Percy stood in the loo washing his face with cold water for the fourth time in ten minutes. Aargh! A three hour meeting! And he’d made a glaring error in his budget. He couldn’t believe it! He had checked, and double-checked, and triple-checked and still made a mistake? And why did Roland, of all people, have to find it? He couldn’t stand Roland! The pompous, arrogant prat.
And the owl he’d received. Bill was getting married? He hadn’t even known that Bill had a girlfriend. Which was his own fault, when he thought about it. Could he possibly go to the wedding? Bill had invited him, so he must not hate him. But most of his siblings DID hate him. What if Fred and George threw food at him again or made a scene? It would ruin Bill’s wedding, and then Bill would hate him, too. Maybe he could skip the wedding, but send Bill a present and an explanatory owl afterwards? He had time to decide, and he couldn’t hide all afternoon.
Percy finally left the loo, and as he walked down the hallway, he heard his father’s voice. He just could not face his father today after everything else. Percy ducked into an alcove and flattened himself against the back of the statue of Wendell the Wide. He heard his father and the person to whom he was speaking pass, and Percy breathed a sigh of relief. He peeked out around the statue, did not see anyone, and left the alcove. He thought he was free and clear until he heard an amused voice behind him,
“Hide here often?” Percy whirled around to face the voice, tripped, and landed with a thud on his arse. He found himself looking up at quite a lovely witch. She was wearing elegant, burgundy business robes with embroidery around the sleeves and neck. Her light brown hair was piled on her head with some type of clip from which many strands were escaping. But her eyes really captured Percy’s attention. He couldn’t really tell what color they were, bluish-green? Greenish-blue? Maybe her glasses were distorting them.
“I’m sorry, Percy, I didn’t mean to startle you. Let me help you up.” She reached out her hand to him.
Percy, realizing he had been staring, took her hand and stood up. It wouldn’t do to be seen sitting on the floor of the ministry. Then he had a sudden realization. “How do you know my name?”
“I was two years behind you at Hogwarts in Hufflepuff, and since you were Head Boy, everyone knows your name. I’m Audrey, by the way, and I know a much better place to hide if you want to take a break and come with me.”
Percy blushed at having been caught hiding, but nodded to Audrey’s suggestion. She was still holding his hand. Percy looked down at their joined hands as they walked down the hallway. The embroidered trim on her robes was hundreds of interlinked butterflies.
They arrived at the apparition site for the ministry, and with barely any warning, Audrey said, “Hang on!” and side-along apparated him away.
They landed in an alley Percy didn’t recognize. Audrey waved her wand over herself, and her robes transfigured into jeans and a white blouse covered in blue and pink butterflies. She smiled at Percy, waved her wand at him, and he was wearing the exact same thing.
“Oops! That won’t do!” Audrey waved her wand again, and Percy’s blouse changed from white to blue, but was now covered with little frogs.
“Drat! One more try.” Audrey waved her wand a third time and the frogs vanished, leaving a plain blue . . . blouse.
“There we go!” Audrey began to walk away, but Percy pulled her back.
“Er . . . I’m still wearing a woman’s blouse.”
“Oh, you’re right! I’m sorry, Percy, I haven’t transfigured clothes for a man before.”
“Not a problem.” Percy waved his own wand this time and turned his blouse into a man’s button down shirt. “Now we’re ready. Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” And with that Audrey pulled Percy out of the alley and around the corner to a place called Starbuck’s. As they entered, she said, “I almost always order the same thing. Would you like my usual or do you want to pick something for yourself? I’m buying, by the way.”
“Whatever you’re having is fine.” When he heard Audrey order, he was relieved he hadn’t tried to do it himself. It sounded like she was speaking a different language! After ordering and paying (for which Percy was very glad, since he didn’t have any Muggle money), Audrey guided him to where their drinks would be served. She was walking a little in front of him, and Percy noticed that she had a pink butterfly embroidered on the back pocket of her jeans. Cute. She also had a rather nice bum.
Audrey picked up both of their drinks, and told Percy to choose their table. They sat down, Audrey handed him a cold, frothy thing, and she leaned towards him to whisper, “Percy, I hate to have to tell you this, but I messed up more of the spell than I thought.” Percy was confused, but Audrey continued in a whisper, “You have a pink butterfly on your bum.”
“Oh, to match yours?” Percy blushed. He had just admitted to staring at Audrey’s bum!
Audrey blushed, too, but smiled. “I didn’t intend for us to match. I just didn’t catch it until now. And we can’t fix it because we’re surrounded by Muggles.”
