Title: A Sense of Belonging
Rating: PG for some mild swearing
Warnings: Mild swearing and, of course, spanking.
[A/N:] Standard disclaimers apply - I don't own it, JKR does. Contains spanking, if ya don't like - don't read.
It was July of 1991 and the home of the Weasley family, officially and affectionately named the Burrow, was buzzing. Arthur and Molly Weasley were preparing to leave on a three day trip to Wales to attend the wedding of one of Molly's cousins and were leaving their third son, Percy, in charge of their younger children. Percy was going on fifteen and the oldest child they still had at home. His younger twin brothers, Fred and George, had turned thirteen in April and the Weasley parents were a bit concerned about leaving the mischievous duo for three days without an adult in charge. Their youngest boy, Ronald, had turned eleven in March and was usually a very good boy, except when the twins managed to cajole him into joining in on their mischief-making. Ginevra, their youngest child and only girl, was going on ten.
Ordinarily, if Arthur and Molly were leaving the Burrow for more than a couple of days, they would ask one of their older sons, Bill or Charlie, to come and stay with the children. But Percy had argued his case and convinced them that, at nearly fifteen, he was quite old enough to mind his younger siblings for a couple of days. Besides, he'd told them, they were only a Floo-call away if there was any emergency. Molly had finally given in and left a long list of instructions for Percy and his younger brothers and sister to follow. She'd had a stern talking-to with the twins, Ron, and Ginny and told them that while she and Arthur were gone, Percy was in charge. Arthur had taken Percy aside and formally given him permission to discipline the younger ones if it were needed, but warned him that if he abused that power, he'd be the one to find himself in for a long session over his father's lap.
And so, lectures and warnings and instructions given, rules firmly set in place and consequences established, Arthur and Molly departed. And although they'd never say as much in so many words, they were relishing the idea of having a break from their children, as much as they loved them.
The first day actually went pretty smoothly. Arthur and Molly had left early that morning, and all of the kids except for Percy had gone back to bed after, determined to sleep at least a couple more hours before finally getting up for the day. Molly had prepared enough meals to last her children the three days she and Arthur would be gone, and all it would take to heat them would be a tap of the wand on the lid of the dishes they were stored in, since none of the children at home were old enough to use magic outside of Hogwarts. Percy settled down to study a bit while his siblings were asleep, but as soon as he heard the sounds of them stirring upstairs, he'd re-heated the breakfast their mum had made before she left, knowing they'd all be hungry. He set five places at the table, setting out the hotcakes, potatoes, sausage, and biscuits as well as a pitcher of milk and a pitcher of orange juice, and waited for his brothers and sister to make their way downstairs.
Breakfast had been a surprisingly quiet affair, the younger kids still too tired to do much more than eat their breakfast in peace. After breakfast, Ginny had suggested they go down to the lake and spend the day swimming, and idea that her siblings readily agreed to. Percy had made sure he and the other slathered on sun-block and Ginny and Ron helped him put together a basket of sandwiches, fruit, and pumpkin juice to carry down with them in case they didn't come back in time for lunch. As it turned out, the Weasley children had ended up spending the entire day at the lake. Splash fights, races, and lots of dunking occurred, but blessedly few arguments. They enjoyed lunch while lounging under one of the immense trees surrounding the lake and Percy made them all rest for at least half-an-hour before swimming.
They only packed up and trekked back up the property to the Burrow when the sun set and Percy declared that it was time for dinner. Everyone was pretty tired after such a fun day and ready for a bit of time off by themselves. The twins had disappeared to their room, Ron and Ginny started a game of Wizard's chess, and Percy settled himself with a book on his favourite corner of the sofa in the family room. He couldn't help but think that his parents would be surprised to see how well the siblings had gotten along. He'd prove to them that he could be trusted to take care of his younger siblings yet!
