AN: new chapter up, enjoy.
Chapter 52 - Promise
A knock was heard on the large window of his bedroom inside the Ravenclaw Tower and, despite not seeing anything outside the window, he quickly went to open it. The moment he opened the window, a beautiful snowy white owl appeared seemingly out of thin air. It was Hedwig. Just like Big Head had gained the special ability to shrink or increase his size magically upon becoming Harry's familiar, Hedwig had gained a special ability too - she could become invisible.
The cute owl hooted happily but also tiredly as Harry took her in his arms and she buried her face into the fabric of his sweatshirt.
"Flying all the way to Egypt and back, you must be exhausted. My poor, sweet girl," Harry cooed at her as he petted her head gently, making Hedwig let out a few more chirps and quiet barks as she snuggled into his gentle touch.
Cutting the strings tying a thick roll of parchment to her left leg, Harry went to his trunk and grabbed a bag of delicious and nutritious owl treats. Taking a handful of treats, he went to Hedwig but the bird surprised him when she suddenly flew past him and swiftly snatched the entire bag of treats from the still open trunk.
Harry could only burst into laughter at her behaviour.
"You could've just said you want them all, I would've given them to you, you know?"
Perched up on the wall chandelier above his bed and holding the bag of treats in her beak, Hedwig threw him a look that was brimming with scepticism. Maybe it was a side-effect of her becoming his familiar, or maybe Hedwig was just that expressive - 'Or maybe I've gone barmy too,' Harry thought - but he could easily tell what Hedwig's feelings were on this matter.
"I'm being honest. You can have them all, look:" he said and put the handful of treats that he had taken before on the window sill.
Hedwig hooted promptly and flew on the window sill. Then, with a degree of dexterity that seemed strange coming from an owl, she opened the bag with her talons and quickly picked the treats with her beak before throwing them into the bag.
"You silly owl," Harry said fondly and chuckled when Hedwig momentarily left the bag of treats on the window sill and flew to him, landing on his shoulder. Then, she proceeded to gently nip at his ear and snuggle into his neck as a show of gratitude and affection.
After that, grabbing her bag of treats and making herself invisible again - her bag of treats turned invisible too! - Hedwig flew out of the bedroom.
Once the snowy owl left, Harry turned his attention to the letter that she had delivered to him.
I haven't had the time and leisure to really follow the current situation in the UK but I'm glad to hear that things are relatively peaceful. Thanks for keeping me up-to-date with the more important events.
You've asked me when I come back. My answer is... ...I don't know. The more I study the memories of the people that watched your battle against Voldemort, the more scared I become. I have coworkers that are fluent in old Egyptian and we've come to the conclusion that his last spell was more like a sacrificial ritual, the kind that would drag his enemy to the grave with him. Something must've gone wrong in the process because if that spell of his had worked, you would have been dead now.
You can probably tell by now that after hearing Voldemort casting a spell in Old Egyptian, we're not the only ones who had linked him to the massive explosion of the Great Pyramid of Giza last year. Minister Bones and even Gringotts too have offered my department their full support. Gringotts' Curse Breakers especially had been a real help (Nymphadora's boyfriend is with me too, by the way, he's part of the team of Curse Breakers sent by Gringotts to support me). At this point, it's become obvious that things aren't as simple as everyone believed them to be. The Goblins are afraid. The Egyptian Ministry of Magic is afraid too and their own researchers are working together with me and my team as well. As for Amelia Bones, she can't deny her lover's identity anymore. I'm surprised she hasn't gone crazy after what she had gone through - unknowingly falling in love and sleeping with the one who had butchered her family. She told me in one of her letters that she would not rest until she caught Voldemort and fed him to the Dementors. She would capture and kill him even if it was the last thing she did before she died. Amelia is out for blood.
