Written for the hp_nextgenfest on LiveJournal. I had a lot of fun with this prompt, especially the chance to explore such an often-overlooked member of the Next Gen crowd. For those of you who dismay of James in this piece, know that I don't actually believe he turned out so horribly. I just needed him to be a real bastard for the sake of the story!
Not mine, never has been.
The Noticing of Lucy Weasley
No one really noticed Lucy Weasley until she punched her cousin James in the face and broke his nose. Or rather, it was the aftermath of said incident that caused the noticing. The incident itself didn't take place in a public enough venue for it directly to be the cause of the noticing of Lucy Weasley. The incident in question occurred over the Easter holidays at the home of Percy and Audrey Weasley. But when James returned to school with a bridge splint on his nose, two black eyes, and strict instructions to the nurse not to heal the break, well, people were bound to notice something. Rumors flew around Hogwarts faster than an International Quidditch team, but eventually the truth came out: quiet Lucy Weasley, eight months younger, half a foot shorter, and sixty pounds lighter than her 16-year-old cousin, had inflicted that damage.
But while the bare facts of the matter were easily discovered, the why behind the action was harder to pin down. Only three students in Hogwarts knew the whole story, and they weren't telling. But had anyone been able to draw out the details, this is the story they would have gotten:
When Lucy Weasley was young, she climbed into her father's lap one afternoon on the verge of tears and miserably declared her disappointment with the age of five. And Percy Weasley, bless his heart, did not burst out laughing. Neither did he ignore the declaration or dismiss his daughter's feelings in any way. Rather, he comforted and he listened and he soothed the pains of a young child's distress, and his daughter adored him for it. From that day on, Lucy Weasley and her father shared a special bond.
Percy Weasley loved both his daughters equally, of course, but it was hard to keep his youngest from holding a special place in his heart. His elder daughter Molly was very independent, very self-sufficient, and it would never have occurred to her to take problems or concerns to her father, or to any adult, for that matter. But Lucy told Percy everything, wanting to hear his advice and opinions, cherishing the rare moments they got to spend alone with one another, especially after she started at Hogwarts.
So it was strange, then, that she spent most of the car ride home from the station at the start of that fateful Eater holiday, in silence. Molly was 17 and could sleep late and then Apparate home from the village, but Lucy was still just 15, and Percy had gone alone to bring her home specifically so they could have some time to themselves. But instead, Lucy sat, withdrawn and preoccupied in the seat beside him, and her distraction concerned him.
"Everything all right, Lucy?" he asked after ten minutes of silence.
"What?" she asked, jerking out of her reverie. "Oh. Yes, Dad. Everything's fine." But she still sounded distracted, and there was a frown on her forehead that didn't disappear.
"How are your classes?" Percy asked, trying to draw a conversation out of her.
"Oh, all right, I guess," she said. And then, after too long a hesitation and too suspicious a glance in Percy's direction, she took a deep breath and launched into, "We've started conjuring inanimates in Transfiguration. Although," and here her tone changed to one that was more familiar to Percy, "Professor Branson won't even discuss theory with us at all, even though it's been clearly shown that understanding theory helps better perform the magic. And when I tried to point out that in France, they don't conjure hardly at all, preferring to transfigure instead, he just said that it was probably some French peculiarity, even though Tranfiguration Quarterly just came out with a study that proves that conjuration is actually twice as difficult in France as it is here. There are all sorts of theories being explored as to why – atmospheric differences, magical concentration levels, even one researcher who thinks it's partly the French diet, which is ridiculous – but Professor Branson acted like he hadn't even read the article!"
Percy smiled, but something was off, and he knew it. Such verbal stream of consciousness was typical from Lucy, but it wasn't usually so deliberately done. "Are you sure everything's all right, Luce?" he asked, and she glanced at him a little too quickly and a little too guiltily.
"Yes, Dad," she said. "Everything's fine." But she wouldn't look at him and she didn't sound particularly convincing.
"We've invited Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry for Easter," he told her then, trying to change the subject, "so they'll be here for most of the weekend. With Lily and the boys, of course." The response he got from this announcement was not at all what he expected.
