Harry was nervous. More nervous than he had been in a long time. Walking into the restaurant he took a few deep breaths before his eyes landed on Margaret, who was in the corner doing some paperwork. Harry cautiously approached and was about to say something when Margaret waved her hand and spoke.
“Sit. Almost done with this.”
Harry sat and for a moment felt like he was all of eleven years old again and his first train ride to Hogwarts. Margaret was furiously writing away, then she closed her books and set everything aside.
“Now, I want to know if you would like to learn more.”
Harry was taken aback a little by the woman’s straight forward approach.
“Oh, um, well I’m not even sure what you want to hire me for.”
“I want to expand. Currently, the restaurant only does a dinner service from 4:00 to 11:00 pm. We do well enough and it keeps the place running smoothly. But, I want to add an early breakfast. Coffee, pastries, etc. And, I want to have some signature desserts during the dinner service. Currently, I am bringing in things from an outside bakery, but I want our own. Things that reflect the feel of the place.”
“And you think I can do that?”
“Harrison, the depth of your knowledge for being self-taught is astounding. I think, in the right environment, you could flourish. Maybe even expanding to making specialty items for our clientele or, even putting you on my catering team. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
“I see potential in you, Harrison. The question is, do you want the opportunity and do you want to learn.”
Harry was a little rocked by what Margaret was telling him. When he had taken his OWL’s at Hogwarts he had done well, but he was nowhere near Hermione’s league. He had thought he wanted to be an Auror for so long, but he just knew he wasn’t ready for more fighting and hunting. Harry stared at the table a moment not knowing how to process the emotion that sat in his gut like a rock. No one believed in him like that, maybe one or two of his friends, but none of the adults around him had given him this kind of acknowledgment or support.
“I take it from your expression that not a lot of people have believed in you, have they?”
Harry moved his head from side to side as if to say no he hadn’t.
“You have are a talented young man. I would hate to see it wasted.”
Harry took a deep breath before he spoke. He had questions, oh so many questions were on his mind. When he looked Margaret in the eyes he saw quiet patience behind the grit and steel of the woman.
“You only came into the shop one time. How do you know anything about my baking.”
Margaret laughed and leaned back against the banquette she was sitting on. She waved over one of her employees, Harry thought a waitress maybe.
“Thea, could you please bring us some tea.”
“Right away, Chef.” The young woman walked away and Harry couldn’t help it as he watched her walk away. She was very pretty, and Harry mentally slapped himself for momentarily objectifying her.
“Two of my chefs, Jade and Liliana are frequent customers of yours. They often would bring something back and it was always more delicious than the last. Jade is quite fond of your sweet biscuits, while Liliana prefers the cakes and puddings. They would always have me try whatever new things you conjured up for that day.
“The herbs and spices you use, it’s quite the delicate touch. Except for those truffles, you made last month. I think you called them, El Diablo’s Inferno? They were quite hot, but the flavors fascinating. Chili, curry and Chocolate are not something I would have ever put together.”
Harry’s smile stretched across his face as Margaret talked. He felt the heat on his cheeks as she spoke about his lemon cream cheese bars or the many cakes he experimented with.
“What I do here is fresh, seasonal dishes. What’s known as farm to table. It’s something I’ve believed in since starting out in the restaurant business. I’d like to work with you on seasonal ingredients for desserts. Plan things out till the end of the year and we can adjust as we go along. I want to bring in a dear friend to help you fill in the gaps of what you’re missing and what you can do. It will be hard work. You’d have to be here early in the morning to get the day’s offerings done and out of the way so the chefs could come in and start prep work for dinner.”
“I’m not averse to hard work, Ma’am. I like to work. To keep busy and early is good for me.”
Margaret waited a moment as Thea came back with the tea service for Harry and Margaret.
“Good. And, if we do go ahead with the early breakfast, you might have to be here even earlier.”
“That isn’t a problem.” Harry wasn’t sure what he was agreeing to, but he felt like he was being given an opportunity that he can’t say no to.
