Claim: Percy finds his way back into the Weasley family.
Rating: Light R
Pairings: All canon ships are implied and one secret ship that does not contradict Weasley canon relationships.
Summary: Seven days after the final battle, Percy receives a letter that brings him back to the Burrow for the first time in a long time.
Warnings: Language, grief, minor moments of cracktasticness and a few brief moments of slash.
Author's Notes: This fic, which sits at 10,113 words, was not easy for me to write and it practically ate my brain. With the help of luvscharlie and _starcrossed_, this fic actually makes sense now and no animals were harmed in the making of this fic. I am insanely thankful to those lovely ladies. Thanks also to the mods of hallowedmoments for organizing this for us. I do hope this is what you had in mind daysandweeks. Enjoy!
Percy shook his head, which was cradled in the palms of his hands. Hands that he wished would protect him from the insanity of his life; they were efficient hands and he was a worthy subject for peace and sanity, but they could not work miracles.
And Percy needed a miracle.
His glasses poked and pressed into the area around his eyes, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He took slow breaths in through his nose, out through his mouth and tried to convince his panicking mind that there was nothing he could not handle if he focused and proceeded calmly. Slowly, his heartbeat returned to normal and his tear ducts ceased the need to empty.
It was exactly seven days since Harry Potter saved the Wizarding World… with some help. And part of Percy, the cynical and desperate part, wished the war had never ended because this chaos was unacceptable
He peered through his freckled fingers at the slightly abused note lying between his legs, abandoned on the floor. His brother, Charlie's, handwriting was clear in red ink, flashing panic at him from when he had opened the letter not ten minutes before.
I CANNOT HANDLE THIS ALONE. PACK YOUR BAGS.
Percy took a deep breath, fighting off the panic that staying at the Burrow was inducing in his body.
He was needed.
Charlie wouldn't have sent for help if he could handle things on his own. Charlie, Percy assured himself, was a very capable man, and if he was calling for Percy's assistance there was little other options. He must go.
A shudder ran down Percy's spine as he sat up and Accio'd his trunks.
Percy decided on Apparation and a walk. Flooing in would probably be too much for his heart, which seemed to race more often than not these days, and send his senses into overload resulting in death or some similar doom. So Percy set off, his life neatly packed into two trunks shrunk to fit into his trouser pockets, and walked to the alley behind his flat, Apparating away with a quiet crack.
The village of Ottery St. Catchpole was much the same as Percy remembered. It was small but busy with both wizards and Muggles alike. Percy arrived at the Ministry (well, it wasn't much of one now) approved Apparation point and made his way to the high street and towards his childhood home.
The Burrow was a place Percy had not been to in a long time. But he had successfully avoided it for the past seven days in particular. The first two days, the family had spent at Hogwarts (mostly assisting in locating bodies and notifying families), but then they had moved back to the Burrow. Percy could only imagine how bursting it was. The thought of the Burrow in its shabby but lovable appearance confused Percy's insides. He felt that tug of home, but at the same time he felt an undeniable trepidation over old wounds, and newer, more gaping wounds, were evident in the pit of his stomach.
Fred was dead.
Percy had spent exactly four days mourning Fred. The first two, he spent in a collective mourn with his family, who had always been incredibly close. The third day, he did not return to the Burrow (he said goodbye feigning a need to feed his Kneazle), and made his way back to his flat. There, Percy had proceeded to drink himself into a stupor, cry and inflict as much physical harm on himself as possible, and effectively wallow in his own self-pity at losing the brother, he had only just regained mere moments before.
But Percy knew better than to dwell. He had wasted far too many years dwelling, letting his pride stand between him and the family who loved him. Grief was necessary, but so was knowing that Fred (insufferable, pranking bastard that he was) wouldn't have wanted even Percy to dwell on his demise. Fred should be remembered for the way he lived, always smiling, always up to some joke, for which Percy was usually the target. Fred Weasley had been full of life, and that was how he should be remembered.
And so, after concentrating on mourning his lost brother for four days, Percy cleaned his flat and threw out all the bitter pain of losing Fred with the rubbish of his binge, leaving only a wounded heart and a determination to continue.
His tasks complete at his flat, he Floo'd into the Ministry.
It was a disaster, but nothing Percy could not handle. He had made it to Minister Shacklebolt's office without too many problems. It was nice to see Shacklebolt's grateful face; he shook Percy's hand and outlined a list of things for Percy to accomplish. And then, he had thanked Percy, poured himself a drink, and marched off to put out a fire in the lifts, shouting out the name of Percy's temporary assistant, Audrey, behind him. Audrey, who Percy eventually found arguing with a rogue statue, was too capable and beautiful to truly be his assistant, but was a great help in achieving the long and unfeasible list of tasks the Minister had assigned him.
Percy smiled at the memory. Shacklebolt had approached him just before Albus Dumbledore's death, when Percy was at his wit's end with denying the truth that became more obvious with each passing day. He only needed someone to spell it out for him, confirm what he, himself, had already deduced. Shacklebolt had done that. From that point forward, Percy became a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. Percy's position at the Ministry had allowed him to provide the Order an invaluable service. He would pass on information he heard about the office, but was not ready to apologise to his family for his many mistakes. So, rather than offer up apologies Percy simply made up for his past mistakes, or at least he tried and Percy hoped he managed to save a few lives to ease the pain of ruining so many.
He had turned out of the high street and onto a small lane that would eventually lead through the forest and then on to the Burrow, when his thoughts took a different turn. Percy had been in constant contact with his family over the past three days, but had avoided the Burrow for many reasons. And Charlie, being the only brother he talked to after he started working for Shacklebolt, had understood every one of Percy's reasons. Charlie had the same reasons for wanting to stay away from the Burrow but, unlike Percy, he had not managed to avoid the confines of their childhood home.
Percy knew he was forgiven. That was never an issue. Forgiveness came easily in a family where love had no conditions…a family such as his. It was mostly the fact that he didn't feel that he deserved to be forgiven. The reconciliation with his family had been immediate and anticlimactic, but the Burrow was a place he had lost privilege to in his heart.
