He’s woken up at midnight and frog-marched out of his room. He can’t see a thing, until someone puts his glasses on—gently, taking care not to bend the frames out of shape.
This is how it begins: this is always how it begins, in his head.
PERCY WEASLEY: Thanks. You know, they’re a bugger to put right once they’ve been wrenched out of joint.
The woman wrenches open a metal door marked 13, which leads to a Wizengamot courtroom.
WOMAN: In you get.
One by one, the torches on the circular wall ignite and crackle. The orange-yellow light illuminates the faces of those on the bench: a Wizengamot full of everyone he has ever known. In the middle of the front row, a voice speaks. It belongs to Penelope Clearwater.
PENELOPE CLEARWATER: Is the accused ready?
Percy steps forward and sits in a large chair placed in the center of the room.
PENELOPE: Very well. Shut the door. The trial is about to begin.
PENELOPE: Inquiry hearing of September fifteenth, 1999, into the charges of collaboration; aiding and abetting a non-recognized, non-legitimate government; and participating in the crimes of said non-recognized, non-legitimate government, by Percy Ignatius Weasley, then residing at 25 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, London, currently residing at… the same.”
She still has the same curly hair as before, the same faint patches of acne along her cheeks. She takes a big gulp of water from a goblet next to her, flips a page of parchment, and then continues.
PENELOPE: This hearing shall have three principal interrogators: Penelope Jean Clearwater, former assistant to the head of the Goblin Liaison Office; Molly Catherine Weasley, head of the Weasley household of Ottery St. Catchpole; and Ginevra Molly Weasley, reserve chaser for the Holyhead Harpies. Notes shall be taken by all of us as appropriate. Can we manage that, ladies?”
They nod and laugh.
PENELOPE: And today, Mr. Weasley will be defended, for the first time, by…
The heavy door opens and another woman hurries in: Audrey Longhurst, Percy’s girlfriend of barely a year. She takes a seat at the small desk next to Percy and pulls a legal pad out of her satchel.
PENELOPE: Audrey Elizabeth Longhurst, junior columnist for the Oxfordshire Guardian, Oxfordshire. Excellent.
GINNY WEASLEY: Shall we begin?
AUDREY LONGHURST: Yes, miss.
The first question comes from Ginny. She looks at him the same way she has always looked at him, since the war’s end: guarded, withholding. In a household marked by jostling and pushing and overbearing closeness, Ginny studiously avoids contact. When they sit by each other at family dinners, she takes careful pains not to bump him with her elbow or her knee, not to brush him when passing the margarine. In fact, she hasn’t once asked him to pass anything. The few times they’ve spoken one-on-one, she stands two feet away from him, gives him a collection of details about her life that don’t actually add up to anything when he thinks about it later, which, he supposes, is the point.
GINNY: When did you first begin working at the Ministry of Magic, Mr. Weasley?
PERCY: Surely you already know?
GINNY: All right. When did you first begin working at the Ministry of Magic, Percy?
PERCY: June, 1994. After finishing with school. I worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
PENELOPE: Under Bartemius Crouch, who was Imperiused.
PERCY: But that wasn’t known at the time.
PENELOPE: You have a history of working for people under the influence of the Imperius Curse.
AUDREY: He’s not guilty simply by association.
GINNY: He has a history of not seeing what’s right in front of him.
AUDREY: If you’re just going to make vague accusations, this hearing’s over.
GINNY: Back to the Ministry, then. You began working there in 1994, under Bartemius Crouch, who was Imperiused. You then became junior assistant to the Minister, the summer of 1995.
MOLLY WEASLEY: Over your father’s objections.
Of the three of them, her voice sounds the most unfamiliar, the most unnatural: he almost wonders if it is really his mother there on the bench, or if she has been replaced by a cruelly talented impostor. Bellatrix Lestrange, perhaps.
PERCY: Unfortunately… yes.
MOLLY: Over his very well-founded suspicion that you were being used.
PERCY: I disagreed with those suspicions. I found them offensive. I felt my contributions to the family and the Ministry had been overlooked.
MOLLY: You returned your Christmas present to us that year.
PERCY: I did, yes.
GINNY: You supported the Ministry’s interference at Hogwarts that year.
PENELOPE: What relationship did you have with Dolores Umbridge?
PERCY: I didn’t snog her, if that’s what you’re asking.
The three exchange looks, then continue.
MOLLY: You worked with her in a somewhat significant capacity.
