Dinner had been uneventful. Yes, taking into account the many members of the Weasley family as there were and their respective personalities, it was rambunctious and interesting, to say the least. However, there was that feeling of incompleteness just below the surface of happy relations, a feeling that some core piece was missing. Because it affected her, it seemed to affect Xander as well, something she realized when she noticed he was pushing food around on his plate without actually eating much.
Willow knew without asking what was on his mind aside from her own personal anxiety. Sunnydale. If she could get her brothers to Apparate them back to the Hellmouth shortly after dinner, they would have a little time to nap before tonight’s patrol. Then there was the troubling thought of Spike and Drusilla’s impending return. While she wasn’t entirely sure that they would in fact return – it was always possible that the dolls held no foreboding whatsoever – they needed to be prepared just in case.
Then, there was the matter of Percy.
She had another brother, someone that everyone was very careful not to talk about. In fact, the twins had even begun what sounded to be amusing stories before cutting themselves off at the mention of their brother’s name. Connecting the dots together, it was very easy for Willow to see that there had been some sort of falling out. If she asked, she was sure Fred and George would tell her but she’d gotten to the point that she didn’t quite trust their judgment about some things, especially when it came to telling the truth.
But how to find him?
“Wills?” The petite redhead looked up at the sound of her friend’s voice and his serious brown eyes. “Show me where the bathroom is?”
Willow’s brow furrowed slightly, quite sure she and Ginny had shown him the ground floor bathroom just after his little breakdown out on the makeshift Quidditch field. Shrugging, she reminded herself that he had been a little out of it. “Sure, come on.” Grabbing his hand, they walked out of the expansive kitchen and through the living room to the stairs. However, before she could undo the latch that opened the small bathroom hidden into the backside of the pantry, Xander’s hand tightened around her own and began to pull her up the stairs. “Xander?” she asked uncertainly.
“I know that look,” he answered instantly. “You won’t be happy until you meet the last one… what’s his name?”
“Percy,” she answered idly.
“Right. I don’t get what happened, God knows I don’t.” His voice sped up slightly, almost matching her own when she was in babble mode. “But you’re my bestest bud, Willow, and this is important to you.”
Willow smiled slightly, glad that Xander was there with her. Without him, she probably would have let it pass, much in the way the rest of the Weasley family seemed to. But she wasn’t like that – she couldn’t just forget about someone, family or not. The fact that Percy was family only made her need to see him even stronger.
The second floor had two bedrooms and they decided to take the door to the right first. The room within immediately reminded her that her family was full of boys. Though everything seemed to be covered with a light layer of dust, the room was most definitely sloppy. She could see the calling cards of her two eldest brothers strewn throughout the room: dragon’s teeth, a pile of wizard coins, and a large picture of what have to be Bill’s part-veela fiancée on a nearby dresser.
“Not here,” she murmured. Xander nodded and they moved to the other room, having silently agreed to inspect each room until they found something that didn’t seem to belong to any of the siblings they’d met so far.
The other room obviously belonged to a girl, despite Ginny being a bit of a tomboyish girl. Though there was a poster of what seemed to be an all-female Quidditch team on the far wall, there was also a vanity covered with what had to be wizard makeup, items that gleamed and glowed in ways that Willow didn’t want to think too closely on. There were also dress robes littering the bed in colors that no self-respecting man, not even an eccentric wizard, would even think about wearing in public.
With a soft sigh, they moved to the stair landing and ascended to the third floor. Willow could feel that distinct sense of apprehension grow the longer they were away from the dinner table. She knew it was merely nervousness at the thought of getting caught snooping through her biological family’s house but she couldn’t seem to shake it.
Once on the third floor, they decided to take the left door first, bringing them into a room that was an odd amalgamation of a bedroom and a complex laboratory. She knew immediately that this was her twin brothers’ room, her attention immediately drawn to the equipment on a broad table in the middle of the room. Stepping forward, her hands floated over the cauldrons she found there and a pair of mortars and pestles. It was extremely old-school, making her think of alchemy more than chemistry. However, looking more closely, she saw that there were nonmagical apparatuses as well, flasks and beakers and test tubes.
“What is this stuff, Will?” Xander asked from the doorway, his arched eyebrow indicating that he preferred to stay well away from the dangerous looking experiments.
“I’m not sure. I think it’s—” Willow cut herself off and took a breath. If she didn’t control herself, she would start babbling and babbling usually led to high-pitched loudness. Not of the good. “When they showed up, they told me that they’re trying to open a joke shop. George said they wanted to put their troublemaking to good use.” She grinned at her friend. “I took it to mean they wanted to profit from it.”
“Joke shop?” Xander asked with a smirk. “I’m liking your brothers even more.”
“This isn’t it, either,” she reminded him gently. In response, he turned on his heel and she followed him, heading to the other room on this floor. Once they opened the door, though, they knew they had found the right place. This room was terribly clean, neat in a way that Willow could not say the rest of her family was. She would almost say that it was obsessively neat.
