In Another Life

This chapter’s for Tyler. A huge thank you for choosing to support my dream.

Gabby darted around the ring of the gleaming silver basin, the soles of her bare feet flashing in the soft white glow of the runes, skidding to a halt beside him. 

‘Am I good to go?’ Harry asked.

‘You just need to choose a memory.’ She caught his hand as he reached for the Elder Wand. ‘As well as testing whether it’s all synchronised up, see how tired you feel when you come back out. I want to get an idea for how long you can feasibly spend in there.’

Which memory do I choose? He raised his wand to his temple, casting a wisp of silver mist into the silver basin. Sorry Fleur, I’d like to see her again. Harry stepped in and slid down the edge, the silver mist closing over him.

‘A present for me?’ Katie popped up behind him, a slim, brown package tucked under one arm.

Hello, Katie. A faint stab of sorrow pierced the good humour of his memory. I’ve missed you.

‘For Fleur. She likes sweet things, too, remember.’ Harry studied the corner of the slim dark box. ‘What am I buying for you?’

‘Chocolate-coated butterbeer creams and Firewhiskey hearts,’ she confessed, opening the box a fraction and revealing two dozen chocolates nestled in white paper.

‘Tasty…’ Harry reached out a hand and grinned.

‘Mine.’ Katie batted his fingers away. ‘You buy your own.’

‘I’m buying yours.’

She batted her eyelashes and played coy. ‘Pwetty pwease, Dark Master? With a cherry on top?’ A wicked little gleam appeared in her eyes. ‘I’ll let you have my cherry on top if you really want, my lord.’

Harry snorted. ‘You’re incorrigible.’ He headed for the counter. ‘A good thing I’m impotent, or I might be tempted to say yes, and then you’d be stuck.’

‘Frenchie didn’t make it sound so bad,’ Katie murmured, catching his arm. ‘If she wasn’t about, would you really be tempted?’

Oh, I forgot about this. A sigh bubbled up inside, catching at the back of his throat, trapped in memory like a fly in amber.

Harry weighed up the glint in her eye. ‘But she is.’ He pulled her into a one-armed hug and carried on toward the counter. ‘Best not to think about what ifs, in my opinion.’

‘One galleon and eight sickles,’ the girl behind the counter droned, glancing at the label.

‘Here.’ Harry passed her the correct number of coins and returned the box to Katie’s arms. ‘I bought it, so you can carry it.’

‘Hey!’ The girl behind the counter perked up. ‘Aren’t you—’

‘Voldemort.’ Harry put a finger to his lips. ‘But ssssh, I’m in disguise. It’s so hard to get good chocolates when you’re committing mass murder and organising a blood purist revolt.’

The counter girl’s jaw dropped.

Harry strolled out, Katie in tow.

‘Wait.’ She caught his shoulder. ‘I — I want to know the answer to that question, Harry.’ Her fingers tightened around her box of chocolates until her knuckles turned white. ‘I messed it all up, I know, but I want to know if it might’ve worked. In another life.’

Katie… He closed his eyes and sighed. Fleur’s perfect and you’re, well, you’re my best friend, but you’re not her. A fierce urge to reach out and hold her seized him, but it swirled within, trapped, like a tiny storm in a glass bubble. I wish there had been two of me, so you could’ve had your dream too.

‘Please?’ Katie whispered. ‘I know you know. I can’t keep playing pretend and wondering what you’re really thinking anymore.’

Harry tried to picture it. He forced Katie beneath willow leaves and before white pebbles, over Fleur’s face in the memories of their kisses, and held her body over Fleur’s through snatches of heated moments at the Meadow.

‘Harry?’ She sidled close and took his hand. ‘I’m not asking you to do anything. I’d never ask that.’

‘I know.’ He opened his eyes and cupped her hand beneath his. ‘The truth is I don’t know, Katie. Maybe? All I know is it wouldn’t be the same. Fleur’s… Fleur’s perfect for me. She’s everything.’

‘Everything…’ Katie’s eyes turned liquid and she blinked hard. ‘But you love me a little bit, don’t you?’