I've always suspected that the explosion of the Great Pyramid of Giza had not been the Muggles' doing. I've read some articles written by Muggle scientists and, according to them, the Great Pyramid was estimated to have weighed around 6 million tons. If their calculations are to be believed, nothing short of an atomic bomb's power would have been capable of blowing it to smithereens from within. Understanding that, the follow-up question would be: how did something like an atomic bomb end up inside the pyramid? The only thing inside the pyramid - at least in Muggles' limited knowledge of the matter - is a tunnel so narrow that ordinary people can barely squeeze through, and two chambers. A bomb of that size couldn't fit through the tunnel so it's impossible for the Muggles to have blown up the pyramid in that manner.
Harry nodded in agreement. It was not the first time that he and Bellatrix had had that conversation
As for what I'm doing here, the work is slow and tedious but we've finally had some progress after nearly two weeks. Do you know how Muggles aren't aware of the fact that pyramids are just as deep as they are tall?
He unconsciously nodded in response to her question. It was not exactly common knowledge among regular people but it's not like it was a secret either that Gringotts' Curse Breakers were not working on the parts of the pyramids that were above the ground. The real treasures and secrets lay deep in the underground, protected by ancient and deadly warding spells and curses. With the passing of time, some pyramids' underground chambers had been breached by Curse Breakers but other pyramids continued to remain unconquered until the present day. The Great Pyramid of Giza had been one of the latter too.
The underground part of the Great Pyramid of Giza that Curse Breakers from all over the world had been trying to breach for centuries had been defiled. Someone had managed to do something no one else could do until now. Your guess is probably the same as mine in regards to who might have been the one to accomplish that. Say what you will about Voldemort, his genius is not up for debate.
With the wards breached now, we have managed to dig through and reach the underground chambers. Unfortunately, all the riches and ancient knowledge that everyone had been dreaming about had been swept clean. The only things that we found were an altar of bones surrounded by a wide pool of blood... ...and a large number of ghosts. Dozens of them. Some of them were ghosts of the wizards and witches that newspapers had declared missing after the explosion. They were ghosts like Myrtle whom we sent through the Veil, Thralls - people that were brought back as ghosts in spite of not having performed the ritual to become ghosts back when they had still been alive. Although I have no solid proof of Voldemort's involvement, things fit too well for me to dismiss everything as a coincidence.
It was a very long letter. As if to make up for not being able to communicate with Harry more often due to how busy she was, Bellatrix had gone into great detail to describe her work in Egypt with her team of Unspeakables, Gringotts' Curse Breakers and the Egyptian Ministry of Magic's people. Eventually, the letter came to an end with her expressing her desire to see him again soon.
I will be taking a day off to rest and recuperate next Sunday. Keep your schedule open in the evening and we would be able to speak face-to-face through Fleur's charmed mirrors. I miss you, Harry. I even miss that snobby and unrealistically beautiful girlfriend of yours too, she's grown on me. I miss Andy, Sirius, and Narcissa too. I believe our work will be done by the time Christmas comes. But even if we don't finish by then, I will still come back to spend the winter holiday with you all. We'll talk more next week through the mirrors.
PS: Bill Weasley begged me to tell you to send Nymphadora his greetings and love and to tell her that he's sorry for leaving so abruptly for work (Nymphadora has not been replying to his letters, giving him the cold treatment).
⁂ Three weeks later ⁂
Fleur stirred awake as the soft tunes coming from an enchanted musical box rang. She shivered pleasantly as she stretched her arms above her head, shaking off her body's last vestiges of sleep. Getting up, she sat on the side of the bed but when her feet came into contact with the cold surface of the floor, she flinched almost as if she got burnt and quickly slid back into the comfort and warmth of her fluffy blanket.
November in Scotland was when the weather was starting to get noticeably cold. Although it was already her seventh year living in the UK and she should've gotten used to the chilly weather by now, bearing with the cold had never become any easier for her. Her blanket covering her up to her nose, Fleur let her eyes wander around her bedroom while building her courage to get out of bed. The sun had yet to rise (it was not even 7 o'clock yet) and her roommates were still asleep too - Fleur had always been one of the earliest risers in the castle due to her morning routine of going for a run. In addition, seeing as it was Saturday, most of the students slept longer than usual.
