A clear, crisp sky hung over the Great Hall. Faint wisps of winter cloud drifted across it above a scatter of students and teachers. Harry sliced his chicken and leek pie into bite-sized pieces and arranged them in a neat row across his plate.
Katie plopped down on the bench beside him. ‘Heya, Harry!’
Not avoiding me, then.
‘I thought you were meant to be at home for Christmas?’ he asked.
‘I came back. Angelina and Alicia were taking their plans for my well-being a bit too far, so I told them I’d go home when they did. I went home, had a really interesting conversation with my parents, and came back today.’
Harry grimaced. She seems happy, though. It can’t have been too bad.
‘What did your parents say?’
‘They cancelled their subscription to the Daily Prophet.’ Katie beamed. ‘Dad told me that I could go out with whomever I damn well pleased as long as he was kind, good-looking, rich, and polite.’
‘Good,’ Harry said. ‘It’s about time more people realised how kind, good-looking, and polite I am.’
Katie giggled. ‘Are you rich? Should I warn Daddy that I might have found someone who has designs on his darling daughter and fits his criteria?’
‘I have a trust fund,’ Harry said. ‘My family’s old and pure-blooded apparently, but I actually have no idea.’
‘I guess it doesn’t really matter until you’re seventeen and emancipated.’
‘Voldemort will have killed me long before then. It’s not going to be a problem.’
She thumped him on the arm and scowled. ‘Don’t joke about things like that.’
Harry feigned a bow. ‘Yes, Dark Mistress.’
‘Good boy.’ Katie patted him on the cheek, then glanced up and down the table. ‘How’s Frenchie? Did she get upset over the article?’
Harry shook his head. ‘She’s fine.’ He screwed his face up. ‘Well, she didn’t say anything, so she’s not that upset, but I doubt she liked it.’
‘As long as the two of you are happy.’ Katie stole a piece of pie from his plate. ‘Frenchie seemed kind of haughty, so I was worried she’d get mad and try to get back at you.’
Harry glanced down at the willow ring. ‘Yes, I suspect she has.’
‘You think she’s going to try and start something with someone else to make you jealous?’ Katie whispered.
A point of ice clenched beneath Harry’s ribs. ‘No. She’d never do that. She gave me this.’ He waggled his right forefinger at her. ‘Told me to wear it where everyone would see it…’
‘Everyone being me,’ Katie murmured. ‘I see.’
Harry finished his pie in slow, measured mouthfuls. ‘Did you like your present, then? If you’re back, you must’ve found it.’
Katie gave him a wide grin. ‘Oh, yes, but you ought to be careful, if you keep giving a girl things like that, then she’s going to start thinking you want to be more than just friends.’
‘Just don’t tell Rita Skeeter,’ Harry muttered. ‘No, it’s good. I can’t use it and I’m sure it was only a matter of time until Umbridge tried to confiscate it. Better I lend it to you.’
‘I might not give it back even if your lifetime ban gets wiped away,’ Katie said.
‘I knew I should’ve made you sign something in blood…’
‘For a Firebolt I would’ve signed almost anything, too.’ A wicked gleam appeared in her eyes. ‘If you thought I was willing to do whatever you wanted to get out of a trick step, you’ve no idea what I’d do for a boy who gave me a Firebolt.’
‘Well, if you’re willing…’ Harry fished a scrap of parchment out of his pocket. ‘We can write something up? How does eternal slavery sound?’
‘To you?’ Katie gave him a coy look and bit her lip. ‘Do I get to call you Dark Master?‘
Harry chuckled. ‘If you want.’
Black ink marked the parchment beneath his fingers. Rita Skeeter’s address. Harry read it once, then slipped it back into his pocket. That’s close to Diagon Alley, I saw that street name on the way there with Uncle Vernon.
‘It’s a shame you already gave it to me for the foreseeable future.’ Katie gave him a shrug. ‘Guess you’ll have to lure me into the trick step after all.’