"Great," she muttered with a scowl that was very unlike her. "Just what I wanted. More time with James."
Percy raised his eyebrows. "Lucy?" was all he said, but it prompted an angry sigh, and that upset, troubled look returned to her face. "Are you having a problem with James?"
She sighed again, gave a shrug with one shoulder, and said, "No more than usual."
Percy beheld her shrewdly. Agitated, she tucked her hair behind her ear and shifted uncomfortably. She still wouldn't look at him. There was clearly something she wasn't saying.
Percy felt for her. She was just eight months younger than James, and so people had a tendency to lump them together, especially since the nearest cousins were two years older or three years younger. And the thing about being lumped together with James was that it was easy to get overshadowed by James' loud and overbearing nature, especially when one was as quiet and introverted as Lucy. The fact of the matter was that Lucy was the most often overlooked and forgotten of the Weasley grandchildren. If someone tried to name all twelve and could think of all but one, that one was most often Lucy.
And Percy's heart went out to her, to his lanky, slightly awkward, often overlooked daughter, because he knew what it was to be that child. He knew what it was to be different from everyone else, to not fit in, to feel out of place. He'd been there, and now, he would do anything in his power to keep his daughter from going down the road that he had. He'd do anything to be the voice in her life that reminded her that different was okay, and hard as it might be sometimes, just being herself was the best thing she could ever do.
"Lucy," Percy said carefully, his focus on the road, but he watched his daughter out of the corner of his eye, trying to find the right words. "I know you're getting older and a teenage girl has to have some secrets to keep, especially from her father, but . . . well, Luce, you've never been that great at hiding your feelings, and something's bothering you. I won't make you tell me what it is, but you don't have to pretend everything's okay if it isn't, you know."
He saw her smile softly, and felt some relief that he had said the right thing. "Thanks, Dad," she said quietly. "Everything is okay, really, just," she gave a sigh, "some things I have to deal with on my own."
Later, once they had reached their home and Lucy was up in her bedroom alone, she was able to give some private thought to why she hadn't told her dad what was on her mind. Despite what he'd said in the car, she'd never before had a secret she couldn't tell him, and she decided she didn't like it. And there was part of her that wanted to confide in him, but . . . no. She couldn't. Not this.
She lay on her bed in her room, listless and preoccupied, her mind dwelling endlessly, despite her best efforts, on the disastrous career advice meeting she'd had with Professor Digby, her head of house, just before the break.
"Miss Lucy Weasley," Professor Digby said, pulling a file toward him and opening it. Lucy sat anxiously across the desk from him. For all that he was her head of house, she barely knew the man. She'd never gotten in trouble and needed to see him, she hadn't been named Prefect, and he taught Arithmancy, a subject she'd never taken. "I've just finished with your cousin James. Lovely boy, lovely, with so much potential to do well." Lucy tried not to stare in disbelief, but it was a difficult thing. She didn't see how they could be thinking of the same boy. "Now, then, remind me," he said with a smile. "Your father is . . . which Weasley again?"
Lucy couldn't see how that was in any way relevant, but she answered after only a slight hesitation, "My dad is Percy."
"Ah," Professor Digby said, and there was a flash of disappointment. "Right. Well then. Let's talk about careers, shall we?" His attitude stung, but Lucy couldn't pretend she wasn't used to it. She just nodded, and Professor Digby commenced poring over her file. "Taking eight classes, currently . . . all either Outstanding or Exceeds Expectations . . . well, that makes things much easier, doesn't it?" And he flashed her a smile that she didn't return. "Provided you do well on your O.W.L.s, you shouldn't have any trouble placing in any of the N.E.W.T. classes. So I guess it comes down to your interests. Do you have any idea what you'd like to do with your life, Miss Weasley?"
Lucy did, in fact. She knew exactly what she wanted to do, and she knew exactly which classes she wanted to continue with. But knowing it herself and communicating it to this relative stranger were two different things. She took a deep breath, reminded herself that Gryffindors were all about confidence, and said, "I'm interested in magical research."
