The Sugar Quill
Author: Fortuitous Intervention (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Perils of Being Percy  Chapter: Chapter 1: Percy Weasley Man of Ministry
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Percy Weasley was sound asleep at his desk

Percy Weasley Man of Ministry

Chapter 1

 

Percy Weasley lay sleeping on his desk at the Ministry of Magic, exhausted from working all day, everyday, and well into the night, for two months straight. He slept mouth opened, dripping drool onto the parchment under his cheek. A mortally sharp Quill point protruded beneath his head, dangerously close to piercing his ear lobe.  His wore his glasses skewed across his forehead as though he were a Cyclops needing the lens for viewing with his third eye. 

 

Having just been made Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic, Percy was putting in twelve to sixteen hours a day, everyday.  He was spending every minute of that time dealing with crisis, last minute meetings, cryptic messages and other sorts of potentially disruptive activity.  Important people depended on Percy to report the facts without unnecessarily disturbing the Minister of Magic with any of his actions.

 

Percy considered this job very seriously. So much rode on his ability to do it well. Still, it was wreaking havoc on his personal life. He hadn’t eaten a meal that didn’t come straight out of the wand in weeks.  He missed cooking for his live-in girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater. And, far more than that, he missed Penelope herself.  Percy couldn’t remember when he had last made love to her.

 

To judge by his irritability index he’d surpassed his all time adult celibacy record high of three days, twelve hours, sixteen minutes and forty-two seconds a long time ago. Who knew what his new celibacy record might end up being? He didn’t have time to keep track of it anymore. What was certain is that he never got home from the Ministry with enough spare time to kiss Penny goodbye, anymore, much less coax her into coming to bed with him, before she left their flat for her shift as a Healer in Training at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Most recently, she’d informed Percy that he was fortunate to be getting a peck on the forehead before huffing out the door on her way to work.

 

Dreams came easily to this young man of Ministry. But Percy wasn’t dreaming, he was living a nightmare.  He was fleeing down an alleyway behind his twin brothers Fred and George who were being chased by Dementors. He was trying to rescue them from the monsters wearing hooded black cloaks, blowing in a winter gale, but the Dementors flowed rapidly and Percy felt the ice of them passing through his soul.  It weakened him, but he couldn’t stop running. Screaming at his brother, who was giving up the struggle, he shouted “Run, George, keep running!”. George, already on the ground, back crawled away from the soul-sucker.  Fred’s wand flashed red sparks in the wind, attempting a Patronus to fend the thing off their brother. “Hang on, Fred! I’m coming!” Percy yelled struggling to get to them in time, but the Dementor clutching the sleeve of his robe, immobilized him.  Crying out to it he flailed at its cold scabby hand, moaning, “Let me go.  Let me go.  I have to help them.”

 

 “I would like you to help me, Mr. Weasley,” croaked a horrible voice. 

 

Jumping to his feet, sleepy but alert, Percy saw that his Dementor was actually Madame Umbridge clutching at his sleeves. Running a shaking hand through tousled fire red hair he felt the quill indentation on his face and imagined his left eyeball looked as though it might take flight at any minute.

 

“Madame Umbridge,” gasped Percy.  “I am so sorry.  Please forgive my nodding off.  What may I be allowed to do for you this evening?” What insidious ambition has seeped into your swamp water brain now, you miserable excuse for a grasping amphibian?  She had the unpleasantly self-satisfied look of a capacious toad bloated on flies.

 

 “I need to see the Minister, Weasley!” Umbridge told him urgently. “I have some wonder…er…very important news to bring him.”

 

“Certainly, certainly,” said Percy, already making his way to the Minister’s office, where he knocked on the door.

 

 “What do you want?” demanded the voice from inside.

 

“It’s me, your Minister-ship, Weasley.” Percy said, hoping this miserable excuse for a Minister would soon get another job. “I have Madame Umbridge out here in the outer office.  She says she must speak with you right away.”

 

 “Send her in!” roared Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic.

 

Cornelius Fudge, an easily affronted, incapable man, wore very bright colors.  Partial to the obvious, Fudge disregarded the notion that truth finding required talent. His inability to read between the lines of life, or to complete a picture with his imagination, troubled Fudge not a whit,

mostly because he was unaware these skills even existed.  Percy loathed his lack of insight, and a few other things about him as well.

 

Entering the Minister’s office after Madame Umbridge, Percy noticed that Fudge had been amusing himself again.  He was tossing magical fire darts with his wand at the board behind his desk.  An eight by ten glossy of Albus Dumbledore, Percy’s old headmaster, covered the board entirely.

