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06 July 2009 @ 05:51 pm
Fic: The Path Less Traveled By (R, Percy/Oliver)  
Title: The Path Less Traveled By
Pairing/Characters: Percy/Oliver, Weasley family, Albus Dumbledore
Rating/Warnings: R, Dark themes, language, suicidal urges
Word Count: 3,190
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Percy Weasley must tread a darker road than anyone knows when he gets out of school and begins his life. Not everything is as it seems.



I.

Leaving school is like leaving behind everything familiar. I’ve never been particularly good at moving out of my comfort zone, but I can, contrary to popular belief, adapt. When I have to. I’m ambitious; I can handle this.

And then “this” evolves the day Headmaster Dumbledore pulls me aside and asks me a favor. A big favor. Huge.

He needs someone inside the Ministry. He needs me. Sure, he has Dad, but everyone knows he has Dad. I’m a fresh face. If I turn up somewhere unfamiliar, I have the perfect excuse. Everyone knows I’m the black sheep of my family.

What should I have told him? No? You try telling the greatest wizard of the age no. Of course I say yes. I am even flattered. Honored.

In retrospect, I was a fool. Merlin help me, I was a fucking fool.

So I walk into my first job, helpfully provided by my former Headmaster (albeit untraceably), full of ambition and hope and purpose. So sure I will make a difference.

Perhaps I overdo it in my need to make a place for myself. It’s hard—I’ve never been a people person. The whole give-too-little/give-too-much thing has escaped me for years, but then, my whole family is that way—all or nothing, and all is often too much.

Dad isn’t much help. Hell, none of my family is, but it’s nice to come home to a good dinner with Mum.

My boss is strange, no way around it. More anal than I could ever imagine being and yet my name escapes him constantly. I hate him. Dumbledore made sure I knew his history, what he did to his son, everything, and I can’t help but think of it every time I look at him.

Maybe it’s good he can’t name me—that way, he has no way of knowing who glares at him when his back is turned, or rifles through his papers, or monitors him after hours.

I know something is wrong. I know it. I owl the Headmaster, just as ordered, the perfect little inside man. I can see the jerkiness, the memory gaps, the fighting.

It isn’t for being stupid that I received twelve O.W.L.’s and eight N.E.W.T.’s. I know what it is: the Imperius Curse.

I know, and I tell him, and I wait.

And nothing happens.

II.

Nothing is what continues to happen for a long time. While the Tasks go on at the school, while my family is put in danger every time he goes there without anyone else knowing who’s controlling him. What is he programmed to do?

What if it has to do with Harry? Ron? Hell, Hermione, the twins, anyone?! Would it be on my hands?

Of course it would.

When I get assigned to take over the Task stuff, I’m actually relieved. I can keep an eye on things.

I could kill the Headmaster for putting Ron in the lake. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. I changed Ron’s nappies, for Merlin’s sake! He’s just a baby, you don’t do things like that, especially when his brother is watching!

This is, perhaps, the first sign that Things Aren’t Going Well.

I think I hate my life.

I know I do when I find out that my boss is dead.

Could I have stopped it? I guess I’ll never know. Blood on my hands, nonetheless.

III.

Despite all the problems I’ve had, I’ve always considered myself a family man. It’s hard to consider yourself not, when you’ve got six siblings, two parents, and a slew of cousins and relations on your dad’s side.

It makes what I have to do that much harder. I really don’t think Dumbledore knew what he was asking of me when he requested I be the Order’s Ministry mole. Already estranged from his brother, with no other family for at least fifty years… yeah, no family man there. Then to demand this, to keep my cover.

I didn’t know how hard until I crossed that final line—until I said the words that estranged me from my family. Hate, hate, hate.

The door slams on my heart as I leave, and from that day on it has ached, throbbed, with every beat, so hard that I wonder if it broke when I wasn’t looking.

IV.

I once loved the Ministry—there was a majesty to the rules and regulations and the schedule. It seemed like a thing of beauty, and I settled into it with a gratitude I find hard to describe, even if it had been partly a lie. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by chaos, and even though I loved the makers of the chaos—my family—the chaos itself was something I hated.

Perhaps that’s why the twins hate me so much.

But now, oh, now… Now I’m on the inside, far inside, and it’s rotten. The gilded cage. The shiny rotten apple. Here, amid the stench and corruption, I stay. My legs sometimes shake, under my desk where no one can see. I throw up before I come into work. Occasionally when I come home, too. To my empty flat and my empty life.

I miss my mother. I almost owl her every day, and then I remember Dumbledore, and the cause, and my mission. I remember that there is a reason for this, and that this too shall pass (Will it? Should it? Merlin, I hope so.). And so I burn the half-written letter, force myself to eat a meal (Mother’s recipe, of course, I think I’m going to throw up again), and go to bed with a book.

Is this what dying is like? Bleeding to death through a wound to the soul?

V.

I can’t help breaking the rules. No contact with your family, Dumbledore said.

I wish I’d gone to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang. I wish Dumbledore had died after defeating Grindelwald.

