I've thought about Percy assisting George with the joke shop and I know a lot of other fics allude to it, but I wanted to write one anyway. It will give me a chance to write a DH fic that is actually happy. Even if this first chapter really isn't. But I plan on having a lot of fun with this story! As always, feel free to critique.
"Your office really is a mess." Percy Weasley fought the urge to bite his own tongue for that. Of course the office was mess. Why would it not be a mess? Well, tact had always rather been a come-and-go thing for him and the truth was that the office Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes had gone complete to whatever nargles lurked around and there was no use pretending otherwise. Even if it meant a little offense. He stood over the desk, head bent down, eyes squinting at the horde of parchment blanketing the wooden surface. He was rather afraid to begin sorting; the pile was thick enough to hold any array of pranks. And since no one had been in here for over a good month… did any of these odd little devices have dangerous expiration dates? If something transfigured itself horribly under these papers, Percy did not want to be the one to discover it.
But he didn't smell anything threatening. The parchment gave no foreboding shudder. Percy gingerly picked up a document. Nothing but a copy of a purchase order, jauntily signed with Fred's name. The ink was still reasonably fresh, and thank heaven it wasn't that crazy finger striping ink they sometimes used. Fred had been serious enough to sign a purchase order. Percy let the order flutter back to the desktop.
George Weasley gave an incoherent grunt from the other side of the office. He sounded distracted. Percy didn't turn around. It wasn't his office, after all. He really did not need to see whatever George was doing. It wasn't his business.
37 days. It had been thirty-seven days of near-hell since the defeat of Lord Voldemort and everything else. He really was not sure why he was counting. The counting did not make a difference. It didn't change anything. But he was still counting, considering the numbers, and thinking that maybe thirty-seven days was too soon after all. But it was also thirty-seven days and the whole stupid world was moving on. Still celebrating, of course.
Celebration. That had been the hard part. And the mourning. Percy had not felt much of anything since. All he knew was that the office of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was a disaster zone and he would not be Percy Ignatius Weasley if it did not bother him. Had they just left the place like it was before barging off to Hogwarts? The dust was thick enough. He picked up a few more papers, barely glancing at them, and felt a prick of annoyance. Shouldn't George be doing this?
Against his will he looked at his little brother. He was just staring at the wall, expression vacant, breeze from the open window mussing the hair over his missing ear.
Percy sighed and tried better to read the parchment. No, George should not be doing this. George should not even be here, even if the stupid world was moving on. And complaining about the mess to him wasn't going to help, either. Besides, as of late Percy enjoyed cleaning, even more so than usual. It felt good, a little, to make something clean, and when one hadn't been sensing many emotions… "George, how do you usually organize these things?"
The question seemed to shake George out of his trance. He shook his head, eyes scrambling like fruit flies to focus. "Huh? Oh, yeah. We… we usually had a charm to sort them. Haven't got a chance to freshen it yet. There's… there's a filing cabinet over there." He pointed to a dented green Muggle filing cabinet. Something bright yellow and rope-like was twisting at one of the handles. "Everything should be labeled."
"Thanks." Percy grabbed all he could that looked like a purchase order, some baring Fred's jaunty signature, and headed to the filing cabinet. Why had he come here? George had mumbled something over breakfast about going to straighten the shop a bit. Somehow Percy had wound up coming along, half-afraid George would do something incredibly dumb to the poor shop and they would hear about explosions in Diagon Alley all over the radio. Bigger explosions than normal, anyway. Probably a silly thing to worry about. George would never do something like that, not intentionally. Maybe that was what had scared Percy. George hadn't been himself. Of course George hadn't been himself.
Percy couldn't think about it anymore. He hated thinking about it. Cleaning was so much easier. He strode over to the filing cabinet and opened it.
There was the sound of a muffled whistle, a blast of yellow dust, and the next thing Percy knew he was covered in something like those Muggle post-it notes. He tore one from the lens of his glasses and turned to George in horror.
George was watching, half-smiling. "Forgot about that one."
"You are so obnoxious."
George shrugged. The half-smile had lasted longer than Percy had expected. "You're the one that wanted to come."
Percy slammed the drawer shut, trapping one last squirming post-it note between drawer and cabinet. "Where do you really put this stuff?"
"I'll take them." He stretched out his arms.
Percy hesitated. He had seen the signatures. Like signatures held anymore pain than anything else. He handed the parchment over. "I have no idea how this place runs."
"It's just business stuff. The lab's through the other door." George's voice was disgustingly bland and quiet. It had been that way ever since, and it was getting annoying.
"I am not going to clean that lab for you."
"Good, because I wouldn't let you." George walked up to a toilet seat hanging as regally as a toilet seat could possibly hang on a wall and opened the lid. So there was the mysterious filing system. "You don't know a thing about invention."
That was true. Percy swallowed—his throat was dry. "I've never been in the shop before know."
It was a neat shop, he supposed. He had seen the shelves and tables, also lined with dust. It was pretty good. "When are you going to reopen?"
"Next week, sometime then. Probably." George finished the filing and closed the toilet bowl lid. "I need to dust."
"I'll dust. That's why I am here."
"You don't know which duster is safe." He gazed, seemingly bored, at the toilet seat. "Don't use the one upstairs in the flat."
George had been living at the Burrow ever since.
Percy tried to force a smile. It did not work. He was just too tired, and it was terribly awkward to be having a conversation here. It was already climbing for the first place in longest conversation they had held since. "I don't know if I trust you."
"Nothing here will kill you."
Kill. It was like something had thrown a knife into Percy's chest, and he flinced.
George's face was still vacant. "I'll dust. I said I would first."
Percy returned to the desk, trying to decide what next to collect. He was probably organizing everything completely wrong, and George wasn't in the state to fix it. Had that toilet thing even been a real filing system. "Are you sure you're ready to reopen?"
A long pause. "Ready as I'll ever be. And it's not like you have a job to go back to."
That was true. Percy was desperate for something that did not have the word "Ministry" associated with it in any way, shape, or form. "I don't care."
"You should care."
He was right. "George, I'm talking about you. I'm worried about you."
"Why is everyone worried about me?" It was a phrase that could have easily been shouted, but he just said it in that same bland tone.
Percy, for a split second, had something he wanted to say, but just as quickly that information vanished. "Go dust outside," he said simply. "I'll work in here. Just… just show me how you want the filing."
George slowly opened the toilet seat again. There really were labels. "Hey, Percy?"
A question. George actually had a question, and if it had something to do with the matters of life and death Percy felt he would scream. "Yes?"
"Can you help me with this?" There was the slightest change in his tone—now Percy could hear pleading. "The shop, I mean. I can't handle the whole thing by myself."
Their stupid joke shop. Percy winced. "Sure."