 

“Twenty points!” cried Fudge, made gleeful by a particularly accurate shot that struck Dumbledore between the eyeballs. Percy fore bore rolling his own eyes at the absurd notion that Fudge’s restrictions for the uses of underage magic didn’t actually apply to his own behavior.

 

“Here you are, Weasley,” Said Fudge, handing Percy an enormous stack of letters, “These are the letters from my constituents today.  All of them concerned that You-Know-Who is back in operation.”

 

 

“Arrant nonsense, sir,” Said Percy with a servile smile. Voldemort is back and I hope he kills you first.

 

 

“That’s what I always say, Weasley,” Fudge agreed, pompously. “Please send the standard

 ‘You Know Who is No Threat To You’ missives to each of these good folk who took time out of their busy lives to express their concerns about public safety to me.”

 

 “Yes, sir, I will, sir.” Taking the letters and backing out of the doorway, Percy intentionally tripped over the jamb, sending the letters flying. Fudges’ hate mail landed all over both the inner and outer offices. Enthusiastically apologizing for the error, he took his time in gathering them back up again.

 

“I tell you, Fudge,” Percy heard Umbridge speak, “it’s providence.  You’ve been looking for a good way to discredit the boy and now you have one.  He was caught this evening casting a defensive curse in the direction of a poor helpless Muggle right in the middle of the street.”

 

That’s our Harry, all right. He’s never met a Muggle he wouldn’t curse.  Percy acerbated, eyeing Fudge and Umbridge with covert dislike and knowing very well the boy they referred to. Fudge and Umbridge were a matched set of idiots, stupid enough to give Fred and George a run for their money.

 

“He was?” Fudge asked greedily, as though handed a box of squeaking sugar mice from a fan and not about to share. “Well, well, well.  I think we can get him expelled for that, don’t you Madame Umbridge?”

 

“I do indeed,” Umbridge agreed, grinning evilly.

 

 

Gathering up letters with sudden velocity, Percy rushed to his desk. Dropping them onto its surface, he felt a sudden urge to use the lavatory. Shooting out the outer office door into the Ministry itself, he thought quickly “I mustn’t avail myself of the same one every time.”  Dashing down the hall, and three flights of stairs, he dodged into the dungeon’s men’s room.  Scouring the lavatory for possible observers, Percy pulled from his pocket a small mirror no bigger than half his large palm. He held it up to his mouth and whispered urgently,

“Professor Dumbledore, you must come right away.  Harry’s in big trouble.”

 

As it turned out, Dumbledore did come right away and saved Harry’s neck just in time.  Percy was relieved and decided he deserved to go home. While leaving the office he noticed a parchment still stained with drool lying on top of his desk.  

 

“That was supposed to be an owl to Penny telling her I was going to be late tonight,” groaned, Percy apparating home, “She is just going to murder me.”

 

Delightedly surprising to Percy was the knowledge that Penny didn’t want to kill him. She had been missing him enough that she wanted to do something else with him, instead.  And when they were through, she rolled over and said, “Percy, this has to stop.”

 

“Stop?” Percy asked, grinning at her and leaning onto his elbow, “I thought we were just getting started.”

 

She whacked him on the shoulder and he winced, then she said, “Don’t be obtuse. You’re beginning to actually look ill. Do you know it?  I’ve had to take your robes in twice since your job started.  You’ve begun to resemble a scarecrow.  When will this nonsense at the Ministry settle down enough for you to stop acting like a crazy person and start living your life again?”

 

“I don’t know,” Percy answered her truthfully, flinging himself down on the pillow. “But believe when I say that no one will be any happier than me when it does.”

 

“Do you really think so?” Penny sat up suddenly, giving him a glare. “I hardly ever see you anymore, Percy.  Most of my new friends at work don’t believe you actually exist. Every time there’s a gathering or a party, I always have to tell them that you’re working late. What about my happiness?”

 

Not having a satisfactory response that he could give to her, Percy said nothing. The silence in their bedroom grew heavy and settled down to stay for a while. Finally Percy pulled her back down onto the bed with incendiary intent.  And Penny never told him “No”.  Because of all the reasons she loved him, the very first was that he had the ability to set her on fire without scorching the sheets.

 

Harry, having apparently spent his summer casting inexplicable defense spells in the Muggle world, was now suspended from school pending a disciplinary hearing.  This did not give Percy any hope the Ministry was going to settle down soon. There was no point in reassuring Penny everything would go back to normal anytime in the near future when perhaps it would not ever get normal. He thought it better to say as little as possible to her. He didn’t want her to be hurt, or to be suspicious of him, and he especially did not want to blow his own cover.

