Chapter 1 : Five Times That the Weasleys Missed Percy
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Arthur was slowly cleaning out his desk, getting ready for his move to the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects.
He was feeling a touch nostalgic, to be honest. He had always loved working for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office.
He took the last spark plugs out of his drawer and placed it carefully in the box with his other things, turning his attention to the top of his desk. There wasn't much there that needed moving, except for the picture of his family. He picked it up for a moment and smiled to himself—more nostalgia, as the photo was a few years old, with Molly having a different hairstyle and Ron being several inches shorter and Percy—
...not there. He had walked out of the picture a year ago.
Arthur stormed up the stairs after him, feeling his hands ball into fists at his side. "There are some things more important than a bloody job, you know!"
Percy didn't turn, but he let out a harsh, humorless laugh. "You should talk!"
Arthur shook his head, trying to dispel the memory.
Thankfully, at that moment the door to the cramped office opened and Perkins came in. He paused at his desk, blinking blearily at the lack of posters on the wall and the missing Muggle artifacts covering Arthur's desk. "Dear me," he said, letting out a nervous chuckle. "It's starting to seem like you're actually leaving!"
Arthur smiled wanly, hefting the box into his arms. "I'm afraid so. It's all yours now, Mr. Department Head."
"Like I need the extra workload," Perkins said, but then he smiled. "'Course, once I Vanish the extra desk it'll be nice to finally spread my legs."
Arthur laughed, just as nervously, and then rearranged the box so he could awkwardly shake Perkins' hand. "I'll miss working with you, mate."
"Same here. Hope you don't get too bored without all your outlets and car motors to tinker with."
"Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss the old place." Arthur gave a lopsided smile. "But Molly's really happy that I'm taking this new job. And, well..."
He glanced down at the box, with the imperfect photo of his family lying on top. His brow furrowed.
"And what's that supposed to mean?!" Arthur demanded, coming to a stop and glaring up at the back of his son's head.
Percy finally spun around to face him, looking like he had never looked before, with his glasses slipping off of his face and his lip curled back in a furious snarl.
"I'm just saying, Father, maybe if you didn't care so much about playing with your STUPID MUGGLE TOYS, you could have gotten a job that actually let you FEED YOUR DAMN FAMILY!"
"...it's just time for me to move on," Arthur murmured, his tone quite soft and emotionless now. "And we could use the extra gold. You know...Bill's wedding coming up, that sort of thing."
"Hmm." Perkins seemed to notice the shift in Arthur's mood, but he didn't comment. "Well, good luck, then. I hope Eudora and I can see you and Molly for lunch soon."
"Of course. Definitely," Arthur said, giving him a smile that didn't look the least bit natural.
A moment later Arthur was walking down the corridor toward his new office. His eyes were clouded, and his mouth was drooping into a little frown. He couldn't seem to get Percy's face out of his head, his vicious snarl echoing in his ears.
It had been a family joke for years, even before Percy was old enough for Hogwarts. "Percy is going places." "Percy is going to become Minister for Magic." "Now, now, Perce, you're going to be nice to your old dad when you're his boss one day, right?"
Arthur had always known that his children were destined for great things. And, truth be told, he had always known that he wasn't. It had never really bothered him before that his kids might be more successful than him, or even that one of them, like Percy, would make his way up farther on the Ministry totem pole while he just hung around in his office of choice.
What did bother him was that his children might resent him for that. That they might see him fiddling away with engines and spark plugs and quietly hate him for only giving them hand-me-down robes and secondhand spellbooks. That they might think he cared more about his Muggle hobby than their material welfare.
He tried to tell himself that Percy was wrong. Arthur worked hard, after all. The Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office was a lot of work. Work that he enjoyed, true, but what was wrong with that? The family got by well enough. He didn'tneed a new job, just because Ron's pajamas were a little short and Fred and George's brooms were a little old and, well, they did have to occasionally struggle with the food budget a bit...
