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Weak sunlight filtered in through the curtains, falling in a bright beam across Harry’s cheek, and the faint tune of birds rang out beyond the walls. Fleur wriggled through the duvet and snuggled her face into the back of his neck.
‘Fleur,’ he murmured, sliding a hand back ’round to find her fingers and tangling their legs together beneath the covers.
She kissed the nape of his neck. ‘You might have been missed, mon Cœur.’
‘I don’t care.’ He rolled over and wrapped her up in the warmth of his arms. ‘I just want to leave all this behind. I want to close my eyes again and wake up beneath the willow in France. I can’t stand the feeling of all the seconds dragging by when you’re not there.’
‘Just a little longer to wait.’ Fleur closed her eyes and breathed in his sleep-edged scent. ‘We only need to find that horcrux.’
‘Dumbledore found it,’ Harry replied. ‘All three are gone. When we kidnap Travers, we can just kill him. We can just kill all of them. Travers, the Lestranges, Rookwood, Dolohov, Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and anyone else.’
‘Wipe them all away until it’s just us and we’re free,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Once you have your NEWTs, that is.’
He groaned. ‘Yes. I have to wait for that, first.’
She opened her eyes and found his green irises a finger’s length away from her. ‘Do you have anything else to tell me?’
‘Malfoy has some task to complete. He was trying to poison me, which is a complete waste of his time, fortunately, but I think he’s given up now.’ He chuckled. ‘I’ll find out what he’s meant to be doing from Dumbledore. And, speaking of Dumbledore, he contracted the Withering Curse while destroying the horcrux. He’s dying, or he would be if Snape wasn’t brewing some potion to keep him alive.’
Fleur digested all of that, wiggling her toes against his legs. ‘Kill Snape,’ she murmured. ‘If he dies, then Dumbledore might die. That’s half of your problems solved. Kill Malfoy, too. It doesn’t matter what he was meant to do, just make sure he can’t do it.’
‘If they’re all dead, they can’t hurt us,’ Harry whispered.
No. They can’t. Once they’re all gone, we can do whatever we want to.
‘And speaking of dead.’ Fleur smothered a yawn. ‘I tracked one of the Hallows down. The Elder Wand. It was easy enough to trace, in the end. It leaves a trail of death. Gregorovitch, the wandmaker, had it about a hundred years ago, then it was stolen. Grindelwald used the mark, of course, but if he was the one who stole the wand, there’s no proof of it.’
‘I don’t care about the wand.’ Harry pushed the duvet down and pressed his lips to hers. ‘I have a wand already.’
‘The Elder Wand needed to be taken,’ Fleur said. ‘The Resurrection Stone might be the same.’
‘What does taken entail?’
‘The Elder Wand has been claimed by theft, murder, duelling, and disarming, that I know of. Any method of taking it without the consent of the owner seems to work.’
‘So I should make sure to take the stone,’ Harry said. ‘I’d probably have to anyway, nobody in their right mind would willingly give it up.’
Fleur craned her neck at the clock. ‘It’s nearly half eight…’
Harry groaned. ‘I have to go back. I know.’ He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, then slipped out from under the covers, leaving a cold space beside her. ‘I love you. I’ll be back soon. Be careful.’
Fleur’s heart squirmed. ‘I love you too.’
He vanished with a soft snap.
I should’ve asked him how he feels about children. Fleur’s hand crept down to her abdomen. And I should try the charm again. It’s been long enough.
She rolled out of bed into the cool breeze and touched the tip of her wand to the curve between her hips. ‘J’espère que…’ Fleur whispered, heart racing and stomach churning. She closed her eyes. ‘I hope…’
Her magic swirled beneath her skin, hot and soft as sun-soaked silk.
Nothing. Fleur sighed and caught sight of the dried, red smear on her thigh. Well, nothing but ruined underwear. Still, it’s probably for the best. Her stomach continued to churn and she swallowed a bitter taste as a dozen silver-haired little girls with Harry’s eyes and her nose danced through her thoughts. And yet…
She stepped into the shower and washed the blood away, then dried herself with a charm and dragged on the first set of underwear and dress she found. ‘What to do?’
A green-eyed version of a young Gabby hovered in the back of her head, filling her stomach full of fluttering.