 

Working a tough gig was starting to show on him, though. He knew that. Being separated from his family was one thing, forcing that separation himself, and telling his family he liked it that way, was a whole different thing altogether.  Putting his relationship with Penny on the line topped it all off.  The package deal made Percy look like a gambling man.

 

He was gambling everything that meant anything to him in order to help Dumbledore deal with Voldemort’s return. Not wanting to ever see his own family slaughtered in the streets by death eaters, or Penny, and maybe even their children someday, living in fear, Percy was acting as Dumbledore’s spy in the Ministry. Fighting an evil like Voldemort, with any hope of success, required real sacrifice. Percy felt much like the sacrificial lamb. His immediate prospects for the future were filled with long working days, sleepless nights, and not nearly enough Penny.

 

Rising at dawn, a few weeks after the crisis with Harry, Percy was making breakfast for her.  Brooding about his day ahead, he flipped pancakes, piling them with mounds of Penny’s favorite spicy cinnamon apples. He dreaded going into work that day only to snub yet another person he cared deeply about.

 

Penelope Clearwater with curly dark hair, brilliant blue eyes and rosy cheeks that boasted a healthy appetite, bounced into the kitchen. Loving Percy required having a lot of energy, as evidenced by her grimacing and wincing at him when she sat down. Percy winked at her in return. He set a plate of pancakes in front of her, saying, “I don’t want you to wear that shirt out, Penny.”

 

Forking piles of apples into her mouth, Penny glanced down to the scoop necked t-shirt he was staring at. “You bought this shirt for me. What’s wrong with it?”

 

Glaring meaningfully in the direction of her décolletage, Percy announced, “There’s nothing wrong with it.  I think your nipples look fabulous under there.  I just don’t want everyone else who sees you today thinking the same.”

 

“Oh, give over, Perce. I’ll be wearing robes all day. The only clean shirt of mine in the wardrobe was this one,” Penny placated him.

 

“Get your clothes together,” he offered, “I’ll Apparate to the laundry before I go into work today.  And go find another shirt to wear or I’ll take your pancakes away.”

 

Under penalty of doing her own laundry, as well as being denied pancakes, Penny wisely chose not to flout him. She went into the bedroom and changed.  She debated returning to the kitchen wearing the black lingerie he’d given her as a birthday gift.  Teasing him in that way might have made him laugh. At least she was sure it would have before he started working this miserable new job.  Now she wasn’t sure he’d recognize the joke when he saw it.

 

Penny displayed the fact that she’d found one of Percy’s shirts to wear on returning to the kitchen.  It hung almost to her knees, but as she had already pointed out to him, no one was going to notice much under robes. He let her eat breakfast.

 

“You’re such a crank, lately,” she accused, digging into her plate of pancakes again.

 

Percy, scouring the griddle and the breakfast dishes with his wand in the sink, admitted,

“I’m not in a good mood today, it’s true.  Recording every word of a disciplinary hearing that incriminates a friend isn’t exactly one of my top ten favorite things to do.”

 

“I already know what the first nine are, what’s number ten?” Penny teased.  An engaging and infectious grin lit up his whole face and it occurred to her that he didn’t smile much anymore.  It didn’t last long either, so she said, “Don’t go in, today. You’ve been running yourself ragged for two months straight as it is.  And I know you don’t want to be in that hearing for Harry.  Owl the minister and tell him you’re not feeling well.”

 

“I can’t,” Percy answered her, wishing that he could.

 

He looked over at the window to see a Ministry Owl tapping at it with its beak. Going to the window, and lifting the sash, he took the letter addressed:

 

Mr. Percy Weasley

Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic

Flat # 12

Diagon Alley, London

 

And sat down to read “IMPORTANT NOTICE: The time and venue has been changed for the Illegal Use of Underage Magic trial of Harry J. Potter taking place this day, August 12.  The time has moved up from 9:00 o’ clock a.m. to 8:00 a.m.  The venue is changed from the office of Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, to the Wizengamot Courtroom.  Please be advised of this and report at the new location and time.”

 

They’re going to try Harry in the dungeons, Percy understood as a nauseous feeling came over him. In front of the whole Wizengamot Court, minus Professor Dumbledore. He was going to be sick. Pushing past Penny to get into the lavatory, Percy closed the door firmly and pulled out his magic mirror to say, “Professor Dumbledore, sir. I’ve just gotten notice that the time and location of Harry’s hearing has changed.  You must get there soon, or Harry’s going to be in big trouble.”

