Epilogue: Love is all you Need

When I entered the Burrow, flanked by Hermione and George, I thought Mum was going to faint. She stared at me, silent and wide-eyed, with one floury hand over her mouth. The cake batter she'd been beating with a charmed whisked seemed to explode, splattering all over the floor, the wall, the counter, and us. For his part, Dad appeared rooted to his spot next to her — unable to move, unable to think, unable to even breathe.

Hermione had tried to warn them, but how do you adequately prepare someone to see their long-dead son walking and talking and perfectly well? Her, "Try not to be alarmed, okay? The person you're about to see is exactly who he seems," didn't quite cut it.

"Hey," I said, rocking back onto my heels and shrugging my shoulders in a failed attempt at nonchalance. "What's for dinner, Mum?"

With that, instead of passing out, Mum kissed every last inch of my face and called me her baby and I don't even know what else, because she cried through the whole thing. Her sniffling and babbling was loud enough to drown out Hermione's shaky voice as she attempted to offer Dad something resembling an explanation.

By the way, my mum will probably do something very similar to you, someday. In public. With your friends there, if at all possible. It's just how she is. You'll love her anyway, I promise.

Dad was the first to realise that something was wrong — that the redness of Hermione and George's eyes wasn't entirely due to happy tears inspired by my return.

And, okay, my eyes may have been a bit puffy as well, but don't you dare ever tell anyone.

I was the one to hand them Percy's letter. It seemed right, since he said he sacrificed himself for me. I still don't know if that was entirely true, though. Even now, I can't get some of his final words to me out of my head:

Do what I couldn't: let it go. Be happy.

Which means he wasn't happy, right? Well, how much of what he did that day in the Death Chamber was really about helping me get my second chance, and how much was about ending his own misery? And why was he so bloody sad? There had to be more to it than my death and a dash of unrequited love. Perce was made of sterner stuff than that — I know it. It wasn't for nothing that he was sorted into Gryffindor.

Percy's letter...well, it said a lot of things, but in the end, he left all of us with more questions than answers.

In his ever-impeccable penmanship, he spelled out apologies and reasons that made my mother fall to the floor. Her mouth dropped open and her face crumpled, as though she wanted to wail but found her breath stuck in her chest. Dad moved to catch her, too late, and let out the most heart-wrenching sob I'd ever heard in my life, simply because it came from my father.

I think it's an unwritten law that if something is bad enough to make your dad break down in tears in front of you, it's basically the worst fucking thing in the world.

Losing me in the Battle of Hogwarts broke my parents, but they managed to more or less paste themselves back together — not quite the same as they were before, of course. There were still visible cracks and fissures, but they were okay enough to get by. I died fighting to make our world a better place, to preserve everything they believed was good and right. Percy's death was something else entirely — something desperate and wrong and guilt-inducing.

I know that to this day, Mum and Dad must wonder where they went wrong, what they could have done differently, how they could have saved him. I can't begin to imagine what they must have felt upon learning that one of their children killed himself, nor do I want to try. Grief that deep and all-consuming doesn't bear contemplating.

I kind of hated Percy for doing that to them.

But that's me and Perce summed up, isn't it? Hate and love, all rolled up in a messy ball of sibling rivalry and affection. But, after some time passed and the overwhelming pain that accompanied my thoughts of Percy faded to a dull ache, I chose love. I chose to forgive him. I chose to do my best to fulfil his last wishes: to be happy and to help our family laugh again.

After all, if the prat hadn't loved me every bit as much as I loved him, his attempt to bring me back to life would have failed. I may not seem like it, but I am grateful. Every moment I'm alive is only possible because of Percy. You are only possible because of Percy.

Wait, that last bit didn't sound right. Phrasing it that way made it seem like I required his assistance during the actual process of making you. That was definitely not the case.

I suspect you might one day end up wishing that I had decided to hold onto my anger. If I had still been furious when you entered the world, I wouldn't have agreed to Hermione's request to name you Percy.

