A/N: ...lol, hi! I know this may come as a shock to some, but, breaking news: I am not dead!
I know its been a while since the last chapter (understatement of the century), but hopefully this update begins to make up for it - at least slightly. The ending of this chapter really stumped me for a while, but hopefully I managed to pull it off well and hopefully you all enjoy it.
Bloody Mary - Part Three
Harry took a delicate sip from the cup in his hand and almost gagged. The once warm coffee that had been in the cup had now turned cold, and if it was one thing in the world that Harry could not stand, it was cold coffee.
With a sigh, he sat the drink down on the table in front of him and stared out the window to his right, watching the different cars ride past. He was sitting, alone, in a coffee shop he had found after hours of idle wandering; having nothing better to do, he strode inside and ordered the first thing he saw on the menu.
The coffee shop was quaint he supposed, or perhaps it was just the deserted atmosphere it exuded as it was nearing midnight and not many craved a cup of coffee at such an hour. Harry had stridden to the very back of the establishment and had taken a seat near the window, not wanting anyone to disturb him no matter how unlikely.
After talking to Remus and, again, breaking down into embarrassing tears, Harry had told the man of all his fears and insecurities, how he felt as if he was just a third wheel when around Sam and Dean who contributed nothing and was only tolerated because he was Sam's friend, and how, even then, Dean was disgusted by his magic and didn't even consider him part of the human race.
He went on to tell Remus how he was dithering about actually telling anyone else in the Wizarding World about what he had become in fear of facing any more rejection that he was sure would break him.
Remus had interrupted his blubbering with a stern, "Cub" and Harry froze, still sniffling and wiping his eyes. Then, Remus had asked a question which gave Harry pause.
"Do you trust me?"
Blinking and unsure of where that question had come from, Harry just stared. After a long moment, he stuttered out, "W-What? Y-Yes… yes, of course I trust you."
"Then wait," was all Remus had said, confusing Harry further.
"Wait on wh—"
"Just trust me and wait," Remus had stressed, looking at Harry with serious eyes. "Can you do that for me, cub?"
Still left without words from the spark of something in his father figure's eyes, he nodded, unable to do much else.
With a smile, Remus returned Harry's nod and once more repeated: "Wait."
And that was how Harry found himself wandering through town for hours on end, unsure if he should remain in one place and having no clue what he was even 'waiting' for. But, he had told Remus he trusted him and that was without a doubt the truth, so Harry waited.
He walked through town and waited. He found a coffee shop and waited. And while he loved the man with all his heart, Harry was nearing the end of his ability to just wait.
There was a sound of the coffee shop's doorbell jingling, breaking him from his thoughts and alerting him that someone new had entered, but Harry just continued to stare off into space, his eyelids heavy from exhaustion but feeling no desire to sleep.
"Is this seat taken?"
The voice was light and innocent enough, but with Harry's temperament as it was, he turned toward the person, intending to give them a quick brush off but the sight of them made him pause, his eyes growing wide.
The hair was shorter than he remembered and was pulled back into a messy ponytail, showing off an ovaled face dotted with freckles. The smile they displayed at his impersonation of a fish was also the same, and when they huffed and rolled their eyes as he continued to stare, he knew there could be no denying it.
"Her-Hermione?" he choked out, standing from his seat. He lifted a single arm—to hug her or to make sure she wasn't a hallucination, he didn't know—but it hovered in the air, uncertain, before he dropped it to his side.
Again, they huffed, but the humor in their face was unmistakable. "Yes, Harry, it's me," she said, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face that had escaped her hasty ponytail.
With that single action, all of Harry's doubts were blown away and he took a purposeful step forward and wrapped the young witch into a powerful hug. Hermione returned it with equal fervor, the familiar smell of parchment and books wafting from her, but there were other smells as well—unfamiliar smells that Harry didn't recognize but he didn't care because Hermione was here and he felt such a joy rising inside of him that he thought he would burst.
"Harry, not that I'm not enjoying this, but I really need to breathe…"
"Oh!" Harry released the girl and rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment, but she brushed it aside with a smile full of such love and happiness at seeing him, that all the dark feelings he had been experiencing moments prior were blown away. "Merlin, I've missed you," he said, so many different emotions contained in his voice.
