Disclaimer: None of the characters named are mine, nor is the Harry Potter Empire in general mine, nor do I make any profit by their use. This is just for fun, and to give Percy Weasley a little chance to shine.

By Dyce

Percy settled his glasses more firmly on his nose and sighed. Getting settled down again to his report on cauldron thickness wasn't easy, after all the excitement of the World Cup. Despite what the others seemed to think, writing about the difference between one eighth and two eighths of an inch wasn't exactly his idea of a good time, but it had to get done. And he did worry about the possibility of leaks or even ruptures - after all, most of those cheap cauldrons were purchased for children to take to Hogwarts with them. Far too many potions were dangerous if they came into contact with bare skin as it was, and a potion mixed by a novice, maybe too strong or with the wrong ingredients... it didn't bear imagining.

Not that he wouldn't relish seeing Fred and George covered with huge pustulent boils just now. Harry and Hermione were reasonably quiet and considerate, and Ginny was as quiet as a little mouse when Harry was around, but Fred and George... Well, he'd be glad when they went back to Hogwarts. It was incredibly hard to concentrate with them around.

"Percy? Are you still up?" It was his mother, tired and drawn, putting her head around his door. "Still working, dear?"

"Just trying to finish up my report," he explained, putting his quill down and shaking out his hand. "Is Dad home yet?"

"Not yet, dear." She yawned, covering her mouth hastily. "Would you like me to get you some tea? Or coffee?" She didn't really approve of him drinking coffee, but he liked it, and it was one of the few things she could afford to be indulgent in.

"It's all right." He shook his head, getting to his feet. "Since I'm up anyway, why don't I go down and work on this in the kitchen? I can wait up for Dad, and you can get some sleep."

"Oh, Percy, you shouldn't-"

"I'm going to be up late anyway," he reiterated, giving her a reassuring smile. "You've been getting up early to get us all breakfast every morning, and waiting up for Dad at night, and dealing with Fred and George and Ron all day in between. You need a good night's sleep."

"Well..." She was tired enough that she at least considered the idea.

"Go on. I have work to do anyway." He gave her an awkward hug. "Really, Mum, it's all right. All I ask in return is sausages for breakfast tomorrow."

She smiled, and returned the hug. "Well, all right. Thank you, Percy."

"It's all right." He smiled affectionately at her. "Like I said, I'll be up anyway. No sense in both of us staying awake when one will do."

It didn't take him long to get his papers spread out on the kitchen table, but the interruption had messed up his concentration again. He gave in and made himself a cup of coffee, sipping it thoughtfully as he reread a few of the complaints that had been forwarded to him when he started working on this report. They always got him in a properly indignant frame of mind about the whole business. (...cat green for a month... hole right through the floorboards... daughter scalded badly...)

Fred and George were making life harder than usual for him lately. They seemed to think his job was some sort of game that he was indulging in, as if he *liked* being a petty clerk for the ministry instead of going off to Egypt or Romania like Bill and Charlie, and having romance and adventure and *fun*. He would have liked to do something like that... he was quite good at curse-breaking, although he didn't like dragons much. Too untidy.

Okay, so he was a little bit anal-retentive. So what? Someone had to think things through properly around here, and be organized and consider the future.

Which was why he was still here. It was all very well for Bill and Charlie to go swanning off to see the world. They didn't realize what a dreadful burden it was for their parents, with four children still at Hogwarts, and Fred and George making more than twice the expense of one child, because there weren't enough hand-me-downs for both of them, and what there were they usually tore or broke or otherwise rendered useless. And Ginny was turning out to have a knack for potions and herbology, so she'd want to specialize next year, and that would mean extra textbooks that would have to be bought new because nobody else had ever really liked those things, and Ron was growing so fast that in a couple more years he'd probably be the tallest member of the family and need all new things, and... Well. Clearly he couldn't just abandon his family to its impoverished fate. All the money his parents had spent on extra textbooks for him, his owl, everything... all the time and effort they'd put into raising their family... he owed them a lot, he knew that, and he knew his duty.

So he'd worked himself to a thread to get enough N.E.W.Ts to get a good job in the Ministry, and taken the first half-decent one he found. And then he'd informed his parents that since he didn't plan to move out until he was properly settled into his job, he would be helping out a little. They'd tried to protest, but he'd ignored them.

And they'd probably never know it, but the 'game' Fred and George were so eager to disrupt had paid for the schoolbooks for all four of the younger Weasleys this year. It had bought school robes for Ginny, shoes for Ron, and a new cauldron - thick-bottomed - for Fred. (There hadn't been enough for new dress robes for Ron, but that couldn't be helped. The robes he'd have to wear once or twice at most, the shoes he'd need every day) It had had the plumbing repaired in the upstairs bathroom, bought new clothes for their parents, and paid the few taxes that their family had to pay.

His parents kept insisting that he should be saving his wages, not spending them all on his family, but he'd feel like seven kinds of complete bastard if he did. His family *needed* him, and he was going to stay and keep helping until they'd gotten at least Fred and George out of the house.


Percy looked up in surprise, realizing that nearly an hour had gone by while he mused on the choices he'd made, and that his father had finally gotten home. "Dad! I didn't realize you were back."

"Working hard, as usual. You didn't even twitch when I Apparated in." Arthur Weasley looked even more exhausted than his wife. His face was pale, and his hands were shaking a little as he rubbed his eyes tiredly.

Percy noted his clear exhaustion, and frowned. When the younger Weasleys were all safely packed off to Hogwarts, he was goign to insist that his parents take a little holiday. Just a few days by the sea, or something, they'd go if he told his father that he was worried that his mother wasn't well... "Trying to get my report finished," he explained. "I made Mum go to bed a while ago. Since I was going to be up anyway..."

"Good. She's not getting enough sleep." Arthur nodded, giving Percy a tired smile. "Son, I just want you to know that your mother and I are... well, we appreciate your... everything."

"I know." Percy returned the smile. "It's all right, Dad. I'm happier staying at home for a while."

"Well, that's fair enough, but...still. Thanks." He yawned. "I'm going to head off to bed for a few hours, son. Don't stay up too late."

"I won't," Percy promised, and watched his father stumble wearily up the stairs. Was he the only one who saw how tired and overworked their parents were? How much they needed help to keep coping with everything? The sooner the others were out of the house, the better. Then Percy could go too, and let them finally get some peace and quiet. Until then... well, cauldron bottoms weren't very exciting, but being able to look after his family was worth any number of boring reports. And this one had to be finished for tomorrow, so he'd better get back to it.

He picked up his quill again. "The ratio of leakage in a cauldron which is less than three-eighths of an inch thick at the bottom, and at most one sixth of an inch at the sides-"