Thank you everyone for your support. The updates will be quite sporadic from now on, the reason being that I am about to begin a new phase of my life in a few days. So wish me luck.
Ch 15 - Steps of Life
A man was panting.
"Aah, aah, aah…"
A woman urged him on.
"Once more, once more, one more time…"
"I can't do it any more Celine. Aah, aah…"
"One more time Siri, yes, yes, so close…so close."
"But-but Celine, oh Merlin, oh my fucking Merlin…no…"
"Siri, please Siri, you can't lose hope now. Push your hips down baby…yeah, yeah…one more time…"
"I will break Celine. I don't have any…any stamina left."
Sirius Black had thin beads of sweat running down from his forehead. He wondered how many buckets he had already filled. This wasn't going at all as he had thought. What had taken him to misjudge this woman and invite her home? Oh God, love was a disgusting piece of wreck, it made you do things you wouldn't ever put yourself upto if you were normal.
"Fuck it all Celine…I can't do this…I just can't."
A whip cracked on his back.
And he shrieked. "AAAAAAA…OH MERLIN…OH MERLIN…No more, no more…"
"You do as I say Sirius Black. Move your hips forward. Yes, yes, like that. Yes, yes, yes, one more time, keep it on…"
Sirius did as he was told. Once, twice, thrice and yet again.
"-One hundred and fifty. And there you go."
And finally, he had completed his push-ups.
It was noon when he woke up from his slumber. His body was wreaking havoc on him. All his limbs, his mid-section, his shoulders, everything felt as if someone had broken them to pieces and then taped them together. And his back…Merlin save him…that bitch had literally whipped him into submission. Sirius had never been through such humiliation even with the Marauders at his side.
He decided that muggles were plainly too crazy to interact with.
Sirius had newly-newly fallen in love these days. The woman was a piece of work so unique that he had no doubt whatsoever that she was carved and created for him and him only. As soon as he had laid his eyes on her, he knew that he was gone for good.
Getting a profile on her was a little difficult, especially when he was running like a dog most of the time, but he had gotten enough information to present himself and strike a friendship. It had been tough, what with she being who she was, and he being a wanted escaped murderer but he had finally been able to convince her of his innocence and quite the chivalrous attitude.
The problem was that she hadn't instantly fallen in love with him as he had certainly hoped, seeing his rugged looks. In Sirius' honest and modest opinion, he was better than Jean-Pierre Aumont, who was her favorite actor for some reason. She drooled all over him for God's sake. But no, she hadn't liked Sirius one bit in that regard. He was firmly kept under the 'Just Casual Acquaintances' category from the very first moment.
It had taken him quite a bit of planning, a little bit of luck, and her daughter's love for dogs (yes, she had a daughter), to gain entry in her house as Snaffu. Slowly but steadily, he had eased her way into their lives.
But she still didn't love him.
He had looked at himself and tried to determine the problem. Meeting her husband once (yes, she had a husband as well, unfortunately) cleared all doubts. He was a hunk, for a short of words. At least five inches taller than himself and built like a tank, he was nothing short of the polar opposite of Moony in his normal days. To be honest, Sirius was actually a little afraid of the man. He had that creepy vibe all over him that said 'DANGER'. Sirius had once thought about the morality of his actions on hitting on someone else's wife but after meeting that 'someone else', he had decided that she would certainly be better off without him.
He had then decided that he had to gain quite a bit of weight and build a solid figure. He needed at least a six-pack to woo his girl, to make her heart flutter and to make her scream in pleasure. His lean frame just wouldn't do for his sweetheart.
Thus, after having an evil laugh, he had ventured into Muggle France and hired himself a new personal trainer.
That was clearly a mistake. Now he knew.
The alarm bell rang again and Sirius contemplated throwing it outside the window for good this time. He just didn't want to get up, but he had an important appointment that day and he, unfortunately, couldn't miss it.
He dragged himself out of the bed and limped towards the bathroom. Taking more than a little paste in his brush, he began shaving himself. On second thought, oops.
With his morning abulations done, he quickly got himself ready and moved towards the fireplace. He threw the floo powder inside and jumped, shouting 'Delacour Mansion'.
