Black Forest Châteaux

Fleur spooned Dijon mustard into a large steaming bowl of creamed leeks, stirring it in with a small smile. 

‘You’re not going to eat that now, are you?’ Harry asked, grimacing.

‘Of course I am.’ She upturned the jar and scraped out the last smears of mustard. ‘It smells incroyable.’

‘But it’s six in the morning?’

‘So?’ Fleur demanded.

‘You put an entire jar of mustard in there,’ he protested. 

‘And I am going to eat it.’ She scooped a mountain of leeks and mustard-laced cream into her mouth and moaned. ‘Parfait.’

Harry shuddered. ‘That must taste awful.’

Gabby poked her head in the door, wrapped up in a white blanket. ‘Have you seen Papa recently, Fleur?’

‘Non.’ Fleur devoured creamed leeks with a broad smile. ‘He left early again.’

‘Merde.’ Gabby padded into the kitchen and wrinkled her nose. ‘Why does it smell so strongly of mustard in here?’

‘Fleur is having breakfast,’ Harry said, resting his arms atop the stack of unopened letters from Neville. ‘I’m trying to cope with the trauma of watching.’

Gabby giggled and sidled across the floor. ‘Fleur’s going to taste like mustard for about a month by the smell of that bowl.’

Fleur’s spoon paused halfway to her mouth. ‘Touch him and I will pluck you like a goose, Gabrielle.’ She resumed her destruction of the creamed leeks.

Gabby snickered and reached out one finger toward Harry.

‘No.’ Harry stepped back. ‘Fleur, your little sister is trying to seduce me again. I can’t resist her powerful veela-magic, you need to save me.’

‘Gabby, stop molesting Harry. He’s mine.’ Fleur scraped the bowl clean and licked the spoon. ‘I am the only one who gets to kiss him.’

A mischievous gleam welled up in Gabby’s eyes. ‘What about—’

‘Or anything else,’ Harry said. ‘Sorry, Gabby. I like life and I think Fleur’s still making lists of people to murder.’

Fleur slipped an arm around Harry’s waist and tugged him into a kiss, slipping her tongue through his lips. The soft heat and taste of mustard washed over his tongue. 

Harry grimaced as she pulled back, running his tongue over his teeth. ‘Very mustard-ey.’ 

Gabby giggled. ‘That can’t have been a nice kiss.’

‘Why are you here, little harpy?’ Fleur asked, glowering at her sister with dark blue eyes.

‘To look for Papa, but apparently he’s at work.’

‘What do you need?’ Harry asked. 

‘Oh I was just looking for some old things of mine,’ Gabby said. ‘Why did Papa have to go in early this time?’

Fleur rolled her eyes. ‘A British wizard brought a nasty magical creature to Jamaica, it managed to escape and wreak havoc. The British wizard since vanished and appears not to exist at all, which probably means it’s the U.S. trying to stir up anti-British sentiment again. Britain accused the U.S. of more subversive acts and has responded to Jamaica’s plea for help by starting to put up the sort of wards it takes squads of aurors weeks to break through. The U.S. accused Britain of engineering the entire scenario to build a militarised base near their border.’

‘More fun and games,’ Harry murmured.

Fleur shook her mustard spoon at him. ‘The redhead girl who likes you is the auror captain they sent.’

Redhead who likes me? Oh. Ginny.

He shrugged. ‘Well, good luck to Ginny. I very much doubt she still has a crush on me, you know. I’ve been dead a year and a bit, she’ll have moved on.’

‘I don’t care.’ Fleur narrowed her eyes at him. ‘Stay away from her.’

‘Obviously.’ He laughed and pressed a kiss to the tip of her nose, resting his hand against the gentle swell of her stomach. ‘If she sees me, then everyone will know I’m alive.’

‘Also that.’ Fleur turned her nose up.

Gabby giggled. ‘Is she on your murder list, Fleur?’

You’re on her murder list,’ Harry said. ‘Number two spot.’

‘I should be number one.’ Gabby pouted. ‘I’m a cuter, younger, less crazy version of Fleur.’

The mustard spoon whistled past Harry and bounced off Gabby’s chest.

‘Ow!’ Gabby cupped her breast through her blanket. ‘That was right on the nipple, Fleur. This is why I’m the less crazy version—’ 

Fleur’s eyes flashed black as ink and Gabby fled with a giggle.

