|The Between Years
Author: MrSkeeter PM
Suddenly a door, which matched the paneling so well that Harry hadn't noticed it previously, burst open and Ron exclaimed, "Harry! Thank Merlin you're here!" In the same breath he rambled on, "Is Neville with you? Can you help me with this damn tie? My fingers don't seem to be working." ... Nineteen years is a long time. What happened as the wizzarding world returned to normal?Rated: Fiction T - English - Harry P. & Ginny W. - Chapters: 66 - Words: 289,719 - Reviews: 505 - Favs: 317 - Follows: 330 - Updated: 08-24-12 - Published: 03-25-10 - id: 5841991
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Muggle Learns the Truth
A/N: In addition to the usual disclaimer concerning the talented J.K. Rowling and the ownership of her fantastic work, in this chapter I must also acknowledge Mr. Steve Winwood, Mr. Muff Winwood and Mr. Spencer Davis for their song 'Gimme Some Lovin.' Additionally I must acknowledge Mr. Steve Poltz for his song "Everything About You." This chapter wouldn't have been the same without the lyrics of these talented artists.
"Percy, would you have time for a private word before dinner?"
"Of course George," the third of Molly and Arthur Weasley's sons replied, slightly vexed by his young brother's serious tone and sober expression. Slipping the parchment he'd been reviewing into his portfolio, he stood, placing the dragon hide folder on the side table. "The weather is most agreeable for a January afternoon. Might I suggest a turn of the back garden?"
"That works for me," George replied, stepping back and allowing Percy to lead the way.
The two brothers made their way from the house and completed one circuit of the grounds without sharing a word. Several times George seemed as though he was about to speak, but on each occasion he drew a deep breath and withdrew back inward on his own thoughts. For his part Percy resisted the near overwhelming temptation to press the issue, allowing his brother time to gather himself and broach the reason for their current situation.
After another half lap of the yard, George finally found his voice, "Percy, I've been trying to talk to you for weeks now. It's about Fred… and my wedding."
Percy tentatively reached out a hand to touch George on the shoulder. Trying to display the affection he truly felt but found great difficulty showing. "That certainly makes your hesitation understandable. What can I do to help you through this?"
For the first time since starting their walk George almost smiled at the way Percy sounded so much like, there was really only one way to put it, Percy. Stopping he continued to stare straight ahead while speaking. "I doubt you'll be surprised to learn that I would have asked Fred to stand with me."
"It would have seemed the most appropriate course," Percy agreed. "The two of you were as close as any two brothers could be. Still there are others who would be appropriate. Lee Jordan comes immediately to mind."
"That we were." George wiped his index fingers under his eyes and then ran the right one under his nose before wiping it on his trousers, "And I did think of Lee." Turning to face his brother he continued, "Look Percy, I've been thinking that we got you back, in a manner of speaking, the same time we lost Fred, and you and I are the closest in age, and… well what I'm trying to get around to is this," George wiped his eyes a second time, "Will you be my best man when I marry Angelina?"
Percy's mind was totally blank as he stared at his brother. Never in four life times would he have dreamed such a request would be made of him, let alone in such a poignant manner. Removing a kerchief from his back pocket he wiped his own eyes and managed to gather himself enough to nod and whisper, "Yes." As his normal bearing started to return he continued, "Your analogy was most touching and I'm deeply honored you would even consider asking me. Of course I will stand with you."
Once again trying to display affection, in his own awkward way, Percy extended his hand to George who grasped it and pulled him into a tight embrace, a fraction of his usual jocularity returning. "Yes was more than good enough Perc."
The brothers entered the house just as Molly was calling everyone to dinner. When questioned about their walk in the garden it was Percy who took the lead in answering, "In a most touching manner George asked me to be his best man and I have gladly agreed to assume said duties."
Over the course of the following weeks Percy threw himself into the task of being George's best man. Pouring over every manuscript, muggle and wizard, he could lay his hands on, until he was confident that he was thoroughly familiar with all his responsibilities. Not just at the wedding and reception but also during the days leading up to the main event. As the date for George's bachelor party drew near he paid Bill a visit at Shell Cottage and shocked his oldest brother with a straight forward inquiry, "How does one go about hiring a stripper?"
