“Leaving early today, Percy?”
Percy clenched his jaw in annoyance. ‘He doesn’t mean it,’ the sensible, forgiving part of his brain insisted but, in truth, that didn’t help much.
“I’ve an appointment to keep with a solicitor,” Percy replied, his words clipped with upset at the slight, however unwitting it might be. “And how are you, Harry?”
“I’m fine.” replied the Auror-in-Training, obliviously. “They’re working us hard but we do okay.”
Polite silence descended for a few more, precious, moments.
“You’re with Complaints and Correspondence now, aren’t you? Busy week?”
Oh, Saviour or not, Percy could have struck him! Of all the insensitive, idiotic things to say-!
“Not particularly,” he managed. In truth, compared to his previous workload, what constituted a ‘busy week’ in C&C was barely enough to keep him mildly occupied. He’d taken to bringing a book into the office, in order to have something to do, which was surely, he felt, a sign of quite how dreadful things had become.
‘Not a demotion’ Minister Shacklebolt had hastened to inform him, ‘a reshuffle of resources’ was the official memo. And Percy, uncomfortably aware that he had been fast tracked into his position of Junior Undersecretary by unscrupulous means, chosen for his weaknesses rather than his abilities, had no choice but to acquiesce and accept his new, lowly, dust-drenched position with as much grace as possible in the circumstances.
The lift finally came to a stop and Percy was able to give a civil “See you,” to his soon-to-be brother-in-law and step out into the fresh air. The scars of war, like pockmarks, were fading now in Diagon Alley. Everywhere, people and businesses bustled about, trying to get back to normal. Wrapping his cloak about him, Percy weaved through the crowd with his eyes fixed firmly on some indeterminate point in front of him, avoiding people’s eyes for fear of recognition.
Sometimes he couldn’t decide what was worse- a laughing stock in work or ‘A Weasley! Family friends of Harry Potter! Fought at the Final Battle’ outside of it.
He arrived at Gringotts without incident, much to his relief, and presented his card to an official, who grunted a welcome before directing him up the large marble staircase that led to the upper floors of the bank. The grandeur of Gringotts had always captivated him as a child but had, also, the discomforting effect of making him feel rather small and grubby. He straightened his back against the feeling and found his way to the neat black door upon which was imprinted in gold lettering: Gruffelmeyer, Solicitor
“Enter!” came the goblin’s command. Percy did so promptly, sitting only when invited, and perching with his knees together, hands clasped on top of them. The old goblin behind the desk pulled on a small pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.
“Now, Mr Percival Weasley, your presence was requested here today because I am in charge of overseeing the final written wishes of Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Many of the bequests contained in this substantial document were stipulated to be discharged only after the defeat of one Lord Voldemort and six months, at minimum, after the end of the war. I will now read the pertinent part of the Will which concerns yourself, if that is convenient.”
Gruffelmeyer’s tone implied that if it wasn’t convenient then it had better become convenient immediately.
“Oh, of course!” said Percy, surprise colouring his voice perhaps a little more than he would have liked.
Gruffelmeyer cleared his throat and began, “To Percival Weasley, I bequeath my treasured membership to the Green Carnation Club, in addition to my three volume texts on the ethics and development of cauldron materials.”
Percy swallowed heavily. It had been a long time since he had permitted himself to think of the Headmaster with any great depth of feeling, but it seemed almost a benediction to have been left anything at all- he certainly hadn’t expected anything after their previous parting.
Solicitor Gruffelmeyer tactfully busied himself with locking the drawers of his desk whilst Percy composed himself and accepted the proffered package with a murmured ‘Thank you’.
There was a pause. Percy smoothed the brown paper feeling the hard cover of the familiar triple-bound book contained within.
“That is all, thank you, Mr Weasley.”
“Oh. Yes. Ah. Thank you.” said Percy, stupidly, before rising to his feet and hurrying out the office. Stumbling a little in haste, Percy was soon down the stairs and out the main doors, apparating home almost as soon as he reached street level.
Arriving home at his little flat, Percy placed the package on the low table in front of the settee and vacillated for a moment over what to do. Thirst won out, and he forced himself to ignore the parcel entirely until he had made his usual cup of tea. Whilst the tea brewed, he took the time to follow the rest of his daily routine, removing his work shoes and putting on his slippers, untying his stock from around his neck, shrugging out of his work robes, laying them out for morning with a freshening charm form morning and putting on an old black robe. He loosened the neck of his shirt and generally tried to stretch out the cramped feeling from sitting so long in an office chair tended to leave him with.
