If you prefer audiobooks, listen to the audio version created by Sam Gabriel below!
A slim, warm arm slipped around his shoulders. Harry opened his eyes and received a faceful of silver-blonde hair as Fleur tucked her head into his collarbone.
‘It’s cold,’ she moaned into his neck, snuggling against him. ‘I’m cold.’
Spiralling patterns of frost spread across the window and a stiff breeze buffeted the long grass in the meadows.
‘I’m sure there’s some way to enchant the walls and windows to retain the heat better,’ Harry said, smoothing her hair out of her eyes. ‘No?’
‘Dangerous,’ Fleur mumbled, tucking her ice cold feet into his legs. ‘You can destroy your house in any number of interesting ways if you make even a small mistake. Big risk of a fire.’
‘Speaking of fire.’ Harry smiled down at the bundle of silver hair tucked under his chin. ‘I’m sure there are easier ways to warm your feet.’
‘I like this way,’ Fleur said. ‘It is nice to have you here warming up the bed again.’
‘I feel so appreciated.’ Harry grinned and kissed her on the top of her head.
‘You know you’re appreciated.’ Fleur leant her head back and shot him a sultry smirk from beneath her lashes. Her fingers traced their way down Harry’s stomach, leaving light, hot lines as they trailed lower and lower.
The wards thrummed and her fingers flinched away.
‘I’ll see who it is.’ Harry snatched his wand from beneath the pillow and conjured himself a set of simple dark robes from the air.
‘Nobody’s meant to be visiting today,’ Fleur whispered, scrambling for her clothes on the opposite side of the bed. ‘Sirius and the rest of the Order have been fighting ‘round the clock.’
Harry crept along the landing and peered out the small window on the stairs. A silver gryphon paced the edge of the Unyielding Shield Charm, clawing at the ground and shaking its head. ‘It’s a patronus. Sirius’s, probably, unless Gabby loves gryphons?’
‘Gabby’s patronus is probably a smutty book,’ Fleur called back. ‘Or some kind of made up veela valkyrie.’
‘I’ll go out and see whose it is,’ Harry said. ‘Get ready, just in case it’s a trap.’
He apparated out to the edge of the wards and peered into the trees. ‘Alright, then.’ He edged out of the wards.
‘Harry.’ Sirius’s voice emanated from the silver gryphon. ‘Come to Azkaban. Come fast. It’s all gone wrong.’
His blood ran cold. Fleur’s going to kill me for disappearing off without her. Harry flicked his wand at the house and set his anzu patronus soaring toward their bedroom and took a deep breath. But I can’t take her with me, not if it’s going to be dangerous. If Voldemort sees her, he’ll try to take her away, just to see what I’ll do. He pictured the images of Azkaban he’d glimpsed in Jugson’s head and wrenched the world back past him.
The tower of Azkaban loomed over dark stone. Black water crashed upon whelk-studded, kelp-draped rocks as the sea swirled and surged around the island. Smoke rose from scorched craters, mingling with the salt-scented spray of the sea, and spells flashed back and forth between the tower and the low, domed building clinging to the cliff face above the waves. A ring of dark-robed figures hurled curses at the tower from behind a shield of shining, silver serpents and mounds of bodies. Scattered red-robed hit wizards returned fire from behind the ground floor windows, ducking and darting about inside.
Merde. Voldemort. Harry disillusioned himself and apparated down to a spur of rock overhanging the conflict, ignoring the cluster of dark-robed bodies upon it. At least he’s lost a lot of followers.
A handful of huge figures sprawled upon the rocks beneath the dome, shuddering with the waves and dying the white foam red as it washed past them.
Dead giants. Dead Death Eaters. Dead hit-wizards.
Voldemort’s shield vanished for an instant and the Dark Mark exploded above the domed building, sending eerie green light flickering across the sky as the smoke drew together into a serpent and skull. Screams echoed from within Azkaban.
He had people inside. Harry’s breath caught and he clenched his fists, watching little flashes of silver through windows of the tower’s upper levels. No. Not people. The dementors.
