Bright glass and bronze lanterns floated over the chairs and the broad brazier’s flickering white flames. Faint shadows dappled the bare limestone walls, pooling dark beneath the alcoves and arches.
‘Violette,’ Vert rasped. ‘Bonjour.’
‘Bonjour, Vert.’ Harry dropped into a seat. ‘What is it?’
‘Grise is away… meeting with… those above… us, discussing… what’s going… on in the… Caribbean. The United States was… unhappy that… a team of… their aurors… vanished on our… territory.’
‘Tell them it was the British.’
‘We did,’ she said. ‘Of course.’
‘Was that it?’ Harry asked.
‘We have… used your… memory… to narrow… our field.’ Vert pressed her hand to her throat. ‘Corsica.’
His breath caught. ‘Where?’
‘We don’t… know yet.’ Vert tugged her wand out and pressed the tip to her neck with a quiet gasp. ‘I am… going… to sweep… for bases.’
‘The whole island?’ Harry frowned. ‘That could take weeks.’
‘I can… scry,’ she rasped. ‘It is… a family… gift.’
‘Scrying,’ he murmured. ‘How does it work?’
‘Intuition,’ she whispered. ‘It is… old blood… magic. Inherited from… Roman… ancestors. The… strange gift… a dead… girl can… use, but… I cannot.’
‘Lestrange,’ Harry muttered.
‘Once upon… a time.’ Vert pulled back her hood.
A lattice of scar tissue stood out on the right side of her face, twisting across high cheekbones and full lips.
She caught his gaze with dark, heavy-lidded eyes. ‘Grindelwald… wanted me… for my… gift. I used… my beauty… to bring… many to… our cause… blinded… by his words… He took… both my beauty… and the voice… I used… to betray… him.’
‘Why tell me?’ he asked, holding up his ring. ‘What happened to anonymity?’
‘You were… not Henri… Decolmar,’ she rasped. ‘There was… no wizard… by that… name. I… am sure.’
‘You hunt… Le Cancrelat… with passion,’ Vert said. ‘I know… that hate… It marred… my face… and stole… my voice… It consumed… me for… years after… I had… to let… Liliana… Lestrange… die to… survive it… She swore… an oath… to never… betray… Grindelwald… out of hate… and she… broke it.’
‘I don’t hate Julien,’ Harry said. ‘You misunderstand. I just need to stop him, before he destroys everything I have.’
‘I see.’ Vert’s scarred face contorted into a frown. ‘Would you… share your… name with… me?’
‘That man is dead,’ he replied. ‘I had to let him die.’
‘So is… Liliana,’ Vert whispered. ‘But sometimes now… she is not… I heard her… screaming… as Noire… repeated his… words and… now she… is so loud… I will scry… for you… Liliana… can find… Noire if you… let me… share her… screams with… you.’
Harry frowned. ‘Must you have my name for that?’
‘I will… swear an… oath. I… just have… to know… who it is… Liliana’s hate… is quiet for.’ She pulled out her wand. ‘Is that… enough?’
I need to find Julien. Harry balled his fists and wrestled with a tight knot in his gut. If she swears, it’s worth it. I think.
‘We’ll need Cramoisi,’ he said. ‘For the oath. If she says yes, I will do it.’
Vert pulled her hood back up and pressed the tip of her wand to the ring on her hand. ‘Cramoisi,’ she rasped.
Gabby wavered into being in front of them. ‘What is it?’
‘Vert wants to trade my name for her help in scrying Le Cancrelat,’ Harry said. ‘She promised to swear an oath.’
‘Your name.’ Gabby’s grey eyes darkened. ‘Why? An oath like that will redefine everything about you. Nobody makes them just for a name. Nobody makes them at all.’
‘Liliana’s… agony is… less when he… is here,’ Vert muttered. ‘That pale… wand you… wield is… one she… knew well.’
Harry exchanged a long look with Gabby.
She extended her wand. ‘Very well, but I will choose the terms of the oath. And this won’t just be an Unbreakable Vow, Vert. You will swear on everything you are. No risks.’
‘Everything… I am?’ Vert held out her hand. ‘That is… acceptable.’
Harry clasped her wrist. ‘I trust you, Cramoisi.’
Gabby’s charcoal eyes lightened and her face softened. ‘Do you, Vert, swear to never share the name Violette tells you with anyone or express it in any way in which it might be known? To scry for Le Cancrelat to the best of your ability once you’ve heard Violette’s name?’
‘I do,’ Vert whispered.
A ribbon of white flame curled from the tip of Gabby’s wand and looped around their wrists. Its chill bit through Harry to the bone. Vert shivered as it sank through their skin and faded.
Gabby put her wand away. ‘I’m going to go home and talk to my sister.’
Harry sighed. ‘She’s going to be angry with me.’
