"According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scars than almost anything else."
- J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
"A family vacation," his mum had insisted.
Only, with one fewer member it didn't feel much like his family, and since he spent last night in an old sleeping bag on the floor of his brother's spare room, it didn't feel much like a proper vacation either.
No, the longer Percy spent moping just outside the back door of Shell Cottage, the more he felt like a little boy the Weasleys had dragged along on their holiday because he had nowhere else to go. Well, until he realized that this was not accurate description either, for that was exactly how Harry had ended up going almost everywhere with his family for the past seven years, and he looked like he fit in just perfectly.
Percy scowled as he watched the Weasley men plus Harry frolic on the beach like small children. Of course, they looked nothing like small children anymore. When they were running around in their swimming trunks like they currently were, he could tell that every last one of them was covered in scars.
He didn't know how he had never noticed it before, but now that he had, he could not ignore it.
You're the odd man out, as usual.
He hated himself as soon as the thought crossed his mind, but he hated himself so much lately that it hardly seemed to matter.
He hovered at the back door of Bill and Fleur's house, determined to stay out of the sun and to keep his shirt on, lest they comment on his lack of physical disfigurements.
Every last one of them. And you missed all of it.
Percy shuddered as he took in the indentations Voldemort's blasted snake had left in his father's shoulder. He remembered hearing about the attack at the proverbial water cooler, and the hour he had spent in the loo trying to compose himself afterward. He may have been angry with his father at the time, but he certainly didn't want him to be attacked by a giant serpent.
He stared at the deep tooth and nail marks etched into his oldest brother's cheek and neck. Sometimes Percy forgot, if he sat to Bill's right, that the his face was a mess. He supposed it was because he had only just grown used to seeing it that way. Bill did not try to hide the gashes though, so it was never long before he turned his head and Percy could see just what Fenrir Greyback had done to his brother.
Charlie's scars, of course, were mostly by choice. When one hangs out with dragons on a regular basis, he runs the risk of being burned. The largest burn was the one that ran across his left ribcage. Of course, he could barely tell where that burn ended and where the tattoo of a Swedish Shortsnout spitting fire at it began, but Percy supposed that was the point of getting the tattoo in the first place.
George didn't have noticeable scars, per say, but he was missing an ear and that definitely counted. Fleur had told him the story of that night earlier in the summer. Sometimes he really could not get over how brave his family members really were. It was one thing to hang out with Harry; it was another thing entirely to pretend to be him for a few hours, knowing full well that someone was probably going to try to kill you if you did.
Percy couldn't remember if Fred had any scars. Just one more thing he would never get to ask his little brother.
Ron had raised white lines running up and down both his arms like coiled vines. They seemed to shine in the August sun. Percy realized he had no idea where those had come from, but he was almost positive Ron hadn't had them during his fourth year of school. Or maybe he did, and Percy's head was just so far up his arse he hadn't noticed. Ron also had a noticeable cleave in his shoulder from a splinching accident. Whoever had healed him had mended the skin but not replaced the flesh, so his skin formed a shallow rounded V shape where the wound had been previously.
Harry had scars too, of course. In addition to the one on his forehead that everyone knew about, he also had disgusting words etched into his hand that Percy felt some sort of responsibility for and a faint bruise over his heart that did not seem to want to fade. Percy's mother had fussed over that one for quite some time after the Battle of Hogwarts, but Harry didn't seem bothered by it. In fact, he had been strangely relieved when it stuck around. There was a story behind it, and Ron, Hermione, and Ginny seemed to know it, but Percy wasn't stupid enough to ask.
All the men in his family- including the one his parents had all but adopted seven years ago- wore physical badges of honor. They had outward marks to prove the courage they had shown and the war they had fought (or the barmy but brave profession they had chosen, in Charlie's case). All Percy Weasley had was a grand expanse of bright white skin to prove just how lily-livered he really was. He was so lost in his own sulking that he barely noticed Ron was heading back toward the house until he was standing directly in front of him.
"Are the girls back yet?" Ron asked, peering around Percy to look through the kitchen window. As if he had to ask if the girls were back yet. As if Hermione would not have sought him out the moment she arrived.
"Not yet," Percy answered.
"How long does it take to go shopping?" Ron asked, clearly agitated. Percy shrugged.