“Good. Why don’t we start say, in two weeks?”
Harry’s head was spinning, he felt something inside him stirring. Almost like this was the right direction for him to go in, his magic felt like it was pushing him to accept. Harry, on a very deep level, had trusted in magic since he entered the magical world. He was trying hard to trust it again and this might be the first time since the war that he felt compelled to trust his magic.
“All right. I…I think I want to accept.”
“Good. Then two weeks from this Monday be here at 4:00 am. And, Harrison?”
“Call me Margaret, or if that makes you uncomfortable, Chef would do.”
Harry smiled and nodded before he spoke once more.
Margaret softly chuckled then waved Harry towards the door. As he left, Harry wondered once more what he had done to get such an opportunity, but even he knew it would be stupid to turn it down. Even if it was something that he found he didn’t like after all, he could at least say that he tried.
“So, we’ve glossed over some things that we should talk about. You avoid any questions concerning your life with the Dursleys. I believe that some of your nightmares are fueled by unresolved issues stemming from that.”
Tony’s unrelenting stare had Harry squirming a little in his seat. This was a topic that he had hoped to avoid altogether but knew he couldn’t.
“What do you want to know?” Harry glared at Tony, the challenge in his eyes and he knew it.
“Harry, the only way you are going to deal with what happened to you as a child is to talk about it. That’s one of the reasons you came to me, remember?”
Harry rubbed the back of his neck getting his thoughts in order.
“I don’t know what you want to know. They were horrible people and nothing I did, nothing I said changed anything.” Harry couldn’t help feeling frustrated. He wished he could avoid talking about those years, they were too close to the surface, too recent and he didn’t really want to talk about if he didn’t have to.
Watching the patience in Tony had Harry sighing audibly, it looked like it was something he definitely was going to have to talk about.
“So you tried to tell someone?”
Harry looked out the window then turned back to look at Tony.
“I did, but Vernon always found a way around the social workers. I was just a bratty kid to them. He would even show them the room that I was supposed to be in. Put me in a set of clothes that actually did fit, and let me shower in the main bathroom. So, I learned to keep my mouth shut.”
Tony showed no emotion, but Harry could tell, after spending months with the man, that there was tightness around his mouth and eyes.
“Do you want to know about living in a boot cupboard? Or how about the fact I was a practical slave to those bastards? Tell me, Tony, how detailed do you want me to get? The yelling, the hidden bruises, the constant verbal abuse?” Harry shoved off the couch he was sitting on and paced. Placing a hand on his abdomen he felt sick to his stomach as old hurts, old resentments flared up inside of him.
“Tell me about the day you got your Hogwarts letter. You had brought it up in our first session and we haven’t revisited that.”
Harry paced a few more minutes in front of the couch before he finally sat down and told Tony about going to the zoo, the snake incident where Dudley ended behind the window of the enclosure. How the whole day had been about Dudley, and even though they got to go to the zoo, it was never about Harry. Then the letter, running, Vernon telling Harry the truth about his parents, everything. He went into more detail because once he started talking he couldn’t stop. Everything started to pour out of him, even requesting staying at Hogwarts over the summer and being denied.
“I didn’t understand at the time, but I also didn’t question it either. I trusted Dumbledore that he knew what was best. But, eventually, I knew it was all bullshit.” Harry practically spat.
“And that makes you angry.”
“Of course it fucking does. If I had people on my side, if I grew up in a loving home and knew what the hell I was doing, and people who loved me maybe I would have been stronger.” Harry almost curled up into himself as he voiced some of the hard truths he had come to accept in the months after the war. “Maybe I could have stopped him sooner and people I cared about wouldn’t have died.”
Harry felt Tony watching him very carefully. Leaning forward, Tony gentled his voice as he began to speak.
“Harry, what happened to you, everything that happened to you wasn’t your fault. And, you’re right. If those things had have happened, you would be in a different place right now. But none of us can go back and change our past, as much as we wish it to be. All you can do is move forward.”
