Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, the Harry Potter Universe, or any of the ancilliary intellectual property.
Percy Weasley was proud of his father.
Dad was a wizard of influence and substance. He worked at the Ministry of Magic, and Percy knew that it was wizards and witches like his father, thoughtful, powerful people, who kept wizard-kind safe, and made sure everything worked as it was supposed to. Percy knew that Dad's job was especially important, because Dad made sure that no one was using magic to hurt Muggles, and make their Muggle devices harm them through magic. Percy had never met a Muggle, but he knew their lives must be terribly difficult without magic. Dad had a shed full of Muggle devices, which Percy didn't understand, but if anyone could, it was his dad.
Not many eleven-year-old boys knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, but Percy did. He wanted to work in the Ministry, and help people the way his father did. He wanted to be like Dad.
Percy Weasley was proud of his father, and his father was proud of him.
Head Boy! The second in the family! It was outside the Great Pyramid that the owl arrived, letting him know of the honour, and both his parents fussed over him and told him how proud they were, but the moment that meant the most to Percy was when they returned from Egypt and his father took him out for a firewhisky at the Hog's Head Tavern in Hogsmeade.
"Look at you," Arthur Weasley said, his voice full of pride. "You're a man now, Percy. Head Boy! The world's your oyster, son. The Head Boy of Hogwarts can enter almost any field he wants. Do you know what you want to do?"
"You know I have always wanted to work in the Ministry like you, Dad," he answered.
"I know, but people's priorities change, especially when they're young. Both your older brothers wanted adventure. Are you sure you don't want to do something more exciting?" Arthur asked.
"What could be more exciting than working at the Ministry, Dad? You get to help people everyday, and help run our world."
Arthur smiled. "You'll find I don't really help run the world, son, I just try to make my own little corner of it better as best I can. What do you say to me introducing you to some people at work before the term starts, son? I want you to think about where in the Ministry you want to work. There's no openings at Misuse of Muggle Artefacts – it's just me and Perkins – but there's lots of other options for you."
"I'll work anywhere, Dad. Anywhere!"
His father had smiled indulgently at his enthusiasm.
"So how are things going with Penelope?"
Percy smiled. "She's great, Dad. Sad she didn't make Head Girl, though."
After a lull in the conversation, Arthur said, "Your mother and I married right out of school. Of course, times were different then, but have you talked about anything like that?"
Percy shook his head. "No. After school, I'm going to be concentrating on my job if I get into the Ministry."
"When you get into the Ministry," Arthur interrupted with a smile.
"One hopes. But I won't have time for anything like that. I may have to break it off with Penelope after this year."
"If it's not serious then that's one thing, Percy, but you can't let your job be your life."
"But it's the Ministry!" Percy protested. "Look at the hours you work! You can't say it's not important."
"I'd never say that, Percy, but I work those hours not just because I love my job, but because I want to provide for my family. Family's important, Percy. Never forget that," Arthur said.
"Of course I won't, Dad. I owe everything to you and Mum."
"Speaking of your mother, let's not tell her I'm buying you a second firewhisky. I'm not done congratulating you."
Percy laughed, and promised his father it would be his secret.
Percy was frustrated with his father.
Why couldn't Dad see how busy he was? Mr. Crouch was relying on him, especially now that he was so ill. Percy was invaluable to the Department of International Magical Cooperation, being the conduit through which Mr. Crouch's orders came.
Why, at times, it was like Percy himself was running the Department! Not quite, of course. Not yet.
Of course Percy wasn't home much. He had a career to build, and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. One didn't like to take advantage of a superior's illness, of course, but if he kept things running during that illness, he's surely be noticed, wouldn't he? Percy wanted to be a high flier, and there just wasn't time to laze about at home if he was busy 'flying'.
It was becoming clearer and clearer that his father lacked ambition. Stuck in a dead-end department with no hope of advancement, due to his obsession with Muggles – that was fine as a hobby, but to let it take over his career! That incident with the car certainly didn't help, either. He knew his father was the equal of anyone in the Ministry, even Mr. Crouch. Why didn't he try to move up?
Percy brought it up one day over lunch down in the cafeteria.
"You could do anything, Dad. Why do you stay there? 'Muggle Artefacts' is a joke."
His father looked like Percy had struck him.
"I mean, it gets no funding," Percy said, barrelling on. "No one of any importance really cares about it. You could use five assistants, but they're already talking about eliminating Perkins. Don't you have any ambition?"
