Disclaimer: None of thiseth belongeth to me-eth.
Author's Notes: Yes it I, and oh look! A new story to read and review! This is incredibly unexpected. I was walking down the dirty streets of downtown Toronto when I was spontaneously attacked by an evil plot bunny from hell. Thus genius was born. Well, I'd like to think of it as genius. It was actually supposed to be a one-shot, but, yeah. Not a one-shot.
Just a clear up: This is an AU and Post Hogwarts fic. Hermione is pure muggle (so she's never met or even heard of Harry and co.) Ron knows how to start a car and Harry likes coffee. And with that I say: Enjoy.
It was her smile that caught his eye. Her smile had drawn him in, pulled him closer and held him in its pearly grip. So naturally he found himself incapable of approaching her.
It was never even his intention to step inside the quaint café on the corner of the busy street, but it so happened that he was to meet someone at the shop just across the road. He was fifteen minutes early, which was clearly far too early for the best friend who was always nearly half an hour late. So he thought a quick stop at the- he looked up at the sign- NICE DREAM café would help pass the time.
The café looked fairly empty save for the few students swimming in text books and jacked up on caffeine. Then there were the scattered regulars, some with their nose buried in a book or a newspaper, and others with their nose nestled in the palm of their hand as they perused their latest fancy on the brightly lit screen of their laptop. All were sipping, gulping and slurping out of steaming mugs, or cool glasses topped with frothy cream.
He took a seat by the window and glanced out into the street for any sign of his friend. Outside a slender woman dropped several papers on the sidewalk and bent to pick it up. Muttering to herself, she stuffed them into her bag and a father and son stopped to help her. She thanked them warmly and the three of them straightened, immediately blocking his view of the small door across the street. He tilted his head slightly to the right, and the three of them dispersed, clearing his view; the doorway was empty. He didn't recognize any of the fellows that walked into the shop on the other side of the road so he propped his hands on the table and set his gaze across the room, eyes squinting at the board listing the many hot beverages. One of the waitresses, with her hair sleekly pulled back into a ponytail, noticed the direction of his gaze and promptly made her way to him with a bright smile on her face. She smoothed her hands down her black apron and pulled a pad and pencil out of the right pocket.
"Afternoon," she said and peered down at him with friendly eyes. "What'll it be?"
A bell tinkled in the background, signalling another arrival.
"Just a coffee, please. Black."
"What size?" she asked.
"Erm," he ran a hand through his hair and her eyebrows quirked slightly in recognition, noting the small scar. "Regular," he said quickly as he noticed her sudden interest. He unconsciously began to flatten his fringe over the culprit.
The waitress coloured slightly, turned and said, "Right. Be back in a bit."
Once she was gone, he sighed and sank back into the chair, bright eyes scanning the room as if in habit. Soft music played overhead and he hummed the familiar tune, drumming his fingers on the table in time with the beat. This was nice. His felt his shoulders relax almost a quarter of an inch and he nearly grinned. It had been a while since he'd had the time to really relax. Not that Harry Potter actually knew the meaning of relaxation. Even on a date or out on a night with his friends, his eyes would always be alert, his muscles tense and ready to spring and his ears careful to pick up any suspicious doings.
Ron often said that he would have to knock him out with a brick just so he could actually get some proper sleep. To which Harry would reply with a good natured, "Shut up. I sleep." And he did too, just not too heavily.
And with his wand holstered to his arm.
And a dagger under his pillow.
Just for good measure.
Though the latter he could have done without if not for the fact that Draco Malfoy had given to him. Now why would Harry Potter, the supposed adversary accept anything from Draco Malfoy, you ask? Well that was simple. Mr. Malfoy had saved his life, and it was his hand that drove his dagger through the Death Eater's neck.