Yes. Yes I do. Not the same. But a little. And I always will.

‘You’re my best friend.’ Harry reached out and poked her on the forehead. ‘Nothing will change that.’

A small smile spread across Katie’s lips and she waved her chocolate box at the Three Broomsticks. ‘Ready to gatecrash Nev’s lunch with Hannah?’

‘Definitely.’ Harry pulled out his wand. ‘Hold still.’

She scrunched up her face and shivered as Harry’s magic touched her. ‘What’re you doing to me?’

‘Casting glamour charms.’ He smirked, conjuring a flat disc of water in the air in front of her as a makeshift mirror and rearranging her face a little.

‘Oh…’ Katie’s grin turned evil. ‘I like the way you think, Dark Lord Potter.’ She admired herself in the makeshift mirror. ‘I make a hot older woman. Professor Sprout’s never looked so good.’

They strolled into the pub together, casting an eye around for Neville and his blonde companion. Harry caught sight of Hannah’s pigtails on the far side of the room.

‘Over there.’ He nudged Katie’s shoulder and pointed. ‘Go get him.’

She beamed. ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ she said, mimicking Professor Sprout’s speech.

‘Have fun. And Katie dearest—’ he conjured a fluffy, pink, heart-shaped cushion and deposited it into her hands ‘—whatever you do, don’t cause a scene.’

Katie bounced across the floor clutching the cushion until she reached the centre of the room. ‘Neville!’ She sank to her knees and burst into loud, fake sobs. ‘How could you!?’

‘Professor Sprout?’ Nev asked, turning brighter and brighter crimson.

‘I had hoped that the rumours were untrue, but now I see that my fears are not unfounded. You have left me for a younger woman.’ Katie wailed and pulled at her hair. ‘Oh if only I’d agreed to help re-enact that fantasy you told me about you and the venomous tentacula.’

‘What?’ Hannah gasped.

‘How could you do this, Nevvie?’ Laughter suffused Katie’s voice as she thrust her cushion at his feet. ‘Surely the arms of this buxom, young blonde cannot compare to the nurturing affection of Herbology. Return to my bosom, to the bosom of mother nature, and the soft, warm soil of the greenhouses.’

Nev caught sight of Harry. ‘Harry! Get out here and collect your accomplice before I hex her back to Hogwarts and bury her in the soft, warm soil of the greenhouses.’

‘Game over.’ Harry removed the glamours from Katie, who scampered back to raucous applause, waving her pink cushion about like a trophy.

‘Not funny,’ Nev groused.

Hannah snickered into her drink. ‘It was pretty funny, Nevvie.’

Angelina and Alicia drifted over. ‘Hi Katie,’ they chorused. ‘Neville. Hannah.’ They exchanged a glance. ‘Harry.’

Oh, that’s why Alicia doesn’t like me. It’s nothing to do with Rita Skeeter, she’d known about Katie the whole time… The storm turned hot in its little bubble within his heart. If only she’d said something. If only I’d known earlier. Maybe something might’ve gone differently.

‘Girls.’ Harry threw a look at Katie, who wilted a little.

‘I see you made it to Honeydukes, Katie.’ Alicia smirked and tapped the brown-papered box. ‘What did you get?’

‘Harry spoilt me.’ Katie beamed. ‘Though he wouldn’t let me buy an animated chocolate Grindylow.’

Nev breathed out a long sigh. ‘Smart man.’

            ‘He also mentioned Firewhiskey…’ Katie fluttered her eyelashes at Harry. ‘I’ll tell all the Third Year Hufflepuff girls that you aren’t really impotent…’

            Harry shook his head. ‘How about you convince Romilda Vane I really am impotent instead.’ He shuddered a little. ‘I really don’t want to get love-potioned by her.’

Romilda. The storm sharpened, ripping white-hot lines through his heart like a fistful of razors. I wonder what happened to her? Did she drown in me? Did I leave her dreamless and dead? A stab of regret pierced the storm. She was just a silly little girl. I hope she didn’t drown.

‘Deal! I’ll head to the bar and get us a round of drinks.’ She snatched her chocolates out from under Alicia’s fingers and threw a pointed glance at Harry, then at her two friends. ‘Be back in a moment.’

