Chapter 23 : Of Boxing Things In
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"I'm just a regular guy."
"An 'average Joe', as the American saying goes?" Andersen asked.
"Exactly," Harry nodded with a smile. "And that's what I want out of life. I want a good job that doesn't leave me bored and hankering for more, I want a woman who… she doesn't have to be any fucking Helen of Troy, but I want her to be the woman for me."
Andersen eyed him wearily. "For an 'average Joe', you sure do have quite the list of necessities there…"
Harry's ears were tinged the slightest hue of pink. "Well I've found the job…"
"And the woman?"
Harry paused, biting the inside of his left cheek for a second before releasing. "Sometimes I think I have. I don't really want something that has to be a constant romance movie; I've grown up and don't want that cliché anymore. I want a life. I want someone to be happy with; I want someone who I can talk to, someone who gives me comfort and… someone who challenges me. I don't like constant flirting; I'm terrible at it and end up offending a girl more often than not when I try to delve into that whole thing. And I don't like constant fawning, I need to feel as if I'm not the central figure in a person's life so much as one of the central components."
Andersen sighed, wearily. "Potter, it amazes me how you can be such an imbecile at times. It's incredible, really, how you go around in circles trying to describe something that doesn't even exist."
Andresen shook his head. "Until you fight for what you really want, it won't ever exist. This image you have painted, it's a pointless ideal that you're hoping someone will fit into. Do you really want a mold, Harry?"
"Maybe not," Harry sheepishly shrugged.
Andersen had to hold back a growl at that. "What do you really want?" Andersen asked, well aware of the answer and begging for actual vocal conformation.
"I… I'm not always sure."
"Are you sure about that?" he doubtfully asked, slouching in disappointment over the reply.
Harry paused momentarily. "No?"
"Can I help you?" they heard a voice ask through the door after Hermione noticed the peephole opening when Harry pounded on the depressingly grey apartment door.
"Natalia Botelho?" Harry asked.
"Yes?" she asked, not bothering to hide the tinge of hostility in her tone as she spoke, clearly skeptical about their appearance, whoever they were.
"My name is-"
"I know who you are," she snappishly cut him off. "What I want to know is why you are here."
"Well, I tried calling you-"
"Did you leave a message?"
"Well… no…" Harry sheepishly admitted. "But I have called you dozens of times during the past two days-"
"And I screen my calls," she mockingly retorted and Hermione couldn't help, but snort at Hurry's predicament. "What do you want?" she crudely asked.
"We were just hoping to talk to you about Andrea White," Harry replied as calmly as he could as Hermione slowly took his hand in hers and squeezed it lightly.
"Why do you suddenly care about her? She's dead," the girl spat out, and Hermione imagined that there was probably a sneer to accompany it.
"We were hoping that maybe you could tell us a bit about her death and why she was at the hospital to begin with since we're currently inspecting five men we think were associated with her: Kelly, Dermott, McMullen, Sinclair, and Kerouac. You may recognize some of them from the recent-"
Harry, however, was interrupted by the sound of chains moving and locks being opened before a small wisp of a girl pulled the door open with an astounding amount of strength. She stood before them in a ratty outfit that consisted of an oversized shirt and boxers that was reminiscent to Harry of his own uniform while living with the Dursley's. She was a frail little thing, skin and bones, so it shocked Harry to see her wrench open that door so roughly.
"It wasn't a hospital, but an asylum. Get your facts straight," she ordered in a clipped tone before moving into her studio flat and making her way towards a rather… defunct couch. She motioned for them to sit after Harry closed the door behind Hermione and himself. "It's not much, but it's comfortable, and I got rid of the moths," she dryly informed them.
Harry couldn't help but send a glance towards the stacks of newspapers and magazines littered across the flat and despite how inconspicuous he had thought he was, Natalia still caught the look.
"I like to read… and re-read. Anything wrong with that?" she defensively asked, more than ready to start a tirade before Hermione interrupted.
"You order National Geographic, too?" she asked with a surprised beam. "I didn't know there was anyone else in the wizarding world who even read that!" she turned to Harry with glee, but the look in her eyes was anything but. Silently, she willed him to simply sit down and shut up.
Natalia raised a brow. "Neither did I," she frostily noted, but the scowl on her face thawed a bit, at least. "You wanted to ask about Andrea?" she then queried.
"We were hoping you could tell us about her… whatever you may know."
"They raped her, that's all there is to it. I don't know what I'm supposed to say here, it's not as if you're actually even going to do anything about it," she nonchalantly noted.
"How much do you actually know about what happened to her?" Hermione slowly queried.
