Chapter 15 : Of Discombobulation
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Chapter XV: Of Discombobulation
“I’m sorry,” Harry said as he sat across from Christina at his dinner table, where he’d prepared lasagna for their private dinner.
She shook her head, stopping him before he could get ahead of himself. “Don’t… don’t say that.”
“No, honestly, Chris, I’m really sorry, you deserved better than that.”
She sent him a bittersweet smile. “Harry, don’t say that. I mean… we’ve been together for a long time, but we both knew it wouldn’t last. There’s a reason why we kept our distance, after all. Really, though, I’m not surprised you kissed her… not anymore.” She sighed, bringing up a hand to pull her hair away from her face. “You’re one of my best friends, Harry; I want you to be happy. I think… well we were good together, but it’s just good, isn’t it?” she asked with a small shrug, her lips crookedly screwing up a bit.
“You’re giving me an easy way out here, Chris.”
She laughed, the sound light and airy. “No, I’m not, honestly. If it were anyone else I’d be fuming right now, lots of hitting and all,” she joked. “But, really… well as great as Hermione and Ron are together—and I really thought they’d be together in the long run—after things ended I think it brought everything into retrospect for me. So many little things between the two of you became clear, you know? I’d always thought it was just friendship, that maybe you missed your moment and got to the point where it could only be platonic… once this case started, though… well I think that things shifted then. It all became more obvious, you didn’t hide it so much anymore, at least not with me.”
He winced. “I’m sorry.”
She softly smiled at him, shaking her head reassuringly. “Don’t be, Harry, I’d rather you be honest anyway. I knew what I was getting myself into; we were both careful not to fall in love, we knew the reality of this. You and I are polar opposites, I love the fame and glamour that comes with my life and… well you’re so scared of it that it grates on my nerves sometimes,” she admitted with a small blush. “But you do mean the world to me… I don’t want to lose you. It stings to know I never had a chance at being number one, but it’s sweet too. Your story and all, well it’s almost epic, I think; gives me hope, too.”
He smiled, reaching across the table to grasp her hand in his own. “You’ll still stay here when you’re in town, won’t you? I mean it’s not like you’re from here nor have a flat here…”
“You sure Hermione would be okay with that?” she asked with a disbelieving look.
He sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “She said it was a mistake,” he finally admitted.
Christina immediately rolled her eyes. “Don’t listen to that.”
“Hermione doesn’t say things she doesn’t mean.”
“No, but maybe things that she denies to herself…”
Harry shook his head. “I’m not going to push her; I want her to want it on her own, Chris.”
“She does, take a girl’s word for it.”
He shrugged, a bit uncomfortable talking to Christina about that. “Just promise.”
She smiled, nodding softly. “If it’s not any trouble, I’d love to spend time with you whenever I can.”
“Good, that’s what I wanted to hear.”
“What are you doing with your life?” Andersen asked.
“What do you mean what am I doing with my life? I’d say a hell of a lot given that I’ve given up drinking and started working,” Harry defensively retorted without the slightest pause.
Andersen shook his head. “I know that, Harry, and I’m not trying to debase any of your accomplishments, but what’s it all worth, really?”
Harry stared at him blankly before groaning as he came to the epiphany that they were surely about to broach some long and odiously philosophical topic. “What are you on about now?”
Andersen smiled at the predictable reply he received before saying: “there’s this little saying, not really known who originally penned it, but it goes: ““It hurts to love someone and not be loved in return, but what is the most painful is to love someone and never find the courage to let the person know how you feel.” Do you agree with that, Harry?”
“I don’t know… haven’t really experienced something like that so can’t judge blindly. Remember, you warned me about that?” Harry reminded with a cheeky smile.
“Don’t divert,” Andersen immediately snapped, not rudely so much as didactically. “You love her.”
“Who?” Harry played dumb.
“I never admitted to anything of the sort.”
“Ah, Harry,” Andersen smiled, genuinely and fully. “Sometimes silence can be a greater indicator than any words, you can’t lie then, you know?”
“And sometimes it can just lead you to assume… and you know what they say about that…” Harry drawled.
“Harry, may I be blunt with you?”
Harry shrugged. “It’d be better than your usual sneakiness.”
Andersen wisely chose to disregard that jibe and remain on the topic that had Harry’s back stiffening more and more by the minute. “You’re a pussy.”
Those words left Harry so shocked that he actually managed to fall out of his seat—the logistics of how he managed that, though, was something that would baffle both Harry and Andersen for the rest of their lives.
“P—par—pardon?!” he sputtered, eyes wide in shock.
“You’re just always so sad, but you never do anything about it. You love to mope, Harry, but you don’t have cause for it, not anymore. If you want her, then do something about it.”
