Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart
Author’s Notes: Thanks very much to Gwynne
for beta reading my fanfic! The title I stole from Yeats and his poem The
Circus Animals’ Desertion.
Percy’s head had to be in a vice. There was
no other way to explain the pounding headache, the feeling that his skull was
fractured and ready to burst. He could hear the blood rushing past his temples
and wished that it would quit the horrendous racket.
A low, animal whine welled up in his
throat, passing through a mouth as parched as a desert cave and lips cracked
and dry. The noise produced a stabbing in his skull that almost made him whine
again, but he managed to stop himself.
Percy forced himself to take stock of the
rest of his body. Almost as great as the pain in his head was the agony
radiating from his gurgling belly. Either he was hungry or going to throw up –
he didn’t care to find out which, and hastily moved on to inspecting the rest
of himself. His arms and legs were spread; he was fully clothed, lying against
something soft. Percy pushed down on it a couple of times with his left hand.
Mattress, he determined. He dared not open his eyes; the only thing protecting
those raw, stinging orbs from the ravages of open air were his parched eyelids
– which were hardly adequate protection.
Percy lay on the bed, breathing slowly,
fighting past his pain and discomfort to remember how he got to this state.
Colours and unrelated scenes flashed in his
vision as his mind oozed along at a slug’s pace, trying to pick up any crumb of
memory and form a clear picture. Something stirred. A timid voice whispered
that perhaps he shouldn’t try to remember, that he should just get up, wipe his
face, go to work and then….
The Ministry. Cornelius Fudge. The Death
Eaters. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. A failure, a fool, in prison and…back.
He’d learned about You-Know-Who’s return on
Friday night after Fudge’s speech to the Prophet, just like most
Ministry workers. Saturday was a haze of scribbling, drafting memos, reading,
searching through notes – Percy couldn’t remember what about. He only knew that
yesterday Fudge had muttered for him to go home and get some rest. The article
had come out yesterday. Not some stupid piece in the Quibbler but on the front
cover of The Daily Prophet!
When Fudge had told him to go home, all the
tenuous threads that had held Percy Weasley together finally snapped.
Alarm skittered through his system before
he remembered that, fortunately, he’d been away from work when that happened.
Percy was sure he had shock to thank for that. He’d staggered through the day, Apparated
home, and done something he’d only heard others talk about, but something he
knew was very adult and very appropriate for the circumstances: poured himself
a stiff drink.
He hadn’t been able to get it right, of
course. He could gulp a small glass of Firewhisky in the Leaky Cauldron with
other Ministry workers, but he just plain didn’t like the stuff. What he had in
his flat was wine suitable for a Junior Assistant who would occasionally invite
a guest or two over. He’d had four bottles when he walked in.
He surfed through blurred memories and
figured out how many he had left. The response was a dismal two.
the thought, one he agreed with wholeheartedly. But a private one, at least.
And could anyone really say he didn’t deserve to drown himself after…after…
His soul shrivelled, begged not to hear,
but his mind continued mercilessly.
Leaving my family in a wretched fit of
pride only to find that they were right all along? To know that I’ve wounded
the people who cared about me since birth? Making them hate me? Cutting myself
off from my roots, my childhood, my home?
Ah yes. He’d found himself thinking those
thoughts a lot last night. They’d surged through his brain, clung to its folds
and crevasses like fungus – it would take far more than a good soaking of wine
to get them out.
At least he hadn’t done anything stupid (nothing
that he remembered, at any rate). He remembered talking to no one…babbling,
actually, his voice cracking and entire body clenched as he fought against the
shame that gnawed at him with Crucio-sharp teeth. He remembered drinking
– obviously – and winced as he remembered staining the pale grey carpet of his
living room with red wine. He’d have to Scourgify that. But what next?
…He had a quill in his hand, was slopping
ink over parchment, writing…
The terrifying thought made his eyes spring
open and jerked him upright, after which he couldn’t think of anything. The air
against his eyes was sandpaper, the contents of his stomach sloshed, the back
of his throat was moistened not by saliva but bile. And his head pulsed in
agony. Percy gasped, whined, and stared up at the ceiling, blinking rapidly. He
took deep breaths through clenched teeth. The warm wetness at his throat abated
slowly, his stomach went back to its dull ache, but the headache remained with
He decided that thinking would be best, not
movement. The letter….
He remembered vaguely what he’d written. He’d
written about how sorry he was for leaving his family, how if they’d just
accept them back he’d be whatever they wanted him to be, how he hated them all
with a fiery passion and he knew they despised him in return. He was little
more than a gnome that should be tossed out of their lives forever, and they
were Crups and jackals that had always nipped at his heels, ready to tear him
apart at any sign of weakness (surprisingly poetic, mused the tiny part
of him unaffected by the horror of the memory). He was worthless and loved them
and wanted to crawl back to them even if they could never forgive him; he could
never forgive himself for even now still hating them.
How he’d managed to tie it to Hermes’ leg,
he never knew. But he’d done it. And what directions had he given his owl?
Through the throbbing of his head, Percy tried to remember to exact words.
“Just get out, stupid bird. Take this
to…no,” he’d sobbed – God, he’d been crying. Percy couldn’t help but grind his
teeth at his childishness, but reminded himself that only his owl had seen it.
“No, no one in that…the Bu…that house.
Never there. I can’t – they’d throw it away, like I threw, threw Mother’s
letter away, sent back her jum— jumper. Take it to someone who cares, anyone,
just get it…out of my sight.”
When Hermes had stared back at him, Percy
had growled and opened a window, leaning too far forward and almost tumbling
out in the process. “Get!” he’d snapped, his vision already blurring around the
edges. Hermes had given a reproachful hoot and a glare, but flapped off.
