A shadow fell across his face.
‘I thought you were going to work?’ Harry cracked open an eye to bright sunlight and rustling willow leaves. ‘Something super secret and brilliant?’
Fleur tossed her silver hair over her shoulder and smirked. ‘Non. I’m staying right here.’
‘Okay.’ Harry closed his eyes and leant back, letting the breeze play across his face. ‘But I don’t think it’ll be as fun as whatever it is you’re doing with that pensieve.’
‘Gabby and I are creating one that lets you relive events completely from the view of the witness rather than just watch them,’ Fleur said. ‘We’ve actually got the pensieve design itself almost finished, it’s obtaining the right sort of memory and going in and out of it that’s proving tricky.’
‘And yet here you are…?’
‘It’s almost like you’re trying to get rid of me.’ She pulled a slim, long dark feather out of her pocket and held it up. ‘I found this in my bedroom this morning, mon Amour.’
That’s definitely one of mine. Harry fought back a grin. I’m about to get scolded.
‘I thought your feathers were white,’ he teased. ‘Have you fallen, mon ange?’
Fleur crushed it in her fist and hurled it into his face. ‘It’s your feather!’
‘I’m not a bird-wizard,’ Harry said, brushing the feather away into the grass. ‘There aren’t any bird-wizards according to Gabby, and we both know she only ever speaks the truth about veela things.’
Fleur’s eyes darkened to ink-black. ‘You were doing magic, after you promised not to.’
Harry held up a finger. ‘Unless it was important.’
‘How was creating a feather important, mon Cœur?’ Fleur hissed. ‘Your answer had better be really good.’
Merde. He winced. She’s actually upset.
‘I was trying to get some control back,’ he lied. ‘Just a little bit of transfiguration. A bit of hair into a feather.’ Harry shrugged. ‘It’s all I can manage.’
Fleur’s black irises bored into him. ‘You promised no more secrets.’ Her eyes softened and faded back to blue. ‘You are lucky I know you well.’ She lay her head in his lap, flicking her silver hair off her face and across his knees. ‘You don’t have to worry about not having control of your magic.’
Harry stiffened. I suppose that would upset me if it wasn’t so much less important than making sure I’m the boy she loves.
‘It’s okay, mon Cœur,’ she whispered, pulling his arms over her. ‘It’ll come back.’
He nodded. ‘I’m getting better at it.’ Harry closed his eyes and turned his hair into a crown of dark feathers, tearing wisps of magic from the storm within. ‘It’s probably a lot easier with a wand, though.’
‘I’m not giving it back. Either of them.’
‘It’s my wand.’
‘You’re mine.’ Fleur’s fingers curled tight ‘round his wrists and dragged his arms close around her. ‘And you’ve no proper regard for danger. I’m not having you do anything reckless.’
‘I could probably just steal it,’ he said.
‘But you won’t, because it will upset me.’
‘No.’ Harry sighed. ‘I won’t.’
She sat up from his lap and ran her fingers through the feathers in his hair. ‘I quite like these, they’re soft.’
‘I like yours more, they’re cuter.’ Harry traced his fingertips along her arms until she shivered. ‘And they only come out when you’re pouting.’
‘They come out when I’m angry.’
‘And that one other time…’
‘I was angry then.’
‘Really?’ Harry blinked. ‘It sure didn’t seem like you were.’
‘I said not to tease me!’ Fleur’s cheeks glowed pink. ‘And you were definitely teasing.’
He laughed. ‘If I deny it, will you believe me?’
‘Non.’ Her lower lip stuck out. ‘You were doing it deliberately. You like it when I get all worked up.’
‘I do,’ he whispered, bending to kiss her upturned pout.
Fleur’s fingers tightened in his feather-tufted hair, dragging his lips hard against hers. ‘We had our first kiss here.’ She rested her head into the crook of his neck. ‘Do you remember it?’
