Percy Weasley came uninvited to the final battle, terrified but determined.
As a child he had been the odd one out, he had grown up to be a man that didn't quite fit. Sure, Ron might have felt the undeniable pressure of his older brother's successes, but Percy was the joke. He was the proverbial baby left underneath the mulberry bush. It took more than shared hair colour and freckles to make you feel like you belonged. By the time he was five Percy had known something was wrong, the twins were already as thick as thieves and spent their days covered in some substance or other, typically mud or jam, communicating in what had almost become their own language. His two older brothers, while not having shared a womb, were as close as the two that had. Bill and Charlie spent their time constructing fantastical adventures that they played out together in their shared imagination in the fields surrounding the Burrow.
But Percy didn't like his clothes getting dirty, and he didn't know how to have boisterous exploits or plot schemes. He couldn't climb trees, and he didn't like to lie to his mother. So when his brothers asked him to play, Percy pretended not to want to, as he got older he would say that their games were 'silly' and instead of joining in he would sit by himself, away from all of the fun, safe from them discovering he was different. Or so he thought. Eventually, they stopped asking. The worst part was that he only had himself to blame.
Percy just wanted to belong, to be someone's best… anything, to be the first choice.
He wanted to matter.
Percy squared his shoulders as the tips of the castle turrets, familiar as the crooked house he grew up in, came into view. He had been tipped off by Aberforth Dumbledore that it was happening today. After receiving the communication, Percy had immediately made his way to the imposing castle gates, frightened, not only of the forces at Voldemort's disposal but also of his reception from the side of the light.
He had known in his heart that he had been in the wrong for several months. It wasn't a sudden revelation. The list of what Percy wasn't was lengthy, but he knew he was intelligent and perceptive. In some way, he felt he had always known the decisions he made might not have been the right ones, but once he had broken from his family, there didn't seem to be any way back. His job had been all he had left, all that was his. Percy was well aware it was nothing position, even when he had first gotten it. It was worse as the months had rolled on, as their world had grown darker he had known why they wanted to keep him there, why he wasn't already dead. They wanted information, Percy supposed he could at least be proud of himself there, he had never betrayed a secret, no matter how inconsequential it may have seemed.
Percy tried to focus on the job he had and shut out the rest, he thought he might have even been doing some good, even if he knew he didn't have the respect of his superiors, or his peers, but the lack of respect from those around him was hardly a new experience.
One argument with his dad and his whole family had turned their backs on him. Percy shook his head, it wasn't all them, the disagreement had left him bitter, and he had done nothing to mend the broken fences, though he maintained that he hadn't gone out of his way to make things worse either, apart from the Christmas gift. Percy was still holding onto a lot of guilt for sending back the chunky knit sweater his mum had made for him. At the time he had received it he couldn't help viewing it as an empty gesture, hastily stuck in the post with no note. He had assumed it was being sent solely so they could say they had sent it, it had arrived late enough, too late for him to be able to send anything in return. In spite of the fact that his family's gifts had not only having been purchased but were also wrapped and neatly placed against the wall of his living room. He hadn't brought a tree; there hadn't seemed to be a point.
Percy wondered as he trudged through the open gates. If he would ever be able to make it up to her, his mother, if only she knew how many times he had wished he could have asked for it back. She would never know how many days after leaving the office, deathly afraid, to sit in his flat alone, had he had pulled on an old homemade jumper purely for the comfort it provided and wished things were better.
In the beginning, the first days after the fallout, Percy was ashamed to say now that he had been relieved. He knew that it was wrong to think that way, but even though he cared about his family, he often felt crushed by them as well. As the days passed, the little feeling of reprieve mushroomed into a blanketing solace. No more apologising for caring about his job, or being fastidious about his appearance. No more enduring the kindly meant barbs from his mother; 'If only you could be more like Fred or George, I'm sure you would be happier if you were more carefree'. 'If you could only find a vocation like Bill or Charlie, I'm sure you would be happier if you found something more worthwhile to pursue'. No more enduring the censure of his siblings or the gentle ambition shaming of his father.
