How To Be A Muggle
Percy threw the cloth down in frustration. This could be done so much quicker by magic! But it had been his own choice to store his wand and try to live like a Muggle. Why did they all want go out on a night like this? How could they be so cheerful, didn't they know a war was building? Why weren't they at home, with their families? He thought about his own family. Would they be gathered at The Burrow, like always? Would they have a huge tree in the living room, chopped down by his dad? Would Fred and George again have attempted to hex a garden gnome into a Christmas fairy? He smiled at the memory. You could always count on the twins to 'lighten up the spirits'. Then his face grew a bit darker. Would they be thinking of him? Would he, the prodigal son, be on their minds at all? Or would they just try to ignore the fact that he wasn't there – again – while he worked like a horse cleaning tables and serving other people meals?
"Penny for your thoughts!" a cheerful voice behind him sounded and Percy nearly jumped. The girl laughed. "My, you must have one hell of a guilty conscience Perce."
He flushed. Audrey White had that effect on him all the time. Not that she was aware of it of course. She probably saw him as the oddball, just like the rest of them… He brusquely turned around so she wouldn't see that hated red on his cheeks.
"Hey, I'm sorry." Audrey placed a hand on his arm. "I didn't mean to offend you. You just seemed so lost in thought that I wondered what was wrong." She read his face. "Something is wrong, isn't it? Darn, now I feel even worse for laughing at you. What were you thinking about?"
The look in her eyes was one of genuine concern, not mockery.
"My family," he admitted.
"Had a bit of a row?' she asked sympathetically. "I know what you mean, I have them too at times. Though having a row during Christmas makes it worse. You know what, go home early today. I'll finish your shift and then you can go and make amends with your family," she offered. "I'll talk to Walker, don't worry."
Percy shook his head.
"This'll be the second Christmas I won't be home."
He didn't know why he told her. He hadn't told any of colleagues about this. And now he was telling Audrey. Out of all the colleagues he could have picked. But her interest and sympathy just made him realise that he wanted her to know, wanted someone to know.
She blew out a breath between her teeth.
"That bad, eh? Look, I'm sure it'll work out some day. It just needs some time and then they'll come around…"
"What makes you so certain they are the ones that need to turn around?"
"Well, I just assumed…"
"You assumed wrong. I've been terrible to them. So don't talk to me like you know me, for you don't."
Audrey looked hurt at his words. "Fine, have fun cleaning then." She sounded offended and as she walked away he resisted the urge to call her back.
"Damnit Percy, you handled that brilliantly," he murmured angrily as he wiped the tables with more force than necessary. "Now she'll think you're an oddball and a creep."
He had been working 'Chez Maurice' for four and a half months now – though why it was called 'Chez Maurice' when the owner wasn't even named Maurice was a mystery to Percy – and Audrey White had almost immediately caught his eye. She was kind and one of the wittiest persons he ever met – and that was saying something seeing as he grew up with Fred and George. She was just so full of life, so vibrant and sparkling… But he was just another waiter. And a rather bad one at that too, at least compared to Jake and Brian. Not for the first time he questioned his decision to get a Muggle job and live like a Muggle for a while.
His shift lasted another half an hour and then he was finally done cleaning. He looked around to check his work. He was positive he Mum could have done a better job, even without magic, but he still was rather proud with himself. He put his apron away and prepared himself for the cold outside. The thought of going back to his apartment and spending Christmas on his own wasn't something he was looking forward too. Perhaps I'm just going to finish my book, he thought.
He said goodbye to Audrey, who was also putting on her coat and gloves and opened the door.
He turned, the doorknob in his hand.
"Do you… do you have anyone to go to tonight?"
"No, it's just me and my book."
"That's ridiculous. You shouldn't be alone on Christmas eve! Come with me, my parents have this crazy tradition of singing Christmas carols, watching bad Christmas movies and playing charades all evening since apparently that's 'fun'. It'll be nice to have an accomplice."
"I wouldn't want to impose."
"My parents won't mind."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Positive. Now, are you coming or what?"
She looked at him expectantly and Percy hesitated for a moment. But the choice really wasn't that difficult: accept Audrey's offer and participate in their family's activities – however much that would remind him of The Burrow – or spend Christmas Eve all on his own.
"If you are sure that it isn't a problem, then I'd like that."
"Good." She smiled at him and he felt the butterflies making somersaults in his stomach.