To someone who cares. How would an owl
interpret that? Could they interpret such a vague order? Hope spluttered to
life within him. Yes. Of course. Post owls couldn’t be expected to drop off
something without explicit directions. They were just animals. Gloriously
Percy sighed, some of the tension flowing
out of him. And now he had to get ready. Ready to…well, he wasn’t sure. He
didn’t want to think of his options. But he knew he wanted to feel better.
He turned toward the brown bedside table of
his flat and saw, much to his relief, a fuzzy outline of his glasses. He put
them on, ground his teeth, and slowly got to his feet. Whining a bit as his
various complaints acted up, he mustered his courage and laboriously made his
way towards the bathroom just down the hall, which was luckily only a few steps
away from his bedroom.
He hissed angrily as he flipped on the
light switch for the bathroom. Damn Muggles. Damn Muggles and their harsh
lights that made his eyes boil like lava. He turned the tap on, laid his
glasses down on the counter, and began splashing his face with water. The cool
liquid was soothing on his face, but even better in his mouth, and Percy soon
cupped his hands and slurped up as much water as he could.
Once his thirst was finally quenched and
his tongue didn’t feel like a sock filled with lead, Percy reached for the
blurry outline that he knew was a towel and dried his face off. He slipped on
A casual glance in the mirror turned to a
stare as Percy took in just how shabby he looked. His eyes were puffed up, the
undersides shaded with violet. His hair was ruffled like the fur of a startled
cat, he had some crust in the corner of his mouth, his nice blue work robes
were wrinkled and there was a large stain running down the front. But the worst
were his eyes. Each blood red, criss-crossing vein in them stood out, the
vibrant colour detracting from the brown of his irises. There was hardly a
place for white.
He grimaced, and the wretched face grimaced
back. Sighing, he searched his robes for his wand. A tingle of panic raced
through him when he came up with nothing.
It’s all right, he thought firmly. It must have fallen out while I slept.
A hiss managed to intrude on Percy’s
consciousness. A jolt ripped down his spine. Turning away from the monster on
the other end of the mirror he stared in the direction of the noise. Was it an
intruder? What kind of intruder would hiss? Did he need his wand?
No, not yet. He’d take a quick peek first,
see what it was, then if it was dangerous, get his wand. Not that it was
dangerous. After all, who’d want to hurt him? He was only…only the Minister’s
Junior Assistant, and a Weasley….
Percy had just determined to go fetch his
wand when a low, human voice came over the constant serpentine hiss.
“Hello darkness, my old friend…”
Percy froze. Was someone casting a spell?
Percy reached for his wand, growing more and more frustrated as his fingers
closed on air instead of wood. But this didn’t sound like a spell…
“I’ve come to talk to you again…”
It was a song. A slow, mournful song. Percy
stumbled out of the bathroom, and soon found himself overlooking the kitchen of
He knew that form anywhere, though the
clothes were Muggle instead of Hogwarts robes, and the hair shorter than he
remembered it. Penelope Clearwater stood with her back to him, in front of the
stove, her wand on the counter beside her and a wooden spoon in one hand.
The memory of her Howler-magnified voice
echoed through his brain. “ALL OF MY FRIENDS WERE ASKING ME WHY I DIDN’T KNOW
YOU WERE COMING TO THE YULE BALL, AND I DIDN’T HAVE AN ANSWER! HOW COULD I TELL
THEM THAT MY ‘BOYFRIEND’ HAS OWLED ME ONE LETTER SINCE THIS SUMMER, AND
THAT LETTER ONLY TALKED ABOUT HIS MARVELOUS PROMOTION! I’VE OWLED YOU MILLIONS
OF TIMES! OH, I KNOW YOU’RE BUSY, IGNATIUS, SINCE YOU WERE SO KIND TO
MENTION THAT DURING THE THREE WORDS YOU DEIGNED TO GIVE ME AT THE BALL!
I STARED AT YOU THE WHOLE NIGHT, WONDERING IF YOU WOULD NOTICE ME, AND YOU
BARELY LOOKED MY WAY! AM I WORTH ANYTHING TO YOU, PERCY WEASLEY? BECAUSE IF I
AM, YOU HAD BETTER START ACTING LIKE IT!” He remembered the surprised,
worried look of his mother as she walked into his room and asked tentatively if
she’d heard that correctly.
He and Penny had formally broken up by owl,
as he didn’t have time to come down to Hogwarts to see her due to his workload.
Yet Penny was here, singing softly. It
didn’t seem that the Howler was on her mind.
“Late at night while I was sleeping…” she
hummed a few notes, adding the word, “creeping…” at the end of the verse.
“And the vision, that was…” she continued,
only to stop abruptly.
Percy froze. Had she sensed his presence?
“No, why would it be strain?” Penny
murmured distractedly. She poked the eggs with her spoon, tilting the pan
slightly as she did so. Percy remembered Penny saying that she had often cooked
for her younger sister. Right now he wished Penny gone from the face of the
earth; his stomach was heaving at the thought of food.
“Ah!” Penny said suddenly, pleased with
herself. Her song continued. “And the vision that was planted in my brain,
still remained, within the sound…of silence.”
Percy took another step – and the
floorboard creaked loudly, easily shattering the final word of the tune. Penny
ceased all movement for three seconds, until she became animated, turned, and
moved forward to get a better look at him. Her face was a delicate pink, which
could have been from the heat of the stove or the embarrassment of being caught
“Percy,” she stated. “Hello.” She gestured
back to the pan. “I was just about to wake you. Breakfast will be ready in a
few seconds. Just sit down. Unless of course you’d rather I get the Temperance
Enchantment out of the way now, but I don’t quite want to leave these yet.”
She sounded so professional.
“Eggs would be--” he tried to stamp down
the sour-tasting surge rising inexorably up his throat, “f…fine.”
