Fleur layered slim slices of Gouda onto her croissant and folded it closed. She hummed and surveyed the table until her eyes fell on the jar of honey.
‘Don’t do it.’ Harry grimaced. ‘It’s not going to taste nice.’
‘It will.’ She twisted the lid off the jar and dipped the spoon in.
Amber liquid shone in the sun from the window as Fleur drizzled honey across her cheese. A bright mask gleamed amidst Harry’s thoughts, rippling with trapped flame.
He tugged his eyes up to Fleur’s focused expression and laughed. ‘Remember how you used to laugh at me for being British about some things?’
‘I am pregnant, not British,’ she said.
Gabby bounced into the kitchen and dropped into the chair beside Harry. ‘What is the chubby goose doing?’
Fleur shot her a glare. ‘I am making my breakfast, then I am going to throw you out of my seat and eat it. After that—’ she threw a glance at Harry ‘—some time to think about our last victory.’
‘This has been my chair for years,’ Gabby replied.
‘It is next to Harry.’ Fleur thrust the honey spoon at Harry. ‘Therefore, it is my seat.’
‘Maman said you have to share with me,’ Gabby chirped.
‘I’m fairly sure she didn’t,’ Harry muttered.
‘She did. Lots of times.’ Gabby snickered. ‘Fleur never listens.’
‘I’m not sharing.’
‘See.’ Gabby stuck her lower lip out. ‘She’s such a bad big sister, mon Amour, won’t you kiss me and make it all feel better?’
The honey-smeared spoon bounced off Gabby’s forehead and stuck in her hair.
Gabby’s eyes narrowed. ‘The sticky spoon?! Fleur!’
‘Get out of my seat.’
Harry twisted his chair about and pushed Gabby along the table with his foot. ‘There. Gabby gets to keep her chair and Fleur can have her seat.’
Fleur took a huge bite out of her cheese and honey croissant. ‘That is acceptable.’
Gabby giggled, the spoon jiggling where it stuck to her silver hair. ‘Notre Cœur is learning, Fleur, soon he’ll be able to keep peace within his veela harem.’
‘There’s never any peace with you around,’ Harry said.
She batted her eyelashes. ‘But that’s why you love me, non?’
‘He does not love you.’ Fleur stomped around the table, dragged a chair in between them and dropped into it, munching on her croissant. ‘You are an annoying little chick, always squeaking and sticking her beak where it doesn’t belong.’
‘Bird-brain,’ Gabby retorted.
‘Feather-face,’ Fleur mumbled through a mouthful of croissant and Gouda.
Harry snorted. ‘Gabby the honey in your hair is setting.’
She grimaced and tugged the spoon out, dropping it onto Fleur’s plate and waving her wand at her hair. A slim stream of amber crystals floated into the sink.
A high-pitched whine cut through the kitchen.
‘What is that?’ Harry asked, slipping his wand from his sleeve. ‘The wards?’
‘Fleur singing.’ Gabby giggled. ‘It’s your ring, Violette.’
Harry stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled it out. A bright purple light shone from the spiral and the ringing faded. ‘It’s never done that before.’
‘It’s for emergencies.’ Fleur held up hers. ‘Grise must need you.’
Has he found Le Cancrelat? Harry’s breath caught. It’s only been five days.
Gabby pulled hers out of her pocket. ‘Well, he’s only called you.’ She exchanged a long glance with Harry. ‘That means it’s probably something dangerous.’
Fleur put her croissant down. ‘Be careful.’
‘I haven’t even gone yet.’ Harry slid the ring onto his finger and the purple flow waned. ‘I might not—’
She put a finger to his lips. ‘Don’t take any risks, mon Amour.’
Gabby nodded. ‘Come back to us in one piece, mon Amour-in-law. Your harem will miss you.’
‘You know, I don’t think two girls even counts as a harem,’ he said. ‘Surely it has to be more than two.’
