Percy Ignatius Weasley, youngest Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in three hundred and forty one years, was having a very good time. He sat in his office while everyone was on their lunch break, reading reports on splinching. Just this morning a couple of students had attempted Apparition during their Easter holiday. They had had an awful lot to sort out; it had taken them hours to find the last boy’s toe.
Just after Percy had started scribbling down his own personal report on a spare piece of parchment, which would come in handy in the trial that awaited those buffoons (he couldn’t suppress a sly grin), someone knocked at the door. Irritated, Percy looked at his watch. The meeting with the other Heads would start in little more than half an hour. He didn’t have any other appointments, either. He never forgot anything about business! Who was it then?
The knock came again.
“Come in!” Percy called impatiently.
A dark face appeared in the door, grinning at him shyly. “Mind if I come in, Mr. Weasley, sir?” the stranger asked politely.
Nodding sharply, Percy stared at the man. Who was he? Somewhere in his busy mind he knew him – ah, yes, he had to be the junior member who had started some months ago. Percy wasn’t certain of his name though; it didn’t do to mingle with one’s inferiors. He had better and more important things on his mind than the people in his department. It had been some kind of a first name that sounded like a surname - Martin? Yes, that sounded familiar.
“Please sit down,” Percy offered with a forced smile, shoving some of his parchments aside. “What can I help you with?”
The young man slipped into the large leather armchair, looking at him anxiously. “Mr. Weasley, I’d like to ask for a holiday.”
A holiday? A holiday??? Percy himself hadn’t taken a holiday for years. And now this boy, who had only been in the department for a few months, was asking for a holiday? Percy felt his blood starting to boil.
“And what do you need a holiday for?” he inquired icily. There was no need for holidays at all. They were just a waste of time. And if holidays were to be taken, older members of the department were definitely first in line. A youngster like this one ought to keep quiet and wait for his time to come.
“I have tickets for the World Cup, Mr. Weasley, sir.” The young man was shifting uncomfortably. “I’ve spent a fortune on them and I’d really appreciate if you would let me take some days off.”
The Quidditch World Cup was about to be played again? Percy wondered why he hadn’t noticed anything about this. Why had no one given him any tickets? Not that he would be able to go, he was drowning in work, but he was the Head. Heads had to get tickets. He wondered if England had made it into the final round this time, making a mental note to tell his secretary to fetch him a sports magazine and Ludo Bagman. Although that man was a disgrace to the Ministry, he was always up-to-date on sports.
“Where will the final round take place?” he asked the junior curiously.
“In Germany, Sir. I’ll be watching the final in Berlin.”
Berlin? Berlin??? These Germans were even madder than Percy had ever thought. Not only did they have a weakness for luxury brooms, horrible food and old castles, they had also placed a Quidditch stadium in their capital! He would have to report this: It was a serious breach of clause 5B of the Treaty for International Magical Concealment from Muggles. Were they completely incompetent on the continent? Well, he would investigate this matter later. Best send a memo to Araminta Hokersley, Head of the Department for International Magical Cooperation.
“Who will be playing in the final round?” Percy continued. “Has England made it this far?”
“Oh, England will be playing Paraguay. I really hope they’ll make it into the final! England against Brazil, that would be great. Of course, we would have to kick out Ecuador in the second round; I reckon they’ll lose to Germany, so we’ll have to play them next. And then I reckon it will be the Netherlands in the quarter finals, and Argentina in the semis. That will be tough; they’ve an awful crowd, and there’s Riquelme, he’s a great player. But we’ll stand a chance, we have Beckham and Hargreaves. I just hope that Rooney will recover in time.”
Stunned, Percy listened to the babbling, but didn’t dare to interrupt. Merlin’s Beard, he didn’t know anything about Quidditch anymore! Maybe he was really getting old; his generation’s heroes must have hung up their brooms long ago. Beckham, Hargreaves, Rooney – the names didn’t mean anything to him. Well, they seemed to be good. At the last World Cup, England had been kicked out before they had even reached the last sixteen; they hadn’t managed to get a hundred points in three games. It had been a pitiful performance. What astonished him most was that his associate was expecting England to win against Paraguay, since Paraguay had an excellent team (or had had one some years ago) and several clerks had placed bets on them the last World Cup.
