A Small Chalet in the Mountains

Grise’s pink eyes tracked the floating lanterns across the Sunshine room as he ran his fingers through his thick, white sideburns. ‘We’re just waiting for Vert, since Sarcelle won’t be joining us.’

‘Pardon,’ Harry said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his ankles. ‘My fault.’

Gabby snickered beside him. ‘More her fault than yours, she knew exactly what she was doing.’

‘I’m sure she did,’ Harry said, chuckling. ‘As always.’

Vert appeared with a loud crack. ‘Pardon… the curse… is… bad… today.’

Grise nodded. ‘Yesterday I met with the government. To discuss our next steps of action and let them know we’ve made not insignificant progress thanks in no small part to Vert and Violette.’ He rubbed his palms together. ‘We are to continue pursuing Le Cancrelat as our top priority, his death and the uprooting of his followers are a matter of urgency.’

‘Why… now?’ Vert rasped.

‘Because, as of yesterday evening, the US affiliated magical communities in the Caribbean officially declared war on the British affiliated ones,’ Grise said. ‘There have already been a few small conflicts on the islands the British have yet to ward.’

‘Stupid,’ Vert muttered.

Grise’s pink eyes hardened. ‘Inevitable, I fear. The US has been growing louder on the ICW these last few years, pushing their own agenda with little regard for the risk posed to the statute. They clearly think this is their chance to supplant a weakened Britain. I suspect it’s only a matter of days before this conflict becomes US aurors fighting British ones under different flags.’

Ginny’s out there. Harry buried a flash of eleven year old Ginny sprawled on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets, her hair pooled around her head like blood. From what Pansy said, it sounds like she can handle herself.

‘What does it mean for us?’ he asked. 

‘France has its own allies out there, caught up in the middle, but both nations should respect our neutrality and avoid us.’ Grise’s pale forehead wrinkled. ‘The Spanish may join the trouble, however. They want to undo the humiliation of the US forcibly liberating the magical communities in South America fifty years ago and they may well do something rash if they think they can.’

‘Isn’t Violette meant to be going to Spain?’ Gabby asked. ‘After Le Cancrelat.’

‘It’s a very delicate situation,’ Grise replied. ‘We have combed the Pyrenees for Le Cancrelat’s bases, but found only minor subcells. This likely means that the main base is on the Spanish side, and, likely as not, in Basque territory.’

‘Merde,’ Vert muttered. ‘Le… Cancrelat… would do… that.’

‘I’m starting to feel like I should have paid more attention in the History of Magic classes,’ Harry said. ‘What on earth is Basque territory?’

‘A part of Spain that doesn’t really want to be part of Spain all that much,’ Gabby said. ‘They’re their own little magical community and don’t like answering to Madrid.’

‘Exactement.’ Grise sighed. ‘Carlos de Mendoza is one of Spain’s two premier auror captains and also Basque; I will see if he’s willing to play ball with us, but…’

‘British… friends,’ Vert rasped. ‘Not fond… of us… now.’

‘So that’s not going to happen.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘This is so annoyingly messy. What can we do?’

‘One of the subcells we found is too close to Beauxbatons for comfort,’ Grise said. ‘You’ll get rid of that one today, Violette, and we’ll take control of it. Learn what you can and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do without upsetting the Spanish.’

‘I’m about to be given a piece of wood, aren’t I?’ Harry stuck out his hand. ‘Go on, then.’

‘We’re unsure how long these bases have been established for,’ Grise said. ‘So be careful, Violette. If they were set up after the Belgian ones, Le Cancrelat and his closest followers may still be there.’

‘I could live with that,’ Harry said. ‘It’d save us some time.’

‘Le Cancrelat is not unskilled, Violette.’ Grise dipped his hand into his pocket and held out a ring with a black spiral upon it. ‘This was his. He was a finer duellist than I, and a better strategist, too. His knowledge of obscure magic makes him very dangerous to duel.’

‘He is… not… going… to be… at a… subcell,’ Vert whispered, pulling her wand out and pressing its glowing tip to her throat. ‘But I… cannot… come.’

Grise’s lips thinned. ‘Cramoisi?’

Gabby shook her head. ‘I can’t duel very well, I’d be a liability to Violette.’

