Title: A Home for Christmas
Category: angst, drama
Summary: Christmas at the Weasley house was always an event. Now that he's removed from it, does Percy have a different perspective?
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Christmas Eve, 1995 (OotP)
The box was meager. He hadn't thought to take much in the way of holiday decorations with him when he left the Burrow. He had simply grabbed the small box marked "Percy" from the pile in the attic.
He probably should have decorated before Christmas Eve. He simply hadn't had the time. But since he'd been so late, his Christmas tree had been one of the last on the lot. It was small, and rather sad and droopy. He only hoped he had some kind of ornaments in this box to make it a bit happier.
He found a few child-made ornaments that he placed on his tree. He had made them all throughout the years, and as such they'd had careful attention to detail and did not look all that childish. There were also a couple of half-burned candles. He'd always been careful with them and kept them until they were little stubs. He sat these on the windowsill. Then, in the bottom of the box, one thing remained. Percy had known it should be there, but he still felt a bit of excitement about it.
It was an old envelope, crinkled from so much handling. In the corner, in a child's shaky handwriting, it read "Brothers, Christmas, 1981."
Percy's breath caught a bit as he reverently opened the flap and carefully removed the picture contained within. He set it in front of him, then settled cross-legged on the floor and simply stared at it.
He would never admit it, for his graduation picture and a shot of him at his desk with Fudge hung prominently on his wall, but this was his absolute favorite photograph. Yet he didn't display it and only got it out once a year, at Christmas.
It showed an old, ratty couch that had sat in the family room in the Burrow for years. In the corner, only half of it visible, was the Christmas tree. On the couch a 10-year-old Bill lounged in the center. His right arm was looped around Charlie, who was leaning against his shoulder. Both of them were asleep and only shifted occasionally in the picture. On the floor in front of them 3-year-old twins were stretched out, Fred on his back and George on his belly. They too slept soundly, chests rising and falling steadily. It was the only photo Percy had ever seen in which they were so still and seemed so calm.
On Bill's other side, Percy was curled against him. His oldest brother's arm was around his shoulders, holding him loosely even as Bill slept. On the shoulder that wasn't pressed against Bill, a little rat perched. Toddler Ron was curled in Percy's lap, cuddled against his chest with one thumb in his mouth and the other loosely gripping Percy's shirt. He too was asleep.
The only one who wasn't sleeping was Percy. He smiled sleepily at the camera, wrapped an arm around Ron and snuggled against Bill. It was the position and the expression that meant so much. He was included. And he was happy.
As he stared at the old image, Percy thought back to that Christmas. It seemed so long ago…
flashback, mid-December, 1981
"Mum, why is it taking them so long?"
Molly Weasley rolled her eyes slightly, but gave no other indication of annoyance. One wouldn't know that he had already asked a dozen times. "Your brother will be home soon, Charlie. You haven't seen him for 3 months, surely you can wait a few more minutes."
8-year-old Charlie seemed inclined to disagree. He shot an impatient look at their mother's back before darting back out of the kitchen.
Percy observed this from the table, but said nothing. He too was anxious to see Bill, but even at 6 he understood that harassing his Mum wouldn't make his Dad get home any faster. If it would do no good, he saw no point in doing it.
Besides, he was busy helping. He turned back to the high chair before him and, loading a spoon with some sort of fruit, he aimed it for the toddler's mouth. Ron looked at him for a moment, then the spoon, then back at him. Then he obediently dropped his jaw and accepted the spoon.
Mum smiled from her own position beside Ginny's high chair. "That's quite impressive, Percy. You've got the magic touch."
Personally, Percy didn't think this was magic. He would much prefer to do spells with his wand, like Bill, or be good on a broom, like Charlie. But he smiled and nodded to his mother anyway.
Ron seemed to be in a sharing mood. He picked up a handful of his dry cereal and tossed it towards Ginny's tray. A few pieces actually hit it. The lone Weasley girl looked curiously at it, reaching for one. Mum quickly confiscated it, while Percy bent to retrieve the ones that had hit the floor. "She doesn't have teeth, you know," he informed his youngest brother somewhat crossly.
Ron stuck his tongue out at him. Percy scowled in response. His scowl deepened as the two little tornados who went by Fred and George came pounding in. "Mum!" he complained as they ran circles around the table, almost knocking Ginny over. She began to cry; Ron joined her as he tried to get down to the action and found he couldn't.