Fleur and Mrs. Weasley had insisted on taking Hermione and Ginny shopping for new Muggle clothes. Apparently all the hiding-from-The-Dark-Lord and fighting-for-their-lives business of the past year or so had left them both with very little to wear, so the girls had set out early that morning to replenish their wardrobes. Fleur had insisted the first thing they were purchasing were new bathing suits, and there was no doubt in Percy's mind that the thought of Hermione Granger in a brand new swim suit was what made his little brother so damned impatient for the girls to return.
"What are you doing all the way over here, anyway?" Ron asked. Percy shrugged again. Ron's brows knit together in thought. "I know you're pasty, mate, but they make a sun-screening charm for a reason. You're not going to melt if you join us."
"I don't think I'm going to melt," Percy mumbled.
"Well, we don't bite either. Or at least, most of us don't. I try not to bug Bill too much because I'm not quite sure about him anymore." Ron grinned, clearly pleased at his attempt at humor. Percy's frown deepened.
"That's not funny," he scolded. Ron stared at him, his brows knitting together yet again.
"It was just a joke," Ron said. "Seriously, Perce, what's the matter? You've been sulky since we got here last night. Mum and Dad are really worried about you, you know."
"Worried about me?" Percy scoffed. "I'm the only one in this whole damn family who doesn't look like a chew toy for Hagrid's newest pet." He gestured at Ron's scarred shoulder as if to prove his point. Much to his chagrin, Ron's eyes flashed in understanding.
"Is that what this is about?" He asked gently.
"No," Percy protested, although it was quite clear he was lying.
"Honestly Perce, you don't need to be embarrassed about not resembling something Grawp chewed up and spit out- but if you're dead set on fitting in, we can try to figure out if Bill does actually bite." Ron smiled at him. Percy glowered in response.
"It's not about the scars," he insisted.
"Of course it isn't. It's about what they represent." Ron's voice was understanding, but Percy was mortified. "You know, thoughts can leave deeper scarring than almost anything else." He continued, cryptically. Percy was staring at his feet as his younger brother spoke, but he could tell Ron was absentmindedly tracing the scars on his arms.
"How did you get those?" He found himself asking. Ron continued to stare at his arms while he spoke.
"A Death Eater addled my mind when we broke into The Department of Mysteries during my fifth year. I was so out of it that I summoned one of the brains they were studying there. Damn thing nearly strangled me with negative thoughts while my friends were fighting off Death Eaters."
"At least you were there," Percy said darkly.
"So were you, when it counted, so stop thinking those awful thoughts before they leave you with something worse than the marks the rest of us have." Percy looked his younger brother up and down as if trying to ascertain if this wise young man could really be Ron Weasley. Somehow, Ron seemed to realize exactly what he was doing and he laughed at him.
"Fine," Percy tried to harrumph, hiding how touched he was by his brother's words. Ron smiled widely.
"So are you gonna come swimming now?" Ron asked. Percy responded by finally removing his t-shirt. He started to walk toward where the rest of the men were assembled on the beach, but Ron's hand on his right arm stopped him.
"Huh... Perce, I don't think I'm going to need to ask Bill to bite you after all. Looks like someone else beat him to it." He gestured to a spot just below Percy's collarbone. Percy stretched his skinny neck and looked down, his pale skin flushing deeply as he saw the unmistakable love bite that marred his skin- a love bite that he must have acquired the night before last when he spent some quality time with someone he was certainly not ready to discuss with his meddling family.
"It's not what you think it is," Percy lied, but Ron did not believe him. He had pulled his wand out of his swim trunks and waved it without a word, and before Percy could even try to block him he was hanging in mid air as if an invisible rope was tethered to his ankle.
"Oi! I need some help with Percy over here... he's got quite a suspicious mark on his chest and I think we need to examine it thoroughly." Ron bellowed, with a smirk that would have made Fred proud. As he bounded down the beach Percy's hanging form followed him. When Percy tried to dig his wand out of his own pocket, Ron snatched it before he could use it.
"You are officially my least favorite brother," Percy hissed, much like he used to when any of his brothers picked on him as a child. Ron laughed.
"Are you more angry at me than you are at yourself, then?" Ron asked. "Because if that's the case, I'll take the mickey more often."
Percy glared at his younger brother, and Ron laughed again. As they approached the rest of the men on the beach, Percy braced himself for what was turning out to be a stereotypical Weasley family vacation.