It was her spine that mesmerized Percy in the moment, sprawled there on the Calico Cat's gingham comforter. As she lay there atop him, panting into his neck, desperate to catch her breath as he was himself, he had a perfect view down the back of her tousled head, her neck, and her sinuous, heaving back.
He realized that one of the things that he found so intensely attractive about Audrey was the way in which she seemed always to be in motion, even when she was at rest. Just looking at her made him feel alive in a way that he so infrequently felt. And there, that long, sweat-bright line down the middle of her back coiled and uncoiled—he could feel it, could feel her breathing, but the sight of her...
Potential energy. That's what Professor Vector had called it. The constant, accumulated possibility of something amazing.
She laughed, and he could feel that too, and he groaned, which made her laugh some more. She bit gently at his throat, and nipped his chin, and then she deposited a long, sweet kiss on his mouth, and he was in her, he could still feel that, but she was inside of him as well, in some profound way, and he found himself laughing too.
They lay there on the still-made bed, he with his pants and trousers around his ankles and his glasses crossways on his face, she with her vest dangling from one elbow, and they cackled. Together.
Finally, in spite of what either of them might have wished, they unjoined. And that made Percy moan with sadness, but Audrey slid to his side and held him tight, and they lay there for a moment, very still.
She drew a fingertip down his hairless chest, and he ran five of them along the high miracle of her bum—Why should such a masterpiece ever have to be closed away? some seldom-heard-from part of Percy's brain mused.
Gooseflesh sprouted along her back and she shivered, the bright, diffuse light from the window causing her to glisten. To glow.
“You were right,” she said, wrapping herself tight to him. “It definitely is a lovely, warm Octopus.”
That set Percy giggling again, which made Audrey laugh, and they were off again, giggling and howling, and then tickling.
No one ever tickled Percy. He'd taught himself not to respond to such attacks at an early age, purely as a survival skill, living amongst the madmen with whom he shared his home. But this…
This was as far from torture as any experience could be. Or perhaps it was torture, but if it were, oh, it was a torture to which he would submit any day of his life.
And she—she was gloriously ticklish, and the sight of her squirming there, the feeling of her writhing to get away from beneath him, it filled him…
And they made love again. Less frantic now. Paying attention now, as if to say, Ah,that's how that behaves and Yes, that feels nice too, doesn't it?
It was a long, wordless conversation, and they established many points of commonality and also of complementary tension—ways in which their differences worked.
It helped, of course, that they were both excellent, experienced negotiators.
25 October, 2003 — 12.23 PM
When they came to rest again, Percy's glasses were long gone, and so now he could see only the closest bit of her: the muscles and sinews of the outside of her right lower thigh. He marvelled at the amazing colour of her—a warm, honey bronze that lightened as it disappeared into the fog that a foot's distance made of everything to him, near-sighted as he was.
And yet that small patch, on the outside of one leg—even that seemed to ripple in stillness—as if it were a holograph of her whole, vibrant being, that one small bit of flesh.
He kissed it, and she sighed.
Then she sighed again, and ran her fingers through his sweaty hair.
When had he ever had sweaty hair? Gardening. Fighting at Hogwarts the night that Fred died.
Making love to Luna had occasionally been strenuous, and certainly full of surprises, but mostly it had been vaguely stressful. She always wanted Percy's pleasure to be even greater than it was, and it had got rather exhausting, actually, convincing her that he was enjoying himself. But sweaty? Not terribly. Sex with Asteria had certainly never been half-hearted. Whatever her faults, Miss Greengrass was an energetic lover; however, Percy had come to their bed every night with the hope that he would be able to satisfy her as quickly as possible—since her satisfaction never seemed to be enough for her.
And there had been a few other lovely liaisons over the years. Percy enjoyed sex; he was enough of a man—enough of a Weasley—that even what he recognized to be his own stuffiness didn't get in the way of that.
But as he lay there, Audrey's high cheek tucked into the crease of his hip, he realized that nothing that he'd ever experienced with any of the others had been anything like this.
Audrey sighed again.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, though immediately he regretted it. Here he had been comparing her to the other girls that he had been with over the years. Comparing her beyond favourably, to be sure, but even so, he couldn't help but worry whether she were wishing that the idiot who had left her—had broken her heart—was the one there tangled up with her on the bed, and not the skinny Brit with glasses. Who didn't even have the glasses at the moment.
“I'm thinking,” said Audrey, her voice rumbling through him, “that I could get very, very used to this. What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking very much the same thing.”
“I was thinking,” he found himself saying for the second time in a very short time, “that anything is possible if you've got enough nerve.”
“Percy.” She sat up, and the air cooled her sweat where her cheek had been so that he shivered. “Can't we just enjoy this? Right now?”
“Of course,” he said, and began kissing his way back up her body. When he reached her mouth, however, before his lips touched hers, they betrayed him. “Audrey—”
“I can't leave the US, Percy, I can't. I've got my work, sure, but... My dad's only got me, and he won't come back here, even with Voldemort gone, he went crazy thinking I was even coming here for a week, I've had to Floo him every night, and I—”
“Shh,” said Percy, and calmed her with a kiss, and found that enjoying right now was remarkably easy.
It didn't stop the realization from bursting into his brain like one of George and Ron's fireworks. He pushed back from her just enough that he could see her eyes. “Your mother. She died during the war?”
Audrey nodded slowly. A look of pain. “The Ministry—your Ministry—wasn't even admitting that there was a war at the time. My dad's cousin died—the Ministry said it was an accident—but then people with white masks showed up at the funeral and—”
“I remember.” Percy had been one of the Ministry functionaries helping in the aftermath—two dead, another dozen badly injured. Had interviewed William Abbott—though listening to the man sob incoherently about how he had known coming back to England was a mistake could hardly be called an interview. Percy had reported directly to Minister Scrimgeour, had watched the colour drain from the former Auror's face as the reality had set in: that the Death Eaters were loose, that they were attacking not just the Muggle-born, but even old families like the Abbotts—or the Boneses, or the Weasleys—who were known to sympathize with those who were not born into the magical world.
