Chapter 1 : A Slice of Misadventure
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Anybody who knew George and Ronald Weasley knew that they had a particular penchant for idiocy, and their latest belief was no exception to this generalization. There was no way that the barista from the Muggle café had asked him out on a date. It was just pie – a new recipe that she thought he’d like to try.
“Percy, there comes a time in every man’s life when he just has to face up to the facts. This -- it’s definitely a date.”
“Besides, what’s so bad about it being a date? She look like a hag?”
The well-polished machinery in Percy’s brain leapt into action, searching for a complete and concise counter-point to the younger Weasleys’ assured conclusion. If he didn’t put an end to this vexing after-dinner conversation soon, he’d have to make a stop at the apothecary for a box of antacids before he could even think about tasting a bite of pie. This was ludicrous. After all, there wasn’t even the slightest chance that his meeting later that evening was a date – it was just a slice of pie, maybe with a cup of coffee. He’d have said that very thing if he could force his mouth to formulate syllables anywhere near as intelligible as they sounded in his mind. Instead, he gawked helplessly across the table from one brother to the next.
George was tipped back in his chair, his hands resting lazily behind his head. A wide, proud smirk was plastered across his face in response to his own, self-diagnosed cleverness. Ronald sat hunched over the table, leaning on his elbows. His mouth was hidden behind his hands in a less-than-effective attempt to hide what was surely a pompous, if not misguided, grin.
“It’s not,” Percy sputtered, finally finding his voice, “a date. We are a man and a woman meeting to share a slice of pie or two after she gets off of work. And she’s certainly not a hag – I think she’s rather good-looking, if you must know.”
His comments were met with the satisfying sound of silence, and he puffed out his chest in triumph. He knew that he could set his brothers straight – there was no arguing with sound logic. Not wanting to give them a chance to spoil his victory, Percy began to slide his chair back from the table when the Burrow’s cluttered kitchen erupted into a cacophony of laughter.
“I don’t know what is so funny,” he shouted over the din, “but it’s just – ”
His battle cry of ‘it’s-just-pie’ was cut short as Ginny sauntered into the room, seemingly unfazed by the happenings at the table. Percy watched as she reached for a glass from the dish cabinet, the dawning of an idea flickering in his head. He could and would settle this debate once and for all. Surely his sister, she herself being a young woman, would understand that a man could have plans to meet a woman without it being a date.
“Oi, Ginny,” Percy said slowly, “let me ask you something.”
An inquisitive look plastered on her face, Ginny plopped down into their dad’s chair at the head of the table. Steepling her fingers, she rested her wrists against the edge of the wooden table top. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
“So, you’re a young woman –”
“Oh, very well spotted, Percy. Ron, did you know we had a sister?”
“– and as such, particularly qualified to serve as a resource, so I’d value your opinion on the matter at hand.” Percy made it a point to ignore George’s comments as he continued on in his mission to validate his own, undoubtedly flawless logic. “The matter being this: I have made a habit of spending my lunch hour at that café near the visitors’ entrance to the ministry. The barista who typically takes my order asked me if I’d care to meet her to try out her new pie recipe this evening after her shift ends. Now, provided only that information, I must ask you – does anything about that sound like it’s a date?”
“I see, I see,” Ginny said slowly bringing her hand up to stroke her chin. “Did she smile or maintain eye contact while asking you? And was there anybody else in the café at the time?”
“Of course she smiled and maintained eye contact – she’s a professional barista.” Percy did not like where these questions were heading. “She makes her living smiling at people.”
“And the café?” Ron cocked an eyebrow, leaning even further across the table.
“Well, no – there wasn’t anybody else there at the time. But see, I sit at one of the outdoor tables because there’s never anybody else there. She asked me when she brought out my scone.”
Ginny made a series of aha and mmm-hmm noises as she continued to stroke her chin, withholding her conclusion.
“Well?” Percy practically shouted. He was eager to finally be rid of this redundant conversation – he was obviously right. Plus, there was a new article in the Policy Periodical that he wanted to read before he had to leave.