Again, that flash of disappointment. "Well, that's certainly solid work," Professor Digby said eventually, and her opinion of him was lowering with each passing moment. "Not flashy or glamourous, but that's neither here nor there. Any particular field, or . . ."
"Spell Efficacy," she said, and he stared for a moment, then frowned.
"Spell Efficacy," he repeated. "Miss Weasley, I think," he said then, leaning across his desk, "that we can find something better for you. This is your career, your future. You don't have to settle for an entry-level position in a Ministry department that no one actually wants to work in. I admire your practicality, and it is a place to start if it's the Ministry you're after, but let's think big picture, hmm?"
She stared at him and truly did not know how to respond. So much of what he'd just said was entirely and utterly wrong that she didn't know where to begin in terms of setting him straight. And her hesitation cost her, for he was off, ruffling through the pamphlets on his desk and throwing out career opportunities that all sounded very familiar because they were all careers that her various aunts and uncles held.
Finally, she was able to collect her thoughts enough to break in with, "But I don't want to be an Auror or a journalist or curse-breaker!"
"All right, then, what does your mother do?"
"I–she's a pediatrician," Lucy said, too flustered to even consider not answering the question. He stared blankly at her, and she sighed. "A Muggle doctor for children."
"Ah!" he said, his face lighting up. "So Healing! Well, then, it's already in your blood! You'd make an excellent Healer, Miss Weasley, and it's a noble profession, certainly. I myself thought about—"
"No, I–I don't –" she broke in, determined to make herself heard. "I have absolutely no interest in Healing! And I don't want to choose a career based on who in my family already has it. I really do want to work in the Ministry, like my father!"
Her outburst left her breathing hard, but it got Professor Digby's attention. "All right," he said slowly. "But one never does know what niche one might fall into at the Ministry. So let's sign you up for the classes that will give you a nice, diverse background."
"I'd like to take Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Charms," she told him in a calmer voice, deciding she didn't care what he believed as long as she got signed up for the classes she wanted. She'd picked those three because they were the three incantation-based classes Hogwarts offered, and it was incantation efficacy that she wanted to pursue. He wrote down the first two without any trouble, but frowned at Charms. The frown made her lose her footing again and forget, momentarily, the last class on her list. "Oh, and History of Magic," she had to add as an afterthought.
That brought Professor Digby's head up, the frown now most prominent. "I can't see how History of Magic or Charms will be much use to you," he said, and Lucy could feel the helpless frustration building again. "Potions would be a much better option, and if you feel up to taking a fourth, I'd suggest Care of Magical Creatures? Or Herbology, perhaps, both will give you a solid grounding."
"History of Magic N.E.W.T. classes are project-based, so I could —" But he wouldn't let her explain her reasons for her choices. She tried, but it was clear he wasn't even listening. He'd just automatically assumed she didn't know what she wanted, and she left the appointment signed up for two classes she didn't want, not in Charms, not in History of Magic, and close to tears.
Even just remembering the incident in the private safety of her bedroom brought that frustration back in full force. Why couldn't she be more assertive? Molly would never have walked out of there signed up for classes she didn't want. The same was true for Victoire, Dominique, and James. No, it was just Lucy who wasn't Gryffindor enough to stand up for herself on something so important as her own future.
Agitated and angry, she walked across the room to the full length mirror on her closet and took a good hard look at herself, trying to see what it was that made her easy to walk all over.
She didn't look like a Weasley, was the first thing she noticed, the first thing she always noticed. She favored her mother, so the telltale Weasley red hair and freckles were nowhere to be seen. Instead, her hair was mousy brown and the only spots on her face were pimples. Molly never got pimples. And the thought of Victoire or Dominique with spots on their faces was laughable.
But it was more than just not looking like a Weasley. She was awkward, every inch of her. She was too tall and her hands and feet were too big, and she had the awkward look of someone who hadn't finished growing yet, even though she was 15. She had no grace or charm or poise, not like everyone else in her family. She didn't know how to talk to anyone except her dad. She didn't like confrontation, and she was shy and mousy, sorted into Gryffindor for no reason that she could discern beyond her last name.