"I have ambitions, of course," Arthur said in an even tone of voice. "But what I'm doing helps people."
"People no one cares about."
"Those are the people who need the most help, son. People are what matters in this life. The people you know. The people you don't. The people who rely on you, even though they don't know they're relying on you. I'm doing the right thing. Surely that's more important than personal ambition."
"But if ambition gets you in a position where you could do even more good, surely that would be better in the long run," Percy said.
"Percy, the Ministry can be a vehicle for great personal gain, but that's not why the boy I had firewhisky with last year wanted to join the Ministry. Do you even see Penelope any more?"
"I broke it off with her. No time." At Arthur's frown, Percy said, "Not if I want to be Minister someday, Dad. Think of the good I could do then! Think of the good you could do as Minister if you wanted. Wouldn't you want to?"
Arthur shook his head. "I want to succeed, of course, Percy. But I'm doing well where I am, and it's work that needs doing. Just make sure that what you do is also work that needs doing, and don't forget there's more to life than work."
"What I'm doing is important, Dad," Percy said.
"I wouldn't expect any less from you, Percy, you know that. Will we see you at dinner at the Burrow tonight?"
Percy shook his head. "There's too much that Mr. Crouch needs me to do. I'll be in late, if at all. I may just have to stay here all night."
"Of course, son. Just remember your Mum misses you."
"I live at home, Dad!"
Arthur didn't really respond to that.
Percy wasn't speaking with his father.
They had a blistering row not one week before, and Percy moved out of the Burrow, into a one-room flat not far from the Ministry. It was small and cramped, but that didn't really matter – he wasn't around much. There was simply too much to do in his new position as Junior Assistant to the Minister. Such as stopping those dreadful lies by Dumbledore.
The old man had been the cause of the row.
"Why are you aligning yourself with that senile old fool?" Percy asked.
"You do not talk about Albus Dumbledore that way, Percy Ignatius Weasley! He's the finest man I know and the greatest wizard in the world!" Arthur shouted.
"Maybe at one point, Dad, but now? You didn't see him at school the last few years. He was going to get sacked two years ago over that Chamber of Secrets business, and maybe he should have been. You know what he said to the school the year I became a prefect? 'Nitwit, Blubbler, Oddment, Tweak'. That was his speech! He's losing his mind."
"Going around saying You-Know-Who's back? On no evidence but the say-so of an agitated fourth-year?"
"Harry Potter. You know him. He wouldn't lie!"
"Why should I believe him, Dad? Why should you? Look at the trouble he causes. Look at what Ron has gone through because of him! And I still don't know what exactly was going on with Ginny when I was in sixth year, but he was involved. Why should I trust Harry?" Percy asked, his voice raising.
"He is a friend of this family. Dumbledore is a friend of this family. And they're right. You-Know-Who is back."
"So they say. But that's not what the ICW says. What the Minister says."
"Percy, Cornelius Fudge is wrong. The Ministry is wrong," Arthur said, shaking his head.
"And it's that attitude which has kept you working in a broom closet, Dad!"
"Percy!" exclaimed his mother, who had been listening to the conversation.
"It's true, Mum! They laugh at it! At Dad! Well, I'm not going to be laughed at, and get stuck in some bloody cloak roam!"
"Watch your language, young man!" Molly shouted.
Percy ignored Molly. "You can ruin your career on the word of crazy old nutter and a traumatized fourteen-year-old, Dad, but I won't! I won't!"
"You go to your room, young – "
But Percy didn't listen to the rest of it. He apparated away in the middle of his mother's sentence. He hadn't been back since.
Why would Dad not listen to reason? The Ministry said You-Know-Who wasn't back. They would know, wouldn't they? They were the Ministry, after all.
Dolores Umbridge, the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, had been the first to notice that Percy wasn't speaking to his father. She lent him a sympathetic ear when Percy poured his heart out, and said how happy the Minister would be that Percy knew where his loyalties lie.
She had also suggested he might keep an eye on his father, to make certain that Arthur Weasley didn't betray the Ministry. But Percy wasn't going to do that.
As far as he was concerned, he had no father.
Percy had no father.
He had no brothers or sister or mother, either. Not the way they treated him, especially this past Christmas.
He had no girlfriend, either, nor any real friends. But he did have the Ministry.
The Minister had changed – it was now Rufus Scrimgeour. Some policies had changed – it turned out that You-Know-Who was back, after all. But just because Arthur Weasley happened to be right on that one didn't mean Percy was going to come crawling back. To be sure, the Ministry had been slightly mistaken about You-Know-Who's return, but it was completely understandable. It made sense from the facts they had at hand.
