Chapter XI: Of Fears
“You know, I hear there are people who are actually capable of happiness… quite the novel idea, to be sure, but you have to wonder just how nice it must be,” Hermione quipped with a teasing smile that she hid behind her mug as she brought it to her lips to take a large sip of her coffee.
He chuckled, shaking his head lightly, before sending her a crooked smile as he spoke, “Don't be a sneaky little chit, it never suited you well.”
Hermione let out a shocked gasp, covering her mouth with her hand overdramatically. “Why, I never!”
Harry let out a bark as he watched her. “Seriously though, what's this about?”
She shrugged noncommittally and he felt goosebumps rising as she did so, immediately sensing he'd be leaving their lunch with a bitch of a headache.
“Nothing,” she innocently said.
“Don't be annoying, just say it,” he snapped at her a bit too cruelly and immediately grimaced once the words left his mouth, regretting the words instantaneously.
She merely sent him a look in response and it was enough to send chills running down his spine, scary talent that was.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, lowering his head a bit in shame.
“It's okay,” she responded, tone clipped.
He sighed, raising his head again to look at her, clenching his jaw as he watched her. “I—I am happy, you know. I mean, I know I don't show it much, and I do have a tendency to bitch and moan quite a bit, but I am thankful.”
“Then why all the bitching and moaning?” she immediately retorted, her voice tense with frustration.
He shrugged and she felt the intense compulsion to wring his neck. “I'm just tired I guess.”
“I don't know… it all just feels a bit pointless, I guess.”
“Why?” she repeated again through gritted teeth, finding the answer far from satisfactory.
“You… you know the rumors, Hermione, you know what they say.”
She snorted disbelievingly, making it clear she didn't think much of his whining or the topic concerned. “So?”
“So I'm tired, okay?” he exclaimed suddenly, running a hand through his hair as he glared at her, suddenly angry at her. For what, he wasn't quite sure.
Her eyes softened slightly when she noted his frustration and he almost though she would just let him be.
“It'll get better.”
He only rolled his eyes in response, somehow he just couldn't quite believe her words, no matter how well intended they may have been and regardless off her odd penchant for always being right, he just couldn't believe in that fate nonsense, not anymore at least.
“Where do we even start?”
“Pardon?” Harry asked, looking up from his coffee that he had been staring at while zoning out and reminiscing a bit, suddenly hit by hordes of memories as they sat in the cafe that where he and Hermione had shared many
conversations over the past years—as well as where he'd been berated on more than one occasion.
“Where do we start with this case? I mean, what do we even know about whomever it is that's doing this?”
Harry shrugged. “We know she's angry, that it's probably some sort of a vendetta…”
“But is it a personal one, or one against all men?” she pushed, running a hand through her hair in aggravation, pulling at the root lightly. “Both cases are so similar, even the security system that it could just be a coincidence since both blokes run in the same circle…”
“So you don't think it's personal as Phillip said?”
“I don't know… I just don't want to be too quick to judge really.”
He chuckled lightly. “Good lord, since when are you this
She shrugged. “I'm just afraid to make the wrong decision is all?”
“Trust your instincts, love. I know I do.”
She smiled at him shyly. “You do?”
“I think I've already made that one clear enough for you.”
She flushed, biting her lip. “By the way, when do we have to meet with Buckley?” She changed the subject, never one too fond of having the attention—one that she had so strived for back in school, much to her regret—solely on her.
“In an hour. He wants to update us on the case, apparently Suskind found a person of interest as he went through the lists and interviews and Buckley wants to meet with us before sending us to interrogate the girl.” Harry shrugged noncommittally.
“I'm going to join you?” she asked before taking a large bit out of her chocolate croissant, smearing a bit of the chocolate drizzle and powdered sugar on her face as she tried to maneuver the huge pastry into her mouth.
Harry shook his head, laughing as he moved to wipe the mess off of her face. “No,” he replied. “But I do want you there, I'm going to need a second opinion and I'd rather it not be Suskind's. I prefer to ignore him whenever possible.”
Hermione smiled, swallowing. “I've noticed. But he's not an idiot, Harry; I'd listen to him if I were you.”
“How about you just reiterate the ideas you like and I listen to you instead then?” he offered, grimacing at the prospect of actually, god forbid, listening
to that damn Suskind.
With a laugh she said, "Sure.”
“No, it won't, Hermione.”
“I do. The only reason they even let me into the academy was because of the fact that I'm Harry Potter, but that only got me so far. They no about my past, they know about my problems and won't even let me have any decent cases after two bloody years of training and working my arse off there! It… it was supposed to get better, Hermione. I worked for it all—sobered up, studied, got help, and stuck with it—and yet it all seems to amount to nothing. It's just so worthless.”
“It's not though,” she argued, voice weak with trepidation as she nervously pushed a hand forward across the table and atop his own, slowly covering it with her own and moving to clasp it.
But he wouldn't let her, he pulled back.
“I don't like it,” Buckley announced as the three of them sat in his office.
“You don't like what?” Harry asked, eyebrows furrowing at the abrupt declaration.
“What's going on?”
“Well I should hope not, it's a bloody serial murder, what's to like?” Harry bluntly retorted, a response that got him a rough jab in the ribs which he immediately followed with a loud yelp. “Oi, what was that for?” he accusingly turned towards Hermione.”
“Don't be rude,” she told him with a well practiced glare that easily sent chills down his spine. Not a fun look, not in the slightest.
Buckley chuckled lightly as he watched the two, paying particular attention to how Harry immediately straightened his back and sat properly in his chair rather than assuming his prior position where both feet had been propped up against his desk as Harry tipped his chair back slightly. “Kudos to you on actually managing to control him to some extent, I've been trying for years and it never really amounted to much,” he told Hermione with a small smile.
