Storm winds tore at his robes, howling through his hair. The salt spray stung his skin as he stared down at the dark waves crashing against the stone. A jagged rock jutted from the ocean, surrounded by foaming white and framed by the rising dawn light.
He turned away from it and stared north across the waves.
‘Britain.’ A low voice cut through the storm. ‘Behind the storm. As it always is.’
Harry swivelled on his heel, sliding his wand into his palm. Three pairs of steel-grey eyes stared back at him from beneath gold curls and three small smiles hovered on identical red lips. Three golden lions crowned in white fleur-de-lis snarled rampant across the front of their tight blue robes.
‘Violette.’ He tucked his wand away and glanced past them at the small group of blue and gold-robed aurors. ‘You’re the Dufort triplets.’
‘Les Trois Lionnes,’ the middle sister said. ‘Our auror squad is here, but…’
‘We do not need them,’ the rightmost said. ‘This little rock, we will scour it clean.’
‘I think I’m meant to come with you,’ Harry said.
‘Then come,’ the leftmost murmured. ‘Nobody will die before we do.’
‘We will not allow it,’ the middle sister said.
The three sisters drew their wands and raised them up before their eyes. ‘While one of us lives, none of us will die.’
The aurors behind them stared with wide eyes and soft smiles, murmuring the words back into the storm as the spray flecked their faces and dotted the gold edging of their robes.
A faint pang of sorrow twisted in Harry’s breast. If only that were true. Death steals without remorse.
‘Ready?’ The middle sister held out a metal circle; her sisters took hold of it together. ‘Violette?’
Harry reached out and grasped the cold iron, tasting the salt spray on his lips. A gentle thrill washed through his veins and his heart picked up its beat. He smiled. ‘Ready.’
The world lurched sideways and he stumbled across bleak, damp stone. Stray feathers fluttered, pinned to the ground by the wind. Seagull droppings stained the jagged peak above the crevices and pools.
‘Beneath us.’ The leftmost sister surveyed the rocks around them. ‘Isobel?’
‘Yes.’ The middle sister turned to Harry. ‘Can you fight, Violette?’
‘Do not get too close.’ The third sister reached down and pulled up an iron ring. ‘Once we’re in, we’ll go first. We cannot die.’
Everyone can die.
‘Celine.’ The middle sister raised her wand.
The leftmost sister touched the tip of her wand to her sister’s. ‘Isobel.’
‘Colette.’ The last sister added her wand.
Golden magic swirled over the three tips, coalescing into a slim, bright lance of flame; its light flickered on the golden lions, shining on the chests of their blue robes and upon the crowns of white fleur-de-lis.
‘Isobel, Celine, Colette, and Violette.’ The three of them glanced up at him with grey eyes and red-lipped smiles. ‘It rhymes.’ They thrust their wands down.
The golden spear pierced through the stone, bursting the faint shimmer of a ward like a needle into a soap bubble; its tip turned the stone to molten orange flame, then the spear burst, ripping open the stone beneath their feet.
The three sisters dropped into the dark.
Bright spells burst from the corners, beams of orange and yellow and blue scorched past their golden curls. They spun back-to-back, swatting away spells and throwing up a golden bubble. Curses bounced back off it with bell-like chimes and left bubbling craters across the ground around the three sisters.
Harry tracked the line of the spells streaking from the dark. There’s nobody to the left. He disillusioned himself and apparated down with a soft snap.
Shadows hurled their curses at the Dufort sisters’ shield from behind the cover of damp, jagged rocks, but the golden bubble held.
I guess transfiguration isn’t anyone’s forte down here. He slipped the Elder Wand from his sleeve and forced his magic into the stone.
Spears thrust from the walls, bursting through the limbs and torsos of the shadows. Blood spattered across the damp stone and screams rang out through the dark. Harry twisted his wand. The stone spears exploded, ripping apart the assailants in a spray of gore and small, sharp fragments. Little hot lines of pain seared across his skin as the shrapnel hissed past him from all directions and bounced back off the golden shield.
‘Messy.’ The middle sister lowered her wand and their shining shield fell.
The leftmost smiled. ‘Effective.’
‘Both,’ the last said. ‘Yes?’
‘Yes,’ the other two replied, hurrying toward a small passage in the corner to their left.
Harry picked his way through the pools, grimacing a little at the heat creeping through the soles of his boots as he followed the Dufort triplets down a narrow, dark passage.
