A silver spark hovered within the shimmering bubble swirling over a ring of glowing purple runes. The hands of the bronze clock sitting within the circle dragged, lingering a fraction longer than the identical clock on the stone bench.
Harry watched the large hand pass the twelve on the clock beside him and counted the seconds. ‘One, two, three, four, five, six…’
The large hand of the clock within the bubble of magic reached the twelve.
‘Six seconds.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t think this is actually going to work.’
And it’s so inelegant. So… rigid and restrained.
The silver spark burst in a blinding flash of light and a deafening crash.
‘Merde.’ Harry blinked green spots away from his eyes and shook his head until the ringing in his ears stopped. ‘It’s also fairly useless.’
A firm knock echoed through the room. ‘Violette?’ Grise pulled the door open an inch. ‘Is it safe to enter?’
‘It is now.’ He burst the bubble of magic with the tip of his wand and wiped the runes away. ‘Did you want something?’
‘I’ve combed through Metz, but there’s nothing there.’ Grise stepped in and studied the pair of clocks with his pink eyes. ‘I suspect the base has moved, probably further north, closer to the border.’
‘I’ll find it,’ Harry said. ‘I—’
Gabby stuck her head around the door. ‘So this is where you spend your time, Violette. And you never come to visit me?’
‘I completely forgot you were here…’
‘Cramoisi,’ she said.
‘I’ll let you know when we have a location, Violette.’ Grise’s brow creased. ‘We prefer, unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, that our projects remain separate.’
‘Why?’ Gabby chirped.
‘Because if one member betrays us, then only one project is compromised,’ Grise replied.
‘We’re not going to betray Les Inconnus,’ Gabby said.
‘Not unless you try and ban the consumption of cake,’ Harry muttered. ‘That’d do it.’
‘Cake?’ Gabby bounced into the lab, pausing to run her eyes over the pair of clocks. ‘We’re going to Paris?’
‘I didn’t say—’
‘Let’s grab Fl — Sarcelle,’ she said, grinning. ‘You should have time.’
‘That was terrible.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Fine. Let’s go get cake, but you’re paying.’
Gabby grabbed his wrist. ‘Never!’
A soft snap echoed down the corridor of their home and Gabby darted forward, dragging Harry toward Fleur’s door. She banged on it with Harry’s hand. ‘Chubby goose, we’re going to eat cake. If you don’t come now, it’s going to be a date for Harry and I.’
The handle twisted and the door creaked open. Fleur’s pitch-dark irises bored into Gabby.
‘Fleur!’ Gabby waved Harry’s hand. ‘You look cross.’
‘Chubby?’ Fleur hissed. ‘Chubby?!’
Gabby scampered behind Harry, grinning past his shoulder. ‘You’ve got a bump, Fleur.’
‘I’m meant to have a bump.’ Fleur cradled her stomach. ‘It’s a baby.’
‘No it’s not, it’s an egg,’ Gabby teased. ‘A big white, veela egg that you’re going to lay like a chicken.’
Fleur’s eyes narrowed and little white tufts poked through her skin.
Harry reached out and took her hand. ‘She’ll be quiet once her mouth’s full of cake, mon Amour. It’s the only reliable way to shut her up.’
Gabby pouted. ‘Is that—’
‘Hush.’ He bumped her with his shoulder. ‘Or you’ll really have to pay for the cake.’
She giggled and clapped her hand over her mouth.
Harry sighed. ‘When she sets fire to you, I’m going to say I told you so before I rescue you, Gabby.’ He apparated them onto the streets of Paris outside Madame Antoinette’s.
‘Clafoutis time.’ Gabby let out a little cheer, waving Harry’s hand in the air. ‘Let’s go, mon Amour.’
‘You grab us a table and order.’ Harry slipped his hand free. ‘Give us a moment.’
She shot him a quizzical glance. ‘Okay, but don’t take too long or I’ll eat yours.’ Gabby strolled into the cafe.
