Soul Searching.

Disclaimer - I don't own them, and I probably wouldn't have as much fun with them if I did.

Notes: A billion thanks to Bri and Bec. You guys rule. Um, this is pre-slash, basically. If that doesn't float your boat, please vacate the area immediately.

**

December 23:


Percy sat alone in the kitchen, drinking tea and waiting for the Daily Prophet to arrive. The early morning sun cut through the broken shutters over the sink window. Percy tried to follow a single dust mote as it floated through the light, but it was lost in a tangled swirl of its brothers. He averted his eyes and took a sip of the bitter tea, reveling in the way it seemed to soak up all of his anger and spite.

His arrival at the Burrow the evening before had been less than pleasant. The twins didn't care much for their older brother, and had no qualms about showing it. Percy remembered his reception, and laughed bitterly into his cup, taking another small gulp.

He heard shuffling footsteps on the stairs and then his parents came into the room. They were talking about his younger brother again. 'Of course,' he thought, and noticed that their presence had disrupted the dust in the light. He sighed, and turned to listen to his mother as she fretted over Ron.

"Well, of course Professor Dumbledore would never have agreed to let them come if there was any chance of danger. But, well. I just don't know how comfortable I'll be with...with *him* in the house with us." She was worrying the seam of her shirt. Arthur reached over and pulled it away, holding her hands in his. Percy couldn't help but be a little worried. His mother looked pretty shaken.

"Now, Molly. It'll be fine. You know he's innocent. Like you said, Dumbledore wouldn't allow him to come if there was any possible danger." He looked up at the clock on the wall. "And I've got to run, or I'll be late. I probably won't be back until around dinnertime, though, so don't wait up. We've had a terrible mess come up at the office. Something about a whole shipment of enchanted Christmas ornaments that somehow got into a Muggle shop..." With a sigh and a pop, he Apparated. Molly gave a deep sigh.

"Your father always works far too hard this time of year, you know," she said as she whisked Percy's now-empty teacup away and placed it in the sink. "And you! Percy, honestly. I had better not find a single report in your room when I go up there to clean, or you'll be in deep trouble, young man. You've got a week off from that place; you spend it resting up!" She turned away and started tidying up. Percy shook his head and smiled. His mother really was an amazing woman. The depth of her compassion for all of her children amazed Percy sometimes.

"Don't worry, Mum." I plan on taking several naps, in fact." Percy stood and stretched, the joints in his back and shoulders popping loudly.

Molly looked at her son disapprovingly. "You really shouldn't work so hard, Percy. It's not healthy." Percy was about to reply, but a
commotion from the living room distracted him. He hurried with his mother toward the room. "That'll be your brother coming home, I expect," Molly said, and sure enough, Percy caught a glimpse of his tall younger brother and his best friend. He glanced around curiously, wondering if the person his parents had been talking about had accompanied the boys. He watched his mother as she gathered both of them into a giant hug, and then leaned over to gingerly pat ... a dog?

Percy couldn't help but laugh at himself. 'Right. Harry's got a watchdog, then. That's new.' He turned to go back into the kitchen when he was knocked in the chest by a twin. He stumbled backwards and managed to regain his footing, when he was shoved out of the way by the second twin. He lost his balance completely and toppled over, landing on the floor with an ungraceful "oomph." He glared at his brothers as they hurried over to Ron and Harry.

"Whoa!" Fred exclaimed. "That's a great dog!"

"Yeah, where'd you get him?" George asked, petting the shaggy black animal.

Harry just shrugged. "He's just sort of a guard dog. Professor Dumbledore made me bring him. His name is Snuffles." When the twins' snickered at the name, he added, "It's to fool the enemy."

"Right," said Fred. "If I had a dog this cool looking I'd name him...Mauler or something wicked like that." George nodded his agreement.

Snuffles pulled himself away and trotted over to where Percy was still sitting on the floor. Percy scooted back, not wanting to be bitten. Snuffles gave him a cautious sniff, then walked away. Percy sighed in relief and stood up, brushing down his robes.

The twins started laughing. "Can't even get an animal to hang about with you, eh Perce?" one of them said. He glared at them for a moment, and then turned on his heel and stalked out of the living room. He made a quick stop at the hall closet, grabbed his winter cloak, and went outside.

It had snowed the night before. Percy stood on the porch for a moment, staring out at the sea of whiteness, still untouched by any living thing. He stepped out into it, his feet making crunching sounds as he walked across the yard towards the small, frozen pond. He pulled his cloak close around his body, and sat on the bench next to the water. He thought about crying for a moment, and then discarded the idea. It would only make things worse. He sat silently for a few moments, staring blankly at the white world and wondering what had happened to him. He felt so very alone.

