A/N: For the One Character Competition with the character Percy Weasley and the prompts: "If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun."- Katharine Hepburn, "glow", "dare", "surprise".
Also for team 'The Nightcircus' in the As Strong As We Are United Competition with the prompts "blue" and "star".
Percy still couldn't exactly comprehend why he had agreed to come along. The restaurant was closed today and it was a bright, frisk February afternoon, so the staff of 'Chez Maurice' had decided to go ice-skating. When they had explained it to him – yet another thing he had never done – it had sounded like fun. But as he saw the thinness of the blades on which he was supposed to stand, he was terrified. That could not be the purpose of it! They had talked about seeing who went fastest and the thickness of the ice, which, according to Bridget, was exactly right. Somehow, it hadn't really gotten through to him that they would be standing on actual ice. That dozens of people were risking their lives by standing on a frozen canal. On those ridiculously dangerous things they called ice-skates.
"Come on, join us Percy!"
Jake and Monique laughed as they rode by, twirling and pirouetting on the ice, like they had never done anything else. Judging by their movements, you'd say it was as simple as walking. But when Percy tried to stand, he felt the dangerous blades slip underneath him and he quickly grasped the fencing.
"Don't think about it, just go!" Brian yelled, as he placed his hand possessively on the waist of his latest conquest, a skinny blonde.
"Don't listen to them," Audrey said and came over to him, cheeks glowing red from the cold. "You're doing fine, considering it's your first time. My first time on ice-skates I was terrified as well."
That made him feel a little better. Audrey looked to be standing rather stable, despite the thin blades, and if she had started out just like he was now, then maybe he could manage this too. She grinned at him and he grinned back. They had been together for nearly two months now, and every day he discovered new things about her that he loved. Thanks to Audrey, he had learned to understand the Muggle world a little better a lot quicker than if he'd have had to figure everything out on his own.
"I don't understand how this works," he murmured. "How do you prevent yourself from falling down? What are the rules for this 'ice-skating'?"
"Oh Percy, if you obey all the rules all the time, you'll miss all the fun!" Audrey stated. "Come along, I'll teach you."
Percy carefully took one step forward, but was swaying dangerously.
"Let's start simple, okay? Just take my hand."
He did as he was told. As always, a warm feeling spread through him as he held hands with Audrey. He tried again to take a step forwards and nearly fell. Audrey caught him.
"You going too quickly," she laughed. "First, try to stand on them. Don't move or try to skate, just hold my hands and find your balance."
He tried, he really tried, but it felt unnatural to be standing on such thin blades. He had little balance and he was afraid the darn things would give way. All the while, Audrey was encouraging him.
"You're doing great!"
After what seemed like forever, he finally had a feeling that he was able to stand still and not loose his footing. "I think I'm finally grasping it!" he said enthusiastically.
"See? I told you so!" Audrey beamed. "Now, the next step is a bit more difficult. I am going to move backwards, so you will be pulled forward. Don't use your legs just yet to make any movements, you need to feel first what it is like to glide over the ice." Almost immediately, Percy felt that he was being pulled forward and he panicked.
"Au-Audrey? I'm not too sure I like this…"
"If you get through you initial fear, you'll love it," Audrey promised. "Let's try again, okay?"
An hour and a half later, Percy had managed to surprise even himself by making four strides on the ice without falling down. He felt exhausted from the numerous times he had tried and had fallen, but he was also proud of what he had achieved. And Audrey was right: once you understood the principle, it was rather enjoyable. Audrey hugged him: "I told you you'd get the hang of it quickly enough. I'm proud of you Percy."
He kissed her and replied: "I couldn't have done it without you. But I think I've had enough for the day. I'd quite like a cup of cacao at the moment."
She put her arm through his. "There's a stand where we can get some cocoa."
When they had their hands wrapped around a big mug of cocoa and were blowing in the brown substance, Percy murmured: "You know, you Muggles have some curious hobbies."
It came out before he could think about it and he shut his mouth in horror.
"What's a Muggle?" she asked, somewhat amused.
Percy's brain was working really fast. He couldn't tell Audrey the truth, or he would be breaching the Statute of Secrecy. He needed to come up with an acceptable excuse, and he needed to come up with it now.
"It's nothing really. It's a nonsense name my twin brothers came up with for 'girl'."
"So it means girl? What kind of a weird comment is that? Everybody loves ice-skating, boys, girls, men, women… It's not just a girl thing!"
"It wasn't meant seriously."
Audrey still didn't look too happy, but she dropped the subject, for which Percy was grateful. He didn't dare to criticise ice-skating again, not even when Audrey pulled him on the ice once more and said that he should do a bit on his own now, just to see how things went. He didn't complain as he fell three more times and felt wet and cold everywhere. Percy very much wished that he could just do a Warming Spell.
Dusk had already set when they said goodbye to the rest of the group. Percy was taking Audrey out to dinner and the others would be going home.
"Don't make it too late okay?" Brian grinned suggestively.
"Don't you worry about that," Percy retorted.