A smooth wall of stone bearing Grindelwald’s mark blocked their way.
‘Warded,’ one of the sisters said. ‘Isobel?’
‘The chisel.’ The middle sister extended her wand and pressed the tip to the rock. A faint spider web of cracks spread from it, then she twisted about. ‘Celine?’
Harry glimpsed a faint, red scar across her neck as she leant aside from the last of her sisters. So that one’s Isobel.
‘The hammer.’ Celine touched her wand to the base of Isobel’s and the stone groaned, the cracks snaking up to the ceiling and down to the floor. ‘Collete?’
‘Just a little.’ Collete added her own wand.
Harry frowned at the three slim, light-wood wands. Identical wands. Identical faces. Identical clothes. And their magic, it acts like it’s the same, too.
The wall shattered.
A woman sat on a rock at the far side of the room, her wand on her lap. ‘You’re too late, cowards. We’ve destroyed anything you could use to stop us.’
Isobel let out a low growl and raised her wand.
‘Wait.’ Harry stepped forward, sliding his wand back into his sleeve and catching the woman’s brown eyes. ‘She might be bluffing. I bet she missed something.’
He touched her thoughts. Glowing red dots floated over maps, then burst to pieces, and lists of names curled into ashes beneath the tip of a wand as the spells hissed in the distance. Parkinson. Zabini. Farley. Greengrass. Crabbe. Goyle. Greengrass. Silence fell and a tangled knot of fear twisted so tight he tasted bile, the last pages crumbled into dark flecks. The Last Scions.
‘I missed nothing,’ the woman spat, snatching up her wand.
Isobel put a beam of white light through the witch’s forehead. ‘Enough.’ She turned to Harry, brushing dust off the golden lion and its crown of white fleur de lis on her chest. ‘Violette. Have you got what you are here for?’
I got something. They’re connected to British purebloods and there are other bases in Brittany, Normandy, and Calais. Unease prickled down his spine at the memory of Pansy Parkinson’s brown eyes and the burning amber mask beneath the lake of blood. She saw me and now her name appears again. Is it her coming to steal the sunset?
Harry ran his eyes over the stone room, taking in the Grindelwaldian graffiti and the carpet of ash. ‘There’s nothing left here.’ He pictured the room within the catacombs. ‘I will return to Paris.
‘Au revoir, then.’ The three sisters gave him a wave.
He stepped into the false sunshine with a soft snap. ‘Grise?’
‘Just… me.’ Vert rose from her seat in the shadowed corner. ‘Suc… cess?’
‘Sort of.’ Harry prowled around the brazier. ‘Their base is gone. I barely had to do anything, actually. However, I only have half a dozen rough locations.’
‘Du… fort.’ She stepped forward, flicking dark hair away from her near-black eyes. ‘Strong.’
‘Can they really not be killed?’ he asked.
Vert shrugged. ‘Still liv… ing.’
‘Fair enough.’ Harry glanced about. ‘Is Grise going to be back soon?’
‘No.’ Vert shook her head and settled back into her chair. ‘Hunt… ing. Le Cancre… lat.’
‘Should I wait?’
‘Tell… me.’ She leant forward. ‘In… case.’
‘Bases on the coast in Normandy and Brittany, and one at Calais. That cell was also connected to a group of British purebloods,’ Harry said, a little of his unease stirring. ‘The Last Scions?’
‘Un… known,’ Vert rasped. ‘Likely… former… Death Eat… ers. An… y French?’
‘Pansy Parkinson, Gemma Farley, Blaise Zabini, Daphne and Astoria Greengrass, and Crabbe and Goyle,’ he replied, anxiety twisting in his gut. ‘All British. All purebloods. Pansy Parkinson… What do we know about her?’
‘Wanted… by… aurors… dead or… alive,’ she said. ‘In… hiding.’
‘Interesting that she and these Last Scions are in contact with Le Cancrelat,’ Harry replied.
But if she’s on the run, then even if she did recognise me, she won’t have told anyone but this group and Le Cancrelat. The knot in his stomach loosened a fraction. I’ll see what the next group of Le Cancrelat’s followers know.
‘Be… yond us.’ Vert broke into a rough, wet cough and pulled her wand out. ‘I… go.’ She disapparated with a violent crack.
‘Au revoir,’ Harry murmured, apparating back home.