Through laughs Bill assured him that popular opinion not withstanding, such entertainment wasn't necessary. Then, after sneaking a glance to make certain Fleur wasn't listening in, whispered, "Check with Tom at the Leaky Cauldron."
A fully coherent, if somewhat inebriated, Harry returned to Grimmauld place from George's bachelor party and made his way up the staircase to his bedroom. The ladies had spent the evening celebrating Angelina's bachelorette party and the light shining under the door told him that Ginny had beaten him home. Pushing the door open he realized she must have only just arrived. "Very nice," he half whispered, half whistled as she pulled her dress over her head to reveal matching green silk bra and panties.
With a playful smirk, Ginny jumped to stand on the bed. Feeling the effects of an evening's drinking she stumbled slightly, grabbed a bed post for support, swung in a short arch and came to a stop facing Harry. "Nicer than the dancer at George's party?"
Harry didn't even think to ask how Ginny knew there had been a dancer at the bachelor party. Almost two years of marriage, combined with the time they had been engaged and dating, had taught him that somehow she always knew. Watching her hair sweep across her face and settle back over her shoulders he concluded that she didn't really care, and that trying to deny the dancer's presence would only create a problem where none existed. Instead he stepped into the room, closed the door and replied, "Much, much nicer." Pulling his shirt over his head he added, "Not even close really. What about the stripper at Angelina's party?" Harry tossed his shirt to the floor, undid his trousers, let them drop, jumped onto the bed to stand in front of Ginny and flexed, "How'd he compare to me?"
"How'd you know about him?" Ginny managed to mumble despite being distracted by the way Harry's popping pecs seemed to make the wings of the Hungarian horntail tattooed on his chest flap.
"Percy told me," Harry answered as he continued to cycle through poses. "Alicia Spinnet showed up to talk to Tom while he was there. Now come on, answer my question."
The impish grin made its appearance on Ginny's face as she decided to do some teasing of her own. Reaching behind her back she unfastened her bra, held it in place with her left hand and snaked her right arm through the strap. "From what I can see you win hands down, but I can't say for certain with you being over dressed. He wasn't wearing boxers."
"Easily solved," Harry replied, flexing all but forgotten as his eyes focused on Ginny's left hand. In one continuous motion he hooked his thumbs into the waist band of his boxers, pushed them down and kicked them across the room.
Ginny couldn't prevent her gaze from darting downward and hoped that discarding her bra at the very moment Harry removed his pants had been enough to keep him from noticing. She fixed her eyes back on his just in time to catch them darting back upward and with a completely straight face stated, "Now you're not wearing enough."
"So that's the way we're going to play this," Harry sniggered, jumping from the bed and moving to his wardrobe. Keeping his back to Ginny he slipped on a pair of y-fronts, striped like the Italian flag, that she had given him as a joke during their last trip to Villa Lilly. Turning with his hands on his hips he gave his eyebrows a waggle and his hips a swaying thrust, "Well?"
Ginny flopped down to sit on the bed and almost giggled as she watched Harry's eyes move up and down in time with her bouncing body. "No contest, you win in every way." Patting the mattress she smiled demurely and cooed, "Come here."
"First we dance," Harry replied before shuffling towards Ginny singing, "Boom chick-a wow-wow, chick-a chick-a wow-wow," prompting a quick squeal of laughter. "I must be getting better," he teased, "It usually takes a bit more effort before you make a noise like that."
In vain the morning sun assaulted the closed blinds protecting the bed room windows. Behind the draped defenses the room's lone occupant slept, blissfully unaware that her peaceful slumber was about to be abruptly disturbed. Striding quickly through the room, Ron opened the curtains with a flourish and gave Hermione a playful pat on the bum, "Up and at em sleepy head, big day today. We've a wedding to go too."
Hermione groaned into her pillow and mumble, "I miss the old Ron who slept in on Sunday mornings."
Unable to help smiling at this reversal of roles Ron leaned down to kiss the top of Hermione's head and whispered his retort, "Ah, but the new Ron has breakfast ready and waiting for you."
