Author's Note: This is my fourth story for the Pairing Diversity Boot Camp Challenge! It is my first Percy and Hermione, but I really like this pairing. There will be a second chapter soon! I own nothing because I am young and poor. Please review! :)
"Harry Potter is currently spending the holidays with your parents," the minister informed me, not looking up from a stack of parchment on his desk. "Perhaps it's time for a visit?"
I groaned inwardly. The prospect of seeing my mother was...daunting at the very least. "Of course, sir."
"Good. I shall accompany you. Make the necessary arrangements."
I nodded briskly. "Yes, minister." I stood and started to turn.
I clenched my jaw. "Yes, sir?"
"Are your parents expecting you?"
I hesitated before answering. "No, sir," I replied quietly.
I didn't move, half-expecting another question.
"Well? What are you waiting for, Weasley? Go on and make the arrangements," the minister said briskly, returning his full attention to the parchment on his desk.
"Of course, minister." I completed my original turn and left the minister to his work. After all my hard work, I was still "Weasley." I supposed it was better than "Weatherby," but not by much. Now I had to acknowledge my being a Weasley. I couldn't refuse the minister, but visiting my parents for the holidays was not my idea of a good time. I wanted to simply spend Christmas alone with my work. Merlin knows, I had enough of it. I reached my office door as I thought this. "Cauldron bottoms," I told the doorknob. The lock clicked and the door swung open. Ah. Home sweet home.
The minister and I apparated onto a hill that I knew so well. Flashes of happy childhood memories appeared before my eyes, but I shook my head to clear them away. I could see the Burrow from here. I sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a quiet sigh. "Are you ready, minister?"
"Lead the way," he replied, straightening his robes.
"Yes, sir." I started down the hill without physical hesitation, but my brain was screaming at me to stop. I didn't want to see my family. I knew how my siblings would react to my momentary return. I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up with food in my hair or on my robes. Fred and George would probably call me a git. Ginny might too, now that I thought about it. I wondered vaguely if she had professed her love for Harry yet. I supposed Hermione would be at dinner as well. She was the only one of that bunch who even slightly understood my position. She was so passionate about her schoolwork. I'm sure she didn't participate in some of Harry's adventures because she had an essay due soon. I smiled slightly. I hadn't seen Hermione in a long time. She was the only one I was looking forward to seeing.
"Weasley, once we arrive, I will take Potter outside and talk to him. You can have some time to spend with your family," the minister said, breaking the silence.
I tried desperately not to flinch. "Thank you, sir."
"Were you expecting to work today?" he asked conversationally.
"I am working today, sir," I pointed out.
The minister chuckled slightly. "I suppose you are, Weasley."
We were getting very close to the Burrow. I could see the Wellington boots scattered around the stairs. "Perhaps we should go through the back door, minister. They should be eating in the kitchen," I informed, catching sight of my mother standing at the kitchen window with a hand clutched over her heart. This was a bad idea. This was such a bad idea.
"I will follow you, Weasley. It is, after all, your house."
"Are you planning on talking to anyone besides Potter, minister?" I asked, suddenly aware of the fact that the minister presumably didn't know the names of anyone else in my family.
"I suppose I might have to. Your mother looks eager to meet you. What is her name, Weasley?"
"Moth - I mean, Molly, sir. Her name is Molly," I replied, correcting myself before I said mother too wistfully. This was a business trip. I missed my family more than I liked to admit to myself, but they didn't understand me.
We rounded the side of the house. "My father is Arthur, minister. He works at the ministry."
"Does he?" the minister asked, slightly surprised. "What department?"
"Misuse of Muggle Artefacts," I reeled off before realizing I had misspoken. My father had gotten a promotion recently. "Excuse me, minister. That used to be his department. He is now head of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects."
"Quite a mouthful, isn't it Weasley?" the minister chuckled.
