Chapter 16 : Of Pasts, Futures, and Maybes
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Chapter XVI: Of Pasts, Futures, and Maybes
“That’s one scary case you’ve got there, mate,” Callum announced as soon as he heard Harry enter the dank and inhabitable “hotel” room where they’d set up their meeting. “It makes my balls ache, honestly… I mean, seriously, the mere thought of it has me wanting to pull down my pants and take a quick peak, just to check…”
Harry laughed as he closed the door behind him, moving towards Callum and doing a quick cleaning spell on the seat across from the chesterfield where Callum was laying and reading a file. “And it comes with a stench, too…” he informed his friend.
Callum grimaced. “I don’t know why the fuck you went into that business. It’s messy and disgusting.”
“That’s two words for it.”
“So do you know anything?”
Harry shrugged. “Everything that Hermione was able to come up with.”
“How the murder came up with the spells, the spells themselves, a timeline for the torture, order of events during the torture-”
Callum chuckled. “And your role’s just been pointless here?”
Harry shrugged; sighing as he tiredly rubbed his face in frustration. “There’s something there, Cal. I don’t know what it is, but I know that there’s one piece that we’re missing. I mean, these blokes they were mates, went to a wizarding division of Eaton for primary school and then Durmstrang… there has to be a reason why they’re being targeted. We’re missing something.”
“And you think it might be in their records?”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense, the only traceable thing that might be the key to this whole mess…”
Callum nodded simply, silent for a moment before replying. “Well I agree with you.”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “So you found something then?”
“I haven’t been able to hack into the records and find out what it is, but the names did come up on some case, they were sued for something… and it’s something big. I mean, the clearance level on this case…” his voice died out as he let out a whistle. “Whatever it is, I think it’s going to be dark.”
“Magic or what?”
“It would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Callum asked. “It’s too soon to say or know for sure, but why else would they work so hard, pay so much, to hide this? I barely found what I did; it was just luck that I learned this. These files, wherever they are, they’re hidden, Potter.”
“Will you be able to get to them though?”
The look on Callum’s face wasn’t the most positive or reassuring one. “I’ll try… but for now I’m also pulling out their school records, trying to find out whatever I can about them, see if there’s anything that might help us or give us leads for uncovering this case. Do you have anyone at the ministry-?”
“I can’t,” Harry cut him off, adamantly shaking his head. “You’ve seen these names, Cal; they’ve got their money in the pockets of the ministry, just look at how much they donated towards the minister’s campaign last year, that should tell you enough. I don’t want them to get into trouble—they’re traceable, you aren’t.”
Callum nodded understandingly. “I’ll do what I can… but, for now, how about you tell me about Hermione. How’s she been faring anyway?” Cal asked, an impish gleam to his eyes as he spoke.
“What are you thinking about?” Andersen asked Harry, who had been blankly staring up at the ceiling.
“You know, I told myself—I constantly told myself,” he amended, “that if I worked hard and persevered and all that extra shite, however it is that the adage goes, I’d get the girl in the end... because—because that’s how it happens in the films, isn’t it?—In the end, though, it didn’t really matter what happens in the films, books, epics... I didn’t get the girl; instead, I watched her snog another bloke... my best friend...”
“Do you think that there’s any way that that could have been you? That if anything was different it would have?”
“No,” Harry regretfully shook his head. “Ron… Ron proved that he’s not a total bone head the day that he noticed Hermione. He noticed her before almost any of the other blokes at school did, bushy haired, bossy and all… he loved her even then. I… I was stupid, I was so caught up in the sexy, sporty girls that I failed to ever see her as anything more, I didn’t notice just how special she was. But Ron… Ron saw her, and he got her. I came years later, it was too late by then and I knew it.”
Andersen couldn’t help the regretful look that passed his face. “When did you first notice her?”