‘Are you okay?’ Harry slid his arm around Fleur’s waist. ‘You’re very quiet.’
‘Do I look chubby?’ she murmured.
‘No.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Have you been thinking about that this whole time?’
‘And what if I have?’ Fleur frowned down at her belly. ‘I never had to worry about any of this before, but now…’
‘You say that, but you’re always staring at my stomach.’
‘Because we have a child in there,’ he whispered, pressing his hand to her abdomen. ‘And it amazes me every time I think about it.’
Fleur covered his hand with hers and bit her lip. ‘Not because I look fat?’
‘You’re so concerned with your appearance all of a sudden.’ Harry laughed. ‘I don’t know how to convince you, all I can say is that I think you’re beautiful.’
A small smile curved her lips. ‘Keep telling me.’
‘How about some cake?’ He chuckled. ‘That’ll help.’
‘That little harpy has probably gobbled it all already,’ Fleur muttered. ‘I should transfigure all her shoes into spiders.’
‘Does Gabby not like spiders?’ Harry led her through into the cafe, picking out Gabby reclining across the bench in their usual spot.
‘She doesn’t like some of them.’ Fleur smirked. ‘The ones that have long legs. She’s changed the wards at home to keep out anything with eight legs.’
‘What happens if a spider loses a leg?’ he asked.
‘It gets in. It’s happened a couple of times.’ Fleur shoved Gabby down the bench and slid into a seat. ‘Hasn’t it, Gabrielle?’
Gabby wrinkled her nose. ‘It has. Not very often, though.’
‘Did you banish earwigs as well?’
‘Yes.’ Fleur glanced at the menu. ‘Did you just order three lots of clafoutis again?’
Gabby snickered. ‘Yes.’
‘Incorrigible.’ Harry shook his head. ‘How’s your pensieve coming on?’
She beamed. ‘Fleur and I’ve managed to get the enchantments woven together a lot better, right, Fleur?’
‘It’s a lot smoother,’ Fleur said. ‘If you watch your own memories, it’s like you were living them.’
‘Until it falls apart.’
Fleur’s brow creased. ‘I don’t know how to fix that.’
‘Neither do I,’ Gabby said. ‘I don’t know why it happens.’
‘What happens?’ Harry asked.
‘It starts off perfect, if you’re viewing your own memories, but then after a few minutes the different senses seem to come apart. You’ll see something happen and hear it a few seconds later than you should.’
‘Weird.’ He spun the menu around beneath his finger. ‘Shouldn’t it just happen as in the memory?’
‘I think it’s to do with how we do it,’ Fleur said. ‘A normal pensieve allows you to observe, constructing a scene from a given memory. When you go into the pensieve, you’re really just replacing what your brain interprets with the memory constructed by the pensieve—’
‘We changed how it’s constructed so that, instead of watching it, you experience it fully,’ Gabby said. ‘We had to change how it replaces what the brain is told, otherwise you won’t feel anything that should accompany the memory, like pain or emotions.’
‘Why would you want to feel pain?’ he asked. ‘What’s the point?’
Fleur shrugged her slim shoulders. ‘We wanted to see if we could make it as close to the real experience as possible.’
‘I shudder to think what it will get used for,’ Harry muttered. ‘Someone’s going to stick a memory of being held under the Cruciatus Curse in it and use it to torture people.’
Gabby paled. ‘We didn’t think of that.’
‘Nobody else will be able to make one,’ Fleur replied. ‘It took more or less everything Gabby and I had to make it powerful enough to work, and we have the advantage of being able to weave our magic together as if it was one person.’
‘Well, glossing over the fact that it’s probably going to be horribly misused,’ Harry said. ‘Why does it get out of order? Shouldn’t it still just be telling the brain things at the same time?’
