Seagulls screamed over the crash of waves upon pebbles, drifting on the winds above a violent grey sea. Bleak cliffs rose to his left, crested by green grass and crumbling dirt.
Somewhere here. Harry strode along the line of seaweed and driftwood, crunching over the stones, one eye on the cliffs.
A rough circle divided by a line marked a triangular rock where a small stream snaked out through the pebbles and into the white wash of the surf.
There. He leapt over the stream and slid his wand from his sleeve.
A faint veil of magic hung over the face of the cliff. He tore it away with the tip of his wand like a cobweb.
A narrow, dark passage led into the cliff.
Harry disillusioned himself and stepped in, picking his way over limpet-studded stones and down to a smooth, hollow room. Merde. He strode around the walls, tracing his wand’s tip along the stone. They’ve abandoned it.
‘Might as well go back, then.’ He pulled the silver ring with its purple swirl from his pocket and slid it on, apparating back to Paris’s catacombs.
‘Did you find anything, Violette?’ Grise asked.
‘An empty cave.’ Harry dropped into a seat. ‘They probably abandon all the bases connected to a cell that doesn’t check in or something like that.’
Grise nodded, a flicker of irritation passing through his pink eyes. ‘I believe so.’
‘There was a larger red dot at Calais,’ Harry said. ‘It’s possible that base is more important and still running.’
‘I’ll pass the word on up the tree. The Dufort sisters are readying the North coast for fortification and wards, they’ll locate it for us and we can then hit it.’
‘It might be wise to hit a base without them realising we’ve hit it.’ He slid his wand out and sketched a web of purple lines in the air. ‘Then we can hit several places at the same time and start to follow the threads before they can cut them.’
‘If you can manage it,’ Grise replied. ‘Vert’s waiting for you in Room Seven, she’s keen to pass on what she’s discovered so far.’
‘Room Seven?’ Harry stood up and tucked his wand back up his sleeve. ‘I’ve not been any further than the Sunshine Room.’
‘Through the door—’ Grise pointed at the small white door at the far end of the room ‘—there’re nine rooms. Rouge and Blanc had three and four. One is mine. Cramoisi chose number two. Sarcelle is five. Vert has six.’
‘Thanks.’ Harry strode through the door, counting the doors until he reached number seven. He knocked. ‘Vert?’
Come… in,’ Vert rasped.
He twisted the handle and shoved it open.
A glowing white circle hovered on the floor; its light flickered on countless pieces of shining bronze strewn across the stone benches. Above it, caught in a shimmering bubble of iridescent magic, the hands of a simple metal clock crawled around past copper roman numerals. Vert sat atop one of the benches, swinging her legs. A second, identical clock rested on her lap.
‘This is… your room… now.’ She dropped to the floor. ‘I will… share my… work.’
Harry watched the hands of the floating clock. ‘That’s definitely going slower.’
‘Small suc…cess.’ Vert held up her copy of the clock. ‘A few… seconds… each min…ute.’
She’s going to ruin her voice trying to explain this. He held out his wand to the loop of white magic and closed his eyes.
Time dragged within the bubble, slipping back toward the centre of the loop, sliding like grains of sand toward the centre of the hourglass.
‘Com…plex,’ Vert said. ‘But from… within… the bubb…le you… can watch… the fut…ure.’
Can you? Harry reached out and pulled the clock out of the loop, studying its hands as they sped up. It’s lost time, but I still pulled it out into the present. That’s not how either time-turner I used worked.
‘If you… made it… stronger—’ Vert broke into a rough cough ‘—you could… watch the… future… then tell… your pres…ent. That would—’
‘Let you change the past.’ He frowned. ‘I see.’
But that’s not how the time-turner I used worked. Harry pictured the small, golden hourglass. Whatever that did, it projected you backwards. There were two of me in the past.
‘Only… way that… makes sense… to me.’ She lifted the clock from his hands. ‘I need… to go… curse hurts.’ Vert placed the clock down on the stone bench and vanished with a loud crack.