Fleur paced the kitchen, her reflection’s dark-eyes glaring out into the grey clouds. ‘He is doing something reckless. I know he is. Probably showing off to impress the famous Dufort sisters.’
Gabby glanced up from the table and saw Harry. ‘The Dufort sisters are very pretty and only a little older than you. Maybe an auror captain foursome beats a veela sister threesome.’
Fleur whirled around. ‘There you are!’
‘I’m back.’ He held up his hands and did a little twirl. ‘In one piece.’
‘Were you reckless?’ she demanded, stalking toward him past the table. ‘Were you?’
Harry threw a look at Gabby. ‘Was she pouting the entire time I was away?’
Gabby snickered. ‘Mostly. There was some glowering and seething, too. Maman and Papa went off to work before she really got going.’
Fleur’s fingers curled into the front of his robes. ‘You have holes in your clothes, mon Amour.’ Her eyes swept over him and narrowed. ‘And these damp patches are blood.’
‘But not my blood,’ Harry said, sliding his hands ‘round her waist and drawing her close. ‘Not really. I got a couple of scratches from shrapnel, that’s all.’
She hummed, her breath tickling his chin. ‘Bon.’ Fleur pressed kisses along his jaw. ‘Tu m’as promis.’
‘Brunch and a show?’ Gabby chirped.
‘Non.’ Fleur buried her face in the crook of Harry’s neck. ‘I am just feeling—’
‘Clingy,’ Gabby said. ‘I can feel it.’
‘Hush, Gabby.’ She took a deep breath in. ‘You smell good, mon Cœur.’
‘I do?’ He sniffed his shoulder and grimaced. ‘Are you sure? I smell like seaweed and rocks.’
‘You do. It’s the salt.’
‘Weird. I thought it was sweet things you liked?’ He kissed the top of her head. ‘What’re you doing today, mon Rêve?’
‘Nothing.’ Fleur dragged him onto a chair and slipped into his lap, pulling his arms ‘round her and pushing her face into his shoulder. ‘Staying like this.’
Harry tightened his hold and rested his cheek on top of her head. ‘Are you okay?’ he whispered. ‘Fleur?’
‘I’m fine,’ she murmured. ‘Just hold me.’
‘I can do that.’ He cradled her head against his chest and caught Gabby’s eye, raising an eyebrow.
Gabby smiled and leant back on her chair, patting her stomach with her hand. ‘Mood swings,’ she mouthed, drawing a line of jagged peaks in the air with her finger.
Oh. Because she’s pregnant. A brief flicker of humour washed through him. I better be extra careful or I’m going to get set on fire an awful lot before our child’s born. Anxiety knotted in his gut and the green-eyed girl with silver hair clutched at Fleur’s leg before his mind’s eye. What if I’m bad at this? I never had a family. I’ve no idea what I’m meant to do.
Gabby rolled her eyes and slipped out of her seat, bouncing around the table. ‘Auntie Gabby into the hug!’ She squirmed into his lap beside Fleur.
‘Out,’ Fleur hissed. ‘Out, little harpy.’
‘Awww.’ Gabby giggled. ‘You’re so cranky, Fleur.’
Fleur shoved her sister onto the floor with her knee and curled back up on Harry’s lap, tucking her face back into the crook of his neck. ‘Go away, Gabrielle.’
Gabby smiled at Harry and gave him a thumbs up. ‘See,’ she mouthed. ‘Fine.’ She skipped off down the hall. ‘I’m going to steal my sister’s husband,’ she sang, her voice echoing back down the hall. ‘I’m going to steal him all for me and have loads of cute veela babies.’
Little white feathers sprouted on Fleur’s arms and she raised her head, her irises darkening to midnight blue.
Harry mussed her hair. ‘You’ll miss her.’
‘Not that much,’ Fleur muttered. ‘Always sticking her beak where it’s not meant to be.’
‘You’d be upset if she stopped,’ he murmured, running his finger through her hair. ‘How would you know she loves you if she’s not trying to wind you up?’
She huffed and buried her face back into his chest. ‘I hope you’re comfortable, mon Cœur, because I am very comfortable and I am not moving.’ Fleur’s breathing evened. ‘C’est parfait,’ she whispered. ‘Parfait.’
Of course it’s perfect. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of her breath, feeling the beat of her heart against his chest and inhaling her sweet, sharp marzipan scent. It’s you.