Actually, that's a lie. I probably would have. Sorry, kid. For her to actually voice the question, "Can we call him Percy?" let me know that naming you after my late brother meant the world to her.

You see, Hermione's mourning has been mostly silent and secretive, restricted to tracing the X on my chest when she thinks I'm asleep and weeping when she thinks I can't hear. I have to admit, it bothered me at first — not in an insecure, she's-in-love-with-my-dead-brother sort of way, because I don't think that's true, but in an it-makes-me-feel-powerless-to-help sort of way. Now, though, I think I get it. Everyone has their own method of coping. Mine tends to involve pranks, sex, or pouring my heart out to people who can't yet understand or respond, it'd seem.

Anyway, there are plenty of names out there that are miles worse than Percy George Weasley. Once again, I bring your attention to the example of your unfortunate cousin, Albus Severus Potter.

I suppose I should probably start referring to Hermione as "your mum" when I talk to you, but to be honest, I'm still having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the notion that she's really your mother — that I'm really your father. It's only been a week since I staggered into the waiting room at St. Mungo's and announced your name, time of birth, and weight (why does everyone always want to know what newborns weigh? It's not like they're Christmas turkeys) to a swarm of excited Weasleys, Potters, and Hermione's rather frazzled-looking parents.

I think George and Luna confused the Grangers. You'll see what I mean when you get older. Luna is, well, Luna, and ever since she and George got married, they seem to communicate with each other using a series of complex eyebrow wiggles. It's unsettling.

You're really going to have to give me time to get used to this whole Dad thing. Like I said, it's all very, very new. Hell, most days I have a hard time reconciling my image of Hermione — sorry, of your mum — with the word "wife," and she's been that for going on four years now.

Incidentally, your mum would be very, very cross if she knew the things I've been telling you, but it's not like you'll actually remember any of it, will you? Newborns have the memory capacity of a Flobberworm.

Err, no offence.

I'll give you the boring, clean-language, censored version of this story when you're older. I doubt you'll actually want to hear most of the good bits, anyway. If you're anything like me, you'll want to cling to the belief that your parents are asexual beings.

Good luck with that. It's going to be a struggle with us, believe me.

To be honest, I'm rather conflicted. I'm not sure how much I should reveal about my return from beyond the Veil once you are old enough to remember my words. Being locked in Hermione's head for a few days clearly made me paranoid; I've recently caught myself worrying about you attempting to copy Percy in some way if you ever lose someone you love.

Don't ever do that. Ever. He shouldn't have, and if it wouldn't have made things even worse for my parents, my siblings, and Hermione, I would have figured out exactly how he did it and dove right through that fucking Veil myself to bring him back.

On the other hand, I don't want to act as though the circumstances of Percy's death are some shameful secret. That would be doing his memory a disservice. He was brave and stubborn and clever and stupid, and in my perfect world, it would've been possible for you to know him. He would have bossed you around and driven you insane, but you still would've loved him.

I reckon I'll figure out the right balance, in time. Better I start practicing now, when your biggest concerns in life are a dry bum and where the hell the pretty milk machine with the soothing voice has gone.

Listen, I don't want you to feel like just because your name is Percy and you're Hermione's son that you have to be a prefect or Head Boy or the best at everything. Your mum would probably prefer that you actually finish school, but aside from that, there's no pressure. Don't ever think that you have to live up to the standards my brother set for himself in order to become someone who would've made him proud.

Growing up, Perce was forever trying to teach me something — how to behave myself, how to study, how to shut up already so he could concentrate. He always went about it in the wrong way, of course, but he wouldn't have been Percy if he didn't. I think that if he had just one wish for your future, it'd be for me to pass on the single most important lesson that he actually managed to get past my thick skull.

So remember this, son: love is all you need.

The End

A/N: Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed — especially those of you who have stuck around since I first posted Chapter One! The line, "Love is all you need," is, of course, borrowed from the Beatles. I'm currently thinking about writing a side-story focusing on George and Luna's romance, but I probably won't get to that for quite some time. This was one of my favourite fics to write, so I hope you enjoyed it. :)