Chapter XVIII: Of Planning
“You two are ridiculous, I hope you realize that,” Harry informed her with a small smirk.
Hermione sighed deeply, shrugging helplessly. “I don’t know what to say, honestly. Sometimes… sometimes I really do believe that we’re a hopeless cause, that there’s no point in us trying again… but…”
“But?” he goaded.
“But, at other times, I can’t help, but remember how, at the end of the day, he’s probably one of the people who know me best. I know that that’s not a good reason to stay in a relationship, especially when it’s as tumultuous as ours,” she admitted, dragging a hand through her hair as a pink tinge grew on the tips of her ears. “–yet… even when it’s
so wrong, it has its moments when it feels
so right, too.”
“Not exactly a picture perfect romance, is it?” Harry dryly questioned, raising an eyebrow.
She laughed lightly, shaking her head. “No… I suppose not.” She ducked her head, looking down at her mug of coffee and when she raised her head Harry was shocked to see that her eyes were glistening and a terrible frown marred her face. “We… we’re really wrong for one another, aren’t we?”
And he wanted to say yes, he wanted to tell her that they were just hoping for something that wasn’t there and that she should give the whole best friend cliché a go with him, but he didn’t. Instead, he said: “I… I can’t tell you that, love. If you think that it’s right, then who’s to say that it isn’t?”
“I...” her voice broke a bit when she uttered that word so she raised the mug to her lips to take a sip, clearing her throat. “I don’t know… everyone says we’re just so perfect, and I want to see it, too… I want to believe in it,” she honestly admitted, ducking her head in embarrassment, yet again. “We try to let go, we try to let things run their course into the ground,” she admitted with a bitter laugh. “But it never works, we always find our way back regardless… it feels like we have no control, no say, but I know that we do. I just can’t figure out why we can’t let go already. I want to, so badly at times, but I also can’t… something pulls me back in every time.”
“So,” Hermione drawled as she barged into his office, not even bothering to knock before making her way in. “Ron told me to tell you that he expects you to meet him at that Austrian pub he loves promptly at eight this evening so he has company while he stupidly downs drink after drink as you watch and have one of your girly fizzy drinks… that last part was his words, not mine.”
Harry chuckled, shaking his head. “Why does he want to get pissed this evening, it’s the middle of the week?”
Hermione shrugged as she took a seat on the sofa in his office, leaning on his side as Harry threw an arm across her shoulders, gently pulling her closer to him. “He claims to have had a terrible day. I honestly think he’s just disappointed with himself since he hasn’t had a chance to get right pissed in a month… you know his whole little speech on how it’s his duty to alcohol to get drunk at least twice a month.”
Harry winced. “Yeah… I remember that little argument of yours—ended with four stitches for him, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Yep, and he even still has a little scar there since I refused to let him go to a healer, but a doctor…”
“That was a tad cruel,” Harry murmured, kissing the crown of her head lightly. “I hope you realize you’re crazy.”
Hermione laughed, turning her head so she was looking him in the eyes. “I’ve heard talk of it…”
He smiled down at her, lightly squeezing her shoulder. They sat there in silence for a few moments, each just looking about aimlessly, enjoying the peace for a bit, but Harry soon ended the moment. “Listen,” he finally interrupted, his voice a bit hoarse, causing him to cough. “There’s some new information in the case,” he continued, his voice clearer that time.
Hermione cocked her head to the side, turning back to look at him. “What is it?”
“We may have a break in it,” he carefully replied, slowly annunciating each word as a terrible chill of trepidation ran through his body.
She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out at first, her jaw seemed to simply lay there, slack and unmoving. Finally, however, she appeared to regain consciousness when she slowly replied: “I should be excited… I know I should be, but… Harry, you’re scaring me now.”
He sighed tiredly, dragging a hand through his hair. “I have a source, and… and he was able to uncover some information on the victims. Apparently they and two more blokes were involved in a rape case.”
“And you think that the girl—”
He nodded. “Yeah,” he throatily replied.
She nodded. “So
... why haven’t we brought them into questioning then?”