Percy had felt the loss though. It may have been masked for a little while, but it was always there, lingering beneath the surface. He may not have always felt like he belonged with them, but they were his family, the only one he had, he loved them. Percy was not as family orientated as his younger siblings, they were all only too happy to show up for roasts on Sunday's, and let Molly run their lives. He had played along to once, but he was older now, and he needed to run his own, or at least he had been eager to do so, back when he still had one.
They were happy enough for Bill and Charlie to be independent, no one ever questioned them. 'Apart from the earring or the hair' Bill would say exasperatedly, 'apart from the fact I live so far away' Charlie would grumble, and Percy would have to bite the inside of his mouth, until blisters formed on the inside of his cheeks, to stop himself from screaming at them. At least she likes who you are! If only his defects could have been solved by a change of aesthetic or proximity.
And so Percy had arrived at the school, his first ever refuge, scared of rejection, but knowing that he had to help, in whatever way he would be allowed. He needed people to know for certain that his allegiances, whatever the strains, would always be with his family. His much-maligned stance had never been a moral one, at the time he made it, his decision to continue working at the Ministry had been wholly political. He hadn't seen the dangerous forces at work because he hadn't wanted to look. He had finally achieved something for himself, and he didn't want to peer underneath the surface only to discover how hollow the crown truly was.
But eventually, he could no longer hide from the reality that was evident all around him. By the time Percy had faced the truth of the Death Eater control at the Ministry, he had been too scared to leave.
Percy made it inside the familiar castle walls and found his family, as distinctive and copious as the Weasley's were they could never be difficult to find, no matter how much his feet instinctively dragged. Despite his trepidation, he had spoken to them and had been embraced back into the fold. He wasn't silly enough to think this was the end of the matter. Percy was sure he would have to discuss his moral failings in great detail later, but for now, all was well, or as well as it could be while standing perilously on the cusp of a battle.
And then Fred had fallen. It had all happened so quickly; they had just shared a laugh, something that hadn't happened with one of his brothers for years, then before Percy could comprehend it, the wall came down.
He had battled fiercely after that, as rage of an intensity he had never experienced coursed through his veins. The steadfast grip with which he held the rule book was thrown off as he launched grey curse after grey curse, no longer caring about the state of his soul when this was over.
At the end of the battle, they were silently crowded around Fred's broken form while two competing thoughts ran around Percy's head fighting for dominance; it was over, and Fred was dead. Neither was in any way comprehensible.
Percy moved to stand with his family, around the back of Ron, who was being rocked slightly by Harry's hand on his shoulder, Harry who was also comforting a sobbing Ginny. No one excluded Percy from the circle of grief, no one pointed out his deficiencies, and no one said it should be him lying there instead, but his mind yelled it over and over, in their voices, and in his own.
While they didn't block him, at least not intentionally, Percy couldn't help but notice that there was no real place for him either, he stood back slightly, observing how they all slotted around each other unconsciously. He had never been one for comfortably fitting in. He remained there for a while, locked in grief and uncertainty.
Where did he go from here?
Hermione Granger came to the final battle tired, worn, and deathly afraid. The seemingly endless months on the run had taken everything she had, mentally and physically. Given everything she had already endured she found it somewhat pathetic that she wanted to cower away from the pitying glances of her former classmates, their concern making her even more self-aware.
Hermione forced down her bitterness at their hesitant enquiries over her health. They were only trying to be kind, she told herself. No, she wasn't alright, she was almost starved, and still recovering from horrific torture. If that wasn't enough whenever she got a moment she was filled with panic worrying about the future ramifications of breaking into a Goblin run institution.
For as much as she had been desperate to end it all, Hermione had been dreading this fight. She had never been much of duellist, so far she had gotten by with luck and academics. The few skirmishes she had been involved in had not ended well for her, and she was apprehensive she wouldn't survive the day.
But Hermione had done what she had to do, she had buried her fear and squared her shoulders, running once more into the jaws of death at Harry's side. The battle had been gruesome, bloody, and when it was all over Hermione watched in a state of numb disbelief as Voldemort's body crumpled to the floor. The moment was staggeringly anti-climactic. All of this… All of the pain and suffering they had endured and the unstoppable Dark Lord fell to the ground like any other man. Somehow against all the odds they had done it, the Horcruxes were destroyed, and Voldemort was gone, for good this time, but the cost had been so very, very high.