"Out, you two," Molly declared. "Where's your brother? Charlie!" she called. "You're supposed to have an eye on the twins!"
"Yes, Mum," came the disembodied voice, from the opposite direction that the twins had taken.
Percy rolled his eyes, something he had already perfected even at his young age. He often wondered why Mum and Dad had wanted twins. Really, wouldn't one of them have done damage enough?
He offered Ron a cracker, which seemed to pacify him. Ginny continued to cry as Mum wiped her face with a wet cloth. Percy took a few moments to watch his mother. Despite the young, close ages and unruly temperaments of her children, Mum didn't seem too flustered by this holiday season. In fact, she had seemed rather laid back and happy lately. So had their father, for that matter. Percy might not know what was going on, but he knew that something was up. And that he rather liked the effect it had had on his parents.
They were interrupted by noises at the kitchen door. A moment later his Dad opened the door, calling "We're home!" and ushering Bill in before him.
Mum was immediately off and smothering him with a hug. Percy slid from his chair with a smile, but he stayed beside the table and waited.
Charlie came skidding in. Mum barely got out of the way before he had thrown himself around Bill's neck, practically bouncing with excitement. Bill caught him in the hug, laughing. It had been a long time since they'd seen each other; much longer than they'd ever been apart before. Charlie and Bill had always been inseparable, and Charlie had been rather insufferable when separated from him. Letters home only seemed to make him more miserable, and the second eldest Weasley couldn't wait to go off to Hogwarts himself. And in the meantime, he couldn't stop talking about it.
Percy simply stood, and kept waiting. Fred and George came skidding in next, pausing long enough to stare up at their biggest brother. He patted them both on the head, and they beamed before taking off again.
Bill moved on in and to the table. He gave Ginny a kiss on the head, then Ron. Their sister stared with big, curious eyes at the stranger. Ron remembered him, however, and squealed happily as Bill tickled his belly.
Still, Percy stood and waited.
Finally, despite Ron's protests, Bill turned from the high chair and came to Percy. "Hey squirt," he said with a gentle smile, opening his arms. Percy went to him, wrapping his own arms around his big brother's waist. Bill hugged him tightly, ruffling his hair with one hand.
Percy was thrilled that his brother was home.
Diagon Alley, week before Christmas, 1981
Mum had declared that it would be easier if she stayed home with the younger kids. The twins had whined, but she had learned her lesson last year and refused to give in. Fred and George had quickly moved past disappointment and into the early stages of plotting. No doubt they intended to prove that they could get into even more trouble at home than in Diagon Alley. It was somewhat worrisome that they were so devious when they hadn't even turned 4 yet.
Percy didn't worry about it. The point was that they weren't here. It was just him and his Dad and his big brothers; his best brothers in his opinion.
They were on a mission. When Bill had gone off to school in September, they hadn't been able to afford an animal on top of the books and other supplies. But Dad said he'd been putting some money aside so they could buy him a decent pet now. So, the four of them made their way through the many magical shops—and people—towards the Magical Menagerie.
Percy loved the pet store. He longed for the owls, for their family owl Errol was less than exciting and not near as pretty as most of these. But he knew they would never get one of the most expensive pets. The other animals were exciting too, all of them preening and showing off their magical abilities. Personally, he liked the rats the best.
He lingered near their cages as his brothers made the rounds around the store. Bill settled on a cat, and found a couple that were not too expensive. But he couldn't decide between them. He finally told Charlie, who Percy thought might love the cats more than Bill did, that he could make the decision for him as a Christmas present. Charlie beamed.
As they talked, Percy approached his father. "Dad? Could I maybe get a toad or something?" he asked tentatively, thinking that surely they weren't very expensive.
"I'm sorry, Percy. We just can't afford two animals right now. I promise, when you start Hogwarts in a few years, we'll try to get you a great pet. Okay? It'll be something to look forward to."
He managed a smile and nod. He understood, really he did. It didn't make it any easier. He had also noted the word try. That was key to everything ever promised to him.
Arthur called Bill over. "Why don't you take Percy outside? You can look at the new racing brooms across the way while Charlie and I get your present."
Great, something else they could look at but never have.
Bill looped an arm around Percy and steered him out.
Across the street, a group of kids about Bill's age had paused to look at the brooms. Bill seemed to recognize them, for he dragged Percy over calling, "Hey guys!"