Pouring the tea, he levitated the pot and cup across to their requisite mats on the coffee table and, after a few fortifying sips, allowed himself to turn again to Dumbledore’s gift to him.
Carefully, he unwrapped it. The smell of what could only be described as “Old Book” reached him almost immediately and Percy breathed it in fondly. He remembered the first time he’d set eyes on the dark dragon bile-green bound cover in the Headmaster’s office. He’d been so afraid to even touch it, despite knowing intellectually that the preserving charms on such a valuable piece were well-done and perfectly in place; otherwise there was no possible way the work would have survived. Indeed, it was one of the few copies of its kind that had survived. Later editions had cut out much of the original works, if they were printed at all, particularly as the chief contributor to the final sections had been Hortensia Carew, one of the more notorious Grindelwald supporters in her day.
All the other Professors had thought it rather silly, at first, Percy remembered. What began as a small project escalating into a full-grown fascination that he rather hoped, even now, he’d never shake off. He’d started working on it in school- an essay about cauldron bottom-thickness- the regulations (or indeed lack of), the effects of different thicknesses on different potions. He’d looked up every book he could on the subject in the school library but every time he did he found holes- books no longer in print, referenced only in passing, theorists brought in from another obscure branch of magical thought that he’d never heard of. He’d heard, somewhere, in some other book, (likely ‘Great Bibliophiles of Our Times’, a series he had always been rather fond of re-reading for pleasure) that Professor Dumbledore had the three-volume text collection of ‘On Cauldrons’ in his possession and had first approached Professor McGonnagall to ask if she thought he might be able to see it. She had said no, at first, telling Percy he was a good student already but that he should, perhaps, keep the project in perspective (he had still, never quite forgiven her for this) but somehow Dumbledore heard about it anyway and Percy, rather overawed at his luck, had found himself being asked to tea with the Headmaster.
The first couple of times he’d been too nervous to know what to do or say, and nearly spilled his tea. After all this was the great Albus Dumbledore himself! His parents never spoke of him without admiration and everyone knew he was widely acknowledged the greatest wizard of the current era- and there he was sharing tea and sweets with Percy! But, slowly, their conversations became more than just Percy asking nervous questions about the meanings of certain words as he frantically noted down as much text as he could, in fear this was some temporary treat that could, at any minute, be taken away again. They began to discuss the different authors, and why if one thought this, another countered with that. One particular article by Isadora Penwinge had seemed silly to include in such a great book as it was so entirely over simplistic in its assumptions even Percy could spot holes in her theory from a mile away- but then as he progressed he realised that her work was useful because it provided a springboard from which others had quoted and, in disproving her theory, had formed their own.
Before the year was out, Percy was having tea bi-weekly on standing invitation, up in the headmaster’s office and their discussion was often about wide ranging subjects from books to politics to the latest hit on the wireless. Percy was fascinated by the headmaster, not just for the famous things he had done, but by how much he knew- he’d lived so long, seen so much; Percy could barely imagine how much knowledge Dumbledore had accumulated- and was still accumulating.
Percy turned a few pages absentmindedly, remembering Dumbledore’s argument on this theorist, or that turn of phrase. The fond thoughts faded quickly, souring in his belly. Because, of course, it had all gone so very wrong. Percy, now, admitted freely he had been at fault- he had refused, for so long, to believe that Voldemort was back- because how could one choose between a handful of people and the whole force and collective competence (or so he had thought at the time) of the Ministry? He had been wrong. And he lived with that in small ways and larger ones. Fred’s death still brought a terrible lump to his throat and tears to his eyes. Even so he still felt, deep inside, that Dumbledore had not been entirely in the right. He remembered the arguments, as Dumbledore had tried to reason with him- reason with him- about bringing Percy’s own family into the inner circle- a target for ex-death eaters, even if Voldemort were not back, and his father risking his job and there, ingrained over it all, the noticeable gap between Percy’s own birth and Charlie’s. The brother who hadn’t lived, because, no doubt, his mother had been too busy running round after Dumbledore’s Order and risking her life against Dark Wizards when she should have been safe at home. If she had, perhaps the baby wouldn’t have-. And perhaps Uncle Fabian and Uncle Gideon would have still been-.
It was pointless to speculate.
