Author's Notes: Written for Shira Lansys' Speed of Lightning Competition on the HPFC forum.
I want you to write a fanfiction in which your main characters (however many of them there are) are ALL characters that you've NEVER written about before. The word count for this round will be 3,000 words!
It was bloody difficult thinking of characters I've never written about who are still more than just a name mentioned one time.
The summer after the year of the Triwizard Tournament was the hardest of Percy Weasley's life – no, past that; it was the hardest that he could ever have imagined.
The Tournament itself had been disastrous from the start. It had been a nightmare to organize even before things had started to go wrong. If Percy himself had had any kind of power over Mr. Crouch (the late Mr. Crouch), he would have had the whole thing shut down the second Harry bloody Potter's name had been drawn from the cup – how, he wondered, had no one seen all the things that could go wrong in that situation? Even if Potter hadn't been in danger, it would have looked – had looked, at the start – as though Hogwarts was trying to give itself an extra edge, and there was the matter of an underage wizard participating. No good could have come of that.
But, as it was, shutting down the Tournament had not been an option for Percy, and it had been all but murderous to his sense of nobility for him to be forced to stand idly by and watch the whole affair deteriorate from a shining example of international magical cooperation to…
Well, to that poor Cedric Diggory boy's death.
And to Mr. Crouch's death.
And especially to Harry Potter's sudden, mad, entirely unfounded conviction that He Who Must Not Be Named was back.
And that was what had made that summer so particularly difficult.
If it were just the fiasco of the Triwizard Tournament and Mr. Crouch's death, Percy would not have had difficulty dealing with it – he was, after all, an expert at smoothing things over when he wished to be. He had grown up with enough siblings to teach him how to calm down upset parties and arrange. And the death of that student – whatever the circumstances may have been (an overdeveloped sense of competition from the participants, perhaps, or a magical creature in that maze – more than enough of them were deadly) – would not have been Percy's department. He would have mourned it and gone to a funeral if there had been one, but it would not have conflicted with his job at the Ministry.
But oh, Potter's story about He Who Must Not Be Named did conflict with his job. And with everything else that he cared about or that was a part of his life.
When Harry Potter had first appeared out of the maze, clutching the cup and Cedric's dead body, babbling and screaming and fainting, Percy had assumed that what he was saying was brought on by the stress of the event – perhaps there had even been a spell in place to make one relive one's worst memories, or a Dementor, or even a Boggart who had taken the form of He Who Must Not Be Named himself… Percy did not know what had been put in that maze. He would not have been surprised if there had been a combination of all three of those, or even more – surely no one would begrudge a teenage boy who had gone through all that a few moments of madness.
He had assumed that Harry would calm down quickly enough, and then promptly confirm that it had all been in his head. Percy had imagined Harry consulting with the press a few days – perhaps a week at most – later, explaining that he had seen nothing of He Who Must Not Be Named's return and that there was no need for worry.
He did not.
Worse, Albus Dumbledore had sided with him.
And, Percy thought derisively, as everyone knows, Albus Dumbledore can do no wrong, so if he thinks that the Dark Lord is back, he is most certainly back.
That seemed to be what Percy's mother and father thought, at least. Which put Percy in the very distinct Weasley family minority of not believing every word out of Harry bloody Potter's mouth.
He supposed he couldn't blame his mother for believing him – she had, after all been in the hospital wing with Harry the night after the task in which Cedric Diggory had died (paying more attention to Potter than she could ever spare for me, Percy occasionally found himself thinking bitterly, but that was beside the point). It was perhaps little surprise that she – who Percy knew to lack an ability for reasonable thoughts at some times – should believe whatever came out of his mouth that night.
And Percy's own siblings… well, they were children, most of them. It was easy for them to be misled by their friend. He could not honestly expect Ron or Ginny – much less Fred or George, who never thought logically about anything – to see sense in the matter. At that age, he might not have.
But it particularly stung, rankled deep, and made Percy's blood feel as though it were boiling every time he thought of it, that his father had bought Harry Potter's story so completely.
Percy knew that Arthur Weasley was not necessarily a clever or practical man by most people's standards – what with all that fondness for Muggles, which most seemed to consider incurably eccentric – but Percy had always considered his father rather sensible in all the important ways. And one of those ways was that he was not apt to believe every crackpot story that he heard. He had always, in the past, needed some sort of evidence before he believed something, Percy reflected. Arthur had required an object, something like a battery, for example, that he could hold, and that would prove beyond the shadow of doubt, that what seemed incredible was real. If he had seen He Who Must Not Be Named's return with his own eyes, then of course he would be defending the stance, but as it was, he had been given no evidence, not a scrap, and not even something resembling evidence, that Harry's stories about He Who Must Not Be Named having somehow returned were true.