It also didn't help that it was going to be full to bursting with people who were grieving. Percy knew that not everybody dealt with grief like him, because not everybody's life could be worked into a time table. But Percy was not sure how a long-estranged son dealt with a family who was grieving deeply. He was soon to find out.
Percy entered the forest with a sigh and inhaled the scent of wood that he always associated with his childhood.
There was also the fact that Percy knew why Charlie had owled him. Charlie needed someone who could compartmentalize and help the various occupants of the Burrow. Each needed individual attention to deal with their various issues. Grief, exhaustion, relief, normalcy, and future were all issues for which Percy prepared himself to deal.
For once in his life, Percy felt like he was going to do something for completely selfless reasons. This was why he had accepted Charlie's owl. It wasn't out of obligation to make up for lost time, like some sort of penance. No, it was about taking responsibility for being a part of a broken family and trying his damnedest to bandage them up and return them to whole.
They needed him.
The forest dissolved around him and Percy stepped out into a clearing, a low stone wall not four steps from the space he occupied. The Burrow towered before him and a shiver ran down his spine despite the oncoming heat of the morning. It was now or never. Percy took his wand out from his pocket and tapped the stone on the wall. The wards were still up, most likely for privacy, and someone was going to have to retrieve him. Charlie said in a previous owl that Bill had set up the new regulations on the wards after people came looking for the famous Harry Potter.
Percy waited and silently braced himself for the worst. The Burrow, even from this distance, looked like it was fit to explode. A few minutes passed before Charlie stepped out the front door and jogged towards him. As he approached, Percy took in his tight smile and short hair. It seemed that yielding to Mum's hair trimming wand was a small sacrifice for the dragon tamer. He hadn't changed much since his days at Hogwarts; Charlie had always been carefree and was easily loved. His appearance was much the same, but with larger muscles and more burns adorned his body. Percy also knew Charlie had taken up the habit of tattooing his body, and there were probably many more tattoos than the last time Percy had met with Charlie earlier in the year. Despite living in different countries and Percy being technically (and temporarily) disowned from the family, things between the two brothers had always been close. Despite appearances, Percy and Charlie had always felt a connection with one another. They were the outsiders; Percy, because he enjoyed sanity, and Charlie because he was gay. Percy did not envy Charlie. Percy's difference from the rest of the Weasley clan was recognized and accepted. Charlie had yet to come out to any member of their family except Percy.
"Hey, Perce." Charlie reached his calloused hand through, clasping Percy's and pulling him through the opening in the rock wall. The wards rippled around them and Percy felt as though he was walking through a waterfall without getting wet.
"Nice to see you again, Charlie," Percy said as their hands released. He started off towards the Burrow, but Charlie's hand found his shoulder, and they turned to walk along the stone wall. Percy didn't say anything, just waited for Charlie to speak.
"Okay, I know you were trying to put this off, but I couldn't fuckin' handle it anymore." Percy nodded and tried to smile reassuringly in Charlie's direction. "But I thought we'd take a walk around so I could brief you on the situation."
Percy laughed softly at Charlie's tone of voice; it was though he was planning a tactical mission against You-Know-Who himself.
"Dad spends most of his day in the shed. It's blown up twice in as many days. Everyone knows he can't be left alone with all those crazy Muggle notions for too long. And every time he tries to comfort Mum, she throws a bloody battery at him."
"Mum won't stop cooking. I've had to invite half of the British Empire to pick up food, and she has Ron going the village store twice a day to restock." Percy shrugged; he had expected worse. "Oh, don't think it's not so bad because it most certainly is. She's been crying for four days, Perce. I've seen every type of crying there is: silent, howling, wailing, trickling, streaming. And, she keeps latching on to Ron and Bill like they are going to disappear. Fleur is goin' spare, and Ron keeps nicking Harry's invisibility cloak."
Percy nodded and watched Charlie's face while he talked. Charlie stared straight ahead or at his shoes, his expression flickering from amused to troubled with every word he spoke.
"Bill's doing alright, taking care of Mum and fighting off Fleur's suggestions that they go back home. She's like Mum on her really bad days except part hag." Charlie grimaced at the mention of Fleur. No one had ever really liked her. She wasn't bad, but she was still French and that would always be a problem. "Ron's done a nut because Hermione left today to retrieve her family, and he would be keeping the whole house up with his nightmares if I hadn't drugged everyone's drinks at dinner."
Percy bit his lip. Ron had nightmares when he was little. They were always so vivid that Percy could still remember his screams. He couldn't imagine what it would be like now that Ron had spent too long in horrors he did not deserve.
"It doesn't help that Ginny keeps transfiguring him into a tree and setting him on fire." Charlie grinned and Percy shook his head because Charlie's soft spot for Ginny and fire was never a good combination. "You know how Ginny is. Never one to hold back. She roars around the house when Harry's not there, then roars outside the house when Harry's inside. I have no idea when that happened but Merlin's balls, Perce. Make it stop."
"You know how close she was to the twins," Charlie said and Percy nodded, but he knew it wasn't just the loss of Fred that kept Ginny angry and temperamental. "Yes, she seems too young to be in love." Percy watched Charlie's face. His brow furrowed and the freckles adorning his face made him look very much the part of the scary, protective older brother.
"Um, yeah." Charlie seemed to be plotting Harry's death and pitying Harry for getting tangled up with a woman in the first place all at the same time. Percy was sure that Charlie could give You-Know-Who a run for his money. Percy spared a thought to poor Harry.
"Anyway, we haven't seen George since we got back." Despite Charlie's flippant tone, Percy saw the worry in the crinkle beside his eye. "I assume he's still in his room, only because I catch an occasional view of a Firewhisky making its way towards his room."
