Oneshot. An attempt to cure myself of research paper-induced writer's block. NOT part of the Proving Them Wrong / New Ages universe. A new chapter of that should be coming out soon.
Present day (non-italicized) stuff takes place end of book 4.
When Harry emerged from the maze with Cedric's dead body, Percy could still remember everything about the war. Or so he thought.
Percy remembered when he and his brothers had to leave the Burrow for the first time because it "wasn't safe anymore, sweetheart", and he remembered how the twins had cried and cried because in the desperate rush to leave in the middle of the night they hadn't had time to grab Sampson and Delilah, the two white mice that they never saw again. He could clearly see in his mind how nine-year-old Bill was forced to comfort their mother when their Uncle Gideon and Fabian stopped coming to visit because Dad was "busy at work" and never around. He recalled how sometimes he watched Ron and Charlie kept the twins quiet, and sometimes they switched, and no one but him ever seemed to remember that a five-year-old really shouldn't have to take care of someone else. He remembered the sound of babies crying, the sight of crushing darkness in the unlit safe houses, and the raw, stinging smell of fear in the air. He remembered that even when Voldemort had been killed they still weren't safe.
Percy also vividly recalled one night in early fall when the safe house lost its right to call itself safe.
-13 years ago-
Fred and George were playing with their toy broomstick in the corner of the living room, and although they weren't being quiet Mum didn't seem to really mind. She was sitting on a soft chair in the corner, rocking back and forth and humming contently to baby Ron as he sat gurgling in her lap. Charlie and Bill were playing with toy dragons and Percy had curled up on the floor by Mum's chair, nose in a book. Dad wasn't there, but he was at work like always, so that was normal. Things had been safer and calmer since the bad man died. For a while, it was almost as though nothing was wrong…and then the silver, magical-seeming beagle dog sailed through the slight crack Mum had allowed them to open the window.
Mum's sharp gasp filled the room and everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at the silver dog. Percy didn't know why, but he was suddenly terrified. The book slipped from his fingers.
An old, worn voice with an overtone of fear in it emanated from the silver beagle and filled the room. "The Death Eaters have found the safe houses! Everyone get out now!"
Everyone was on their feet in an instant, even the little twins. Fred clutched his toy broomstick in one hand while the other one was grasped by Charlie. Mum, looking absolutely frantic by now, kissed Ron on the forehead quickly before handing him to Bill.
"Go upstairs!" she hissed. "Take the Portkey!" The boys all nodded in terror. There was a scream from one of the neighboring safe houses and Mum's face whitened further. Her wand was out in a second. "Now!" she ordered, and Percy scampered up the steps after Bill, Charlie and the twins. Charlie tugged the door to the attic open and they all rushed inside.
"Take Ron," Bill said in a tight whisper, shoving the sobbing infant into Charlie's arms. The second oldest Weasley gazed up at him fearfully, but Bill was too busy digging through the old furniture and other junk in the attic in search of the Portkey to notice.
Percy couldn't help but let his gaze drift over to the window. He cringed backward and bit down a whimper as he saw the flashes of light rocketing through the dark night air down below. Cloaked, masked figures were running over the ground between the safe houses.
Suddenly, a jet of green light shot at the window and collided with the panes of glass, causing it to shatter and shards to go flying. Percy and George cried out in terror and Fred dropped his broomstick.
"I've got it!" Bill yelled in relief, pulling out an old boot with a bright red X painted over the toe. "Everybody touch it, now!"
They all reached out and put a finger on the boot. Charlie even pulled one of Ron's tiny, pudgy arms out of the baby's blanket bundle and put it into contact. Bill withdrew the spare wand, which they were "only allowed to use in emergencies!" just as there was a huge BOOM! and the house shook. Baby Ron sobbed uncontrollably despite Charlie's efforts to calm him. Percy squeezed his eyes shut, and the only thought going through his head was 'I want my Mummy'.
"Incipe." Bill whispered, pressing the wand to the Portkey. He dropped it on the attic floor as the Portkey began to glow, about to take them to the Ministry evacuation center. Percy just prayed that their Mum or Dad would be there waiting for them.
Just as they were about to be sucked away from the shaking building, Fred let go of the boot and made a wild dash to grab his fallen toy broomstick.
"No!" Percy shouted, and released the boot to haul Fred back.
He seized Fred's shoulders and whipped them both around just in time to see Bill's horror-stricken eyes as he and the rest of the Weasley brothers disappeared, leaving Percy and Fred alone in the attic. The three-year-old turned his wide, chocolate brown eyes on Percy.