Harry pulled Fleur into his arms as she stalked around the kitchen table. ‘You have to murder Daphne Greengrass before you can murder Gabby. She’s really only number two.’

‘I don’t have to do it in order,’ she muttered, glowering down the hall. ‘I can start with her.’

‘You love her, really.’ Harry watched Fleur’s eyes fade back to blue. ‘You know she’s only teasing.’

Fleur huffed and pulled his hands down to the curve of her belly. ‘I’m starting to look fat, non?’ Her brow creased. ‘And Gabby is very pretty, and you do get on well with her, and—’

‘Let’s not go down that road. It’s a silly road.’ Harry chuckled and bent to kiss her stomach through the gap in his hands. ‘You know she’s not even really interested in that sort of stuff, she just likes to be around us.’


‘Mon Rêve, you’re being very silly.’ He laughed at her pout and the pink tinge creeping onto her cheeks. ‘We’re having a baby, we’re married, I’m meant to be the one with ridiculous trust issues.’

‘I am getting my own back,’ Fleur said. ‘It is only fair, non?’

‘You do have a good excuse.’ Harry traced his fingertips over the swell of abdomen and held his breath through a rush of wonder. ‘It’s so amazing that we have a baby in here.’

‘It’s how it always works.’ She shivered as fingers crept lower and bit her lip. ‘I need the toilet, mon Amour, and you have to go to work.’

‘A shame.’ Harry crushed the little flare of desire tracing through his veins. ‘You said you wanted to try all your fantasies not so long ago…’

‘But then you got me pregnant.’ Fleur smirked. ‘It’s your own fault.’

‘And it was definitely all me.’ He chuckled. ‘You certainly weren’t taking risks deliberately.

The red on Fleur’s cheeks brightened a touch and a little heat rose in her eyes. ‘Perhaps there’s some truth in that.’ She drew him in for another kiss, crushing her lips against his. ‘I think there’ll be something for you to look forward to later, but I need to get dressed up for it…’

Harry swallowed hard. ‘Dressed up?’

A smirk curved Fleur’s lips. ‘You’ll see.’

‘But not until later.’ He sighed as the excitement drained away. ‘I have to go and try to find Le Cancrelat first.’

‘Bon courage,’ she whispered, pressing a kiss to his lips and stepping back.

‘Au revoir, mon Ange.’ Harry stuck Violette’s ring on his finger and apparated into the Sunshine Room. ‘Anyone home?’

‘We’re here.’ Grise stepped through from the corridor, the light of the lanterns turning his eyes bright pink. ‘Vert has the portkeys you’ll need to clean up the small bases attached to the last one. Try and bring one of them back for us to question thoroughly here.’

Not a chance. I need to stay ahead until I have Le Cancrelat and Pansy taken care of.

‘Let’s get going, then.’ He grinned. ‘I’ve got plans for when I get back home.’

Grise shook his head. ‘Not quite yet. Le Cancrelat is a smart man, he’s chosen these locations just inside the edge of the Black Forest for a reason. It’s a dangerous place and most avoid getting close to it.’

‘What’s in there?’ Harry asked. ‘Don’t say dragons, I don’t like it when dragons suddenly turn up out of the blue.’

‘There is a dragon preserve,’ Grise said. ‘But plenty of other magical creatures as well. It’s known to be a haunt for a sphinx at times, too.’

Sphinxes are about as dangerous as it gets. Worse than dragons.

‘We will… not go in… too far,’ Vert said. ‘Most don’t… come back out.’

Grise nodded. ‘Rome’s magical supremacy was unmatched in its day, but the Black Forest and others like it across Central Europe and Northern Britain stopped its expansion more or less dead. Any expeditions into the deepest parts of those forests tend to end badly.’

‘So no exploring without very good reason,’ Harry said. ‘Fair enough.’

‘It’s hard for us to do our work unnoticed if we trigger the wards that keep the majority of the magical creatures of the Black Forest within its confines and deceive the non-magical,’ Grise said. ‘The Les Inconnus everyone else is aware of watches them carefully. There have been attempts at sabotage in the past.’

‘Makes sense.’ Harry glanced at Vert. ‘Ready?’

‘Ready, set… go,’ Vert rasped, holding out a small piece of wood marked with the number one.

Harry took a firm grip on it and held his breath.

‘Ananas,’ Vert whispered.

The world jerked and Harry staggered over rough ground before a crumbling cluster of buildings clinging to the slope and summit of a small mountain.

