Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Here ya go! See closing A/N for more info.
Chapter Two: A Family Vacation
The first weekend of Harry's summer vacation was spent hanging out with Ron, Percy, and Ginny. Saturday evening, A.J. stopped by for a little while and she and Percy disappeared for a couple of hours. Harry thought he knew what they were up to, but really didn't want to think too hard on it. A.J. was like a sister to him; really, they were closer to each other than they were to their own siblings, mainly because there was such an age-gap between them and A.J.'s sisters, and Harry's little brother and sister were still little kids.
As far as Harry was concerned, he knew he was starting to like looking at girls more than he used to, yet he wasn't sure how to talk to them. Hermione didn't count – she was 'one of the guys'. And, in all honesty, Ginny just wasn't someone he could look at like that. She was Ron's little sister, for starters. And though he could admire the way she stood up for herself, she was Ron's little sister. And Percy's. And the twins'. Even if he was interested in her that way, there was no way he was going to go that route. He valued the boys' friendships far too much to ruin it all by dating someone who he found only marginally attractive. Besides, she was already an inch taller than he was.
"So, what are you doing for the rest of the summer?" Ron asked, looking up from his pool cue. Harry was showing him and Ginny how to play.
Harry shrugged, "Well, we're plannin' on takin' a real vacation. Gonna be gone a whole month."
"Where to?" Ginny asked.
"Gonna go see the Braves play the Marlins in Miami, then we're gonna spend some time in Orlando. See Disney World, Epcot, Universal Studios. Mom said somethin' 'bout maybe headin' down to the Keys an' seein' an old friend of her parents who'd moved there when he retired. When we're done down Florida-way, Mom an' Dad said I could spend the rest of the summer with my godfather in London. The only thing I know for sure that Sirius an' I'll be doin' is goin' to the World Cup."
Ron and Ginny, who had been listening politely up until that point, seized Harry's last sentence and took off running with it. Much of the remainder of their brief visit centered on quidditch talk concerning the upcoming championship game, much to Percy's thinly-veiled amusement. When the Weasleys went back home late Sunday evening, both Ginny and Ron had plans on trying to get their parents to score tickets to the game, too.
Though Harry had only been home from Hogwarts for just past a week, he had managed to finish up all his summer homework already; what he hadn't had done in the day or two before Percy, Ginny, and Ron showed up to visit was rapidly completed in the intervening four days. His mom had told him that their vacation to Florida would be canceled if it wasn't done before they were ready to leave. Aside from a single trip to Oklahoma to visit Little Bird shortly after his mom and dad married, the whole family had never taken a real vacation. He was looking forward to seeing his and Dave's favorite baseball team play in person, and was also looking forward to exploring Disney World and the Epcot Center; actually, he wasn't sure which held the majority of his excitement.
He checked his calendar for the hundredth time that day, and found that it was still July first. They wouldn't leave until the next morning. Harry sighed and flopped into his armchair. Had his mom not expressly forbidden him from doing so, he would have had his suitcase packed three days earlier. At shortly past noon, Dave showed up in his doorway. "Hey there, Hare-bear. Your mom's got the last of the details ironed out an' sent me ta tell ya ta go ahead an' pack. Ya still got that list she made?"
Harry immediately sprang to his feet, "Sure do."
Dave laughed, "Aurie and them lists of hers… I think the one she made for the Penbrokes was thirty pages long." A.J.'s folks had agreed to housesit and take care of the horses until the Brewers returned from Florida.
"I'd believe it, Dave," Harry shared a long-suffering look with his uncle. "A.J. still ain't tellin' me what she's up ta, but I'm kinda glad she's doin' somethin' with her summer, else we mighta had ta bring her with."
Dave chuckled and readjusted his worn, white Stetson. "Mayhap so, Hare-bear. Mayhap so."
"You ain't lookin' forward to the flight, are ya?" Harry had known Dave long enough that he could easily see the nervousness his uncle was trying so desperately to hide.
"Damn, I thought ya mighta forgot 'bout that."
"Nope," Harry grinned. "Snakes, lightning, flyin'… There anythin' you ain't nervous 'bout?"
Dave returned Harry's grin, "C'm on, Harry. Y'all know that snakes c'n be poisonous, an' I know what happens to stuff 'at gets hit with lightnin' – what don't explode usually ends up cooked."
Harry shook his head a little, "Still don't explain why y'all don't like flyin' none."