As well as the first day went, though, it seemed fated that the second day would be awful. The Weasley children woke the next morning to stormy skies. Ron and Fred fought over the shower, Ginny refused to eat anything but eggs when Molly had left porridge for breakfast. The twins had wanted to go back to the lake, but Percy refused, saying the chances were too high that the weather could turn bad and he didn't want them outside if it did. He'd also vetoed flying, when Ron suggested it, for the same reason, plus it was a Weasley Family Rule that no one went flying unless one or both of the parents were home. That way, if anyone got hurt, an adult wizard was on hand who could handle any injuries. Since none of the kids could use magic, flying was definitely out of the question.
The twins locked themselves in their room after breakfast, fuming at being denied two of their favourite past-times. Ron stormed off, angry at Percy when the older boy scolded him for flat-out ignoring requests for help cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Ginny helped Percy clean up, pouting a little at not being allowed outside. Percy offered to play a game of Gobstones or Exploding Snap with her, but his little sister said she'd rather just go up to her room and play for a while. Percy, left alone and feeling slightly disappointed that his siblings didn't seem to want to be around him, went to his own room and stretched out on his stomach on his bed to do a bit of reading.
Several hours later, Percy awoke with a start. He checked the time, finding it well after noon, and silently cursed himself for falling asleep. He went downstairs in search of his younger brothers and sister. A glance into the kitchen revealed a sink full of messy dishes and food-stained counters. Well, the younger ones had obviously managed lunch for themselves, he thought. He saw no sign of the younger Weasleys downstairs. Frowning to himself, he decided to look upstairs and see if maybe they were all still locked up in their rooms. He checked the twins' room first, but found nothing more than the usual pigsty. Ron and Ginny weren't in their rooms either, and Percy found himself panicking. Terror gripped him; what if something had happened to them while he'd been asleep? If there was one thing Percy knew, it was that the world wasn't always a safe place; evil lurked everywhere. He checked every room in the house, fear coursing through him as his searching yielded no results.
"Where could they be?" he muttered aloud, quickly descending the stairs. He strode into the family room and wrenched the front door open, scanning the front yard. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind as he ran to the other end of the house and checked the backyard. Nothing. Where in Merlin's name were they? Percy tried to control all the 'what ifs' that ran through his mind, tried to calm himself down, firmly telling himself that panicking wouldn't do any good. He just had to find them! Please let them be safe... please don't let anything have happened to them.
He sprinted to the shed in the backyard, opened the door and peered in, thinking that maybe, for some odd reason, they were in there. What he saw caused his cheeks to darken in anger, mouth set in a thin line. Four brooms were missing from the shed.
Suddenly furious that they'd so blatantly disobeyed not only his orders, but also their parents' rules, Percy slammed the door and took off at a run, headed for the lake. The closer he got, he could hear loud shouts and laughter. Percy's ire rose and he fought to reign in his temper. The lake was soon within view, and he saw three brooms lying on the lake-shore. One of the twins was in the water, Ginny on his shoulders, while the other twin was hovering on his broom approximately three or four feet above the water, holding Ron and preparing to launch him into the lake.
He knew the moment Fred saw him, for his brother froze in surprise, dropping Ron, who fell into the lake belly first. Percy determinedly strode right up to the water's edge as Ron came up from underwater, spluttering and coughing.
"Out. Now." He ordered in a sharp, clipped tone. "Fred, over here." Percy's expression was grim, face red with fury. His siblings just stared at him, clearly unable to believe that they'd been caught. "NOW!" Percy shouted. Suddenly, the youngest Weasley children were a flurry of motion. George, Ginny, and Ron began swimming back to shore and Fred turned his broom towards Percy, crossing the distance in no time and landing several feet away from his brother. Percy waited until George, Ron and Ginny were out of the water before ordering them to pick up their brooms. He sent them ahead of him to the house, supervised as the brooms were locked up in the shed once again, and ushered them into the house.
"Go upstairs and change into dry clothes." Percy said evenly, his anger still apparent in his tone. "Ron, Ginny, I want the two of you to stay in your rooms. Fred and George, meet me in Dad's study after you've changed clothes."
Ron and Ginny took one look at the expression on their brother's face and headed for the stairs, but Fred and George just stared at Percy like he'd grown a second head.
"You have got to be kidding me?" George said incredulously.
"Who do you think you are? Mum?" Fred demanded.