The man had managed to over power Harry and had thrown him against a rather solid brick wall. Had it not been for Malfoy's quick thinking, Harry would have lost his life, and dying with a fully grown man pushed up against him on a brick wall was not quite the dignified death Harry had imagined for himself. Not that he was the one to spend his nights thinking up magnificent death scenarios in which he'd go out in blazing glory.
Still, being squished by a very heavy man was not a great way to go.
In short, Harry was grateful and Draco was smug.
"Thanks, I owe you," Harry had managed to wheeze as he pushed himself up off the dirt.
"Yeah? Well then you can start by pulling your knife out his body," he had said with his nose wrinkled in disgust.
"You heard me."
And with those words the gift was passed and accepted in a not so conventional way, but no one was complaining.
Harry had given him a look then did the dirty work, grimacing. "Now I know why you never got into this field."
"Potter, I'm a businessman. I'm tired, I'm filthy, and my robes, which may I remind you cost more than your flat, are completely ruined. Now, let's find Weasley and get the hell out of here."
Harry held back a smirk as the memory faded. The station had now switched tunes to something even more upbeat. Harry's fingers went mad. Then he noted the disgruntled looking old man with a lazy eye glaring in his direction. Harry stopped his drumming and met the man's stare.
With gnarled fingers, the man grasped a steaming red mug in his shaking hands, took a long and thought sip, then nodded as if in greeting and went back to his paper.
Strange Harry thought and decided to take a leaf out of the old man's book. He took the paper that sat on the seat across the table and opened it. The waitress came with his mug (it was green) and left. He turned the page, lifted the mug to his lips and took a sip.
Oh, that was nice.
He'd have to tell Ron about this place. The coffee was fantastic. He brought the gigantic mug to his lips once more, eyes darting across the page. The bell chimed. Senses open to his surroundings, he was fully aware of the new customer taking a seat at an empty table two tables across from him and to his left.
The waitress gracefully glided over to the table. "Hey there, back for more?"
Harry turned the page and faintly heard the newcomer answer, "Well you know that I just can't get through the week without at least one cup."
"A week? Some people come here everyday, dear."
"If only I had the time."
"Yes please, Rosie. Thank you."
The paper shuffled in his hand as he turned it over with a sigh. The news just wasn't as interesting without the pictures moving. He took another sip of the strong liquid and felt it slide down his throat with a pleasant warmth. It was almost as good as butterbeer. Almost.
Suddenly bored with the article before him, he let his eyes drift and land on the woman who seated two tables away from him and to his left. The waitress was back and she set a cool blue mug on the table.
"Here you are, love."
The Woman looked up at her and her features lit up in a bright smile.
Harry's mouth went dry.
"Thanks, Rosie," the Woman said still smiling. "You have no idea how much I need this right now."
"My pleasure, darling. You're later than usual, you know. I was expecting you to be here at least an half past three."
The Woman let out a heavy sigh in response then said, "Yeah, I had some extra things to do before the conference."
"Did a little shopping too, I see," Rosie pointed out and the Woman glanced at the gigantic bag that sat beside her on the seat. That smile lit her face up once more and Harry stared, not blinking.
"Oh, that. I just got it about oh, five, ten minutes ago actually. It's for my friend's son. He's turning eleven this Saturday."
"Let me guess, those are books," Rosie said with a wry smile.
The Woman let out a laugh in answer and Harry's lips twitched in a small grin at the sound.
"Why, however did you know?"
Rosie winked before heading over to another table and answered, "Magic."
This was met by an incredulous arch of an elegant eyebrow, but Rosie just laughed and was gone. The Woman only smiled to herself, shook her head and drew her attention to her papers once more. It was then that Harry recognized where he had seen her before. She was the woman from earlier who had stood outside and blocked his view. Why he had never noticed her then was beyond him. No matter. He noticed her now and my, did he like what he noticed.