‘Can you go alone, Violette?’ Grise asked. ‘I could accompany you, but I arranged to speak with Carlos de Mendoza and I’d rather not risk upsetting him.’

Harry smothered a faint twist of unease and a flash of the burning amber mask beneath a smile. ‘I’ll be fine, I’ve faced worse.’

Grise dropped the ring back into his pocket and held out a small stick of wood. ‘This will take you nearby. The base is just a small cabin and lightly warded to avoid attention.’

‘I’ll be off, then.’ Harry took the stick of wood and stood up. ‘Is there a word?’

‘Poisson,’ Grise replied, vanishing with a loud crack.

Gabby caught Harry’s arm. ‘Be careful,’ she whispered. ‘My sister is not going to deal well with you dying again, especially not now.’

‘I’ll be careful.’ Harry eased her hand off. ‘I don’t suppose you’d consider not telling her about some of the details of this and save her worrying?’

‘Non.’ Gabby folded her arms. ‘No secrets.’

‘Have it your way.’ He closed his fist around the portkey. ‘Poisson.’

Harry stumbled onto a rough track surrounded by thick, dense shrubs shivering and rustling in the rush of the wind. A small cabin squatted on the slope between gnarled pines, its worn, stone walls dotted with lichen.

He slid his wand from his sleeve and threw a net of magic over the cabin, thickening the web until he felt the first twinge of tiredness. There, nobody’s getting out now. Disillusioning himself, Harry strode up the track, straining his ears and eyes for some sign of the occupants.

The wind whistled across the tiled roof and rattled the wooden shutters, tugging at his robes. Harry paused, spying a small gap in the tiled roof, then took a deep breath and took on the form of the raven, shrinking down until the shrubs loomed over him.

He leapt aloft. 

A gust buffeted him away through the shrubs, their branches catching his feathers until he was drifting above them a hundred metres downwind. 

It’s kind of breezy. Harry angled his wings and swooped down against the wind, letting his weight carry him onto the tiled cabin roof. 

‘I am sick of you,’ a witch hissed. ‘We’re meant to be doing something important and all you do is sneak off to leer at school girls.’

‘I’m not leering,’ a wizard replied. ‘They’re the same age as me!’

‘It’s still leering,’ the witch snapped. ‘Stop thinking with your dick. If you get us caught, Julien will kill us both.’

The wizard laughed. ‘Do you reckon that’s why he’s called L’Aiguille?’

‘You’re such a child.’ She sighed. ‘Julien’s the best duellist in France. His name means needle, so of course they called him that when he was duelling professionally.’

Harry hopped to the gap in the tiles and wriggled through. A witch sat behind the newspaper on one side of a coffee-ring stained table and a wizard sat on the other admiring the half-nude witch on the cover of his magazine. Acne scattered his cheeks and forehead beneath a scraggle of dark hairs.

These two don’t look too terrifying. He floated down behind the wizard’s chair, glimpsing the wizard’s wand lying on its arm. It helps that they never expect me to be there. 

Harry shifted back into his human form, sliding his wand from his sleeve and thrusting out his hand to summon the wizard’s wand. It drifted past the wizard’s elbow and into his hand.

‘Bonjour,’ he said.

The wizard twisted ‘round and snatched at the empty chair arm. The witch dropped her paper, scrabbling for her pocket.

Harry levelled his wand at her chest. ‘If the two of you could stay very still, I’d appreciate it.’

They froze.

‘I’m Violette,’ Harry said.

‘Les Inconnus,’ the witch growled. ‘Muggle lapdogs. You kill your own kind to keep us living in the shadow of their squalor.’

‘I think it’s more about not starting a bloody war with no obvious winner or end. Anyway, I would like to find Julien, so if you don’t mind assisting me with my search—’

‘Never,’ she snapped.

Harry touched their thoughts together, finding an image of stuffed chicken. ‘Cute chicken.’ He sighed. ‘Still, I’m not really a huge believer in second chances, so…’ Harry put a piercing hex through her ribs. 

Her corpse jerked and slid to the floor. Blood stained the crumpled newspaper beneath her chest and spread across the worn wooden boards.

‘I guess that makes it your turn,’ Harry said. 

