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Foregone - A Place for the most Rare of Loves
Find it in the Room of Requirement

Boca. posting in A Gift Exchange for HP Rarepairs
User: hprare_exchange (posted by msqu)
Date: 2007-11-03 13:17
Title: Foregone
Security: Public
Feeling:awake
SoundtrackFrou Frou - Only Got One
Tags:het, penelope, percy, percy/penelope
Story for: hprare_exchange
Title: Foregone
Pairing: Percy/Penelope
Rating: G
Summary: Just when Percy thought he was doomed, the Ministry throws him a lifesaver – at the cost of his family and his love.

Foregone


I was ruined – that much was clear. All the hours I had put in my education, all that I had to endure to cling desperately on order and rules, wasted. How blind could I have been to not have recognized an Imperiused Crouch? I’d been taught the signs. I’d been instructed to stay on high alert. I’d even suspected something was amiss. But I, Percival the Fool, had said nothing. I, who had been in the best position to stop the mayhem, had ignored the erratic behaviour of Barty Crouch and now suffered the consequences.

The whispers that follow me outside the shelter of my office have become deafening, and the wary looks shot at me pierce ever deeper beneath my façade of poise. Every day, I opened the Daily Prophet, expecting to see a statement issued from the Ministry, naming me as prime suspect for Imperiusing Crouch among other things. A scapegoat. That is what I would become. It was dictated in the order of things. Who was I to fight it?

I took to locking myself in my room for long periods of time. Mum and Dad had become worried and constantly tried to assure that all would work out. Fred and George attempted to veil the morosity that weighed heavily on the household, but their efforts slowly subsided, and they too began experimenting behind locked doors. My other siblings tiptoed cautiously past my room, either on their own accord or on orders from my mother.

My only escape had been through the letters I received almost on a daily basis. The dull thudding of my heart always quickened when Hermes dropped off a piece of parchment with the familiar loops and dips formed from her quill. Her words always chipped away the ever-present burden and erased all thoughts of impending calamity in my mind. Her letters were always light-hearted, never adding to the mountain of pressure already on my shoulders. For all I knew, Penelope Clearwater could’ve been completely unaware of the damage I had caused. Her letters contained matter I would’ve once considered frivolous: the colour of her new dress robes, the latest Chudley’s Cannons match, or Gilderoy Lockhart’s most recent wandering onto the second floor.

The latest letter from Penny sat beckoningly in front of me, and my eyes were too willing to give in.

Dear Percy,
The old man I had written to you about yesterday came back. Apparently, to regrow his lost hair, he had sprinkled on some powder he’d gotten from a nearby apothecary and was surprised to find that rather than growing strands of black hair, he was sporting five or six sprigs of crabgrass! The poor fellow, who I believe is a gardener, must have gotten something on his hands before he applied the stuff, and Healer Mercer is tending to him. I was right to pursue this career, Percy; there’s never a boring day!

Hope all is well with you. Give your family my love. Let me know the next time you’re in London!

Love,
Penny


Lovely Penelope Clearwater. She’d been just another pretty face with whom I went to class with until fifth year when we’d literally bumped into each other in the prefect carriage on the Hogwarts Express. After patrolling the halls once or twice with her, I had begun to find myself frequenting the courtyard or the lake, where she had often been spotted, leaving the comforts of the library and Gryffindor tower. To my dismay, she had then proceeded to commandeer my thoughts, stealing my attention away from my homework, my meals, and my professors. I had never felt this way before, and it should’ve frightened me, this chaotic twist in my organized life. Instead, two weeks before our first Hogsmeade trip of the year, I had stood, bumbling and stuttering in front of Penelope, who had smiled shyly at my invitation.

Our relationship developed gradually; our first kisses had butterfly-like – fleeting and chaste. Soon, however, we began to steal away to empty classrooms and broom closets, rendering me unable to chastise the other love-struck students I found during patrol.

Sometimes, when she wasn’t looking, I would stare at her with awe, wondering how someone could’ve been molded to fit me perfectly. She had the brains, of course. She preferred order to bedlam. She had a healthy respect for the rules. But then, she had amenities I had never been able to have myself: friends to laugh with, money to spend, and time to do whatever the hell she wanted to do. I had never envied her for them; rather, I imagined Penny and I to be two people who had divided the tasks, I to secure a powerful career, and Penny to socialize with the rest of the world.