He wondered if Percy had heard about his promotion.
He paused at the lift, and for one wild moment he considered taking it to Percy's office, box still in his arms, and show his more-successful son that he really did want to provide for his family, that he could put real life ahead of his own peculiar hobby.
Then he sighed, looked at the Percyless picture in his box and took the lift to his new office instead.
(Fred and George)
Fred added another drop to the potion, which glowed a sudden, brilliant purple before settling back to sickly green. He leaned back in his seat, a look of triumph and awe glowing on his face.
"This will revolutionize all of Wizarding society. It could very well be the greatest discovery since Nicholas Flamel developed the Philosopher's Stone."
George raised an eyebrow. "But we don't want the laxative to be too strong, remember? There are laws about this sort of thing."
"Yeah," said Fred, who sounded rather bitter about that fact. "One of us will need to test it."
"Cheers," George said. And then, "Too bad Percy's gone." That had become their standard joke since the estrangement began, as they imagined using their brother to test all their most painful and embarrassing experiments.
Fred's face remained stoic, however, and he turned back to the cauldron to give their formula another stir. "Yeah. It would really stink if we never saw the old swot again."
George, who had been consulting their workbook, paused. He was searching for the sarcasm in his twin's voice and coming up empty.
"...Are you serious, Fred?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, giving George a curious look. "Don't you think so?"
George shrugged. "I'm not too bothered, honestly. Percy always was a bit of a prat."
"Yeah," Fred repeated. There was a long pause. "But I'm starting to think I shouldn't have thrown that parsnip at him at Christmas."
"I did that."
"Okay, so it's your fault that Mum spent the next month crying."
"Ginny did it."
Fred went back to stirring the potion, and George regarded him with a slightly confused expression. It was odd, because Fred had always been the more mischievous and impulsive of the pair—but then, he was also a bit more sensitive as well. George had just never realized "caring about Percy" was within his emotional spectrum.
George, on the other hand...well, he wasn't exactly happy that the family had been divided. He supposed he missed Percy—a bit. He replayed the Christmas scene in his head again, wondering—maybe Mum had been right, and he didwant to make up with the family? He brought Scrimgeour around to see Harry, but George supposed the two things weren't mutually exclusive. And if nothing else, Mum had been so happy for those first few minutes...
"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway," Fred decided, and his tone was suddenly a lot more cheerful. "He'll come back eventually."
George raised an eyebrow again. "What makes you so sure?"
"He has to," Fred said simply. "Just because he didn't get our family's magnetic charm doesn't mean he's immune from it. And hey—" He grinned, patting the side of the cauldron. "By then we'll have this thing perfected and ready for maximum humor."
George smirked, and their eyes locked, a moment of contentment settling over their flat once more. Then George's face fell.
"We still need to test this, don't we?"
George sighed, pulling a Galleon out of his pocket. "I call heads."
"Is that a two-headed coin?"
(Bill and Charlie)
"So...how do I look?" Bill asked, holding out his arms so that Charlie could get a good look at his dress robes.
His brother smirked. "Like a total prat."
"Ah. Perfect, then."
Bill turned back to the mirror and sighed, tracing one of his new scars with his finger. "Well, good enough, anyway. Though these might spoil the wedding photos a bit."
Charlie gave him a playful (but painful) punch in the arm. "Ah, don't worry about it! You should have heard the way Fleur was going on—oh, Beel's scars, zey make me so 'ot, I do not theenk I can make eet to ze wedding night without jumping 'is bones—"
Bill pushed Charlie away, grinning. "So, everything's almost ready out there, then?"
"Pretty much. Tent's all set up—security measures are in place—pretty much every living relative we have is here—you know, except..."
He trailed off, and Bill frowned again. He hesitated.
"You don't think there's any chance he'll show up, do you? Like at Christmas?"
Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Are you hopeful or worried? Because, you know, that ended in a food fight."
"Heh, yeah." Bill chuckled a bit, but his face remained downcast.
