Summary: Finding Percy had taken…how long had it been now? Four years! She took a deep breath, ran her tongue along her bottom lip, and rapped her knuckles smartly on the door. It opened. She found herself looking right at Percy Weasley. "Penny?" he asked, staring. A Percy/Penny story. 1 yr after HP7. AU

A/N: I started writing this before Deathly Hallows, so it is rather AU. I loved Percy's return in book 7, by the way. This one is totally different. I'm putting it up today because it is Percy's birthday (August 22nd)! He'd been in his early thirties, now, I think…ick, that's old. Just for fun, here's one of my favorite Percy-related quotes: "But Percy, who looked very white and somehow much younger than usual, splashed out to meet them."

Disclaimer: This is mostly mine, actually, except the main characters and Baker Street, unfortunately. I love Percy and Penny and adore the names of her uncles. (Ulysses, Hector, Penelope, her sister Helen…get it?)

Our story opens on Baker Street in London, England, on a dismal day. It was raining, not enough to impair the vision of the many taxi drivers but just enough to cause people walking down the street to pull up their collars or duck under shop canopies and take out their umbrellas. One particular pedestrian, however, didn't seem bothered by the rain. She was a young woman, tall, with long, brown, curly hair and chocolate brown eyes which flitted from the addresses to a small slip of paper she held in one hand, shielded from blotching by the rain, and back again. She wore leather sandals, cropped canvas pants, and a blue rain jacket.

She continued up the street, checking addresses on both sides, until she stopped in front of an average-looking apartment building. It was now beginning to pour in earnest, so she hurried inside. Once in the lobby, she shook out her wet hair and looked around. There were several chairs on one side and on the other was a large desk where a pimply teenage boy with a strange spider web tattoo on his neck sat typing on the computer and snapping his gum. She took a breath to steel herself and then strode toward the desk with a purposeful step.

The boy looked up. "Want something?" he asked, blinking unnaturally pale eyes at her.

She nodded and handed him another slip of paper. "Does anyone of that general description live here?" she questioned as he read over the note. She couldn't see it but she knew exactly what it said: "tall, young man, curly red/ginger hair, brown eyes, glasses, freckles, thin build." She held her breath, waiting for his answer.

"I'm not sure," he drawled finally. "I don't really know the people who rent here…you got a name?"

"Yes," she answered. "Percy Weasley."

The boy tapped something in on his computer, scratched his nose while waiting for it to process, then looked up again. "Yup," he said, "We got someone with that name here. You wanted to see him?"

"Yes. Could you tell me the room?"

He looked a little troubled. "Don't know the room? Never been here before?"

She shook her head.

He now began to dig through the desk drawer, talking as he searched. "I'll have to call up and ask if he knows ya. Normal procedure in case of stalkers and stuff. Or burglars. Not that you look like one, but I gotta do this or I get fired…aha!" He had discovered a piece of paper with a list of numbers written on it. He ran his finger down this list, checked something on the computer, then picked up the desk phone. He then looked up again, expectantly. "Who should I say's here?"

She considered. There were two possibilities. Should she tell the truth? How would he respond to 'your old girlfriend?' But, just the same, would he let her up if he thought she was his sister? Too bad she didn't look more like Ginny; she wished for a moment that she could change her appearance at will…And if she did say she was his sister? He couldn't really say, "No, I don't want to see my sister" because he wouldn't want the desk boy to think something was up. He didn't like it when people knew or thought they knew he had problems. And so…

"His sister," she said.

The boy gave her a funny glance as he dialed the number. She privately sighed. She knew it wasn't perfect; she didn't really look much like Percy, except perhaps their eyes—they both had similar chocolate brown eyes; she remembered having commented on it once.

The boy was talking now; she tried very hard to ignore the one sided conversation. She didn't want to imagine what Percy was saying. What if he clamed he had no sisters? He could always do that…she cursed herself for overlooking said possibility.

She jumped slightly when the teen hung up the phone. "Well?" she asked to cover up her moment of awkwardness.

"He said come up…come on, I'll show you the stairs; I've got to unlock the door anyway…"

He came into the lobby through a side office and then led her into the hall. A glass door at the end of the corridor led to the stairs. He unlocked it, then said, "The apartment you're looking for is fourth floor, right hand side…good luck." With that he left and she started up the stairs.

They zigzagged up. There were stairs, then the first floor landing with two doors, then stairs the other direction, then the second floor, and so on, up to the top. Upon reaching the fourth floor landing, she paused to compose herself. "Right hand was it? Yes, that's what he said…" she muttered, turning to face the door. She stared at it.