Dave just shrugged, "C'n I help it if I believe that iffen God wanted us ta fly, he'd've made us with wings?"
"Ah, but didn't Gaia give us the ability to create wings of our own?"
Dave scoffed, "Gaia also gave us the ability ta level a city with a single bomb – don't make it a good idea, neither way."
Harry's uncle ducked out of the room before he could retaliate. I hope that whatever Mom found for him to survive the plane trip without panicking works really well. Retrieving the list Aurilia had given him from his desk, he set to packing. Halfway through folding the clothes he wanted to take and tucking them into the proper places in his new suitcase, Cyrus ran into the room.
"Harry Harry Harry Harry!"
"What what what what?" Harry dropped the T-shirt he'd had a hold of and spun around to catch his overly-excited little brother in mid-leap.
"Mom said you have to help me pack!"
"She did, did she?" Harry grinned and tucked Cy under an arm and began tickling him. "What if I don't wanna, huh?"
"Stop," Cyrus managed to get out between giggles, "stop, please!"
Harry sat Cy lightly on his feet and helped the five year-old straighten out his shirt. Cyrus had the same sandy-blonde hair as Jim, but, like Harry and Aurilia, he had bright, bottle-green eyes. Unlike Harry and Aurilia – and Aurilia's father, as Harry had been told – Cyrus had yet to show any need for glasses. Cyrus was also going to be tall, likely very tall. At five, he was already several inches taller than the other boys his age. "I'll come an' help y'all in a mo, Cy. I need ta finish m'own packin' first. Okay?"
Cyrus nodded enthusiastically, "Okie-dokie. Can I help?"
"Sure," Harry replied. "Why doncha hand me the stuff I ask for? Make sure ya don't unfold none of it, else it'll take all day to get packed, an' then we'll just hafta leave ya behind 'cause we didn't get ta your stuff." Harry had to laugh at the outraged expression on Cyrus' face before Cy finally realized he was being teased and zeroed in on Harry's primary ticklish spot – his ribs.
Aurilia, meanwhile, was just down the hall, packing a bag for Livia. She rolled her eyes at the good-natured teasing Harry was doing and mentally cheered Cy's retaliation. Why'd I have to have boys? Liv is so much less of a handful than those two, even when I take Harry's 'little' at-school adventures out of the equation. Honestly, Gaia, that boy is going to make every single hair on my head turn gray. However, I can't thank you enough for putting him in my path; I don't think I could love him more if he had been born to me. Tucking the last of the clothing her littlest would need on their vacation into the suitcase, she shut it and made sure the address tag had all the necessary information. After she was done, she headed down to the kitchen to make some last-minute phone calls. Her apprentice, Carly, was going to mind the shop until they got back, the Penbrokes were going to take care of the horses and housesit. Amy had promised to make sure that their bills for the month were all paid while they were gone – their planned trip was going to last a full month. When they got back, Harry would be spending the remainder of the summer visiting his godfather and his friends from Hogwarts.
Dinner that night was simple fare; three large pizzas ordered from Casey's and picked up by Jim who had run after some of the items on Aurilia's list that she'd forgotten at the shop the day before – namely some sunburn ointment, bug-spray, and sunblock. Dave and Harry shared the sausage-and-olive-and-mushroom while Cyrus, Livia, and Aurilia each had some of the pepperoni. Jim had the plain cheese all to himself.
At seven o'clock, Aurilia made a special tea for all of them. It had chamomile, lavender, hibiscus, and valerian in it. Not only did it help to calm the excitement everyone was feeling, but it also made sure that they would all benefit from a good night's rest before getting up to catch their plane the next morning. She had a stronger concentration of the same concoction in a sealed vial in her purse so that Dave wouldn't have to suffer his phobia for too long the next day.
Amy had been kind enough to agree to take the Brewers to the Des Moines airport so that they wouldn't have to leave their minivan in storage for the time they'd be gone. Though their flight didn't leave until nine, they got to the airport at seven. They had a snack in the terminal's café before going through the check-in procedure.
At long last, the six Brewers headed down a long corridor towards their gate, boarding passes held firmly in hand. While waiting for boarding to begin, Dave stood at the floor-to-ceiling windows and watched as the planes took off and landed. After only a few minutes of this, he was looking decidedly pale. Aurilia asked the worker at the gate how long it would be before boarding began and was told 'only a few more minutes.' Taking the vial of sedative out of her purse, she handed it to Dave.