Arriving at the Burrow slightly before noon, Ron gave Hermione a quick kiss and went to find Bill and Charlie who along with Angelina's brother Alex would be joining him as ushers for the day, finding all three standing outside the marquee ready to assume their duties. The quartet was soon joined by a joyful Harry who gave Alex a pat on the back, "Good seeing you again Al, thanks to you I get to watch a Weasley wedding instead of having to work it."
Before Alex could reply Charlie raised his hand to Harry's collar and used a finger to pull it back. Inquiring with a playful wink, "What's this then?"
"Merlin," Harry muttered, flushing pink. "I didn't think it would show. It's nothing, just a little nick I picked up in yesterday's match."
"Really," Bill teased, "I don't recall you having a, 'little nick,' at the party last night."
"Nor do I," Ron agreed, sneaking a peak at Harry's neck. "It's a love bite! How did you get a love bite?"
Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head, "How do you think? Honestly Ron, how are you going to react when you find out I got Ginny pregnant."
"Ginny is pregnant!" Ron exclaimed.
"No!" Harry took a quick look around and was relieved to find no one outside their group appeared to have overheard Ron's declaration. "She isn't, I was just trying to point out that you sometimes still tend to act too much like she's your baby sister instead of my wife."
"Raluca is," Charlie inserted.
"Raluca is what?" Ron asked.
Bill gave his youngest brother a slap on the back of the head, "Pregnant, you git." Turning his attention to Charlie he joined the others in offering congratulations before asking, "When's the big day?"
"Around the middle of October," Charlie answered. "Listen; let's keep this between the five of us for now. Today is meant to be about George and Angelina. Raluca and I agreed that we'd wait until after the wedding to make the announcement. I just couldn't stay quiet any longer."
"Mum is the word," Bill agreed, making a buttoning motion over his lips. "Not that it matters much. If I know my wife she's already figured it out and all the ladies know by now." By the reception Bill's theory was proven correct and the conversation around the tables was as much about the newest Weasley grandchild as the newest Weasley couple.
It was during one of these conversations that Teddy Lupin climbed into Harry's lap with a question, "Is the black haired lady having a baby?"
"The black haired lady is named Raluca and yes she is," Harry replied.
"Then why isn't she getting fat like Victore's mommy?"
Harry almost snorted but managed to rein in any outside sign of mirth, as his Godson very clearly considered this a serious matter, "First, it isn't polite to say a lady is getting fat, especially if she is having a baby. The reason Victore's mommy has a bigger tummy is because her new baby has been growing longer and is almost ready to come out. Raluca's tummy will start getting bigger as her baby grows."
The expression on Teddy's face showed that he was carefully pondering this new bit of information and after working it through in his mind he sought final clarification. "So the baby grows in it's mommy's tummy, and that makes it's mommy's tummy get bigger?" Harry nodded yes, feeling very pleased that he had managed to explain things in such a clear manner. However what the three year old asked next had his mind sputtering to find a suitable answer. "How does the baby get out of its mommy's tummy when it's done growing?"
Harry shot an imploring look at his companions who's own faces displayed emotions ranging from near horror on Ron's, to barely contained hysterics on Ginny's. Finally it was Luna who saved the day with the simple answer of, "The same way it gets in of course."
"That's right," Harry added, seizing on the way forward while offering Luna a quick nonverbal thank you, "And how it gets in is a conversation you and I will have when you're older, at least nine or ten years older. Do you want more cake?"
Teddy's hair turned chocolate brown with white tips, indicating that the offer was more than enough to take his mind off baby's getting in and out of their mommies tummies. Greatly relieved, harry took his godson's hand and led him away from his smirking wife and friends to the buffet table. Standing before the impressive spread of refreshments, nibbling on something savory spread over multi-grain biscuits, (he didn't want to know what it was less it caused him to change his mind concerning how wonderful it tasted), and smiling at the continuously growing circle of cake and icing spreading across Teddy's face, Harry saw Bill walking towards him and snuck a glance at his watch. Quickly ushering Teddy to Andromeda with the explanation of, "I need to do something right now, but we can hangout after and maybe you could even spend the night with Ginny and me," he hustled to join Bill, along with Charlie and Ron, outside the marquee.