He had nothing except for Albus Dumbledore's word, and what was that worth? Nothing at all.
Oh, but in the Weasley family, Dumbledore's word was Gospel truth, and woe to anyone who dared to speak against it.
Percy bit his tongue when the matter came up. There was no reason for him to cause himself even more stress by inciting arguments. He did, however, find himself wishing more and more as the summer went on that he had found his own summertime accommodations instead of accepting his parent's invitation to spend the summer with them. It would have made things so much easier.
Early into the holidays, midway through July, the entire Weasley family had been around the breakfast table, quietly munching on their mother's delicious bacon and eggs – or, rather, most of the family was munching, Percy was pushing them around listlessly upon his plate and Arthur was too absorbed in the Daily Prophet to eat, when the matter first came up.
"Oh, I do not believe this!"
Everyone's heads snapped up, looking around at their father. Molly set down the eggs that she had been about to crack into the frying pan. Percy's heart sank, for he had a very good idea of what his father had just seen in the newspaper.
"They're taking the Ministry's side!" he announced, throwing it down. "They're calling Albus and Harry both mad, as though it was a fact, rather than poorly disguised – propaganda!"
"What does it say, Arthur?" Molly asked worriedly. She crossed the kitchen to lean over her husband's shoulder, squinting down at the columns of small print for the piece that had caused Arthur such distress.
"Oh, some nonsense about being asked to worship Harry…" he said, with something that Percy thought akin to a sneer curling his lips.
He looks like Lucius Malfoy when he sneers like that, Percy thought, then his own lips twitched immediately into a slight smile. And what would he say if I told him that? Nothing pleasant, I'm sure.
"It's here, Molly, dear," Arthur said, pointing to the page. Molly leaned down further to get a better look, and her eyes narrowed into slits, her lips pursing. She looked ready to rip someone's head off.
Percy set down his fork, his already sparse appetite leaving him completely. "Father…"
"Well, that's just nonsense!" Molly fumed, cutting off her son. "How dare they even say that? They've never so much as met him – how can they say anything of that sort? He's only a boy!"
"Mother…" he tried.
"Of course they haven't met him," Arthur said impatiently. "They wouldn't say anything like this if they had – they're just trying to further the image of him as some fame-grubbing little boy who doesn't understand anything about the way that the world works."
"Well, they're half right about him, then, aren't they?" Fred said brightly, from the end of the table. "About him not understanding the way the world works, at least."
Everyone glared at him – everyone save Percy himself, and George – and he shrugged. "You know that there's no reason to let it bother you. It won't exactly do anyone much good for us to be getting ourselves all worked up over it? I mean, maybe Percy could do something, but…"
"Don't even bring me into this," Percy said, more harshly than he had meant to."
"Oh, Percy, giving orders again…" George smirked, clicking his tongue in an admittedly spot-on impression of their mother. "Shouldn't do that… you're not a prefect anymore, and now that we're of age, you can't tell us what to do. I'm sure you missed the days when you could… are we going to need to bewitch that bloody prefect's badge of yours to follow you around for the rest of your life? I'm sure we could work something out…"
Percy stood up abruptly, pushing his chair back so hard that it rammed into the back wall. A plate that had been balanced rather precariously on the edge of a counter went smashing to the floor from the force, flying into dozens of shards despite Ginny's attempts to grab it before it hit the ground. Ron jumped, spilling his glass of pumpkin juice over his lap, and Molly let out a small yelp of surprise at the noise, dropping the egg, which she had picked up again to continue with her cooking.
"Percy Weasley!" she said, looking furiously from him to the dent in the wall to the smashed plate and egg at her feet. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm not going to listen to this," Percy said shortly. "I don't have to."
"What are you on about?" Ron demanded, angrily sponging spilled coffee off his shirt and wincing. "Look what you made me do!"
"I'm not going to sit here and listen to you lot go on and on about how bloody fantastic Albus Dumbledore is and how wrong the Ministry is," Percy snapped. "Don't you understand why that's in the papers? The Ministry is doing quite the right thing by trying to avoid causing a panic. You do realize that's all they're trying to do, don't you? Avoid mass hysteria? When did that become a crime?"
"If that is how you see it," Molly said, "then you can leave!"
"Fine," Percy said icily, and he turned and walked upstairs without a backwards glance.
He spent the entire day locked up in his bedroom, stewing. The whole situation infuriated him, and for all his attempts to calm himself down, all he could do was rant under his breath to the wall about everything that was wrong with his family. How dare they act as though no opinion except that of Albus Dumbledore was important? Did they really believe it was better to have the public in a panic – quite possibly over nothing – than to insist that things were all right?
