"Oh, but she is a lovely girl," Fleur said, tossing her pale hair over one shoulder. The midday sunlight caught her just right, making an angelic halo around her head. A man not accustomed to her presence would be likely to forget himself and his mundane surroundings in favour of simply basking in her aura for as long as she'd allow.
Percy, however, was not swayed by either his sister-in-law's beauty or her reasoning. "That does not make her a good choice for me," he said. He took a bite of his steak and chewed it completely before adding, "Besides, doesn't she have a boyfriend?"
"Zat Malfoy boy is not good enough for my seester," Fleur replied, shaking a breadstick at him.
"I'm sure his bank account tells him otherwise," mumbled Bill. The others paid him little attention as he leaned back in his seat to better take in the scene before him. It wasn't the first time his wife and brother had debated this subject—or any other for that matter, as they were both very adept with words—but every time seemed to differ just enough that it always managed to amuse rather than bore him. Lunch breaks really wouldn't be the same without it, much like their usual table on the crowded terrace of the Faded Rose Cantina or the pint of ale that Fleur always tried to talk him out of.
"I do not see why you do not wish to find a nice girl," Fleur continued, undeterred by Percy's irritated manner. "You 'ave grown to be quite as 'andsome as my Bill, so eet cannot be zat."
Bill's eyes narrowed. "You think that nancy boy is a match for me?" At Percy's indignant expression, he grinned. "Besides, he doesn't have my ornamentation."
Fleur reached one hand up to trace a long, deep scar that ran from his temple to his chin. Any doubt he'd had about his physical attractiveness had been waylaid by the enthusiasm his wife had shown the first time she was able to strip him down and kiss each one of them. Having your ego—among other things—stroked by a half-Veela could definitely raise ones…spirits.
"You do not 'ave anything to worry about, Bill Weasley," she said, lingering long enough to kiss him fiercely before turning back to her prey. "You, 'owever, will if you don't find a girl soon. Do you want Ron to beat you to 'aving children?"
"I don't see why I should bother," Percy said, waving his hand dismissively. "It seems Ginny will provide Mum with enough for both of us. Pretty soon the Burrow won't hold us all."
Bill smiled softly. His sister and Harry had announced the night before that Ginny was pregnant again, this time with twins. He and Fleur had Victoire, the little angel—or demon, depending on whom you asked—who had just passed her first birthday, but from the way his wife had been talking, they would soon be trying for their second. Percy was right; his mum was not going to be lacking in grandchildren anytime soon.
"Where's Hermione?" asked Percy. "It's not like her to be so tardy."
"There was a little incident with her dragon earlier," said Bill. He glanced sideways to try and catch Fleur's eye, but she was looking too intently at her brother-in-law. "Said she'd be a little late because of a particularly nasty cut."
"Why are you here and not making sure she's all right?" There was an edge in Percy's voice that hadn't been present seconds earlier. "Merlin, Bill, I don't know why you people keep those creatures on staff. At the Ministry—"
"You are not guarding valuable objects for ze most prominent wizarding families in England," said Fleur.
"And you know I can't go down there, Perce. Her security clearance is far higher than mine. I'm surprised she could tell me as much as she did."
"Well…then I certainly hope her superiors have taken proper care of her!"
After that comment, Percy took to observing his steak very carefully as he sliced small bites from one end and chew each very carefully. The tips of his ears were pink, and the July heat quickly ruled out the only other reason they would be so. Either Fleur hadn't noticed, or she was doing a really good job of pretending she hadn't, as she continued for a few minutes on the subject of the bank's traditional take on security, and how it was far superior to the many new Muggle ideas that had been presented.
Bill still wasn't sure if Percy's embarrassment at any attention he paid to Hermione was due to actual affection on his brother's part, or just fear that the family would assume too much beyond the friendship that had formed. They weren't even particularly close, as far as he could tell, but being the only two single people left at family gatherings had thrown them together a bit more over the last year than ever before. Then Percy had begun having lunch with the three Gringott's employees about six months earlier, and Bill had really begun to wonder. Even if something wasn't there…could it happen? They were certainly intellectual matches for one another, both financially stable and—if Fleur was to be believed on Percy's account—pleasant to look at.