I had just finished reading when an owl with rather large brown feathers tapped impatiently on my window with its beak. He glared severely at me while I fumbled to let him in. He held out a letter-bearing leg to me as he glanced edgily around the room. The insignia on the letter was immediately recognizable and caused my sweaty palms to slip even more as I eagerly removed it from the owl, which now was bristling at my clumsiness.

A letter from the Ministry. What could they possibly want to write to me for? As soon as I had freed the parchment from his leg, the owl turned sharply and took off, not even glancing back at my gasp as his talons grazed the back of my hand. The pale cut rapidly turned red, but I paid it no mind; my thoughts were thoroughly occupied by the contents of this letter. Had last June’s events been merely a nightmare? Had everything been resolved, and was Barty Crouch, in fact, still alive? Or was this the Ministry’s formal notification that I was to be charged of assisting murder? My hands trembled as I unrolled the parchment as best I could.

My eyes drank in the words inked onto the page, mouthing the letter as I read it. “‘The Minister of Magic requests an audience to discuss your new position at the Ministry of Magic. Please arrive promptly…three o’clock sharp.’” I let the parchment slip between my fingers. A new position. Oh, Merlin.

I leapt and bound out of my room, shouting at the top of my lungs. “Mum! Dad! The Ministry!” I heard the crash of pots and pans in the kitchen. I galloped toward the sound, nearly bowling over my mother, who was flustered and bewildered by my behaviour.

I had never felt so elated before. Not even when I had received word that I had become Head Boy. Not when I had learned of my N.E.W.T.s. Not even when Penelope Clearwater, the Penelope Clearwater, had agreed to accompany me to Hogsmeade.

Penny!

I vaguely heard my mother ask me what had happened, but I ignored her, returning to the seclusion of my room to write back to Penny. I had always read of her happiness, her adventures at St. Mungo’s, never once penning her about my days. She would be glad of this news, I knew.

Dear Penny,
I have secured an appointment with Minister Cornelius Fudge to discuss my future at the Ministry. Perhaps this is the long-sought promotion I deserve. More to follow.

Sincerely,
Percy


After seeing Hermes off with my letter, something tugged on me inside. I had given Penny no indication that I had read her words. I had shown no interest in what she had to say. However, the guilt was fleeting, and I shrugged it away. My news was more urgent. She’d understand. I watched Hermes fly off with a light heart and felt that my dreams, too, had taken off, sure to soar above the clouds.




I stalked into my dimly lit room, fuming and muttering, the argument and angry words playing over and over in my head.

Father stared at me, his face red with rage. “I won’t have a spy in this household!” Spittle flies out from between his lips. His face was contorted not by the joy I had expected but pure outrage. Never before had I seen him like this, not even when George and Fred’s jokes had gone too far. I struggled to rein in my fury, but my blood boiled too wildly for me to control.

Before long, words that I never would have said otherwise came spilling out. “It’s paranoia like this that’s got you into trouble in the first place, Father! What, you think that spreading rumours of You-Know-Who’s return will settle matters? He’s gone, Dad! That’s why Harry Potter’s the celebrity he is!”

Father sputtered, “How dare – “

I cut him off, the momentum of my speech urging me forward. “I was offered a place beside the Minister! What do you want me to do, Dad? Side with Dumbledore and tinker with Muggle stuff? Where would I end up then? Some run-down Ministry department, like you? I wonder, if you had even a shred of ambition in you, would the Weasley family’s name be as dirt-poor as it is now?”

I heard my mum beside me choke back a sob and gasp. I had gone too far, and I knew it. But what could be done? Hurt flashed across my father’s beet-red face, and guilt tugged at me once more. This was for the best though. I would clear my father’s head of his fantasies, and if it meant a bit of pain for the both of us, then so be it.

“If you had any consideration for your family, you’d see that standing so resolutely beside Dumbledore now is foolhardy. It’s treason. Fudge’ll see to Dumbledore, and he’ll come after you lot next. If you’re so willing to go down with the ship, Dad, so be it. But I won’t stand to have my name dragged to the depths of oblivion. I stand beside the Ministry, on my own if need be.”

