A/N: This piece is my response to ChatterChick's 'Father's Day Competition'. It's the first time I have focused on the father-daughter relationship and also the first time I have written Percy and Lucy. I hope I do the relationship, characters and competition justice!
Also, the title was given to me by CrAzY flamINGO as part of her 'Inspiration of a Title' challenge.
Finally, I'd like to conclude this over-long author's note by saying Happy Father's Day to any fathers who might be reading this, and dedicating this one-shot to my own daddy, who is far more brilliant than I ever let on to him.
It was a grim, grey day, completely at odds with the glorious summer weather which had been bathing the English countryside in a blanket of golden sunshine for the past two weeks. The sky was a tumultuous mass of mottled grey clouds and a steady spattering of rain drizzled down resiliently. In the small village of Ottery St Catchpole, holidaying schoolchildren had been forced to retreat to the dry solitude of their homes and now clamoured and crowded around exasperated parents. Even the cats which usually prowled the cobbled streets in search of scraps of food were tucked away under whatever form of shelter they could find at short notice. The normally cheerful little village was completely devoid of life.
Eight miles away on the porch of a large stately house cut off from the rest of the world on all sides by tall thick hedgerows, a figure appeared from the air with a subdued 'pop'.
Percy Weasley grimaced at the increasingly heavy downpour and loosened his tie. With a muttered 'Alohomora' he let himself in the front door and inhaled hopefully. Sure enough, the tell-tale aroma of his wife's steak and kidney pie invaded his nostrils. He sighed contentedly. His day at work had been long and, if he was perfectly honest, a little tedious, peppered with meetings where he acted as scribe for Minister Shacklebolt and attempts to oversee the maintenance team's failed repair works to the enchanted windows on Level Four. Fatigue riddled his frame, and he was looking forward to a hearty meal and an early night with an eagerness bordering on indecency.
"Audrey, girls, I'm h- Oh. Oh Merlin," he sighed as he entered the kitchen. All dreams of a lazy family evening dissolved in an instant when he caught sight of the scene playing out before his eyes. Audrey was leaning against the sink, waving her wand so violently that the water in the saucepan she was washing sloshed sloppily, splattering against the wall behind her. Her lips were pursed into the thinnest of lines and a vein ticked in her neck. That never boded well. Percy coughed hesitantly.
"Oh, hello dear," Audrey said distractedly, becoming aware of her surroundings. She lowered her wand and attempted to force her weary features into an expression resembling a smile, but the fingers combing nervously through her soft brown hair would have given her away to someone less acutely attuned to her than her husband. Percy quirked an eyebrow knowingly and crossed the tiled floor, coming to a stop with his hands resting on Audrey's slim shoulders.
"What's the matter love?" he asked softly. "And don't say it's nothing, I'm not completely oblivious you know."
There was a firmness in his tone which told Audrey that arguing would be futile. Defeated, Audrey jerked a thumb in the direction of the window. Percy followed her gaze and saw in the dusky half-darkness the flaming red ponytail which could only belong to his eldest daughter Molly. The fiery seventeen-year-old was hovering on her Nimbus 2510 twenty feet in the air, hammering Muggle footballs with her Beater's bat. Even from a distance, Percy saw the stormy expression on her normally impish features and the tensing of her muscles as she hit the balls with increasingly vicious force. He felt his stomach sink a little.
"What's she done this time?" he asked wearily. Molly was forever getting herself into scrapes at school, and the girls' Hogwarts letters had been due today. Percy wondered what could possibly top the incident from the previous autumn involving Molly, Eve Jordan, a handful of house-elves and several bottles of Firewhiskey. It must have been rather spectacular to outdo that in Audrey's eyes.
"Believe it or not, she wasn't actually the guiltiest party," his wife replied in a quiet, worried voice. She curled into his side and rested her chin on his shoulder.
"You- Lucy?" Percy spluttered incredulously. The very idea beggared belief. Lucy couldn't possibly be the cause of this drama. Lucy was... well, Lucy was every inch the dutiful daughter. While letters from various members of the Hogwarts teaching staff complaining about Molly's misdemeanours had become something of a normality in the Weasley household, they had never had so much as one grievance with Lucy. She got good results in tests, she was a member of the Gobstones Club and she liked nothing better than curling up with a good book. The idea that she could be the reason why Molly was pounding footballs in the back yard and Audrey looked ready to tear her hair out was preposterous. "Lucy?"