After a few moments he sighed and stood up. He placed a water repellant spell on his shoes and started off across the field, unsure of where he was going. He just felt the urge to leave, to walk and walk until he ended up in a brand new place where he wouldn't have to hide anymore. Where people would think he was interesting and fun to be around. He walked for almost an hour, lost in thought.

His feet hurt. They weren't wet, but they were cold and sore. He really wasn't in the best physical condition these days, either. The backs of his legs were starting to ache, as well. He looked around and saw an old stone pit a ways off. After walking over to it, he sat down on a large rock and took one shoe off, rubbing the ache out of his foot. The sun hung very low in the sky, and a cold breeze had come up from the east. Percy sighed deeply, and looked back the way he'd come. From the east. It'd probably take him a good two hours to get home with the wind blowing, unless he Apparated . A part of him considered that cheating, though. He had gotten this far on his feet, why not the rest of the way?

"Well, nothing for it, I guess." He stood up and was about to start back home when he heard muffled shouts. Shouts coming from the direction of home. Shouts that were undoubtedly aimed at him. He shook his head. "No. I'm not going to come to you."

And then Harry's dog Snuffles was bounding towards him. Percy gave an undignified squeak and stepped backwards. He really didn't like dogs. "Go away," he said, waving his hand. "I know how to go home by myself, I don't need your company." The dog cocked his head, and promptly sat down.


**


Sirius watched Percy with amusement. 'He wouldn't be so bad if someone gave him a chance,' he thought as he watched the redhead try to shoo him off.

Percy sighed and aimed a kick at a large boulder next to him. Off-balance from the force of the kick, he slipped on the icy rocks. Sirius watched with horror as Percy fell, helpless to stop it. He heard a sickening thud as Percy's head hit the sharp rocks.

He ran over and saw a small pool of blood blossom out from beneath Percy's head. For a moment, he considered running back to the Burrow to get help, but the amount of blood on the ground was frightening him. Without giving the logical part of his mind time to argue, Sirius turned into his human form and ran to Percy. He gently lifted the limp body, running his fingers over the jagged cut on the back of Percy's head. He whispered "medicor vulneratio" and felt the cut scab over and begin to close. He couldn't make his magic be as precise as he'd like without his wand, but he'd at least managed to stop the bleeding.

Percy chose that moment to open his eyes. He moaned and gingerly opened his eyes, and Sirius felt himself drawn into the bleary hazel gaze. Percy drew his brows together and shook his head dazedly. "Wha...?" he said with a small whimper.

"You took a bad fall, there, Percy. Knocked your head pretty hard." Sirius gently brushed Percy's bangs from his forehead, smiling as the redhead unconsciously turned into the touch.

"Who are you?" Percy asked, squinting up into the face of his savior.

Sirius shook his head. "No one of any consequence." The look in Percy's eyes was making him uncomfortable. He looked as if he recognized Sirius's face, but couldn't quite attach a name to it. He turned away, letting his hair break their eye contact.

"It's of consequence to me," Percy replied. He out a hand on Sirius's cheek and turned his face back. "You look..." he trailed off as he studied the face above him, and then his eyes grew suddenly wide. "Oh, God. I know who you are. How do you know my name?" Percy jerked his hand away and tried to pull away from Sirius's grip.

"No! No, shh. I'm not going to hurt you, Percy! It's okay." Sirius tried to tighten his hold on the other man, but Percy rolled out of his grip and pulled out his wand. When he was facing Sirius again his face was tight with pain and determination.

"Right," he whispered harshly. "Well, I'll be damned if I'll let you hurt Harry, either." Percy's hands were shaking, and his eyes were round with fear behind his glasses.

"What if it was the twins I was after?" he asked on a sudden impulse. Percy's eyes grew large. He shook his head.

"No. No, I won't let you hurt anyone. Not my family, not Harry, not anyone."

Sirius smiled and slinked towards Percy. "Why not? I've seen how they treat you, Percy. Surely you wouldn't mind too much?"

Percy was shaking all over. "N-no! God, that's so depraved! I would never wish them harm! They may be arseholes, but they don't deserve to die for it!" He shook his head and steadied his wand. "And if you come any closer, I'll kill you."

"You can't kill me. You owe me your life, Mr. Weasley. Life debt and all that," Sirius said, trying to sound bored. 'I think he really has got depth, after all.' He heard Harry and Ron running up to them, but didn't turn around.

"Hey, Percy! We've come looking for you. Mum got a little worried when you didn't come back after an hour so we came after you on brooms," Ron said, stopping for a moment to catch his breath.

Percy shook his head violently. "Harry! You've got to get away from here now! Go home, go anywhere, just get out of here!" he said desperately, waving Harry away. Sirius just looked up at his godson and grinned.