After all, who was Percy supposed to trust? The Ministry, the foundation of wizarding life in Britain? Or an old man and a young boy? Even if his former family believed in them, even if they were right this time, you couldn't put your faith in mere people. People could be wrong. (People are what matters in this life, a small part of him remembered. That part was easily overridden.) You had to put your faith in something, and if it wasn't the institutions of government, what else could it be? After all, the Ministry was eternal. Ministers came and went, people came and went, but the Ministry was always there. For over three hundred years! Right?
Besides, the new Minister was still no friend of Dumbledore, even if he did keep trying to reach out to Harry Potter for some reason. And Dolores Umbridge was back, and she always had time for Percy, and agreed with him. It was the Ministry which mattered, more than anything. After all, it was the bedrock of wizarding life.
Surely Percy would continue to be a high flier if he kept that in mind. He's still be able to do all the good he wanted, even more than he was doing now, especially when he became Minister himself.
Percy may have had no father, but he was worried for him nevertheless.
There was another new Minister, another new set of policies. No more focus on You-Know-Who being back – he wasn't even mentioned anymore. Now the worry was about security of a different sort.
When the new Minister, Pius Thickness, decided he didn't need a junior assistant, and that Percy's talents were best employed elsewhere, Percy was offered a job by Dolores Umbridge, who had always been friendly to him. The idea of working on the Muggle-Born Registration Commission held little appeal for Percy, though. Even if it was the policy of the new Ministry, Percy didn't really think Muggle-borns were a threat to anybody. No more so than anybody else. And this business about them stealing magic from other wizards was surely a mistake. While Percy thought the Commission was simply keeping track of them – like a census, really – he still didn't particularly want to be a part of it.
Dolores frowned when Percy told her, and said he should think about his career, and the opportunities this would give him. Percy thanked her, but said he wasn't interested in the courts at this time.
So now he was working back at the Department of International Magical Cooperation, as the Assistant Deputy Chairwizard of the Interdepartmental Liaison Commission on the Importation and Licencing of Foreign Magical Creatures, Class XX Subcommittee. It was a lateral move at best, but at least it wasn't a demotion. He was certain that Clement Crump, the stenographer for the Subcommittee, was sending reports on him to his superiors, but that was common practice these days. Percy wasn't worried. Dolores was disappointed in him, but still thought he was basically sound.
The same could not be said for Arthur Weasley. His association with Harry Potter (Undesirable Number One – although that business of him being accused of Dumbledore's death had to be wrong) was well known, and the Ministry was not known for its delicacy these last months. There were rumours, nasty ones, which certainly couldn't be true. Sure, people weren't coming into work, but that's all it was. Layoffs. Part of the Wizarding Civil Service Restoration Act. Unpleasant, but that's all it was. That's all it really could be, couldn't it? This was the Ministry, for Merlin's sake!
Percy was worried. He may not have a father, but he still loved the man.
Percy was ashamed at what he put his father through.
What he put his family through. And he was grieving, like the rest of his family. His little brother, dead. Scant minutes after their reconciliation. Gone. Forever.
All that time with Fred, lost.
All that time with his family, gone.
After the battle, Percy went back to the Burrow. He held his mother. He consoled his brothers. His sister. He was contrite.
But other than apologizing, he didn't know what to say.
Mum was crying nonstop. Every time Percy thought she would run out of tears in her grief, she seemed to find new wellsprings of tears. So he held her, and let her hold him.
Fortunately, no one mentioned his absence over the last three years. Their anger and grief at that was eclipsed by their grief about Fred. Fun-loving, laughing, joking, inventive Fred.
His father threw himself into work. The day after the battle, he went back to the Ministry. "Someone has to put the country back together," Arthur said, subdued, as he apparated away that morning. When he came back, he was in better spirits. The new Minister – the fourth in three years! – was apparently an old friend, Kingsley Shacklebolt. A good man, according to his father.
Not that it mattered to Percy. He had resigned during his duel with Thicknesse. His career at the Ministry was finished, he was certain. The Minister wouldn't want anyone who served under the recent regimes, not when they were so grievously, disastrously wrong.
The summons to the Ministry two days later surprised him, and a large part of Percy feared there would be consequences for his serving under Thicknesse. He knew Umbridge had been detained, and would likely be tried for the Muggle-Born Registration Commission. Percy had no such stain on his record, but he worried nevertheless. But he was a Gryffindor. He would face the consequences.
