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Sealed in a Stone-Cold Tome

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The world was built on paperwork; Percy Weasley clung to that fact as an unalterable constant. No matter what happened, people always felt the need to record it properly for posterity, and decisions needed to be made according to procedures. Whenever he finished a form, he had the satisfaction of seeing something get done, allowing him to maintain control over his own little corner of the world.

Despite the last couple of years, a small part of him remained convinced that if he could just do enough paperwork, shuffling the documents and people into their proper places, everything would make sense. His never-ending need for order was one of the many things no one in his family had ever understood.

Today was another day for paperwork, isolated from the borderline chaos of the Ministry’s efforts at restructuring and political machinations of people with their own agendas, and he breathed the scent of ink and old parchment in like calmatives. Kingsley was busy trying to make headway against the mess that the Thicknesse Regime - Voldemort Regime – had left in its wake, and Percy’s knowledge of the Ministry’s workings was vital. In the last couple of months, he hadn’t had a day off, and sometimes worked around the clock twice. The twins had always made fun of him for his love of procedures, but that love was one of the few things that kept the entire system from collapsing.

Percy would have been proud of how much he was trusted with, but that pride had died with Dumbledore. Instead, he set to filling out forms with steady resolve to refuse Voldemort any more victories. Society needed law, but it also needed people with a conscience to make sure the law was justly administered. He worked with an even hand, occasionally sending forms directly to his connections within the Ministry when an issue needed to be addressed Immediately. Percy never looked at the names of the people whose causes he advanced; rather, he judged based on the nature of their requests.

He was just pulling out Form B-990 (Request for Disbursement of Funds to a Non-Wizard Agent) when someone knocked at his door. “Mr. Weasley?” A voice with a foreign accent, Australian maybe, called from outside his office.

Percy was far too well disciplined to jump in his seat, even if there was no way a stranger should have gotten this deep into the ministry without an alert being sent on ahead. That’s what interoffice memos were for, and Percy was far too busy sorting out reparations to non-human magical entities to be interrupted without good cause.

“Come in,” Percy said even as he slid his hand into his hand, wondering what was going on. He had never liked surprises.

A young man came into the room, wearing a strangely cut dark gray robe with a cowl attached at the back. The man was tall, slender and blond, and Percy though he looked like a Malfoy.

“Sorensen Carlisle,” the man said, holding out a hand for Percy to shake. His skin was strangely warm, like he was running a fever.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Is there something I could help you with?”

“It’s a somewhat delicate matter, so privacy is necessary.” Sorenson gestured backwards, and the door shut behind him. Percy forced himself not to raise an eyebrow at the use of wandless magic with feigned absentmindedness. Only a powerful wizard could use wandless magic, and making the display was a way of asserting oneself. Even Dumbledore had only been able to do very simple things without a wand.

Then Sorensen pulled up the visitor’s seat across from the desk and settled himself in.

It was terribly presumptuous.

Once upon a time, Percy would have verbally flayed the man for his rudeness, but he was older now. If he let Sorensen Carlisle bait him so easily, he gave the man control over him, and the upper hand in whatever conversation was about to take place.

So instead, he responded mildly, “You must do things differently in Australia, Mr. Carlisle.”

“I’m a Kiwi actually,” said Sorensen. His silver eyes shimmered with amusement, but it wasn’t the sort a person shared with another, but rather a dissecting look, weighing and measuring impartially.

It was like Sorenson Carlisle was sizing him up for potions ingredients, and couldn’t decide if they were worth using or not.

“Are you with the New Zealand Ministry?” Percy asked, holding onto his patience by a thin thread.

“No, but my grandmother used to be an MP to the Magical House, and keeps her hand in. The idea of working at a desk makes me ill.”

Percy couldn’t work out if the man was trying to be deliberately insulting or not. “Then what are you doing here? I think you’re looking for the Department of International Magical Cooperation,”

“This is Minister’s eyes-only kind of information, and I can’t get in to see him. One of Winter’s – she’s my grandmother – colleagues needed a trusted courier. Since they couldn’t find anyone willing to come, they decided I would do since I’m here on nonmagical business otherwise.”

