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“Come on Perce, at least stay for one more,” George jibed, as ‘Merlin’s Mutiny’ by The Weird Sisters began playing on the Wizarding Wireless.

 

It was a little louder than Percy would’ve liked, especially as he was by no means a fan of said band, but he managed to resist the urge to implore his brother to turn the volume down to a more acceptable level.

 

He thought perhaps George needed the volume that bit louder to compensate for just having one ear, but he could’ve sworn it was significantly quieter earlier and he suspected the volume had only risen as George’s mood had become more boisterous.

 

“I really shouldn’t,” Percy replied meekly.  “My portkey leaves the Ministry at 9AM and I still need to double-check that I haven’t forgotten to pack anythi-

 

“Accio Heineken,” George uttered, with a flick of his wand – and the green bottle zoomed into his spare left hand. “Aperio!” he muttered, which sent the bottle’s cap flying up into the air. Percy’s little brother then handed him the beer with a sympathetic smile on his face.

 

Percy huffed slightly.

 

He could hardly turn him down.

 

If he left George’s now he would make it home for 11. His own one bedroom apartment was only a short walk down the road, it was so close it was barely even worth apparating or using the Floo Network to get there.

 

He didn’t particularly want to stay any later, in-fact he would’ve liked to have left a few hours ago when the others had, but he still harboured a terrible amount of guilt for Fred’s death and felt he ought to do as much as he could to placate George’s loss and fill the void left behind.

 

“Fine. But this really has to be the last one,” he insisted, as George let out a loud sarcastic cheer and raised his own bottle of beer to a toast.

 

Percy was no longer sure how many beers they had got actually through.

 

George had certainly been drinking at a much faster rate, which had caused him to break his seal and take frequent trips to the toilet, during which Percy had been secretly drinking large amounts of water to keep himself as sober as possible.

 

“And to think…we always used to call you boring, Perce! Look at you now… me and you… the last one’s standing!” George joked, as he began draining the rest of his bottle.

 

George had happily hosted what had winded up being Percy’s official send-off before he embarked on his diplomatic mission for the Ministry. Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Ginny had all popped by to wish Percy well on his trip, with the four of them retiring about an hour ago.

 

Ron hadn’t made an appearance due to disappearing off on his own international adventure with Hermione, whilst his Mother and Father had been busy at St Mungo’s visiting Aunt Muriel, who was still recovering from the nasty fall she’d had a few days prior.  

 

“You found out who they’re sending you with yet?” George asked eagerly.

 

“No,” Percy replied. “But I’m almost certain it will be Newt Scamander. I mentioned it to Father the other day and he didn’t confirm it either way, but judging by the look on his face he might as well have done.”

 

George laughed comically as he took another swig from his bottle.

 

“I’m telling you Perce – it’s gonna be Fudge. I’d put money on it!” he said emphatically.

 

“I’ll find out in the morning either way,” Percy replied, taking a meagre sip from his bottle before grimacing slightly at the hopsy taste.

 

“Where is it you’re off to first? Germany?” George asked.

 

“Prague,” Percy said matter-of-factly. 

 

“That is Germany, isn’t it?” George replied in a slightly confused tone.

 

“Not quite, no. It’s in the Czech Republic, although only a few years ago it was still Czechoslovakia. It caused quite the constitutional crisis for the Czechoslovakian Ministry. It’s actually quite interesting really, as technically the International Confederation of Wizards recommends that wizarding governments split with their muggle counterpart, but of course the Germany Ministry never bothered when they split that up into West and East-

 

“Alright, alright, Perce I think I get the picture,” George rudely butted in.

 

“But do you not find it utterly fascinating how muggle policy decisions, wars or independence movements can have such a big effect on our governments and way of life?” Percy asked in bewilderment.

 

“Not really, no.”

 

Percy sighed in dismay at his brother’s lack of interest in wizarding politics and international relations.

 

“Do you know what I do find fascinating, Perce?” George said, as a dangerous, drunk grin emerged on his face.

 

“No… but by all means, enlighten me,” Percy replied, indulging his younger brother.

 

“Do you reckon little Ronnikins is gonna finally lose his V-plates out in Australia?”