Harry glanced from Sirius to where Percy was crouched with his wand out. "You are such a bastard sometimes, Sirius," he said shaking his head. Then he turned to the frightened Weasley. "Percy, it's alright. He's not going to hurt anyone. I promise." Harry walked over to him. "Are you all right?"

Percy shook his head and grabbed Harry's arm, pulling the boy behind him and shielding him with his body. "Harry! You've got to watch out! Do you know who that *is?*" Sirius sighed and rolled his eyes.

Harry managed to wrench himself from Percy's grip and stand in front of the confused redhead. "Percy, it's fine. He's innocent. He's not going to kill me, or hurt me, or maim me. Or even think about doing any of those things."

Sirius could see Percy's confusion written on his face. He could also tell quite clearly that the young man had a serious concussion. He kept blinking his eyes into focus, and swayed a bit on his feet.

Ron was at his side quickly, and put a hand on his brother's arm. "Percy, do you want to come home with us? You don't look so good."

Percy blinked and shook his head. "No. I'm going home now." Sirius watched him disappear with a pop. Harry stood next to him.

"I don't know what you did, Sirius, but he looked scared to death!" Harry shook his head. "He's not the greatest guy in the world to get along with, either. I hope you didn't make Christmas completely unbearable for us, having to put up with him." He sighed and walked over to Ron. "We're flying back to the Burrow." And then Sirius was alone.

He sat quietly for a moment, thinking. Percy certainly was intriguing to him. He was so hidden. He reminded Sirius of himself a little. 'That's scary. Don't think that. Really.'

And with a word, he was gone, drowning the quarry in complete silence.


**

Percy ran into the kitchen of his home nearly out of breath. He found his mother preparing dinner, and took her hand. "Mum, oh, mum, you've got to call the ministry it's an emergency Sirius Black is out there and I could swear he's got Harry under some sort of spell and I didn't want to leave them alone out there but I had to come and -"

"Percy!" his mother cut into his diatribe softly. "It's okay, love. He's very much innocent. Professor Dumbledore can attest to that." She put both of her hands on his shoulders. "He's perfectly safe around Harry, all right?" She looked into his eyes. "Are you okay? You look like you got hit on the head."

Percy sighed deeply. "No, I'm fine. I just fell. I'm great." He shook loose from his mother's grip and walked away deep in thought.


December 24:


Percy had gone straight to his room after speaking to his mother. He'd placed an energy spell on himself, afraid of falling asleep with a concussion, and then commenced to pace around his room for an hour and a half, cursing and ranting and being generally un-Percyish.

When he finally had allowed himself to fall asleep, he'd had very odd dreams, and woke several times with a pounding headache. He kept replaying the events with Sirius in his mind. 'How could he ask me a thing like that? I don't like the twins, but to want them dead...'

On Christmas Eve, not much had changed for him. He woke up feeling very irritable. His mother came and knocked on his door several times asking him to come downstairs and eat something, but he steadfastly refused. The less he was around people, the less he'd have to worry about anything.

He went downstairs at 2:37 p.m. to get some tea and pick up his newspaper, and then he went directly back upstairs. Several people tried to engage him in conversation, but he steadfastly refused to be drawn up into any. He drank his tea, all the while wishing it were hard liquor.

He took a nap after he read the paper. He started to feel better, overall. He decided that maybe spending Christmas Eve pigeonholed in his bedroom was not the best thing in the world. And when he finally decided to open the door, a huge pail of water fell over him, soaking every last inch of his clothing. The twins' raucous laughter could be heard down the hall, and he slammed the door.

He changed his clothes, slowly peeling the wet cloth from his body and letting them fall to the floor with soft squishing noises. He sat stiffly on his bed. The last rays of sunlight slashed through his window, creating eerie shadows on the wall. He held up his left hand and watched his skin turn dark, rose-pink as it moved through the light.

At last the sun set completely, leaving only light purple hints of its existence in the distant sky. Percy let his chin fall to his chest, and finally he cried. It was one harsh, wrenching sob after another. He felt the warm tears spilling down his face, and reached up to carelessly wipe at them with his hand. It seemed as though things had suddenly all gone strange at once, and Percy was in no way ready to deal with them. Especially the twins antics. He knew that they were playing. That they really meant no harm. And yet...they only antagonized him further.

He didn't see the door to his room open, or Sirius enter in his dog form. He didn't hear the dog pad towards him, nor did he see him transform back into a human. He did feel a soft, warm breath ghost across his neck, however. And he felt the bed give underneath another person. He turned to see who the intruder was, and found his face inches from Sirius's.

"Percy, it's very dark in here. Why don't you turn on a light?" he whispered, and Percy shrank back from him.