“Oh,” Penny said as if she’d just
remembered something, and picked up her wand. “Accio bucket,” she said –
and a bucket Percy didn’t know he had flew towards her. She checked on the
“Well, if you have to throw up now, try to
move toward the bucket,” she muttered as she set it down.
No amount of blinking would moisten Percy’s
horribly red eyes; nor did it seem to help him understand the situation.
“Don’t…think I have to,” he said
unsteadily, drawing himself up in an attempt at dignity.
Penny nodded curtly, set out two plates,
and laid the eggs down on them.
Percy had lived through too many of Fred
and George’s pranks. He’d seen fake brain splattered over walls, smelt the
stench of Dungbombs, seen spurting blood, been attacked by a Transfigured
snake, watched a spider the size of a small dog climb over a five year old
Ron…among other things. But at that moment those eggs were the most disgusting
things he’d ever seen in his life.
Percy launched himself forward and fell at
Penny’s feet, kneeling in front of the bucket. He heaved once; out spewed gooey
chunks and liquid that he thought would burn his mouth as it came up. If he
hadn’t been able to hear the splash and smell the searing scent, he probably
would have been fine. As it was, his eyes squeezed shut and he threw up again.
Sweat prickled on his back and neck. His stomach finally gurgled to a
standstill. He spat into the bucket a few times – the taste would never leave!
– and shakily stood up.
Penny was by his side, and handed him a
“Thank you,” Percy muttered as he wiped the
corners of his mouth, not meaning it in the slightest. He couldn’t help feeling
Penny had her wand out – she told me
once it was ten inches long, rosewood, unicorn hair…odd time to remember that…
– and clearly said the magical word. “Claro,” and her wand made a
horizontal line over Percy’s forehead.
His head didn’t clear immediately, but the
smell of those eggs was becoming more appealing. Anything to wash the foul
taste from his mouth.
“Thank you,” Percy repeated, more sincerely
now that the throbbing was decreasing.
Penny nodded once. Glancing at the bucket,
she wrinkled her nose and quickly Vanished its contents and walked into the
dining room, where the plates were laid out on opposite sides of the table,
complete with forks, placemats, and two glasses of orange juice. Percy saw that
Hermes was resting in his cage near the couch. The two sat down and began to
eat. Percy eyed the eggs for a few seconds before testing them.
It took a while for him to get used to the
taste after what had previously been in his mouth, but he soon formed an
opinion on them; they were good. She’d put some sort of spice in them. Did he even
have any spices in his flat? Had she brought some over? Or…perhaps she’d simply
Conjured some. When he thought of Penny, he always thought of someone who knew
complicated spells, charms and potions. The idea that she’d learned simple
household spells was a new one…though one that made utter sense. Hadn’t she
told him that she would move out of her house once school finished?
“Feeling better?” Penny asked.
“Oh, ah, yes. Much.” It was true. His head
was clearing by the second.
As they ate, he watched her. Her face was
fuller than he remembered it. The sun from the window hit the left side of her
head, making her brown hair shine. Percy had to admit that Penny had never been
what one would call ‘gorgeous’; her nose was a little too small for her face,
her eyebrows too heavy, her chin strong and her curly hair was often unruly.
Yet no one with eyes could slander her by calling her ugly or even plain. To do
so one would have to miss the intelligence in her gaze, the casual grace of her
movements, and the way all her features put together gave her an appearance of
dignity, intelligence and inner strength that were more appealing than if she’d
been a blonde, willowy figure.
And those deep brown eyes….Penny had told
him once that she loved looking at eyes. She swore that no two people’s were
the same. He winced to think what she must see in his eyes now. The image of
the creature in that mirror seemed burned into his mind.
“The eggs are nice,” he commented as the
“Thank you. It’s a family recipe.”
“I see. And how is your family?”
Facts Percy thought were long forgotten
came rushing into his head.
Her father is Adam Clearwater, a history
teacher at a Muggle University; enjoys his work although he’s losing too much
of his hair for his liking, somewhat absent-minded, loves…that Muggle sport I
can never recall. Came over from Canada, hasn’t lost the accent. Penny adores him, and she’s closer to him
than she is to her mother. Minnie or Missy or…no, it’s Margaret Clearwater, a Muggle
lawyer. Penny hates her need to control everything, but she admitted lately – which, Percy realised, wasn’t that current at all – that no,
her mother doesn’t need to control everything, and Penny should start treating
her better. Her younger sister Annie is a clever girl but she doesn’t try hard
enough in school. She wears an obscene amount of makeup and always has giggly
little friends over who talk – he remembered the weariness in Penny’s voice
clearly – “about boys, makeup, and how little clothing they can get away
“They’re fine,” Penny replied. “And….”
She looked as if she had been about to ask
the same question, but a spasm of worry crossed her face and she managed to
change it to, “I haven’t quite had the time to mention, but I must say the flat
“Picked it out myself,” he said, but he
couldn’t muster the pride that he usually felt. He couldn’t muster any pride at
all. “It’s a good place for a wizard; everyone just goes about their business.
Have you…ah, moved into one of your own?”
“I have. It’s not too far from my parents,
actually.” She chuckled softly. “Sometimes they ask me to take a walk near the
mall, spy on my sister. She’s fallen in with a…different crowd. Annie dresses
in black, has her hair all spiked up, listens to that whiney music they’ve got
playing nowadays, keeps a journal – full of poetry speculating on the meaning
of existence, she says. Filled with all the wisdom fourteen years of living can
give you, I’m sure.”
Percy smiled at that, but only briefly. He
wished he had something to tell her about his family. The two of them ate in
silence for a few more seconds.
“My parents worry terribly about her,”
Penny continued. “They think she’s taken up smoking. We haven’t caught her at
it yet, but – oh, listen to me, babbling on, you’d think my life was only about
She smiled slightly, a wry half-smile that
brought back memories of happier times. “It’s not. I’ve been keeping in touch
with some of my old classmates. We chat, eat out, share gossip, things like
that. I did some work with Obscurus Books, at—”
“Diagon Alley!” Percy interrupted, smiling.