Intent on casting a Warming Charm on herself, she was about to grab her ivory white wand from the nightstand next to the bed when she saw a palm-sized red box and a note next to it. Picking up the small piece of paper, her sleepy face broke into a brilliant smile.
Good Morning, Flower.
She would recognize that scraggly writing anywhere. It was Harry's. That little gesture brought her so much joy that she could not wipe the smile off her face for minutes. The small red box containing four bars of Muggle Kit Kat chocolate only served to heighten her feelings of happiness.
When the two of them met in the common room half an hour later, Fleur let out a giggle as Harry took her in a big hug and twirled her around.
"Thank you for the chocolate," she said when he put her down. Cupping his cheeks, she placed a soft kiss on his lips. He returned her smile when they parted and pecked her back too. When she stole another kiss from him he said teasingly:
"We better get going for our morning run or, at this rate, we'll end up 'working out' in the Room of Requirement the whole weekend again."
"And you would totally 'ate that, wouldn't you?" she said with a smirk and grabbed his hand, intertwining her fingers with his in a lover's hold.
As the cool wind of early November blew Fleur pressed herself higher against Harry's back and snuggled with her face into the side of his neck. Below them, the raw beauty of the Forbidden Forest, the Black Lake's surface glinting in the sunlight and the majestic ancient castle made for a fantastic view. Harry and Fleur often went for a fly when the weather allowed it. The beauty of Hogwarts, the silence, and each other's company healed their souls. In those moments, Harry could forget about the burden that he had brought upon himself through his contract with Death. He could forget about Voldemort or the dreadful thought that he would outlive his loved ones and continue to live on in solitude for god knew how many more lifetimes. In those moments, Fleur could forget all about her tragic past life. She could forget about the terrible things that she had done in order to change her bleak future. Tightly embracing Harry's body from behind and basking in the warmth he exuded, Fleur felt happy and fulfilled.
But all good things come to an end eventually and so did their flight too. However, Harry did not land in front of the gates of the castle. Instead, he flew to the shore of the Black Lake. As they dismounted the Firebolt broomstick (it was a present from Sirius last Christmas), Fleur broke into a grin when she saw how messy his hair had gotten from their flying. In comparison, her hair was still falling down her back elegantly, like a cascade of white gold, not even one of her tresses in disarray - it was all thanks to one of her self-created spells. As expected from someone who cared about her appearance as much as Fleur, the first charm that she created was a glamour charm for her hair.
"Why did we come 'ere?" she asked while running her hands through his hair, trying to make it look a bit more presentable.
"I don't wanna go back to the castle yet," Harry said and shrugged before taking her hand and leading her to sit with him on a grassy mound.
Once they were seated, Fleur snuggled into him again and Harry wrapped an arm around her back, bringing her closer.
"'Arry?" she asked.
"Are you okay?"
Harry turned to look at her and kissed the crown of her head.
"Better than ever," he said. "Why do you ask? Something wrong?"
Fleur looked like she was about to say something but she decided against it. Instead, she rubbed her cheek a bit against his chest and let out a hum of comfort.
While they were watching the peaceful Blake Lake snuggled together, Fleur suddenly felt Harry sliding a ring onto one of her fingers. She quickly looked at her hand startled and then back at him.
"I'm not proposing yet," Harry said with a laugh. "I wouldn't be doing it like that, without even asking for your hand as a gentleman would."
Looking at her hand, a silvery ring that looked like a braided circle with a small blue gemstone rested on her ring finger.
"It's a promise ring, just a small token to remind you of my feelings for you."
In truth, Harry had put a lot more thought into it than he was letting it on. It was not an expensive ring but it carried deep meaning for him.
