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Title: What Should Have Been
Rated: PG-13 for adult themes
Warnings: Miscarriage, attempted suicide
Summary: Arthur knew he shouldn't be reading Percy's diary. But then, he also knew Percy shouldn't be lying in a hospital bed, clinging to life after a suicide attempt, and in the realm of Things That Shouldn't Have Been, his seemed the far lesser offense.
Notes: While I wish I could say this fic idea sprung unprompted from my brain, I must give credit where it's due. I recently had the pleasure of reading an older fic, Invisible Son by Raewhit and a newer fic, The Secret Life of Percival Weasley by Cypher. Both mixed third-person activity with first-person journal entries, which I've discovered is a format I adore, despite not generally being a fan of the first-person tense, and both involved Percy hospitalized (Invisible Son after a suicide attempt and with Arthur reading his diary, which is the set-up here, as well).

I feel like a bit of a hack for aping the premise, but I also think I've managed to churn out a story that is my own and different enough from those. I hope you'll read all three and think so as well. And many thanks to my betas! You know who you are.

******
Arthur watched Percy sleep. Sometimes his son would turn his head and distraughtly mumble something. Arthur reached out a hand and laid it on his wrist in those moments. The contact seemed to calm him.

The healers said it was good that he moved and showed signs of dreaming. It was an indication that he had been gotten to in time. That the sleeping draught had been cleansed from his system before it was too late.

Arthur still couldn't believe it. There were a lot of things about the day that he couldn't believe.

He couldn't believe it when a man from Scrimgeour's office had strutted into Arthur's department. He couldn't believe the man would ask HIM of all people if he had seen Percy, given that the boy himself had taken care to show his dissent from the rest of the Weasleys. Couldn't believe it when the man said Percy had missed three days of work without notice and was in danger of being sacked.

And Arthur couldn't believe what he found when, in a fit of nervous curiosity, he traveled to Percy's flat on a lunch break.

He had expected magical wards as he neared the building, but there were none. He expected an answer when he knocked, but none came. Given that, he expected the door to be locked when he turned the knob, but it moved easily in his hand, though, the door did stick in its frame.

Arthur did not expect a sense of alarm to slither its way down his spine at that, but it did. Percy wouldn't leave his home unlocked, and he wouldn't leave a knock unanswered or skip work without calling.

The door was very stuck, as if the hinges hadn't been oiled in ages. Arthur rammed his shoulder into it twice before finally being able to muscle his way inside.

It was quiet and dusty. He felt like he should be racing through the flat as fast as his heart was racing in his chest, but his legs wouldn't seem to manage more than a slow amble.

"Percy?" he called out. "Are you here?" He got no answer and methodically walked from room to room until he came to the last door. The bedroom. That was where he found Percy, unconcsious, curled in a ball on the floor and clutching a leatherbound book to his chest. A vial was nearby, tipped on its side, spilling the last drops of a thick, honey-colored liquid onto the carpet.

"Oh, God," Arthur breathed as he rushed to his son. "Percy, what have you done?" Arthur dropped to his knees and gathered Percy in his arms, grateful to find a faint pulse at his neck. Holding him tightly in his arms, Arthur concentrated and appararated away.

And now here they were, alone in a room at St. Mungos. Arthur knew he should have gone to get Molly from the Burrow, but he didn't trust himself to apparate or fly or even to speak words clearly enough for the floo. And to be honest, he didn't want to deal with her worrying. It's not like she would know he was holding out on her. All hands on that blasted clock of hers had been pointing to mortal peril for weeks. This would be no different.

And if he were to be *completely* honest, he didn't want her to see his shame. His uselessness. So instead, Arthur sat there, absently -- and he hoped soothingly -- running a finger along Percy's wrist. There was no tan-line. Not that any of them could classified as anything other than pale, but there should have been something. Arthur looked at his own wrist. The sun and moon circled around the face of his watch -- the same watch that every Weasley gets when they come of age. If he took his off, he would know where it had rested.

Percy's wrist must have been naked for a long time.

An orderly came in with a paper bag and set it on the table next to the bed.

"His things, sir," he said.

"Thank you." The orderly went to leave but Arthur stopped him "Have you owled my wife yet?"

"No, sir, would you like us to?"

"No," Arthur answered. "I'll do it. When there's something to tell." The orderly left, and Arthur was alone with his son again. He pulled the bag closer and opened it. Percy's clothes had been laundered, but they still smelled strongly of chamomile and mint with just a faint hint of roses. It would be soothing if the circumstances had been different.

On top of the clothing sat the book Percy had been holding. Arthur hadn't even realized it had made the journey with them. He pulled it out and was surprised to find it wasn't a novel or biography or some type of textbook, but a diary, so well-worn that it's once stiff cover had become soft, pliable and warm to the touch.

