Actions

Work Header

The Perfect Son

Work Text:

STARRING: Percy the Victim. Perfect Percy. Molly the Bitch. Strife, God of Mischief. Bill Weasley. Cupid, God of Love. Arthur Weasley. The Twins, Fred and George Weasley. Ron the Hothead. Ares, God of War. Joxer the Mighty. Ginny Weasley.

FEATURING: Harry Potter as Harry Potter.

================================

[ PERCY ]

 

In the still moments when the voices stop whispering in his mind and he can know that he's truly alone, Percy can formulate his thoughts in the way that he wants. It's in those moments that he realizes how much he hates himself and what he's become.

He wasn't always like this, he remembers a time when he was different. The world used to be bright, shiny and new, but now it's all faded to gray.

He used to laugh and sing and have fun all the time. Then came that day, when everything changed, even the way he thought inside his own mind.

One minute he was himself, and the next a terrible pain rammed its way through him and by the time it passed, he was someone else. Someone that he didn't even like.

He was trapped behind his own eyes, watching and feeling himself do things, be things, and there was nothing he could do about it. The voices whispering in his mind kept him from being able to focus, from being able to fight.

He could only watch as he went through each day as the perfect son, being what magic had forced him into being. He could only listen as his brothers taunted him, hating him for something he couldn't help. He could only feel the loneliness of never having a friend, because who wanted to hang around someone so priggishly perfect? So there was never anyone to be close enough to him to see that there was something wrong, that it wasn't really him living behind his eyes, controlling him, that it was something else.

And in the few minutes when he was ever free to be himself, all he could think was: Why Mum, why'd you do this to me?

There's never any answer, because he doesn't know.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

He used to like Percy, in an older brother-to-younger brother sort of way. Some of the jokes that little Percy had played had been funny enough to remember even years later.

Percy used to be fun to be around, like the twins, but with more of a sense of self-control. He had always known when to pull back and abandon a joke, which had kept him from causing as much trouble as the twins were always getting themselves into.

Bill didn't know what had happened to Percy. At the end of the summer that marked the start of his second year at Hogwarts, Bill had said good-bye to his fun-loving, precocious brother Percy. And when he came back, the boy that met him at the train station had worn Percy's face, but it hadn't feltlike Percy, not at all. He'd asked Mum what had happened to Percy to make him act so different, and she'd said he'd been sick while Bill was away at school.

Sometimes Bill wondered why he hadn't asked his mother more about why Percy had changed so much. But he knew why he hadn't asked. There'd been a look in her eyes... it had made him afraid.

When he allowed himself to think and remember the bright, happy boy Percy used to be, he couldn't help the vague sense of guilt. There was this sense that if he had only done something--what, he didn't know--Percy would have been different from how he was now. He would still be laughing and playing and enjoying his life, instead of just living it day by day.

He felt as though he had let his little brother down, and he hated to feel like that, which is why he carefully kept himself from thinking such guilty thoughts. He didn't want to remember the boy Percy used to be, because then he would have to realize that Percy was never going to be that way again.

The Percy he had liked and loved was gone forever, and in some way he couldn't explain it was all his fault.

.

.

[ MOLLY ]

.

It's hard to love a son that's always so good all the time. Obedient, stodgy, charmless, lacking in that spirited fire that commonly resulted in time-outs and spankings but that also meant an exciting child--basically, he was downright boring.

Sometimes she wonders how Percy can be one of her sons. He's so different from all the others, so completely lacking in that wonderful Weasley wildness. He's just so perfect all the time that it puts her teeth on edge. There's just something so eerie about an eight year old child that doesn't laugh, that just hovers at your elbow waiting to be given another chore to perform. There's something almost freakish about a child that doesn't want to play, that wants to study all the time and grow up to be about as exciting as a piece of old shoe leather.

When he first started acting like the kind of son she had always wanted, Molly had been happy. But after that first bit of pleasure had worn off, she'd realized that it was impossible to like, much less love, a perfect child. So emotionless and still, so very obedient and empty of fire. She didn't even want to be in the same room with him most of the time, and the only thing that allowed her to pretend that everything was normal was to focus all of her attention on Ron and Ginny and the ever mischievous twins.

She put all her worries about the future and holding down a job on Bill and Charlie and kept all the lighter emotions for the younger children. Percy always just seemed to be left out of her calculations. It wasn't like she was purposely trying to exclude him from the family. It was just that whenever she looked at him she always felt so uncomfortable, so guilty, so useless, so freaked out by him.

Sometimes she forgot why Percy was the way he was. Sometimes she could fool herself into believing that he was always that way, that he was always perfect and stiff with a smile that always looked strained and eyes that always screamed in silent agony. Sometimes she could make herself believe that he was born Perfect Percy, the perfect son she used to pray for when he was being naughty, back when the fire still burned bright within him, back before that day.

But in a part of her that she tries to ignore, the part that she drowns out with the sounds of Ron and Ginny's laughter and with the delightful irritation of the twins' pranks, she can still remember the little boy Percy used be. She can remember how full of life he was, how mischievous and adventurous, how entirely too bright he used to be.

He was a genius, she knows that now. He was born to change the world and everyone in it. He was meant to make things better, and she took that away from him and everyone else, and she can't balance out that crime with the weight of accomplishments of Bill, Charlie, George, Fred, Ron, or Ginny. Because even though her other children are all special and wonderful in their own way, not even if she combined their every act of greatness can they match what Percy might have been if she hadn't interfered.

Back then, things were always so hard. Voldemort was rising in power and it seemed as though darkness was going to swallow the world. She was trying so hard to protect her children, and with Arthur working night and day at the Ministry, sometimes not coming home for days at a time, she felt as though she was doing everything alone. Bill and Charlie would go off to Hogwarts, and she would be left to raise four small children--and Percy--by herself, with no help from anyone, and it was just too hard.

The twins were at an age when they were getting into everything. She couldn't put anything down for a minute before they were on it, tearing it apart, ruining everything they touched. Ron was a toddler wobbling around all over the place, trying to wander from her grasp, out of the protections and into danger. Ginny was just a baby, demanding attention all the time, needing her every moment of the day. And then there was Percy. He was the oldest of the children left behind, and he should have been a help to her, but instead he was nothing but a hindrance.

He didn't want to play quietly with the smaller children. He wanted to go out and have friends. He wanted to read books and fly on broomsticks. He wanted to play with swords and practice magic. He wanted to dance and sing and laugh. He wanted to have fun and play games. He wanted to play jokes on her when she was too busy and too tired to give him any kind of attention. He wanted to get in her way and make everything she had to do harder than necessary.