Back, but not really. The storm guttered out, bursting on sharp grief like a soap bubble on a knife. Not ever. 

Silver mist faded from before his eyes like smoke into the breeze. 

‘Katie again,’ Gabby murmured.

Harry apparated out of the basin with a soft snap and slid the Elder Wand back into his sleeve. ‘It’s perfect,’ he said. ‘Like living it again, only, not really.’

Her eyes softened. ‘Perhaps you should choose a happy memory next time.’

‘It was a happy memory.’ He drew in a deep breath and released it in a long sigh, letting himself feel the faint ache in his bones. ‘I feel a little tired, but barely.’

‘How long do you think you could stay in there for?’ Gabby asked.

Harry weighed it up. ‘A few hours. Five or six at the most.’

‘So three hours is probably as long as is wise,’ she replied.

‘And I wouldn’t use it repeatedly over a short period of time,’ he said. ‘You do it all twice, the thinking, that is. Everything you thought and felt in the memory, and everything you bring back in with you. Like my old time-turner, it probably puts a lot of stress on your mind.’

Gabby nodded. ‘I don’t actually know what we’re going to use it for now.’ She shrugged. ‘Maybe see if we can find a way to let multiple people in somehow, so you can relive moments together.’

‘That sounds nice, albeit probably very very hard to do.’

She smiled. ‘It’s the making Fleur and I enjoy, it doesn’t need to happen overnight, or even have a purpose.’

‘As long as it’s beautiful,’ Harry murmured. ‘The creating is the purpose, no? Something to do on long empty days by yourself at Beauxbatons.’

‘Once upon a time.’ Gabby hummed. ‘Now it’s more that creating things is beautiful to me.’ She perched on the nearest bench, swinging her bare feet. ‘And speaking of creating things…’

‘If you’re going to ask about half-siblings, I’m going to tell your sister.’

She giggled. ‘No, well, not this time. I’m going to ask about something else. La Victoire Finale.’

Harry tensed. ‘What are you going to ask?’

‘What is it?’ Gabby whispered. ‘What are you and Fleur hoping for? You promised me. You promised this was your sunset, that you just wanted to be able to live it.’

‘That is La Victoire Finale,’ he replied. ‘Death is the last enemy. If I kill Le Cancrelat, if I stop everyone else from stealing our dream, death will still come for it.’

‘Nothing lasts forever,’ Gabby murmured.

‘Why not?’ Harry smothered the searing whisper of the face of amber flame. ‘The only limits magic has are those we give it. Why can I not keep my sunset? Why should I resign myself to one day having to drown in the emptiness?’

Gabby bounced her heels off the bench, studying him with sharp grey eyes. ‘You already defeated death. You came back.’

He shook his head. ‘I did. If I die fighting Le Cancrelat, I’ll return—’ his fingers slid to the slim shape of his ebony wand ‘—but Fleur? Our baby? …You?’

‘Me,’ Gabby whispered, falling still. ‘If you die and lose your body, you will return less than a shadow. Is that what you want? Isn’t that worse?’

‘It’s better than not returning.’ Harry wrestled with it, the ghosts of the Resurrection Stone hovering among his thoughts, just out of reach. ‘But it is a last resort. The very last.’

‘You’re trying to make sure nobody can ever take away the things you need.’

‘Yes.’ Harry crushed a stab of panic down into the dark. ‘I need Fleur, I will need our child, and, well…’

A small smile spread across Gabby’s face. ‘I can feel it,’ she murmured. ‘You both need me. Who else will stop the two of you from being silly?’

He mustered a grin. ‘It’s as close to Aimee’s veela harem as you’re getting.’

‘I’ll take it,’ she chirped. ‘But—’ her gaze sharpened ‘—if I am needed, then I want to be part of La Victoire Finale, I want to help.’

Harry gave her a slow nod. ‘That’s fair. We would have told you, eventually, when it was more than just a half-formed dream.’

‘But you didn’t.’ She crossed her arms. ‘You kept it a secret from me.’

