‘Shouldn’t you be somewhere?’ Katie dropped herself into the sofa beside him, swinging her feet into his lap and flopping back onto the arm.
‘I probably should be.’ He checked the clock. ‘I’ve another couple of minutes, though.’
‘Last set of exams at Hogwarts!’ She waved her hands in the air and beamed.
‘I’ll’ve completed my NEWTs before you.’ Harry stuck his tongue out at her. ‘Done the written ones and the Potions practical, now it’s just the easy bits left.’
‘When did you do the Potions practical?’ Katie demanded.
‘Yesterday…’ Harry tapped one of her emerald-varnished toes with a finger. ‘Why have you defected to Slytherin?’
‘It’s a nice colour.’ She wiggled her toes in his lap. ‘And it’s not the same green as Slytherin, either.’ Katie swept her fringe away from her eyes. ‘How’d the Potions practical go?’
‘Well enough,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to be an O, but an E or A will do for me. Of course, Fleur got straight Os, so I’ll never hear the end of it, but she didn’t have to take hers in the middle of a civil war.’ Harry raised his finger. ‘And, more importantly, I won the Triwizard Tournament.’
‘And you have an apparition licence now.’ Katie bounced her heels on his thigh and beamed. ‘Which means you’re finally allowed to apparate around everywhere like you usually do.’
‘Takes all the fun out of it, really.’ He threw a glance at the clock. ‘Time for me to do the last few.’
The smile faded from Katie’s face. ‘Are you leaving afterward?’
‘Not straight away,’ Harry said. ‘There’s things I’ve still got to do…’
Two counts of horcrux hunting. One count of snake slaying. And then I can steal the Resurrection Stone from Dumbledore and escape. He breathed out a long sigh. Only Voldemort will be left.
‘Good.’ Katie’s grin reappeared. ‘We’ll leave together at the end of the year.’
‘What’re you going to do when you leave?’ Harry frowned. ‘I don’t remember you ever saying.’
‘Because I’m not sure.’ She shrugged. ‘I’ve a few try-outs with quidditch teams, but nobody huge, and my exam results are good enough to apply to most other places, so if quidditch doesn’t work out, I guess I’ll just search for something bearable.’
Harry picked her feet up and placed them back on the sofa, pulling himself to his feet. ‘It’ll go fine. You’ve got the best broom a girl could borrow and then refuse to give back.’
Katie jumped up and threw her arms ’round him, squeezing tight. ‘Good luck. Try not to set a giant raven on everyone nearby this time.’
‘I’ll try my hardest.’ He chuckled and slipped out of her hug. ‘Hogsmeade afterward? In about half an hour? I’ll buy you chocolates, maybe even firewhiskey…’
Katie beamed, thrusting her fists in the air. ‘Yes! Angelina and Alicia are here, too, so we can catch up at the pub.’
‘See you in Hogsmeade, then.’ Harry set off toward his final set of exams.
Empty, quiet corridors stretched from the staircase to McGonagall’s office. He pushed the door open with a creak and stepped in. Dumbledore, McGonagall, Professor Tofty and a sheepish Professor Slughorn waited within.
‘Harry.’ Dumbledore clapped his bright gloves together. ‘I’m afraid you will have a bit of an audience. Professor McGonagall decided to stay, and since this is her room I couldn’t find it in me to refuse. Professor Slughorn assures me that he left his class of fifth years under supervision to come and watch, though I didn’t realise you were taking a Potions exam.’
‘I’m not,’ Harry said, stepping into the centre of the room. ‘That was yesterday.’
Slughorn chortled. ‘I wanted to see how well Harry does. I remember his parents being very gifted.’
The door creaked.
‘Oh,’ Flitwick squeaked. ‘I didn’t realise so many of us were coming, don’t you have a class, Horace?’
‘I left it in the capable hands of a pair of my seventh years,’ Slughorn said. ‘It’s only a Babbling Beverage, and relatively harmless.’
‘Shall we get started?’ Tofty quavered, shooing his iguana off his lap and onto the table.
The iguana inched across the surface to swipe at the tip of Dumbledore’s beard with its clawed foreleg.
‘I see you’re still holding a grudge for that levitating charm, Kanoni.’ Dumbledore hitched his beard out of the way of the iguana. ‘You will remember to vanish anything Harry conjures this time, won’t you, professor?’
