The next Saturday afternoon, Natalie made sure that most of the professors saw her at lunch. She knew she would be gone by dinner, and didn’t want anything to seem suspicious. She was one of the very last to leave the Great Hall, and when she did she went straight to the third floor corridor, which was where she was meeting Harry.
After a few awkward minutes small-talking about classes, extremely uncharacteristic for Harry and Natalie, Harry tapped the top of the one-eyed witch’s hump and said, “Dissemdium.” The hump slowly moved aside, revealing a dark and chilly passageway a few feet down. “Well, this is it,” Harry said, as Natalie was peering into the black. “Just use your wand and follow it to the end. You’ll come out in the cellar of Honeydukes, so just make sure to check if anyone’s around when you go upstairs.”
Natalie nodded, still staring down. She looked frightened. “Don’t worry,” he said, rubbing her back. “There’s nothing down there.”
She smiled and climbed up onto the witch’s back. “Thanks again for showing me this, Harry,” she said, swinging her legs around and into the hole that led down.
Harry smiled and grabbed onto her hands, helping her lower herself. “Be careful,” he said.
“I will,” she whispered. It echoed. She was already in the small chamber below. She only dropped about a foot after Harry let go of her hands. Her feet shuffled around for a moment, and by the time she lit her wand, she was already into the tunnel, and the already faint light started to disappear.
Hermione’s voice startled Harry as he headed up the Grand Staircase to the seventh floor. “Did you just send her off?”
“Wh-what?” he asked.
“Natalie,” Hermione said, joining Harry on his way upstairs. “Did you just show her the way to Hogsmeade?”
“Oh,” he mumbled. “Yeah.”
“Well, that’s very brave of you,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh stop, you know you like her!” Hermione whispered excitedly, as there were other students on the stairs. “And you just showed her how to get into Hogsmeade to see Percy of all people!”
Harry glared at Hermione. “I don’t like her.” He quickened his pace, leaving a stunned Hermione behind.
Natalie, in the meantime, was holding her breath she was so scared. Her eyes were open as wide as they would go, although it didn’t allow her to see any better. She was trying her hardest not to think about the many different creatures that could jump out at her at any second. Just when she thought she couldn’t go any further without screaming, the ground started to ascend, and she finally stumbled on a small wooden step rising out of the dirt. Relieved, she climbed the small staircase as quick as she could until she was suddenly stopped by a blow to the head.
Her hand flew to her head as it started to instantly throb. She raised her wand and couldn’t help but laugh. It was not a monster or goblin, like she had thought, but a large, rusty, metal door, which no doubt led into the cellar. Natalie laughed, thinking about how funny Harry would think this was if he were there, while she peeked out of the crack of the door she had pushed up. It looked clear, so she quickly slipped out and into the open room.
After climbing a real staircase this time and another peek out of the door at the top, Natalie snuck into Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe and quickly exited. She was relieved no one had seen her. It would have been easier on a day where the whole school was visiting, because once she was in the store she could just mingle in with everyone else. But of course, on this day, the store was completely deserted, but luckily the only clerk there was extremely interested in an article in Witch Weekly, and she didn’t even notice Natalie streak across the store and out into the street.
The cold wind whipped at her face when she stepped outside. She buttoned her coat up to her throat and headed towards The Three Broomsticks, which was where she was meeting Percy.
Although it only took a few minutes to reach the building, Natalie felt like it took years. She was anxious to see Percy, and the biting cold air wasn’t helping. When she finally got there, the smell of hot butterbeer and mead hit her when she opened the door. The warm air felt relieving as she stepped through and closed the door behind her.
Percy was already seated at a table, two steaming mugs of butterbeer. “Hey,” she said, smiling as she approached the table. Percy looked up and felt like he got the wind knocked out of him. Natalie was coming straight towards him, her long, brown wavy hair fanning out behind her, windblown. Her cheeks were rosy and her big brown eyes were squinting, getting used to the warm, still inside air.
“Hey,” he said, standing up and almost stumbling over his chair. He stood up straight, and when she approached him she wrapped her arms around his waist without hesitation. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, enveloping her small frame in his. He buried his nose in her hair and breathed in. Roses. He pulled away, and without thinking, placed a small kiss on her mouth.
