Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Harry Potter.
"Most of the problems in life are because:
We misunderstand people's intentions,
We don't listen and jump to conclusions,
Then we are too proud to apologise and too stubborn to forgive."
― Mouloud Benzadi
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Audrey closed her eyes, trying to put the sound out of her mind by burying her hands in her loose hair to cover her ears.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Audibly sighing, she straightened her notepad and scanned her textbook again, desperately trying to reclaim her focus.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"WOULD YOU STOP THAT!" she shouted, cheeks flushed and eyes wild. Percy's head snapped up in shock, evidently not realising his habit. She inhaled deeply, attempting to keep her dignity. "Sorry… I'm just a little stressed."
"I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about," he stated, raising his eyebrows.
"You were tapping your fingers," explained Audrey. "It's fucking annoying."
Her boyfriend looked away, his wandering hands transferring their interest to his glasses instead. "I apologise for disrupting your study."
"It's alright," she said quickly, regretting her outburst. Percy had enough to be worried about today without her slight annoyances taking centre stage. Watching his crestfallen expression, she scooted closer around the kitchen table and stroked his cheek, feeling fire erupt in her stomach as he accepted her reassuring kiss. "Everything is going to be fine."
"It would be childish to assume that Fudge is going to let me get off scot-free." His brow creased with apprehension and she took the opportunity to brush her finger lightly across the ridges. Percy closed his eyes at her touch and smiled gratefully.
Their eyes connected for a few moments longer before Audrey returned to her books, feeling more positive now that she had resolved her small, albeit loudly resolved issue.
"It's nine o'clock, I should probably go," Percy said suddenly, standing and grabbing his briefcase. He leant in for a brief kiss and continued, "Thank you for letting me stay over, it's better than staying at Oliver's flat by myself."
"You should thank my dad's work for taking him away this week, not me," Audrey clarified, chuckling. "Remember, if your meeting finishes before my exam does, go to the Burrow," she said. Seeing his evasive posture, she forced her point, "Your family want to know that it went well; they deserve to know straight away. And also, remember to breathe."
Percy nodded. "I'll see you later today. Hopefully I will still have a job."
"No matter what happens, Percy," she said as he began to walk towards the door, "know that we all care about you."
Percy stiffened in his chair as two Ministry officials passed him and walked through the heavy door to his left. He had been made to sit and wait whilst people entered the room and prepared for his hearing. Consciously forcing himself not to tap on anything, he flicked through the various documents he had for his defence, trying to recall the most important points.
Anxiety began to coil in Percy's chest, a sinking feeling he knew would not help in the judgemental climate he was about to enter. Breathing deeply, he cast his mind desperately for anything remotely positive to think about and settled on repeating the mantra Audrey had given him. 'Everything is going to be fine,' he told himself, 'Everything if going to be fine.'
How had he got here?
'Everything is going to be fine.'
A few months ago, his life couldn't have been better. He had succeeded at his job, graduated Hogwarts and had never broken any laws.
'Everything is going to be fine.'
He panicked as he wondered whether the Ministry had found out about his breach of the Statute of Secrecy and, if so, would firing him be enough? Would he be locked up in Azkaban for the rest of his life?
'Everything is going to be fine.'
No, it wasn't.
Percy jumped as someone lay a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it.
"Dad?" he said, looking at the newcomer. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to wish you good luck before your hearing," said Arthur, taking the seat next to his son. "We're all behind you. No matter what happens, we know you will be back at the top soon."
Percy smiled sadly. "That's what Audrey said… I find it difficult to believe, considering I didn't question the words of a madman."
"It's hard to believe what others say when you don't believe in yourself," said Mr Weasley. He beamed, continuing, "But trust me when I say that we are very proud of you."
"Mr Weasley?" They both looked up at the voice and a shiver went through Percy's body as he realised that his trial was starting. "The council is ready for you."
"Thank you," he replied, rising from his seat. "I'll see you later, father."
Arthur nodded. "Be brave."
Without another word, his middle child walked through the heavy door, feeling the thud as it closed behind him and trapped him with five-people ready to determine his fate.
"Good morning," said the red-head. He was surprised to see the Minister sitting in the middle of the group. Surely a hearing was below his station. "It's a pleasure to see you all."