"You've got to go on the pull," said Bill suddenly, right in the middle of Fleur's impassioned speech on the merits of Limb Removal Jinxes as a theft deterrent. Both turned to look at him strangely. "Think about it. Fleur's right. It's been a year, and it's high time you stepped out and met a nice girl and forgot all about Pen—"
"Who said my single status had anything to do with her?"
"Um, I hate to break it to you, mate, but she did when she left you."
Percy's gaze was even and unfazed. "Yes, but as you've already stated, that was a year ago. She has nothing to do with why I'm single now."
Bill matched his stare. "So why are you single now?"
"I'm too busy for a relationship," Percy replied, glancing away.
"Busy my arse," Bill said with a smirk. "I see you nearly every day. If you can do that, you can manage a bird."
"Boys!" Fleur interrupted with a little clear of her throat. Her expression was stern, but it was equally seductive as it was frightening. Bill couldn't look away as she continued. "Zere is simply only one solution to this situation. Percy, you must accompany Bill zis evening to ze establishment of 'is choice."
The witch's eyes flamed. "You will peruse ze available women and 'ave a frank discussion with your brother on ze status of your love life and your expectations for eets future." He started to interrupt again, but she stopped him with another glare. "I believe zis will accomplish two theengs: you may see what you 'ave been missing out on, and Bill and I will be comforted knowing zat, for once, you are not 'ome alone on a Friday night."
Bill smiled. His wife really was brilliant sometimes. "And we'll leave you alone about it after that."
Fleur shot him a look but did not contradict him. Being brilliant didn't mean she couldn't lay it on a little too thick sometimes. And if he knew anything about Percy, he knew his little brother would remain unconvinced if he didn't see a distinct advantage to him. Being exempt from further pressure about his love life—well, for the two weeks that Fleur would be able to stick to the agreement—was a definite bonus.
The expression Percy adopted indicated that he seemed to recognize the merit in the agreement, despite the demanding nature of it. His mouth opened, probably to protest, but then closed again. Even he wasn't immune to the effects of Fleur's influence, when she was determined to get her way.
"I fail to see what 'going on the pull' is supposed accomplish," he said finally.
"I agree completely."
Bill turned to see Hermione standing across the table from him. He'd been so engrossed in the conversation that he hadn't seen her walk up, but Percy seemed even more startled by her presence. The blush had returned to his face, and he forgot to rise as she took her seat, an old-fashioned practice he'd adopted when he discovered it made Hermione giggle and turn red in return. He did sit up a little straighter. Had all these signs really been there all along? Fleur's smug smile told Bill that they had, but he had simply missed them.
"After all, how is mingling amongst dozens of complete strangers supposed to advance one's love life? If a person is that incapable of making meaningful relationships with his or her peers, it's unlikely that meeting another drunken lowlife is going to lead to anything of significance." Hermione continued as she unfolded her napkin and placed it neatly in her lap. She snorted out a little laugh and looked at Percy. "Why on earth did that come up? Do we know someone who's that desperate?"
Percy stood up so quickly that Fleur let out a startled yelp, and several people at surrounding tables turned to glare at them. It wasn't the first time their lunchtime ruckus had drawn attention to them, but it was the first time Bill could remember that Percy had caused it. The younger Weasley's face was no longer red, but practically purple, as he dug into pocket and tossed a few galleons on the table.
"I suppose your success with meaningful relationships has made you an expert on the subject, then."
Percy said the words with such an even, venomous tone that even Fleur leaned away from him. Hermione's reaction was slow, and when she turned in her seat, a confused expression on her face, she winced slightly. It had probably only been through an argument with their Head Healer that she'd made it to the lunch at all, and now she was getting this kind of reaction from an off-hand comment. There was no way she could have known their true topic.
"I don't think—" started Bill.
"I might even venture to say you're in an even more desperate situation than I am," Percy continued, completely ignoring his brother. "Perhaps you should come with us."
"Percy, I didn't mean…." Hermione reached a hand out toward him, a friendly gesture that could usually calm even the most heated of Percy and Fleur's daily arguments.
"I'll see you at Shell Cottage at eight," said Percy tersely without acknowledging Hermione's words. "A night as a drunken lowlifesounds like a nice change."
He disapparated before anyone else could comment. Hermione's mouth was frozen open in total shock. "You were trying to force him to get out and socialize, weren't you?" she said slowly.
