Percy was sitting on the couch in Audrey’s flat with his arm around Audrey whose head was on his shoulder. They had spent the evening talking about all sorts of things, and Percy remembered he had never asked Audrey about Lee Jordan.
“How do you know Lee Jordan?”
“We were in the same year.” Audrey tilted her head so she could look at Percy. “Or is the question you really want to ask why was Lee hugging me at your brothers’ store?”
Percy blushed. “Well . . . yes, actually.”
“Seventh year was really terrible, and Lee was a friend when I needed one.”
“Just a friend?” Percy attempted to merely sound curious.
“Well, no, but nothing serious. Percy, you have nothing to be jealous about.”
Apparently Percy had not succeeded in sounding merely curious, as Audrey saw right through him.
“You know that I went out with Walt starting in third year.” Percy nodded. “He proposed at the Yule ball during my sixth year, his seventh. I had special permission to go home for the Christmas holiday, then return for the Yule Ball, and then go home again, since Granny wasn’t doing very well. I took Walt home to meet her, and told her about my engagement and showed her my ring. And it was only a week later that she died. After her funeral is when I had that huge fight with my parents. I didn’t come home for the Easter Holidays. When the year ended, I still wasn’t speaking to my parents, so I moved in with Walt. He had graduated and had his own flat. Of course, that made my parents even angrier, since they didn’t approve.”
“What about Nanny?”
“Well, she didn’t really approve either, but she knew I was of age and could make my own decisions. And she told me she loved me no matter what. My parents actually tried to cause trouble since I wasn’t of age in the Muggle world, but since it was a magical flat, they couldn’t do anything. I saw Nanny a lot, though. She was going through Granny’s things, and I helped her. I usually spent most weekdays while Walt was at work with Nanny, then evenings and weekends with Walt. I saw Sara for a bit at the start of summer, but then she left for Switzerland for healer training.
“Why not St. Mungos?”
“There was a special program in Switzerland that St. Mungos didn’t have. She explained what it was she wanted to do, but it was rather beyond me.” Percy nodded. "So mostly I saw either Nanny or Walt, and occasionally Aunt Gussie, one of Nanny’s close friends from her Hogwarts’ days. After we finished going through everything, and sold Granny’s house, Nanny went back to the States. I accompanied her to the airport that morning, and then went back to Walt’s flat at lunchtime and found him in bed with another woman.”
“What a cad! I hope you hexed him.”
“No, but the other woman did.” Audrey laughed a little. “Apparently, Walt had told her he lived there alone and wasn’t involved with anyone. She apologized to me while I was doing a packing spell. I don’t even know her name. I left as quickly as possible.”
“Where did you go?”
“Aunt Gussie’s. Nanny was on her way back to the States, and I wasn’t speaking to my parents, so I really didn’t have anywhere else to go. Aunt Gussie disapproved of my living arrangements as well, but she took me in.”
“That must have been really hard not having anywhere to go.” Percy wrapped his arm more tightly around Audrey.
“Well, Aunt Gussie became a lot more sympathetic when I told her what happened. And Cos offered to go hex Walt.” Audrey snickered. “He was only 15, so Aunt Gussie practically had kittens.”
“Who is Cos?”
“Aunt Gussie’s grandson. He’s like family. He calls Nanny ‘Auntie’ and we’ve always called each other ‘Cos’ short for ‘Cousin’ because when we were children, we couldn’t pronounce each other’s names.”
“So you stayed with Aunt Gussie until school started?”
“Yes. It was only about a week and a half. I didn’t want to go back for my seventh year, but I didn’t think I could get a decent job if I didn’t, so . . .”
“But you enjoyed school. I would think going back would take your mind off of things.”
“It probably would have if not for Dolores Umbridge.” Audrey scowled.
“I always thought Dolores was very efficient.”
“She might be efficient, I wouldn’t know, but she’s a horrible teacher.”
“How so?” Percy was surprised.
“She was teaching DADA and she never let us use wands! She just had us memorize the stupid textbook. DADA is the only NEWT where I didn’t get an O. I couldn’t cast a patronus, and I couldn’t learn because Umbridge wouldn’t let anyone practice. And she started implementing her eight million decrees so Hogwarts wasn’t fun anymore.”
“She was just trying to restore order and discipline to the school.”
“Discipline! She was torturing students!”
“Torture? What are you talking about?”
“She tortured Lee!”
Percy was skeptical, but didn’t press the matter since Audrey was getting agitated and was no longer leaning against him, but had turned to face him. He decided to change the subject, “Speaking of Lee, you still haven’t told me how you ended up going out with him.”
“Well, when I came back to school I was really unhappy, for obvious reasons. And September 2 is my birthday. I hadn’t had any contact with my parents for almost 8 months, but they sent me a gift and card as though nothing had happened. They didn’t apologize or anything. And a few days later, Lee found me and said he’d noticed I seemed sad since I wasn’t speaking up in class, even in Herbology. He’d also noticed that my engagement ring I had worn since Christmas was missing, and asked if I wanted to take a walk with him. Since my ex-fiance and best friend were both a year older and were gone, I felt really alone, so I said yes.”
“I know what it’s like to feel alone.” Audrey turned and cuddled up against Percy again.
“Whatever happened between you and Penelope Clearwater?”
“A month or so before the Yule Ball, Penelope asked me what my intentions were. I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, so I said I wanted to continue going out. Penelope told me she wanted an engagement ring by Christmas.”
“That was very direct of her.”
“Yes, but I thought she was just saying she wanted to get married someday, not actually giving me a deadline. When we exchanged presents on Christmas Eve, she asked me why I didn’t have a ring for her, and when I told her I wasn’t ready to get married, she ditched me. That’s why I went to the Yule Ball alone. But it was all right, because the other judges were alone, too.” Percy shrugged.
This time it was Audrey’s turn to hug Percy more tightly.