‘Harry has decided he needs more veela girls.’ Gabby snickered. ‘Fleur’s not going to be a happy goose, but fortunately you can outrun her while she’s all fat.’
‘It’s a baby.’ Fleur narrowed her eyes at her sister. ‘What fun would you even be in a harem if you don’t know how babies are made?’
‘Okay.’ Harry stood up and kissed Fleur on the top of the head. ‘I’ll go see what this is. Try not to kill your sister, mon Rêve.’
‘I make no promises,’ Fleur murmured. ‘She’s getting too bold with her chirping.’
‘You’ll miss her.’ Harry chuckled. ‘I’ll see you later.’
‘What about my goodbye kiss?’ Gabby asked, batting her eyelashes.
Harry raised his fingers to his lips.
Fleur grabbed his hand and pulled it away from his face. ‘Non. No kisses for Gabrielle, not even pretend kisses.’
‘Sorry, Gabby.’ He laughed and whirled the world past him, stepping into the Sunshine Room. ‘I’m here, Grise.’
‘Good.’ Grise stepped out of the shadows of the corridor. ‘I wasn’t sure how fast you’d notice the ring.’
‘I didn’t realise it did that.’
‘It does.’ His brow creased. ‘Did Sarcelle not tell you?’
‘She’s got other things on her mind at the moment,’ Harry said. ‘What happened? Have you found Le Cancrelat?’
‘Ginevra Weasley is in Sint Maarten,’ Grise said.
‘On holiday?’ Harry asked. ‘Or…?’
‘With a squad of British aurors, openly and brazenly threatening violence.’ Grise grimaced. ‘The message was garbled. The mayor was clearly panicking.’
‘So I’m portkeying all the way out there again.’ Harry frowned into the flames of the brazier. ‘And when I get there?’
‘You make this go away,’ Grise said. ‘So far, nobody knows, because Sint Maarten is a long way from anywhere. Tell Ginevra Weasley to get off French-protected land. I don’t care why she’s there, but if she doesn’t go, we’re one poorly worded statement from Amelia Bones away from war.’
‘And she does have a track record for those..,’ Harry muttered. ‘I’ll get rid of it. However I have to.’
‘Exactly.’ Grise thrust a slim piece of dark wood into his hand. ‘Don’t waste any time. You know how to get there. The word is papillon again.’
I wonder how she’s changed. Harry weighed the portkey in his hand. I guess I’ll find out. As long as she doesn’t recognise me, it’s fine.
The Sunshine Room jerked. Harry staggered through the grottos, leaping over the fountains and snatching portkeys from their racks until he stumbled across the marble floor of Sint Maarten’s town hall and dropped the bronze disc into the box.
Sunlight streamed in through the windows over plain stone. Ginny’s red hair shone auburn as autumn leaves in the bar of bright light from the closest window. Her tight, crimson robes gleamed like fresh blood.
‘I’m here,’ Harry said, striding forward.
He winced. Does the magic on the ring disguise my voice? He clawed through memories. I think it does. It better.
The mayor twisted around and sagged. ‘Violette.’
‘Violette?’ Ginny crossed her arms over a bronze badge on her chest. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
So far so good. Harry released a quiet sigh beneath his breath.
‘For you to leave. Immediately.’ He ran his eyes across the group of aurors in scarlet robes. ‘All of you.’
‘Not going to happen.’ Ginny turned back to the mayor. ‘Wherever you’re hiding the Americans, we’ll find them. If we do, if you’re helping them, we’ll leave this place a pile of ashes.’
‘There aren’t any Americans here,’ the mayor squeaked. ‘We sent them away. Violette came here and did it himself.’
Ginny’s lips pursed and she swivelled back to stare at Harry. ‘So you’re what? An auror? An auror captain?’ Her slim eyebrows drew together into a sharp vee. ‘Why does your face keep changing?’
‘Consider me the voice of France,’ Harry replied. ‘And that voice is saying get the fuck off this island before you cause a war.’