The young wizard vomited onto the chair, retching and gagging.

‘Fini?’ Harry asked, as the boy smeared his mouth clean on his arm.

‘J’ai fini,’ the young wizard muttered.

‘This is how it’s going to work,’ Harry said. ‘I’m going to ask you a question and you’re going to answer it truthfully. I’ll know if you lie.’

‘And if I don’t answer…?’

Harry threw a long look at the witch’s corpse. ‘I mean, I thought it was pretty obvious what would happen…’

The young wizard trembled. ‘I don’t know anything. I really don’t!’

‘How long have the two of you been here?’ Harry demanded.

The boy sagged. ‘About a week.’

A week. A bright thrill caught hold of Harry. Julien might still be here. 

‘What were you meant to be doing?’

The young wizard shrugged. ‘Watch out for anything suspicious. Wait for everything to get set up and running.’

‘So Julien was here recently.’

‘Marie said he was still in the main base.’ The boy swallowed. ‘Can I have my wand back? That’s all I know. I just joined to help, they didn’t tell me much. They said I was too young.’

‘You’re not too young. There’s no such thing,’ Harry said. ‘I started fighting younger. Much younger.’

‘I think I want to go home,’ the boy whispered. ‘And back to school.’

‘Too late for that.’ Harry put a piercing hex through his skull and tossed his wand onto the sofa. Wrenching the world back past him, he appeared in the Sunshine Room with a soft snap. ‘All yours. It’ll need a bit of tidying up, though.’

‘That was quick,’ Grise said.

Vert leant forward from her chair, nodding. ‘What did… you find?’

‘It’d just been set up,’ Harry said. ‘A week ago. Le Cancrelat is still at the main base, but I don’t know where it is.’

Grise frowned. ‘I suspect Le Cancrelat doesn’t tell anyone where the main base is until he’s left.’

‘That sounds… like him,’ Vert rasped. ‘I will… keep… hunting… for the… central… hub of… this group.’

‘Hopefully it’s on our side of the border,’ Grise muttered. ‘Violette, go get some rest and relax for a few days. There’s going to be plenty we need you to do soon, so take a moment to breathe now.’ He dusted off his hands. ‘I’ll let you know when we’re ready to do more about Le Cancrelat on the Spanish border.’

‘If we wait, he’ll slip away.’ Harry shoved the amber-masked figure and a knot of anxiety deep down inside. ‘We should go now.’

Grise shook his head. ‘If we upset the Spanish needlessly, it may be what tips them over the edge into joining Britain in their spat with the US. The last thing anyone needs is other nations getting drawn into that.’

‘Let them… fight their… proxy… war,’ Vert rasped. ‘A long… stalemate… is good…. We don’t… want a… worse war.’

‘Indeed we don’t,’ Grise said. ‘All it does is risk some desperate wizard or witch breaking the statute.’

Which would be worse. Harry smothered a flare of frustration. Fine.

‘I’ll go home, then.’ He apparated back into the kitchen. 

Apolline gasped and pressed a hand to her chest. ‘I nearly had a heart attack, Harry.’

‘Sorry.’ He chuckled. ‘I can’t apparate around silently.’

Her forehead creased. ‘You have blood on your face,’ she murmured.

Harry glanced in the window. A trail of red drops ran across his cheek.

‘So I do.’ He smeared the crimson off on the back of his hand. ‘There. That’s better.’

A little shudder swept through Apolline. ‘How did things go with Gringotts and the person you thought might know you’re alive?’

‘That person doesn’t know I’m alive, which is good.’ Harry grimaced. ‘The goblins are a pain, though. I forgot my vault is sealed with blood magic, so it’s hard to pretend to be dead and still use it. They also don’t like Henri Delacour much.’

‘Why not?’ Apolline picked a familiar looking letter off the side. ‘There is another one of these for the two of you.’

‘They don’t take kindly to thieves and apparently they take the view that I stole Fleur from myself…’

A peal of laughter burst from Apolline. ‘I think Fleur is going to be cross with you again.’

‘Probably,’ Harry admitted. ‘I’m saving telling her for a good moment.’

Apolline’s eyes slipped past his shoulder to the kitchen door.