 

“Pardon? His V-plates?” Percy said in a confused tone, unfamiliar with the expression.

 

“Oh come on Perce. You know what I mean. Do you think they’re gonna bang?!” George jibed back, which caused Percy to almost choke on his drink.

 

“Merlin’s beard,” Percy exclaimed, as he finally realized what he meant.  “I don’t even want to think about that,” he added indignantly, as his younger brother chuckled loudly.

 

“The way Dad tells it old Kingsley’s got them a right romantic room at the hotel they’re staying at. They’ve got a Hot tub and a private pool and everything! I bet it will be bloody baking out there the whole time too. Young lovers, exposed skin, bit of booze flowing… oh I bet they’ll be at it like a pair of wild Encantados!” George exclaimed, as he did his best impression of the seductive South American sea-creatures.

 

“You’re truly repulsive when you’re drunk,” Percy groaned. “And besides… I don’t imagine it will be too hot out there at this time of year anyway… and they’ve gone out there so Hermione can be reunited with her parents… I dare say they’ll scarcely have time for such extra-curricular activities.”

 

“Trust you to put a dampener on it,” George interjected. “Extra-curricular activities… bloody hell, who calls it that?! Even you had a girlfriend once, Perce! Whatever happened to old Penny Clearwater anyway?”   

 

Percy felt a lump in his throat at the mere mention of her name.

 

“She- we – well… she moved abroad just before it all, you know… when Mister Scrimgeour was forcibly removed from…

 

“Oh right,” George said with a grimace. “Suppose she was muggle-born, wasn’t she? Probably the safest thing for her given how it all turned out.”

 

“Yes well she didn’t much want to leave, of course, but Hestia Jones eventually talked her into it. We talked about, you know, breaking up… but we both wanted to stay together, even with her moving to another country. We were both working so much that we didn’t see each other an awful lot at the time anyway, so I thought that we’d be able to make it last long distance.”

 

This wasn’t strictly speaking true.

 

Percy had feared that their relationship was doomed as soon as Penelope had left.

 

It had seemed inevitable that she would tire of him and, true to form, after a short while, her letters back had become much more infrequent – until they eventually stopped altogether. 

 

“And you didn’t? What happened?! You’ve never mentioned this before!” George demanded.

 

It was true.

 

Percy hadn’t – and for good reason!

 

Of course he’d only been reunited with his family for less than a month - and his love-life had hardly been a hot topic of conversation given everything that had happened, but even before that, he’d never spoken of this to a single soul before.

 

He worried that perhaps the water hadn’t worked as well as he’d hoped and he actually was drunk after all.

 

“We’d write to each other every week to begin with, although given her role in a foreign Ministry it became very difficult to talk about anything too substantial once You Know Who properly took over,” Percy sighed.

 

“What Ministry was it she was working for?”

 

“MACUSA. Although she was spending a few days a week at the Munroe Hills Mind Cen-

 

“Wait. Wait. Wait!” George yelled, as he excitedly slammed his bottle on the table, causing it to fizz up a bit.

 

“She’s working in New York for the MACUSA?!”

 

Percy thought he could see where this was going.

 

“Well yes, err, unless she’s transferred in the last few-

 

“But Perce! That’s one of your stops isn’t it?!” his brother cackled, with a maniacal laugh on his face.

 

“Yes but-

 

“Of course! That’s why you were so keen to volunteer for this mission. It all makes sense now!” George beamed.

 

Percy could not lie – the prospect of seeing Penelope again had certainly made the mission reasonably appealing for him.

 

It was not his sole reason for going, but he would not have held the same enthusiasm for it had she not been part of the overall package.

 

 

“Here we were thinking it was just typical Percy, keen to impress and get his teeth stuck into some work, but all along, it was all for lurveee!” George sneered.

 

Percy felt his cheeks reddening with embarrassment, which of course, his brother noticed instantly, causing him to grin even further.

 

In years gone by Percy may have lashed out, but seeing such a broad smile on George’s face brought him enough solace that he allowed his brother to have this small victory.

 

“I’m really only going to be there on business though. I won’t let my personal feelings cloud our overall mission. And besides, it’s been such a long time that I doubt that she would even want to get back with me-

 

“No!” George barked, as he slammed his bottle onto the table and gave Percy a fiercely serious stare.