‘You’d’ve been a terrible slave anyway.’ He put his knife and fork down. ‘I can’t say I like the sneakoscope you gave me, though. It seemed cool to begin with, but it whistles constantly.’
Katie laughed. ‘Been doing untrustworthy things, have you?’
‘Every other second of every day?’ Harry asked. ‘It starts whenever I get near it. Even when I’m sleeping.‘
‘What did Nev get you?’ Katie asked. ‘I know you bought him that really rare, unpronounceable cactus. He sent me a letter that had the damn thing’s name twice in every sentence. It took me hours to read without tying my tongue in a knot.’
‘Mimbulus Mimbletonia.’ Harry extended his forearm and tugged up the sleeve of his robes to reveal the slim, dragon-hide duelling holster his wand was now in. ‘He got me this. Aurors use them, I think.’
‘Cool,’ she exclaimed. ‘How does it work?’
‘It’s enchanted. I flick my wrist and think about wanting my wand in my hand…’ He did so and his wand appeared in his grasp.
‘What happens if you don’t catch it?’
‘I drop my wand and look like an idiot. Presumably, I also lose whatever duel I was about to fight in.’ He grinned. ‘No, it’s enchanted so it literally appears in my grasp. I don’t think I can drop it.’
It was probably fairly expensive. Harry glanced at the clock. Time to get Fleur. I did promise.
‘Enjoy your lunch,’ he said.
‘Leaving me already?’ Katie pouted. ‘That’s not nice, I only just got back.’
‘I’ve a promise to keep.’ A small smile crept onto his lips.
‘Frenchie, then.’ She busied herself with a goblet and a jug. ‘You only smile like that when you’re sneaking off to see her.’
‘Guilty as charged.’
Katie thwacked the jug back down. ‘Well, off you go, then. I’ll see you later.’
Harry slipped back toward the Chamber of Secrets through empty corridors. Silence hung over Myrtle’s bathroom, so he stepped over the puddle and hurried down into the chamber.
‘I thought you were spending the rest of the day with Fleur,’ Salazar said.
‘I am, but we’ve been together for six months. It’s about time she met my family, don’t you think?’
Salazar drummed his fingers on the top of his snake’s head. ‘You’ve never referred to your muggle relatives as your family before… You intend to bring her here.’
‘You’re the only real family I have, painting or not. Nobody else helped me like family is meant to.’ He studied the golden sand in the time-turner. ‘And I promised Fleur no more secrets.’
‘Well, I don’t remember Tom ever bringing a girl to meet me.’ Shadows clustered in Salazar’s eyes. ‘Actually, I don’t remember him ever really speaking to one.’
‘Do you think it’s a bad idea?’ Harry asked. ‘I trust her. She won’t betray me.’
‘No, I think it’s a very good idea.’ Salazar’s green eyes softened. ‘However, without our bloodline, she can only enter here by invitation.’
‘Then how could Ginny, Ron, Lockhart, Fawkes…’ Harry sighed. ‘I invited them all in, didn’t I? I intended or wanted them to enter.’
‘The Weasley girl was possessed by Tom, so that likely counted in her case.’ Salazar peeled his snake off his neck and coiled it round his arm. ‘As for the phoenix, they’re annoying creatures, interpreting odd meanings from anything if it benefits them. Helga’s once came to give me aid in the middle of a feast, it relit the fire when it went out, but I’m certain it was just hungry and wanted an excuse to get past the wards to the food.’
‘So I can just apparate us both here?’
‘Yes.’ Salazar sighed. ‘I need to teach you a lot more about the magic of the Chamber of Secrets.’
‘You’ve taught me next to nothing about it.’
Salazar’s expression darkened. ‘I know. I will soon. Go on, then, Harry. You have my permission, approval, or whatever it was you wanted from telling me.’
Harry picked up Fleur’s drawing. ‘Argent.’
Gabby sat on the white pebbles, tossing the small ones into the water and watching the ripples spread.
‘Fleur! You’ve shrunk!’