"I missed you too," she said, the two of them lapsing into a comfortable silence that spoke of their contentment at once more being reunited. "Though you could owl a bit more."
Harry gaped and Hermione burst into giggles, Harry joining soon after, awed that she was forgiving him so easily when he had not contacted her in months.
"I'm sorry," he apologized after they had calmed down, sincerity lacing his voice.
The witch just shook her head and smiled. "Harry, don't. I understand that you were moving on with your life." Harry opened his mouth to deny it, but she barreled forward, cutting him off, "And I'm glad."
Stunned, it took Harry several moments to respond. "You… you are?"
"Of course," she smiled. "Wasn't that the entire point of you moving to America? To get away from everything that had happened in Britain?"
"But not you," Harry blurted before he could stop himself. "Not Remus and little Teddy and the twins. Not—"
"Harry, I understand," Hermione once again interrupted, giving a small shake of her head. "After the war… I know how hard it was on you and you alone; everyone was looking for you to be their leader, to guide them from the destruction of everything they knew and to build something even better for them. And you know what? You did Harry; you rose up to their unrealistic expectations and did exactly what they wanted you to, no matter how taxing it was."
"No, listen," she said, displaying her usual bossiness. Harry just smiled and nodded, feeling something inside of him unwinding with every word she spoke. "After you had given them everything you had, it's understandable that you would want to just… get away and recuperate. To go someplace where the Wizarding World's expectations couldn't reach you—even mine. To once more find yourself and be the person that you want to be, not anyone else."
Harry shook his head, not to deny anything she had said, but because he was just so blinded by what an amazing witch, person, and friend the woman before him was. He felt tears rising to his eyes and wiped them away, refusing to cry, even though for once they were tears of gladness.
"Thank you," he said instead, knowing that from what she had spoken that no matter what he had become, to her, that person would be Harry, her best friend and brother, and as he looked into her eyes, finding nothing but love and acceptance there, he knew that all of his earlier fears had been unfounded.
She laughed, but not unkindly. "No, I and the entire Wizarding World should be thanking you."
Unable to do much else, Harry once more swept the woman into his arms, this time lifting her off her feet and spinning her around, his exuberant laughter filling the empty air. Hermione squeaked at being lifted, about to open her mouth to demand he set her down this instant, but when the sound of his laughter reached her ears, so open and relaxed and free, she endured for Harry's sake, burying her face in his neck to stave off any dizziness.
At last Harry set her on her feet and she stumbled, a tad disoriented but Harry settled her with a hand on her shoulder. Hermione gave him a kind, though slightly nauseous, smile and placed one hand on her forehead while the other went to her stomach.
"I think I need to sit down," she said after a moment, wasting no time in plopping down at the table Harry had vacated.
Concerned, Harry sat across from her and frowned. "Mione? You okay?"
She tried to alleviate Harry's fear with a smile, but it soon gave way to a grimace as a hand raced to her mouth. In an instant she was on her feet and looking around wildly for a bathroom. Shocked, Harry pointed her in the right direction and could only watch, helpless, as she sprinted through the door he had indicated and closed it behind her.
Harry walked over and through the wooden door could hear the sound of retching. A stab of gilt pierced his heart; he shouldn't have overdone it when he had spun her around, but he had had no clue of how badly it would affect her.
When the sounds began to quiet, Harry gave a tentative knock on the door. "Mione? You okay in there?"
The sound of flushing and then the rush of a sink springing to life. After several moments, her weak voice replied, "I'm fine, Harry."
Harry frowned. "I'm sorry for spinning you around like that, I didn't—" The door opened and Harry paused. Hermione looked a little pale and there was a sheen of sweat on her brow, but she appeared to be soldiering through whatever aftereffects she was feeling and gave him a weak smile.
"It wasn't your fault Harry; trust me." She began walking back toward their table and Harry followed, still sputtering on about how he was just too caught up in the moment and how it was dumb of him to just keep spinning her around.
They had returned to their seats yet still Harry continued, only this time in silence, his eyes practically pleading with her to forgive him.
She huffed. "Really Harry, I'm fine! I just need something to settle my stomach and I'll be alright…" She hummed and sniffed the air. "Oh, do you think they serve anything with no caffeine? I could really do with a drink. Maybe something broccoli flavored… with crème."