"Have a seat, Mr Weasley," said a sweet voice, and his attention was drawn to a woman on Fudge's right. He sat down, whilst overthinking and trying to relax simultaneously.
Fudge leant forward and clasped his hands together, saying, "Percy Bilius Weasley, you have been summoned to this disciplinary hearing to defend your short-sighted actions. This transpired when you blindly followed the orders of Bartemius Crouch, despite his worsening mental state. Do you have anything to add before we continue?"
"Yes sir," said Percy, drawing his shoulders upwards. "I take full responsibility for the naïve manner in which I conducted myself. I should have informed a senior Ministry employee once Mr Crouch did not return, and I accept any consequences that you seem worthy."
"What a smart little speech," said the woman whose name escaped him. "We know how to pick the intelligent ones, don't we?"
Percy flushed with pride and shock, not expecting praise from a disciplinary council. "That is most kind of you to say."
"Ms Umbridge is quite right, Mr Weasley," said Fudge seriously. "Don't think no one has been watching you. Your hard work and dedication to this government has been greatly appreciated."
"Thank you," started Percy hesitantly, "I apologise, but I do not see the relevance of this to my punishment."
They both smiled widely, as though there was something extremely funny that he had missed. "My dear boy," said Fudge, chuckling. "How could anyone have known what poor Bartemius was going through? It wouldn't be right to punish a man who has worked his whole life and poured every fibre of his being into being the best worker I could ask for." At his words Percy felt his chest sink in relief, releasing the anxiety that had been stewing inside him for weeks.
'Everything was going to be fine.'
"Your appreciation means a lot sir," said Percy. "If I may ask, does this affirmation mean I get to come back to my job?"
"Oh Percy, don't be silly," tittered Umbridge. Just as his heart began to sink, she continued, "You were thoroughly wasted in that department. With your intellect and commitment, you should be placed in a position well-above your previous one."
He swallowed, barely containing himself. "And what position are you suggesting?"
"Junior Assistant to the Minister," stated Fudge, beaming. "We believe you will do remarkable things while assisting me; one day you may even rise to my job!"
"This…" he stuttered, completely shaken with gratitude, "this is incredible! Thank you, sir; you have granted me the most amazing opportunity and I am prepared to fully pledge myself to this position."
The council looked pleased as Fudge leant further forward and spoke in a conspiratorial tone, "Mr Weasley, you are going to do grand and brilliant actions in your life. The key to future success is to not be swayed by those who doubt you."
"I agree," said Percy who was feeling more powerful and proud of himself than he had ever been in his life. Junior Assistant to the Minister? Not even Fred and George could mock that. "I will certainly ensure that I stay true to the Ministry's values."
"Good," said Fudge, rising. "I have other matters to attend to now, but Dolores Umbridge here would be pleased to show you around."
The young Weasley nodded. "I am looking forward to my future here."
"As are we."
'Everything was more than fine.'
Percy stood in the Atrium, hopping excitedly from one foot to another as he waited in line for the fireplace. The entire day had seemingly emerged directly out of his dreams. Everyone had praised him for the promotion and had completely accepted his new position, guiding him accordingly. Tomorrow, he was to receive his first task as the Junior Assistant and he felt elation fill his body at the thought of actively assisting the Minister in his job.
As he stepped into the fire, he flicked through the list of people he wanted to share his news with. Audrey was the obvious choice if she wasn't still in her exam, and Oliver, being the second choice, would be busy playing with his team. Surprising himself, he wished he could tell his family and promptly decided to apparate to the Burrow.
The sunlight at the Burrow was a welcome change to the enclosed atrium, and he felt the warmth on his skin reflected the feeling of achievement within himself. Drawing up to his full height, he started towards the door with a sense of accomplishment that he needed to share with his family.
In his rush, he didn't remember to knock and burst in, exclaiming, "I got promoted!"
"What!?" cried several voices around the house as he immediately regretted his unpolished entrance. His mother poked her head out of the living room and beamed at the happiness radiating from her middle son.