Gabby twisted ‘round. A brief shadow of a smile passed across her lips. ‘Fleur’s in her room at the chateau.’ She chose another pebble and threw it into the middle of the current.
I know that smile. A younger version of me wore it when he saw the other children with their parents.
Harry watched the fish scatter from the ripples. ‘Lonely?’
‘It’s part of being veela.’ Gabby sighed. ‘I imagine we all think we’ll be different, that our friends are better, but they’re not. Girls like boys’ attention. They don’t like it when it’s suddenly snatched away.’ She lobbed another stone into the water. ‘And you’ve stolen my sister, so I don’t have Fleur to spend my time with instead.’
‘Sorry.’ Harry took a seat on the shore beside her. ‘I didn’t intend to steal her from you.’
‘I don’t mind,’ Gabby murmured. ‘It’s good Fleur has you. She smiles properly a lot more now.’
‘I’m sure she’ll come and kidnap you.’ Harry bumped her shoulder with his. ‘And if she doesn’t, I’ll try to. Just don’t tell Fleur, ok? She’ll think we’re finally eloping.’
A quiet laugh burst from Gabby’s lips. ‘Thank you, Harry. I think you’ll both be busy, though. And I’m not the same as Fleur. She’s stronger than I am. I can’t ignore everyone around me as easily as she does. I can feel their emotions in the magic they cast, their jealousy, their pity, their anger.’ Her fingers tightened on the pebble in her palm. ‘They affect me.’
‘If there’s anything I can do, you only have to ask,’ Harry promised.
Gabby shook her head. ‘I will survive. Maman says it’s just a few years. Once the other girls have grown up a bit more, they start to see past things.’
‘She probably knows.’
Gabby nodded. ‘She’s not as powerful as me and nowhere near as powerful as Fleur, but she probably does know.’ A glimmer of her usual mischief appeared in her eyes. ‘My sister’s been waiting for you very impatiently since Christmas, what did you promise her?’
Harry chuckled. ‘Well, if you want to find out, you can try following us and making another picture?’
‘I think Fleur really might murder me.’ Gabby giggled, stood up, and stuck her arm out. ‘Can you apparate me back? Fleur added you to the wards.’
‘Of course.’ Harry took her hand and spun the world back past them with a soft snap. He kept a tight grip on Gabby until they stood still amidst her hoard of shoes. ‘There we go.’
‘Thanks.’ She flashed him a grin. ‘I’ll get Fleur for you.’ Gabby bounced up the stairs, calling Fleur’s name and casting all sorts of aspersions on what they might be about to do.
Harry shook his head and grinned as faint blue light flickered down the stairs. A pink-cheeked Fleur appeared, trailed by a soot-streaked Gabby.
‘Keeping your promise?’ she asked.
‘Not like that.’ Fleur trod on Gabby’s foot. ‘Maman needs to take the adult bits out of those books.’
‘But they’re the best bits! You even folded all the corners of the pages down to mark them, Fleur!’
Fleur’s face turned bright red. ‘You’re dead!’
Gabby bolted for the kitchen with a squeal.
‘Well, that sounded interesting.’ Harry offered his hand. ‘Want to tell me about it?’
‘Tell you? Non.’ Fleur stepped right against him and wrapped her arms round him. The heat of her pressed into him from her knees to her breasts. ‘But one day, mon Cœur, I might show you.’
Harry choked. ‘Well–’
‘I think you like the idea.’ A smirk settled on Fleur’s lips and she pushed her hips against him a little more. ‘In fact, I can tell you like the idea a lot.’
Heat rushed onto Harry’s face. ‘Right, off we go.’
He pictured the oversized bust of his ancestor and the serpent effigies of the main chamber, holding tight to Fleur as the world swirled past them. Harry went sprawling across cold, hard stone, pulling Fleur after him. ‘How do I always end up on the floor?’
She sat up and straddled him. ‘I think this method of apparition works well.’ Her smirk returned. ‘So do you, it seems, mon Cœur.’