Bill passed the basket of breadsticks, nodding. "Don't worry about it, Hermione. You know how his temper can be sometimes."
She turned back toward the table, blinking fiercely to combat the moisture that had formed in her eyes. "Well, I just dropped a clanger, didn't I?
"Actually, zis is a wonderful development," said Fleur, smiling brightly. She speared some salad on her fork and continued eating as if nothing unusual had happened.
"And just how is this wonderful?" asked Bill, cocking an eyebrow at his wife. He stole a glance at Hermione, who was staring at her menu without actually seeming to take it in. She looked altogether miserable.
Fleur smiled. "Well, 'e is coming tonight, isn't 'e?"
Hermione raised a hand to knock on the door but paused in midair. When the workday had ended, she'd made the snap decision to drop by Percy's flat and attempt an apology, but now she wasn't so sure it was wise. Would he even let her in? When she was dating Ron, the kind of comment she'd made would have gotten her the silent treatment for weeks. Percy and Ron couldn't normally be compared on many levels—any, really—but the Weasley temper could be a bit unpredictable.
It had been in those early days after the war that she'd visited this flat for the first and only time. Molly had thrown a housewarming party and invited the whole family without even making sure the owner was up to a gathering in his new place. Despite the intrusion, Percy had been uncharacteristically cordial the whole night. It had honestly surprised her at the time. They'd lost Fred barely a year earlier, and the excuses he was making for Penelope's conspicuous absence did nothing to relieve the air of tension. But as the night progressed, everyone had loosened up and had a great time. Percy even brushed off Ron's behaviour—he had gotten utterly pissed and passed out in one of the bedrooms—and made Hermione comfortable despite her embarrassment.
A month later he found out his girlfriend was cheating on him, and soon thereafter he began joining them for lunch. It wasn't long before she saw a completely different side of Percy, one that would have waylaid any surprise she felt at his earlier demeanour, had she known him better before. He was still the same wizard she remembered from their days together at Hogwarts—ambitious, focused to a fault, highly intelligent—but there was a softness she didn't recognize. Whether it was the war or simply a few more years of added wisdom, she didn't know, but she had fallen into an easy acquaintance with him as he began the process of healing the bond with his family.
She let her fist fall, rapping soundly on the door a few times just below the gold numbers that read "919." Her birthday. It was the only reason she'd been able to find her way back to the flat without asking Bill for directions. He had encouraged her to let Percy stew for the weekend, and then patch things up the following week, but she simply couldn't leave things hanging as they were. Her stomach was in knots at the idea that she'd hurt his feelings.
Hermione heard muttering on the other side of the door, and a few seconds later Percy peered out at her. "Hermione? What are you doing here?"
The expression on his face eased the pain in her chest a tiny bit. He seemed surprised to see her, but there was also a queer sort of half smile on his lips. Since she'd been expecting a scowl, this seemed to be a good sign. "I hope I'm not intruding. I'd like to talk to you for a bit, if I could."
"Of course, come in," he said, opening the door wider and stepping out of the way. "I—" he started, and then was suddenly interrupted when Hermes came swooping down between them and held his leg up to her.
"What's this?" asked Hermione, she glanced up at Percy, who seemed more embarrassed than confused. Before he could answer, she was forced to pull the little scroll of parchment from the owl's leg as he was pecking her foot incessantly.
"I had just settled on the apology I was writing you," he explained, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. Then he glanced to his left and dashed into an adjoining room as he continued speaking. "I'm terribly sorry for the mess. If I'd known you were coming…."
Crumpled pieces of parchment littered the floor around a small desk set by a side window, the bin overflowing next to it. Percy knelt scooped a few of them up, attempting to crush them in with the others, but they kept spilling back out. Surely it hadn't taken him that many tries to write a simple apology. Hermione unrolled her parchment.
My behaviour at lunch today was inexcusable. I sincerely regret my words and hope you will be able to forgive me. Please accept my apologies.
She shook her head. All that work for a simple, three sentence apology? The words themselves coupled with the multiple revisions were so characteristic of her friend that she couldn't help laughing. Relief flooded through her like the warmth of a hot beverage on a cold day.
He looked up at her with a pained expression. "Please don't be angry with me. I didn't mean what I said."