Charlie stopped walking. They were by the pond and Percy felt childhood memories rush over him, mixed with a feeling of sadness in knowing there would be no new memories of Fred to be made. Percy could not imagine what George was like without Fred. They were the same person…two halves of a whole.
"No one knows what to do." Charlie met Percy's gaze. There was such desperation there that Percy ached for him. They held each other's eyes for a few more moments and Percy fully understood. Charlie did not need to verbalize because Percy could not have heard him more clearly if he had actually said the words. George is dying. I don't know how to stop it. Help me. He needs you.
George needed him. He would not fail him.
"And Harry… well, you can fucking start with him." Charlie sounded both sympathetic and sore (probably because of the Ginny thing) at Harry. He stared straight ahead and Percy followed his gaze. It wasn't until now that he realised that they were not alone, nor was Charlie the only one speaking.
Percy didn't know whether to laugh or cry. If there was ever a moment to share with the world, it would have been this one. Most of the Wizarding World would have laughed to see their famous defender of all that is evil in such a state. People who actually knew Harry would not find the yelling abnormal, just the subject and his physical appearance.
Harry had gotten a haircut, probably another victim of their Mum's wand, but his hair stuck up at odd ends, cowlicks defying all normal theories of gravity. He was also covered in dirt, soil really, considering he was standing in the middle of the largest garden he'd ever seen at the Burrow and he was… well, Harry was yelling at what Percy thought was Rosemary. Not a person; the herb.
Charlie raised his hand in thanks and jogged off towards the house, avoiding the incredibly floral area Harry was occupying. Percy sighed, pushed his glasses up by the bridge, and walked towards the overflowing garden.
"Why won't you grow? I've given you everything I have. I've bloody charmed sunlight! What more do you want from me!? I SAVED THE WORLD!" Harry was red in the face and pulled furiously at his hair. A dirt clod fell from the nest of raven locks. Percy approached with caution. He was not ignorant to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
There was something about Harry screaming at an herb in a garden that made Percy feel like everything was going to be alright; like the world had finally found its way back to its original axis; like they could all go back to being themselves again- not war heroes or Ministry officials, rogue vigilantes or villains, just human beings… really beautiful, terribly flawed human beings.
A smile tugged at his lips and for the first time in longer than he could remember Percy did not resist, only slowly walked towards Harry. The garden really was quite beautiful, even if it was made of madness. There were quite a lot of flowers already blooming, so much so that Percy doubted just magic could make them look so healthy. Percy suspected some transplanting from a local store and then some really gentle wand work. If Percy remembered right, growing charms took a fair amount of concentration and patience. He tried not to laugh when he thought of 'patience' and 'Harry' in the same sentence. War hero or not, Harry Potter was a character.
Harry flailed at the intrusion. The spade in his hand went flying and in his surprise he tumbled onto a very large, flowering bush. The dirt clod dislodged from his hair and splattered against his face. Percy stifled a laugh and rushed to help him up.
"I didn't mean to startle you. I apologise, Harry."
"No. I mean, yeah. Sorry. I'm a bit jumpy."
Percy pulled Harry up by his extended hand, and then dusted off the dirt that had transferred to his hand on his trousers. Harry looked very uncomfortable. Percy silently cursed Charlie; he wasn't good with people.
Harry shifted back and forth on his feet. Percy cleaned his glasses.
"You have a very nice garden going here."
Percy tried to quell the awkward silence by looking around avidly at the blooming garden. There was a fairly large vegetable patch that bloomed into wildflowers and vines. It was like controlled overgrowth, the greenery and flowers spilled over, yet looked neat enough; weeds pulled, wilted flowers removed, and plants flourishing brightly, some of them not native to the area.
"Kingsley said you've been helping him out." Percy jerked his head up to meet Harry's eyes. They looked cautionary and curious, like poking a sleeping dragon. Percy almost laughed.
"Yes. We've been in contact for quite a while actually."
"Oh." Harry played with the spade in his hand. The awkward silence had returned. Well it had never left, but it was more noticeable without their forced conversation.
"Harry," Percy turned toward Harry and looked him firmly in the eye. "Why are you trying to recreate the Queen's garden? Charlie said you don't even like Herbology."
"How does Charlie know-?"
"Oh for Merlin's sake, Ron knows, who told Ginny in a frantic attempt to spare him from another Witches' burning, who then told Charlie because Ron is worried."
Percy flushed. Harry studied his spade.
"I just-" Harry started, his hands moving over the spade. "Plants are really easy to take care of."
Percy studied the boy in front of him. Harry's face was twisted almost in tears, but he looked frustrated and overwhelmed. Even as a part of Percy's mind told him that he was talking to the
"War is the easy part." Harry's eyes broke away from the spade and Percy was shocked to see how sad they were. "But this," he made a grand sweeping motion toward the garden. "This aftermath is the hard part. It takes time. Time that you have and…"
Harry nodded and dropped the spade he was holding into the dirt. They both watched it settle into the soil. Percy cleared his throat.
"Rosemary takes time to grow, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't let her in while you're still trying to figure out what works."
Percy refused to meet Harry's eyes as they bored into the side of his head. This was so embarrassing.
"If you don't talk to her, she's going to successfully perform permanent transfiguration on Ron and then she'll start in on you."
Percy finally stopped staring at the spade and caught Harry's eyes. They were less troubled and a smile stretched across his face, faint and worried, but a smile nonetheless. Percy nodded and then walked back through the garden, taking care not to step on any of the plants. He wiped his hands on his trousers, conscious of how sweaty his palms had become during the conversation.
Well, it was good to be home.
The Burrow's kitchen was an assault on Percy's senses, with a dozen different smells, which on their own were delicious, but combined and cramped into a small kitchen they were overwhelming and a bit nauseating. The table was piled high with baked goods, and the counters held haphazard stacks of baking dishes and containers of all shapes and sizes. Percy reckoned that the heating charms alone would be enough to set the entire Burrow aflame.
