Thanks to my friend and beta winkielovegood for reminding me that what's in my head does not automatically put itself into my computer, and making this chapter more believable. :)
Thankfully, Percy survived his day at work without further confrontations with Death Eaters and without alcohol. At exactly five o’clock, Percy left his office, left the Ministry, apparated to his flat, quickly put his things away, turned on a few lights to make it look like he was having an evening in (just in case anyone really were watching), briefly petted Twoey and Hermes, went into the loo (the only room without windows), and apparated to Aunt Gussie’s.
Percy arrived at the Longbottom’s at seven minutes after five. He felt harried and out of breath but was very anxious to hear Aunt Gussie’s and Neville’s thoughts on his day. As soon as he arrived in the lounge, Aunt Gussie hurried out of the kitchen, and Neville could be heard making his way down the stairs.
“Percy! You’re early! I wasn’t expecting you until 6:30.” She hugged him. “Nevertheless, it is always good to see you.”
“Hi Percy.” Neville arrived from upstairs.
“Hello.” Percy returned Aunt Gussie’s hug and nodded to Neville. “I came over early because something happened today that I need to discuss with both of you.”
Aunt Gussie gestured for Percy to sit down, and she and Neville followed him. As soon as he said what was wrong, Aunt Gussie gasped and poured each of them a whiskey without his even asking. Percy relayed the entirety of his interrogation by Yaxley, then said, “What am I going to do?”
“Well, for one, you are going to have dinner at Parkinson’s Pub tomorrow night.”
“What?!” Percy and Neville exclaimed together.
“Of course. Yaxley saw you write down his suggestion. He will probably be extremely surprised to see you follow through with it, but going to the pub would certainly lend credence to your story that you were only going to Wodehouse’s for the fish and chips. You did tell Yaxley you would try Parkinson’s, so if he sees you there, he will know you were telling the truth, about that at least. It might even make your story believable enough that Yaxley and his minions will forget about trying to find Penelope Clearwater. And before you ask, I don’t know the Clearwaters and do not know whether or not she has left the country, but you do not want Yaxley to talk to her.”
Percy nodded. That actually made a great deal of sense. “It’s a plan then.”
The rest of the evening passed quite enjoyably. A few more shots of whiskey and Aunt Gussie’s excellent cooking put Percy in a much better state of mind. Percy said his goodnights and apparated back to his flat into the loo. As he readied himself for bed, it was with a new determination to face the next day.
When Percy arrived at his office the next morning, Yaxley was already there waiting for him.
“Good Morning, Sir.” Merlin's pants! Yaxley two days in a row?
“I want to know, Weasley, why you spent two hours and forty-two minutes in the loo last night.”
Damn. Percy didn’t think they were watching him THAT closely. Fortunately, inspiration came to him.
“Do you have siblings, Sir?”
“What does that have to do with anything, Weasley?”
“Well, Sir, I grew up as one of seven children. Seven children who shared one bathroom. We never had privacy or any time in the loo. I just like to take my time.”
Yaxley just stared at Percy, who suddenly realized what Yaxley must be thinking and quickly improvised, “I like to take baths, Sir, to relax after a hard day’s work at the Ministry. I put a warming charm on the water and read in the tub, so I sometimes lose track of time.”
Yaxley was giving Percy a very strange look. “You read in the tub?”
“Yes, Sir. Last night I was reading Wilbert Slinkhard’s newest release . . .”
Yaxley interrupted, “You’re sure you weren’t apparating somewhere from the loo because it’s the only room in your flat without windows?”
“Where would I apparate, Sir?”
“I don’t know, Weasley. Where WOULD you apparate?”
“Sir, do you really think I would make up the fact that I spent three hours in the bathtub? I mean it is rather embarrassing . . .” Percy willed himself to blush. Damn Weasley blush, why couldn’t it work on command?
“Hmmm . . .” Yaxley sounding as if he were growling, but without another word, he turned and walked away, leaving a nervous and befuddled Percy to enter his office.
Thankfully, the rest of the day passed quite uneventfully with no further interrogations and no arrests, at least none of which Percy was aware. He worked a little later than he had been, and as soon as he left the Ministry, he walked to Parkinson’s Pub to implement Aunt Gussie’s plan. He was well aware of the two people following him.
When he arrived, Percy was surprised the pub didn’t actually look that bad, at least from the outside. Percy took a deep breath, opened the door, and entered the pub. He was pleasantly surprised inside as well. It was definitely cleaner and brighter than the Hog’s Head, and there was a wonderful smell of fish and chips. Percy’s stomach rumbled.
He made his way to the counter. It took a few minutes as Parkinson’s was rather crowded. No one seemed to pay any attention to his being there, which was a good thing as far as Percy was concerned. He ordered the basic fish and chips meal for take-away, paid for it, and made his way back out of the pub. The two blokes who had followed him were standing on the street corner trying to look casual. Percy waved to them and apparated to his flat.
Percy made sure he sat at his dining table in full view of the window to eat his fish and chips. He was shocked—everything was absolutely delicious! Yaxley was right; the fish and chips at Parkinson’s were as good as the ones at Wodehouse’s. Percy didn’t think he should risk spending the evening at the Longbottom’s, just in case, but he did go into the loo and sent Aunt Gussie his patronus to let her know. He passed the remainder of the evening playing with Twoey and Hermes, and catching up with writing to Audrey on his Voice Activated Perpetual Parchment.