Chapter II: Of Futures
“What can I get you, love?” the bartender asked her as she took a seat at the bar.
“Screwdriver, please,” she smiled at him.
It wasn't long before she heard a groan come from the seat beside her. “So how'd you find me here anyway?” he asked her as he took a large sip from his abnormally oversized cup of whiskey.
She never knew they came in such bulky sizes, actually.
Instead of voicing those thoughts, however, she merely shrugged. “I heard about you and Ginny, figured you may be out trying to release some tension—this was the fourth pub in a twenty block radius from your building that I checked…”
He nodded slowly. “I'm fine, Hermione, no need to worry about me. Besides, I'm sure you have better things to do then fret over me.”
“Really?” she asked disbelievingly, raising an eyebrow at the annoyingly self-pitying implication.
“Well yeah, why would you need to spend your evening consoling your pissed mate when you could bee off with Ron enjoying yourself?”
She smiled slowly, with that charming beam that she knew he'd always fall victim to. Good girl or not, at times a woman was forced to use her wiles for the betterment of the bloke in question anyway, she reasoned. “And what if I were to tell you that consoling you is at the top of my list of favorite activities?”
“Then I'd say you're full of it,” he bluntly told her, chugging the rest of his drink before waving the bartender over for another one.
She kept her mouth shut despite the intense and palpitating urge to tell the server to cut him off for the rest of the evening. “Want to talk about it?”
He shrugged. “It was time—Ginny and I… well… we were just never meant for one another. She needs someone fun, she needs the boy wonder who can take her out and about around the town… I'm afraid I don't have the patience for all that absurd gallivanting anymore. Really, I just want some time to myself; I suppose what I need is some time to get over this.”
“What's going on, Harry?” she desperately asked him. “Ever since everything with Voldemort and the war ended two months ago you've been walking around aimlessly… what happened? What's going on? I want to help you, but I just don't know how anymore.”
He smiled slowly, but it killed her that there was no light, no warmth, in his eyes as he did so. “You being here is more than enough, love, trust me… I don't think there's any better therapy then your company.”
She blushed slowly. “Then how about you take advantage of this so-called `therapy' by talking to me a bit.”
He shook his head, and it was odd how he could make the action seem so… numb, if there ever even was such an oxymoron. “I can't… just give me time, Hermione, all I need is time, yeah?”
“Yeah,” she smiled, nodding hopefully, and all the while desperately trying to remain positive as she playfully nudged his shoulder with her own.
“Hermione, what are you doing here?” he asked her as he walked over to her and pulled her into a tight embrace.
“Well you sound surprised, but not quite as happy about the development as I had hoped,” came her muffled quip as she buried her face into the crook of his neck, relishing the feel of being enfolded in the arms of her best mate again.
He chuckled as he slowly released her from his constricting hold. “You know I'm always glad to see you, and, frankly, I'm utterly drunk
with happiness now that I know I won't have to deal with some arse of a partner that I'd probably hate anyway.”
“Always the optimist, aren't you, Harry?”
“Oh yes, I'm shooting bloody rainbows out my arse all the time with all this optimism that I'm bursting with,” he joked sarcastically. “Seriously, though, I thought you were on assignment in Peru identifying victims or something like that…”
She laughed. “Well I'm so glad that you listen to me… sort of… to some extent, I suppose
,” she teased him lightly. “And I came back yesterday—as if I could spend more than a week away from you and Ron anyway.”
“You should have told me you were back.”
“I would have but when my boss told me that I was `out on loan,' as he so eloquently and non-degradingly put it, to the ministry and that you would be my partner I figured I could hold it off a day and surprise you.”
He smiled. “It's good to see you again, love, I've missed you, Ron and I have been lost without you.”
“Oh please, my boyfriend acts as if I was never even gone, when I came back and said the classic `Lucy, I'm home,' with a Ricky Ricardo accent no less, and the bastard actually responded with a `when'd you ever leave?'”
He chortled as he listened to her tale, easily able to imagine the scene. “You know how much he loves to pull your leg.”
“Arse still thinks I need to loosen up a bit, bloody prick,” she grumbled in a way that only Ron could ever manage to get her to. “Well, at least I have you, I suppose.”
“You sound happy when you say that,” he teased her with faux derision.
“Don't worry, I'd never take you for granted… just may tease you incessantly… but, at any rate, I suppose it comes with the territory of my best mate role in your life, yeah?”
“So I heard you got accepted to that Uni you wanted to go to,” he said, mainly to divert the attention from himself and distract her with something, anything.
She smiled widely. “Yeah, I got accepted for the forensics program—God, I was so scared that I wouldn't get it, I mean it is the premiere institute for this, but I'm in!”
“That's great, Hermione,” he sincerely told her as he took a large sip from his drink. “That's really great, I'm proud of you, love, I truly am. Now, how about you finally explain what the bloody hell it is that you want to do anyway, because I'm at a total loss as to what a forensics anthropologist is anyway.”
She huffed. “Harry, I already told you.”
“When I was pissed, love, there was no way I could possibly remember.”
“And you're not pissed now?” she retorted smartly.
He grinned. “I promise that I won't get so pissed that I'll forget this conversation, how about that?”
She laughed merrily. “Okay… I'm basically going to work with bones-”
“Bones?” he asked her, incredulously.
“Well yeah, Harry, bones can tell you anything. They can tell you about injuries that a sixty year old man had when he was six… they're actually the only definite markers for hexes or curses that killed someone, since they leave a distinct mark that can tell you what was used to kill them.”