But despite it all, I write Ron. Merlin, it feels so good to finally contact someone in my family. Even if it is Ron, who has hated me just because the twins do for so long that it almost doesn’t hurt anymore. I pray that he can read between the lines. Or that his friend Hermione will.

But he doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t. It’s never that easy for me. Never.

Why can’t it be simple?

“The harder path is more challenging and ultimately more rewarding,” Dumbledore tells me when the question slips out the day I meet with him (so, of course, he can call me to task for breaking the rules). And then he proceeds to quote me some poetry as if that makes it all better: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

What a bandage to my soul. What utter shit. I want to quit. I want to go home.

But I’m in so deep I can’t seem to find my way home.

VI.

I cry on Christmas Day. I, who haven’t cried since I was thirteen, sob like a baby when my presents arrive by owl.

They still love me. At least, my mother still loves me. The jumper smells like her, and the fudge is fresh.

Can you crush my heart any harder, you manipulative fuck? I rail silently at the far-distant Dumbledore, secure in his tower and all but worshipped by every-fucking-body. I think there are still a few pieces that can’t fit through the eye of a damn needle!

Carefully, I repackage everything. I don’t have to read the note from Dumbledore on the table to know I can’t keep these.

I don’t know which is worse, the acid hate trailing down my face or the pain pumping through my veins.

VII.

I don’t know if I’m grateful or not that Dumbledore lets me know about the Order guarding the Department of Mysteries. It lets me know, at least, what was up, and I do manage to cover up some of the little things circumspectly to allow this.

But finding my father half-dead on the floor—there is no Obliviation strong enough to banish that scene from my nightmares. I didn’t know a person had that much blood in them until my father’s soaks through the knees of my trousers and through my robes as I press them against his wounds.

I should be thankful that Dumbledore arrives promptly and takes my father to St Mungos. I should be grateful that he was in time and that Dad is still alive. I should be appreciative that my presence isn’t noted. That not even Dad knows what I just did.

But as I’m banishing the blood—my father’s blood—from the floor and making like nothing ever happened here, I can’t help but curse the day I was born and every day since then.

I can’t help but wish it had been me on the floor and that no one had found me until every last drop of blood was gone.

VIII.

The day Dumbledore dies, I think: I’m free. Finally free. I can go home now. Home. I can hug my mother tight and tell her how sorry I am. I can tell Dad that I didn’t mean it, not really, and that I was the one to send him flowers in the hospital, even though I wasn’t supposed to.

I can tell all my siblings that I’m not really a traitor to the family.

The hope lasts barely an hour. That’s how long it takes for the posthumous letter to magically deliver itself to me. His last orders. Strict orders.

Even dead, my life isn’t my own. Toe the line, win the war, save the world. Keep on as you are, report to your new liaison.

At least I knew him, my new go-to guy. Oliver Wood. Nice bloke, great Quidditch Captain, and secretly an Order member in charge of smuggling Muggleborn families out of the country. No one would suspect us associating, of course, but it doesn’t make it an easier potion to swallow.

It’s right now that I decide the Fates are laughing in my face. Why else would they send a boy I crushed on in school to be my keeper?

IX.

Time passes in fits and starts, measured in deadlines and reports and how many times I run into Dad at work and have to ignore him. It shivers by in uncelebrated holidays, in owls used to return the gifts sent to me and bottles of Firewhisky that get me to the next week. It flows onward in teardrops and heartbeats and the sound of my feet hitting the floor every morning as I force myself to get up.

The world stops for a minute when Bill’s owl arrives one morning. Of course I’ve heard about his transfer to Gringotts—he’d tried to visit once. I never exercised my Disillusionment Charms as hard as that week he kept trying to meet with me. Of course I’ve heard about his romance with the ex-Triwizard Champion, the most beautiful Fleur Delacour.

But I never expected to have him send me a wedding invitation. It’s engraved and beribboned and on some very nice paper. Stiff, white, pristine. I wonder if the edges are sharp enough to slit my wrist with.

Because I’d rather do that than miss my brother’s wedding, and I don’t even have to consult Dumbledore’s orders to know that is not an option.

I heard somewhere once that hate is toxic. If so, I’ve been mortally poisoned, and there is no antidote.

X.

Seeing it all collapse around me is more than terrifying. The day the Ministry falls, I nearly die. Not quite a neat takeover, no.

Who would have thought that my brother, Charlie, would be so good at Slicing Hexes?

I don’t think he meant to hit me, no. I got caught in the crossfire. How can you stay neutral when there’s a spell fight going on? I have my orders. They actually do cover the contingency of the Ministry falling. I’m to stay, I’m to act like work is work, no matter what. Ministry man, through and through, regardless of whom rules the Ministry.

Oliver had sounded apologetic when he told me that. I told him to piss off before slugging him in the jaw. Sucker punch, perhaps, but why bother with honor when honor so clearly doesn’t bother with me anymore? All he did, though, was look at me with dark, hurt eyes that injected another jolt of guilt into the blood stream to mingle with the hate, abhorrence, anger, and guilt already residing there. He kissed me that night, and I kissed him back before I started crying again.