The hail of curses showering down from the tower thinned and faded away with a series of loud cracks, then a swarm of skeletal figures burst from within the tower and poured into the windows of the lower levels. Voldemort’s shield vanished and he thrust his wand in the air, sending out a ripple of magic; it settled over the entire island.
Wards… Merde. Where’s Sirius? Harry cursed and peered across the field, searching for someone not in red amongst the huddle of hit-wizards that now hurled themselves toward the domed-building and away from Azkaban’s tower.
The crowd of red dwindled as Death Eaters apparated past them and threw spells from all directions. Bodies tumbled to the ground, red and black-robed.
‘Black!’ A dark-robed figure in a half-warped silver mask began a furious assault upon a red-robed wizard near the front.
There. Malfoy’s found him. Harry reached out to test the strength of Voldemort’s wards and grimaced. Not getting through those easily.
A gush of purple flame swept past Malfoy, immolating a handful of Death Eaters behind him. Malfoy disappeared with a loud crack and reappeared down by the sea, standing amidst the spray. Sirius gave chase as the swarm of dementors exploded out of the upper levels of the tower and swooped down upon the hit-wizards.
Where’s the snake? Harry scanned the rocks. No sign of it. Merde.
‘Alastor Moody.’ Voldemort strode out into the open, swatting aside a couple of spells. ‘There’s no escape. Death comes to embrace you.’
The dementors drifted back.
Moody stood alone above a mound of red-robed corpses. ‘You gigantic cunt! I’m going to take a piece of you with me. More than one, if I can fucking manage it!’
Voldemort circled the grizzled auror, his robes whispering over the corpses. ‘You will have to take your pound of flesh. Come and see if you’re able to land a single spell on me. Nobody will interfere.’ A cold grin curved his lips. ‘There’s nobody left to interfere for you…’
Moody snarled and jabbed his wand at Voldemort, slashing and lashing it back and forth, sending spells of all colours hissing through the air. Voldemort flicked them all away, striding forward faster than Moody could limp back, unleashing a hail of his own spells. Moody deflected some, then threw up his shield, but the burning orange spells punched through the glowing silver light, shattering Moody’s fake leg and a bright whip of green flame snaked from the end of Voldemort’s wand, severing Moody’s hand.
‘Pitiful.’ Voldemort crunched Moody’s wand beneath his heel. ‘I expected more.’
‘Fuck you.’ Moody let out a groan.
Voldemort thrust his wand out, twisting his wrist like he was unlocking a door. Moody writhed, then his skull and spinal column ripped themselves out of his back in a spray of crimson and he flopped to the ground.
The gleaming ivory skull and spine hovered in the air, dripping thick red down onto the blood-stained, scorched stone.
‘Victory,’ Voldemort declared, tossing Moody’s remnants aside. ‘Amelia Bones and the few remaining hit-wizards have fled back to London. We will finish them soon.’ He crooked a finger at the dementors and pointed down to where Sirius and Malfoy staggered about on the rocks, grappling with one another through the crash of the waves. ‘Deal with the last one.’
Two dementors swooped away down to the shoreline and the snake slithered from among the Death Eaters to swallow Moody’s corpse.
The snake will have to wait.
Harry apparated down onto the rocks and slipped his wand from his sleeve. ‘Expecto patronum,’ he whispered, pouring a thick veil of silver mist out between the dementors and the island. He kept it up as he picked his way across the rocks, keeping one eye on the growing number of floating shadows hurling themselves against his patronus.
Malfoy shoved Sirius back off the rock and snatched a wand out of his robes. ‘Tristis Cancro,’ he hissed.
A bolt of teal light hit Sirius in the ribs, tearing a grunt from his lips. ‘That barely scratched me, Lucy. Do you have a little blue potion you’d like to take before we keep going?’