‘Probably,’ she replied. ‘She was trying to get into a jar of olives when I left her and was very annoyed she couldn’t get the lid off, so this is bound to set off a full fiery tantrum.’
Can’t she just use her wand?
‘I will tell her, if you like?’ he said.
‘Non.’ Gabby shook her head. ‘Meet us at the café when you and Vert are done. I will buy her cake to calm her down.’ She vanished.
Vert slid her hood back. ‘Tell me… Violette… Who are… you to… hold his… wand?’
Harry pulled the ring off his finger. ‘Harry Potter.’
A short hiss slipped through Vert’s lips. ‘You died.’ Her dark eyes narrowed. ‘Sarcelle… she chose… death for… you.’
‘I survived.’ He slipped the ring back on. ‘Will you scry for me now?’
Vert nodded, dark veins spread across her scars like blood trickling over ice. ‘Liliana… lives and… burns and… screams and… scries for… you.’
‘Do not… become… Liliana,’ Vert rasped as the dark scars clawed a little further into her smooth skin. ‘See how… she suffers… for her… hatred.’
‘I’ve had my fill of hate,’ he murmured. ‘All I want is love.’
Vert pulled her hood back up. ‘Love and… hate will… leave you… scarred… just as… badly…. as each… other… Liliana knows.’
Harry stood. ‘Call me when your scrying finds him.’
She nodded. ‘I will.’
He pictured the cobbles outside Madam Antoinette’s and wrenched the world back past him until he stepped into the café.
Fleur sat in the corner of their normal booth, her eyes black as pitch. Harry slipped off his ring and drifted across, holding his breath.
‘Mon Amour.’ Fleur’s dark eyes bored into his. ‘Sharing our precious secrets with Vert, I heard?’
‘Out of necessity,’ he said. ‘But yes. Pardon.’
‘Gabby explained,’ she snapped. ‘I do not like it, mon Cœur.’
‘It seemed like a good trade,’ Harry replied, sliding into the seat beside her. ‘But I don’t particularly like it either.’
‘She cannot share it,’ Gabby said. ‘Her magic is… full of pain and hate and despair. I have sensed it only recently, only since Harry joined us.’
Fleur’s eyes narrowed. ‘Who is she? Why does she react to you so strongly?’
‘Are you jealous?’ Harry snorted. ‘Don’t be.’
‘Harry.’ Gabby nudged his ankle with her foot. ‘Tell us.’
‘She is Liliana Lestrange—’
Fleur sucked in a sharp breath. ‘Vert is Liliana Lestrange?!’
‘Yes. I think she fought for Grindelwald and later betrayed him… out of hatred.’
‘Liliana Lestrange was the last Lestrange in France,’ Fleur said. ‘She is famous for killing the rest of her family and siding with Grindelwald.’
‘For the first years before his second war, she was his left hand,’ Gabby said. ‘She betrayed him out of nowhere at one of his rallies, turning those who’d gathered to hear him against him and trying to kill him. Everyone thought she died in the attempt.’
‘She betrayed him out of hate,’ Harry said. ‘And she was cursed because of it. She let Liliana die, somehow, and escaped the curse, but my wand…’
‘Grindelwald had it,’ Fleur murmured. ‘She recognised it.’
‘Julien borrowed some of his words for his speech in Palma, I think,’ Harry said. ‘Liliana came back between hearing that and seeing the Elder Wand, but I think her curse is tied to the wand. She said it hurts less when I’m there.’
‘Abstract magic.’ Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘Some kind of soul magic?’
‘Most oaths are,’ Gabby said. ‘They’re bound to the identity of the one who swears them and will even change that identity to ensure they’re upheld. From what we read before Harry returned, it sounds like soul magic.’
They glanced up at him.
Harry nodded. ‘I think so.’ He slid the Elder Wand and balanced it on his palm. ‘Grindelwald probably bound her oath to this wand, in case she managed to kill him.’
‘Just to make sure her curse was inescapable.’ Gabby shuddered. ‘How cruel.’
‘Perhaps not in the end,’ Harry said, slipping it back into his sleeve as the waiter came over. ‘If it’s bound to the wand, then it’s bound to the master of the wand. He must’ve assumed she would be the master of the wand if she killed him, and whatever conditions he used to bind it, they clearly don’t hold as strongly with me as its master.’
‘I don’t think her curse troubled her while Dumbledore had it, either.’
‘Something to do with her hate, maybe,’ Harry murmured. ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. We can’t change it.’
‘Non. We can not.’ Fleur shuffled back into her cushions as three bowls of clafoutis appeared before them. ‘Really, Gabby?’
‘There’s no such thing as too much,’ Gabby chirped, digging in with her spoon.
‘Yes there is,’ Fleur muttered, patting the top of the stomach. ‘I have too much baby in me and I want it out.’
‘Two more months.’ Gabby beamed and slid her bowl out of Fleur’s reach. ‘Then it’s my turn!’