“I don’t know,” Harry honestly replied. “I think that it may have been late into this case that Hermione and I were working on…” Harry replied, using his usual pseudonym for the war. “We were leaving—without Ron since he had to stay back as his brother had recently passed away—to get this book that was supposed to help us. Anyway, we were headed to Serbia and while we were traveling… well I don’t know how it happened, but at some point on that train ride there everything changed, irrevocably. I saw her; it was as simple as that. I saw her for the first time and was lost after that.”
“I don’t know whether to call that utterly romantic or just about the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” Andersen quipped.
“I guess… well I told her,” Harry admitted, the words flying out of his mouth before he even realized it, he’d actually been hoping to hold back that embarrassing little detail from Callum. The bloke was a great friend and all, but he could be a right arse when it came to pansy things like feelings.
Eyes widened and a jaw went slack as Callum sputter out a confused: “Wh… what?! Seriously?”
Harry nodded mutely, admittedly surprised that there was no jibe accompanying the worry—although it was a most welcome revelation.
A smile grew of Callum’s face upon hearing that, “well it’s about time, mate! Bloody hell, you’ve been stuck on her for as long as I’ve known you, bout time!”
Harry smiled weakly. “Well it wasn’t as great as you might think…”
Callum’s expression immediately, regrettably enough, sobered. “Why?” he asked, his tone much quieter and less rambunctious than usual.
“She just got out of a relationship… and, well, Hermione is anything if not careful. She’s afraid to get into things with me after ending a decade long relationship… she’s worried about entering and not being fully invested. She wants to be sure that she wants it, on hundred percent sure—two hundred, if possible… or so she assured me the next morning. She wants to be able to be fully invested with nothing lording over her in the back of her mind…”
“What sort of bull shit is that?!” Callum asked, rather feathered by it on his mate’s part.
Harry shrugged. “I shouldn’t be surprised, honestly. I know her, this should be expected, that response… it’s entirely her, to the core. I just… I think that I’d hoped that maybe, despite that…”
“She might forget that, jump into your arms, and snog you silly?” Callum quietly offered.
Harry smiled sheepishly. “A bloke can fantasize, can’t he?”
“And they can be right sexy, too… but what are you planning on doing now?”
“I’m giving her space, sort of.”
“Well I’m sure as hell not letting her forget about it, but I won’t push her, I know her, she’ll just resent me for it and feel pressured. I think that she wants it, too, I really do, so I figure if I’ve waited eight or so years now, I can do another month or two.”
Callum nodded. “That sounds like total, utter bull shit, you know?”
“You don’t know Hermione and your definition of romance is a woman bringing you a beer and kobasica while you watch a football match before moving to the bedroom to warm the mattress for when you finish,” Harry wryly reminded.
“And you say that like it’s a bad thing…”
Harry laughed. “You’re ridiculous.”
“And you’re pussy whipped…”
Harry smiled wryly. “I’d say pathetic given the outcome of it and all…”
Andersen nodded. “True… you know, I have a question.”
“Do you ever think that maybe you put her on a pedestal?—So much so that you’ve created this perfect relationship in your head, one that would never be possible in reality.”
Harry was, admittedly, taken aback by that blunt question. It was the last thing he’d ever expected to hear from Andersen, a person whom he knew to hold Hermione in rather high esteem from the few times he’d spoken to her and the levy of times Harry had spoken of her. “No.”
Harry nodded. “Yeah. Hermione… she’s not perfect, I realize that. The girl is fucking volatile and has a temper that… well it’s right scary, emasculating at times, even. Still, though, regardless off that, she’s the only person I know that will just stick with you through thick and thin. She doesn’t give up on a person… she wouldn’t even let me push her away when I tried to, she stayed. And… well, even her faults are endearing on some twisted, semi-masochistic, level.”
“But what about a relationship? Are you sure it could work, that there’s enough sustenance there to last through something that isn’t simply platonic, but sexual, too?”
Harry paused for a second, trying to hold back the impulsive, defensive reply and actually think his answer through—a feat that Andersen noted and greatly appreciated. “You can’t ever really know, I think… but I’m surer about this than I’ve ever been about anything in my entire life. Does that count for anything, Doc?”