"I think, Fred," Percy said icily, "that I am the one who told all four of you that both flying AND swimming were off-limits today. Now go change." He fixed the twins with a glare so reminiscent of Molly Weasley that Fred shuddered.
"All right, all right," George said defensively. "We're going..." He grabbed Fred's arm and practically dragged his twin up the stairs and to their room.
George opened one of the drawers of their shared dresser and pulled out two t-shirts, one red and one blue.
"What d'you reckon?" Fred asked George as his twin pulled open another drawer and took out two pairs of jeans and shorts.
"I reckon Percy's royally pissed, mate," George replied, handing jeans and shorts to his brother and taking the shirt offered him. "And after what Mum said before she left, I've got this nagging feeling that we're sleeping on our stomachs tonight, Gred." he continued, not a hint of humour in his tone as he changed from wet clothes to dry, tossing the wet down the chute that led to the laundry room.
"Surely he doesn't think he can actually smack us?" Fred asked as he pulled off his wet clothes. "I mean..."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," George said, pulling on his jeans, "but, well..." George paused to zip his fly. "We kind of deserve it, Fred. It wasn't just not listening to Percy, it was completely ignoring a Weasley rule that's been in place since Bill was a kid. Dad would have us bare-arsed over his knee right there on the lake-shore if he'd caught us breaking that rule."
Fred was silent as he realized that his brother was right, but he hated that George was right. He heaved a sigh as he buttoned up his jeans and pulled the tee over his head. He flopped down onto his bed and stared at their closed door, thinking about the fact that Percy was probably sitting in Dad's study waiting for them, likely with that wicked ruler of their father's in hand. "How long d'you think before he comes up here looking for us?"
"Not that long," George replied, "but we're not gonna wait for that. Let's just go and get it over with."
"Fine," Fred sighed. He hopped off the bed and wrenched their door open. "But I'm really not happy about this."
"And I suppose you think I'm jumping for joy?" George asked sarcastically, following his twin out of their room and down the stairs. "Better Percy than Mum or Dad." he added sagely.
Far too soon for the twins liking, they'd arrived at the door to their dad's study. While the room wasn't exactly off-limits to them, it was very rare for one of the Weasley children to enter the room without having been summoned there for punishment. While their mum didn't hesitate to pull one of her children over her knee in almost any room of the house, their dad generally preferred to discipline his children in the relative privacy of the study. The twins stared at the oak door for a moment, apprehension filling the both of them. They knew why Percy had chosen the study - he'd wanted them to know he was serious about punishing them and they wouldn't be able to get out of it. George bit his lip and took a deep breath, turning the knob and pushing the door open.
Percy stood to the side of their dad's desk, Mr. Weasley's thick ruler resting ominously at the corner of the desk, surprised his brothers had actually obeyed him and shown up. Not letting any of that surprise show, he leveled his gaze, glaring sternly at his twin brothers. No sense wasting time; Ginny and Ron were upstairs in their rooms waiting for him, after all.
"To the desk, both of you." He ordered crisply. "Drop your jeans and pants and bend over." Truth be told, Percy was almost as apprehensive as the twins themselves. Aside from popping his youngest brother and sister on the bottom a couple of times, he'd never actually spanked one of his siblings. But, even though he was likely the most well-behaved of the Weasley children, he'd had his share of smackings, from both his mum and his dad, and he figured he knew well enough how it went by now. He wouldn't be any harsher than their dad would be. Thirteen wallops apiece on the bare with Dad's ruler would be more than sufficient and likely less than Dad would give them, Percy thought.
Fred grumbled at the order, but George elbowed him in the gut. He swiftly unbuttoned his jeans, guiding the zipper down, and hooked his thumbs into the waistband. Glancing at Fred to make sure his twin wasn't thinking of running off, George pushed his jeans and pants to his knees and bent across their dad's desk, stretching out and grabbing onto the other side. Fred stared at his brother as he bent across the desk; sure, they'd been in this position countless times, baring their arses and bending across the desk so their dad could wallop them, but... but this was Percy! He was only barely two years older than them! What gave him the right! Mum and Dad, apparently, he said to himself. Mum had told both him and George, and Ron and Ginny, that Percy was their older brother, and he had their parents' permission to smack any of them if they caused trouble, just like Bill or Charlie would if it were them babysitting. Damn. Damn, damn, damn.Fred cursed silently, finally realizing that there was no way he was getting out of this without an arse-warming. Percy was staring at him expectantly, and Fred wanted to punch him, but instead he found himself unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans and pushing them and his pants down. He practically threw himself across the desk to save his own modesty and followed George's example of reaching across the desk and gripping the far edge.