His four co-conspirators having managed to make their departure largely unnoticed, Percy stepped onto the low lying platform being utilized as a stage by the band providing the evening's entertainment. His appearance was the band's cue to stop playing and Percy stepped to the microphone to call for everyone's attention. "Could I have your attention please, everyone, please." As the gathering became quiet and turned their attention towards the stage he continued, "This has truly been a special and joyous day for the Weasley family. Not only have we officially welcomed Angelina into our fold, along with all the Johnsons, but we have learned that my brother Charlie and his lovely wife Raluca will be presenting us with a new family member this autumn." Relieved that a light smattering of applause presented him with a brief opportunity to collect himself, Percy drew a deep breath and continued, "I know it is highly unusual for the best man to make a second speech; however there is one thing that I feel has been hanging over the festivities all afternoon. That thing is Fred, or rather Fred not being here." He paused for a moment to steal himself and fight back tears of emotion before moving on, "I'm sure most of you know that my family and I had a falling out during the time leading up to the last war. A falling out I must admit was entirely of my own doing. I'm sure you also know that I came to my senses only just in time to join with the forces of good during the final battle. In other words, as my brother George so rightly pointed out when he asked me to stand with him, I was found when Fred was lost. Hardly, I think, a fair trade."
Tears streamed down Percy's cheeks and he faltered, regaining his strength only when joined on the stage by George who wrapped him in a strong embrace and whispered, loud enough that the microphone picked it up, "If fate was destined to deny us one of you, in my mind it was an equal trade Perc."
Buoyed by his brother's support, Percy found the strength to continue, "Despite how it may seem at the moment, my intention is not to bring down the mood of this gathering, it is actually quite the opposite. There can be no doubt that my dear departed brother would be fulfilling my role if he was still with us. Furthermore, there can be no doubt that some sort of mischief would, by now, be afoot if that were the case. I will never be the jokester that Fred was, indeed that George is, however with the help of three of my brothers and my brother-in-law, I do believe that I've come up with something to correctly honor Fred's memory, get as all past the awkward elephant in the room and make George and Angelina happier than they already are."
At that moment four loud explosions echoed across the quiet country side, sending protesting birds skyward and causing more than one guest to jump to their feet with wand at the ready. The explosions were quickly followed by fireworks, drawing all the guests to the edges of the marquee. The spectacle that greeted their eyes was amazing, as showers of sparks repeatedly arched upward challenging the sun for dominance of the afternoon sky, the final volley placing four sparkling rainbows across the horizon. While the onlookers watched, the rainbows transformed into four paper dragons which swooped down on the gathering and circled the dance floor, leaving Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes' confections in their wake. Squeals of delight and shouts of "wait, come back," filled the air as children hurried after the intruders trying to retrieve the treats, while their parents scramble in an attempt to confiscate the candies, lest one of their prodigy have a snack resulting in an undesired side effect. Meeting in the center of the space the dragons soared straight upwards and exploded in a shower of sparks, sending everyone scrambling back to the edges of the marquee.
The sparks floated down and fizzled out with one final crackle to reveal a smoke shrouded, firework version of Fred, who smiled broadly and announced, "George and Angelina you both know I'm happy for you 'and I'm so glad you made it.' Now everybody dance!"
As the guests all gawked at the spectacle, unsure how they were meant to react, George started to smile in spite of the tear tracks staining his cheeks. The smile turned to laughter as he jumped form the stage, went to a startled Angelina and explained, "That line is from a old song Freddie and I use to play on the juke box when we were trying to chat up birds in the village pub," adding with a wink, "I think this is my brothers' way of having a little go at me and saying it finally worked."
A new explosion drew everyone's attention to the stage were a cloud of blue-grey smoked lifted to revel Percy, who had used the distraction to cast a appearance altering charm taught to him by Ron. Unlike polyjuice potion or being a metamorphmaguse, he hadn't taken on the appearance of another, or changed any of his physical characteristics. Instead his appearance had been temporarily altered. For the next thirty minutes, if he cast the spell correctly, his dress robes would be replaced by striped trousers with flared legs, a broad collared paisley shirt and a purple tie that was at least five inches wide and covered with golden sunbursts. His usually short, meticulously cropped hair was now long and bushy and his whiskers had grown to form an incredibly full Fu Manchu mustache. The look was completed by a pair of granny glasses with lavender lenses. Exclaiming, "Hit it boys!" He surprised everybody once again by launching into an impressive version of 'Gimme Some Lovin.'
