Chapter 2 : Promises
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“This place is so… exotic.”
Harry smiled at that comment. The last time he was in Madrid he was just passing through, running away from it all. Everywhere was foreign and cold to him. Memories were a strange thing. It made the simplest of comments turn into something deep, and thought-provoking. This place is so...exotic. A different language, different locale- at the time, that didn’t matter .
Back then, Hermione was lying on the hospital bed, on the very brink of death; and all because of him. That vision cut to the bone, and deep in his gut, he knew that her father was right. “You would be the end of her!” That one comment was like the embodiment of everything he felt building up over the years. That was almost a year ago to this day. Presently, Hermione was holding his hand, and both of them were enjoying their first real ‘date’. It was two days after the match, and they were having dinner on the balcony of a trendy restaurant. They had a spectacular view, and Harry had to admit that under these circumstances Madrid was a sight to behold.
The city lights flickered over the vast landscape, and the zipping lights of vehicles on the freeway created an effect that breathed life into the metropolis below. The atmosphere was balmy and warm, and Hermione was gorgeous, elegantly casual in a form-fitting dress. The dinner was perfect, and they decided to spend a little time just being together, and looking at the spectacular view. His coach had organized everything, sort of as a birthday present and bonus for the “smashing display.” Harry was clueless about these sort of things. He never went to a nice restaurant, and the only time he did go to a restaurant was his first day by Hermione- and it just so happened that his aunt and uncle were coincidentally going to eat there as well, spoiling his appetite. To top it off, he got into a fight with Dudley. He remembered that he felt really out of place in an old t-shirt and jeans, while everyone else was nicely dressed. So, he decided to go and asked some of his more experienced teammates give him pointers on what sort of clothes to wear and table etiquette. It would be the last time he would do something as stupid as that.
“Umm.. hey guys,” said Harry. He was hoping to bring his little problem to them as discreetly as possible. Richardson gave him a nasty look. Somehow he had found out before Harry had a chance to tell them.
“You lucky bugger. How come I didn’t get an all expense dinner at a fancy shmancy restaurant?”
“Come on, give him a break. He did win the game… and it was his birthday to boot…” Oliver Wood reprimanded his beater. “What’s up Harry?”
Harry felt kind of guilty that only he got a dinner courtesy of the coaching staff. He didn’t want the others to feel that he had special treatment.
“Uh- maybe I shouldn’t bother you guys…” Harry trailed off. It already felt like a bad idea…
“Come on, spill it!” Oliver encouraged him.
“Only if you don’t laugh.” Harry sighed.
“We promise.” Already the other guys were snickering behind their mustaches.
“Umm…I need some pointers. So.. I want it to be special, and not to disappoint Hermione. I treated her horribly for the past year, And…um...any tips on what I should wear...and what fork to use-“
As soon as he said it, all the guys began to break out in raucous laughter. It was embarrassing to say the least. They laughed so hard at him that his face burned red, and he wished he could have slugged each and every one of them. Amy sauntered across, curious about what was all the ruckas about. Cho followed shortly after.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Amy barked. She realized only Harry was not laughing, and looking pretty embarrassed. “ Harry- why are they getting on like such idiots?”
Cantonma sputtered, trying to hold in his mirth. “Potter- ha ha - here…needs..um.. pointers for his date.. I could give him pointers...but it has nothing to do with dinner...” he laughed.
“Maybe you should write poetry and sing love songs too-!” Richardson guffawed.
“Harry, mate…that would have been the last thing I would ever have imagined you to ask….Lordy-“ Oliver teased.
“Forget it!” Harry spat, and stormed out. Cho and Amy felt for him, and ran to catch up.
“Harry, don’t mind them. I think what you’re trying to do for Hermione is sweet. She really did have a rough time last year,” Cho consoled him, touching him on his arm. “ If only Ron tried to do something like that for me, I would appreciate it. So don’t you go and listen to those prats. Maybe a little romance is what she needs.”
“Chang’s right,” Amy said. “Let’s go.”
Harry turned. ”Go where?”
“Shopping, of course!” She replied with gusto. “How many times does a girl get to dress up Harry potter? Come on Cho, let’s go and make him sexy for his date!”
And with that, they each wrapped an arm around his elbows and dragged him out of the hotel. Harry grimaced. Shopping- He hated shopping!
Later that night Harry had to admit the look on Hermione’s face when he picked her up was worth it. She was absolutely awestruck. She half expected a baggy jeans and t-shirt, or no-nonsense Auror robes. Harry looked – there was no other word- handsome!
“Hi,” Harry said, a bit nervous. He had on dark navy slacks, and a matching vest and jacket to accompany it. His hair was actually neat- how in the world did he do that? and he wore a pair of classy shoes instead of his favourite horntail boots.
“Hi...” Hermione breathed, she still could not believe it. When Harry presented her with a single rose from behind his back she could swear she felt a tear run down her cheek. Even the fact that there was a Ministry SUV’s as their ride instead of Harry’s motorbike was a nice touch. Harry really tried hard to make this a memorable night, and it showed. She felt really special, because as far as she knew, Harry never really went all out like this for anyone. Hermione accepted the flower, and laid her hand gently on the crook of his elbow.