The Delacour estate was situated somewhere on the outskirts of the city of Paris. It consisted of a huge manor, something four times the size of Grimmauld Place, and an open area approximately triple of it. Unlike other magical households Sirius had seen, this was unique in the sense that there were no muggle barring wards here for some reason. Everything could be seen by everyone and hence, a little extra care was to be taken at all times.
He stepped outside the fireplace in the outer courtyard of the building. He was immediately received by a man he knew as 'Hans' who bowed and graciously welcomed him.
"Good afternoon, Monsieur Black."
"Good afternoon Hans. Is Adelard home?"
It was strange a little but Sirius knew that nobody, at least no servant, was allowed to call Adelard by his name. In fact, they seemed fearful to Sirius when he mentioned it. To an untrained eye, it wouldn't be visible but Sirius was from a fucked up country where an original piece of work called himself 'You-Know-Who', so he had quite an experience detecting such matters.
"Master is waiting for you in his office."
Sirius nodded and went inside through the foyer. There was another entrance to the office but he wanted to meet someone else as well. Hans moved to say something but he stopped and allowed Sirius to pass.
Sirius loved how the French designed their homes. He always marveled at the idea of those huge chandeliers and the sheer height of the ceiling. The paintings in the Delacour home didn't move but sometimes, Sirius felt that they had their eyes on him.
Sirius remembered something and smiled. He quickly transformed into his animagus form and trotted inside.
"Snaffu," a girl shrieked happily from somewhere and came running towards him. As usual, he licked her face in greeting and allowed her to ride on his huge form. She laughed, poked and ordered him around the house and he granted her every wish.
After three rounds of the huge hall, she was finally sated.
He sat down and she jumped from his back. He transformed back to his human form and grinned. "Gabby"
"Where is your mother?"
Sirius jumped, though his back was burning like hell, and moved towards the amused Appoline Delacour, who was apparently watching them for the whole time he was there.
To describe Apolline, Sirius could only say that Apolline was…Aphrodite. Plain and simple. Nothing more could be said about her. She was perfect in every way imaginable. Whenever he saw her, he had such a rush in his ears that he wanted to grab her then and there and take off with her to someone unknown island where no one could find them, least of all her husband.
He especially loved that mole on her cheek.
"What happened to your back?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Ah, you noticed. You care for me too much darling. Or are you jealous?" he asked, wiggling his eyebrows at her. "Someone just whipped me yesterday, you see. We were just playing a little with toys…"
"What were you playing Snaffu?" Gabrielle asked, jumping up and down beside her mother. "I want to play too."
Siruis laughed. "You are too young for that game Gabby. I bet your mother is good at it though. Ask her if she wants to play with me."
"In your dreams, Sirius. In your dreams."
"Oh Appo," Sirius pretended to be hurt. "Can't you just play with me a little? Aren't we friends? What is your problem to be precise? Tell me. Is it your clothes? Ask me once my darling and I'll be gallant enough to remove them from your stupendous figure and then, you can sate my desire and we can give gabby more brothers and sisters to play…"
Sirus got a slap. Nothing new.
"Adelard, someone is here for you." Apolline called to her husband.
Sirius just sighed and moved to the office.
He entered without knocking.
"Adelard, my friend…how are you this fine day?"
"I asked you to knock last time you came inside."
"Do you know what this does, Sirius?"
"Nope. Not an idea."
"It's a muggle weapon called a gun. With just one click, it can drill a hole through your head."
"You are joking, right?"
"I am not a joker Sirius, unlike you. Next time, you knock."
"Have you now? Good. Go back. Knock. Come inside."
Sirius turned, sure to keep a smile on his face, and cursing the bastard in his mind. He went out. He knocked. He came inside.
"Adelard, my friend…how are you this fine day?"
Adelard looked at him and Sirius scowled internally. He was sure that the bastard wanted to say 'You did not ask for the permission to enter Sirius'. Say it, you fucker. You'll see when I get Apolline away from you.
"Sit down Sirius." he said instead.
Sirius sat with a smile. "What have you got for me, Ade?"
