It was a boiling July day and the final minutes of the Wizengamot's inguiry into Percy Weasley's role in the Bartemus Crouch Affair were playing out in the Main Chamber in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic.

Standing alone, his overlarge cloak falling off his shoulders, was Percy Weasley himself. He was thin and pale, his brown eyes dulled by exhaustion. He hadn't been sleeping at all lately and it showed, but he had done his best to look presentable for his family and for his employers. He was wearing his best cloak, his father's old best, and best trousers and socks and shirt but it had all felt rather hollow when he got dressed this morning. His mother had kissed him goodbye, the rest had been asleep. His father hadn't been there. He'd Apparated in and walked amongst the ranks of people he had always dreamed of joining, that for one glorious year he had been a part of. Well, it hadn't been all that glorious in reality - that was what the discussion was about today.

Fred and George had always made fun of his dreams of joining the Ministry, and he'd never been able to make them understand that the same dreams of playing quidditch and pulling pranks that drew them on were the same kind of hopes he had about his dream. Eventually he'd stopped trying, and sat there and taken the flak. Just being Percy.

Percy who could never make or take any of the Weasley jokes. Percy who could never see the funny side.

The findings of the Inquiry had been clear, he was lucky Bartemus Crouch jnr hadn't massacred him and his family. His over-sights, his blind ambition might have cost all of them their lives. Would have, had the madman not been so intent on his target, Harry Potter.

Who you nearly got killed by the way. Let's not mention Diggory, his father's in the room. But everyone knows, he'd still be alive if you'd done more than your job, if you'd been a proper, attentive, decent human being. If you'd stopped kissing your supervisor's backside long enough to look him in the eye and see that he wasn't himself.

'The Wizengamot will recess to determine the verdict. Remain standing Percy Ignatius Weasley.'

Percy who was suddenly more dangerous to his family than the Dark Lord himself. Percy who was the one who had become so immersed in what he wanted, in what made him his own man, in what made him different from the others, that he exposed them to an obscene level of danger.

He had given Crouch the address of the Burrow - for correspondance purposes obviously, only. He had proudly told him about his family. Muggle-lovers, hosts and friends to Harry Potter - the perfect example to be set to the wizarding world - a family of seven at least, maybe nine if his big brothers had come home. All of them cut down, the Dark Mark high above the Burrow's dilapidated chimneys, what a headline that would have made.

And it wasn't as if it would have been an unprecedented failure would it? Ron's first year, nearly killed - in the Hospital Wing for two days: some Prefect he'd made there eh? Didn't see the danger signs, didn't see the preoccupation in Ron, Hermione and Harry's eyes, wasn't strong enough a figure for them to turn to with their doubts and worries (he was sure that idea had never even occurred to them). Then the next year, Ginny - his little sister who he loved so much it hurt - spent the whole year possessed by Voldemort, killing roosters, covered in blood, blacking out, and finally having the life sucked out of her by some incarnation of Voldemort yet again. There was a reason she and Hermione were so close, the other Gryffindors in her own year were terrified of her, especially the girls she shared a dorm with, who'd hear such horrifying mutterings in the night. And Ron again, the only one of his brothers who may have respected him, who even resembled him a little, nearly had his memory erased and his head crushed in. Next year he was Head Boy and god did he try to make up for it all this time but did it work? The harder he tried to be respectable, the further his family fell from him. Before the year was out Ron's leg was torn to shreds, he'd been cornered and kidnapped by a known mass-murderer and then left in the wilds of the Forbidden Forest with an out-of-control werewolf on the prowl. Snape had probably saved his life, the head of Slytherin House. And where was the Gryffindor Head Boy? He knows exactly where, giving Lee Jordan lines for setting his tarantula on a pair of first years as a joke.

The truth was, whenever real danger presented itself, Percy Ignatius Weasley was the joke. If he wasn't oblivious to the threat, he was an active danger. And everything he'd just re-run in his head only pertained to his family. What about Penelope? What about Hermione? What about Harry? All of whom had been his responsibility. All of whom had relied on him, as girlfriend, as friends or even just as fellow students he was meant to watch after!

He'd failed everyone he'd ever cared about, the realization came to him as he stood there in the dock. Whatever punishment they cooked up would be nothing compared to that. He'd throw himself into his work (should at least try to do something useful), let it consume him, but first there was something he had to do.

He'd made up his mind. Whatever happened he'd go home and sever all ties with his family, give them good reason to hate him if he had the ammunition, get himself out of the house before things really started because despite all his failures Percy wasn't a fool.

He knew Voldemort was back. He knew his parents and brothers would have to pick up the fight. He knew poor Harry would be in the thick of it - it seemed to be his lot in life, he could only hope Ron, Hermione and Ginny weren't pulled in too.

He also knew that the last thing they needed was him.

As he half payed attention to the mutterings of the Wizengamot around him he realized Fudge was eyeing him very strangely indeed. He shifted his vision, wishing his father was here. Wishing there was at least one sympathetic face even if he didn't deserve it. But Arthur Weasley wasn't there, and Percy suddenly realized he was probably deep in preparations for the fight against Voldemort.

'Good.' He whispered viciously for no reason he could put his finger on. As the word hovered in the air around him the whispering amongst the council faded into nothing.

The verdict came back: clear on all charges. Something about youth and inexperience and too much responsibility. Percy could identify with the last one, he'd come to realize over the past four years if anything was true - it was that true responsibility was too much for him to bear.

As he left the presence of the Wizangemot, Fudge called him into his office. He was smiling, Percy wondered why that could be.