‘Merde.’ Fleur pictured the balcony over Beauxbatons and bounced the little bead on her palm. ‘Aimée.’
She stepped to the edge of the balustrade and stared north over the foothills of the Pyrenees toward distant England. I hate this place. A nest of shallow, spiteful little people.
The door creaked.
‘Fleur?’ Gabby’s footsteps pattered across the stone. ‘Why’re you here? Is everything okay? You didn’t do something stupid with Harry again, did you?’
Fleur sighed and twisted ’round, her fingers creeping to the curve of her stomach. ‘I was a little late this month. For a little while…’
Gabby’s eyes dropped to where Fleur’s hand rested. ‘I remember you saying you didn’t want children not so long ago.’
‘I didn’t like the idea of having them with someone less than perfect,’ she replied. ‘Or throwing them into the same ugly world we endure.’
‘You wouldn’t be here if you were just relieved.’ Gabby joined her at the balustrade. ‘You wanted to be pregnant?’
‘A little bit,’ she murmured. ‘I would very much like to make things with him and what could be more precious than something that’s half of each of us.’
‘Well, you had your chance, Fleur.’ Gabby stuck her tongue out. ‘Now it’s my turn to help produce the next generation of the veela harem.’
Fleur choked on her laugh. ‘I think you’ve got further through that series than I did. Those books get weird at the end.’
‘They really do. I skimmed through to see if the plot changed.’
Gabby laughed. ‘Well, the plot disappears, if that counts. In fact, they really abandon all pretence of romance completely. There’s a lot of veela bodice ripping and some really bizarre themes.’ A mischievous gleam lit up in her eyes. ‘Want to see if Harry likes them?’
‘No.’ Fleur shot her a glare. ‘And you should stop reading them as well, little chick. Real romance is not like that.’
‘I’m not interested in real romance.’ Gabby’s grey eyes darkened. ‘I can feel it, you know, in his magic. He loves you more than anything. You’re like — like the sun for him.’ A small smile crossed her lips. ‘If I can’t have that, I won’t be happy with anything else.’
‘Well, you’ll need to find your own,’ Fleur said. ‘I’m not sharing him. There’s not going to be any kind of veela harem.’
‘I know.’ Gabby’s hand rested on hers. ‘You couldn’t share him even if you wanted to. The slightest possibility he might not always be yours and you’d lose faith. Just another fickle little person.’
A soft warmth flickered through Fleur’s chest. She knows me very well.
‘Are we so different?’ she asked.
‘Yes. I can feel it.’ Gabby smiled up at Fleur. ‘It’s not a bad thing. We were a little different to begin with and you had to go first. I had you to hold my hand. You went alone.’
‘I hate this place,’ Fleur murmured.
‘I know.’ Gabby glanced up. ‘Will you try?’ She poked Fleur in the stomach with her finger. ‘For real?’
I could. Fleur let herself dream of little girls, of Harry and herself listening to little feet under the willow tree, and of tiny fingers curled around one of her own. Her heart flopped about beneath her ribs. I want to. One day. Some day.
‘I’ll spoil your baby rotten.’ Gabby beamed. ‘I’m going to be the cool aunt and sneak them sweets.’ She gasped. ‘No! Wait! I can’t be the cool aunt, because after Harry’s given you a child you’ll be busy and I can finally take my rightful place as queen of the harem.’
Fleur rolled her eyes and fought the pout threatening to creep onto her lips. ‘Gabby you’ve never even seen a boy naked.’
‘Don’t worry, Harry’ll fix that!’ Gabby giggled. ‘You look cross, Fleur.’
‘I ought to toast you.’ Fleur sighed. ‘But all I can think about is this. Part of me is glad, because this isn’t a good time, and I think Harry might have a full panic attack if I so much as stub my toe while pregnant.’
Gabby laughed. ‘He will lock you in the house if he can.’
‘I don’t think I’ll tell him.’ Fleur pushed little chips of stone off the balustrade. ‘I won’t be careful and I’ll tell him when it starts to show.’ Her breath stuck in her throat as she envisioned the moment. ‘A perfect surprise.’