He turned it over in his hands, and a photo fell from the pages and fluttered gently to the floor. Arthur picked up. It was of Percy and a young woman who looked familiar. Arthur ran through names in his head. Clearly? Clearsprings...Clearwater! Penelope Clearwater. He had once heard the twins teasing Percy about "his girlfriend" while they were at Hogwarts, but this picture seemed to have been taken within the last year or so.

He stared at the picture. Watched as Penelope came up behind Percy and draped her arms over his shoulders. She whispered something in his ear and kissed his cheek. Percy smiled and glanced down before turning his head to kiss her once, then twice, on the lips, his fingers lightly running across the sleeves of her jumper. Nose to nose, they smiled at each other before turning to face the camera. They held their smiles for just a moment before the scene started over again.

There was love there. Pure, unadultured love that Arthur hadn't known Percy had felt for anything other than his work. He furrowed his brow. He couldn't remember anything in the news about the Clearwaters. No trials. No deaths. He looked at the photograph again. He saw himself and Molly, so many years ago. The look on her face made it abundantly clear that she loved him, in spite -- or perhaps because -- of the quirks that made him almost insufferable to most everyone else.

Arthur couldn't begin to fathom what had led this happy young man to throw everything away. He turned the diary over in his hands, spared a glance at Percy -- still sleeping -- before opening it at the midpoint.

He knew he shouldn't be reading Percy's diary. But then, he also knew Percy shouldn't be lying in a hospital bed, clinging to life after a suicide attempt, and in the realm of Things That Shouldn't Have Been, Arthur's seemed the far lesser offense.

(*(*(*(*(*(
I moved out today. Well, stormed out is probably the more accurate term. It was supposed to be a good day. A celebratory day. Despite my error with Mr. Crouch, Mr. Fudge wants me on his staff. He thinks I have something worthwhile to contribute.

But, oh, no. 'He just wants you to spy on us' father says. They're the important ones, and I'm just the pawn, is that it? Rubbish. I have dedicated my life to trying to be something. To earning the respect of others. And now here it is. People respect me. People want me around. They're just not my family. No, my family thinks I'm weak, worthless and stupid. It makes me so angry.

Thank goodness for Penny. She supports me. She's the calm that tempers my ire. I don't know what I would do without her.
(*(*(*(*(*(

Arthur closed his eyes. He knew the situation surrounding Percy's departure was difficult for all of them. He knew he could have handled himself better. But to this day he still felt that he was right. That the Ministry didn't really care about his son beyond information it could leech from him. He just hadn't realized the implication of that thought.

"I never thought you were weak or worthless or stupid," he said, imagining somewhere in the fog of sleep his son could hear him. "Just young and proud. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer."

Thank goodness for Penny, indeed. Perhaps if she hadn't been there, this day would have come much sooner.

Arthur continued reading the diary. Intermingled with entries devoted to his growing relationship with Miss Clearwater were detailed entries about his successes -- his many successes -- within the Ministry, none of which appeared to have anything to do with the spying on the family or the Order, Arthur was ashamed to note.

Percy was achieving everything he wanted, and he was doing it on his own steam. And while his words about Penelope remained formal, there was an undercurrent of something there. A happiness supported by the photograph Arthur had found.

So, what had gone so wrong? The next entry nearly made Arthur drop the diary in shock.

(*(*(*(*(*(
It took some doing, but I convinced Penny and her parents to leave. I fear it isn't safe for them here anymore. I've heard rumblings in the office about lists of muggleborns. What they're for, I can only dread. Reginald Bartlett is on the matter, and he is nothing if not thorough.

Both of Penny's parents are magical, of course, but when blood purity becomes a serious issue -- especially in this particular slice of history -- I wouldn't trust anyone to just overlook that her father's parents were shopkeepers in Bottesford with no inkling of the wizarding world before Mr. Clearwater received his Hogwarts letter.

I'll miss them dearly. I'm not normally a nervous person -- pompous, yes, but not nervous -- but that's all changed these past months.

I gave them my watch. It just seemed like she should have it, both for sentimental and practical reasons. If this whole mess lasts, I want to know they're taken care of. It once belonged to Grandfather Septimus. He took excellent care of it -- as have I -- and if they should need money, I know they can get a substantial sum for it. I would hate to see it lost, but would hate even more to see them cold or hungry.

The things that are going on are just...unspeakable. I would tell someone, but who would I tell? Who would believe me? Certainly not Mother and Father. They would just see it as some sort of ruse, wherein I give them a bite of information and they give up just enough rope to hang themselves and their little group along with them.