Malfoy pulled the silver mask from his face and sneered down at Sirius with charred lips and a twisted mass of scarred flesh. ‘You’re dead, Black. And your family dies with you.’ He froze, grabbing at his forearm. ‘Good riddance.’
Harry glanced at the swarm of dementors behind him and jumped across to Malfoy’s rock, kicking him down into the sea. ‘Time to go home, Sirius,’ he quipped, abandoning his disillusionment.
Sirius sagged onto the rocks. ‘You’re going to have to carry me.’
Harry watched Malfoy flounder in the waves, clawing his way up the rock, and grabbed Sirius’s arm, gathering all his magic. ‘You better hope I can break those wards or we’re not going anywhere.’ He abandoned his patronus and wrenched at the bubble of magic, crushing it down until the world whirled past him and they staggered across the kitchen floor at the meadow.
Sirius sprawled onto the tiles, caked in blood, mud and worse, dripping water.
Fleur appeared, her eyes black as ink. ‘We’re going to have a long talk later,’ she hissed at Harry, tugging her wand from her waist and running it over Sirius’s injuries one at a time.
Guilt stabbed at Harry. ‘Fair enough,’ he murmured.
‘What happened?’ Fleur demanded.
‘Voldemort went for Azkaban.’ Sirius dragged himself into a chair. ‘Scores of his followers died taking the harbour and so did a bunch of giants and werewolves. It’s the only place you can magically travel to or from on Azkaban, and even then only by a portkey authorised by the Ministry.’
‘They had another spy, then?’ Harry asked.
‘Yes.’ Sirius stared at his hands, brushing grime from the worst of the scratches. ‘Voldemort and what’s left of his inner circle punched through our counter-attack just when we thought we’d gained the upper hand. He killed Dawlish and Scrimgeour himself, and tore apart the rest of the aurors who were leading the charge. After that, we tried to hold the tower and let his forces dash themselves against the walls. It was working until the fucking dementors betrayed us.’ He sighed. ‘I take it Moody didn’t make it?’
Harry shook his head. ‘Voldemort ripped his spine out.’
Fleur winced. ‘Did anyone escape?’
Sirius shrugged. ‘I think some got out before the dementors got them and the wards went up.’
‘Amelia Bones got away,’ Harry said. ‘I don’t know about anyone else.’
Katie’s father was stationed in London, so at least he’s still fine.
Fleur let out a little hiss and tugged Sirius’s tattered robes away from his ribs. A dark, crescent-shaped cut oozed thick, yellow pus down his side. ‘What is this?’
‘It looks worse than it is,’ Sirius said. ‘It’s just a small cut.’
‘What spell was it?’ Fleur poked the inflamed flesh around it with the tip of her wand. ‘There’s still magic in the wound.’ She tugged Sirius’s robes down to his waist and traced swollen, dark veins down his side.
‘No idea.’ Sirius winced and squirmed as Fleur prodded at the cut. ‘You know that hurts, right?’
She ignored him. ‘I can’t stop the curse spreading by just taking it apart, whoever cast it intended the magic to kill you slowly. I can fix it, but it won’t heal for at least a month or two as the rest of the magic in you fades away.’
‘A small price to pay.’ Sirius shrugged. ‘Do it.’
‘This will hurt. A lot.’ Fleur pressed all five of her fingertips into the flesh around the wound and pinched, squeezing out a gush of red-tinged, yellow pus. Sirius clenched his jaw and ground his heels into the tiles. She tightened her fingers until they went white and the trickle of pus slowed.
‘That wasn’t so bad,’ Sirius said, gritting his teeth.
‘I haven’t done it yet.’ Fleur raised her other hand and conjured a small blue flame on the tip of her finger.
‘Shit.’ Harry’s godfather paled and swallowed hard. ‘Just don’t get the face. I’m finally prettier than Lucy is, don’t ruin my chance to gloat.’
Fleur thrust the tip of her finger inside the wound and held it there. Sirius writhed, sweating and twisting in the chair.