Natalia shrugged. "Not too much, Andrea wasn't exactly social after she was unjustly committed," she noted with a sarcastic edge to her tone. "She barely shared anything with me, whatever I learned I had to fight for her trust for. She was really scared to divulge anything after seeing what it cost her the first time." Natalia paused before continuing, "Why do you care anyway? Last time around, everyone was in a frenzy to do whatever they could to hide it and now you suddenly give a fuck? Isn't it a bit late for that, given that she's dead and all?"
"It has to do with a coinciding case," Harry crisply replied.
"Well, unless it's to send the people who did that to her to jail, I don't care anymore. Leave, we're done here," Natalia ordered, pointing to the door with a resolute air about her.
Harry was about to retort, but before he could Hermione grasped his hand, squeezing softly to catch his attention before nodding to the door—silently bidding him to listen to the order. With a roll of his eyes, he heaved his body upwards before turning back to Hermione and bringing a hand forward to help her up.
Hermione sent him a small smile as she let him help her up, before turning to Natalia. "If you do change your mind, though, we'd really appreciate any information. It could help us a lot… maybe even in helping Andrea."
"She's dead, I don't see what you can do," Natalia dryly, mockingly noted.
Hermione shrugged. "Doesn't mean she doesn't still deserve some proper respect."
Natalia remained stoic, and Hermione took her cue to leave as she dragged Harry out the door.
"She's a good woman, Harry, but clearly she won't ever be yours. That much, at least, is clear after speaking to you for the past few years," Andersen sadly admitted.
There was such a strong look of regret etched onto his face, so deeply ingrained that Harry had to wonder how far in it ran. It was a thought that chilled him to the core, that disillusionment was aimed towards him. The one thing that he'd been trying to fight over the years since he'd begun his therapy, since before even that if he was honest with himself, was disappointing someone he cared about ever again.
"I honestly thought she could be yours one day, but maybe I was just fooling myself… I honestly don't know anymore, Harry. All I know by now is that I've breached the line so many times… I've begun to care about you and kept you coming here, but there's nothing I can do for you anymore. You're a different person, Harry, you've grown… you've grown far past anything I ever imagined possible… and far less than I hoped in some respects, too."
"What… what are you trying to say, Doc?" Harry asked.
"I'm saying that your therapy is over, Harry. It's been over for ages now, but I… I guess I just didn't want to see it," Andersen admitted with a frown, that time it was aimed towards himself.
"Don't, please. Harry, you can always call me if you need something, but… but the truth is that, with any therapy, the goal shouldn't be for you to continue coming and speaking to me, finding your path with my aid. The truth is that your goal here isn't to fix your life, but to find a way to do everything that we do in here on your own… for yourself. You're there now, Harry, you can do it."
"But… but I don't want to just stop," Harry tried to argue.
Andersen offered him a weak smile. "But you should, it's for your best," he said, pausing for a moment. "You… you should leave now, Harry."
"But our hour isn't up…?"
"This one's on the house," Andersen nodded towards the door, ushering him out.
"Hi," Hermione greeted him with a smile and a quick peck as Harry let her into his office. She quickly maneuvered through the various piles of papers strewn about the room as she made her way towards his coffee table where she set out the lunch she'd picked up for them.
"Want anything to drink?" Harry asked as he brought some plates and utensils out from a cabinet he kept.
"Um… water's fine for me, really," she assured him when he sent her a doubtful look.
"Fine," Harry nodded. "Oh, and get the file I left on the chesterfield by the windows. I had Callum check some details for us; I haven't read it yet," Harry told her as he left the office to go to the kitchens to fetch the both of them drinks.
When he returned to the office Hermione had set out a rather elaborate meal of shish kebabs and roasted potatoes. "You didn't take out the file yet?" he immediately noted.
"Nope," she shook her head with a smile. "I know we have work to do and everything, but for now I just want us to relax… have fun."
"The Hermione Granger shirking work for fun, really?... never thought I'd see the day," he teased with a smile.
She laughed as she doled out the food onto their plates. "I wanted to make up for the fact that we missed our date this past weekend."
Harry sent her a befuddled look.
"It's okay, that you forgot, honestly… I did, too, until I checked my planner earlier today and noticed our previous plans. We were going to have our first real date…" she broke the news to him, secretly reveling, just a bit, in the way that his eyes widened in shock as he fumbled for words—most likely to form some sort of apology for forgetting. "Calm down," she stopped him when he'd finally stopped absently opening and closing his mouth in a fish-like manner and looked as if he'd found the words, which she didn't know nor really care about. "Like I said, I forgot, too. It's been a hectic few days with everything that's come up in the case. Let's just let it go and eat, the food's getting cold."
He nodded mutely, following her orders as he helped her into her seat and then took his own.
"You may speak, you know?" Hermione informed him with an amused smile after a good few minutes of Harry just silently eating.