While Percy belted out the songs opening lines, George and Angelina, who was now laughing as much as her husband ran to the dance floor exclaiming, "You heard the man! Everybody dance!"
As Percy sang, "Crazy people rocking cause they want to go more," his cohorts, all dressed in similar outfits, returned and led their partners to the floor. They were quickly joined by Arthur and Molly along with Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, the four of whom could actually remember when the song was new. Buy the time Percy finished with, "You got to gimme some lovin, gimme gimme some lovin," the small wooden surface was packed with couples, all jumping and waving their hands over their heads. Even Great Auntie Muriel, who many tended to forget had earned the reputation of being a memorable kisser and a bit of a partier in her younger days, was seen to be tapping her toes and clapping her hands in time with the music. At their table, Bill and Fleur, who's current state made dancing through half the song effort enough, sat smiling as their daughter and Teddy, who's hair was now the same silvery-blond color as Victorie's, did their best to copy the grownups and dance together.
Without missing a beat, Percy rolled into the final number of his two song set by slowing things down with what turned out to be a very heartfelt rendition of 'Everything About You.' Singing, "I love everything about you. I love the way you comb your hair." He was stuck by a single thought, Audrey Marriner, a bright attractive muggle working her way up the civil service ladder. They met quite by chance slightly more than a year ago when he had accompanied Minister Shacklebolt on a visit to the Prime Minister. Since late the previous year they'd been seeing each other exclusively and unlike witches he'd dated, Percy could be sure she wasn't with him just because of his position within the Ministry or his association with Harry. Singing, "I love the way you sashay in the room. Your perfume lingers in the air." He thought that's true and it's getting more difficult to keep the truth from her. "I love the way you lick your lips dear. You've got fireworks in your head." A silly line, but somehow true in Audrey's case, maybe it was time to let her in on the secret and introduce her to his family.
On the dance floor Ginny giggled, "Look at Teddy and Victorie."
Harry shuffled his feet until they had completed half a circle and he could see his godson and niece hugging and swaying in time to the music. "I may have to have that talk with him sooner than I thought."
"You will if he keeps copying his godfather," Ginny teased, reaching back to take Harry's hand and return it to her waist.
The first Friday in May found Percy and Audrey dining in a restaurant atop a London high-rise. Determined that tonight would be the night he proposed and told her the truth, he started the conversation down the path towards revealing the magical world with a simple, "So the Prime Minister was out of the office all afternoon on Wednesday."
"How do you know that?" Audrey responded calmly, but not before a slightly raised eyebrow and subtly clenched fist revealed that she was truly surprised by Percy's knowledge of the event.
Percy nonchalantly answered, "I was with him."
Audrey and Percy both sat back as the waiter placed the slice of chocolate fudge cake they were sharing for dessert on the table. The moment he departed she leaned forward and whispered, "I know the government has many departments with many secrets, but the only reason I know the PM was gone is because we noticed he wasn't receiving any visitors, and I'm on his staff. Well his staff's staff at least. You've already told me you can't say which department you work for, but right now the curiosity is near as killing me. Are you sure you can't give me a little hint?"
"I might be able to more than that," Percy answered. "Look at the cake."
Audrey glanced at the cake to see a diamond engagement ring and gasped, "How?"
"I visited the jewelers."
"I meant how did it get on the cake silly. Obviously you visited the jewelers."
"Oh, how it got on the cake." Percy simply smiled and shrugged, "Magic." Leaning forward he took Audrey's hands in his, "Ms. Marriner, would you do me the honor of becoming Mrs. Weasley?"
Deciding if Percy was going to play at being coy so was she, Audrey replied, "I won't answer you until you put the ring on my finger." Percy released her hands, picked the ring up from the cake, wiped it off with his napkin and slid it on her finger. The moment the ring was in place a beaming Audrey announced, "Yes I will marry you!"