It felt...weird...having one of his brothers absent on his wedding day. In fact, to Bill it had never quite stopped being weird that Percy was gone. He loved all his younger siblings, but he had spent a lot more time with Percy than with any of the younger set—Fred and George had been four when he went off to Hogwarts, after all. Bill could remember babysitting Percy, teaching him to ride a broom, and a hundred other little things that suddenly seemed very important now that they were adults who rarely even spoke to each other.
"Fleur wanted the wedding party to be even," Bill said, trying to sound conversational. "You know, with a second groomsman. I considered writing to ask Percy, but..."
Charlie hesitated for a moment. "For what it's worth, I'm sure he'd want to be here with you," Charlie said. "It's just—you know. With Dad and everybody else here..."
A moment's silence passed, and then Charlie threw his arm around Bill's shoulder, forcing humor into his voice again. "Now, now, buck up. You're about to marry a smoking-hot veela babe! Who's French! I don't want to have to cast a Cheering Charm on you before we send you down the aisle."
"Okay, okay. Big smile, see?" Bill feigned a huge, toothy grin that looked faintly terrifying.
"Attaboy! And besides, at every wedding something is destined to go wrong. Think about how much worse it could be. Remember Great-Uncle Julius' second marriage?"
"Agh, don't remind me!"
"Yeah, you see? If Percy not being here is the worst thing that happens today, we can consider ourselves lucky!"
Bill's owl had returned to Shell Cottage without any return message. Bill frowned as he regarded it, then shut it in its cage and returned to the dinner table. Ron watched him quietly as he picked at his food.
"I wish I knew what this means. It might be that he just doesn't want to talk, but it might mean he doesn't feel safe saying anything without his owl being read."
"I theenk 'ee could find a way eef 'ee wanted," Fleur sniffed.
"I know. I just worry about him—right in the hornet's nest, in some ways in even more danger than Dad." He paused. "And it's Christmas in a couple days. He must be lonely."
"Eef 'ee wanted to, 'ee could come, either 'eer or to ze Burrow," Fleur repeated, taking a sip of her drink. "You need to stop blameeng yourself for 'im. Eet is not your fault 'ee chose to abandon 'is loved ones—"
Ron's silverware fell onto his half-empty plate. He was suddenly frozen, a dead look on his face.
Bill and Fleur glanced at each other before the former put his hand on his brother's arm. "You alright, Ron?"
"I—" He licked his lips, which were suddenly very dry. He pushed his chair back and stood. "I'm not very hungry. Excuse me—"
He pulled away from Bill and ran upstairs to the guestroom without another word. He threw himself down on his bed with the lights off, his breathing slower and more ragged than usual.
Bill knocked a moment later, asking if he wanted to talk. Fleur came by a few minutes after that, anxiously apologizing "eef anytheeng I said upset you." He remained silent, pretending to be asleep. It was only after he heard them turn in that he sat up on the edge of the bed and hunched his shoulders. He kept his eyes closed, listening to the sound of the waves outside his window.
It is not your fault he chose to abandon his loved ones—
—abandon his loved ones—
Ron let out a groan, covering his face with his hands.
He had hated telling Bill about what happened between him, Harry and Hermione. He hated thinking about it, and even worse was thinking about what came before it—sitting there in the tent with nothing to do, stewing. Listening to Harry and Hermione talk, feeling his stomach twist, his hands shake in anger. It was that damn locket that did it—every time he put it on he started thinking about how much he hated Harry, hated Hermione, how they had always used him and made fun of him and now they were sneaking around and probably shagging in the forest and laughing at him every time he went to sleep—
Then he'd pass the locket on and the thoughts would fade.
That was the scary thing. The locket made it all worse, but he knew...somehow, deep down...that the thoughts weren't really coming from there. They were his thoughts, his feelings, ones that he had buried but which were still festering somewhere in his brain. And every time he took off the locket, they would still be echoing in his ears. It had finally gotten to the point where he just ran away, leaving his best friends (Rat! Bitch! he had thought) to carry on their mission without him.