I feel the cut, though telling pain from pain, physical from emotional, is almost impossible these days. It isn’t until my front is soaked that I fully realize what happened. I could have still Apparated to St Mungos, I know. But instead, I tuck myself into a corner, curl around myself.

It’s Oliver that finds me, in the aftermath, half passed out from blood loss. It’s Oliver who brings me to the hospital, and Oliver who sits at my bedside. I don’t even think my family is notified, which is just as well, because I didn’t have the energy to reject them again.

“I wish you’d left me there,” I tell Oliver solemnly in the middle of the night, when the nurses are all far away and no one else can hear me.

I close my eyes and turn my head away when his eyes fill with tears. I can’t cry anymore—I think the tears ran out with the blood.

XI.

Bellatrix Lestrange is insane beyond measure. She’s taken to haunting the offices I work in, and my skin hasn’t stopped crawling since she first laid eyes on me.

She told me yesterday that I look just like my father when he was young. Young, dashing, and handsomely intellectual.

I really wish Dad had told us he dated her in school. Then I could have jumped off a cliff before she started lusting after me.

Her Crucio really is quite powerful. And yes, it is a myth that the Cruciatus Curse will stimulate all your nerves enough that you’ll get an erection. Thank Merlin.

I really don’t think I can handle another layer of shame on top of this one.

At least, at least Oliver has warm, soothing hands. At least he is gentle as he rubs away the pain.

At least he doesn’t say anything as I curl up in a ball in the far corner of the bed and stare into space for the entire night, and at least, at least he doesn’t try to stop me when I go back to work the next day.

I resist the urge to step in front of a Muggle vehicle as I take the long way in to work.

XII.

I say what they’ll believe as I Floo to where all the Order members gather. Some of it is even true. “I’ve been a fool!”

So foolish, what I fucking fool I am. Dancing to the tune of a crazy, manipulative old man.

I doubt that they’ll believe me, take me back, after everything that’s been said and done. I’ve been Slytherin enough to make the act stick, after all. That’s where the Sorting Hat had wanted to put me, you know, but I’d wanted to be with my family…

The lies stain my lips now, but they believe them more readily than the truth. What’s one more lie, though; my soul is already stained completely with them, and blood, and death, with a shroud of shame and deceit to complete the picture.

My heart lifts as they accept me, though. It’s a ray of sunshine, really, after so fucking long in the dark.

It lasts only long enough to blind me, that light, as Fred dies at my side.

I freeze. I freeze, and as much as I wanted to die before, if someone hadn’t grabbed me, it would have happened in that moment. I want it, I want it worse than my lungs need air and my heart needs to beat.

Stop, stop, I beg my traitorous heart. Stop, please.

XIII.

It ends. Thank Merlin, it ends.

And I’m still here. Fuck Merlin, I’m still here.

I sit, just slightly separate from my family, but much too close to my dead brother. There aren’t any tears in me to come out. Unless I open a vein, there can’t be enough blood to spill on the floor to make up for the sin of letting my brother die.

Drowning in pain is impossible, of course, but I feel like every breath I take is full of it. I gulp it in anyway, just in case the drowning is possible.

It isn’t until someone pushes my head between my knees that I realize I’m hyperventilating. Oliver is there, miraculously, completely there, and as soon as I’m breathing he’s pulling me against his chest. The tears I thought I didn’t have start spilling over into his torn jumper as the story, my story, comes spilling from his lips.

Everyone is sorry for misjudging me. Everyone is sorry for what happened, for what I did, even George. I can’t lift my head from Oliver’s shoulder to acknowledge any of it, though; I keep my eyes pressed to the sodden fabric that smells faintly of him.

I can’t cope anymore. Luckily, Oliver seems to be doing the coping for both of us.

XIV.

When Dumbledore told me to break it off with my family, I left them because I loved them, no matter how much it hurt me or them.

In the wake of the war, I stay with them because I love them, no matter how much it hurts me or them.

I don’t know if we’ll ever fully heal; this war has left scars I don’t even think we all know we have. I don’t just mean Bill’s werewolf scars, or the thick, ridged one across my chest, or George’s missing ear. I mean George’s missing twin, our missing brother, the barely bridged abyss between me and everyone. I mean Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s nightmares of camping and of lockets, and Luna Lovegood’s haunted eyes, and Mr Ollivander’s closed wand shop. I mean the many people I put in prison post-war with all the information I gathered during it, their angry families, and the heartache everyone suffers from everyday.

I do know that we can’t avoid the past, and that it’s hard to face the future. I do know that the now is the most important thing, even as I tentatively plan, for the first time in years, for the future.

I do know that I have Oliver beside me, every step of the way.

I do know that I’ll go on and create a life for us.

I know, and that will have to be enough.

I know I took the path less traveled by, and it made a difference.


A/N: Thanks for my wonderful betas, triskellion and somigliana. This was written for percyficathon for nfgs. Poetry quoted is by Robert Frost.