Title: A Weasley Christmas
Author: Hesta's Journal
Word Count: 4356 (I think)
Type of Story: Oneshot
Summary: On Christmas Day, Audrey tells the children the story of how she and Percy first met.
Disclaimer: In my opinion, if I was JK Rowling, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction and I would instead be having my book/oneshot/story published.
The Weasley, Scamander and Potter families were crowded around the fireplace, children clambering over people in an attempt to find a comfortable spot to sit down. A general air of warmth settled over the numerous persons, instilled perhaps by a mixture of the glowing fire and the benevolent smiles bestowed upon the younger generation by the elder generation. Several puffskeins and kneazles curled up on human laps, soaking in the contented atmosphere and looking for all the world as though this was what they were used to every day.
"Right, young 'uns, are you all settled?" George said in a paternal tone, a twinkle in his eyes as his daughter Roxanne grimaced at him to show her disapproval. He waited for the rest of the family to murmur an affirmative before continuing. "So, what story would you like to hear?"
Victoire Weasley, her blue eyes wide and eager, tapped on his knee. "Can we hear about how Maman and Uncle Harry defeated You-Know-Who at the Tournament?"
There was a hiss of outrage from the Potter children at Victoire's words. Then:
"Your Mum did not defeat You-Know-Who!" James exclaimed in indignation, removing himself from the comfort of the beanbag he had been seated on so that he could see the offender more clearly. "Dad defeated him! All by himself!"
Another pause, during which several Weasley children started to look very unhappy with this state of affairs. A few of the adults exchanged amused glances before settling back in comfortably to wait for somebody to challenge James's statement. They didn't have to wait long.
"No he didn't! Mummy and Daddy helped him!" Rose frowned at what was, to her, clearly an outright lie. She leaned forwards on her perch on the arm of the sofa, eyes bright. "You're a liar, James! Daddy said people who lie are turned into ferrets by the ghost of Professor Moody!"
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed in disbelief. "Didn't I tell you to stop stuffing the children's heads with nonsense?"
Ron had the grace to look slightly abashed, but before he could say anything George cut in smoothly, eyes still sparkling. "Now, now, children. We're straying a bit off-topic, aren't we? Coming back to the subject of stories -" he cast around what he hoped was a disapproving look at the children - "Harry told the story of the Triwizard Tournament yesterday, Vicky."
Victoire pouted for a moment, all arguments forgotten, before turning her dazzling smile once again on her uncle. "Maybe you could tell us about the Battle of Hogwarts?"
"That's quite a hefty request," George mused, his eyes darkening almost imperceptibly. Around him, one or two of the adults shifted slightly. Even after all these years, few of them felt entirely comfortable talking about the events of the Battle of Hogwarts. "Are you sure you want to hear about it? I don't believe I've told you of how Uncle Charlie made a dragon fall in love with him, have I?"
Teddy Lupin, who had previously been occupied with trying to cut off Fred's dreadlocks, turned to the one-eared man. His hair a bright orange and his eyes an unnerving shade of red, he shot George a devilish smile. "No, you haven't. But I want to hear about the Battle of Hogwarts. It's interesting."
Lysander and Lorcan Scamander, snuggled up on their mother's lap together, nodded eagerly, saying in unison. "Please, Uncle George!"
There was a small pause before Audrey came to the rescue, with a cheerful smile. "Would you like to hear about how Uncle Percy and I met?"
James scrunched up his nose in consideration of the offer. He wasn't a great one for tales of romance, but he supposed he could make a compromise if... "Was it at the Battle?"
Audrey nodded. "It certainly was."
"Alright!' James, Victoire, Teddy and Rose chorused. Fred managed to maintain a disinterested air whilst absentmindedly stroking a lock of his hair. Lorcan and Lysander leaned back against their mother contentedly. The rest of the Weasley and Potter children settled down to listen, a few of them with eyes fluttering shut in tiredness.
Smiling and rocking baby Lucy back and forth gently in her arms, Audrey arranged the story in her head so that it would flow more coherently. A host of expectant eyes upon her, she began in a soft voice. "It was in the girls' bathrooms, actually... –"
"–You were in the girls' bathrooms, Pa?" Molly Jr. stared at her father in disgust and disapproval. Percy shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.
