"Look mum, look what I found!" Percy exclaimed, entering the house.
Molly Weasley turned around to look at her five year old son to find that not only was he tracking mud all across the kitchen as he ran up to her, but that he was also carrying what looked like an old filthy rag in his hands.
"Percy, put that down this instant!" she shrieked, reaching out to snatch it from him lest it infest him with some horrid disease.
Percy, ever obedient, but also shocked at the fact that she had yelled at him, dropped the object immediately. It instantly scurried toward the door, causing another shriek from Molly, who hadn't realized that the thing was alive.
Charlie, standing near the doorway, reached down and caught the creature as it tried to scurry past. "Ah, relax mum, it's just a rat," he soothed.
"Put it outside, Charlie," Molly instructed, still looking at the rat in disgust. In her arms, a twenty month old Ron squirmed, trying to get down to look at the rat in his brother's hands.
"Can we keep it, Mum? Please?" Percy begged, going over to Charlie's side.
At this plea, they all started; Ron crying, Percy begging, Charlie soothing her that it really was harmless, Bill asking why they would want a rat as a pet, and the twins, simply loving the chaos but not really understanding, running around shrieking.
With all the noise, an infant's cry coming from the other room could be heard.
"Okay! You can keep it! Just be quiet! You've woken Ginevra," she scolded.
Percy cheered and scooped the rat out of Charlie's hands while his mother went to get Ginny from the other room.
"Give it a bath and I'll see if your father has a cage in that shed of his," Molly instructed as she entered the room again, carrying baby Ginny, who was quiet, but still had tears stained on her face.
Percy, grinning wildly, rushed up the stairs; Charlie, Fred, and George following, with little Ron attempting to toddle after them.
"Well, what are you going to name it?" Arthur Weasley asked as Percy held up the cage to show his father the new pet that he had gained earlier that day. At the doorway to the kitchen, Molly stood, looking highly disapproving that there was a rat at the table, despite the fact that the boys had given him a bath and neatly smoothed out his fur, so the rat looked fairly handsome, if a rat could look handsome.
Percy looked a bit lost and he turned to study the rat carefully. "Um..." he murmured indecisively.
The other boys in the room shouted out suggestions to him, but Percy ignored them. He wanted to do this himself.
"I'll call him Scabbers," he finally answered.
"A fine name for a rat," Arthur commented, mostly to see his son beam in pride at his well chosen name.
"Look at this trick," Percy insisted of his brothers as he rushed into the room where Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, and Ron were all gathered.
They all looked over and Percy plopped Scabbers down on the table.
Percy held out his hand, which had a treat in it, and moved it in front of Scabbers nose. The rat instantly perked up.
Carefully, Percy lifted his hand and Scabbers followed, raising onto his hind legs. "And walk!" Percy cried, pulling the treat further in front of the rat.
Scabbers obeyed, following the treat and toddling along on his back two legs.
"Cool, Percy. Do another one!" Ron demanded, moving closer to the rat.
"That rat is strangely fast at learning tricks. It's almost as if he understands exactly what Percy is saying," Bill commented idly, watching as Percy prompted Scabbers to chase his tail in a circle.
"Hmm," Charlie agreed lightly with a nod.
Ginny, now five years old, giggled as Scabbers' soft fur rubbed up against her fingers, which were poked through the cage. Percy lay at her side, staring into the rat's cage as well. As was typical, Fred, George, and Ron were playing together, elsewhere, leaving their baby sister and older brother to occupy themselves. Charlie and Bill were at Hogwarts still, thus Ginny spent the time with Percy and Scabbers.
"Can I hold him, Percy?" Ginny asked.
Percy looked unsure, but then nodded. He unlatched the cage and pulled the rat out lightly and putting him in Ginny hands. Ginny made sure to keep a firm grip, so he didn't escape. Though the rat wasn't really one to make a run for it, as he was plenty comfortable and had stopped resisting as they coddled it, Percy was very protective of the animal and if Ginny accidentally dropped Scabbers on the floor Percy would surely throw her out of the room, and she wouldn't be able to play with Scabbers any more.
"Are you going to take him to Hogwarts?" Ginny asked, stroking Scabbers fondly.
"Of course. He's my pet," Percy replied.
"Mum!" wailed Percy, entering the kitchen where the majority of his family was sitting, eating lunch.
"What is it, Percy?" Molly asked, handing Ron another sandwich.
"I can't take Scabbers to Hogwarts with me," Percy complained, holding Scabbers in one hand and his Hogwarts letter in the other.
"Why ever not?" Molly asked, straightening up.
"Look. It says here," Percy looked at the letter, reciting, " 'Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad.' There's nothing on here about rats!"
"Nonsense. It won't harm anything for you to bring Scabbers," Molly reassured him.
