A bright sun shone down on the town of Calais through wisps of white cloud; a thin crowd of muggles lined the concrete slope down to the sand, small groups drifting along the long pier running out over the waves.
Harry breathed in the faint scent of coffee as he stepped into a shaded street and stared across at the little lighthouse rising from the pier’s end. Strange choice of place compared to the others, but hard to approach without being obvious. He glanced up and down the cobbles, then ducked into a small alcove. Raven time.
Dark feathers sprouted through his skin as he shrank, the cobbles rising up and swelling into huge stones. He shook his feathers out and stretched his wings, hopping across the first couple of stones and over old cigarette butts.
Let’s see if I can sneak in. Harry jumped into the air and powered himself up over the rooftops until his wings ached, drifting against the sea breeze down toward the lighthouse. Are there wards?
He landed on the window ledge and peered through grime-stained glass. A handful of figures sat on plain wooden benches within, drinking coffee and eating pastries.
‘They still out there?’ one asked, waving his pastry at the shore-facing wall.
‘Of course they are.’ Another set down his small mug of coffee. ‘Won’t be long before they try and storm us. Those three whores are traitors to their kind.’
‘We’ll be gone by this evening.’ The first crammed his pastry into his mouth. ‘No point staying here now the other cells are gone. Just need to make sure we slip out one-by-one today.’
Merde. Harry took to the air, spiralling up ‘round and onto the roof, alighting on a broad, metal beam. Well, if they already know we’re watching them, might as well clear this base out and see if I can find another one to hit more sneakily.
He forced himself back into human form, sliding his wand from his sleeve and disillusioning himself. Bird-dropping-stained linoleum stretched between the metal beams covering the roof, scarred by salt marks and scratches. Harry touched the tip of his wand to it, closing his eyes.
A thin bubble of magic hovered beneath him, trembling at the touch of his wand.
Fading wards. They really are on the verge of leaving. He took a deep breath, then unleashed a wash of crimson Fiendfyre, melting a metre-wide hole through the linoleum and steel beneath his feet and sending the flames boiling down into the room below.
Screams rang out and the reek of roasted flesh and burnt hair rose up in a cloud of dark smoke.
He extinguished the Fiendfyre and dropped down, thudding to the concrete floor with a flash of pain and rolling to his knees.
Three burnt figures sprawled across the floor, twitching and groaning. Weak, high-pitched keening rose from the nearest body. A wizard and a witch in muggle clothes cowered against the far wall, holding coffee mugs.
‘Fils de pute!’ the wizard yelled, dropping his coffee and snatching his wand out of his back pocket.
Harry batted a flash of yellow light into the witch’s ribs and took their outstretched hands off at the elbow with a whip of purple flame. The witch’s stomach burst open in a spray of red, spilling blue entrails across the floor. They snaked up her legs, curling around her throat and snapping tight.
‘Lacero,’ he murmured, slicing the top half of the witch’s head away.
‘Wait,’ the wizard gasped, clutching at the smoking stub of his arm. ‘I know things. Don’t kill me!’
‘There are six other bases in this—’
‘Empty bases.’ Harry raised his wand and levelled the tip at the wizard’s sternum. ‘Try again.’
The wizard’s face twisted into a sneer. ‘You’ll learn nothing from me, lapdog.’
He’s not going to tell me. Harry studied the defiant gleam in the wizard’s eyes. Let’s try legilimency. And let’s see if Pansy Parkinson is really someone I need to worry about. He touched their thoughts together.
‘You don’t know anything do you?’ He sighed and fed an image of a cloaked Pansy Parkinson into their minds. ‘I guess you weren’t important enough. Not much of a surprise, given how quick you tried to give up the other bases near here.’
Thick pines flashed through their shared thoughts, stretching back beyond Pansy Parkinson’s cloaked figure into darkness, and smoke rose from the chimney of a small stone house sitting halfway up a mountain track. A dark-robed man with Grindelwald’s mark upon his breast leant on a wooden trail sign bearing a pine cone beside the gate as Pansy closed it behind them. She sat before a slim, blue-eyed man with fine, dark hair at a plain wooden table.
Potter lives, Julien. Pansy’s whisper carried across the table, echoing through their shared thoughts like distant thunder. I’ve told nobody else. I don’t trust the others to stay and fight if they know they’re facing him.
A wise move. Le Cancrelat smiled a razor sharp smile. Tell nobody. I will also tell nobody until I’ve decided what to do. These words, they don’t leave this room.
The wizard swore and tore their thoughts apart. ‘Get out!’
‘Too late,’ Harry said. ‘Lacero.’
The wizard’s head bounced across the floor and rolled into the pile of gleaming blue entrails.
‘Merde,’ Harry hissed, ignoring the swirl of dark mist surrounding his forearm. ‘Merde. Merde. Merde.’
I need to find Le Cancrelat and Pansy Parkinson. Fear’s cold fist seized his spine, curling sharp, chill nails into his gut, and before his mind’s eye the raw, bitter, smile spread beneath the burning amber mask. If I don’t, they could ruin everything. He apparated into a damp attic.
‘Violette!’ Three voices chorused from behind him.
Harry spun about. ‘Celine, Colette, Isobel.’
The three sisters stood over a rough table, their gold-marked blue robes and blonde curls fluttering in the breeze from the broken window.