"They're being stupid," Percy hissed venomously at his wallpaper. "They don't understand politics at all. Absolutely no concept of public relations!"
The wallpaper, unsurprisingly, did not respond.
By dinnertime, Percy had worked his way into a rage, far beyond his former mild annoyance. Turning the matter over in his mind had only made everything seem worse, and by the time he came downstairs and face to face with his father, he could scarcely speak for anger.
"Percy," Arthur said, and there was a serious note in his voice that Percy rarely heard and that never boaded well. The last time he had heard his father use it had been when Ginny had been given that cursed diary in her first year.
"Yes, Father?" he said, grinding his teeth but managing a small smile nonetheless.
"There is a matter that we need to discuss."
"What matter, father?" he asked, still all innocence.
"Pertaining to Harry. And to the Ministry."
Percy had been expecting this, but it caused his stomach to twist about nervously. "What about Harry and the Ministry, Father?" he asked, forcing his voice not to shake and his mouth to remain in a bland smile.
"I think you know very well." Arthur's expression did not soften. "I mean what happened at breakfast this morning."
"I don't believe I did anything wrong at breakfast this morning." Percy was aware of his voice hardening and his eyes narrowed in spite of himself. He knew that this was unwise, for now he looked like he was challenging his father, but he could not help doing it.
"Don't take that tone with me," Arthur said, in the coldest voice that Percy had ever heard him use. "You know perfectly well what you did and why it was wrong."
"I voiced my opinion," said Percy. "I don't recall that being a crime."
"You insulted our friend. Harry has been an excellent friend to Ron, and to the family, and you two have always seemed to get along perfectly well–"
"I didn't say anything against Harry," Percy told him, managing not to raise his voice. "All I said was that I think the Ministry is doing the right thing by not throwing the public into a possibly unfounded panic."
"So you don't trust Harry or Dumbledore," Arthur said grimly.
"I never said I didn't!" His voice did raise a little there, and he took a moment to calm himself back down before continuing. "I think that there's a difference between trusting someone and believing everything that they say without thinking through it for yourself."
"So you think that we're just following what Dumbledore says? You don't think that we have good reason to believe–"
"No!" Percy gave up on staying calm. "No, I don't think you have good reason to belive anything! All that you know is that Harry Potter came out of that maze – and given what was in there, I would hardly blame him if he was confused – shouting that He Who Must Not Be Named was back! That isn't a proper reason to believe anything, much less something of this gravity!"
"You just don't want to believe it!"
"You think that's it?" Percy demanded. He could have hit his father. "You think this is because I'm scared? It never occurred to you that maybe it has more to do with me trusting my own logic over the paranoid ramblings of a boy who was just traumatized by– by going through the ordeal of the Triwizard Tournament, and then watching his friend die? Father, do you really think that's someone who's in a state to trust with our lives?"
"You'd rather entrust your life to the Ministry, then?" he fumed.
"And the Ministry is the root of all evil now, isn't it?" Percy snapped. "Even though you've all been pressuring everyone in the family to get a job there? You think we should work there but not trust it, is that it?"
"You shouldn't trust it over your own family, no!"
"I thought you were all for people doing what they believed was right, instead of just what their families told them," Percy hissed, and his voice was full of derision. His eyes had narrowed to slits as he stared down his father.
"You're wrong about what's right!"
"Oh, am I?" Percy stood up as straight as he could, puffing his chest out and glaring. His heart was thumping wildly in his chest, and he could scarcely believe what he was saying, but he had a sense of justice just as strong as that of his parents, and he knew that this was the right thing to do, no matter what the consequences for him. "I'm wrong because you disagree with me, Father? Is that what you mean? Because, if it is, then how – how the Hell – how can you say that you're any better than the Ministry?" He paused, took a deep breath, then added in a hiss, "How can you say that you're any better than the Death Eaters?"
Arthur's face paled. He looked as though his son had just hit him, rather than spoken.
"Get out," he hissed. Percy did not move, and Arthur raised his voice. "Get out, I say! Out! Never come back! Never darken our doorstep again if this is how you think of us! Is this what your family means to you? So little that you can throw us away because you can't acknowledge one simple little fact?"
"Well," said Percy, and his voice shook, but he kept eye contact, willing himself not to cry or even show a hint of emotion besides derision upon his face, "if that's what you want, then I'll go, and even if the Dark Lord is back, at least I'll know that I did something that I thought out and thought was right rather than just living to an old crackpot like Albus Dumbledore."
And with that, Percy turned on his heel and stormed out of the house. He slammed the door, and with that, Percy Weasley left his family for what he hoped would be forever.