As they sat down, Percy’s cheeks turned red as Natalie’s, although it wasn’t because of the wind.
After hours and hours of talking, just like last time, Natalie finally realized how hungry she was. “Hey, do you wanna order something to eat?” she asked him after finishing off her fifth butterbeer.
“Actually,” he said, taking his last sip as well, “Fred and George asked if we wanted to eat at their new apartment. They just opened a new store, and our brother Bill is visiting.” Natalie smiled a sheepish grin and nodded very slightly. “I mean, we don’t have to. We can do something else,” he quickly said.
“No, I do wanna go,” she said, biting her thumb nail. “But, are you sure?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I dunno,” she said, staring at the empty mug in front of her. “It’s…your family. I don’t wanna intrude. I can always just go back to the castle.”
“No, Natalie,” he said, taking her hands. “I want you to come.”
Natalie smiled wide this time, and after paying the bill, they left and headed, buttoned up and holding hands, into the cold wind. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but the gray sky was turning dark blue, and the wind was picking up. They didn’t know if it was getting dark or going to rain, but they weren’t looking forward to either. They picked up their pace and in no time a giant, orange building loomed into view. It was hard to miss.
There was a giant sign on the glass door to the store, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, that stated the store was closed. It was spelled out in flashing fireworks and a giant face went from smiling to frowning. While Natalie giggled at the sign, Percy rang the doorbell to the door on the left of the store. They heard a buzz, and a click, and Percy reached out and opened the old, wooden door. They entered into a dark hallway. The only places to go were into the coat closet or up the steep stairs that led to another wooden door. Voices and the smell of chicken and rice came from under the door, so Percy and Natalie climbed the stairs and without knocking, opened the door.
The apartment was small and cozy and Natalie fell in love with it as quick as she’d fallen in love with Hogwarts. A cutout window in the wall in front of them opened into the kitchen, which was small and cluttered and frightfully dirty, even for two bachelors living alone. To the left was a small bathroom, so they went right and found themselves in a fairly large living room. Since Percy had told her that Fred and George lived there alone, Natalie was not surprised to see that the floor under the giant, flat screen television was littered with every video game console and system known to man. Even guys busy inventing things for their thriving business and two busy stores will find time for video games, she thought to herself.
“Hey little brother!” Bill said as he came around the corner. He swept Percy into a bear hug. Natalie laughed. She had met all the Weasleys and knew that Charlie was the biggest, and Bill didn’t compare, but he was still marginally larger than Percy, who looked ridiculous in the iron vice that was Bill’s hug.
Percy reintroduced Natalie to Bill, who had been setting the table. They all went into the kitchen, where Fred and George were busy cooking. “What are you putting in there?” Bill asked, opening a drawer to take out more silverware.
“Who knows,” Fred said, without turning around. He was hovering over the stove, a giant pan filled with chicken breasts crackling in hot oil. A wide array of spices were covering the countertop, half of them opened and spilling everywhere.
“It’s gonna be good though,” George said, turning around from the pot he was leaning over. He had a wooden spoon in his hand that was caked in yellow rice and was wearing a white apron that was covered in grease stains, what looked like pepper, and a greenish liquid that Natalie prayed wasn’t in the dinner. “Hey, Perce!” he said after he turned around and finally noticed that Percy was standing there. He gave a resistant Percy a big hug, but spared Natalie due to the messy apron he was wearing.
“Dinner is served,” Fred said, turning around brandishing the pan of chicken. There were red, brown, white, and black spices covering it. Natalie wasn’t sure what she was about to eat, but it smelled amazing so she was anxious.
“I thought you said you were cooking,” Percy said as he led Natalie back towards the living room, which had a large table in the corner, surrounded by six chairs.
Bill stifled a laugh. “We did cook!” George said, following behind Fred with his pot of rice. They set both foods down right on the table. Natalie could tell this was done a lot by the black burn rings all over the table.
“No, this isn’t called cooking,” Percy said, pulling out Natalie’s chair for her. “This is reheating mom’s chicken and rice and adding Merlin-knows-what to it.” Bill let out the laugh he was trying to hold on, and while George smiled, Fred took offense. He personally thought he’d put a lot of effort into the chicken.