Andersen smiled wryly upon hearing that last word. “It counts for more than you’d think, Harry.”
“Hey,” Harry greeted her as he let himself into her office.
Hermione immediately looked up with a bright smile and small blush on her face. “Hi,” she softly greeted him.
“What are you working on there?” Harry curiously asked as he plopped down onto one of the chairs across from her.
“Oh, just catching up on some work… there are a bunch of bodies from the war and the ministry sent them over since they still need to be identified so we can contact families…”
“Yeah,” she laughed softly. “But, at the same time, it’s sort of nice, I think. It gives a sort of closure, being able to give the person a proper burial, say goodbye appropriately… you need to shave, by the way.”
He self-consciously raised his hand to his chin, rubbing lightly on the scruff that was growing there. “It’s not that much.”
“I know,” she smiled. “But, still… your face is too handsome to be covered by that,” she admitted with a small blush as she ducked her head in a futile attempt to cover it from his vision.
He chuckled softly. “Well then I’ll be sure to shave tonight, promise.”
She looked up at him, biting her lip softly. “I’m… I’m not ready yet for… well for whatever it is that might happen, but you should talk to Ron, you know? He’s sensitive and overly temperamental, it'd do you a lot of good to speak with him before anything does happen.”
He smirked. “So does that mean that something will happen then?”
Her blush became even more inflamed, if that was even possible. “Maybe,” she slowly admitted. “I just… I need time, you know? I just got out of a relationship, I’m afraid to rush things and just muck it up, Harry. I just… I need time.”
“I know,” he nodded. “And I won’t push it, I promise… I just also won’t let you forget.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Now, how about we go get that lunch you mentioned?”
“Tell me,” Andersen ordered. “What do you think a relationship with Hermione would be like?”
“What do you mean, exactly?”
“What do you imagine it would be like, on a daily basis?”
“I… I imagine that we’d disagree… a lot,” Harry admitted with a sheepish grin.
“Well yeah, she’s a spit fire, to put it lightly, and likes to be in control of a situation… almost to the point of being an alpha, so I imagine it’d be a constant struggle to find a balance, for a while at least. I think… often, I think that we argue so that we can come to an agreement, there’s always some sort of consensus… each side gives in a bit…”
Eyebrows shot up in clear surprise. “You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
“Well yeah… I mean, it’d be totally different than how it is now, it can’t not be… and it’s hard, you know?”
“Making that transition… accepting that there can be something more and not being afraid to go after it. Fucking scare the hell out of me when I first realized I really wanted her—that it wasn’t just a passing fantasy or some other shite like that.”
Andersen nodded with a slow smile spreading across his face. “So you think you two would be volatile?”
“At times… and in a good way. She—she’s so passionate, it’s enthralling. She gives herself entirely to whatever it is that she’s doing, and from watching her I’ve learned to gain that same devotion to my work.”
“So, in effect, she’s trained you?” Andersen couldn’t help, but tease.
Harry chortled. “Yeah, I suppose she has… both Ron and me. It’s not a surprise really, it was bound to happen, just like we showed her how to let loose every once in a while.”
“I guess… but it was also the simple, little things with her.”
Andersen nodded. “Those are usually the ones that make it last. But tell me more, how do you think it would be, realistically?”
“It’s hard to say because I’ve never had a chance to experience it and Ron is so different from me that I can hardly put myself in his shoes… but I think that there are moments that I’m with her, just sitting on the couch and watching a film, and think that that’s what it could be like.”
“At peace, I think… it’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s like…” he sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “I don’t know, I can’t really describe it without sounding like an even bigger pansy.”
“But it’s a good feeling?”
author’s note: this chapter was a bit of a filler, but it’s a crucial one (I promise). Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed it nonetheless…
p.s. no one reviewed for the last chapter and it has me left a bit insecure, I’ll admit. Please, tell me what you think, even if it’s a negative comment…
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