Adelard didn't say anything but Sirius saw the instant change in his expression and sniggered inside. He quite liked pushing this man's buttons for some reason.
As mentioned earlier, Adelard was a hunk through and through. Sirius had no doubt that he could grab him by the collar with one hand, lift him, and throw him like a football, without putting even a little strain on himself. It was purely a coincident that he was Apolline's husband. Sirius had met him strictly in a professional sense for the first time but then, everything changed when he saw Gabby hopping somewhere around the house.
"I have received your gift. Here it is." said Adelard.
All thoughts of jokes went away from Sirius' mind at once. All cheerfulness left his face. His eyes widened and a look of great hunger came upon his face. No more was he the Sirius Black who goofed around all the time. He was the Sirius Black who was haunted by the dementors of Azkaban prison for twelve long years. He was an innocent who was once betrayed and who suffered more than he could ever achieve back.
Adelard too saw the change in Sirius' eyes instantly and leaned back with satisfaction.
Sirius removed the cloth covering the small cage and looked at the creature sleeping inside. The creature opened its eyes and looked at Sirius with plain terror in them. It started running around the locked cage with a frightening speed.
If Adelard wasn't Adelard, he would have been haunted by that smile for years to come.
(Meanwhile At Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry)
Harry looked down from the highest tower of Hogwarts – the Astronomy Tower - and contemplated the fickle nature of life. It was so simple. A single step and there wouldn't be any more problems. Not even magic could save him from a fall this high. No need of a green light for Harry Potter to gain his freedom. Just one single step. Why wouldn't he just end this here and enjoy an eternity with his parents? He seriously doubted they would let him face any more of this circus in the clouds above. What was keeping him here?
A gentle wind was coursing through Hogwarts today. It gave him the calmness and a cool he had desperately craved in the headmaster's office. Even the most absurd and suicidal thoughts in his brain weren't affecting him much. The atmosphere was quite lively down below as the students laughed and talked nonsense. They had already forgotten about Krum. It was just a game for them.
As he watched the comings and goings of the students below, he wondered for the umpteenth time what was it like to be a normal person. How would life be if there was no Triwizard, no Voldemort, no Dumbledore, no Dursleys even – what would it feel like. Wouldn't it be even better if he was a muggle? At least, he would live then. How would it be when he wouldn't have to check every nook and corner for enemies hiding and waiting in silence? When he could freely trust someone and make friends? Wouldn't it be…liberating?
He thought about Barty Crouch Jr impersonating Mad-Eye Moody. As a teacher, Harry was bound to trust him one way or the other, especially when he was one of the better ones. He could have done anything with him in these months, had it not been for Voldemort's orders to keep him alive. Harry smiled. Voldemort. What a fool he was. If what Dumbledore thought was true, in the end, he would kill himself. But the bastard would take him as well.
Where was he by the way? Ah, yes, duplicate Moody. He wondered how many else are there lying and waiting for the perfect opportunity to finish him? Polyjuice can't be too tough to make if Hermione could do it in second year. How many other professors are copies? Imagine Lucius Malfoy masquerading as McGonagall. Maybe Snape? Na…who would wish to drink his hair. That too every hour…
Then Harry thought of something else and chuckled. Voldemort really was an idiot. He should have planned to kidnap Albus Dumbledore instead. With Moody his friend, it wouldn't have been too difficult to backstab the old man and then, then he would have an unlimited supply of hair from his beard and bingo! Voldemort as the headmaster of Hogwarts.
At least he would be busy then, instead of concentrating on ending Harry's life.
Harry wondered if he could just change his name and go to Alaska? It would be a much better idea than taking this one single step.
One single step…
Someone cleared her throat. Fleur.
Harry turned and looked at her. She was looking at him from her position on the floor from at least the past couple of hours without uttering a single word of consolation. Harry was aware that she wasn't lost in her own thoughts but was just giving him a little space.
She cared. It showed in her eyes.
"What exactly are you thinking?" she asked.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. Everything. Nothing. You, Me, Dumbledore, Voldemort…"
He had sent Ron and Hermione back to their classes. Hermione was quite distraught after the meeting with the headmaster but he had assured her that he wasn't dying anytime soon. Ron was just looking at him as if he would drop dead any second. Harry didn't want to see him cry too…the first time in the corridor was enough. So he had sent them on their way, promising to meet them later in the common room.