Being made of goblin silver suggested the unshakable nature of his feelings for her. The braided design of the ring symbolized the intertwining of their destinies - it was Death itself that had brought them together from different worlds, from different timelines. As for the blue gemstone, it was a blue sapphire - it stood as a symbol of loyalty, trust, love, and understanding. In addition, he knew that blue was Fleur's favourite colour too.
Had he not been still underage physically, he would have proposed to her. Limited by his biological age, however, a promise ring was all that he could offer her in the present.
Later that evening, while the rest of the school (third-year students and above) went to visit Hogsmeade, Harry and Fleur took the chance to slip away. They went out for a date.
Harry was not one for acting pretentious and pretending that he was classy, this time around, he decided to take Fleur to an elegant place, in Edinburgh. It was a white tablecloth restaurant with a luxurious but not opulent ambience - the kind of high-end restaurant that most people went to dine in only on special occasions like weddings or birthday parties.
Having drank an Ageing Potion, Harry looked like a young man in his early twenties. Wearing an elegant suit and dress shoes and with his black hair combed neatly in a 7:3 ratio (Fleur had taken mercy on him and cast her self-created Hair-Glamour Charm on him), Harry was surprised himself at how nicely he had cleaned up. Nevertheless, even with his improved looks, he still felt that in terms of appearance, the woman walking next to him looked way, way out of his league. At the end of the day, he was not Adonis. Meanwhile, the silver-haired Veela girl looked every inch like Aphrodite.
The black mermaid dress she was wearing showcased - 'a little too well', he thought - the contrast between her wide hips and her slim waist and the spaghetti straps holding her dress revealed her soft-looking shoulders while seemingly straining to hold the weight of her breasts.
With every step she took, a long, smooth and toned leg peaked through the deep slit in her dress, her silvery high-heeled stiletto shoes making a sonorous clicking sound. Last, but not least, her long white-blond hair had been styled in a high braided bun, emphasising her heart-shaped face, slender neck and the dainty, silvery floral earrings adorning her ears. Glamourous and too beautiful to be real, the current Fleur would not look out of place on the cover of a famous Muggle magazine like Vogue.
He pulled the chair for her to sit and then he sat down across her at the round table as well. Taking her hand in his and with his green eyes peering deeply into her baby blues, he said in a voice filled with honesty:
"You look fucken' incredible!"
And just like that, the classy persona that Harry had tried to keep up that evening shattered. Fleur burst into a fit of chuckles.
"As the saying goes, you can take a Brit out of London but you can't take the London out of a Brit," she said teasingly.
"That's not even the correct saying..." he quipped.
"The point still stands. You're a 'oodlum, through and through! A nice suit and a clean 'airstyle won't change who you are! Definitely not your potty mouth."
In spite of her biting words, Harry started chuckling and she joined him in laughter too.
"It's not my fault, really. I mean, I've always thought you were the most beautiful girl I've ever met but now it's the first time I see how you look when you're actually trying to doll yourself up. I'm beginning to understand why some women dislike you, Veela, with a passion. How can they compete with something like that?"
Maybe it was the biased point of a view of man in love but, in his eyes, Fleur was the most beautiful girl in the world even during their daily morning runs when she was wearing nothing but yoga pants, a hoodie, a pair of trainers, and with her face covered in sweat rather than exquisitely applied make-up. The glamorous beauty of his girlfriend that evening was simply out of this world.
"So I'm not a fat lard anymore, mm?" she said, a coy look in her smoky eyes.
"Nope, not anymore. But I see you're still shamelessly fishing for compliments, like usual," Harry said before his breath hitched as Fleur kicked him in the shin under the table. "Still as ready to resort to violence as ever too. Way to bring me back to reality and show me what lurks underneath that pretty face."
When Fleur tried to kick him in the shin again, he anticipated her move and dodged it before letting out a quiet guffaw as he said:
"Harry: 1. Fleur: 0."
An unladylike groan came from Fleur.