After everyone was seated, Fred poured them all a glass of the greenish liquid that had been spilt on George. “What is this?” Natalie asked, taking a big sip.
“Blue raspberry mango banana juice,” Fred said, spilling a few drops on the table and neglecting it.
“It’s amazing,” Natalie said, looking at it after she took a few more sips.
“It’s our own special recipe,” George said, passing the basket of bread around the table.
Bill laughed once again. “They always just get a bunch of random juices and mix it together,” he said. “Last time was strawberry peach apple.”
“Hey!” Fred said, as if Bill had just given away his deepest, darkest secret. “There is one ingredient that stays the same.”
“Oh yeah,” George said, turning to Natalie who was sipping again. “If you don’t like rum, you shouldn’t be drinking it.” He winked. Natalie laughed, took a tiny sip, and bit a chunk from her piece of bread.
The rest of the dinner was fun and exciting, something Natalie hadn’t experienced in a while due to the overabundance of schoolwork she’d been getting. On top of it, Harry was so busy with Quidditch, that when she had a chance to take a break and relax, he was nowhere to be found.
Afterwards, they joked around telling stories and played video games. Around ten o’clock, Fred and Bill left to meet Fleur and her cousin, visiting from France, at a bar in London. Natalie, Percy, and George could hear the loud crack of then Apparating.
Suddenly, Natalie yawned. “Oh,” she said, stretching out her arms and legs from her balled up position on the couch. “I should get going back,” she said.
Percy’s smile slightly faded. “Just stay here tonight,” George said, noticing his brother’s mood drop.
“What? I can’t stay here,” Natalie said, laughing.
“Why not?” Percy asked. He couldn’t believe what he was saying. He’d been Head Boy! Now he was trying to persuade a student to sleep out of the castle. He really must like her.
“I dunno,” she said, looking down and searching for a good reason why. “I mean, I can’t just…not go back.”
“Sure you can,” George said, standing up and heading into the kitchen. “Just sneak back in early while everyone’s at breakfast. Only your friends will notice,” he called into them. They heard the water running.
Natalie shrugged at Percy, who shrugged back. “I’ll stay,” he said.
Something came over Natalie, and she wasn’t sure what, but hearing Percy said he’d stay with her made her feel absolutely crazy to decline. “Okay,” she said, smiling.
“Alright,” George said, coming out of the kitchen with a coat on and his keys in hand. “I probably won’t be back tonight.”
“What?” Percy said, his face immediately turning beet red. Staying over somewhere with Natalie was one thing, but staying alone with her was completely different. “Where are you going?”
“Angelina’s,” George said. “She’s just made dessert and has brandy to go along. Hence me not coming back,” he said, winking at Percy and Natalie. He opened the door, made sure it was locked, and stepped through the doorway. “Oh yeah,” he said, peeking his head back in. “The guest bedroom is the door all the way at the end of the hallway,” he said, nodding towards the unlit hallway that suddenly made Natalie nervous. “It’s a bit chilly in there because the window doesn’t shut all the way, but if you won’t sleep there, sleep in Fred’s bed, not mine.” With a wide grin on his face and another wink at his brother, he shut the door, leaving Percy and Natalie completely alone.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Percy asked.
Natalie took a breath and nodded. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” She hoped Percy didn’t hear the tiny crack in her voice.
“I dunno,” he shrugged. “I just don’t want it to be weird, staying alone with me, overnight.” His eyes darted around the room for something to look at besides Natalie’s eyes.
“It’s fine,” she said, smiling warmly and taking his hand. “I am pretty tired though. Unless you want to stay up and watch TV…” her voice trailed off.
“No, we can go to bed now,” Percy said. After both using the bathroom, the two wandered very slowly down the hall. “If you want to sleep in Fred’s room, I’ll sleep in the guest bedroom. I don’t want you to be cold.”
Natalie turned around. She could only see the faint outline of Percy, since they’d shut off all the lights except the bathroom. She sensed his nervousness, too. “Come on,” she said, taking his hand, feeling a sudden burst of relief after hearing the tremble in his voice. “We can both sleep in here.” She led him into the guest bedroom.
