Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter series.
A/N: Thank you to Taragh, John, Stephen, and Anthony for choosing this for first prize in the Boggart Competition at HPFC!
Percy couldn't help but visit the re-opened Hogwarts Library the winter after the war ended. As he walked through the halls, he was amazed that the library was, for the most part, whole. Despite the fact that Filch had now allowed students to help him re-build Hogwarts for extra House points, some hallways still had gaping holes in the floor and entire classrooms were still missing. Regardless, Percy signed over a pledge of 50 Galleons to Madam Pince to help re-stock the library shelves. He would never admit it, but he was most excited about having an entire shelf of books named for him.
Percy's heart warmed at the fact that so many people loved the Hogwarts Library as much as he did—many of the shelves already had their benefactor's name written in gold into the wood. Amazingly, though, the shelf he wanted to claim was not yet taken. All of its books had been ransacked and burned in the war, but he remembered that it was exactly where Intermediate Transfiguration belonged—the first book he ever took out. It was two weeks into his first year, and Transfiguration was already too easy for him. He signed it out, read it cover-to-cover by wandlight under his sheets that night, then fell asleep in Transfiguration class the next morning. It meant detention from McGonagall, who couldn't decide if she was more impressed at his ambition or disappointed in his lack of priorities. Percy still couldn't decide.
"Transfiguration. Your favorite, huh?"
Percy whipped around and saw his brother standing at the end of the row. "George! What brings you here?"
"I'm not George, dipshit. I'm Fred. Or did you forget how to tell us apart in those three years you abandoned us?"
"Dead? Doesn't mean gone for good, Perce. Unless you want me to be. Which I can understand. I'll leave." He turned and began to walk away.
"No, stop!" Percy reached for Fred's arm. Was Fred really here? For these past six months, Percy had wanted nothing more than to see Fred one more time, to tell him he was sorry, that he didn't mean to distract him in those moments before he was killed, and that he and the rest of the Weasleys missed him so, so much. A glimmer of hope sparked inside him, but was quickly extinguished by the reality of what he was about to say. "Please, Fred, listen to me," he choked. "There's something I need to tell you."
"Is it another joke, Percy boy? Or did you decide that this is the wrong time and place to lighten up your stubborn ass? I know you thought I was childish for being funny most of the time. But unlike my big brother, I'm not STUPID enough to make a joke in the middle of a goddamn battle."
"Fred, you know I didn't mean for this to happen. If I had known—"
"Known what? That some Death Eater was running down the hallway looking to kill us all? For someone who claims to know everything, Percy, you sure are thick. If you had known a Death Eater was pursuing us in the middle of a WAR, you would have told us to look out, right? You tattled on George and I enough when we were kids, thinking we were gonna kill ourselves on our daily adventures. Where were you when we actually NEEDED you to protect us?"
Percy was as white as a sheet. Tears and sweat trembled down his cheeks. There was no easy way out of that question—he himself had tossed and turned every night these past six months wondering the same thing.
"NOTHING?" Fred shouted, his voice angrier than Percy ever remembered. His hazel eyes bore into Percy, draining him of whatever strength he had left. Percy broke down sobbing, hiding his face in the bookshelf. "LOOK AT ME!" Fred grabbed him by the back of his neck and twisted his head to face those scathing hazel eyes. "Look what you've done to our family. The moment you came back and made everything whole again, you RIPPED it apart. All because you didn't have the decency to tell your little brother to watch out because someone was about to murder him." Fred's shoulders began to shake with rage—now he was crying, too. "George. He's nothing now. I've been watching him these past six months. I can't stand it any more. He's a skeleton of his former self. And I can't make him whole again. Don't you realize he'll NEVER be the same?"
Percy finally had enough courage to say something back. "Fred, please! I didn't mean for you to die, I promise! I'm sorry!"
"I don't want your fucking apology!" Fred screamed, slamming Percy into a bookshelf. "I want you to FEEL!"
Fred's face suddenly became rigid and colorless, a ghostly, mirthless smile spreading across his lips. His face became gray as a scarlet stain blossomed on his chest.
"Fred, NO! PLEASE! I'm sorry!" Percy wailed. He grabbed Fred's shoulders, which broke off into rocks in his hands. The rocks turned to sand and slipped through his fingers.
"You'll never save me," Fred lifelessly whispered, his eyes not focused on Percy anymore. "You can never bring me back..."
Percy fell, heaving, onto the bookshelf. All he could do now was watch that scarlet stain spread from Fred's heart down through his stomach...
Then he suddenly realized—Fred didn't bleed when he died...
Scrambling for his wand, Percy hoped with all his strength that his notion was right.
There was a loud crack as the color drained from Fred's chest and returned to his face. Fred's shoulders became whole again and his flame-red hair suddenly caught fire. He sniffed. "You smell something?" he said in that jaunty tone Percy was far more accustomed to. "Smells like burnt ginger." He reached for his hair, singing his hand. "AHH! AHH! MY HAIR'S ON FIRE! BURNING GINGER ALERT! AHH!" He wildly ran around the library, smacking his head fruitlessly.
Fred had done the same thing when they were boys and George set his hair on fire as a prank. Fred ran around the house screaming about burnt ginger, slapping his head until he had a dizzying headache. Percy ducked behind the couch to hide his laughter.
Percy laughed even harder now that there was nothing to hide behind. Boggart-Fred suddenly stopped running and fell into a pile of rocks and ash on the floor. Catching his breath, Percy bent down to get a closer look at the pile. He picked up one of the cold, lifeless stones. It turned to sand.
And without warning, Percy fell on top of the stones and began to cry so hard he thought his skull might split open. Fred resented him from beyond the grave. Fred laid in Plot 15 in the Weasley family cemetery because of some stupid remark his usually mature older brother had made in the middle of a treacherous battle. Fred did not want an apology—he only wanted Percy to feel.
Percy knew those were the words of a boggart, but he couldn't doubt thinking they may have been Fred's, too. He lay on the pile of sand that was once boggart-Fred's body, shaking, sobbing, and feeling everything at once.