Harry sat up and kissed her. ‘I’m sure if I wanted to find out, I’d find you like it a lot, too.’
‘Perhaps…’ Fleur rolled her hips and Harry’s breath caught as she pressed herself against him. ‘But not now.’ She jumped to her feet. ‘Where is this?’
‘The Chamber of Secrets.’
‘Is it actually called that?’ Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘And I don’t know what that means.’
‘The wizard who named it had a few issues with his ego.’ Harry pointed at the giant bust of Salazar Slytherin.
‘I heard that.’ Salazar’s parseltongue hiss echoed from the study.
Fleur tensed at the sound. ‘I don’t particularly like snakes, Harry.’
Harry chuckled. ‘No snakes. Well, no real ones.’ He waved a hand at the décor. ‘The Chamber of Secrets was built by Salazar Slytherin to house a guardian to protect the school from attackers. It slumbered here until his descendant was able to enter the chamber, but Voldemort had his own purpose for it and set the basilisk on the students instead.’
‘Who puts a basilisk in a school full of children?’ Fleur demanded. Her face paled. ‘It’s not still here, is it?’
He laughed. ‘I asked the same question, and no, it’s gone. In my second year, Voldemort managed to unleash it on the school again; it petrified Hermione, one of my friends at the time, and dragged Ginny Weasley down here.’
‘You went after it. Of course you did.’
‘I came down here and I killed it with a sword in a very dashing, heroic manner.’
Salazar’s painting muttered something that sounded a lot like brainless Godricness.
Fleur scowled. ‘That explains why Ginny Weasley likes you. I guess there was some truth in that article about you, her, and Katie Bell.’
Harry winced and pointed at the faint, seventy-foot shadow. ‘There’s not much left of the basilisk. It was taking up too much space.’
‘Merde,’ Fleur whispered. ‘You’re such an idiot, anyone less lucky would’ve died.’
‘He nearly did,’ Salazar called. ‘The idiot was bitten and had to be saved by phoenix tears. Fortunately, he’s far less keen to play the hero these days.’
Fleur flicked her silver hair over her shoulder. ‘Who is that, mon Cœur?’
‘My ancestor,’ Harry replied. ‘His painting hangs on the wall through there, presumably to perpetually irritate all of his descendants who find his Chamber of Secrets.’
‘You’re descended from Salazar Slytherin?‘
‘Without a doubt.’ Harry led her into the study. ‘I’d imagine it’s complicated, otherwise everyone would know.’
‘This is where you got the books from.’
‘Yes.’ Harry waved a hand at the shelves. ‘My Latin’s pretty poor, but I know enough to get by, and most of them were helpfully translated by my predecessor.’
‘So this is Fleur,’ Salazar said. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you face to face.’
‘In the flesh, so to speak,’ Harry quipped.
‘Brat.’ Salazar folded his arms. ‘Even this paint and canvas shadow is a greater wizard than you.’
Fleur glanced between the two of them. ‘I can’t see too many similarities.’
‘There aren’t many,’ Salazar said. ‘He has my wife and daughter’s nose, there’s a little of me in his cheekbones and jaw, and perhaps the colour of the hair, but little else.’
‘It has been over a thousand years,’ Harry said.
‘So this is where you kept sneaking off to last year.’ Fleur picked the time-turner up and inspected it. ‘No wonder I could never figure out where you were going.’
‘Were you following me the entire time?’ Harry asked.
‘I was curious.’ Fleur turned her nose up. ‘You ought to have been more curious, then you would’ve come and talked to me sooner.’
‘It does explain where Gabby learnt her stalking behaviour from.’ Harry shrugged. ‘You wouldn’t have been able to get past the wards, anyway.’
Salazar rolled his eyes. ‘The chamber is protected by blood magic wards. You have to be a blood relation to me, or invited by one, to enter my chamber.’
‘Are there any others?’ Fleur asked.
‘Just one,’ Harry muttered.
‘He will not be visiting, he hasn’t in a very long time,’ Salazar said. ‘And we will seal him out soon.’