It wasn’t as cold as they’d thought it would be as the window was only cracked slightly, but it definitely wasn’t as warm as the rest of the apartment. Percy pulled back the covers and Natalie found a spare blanket in the linen closet, throwing it over the bed as well. They both silently climbed into the bed, and lay on their backs, motionless, for a few minutes.
Natalie began to feel the chill from the window, though. She scooted over to Percy, who wrapped his arm around her and rubbed her arm with his free hand, trying to create some heat in the new, not quite yet warm blankets. Natalie giggled. “What?” Percy asked.
“I dunno,” she said. “I was so nervous a few minutes ago, and now I don’t even remember why.”
Percy smiled. That was one of the things he liked about Natalie. She was never embarrassed to say how she was feeling. “I feel the same,” he said, pulling her in closer. He was still a little nervous, though. He’d only been intimate with one other girl, and that was Penelope Clearwater. They’d been together for a while, and they were both equally inexperienced. He had no idea what Natalie had done in her past.
Ironically, she was thinking the same thing about him. She’d never been with any boy, besides kissing, and she felt like Percy had been with many girls. There was no way that anybody could resist Percy, so who knows how many girls he’s had. She was honest about not feeling nervous, though. She knew that Percy wouldn’t pressure her to do anything she wasn’t comfortable doing.
Natalie leaned up and placed a small kiss on Percy’s nose. He leaned down, found her lips, and kissed them. Natalie felt the warmth spread through her body, and if she was still cold, she didn’t notice it. Their kiss intensified quickly, and Natalie reached her arms out of the covers, grabbed the back of Percy’s head, and tried to pull him closer and closer although it was impossible. Their lips moved against the others, and finally Percy’s tongue found its way into Natalie’s mouth. His hands ran up and down her back, twisting up the blankets.
After a few more minutes of kissing, Percy grabbed the back of Natalie’s knee and hooked it around his waist. (They may not have had the most experience in the world, but some things just come naturally when one’s placed in certain situations). She locked her foot under his legs, and before either of them knew it, Percy had turned so that he was lying on top of her.
Their hands were all over each other. Percy tried to stop, but he couldn’t help but run his hands up and down Natalie’s smooth arms, her sides, her stomach, her breasts. Natalie wasn’t sure how far she wanted to go, but even she couldn’t help but give Percy’s behind a small squeeze, again pulling him closer.
Percy’s hips and unintentionally started to move, ever so slowly. Natalie felt his sharp, hard hipbones digging into her inner thighs, and certainly felt something else that was hard that wasn’t his hipbones at all. He had started to kiss her neck and was slowly moving down towards her chest.
Natalie’s legs involuntarily gave a squeeze, alerting Percy who was lying between them. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice almost husky, as he stopped kissing her and propped himself up on his elbows.
Natalie bit her lip. She had no idea what to say. This had happened to her before. The summer before her sixth year, Natalie had become close with a Muggle boy in her neighborhood. They hung out every day, but seemed like they were in a permanent stage of only holding hands. They finally moved onto kissing. And finally, one day, things began to intensify, and the boy, who was on top of Natalie on his parents’ sofa, asked the same thing when she pushed him away. ‘What’s wrong?’
“I dunno,” she said, thankful that it was dark and Percy couldn’t see her face, even though she could feel his hot breath. “I was hoping we would just…” she started, but couldn’t think of the right words.
“Take things slow?” he asked, slowly rolling off of her.
Natalie let out the breath she’d been holding in. “I mean, I really do like you, but I haven’t even known you that long.”
“It’s okay, I understand,” Percy said, slipping his arm around her again. “I’m not ever like this. At all,” he emphasized, chuckling slightly. “I guess I just really like you, too.” After a few moments of silence, he said, “I know I do.”
Natalie smiled, even though he couldn’t see, and nuzzled her head into his chest. “I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable,” he said, wrapping both arms around her tight.
“You didn’t,” she said, breathing in his scent. She hadn’t known him that long, but she felt like she did. She leaned up and kissed him one last time before they slowly fell asleep.