Many Happy Returns

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Dead things danced beneath dusk skies; tattered grey spectres rippled in searing hot winds, dragged back into a deep, distant dark.

Harry watched them vanish one by one, ripped from green fields and fading sunlight by the strength of a storm he couldn’t feel. Familiar faces twisted into soundless screams, sucked into the abyss.

‘You can save us.’ A girl of faint, grey mist clung to the long grass, straining every sinew against the silent storm. ‘Save us from our last enemy.’ She reached out her arm. ‘Take my hand if you want to live.’

Harry caught warm fingers in his, clasping the girl’s hand. Gold and onyx gleamed between their hands. ‘The stone,’ he murmured.

‘The storm,’ the girl whispered back.

The deep, distant dark fell away and the searing hot wind stilled. Pink crept up the girl’s arm from where their hands joined, colour rippling across her like spells bursting on a shield charm.

‘Harry,’ Katie murmured, her brown eyes bright and warm above a broad grin. ‘Harry.’

‘Harry.’ Fleur shook him awake, easing her fingers free of his and flexing her hand. ‘It’s nearly evening.’

Katie… A dull ache chewed away beneath his ribs. 

‘I don’t care,’ he muttered.

‘It’s the evening Dumbledore asked you to go horcrux hunting.’ She brushed his fringe back off his forehead and cupped his cheek. ‘And it’s a bit uncomfortable down here on the floor, mon Cœur.’

He blinked and squinted across the white kitchen tiles, growing aware of the numbness tingling in his legs and back. ‘Yeah. It is.’

‘You didn’t want to move,’ Fleur said, helping him up with a grimace and stretching her back. ‘Is it any better?’

Harry sighed and let the emptiness swallow everything. ‘No.’ He managed a faint smile. ‘But I can endure it while I have you.’

‘While we have our dream, we can endure anything,’ she murmured. ‘I won’t pretend I’ve felt what you feel, but I know… if anyone ever hurt Gabrielle—’ her eyes flashed pitch black and white feathers sprouted from her skin ‘—I would melt them like wax and smile as they screamed.’

‘Malfoy did it.’ A familiar cold fist curled sharp-nailed fingers ‘round Harry’s heart. ‘And Dumbledore let him.’

The stone. He took a deep breath and honed the ice in his blood to a razor sharp edge. Katie’s voice whispered in the back of his ear. The storm. Our last enemy.

Harry drew himself up and fixed his ragged sleeve. ‘I’ll go back. And I’ll see her again. I will see her. And I’ll see Salazar. Death is the last enemy. We’ll make it our final victory.’

Fleur held his gaze with a serious glint in her blue eyes. ‘The Resurrection Stone may not work as perfectly as you hope, mon Amour. She may just be a shadow…’

‘A shadow is a start. A shadow is a soul.’ Harry clenched his fist around his wand. ‘I could remake her if I have her soul. Bring her back.’ A hot point of triumph flared in his chest. ‘A body’s just bones and flesh, if I have her soul…’

Fleur’s brow creased. ‘You know what happens when we wish for things like this, mon Cœur.’

The air slipped from his lungs and his heart shrank down into the dark. ‘I know.’ He closed his eyes and sighed. ‘They never come true.’

She pulled him forward into her arms and pressed a light kiss to his lips. ‘We will try. Together, we’ll unravel the magic of the Hallows, but first…’ Her eyes bled black as tar, half a finger’s length from his own. ‘Vengeance. And our sunset.’

‘I haven’t forgotten.’ Harry let himself feel the sharpness of the ice in his chest. ‘I learn from my mistakes. They won’t have the chance to take anything else away and I’ll have the Resurrection Stone.’

‘Be careful, mon Amour.’ Fleur cupped his cheeks in her hands and kissed him hard. ‘He may be old, cursed, and weakened, but he is Albus Dumbledore.’ Her grip on his face tightened. ‘I would demand to come with you, but I know you’ll only panic if I do.’

Harry managed a hint of a smile. ‘I can’t lose you. And now you’re the only thing left to take away.’

‘Sirius.’ Fleur pointed a finger upstairs. ‘You still have your godfather.’

‘It’s not the same.’

A small, soft smile curved her lips. ‘I know, but you still have him, and Gabby, too. She will never leave us.’ Fleur rested her forehead against his and brushed her silver hair away from between them. ‘Be. Careful. Do not do anything reckless.’

‘No risks, mon Reve,’ he breathed. ‘Maybe I’ll get lucky and the horcrux will do everything for me.’

‘I prefer it when there is a plan,’ Fleur muttered.

‘I have a plan.’

Malfoy. Destroy the locket. Take the stone.

Her eyes darkened a few hues. ‘Is it more than a handful of vague objectives?’

‘Of course.’ Harry watched her irises shift a few shades further. ‘Maybe…?’ He waited for her eyes to lighten, sighing as their colour grew darker still. ‘Okay, no, it’s not.’