They greeted him in turn. Bill kept an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into the small circle they had formed. One of the brown-haired girls exclaimed, "Oh, how cute! He looks just like you!"
Percy raised an eyebrow, pushing himself behind Bill's leg. Bill puffed up with pride; apparently 'cute' was a good compliment. "This is my little brother."
"One of your little brothers, you mean?" the blond girl asked with a giggle.
Bill smiled and nodded, then launched into some story about the pains of being the oldest. His friends started chipping in their own sibling stories. Percy quickly grew bored.
Since Bill wasn't paying attention to him anyway, he slipped out of the circle. He wasn't comfortable surrounded by people. He plopped down on a nearby rock and found himself staring at the Magical Menagerie. He sighed. This day wasn't turning out as he'd imagined it.
After he'd sat staring into space for a few moments, he felt something brush against his foot. He jumped, startled, and looked down to find a small rat looking up at him. "Hey there, little guy. You scared me."
He leaned closer to get a better look. The rat stood up on its hind legs, little nose twitching, apparently getting a better look at him as well. He smiled despite himself. The animal was nowhere near as sleek as the rats in the store, and Percy was sure he had no magical tricks, but something about him was endearing.
He put a hand out, and it cautiously climbed in. He picked it up, cradling it carefully in his hands. As he studied it, he noticed that it was a missing a toe off one front paw. How sad. Perhaps its luck was even worse than his.
He decided then and there that he would take care of it.
In the background he heard as Bill bid his friends goodbye and quickly located him. He came over. Percy glanced up at him briefly before looking back at his new friend.
"Percy, where did you find that thing?"
"I didn't. He found me."
"Well, put him back. You don't know where he's been."
At that, Percy gave him a look. It was one Bill was accustomed to from the twins, but it looked completely foreign on Percy's face. It was a pout—an angry pout. "No," he pronounced.
Bill's eyebrows shot up. "No?" he repeated incredulously.
Luckily—perhaps for both brothers—the door to the Magical Menagerie opened at that moment and Charlie and Arthur started towards them.
Percy felt a pang in his chest as Charlie hurried up to Bill to show off his choice. As he watched, he cradled the rat against his chest possessively.
"Percy? What have you got there?" Arthur asked as he caught up to his sons.
Reluctantly, Percy held him out so his father could see. "He's friendly. He'd make a good pet," he said hopefully. When his Dad still looked doubtful he added softly, "He's free."
His father glanced at him sharply, a touch of sadness in his eyes. After a moment's deliberation he said, "All right. You can bring him home."
The Weasleys headed back to the Leaky Cauldron. Arthur led the way, followed by Bill and Charlie with their heads close, talking and laughing together. Percy lagged behind, eyeing the little rat in his pocket, and wondering if it was the only friend he would ever have to talk to.
Burrow, Christmas Eve, 1981
A few weeks back, Fred had been picking at a large scab from a scrape on his knee. Forever curious, Ron had been hanging around him, staring and poking at the knee. While Fred had merely exclaimed "Ow!" and moved away, George had told Ron it was a "scabber." Since then, it had become Ron's favorite word.
As Percy sat in his room trying to think up a name for his new pet, Ron had come toddling in and plopped down in front of him. "Scabber," he had declared. And Percy had thought, 'Why not?'
Charlie had told Percy that it was a stupid name for a rat. Percy had told Charlie that at least he had a pet.
Scabbers was with him almost constantly, either perched on his shoulder or sleeping in his pocket. The little fellow liked to sleep a lot. Ron rather liked him, and took to following Percy around. Unfortunately he tended to squeeze a little too tight, which made Scabbers squeal and come jumping back to Percy. To his credit, the rat had never tried to bite the offending toddler.
The night before Christmas, Bill and Charlie sat on the couch. Bill's new cat sat proudly in Charlie's lap. Fred and George were on the floor in front of them, playing some game that only they understood.
Percy hesitated when he entered the room. He just somehow always felt out of place. But, telling himself that it was Christmas and he wanted to be with them, he bravely crossed the room and sat on the couch beside Bill. The cat hissed, causing Scabbers to break for higher ground on his shoulder. Charlie tightened his grip on the feline. Meanwhile Bill smiled at Percy and ruffled his hair, never breaking the story he was telling about the first Quidditch game he'd seen at Hogwarts.