When Dumbledore died, Percy had thought he had lost his chance for forgiveness, it seemed he hadn’t. And some how, the book and the card, had the air of an apology to them, as well as absolution.
He closed the book. At some time, when the war and everything wasn’t quite so fresh, perhaps he would read it again.
The card had been tucked into the front of the book. It was a small thing, pocket sized, spelled against accidents and spills. It was pale green, and, written on it in a flowing golden script was:
The Green Carnation Club, Paddington
Gentleman Wizarding Club
Percy picked it up delicately by the corners. On the other side was a faint imprint of a carnation with the apparition co-ordinates embossed onto the step. How had Dumbledore possibly known-? A flush came to his cheeks, which only made him feel sillier- blushing when he was alone in his flat of all the daft things-!
After a few moments battling with his own thoughts, Percy let out a shaking breath, “All right, Headmaster, you were right in your presumptions. Though how you knew is quite beyond me.”
When he flipped the card back over, the writing had changed so that, beneath the word Member, was written:
Percival Ignatius Weasley
Percy let out a laugh that was so close to a sob it sounded hysterical, which startled him considerably. Clearing his throat, he placed the card back inside the book, finished his tea and then set to the task of reorganising the bookshelves so that this new addition would fit in the right section.
He turned on the wireless as he worked, he didn’t care to use his wand too much where books were concerned particularly and enjoyed the muggle way of organising his things. That done, he made himself a new pot, heated up some of yesterday’s stew and settled in for a quiet night spent listening to the radio and knitting.
Percy’s mother had taught him to knit, when he had shown interest as a child, but teasing from Fred and George had led to him packing the whole affair away. Even now, in the solitude of his own home, he could feel an occasional twinge of unease- as if any moment now his brothers might jump out and call him a girl, or worse, for taking pleasure in such an…unmanly activity. He’d started knitting again around the time when he and his family had stood on different sides of a seemingly un-healable rift. Now, he used it as a way to relax. He could listen to the radio and concentrate on his stitches, and have very little space left for dwelling on the war, or Dumbledore’s death, or Fred’s, or Dumbledore’s apparent penchant for omniscience even beyond the grave.
A few weeks went by.
To say that Percy had forgotten the card would be untrue; Percy wished he could forget it. The Green Carnation, indeed! Percy might be all manner of things but he was no fool. When he had chosen to work in the ministry he had known, and been quite happy to accept the fact, that in order to achieve anything some, minor pleasures, must be put aside. Books provided adequate solace and he enjoyed and lived vicariously through his reading, only. He didn’t see how he could possibly fit in at a place like that. Besides, if the Ministry found out-!
It had been a bad week that swayed him. Rather, it had been a series of bad weeks cumulating in the latest flurry of howlers when the Ministry passed a new law regarding the taxation of imported goods. Most people laughed it off as they saw the red envelopes being carried into the Ministry by nervous-looking post owls. It wasn’t remotely funny for Percy, nor his co-worker Alice Orme, who had to listen to every single howler and then compose a suitable non-reply for each complainant.
Percy showered after work, taking the time to convince himself to go out again. Even after he’d made his mind up about the club, the temptation to simply crawl into bed until Monday was a large one. Instead he picked out his clothes with more care and thought than usual: a neat black robe which he usually saved for best, his dark red weskit with the black stitching on the front, his white cravat.
Once dressed, and before he could change his mind once again, Percy apparated to the coordinates. He found himself in a neat side-street in which he could hear muggle London but could not see it, rather like Diagon Alley in that respect. The tall, pale building in front of him showed large windows on either side, the glass had been artistically warped, it seemed, so that diners could be seen, but none of their features made out. The sign above the windows told Percy the restaurant was called The Seventh Planet. He snorted in amusement and made his way up to the main door. Beside the door, as in most large buildings, were a series of plaques, which informed him that The Seventh Planet was on the ground floor and The Green Carnation Club (Members Only) was upstairs. Satisfied his was in the right place (if The Seventh Planet hadn’t already given him a hint), Percy stepped inside.
A warm reception area greeted him, quite different from the pale brick exterior. A large dark wooden staircase with a warmly red carpet led up the stairs. A tidily dressed man sat at a reception desk in front of the doors and Percy approached him.
”Good evening, Sir, Restaurant or Club?”
“Club.” The man smiled broadly at him, brown eyes twinkling in the charmed lights.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to ask to see your membership, Sir.”