Harry wiped his face after he was aware of the tears that were falling.
“Have you ever read your parents’ will?”
Harry shook his head as he kept his eyes on his knees that he had pulled up onto the couch and wrapped his arms around.
“No. What good would it do now? I know Sirius was my Godfather and supposed to take care of me, but even he let me down.”
“How did he let you down?”
“He should have stayed with me!” Harry yelled as he pulled his knees closer. “He went off and left me alone. Left me with my dead parents. If he had stayed…”
“You believe your life would have been different.”
“Wouldn’t it have?”
“I don’t know. Not even you can know that. Yes, some parts of your life would have been different. Maybe he would have been a good parent, maybe he wouldn’t have. You don’t know and you can’t let wishing for something that is never going to happen rule your life.”
Harry knew Tony was right. All the wishing in the world wouldn’t change his past, no matter how much he tried. He would always have a part of himself that grieved for what could have been, but he knew that line of thinking was dangerous.
“I know I have to let it go. I know I’ve grieved Sirius’ death for too long. But it’s hard.”
Tony nodded and wrote in his notebook.
“Yes, it is hard. There isn’t a time limit on grief, Harry. But, you can’t let that grief rule you. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting, or that you don’t care, it just means that you move on.”
“How have you been sleeping?”
“Better. Still not great, but better.”
“How much magic are you expelling?”
Harry looked confused while he pondered the question.
“I…I’m really not using much magic.”
Tony set the notebook aside and once more leaned towards Harry.
“Magic is part of us, Harry. If it isn’t used, the possibility of accidental magic increases. I think some of your sleep issues is you have too much magic building up inside of you. You need to use it, not bottle it up inside.”
Harry was tired of frowning, but it was an almost inevitable thing when he had sessions with Tony.
“So, like if we don’t exercise our bodies how things can go wrong.”
“Something like that. Try small things for now and work your way up. I’m not saying you have to rush back to the Wizarding World, but you can’t hide from your magic, Harry. It’s a vital part of who we are as Wixens.”
“Yeah, all right.” Harry resigned himself to bringing magic into his life more, but knew it was going to be hard for him at first.
“I also think you should have your parents will read. Knowing what it is they wanted for you might hurt at first, but I think it will help resolve some of those underlying fears you still hold onto from your childhood.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Something else you might want to think about doing is having the Goblins do a full health scan on you. Since you don’t want to show your face in the Wizarding World, they would keep your secrets close, Harry.”
Harry had thought about it, many times he just wasn’t sure what good it would do now. But that line of thinking was part of what made him feel so stagnant.
“Yeah, all right. I think you’re right.” Harry didn’t make solid plans, but he would seriously consider Tony’s suggestion.
“Good. Same time next week, and keep up will all of your homework. You’ve made incredible progress, Harry.”
“Thank you, Tony,” Harry said his goodbyes and took his journals back. There was a lot he needed to think about over the next week.
Harry saying goodbye to Ansel was a bit teary, but he would never admit it. Ansel made him promise to stop by and Harry enthusiastically agreed. He also agreed to keep supplying Ansel with baked goods for the shop until he could find a replacement.
Harry decided to leave a week early to spend some time with Teddy at Neville and Luna’s place. Teddy loved having Harry there and when the boy sported Gryffindor red hair for the whole week, it made Harry laugh.
“That is a good look on you, Hadrian James.” Luna laughed as she flopped on the couch next to Harry.
“What is?” Harry laughed as he tickled Teddy, who was giggling so hard he started to hiccup. Harry pulled back and reached his hand out to take the glass of American style lemonade Luna had made. Neville had planted some hearty citrus trees in the back area of their property and they were just getting in their first fruits.
“That laugh. It’s good to see and hear you laugh.”
Harry took a sip of the lemonade and was surprised at the flavor.
“Looney, this is delicious.”