"Shhh, Molly," Audrey shot her daughter a reprimanding look. "Anyway, as I was saying, it was in the girls' bathrooms..."
"Shit, shit, shit!" Audrey exclaimed as she examined the cut on her right palm. It wouldn't stop bleeding. She wasn't feeling faint yet, but if the battle lasted as long as she thought it would, her skin would probably be vampire-pale by the end of it. To make matters worse, whenever she moved her hand, it hurt like hell. The likelihood of her being able to perform any wand movements with her right hand now was dim.
Not wanting to stand around in the corridors any longer than necessary - she may have decided to stay behind to fight, but she was Slytherin enough to value her own safety first and foremost - Audrey cast around desperately for an escape. Her eyes fell on the door of the abandoned girls' bathrooms, the one that Myrtle usually inhabited if she hadn't been flushed out into the lake. Audrey wasn't particularly fond of the idea of spending time with the ghost, but the thought of walking around suicidally like a Gryffindor was even less appealing.
Gingerly making her way over to the door, she turned the handle and slipped inside. She reflected dryly on how lucky she had been that there were no Death Eaters on this corridor any more - she had already dealt with the two stupid thugs who had been idiotic enough to cross her. Honestly, she was surprised that they had even been made Death Eaters, judging by their skill at dueling. Maybe that was why they travelled together, so that they could try and protect one another. Crabbe and Goyle Seniors, anybody?
The bathroom smelled foul, although Audrey wondered whether that was more because of the general disrepair of it than anything. It was disgraceful that Hogwarts had let a bathroom get into such a state, but considering the last year and what had happened in it, the state of a bathroom was probably the least of anybody's worries.
She looked around and, upon noticing the mould and slime coating several cubicles and sinks, shuddered. Moaning Myrtle was nowhere in sight - perhaps even the self-involved ghost had decided to flee. There was some sort of blessing to be seen in the fact that she wouldn't have to talk to Myrtle; Audrey detested her.
Stop getting distracted, Audrey chastised herself as she tentatively sank down onto the floor - she didn't want to know what she might be sitting on - and re-examined her hand. There was crusted blood around the thin sliver of a cut on her palm, but other than that the wound somehow managed to look neat and as though it had been inflicted with great precision. Maybe the gormless-looking blokes (Audrey assumed they looked gormless, although considering they had worn masks she couldn't really be sure) really did have some style. Even though her hand was smarting from the cut, Audrey managed to feel a bit of respect for the Death Eaters' abilities.
She tried several different Healing spells that she had learned over the past years, but none of them made any difference to the state of her palm. The blood still trickled through determinedly, as though, like its owner, it wasn't used to giving up. Her eyes narrowing, she decided to change tact and muttered some cleaning charms so that at least the blood that had dried disappeared. It was a shame that she had been born right-handed, as being left-handed right now would have made her life a lot easier. She made a mental note to practice some spells in the future with her left hand so that, should a situation similar to this ever arise again, Merlin forbid, she would at least be able to perform basic Healing spells.
She would have continued to try - and fail - to heal her palm had there not been a loud explosion outside, followed by the sounds of cursing and hexing.
Instantly on the alert, Audrey jumped up, gripping her wand in her left hand. She crept towards the door and opened it just a crack, wand at the ready. Peering through, she saw nothing except blackness. It took her a moment to figure out that somebody had used that darkness powder invented by the Weasley twins - she couldn't for the life of her remember what it was called, nor did she particularly care.
Suddenly, the door was thrown open and she jumped backwards in alarm as it banged shut again. Nobody was there, nobody that she could see, at any rate.
"Who are you?" Audrey growled menacingly, holding out her wand so that it seemed - she hoped - she really was left-handed. There was a shimmer in the air at her words, and she trained her wand on where she had seen the shimmer.
A few seconds passed in silence before a young man began to materialise in front of her, having deduced that she was no enemy. He had a shock of dark red hair, although much of it was covered in soot and dirt, so that only a few tufts of its true colour shone through. Dust scattered itself across his face, so that it was difficult to tell whether he had freckles or whether that was just the amount of dirt he was carrying on his body. A cracked pair of horn-rimmed glasses covered his eyes from view - she wondered how well he could actually see out of them. There was an air of familiarity about him, she had seen him somewhere before...
