There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire. But the funniest thing of all – can you hear him laughing about it now, in harsh and bitter tones? – was that he thought he knew what that meant.
Percy Weasley is ambitious, they said. Percy Weasley is intelligent, they said. Percy Weasley will go on to do great things, they said. And they were right; and he knew they were right. He moved through life fueled on the words and praise of them, that faceless mass that both plants and uproots the stuff of dreams. He thought that it was all he needed to get by.
There was something that marked him from the first, not in any physical sense, but he knew. For him, his path had been carved from birth: A small, sun-haired child cradled in the arms of a mother who had cradled others before him. Bill had been successful; Charlie, equally so in his own way.
Eyes were turned to the third brother to see what he might make of himself, asking questions in silence: What is your Heart’s Desire, Percy Weasley? Will you rise like your brothers, or will you fall alongside the everyman?
He challenged himself, and he won his challenges. No responsibility was too great to be thrust upon his shoulders, but always he was conscious of the footprints in the path he was destined to walk (this is where Bill stepped before you; this marks what Charlie has already done; you are not unique, Percy, you are not different).
Fred and George and Ron and Ginny – look how easily the names rise to his lips now, when before they choked his breath at the mere thought! – would not, could not, listen to him like he deserved to be listened to. They were never as serious as he was; he was the middleman, firmly planted between the great, and the ordinary.
I am ambitious, he said. I am intelligent, he said. I will do great things, he said. (This is your Heart’s Desire, Percy! Make something of yourself, man!) And so, one foot out the door already, he set out left, when everyone, everyone, everyone had gone right.
Family fell by the wayside (you don’t need them, Percy – they are stones in your pockets, dead weight, cast them off). His ladder to the stars had descended, and already his foot was testing the weight of the bottommost rung.
The eyes that watched him asked a different question when he took the time to listen: It’s a funny thing about that ladder, isn’t it, how it’s built with the bones of the innocent? Will you stop and think for a minute, cease your thoughtless abandonment, before the world abandons you?
He stopped taking the time to listen.
And so this ambitious and intelligent boy became a power-hungry and cunning man whilst he turned away from the eyes of the ones who loved him most. He climbed his ladder – feel still how heavy the burden on his shoulders became! – and all the while those stars at the top blinded him with falsehoods and lies: Your father is a liar, Potter is a liar, Dumbledore is a liar. Liar, liar, liar. Poisoned words through tainted lips, and yet, slowly, he came to believe them.
By the time he realized he was wrong (this is not your Heart’s Desire, Percy, repent, repent!), it was far too late. The ladder crumbled beneath his world-weary feet, and the stars were not stars anymore, but stardust, remnants of former glory. Nothing but ash now, the whimper of the world’s end! (You are dust, Percy, dust.)
He failed them all just when he had returned to them – a noise like thunder, the dangerous sway of the earth, rocked from its axis. And Fred, who he’d always believed to have stood in the way, gone. Just gone.
This was not his Heart’s Desire, was it? A family crushed, a life destroyed, all his goals corrupted by politics and lies and his stubborn refusal to see either? No. No one would desire that. (All along, Percy, all you ever needed was the ones you left behind. Your Heart’s Desire was to keep them whole.)
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire. And by setting out to gain it – it vanished.
A/N: Whew! I wrote this entire one-shot in one sitting, almost immediately after being given the requirements for this challenge -- I’d been meaning to write a Percy one-shot for a while, in fact, and the challenge assignation fit beautifully with what I’d had in mind. I’m really, really pleased with the way it turned out, too -- I feel sort of like this is a continuation of the stylistic experimentations I’ve been making in my one-shots lately. It’s a lot of fun to do. As a very quick explanation -- the lines inside the parentheses are meant to represent Percy’s rather fallible conscience.
The title and first line of this story come from Neil Gaiman’s book Stardust, and the reference to the whimpering of the world is a nod to poet T.S. Eliot; I can claim credit for neither of these things. Further inspirational credit is owed to Aiedail’s one-shot Bereft, WitnesstoitAll’s story Pretty How Town, and Mumford and Sons’s song “Timshel” (in turn inspired by John Steinbeck’s East of Eden). And, of course, to starryskies55 for coming up with the challenge! Thank you all for reading!