He swallowed, trying to rid himself of the rapidly growing lump in his throat, as he leaned forward and grabbed a notepad off of the coffee table in front of them. He silently passed it to her.
She read it quickly, perplexity drawn all over her face and she appeared to re-read it numerous times before a look of comprehension finally dawned upon her. “Oh,” she gasped. “It… please, tell me it’s not because…”
He interrupted her with a regretful nod.
She scoffed, letting out a bitter laugh as her eyes began to get a bit misty. “And here I thought that that sort of thing only happens in the films or a Robert Ludlum novel…”
He shook his head, regrettably.
“Fuck,” she murmured, to the shock of Harry and herself. “I mean I know that it happens, and rather often, but still… the reality of it and all… regardless of how common you know it is, it’s terrifying and… and daunting, isn't it?”
“Yeah,” he muttered in reply.
She let out a deep breath as she let the note pad fall out of her hands and into her lap. “So what do we do next?”
He shrugged. “My source doesn’t know who the girl is, yet, but I’d say that that would be the next step.”
She nodded mutely, not sure what else to do.
“Are you ever jealous of Ron and Hermione’s relationship?”
Harry cocked a disbelieving eyebrow Andersen’s way at that absurd question. “Are you seriously asking me that now? I thought we got past that stage now and entered that of acceptance…”
Andersen smiled. “I didn’t mean it in that facet, but in regards to their friendship.”
Harry paused, his back stiffening at that query, it certainly wasn’t what he’d expected in the least. “I shouldn’t be… I know that.”
“But you are?”
Harry nodded mutely.
“I don’t know,” Harry sighed. “I—I guess it just feels like I missed out on so much during those years. I wasn’t there for her or him and they turned to each other. I used to be the bridge between them, the only reason why they even spoke to one another… it’s scary to wake up one morning and see how much that’s all changed. Before… all of
that I’d always been the one that they would go to for advice or a listening ear, but during that time… well I suppose with their relationship and my being… well not very active in that sense, they turned to each other. It makes me sad, that reminder that it’ll probably never be the same again.”
“Do you really believe that?”
Harry shrugged. “Well why shouldn’t I?”
“Well, though I’ve never met Ron, Hermione seems to care for you a great deal, she’s gone above and beyond the call of duty as a friend, I’d say.”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded, “she has… but that still doesn’t mean that I didn’t let her down.”
“No… but it also doesn’t mean that you haven’t made her tremendously proud in the past couple of years we’ve been seeing one another,” Andersen retorted.
Harry snorted, mumbling: “hardly.”
Andersen shook his head though. “You really don’t see it, do you, Harry?”
“See what? There’s nothing to see.”
“But there is,” Andersen refuted. “She… I’ve watched her come in with you, more sparsely with the more progress you made, but still every time that she did… Harry, I’ve watched her,” he repeated with a hard look harry’s way. “–And you, along with everything that you’ve done, has made her so proud of you. You can’t see the way that she looks at you, but I can.”
Harry let out a deep and self-deprecating breath.“I wish you were right, it'd make things a lot easier for me, but it’s just not true.”
Andersen shook his head disapprovingly. “You’re a petulant and stubborn child, Potter.”
Harry cracked a small smile. “So you’ve told me… time and time again.”
After what felt like hours of silence, Hermione finally spoke up again. “What… what if it’s not the girl that—that they abused?” she asked.
Harry’s head snapped up in surprise and he quickly turned to look at her. “What do you mean?”
“Well… remember that conversation we had with the profiler?”
Harry furrowed his brow. “Süskind? What about him?”
“He… he mentioned that it might not be a case of direct revenge, but maybe it’s someone trying to avenge someone else…”
Harry sighed, lowly murmuring something akin to “Merlin’s hairy testicles!” or “Jesus Christ!” as he slowly dragged two hands down his face. “Let’s first find out who she is and then we’ll look into her history—friends, family, and everything.”
“Okay… well… how are we going to find out who she is though? You mentioned before that you were going to get outside help, so this is obviously outside of our clearance, how are we going to look into this?”
“My friend, the source I told you about, is still on it so I’d recommend you pray,” he told her with a wry smile.
“I have to admit, I don’t like this… I feel helpless.”
“Yeah,” Harry breathed. “I know the feeling,” he told her as he threw his head back, ignoring the pain when it slammed against the wall.
“Careful,” Hermione tenderly whispered, but the slight, and intended, undertone of warning was enough to send the desired message. “You know, I… I’m not the fondest of psychiatrists and all the sort; you know that, but… well maybe we could use one—”
“No,” Harry quickly stopped her before she could get any more ideas into her head. “This… they’re influential men, Hermione, we can’t afford to bring anyone else into this, it has to stay quiet.”
“I know,” she reassured him, bringing her hand down upon his and squeezing it softly. “But… well rape is rape in any society… we could go to a muggle psychologist… like say Andersen?”
Harry merely gawked for a few minutes, absolutely dumbfounded by the idea. “I… I do still keep in touch with him…”
She sent him a small smile that widened more and more by the second. “You do,” she intoned.
“Okay,” he nodded resolutely. “I’ll talk to Buckley about it; he might be able to help…”
“So… so you agree?”
He smiled, looking down at their hands before opening up his fingers and watching as she let her own fall between the cracks he’d created. He moved them back together, squeezing hers lightly, reassuringly. “Yeah,” Harry softly replied, turning to look at her. “We don’t know who she is yet, but we might be able to learn a lot about her through this… you’re right.”
She playfully nudged his shoulder with her own. “Those two words… they’re like music to my ears, I hope you realize.”
“Do… do you think that there might actually be a chance for us, Doc?—even after everything?” Harry finally asked, feeling as if a terrible weight had been lifted off of his chest once he finally voiced the question that had been pestering him for far longer than he’d even like to contemplate, much less admit.
Andersen, however, provided a rather lackluster response when he merely shrugged. “I guess it all has to do with whether or not you finally take some initiative and make a move towards more.”
“I… I can’t…”
“Then I guess the answer’s no,” Andersen bluntly told him.
Harry’s shoulders sagged and he immediately let himself fall back onto his seat, throwing an arm over his eyes.
“Cheer up, old chap,” Andersen teased, grinning. “There’s always the chance that you do finally grow a pair and fight for what you believe in… it’s doubtful that you will, but you never know…”
“Hey, thanks for coming,” Ron muttered, sending Harry a cool nod as he seated himself.
Harry nodded in reply, taking a large sip of his coffee as he watched Ron call for the bartender to send him a beer.
“You look like shite,” Ron announced when he finally turned back to Harry.
“What a pair we make… some golden trio, huh?” Ron rakishly grinned.
“Yeah,” Harry breathed. “…listen, mate, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about for… well, for a while now.”
Two brows drew together in confusion. “What is it?”
Anything Harry was going to say, however, was quickly interrupted when the bartender sent over Ron’s drink and a look of holy bliss plastered itself onto the man’s face.
“Oh, Merlin!” he moaned in delight as he took his first sip. “I love… love… love
you,” he continued muttering between sips, closing his eyes to fully appreciate the sacred experience. Harry chuckled, rolling his eyes, and it was only then that Ron finally remember who his company was, having entirely forgotten him for the ale. “Sorry,” he quickly apologized, turning an unattractive red. “I forgot myself there.”
“It’s okay,” Harry reassured.
“Anyway, you were saying?” he asked with a yawn before fusing his lips to the mug, again.
“It’s about Hermione…” Harry carefully said.
“What about her?” Ron distractedly asked, still staring at his ale as if it was the most magnificent thing to ever grace him with its presence–the Holy Grail of Ron-Land, as he’d once referred to it.
“I—I don’t think you’re going to like it, honestly,” Harry warned with a wince.
Those words managed to gain Ron’s rapt attention as he carefully put down his drink and turned all focus to Harry. “What is it?” he asked, slowly and with a definite air of foreboding.
“It—it’s nothing that bad…”
“What is it, Harry?” Ron repeated, but that time his voice held a certain edge that was surely brought on by a fear for her safety or something of the like. “Just spit it out, tell me what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Harry admitted with a shake of his head. “I… I… well fuck, this is hard to say!”
“Just let it out, whatever it is,” Ron instructed, worry etching itself all over his face.
Harry took Ron’s advice and just spoke, his words jumbled and tripping over one another as he did. “I’m in love with Hermione and I want to be with her.”
Silence followed that abrupt and rushed proclamation. Ron just stared at Harry blankly, unreservedly staggered. There was no movement for a good five minutes until Ron picked up his mug again and downed the entire thing. Following that, he finally spoke again.
“Shit, Harry… I mean what the hell?”
Harry winced at the cruel glare that Ron sent his way. “Well that came out all rushed and awkward, and I… I know it’s probably—”
He scoffed, wildly shaking his head. “Oh don’t even try to bullshit your way through this, how long has this been going on? Have you just been going after her the entire time I was with her or what?”
Harry stumbled a bit, fumbling with his words terribly. “No—”
“And to think,” Ron continued to rant, paying absolutely no heed to Harry’s excuses. “Every time I began to think that maybe there was something more I’d tell myself that I was just being delusional… that I just didn’t understand your friendship. Fat lot of good that trust did for me.”
Harry scowled. “Oi!—”
Ron rolled his eyes. “I knew that there was something suspicious about the way that you looked at her, but I convinced myself… I told myself that I was just being stupid. What an arse I made of myself, accusing myself of being a poor mate for being so stupid as to think that you’d been mooning over my girl when you actually were!... how long?”
Harry gulped, not quite sure about how to broach that loaded question. “Well… a… a long time,” he finally safely replied.
That reply sent Ron reeling a bit and he paused for a reflective moment before regaining his frowning countenance and sending Harry a hard glare. “Exact time,” he gruffly ordered.
Harry shrugged helplessly. “Since the war…”
That left Ron utterly stupefied, and for a second Harry was worried that he might fall backwards off of his chair. “Wow. And… and you never tried to—?”
“No! I’d never do that to you, I kept it to my—!”
Ron snorted, sardonically asking: “really
“I know it’s a lot to grasp, Ron… but I’ve wanted this for a long time, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I just… I figured it was better that way.”
Ron begrudgingly nodded in agreement. “’Prolly was,” he gruffly added.
Ron raised his hand, however, effectively stopping any words from leaving Harry’s mouth. “You know what? I shouldn’t even care. It’s not my business anymore and I get that… I really do. If she wants you now then… well then that’s her prerogative, I guess,” he decided, tone stiff and no-nonsense like.
Harry almost fell over in his surprise, gaping widely at Ron—it was rather resemblant of a gold fish, Ron noted silently. Finally, Harry spoke up: “She means the world to me…”
“I know, I’m not that dense… some of Hermione’s genius had to rub off on me after all that time.”
“You sure about that?” Harry grinned. “But, honestly… you don’t mind?”
Ron shrugged. “Whatever Hermione and I had ended a long time ago, we just didn’t want to let go… I’m sure she’s worried I’m going to hex you regardless though.”
“Yeah,” Harry sheepishly admitted.
Ron chuckled lightly. “Typical of her, always fretting. I won't, though, I’m happy for her… and you. But, Harry, I swear to God, if you hurt her I won’t hesitate to wring your neck. She’s my best friend and means the fucking world to me so if she wants you then I just want what’s best fro her, but if you in anyway endanger that happiness I’ll gladly hurt you.”
Harry blinked wildly, not sure what to say in reply to that.
“Well say something!” Ron finally ordered, quickly growing tired of the sight of a flabbergasted Harry.
“Um… thank you?”
Ron glared. “Oh shut up and get me another drink; this conversation is far too serious for what was supposed to be a night of debauchery.”
author’s note: please review, tell me what you think... no one's been commenting at all, i don't know what to make of the story momentarily, honestly.
Thank you so much to my amazing beta, Searcy!