There was no one in the kitchen, which was a surprise, and a wary feeling crept over him. An empty kitchen at the Burrow usually meant trouble. A heavy sigh left him as he banished some flour from the floor and headed into the living room, his wand held firmly in his right hand. There was no need to take chances with his life when he had only recently regained the ability to live it.
Percy peeked through the swinging door. The living area looked frighteningly clean, so clean that Percy imagined Muggle surgery could be performed on any of the surfaces. His eyes swept the room as much as he could with the limited visibility. His mother was sitting on the settee; one hand was directing knitting needles while the other hand was brandishing a wand at Ron.
Percy bit his lip.
Ron was seated between his mother's legs on the floor, gently holding his neck and looking foul. The right arm of his robe looked to have been singed off, the skin beneath it red but not burnt. His hand, however, had not been spared. It was red and angry. Percy cringed. Ron's hair was also terribly short, but Percy had the feeling it was only because Ginny had set it on fire so many times that the haircut he was currently sporting was the only one that wasn't in danger of catching fire.
In fact, Ron looked much like Charlie did the first time he came home from the Reserve; tan with freckles covering most of his skin, shiny burns and his hair cut short. The only difference in the image was that Ron had a scowl ingrained into his features, while Charlie hardly ever let the world get the best of him.
Percy took a deep breath, managed to quell his laughter at the absolute absurdity of his family and pushed the door open.
"Good afternoon, Mum, Ron."
"Oh Percy, what a lovely surprise! How good of you to come home." His mother jumped from the sofa and hurried over to him. He braced for impact as she embraced him, pulling him roughly against her and clinging on for dear life. Percy wrapped his arms around her as well, fighting his natural instinct to pull away. He wasn't a tactile person, not at all. She clung on for sometime, and Percy's heart twisted a bit, partly from lack of oxygen, but mostly for his mother's pain, written so clearly in the way she clutched him. She hugged him as if at any moment, Percy would be yanked from her arms.
Percy cleared his throat only when Ron howled, as he was attacked by the unsupervised knitting needles and was bleeding all over the carpet.
Molly wiped her eyes and kissed him on the cheek, with a whispered "thank you" before going over to tend to Ron again.
"Mum, this place is hostile. I can't even leave my room without getting attacked by something or someone." Ron whinged and scowled more deeply as Percy came closer to the settee. His eyes flickered to Percy for a moment before going back to his mother.
"Oh, shush you. Ginny is going through a lot, and if she occasionally takes it out on you, then you should be happy. At least she's still here." There were a couple moments of silence before Molly burst into tears and swept from the room. Percy looked to Ron, who tried to look shocked, but only managed a pained look mixed with annoyance. They could hear the rumble of someone coming down the stairs, Bill, to attend to Molly's wailing.
Percy smiled at Ron and came to sit on the couch.
"Let me finish healing that." He inclined his head to the shiny burn on Ron's hand that was still bleeding, having been gouged with their mother's rogue knitting needles. Ron grunted in response.
"Does she do this often?" Percy moved his wand back and forth over the wound.
"Well, yeah. She's always goin' about crying. Her son sort of died, you know?" Ron sounded bitter and sarcastic. Percy raised his eyebrow.
"I was referring to Ginny transfiguring you into a tree and setting you alight."
Ron blushed all the way to the tips of his ears. Percy continued his wand work, although not as tenderly as before.
Percy nodded, thinking about what to say next and choosing his words carefully.
"You don't have to stay."
"What?" Ron said, his voice already taking on a defensive tone.
Percy refused to meet Ron's stare, concentrating instead on healing the wound before him. His voice sounded really small even to his own ears, and he silently cursed Charlie for making him think he could actually do this. Then he cursed Charlie for making him curse.
"Harry and Ginny are going to need to have it out eventually, you as the middle man in the situation is only going to prolong things. Maybe you should help Hermione. I'm sure she would appreciate the support."
Silence filled the space again.
"What do you know about any of us?" Ron's voice was quiet with anger.
Percy sighed. "I know only what I've been through, Ron. Only of the things I did and didn't do. I spend most of my days trying to make up for lost time." Percy finally looked at Ron, realising how much his younger brother had grown up since the last time they spoke properly. Percy flushed as he remembered the letter he sent Ron about Harry. "You can't fix Mum. And you certainly can't fix Harry and Ginny; they have to do it on their own. If you don't go after Hermione, she might think herself out of fancying you."
They stared at each other, Percy willing Ron to try and understand while simultaneously wondering what hex Ron would attempt if temper won out over sense.
"Yeah." Ron broke his gaze and looked down at his hand. "She might need someone when she has to tell her parents. I tried to see if she wanted me to come with, but sometimes I can't read her. Girls are fuckin' impossible."
Percy laughed, released Ron's hand and laughed some more. Ron really did have rotten luck with women; the irony of the statement was wonderful. Between Mum, Ginny and Hermione, the kid was over run with estrogen.
Eventually, Percy's laughter ceased. Ron was looking at him strangely, as if seeing him in a completely different light. Percy certainly hoped Ron was. There was an awkward moment, while Percy wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes and cleaned his glasses. It was strange to look at Ron and see someone so grown up, someone who had done more in one year for the sake of human kind than many would do in their entire lives, where Percy had once seen a little brother who was making the 'wrong' friends.
"Maybe you should go pack." Percy inclined his head to Ron. He was incredibly proud, which was an odd feeling to have. Not that Percy had never been proud of his family, but never like this. He had never felt pride bursting through his smile and encouraging words like this. He wondered if his parents felt this way everyday. Percy wondered if they still held any pride in him.
Ron jolted to his feet and nodded. Percy stood as well, biting his lip as he continued to look at his younger brother. The awkwardness was quickly filling the space, even as they seemed to have reached some sort of plateau of understanding. Percy swallowed and held out his hand.
"Owl Lee. He has some connections with the blokes running International Portkeys." Ron nodded again and slowly took Percy's hand. They shook hands quickly before Ron broke off taking the stairs three at a time. Percy smiled after him.