She narrowed her eyes. ‘If you don’t come back here by tomorrow evening, I will come and find you, no matter who’s in my way.’

Harry kissed her cheek, breathing in the soft, sweet smell of marzipan. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then.’

He spun the world back past him and stepped into Salazar’s study.

Silence hung over the chamber, thick enough he could feel the weight of it pressing down on him.

A glint of gold caught his eye.

‘I could plan, or… maybe I’ll just get lucky.’ He tucked the vial of felix felicis into his pocket and strode out.

The entire common room fell silent.

‘Harry.’ Nev leapt up from his sofa. ‘You’re okay.’

‘I’m just fine.’ Sarcasm poured off his tongue. ‘Never been better.’

‘We’re sorry,’ Ron said. ‘About Katie.’

‘Romilda’s not sorry,’ Hermione muttered, fiddling with the silver chain about her neck. ‘She’s catatonic.’

Harry smothered a flash of cold. ‘She’s alive, though.’

Hermione sniffed and bit at her lip. ‘What happened? All we heard was Katie dropped dead and you destroyed the quidditch pitch.’

‘She was killed.’ Harry stalked through the room and up to the dormitories. ‘That’s all that matters.’

‘By who?’ Hermione demanded. ‘Romilda?’ Her lip curled. ‘I doubt it.’

‘You know who.’ Harry bit back a short, bitter laugh and left her behind, sweeping into his dorm.

The Firebolt sat on his bed, not a twig out of place. A sharp pang tore through his chest, ebbing to a dull, raw throb beneath his ribs.

‘They found it on the pitch near Romilda and Katie.’ Nev stepped through the door behind him. ‘I thought you should have it back.’

Harry wrenched the hangings closed. ‘I don’t want it. I gave it to her. It’s Katie’s.’

‘What actually happened?’ Nev asked.

‘She was murdered with a cursed necklace,’ Harry said. ‘It was M—’

A soft step brushed out on the landing and he twisted around. Hermione froze just outside the door.

‘Wrong dormitory,’ Harry said.

‘I didn’t come to argue.’ Hermione leant on the door frame and chewed her lip, wringing her hands. ‘I am really sorry about Katie, Harry. I know the two of you were close. I didn’t mean to get all demanding back there.’

‘What did you come for, then?’ he asked.

‘I liked Katie,’ Hermione murmured. ‘I want to know who it was that killed her.’

‘Well, too bad,’ Harry snapped. ‘I don’t want you to know.’

Hermione huffed, whirled on her heel, and stalked out.

‘What now?’ Nev asked. ‘What will they do?’

‘They?’ Harry let out a bitter laugh. ‘There is no they. The Ministry’s hiding behind their wards in London, they’re not going to send a single auror or hit-wizard up here because someone murdered Katie.’

And they’d be too late, anyway. I’m going to wipe them all away.

‘She’s in the Hospital Wing,’ Nev murmured. ‘If you want to see her?’

‘I do…’ He glanced at the red and gold hangings of his bed. ‘Would you do me a favour, Nev. My Firebolt, Katie’s Firebolt—’ Harry let out a long, slow breath ‘—take it outside somewhere and burn it.’

‘Burn it?’ Nev echoed.

‘I do not ever want to see it again.’ He slipped his wand from his sleeve and disillusioned himself, striding back down the stairs.

‘He was about to say Malfoy,’ Hermione hissed. ‘I’m sure of it.’

‘You said Malfoy couldn’t have done it,’ Ron said. ‘He wasn’t there.’

‘I saw him come into the library an hour before anything happened. He was there the whole morning, I was watching him.’ Hermione worried her lip and toyed with the silver chain at the nape of her neck. ‘Whomever it was, it wasn’t Malfoy.’

Of course he was there the whole time. He used Romilda to do it, knowing she hated Katie and would struggle all the more to throw off the Imperius. Harry strode out of the tower and drifted through the corridors, following his feet to the Hospital Wing.

Rows of empty beds greeted him beyond the doors to the Hospital Wing. A single, still figure veiled in a white sheet lay upon the furthest from the door.

Hey Katie. The words stuck in his throat as he edged to the side of the bed and drew back the sheet.       

Dull brown eyes stared up at the ceiling through a limp, scattered fringe and cold, pale skin sat as still as if hewn from marble.

This isn’t Katie. His fingers tightened around his wand. It’s just bones and flesh and blood. A husk of clay. He dragged his eyes from her face.

Gleaming white opals coiled about her throat, shimmering with faint iridescent light.

He touched the tip of his wand to the largest gem.

Malice lurked within its glimmer, a sharp, patient lust for death; it hung at the heart of the pale stones like silence in shadowed corners, lingering like the stares of old skulls stacked in dark crypts.

Harry forced his magic into the opals and pried the necklace away with a twist of his wand, wrapping it up in a conjured black cloth and dropping it into an empty pocket.

‘I’ll see you soon, Katie.’ He drew the sheet back up over her head. ‘I know you’re not good at being patient, but, with a little luck, it won’t be long.’  

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