‘It’s hard to make the things we’ve artificially added like pain happen at the right moment,’ Gabby replied. ‘I think that part of the enchantment messes with the rest, pulling it out of order when it tries to activate at the right moments.’
‘She means that when the pensieve tries to simulate anything that’s not part of the memory, it can’t do it fast enough,’ Fleur said. ‘We linked the enchantments, though, so if you stab yourself with a needle, the sensation of touching the needle will be delayed to match the pain.’
‘But you’ll see yourself touch the needle a second beforehand.’ Gabby held up her hand and waggled her fingers. ‘I’ve been trying to fix it by stabbing myself in the hand, but I haven’t managed it yet.’
‘I don’t know how to fix that either, sorry,’ Harry said.
‘We’ve plenty of time to solve it,’ Fleur said. ‘It’s not like I can do anything else between trips to the bathroom and soon the baby’s magic will be distinct enough from mine that I won’t be able to safely apparate.’
The waiter set down their desserts in broad, white bowls. ‘Enjoy,’ he murmured.
‘What about you?’ Gabby asked. ‘You were playing with clocks.’
‘I can make one clock go slower than another clock,’ Harry replied, grinning. ‘It’s entirely useless.’
‘Not exactly a pensieve, mon Amour,’ Fleur teased, picking the cherry off the top of her clafoutis’s accompanying swirl of cream and slipping it through her lips.
Harry watched the tip of her tongue flick cream from the corner of her mouth. Gabby followed his gaze and giggled.
‘Hush you,’ he said. ‘We’ve nearly managed five minutes without a sordid joke.’
Fleur glanced between them and stole the cherry from Gabby’s bowl.
‘Hey!’ she squeaked. ‘Give that back.’
‘Non.’ Fleur smirked and dropped the cherry into her mouth, swallowing it whole. ‘You have been annoying.’
Gabby huffed and tugged her bowl out of Fleur’s reach. ‘You’re a bad veela sister, Fleur. If you keep this up, Harry and I will have the veela sisters threesome without you.’
Harry choked on his mouthful of clafoutis. ‘I don’t think it’s a threesome without Fleur.’
‘Non.’ Gabby grinned. ‘It’d be just the two of us. You’d stare into my eyes really romantically, wrap me up in your arms, and we’d give Fleur’s baby a little half-sibling to play with.’
Fleur rapped Gabby on the knuckles with her spoon. ‘Good luck explaining to maman who the father is, little chick.’
‘She’d probably insist we get married first,’ Gabby said.
‘Is having more than one wife even legal?’ Harry asked.
‘The only place where having more than one wife is legal is Gabby’s books.’ A huge smirk spread across Fleur’s face. ‘I guess you’re too late, Gabrielle.’
‘First come, first served.’ Gabby giggled through a spoonful of cake. ‘And I know Fleur comes first all the time.’
Heat crept onto Harry’s face. ‘I think we need better wards.’
‘We have better wards,’ Fleur muttered. ‘It’s not my fault my sister is some kind of voyeuristic sexual deviant. She’s taken them apart at least a dozen times.’
Gabby flushed. ‘I don’t actually watch watch.’ A nervous laugh slipped through her lips. ‘I just listen. And I only do it for when you’re… finished. For how warm and close it feels at the end.’ She squirmed, staring down into her clafoutis. ‘I can stop, if it really bothers you, it’s just — I really like that feeling.’
Fleur sighed. ‘Just don’t talk about it so much, little chick. It’s weird knowing my little sister is listening to us.’
‘Very weird,’ Harry added, wrinkling his nose. ‘I love you, Gabby, but not quite like that.’
‘You’re both much weirder than I am,’ Gabby protested. ‘Heir Potter, please fuck me in—’
Fleur clapped a hand over Gabby’s mouth. ‘Gabrielle.’
‘Pardon.’ Gabby pulled Fleur’s hand down. ‘I’m glad I didn’t watch that one, though.’
Harry’s cheeks burnt. ‘I really wish I didn’t know you knew about that.’
