AN: Thank you for all the support! It is deeply appreciated!
The owl peck sent a chill up his spine. Gulping, he opened the window, bracing himself for the cardboard box tied to its feet. As he held it up, one thought reverberated through his mind:
What does this howler say?
Percy studied the package. Upon first glance it was wrapped in sleek purple wrapping paper. On top was pink bow which bordered gaudiness. He rearranged it until he could see the tag.
From: Angelina Gronkowski.
He scratched his chin. What could Angelina want with me now? It has been years since she's spoken, much less written, me.
Percy examined the signature closer. Angelina tended to write in cursive; yet this address is printed.
He dropped the tag. Why would she give me a present? George's divorce was finalized over a decade ago. I doubt she'd speak to any Weasley at all if she didn't have children with one. Also, I thought she was happy with her current husband. Why would she need to speak with her ex-in laws?
Percy snorted. Perhaps she wants political power. Anymore, it seems people only call me to complain or beg for some favor.
He shook his head. No, not Angelina. She was always the kind to demand everyone stop talking about politics. Whatever could she want from me?
Nothing. She could want nothing from me, which makes me wonder if someone is simply posing as her.
Percy held up his wand to the package and ran it over the wrapping paper.
The wand did not change color.
Percy straightened up in his chair, but kept his wand over the package. For the next few minutes he cast every detection spell he knew.
There was nothing sinister inside the box.
He shrugged. Really, the whole Angelina imposture thing is ridiculous. There is no real reason for anyone to impersonate her. If someone wanted to send me a dangerous package they would pretend to be one of my parents or one of my brothers.
Then again, the package may be set to explode. No, If the package was a bomb then it would have gone off by now. Perhaps Angelina has sent me a package either from the goodness of her heart or as some type of political favor which will become clearer upon opening it.
Percy snapped the pieces of tape from the wrapping paper. Then he tossed the bow into the trash can. Once the wrapping paper was removed from the package he cocked his head.
Before him was a black and white photograph of Aaron Cobb holding up a bag of marbles. He flashed a smile and waved his free hand. Underneath his image were the words:
To Michael, my love.
Percy's eyes almost bulged out of their sockets.
"Michael! Get in here right now!"
The secretary poked his head into the office. In a weak voice he answered, "Yes?"
"How on earth do you know Angelina Johnson?"
Michael stepped inside the room. "Angelina Johnson?"
"Yes," Percy replied as the door shut.
Michael gave him a blank stare.
"She is also known as Angelina Gronkowski."
Michael's eyes lit up. "Oh yeah, I know her."
Percy cocked his head. "How?"
"Oh, we met at a fundraiser for victims of Quidditch accidents."
"Oh yes. There's not much awareness surrounding broom safety," Michael shuddered. "After seeing some of those images, I can see why Gobstones is considered safer. I mean, have you seen an image of someone with a compound fracture?" He shook again. "Those images stay with you."
"Yes, well, Quidditch accidents aside," Percy replied. "Angelina Gronkowski sent you a picture."
Michael asked, "She did?"
Percy turned the photograph around.
Michael shrieked. "Oh my God!"
"Oh," Michael approached the desk as if he were approaching Merlin. "I wanted this picture so badly, b-but I got outbid at the silent auction. I, I didn't think I'd ever lay eyes on it again."
"Did Angelina win it?" Percy asked.
"I have no idea." Michael was drooling. "All I knew was it wasn't mine."
"Well, this photograph is yours now," Percy replied.
Michael gasped. "Oh no, no. I-I could never take it from you."
"Good, because I am giving it to you."
"Oh dear Merlin I…I could never accept such a gift."
"It isn't much of a gift considering that your name is on it."
"I…I know, but still…."
Percy slid the photo closer to Michael. "It's yours."
Michael shuddered. "I, I couldn't take it."
"Yes you could, and you will," Percy answered.
Michael's eyes glistened and his smile covered his entire face. "Th-thank you."
"You are very welcome," Percy answered.
Michael picked up the photo and caressed Aaron. "I will cherish this forever."
"I know you will," Percy answered.
Michael skipped out of the room, the photo clasped in his hands.
Percy sighed and pulled out a quill from an ink pot. The things he did for that secretary.
Then he smirked. No doubt Michael was going to take that photograph home. Even if it remained on Michael's desk, all important business was discussed behind the safety of Percy's closed doors. If anyone thought they'd be able to spy on him with that then they were in for a rude awakening….
Inside Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, a radio crackled. George adjusted the knobs until the voices were clearer.
"I swear if this is another howler," Percy's staticky voice began.
Percy would never be stupid enough to leave the picture in his office, but he would be stupid enough to toss the bow in his own waste bin.
Hermione scratched out the final name on her list. "All but thirty."
Severus sank into the couch.
Hermione began stacking the receipts into a pile. "All but thirty of the known victim have received the lycanthropy cure."
Severus noted. "There are still thirty people unaccounted for, then."
"They may have received it from someone else," Hermione noted. "Draco could have given it to them through one of his charity drives, or they could have bought it from a different apothecary."
"Perhaps those thirty names did not receive a cure at all because they did not need one," Severus answered.
"Do you really believe that?" Hermione asked.
Severus rubbed his face. "I do not know what to believe anymore."
Hermione embraced him. "If this is caused by our cure then we will find a way to undo this."
"Perhaps," Severus answered in a weak voice, knowing full well he may have failed the Wizarding World once again