Percy Weasley nervously paced a dark alley a few blocks from St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. He had just Apparated there and was contemplating whether or not to go through with going to see his father. He was torn between a sense of family duty and the fact that he was still at odds with his parents over this whole Voldemort thing.
How can they be so naive as to think that they could get away with helping Dumbledore amass an army against Minister Fudge? he thought to himself. Father ought to know that any anti-Voldemort activity he is involved in jeopardizes his job at the Ministry. I just don't understand why he has to drag Mum into it too. If only that stupid Harry Potter had had the decency to leave well enough alone last June...
And then, there was this whole Harry Potter business. The stupid git couldn't even get through two months in Little Whinging without resorting to the kind of magical activities that would land him in heaps of trouble. What a joke that hearing had been, back in August. Dumbledore shouldn't have bothered to come; Potter really was as deranged as the Daily Prophet reported, telling outlandish lies about Dementors assaulting him in an all-Muggle neighbourhood. It also proved that the old wizard was just as unbalanced as people thought when he supported an outright liar. Good thing Minister Fudge saw fit to bestow the High Inquisitor position on Dolores Umbridge, Percy thought. At least there is someone sensible up at the school. She'll see to it that Dumbledore and his ilk toe the line.
Still, Percy was greatly disturbed by the attack on his father. What he knew was sketchy; rumour had it that Potter was the one to notify Dumbledore and thereby save Arthur Weasley's life. How had he known? Percy asked himself.Is he some sort of Seer?
Now Percy wanted details, facts; something concrete which would put everything into perspective, instead of just having to blindly rely on raw emotion and conjecture. He could make up his mind once he knew the truth. Yet, there was some little part of Percy which made him grateful to Potter in spite of his disdain for the whole lot of them. He shook it off, wondering for the hundredth time why he was even bothering to come here.
He supposed that his actions of the previous day (sending back his Christmas jumper without bothering to open it or write a note of explanation or even inquire about his father) were dreadfully hurtful and that his sense of duty (and a guilty conscience ingrained in him over the years by his mother, Molly) were getting the best of him. So here he was, in the dead of night, trying to get up the nerve to at least talk to the Healers about what was going on with his father.
Percy stepped up to the dingy display window of Purge and Dowse Ltd. a few minutes later. "I'm here to see Arthur Weasley," he intoned softly to the dummy behind the glass.
"Visiting hours are over," the dummy replied. "Come back at eight o'clock when visitors are welcome."
Percy fished inside his robes for his Ministry identity card. "I wish to speak to the Healers," he said in what he hoped was an authoritative voice. "I'm here on Ministry business." He flashed the card at the dummy.
"Very well, you may enter. The Welcome Witch will tell you where you may find Mr. Weasley."
"Thank you." Percy replaced his card and stepped through the glass. He didn't bother going to the inquiry desk to pester the Welcome Witch. His position at the Ministry afforded him the information he needed and he went straight to the Creature-Induced Injuries ward on the first floor.
A Healer stopped Percy outside the Dai Llewellyn Ward which was marked "dangerous: Serious Bites." "You must be cleared to go beyond this door, sir," he said.
"I am aware of that," Percy told him. "I'm here on Ministry business and do not wish to disturb the patients. Could you tell me who is in authority to debrief me of Arthur Weasley's condition?" Again, he flashed his Ministry card.
"I can help you."
"And with whom am I speaking?"
"Augustus Pye, Trainee Healer. What do you wish to know?"
"Anything which will help me with a report I'm writing."
"Well, come with me. This isn't the place to discuss specific patients," Pye said and led the way to a small office off the ward's main storage room. He motioned for Percy to sit in one of two chairs facing the marred wooden desk which occupied most of the space.
"I must say that this is highly unusual," Pye said once they were seated. "Not only is this an unusual hour, but normally the Healers here send their reports to the Ministry, not the other way round."
"I am aware of that. However, Minister Fudge is expecting a detailed report at noon. Do you have Mr. Weasley's file, perchance? It may help in our investigation."
"Yes, yes. If Minister Fudge is to be notified of the case I will let you see it." Pye searched through a pile of folders and extracted one. "You may read it here. I will be back in ten minutes after I finish my rounds. I hope that will give you enough time to peruse the file."
Percy accepted the file with not a little trepidation. He managed to keep his voice steady as he thanked the Healer and opened it to the first page. "I expect that will be more than enough time," he said. The door closed softly behind him as he began to read.
The report was straightforward. Arthur Weasley had been brought in two nights ago after sustaining several severe snakebites to the torso and back. He had not been expected to live; however, the quick actions of those who had found him had helped the Healers to diagnose Weasley's injuries and take the appropriate measures. Thus, his life had been saved. He was expected to be released once the antidote to the serpent's venom was obtained, probably within the next week.
Percy read this information with a mixture of disgust and concern; he knew his father had been somewhere he ought not to have been, but at the same time, he knew deep down inside that he would have been devastated if Arthur had died. Even after all we said to each other, I still love the man, he thought. Percy shut his eyes and bit his lower lip; his own resentment and the self-imposed estrangement were still new and still hurt even after all these months. He shook his head, trying to push the pain back into its compartment inside his mind. He couldn't go on like this, mustn't let his emotions get the best of him. He had to harden his heart.