Finding Percy had taken…how long had it been now? Four years! Four whole years since the last time she'd seen him: at her graduation. He had said that he was sorry but they had to stop seeing each other; what with his job and her healer training, they would be too busy…and she had agreed, but she hadn't thought that breaking up meant they wouldn't write anymore. She'd sent him a letter, he'd sent one back, she'd sent another, but no reply. Then another, apologizing that her brand new owl—the first she'd ever owned: a male snowy named Artemis—must have gotten lost. Still no reply.

Then, slowly, she'd found out. An old school friend told her that she'd heard that Percy had moved to London or something. That there had been a fight and he'd just left. At first she hadn't believed it; running away from home was something only a seven-year-old would do, not Percy, and seven-year-olds would only make it halfway down the street anyway. But eventually, she accepted it.

She still wanted to find him, though. Her friend Thaddeus worked at the Ministry, so she'd asked him to help. Maybe he could just find out Percy's address? But Thad's office was across the building from Percy's; they never talked. As Thad explained, you needed a really good excuse to come into the Minister's outer office, which was where Percy's desk was. So, she gave up on that possibility.

Next she just went around to apartment buildings, asking, "Have you seen a man of this general description?" No one had until one day the woman in line behind her had asked for the description again. After reading it, she had confessed that her cousin lived in a flat and when she had visited, she had seen someone who looked like that…possibly. She promised to ask her cousin if a 'Percy Weasley' lived in the building. They exchanged phone numbers.

Two weeks passed: just long enough for her to think the woman had forgotten. Then the call came. Yes, there was a Weasley at the building. Yes, red hair and glasses and all that. Here's the address. And here she was.

She took a deep breath, ran her tongue along her bottom lip, and rapped her knuckles smartly on the door. It opened.

She found herself looking right at Percy Weasley. "Penny?" he asked, staring. He looked just like she remembered: same tall, thin build, same face, same eyes…just a little older. He was still clean and dressed neat and what she could see of the room behind him was orderly too.

"Come in," he said finally, "We can't stand in the door all day…" He moved aside and Penny stepped in. She hung her rain jacket on a peg by the door and then gingerly sat down on the edge of the couch. Percy sat in a chair opposite her. "So…" he said awkwardly, looking at his folded hands. "Why are you here?"

That was Percy, all right. Cutting right to the chase. Never mind the building up, the formalities, the 'how's things' sort of stuff; that got in the way. Here was the point.

"Well," said Penny, determined that she wouldn't beat around the bush either, " I've come to see you. Honestly, that's all! I mean…I miss you. I miss seeing you and writing to you. And the books! Do you remember all those books we used to trade? And the weird conversations we'd have? There was that one about why it seemed to be okay for Odysseus to sleep with whoever on his journey but Penelope had to remain faithful…and the one after the Lord of the Rings, remember? About how it might almost be better to be Muggles because their lack of magic in their lives gave them bigger imaginations so they could fill the gap, create beautiful things because they didn't already have them…

"I mean, it's so hard to find people like you. People who care enough to read Muggle books, to discuss them, to understand a little of how my life has been, stuck in between. Most Wizards don't care; they think Muggles are stupid or silly and they don't want to know…anything. And Muggles—I have Muggle friends, I can't tell them about our world because they wouldn't get it either; they'd think I was insane…You were the only person I could talk to. You wanted to learn and you did. You loved their books and music and you were fascinated by them, by the differences, the similarities; you're the only person who understood…

"So, I miss you, yes…

"And, of course, we could forget about me. Pretend I'm not here for myself; forget the used to be going out business. I also represent your family; they want you back, Perce." She looked at him, shaking her head.

During her speech he had been examining his hands; now he looked up and she was surprised because he looked so…lost. "No they don't," he muttered.

Penny sighed. "Have I ever told you about my uncle Hector?" He shook his head. "I didn't think so. Well, he was the youngest of three brothers: him, my dad, and my uncle Ulysses…yes, smile at the names. But see… where to begin? Well, their mother, I never met her, but they say she was the most wonderful woman in the world…well, Uncle Hector…he left. I don't know why, but he disappeared and we couldn't find him, had no idea where he was. We didn't find out until ten years after my grandmother died when he returned. It was something like "Hi, I've been in Sydney, I've got a wife, two kids…" you know, all that. Then he found out Grandma had died…had died without knowing where he was or what he thought of her…It was quite sad, really. But what I'm trying to say is… what am I trying to say? I don't know." She shook her head and shrugged.

"I guess it's that…parents…they love you no matter what. It's some unconditional, unexplainable thing… My sister Helen, you wouldn't know, but she got married and now she's maybe five months pregnant and she says she already loves it. I don't know how…but I guess it's got to be that way…kids drive you crazy, they're loud, they smell, they break rules, they do everything in their power to make you go mad, they ignore you, they, I don't know, say they hate you, but parents still love them. I guess it's because they're theirs, you know?