"Of course you did," said Hermione. He jumped a little when she put a hand on his shoulder. "You didn't say anything that wasn't true. I came here to apologize to you."
Percy stood, shaking his head. "There's really no need. You're not to blame here. I'm fully aware of my many failings, and learning how to moderate reactions such as this will simply go on the list."
"That's quite enough of that. I am fully aware of how much time you already spend feeling guilty for the past, and I will not have myself anywhere near that list!"
He stared at her for a minute without speaking, their eyes locked in the type of soul-piercing stare that made her knees weak. Could he read the thoughts behind her eyes like she was trying to do to his? Would it take that kind of honesty to have him realize exactly how much she did not hold any of his so-called failings against him?
"Would you care for a cup of tea?" he said finally, that half smile working its way back onto his face.
At her nod, he retreated into the kitchen. She could hear the clinking of china and the kettle on the stove, and she smiled to herself. "I've been thinking a lot about what you said, and you really made a lot of sense," she said, loud enough that he could hear her in the other room.
"Please don't," he said at equal volume.
"But I want to talk about it. I think you might be the only person who really understands me. My love life is an absolute shambles, and I'm completely incapable of doing anything about it."
Percy stepped back out of the kitchen and gave her an odd look, then motioned toward the couch. "Hermione, you are one of the most genuine, caring people I know. You form meaningful relationships with people every day."
She sat next to him. "That's just it. I don't want to make any more meaningful relationships. I'm perfectly content with the people I have already."
"You know, every time I think about how lucky I am, I feel like screaming. I'm still in disbelief at how everyone took me back." When she tried to contradict him, he stopped her with the wave of a hand. "I was a right git for years, Hermione, you can't deny that. There are so many things I missed. Still miss." His voice caught in his throat for a moment before he could continue. "But one of the reasons I don't try harder to seek out companionship, or even new friendships, is that I don't want to miss a second of what I have right now."
Hermione gave him a hard look. "I doubt many things would make your mum happier than knowing you had settled down with a nice girl. They aren't going to hold a social life against you."
"I know," he said, "but it's just not a priority right now. I'm happier than I've been in years. My family, you, my nieces and nephews…what more do I need?"
She felt her heart jump at his words. Did he really count her in his list of most cherished people? She had felt pretty close to him over the last few months, not because they made any particular effort to spend time together, but because they didn't have to make an effort. Sometimes they were thrown together, and sometimes they sought one another out in the crowds, and their retreat together from the family drama or the requirements of being semi-famous public figures was as natural as anything else she had with the Weasley clan.
"You know, even if it hadn't been for the infidelity, Penny and I never would have worked out." There was a hint of sadness in his words, but he was smiling softly.
"Why not?" Hermione asked.
"Because she was with me during those years I'd spent without my family, and she never really did grasp why I couldn't go on without spending so much time with them."
"That cow!" she said in a sudden rush of feeling that was followed by heat creeping into her cheeks. "Sorry."
Percy laughed so hard that he had to clutch his stomach and had trouble catching his breath. She giggled along with him but still couldn't help feeling the tiniest bit embarrassed at the outburst. Calling out his long-time girlfriend in front of him just seemed wrong, even if she was an ex. It wasn't anything she or Ginny hadn't said before, but despite all he was saying, Hermione knew the break-up hadn't been easy on him. She hoped the laughter wasn't just for her sake.
The kettle whistled just as he'd begun to get himself under control. "Excuse me a moment."
Hermione got up, intending to follow him into the kitchen and help prepare the tea, but she stopped in front of his desk, once again eyeing all those crumpled papers. Curiosity got the better of her, and she grabbed one and unfolded it.
I'm a bloody idiot who deserves to be shunned. Please don't tell Mum.
She giggled silently and wadded the parchment up once again. She chose another.
I'm truly sorry for what I said. Can you ever forgive me?
She was amazed at the level of perfectionism employed in the writing of a simple apology note. Page after page of discarded letters seemed equally sufficient to the one she had officially received. There were a few humorous ones, where frustration had obviously gotten the better of him and he'd begun to write nonsense, but most were similarly phrased, maybe with different salutations or word choice. Did he really perceive her to be so easily upset that he'd worry this much over something so straightforward?