Surprised to find he was fighting back tears Percy took a moment to gather himself before announcing, "I love you."
"I love you," Audrey answered, giving Percy's hands a squeeze.
With a feeling of pure joy that he hadn't felt in many years, maybe ever, Percy moved forward. Now that he could legally reveal the magical world to her, he wanted to do it as quickly as possible. "I noticed that the ring was somewhat loose; put your hand under the table."
"For a very good reason," Percy answered. "Please just trust me on this."
Audrey gave Percy a quizzical look but complied and slipped her left hand under the table. Taking a quick glance around the room as he placed his right hand under the table and picked up his wand from it's hiding place, Percy pointed it at her and thought the proper incantation.
A small flash appeared from under the table and Audrey felt a warm sensation as the ring sized to fit her finger. Yanking her hand to her chest she exclaimed, a little too loudly given their present location, "What was that?"
"Just a camera flash I think," Percy calmly replied, knowing it wouldn't explain the warming sensation but would at least account for the flash it anyone else nearby had noticed. Leaning forward he offered her his hands, which she accepted, and whispered; "Perhaps we should be off. There's a great deal I need to show you and explain to you this evening."
Though curious as to what exactly he meant, Audrey nodded her agreement and Percy placed enough cash on the table to cover the tab and tip, before standing to hold her chair. Leaving the sky-scraper they walked hand in hand to a quiet alley, "Do you still trust me?" Audrey nodded yes and he replied, "Good, because I need to tell you I'm a wizard." Before she could respond he disapparated and she suddenly felt as if she was being dragged through a rubber hose.
"What the bloody hell was that!" Audrey exclaimed the moment the suffocating pressure released it's grip. Despite feeling excessively nauseous she wheeled on her companion and demanded, "You tell me what is going on right now Percival Weasley or I swear to God I will hail a cab and… where the hell are we!"
Placing his hands on Audrey's shoulders, Percy calmly and deliberately announced, "I'm going to tell you, but first I want to review what has happened to this point. Firstly your engagement ring appeared on the cake, seemingly out of thin air."
Audrey smiled briefly and the mention of them being engaged but didn't hesitate to protest, "Yes, but you could easily have placed it there while I wasn't looking."
"This is true," Percy agreed, "However if you recall the ring was loose on your finger. After the flash under the table, and the warming sensation I assume you felt, it now fits perfectly. Does it not?" Audrey felt the ring, cocked her head to the side pondering what she'd been told and nodded. Percy smiled, "Good, I've never actually done that spell before. It's a very simple one; however that doesn't lessen the satisfaction of knowing I preformed it correctly. But I digress. Once you agreed to marry me I could legally reveal the existence of our world to you. That is why I told you I'm a wizard and brought you here to the Ministry of Magic. A journey, given our mode of transport and your inexperience with it, I suspect you may have found less than enjoyable."
"Less than enjoyable is an understatement," Audrey began, "It felt like I was being constricted, almost…," stopping mid-sentence she suddenly spun around and threw her hands in the air. "Percy this is ridiculous! Everyone knows magic is just an illusion." Spinning back to face Percy she folded her arms across her chest and demanded, "Tell me what is actually going on. Now!"
Percy had been prepared for this eventuality, after all it wasn't everyday that a muggle was suddenly introduced to the world of magic. After much deliberation he had already determined what his next move would be, even going so far as to practice it in advance. Removing his wand he began, "Your reluctance is most understandable. You are not only a woman of very great beauty, but also exceedingly great intelligence. Therefore it is reasonable to speculate that you would not be swayed by anything which could also be construed as a simple illusion. Such as this," Percy waved his wand and sparkling letters spelling 'Percy loves Audrey' appeared floating inside a shimmering heart. "Or perhaps this," he ran his wand along his forearm and a dozen roses appeared which were presented to a stunned Audrey. "Or even this, Wingardium Leviosa," Percy held his wand steady as she floated into the air. He next turned slowly, guiding her in a single orbit around him. Softly lowering her back to the floor he finished with, "However you must admit, not even the best muggle illusionist can levitate a person without their cooperation, and that your own senses are telling you nothing was supporting you while you floated around me."