“Oh, it’s definitely a date.”
And just like that Ginny bounded away from the table, pausing in the doorway grin over her shoulder.
Percy felt his jaw go slack as a fleeting feeling of defeat filled his chest. Why, he’d show them – it was just pie for Merlin’s sake.
The problem with being particularly fond of the coffee and sandwiches served at a Muggle establishment was remembering to keep a low profile whilst there. As it were, he’d grown rather used to donning a jumper with a pair of slacks, rather than a robe during his lunch hour jaunts. However, as his mum pointed out uring dinner at the Burrow, the jumper that he was wearing had a small tear below the collar and so he’d had to change into one of his dad’s spares. Now, wearing it and standing outside of Nona’s Corner Café, Percy did a once over in the front window. It was a good thing that this little meeting wasn’t a date – he looked positively ridiculous in the over-sized, green and orange checkered garb.
Chest filled with the motivating purpose of self-validaiton, he strode inside. He was going to sit down at his usual table; meet with this barista woman; make some polite conversation, perhaps complimenting the recipe; and offer some excuse for having to leave – easy as pie.
However, before he could reach his table, a rather pleasant voice called out to him from the cluster of plush arm chairs situated in the corner. It wasn’t so unusual for people to recognize him in the confines of wizarding-London, but here, in a Muggle café, it was rather unusual and left him feeling a tad flustered. Giving a curt nod, he dropped his head and hoped that he could make it to the back patio without having to make small talk. Unplanned social interactions made his palms sweat, and in his experience, forks were incredibly difficult to manipulate with sweaty palms – a handicap at a meeting contingent on the successful use of utensils if ever there was one.
“Percy?” the voice repeated.
Not wanting to be rude, Percy spun around towards its source. A slight woman with rather round, heavily freckled cheeks and a bob of dark hair had stood up from her seat at the purple arm chair.
“I thought that was you.” She smiled and gestured towards the chocolate brown chair across from her. “I saved us two seats when I got off of work – it can get crazy in here around tea time.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He apologized as he retraced his steps back to the cluster of chairs. A feeling of foolishness, something he typically avoided like the plague, struck him. “I didn’t recognize you without the hat or apron. Percy Weasley,” he said extended his hand in greeting.
“I know,” she said slowly, giggling as she shook his hand, “I pick up your check every day.”
“Well, I don’t pick up yours.”
“Oh my God, I’m sorry – I do this sort of thing were I assume that if somebody recognizes me it magically means they know my name –”
“Oh no, magic doesn’t work like –” The words weren’t completely out of his mouth before he realized what he was saying. Eyes wide with panic, he clamped his jaw shut. For the second time in far too short of a time interval a wave of foolishness washed over him. Of course she didn’t know how magic worked – she didn’t even know it existed.
She smirked. “Well, I’m Audrey Phillips. Maybe you’ll have to show me some magic someday?”
There was something about the combination of her smile, arched brows, and almost sultry tone of voice when she said the word magic that seemed to pull his breath from his chest, and he found it wholly unnerving. Pastries should never be sultry. “So,” he stammered, “shall we have some pie? That’s what this little meeting is all about, right?”
“Oh, right. Let me go fetch us two slices – that’s a really smart jumper by the way.”
As Audrey disappeared behind a brightly painted wooden door, he settled down into the brown chair and exhaled. If he was going to garner enough evidence to prove his siblings incorrect and slap a big ‘I-told-you-so’ in front of them, he was going to have to sharpen up – he wouldn’t be proving anything if he wound up in a cell for breaking the International Statute of Secrecy.
Scraping a bit of fuzz from the chair’s cushy arm, he re-capped the facts as they stood. One – they had shaken hands. Surely men and women didn’t shake hands on dates. Two – he hadn’t, until moments ago, known her name. Percy hadn’t been on many dates in his twenty-four years of life, but he did at least know that it was proprietary to know a woman’s name. Three … three – it was just pie, for Merlin’s sake.