There was one sheet of parchment near the bottom of the small rubbish bin that wasn't nearly as mistreated as the others. This one was folded a few times over before being discarded. Evidently the earlier attempts hadn't aggravated him as much as the later ones, when he'd probably been working at it for an hour or more. She picked up this page and started to unfold it when she heard the clinking of china once again.
"What are you doing?" Percy asked, and when she turned to look at him, his face was lined with concern.
Hermione smiled. "I'm not sure why you rejected all these notes. Most of them are perfectly fine, even really nice. I would never judge an apology on your penmanship or grammar."
His eyes flicked down to her hands, where she still held the folded letter, and then back up to her face. "Please don't read that."
"Why on earth not, Percy? You can't possibly have started to say something to me that would be wrong for you to say. I wish you wouldn't worry so much. Yes, you might have been a git in the past, but it's going to take a lot more than—"
She unfolded the letter, and then she knew why he hadn't wanted her to read it.
I love you.
Percy felt all of the blood drain out of his face as Hermione made a little strangled noise and let the letter fall to the floor. He bent quickly to set down the tea tray and retrieve the parchment. Unable to look at her, he said, "You weren't supposed to see that."
"Why not? It has my name on it?"
He looked up, and she was staring back at him. The stunned expression hadn't left her face, but there was something else there as well. It wasn't anger—he'd known her when she was dating Ron, after all, so he recognized all those signs—but there was an edge to her voice that hadn't been present before.
"Because the last thing I want is for you to be uncomfortable." He ran a hand through his hair. "I meant it when I said you were important to me. Even before…this came on. I don't want lose that."
"Who said you had to lose it?" Hermione said. This time he could sense the anger just under the surface. It was the same impassioned reaction he'd seen many times in his debates with Fleur; Hermione was not a woman afraid to voice her convictions. "Have I done something that's made you think I'm that inconstant? That I'd stop speaking to you because of a letter."
"You haven't done anything, Hermione. I'm the one to blame for this."
"Enough!" she shouted so forcefully that he jumped back a step. "I am so bloody tired of this. You. Are. Worth. Loving." She poked him in the chest with each word. "It would be different if someone were still holding out for you to prove yourself, but no one is. If this rubbish is why you haven't wanted to concentrate on settling down, then rest assured—you've been forgiven. Now bloody move on! We all have."
It was rare for Percy Weasley to be speechless, but no one had ever been as frank with him as Hermione had just been. Had he really been as insufferable about it as she made it seem? He loved every minute spent with his family, but he consistently felt he still had another bit of the bridge left to rebuild. Maybe his family had simply been tiptoeing around the issue for his sake, and he had taken it as further reticence on their part to the renewed relationship. It made perfect sense when viewed from that perspective.
"How long have you felt this way?" Hermione asked softly when they'd been silent for a few minutes.
"I think it's been coming on gradually ever since the first day we had lunch, the four of us."
"And why haven't you said anything before?"
"I guess I just couldn't find the right words," Percy said, smiling weakly as he gestured to the piles of paper on the floor. "I'm sorry you had to find out that way. You may be the only girl I know who might actually be able to put up with my workaholic anal-retentive nature, but I guess even this is a bit much."
She studied him for a moment, face unreadable. He wanted to sink into the floor and hide from her scrutiny. Yes, Hermione was different than other girls, ones who would have yelled or cried or stormed straight out of the room, but he'd always imagined she'd be at least a little emotional about the confession. Even if it was just while trying to tell him she didn't feel the same way.
"I can't do this," she said finally. "Not like this."
His stomach plummeted. Even though he was expecting as much, the reality didn't hurt any less. He swallowed hard. "Is it because of Ron?"
She laughed shortly and motioned for him to follow her. "Ron's been over for a long time."
They sat once again on the couch, though Percy was wishing he could rush the conversation to a conclusion so she would leave him alone with his anguish. Why did she have to sit so close to him? He could already imagine her flowery scent, and it wasn't helping in the least. Then she wove her wand, and the lights dropped slightly. A soft music began playing from somewhere above them.
He started to voice his confusion when she suddenly climbed onto his lap. Percy froze, and she giggled at his expression, but immediately her features shifted back to seriousness. What game was this she was playing with him? Was this a test of some sort? Did he need to prove he was going to stop being so self-conscious of others' attitude toward him? Her weight was beginning to be distracting in ways that he doubted she wanted.