It got to the point where she had started to hate him. There he was, this charming, grinning, wonderful little boy, and all she wanted to do was smack that cherubic face, to wring that ivory neck, to pound that tousle headed body into the mud and muck. She wanted him to be as tired and miserable as she was. He was a little boy, still practically a baby himself, and she began to blame him for everything that was wrong with her life. For Arthur not being there at night when she needed him. For Ginny being fussy and not wanting to sleep when Molly was so tired she couldn't see straight. For Ron smacking his head into the coffee table when he tried to walk. For Fred and George always being underfoot causing trouble. She even began to blame him for Voldemort, which was just so ridiculous, but she was so very, very tired, and he was there.

She was jealous that he was young and free to do or be whatever he wanted, while she was trapped as a wife and mother. She was jealous that while she had to watch after four children that were always demanding so much from her, that he got to play and be a child. She was jealous of her own son, and in a moment of amazing weakness and mindless rage, she ruined his life forever.

She felt guilty for what she'd done to Percy, but there was nothing she could do about it now. She didn't know the reversal spells, and even if she had them right in front of her, she didn't know if she would change what she'd done. Because to take off the spells she's laid on him, he and everyone else in her life would have to know what she'd done to him. And no matter how bad she felt about her actions, she would not throw away her comfortable life just so she could find out that the spells had been on him for too long and could never be reversed.

So even as she couldn't look him directly in the eye and she could barely be in the same room with him, she wouldn't help him either. She would just have to live with having the perfect son.

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

He hates his life so much. In the still moments when he can be alone, when he can almost feel himself, he realizes that he's tired of striving and straining, of fighting for every tiny bit of freedom he gets to feel. He's tired of fighting every day of his life just to be a real person. He just wants it all to end.

He's tried to kill himself on several occasions. He's had enough control over his body that he's actually had the razor or the wand or the butcher knife in his hand before the PERFECT had shown up and taken the chance away from him.

His only joy is knowing that with each attempt he makes at ending his life, the closer he gets to succeeding. The last time, he actually had the blade pressing into his skin when the PERFECT had taken back over. There was actually blood running down his arm, and it was the sweetest thing he had ever known in his entire life. It had felt like the sun on his face after being locked away in a dank hole for a hundred years. He had felt freedom kiss his skin.

Back in the beginning, he used to fight for control. He had wanted his life back. Now he was just so desperate to end the suffering. He just wants to rest in the silent dark and not have to walk around like a robot, standing inside his own body, but unable to control even the smallest actions. He was tired of being a prisoner in his own skin. He wanted to be free once and for all.

It was only a matter of time now. He was so very close.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

Another Weasley family dinner. They seemed to happen every other week, or so his work addled mind liked to suggest. He didn't really see his family for long periods of time, but they were so in his thoughts that it seemed as though he was always with them. So one more family dinner was just one more family dinner.

Except that this time something felt a little off. There was just this vague sense that something was going to happen, something he wasn't exactly going to like. It made his chest ache a little.

"You should have seen it Mum, Harry caught the snitch and his broom went..." Ginny babbled away with happy abandon.

Harry Potter, seated in his accustomed seat next to Ron, blushed in embarrassment, but a part of him was loving the attention. Years of neglect had left him starved for even just a little human notice. He wanted people to look at him, not through him, and that was definitely what he got in the Weasley household. Molly was like his own mother and he loved her dearly.

Bill poked at his food and glanced across the table at Charlie. His brother was talking animatedly with Ron about his one true love... dragons.

Bill turned to Percy seated next to him and felt a niggle of worry go through him, though he couldn't have said why.

Percy looked like his usual perfect self. Seated primly upright, eating his food with a minimum of facial contortions, he looked about as exciting as cardboard. His eyes gazed dully at nothing and his fork rose with a machinelike precision to his mouth. Bite, bite, bite, swallow, another mouthful, bite, bite, bite, swallow... It was hypnotic to watch.

He looked like he always looked, yet not. When Bill peered closer, he saw tiny beads of sweat on Percy's forehead. Percy's eyes were glassy with a sheen of liquid tears. His hands trembled ever so slightly. Something was definitely off about Perfect Percy, something that made Bill's nerves sing.

He hadn't helped his brother back when they were young, but he was going to help him now, whatever was going on.

Bill continued watching Percy closely. If something happened, he'd be ready for it.

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

When freedom came, it was a surprise. Usually he got his moments of silence when he was alone, mostly when he was in bed at night, so tired he could barely lift his body from the bed. So he wasn't expecting to suddenly have control while seated at the dinner table with his family.

He felt bad about what he was going to put them through, but he didn't hesitate. He grabbed a knife off the table and plunged it straight at his heart.

He could almost taste the freedom in his mouth, and it was the sweetest, most wonderful thing ever. He could practically feel the pain slipping away from him, drained out with the blood the knife would spill.

He was so close.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

It was completely unexpected. One minute they were all eating dinner peacefully, and the next Percy was up on his feet grabbing the sharpest knife off the table and trying to stab himself. There was a look of blinding euphoria on his face, like he'd finally found the happiness he'd lost.

Bill grabbed Percy around the waist, clenching the wrist of the hand holding the knife, trying to pull it away. Percy had a hysterical strength and Bill could feel the blade sliding further into Percy's flesh, trying to reach its goal. The knife was slipping, and Bill could already feel the despair of knowing that he'd failed his little brother again.

Then Charlie was there and together they managed to wrestle Percy to the floor and get the knife away from him. The strength of him was surprising and they were left gasping and cursing while they tried to keep him from hurting himself.

Bill held his younger brother's clawing hands away from his own face while Charlie ripped open Percy's shirt to see how bad he'd hurt himself. The rest of the family was in an uproar, Molly's voice rising shrill and commanding above it all.

"Jesus, Percy, what the hell were you trying to do?" Bill gasped into Percy's ear, not thinking he could hear. Percy was wriggling like a mad thing, still trying to escape, trying to hurt himself again.

On hearing him, Percy went still in his arms, his head turning so he could look right at Bill.

Bill gasped. Percy's eyes were so open and vulnerable that it was heartbreaking. He hadn't seen his brother so unguarded in so long that he'd forgotten how sweet Percy used to be, and here it was, all wound up with a terrible despair.

"Why, Bill? Why did you stop me? When will it end? When will I finally be free? I'm so tired of fighting all the time. Why couldn't you just let me go?" Percy began to cry, terrible sobs that shook his whole body.

So close to him, Bill realized for the first time how thin Percy had gotten. His body was past slender to emaciated. He could count Percy's ribs under his hand and feel the sharp-edged press of winglike shoulder blades against his chest. Bill wrapped his arms tighter around his brother, hugging him even closer.

He wasn't going to let go. Not this time.