He sighed. ‘She’s behind me again, isn’t she?’

Warm arms slid around his chest. ‘Bonjour, mon Amour. What haven’t you been telling me this time?

‘The goblins don’t like your new husband.’ Harry twisted around in her arms and found a soft, warm smile beneath bright blue eyes. ‘They seem to think he stole you from your last lover.’

Fleur rolled her eyes. ‘Goblins.’ She pulled him into a gentle kiss. ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what they or anyone else thinks about us.’

Apolline slipped out the other door, dabbing tears from her eyes. 

‘Crying again.’ Fleur sighed. ‘She cries all the time. Every time I mention our baby, off she goes, tears everywhere.’

‘I know another girl who cries when she’s happy,’ Harry murmured. ‘I have to kiss her until she stops.’

‘You have to kiss me anyway,’ she declared. ‘You’re mine. Kissing me is what you’re meant to do.’

‘It’s a terrible hardship, but I think I can just about manage.’ He lifted her chin and bent to catch her lips with his. ‘What would you like to do, mon Rêve?’

‘Talk about death.’

‘I was thinking of something a little more romantic,’ Harry said. ‘But we can do that.’

Fleur leant her weight into him. ‘And I would like to sit down. My feet hurt from carrying this baby around all the time.’


‘Non.’ She tightened her hold on him. ‘Upstairs.’

‘Ah,’ he whispered. ‘The bird-witch is luring me into her bedroom.’

Fleur laughed. ‘It doesn’t take much luring.’

‘I’m easily lured by bird-witches,’ Harry admitted. ‘I think I have a weakness for them.’

‘Only one bird-witch.’ A faint pout formed on her lips. ‘Your bird-wife.’

‘Not too long until it might be two,’ he said.

Her eyes darkened. ‘If you’re joking about Gabby…’

Harry rested a hand on the curve of her stomach. ‘I meant in case our baby’s a girl, silly jealous bird-wife.’

‘Oh.’ Fleur hummed and drifted toward the stairs, leading him by the arm. ‘That is okay then.’

‘I’m glad you think so.’

She flashed him a small, warm smile. ‘If it’s a little girl, you’re going to be wound ‘round her finger in moments, aren’t you?’

Harry smothered a bright, hot flood of longing. ‘She’ll be a mini-you,’ he whispered, leaning to kiss Fleur on the back of the neck as she waddled up the stairs. ‘All perfect and ours.’

A little shiver swept through her. ‘We need to think about names, mon Cœur. We need a middle name if it’s a girl and names for a boy.’

‘Can we make them bird puns?’ Harry asked. ‘Jay Robin Delacour? Katrina Kestrel Delacour?’

‘Kestrel?’ Fleur threw a long look at him over her shoulder. ‘Really?’

‘I couldn’t think of anything other than tit,’ Harry confessed. ‘And I didn’t want you to set fire to me unexpectedly.’

‘You were clearly expecting it,’ she replied.

‘I don’t want to be set on fire expectedly, either.’ He slipped past her to open the door. ‘In fact, expecting it might make it worse.’

‘Anticipation’s half the fun,’ Fleur teased.

‘I suspect at some point I will do something stupid and there will be fire,’ Harry said. ‘I am almost certain of it.’

‘I will forgive you.’ She poked the door closed with her foot. ‘Unless it’s something really bad, like sneaking off to see another girl because you made me all fat.’

‘I’m fairly sure I’m only half to blame.’ He traced his fingertips over her stomach with a small smile. ‘The baby must be quite big by now.’

‘Because I’m really fat?’

‘You’re not fat, it’s a baby.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘But yes, because you have quite a bump now, mon Ange.’

Fleur huffed, flopping back onto her bed. ‘Bien.’ She wiggled her toes. ‘That is much better. My poor feet are sore. They are not used to me being so heavy.’

‘Would you like your blanket?’ Harry patted the folded square of soft silver.

‘Non.’ She stretched and squirmed up the bed until her head dropped into his lap. ‘I wanted to talk about death.’

‘Right. Romance.’ He chuckled at her pout. ‘What did you want to talk about, mon Rêve?’

