A/N For the "Five times" Challenge at the HP Fanfiction Challenges Forum. Percy and the others belong to JK Rowling, the title and lyrics to U2.
A Sort of Homecoming
Five times Percy Weasley didn't go home, and one that he did
"I'll be there tonight… I believe
I'll be there… somehow
I'll be there… tonight
"I was a fool!" Percy roared… "I was an idiot, I was a pompous prat, I was a – a"
"Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron," said Fred.
"Yes, I was!"
"Well, you can't say fairer than that," said Fred, holding out his hand to Percy.
"And you know it's time to go"
Percy had so many chances that first summer to change his mind.
He didn't know where his family were staying, although he knew it was in London somewhere, but it would be easy enough to talk to his father at work. Or just to send him a note: "Can I meet you and Mum somewhere and talk? Perhaps I was wrong." Not going far enough to say he was sorry, but conceding that maybe – just maybe – he had made a mistake.
But he had to admit, his parents had brought him up well. Well enough to stick up for what he believed in, whatever the cost. (And there was a cost. He had never thought that distancing himself from his family would hurt so bloody much.) Well enough that he couldn't say sorry for something he wasn't sorry for. Well enough that he couldn't lie and say he was wrong when he knew he wasn't.
Minister Fudge would not lie. Cedric Diggory's death was a tragic accident – and was hardly even unprecedented: there had been deaths in the Triwizard Tournament before. Harry Potter's story of You Know Who's resurrection was just that – a story. Percy had to admit that it surprised him rather. Potter had seemed a nice enough kid, if rather too prone to attracting trouble. But he had never imagined he would want to cause trouble on quite this scale. It just showed that however well you thought you knew someone, you never really knew everything about them.
His parents had fallen for Potter's story hook, line and sinker, and had dragged the rest of the family along with them. Not just in a passive way either, but to the extent of joining in Dumbledore's resistance against You Know Who – which Percy knew well enough was a coded way of saying resistance against the Ministry itself.
So Percy did not approach his father at work. He shut the door in his mother's face when she came to his flat. He told himself afterwards that it was the only thing he could have done, but the look in her eyes as he did it haunted him for days afterwards. He did not sleep properly for a full week after her visit.
And he argued with Bill when he appeared beside him outside work one lunchtime soon after his return from Egypt, grabbed his arm and Side-Alonged him to the flat in the heart of Muggle London where he was living. It happened so fast that Percy had no time to resist; and once at the flat, he knew that Bill – who was damn good at his job by all accounts – would have out up wards that he had no hope of getting through. So he argued his case when Bill demanded to know what the fuck he thought he was playing at and how he could have said what he did to their parents, but it did no good. He saw Bill's hands clenched into fists at his sides in the seconds before he lifted the wards and told Percy to get out, in a tight voice that did not sound like Bill at all. He did not remember being so frightened of his eldest brother since he was ten. He really thought he might be going to hit him.
So there was the whole of that first difficult, lonely summer, and Percy did not go back.
"And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, desire, time"
Percy did not realise, until that morning in December, that every day he was scanning the crowds in the Atrium for his father, for a sight of him and an indication that he was – that they all were – okay. (He felt strangely ambivalent about Dumbledore's so-called "Order". He thought that the old man was scaremongering, that the Order was fighting shadows. He still worried his family might get hurt doing it.) That morning, when he did not see the familiar figure, he felt real fear. By the time he had pushed his way through to the lifts, he had heard the rumours, and four different people - two of whom he barely knew - had asked him what had happened and whether his father was going to be alright.
He did not even make it to his desk before receiving the summons to the Minister's office, and the ten minutes that followed were some of the most uncomfortable of Percy's life. (No, Minister, he didn't know why his father was here last night. No, he didn't know how he'd been hurt. No, he didn't know if he was going to be okay – and for Merlin's sake, would someone just tell him!)
He bolted for St. Mungo's as soon as he possibly could, but realised when he got there that going in and enquiring would be taken by his family as capitulation, as surrender. (He stifled the thought that his father would not have been hurt if the Ministry line was entirely accurate. Whatever had happened clearly had something to do with the Order – but just as clearly, it was Dumbledore's fault, not the Ministry's.)
So he hung around in the shadows, waiting and watching – he wasn't sure for what. After what seemed like an eternity, he saw Bill emerge from the hospital and walk briskly off down the Muggle street. He looked exhausted and slightly dishevelled, but there was a definite air of relief about him. Percy let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. It seemed his father would recover.
A few days later, a parcel arrived. Percy opened it, although he knew that doing so was a mistake. The jumper was soft and green, and – devastatingly – smelt of home. It soaked up some of Percy's tears before he carefully re-wrapped it and sent it back.
He could not go home.
"Oh, oh, oh… on borderland we run…
And still we run
We run and don't look back"
The following summer, when Percy had been alone for nearly a year, the Ministry could no longer deny You Know Who's return. There had been a battle – of sorts – in the Ministry itself. The Department of Mysteries and the Atrium were reduced to rubble in places. And You Know Who had been seen. Not just by the obsessives in Dumbledore's Order, but by numerous sensible, highly-placed, right-thinking Ministry officials.