Ron remembered a few weeks before, when he had first seen Bill writing to Percy. "I don't see why you bother," he had said dully. "It's not like he cares enough to reply."
Bill had turned around and looked at him, then gone back to his letter. His voice had been soft but pointed. "Sometimes people get angry, Ron. Sometimes people are holding in a lot of pain. That doesn't mean they don't care."
His meaning was obvious, but Ron, horrorstruck, had spent the last several weeks trying to convince himself that his situation was completely different. After all, Percy didn't have anything to feel miserable about. Percy hadn't been carrying a piece of You-Know-Who's soul around his neck. He was nothing like Percy.
But now he remembered how shocking those horrible thoughts had been, but also so familiar, and he saw himself storming out of the tent, juxtaposed to Percy storming up the stairs away from their father...
He suddenly hoped that Percy would answer Bill's next letter.
Maybe Ron wouldn't feel so guilty if there was another traitor around to sympathize with him.
It was late at night in the D.A. Headquarters, but Neville still scratching out a letter with slow, careful quill-strokes by candlelight.
Ginny was the only one else still awake. She came over to sit next to him.
"What are you writing?"
"A letter to Edmund O'Deluga's parents."
"Oh." Edmund O'Deluga was a Hufflepuff second-year who had been caught helping the D.A. He had managed to escape from the castle, somehow. Nobody knew where he was now.
Neville sighed, putting his quill back in his ink bottle. "I don't know what to say. I can't tell them he's alright. I can't tell them he's not alright. All I can do is tell them he might turn up home soon." He paused. "I'm worried about him."
Ginny gave a mirthless scoff. "I don't know if I can worry about anybody else. There's already us, our families, Luna, Harry, Hermione..."
"Misery loves company," Neville said, smiling wryly. He picked up the quill and began to write again. A long moment passed in silence.
"Do you remember your brother? You know, the oldest one, Percy?"
Ginny stiffened. "He's not my oldest brother, just the oldest one you've met. And yeah, I remember him. Unfortunately."
"Oh. Well, that year with the Chamber of Secrets...you know, when you were kidnapped at the end—" Ginny grew even stiffer, though as far as she knew Neville did not understand exactly what had happened "—he wrote a letter for your parents. I remember him sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room...his hands were shaking the whole time—"
"What's your point?" Ginny asked loudly.
Neville's hand froze on the parchment as he turned to look at her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I just—I just think of him every time I write one of these. I just sort of...wonder what it was he finally wrote. Wish I'd asked him."
He looked away, embarrassed. He probably thought it was mentioning the Chamber of Secrets that upset her—which it did, but it wasn't the only thing. She wrinkled her nose, absentmindedly turning her wand around in her hands.
"Percy isn't really on speaking terms with the family these days. He thought siding with the Ministry was a better idea than helping the people actually trying to stop You-Know-Who."
"Oh," Neville said again. "Sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not."
Neville went back to his letter, but then, after a moment, said "I'm sort of surprised. I always got the feeling everyone in your family was really close to each other."
"We are. Percy's just made it clear that he doesn't want to be a part of our family anymore."
Neville signed his name on the letter and rolled it up. He stood, began to walk away, stopped, hesitated, and then turned back to her.
"Well—I know I didn't know him particularly well—but for what it's worth, I don't believe that. And I don't think you would, either, if you'd seen him writing that letter."
He disappeared into the tunnel, where he would pass the letter on to Aberforth to mail to the O'Deluga family.
Ginny sat in the darkness, her expression stony, trying not to think.
After all, she was worried about enough people already. She didn't want to have to add Percy to the list.
(...and One Time That They Didn't Have to Anymore)
Percy sat on the step of the Burrow's back door, staring at the yard that seemed both alien and familiar.
He was not crying anymore. though he was finding it rather difficult to breathe correctly.