‘Of course, Albus. I rarely make the same mistake three times, but so long as Mr Potter does not set another giant swan upon me, I will count myself lucky. You deserved every detention you received for that, no matter how majestic a creature it was.’
‘As you can see, Harry.’ Dumbledore shot him a rueful smile. ‘Our teachers will always remember us as the foolish young men we all once were.’
Slughorn chortled into his hand. ‘A swan, Albus? Really?’
‘In my youth I often gave in to the temptation to show off,’ Dumbledore confessed. ‘It was an excellent piece of magic, but perhaps unnecessary.’
‘Transfiguration first,’ Tofty said. ‘I’d like you to perform a partial, human to animal transfiguration upon yourself if you can.’
McGonagall pursed her lips and shut all the windows with a flick of her wand.
Harry pushed ebony feathers out through his skin and turned his hair into a crown of dark plumage.
‘Excellent!’ Tofty cried. ‘I would ask you to conjure something animated, but I have the records of your OWL exams here, and frankly it seems pointless to ask you to do it all again, so if you could untransfigure yourself, I will have only one more task in this subject for you.’
Harry shed his feathers. ‘Done.’
‘I would like you to transfigure this—‘ Tofty held up a small apple ‘—into a clock.’
Harry levitated the apple into the air between them, picturing a simple, wooden clock in his mind, and directing his magic through his wand. The stalk of the apple lengthened, splitting into two to form elegant dark wooden hands and the apple itself flattened out to form the face, shifting into shining amber.
‘Amber.’ McGonagall’s lips curved a fraction. ‘Most well done, Mr Potter.’
‘Well done, indeed.’ Tofty reached out and picked it out of the air, then shuffled his feet. ‘Do you mind if I keep it? Something for me to have to remember you by when one day I read of your accomplishments.’
‘Of course not.’
‘Very kind of you, young man.’ Tofty tucked the clock into his bag, then scribbled away on his clipboard and turned over the first sheet of parchment. ‘Onto Charms.’
Flitwick shuffled around Slughorn’s protruding stomach. ‘You ought to have no trouble here, Harry.’
‘If you could fill this with water for me.’ Tofty conjured a simple glass vase. ‘Non-verbally if at all possible.’
Harry stuck the tip of his wand into the vase and filled it with water.
‘Wonderful.’ Tofty hefted the full vase onto the desk. ‘Now for multiple, non-verbal charms. I want you to freeze, levitate, and change the colour of just the water.’
Harry charmed the water green, levitated it above the vase, and froze it into a solid, emerald orb. Easy.
‘Excellent.’ Tofty scribbled his way down through the boxes on the next page of his clipboard. ‘Just Defence Against the Dark Arts, and I daresay you should be good at this one!’ He flicked over to the final sheet of parchment on his clipboard. ‘A Shield Charm and a Stunning Spell please, Mr Potter. Silently, of course.’
Harry sent the Stunning Spell into the wall with a flick of his wand and thrust his Shield Charm out the moment the red beam flashed forth.
Tofty gaped. ‘Did you cast them simultaneously?’
Dumbledore chuckled. ‘Not quite, professor. I’d an old friend who liked to do the same thing when he duelled, only with two different offensive spells. Harry cast one when his wand was outstretched and the second without wand motions as he lowered it.’
That’s an even better idea. Harry cocked his head. You could cast twice as many spells doing that.
‘I don’t remember any of your friends displaying that in their exams, Albus.’ Tofty frowned. ‘Have I heard of him?’
‘He wasn’t educated here in Britain. He was a pupil of Durmstrang.’ Dumbledore smiled. ‘And you have most definitely heard of him, he was among the most brilliant wizards I’ve ever met and the finest duelist I’ve ever seen.’
‘Well,’ Tofty quavered. ‘It’s a shame I didn’t meet him, then, I should’ve liked to ask him how he came up with it.’
‘He resides quite a way away. I visit him from time to time, since he cannot come to visit me, and our discussions are as stimulating now as they were when we were young, more so, even, now he has gained greater perspective.’
He must be very old, too.
Harry slipped his wand back into his sleeve. ‘Am I done?’
‘The only other thing I’m supposed to ask is if you can produce a Patronus Charm for me.’ Tofty let out a wheezing laugh and scribbled on his clipboard.
‘Are you not going to ask?’ Slughorn enquired.
‘I saw Mr Potter’s corporeal Patronus only last year.’