Audrey nodded and raked her fingers through her wavy brown bob again. "Their Hogwarts letters came this morning after you left for work," she explained in her soft, melodic voice. "Molly scraped through by the skin of her teeth and there were the usual handful of complaints about her behaviour. We talked about them- calmly for once, actually, she didn't get petulant or anything. And then Lucy came downstairs to show me her results- exemplary, naturally- and she was about to say something else when Molly burst back into the room and told us that she'd been made Gryffindor Quidditch captain..."
"Quidditch captain?" Percy exclaimed. "That's wonderful! Maybe it'll help to keep her level-headed with her N.E.W.T.s coming up at the end of the year."
"That's what I said," Audrey nodded, and then her face fell. "Lucy muttered something- 'Of course', I think, and then she stormed out of the room. And of course that got Molly's back up, so she went off in a huff and then next thing I know Lily's screaming down the stairs at her and chucking things around the place. Molly started to give as good as she was getting, and eventually I had to separate them. Mol's been in the garden ever since and Lucy won't come out of her room. I hate it when they fight Perce."
"Me too," Percy sighed wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose as he pressed a kiss to her clammy forehead. He loved his girls more than anything in the world, and although he had grown to realise that the fact that they were polar opposites was one of the most unique and interesting things about them, he sometimes wished they were a little more alike. Things would be much more peaceful that way. As it stood, his three girls were upset and he couldn't have that. He had to fix this.
Pressing another kiss to Audrey's velvety skin, this one to the slight indentation where skin fused with plump, cherubic lips, he formulated a plan of sorts.
"You go and try to coax Molly inside," he instructed firmly, casting his gaze heavenward. "I'll try to get to the bottom of the Lucy situation."
A couple of minutes later, Percy stood outside his younger daughter's bedroom door with a large slab of Honeydukes chocolate in one hand and a mug of weak, sugary tea in the other.
"Lucy?" he called tentatively.
"Luce, it's Daddy. Let me in, there's a good girl."
"I said, go away," came the waspish reply. Percy couldn't help smirking; the response was so reminiscent of those of his adolescent self.
"Lucy, come on, just let me in for a couple of minutes. I brought tea and chocolate."
More unintelligible grumbling, then the sound of feet shuffling across wooden floorboards and finally the sound of a bolt sliding back. Percy felt a rush of satisfaction and nudged the door open with his toe.
Lucy had already reinstalled herself on her bed, sprawled on her stomach with a heavy hardback in front of her. Percy paused in the doorway, taken aback by how much the scene reminded him of his own teenage years. Apart from the hair, which was a tangle of waist-length brown curls like her mother's had been when Percy first met her, Lucy was the very image of her father. She was shorter than most of her friends, and her pale heart-shaped face was dominated by a pair of globelike blue eyes. A dusting of freckles coated her nose and cheeks, and she pushed her glasses up her nose as he had often done in times of stress. Her Hogwarts letter lay on her desk next to Starsky's empty cage and a pile of paper balls overflowed from the bin beneath it. She was attempting to feign superiority and nonchalance, but Percy knew how soft his youngest could be and recognised the slight puffiness around her eyes which indicated that she had been crying.
"Tough day?" he asked almost nervously, setting the tea down next to her and the chocolate on top of the page she was currently reading. She looked up with a grudging scowl.
"I suppose you're going to give me a lecture like Mum did," she said sullenly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and slamming the book shut with poor grace. Percy sat down on the edge of her duvet with a shake of his head.
"Not exactly," he said in a quiet voice. Lucy stared openly, wrong-footed. The plucky fifteen-year-old had obviously been expecting the sort of sharp retribution normally doled out to her sister for such snarky remarks.
"W-what then?" she asked hesitantly. Percy reached out to ruffle her curls as he often had when she was younger, smiling slightly when she didn't pull away.
"What's the matter Luce?"
"What do you mean?" Her question had a defensive undercurrent.
