The Black Sheep

Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own Harry Potter and Co.

Summary: There's a black sheep in every family. Percy knew that much—and for a long time, he didn't think it was him. Hints of R/Hr and H/G, oneshot

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.

--Anthony Brandt

ooo

There's a black sheep in every family. Percy knew that much—and for a long time, he didn't think it was him. He was one of the older ones, after all, and he had to set an example to follow. He watched Bill and Charlie carefully when they were younger, seeing the bravery in their eyes, the charisma in their smiles, their easy intelligence and astounding athletic skills. Percy thought he could be brave, perhaps even charismatic if he tried. Intelligent—no problem, though he did worry a little over the issue of the athletics.

He never did quite figure out when exactly he stopped wanting to be like his two older brothers and suddenly wanted to be better than them, but he did know by his fourth year at Hogwarts, he had been pulling top marks in all his classes for years, forgoing adventure for time in the library, and gaining house points instead of losing them. In such a large family, perhaps it wasn't an uncommon thought: he wanted to be unique, not just another Weasley brother.

His parents were so proud of him for so long that Percy grew used to thinking that whatever he did was right. He had sound judgment, didn't he? He'd been made prefect, then Head Boy, hadn't he? Mistakes—no, mistakes weren't for him; he'd long since outgrown the days of knee scrapes and scrambled words. He was articulate, self assured, studious, diligent, and he had promised himself long ago that he would never be anything less than perfect.

It was pride, foolish pride, that made him side with Fudge when the news about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was announced. Percy had never liked Potter as much as the others—perhaps because he saw strength in the younger boy he knew he did not possess—and it was easy to listen to the Minister, with his sensible arguments and reasoning. Dumbledore had always been a bit too head-in-the-clouds for Percy's liking, and besides, he'd gotten on in his years hadn't he?

For some reason, Percy found it more likely Dumbledore, the greatest wizard living, would make a mistake than he would.

His family didn't understand, of course they wouldn't understand. Ron was Potter's best mate, Ginny had been infatuated with him since she first laid eyes on him, the twins made fun of him like a virtual younger brother and strangely, looked at him with more trust and confidence in their eyes than they had ever show Percy. Bill and Charlie barely knew him, but they'd all heard the stories about him and liked him merely because the others did. Of course his family would trust Potter and the old fool Dumbledore, of course they wouldn't see reason.

And so Percy decided not to bother with the lot of them anymore. Family—what did he need that for? He had his job, his flat in London, his off-and-on again girl, Penelope. If they all wanted to believe You-Know-Who was back off of the word of some mentally disturbed fifteen year old, well, they'd be the ones begging for forgiveness in the end.

Pride. Yes, Percy knew a lot about that.

When it soon became clear that Potter was telling the truth, when the Minister himself saw You-Know-Who, when there were attacks and killings, when Percy began to fear for not only his own life but for that of his baby sister, who he'd never gotten to know properly, for the twins, who he thought had always hated him, for Ron, who was so brave and headstrong and would surely mix himself up in this—and even for his parents, who knew must be helping with the Order of the Phoenix, who must be risking their lives day after day—then he knew he had made a mistake, an irreversibly horrible mistake.

Percy had thought the black sheep might be Fred and George, and at one point, Ginny, who was the only girl and therefore the different one by definition. Perhaps, he had thought, it might even be Ron, who had too much to live up to and too much to lose.

But it hadn't been them, because while they were all so different, they weren't afraid. They all had their own kind of pride, but none of them abandoned their family when things got rough. None of them doubted for a moment that what Potter and Dumbledore said was the truth. Percy had fancied himself to be the sensible one, but in this case it was he who was wrong, he who had abandoned his loyalties on the word of a man he hardly knew.

It was he, Percy, who was the odd one out.

And still, he couldn't admit defeat, couldn't acknowledge that he was wrong. He sent Christmas jumpers back unopened, refused to visit his father when he was attacked in the hospital, and he'd even avoided Bill's wedding, as furious as he knew that had made his eldest brother. Percy felt he'd already hurt his family too much to deserve their forgiveness, to visit his father who had almost died trying to help save the world, to wear his mother's jumpers when he'd virtually shunned her.

He had never intended to speak to any of them again, his shame was so great. Even his brief visit the previous Christmas had been horrible—he'd never seen the twins (or little Ginny) look so furious, had never seen his father so enraged or his mother so hurt. It was Ron, though, who merely sat there with bright red ears and a hard glint to his eyes that made Percy's blood run cold, that made him realize he was no longer welcome in his own home.

And yet, it was Ron who brought him back.