Vert dragged him back beneath the branches of a cluster of pines. ‘They’re in… the Châteaux.’

He slipped the Elder Wand from his sleeve. ‘Same as before?’

‘Same as… before.’ Vert nodded. ‘You go in… from the top… I will ward… and watch the… slopes.’

‘Why do I feel like I’m doing all the work?’ Harry quipped.

‘Sorry… I can’t… fight easily… anymore,’ Vert said. ‘Saving it… for when it’s… most useful.’

‘It’s fine, I’m just joking. I can do it alone.’ He cast the Disillusionment Charm and apparated up onto the top of the tower. ‘Homenum revelio.’

A trio of flickering red outlines drifted beneath his feet. Harry waited for a few seconds until the shimmer of wards fell over the ruined castle and strode down the steps into the tower, spinning his wand in his palm. 

The spiral staircase opened out into a half-collapsed hall. A collection of battered furniture and cots surrounded a blackened fire pit, two wizards paced the narrow windows on the far side of the hall.

‘Stop fretting.’ A blonde witch bustled in from outside. ‘They probably just forgot to send the evening check-in phrase, we’ll hear from them in a few minutes. Dawn’s passed.’

‘You’re the boss,’ the nearest wizard called back. ‘It’s making me nervous, though.’

Harry touched his thoughts to the witch’s, skimming through a long list of phrases and the pattern of replies. Opposites and a shifted colour cipher every time. Clever.  He pulled back from her mind.

‘Lacero,’ he whispered, abandoning his invisibility and blending bone-splintering curses into his wand motions. 

The nearest wizard dropped, clutching his throat. Blood sprayed between his fingers, spurting over the firepit and onto the stone floor. Harry put three piercing hexes through the chest of the other wizard as he spun around.

The blonde witch growled, snatching her wand from her pocket. 

He pushed his magic into the stone behind her. Stone spikes burst forth, impaling her through the legs and arms. She ripped her wand arm free with a groan and hurled a blue bolt of magic at him.

Harry swatted it away and twisted his wand. The spikes shuddered and grew longer. The witch gasped as they raised her off the floor, her wand slipping from her fingers. 

‘Who are you?’ She raised her bleeding wand arm to try and pull her other arm off the spike, but lost her grip on the blood trickling down her forearm. ‘What do you want?’

‘I want to know about Julien,’ Harry said. ‘What’s he like? Is he fond of wearing masks?’

The witch paled. ‘I — I’ve never met him.’

‘That’s unfortunate.’ He sighed. ‘What about the Last Scions?’

‘What about what?’ She squeezed her eyes shut. ‘Look, I don’t know anything. I know Jean, and I knew those two before you killed them. That’s it. Let me down and I’ll tell you anything I can.’

‘What were you meant to do here?’ Harry gestured at the castle with his wand.

‘Wait.’ She bit her lip until blood trickled down her chin. ‘Please, I think I’m going to pass out, it hurts.

He saturated the air with his magic, wrapping it around the witch. ‘Nothing to do with the Black Forest?’

‘Maybe? I don’t know. Je ne sais pas,’ she gasped. ‘S’il vous plaît. Je ne sais pas.’

Harry crushed her into a red pulp and turned away as the gore slid down the wall. ‘Merde. None of them are going to know anything. Le Cancrelat’s keeping it to himself.’

Not that that’s a complete disaster. He vanished the mess, transfiguring the wall back and the other bodies into heaps of brown leaves. It means I have more time before he says anything about me to anyone. 

Vert appeared with a loud crack. ‘You killed… all of them?’

‘They’re a bit fanatical,’ Harry said. ‘They preferred death to capture.’

‘Foolish… people.’ She pored over the table, sifting through the scatter of parchment pages. ‘This is all… useless… did you… manage to… get anything?’

He nodded. ‘They have a process to check whether their bases are up and running or not. There’s a phrase the hub base sends out, and then these small bases reply with the opposite of it and the colour that’s one along in the rainbow.’

‘Every… day?’ Vert asked.

‘Dawn and dusk.’

She stared through the window at the rising sun and thrust out another small piece of wood bearing a number two. ‘We need… to get to… the others… then or… they will… realise.’

Harry grabbed hold of the portkey. ‘Same process?’

‘It works…’ Vert pulled out her wand, transfiguring the rough furniture and cots into more leaves. ‘Ready?’

He sighed. ‘Ready.’

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