“A little fresh lavender. I’ve had good luck keeping out the wrackspurts, but it was hard in the beginning. They loved to be around the lavender. I think they are attracted to the pretty purple flowers, but naturally who wouldn’t be?”
Harry loved Luna like a sister and her belief in invisible creatures isn’t quite so crazy to him. Harry looked out the large window in the lounge and saw a Thestral family that had wandered onto the property in the early summer. Luna coaxed them into staying around and even though Harry sometimes got a melancholy feeling around them, Luna seemed to have a way with them.
After learning that Thestrals were real, Harry wasn’t going to doubt Luna’s love of invisible creatures, even if he couldn’t see them.
“Of course.” Harry chuckled as he sipped at the lemonade.
“Hawwy,” Teddy stood and started to toddle off towards the window and the backyard. “Play.”
Harry stood up and moved to where Teddy was standing. He scooped the boy up in his arms and threw him over his shoulder making Teddy squeal. Harry laughed, then they all went outside.
Harry looked at the mix of magical and muggle toys that were in a large bin on the patio. Thinking about what Tony had said about his magic and not using it, Harry picked out a few things that needed magic to activate.
The first one was a brightly colored sphere almost like a small muggle beach ball. The difference was that to keep it in the air the user needed to give it a push of magic. Teddy had been showing more displays of magic other than changing his hair and all of the adults around him were working with him to control it.
“I’ll start it, Teddy, then you see if you can give it a little push, okay?”
Harry threw it up in the air and when it started to fall he flicked his wand and said a charm under his breath that changed the density of the air and lifted the ball up. It was an easy enough charm for most children to say, and the play wand Andromeda had gotten Teddy was just enough to help him channel.
Teddy tried the first time, but nothing happened. Harry gently encouraged him and they went at it again. Before long, Teddy was able to say the charm and keep the ball in the air. The two of them ran around, laughing, stumbling, and just being silly while they kept the ball in the air.
“Well then. That is a sight to see.” Neville had come out of his office to come to see what everyone was up to. Harry and Teddy were coming back towards the couple, tired from their play. Harry could just hear what the couple was saying.
“I don’t think he ever got to be a boy, Nev. It makes me sad.”
Harry was almost to the patio when the Thestral pony came galloping up to him. Teddy reached up and to pet the sparse mane of the pony. Harry reached out and scratched it’s bony head, though his heart broke a little that Teddy could see the creatures. Harry conjured an apple in his hand and the creature got excited by the treat, gently taking it out of Harry’s hand and trotting away a moment later.
Picking Teddy up, Harry walked the rest of the way to the patio.
“I’m going back to my place tonight. I need to get ready for my new job in the morning. But, I’ll stay for supper, just not dinner.”
“I’m proud of you, Harry.”
Harry felt his heart swell a little at Luna’s declaration. It still made him a little shy when others praised him, but he was learning to accept and believe what they told him.
“Thank you, Luna.”
“Come on then, let’s all have a nice supper. I have some chicken salad for sandwiches and lots of good veggies.”
Harry stayed a few hours more, enjoying the day with the people that had become true family to him. He had been searching so hard for something that he thought was never going to happen for him, that it took running away to find exactly that very thing he was looking for.
Later that night as he read in bed, Harry felt a kind of peace wash over him. Something he had not felt in years. He didn’t question it or fight it, and for the first time in more years than he could count, he had a dreamless sleep with no help of potions or magic.
The first few weeks with Chef Whiting had been hard work. The pastry chef that she had brought in to work with Harry was brilliant. He had learned more in six weeks under the man’s tutelage than he had working out the recipes himself. That wasn’t to say that it was easy, or that he didn’t make mistakes, but those mistakes didn’t send him into a panic like they might have done pre-Tony.
Harry was also a little jumpy at first with the noises that Chef Anders made. The clack of pans, the noise of the large mixer, ovens opening and closing seemed louder than they actually were in the wide-open kitchens. It took Harry some time to get used to the sounds, and to not jump and freak out that someone was after him.