Then a strange tremble went through Percy's body. It wasn't one of fear or despair, though Bill couldn't really explain how he knew. There was just this shiver that shook Percy's whole body, and all of a sudden it felt to Bill like he was holding someone else, some unlikable stranger that made his skin creep to be so close to.

Percy pulled himself away and turned to give Bill a cold look, the quintessential Perfect Percy look. "Do you mind telling me what is going on? Why were you hugging me like that, Bill Weasley? And what the bloody hell happened to my shirt?"

Those eyes were iron cold, yet for the first time Bill noticed the tiny spark way back in the depths. He could almost hear a tiny voice screaming, "Help me, Bill! Help me!"

And there was nothing he could do. Perfect Percy was back in control.

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

A few moments of freedom, that's all he'd had, then it was just gone. He could have almost cursed Bill and Charlie for stopping him, for wasting his brief chance at happiness.

Watching from behind his eyes as the PERFECT tried to smooth the situation back over, he had the urge to laugh hysterically. The lies weren't quite so smooth as usual and there was a barely audible nervousness in the voice of the PERFECT. It knew that it had lost control, and in that time Percy had done things that had made his brothers and sister question what was happening to him. He could have almost cheered.

"Are you all right, Percy? What the hell just happened?" Bill asked, shaky voiced.

Percy wanted to punch Bill in the nose for losing him his chance, but on the same token he also wanted to wrap him tight in his arms and hug him hard enough to show how much he'd missed his big brother. The PERFECT didn't like physical contact, which was why the relationship with Penelope had fallen apart so fast. She had wanted more than holding hands and purse-lipped kisses in the Prefect's bathroom, and the PERFECT hadn't been able to do it.

Percy had thought it was almost funny that the PERFECT hadn't been able to get it up and keep it up. It was such a sign of imperfection that the PERFECT couldn't maintain an erection, and probably wouldn't have known what to do with it if it could have. It was just so funny... in a not-funny kind of way.

Now, once again relegated to the back of his own mind, he watched his family panic around him as they tried to figure out what had just happened. The PERFECT was trying to pretend that nothing at all had happened, but no one was buying it.

If I had a bit of popcorn and some chocolate frogs, this would almost be... perfect, Percy thought, his mental lips twitching.

.

.

[ HARRY ]

.

Always before, the time he spent at the Burrow with the Weasleys was a time of happiness, even when they were whispering about Voldemort or the twins had caused some kind of horrible trouble. Still, Harry had always got the sense that this was what a family was all about, and he had felt welcomed.

Tonight, though, something horrible had happened. Percy had just snapped and tried to kill himself for no reason, and it was a frightening thing, because for the first time ever, Harry wasn't feeling safe surrounded by Weasleys. He didn't know why, but all of a sudden he was almost afraid of his best friend's family, and there was no reason behind it, because it was just Percy that had gone completely nutters.

Harry had tried to like Percy, but there wasn't much there to admire. Sure, the guy had been a Prefect and had gone on to work for the Ministry, but he was also a bit of a wet blanket, not to mention that whole thing where he didn't believe Voldemort had returned and so turned against his family and tried to tell Ron not to hang around Harry anymore... Which were a lot of the reasons why Harry didn't like Percy, but wasn't the main one.

Percy was just too damned perfect all the time. It was like he wasn't real. His skin could have been made out of plastic and he would have had more personality. He just did whatever anyone in authority told him to do, then boasted about the fact that he was a fool. What was there to like in that?

Yet tonight, Percy had snapped for no explainable reason and tried to kill himself at the dinner table with a fucking butcher knife. That was not something that was supposed to happen in the wonderful world of Weasley, and it creeped Harry out.

Drawing his shoulders tight around his ears, he tried to make himself as small as possible as he watched what was happening around him with wide eyes.

Molly was screaming shrilly, demanding to know what was going on and why Percy had tried to do such a horrible thing to himself. The twins kept muttering "Blimey," and "Bloody hell..." like that was going to make a bit of difference. Arthur just sat at his spot at the table in stupefied amazement; it was hard to tell whether he even breathed. Ginny had thrown herself on Ron and was hugging him tightly, tears streaming down her face. She looked younger than her years with her face all crumpled up like that and Harry had to wonder how he could have almost fancied her. She looked like she'd fall apart at one single glimpse of Voldemort's wrinkled old face, like that run in with Tom Riddle and the basilisk had so permanently traumatized her that she had run out of bravery forever.

Harry really didn't know what was going on, but he knew that it was a sad thing. For some strange reason, Percy, who had just barely managed to get himself back into the good graces of the rest of the family, had tried to kill himself.

Even for a boy that had thought about his own mortality more often than not, Percy's actions were still confusing. Harry had always known that if things got bad enough, he always had a way out. But why would Percy, member of the Weasley family, need to kill himself? He had everything to live for and Harry just couldn't understand what could possibly be that bad for him.

Poor little orphan boys were supposed to be the only ones that dreamt of the peace of death, not grown men like Percy Weasley.

Making himself as small as possible in his chair at the table, Harry watched Percy, trying to figure out what was going on behind those agate eyes. No answers were immediately forthcoming.

.

.

[ ARTHUR ]

.

For years, being around Percy had made him rather uncomfortable. There was just something about the boy that set him the wrong way. None of his other children had ever made him feel so strange and out of sorts. There was just something so unhappy about Percy.

He could remember Percy as a laughing infant bouncing in his arms, ready to fly, to change the world into a better place. He didn't know what had happened to the Percy that used to be his son, but he had gotten used to this spiritless, dry young man Percy had grown into. He didn't really like him, but he was used to him, and had perfected the art of ignoring that which made his skin creep whenever he was around Percy.

For years he had tried his hardest to treat Percy like he did all of the other children. He had tried to at least pretend that he loved his son. He knew that his act was a dismal failure, but he persisted in playing the part of the father, when all he wanted to do was push Percy as far away from him as possible. He didn't even want to look into that blank face.

When Percy leapt up and grabbed the knife off the table, intent on stabbing himself, Arthur couldn't help but to blame himself. He felt as though Percy's desire to end his own life was his fault. He had never shown Percy the kind of love he was supposed to, and Percy had known it.

Arthur knew that he wasn't exactly the kind of father that most children dreamed of. He didn't make enough money, he was a little absentminded, and his fascination--obsession--for all things muggle was just a bit ridiculous. But he had always prided himself on the fact that he tried his best to be a good father for his sons and daughter.

All except for Percy...

Sure, he had pulled some strings to get Percy a spot in the Ministry, and he'd often given the boy a pat on the back when he'd brought home high marks from Hogwarts. But when it came down to it, there had always been so much more he could have done for his son.