"Ah, but one can be easily deceived by their senses," Audrey countered. "And while I have the floor, may I ask what a muggle illusionist is?"
Percy smiled, for a muggle of high intelligence and well grounded common sense it was, of course, the very reaction one would suspect. Yet something in her demeanor hinted that she was starting to consider the possibility that he may just be telling the truth. "A muggle illusionist is an illusionist that is a muggle." Immediately regretting how condescending that sounded he quickly added, "And a muggle is how we refer to non-magical humans. Less than flattering perhaps, but there you have it. Now, what else can I do to convince you I'm telling the truth; that a large group of magical humans lives secretly among almost every society on earth and that I am indeed a wizard?"
Audrey studied Percy closely, few would guess it but he did possess a wicked sense of humor, in addition to a remarkable wit and stunning intelligence. If anyone she new could pull of a stunt like this it would be him, yet everything about him, from his body language to the tone of his voice, indicated he was being sincere. Additionally, it was true she had no idea how he'd done the things she'd just witnessed, but then again she also had no idea how a magician she once saw on the telly made a whole train disappear in front of a station full witnesses. Cautiously moving forward she started with, "You say you're a wizard." Percy nodded and Audrey continued, "And this is the Ministry of Magic?"
"It is," Percy confirmed, "The atrium. For security reasons it's the only room you can apparate in or out of, apart from the apparition licensing office off course."
"Of course," Audrey replied. "And just what exactly is apparating?"
"It's how we traveled here this evening."
"That would make sense," Audrey conceded. "It wouldn't do to have people just popping in and out of offices." Her voice had a slight edge of scornfulness to it, yet Percy remained quiet as she moved on. "So if this is the Ministry of Magic, it follows there must be a Minister of Magic."
"Minister for Magic," Percy corrected, immediately regretting the action.
Apart from a quick censuring glance Audrey ignored him and continued, "And I assume the Prime Minister is aware of this and meets on a regular basis with the Minister forMagic and that is why you were in his offices the day we met." Having taken the decision that he would only open his mouth if absolutely necessary, Percy nodded. Audrey nodded in return and caught him off guard by asking, "Why are there fireplaces lining the walls?"
"The floo network," was Percy's straight forward reply, "Another way of travel between locations, slightly messy, but highly effective."
"And why were you with the Prime Minister on Wednesday, or is that still something you can't tell me?
Percy hadn't expected this question to be asked again, however he considered it reasonable and explained, "Now that you have been made aware of the existence of the wizarding world I am completely free to tell you. The Prime Minister was attending the Remembrance Day ceremonies with the Minister for Magic. I've been told it is not unlike the muggle holiday of the same name."
Audrey wondered why the Prime Minister would attend ceremonies commemorating a wizarding holiday, if indeed there was such a thing, but decided that question could wait. Asking instead, "You've referred to the wizarding world, is that a generic term in line with mankind? What I mean is, are females also called wizards or are they witches? That is of course assuming that there is such a thing as the magical world."
"A very astute question and one I had not anticipated." This wasn't entirely true; Percy had anticipated the question but felt a little flattery couldn't hurt his cause. "The fairer sex is referred to as witches."
"Use one of these fireplaces to take me someplace," Audrey requested.
"What?" Percy responded, truly taken completely by surprise.
"Use them to take me someplace," Audrey repeated. "If you are really a wizard and those fireplaces are really a form of magical transport, take me someplace. Perhaps your parent's house, I've never met them."
"Very well," Percy replied. "Being a muggle the magic won't work for you, not to mention that there may very well be a fire lit at the other end which could severely burn you, so you will have to hold my hand. That way I can extend my magical protection to you."
Audrey extended her hand to Percy, "I don't mind that." However just before they stepped over the grate she decided to alter her requests. "Wait. If this is some sort of trick a bright man such of your self may have anticipated me requesting to meet your parents. If I remember correctly you once said you had a younger sister who is already married, take me to her house."