No, she thought with something like disgust. This wasn't something she could take to her father. How did she explain to someone who couldn't see any of her flaws just how flawed and out of place she felt? And more than that, she'd seen the look in Professor Digby's eyes when he'd remembered which Weasley she belonged to. People always reacted that way when they found out that Percy was her father. Disappointed in her, that she couldn't be the daughter of a more interesting Weasley.
Feeling entirely down and no less frustrated than before, Lucy turned away from the mirror and fell back on her bed, burying her face in the pillows for a long moment before pulling out her copy of Transfiguration Quarterly and trying to lose herself in the articles about the recent discoveries in spell efficacy.
Four days later, she was still trying. It didn't help that four days later was the planned arrival of her aunt and uncle and cousins for the Easter weekend, and she was dreading the arrival of James "Bane of her Existence" Potter even more than she was dreading returning to school and trying to find a way to sign up for the classes she wanted.
And her dread was not misplaced. It was a warm day, so Lucy had escaped to the garden as soon as she could get away with, to read her journal in private, or so she hoped. But she'd have done better to stay close to the adults, for she had barely started reading when James followed her outside, saying with ill-concealed glee and malice, "Keira told me you were crying when you came out of your career advice appointment. That's not really true, is it?" She focused on the journal in front of her, determined to ignore him. "What, did they tell you that some day you'll have to leave Hogwarts and actually live and work in the real world?"
And then he was beside her, sneering down at her, and she was focused so intensely on the page in front of her that it was impossible to read anything it said. "What dull, tiresome thing are you so immersed in?" he asked, but she remained resolutely silent, so he just read over her shoulder. "'A Discussion of Atmospheric Effects on Spell Casting as It Relates to–' Good God, Goosie, I'm asleep already! We're going to kick you out of Gryffindor if you keep this kind of thing up. That stuff's so boring it's like your dad wrote it!"
Lucy's hands curled into fists over the edges of the journal. Her frustration and anger were rising as they always did around James, but she knew that no good would come of giving into his taunts.
"Lay off, James. Merlin, you're pathetic," came a voice then that was so coolly disgusted and dismissive that it could belong to no one but Molly. Lucy knew she could never manage a tone of voice like that. "Don't you have better things to be doing with your time than acting like an arse?"
"Not while I'm forced to be here," James shot back.
"Believe me, none of us asked for your company," Molly returned smoothly. "And you could take a page out of Lucy's book and spend some time, I don't know, studying for your O.W.L.s that are in less than two months. Unless, of course, you're enjoying flunking out of school."
"You may be forgetting this, but my dad's Harry Potter, so I don't need to graduate from Hogwarts. People will be tripping over themselves to give me opportunities. Pity you'll never know what that feels like."
Molly laughed incredulously. "I'm sorry, are you really trying to make me feel ashamed of the fact that my achievements in life will be based on something other than nepotism?"
From behind her journal, Lucy felt more conflicted than ever. On the one hand, she was glad that Molly was dealing with James so that she didn't have to, and she really hoped that Molly might be able to make James go away. On the other hand, though, this was just one more battle that someone was fighting for her. One more instance in which she couldn't stand up for herself.
". . . don't believe I was talking to you, Molly. I was trying to have a conversation with Lucy." She heard James say that just before her journal went flying out of her hands, landing deliberately in the mud of her mother's vegetable garden. It pushed her closer to the edge, that act, and her anger sent her to her feet, turning toward James with her fists curled at her sides. James was smirking at her, his wand out.
"Give me my book back," she said, trying to sound as disinterested and confident as Molly, but as always, she couldn't managed it.
"But cousin Lucy, I don't have it," he said with feigned innocence, and she didn't have a clever quip to come back with. "But now that that barrier between us is gone, I want to ask you a question. How does it feel to be the daughter of the lamest Weasley brother? Personally, I'd be ashamed if my dad was so dull that even Aunt Hermione avoided him. Does he know, do you think? How dull he is? I'd think it'd be hard to miss, everyone falling asleep whenever you start talking, but maybe he gets so caught up in the sound of his voice that he doesn't notice."