“That’s a wonderful job to get just out of school, Penny, just wonderful.”
Penny merely rolled her eyes, and it was
then that Percy realized that she’d mentioned it in the past tense.
“If you considering fetching tea and
coffees for mouldy old editors ‘wonderful’ then yes, I suppose it was.” She sighed
lightly, but cut her dissatisfaction off with a one-shouldered shrug. “It just
wasn’t where I saw myself going in life. But, bills must be paid. Now I’ve got
a job at Madam Malkin’s.”
“Doesn’t seem the place for you,” Percy
“It isn’t,” she said, looking rather
relieved that he’d picked up on that. “I’m on my feet all day – you have no
idea the looks you can receive when you ask a person if you can help them! With
some of them it’s like you’ve ruined their week just by breathing in the same store.
The only good thing is the discounts, but I don’t have to go shopping for robes
all that often. I’m definitely getting a better job once summer’s over.”
There was a pause, and Penny’s face was
solemn. Percy had finished his eggs and sipped his orange juice. He winced at
its acid taste. He was only now getting over the shock of seeing Penny here,
and was beginning to wonder just why she was – though now did not seem the time
to bring it up.
“Then again,” Penny added in a softer
voice, “I wonder what kind of jobs I can get, with You-Know-Who back.”
Percy paused, the cup halfway to his mouth.
He stifled the urge to change the subject immediately; he wanted to talk about
this rationally, like a man.
“I still can’t believe it,” he murmured,
setting his cup down.
Penny nodded in agreement. “Of course not.
It’s just so abrupt. Now we all have to prepare for this. I still haven’t told
my parents yet. I can’t imagine how they’d take it.”
“My parents—” Percy began, but he found his
throat blocked. He swallowed and tried again. The words came out in little more
than a croak. “They…knew about it all along. They’d told me. About what was
happening. But I…wouldn’t believe them.”
Silence again. Percy stared at his empty
“You weren’t the only one who believed the
Ministry,” Penny said quietly. “Only one of my friends thought more than once
or twice about what the papers were printing. If we couldn’t trust The
Prophet, what could we trust? Certainly,” she smiled bitterly, “not that
silly Quibbler article. I’d seen Harry Potter at school, and, well…he
did always seem to be in the thick of things. You’d think all that fame would
go to someone’s head. And as for Dumbledore – who knew what he wanted? Maybe he
wanted more than Headmastership of the school; maybe he’d just gone mad.”
Penny snorted derisively. “The media lied
to us. And I went along with it. With the Prophet’s propaganda. Propaganda,
what a word! It’s for Nazis, not wizards.”
“You weren’t in Gryffindor with Harry,”
Percy began, staring at the plate as if its pure whiteness would absolve him of
guilt. “I’d had him under my roof and still…do you know what I told Ron after I
left? The Minister mentioned Harry Potter, said something about him being seen
in the company of that Granger witch and that Weasley boy – ‘Isn’t he your youngest
brother?’ he’d asked, and…Penny, I flinched. Forced a smile and said that, why
yes, he was. Perhaps he was afraid Potter would become violent if Ron ended the
friendship. I thought I was very clever, thinking that up on the spot. That
night I wrote him a letter and sent it off, warning him away from Potter.”
The words he’d written began to play in his
head, mocking him. He fought for breath and clenched his jaw – I’m sorry
Ron! But I thought I was helping you, thought I was right! I bet you laughed at
me, didn’t you? “That stupid berk Percy, doesn’t know the first thing about me,
so glad he’s gone…”
Many months afterwards, when Harry had been
in Dumbledore’s office – in front of Umbridge and the Minister – he’d laughed
at the boy, at Dumbledore’s stories…at everything. Harry must have told Ron
about that, too. “What a boot-licker, can’t believe he’s your brother Ron!”
But he was my boss, Harry, I had to find ways to flatter him, show him how much
I appreciated the job he’d given me. And you couldn’t expect everyone to
believe the stories, the stupid stories that were horribly true!
Indignation flared, but the feelings of
righteousness that had supported him all year were battered down like houses in
a hurricane. The feelings of his whole family pressed him down. Percy fought
back the only way he could think of; by hating himself as much as they hated
“I know, Percy….” It was Penny’s voice,
soft and wavering. He heard a chair scrape, heard her footsteps.
“No you don’t,” he snapped, but what little
anger he had quickly died under the onslaught of guilt. “I’d just been promoted
– thought the Minister had called me in to fire me, though some part of me
thought how odd it was for the Minister to be concerned with firing employees.
That horrible inquiry – I could barely sleep after it, every moment was so
tense, thinking about how I’d let down poor Mister Crouch, how I’d bungled
Ministry regulations…and then the Minister offered me a job.”
“Terrible thing, Weasley, no one’s more
upset than I am. But no one could have predicted what happened to Bartemius,
and certainly not someone as young as you, for Merlin’s sake. Even our best
were fooled, Weasley, even our best. And with Bartemius’ absence you soldiered
along and showed many admirable qualities – qualities we value quite highly at
the Ministry of Magic. Dedication, loyalty, a good grasp of the rules. Your
Hogwarts professors saw it, and I see it here before me now, despite these
dreadful circumstances. We need people like you, Weasley.”
“Of course I went to tell my family.
Apparated right there. I was so relieved. I waited until dinner to tell
everyone. I knew Mother would fuss over me – Fred and George would laugh, of
course, and maybe Bill and Charlie and Ron would join in, because they, they
always do – but my parents at least would appreciate it. But I didn’t expect
how…how quiet everything got. And Father, he set down his…his fork and….”