Harry frowned. "Uh… Hermione?"
"Hm?" she asked, sparing him a distracted look.
"Did you… did you just say you wanted non-caffeinated, broccoli flavored coffee… with crème?"
Hermione blinked, for a moment seeming to channel Luna Lovegood. "Yes. Yes I did. Doesn't that just sound lovely?"
"…N-no?" Harry choked out, wondering what was wrong with his friend. "Hermione, are you… are you feeling okay?"
Again, she blinked and her eyes widened as she seemed to come to realization. "Oh! Oh, Merlin, you don't know? I could have sworn I—or that Remus would… Oh Harry," she breathed, a look blossoming onto her face that Harry had never seen before. It was radiant, her joy seeming to exude from her very skin. "I'm pregnant!"
Harry's eyes widened and he almost fell out of his chair in shock. His eyes traveled down to her stomach which was hidden underneath the table where he now knew a life was blossoming. He was also slapped with the realization that Hermione had been experiencing morning sickness, as in Britain it was nearing sunrise, and it also explained her bizarre taste in beverages.
"Mione," he managed to choke out after several stunned moments, a grin blossoming onto his face. "That's fantastic!'
Again Harry stood to his feet and pulled the witch up with him, once more pulling her into a hug. This time however he was wary not to crush her or to spin her, as neither could be good for the baby.
"Merlin," he whispered, pulling away to look at her belly which, now that he paid attention, was perhaps a bit more plump than he remembered. "You're having a baby!" he enthused, overjoyed that Hermione was able to live such an—as Sam and Dean would put it—apple pie life.
It was exactly what he would want for his best friend, and to know that she was getting it… It made all of his past actions that much more meaningful, because had the war not been won, then… Harry didn't even want to think about it.
"You and Max must be ecstatic," Harry said, suddenly remembering her boyfriend. "Wait, he is the father, right?"
Hermione laughed and held up her right hand where Harry finally noticed a gold band on her ring finger that was adorned by a shimmering blue jewel.
"You're married!" Harry blurted, his eyes growing to the size of saucers for the third time that night.
"No!" she giggled, her gaze drifting down to the ring and her features smoothened at the sight of it. "No… It's an engagement ring. Even though Maxwell is from a pureblooded family, he still went out of his way to get down on one knee and propose! Right in front of a group of wizards who had no idea what it meant!" She smiled and stroked the ring with such a tender caress that Harry knew her love of her fiancé was genuine, and by the efforts Max went through in proposing, his feelings were true as well.
"Congratulations," Harry whispered, earning a bright smile for his words. "You deserve all the happiness in the world, and I wish you both the best."
She nodded. "Thank you, Harry. It… it really means a lot to hear you say that. And… and I hope you'll come to our wedding?"
Once more, Harry was thrown for a loop, although he should have expected as much. It still sometimes awed him that people could love him even half as much as he could love them, and each and every moment always seemed to come as a surprise.
"Of course," he said with conviction, feeling it was worth it just to see her exuberance increase twofold. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
In the end, Harry and Hermione ended up migrating to a small diner across the street so they—or rather, Hermione—could order some real food to satisfy their cravings.
Hermione ordered everything from broccoli covered in whipped crème to scrambled eggs sprinkled with chopped pickles. Harry himself just ordered a cup of coffee, his appetite taking a hit at the mere thought of eating half the things the witch had ordered.
While they ate, they caught up on what had been going on in their lives. Showing a surprising amount of intuition, Hermione strayed from asking him anything too personal, such as why he wasn't at Stanford or what he was doing in Toledo. Instead, they focused on Hermione and the things she had been going through, which suited Harry just fine.
At last, as Hermione was licking the last bit of crème from her fingers, Harry asked the question that had been plaguing his mind for some time, but he was too hesitant to ask.
"Hermione? Can I ask you something?"
She gave a distracted hum, a forlorn look on her face as she stared down at the empty plates before her.
"Not that I'm not overjoyed to see you again, but… what are you doing here?"
With a frown, she looked up at him, seeming to search his eyes for something. "I'm here for you."
"What?" Harry crinkled his brows together. "Why would you—oh… oh! Remus sent you, didn't he?" Harry didn't know whether he wanted to strangle the old werewolf or kiss him.
