The floating lanterns hovered, bright as sunshine over the bronze brazier and its huddle of chairs. Harry rested his heels on the brazier’s rim and leant his head back in his chair.
‘Are you… feeling well?’ Vert stared into the dancing flames. ‘I can go… alone if… I must.’
‘I’m fine,’ he said. ‘Just impatient.’
‘Grise is… speaking… with Ansgar… Fürstenberg,’ Vert replied. ‘In case our… hunt takes us… over the border… into Alem… mania.’
‘Alemannia?’ Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘What on earth is that?’
‘There is no… magical… Germany… It is a… muggle… country.’ Vert drew the familiar outline of Germany in white flame upon the air and ripped it apart into pieces. ‘There are just… the small states… and no… Germany.’
‘Weird,’ Harry murmured. ‘I guess muggle Germany formed after the Statute of Secrecy?’
‘It did… and Italy… is the same,’ she said. ‘City states.’
‘How does that even work?’ He watched the map fade. ‘Are they all just small separate countries?’
‘They are… affiliated.’ Vert stifled a cough. ‘Grindelwald… he united… them once. They are still… friends. They… share many… things.’
Grise appeared with a loud crack. ‘I’ve spoken to Ansgar Fürstenberg, but he’s refused to allow us across the border without knowing more than we’re prepared to tell him. I don’t trust him. He’s old blood, more likely to help Le Cancrelat than us if he thinks he can get away with it.’
‘Who is he?’
‘‘Alemannia’s Fürst-Elect, their elected prince,’ Grise said. ‘He’s stiff as steel and about as much fun to talk to. Alemannia might share France’s national interest, but Ansgar is the sort of wizard we end up hunting down to stop them breaking the statute.’
‘So don’t tell him anything,’ Harry said.
‘Don’t cross the border into Alemannia.’ Grise’s pink eyes bored into Harry and he handed across a pinecone. ‘Keep it clean. Vert will be there to assist you. It’s imperative what we know doesn’t leak out to people like Ansgar; Le Cancrelat is trouble enough alone.’
Vert stood up. ‘What’s—’
‘Papillon,’ Grise said. ‘From what we’ve seen, the cabin’s not warded at all. It’s so remote they must have figured it was better to just avoid attention completely. It’s been a little while since the memory Violette retrieved of Le Cancrelat, so I doubt he’s still there.’
‘Root them… out,’ Vert rasped.
And kill anyone who heard what Pansy said. Harry jumped to his feet and held out the pinecone. The quicker I get to Le Cancrelat the better. Eventually, he’ll think of a way to use the information I’m alive and steal our sunset.
Vert took hold of the pinecone with both dark-gloved hands. ‘Papillon.’
The world jerked sideways and Harry stumbled across a blanket of damp pine needles and pine cones. Cold, crisp air filled his lungs.
Vert tossed the pinecone into the trees and drew her wand. ‘Can you… hide yourself?’
‘I can.’ Harry slipped his wand into his hand and disillusioned himself.
‘Impressive… I have… a cloak.’ She pulled out a shimmering silver cloak and wrapped it around herself, wavering from view. ‘I am not… able to fight… like I once… was. I’ll… take the back… door. You take… the front.’
I can do that. He strode through needles, picking his way over tree roots toward the bright light of the sky and a faint scent of smoke. I hope whoever the third person in that room was is still here. Ice cold anxiety coiled in his gut. If the world learns Harry Potter is alive, it’ll try and take everything away again.
A dark-robed man stood in the cabin’s small garden, inspecting the front gate. Harry caught the flash of a short, pale wand as he fiddled with the latch.
Wards? He paused, close enough to smell the mint on the man’s breath, and touched his wand to the gate, closing his eyes. A faint stickiness clung to the latch like a blob of glue. Just a charm to stop muggles getting in easily.
Harry caught the man’s eye and drew their thoughts together, slipping an impression of blue pansies in amongst the garden flowers. A brief flash of a window box of crocuses and a soft humming passed before his mind’s eye. Harry eased Pansy’s cloaked figure amongst them.
Au revoir. Pansy ignored his greeting as she swept out through the gate, stiff-backed, and disapparated with a loud crack.
Soft footsteps drifted up the path behind him. Jean, did you hear what Mademoiselle Parkinson said?
He turned to face the slim, blue-eyed man and his sharp smile. I did, Julien.
Repeat it to nobody. Julien dusted the front of his laced, blue jacket off. I know. Mademoiselle Parkinson knows. You know. And one other knows. If the secret escapes, I will kill all three of you.
My lips are sealed, Julien.