"What the fuck do you want?" he asked, his voice sharp and breathy from crying. He scooted away until his back hit the headboard, and then he curled up, with his knees beneath his chin. He tried everything he could to make tears stop coming out of his eyes, but his body refused.

Sirius leaned over and rested a hand on Percy's leg. Percy flinched, but didn't pull away from the touch. "I'm sorry about yesterday, Percy. And why don't you turn on a light?"

Percy furrowed his brow. "I like the dark. Stop asking me that. And what the hell was that all about yesterday? I can't believe you asked me that!" He took several deep breaths and managed to calm down. He was still shaking a bit, but was otherwise in control of himself again.

Sirius's voice was soft when he answered. "I wanted to know if you really were a cold, unfeeling bastard." He shrugged. "You aren't. Sometimes the best way to find out about people is to hit them very close to home." He smiled and conjured a glass of water from the desk near the door. He handed it to Percy, who took it gingerly. "So, why do you like the dark?" he asked, settling himself in front of the younger man.

Percy shrugged. "Why do you want me to tell you?"

"I'm interested in you. I want you to tell me all about you."

"All about me? I don't think I want to open up to anyone, Mr. Black. Especially not you." Percy curled his lips into a sneer.

"It's Sirius. And sometimes talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself. So you'll be safe if you say a lot."

Percy rose an eyebrow, but remained silent for a moment. "I'm never hiding in the dark. No one is, really. We all drop our inhibitions and facades, and stop caring about what others think. Because no one can see us, but they can. They see us better in the dark than they ever possibly could in the light." He paused, and took a drink of water. "I probably would never tell you this if I could see your eyes."

He could feel Sirius staring at him, though, and it was rather unnerving. "Plus," he added after a moment. "You're never really alone in the dark. It wraps itself around you, filling in everything. It takes you to sleep, and its absence is heart wrenching. People die in the light. I did. I stopped being Percy, and became...just another drone, trying to make others see the me that they wanted to see and hiding myself."

Sirius laughed bitterly. "The darkness is what killed me, Percy. Tore my soul to shreds. But I don't think I could ever live without it." He paused. "You're right. I'm never alone in the dark."

They sat quietly for a moment, each wrapped up in his thoughts. Percy couldn't believe he'd just opened up so much. He hated telling people his thoughts. They weren't things to be shared with just anyone. Especially not killers on the loose. And yet...the darkness made it okay. It made everything all right.

He felt the bed move, and knew that Sirius had shifted his position. And then he felt five warm fingertips on his cheek, gently pressing into the soft flesh. He shivered, though not from cold, and then he felt Sirius lean forward and press warm lips to his cheek. Percy sucked in a breath quietly, the touch uninvited and exhilarating.

Sirius pulled away. "I should let you sleep," he said, and began to crawl off of the bed.

Percy reached out, then, and held onto Sirius's arm. "Wait. You. You could stay and we could be alone in the dark together." He felt Sirius hesitate briefly, and then the older man crawled back to him. They lay down on top of the comforter together, not touching. Percy felt like a coward, but he didn't know what to do exactly. After a few moments, the gentle rhythm of Sirius's breathing lulled him to sleep, and he never once dreamed.


**


December 25:

Percy woke and found himself wrapped around something. Something very alive.
And warm. And comfortable to be wrapped around. His eyes took a moment to
focus, but when they did he found himself face-to-face with Sirius. He made a tiny yelp and tried to pull away. He had no idea how they'd gotten into the position they were. He remembered falling asleep very much on his own side of the bed.

Sirius made a small noise but kept his grip firmly around Percy's waist. "Did you sleep all right?" he asked, yawning hugely.

Percy started to reply, but was distracted by Sirius's mouth. 'That's... that's the mouth that kissed me last night...' he felt himself blush furiously, and nodded. "Er. Yes. You?" he asked softly.

Sirius smiled at him. "I did indeed. No nightmares." He winked, and finally let go of Percy to stretch.

Percy lamented at the loss of contact for a moment, and then decided it was probably for the best and stood up. He took his glasses off and rubbed his face gingerly. 'Sleeping with glasses on is not wise.' He felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his chest. 'And I didn't even tell him much!'

He shuffled sleepily towards the door, but was stopped by a strong hand on his shoulder. He turned to Sirius with a bit of trepidation. "Is... is something wrong?" he asked.

Sirius smiled and shook his head. "No. I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas." He pulled Percy towards him gently, and once again placed a gentle kiss to his cheek. Percy felt himself flush, but smiled and didn't pull away.

He'd stop hiding. He'd stop pretending. Because he didn't feel so alone anymore.


Fin.

a/n: I'm a little unsure about this story, so I'd really appreciate any and all comments you've got. Thanks for reading!