‘So, is this the last of your secrets?’
Harry gave her a broad grin.
‘I didn’t think so.’
‘You’d get bored of me if it was.’
‘I would not.’ Fleur crossed her arms. ‘You would only make more secrets, anyway, mon Cœur.’
‘Well, I can’t share some of the last ones unless you can protect your thoughts.’
Salazar nodded. ‘Occlumency.’
Fleur nodded. ‘I am passable. It’s a requirement for applying to the Bureau d’Éngimes. My magic helps as well, the natural pull of it affects the mental connection. It is hard for most wizards to manipulate my thoughts with such a handicap.’
‘Could you defend your thoughts if someone tried to steal from them?’ Harry asked.
‘Of course.’ She shook her hair down. ‘Maybe not against the most skilled wizards and witches, but the allure’s pull gives me a big advantage.’
‘Avoid Albus Dumbledore and Voldemort, and it’ll be fine,’ Salazar said. ‘I assume this is the discussion about horcruxes.’
‘Well if it wasn’t, it’s going to be now, isn’t it, you senile crayon-work?’ Harry glowered at the painting.
‘So I’m right either way, then.’ A smug smile spread over Salazar’s face.
Fleur blinked and cocked her head. ‘What are horcruxes?’
‘Complicated.’ Harry frowned. ‘A very abstract piece of soul-based magic, but basically an anchor to the world. If you have one, you can’t be killed, even if your body’s destroyed.’
‘So that’s how Voldemort survived.’ Fleur picked up the time-turner and inspected the tiny runes etched into it. ‘We need to destroy it, then.’
‘There’s been more than one,’ Salazar said. ‘But I think there’s probably only a couple left. Tom would’ve chosen a magically potent number, probably three.’
‘The prophecy’s just the first step,’ Harry murmured. ‘A powerful wizard trying to kill a baby after hearing a prophecy that involves him? I doubt Voldemort is going to stop trying to kill me.’
‘What do we do?’ Fleur demanded.
Harry scowled at him. ‘I need to see the prophecy and I need to get the Ministry to accept the truth before Voldemort launches a surprise attack and crushes the majority of his opposition. It will get a bit tricky if it’s just me against the entire country.’
‘We.’ Fleur’s blue eyes darkened by a few shades.
Harry’s heart twisted. Chill fingers clamped ‘round his spine and his stomach churned. ‘You promised.’
‘It is still our goal.’
‘Well, our goal is to be stronger than Dumbledore and Voldemort, but they’re so far beyond what I can do, I wonder if I’ll even have time to get there.’
‘Why do you need to be stronger than Dumbledore?’ Fleur asked. ‘Is he not on your side?’
‘He believes I’m part of his side.’ A bitter heat crept onto Harry’s tongue. ‘But like with all his pawns, he’s just waiting for the best time to trade pieces.’
Her eyes darkened to midnight blue, then faded back. ‘We should duel, then.’ A small smirk curved Fleur’s lips and she strode from the study. ‘Let’s see how long you last against me before you start thinking about Dumbledore or Voldemort.’
‘Proud, isn’t she?’ Salazar said.
‘With good reason.’ Harry shrugged. ‘I kind of like it.’
‘Oh, just kind of?’ Salazar stroked the head of his snake.
‘Shut up.’ Harry glared at both his ancestor and his serpent.
Salazar laughed. ‘She’s good for you.’ He waved a hand at Harry. ‘Now go spend some time with her. She’s more important than talking with some dusty old painting.’
Fleur stood in the centre of the chamber, her rosewood wand held upright before her face like a blade. ‘I almost thought you’d decided to forfeit…’
‘As if I’d miss the chance to beat you at something.’ Harry pointed at the serpent effigies. ‘Don’t worry about breaking anything. It fixes itself.’
‘Normal rules.’ Fleur drew a glowing circle in the air with the tip of her wand, then tossed it over the floor like a loop of ribbon; it stretched out to seven metres. ‘Nothing too dangerous and no saying anything but spells.’