But the smile did not last as Percy heard a strangled yelp from the stairway and the distinct sound of angry hissing. He raised his wand and made for the staircase, which was clear, but just as Percy was cresting the top step, he was met with a hilarious, if slightly terrifying, scene.
Ginny was pacing up and down the hall with her wand pointed at what appeared to be a tree. Upon closer inspection, as Percy reached the landing, he could tell that the tree had red hair sprouting from the bark and some of the leaves made up a face that looked remarkably like Ron. If Percy was being completely honest with his knowledge, the tree was more like a large shrub. Percy paused because he didn't particularly want Ginny to be startled. There was no correlation between Ginny's size and the amount of power she had when wielding a wand. She had always been remarkable at Charms, if Percy recalled correctly.
"I am so tired of this. What the hell, Ron? Like it's my bloody fault he decided to go and actually be the fucking saviour of the world! I didn't ask him to keep me safe, locked up in a tower like some princess that will suddenly be ALRIGHT AND READY TO JUMP INTO HIS ARMS." Ginny flailed and waved her wand maniacally at Ron.
"All he does when I'm around is mumble something about Rosemary. Who in Dumbledore's name is ROSEMARY? Some slag you met while travelling? I'm sure. Well, I didn't see Rosemary cleaning his wounds after the battle or helping him cut his hair or having really incredible comfort sex with him after he died and fucking came back to life and then waking up all cuddly and innocent like he didn't already KNOW BETTER."
Percy looked from Ron-the-shrubbery, who looked fit to cry, and then back to Ginny who was shooting sparks out of her wand as she started to rant about sandwiches and the probability of travelling Veela. Percy was sure he had missed something. Although now, Charlie's caution over Harry seemed better founded if Ginny had actually slept with Harry. Percy frowned and gripped his wand tighter. If he would have known it was this complicated he would have told Charlie to jog on. He was too old for this.
"It doesn't help that he didn't get maimed in the war, walking around all broad-shouldered and sexy. Which, by the way, is your fault." Ginny paused and shoved the sparking wand into the transfigured shrubbery. "He should have been disfigured! You cannot tell me after being on the run and doing all sorts of the insane things Hermione told me about, that he didn't get brutally injured! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"
The sparks were starting to catch shrubbery-Ron on fire.
"Why are you even HERE? I can't believe you didn't go with Hermione; she was practically begging you! YOU ARE SUCH A STUPID BASTARD! THE LEAST YOU COULD HAVE DONE WAS GIVEN HER SOME GOODBYE SEX!"
The smell of burning leaves and the intense need to be kept in the dark about Hermione Granger's sex life prodded Percy to spring into action.
"Ginny." Percy stepped closer and Ginny swung around to meet him. A myriad of emotions played across her face, and Percy was reminded of Mum when they first had their row about the Order of the Phoenix and the family's loyalty to the Ministry.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice was hard, but her previous emotions over Harry were showing through in the edges of her voice.
"Currently, I'm saving Ron from being the burned by your rant about being in love with Harry."
They were both surprised at his bluntness.
Ginny shook and Percy prepared himself for a multitude of spells that could shoot from her wand. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ron cowering in a combination of sheer terror and awe. But Ginny did not use force. She simply dropped her wand and dissolved into tears. Percy took one look at Ron, who was trying to shuffle his shrubbery self down the hall in the opposite direction of Ginny, and then approached his crying sister.
"I'm not supposed to love him. He's a big, scar-faced, git." Percy sat down next to her, patting her awkwardly on the arm. Ginny crawled into his lap and sobbed into his robes. Percy tried not to show the shock he felt by Ginny's welcoming. He always thought it would be the hardest for her. She was always one to hold grudges; she still blamed Ron for breaking her first toy broomstick when she was five and had extracted revenge upon him several times.
Yet, it was easier to get used to this little Ginny curling up and being pissed off at the world for not playing fair. Percy thought that this part of his sister would never change, no matter how many years he was estranged from the family. Eventually, her sobs dissolved into tiny whimpers and very unladylike snorts.
"Rosemary is a plant," Percy said as he stroked her hair.
"Yes, a plant that he keeps as some sort of metaphorical reference to you, but I still haven't gotten that one quite figured out." Percy thought for a moment before he continued, it was best to choose his words with caution. "And remember how you had so much time to grow up and find out who you were while you were fighting off oppression? Harry didn't get to do that because he was too worried about saving the world, but more specifically, I imagine the poor bloke was too worried about saving you."
Ginny laughed into his robes and he silently cringed at the amount of bodily fluids on his shirt; no matter what the Twins had said, snot was not 'cool'.
"To top it all off, Ginny, Harry is part of the male species. We are not particularly inclined to know exactly what we want or how to say it. We tend to make mistakes when faced with very large decisions, especially when people very precious to us are involved."
Ginny hit him in the chest with her fist. It didn't hurt but the message was clear: 'Thanks for saying you're sorry, you big, fat git.'
"Although, Ginny, I must say I am a bit disappointed with your transfiguration. Is Ron supposed to be a tree or a shrub? I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to know it's Ron, and I can clearly see the red hair and a bit of freckles, not to mention the face."
Ginny disentangled herself from his embrace and laughed, making a lazy wave of her wand towards Ron's form at the end of the hallway before going down the stairs and out the back door. Percy smiled.
Then he looked down at his shirt and cringed. Not even the best cleaning spells could truly make his shirt clean again. He might as well bin it. But for now, a simple Cleaning Charm would have to suffice… and a bottle of butterbeer.
Percy smiled as he looked out the sitting room window. The sounds of family were actually not as daunting as he'd thought they would be. The clatter in the kitchen grew louder, filled with chatter and the distinct sounds of cutlery and tableware as the prospect of dinner came closer. He had seen most of his family throughout the course of the day.
After the incident with Ginny, Ron had packed away his things and, having received an owl from Lee, carted himself off to Australia to see Hermione. Ginny seemed quite pleased with his absence, although Percy had reason to believe she had yet to approach Harry.