On an average day, his eyes would've passed right over the Woman. She didn't look to be his type, but this time lady fate had decided to pull away the curtain unveiling a smile. It lit her plain features, which after a second and a third glance, he found to his surprise, weren't so plain. Her hair, though bushy, had a mesmerizing wave to it and it flowed down past her shoulders in a mess of curls. Her eyes though plain brown, sparked and shone when that smile curved her lips.
He wondered what she was reading. He wondered what her name was.
Propping an elbow on the table, Harry brought his mug to his lips and with his other hand he idly turned the page of his newspaper. He did all this without taking his smouldering eyes off the Woman. She was now muttering to herself as she crossed out something and scribbled something else. He watched her hand dance across the sheet, then drop the pen and pick up the large blue mug.
She leaned back with a faint look of satisfaction on her features as her eyes scanned the sheet. Strands of hair fell in her eyes and she nonchalantly pushed it back, all her focus directed onto the page. He watched her fingers tap gently along the side of the cup in beat with the music playing overhead and he wondered if she even noticed her actions.
Harry continued to watch intrigued by this strange Woman who seemed to have materialized out of thin air and was shaped and moulded just for him.
The bell chimed, striking through the music and from the corner of his eye, he spotted a head of shocking red. Harry spared one last glance at the Woman who was once again attacking the sheet with her pen, before tearing his eyes away and raising them to meet his friend who had a sheepish grin on his face.
"Saw you in here through the window. Sorry I'm late," he said taking a seat across from him.
Harry nodded and shrugged; Eyes, with a mind of their own, shifting to look at the Woman once more.
"So," Ron sighed and rubbed his hand together as if agitated or nervous. "you wanna go?"
"Erm," Harry still had his eyes on her. "Why don't you grab a drink first? They're not bad."
Ron glanced out the window at the shop across the street then looked down at Harry's cup. "Looks like I could take a swim in that."
"Yeah, the mugs are big but the coffee's great."
"Coffee?" Ron said dubiously, but Harry had already flagged down the waitress and ordered for him.
When Rosie placed the red mug on the table, Ron said his thanks and she bobbed her head and grinned at him fleetingly, her eyes blinking furiously in recognition. It was the hair. Ron liked to think it was his dashing good looks and irresistible charm. All that aside, Rosie left the table rather flustered at having been so close to both Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.
Ron felt a small twinge of childish satisfaction which he quickly brushed away with an inward laugh. It was weird being recognized in a Muggle café. His eyes though continued to follow Rosie's path along the tables for a moment. "Now she's cute," he pointed out.
"She's also married," Harry said with a wry grin.
Ron glanced once more at the waitress with a furrowed brow, wondering how in the world he could have missed such a small detail. Sure enough, as she brought a hand up to reach for a cup he noticed the simple gold band that adorned her finger. He shook his head with a sigh, slightly disappointed with himself. He was getting rusty. He turned back to Harry.
"Yeah, but let's say she wasn't. Now there's a woman that you should go out with. Nice, friendly, hasn't got less brain cells than a gold fish."
Harry flushed and looked slightly annoyed. "Hey, they're not stupid."
Ron gave him a look. "Harry. Your last date didn't even know how to start a car," he said almost laughingly.
Harry scowled into his mug. "Well, she, erm, didn't need to learn."
"But she could've at least had the decency to observe. Or, hang it all, Harry! You stick the sodding key into the sodding hole. If she could shag, she could start a car."
Harry choked on his coffee and looked at his friend with laughter in his eyes. Soon the laughter tumbled from his lips and his shoulders shook in mirth.
"You're a dick."
"Truth hurts, mate."
Harry shook his head as and took in a deep breath as the laughter left him. The smile still lingered on the corners of his mouth and he looked out the window. Rain started coming down; first in a light drizzle then falling heavily, beating against the concrete.
Harry nodded and his face grew somber as he watched the torrent of rain beat against the glass. A child dashed from outside of a shop and into an awaiting car, hands over his head. A teenager walked nonchalantly, hands in his pockets down the sidewalk; the rain beat against his face. A business woman, umbrella in hand, passed him by glancing at her watch every few seconds.
