"When Percy Met Audrey" is now longer than my Master's Thesis was, LOL and has been easier and more fun to write. ;)
The next evening, Percy locked his office door, left the Ministry, and apparated to the Longbottom residence. He had barely finished knocking when the door opened, and Percy saw, not Neville, but Augusta Longbottom.
“Come in quickly, boy. Don’t linger outside too long.” She took his arm and pulled him into the house, locking and charming the door behind him. “Come into the parlor and sit down. Read this. It will probably explain everything.” Mrs. Longbottom handed him an envelope as she guided him to a chair. “We’ll have tea when you are finished.”
Percy was more confused than ever as he looked at the envelope. It wasn’t parchment—just a plain, white envelope. He opened it, removing the letter inside. It seemed to be quite long and was written on butterfly stationery. What?! Percy quickly shuffled to the last page. It was from Audrey! Percy went back to the beginning and began to read.
After our wonderful weekend together, I came to work Monday and walked into a nightmare. Dolores Umbridge was waiting for me outside the Ministry entrance. She said I was fired, the Muggle Liaison Office had been closed, and she would be confiscating my wand as part of the investigation into the murder of Minister Scrimgeour. Well, you know my feelings on Dolores Umbridge. I started to question her, but she said there was evidence of Muggleborn involvement in the Minister’s murder. All offices dealing with Muggles in any way were being closed, all Muggleborns working for the Ministry were being asked to surrender their wands as part of the investigation into the murder, and all Muggleborns were out of jobs until the investigation was completed and “the full extent of the Muggleborn conspiracy came to light.” I thought she was awful during my seventh year at Hogwarts, but this was far worse. She gave me a questionnaire to complete, and told me to go home and wait until I was called for a hearing to determine if I had any part in the conspiracy. Percy, she practically accused me of murdering the Minister of Magic! I gave her my wand and left the Ministry, just like she told me to.
Being completely comfortable in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds can be a very good thing. I walked back to my flat, let myself in with my Muggle key, picked up my extra wand, and apparated straight to Aunt Gussie’s. I don’t know what I would have done without my extra wand.
When Nanny turned 17, Gringotts called her in to pick up something that had been left for her in a will. Apparently, Nanny had an ancestor who was a witch, and she had left several things for the next witch or wizard in the family—including her wand. Nanny was the next witch in the family, but she had already purchased a wand from Mr. Ollivander before she ever saw the box. The wand didn’t work very well for her, so she was glad to have her own. She let me try the wand when I turned 11, and it works for me, but Nanny suggested I still get my own wand, and have an extra. I’m so glad she suggested it!
I’m sorry to be rambling, Percy, but so much has happened in such a short time. I told Aunt Gussie what had happened, and she thought it best if I go stay with Nanny for a while. She came back with me to my flat and helped me shrink and pack everything, and turn in my key to my landlord. Then she went with me to my parents’ house to try to convince them to come to Nanny’s as well, but they wouldn’t. They got angry at me for “magic messing up their lives again”. I know I haven’t gotten on very well with them in a long time, but they are my parents! I don’t want them to be hurt, but I couldn’t make them come with me. Aunt Gussie put up wards at their home and my dad’s office and my mum’s shop, and said she’d keep an eye on them and do her best to keep them safe. I guess it’s all we can do without their cooperation.
I didn’t want to leave without seeing you, but Aunt Gussie said it wouldn’t be safe. She helped Muggleborns escape from You-Know-Who in the First War, and sent them to Nanny who helped them get settled or found them temporary housing, often with her and Uncle Ed. Aunt Gussie wanted to keep me safe and insisted I leave. She looked at the questionnaire Umbridge gave me, and it has nothing to do with a murder investigation. It’s all about my being Muggleborn. I’m supposed to have a hearing in front of the new Muggleborn Registration Commission. Apparently ALL Muggleborns have to go before this “Commission”. I think the murder investigation is just an excuse to get rid of Muggleborns. You-Know-Who must be behind this somehow.
Percy, I believe good is going to triumph over evil, and You-Know-Who will be stopped. I don’t know how that’s going to happen, or how long it will take, but it WILL happen. And when he is stopped, the Wizarding world will be safe for Muggleborns again, and I will come back. I wanted to ask you to come with me, but Aunt Gussie said You-Know-Who might target your family if you disappeared. I would never want that to happen. If we have to be apart for awhile to keep our families safe, then so be it. Aunt Gussie and Cos promised me they would find a safe way to contact you. I will miss you terribly, Percy, and I will be thinking of you every minute. I will be safe with Nanny, so don’t worry about me. Please keep yourself safe, Percy. I know how Gryffindors are. I want to have you alive and well, so I can come back to you. I love you.
