Author's Note: This is also part of my story, To Heal, which is about our beloved characters after the war, but I tthink it can stand alone, in case you don't want to read the longer story. Please let me know what you think!
An Ocean of Guilt
As Percy Weasley held his little brother in his arms after their father had finally pried Fred from George's grip and taken him to the chamber off the Great Hall where the dead were being laid, he was completely smothered in guilt. The sound of George's screams and sobs assaulted his ears, and he hugged him even tighter, wanting nothing more than to take his debilitating pain away.
God, Percy, you've been such a fool, and so, so stupid, he thought savagely. He had left his family, abandoned them when they needed him most, and the fact that he had realized his error and come back to them did not lessen the guilt at all. His pride had gotten the better of him, even when he'd learned that Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore had been speaking the truth about Voldemort's return the whole time.
Yes, he had to admit that in the beginning, he hadn't believed them at all. He remembered the night of the third task, when Harry had returned from the maze clutching Cedric's body and sobbing, "He's back! He's back! Cedric ... I couldn't leave him there ..."
Percy had at first thought that he was mad. He hadn't trusted Harry from the first moment he met him. From his perspective, Harry had led Ron and Ginny into more trouble than they could afford to be in. What made it worse was that his parents practically worshiped the ground he walked on, and found no problem in almost adopting him. Percy thought they were blind, not seeing that the boy would eventually get a member of their family killed.
But over the past little while, especially the past year, his mind had changed about Harry. He came to see that Harry had been doing the right thing, to fight the evil in the world. He came to be proud of his family instead of resenting them for following Harry, knowing deep down that they were trying to battle the injustices of society. He came to understand that Harry was not forcing them to go along with him; as a matter of fact, he was just as wary of them fighting with him as Percy had been, if not more. Being involved with the Ministry this past year had taught Percy that if good men did nothing, evil would most definitely flourish.
And even now, when fighting with Harry had resulted in a terrible outcome for the Weasley family, Percy still did not blame him. Instead, he blamed himself ... if only he hadn't distracted Fred by telling a joke! Fred and George had always teased and taunted Percy for being so serious all the time, and the one time he'd tried to please Fred by smiling and goofing off, it resulted in his little brother dead in his arms. Oh, the irony.
He thought of the utter devastation on Harry's face after it had happened, and felt even more guilt squeeze his heart. He knew the young man was blaming himself, knew he had been thrust into a position he didn't want to be in, and Percy felt sick to know that a few years ago, he would have blamed Harry as well. What kind of person does that make me? he thought to himself.
It also broke his heart to know that he'd had Fred's forgiveness before he died. This fact might have made another person feel better, but not Percy. Instead, it made him feel worse, because he felt he didn't deserve Fred's forgiveness.
Percy continued to cry as he still held a wailing George in his arms. "Oh, Georgie," he crooned as he rubbed his little brother's back in comfort. "Oh, Georgie, I'm so, so sorry."
"Perce," George howled as his entire body shook. "Oh, Perce, what am I supposed to do now? I can't do this without him ... Perce ... help me!"
Never, in his entire life, had George ever asked Percy for help, which showed him just how broken the young man was. Another tidal wave of grief swept over Percy, and he rocked George back and forth, his hands reaching up and stroking his hair.
"I'm never leaving you again," he said softly through his sobs. "I promise you, George, I'm going to be here from now on. We'll be okay, George, I promise."
Percy felt another arm squeeze his shoulder, and he turned his sopping wet face and saw his father. Guilt seized him again - he had been so horrible to the man standing before him. Granted, Arthur had not been nice to him either; they'd both cast low blows during their big argument, but Percy knew he was the one who really needed to apologize. "I'm so sorry, Dad," he whispered. "I'm so, so sorry."
"You're home now, son," Arthur said, his own face wet. "You're home now, and that's all that matters."
This only made the tears come faster, and Percy fiercely embraced his father on one side, keeping George on the other. The three held each other close, carried on the waves of grief which didn't seem to be letting up at all.
Finally, Arthur said, "Fred ... Fred is in the chamber now. He's lying next to Remus and Tonks."
"Freddie ..." George moaned, his shoulders still shaking. "Freddie ..."
"I know, son," Arthur soothed. "I know."
And as the embrace continued, Percy knew he would have to battle this guilt for a long, long time. He knew his family would be there for him through it all ... they had proved to him time and time again that they were strong ... but Percy honestly didn't know whether he could be like them. He didn't know whether he would be strong enough to survive the fallout from the war. But he vowed to himself that he would do all he could to help them fight their demons, because after all, he was never, ever leaving them again. Never.