Your secretary has just called through to remind you that you have an appointment to be elsewhere – an appointment for twenty minutes ago, to be exact. You sigh and sink back into your chair, letting the plush, well-padded leather envelop you for a moment. This deal with the Russian Ministry is going to transform trade with Eastern European magical communities, something that previous administrations had tried unsuccessfully to achieve for years. Just over a month ago, you, Percy Weasley, were the one who made the important breakthrough, and every spare minute since has been spent on it. Sighing, you push the chair away from the large, oak desk and stand, taking a moment to shuffle the pile of parchment on the desk into some sort of order, ready for your return in the morning.
Your cloak is hanging on the coat-stand by the door and you are slipping it over your shoulders as the office door swings shut behind you.
“Goodnight, sir,” says your secretary as she looks up from her work, “Hope you have a nice evening.”
“Thank you, Susan.” Your voice is warm; Susan has been a friend of the family for many years. “Will you not be joining us?” you add, looking at the large pile of work on her desk with a knowing eye.
“No,” she replies with a smile, “there’s going to be a do at The Cauldron at the weekend. I’ll be offering my congratulations there, hence me wanting to get this done today.” Her arm sweeps across the desk, sending a piece of parchment flying in your direction. “But feel free to say hello on my behalf.”
“Certainly,” you reply, heading out of the door, sending the rogue parchment back to her desk with a quick flick of your wand.
The years since Voldemort’s fall have been good to you; as family, friends, and no lesser personage than the Minister of Magic himself have stated, you should be proud of yourself. Eminently successful career-wise, you have risen steadily up the ranks, this time without alienating people along the way, and are now head of one of the largest departments at the Ministry; you have every right to be proud of your achievements. All this, of course, means that everyone and their Kneazle wants a word with you, so it’s at least another twenty minutes before you are striding through the atrium, past the new Fountain of Magical Brethren – which eventually replaced the original a few years ago – and out into the Alley, pulling your cloak collar up around your ears, protection against the brisk late-autumn winds.
A few minutes later you have collected your gift from Flourish & Blotts’ book shop, and you are heading to your childhood home, the mistakes of yesteryear long since forgiven and forgotten in your family’s hearts and minds.
* * *
“How was work, son?” your father asks as he opens the kitchen door and beckons you in.
“Good… Good...” you reply. “Spent most of the day in negotiations with Gregory Gabagkov.”
“Ah, yes, interesting character by all accounts.”
“Well, Gregory’s not that bad when you’ve worked with him as often as I have in recent weeks.”
“Ah, Percy only you–” says one of your twin younger brothers, as he jostles you out of the way of the door, a large box in his arms. You dread to think about its contents.
But you don’t have too much time to worry as George comes past on your other side, also heavily laden down. He adds to his brother’s comment, “–could refer to Gregory Gabagkov, Deputy Russian Minister for Magic–”
Fred, who has now dumped his box on the kitchen table and is heading back out of the door, continues, “Not to mention – and more importantly in our book – world’s number one Beater, seven years running...”
“As ‘Not Bad’.”
“And we know you’re important, Perce, and rightly proud of you we are too, but there’s no need to pretend you’re on first-name terms.”
“Boys...” cautions your father.
But you’re not all that bothered; you’re still a little bit uneasy about your past choices, feeling that, while your family’s forgiveness is welcome, you still haven’t fully earned it, and you are not sure you ever will, so the twins’ teasing is quite pleasant.
Though you’d never tell them that, of course!
“Never mind, Father, it’s not your fault...”
“No,” agrees your father, “it’s your mother’s side of the family we have to thank for that particular selection of genes.”
The twins grin wildly.
Your father just smiles innocently.
And out of the corner of your eye, you catch sight of your mother, her own eyes twinkling.
“Sorry I’m rather late, Mother.”
“Not to worry, son,” she replies, bustling across the kitchen and enveloping you in her arms. “I’m used to my children’s time-keeping, which is why I took it into account.”
“Mother! You don’t trust your own flesh and blood?” says Fred.
“Shocked, I am,” adds George.
“Shocked, we are,” you add to the twins’ teasing.
“Hurt we are,” they tease in unison, placing a hand over their hearts and cocking their heads slightly, a pose you mimic, much to their delight.
“Be off with you,” she laughs and waves you all out of her kitchen.