"It's that time, ain't it?" he asked. Aurilia nodded. Dave removed the wax-sealed cork and quickly tossed the contents into his mouth. The tea the night before had been overly floral in flavor, but not too bad. The contents of the vial, though, were very floral and far too bitter to be mere tea. He swallowed and grimaced, handing the empty vial to Aurilia. "That's really gross, Aurie."
Aurilia shrugged a little, "I know, but it does the job. We should be on the plane before you start feeling sleepy. If we're not, try to stay awake until we are. I don't want to have to carry you." She smiled at her brother-in-law and threw the empty vial into a nearby trashcan.
Once onboard the jetliner, Harry had no difficulty finding his seat, G2. He was seated between Dave and the window, with his mom and Livia in the seats directly in front of him, and his dad and Cyrus in the seats directly behind. Dave had an odd gray cast to his complexion and was breathing a little too fast. Harry knew his uncle was scared of flying, which was probably the most irrational of the man's fears. Harry could understand Dave's fear of being struck by lightning; he'd been hit by it before, as his dad liked to recount during almost every summer storm, when they'd been children. Dave even had a long, twisted scar that went from his right shoulder crossed his back and continued all the way down to the sole of his left foot. Harry could even sort-of understand Dave's dislike of members of the serpent family – he had, after all, spent a large portion of his life living in areas where most of the native snakes tended to be deadly. He couldn't wrap his mind around Dave's dislike of flying, though. To Harry, there was only one other better place to be, and that was on the back of a horse. It was the second-most-natural thing in the world.
"Hey, Harry," Jim's voice called from the seat behind him. "What do you know about the plane?"
Knowing that his dad was trying to distract Dave somewhat until the sedative Aurilia had given him took effect, Harry smiled. "It's a Boeing 767. It's got a range of just under 4000 miles an' a passenger capacity of 250. It's cruisin' speed is about 530 miles an hour. Lemme think…" Dave's breathing had started to slow down a little. Harry smiled and continued, "It's a little over 150 feet wide, 52 feet tall, an' 180 feet long. Has a cargo capacity of about a thousand cubic yards. If we take off on time, an' land on time, we should be in Miami just in time to catch lunch."
As predicted, Dave was snoring – loudly – well before the plane took off.
The flight was uneventful, and it took both Jim and Aurilia to get a highly-groggy Dave off of the conveyance, leaving Cy and Liv in the care of Harry. Two trips to a bathroom, eight claimed suitcases, and one rental car later, and the Brewers were finally out of the hustle and bustle of the airport. Relying heavily on a combination of Jim's innate sense of direction, Aurilia's map-reading skill, and Harry's keen instincts, they had no trouble locating their hotel for the next week.
When the bellhop showed the Brewers to their room, Harry suddenly realized that his mom had spared absolutely no expense on the trip – they had a two-bedroom suite that looked out over the ocean. The suite was done in a tasteful blend of dark woods, light wallpaper, and overstuffed cushions that bordered on being sinfully decadent. In fact, if he closed his eyes, Harry could almost smell the money in the air and it was a distinctly different green scent than that of Iowa. After the bellhop had finished the miniature tour of the suite and left, Aurilia sighed and stretched. "I'm glad we're finally here. Harry, you and Cy will take the second bedroom, Liv is going to sleep with your dad and me, and Dave… You get the couch."
Dave smiled, yawned, and said, "Ah, I see how ya are."
Aurilia laughed a little tiredly, "Well, if that doesn't suit you, there's always the floor."
Dave chuckled, "No, ma'am, I'm just grateful I don't gotta be sharin' with nobody."
Jim snorted, "You'd like as ta beat 'em bloody in your sleep, iffen ya did. This way, no one ain't gettin' hurt none."
"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I could do with a nap," Aurilia sat Livia down on the immaculate floor. "I think I ought to make sure these two get a little nap, too. They didn't sleep on the plane."
"Which is more than I can say for some folk," Jim ruffled Cy's hair while leveling a mocking glare at Dave.
Dave merely shrugged, "Well, I ain't tired none. Lil' out of it still, but I aim ta find me a cup o' joe an' fix it. What 'bout y'all?" he asked Harry and Jim.
"Naw, I'm gonna see iffen I c'n catch the news," Jim replied.
"I'll go with ya," Harry wasn't too keen on the idea of spending such a beautifully sunny afternoon cooped up in the hotel. He hoped that Dave would go with him down to the beach.
