1 August, 1997
The tip of the quill scratched over the parchment, a calming noise to a frazzled mind, unease pitted deep in Percy’s stomach. In silent precision, he copied the document word for word. His last meeting with Remus warped his mind, pulled and tugged guilt and shame into place, worked him into a frenzy to what he was doing. His love for the Ministry felt tainted, the dutiful respect turned admiration for their Minister tarnished by his many levels of treachery. Again, he felt like a pawn in everyone else's game, emotions twisted until Percy felt nothing. He wanted to help the order, protect his family, but it was a deep betrayal to Scrim, who entrusted Percy enough to keep him on.
With a flourish of his quill, Percy signed off the document before he ran one last check for dark magic and rose to his feet, the weight of his own letter of resignation heavy on his chest. He was tired of the lies and games everyone used him for. Life was passing him by, a life he could have if he left everything behind. The Ministry was destroying him, a haunted mind with a body that showed it. His own family wanted nothing to do with him, no care or concern that he too was in danger. He could leave it all behind, England and all. Go to a place where no one knew his name, where he wasn’t viewed as a traitor and despised by everyone who came into contact with him. A new beginning to a life that felt as if it were coming to its end. Felix had given him a way out, a chance to escape and live.
Percy’s gaze hovered just over the rims of his glasses to the office directly across from his, the door still wide open but the room was vacant. Scrim had been out the majority of the day, fire messages popping up every so often on Percy’s desk with minor and tedious jobs to handle while he dealt with other things. His own suspicion malted into a fear that he had been found out and that Scrim was just collecting enough evidence to what Percy had been doing to throw him in Azkaban. With a heavy sigh, Percy’s muscles tensed as he stood from the chair he had been confined to for most of the morning. With Scrim gone, he set to his next set of business, the thing that hurt worse than walking away from the place he loved.
In minutes he was on the third level, papers tucked neatly under his arm. The halls were packed, a loud chatter set against the migraine that was pulsing through his skull, everyone’s words blended together into one massive static noise. It wasn’t normally this busy in the early afternoon, even when lunch came he rarely experienced the rush he was fighting his way through. Messy red hair poked out from behind one of the cubical’s, Zoshia’s face beaming as she spotted him. Nothing needed to be said, the chipped blue mug offered out to him once he was close.
“Thanks?” Percy muttered, his nose wrinkled slightly at the light brown liquid but it was still coffee in some form. He choked it back, face pulled in a tight grimace as he fought the shudder.
“It’s that kind of day, is it?” Zoshia asked with a slight snicker.
He didn’t return her smile. A sudden swell of distress in his chest caught Percy off guard, a squeeze over his heart as he looked down at her. Everything fell into place as she stared up at him, Percy suddenly aware that the things he thought he wanted were pointless without her there alongside him. “I umh . . . what are you doing for lunch, I need to speak with you about something.”
“I’m free now.”
Percy stammered over his words, face flushed to the pressure he was now under. It was supposed to be easy, a quick goodbye to who he considered to be a close friend, a best friend. It hurt when he arrived to work, knowing it had to be done, but now it was devastating. He couldn’t imagine not seeing Zoshia every day, didn’t want to.
Zoshia didn’t look up from her papers, but she sat idle for a moment before speaking. “You’re leaving with Felix,” she stated knowingly, the smile on her face wavering slightly.
Blotchy red patches covered his complexion, and quickly he looked away. “I know it’s cowardly and pathetic.” His voice was low. Every cruel name his family had given him over the years resurfaced as Percy found some truth behind them.
“It’s neither of those. You don’t want to be tortured, and honestly, who could blame you?” Zoshia sighed as Percy grimaced, his head tilting from side to side as he collected a list of those who would do more than just blame him. “Look, you’re not a martyr. Any sane person in your shoes would be weighing their options. Think of all the information you hold, all the destruction they would do if they pulled it from you? You’d be stupid to stay.”
The words, while they made sense, did little to ease the tides of shame and guilt that were lapping through his mind. He was running away, abandoning everything and everyone he loved just so he could live. A selfish, cowardly prat. Those would be the exact words his siblings would use for him, and Percy couldn’t blame them. They were all fighting in their own ways, taking a stand against the rise of evil. But they all had support, a network of people around them that would help them, even protect them if they needed it. Percy had nothing. He was on his own, backed into a corner, and facing was imminent death; nothing quick or simple of that he was certain. They had no concept of the danger he was in. Every bit of information he held from his time as Junior Assistant, and that was just scratching the surface. He gathered his own information, key things to give to Lupin, every last shred of information that would be the undoing of the Order once they knew how to lure Lupin out by using Percy as bait.