PERCY: She was close to the Minister of Magic, and I was the Minister’s assistant, so yes. I thought—at the time—she had good policy instincts.
GINNY: Did you support her in her post as Hogwarts High Inquisitor?
PERCY: I thought it was a good idea, yes.
GINNY: Do you still think that now?
PERCY: Heavens, no. I got—swept up in it. The Ministry had so many facts on their side, and all the Order had was Harry, and I got—I doubted him. I doubted him wrongly. I admit that.
PENELOPE: You continued working for the Ministry with Scrimgeour in power.
PERCY: Yes. He was a much more—ah—strong-willed Minister, which I supported.
MOLLY: But you still didn’t reconcile with your family.
AUDREY: This is a trial about collaboration, not his family ties. You can’t go bringing up your personal interfamilial rows into this, now can you?
PENELOPE: She’s right. Still, Percy, answer the question.
PERCY: No, I did not.
PENELOPE: Skipping ahead. You stayed at the Ministry through the Scrimgeour administration. Then, when the Ministry fell to Death Eaters, you…
GINNY: You stayed, correct?
GINNY: Did you know the new Minister was Imperiused?
PERCY: I suppose—after a certain time—it became clear.
GINNY: But you didn’t leave.
PERCY: You can’t simply walk out of there and leave with a cardboard box full of office supplies. People would wonder. There would be whispers, and after whispers there would be theories, and after theories there would be investigations and after investigations there would be… And our name, and what you were doing, they’d’ve thought I joined you…
GINNY: What we were doing?
PERCY: You know what I mean.
MOLLY: You knew what our cause was.
GINNY: And yet you chose theirs.
PERCY: I didn’t choose them when they were—when they were rounding up Muggleborns!
MOLLY: You chose them over us.
PENELOPE: You picked them even when you knew you shouldn’t have.
GINNY: You walked out on us.
Audrey stands up, face flushed.
AUDREY: This is bollocks. You’re torturing him just before you can, and it’s sickening.
PENELOPE: So be it, then. Thirty minutes, and we reconvene.
The interrogators and the Wizengamot leave. Percy and Audrey remain on the courtroom floor. Audrey hands Percy a chocolate frog.
AUDREY: They really have it out for you, don’t they?
PERCY: A bit.
AUDREY: Who’s on your frog card?
PERCY: Ah… Dilys Derwent. She’s a healer.
The court reconvenes. Penelope reads off the usual boilerplate, takes a sip from her goblet, and then turns her attention to Percy.
PENELOPE: Mr. Weasley, did you assist Dolores Umbridge in her post as head witch of the Muggleborn Registration Commission?
PERCY: I was serving as assistant to the Minister of Magic, Pius Thicknesse, who liaised with Umbridge directly.
PENELOPE: Did you assist Dolores Umbridge in her post as head witch of the Muggleborn Registration Commission?
PERCY: It’s not as simple as all that.
PENELOPE: Isn’t it? You did or you didn’t.
PERCY: I suppose I did, yes.
PENELOPE: Under her watch, the Muggleborn Registration Commission sent seven hundred Muggleborn witches and wizards to Azkaban and subjected nine hundred to the Dementor’s Kiss.
PERCY: I know.
PENELOPE: That includes me.
PENELOPE: In both of those categories.
Audrey opens her mouth to speak, but says nothing.
MOLLY: Percy, what were your duties as assistant to then-Minister Thickness?
PERCY: Paperwork, mostly. I—ah—enjoy paperwork.
MOLLY: What kind of paperwork?
PERCY: Processing briefings from other departments for the Minister to see. Preparing briefings of my own. Keeping the Minister abreast of his daily schedule. Running interference between the Minister and various visitors.
GINNY: Death Eaters?
GINNY: Have you any names?
PERCY: The ones I already mentioned at the last inquiry hearing. Yaxley, Travers, Rosier, Wilkes. Mostly it wasn’t the known—Death Eaters. Mostly the people I saw were the type who thought they’d make bank with You-Know-Who in power. Like the fellow who turned in Cresswell.
PENELOPE: Of the Goblin Liaison office.
GINNY: Did you see paperwork relating to the Muggleborn Registration Commission?
A long, long silence. Two years ago his desk at the Ministry—the same desk he works at now—was covered in very different paperwork, owls from a very different cadre of writers.
GINNY: Answer the question, please.
The Wizengamot erupts. Jeers and shouting echo off the walls of the dungeon. Molly bangs a gavel on the bench five times before the crowd settles down.