They all laughed. It was funny, but since he had started dating Audrey, he was treated less like an outsider and more like 'one of the gang', as Jake put it. He even felt like he and his coworkers had become friends, something he hadn't thought possible. Here I am, living the Muggle way of life. Dad would be proud, he thought and grimaced at the irony of it all.
"Ouch, my muscles are already aching," Audrey said as she sat down on the chair.
"I thought you were so good at ice-skating?" Percy teased.
"Oh shut up. You'll feel it tomorrow as well."
He laughed. It felt good to laugh and have fun. Muggle newspapers reported strange incidents, tropical storms (in winter) and mysterious deaths and Percy had a fair feeling that these 'incidents' had nothing to do with climate change or old age. He often wondered if his family would be okay or if the Dark Lord's followers had captured them because they supported Harry. He shook his head. He didn't want to think about such things tonight. Tonight he wanted to spend with Audrey, hear her laugh and know that despite all the bad things that were happening in the world, it was still possible to find joy in the little things.
After dinner, they were walking outside and their breaths made little clouds in the air. It was a dark, cloudless night and the stars that were scattered across the firmament were clearly visible. Percy had his arm loosely draped around Audrey's shoulders and he loved how comfortable and familiar that felt, like he had never done anything else. Audrey leaned in a bit until her head rested on his shoulder.
Percy pointed to the sky with the arm his free arm. "Look, Gemini."
"Gemini. You know, the star sign. See that bright star over there?"
Audrey squinted. "There are too many stars, I don't know which one you mean."
"Do you see those three stars that appear to be in a row?"
She scanned the sky. "Yes, I see them."
"Together they form Orion's belt," Percy said. "You use them to find other constellations."
"Like the Big and Little Dipper," she said, a look of understanding dawning on her face.
"Yes, a bit like both Dippers, since it's rather easy to locate."
"Now, if you look a little on the lower right side of the belt, you'll find the bright blue star Rigel, which is the one I was talking about."
"Oh, I see it now!"
"Okay, if you go from Rigel through the belt, you see Betelgeuse on the top left. Continue this line upwards and there you are. Two stars, equal in brightness. Also known as Pollux and Castor, or Gemini."
"I see them! This is really cool!" she looked at him in excitement. "I've never been able to spot anything other than the two Dippers. How do you know how to find them?" She was silent for a moment. "Were you one of those science kids in secondary school, with a telescope in front of your bedroom window?" She giggled.
"No, not really. Although Bill's room on the attic was really great for stargazing, truth be told. Astronomy was one of my favourite subjects at school."
He immediately shut his mouth. That was the second time already today. He really needed to be more careful with what he said, or he'd reveal details about the magical world that weren't supposed to be disclosed to Muggles.
"You had Astromony at school? Wicked. I'd much rather have had Astronomy than Maths. Can you find my sign too?"
"Sure. Your birthday is December 4th, isn't it?"
"That means you're a Sagittarius. That one is tricky, because we're actually a few weeks early to see it at its best. But if you look carefully, you might be able to spot it."
Percy followed a line of stars in the sky, trying to find the ones he was looking for. He didn't want to disappoint Audrey, but he wasn't lying when he said that it would be difficult to spot.
"Can't you find it?" Audrey asked, a little disappointed.
"Sssh," Percy said. "I've almost located it." Beside him, he could sense Audrey's anticipation. Letting her down was not an option. There! Red Antares. And just a little to the left… "Found it!"
He guided her hand until it was pointing directly at the Sagittarius sign and had her look past her index finger.
"You really need to squint," he explained. "It looks a bit like a teapot."
Audrey squinted but after a minute of staring at the sky, she dropped her arm in disappointment. "I don't see a teapot."
"Perhaps you ought to sing the Teapot Song."
"Excuse me, what?"
Percy grinned. "That's what my Mum used to say. Sing the Teapot Song when you're trying to find Sagittarius. It's a lot of rubbish of course, as any astronomer can tell you. But don't feel too bad. It took me hours to find it the first time. And I was behind a telescope. We'll try again in March, when it is best visible."
Audrey face lightened up a bit after his remark that he hadn't been able to find Sagittarius on his first attempt either.
"You know Percy, I still think it's odd that you don't know how to ice-skate, but that you do know all about stars and constellations. You sure are a bit different."
"In a good way, I hope?"
She bit her lip, as if she was thinking hard on the question. "It works mostly in your favour," she said, teasing him.
"Hmm, I'll take that as a compliment, I think."
They were about to walk on, when Audrey called: "Percy, look!"
This time it was she that was pointing towards the sky. In the dark of the night, a shooting star went by.
"Time to make a wish," she said.
And Percy wished with all his heart that he could spend the rest of his life with this wonderful Muggle girl with the auburn hair and the weird hobbies.
A/N: Lots of people have commented that Percy's attempt to make up his 'Muggle' comment is a bit lame. I actually got inspired by the Dutch word 'mokkel' (which is pronounced almost the same as Muggle) which translates as 'babe'. So it isn't as far-fetched as you might think (just putting it out there) ;-).