22 February 1998
A waft of bitter wooden fragrance filled his senses, swirls of magnificent ink against the old and worn parchment. Against the dimmed light, Percy’s eyes strained to remain focused, fingers cramped in the tight grip against the quill. Exhaustion crept in like a familiar ghost, weighed down on his hunched shoulders as he ignored the pacing coming from behind him. In a matter of days, he had crammed every bit of information about family trees as he could, leafed carefully through old records at the Ministry at every chance he could find where watchful eyes were on him. While some families were loud about their ancestry, entire members dating back generations spread over their walls, many were more subtle and settled for a simpler means of keeping track.
“Is that it, is it done?”
With a careful breath, Percy slowly dried the ink. It was a delicate matter, the slightest mistake, even a minor smudge, and it would give them away. In a world where the Ministry of Magic were rounding up muggleborns, forcing them to register themselves and then removing them from their world, there were hundreds of false family trees appearing, the most severe punishment delivered. He had watched as people were hauled away, stood helplessly in horror alongside his peers to the cries of innocence. It was cruel and unjust but no means to fight it.
Shoulders pressed back, the line of pops down Percy’s back brought a momentary relief, head tilted from side to side in a grimace of pain. “When they come for . . .” he started, looking up slowly at Lukas Burnley. They both knew the reality, even if Zoshia ignored it and fought against the injustices, it was only a matter of time until they came for Lukas, but as a top oblivator he had his uses still in the Ministry. It was Zoshia that was the concern, while a half-blood, the trouble to was starting to stir-up made her a target. “You will only bring this out if they come for her. I have charmed it and followed intricate details of old trees. They shouldn’t suspect anything if you don’t bring it as proof and let them come to you.”
Lukas hovered behind him, peered annoyingly over Percy’s shoulder with small nods and mumbles as he looked it over. There was a mild smirk on his face, a large hand clapped over Percy’s tense shoulder. “I think you might be in the wrong profession, this looks damned near perfect. Who exactly is Peter Jones?”
“A common enough name not to be questioned thoroughly,” Percy replied quickly. “From them, Isla is no longer a muggle but a half-blood and they cannot come after Zoshia.”
It was a barbaric process, one that Percy himself had trouble wrapping his mind around. Half-bloods who had one parent that were muggleborns themselves were thrown into the mix, unable to prove their status as a half-blood was correct. And Zoshia who’s father was a muggleborn and mother a muggle fit perfectly into their claims of fraud. Her talent or intelligence didn’t matter, they cared little that she could best most of those she came across; it was why they were so afraid and to so many she was a thief of magic and didn’t belong.
Zoshia had refused to back down in the face of the bully, stood proudly next to him as time after time he was singled out, helped him in every way she could as they piled useless work on top of him until he drowned. Until he was forced back into his place of blood traitors. He watched just as much as her father as eyes fell on her, rumors rising of what she was and that she would be next. There was no hesitation when Lukas came to him for help on creating the family tree of his wife, worked and altered it to where Isla Burnley was a student at Beauxbatons, records from the French academy untouchable to the Ministry. Percy had made her untouchable.
“She is not to know about this.”
Percy looked up, all concentration on the delicate process of rolling up the false tree lost. “You can’t keep this from her, she’ll find out.” Paper handed over, Percy stood a little straighter as he followed Lukas out of the old abandoned shop, the older wizard’s nod in understanding the trouble it would cause.
“I’m going to store it in her mum’s old things up in the attic, give it time to collect some dust. Once as Zosh sees the threat, when I know they are coming for me, I’ll tell her.” There was a moment of silence as they walked together, Lukas glancing. over every so often until they reached the station. “You know you’re more than welcome to come and stay with us, we have a guest room. After everything you’ve been through, you shouldn’t be alone.”
The kindness in the offer fractured the strength he held up, the first bit he had received from someone other than Zoshia since he left St. Mungo’s. “I appreciate the offer, but they watch me and I’d draw more attention to you. Let's not speed the process up.” Lips pulled in a strained smile, Percy kept walking, the form of Lukas Burnley an outline against the night before he uncorked the poly-juice potion and downed it.
- - - - - - - - - -
A loud and sudden thud hit the table, Percy’s entire body tensed against the rush of ink that tipped over his work. There was fear behind the glasses as he looked up, half expecting to find one of the many death eaters at his desk but found something much worse. Face twisted in a look he had never once seen on her, Zoshia glared murderously down at him, her chest rising as she seethed. “What the f*** is this?”