“He's hardly as manly as he likes to come off as. In fact, he actually has a rather low threshold for pain, just prefers to pretend that's not the case.”
you go blabbering on about all these blasted secrets of mine,” Harry drawled, a scowl marring his face. “Anyway, Bucks, what it is that you don't like?”
“Don't call me that,” his boss sharply ordered him, feeling his accommodating nature dissipating more and more as the case wore on. “Just not now, Potter.”
Harry nodded, sobering. “Okay.”
“I'm sure you two have seen the papers.”
“Yeah,” Harry murmured. “But it's hardly all that big of a deal, people scare easily, that's all.”
“It is a big deal when it's mass hysteria and the department is flooded with angry mail over how people are afraid to leave their blasted houses,” Buckley snapped, moving his gaze towards the window to the left of him, taking a deep breath as he watched the murky sky. Another rainy day, fan-fucking-tastic
, he thought to himself.
“What do you want us to do about that?” Harry immediately attacked, a coarse reply that earned him a pinch from the girl sitting beside him. “What?!”
“Don't be a bastard; he has a lot on his plate, too. Get over yourself, Harry,” she ordered him through gritted teeth, puncturing his skin with her nails as she held onto his arm with a vice grip while berating him.
Buckley interrupted her with a sigh, turning back to the pair. “I need a press conference. I need you to give the press something, anything
. I—it's not getting any better, as far as the case is concerned. I've read through this girl's—this Sharon Orsic's file, and it's total bullocks. Suskind only brought her in because he wants to have something to show for, that much is obvious. I need you two to just get them to calm down, I hate having to ask this of you, but-”
“You need our names,” Harry finished for him, clenching his jaw.
Buckley winced, nodding slowly, regretfully. “You know I wouldn't ask if I wasn't without option, Harry, you know I—you know I respect you too much to, but…” he trailed off with a sigh, running both hands through his hair. “We don't have anything at the moment, nothing to appease them, other than… well…”
Harry's nostrils flared slightly before he let out a heavy and shaky breath. “Okay. I'll do it.”
“Are you sure? I don't want to force you into a corner, Harry. This was a last resort, but I don't want you to do it if it makes you uncomfortable—if you don't want to.”
“I'll do it for you, but you owe me,” he told him, putting on a small, faux smile. Merlin
, he hated press conferences. Fuck
, what had he gotten himself into anyway?!
“And you, Miss Granger? Once again, I'd understand if you choose not to do it.”
“I'll do it,” she quietly assured him, but Harry noted the waiver in her tone immediately, turning his head sharply to face her, but found her expression clear of any of the worry he'd heard.
, he though.
“You pulled back?” Andersen asked, shock evident in his tone.
“Yeah,” Harry only nodded.
“I—I don't actually know.”
Andersen eyed the befuddled bloke before him wearily with furrowed eyebrows, crinkled nose, tightly drawn lips, and all. “Might it have anything to do with your feelings for her?” he finally chanced, it was a question he'd admittedly been dying to ask for just over two years now.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Harry was quick to retort, but Andersen caught the brief flush that crept on his face before he managed to push the verification away.
His features loosened as a small smirk took hold of his facial features in the scowl's stead. “I'm sure,” was all he said and the rest of the forty minutes of their hour was spent in silence, and he let it… he had a feeling Harry might need the time and space to think anyway. No, instead, he'd leave his questions and pestering for another day.
“Hey, are you okay?” he asked her as the two of them exited Buckley's office.
Oxymoronically enough, she nodded numbly. “Yeah, I am. Are you sure you will be though?”
The cloud of worry that had been marring his facial features immediately dissipated as realization dawned upon him. “That's
what you're worried about? Seriously?!”
“Well… yeah,” she admitted, her voice weak as she shuffled her feat a bit awkwardly, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her tweed pants. “I—I know how much you hate all-”
“Hey, don't,” he stopped her, placing a hand under her chin and pulling her face up to meet his when she tried to set her gaze downcast. “Don't,” he repeated pointedly. “If anything, I should be glad that my word means anything again.”
“Harry, be honest with me, please.”
He sighed. “I don't like it, the fact that someone can have this much clout over a society, you'd think they'd learn after everything, the problems with following someone so blindly… but I trust Buckley, and I know hwy he needs me to do this. If it were for anyone else…”
She nodded, and he didn't even need to finish. She knew.
“He did a lot for me over the years, you know that. And, if anything, I'm also doing this for our case, we can have our focus on everyone else's reactions to this mess, we need to stay focus on the one brewing within that lab of yours.”
She smiled softly. “If you're sure.”
“I am. Now let's go, we have a meeting with the Ministry's PR department and we also have a dinner to get to.”
“The hour's up,” Andersen finally announced, carefully scrutinizing Harry, intrigued when he didn't even make a move to leave, but rather merely sat up and looked him dead in the eyes.
“Don't try to understand what Hermione is for me. Don't ask me again,” he ordered Andersen before abruptly standing up and leaving the room stiffly.
author's note: so sorry for the long wait but I've been bogged down with so much work that I really haven't had much time inn between swim team, studying, and friends. I have, however, returned and will not let this fic, or any other pieces, be left incomplete.
Onto the chapter, this one was a bit of a filler, I suppose, but it sets the scene for a lot to come next chapter—from the press conference, to the double date, to a surprising development in the case… as well as answers in exactly what it is that Buckley has done for Harry—so I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.
Many thank you's to my beta Searcy!