Dave waited while Harry changed into a pair of swimming trunks and a T-shirt. Dave didn't see the point in changing; he wasn't going to go swimming unless it was in a nice, safe, chlorinated, shark-free swimming pool. He'd learned his lesson on being reckless quite well, thank you very much, and still had the scar to prove it. Once Harry had changed, the two of them rode in the elevator back down to the ground floor. After Dave fortified himself with a cup of strong, black coffee from the hotel's restaurant, the two walked out a side door to a shady paved area. The hotel pool was nearby, and the air smelled of mingled chlorine and salt. A small sign directed them to the beachfront.
When a brief burst of sea-salty air threatened to make off with his hat, Dave pulled his Stetson down a little more securely on his head and walked a half-step behind Harry. "Excited 'bout the game tomorrow?"
Harry nodded, "Yeah. You still ain't told me how you managed to get Founder's Club Box Seats." Harry cast a questioning glance over his shoulder at Dave.
Dave shrugged, "I know a guy that knows a guy that owed a favor or three. Don't worry 'bout it none."
"Ya know, we're bound ta get lynched, rootin' for the Braves in the Founder's seats of the Marlin's stadium." The two of them exited the shady area and started walking across the sandy beach.
Dave laughed, "Pro'ly."
"They won the game on the thirtieth, lost the one yesterday… How ya think they'll do today?"
"Dunno, kiddo. Don't matter. What matters is how they do come tomorrow."
"Ya mind iffen I go swimmin'?" Harry asked, gesturing to the ocean.
"Be careful. I don't wanna hafta tell Aurilia ya got ate by no shark, y'hear?"
Harry grinned, nodded, and took off across the remaining stretch of sand at a run. "Well, that's not something I see every day – cowboy boots on the beach?" a female voice asked. Dave turned around and saw a pretty blonde woman lounging on a reclining beach chair, wearing a bright blue bikini with matching sunglasses and sipping something that sported a paper umbrella. She nodded in the direction Harry had run, "Cute kid, he yours?"
"No, ma'am. He's my nephew."
The woman smiled, "The compliment still stands. I'm Marie Kimmel." She took off her sunglasses and held out her hand.
"Dave Brewer, Ms. Kimmel."
"Please, call me Marie. Why don't you pull up a spot of sand and join me for a bit?"
"Thankee kindly, ma'am." Dave sat near her beach chair. "What brings y'all ta Miami?"
Marie rolled her eyes as she sighed melodramatically, "I'm technically here on business, but the man I was supposed to meet with delayed our meeting until the day after tomorrow, so I get a bit of a vacation in the meanwhile."
"What business ya in, iffen ya don't mind my askin'?"
"I'm a buyer."
Dave quirked an eyebrow, "Pardon?"
Marie laughed a little, "I'm a buyer. I work for a jewelry store in New York. It's my job to travel to different places to buy gold, silver, gemstones, et cetera for the store. What about you, Dave? What do you do for a living?"
Dave shrugged his shoulders, "Ain't nothin' flashy like y'all, but I like it. I work on the family ranch. My sister-in-law," he nodded towards where Harry was diving enthusiastically into the ocean waves, "breeds horses. Me an' my brother keep things runnin' smoothly for her."
"So this is vacation?"
Dave nodded, "Yeah. We ain't never had a family vacation afore."
"Well, at first it just weren't practical – the stables needed settin' up an' all. An' then Harry, my nephew, started goin' to a boardin' school overseas, so any vacation had to be in the summer, an' that's usually the busy time of year for us. Then Aurilia, that's his mom, an' my brother had another couple of kids."
"So why now?"
Dave shrugged, "I s'pose it's 'cause ev'rythin' finally settled some, an' Liv an' Cy, that's Harry's brother an' sis, are finally old enough not ta be a major hassle on a long trip."
"How old are they?"
"Harry's gonna be fourteen come the thirty-first, an' Cy is five. Livia is three," Dave fidgeted a little more with his hat. "What 'bout you, Marie? You got any kids?"
Marie shook her head, "Nope. I never really wanted any; I've looked after my little brother ever since our parents were killed when we were teenagers, so I think I've done my bit."
Dave bowed his head, "Sorry. That had to've been rough."
"We managed. Mike's going to college now; he'll graduate in another semester with a degree in engineering." Marie beckoned for one of the hotel waiters who serviced the private beach area to come over. She ordered a refill for herself and a beer for Dave. She and Dave continued talking with each other for quite a while before Harry interrupted them. Dave was surprised to see how much time had passed; it was nearing sundown already.