“Oh, of course,” Percy reached into an inside pocket and produced his card.
“That seems to be in order. My apologies, Mr Weasley, you go straight up.”
“Thank you,” said Percy, politely, returning his card to his pocket.
He took the stairs at a steady pace, biting the insides of his cheeks not to break out into an excitable grin at his small encounter. He could still feel the receptionist’s eyes on him as he ascended, and it was rather flattering.
He reached the large oak door, which led to the club and paused. Perhaps he should just go? He wouldn’t fit in anyway, and he was only a few rows away from finishing that tea cosy for his Mother… Berating himself for being a coward, Percy pushed open the door.
Inside was a warm, wide room with a roaring fire, surrounded by comfortable looking chars and a table containing a selection of newspapers. The leather chairs sat cosily on the deep green carpet. Further to the back of the room a set of round tables and hard backed chairs were laid out, opposite a bar. Percy didn’t look at the few inhabitants scattered around the room, reading their newspapers or chatting amicably over a game of chess, but made his way to the bar.
“Boyno, ducks, what can I get you?” drawled the well-dressed older wizard behind the counter, running a hand through his coiffed, silver hair, casually.
“A gillywater, please.” Percy requested. He could have done with the courage of something stronger, but his stomach had only just settled after the amount of headache potion he’d had to consume that day and he didn’t like to risk it.
“Oh, I haven’t had one of those in ages, one for me, too, Bill.”
Percy looked to see who had spoken. Another wizard with a neatly trimmed beard and long white hair stood next to him, smiling quite openly. The man was quite short, short enough that Percy had to look down to face him, and was dressed in elaborate blue robes with yellow trim.
“Hello, there, you must be a new one.”
“Yes. That’s…er.” Percy piffled.
“Augustus Doomsby-Plover, but do call me Aggie, everyone does.” He held out a slim hand.
“Percy Weasley,” Percy replied, automatically. They shook politely. “I say, you wrote the essay on Historical Arithmancy and the Populist Losses.”
“That’s right Perce, luv- I can call you that, can’t I? Oh do agree. Let me show you around a bit. Nice weskit, by the way, Porters and Bay?”
“Er- yes.” It had been liberated from his Uncle Fabian’s wardrobe.
“Marvellous. I do love their classic cut- so flattering.”
Their drinks arrived and they both sipped companionably.
“Oh, look, there’s Arnold.” Augustus gripped Percy by the elbow and steered him across the room, “Hello Arnold.”
Arnold proved to be a large, grizzled wizard with a great bushy beard and a very long, black pipe which he puffed away at. He grunted at them from behind his newspaper.
“Don’t mind him, darling, he gets grumpy when he can’t finish the crossword,” Augustus told Percy as they walked away.
“Arnold Follimore? The Ambassador?”
“That’s right. Retired now, of course, though he still sits on the Wizengamot when they make him. Practically lives here now there’s no one making him go to an office, though I can’t talk, in truth.”
Augustus led Percy to one of the connecting doors that he had not noticed in his desire not to be caught gawping like a first year, this led to a long corridor of rooms. “Library’s that one,” Augustus gestured, “And that’s the music room, when we have parties and such, over here’s the billiard room.”
The door was open and they paused in the doorway as two wizards about Percy’s father’s age paced the table, studying the angles before one made his move. Percy fought a blush and tried to look anywhere but at the man’s rear, as he leant over to take his shot. Augustus, it seemed, had no such fears and let out a whistle.
“Lovely, Brian, Lovely.”
The man missed his shot, his partner laughed. “Oh, piss off Aggie, I’m already losing!”
“You should no better than to challenge your Auntie Bertie, now shouldn’t you?” joked the other man, wrapping an arm around Brian’s waist. Brian rolled his eyes theatrically.
“This is Perce, I’m showing him around love.”
The couple greeted him charmingly and he tried to be equally friendly back, he was quite overawed at the sense of ease between them and it made him want to stare a little.
“Anyway we’ll leave these two to their games and go and have a sit, Perce, eh?”
Percy agreed and they said goodbye to Brian and Bertie and returned to the main room, where they sat opposite one another at one of the tables.
“A quiet word, though, Percy. I don’t know how much you knew of this place before…”
“Not much,” Percy admitted.
”That’s usually the case and I’m sure that you wouldn’t do anything of the sort, but in the past we have had entrants who…well mistook the Club as a place to get a bit of tail.”