MOLLY: That’s enough. We’ll call witnesses tomorrow.
PENELOPE: What kind of trial did you think this was?
AUDREY: There’s no need to call witnesses. He answered everything you asked. He admitted to everything you accused him of. He’s been nothing but honest with you. He told you he assisted the Minister with his duties. He told you he was wrong in misjudging Harry Potter. He told you. This is over. This whole thing is a sham.
GINNY: That isn’t the point of this trial.
AUDREY: How can it not be?
PENELOPE: This whole trial was his idea.
MOLLY: He asked us to convene it.
GINNY: He puts himself on trial every night.
Audrey looks at Percy, as though she means to ask him if this is true. But the words don’t come out, and she turns away.
The next morning he is woken up and taken to courtroom thirteen, where Ginny, Molly, the rest of the Wizengamot, and Audrey are already waiting for him.
GINNY: Is the accused ready?
AUDREY: Yes, miss.
GINNY: Then let’s begin. We have three witnesses to call today. The first is Penelope Clearwater, formerly of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and assistant to the head of the Goblin Liaison Office.
AUDREY: Penelope Clearwater? But she was just interrogating him! She was just up there on the bench—she can’t be a witness!
Ginny and Molly pay Audrey no mind as Penelope enters. She is wearing, strangely enough, her Hogwarts robes, and a scarf that Percy remembers her wearing to Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Quidditch matches.
GINNY: Hello, Penelope.
PENELOPE: Hello, Ginny.
MOLLY: Can you tell us about your parents?
PENELOPE: My mum is a nurse midwife, and my father headmaster of a girls’ school in Cheltenham. They’re Muggles, if it’s not obvious enough.
MOLLY: Did you have a happy childhood?
PENELOPE: Certainly. But it was lonely, you know. So when I got to come to—to Hogwarts—I felt like I could finally make friends. It was wonderful, being a witch.
AUDREY: Isn’t her childhood a little off the subject of this trial?
The interrogators look at her, then continue unheeded.
GINNY: What were your experiences with the Muggleborn Registration Commission?
PENELOPE: I received an owl from them on August the fifteenth, demanding that I report for a mandatory hearing.
MOLLY: And did you attend?
PENELOPE: No. My parents and I were preparing to leave the country. New Zealand.
MOLLY: What happened then?
PENELOPE: My parents and I left separately, so not to attract suspicion. My parents made it to Auckland first, but I was caught by a group of Snatchers trying to follow them.
MOLLY: And the Snatchers brought you to the Ministry?
PENELOPE: Yes. And then I was put on trial.
MOLLY: By Dolores Umbridge, to whom Percy Weasley assisted.
PENELOPE: Yes. I was found guilty of having stolen magic.
MOLLY: And after the guilty verdict…?
PENELOPE: My wand was snapped, and I was taken to Azkaban.
Helpfully, the Wizengamot gasps, then settles into silence.
MOLLY: But you were able to send word of what happened?
PENELOPE: I managed to pass a note to someone in the Goblin Liaison Office, where I was working, and they managed to take it to the—late—Dirk Cresswell. He and several others wrote letters to the Ministry, on my behalf, telling the Commission about my sterling character, insisting I had wizarding relatives along the line, but…
She shudders. Molly looks over at Percy.
MOLLY: Letters that you, Percy, saw.
MOLLY: But did nothing about.
MOLLY: You did not intervene in Penelope’s case.
AUDREY: He saw letters—he was no more in charge of the Ministry police than my left foot.
Molly looks at Audrey, and then looks away.
MOLLY: Penelope, you may leave. Our next witness—
AUDREY: There are more witnesses?
MOLLY: Our next witness is Alicia Spinnet, of Upper Flagley, Yorkshire, and a junior clerk at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Alicia Spinnet enters. Tall and willowy, she clutches a wooden cane as she makes her way to the space that Demelza has just left. She, too, testified at the inquiry hearings, but that is not how Percy knows her story—she is instead the girlfriend of Oliver Wood, who had been friends with Percy in school.
ALICIA: Good morning.
GINNY: Good morning, Alicia. Tell us: during the Thicknesse administration, where were you employed?
ALICIA: I had begun, the previous year, in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I was working as a legal intern.
GINNY: Did you have contact with the then-head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and the Imperiused Minister, Pius Thicknesse?
ALICIA: Not particularly, no. As I said, I was an intern—mostly working in the mailroom.