“No one’s willing to come?” Percy asked sharply.

“Of course not. Would you go into a warzone?”

“We’re not at war.”

“You’ve been at war for the past twenty years,” was Sorenson’s quick response. “I think all the former Dominions decided to keep their heads down and hope it would sort itself out. They’re probably going to make sure that the flying deadman stays in his grave this time before doing much in the way of active engagement.”

Percy was quiet for a moment, trying to process the response. He was still too scarred by what had been done to think of You-Know-Who being mocked so flippantly, but the intelligence was good. He’d been so busy trying to mend internal affairs that he hadn’t been thinking about international relations. Kingsley had yet to make more than preliminary moves on amending the last regime’s xenophobic (and every other kind of phobic) policy.

Come to think of it, Percy couldn’t recall learning about any serious international magical cooperation following the fall of Grindelwald. Most countries laid low, adhered to the Statute of Secrecy, and minded their own business. Sure, there was the occasional international tournament, but no formal political alliances.

Maybe that was one of the reasons Voldemort had risen.

“It’s to their own detriment,” Percy finally said, unwilling to say anything that could undermine the current government in front of a stranger, even if the stranger had a good point. “We’ve always been the hub of the western wizarding world.”

Sorensen shrugged. “I prefer to stay out of politics. I’m just the delivery boy.”

Suddenly a ream of papers appeared in Sorensen’s hands. Percy might have thought it wandless magic if he hadn’t spent two weeks investigating accusations against that muggle Paul Daniels, and learned to recognize sleight of hand tricks.

Sorensen spent a moment straightening the papers before putting them on Percy’s organized desk. Percy’s fingers twitched to pick them up and get a better look, but showing impatience would never do.

“Why bring them to me?”

“I can’t get in to speak with your Minister directly,” Sorensen said reasonably. “I had a friend tell me you would be the best person to provide it to in his stead.”

Percy’s eyes fell to the paperwork, and he kept from flinching like it had suddenly turned into a serpent. He didn’t want to be a pawn to anyone ever again.

“What is it?”

Sorensen tilted his head as he considered the question, before replying with a question of his own. “Are you familiar with New Zealand’s history?”

“Aside from the fact Captain Cook discovered it and it’s located somewhere near Australia, I’m afraid not.”

“You Brits have your heads in the sand,” Sorensen chided, a slight smile curving his lips. “New Zealand is a fairly fresh country, since it wasn’t settled until the thirteenth century. Magic had a chance to evolve differently there.”

“And this different magic is why you’re bringing me classified information?”

“Not exactly,” said Sorensen. “I chose you because my wife, Laura, said you were honorable and would not let harm come from this. We visited the ministry on a tour group yesterday, and she said you were the right one after we passed you in the atrium. Laura has a good sense of people, and she’s always right about whom to trust.”

Percy looked at the man, before reaching out to lift the papers up. As he turned the documents in his hands, he read the title.

He dropped them quickly, as though they had suddenly sprouted into flame.

“Horcruxes,” he said softly, looking down in horror. Here, written in neat penmanship in a tiny hand, was a manual about the creation, use and destruction of the horrid artifacts.

Percy looked down at Sorensen with horror. He didn’t remember rising to his feet or pulling his wand.

Sorensen was unconcerned, just raising an eyebrow in amusement. “It’s sensitive information,” he repeated, and then he had the nerve to smile.

Percy took a deep breath, and then used his free hand to adjust his glasses. With a wary eye, he retook the seat. “It is. Where did your ministry get it?”

“My family turned it over to them after the news about Britain spread,” Sorensen replied. “Another reason I was chosen as messenger.”

“And how did your family come to have it?”

“It’s still a family secret,” Sorensen replied. His eyes were glinting in an unpleasant fashion, like he was a cat and Percy was an interesting mouse he was toying with. “We let our ministry know of the existence of these papers, but my grandmother remains the secret keeper. The only way to learn the specifics is to read a document prepared in her own hand.”