She nodded, her expression lightening. "Yes, he did. He said I should come see you as it would 'do you some good.' He woke Max and I up before the sun had even risen, and oh, you should have seen the look on Max's face, he was livid." At seeing Harry's bemused expression, Hermione tutted and pressed on. "Anyway, Remus said that I should visit you right away; I had to call in a few favors with the Department of Magical Transportation to do it, but I managed to get a Portkey that would take us to this town. After that, it just took a simple Point Me spell to find you."
Harry nodded, contemplating, when something Hermione had said gave him pause. "Wait a minute—us?"
"Of course," she said, flashing a bright smile, "Maxwell came as well!"
As if on cue, the entrance to the diner gave a small jingle and Harry turned, a frown already working its way onto his face. And of course, standing there in pristine burgundy robes was the brown-haired Ravenclaw himself.
Max spotted them and walked over, ignoring the odd looks the cashier gave him as he passed. He spared a barely-there smile for his fiancée before turning to Harry and staring at him with cool eyes.
"Potter," the man said by way of greeting.
"Max," Harry said, nodding.
Hermione beamed and scooted over to make room and the man sat before putting an arm around the woman and pulling her close. Harry wanted to find the little display cute, but as Max did it, he gave Harry a look the Gryffindor couldn't quite name.
"Did you check us into a hotel?" Hermione asked. Max just raised a brow, but that seemed to be enough of an answer for Hermione as she huffed and rolled her eyes.
"You're staying?" Harry asked, both pleased and disappointed all at once. He wanted Hermione to stay as he loved her like a sister, but Max… there was something about him that had always made Harry wary, and that feeling was almost two-fold after not seeing the man in years.
"If my honey wishes it," Max began, voice smooth as silk, "then yes."
Harry stared a little at the rather embarrassing pet name, but Hermione seemed to shine upon hearing it so he kept his disbelieving comments to himself. "I see," he said instead, plastering a smile on his face. "That's… good. Really good."
Hermione frowned, picking up on his odd behavior. "Harry…?"
"Nothing, it's nothing," Harry said, trying to bring his good cheer back to the forefront. So what if he had never gotten along with Max? Hermione loved him, and she was a good judge of character, so the least Harry could do was to not push the man away. Setting whatever grievances he had aside, Harry brought a smile to his face.
"So, Harry, where are you staying?" Hermione asked. And just like that, Harry's forced cheer was blown away and his lips twisted downward without his consent. Once more, he could feel her concerned gaze burrowing into the side of his turned face.
"I… I was taking a road trip of sorts with my friends—friend," Harry began, voice tight. "You remember Sam, right?" Harry had written to Hermione every week or so when he had first arrived in America, but as time passed, his replies back to her began to wane, but he had told her all about Sammy.
A small smile graced his face when he remembered how he had written to her of how he thought Sam was perhaps half-giant, as there was no way the man could be so tall otherwise.
"I remember him," Hermione said. Harry turned to look at her, and she gave him an encouraging smile. Next to her, Maxwell listened in as well, but his indifferent expression gave away nothing.
Harry coughed. "Well, after… after—" He darted a glance at Max. As much as he wanted to tell Hermione everything in that moment, including the death of Jess and his transitioning into a hunter, he just couldn't, not while Max sat stoic at her side. "Anyway… Sam has a brother… Dean, and Dean came looking for Sam because their father went missing."
He paused and chewed his lip while he tried to stem the overflow of emotions that washed over him. Maxwell narrowed his eyes the slightest bit, but Hermione just watch watched on with comforting silence.
Taking in a breath, Harry continued, "They decided they would look for him together, because their dad dabbles in some… shady business, and I decided to go with them..." This was where things got a bit tricky. If he were to give her the full story, that would reveal things to her that he didn't want Max to know—not yet at least.
Normally, he would try to phrase things in such a way so that Hermione would understand—at least with some thought—and to whoever it was that was listening in, it would seem as if he were speaking nonsense. But with Max, who was Hermione's equal when it came to intelligence, there was a risk that even he would come to the correct conclusion. And Harry had no way of knowing how the Ravenclaw would react.