"C'm on, Dave. Mom an' Dad're pro'ly wonderin' where we got off ta." Harry started off by shouting, but was down to a normal speaking voice by the time he arrived where his uncle was sitting with a pretty blonde.
"Oh, damn," Dave muttered, glancing at his watch. "We been out here for hours."
Marie smiled, "Time does fly, doesn't it?"
"That it do, Marie," Dave replied, tucking his grandpa's watch back into his pocket. "Harry, this is Marie Kimmel. Marie, this is my nephew, Harry Brewer."
"Pleased ta meet ya, ma'am," Harry smiled at the woman.
Marie nodded at him, "Ditto. You might want to stop by the shower near the pool."
Harry looked down at himself and laughed, "I'll do that." He was covered in sand.
After Dave had made his farewell to Marie, he and Harry had no trouble locating the courtesy shower not far from the hotel's pool area. Drying off with a towel that sported the hotel's logo, Harry asked, "So… Who was that?"
"Just someone I met."
Harry smirked a little. Dave always is a little closemouthed about the girls he likes. "She here on vacation, too?"
"No, she's on a business trip."
Harry tossed the towel to land in a nearby bin for used towels. "And…?"
Harry laughed, "Come on! Spill! You like her, doncha?"
Dave shrugged and tipped his hat. "Mayhap so, Hare-bear."
"She like you back?"
I hope so, Harry thought with a tiny grin on his face. You need someone in your life that ain't family.
For dinner that night, the Brewers ordered room-service and watched a Disney cartoon on the suite's big-screen.
The next day, Dave and Harry took a cab to Joe Robbie Stadium. Though Dave had gotten four tickets to go see the game, only the two of them ended up going. Jim and Aurilia were going to spend the day entertaining Cyrus and Livia down on the beach. After reaching the stadium, Dave bought a couple of souvenirs for the both of them while Harry said he was going to head to the bathroom.
Instead of finding the bathroom, though, Harry had their two extra tickets in his pocket. He didn't want them to go to waste – they were excellent seats. About the same time that Dave joined the line for snacks and soda, Harry spotted a likely target lingering near the ticket booth. It consisted of an old man wearing a Marlins cap and a guy that was probably only a year or two older than Harry wearing a similarly-themed t-shirt. "I told you we shoulda bought the tickets ahead of time, Gramps," the kid said just as Harry got close enough to hear. "Now we're gonna be stuck up in the cheaps."
Harry put on his best smile and stepped a little closer. "Excuse me?"
"Whacha need, youngling?" the old man asked.
Harry reached into his pocket. "Is it just the two of you today, sir?"
The old man nodded. "Aye. What's it to ya?"
"My uncle got us four tickets for the game, but we only ended up needin' two of them. I thought y'all might like the extras," Harry handed the tickets to the old man. "See ya in the stands, I guess." He took off before they could reply and shortly joined Dave in the line. A couple of veritable buckets of soda and some nachos were obtained before they located their seats, as promised, in the Founder's Club Box Seats, directly behind home plate. When Dave asked what Harry did with the extra tickets, Harry just shrugged a little, jerking his thumb behind them. The old man and his grandson were in the seats directly behind Harry and Dave. Dave chuckled and would have replied, but the game was about to begin.
The game started with the traditional mangling of the national anthem before the first pitch. Harry and Dave did collect a fair share of dirty looks from the Marlins fans for cheering on the Braves, but no one was overly rude about it. There was just something about the day that lent itself to making sure everyone was happy. It's almost like someone cast a cheering charm on the stadium, Harry thought when the peanut vendor accidentally hit a fan in the head with his salty snack and they both just laughed it off. There wasn't anything wizardly about it, though. It was just one of those days where everything was bright and cheerful and all was well with the world.
The Braves won, much to Harry's and Dave's joy, 12-6, and as they fought their way out of the mass of fans on their way to their cars, someone called out for them to wait. "Hey! Dave! Harry! Wait up!"
Dave stopped and turned around. Harry couldn't see who was calling after them, but judging by the grin that graced his uncle's face – superseding even the smile he'd been wearing at the close of the baseball game – it was someone Dave really liked. Harry was right. It was Marie.
When she caught up to them, Dave had managed to reign in his grin a little. "Marie. I didn't know you was gonna be here."
