I think this might be the longest chapter yet. At very least it's the longest in quite a while. ;)
Percy stared at the framed photograph of Audrey in her dress robes, his Christmas present from Neville. This had to be the best Christmas present ever! Audrey had taken some photographs (and had others take photographs) with her Muggle camera, but the photographs had not been developed before she had to flee the country. Percy wondered if Audrey had developed the photographs and was now at her Aunt Lucy’s looking at a photograph of him . . .
Percy shuffled through the stack of other photos that Neville had given him. They were all from the Yule Ball. Neville had framed the only one where Audrey was by herself. Percy knew Neville had gone to the Yule Ball with Ginny—he’d talked to his little sister that evening. But until Neville gave Percy his Christmas present, he had not known that Neville and Ginny had shared a table with Eloise Midgen and Colin Creevey, and Audrey and The Bloody Wanker (as Percy had come to refer to Audrey’s ex-fiancé in his head).
Percy remembered Colin Creevey as the tiny little second year who constantly followed Harry around with a camera, but Colin had apparently become quite a photographer. There was a picture of Neville and Ginny; one of each of them alone (Percy thought he might frame the one of Ginny—it was really good); a picture of the champions with their partners (Percy had been very surprised to see Hermione with Viktor Krum instead of Ron, but she looked lovely); a picture of the judges, which included himself; one of Neville and Ginny dancing, with Fred and Angelina dancing in the background; Ginny dancing with George, and Neville dancing with Eloise Midgen; and one of Ron alone at a table, arms folded across his chest, glowering. Percy now had pictures of his younger siblings, as well as his girlfriend, and closest friend. Percy used a sticking charm to affix all of the photographs to the wall above his desk. He was very amused by photograph Ron’s seeming to aim his glower at photograph Krum.
Percy had been invited to attend the E.W.W.W.’s New Year's Eve party with Aunt Gussie and Neville, but had declined. With all of the dueling practice they had the last several days, Percy was behind on “talking” to Audrey with the VAPP. He’d caught up, tidied his flat, played with Twoey and Hermes (Hermes had since gone out to hunt, while Twoey slept on Percy’s shoulder), and now had arranged the photographs Neville had given him.
As Percy was looking at all of the photographs now on the wall over his desk, he noticed how much fun Neville and Ginny had seemed to be having and smiled. Then he pondered all the questions Neville had been asking him about talking to Hannah Abbott and asking her out. He hadn’t seemed to have any problem asking Ginny for a date. Percy would have to remember to ask him.
Percy knew Neville should be over soon. He always took Aunt Gussie to the E.W.W.W. party, but it never lasted very long. They usually rang in the New Year at 10 P.M. so they could get to bed early. After all, it was midnight somewhere. Aunt Gussie had entrusted Percy with her wireless for the evening, just in case there was an episode of “Potterwatch”. She had cast some complicated communication spell on the wireless so it would locate the episodes without someone’s having to constantly tune the wireless with their wand. She had tried explaining it to Percy, but even with arithmancy having been his best subject, he couldn’t follow how it worked. Aunt Gussie truly was brilliant.
“Hi Perce.” Percy turned to see that Neville had apparated in.
“Hi. How was the party?”
“Same as always, but at least it’s short.” Neville glanced at the wall above Percy’s desk and walked over to examine the newly hung pictures.
“Thank you for the pictures Neville. I didn’t have any before.” Neville grinned and shrugged. “Well, I guess I still have one of Penelope somewhere—I never threw it away, but I don’t know where that one is.” Percy glanced back at the photographs for a moment. “I meant to ask you, Neville, you asked Ginny to go on a date with you, so why the worry about Hannah?”
Neville blushed. “Well, I . . .Er . . .practiced with Audrey before I asked anybody.”
“Well, yes. Audrey helped me decide who to ask, and then I practiced asking her. I actually asked Hermione first, but she already had a partner for the Ball.”
“I was really surprised to see Hermione there with Viktor Krum.”
“I knew she was going with him, but I was surprised Ron didn’t ask her first. Maybe he didn’t get a chance. Hermione said she and Viktor had been talking in the library quite a bit, and he only waited a few days after the Ball was announced to ask.”
“Has Ron gotten his head out of his arse yet?”
Neville laughed. “I don’t think so. He went out with Lavender for a good part of our sixth year.”
“Lavender Brown?! How did that happen?”
“I don’t really know . . . but they had a spectacular row when Lavender ditched him.”
“Hopefully Ron will cotton on soon to what everyone else has known for years.” Neville laughed. “So Audrey suggested your going with Ginny? I didn’t know Audrey had ever met Ginny until I saw the pictures you gave me from the Yule Ball.”
“She didn’t know Ginny. She asked me if I knew any third years, and suggested asking one because they wouldn’t be able to go to the Ball unless an older student asked. So I was friends with Ginny and asked her to go as a friend.”
Percy nodded. “So, that explains why it’s different with Hannah.”