‘I’m sure he wouldn’t mind demonstrating again,’ Dumbledore said. ‘Once we can probably get away with, but twice might be a bit risky when the exam report is submitted.’
So that’s why you’re here. Harry let his wand slide back out of his sleeve. You want to see my patronus.
‘Sorry, Mr Potter.’ Tofty set his clipboard down. ‘Albus does have a point, there. I should really ask to see it again.’
Harry closed his eyes and let the Mirror of Erised well up before the eye of his mind. Fleur carried a green-eyed silver-haired girl in her arms, a small, soft smile on her lips and he stood beside her, a gleaming band of gold and dark stone on his finger. ‘Expecto Patronum,’ Harry whispered.
The anzu exploded from the tip of his wand and soared ’round the room, landing on the desk and spreading its wings, eyeing everyone else with its sharp, silver eyes. Dumbledore studied it, running his fingers through his beard with a faint smile on his lips.
‘Well.’ Tofty slid his clipboard back into his bag and scooped his iguana up in his arms. ‘That’s all I need you to do, Mr Potter. Congratulations.’
McGonagall tutted and Slughorn chortled into his hand again.
Harry blinked, dispelling the anzu with a flick of his wand. Aren’t I meant to have to wait for results?
‘If that’s all, I might head down to Hogsmeade to celebrate with a friend,’ Harry said.
‘Tell Miss Bell she needs to replace some of the members of the quidditch team, Mr Potter,’ McGonagall said. ‘And try not to distract her from her own studies. The rules about displays of personal affection are quite clear…’
I won’t. Harry watched Dumbledore pick loose bits of bright fluff off his gloves in the corner of his eye. An ominous little chill prickled down Harry’s spine. There’s probably a reason he’s not mentioned Fleur to anyone. And I bet I won’t like it.
He headed down toward the courtyard, throwing glances around until he caught sight of Katie waving from beside a column.
‘All done,’ Harry declared. ‘Ready?’
‘Did it go ok?’ she asked.
‘Aced it.’ He grinned. ‘Where would you like to go first? Honeydukes or the pub?’
‘Honeydukes.’ Katie slipped her arm through his. ‘We can go crash Nev’s date with Hannah at the pub after you’ve bought me chocolate, and Alicia and Angelina will be about for a drink.’ She giggled and pointed down the path through the groups of students. ‘Look, there they are, let’s sneak after them.’
She tip-toed after Nev, darting behind small groups of students, most of whom were a head shorter than her.
‘You’re not very good at sneaking.’ Harry strolled after her.
‘I was so overt I was covert.’ She pouted and slinked out from behind a group of younger girls. ‘You’re not embracing the spirit of this…’
‘Maybe it’s because he likes his girls more mature than a twelve year old.’ Romilda Vane strutted out of the group.
‘Oh!’ Katie peered into the gaggle as if just noticing they were there. ‘Romilda. I didn’t recognise you without all that eye-shadow. Why aren’t you in Hogsmeade with your boyfriend?’
‘I don’t have one anymore,’ Romilda declared. ‘He wasn’t dedicated enough.’
‘Ah,’ Katie murmured with more than a touch of glee. ‘Come, Harry,’ she called, catching sight of a huddle of Third Year Hufflepuff girls and grinning from ear to ear. ‘There are many students to seduce today, I’m sure we can work around that impotency.’
A touch of heat crept onto his cheeks and the girls flushed, scattering from his path like frightened sparrows.
Luna Lovegood has a lot to answer for. He shrugged. Ah well, in for a knut, in for a galleon.
‘After you, Katie.’ He shot her a suggestive wink. ‘Maybe the impotency is just because I’ve not found the right girl to be my Dark Lady.’
She froze and clapped her hands over her mouth with a loud gasp. ‘Oh no, my precious virtue, what will I do?’
Romilda snorted. ‘Everyone knows you don’t have any of that left.’
Harry twisted ‘round and levelled a cold glare at her. ‘Would you like to say that again, Romilda?’
‘Sorry,’ she whispered, shrinking back behind her friends.
Katie stuck her wand back away. ‘I was going to hex her,’ she complained as they wandered down. ‘I’ve a really good one, it causes unexpected menstruation.’
Harry blinked. ‘Isn’t it always kind of unexpected?’
‘Well, a bit…’ She shrugged. ‘It’s not a real period, just blood, but it’d definitely ruin Romilda’s day, if she’s even old enough to have a period.’