She beamed. ‘I know about everything. From your first time to that time outside against the door to the Meadow.’
Harry narrowed his eyes at Fleur.
She turned her nose up, going pink. ‘I missed you before you came back, Gabby is the only person I could talk to.’
‘But about that?’ He poked his cherry around his bowl with his spoon. ‘I’m going to be thinking about her listening every time now.’
‘Not if you know what’s good for you,’ Fleur murmured. ‘You will be thinking about me. Just me.’ She stole his cherry. ‘Nothing else.’
Gabby snickered. ‘And Heiress Greengrass. I hope you meet her again at some point while I’m there.’
‘Well, if she’s hanging out with Pansy Parkinson, I might,’ Harry said. ‘Daphne and Astoria’s names are on the list of the Last Scions, and Pansy knows I’m alive.’
The humour faded from Gabby’s face. ‘You’re going to kill them.’
‘If I have to,’ Harry said. ‘I think Pansy probably wishes I was dead, so I might be able to modify her memory instead. That would be easier than trying to make her disappear without revealing myself. She’s not going to want to remember and there’s nothing to prompt her to.’
‘Better her than you or Fleur,’ Gabby whispered. ‘You are who you are.’ She dropped her spoon into her bowl. ‘And it’s not like my hands are clean, either.’
‘You helped me change the enchantments on some rings.’ Fleur reached out and squeezed her sister’s shoulder. ‘That’s all.’
‘I knew how you intended to get hold of them the moment you said it,’ Gabby murmured. ‘I knew and I let it happen. That’s as good as killing them.’
‘We needed the rings,’ Fleur said. ‘It was that or try and do it all alone here.’
‘I know. I know you had to do it. I could never have stopped you. I didn’t want to stop you, because if I had stopped you, you’d hate me. It’s just…’
Harry caught Fleur’s eye. She shook her head.
‘Sometimes I wish you were different,’ Gabby whispered. ‘It’s a silly wish, but I can’t help it. I wish there’d been someone there for you when you were younger, just like you were there for me.’
Fleur cocked her head. ‘Who would have been there? Emilie? Caroline? Another shallow little girl?’
Gabby sighed. ‘Forget I said it, Fleur. It doesn’t matter now.’
Fleur’s brow creased. ‘Gabby? What is wrong?’
‘I thought it would stop now.’ Gabby balled her fists. ‘I thought now you were free and Harry is back, you could both be happy and love each other, but there’s still so much fear.’
So did I. He smothered the flash of bright amber burning beneath the blood. But someone’s coming to steal our sunset. And I can’t let that happen.
‘It will,’ Harry said. ‘But we have to make sure Harry Potter stays dead, or we’ll be dragged back into their mess and then we’ll never be free.’
‘Le Cancrelat knows,’ Gabby said.
‘And Pansy,’ Fleur said. ‘That’s it.’
And Neville. Neville suspects. He smothered a knot of apprehension. But he’s going to be busy with all this political trouble and has no proof I’m alive. He just keeps sending letters.
‘Promise?’ Gabby whispered. ‘Do you promise?’
Harry caught the serious glint in her grey eyes. ‘We promise, Gabby.’ He rested a hand on Fleur’s stomach. ‘We’re free, free from all of it, and we just want to be together.’
‘We have to make sure we stay free,’ Fleur said, cupping Harry’s hand against her belly. ‘Le Cancrelat will want to use him. Everyone else will want their hero back. They’ll want to parade Harry around like a weapon and rip us apart. He’s meant to be here, with me, with our baby, and with you. I won’t let them take him away. No matter what I have to do.’
‘But you promise, Fleur,’ Gabby said. ‘That’s all.’
‘I promise, little chick,’ Fleur murmured. ‘And I keep my promises.’
Gabby stared at Harry, at Fleur, and back at him. ‘I know you do. You both do. You have to, or you’d be just like them.’