Because even though he had never let on that he knew about it, he had a good idea what Molly had done to Percy when he was a child. Arthur knew that his middle son's body and mind had been laid with enchantments and charms so deep that they were most likely unbreakable by now, and he had never even tried to do anything about it. Because when it came down to it, he was more willing to protect Molly from prosecution than he was to save his son.

Poor Percy, laboring for years under life-altering spells, and a part of Arthur felt bad about all that he hadn't done for him. But Molly was the most important person in Arthur's life. She was his wife and he loved her. So Percy was just going to have to get on as best he could, because there was nothing Arthur could do--would do--for him.

.

.

[ MOLLY ]

.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Percy wasn't supposed to suddenly jump to his feet and try to stab himself to death. He was supposed to live out his life quietly and not be a bother to anyone.

His disobedience made her furious. Furious and afraid, because it meant he was breaking free of the spells on him. Someday he would be able to tell everyone what she'd done, and that would be the end of her idyllic life. People would point at her on the street and she might even be sent to Azkaban.

Resolve firming in her mind, she knew what she had to do, and he would damn well accept it for his own good, because there was no way she was letting him open his big mouth. She was his mother and he would do whatever she said... or else.

.

.

[ BILL ]

 

.

After Charlie bandaged Percy up and Molly hustled him off to bed, Bill remained in the sitting room staring into space, wondering what had happened. The leftover food from dinner was still sitting on the table, but everyone had disappeared to wherever they could go to cope with what had happened.

He was alone, more alone than he had ever imagined himself being. And all he could see in his mind was Percy's eyes begging him for help, depending on Bill to save him, and there was nothing he could do about it, because he didn't know what had happened to Percy.

"If anyone out there is listening, save my brother," Bill whispered. "I don't know what happened to Percy, but I don't want him to hurt anymore. Please, if there's any way to save him, please try. I want my brother back. I want my Percy back. I want to hear him laugh again, a real laugh."

Dropping his head on his crossed arms, he closed his eyes tight and just rested there. He didn't have the energy to move or anything else. The troubles of the day had finally caught up with him and he was suddenly exhausted.

.

.

[ STRIFE ]

.

A prayer from someone that wasn't one of his followers was always a welcome surprise, but what he found when he investigated the cause of the oddly fervent request was enough to send him into a fireball tossing rage.

The modern world had been kind to the God of Mischief in the power department. He didn't have very many "official" worshippers, but there was a lot of angry, vengeful people to feed him power. He wasn't acknowledged by name, but every person had a bit of him in them, even if they didn't really want to admit it, and with that many people basically following him, he got a real power boost. It was a good life he had now, and he wasn't a pitiful little godling anymore. He was all grown up.

That prayer though, it really pissed him off. Someone had screwed around with a child that would have grown up to be one of his followers, and he hadn't even known about it until now, and someone else had had to tell him.

"What's up, cuz?"

Strife turned to look at Cupid. "I just got a roundabout prayah tellin' me that wunna my followahs was screwed aroun' with as a kid."

"You mean literally?" Cupid asked. As the God of Love, Cupid really wasn't into the idea of child molesters getting away scott free; it was bad for business. The last bunch of NAMBLA members he'd run across had gotten a nasty shock--like they could have renamed themselves NAMBA.

Strife shrugged and shook his head. "Naw, not like that. He was subverted, like. Someone laid a spell on him and now he's like a robot or sumthan. It's all messed up. What's worst is that I didn't even know about it until I got the prayah from his brothah. He shoulda been wunna my most loyal followahs, and instead he's livin' inside his own head while his body goes walkin' around doin' whatevah. It's not right."

"So what you gonna do about it?"

A snarl curled Strife's lips. "I'm gonna make someone pay, that's what. No one messes with wunna mine and gets away wif it."

"Do you know who did it?" Cupid asked.

"I'm gonna find out," Strife said, "and when I do..."

Cupid grinned. "Need a little help with that?"

"Sure. It's a bondin' kinda thing. Two guys out to get a little vengeance on some sick twisted fuckah. Oughta be fun."

"And that's what we're all about," Cupid said. His teeth flashed in a feral smile that only those that didn't know him wouldn't have expected from the God of Love. "Fun."

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

Lonely in his own head, twisting and turning with nothing to hold onto, only able to watch as his body did whatever the Perfect commanded. The thought that freedom had been so close was like dry ash on his tongue, but he'd long since learned not to be too bitter about the bad things that happened to him.

Besides, he had hope that he was going to have another chance to "break free" as it were. The opportunities had been coming more and more often and lasting longer. Soon he hoped to have enough time to do what he needed. It would be nice to finally be able to let go of all the pain once and for all.

He sat in his small corner of his mind and watched as his mother fussed over his body, making a big production out of taking care of him in case anyone was watching. Her eyes burned with barely restrained anger though, which made Percy draw in tighter on himself, hiding himself from her notice. If she knew he was still in here, she wouldn't hesitate to destroy him.

"Go to sleep, Percy," Molly ordered.

The Perfect immediately closed his eyes, his breathing evening out as he fell into slumber. Percy remained awake in his own head, rebelling against her order. It was a stupid kind of defiance, but it was all he had.

He could hear Molly moving around the room, straightening things up, waiting to make sure no one else was listening or would come walking in the door to see what she was doing. Then he felt the first flashes of spell-pain warping his body and mind. He curled up tighter, protecting as much of himself as he could.

Molly had stopped renewing the spells upon him when he was eleven, so he had almost allowed himself to forget how much it hurt to have his base nature changed against his will. He had almost forgotten the burning, writhing agony and the oily, twisting, horribly invasive touch of her power as she raped his mind over and over, turning him into someone different, someone he hated.

Holding himself as tight and still as possible, he reminded himself who he was over and over again, trying to keep himself as whole as possible. He layered protective walls around himself and tried to ignore that sibilant voice changing the rest of him, binding him to her will.

My name is Percy Weasley and I like Chocolate Frogs. My name is Percy Weasley and I like playing in the rain and mud. My name is Percy Weasley and I hate cabbage. My name is Percy Weasley and...

.

.

[ HARRY ]

.

He didn't know why he was out of bed, but he knew that he couldn't have listened to Ron snore for one more minute. He had to know what was going on; his curiosity was driving him to it.

Ron had ranted for over an hour about Percy, unable to understand why Percy had tried to kill himself. He had kept demanding that Harry tell him why Percy had suddenly snapped, seemingly unable to accept the fact that Harry was just as clueless as he was, probably even more so. Finally Ron had settled down and gone to sleep, and Harry could only be grateful.