“And why not?”
“Because I can’t do that to my best mate, Ron deserves better than that.”
“Then move on already!”
“That was a mistake.”
Those ominous words rang in his head repeatedly, just as they had been for the past week since she’d first uttered them. He hated himself for not being able to let go and then, to add to his torture, being incapable of getting up the guts to just ask her that simple question: why? It had been a week and he hadn’t made a move—nor, as admittedly expected, had she—and it was grating on his nerves more than he’d ever like to admit. He just couldn’t, for the life of him, figure it out.
Finally, he turned to Hermione, who was basking in a huge serving of chips. “Why’s it a mistake?” he asked, absolutely tactlessly.
Her eyes widened and the chip she’d just popped into her mouth dropped as her jaw went slack. “Why was what a mistake?” she asked, her tone very cautious.
Harry, however, was in a nonsensical mood and merely rolled his eyes at the query before tersely asking: “why was the kiss a mistake, Hermione?”
“Harry, come on…”
He shook his head. “No, I’m serious, Hermione, tell me why.”
“Harry... Harry, you had a girlfriend,” she explained. “It was all so wrong. I mean, she’d never been anything, but nice to me… I can’t believe I did something like that to someone; I’m not that sort of girl. She deserved better than that.”
“So it’s just that then?”
She winced as she realized the connotation there. “Don’t do this, Harry… don’t push like that.”
“Why are you pushing me away?” he asked, his voice strained and frustrated.
“I’m not pushing you away.”
“Yes, you are,” he immediately refuted. “Fuck, Hermione-”
“I don’t care about that right now, Hermione,” he waved her off, a gesture that left her completely taken aback as it was so uncharacteristic of him; usually she, at least, received a sheepish apology. “You want to ignore it, you want to pretend it never happened, but I can't do that. I won't, Hermione, not this time.”
She stared at him, mouth gaping unattractively, but she couldn’t bring herself to care about that at the moment as she just sat there in a stunned silence. “Wh… ugh,” she stopped herself before she even began with a sigh. “What do you want from me, Harry? What am I supposed to do after that?”
“I don’t want anything, not really... well, at least not anything you don’t want to give,” he said, plastering a small smile on his face in a fruitless attempt at a joke to bring some light to the situation.
Sadly, it didn’t do much for its cause.
Hermione just shook her head. “I don’t know what to say,” she admitted.
“It doesn’t matter what you say, just say something.”
She nipped her lip, averting her gaze to the window. “But I don’t know what… I don’t know where to go from here, Harry.”
“But what if I can’t move on. I’m not over her,” Harry argued.
“Unless you put yourself out there try to get over her, you never will. You need to finally let her go, let this idea of the two of you go, or you’ll never be in a healthy relationship. You can’t live your life pining away after something that you’ll never even fight for. You can’t live like this, Harry… it’s what got you into this mess in the first place-”
“It was not!”
“You felt lost, Harry,” Andersen bluntly told him, his tone cutting. It was a rare sight to see the therapist so emotional and it left Harry dumbfounded. “Get over this 'woe is me' crap and live your damn life. Stop wondering where your place in the world is and questioning if people even care for you or your blasted name, it’s not healthy! Carpe diem and memento mori, there’s a reason why they’ve become so cliché, a very good one too. You need to get over this, you’re the only one keeping yourself in this rut, no one else is attributing to it in the slightest,” Andersen spat out the last word, furious. “You’ve grown so much in the time I’ve been seeing you, but also not at all.”
Harry paused; clenching his jaw as he furtively eyed the man sitting opposite to him. “I’m not weak,” he informed through gritted teeth.
Andersen cracked a semblance of a smile. “Then prove it, take a chance, try to be happy.”
“You… you confuse me so much, Harry. You’re so hard to understand.”
“Not really, of anyone you know me the best.”
She smiled sadly, her gaze still focused on the people passing by the window by their booth. “Then that really doesn’t say much, I think.”
He eyed her confusedly, just staring at her in astonishment for a few minutes before he finally took initiative and, lightly, grasped her chin and moved her face so she was turned to him once again. He held onto her, bringing forth his other hand and moving them both upwards to cup her cheeks. He gently began rubbing circles into her skin, watching her carefully—taking particular note of her stiffening back and how she took a large gulp.
Soon, however, she let herself relax, all the tension releasing as she closed her eyes and leaned into his left hand.
“I’m confused, Harry… where did all of this come from?” she timidly whispered her question as she continued to fall into his gentle strokes.
“Not out of nowhere, I promise.”
Her eyes slowly fluttered open as the connotation hit her. “What do you mean?”
