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Title: The Year of Worry and Hope
Word Count: 2285 (this chapter)
Characters: Percy Weasley, Percy/Audrey, Augusta Longbottom, Neville Longbottom, Lee Jordan, all the Weasleys (with emphasis on Fred and George)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: language, suggestiveness, violence (mostly by Death Eaters)
Summary: Set during the year leading up to the Battle of Hogwarts, follow Percy Weasley as he falls in love, makes new friends, reconciles with his family, and navigates the intrigue of the Ministry of Magic, which is threatening the life of the woman he loves.
Author's Note: Second chapter up and it's been less than a week! ;)

Chapter 1:When Percy Met Audrey


Percy had had a smile on his face throughout all of the next day. It was hard to believe one chaste kiss could make him this happy. Nothing at work bothered him; he just kept thinking he would be having dinner with Audrey. When he saw his father in the hallway, he didn't speed up or duck into the loo or hide or ignore him. He looked him in the eye and said, "Hello, Father."

"Hello, Percy," Arthur responded with surprise.

Percy continued walking down the corridor. It wasn't much, but it was a start. Percy would be sure to tell Audrey tonight.

****

Percy sat across from Audrey, sipping his wine and staring into her eyes. He told her about saying hello to his father, and she said she was proud of him. She was proud of him! Percy didn't think he'd heard anyone say they were proud of him since he received his NEWT results. He loved listening to the sound of her voice, even if she was only telling the waiter her order. Percy ordered, too, and then turned again to gaze at Audrey.

"I remembered something today I wanted to ask you, Percy. At your Sorting, did The Hat know where to put you or did it have to think about it?"

"That's rather an odd question, isn't it?" Percy wasn't sure he really wanted to tell her what The Hat had thought.

"I've asked several of my friends, and it seems like everyone else had this wonderful Sorting, and The Hat knew where they should be, and they were happy about it. I wanted to die at my Sorting! The Hat debated between all four houses and was taking so long to decide, and everyone was staring at me and getting fidgety, and I was getting fidgety listening to The Hat drone on and on about how I was smart enough to be a Ravenclaw, and ambitious enough to be a Slytherin, and loyal enough to be a Hufflepuff, and brave enough to be a Gryffindor, and it just kept dithering until I finally told it to shut up!"

"You told The Sorting Hat to shut up?" Percy laughed.

"Yes! I think I had the longest Sorting in history!"

"You know, I remember that. That would have been my third year. There was a Sorting that took forever. So what did The Hat do when you told it to shut up?"

"It got all shirty, and started to tell me how rude I was, so I interrupted and said I wanted to be in Hufflepuff."

"Why Hufflepuff?"

"It's Nanny's house. It was the first one to come to mind. I just wanted to get off the stool so people would stop staring at me."

"Were you happy with choosing Hufflepuff? Was it a good fit?"

"Yes, it was. And I really enjoyed having the same house as Nanny." Audrey smiled at him, reached across the table to take his hand, and said, "Percy, I noticed you have not answered my original question."

Percy blushed and looked down, seeing their joined hands. Audrey gave his hand a little squeeze, and he looked back up and said, "I've never told anyone about my Sorting. The Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin. It wasn't debating where to put me. I had to beg it to put me in Gryffindor. Weasleys have always been in Gryffindor. I was scared my family might disown me if I were a Slytherin." Percy glanced at Audrey to gauge her reaction.

"That's all right. I'd rather be in Slytherin than Ravenclaw."

"What?!"

"In order to get into their common room, the Ravenclaws have this bird door-knocker that asks questions. You have to answer the question correctly to be allowed to enter."

"How do you know that?"

"One of my Ravenclaw friends told me. I think I would strangle that door knocker. Even if I knew the answer, how annoying!"

Percy laughed. "Yeah, I'm glad I only had to remember a password for Gryffindor. How about Hufflepuff?"

"Our door is guarded by a portrait of Hilde, the Fat Friar's sister. She knows who belongs to her house and just lets us all in. I don't know what the Slytherins had to do. I never asked."

"Did you have a Slytherin friend you could have asked?"

"I'd probably call her a "friendly acquaintance" more than a friend, but we got along well enough. Anne was my Potions partner for all seven years. She told me once that I would have made a good Slytherin." Audrey smiled.

"Really? What prompted that?"

"Well, most people do accidental magic when they are angry or afraid, but I've always seemed to when I'm bored or distracted. I was thinking of something else at the beginning of Potions, and when I tried to use my wand to light the fire under my cauldron, I accidentally conjured a flock of green and silver butterflies."

Percy chuckled, "What did Snape make you do for detention?"

"Surprisingly, I didn't get a detention. When Professor Snape saw the butterflies, he swooped over and hissed, 'Miss Mitchell, what is the meaning of this?' I don't know what came over me, but I said, 'Happy Birthday, Professor Snape!' He just stared at me. I think it's the only time I have ever seen Professor Snape at a loss for words. He was staring silently, the class was waiting for the explosion, the butterflies were fluttering all over the dungeon, I was certain I was about to get my first detention, and then he said, 'It is not my birthday, Miss Mitchell, but thank you for the thought. Now please concentrate on your potion.' I was too shocked to speak, so I just nodded, and after class Anne told me I would have made a good Slytherin. I took that as a compliment."

Percy smiled and squeezed Audrey's hand. She could even make him feel better about being an almost-Slytherin.

***

As Percy and Audrey were eating their delicious meal, Percy said, "So what was it that distracted you enough to conjure butterflies in Potions class of all places?"

"Don't sound so surprised I conjured butterflies in Potions! It hasn't ever mattered where I was, that's the only accidental magic I do. Anyway, Potions was my first class of the day that year, and I was thinking about my first kiss which was the previous evening." Audrey blushed.

