This is written for the “I heart Muggles” Challenge and for the “Outsider Looking in” Challenge. I do not own the characters.
The night air is cold against my face. My eyes flutter open from a warm and peaceful sleep. The window is cracked open. The curtains flutter gently in the cool night breeze. Blinking the sleep from my eyes, I notice that the space next to me in bed is nothing but a warm indentation. Knowing where you must be, I swing my legs out of bed and pull a dressing robe snugly around my swollen body. A small cry from down the hall reaffirms my suspicions. I gingerly pull myself to my feet. The wooden floor is cold. I silently curse it under my breath. It is on nights like these that I wonder exactly how I was convinced that magic and fire grates work just as well as furnaces.
I slide my feet into a pair of slippers and yawn before making my way down the narrow hallway lead by the persistent cries. In the dark, I guide myself with an outstretched hand so as not to knock any of the framed photographs off the walls. Even in the dark, I can see the content of each frame in my mind – a bright, smiling red-headed infant the focus of most. I imagine Molly, the image of her father, wriggling in the frames. These magical moving photographs still amaze me, and I can feel light and happy tingle dance across my skin. A familiar deep, but gentle voice reaches my ears. The tiny cry echoing down the hall winds down, hiccups, and ceases in the wake of a tiny giggle.
I reach the doorway and peer into the room. Percy is seated in the strait-backed wooden rocker gently swaying back and forth. His voice softly murmurs in time with the subtle creaking of the chair. I hear a soft gurgling sound and notice a small bundle in the crook of his elbow. Molly is fourteen months old and doesn’t enjoy sleeping through the night. I always poke fun at Percy and tell him that she doesn’t sleep because she knows he’ll come to coddle her. She is a daddy’s girl. A smile breaks out on my tired face as I watch the scene play out in front of me.
Percy shifts our daughter to his other arm; he is humming a quiet tune. The frequency of Molly’s gurgles and squeals subsides. Percy leans down and plants a gentle kiss on Molly’s forehead. I continue to stand mutely watching and feel my heart swell. The little one within me turns over and I place a comforting hand on my abdomen. I suppress a rueful chuckle; it seems that this one too will be a daddy’s tyke.
His humming stops and the silence of the night is only filled by my breathing and the rhythmic ticking of the clock in the stairwell. Then Percy’s voice cuts through the silence. It is too low for me to make out, but my mind lovingly swirls over the possibilities. Looking in, I begin to imagine the tales he may be telling her from the outside of the nursery. The significance of this arrangement delights me. It was only four years ago that I was also on the outside of Percy’s life, looking in, seeking access to moments that weren’t mine.
I close my eyes and inhaled deeply. I can smell the rich dark roasted coffee beans, the yeast of the dough rising in the kitchens, and a fresh stack of newsprint piled by the door. I open my eyes and I am standing behind a familiar cash register. The morning’s scones are neatly arranged in their appropriate display cases, and my large thermoses of freshly brewed coffee are neatly lined along the counter next to me. The cups and lids are stocked and stacked in pristine columns, and the news bins are full with the morning’s publication. The café was ready to be opened. I check my watch. It reads 6:52am. I walk out from behind the counter and brush my black apron off. At the door, I flip the sign over from closed to open.
I begin to count the seconds in my head. Four-hundred and twenty seconds. Seven minutes. At exactly 6:59, a tall and lanky red-headed man walks through the door. The bell jingles lightly announcing his presence. As usual, he is dressed oddly. His glasses are horn-rimmed and old-fashioned. He wears a long navy-blue garment that reminds me of a cross between a dressing robe and a trench coat. His posture suggests that he would rather not be noticed as he slips into the corner table. After arranging his place setting, he rises and approaches the counter. He quickly orders a cup of medium-roast, black coffee and toast with jam and butter on the side. His face is so drawn and weary looking. I smile at him.
My smile has little effect on his demeanour. He quietly passes me the notes clutched in his hand – he never has to dig in his wallet for money. It is always counted out exactly. Silently, he gives me a nod, picks up one of the newspapers from the stack, and returns to his table. There he sits, the only customer in the shop for at least another half an hour, and casually leafs through the paper.
When his order is ready, I pick up his tray. Passing the stainless steel door between the kitchen and the front of the store I pause. I adjust my apron and push several wayward strands of mousy-brown hair behind my ears. Rolling my eyes, I chide myself for my vanity. Of all of the men who came into the café each morning, this strange and reserved man was not one I should be trying to impress. I carry the tray carrying the coffee and plain toast out to his table and place the dishes meticulously in front of him. As usual, he adjusts them. No matter where I set his order, I am sure, he will always rearrange them. He begins to methodically butter his toast while I return to the counter.
Behind the counter, I try to busy myself with various tasks, but his presence captivates my attention. At such a small place of business, customers were usually quite personable, but not him. Not the thin, freckled, red-headed enigma seated in the far corner of the dining room. His subtle motions as he drinks his coffee and eats his toast capture my attention. It seems as though he is pretending he isn’t there. His eyes remain down-cast and he occasionally nonchalantly flips the pages of the paper, although he doesn’t seem to actually be reading it.
He is such a mystery, sitting there in the corner. I feel as though we are from two different worlds, as though I am an outsider vainly looking into a small snippet of his world. I have worked in this small café since high school. This man began stopping in each morning near the beginning of last may. Every morning without fail, he walks through the door at 6:59am and orders a medium-roast, black coffee and plain toast with butter and jam on the side. My curious mind eagerly tries to fill in the blanks and solve the mystery that he presents to me each morning.
