July 31, 1997
He knew the moment the door to his flat creaked open, ease behind the mundane task that he wouldn’t have before thought twice about, now weighed down on his chest; suffocating him in polluting fear that rose in thick pillars of smog. Limply his keys fell to his side, Percy’s body frozen at the entrance to the place he lived in for the past two years, a place that never felt like home but did the job. The hair on his arms stood on end, the weight of the air layered over him as he scanned the wards he had put in place. Everything was in order, protection spells still intact and not tampered with, but the heaviness in the air gave him pause, the pure wrongness, a feeling that the space had been tainted.
Wand clutched as if it were a lifeline, Percy took the first daring step forward. The primal instinct to run reverberated in his skull, a scream so loud it sent his senses into overdrive. It was the silence that unnerved him, not just the lack of screeching cars on the muggle streets of London but the flat itself. Anything from shrieking blame to wails of despair, the boggart Percy had trapped in his tiny bedroom became a companion in a life so lonely. There was nothing to greet him as he walked deeper into his flat, heart drumming faster alongside every step. His mother’s voice was gone, no weeping about her husband, the children she loved so dearly that Percy had failed, that he was to blame for their fall; their deaths. He was met with nothing but unnatural silence.
The voice was harsh in the back of his mind, a demand that was unmet. Running would only spare him a few hours at best, probably not even that if they were inside his flat; he’d be lucky if he even made it to the street before they took him out. Darkness enveloped him, shadows dancing in the beams of lights from the silent cars below. All tricks of the mind, a mind that had been propelled into paranoia as the daily count of his colleagues went missing haunted him, names engraved in his subconscious as he transferred them down onto paper. Nothing jumped from the shadows, no overpowering forms that crept and lurked in the corners making themselves known. It was all in his mind, too much time spent away.
He was fine. He was safe.
Percy had hoped a weekend away would do him some good, give him a chance to breathe, and switch off from work. He surrounded himself with friendly faces, those that didn’t press or pry him for information about the war, no hyped talk of Bill’s upcoming wedding. The pair instead gave him a reason to laugh and feel normal. A weekend turned into a week-long stay at Felix’s, no desire to return to a place as cold and unloved as he felt; a reminder of how trapped he was. Percy knew it was Zoshia’s own fears manifesting as she pushed for him to remain with Felix, as higher-ups in the Ministry went missing it was only a matter of time before they came for him.
Looking around his flat, the sigh of relief lodged painfully between his chest and throat. The black mass sat on his table, unrecognizable at the distance that made Percy draw in closer, steps hesitant as he wand remained drawn and ready. Thick black leather sat open on his table, the spine of the book turned away, hidden from the quick glance that would have given it away. Unease boiled under a fire of terror in the pit of his stomach, steps still inching forward. He didn’t leave a book out, Percy never left a mess if it could be helped. Everything had a place, a spot where they belonged. Fingers trembled as they slide under the weight of the bound pages as his mind raced. A book was a peculiar thing to leave out, especially when they left no other traces of being in his flat, if there was anyone inside. He tried to reason with himself, convince himself that he left it out by accident, that he must have been planning to give it to Zoshia or Felix and forgot. Lights flashed through his window, enough light given to see the cover.
The book hit the table in a thud that helped to silence the muffled scream of Percy’s as he backtracked from the table, hands clamped over his mouth as if it was enough to keep the fear in place. Grisly white eyes lingered on him from the cover, the skeletal face of the Inferius twisted up and screaming, the same image that sent shivers down Percy’s spine when he stole it from Runcorn’s office. The Nightshade Guide to Necromancy, a book Percy kept safely hidden away in the very top shelf of his bookcase, out of sight and mind after he stupidly took it after he caught Penelope and Runcorn having an affair. It shouldn’t have been out, any doubts that no one had been in his flat dashed.
Moments ticked by, Percy slowly talking himself up to go and retrieve the book, half expecting for it to signal the death eaters and swarms of black to descend on him. The fear locked him in with his demons, trapped him in his own mind as the claws grew longer, scratched at the surface of his very being. It was only a matter of time before they finally settled their sights on him. Percy was surprised he had lasted this long to begin with, a Weasley and the Junior Assistant to Scrim, the person who was doing everything in his power to stop the assassination attempts. He didn’t want to die. Not here, not like this. Not so bloody alone and hated by his family. He couldn’t die as a failure to so many people he loved. Book tucked under his arm, paper slid over the table as Percy worked to calm himself back down, a short-lived attempt as his heart stopped for a beat to the sight of Bill’s wedding invitation, the horror slowly sinking down on him, drove him to finally turn and run.