Even better, Percy thought to himself. Between Ginny and Harry there is such a strong presence of magic in that house that it can only make convincing her easier. As they stepped into the fireplace he took a pinch of floo powder, tossed it to the floor and clearly spoke, "Grimmauld Place." Mere moments later they stepped into the kitchen of the old house to find Kreacher hurrying to greet them. "Good evening Kreacher," Percy started as he used his wand to clean the soot from Audrey, who was so busy staring at the old elf that she didn't seem to notice. "I'm sorry we've arrived unannounced, are Harry and Ginny in this evening?"
"Good evening Mr. Percy, friend of Master Potter and brother of Mistress Potter," Kreacher answered, bowing slightly. "Your arrival is indeed unexpected. I believe the Master and Mistress are in the parlor. If you would be so kind as to follow me, I shall announce your arrival."
"Thank you Kreacher," Percy answered as he started to follow the elf from the kitchen. "House elf," he whispered to Audrey in response to her unasked question, "A wizard's butler if you will."
"And do all wizards have house elves," Audrey whispered back?
Percy shook his head as he answered, "Goodness no, only the wealthy and then not always. As a point of speculation, I'm inclined to believe that Harry would not have one if he hadn't inherited Kreacher with the house."
Despite being slightly in shock Audrey couldn't help noticing that the house was furnished with what appeared to be antiques of the highest quality, "So your brother-in-law is wealthy?"
"Very, as I understand it," was the answer that Percy offered. "He is also extremely athletic, as is Ginny. I don't follow quidditch closely myself, but they are two of the game's biggest stars." The pride in his voice was unmistakable as he continued, "Both have been called up to represent England for the World Cup qualifying matches."
"Quidditch? World Cup qualifying matches?"
"A game played on brooms, much too physical for my tastes, and yes World Cup qualifying matches. Again, I don't follow the game closely, but my understanding is that there are more countries wishing to enter the tournament than there are places for. Accordingly each continent sets it's own qualifying process to reduce that number."
By now they had reached the parlor and Audrey didn't have the chance to explain that she understood what World Cup qualifying was. It was just that she was unaware that wizards, she was now willing to concede that there just may be such a thing, had such an event.
Kreacher led them into the parlor, where Harry and Ginny sat snuggled closely together on the sofa watching a movie, and announced, "Mr. Percy Weasley and guest."
Harry immediately clicked off the movie and said, "Thank you Kreacher," as he and Ginny stood to greet their guests. Walking across the room he took Percy's hand, "To what do we owe this unexpected honor?"
Suddenly feeling unsure how to continue, no Percy decided, just nervous, he announced, "Harry and Ginny may I present Ms. Audrey Marriner. Audrey, this is Harry and Ginny Potter. Just this very evening Audrey has agreed to take my hand in marriage and I now find myself attempting to prove to her that I am indeed a wizard and that magic does indeed really exist."
The words were barely out of Percy's mouth when Ginny wrapped him in a bear hug and exclaimed, "Percy that is wonderful." Moving on to hug Audrey she continued with, "Welcome to the family! It's nice to finally meet the muggle girlfriend we've been hearing about.
"Thank you very much Ginny," Audrey beamed, the reason for her visit to the house momentarily forgotten. "Was he as vague telling you about me as he has been telling me about you?" Before Ginny could respond Audrey grasped Percy's arm, "Percy the people in the painting above the mantle are moving!"
"That would be my grandparents and my father," Harry offered. Adding with a playful wink, "Of course my father was slightly older before I entered the world. The facts of life are one of many things muggles and wizards have in common. Please allow me to introduce you." Harry turned to the portrait, "Grandpa, Grandma, I'd like to introduce you to Percy's fiancée, Audrey Marriner."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Audrey," the portrait answered.
As Audrey tried not to faint from shock, Harry continued, "I believe a toast is in order." With a wave of his hand a bottle on the bar uncorked and poured a portion of it's contents into four glasses. "I hope honey mead is alright. Ginny and I have matches tomorrow and shouldn't have anything stronger. Probably shouldn't have anything actually, but how often is it that the last eligible Weasley brother puts a ring on a ladies finger." With another wave of his hand the four glasses floated from the bar to the quartet. "To Percy and Audrey," Harry toasted.
"Percy and Audrey," Ginny echoed.
"To us," Percy offered.
Audrey didn't say anything, opting instead to just shoot back her drink in one go.