Percy wasn't entirely sure he wanted to be around when that particular confrontation occurred. His sister could be as frightening as his Mum, yet she was as mischievious as the twins…had been.
That was one person Percy had yet to see for the day. He had mentioned it to Bill and received only a tired smile in return for his concern. It seemed as if Bill had given up, leaving their brother to rot inside his room for the rest of eternity. Although Fleur had burst into the room before Bill could say anything more on the subject and had dragged him off to look at housing listings.
It's not like Percy could blame Bill if he had, indeed, given up on George. Bill was holding up Mum and Fleur at the same time and would have had to deal with Harry, Ginny, and Ron, if Charlie hadn't called for help.
Percy hadn't gotten a moment alone with Arthur, but he wasn't sure why. Everything, although better than it had been when Percy first arrived this morning, had not been completely solved. Percy doubted it ever would be.
Charlie walked into the room, and Percy turned to greet him, still sitting in the chair beside the window. Charlie looked nice. His hair seemed to have acquired some sort of gel substance and his clothes looked pressed and clean. Percy noted that Charlie hadn't shaved, but it was probably intentional, for some sort of rugged effect. Percy raised his eyebrow in greeting as Charlie sat, or rather plopped, down onto the chair's armrest with alarming aloofness.
"Heard you tackled quite a bit today?"
"Well, Mum has only cried a handful of times and I've found an orphanage to send all her baked goods." Charlie nodded and Percy continued, feeling as if he was giving a report to the Minister. "I saved Ron from Ginny and he's off to Australia. Ginny looks to be in better spirits, but I'm sure Harry is in for it now. I did have a minor discussion with him about the merits of life, but I'm not entirely sure if they sank in."
Percy raised his second eyebrow at his brother who had started to fidget with his watch and rub his left foot against his right calf. Some things about Charlie had yet to change from his adolescent habits.
"Is there something you'd like to share?"
"Oh, yes. Well, I'm going out for a bit and usually it's my detail to go talk George into coming to dinner."
Percy smiled. "Going out, are you?"
"You are the most awkward homosexual I know." Charlie flailed a bit and almost fell off the arm of the chair, having to brace himself against Percy. He had flushed, his tan skin turning a tomato colour and Percy noticed the tail of one of Charlie's tattoos flicker near his neck.
"Don't say that!"
"I can't believe you haven't told them yet. Charlie, how stuffy is it in that ridiculous closet of yours?"
"Was that a joke?"
"Are you going to leave for your date as I fend for myself over dinner and George, or are you going to stand here and argue with me about your sexuality?"
Charlie shook his head and smiled before he knocked Percy over the head. Percy clutched his head with one arm and laughed. Although many thought it was remarkable that Percy could conjure up humour, he really could. Charlie brought out the best of brotherly affection in him, but he really wished Charlie would just tell their parents already.
Charlie got up and walked towards the front door, pausing to re-cuff one of his sleeves. Percy grinned and turned away from him to face the window.
"Will you be back tonight?"
"Do be cautious."
Percy practically heard Charlie blush before he walked out the door, called him a 'snot-nosed wanker', and sauntered down the path until he was outside the wards. Percy grinned and got up, looking cheerfully at the stairs. There was no time like the present especially if he was in this good a mood.
Percy nodded at Bill as he passed, and Bill rolled his eyes, waving him off as if he would never see Percy again.
As a child, the twins' room was always a constant source of annoyance and fear. There were always loud bangs and symphonies of noises coming from behind the door and through the walls. Percy had hated them for the fun they had together, and they had played some of their most 'creative' pranks on him in return. Now, Percy wasn't sure if he should look back on that fact and be proud or disappointed for not taking the chance to bond with them when he could.
The door was still the same as ever. A small wooden plaque was nailed crooked onto the door, it read; Here Lies Gred & Forge, BEWARE. But there were no signs of smoke coming from underneath the door, and Percy was certain… fairly certain the doorknob was no longer jinxed. He paused and listened for sounds. None came. It was eerily quiet. Percy contemplated knocking, but he imagined the Silencing Spell on the room was strong enough to block the sounds of his knocks, not to mention the heavy duty Locking Spell George had placed on the door.
Percy stepped back and thought about the most logical way to approach the obstacle. He could go around it and cut through the wall, but the spells there might backfire. He could levitate himself up through the window, but that seemed far too intrusive. Percy looked at the door once more before he smiled and tapped it four times in each of the corners. He muttered four different spells and then stepped out of the way.
Twenty seconds later, the door fell to the ground silently, leaving only a cloud of billowing dust to indicate that it had fallen at all. Percy closed his eyes, took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold… only to backtrack alarmingly fast.
It was disgusting, terrifying and completely repulsive.
"What the fuck you do that for?"
George came stumbling out of the corner, and Percy fought to urge not to sick up all over his trainers. George smelled horrible, an odor so pungent that Percy immediately cast a Scourgify on him from halfway across the room. It was a reflex. He couldn't help it. George stumbled into the light of the hallway, and Percy gasped though only slightly. It looked as if George hadn't cut his hair for nearly a year, and there seemed to be dried blood on the left side of his head, and the clothes that he was wearing seemed to be four sizes too large for his too thin frame. The twins had always had a build much more like Charlie's, but looking at George now, Percy would say he was much more the size of Bill and himself.
"Percy?" George slumped onto the doorframe and frowned at Percy. "Fuck. Perfect, Prefect Percy come 'round to grovel."
Percy steeled his nerves, pushed his glasses up his nose and gripped his wand tightly as he pushed past George, who still smelled a bit musky, and into the room. The room was worse than it had appeared from the hall. There were various degrees of rubbish, mostly empty crisp bags and even emptier bottles of Firewhisky. Percy's lip curled in disgust as he swept through the room and banished everything. He came across several items of clothing, but he couldn't tell which kind of clothing they were, dirty or clean, and therefore sent them to the bin.