"Oh come on Lucy, you know what I mean. This-" Percy gestured to her slumped, sulking form sprawled across her white duvet in an oversized grey jumper and black leggings that sagged slightly around the knees. "- this isn't you. Your mother and I can count on one hand the number of times we've had a falling out with you. So what in the name of Merlin is the matter?"
Lucy pushed her glasses up her nose with what sounded suspiciously like a sniffle and bit her bottom lip as though uncertain as to whether or not she should say anything. Eventually, she nodded to herself and swung her legs down from the bed, crossing the space to her desk in three swift, elegant strides. She fumbled for a moment with the thick parchment envelope containing her Hogwarts letter and then turned and tossed something small to Percy, who fumbled to catch it. Confused, he glanced at the item in his palm and felt his jaw drop open. The small scarlet-and-gold badge was familiar to him, having worn a similar emblem on his own Hogwarts robes during his Fifth Year.
"I've been made Prefect," Lucy explained. Percy expected her voice to be riddled with pride and ill-concealed delight, but it was toneless and cold.
"Luce, that's fantastic news! Does Mum know?"
His youngest daughter shook her head balefully, curls bouncing.
"Lucy Ginevra Weasley, why on earth not?" Percy exclaimed, prompting an embarrassed flush to filter across his daughter's freckle-flecked cheeks. She gave a half-shrug and fidgeted with the sleeve of her jumper, but Percy wasn't letting her off that easily. "Why not, Lucy?" he repeated firmly.
"I was going to tell her," Lucy shot back defensively. "I was, but then Molly burst in and said she'd been made Quidditch captain and of course that was the end of things as far as Mum was concerned. Oh, never mind that Molly barely made it through her exams, never mind the fact that Professor Zabini sent a letter about how she destroyed the Potions classroom with dragon brains, everything's perfect now that she's Gryffindor Quidditch captain. Mum didn't shut up blubbering over her for a solid ten minutes, and then she was sending owls to the rest of the family and I tried to tell her about being Prefect, I did, but she was too caught up with Molly and I just... snapped."
She broke off at this point, panting heavily. The colour in her cheeks had intensified and her chest rose and fell sporadically with exertion. She seemed almost ashamed by her outburst.
"It's not that I'm not happy for Molly," she continued in a smaller voice, tugging at her sleeve again. "I am, it's just... it's not fair. It's not fair that she's rewarded for everything she does wrong with a title like that and nobody so much as bats an eyelid. And I admit it, I stormed off, but she followed me and do you know what she said? She said I was being selfish. Selfish. And it got to me, and I snapped at her, and once I started I couldn't stop. Because it wasn't fair. Who was she to call me selfish? All she ever does is think about herself! But nobody wants to see that in our family. The second she does something good, like getting Quidditch captain, all thoughts of everything bad she does fly out the window. I know I shouldn't have yelled at her, or snapped at Mum, but it's just so hard Dad. I do everything as well as I can, I'm top of our class every year, but nobody notices me. Molly's the real Weasley, pulling pranks and playing Quidditch, and it doesn't matter how well I do at anything because they always look at her first. It's not fair, and I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I hate her for it."
"I hate that she always manages to make herself seem like a better person than she is," Lucy continued, ignoring Percy's attempt to interrupt her. "I hate that nobody notices when I win a Gobstones tournament because they're all too busy laughing about how Molly set Filch's robes on fire. I hate that everybody at school adores her because she's so bloody funny, and I hate that they always ask why I'm not funny like my big sister. I hate that Uncle George and Uncle Ron and Grandpa Weasley gravitate towards her when they come to visit, and that they don't include me in their jokes. I hate that I can win every award under the sun and you and Mum are too busy placating Professor Longbottom to notice. I hate that I'm jealous of my big sister, and I hate that you all think it's unfair of me to be jealous at all."
She sniffled again and took a swipe at blue eyes that were leaking tears. Percy felt a sting of pity for the small, slight figure standing in the middle of her bedroom, shoulders sagging hopelessly and face contorted into a pained mask. He rose from his seat on her bed and stretched his arms out to her.
"Oh Lucy," he sighed sadly, but his daughter did not fold herself into his arms as he had expected she would. Instead she backed away and wiped fiercely at her red-rimmed eyes once more.
"Don't, Dad," she said thickly.