When he had mastered puff pastry, Harry was ecstatic. His first palmiers might have been a bit overdone, but after a couple of batches, he got the hang of the light, crispy pastries.
Chef Anders had been impressed by what Harry had already known, and though the man was tough, demanding, and a bit acerbic, there was also underlying care to craft and to apprenticing young chefs that Harry was often overwhelmed by.
After mastering the puff pastry, some of the others were easy in comparison. Harry was quickly learning which ones were his favorites.
“Harry, lad. Ye’ve done an amazing job and I know I’m a bit rough, but ye’ve got talent, boy. I would hate to see it wasted.”
Harry felt the heat stain his cheeks at the compliments.
“I don’t think I have ta go over breads and the like. You already had that down. As for cakes, pies and other puddings, I canna teach ya anything there. Ya have a great palette for flavors. Now, how about we begin to make chocolates.”
Harry was excited about the next phase of his training. Chocolates were some of his favorite things to eat, he hoped he would love making them as much as he loved eating them.
“The first thing ya gotta know is how ta temper the chocolate. Once ya learn that the rest will be a walk in the park. Also, tempering gives ya the feel of the chocolate, and ya beginning to experiment, create yer own blends. Branch out and make some fantastic signature creations.”
“Sounds good to me, Chef.”
Chef Anders clapped Harry on the back and then they got started.
In between his lessons he baked for the restaurant, and for the tea shop. Three times a week he would deliver goods to Ansel’s shop, and every night he would plan out the weeks’ dessert menu with Chef Whiting. Since they were in the middle of spring and moving towards summer the emphasis was on all of the beautiful fruits that were showing up in the farmers’ markets.
Several times a week, at the end of Harry’s shift he would be handed a budget and set off to the local farmers’ markets for the freshest, and best fruits available. He would bring in herbs from the little greenhouse Neville had gifted to him and used those for his recipes. The restaurant was busier than ever with a late-night crowd vying to try the treats by the new young chef that Margaret Whiting had hired.
Harry was finding some minor fame, but this time it was born of his hard work and determination to succeed, not from something that was beyond his control. Some nights, a couple of the other chefs would come in and help, or just hang out, have coffee and make Harry something to eat. He was making new friends, the restaurant cultivated new talent and Harry felt like Margaret was creating a space that was more familial than the hard work it really was.
One chef Harry had started to get closer to was Jade Wollenstone. He was someone that Harry considered out of his league. The man was tall, not too broad-shouldered, had dark hair and golden hazel eyes. He was gorgeous in an almost old Hollywood way.
“Coffee, and come and eat your bangers, mate. You don’t look like you eat enough, you know.”
Harry sighed and left some dough to rise, while he had some puff resting in one of the fridges. He checked on the pies and cakes that he had in one set of ovens, then the time on the pastries. Everything looked to where he could take a break.
“What have you whipped up for me today, Jade?”
“Bangers, bubble, and squeak with some grilled toast. Coffee, then there is some tea steeping if you want a cuppa.”
Harry sat on a stool and tucked into his food with Jade next to him.
“You know you don’t have to take care of me. I can take care of myself.”
“Yeah, but you don’t. Someone’s got to make sure you have something good in your belly.”
Harry broke off a piece of the mashed potato concoction and made an appreciative sound as he took a bite. There was a reason that Jade was Chef’s current sous-chef. Harry could see the man opening his own place and it becoming a hit. His talent and good looks will get him far. Harry didn’t know what he wanted to do with this new talent inside of him. He wasn’t as confident or ambitious as Jade. He thought that maybe it’s the issues he is still working through.
“I was wondering, Harrison,” Jade started before taking a bit of his own sausage.
Jade leaned forward on the table and propping his head upon his hands, he tilted his head toward Harry, a small tentative smile on his face.
“I was wondering if you’d like a pint with me some night.”
Harry took a couple of bites of his food and tried not to freak out. The man he had been quietly crushing on wanted to go out with him.