He eased her toward Honeydukes. ‘Chocolates?’
‘You’re buying!’ She darted across the cobbles and into the shop, tugging him by the arm.
‘I did say I would buy you something,’ he said.
Katie eyed the life-sized animated chocolate creatures.
‘No.’ Harry coaxed her away from those. ‘I’m not wrestling with one of them for the rest of the day.’
‘I’m only going to get one small box.’ She browsed the shelves. ‘Something tasty.’
‘Choose a nice one,’ he said. ‘I can manage a present every now and again.’
‘I won’t take long!’ Katie bounced off down the aisle, swapping boxes and rearranging shelves.
Harry drifted toward the end of the aisle, running his fingers over labels. Animated hot chocolate powder. Creates chocolate bubble creatures that last longer the more powder you add. He tucked it under his arm. Something for Fleur.
‘A present for me?’ Katie popped up behind him, a slim, brown package tucked under one arm.
‘For Fleur. She likes sweet things too, remember.’ Harry studied the corner of the slim dark box. ‘What am I buying for you?’
‘Chocolate-coated butterbeer creams and Firewhiskey hearts,’ she confessed, opening the box a fraction and revealing two dozen chocolates nestled in white paper.
‘Tasty…’ Harry reached out a hand and grinned.
‘Mine.’ Katie batted his fingers away. ‘You buy your own.’
‘I’m buying yours.’
She batted her eyelashes and played coy. ‘Pwetty pwease, Dark Master? With a cherry on top?’ A wicked little gleam appeared in her eyes. ‘I’ll let you have my cherry on top if you really want, my lord.’
Harry snorted. ‘You’re incorrigible.’ He headed for the counter. ‘A good thing I’m impotent, or I might be tempted to say yes, then you’d be stuck.’
‘Frenchie didn’t make it sound so bad,’ Katie murmured, catching his arm. ‘If she wasn’t about, would you really be tempted?’
Harry weighed up the glint in her eye. ‘But she is.’ He pulled her into a one-armed hug and carried on toward the counter. ‘Best not to think about what ifs, in my opinion.’
‘One galleon and eight sickles,’ the girl behind the counter droned, glancing at the label.
‘Here.’ Harry passed her the correct number of coins and returned the box to Katie’s arms. ‘I bought it, so you can carry it.’
‘Hey!’ The girl behind the counter perked up. ‘Aren’t you—’
‘Voldemort.’ Harry put a finger to his lips. ‘But ssssh, I’m in disguise. It’s so hard to get good chocolates when you’re committing mass murder and organising a blood purist revolt.’
The counter girl’s jaw dropped.
Harry strolled out, Katie in tow.
‘Wait.’ She caught his shoulder. ‘I — I want to know the answer to that question, Harry.’ Her fingers tightened around her box of chocolates until her knuckles turned white. ‘I messed it all up, I know, but I want to know if it might’ve worked. In another life.’
Katie… He closed his eyes and sighed. Fleur’s perfect and you’re, well, you’re my best friend, but you’re not her.
‘Please?’ Katie whispered. ‘I know you know. I can’t keep playing pretend and wondering what you’re really thinking anymore.’
Harry tried to picture it. He forced Katie beneath willow leaves and before white pebbles, over Fleur’s face in the memories of their kisses, and held her body over Fleur’s through snatches of heated moments at the Meadow.
‘Harry?’ She sidled close and took his hand. ‘I’m not asking you to do anything. I’d never ask that.’
‘I know.’ He opened his eyes and cupped her hand beneath his. ‘The truth is I don’t know, Katie. Maybe? All I know is it wouldn’t be the same. Fleur’s… Fleur’s perfect for me. She’s everything.’
‘Everything…’ Katie’s eyes turned liquid and she blinked hard. ‘But you love me a little bit, don’t you?’
‘You’re my best friend.’ Harry reached out and poked her on the forehead. ‘Nothing will change that.’
A small smile spread across Katie’s lips and she waved her chocolate box at the Three Broomsticks. ‘Ready to gatecrash Nev’s lunch with Hannah?’
‘Definitely.’ Harry pulled out his wand. ‘Hold still.’
She scrunched up her face and shivered as Harry’s magic touched her. ‘What’re you doing to me?’
‘Casting glamour charms.’ He smirked, conjuring a flat disc of water in the air in front of her as a makeshift mirror, and rearranging her face a little.