“A fidelius charm,” Percy said, his eyes falling unwillingly to the paperwork.

A horcrux must be made in a deliberate, unforgivable act of dark magic in order to prepare a receptacle for of a fragmented piece of soul. Once settled into a horcrux, that piece of soul is deliberately detached from the Master Soul to act as a future safeguard or anchor to life and to safeguard against death….

Reaching out quickly, he turned the papers over quickly. He didn’t want any of the information in his head. Once learned, it could never be forgotten, and Percy had enough nightmares already.

Sorensen chuckled, and Percy gritted his teeth to keep from trying to hex the superior expression off his stupid face.

"It’s such a horrible idea,” Sorensen said, and Percy almost forgave him before Sorensen blithely continued, “Do you know why you've never heard of them before Voldemort? It's because they don't work.”

Fred. Tonks. Professor Lupin. Colin Creevey. Professor Burbage…. The roll of the dead started to parade through his head, an endless accusation to those who had survived.

And those were just those whom he had known. The memory of the bodies in the Great Hall would forever tarnish the name of Hogwarts in his mind’s eye.

“How can you say that? He was dead and he came back.” Percy was on his feet again, and his voice had been raised.

“The truth is an ugly thing sometimes, but that doesn’t make it less true.” Percy saw that despite his casual flippancy, the man’s hands were clenched tightly enough to whiten the knuckles. Coping mechanisms took many forms.

But Percy wanted Sorensen Carlisle gone, since he didn’t want to think about what the document really meant. The petty part of him – the one that lectured his siblings about cauldron bottom thickness and abandoned his family when they weren’t politically convenient – wanted to call the Aurors and have the man arrested for… for…. He couldn’t think of an appropriate charge, but surely there was something in the ministry’s endless books that he could find.

But if he called the Aurors, it was unlikely he’d ever get a satisfactory answer out of Carlisle. And even though he didn’t want to hear this, what Carlisle was saying was important.

Part of being an adult was undertaking unpleasant tasks because they needed to be done.

Once again, Percy sank back into his seat.

“I’m making a hash of this,” Carlisle murmured, more to himself than to Percy. “Maybe I should start from the beginning. The horcruxes were a secret. It’s back to the evolution of magic in New Zealand. The original European settlers were different than many of the Aussies. They came because they wanted to, for a variety of different reasons. Not many wizarding families emigrated, but mine had special reasons for going.

“I’m told my Great-Grandma Fawley came to New Zealand on behalf of her family. Her brother Jack had murdered a bunch of prostitutes in London to create horcruxes, and the family had to spend years destroying them. It cost quite a sum for the work and to hush the mess up, and the Fawleys thought the best way to protect their status was for one of them to become a secret keeper and take everything known about horcruxes out of the range of dark wizards who might be following up on Jack’s project.”

“It clearly didn’t work,” Percy said.

“Oh, but it did exactly what the family hoped. Grandmother Fawley kept the secret by passing it along through her daughter’s line, and we managed to block off that route of learning about horcruxes. No one ever found the Fawleys’ connection to them. Unfortunately for your people, knowledge is never really lost, and it can always be rediscovered, which Voldemort partially did.”

“Partially?”

“If he’d learned everything my family knew, I doubt he would have been idiotic enough to try,” Sorensen said. “As I said, horcruxes don’t work.”

Percy’s eyes fell once again to the handwritten manual, wondering how much worse horcruxes could be than what Harry had explained. What did Carlisle know that they didn’t?

“Explain,” Percy demanded. “He came back from the dead, and managed to kill hundreds more people.”

“The idea of a horcrux is to secure immortality, but for every Voldemort, you’ll have a heroic Harry Potter triumph instead. Immortality does not exist, no matter what kind of magic you use. Horcruxes always fail because a shattered soul cannot survive, and the universe itself fights against such an abomination. And the universe always wins in the end.”

“Why didn’t you share this information sooner?”

