Return to Me (Chapter 7: *First* Date Blunders)

Catherine was dreaming again. Although this time it was different, no sinister settings invaded her mind, in fact, this dream was quite pleasant. Once again, she saw the woman, who she had come to think of as herself for some reason she had yet to comprehend, and she was sitting on a light colored wool blanket on the beach. There was an umbrella stuck in the sand next to her, underneath which sat a baby in a mobile car seat. The baby in it felt familiar to Catherine, it had a patch of brown hair on it’s head and brilliant green eyes. She watched as the woman made faces at the baby and talked to it in gibberish.

“Who’s my beautiful baby?” the woman cooed, taking the baby from the seat. “How big is my wittle Caty Cat?”

Catherine felt shocked to hear this, was this Harry’s daughter? At that moment, a familiar shadow fell over the woman and the baby.

“Well if it isn’t my two favorite women in the whole world!” Harry cried, swooping up his daughter, who shrieked in delight. The woman on the towel laughed. Harry grinned at her, and Catherine felt her heart melt at his smile. He sat down next to her and kissed her on the cheek.

“And how are YOU feeling today love?” he asked her, setting the baby on the blanket and putting his arms around her.

“I feel better than I have in ages…” the woman answered. She and Harry leaned in and kissed softly….

“Uhhh….” Catherine said, sitting up and wiping her eyes. “Why is it always the nice dreams that are interrupted?” she stretched, her long frame sliding down the bed, her arms hitting the headboard. She glanced at the clock, only five thirty. She had not gotten much sleep the night before, mostly out of the combination of excitement of her date with Harry, and the fear of having a horrible dream like the one she had had before. That morning when she had gone to work, she’d felt sluggish and tired; her nap had done wonders, as she felt completely refreshed. Grabbing her robe from the back of a chair, she walked into her bathroom and set the taps for a bubble bath. Grabbing her wand, she muttered the spell for a rose scented bath, and was about to step in when a knock sounded at the door. She groaned silently and tied her robe back on.

“So where is he taking you?” Grace asked when Catherine had opened the door.

“For the millionth time, I don’t know yet.” Catherine rolled her eyes. “Somewhere to eat.”

“Cool.” Grace replied, undaunted. “What are you wearing?”

“That I have no clue either.” Catherine admitted. Grace got that look in her eye that sometimes scared Catherine. “What are you planning?” she asked warily.

“Come to my room when you’re done.” Grace simply said. She turned and left the bathroom. Catherine stepped into the tub and laid back. She closed her eyes and inhaled the strong rose scent as she relaxed for a good half hour. She got out and dried herself off, then reluctantly headed for Grace’s room to see what she had in store.

“It’s about time.” Grace remarked. “Here, I bought this a few weeks ago, it would look perfect on you for tonight.” She held up a beautiful peach colored dress, it was strapless; the skirt fell to about 4 inches above the knee when Catherine held it up against herself.

“It’s gorgeous!” Catherine said. “For once, you actually picked out something that I like.” She joked. It was a known fact that Grace’s clothing tastes ran far skimpier than Catherine’s.

“It’s more your color than mine anyway.” Grace replied, looking at Catherine’s reflection intently. “Go now, go get dressed.” She winked at her.

Catherine smiled and went back into her own room. She pulled the dress on and was pleased to see how it flattered her figure. She cast the drying spell on her hair, pulling it up into a French twist that accentuated the curve of her neck. She fished around in her jewelry box and found a pair of diamond studs that she only wore on special occasions. After that came makeup, and after a few twists and turns in the mirror, she decided she was ready.

“Wow!” Grace said as Catherine stepped into the living room. “I hope he’s taking you somewhere fancy, you look gorgeous!”

Catherine blushed. “Thanks Grace.” She sat down in a chair; it was seven on the dot. “I hope this half hour goes quick.”

Meanwhile, a floor above, Harry was rushing around his flat trying to get ready.

“Where is my white dress shirt?” Harry tore around his room tossing things around. He finally located the shirt stuffed in the back of the closet, all wrinkled and crumpled into a ball. “Thanks for unpacking my clothes nice Ron.” Harry muttered under his breath as he tapped his wand on the shirt and it straightened out smooth in his hand. He pulled it on hastily, and then his black dress pants went on. He liberally sprayed cologne over his torso, and again attempted to pull a comb through his hair.