Harry closed his eyes. A hundred kisses beneath swaying green fronds danced before his eyes, Fleur’s hot skin beneath his fingertips, her hands in his hair, the taste of marzipan and the soft, sweet sharpness of burnt holly.
‘Mon Cœur?’ Fleur gave him a gentle shake. ‘Come back to me.’
‘I remember a lot of kisses,’ he said.
Fleur stilled. ‘But you don’t remember that one.’
‘I do.’ Harry held her tight against him when she began to lean back. ‘I just can’t pull them apart.’
She sighed into his neck, tickling his skin with her warm breath. ‘So you’ve not forgotten.’
‘I’d never forget you,’ he promised. ‘How could I? You’re everything.’
Fleur kissed the side of his neck. ‘What do you mean when you say you can’t pull them apart?’
‘They’re all jumbled together,’ Harry said. ‘I can’t… I can’t focus on one of them, it’s all of them or none of them.’
‘Bizarre,’ she whispered.
He ran his fingers through her hair, letting it flow through his fingers like water. ‘I think it’s because I was just a soul. I don’t think souls are good with time or space, they’re just magic and purpose. Maybe that purpose is one all-important thing and all the memories bleed together.’
‘Perhaps,’ Fleur said. ‘As long as it comes back. I want you back.’
A knot of cold fear tightened in Harry’s chest and his fingers trembled in her hair. You want the boy you saved back. He forced the fear down, crushed it down so deep it disappeared. I can be him, even if I was the other one before.
‘I’m here,’ he murmured in her ear. ‘I’m already back.’
‘Mostly.’ She leant back in his arms, letting him toy with the tips of her silver Troises. ‘Gabby says you feel a little calmer every day. The storm is fading.’
‘I found that all-important thing.’ Harry smiled. ‘It’s just slowly sinking in, I think.’ He shrugged. ‘Souls are complicated.’
Fleur tousled the feathers in his hair with a small smirk. ‘You were complicated enough before, mon Cœur.’
He chuckled. ‘Sorry.’
‘Don’t be. I’m not simple either.’
‘You’re much worse than I am,’ Harry teased. ‘At least I don’t have a sugar addiction and a fear of earwigs.’
A sultry fire smouldered in her blue eyes. ‘And they’re not even the fun things.’ She bit at her lip. ‘It’s been a year, mon Amour. It hurts to have you here and still not have you.’
A faint smile crept onto Harry’s face. ‘But—’
Fleur crushed her mouth against his, tracing the tip of her tongue along the line of his upper lip. ‘Yes. The more it hurts now, the more satisfying it will be later.’ A soft moan slipped out of her as his hands tightened in her hair. ‘It’s going to taste so sweet I can’t even imagine it.’
Heat traced through his veins, pooling in his stomach, his head spun with flashes of Fleur’s fingers entwined with his and rang with her soft gasps. ‘You don’t have to keep waiting.’
‘But I want to, I want to wait until I’m the only thing in your head.’ She smiled against his kisses. ‘And I like it to hurt a little first, mon Cœur.’
He smothered the desire and took a deep breath. ‘Whatever you want, mon Rêve.’ Harry hunted for a distraction. ‘What was Neville writing to you for? I saw his letters on the table…’
Fleur’s nose wrinkled. ‘He has been bothering us since you died. We’ve a pile of letters a mile high from him asking about you. He’s always asking to be able to visit and pay his respects.’
‘You’ve not let him.’
‘Of course not.’ She turned her nose up. ‘I didn’t need some stranger getting in the way of my attempt to bring you back.’
‘I guess you can’t really say yes now, either,’ Harry quipped.
‘Non.’ Fleur’s brow creased. ‘But I’m not sure he believes you’re really dead. I didn’t pay much attention to his words before you came back, but he always wrote about you in the present tense.’
Harry sighed. ‘Neville knew about you and he knew how strong I was. He never understood, but I think he would know that I wouldn’t die for Britain and all the selfish little people there. Without a body…’
‘He thought you won and decided to disappear,’ Fleur murmured.
‘Or something like that,’ he said. ‘Has he written again?’