Ron was his best friend, but sometimes Harry thought the red-haired boy was just a little too brash. There were times when Ron was so nerve-gratingly annoying that Harry just wanted to hit him and keep on hitting him until he finally shut up for once. It made Harry feel like a terrible friend when the urge struck him, but he couldn't help it. Ron could just be so very annoying.

Now Harry was creeping down the hallway in his pajamas, leaving Ron asleep in his room. He wanted to know what had happened to Percy, wanted to see if he was all right.

It was strange, he had never really liked Percy, but now he felt almost driven to make sure he hadn't died when he wasn't looking. Thoughts of suicide were old news to Harry, but this was the first time he'd ever met someone else that had had them. He didn't want to lose this strange brother-in-arms, because it was nice to think that he wasn't completely alone in his pain and misery, that there was someone else out there that had had moments of weakness and futility just like him.

So he crept to Percy's door and carefully inched it open, praying it wasn't going to creak and give him away. He peered through the crack, trying to see if Percy was awake.

He was surprised to find Molly standing over Percy's bed in the half-lit room, her hair loose around her shoulders. She was wearing a long floral print nightgown that looked as if it had come from the 1950's. Her feet were bare and her toes looked too long to Harry, the sight of them kind of giving him a wobbly feeling of distaste in his belly.

Harry could only watch as Molly ran her wand up and down the length of Percy's body, from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet, chanting all the while. He had never heard such a complex string of spells before, one layered upon another in a seeming pattern, but one he couldn't really understand.

There were spells of control, spells of impotence, spells of command, spells of obedience, spells of neatness and hygiene, anti-mischief spells, a castration spell that left Harry sick to his stomach, and more, many more. There were so many spells that he didn't recognize, or didn't even want to recognize, and Molly placed them one after another on her sleeping son in a seemingly-familiar mantra.

What frightened Harry the most, though, was when he thought about what spells she used and realized that some of them probably shouldn't have been used together. Some of the spells were at cross-purposes, so that to obey one, another had to be disobeyed, which would cause Percy a blinding bit of pain. And Molly didn't seem to even care.

When she was finished, she stepped back from the bed and looked down at Percy with pitiless eyes. "Sleep, and when you wake you will never try to harm yourself again, not unless I tell you so. You will say that work stress was the reason why you behaved the way you did tonight. Remember: good boys are rewarded, and bad boys are punished. Do not make me punish you again, Percy." She said his name like it was a curse on everything good in the world.

The sleeping man stirred a little, but didn't waken. Her commands had been accepted and would be obeyed.

Harry almost yelped when she abruptly turned and headed right toward the door and him. With a silent curse, he made a dash down the hallway toward Ron's room, running on the toes of his feet and trying to be silent. He desperately wished he had his cloak of invisibility right now. He didn't want Molly to catch him, didn't want to know what she would do to him if she knew he had seen.

Once in Ron's room, he slipped the door closed and leaned back against it, breathing hard, trying to calm his racing heart. His mind whirred.

He had thought of Molly almost as a mother from the first moment he'd met her. She'd filled some empty space inside him, giving him the love and attention he'd always craved. She'd made him feel safe just by being herself. Now he realized that everything he knew about her was a lie.

She was just as evil as Voldemort, worse even because she hid her vileness behind a lie of compassion and kindness.

She'll kill me if she knows I saw her, Harry thought, trembling. If she was willing to do all that to her own son, what would she do to me? I don't want to know this. I wish I hadn't seen...

Tears filled his eyes as he tiptoed across the room to his bed, sliding under the covers and pulling them over his head, hiding himself in the darkness under the bedclothes. He didn't think he was ever going to be able to sleep again.

He was afraid Molly would get him if he closed his eyes for too long.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

Breakfast the next morning was slightly strained, though everyone seemed to be pretending that Percy hadn't gone completely nutters the night before. It made Bill feel almost contemptuous of his family and the way they always seemed to ignore anything that involved Percy.

He had never really thought about it before, but the only time anyone seemed to care about what Percy did was when they were trying to bring him down. The twins were always teasing him and playing practical jokes on him. Ron seemed to actively hate him. Molly and Arthur largely ignored him unless he had won some prestigious award or if they were angry at him. And he and Charlie... well, Percy was their younger brother and that just said it all.

Bill was ashamed to admit that he was as bad as the rest of his family when it came to Percy. He had never even noticed that Percy was unhappy, though it was obvious now that he thought about it. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd heard Percy laugh, really laugh. It had been so long that he'd almost forgotten the sound.

Percy used to be so joyful, and now he was like some shell of a human being, almost a caricature of a person. All anyone saw when they looked at him was his upright posture, his stiff clothes, his closed off features, and his bragging-whiny-snotty-annoying nature. No one ever noticed how alone he was, how he didn't have any friends or really anyone to just talk to. No one ever realized that he was largely ignored at work and spent all his free time alone at home, never associating with anyone.

For someone that was supposedly so intent on furthering his own career, Percy didn't really seem to have any kind of ambition at all. He had an intelligent mind, but he never seemed to do anything with it. He just did whatever his bosses told him and didn't complain about how they stepped all over him and stole credit for his work to further their own promotions. He didn't seem to have any kind of ego at all, even while he was bragging about something or other. He didn't even flinch anymore when the twins or Ron insulted him; he would just watch them as they complained about him to other people, degrading him with their every single word.

Bill was ashamed of himself and the rest of his family that they could have ever treated Percy like he wasn't really a person. No one ever seemed to have the basic decency to notice that the boy had feelings. They were all just so caught up in the idea of what Percy was that it was a complete mystery what went on in his head.

"Are you all right, Percy?" Bill asked quietly.

Percy looked at him. "What do you mean? I'm fine. I apologize for the scene I made yesterday; it was all the stress from work finally catching up to me. I am fine now."

Bill hated how stiff Percy always sounded, had hated it from the first time he heard that supercilious tone from his once-mischievous little brother. It had been so long since he'd experienced the full presence of a happy, playful Percy, and he missed it.

He looked at Percy for a long time, his fork forgotten in his hand. He was trying to see the laughing boy in the snobby, unhappy image presented and couldn't. It was as though the old Percy had completely disappeared, never to be seen again. It was as though his brother Percy had died and some strange, alien being had replaced him, a creature that didn't quite know how to act like Percy.

Bill missed his brother and didn't know how he could have ignored the strangeness for so long. Something was obviously very wrong, and he just didn't know what it was.

"Must you keep staring at me?" Percy suddenly demanded. "It is very annoying and I would like it if you stopped right now."

Bill shook his head. "Oh, sorry, I was daydreaming about something else." He didn't want to make Percy any more uncomfortable than he probably already was. A suicide attempt was probably a very traumatic thing, especially when everyone made such a big deal about it.

