Sunlight poured through green leaves, bright lances of it reflected off shards of shattered crystal, stabbing at his eyes. A girl stared at him with trembling lips, her blue eyes wide behind a veil of fluttering silver hair.
One of two. A girl of grey mist faded away with a tearful smile in the eye of his mind. Betrayed in the bathroom? Or saved beneath summer skies?
‘Mon Cœur?’ she murmured, touching a finger to his arm.
Fleur. His heart lurched, seized by sharp yearning, and the breath slipped from his lips.
She hurled herself against him, dragging him tight into her embrace and clinging to him, curling her fingers into his robes and pressing kisses all over his face. ‘What did you do?’ she whispered. ‘What did you do?’
A wave of emerald light washed through his thoughts, scattered, tattered shadows clawed at each other in its wake as red flames swallowed him. White feathers shone before the full moon and amber eyes glinted in the reflection of a hundred puddles. The countryside blurred beneath silent wings into white cliffs and blue waves, then back into rich green again.
‘I died.’ The words caught in a dry throat, rasping off a parched tongue. ‘Only, I didn’t.’
She drew back, her eyes gleaming with tears. ‘You are not allowed to die, mon Cœur.’ Her tears sparkled on her lashes, trickling free down her cheeks. ‘You are mine.’
The silver-haired girl. He sucked in a deep breath, wincing at the ache in his chest. She smiled a thousand smiles beneath a summer sky, shimmering in a dress of silver thread and smirking beneath a thin blanket. Fleur.
Fleur caught his chin in her fingers and tilted his face up to hers, peering into his eyes. ‘You’re not okay, are you?’
‘My chest hurts.’ He drew in another deep breath to feel the depth of the soreness, stretching his legs and flexing his arms as they twinged. ‘And so does everything else.’
She opened her hand. A gold band marked with a dark stone and an ebony wand rested on her palm in a pool of slim, silver chain. ‘I — I’m going to hold onto these, mon Cœur. I think you need a bit of time.’
Time for what? He stared at the light glistening on the band of the ring, watching it sink into the emblem etched into the dark stone. Behind closed eyes, the sigil stood stark upon pale graves and a whispering arch, it shone in silver on silk as smooth as water and glowed in purple flame above towering stacks of paper. Time for what?
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘Because it’s been several minutes since I said anything, Harry,’ Fleur whispered. ‘You just sat there, staring at me.’
Harry. A green-eyed girl with silver hair smiled behind gleaming glass, fading into swirling shade among a thousand thoughts, and a red sun sank into shadow beyond the trailing branches of the willow tree. One of two.
‘You do.’ A gleam of worry shone in her eyes. ‘And you would’ve made a joke about staring at me before.’
A second girl with silver hair appeared beside her and froze. ‘Fleur! What did you do?’
‘Nothing, Gabrielle,’ Fleur murmured. ‘I did nothing.’
‘Gabby.’ The name rolled off his tongue.
‘Yes.’ Gabby prowled closer, her fingers on her wand. ‘You’re not the same as you were. You feel… different.’
‘Different?’ Fleur cupped his jaw with her hand, stroking her thumb along his cheek. ‘Different how, Gabrielle?’
‘He’s swirling.’ Gabby edged round the tomb through the broken crystal. ‘His magic is whirling like a storm. A storm trapped in a thin glass bubble.’
‘How do you feel, Mon Cœur?’ Fleur’s eyes held his.
‘Scattered,’ he whispered, staring into the blue until his head spun. ‘Distant.’
Her irises darkened a few hues. ‘You’re back now. You just need time. Whatever you did has left you a little scrambled.’
‘What do you remember?’ Gabby asked.
An emerald flash washed through his memories, followed by the soft embrace of white wings.
‘Dying,’ he murmured with a little shiver. ‘And flying.’
‘Hedwig brought your shade back,’ Fleur said, glancing down at a blood-stained, mud-spattered bundle of feathers in the pile of crystal shards. ‘She didn’t survive.’
A faint pang twisted in his breast. ‘I don’t remember possessing her. I just remember flying South. And there was — there was something. Something important.‘
‘Me,’ Fleur whispered against his cheek, pulling him into her arms. ‘That’s me.’
‘I know.’ A small smile spread across his face. ‘I knew it the moment I saw you.’
Gabby let out a little cheer. ‘That’s more like it. I felt that.’
‘You go away, little harpy.’ Fleur drew back and took hold of Harry’s hand. ‘I’m going to take Harry back and—’
Harry tried to stand and collapsed onto his face, pain flaring up across his hands and arms. Sharp crystal fragments dug into his skin as he strained his limbs.
‘And make him rest,’ Gabby said. ‘We preserved the body, but it’s been a while since he’s used it.’
‘Great.’ Harry rolled onto his back and tugged the pieces of crystal out of his skin, watching the cuts close and the pink lines fade away. ‘I can’t even walk.’
Fleur lifted him to his feet and wriggled beneath his arm. ‘Come on, mon Cœur. I’ll take you to bed.’ She sighed. ‘Although, not quite how I was planning to when I finally managed to bring you back.’
He staggered forward as the world lurched with a soft snap and slumped onto cool, soft pillows and silk sheets. ‘That’s much more comfortable.’ Harry squirmed onto his side to face her. ‘Can I stay here for a bit?’
‘Lie still,’ Fleur said, raising her rosewood wand. She hummed as she ran its tip over him, a small, soft smile on her lips. ‘There’s nothing I can find,’ she said. ‘No magic but your own. Gabby is right, though, it’s… restless.’
One of two. Harry held his tongue.
‘Maybe it’s just missed you,’ he said.
‘As sweet as that would be, I don’t think it’s true. I’ve removed the enchantments that kept your body preserved, but the effects will linger for a while.’ She transfigured the formal robes into something looser with a smirk. ‘Perfect.’
Harry raised his neck. ‘Really? Bright pink?’
Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘I suppose it’s not really your colour.’ She flicked her wand again. ‘There. Silver and blue. Definitely your colour.’
He laughed and slumped back into the pillows. ‘You’re such a possessive bird-witch.’
She stuck her nose up at him. ‘You would only love me less if I weren’t.’
A proud smile hovered before him, bathed in the sunset’s glow, shifting into a heart-melting smirk and softening into a small, gentle curve. He stared, a twist of desperate yearning coiling tight beneath his ribs, burning like molten gold against the lump in his throat.
‘True,’ he whispered, blinking back a rush of tears.
Fleur’s smile faded a fraction and she bent to sweep his hair back off his forehead. ‘Rest, mon Cœur.’
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ he quipped.
‘Non, you are not.’ Fleur eased him across the bed, then snuggled in beside him, burying her face into the crook of his neck and wrapping her arms and legs ‘round him. ‘I will not let you. I only just got you back.’