"Ge'out." George was still slumped against the doorframe, but he had turned to watch Percy, his eyes unfocused and his brow furrowed in anger. "Get th' fuck outta here, you murderin' bastard!"
Percy took a deep breath and cast several more Cleaning Charms on the linens and curtains, then moved to open the window.
"Actually, I'm supposed to sleep in here." Percy continued to banish hidden pieces of rubbish and extremely smelly bits of unidentified objects as he bustled about the room, hoping that he if kept moving George wouldn't be able to hex a moving target.
"See, Fleur and Bill have Bill's old room, and Charlie was rooming with Ron, but now Ron has left for Australia." Percy looked up from where he was casting a Scouring Charm on a bureau. "He sends his regards."
"Why are you bloody here?"
"I would have gladly shared with Charlie in Ron's old room, but I suspect our charming older brother will have some company this evening. My old room has been turned into storage, so I can't very well sleep there, and Ginny's room is always off limits. I have no idea where Harry is going to be sleeping." Percy paused as he thought of one place Harry could sleep but then shook it head, it was better not to think of his sister like that. "So, I figured I would clean up a bit before dinner, seeing as how you've done absolutely nothing."
Percy stopped and looked around the room. It was clean now, not perfect, but certainly sterile enough to live in for the time being. He was considering what charm to use on the ceiling when George knocked into him from behind and sent him clambering to the floor with George on top of him and his wand knocked under the bed.
"I don't have a fuckin' thing to do!" George growled out against Percy's ear and Percy gasped out of surprise and turned over, only to be punched in the jaw. Percy yelped, pushing at George with all the body parts he could because his hands were not free yet and it made him incredibly vulnerable. George simply threw punches at all of Percy's moving body parts. Most of the words coming from George were completely unintelligible. But the tears were flowing heavily down his cheeks and Percy was reminded just how fresh George's wounds were.
"You have no right to come in here-" Percy shouldered into George and sent him sprawling to the right, there was a loud clunk and Percy scampered to his feet. George had hit his head on the bedframe, but looked up without malice, only desperation and a loss of hope.
"I do too. I do not know who you think you are George Fabian Weasley." Percy pointed his finger at George and tried not to wince at the bruises that were surely blooming under his skin. "But the whole family is grieving because they lost a brother, too."
George opened his mouth to protest, but Percy stomped his foot.
"I am not trying to discredit your sorrow. But I'm telling you that you have obligations to this family, and if you do not pull yourself together and try then you might end up losing more than one family member!"
George blinked from the floor and sat up against the post. Then he started to laugh, it was a bitter laugh that seemed like it was stretched thin and rattled inside his empty chest. Percy shivered.
"You," George gasped his voice cruel. "You are standing there giving me a lecture about obligations to family? What about your obligations, Percy? What about when you left us ALL? And then you had the nerve to come back and not protect him! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT HIM! HE WAS YOUR FUCKING OBLIGATION, YOUR BROTHER DAMMIT!"
George was sobbing and Percy felt his own tears sting his eyes, but he did not falter.
"The difference, George, is that I'm here. I'm back and I'm trying to put the pieces back together even if they don't fit together very well anymore. But you've just let it all go to piss without a second thought to Mum or Dad or anyone else."
Percy hissed out his own words and looked away, guilty of not being able to stare in the sallow of George's eyes. But he felt tired to the very marrow of the bone. As if this one conversation had sucked all the hope out of him and replaced it with neverending loss.
Percy looked back to George, but he was curled on the floor in a tight ball. Percy took a step towards him.
"I said get out." George's voice was tired but determined, and Percy nodded to himself before retreating back to the door. He paused there and rested his head against the frame.
"Fred would be ashamed." Percy flicked his wand and replaced the door as the sobs echoed throughout the room and into the hallway. His emotions flickered from rage to exhaustion, his appetite no longer a thing of the present.
Percy dragged himself to his old room, wading through the dozens of boxes and various Muggle instruments until he found a small open area. He conjured himself a blanket and pillow and sunk to the floor.
Sleep came fast, but certainly not easy.
The sound of his stomach rumbling woke Percy in the middle of the night. He fumbled for his glasses, which had found their way off his face in his slumber and slid them back on his face. He rubbed tiredly at his eyes underneath his frames before getting up and stretching. The floor wasn't terribly uncomfortable, but it wasn't nearly as comfy as his old bed in the Burrow had been or the mattress in his flat.
He smiled at the thought of his flat, serene and welcoming, a place where he could retreat from the rest of the world.
His stomach rumbled.
Percy smiled and got up, picking his way though the boxes and out the door of his former bedroom. Idly, Percy wondered how long he would be sleeping there. He closed the door behind him and made his way down the hall. He walked quietly, almost without thinking; he steered around the creaking floor boards. It was funny how easily it was to settle back into the Burrow, as if he had never left his childhood home for more than a few days at a time. He walked past George's room, only to double back.
The door had been reattached but it was no longer closed. Percy stopped and stepped into the room, barely over the threshold. The open window flooded the room with moonlight, illuminating three figures. Molly and Arthur sat on the bed with their backs leaning against the wall and each other fast asleep. George's head was asleep in Mum's lap.
Percy nodded his head and traced the doorframe with his hand. It was moments such as this, when he came to realise time and again how important family was. These were the moments that kept him coming back to the Burrow.
He backed out of the doorway and continued to the first floor. Bill's door was closed and silent, as was Ginny's. Percy didn't stop to think if Harry was inside with her; it was too disturbing a thought to dwell upon. It did make Percy smile to imagine how much trouble Harry had gotten himself into by falling in love with Ginny. But he seemed to be fairing alright, considering the circumstances and the general mystery of the female conscience. Harry was lucky though, and Percy thought he deserved to be lucky about more than just escaping death for once in his life.
He moved down the stairs with a bit of pep in his step. The thought of food was promising, and the thought of a nice, warm cup of tea made his insides ache with want. There were some things Percy certainly did not like going without; his tea was one of them, and it had been breakfast since his last cuppa.