Percy snorted. "Fine, just daydream in a different direction. I would like to eat my breakfast without your eyes drilling a hole through me." He went back to picking at his eggs.

Not knowing what to do, Bill glanced over at Charlie. His dragon-headed brother had always been the closest to him of all his siblings because they were nearer in age and had gone to Hogwarts together. The other Weasley children were all younger than Bill felt comfortable with, being still children while he was a man. Which didn't mean that he loved them any less, just that he didn't have as much in common with them as he did with Charlie.

Charlie met his eyes with a shrug and a worried expression. He didn't know what to do either.

Bill rubbed the side of his nose with his left hand, the signal that meant a private meeting later. Charlie nodded. They had some important things to discuss.

.

.

[ HARRY ]

.

It took everything he had not to flinch every time Molly walked around him at breakfast. He didn't want her to know that he was nervous around her, because then she would wonder why and he wasn't completely sure he wouldn't just tell her. Years of trust had been built up between them. He had thought of her as almost being his mother. He had basically been conditioned to respond to her truthfully, even when it probably wasn't the safest thing to do so. His big mouth would just open and he'd admit that he'd seen her last night spelling Percy, then he'd be done for.

Harry stuffed his mouth full and kept it full for the whole meal, then raced off after Ron. He didn't say a single word to anyone.

It was harder dealing with Molly being evil than it was with Voldemort, because Voldemort looked evil, and Molly didn't. Molly was motherly and kind, so it was hard to believe that she could so cold-heartedly warp her son to her will. Probably no one would even believe him if he tried to tell them what he'd seen.

Molly Weasley was not the image that sprang to mind when someone thought about true evil. She seemed more likely to bake cookies than kill people. Which was how Harry figured she had gotten away with screwing with Percy's head for so long.

Now that he knew what spells she had used on him, Harry realized that he had never actually met the real Percy. It was just so obvious now that he knew. And it explained why Percy had never quite seemed like a real person. It was because he wasn't. He was whatever his mother had made him... a person that no one could ever really like.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

"What the hell is going on with Percy?"

Bill looked at Charlie and shook his head. "I have no idea, but we have to do something about it. We've spent too long ignoring him and now everything's out of control."

Charlie bowed his head a little in shame. "We should have paid more attention to him, especially when he first started going all weird."

"I don't even really recognize him anymore. He's this stranger wearing a Percy suit." Bill rubbed his face hard. "I don't know what happened to make him this way, but i can't help but to feel at fault. We should have been able to save him from... whatever."

"But what if nothing happened to him?" Charlie asked. "What if he was always supposed to be like this? Maybe we just missed it."

"No," Bill growled. "No one changes that completely without something weird happening to them. No, Percy didn't just decide to wake up one day as a self-righteous arse face. Something had to have made him that way, and I don't think he's too happy about it either.

"When I was holding him yesterday, I swear, even as he was fighting me, his eyes were begging me to save him. He doesn't like being the way he is and he needs us to be there for him."

"So what are we going to do?" Charlie asked.

Bill shook his head. "I don't know, but we have to do something or someday we're going to find Percy in a puddle of blood dead. I really don't think we're going to be able to stop him next time he tries to kill himself."

"Maybe he won't try again," Charlie suggested hopefully.

"He will," Bill said. "I saw it in his eyes. Given the chance, he'll be slicing down to the bone and there won't be a damn thing we can do about it."

"Dammit."

"Yeah."

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

Screaming in the silence of his mind, bound tighter than he had been in a long time, Percy ached for the remembrance of knowing that he had almost escaped. He could almost taste the relief from his constant agony, locked away in his head. He had been that close to free, only to have the walls close even tighter around him.

He couldn't help being pleased that his brothers still cared about him in even a small way, but he was angry too. Damn Bill and Charlie for loving him. Damn them for saving him from his freedom. Damn them for interfering with something he couldn't even understand, not with the way they practically worshipped at Molly's feet. Damn them.

They had only been trying to help, but that meant nothing to the pain he felt. The bits of himself that he had left were screaming and screaming at once again being imprisoned, but there was nothing he could do about it but watch as his body made the motions of living through each day and he had no control over anything.

All he had, once again, was a quiet corner of his own head where he could do nothing but sit and watch the outside world. What little freedom he'd managed to win had been taken back away from him and it was a terrible loss.

He'd looked forward to the day when he would be able to think and act on his own, with his body obeying his every whim. But it looked like that day would never come.

In the miserable loneliness of his mind, he bowed his head, admitting defeat.

.

.

[ CUPID ]

.

For the longest time he hadn't liked his younger cousin. There was just something so annoying about the psychotic little shit that there was no being around him for any real length of time without wanting to smack him. Cupid had always felt as though his skin was about to itch its way off him whenever he was around Strife.

As the centuries passed though, and their jobs crossed more and more, almost driving them together, they had formed an eventually friendly relationship. They had begun hanging out when the work was done and it was a revelation to find out how much they had in common, and how much they didn't. They were two gods of an age, and with all the time in each others' company they had long since become best friends. And now, Cupid wanted something more.

He didn't know what it was about Strife that drew him in, but whatever it was, he didn't want to let it go. He wanted to drag Strife close against him and hold him so tight that they could never be pulled apart again, their flesh melding into one untenable whole. Love and Mischief bound together for the rest of eternity.

Cupid had never dared say anything to Strife about what he'd been feeling. He didn't want to hear that mocking laugh and feel that disbelieving look burn into his flesh. It was a chance he couldn't bear to take, because he never wanted to lose the closeness and friendship he'd found in Strife.

It was better to suffer in loneliness than lose something so precious.

.

"So, where exactly are we going?" Cupid asked.

Strife smirked. "A little place called the Burrow."

Cupid gripped Strife's sleeve. "All right, dude, let's go."

Strife giggled and they popped out, leaving only a fountaining mass of sparkles behind. One of the dark blue sparkles twisted in the air and floated upward instead of down, winging its way out of Cupid's temple and toward Aphrodite's next door. After a few moments, there was an indignant squeal. "Why's my hair green? STRIFE!"

The God of Love and the God of Mischief appeared in a corner of the Burrow kitchen where they could watch the family finish eating lunch. It was a Saturday, so there was no work, and the family had planned out a day together. It should have been sweet.

"Where's the evil bitch?" Cupid asked.

Strife leaned against his shoulder and pointed. "Tha's the one, right there," he said, limning Molly in a puke green corona that only gods could see.

"Yuck, man, that's one ugly color," Cupid said.

"She's one ugly person," Strife said. "Just look what she did to her son. Having it told to you ain't got nothing on seeing it fer yourself." He gestured to Percy, limning him in a soft blue, highlighting him for Cupid's godly senses.