Harry grinned inwardly- YES! Mission One- The Pickup- Accomplished!! Cho and Amy’s plan was working well, so far. From here on; it was just to keep things simple, and not to mess up. Now what he needed to do was compliment her. Being careful so that he didn't spoil the mood, he chose his words carefully:
“Um- You look very pretty.”
As soon as it came out, he realized it sounded pretty tame. Hermione glanced at him, and he thought that maybe she thought the same, but his worries were quelled when she smiled up at him, and said a soft “Thank you.” Harry grinned in spite of himself. He didn’t screw up- yet. That was good. She really was beautiful, and not only in her physical appearance. Her inner beauty shone through, and everyone in her presence could sense it. He was so lucky, and he needed to really begin appreciating her more. How many guys could say that their girlfriend will do anything to save their life? Putting those deeper thoughts aside, he focused enjoying the night, and treating her nice for a change.
“Huh?” Harry snapped out of his memory.
“You seemed lost for a second. Anyway, as I was saying, the Spanish wizards used a lot of their culture in their magic- I mean- music, dancing, that sort of thing. I think that’s why their team was so strong, the chanting and singing may have been a hidden spell used to drive their team on, make them faster, more accurate. What do you think?”
“Yeah- maybe you’re right. Ron said something about when they were on home turf they had a winning streak for a long while-“
“Exactly. I read somewhere that not all magic was done by a single wizard. I mean, there obviously must be some sort of spells that only a large number of people could do at a time- and where else other than a stadium would you get a large number of people wanting the same thing?”
Harry smiled at her. Here they were, in the afterglow of dinner, and already her mind instinctively went back to academics and the lore of magic. Right now, he wanted to enjoy life as normally as possible, without these ‘wizard’ pressures on him. Just live for the moment. He squeezed her hand affectionately.
Hermione paused, and glanced down at their entwined fingers. “Hmm? What was that for?” Harry was looking at her strangely, a sort of wistful expression on her face.
“This may sound strange, but I needed to ask you. Did you ever think we would be together?”
Wow. Now that was a change of topic. Hermione thought for a second, her mind racing. Should she tell him? Or bluff it off?
“I’m not sure. I loved you guys to death, but I couldn’t say that I ‘knew’ before hand that I would choose you.”
“ I remember before the tri wizard competition Krum asked me if you were my girlfriend. I had found it strange he asked me that. As far as I know, he never asked Ron the same thing. Then it was the whole ‘crush on Cho’ fiasco. She really got angry when I said I had to meet you for the DA meeting. She seemed a bit jealous in fact. I just wanted to know, was there something going on between us ever since then?”
Hermione sighed. Her feelings were so volatile at the time. Books were her passion in life. When she began to have mixed feelings it was hard. When neither of her friends asked her to the dance, she inwardly thought that she wasn’t pretty enough, or wasn’t considered a girl in their eyes. When Ron miraculously realized that “she was a girl, and could just ‘go’ with one of them”, irked her to say the least. They thought of her as second rate! Harry didn’t even think about her at the time.
“I’m not sure. I did admire you, I thought you were a hero.”
“Ha. Some hero I turned out to be.” Harry mused, looking at the calluses on his right hand. Flashes of the dead raced across his memory, and his eyes began to glow.
Do not forget our purpose...young Potter…
“Harry?” Hermione touched his arm, and the images vanished, his eyes reverting to normal. He stared at his hand again, that gnawing feeling building up inside. Solidus’ power simmered beneath the surface, and Harry had to mentally calm himself. That voice….
“Harry, is something wrong?” she asked again, a bit more concerned this time. Harry put on a nice smile and looked into her eyes.
“No- nothing. I did feel something for you back then, but I guess I thought you were off limits. Something about you made me feel calmer, more at peace. I don’t know if that was really a turning point, but after the department of mysteries, knowing that you came with me even though you had doubts, sealed it. Somehow, I knew that my feelings ran deeper…and now I’m glad that we made it this far. I want to make you happy, and if I could do that everyday, I’d be happy too.”
Hermione smiled. His choice of words was strange, but the meaning behind them was what really mattered. Their love was initially based on a strong friendship, and the desire to be happy together, no matter the circumstances. Was this what love is? She knew he would do anything for her, and she would do the same for him. They proved it over the years. But aside from that, Harry confided in her, and trusted her implicitly with his life. For the boy prophesised to defeat the Dark Lord, that was a heavy burden to carry, after all, his life was constantly in peril.
“Maybe, maybe, tonight, we could make a promise,” she ventured.
“No matter what happens, we’ll promise that we’ll try and make each other happy, and look out for each other, even though we may be far apart. No matter what.”
That sounds like a reasonable request. After all, it was the least he could do.
“I promise.” And with that, they sealed it with a kiss.
At the beginning of August, one woman was marching briskly through in the relatively empty halls of the Lionheart Order of Sorcery. She needed to have a quick word with one of the professors. When she reached her destination, she didn’t even bother to knock and allowed herself in.