Percy's stomach flipped as he stared at his brothers bent across their dad's desk, not sure he was really up to this. But, he reminded himself firmly, they deserved it. They'd earned it in spades. He picked up the ruler, wondering idly at how heavy it felt in his hand, feeling very awkward. "Well, uh, you two know why we're here," he said in a firmer voice than he felt. "You completely ignored and disobeyed me, and you broke one of the most important house rules." Percy swung the ruler experimentally, well away from his brothers. "And you're going to be punished for it. Thirteen whacks each." With those words, he pulled his arm back and landed the first wallop to George's vulnerable backside.
George yelped, both in surprise and at the pain of that first swat. It always did surprise him just how painful a spanking was, and Merlin knew he found himself on the receiving end plenty. He bit his lower lip as Percy swatted Fred and his brother let out a yelp to echo his. Then, another hard smack caused him to grunt in pain, and he gripped the desk edge even harder.
Percy set an easy rhythm of spanking first one twin, then the other, nearly flinching himself with each swat. Every consecutive wallop left an angry red line on his brothers' backsides that made Percy wince with sympathy. It was so much harder to give a spanking, he thought, than to receive one. He finally understood just what his parents meant when they said it was just as hard on them to discipline their children as it was on the children themselves. Percy remembered a time when he was seven and his dad had spanked him for teasing the twins, who were having trouble learning how to read; after it was over and done with, Percy sat in his father's lap crying and he'd told his dad through his tears just how much that had hurt. His father had replied, "I know, Percy. It hurt me too, son." Percy had asked why his dad spanked him, then, if it hurt them both so much and he'd answered "Because it would hurt me much more to see something bad happen to any of my children and if spanking all of you is what it takes for you to learn right and wrong and stay safe, then spank you I will." He better understood his dad's words now.
"OW! Damnit, Percy, that bloody well hurt!" Fred cried out at the fifth stroke to fall across his unprotected rear-end.
"That's rather the point, I think," Percy replied, landing another wallop to George's backside. He swatted Fred again, who bit down quite firmly on his lower lip to keep from crying out again. He quite frankly couldn't believe that a smacking from Percywould hurt as much as it did, but bloody hell, his backside was burning!
Percy continued to spank his brothers, continuing with his pattern of swatting first one and then the other. As he landed the tenth stroke to Fred's backside, he was startled to hear a sob from his brother. He worried that maybe he was being too hard on them, but the backsides in front of him were just an angry red, not bruised. Percy inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. Unable to keep to the rhythm he'd been holding, he landed three more swats to George's bottom, concentrating on the undercurve where bottom met thigh, and then did the same for Fred, before throwing the ruler as far from himself as he could as he listened to both of his brothers cry. Percy softly told his brothers they could stand and turned his back to allow them a bit of privacy to right their clothes. A moment later, hearing sniffles behind him and realizing that the sobs had ceased, he turned back around. Fred and George had given up their prone positions and straightening their clothing and were now wiping at their eyes and cheeks.
"Sorry, Percy," George said in a voice rough with tears.
"Yeah, Percy... sorry," Fred echoed his twin.
Percy bit his lip, knowing what their dad or mum would usually say at this point but feeling awkward saying the same thing. He finally settled for a weak smile. "Forgiven. I've got to go upstairs..." Percy retrieved the ruler, stowed it in his pocket, and left the study as quickly as he could and slowly walked upstairs, not at all eager to repeat the performance with his youngest brother, and then again with his baby sister and yet knowing that he'd have to. They'd known the rules the same as the twins and they'd still broken them. Percy went to Ron's room first, knocking softly on the door before walking in.