Neville nodded. Percy gestured to the bottle of whiskey and glasses that he had set out earlier, and Neville nodded again. Percy poured and they both sat down on the sofa with their drinks.
“So have you had a chance to read the book?”
“Yes. I think it will be very helpful.”
“It was for me, especially with Penelope. First girlfriends are always more difficult. I had a much easier time asking Audrey to go out with me than I did with Penelope.” Percy became thoughtful for a moment. “So if Hannah will be your first girlfriend, does that mean that you haven’t kissed a girl yet?” Percy knew he was fishing, but didn’t think Neville would mind much.
Neville blushed, and Percy knew he had guessed correctly. Even if he followed the rules, he was a Weasley, after all.
Neville stammered a bit, “Are you going to hit me if I admit to kissing your little sister?”
Percy laughed. “No, that’s more of a Charlie or Ron type of activity. They’re the over-protective ones of us. So, Yule Ball, then?”
“Yes. Ginny and I had a lovely evening, and when we walked back to Gryffindor Tower, Ginny pulled me off to one side and suggested we get our first kisses out of the way with a good friend, so when we had the opportunity with someone who was more than a friend, we wouldn’t be as nervous.”
Percy laughed again. “That sounds like Ginny. Merlin, she could have been a Slytherin.”
“That’s exactly what Audrey said!”
Percy laughed, but looked wistful, “Great minds think alike, I suppose.”
“I’m sorry, Percy. I won’t keep bringing up Audrey if it’s painful for you.”
“No, I like to talk about Audrey. It reminds me that she’s real and not just a lovely dream. So . . . Ginny. Anyone else?”
Neville looked surprised at the abrupt topic change, but allowed it. And blushed again. “Well, last year, Luna had the same idea as Ginny. Ginny might have suggested it to her, I don’t know. Luna and I snogged on a few occasions. She’s a Ravenclaw and was very intent on learning all she could so she’d be ready “when the time came.” I don’t really know what that meant, but she said we had to stop snogging because I fancied Hannah, and it wouldn’t be right.”
“So you told Luna about fancying Hannah?”
“No. Luna told me I fancied Hannah. She was right, but I hadn’t known it yet.”
Percy nodded. “Girls always seem to know these things before we do. Ginny was the first to know I was going out with Penelope. Of course, she walked in on us snogging, so that might have given her a clue.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time when Ginny kissed Luna?”
“Percy! I don’t need the image in my head of the two girls I’ve kissed, kissing each other! Bloody Hell!”
Percy laughed. “I think they were five-years-old, so get your mind out of the cellar.” Percy rolled his eyes. “Luna had come over to the Burrow to play with Ginny, and Ginny, of course, wanted to play ‘wedding’ which was her favorite game. Ginny was the bride, Luna was the groom—Harry Potter, who else?—Fred and George were the bridesmaids, Ron was the best man, and I was the Ministry official who performed the ceremony. When I said, ‘You may now kiss the bride’ Luna and Ginny actually kissed, rather than pretending, like we all did when any of us had to play the groom. Ron had a fit about how disgusting that was, Fred and George were laughing, I was amused at the cuteness of my little sister, Mum thought it was sweet—she came in to see why Ron was making so much noise. Mum actually has a picture of Fred and George on either side of Luna kissing her on the cheek. She has quite a few pictures of that day, because Ginny elected Mum as the wedding photographer once she had finished what she was doing and come to check on us.”
“It sounds like all of you had fun together as children.”
Percy looked thoughtful. “We did sometimes. We always had fun playing Quidditch together, but I preferred reading to being outside. All of us adored Ginny and would pretty much do whatever she wanted, except let her play Quidditch until Mum said she was old enough.”
Neville began to say something, but Percy stopped him.
“Yes, we all know that Ginny was picking the lock on the broomshed and flying by herself. Fred and George taught her to pick locks, and I saw her sneaking around, but never told on her. I usually just told on Fred and George because they were always pranking me more than anyone else and trying to prevent me from being alone to read like I wanted to.”
The wireless began to make strange noises and Neville tapped it with his wand and said “Kingsley Shacklebolt”. Nothing happened so he tapped it again and said “1998”. The wireless crackled into life.
“Welcome to a special New Year’s Eve edition of Potterwatch. We have some breaking news! I’m sure the Death Eaters do not want us to know as nothing has been mentioned in the prophet over the past couple of days, but we have a number of Potterwatch correspondents keeping their eyes and ears open to bring you the truth! Death Eaters at the Ministry received a letter from Xenophilius Lovegood stating that he was holding Harry Potter at his home and would keep him there until Death Eaters could come to arrest him.”
“NO!” Neville shrieked. Percy gripped his shoulder bracingly.
“When the Death Eaters arrived, Mr. Lovegood informed them that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley were upstairs, and then the house exploded, covering Mr. Lovegood and the Ministry Death Eaters in rubble. In the midst of the explosion, the Death Eaters saw Harry Potter and Hermione Granger fall through the ceiling and apparate in mid-air. There was no evidence of any involvement by Ron Weasley, who is, as far as we here at Potterwatch are aware, still at home recovering from a nasty bout of spattergroit. Correspondent Royal, do you have any information to add?”
