Fleur’s silver hair fluttered over her mouth and her chest rose and fell in time with the soft, slow rhythm of her breath.
She’s so perfect. Harry swept the lock away from her lips with a finger and smiled. So long as I have her, I’ll always be fine.
He eased himself off the bed and stepped into the middle of the floor, sitting down on the soft carpet. ‘Raven time,’ he murmured, reaching for his magic and watching his reflection in the window. ‘Attempt somewhere near fifty, possibly a few more.’
Dark feathers slid through his skin and his hair shivered into ebony plumage.
I’m the raven. Harry drew the change on further, watching his fingers shift into black feathers and thin scales spread over the skin of his legs. And the raven is me.
‘One and the same soul.’ He shrank down toward the floor, a little at a time. ‘Purpose above physical form or name.’ He held his breath as he watched his form change, studying his sleek feathers in the glass as nose and chin lengthened into a dark beak.
The distant sense of the raven began to creep in and a detached dispassion seized hold of his thoughts. Not quite. Harry forced the change back until he sat on the carpet staring at his fingers. But nearly.
‘One of two,’ he whispered, glancing at Fleur’s peaceful smile. ‘And it doesn’t really matter which I was, only which I am.’
I am Harry. I was saved beneath a summer sun. I need her. He took a deep breath. I will be the raven. I’ll see my sunset with Fleur. That’s all that’s important.
A quiet groan rose from the tangle of duvet and blankets on the bed and Fleur’s blue eyes slid open. ‘Mon Cœur?’
‘I’m here.’ Harry glanced down at the dark feathers resting on the carpet around him. ‘I was… definitely not doing any magic?’
‘Idiot,’ she muttered, dragging the duvet and her blankets off the bed and stumbling across to curl up in his lap. ‘You’re meant to hold me until I wake up in your arms, not sneak off to transfigure feathers. You know how many times I dreamt I was waking up with you before you returned? And then you come back and I still didn’t get to wake up like that.’
He cradled her head in his arms and kissed her on the cheek. ‘Did you at least sleep well?’
Fleur gave him a small, soft smile and drew one of his hands down over her stomach. ‘I dreamt of a baby girl.’
Harry swallowed hard. ‘You think?’
‘I won’t know for a few weeks,’ she said. ‘But like I said, if not now…’
A green-eyed little girl laughed before the eye of his mind, holding Fleur’s hand with small fingers and stomping her tiny feet.
Perfect. His breath caught on the hot fist of emotion clamped ‘round his throat. A perfect dream. Tears prickled in his eyes, blurring on his lashes.
‘Are you happy?’ Fleur whispered. ‘With the idea? You were before, but…’
Harry struggled for words and the tears slid free, trickling down his cheeks and dripping onto Fleur’s bare shoulder.
‘Mon Cœur?’ She sat up and twisted about, brushing her thumb through the hot lines on his face. ‘You’re not happy?’
‘I am.’ He wiped his tears away. ‘And there I was teasing you for crying when you were happy.’
‘Fleur! Harry!’ Gabby pounded on the door. ‘Maman and Papa are back.’
‘They’re early,’ Fleur murmured, squirming out of her duvet and tossing it back onto the bed. ‘You should say hello, Harry. They still think you’re dead.’
He blinked. ‘You didn’t mention I was back?’
She shrugged her slim shoulders. ‘I was busy enjoying having you back.’
‘I guess it’ll be a bit of a surprise.’ Harry dragged on some clothes as Fleur pulled a blue sundress over her head and raised the zipper with a crook of her finger. ‘I hope they’re happy to see me…’
‘They will be,’ Fleur said. ‘They better be.’
He smiled and drew her close, pressing a kiss to her upturned lips. ‘Are you working again today?’
‘A little later, yes,’ she said, opening the door to the room. ‘Gabby and I need to test a few things with her magic weaving.’
‘Mon Cœur!’ Gabby threw her arms around Harry. ‘I wait for you to sneak into my room every night, but you never come! When will you leave this jealous goose and come to me?’
Fleur rolled her eyes and pried Gabby off him. ‘You incorrigible little harpy, leave Harry alone. He doesn’t love you.’
She giggled, then a small smile spread over her face. ‘Yes he does. You both do. It’s the nicest thing to feel.’
Fleur’s expression softened and she brushed Gabby’s long silver hair back over her shoulders. ‘Of course. You’re my baby sister—’
‘Veela harem sister,’ Gabby chirped. ‘Future consort to Harry.’
‘Aaaaaand you ruined it,’ Harry quipped.
She beamed. ‘Fleur was only going to say something weird and possessive about us, I’ve heard all of that before.’
‘Fleur! Gabrielle!’ A female voice rang up the stairs. ‘We’re back!’ Footsteps rung up the stairs. ‘Maybe they’re down by the river.’ Fleur’s mother turned the corner of the corridor. ‘There you—’ She gaped. ‘Harry?’
He offered her a wry smile. ‘Re-bonjour.’
‘Impossible,’ she breathed, striding forward with her fingers on her wand. ‘You were dead.’
Fleur stepped between them. ‘He’s back. He came back.’
‘Incroyable,’ Fleur’s mother muttered, dropping her hand back to her side. ‘How?’