Ron looked up from where he sat on his bed as Percy walked into his room and closed the door behind him, eyeing his brother with a slightly fearful glance. Percy crossed his room and sat next to him on his bed.
"Ronnie," Percy began before remembering that his little brother didn't want to be called 'Ronnie' anymore. He felt a pang of loss at the realization. "Ron," he amended, "you know what you all did today was wrong. I told you four no swimming, and you know we're not allowed to fly at all when Mum and Dad are gone. Why did you?"
Ron shrugged, not all that happy that he was having to answer for his wrong-doing. He always had such a great time - until he got caught, and he absolutely hated getting caught because that meant he was in trouble. And trouble usually meant a spanking, which Ron hated probably more than anything.
"There was nothing to do in here; it's boring sitting around the house," he whined. "And the twins were going outside, so why couldn't I?"
"The twins didn't have permission any more than you did, Ronald," Percy said sternly, "and you know better than to follow them into trouble. If you'd stayed inside like you were told, I wouldn't be here right now. But you know that flying without Mum and Dad here gets you a spanking, and since you disobeyed me, too, I'm going to spank you." He pulled the ruler from his pocket, setting it next to him on the bed for now.
"Per-cyyyyy," Ron protested, jumping to his feet as soon as he caught sight of the ruler, "you can't! Not with that, please!" His eyes were pleading.
"I'm sorry, Ronnie," Percy said softly. "Really, but you've got to realize that there are rules for a reason, and when you break them there are consequences. Eleven swats." Percy debated how best to spank his youngest brother, but eventually decided that Ron was still small enough that he could fit over his knee. "Lower your jeans, Ron," he ordered firmly, ignoring the silent plea in his brother's blue eyes.
"Percy," Ron begged. "Please..."
"Now, Ronald." Percy wasn't wavering; he was slightly surprised at the strength he'd managed to find to follow through with his decision to punish his siblings, especially after having reacted as he did to spanking the twins.
Face turning bright red, Ron fumbled with the button on his jeans and unfastened them. He hooked his thumbs into the waistband and pushed them to mid-thigh.
Percy took his brother's wrist and guided him across his lap, pulling his jeans down to his knees and then doing the same with his brother's pants before shifting him into what, he hoped, was a more comfortable position for them both. Ron's upper half was supported by his bed, his feet dangling above the floor. The youngest Weasley boy groaned with embarrassment and anticipation; he hated, hated, hated getting spanked!
Percy picked up the ruler, hating what he was about to do almost as much as his brother did. He lifted it and brought it down with a CRACK! across the unprotected bottom over his lap. Ron cried out at the first swat and Percy quickly landed another, not wanting to draw this out any longer than was absolutely necessary. He wrapped his free arm around Ron's waist as he landed the third wallop and the boy tried to wriggle off his lap, holding him firmly in place. The fourth and fifth spanks fell across the fullest part of Ron's bottom, causing the youngest Weasley boy to wail, tears coming to his eyes and spilling over. His fists gripped his comforter, knuckles turning white, as Percy landed two more swats in rapid succession.
Ron started to cry in earnest as Percy brought the ruler down again. His bottom felt like he'd been stung by a thousand fire-ants. Ron's cries breaking his heart, Percy landed the last three swats to Ron's sit-spots and set the ruler aside.
"I'm s-sor-eee," Ron cried as Percy stood him up and gently pulled his pants and jeans up over his throbbing backside.
"I know, Ronnie," Percy said quietly, giving his little brother a hug. Me, too, he thought. "It's okay; you're forgiven."
Ron let Percy hold him for a moment until his tears subsided. He pulled away, swiping his hands roughly across his eyes and crawling on his bed. He stretched out on his stomach, hugging his pillow.
Percy stood, grabbing the hated ruler again and cast a last glance at his brother before leaving the room. He made his way to Ginny's room. Her door was open and Percy walked in, seeing her laying on her bed, hugging the teddy bear that she usually pulled out when she was upset. He closed the door behind him and walked over to sit next to her, setting the ruler on the bed behind him. He knew by the wide-eyed look she sent his way that she'd seen it.
