If you prefer audiobooks, listen to the audio version created by Sam Gabriel below!
Chocolate bubbles swirled in her mug. A flock of birds burst from the steaming surface, wheeled around above the rim, then plunged back into the cup.
‘Cute,’ Gabby said, leaning forward to peer into her own. ‘Did you make it?’
‘Harry bought it for me,’ Fleur said. ‘It’s great until you try and actually drink some of it and get a faceful of chocolate manta rays.’
Gabby giggled. ‘Are you sure you’re not meant to wait?’
‘For three minutes.’ Fleur watched tiny dolphins swim in loops within her drink. ‘Then it stops, but I keep forgetting.’
‘It’s cute, though.’ Gabby swirled her mug and pouted. ‘You didn’t give me any.’
‘It’s mine, little chick,’ Fleur said. ‘A present from Harry.’
Gabby stuck her lower lip out a bit further. ‘S’il te plaît?’
‘Non.’ Fleur pulled her mug out of Gabby’s reach. ‘Put that pout away, you greedy harpy. It’s not worked on me since you were about nine.’
‘It was worth a try,’ she chirped.
Fleur gazed out the window and watched the drizzle swirl in the wind and the buffeting of the long grass. She cupped her mug between her hands and raised it to her lips, taking a long, slow sip of rich, warm chocolate.
‘Did you talk to him?’ Gabby asked.
‘I talk to him a lot,’ Fleur replied. ‘But yes, I did.’
‘And what did he say?’
She set her mug down on the coaster, straightening it so the handle ran perpendicular to the coaster’s edge and smothered a little niggle of guilt. ‘I told him it wasn’t that risky beforehand.’
‘Fleur!’ Gabby’s grey eyes darkened. ‘That’s not what I said you should do!’
‘I want it to be a surprise,’ Fleur whispered. ‘I want it to suddenly brighten up an ugly, shallow world in a perfect moment he will never forget.’
‘But you’re manipulating him into it,’ Gabby said. ‘And you don’t know it will happen how you see it in your head. He’s my age, he might not be ready. You might not be ready.’
Fleur narrowed her eyes. ‘I do. I know him. I know him better than you, Gabrielle. He is mine.’ A little smile crept onto her face. ‘And besides, he told me he saw a girl with silver hair and green eyes in the Mirror of Erised, so I was right. As always.’
Gabby sighed. ‘And what happens when you get it wrong? You’re not always right. You know you’re not.’
A little chill prickled down the back of Fleur’s spine. ‘He will never leave me. He can’t.’
‘Only because he believes you’re different, Fleur.’ Gabby shoved her mug out from in between them. ‘If you manage, somehow, to convince him you’re not, then you know what will happen.’
‘It won’t happen.’
She muttered a few choice words under her breath. ‘Let’s pretend you do. It’s not like he’s not had doubts before, is it? What will happen if he doubts? Say it, Fleur.’
Fleur clenched her fists and let little white feathers slip through her skin. ‘Non.’
Gabby rolled her eyes. ‘Fleur…’
Fury flashed through Fleur’s veins. The white feathers burst into full plumes and her beak thrust from the liquid heat at her lips. ‘Non! I don’t want to! It won’t happen!’
Gabby plucked her mug off the side and threw the contents in Fleur’s face. ‘Don’t go all birdy at me! I’m trying to help you!’
Fleur clawed the hot chocolate off her face and forced herself to shift back. ‘Gabrielle.’
‘Shut up, Fleur.’ Gabby vanished the mess and glared at her with pitch-black eyes. ‘Shut up and listen to me. If you’re too stubborn to say it yourself, then I’ll say it. He will doubt at the first hint of you not being what he hopes you are, because that is how he thinks, then he’ll tell himself there’s no reason to doubt, but he’ll spend every second seeking reassurance. If you don’t provide it, he’ll get worse and worse, until, eventually, if you still don’t, he’ll come to me again, because I know you best. What should I tell him? You thought manipulating him into getting you pregnant would create some perfect moment for you both to share?’
‘You tell him that I will never leave!’ Fleur hissed, balling her trembling hands. ‘He’s mine. I am his. All the ugly, selfish little people and their shallow dreams are nothing compared to something perfect. One moment of perfection is worth however much it hurts to have it.’
‘Fleur…’ Gabby reached out and took Fleur’s hands, smoothing the shaking from her fingers. ‘It doesn’t have to hurt. You even said he wants it too, just share it.’
‘It already hurt.’ Fleur took a deep breath. ‘If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth having.’
‘Fine, then it doesn’t have to hurt more.’ Gabby sighed. ‘I love you, sister, but your head is not screwed on straight. You don’t have to make it hard.’
Stupid Gabrielle. Fleur tugged her hands back from her sister and clutched her warm mug to her chest. I hate it when she’s right.
She took a deep breath. ‘Actually, little chick, you do have to make it hard. Maman’s books were very clear on that.’
Gabby giggled. ‘And very descriptive.’ She caught Fleur’s eye and held it as the dark faded from her irises. ‘Share the dream, Fleur. It won’t make it mean any less if it’s not a surprise. If anything, surely the anticipation will make it better for you both. There’ll be more than one perfect moment that way.’
‘I’m not going to say that you’re right,’ Fleur muttered. ‘I am not.’
‘And you won’t say thank you, either.’ Gabby kicked her in the shin under the table. ‘You still haven’t said thank you to me for making you write to him.’
Guilt gnawed at her stomach. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered. ‘For that. And for this. And for when Harry was panicking before. I am grateful.’
‘I know.’ Gabby smiled and scooted her chair ’round next to Fleur’s. ‘It’s okay to make mistakes, you know, and to tell Harry things even if you’re not sure whether he will think it’s perfect or not.’