"Whewe did they go?" Fred asked, voice trembling as the house shuddered yet again. He clutched the toy broomstick in his small hands, looking innocent and lost, and Percy had to try his hardest not to be angry with the little boy for getting them into this mess. He wrapped his arms around his own torso and waited for their Mum or Dad or one of their friends to come get them. But the bangs and booms and shouts were getting louder and louder, and no one was coming. Percy realized that their parents thought they'd all gotten away…no one was going to come get them.
And he was the biggest brother now, wasn't he? He had to take care of Fred like Bill or Charlie would have.
Percy picked the wand up from the ground and held it awkwardly, sliding his hand up and down the wood to find the best place to hold it by. He offered his other hand to Fred. "Don't let go," he ordered, and for the first time in their lives Fred obeyed him without a fuss.
Trying not to let the frightened tears in his eyes spill over onto his cheeks, Percy held out the wand in front of him and yanked Fred over to the staircase. Only to pull him back when he saw the orange-red flames licking at the base of the wooden stairs.
"Perthy?" Fred whispered, tears slipping down his face.
"C'mon," Percy said quickly, dragging Fred to a tall wardrobe. He pulled it open, revealing the hidden staircase that snaked down through the walls of the house and out to the woods behind it. They hurried down the steps. Percy tried not to cry out as he bumped into one of the thin walls of the narrow passage and he felt the immense heat from the flames on the other side. He had to be strong, for Fred.
Finally, they reached the end and Percy scrambled to open the little door. They spilled out onto the grass. The screams and shouts were louder here, and the spells sailing through the air were dangerously close. Percy looked at the adults running by, hoping that one of them would be his Mum, ready to sweep them up in her arms. But none of them were.
"Over here." Percy dragged Fred toward the woods. If only they could get between the thick trees, then they could hide until someone familiar came to get them...
"Oh, look," a cold voice said from behind him, and Percy's blood froze. "Two little baby Weasels."
Percy turned around to see a gigantic, black-cloaked man towering over him. A smooth, silver, reptilian mask obscured his face, but Percy could still make out his cruel, dark blue eyes. Percy knew what his parents called people who dressed like this. They were Death Eaters, and if Percy ever saw one he was supposed to grab his little brothers and run. But he was so scared, staring into this Death Eater's sadistic eyes, that he doubted he could move at all. Fred's tiny hand was clutching Percy's so tightly that it had gone completely numb.
"What am I going to do with you?" the Death Eater hissed. He brushed back some of Percy's curly red hair with his wand and Percy flinched, trembling. The Death Eater's eyes crinkled slightly, and Percy could imagine the bloodthirsty smile spreading across his face. "Arthur Weasley must know where our Master is. And I reckon he would be more than happy to tell us if he saw a wand to one of your pretty little red heads…"
Fred whimpered, dropping the broomstick and pulling his hand from Percy's grip as he squeezed his eyes shut and covered his ears, as though he could shut out reality that way. Percy wanted nothing more than to do the same, but he was paralyzed from head to toe.
"But I would only need of you," the Death Eater sibilated. "And I've never been very fond of toddlers…"He turned his wand on Fred, who shrank back.
No, was suddenly the only thing that entered Percy's mind. No, no, no, no, NO! He raised the wand in his sweaty hand and pointed it up at the Death Eater's face.
"Stu—stupety!" Percy tried to cast. A red spark jumped from the end of the wand, but fizzled out long before it reached the Death Eater and dropped onto the carpet of dead leaves below them.
The man let out a cold laugh. "Maybe we can make a little Death Eater out of you," he said. "Here, boy, let me show you a real curse. It's called Cruciatus." He pointed his wand directly at the cowering Fred.
Percy paled. He knew that curse. It was very, very bad. It was the reason why Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom didn't come over to read to him anymore.
Percy also knew another curse. He'd heard his parents talk about it when they thought he wasn't listening. All Percy was supposed to know about this curse was that if he heard it he should run in the other direction as fast as possible. But he wasn't stupid.
He knew that this curse made people go away, even if he didn't know quite how. And right now, all he wanted was this bad man to go away so that he wouldn't hurt Fred.
"Avada Kedavra," Percy whispered, and all he saw before a flash of green light exploded into existence was the Death Eater's eyes widening in shock. The force of the spell blew the wand out of his hand.
The man stood motionless for a few seconds with that expression of disbelief shining in his cold blue eyes before he crumpled to the ground.