"I could say the same," she replied. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity, though."
"Please tell me ya weren't here ta see the Marlins."
Marie laughed, "Hell no! Didn't I tell you? I grew up in Atlanta."
Dave shook his head, "No, ya didn't. Great game, though, wasn't it?"
"What I could see of it," she replied, still laughing a little. "I was stuck up in the nosebleeds."
"Better than not bein' here at all."
"True," Marie started walking, and Harry and Dave kept pace with her. "You two here with your family?"
Harry answered, "No. Mom an' Dad took my little brother and sister to the beach today."
"Need a lift back to the hotel?" she offered, digging her keys out of her purse.
"That'd be much appreciated," Dave said, "but only iffen y'all lemme buy ya dinner."
Marie looked up from her purse and smiled, her dark blue eyes glinting in the bright sunlight of the early evening. "That sounds like a deal to me."
The ride back to the hotel didn't take long, and Harry rejoined his family for the evening, discussing possible places at which to spend the remainder of their week in Miami before they would head to Orlando for another week. Once everything had been decided on, Jim and Aurilia put Liv and Cy down for the night and joined Harry in watching a special on the Discovery Channel on the animals of the African Savannah. When it was over, Harry's mom and dad retired to their own bed and Harry channel-surfed for a little while before stumbling on a movie he'd been wanting to see. The credits had just started to roll when Dave returned to the hotel room. Harry yawned, stretched, and clicked off the television. "Have a nice date?" he asked, as he turned around.
Dave was leaning on the low counter separating the kitchen area from the living area, sporting a rather suspicious bruise where his neck merged with his shoulder and a broad grin. Harry snickered and said, "Never mind. Question answered."
Dave just chuckled and nodded.
"Sleep well," Harry said, still snickering as he made his way to first the bathroom and then some sleep of his own.
The next day, July fourth, was another brightly sunny day. Aurilia had arranged to rent a boat for the day, and Harry learned quite a bit about sailing from the man who owned it. They watched the fireworks from it that night before heading back to the hotel. Over the next four days, the Brewers spent time going to a water-park, several museums, and other local attractions. No matter where they went, though, Harry just couldn't get over the fact that there were palm trees everywhere. Real, live palm trees. Growing outside. Year-round. Aurilia was pretty sure they impressed him more than the ocean.
When their time in Miami drew to a close, the Brewers drove their rented minivan the three and a half hours to Orlando, where they checked in to yet another classy hotel. They spent two days exploring Disney World, and another two days going through first the Epcot Center and then Universal Studios. A day at Sea World was enjoyable for everyone, particularly Livia, who got to pet a nurse shark, a sea lion, and two dolphins. Cyrus was more impressed with watching the animals from the underwater viewing areas than interacting with them. Harry and Dave both preferred the rides to the animal attractions.
On their sixth day in Orlando, a day which had been set aside to hopefully recover somewhat from sunburn and rest, Harry and Dave were playing a friendly game of Gin down near the hotel's pool when a familiar voice sounded from just behind them. "Well, well, well. This is a pleasant surprise!"
Dave's head spun around so fast that Harry had the thought that had it not been attached it may have gone rolling across the tiled floor. "Marie!"
"Hi, Dave. Harry," she nodded to them both. "Is it my imagination, or do the two of you spend inordinate amounts of time together?"
"A lil' bit of both, I reckon," Dave replied. "Pull up a chair, Harry here was just kicking my ass at Gin."
Marie grinned, "Deal me in for the next game. I'll spot you both five bucks and ten points each."
Dave's expression melted into a smirk, "Now, Marie, I don't hold none with cheatin', not even iffen it keeps y'all's money in your pocket."
Marie's eyes narrowed a little at that, "Just deal the cards."
Harry snorted in an attempt to swallow down his laughter and did as the good lady bid him. Half an hour later, Dave was laughing at Marie's thunderstruck expression while Harry counted out his winnings – the terms had been fifty cents per point, and he'd won with a hearty eighty point lead.
Unwisely, Dave said, "I tried ta warn ya."
Marie merely glared at him and stole the deck of cards, "I demand a rematch. I don't think I've ever lost that badly before. It has to be a fluke!"
She shuffled and dealt the requisite nine cards, skipping Dave when he indicated he was content to merely watch this time. Holding them in her hand, she shuffled them around and found that she had a run of the three to six of hearts, two queens, and the nine and ten of spades. The remaining two cards were an ace of spades and a two of diamonds.