Percy had to read through the letter several times to take it all in. He breathed a huge sigh of relief that Audrey was safe. And he now understood Neville’s strange letter. He looked up and saw Mrs. Longbottom watching him from across the room. Percy couldn’t speak. He thought if he did he might start crying. It’d been one hell of a week. He tried to speak anyway, but only managed to open and close his mouth a few times. Mrs. Longbottom looked at him with more compassion than Percy thought her stern face could manage. She walked over to him, patted him on the shoulder, and Percy couldn’t contain himself any more. He didn’t care that he was losing any shred of dignity he had as he put his face into his hands and sobbed.
Percy really didn’t know how long he had been crying. At some point either Neville or Mrs. Longbottom had handed him a handkerchief. As he collected himself, Percy became aware that Mrs. Longbottom was standing behind him patting his shoulder. Percy felt embarrassed—he couldn’t even remember the last time he had cried. He cleared his throat to apologize, but before he could say anything, Mrs. Longbottom said,
“Now don’t you worry about a thing, lad. There’s a loo just around the corner where you can freshen up. Neville has tea set out for whenever you are ready.”
Percy nodded and went where Mrs. Longbottom directed. He took a very long time washing his face, but finally decided he couldn’t avoid the Longbottoms any more. He really had to break his habit of hiding in loos.
Percy actually enjoyed his meal with the Longbottoms. They kept the conversation to innocuous topics. With a full stomach and his third cup of tea in hand, Percy felt emboldened enough to ask the question that was burning within him.
“Mrs. Longbottom . . .”
“Oh, please, Percy. Audrey is family . . .” Augusta gave Percy a shrewd look, “and from the looks of things, you will be, too, someday.” Percy blushed, but did not deny it. “Call me Aunt Gussie.”
Percy could not imagine calling this stern woman “Aunt Gussie” but thought he better do as he was told. “Well, then. Aunt Gussie, I was wondering if there would be a way for me to get a letter to Audrey. And maybe send her birthday present, as well.”
“Communication isn’t really safe since all forms of it can be monitored, but I have some Muggleborn neighbors who will be heading to Lucy’s tomorrow, so you may send a note with them if you like.”
“I’m sorry, but who is Lucy?” Augusta looked at Percy as if he were being quite thick.
“Lucy is my friend and Audrey’s great-aunt.”
“Oh! I didn’t know her name before! Audrey calls her Nanny.” Augusta’s expression visibly softened.
“That’s right. I always forget Audrey doesn’t call her ‘Aunt Lucy’ like Neville does.”
“I’ll just need to go home quickly to get Audrey’s birthday present.”
Augusta tapped Percy with her wand. “You can get through the wards now, so you may apparate straight here. No need to stop at the front door. And that goes for when you come over in the future as well.”
“Thank you, Aunt Gussie.” Percy disappeared with a pop.
Percy went straight to his nightstand and pulled the wrapped package out of the top drawer. He ran to his desk for an envelope, some parchment, and his favorite quill. Twoey bounced excitedly at seeing Percy.
“This is just a quick trip, Twoey. We’ll play when I get home.” Percy apparated back to the Longbottoms.
He appeared with a pop, and Aunt Gussie offered him her writing desk. Percy thanked her and began his letter to Audrey.
I am so relieved you are safe. I was terrified when I went to the ministry Monday morning, and you weren’t there . . .
Percy wrote everything that had happened since he had last seen Audrey. He omitted the bit about buying her an engagement ring. He realized he should have brought the VAPP with him and just copied it, but he didn’t care. He told her about Bill’s wedding gift, that he now couldn’t send, and the toilet entrance, the “hearings”, all about Twoey and looking at the WWW catalogue, and the strange letter from Neville . . .
I really hope you like your birthday present. I saw it after I bought Bill’s gift and immediately thought of you. I am going to carry your letter with me until we can see each other again. . .
Percy did not mention he was going to be carrying her engagement ring as well.
I will do my best to stay safe. I’m hoping I can see my Dad in the hallway and ask how everyone is, but I haven’t seen him at all this week. Aunt Gussie invited me to come over again, so at least I will have someone to talk to from time to time (other than Hermes and Twoey, of course.) I really miss you. I never realized how boring I am until you came around and taught me how to have fun. I hope our time apart will be as short as possible. I’m going to see if I can help that along, without putting myself in danger. (I’m not really much of a Gryffindor, so don’t worry.) I want to stay alive and well so you can come back to me. I want you to come back to me right this second, actually, but I know that wouldn’t be safe. And I want you to stay safe so that when you are back we can be together forever. I love you.
All my love,
It was quite late when Percy finished his letter. Neville and Aunt Gussie were both reading in the sitting room.
“I finished the letter. Thank you so much for getting it to Audrey.”
“Not at all.” Aunt Gussie smiled at him. “Why don’t you come for Sunday dinner?”
“Thank you. I’d like that, but won’t it make people suspicious?”
“Gran fixed it so you can apparate straight here, so probably no one will know. But if anyone says anything just tell them you are strengthening social ties with an ancient Pureblood family.”
Percy gaped at Neville. There was no sign of the shy, clumsy child he had once been.
Augusta laughed. “My grandson gets smarter every day.” Neville beamed. Percy accepted the invitation for Sunday and apparated back to his flat.