"Mum, Dad, this is Percy, a colleague of mine. He was thinking of spending Christmas Eve all on his own and I just couldn't let that happen, so I brought him with me."
Percy shook hands and introduced himself.
"Sorry to impose…" he murmured.
"Don't worry about it," Audrey's dad said. "We're having chicken and I think I made a little too much."
"A little?" his wife laughed.
"Alright, alright, I made to much. So we could do with another eater. I hope you have a bit of an appetite?"
Not once asking his motifs for not celebrating Christmas with his own family, Percy felt slightly more at ease.
Still feeling very awkwardly, Audrey and Percy proceeded to the living room. A boy and two girls were sitting on the couches and eyed him in surprise.
"You brought a date?" the boy asked.
"This is Percy, he's my colleague and I thought he'd be better here than on his own in his apartment. Percy, that thickhead is my brother Robin and the girl beside him is Leighann, his girlfriend." She turned to the other couch. "And that's Savannah, my sister."
"Are you any good at charades?" Savannah asked.
Percy stared at him, blankly. He had figured from Audrey's previous words that is was some kind of game.
"I've never played charades," he replied. He figured honesty would work best.
"You've never…are you serious? Who has never played charades before?" She shook her head.
"Well, he's on your team than, sis!" Robin said. "You're going down, girl."
They laughed and Percy felt a bit like an outsider. Why had he even agreed to come here?
Of course he was a nightmare in charades They were all mimicking things of which Percy didn't understand the purpose and then they would ask him who they were.
"You're Leighann, if I remember correctly," he replied and he didn't for the life of him understand why that all burst out in laughter.
"My that's a good one!" Audrey's father said while wiping his tears away.
Charades wasn't the only thing Percy had never done before: he knew none of the Christmas carols the entire family was humming along for hours and hours on end. And when they started to turn on a black box that was pouring images and sound over him, Percy was a bit frightened at first.
Robin was having the time of his life and it amused the other members of Audrey's family as well that Percy knew none of the things they found so normal. But Percy didn't notice any malignantness on their part and tried to adept as good as possible. Percy had thought all those months that he was doing rather well as a Muggle, but as it turned out, he was failing miserably.
When it was getting late, Percy excused himself.
"I'd better be going," he said. "I do not want to intrude on your hospitality any longer. I had a great evening, thanks for taking a stray in at Christmas."
"Not a problem, not a problem," Audrey's Mum said.
"I'll walk you to the door," Audrey said and got up from the couch.
"Thanks for inviting me over," he said when they were standing in the hallway. He fidgeted a little with the edges of his scarf.
"Don't mention it," Audrey replied. "I'm sure you would have done the same."
Percy doubted it. He would not take a Muggle girl to his parents' house. His magical parents' house. His Dad would be fascinated, but the idea of Audrey having to survive a Weasley Christmas made him cringe. Yet at the same time, spending Christmas with her at The Burrow wouldn't be too bad…
He looked at Audrey, her auburn hair falling loosely around her head and her hazel eyes sparking with life and before he knew it, he bend down and kissed her. The kiss didn't last long, it was only a couple of seconds before Audrey broke the kiss and looked at him, puzzled.
He felt a blush creep up on him.
He was positive that he was red up onto his neck. "I'm so sorry, Audrey, I shouldn't have done that," he stuttered. "I-I'll just go now." He made for the door, wishing to get out of there as quickly as possible. He had never been as embarrassed in his life. Why in the name of Merlin's beard had he kissed her?! Why had he risked their blooming friendship? He felt like such an idiot and if there had been a crack in the earth, he would have let it swallow him up immediately.
He stopped in his track and Audrey took a step towards him. "Don't be sorry," she whispered and stood on her toes. Her lips touched his and Percy's heart rate quickened.
"What…why…how…" was all he could manage.
Audrey laughed. "You're a bit of an oddball, Percy Weasley, but I think I like you. Very much."
He couldn't believe what she was saying, but when she kissed him again, all doubts disappeared like snow in front of a fire. If this was what being a Muggle felt like, he would no problem spending more time like one.
A/N: This was written for Fire The Canon's Fanfiction Tournament, edition December 2012 (write about Christmas), round 2. It was also written for Ladyoftheknightley's School Subject Competition, category Muggle Studies (write about someone learning about another culture) and Owluvr's Honeyduke Competition, category Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans (write about a character taking a risk).