‘There’s already a war,’ one of the witches behind Ginny snapped. ‘You and the Americans and the Ottomans started one.’
‘Not us,’ Harry replied. ‘I don’t speak for Americans or Ottomans, who do seem to have done their fair share of causing trouble.’
‘The moment you harboured them here so they could attack us from hiding, you invited this response,’ Ginny declared. ‘If you want us to leave this place still standing, you’ll tell us where they are.’
He sighed. ‘The mayor is telling the truth. I made the Americans leave.’
‘We traced them back here.’ Ginny took a step forward, brushing the major aside. ‘Try again.’
A little ice trickled through Harry’s veins. If they dared to stay…
‘Where did you trace them to?’ he asked.
‘That tiny island just offshore,’ the brown-haired witch behind Ginny said. ‘We know they’re here.’
They seem pretty sure. He frowned. And the Americans apparated away when they left, there’s not many places within a couple hundred miles that aren’t covered by British wards.
Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve. ‘If they’ve come back here after I told them not to, I will deal with it myself.’
‘You’ll deal with an entire auror squad?’ Ginny snorted. ‘Sure. Just get out of our way.’
He held her gaze until the humour faded from her face. ‘They only sent me, because they only need me.’
Ginny’s eyes dropped to his wand. ‘Wait—’
Merde. He apparated out onto the beach with a soft snap. Of course she’d recognise my wand. He smothered the bubbling unease. I’ll deal with that when I get back.
Harry slid his ebony wand back into his sleeve and pulled the Elder Wand from the other, picking his way through the shade of the palms and down onto the beach.
A small, shrub-crested rock rose from the waves a hundred yards from the shore.
He squinted across the sparkling sea. No wards I can see. Which makes sense, since people would notice them straight away.
‘That or they aren’t here,’ he muttered. ‘Still, only one way to find out.’
Harry wrenched the world back past him and stepped onto the top of the rock. A single grey tent sat in the hollow among the shrubs.
Idiots. He shook his head, a little ball of cold settling on his heart. Well, I warned them what would happen.
‘I distinctly remember telling you to leave, Grant,’ he said.
A series of loud cracks rang out around him. Grey-jacketed aurors appeared in a loose semi-circle.
Six of them.
A dark-haired, dark-eyed woman stepped out of the tent, a wand in either hand. ‘Grant got sent home for being a little bitch.’
Harry sighed. ‘Which makes you… Torbuck?’
‘Tarbeck,’ she snapped. ‘Megan Tarbeck.’
‘I assume Grant passed on my warning?’ he asked.
‘I ignored it.’ She tossed her wands from one hand to the other and back. ‘What are you going to do? Whine?’
‘Then you had your chance.’ Harry poured magic through the Elder Wand, compressing it into a pinprick of light at its tip and whipping it into the ground.
Silver light seared his eyes.
He apparated to the far side of the tent, layering his magic into a tight web of wards overhead and casting a gout of Fiendfyre over the tent. The grey material shivered and burst into flames. Harry strode around the swirling smoke and put three piercing curses through the back of the first American auror. They tore through him, spattering blood and viscera across the rocks and shrubs.
A hail of hexes hissed through the smoke toward him.
He swatted them away, striding forward.
The storm of spells redoubled. Tarbeck hurled curses from either wand, a snarl on her face. Harry forced his arm faster, upping the pace. A bright little thrill trickled through his veins as their efforts faltered.
‘What the actual fuck!’ A wizard shouted. ‘How the hell is he doing that?’
Harry ducked a barrage of curses, touching the tip of his wand to the corpse and forcing his magic into the body. The inferius jerked to its feet and hurled itself at Tarbeck with bared teeth and a furious hiss. They tumbled to the ground, rolling and wrestling across the dirt.
‘Get it off me,’ Tarbeck cried, cowering behind her raised arms as the inferius clawed at her face. ‘Get it the fuck off me!’
A short wizard blasted the inferius apart, knocking Tarbeck back into the burning tent.