Gabby shook her head. ‘That’s a stupid idea, Fleur. He knows you better than that. What’re you going to tell him, you just forgot that you might get pregnant? And that you forgot to mention it for three months? He’ll know it was deliberate.’
‘He’d be upset,’ Fleur murmured. ‘But afterward, when he realises how precious what we’ve made is, he’ll be so happy.’
‘Fleur.’ Gabby’s tone sharpened and her grey eyes turned black. ‘His trust is fragile. Manipulate him and you’ll make him wonder how real his dream is. Once he starts thinking like that, you won’t be able to stop him.’
Harry will never abandon his perfect wish. Fear dug cold, sharp claws into her heart and her breath caught. But if he thought it was never real, then he might leave. And he’d hate me. Hot tears brimmed against her lashes. And I nearly did it just because I thought it would be beautiful.
‘You’re not such a smart girl sometimes, Fleur,’ Gabby said. ‘If you love someone, you don’t hurt them. Not even if you think it will make them really happy afterward.’
‘Fleur,’ Gabby snapped. ‘Imagine how Harry will feel. You would’ve lied to him. You would’ve manipulated him. You think he won’t wonder if this is the first time? Of course he will! He’ll wonder about all the other times you’ve done it and he’s not realised. He’ll doubt every word you say.’
‘I know,’ she whispered. ‘But I never think about that. All I see is that moment after the pain, when it’s all worth it.’
‘Then you’re lucky you have such a wonderful little sister to stop you from being stupid,’ Gabby chirped.
‘I am.’ Fleur gathered Gabby into a hug and mussed her silver hair. ‘I love you, little chick.’
‘I know.’ Gabby beamed. ‘I can feel it.’ She wriggled out of Fleur’s embrace. ‘You know, if you want to do this, you’re going to have to marry him pretty soon…’
Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘Maman and Papa would probably prefer that.’
‘Maman will throw a fit if you get pregnant before you get married.’ Gabby giggled into her hand. ‘Plus, I think it will help with Harry, non?’
Yes. Yes it will. The bronze ring shone on her finger before the eye of her mind. He’d probably be less panicked about me leaving if we were married. A stray thought rose up to scatter her optimism. But asking me gives me the chance to say no…
‘He’ll never ask,’ Fleur said.
‘Non.’ She tossed her hair over her shoulder. ‘He’d be too afraid I’d not be ready or not want to say yes, and that it’d ruin things.’
Gabby nodded. ‘I think you’re right.’ She laughed. ‘You’ll have to ask him then. Strange, to think you’ll be all married and pregnant by the time I’m doing my NEWTs.’
‘Have you decided what to do afterward?’ Fleur asked.
‘I’m going to join you.’ The mischief burst back into life in her grey eyes. ‘In the veela harem.’
‘You can go and do your own thing, Gabby,’ Fleur said. ‘You don’t have to follow me.’
‘I want to.’ Gabby bit her lip. ‘I said I can feel it, that you love me. Papa and Maman, too. Everything is all cold and grey when you’re gone. I can’t live like that, so I’ll go where you all go.’
‘I can probably convince Harry to come to France.’ Fleur smirked. ‘Actually, I know I can convince him. You can help.’
Gabby cheered. ‘Veela sisters threesome!’
Fleur swatted her on the top of the head. ‘Hush, little chick. I love you, but I don’t love you that much.’
Gabby giggled, then shot Fleur a hopeful look. ‘Clafoutis?’
‘Fine.’ Fleur sighed and mussed Gabby’s hair. ‘I suppose I do owe you something. You did stop me from doing something stupid again.’
‘You owe me a lot more than clafoutis, really.’ Mischief glimmered in Gabby’s grey eyes. ‘What about a kiss? From Harry, of course. I don’t want you to kiss me.’
‘Non.’ Fleur shook her head. ‘It’s clafoutis or nothing, you greedy little harpy.’
Gabby pouted. ‘Selfish. You’re meant to share your veela bondmate with your veela sister, Fleur. It’s the rules of the nudist veela conclave.’
Fleur grabbed her arm and apparated them onto the streets of Paris. ‘None of those are real things, Gabby. As you well know.’
‘Clafoutis, then.’ She skipped down the street, tugging Fleur after her. ‘Cherries are the best.’