"Food's good," he grunted with sincere approval.
She laughed. "I hope that you have some better dinner conversation than that or I just don't know how long this relationship will be able to last," she quipped.
Harry shrugged with an impish smile. "You said you didn't want to talk shop and, honestly, that's just about all I can think of right now," he sheepishly admitted.
Hermione sent him a surprised and perturbed look.
"Well we are in my office, it's inevitable. Plus, you're the one that forced this whole responsibility trait onto me, this is just karma coming back for you," he quipped with a smarmy smile.
"He… he just cancelled on me. Just like that, as if it was nothing. I can't believe he ended our sessions!" a furious Harry ranted to Hermione, pacing in front of her fireplace.
"Well…" Hermione meekly began."
Harry turned on her with wide and furious eyes. "Oh no, I know that fucking tone. 'Well'?! Really, Hermione? You're siding with him."
She sent him a weak shrug. "That's how it works, Harry. He's right. He's helped you all he can; now it's your turn to learn to move forward on your own. You've gotten through so much already, you're ready for this," she told him as she got off of her chesterfield and moved towards him, keeling and placing a soft hand on his arm. "I know that he's grown to mean a lot to you over the past few years, but he is looking out for you by making this decision. It is for your best. Plus, he did say that you can always call him if you truly need help."
Harry adamantly shook his head. "But I… I don't feel ready."
"All the more reason to be forced into this position then. Harry, you know that you still have me… and Ron, right? We'll always be there for you, you're our family."
He sent her a small smile as he pulled her into his arms for a tight embrace. "I know, but… there are just somethings that I only felt like I could talk to him about."
He felt her stiffen almost immediately and was surprised by the development. Her tone turned slightly cold and jealous when she asked, "what?"
"It's not that big of a deal, it's just-"
"Why can't you talk to me," she anxiously asked.
"Come on, Hermione, it's not as if you can talk to me about everything either."
"Yes, I can… I do," she surprised him in reply as she extricated herself from his hold. "I… you're the only person with whom I ever feel entirely comfortable with… I just… I guess I kind of hoped it was a mutual thing," she admitted, her gaze focused on the ground.
"Hermione," he reached out for her, but she pulled away.
She plastered on a fake, fighting smile. "Don't," she shook her head. "It's not a big deal, I know that. I'm just being emotional is all; forget it. Besides, there's this film I've been dying to watch and I've been waiting with bated breath for you to be available so we could watch it!" she clapped her hands as she started making her way to the DVD library near her TV.
"Hermione!" Harry called, incredulous.
She didn't turn around, but her actions stilled, her hand hovering above the selection of films. "Harry… don't, please, for my sake just don't. Let's just watch this film and have some fun, like the good ole days," she quipped.
He bit his tongue in reply; unsure as to what else he could do at that point.
"Apparently Natalia suffers from 'dissocial personality disorder'… what the hell is that?" Harry asked, yelling, as he let himself into Hermione's flat, immediately making his way towards the kitchen as he spoke.
"As much as it pains me to admit it, Harry, I don't actually know everything," Hermione admitted with a grin. "I took only a few psych courses while at school, all of which were rather elementary. It never interested me as much as I thought it would before enrolling into them," she informed him with a shrug.
"Hmm," Harry hummed. "So wiki for me then."
"Looks that way," Hermione distractedly murmured. "My laptop is on the island," she directed him as she finished cutting the potatoes before placing them into the pot with the chicken she'd prepared for dinner. As Harry opened her computer she popped the food into the oven.
"Why don't you go to Suskind instead of wiki, by the way? I mean, much as I adore the site, I'd sooner trust the professional," Hermione commented as she washed her hands.
"Because Suskind is a prat… and he's not at work anymore. I'm too impatient to wait till morning, I want at least some answers," Harry admitted with an impish smile as Hermione walked towards him. She moved behind him so she could wrap her arms around his middle as she propped her chin upon his shoulder and read along with him. "This is such crap," Harry rolled his eyes.
"What is?" Hermione distractedly asked, her eyes furtively roaming over the words on the screen.
"Well how can they just decide that everyone has to fit into some mold created by their diagnoses? I mean look at Natalia, she wasn't exactly a gracious host, but I also wouldn't call her callous and entirely unconcerned with others feelings. She clearly cared about Andrea."
Hermione shrugged. "We also don't really know her well enough to make any sort of diagnosis, Harry."
"Doesn't mean the doctors did either," Harry grumbled with a scowl. "This is ridiculous."