Oh. Percy was not thrilled about this situation. But, at least Audrey had been looking at his bum, too. Merlin’s Beard! He really needed to go out more. Percy saw the worried look in her beautiful eyes, sat up straight, and in his most dignified voice informed Audrey, “It’s all right. It takes a very secure bloke to wear a pink butterfly on his bum.”
Audrey burst out laughing. She had a very musical laugh. Percy thought it was delightful, and he laughed with her.
They lapsed into a comfortable silence sipping their drinks, until Audrey spoke.
“Percy, if you want to tell me why you were hiding, I’m willing to listen, but I won’t mention it again if you don’t want to talk about it.”
Percy contemplated Audrey’s suggestion for a moment. It had been so long since he had talked to anyone, at least in a conversation not explicitly related to work. He was lonely, and here was an attractive witch who was willing to listen to him.
“I had a really long meeting, and I made a mistake on my report, and a coworker I don’t like found my error.” Once Percy started talking the words poured out of him. “I don’t make mistakes in my work. At least not ones of this magnitude, but I was distracted today.” Percy paused, not sure whether or not he wanted to continue.
“I hate to make mistakes, too, Percy, but it’s all right. Everyone is distracted and makes mistakes sometimes.”
Audrey still had a compassionate, concerned look on her face. Percy summoned his Gryffindor courage, and decided to tell her the whole story. “I was distracted because I received an owl inviting me to my oldest brother’s wedding. I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. I haven’t been in touch with my family for a long time.”
“That must have been quite a shock.”
“It was! I realized how much can happen in two years.”
“You haven’t spoken to your family in two years?”
“Not really. When I was promoted to Junior Undersecretary to the Minister two years ago, my parents said I only got the job because Minister Fudge wanted me to spy on my family for him. My career is important to me, and I work really hard. It hurt me that they didn’t think I was capable of getting promoted on my own merit, so I left, and haven’t been in touch since.”
Audrey sighed, “Parents say horrible things sometimes.”
“It sounds like you have experience with that.”
“Unfortunately, yes. My parents thought that because I am a witch, I should be able to 'wave my magic wand' and fix everything. My mother blames me for my grandmother’s death from cancer.”
Percy spluttered, “Tha-That’s completely unreasonable and irrational! Even if you were a fully trained healer it wouldn’t guarantee that you could cure your grandmother.”
“That’s my mum—irrational. Dad just goes along with her.”
“So, you aren’t speaking to your family either?”
“Well, I speak to them, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. We had terrible fights after Granny died when I was seventeen, and when I came back to Hogwarts, I didn’t speak to them for a long time. I might not have, if it weren’t for Nanny, my great-aunt, Granny’s twin sister."
Even though this was a serious story, Percy could not contain his smirk. “Granny and Nanny?”
Audrey laughed, “Yes. I came up with that when I was little. I was always close to both of them, and at some point I asked if I was too old to call them Granny and Nanny. But they wouldn’t hear of being called anything else.”
“So how did Nanny get you and your parents talking again?” Percy thought it possible that Audrey would have suggestions of how he could reconcile with his own family.
“Nanny’s a witch, too, and I guess she convinced my parents that if they weren’t angry with her for Granny’s death, they shouldn’t be angry with me either. I’m not really sure what she said to them, but my parents got back in contact with me. Mum never apologized. She just pretends nothing happened. We are extremely polite to each other, and I’m always waiting for the explosion. Granny and Mum were always close, and I thought I’d be close to Mum, too, but she doesn’t seem to be able to accept me for who I am.”
“I always felt the same way about my Dad. I thought my working at the ministry would bring us closer together, but the opposite has happened.”
“It’s sad not to have the relationship we want with our families. At least I have Nanny. I’m thankful I’m close to her. Maybe things will work out with both our families someday, Percy.”
When the time came that they couldn’t hide any longer and had to return to work, Percy took Audrey’s hand as they walked out of Starbucks. She was extremely smart, and ambitious, she understood him better than anyone ever had, and she didn’t think him a terrible person for not speaking to his family. She was wonderful, and Percy knew he was already smitten. As they walked down the street holding hands in comfortable silence, Percy wondered if it would be proper to kiss Audrey when he hadn’t officially asked her out yet. He wasn’t sure if he cared if it was proper or not. He really wanted to kiss her.
When they arrived back in their alley, Percy turned toward Audrey and took her other hand.
“Audrey, thank you for today. You’ve made an awful day wonderful. I was wondering if you would like to do this again? Maybe have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
“I’d love to, Percy.”
“Brilliant! It’s a date then.”
“Yes, it is.”
They looked into each others’ eyes. Percy couldn’t resist Audrey’s eyes. Proper or not, he leaned forward and kissed her.
When Percy returned to his office to fix his budget, it was with a smile on his face.