Some days I wish I had packed up and left with Penny. But I can't do that. I've done my job so well here that I seem to have faded in the background. People talk freely around me. Someone has to track what's going on. Maybe, in time, it will all make sense and will be useful in putting an end to this foolishness.
(*(*(*(*(*(

The next several entries were short. There was no mention of Penelope or her family or the rest of the Weasleys and only obtuse mentions about happenings at the Ministry.

Percy was afraid, Arthur realized. Afraid of what was going on. Afraid of the words he had written. Afraid and alone and perhaps a bit mad.

Because after those few terse entries, the next stack of pages -- at least three inches worth -- were nearly unreadable. He understood dates and times but the rest of the pages were filled with pictures that, if they were an alphabet at all, certainly weren't English in nature. Lines crissed, crossed and intersected with one another, sometimes ending in flourishes and other times abruptly stopping to form symbols all across and down the page. And then he realized.

It was code. Percy was keeping tabs on the Ministry -- seemingly every minute of every day -- and recording his findings in a secret code.

Arthur swiftly flipped through the pages, desperately looking for a way to read it. When none came, he shifted his hope to finding more entries he could understand. Something about Penelope. Something about the family. Something about the ministry's cafeteria food -- anything that showed his son had more going for his life than pages and pages of secret notes.

None came, and Arthur was beginning to fear that Percy hadn't made an attempt on his own life. Perhaps somebody only wanted it to look that way. This idea festered for several moments until he got incontrovertible proof of its fallacy.

The very last page of the book brought with it a return to English, but it was no comfort. The page was filled with words from top to bottom in ink that was still a bit damp and smudged. As Arthur began to read the words his heart found its way to his throat and his hands began to shake.

(*(*(*(*(*(
Penny and I over. She said she couldn't bear to look at me, and I can't say as I blame her. There's something I haven't mentioned here before, partly because I didn't want to put her into danger should this fall into the wrong hands, and partly because I didn't want to jinx anything. I'm not even the superstitious sort, but it just seemed like a wrong thing to be committing to parchment.

But I don't suppose it matters now. Nothing does.

Penny didn't just leave for her safety; she left for the safety of our child. When she told me she was pregnant, she was afraid -- both of how I would react and of the idea of bringing a child into a world of war (because let's be honest, Mother and Father are right, and I am a stupid little man).

It was a bit of a shock, but I was surprisingly delighted by the news. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wartime hadn't seemed to stop Mum and Dad from having children. I mean, look at Ron. He was born at the height of the first war with You-Know-Who when the twins were still in nappies and I was just a boy.

I wish I had written about it now. Because I think if I could go back and re-read the words that wanted to spill out of me at the time, maybe I could remember what it felt like to be so happy.

We lost the baby. I got the letter a couple days ago and have been trying to digest it, trying to understand it, ever since. Mere weeks from being born, it had been alive inside of her, dancing every day, until it wasn't. In a heartbeat, without reason or warning, life was gone before it ever had the chance to live.

Healers were summoned to the cottage. They...removed...it from her. I know that's a cold way to say it, but it's what happened.

He had my hair.

Right now, I would like nothing more than to talk Father. To ask him if there were other Weasleys that should have been but weren't. If he knew how to free myself from the weight on my heart. But I can't do that, can I? In my pride and my arrogance, I've burned those bridges beyond repair.

I saw them over the holiday. Oh, how they hate me. Can't say as I blame them, either. I've been awful to them.

But even if I could go back, what would I say? "Hello, Mum! Hello, Dad! Guess what? I got a girl in trouble, but don't worry. There won't be any bastard grandchildren to sully the family name any more than I already have." They would be so disappointed in me. Well, more disappointed, if that's possible.

No. It seems it's true what they say -- you really can't go home again.

I don't really sleep anymore. I would like to, but I can never quite manage more than an odd sense of twilight. Just enough to bring forth memories I think I'd rather not have. Or maybe, I'm glad to have them? I don't know.

I have the most vivid memory of being a young boy. Maybe five. Dad, Bill, Charlie and I were at Diagon Alley. Mum had her hands full with twins in the terrible twos and had told Father to take Bill and Charlie school shopping. She was too tired, and he should take me with them.

But I was short. My little legs couldn't keep up with my big brothers, no matter how I tried to jog along behind them.

I remember, just when I thought I might get lost in the crowd, Father swooped in, picked me up and placed me atop his shoulders. For a five-year-old, it was the most amazing thing. I remember the sun shining down on my face. Taller than everybody for the the first time, I could feel the cool, gentle breeze, and I felt like I could do anything. Be anything. And I never once worried about falling. He had his hands wrapped safely around my ankles, and didn't seem to mind that my tiny fingers were entwined in his hair. It was just the two of us versus the world, and I loved it.