She huffed. ‘We get a letter from him every week. He’ll write again.’
‘Don’t you want to reply?’ Harry asked.
‘Do you really want him to know you’re alive?’ Fleur’s frown deepened and her eyes darkened a few hues. ‘Merde, j’ai oublié. You don’t know.’
‘What don’t I know?’
‘Things have changed in Britain,’ she replied. ‘The former Minister for Magic, Amelia Bones, promoted all those who fought against Voldemort and survived, and executed anyone they proved had fought for him. That other girl who loved you, she’s an auror captain now.’
A girl of silver mist cried as her kiss faded through him. Katie. Harry’s heart wrenched. They took Katie away.
Fleur twitched. ‘The red-head, not Katie Bell.’
‘Ginny,’ he muttered. ‘Ginny Weasley.’
‘Yes. Her.’ Fleur folded her arms. ‘Most of the old Wizengamot and government either died in the war or was executed after it by Amelia Bones. She got tossed out of office after three months because the first thing she did after executing about a hundred people was rebuild the country’s military out of school children and volunteers. Everyone thought she was trying to take power permanently so she was forced to resign. Amos Diggory became minister, but more or less just carried on reforming laws and ripping out the red tape that stopped the aurors from cleaning house after the first war against Voldemort. Papa and his colleagues are genuinely concerned where it might lead.’
‘They’ll probably just fight each other,’ Harry said. ‘In fact, if they’re anything like I remember, that’s all they’ll do.’
Her lips twisted. ‘Papa said that. He said they’d squabble among themselves if they were left alone, but they’re not being left alone.’
She shook her head. ‘Britain has been the pre-eminent magical power for three hundred years, mon Cœur. The wars with Grindelwald and the growing muggleborn population in larger countries like the U.S. have closed the gap in the last century, but Britain had Albus Dumbledore.’
‘And Voldemort,’ Harry added.
Fleur nodded. ‘Britain stuck Dumbledore on the ICW and paraded him before the rest of the world after Grindelwald was finally defeated, just to remind everyone who they’d have to face if they tried to take advantage of Britain’s weakness. Now, Dumbledore is dead. Voldemort is dead. You are dead. They’re weaker than they’ve been in three hundred years and other countries are finally smelling blood.’
‘Well, it has nothing to do with us,’ Harry said. ‘I don’t care what happens to Britain or how powerful it is.’
‘But the moment Neville knows you’re alive, Britain will have another Albus Dumbledore to threaten the rest of the world into line with. They’ll leap at the chance to shackle you into being their deterrent.’
‘That’s true.’ Harry smiled. ‘I’ll just stay dead, then. You don’t mind having a dead lover, do you?’
Fleur wrinkled her nose at him. ‘That’s disgusting.’
‘You’re the one who was dabbling in necromancy and keeps kissing a possessed corpse,’ he quipped.
‘You’re not a possessed corpse, there’s no difference between you and anyone else. I researched and checked.’
‘I guess we’re all possessed corpses, then.’ Harry chuckled. ‘You know, since I was dead, I didn’t get any older, which means you’re now even more of a cradle-snatcher.’
Fleur’s blue eyes widened, tears clustering on her lashes.
His heart lurched and he pulled her close. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I’m not upset,’ she whispered. ‘You made a stupid joke. I’m happy.’
Harry pressed his lips to her cheek, kissing glistening tears off her soft skin with a gentle tang of salt. ‘I love you. You saved me beneath the summer sun. I’ll always love you. And I’ll go back to being me no matter what it takes.’
I have to. I can’t be the boy who was betrayed. A fierce yearning rose in his breast, raw and ragged, burning like a brand; it ripped the air from his lungs and the words off his tongue. I need to be hers.
Fleur buried her face in his chest. ‘I know you will. You’re mine. And I am yours.’
A dark feather tumbled down past Harry’s cheek to rest in the silver cascade of Fleur’s hair; it fluttered against her tresses, then drifted away on the breeze.