"... you're not one of the Weasleys, are you?" Audrey asked suspiciously, although she lowered her wand slightly. If he had wanted to kill or attack her, he would have done so already, she reasoned.
The young man managed a small smile at her words. As though finding an odd sort of humour in the situation - she certainly couldn't - he stuck out his hand and said formally. "Percy Weasley. Pleasure to meet you...?" he trailed off at the end of the sentence, looking at her expectantly.
"Oh... um... Audrey Towler, nice to meet you, too," she took his hand awkwardly with her left hand, not wanting to show him her injured right one. Call it stupid Slytherin pride or merely a sense that she shouldn't show that she was disabled to a stranger when there was a battle going on all around them. "I... er... you were Head Boy a few years ago, weren't you?"
He nodded briefly and it occurred to her how strange their situation was. She was talking to a young man in the haunted girls' bathroom whilst Death Eaters waged war on Hogwarts just outside the bathroom door, and they were saying how lovely it was to meet one another.
Wondering if she should really be saying this, Audrey said uncomfortably. "I don't suppose you know any Healing spells?"
When he nodded, as if in a trance, she gestured to her right hand ashamedly. "I... I can't perform any decent ones with my left hand and it won't stop bleeding and I can't really move it much... I mean... I was wondering if you could help?"
"I... of course," he took her injured hand in his and examined it intently for a moment, contemplating on what spell to use. Then he waved his wand in a complicated manoeuvre, a buttery yellow light flickering over her wound for an instant, dancing, before sinking into her palm and sewing the torn skin shut. She tentatively tried to move her hand and was rewarded with the sight of her fingers flexing and only the merest prickling in her hand, much like that of pins-and-needles.
"Thank you," she murmured, amazed. She had never seen the spell before. "Where did you learn to do that?"
He rolled his eyes as though she had asked a daft question. "I took twelve NEWTs, I should hope I was able to remember how to do that."
Before she could make a smart comment in response - she felt that it had been a fair question - there was a loud bang and then a groan. Almost immediately, Percy was at the door, his hand on the doorknob. He hesitated slightly, turning his head to gaze at her with a questioning look in his eyes. He had extended his hand towards her, as though saying 'we're all in this together, now'.
Audrey stalled for a split second. She really didn't want to go out there and fight the Death Eaters, to risk losing her life. Then again, it had been her choice to stay behind - nobody had asked her to; she was a Slytherin and a sixth-year after all. Gritting her teeth, she flashed a smile at him and grasped his hand.
She didn't know how long the battle lasted or when she found herself standing on her own again, fighting off Death Eaters and the urge to run as far away from all this as possible. Time seemed to hang suspended, and noises seemed to be rendered irrelevant to her ears. Audrey doubted very much that she would have been able to recognise anybody's voices - friends or foes - in those hours. She barely felt the various cuts and slashes dealt to her face, arms, legs - anywhere on her body that the spells could reach. She didn't remember when her brain had gone into autopilot mode, dodging colourful flashes sent her way, sending out her own spells to counteract them.
Somehow, sometime, though, the battle must have finished. She could remember suddenly realising that there were no more Death Eaters to fight, no more hexes, curses and jinxes flying through the air. Instead, the corridors filled with wandering people of all ages, at once happy and miserable. Some were walking about in disbelief, others with a strangely gleeful look on their faces that seemed out of place in this dusty, cracked battlefield. For that's what it really was, now, wasn't it? Hogwarts wasn't a school anymore, it was a battlefield where students and staff were no longer students and staff but warriors, fighters.
Audrey found her feet taking her to the Great Hall slowly, her eyes travelling around her surroundings constantly. People on all sides, crying, laughing, dumbstruck. Emotions the like of which she had never seen on peoples' faces before and probably would never see again. Yet all seemed slightly unreal, as though she were walking in a dream.
Upon reaching the Great Hall, the dream-likeness of the situation disappeared from her mind as quickly as water from a duck's back. Her eyes widened in horror as she finally saw all the dead, injured and mad crowded in a place where she had once sat down to eat her meals and sing the Hogwarts song. Almost unwittingly, her eyes landed on a family of redheads, huddled around a deathly still body possessing a shock of red hair, not dissimilar to the one she had seen on Percy's head.