It wasn’t a question as much as it was a demand for answers and awkwardly, Percy cleared his throat as he looked down to see what exactly was the reason behind her rage. His heart dropped, a week's worth of hours seeming like years but he knew the parchment before he even saw the lopped letters, no amount of exhaustion could banish if from his mind.
“I don’t know, looks like a family tree?” He tried to play stupid and failed miserably, Percy’s nervous smile as loud as a neon blinking sign. “Where did you get it?”
A strangled gasp filled the air, a few heads turning curiously as Percy's whole body was pulled violently forward. Tie wrapped around her hand, Zoshia’s face was inches from his, so close he could smell the intoxicating fragrance of lilacs.
“Why would you help him?” Her voice seemed amplified, carried through the room and Percy hesitated a moment, waited a beat to find the right words but Zoshia was faster than the lie he could create. “Don’t lie to me, I know your writing!”
“Just calm down, I can explain.”
“NO!” She radiated fury, face flushed in it as her arms shook. “What, you think I should be ashamed of who I am, of who my parents are?”
“Not at all-”
“I’m not!” The office had descended into silence to watch the fight, every set of eyes on them and Percy felt the panic bloom. Every attempt to talk Zoshia down she only grew louder, fought her case harder. “I am proud of who my mother is, and she sure as hell wasn’t some half-arsed French witch! There is nothing wrong with me and I will not . . . Percy!”
His hands found hers quickly, pulled himself free from her grip but he didn’t release her. Fingers laced, he pulled her from the office, winced against every smack she hurled at him to remove him from her hand.
“God damnit, let me go!”
The door clicked shut behind them, Percy wedge uncomfortable against her in the small closet space. His hand remained firmly locked around hers, kept her fingers close to his chest in desperation to not lose her too, but he could feel it. “Zoshia.” Her name was a whispered plea, Percy’s hands leaving hers to cup her face and force her to look at him. Tried his best to make her see that he was just trying his best to protect her, just like her father was. “Just let me explain, please. Please.”
“Explain what? That you’re trying to get us killed!” Wrenched free of his grasp, the snarled tone matched the one on her face and he gulped.
“No,” Percy said, voice cracking under a newfound terror. He could feel her pulling away from him, inching for the door and he moved with her, trying his best to block off the exit. “I just-”
It was impossible to get a word in edge-wise. Every time he tried to explain himself Zoshia came in louder than before, pulled further away from him. “You what? Everything I am fighting for is gone because of this! How do you think it makes me look to those I am trying to protect me telling them to fight back when I’m hiding behind a forged family tree?”
“You are a half-blood!” He half shrieked. The level silenced her for a moment, Percy’s cheeks rushed in color that burned his skin. Anyone passing by would have heard him, could be lingering just outside, and quickly he threw up a silencing charm. “Your dad is a muggleborn and without being able to prove you received your magic from your mum’s side they will persecute you as a muggleborn. The family tree I made you is flawless, they cannot disprove a damned thing because the French Ministry is still standing. I understand you’re angry, but having this does not impede on you fighting for what is right.”
Zoshia stood in stilled silence, and Percy knew his words had finally broken through her anger. “I am bloody furious. My dad may have roped you into this, but you saw me every day while doing this and never said a word. How many did you make? And think before you answer that, because if I find out you lied to me that’s it, I’m done.”
“That’s a bit harsh,” he squeaked out., a violent drop in his stomach as if he had just missed a step. “I’m trying to protect you.”
If he thought her words were harsh, it was nothing compared to the laugh that followed, brown eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “And what happens when they rummage through your mind because we both know they will eventually when they can’t find everything Scrim hid away. What then? Your protection is worth nothing more than a few extra minutes.” She waited long enough for Percy’s face to fall before she continued. “How many did you make?”
“Three.” Lips pursed, she nodded to his own admittance. He ventured forward, fingers outstretched for her for a second before he pulled back uncertainly. “Are we okay? I just don’t want to lose you.”
Her mouth opened and closed, Zoshia taking a second before she finally spoke. “Well, you’re not doing a very good job, are you? Just like my dad, you didn’t think through the repercussions if for me. He’ll be gone and you’ll be . . .” Her face blanched, eyes closed briefly. “I just need some time to figure this out, to fix it all.”
He felt the pull of the remaining part of himself. A frayed string that was on its last thread snap as the door pulled open, Zoshia not taking a single glance back at him. He stood lost, staring after her long after she had vanished from his sight. There wasn’t panic or even numbness. He understood her anger, regretted not telling her but it was too late for regrets. Chin high, Percy stepped out into the hall, a shell of himself as he lost the last person he had.