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Sportsmen and Public Servants

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He goes back home after the war.

“Just for a while,” he tells his mother, and she nods and agrees and even manages something akin to a smile, maybe a third cousin once removed.

He knows she wants him to stay at least some months, maybe a year, maybe forever. It is no part of his plan to do so, but he does not object, quarrel, argue.

He is afraid that she is only clutching onto him right now because the loss of a son has made the others dearer, as any commodity rises in price when lessened in quantity.

He is afraid that when she has a moment to look around she will realize that she has enough sons still to make up the loss and have plenty left over after.

Harry hasn’t left the Burrow since Ron and Hermione fairly dragged him up the stairs to Ron’s old room.

Lee Jordan has set camp in what used to be Bill’s room, and then Percy’s, and then Bill’s again for a while. Most nights George’s in there with him, can’t sleep in his own room without Fred’s snores filling the air.

Neville Longbottom comes by like clockwork every week, and the Lovegood girl with him. Some days he sees Hermione studying with Luna, heads bent over the desk in the girls’ room, bright curls and dark.

So many new children, to make up one loss.

If he left, nobody would notice.

When he had come with the Minister they had pelted him with food. Mum had wept and protested, of course. She had. And he’d turned his back on his career and come back to them, fought with them. It holds some meaning.

Three years is a long time to be apart. In war a life-time.

Nymphadora Tonks he knew to nod to in passing in the MoM; Remus Lupin as a fairly efficient teacher in his last year of school. Their son travels through the Burrow in a dozen people’s arms, and in the kitchen a woman who looks unsettlingly like Bellatrix Lestrange exchanges notes on raising an infant with his mother and sister-in-law.

She is younger than him, Fleur. Lovely and deadly, like aconite. On full moon when Bills takes himself down to the cellar and locks the door she sits with her back to it and stares about fierce as a Griffin. In the shadows you can see the pinions of her wings.

Veelas are predatory things: arguably more dangerous than werewolves, dangerous every day and night of the month, and deceptive with it. There had been a bill making its way from planning to drafting to reviewing committees that would reclassify both as Beasts.

It was not as urgent as taking the wands that had been stolen from pure-bloods, so it had had a slow path, but it had had momentum.

It had crossed Percy’s desk. He wants to say that he hadn’t known about Bill getting bitten. This is true. He had known about Fleur.

The other bill had crossed his desk, too. That one. He had known about Lee Jordan, about Dean Thomas, about Hermione Granger. About Penelope Clearwater.

Some day his mother will look up from her suppressed grief and determined cheer and realize that she has children better suited to her life and to each other than Percival Ignatius, who drifts like a silent ghost through his days, misrecognising people and ignorant of their stories.

He still pays rent for the flat in Phroog Alley. Most of his things are there. He has only ever meant to spend a few days at home.

It is nice not to have to cook for himself or subsist eternally on take-away and the chip-shop. He can Floo to work from any homestead.

He has nowhere to Floo to. He has few friends and had no time to grow friendly with his colleagues. He has no office to report to.

Minister Shacklebolt had had him called in the day he’d gone back and put him on paid leave. Anyone directly connected with the former Minister, Madame Umbridge, the MLE, and the Muggleborn Registration Commission has to undergo thorough investigation. His repudiated and reclaimed family connections will not help him there.

So far it has been a quiet investigation, requiring Percy’s presence just the once. It had been positively chatty.

Afterwards, Percy checks in on his flat, and then wanders down Phroog into Sosi to buy a box of sweets from the Patils’ and a bottle of wine from Margarita Seltzman.

Tonight is not a night for going back to the Burrow and smiling at his mother and making anxious small-talk with his father and brothers and all the half-grown feral kids who have occupied his childhood. Annexed it.

Tonight is a night to sit on his sofa and listen to the wireless and drink wine and eat sugary, buttery, delicious sweets he can’t quite pronounce the names of. A return to familiar ground.

In the vestibule of the store he walks right into a customer coming in. She stumbles and recovers easily, but it jars the wine bottle from his hands, sends it hurtling to the floor. Margarita levitates it safely onto the countertop before it smashes or he can draw his own wand, and forces a basket on him. The sweets sit snugly beside the wine, and there’s space ample remaining if he wants to go the sensible route and buy food as well.

He wants, but not for sense. His mother’s food is too much like childhood. Being a grown man for Percy is take-away from Mr. Li’s shop, or kebabs from Tariq Miyan, or fish and chips from Bobby Marrionet.

Kebabs, he decides. Kebabs to go nicely with the red he’s bought, and a round of pedas to top it off. Kebabs tonight, and mashed potatoes and string beans and black pudding tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.

In the inevitable line someone says, “Hallo Percy. It’s been a while.”

They had both been at Hogwarts, that night, but Percy has made it a matter of principle to acknowledge no such presence, no such acquaintances. In the lead-up he was elsewhere, in those three years while they were gathering courage and strength.

“Too long,” he says. “Are you still with Puddlemere?”

Oliver stares at him. “You remember?”

“Ron was talking about it,” Percy says. Then he thinks he should have passed it off as memory.

Oliver grins at him. “Tell him to come to a game some time. We’re playing against the Cannons first game of the season. I’ll send him tickets if he promises to cheer for us.”

“I… don’t think he’ll agree to that,” Percy manages. The thought of Quidditch matches in a month seems absurd. But he was in an office himself a few weeks ago, pretending the world hadn’t cracked. Ginny was in school.

“Stuff him in something other than orange and drag him along,” Oliver commands. “Harry too, and George. Lee’s staying there, isn’t he?”

“It’s the Gryffindor Common Room,” Percy says sourly.

“Well, his dad’s in Italy and his house got destroyed,” Oliver offers, and adds, “you didn’t know that, did you? ’salright, Perce, don’t squawk.”

“I didn’t know,” Percy admits. “Ah, here’s my order.”

He cradles the packet, brown paper already beginning to soak through with grease, and moves out of line. He ought to see about going back to the flat full time. He never much liked the Common Room.

“Rescue me from The Three Broomsticks for the night and I’ll tell you all about everyone,” Oliver calls when he’s nearly out of the tangle.

Percy blinks at him, uncertain, and pushes his spectacles up his nose.

“Ask me to spend the night,” Oliver prompts, and shuffles up to the counter to pay.

“My flat’s quite close,” Percy says obediently, “would you like to stay?”

“It’ll be good to catch up,” Oliver agrees. “Now, why don’t we stick the food in that basket instead of greasing our palms?”