"Don't tell me that everyone does notice what I can do, because they don't. Don't tell me that I should just be happy for Molly and not begrudge her this opportunity, because I know that better than anyone. And don't tell me not to be selfish, because I just can't have one more person say that to me today."
Percy ducked in under her guard and pecked her on the forehead, smudging away another escaped tear with the broad pad of his thumb.
"I wasn't going to," he said gently. Lucy stared up at him in disbelief, her sea-blue eyes brimming with unshed tears. "I was going to say I understand. Better than anyone, actually. But I have something to show you. Wait here, I'll be back in a minute."
When Percy returned a couple of minutes later, he found Lucy sitting on her bed with her back against the brass headboard and her knees drawn up to her chin, fingers twisting agitatedly with the hem of her jumper. Without uttering a word, he perched himself a couple of inches away from her and opened up the worn leather photo album he had gone to retrieve, flicking through a couple of pages before he found the one he was looking for.
"Look at this," he said, tugging on Lucy's sleeve until she grudgingly unfolded herself from her human cocoon to swing herself around next to him. She laid her head on his shoulder with a certain trepidation, but relaxed when Percy wrapped an arm around her comfortingly and glanced at the page with renewed interest.
The first photograph was yellowed and sepia-tinted with age. In it, a birthday party was ongoing. Being a wizarding photograph, the figures were all moving. In the centre of the image, a seven-year-old Percy Weasley smiled shyly and pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. He wore a cone-shaped hat bearing the words 'Birthday Boy' in glittering green letters and held a large, ornately wrapped gift in his skinny arms. He was just about to rip open the paper when a pair of identical freckled faces appeared in front of him, obscuring him from the camera's view. The twins laughed silently and poked out their tongues, pulling grotesque faces. The birthday boy craned his neck to peer around them in the background, but it was futile. He had been forgotten.
In the photograph beneath this, more members of the Weasley family were shown. As the towering pyramids in the background indicated, this photograph had been taken in Egypt. Percy was older in this image, bordering on seventeen. He wore a fez, and a badge on his chest was emblazoned with the words 'Head Boy' written in flowing cursive script. He grinned proudly, but unbeknownst to him the twins were pulling faces behind him while the rest of his siblings roared with silent laughter and even his mother struggled to maintain a straight face.
Percy sighed wearily and ran his fingers over the image.
"Dad, is this you?" Lucy asked in a hushed, slightly adenoidal voice. Percy nodded and a sad smile decorated his features as he watched her scan the image hungrily. He had never shown his children these images of his childhood before. The only photographs they had seen were ones of him at Hogwarts, accepting awards and posing after receiving the highest grades in his O.W.L.s. They had never seen him as anything less than an exemplary student and a fine, upstanding Ministry official.
"You see Luce, I understand how you feel about Molly. I understand because I felt the exact same way about your Uncle George and U-uncle Fred." His tongue tripped over the name of his deceased brother, and he had to swallow a large lump in his throat before he could continue speaking. "Molly is so like the boys, and you remind me so much of myself at your age... When we were younger, the twins were just like Molly- forever in trouble, cracking jokes and doing things that really should have seen them end up in front of the Improper Use of Magic Office. They did everything they could to drive me insane, and I let them get to me. They were loud and brash and they didn't care what people thought of them, and I was this... well, this pompous little bookworm, and all I wanted was to shine. But like you, people didn't notice me when Fred and George were around. My parents- your grandparents- they praised me when I did well, but they barely got time to before they were sidetracked by shouting at the twins for failing tests or blowing up toilet cubicles. I understand your jealousy of Molly, because when I was younger I was jealous of Fred and George. I envied the fact that everyone laughed at their jokes and they just laughed at me."
Lucy gave a choked little sound, halfway between a cough and a sob, and shrank further into Percy's embrace, her eyes still locked on the images before her. Percy tightened his grip on her arm and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"You're not angry with me?" Lucy whispered almost fearfully.
"Angry? Sweetheart, I practically am you."
"And will- will you talk to Mum? Explain to her, and to Molly, because they're both so angry with me and I can't bear it."
Percy nodded. "Of course I will. But Luce, I need you to listen to me now, alright?"
She bobbed her head in agreement and drew her head back so she could look her father in the eye. Percy took a deep steadying breath and glanced down at the image of his family chortling at the twins' antics for strength.