GINNY: The mailroom?
ALICIA: Yes. This was where we received letters, tip-offs, usually at least four Howlers a month… anyways, the department gets hundreds of owls and packages a week, and it was my job to sort it, and send it to the appropriate people. I suppose it could’ve been done by magic, but the DMLE likes its gut instincts. So do I. It’s a good fit that way.
GINNY: You’ve always had good instincts. Did the volume of mail change when You-Know-Who took power?
ALICIA: No, but its character changed. The tip-offs weren’t about cases—mostly, they were about exposing people as Muggleborns, or indicting them for various crimes to the new regime.
GINNY: Were the people exposed actual Muggleborns?
ALICIA: Not all of them. See, what I did was—I took the letters, and ducked into the Ministry Records Office, which was and is never properly staffed, and a lot of the times it took a very cursory search to find that yes, so-and-so was of wizarding blood, and it was really just a nasty neighbor wanting to turn somebody in for a profit.
GINNY: Terrible stuff.
ALICIA: Oh, yes.
GINNY: What about those people you couldn’t find in the records office?
ALICIA: I burned the tip-off letters, and if I couldn’t, I tried to warn the people in person. Put on a disguise, like, find a way to contact them. It didn’t always work. Or they didn’t always believe me. But, you know…
GINNY: Did you worry about being caught?
ALICIA: All the time. I’d’ve… I’d’ve been sent to Azkaban if I were found out.
GINNY: But you did it anyways.
ALICIA: I thought it was the right thing to do.
GINNY: The right thing to do. Did you stay with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement the entire time of the occupation?
ALICIA: Yes. I have extended family in Saskatchewan—Canada—but thought it would look suspicious if I left and then fled.
GINNY: You fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, correct?
ALICIA: Oh, yes. I came with Oliver—that’s Oliver Wood—and Angelina—that’s Angelina Johnson—and Katie—that’s Katie Bell. You know, we stayed friends after school ended, and then decided we’d all fight for it together.
GINNY: I see. Thank you for your bravery, Alicia. Miss Longhurst, do you have questions?
Audrey, looking uncomfortable, makes a note on her legal pad and stands up.
AUDREY: Did anyone see you reading or burning letters?
ALICIA: As I said, I was working in the mailroom.
AUDREY: So you really would’ve had a lot of freedom to maneuver?
ALICIA: I mean, I still could have been found out or noticed.
AUDREY: But did the Minister of Magic ever see you?
AUDREY: Did you even meet the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?
AUDREY: You weren’t acting in a highly visible capacity, were you?
ALICIA: I… I suppose not.
AUDREY: That’s exactly my point. Percy couldn’t have followed her example.
GINNY: Alicia, you may go. The next witness is… Demelza Robins, of Newquay, Cornwall, and a seventh year at Hogwarts School.
AUDREY: Why are they calling her?
The door opens, and Demelza Robins enters. She is slight, with flyaway red hair. She testified at one of the many inquiry hearings at war’s end. Percy remembers her testimony; he had listened to it on the radio at the Burrow, along with Ron and George and his parents, and all had been horrified at what Demelza recounted.
Demelza takes a seat at the witness’s chair in the center of the courtroom. She wears the same denim dress and black stockings that the Daily Prophet photographed her wearing, the day of the original hearing.
MOLLY: Good morning, Demelza.
DEMELZA: Good morning.
MOLLY: The year that—ah—Professor Snape was headmaster, what year were you?
DEMELZA: A fifth year, madam. In Gryffindor House.
MOLLY: You feared you would not be able to return, correct?
DEMELZA: Yes. At first the Muggleborn Registration Commission assumed my family to be of Muggle blood, and we had to fill out—we had to fill out forms proving that we had magic in our family.
MOLLY: And was your claim accepted?
DEMELZA: Yes. Three of my grandparents are Muggles, but my Gran was herself a halfblood witch, and that seemed to be enough.
MOLLY: How were you received upon returning to school?
DEMELZA: Poorly. It was well… it was well known that we were of very low status, and that year…
MOLLY: Who knew that you were of, quote, low status?
DEMELZA: Um, the Carrows. But the students in my year, and the years above and below me, as well.
MOLLY: Do you know who publicized this information?
DEMELZA: No, madam.
MOLLY: Were you treated differently as a result?