He got the letter three days after Bill's wedding—as soon as he saw Ron's tiny little owl, Pig-something-or-other, he was nervous. A Howler, perhaps? An official letter of disownment? He didn't know what to make of it; Ron had never written to him after Percy had left. He sat down at his desk and shoved aside his papers from the Ministry, adjusted his glasses, spread Ron's letter out on the desk, and began to read.

Percy,

I don't know if you'll even bother opening this, but I thought I should write you anyways. Look, Bill was bloody annoyed that you missed his wedding, you should've seen how angry he got at first. He yelled for awhile at anybody who would listen that you were being a prat, a stubborn, stupid, prat, before he got hold of himself and broke down sobbing.

Well, nobody's pleased with you—we haven't been for awhile, you know—but we miss you, Perce. I dunno if you believe that or not, but it's true. Bill was crying because he'd always thought you'd be best man at his wedding—remember how close the two of you used to be?—and when you didn't even come, I think it broke his heart a bit.

I know we've hurt you too, Percy, and believe me, I know how hard it is to be part of this family sometimes. But the thing is, we stick together. And lately, you've done a pretty shoddy job of that.

Maybe I should tell you the real reason I'm writing this—it's just, well, I'm leaving Percy. I'm not going to school this year, I'm going with Harry and Hermione to try and stop Him. I can't go into details in here or anything, but I thought you at least deserved to know your little brother was going off to risk life and limb.

I dunno if I'm going to survive, and well, I'd kind of like to see you before I go, y'know?

I can't say I'm any less angry with you than I was before, but I miss you, and I know you miss us too. Please, Percy, when you get this, come over. Come see us.

We all want you to. Even Fred and George admit they miss their favorite Big Head Boy.

Well…bye, then. Hope to see you soon.

--Ron

When Percy finished reading, he didn't waste time worrying over if he should listen to his brother or not. He'd had enough of his bloody pride, enough of the lonely Christmases and evenings and ignoring his father at work.

If he was going to apologize, he was going to do it properly, and he wasn't going to have second thoughts.

And so he got out his Floo Powder, stepped over to the fireplace and yelled at the top of his lungs, "The Burrow!" before stepping into the flickering green flames. He spun familiarly, catching glimpses of homes now and again before he fell face first into the living room of his childhood home, coughing up ash and sore from the landing.

He stood up, brushed himself off, and looked up. What he saw made him freeze—his entire family, along with Harry and Hermione, were sitting in the living room, and they were watching him silently, waiting for something. He stared at the lot of them, clenching and unclenching his fists, turning the usual red and thinking that perhaps he should have thought this through a bit further. He saw the twins glowering at him, saw the hurt flash across Bill's face, the suspicion in Ginny's eyes. It was enough to make him turn tail and run back towards the fire, but instead, he cleared his throat.

"Hello, all," he said in his typically formal way. "I wanted to say…well, I've been…I mean, that is to say, I didn't…I didn't mean to…I…I was wrong." He can't remember the last time he stammered his way through a sentence, much less admitted he hadn't been right. The silence that followed was stunned as opposed to the cold one from before, but Percy sensed he needed to say more. "I…I'm sorry," he finally managed, dropping his eyes to the floor and scuffing the toe of his shoe against the hard wood, a nervous habit. "I've known for awhile, of course, that I'd made a mistake. I just…it was…"

"Pride," somebody said suddenly. "Stupid, Weasley pride, right?" Percy hardly dared to look up, for he recognized immediately who'd said it.

George.

"Yes," he agreed finally. "It was, at that."

"Yeah, well, Perce, we know about that, actually," said Fred, who stood, along with George, and walked towards their elder brother. "See, it's sort of a family thing. Not one person in this room likes admitting they're wrong."

"For example," George said, "it's quite possible we were wrong to taunt you all those years, isn't it? It's possible we were wrong not to seek you out before this and say…y'know….we, um, love you. And we miss you, too."

"Is it?" Percy asked quietly, looking at the pair of brothers he'd always imagined were the happiest when he'd finally stopped speaking to everyone.

"Yeah," Charlie put in gruffly. "We're sorry, too, Perce."

"But not as sorry as you should be," Ginny snapped, folding her arms, and glaring at Percy. "You didn't even send me a card on my birthday! You sent Mum back her jumpers, you humiliated Dad at work, you ignored ever last one of us, and now you reckon we'll just forgive and forget? You think it's that easy?"

"I know it's too much to expect," Percy agreed, hanging his head and feeling the shame wash over him again. "I am so, so, so, sorry. It doesn't make up for what I've done, and I understand if you all hate me, but it's all I can offer you."