Why can't Father see how he's hurting his family? Percy asked himself. If he'd just apologize for his illegal activities...This roundabout thinking wouldn't do. He was wasting time not pretending to make notes. He pulled out a self-inking quill and a small roll of parchment and soon had several inches covered in tiny handwriting. As the door opened a few minutes later, he closed the file and put away his notes.
"Thank you, Mr. Pye," he said looking up. "I appreciate getting to peruse the file. I'd also appreciate it if the family was not apprised of my coming here. Minister Fudge has requested secrecy. I hope you understand."
Percy watched warily as the Trainee Healer nodded. He knew Pye would not report his visit to his family; his manner had been too officious to be suspicious. However, that did not mean that his visit at such an unusual hour would go unreported to Hippocrates Smethwyck, Healer-in-Charge of the ward. Percy didn't care about that; it was probably hospital policy to report all investigators anyway. He stood up and offered his hand.
"Again, thank you," he said stiffly. "You have helped with my investigation. Good evening."
Pye shook Percy's hand. "Good evening, sir."
As the door to the office closed behind him, Percy let out the breath he had been holding and made his way down the corridor towards the stairs. He'd gotten away with finding out about his father without making any contact with him. He stopped in front of the ward door. It wouldn't hurt to get a glimpse of his father through the window before he left. In the dim light, he could just make out Arthur Weasley on the far side of the room. Shaking his head, Percy turned away. It was just as well that he couldn't get into the ward. If he'd had the chance to see his father face to face, there were few positive words they could say to each other. Again, Percy pushed the unwelcome emotions away, rubbing a weary hand on the back of his neck where he could feel a tension headache beginning to form. He turned away and retraced his steps back to the alley where he Apparated to the tiny flat he rented in a run-down Muggle neighbourhood.
Two years later...
Percy tumbled out of the passage connecting the Hogs Head to the Room of Requirement and stared in astonishment at not only Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, but his entire family. He hadn't expected to be faced with them or the dead silence his appearance had caused; his only wish was to join in the battle against the Death Eaters who had turned the Ministry into a mockery. He threw a grateful look at Fleur as she began an awkward conversation with Remus Lupin.
The shock finally wore off, leaving him feeling incredibly self-conscious and wrong-footed. He wanted his family to stop staring at him as if he'd sprouted two heads and a pointed tail and he shifted uncomfortably as the silence lengthened. Eventually, he couldn't take it.
"I was a fool!" he finally roared, startling not only Lupin, but the rest of his family. He called himself a few more choice names and when he couldn't find any more self-deprecating things to call himself, he thankfully let Fred finish his thoughts for him.
As his mother engulfed him in a bone-breaking hug, he thought, Thank goodness for Fred! I never thought it would be him who would extend the family olive branch first. But it wasn't the twins he now sought with his eyes over his mum's shoulder. The one person he felt he'd hurt the most and owed the biggest apology to was standing a few feet away, quietly watching the reunion: his father.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Percy said.
Mr Weasley blinked rather rapidly, then he, too, hurried to hug his son. It felt wonderful to be accepted back into the family and as the three broke apart, Percy vowed to make up for all the lost time his stubbornness had cost him.
Hours later, as his family sat vigil over Fred's body, Percy sidled over to his father. He couldn't believe that in the space of just a few short hours he could reconcile with his family and then lose the brother who had bridged the gap his own pig-headedness had created. He wanted, no needed, the reassurance of his father's presence as much as he wanted to comfort his parent.
"I wish things had turned out differently," he said. "It hurts so much."
"I know, son, I know," said his father.
Self-consciously, Percy stuffed his hands into the pockets of his robes. He needed to say something and suddenly he didn't know how to begin. Finally, he blurted, "I'm glad you survived that attack two years ago, Dad."
Mr Weasley stared at him for a long moment, then smiled bleakly. "Thank you for coming to see me that night, Percy. It meant a lot, even though we didn't get a chance to talk," he said.
Percy stared at his father. "You, you knew I was there?" he finally sputtered.
Mr Weasley nodded. "Healer Pye inspected my wounds while you were reading my file. He wondered why someone whose hair matched mine would take the trouble to bluff his way into the hospital at such an ungodly hour when everyone else had come during regular visiting hours," he said. Percy cringed. "I told him it was none of his business and to be nice to you."
Blushing like a true Weasley, Percy said, "Thanks, Dad. I thought he was nice to me because I'd flashed my Ministry ID and dropped the Minister's name."
Mr Weasley patted his shoulder. "That didn't hurt, but he knew you were my son. I think it was the hair and your glasses that gave you away."
"Yeah, they probably did. I'm just sorry that I was so stubborn for so long," Percy mumbled at the floor. "I'm such a git."
"Look at me, son," Mr Weasley requested. When Percy did he said, "What matters most is that you came back. And, git or not, you're still my son and I'm glad you're here."
For the first time since Fred was killed, Percy smiled. "Me, too, Dad. Me, too."
A/N: Percy's quotes in the last section are taken directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Bloomsbury edition, page 487.
A warm thank you goes to my beta, Aggiebell, for her diligence at finding my comma mistakes and the comments she makes that keep me smiling while I write.