"Percy, I'm really sorry we didn't listen to you," Ginny said to her brother, sitting up. Her eyes were red-rimmed and he knew she'd been crying. She might be a spit-fire, his little sister, but she knew when she'd done wrong. "We shouldn't've gone flying. Or swimming," she added.
"No, you shouldn't have," Percy agreed easily. "If you had, I wouldn't have to punish you now. But you deliberately disobeyed me, Ginny. I was really worried when I couldn't find the four of you. It was really naughty of you to go flying and swimming after I told you all not to."
Ginny hung her head, clutching her teddy bear close. "Are you going to spank me with that?" she asked, pointing at the ruler.
He nodded. "Yes. Nine swats, equal to your age." Percy was frankly astonished as his sister stood up and lifted her skirt before laying herself awkwardly across his lap.
"I'm ready," she said bravely, still hugging her bear in her arms.
Percy picked up the ruler for the third time that day. It felt even heaver in his hand than the first time, or the second time, that he'd wielded it and he really did not want to have to use it on his baby sister. He felt almost like he was betraying her, like he'd betrayed Fred and George and Ron, and he wondered if this was how Bill and Charlie had felt the first time they'd had to spank one of their younger brothers or sister. Not that he'd ever ask. Percy hooked his fingers in the waistband of his sister's panties and pulled them down just to her mid-thigh, only enough to expose the area he'd be spanking. He lifted his arm and brought the ruler down firmly on Ginny's now bare backside, the little cry she made tugging at his heartstrings and making him want to stop right there.
Just do it, Percy, and get it over with. She's every bit as deserving as the twins and Ron and you made it through with them, he scolded himself. Sighing, he wrapped his arm around her waist and landed two more wallops, wishing for all the world that he could be deaf in this moment so he wouldn't have to hear Ginny as she started to cry. She wriggled and squirmed but made no active attempt to get up as Percy continued to spank, stinging swats from the ruler quickly igniting a fire in her tender backside. Tears fell quite freely from her brown eyes, exactly the shade of Percy's, as her brother finished up with three hard wallops to the curve where her bottom met her thighs. She clutched her bear tightly, sobbing into its plush belly, as Percy pulled up her panties and maneuvered her into his arms.
He held onto her, patting her back and speaking softly to her until her tears subsided."Shh, Gin-gin," he whispered into her hair. "It's all right, little sister; it's over and forgiven and forgotten," he was quick to reassure her.
After several moments, she lifted her head. Her face was red, cheeks tear-stained, and she gasped as she saw tears falling from her brother's eyes as well. "Wh-why are y-you crying, Percy?" she asked gave a weak laugh, dashing a hand across his eyes.
"Because, Ginny, as hard as it is to believe, that really did hurt me as much as it hurt you." Ginny stared at her brother and suddenly wrapped her arms around him, giving him a strong hug.
"It's all right, Perce," she said seriously. "We really did deserve it."
Percy returned her embrace, kissing the top of her head as he hugged her. "Yeah, you did, but that didn't make it any easier." He allowed her to stand up. "Want to come help me make sandwiches for dinner?" he asked as he pocketed the ruler, wondering how much trouble he'd be in if he just gave in and burned the damn thing.
"Okay," Ginny agreed, "as long as it's not corned beef. Blech!"
Percy grinned, tossing his arm across his sister's shoulders and leading them downstairs and into the kitchen. He was surprised to see the twins in the middle of making sandwiches, several already prepared and on a plate.
"Looks like we don't have that much to do," he said to Ginny. "Thanks Fred, George. This really helps."
George looked up and cast a smirk at his brother. "Oh, we didn't do it to help, Perce," he said.
"Nope," Fred agreed, slathering mustard onto a slice of bread.
"It's a bribe."
"Yeah, to make you consider-"
"-not telling Mum and Dad about today." Fred finished.
"Is it going to work?" the terrible twosome asked together.
Percy opened one of the cabinets, pulling five glasses from it while Ginny opened the refrigerated cabinet and took out a pitcher of pumpkin juice. "I don't know," he answered. "They really ought to know, and Mum did tell me to tell them if anything happened while they were gone."