"Oh, Percy, that's wonderful," exclaimed Mrs Weasley, stepping forward to embrace him. He returned the hug firmly, grateful for the support she was showing him. "I knew they wouldn't let go of someone like you." She turned her head towards the stairs and yelled, "You lot, get down here! Percy has big news!"
Percy felt his cheeks redden as his family, minus Charlie, made their way down the steps and into the living room. He had never felt so illustrious in all his life and it was an incredibly wonderful emotion.
"What is it?" grumbled Ron, having been woken up from a nap.
"Go on, Percy," urged Molly, unable to contain herself.
The young man straightened, puffing out his chest, and said, "I have been promoted to the Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic.
"Wow," said Bill, his brow furrowing as he looked in his father's direction. "That's… quite an achievement."
"Yes," replied Arthur, stroking his chin, a frown spreading across his face. They seemed to be having a silent conversation while everyone looked on, the concern mirrored in their own expressions.
Percy watched his family's antics for as long as he could, frustration building in his nerves until he shouted, "WHAT!?"
"Percy!" cried his mother. "There's no need for that."
"And I suppose there's no need for some congratulations either?" he hissed.
Arthur sighed heavily and stared at his son. "The reason we aren't celebrating is because, as you know, Dumbledore and Fudge have not been the best of friends recently and we feared the Minister would soon make his move against him."
"What?" scoffed Percy. "My getting promoted is part of Fudge's grand scheme to defeat Dumbledore's uprising? That is ridiculous."
"We're close friends with Dumbledore and Fudge knows this," his father elaborated. "I believe this new position is a way of keeping you close to spy on us, and therefore spy on Dumbledore."
Bill nodded at Arthur's words. "Of course, it was only a matter of time before he would sink this low."
"For now, we must work out the best strategy to deal with this," said Mr Weasley. "We'll have to owl Dumbledore and inform him of this new development to see what he thinks is the best avenue to take." They both rose and started towards the door before Percy finally snapped.
"NO!" he screamed, stopping his family in their tracks. He rarely raised his voice and they returned to the room in shock. He adamantly shook his head in rage-fuelled denial. "I don't believe any word of this."
Arthur moved towards him, hands outstretched consolingly. "I know this is disappointing, but what you have to understand is-."
"Oh, cut it with the bullshit," spat Percy. "If you're going to treat me like this, then at least fabricate a story that's likely."
Bill rolled his eyes. "That is utter-."
"SHUT UP!" he screamed again, ignoring his younger siblings' flabbergasted expressions and the tears pooling in his mother's eyes. ""I worked every single minute of my life to get to where I am. Two years out of Hogwarts and I just got promoted to the minister's fucking assistant and all you can talk about is bloody Dumbledore and how fucking smart he is to have seen this coming."
"Percy please, don't talk like that to us, we only care about you," cried his mother.
He grasped his hair madly, feeling a toxic mixture of emotions clash inside of him, making his eyes pop and his face flush in rage. "That's rich," he scoffed. "You all care about me? What about all the times you've teased me about my prospects and about how I always have my nose in a book? How about when they-," he continued, pointing at the twins who were, for once in their life, sitting completely still, "made me feel shit about my career and everything I stood for? What about when I needed stuff for school and all I got was some second-hand shit stuffed in my face?"
"Don't you dare continue to talk to us like that," said Arthur in a dangerously low voice. "After everything we've sacrificed for you!"
"I might have believed that you sacrificed things for us if you hadn't chosen to stay in that second-class job earning next to nothing," said Percy, white hot anger seeping down his neck. "Or maybe it wasn't a choice? Maybe the reason you can't accept that I've been promoted is because you have never amounted to anything in your life!"
Ginny gasped at his words, her bottom lip trembling. "Percy, please," she whispered. As he looked at her broken face he felt a sliver of tenderness break through the rage, until he had a sudden realisation.
"You disgust me! I can't believe you're willing to drag this whole family, your beloved children, into an insane fairytale just because some unhinged man told you to!" he shouted. "Dumbledore is a traitor to the Ministry which means you're all tainted with his madness. I cannot destroy my career just because you are all going down with him. I WILL NOT!"
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" roared Mr Weasley. "What you have said here is unforgiveable. If you are so selfish as to put your job before your family then go ahead, I wouldn't want anything to do with someone like that anyway."