‘Oh…’ Katie’s grin turned evil. ‘I like the way you think, Dark Lord Potter.’ She admired herself in the makeshift mirror. ‘I make a hot older woman. Professor Sprout’s never looked so good.’
They strolled into the pub together, casting an eye around for Neville and his blonde companion. Harry caught sight of Hannah’s pigtails on the far side of the room.
‘Over there.’ He nudged Katie’s shoulder and pointed. ‘Go get him.’
She beamed. ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ she said, mimicking Professor Sprout’s speech.
‘Have fun. And Katie dearest—’ he conjured a fluffy, pink, heart-shaped cushion and deposited it into her hands ‘—whatever you do, don’t cause a scene.’
Katie bounced across the floor clutching the cushion until she reached the centre of the room. ‘Neville!’ She sank to her knees and burst into loud, fake sobs. ‘How could you!?’
‘Professor Sprout?’ Nev asked, turning brighter and brighter crimson.
‘I had hoped that the rumours were untrue, but now I see that my fears are not unfounded. You have left me for a younger woman.’ Katie wailed and pulled at her hair. ‘Oh if only I’d agreed to help re-enact that fantasy you told me about you and the venomous tentacula.’
‘What?’ Hannah gasped.
‘How could you do this, Nevvie?’ Laughter suffused Katie’s voice as she thrust her cushion at his feet. ‘Surely the arms of this buxom, young blonde cannot compare to the nurturing affection of Herbology. Return to my bosom, to the bosom of mother nature, and the soft, warm soil of the greenhouses.’
Nev caught sight of Harry. ‘Harry! Get out here and collect your accomplice before I hex her back to Hogwarts and bury her in the soft, warm soil of the greenhouses.’
‘Game over.’ Harry removed the glamours from Katie, who scampered back to raucous applause, waving her pink cushion about like a trophy.
‘Not funny,’ Nev groused.
Hannah snickered into her drink. ‘It was pretty funny, Nevvie.’
Angelina and Alicia drifted over. ‘Hi Katie,’ they chorused. ‘Neville. Hannah.’ They exchanged a glance. ‘Harry.’
Oh, that’s why Alicia doesn’t like me. It’s nothing to do with Rita Skeeter, she’s known about Katie the whole time…
‘Girls.’ Harry threw a look at Katie, who wilted a little.
‘I see you made it to Honeydukes, Katie.’ Alicia smirked and tapped the brown-papered box. ‘What did you get?’
‘Harry spoilt me.’ Katie beamed. ‘Though he wouldn’t let me buy an animated chocolate Grindylow.’
Nev breathed out a long sigh. ‘Smart man.’
‘He also mentioned Firewhiskey…’ Katie fluttered her eyelashes at Harry. ‘I’ll tell all the Third Year Hufflepuff girls that you aren’t really impotent…’
Harry shook his head. ‘How about you convince Romilda Vane I am impotent instead.’ He shuddered a little. ‘I really don’t want to get love potioned by her.’
‘Deal! I’ll head to the bar and get us a round of drinks.’ She snatched her chocolates out from under Alicia’s fingers and threw a pointed glance at Harry and her two friends. ‘Be back in a moment.’
‘Time for that conversation Katie wants us to have while she’s not here,’ Harry said.
‘Oh?’ Alicia’s head snapped ’round. Two spots of pink hovered high on her cheeks and her eyes flashed. ‘The one where you pretend you aren’t messing our best friend around?’
Nev leant back into the corner, tugging Hannah with him. ‘We’re not here,’ he said. ‘Just pretend we’re a cushion.’
‘Katie and I are friends,’ Harry said. ‘Just friends. And we both know the boundaries of our relationship.’
‘So you’re aware that she likes you,’ Angelina said. ‘Katie won’t tell us why she knows you’d say no if she asked you. She just says things are as good as they can be and not to do anything.’
She didn’t? Harry threw a long look over to where Katie chatted with Madam Rosmerta. She kept Fleur a secret for me even from Alicia and Angelina? A little warm lump caught in his throat. Thank you, Katie. He caught her eye and sent her a small smile. I wish there was a way you could get what you wanted, too. The lump in his throat melted away into the emptiness. But wishes like that almost never come true.
‘I think that’s between the two of us,’ Harry murmured. ‘But Katie’s been my best friend since the Triwizard Tournament. Nobody else stuck with me, even if there was a little bit of a mess before the Yule Ball.’