"I know a boy in Hufflepuff who has a pair of rats. He takes them everywhere with him; likes to scare the girls," Bill commented.
"But rats aren't allowed," Percy cried.
"So? It isn't exactly a rule that they aren't. Besides, people break Hogwarts rules all the time. The rules are made to be broken," Charlie told him.
Percy glowered at Charlie and Bill. "I'm not going to break the rules! What if they expel me?"
Charlie scoffed, but at Molly's scolding look, turned back to his lunch.
"Would you like it if I owled Minerva and asked if it is okay if you were to bring a rat instead of a toad, cat, or owl?" Molly asked soothingly.
Percy thought about it a moment, then nodded. "Okay, that would be fine, I think,"
"And this is Scabbers, my pet rat," Percy announced, showing the two other boys in the compartment his pet.
"A rat?" one of the boys asked sceptical at how enthusiastic Percy was about the animal.
"He's a very good pet," Percy explained. "He's good at listening, and he can do tricks!"
"Oh. Well, I think I'm going to go find my brother," one of the boys replied, staring at Percy in alarm.
"My uncle had a ferret," the other boy offered, eyeing the rat cautiously. "I think I'm allergic, though." He too, scurried off, leaving Percy alone in the compartment with Scabbers, who looked up at him with his beady eyes.
"He's my only friend," Percy added softly, staring around at the suddenly empty compartment.
"Oh, Percy! You made prefect!" Molly screeched, pulling her son into a suffocating hug. Fred and George, looming in the background were making faces. Ron was too enthralled in his own letter to care about Percy's new position, but Ginny was studying the badge with curiosity.
"I'll buy you something. What do you want?" Molly asked, pulling back.
"Oh, I don't know," Percy replied, looking thoughtful.
"Mum, I don't have a pet," Ron pointed out, holding up his letter.
Molly looked between the two of them, then her eyes fell on Scabbers, who was snoozing on the table next to Percy's plate. He had become more and more lazy as the years went by.
"Ron, you've always been fond of Scabbers, haven't you? Why don't we buy Percy a new pet and you can have Scabbers?" Molly suggested.
Both boys looked at Scabbers.
"Well...I would like an owl," Percy obliged, though a bit sorrowfully. Scabbers had been his pet and friend for ten years, after all. "As long as Ron takes good care of him."
Ron made a face, but then nodded. "Might as well..."
Percy glanced over as Ron, Hermione, and Harry entered the common room and plopped themselves down in three of the chairs by the fireplace. Though they were only firsties, they always seemed to get the best chairs. Percy thought it might have to do something with Harry's celebrity status.
Percy watched as Ron pulled Scabbers out of his pocket and plopped him down on the table next to his chair.
Feeling suddenly possessive, Percy strode over to them, making Ron look up and groan.
"How's Scabbers?" Percy asked, picking up the rat and examining him.
"Just fine," Ron replied.
The rat was in a similar condition to the last time Percy had seen him. "He's getting old. You should take extra good care of him,"
"I know," Ron ground out, then reached back and snatched Scabbers back from Percy.
"He's my pet. I know how to take care of him, Percy,"
Percy stared at Ron in dismay, about to retort that Scabbers had been his pet long before it had been Ron's, but then he stopped himself. No need to argue.
"Right," Percy muttered, then walked away.
As he left them, he heard Hermione murmur, "Well I think it's sweet that he still cares for his old pet so much,"
Percy looked up as Ron suddenly stormed down the stairs from the boy's dorm into the common room. He was dragging a bed sheet with him and looked enraged.
Percy was just about to go up and ask what the matter was when Ron started shouting in coherently.
"Look! Look! Scabbers! Look! Scabbers!"
Harry and Hermione were looking bewildered, confused at what Ron was yelling at.
Percy stood and edged forward, determined to stop the racket that his brother was making.
Then, Ron shouted, "Blood! He's gone! And you know what was on the floor?"
Percy didn't see what Ron threw down into Hermione's book, but he did note the blood that stained the bed sheet and the words that Ron spoke and came to his own conclusion.
Scabbers was dead. The beloved rat he had found as a five year old boy and had kept as a pet for many years was dead, killed presumably by Hermione's cat, which had been after him all year.
Percy didn't know exactly what to feel, but he had stopped in his tracks, suddenly willing to let Ron yell at Hermione for this. Scabbers was dead.
Percy still remembered clearly how Scabbers had been his lifeline when he had first arrived at Hogwarts. It had taken him ages before he had managed to befriend anyone.
"Get over it, Percy. He hasn't been your pet for five years. He was just a rat," Percy told himself, though he could hardly convince himself, then moved forward again, to stop the yelling that was disturbing the peace in the common room.