“Ouch!” he cried. “Forget this!” he threw the comb down and ran his fingers through his hair. ‘Talk about fighting a losing battle…’ he thought sourly. He glanced at the clock, seven fifteen. He took one last glance in the mirror hanging on the wall. His shirt was tucked in nicely, and he had somehow managed to put on a tie. His pants had the perfect crease down the center, and even though his hair was sticking out all over, his eyes were shining with excitement. He left the bedroom and strode down the hallway.

“Looking good Dad.” Caitlyn called from the living room as he passed by. He stopped and looked in on her.

“Thanks Caty Cat.” He smiled down at his daughter. “Are you all ready to spend the night over at Blue’s?”

“Yup.” She replied. She had her overnight bag sitting next to her.

“You don’t mind do you?” he asked. He felt bad leaving her a lot since they had gotten back, especially after he discovered how she had been feeling. Ever since they had their chat, she’d been a lot more receptive of the situation. He ruffled her hair affectionately.

“I hope you have fun tonight Dad.” She said. It made her happy to see her father in good spirits again. She knew how much he missed her mum; it had usually put a damper on his good moods.

“You don’t mind me leaving you here for a few minutes do you?” Harry asked her. “I have to get going in a moment, and Ron said he might be a bit late, he’s coming right from work.”

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. “Dad I’ll be fine home alone for two minutes.” Harry smiled sheepishly.

“Sorry Caty Cat. I know you’ll be fine.” He fixed a button on his shirtsleeve as he went to the kitchen and pulled out a box from Frieda’s Flower Shoppe in downtown Diagon Alley. Inside was a single white rose; Frieda guaranteed it to bloom for at least two weeks. He gingerly picked it up so that he wouldn’t smash it, and carried it from the bottom of it’s stem.

“All right I’ll come and pick you up tomorrow morning ok?” Harry called into the room.

“Okay!” Caitlyn called back. She giggled to herself as she watched her father rush out the door. Not a moment later she was startled as the fireplace whooshed to life and Ron stepped out.

“Hi Caty.” Ron said. “Did your dad leave?” he asked.

“Yeah, you just missed him.” She replied.

“Crap.” Ron muttered. It looked as if he’d have to wait till tomorrow to talk to him. Ron had found out some things about the curse Harry had mentioned to him, and needed to talk as soon as possible. “Wait for me just a minute while I leave him a note.”

Ron went into the kitchen and found a scrap piece of paper and a quill lying on the counter.

–Harry, found out about the curse, MUST talk to you as soon as I can, it’s VERY important! Ron –

Ron lifted his troubled eyes from the paper and placed it in a spot where Harry would be sure to see it when he got home. He forced a smile onto his face for Caitlyn’s benefit as he walked back into the living room.

“Ready?” he asked her. He took her bag, and then threw some more Floo Powder into the fire. Already a seasoned traveler, Caitlyn easily shouted the name of Ron’s house and he followed, troubled thoughts and all.

Harry was standing at Catherine’s door, taking a deep breath. He hadn’t felt this nervous about a date in a long time, he had gone out with women occasionally over the years, but the thought of Hermione always kept him from having a serious relationship with anyone else. He supposed one of the reasons he felt so anxious was because of the fact that he believed this woman was his beloved. Harry raised one shaky hand and knocked on the door. Immediately he heard a crash and some muffled laughter. A moment later, the door was flung open and a pretty blond woman was standing in front of him.

“I take it you’re Harry!” she said, holding out one hand. “I’m Grace, Catherine’s roommate. Unfortunately, she’s just taken a spill off her chair when she realized you were here, and I get to take her place!”

“GRACE!” a voice bellowed from the direction of the living room. Catherine appeared in the hallway, her face beet red and she was shaking her head at her roommate. Harry felt time freeze for a moment as he looked at her, the color of the dress she was wearing offset her skin tone so well, and her glossy hair was elaborately done. He felt underdressed next to her, she was gorgeous.

“I’m sorry…” she was apologizing as she stepped up to him. He finally shook himself of his daze and smiled back at her.

“That’s all right.” He said. He turned to Grace. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said, and shook her hand. She smiled back at him.

“I was just kidding before. You two have fun tonight!” she said, and pushed the both of them out the door.

“Wow.” Harry said, staring at the now closed door. “She’s certainly um…. energetic?” he looked at Catherine.