She shook her head at him, and then picked up his arms and placed them at her waist. "Now you can tell me."
Percy swallowed, trying his best to keep his breaths deep. "Tell you what?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and shifted a little so that her knees nestled themselves firmly against his sides. He barely suppressed a groan. If she didn't like letters, she really wasn't going to like a purely physical admission of his attraction. Didn't she realize how she affected him?
"Tell me what the letter said."
He felt completely humiliated. What sort of cruel punishment was this? "Um, the letter said that I…that I love you."
Her face broke out into the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen. "I love you, too."
Then she kissed him.
Percy must have forgotten every bit of the nervousness he'd been emanating, because as soon as she leaned down and touched her lips to his, it was as if they'd been together for ages. His lips knew exactly how to caress hers so that she soon forgot to be in control of the situation. He wrapped his arms around her so tightly that she could barely breath, and she pressed herself into him with equal ferocity, loving the feel of his body moulding with hers. He seemed to be kissing and touching every sensitive part of her all at once, and all fully clothed and within the span of seconds. She moaned softly.
Immediately, Percy pulled back, his eyes wide. "Oh Merlin, Hermione, I forgot you were injured today." His hands lightly rubbed her back, making small circles that were enough to drive her crazy at the tease of it. "We should stop. I don't want to aggravate your cut. Dragon-induced injuries are prone to reopening, you know."
"Oh really? Are you an authority on this?" Hermione shifted her hips, and his hands stopped moving on back her just long enough to let her know that it was certainly a struggle for him to stop, despite his sensible words.
"Charlie was talking about it, back when he spent those weeks at the Burrow recovering from his latest wounds."
"He just said that so your mum wouldn't make him do chores around the house," she said, and she leaned forward until her lips were right by his ear. "I feel just fine."
He gently pushed her back, and this time his eyelids fluttered ever so slightly when she took advantage of the move to exert pressure in just the right spot. He ran a hand over her cheek. "I won't risk injuring you further."
This time Hermione made a blatant move to entice him to forget the talking, but this time it only served to ratchet her own level of arousal up a few notches. It was all she could do to sit still. Desperate action was the only option. She grabbed the edges of her shirt and lifted it over her head, exposing the long, white bandage
Percy sucked in a breath. "Hermione, what are you doing?"
She could barely get the words out. "Showing you how fine I am." Her hands were shaking so badly as she started to remove the bandage that she couldn't get a grip on the edge.
"Here, let me."
She watched as he found an edge of the gauze, suddenly aware of her state of undress and how little attention he'd so far paid to it. She had almost expected to not even need to examine the injury, once he truly understood her intent. Instead, she watched as he pulled up a little of the dressing and then quickly ripped the whole thing off. Underneath, a thin, pink scar was visible, but the wound was completely healed. He ran one finger along the line. Hermione shivered.
"See? All better." Her words were barely a whisper.
"Yes," he said, and lifted his eyes, which lingered on all the newly exposed areas before coming up to her face again. His hands traced her curves. "This is much better."
This time the kiss was softer, slower, as he stood up and took her with him. There was more strength in his wiry frame than she had expected, and she found herself lying back on his bed before they even had to break for air. She looked up at him. He was breathing heavily, propped up on one arm so that his weight wouldn't bother her while the other hand traced the edges of her lacy bra. He grinned devilishly as he allowed his fingers to stray to more sensitive areas.
Hermione arched her back, but he had apparently taken it into his hands to torture her back, after the events on the couch. Every time she tried to gain more contact, he would only pull back for a few seconds and then, just when she thought every nerve in her body would explode for want of his touch, he would find some other way to tease her. When he had caressed every inch of her upper body, he started over again, this time favouring alternating light kisses and carefully deliberate flicks of his tongue.
He finally relented and removed her bra, continuing to touch her in ways that threatened to deprive her of all rational thought. When she began fumbling with the button on his pants, he stopped her suddenly. "Are you sure about this?"
"Yes," she said, unsure if her voice could manage any more words than that.
Kissing her deeply, Percy released her hands, and she continued with her plan to remove as much of his clothing as possible before he overwhelmed her. Before she knew it, he had done the same with her, and they both lay completely nude on top of the covers. She shivered, more from desire than the cool air, but he managed to get them under the sheets before she wound her legs around him, and they became lost in a sea of sensations. For a long time she looked into his eyes as they explored this new realm of their relationship, slowly at first and then with more intensity as their urgency for satisfaction grew.