Giving his head a slight shake, Harry pressed on. "…We traveled around a bit, stopping every now and then at places where we thought we might find out more about Sam and Dean's father, and along the way I… I grew fond of Sam's brother." Harry gave her a meaningful look, and her eyes widened as she understood the weight of his words. He refused to look at Max, as he could already feel the man's dark gaze burrowing into him.
"I-I can't say too much, as its… kind of personal…" He dared a glance at Max, and their eyes met for a brief second. Harry felt a chill roll down his spine and he looked away. "But, suffice it to say, we had a falling out and now… now I just…" Harry trailed off with a sigh, his gaze directed down at the table.
"Oh, Harry…" Hermione breathed. "I'm sure everything will work out… But, in the meantime, you're welcome to—"
Of course, the swift refusal had come from none other than Max. The man stood from his seat in an impressive billowing of robes and sneered.
"Maxwell!" Hermione shrilled, looking affronted.
"No," he said again, eyes still on Harry, who returned the stare in stunned silence. "I refuse to have this man anywhere near you while I sleep."
Harry's eyes widened even further as he began to understand the accusation being thrown his way. Hermione seemed to as well, as she stood to her feet, and despite being a good five inches shorter, seemed to stand nose to nose with the man.
"Maxwell Karvious-Silivander Darkfield! You apologize to not only Harry, but to me this instant!"
"No," Max hissed, not even sparing a glance at his fiancée.
Hermione stomped her foot in frustration. "Maxwell! I have known Harry since I was a first year and since then, he has became like a brother to me! And besides, if you hadn't noticed, I'm engaged to you! Oh, and if that wasn't enough, Harry doesn't even fancy women, so why can't you just—"
"No!" With an almost violent growl, Max turned on his heel and grabbed Hermione by the arm, pulling her along with him.
The witch hissed in pain as she was dragged and that was all it took for Harry to leap into action. He grabbed the other wizard by the shoulder and forced him around, making him release his grip on his best friend.
"You're hurting her," Harry said, a harsh edge to his voice. His eyes ware narrowed into slits, his feral expression reflected in Max's gaze. He kept a firm grip on the man's arm, applying enough pressure to bruise—just as he had no doubt done to Hermione.
"Release me at once," Max demanded, voice even and unafraid.
"Harry, please," Hermione whispered, cutting through the fog of anger that had clouded his mind.
Harry continued to stare at Max for several moments before gazing at Hermione and seeing the pleading look on her face. Grimacing, Harry did as asked and stepped back, his fingers twitching to move for his wand should it be needed.
Hermione placed a delicate hand on her fiancé's arm, drawing his attention at last. "Maxwell…" Something seemed to pass between them, something Harry didn't understand. But Max seemed to receive the message, for a dark frown crossed his face and he scoffed.
"We leave in five minutes… Without him." That said, Max turned on his heel, his robes billowing behind him in a manner that would make even Snape weep as he strode out of the diner to disappear outside.
Hermione and Harry both stared after him, neither speaking for several long moments. At last, Harry opened his mouth to speak, but was beaten to the punch.
"I know what that looked like," she said, staring down at the ground, "and I know what you're probably thinking…" Gaining courage, she finally met Harry's gaze, a fire in her eyes that made Harry listen. "Maxwell is not abusive and he usually isn't so aggressive… I know that might sound like the oldest cliché in the book, but he has never hurt me, and I know he loves me. It's just that—" She bit her lip and paused, her gaze drifting downward.
"You don't have to explain anything to me," Harry said, seeing how she was struggling.
"But, Harry… you… you deserve to know. You're my best friend."
This time it was Harry's turn to avert his gaze. "I'm the last person who should demand answers from anyone."
Hermione giggled, causing Harry to look at her in confusion. She just smiled, although there was a sad lift to it. "It seems like we've both been keeping secrets from each other…"
"I'm sorry, Harry, but… I have to go. But let's meet here tomorrow around noon for lunch, okay? I promise I'll tell you everything then."
"Hermione, what—?" Harry tried to make sense of what she was telling him, but she was already heading toward the diner entrance.
She threw a final glance over her shoulder.
"Tomorrow. Noon. Don't be late!"
The bell above the diner door jingled as she exited through it, and Harry stared after her, her parting words still ringing in his ears.
He wasn't the only one keeping secrets?