“You have no idea.” Catherine replied, rolling her eyes. “I hope I’m not too overdressed or anything…” she said, tugging unconsciously on the bottom of the dress she was wearing.

“Oh no, it’s fine…you look amazing…” Harry said. He held out the rose. “This is for you.”

“Oh, thank you!” she said, taking the rose. She lifted it up to her nose and sniffed it deeply. “It’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Harry smiled. “Frieda told me it should bloom for two weeks.”

“Ahhh…Frieda’s flowers are the best.” Catherine agreed. Harry took her arm.

“We should go,” he said. “I have reservations at eight at Moonspun Menagerie.”

Catherine was impressed. “How on earth did you manage to get reservations there?” she asked as they made their way outside.

“Oh, begged and pleaded…” Harry winked at her. “I also dropped my name….” They both laughed.

“It’s such a nice night.” She commented, looking up at the fading blue sky. “Sometimes in the evening I like to sit on the roof of our building and just look at the sky.”

Harry added this to his mental list of similarities. When she was pregnant with Caitlyn, he and Hermione had often sat on their rooftop and stargazed.

“Yeah, maybe we should do that sometimes.” Harry suggested. She agreed, and then in a surprising move, linked her arm through his. They walked the rest of the way to the restaurant in a comfortable camaderie, chatting all the while.

“Reservations under Potter.” Harry said to the maitre d, who lifted back his head and stared down his nose at them. His eyes flicked up to Harry’s forehead, and his own grew wide.

“Right this way Mr. Potter!” he said, suddenly friendly. Harry turned to Catherine behind the maitre d’s back and did a haughty impression, which sent her into hysterics. The man turned to find out what was so funny, and Harry quickly straightened up while she swallowed her giggles. They followed him to the back of the restaurant. Harry looked around and figured out just why it was so hard to get a reservation here.

The restaurant was very small and intimate, there were no electric lights at all, and everything was lit by candles. The tables were very spaced out, so that anyone who dined there would have almost complete privacy. The maitre d was leading them to a table that Harry deemed perfect for the two of them. It was in a corner, the chairs, rather than facing across from one another, were situated around the sides of the tables next to one another. Harry moved around to where Catherine was about to take her seat and pulled her chair out for her.

“Thanks.” She said, unused to having a gentleman around. Duncan had never been so chivalrous.

“You’re welcome.” Harry replied. The maitre d handed them a wine list and left the table without another word, he was rather miffed about Harry’s impression.

“So much for his tip…” Harry mumbled. Catherine smirked and scanned the list.

“What do you feel like having?” she asked. “I’ll get what you’re getting.”

“Well I do like Merlot, but I feel more like white wine tonight.” Harry replied. “But get whatever you want.”

Ten minutes later they were both sipping on glasses of pinot grigio.

“So tell me Harry,” she said, setting her glass down. “What were you like as a child?”

Harry bit the inside of his lip as she asked. ‘My childhood was mostly spent with you!’ his mind screamed.

“Well, I’m sure you’ve read about me some right?” he asked instead. She nodded. “Well, I lived with my aunt and uncle until I was seventeen, then I found my own flat when I graduated from Hogwarts, and I became engaged.”

“Engaged?” Catherine tried to keep her voice steady, but she was sure it trembled some. ‘Of course, he was married you dolt, he’s got a child!’ she thought to herself.

“Yeah. But things didn’t work out.” Harry said abruptly. “What about you?” he countered.

Catherine pressed her lips together. She opened her mouth, and paused for a moment. “Well…” she began. “I know this must sound strange, but I can’t remember anything about my childhood.” She looked up at Harry and noticed a strange light had come into his eyes.

“Really?” he said, almost excitedly.

She nodded. “The first thing I can remember about my life is waking up in a hospital. Grace had been taking care of me for…well, I don’t even know how long. I was a little beat up for some reason, and I had no recollection of who I was or what I was doing here.” She paused and looked off into space for a moment. “I just remember knowing I could do magic, that surprised me of course. Then Grace invited me to live with her, and well, here I am.” She said. “That’s my life, just the past ten years.”

Harry said nothing but stared at her. Their silence was broken by the arrival of the food they had ordered on their plates, and they both hungrily dived in.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Catherine asked him tentatively.

“What’s that?” Harry asked.

Catherine licked her lips before replying. “What was your wife like?”

Harry was completely taken aback. “What?”