Harry grimaced. “Never knew you were quite so dark and twisted… I suppose Ron predicted it, though, didn't he?”
She shrugged, a small smile gracing her lips nonetheless. “I think it's fascinating, and at least I know I'll never get bored. It's like a constant puzzle just waiting to be solved, that was always more my shtick, you know that… more so the brains than the brawn, that was obvious enough.”
“More than enough,” he added with a grin as he placed a hand over hers, which was lying absently on the counter while the other stirred her drink, she always was very particular about her screwdrivers. Loved them to bits so she wanted to make sure each was perfectly proportioned and mixed. It was oddly comforting, really, one of those things that would never change and he reveled in that security.
“I'm really proud of you, you know that, right?—I mean, not just for this, although this is definitely worth its praise, but for all of it. You're always so strong, Hermione, always there to pick me up when I'm down. I can't imagine where I'd be without you, you know that, right?”
She smiled as a distinct blush overtook her face as she lowered her head in an absolutely futile attempt to hide it. “Thank you… I—I love you too, Harry,” she whispered shyly, never one for the spotlight and clearly unsure as how to respond to it, no matter how dim it may be. “And what about you, Harry, what are your plans? Will it be an Auror or quidditch player for you?” she asked him. Her face brightening as she beamed up at him excitedly.
He shook his head slowly as he took another large sip of his whiskey. “This,” he told her, in a raspy voice, raising his drink so it was in her line of vision. “This is all that I can handle right now, to tell you the truth.”
“So care to tell me why you're here? You've never worked for this department before,” he noted as he eyed her suspiciously.
“Ministry's finding that the usual form of trying to figure out what curse was used to kill someone just isn't working as well as it should, so they're resorting to using my department since bones are far more reliable,” she admitted with a shrug. “Not sure how much I like that really; it's all a bit too morbid for me.”
“This is coming from the chit who works with bones
“Uh… this is murder, Harry, murder.”
“No need for the repetition and extra emphasis, love, I'm very well aware of what department I work for,” he grinned. “And you were at Guatemala identifying victims of genocide while at Uni.”
She shrugged. “So?”
He chuckled lightly. “I suppose you always were a stubborn bint anyway so I really shouldn't be too surprised anyway, should I?”
She grinned up at him, preferring not to respond the question so as to avoid lying. “So care to tell me what this case is about?”
“Oh,” he said, looking down at the file in his hand. “Oddly enough, I actually forgot about that.”
“Well aren't you devoted to your field.”
“I try,” he shrugged.
“So, come on, let's see what it is,” she urged him excitedly.
He cocked an eyebrow at her, and were it not for the fact that she knew that he adored her and would be utterly lost without her she probably would have thought it was condescending of him. “If you act like that, Hermione, everyone's going to know that this is your first case. Besides it's not as if you haven't been doing this for ages, you finished Uni two years ago, and even then you were working as an aid for all six years, you really do need to learn how to bluff.”
“Well since you're so stellar at it, why don't you teach me,” she smiled coyly.
“And you've obviously been trying your hand at manipulation as of late, it's rather becoming actually,” he noted with a hint of surprise.
She laughed openly, slapping his arm lightly. “Just open the bloody file, Potter.”
“Oh, and downgraded to the last name, well if you insist—oh fucking prick!” he suddenly groaned upon seeing the contents of the folder.
Hermione's eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she sent him a quizzical look when she saw his reaction. “Why'd you throw it on the floor, Harry?” she admonished him, retrieving the folder that he had flung half way across his rather inappropriately massive office. She opened the dossier to only be met with a small note that was clearly hastily written onto a post-it.
Maybe this will finally teach you to listen, Potter,
although I doubt it.
P.S. they're waiting for you at the McMullan Hotel, London
“Bloody hell, Harry, why can't you be more responsible,” she moaned. “You're really lucky Buckley is amused by your preposterous behavior, other wise you'd be just as poorly off as you were before he took over this office. Honestly
,” she huffed, pouting slightly. “I hate being unprepared like this, you know that.”
He sniggered slightly, unable to contain himself at the sight of her sulking while glowering at him. “I'll cover for you then, if anyone's going to look incompetent it'll be me. Don't worry, Hermione, you're bloody brilliant, no one could possibly think anything less of you anyway. Relax
; you won't be on your game if you can't do that much, at least.”
She sighed as he moved behind her, rubbing her shoulders in a desperate attempt to be as assuring as possible. “I can't,” she sighed. “I'm not like you… I can't just close myself off like you do, Harry.”
He nodded. “Well then, just go with it, about time you took something from all these years with Ron and learned to let go every now and then.”
She smiled softly, turning to face him before pulling him into a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispered into his shoulder, a muffled sentiment that he almost
hadn't heard. “If it were anyone else I'm sure I'd be far more insecure then I already am, terrifying possibility, actually.”
He grinned. “What are friends for?—Besides, I'd say you've been through much worse with me.”
author's note: a little background story on Hermione and Harry there, keep in mind, though, these flashbacks will not be any specific or chronological order but will be organized more so according to which correlates to the event currently passing in their lives.
Hope you enjoyed, next chapter we get into the case and see a side to Harry that was very dominant in chapter one.
Thank you, and please R&R
p.s. just a small shout out, and a pathetic attempt at displaying my eternal gratitude, to my betas, Searcy and MyUsedRomance, as well as Hana-xoxo, for the help with my summary.