He drew his hands away form her and stuffed them into his lap, pulling the table cloth into his clutch, nervously wringing it as he spoke. “It… it can't really be that much of a surprise, can it, Hermione?”
“What?” she asked, genuinely lost.
“You’re the one that’s always been there… always stood by me when no one else would. Understood me when no one else could… you mean the world to me…”
Not knowing what to say she took the safe route. “Well I should hope so; we are best mates and all… I’d hate to see that sentiment not reciprocated.”
“Not… not just in that way, Hermione.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re really confusing me, Harry. All of this… it—it’s so much to take in, I don’t know what to think right now.”
“Come on, it can't be that shocking,” he smiled weakly. “Why else wouldn’t I want to just forget it?”
She shrugged. “I honestly thought you just wanted to avoid the awkwardness by facing it head on…”
“I… I’ve wanted that kiss for a long time, Hermione,” he admitted, taking a step that he was sure would qualify him for finally-a-non-pussy status in Andersen’s books. “I don’t regret it, but do you?”
“I don’t know, honestly,” she admitted, immediately wincing at the crestfallen look that soon marred his face. “It—I haven’t considered this possibility in a long time… I haven’t let myself, not since you and Ginny…” she rambled, releasing a shaky gasp. “Like I said, it confuses me.”
“Is there any chance it could change?”
She silently took her upper lip, nervously pulling it into her mouth. A minute late, releasing it, she finally said: “It’s not a good time for either of us, Harry. We’re both on the rebound here.”
She shook her head, adamantly. “You just got out of a relationship… I’m not—maybe later we’ll be able to, but now… it’s all just too much, so sudden. This is a big thing here, Harry, we need to be ready… sure.”
He clenched his jaw as he took in her words, his gaze hardening ever so slightly at that last word. “What if I already am?”
She wavered a bit when she heard that question, unsure how to respond at first. It caught her off guard; she hadn’t seen Harry that open since back in Hogwarts, not even with her. Something about his air, aura, altered entirely and she didn’t know what to make of it. His gaze was more… open than usual, no hesitation or wavering, there was simply an innocence to it that shocked her.
She let out a shaky breath. “I… but I’m not,” she finally admitted, not sure what else to say, but the truth.
“I met a woman,” Harry suddenly announced.
Two graying eyebrows shot up. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded. “Her name’s Christina, she’s a model.”
Andersen groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. “A model?”
Harry laughed. “No, not that sort, honestly! She’s actually really nice and can hold her own in a conversation. May be no Hermione in intellect, but few are anyway. I like her… I don’t think she’s the love of my life or anything, but we have fun, she can make me laugh.”
“That’s good; you deserve to laugh every now and then.”
“Yeah,” Harry breathed out.
“And are things serious between you two?”
Harry sighed. “With the pressure of my work and her hectic schedule we don’t have the time or energy for something like that, but we are exclusive.”
“And you’re not holding back because of…” Andersen purposefully trailed off, letting Harry make what he will of the statement.
Harry’s lips thinned, but his expression didn’t become grim so much as pensive. “I can’t help it, I love her… but, still, I know it’s not healthy, you made that one clear enough. I’m trying, and Christina… well she means a lot to me, even if she isn’t Hermione. I care about her, I do.”
“Are you distancing her?”
Harry paused, his eye contact with Andersen wavering. “I don’t mean to.”
Andersen nodded as he moved his chair closer to Harry’s and patted the younger man’s shoulder comfortingly, as a friend would. “You’re trying though, that’s good… very good.”
“I love her.”
Harry sighed, throwing his head into his open and awaiting hands. “I don’t want to give up,” he admitted, voice muffled by his hands. “I really just don’t want to.”
Andersen paused, watching the young man before him, a look of absolute perplexity marring his face. Finally, after a good five or so minutes, he uttered: “I don’t know what to tell you, Harry… I honestly just don’t know what to say.”
“Hi,” she hesitantly greeted him the following morning when she entered his office.
Harry took a moment to respond, deeply invested in some file before him, but when he looked up she couldn’t help, but flush. He blatantly looked over her in a way he’d never done before, at least not to the extent of her knowledge, and it was at that moment that she realized everything had changed, irrevocably.
author’s note: so I apologize for the wait for this chapter, but I’ve felt utterly uninspired as I lost this ENTIRE chapter, how still perplexes me, and couldn’t remember what it was exactly that I put in it as I’ve been writing paper after paper as of late… and, well… URGH! LOL.
Anyway, I pray that it wasn’t too disappointing, and please review.
Searcy, my beta, thank you… particularly since you had to read that catastrophic initial rewrite.
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