"What about me?"
He looked at Fleur again and met her eyes. "Just that you aren't crying."
Fleur raised her perfect eyebrow. "Why would I cry?"
"Well, I am dying and, girls tend to cry when someone is dying if Hermione's any indication."
"You have a very limited experience of girls 'Arry. Besides, you are not dying. You just have someone else's soul piece stuck in your head."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, and he's an angel. A white bald angel."
She scoffed. "It isn't equal to dying, whatever Dumbledore says."
"You see, Fleur, he is Dumbledore."
"Then listen to 'im when 'e says that you would come back."
"Well…he is only Dumbledore. He doesn't know shit about afterlife."
Her lips thinned. "You can't 'ave it both ways."
"Why not?" he asked.
Fleur didn't answer. She just looked above in the sky as Harry looked on at her face. There was something there Harry wouldn't ever tire of. She was beautiful, everyone knew, but there was something else as well. Something that was ever captivating to him. It always called him towards her. And strangely enough, he felt it was right.
After a minute of silence, she then looked at him again and asked him something, "Do you trust me?"
Harry thought about it. If he was true to himself, she was the one he trusted most at this point. It wasn't Dumbledore for obvious reasons. Ron and Hermione…yes, he had forgiven them and not even a trace of bitterness was left now but he knew it wouldn't be the same. That night in the graveyard had changed him in some fundamental way. He had felt the true fear of dying that night. Before this, they were all together in everything he had done. But this time, it was Fleur who had fought beside him.
For lack of words, Ron and Hermione seemed like children now.
"Say it" said Fleur.
"I do trust you." said Harry, looking her in the eyes with utmost conviction.
"Forget it then," she said at last.
"How can I-"
"You trust me, non?"
Harry nodded again. "I trust you."
"Then just let me take care of you. I promise that you will not die. At least not before me."
Harry's head turned with a snap and he glared at her. "Don't say that."
"I am not just saying. I promise."
He looked in her eyes. He knew that it was pure unadulterated truth she had spoken in that moment. She was ready to die for him. She won't let any harm come to him, not even at the cost of her own life.
"Why?" he asked, tapping his foot in nervousness.
"Don't you know?" Fleur asked innocently, widening her eyes at him. "You are my foster baby."
Harry looked daggers at her and scowled, just as Fleur smiled. She was still joking. He didn't know whether to get angry at her or just leave it be, as she said.
"Come here," she said patting the spot beside her, just like she did on the ground near the lake every time they sat together. It was almost a ritual now.
Harry sighed and slowly walked towards her, abandoning the 'one single step' idea for now, and sat with his back to the wall. She took his hand in hers and squeezed.
They didn't speak for a while, just looked at the setting sun and the chirping owls from nearby. He wondered if this darkness would be his future, spreading in his life gradually.
Maybe he had closed his eyes a couple of minutes ago or maybe it was a couple of hours, he didn't know. But he heard her correctly the first time anyway.
"Now come here," she spoke in a low voice.
Harry opened his eyes and turned. His eyes widened as he looked askance at her. She was patting her lap this time.
Fleur met his gaze without flinching and spoke again softly, "Come here 'Arry."
Harry refused to think at this moment. Words simply could not express what he felt. In some ways, this was more of a shock than what he had received in the headmaster's office. Fleur had outdone Albus Dumbledore. He had offered him death and what she was offering was life in its purest form. She was offering him something which was precious. This wasn't a joke anymore. She was giving herself to him.
Some implications somehow made their way to his brain. He thought about shaking his head and running from there. He didn't deserve her in his life, not with what lurked ahead for him.
But for once, he wanted to do something for himself. He didn't have the guts to refuse.
So, slowly, he lowered himself and lay down in her lap, never taking his eyes away from her. She put one of her hands around his neck and caressed his cheek with the other. Her touch was soft, tender. All of a sudden, he felt at peace. At once, this wasn't the worst day of his life anymore.