Fleur shook her head. ‘I can’t make a mistake. I know I can’t. One mistake and he won’t think I’m perfect anymore. And if he doubts, then he won’t just talk to you, he’ll talk to Katie Bell. He trusts her, if he doubts me and listens to her, she’ll steal him.’
‘Who?’ Gabby asked.
‘The girl he dated before,’ Fleur snapped. ‘She makes the same kind of jokes that you do, only she isn’t really joking. I would hate her, but she’s important to Harry, so I just can’t…’
A glimmer of mischief hovered in Gabby’s eyes. ‘Who said I didn’t mean them?’
A peal of laughter escaped Fleur’s lips. ‘You’ve never been interested in any real boys, little chick. Maman’s starting to think you’re interested in girls.’
Gabby pouted. ‘I just like the feeling—’ her eyes turned distant and a wide smile spread across her lips ‘—it’s like when you used to hug me when I was a little. All warm.’
‘I’m not your veela-mate, either,’ Fleur said. ‘Nice try.’
Gabby laughed, then the humour faded from her face. ‘You are, though. You and Harry. Sometimes…’
Fleur raised her eyebrows. ‘Do go on, little harpy, I’m very curious.’
‘Put those feathers away, Fleur.’ Gabby laughed. ‘I don’t mean the veela sisters threesome. It’s just nice to be around the two of you. I can feel the warmth in your magic all the time. It’s just… nice.’ She smiled and stole Fleur’s drink. ‘I’m very happy for you.’
Fleur snatched her hot chocolate back. ‘Not happy enough to not steal my sweet things, though.’
‘I don’t have one,’ Gabby protested.
‘Because you threw it in my face.’
‘You were being birdy.’ She giggled. ‘Really birdy, even for you.’
A loud crack echoed through the kitchen and Sirius stumbled into a chair, clutching at his side.
Fleur sighed. ‘I told you not to apparate about if you can avoid it, it’ll make it worse.’
‘Bugger that,’ Sirius growled. ‘Greyback’s dangling Moony’s body from the church tower at Godric’s Hollow. Dumbledore forbade me from going, but bugger that old fossil, too.’
‘You’re in no state to duel.’ Fleur pointed a finger at the wet patch spreading across his robes. ‘Your ribs are seeping again.’
‘Well bugger them as well.’ Sirius thrust a hand into his robes and snatched out his wand. ‘Greyback’s the only real thing keeping the packs on Voldemort’s side, so it’s not like it’s just revenge.’
Fleur pursed her lips and stood up, pulling her wand out to fix Sirius’s leaking bandages. That’s true, but it’s almost certainly a trap.
‘We’ll go to Godric’s Hollow, Sirius, but if we see any hint of a trap, we leave straight away.’
Sirius scowled. ‘Why would it be a trap?’
‘Because Voldemort would like to take everything away from Harry he can,’ Fleur said. ‘And you are on that list of people.’
Gabby padded across the kitchen tiles and threw her arms ’round Fleur. ‘Be careful,’ she whispered. ‘If you get eaten by a wolf, I’m going to steal Harry away to be my veela soul-mate.’
Fleur rolled her eyes. ‘You’ll have to fight Katie Bell first, little chick. Do you want me to take you home or to Beauxbatons?’
Gabby grinned, stuck her tongue out, and vanished.
‘Oh great,’ Fleur muttered. ‘Now she can get into our bedroom.’
Sirius tugged at his bandages and cleared his throat. ‘Do you need anything?’
‘Non.’ She reached out and took hold of his wrist. ‘However, you will have to apparate me, I’ve never been to Godric’s Hollow.’
He grunted. ‘There’s no reason to go there, it’s just graves and a wrecked house.’
A loud crack echoed over mist-wreathed tombs, wilting wreaths, and short grass. The church spire loomed over them, sprouting weathered, worn gargoyles. A single body dangled from one, spinning back and forth in the breeze.
‘Moony,’ Sirius muttered, bowing his head. ‘I always thought I’d be the first of us to die and now I’m the last of us left.’
‘I ripped his throat out.’ A hulking figure leapt upon the top of a marble headstone. ‘He challenged me, man-to-man, so I beat him until he screamed, then I tore his throat out with my teeth.’
Sirius snarled and hurled bright yellow curses at the silhouette, but it leapt away into the mist. ‘Fucking Greyback, I’m going to turn him inside out and peel his skin off!’ A dark patch soaked across his ribs and he clenched his jaw.
Fleur closed her eyes and stretched her sense, straining for any hint of magic, or ripple of wards. Nothing… yet.
‘Where are you!’ Sirius yelled, pressing one hand to his chest. ‘Coward!’
‘I’m a wolf.’ Greyback’s rasp echoed through the mist. ‘But the Dark Lord just wanted you brought here, he wants to kill you himself.’
A handful of black-robed, silver-masked figures appeared with a cacophony of loud cracks and a ripple of magic fell over them.
Wards. Fleur closed her eyes and threaded her magic into them. But not the strongest ones, it’ll only take a moment.
‘Lucy!’ Sirius yelled. ‘How’s the face, you slippery little worm?!’
‘How’re your friends, Black?’ a smooth voice called back. ‘Most of them are here, like mine. Only mine are still breathing.’
Fleur tugged at the wards, re-weaving them, grabbing Sirius’s wrist and apparating them back to the Meadow.
‘Damn,’ Sirius growled, pressing a hand to his ribs. ‘I think I reopened it a bit.’
She pointed upstairs. ‘Go put some silver lotion on it, then re-bandage it. I’ll try and heal a bit more this evening before you sleep, but it’s slow going. The magic in the curse is stubborn.’
‘Not as stubborn as I am,’ he muttered, plodding up the stairs.