His summons into the Minister's waiting room did not ease his worries. The long wait for an audience with the Minister had him more worried.
Eventually, he was called in.
The new Minister cut an imposing figure. He looked at Percy with a stern expression on his face. "You've missed the last three days," he said gravely. "I understand about your brother, and we of course make allowances for grieving families, but we need everyone we can get to pull the country back together. So you need to be here today, and every day thereafter."
"I heard you resigned. That was obviously done in the heat of battle, and you can't submit a resignation from the Ministry to a Death Eater, even an Imperiused one. So it's ineffective. It didn't happen."
Percy was nonplussed. "Why? After I served under Pius Thicknesse?"
The Minister looked at him discerningly. "A few reasons. You're no Death Eater, Percy," he said, waving open Percy's file, which lay on his desk, with his wand. "You're no sympathizer. I know what happened the last few years, but you weren't one of them. You were... well, the best way of putting it is that you were a Ministerialist. You served the Ministry."
"I shouldn't have believed... especially after he came back... at the Department of Mysteries. You shouldn't want me to come back," Percy said.
The Minister sighed. "Do you think you're unique, Percy? The Ministry kept functioning the day after your brother's wedding, just as much as it had before."
Percy winced at the reminder of the wedding he missed, due to his foolish pride.
"You're not alone," Shacklebolt continued. "Nowhere near. We can't sack everyone who worked under the last Ministry, even if we wanted to. Which we don't. Continuity of government, you see. But it won't be the same. It can't be the same. We have to be better than we were. And I think you want to be better too, do you not?"
"Good. Then it's settled. You're coming back. They'll be an interview eventually, of course, to make sure your actions under the previous Minister were not, well, unforgivable, but you went through that last year. These ones will be less invasive, I promise.
"So, where to put you?" the new Minister asked, flipping through the file. "You were at the Interdepartmental Liaison Commission on the Importation and Licencing of Foreign Magical Creatures, Class XX Subcommittee before, I see? Well, with four years experience here, we'll have to give you a better position that that. Hmmm..." he said, flipping back a few pages.
"You were Junior Assistant to the Minister before? I could use someone with experience," Shacklebolt said, which caused Percy's hopes to grow, before he continued, "but I think I have a better idea for you. The new head of the Muggle Liaison Office asked for an assistant. Your name came up. You've never worked Muggle Liaison before, have no?"
"Probably a good thing, after the last few years. Well, get ready for hard work, then. We've caused a lot of damage. Trust is going to be hard to repair with the Muggle government, and they have no reason to trust us any more. Not that they ever did, really."
"Those are the people who need the most help," remembered Percy.
"You'll probably be conferring a lot with their people – don't worry about the Statute of Secrecy. There are a number of Muggle-borns and Squibs in their government, especially after this last year. They'll be who we're working with. Impress me, Percy," Shacklebolt said.
Percy knew he was dismissed. "Thank you, Minister."
He made his way down to the Muggle Liaison Office. It had moved since the last time Percy was in the building. Under Thicknesse, it consisted of one senile man at a tiny desk in a dark, forgotten hallway. Now it had a large office behind a set of ornate oak double doors.
Percy opened the door. There was no secretary yet, and there were files everywhere. From behind a large pile of parchments, a figure emerged.
"Son," Arthur Weasley said, shaking Percy's hand, and then pulling him in for a tight hug. "Are you ready to work with your old man? You would not believe the mess left over. Or perhaps you would."
"Dad, I'm so sorry. For what I said. For everything," Percy said in a voice heavy with emotion.
"I am too, son, I am too. So much..." They held the hug for a few moments, before Arthur broke away. "But we have work to do, Assistant. What do you know about Muggle Aurors?"
"I know they're called the police, but that's about it," Percy said, pulling up a chair.
His father waived at a large row of books on a shelf. "Get reading, then. We have a meeting with a Muggle-born in something called the 'Home Office' next week, to let them know about who's at large and what we're planning on doing about it."
There was so much work they had no time for lunch, and Arthur ordered a few sandwiches brought in to satiate them while they ploughed through everything.
In between bites of a roast beef sandwich, Arthur looked at Percy. "Five years ago, when you told me you wanted to work at the Ministry? This is what I hoped for."
Trying valiantly to maintain a stiff upper lip, Percy simply replied, "Me too, Dad. Me too."
[Author's Note: This one was done for The Teachers' Lounge Iron Fic challenge.]