Good. Le Cancrelat slid his wand out from the inside breast pocket of his jacket. I will move on, to continue our work. Stay in contact with the small outposts to the South and with Emilie at Metz. You should have no trouble here, but be vigilant all the same. He vanished with a loud snap.
Harry pulled his thoughts back away. So the amber-masked figure can only be either Le Cancrelat or Pansy. He put a piercing curse through Jean’s forehead and lowered the body to the ground. And we know where to search next.
A soft shimmer fell over the house, dropping behind him.
He strode up the path and pushed at the door. It swung open with a quiet creak.
‘Homenum revelio,’ Harry murmured.
A flicker of red hovered beyond the far wall, near the back door. He prowled through the rooms, glancing at the lone mug and plate in the kitchen sink, studying the cluster of red pins stabbed into the large map on the living room wall and inspecting each bare room until he stood over an unmade single bed in the final room.
‘Just Jean.’ Harry abandoned his Disillusionment Charm and opened the window. ‘It’s all clear, Vert. There was only one of them.’
Vert pulled off her cloak. ‘Did you… get anything… from them?’
‘Metz has another larger cell hub,’ he replied. ‘There are small bases south of here, along the Black Forest border. They’re marked on the map in the living room.’
‘This is… very good.’ She folded her cloak up, stuffing it away. ‘I will stay… and comb through… this place…. Tomorrow… you should… get the other… bases before… they realise.’
‘I will.’ Harry slid his wand back into his sleeve. ‘Is that all?’
‘I will… speak with… Grise,’ Vert said. ‘Au… revoir… Vio…lette.’
He apparated back to Fleur’s bedroom, padding across the carpet. ‘Mon Amour?’
A quiet retching echoed from the bathroom.
‘Can you come and hold my hair?’ She groaned. ‘S’il te plaît?’
Harry hurried through, sweeping Fleur’s silver hair away from her face and back over her shoulders. An acrid scent stung his nose as he glanced down at the vomit in the basin. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I will be fine.’ She retched, hurling another mouthful of sick into the sink. ‘Once it’s out of the way, I’m okay for the rest of the day.’
‘Did you only just get up?’ He shifted her hair into his left hand and rubbed gentle circles over Fleur’s back with his right. ‘Isn’t there something we can do? Some kind of spell?’
Fleur shook her head, twisting the tap open. ‘It’s not worth the risk to the baby.’
A clear stream of water swirled down the plughole, washing the white porcelain clean, and the acrid smell faded.
‘Is there anything I can do?’ Guilt twisted in his breast. ‘I feel like I’m kind of getting off light here and we’re not even at the giving birth part.’
‘Talk about something and keep rubbing my back.’ Fleur sighed and wiped her lips clean, rinsing off her hand. ‘But not childbirth. I don’t want to think about what that will do to my body.’ Her voice hitched. ‘I might not be as pretty afterward; it changes things.’
He pressed a light kiss to the warm, bare skin of her shoulder. ‘I love you far too much to ever think you’re anything less than perfect.’
‘Bon,’ she whispered. ‘I worry. I never had to worry before, but after I’ve given birth I could put on weight and things might be… looser. Gabby teases me that you will prefer her.’
Harry snorted. ‘Would you like me to tell her to stop? She’s just joking, but if you don’t like it…?’
‘Non.’ Fleur twisted the tap shut and nestled into his arms. ‘She is doing it so I don’t think about you preferring some other girl, like that Daphne Greengrass.’ The bright blue of her eyes darkened to midnight blue. ‘I will never hurt Gabby, but if I lost my temper and thought of one of them…’ She leant her head into his chest. ‘Will you really not care if I get chubbier, mon Cœur? Not at all?’
‘No.’ He slid an arm under her legs and scooped her up off the floor. ‘The intimacy we have is all I ever dreamt of, no other girl is going to be able to manage that, and even then…’ Harry kissed her on the forehead. ‘You’re still the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.’
Her fingers curled into his robes. ‘Merci,’ she murmured. ‘I will try not to worry about it.’
He chuckled. ‘It’s a good thing it’s you getting all emotional, you’re much better at this than I am. Imagine how bad I’d be?’
‘You would have panicked and run off again,’ Fleur muttered.
‘Not for very long.’
‘I would send Gabby to drag you back to me,’ she said.
‘Gabby might try and elope with me instead.’ Harry stifled a laugh at Fleur’s pout and sat her down on the edge of her bed. ‘She’s about the age you were when I first saw you, now.’
‘Do you think she’s pretty?’ Fleur demanded, dragging her silver blanket over her legs.
‘She’s definitely pretty.’ He kissed her upturned pout. ‘But she’s not you. And your sister’s prettier than Daphne Greengrass or any other witches I can remember seeing.’