“I’d really like that.” Harry finally spoke after taking a sip of his coffee. He wanted to ask if it was a date, or just two mates going out to the pub, but he didn’t want to make a fool of himself and interpretJade’s intentions incorrectly.
Jade leaned in more making Harry look at him full on. The hazel eyes were more gold than anything and Harry found himself a little lost in them.
“If you’re wondering, yes I want it to be a date. That is if you are at all interested. If not, it’s just a pleasant evening with two mates, yeah?”
Harry had to swallow hard then smiled slowly.
“I would very much like it to be a date.”
“Good. I’m going to kiss you now.”
Harry’s breath stopped when Jade gently cupped the back of his neck and pulled him closer. Their lips met in a not so chaste kiss. It wasn’t the first time Harry had kissed a male, but it was the first time he had kissed a male who knew what the hell they were doing. Harry moaned, then felt his ears heat up as Jade chuckled against his lips.
“Something for you to think about.” Jade’s smile also reached his eyes and Harry let himself fully enjoy the moment. Clearing his throat, he got off the stool and a moment later, the timer on his pastries went off. He heard Jade leaving with a parting remark of “Finish your breakfast, Harrison.”
Harry finished up with getting the pastry counter set-up for the new morning rush that the restaurant was seeing. It was working out much like Margaret had hoped it would. The fresh, high-end coffee with few frills, the pastries, organic fair-trade teas, all brought in people that were tired of the mass market coffee chains. They knew they weren’t going to stop people from going to those chains, as they were quick places to pick-up a cup of coffee. No, the market that they were doing well with was people who wanted good coffee that didn’t need to to be frapped, overly sugared, with fake flavors and sweeteners.
There was also praise for the pastries and breakfast items as well. Harry took a lot of pride in what he offered the public, and it showed.
“Harrison, I’d like to talk to you for a moment.”
Harry finished cleaning up his workstation, put the cakes away, pies in the fridge, and cookies, blondies and other treats in their proper containers, then went to go find Margaret in her office.
“You wanted to see me, Chef?”
“Yes, please sit.”
Harry sat, but was nervous as hell.
“Well young man, you have far exceeded my expectations. Stephen has greatly extolled your virtues on learning everything he has put to you. He is excited about the chance to work in chocolate with you. In fact, he is calling you a genius. I cannot deny the evidence in front of me that your talent has increased my business by quite a bit.
“What I want to know, Harrison is if you would like to try working on the savory side. I’m thinking two of the days that you don’t come in, I could put you on a station and see what you can do.”
Harry took his time to think about it. He enjoyed cooking for himself and often could be found in Luna’s kitchen cooking for the five of them, much to the dismay of Neville’s own house elf. Harry almost laughed when he thought back to the negotiations made between him and Izzy. But, did he want to try cooking professionally? What did he have to lose to try it?
“What if I don’t like it?”
“Then I take you off the line, but it won’t interfere with your other duties.”
Harry bit his lip and knew his whole life had been nothing but taking chances. Even at his lowest, he took a chance to better his situation, and now Margaret was giving him another chance.
“All right. But, I know nothing about doing that kind of cooking.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be trained, and you’ll have someone for the first couple of weeks helping you. I don’t just throw you all to the wolves, so to speak. I would like to keep my reputation if you don’t mind. But, you’re right it is a different environment, you won’t be working alone and you will be part of the brigade. Decisions are made quickly, the food needs to be done to perfection, so I am going to start you on a cold station. You would be responsible for the day’s prep work, then for orders as they are called.”
Harry felt his palms sweat and he wiped them off on his trousers. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for that kind of pressure, but he would regret it if he didn’t give himself the chance to try.
“Okay. I’m willing to try.”
“Good. Now get home and get some rest. We’ll work out the schedule for training when you come back in for your next shift.”
“Thank you, Chef.”
Margaret just nodded and Harry rose out of his chair scared out of his mind. But, it was that very fear that set his resolve to do the best job he could. Even if he failed at something, he could say that he tried.