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27 August 2009 @ 12:06 pm
Salt  
Title: Salt
Author: toxic_glory
Genre: Angst, general
Rating: PG
Length: One shot - 3041 words
Summary: When Percy chose the Ministry over his family, he had no idea what it would do to him.  Did he choose wisely?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Completed:
Yes
AN: This is a really long one-shot, but I feel like the length was necessary for Percy's entire story to be told.  It actually kind of broke my heart to picture the scene between Percy and his parents.

--
Percy Weasley felt that he was extremely deserving of his recent promotion. He had, after all, been working diligently with the Ministry ever since he'd left Hogwarts and his serious work ethic had always impressed those around him. When he had been scolded for not realizing that his old boss had gone insane, he believed that he would never be able to overcome it; however, after slaving endlessly over reports that focused on such trivial things as the standardization of material from which Gobstones were made (not to mention an occasional exaggerated compliment or birthday gift to one of his superiors), he had redeemed himself as an asset to the Ministry. Considering the enormity of his previous blunder, it had almost been easy to fall back into the Minister's favor. In his mind, a few sleepless nights and empty gestures were hardly a high price to pay for a position as Cornelius Fudge's Junior Assistant.

My family, he thought smugly, will be overjoyed to see how far I've come. His mother would beam with delight, smothering him with affection while his father pretended as though he hadn't already heard the news through one of his colleagues. Fred and George would tease him relentlessly, though he always attributed their taunts to their overwhelming envy of his accomplishments. Ron and Ginny would each congratulate him heartily, and he hoped that his own achievements would inspire them to buckle down at school this year and follow his example. Maybe Bill and Charlie would write to him upon hearing the news to say how proud they were. Thoughts of his family's reaction made it difficult for Percy to focus on anything other than going home that night. In fact, as soon as his shift ended, he hurried out of his cubicle and waited in line for the elevator. Hurry up, hurry up, he thought impatiently as an old witch in front of him entered the elevator at a painstakingly slow pace. Finally, he found himself squeezed between the elderly witch and a rather large wizard as they rode to the main floor. Percy pushed past them both in order to get off the elevator as soon as they reached the lobby and he walked as fast as he could to the designated area for Apparating. He vanished from the place with a pop and found himself outside the front door of the Burrow.

Grinning with pride and excitement, he rapped on the door. "Mum?" he called. The door swung open to reveal Molly Weasley. "I've got excellent news," he declared as she stepped to the side to let him in. This was a deviation from the usual routine in which she would embrace him tightly and fuss about the bags under his eyes and how overworked he was. He looked at his mother and saw that she appeared to be rather stiff, her lips pressed together tightly and her arms bound at her sides. Perhaps his father had already told her the news and she was trying to contain her own excitement. Yes, that was surely it. She was trying her very best not to show him that she already knew of his promotion so that he could announce it to her. "Today I--" he began, but his mother cut him off.

"I already know," she said. "Percy...your father and I--"

"Molly, dear, I'll take care of it." Arthur Weasley stepped into the kitchen wearing a solemn expression. Percy's first thought was that Great Auntie Muriel or some equally ancient aunt had passed in her sleep. "Son, I think you ought to sit down," Arthur told him. The two Weasley men walked stiffly to the table and sat, not speaking for a few moments. Molly looked on awkwardly, standing by the door as if ready to flee the scene at any moment.

"What's the matter?" Percy demanded.

"You already know the Minister's stance on the matter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's return, I imagine," his father said slowly. Percy nodded; everyone knew. "And you know," continued Arthur, "that your mother and I believe what Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter have stated in regard to--"

"Yes," interrupted the younger man, gritting his teeth. He wondered how his own father, a man who he'd once looked up to, could be so naive as to believe the word of an attention-seeking youth and a mentally unstable old man. Up until this point, the subject of their differing opinions had gone undiscussed, as though avoiding it would make it go away. In a perfect world, it would have remained that way.

"And you know about the Order of the Phoenix and how we're reviving it." Over the last few weeks, the Burrow had been the location of several discussions of the subject, and Percy had overhead them all. He nodded and his father spoke again. "Fudge is nervous. He's afraid that, in these times of uncertainty, a coup could lead him to lose his position of power. He knows that our family is in close contact with the very man who threatens him the most: Dumbledore."

Percy's eyes narrowed as he realized where his father was going with this. "You're accusing him of using me for ulterior motives."

"We think he wants a spy close to Dumbledore," Arthur said, confirming his son's assumption. Their eyes met for a moment.

"That's absurd," scoffed Percy. His hands were balled up under the table, resting on his knees. It was a truly heinous crime to insult the pride and competence of Percy Ignatius Weasley, but to hear the insults coming from his own father heightened the sting. "I've worked hard for the Minister. I earned this promotion through nothing more than my own merit."