“This is it,” she murmured to her friend. She saw his nod out of the corner of her eye and she knew that the neatness of the room was making him a little leery about touching anything.
Everything was organized and structured. There was even shelving in the room that looked a little newer than the walls, making the redhead think that her brother had built them himself. The structure of the room was important, she knew; it told her that, unlike the rest of the family, Percy needed order like he needed air to breathe. Medals and trophies adorned one wall while a bookshelf covered the other wall with the bed opposite the doorway.
“Hey, what’s this?”
Willow turned around in time to see Xander reach out to touch something and then promptly disappear. “Xan?” she whispered harshly, taking a step back toward the door. “Xander?” she called again, her confusion trying to turn to fear. Forcing herself to take a breath, she looked at the thing he had touched.
Pinned to the inside of the door, it looked very much like one of the medals on the left side of the room but somehow different. Most of the medals had striped ribbons but this one was simply white and shone like satin. The metal of the medallion itself was similar to silver but seemed too dark somehow, definitely not like any metal she’d seen on a medal for any competition before. She thought of tungsten, a grayish-white metal that she’d heard somewhere could sometimes only be cut with a diamond saw.
“Well, here goes nothing,” she muttered, touching the medallion with a single finger. She felt a pull deep within her gut and suddenly knew she was being teleported. Where, she didn’t know.
Percy was having deep thoughts. Lord Voldemort was back, that much had been made painfully clear just a few days prior. That wasn’t surprising; though he told his parents the year before that he didn’t believe it one bit, he knew that the Headmaster and Harry Potter both would not do anything to cause undue panic and chaos. What was surprising was how much he missed his family.
He’d never fit in with them, he knew. He was very ambitious, had had a very clear plan for his life. He was the type of person to map out his future thirty years in advance. As disorganized and chaotic as his family could be, it was comforting just to know they were there. Most nights, he could hear his own words inside his head, those hurtful words he’d said to his own father just before abandoning them one and all. Often, his voice seemed distorted and unusually cruel; he could be painfully realistic but cruelty was often outside of his emotional range.
Still, he wondered many things about them. Had Ron realized he had feelings for Hermione yet? For that matter, had Ginny acted on her crush on Harry? Had the twins opened a joke shop, what had to be their grand ambition now? (He had heard what they had done at the school and it would do to say he wasn’t pleased.) What did his elder brothers think of this situation? They would side with Arthur, obviously, but did they wonder why? Most importantly, had his parents made further headway in locating Willow?
Oh, he missed his little sister.
He had been five when she was kidnapped. Bill and Charlie used to make fun of him, of how he had cried for days following her disappearance. The twins had been too young to remember but Percy’s memory had always been infallible. Ever since she could crawl, she had seemed like a gift for him, to balance how much everyone else in the family could drive him bonkers. She was quiet and shy but shared her twin brothers’ sense of mischief. However, when she got angry, even as an infant, she could be quite… vocal.
Percy’s attention was diverted immediately when he heard a faint pop, the familiar sound of portkey travel. He arched an eyebrow and straightened in his seat. As far as he was aware, there was only one portkey that led to his office, a booby-trapped medallion he’d left in his room at the Burrow. However, the person standing before him was not one of his ginger-haired kin and that fact alone had him reaching for his wand.
The dark-haired boy’s eyes widened for a moment. “Crap, what happened now?” he murmured just loud enough for Percy to hear him.
Another pop followed just two seconds later, revealing a slender redhead. “Oh, that was a rush,” she commented idly.
“Willow, he’s pointing a stick at me,” the boy stage-whispered.
At the sound of her name, however, Percy dropped his wand in shock. Willow? His Willow? “Willow?” he asked softly.
“Goddess,” the redhead whispered. “You’re Percy, right? I hope you’re Percy.”
Without another thought, Percy pushed his chair back and hurried around his desk. Rushing forward, he pulled his little sister into a tight embrace, tears brimming in his eyes at seeing the one member of his family he missed the most and the longest. “I missed you,” he admitted softly, his voice breaking at such a confession.
“I think he’s Percy,” the boy informed her dryly.
“I got that, Xander. Thanks.” Though this man that was apparently and actually one of her elder brothers had surprised her with the hug, she was used to dealing with and consoling others. She raised her hands to rub his back, making soothing noises.
After a brief moment, Percy seemed to pull him together, stiffening his spine and pulling himself back to his full height. “What are you doing here? And who is he?” He now pointed at the boy that had been the first to arrive.
“Percy, this is my best friend, Xander. He touched the… uh, teleportation device first.” At that, she pulled a frown. “That sounded a little Star Trek, didn’t it?” she asked, glancing sideways at Xander.
He smirked slightly. “Beam me up, Scottie,” he remarked sardonically.
“It was a portkey,” Percy informed them idly. “Where have you been? How did Mum and Dad find you? Does this mean they…?” He trailed off, not quite able to say the words he wanted to say.