“Percy, I can understand how you feel
about this,” Arthur said calmly. “But…don’t you find this a bit suspicious,
son? After all you’ve been through in the past three weeks, you’re now getting
an even more important job, closer to an even more important authority figure?”
Shock, cold, rippling throughout his
body. “Minister Fudge hired me himself, Father. Said I had many admirable
qualities. Everyone was fooled by what happened.”
“Yes and…who do you think fooled them?”
He shook his head a few times, chancing a
look at his frozen family members. No one was standing up for him. Not even
Mother. He thought she would always be there to defend him.
A hot, sick feeling flared in him,
drowning out the coldness. “Nobody in the Ministry…actually believes
that…You-Know-Who is back,” he’d managed, unwilling to give the fever a voice
no matter how much it burned.
His father continued to look at him, his
gaze steady, intense. “And what do you think the events in the final Triwizard
Tournament task signified?”
Percy swallowed and shook his head
again. “I…what…what does any of this have to do with my new job?”
Arthur sighed, dropping his gaze from
his son for a few moments. When he looked at Percy again, his face was weary.
His words, however, were sure.
“I’m sorry, son, but I believe that
Fudge appointed you to this position because he wants you to spy on your
family, as he knows that we fully stand behind Dumbledore and the truth that
You-Know-Who has returned.”
Percy had suspected something like this.
That was why this shock wasn’t quite as big as it had been before. All he could
feel was that feverish heat. It leapt to his face, his neck, his brain....
They thought that all his hard work
meant nothing, that his accomplishments and attributes weren’t being rewarded.
They thought he could only get a job of such prestige because of them. They
couldn’t be further from the truth; he’d gotten this job in spite of them. They
thought his promotion meant nothing? That, then, was the truth of it. If his
promotion meant nothing, then he meant nothing. He’d finally seen how little
they respected him, cared for him, loved him. If he meant nothing, nothing at
all to them…then they meant nothing to him.
“I…shouted at them. Exploded. And it seemed
so right, I’d always felt it was right, until…until that damn article. I told
them that they were wrong, that no matter how much it surprised them I actually
could move up in the world. Not that it was easy. Father, I…I said he’d ruined
our lives, by acting the way he did, by being himself.”
“And you never cared, did you, what they
thought of us as we went to school! No! It was always about you, you and your
bloody Muggle things. Plugs! Flying cars! Didn’t you hear them laugh at you, at
work? Didn’t you care that the same things happened to us and will always
happen to us? Because of you! Because of you! Damn you you’re our father and you
don’t bat an eye at sending us to school with books that fall apart and ripped
“I sneered at Dumbledore, told them that
anyone in their right mind could see that he was going senile. He wasn’t the
first Headmaster to hold the post while his mind was dying. And Potter…” Percy
Another son with glasses, is that what
they wanted? Sporty, cheerful, famous…a better son, not like Percy, Percy who
had to toil for his glory….
He gritted his teeth at the memory of that
specific thought, unable to still his anger. But it was brief, and he
“Who could believe him? My family couldn’t see
him for what he was: a mentally disturbed boy. You-Know-Who had come for him when
he was a baby, cursed him. How could anyone be normal after that? They were all
blind to it. And then…I said that I didn’t want to be a part of my family. I’d
never raised my voice to my father before that. I couldn’t even keep quiet
about it. It was in front of everyone. My mother…” he was breathing too harshly
He felt Penny’s hand on his shoulder, but
that had no meaning. Only the pain that tied his insides into knots meant
anything at all.
“Mother looked like I’d stabbed my father
in the heart right in front of her eyes. At first it looked like she didn’t
understand what we were saying but…but soon she started crying. Her sobs...I
tried to pretend they meant nothing.”
But no, no, he’d never wanted to hurt her.
She’d been the only one out of this rat’s nest who cared…but even then it
hadn’t been enough. She’d always put so much pressure on him – too much. He’d
made himself believe that.
“Ginny looked like she would cry too,
but…she didn’t.” And he was supposed to protect her, his only sister. But when
had she ever cared about him, or ever appreciated his help? She was always off
with Fred and George, wanting to become one of one of her fun, loveable
brothers. He’d made himself believe that.
“Everyone else was just…so very…shocked.”
Even the unflappable Bill. Bill, the brother
Percy had at times desperately wanted to be. They shared most of the same
achievements and they even looked a bit alike, though Bill was attractive,
smooth, charming, good company. He never ran out of interesting stories, never
was subjected to snickers after he left the room or rolled eyes when he spoke.
Bill had always thrown his ability to perfectly integrate with anybody into
Percy’s face. He’d made himself believe that.
And Charlie – the brother he’d spent time
with and never really understood. He remembered researching dragons at age
seven. He’d been so eager to come down and present his information. And when he
did, babbling on about the weight of Ridgebacks and the fire of the Swedish
Short-Snout, Charlie had dismissed him with a laugh. “Hey, I’m the dragon
expert here, remember? Don’t you go taking away my job!” he’d teased. The twins
had called; Charlie’s eyes had sparkled, as if he’d been looking for an
opportunity to get away. He’d dashed off, leaving Percy forgotten. All he’d
wanted to do was talk to Charlie, to be better friends than they were. That
interaction had characterised their entire relationship. He’d made himself
Ron. Percy winced as he remembered the
letter warning him away from Harry. No, he wouldn’t think of Ron. Not yet.
“I wanted to smile at Fred and George
because some part of me found it…funny, funny to see the two jokers so shocked,
when they’d laugh at everything.”
The twins. Oh, the twins. He remembered
crying alone in his dorm, age twelve, after the Fred and George had recorded
him singing in the shower at home and played it in the Gryffindor common room.
