by Seriana Ritani
It was late summer. The crowd at the Burrow had retreated to the living room, driving off the chill of the early fall rainstorm with a blazing fire. The world outside was full of fear and danger, but inside everything was familiar and warm. Mr. Weasley was taking apart a toaster. Ron and Harry, who was back for the last bit of the holidays, were engaged in a chess game on the hearth. Hermione, true to form, was curled up in an armchair with an enormous book in front of her. Fred and George had Apparated in for dinner and were now doing their bookkeeping, papers and receipts spread out across the coffee table. Mrs. Weasley was trying without success to teach Ginny how to knit, despite heroic efforts on the part of both participants. The environment was familiar and comfortable, in spite of all that had happened and all that was expected to happen.
Then someone knocked at the door.
Ill get it, Mrs. Weasley offered, letting go of Ginnys knitting needles and leaving her to clutch them in her sweating fists and try to force the yarn to cooperate. Crossing the kitchen, she opened the door and gasped.
Percy was standing on the threshold.
He looked awful. His robes were rumpled, and the hems were three inches deep in mud from crossing the yard. His hair appeared to not have been tended for days. His eyes were bleary and swollen from lack of sleep.
Mum? he asked hesitantly, his voice shaking.
Percy! Mrs. Weasley shrieked. She threw her arms around him and promptly began to cry. Percy hugged her back, for once just as emotional as his mother.
Im sorry, Mum, he sobbed into her shoulder. Im so sorry . . .
The entire family had dashed into the kitchen. Ron was still holding his bishop, which was yelling shrilly. No one noticed.
Never mind, never mind, Mrs. Weasley told him, choking and crying. Oh, Percy, youre home!
She let him go before she suffocated him and pulled him inside, only to have Ginny run at him and grab him around the neck. He hugged her as he hadnt since before her first year at Hogwarts, before he had grown up, when he had been her brother instead of her boss. Ginny . . .
Percy, Percy, Percy, Percy . . . She gave him another solid squeeze, to make sure he was real, then stepped back. She knew she had to wait a minute, as did Fred, George, Ron, Hermione, and Harry. Mr. Weasley was really the one that Percy needed to see.
Arthur was trying to be expressionless, but he was doing a poor job. Anyone who knew him could see the hurt in his eyes, memories of all the cruel things that Percy had said and done. Everyone who had been present for their last fight suddenly recalled it -- the fury in their voices, and the seemingly irreparable bitterness. It had been a long year of not speaking to one another, pretending they didnt exist. Some wounds could run too deep.
The two looked at one another, both trying to be calm, emphasizing the similarity in their long, thin faces, obviously father and son.
Mr. Weasley was the first to speak. You came back, Percy.
I had to, said Percy. I just . . . everythings gone so wrong, and I needed to come home. Im so sorry, Dad. I know how horrible Ive been to you, and Im sorry. I know I dont deserve . . . He was on the verge of crying again. Mr. Weasley stepped forward and embraced his estranged third son, and suddenly neither of them could hold back tears.
Hermione, both hands over her mouth, tried to breathe and ended up hiccoughing instead. Harry watched her to make sure she wasnt going to choke from emotion, but Ron seemed to be in shock, staring at Percy. Fred and George could probably think of any number of things to say, but for once in their lives had figured out when to bite their tongues.
Percy and Mr. Weasley finally let go of one another and Ginny jumped in for another hug. Then Percy embraced his youngest brother and then held him at arms length, looking him over, trying to figure out how he could have grown so much in a year. Im so sorry, Ron.
Sokay, said Ron incoherently. It wasnt a very eloquent thing to say, but it was heartfelt.
Welcome home, Perce, George offered. He shook his brothers hand and clapped him on the back.
Im sorry I called you a pinhead, Percy, Fred offered. And a git. And an insufferable prat.
I deserved every one, dont be sorry. He finally turned to Harry, who had been standing off to the side with Hermione, trying not to invade on the family moment. Im sorry for everything I said about you, Harry. I was an idiot.
Well, yeah, you were, Harry admitted, But its okay. Im just happy youre back.
Oh, Percy, Im so glad, Hermione said earnestly.
And Ive quit at the Ministry, Percy announced. Said some rather horrible things to Mr. Fudge. Im not getting back in.
Good on you, Perce, said George. Youll replace him anyway, in an election or two.
The corner of Percys mouth turned up in a suggestion of a smile -- he seemed to be out of practice -- at the sound of his younger brothers encouragement. You think so?
Youre soaking wet, Percy, come inside and get warm, Mrs. Weasley ordered. Fred, George, get your things off the couch. Ron, put the kettle on. Ginny, get the door, please.
Ginny shoved the door closed, shutting out the night, and went to celebrate. Let the storm outside rage as it would -- the Weasleys were together again, and there was nothing that together they couldnt bear.