"It's easier that way," Harry suddenly said; his eyes stubborn and hard.
Ron looked at him in pity. "No, mate. Doing that's not gonna make anything easier."
"Ron, you of all people know how dangerous it is to have any connection with me."
Ron nodded. Oh, he knew all too well of Harry's fear. Yes, fear, because that's what it was. Harry was afraid of having any connection with any member of the opposite sex. He was even slightly hesitant to make any friends with any fellow wizards apart from the ones he grew up with. Having any relation with Harry, be it intimate or friendly, put that person in danger. Which explained the reason for his small close knit of friends from Hogwarts, and why he only went out with women who didn't expect anything more than a mindless, heartless shag. No strings attached.
It was safer that way; safer for the woman if she wasn't involved emotionally. If there weren't any ties then there wouldn't be that one more needless life lost because of him. No one would be hurt. Did it matter that this way of living took apart his sanity with each woman he took to his bed? No. Why should it? After all he was Harry the great sodding Potter. Hero of all. The boy who lived and continued to live, albeit a lonely life, but as long as those he did care about and their families were safe and happy then so was he. In Ginny's opinion, Harry was a sad man who needed a proper woman. In Ron's opinion, Harry was an idiot. Period.
"You're mad. You can't shut out women forever, and when I say women I don't mean the all breasts, no brains bit. No no, listen. One day you're gonna meet someone and you're gonna freeze and you're gonna think, 'Fuck. That's the one for me.'"
Harry's eyes naturally drifted to the Woman sitting two tables away from him and to his left. She brought her blue mug to her lips. Harry swallowed.
Ron noticed his friend's attention focused on a spot behind him, and he turned then looked back at him with a cheeky grin.
"If you hold her, she's not gonna disappear."
Harry's eyes darted back to him in surprise and he tried to hide his slight embarrassment behind his mug.
"Piss off," he said. "I don't even know her."
Ron turned to look over his shoulder once more and the two of them noticed Rosie, who had walked over to the Woman's table. She said something and the Woman laughed in answer.
"Looks like our waitress knows her though."
Rosie walked away and Harry watched as the woman went back to her reading. Ron rubbed the rim of his mug then looked at him thoughtfully.
"Why don't you go over to them, use the old Harry Potter charm and maybe get a name."
Harry shot him a sour look. "Don't you have a ring to buy?"
"You're right. And you're lucky that I'm a good boyfriend, or I would've gone and asked for her name myself."
Harry shook his head in disbelief as he stood and dug into his pocket for change.
"You're just worried that Luna will propose before you do."
Ron grinned and pulled out some coins from his pocket. After double checking that they were indeed Muggle currency, he tossed them onto the table saying, "Can't let her beat me to it now, can I?"
Harry nodded his farewell to the waitress as she passed them and Ron started talking to him about the ring he had seen earlier last week at the shop. Harry nodded, half listening. He glanced at the Woman as they passed by her table; half hoping that she would look up at him as he passed by.
Her eyes remained glued to the pages she had on her desk, her lips mumbling the words scrawled on the paper.
Feeling slightly put out, Harry followed Ron out the door and onto the street.
"This way," Ron nearly shouted over the storm and Harry motioned for him to go on. Ducking his head under the pouring rain, Harry followed Ron down the street.
In the days that followed Harry continued to haunt the café; eyes looking at the book in his grasp, but not really focused on the words that blurred on the page.
He found that she would stop by every Wednesday at 3:32pm; always taking the same seat; always with a book clasped in her delicate hands or clutching a folder with sheets of paper.
She would order a coffee. Decafe. Large. He'd watch intently as she'd take the gigantic mug in her hands and bring it up to her lips, taking a careful sip of the steaming liquid.
And he'd wonder: were her lips as soft as they looked? Was her kiss a delicate feather light touch that seared and marked another as her own?