Percy got caught up in the story, not noticing that Ron had come toddling in until he felt small hands on his knees. "Up?" he requested when Percy looked down at him.
With a little help from Bill, Percy pulled Ron into his lap. After a moment's deliberation, he pulled Scabbers from the perch on his shoulder. "Here, hold your hands like this," he said, arranging Ron's hands into a cradle, then placing an apprehensive Scabbers into them. "Now, just let him sit there. You can pet him, but don't squeeze him. That hurts him," he explained.
Ron nodded seriously, and carefully stroked a finger down the quivering back. Scabbers eventually relaxed in his hands, prompting Ron to look up at his brother with a blinding smile. Percy returned it. "Good job," he praised.
Beside him, Bill placed an arm around his shoulders and hugged him gently, smiling at him. He returned it and shifted carefully, still holding Ron, and leaned into Bill's shoulder. Bill slung his other arm around Charlie, who was yawning. The cat had fallen asleep in his lap.
Bill continued talking softly as they fell asleep one by one. When Ron drifted off, Scabbers climbed back to Percy's shoulder where he too fell asleep. Soon only Percy was listening to his brother. When Bill too fell asleep, Percy snuggled into his brother and closed his own eyes.
A few short minutes later, Percy heard a rustling and pulled his head from Bill's shoulder long enough to see what was going on.
Mum had retrieved the camera. Seeing that he was awake, she gestured for him to smile.
He glanced around himself, then broke into a happy grin.
One moment in time, immortalized. It wouldn't be a big deal to anyone but him. But every Christmas he pulled it out and took a few minutes to relive it.
He told himself that this year was different. He didn't need it anymore—he didn't need them anymore.
But he couldn't seem to bring himself to put it away.
So he sat on the floor of his apartment, next to his poor excuse for a Christmas tree, and continued to study it.
He'd been an intuitive child, understanding things like their money problems. Of course, there was much more that he understood now.
That had been the first Christmas after Voldemort's defeat at Godric's Hollow. That was undoubtedly the sense of relief he had felt from his parents.
It was fairly sad that he'd gone looking for companionship from a little rat. Unless one considered that this was a special rat who could turn into a wizard…but Percy hadn't known that, and he didn't even like to think about it. He might dwell on the irony of him being "free," were it not so close to his heart. Scabbers had been important to him. When he thought of how he had placed the rat in Ron's hands and what could have happened so many times…
He shook his head, pushing the thoughts away. It wasn't as if he'd meant to endanger his brother or Harry.
He moved on to think about other issues. He could grin a bit at the childish reasoning that Molly should have chosen to have only one baby instead of twins. But the grin didn't last, because he now understood the heartfelt desire that had been behind it. Charlie had Bill. Even at five, Percy had understood that the two of them shared a stronger bond than he would ever have with either of them. Ron would have Ginny. Even though she was a girl, they were too close in age not to be a natural pair.
By all rights, the one born after Percy should have been his to have a special bond with. But instead, there were two of them. And they had each other; the twin bond was something no one could break into.
He hadn't understood why they didn't adore him the way Charlie adored Bill; the way Percy adored both his big brothers. He saw—now, with a great amount of distance—that they had. They had just had a very different way of showing it. Percy had always been their favorite to pick on and annoy and follow around playing tricks. He hadn't recognized that as affection. By the time he had, that affection had pretty much disintegrated with his own attitude. He knew the twins hated him now, along with Ron.
He felt an unexpected pressure behind his eyes. He swallowed hard. Trying to push it away, he stood and walked over to the wall that boasted his other photos.
He stared at them for a moment, then at the one in his hands. Abruptly another memory entered his mind, this one from only a few years before. Christmas, at Hogwarts, and one of the twins declaring that Christmas was a time for family. He smiled slightly, remembering how they had manhandled him into his Weasley sweater and then not left him alone all day. He had pretended to be annoyed.
Actually, he had rather enjoyed it.
Without thinking about it, Percy acted on the feelings of the moment. He pulled his graduation photo from its frame and replaced it with this Christmas one. There was a big difference from the arrogant half-smile to the contented smile of the child version.
A single tear trickled past his defenses and down his cheek.
Until this moment, he had never admitted it to himself, but…he missed his family.
Author's Note: I started off trying to write a sweet Christmas story about little Weasleys. I don't know where the angst came from, but come it did. Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing it and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Happy holidays!