Lucy was shaking with fury by this point, waiting for Molly to step in again, to defend their father the way she'd defended Lucy, but Molly was silent, and when Lucy glanced at her, her face was the ground and her cheeks were colored.
She agrees with him, Lucy realized, and it felt like a punch in the stomach. And she realized then that if anyone was going to stand up for her dad, it was going to have to be her.
"Shut up," she said quietly but with all her fury behind it, all hesitance gone as she cut James off in the middle of asking whether her mum had married her dad out of pity or to ensure a good night's sleep.
"Well, well, well," he said, looking down at her in some surprise. "So you do have some bite to you, after all. But this is what draws you out, Goosie? Standing up for your pathetic father?"
"I said, shut up, James!" she shouted, and she didn't know what was going to happen if he didn't. She was madder than she could ever remember being, at James, at Professor Digby, at Molly, even, and she didn't know how this was going to end.
"You know he abandoned the family, right?" James hissed at her then, deliberately goading her. "During the war? He walked out on them, on all of them. Are you proud of that, too?"
And then all she saw was red.
While all this was going on outside, a different conversation was happening inside between Percy Weasley and his sister Ginny.
"When can we expect Audrey?" Ginny asked, unloading the food she'd brought with her.
"She's at the hospital til five, but she said she'd do her best to get here for supper. And where's Harry? I thought you were all coming together."
Ginny sighed and frowned, looking upset. "He's up at the school," she said. "In a meeting with the Headmaster and Professor Digby." Percy frowned, too.
"About what?" he asked.
"About James," Ginny said, frustration and anger mixing with a weariness in her voice and on her face. "I don't know what to do with him anymore, Percy," she admitted then, sitting at the kitchen table. "I really don't. He's failing most of his classes right now. He's in trouble all the time. I get letters, at least one a week."
"From Professor Digby?"
"No, and that's half the problem," Ginny said angrily. "Professor Digby loves him. Professor Digby has celebrity worship of Harry so bad that he lets James get away with whatever he wants. And James knows it, and so whenever he gets punished by another teacher, for not doing his work, for skipping class, for bullying another student, he takes it to Digby, his head of house, and Digby overturns it. So I don't get letters from Digby. I get letters from Neville. I get letters from the Headmaster. So Harry's at the school right now at a meeting with the Headmaster and Professor Digby to let them both know in no uncertain terms that we do not tolerate this behavior from our son, and he needs to be treated like any other student in the school." Ginny sighed and rubbed her eyes. "I'm at my wits' end. If this meeting doesn't work . . . he's going to flunk out of school at this rate, and he doesn't seem to care!"
Percy considered the issue, but he didn't have any advice for his sister, not really. Such behavioral problems were things he'd never had to deal with. Lucy had never needed to be disciplined, and while Molly's temper had gotten her in trouble a time or two, it was nothing like what Ginny was describing with James. Ginny sighed and looked pensive. "I envy you your girls, you know," she told her brother, echoing his own thoughts. "You've never had any trouble with them. They're perfectly lovely young ladies, both of them."
"Molly's perfectly lovely when she keeps a hold on her temper," Percy reminded her. "And she went through a phase. Audrey said she was pushing boundaries and asserting authority. It's typical for adolescents, at least to some degree."
"Not all of them," Ginny said with a sigh. "I don't have to deal with any of this with Al. Victoire and Dom have always been well behaved. And Lucy's never gotten into trouble a day in her life." Percy couldn't help but smile.
"No," he agreed. "That's true. I'm lucky; I know I'll never have to worry about things like this with Lucy."
That was the moment they heard a furious, "I said, shut up, James!" echoing in through the open window.
"Merlin, what now?" Ginny sighed, and both she and Percy hurried to the back door.
They did not reach the open door in time to hear what James said next. But they did reach it in time to see Lucy Weasley pull back her fist and land a powerful, furious punch on her cousin's face. And they watched in shock as James crumpled to the ground, yelling in pain, hands over his nose which was now spurting blood . "You crazy b—!" they heard him shout, but it was drowned out almost immediately by Lucy's "Shut up! Shut up!" And not until it looked like Lucy was winding up for another assault did Percy and Ginny recover enough to do anything.