The crack was instant the moment Percy reached the alley around the side of his flat, his mind lost in an unending panic to what was happening, the destruction he possibly caused. He should have binned the invitation the moment he received it, but foolishly he hoped things would be different by now. That the war would have been halted before it began, that the Weasley’s became one again after mends were made. Fists hit the door to the small house before the crack of his appearance faded into the night, Percy’s eyes wild.
The wand was the first thing to greet him, Remus Lupin on the other end with a severe expression. “Percy?” His voice was soft, almost concerned but the wand never lowered. In the times Percy had been meeting with Remus, slipping the older wizard information that Fudge had been keeping from the wizarding community to anything he believed the Order needed to know about current happenings, they had a system in place to avoid others catching on. Percy knew showing up out of the blue was a cause of alarm, rose suspicion to if he was in control of himself, but he didn’t care. He didn’t know where else to go, what else to do.
“They were in my flat.”
Remus’ head cocked to the side, the terror laced words lingering in the air between them. Quietly he stepped outside, the door closed behind him before he jutted his head to the side of the house. “Who? Percy, you live in with muggles, it could have been a simple break-in.”
Percy’s head shook violently. “Nothing was taken or even out of place. The protective wards are still up.”
Confusion flickered across Remus’ face, his eyes narrowed as he took in the information that didn’t make sense. Even as he said it out loud, Percy knew it sounded like a thing of fantasy, his paranoia feeding into a delusion. “If your wards are still up -”
“I don’t know how, but they were there.” He felt crazy. Percy pulled roughly at the roots of his hair, inefficacious inhales that did nothing to calm him. “I just know, please you have to believe me. The boggart is gone, they-they left a book out.”
Remus let out a noise, the confusion growing as he tried to keep up with Percy’s manic thoughts. “A book? That’s not really proof, is it?”
“I’m not one to overreact, they were there! They were in my flat!”
New heights of hysteria rose within, closed over his throat until he no longer felt like he could breathe. In an infinitesimal moment, he second-guessed himself, that maybe he took the book out, that with how close it was to the wedding he brought the invitation out as well. A pitiful way to reminisce about the past and everything he was missing. Moments in time he would never get back, would forever be held against him.
“Have you been getting enough sleep?” Remus asked gently.
“Don’t patronize as if I were a scared child.” Percy snapped. His body rocked forward and back, weight put on one foot before he leaned back enough to give himself the sway, a means to calm a hectic mind. “It’s not just the book, they found Bill’s wedding invitation, it was out with the book.”
Remus’s face turned up to the black sky, the lingering summer's heat and damp air sticking to the skin. Crickets chirped against the silence, Percy waiting for Remus to say something to him, offer some guidance or advice on what he should do. “What makes this book important?”
Percy stalled for a brief second, some of the terror consumed by shame as he was forced to address what he had done. “It’s a book about necromancy.” Percy couldn’t meet Remus’ intense glare, the sudden demand as to why he had the book to begin with. “It’s Runcorn’s book and we all know he’s one of them. I stole it after I caught him and Penelope together.”
“That makes more sense now. I’m assuming you weren’t in your flat as they originally planned and left it out as a taunt.” His face turned back down to Percy, thoughtful but with some concern. “I don’t believe they were there to kill you. What would you do, as a death eater if you weren’t there to kill the Minister’s junior assistant?”
Face pulled back, Percy faltered at the question. Small draws of air stuck in his chest, gave little expansion as his mind worked over the question handed to him. He could see what Remus was doing, a simple tactic to calm him down enough to speak and think rationally. A problem presented gave him a chance to remove himself from his own terror. The answer came faster than Percy wanted, replaced the old terror with a new set, a fresh wave. “You think they were going to put me under the Imperius Curse?”
“Who better to kill the Minister of Magic than possibly the last person he trusts?”