"Oh, come on, Percy." Fred said. "You already walloped all of us."
"Isn't that enough?" George asked, putting a slice of ham on a mustard covered piece of bread and then putting another slice on top. Ten sandwiches sat on the plate now, two apiece for each of them in the house.
"I just..." Percy sighed. "I don't know." he said lamely. "Can we just have dinner? Mum and Dad'll be home in the morning and, well... after today, I really don't want to spend the rest of the night bickering with you two."
"Fine," Fred huffed, walking out of the kitchen. A moment later, Percy, George, and Ginny heard him holler up the stairs for Ron.
Soon, all five of them were seated around the kitchen table, munching on sandwiches and sipping pumpkin juice. Although four of them were squirming in their seats, they were studiously avoiding any mention of the events of the day. It was as they were cleaning up, washing the glasses they'd used, that they heard a distinct rumbling of thunder. Percy couldn't help a small feeling of satisfaction; he'd refused their request to go to the lake on the chance it might get stormy. Well, it might've taken all day, he thought as lightning flashed outside, but it did get stormy.
"...be lucky if we don't get walloped twice," Percy heard one of the twins saying as he walked down the hallway later that night. He'd just been looking in on Ron and Ginny, wanting to make sure they'd gotten to sleep okay, and was heading back to his room. He paused just outside the open door, wondering what his brothers were discussing.
"D'you really think he'd tell Mum and Dad?" the other twin asked, clearly wanting to believe better of his brother.
"Oh, come on, George!" his twin exclaimed. "This is Perfect Percy we're talking about. When has he ever not ratted us out?"
"...yeah, you're right," George replied. "He's never missed an opportunity to lord over us." George scoffed. "That's all he does, really."
"Tell us how worthless we are while he sucks up to Mum and Dad -"
"-our professors... anyone who'll listen."
Fred sighed heavily. "Third year is going to be awful, what with Perfect Percy the Prefect."
Percy couldn't listen to any more. He moved to stand in the doorway.
"Is that what you two really think of me?" he asked softly, brown eyes shimmering with hurt from behind his tortoise-shell glasses frames.
Fred and George jumped up in startled shock. "Percy, you.."
"Is that all I am to you?" Percy interrupted. "A brown-nosing fink who lives for the sheer purpose to get you in trouble?"
"Of course not, Perce," George said quickly. He glanced at Fred, hoping his twin would be able to add something, but this time, even the quick-witted twins couldn't think of what they could possibly say to take that hurt look off of their older brother's face. George squirmed where he sat, more from shame than the slight, lingering pain in his rear from his earlier punishment.
"I guess so." Percy glanced to the side, unable to look at either of his brothers. "...I just want to be someone you and Ronnie and Ginny look up to. You know... like you do Bill and Charlie." Percy bit his lip. "I guess I really don't fit in anywhere; not if you and the little ones hate me as much as you do."
He turned and started to walk away, but suddenly the twins were on either side of him, each grasping one of his arms firmly and hauling him back into their room. They kicked the door shut behind them and dropped him on Fred's bed, suppressing winces as they sat on George's bed across from him.
"What d'you mean you 'don't fit anywhere', Percy?" Fred demanded of his older brother.
"Like you don't know." Percy snapped, feeling a flash of anger. "I've heard the two of you talking. You always say I'm the odd one out. That I must've been adopted because I certainly don't fit with the rest of you." Just like that, his anger deflated and he realized the full weight of his words. He continued in a much softer voice, "I guess you're finally right; I don't belong with the Weasleys. I don't belong anywhere." Fred and George exchanged a concerned glance. This was definitely not like their older brother. Percy always held it together!
"Whoa, Perce," George started.
"Calm down," Fred continued.
"Yeah, we say stuff like that sometimes -"
"-but there's no real meaning or seriousness behind it."
"Yeah, I mean... look at you -"
"-you're just like Mum. You're over-protective and a stickler for rules-"
"-you're quick to temper but it's obvious you care. And you're quiet-"
"-and thoughtful like Dad." George paused, leaning forward and propping his elbows on his knees. "When you're not ratting us out to Mum and Dad, we really like hanging out with you."
