The morning was far too cheerful, in Percy's opinion. The sky was too blue, the air too clear, the sun too warm…even the toast was perfectly browned. The toast shouldn't have been perfectly browned on the day of a funeral, it should have been blackened on one side and untouched on the other. Thunder clouds should have roiled on the ceiling of the Great Hall on the day that the greatest wizard of the age was to be buried.
Most occupants of the Great Hall seemed to agree with his opinion of the day. Try as he might, he couldn't keep his eyes off his siblings. If he hadn't known his brother so well, he might not have noticed the anger rippling through Ron's shoulders. He refused to acknowledge his presence, but Harry, Hermione, and Ginny did not. While Harry and Hermione spared him awkward glances in between bites of toast and kipper, Ginny held his gaze for minutes at a time.
Her gaze was fiery and furious, and he found that he didn't blame her for that. How could he, when he was full of so much anger and loathing aimed at himself and the Ministry? When she turned away for the last time, he felt a tear form in his eye.
He knew he would never be able to convince his family that he had tried to see Bill. He'd been holed up in the castle all week, knowing that his family was just a few minutes' walk away, but the Minister's word had been final. After his third attempt to sneak away to the Hospital Wing, he had been informed via owl that his next attempt would land him in Azkaban.
"There's something suspicious about your brother's injuries. Why was he at the school that night? Why did Dumbledore bring in non-Aurors to protect the school? Your family is hiding something, and I won't have one of my junior ministers tangled up in the situation. The Ministry is in disarray as it is, and if you look involved…no. No, you won't have any contact with them."
Scrimgeour didn't toy with words like Fudge had. He used them as daggers, stabbing them straight through Percy's heart over and over again.
A nudge to his back made him realize that everyone around him was standing. The time had come for the funeral, at last.
Aside from Charlie, who had presumably been unable to take off work on such short notice, his entire family was in attendance. His parents, the twins, and Bill sat near the front with the rest of the Order. He sat in the row opposite them with the Ministry delegation, trying his best to ignore them lest someone slap a Freezing Charm on him right then and there and take him to prison.
When Hagrid brought the body-Dumbledore's body-down the center aisle, Percy teared up again. Other members of the delegation also looked to be a bit weepy, like the rest of the crowd, but several people were dabbing handkerchiefs at their entirely dry eyes. Dolores Umbridge's eyes seemed to glint happily as the speaker took to a podium set up by the white marble table.
He ignored the service, for the most part. The same things were always said at wizarding funerals, and Dumbledore's would just list more accolades and achievements than most. The merpeople and centaurs gave tribute, which caught his eyes and ears, and certainly the unexpected incineration of the body brought him back to awareness, but when the flames faded to reveal a marble tomb, he realized that it was simply a striking way to magic the body to its final resting place. Dumbledore had always been flamboyant.
The crowd began to break up at that point. Students whose parents hadn't attended drifted towards the train or cried on one another's shoulders, the Order of the Phoenix took up a sort of huddle in their seats, and Minister Scrimgeour shook a few hands and limped towards his entourage. "I'll just be another moment, and we'll be on our way."
"Of course, Rufus," Umbridge simpered. She and the minister both turned towards the student section of seating, where some stragglers still remained. Percy didn't need to see their eyes to know that they were staring at a pale boy with messy black hair, and his blood boiled as Scrimgeour set off towards Harry, who was walking towards the lakeshore. The last thing he needed was another confrontation with the Minister of Magic, but Percy was powerless to stop it.
He turned to listen to the small talk his coworkers were participating in, but something knocked in to his back as he opened his mouth to speak. He grunted in pain and turned to confront the owner of the assailing elbow, but was startled to see that Ginny was already fleeing the scene. Her chin was held unnaturally high, and her back was a little too straight. She had been crying.
"I'll be back," he whispered to Morthan. The accountant looked behind Percy, widened his eyes in understanding, and immediately turned to distract the coworkers with a story about his first visit to Dumbledore's office as a student.
Ginny was athletic, but Percy had nearly a foot of height on her. His legs outmatched hers to an extreme so he caught up to her quickly. Her shoulders were shaking when he reached her, and he realized with a tinge of sadness that she was crying. "What are you doing here?" she growled.
His first reaction was to retort, to remind her that she had elbowed him and had therefore wanted his attention, but he managed to hold his tongue. She was obviously upset about the funeral, and if he was to get back into her good graces he would need to be mindful of that.
"I'm saying hello to my sister, of course." She stopped in her tracks. "I know I have not been the best brother of late, but at the very least I wish to offer my condolences-"
"Condolences?!" she shrieked. Percy shrunk back as she wheeled around to berate him, her hair actually whipping his torso. "The only effing condolence I want from you is for you to sod off!"
"Please, Ginny, don't do this. We're family, and I don't have much time before I have to go, so-"
She responded by smacking him so hard he felt the arm of his glasses snap. "Go scurrying back to your precious Ministry, you prat, because that's the only family you've got here!" Her hair swirled around her like fire as she spun and stomped away. He turned too, stalking back towards the Ministry party he so loathed being a member of and pulling out his wand to repair his glasses.
No one was speaking when he got back to the group, and he soon realized why: Hagrid and a full-sized giant who had to be his brother had moved to stand next to them, and both of them were crying in earnest. While the other Ministry delegates looked at them nervously or snidely, Percy glared at the grass beneath his feet.
He had probably just ruined any chance of reconnecting with his family, in good graces or otherwise, for Ginny would surely spew her renewed hatred of him to the others and convince them that he really didn't care about them at all. He felt feverish at the idea that he no longer had a family to return to, even on ill-fated Ministerial visits at Christmas. His vision didn't want to focus, even though his glasses were fixed.
When he finally looked up, Scrimgeour was limping away from Harry. Percy felt his heart give an odd pang when he saw Ron and Hermione behind the minister. Even now, after all the years and struggles, they were still gravitating towards the third member of the group. Since the troll incident of their first year, Percy had been watching them come together in this fashion, and it made him pine for those simpler days. He couldn't help but smirk at the memory of catching them coming from the girl's bathroom; what he wouldn't give to go back to a time when that was his biggest issue.
Now he had betrayed his family. His job had betrayed him and kept him in a position he hated. His heart had betrayed him and made him fall in love with a girl who was practically unattainable by this point.
With all this betrayal, he didn't know that he'd ever see the sunny side of things again.
A/N: Whoa, wait, an update? What sorcery is this? o.O
I hope you enjoy it.