"You also said that when you first met Andersen… and then look at what happened," Hermione pointed out. "According to this, even though common attributes are low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharging aggression, as well as a disregard for any sort of social contracts, there's also an incapacity to maintain relationships. By this definition she shouldn't care enough to do something like this," she paused, breaking off into thought. "She should have the capability of it, but no desire to avenge anyone save for herself," Hermione mumbled, speaking more so to herself than him. "I honestly think that our best bet is investigating the mother. I just… I don't think that it was Natalia. I'm not even sure who it was… there's just something suspicious about the mother… something missing."
Harry turned his head, nose to cheek with Hermione before inching a bit closer and leaving a soft kiss on her cheek. "You better be right about that because I'm going to trust you here. I'll also call Suskind in the morning and make an appointment."
Hermione nodded. "Remember, dinner with the Weasleys, too."
Harry groaned, burying his head in the hollow between her neck and shoulder. "Fuck me!"
Hermione smiled softly, moving a hand to pat his head. "Not yet, love."
She suddenly stopped the film, taking him completely by surprise. "Harry," she whispered, the first word spoken to him since the outburst that had taken place an hour and half ago. It was a very welcome sound, one that filled him with relief and peace.
"Yeah?" he asked as he turned to face her.
"I'm… I'm sorry," she apologized, bowing her head in shame. "It was ridiculous of me to act that way, and… I don't… well I do know what came over me, but it was terribly petulant of me. You didn't deserve that outburst. It was ridiculous. Of course you have the right to talk to other people. I know that, I recognize that… I honestly do!"
He cocked his head to the side as he observed her, letting his hand creep towards hers before, finally, softly grasping it. "Hermione, what the hell are you going on about? What's this all even about?"
She looked away, a flush spreading across her face. "I just… it's terrible, I know it, but I hate the thought that someone could… that someone can replace me in your life-"
"Let me finish," she stopped him with a soft smile, bringing a finger to his lips to stop him. "I just… I don't know where I'd be without you, Harry, and there are so many people… better people out there for you, who could easily replace me. I just get insecure because I know you'd be fine without me, but I… I don't think I could function anymore if I were to lose you," she admitted before lowering her hand.
"You're an idiot, you know that? A genius, but also an idiot."
Her head snapped up in surprise. "What?" she asked, brow furrowed.
"You're my best friend, Hermione. There's no one in the world who I love more than you, there's no one I trust more than you. Don't be rude and discount my feelings for you. Don't be annoying and get prissy over the slightest detail. I love you, Hermione, plain and simple. Now get over this shite and let me finish watching the film, I want to know if the guy actually gets the girl or not," he announced, turning his gaze back to the TV.
Hermione rolled her eyes, smiling widely as she shifted closer towards Harry and curled up against his side, leaning her head on his shoulder. "Oh please, Harry, it's a romantic comedy, you know how it's going to end."
"Still, I want to see it all happen," he admitted with a shrug as he took the remote from her and hit play.
Hermione raised her eyes from the coffee table, where they'd situated themselves on the floor for dinner after Hermione convinced Harry that a bit of rustics would do their lives some good. She lightly bit her lip as she looked over at the person sitting across from her.
Harry, as if sensing her deep securitization, raised his head. He cocked a questioning brow in reply.
"Yes?" he goaded.
She blew out a deep breath before moving across the table, softly grasping his face between her hands and pulling him towards her. She pulled away just as quickly as she'd begun the contact, smiling shyly. "Hi," she breathed.
Harry merely sent her a befuddled look. "What was that for?"
Hermione immediately rouged. "I just… I've wanted to do that for a really long time. I… I don't know why, but I sometimes feel as if I don't know exactly where we stand and… and I guess it's just nice to do that sometimes… to move forward more."
Harry laughed as he got up off the floor and moved towards her side of the table, kneeling before her. "Feel free to do it anytime. I'm just following your lead here, Hermione, like I've always done, even when we were kids-"
"Oh, please! You always ignored my warnings!" Hermione scoffed, lightly slapping his arm.
Harry grinned. "True, but whenever we did something you were generally the mastermind who got us through unscathed, too. Albeit, you were a… slightly reluctant one."
"I didn't want you to get hurt," she admitted, toying with the hem of his button down. "As I've said before, you may be a prat, but you're my prat," she informed him before raising her head and delivering a bold smile before pulling him closer to her and forcing his mouth towards hers.
Author's Note: long time, I know. Between a particularly straining quarter at Uni and the fact that as I've been approaching the final chapters of this fic I've become increasingly self-conscious in terms of the story I just haven't been able to finish. I've gone through about 10 drafts of this chapter and this was the least bad of the lot, in my opinion. There's an added pressure for this story, one I haven't faced with others. Making HHr truly come to fruition and finalize this case without turning it into a corny mess is something that I'm so terribly terrified of and left me with the worst writer's block. Anyway… blah.
Please comment, I could use the thoughts—good and bad.
AGAIN, many thanks to my amazing beta Searcey!
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