Disclaimer: © 2006 harmony bites. All rights reserved. This work may not be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur non-profit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by J.K.Rowling or any other lawful holder.

Dyce is the author of the wonderful HG/SS novel Survivors (FFN story id: 25443170), notable among other things for not having the usual Percy, and this Percy fic was written for her birthday. (Besides, always wanted to try omniscient.)

Thanks to Bambu and Djinn for their betas!

A DIFFERENT KIND OF GRYFFINDOR

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The word around the Ministry was that Percy Weasley was a paranoid man—and far too cautious to be a true Gryffindor.

Some whispered it came of the tortures he went through when he was captured at the end of the war. If questioned about what he'd suffered at the hands of the Death Eaters, he'd puff out his chest and change the subject. His reticence earned him more sympathy and admiration than any details could engender. (Percy would tell you he deserved such regard and his Order of Merlin, third class. After all, he did have to suffer Pettigrew chewing his ear, so to speak—although at least not literally. The rat had been suitably grateful for his good treatment as a pet to keep Percy similarly safe in captivity.)

On the other hand, one could say that anyone who had the twins for brothers had learned to examine every sweet, check every bit of furniture before sitting, even look at an innocent piece of parchment with a jaundiced eye.

Hermione discovered just how far Percy's paranoia went when she tried to use the Yule party at the Ministry to break into his office. She'd paid Mundungus, pressured Slughorn, threatened Skeeter for the dibs and dabs of information that had led her to believe that what she needed could be found here—at the top levels of the Ministry.

Dumbledore's portrait had been destroyed when Hogwarts had been set on fire during the war. The Headmaster's legacy—the location of the cache of documents and the bottles of preserved memories left by him—had been lost with the death of Lupin, its Secret Keeper, in the Final Battle. In the seven years of Hermione's search to find a way around what had been lost, there had always been one more thing she could try. If her efforts tonight failed, she no longer knew what she could do next, and that prospect had left her with sweating nightmares for weeks.

In comparison, the wards on Fudge's office had been easy. Hermione tried every charm she had learned in her training at Gringotts to no avail. She swallowed hard, trying to push back the panic. With her complete focus on the lock, she was taken unaware by the man's approach.

"Hello, Hermione." Percy felt satisfaction that he'd guessed her identity when she whirled to face him, her eyes widening.

He had seen a woman wend her way through the crowd in a white muslin dress. There had been something about her tread that had tweaked at his memory. Glamours were so commonly used that they had created a miasma around the room, cloying and thick, a honeysuckle scent. When she had brushed against him, he had smelled it heavy on her—yet she looked too ordinary, a brown wren. Used then to disguise, to draw attention away, not attract. The fear there was a spy or assassin on the premises had made the hairs rise on the back of his neck—until it occurred to him who it must be.

"Shall we?" He pushed the door open with a touch of his fingertips, inviting her in with a gesture.

Hermione felt her heart hammer triple time and took slow breaths while sauntering through the door as if it had been this office to which she had received an engraved invitation. She paused to scrutinise the usual politician's "love me wall" filled with framed clippings of Percy: with the Man-Who'd-Won, with Minister Scrimgeour, even a picture taken as a teen with Dumbledore—the young Percy beamed at her proudly, patting his Head Boy's badge. Her heart clenched as she saw the next image: Percy pictured with a shackled Severus. Her lips thinned in contempt. What kind of person, whatever they might think of a man, hangs that kind of picture like a trophy on a wall?

"You could have asked me." Percy looked at her through narrowed eyes. "But then, what Gryffindor would take the easy way?"

"You sound just like Snape." She said the name lightly, with a curl of the lip, as if Severus were a distant acquaintance about whom she didn't much care. Percy's lift of an eyebrow and smirk told her he'd heard otherwise.

"I've been called worse."

"I doubt much of the wizarding world would agree there could be worse."

"Certainly, my brothers wouldn't. But I've been known to disagree. Oh, go ahead, I know what they all think of me, Charlie and Mum excepted. That my Sorting was the one time the Hat surely made a mistake. I've heard the jokes and the snide remarks. There are different kinds of courage, you know. And sometimes it takes every bit I have to come into this office every day. But while you and McGonagall have been bleating to all and burning bridges behind you, I've been here building—"

"This?" Hermione slowly scanned the room. At cabinets lined up against a wall she'd never get a look into now. On one side of the room hung dozens of clocks; above each was the name of a department under Percy. Each hand, keyed to an employee's aura, pointed to their current status: asleep at the desk, playing Exploding Snap, nattering on with friends, too long at lunch, sneaking in late, working hard, hardly working, leaving early. "Yes, you're very much the bureaucrat."

"Luckily for you. Lucky, also, I acknowledge sometimes you do have to beat your head against a wall to burst through it. I just don't have that thick of a skull."

Percy perched on his desk, opened a drawer, and drew out a folder. "I expected you sooner. I take it you were looking for this?"

Hermione snatched the folder from his fingers and quickly skimmed the contents. "It's all here. Everything that could free Snape, that we suspected they were hiding from us! How long have you had this?"

"For years."

Hermione felt the blood rushing in her ears. She had visited Severus in Azkaban only last week. His cell was so narrow he had to sleep on his side with his legs drawn up. She'd had to breathe through her nose so as not to choke at the stench—the floor of the cell was constantly wet—with what effluvia she didn't want to know; she'd had to bribe the guards with Firewhisky to allow her to leave Severus a book and some candles while Percy sat in this well-lit, carpeted office …

Percy cast a quick Expelliarmus. Hermione looked shocked, as if she hadn't even been aware she'd lifted her wand. She might be more sensible than any number of Gryffindors, but spending seven years in that House, let alone years more among Harry Potter and Percy's own brothers, made her predictably rash. Especially if the rumours about how she had come to feel about the Dark wizard were true—as untrustworthy as Skeeter could be … seeing Hermione now, breathing hard and her face red, he could credit them.

He crossed his arms and met her glare. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, don't look at me like that. I knew who arranged my escape before Voldemort could take off my hand to send it to father. I pay back what I owe. If it weren't for me, Snape would have had his soul sucked out by a Dementor years ago. I had to call in debts which could otherwise have made me Minister by now." He handed Hermione her wand back.

She pocketed her wand, out of sight so as to avoid temptation. "Why?"

"People weren't ready. Now they might be."

"What gives you the right to decide—"

"Knowledge. Years working here learning what is possible and what is not."

"I suppose you expect me to be grateful. If they ever find out—"

"I'm counting on that never happening—counting on you. I have five mouths to feed, and unlike Father, it matters to me that my children don't go around in shoddy robes and too-tight shoes. Now get out."

Hermione could see the beads of sweat on his forehead and had seen the slight shake of his hand as he'd handed her wand back. His bald spot, the size of a Knut, reminded her painfully of the dead Arthur. She leaned forward and kissed him on the spot, shocking them both. "Your father would be proud of you."

"I don't care."

They both knew he was lying.

He sat for a long time after she left, laughing weakly and gripping the edge of his desk. He watched a fly land on the wall and wondered if he should swat it. Could it be a reporter for the Daily Prophet? He'd put himself in a sort of Azkaban now, waiting for the day when this would leak—which it would.

Much later, Hermione, detecting a faint whiff of magic, cast a Specialis Revelio on the file. Glittering golden lines spelled out a message that disappeared as she read it:

God Speed, Hermione.

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