"Lucy Elizabeth Weasley!" Percy thundered, pulling open the door and striding out into the yard. He could not remember ever having been more shocked and dismayed and disappointed than he was right now. Mere seconds after he'd sat praising her to her aunt, this was what he saw from her? The sound of his voice cut through his daughter's fury, and she turned to him, startled, guilt and embarrassment flushing her face. She caught his eye for only a split second before she had to look away. "What is the meaning of this?" Percy demanded of her. "Punching your cousin? Launching a physical assault on another person? You are fifteen years old, young lady! I would never have believed it of you! Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
She looked up at him in shame and anger and guilt, tears in her eyes, then immediately looked away again, cradling the hand she'd used to punch James. "No," she said simply, in a voice slightly deadened. "I'm sorry I disappointed you, Dad." And she ran past him into the house, the door slamming shut behind her.
Percy's head was spinning. He simply could not fathom what he had just witnessed. Molly, he could see punching someone. But Lucy? "I – I'm so sorry, Ginny," he said. "I have no idea –" But she held up a hand to stop his apology. Her gaze was fixed on her son, still sprawled on the ground, hands clenched around a nose that was clearly broken.
"What happened?" she asked him.
"The bitch is crazy!" James shouted, and Ginny's eyes flashed.
"Excuse me?" she asked in a dangerous voice. "I know you didn't just use that word to describe your cousin in front of her father and your mother."
"Well, she is!" he insisted. "She just punched me out of nowhere! I wasn't doing anything!"
"Shut up." Molly's voice was furious, and her wand was out and pointed straight at James. She was angrier than Percy had ever seen her. "Shut the hell up! You deserved it, and if Lucy hadn't punched you, I would have, and I wouldn't have stopped with one."
"Molly!" Percy said in reprimand, and that's when she turned furiously to him.
"He was making fun of you, Dad," she said in a hard voice. "He was calling you the lamest uncle, making stupid jokes about how boring you are. He was trying to get a rise out of Lucy because he's nothing more than a pathetic bully, and when making fun of her didn't work, he started in on you. She was defending you. He called you a traitor, saying you walked out on the family during the war, and she defended you. And you know what? I'm proud of her. And if you ever," she said, turning back to James threateningly, "ever, say anything like that about my dad ever again, I won't just break your nose."
And with that, she stalked off, leaving Percy more confused than before, already regretting half the things he'd said to his youngest daughter.
"Is all that true?" Ginny asked her son in a hard voice.
"So what if it is?" he said defiantly, and Ginny's eyes flashed again.
"Percy? Do you think Audrey would be able to set his nose when she gets home?" Ginny asked over her shoulder while James gaped at her.
"I think so," Percy answered, distracted. "But that won't be for another few hours."
"Then I guess he'll have to live with it til then," she said mercilessly, and James was clearly stunned.
"What?" he demanded. "You're not going to heal it?"
"No," Ginny said, leaving no room for argument. "Nor is anyone else. We'll set the break, but you're living with a broken nose until it heals naturally."
"I – she punched me!"
"Yes, and if it had been me, and you'd said those things about my father, I would have punched you too!" Ginny told him flatly. Percy, recognizing a Weasley mother's tirade when he saw the start of one, slipped away quietly from the scene of the argument, back into the house, tail between his legs, and went to find his youngest daughter. He wasn't looking forward to the conversation, but he had a feeling he knew now where the action had stemmed from. He'd been putting off telling Lucy about his part in the war for so long now, but it was clear the time had come.
She was in her room, tucked into her window seat, tears streaming down her face as she cradled her hand in her lap. Percy knocked on the open doorframe, asking, "Lucy? Can I come in?" as he did so. With half a glance toward him, Lucy nodded.
"How's your hand?" he asked softly, taking a seat next to her.
"It hurts," she said, not looking at him. "Why doesn't anyone ever talk about how much punching someone in the face hurts?"
"I don't know," Percy said, and Lucy took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, Dad," she said. "I'm sorry I punched him. He just, he made me so angry. And I knew he wouldn't listen to anything I said, so . . . it was all I could think to do."