“Mr. Lebeau, why aren’t your potions working?” Madame Diggory was furious. “Potter is supposed to forget about his prior life, not go back and play Quidditch! What’s going on?” She slammed this month’s Quidditch Monthly on the Potions master’s desk. He looked at her in mild curiosity, raising his eyes from the paper he was marking before being so rudely interrupted.
“Well, madame minister, you did tell me not to overdo it, and I did tell you it would take some time. I have stopped all of his incoming mail, and while he is here at Lionheart, he seems quite content not to hear from anyone, so the potions are working- to an extent.”
“At this rate- I would be old and grey by the time he is ready!” Sherry Diggory cursed. “I swore on my husband’s grave that I would rid this world of the filth- and behold- some extremely powerful wizard goes and breaks out the most dangerous criminals on the planet!”
“Oh? And I thought the Daily Prophet said it was a hurricane,” Lebeau snickered.
“You know damn well that hurricanes could never form in such cold waters. And don’t quote that ridiculous statement about ‘we have this under control’, either. The dementors of Azkaban were the only true way of imprisoning a wizard, and now some one has gone and destroyed their natural habitat. That’s why we need Potter! To deal with these sort of wizards! The more we allow him to run about is the more people that are going to be killed by these lunatic criminals! I don’t want to see his face on the cover of Quidditch Monthly! I want to see his name in our Unmentionables Hit squad! He should be my weapon- not some sort of celebrity!”
'My weapon?' the potions master thought. Lebeau looked into her fierce eyes with a tinge of mistrust.. “Madame, he is still a young man. What has he done to make you hate him so?” He was beginning to worry about her.
“Do not mind that. When he returns, I want to see improvement. Do you want to see another incident like what happened to the Hogwarts Express?”
“No Madame, ” he answered fearfully. His daughter was on that train…
“Did you know that he single-handedly fought off the attackers? His power is extraordinary. And he hasn’t even learnt the more powerful spells at Lionheart yet. I want him molded, and in my control before he is the age of twenty years. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Madame Minister.” And with that, she stormed out of his office. Lebeau was happy to see her go.
“Anything you say, Madame Minister…” he mocked spitefully after she left, the animosity dripping in his tone. “You want it, you got it.”
Many miles away, at the outskirts of Surrey, England there was another sort of meeting going on.
“Dursley! Your project was inspected and looked pretty good- for an English. Now, are you ready to detonate?” McMahon asked the beefy lad.
“Sure, it works, I tell you.”
“Cut that cocky attitude, we don’t suffer arrogance ‘ere. Now- go on- blow it up.” He indicated at the old car in the middle of the dump. “Don’t mess this up, laddie. You got a lot of potential.”
Dudley held the home- made remote control in his shaking hands- praying to god that it worked. He didn’t want to be the only English- and incompetent- guy here. The only respect he got from these guys was that he could slug it barehanded like the rest of them. If he wanted to do what he need to do, he had to prove that he could go all the way.
With a deep breath, he extended the antennae and pressed the button. For a long while nothing happened. He was beginning to get scared now. They loved any excuse to ‘toughen’ up someone.
“Well, Dursley , it seems-“
Before he could continue, there was a deafening boom, and the car exploded into a large fireball. Most of the guys ducked reflexively, and covered their ears from the ringing in their head. Dudley crouched low, his hands clamped at the side of his head. With the reflection of fire in his eyes, he knew that the first step was taken.
“Told you it would work,” he said quietly, a smug smile on his face.
“Blimey,” McMahon said. “All right lads; let’s clear out before the police arrive. Next week!” Everyone dispersed their separate ways, and Dudley ran off back through the back streets to catch the bus back into Little Whinging. He never felt that sort of rush, it was absolutely the most intense feeling. He had done that. With his own two hands, he built the bomb, and the detonator, and destroyed that old car. Dudley congratulated himself as he boarded the bus. He would have his revenge.
The summer was very hectic for Harry. The first leg of the under-twenty European championship final was a week away, and he still had some scrolls of parchment to write up on for Infiltration class at Lionheart. He spent most of his time at the training grounds, then afterwards maybe meet up with Ron and the gang at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. After that, he would head home to Grimmauld place for some deserved rest and a bit of homework. He was feeling pretty anxious about the next few weeks- there was the Quidditch final- and he was going to begin Apparation lessons with Hermione and most of the people from his year at school. As he barely got a chance to see them or talk to them since he left, it felt like a re-union of some sort.
Funny thing is, it felt like he was gone for such a long time- he could barely remember some of the more interesting moments in between them. Strange.
As he pushed in the key for the invisible entrance to Sirius’ place, he felt his medallion ebb slightly in power. Dumbledore and the others were here. He felt a bit nervous, were they having an impromptu meeting?
“Hello?” he called out into his own house as he closed the door behind him. A few of the overhead chandeliers were on, someone was definitely here. “ Professor?”
“Come, come Harry, we’re in the drawing room.”
So it was Professor Dumbledore. I wonder who else is here-
When he entered the drawing room, he stopped short. The room was filled with wizards, some he recognized, many he did not. Who were all these people? ”What’s going on?” Harry enquired, looking at all the faces staring back at him.
“Harry, we need to have a talk. It’s about Draco Malfoy.”
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