Laughter ringing in his ears, utterly miserable. He remembered his vicious glee
when the Howler arrived for them the next morning…and his dismay when he’d
heard that Ron and Ginny had laughed when they found out about the prank. It
didn’t matter if Percy had been mocked, tripped, almost locked in a pyramid,
sent dragon dung at work. The twins would smile their cheery smiles and nobody
would question whether they’d crossed the line, would never care how Percy felt.
He’d made himself believe that – and found that he still did.
“I felt…victorious. Because I’d wanted
this. Hadn’t I always? To finally say what was so obvious to the rest of the
world, only they’d deluded themselves into…into thinking that having a giant,
noisy family with no money was…was normal.
“And then my father started shouting back. We’ve…never
been close, not as close as me and Mother, but that’s no excuse to….”
Arthur Weasley stood there, stricken,
for a moment looking very old. He was stripped bare of his cheerfulness, his
gentle eccentricity, and all that was left was exhaustion and pain. But just
for a moment. For soon there was a glint in his eye, a hardening of his
features that betrayed his anger – the anger any man would feel whose son had
just screamed and snarled insults at his whole family.
And Percy, flushed with righteous anger,
blossoming with pride and scorn, mind teeming with thoughts rarely expressed
but so obviously right, sneered at his father. Dared him.
“I told them I’d leave. I couldn’t stop
shivering when I packed. Never felt so cold. And I’ve been cold ever since I
left my family, but…I just got used to it, made it part of myself….”
It was the only time neatness hadn’t
counted. He’d stumbled through his room, rage and shock battling for control,
throwing anything he could get his hands on into his suitcases. After a few
minutes of packing he became more discriminate, carefully taking out everything
that reminded him of his family. He’d thrown every last Weasley jumper deep
into the closet, along with his Hogwarts robes and a few photo albums. He’d
packed his Head Boy and Prefect Badges. He’d needed to see them to prove that
he had accomplished this much, and that he could accomplish even greater
He’d also thought Fred and George might
enchant them, find some way to ruin them – his achievements – forever. He’d
made himself believe that.
He gave a strangled chuckle, his chest
tight as he remembered his family’s intrusions into his life this past year. “Mother
tried to talk to me when I bought my flat. I slammed the door in her face.
And,” he winced, as if this were deeper betrayal, “I sent back her Christmas
jumper. Nobody in the family really liked them, but we’d never refuse them.
Except me. I shut her out once again. I can’t…just can’t bring myself to
imagine her reaction.”
Even speaking about it made a piercing
sickness flood him. But he had a greater offence to list, hadn’t he? Percy’s vision
blurred as his guilt tried to seep out through tears as well as heavy words. He
fought it back. Now that he knew his crimes for what they were, he had to count
“And that was after I’d found out about my
father. I overheard two Ministry workers talking about my father and an attack during
lunch break. I asked them to elaborate, and they said that father had been in
the Ministry after hours – doubtless on some mission from Dumbledore – was attacked
by an unknown assailant and had to be rushed to St. Mungo’s. Their sources said
that he was now recovering and his actions were being investigated. I felt…so
relieved. I knew that this would force my parents to turn from their path and
come crawling to me for forgiveness. I was so eager.”
His guts were so tight that he wouldn’t be
surprised if he threw up again. He was sick with the realization of what he’d
done, what he was to his family and himself. Sick with the knowledge that he
would never be clean.
He was dimly aware of Penny’s voice.
“It’s all right, Percy, it’s all right…”
Penny repeated gently.
“Shut up!” he snapped, more embarrassed
than angry, tears snaking down his face. And now he was crying. God, what a
He heard Penny swallow. “I don’t know
everything about the situation. But I don’t need to. I can see that you’re
hurting, and I can understand why. And…and you sent me that letter,” she added,
as if she didn’t want to admit it.
“I didn’t—” he began, only to frown in
“Hermes,” he said in between steadying
breaths. “I wrote the letter, I was out of my mind, I told Hermes to send it to
someone who cared. But not someone at home. He must have thought of you.”
Penny hand was still on his shoulder, her
other rubbing his arm sympathetically. There was silence, the aftermath of the
storm. Penny moved back to her chair and began talking. He was grateful that
she only looked directly at him after he’d wiped his face and sniffled,
removing all evidence of his childishness.
“When Hermes came to my window, I didn’t know
what to think. I recognised him right away. But when I saw what you’d written,
and how you’d written it, I knew something was very wrong. I shrunk my broom
and ran to a place where I could fly up unseen – Hermes lead me to a closer
place than the one I’d originally planned on, actually, he must have seen it
coming in – and I took off. I cast a Disillusionment Charm, so if anyone did
see me they’d just think I was a cloud. Landing here was a bit tricky.
Fortunately, Hermes led me to you, and your door was unlocked.
“You were stumbling around, shouting. I’d
heard stories of what wizards could do when they were drunk, so the first thing
I did was take your wand. Which reminds me – here.” She pulled it out of the
pocket of her jeans, and Percy took it gratefully.
“Then I got you to bed and caught a little
sleep myself on the couch,” Penny concluded.
“I don’t remember that.” Percy made a
mental note to feed Hermes quite a few owl treats once the bird woke up.
“I’m not surprised,” she replied with a
light grin. Percy stared at her, then determined that he’d rather not ask what
exactly she meant by that. He sighed, and Penny immediately stopped smiling.
“I’ve been a horrible son,” he murmured. “A
horrible brother. They weren’t…perfect to me, but what I did was so much worse….”
Of course they hadn’t been perfect to him.
He hadn’t deserved it. Due to his pride. His ambition. His all-encompassing
seriousness. His bossiness. His willingness to put work over socialization. His
desperate adherence to all rules to make himself feel important.