‘We have to have some secrets, Gabby.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘You already know a whole load of things I would like to have been secrets.’

‘No you don’t.’ Gabby dropped to the floor, crouching over the edge of the pensieve and pulling out her wand. ‘You don’t need to keep secrets from me. Secrets are stupid. You can tell Fleur that, too.’

‘I’ll tell her about this,’ Harry said. ‘I’m about to head back, anyway. I’m all done here if I’m not helping you. Grise and Vert are still searching for Le Cancrelat.’

‘I’ll stick about here for a short while,’ she replied. ‘I want to see if I can make it more efficient, and maybe think on what you said about the mental stress of using it.’

‘Have fun!’ He pictured the kitchen and wrenched the world back past him, stepping onto the tiles with a soft snap. 

Fleur spooned sugar into her steaming mug of hot chocolate by the sink. ‘Bonjour, mon Amour.’

‘Bonjour, mon Rêve.’ Harry stepped behind her and slid his arms ‘round her waist, lifting the weight of the baby off her.

She sighed and leant her head back onto his shoulder. ‘That is very nice, merci beaucoup.’

‘It’s a chubby baby bird now.’ He chuckled in her ear, breathing in the faint sweet scent of marzipan from her hair. ‘Nearly there, though. Only about a couple of months.’

‘Nearly there,’ Fleur murmured, picking her hot chocolate up and taking a long sip. ‘We really should think about names.’

‘Plenty of time for that still,’ Harry said. ‘I’ve got a list of bird puns…’

‘Non.’ She tutted. ‘We are not naming our baby with bird puns.’

‘Not even the middle name?’ Harry teased. ‘Think how funny it would be when they get all birdy when they’re older and we could call them that…’

‘Non.’ Fleur leant back and pressed a chocolate-tasting kiss to his lips. ‘I want them to have a beautiful name. One that means something to us and them.’

‘Like Katrina,’ Harry whispered. 

‘Oui, like Katrina,’ she said.

She must hate that. Gabby’s words rose from the well of his mind and a faint unease gnawed at him. 

‘We don’t have to choose Katrina,’ he murmured. ‘I appreciate you suggesting it, I really do, but if you’d rather we didn’t, even a little, then we can choose a different name.’

‘I have chosen Katrina.’ Fleur twisted around, slipping one arm beneath her stomach as his hands curved ‘round her waist. ‘I like the idea.’ She sipped her hot chocolate and a little flicker of emotion passed through her blue eyes. ‘It is not entirely unselfish, mon Amour. Pardon.’

It’s not? He frowned. Oh. Of course not. If our baby is Katrina, then Katie is hers. Fleur… Harry sighed. I suppose it’s no worse than what I would do, better, maybe.

‘I understand,’ he said. ‘It’s okay.’

She cupped his cheek with her free hand. ‘Je t’aime, mon Cœur, but I am a very possessive bird-wife.’

‘I noticed.’ He pulled her close and pressed a kiss to the tip of her nose. ‘And if I said I didn’t love it, I would be lying to you.’

‘Maybe we should think about names another time,’ Fleur said, wrapping her arm around his neck. ‘What were you doing off with my little sister?’

Harry pulled her close, hiding his grin against her forehead. ‘We made a lovely little half-sib—’

‘Non.’ Fleur’s heel came down on his foot and a jolt of pain lanced up his leg.

‘Ow.’ He wiggled his toes until the pain faded. ‘We actually just tested the pensieve again, it’s working more or less perfectly now.’

‘Making things with Gabrielle again,’ she muttered.

Harry rested a hand on her stomach. ‘You’re still winning, mon Trésor.’

‘Good.’ Fleur leant back and tilted her chin up, letting the faintest hint of a pout creep onto her lips.

‘Sneaky bird-wife,’ he murmured, pulling her into a long, soft kiss. ‘I know what you’re doing.’

Fleur’s pout curved into a small smile against his lips. ‘And you still can’t resist, even though I’m all fat and moody.’

‘In my defence, it is absolutely irresistible,’ Harry said, holding her close. ‘Do you want to sit down?’