‘A great deal of luck,’ Harry said. ‘I don’t really remember most of it, if I’m honest, but I made it back and that’s the important thing.’
Fleur’s father padded up the stairs, a deep frown on his face. ‘I could’ve sworn I heard—’
‘Harry,’ Gabby chirped. ‘Yes. You did.’
Their father hummed. ‘Well, welcome back, Harry. I’m sure Fleur is very glad to see you again.’
‘You know how glad I was,’ Fleur whispered in his ear. ‘But I’m happy to show you again tonight, too.’
Her father grimaced. ‘A little quieter, please, Fleur. I didn’t really want to hear that.’
Gabby beamed. ‘I’ve been hearing it all night.’
Heat crept onto Harry’s cheeks. You might be an aunt soon. His stomach twisted itself into knots. I might be a father.
Fleur folded her arms. ‘Because you were probably in the corridor listening.’
‘I was not!’ Gabby cried. A bright glimmer of mischief appeared in her eyes. ‘I was outside, there’s a much better view from there.’
‘I think I will go and unpack, Laurent,’ Fleur’s mother said, wrinkling her nose. ‘And you need to be heading into the office.’
‘You do?’ Gabby asked. ‘I thought you were off for another week?’
‘Not anymore.’ Fleur’s father sighed. ‘There was violence in the Caribbean and on the Canadian border between poorly disguised U.S. affiliated aurors and those of British colonial protectorates.’
‘So?’ Fleur demanded. ‘That’s nothing to do with you.’
‘Not yet,’ Laurent muttered. ‘But Britain’s colonial protectorates are under British protection, like it says on the bottle, even if they’re mostly autonomous. Amelia Bones is a poor diplomat and does more harm than good on the ICW, but she rebuilt British military power very efficiently after the civil war ended and Minister Diggory has developed her initiatives further. If the U.S. and the Ottoman Caliphate keep poking at British colonies, Britain will be forced to respond, and, depending on the circumstances of conflict, everyone else could get drawn in too.’
‘Still nothing to do with us,’ Fleur said. ‘We ended one war and stopped Voldemort.’ Her eyes darkened. ‘They all got their hero. If they all want to start another one, they can fight it by themselves. We owe them nothing.’
Fleur’s father grimaced. ‘I’m afraid that’s not quite how it works, especially not when I work for the French Government.’ He pulled his wand from his pocket and transfigured his clothes into smart, formal robes. ‘I’d best get back to Paris, the department is in chaos.’
A loud snap echoed down the corridor.
Gabby tugged on Fleur’s arm. ‘We should head in as well. Just in case. Grise and Vert will get grumpy if we’re not around a lot.’
Fleur’s lips twisted. ‘If we must.’
‘Go.’ Harry gave her a smile. ‘I’m not going anywhere, I’ll just sit and transfigure some more feathers.’
‘Don’t do anything stupid,’ Fleur murmured.
‘It’s okay, Fleur.’ Gabby patted her on the arm. ‘The storm I felt before is fading, Harry’s magic is calmer.’ She giggled. ‘You can give his wands back, now.’
Harry narrowed his eyes at Fleur. ‘Did you steal them while I was sleeping?’
She turned her nose up as she pulled a pair of wands out of her sleeve. ‘You left them in the room. I was keeping them safe. I’ve been keeping them safe for over a year.’
Harry took them back and slid them into his own sleeve, smiling at the little jolts of warmth rolling up his arm from the ebony. ‘Thief.’ He pressed a kiss to her cheek. ‘Merci.’
Fleur caught his hand, giving his fingers a squeeze. ‘Later, mon Cœur. Come on, Gabby.’
‘Bye, mon Cœur!’ Gabby grinned and blew him a kiss. ‘Make sure you miss Fleur as well as me.’
Fleur rolled her eyes as she vanished and Gabby wavered away after her.
Harry bounced his wands up and down within his sleeve, then wrenched the world back past him until he stood in the willow’s shade. ‘One of two,’ he murmured.
But how? He slipped the ebony wand out and drew a line of purple flame in the air. The horcrux is in my wand, but was it Harry’s or Tom’s?
Harry sat down in the pebbles, drawing loops of purple flame in the air and watching them fade. ‘Souls are such tricky things.’ He sighed and turned things over in his head, coaxing wisps of dark mist from his wand with his fingertip; they clung to his skin, stretching after him when he teased the finger away. ‘Either this is Harry’s horcrux, torn out as I cast away Voldemort’s, or…’
He clenched his fist ‘round the piece of ebony and stared down at the slim fish darting through the clear water. Unease gnawed at his gut, a cold, sharp sickness churning in his stomach. Or this is Voldemort’s horcrux, torn out only as far as my wand.
‘But souls can change,’ he whispered, stamping down on the anxiety. ‘I found my something important. I need Fleur. I love Fleur. I’m so close to being the raven. I’m Harry. I must be.’
Purpose above physical form or name. Tom was betrayed in the bathroom. Voldemort died alone in the flames. Harry loves Fleur and found his way back to her. Faint, warm relief crept through him. It’s that simple. The feeling slipped away with a jolt of ice. But only as long as Fleur never suspects. She can never know.