Percy smiled. "What year were you?"

"Third."

"You had your first kiss as a third year?!"

"Yes! My boyfriend was a fourth year. Why? What year were you?"

"Fifth."

"So was your first kiss with Penelope Clearwater?"

"How did you know that?"

"Percy, you were a prefect and Head Boy. The general population of Hogwarts knew more about you than you realized. Probably more than you wanted them to know, actually."

It was Percy's turn to blush. He decided to change the subject, "So, why weren't you a prefect, Audrey?"

"I was asked to be, but I declined."

"Why in Merlin's name would you decline being a prefect?"

Audrey burst out laughing. "Oh Percy, it's not a crime to not want to be a prefect. I didn't really want the responsibility, and I also didn't think it was a good idea to take on the role of enforcing the rules when I fully planned on breaking them."

Percy looked even more horrified, which only made Audrey laugh harder. "You PLANNED on breaking the rules?"

"Yes, Percy. I had a boyfriend starting in third year. I knew I would be breaking rules. And don't even try to tell me you never broke any rules with Penelope."

Percy turned even redder. Audrey was right, and from the amused look on her face, she knew it. He decided to change the subject again. "So you said you always conjured butterflies for accidental magic. When did that first happen?"

Audrey giggled, but allowed the subject change and answered, "When I was about 9 months old, my mum opened the window near my cot since it was a warm day, and a butterfly flew in and landed on me. My mum saw it happen and even has a picture. I don't remember this, but I must have liked it so much, I started conjuring them. Butterflies were flying in and landing on me every day, or so my mum thought. Until I was a year old and the weather changed. Mum left the window closed, and butterflies continued appearing in my cot. Fortunately, Nanny was visiting at the time and suspected what was happening. Mum and Dad went completely mental! At least from what Nanny has told me. How about you?"

"I silenced Fred and George. I think I was around five and the twins were three and were teasing me. My mum couldn't even undo it! My parents threw me a party, they were so happy. They always did something special when any of us performed our first magic, but I was later than my siblings, so I know they were worried. Were your parents upset because you were so early?"

"My parents were upset because they're Muggles!"

"What did they do?"

"Fortunately, Nanny explained everything. Granny helped, too, since she grew up as a Muggle with a witch sister, she had good advice for Mum and Dad. Mum bought me all of the butterfly toys she could find, and I really liked them, but I still conjured my own occasionally. It wasn't really a problem until my first day of Reception. The other children didn't question why there was a flock of butterflies in the classroom. We all played with them together. The teacher almost died from fright. She sent a note home with me for my parents to come see her."

Percy was intrigued. He'd never really thought about how Muggles would handle a magical child. "What did they do?"

"We moved to the States to be near Nanny."

"They moved away just because you could do magic?"

"I think they moved so Nanny would be around to undo any magic I did. I don't know what Muggleborns without a magical family member would do. We knew what was going on, and it was still difficult for my parents. I've always thought Hogwarts should inform Muggleborns' families at birth, not when they are eleven. That's why I always wanted to work in the Muggle Liaison Office."

Percy and Audrey continued talking until they were the last two people in the restaurant. Percy walked Audrey to the door of her flat and kissed her goodnight. Unlike their first kiss, this one was not chaste.

****

Percy officially asked Audrey to be his girlfriend on their third date. He was thrilled when she accepted. Percy had not realized how much was missing from his life until he met Audrey. Having someone with whom he could talk about his day was wonderful. Sometimes he and Audrey met for lunch, always somewhere away from the Ministry. Percy couldn't believe he had ever thought the food in the Ministry cafeteria palatable. Sometimes they had dinner together, at a restaurant or at either one of their flats. Both of them were fairly decent cooks, and Percy found he actually enjoyed cooking when he had someone special to cook for. When Audrey cooked, they usually watched a Muggle movie after dinner. Percy was surprised to find he enjoyed movies, even though he could never remember what that box-thing that played them was called—a Veecee Arm? He also found himself doing a number of things he never thought he would do, such as roller skating. Who would have thought of putting wheels on people's feet? He was beginning to see why his father was so fascinated with Muggles, although he still didn't understand the whole obsession with plugs. Audrey showed him what plugs were, but his father's collection made no sense. Percy had never liked flying before either, but he did when he and Audrey were on the same broom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Audrey arrived home after dinner out, a moonlit broom flight, and of course, a moonlit snog with Percy to find her phone ringing.

"Hello?"

"Audrey, it's Sara."

"Has it been a month already?"

"Yes it has. How are things going?"

"Very well." Audrey giggled. "I've started seeing someone."

"Good for you! Anyone I know?"

"Percy Weasley."

There was a long silence from Sara. "Going out with Percy Weasley is a good thing, I take it?"

"Sara!" Audrey whined.

"O.K.! Maybe you should tell me the whole story."

Audrey recounted the events of the last several weeks to her friend.

"Are you sure this is the same Percy Weasley we knew in school. Percy the Pompous Prefect?"

"Don't call him that!"

Sara laughed, "What should I call him then?"

"Percy's sweet and fun, he has a really good sense of humor once you get to know him—I can tell he's related to the twins and not just because of the hair, and he's handsome, and has a really sexy grin . . ."

"I never thought I would hear the words 'Percy' and 'sexy' in the same sentence."

"I'm going to hang up on you."

"Don't hang up. I'll be good. No more wisecracks about your Perfect, Precious Percy."

"You can't see me, but I'm sticking my tongue out at you."

"I'm mortally wounded. Really."

"Would you please be serious!"

"All right, all right. I'm glad you're happy. I haven't heard you sound this happy in a long time."

"Thank you. So how are things with you?"

"Oh! I love my classes! We just heard a lecture on the use of Directed Summoning Charms to prevent Pulmonary Embolisms . . . ."

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