Perhaps he is a criminal on the lam from the law enforcement – a bank robber trying to keep a low profile within the masses of London’s population. I suppose that even bank robbers need coffee and breakfast and a place to sit and read the newspaper. This thought sends an uncomfortable shiver down my back.
Then again, perhaps he is the law enforcement – an agent on the trail of some crime lord residing in London. I suppose that he could see his target from the window and keep tabs on him as he ate breakfast. In order to maintain his identity he had to keep a low profile. My heart skips a beat, whether from nerves or excitement, I cannot be sure.
Then there is always the possibility that he is just a recluse. Minding his own business; going about his day avoiding drawing attention to himself. I suppose some people just prefer to remain alone and distant from people. Maybe he is hiding from a painful past, a rough home life or some other dirty secret. My stomach falls as I empathise with the recluse that theoretically resided within the man in the corner.
Regardless of the truth behind the red-head’s presence in the café, the fact remained that there was something most peculiar about him. His dress was evidence of this. I realize that I had been raptly staring in his direction for too long and avert my gaze towards the scone cabinet. I mindlessly wipe the counter despite the fact I had wiped it only moments ago.
As the clock approaches 7:30 and other customers begin to arrive, I hear the sounds of a chair scrape away from a table and of a paper being meticulously folded. I chance a glance into the corner. The red-headed man has risen and is replacing the newspaper on the stack of other papers. I expect him to return to the table to neatly pile his dishes up and then to depart until the next morning. However, this morning he breaks out of his usual pattern.
The peculiar man returns to his table as expected and stacks his dishes as expected, but then he sits back done. His hands are folded on the table in front of him, and he nervously fidgets his thumbs together. I hurriedly finish with the woman’s order currently at the register and then hurry out to the corner table. I am worried that something was the matter with his order. On this trip to the table, I do not pause by the steel door to check my appearance.
I reach the edge of the table prepared to ask him whether I could do something for him when the earth stopped turning. The reserved and strictly patterned man shatters every image of him my mind had managed to create in the five months. He looks up at me and offers a hesitant and small grin. I glance towards the register and am reassured that all the other customers have been waited on. I turn my attention back to him.
“Hello,” his voice is calming – deep but quiet. He looks as surprised by his words as I am. I watch him forcefully swallow back what I could only assume was nerves. His clear blue eyes look vulnerable as they chance a glance up at my own. “Won’t you, er,” he pauses momentarily before continuing, “sit down?”
I am frozen. Our two separate worlds had just collided. I am standing on the edge of my world watching him as he is inviting me into the world I had speculated about for so long. I feel a slight smile break across my face.
I feel a slight smile break across my face, and Percy takes a break from the in-depth story he is gently cooing to Molly and looks up from the rocking chair towards where I stand in the doorway.
“Hello,” his voice is calming – deep and quiet. He looks as content sitting there with his daughter as I am standing and watching. He cracks a wide smile at me. His clear blue eyes speak of nothing but happiness as they chance a glance up and away from Molly towards me. “Won’t you, er,” he pauses and lowers his volume as Molly shifts in his arms, “sit down?”
I quietly walk into the room, careful not to wake our daughter. Reaching the chair I gently lift her from Percy’s arms and carry her over to her crib. Tenderly placing her down, I drop a warm kiss on her smooth forehead. I look back at my husband still seated in the rocking chair return to him. I sidle easily onto his lap and plant a firm kiss on his parted lips.
No, Percy Weasley was not a recluse hiding from the world, a secret agent on the tail of a drug lord, nor a bank robber on the lam from the law. It turned out he was just a lonely man haunted by the decisions of his past. Slowly and with time I had learned of his estrangement from his family, of his pig-headedness in regards to believing the truth, of his narrow minded pursuit of success at work, of his selfishness, and of his brother’s tragic and untimely death, and of his inability to forgive himself. Slowly and with time I had come to know and love Percy Weasley as he learned to forgive himself for his past mistakes.
He continued to frequent the café each morning at 6:59, only most mornings he was accompanied by me at his corner table. Of all the amazing and far-fetched things I had imagined him to be, the two I never guessed turned out to be the two that were true. Firstly, Percy was a wizard – an honest to goodness wizard, complete with a magic wand and a cauldron. This fact took quite a bit of getting used to before I was able to come to terms with it. Secondly, Percy was the love of my life. On our wedding day, I confessed my surprise in our relationship to him. He laughed and told me he had jinxed me. Still smiling from his joke, I took my vows to be his wife.
I break off the kiss, much to Percy’s apparent dismay. He drops his hand from the small of my neck to my swollen abdomen. Together we sit and listen to one another breath in time to the tiny sounds of our sleeping child in the crib.
Somehow, our worlds had collided, merged, and became the same world. I was no longer a spectator looking in at him. This thought warms me and I nestle my head in under his chin. Gently, he begins to rock the chair as his hand makes slow circles on my belly. I feel my eyelids grow heavy.
“I love you, Percy,” I whisper into his neck.
“I love you too, Audrey,” He whispers into my hair.
Sometimes, the unexpected events in life are the best events. Sometimes, it’s worth it to stop looking from the outside and to jump into a situation. Sometimes, happiness can be found. I am happy.
Thank you for reading along. I have never written Percy or Audrey before, so I hope that I did them justice. This was a bit of an experiment with moving between times so I hope that it managed to produce an enjoyable read. If you could be so kind as to leave a review, I’ll be sure to respond.
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