This was written for the Reviews Lounge Christmas project - "All I want for Christmas". Check it out - the link is in my profile.

Please read and review.

A/N The part in italics, is from OotP, page 444 of the British edition.

The Parcel

Percy looks at the large squashy parcel on his lap. He knows what it contains. He knows he shouldn't open it. He knows, even as he is ripping open the paper to reveal the contents. He knows, but he does it anyway. He can't help himself.

It's a jumper. Of course it's a jumper. He didn't need to open the parcel to know that. What else would it be? Deep green, soft, probably too short in the arms (his mother never could remember that his arms were longer than the twins') and smelling of home. It is the smell of home that finally gets to him, causes him to break down, to cry into the soft wool of the jumper he knows he cannot keep.

He wants to go home.

Dear God, he wants to go home so badly.

But he can't. Or won't. The difference is academic. Until they admit they are wrong, deluded by Dumbledore's scheming, led astray by the anti-Ministry liars who want people to believe in a danger that isn't there, he cannot go home. He cannot admit that they are right. They aren't. They are wrong. They have to admit it, and apologise. Then he can go home.

He has no illusions that it will happen soon. His parents are adamant that Potter is telling the truth, that You Know Who is back, that they must fight him. Bill is as bad. Percy had hoped he might persuade Bill to change his mind when he came to see him in the summer after the row. But Bill had clearly been hoping to change his mind, and that was not going to happen. Percy did not recall ever seeing his oldest brother as angry as he was on that occasion. Charlie is a lost cause too. Where Bill leads, Charlie follows. No use in even trying to persuade him otherwise. The twins – well, when had there ever been any point in arguing with the twins? And Ron – Percy had had hopes of Ron when he learnt he had been made a prefect and was finally learning to shoulder some responsibility. But Ron, it seems, is still too far under Potter's influence to see how wrong he is. And Ginny – it's as pointless to try to argue with Ginny as it is with Fred and George.

So Percy alone of all his family stands for what is right, what is sensible, what is authorised.

So he cannot go home.

He cannot visit his father in St. Mungo's, cannot even ask how he is, in case that is seen as an indication that his stance against his family is weakening. He did not know his father had been injured until he heard the rumours flying around the Ministry the next day. He went to the hospital in his lunch hour, but did not dare to go in and ask in case his family found out. Instead, he lurked in the shadows near the entrance until he saw Bill emerge and walk briskly off down the street. Percy had to rely on the fact that his brother looked relatively cheerful as an indication that their father would be okay. He did not approach him. Bill might be the least likely of all his brothers to punch him if he did so, but Percy knew there would be anger and contempt in Bill's eyes as he answered him, and he could not face that. He left before the rest of the family arrived to visit. He had to get back to work. His job was important.

Now it is Christmas Eve and he is alone in his tiny flat, with a jumper that smells of home. A jumper he cannot keep. He wraps it up again and sends it back. He cannot keep it.

"Merry Christmas," said George. "Don't go downstairs for a bit."

"Why not?" said Ron.

"Mum's crying again," said Fred heavily. "Percy sent back his Christmas jumper."

"Without a note," added George. "Hasn't asked how Dad is or visited him or anything."

In his flat, alone, Percy wonders if there is anything worth getting out of bed for this Christmas Day.

He wants to go home.

Dear God, he wants to go home so badly.

But he can't.