“Anyway, it turns out that your new nephew is already a proper Weasley, in spirit, if not completely in body,” smiles your father as he leads you all into his study, and hands out glasses of his secret (from Molly at least – or so he thinks – the rest of the family know differently) bottle of vintage Firewhisky. “So while he keeps your sister and Harry waiting, why don’t we partake in a little preliminary wetting of the little tyke’s head?”
* * *
Later, after everyone has eaten their fill of your mother’s wonderful cooking, you all retire to the living room, and the warmth from the fire, and the flickering light of the candles lets everyone slip into a relaxed state. The only sound is that of the WWN; it’s muffled, making its way in through the closed door to the kitchen. You can’t make out the song but it sounds like Celestina Warbeck, and you wonder if you should point this out to Mother, but no, she is bent low over her new grandson, and chatting quietly to your sister and Harry, whose expression is still a weird mix of joy, bewilderment, shock and everything in-between.
Harry notices you watching, so you raise your glass and smile warmly at him, before turning away and starting a conversation with William about his latest work with the goblins. Pleased at his enthusiastic response, you can ignore the strange feeling that has suddenly come over you while watching Harry. It’s only when you and William turn into penguins an hour later thanks to the twins’ latest product – apparently inspired by a Muggle chocolate biscuit that one of their many dates once gave Fred – that both yours and William’s attentions return to your family.
A promise to stop talking politics saves you both from further punishment.
Out of habit, you look to your mother for support, but she appears to have no intention of telling off the twins. She is sitting in her favourite chair, a bundle of blankets nestled securely in her arms, and her attention is quite obviously elsewhere.
It’s been a long time since the entire family was together like this; you all lead such busy lives that even when you do all manage to be in the same place at the same time, one of you inevitably has to rush off somewhere, be it an important Ministry meeting, an impatient goblin, a delivery of volatile stock, and not to mention injured dragons having no sense of timing. No, chances like this didn’t come along often, and you have made enough mistakes in the past to know you should cherish them. So you sit back in your chair and just let the room embrace you.
You are so lost in this state of being that you yelp in shock as a spasm of pain shoots up your leg. You look up to find your sister standing in front of you, having just kicked you; her smile is warm and indulgent, then her eyes twinkle, “Wake up, you lazy sod! Someone wants to say hello to his Uncle Percy.”
Before you can respond, she lowers the same bundle of blankets you saw Mother with earlier into your arms – you dumbly let her rearrange your arms to properly hold your nephew, and you watch amazed as his eyes open momentarily at the disturbance, before closing once again, and you sit there tensely.
“Relax, dear brother,” says your sister, in an amused tone of voice, “You’re not going to break him!” before she returns to her husband, and snuggles into his arms, and they both grin at you.
Eventually you do relax, and with a quick flick of your wand, you release the catch on the rocking chair and start to rock gently backwards and forwards.
Your father once again passes round the Firewhisky, and you sip reflectively at yours, while your nephew sleeps soundly on. A small snore attracts your attention once more to the couch containing your sister and Harry, curled up against her, with his arm wrapped tightly around her; she has fallen asleep. Harry looks lovingly on at his sleeping wife, and even if you had never realised it before now, it is quite obvious how they love and are right for each other.
“Long day?” you mouth at your brother-in-law.
He nods in response.
“Time to take her home, then,” you say. Standing carefully so as not to disturb your nephew too much, you walk over as Harry gets your sister sleepily to her feet, his arm still wrapped tightly around her, and into his other arm, you place your nephew.
The change in your sister is so quick it makes you blink in surprise, she has never been one to wake up easily or happily, but now she is quite obviously awake and attentive, taking care of their child as Harry steps to one side and prepares the Floo, both of them already comfortable with the huge amount of responsibility a child brings.
“Thanks,” he says to you. “Thank you everyone,” he adds to the rest of the room, “we’ll see you later.”
With a quick flash of the fire they have returned home, their new lives as a family about to start.
You return to your chair and knock the rest of your Firewhisky back in one; that odd feeling you can’t place rumbles deep inside your chest.
* * *
It’s a busy day for you today; your nomination for Minister for Magic is secure. The nearest candidate, whilst supremely qualified, is some way behind your popularity, and you have a joint press conference organised for this evening, where he is due to throw his weight behind your bid for the promise of being Deputy Minister.