‘You did fine,’ Angelina accused. ‘You went with that hot French chick. Katie got ditched by Roger Davies after about five minutes.’
Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘I wasn’t the one who said yes to Roger Davies.’
‘You should’ve fixed it,’ Alicia said.
‘Katie should’ve said no or told him she’d changed her mind,’ Harry replied. ‘If she had…’ The whirl of images from before flitted through his thoughts. ‘If she’d gone with me, things might be very different.’ He shrugged. ‘Now there’s only one way it can go.’
Katie meandered across the floor toward them, trailing a line of floating glasses of Firewhiskey.
‘Truce, then,’ Alicia said, leaning forward and lowering her voice. ‘Katie shouldn’t have said yes to that idiot Davies and if you don’t feel that way about her anymore, then we can’t make you love her back.’
Angelina pulled a face. ‘We yelled at her for like an hour about Roger Davies, you know, and she just curled up into a ball and cried that it was too late and she’d ruined everything.’
Alicia glanced at Katie as she made her way up the steps to their table. ‘She only ever wanted to go with you, Harry.’
Katie bounced back to their table and the little shot glasses floated down onto the table. ‘I got them.’ She pulled the slim, dark box out from under her arm. ‘Madam Rosmerta was feeling chatty, though, so it took me a little longer than I expected.’
‘We’re all sorted,’ Angelina said. ‘Harry’s a nice guy, he’s not messing you around, you were right all along, and we’re sorry.’
‘Well, that totally ruins my I told you so.’ Katie waggled the box. ‘Chocolate? I’m feeling generous…’
‘Well, if you’re going to be so kind as to offer me one of the chocolates I bought you…’ Harry grinned at her. ‘I guess I’d have to say yes.’
‘Nothing for Harry, then.’ Katie tugged off the lid and tossed it aside. ‘Girls?’
‘Yes,’ they replied. ‘What chocolates are they?’
Katie plucked a chocolate heart out of the box and slipped it into her mouth. ‘Firewhiskey hearts and butterbeer creams.’
‘Still an alcoholic…’ Alicia shook her head. ‘We need to get you help, babe.’
Harry laughed. ‘Too late for that.’
‘Mind if we catch up?’ Angelina asked, gesturing to Alicia and Katie. ‘It’s been a while…’
‘Go for it.’ Harry stole one of Katie’s chocolates and blew a kiss at her look of outrage. ‘See you later!’
Let’s go surprise Fleur with some good news. He apparated back into his study with a soft snap.
A spread of parchment stretched across the floor, covered in endless columns of small blue-inked runes linked by rows of small red-inked runes.
‘Get off my paper, mon Cœur.’ Fleur shooed him off it from behind, then the sheet of parchment rolled itself up against the wall. ‘I was studying your cloak.’
‘I could’ve sworn you said washing,’ Harry quipped. ‘Did you find anything?’
‘Not really,’ Fleur said. ‘I’ve been trying to write a runic description of what I can feel and what Gabby said she felt, but I’m mostly making it up as I go. I think I could probably study this for the rest of my life and still not completely understand how it works.’
‘Well, I need it back.’
Fleur pouted. ‘How did your NEWTs go? And your meetings with Dumbledore?’
‘My NEWTs went well,’ Harry said. ‘Potions was hard and so was the written part of Charms, but I certainly passed.’
‘Did you get an Outstanding?’ Fleur rose to her feet and slipped her arms ’round his neck, resting her elbows on his shoulders. ‘In all of them?’ A smirk graced her lips. ‘I did…’
‘In three, I think,’ Harry said.
‘I got four.’
‘I have a Triwizard Trophy,’ Harry retorted.
‘I have better OWLs, too.’
‘I steel ‘ave a Triwizard Trophy.’
‘You’re supposed to pick a new thing,’ Fleur said, switching to French with a broad smirk. ‘And my English accent is a lot better than your French one.’
‘That’s very true,’ Harry replied in Parseltongue. ‘But I can speak to snakes and you can’t.’
‘What did you just say?’ Fleur demanded.
‘You mean you didn’t understand?’ Harry feigned a frown, struggling with his grin. ‘But Gabby told me that using my Parseltongue would make you the happiest girl in all the world if I did it right.’
Fleur threw her head back and laughed. ‘I think you and my little harpy of a sister need to manage a five minute conversation without some kind of sordid joke.’