"Molly told me why you did," Percy said. "What he said." Lucy shook her head.
"It shouldn't make a difference," she said. "It shouldn't matter."
"Maybe not," Percy agreed, "but I think it still does. And when you get told things you don't want to believe about people you care about, it's easy to react . . . strongly. What he said about me during the war . . ." Percy took a deep breath and did his best to steady himself. "Lucy, I think it's time you knew some things. I haven't told you because I didn't want you to think badly of me, and I'm not proud of it, but—"
"Dad," she interrupted. "If you're about to tell me that James wasn't lying, that you did estrange yourself from the family during the war and didn't speak to your siblings or grandma and grandpa for two years, you can save some time and energy because I already know and I don't care."
"I —" Percy blinked and stared at his daughter, completely brought up short. "How do you already know?"
"Hagrid doesn't always think before he says things," she said. "But I don't care. You came back in the end, which is all that matters. James was entirely wrong if he thought that would shock me. I didn't punch him because he said things about you I didn't want to believe. I punched him because he was disrespecting you. I punched him because he doesn't have the right to say things like that about my dad."
Percy sat in silence for a long moment, very touched by the loyalty, acceptance, forgiveness he'd never known he'd earned from his daughter. But more than that, he sat in bewilderment. He thought he'd known the root of the problem, but clearly, there was more to it. Searching his mind for alternatives, he remembered the rest of what James had said. And so he asked, "You know it doesn't bother me, right?" When she looked at him, questioningly, he clarified. "Being the lamest uncle. It doesn't bother me. I know it's true. I know it's what people think."
"Well, it bothers me," Lucy said with passion, and Percy closed his eyes briefly. He'd always known this day was coming. He'd always known he'd have to deal with it sooner or later.
"I can understand that," he said. "I get it, Lucy, I do. I've never been the most interesting Weasley. I don't break curses or tame dragons or own a joke shop or play Quidditch. I'm not famous. I work in an office all day, writing reports that hardly anyone reads about cauldron regulations and broomstick patents and Portkey upkeep. My life isn't exciting and never has been. So I know it can't be easy, that I'm the Weasley who's your dad, but —"
"I don't care about any of that," Lucy said with an impatient wave of her hand. "That's not what I meant. It bothers me that people think those things are true!" It was not at all what he was expecting, and he couldn't help but stare as she explained further. "What you do is important. It may not be flashy or seem that impressive, but it matters. If we don't break ancient curses or tame dragons or make joke products, who cares? What difference does it make? But if we don't regulate cauldron thickness? Or figure out why certain spells don't work in certain areas? Then all those potion makers or Aurors or flashy people can't do the things that they do. Someone has to do the things you do, Dad, even if they aren't interesting. Even if they aren't impressive. They're important, and I'm sick and tired of people not getting that!"
Her speech was so impassioned, so driven, that it caught Percy off guard, and he didn't entirely know how to respond to it. As for Lucy, it was like every reason she'd had for holding back the past few days was gone, and knowing that her dad thought she'd been ashamed of him? She'd have done anything to dispel that thought. So opening up to her dad like she used to was nothing.
"I had a lousy career advice meeting," she told him, finally saying the things she should have gotten off her chest days ago. "Professor Digby doesn't know me and doesn't want to. He wouldn't listen to anything I had to say, and he flat out told me that what I want to do with my life isn't worthwhile enough a career for someone to want to have. And I didn't stand up for myself. I let him put me in Advanced Potions and Advanced Herbology because I got so flustered by the whole thing, but really, it's nothing new.
"No one notices me," she told him then. "I'm a non-entity, Dad. I don't know why I'm in Gryffindor, except that that's where all Weasleys end up. I don't have the poise and elegance of Victoire and Dom. I don't have Molly's confidence or Al's easy nature or Rose and Lily's ability to just make friends. I'm shy and I'm awkward and no one notices me. But I know what I do well. I research things and I'm curious and I find out what matters. But that's not exciting enough for everyone else." She was on a roll now, and Percy was caught up in her words, in the fire she so rarely showed.