He reached out his hand to open the kitchen door, his other hand already drawing his wand to ready the kettle. The door had only opened a crack before Percy stopped and almost dropped his wand at the sight before him.
Charlie stood in the middle of the kitchen in only his pants, embracing-no, snogging another male of equal nudity. Charlie's tattoos were shifting over his skin, the end of a dragon tail was curling over his shoulder and swaying back and forth. A new tattoo was displayed wrapping around his hip, the dragon's head breathing fire across Charlie's lower back.
Percy shifted from one foot to the other, trying to speak or move, but all he could do was open and close his mouth. He couldn't completely see the man with his brother other than the top of his blond hair and the occasional glimpse of his chest and hands as they bumped and moved over Charlie.
Charlie and the other man, blond and lithe compared to Charlie, continued to kiss rather passionately until the blond man pulled away and kissed his way down Charlie's neck. Percy's eyes felt as if they were about to spontaneously combust. Charlie threaded his fingers through the other man's hair, almost tenderly and Percy's emotions moved from shocked and terrified to curious and embarrassed to have intruded on such a tender moment. Especially for Charlie, who hardly had 'tender' as a constant attribute.
"Goodness, I missed you." Charlie's words were husky and warm and it made Percy feel extremely uncomfortable, willing his brain and body to wake up so he could leave before something more graphic happened.
The other man looked up, raised an eyebrow and sneered, "You say that solely because you've been thoroughly shagged."
Percy frowned. He recognized that voice.
"Maybe," Charlie tilted the blond's head up and towards his mouth. Their lips were practically touching and Charlie smiled, the blond pursed his lips. Percy sensed this was something the two of them had fought about before.
"But I'm starting to think, Mal, that I don't just keep shaggin' you for your pretty-boy looks and troubled youth."
Charlie pressed a kiss to the man's mouth and the man, this 'Mal', kissed back, and they shifted so that Percy got a full view of the man's face. 'Mal' reached one hand up to cover Charlie's chest. The kiss broke and they both opened their eyes, the man smiled and Charlie curled his hand over the man's fingers, which were clutching Charlie's hip.
"If you're trying to tell me you love me, then you must know you're doing a tragic job of it, Weasley."
Oh dear Lord.
It must have been the 'Weasley' that triggered his memory. A dozen different images of the man tangled against Charlie flew into Percy's mind, younger images, but definitely the same person.
Draco Malfoy was this 'Mal'.
Percy's mouth hung open in shock, and he really did drop his wand this time. He scrambled to pick it up, his body finally catching up with everything his mind was slowly comprehending.
"Terribly sorry… just hungry… sorry to intrude…" Percy babbled as he retrieved his wand, but his fingers kept slipping around the wand like they were coated in butter. Percy cursed and made two additional grabs at his wand before he successfully picked it up and straightened. Both Malfoy (former DEATH EATER his mind screamed) and his brother were looking at him; Malfoy with disgust and mildly disguised fear and his brother with concern and surprise.
"What the fuck happened to your face, Perce?"
Charlie untangled himself from Malfoy and quickly approached Percy. Percy frowned and touched his face, but couldn't feel anything wrong with it. Charlie grabbed Percy's face and gently tipped it towards the light as if he were holding a piece of spun glass.
"Seriously, Perce, these are some nasty bruises."
Percy flushed with cognition. "Ah," he said and winced as Charlie prodded his cheek with a very blunt finger. "George and I got into a bit of an altercation."
Percy looked away from Charlie's guilty and concerned eyes trying to find anywhere else to put them. He looked over Charlie's shoulder, only to find Draco Malfoy staring back with raised eyebrows and faint amusement, so Percy looked away. He instead, busied himself with examining the tattoo on Charlie's stomach which looked like a smattering of ancient runes. He didn't have time to decipher them all, mostly because they seemed to be foreign runes, before Charlie was raising his wand to Percy's face.
"Hold still." Percy nodded, but Malfoy appeared at his side with surprising speed and grace.
"Charlie, you couldn't heal a human to save their lives, bloody Neanderthal," Malfoy said, as he pushed Charlie, who was smirking affectionately at Malfoy, out of the way with his sharp hip bone. Malfoy raised his own wand to Percy's face. He flicked his wand several times, and Percy felt a cooling sensation. Several more flicks had him smelling strongly of mint and eucalyptus.
Malfoy backed away with a sneer, but ran into Charlie's chest. Charlie wrapped an arm around Malfoy's stomach.
"Oh, how you cling." He scoffed, but didn't move away from Charlie. He simply looked away from Percy and studied the clock on the wall with mild interest.
"What happened with George?"
Percy blinked again and took a deep breath. It had been one hell of a day, so he motioned with his hand dismissively and moved toward the kettle. If he needed tea before this incident, he needed tea and whisky now.
There was shuffling and hushed conversation behind him, but Percy kept on preparing his tea. When he turned around Malfoy was gone and Charlie looked at him apprehensively.
"Are you alright with all this?" Percy took a sip of tea; it was a bit scalding.
"The part where you are sleeping with a former Death Eater and snogging him half-naked in the home we grew up in or the fact that you call him by some dim pet name? I mean Mal? Really?"
Charlie's eyes widened for a few seconds before his face relaxed and he laughed, breathless and relieved. Percy smiled into his tea and mentally took a deep breath. He'd seen weirder things. Charlie nodded and smiled moving over to the door of the kitchen.
"Oh, but Charlie," Percy said as Charlie opened the door to walk up the stairs. He looked back over his shoulder, the dragon tattoo twitching at his lower back. "If you don't tell Mum soon, I will."
Charlie sighed but nodded and gave a twitch of a smile. Percy caught a glimpse of him taking the stairs three at a time through the swinging door. He turned back to the counter and the leftover food, flicking towards it with his hand. He cradled his tea in his hands and breathed in deeply.
Life suddenly looked a lot brighter.