"I understand why you envy your sister, but you need to accept your differences and embrace them for what they are. If you don't, that jealousy will just continue to grow and fester inside you until it consumes you completely. That's what happened to me, and it led to the biggest mistake I've ever made, something which I've regretted ever since and which cost me so dearly that I still feel its sting every single day."
"What happened, Daddy?" Lucy asked. Percy inhaled deeply again and stroked her hair sadly.
"You've studied the Second Wizarding War in History of Magic, yes?" he inquired, eliciting a sharp nod from the young girl. "So you know about what happened at the Battle of Hogwarts. About how your Uncle Fred was killed, along with hundreds more. But what I've never told you, what's remained a taboo subject in our family for more than twenty years, is what happened in the lead-up to the battle. I was working with the Ministry when Voldemort returned to human form, but like the rest of the Ministry I refused to believe it was true. I was finally gaining recognition for my work, I became Junior Assistant to the Minister himself, and finally nobody was laughing at me! I was showing my family that they had been wrong to adore the twins and everyone else over me, or so I thought. They extended the olive branch of peace, invited me to join the Order of Phoenix in fighting the Dark side, but I threw it back in their faces. I cut myself off from them completely and became a pariah in the Weasley family. I was immersed in my work and in winning recognition and awards. I-I thought I was finally silencing my critics. But then came the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, and even I couldn't deny that the rumours of Voldemort's return were true. But I let my stupid pride get in the way, and I couldn't admit to anyone that I had been wrong. I continued to side with the Ministry after Fudge was replaced, and I even missed your Uncle Bill's wedding because of it. But then Scrimgeour was killed and the Death Eaters installed Pius Thicknesse, and I knew things had gone too far. Much as I wanted to though, I couldn't return to my family. I was being watched, and I only managed to contact Aberforth Dumbledore when it was too late. I took part in the Battle of Hogwarts, and though our side triumphed, the cost to our family was irreparable."
"Uncle Fred was killed," Lucy said in a hushed voice. Percy dipped his head in recognition. It wasn't until Lucy reached up with long, slim fingers to wipe at his eyes that he realised he was crying.
"If I had known what would happen... I let my envy of the twins and their popularity and good fortune consume me, and it cost me valuable time with my family. I was jealous, and as a result I didn't speak to my brother for nearly three years, and when I finally plucked up the courage to reconcile with him it was too late. If I had known that day in the Ministry of Magic when Sirius Black was killed that in three years my baby brother would be gone, I would have run back in a heartbeat, tail between my legs. I lost my little brother, my Fred, because I was devoted to winning and outshining everyone around me."
"Oh Daddy," Lucy murmured, throwing her arms around his neck and burying her face in his red hair. Percy allowed his daughter to cry silently into his shoulder for a moment before pulling back and looking her in the eye with fire in his gaze.
"Lucy, any one of us could be taken from this earth at any moment," he said gravely. "Me, your mother, you, Molly... we could be gone in a split second. And if you saw it coming, you would do everything in your power to protect the ones you love. If I could turn back time, I know I would have taken Fred's place in a heartbeat. But I can't, and I have to live with my mistakes for the rest of my life. Fred's death will haunt me until my dying day Lucy, as will the fact that I abandoned my family at the darkest hour. Things like that, they rip you up inside, and I don't want to see that happen to you Lucy. I know you feel jealous of Molly, but I need you to promise that you will find the love you have for her in your heart and try to use that to overpower the jealousy."
"I promise Dad," Lucy gasped tearfully. "I give out about her, and we fight endlessly, but I... the idea of her not being there, of not having someone to complain to when things get too much or someone to cheer for in Quidditch games... I can't even begin to contemplate it."
"You girls are like air to me," Percy said quietly. "And when you fight, it gets harder to breathe because I see what happened with my family when I was younger and it kills me to think of the same thing happening between you and Molly."
"I wish you had told us sooner," whispered Lucy. "If I had known about what happened during the war, I would have understood why you get so agitated when Molly and I fight. Molly would have too, I think. We would have tried harder."