Her wand snapped up. Harry flicked his into his palm.
‘Good reflexes. Did you do the other ritual?’
‘I haven’t done that yet,’ Harry said. ‘I should soon, but I don’t want Madam Pomfrey talking to Dumbledore, and the rituals kind of take it out of you.’
‘Shall we begin?’ Fleur raised her wand.
Harry mirrored her. Let’s see if I can’t beat her again. He smothered a smile. She’ll pout so much.
Fleur unleashed a trio of red jinxes, twirling the wand motions together. Harry deflected two of them back and side-stepped the last. He threw all the useless school hexes he’d taught Nev at her. She danced through them, redirecting a few back at him, turning and twisting him along the perimeter of the circle, testing his deflection to its limit.
Harry sent his spells hissing from the tip of his wand as fast as he could manage. Fleur’s spells ricocheted and burst against his hail of magic, but she bent, leant, and swayed through the storm, batting away anything that came close to her. Her silver hair billowed as she folded in half at the waist, then bounced back up off her palm and swatted away another jinx.
She’s really flexible. Harry tore his eyes away and ducked a couple of his own spells. Focus. If I lose because I was staring at her, she’ll never let me forget it.
He switched tactics, sending spells slicing past Fleur’s shoulder and forcing her closer to him along the edge of the ring. She scowled, then smirked and released a flash of light from her wand.
Harry’s spells hung amidst a faint shimmer, caught in it like flies in a web. What the hell is that?
Fleur side-stepped ‘round it and sent a yellow spell hissing at him. Harry ducked and felt it sear through his hair. Her laughter floated after half a dozen more yellow spells.
He batted the first two away, and let the others whistle past. Plan B, then.
Harry animated the effigies along the walls, pouring magic into them, then shielded, weathering Fleur’s barrage of spells and keeping his distance, backing along the outside of the ring. The stone snakes curled around Fleur’s legs and she gasped, thrusting her glowing wand tip at them. The marble coils tightened, and she scowled, turning them to dust.
Damn. He hurled a few more jinxes. Ok, new plan.
He conjured his swarm of butterflies and unleashed a stream of transfigured projectiles at Fleur, forcing her to throw up a shield of her own. Harry drew the water from the pool behind Fleur into a basilisk and coiled it about her shield until the pressure burst the shining white bubble. A flash of bright flame severed the basilisk and Fleur dived through.
‘Expelliarmus,’ Harry murmured, snatching Fleur’s wand out of the air and waving it aloft.
Bright blue flashed before his eyes and a burst of heat struck his chest, knocking him out of the circle and across the floor.
‘I do not need my wand to conjure fire, mon Cœur.’ Fleur waved a hand coated in azure flames at him and wiggled her fire-wreathed fingers.
‘I’d already disarmed you and won.’ Harry dusted himself off and stood up. ‘You said normal rules, so that includes no sneaky veela attacks.’
Fleur scowled, then shrugged.
‘So what did you think?’ he asked.
‘What do I think?’ A huge pout crept onto her lips. ‘I am a talented duellist, eighteen, and did the best I could, but I still got overpowered by a fifteen year old. It’s annoying.’
Harry shot her a helpless look.
‘I’m not angry with you, mon Cœur.’ She stepped forward and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. ‘I just don’t like losing.’
‘So I did well?’ Harry enquired.
Fleur waved her wand at the fragments of the serpents and restored the chamber. ‘I use a counter-attacking style. I don’t have the brute force to break through defences, but I can dodge, deflect, and defend very well. It’s effective in the ring and more effective outside it when I’ve more room, but I only created one opening. It’s frustrating.’
‘That’s pretty much how I felt while watching you weave around everything I did, no matter how fast I tried to go.’ He wrapped his hands ‘round her waist. ‘And whatever you did to freeze my spells.’
‘Wards.’ Fleur smirked. ‘I am good with wards, I think the right way for them.’