"Oh man," pity filled Cupid's voice. "How does he function like that? How does he keep from just killing himself?"

"He can't," Strife said. "She made it so he can't even die freely. He's all bound up inside and there's nothing he can do to get free. She's the only one that can release him, and she never will, because if she does, everyone will know what she did to him. It's kinda sad. He's trapped and can't do anything to help himself."

"What are we going to do?" Cupid asked.

"I don't really know, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve a big chunk of punishment." Strife smirked.

"Good, she deserves it," Cupid said. "That lady gives me the heebejeebes and I don't like it."

.

.

[ HARRY ]

.

He was so scared. Not even Voldemort had filled him with such an overwhelming sense of dread.

Maybe it was the fact that he had loved Molly, thought of her as almost being his mother, but her betrayal cut through him so deeply that it was a burning agony he couldn't ignore. Every particle of his being urged him to just get up and run away as fast as he could before she could notice him and realize that he knew what she had done.

His pity for Percy grew with every passing moment. To think that Percy Weasley, Perfect Percy, had dragged through years of his life chained down by a horrifying layer of spells... it was hard to know where spelled Percy and real Percy diverged. Harry doubted that he had ever even seen the real man.

Harry couldn't imagine what it was like to have his whole self warped beyond all recognition and be unable to do anything about it. He didn't know if he could have lived through such a horrible torture, and to function for years under the controlling spells of another... Percy was a brave soul.

More than anything, Harry wanted to reach out and let Percy know that he wasn't alone, that someone knew what torment he was operating under. But Harry knew better than to even try to help Percy, not now, not with Molly so close at hand. She could make him forget everything that he knew, or blast him with a masking layer of spells that would leave him just as helpless to her will as Percy.

If there was one thing Harry had learned when he had watched Molly spell Percy the night before, it was that she had a definite skill doing it, and years of practice had only refined her casting. She could probably blast him before he even knew that anything was happening, and he wasn't sure there was anything he could do stop her even if he had warning.

His love for her had created a hole through his guard a mile wide. She was on the inside of his defenses, and even knowing what she was, he didn't know if he had the strength of will to kick her back out again.

He wasn't the first one to trust someone, but once a bond was formed, he found it hard to push them away from him. Years of loneliness and neglect made him want to clutch those he loved to him, never mind that people changed as time passed. So he didn't know if he could force himself to throw Molly away from him, never mind that she had gone bad, had probably always been bad.

She was like his mother, and it was hard for him to forget that, no matter how hard he tried.

.

Watching Percy eat with a kind of machinelike precision was very disquieting. Each bite was perfectly proportioned and was chewed to a set number before being swallowed. Bite, bite, bite... it was all horrifyingly measured.

There was a blankness to Percy's expression that Harry had never really noticed before, but that he now realized had always been there. He was ashamed to admit that Percy had just always been such a nonentity to his eyes that he had never really paid the man any attention for himself. He had always just listened to Ron's disgusted opinion and been satisfied with that. He had never searched for any kind of deeper motivation for the things that Percy did.

Knowing that Molly controlled practically every aspect of Percy's life really opened Harry's eyes, and not in a good way.

"Do you want another roll, Percy?" Harry asked.

Shrouded brown eyes rose to meet green. "No thank you, Potter. I am perfectly satisfied with what I have in front of me."

"Well... okay." Harry lowered his head and focused back on his own food.

An insistent elbow roughly nudged him in the ribs. He looked at Ron.

"What'd you do that for?"

"Do what?" Harry asked.

Ron rolled his eyes. "Why the bloody hell did you offer that prat anything?" Ron hissed.

Harry shrugged. "I thought... he might be hungry. You never know."

A sly smile tugged at Ron's lips. "Did you stick something in the roll, is that it? If you're going to play tricks on Percy the Prick, you should really let me know. I have some pranks in my room that I got from the twins. Guaranteed to turn anyone purple, blue, and inside out."

"No," Harry said, "I wasn't playing a trick. I just thought he might like another roll, that's all."

Ron frowned disappointedly. "Don't tell me you're going soft, Harry. Remember what a prat Percy is? Remember how he tried to break up our friendship? You can't feel sorry for him, not ever. He's still just as much of a jackass as he always was, even more of one really. He deserves every kind of nasty trick we can think of, plus about fifty from the twins." He shot a glare across the table at his older brother. "Bloody arsehole."

Harry touched Ron's shoulder. "No Ron, just leave him alone."

"Why?"

"Because... because the twins played enough tricks on him already and it's about time to let him be. Plus... last night..."

Ron sighed heavily and bowed his head, his shoulders hunching. "You're right. That was bloody awful, that was. I still don't like Percy, but I don't want to see that again."

"Yeah," Harry said. "He's you're brother."

"I suppose."

"He is." Even if you've never even met him before, not really. Blood will tell.

.

.

[ PERCY ]

.

He really didn't know why Harry was being so nice to him, but some part of him was grateful for any kindness shown him. It wasn't like he could personally thank him, but it was still extremely thoughtful, better than the PERFECT deserved.

The new bindings tying him tight made it hard for him to even breathe. He had to wonder how much of himself was left, or if he had lost so much that he couldn't even realize that anything was wrong. It felt like he was wrapped in cellophane, that ingenious muggle invention to preserve their food, and that's exactly what he felt like: someone's food, made to be eaten, wasted, lost and gone forever with no coming back.

He was fading away into the background, hidden behind the mask of the PERFECT. Just thinking was a test and a trial that he didn't know if he was going to manage for very much longer.

What am I supposed to do? he thought in despair. But he knew what was going to happen. Nothing. He was just going to stay locked behind his walls and wallow in this prison of the mind, watching helplessly as the world and his life passed him by. That was just the way things were.

Screams were held behind his mental teeth, but he didn't even have the energy to curse the fate that his mother had given him. All he could do was exist, and keep on existing no matter what he truly wanted.

Perfect Percy had stolen his life and everything he might have possibly been once upon a time.

He would have cried if he were able.

.

.

[ ARES ]

.

"Where the hell is Strife?" he demanded.

"He and Cupid went off somewhere," Joxer said carelessly, waving one hand. His eyes were heavy-lidded as he lounged thoughtfully on his couch, seeming to listen to something that no one else could hear.

Ares glared at his lover, but couldn't get mad at him. As the god of Melancholy Thoughts, Joxer pretty much embodied his godhood, which meant even when he was at his happiest and most excited, he seemed laconic to those around him. Ares had long since accepted the joke Zeus had played on him when he had granted Joxer a place in the Olympian pantheon, forever changing his mate from an almost childishly cheerful man to what he was now.