"Try harder now," Percy insisted. "While there's still time to repair the damage. You and Molly can still have the sort of bond I never got to have with Fred, there's still time for you. Cherish having a sister like Molly. She's so like Fred, and I realise now what an extraordinary thing that is to be. Cherish her, forgive her misdemeanours, care about her, and try your best to protect her. As though your life depends on it. More than that. Protect her with your life as a weapon. Because you never know when you could lose her, and I never want either of you to end up haunted like me."
"H-have you told Molly this?" Lucy asked shakily. Percy shook his head and ruffled her hair affectionately.
"Not yet. I will in time, but Molly's not ready to hear something like this yet. She might be older than you, but she doesn't have your emotional maturity just yet. It doesn't mean I care about one of you above the other. It just means that you're different."
Lucy nodded and pressed a long kiss to her father's cheek before swinging herself down from the bed and heading for the door.
"Where are you off to?" Percy called after her. Lucy turned and smiled. She had never looked more beautiful to him, standing there with tear-stained cheeks and rumpled hair.
"I'm going to find Molly. I reckon I can coax her inside with an apology and half a bar of Honeydukes chocolate," she said in a soft, lilting voice. Percy beamed at his daughter, so young and yet so wise.
"That's my girl," he said fondly. Lucy winked and turned to go again, before glancing back at him once more over her shoulder.
"Oh, and Dad?"
Later that night, a weary Percy sat on the sofa before the fire in the sitting room reading the Daily Prophet. He wore his favourite Chudley Cannons slippers and held an untouched glass of oak-matured mead in one hand. The house was quiet; he hadn't seen sight nor sign of Molly or Lucy since his conversation with the latter earlier in the evening and Audrey had retired to bed about an hour ago. The wireless radio sitting on top of the mantelpiece played a soft, melodic tune and Percy found himself drifting comfortably towards a lethargic doze.
He was on the brink of sleep when a small noise behind him jolted him into complete wakefulness. He swivelled around to find Lucy standing in the doorway, dressed in royal purple pyjamas and clutching the photo album he had left in her room. She was levitating two mugs of tea with her wand.
"Fancy a cuppa?" she asked hopefully.
"Always," Percy replied, setting down his glass and folding over the Prophet. Lucy beamed and settled herself next to him. Percy accepted his mug gratefully and took a long draught of milky, sugary tea with a sigh of pleasure. Beside him, Lucy mirrored his action. "You managed to pull Molly away from her broomstick I take it?"
Lucy nodded and took another sip of tea. "Eventually. I apologised to her too."
"What did she say to that?" Percy asked, wary of his eldest daughter's fiery temper.
"She wasn't too happy with me at first," admitted Lucy. "But I got around her in the end, and we're... well, not OK, but better than we were, I think. And it can only go up from here."
Percy smiled and ruffled her hair again, laughing quietly when she pulled a face.
"That's my Lucy," he said fondly, pulling her close to him. He reached into the pocket of his dressing gown and withdrew a small golden locket which he pressed into her hand. "For you. To help you remember."
Lucy turned the locket over curiously and prised it open. Inside, two smiling faces smiled up at her. On the left side of the frame, Molly winked and blew a playful raspberry. Across from her, their Uncle Fred roared with silent laughter. Lucy gulped visibly and fastened the fine gold chain around her neck with shaking hands.
"With my life as a weapon," she murmured under her breath, clutching the oval locket to her chest and lying against her father's shoulder. Percy reached around her to pick up the photo album.
"Any particular reason you brought this with you on your night-time excursion?" he asked, playfully nudging Lucy in the ribcage. She pulled herself upright and flipped the album open to its first page.
"I realised earlier, when you showed me those pictures of you and Uncle Fred... you've never really told me much about your childhood. Do you- do you think you could tell me now? From what Grandma says when we visit the Burrow, growing up with so many brothers and sisters must have given rise to a whole encyclopaedia of stories and anecdotes."
Percy thought about the question for a moment, surveying his daughter over the rim of his mug. Her inquisitive expression was one he had worn himself on countless occasions in his youth, but there was a fire behind her gentle blue eyes that had never existed in his own. She looked hopeful, and her fingers never released their grip on the locket he had given her. Percy beamed at the sylph-like figure, a more selfless version of himself than he could ever hope to be.
"Lucy," he said finally. "Nothing would give me greater pleasure."