Hermione added the image of a lifeless Harry being carried by a sobbing Hagrid to a list of tableaus she would be carrying with her for the rest of her days, as prominent as the scars she now carried on her torso and arms. Hermione had hoped, prayed and worked towards these last hours in growing intensity since she was eleven, fighting to save Harry, fighting to make the world accept her. She had expected to share in the outpouring of relief and jubilation that she could see in the bright faces of pockets of people all over the Great Hall. She had even dreamed about it, had clutched the thought of the expected relief falling on her like gentle rain close to her chest at the darkest times. But the feeling never came. All Hermione could register was the numb sensation that had begun months before giving way, though instead of exaltation, all she had within her was panic.
She had been shelving so much hurt over the last two years, every time some new devastation had arisen she would pack it up in a tiny box and archive it in her mind to deal with later. Hermione feared it was finally later.
She walked through the dust covered rubble in the Great Hall; her eyes fixed on the blank ceiling. Hermione didn't know why the elaborate charm wasn't working; maybe the castle was sentient enough to know that now was not the time for the sun to shine down on them.
It was over.
Hermione's aimless steps faltered as she walked passed Remus and Tonks, their prone forms lying side by side on makeshift cots, their fingers reaching towards each other even in death. They had not deserved this. Remus had been fighting against the world his whole life, and now he had lost his, just when there was finally the possibility that he would have been given a chance to live it.
Grief slid to despair when Hermione saw the last body in the line of horrors. Fred was lying flat on the floor, cold and pale with the ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. George's anguished cries cut through her, making her stomach roll, and bile surge in her throat. Harry moved to stand between Ron and Ginny seamlessly slotting into the circle of bereavement, instinctively knowing his place. Hermione stilled, she didn't know what to do, or where to go. She didn't want to break up the loop and had no idea how to offer comfort best, instead, she moved to stand behind Harry silently.
Harry laid a firm hand on Ron's shoulder and Hermione's fingers reflectively twisted before she took a small step back, wrapping her arms around herself. Where Ron had always rebelled against the perception of being in Harry's shadow, Hermione had relished it, she liked not being seen, and she excelled in offering practical if at times unemotional support. That was ending now, Harry and Ginny clung to one another, with an intensity that bordered on desperation. That was what Harry needed, what he really needed, he wouldn't need her support anymore. There were no more runes to translate.
The gentle revelation made her take another step back, suddenly feeling as if she were intruding. Hermione had once thought that her relationship with Ron would strengthen and morph into something more, but now she knew in her very bones that wasn't the case. He had kissed her in the chamber earlier, a moment that should have been filled with so much passion, ignited by years of suppressed feeling, and spurred on by the very real possibility of immediate death, but the fervour never came. The kiss that she had been waiting years for was empty. Ron had known it too; she had seen it on his face as he moved away, his eyes almost too wide, clear confusion transforming into something that looked nearly apologetic.
Hermione looked back to Harry; her friend held Ginny firmly as the little redhead's world fell apart. Ron would never be her anchor in the storms of life, and she would never be his. They loved each other, but it wasn't enough, it wasn't the right kind. Their love was rooted in friendship, but it was competitive and combative, their love could bring out the worst in each other. Hermione had experienced her fill with fighting; she needed understanding, desire and security.
Hermione looked around the tattered hall at a loss; she had been there the whole way through, this had been as much her war as it had been Harry's right from the beginning, but now? The goal was complete; there were no battles left to fight, no more books to read, and no equations to be solved.
As her eyes fell back on the mourning Weasley's, she noticed Percy shuffling in next to her, awkward and stoic in the face of his brother's death. She was almost taken aback by his reserve until she saw his eyes, the haunted look they held was almost too painful to observe, and Hermione had to look away lest the tears that had been streaming down her cheeks unchecked gave way to sobs. She couldn't break, not yet, not here.
Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione regarded the smudged sleeve of Percy's ripped button down shirt and bruised fingers, she was glad that he had made it back. She remembered how mad at him she had been the night of the Quidditch World Cup Final. How stupid such an argument seemed in the face of all that had happened since she supposed the depth of her feeling at the time was because she had been disappointed in him.
Hermione had always been a straight laced kind of girl, regulation uniforms, homework submitted on time, and a good healthy, at least in her opinion, respect for the rules. When she had first come to Hogwarts Percy had quickly become the poster boy for her entire professional ethos, he valued education, and people that took learning seriously, he was studious and well-mannered, and he had ambition. When he had broken with his family it had been a blow to Hermione, not that she had ever said anything about it, it hadn't been her business. Nothing was more important to her than fam... Hermione's chest constricted as she thought of them, her mum and dad, she supposed she had no family anymore.
Maybe he had noticed her distress, or maybe he was just in need of comfort himself, but as Hermione raised a hand to her rib cage and willed herself to breathe Percy looked down at her and placed one of his large, soft hands through her free one. She closed her eyes and intertwined her fingers with his, before offering him a watery smile as her mind drifted back to her relative orphan like status.
Where did she go from here?
Percy had never given much consideration to what he would do when the war ended. Life as a government official was all he had ever aspired to, and while the idea of a return to the Ministry did not fill him with the same sense of restless need as it would have in days gone by, the thought of anything else was entirely unconscionable. Percy didn't want to admit to himself that he was scared of going back, but he was, the Ministry during the war had been a truly terrifying place to be. The sacred walls of power that he had dreamed of walking down since before he could remember had been blemished, permanently. Their imagined sheen being scrubbed away as his eyes were opened to what lurked beneath.
But his scruples were for nought; any hesitation was purely wool gathering, he simply wasn't qualified for anything else.
Percy spent a few weeks at the Burrow, doing what he could to cement the newly healed rift between himself and his family, and being close by for when they buried Fred. He forced himself to remain after they had committed his younger brother to the earth though it had taken a strength he hadn't known he had within him. As he walked around the wake, mindlessly offering plates of food that no one wanted, Percy felt more of an imposter than ever before. He only allowed himself to return to his flat, and to work, when he could honestly say that he wasn't running.
The clean-up following the last battle and Voldemort's defeat was a monumental task and one that Percy threw himself into wholeheartedly. He would regret his actions, or lack thereof, in the lead up to open war for the rest of his life, but that didn't change who he was. He was curt, officious, and a great believer in things being run properly.
Kingsley Shacklebolt became temporary Minister for Magic in the void that had been created in their government. It had been intended to be an interim solution while they sorted out both the physical and judicial mess that had been created. However, whatever the eventual plan had been, Kingsley was popular, fair, and charismatic, in short, just the type of wizard that the populous needed to lead them out of the rubble. Very soon after he had first taken office Kingsley was officially elected as Minister, and the scrub down of magical government began in earnest.
Outside of the known and marked Death Eaters, there were a vast number of employees from the corridors of power whose actions needed to be reviewed. Some had directly taken orders from Voldemort, or his inner circle, some had provided funds to his cause, and some had exploited the upheaval to settle old scores. The investigations were swift; the evidence was plentiful. Not many had thought to hide their actions, for a long time Voldemort's' victory had seemed inevitable. The punishments given out ranging from time in Azkaban to dismissal, relocation or demotion.
Percy had been incredibly nervous in his first meeting with the new Minister, he had never raised his wand in aggression during that time, but due to the nature of his work in the last year he had been privy to enough illuminating material for them to know he had seen demonstrable evidence of what Voldemort had been up to, and he hadn't fought against them.
Percy had breathed a sigh of relief, one that he knew he would curse himself as a coward for later when Kingsley informed him they had received word from Aberforth Dumbledore. The landlord had apparently kept a detailed record of the intelligence Percy had passed on to him, with the hope that it would reach the Order. He took some heart in discovering that the small details he had been able to send, had been relied upon to save lives.
They were not looking to assign specific roles yet, the dust had not yet truly settled, but Percy had a mind for organisation, and so he was asked to join the committee that would be tasked with overseeing the removal of corrupt policies implemented in the last year and reforming the Wizengamot. Many bodies like the Muggle-Born Registration Commission could be disbanded immediately, but ensuring that the ratified laws that had allowed their inception were repealed, and establishing that all of those affected by them had been visited and compensated by the Ministry would take time.