 

“Look, I jest and take the piss Perce, but given everything that’s happened… I think… no I know… I know that you should go for it. Win her back. Why not? Life’s too short! You never know what could be round the corner and-

 

The radio suddenly broke from the song it was playing and a loud newscast began to play, which caused them both to look over in slight worry.

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE’RE TERRIBLY SORRY TO INTERUPT TONIGHT’S RAMBUNCTIOUS WIZARD ROCK SHOW, BUT WE HAVE SOME HUGE INTERNATIONAL SPORTING NEWS THAT IS BREAKING TONIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT…

 

Percy and George shared a sigh of relief at that last bit.

 

The war was still fresh enough in the memory that hearing an announcement like that made Percy fear the worst. Any sports-related news seemed very trivial compared to the possibility of one of the escaped Death Eaters causing some trouble.

 

THIS IS A SCANDAL THAT’S SET TO ROCK THE QUIDDITCH WORLD TO ITS VERY CORE, YES THAT’S RIGHT… WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A GLOBAL MATCH-FIXING RING THAT GOES RIGHT TO THE VERY TOP!

 

THE MOST HIGH-PROFILE OF THE MATCHES BEING INVESTIGATED IS THE 1994 QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP FINAL, HOSTED HERE IN BRITAIN, WHICH OF COURSE WAS INFAMOUSLY OVERSHADOWED BY THE CASTING OF THE DARK MARK BY FOLLOWERS OF THE RECENTLY DEFEATED YOU KNOW WHO IN THE AFTERMATH.

 

Percy noticed that his brother seemed to be smiling guiltily at something – and he couldn’t quite work out what it could possibly be.

 

INTERNATIONAL QUIDDITCH ICON, VIKTOR KRUM, CAPTAIN OF THE BULGARIAN NATIONAL SIDE, IS AT THE CENTRE OF THIS CONTROVERSY, AS IT IS REPORTED THAT HE DELIBERATELY CAUGHT THE SNITCH AT SUCH A TIME THAT HE KNEW HIS SIDE WOULD STILL LOSE THE MATCH…

 

“That’s absolutely disgraceful,” Percy mumbled. “And to think it’s taken this long for it to come to light!”

 

“Oh yeah absolutely…” George added. “Truly shocking!”  

 

 EVIDENCE HAS NOW EMERGED THAT PECULIAR BETTING ACTIVITY WAS RAMPANT PRIOR TO THE FINAL, WITH LARGE SUMS OF MONEY BEING PLACED ON AN IRELAND VICTORY AND FOR KRUM TO CATCH THE SNITCH. IT IS THOUGHT THAT WHILST THE MAJORITY OF THE BETTING ACTIVITY ORIGINATED FROM THE BALKAN NATIONS… THERE WAS ALSO SIGNIFIANT ACTIVITY IN IRELAND… AND IT IS WIDELY BELIEVED THAT THE IRISH NATIONAL TEAM WERE IN ON IT TOO…

 

VIKTOR KRUM HAS TONIGHT BEEN ARRESTED, ALONGSIDE OTHER BULGARIAN STARS LIKE IVAN VOLKOV, PYOTR VULCHANOV AND THE RECENTLY RETIRED KEEPER, LEV ZOGRAF.

 

AN INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR A NUMBER OF THE IRISH SIDE FROM THAT TOURNAMENT, MOST NOTABLY FOR THEIR DISGRACED CAPTAIN, AIDAN LYNCH, WHO TRANSFERRED FROM THE FALMOUTH FALCONS TO THE PHOENIX THUNDERBIRDS IN LAST YEAR’S SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW, WHICH OF COURSE SAW THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE BRITISH AND IRISH LEAGUE’S STAR PLAYERS LEAVE FOR EUROPEAN, NORTH AMERICAN AND ASIAN TEAMS AMID THE UNCOMFORTABLE PROSPECT OF WAR IN THE COUNTRY.