Harry drifted around the benches, running his eye across the pieces of bronze and the streams of rune-covered parchment. ‘I wonder if you can trap spells in this.’ He compressed his magic into a small silver spark and sent it sailing into the iridescent bubble of magic.
Its drift slowed as it arched through, then it burst against the wall in a bright flash of silver light.
‘Interesting.’ Harry slipped his wand away, studying the runes written within the ring of white light. ‘That could be useful with a few tweaks.’
Although it’s not going to create a time-turner like the ones I destroyed. He pictured the white pebbles and the sunlit green leaves of the willow, whirling the world back past him.
Summer heat soaked into his skin and the faint breeze brushed through his hair as he slipped off Violette’s ring and dropped it into his pocket.
‘You’re back!’ Fleur pointed at the space on the branch beside her, dangling her legs down. ‘Come up here, mon Amour.’
Harry apparated up and dropped down to sit next to her. ‘Bonjour, mon Rêve.’
She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. ‘Non. It has been terrible. You snuck off early, I had to go to the bathroom about a thousand times again, and then I threw up.’
‘That doesn’t sound amazing.’ Anxiety twisted in Harry’s gut. ‘You’re not ill or anything?’
‘I am pregnant.’ Fleur stuck her lower lip out, wrinkling her nose. ‘All I can taste is copper, my stomach is bubbling, Gabby keeps making jokes about ensuring our baby has a half-sibling to play with, Neville Longbottom sent another letter, and I am so tired.’
He slid an arm around her shoulders. ‘Regretting it?’
‘Non.’ She swung her legs up onto the branch and dropped her head into his lap. ‘You’re going to hold me in the sunshine and I am going to rest. That will make it okay.’
‘I can definitely do that.’ Harry ran his finger tips through her silver hair. ‘Is this nice?’
‘Very nice,’ Fleur murmured. ‘Keep doing it.’
‘I went to Normandy and found nothing, by the way.’
‘So?’ She yawned and twisted ‘round, wrapping her arms around his waist. ‘Is it important?’
Only if Pansy recognised me. Cold anxiety bubbled up in his gut. Or if it’s her I saw in the foe-glass.
‘Not really, I suppose.’ He shrugged and shoved his unease away. ‘Some of the magic Vert’s been researching looks interesting. Although, it turns out that all those time-turners I destroyed in the Department of Mysteries were the only ones that existed.’
‘Really? They’re rare, expensive, and don’t last all that long, but I know Madame Maxime’s used one. I’ve never had the chance to look at one up close, I was distracted when I saw yours.’
‘Apparently, the ones Britain had were a little special, they could turn back much further and didn’t wear out. Grise said they were one of the advantages that’s kept Britain on top.’ Harry sighed. ‘Grise and Vert would like to create one, but Vert’s going the wrong way, she’s bending time so it flows at different speeds in different places.’
‘That will work, non?’ Fleur asked. ‘You can use the disparity to change events. Although… that time-turner you had, it was very different, do you still have it?’
‘No. It was destroyed when I changed the wards on the Chamber of Secrets.’
‘A shame.’ She opened one blue eye and peered up at him. ‘I wasn’t really paying much attention, because you promised me your secrets, but the magic on it was very interesting.’
‘Maybe we can figure out how to make one,’ he said. ‘But I’ve a nasty feeling the magic required wouldn’t be something we’d be willing to pay the price for.’
‘It’d be nice to know how,’ Fleur murmured. ‘Don’t you like puzzles, mon Amour?’
‘Depends on the puzzle.’ Harry swept her hair away from her face and smoothed it down, tracing his fingers through it until her eyelids trembled and slid closed. ‘It’d be quite useful to have one, though they’re really not very good for you.’
‘I am going to sleep now,’ she whispered. ‘Keep doing that with my hair, it makes me feel less sick.’
‘You sleep as long as you like, mon Rêve.’ Harry cradled her against him as her grip on his waist loosened, listening to her breathing turn steady and deep. ‘I love you.’ He slid a hand down to rest over her stomach and choked back a hot surge of emotion. ‘I love you both.’