The laugh threw me off. "Y-yes, I suppose it is, sir," I said, putting a hand on the doorknob. I turned it slowly, steeling myself. "Merry Christmas, Mother."
Mother crossed the room quickly and buried me in her arms. I stood still, trying to keep up appearances. I wanted to come home. I heard Scrimgeour rattle off some fake tale about being in the area and my wanting to come visit my family. My mother apparently believed the story and kissed my cheek lovingly.
My mother rubbed my back affectionately before turning to look at the minister. She stumbled over her words while offering him food.
"No, no, my dear Molly. I don't want to intrude, wouldn't be here at all if Percy hadn't wanted to see you all so badly..."
Mother kissed me again, tearfully this time.
"We've only looked in for five minutes, so I'll have a stroll around the yard while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don't want to butt in! Well if anybody cared to show me your charming garden... Ah, that young man's finished, why doesn't he take a stroll with me?"
I smirked inwardly. The minister was trying too hard to appear natural. Ginny, George, and Fleur were also finished. Why was Fleur here? I glanced over at Bill. He had a protective arm laid around Fleur's shoulder. Ah. Bill and Fleur were together. I looked at Fleur's left hand. A ring sparkled there. I was almost jealous of them. I cast my eye over the rest of the table. Fred and George were glaring at me. Surprisingly, so was my father. When I met his gaze, he looked down at his plate and started picking at his turkey. Ginny was defiantly staring over my head. I glanced at Hermione and was taken aback. She had grown up. How old was she now? Sixteen?
Harry stood and accompanied the minister out of the room after assuring Remus and my father that he would be all right. A pang of jealousy struck me. My father cared more for this boy who wasn't even his son.
"Are you hungry, Percy, dear?" Mother asked kindly. "Turkey?"
"Molly," Father said quietly. It sounded almost like a warning.
"Come now, Arthur. Hasn't this gone on long enough?"
I cleared my throat. "Mother, I'm not staying."
My mother bit her lip. "I - I know that, Percy. I just didn't want you to be hungry on Christmas."
I almost told her that I could take care of myself and that I wasn't planning on being hungry on Christmas, but thought better of it. "Thank you for the offer."
"Are you sure you don't want anything, Percy?" Hermione inquired.
I looked over at her and saw Ginny elbow her. "Hermione," she hissed.
"It's only polite," Hermione whispered back.
"No thank you, Hermione," I replied over Ginny's snide remark.
"Why are you really here, Percy?" Father asked suddenly. "We all know you aren't here for a Christmas visit."
"Arthur!" Mother cried.
"I'm sorry, Mother. Perhaps I should just wait for the minister outside," I said, adjusting my spectacles and turning around.
"Percy, wait," Ginny called.
I stopped in my tracks, surprised. "Yes, Ginny?" I turned back to face my family and was greeted by a faceful of what appeared to be mashed turnips.
"Fred! George!" Father yelled. "Not now!"
"Hold on, I threw some too!" Ginny cried indignantly.
Mother burst into tears and fled the room. Father stood up, actually visibly angry. "This is not the time, Ginny. Apologize to your brother. You too, Fred, George."
The three of them glared at me sulkily before muttering apologies.
I nodded curtly. "Excuse me. I shall wait for the minister outside. Merry Christmas." I turned on my heel and stormed out. I had expected verbal abuse, not mashed turnips thrown at me. I could have handled insults, but this? This hurt. My siblings really didn't want me around anymore. I shut the front door behind me and sank to the steps. I couldn't sit still. Snow crunched beneath my fidgeting feet. I plucked a stray thread out of my cloak and turned it over in my fingers. It fluttered out of my grasp. I removed my glasses from my face and murmured a cleaning charm. I wiped the remainder of the turnips from my cheeks. It wouldn't do to be covered in food when the minister returned. I cast another cleaning charm on my hands before returning my glasses to my face. I sat up straight as a rail, waiting for the minister. My thoughts went back to Hermione. Had she tried to stand up for me or was she just being polite? I wanted to believe she tried to stand up for me.
