Percy felt very warm and comfortable and safe. He was curled up under the covers in bed with Audrey, cuddling back to back, as each of them had their arms wrapped around a small, red-headed child. Percy slowly opened his eyes, and saw sunlight streaming into the room. He was filled with happiness at being together with his family . . .
Percy sat straight up in bed with a gasp. He looked around frantically, as he heard the alarm charm on his wand buzzing. He let the noise continue as he took in his surroundings. Shite. It had only been a dream. Percy was in the tiny bedroom of his flat. He had not seen Audrey for a month, and today was her birthday. He waved his wand to stop the noise, and, with a sigh, got out of bed.
He’d been able to keep most of his nostalgic, melancholy thoughts at bay while he was over at Aunt Gussie’s yesterday. They were too angry to get nostalgic. No wonder the Daily Prophet had come out so late! He was over at Aunt Gussie’s for dinner before he even saw it. Snape was Headmaster, attendance at Hogwarts was now mandatory, and Blood Status had to be proven before matriculation to the school. There would be no Muggleborn students this year.
Percy had always loved school and even after he left, September 1 brought back fond memories of learning new things, and being praised by professors. This year, though, September 1 just brought worries. Were his siblings safe? Was Neville going to be safe? Even though he missed her like mad, he was fairly sure Audrey was safe. He would have liked to give her her birthday present in person, but he thought she would like it. But what about all the other Muggleborns?
Hermione had been listed in the Daily Prophet as one of the Muggleborns who had not appeared for her hearing. There was a warrant out for her arrest like there was for Audrey. Percy hoped Hermione had the sense to leave the country with her parents. He didn’t know where she was. He did know she would not be going to Hogwarts. Percy thought that would probably crush her. She was a lot like he was—she cared about her studies and wanted to excel. If it weren’t for all the mess in the Wizarding world, Hermione would have been a cert for Head Girl.
Percy remembered back to the first time he really talked to Hermione. Of course, since he was a Prefect, he met her right off. One night, about a week into his fifth year, Percy was coming back to Gryffindor Tower after studying in the library. He wanted to put his things away and have some time to relax before he began his prefect rounds. As he came around the corner into the corridor leading to the tower, Percy heard the sounds of crying coming from behind a statue. He really wanted to go get one of the female prefects, but part of his duty was to help younger students. He was very nervous as he peeked around the statue and saw Hermione sitting on the floor with her knees pulled tightly to her chest and her face buried in them, sobbing. Merlin! It would have to be a crying girl. What if it was a girl problem? Percy put his hand lightly on Hermione’s head and said, “Hermione, what’s wrong?”
Hermione gave a gasp and jumped. She scrambled to her feet and said in a shaky voice, “Am I in trouble?” And then began sobbing again.
“No! You aren’t in trouble! There are no rules against crying behind statues, and it’s still an hour to curfew. You are NOT in any trouble. Prefects aren’t only here to enforce rules but also to help the younger students.” Percy knew he was babbling and being rather loud, but he just wanted her to stop crying! He finally remembered that he had a clean handkerchief with him, so handed it to Hermione.
Hermione mopped at her eyes, blew her nose, and then said in a tiny voice, “Thank you.”
Percy asked as gently as he could, “Will you tell me what’s wrong?”
Hermione stood there biting her lip and wringing his handkerchief in her hands for a few minutes, then whispered, “The first flying lesson is tomorrow.”
Percy was confused and really did not know how to respond to that. His confusion must have been apparent, because Hermione continued still in a whisper, “I’m afraid of heights, and since I’m Muggleborn, I don’t even know how a broom works. The books I read didn’t say how to make it go, and I didn’t have anyone to help me, and my family doesn’t own one, so I haven’t been on one before . . .”
Hermione’s voice cracked, and Percy thought she might start crying again, so he said quickly, “Don’t worry. I’ll help you. Come with me.” Percy held out his hand to her. Hermione looked up at him with shining eyes, and took his hand. As they walked down to the broom shed, Percy told Hermione about the first time he had been on a broom. Now that he thought about it, Hermione was the only person he’d ever told, funnily enough.
Bill was over at a friend’s house, and Percy begged Charlie to take him flying. Charlie gave in easily. Without Bill around, Charlie was bored, and could spare time for his baby brother. Percy felt safe sitting on the broom in front of his big brother, who was already a good flier at only age 7. Percy had a wonderful time flying with Charlie, at least until Mum caught them. She was very pregnant with the twins and not in a good mood. She spanked Charlie for “taking the baby up on a broom, of all things!” Charlie never told her that Percy had begged to go, but he also didn’t take Percy flying again without getting permission from their Mum or Dad first.
Percy omitted the part about Mum in relaying the story to Hermione. He just mentioned having fun flying with his big brother. He wanted to put her at ease, not make her worry about getting in trouble again. Hermione told him she didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and Percy had offered to be an honorary big brother. Hermione beamed at him. He took her flying, just so she could know what it felt like. A couple of weeks later, Hermione found him in the common room after she passed her flying test and hugged him. It was probably his best moment as a prefect. He really hoped she was safe.
Neville and Ron would be starting their first day of seventh year today. And Ginny would be starting her sixth year. He had never thought he would think this about Hogwarts students, but he really hoped they were safe, too.
Percy arrived at his office and began to look over the stack of memos on his desk. Near the top was “Dirk Cresswell Sent to Azkaban for Faking Family Tree.” Damn! Dirk Cresswell was the only Muggleborn who was not sent to Azkaban when Percy took the minutes for those stupid hearings. Now every Muggleborn that day had gone to Azkaban. Percy wondered if every Muggleborn who had shown up for their hearing since then had gone to Azkaban. He felt sick thinking that the answer was probably yes. He read the rest of the memo. Runcorn had turned in Dirk Cresswell and received a Certificate of Commendation for his efforts. This would probably all be in the Prophet, too. Now Percy really felt sick.
There was a knock at his door and Percy called out, “Come in!”
Merlin! Today was definitely Monday. “How may I help you, Yaxley?”
“You may help me, Weasley, by telling me where your brother is? He never showed up at Hogwarts.”
That answered which brother at least. “I have no idea, Sir. You know I don’t speak to my family. I can’t imagine why Ronald wouldn’t be in school.”
“Maybe your parents kept him at home for some reason?”
“I have never seen my mum more angry than when Fred and George didn’t finish their seventh year.” This was an exaggeration, but Percy didn’t care. “My parents would never willingly let one of their children miss school. Have you asked my father?”
“Your father said that Ronald has spattergroit.”
“Then I am sure he does.”
“I am going to your parents’ house now to check Weasley.”
Yaxley left without saying good-bye. Not that Percy was surprised. Merlin! Ron’s having spattergroit was really serious! Percy hoped he would be O.K.
Percy was reading as he walked to his meeting and was barely looking where he was going. He stepped onto the lift, looked up, saw his father and Albert Runcorn, and quickly looked back down at his folder again. He was sure he was blushing, and probably making his father angry, but he just could not greet him in front of Albert Runcorn, especially after Runcorn gave evidence about Dirk Cresswell. Maybe Percy shouldn’t have told the hat to put him in Gryffindor. He certainly was not acting like a Gryffindor. Maybe he should have been sorted into Slytherin after all. As soon as the lift doors opened, Percy hurried off.