Percy blames himself, even when the rest of his family don't. Even when they swear to him that he couldn't have helped, that there was nothing he could have done, he blames himself. Even when his mother walks into the room and glances at him, he still looks past her expression and sees the non-existent hate behind her warm smile. When his father sits down next to him and hands him a tankard of butterbeer, he sees past the pat on the back – it's fake, a lie, an act. Because Percy doesn't deserve their kindness.
Percy was fine until Ron shouted at him. Everyone knows that Ron gets angry sometimes, says things he doesn't mean, but Percy knows that Ron is deadly serious, and all of a sudden he feels guiltier than he ever thought possible. At night, Percy still hears what Ron said resound around his skull, bouncing off the walls of his head:
It's your fault, Percy! Of course it was your fucking fault! Fred was there for this family, Fred cared! Where the fuck were you? You should have died, not him!
Ron apologised later, he was drunk, upset, caught up in the moment. He told Percy that he didn't really mean what he said, that he didn't really blame him, but from that moment on, Percy knew what everyone was thinking, even when they didn't know themselves. At the funeral, when they were all stood around the grave with their eyes misted over, someone put a hand on Percy's arm – fake sympathy. That hand wanted to push Percy into that grave, make him lie there instead of the loved twin.
At the gathering afterwards, everyone sat around the kitchen table and shared funny tales of when Fred was growing up. George couldn't say anything because there was nothing left in him; there was no George without Fred, and everyone knew that already, so no one expected him to. When it came to Percy, they all stared at him, waiting for another anecdote that would rouse a bittersweet chuckle from the family, but Percy had nothing. Not one thing that he could remember about his own brother. And Percy realised what a pompous twat he'd been. George couldn't look at him for about two days afterwards, and when he finally did, there was always an air of disdain, whether George meant it or not.
Percy tried blaming everything but himself, anything to make the guilt fade even slightly. He blamed the Ministry for corrupting him, for making him a self-centred arsehole; he blamed his parents for not trying to drag him home sooner. One night, as Percy lay in bed, still not sleeping, he blamed Fred for dying in the first place. A millisecond of doubt, of sheer desperation, but Percy added that weight to the ever increasing burden on his shoulders.
He would sit in the lounge as the Weasley's chattered loudly, back to their old ways, but never quite themselves, and wouldn't say a word. In Percy's mind, he didn't deserve their forgiveness or their acceptance. So he got angry instead. Stormed out in a huff, took himself away to him room, indulged in a book. And when Ginny came upstairs to go to bed, she poked her head around the door and asked if he was okay, to which Percy didn't even reply. She didn't really care anyway, he was alive and Fred wasn't anymore. As she turned back and proceeded to her own bed, he was sure he heard a 'piss off',or maybe it was just a sigh. Percy couldn't be sure anymore.
But one day, when Percy is sullenly peeling potatoes for the family roast, his mother taps him on the shoulder. She pulls him with strength, yet perfectly gently out to the garden and sits him down. She has that motherly shine in her eye, and Percy stares at a gnome chasing a field mouse, because he can't bear to look at her. But she pulls his head up with a finger, and says four words that Percy never thought he'd believe.
It's not your fault.
And all of a sudden it clicks in, and Percy is crying and crying because it's taken him a year to realise that it wasn't his fault. That Fred's death wasn't down to him to decide. That Fred would turn in his grave if he could see what his big brother had become. And Mrs Weasley is crying with him, but she is smiling; she hasn't lost two sons anymore, because Percy is back with them and he's not quite happy, because none of them will ever be happy properly, not really, but he's back.
Percy sits with them at dinner that night, and when he goes through to join the rest of the family around the radio, he plonks himself down next to George and pulls him into a spine-crushing hug. George is shocked for a minute, but then he understands that it isn't just a spontaneous demonstration of affection, it's an I'm-sorry-for-being-a-knob hug with months of bottled up self-loathing poured into it, so George hugs him back like he's never hugged anyone before, like he never will again, and the Weasleys gaze on with tears in their eyes, because for the first time since Fred died they're starting to feel like a family again, and that's something that none of them ever thought would happen.