I turned smartly on my heel and pushed the kitchen door open. I stared past the cold glares of my siblings who had heard every word and whisked into my room to pack.
Let them hate me. Let them suffer. Then, let them return.

I had secured a place to stay temporarily with my schoolmate Nick Flaherty who worked in the Magical Games and Sports department of the Ministry. He had been gracious enough to lend me his shabby couch, the only piece of furniture in the tiny flat’s living room. I was reminded of the drabbiness of the Weasley home when I first arrived. But I soon realized Nick’s place contained not a fraction of the love and warmth I was used to. Nevertheless, my new surroundings reinstated my need to climb higher in the Ministry and save myself from the predicament my father had found himself in.

I spent the days slavishly following Minister Fudge’s every command and request, mentally logging away small tidbits that would help establish myself more firmly in his mind. Minister Fudge seemed a bit put out about the rift between my family and I, and I thanked him profusely for his concern. He began instructing me to keep a close eye on several Ministry employees; I was not surprised to find ‘Arthur Weasley’ among them. Every time I heard my surname, I felt a pang of despair and guilt, but over time, I grew efficient with ignoring those feelings.

In the evenings when I wasn’t working, I exchanged few words with Nick, whom I suspected did not approve of my actions. I would give a cursory greeting every time I came in, and he would vacate the kitchen of the flat for his bedroom, giving me unnecessary privacy to finish incomplete paperwork.

Back at the Burrow, I had embraced the tranquility of solitude with open arms; here, the silence haunted me, tortured me. The ticks from the clock on the wall were more like booms. The scratching of my quill against parchment resembled screeches of fingernails on boards. And Merlin help me on nights when I had no work to do. The peace left me alone with my thoughts – thoughts of my treachery, my family whom I had abandoned. My mother’s tear-streaked face flashed before me, followed soon after by the stone-cold glares from the twins’ usually playful eyes and the locked jaw of my youngest brother Ron. There were nights when I longed to return to their arms, but damn pride and determination to rise among the ranks kept me from Disapparating home.

Penelope’s letters, which used to flow effortlessly through my hands, came now in a trickle. The time between each letter grew longer and longer. The tone of her words were not as bright as before. Dear Penny knew me well enough to not push me to reconcile with my family, but from the numerous blots and scratches on the page, I knew she yearned to urge me in that direction. She had grown more withdrawn and apologized for her slow responses, attributing them to the pile of work that accompanied a promotion to Junior Healer. I had assured her that it was all right and that I had been busy as well. In truth, I always had to try not to spill the ink bottle in my hurry to write Penny back. She was the only person from the times of the old Percy who I wanted in this new Percy’s life. Thoughts of her disrupted my work on a regular basis, effectively crippling my efficiency as Junior Assistant to the Minister.

In my correspondences back, I tried not to seem as if I was clinging onto her, though looking back now, I don’t doubt she had been able to see past the disguised words. I spoke mainly of Ministry business, choosing to shy away from subjects that truly mattered. From time to time, I would weave in information I learned about from Nick pertaining the Quidditch games. I knew Penny would love that. Once or twice, I had asked her to meet me in Diagon Alley for an ice cream or butterbeer, but she would always respond the same way: “Sorry, Percy, but I just don’t have the time.”

This night, an envelope sat waiting for me on the kitchen table. My heart skipped as I saw the familiar oversized ‘P’ that collided so imperfectly with the ‘e’ and ‘r.’ I tore the envelope open and was crest-fallen by the length of the note.

Percy,
Let us meet at the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow for lunch. Noon.
Penny


I should’ve taken the note for an omen. Nevertheless, the thought of meeting my Penny again, for the first time in months, excited me. The next morning crept by painfully slowly. I did my duties mindlessly and mechanically, my mental efforts all concentrating on my noon lunch with Penny. Minister Fudge raised his eyebrows when I requested my lunch break at fifteen minutes ‘til (I had always been too happy to work without a midday meal) but let me go, allowing me to arrive at the Leaky Cauldron five minutes early.