He should have been happy. He had finally patched things up with his family; he was finally back at the Burrow, the place he instinctively thought of as "home" even after three years living in his own London flat. But then, just as he'd come back, just as the Weasley family was finally whole once again...
Fred had been the first one in the family to welcome Percy back when he apologized. That had honestly surprised him. Percy had never been close to him or George—in fact he had been butting heads with them constantly ever since they were children. He had expected a huge fight, with them being the last ones to acknowledge him...but no. Fred welcomed him back, and just like that he had been forgiven by everybody.
It had been astounding, that brief bit of time. Percy had not even realized how large the weight on his shoulders was until it was lifted. He went into the Battle of Hogwarts giddy—he had almost felt like Fred and George's triplet. He had been so happy that it hardly even occurred to him that something could go wrong, that Fred...Fred, practically in the same hour as he had welcomed him back, could...
Percy closed his eyes. He took another deep, painful breath.
They had buried him that morning.
The backdoor opened. Percy couldn't even muster the energy to turn around and see who it was until they spoke.
"Oh. Hey, Perce."
It was George. Percy felt as if his heart had stopped beating.
Like Percy, George was not crying, but that was because he hardly seemed to be emoting at all. As far as Percy knew he had not cried since the morning the battle ended; now his face was just blank, his voice soft and his eyes vacant. Something about it almost scared Percy. He was so pale that he almost looked like an Inferius.
Percy took another deep breath. "Hello." His voice was thick, and he cleared it, keeping his eyes on his shoes sticking out from the hem of his dress robes.
George sat down on the steps next to him. Percy wished that he hadn't. As happy as he had been to reunite with them for that glorious hour a few nights ago, at the moment Percy could not stand to be around anyone in his family. His own thoughts were too muddled and miserable, and just being in the same room as them brought on a crushing sense of guilt. Fred had been his redeemer; with him gone Percy almost felt like he had been exiled from the family again, as if he were a gate-crasher intruding on their grief.
That feeling was especially potent with George. He kept feeling like he should babble out his condolences, even though Fred had obviously been his brother as well. But of course, the two of them couldn't compare. Percy and Fred might have been brothers, but George and Fred almost seemed like two sides of a single person.
The two sat there in silence for what might have been a minute or an hour. Percy was still panting. George was very quiet as he looked out over the tangled yard, and Percy wondered if maybe he was taking some sort of comfort from the scene or was just too dazed to be feeling anything at all.
"Fred was really happy to see you, you know."
Percy turned to his brother, so surprised that all he could do was stare.
"He told me that. I mean, not after you showed up, but—before." The words were tumbling out of George's mouth in sharp gasps, as if they hurt to keep in and needed to be painfully extracted. "He told me he missed you, and I could tell he was really happy when you came back. He said you would come back eventually, and I'm glad you did. It was really important to him. I could tell."
His voice was starting to tremble now, and so was Percy's when he said "George—"
"And I'm really happy you came back when you did," George said, his voice growing louder. "Even if—it was only at the end, right before. Because he got to see you. And I—" His eyes began to water for the first time in days. "I just keep thinking—it's lucky that you showed up before the battle, because otherwise—if you had decided not to come back until like, today, or even if you were just a little late, y-you know, when the battle was halfway through or s-something—"
Percy's eyes were burning. "George—"
"Y-You would have missed him, and he was so glad—he—h-he really wanted you back, Perce, and I—I—"
Before Percy knew what was happening George's face was on his shoulder, and he was bawling, and without even realizing it Percy started to bawl on his shoulder, each of them gripping the other so tightly it was painful.
"G-George, I—I'm so s-sorry—"
They both lost the ability to speak after that and just kept sobbing, staining each other's robes with tears.
After what felt like a very long time they stopped crying but kept clutching each other, each of them trembling, neither of them speaking.
And at the very end of that long embrace, for only a moment, each of them forgot that they were supposed to missing Fred and felt a moment of contentment as they realized that they didn't have to be missing each other anymore.
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