"Ready to go, Weasley?" the minister asked, interrupting my train of thought. "I expected you to still be inside. Itching to get back to the office?"
"Yes, of course, minister," I lied as I stood. I decided it was best not to tell him my siblings had pelted me with food to get me out of the house. "What happened with Potter?"
The minister sighed and began walking back up the hill. "He will cooperate eventually. Bit of a stubborn lad, isn't he?"
I snorted. "A bit." I then realized who I was talking and blushed. "Excuse me, minister. Yes, he is quite stubborn," I said quickly, trying to make up for my mistake.
"Don't apologize, Weasley. It's Christmas."
"Thank you, minister."
We fell silent as we finished the trek up the hill. "I'm going home, Weasley," the minister informed me. "Merry Christmas, Weasley. Don't stay too late."
"Yes, sir. Merry Christmas to you too," I replied, smiling slightly. I knew I would probably spend the night in my office, though. I just had so much work to do.
"I'll find out if you spend the night at the ministry again, Weasley," the minister warned. "I always find out."
I blushed. "Yes, sir. It won't happen again, sir," I said sheepishly.
The minister nodded, giving me a small smile before disapparating. I cast one last wistful glance back to the Burrow before turning and disapparating as well.
I appeared in the restroom that led to the ministry. I thought once again about how ridiculous this security precaution was. They should just cast a security charm that screens all who try to apparate into the ministry. I shut myself in a stall, climbed onto the lid, and flushed. All the while, I thought how ridiculous this precaution was. When I arrived, the ministry was nearly deserted. I had expected this. In fact, I relished the quiet. I made my way over to the lift without the normal hustle and bustle. I liked not being jostled. Many people did not respect my authority. I supposed they believed I was too young.
My floor was announced by the cool female voice. I exited the lift, desperately hoping the amount of work I had left on my desk had not changed. I peeked into the other offices near mine on the way there. They were all empty. Good.
I murmured "Cauldron bottoms," to my door and heard the lock click. I decided it was time to change that password. If they so desired, Fred and George could easily break into my office. I pushed the door open as far as it could go and slid through the small space that provided. I closed my eyes, praying there was no more work than I had left. I dreaded opening my eyes, but I knew I had to do it eventually. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. My exhale was a groan of frustration. I was sure this was much more work than I should be getting. This had to be more work than the minister had. The stack of parchment on my desk had nearly doubled in my absence. I knew I would not be able to finish this before morning if I stayed here. I would have to take most of this home unless I stayed the night, but the minister would not be pleased if I stayed the night on Christmas. I squeezed by my desk, carefully maneuvering around other precarious stacks of parchment cluttering the room. My office was much too small for the amount of work I received. I sank into my chair and rubbed my temples. "Merry Christmas," I mumbled morosely. "Merry Christmas to me."
I appeared on my doorstep and struggled to catch my balance. The large stack of parchment I cradled in my arms threatened to make me fall over, but I steadied myself against the door. My voice cracked with effort as I said "Alohomora." The door opened and I stumbled inside, sliding the stack of parchment onto the end table placed just beside the door. I rubbed my arm tiredly as I turned away to call Hermes. There was a crash. I whirled around. "Bloody hell!" I exclaimed. "Could anything else go wrong?"
Hermes hooted softly and lit on my shoulder. He nipped my ear, hooting again.
I let out a sigh and reached up to stroke his feathers. "I haven't had a good day, Hermes." Just then, I glanced at the clock. "Damn. It's midnight. I still have loads of work to do." I collapsed into my armchair. "It's tomorrow already, Hermes. I have to go to work before I'll be able to finish all of that." Resignedly, I looked at the mess of papers lying near the door. None of them looked appealing right now. "I need sleep," I mumbled. "Would the minister mind if I took the day off today?" I chuckled sadly. "I need to pull myself together, that's what I need, Hermes," I sighed.