“I’ve said some dreadful things to my mother
and my sister,” Penny commiserated. She winced. “Once, I—”
“Don’t try to compare anything in your
perfect life to what I’ve done,” Percy hissed. His jaw clenched as anger and indignation
flared in him; it was a relief to direct those feelings at someone other than
himself. That was too much. She hadn’t made the mistakes he had. What did she
know about what he was feeling? How dare she intrude on this! How dare she….
Try to help him when he was thinking such
cruel thoughts about her.
Penny didn’t respond, and Percy couldn’t bring
himself to look her way. He continued to stare at his plate. It was time to
stop thinking of himself or the job and start thinking of the people who mattered,
and why they mattered. He mustered his courage.
“I’m sorry. This…last night…now, today,
it’s just been—” he sighed heavily. “It’s taken a lot out of me. But I have no
right for me to take it out on you, when you came here of your own free will to
help me when I was…just dreadful to you before.”
He had never felt pained about cutting off
their relationship until now – or, rather, he had, but they had been short
bursts of longing and loneliness, easily smothered by focusing on the next task
or the next office social event. He hadn’t wanted to think about it.
“Thank you for being here, Penny.”
He looked up at her and saw a soft smile on
her face. And wariness in her eyes. His family wasn’t the only person he’d
His heart throbbed painfully.
Penny looked around his flat before facing
him again. “You’re here,” she said, “but I don’t think you should be.”
Percy knew what she meant, but part of him
didn’t want to hear it. That part of him was overruled by the rest, which had
come to the realisation that nothing about this was going to be easy. It was
going to be as bloody and messy and wretched as what had sent him from his
family in the first place. And he’d have to take it like a man. Like a
Looking at Penny and thinking of his House,
Percy was reminded of a friendly argument they’d shared. Penny had been vocal
in her dislike of the House system. She didn’t like the notion that one could
be known for one main trait only, when people were really so diverse that
pigeonholing them into a stereotype did more harm than good. Perhaps it was his
wizard upbringing, but Percy had a bit more respect for the Sorting Hat and its
decisions. After all, he’d point out, look at Hermione Granger – “cleverest
witch of her year, I’d say – good friend of my brother’s and Harry Potter. But
she’s not in Ravenclaw. She’s not being pigeonholed, nor has she had her
individuality stripped away. I believe that the Hat puts students in the House
that could bring out the greatest potential in that student.”
When they had first started dating, Penny had
shot back that the Hat was made in a time when individuality wasn’t as
respected as it was today. But as time went on and they became more
comfortable, she’d become more playful. He remembered one response in
particular: “Well, all right, but if I hear one more joke about Ravenclaws
roosting in the library, I’m going to scream.”
Her brown eyes had danced as she said it.
He was in the present again, staring up at
Penny with what he hoped wasn’t too odd a look on his face. It must have been,
for Penny appeared flustered, and a pink flush spread from her throat over her
cheeks. It made him blush and look away.
“Ah…” he began. Damn. His ears were warm.
He cleared his throat.
“I think I’ll…go see them. T-Today, in
fact.” He took a deep, steadying breath. “Yes, today. Ron and Ginny are still
at Hogwarts, of course, but the rest of them will be home. Well, ah, probably
not Charlie or Bill with their jobs, and Father is at work, but—” He made a
helpless little gesture, then sighed. Going to make up with your family when
you were only guaranteed to meet a few members didn’t seem terribly courageous.
“I think it’s best to take this situation
in small steps,” Penny replied softly. He chanced a glance at her again and
found her looking at him with distinct pride. He basked in the look,
undeserving of it as he was, before getting up.
“You can get back all right?” he asked of
her as he looked around for a non-existent fireplace.
“Yes, I know the Underground routes,” she
said. He tossed her a glance and she explained, “That Muggle train that runs
beneath the city.”
She smiled lightly. “Do you Apparate
“To the front office at work,” he admitted.
“I haven’t really explored Muggle London.”
“You should,” Penny remarked; he nodded in
agreement. She headed towards the door and he followed.
Once there, Penny turned to face him.
“Percy…” she said in a half-sigh, dropping
her eyes for a second, “when all this is over – and I know it will be – I’d
like to be able to meet in less unpleasant circumstances. I’ve missed having
you as a friend.”
“I’ve missed you too,” he replied. It
wasn’t the truth, as he’d forced himself not to miss anyone over the past few
months, but it was a lie for the right reasons.
Percy’s mind must have skipped a few
seconds. One second Penny was nodding in response, the next she was hugging him.
“I know you can do this,” she whispered
“I, uh, thanks,” Percy stammered. One part
of his mind remembered very well what to do; it quickly commandeered his body. He
wrapped his arms around her back, holding her much tighter than she held him.
Heat that had nothing to do with guilt or anger
danced through his body. It was thrilling, intoxicating…how could he have let himself
Her breath brushed his cheek, he saw the
nervous, eager smile on her face magnified a thousand times in her eyes, heard
them whisper silly nothings to each other in deserted classrooms to see how
close they could get and still use their mouths to talk instead of explore,
always tentatively – sometimes too tentatively – but he would never push her,
for he knew she respected herself too much to do the things he guiltily thought
of late at night, and when all was said and done that was fine by him, because she
was a woman worth waiting centuries for….
She made a soft, surprised noise and
shifted backwards, but he didn’t let her go.
And she was his. Oh, his family would
find out eventually, and he’d be quite happy to present her as his girlfriend
when the time came, because Mother would be so proud and Fred and George would
stare at him with their mouths open. But for now, she was his.
“Percy.” The word was tight, controlled; a
He took in her reaction for a split second
before he slammed his arms to his sides and stepped back. She was stiff. And if
he hadn’t been so stupid he would have felt that.
“I’m so sorry, Penny,” Percy whimpered.
Penny’s tautness fell away, leaving her
flustered. Her eyes darted in any direction except his. “So am I,” she said, disgusted.