But before that, when I was younger, maybe three or four, I would have these nightmares. I barely knew what a dementor was, but for some reason, they invaded my dreams, freezing everything and tearing me from my sleep. I remember toddling off to Mum and Dad's room. Mum never woke up. After five children, crying babies had become her alarm clock, and for anything else she may as well have been dead to the world.

I don't mean that as a slight, but it's just the way it was. She never woke up, but Dad always did when I opened the door and tugged on the sleeve of his pyjamas.

"Another bad dream, Perce?" he would whisper. I wouldn't even have to say anything. Just nod my head, and before I knew it he would lift me into bed with them. Wrapped in his arms and snuggled against his chest, I knew I was safe and warm and loved. Nothing could hurt me.

I wish I could still feel that. I wish my chance to provide that hadn't been stolen from me. I wish I could sleep. But I can't. I can't do any of it.

I suppose it's appropriate that I'm almost out of room in this book. I can't imagine having anything with which to fill more pages. I'm sure there's a cliche in there somewhere, but hell if I have the energy to find and expose it.

As I sit here now, with just a few words left, I know the sun is just begining to peek over the clouds, spilling light and warmth into the city. But I can't see it. I can't feel it. Because all I can think about is my son. The Weasley who wasn't.

He's ash now, spread over the Highlands. I'll never see him. I'll never hold him. I would give anything to be able to do that, just once.

Anything.
(*(*(*(*(*(

A low moan escaped Arthur's lips. He hugged the diary as if he could will it to turn into his first grandson.

Arthur didn't know what it was like to lose a child. He had come close with Bill. Probably closer still with Percy today, but his sons and daughter were alive. He could see them and hold them whenever he wanted if he would only put aside his pride.

Percy couldn't do that. Not as long as he walked this earth.

He began to move, and for one brief moment, Arthur thought he might be waking up. But he wasn't. It was just an unpleasant dream causing him to thrash about. It broke Arthur's heart and he went immediately to his side, the diary falling to the floor.

"Percy, it's time to wake up," he said. He'd said those words many times to Fred, George, Ron and even Ginny on many a September First as they ran habitually late for the train, but never to Percy. "It's time to wake up now, come on."

But Percy didn't wake. He whimpered and rolled slightly to his side, hugging himself. Arthur only knew of one thing to do.

Slipping off his shoes, he laid down next to his son and wrapped the young man in his arms. He calmed almost immediately, and with Percy snuggled warm and loved against his chest, Arthur wept.

)*)*)*)*) Fin )*)*)*)*)

Date: 2011-10-11 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marieciel.livejournal.com
Oh my... this is a beautiful fic.
It is really powerful, just the way you describe everything... I don't even know what to say! I just loved it!!
The diary entries were particularly touching. To be able to see Percy's thoughts, so simply, is marvelous.

I very much enjoyed your fic. Well done. :)

Date: 2011-10-12 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iwasanartist.livejournal.com
Thank you!

This was probably one of the most difficult fics I've written, both for trying to be in Percy and Arthur's heads for these particular situations but also for tying the entries together. I really hoped the entry about Penny going away would seem straightforward on its face, but deeper once the additional information was provided, and it became clear that Percy wasn't just worried about making sure she was safe but that their baby was, too.

Oh, and much ove for your icon. What can I say, I'm all about the heartbreak this week or something.

Date: 2012-11-29 03:49 am (UTC)
ext_2351: (Default)
From: [identity profile] lunabee34.livejournal.com
Oh man, making me cry.

*sniffle*

This is fantastic.

Date: 2012-11-30 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iwasanartist.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks. This is probably the most emotionally draining fic I've ever written, so waking up to see some new comments on it is very gratifying. Glad you liked. :)

Date: 2012-11-30 07:11 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh, wow. This is absolutely heartbreaking and perfect and I love it. For some reason, the part the stands out to me the most though is Arthur trying to wake him up. I can just *hear* him asking for the first time ever for Percy to wake up and trying not to cry.

You should be writing more.

Date: 2012-11-30 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iwasanartist.livejournal.com
Hey, thanks!

And, heh. To be honest, that Arthur moment you like was one of the first that I envisioned for this story, so I'm glad it stood out for you.

Fandom Appreciation Challenge: Day 3

Date: 2013-04-13 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] lunabee34 referenced to your post from Fandom Appreciation Challenge: Day 3 (http://lunabee34.livejournal.com/373931.html) saying: [...] love the way Percy is characterized here, so cold and calculating. *shivers* What Should Have Been [...]

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