"You're our brother, Percy Ignatius Weasley," Fred said quite seriously.
"And even thought we might tease you-"
"-scream obscenities at you if you wallop us,-"
"-which, by the by, hurts like hell,-" George added with a touch of humour.
"-we still love you." he and Fred said together with conviction.
Percy didn't know whether to laugh at his own foolishness or cry at the overload of emotion he was feeling. "You really mean that?"
The twins exchanged another glance.
"Yeah," Fred said.
"We mean it," George finished.
Quite suddenly, Fred and George stood, towering over their brother as he sat on Fred's bed. They fixed him with twin glares of severe sterness.
"But if you ever try to say you don't belong with us Weasleys-" Fred started.
"-we are going to wallop you!" they said together.
Percy finally smiled, no longer doubting the seriousness of his little brothers. "Fair enough." he said, suppressing a yawn. "Now... I think I'm going to bed."
Percy left and went to his own room, snuffing out the candles that illuminated the room and crawling into his bed. He brought his arms up, crossing his fingers under his head and stared up at the ceiling, reflecting over the day's events. He shivered as he recalled the icy terror that he'd felt upon discovering his younger siblings missing, and then not being able to find them right away. Ever since Charlie had left for Romania at the beginning of the summer, Percy had felt a great deal of responsibility settle on his shoulders. He was the oldest Weasley child at home now; that meant the job of watching out for the younger ones and keeping them safe fell to him. There was no Bill or Charlie to turn to if things got rough. And Percy had certainly never been one to shirk his responsibilities. The twins, Ronnie, and Ginny might resent him for it, and they might not understand it, but Percy would do just about anything, including walloping the lot of them, to keep them from harm's way. Smiling as he thought about the scolding his younger brothers had just given him, Percy closed his eyes and drifted into an easy sleep.
Arthur and Molly returned home shortly after the children finished breakfast the next morning. They had enjoyed the wedding, and the time away from the children, but they were definitely glad to be home. Molly was half-surprised to see the house still standing and not horribly wrecked, but she was astounded to see all five of her younger children in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast.
"Well, don't all rush to greet us at once," Arthur joked good-naturedly as a flick of his wand sent their overnight bags to his and his wife's bedroom. His children laughed at him, abandoning the dish-washing to greet their mum and dad.
"So, Percy," Molly addressed the oldest of the five, "how'd it go while we were gone? Anything we should know about?" She was clearly expecting to hear the worst. Percy glanced at his brothers and sister before turning to his mum and meeting her eye.
"No, Mum," he lied. "We were just fine." His stomach did a little flip-flop as the lie passed his lips. He had never lied to his parents, both because he knew lying was wrong and because lying carried a serious consequence in the Weasley family, and he didn't like it. He was afraid that his mum would know he was lying and call him out on it, but the Weasley matriarch just smiled at her son and pulled him into a hug.
Later that afternoon, Percy sat at his desk in his room, pouring over his Ancient Runes book. He'd already finished all of his summer homework, but the Runes professor had been known to start the year off with an exam, just to keep her students on their toes, and Percy certainly didn't want to start the year off behind. He heard a knock at his door and gave a frustrated sigh before calling for whoever was knocking to come in. Fred and George walked into his room and shut the door.
"Percy," George began, "We just want to thank you."
"You know, for not telling Mum-"
"-and Dad about what happened. But why-"
"-didn't you say anything? It would've served us all right."
Percy turned in his seat, propping his left arm up on the back of his desk chair.
"Yeah, it probably would have," he agreed. "But it was over with... you all were spanked for it, and in the Weasley family, once punishment has been meted out, you're forgiven and it's all forgotten. Mum and Dad won't hear about it from me."
"Thanks, Percy," the twins said together.
"Yeah, yeah." Percy waved off their thanks. "Now leave me alone, I've got studying to do!" he grinned as he said it, so the words didn't hold nearly the venom they might once have held. As his brothers rolled their eyes and left him to his Runes, Percy couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, he'd finally found where he belonged amongst his brothers and sister.