“Well, you were married right?” she said. “What was she like?” she leaned her chin on her hand.

“Well…. um…” Harry tried to think. ‘What do you say in this situation?’ He wondered. “She was a very wonderful woman.”

“Why didn’t it work out between the two of you?” she pressed, not realizing what an impact her query was making.

Harry looked at her for a long moment before replying. “Actually, it didn’t’ not ‘work out’. She disappeared.”

Catherine stared at him, her mouth agape. “What?”

“She disappeared.” Harry said as matter of factly as possible. “She was on her way home from work one night, and she never made it back.” His voice was starting to tremble slightly. Ten years of missing her and it the pain could still be as fresh as the first.

“I’m sorry.” Catherine apologized. “I have such a habit of sticking my foot in my mouth…”

Harry shook his head and lightly touched her hand. “It’s all right. I don’t usually speak of her and as much as it hurts sometimes, I feel comfortable around you.”

She boldly took his hand in hers and squeezed it. “Same here.” They smiled at each other, and Harry brought his chair over closer to hers.

“I don’t want to talk about the past anymore.” He said.

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked, a bit coyly. He still hadn’t let go of her hand.

“Us.” He replied. Harry had no idea what brought on his sudden surge of desire.

Surprise flitted across her features. “What about us?” In response, he lifted her hand up to his lips and kissed it gently. She leaned forward; their faces were so close now that she could feel his breath. Catherine closed her eyes, she had been thinking about this moment all day….

“Is there anything else I can get you?” the nasal voice of a waiter brought them out of their almost embrace.

“No, we’re fine!” Harry snapped back. The waiter looked offended and yanked out a piece of parchment from his pocket, and then dropped it on the table.

“Nice service here.” Harry muttered, annoyed. He looked at Catherine, whose disappointment must have mirrored his own. “Shall we?” She nodded, and Harry dropped some Galleons on the table and they left.

“That’s the last time I go there!” Harry said. “For all the good things I heard about that place today…”

“Tell me about it.” Catherine replied. They walked along silently for a moment, and then Harry wrapped his hand around hers, lacing their fingers together.

“Well, we didn’t get any dessert. You like ice cream?” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of Florean Fortescue’s.

“Do I like ice cream?” Catherine replied. “That’s like the understatement of the century.”

Harry chuckled. “Ok, do you LOVE ice cream?”

“Chocolate. It’s got to be chocolate.”

They entered the ice cream shop, where they got a number of stares due to their fancy clothing.

“Cone?” Harry asked her.

“Oh, yes please.” She replied.

Harry got her a chocolate cone, and for himself he ordered a peanut butter, chocolate and peppermint flavored ice cream on a cone.

“You are far more adventurous than I am.” Catherine said, licking her cone.

“Want to try?” he asked, holding it out to her.

“No thanks.” She held her cone out to him. “You?”

“Chocolate is boring.” He said.

“Are you calling me boring?” she teased.

“Maybe.” He said slyly, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Well then.” She replied. “I don’t’ think you want to know what I think about you, with those crazy flavors.”

“Oh really…” Harry said. He held out his cone threateningly as if he was about to put it in her face.

“No you don’t!” she cried, jumping away from him. “Grace will kill me if anything happens to this dress!”

“Uh huh.” Harry said, still moving in on her.

“Hey, back away Potter!” she warned. “I’m armed too you know.”

Grinning, he stopped. “Right right.” He said, taking a huge bite of his cone. “Okay, I won’t do anything. You look too nice in that dress for me to ruin it anyway.”

Catherine blushed and looked away, and they resumed their walking. Five minutes later, they had reached their complex, and Harry realized their evening was over far earlier than he wanted it to be.

“Thank you for everything tonight.” Catherine told him.

“Do you have to go in yet?” Harry asked.

“Well, I don’t want to. But I have to be at work at seven…so unfortunately I should probably turn in.”

Harry nodded reluctantly. “All right.” He said. “But did you know you have ice cream on your face?”

“I do? Where?” she asked, raising her hand to wipe it off. He caught it in midair.

“Let me.” He brought his face down near her face and brushed her cheek with his lips. “You have some here too…” he kissed the other side as well. “And I almost missed a spot…” he said, bringing his index finger up and gently touching her bottom lip. His lips were just barely brushing hers….

“Catherine!” a loud voice interrupted them. “What the hell do you think you are doing?”