‘How did it go?’ Isobel cocked her head, revealing the red scar across her throat.
The leftmost sniffed. ‘You smell like smoke.’
‘And burnt flesh,’ the rightmost said.
‘They knew you were here and were about to abandon,’ Harry replied. ‘I wiped them out.’
‘By yourself?’ they asked.
‘Did you find anything?’ Isobel demanded. ‘Le Cancrelat was not there.’
‘I got an image, that’s all.’
He shook his head. ‘It’s not here, there were mountains. I’ll take it back to Les Inconnus, I just came to let you know I left a bit of a mess, but there’s no longer a threat.’
‘Bon courage,’ they chorused.
Harry apparated back into the Sunshine Room with a soft snap. ‘Grise,’ he called.
‘I am here.’ Grise stepped through from the corridor. ‘Any luck?’
‘An image.’ He drew the memories from his thoughts and hung the images on the water vapour in the air. ‘Any idea where this is?’
Grise studied it. ‘Those are the Alps. That footpath symbol will narrow it down.’ He banished the memories with a swipe of his wand. ‘I’ll narrow the net until we find that house. Vert wants to speak with you before you go anywhere.’
‘In Room Seven?’
Harry brushed past him and knocked on the door.
‘Come in,’ Vert rasped.
He stepped into the lab. ‘You wanted to speak with me?’
‘Yes, I did… I had an… idea.’ She coaxed her floating chair forward to his side of the room. ‘This time… disparity… you could make… use of… with spells.’
‘The thought had occurred.’
‘Good,’ Vert whispered. ‘Test it… carefully.’
And at some point, I’ll have to think about the soul aspect, too. He pulled the door closed and apparated home. It relies on possession, though. Which I know very little about. Harry strained his memory. What was it Tom said about Ginny? That she was pouring her soul into the diary, into him.
‘Shared purpose, perhaps,’ he mused, pulling off his ring. ‘Convince the other soul to pour their purpose into yours, then there’s only really one soul.’ Harry froze, a chill prickling down his spine. ‘No dreams,’ he murmured. ‘That’s why Voldemort was so good at it, let them pour all their dreams into you, like mixing colours, then strip all their hopes away. All that would be left is you. Perfect possession.’
‘What are you talking to yourself about, mon Amour?’ Fleur poked her head into the bedroom.
‘Highly risky time and soul magic,’ he said. ‘Want me to try some?’
Her irises flashed black. ‘Explain that to me again, mon Cœur? So your pregnant wife can understand exactly what it is you’re thinking…’
‘Not really going to try it.’ Harry held his hands up. ‘You’re like a cute ball of fire and violence at the moment, mon Rêve.’
‘Ball?’ Fleur’s hands crept to her stomach and the dark drained from her eyes. ‘Ball?! Do I look horrible already?’
‘What? No.’ He leant his head to one side and squinted at the swell of her abdomen. ‘I can kind of see a tiny bump, maybe?’
She covered her stomach with her hands. ‘I look fat.’
‘Not even a little bit.’ Harry stepped across and swept her into his arms. ‘Are you going to be like this for the next seven and a half months?’
‘Like what?’ Fleur demanded, curling her fingers into his clothes. ‘Am I going to be like what?’
‘Er…’ He laughed. ‘Don’t worry about it. I was just teasing.’
She huffed and tossed her silver hair over her shoulder. ‘I want to go to Paris, I would like something chocolat, and also, I quite feel like eating something with avocats, or spicy.’
‘Gabby!’ Harry shouted.
‘Non,’ Fleur hissed. ‘No Gabby.’
‘No Gabby!’ Harry yelled.
A disappointed squeak sounded from outside the door and soft footsteps padded away down the corridor.
Fleur smiled. ‘Just us. And chocolat.’
He pressed a kiss to her nose. ‘And… avocats?’
‘One, then the other,’ she murmured. ‘Maybe avocats first? Or maybe chocolat?’ Fleur’s lips pursed. ‘But also something spicy. We can find somewhere that does all three.’
Harry grinned. ‘Of course, sounds really simple and easy. There must be loads of places like that.’
‘But I am worth the search, non?’
‘Worth anything and everything,’ he whispered in her ear. ‘Which is why I will happily let you drag me all over Paris until we inevitably end up where we always go and eat something that is neither chocolate, avocados, nor spicy.’
Fleur turned her nose up, pink-cheeked, then buried her face in the crook of his neck. ‘I’m sorry if I’m all over the place, mon Amour,’ she murmured into his collarbone. ‘Gabby keeps telling me I’m being emotional and teasing me.’
‘I mean, you’re meant to be emotional when pregnant, aren’t you?’ Harry frowned. ‘Maybe we should find out about this stuff, I never really thought about any of it, just the, you know, child bit.’
‘I asked Maman,’ Fleur said. ‘And did some reading.’
‘Oh?’ he asked.
‘I am sorry if I am difficult,’ she murmured. ‘But you put this baby in me, so it’s only fair you have to put up with me.’
Harry held her close, breathing in the sweet, sharp scent of marzipan. ‘Mon Ange, putting up with you is all I ever want to do.’
Fleur squirmed closer into his arms and kissed his neck. ‘Je t’aime, mon Cœur. I love you very very much. Now, take me to find something tasty. And do not bring my little harpy of a sister. She has teased me about missing you all day and I will set fire to her if I see her again.’