"Do you like it?" she asked.
He didn't feel the slightest bit of hesitance now as he raised his hand and touched her cheek with the back of his palm. He wanted to touch her, feel her and learn her, all when he still had time. He touched her nose, her ears, her lips. She had closed her eyes, just like he had. It wasn't required to look at each other now.
Fleur did not resist him when he slowly pulled her towards himself and inch by inch, the distance between them reduced. His breath mingled with hers as he waited, her lips so close that he could feel their warmth. Her scent was as exquisite as ever but he couldn't help but think that it was somehow more absorbing today. There wasn't much room for thoughts now; his heart was pounding too hard for him to think clearly.
The moment came and their lips touched. None of them moved a muscle for a few seconds. His breath caught the same instant hers did. Her lips were as soft as cream and she tasted like apple. Sweet. That was the first thought he had; strangely enough. For a moment, he had a panic attack as he realized he had no clue whatsoever where to go from here but he steadied himself for he knew that this moment wouldn't come back.
He ran his fingers through her velvety hair and moved his lips slowly. He felt Fleur easing closer to him, melting into him. She touched his cheek gently with featherlight stokes of her thumb as their lips moved in tandem. He wondered when would the tongues come into play but decided that he liked this well enough for now. Anymore and he would splinch himself.
Her fingers slid down the back of his neck, tracing its shape, and every place they touched was electric. He utterly forgot each and every one of his damned problems and just lost himself in her.
The enormous pressure in his chest felt similar to the times when he was apparating, just a thousand times better. He could do this regularly if Fleur allowed him to.
Soon, Harry felt her pulling back but she was back in the next second kissing his cheek and his jaw and his other cheek. It felt too good.
With sudden clarity, he realized that Fleur was the best thing to happen to him in his entire life. The whole world might have turned upside down at that moment and he wouldn't have noticed. He didn't want to end this, ever, and he didn't want Fleur to go.
He wouldn't let her go. Ever.
Fleur didn't seem to be in any kind of hurry to leave him and so, he learnt kissing and kissing her in particular at an agonizingly slow pace.
Some time later, she gave him one last peck on the lips and finally pulled back. He looked at her glowing form and smiled.
"You are awfully 'ard to satiate." Fleur said with a smile, wiping his lips with her thumb.
Harry raised an eyebrow, a skill he had learnt just that day. "Who said I am done?"
Fleur shook her head. "I am done and I am tired. I 'ave not worked this 'ard in…in…I cannot remember 'ow long."
"Don't tell me you wanna sleep together. I know I am sexy as hell, but…"
Fleur pinched him.
"I am sexier." she said with a pout.
Harry looked at her thoughtfully. "OK. I'll give you that one."
Fleur chuckled and Harry laughed with her.
He sighed and turned on his side to nestle closer to her.
"I never thought I would go through all this when I woke up today. I thought the adventure for this year was done."
"Its just starting, my amor. And I am for life."
Fleur shrugged. "If you want me."
"Of course I want you." Harry said, gently touching her cheek.
"Do not be too sure. I 'ave some secrets you aren't privy too."
"Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.
Fleur giggled. "Maybe."
"Oui. You, I theenk."
Fleur shook her head.
"You aren't secretly married, right?"
She pinched him again.
Harry thought for a bit. "No kids either?"
"'ARRYYYY…" Fleur shrieked, pushing at him.
Harry sniggered. "Sorry. Sorry. Alright, then. I don't care about any other secrets."
"Sure?" Fleur asked him one final time.
"Yeah, alright then." he said, nodding.
They lapsed in silence. Fleur kept running her fingers through his hair and he wished for a little oil.
Then he said, "I think you should say something Fleur."
"What?" she asked.
"Something that has to be said after kissing and all."
"Something important Fleur. Think."
"Give me a 'int 'Arry."
"It's three words long."
"French words or English words?"
Harry looked at her. "Bulgarian words."
"I can not know then."
Harry sighed. "English Words."
"OK. How does it start?"
Harry took a deep breath. "It starts with an 'I'."
Fleur thought for a bit. "I don't get it."
"Don't you ever see movies?" he asked her in desperation.