‘Done.’ She pulled her hand back and stepped over to the sink to wash it. ‘That curse would’ve rotted you from the inside out over the next week if I’d not burnt away all the flesh affected by it.’
‘Will it have any permanent effect?’ Harry studied the blackened, burnt flesh and web of grey veins. ‘It looks bad.’
‘He’s not going to be up to duelling anyone for a month or two,’ she said. ‘And when it’s healed as well as it ever will, he’ll find the scar and the damage to his muscles will affect his movement.’
‘Doesn’t much matter,’ Sirius whispered. ‘I’m the last. Moony’s gone. Greyback tore him apart for interfering with the packs. He bragged about it at Azkaban.’
‘We’ll get Greyback,’ Harry promised.
‘I’ll get him,’ Sirius said. ‘You need to find those horcruxes. There’s not much of the Ministry left now, certainly not enough to stop a determined attack should Voldemort throw his full strength into it, and the Order is gone. It’s just me, Minerva, Filius, the Weasleys, and Dumbledore left. We’re almost out of time.’
A cold shiver ran down Harry’s spine. The locket. The cup. Nagini. We need to go to Gringotts as soon as possible.
Harry shared a long look with Fleur. ‘Go get some rest, Sirius.’
Fleur cocked her head and waited until Sirius’s steps faded away toward the spare bedroom, then snatched Harry’s arm and dragged him into her arms. ‘Idiot,’ she hissed, her eyes flashing pitch black. ‘You run off like that again, mon Cœur, and I will go back to France!’
Harry’s heart seized and the world ground to a halt. He stared into her huge, dark eyes as everything began to spin, swirling ‘round his head in a whirl of dizzying lightness.
The room lurched sideways.
‘Breathe!’ Fleur shook him.
He sucked in a gulp of air and groped for the edge of the table. A fist of panic clamped about his throat, hot as flame. ‘Don’t go,’ he gasped. ‘Don’t leave.’
Fleur’s eyes faded back to blue. ‘Ah,’ she whispered. ‘Pardon. I didn’t mean that, mon Cœur.’ She slipped herself back into his arms and ran her fingers through his hair. ‘I will never leave. I will, however, be extremely angry.’
‘I couldn’t leave Sirius,’ Harry said. ‘Pretty much ever since Pettigrew escaped, he’s been there for me. And he’s never let me down.’
‘I am not angry you went,’ she murmured. ‘I am angry you thought you could get away with leaving me behind. Don’t even try to deny it. You went out there, you heard you had to go, then you deliberately sent me a message and apparated off without telling me where it was you were going!’
‘It was going to be dangerous,’ Harry whispered. ‘I just — I couldn’t do it…’
Fleur sighed into his neck. ‘It’s a good thing we’re going to get rid of them all and be free soon, mon Cœur. I may get quite angry if you keep doing this.’
Harry winced. ‘We need to go to Gringotts. I don’t know if you can forge an official Gringotts letter or something to lure the Lestranges there, too? That way we can use them to get into the vault and get rid of two of the last inner circle members.’ Harry frowned. ‘When school starts again, I’ll sneak you in through the chamber to the Room of Requirement to help me plan with Nev and Katie.’
But I’ve no idea how to get the Lestranges to go to Gringotts.
‘We probably won’t need to lure the Lestranges to Gringotts,’ Fleur said. ‘We just have to wait for them to come and try and sort out their frozen vaults. Now the Ministry is losing, the goblins will probably be inclined to listen and I bet none of the wealthy Death Eaters who’ve got out of Azkaban will wait too long to get their hands back on their fortunes.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘What I don’t see is why we need Neville or Katie involved.’
‘Katie will cover for me with everyone at Hogwarts.’ Harry weighed up his next words and resigned himself to more fury with a sinking heart. ‘Nev will have to be the one who comes in with me.’
Fleur’s eyes darkened. ‘I trust there is a very good reason for that.’
‘Polyjuice doesn’t work if you’re not the same sex,’ Harry replied. ‘And since Bellatrix is very famously dead…’
‘I can come under the cloak if you and he are polyjuiced.’