“It wasn’t our job to,” Carlisle said. “Our priority was to protect the family secret, which we did. There’ve been other dark wizards over the past century finding a different path to the horcrux, but none of them succeeded and their knowledge died with them, since dark wizards don’t like to share. We would have continued to stay quiet, but your boy hero has told everyone, and now people know such a thing is possible. Too many people know for the secret to be sealed away again.”

The sinking feeling in Percy’s stomach threatened to drown him with bile. “And that’s why you’re giving it to me?”

“That’s why I’m letting you in on the secret,” Carlisle said, his lips curving. “Laura said you were the best ministry employee for the task, and I trust her judgement.”

“You’re letting me in?” Percy echoed.

“Winter wrote everything she knew down so you can show it to others you think can best prevent another horcrux from being made. It’s up to you if you’re going to read it or not, but my grandmother thinks someone at your ministry should know what’s what about horcruxes, since other idiots are going to keep looking for ways to do it.” Carlisle spoke lightly, like he was discussing the weather.

“Do you even care?”

“Not really. How much different is it, killing a fly versus killing a man? Each time something dies, something is lost. But humanity – and I mean Muggle and Wizards alike – doesn’t care about anything that doesn’t affect them individually. I can’t bring myself to care about the individuals, knowing that long term, the universe will do everything it can to destroy the horcrux, and its creator is going to spend an eternity in agony.”

“Yet you’re giving this to me.” He wasn’t sure if he was meant to be flattered or not. Once, he would have burst with pride to realize that someone – a stranger, even! - recognized his devotion to duty.

Percy had always been loyal to the system, even when the system had failed him. He’d turned his back on his family for Fudge and Scrimgeour, believing that he was doing the right thing. He’d worked under the Thickenesse regime, justifying himself by taking every chance he could to create escape routes for Muggleborns with misplaced or incorrect paperwork.

But he had survived a war, and realized that duty was nothing without the desire to protect people who needed it most.

Percy hadn’t done enough during the war. He may have conveniently overlooked incorrectly filled out paperwork and forgeries for the Muggle registry, and delayed orders for the Snatchers to buy people time, but people had still died.

Why would this stranger single him out?

“Because my wife said we needed to,” Carlisle said. “She’s a much better judge of the human heart, since I barely have one.”

Percy wasn’t surprised by the admission.

“If you don’t have a heart, what stopped you from trying to develop a horcrux?”

“I still want a chance to have a heart, not to fracture what little remains of mine,” Carlisle said. “Your Voldemort had a heart. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been so atrocious. It’s broken hearts that makes people dangerous.”

An interesting point, and one that Percy didn’t want to ruminate on. He opened his mouth to refuse, to offer to get Carlisle in to see Kingsley, before recognizing that Kingsley was already overburdened. Percy could lift this burden, and it would be cowardice to refuse.

Sorensen rose to his feet, taking a moment to smooth his robes in a curiously persnickety action. “Happy reading,” he said, before sweeping out the doorway as suddenly as he had appeared.

Percy glared down at the horcrux manual, half-tempted to cast an Incendio on the wicked thing and have an Obliviator scrub the memory of his meeting with Carlisle from his mind.

It would be the easiest thing to do, but it wouldn’t be the right. The records were important, no matter how horrible the content.

Carlisle had been correct pointing out that someone had to know this information to prevent another horcrux from being created, but Percy didn’t want that person to be himself.

Maybe that was why the mysterious Laura had selected him. His personal ambition had faded away as he learned what duty really was, but there were still far too many people in the Ministry who coveted power for their own.

Colloportus,” he muttered instead, sealing himself in with the document. He flipped the manual back over, bracing himself as he began to work. Ignorance might have been bliss, but it was also foolish.

Fighting evil wasn’t always about flashy spells or epic battles. Sometimes, it was choosing to do something personally repellent in order to protect others. Percy Weasley had spent the last several months fighting Voldemort’s wickedness through paperwork, and he wasn’t going to stop now.