Fleur shook her head.
"I neither." Harry told her. "My Uncle and Aunt – the people I used to live with – never allowed me to watch. But I sneaked peaks sometimes and watched full movies whenever they were out. Romance was my favorite section."
"I don't like motion picture." she replied.
"Really? How can you not like movies? Either you are crazy or French movie houses must be bad." Harry told her.
"Take your pick."
"Anyway, you must have at least read novels."
Fleur nodded. "Yes. Crime thrillers mostly."
Harry made a face.
Fleur couldn't hold it anymore. She laughed out loud.
"You are taking the mickey out of me aren't you? You do know what I want you to say. You Frenchie." He said, poking her in the stomach.
"'Arry," Fleur giggled. "I theenk I 'ave an idea but you should still spell it out."
"Your idea would suffice I think, just say it."
"'Arry, I kissed you first, did I not? Now it's only fair that you say it first."
"That isn't right. I had to actually remind you that people have to say that to each other. Otherwise you were just sitting like that."
"I waz waiting for you to say it."
"Fleur, listen to me please. Now that I am your amor, whatever that is, you should listen to what I say and do as I say. It's your duty as my girlfriend."
Fleur glared at him and grabbed his collar.
"So you are one of those men?"
Harry nodded. "We know what's good for our females. And could you please lighten your hold, it's getting difficult to breath."
"YOU," she said, pointing a finger first at him and then towards her, "listen to me. I am ze boss in zis relationship 'Arry Potter. I am telling you now itself. Do not act oversmart with me."
Harry looked cross. "Alright. If that is it, I am going to go back to my dorms. To my ever faithful friends."
And he got up from her lap.
Fleur pulled him back to her lap from the back of his robes though and took a hold on his neck.
"You cannot just leave like that." she said.
"I am not done with you."
"What will you do?"
"First we are going to set up some rules."
"Forget it. I remember what it was like when I had to set up some rules with you last time."
"That waz for your own good 'Arry."
"Thiz iz for my good."
"Whatever. I am done."
"You are not. I will petrify you if you don't listen."
Harry clenched his teeth. "Fine. Shoot."
Fleur smiled. "First, you will be a good boyfriend and listen to what I say."
"In your dreams."
Fleur nodded. "In them az well. Second, if you don't do as I say, you will get punished."
"Third, I love you."
"To hell…" Harry stopped. He looked at her suddenly and grinned. Fleur was grinning like a loon as well. He then finally said, "I love you too."
They just looked at each other for quite some time just as Harry had seen people doing in those movies. It was crazzzyyyyyyyyy.
"That wazn't too difficult, waz it?" she asked, after a while.
He shook his head. "No, it wasn't. I love you, Fleur."
Harry sighed happily. "I didn't know it was possible to feel this way after everything that happened in the morning. I like this feeling Fleur."
And he closed his eyes.
"Can I sleep with you tonight?"
His eyes snapped open. "Only sleep?"
"You can conjure a bed here, right? And ward us?"
In no time at all, they were tucked next to each other on a large enough bed.
"Don't you think we are going too fast?"
"Don't you want to court me first?"
"Why can't I court you after saying 'I love you'?"
Fleur shrugged. "It's just not traditional."
"To hell with tradition. I am Harry Potter."
"I think we should sleep."
"It's difficult to control this after…everything."
"Yeah…I would like to kiss you more."
"I don't 'ave a problem with kissing."
"Am I a good kisser, Fleur?"
"I feel so. I don't have anyone to compare."
"Really? I am the first one you kissed too."
"It must have been too lonely if you got your first kiss at seventeen."
"Am I handsome?"
"Oui. But I think you looked better with glasses."
"You were the one who removed them."
"For your protection, 'Arry."
"Yeah…fuck Voldemort…I'll do everything not to die Fleur, I promise. I want to live with you."
Fleur smiled. "Thank You."
"I like your smile."
"And your nose."
He kissed her then. He kissed her more. It was lazy and hence, all the more intimate.
"I like kissing you."
For a while, they both lay awake in each other's arms.
"I like cuddling with you."
"How would you like a vacation?"
He attacked her lips with vigor this time.