‘I had a look back through the stuff I found on the Elder Wand.’ Fleur poked at his sleeve with one finger. ‘Gregorovitch studied it, apparently, but if he kept any notes, nobody ever found them. We can’t exactly ask Grindelwald, either.’

‘Not very easily,’ Harry said. ‘He’s imprisoned somewhere, isn’t he?’

‘Nurmengard.’ She cupped her stomach with both hands. ‘There’s nothing we can really do with the Hallows. Gabby and I, we tried to unpick the magic, but it’s just…’ Fleur sighed. ‘You heard what Gabby said, it’s all emotion, the runes are just a description. It’s like reading love and trying to create the feeling from the pattern of letters.’


‘So there’s nothing I can do with it, mon Amour.’ Fleur swiped her hair away from her eyes. ‘We could recreate them, with a few hundred other people who feel the same way about death and want to sacrifice their lives, but we can’t change the existing magic.’

‘You were hoping to use it for La Victoire Finale,’ Harry murmured. 

‘I was,’ she breathed. ‘I thought we could use their sacrifice. That would work, non?’

‘I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter.’ He recalled the purple scar on Isobel’s side, running his fingers through Fleur’s hair. ‘I saw the Dufort sisters do something amazing, when I was in Belgium with them a week ago.’

A hint of a pout crept onto Fleur’s lips. ‘And what did they do?’

‘You’re adorably jealous, mon Rêve.’ Harry chuckled and brushed his thumb over her lower lip. ‘They would be more interested in you than in me, though, so I wouldn’t worry.’

‘Vraiment?’ Fleur’s pout vanished.

‘They’re very close sisters.’ He grinned. ‘Very close.’

She wrinkled her nose. ‘Urgh. Don’t tell Gabby about that, she might get ideas.’

‘I don’t think she will,’ Harry said. ‘I really don’t think she will, in fact.’

‘Don’t tell her anyway,’ Fleur murmured. ‘If she knows I’m not worried about them, then she’ll tease me about someone else instead, like Daphne Greengrass. And I do not want to snap at you if I can help it.’

‘You do know I only spoke about ten words to her?’

‘It’s not speaking I don’t like the idea of,’ she muttered as the blue of her eyes darkened.

‘Well, speaking is the closest we’ve ever gotten.’ Harry bent and kissed her on the forehead. ‘Anyway, Isobel got hit with a spell that put a hole right through her side. Her sisters… shared it. They refused to die while the others were alive.’


‘I’m not sure I understand it completely,’ he admitted. ‘It’s abstract magic. There should be a price, a balance, but I think, maybe, the price they pay is that if one of them dies, they all die.’ Harry turned it over in his head. ‘Yes. While one of them lives, none of them will die, but if one of them dies, none of them can live.’

Fleur’s brow creased. ‘That sounds a lot like nonsense, mon Cœur.’

‘Souls are tricky,’ he murmured. ‘Just magic and consciousness and purpose. They are one soul in three, hurting one of the three isn’t the same as hurting the one, so the price is lower.’

‘Would it work for us?’ she asked. ‘For you and me and our baby and Gabby.’

Harry shook his head. ‘We aren’t one and the same soul the way the Dufort sisters believe themselves to be.’

‘Oh,’ she breathed. ‘For a moment…’

‘It’s not beyond hope,’ he whispered. ‘We could create something similar, it would just have to be greater. The purpose would have to be different.’ Harry slid his wand from his sleeve and balanced it on his palm, drawing little wisps of dark mist from its tip. ‘More of an anchor, rather than sharing death with their warped perception of themselves. I will never be able to pretend that you dying isn’t what I dread most. Losing you is dying.’

Fleur reached up and cupped his cheek with her warm fingers. ‘I know, mon Amour.’ The spark faded from her blue eyes. ‘I remember.’

Liked it? Take a second to support M J Bradley on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!


  1. So, for one of the Dufort sisters to die all three of them would have to be dead otherwise none of them really died because at least one of them was alive so logically one of them can’t really die, I read Harry’s reasoning of Dufort sisters 5 times and I still can’t understand what he was trying to say, they can’t die if one of them is alive and if one of them die the others can’t live. It logically doesn’t make sense or as Fleur put it ‘that sounds a lot like nonsense’ 😂😂.

Leave your thoughts!

error: Alert: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: