Chapter 22 : Of “Looney Bins”
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“I hate drinking alone,” a sudden voice announced, pulling Harry out of his reverie as he turned to face the brute-like man who sat himself beside him. “Name's Callum, you?” he introduced.
“Harry,” he replied with a suspicious look.
“Yeah,” the man said, sending a sober smile. “I'm half-way to utterly pissed though, so wasn't quite sure. Nice meeting you though… and I guess propriety demands that I thank you or some bullshit like that, but… then again, I figure more than enough people have already done that to last you a life time so how about a drink?”
Harry couldn't help the small tug at his lips as he listened to the man ramble. “Brandy.”
“Mmm, I know just the one then. Oi, Kaljevic! —Kindly send a bottle of Rakia this way, would you?”
“Which kind?” the bartender asked in reply as he gravitated towards the shelves of full bottles racked against the wall.
The man, Callum, turned to Harry with a raised brow. “How strong do you like your drink?”
Harry smirked. “Let's just say I can never turn down a good brew.”
“Make it the plum then,” Cal ordered, as he eyed Harry with a crooked smile. “I like you,” he announced, “and I'm sure you'll like this drink then… seventy percent alcohol content.”
“Damn,” Harry whispered as the bartender surprised him by bringing out a plastic bottle from below the bar. He sent Kaljevic a questioning look as he wearily eyed the bottle.
“This one's my own personal stash,” the man confided, replying to the silent question. “Private distillery, Cal here loves it,” he informed before walking off to serve more guests.
Callum grinned as he grabbed two flutes and filled them. “This, dear hero, will make you believe in God.”
“That good, huh?” Harry asked as he took a whiff of it.
Callum only smirked, again, in reply before rising his glass. “To new drinking buddies, may we get shit faced like never before!”
Harry couldn't help but laugh as he raised his own drink. “Cheers.”
“Thank you so much for being kind enough to meet with us, Dr. Carroll,” Hermione smiled sweetly at the man as Harry pulled out a chair for her in one of the Auror department's interrogation rooms. After she seated herself, sending Harry a thankful smile, she eyed the folders that the doctor was holding.
The man immediately noticed where her line of vision was focused and moved to hand the pair copies of the file. “That's all of the information this hospital has on Andrea White, any notes or medical records… it's all there. I hope that you understand that we'd prefer not to have the fact that we gave this without a warrant come to light.”
Harry gruffly nodded. “We were also hoping you might be able to give us some direction on her, form a more personally standpoint… as her therapist and all. More specifically, her stay there and what you two talked about.”
The doctor shrugged. “She was a sweet girl, but damaged.”
“I'd say understandably so, wouldn't you?” Harry retorted immediately, a hard edge to his words.
The doctor paused for a minute and Harry hated the fact that the man was so obvious in how he was analyzing Harry, scrutinizing him before replying. “Can I be candid with you two, Mr. Potter?”
“I'd prefer that you be.”
“I—this wont be made public, will it?”
Harry shook his head. “I've taken the measures to insure that this meeting isn't recorded.”
“Well Andrea was initially brought in under the claim of exhibiting erratic and delusional behavior as well as being a pathological liar—all following the court case.”
“Do you know details about the case?” Hermione couldn't help, but interject, despite having promised herself to give Harry the lead on this one.
Carroll solemnly shook his head. “Not much, but… Andrea—well I don't think that there was anything wrong with her other than depression. If what she says was true, she was a virgin when those boys accosted her. After that… after being accused of lying on the stand when she accused them of raping her, there was never a chance for her,” Carroll shook his head again in an almost regretful manner. “She was too far gone.”
“So did you believe her?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, I did,” Carroll admitted with a slow nod, frowning. “In that file there I also included the doctor's report… the one who diagnosed her before me, and it didn't really seem to… fit. Not every case is the same, you can't simply put everyone into these little boxes based on a generalization of the symptoms of the malady, but… but with Andrea it just never fit. She wasn't crazy, she was just an innocent girl who'd been irreparably damaged and wanted a way out.”
“Did she have anyone to talk to? Anyone who believed her claims?... Is there anyone else who we should talk to, more specifically?”
Carroll heavily exhaled as he propped his chin against his fist, leaning forward a bit as his eyes clouded over in deliberation. “Her… her mother was quite the champion for her case until, according to Andrea, suddenly, about a week after she'd been committed to the asylum, she stopped fighting. She just… let it go. It was odd, she seemed to entirely disconnect herself from Andrea—called just once a week to have short, terse conversations and never visited. It was quite the anomaly, actually.”
Harry nodded. “Is there anything else you can tell us about her?”
“Apart from the fact that she was a sweet girl, not really. I tried to get her to open up, but you can't just force someone to open up. And she just didn't want to… to anyone. She didn't have any friends at the hospital, she kept to herself and when people would even try to approach her she'd sometimes go off, crying hysterically… scared out of her mind, really. Though, that's to be expected, after everything, don't you think?”
Harry nodded. “Right, well then that's all, I guess. Thank you, again, Doctor,” Harry smiled tightly as he got out of his seat and turned to help Hermione as well.
“It's no problem, really… good luck,” he offered, as he stuck out his hand.
Harry grasped and shook it with the same tight smile, but slightly, barely, more relaxed.
“I like you,” Callum suddenly announced with a wide smile, taking Harry utterly by surprise.
“Um… I like you, too?”
Callum shook his head, grinning mischievously as he poured them both another shot of Rakia. “Is that a statement or a question there? —Because, honestly, I'm not one for faux friendship or anything of that sort, I hate fucking pretenses. Fuck them all!” he passionately intoned, bringing up his flute and waving it in the air as he made his exclamation.
There were a few cheers though Harry suspected that the men had no clue what thy were cheering for, but merely joined in because they were pissed out of their minds and thought it would be great fun. Harry wasn't drunk enough for that, yet.
“So yeah, that's pretty much how I cuckolded that old geezer in the back there-”
“What?” Harry was suddenly pulled back into reality as he heard those terrifying words escape Callum's mouth.
The serious look that had seen so permanently etched upon Callum's face quickly evaporated as he fell into an uncontrollable fit of chortles. “I like to do that.”
“What? —Give a bloke a fucking heart attack?! I thought you were some gay, kinky rapist. Scared the fucking shit out of me, I'll have you know.”
“It was supposed to. Now, care to tell me why the great, oh-so-honorable, venerable Harry Potter is in a seedy bar getting drunk off his blasted arse?”
Harry shrugged. “It might be a bit dumpy, but it's got a hell of a collection.”
“You didn't answer my question.”
“I figured the evasion gave it to you, but if not then I'll make it plain and clear: no.”
If possible, the beam on Callum's face grew even wider. “I like you,” he reaffirmed.
Harry chuckled, shaking his head disbelievingly. “You know, I think might actually like you, too… God help me.”
“I love food,” Hermione cheerily announced, practically bouncing in her seat as she popped another chip into her mouth and merrily chewed it.
Harry smirked. “I can tell.”
“Come on, try one,” she goaded as she turned in her seat so she could fully face him, dangling the chip in front of his face as if it was supposed to seduce him into some sort of submission. “They are amazing, really!”
“Then I'll let you feast on them,” Harry murmured as he closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the seat of his booth and then used his arm, which had been wrapped around the back of Hermione's seat, to pull her a bit closer. “I'm not really hungry and, if I was, the semblance between you and Ron just now would scare it away.”
She laughed softly as she let her headrest on his chest, reaching across towards the table to grab another chip to munch on. “It's fried potatoes, what's not to love there? Utter perfection, Harry, truly!”
He grinned, cracking an eye open to look down at her. “So you've noted… time and time again.”
“Please… try one?”
He opened the other eye, a smile tugging on his lips. “Depends, what's in it for me?”
She scoffed, swatting him softly. “Why should we have to barter for you to eat a chip?”
“Well it wouldn't be just if we both didn't get something out of the deal, don't you think?”
She grinned, moving up to quickly peck him on the lips before stuffing a chip into his mouth. “Chew,” she ordered with a small smirk before reaching for another and taking a bite of it. “I like it when you smile,” she noted after finishing her bite. “You don't do it often enough anymore.”
His brow furrowed in befuddlement. “What are you talking about?”
She shrugged sheepishly. “You smirk… you send an amused look… you don't really smile or laugh as often. I like it when you do, though.”
“Well if it means that much to you I'll put in the extra effort to do it more often then.”
She let out a scandalized gasp, her eyes widening in shock. “Don't you dare, it wouldn't be right!”
He cocked his head to the side, sending her a truly perplexed look. “What the hell are you on about?”
She let out a long and exasperated sigh—purposefully exaggerated to grate on his nerves—before she turned fully in her seat so that her body was facing his entirely before she moved to wind her arms around his neck. “Because, Harry, it's just not worth anything if it's not natural… you can't just force it… when you laugh… it has to be real. All I'm saying is that you should simply let yourself, don't become emotionally impaired…”
“Emotionally impaired?” he repeated, quizzically.
She grinned, nodding. “It's a terrible thing, you know?”
A shadow of a smile-like-thing crept across his face as he murmured “so I've been told” before leaning forward and capturing her lips with his own.
He felt a smile grow across her lips as she responded, slowly entwining her arms around his neck as she allowed herself to indulge in a very rare display of public affection that—
—That was promptly disrupted by the blaring sound of David Bowie singing “Rebel, Rebel”. Harry groaned as he pulled away, sighing regrettably as he leaned his forehead against hers and sent her a pleading look as she sent the phone, that was sitting innocently on the table, a rather dirty one.
She growled deeply in her throat as she unwound her arms from round him. “Take it.”
“I have this friend… Callum,” Harry suddenly announced.
Andersen sat up a bit straighter at the sudden proclamation, humming with interest as both his eyebrows rose in surprise. “Oh?” he finally asked.
Harry nodded. “He's a good mate… he's no Hermione, but… at times, I feel more comfortable with him than with anyone else.”
“Yeah… it's weird, but I feel like I can be myself with him, I don't ever have to worry about disappointing him,” Harry paused for a second, his mouth opening and closing in a rather unattractive fish-like manner as he tried to grasp the words that clearly just weren't coming.
“With Hermione, I'm always worried about fucking things up, about disappointing her and then, with Ron, I'm just scared shitless about the prospect of being left with broken ribs or something for failing or upsetting Hermione. With Cal, he's just a loyal mate, you can do whatever the fuck you want with him and he… he accepts the faults, and he doesn't set these impossible standards. If he likes what he sees he stays and if he doesn't he leaves. It's simple.”
“Well Hermione and Ron can always leave, too…”
Harry shook his head. “Nah, Hermione would never give up on me and Ron… well the chances are really slim of it happening—he's just not that guy anymore, honestly—but even if he wanted to he'd stay for her sake, at the very least.”
Andersen nodded slowly, his head bobbing in the most unattractive way for a good three minutes before he finally replied. “If you ask me,” he slowly said, “that's a magnificent gift if nothing else.”
“I know, right?!”
The reply honestly shook Andersen, it being the last thing he'd expected. “Then what seems to be the problem?”
“Well if you're one of the few people lucky enough to have friends like that then you should do everything in your power to appease them, right?—To ensure that it's a reciprocated relationship, and all that?
“Well I certainly can't fault that logic…”
“Well then, clearly I've fucked up there… repeatedly. Just look at what I've put them through.”
Andersen sighed. “Harry, you don't know this Callum enough, but if he's becoming as good of a mate as you seem to claim he is, you'll just be faced with this same dilemma all over again. You've got to let go of this. There's so much hatred towards yourself there, it's not healthy.”
“What am I supposed to do? Am I just supposed to forget how I hurt them?”
“No, but forgive yourself for it… like they have. They're proud of you, one look at Hermione cements that opinion in my mind… it's time for you to share that opinion already. We've been running in circles for months now, and all over this. It has to come to an end already.”
“I'm sorry I ran out on lunch,” was Harry's sheepish announcement as he hesitantly made his way into Hermione's office, closing the door behind him.
Hermione raised an eyebrow as she sent him an inquisitive look. “You're not getting off that easy and you know it,” she informed him with a haughty smile as she tossed down the file she'd been reading, slipped off her reading glass, and pushed herself out of her chair.
Harry flashed her a small grin as he moved towards her and pulled her into his arms.
Hermione shyly smiled up at him, breathing out a “hi” before pulling him in for a kiss.
Harry was quick and more than eager to respond, but Hermione wasn't nearly as forthcoming as he would have liked as she left it off as a mere peck before untangling herself from him and sending him a pointed look, silently ordering him to tell her why he'd cut their lunch date early.
“Carroll called, he said that he remembered that there was one girl who Andrea sometimes let in. Her name was Natalia Botelho, but he wasn't her therapist and she's gone from the clinic so I called Cal and asked him to see if he could find anything on her. Hopefully, this one will be easier,” Harry explained with a shrug as he pulled Hermione into his arms and led her towards the chesterfield in her office, pulling her down onto it with him.
Hermione quirked a brown, her interest clearly piqued. “Callum?” she asked with a faux nonchalance that was almost painful to witness.
“So…?” Hermione pushed, goading Harry to say something, but he had no clue what. None whatsoever.
“So?” Harry asked, and Hermione immediately groaned at the lackluster reply, rolling her eyes and burying her head in his chest as he, apparently, gave her the wrong reply. “Listen, love… if you want to know something, you should probably just ask because I'm going to cock up all this hinting bull every time,” he told her with a gentle pat on her back, trying to keep the laughter out of his voice as he amusedly watched the scene before him.
Hermione frowned as she picked her head up and looked him in the eyes. “But then I come off as nosy…”
“Well… you are…”
Hermione bit her lip as she let out a slow laugh, a rouge quickly building across her face. She shyly wrinkled her nose a smidge as she asked: “I really am, aren't I?”
“'Fraid so,” Harry nodded.
“Well… if it's already to be expected and all, I may as well just ask already. Who is Callum, Harry, really?”
“He's a friend,” Harry carefully replied.
Hermione nodded. “A close one?”
“Mhm,” Harry hummed as he turned his attention to twirling a lock of hair around one finger as he splayed his other hand across her pant-clad thigh.
“Who we've never met?”
“Yes, Ron and I,” she primly elaborated, making it clear that she was none too pleased with his monosyllabic evasion.
“Care to tell me about him?”
“We met at a bar… got pissed… both support Liverpool and Puddlemore… and we like to do manly things, like belch inappropriately and curse repeatedly, together,” Harry replied with a crooked smile, purposefully infuriating her.
“I loathe you sometimes, I hope you know that.”
Harry laughed. “He's in the black market… for alcohol mainly, or that's just all I know of. I don't know, we don't talk about work much, but he's a great friend, discreet and has lots of connections so I asked for his help here. That enough?”
“Good then, because there's this freckle here… see right there? Right on your collar bone… and it's been distracting me this entire time…” he fingered the mark slowly with the calloused pad of his thumb as Hermione turned to face it.
“Harry, what are you talking—oh,” she gasped.
author's note: I don't know about this chapter, really, but I've been trying to push through my writer's block and this is what was produced so hopefully it's decent enough. Sorry for the wait…
And, Searcy, thank you!
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