I had ordered a cold butterbeer for Penny and a cup of cinnamon pumpkin juice for myself when Penelope finally came in. Again, I was struck by how beautiful she was; the high sun’s rays hit her curly chestnut-coloured hair perfectly, illuminating her frame angelically. Her hazel eyes searched the room until they met mine, and she began striding toward me, her lime-green Healer robes billowing about her legs. My smile froze as I realized that her face, usually open and cheery, seemed confused and unrecognizable.

She came to a stop at the table and looked down at me. For a moment, she looked conflicted, as if torn between acknowledging me and walking away. “Er…hello, Penny.” I wasn’t sure what to say. I had been looking forward to seeing her after so long, but there was no denying I did not possess the same charm my older brothers had when it came to females.

The waitress wordlessly set down our drinks, and yet Penny made no move to sit down.

“Er…Penelope?”

As if physically shaken from her thoughts, Penny started. She cleared her throat uncomfortably before pulling out her chair and plopping down ungracefully. “Hello, Percy,” she greeted quietly, not meeting my eyes. “It’s been a while.”

There was something about her tone that made me feel uncomfortable. “Yes. Yes, it has.” I absentmindedly traced the rim of my cup. “Has St. Mungo’s been busy?”

Penny nodded absentmindedly and sighed. Finally, she leaned forward, and I could see the worried look in her eyes. Suddenly she seemed so worn and old. “Percy, your mother wrote to me.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. So this was what it was about. After all the skirting around the issue, here it was in front of me once more. Immediately I became defensive. “Oh yeah?”

Penny eyed me closely, gauging my reaction. “Yeah. She’s worried, Perce. I mean, with what you’re doing, you can’t blame her, could you?”

I kept my eyes locked on my cup still full of pumpkin juice. “She’ll get over it, Penny. The others have; she will too.” It was true; I’ve crossed paths with my father more than once at the Ministry. We had both refused to meet each other’s eyes and had carried on as if the other did not exist.

“What? They haven’t gotten over it, Percy.” Penny now sounded angry and incredulous. “You’re family. What, they’re supposed to forget one of them so easily? Or do you say that because you’ve gotten over them?”

“Now wait just a minute, Penny.” I felt my irritation growing. “Don’t talk about things you don’t understand.”

“Well, how am I supposed to understand, Percy? You wouldn’t talk to me about it even in your letters. I had never pushed you to tell me about what happened because I had thought you’d tell me in your own time. Don’t give me that bollocks about me not being involved.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. I merely glanced up and, upon meeting Penny’s heated gaze, quickly lowered my head again. I hated sitting here being scolded by none other than Penelope Clearwater, the woman who should have stood by me no matter what.

“Percy.” She lowered her voice. “Look, even if I don’t agree with your opinion about Harry and Dumbledore, I know there must be some way to keep your family and your job with the Ministry. Ask to be transferred to another department or something. Don’t think of this as a family-or-career decision. You don’t have to choose between them.” She stared at me sadly.

In that moment, I knew how this conversation would end. I shook my head sadly. “Penelope, there is no choice between my family and my career. Can’t you see that the issue here is not my career? The ultimatum is the decision to support my family or the Wizarding world. I regret that my father has chosen to abandon his fellow witches and wizards. For my father to ask the same of me hurts me more than you will ever understand, but if I’ve learned anything at Hogwarts, anything from Dumbledore himself, I’ve learned to keep moving forward. And that is what all of us must choose: to support the Ministry that supports you or to rally around an ancient fool who would have us revert back to pitchforks and torches.”

I smiled inwardly at myself; Minister Fudge would be proud if he could hear me now. I was unsurprised to find myself looking into cold, disappointed green eyes. “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Percy.” Her tone was so formal, and I knew she struggled to hide how much my words had hurt her. “You know that we – “

“Yes.” I didn’t try to repress my sorrow from my voice. “I know. I’m sorry for that too, Penelope.”

I heard the chair scrape against the floorboards as Penelope stood up. “Yes, well…” I watched a blur of painfully bright green whirl away. As I took my first swig of the cinnamon pumpkin juice, I swallowed my tears. I heard the tickle of the bell announcing Penelope’s departure, but I couldn’t watch her leave. Loneliness wrapped around me, and I shuddered at her chilly embrace.
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March 2008