His gaze would drift and linger on her slender fingers, clasping the mug gently in her hands and he could almost feel them running through and burying themselves deep into his hair; clutching at his robes, nails grazing across his skin.
He took a shaking breath and brought his mug to his lips taking a hearty swallow. The scalding liquid burned a path down his throat making him choke and cough, and all heated thoughts became wisps of smoke and ash as he cleared his throat. His mind told him to push the mug away, get up and walk out of the café, and put as much distance between him and temptation. His legs thought otherwise. So he did the only thing any man would do in such a situation. He ordered another coffee.
"Erm, excuse me, miss?"
"Anything you want, sir?"
"Er, yeah. Can I have another coffee please?"
"Sure thing. Same order?"
He opened his mouth to agree but something inside him felt rather daring at the moment and his eyes darted to the vision sitting two tables away from him and to his left. She was bringing the mug to her lips, her full attention on the book perched on the table.
"No, give me what she's drinking."
The waitress took a moment to take in his strange request and glanced at the Woman who was now scribbling furiously in her book, lips lingering on the brim of her mug.
"Alright," and with eyes full of laughter, she nodded and was gone.
Now why, on earth did he do that?
He smiled, feeling somewhat pleased with himself and yet not knowing why. He looked down at his hands that sat on his thighs then brought them up to sit on the table. Okay, now what? He looked at the book he had pushed off to the side. Well, that might certainly help in busying his hands.
He had just flipped the book open to a random page when Rosie came with his order steaming in a deep green mug. "Here you go," she said with a knowing smile. "It may be a mite too sweet for your taste, though."
"I think I can handle it," he said offhandedly and took a sip.
His eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.
Wow that was sweet. He managed to swallow the shocking mixture and grinned up at her.
"Yeah," he managed to breath. "This isn't too bad."
He took another taste, a small one this time and nearly gagged. He coughed into his hand.
Rosie let out an amused laugh. "Tell you what, you finish that, and I'll get you your regular." "
Yes, m'am," he said raising his cup to her.
"Oh, none of that. You're here often enough to loose the formalities. Call me Rosie. I'll be back with your coffee."
When she was gone, Harry just stared at the mug on the table. It sat there and mocked him.
He licked his lips as he prepared himself for another deadly onslaught to his taste buds and he brought the cup to his lips. He swallowed. Then he blanched and swallowed some more. There was a tinkle of laughter that came from the table two tables away from him and to his left. He looked up and the Woman was staring at whatever she was reading. Her shoulders shook as her silent laughter overwhelmed her.
Must be some funny stuff. He thought as he gripped the cup tightly in his hands and brought it to his nearly trembling lips.
This was what she drank every time she came here.
He took a swallow.
This was what she tasted like.
He sipped some more.
tongue shriveling sweet.
He wanted more. So he watched her, and he drank her, and he took his fill until he was brimming with her sweetness. Overflowing with her taste, and bursting with the aching need to touch her. To talk to her; hear her voice; have her eyes settled on him; to know her name.
His ears noted sharp clicking sound of approaching footsteps and he casually lowered his eyes to his book.
"Wow, I guess you did need a bit of a change," Rosie said eyeing his now empty cup.
"I was just thirsty."
"Well, I hope you're still thirsty because I've got your usual right here." And she set another mug on the table.
He rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes itching to glance at the Woman whose taste still lingered in his mouth. Lord, he needed to get out of there. He was going mad.
"Yeah, thanks but, erm, you don't mind if I can take that to go?"
"Oh, of course not, dear. I'll be back in a bit."
Harry scrubbed a hand over his face and waited for Rosie to return. He didn't dare look at the Woman again. He had to stop coming here. It wasn't good for him, or her.
Within minutes Rosie was at his side once more and he thanked her, left her a tip, and dashed out the door without sparing a glance at the Woman who was clearly oblivious to his existence.
Harry didn't know if he should be happy or hurt.