‘Stop calling Gabby pretty.’ She stuck her lower lip out further. ‘You’re only allowed to call me pretty. You’re mine.’
Harry tugged the silver blanket up to cover her and pressed a kiss to her pout. ‘You know, there is one thing I’d like to know…’
‘What?’ Fleur narrowed her eyes. ‘If you ask for a veela sisters threesome, I’m going to set fire to something. And that something will be you.’
He laughed. ‘It’s not that. I was curious… I was talking to Gabby about veela pregnancies, but she wouldn’t tell me how long you have to sit on the egg after you’ve given birth to it?’
‘The egg,’ Fleur repeated. ‘You think I’m going to have an egg.’
‘Gabby said so.’ Harry kept his face straight. ‘Do we have to take turns keeping it warm? Should I start making a nest?’
She reached up and covered his mouth with her hand. ‘You and Gabby are in it together. Teasing me all the time.’
He smiled into her warm, damp fingers. ‘You’re very cute when you pout.’
‘What about if I get angry?’ Fleur asked, pulling his hand onto her back.
‘Not as cute.’ Harry rubbed gentle circles between her shoulder blades. ‘But very attractive, maybe even more attractive.’
‘With the feathers? And the beak?’ She closed her eyes with a soft groan as he worked the heel of his hand into the tight muscles of her shoulders. ‘And the fire?’
‘I don’t mind the feathers at all,’ he admitted. ‘The beak’s tricky, though. It makes it harder to kiss you.’
A soft little smile spread across Fleur’s lips. ‘No beak, then. What about the fire?’
‘You can set fire to me if you like, mon Rêve,’ Harry whispered. ‘But if you do that, then I won’t be able to do what I really want to do to you when you get all flustered.’
‘Well, you’re not going to be able to do that to me now,’ she said. ‘I want to rest. I keep having to get up to go to the toilet all night and I’m sleepy.’
‘I’m more than happy just to hold you.’ He pulled her closer into his arms. ‘You can nap if you like, I’m not going anywhere.’
‘You better not,’ Fleur murmured, squirming into his lap. ‘You’re a good pillow.’
‘Thanks.’ Harry smoothed her hair down, letting it slide through his fingers like silver silk. ‘I’m going to go hunt down some more of Le Cancrelat’s little bases tomorrow.’
‘Be careful.’ Her grip around his waist tightened. ‘You are not allowed to die again.’
‘I won’t.’ He bent down to kiss the top of her head, breathing in the sweet, sharp scent of marzipan. ‘But Le Cancrelat knows I’m alive.’
Fleur stiffened. ‘What? How?’
‘Pansy Parkinson recognised me when I went back to England,’ Harry admitted. ‘She’s on the run and has told only Le Cancrelat, but I need to find him soon, before other people realise.’
‘Find him. Kill him.’ She glared up at him with obsidian dark eyes. ‘Find and kill her, too.’
‘I’ll find them,’ he promised. ‘I got rid of the others who knew, so long as Pansy keeps her mouth shut, which it seems she has to, then I just have to hunt down Le Cancrelat.’
He’s probably the amber-masked foe. Harry forced away the memory and the stab of panic it sent lancing through him. It’ll be fine. I’ll get rid of them, like Fleur says.
‘Why does she have to?’ Fleur demanded. ‘What’s stopping her from telling everyone?’
‘She’s hiding from the aurors and doesn’t trust the group she’s with.’ Harry shrugged, smothering a knot of unease. ‘Le Cancrelat ordered her not to tell and I don’t think he’s the sort of wizard who takes people disobeying him well. Either way, he’s much more dangerous than she is. He has a goal, and as soon as he finds a way to use our secret to further it, he will.’
‘Maybe he’ll try to find and blackmail you,’ she whispered. ‘He would love to have someone as powerful as you fighting for him?’
‘How will he blackmail us, mon Rêve?’ Harry smiled. ‘He has nothing to stop me from killing him and he knows nothing about you yet. If he tells Britain, he just gives Britain back the powerful wizard they would love to have to replace Albus Dumbledore. No, he’ll have to scheme up something complicated, it’ll take him a little while, I hope.’
‘I don’t like it.’ Fleur flopped her head back into his lap. ‘Find him quickly.’
‘I don’t like it either,’ he admitted. ‘And I’ll find him as soon as I can. I’ll go through every base his group has if I have to. Nobody is stealing our sunset away.’
She hummed, wriggling around and letting out a quiet sigh. ‘I’m going to rest now. Hold me, mon Cœur.’
Harry slid his arms around her, tracing light patterns down her back with his fingertips. ‘Dream of us and our baby,’ he murmured. ‘Or of cake. Whichever makes you happiest.’