“Alright. Here we go.” Audrey shimmied between the chairs and set a plate with two modest sized pieces of pie down on the coffee table. "I promise it's delicious."
Percy offered a polite smile – he normally was wholly opposed to the mixing of cooked fruits, but he came here to eat pie and so pie he would eat.
“So? What do you think?” She scooped a bite from her slice and held it just outside her mouth. “I know it’s not exactly the same recipe as when my mum makes it, but so far the response has been reassuring – we sold at least a dozen slices today.”
Percy pushed his partially chewed bite of hybrid-fruit pudding to the side and offered her a tight, close-lipped smile which seemed to satiate her need for approval.
To his pleasant surprise, the rest of their pie-eating passed in relative silence. While he had a very long list of pet peeves still tacked to the cork board in his childhood bedroom, the need to make conversation while eating was very near the top of the list. It was impossible to take the time to properly chew and enjoy food while synchronizing it with the need to say things. Furthermore, it was additional proof for his case seeing as most dates historically consisted of exchanging superficial fun facts between hurriedly processed bites of food.
Percy finished eating before she did, and found himself watching the way her nose crinkled just before she put each remaining bite into her mouth.
When she finally cleared her plate, she looked up at Percy, who had begun shifting in his seat, and furrowed her brow. “Oh, are you in a hurry to go somewhere? You should have said something – we could have done this another time.” She frowned, brushing invisible crumbs from her lap.
“Well, we ate some pie, and it was delicious.” Percy, more confident than ever that he’d prove his siblings wrong, smiled at her concern. “I’ll be sure to allow myself time to digest before doing any strenuous activity, don’t worry.”
Audrey’s eyes looked bewildered and she laughed, snorting into her hands. “You know, you’re a really funny guy, Percy.” Her chest heaved as her laughter abated. “I guess this just means we’ll have to do this again sometime and pick up where we left off. You free Saturday evening?”
Confused as to what she thought they had left to do, Percy could only answer honestly. “I’m always off on Saturday evenings – I work for the government.”
“Oh really? That’s impressive” she asked, her smile warm and her eye contact inviting. “So where shall we go?”
“We won’t be eating pie?” A bubble of consternation had begun to rumble in his stomach. He had the distinct feeling that he and Audrey were suddenly on very different pages – perhaps of different books altogether.
“Truthfully, I thought you might think it’d be lame to do the same thing two dates in a row, but if you really want to eat more pie –”
Two dates in a row meant that –
“This was a date?” Percy blurted out. “I thought – but you said – the pie?”
Apparently taken back by his outburst, Audrey blinked at him.
So it really hadn’t been just pie.
Being wrong wasn't something he was accustomed to and it left a sour sort of taste in his mouth. However, he hadn't become the youngest Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic by simply accepting his short comings, rare as they might be. No, when life offered up an unexpected set back -- such as an incorrect assumption on the nature of a pie eating venture -- he used it to his advantage.
He would always come out on top.
“You know what, never mind." Percy stood up and, already in the overcoming stage of the game, extended his hand to her. “Would you consider taking a walk with me?”
Grasping her hand in his, he smiled. It had never been just pie, but he surely wouldn't be letting his brothers know that. Rather, he'd assure them that of course it had just been pie, but he'd been so smitten by the barista’s charm that he couldn’t help but ask her out on an actual date.
While not entirely truthful, it was his story and he was sticking with it.
Author's Note: So, this little one shot began as a brief, 200 word drabble of some pretentious-Percy banter that I had scribbled down into a word doc months ago. I came across it today and decided to do something with it, and so this mostly ridiculous one shot was born. I know I poke fun of Percy in this, but I really do love him, so no harm intended. Anything you recognize belongs to J.K Rowling. The line about George and Ron's "particular penchant for idiocy" 'is a modified version of Maggie Smith's line from HPDH part 2 -- the alliteration was just too good to pass up!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this.
Humour is not usually my thing, and so I'd love to hear what you though!
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