 

Dumbledore did arrive in time that day, saving Harry in the nick of it.  Percy slept easy for a few nights knowing that Harry was safe. Looking out for Harry was only a portion of his problems these days, though, and his relief didn’t last long. Penny entered the flat a few weeks later to see him cooking her dinner and elatedly squealed, “Percy!  What are you doing here?” She tossed her groceries onto the table, came up behind him and hugged his back as hard as she could. 

One advantage, at least for now, of seeing her so rarely was the welcome he got when he did.

“I live here, sweetie,” he replied wearing a grin between his ears.

 

“You do not. You live in Cornelius Fudge’s office,” she said airily, but the grip around his midriff told him it bothered her quite a lot. Reaching up on tiptoe she placed a kiss on his neck.  “But I’m glad you came home to visit me.” Percy lost his grin. There was a familiar clenching in his gut he liked to call guilt.  His new constant companion gave up on getting through to him with just the occasional visit and moved in for good.

 

“I’ve just met with your mum down in the Alley,” Penny said while putting away some groceries in their cupboard.

 

“You have?” Percy asked, not surprised.  Circumventing confrontation, by lying low, he had intentionally been avoiding Diagon Alley like the plague, expecting his family to show up there any day now.

 

“Yes, she was all alone, and absolutely loaded down with packages.  Very expensive sending all of your siblings to school, isn’t it?”

 

“Very,” agreed Percy, then asking, “what did you say to her?”

 

“Well, she asked after you, of course,” Penny responded watching his reaction with a certain expression in her eye that Percy had come to know very well.  He gazed at the floor to avoid looking at her when he muttered, “Yes I’d imagined she would have.”

 

Penny, laying a hand on his chest, turned him away from the stove and forced him to look at her.

“I told her that you’re all right, Percy.  But she seemed to be very sad even though I said so.”  Penny didn’t understand what was going on his mind, but she felt sorrow beating in the heart beneath her hand.

 

“What did she tell you?” asked Percy. “Anything about my brothers and sister?  Anything at all?”

 

 “She told me your brother Ron has been made Gryffindor Prefect this year. And she’d just bought him a new broom because of it,.” Penny informed him. “Didn’t you tell me you knew he’d made prefect though?”

 

“I was rather hoping to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” He said, “Now I’m beginning to think that’s not ever going to happen.”

 

‘She’s very proud of Ron, your mum is,” Penny said, heading into the bedroom to change her clothes and calling over her shoulder at him. “She told me she thinks he’s going to follow in your foot steps.”

 

“I’m very proud of him, too,” Percy answered clearly. Believing, I don’t think he’ll be able to follow the trail of my footsteps and find me.

 

Daytime nightmares began haunting Percy before the new term at Hogwarts started. Cornelius Fudge had appointed Madame Umbridge as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor that year at the school for Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Percy was furious.  He called an emergency meeting with Dumbledore, railing until he was hoarse, “You cannot let that lethal old hag get anywhere near to my brothers and my sister!” Shouting heatedly he implored, “And what about Harry? She’s out to get him, sir!  Can you imagine what she’ll do to him the very first time he mouths off to her in class?  Haven’t I made you aware of that much?  What am I doing all of this for if we can’t even ward off a disaster before it strikes?”

 

Well used to hot headed young men, even if he himself had not been one for a very long time, Dumbledore listened patiently to Percy’s concerns.

 

“I give you my word of honor, Percy,” Dumbledore promised, “that no student will be permanently harmed by Madame Umbridge while she is at Hogwarts.  You must try not to worry so much about your family and friends.  It will make it that much more difficult for you to concentrate on our task.  And we have greater trouble at hand than Dolores Umbridge can deal us.”

 

Slightly mollified, Percy returned to the Ministry to seethe in silence.  But Fudge aggravated Percy’s concerns yet again that evening, waylaying him in his office to say, “Weasley, I’ve only just been told that you’re youngest brother has been made prefect by Dumbledore.  Tell me then, is it true what I’ve heard? That Harry Potter is a particular friend of his?”

 

Barely escaping gritting his teeth Percy responded, “Yes, sir, that’s so.” Glancing around the room as if to be sure he had the Minister’s confidentiality, he added quietly, “I don’t like to discuss it in polite company, sir.  Potter is nothing but a troublemaker. I assure you that I’ve tried to dissuade my brother Ron from associating with him.”

 

Percy noted that Cornelius Fudge probably didn’t have a single person in the whole wide world he could truly call a friend, and felt not the least bit of sympathy for him, thinking that Ron’s loyalty to Harry was one thing Fudge wouldn’t be able to ruin for him this year.

 

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