Molly sobbed. "Oh, Arthur, don't say that."
The room was silent as seven pairs of eyes scrutinized the angry figure in front of them.
"Don't worry father," hissed Percy savagely, a cruel smile spreading across his face as he broke the silence. "You won't have to worry about forgiving me." He stormed out of the living room and towards the front door, turning back only to say, "When you admit you're wrong, I'll be waiting. Until then, never speak to me again."
He walked out and slammed the door behind him, darkness enveloping him as he began to march down the dirt road and away from the people who had let him down. He was grateful for the angry buzzing in his ears that drowned out the muffled screams of anguish emanating from the house behind him.
Percy appeared in a small garden and tried to find his bearings. The sudden arrival of nightfall had surprised him and he took a moment to recognise the familiar house he was standing behind. Feeling comforted at the sight of a light in the window he opened the back door and entered the kitchen where a beautiful woman was cooking, continually tossing her hair out of her face in annoyance.
Apparently hearing a noise, Audrey turned, and upon seeing him presented an expression of nervous anticipation. "How was it?"
"Erm…" hesitated Percy, having forgotten his good news due to recent events. "I'll tell you later."
"Oh, come on!" she exclaimed, laughing. "You have to give me more than that!"
As Audrey shook her head and returned to the stove, Percy noticed how happy she was now that he was here. No one had ever been that delighted to see him before and it brought back the spark of pride that had been tarnished at the Burrow.
He watched her moving, gently stirring and pouring as she hummed a song that was stuck in her head. She was untarnished. He would never hurt her.
The importance of truth was subjective; it changed according to the beliefs and values that people stood by, and Percy valued perfection. What he had with Audrey was perfect and he couldn't stand to lose her by admitting the imperfect truth about his family. So, he simply filled the remaining space between them, lifted her up in one movement so her legs wrapped around his waist and kissed her. He ran his hands up the smooth skin of her back and found comfort in the smell of jasmine that always surrounded her. Her lips moved as passionately as his own, meeting his needs of oblivion and giving him a perfect way to hide his face, the picture of guilt.
Audrey pulled back, hair a mess and her t-shirt pulled up to her ribs. "Whoa, what was that for?"
He hesitated; seeing another opportunity to tell her.
"The same reason it always is," replied Percy, hating every word that came out of his mouth, "because you're incredible."
She grinned cheekily and turned away, saying, "That's very kind of you. Is it anything to do with how the meeting went?" She leant over the sink to fill up the kettle and he took the opportunity to grip his hair in frustration, knowing every moment that passed was dragging him further from the truth.
"I got promoted," he said finally, pride entering his tone. Despite recent events, he knew that his actions had been for an honourable reason. "Junior Assistant to the Minister."
"What!?" she exclaimed, dropping the half-filled kettle on the edge of the sink, water exploding around the room. "Oh, shit!"
With a simple wand movement, the water disappeared and the kettle returned neatly to the stove. Percy looked up to see his beaming girlfriend standing in front of him before she stepped forward and embraced him tightly.
"I'm so proud of you," she said earnestly. "You really deserve this."
"Thank you," he replied.
"This is amazing! Have you told anyone else?"
Percy pulled back and stared down into her bright eyes, seeing a flicker of doubt pass across her face at his momentary hesitation. "Yes," he decided finally, plastering a smile upon his strained expression. "My family."
"And…?" pushed Audrey, "what did they say?"
"They were extremely proud," he said, straightening up. "It was lovely to have gained their support for the next stage of my life."
Audrey laughed, "Of course it was good! Your family are so lovely."
"Yes," replied Percy. Before she could further his guilt he quickly changed the subject. "Was your test successful? You certainly studied enough."
"Don't pretend that you wouldn't have studied twice as much," she teased. "But yes, I think I did pretty well… maybe… maybe not."
Seeing her baffled expression, he moved forward and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders. "I know you did brilliantly."
"Wow," Audrey cringed. "We are way too supportive."
"It's quite a predicament," quipped Percy. She would never realise how serious he was.
Authors Note: Percy loves digging those holes, doesn't he? Thanks to everyone who reviewed, I'd love your feedback on this chapter especially since we're about to get into some real angsty shit.