 

WE WILL HAVE MORE ON THIS SENSATIONAL STORY LATER DURING OUR MIDNIGHT MESSAGE BEFORE BROADCASTING CEASES FOR THE EVENING…. BUT NOW WE RETURN TO OUR ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING…

 

“What are you laughing for?” Percy demanded. “Match-fixing is a very serious crime. I fail to see the funny side myself.”

 

“Well it’s like you said Perce. I just find it funny that it’s taken it this long to come to light,” George replied devilishly.  “It was the talk of the Irish tents in the campsite at that World Cup… any old Tom, Dick and Harry with an Extendable Ear prototype knew about this years ago.”

 

Percy spent the next quarter of an hour heavily reprimanding his younger brother for the inconceivably heinous crime of betting, albeit unofficially, on a Quidditch match that he had known to be rigged – and of course, for the even worse crime of not reporting it to a Ministry official.

 

George eventually wriggled his way out of it by jokingly blaming the entire scheme on his late twin brother, which alas, left Percy defeated. The two shared an emotional toast to Fred, before Percy finished his drink and finally excused himself to go home and finish packing for his big adventure abroad.

 


 

Percy coughed heavily and rubbed his chest slightly.

 

Indigestion.

 

Or maybe it was a hangover.

 

Whatever it was, it had not been helped by the uncharacteristically hurried fashion in which he had consumed his breakfast.

 

It was a shame that he had been in such a rush, as he usually liked to savour his breakfast, which was undeniably the most important meal of any sane and serious person’s day.

 

Percy’s breakfast of choice was a mug of black coffee, accompanied by two slices of wholemeal toast. The first slice, which would be ever so slightly over-cooked, had to be generously buttered and would always be consumed first.

 

The second slice, well, that was the real treat. This would be ever so slightly under-cooked and on it would be spread copious amounts of the finest Andalusian marmalade that galleons could buy. The lavish variety of the orange preserve that Percy favoured was crafted by a well-respected Spanish pure-blood family – and it was a morning treat that he enjoyed indulging himself in.

 

It had not been an easy upbringing in a family of seven children, which had seen lots of compromise and very little room for any luxuries, however mundane they may have been. This had spurned Percy on to work mercilessly hard at school, then later too in a professional capacity, to ensure that he – and furthermore, any of his offspring, would never have to experience that make-do feeling of being poor.

 

He glanced down at the face of the elaborate golden watch which he had received as a gift from his former boss, the late Mister Crouch.

 

One minute.

 

There were just sixty seconds remaining before the disused oven glove would transport Percy to Prague, but would it just be him that it would be transporting?

 

He had been apprehensively waiting alone for the best part of twenty minutes – and there was still absolutely no sign of Newt Scamander, or indeed, anybody else.

 

Could it have been a mistake?

 

Maybe there had been some kind of miscommunication and Mister Scamander had been sent to the wrong room, or perhaps he had the wrong room himself. That would make more sense than the great Magizoologist partaking in such a blunder, but Percy was specifically informed it was International Transport Room 5 and that the Portkey would be a red oven glove, so this must be it.

 

Thirty seconds.

 

Percy felt a drip of sweat fall from his forehead as he worriedly looked down at the oven glove.

 

He had been so very excited for this day, for the mission, for the chance to eventually see Penny again.

 

But now his stomach was in knots.

 

Scamander must’ve pulled out.

 

Something more important must’ve come up.

 

He had been banking on Penny being impressed by him travelling with such a famous figure.

 

He’d have to go it alone.

 

It was such an important mission for the Ministry and it would all be resting firmly on his shoulders.

 

Percy thought he might throw up.

 

The chance to make such a big impression to Kingsley by delivering the goods on his own was a prospect that the Percy of a few years ago would’ve relished, but the thought of it was scaring him half to death.

 

Ten seconds.

 

Bloody hell.

 

He really was going to be going it alone.

 

Merlin’s beard.

 

Five seconds.

 

This was it.

 

He was going to have to-

 

“Quick, young Perce! You’re going to miss it, lad!”  

 

Percy desperately latched his hand onto the oven glove - and only then did he finally learn who would be accompanying him on the mission.

 

It wasn’t Newt Scamander.

 

It wasn’t even old Cornelius Fudge.

 

It was Dedalus Diggle.

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