"They think that because I'm a Weasley, I have to be extraordinary in some way, never mind the fact that I'm not interested in standing out. In fact, I'd rather go unnoticed, quietly contributing, than have to deal with everybody's pity when they remember whose kid I am. They look at me and they feel sorry for me because I'm just like you and they think that's sad, or they're like James and they think I'm ashamed of it somehow, because no one ever takes the time to understand that being just like you is what I strive for. Being like you is the highest standard I can set for myself, and I am proud to be like you in even the smallest way!"
Percy sat next to his daughter, at a loss for words, a lump in his throat. It was a long few moments before he could speak. "I – thank you, Lucy," he finally managed. "More than I can say."
"I love you, Dad," she said sincerely.
"I love you too," he told her, putting an arm around her and pulling her to him in a tight embrace. "You're right about a lot of things," he told her after a moment. "You're right about how important the non-flashy work is. And you're right that being famous is over-rated. But I hope that you can also see that all those things you said about me apply to you, too." He looked down at her and waited for her to meet his gaze to say, "You are not a non-entity, Lucy. You matter. You are quiet and introverted, but those aren't flaws, and I don't ever want you to see them as such. They're part of who you are, and who you are, Luce, is extraordinary. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I got into trouble when I was younger because I wasn't content being myself. I don't want you to make that same mistake. You are extraordinary, in your own way, and I am exceptionally proud to have you as a daughter."
He gave her shoulder another tight squeeze, and she smiled up at him, possibly with tears in her eyes. "Thanks, Dad," she whispered, and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. They sat in silence for a few moments, and then she asked, "So, does this mean I'm not being punished?" in a hopeful voice, and Percy was startled into a laugh.
"Yeah, you broke your cousin's nose," he told her. "There's no way you're not being punished." She sighed.
"Like Aunt Ginny won't just mend it in ten seconds anyway," she muttered, and Percy smiled.
"Actually, she won't," he said. Lucy stared at him.
"What?" she asked.
"Aunt Ginny's not going to heal his nose. And she's not going to let anyone else do it, either. That's James's punishment. He has to live with it until it heals. And part of your punishment is that the same goes for your hand. If you're going to punch someone in the face, you're going to live with the consequences."
"You're not worried that people are going to see James's face and see my hand and put two and two together?" she asked then, and Percy smiled down at her.
"No, I have a feeling that's exactly what's going to happen," he said, and a moment later, she understood, and a smile crept across her face, too. "And for whatever my opinion on the matter is worth, I think you might consider staying with Advanced Herbology," Percy suggested then.
"But," Lucy said, looking up at him, puzzled, "it's not incantation based."
"No, but everything in life shouldn't be about work, Luce," he teased gently. "There's time enough for that when you're grown. You enjoy Herbology, right? And Neville says you've got an aptitude for it. Plus, I always found Herbology relaxing."
"You want me to add a fifth N.E.W.T. level class for stress relief?" she asked with an arched eyebrow. "You do realize how backwards an idea that is, right?"
"Something to consider, is all. And you never know. Maybe the flora of a particular area contribute to the ease or difficulty at which spells are cast."
"Dad, why would the plants on a hillside have any effect on spell casting?"
"Well, I don't know, do I? I thought those were the sorts of things you wanted to find out." And he nudged her in the side, and she laughed, and then he did, and for the next hour or so, Lucy and her father debated the merits of different N.E.W.T. classes and what they had to offer a budding researcher, two overlooked Weasleys sitting side by side, hidden away from the world.
Before the Nose Breaking Incident of Lucy Weasley's fifth year, she had been the most overlooked, the least noticed Weasley for most of her life. After the Nose Breaking Incident, this was still mostly true, with a few important distinctions. First, when she was remembered and spoken of, it was with an air of awe and respect rather than pity. Second, James went out of his way to avoid her, which meant that more of the notice she received was welcome. And third, and perhaps most important, Lucy Weasley found that she didn't care so much anymore about what people thought of the youngest daughter of the least interesting brother. The people she truly wanted to notice her had been noticing her for years, and it was their love and respect she cared about, far more than anyone else's.