Percy accepted immediately, and his life became a series of meetings and formal apologies at work, mirrored by regular meetings and apologies at home while he continued to try to make amends for his transgressions. The routine of his existence did not hold the same appeal as it once had before Percy would have been focused on his job as his sole source of gratification, but it had been exposed as a weak, hollow fulfilment.
At the end of every fifteen hour day, Percy would return home to his small flat and stare at one of the many unpersonalised white walls and attempt to sum up the required energy to eat something before going to bed and repeating the process all over again.
Was this all there would ever be to his existence?
After the battle, Hermione travelled to Australia by Muggle methods. Months of apparating all over the country, a few nasty splinches, and flying on the back of an enraged, blind dragon, had made the idea of a plane seem slightly romantic. Ron and Harry remaining dutifully by her side. Hermione had protested at first, had said they didn't need to come, and Harry had reminded her that the three of them had pledged to see through whatever was coming until the end and that the end hadn't been when Voldemort had fallen, things needed to be put right.
They were with her when she discovered that the memory charm she performed was not reversible. She had been warned by Professor McGonagall, and yet that warning had not prepared her for the reality of her parents not coming back with her. Harry had carried her to bed that night after they had consumed three bottles of Muggle wine between them. Hermione's body was not adjusted to alcohol, having spent her youth fighting evil or studying instead of exploring the usual adolescent pursuits of getting drunk at parties and chasing boys, the alcohol had taken down her defences, she cried so much she shook.
They had all climbed into bed together that night, as they had while on the run, seeking comfort from each other's presence. Hermione was aware, somewhere in her wine-addled mind, that this was a goodbye to that time, she didn't have the energy to feel sad about it, it was just how it would be from now on.
The trio returned home, or back to England at least, and as part of the Ministry's PR campaign to assure the general populace that all was well, she received an Order of Merlin and a hefty sum, enough for her to get herself a place when she wanted. Molly had insisted that she stay at the Burrow, but Harry had demanded she move into Grimmauld Place with him. Hermione preferred the second option, much as she loved the Weasleys, being raised as an only child she at times found the noise and chaos that surrounded the well-meaning family of redheads a little overwhelming.
So she moved with Harry and relished in the all-consuming task of getting the ancestral House of Black up to a liveable condition, any remaining hours were dedicated to trying to determine what to do next. Harry and Ron had both accepted eased entry into the Auror training program, but Hermione had turned the offer down. With her dreams, and even at times even her waking moments, filled with images from the past she could find no appeal at all in going off to look for more danger. Her friends had been disappointed with her choice but not surprised.
When a letter arrived from Headmistress McGonagall, asking if she would like to return to take her N.E.W.T.s Hermione accepted quickly, grateful to have somewhere to go, and some purpose to aim for.
She watched as Ginny received her Hogwarts letter the next day and her eyes fell to the shiny gold Head Girl badge that clattered to the table top. Hermione was numb. Harry asked later if she was upset and she didn't have an answer. In a way, Hermione supposed she was, but it was muted as if the pain was not her own but only sympathy for the suffering of a dear friend. She felt terrible for fifteen-year-old Hermione Granger, who had started her fifth year with a gleaming prefect badge affixed to her robes, already planning the kind of Head Girl she would be. But today's Hermione? Now that she was nineteen none of that seemed to matter much anymore. Hermione had enough of titles after her name; war hero, the brain of the golden trio, brightest witch of her age, each more meaningless than the last. She had plastered her face with the best smile she could manage and congratulated her friend earnestly, if a little crisply, about her achievement.
Hermione had existed the rest of the summer, flying under the radar as much as possible and holding onto the hope of escape that Hogwarts could provide. Only when she arrived back at the castle in September, she began to wonder if she had made a mistake. Everything was so different, in all of her anxiety in the build up to the first day of term Hermione hadn't once anticipated how out of place, how old she would feel at the school. Since the night of the Death Eater break-in in her sixth year, the familiar halls no longer vibrated with the warmth and security she had once steadfastly associated with her once second home.