‘I don’t think that’s possible,’ Harry said. ‘My intuitive understanding of Gabby through our shared veela-mate-soul-bond is that all veela are really sex-crazed and can’t manage not thinking about it for even a few minutes.’
Fleur huffed. ‘She is not your veela-mate or your soul-mate, mon Cœur—’
She dragged his mouth down to hers. ‘Does she kiss you like that?’
‘Not that I can recall,’ Harry murmured, slipping his arms ‘round Fleur’s waist. ‘Are you getting jealous again, mon Rêve?’
‘I am always jealous.’ Fleur turned her nose up and a small smile curved her lips. ‘You belong to me and nobody else.’ She held his eye, a serious gleam in her blue eyes. ‘Until death do us part.’
The Resurrection Stone.
‘The last enemy to be destroyed is death,’ he whispered, holding her close. ‘I found it, you know.’
‘The Resurrection stone.’ He pressed a kiss to her cheek. ‘I found the Resurrection Stone.’
Fleur’s eyes widened. ‘Show me.’
‘I said I found it, not that I have it.’
‘Oh.’ Fleur’s face fell. ‘Where is it?’
‘Currently?’ A little ice crept into his tone. ‘On the finger of Albus Dumbledore. It won’t be there for long. He and I are going horcrux hunting together soon, then Nev and I are going into Gringotts. If all goes to plan, I can steal the ring afterward and come back here, and then the only things between us and our sunset are a snake and Voldemort.’
‘Wipe them all away,’ she whispered. ‘As soon as you can. When they’re gone, it will be just us beneath the willow tree, like the summer.’
‘You make it sound so easy,’ Harry murmured.
Fleur shrugged. ‘It’s their dreams or ours.’ Her fingers slipped to the curve of her stomach and a faint smile crossed her lips. ‘They made it that way, too, mon Cœur, so don’t feel bad. It’s their fault if they lose at their own game.’
‘I don’t feel bad.’ He placed a hand over hers and she gasped and twitched. ‘Are you okay?’
She bit her lip. ‘I’m okay.’ Her voice dropped to a whisper. ‘After those couple of risky times, I thought about the consequences a bit…’
And would it be such a bad thing? Fleur’s voice welled up in the back of his head and a green-eyed girl tossed her silver hair over her shoulder and beamed at him from behind cold glass. No, it would be a perfect thing.
‘You said it wouldn’t be so bad,’ she said, staring up at him through a veil of her silver hair.
Harry pulled her close. ‘I’ve one more secret for you,’ he whispered, cradling her head against his chest. ‘There were other things in the Mirror of Erised when I saw it in the Department of Mysteries.’
‘What?’ Fleur breathed. ‘Tell me…’
‘There was another girl in the mirror.’ Harry felt her tense and ran his fingers through her hair until she relaxed into him. ‘She’d silver hair and looked so much like you I thought she was Gabby, but when you picked her up, she turned to look at me and she had my eyes…’
‘A little girl.’ Fleur’s arms tightened and she buried her face in the crook of his neck. Her eyelashes brushed against him and something hot and wet dripped onto his skin, trickling down over his collarbone into his clothes. ‘We’re quite young, mon Cœur, are you sure?’
A stab of panic lanced through him. ‘It doesn’t have to be a dream for now, Fleur. I can—’
She put a finger to his lips. ‘One day there’ll be a little green-eyed girl with silver hair, there’s just a certain question you’ll have to ask me once we’re free.’ Fleur drew back and smiled up at him through the tears sparkling on her lashes. ‘For my parents’ sake. For me, it’s a promise we’ve already made.’
His breath caught and his heart lurched in his breast. Does she mean? He turned it ’round in his head, pulling apart her words. There’s nothing else she can mean.
Harry forced himself to draw in a long breath and calmed his pounding heart. ‘I guess I’ll have to plot something with Gabby.’ His voice shook. ‘I’m sure we can manage something.’
Fleur pressed kisses to every part of his face she could reach and her fingers curled into his clothes. ‘Want to do something risky, mon Amour?’ A wild gleam burnt in her blue eyes. ‘Maybe quite a few times?’
‘Let me think…’ Harry gave her a smile and a wink. ‘Yes. I do.’
She hauled his mouth down to hers and crushed herself into him, shimmying the straps of her sundress off her shoulders and tugging his clothes away. ‘Those are my lines you’re stealing, mon Cœur,’ she murmured between kisses. ‘Now you’re going to have to make it up to me.’