Zoshia seemed to sense his inner turmoil and paused in her packing. “If it’s any consolation, I’d prefer you to go. Mainly to keep Felix in check, but you’ve rather grown on me and I’d much prefer you stay alive.”
A different heat spread over his chest and up his neck, a small grin curving against his will as his heart spiraled. “You’ve got a soft spot for me?” It was meant as a tease, a joke to stop the stupid feeling he couldn’t place because he knew her words meant nothing more than not wanting to face another death. But he wanted it to be true, wanted to know that at least one person would miss him.
“Shut up.” The response was instant, a large cheeky smile plastered over her face.
Nerves fluttered in his stomach, a quickening beat of his heart that was in sync with the tip of the shoe he tapped against the floor. He couldn’t stabilize his thoughts, was unable to form sentences, and verbalize anything coherent as he turned the cup in his hands. Three quickdraws of air, Percy forced his mind to slow before he tried to speak again. “You - would you like to come with me?”
He didn’t understand the flurry of nerves, the off hitches in his voice as he asked a basic question that had no hidden meaning. It was just as dangerous for her to stay as it was for him. It wasn’t strange to offer her a chance to come; to want her to come with him. With him and Felix, Percy reminded himself almost bitterly. The panic was instant, a long stream of silent curses to how stupid he must have sounded to her. Of course, she wouldn’t want to go with him, no one really enjoyed being around him. He was an annoyance. A pest.
“With me and Felix,” he corrected as quickly as he could, careful to keep his face down, afraid she could see the sinking of his own heart and the hurt that shouldn’t have been there. Felix was more of a friend to her than he was, he was her best friend while Percy was just tolerated. “You should come with us, I know Felix would be excited not to be stuck with me.”
Bag slung over her shoulder, Percy waited in bated breath as she fixed the messy ponytail. “I can’t leave my dad here, I’m all he has left.”
“Right, of course.” Percy swallowed the sudden hurt that rose in his throat, pushed it all out from his mind. The emotions were strange, left him in a perplexed state to everything he had been ignoring the past few months when it came to Zoshia. “If things get bad . . .” He began, unsure of what else to say to her. He didn’t want to imagine worse than what was already happening. It meant full war, that Scrim was gone, and if he fell Percy would be to blame, no matter how or when it would happen. He abandoned his Minister of Magic when it could have made a difference if he remained where he belonged, where he fought so hard to get to. The possibilities grew heavy, made his letter of resignation heavier in the inner pocket of his jacket.
“I’ll find you if they do,” Zoshia said with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, a shared sentiment to what it meant if things got worse.
“Where are you headed, anyway? It’s not even lunch.” Percy quick to change the subject as they left the office together.
“Head of Department told us to head home.” Her brows knitted a little, a playful nudge against Percy’s shoulder. “I thought that was why you came to see me. Scrim’s been sending people home all morning.”
“No.” His voice gave away the betrayal he felt, that Scrim left him in the dark to something so peculiar. Maybe he knew what Percy was planning to do, he was always two steps ahead, it felt. Or possibly he didn’t want to broach the subject of Bill’s wedding that was due to take place later in the afternoon, and in some strange act of kindness loaded Percy with busy work to keep his mind off it. Annoyance to the situation simmered under Percy’s smile as they stopped outside the floo network. dwindling lines as people made their way out from the Ministry with the same suspicions that Percy felt.
“Look,” Zoshia said quickly. “I’m rubbish with saying goodbyes so . . .”
Her face closed in on him, Percy’s own reaction delayed as he strained to hear any rumors of what was happening. By the time he noticed his personal space was consumed by the scent of lilacs, it was too late. He froze as soft lips pressed against the side of his face, Percy’s ears the last thing on his face to go the trademark Weasley red shade. He didn’t know how to respond, mind pulling at straws to what he wanted and what her kissing his cheek meant. Was it just friendly? A goodbye because she believed she would never see him again? Percy stood flushed, eyes wide with alarm the more his mind raced.
“Just be careful, please.” It was the last thing she said, Zoshia giving a small wave as she backed up into the network and vanished suddenly.