As she gazed at them, a pair of eyes framed by horn-rimmed glasses turned to look at her. The two people stared at each other for a few seconds, and Audrey was glad for once that her face was covered with dirt - he wouldn't be able to see the embarrassment that would otherwise have been clear on her cheeks of being caught in the act of looking.
She watched, hands shading her eyes from the glare of the sunlight, as the memorial obelisk-like monument in honour of the dead was erected. The names of the lost, carved into the glittering stone, seemed as dead as their owners. The block letters, carefully engraved and formed as they were, did no justice to the memories of those gone. The people Audrey remembered were alive, eyes shining, laughing and hands gesturing wildly, smiling and dimpling at life or tears streaming down their faces, noses red and eyes blotchy; people who went through emotions like she did, people who had feelings and thoughts and words ready to be spoken. Not people who stood still as stone, rigidly shaped into one position for the rest of eternity, not feeling or seeing, hearing or smelling, touching or tasting anything. Only there to be gazed on as they slowly faded away, as future generations would stop by to stare at them and say "Who was that person?" without feeling or anything other than lingering curiosity.
Audrey shook her head, half amused at what she felt were almost poetic thoughts. Maybe she should take up a career as a writer or a poet...
Nevertheless, there was something inherently wrong about this, about this stone, unfeeling monument erected in honour of people who had once lived and moved...
There was a tap on her shoulder, and she whirled around, startled. A young, red-haired man stood before her, almost apologetically. She almost turned back to gaze darkly at the mini obelisk that pretended to be a memorial before realising that the young man looked very familiar. Peering at him more closely, she realised that he was Percy Weasley, sans dust, dirt and broken horn-rimmed glasses.
"Audrey? Audrey Towler?" the man asked questioningly.
"Erm, hi...," Audrey mumbled almost incoherently, surprised at her sudden inability to say anything sensible.
He smiled at her before saying in a voice that was as apologetic as his stance. "I... I don't suppose you remember me? I met you a year ago, at the..."
Audrey managed a small smile. Few people were comfortable with mentioning the battle to others outside of their close family and friends - one couldn't be sure how touchy others were on the subject. "Percy Weasley, right?"
Seemingly pleased that he wouldn't have to re-introduce himself, he nodded and lost some of his apologetic tone. "Yes, that's me. I... how are you?"
He seemed to be beating around the bush somewhat, and Audrey refrained from frowning slightly. What could he want? Suspicion slithered through her, snake-like. Even a year after the Battle of Hogwarts, there was a part of her that remained inherently suspicious of those she didn't know well. "I'm good, although it's strange to think that it's already been a year... seems like just the other day, really."
There was a small pause as he seemed to struggle with what he was trying to say. Now it was more curiosity than suspicion that made her want to frown. She hated not knowing. "How have you been? You work at the Ministry, right?"
"I-" he opened his mouth briefly as though about to say something, then changed his mind. "Yes, yes, I do. Although goodness knows why after all that they've done -" here he laughed bitterly - "to wizarding Britain. It's not as bad as it used to be, though. Kingsley Shacklebolt is a good Minister."
"I've heard that," Audrey smiled slightly. "I'd like to work in the Ministry, actually. I'm not sure where, though. I'll have to wait for my NEWTs results before I go deciding anything. I don't want to be an Auror, though, that much I know."
"Really?" he adjusted his glasses on his nose, surprised. "A lot of people want to be Aurors nowadays, especially since Harry Potter decided to train to become one."
"I've had too much danger, I don't want to be involved in more if I can help it," Audrey wondered whether she sounded somewhat like a coward saying that, but it was only the truth. She had never asked for conflict or fights in the beginning, and her sixth-year had just confirmed what she already knew - throwing around spells and being quick-thinking enough to choose the right ones was a skill that she didn't have in enough quantity to choose it for a profession.
"I can understand that," he nodded, averting his gaze for an instant. "Um... what do you think of the memorial?"
Audrey glanced around briefly to make sure that nobody would overhear her words. Then, lowering her voice. "Honestly? -" he nodded again - "I think it's a load of crap. It's just a piece of stone - if I were to make a memorial to the dead it wouldn't be in a lifeless piece of stone. I'd make it something that was alive and beautiful, worthy of heroes who died fighting. But that's just my opinion."