Brazil was an unknown name to him, at least in Quidditch. Argentina didn’t mean much either. Apparently a lot of time had passed since he had last read the Daily Prophet’s sports pages. Maybe he should talk to his youngest brother? Ron had been taken on as the Chudley Cannons’ reserve Keeper and he knew everything about the business. Normally Percy didn’t have a great relationship with his family, but it had definitely improved over the last years. It greatly displeased him to take advice from his younger brother – Ron had hardly scratched five N.E.W.T.s and his marks certainly couldn’t be compared to Percy’s. But Percy didn’t want to feel like a fool either, and so he had to grin and bear it, he supposed.
“What about Ireland? Or Bulgaria?” He had seen these teams in a World Cup Final years ago. Ireland had always been one of the most outstanding Quidditch nations.
“Ireland was kicked out by Switzerland in the qualifiers,” Dean said animatedly. “Bulgaria lost to Croatia and Sweden and didn’t make it into the final round. I would have liked to see Ireland play but I don’t care much for Bulgaria.”
Bulgaria – that rang a bell. Hadn’t they had that brilliant Seeker years ago? He had also been a Triwizard Champion in that horrible year where everything went wrong. If he had been alone, Percy would have slapped his head. Once again, he was at a loss to remember the name.
“Has their star retired?” he asked cautiously.
“Blukovic? Yes, he has, a few years ago. The team’s worth nothing without him. They just can’t score.”
“Yes, I remember, Bulgaria would never have been that good without him,” Percy added eagerly. What had their score been in that final he had been to? If the Seeker – what was his name again? – hadn’t caught the Snitch, they would have lost very badly; they had been over a hundred and fifty points behind.
“So may I take some days off?” the young man pressed. “This is a unique chance; the next World Cup will be in South Africa.”
“Well, if your luck depends on it…” Percy was slowly cracking. “But this will be your only holiday this year. And be back on time.”
The last time there had been a World Cup the final had taken almost a week. The Ministry had been wiped clean; no one but him had been there at all. He made a mental note not to let more than a quarter of his co-workers leave for this World Cup. Quidditch was nice but there were more important things in life – like this serious breach of the Ban on Underage Sorcery in Southampton where a thirteen-year-old had sold potions he’d made himself to Muggles. Percy returned to his reports.
“You may leave now,” he said shortly. “I’m certain you have work waiting for you.”
The young man smiled, thanked Percy profusely and left the office.
“Did the old git let you off, Dean?” she asked curiously.
“Yes, it was no problem. We actually had a conversation. You won’t believe me, but he likes football, too!”
“Must be his father’s influence,” the young woman retorted. “You know Arthur Weasley, he’s completely into this Muggle stuff.”
“Yeah, I suppose. But, Orla, you won’t believe it – the great boss seemed almost human for a few minutes!”
“And you, Mr. Thomas, should get back to work, unless you want him to have your guts.” Grinning, Orla lifted her wand and mimicked her boss. “Lunch break is over, Mr. Thomas, we’re here to work, not to have fun. You still have a lot to learn.”
“Mum? Mum, are you here?” A red-haired head, sporting many freckles and a healthy tan, appeared in The Burrow’s fireplace.
The plump woman standing at the sink whirled around.
“Ron! How nice to see you. How’s the training going?”
“Training’s fine.” Ron seemed a bit tight-lipped today.
“What’s the problem?” Mrs Weasley questioned him. “You seem a bit down-hearted today. Have you had another tiff with Hermione?”
“No, Mum, it’s… it’s Percy. I reckon he’s gone mental.”
“Mental?” Ron’s mother turned pale, sinking into a chair as though her legs turned to jelly.
“We had lunch together today. I don’t know why, but he kept asking about a Quidditch World Cup in Germany. Everyone knows that the World Cup takes place in France this year! He kept talking about teams I’ve never even heard of, Mum, and he wanted to know if he should place his bets on Brazil… Mum? Mum, are you okay???”
A/N: Many, many thanks to my amazing betas harry_ginnyphile and Dreamer for all their help and suggestions. You've done a great job! Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. That distinction belongs to the amazing JKR.