Harry drew his power into his wand, pulling a spiral of white sparks in around its tip. ‘Fulminis.’
A bright flash burst through the short wizard. His wand bounced into the pool of blood.
Harry twisted his wrist, snapping the crackling beam of lightning back around. Ashes floated down to the ground and wands clattered to the ground.
The limbs of the inferius twitched and crept across the rocks, the corpse writhed and jerked, dragging itself to its feet. Raw flesh and pale skin gaped through the holes torn into the robes. Tarbeck clawed her way from the burning tent, wands raised. The inferius lunged, trailing gleaming blue-ish purple entrails.
She slashed her left wand forward, knocking the inferius back, and thrust her right wand out, burying it in a wave of flame. ‘Forbidden magic. Typical of Europeans. Such hypocrites.’
Harry watched her stagger to her feet as his magic unravelled from the blazing corpse.
‘Kill hi—’ Tarbeck’s jaw dropped. ‘Fuck me.’
‘You had your warning.’ Harry spun the Elder Wand in his fingers, showering the ashes with silver sparks.
Tarbeck drew herself up. ‘I’ll kill you for this.’
Death. The final enemy. Not today. Not ever.
She thrust both her wands forward. ‘Confringo!’
Harry slashed the Elder Wand at her.
The basilisk’s hazy form smashed through Tarbeck’s spells and hammered into her chest, sending her sailing off the rock and into the sea.
Tarbeck flailed in the waves, dragging her head above the water, and vanished with a loud crack.
Well, she probably won’t be back for a bit given she’s probably got shattered ribs and has no squad. Harry picked up the scorched, bloodstained wands one by one. And the Americans probably aren’t going to want to make a big deal of this after one wizard crushed their auror squad. He wrenched the world back past him and stepped into the town hall. And I don’t really care. She’s not the amber-masked figure.
Ginny stalked back and forth through the beams of sun. ‘Where did you go?!’
Harry tossed the wands at her feet. They bounced across the pale marble, leaving soot-stains and flecks of red.
He pointed the Elder Wand at them, holding it out in the sunlight. ‘There are no more Americans.’
Ginny’s freckled face twitched. ‘Where’s your squad?’
‘I don’t have a squad.’ Harry watched her gaze linger on the Elder Wand as he slid it back into his sleeve. ‘You have no reason to be here anymore. I gave the Americans one warning, they ignored it. This is your one warning. Remember that.’
‘How do we know it’s not a trick?’ the brown-haired witch hissed. ‘Those wands could easily be fakes.’
‘Go home via that small island,’ Harry said. ‘I left a mess.’
‘We will!’ the witch spat.
‘Tracey, enough,’ Ginny commanded. ‘We’ll go via the island as we leave and if the attacks continue, we will return here and raze Sint Maarten to the ground.’ She straightened the flaming bronze sun pinned to her crimson robes and tossed her auburn hair over her shoulder. ‘And we fought Voldemort, Violette. You don’t scare us. We bled for our friends, our families and our country when we were just children. We will not let you or anyone else tear down what was built on their sacrifices.’
They vanished with a deafening series of pops.
The mayor cleared his throat, wide-eyed. ‘Did you really—’
‘All but one. The auror captain, Tarbeck, got away.’
‘But then…’ The mayor paled. ‘Are you leaving again? What if they come back?’
‘Yes. I’m going home.’ Harry dusted ash from the front of his robes. ‘I don’t think you’ll have any problems for a little while. If the United States and Britain continue to fight, I think they’ll be doing it somewhere else now. If nothing else, I doubt they’ll want to risk the lives of their aurors unnecessarily.’
‘What if that auror captain wants revenge?’
He shrugged. ‘Well, then she’ll probably come back and get you to send for me again. Just do as she asks. If she’s stupid enough to try that, she’s not going to escape again.’ He strode toward the small oval room at the rear of the hall. ‘Au revoir.’
‘Au revoir,’ the mayor whispered as Harry swept past.