"That's the thing though," Ginny said, and now she had come to stand with the twins. "It is just that easy, Percy. We're family, you git. We love you." And without another word, she leaped at him and hugged him, hard. This seemed to trigger something, because before Percy knew it, he was enveloped by at least eight more people, who were all laughing and crying and saying they were sorry, too, and welcome home, and too many other things to make sense of. When Percy was finally released from the giant embrace, Bill marched up to him and smacked him on the head, saying loudly that they would have to have another ceremony so Percy could do his damn job. Charlie ruffled Percy's hair and told him it was about time he came home. The twins, feeling that they had already done their sentimental bit for the evening, teased him mercilessly and asked whether people were still calling him Weatherby. Ginny gave him a kiss on the cheek and said she was glad he'd remembered where he came from.

Mum couldn't stop hugging him and was excitedly offering him every last thing there was in the kitchen, saying she'd be happy to cook him something special, knit him something, was there anything in particular he'd like? And Dad stared at him in disbelief for a few moments before saying he was glad Percy was home, and did he want to see the latest plug in the collection?

Hermione came up to him before Harry, and hugged him fondly again. She told him she'd thought he'd come around, and she was glad to see the Weasleys so happy. Her gaze had then fallen and lingered on Ron, who was holding back, and Percy thought that perhaps his littlest brother had finally come to his senses about his pretty friend after all. Harry looked slightly nervous as he approached Percy and opted for a friendly handshake, saying that it was good to see him again.

And lastly, there was Ron, who was so tall and so grown up Percy could hardly believe it. To him, Ron had always been the lanky, eager younger brother, struggling to keep up with the big kids, always eager to please. Percy realized with a start that that was how he'd been to Bill and Charlie, and was more than a bit pleased to see that Ron had turned out so well. Ron shook Percy's hand like Harry and clapped him on the shoulder like Dad, saying that he'd hoped the letter would get through to him. Percy took Ron off towards the corner and asked if it was really true, that he was leaving with Harry and Hermione.

"Yeah, it is," Ron said quietly. "But don't tell anyone else, especially Gin."

"Why not?" Percy asked, startled. He'd thought everyone would've known by now if Ron would tell him about it.

"Well, we're not exactly sure they'd be pleased we're leaving," Ron admitted. "And Ginny would murder Harry. Absolutely skin him alive."

"You're not telling me—are they—?"

"They were for a while," Ron said, grinning cheekily. "Don't worry, I gave them my full permission. But at Professor Dumbledore's funeral…well, I think that's when Harry decided he had to do what we're planning on doing. He…I think her really cares about Ginny, Perce—he told her they couldn't see each other anymore because he didn't want her to get hurt, that You-Know-Who would use her to get to him."

"Is she ok?" Percy's eyes drifted to his baby sister, who was looking rather grown-up as well, come to think of it.

"I dunno," Ron said, shrugging. "But she's not going to like us leaving without her, that's for sure. There'd be no way to stop her from coming with us if she knew."

"All right, I'll keep it quiet," Percy agreed. "But…Ron. Why would you tell me this? For all you knew, I could've gone to Mum or Dad immediately."

"I trust you, Percy," Ron said simply. "I always have. It may take you a while—all right, it might take you for bloody ever—but you always make the right decision in the end. I just figured I could count on you to do it this time, too."

"Thanks," Percy said quietly. "Be careful out there, Ron."

"I will. And you'll…you'll look out for everyone here, won't you?"

"Of course I will."

"Brilliant!" Ron exclaimed, grinning widely, and for a moment Percy could see the childish eagerness in him before it disappeared again. How strange that his kid brother had to grow up so fast.

They walked back towards their family again, and Percy watched Ron spot Hermione and then take her hand in his, saw Hermione's face light up. He saw Harry looking at Ginny with a kind of abject misery, and saw Ginny staring sadly back. The twins were carrying on with as much enthusiasm as ever, Bill had brought his new wife—Fleur, wasn't it?—into the living room as well by now, and Charlie was having a long conversation with Dad as Mum brought out food and called to Percy to say hello to his new sister-in-law, to come and eat.

He stood back for a moment, smiling at the familiar scene before him, scarcely able to believe that his family would forgive him so quickly and still love him so much. He considered George's comment about Weasley pride from earlier, heard himself apologizing again, saw Ginny wrapping her arms around him and forgiving him simultaneously.

Yes, he was the black sheep, he thought as he walked towards his beaming mother and felt the warmth of the laughter and chatter around him. He had betrayed his family's trust and forgotten who he was, and he'd made so many mistakes he'd lost count. He was supposed to be the one who was always right, and he'd been wrong. He'd hadn't even been close to perfect, not for a long while—in fact, he'd never felt so human. It should've bothered him, and he should've felt like the failure he was, but at that moment, with forgiveness embracing him and his family surrounding him, he didn't care in the slightest.

A/N:

I've never liked Percy much myself, but something tells me there's more to him than just haughtiness. Reviews please?