‘We’ll need the cloak to get into the vault.’
She crossed her arms. ‘I don’t like it.’
‘I know, but—’
‘I don’t like it.’
‘Have you got a better way to sneak in than Polyjuice?’ Harry asked.
Fleur’s brow creased and she drummed her fingers on the table. ‘Non. And I don’t like that, either.’
‘Well, you’re really not going to like what else I’m going to have to do,’ Harry murmured.
‘What?’ Fleur’s fingers tightened in his clothes, dragging him tight against her until he could feel every curve of her. ‘What are you going to do? Another ritual?’
‘No more rituals.’ Harry kissed her on the tip of her nose. ‘I’ve nothing left to sacrifice for those. I don’t need to be more powerful than Voldemort, I just have to kill him. I can’t endure what he’s endured, anyway. I need my perfect wish.
‘We should go to France,’ Fleur said. ‘If we’re out of time, then I’d like to see Gabby before we get stuck fighting here.’
Harry nodded. ‘We’ve time enough for that.’
She laughed. ‘You just want to see the other half of your veela harem.’ Fleur sighed. ‘I can’t believe I’ve sunk so low as to make those jokes myself.’
The kitchen whirled away into a weak winter sun. The bare branches of the willow tree hung over frost-veiled white pebbles and a cold, clear rippling current.
‘It feels a world away,’ Fleur murmured.
‘I wish we could stay here.’ Harry released a long sigh. ‘I wish we never had to leave.’
‘One day.’ She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him hard. ‘Hopefully, the next time you come here, you’ll never leave.’
A soft snap echoed over the river and they appeared amidst Gabby’s pile of shoes.
‘Fleur! Harry!’ Gabby scampered down the stairs and clapped her hands over her mouth. ‘Fleur! You promised to warn me before we tried the veela sisters threesome persuasion technique, I’m not wearing my sexy underwear.’
Harry snorted. ‘That’s okay, Gabby. Neither am I.’
She snickered, darting forward and dragging them both into a tight hug. ‘I missed this feeling,’ Gabby breathed. ‘It’s so beautiful.’
‘Is it the feeling of a blossoming veela bond about to happen?’ Harry asked.
‘Non.’ A soft laugh escaped Fleur’s lips. ‘It’s the anticipation of free clafoutis.’
‘Nuh uh.’ Gabby shook her head. ‘It’s definitely a veela bond. However, it won’t be permanent until after the veela sisters threesome, so…’ She pointed upstairs, her eyes glowing with mischief. ‘Fleur?’
Fleur’s father sighed from down the hall. ‘There are some things, as a father, you’d really rather you didn’t hear.’ He shook his head, half a smile on his face. ‘I’m going to pretend that joke never happened.’
‘You’re lucky Maman didn’t hear that joke,’ Fleur whispered in Gabby’s ear. ‘Find your own boyfriend, you little harpy, before I toss you out of the nest and make an omelette of you.’
Gabby giggled. ‘Fleur’s a bird of prey. She snatches underage boys from their schools and seduces them, then pecks any other girl who gets too close.’
‘And I definitely didn’t hear that,’ Fleur’s father remarked, studying the ceiling.
Heat crept onto Harry’s cheeks and Gabby’s giggling grew louder.
‘Non.’ Fleur pressed a hand over Gabby’s mouth. ‘No more chirping from you, little chick. Not unless you don’t want to come to Paris with us.’
Gabby tugged Fleur’s hand away from her mouth and extricated herself from the hug. ‘I’ll be good.’
‘Sure you will, for about three minutes.’ Harry laughed and bent to Fleur’s ear. ‘We can stay for a little while, if you like? We have to wait for the Polyjuice and the Lestranges at Gringotts or for Dumbledore to find the other one…’
She flashed him a small, warm smile and watched Gabby tossing pairs of shoes out of her pile by the door. ‘I would like that a lot,’ Fleur murmured. ‘I missed that cheeky harpy.’