"Ugh, you're keeping the score again? I swear, sometimes you're acting as if you're twelve."
"Technically, I'm fourteen."
She sniffed with laughter as she retorted: "You meant to say forty, not fourteen, right? Old man."
Even as they started eating the fine dishes that they had ordered, the two never stopped bantering. But when she saw Harry pouring himself a glass of wine too (they had requested the waiter assigned to their table to leave them be instead of doing continuous service), Fleur looked at him startled. She was no stranger in regards to what had happened in Harry's previous life. She knew that, in the other world, Harry had not taken even one sip of alcohol ever since he had failed to Apparate at the Burrow on the night when the Weasleys and their extended family had been murdered by Voldemort and his followers. Sixteen years in his past life and four years in his current life - Harry had been sober for nearly 20 years. Yet now, he had just poured himself a glass of red wine and taken a sip out of it.
Answering her unasked question, Harry said:
"I've beaten myself over what had happened for too long. I've grieved their death and haven't allowed myself to move on for too many years. It's time for me to leave my past behind and focus on the present. You, Bella, Sirius, and the Tonks are my new family. And, in a few years, Mr and Mrs Delacour and little Gabby too."
"So awfully confident that we'll get married~" she teased him.
"It's a promise, isn't it?" he said and took her left hand in his, gently rubbing his thumb over the braided sapphire promise ring she was wearing.
Fleur showed a radiant smile when she took another look at the promise ring that he had gifted her earlier that day.
Apparating somewhere in the Dean Village district of Edingburgh, Harry and Fleur decided to walk the remaining distance to the Blackthorn on foot. The quiet residential area with cobblestone streets and old brick houses looked like the perfect place for the two lovebirds to have a romantic walk.
For the second time that day, Fleur asked:
"Is everything really okay, 'Arry?" Noticing his confused expression, she added, although a bit hesitantly: "You've changed a little. You weren't so-"
"Not moody and not grumpy?" he chimed in with a chuckle.
"I meant to say romantic. Your small gifts in the morning - like the chocolate today or the beautiful red tulip from two days ago. The good morning and good night notes. The foot rubs in the evenings and now the promise ring and this incredible date."
"Are you perhaps complaining? My god, you can never please a beautiful woman..." he said in mock chagrin, making her bump her shoulder against his as they walked, slightly annoyed at his teasing when she was trying to be serious.
But then, she squeezed his hand and looked down, a bit too embarrassed to meet his eyes as she said quietly:
"I don't know what prompted this change but... I think I'm falling in love with you all over again."
Had it not been for the semi-darkness of the night and for her lowered head, he would have seen the pink marring her normally pale cheeks. Nonetheless, the reddened tips of her ears still gave her away in the end and Fleur found herself engulfed in his embrace.
"You deserve all that, and more," he said and kissed the crown of her head lovingly.
He did not tell her that he had died nor did he tell her about the deal that he had made with death. The thought of never being able to see her again had made him appreciate much more what they had, it had made him treasure her company and her love more than ever before.
'No point in giving her more reasons to worry about.'
His relationship with Death would forever remain his secret. He had no intention of sharing that piece of information with neither Fleur nor Bella because nothing about it could be changed. In the end, it would only lead to more drama or insecurities and sadness at the realisation that he would continue to live on even after they died of old age.
'Our lifespan is much longer than that of Muggles.'
There were records of wizards living even as many as 300 years, naturally. In fact, one such person was still alive in the present - the headmaster of Hogwarts that preceded Dumbledore was well into his third century and still physically able to fly on a broomstick.
'Until the end, I will make her happy.'
He had to do Death's bidding for another two lifetimes but that did not mean he had to leave this world as soon as he was done with Voldemort. Quite the opposite, Harry fully intended on living a very long and blissful life together with Fleur, Bellatrix, and the rest of his family.
Hands wrapped around each other's waist, Harry and Fleur walked slowly towards the Blackthorn chatting, smiling, and stealing kisses from each other all the way.