - and he was feeling isolated enough at the moment.
He stopped for a moment in front of the church. He could hear his grandmother’s voice in his head: Confess, Percy. Pray. You’ll feel better.
But, he wondered as he walked away, thinking about Mark and Grace…
Was anyone even listening?
A/N: Ok. Religion. So sue me. I know it's a controversial HP issue. But it's the direction I chose to go here, and Percy's middle name was a major source of inspiration for this fic. I plan on making this 3 chapters long. Hope you enjoy - tell me what you think!
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