He was back.
Percy agonised for days about whether now was the time to go home. To say sorry. To admit he was wrong.
But there was an official authorised way of dealing with this, and the Order wanted no part of it. The Ministry way had to be the right way, surely?
Percy stifled his doubts, and toed the official line.
"The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream"
By Christmas, Percy's doubts were increasing. Things were getting much worse. There were disappearances, atrocities, murders, disasters in both the Muggle and the wizarding worlds. The Ministry's bland reassurances were far from reassuring; their advice on protecting yourself little worse than useless; the propaganda frankly alarming.
When Minister Scrimgeour said that he wished to visit Percy's family on Christmas Day, Percy had no illusions. He knew that he was being used, that Scrimgeour had his own reasons for wanting to get at Potter. But if he wanted to keep his position at the Ministry, he had no choice but to go along.
Percy's mother was genuinely pleased to see him, flinging her arms around him and greeting him with a warmth he knew he did not deserve. His father's expression was wary - not hostile, but not welcoming either. Bill's expression was identical. The twins looked openly hostile, and Ron both hostile and wary. When Percy looked at Ginny, he had to avert his eyes rapidly. He did not ever want to see that mixture of contempt and fury, directed at him, in his little sister's eyes.
The atmosphere in the room became increasingly strained. Percy's mother was doing her best to maintain some semblance of a normal conversation, but Percy could not seem to manage more than a word or two in reply to her questions and comments. No one else seemed capable of saying anything at all, although the twins' mutterings were becoming louder, and there was a look in their eyes, a spark between them that Percy knew meant nothing good. He saw them both dive for the vegetable dish at the same moment, Ginny copying them just a second or two later. Fred had a spoonful of mashed parsnip, but George, using his fingers, was quicker, and it was his shot that spattered Percy's glasses. White-hot anger exploded in Percy's head. George's expression was both triumphant and challenging. A tiny part of Percy's brain registered that hitting him would make things even worse than they already were. He turned on his heel, and made what he hoped was a dignified exit, hearing Ginny's laughter as the door slammed behind him.
Coming home was not meant to be like this.
"The city walls are all come down
The dust, a smokescreen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance"
By the summer, half of him was wishing he had stuck it out at Christmas, taken whatever his family had in store for him, asked for forgiveness and just stayed. But the other half of him rebelled against this. The Ministry was doing its best, and if anyone was going to defeat You Know Who and his band of goons it was the official arm of the law, not a rag-tag bunch of vigilantes. Percy wished the rest of his family could accept that.
But as things got worse, Percy had to suppress the unwelcome thought that the official way of dealing with all this wasn't working very well. Surely, sooner or later, things would come together and the Ministry would prevail…
One day at the end of June, he came into work to find that no one at all was even pretending to work, and the hum of conversation was way above the usual level. Something had happened at Hogwarts – though no one seemed to have a clear idea of exactly what. But what was clear was that Dumbledore was dead. And other people had been hurt. By the time he got to his desk, Percy had overheard the name "Weasley" more than once, and he sank into his chair feeling that he could hardly breathe. Who was it? Which one of them? Ron? Godric – not Ginny? Or someone else? (Though why would any of the rest of them have been at Hogwarts?) There was a memo on his desk, which he found himself opening automatically before he registered that the handwriting was his father's. "Thought you should know… Bill… Greyback... badly hurt… scars… Dad." His mind was far away from work for the rest of the morning. Things were getting too close.
At Dumbledore's funeral a few days later, Percy did his best to avoid his family – he was there as part of the official Ministry delegation after all. But when he saw Bill's mutilated face, he had to look away fast. Things like this were not supposed to happen to his family.
Just weeks later, more rumours. Vaguer still this time, but Mad-Eye Moody was dead. And another note from his father. George this time. Somehow that hit Percy even harder than the news of Bill's injuries. The twins had always seemed indestructible.
On the first of August, Percy Disillusioned himself and stood outside the wards surrounding The Burrow as the guests arrived for Bill and Fleur's wedding. He had had an invitation – two in fact, one from his mother and one from Bill himself – but he had sent them back. Perhaps this was the perfect time to go home? But something stopped him. Pride, or stupidity, or sheer bloody obstinacy. He could never explain it – then or later.
He sighed and Disapparated to the Ministry. There was work enough to keep him busy there.
In just a few hours, Minister Scrimgeour was dead and the Ministry had fallen. Going home would be so much harder now.
"Oh don't sorrow now, don't weep
For tonight, at last
I am coming home"
Percy lies in his familiar bed in his own room in The Burrow. Home.
He is trying to keep his breathing even, so that Charlie, in the camp bed on the other side of the room, will think he's asleep. But he cannot manage it, and a sob catches in his throat. He feel's his brother's strong arms round him as he begins to cry.
"I wish – I wish I'd come home before."
Charlie's voice is hoarse as he answers, "I know, little brother, I know."
Coming home was never meant to be like this.