Percy breathed a sigh of relief that Ron was safe at home. He shook his head that the state of the Wizarding world was such that being sick in bed with a potentially fatal illness qualified as ‘safe’.
“Yes, River. Xenophilius Lovegood was taken into custody by the Death Eaters, but has no memory of Harry Potter or anyone else being in his home and no memory of having contacted the Ministry. Apparently, the explosion—whatever the cause, it is still unknown—must have caused Xenophilius’ memory loss. He is currently being held in Azkaban for giving false information to the authorities.”
“I would say ‘poor bloke’ except he tried to hand Harry over to You-Know-Who.”
“I would hypothesize that Xenophilius detained Harry in order to use him as a bargaining chip to rescue his daughter from captivity. It is still unknown where the Death Eaters are holding Luna Lovegood, whom they kidnapped from the Hogwarts Express a couple of weeks ago. We do not know why Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were at the Lovegood home.”
“Well, they were friends with Luna. Maybe they didn’t know she had been kidnapped and went for a visit?”
“I find it unlikely that the two most wanted people in the country would just pop in for a chat at a friend’s house.”
“True, that. But even though we do not have details of this event, we do know Luna Lovegood is still being held at an unknown location; Xenophilius Lovegood is in Azkaban; the Lovegood home is in ruins, as is the office of ‘The Quibbler’; and most importantly, we have confirmation that Hermione Granger is travelling with Harry Potter. With the cleverest witch of her age helping him, Harry will be even more likely to defeat The Dark Tosser.”
“Well said, River. I will let our listeners in on a secret. The last time I saw Dumbledore, he said to me, ‘Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him.’ I couldn’t agree more, Albus, I couldn’t agree more.”
“Thank you, Royal, for sharing those inspirational words from a fallen hero. I wholeheartedly agree! I would only add what I have learned from the events at the Lovegood home. Death Eaters can never be trusted. If the Death Eaters promise the return of your loved ones, do not make deals with them. Do not give them information about Harry. Remember what happened to Xenophilius, and help Harry Potter, not You-Know-Who.
And now, Listeners, I bring you another segment from Pals of Potter with correspondent Re’em.”
Percy snorted. He was certain he knew who was about to speak. Neville just looked at him in confusion.
“Re’em, you’re up.”
“Wha? Oh, Re’em! Tha’s me. Righ’. ‘Arry? ‘Arry, if yer listenin’ I jus’ want yer to know tha’ I support yer all the way! Yer’ve been in so many scrapes, and yer’ve got through ‘em before. Yer’ll get through this time, too. Yer jus’ like yer parents ‘Arry with Lily’s heart and James’ head. They’d be right proud of yer, ‘Arry and so’m I. Dumbledore’d be proud, too. Great man, Dumbledore. Great man.”
Percy heard an audible sniff, as River began speaking again.
“Thank you, Re’em. And now to all of our Potterwatch listeners, may 1998 be the year that Harry Potter defeats Old Moldyshorts once and for all! Let us toast the year in which the Wizarding world will be returned to normal by the Man-Who-Lived.”
Percy poured two more shots and gave one to Neville.
Neville lifted his glass and said, “To Harry!”
Percy replied, “To Harry!” And they both downed their shots.
“And speaking of 1998, here it comes! Ten! Nine! Eight! . . .”
Percy and Neville joined Lee, Kingsley, and Hagrid in the countdown.
“Three! Two! One! Happy New Year, Listeners!”
Percy and Neville joined the chorus of “Happy New Years” and sang along as Lee started “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind . . .”
Percy heard noise outside, and when he looked out his window, there were fireworks. He gestured for Neville to come, too, and together they watched a sparkly lion eating a snake, a red dragon chasing a white faced man, a phoenix rising from the ashes and crushing a skull beneath its foot, and Catherine wheels galore chasing everything.
Neville turned to Percy and asked, “Fred and George?”
Percy nodded. “No doubt about it. Fred and George."
As the Potterwatch participants continued singing on the wireless and the fireworks were still popping outside the window, Neville asked Percy, "Why did you laugh that Hagrid was called Re'em?"
"Re’em are extremely rare giant oxen with golden hides. Re’em blood gives the drinker immense strength, according to 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'. I just thought it was a highly appropriate moniker for Hagrid."
"Oh. Happy New Year, Percy."
"Happy New Year, Neville."
The singing on the wireless stopped and together Lee, Hagrid, and Kingsley said, "Happy New Year Potterwatch Listeners! Happy New Year Harry and Hermione, wherever you are!" Then the wireless faded into silence. Neville and Percy remained at the window, not speaking, just watching Fred and George's fireworks display.
A/N 2: The idea for Eloise/Colin came from Arabella and Zsenya's "After the End", the first piece of fan-fiction I ever read. That lovely story got me hooked, and I am still around. ;)