Catherine jumped back with a gasp; her heart sank into her feet when she realized who was in the hallway with them.

“Duncan what do you want?” she said, glaring at him.

“Who?” Harry asked, bewildered.

Duncan ignored Harry and focused on Catherine. His short blond hair was sticking up in spikes and his lanky body was heaving up and down in the wake of his anger. “What are you doing?” he asked again.

“It’s none of your business Duncan!” she snapped. “You should leave!”

“What’s going on?” Harry asked her.

“Nothing.” Catherine replied angrily. “Duncan was just leaving.”

“No I’m not.” Duncan said heatedly. “What do you think you are doing with another man? You’re mine!”

“I am not! You cheated on me!” she yelled. Harry put his hand on her shoulder.

“I think you’d better leave.” He said to Duncan.

“Stay out of this, asshole.” Duncan snapped. He grabbed Catherine’s arm and pulled her roughly towards him.

“HEY!” Harry roared. He tried to pull her back, but Duncan pushed him against the wall hard, and Harry saw stars for a moment.

Duncan shook Catherine. “So this is how it is now, is it? You, being a slut!” Catherine’s mouth opened in shock, and she reached back her hand and slapped Duncan’s face. A stinging red mark appeared where she had hit.

“Bitch!” he snapped, pinching her upper arm. “You don’t EVER hit me!”

“HEY!” Harry roared again, finally regaining his senses. “GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY WIFE!” the sentence slipped out before he had a chance to stop it.

Both Catherine and Duncan stopped their struggle and stared at him.

“What?” she was the first to recover.

Harry swallowed hard. “I…. uh…”

Catherine took this opportunity to push Duncan away from her. “Get the hell away from me Duncan. If you ever come near me again, I swear I will hex you from here till next Tuesday, and that’s a promise.” She pulled her wand out of her purse to prove her point. Duncan, being the weakling that he really was, stumbled away and almost fell down the stairs trying to get out of the building. Seeing that he was gone, Catherine turned back to Harry.

“I don’t suppose you’d mind telling me what that little outburst was all about?” she asked.

“I can’t.” Harry said.

“Why not?” her voice was becoming very controlled, which was not a good thing.

“Because…I just can’t.” Harry’s eyes pleaded with her to understand. “It’s just not the right time yet.”

“Yes it is.” She insisted. “You called me your wife. Funnily enough, you just told me less than an hour ago that your wife disappeared. So tell me now, why did you say that?”

Harry opened his mouth to explain, but no words came out.

Catherine nodded. “I see how it is.” She stepped by him and took out her keys. “I think this is goodnight then, don’t you agree, Mr. Potter?” her brown eyes had turned cold.

“Please don’t.” Harry heard himself. She ignored him and unlocked the door, stepped inside, and slammed it shut.

Catherine stood in the darkened hallway and tried to steady her breathing. She had never felt so infuriated in her life at anyone. She threw her purse down on the table and walked into the living room and snapped the lights on.

“Oof…” Grace said. She rolled off the couch; rather, she rolled off the person who was on the couch. “Cath?”

“Sorry.” Catherine said shortly. She turned the lights back off and stalked down the hallway, slamming the door to her bedroom.

“Who was that?” Justin Finch Fletchley asked as he pulled his shirt back on and tried to wipe off lipstick smears from his face.

“My roommate.” Grace replied. “I’ll be right back.” She patted his shoulder and walked down the hallway.

“Cath?” she knocked softly on the door. “What’s wrong?” When she got no answer, she tried to open the door, but it was locked. “Catherine!” she called again.

“Just leave me alone.” Catherine called out dully.

“No.” Grace replied. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to talk now.” Catherine replied. Grace nodded, even though she knew Catherine couldn’t see her.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Goodnight.”

Harry let himself into his flat and tore off his tie. He flung it into a corner then stomped into the kitchen.

“Fucking idiot!” he cursed himself. “How could you have been so stupid?” He pulled on his hair hard and swore again. Placing his hands on the counter, he saw Ron’s note.

“Found out about curse…. must talk as soon as possible …” he read to himself. He sighed heavily and dropped down into a kitchen chair. “I hope Ron has good news.”

Harry got back up and made his way into the bedroom, where, much like the last night, he flopped down and stared at the ceiling.

“Why did everything have to go wrong?” he muttered.


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