The air seemed thin as Hermione felt pressure building deep inside her, her breaths coming shallower and shallower with every move they made. She gripped Percy's back and held him closer, begging for contact as she moaned his name. This time he made no effort to tease her, now equally caught up in a passion that would no longer allow hesitation or playfulness. He pressed his lips to hers one last time, and they were left only to breathe hoarsely and hold on to each other through the final thrums before they fell over the precipice into blissful oblivion.
"Where were you Friday night?" asked Bill as he and Fleur reached their usual lunchtime table to see Percy already seated and reading The Daily Prophet. "Or Saturday when I tried to floo you?"
"We were quite worried," input Fleur. She pointed a perfectly manicured finger at him. "Besides, we are never going to be able to find a nice girl for you eef you even stand up your brother for a date."
Percy set down his newspaper and looked up at them. Bill noticed that the place next to him had already been set for the meal, which meant Hermione had already arrived. "For your information, I spent Friday night with a wonderful woman. Without your help."
Bill raised an eyebrow. "And is this a woman who walks upright on two legs, speaks our language, and is not related to us? If the answer is yes, please tell me you got shagged. At least then I'll feel like my three hours spent waiting for you to not turn up was worth it."
"On behalf of womankind everywhere, I would ask you to kindly watch your tone, Bill Weasley," said Hermione as she returned to her seat. "I know Fleur has taught you better than that."
Next to him, Fleur was nodding, but she didn't speak up to chastise him, which was unusual for his wife. She was studying Percy with such focus that Bill had no doubt the witch had at least some idea of what was going on. Unfortunately, the powers of perception that seemed to grace 'womankind' had not been extended to him at birth. Finally, he said, "All right, out with it. Who is she?"
Hermione's head whipped around to look at Percy. "You mean they don't know yet? I thought you were going to tell your mum yesterday?"
"I'm still trying to compose the letter," he answered sheepishly.
"Merlin, Percy! If everyone has to wait for that, we'll be married before anyone knows."
Fleur let out a little squeal of excitement. "I knew eet! C'est absolument parfait! Bill, isn't eet parfait?"
Bill blinked several times, looking from his brother to Hermione to his wife trying to piece together what had just been said. Then it finally hit him, and he couldn't hold back the giant grin that came to his face. "You two? You're getting married?"
Hermione giggled, and she exchanged a look with Percy, who shook his head. He laughed as well, as if thinking of some private joke. "No, I think it'll take me at least a few months to compose that letter."
"I think I prefer the non-verbal way of delivering the message," said Hermione, eyes sparkling. "Much less confusion that way. Saves paper, too."
"Scratch my request for information on whether you got shagged or not," said Bill, shaking his head. "You know, Mum's going to have your head for letting us find out before her."
Percy just smiled. "I know. But I think the news itself will make it up to her."
Bill nodded. "Yes, it most certainly will. It's just too bad you couldn't wrap some grandkids up into the deal. Then you'd be sure to get out scot-free," he joked.
"Well, you might say we're working on that. Unofficially, at least," said Hermione with a laugh.
"I said I didn't want to know," Bill answered with a groan. But mental images aside, he was suddenly in a great mood. Maybe this was just what their lunch group needed—a little romance. Double dates were always a lot of fun, and even more so when the second couple made things feel so…complete. Yes, things were finally the way they should be.
Phew! That was a long one. Hope you 5 people who actually read Percy/Hermione enjoy this:-) I have to say, I really, really enjoyed writing Percy, and I normally can't stand him. Let me know what you think!
This resulted from a story challenge given to me by fellow author Lara Zed. Below is the challenge:
one-shot, 2500-word minimum
Ship: Hermione/Percy (I'm sorry, I like this ship, and you haven't done it yet, so I'd really love to read it! But if you really don't want to do Hermione/Percy, let me know, I'll offer you an alternate ship)
Details: post-DH (except epilogue), two years later; must have at least one female and one male canon secondary character; someone must at some point be convincing someone else to go "on the pull" (British slang for going out with the intent to meet someone i.e. to a club or bar, can apply to either gender)
Use this quote: "You know, every time I think about how lucky I am, I feel like screaming."