"I know that you deserve to succeed and you're destined to do so. You must understand that I want nothing more than for you to do well in life, but there are more important things than flashy titles. We're entering dark times, son, and you'd be better off acknowledging the truth: You-Know-Who is back. We absolutely must take precautions and--"

"Take precautions?" Percy spat. "Precautions against what? What proof do we have that anything is different now?"

"Dumbledore's word," Arthur replied simply.

"So because some barmy old man--"

"Don't you dare speak that way about Albus Dumbledore!"

"There's no proof, though! The only eyewitness account we have is that of a child. Dad, have you considered that maybe Potter is just looking for attention?"

"Have you considered the matter of the Diggory boy's death? What else could have killed him, and don't you dare tell me it was that ridiculous excuse that Fudge made up about an accident--"

Standing up quickly, Percy said. "Regardless of how Diggory died, I'm not quitting my job. Goodbye." He turned, ready to leave, until his father spoke again.

"I will not allow a spy for the Minister to live under my roof," Arthur said, his voice shaking.

"Arthur!" Molly cried out. "You can't--where will he--"

Percy spun around to face his parents, his voice even. "Perhaps your lack of loyalty to the Minister explains your inability to afford books for your own children. Maybe you ought to take a leaf out of my book and consider the fact that your lack of ambition is the reason why we've always been so poor! I've had to work against your reputation from the moment I started at the Ministry--"

"Percy!" his mother shrieked.

Arthur Weasley had reached the end of his patience. His face was growing red with anger or embarrassment at being scolded by his own son. However, he did not address his son's bitter allegations. "This is not a game, Percy! Consider the facts: though Fudge has no proof of my affiliation with Dumbledore, he suspects me greatly. Suspicion's not enough to sack me though, is it? So he gives my son--who has recently committed a huge error in not noticing the madness of a certain Barty Crouch--a promotion, and out of nowhere! Something's not right there...he's using you to spy on both me and Dumbledore, and if you think otherwise then--"

"If you think that running around with an insane man like Dumbledore is going to benefit you in any way, then you're an idiot! When the truth about him is exposed, he's going to meet a great deal of touble and you will go spiraling down with him. I know where my loyalties lie--with the Ministry! They've never given us reason to distrust them, and if you lot are going to go around behaving like fools and betraying those who've kept our world safe, then I will no longer associate myself with the likes of you. I am no longer a part of this family." Mr. Weasley stood up as his wife began to stutter, going to stand next to her.

"P-please d-don't d-d-do this, P-percy," Molly whimpered, her bottom lip quivering uncontrollably. Percy looked away from his mother and hurried up the stairs to his room, where he began tossing his possessions haphazardly into his trunk. His hands shook as he summoned his clothes to come out of drawers.

"You're disgusting," said a female voice behind him. Turning around, Percy saw Ginny standing in the doorway to his room. The other Weasley children were with her, all of them glaring at him.

"You enormous prat!" spat Fred, pushing past the others so that he stood directly in front of Percy. "Maybe when the Death Eaters come knocking you'll believe that You-Know-Who's back."

"If they kill you, then I hope you rot," George piped in. Without saying a word, Percy turned back to his packing, closing his trunk tightly before making it levitate. It flew over their heads and went downstairs to wait for him by the door.

"Nothing to say? Well, then, that's a first," Fred taunted him.

"It's probably good that you're leaving. Stupidity is contagious. I wouldn't want it to spread to the rest of us," George sneered.

"Get out of here already, will you?" Ron barked. Percy pushed past them to the stairs, running down to the kitchen where Arthur was holding his sobbing wife.

"Percy," she spluttered when she saw that he'd returned. "Please don't do this, you don't have to do this--please."

He couldn't look into her eyes. He couldn't acknowledge her, or he might turn back. The words had already come out, he'd already said what he was going to do. Arthur was shooting him daggers with his eyes, shouting that he wouldn't be welcomed back. Percy grabbed his trunk and stepped out of the door without saying goodbye, afraid that seeing his mother's tears would be enough to kill him and that listening to his father's words would be enough to make him apologize and beg to stay. His heart was pounding angrily, almost as if it was protesting this decision of his. There was a sound like a window opening and something hit him hard on the back of the head as he was about to Apparate, so he looked down at the ground to see a dungbomb. Glancing up, he saw Ginny peering down at him from her room, sending him the coldest look she could muster.

That was the last he saw of the Burrow.



Percy was reading the most recent edition of the Daily Prophet. His shift had ended only an hour ago, and he'd returned straight home from work to eat a dinner that had comprised of stale bread and onion soup (onions, due to their inexpensive nature, had become a staple of his diet) and to lie on the sofa in his cramped London flat. He'd already read most of the paper and was skimming over it in search of the articles which he had not been compelled to read. He scoffed as he came across one about Celestina Warbeck's latest love scandal; though such matters hardly interested him, he decided to read it. Just as he got past the first sentence, there was a knock on the door.