Fleur twitched and wrinkled her nose. ‘The baby heard that and is now kicking in rage.’
‘Or it’s excited to have a half-sibling,’ Gabby said.
Harry tugged the third bowl of clafoutis in front of himself.
Fleur and Gabby stared.
‘What are you doing, mon Amour?’ Fleur asked.
‘For some ludicrous reason I just assumed the third bowl was for me, the third person.’ He sighed and pushed it back in between them. ‘Clearly a moment of madness on my part.’
‘You are forgiven, mon Cœur,’ Gabby said.
Fleur elbowed her in the ribs. ‘Non. Mine. Not ours, or yours, or anyone else’s. Mine.’
Gabby giggled. ‘I think I’m making progress.’
‘I really don’t think you are,’ Harry replied. ‘In fact, I think she might actually be getting more possessive.’
‘That is your fault,’ Fleur muttered. ‘For loving it so much.’
‘Guilty as charged, mon Rêve,’ Harry murmured, leaning across to press a light kiss to her cheek.
‘Two things.’ Gabby demolished the last of her clafoutis and cut a line down the middle of the third. ‘First—’
‘Do not say veela sister threesome.’ Fleur watched the spoon slide through the clafoutis like a hawk and stuck hers in the larger half with a broad smirk. ‘Mine.’
Gabby pouted. ‘You cannot have both, Fleur. Either no threesome and the large part is mine, or threesome and the large part is yours.’
Fleur stuck her nose in the air and a heaped spoonful of clafoutis into her mouth.
‘I am married to a child,’ Harry said. ‘A sugar-addicted, flame-throwing, feathery child.’
‘You are. And she’s about to give you a second one who’ll be just as bad or worse,’ Gabby said. ‘Fleur is lucky, I actually want to talk about your… secret project.’
‘La Victoire Finale,’ he murmured.
Fleur swallowed, licking her lips clean. ‘We have not got very far, little chick.’
‘But we should think about it,’ Harry whispered. ‘Le Cancrelat, Neville, Vert, Britain, the United States, France, someone will try and take something away from us eventually.’
‘How far have you got?’ Gabby asked.
‘An idea,’ Fleur said. ‘Harry does not think he or we would be able to create a horcrux.’
‘It has to be entirely selfish,’ he said. ‘You kill someone purely for your own gain. It’s part of the ritual of the piece of magic. A sacrifice of innocence and a demonstration of powerful intent for magic strong enough to anchor your soul.’
Gabby’s expression darkened. ‘And you made one. Why?’
‘Gabrielle,’ Fleur snapped. ‘Would you have rather he’d not returned?’
‘Accidentally,’ he whispered. ‘I was one. I was going to die for everyone, I thought that was what I should do, but after the Yule Ball I was so sick of being used and thrown away, so angry and full of hate that I changed my mind and ripped out the fragment of Voldemort’s soul instead. I did it just for me. To be free. No matter what. And I think that was enough…’
‘Who?’ Gabby asked.
‘Peter Pettigrew,’ Harry said. ‘A servant of Voldemort and the one who betrayed my parents to him. You found his body in the Forbidden Forest.’
She shuddered. ‘I remember the feel of that magic.’ Gabby squirmed. ‘I cannot do that.’
‘Neither can I.’ He bounced the tip of his ebony wand on his palm. ‘Not anymore. It’s magic for those with no dreams left.’
‘We want to do something similar,’ Fleur said. ‘Create an anchor, but with a non-selfish purpose. So we come back to each other.’
‘I could do that,’ Gabby murmured. ‘But what about a body? We kept Harry’s body after Hogwarts, but if we’d not…’
Harry exchanged a glance with Fleur. ‘We hadn’t gotten that far.’
‘We will need a way to make one,’ Fleur said. ‘After dying, we’d need to return and have a body. I will be very upset if my husband is stuck as a ghost, there are things I would miss.’
‘Me too,’ Gabby said. ‘Fleur will sulk and be all birdy’
Fleur rolled her eyes. ‘Our baby is not having a ghost for a father.’
‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ Gabby asked. ‘You have not said.’
‘I haven’t checked.’
Harry blinked. ‘I haven’t even thought about checking.’
‘It will be a perfect surprise,’ Fleur said. ‘Although, we do still need to choose names.’
‘Gabrielle,’ Gabby chirped.
‘Still non.’ Fleur shook her head. ‘I am not using one of our names, I want them to have their own name.’
Harry opened his mouth.
‘But I hadn’t even said—’
‘No bird puns.’
He chuckled. ‘It might not have been a bird pun.’
Fleur laughed. ‘But it was, non?’
‘I was going to say Raven,’ he said. ‘I’m running out of good ones.’
Gabby snickered. ‘It’s okay, mon Amour, we’ll name our baby Gabrielle Raven Delacour.’
