Written for the rarepair_shorts Winter Fic Gift Exchange on Livejournal; a gift for phil_urich with the prompts being Percy/Angelina and the first line of dialogue. NOT part of the DAYDverse.


"I'll arm-wrestle you for it, Weasley." Percy blinked, startled to have his reach for the small, smoking glass intercepted by a woman's hand, but more startling still was that the voice was familiar, and he raised an eyebrow as he turned to see Angelina Johnson standing only a few inches behind him.

"That won't be necessary," he enunciated carefully. "Ladies first. I just didn't realize Tom was passing it to you."

He hadn't meant anything more than exactly that, but her dark eyes flashed indignantly, and she tossed the long black braids back with an imperious snort. "Firewhiskey's only a wizard's drink, is it? Funny, if I'd been guessing, I'd have thought you'd be more the elf-made white wine type."

Percy's eyes narrowed, and he reached out, taking the drink that she still hadn't claimed and tipping it back in a single, deliberate motion, his look daring her to complain about the revocation of his previous offer. It didn't matter, really, because the Leaky Cauldron's barman had already put down the second drink, but he felt his mouth curve into a bitter smile at her reaction nonetheless. "Maybe you don't know my type as well as you think you do."

She was silent a long moment, searching for words, then she slid onto the empty stool next to him, leaning one elbow on the scarred and polished wood to cup her chin in her hand. The sleeve of her robe fell back, revealing a long, gnarled wand-burn only just healed along her dusky forearm, but Percy barely gave it a second look. For any witch or wizard over thirteen and under thirty, scars were nothing to remark over any more. "Is it true?" she finally asked. "That you've left the Ministry?"

"True." He left it at that, motioning to Tom for another, but when it was put in front of him, he only held it, turning it slowly to watch the smoke rise in tiny, vanishing abstracts. "Too many people I didn't think I could look in the eyes after knowing what they'd said on tea interval, even if they can't be prosecuted."

"Mmm," Angelina nodded sympathetically, and there was another awkward silence as she drained her own drink, fidgeting with the empty glass as she stared carefully at the back wall of hovering bottles. "So…now you're…."

"Unemployed," Percy said bluntly.

"Me too." There was no self-pity in it, just a fact, but there was something else, and it took his already slightly-blurred brain a moment to realize what rang odd about it, and he frowned.

"I thought you were with George?" He'd just meant at the shop, but as she scowled, he realized that the rumors must have been true about her having dated the surviving half of his twin brothers after they had lost Fred, and he winced. "I didn't…."

"It didn't work out." She did meet his eyes now, and there was the challenge of wounded pride in hers. He knew the look all too well, having seen little else besides the not-so-occasional hangover in the mirror almost every morning of the last six months. It was the look of someone who was unaccustomed to making mistakes, especially big ones. Especially when they hurt that much. "People aren't interchangeable."

"I don't know," Percy allowed softly, "I wouldn't say it's all your fault if it seemed that way. George…he's not been right since…yeah. Everyone says it's just the grief, but I actually know him probably better than anyone else in the family."

He knew that she didn't mean to gape, but she couldn't hide the incredulity that was the standard response of every one of the few people he had asserted this to. "C'mon! If it weren't for the ginger, I'd half not believe you guys were even related!"

"Know thine enemy," the smile was a little more genuine now, the buffer of loss having smoothed the years of ruffled feathers at being his brothers' favorite target into a nostalgic eye-roll before he grew serious again. "Really, though, he's trying to be both of them. It's not healthy."

"And sitting here, unemployed and into what I'd guess is about your fifth or sixth Firewhiskey at two in the afternoon is?"

"I didn't say I was fine, I said he wasn't," Percy retorted. "But I don't think any of us are."

Angelina laughed, and it was the same boisterous, almost braying laugh that had once set his teeth on edge when he was trying to study and it had rung across the Gryffindor common room, but now there was a freedom to it that struck him…differently. "I'll get back to you on how fine I am when I've figured out who I am, how's that? Tendons are Bludgered –" she waggled the fingers on her scarred arm, but they only jerked stiffly, "—So there go the Tornados thanks to one overenthusiastic disarming. Now…."

"You're going to have to find a career other than the one you built your entire life around?" He returned the laugh with a knowing one of his own.

"Pretty much. Maybe we both should…" She trailed off, and her gaze was distant for a moment, then her jaw set, and she slammed down the glass so hard that he startled back, nearly falling off the stool as she spun, giving him barely a split-second in which he couldn't believe what was coming.

And then she was kissing him. Both hands clasping the sides of his face in an alarmingly strong grip, her full lips pressed hard to his, and he could taste the whiskey spicy sharp on her tongue as it thrust almost harshly into a mouth that had fallen open in shock. Percy stiffened, his hands flying up to grab her wrists, and his first wild instinct was to yank away, but he didn't. He didn't really know why, maybe it was just that it had been almost four years since he had last kissed – much less been kissed by – a witch, and this seemed even better than he had remembered.

It was raw and hungry, angry and a little bit mental, running and seeking and needing things that he didn't even have names for, and it was everything that the dimly lit pub hadn't given answers for, even as it opened more questions than he could ever articulate. When she finally pulled away, he was gasping, he could feel how flushed his face had become, and he wiped at his mouth with fingers that were shaking more than he wanted. "Angie?!"

"Let's go." Her eyes were gleaming, her own cheeks a bright mahogany, and he had never noticed her body when it was hidden under school uniforms or bulky Quidditch gear, but he was incredibly aware of the rise and fall of her breasts beneath her sweater now as she leaned towards him so closely that she seemed about to kiss him again. Angelina's voice was a husky, conspiratorial whisper, but the giddiness of it was more girlish than seductive, despite what she had just done. "To Texas."

Percy shook his head desperately, sure he must have misheard. "TEXAS?"

"I've always thought it seemed like an interesting place," she shrugged, then pressed on undaunted. "Let's go, Percy. You and me. Pack a few things, clear our vaults, and just blow on out of here on the next Portkey. Doesn't have to be to the States, but why not? They still speak English, it doesn't seem that different, but you know they're notorious over there for not caring about anything that happens outside their own country. We could figure out who we are, who we want to be, and we could do it somewhere no one knows or cares who we're supposed to be. And if we want to shag each other madly or just be friends or whatever else, it's our business!"

It was the stupidest idea he had ever heard, fraught with ten thousand details that she hadn't even begun to consider, and one simply did not pull up and go overseas for who knew how long without a plan, without a reason, on a ridiculous moment's whim at two in the afternoon in a pub on a Thursday. He licked his lips, and his mouth worked noiselessly for several seconds before the words came. "We can't just leave today, just like that."

She pulled back, and he could see a strangely expected disappointment gathering behind the smile as she prepared to argue again, even though her eyes said she had already all but written him off. But then she stopped, her head tilting curiously, because he could feel himself smiling back, his head seemed to nod without him, and what he heard was the voice of someone he didn't even know – or maybe simply hadn't met yet. "But I think I know an ex-Ministry fellow with connections who could get us visas by tomorrow."

THE END