Percy’s face drained of color in the simple way Remus had said it. A pawn, always a pawn in someone else's game, that was all he ever was. Percy breathed deeply, tried to find the comfort in three breaths but it eluded him, sent him spiraling further into a state of panic. He had grown to admire Scrim, as someone to strive to be like. He wouldn’t be the one who ended his life, who killed all hope in the wizarding world. “I don’t want this. I want out, I can’t do this.”
Remus was on him in an instant, fingers ground into his boney shoulders, a rough shake that sent Percy’s glasses slipping down his nose. “Think Percy, think about what you’re saying. I gave you a way out when Scrim first took office, you chose to stay. What did you say?”
“That was different. I was facing being fired, not torture or killing Scrim!”
“You knew the dangers.” Remus was too close to comfort, his face inches from Percy’s that made the younger wizard freeze and tense in response, slowly begin to shut down. “I know you’re scared, we all are. Don’t quit at the first sign of danger because you - you have been vital in all of this. All the information you’ve given us, think of how many people you’ve helped us save from death eaters, imagine how many more if you find the courage.”
Percy wanted to believe Remus, desperately wanted to latch to the idea that he was somehow important to the Order instead of just an expandable source. “Because of me, I put everyone at the wedding at risk. They know where to go-”
“They’ve always known. There are wards up in place.”
“They never had a date or time? How many people are going to be at that wedding that death eaters would love to kill? And it’s my fault. If anything happens to them . . .” He couldn’t bare it, the endless stream of dark thoughts sinking their claws into him, dragging Percy deeper into their recesses; a futile fight to keep himself afloat as they overpowered him, pushed his head under as they drowned him.
Remus didn’t argue with him, his face back up to the blackened sky as he mauled over options. “Why don’t you come to the wedding?”
He wanted too, would have given anything to attend and support his eldest brother, but even the resistance in Remus’ voice proved that it wasn’t possible. “I’m not really wanted and I don’t want to be chased out again by them. I don’t think - there’s only so many hits I can take. And once they find out that I’m the reason…oh god.” It would add fuel to their hate, give more reason to why he wasn’t like them, that he was nothing but a traitor.
“You did nothing wrong.”
“You know damn well they won’t view it that way,” Percy replied, his words choked on emotion. “I can’t go, but you’ll be there. You can warn them, make sure they are safe.”
Remus nodded in simple understanding. “I’ll make sure there are extra wards in place, that we are more vigilant. I won’t tell them it was from your invitation they got the information but Percy, I need you to remain where you are.”
Eyes closed softly, Percy felt the last tug against his mind, the wash of depression that overflowed every inch within him. A simple tool to keep him in order, the carrot of his family dangled above his head. “Of course, fire message me if you need me. I’m not staying at my flat, I won’t become more of a puppet than all of you have already made me.”
Percy vanished before Remus could get another word in, the numbness seeping in through his bones. His stomach churned the moment his feet touched the ground, Percy’s eyes dulled as once again he found himself knocking on a door for help.
“Weasley, I would say this was a lovely surprise, but I’d be lying a little.” Felix’s energetic voice filled the empty streets, a wide loonish smile about him. It was a poor attempt at a joke, a way to poke fun at their past that Percy usually forced a grin or laugh for, but there he had nothing left. “Everything okay?”
“Can I stay here again?” He hated asking for help, that he had no one else to turn to, that his options were so limited that he ended up with someone he knew truly didn’t like him and only tolerated him. “Don’t tell Zosh, death eaters were in my flat.”
Nothing else was said, the door pushed wide open as Percy was quickly ushered inside, the door closing behind him and any feelings he had left.
Ministry Falls Series; Part 1
HC: A few months after Percy left the Burrow he crossed paths with Remus Lupin who gave him a listening ear and actually took the time to listen to Percy's side and understand where he was coming from. They would meet once or twice a month, just to see how the other was doing and for Percy to know how his family was. It was Percy's idea to begin giving Remus information Fudge was keeping out of the public's eyes to feed back to the Order. When the Battle of Hogwarts hit, it was Remus who alerted Percy and told him where to be if he wanted to fight, giving Percy the option knowing how much he had already been through. JKR initially had Aberforth be the one who alerted Percy but it is far too random since the two never would have crossed paths.
** A massive shoutout to --FIRECRACKER
for coming up with the idea of Percy finding some form of family and friendship with Remus Lupin after his estrangement from his family and allowing me to run with it.