‘Yes.’ She hummed, watching him with a soft small smile that sent his heart lurching as he pulled a chair out for her. ‘The baby is heavy and my feet are starting to hurt.’ She waddled across the kitchen and lowered herself into the chair. ‘That is better.’

Harry took a seat beside her and lifted her feet up into his lap, working the ball of his thumb into the arch of her foot. ‘Nice?’

Fleur moaned. ‘More.’

He laughed. ‘If Gabby comes back and hears that, she’s going to think we’re doing something very different.’

‘She will try and get you to massage her feet,’ Fleur grumbled. ‘But you are not going to.’

‘Too right,’ Harry said. ‘She’s wandering around barefoot in Paris at the moment, no way am I touching her feet after that.’

‘Or at all.’

‘Or at all.’ He chuckled. ‘You’re so adorably jealous.’

Fleur buried her pout in her hot chocolate. ‘What is the little harpy doing?’

‘Taking a look at the pensieve.’ Harry studied his fingernails. ‘She asked me about La Victoire Finale.’

‘What did you tell her?’

‘More or less everything,’ he said. ‘I’ve mostly given up trying to keep secrets from Gabby since you decided you were going to tell her about our sex life in graphic detail.’

‘And?’ Fleur’s blue eyes darkened a few hues. ‘What did she say?’

Harry slid a hand across the table to cup hers around the mug. ‘I think, given we want Gabby to be a part of it, it’s only fair she’s involved. It’s not like she can’t help us, either.’

Fleur stared at his hand. ‘I wanted to make it with you,’ she murmured. ‘Something just for us.’

‘But it’s not really going to be just for us,’ he said. ‘Gabby, our baby…’

‘Je sais.’ She sighed. ‘I do not entirely like it, she is always sticking her beak in, always there with us, always—’

‘You would miss her very much if she wasn’t, no?’

Fleur’s lips twisted. ‘Probably, yes.’ She stuck her lower lip out. ‘But that doesn’t mean I want to share everything with her.’

Harry squeezed her fingers. ‘I don’t think that’s going to happen, mon Rêve.’ He levelled a pointed look at the curve of her stomach. ‘I’m very sure it’s not going to happen, in fact.’

She hummed. ‘Fine. Gabby can help.’ Fleur slipped her hand from under his to sip her hot chocolate, setting it down and taking hold of his hand. ‘I’ve been outlining, actually, while you and my sister have been off having fun together.’

‘Oh? I thought you’d given up on using the Hallows?’

‘I was thinking about what you told me about the Dufort sisters,’ she said. ‘How while one of them lives, none of them can die. You came back to me because you’re mine, all you needed was an anchor to allow it.’

‘I don’t think I could make another horcrux,’ Harry murmured. ‘I don’t think you could, either, or, I hope you can’t.’

Fleur’s brow creased. ‘What do you mean?’

‘The intent of the magic is demonstrated by an entirely selfish act,’ he replied. ‘You do it for yourself, there can’t be anyone else in your heart or the intent isn’t powerful enough to create an anchor for your soul.’

‘Oh.’ She took another long sip. ‘Something similar, then. A ritual, like the ones you designed before, but one that will bring us back to one another so long as we desire it. We are each other’s purpose.’

‘Magic like that has a price,’ Harry whispered. ‘I do not know what we would have to pay.’

‘Death,’ she murmured. ‘We sacrifice Death.’

‘The Hallows…’ He turned it over in his head. ‘I’m not sure that would be enough, even as invaluable as they are. My parents, they sacrificed every moment they would have had with me to protect me. Can you imagine—’ Harry leant forward and traced his fingertips along the curve of her stomach ‘—all those moments, all that joy, given up.’

Fleur shivered and pressed her hands over his. ‘If there’s a way to have our final victory, then we’ll find it.’

‘There must be a way,’ he said. ‘And Gabby will help us.’

‘I won’t leave our baby alone,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Not how you were, not how I was, not how Gabby would’ve been if I’d not been there.’

‘We’ll find a way.’ Harry took a deep breath. ‘I will get rid of Le Cancrelat, you will have our baby, and then we’ll have all the time we need to carefully figure it out.’

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