‘Salazar says I’m good at abstract magic, like blood, soul, and mind magic.’ He smiled. ‘Salazar expects all his descendants to be good at the same things he was, though.’
‘And transfiguration.’ Fleur sighed. ‘I tried to turn your serpents back on you by re-enchanting them, but imbuing my magic over yours was like pouring water onto glass.’
‘Is Gabby good at wards?’
Fleur nodded. ‘She is good at all the same things as me, but she has a… softer touch. It works better for some things and not others, depending on the intent of the magic. Her enchantments play nicer with other people than mine.’
Harry conjured a seat for them and settled into it.
Fleur draped herself over his lap. ‘What now?’
‘Well, I’m going to talk to Rita Skeeter tomorrow, I’m sure you remember her…’
‘Oh yes,’ she muttered. ‘I remember her. She deserves anything and everything that happens to her. Such a spiteful, petty, shallow little girl.’
‘She’s an animagus and likely an unregistered one.’ Harry slipped his wand away and ran his fingers through Fleur’s silver tresses. ‘I owe her for that article about Katie and Ginny. Potshots at me I can ignore, but that was a step too far. I’m going to twist her arm into doing something more useful, like raising awareness about Voldemort’s return or discrediting his followers in the Ministry.’
‘I am coming,’ Fleur said. ‘I promised not to come when it was dangerous, but I’m definitely coming this time.’
Harry wrestled with the sharp, tight, cold fingers clutching at his heart. ‘But…’
‘But what?’ Fleur twisted in his lap and glared up at him.
‘It’s not worth the risk. If things go wrong, you might get hurt, or worse. Your actions would have huge repercussions for your family and nobody knows you’re connected to me yet, so you’re completely safe so long as you aren’t seen with me again.’
Her eyes narrowed a fraction and darkened a few shades. ‘Then I will come with you under your cloak and nobody will know.’
Harry wrestled with the fear, but caught the unyielding gleam in her near-black eyes. ‘You can come, but you have to promise me you’ll stay hidden.’
She pursed her lips. ‘Fine. I promise.’
‘Thank you.’ Harry bent and kissed her on the cheek. ‘I know you hate it, but I need you to be safe.’
‘I won’t keep promising things like this.’ Fleur’s eyes shifted a few hues darker still. ‘I refuse to hide while you take all the risks. I am not some sunset for you to walk toward. We will walk there together.’
‘I’d have to be an idiot to refuse the help of a witch like you every time.’
‘You are an idiot,’ Fleur muttered. ‘You tried to kill a basilisk with a sword.’
Harry chuckled. ‘In my defence, I didn’t have my wand.’
Fleur let out a peal of laughter. ‘When are we going tomorrow?’
‘Probably in the evening.’ Harry shrugged. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Do you even go to your lessons? Don’t you ever have something important to do at school?’
‘Well…’ Harry eyed her from head to toe. ‘I can think of one thing…’
Pink blossomed on Fleur’s cheeks. ‘Be careful, mon Cœur. I’m going to take you up on that sooner or later…’
‘I’m fairly sure you’re meant to wait until I’m sixteen, cradle-robber.’
Fleur laughed. ‘I’m not the cradle-robber you need to be worrying about, it’s the one who gave you this scar who’s the threat.’ She traced the line of it down his forehead with her fingertip. ‘It’s faded now, less red. I think it may disappear completely.’
‘The rituals, maybe.’
Or when I tore my soul.
‘Mmm.’ Fleur closed her eyes and huffed her hair off her face. ‘I’m going to take a nap. You can run your fingers through my hair, if you like. It feels nice.’
Harry chuckled and slipped his hands through her hair, massaging the back of her neck.
‘Warming charm please, mon Trésor,’ Fleur murmured.
He laughed. ‘Of course, mon Rêve.’ He cast the spell upon his hands, then cradled her head in his lap. ‘Better?’
‘Much better.’ She nestled close and tucked her knees up into his side. ‘Now hush, this is nice.’