He looked slightly taken aback. "Well, you're the first person I've heard voice that opinion. Most of the other people I've talked to think the monument is beautiful."
"What do you think?"
"I don't know...," Percy sighed slightly, a shadow crossing his face. "I don't have much of an opinion on it. I like it and I understand why it's here, but it doesn't change what has happened in the past. I'd rather not remember what has happened in the past, to be honest."
Audrey inclined her head slightly. It was bizarrely easy to talk to him, and he was one of the few people she had met since the Battle of Hogwarts who genuinely didn't seem to care that she was a Slytherin. Of course, that might be because he hadn't found out yet - she wouldn't have been surprised if, when they had first met, her green Slytherin tie and all traces of Slytherin-ness on her robes had been covered with dirt or torn apart by spells.
A few minutes passed in silence before, very quietly and in a slightly nervous voice. "Audrey, are you free? I mean, do you want to stay here?"
Slightly surprised, Audrey turned to look at him. Surely not? Surely he wasn't? "Yes - they let us off for today in honour of the Battle of Hogwarts. And, no, I don't particularly want to stay here - it's too serious and miserable. Brings back bad memories. Why?"
Another deep breath and he reached up to adjust his glasses. "Do you want to maybe get some Butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks?"
Okay, he was. Audrey hesitated briefly. Did she really want to? One look at his bright eyes - eyes full of life - and she made her decision. "That would be lovely."
He held his arm out for her, making light of the situation. Yet somehow, Audrey was reminded of when he had held his hand out to her, as though to say 'we're all in this together, now'. Perhaps, even though she didn't really believe in signs, this was some sort of sign.
Flashing a brilliant smile at him, she took his proffered arm.
"That's so romantic, Mum!" Molly exclaimed from her place at Audrey's feet, looking at her mother with newfound respect. Her mother tousled the girl's hair affectionately.
"Pfft! That's not romantic! My mum knew that she and Daddy were soulmates from the moment she saw him! She ran after him as he was leaving on the Hogwarts Express," Lily challenged, eyeing them all with a look that clearly said 'try and beat that'.
"Nonsense," Rose said, immediately rising to the challenge. She waited for a second or so to make sure she had captured everyone's attention. "My mum and dad kissed at the start of the Battle of Hogwarts because they knew that they were right for each other and might never see each other again. Now that's romantic."
There was a pause as several of the children tried to work up a challenge to meet the one that Rose had presented to them. Then Lysander piped up, using words that belied his four years of age. "Mummy saved Daddy from a charging rhino-sare-os -" he tested the word carefully - "in Africa. Daddy was so grateful to her that he took her out for dinner and they fell in love. That's way more romantic than yours, Rosie."
Rose harrumphed irritatedly, opening her mouth to retort but being cut off by Molly Weasley Sr., who was gazing with a mixture of benevolence and frustration at her grandchildren. With the air of one who knows that they can restore peace to the situation, she announced. "Who wants my chocolate ice-cream?"
Immediately, the competitive atmosphere disappeared from the living room and was replaced by the voices of children clamouring to be served Molly's delicious chocolate-and-strawberry ice-cream (a combination that, privately, most of the mothers felt was very bad for their children; as a result of this, and the fact that they could only have it on Christmas and other special occasions, the children loved it even more).
As the children, and several adults, filed out of the living room and into the kitchen to be served helpings of the dessert, Audrey shifted so that she faced her husband, looking at him thoughtfully. Her eyes fell on his familiar horn-rimmed glasses, now in a slightly more fashionable style than before - something that she rarely failed to tease him about - and his eyes which were, even after all these years, as bright as they had been when he had offered her his arm at the memorial service.
No, it was true that perhaps their first meeting - in a dirty girls' bathroom in the middle of a battle - hadn't been the most romantic first meeting. Nor had theirs been a love at first sight, or a heroic rescue from danger. But, when it came down to it, she wouldn't have changed any of it for the world.
For Audrey Weasley née Towler, the smile that her husband gave her at that moment was merely a reminder of how right she had been to take his hand in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, all those years ago.