She had no home, first or second anymore.
Ginny and Luna were there, and that provided some small comfort, though without Harry and Ron to chide along, or a Dark Lord to vanquish, Hermione felt more rudderless than ever.
She committed her mind to obtaining the grades that she deserved and watched the months tick by, oscillating between the ratcheting anticipation as she edged towards finally fishing her education and the looming dread of having to find some other occupation to fill her life when this was over.
Was this all there would ever be to her existence?
A month before the end of her final term, Hermione received a note requesting that she visit the headmistress for a 'careers discussion'. She supposed that as a new Head of Gryffindor House had yet to be appointed, the headmistress still had to oversee these meetings. She was conscious again of that other Hermione, her former self, who lingered in the recesses of her mind, the girl who would have run into the office, almost too determined. The girl who would have bounced in her seat with nervous energy resolved to tell her most respected teacher all the careers that she had considered and impatiently waited as she was told which one her professor believed would suit her best.
Hermione was keenly aware of the disappointment she was to that memory, and the failure she had been all year. She had seen it in her teacher's eyes, could almost hear their confused mutterings, 'we all had such high hopes for her, such a pity'. She had heard something murmured about her once, as she walked passed the staffroom. Hermione couldn't identify which teacher it was that lamented with sadness that she had 'let her light dim' and she didn't want to know. The casual right off had stung. She had worked impossibly hard that year to ensure she had never fallen behind, she had maintained the same grades she had achieved before the Horcrux hunt, top of the class above the board and yet they still weren't happy. Academic prowess it seemed was not her issue. Hermione could not obscure the level of detachment she had for classes that was what unsettled them. Her hand no longer shot into the air to answer questions, she no longer submitted reams and reams of parchment extra, she was still a bright girl, she knew that much, and she wasn't cutting corners, but her heart wasn't in it anymore.
The students were disappointed too, Hermione supposed there was some thin celebrity status in her possession now, but she couldn't bring herself to act as they wanted. She didn't want to sit around at lunchtime to regale them with stories of the now fabled year on the run. They wanted to hear about the quest for glory, the adventure, the battles, the freedom of life on the edge. All Hermione could remember was being cold, hungry and afraid, passing her time cataloguing the growing imperfections on her tiny form.
People wanted to see battle scars, to see where she had been burnt by a dragon or blemished by cursed gold, without any deeper understanding of the ridiculousness of such notions they viewed them as badges of honour. Hermione wondered what the general reaction would be if she rolled back her sleeves and shoved her inferiority in their faces. She could show them a real battle scar, one that would be with her for the rest of her days. She would never do it; she didn't want their ill-informed pity stacked on top of her own self-loathing.
At the requested time Hermione dutifully, if a little reluctantly, walked down the halls to what had been Dumbledore's office, she sat down and held her tea absently as the stern woman went through Hermione's academic record and aptitude, before talking about specific careers. Auror, Curse-Breaker, Ministry Worker, Healer, professor, the list went on and on, and Hermione felt more despondent with each new role that came up for discussion.
She left the meeting an hour later and ambled towards the Black Lake to gain some peace looking out at the water. The truth was Hermione didn't know what to do, and the feeling was one she found incredibly disconcerting. She had always been ruled by future planning, having been that way since she declared to her parents that she would like to work in a government office at six years old. Those plans had to be adjusted when she found out she was a witch, but only an inch or two to the left, as she reimagined her life working successfully within the Ministry of magic.
It wasn't what she wanted now. The war had made Hermione understand what her blood status meant in the real world, the world outside Hogwarts walls. People would say that everything was fine now that the homicidal maniac and his followers were dead, and that was true for the most part, but the prejudice remained. Sure, she was no longer on the run, no longer fighting off hexes or cursed blades but what endured was just as dangerous. It was whispered in coffee shops, it was backhanded compliments about how well she had done, considering her background.
Would people accept advice from a Muggle-born Healer? Would they be concerned about their blood touching in case they could catch her impurity? Would the masses feel protected by a Muggle-born Auror?
Hermione's aim for years had simply been to do some good in the world, how could she do that in a world that didn't want her help?