He was instantly suspicious. He never got visitors, with the exception of the occasional Muggle salesperson going door-to-door. With a sigh, he rolled off the sofa and walked the very short distance to the door, opening it slowly to reveal his mother. "Percy!" she cried, a forced smile on her face. "Hello, dear, I've brought you some dinner. Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots, your absolute favorite." She was holding up a bowl that had been covered with a towel. Molly looked her son up and down, noticing how thin he'd gotten.

"Sorry, I've already eaten," Percy muttered, not allowing his eyes to meet hers. A lump had risen in his throat and he felt guilt gnawing away at his stomach.

"Perhaps you can save it for later, or--"

"I think it'd be best if you left now." He said this to the mysterious brown stain on the carpet of the doorway rather than to his mother.

"Please let me in, dear. I just wanted to talk to you about--"

Percy never found out what it was that she wanted to talk to him about because he slammed the door quickly. He heard her whimper a bit before a muffled pop let him know that she'd Apparated away. Leaning his back against the door shakily, Percy licked his lips. Wet, salty tears had run down his face and he slid to the floor, collapsing into a sobbing, sniffling heap.



On Christmas Day, Percy received a lumpy package. It had been delivered by Errol, and he knew at once that it was a jumper from his mother. He shouldn't have opened it, but he couldn't help himself. He unwrapped it, holding it close to himself and allowing a few tears to flow into its fabric, which smelled of food and warmth and love.

Then he sent it back.



When Fudge lost his job, Percy did not lose his. He was Junior Assistant to Scrimgeour and, despite the fact that You-Know-Who's return had now been confirmed, he had yet to make amends with his family. Part of him hoped that, through accompanying the Minister on this particular trip, he would be able to apologize to his mum, though he knew his siblings would not forgive him.

"We'll just pop in, I'll snag Potter and talk to him about the plan, and you'll stay inside with your family, all right, Percy?" Scrimgeour said as the two of them walked in the snow toward the Burrow. It had changed very little since Percy had last seen it, and he wondered what sort of Christmas dinner his mother had prepared.

"All right, sir," he said curtly. He opened the door and walked into the kitchen. The expressions his parents wore were ones of complete shock, while his siblings glowered at him. Nobody spoke for a few moments. "Merry Christmas, Mother," Percy said stiffly.

"Oh, Percy!" Molly shouted, throwing herself into his arms. Along with the Weasleys, Percy noticed Remus Lupin, Harry Potter, and...was that Fleur Delacour?

"You must forgive this intrusion," Scrimgeour said as Mrs. Weasley turned to look at him. Her face was lit up with joy and her eyes glistened with tears. "Percy and I were in the vicinity -- working, you know -- and he couldn't resist dropping in and seeing you all."

Percy's ears went red at when the Minister used his name as an excuse. In all honesty, Scrimgeour had approached Percy's cubicle and said, "Your family knows Potter, right?" Admittedly, the truth would have made his intentions a bit too clear.

"Please come in, sit down, Minister!" Molly said. Her hands went up to her head to straighten a sparkling blue hat. Percy's eyes were drawn to the golden necklace she was wearing and he wondered if Fred and George's successful joke shop in Diagon Alley had benefited the rest of the family, as well. "Have a little purkey, or some tooding...I mean--"

"No, no, my dear Molly," said Scrimgeour. "I don't want to intrude, wouldn't be here at all if Percy hadn't wanted to see you all so badly..."

There he went again, using Percy's name. "Oh, Perce!" Mrs. Weasley cried out, kissing her son.

"...we've only looked in for five minutes, so I'll have a stroll around while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don't want to butt in! Well, if anybody cared to show me your charming garden...Ah, that young man's finished, why doesn't he take a stroll with me?" The Minister pointed at Harry Potter and Percy couldn't help but notice how painfully obvious it was that his whole purpose in coming had been to meet with 'The Chosen One'.

"Yeah, all right," agreed Harry.

"Wonderful!" said the Minister. "We'll just take a turn around the garden, and Percy and I'll be off. Carry on, everyone!" The two walked out the door.

"What's brought you back?" demanded Fred.

"Now, Fred--" Molly began, but as she spoke, something warm and wet hit Percy in the face. It was splattered all over his glasses. "Who did that?" Molly shrieked.

Three voices said simultaneously that they were responsible and both Ginny and the twins had smug looks on their faces. "It's all right," Percy mumbled. He could see that he was not wanted here; maybe things had been better while he was gone. "I'll just wait for Scrimgeour outside."

"No, no, no, you don't have to--"

"Mum," he said. It was the first time in over a year that he'd said that word. "I really ought to be going, I can tell that..." He didn't finish his sentence, but instead walked out of the house, turning his back on his family for the second time. It seemed that leaving was easier than going back, that asking for forgiveness was more difficult than declaring his disloyalty.

Why was it so hard to return? A clump of whatever had been chucked at him dripped down onto his top lip. He tasted it and recognized it as mashed parsnip, but there was a nasty aftertaste of remorse.

There was something else, too. Percy cleaned the parsnip off his face and wiped his eyes, which were leaking with salt.
 
 
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