In retrospect, Percy wondered if Scrimgeour had realized in that moment that his own days were numbered. “I'm sorry.”
Audrey laughed, but it was a sad laugh, most unlike her. “He wasn't himself again for a long, long time. When I joined the Ministry after I left school, I had to move him out to New York. He's back in San Francisco now, back with his friends, and he knows the war's over here, that it ended five, six years ago, but it doesn't take much...”
“The war remains with all of us still,” Percy said, stroking moisture from her cheek. “I understand.”
“Yeah,” Audrey sighed. “You lost a brother, didn't you?” When Percy blinked, she chuckled—a little more like herself. “I told you. I did my research.”
“Of course you did,” said Percy. He kissed her, and they held on to each other, each of them feeling the cold creeping in to their warm, sunlit room.
They made love again, and then once more, each time with a ferocity that almost drove any thought of any time but right now out of their heads.
25 October, 2003—4.22pm
Percy was having the most amazing dream. In it, Audrey kept calling out to him: “Darling! Have you taken your clothes off?”
“Of course, my precious!” he would call back, and enter a bedroom the size of the Great Hall at Hogwarts—but each time, Audrey, who was lying in the mammoth, silk-draped bed and wearing nothing but a piece of white tulle atop her unkempt head, would start to laugh, and Percy would look down to realize that he still had his work robes on. “I'll be right back, my love!“ he would shriek, and run back to their bathroom, tear off the robes and sprint back into the enormous bedroom... only to find Audrey howling with laughter, because he still had the blasted robes on....
Laughter woke him, laughter and a warm, naked body rumbling against his own. “Audrey?” he mumbled.
“I...?” She rolled away from him, and his world was a diffuse golden mist. “I was dreaming.”
He started to search for his glasses, but the first thing that he managed to grab was her shoulder. “Ah.”
“Here,” she said, pressing his glasses into his hand.
“Thank you.” He slid them onto his face, and was astonished though perhaps not surprised to see just how lovely and how thoroughly debauched she looked—hair wild, creases from the sheet marked into her skin. “Wow.”
She laughed again and covered herself with her hands.
Percy pulled her hands away, and she didn't resist; her expression challenged him to look his fill, which wasn't a difficult challenge to accept. “It must have been a nice dream.”
“Hmm.” She smiled, sphinx-like, and Percy had negotiated with her long enough through the previous week to know that he wouldn't be getting any further information from her.
“I was dreaming too,” he ventured. “I think I was dreaming about... our honeymoon.”
“Hmm,” she said, the grin broadening, and she climbed on top of him. When he reached up to her, she snorted and grabbed his hands. “Again? Really?”
“To be honest,” mused Percy, “I don't know that I could—physically. But I wouldn't mind trying.”
Audrey laughed—a bright, high angelus of a laugh—and Percy's heart soared, for all that his body was wonderfully sore. “It's just as well!” she giggled. “Aren't we supposed to be going to a wedding?”
Wedding?Percy blinked at her—his dream flooding back into his mind, the image of her waiting for him on the sea of red silk mixing with the very real feel of her against him to make concentrating on anything but the texture of Audrey's skin terribly difficult—but then the memory of the invitation that his father had Spell-o-Taped to the wall of his Ministry cubicle flashed back, and with it, all of the anxiety of the last six weeks. “The wedding!”
“What time is it? We're supposed to be there by five o'clock!” He sat up, upsetting Audrey's perch on his pelvis and dumping her on the duvet. He couldn't decide which made his sweat run colder: the idea of disappointing his mother, the idea of disappointing his sister, or the idea of—once again—seeming to slight Harry, whom he had worked with for the past five years and had come to respect enormously.
“Slow down, Flash!” squealed Audrey. “It's only four-thirty—we've got time!”
Percy froze and realized that he had been pulling on his socks and hiking shoes before he'd bothered with his shirt or his trousers, let alone his pants. Let alone the carefully Petrified dress robes that were still stiff as a board in his pocket. “Four-thirty?”
Audrey managed to pull herself upright and pointed to the clock on the mantel, which indeed read half-four. “And I don't mind broadcasting the scent of what we've just been doing—proud of it, actually—but then, I won't know anyone there but you. Don't you think you should take a shower?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Ah. Yes. Probably. Yes.”
She graced him with another smile that he had come to recognize only that day: a wicked, catlike grin that promised so much... “Like the look of you standing there in just your socks and boots.”
Percy blushed, but didn't bother trying to cover himself. “Thank you.”
“You called me... Flash.” Percy was the one member of his family who had grown up utterly devoid of nicknames—unless you counted Big-head Boy or Perfectly Pratly Percy—and so to be labelled with the moniker gave him an odd sense of warmth.
“Oh.” Audrey's grin went from feral to sheepish. “Muggle comic book thing. He was fast. And... red-headed. He was my favourite hero.”
“I'm your hero?” That warm feeling spread.
She lifted her chin. “Yup.”
Percy wasn't used to being anyone's hero. Harry—he epitomized the role. Even Ron. Ginny too. Bill. Charlie. Fred... Percy shivered, but pushed up the smile that he had been feeling initially. “Thank you. I think you are quite heroic yourself.”
“Hardly.” She snorted and pointed over her shoulder to the bathroom. “Shower?”
Now the smile blossomed of its own accord. He held out a hand. “Only if you'll join me.”