Title: Prodigal Fandom: Harry Potter Books Timeframe: After the final battle against Voldemort in book seven. Characters: Arthur Weasley, Percy Weasley, and Fred Weasley. Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Family, General Summary: Arthur mourns the son he has lost with the son he has found. Prodigal Arthur stood over the gray thumbprint of his son’s tombstone. The name of the little boy he had lost was carved into the polished rock Molly always kept swept clean. A bed of seasonal flowers from Molly warmed Fred all year round. On this second day of May, Arthur could smell the sweet Williams and sweet peas Molly had laid over Fred’s grave. The air was alive with the scents and the hope of spring. It was the kind of day so filled with promise that it made Arthur’s heart ache in his chest, remembering how Fred would have bolted out of bed to play Quidditch with his brothers until the sun set blood orange across the horizon. It was painful to think that even two years ago, Fred could have flown like that, soaring among the clouds and the warm streams of spring sunlight, and now he lay lifeless and forever grounded in the dirt. “On days like today, Fred would always burst into my bedroom and beg me to play Quidditch with him,” said Percy, standing shoulder to shoulder with Arthur as a reminder that if he had lost a son a year ago today, he had also found one, a consolation and an irony that could slice his soul with the knife-blade precision of its balance. “I’d pretend I didn’t hear him and keep my nose buried in whatever book I was reading at the time, and now I don’t know why. I don’t know why.” Percy’s voice rose in an anguished, unanswerable question at the end, and Arthur could feel his son’s distress like a shiver in his bones. Percy had always been troubled by any sort of uncertainties. He craved clearcut definitions and answers to the indefinable and the inexplicable. “You needed to study.” Gently, Arthur tried to provide such an answer—such a certainty—to the son he had lost and then found. “And you hated playing Quidditch.” “It shouldn’t have mattered whether I hated Quidditch.” Percy shook his head sharply as if to dislodge the flies that flew around them, drawn by the presence of the dead laid to rest in the blanketing ground beneath them. “It was spending time with my brothers that should have mattered to me.” “Most of us waste time on things that don’t matter in the end.” Arthur thought of his hobby of tinkering with Muggle artifacts in the shed. Molly had always called it stupid, and he had never believed her until Fred died. Then it had occurred to him that every moment spent tinkering with Muggle artifacts had been a moment away from Fred. “At least you spent your time studying instead of taking apart Muggle rubbish in the shed.” “Some of the Muggle rubbish can be quite ingenious in its own way.” Percy allowed himself a slight smile. “At least you tore apart the Muggle rubbish out of genuine curiosity. I studied out of pure ambition, ambition to join the Ministry, which was a corrupted entity, which I suppose makes my pure ambition corrupt from the start.” “The Ministry isn’t so corrupt now thanks to the leadership of you and Kingsley.” Arthur rested a hand on his son’s shoulder and squeezed. Kingsley Shacklebolt’s temporary appointment as Minister of Magic after the defeat of Voldemort and his Death Eaters had become very permanent indeed. Percy had been the only high-level member of the Minister’s cabinet to be retrained under Shacklebolt’s leadership. Shacklebolt had seen the cleverness and the courage that made Percy a leader more than Fudge ever had, Arthur was certain, even though Fudge had been the one to appoint Percy to such a lofty position in the first place since Fudge had only ever been trying to manipulate Percy. “I’m proud of the work you’re doing in the Ministry, son.” “How can you proud of me when I was so wrong in the past—wrong to walk out on the family, wrong to doubt Harry and Dumbledore, and wrong to blindly serve Fudge?” Percy seemed to sink under the weight of Arthur’s hand on his shoulder. “Because you had the courage and the cleverness to admit you were wrong. Few people have that kind of courage and cleverness. It’s rarer than you think.” Arthur pulled his prodigal son into a hug he couldn’t sink out of. “I wanted to admit I was wrong when the Ministry was overtaken, but I had to maintain my cover until the time was right to strike back.” Percy had his arms around Arthur as if Arthur was all that was holding him up, as if he never wanted to let go, feelings Arthur could understand as his found son was all that kept him upright and he never wanted to let his son go and risk losing him again. “I understand.” Arthur felt that at long last he did truly understand the child who had always mystified him the most. “You did the right thing.” “Fred is an inspiration to me.” Percy’s entire body shook with the emotions—grief, guilt, forgiveness, and hope—that hung between them with all the charge of a Muggle electrical wire. “When I die, I want people to say that I fought for what I believed in and lived my life to the fullest like he did. That’s my ultimate ambition now.” “All my children fight for what they believe in and live their lives to the fullest.” Arthur felt the ember glow that only his children could stir rise in his chest, warming him like a fire in the Burrow’s hearth. “That’s why I’m so proud of them.” After that, neither of them had anything more to say, so they just stood, arms wrapped around each other, in a graveyard over dirt and flowers, each one of them mourning what they had lost and treasuring what they had found.