DEMELZA: Yes, well… Sometimes in Defense Against the Dark Arts, which was really just Dark Arts—as you know—the other students would be told to practice on me, because I was the closest to practicing on a real Muggle. Or… the Slytherin and Ravenclaw students in my year would whisper that their contacts—their contacts in the Ministry—were pushing newer, more stringent laws through, and once they passed I wouldn’t be able to return. I’d be in Azkaban where I belonged, with all the other Muggleborn trash.
MOLLY: Was this only limited to the classroom?
Demelza says nothing. She has a faraway look in her eyes.
MOLLY: Demelza, this commission requires you to speak.
DEMELZA: No, madam. It was not.
MOLLY: What else took place that year?
DEMELZA: There was one Ravenclaw in particular who would—um—accost me in the corridors, when he knew I was alone. Try to get in my skirt, like…
Her voice trails off. She looks down at her lap, face red.
DEMELZA: Try to get in my skirt, like, because nobody else would, because I was filth, like I said, and I was supposed to be grateful for it. This happened… This happened once in November… once before the Easter holidays… once again after. But the third time Lavender Brown found me, and that was that.
MOLLY: I’m sorry that happened to you.
DEMELZA: No, no, it’s—um—it’s fine.
MOLLY: Miss Longhurst, do you have questions for the witness?
Audrey has nothing written on her parchment. Her face is white.
AUDREY: Excuse me—but how is Miss Robins’ testimony relevant?
MOLLY: It’s the Ministry’s activities during the—er—“Thicknesse administration” that allowed conditions like these to occur. Ministry activities that Percy participated in, of course. Thus…
AUDREY: But I don’t think the transitive property applies here.
Nobody says anything.
AUDREY: It doesn’t. How can it? Percy didn’t do those things to her. He didn’t grab her in a corridor or torture her with the—what are they called?
PERCY: The Unforgivable Curses.
AUDREY: Right, those. He didn’t torture her with them.
PENELOPE: He might as well have.
AUDREY: But—but it doesn’t work like that. How can you possibly tell Percy that?
She rounds on Percy.
AUDREY: And you—why do you let them tell you this? Why do you keep calling this trial and coming here, every single night or every other night or every week when you have this pity party for yourself? You didn’t kill these people. You didn’t harm them. You don’t owe them anything.
PERCY: It’s my penance.
AUDREY: Penance for what? Isn’t the war you fought over? Isn’t it? How long are you going to be guilty? How long are you going to keep yourself in purgatory?
Now, Percy stands up to meet her.
PERCY: For as long as it takes!
AUDREY: For as long as what takes?
PERCY: For as long as it takes to put things right.
AUDREY: You can make things right without torturing yourself.
PERCY: You don’t understand.
AUDREY: You keep sending yourself to the bloody gallows for other people’s crimes.
PERCY: But I was part of it. I let myself be part of it. That’s what you aren’t seeing.
AUDREY: So you let yourself be part of it! Oh my God, Percy. You let yourself be part of it and it was wrong and I’m sure—I am absolutely sure you were a brainless git about it, and there’s a time and a place to regret the fact that you were probably insufferable. But don’t you ever want to move forward? Don’t you ever want to look up and look around you and see that maybe things have changed? That you’ve changed?
Audrey shakes her head in frustration.
AUDREY: Of course you don't.
The Wizengamot behind them grows silent, and fades away, leaving only Audrey and Percy. Percy tips his head back, rakes his hands through his hair.
PERCY: You heard what they said. About what I did.
AUDREY: I did.
PERCY: You know that they’re right.
AUDREY: I know that you think they’re right.
PERCY: And all the things I didn’t do. You heard that, too.
PERCY: I didn’t—I didn’t warn Muggleborns. I didn’t help schoolgirls. I didn’t save Penelope. I didn’t keep Fred from dying. All those things I could have done, should have done…
AUDREY: You can’t bring people back by offering yourself in their place.
PERCY: But don’t I have to try?
The flat on Goldhawk Road is dark but for a tiny lamplight on the bedside table. Percy stares up at the ceiling, head pounding, voice hoarse from everything he’s told Audrey, who lies next to him. Her face is turned away and for a long while Percy listens to the sound of her breathing. He worries that perhaps he should not have told her, this trial inside his head, this catalogue of ambition and pride, wrongdoing and bad judgment, collaboration but such little resistance.
But then, Audrey turns to him.
AUDREY: I’m sorry I lost my temper.
They fall back into silence for a moment or two, until she turns to him again.
AUDREY: But I still think you’re a good man, Percy. I do.