Percy fought for words through the
painfully tight blockage in his chest. “It was my fault, I just—” He grimaced,
hoping he wouldn’t have to describe his thoughts. His face and neck were hot
enough. Fortunately, Penny’s eyes widened in shock and she managed to look at
“What? No, no, Percy, it was my fault! I
started the…the hug. I thought…there were some things that would be all right
but,” a nervous chuckle, “they weren’t. Stupid, really. It should have been obvious.”
She ran a hand through her curly hair, giving him an apologetic smile that
seemed much too forced.
Percy opened his mouth to protest.
“Look,” Penny continued, taking a deep
breath. He envied how quickly she achieved her graceful elegance – the only
sign that there was something off was the palest of pink on her cheeks. “Despite
what happened just now, it doesn’t change what I told you. I know you can do
this. I believe in you. And…if you need someone to talk to, feel free to owl
Her words were sincere. Percy nodded a few
times, adding a needless, “Yes, of course.”
“Good,” muttered Penny. She gave him a nod
and a kind – but short – smile. “Goodbye, Percy.”
“Ah, yes, goodbye.”
Percy stared at the door, blushing still,
swallowing and glancing about nervously as if Penny were still in the room. But
he was good at training himself not to think of certain people. He’d had to be,
to have survived without his family, the people who had made up such a big part
of his life. He banished Penny from his mind, with promises that he’d recall
her later at a more suitable time. To better focus on the task at hand, he
polished his glasses.
As he did so, he was reminded just how
ratty his robes were; he couldn’t go home like this. Percy went into his bedroom
and opened his closet.
What did you wear when you begged for
forgiveness? His formal robes were too ostentatious. The black set looked too
expensive – but did he want to approach his family looking like a pauper?
Percy left his room ten minutes later. He
wore a comfortable buckskin brown robe, underneath which was a white dress
shirt, a dark brown and silver-patterned tie, grey pants and black shoes. He
went into the bathroom, contemplating the hideousness of his attire as he
coaxed his hair to lie flat against his head.
That tie was too busy. The cloth of the
robes was too light. His eyes were still red; wasn’t there some spell to get
rid of that? Some spell to select the right wardrobe? What was the good of
having magic if it didn’t help with important things?
Percy finally achieved the look he wanted
after wetting his comb. He went into his room and selected a light grey tie. It
made a bit of a difference, though he still looked too professional, as if he
was getting ready for work.
Work. He needed to send a letter to say
that he would not be in today. A part of him instinctively rebelled against
this, latching onto his mind with iron claws: he had to do his job. It was his
duty. The Ministry was expecting him. Could he fail the most important organization
in the wizarding world? Could he fail the Minister? If everyone took little
vacations whenever they felt like it, society would crumble—
If I don’t meet my family today, I’ll
crumble, Percy reminded himself firmly. Or,
a little voice whispered, my resolve to rebuild bridges will.
Percy loped down the stairs and knelt by
his owl’s cage. Normally he would just shake the cage a little to wake the bird
up, but after what Hermes had done for him Percy felt guilty about the routine.
“Hermes…” he said in a strained whisper. “Could
you…wake up please?”
Percy was silent for a few seconds, then
repeated his question in a louder voice. Nothing happened. Clearing his throat,
Percy jostled the cage.
The handsome grey screech owl opened his
eyes. His ear tufts raised and feathers fluffed as he let out a short, wavering
hoot common to his kind. Percy wasn’t one for flights of fancy, but he could
tell Hermes was annoyed.
“Sorry,” Percy apologized. He reached out
to stroke the small bird’s feathers, but Hermes clacked his beak and Percy
withdrew his finger speedily. He noticed that Penny had left food and water for
“Thanks for bringing Penny, but I need one
more favour. I…er, don’t think I’ll be here when you get back, but I’ll keep a
window and your cage open for you when you to get in.”
Hermes gave no indication that he’d heard;
he was already nibbling his food.
Percy frowned, miffed at the reaction. He
then realized that he’d been expecting a show of thanks from a bird and moved
away from the cage, embarrassed. He cleared the dishes, glasses and cutlery
from the table, washing them and setting them in their customary places.
Percy then spent some time hunting for a
quill and inkpot and finding the correct stationary for his letter. Once that
was finished he sat at the clean table with a clean piece of parchment and a
The page leered up at him, accusatorily. Why
was he doing this? The Ministry needed him! You-Know-Who had returned! It was
in a crisis! Skip today and Percy would be demoted, or worse: fired.
I regret to inform you that I will not
be in today, as I have come down with a nasty bug and I have no healing potions
available to me. I expect I will be in tomorrow, though, once I go to Diagon
Alley and get some supplies.
I shall not be in today as I have a
splitting headache that prevents me from Apparating. I only pray that it will
clear up by tomorrow.
I simply cannot be in today for reasons
I do not care to divulge.
Another reason to go to work presented
itself: his excuses were pathetic. He checked the clock on the wall. 10:48.
If I go to work now I might have time to
salvage my job, he thought.
So that’s it? The second Penny leaves I
become a coward? What would she think of me, tarrying about with dishes and
ties? Some Gryffindor I am. House of the brave. What’s so brave about me going
to work for the man who I foolishly chose over my family?
Losing my job because of a guilty
conscience is better? Failing to do my duty as a wizarding citizen in Britain’s hour of need is
commendable? Running home to Mother because I don’t want to face my father is
As his mind raced after doubts and worries
like hounds hunting foxes, Percy realized he had to do something. Maybe not the
best thing, but it had to happen. Bollocks to the letter; how could it help
anything? He knew what needed to be done.
He stood up, adjusted his glasses, smoothed
down his hair, and flashed his owl a short and grim smile. He hoped this
feeling of determination stayed with him, because he’d need it.
Percy Weasley pictured the place he needed
to be, clearing his mind of all other thoughts. Once it became clear, he heard
a popping sound.
There he was.