‘There’s not going to be another baby,’ Fleur muttered. ‘Not from me and certainly not from you, little chick, so close your beak.’
‘Worried about what it will do to you?’ Gabby dipped her spoon back into her half of the clafoutis. ‘If you drink the potions and use the charms, there’s almost no after effects. I looked.’
‘Why were you looking?’ Fleur narrowed her darkening eyes. ‘Gabrielle?’
‘For you, bird-brain.’ Gabby waved her spoon at Fleur. ‘I know what you are like, you probably looked at them and decided to take all of them but the ones that reduce the pain.’
Fleur turned her nose up and set her spoon down in the empty half of the third bowl.
‘I knew it,’ Gabby crowed. ‘I knew you’d be silly. There are two potions that lessen the pain because they alter the properties of the muscles you need to push the baby through.’
‘I do not mind if it hurts,’ Fleur said. ‘The more it—’
‘But they also reduce the chances of anything getting stretched or torn, so things are more likely to go back to how they were.’ Gabby held her thumb and forefinger up in a ring, tightening the circle. ‘Which you were worrying about, non?’
Fleur’s brow creased. ‘You are sure?’
A hot rush of gratitude flooded Harry and he flashed Gabby a small smile.
‘Absolutely sure.’ Gabby winked at him. ‘It’s one thing to endure how much it hurts, it’s another to take reckless risks that might lead to Harry getting disappointed.’ A glimmer of mischief appeared in her grey eyes. ‘Although… if he does get disappointed, he’ll come running to the innocent embrace of your much cuter baby sister.’
He snorted. ‘There’s nothing innocent about you.’
‘Fine.’ Fleur sighed. ‘I will take those two as well. I do not want Harry to be disappointed and get tempted by Daphne Greengrass.’
Harry shook his head. ‘I’ve not seen her in almost two years and I barely spoke to her then. She should really be much further down the murder list.’
‘Or Gabrielle, then.’ Fleur crossed her arms over the swell of her stomach and glowered. ‘You see and speak to her all the time.’
‘She keeps pestering me.’ He grinned. ‘Something to do with helping her through her veela maturity or she’ll go mad? She showed me this highly accurate veela romance book with your name written inside the cover between little flowers and hearts, so I know it’s a real thing.’
Fleur’s lips twitched.
‘That counts as a laugh.’ Harry stole the last spoonful of clafoutis and revelled in the sweet taste of cherries. ‘Wasn’t there a second thing, Gabby?’
‘That was the potions,’ she replied. ‘The potions to stop Fleur being silly and La Victoire Finale. That was it.’
‘I don’t know where to go with La Victoire Finale,’ Harry said. ‘If we knew exactly what we wanted, I could design the runes, use blood magic, and set it up, but the price…’
What could I possibly sacrifice that would be worth keeping our sunset forever? He smothered the searing whisper of the amber-masked figure and touched a finger to his wand. A piece of me? I’m not sure that’s even close to enough.
‘I still need to finish the pensieve,’ Gabby said. ‘I will look into creating a body once I’m done making the last few tweaks to that.’
‘You should do the soul and sacrificial magic part, mon Cœur,’ Fleur said. ‘That is the part you are best suited to.’
‘Abstract magic.’ He managed a small smile. ‘That is my area of expertise. I do probably need to help Vert with time magic a bit from time to time and hunt down Le Cancrelat, too.’
‘Gabby and I will help you design the runes once we’ve established the rest,’ Fleur said. ‘And I will look through everything Les Inconnus have on death once this baby is out of me and I’m able to apparate again.’
‘Two months,’ Gabby chirped. ‘Then we will have a mini-Fleur or a mini-Harry.’
‘You’ll be Auntie Gabby,’ Harry said. ‘At eighteen.’ A jolt of cold rushed through him. ‘I’m technically only seventeen, I’m so young, even my parents weren’t this young—’
‘Non.’ Fleur kicked him in the shin. ‘No cold feet. It is too late, mon Amour. You put the baby in me and now it is here to stay.’
Gabby sniggered under her breath. ‘Oh yes, it was all Harry’s idea.’
‘Hush, little chick.’ Fleur’s cheeks turned a little pink. ‘I told him it wasn’t a safe day.’
He snorted. ‘Afterward. You told me that afterward.’
‘You did not mind. You said you saw a little girl in the Mirror of Erised,’ Fleur said. ‘And it is your own fault you are not older, if you had not died for a year, it would not be so bad.’
‘I definitely don’t mind.’ A rush of warmth swept through him. ‘I have a family. Intimacy.’ He caught the soft glint in Gabby’s grey eyes and glanced away. ‘Things I wished for when I was younger.’
Perfect wishes. Ones I thought could never come true. He blinked back tears and cupped the gentle silver glow of his wedding ring against his heart. Until now.