“Oh, I never thought-“
“I know. I can tell, but I have to let you know, just in case. There’s plenty of other places a young man can find himself a bit of fun-“
Percy and Augustus looked up. A man with a neat black goatee stood in the doorway.
“That’s my better half. Makes quite the racket, doesn’t she?” Augustus joked. It took Percy a second to translate, and he smiled all the wider for it- hearing language he had only read about come to life like this, it was amazing.
”Seems charming.” He murmured faintly.
“Aggie! Bring your nouveau chum over here. Davy and I are playing Shamses and we need a four.”
Percy didn’t know, exactly, what he had expected of The Green Carnation Club, but he was pretty sure that nowhere in his wildest fancies had he imagined spending a comfortable evening playing a complicated word game (made more complicated by the fact that Davy was an expert at root language and all three were fluent in polari) with Augustus Doomsby-Plover, his partner, Steven, a healer at St Mungo’s, and their friend David Heilyn. He took his leave some time after midnight, when the words had started to blur a little before him, with a promise to return the following evening for music night, after he had confessed to Davy that he was terribly fond of the musicals of Austin Kephin.
Somehow, even if it were for but a scant few hours a week, Percy’s life seemed to be looking up. He couldn’t recall a time, ever, when he had such an abundance of friends and opportunities to spend time with them. He rarely felt guilty anymore for reading books at the office, particularly not when they were lent by friends, such as Augustus and the rest of their little book group.
His work, of course, did not lose its efficiency, simply he no longer agonised over it searching for more to do each time. All his files were up to date, correspondence was dealt with between 9 and 10am and generally he had the leisure to slope off for lunch at the club, earning him a friendly grunt from Arthur, who would be nose deep in his crosswords at any given time of the day.
He even started showing up to his mother’s house on Sundays more regularly, and she was so pleased with the tea cosy he’d knitted her that she knocked Ron and George’s heads together when they tried to comment, as if they were little children.
It was early, too early perhaps to be in the office, but Percy was hoping that if he got a head start on his work he could get out early enough to go with Davy and the others. Davy’s niece, a lovely progressive young witch, was starring in a modernist production of Dr Faustus (she was playing Faustus, surprisingly enough) and Davy was adamant that everyone who could must come to her opening night and show his support. Percy had a feeling that she was one of the few members of his family that Davy could stand and he was fiercely proud of her every accomplishment.
He was so busy plotting things out so that he might have time to floo back home during lunch to make sure his dress suit was ironed properly (he’d done it the night before, but he’d been a tad tipsy when he’d got in from the club and wasn’t terribly sure whether he’d put the creases in the right places) that he didn’t notice the minister until he ran into him. Minister Shacklebolt was standing by the main reception desk, obviously waiting for someone.
“Oh. I’m terribly sorry, Minister.” Percy apologised politely.
“That’s quite all right, Percy. How are things in C&C?”
“Oh, quite quiet, thank you, Minister.” Percy handed in his morning pass to the girl on duty, who insisted she needed to re-stamp it.
Kingsley hummed a bit to himself, awkwardly. Percy stared at the varnished desk.
“Ah! Minister! I am sorry for keeping you waiting like this. Long evening you know.”
“That’s quite all right, Sir, quite all right.”
“Oh I do approve of the new fountain, did I tell you that? Quite an improvement over the ghastly old thing that used to stand- why Percy!”
Percy turned and smiled, “Hello Augustus.”
“Fancy meeting you here! I’m just off with the Minister to one of the International meetings, you know how it is, no rest for the wicked. Are you coming tonight?”
“Hopefully, if I can get everything done early.”
“Well, I’ll tell Davy to floo call before we head off if you’re not there but I do hope you’ll come. It’s bound to be, well, a bit of a bore I expect, but you know how he is. The do afterwards should make up for it!”
“I’ll do my best, Augustus.” Percy promised.
“Er, Sir-,” Kingsley found his voice.
“Oh, of course, of course. I am sorry Percy, must dash. See you tonight I hope!”
Kingsley gaped at Percy, even as he was dragged out of the Atrium by an enthusiastic Augustus; Percy had to stifle a laugh at the look on his face. The words ‘You know him??’ hung, unspoken and terribly amusing in the air.
“Here you go Mr Weasley, have a good day.”
“Oh I think I will, thank you, Gladys. I feel as if good fortune is in the air.” Percy smiled at her, before heading to get the lift to his office.