Harry glanced down at his own hand, not bothering to rearrange anything. He had a jack of spades, a three of clubs, a five of diamonds, a jack of clubs, a five of spades, the ace of diamonds, the king of spades, the jack of hearts, and a five of diamonds. His habit of not rearranging his hand was the primary reason he always won at card games with Little Bird – it made it so that she had absolutely no idea what he had in his hand or how close he was to reaching his goal. To add to Marie's confusion, Harry picked up the six of spades from the discard pile and replaced it with his three of clubs. Marie drew from the deck and discarded the two of diamonds, which Harry snapped up quickly. The king of spades landed in its place.
Marie looked thoughtful for a moment before drawing from the deck again. The card she drew immediately was discarded, and Harry smiled. It was the three of diamonds. He picked it up, rearranged his hand so that all three fives were together, as were the jacks, and the run of ace through three, and tossed the six of spades face down on the discard pile, "Gin."
Marie growled a little and added up the points in her hand. "Forty-five," she tersely announced.
Dave noted it on the score sheet while Harry picked up the cards and shuffled. He dealt the cards quickly. He had two possible sets and a run that was missing a four. He got the four from his first draw off the deck, but was still lacking a two when Marie ended the hand. Harry announced his points to Dave, "Seven."
"Seven?" Marie's smile fell. "How on earth can you only have seven points?"
Harry laid his hand down. "Already have a full set of kings, an' a run, too. Two twos an' a three make seven, last time I checked," Harry replied, pointing out the cards in question.
The next twenty minutes passed in a similar manner. This time, Harry won with a full hundred-point lead. Chuckling softly, Dave asked, "Did ya wanna get beat a third time runnin', or have y'all had enough?"
Marie looked from Dave's amused expression to Harry's smug little smirk and sighed, handing Harry a fifty from her wallet. "No… I think you've stole quite enough of my pocket money for now."
Harry laughed, "Ya know, I don't really want your money, ma'am." He held the two twenties and the fifty out to her. "I normally don't play cards for more'an a candy bar."
Marie shook her head, "Tell you what, kiddo, you can keep it if you can tell me how you managed to win so easily." Dave had often wondered that himself, so he sat back and listened intently.
Shrugging, Harry set the money down on the table next to the pile of playing cards. "Well, I don't rearrange my hand. There's only nine cards, so ya should be able ta remember 'em without too much difficulty. That makes it harder for the person you're playin' ta guess how close ya are ta goin' out. It also helps if ya keep your options open with the cards ya take – don't get all set on thinkin' ya need a particular card. Iffen ya don't get it in a round or two, aim for somethin' else. I also like ta confuse folks by changin' around the cards that don't matter ta me; one discard card is just like the next, so why hang on to an ace iffen ya don't need it none?" Harry's somewhat lopsided grin resurfaced, "Other than that, though, I reckon it's mostly luck."
Marie laughed at that and Dave joined in. Harry took that as his cue to leave the two of them alone. "I'm gonna head up to the suite, Dave. See iffen Mom an' Dad need anythin'."
After their stint in Orlando drew to a close, it was time for the Brewers to head south again, this time heading for Key West along the Overseas Highway. The remaining two weeks was spent at Aurilia's 'Uncle' Jack's beachfront house. Harry got to learn quite a bit about his adoptive grandparents from Jack and about his mom when she'd been a kid. Jack, for his part, was a sweet guy with a fondness for deep-sea fishing, though his forty-year run as a professor of Archaeology was blatantly apparent in both his preferred topics of discussion and the numerous decorations in his home.
By the time their vacation had drawn to a close, everyone was sporting deep tans – except for Aurilia. She seemed to simply burn and peel in the sun. It was all good, though. It had been a wonderful trip, but everyone was looking forward to going home. Dave, especially. Though he hadn't come right out and said as much, Harry was reasonably sure that he and Marie had promised to keep in touch.
A/N2: And here's where the second chapter drew to a natural close. I apologize for not having this out on Sunday, like I said I would, but my internet connection's been fritzing out lately due to all the snow melting and then flooding and then refreezing. I also had to double-check the information I had regarding what was available for touristy things in Orlando. I've never been to Florida, so it took a great deal of research to get those details (particularly the name of the Marlins' stadium – apparently that changed a few years back; it was different in 1994).
In any case, I hope this was enjoyable for everyone. And look for the next update in about two weeks!