When Joxer had looked at him out of unfamiliar eyes the first time, Ares had cursed Zeus and his cruelties. But no matter how angry he had been or how frustrated he got with Joxer and his new attitude, he had promised himself to love Joxer forever, and that was just what he was going to do. Joxer was still in there, no matter how different he sometimes seemed. The man Ares loved was still there.

"We should probably find out where they went and what kind of trouble they're causing," Ares said.

Joxer nodded his head languidly. "That's a good idea. For all we know they might be out there trying to end the world or something."

"Highly doubtful," Ares said.

Joxer shrugged. "Still, as long as they're off the radar..."

"They could be doing anything," Ares finished. "Come on, let's go."

Joxer rose slowly, his eyes still distant. This was about as focused as he ever got on any situation anymore. Ares had learned to deal with it and the sadness it always brought him.

Joxer was wallowing in all the sad thoughts of the world. He didn't need Ares to add to his burden.

.

.

[ HARRY ]

.

There was a definite wobble in his belly that he couldn't seem to do anything about. Sweat had long since cooled unpleasantly down the length of his back and into the crack of his ass.

He had never really had to pretend to still like someone so hard in his life. While all he wanted to do was run away from Molly and never come back, he had to pretend that everything was still all right, that nothing was out of the ordinary. Because if he gave any hint that he knew what she'd done, he didn't think that she would hesitate to hex him six ways from Sunday... that or she might just kill Percy so that there would be no proof of the horrible things she had done.

Dinner was an inexpressible torment of overwrought nerves as he tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, that he was the same Harry Potter he had always been.

His hatred for Voldemort and the Death Eaters had always been an open thing. There was no one out there that could even pretend that he was a fan of the Dark Lord or ever would be. Yet he'd always liked Molly, and now that he knew the truth about her all he wanted to do was run away, but he had to stay here and pretend that nothing was different and that she was still one of his favorite people in the world. He had never been a very good actor and he knew that if she looked at him hard enough she would see everything he was trying to hide and he would die a painful death.

It did not a very comfortable meal make.

.

After dinner he joined Ron, Ginny, and the twins on his broom and they flew lazy circles above the house to keep from having to go back inside and face down a bunch of chores that none of them really wanted to do.

"What's going on with you?" Ron asked.

"Huh?" Harry looked at him in surprise. "What do you mean? There's nothing going on."

Ron gave him a skeptical look. "Yeah right. There's something happening with you, mate, and I wanna know what it is."

Harry bit his lip, then led Ron a little further away from the others. "What... what do you think about Percy?"

"That git? What's there to think about? He's a bloody pain in the arse that has his head shoved so far up the Ministry's robes there should be shit on his nose." Ron snorted. "That guy gets on my nerves, brother or not."

"Well..." Harry raked a hand through his hair. "What if I told you that I found out something about Percy that would completely change your opinion of him? What would you say?"

Ron snorted again. "I would be shocked and amazed because that would never happen. I've known Percy for my whole life and he's always been a prat and always will be. Remember how he tried to break up our friendship? That's just the way he is. He's never going to change."

Harry looked at his friend sadly. He could tell that Ron's opinion of Percy was one of those things his friend would stubbornly refuse to change no matter who told him different. "Maybe... maybe you could just try to talk to him?" Harry suggested. "You might find out that there's some stuff about him that you don't know."

"Yeah right. There's nothing about Percy that I need to know. He's an arsehole and he's never going to change." With that, Ron zipped away with a yell for Fred, intent on not thinking about anything related to Percy and never even pausing for a second thought about "the arsehole."

Harry sighed heavily and drifted upward. He felt worse then ever for Percy, but there was nothing he could do to change things and make them better. All those years of Perfect Percy the Pugnacious Prick had pretty much sealed his reputation as far as his siblings were concerned and there was not one of them that was willing to even try and believe that he was anything different than the image he presented.

"Damn you Molly Weasley," Harry whispered, that betrayal of trust cutting deep. He had really believed in her as the quintessential mother figure and she had done nothing but lie to him from the first moment they had met.

He had never really had an adult figure in his life that he trusted completely, and Molly Weasley had been the first. She had opened up his heart and made him think that everything was going to be all right no matter what happened, but everything she had ever said was a lie, and the worst part of it all was that he had believed her whole-heartedly.

He was never going to be fooled like that ever again. And he was going to do to his best to help Percy have some kind of normal life. The guy deserved it after all of the years he had spent in captivity within his own mind.

.

.

[ BILL ]

.

Percy was sitting quietly in the living when Bill came upon him.

"Hey, Perce, I really think we need to talk. I'm worried about you and..."

Percy looked at him like he was a complete stranger. "What is there for us to talk about?"

Bill stared at his brother for a moment, then shook his head. "Nothing." And that was exactly what he had seen in Percy's eyes, nothing.

Even at his worst moments, in the past Bill had seen the spark of something in the back of Percy's eyes. The movement of unsaid thought behind those hazel orbs. Now, though, there was just this waiting blankness, as though his little brother Percy had never existed at all.

"Did you need something?" Percy asked, raising on eyebrow.

Bill shook his head. "Never mind."

"All right then." Percy continued looking at him, waiting for him to leave so he could go back to staring mindlessly at the newspaper he held.

A creeping sensation went over Bill's skin as he turned from his little brother and walked away. He could feel those dead eyes on his back and it made him want to vomit.

What the hell happened to him? Bill thought.

Last night he could have sworn that he had seen something human in Percy. Now, there was nothing left of that. Nothing at all.

Walking into the kitchen, he brushed by Harry, the boy giving him a strange look under his fringe of dark hair.

"What?" Bill asked.

"Nothing," Harry said, though there was something like fear in his voice.

"You all right?" Bill felt a jolt of worry go through him, wondering if Voldemort was about to burst through the door and murder them all. "Did something happen?"

"Nothing," Harry said again, his voice firmer this time.

Bill opened his mouth to say something, but closed it after a moment when he couldn't think of anything to say. Finally he just kept on walking.

.

.

[ STRIFE ]

.

Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick...

Undulating colors swirled around the Weasley home in a sickening rush of puke, green, and virulent orange. It was enough to make even his stomach want to twist and turn.

"This is gross, man," Cupid said, his nose wrinkling in distaste as he looked around.

"Yeah." Strife kicked at the kitchen table with one insubstantial foot. "These people are like total pigs."

"I don't know how they can live like this," Cupid said. "All that swirling, nasty emotion getting all over everything. You would think they could sense it, even as blind as they are. But they just keep on going, doing whatever it is they do. You know, human stuff." He rolled his eyes.

Even surrounded by the disgusting emotions, Strife still managed a giggle.