"So I guess what I'm saying is that of course they want you back. I mean, you're their kid. And then, there're your siblings…Bill and Charlie, they want their little brother back, the one who followed them around and tried to be like them and…failed, but that's okay. And the rest, they want their big brother back, even if it's to make fun of you and steal your stuff and break your glasses…maybe that's just their way of loving you…I wouldn't know. I'm the youngest. But how can you think that they don't?"

"Look, I don't know," he answered, not looking at her. "And that's the stupid thing: I want to go back but I just can't! I sometimes just wish that I would wake up in my room back at home and that I'd already be back, but I wouldn't have to actually return, you know? Or else that they'd make me come back, so they could say, "You were wrong, but it's okay." Instead of me saying I was wrong…I'm bad at that, I don't like saying that aloud, like admitting defeat…I don't know.

"But, look," he finally burst out, impulsively, after a pause. "I'll do it; I'll return, just promise me one thing…"

"What?" she asked and tried very hard not to smile at her victory. He would come back! Things could be almost normal again!

He smiled ruefully. "That you'll come with me."

She grinned outright now. "Of course!" Then she sobered and drew her tongue along the tips of her teeth. "Before we go—"

"Now?" he asked, surprised. "Today?!"

"Why not? Might as well get it over with. But I had one question before we leave…why? Why did you bring all this upon yourself? Why did you leave?" She cocked her head to one side, regarding him curiously while he frowned at nothing and thought.

"Lots of reasons, I guess," he finally began. "I mean first off there's because of the job with Fudge. All that stuff happened to Mr. Crouch and there was the inquiry and everything—they thought someone else was sending me the letters, but I didn't know—so I figured, well, that's it with the Ministry. My boss went crazy and I was sort of taking his place; you know what that looks like—I did him in at worst and I'm completely incompetent at best. Basically, my life was in the process of being incredibly crappy when, out of nowhere, I get a promotion!

"Of course, thinking that it was on personal merit was pretty stupid," he went on, rolling his eyes. " I was only deluding myself, really. Obviously Fudge just wanted me around because I'm a Weasley and he wanted inside information on Dumbledore. Once it became clear that he wasn't going to get any, he couldn't exactly fire me because it would've been way too obvious. But see, at the time, a good job at the Ministry was all I wanted.

"Really, I've spent all my life working up to that point. A Ministry job means prestige, means having people know me because of my own merit not my family. And it means money. Not that I'm, I dunno, one of those people who are all snobby about money, who care more about galleons than mostly anything. You know I'm not. But…well, you know my family's poor. So I grew up with shoddy things and usually not being able to afford what I wanted; with a half dead owl and a weird house and second-hand stuff—I mean, I didn't get glasses until I was eight, even though I needed them at six; although that was more my fault, really, I didn't realize that the world wasn't blurry, see. But I didn't really care until I went to Hogwarts. There I was the kid who had the second-hand books and wore his brother's old robes even though they were too small…and I decided I didn't like it. So, what does one do about things one doesn't like? Change them.

"I resolved to get a good job when I got out of school so that I could make money and if I ever had any kids…well, they wouldn't grow up like I did. But back to the topic at hand…so, the Ministry was where I wanted to be and when Dad suggested that my promotion wasn't because of my own years of hard work…I kind of blew up at him."

At this point he smiled ruefully. "I guess I got some of Mum's bad temper, only we expect her to shout…They say it's the quiet ones, don't they…" He shrugged. "Course, I wanted to return, but… my stupid pride has prevented that. Even when Dad was injured…I didn't find out until maybe a week later, but I still didn't go and see him…And if he'd died…." He trailed off.

There was silence for a time. Percy looked at the wall and thought. Penny glanced out the window; it was still raining. She listened to the clock ticking out the seconds. Suddenly, Percy was talking again: "I was a moron! I'll admit it…and Dad could've died, or Ron when he was poisoned, or Bill when he got attacked by that werewolf…but I didn't return—I wasn't even at my own brother's wedding! I'm a prat, a total prat—"

Penny cut him off, "So that's it, isn't it? You think your family won't take you back and forgive you because you can't forgive yourself."

He nodded dejectedly. "Well, that's all right then!" she continued briskly, getting up. Percy stared at her as though she had gone mad. She held out an impatient hand to help him up.

"Well, come on!"

"But—" he stammered, utterly confused, but taking the proffered limb.

Penny sighed. "It's quite simple," she explained. "You say you're worried your family won't forgive you? Well, I have on good authority that you're wrong there."

She paused shortly, biting her lower lip a bit, then chose to continue on: "See, I forgive you…. Because I love you. And so does your family. That's how these things work, after all."

She gave him an apologetic shrug. Her heart was on her sleeve now and she knew it. It was a feeling she wasn't quite accustomed to. But she knew, when Percy finally smiled and grabbed her wrist with a new resolve, ready to Disapparate to the Burrow and face whatever was waiting there for him, that it would be all right.


A/N: Like? Please be a dear and review!