Hermes hooted in reply and took off from my shoulder. He landed on his stand and blinked at me slowly. It was as if he was telling me to go to bed.
I got up and made my way over to the window. "Go on, Hermes. Have some fun hunting," I said as I unlatched it and pushed it open.
Hermes flapped past my head and out into the night. I stood there, leaning against the windowsill, watching him fly until he was out of sight. The stars were rather lovely tonight. A cold breeze played along my face, reminding me of this afternoon. I recalled Hermione's face when the turnips splatted against my glasses. She looked almost ashamed. Why was she the only one who was civilized? Why couldn't my family accept my decision? They knew I was ambitious. The members of the Order were perfectly fine individuals, but their cause was just...silly. I shook my head, turning my thoughts back to Hermione. She had been wearing a purple Weasley sweater embroidered with a gold H. My mother loved Hermione like another daughter. I almost missed the feel of the warm and slightly lumpy sweaters. Didn't I still have one? I jumped up and nearly ran to my bedroom. I rifled through the drawers quickly, searching for the almost rough feeling of yarn against my fingers. There. I tore off my cloak and pulled the sweater over my head frantically. I felt at home in this sweater. I realized I was breathing heavily and sank onto my bed. I ran my hand over the arm of my sweater and picked at a loose thread. Suddenly, I burst into tears.
I curled up into myself, clutching at the sweater. I sobbed quietly, biting back any noise. My family hated me. I was so alone... Hot tears streamed down my face. I had always been independent, but I had never felt...alone. I took in shallow breaths, trying to calm down. I had never cried about this before. Perhaps, I wasn't used to spending Christmas alone. No, I reminded myself, I was alone last Christmas and I hadn't cried then. In fact, I had relished the independence. I suddenly regretted sending back the jumper last Christmas. I wiped my eyes roughly. There was no reason for me to cry over thrown mashed turnips. That was like crying over spilled milk, or whatever that muggle expression was.
I hugged myself tightly, wishing someone else was holding me. I thought about sending a letter to Penelope in the morning. Perhaps she would come over and... What was I thinking. I didn't want Penelope to visit me. I wanted Hermione to visit me. I shook with longing as I thought of Hermione. I had only seen her once, it seemed, but already I could feel myself falling hopelessly, desperately, frantically in love with her.
I thought back to this afternoon. I tried to recall every little detail and then it hit me. Ron. Ron had looked just as shocked as Ginny had when Hermione asked me if I wanted anything to eat. It wasn't just shock, though. I had detected a little flash of hurt in his eyes, but had been too preoccupied to notice it before. Ron had feelings for Hermione.
It made a lot of sense. I recalled being sure the two of them would fall in love when they were old enough to understand. Now I hoped I had made a premature assessment. I picked at the sleeve of my sweater once again, lost in thought.
Hermione's hair was pulled back in a messy bun that left a few strands around her face. I suddenly longed to tuck those untidy locks behind her ear. Her normally clear brown eyes looked slightly troubled, but the rest of her face was placid and calm. Her lips looked absolutely luscious and smooth in the sunlight.
My gaze dropped to the line of her jaw, the curve of her neck. I was filled with a desire to cover that perfect skin with kisses. I wondered how soft she would be to my touch.
I sat up straight as a board. I shouldn't be having these thoughts about her. I was an adult. She was just a child.
I found myself gazing at the barely defined swell of her breasts beneath her lumpy violet sweater. I wondered vaguely what she wore under it. If only I could pull that hem up and uncover the wonderful skin underneath...
No! These thoughts were inappropriate, wrong. I pinched my arm through my sweater, trying to get a grip on reality. Perhaps I should just attempt to sleep. After all, I had only a few hours before I had to get ready for work.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed it! Expect a second chapter soon! Well, soon-ish. Review, please? :)
Lots of love,