She needed advice from someone she respected and trusted, someone that could help her get some much-needed direction. After a long time staring out at the lake in quiet contemplation Hermione retrieved some parchment and writing materials from her bag.
She began to pen a letter.
The all-consuming political review of Wizarding Britain had taken the best part of a year. While there was still, as ever, much to be done, the bulk of the 'putting right' had now been completed and in a few months they would be able to look to the future, and the reorganisation stage would begin. As Kingsley had said right at the beginning of their efforts, there was no point in redecorating a condemned house; they had to level the structure to the ground first. In practice that had meant things had to get a hell of a lot more ugly before they started to look even marginally better.
It had been hard work, but they were almost at the point of getting things running again. The next step was appointing the Department Heads, beginning a massive recruitment drive that would be needed to fill in the many holes that were left from those that had been removed.
Percy returned to his small office, following the weekly lunch meeting he had set up with Ron in the Ministry canteen. The boys were nearing the end of their accelerated training year, and despite looking faintly bruised and a bit dazed from morning drills, Percy was sure his youngest brother had never looked happier. He hated himself for the resentment that swelled within him.
Of all of his siblings Percy had always felt the most affinity with Ron, they were not similar, far from it, in fact, they were opposites, but he recognised that like himself, his younger brother had not found a comfortable place at home. Odd numbers were hard in a social setting, and it would be a high society hostess' nightmare not to have an equal table at a dinner party. Those issues were magnified when it came to children. Ginny might have been seen as the obvious choice for the one left behind, but nothing could have been further from the truth. She had always had an easy friendship with her brothers, and infinite attention from her parents, delighted at finally being blessed with a girl.
Ron had tried desperately to be included with Fred and George, in a way that Percy had never known how. Not that it had worked any better for Ron, but then his younger brother had found his place when he went to Hogwarts, gaining two best friends that operated within a dynamic all on their own, his friendship with Harry Potter was more familial than he had ever had with Percy.
In the months since the battle Percy had continued his solitary existence, he was hoping that following the upcoming reorganisation things would go back to some kind of normal, and he would be able to shake off the lingering feeling of dissatisfaction with his life. He didn't want any more than he had, he just wanted to find a way to be happy with it.
Moving past the rows of neatly organised files Percy reached his desk and flicked through the day's mail. After diligently responding to those inquiries that could be answered immediately, and requesting the information he would need to answer the others via interdepartmental memo, he came to the last letter.
The envelope was addressed to him in a neat, even hand that he enjoyed looking at immensely, good penmanship was sadly a forgotten art. He opened it steadily and was somewhat surprised to find the short missive was from Hermione Granger. She asked after him and his family and reeled off all the other expected protocol one used when writing a letter to someone they didn't know intimately, and then he got to the heart of her enquiry.
I would like to beg some time from you, if I may, to discuss my future career prospects. I find myself without anyone to consult with on this matter at present, and I believe you may be the best placed of my acquaintance to offer guidance.
I understand you must be very busy with all of the work being undertaken by the Ministry, so I will completely understand if this is a request you are unable to fulfil. Should this be the case, I assure you I will have no hard feelings.
Percy stared unblinkingly at the letter for several seconds. His first inclination was to decline immediately, after all, he was, as she had stated very busy and honestly, given the existential crisis he was currently facing over his own direction in life he was somewhat ill equipped to offer anything useful. What could he possibly have to offer the brightest witch of her age in terms of guidance? And yet he never reached for his quill to pen a quick apology; something gave him pause. So much so that after re-reading the short letter several times Percy placed the parchment back in the envelope and put it into his bag.
That night, when he had returned to his small flat, instead of staring at the walls, Percy stared at the neatly scribed parchment. No one had ever asked for his advice before, ever. Two large glasses of firewhisky later he went over to this neat desk and palmed a pot of ink.
He began to pen a letter.
A/N: August 2017: this story has been revamped. Nothing will have changed too much, but hopefully, it will be somewhat tighter than the original version. As mentioned in my original Author's Note Percy Weasley is a character I have cared a lot about since first reading the books many years ago. I hope you enjoy this story.