Grinning at the almost-babble that flowed from Percy’s mouth, Willow moved to sit in the chairs that faced the desk. “I’ve been in Sunnydale, California.” She waited for his reaction, to see if he already knew what it was. When his eyes widened in alarm, she nodded silently. “When I did a spell that broke through the bubble around the town, the investigator they’ve been using contacted me. I’ve been… um, well, I’ve been chosen to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.”
“What?!” Percy exclaimed. “Why?”
Xander arched an eyebrow, obviously incensed by the implied insult to his friend. “We live on the Hellmouth, buddy. Growing up there makes you prepared for all kinds of baddies.”
Willow chuckled softly. “If Fred and George are any indication, most wizards haven’t even seen a vampire, much less staked one.”
“You’ve fought vampires?” Percy was starting to feel faint and decided it was a good time to reclaim his chair.
“Among other things,” she admitted softly. “But that’s not why I’m here.” She gazed at him with her deep green eyes. “What happened?”
From the pleading note in her voice, Percy knew exactly to what she was referring. The fight, the falling-out, that night he hated to remember but couldn’t seem to escape. He couldn’t even imagine what it had been like for her. If she was anything like her brothers, she had no memory of her abduction, likely didn’t even know she was a Weasley until recently. If she had gone to a school, even an American one… but no, he’d heard what the Hellmouth could do to a witch’s growing powers. But walking into his family situation and their attendant problems could be a bit of a shock.
As such, he decided to start from the beginning. “About two years ago, I graduated from Hogwarts and got a job at the Ministry of Magic here in London.”
“The Ministry of Magic?” Xander asked in confusion.
Percy spread his hands across his desk. “Here, rather. The Ministry monitors the use of magic throughout the United Kingdom, making sure the Muggles don’t witness it and that wizards themselves don’t misuse it.”
Willow snorted. “There’s that word again,” she murmured.
Percy frowned slightly. “You grew up—”
“Human,” she interjected immediately. “I thought the magic was a fluke until yesterday. Turns out I’m part of a pureblood family,” she remarked, her voice disdainful on the word ‘pureblood’.
Percy sighed, moving on to continue his story. “I started out as the assistant to Bartemius Crouch, who was the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation. It was a very good job, considering how young I was. But as it turned out, Crouch was being controlled by You-Know-Who for a great deal of that time.”
“You-Know-Who?” Xander echoed.
“Lord Voldemort,” Willow told him softly. “He’s the big bad here.”
“Like the Master?” he asked.
The redhead snorted. “Hopefully not quite that bad.”
Percy looked back and forth between them, his emotions darting equally between amusement and concern. “When it came out, there was an inquiry and I was to be held to blame. I was his assistant, after all. I should have noted his… oddities.” He shook his head. “It could have ended very badly for me. It would have been the end of any work in my chosen field, that’s for sure.”
Willow smiled encouragingly. “What’s your chosen field?”
Blushing, Percy ducked his head, a sign of embarrassment he would be unlikely to show in front of anyone else. “I want to be the Minister of Magic eventually.”
Xander chuckled softly. “Looks like you’re not the only ambitious one, Wills.”
“The current Minister, Cornelius Fudge, gave me a job as his junior assistant. With the problem with… You-Know-Who and the Minister desperate to maintain order, denying that he had returned, it caused some problems. Dad told me…” Percy paused, turning his head to the side. He could still remember what it felt like to have his own father second-guessing his judgment – sure, he had dropped the ball when it came to Crouch Senior but he had learned from that mistake. “Dad insisted that Fudge was just using me to inform on the family, as if my own accomplishments meant nothing.”
“Ohh,” Willow moaned sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Percy. What happened next?”
Percy nibbled on his upper lip for a moment before continuing. “I told him it was his lack of ambition that had us living in poverty and that it was his connection to Dumbledore that had him dangerously close to being sacked here in the office. And then I packed up my things and left.”
Silence prevailed after the remark, each of them ruminating on the situation. Percy hated the thought of drawing his sister into the middle of this fight but was also pleased at the idea that she was the first to ask about his side. Xander was reminded of his various encounters with his own father, knowing that parents sometimes saw only what they wanted to see. Willow was chilled at the idea that her seemingly close biological family was okay with leaving one of their own out in the cold, figuratively speaking.
“Why haven’t you gone back?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Pressing his lips together, Percy told his sister the one thing he hadn’t entrusted to anyone else. “In case he’s right.” He sighed roughly, running a hand through his short ginger hair. “Fudge may be about to be deposed from office but what if Dad was right? What if he wanted to use me to get information on the family and Harry as well? And what if the next Minister has the same notion? I couldn’t live with myself if I was the reason You-Know-Who comes back to power.”
“Maybe you should tell them that,” Xander replied. “They won’t even talk about you, none of them. We had to snoop around until we found your room to get any kind of information.”
Willow smiled falteringly at her brother. “Xander’s right. Maybe if you just tried talking to them…”
Laughing softly, Percy stood again. “Alright. I never could deny you anything anyhow.” He reached out with his hands. “Come on, we’ll Apparate back.”
“Oh, goody,” the brunette teenager remarked dryly. “I love this part.”