Fred uncovered his eyes and stared at the fallen body as Percy crept forward and tentatively touched the Death Eater's cloaked shoulder. The man was still and cold. Percy realized with horror exactly how the Avada Kedavra curse made people go away. He began to tremble even harder. "Ith he gone?" Fred asked timidly.
Percy wasn't sure how to answer that, because Fred was too little to understand death. He just waited for Fred to pick the toy broomstick back up and then grabbed his free hand and dragged his little brother deeper into the woods. They sat down behind a rotting log and waited for the distant shouts to stop.
He didn't know how long they sat huddled in the dead leaves before Percy heard a blessedly familiar voice.
"Daddy!" Fred wailed, leaping up and sprinting to their father. He was still holding the stupid toy broomstick.
Percy extracted himself from the undergrowth and watched as Dad swept Fred up in his arms and hugged him tightly. Percy hurried toward them.
Dad caught sight of him and, still holding the toddler to his chest with one arm, dropped down to one knee and pulled Percy into an embrace with his free arm. Percy sniffled into his Dad's shirt, wondering if he had found the dead Death Eater and figured out what Percy had done.
"I'm sorry," Percy choked out. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Dad soothed, running a hand through his hair. "It's okay, it wasn't your fault. I should have explained how a Portkey worked to all of you, and then you would have known not to let go. I'm just so glad you're both okay."
He didn't know, Percy realized, and that was a good thing. Percy wished he didn't know either.
A couple weeks after that, when the Ministry had rounded up most of the remaining Death Eaters, it was decided that it was safe to return to the Burrow. Percy was grateful to be home, but it didn't stop the nightmares. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the man's shocked dark blue eyes go blank and his body fall into the mud. Over and over he replayed the moment in his head when he became as bad as the people who took Uncle Gideon and Fabian away and made Mum cry.
Fred didn't see it happen, was too young to understand what Percy had done. When he was old enough to understand, Percy reasoned, he wouldn't be able to remember. And Percy envied him for that. He wished he could forget, too. But he couldn't.
But Mum said over and over again that everything was okay now. They could go outside and play whenever they wanted and make as much noise as they wanted (unless Ron or the new baby were sleeping). Mum told them to forget about everything that had happened during the war.
And if it was an order from Mum, then he could, right?
So Percy did his best not to remember. He occupied his time with endless difficult books and spells and shouting at the lucky, ignorant twins for stealing his glasses.
And after a while, he did forget those two words had ever passed over his lips.
Percy sat in his tiny office in the Ministry, completely buried under paperwork that he probably would have to stay up all night to finish. He glanced at the Daily Prophet that was open on his desk.
'Harry Potter Claims You-Know-Who Has Returned.'
Percy must have read that title a hundred times. He knew he should go home. He knew that his Mum would be worried. But he just couldn't seem to concentrate enough to apparate now, not when his skin was crawling and a vague, panicky feeling was rising in his chest.
He tried to focus on his paperwork, but his eyes kept flitting to the Prophet.
'Harry Potter Claims You-Know-Who has Returned.'
"It's such rubbish, isn't it?"
Percy glanced up at the ugly voice. The young man he shared his office with, Curtis, was sneering at the newspaper.
"I mean, we're supposed to believe this child just because he somehow survived the Avada Kedavra?"
A cold tingle ran down Percy's spine at those two words. Inexplicably, he heard a young Fred whimpering and saw a flash of bright green light illuminating a dark forest. The panic tightening around his heart and lungs was becoming intense, making it difficult to breath. Disjointed images and sounds were flashing through his mind, trying to come together. Percy had a strange, dark feeling deep inside him that told him he didn't want to see the picture they were forming, and he prayed that they stayed broken up forever.
"Well," Curtis continued. "I for one don't believe it. And neither does the Minister. Potter's just an attention-seeking brat."
Part of Percy told him he should take offense at that. Harry was his youngest brother's best friend, he had stayed at the Burrow, and they'd gone to the Quidditch cup together…but a bigger part of him, the part that wanted to suppress the horrible, gut-twisting thing that was trying to creep up inside of him, wanted desperately to agree with his officemate because somehow that made it easier to not understand the fragmented images and horrible warped feeling of terror and guilt in his brain.
So Percy blocked out the memories and nodded vigorously at whatever Curtis said. Of course, Harry was lying. Of course, Dumbledore had gone senile. Of course, there was no reason to fear the start of another war.
Because, really, it was much easier than remembering.