However, it is also the first of September and that means a journey on the Express and the first day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for hundreds of young people, and more importantly, it is Matthew James Potter’s first day and you have promised your nephew, sister and brother-in-law you would take him to King’s Cross. You had been relaxing at your flat last night, when a panicked Harry Flooed over. Your sister had gone into labour with their fourth child, and you were honoured that they thought to ask you. Mother and Father, of course, would normally be the first choice, but they would be at St Mungo’s with them. Still, you were pleased they asked and agreed readily – of course, it wouldn’t harm to be seen out in public today of all days.
Which is why, instead of preparing for the conference, you are standing amongst the throng of parents, family and station staff, one hand resting on a pram, the other holding on to your five-year-old niece’s hand. You watch the Hogwarts Express pull out of the station, a lump in your throat and your chest as you lift your hand off the pram to wave goodbye to the small figure leaning out of the window grinning from ear to ear.
“Come on,” you say to your niece, “Let’s go see if Mummy has a new brother or sister for you yet.”
She pulls a face, and pretends to be sick all over the platform, so your visit to the hospital is delayed, so you can spend some time talking to her about appropriate behaviour in public places. It wouldn’t be right for the next Minister for Magic to be seen unable to control his own niece.
* * *
You are sitting at your desk, your best robes hanging behind you, ready to wear. Your speech, written on the finest parchment Galleons can buy, lies in front of you. You know it by heart, of course; still, you have learnt over the years that it pays to be prepared.
What you are not prepared for, though, are your feelings at this time and it isn’t the parchment you are looking at, it is the small photo resting on top. Feelings you now realise you have been having for years, but had never been able to place, it was an emptiness; a hollow feeling that settled in your gut every time you entered your dark and silent flat knowing that your brothers went home to warmth and light and home-cooking and the eager welcoming squeals of their children. You don’t even have a Kneazle.
A photo of your sister and her newly enlarged family. In it, she is lying in bed cuddling her new son, Harry alongside her, and their other two children perched in the middle, and a small creature that has been nibbling away in your chest for years, never quite showing or explaining itself until, suddenly, it roars into life. Without thinking about it, without planning it, you get up and stride to the Ministry Conference Room, your speech completely forgotten and lying abandoned on your desk.
The photo, however, you take with you.
* * *
“Percy, but why?” asks your mother, as you are once again warmly ensconced in The Burrow.
“I just realised it wasn’t what I wanted anymore,” you reply. It’s only an hour or so since you made the decision, but even so, you feel lighter that you have in years.
“But... but you were so proud, so...” she continues.
“I know, I still am, but there are other things,” you glance momentarily at your sister’s family, “that I’d like to achieve. I think, if I can... I might even be more proud of that.”
Your mum misses your glance across the room, but your sister does not, nor does Harry.
“I know you will, mate,” he says, with a nod of understanding.
It’s only now that you realise it wasn’t just any of your siblings that triggered these feelings; it’s really only William, Ron and Ginny that have properly settled down. Charlie has a lovely wife, yes, but neither of them are yet prepared to give up their dragons. William and Fleur have two nice children, and are quite obviously happy with their lot in life. Ron and Hermione come closest, but they still have their careers, although Ron is due to retire from Quidditch in the next year or so. No, it is Ginevra and Harry; they are everything you know family to be, utterly devoted to each other and their children, you’re only sorry it’s taken you so many years to realise it.
“But what can be more important than being Minister?” your mother continues, looking in confusion to your father, who has walked over and places a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently, before sweeping his other arm across the packed living room at The Burrow.
“Oh, I can think of a thing or two,” he says, smiling.
“Molly, love, Percy has achieved all he set out to do, he’s just decided he needs a new challenge, that is all, and we should wish him the best of luck. He’s probably going to need it!”
Your sister, just like all those years ago, stands and walks over to you, and gives you a sharp kick on the ankle.
“Come on, you, someone wants to say hello!”
As she passes you your latest nephew, she leans in close to your ear.
“Penelope’s been single again for a year or two, now,” your sister whispers cheekily.
“I know,” you reply with a wry grin, “I’m meeting her for lunch tomorrow.”
* * *
Many thanks to Baffy, Katie and Sherry, for their wonderful beta work on this little fic, without their hard work it wouldn’t be half as good. :o)