A soft white glow rose from the runes ringing the silver basin. Gabby sat at the bottom of the bowl, cross-legged and resting her chin in her hands. She hummed as she bounced her knees and studied the glyphs covering the shining silver.
‘Time…’ Harry conjured little ribbons of purple flame, dangling his feet into the pensieve and spinning his wand in his fingers. ‘Time…’
What’s not a river? Dawn-bright light shone from behind an amber mask and a single, blue eye stared up into the sky. He’s not a river. Harry sighed. Julien’s dead. And we’re free. Tanit’s Looking Glass hovered among his thoughts; temptation and fear entwined themselves, tangling like lovers’ tongues. I should look. His stomach tightened into a tight hot knot. And see he’s really gone.
‘You’re restless,’ Gabby murmured. ‘I can feel you swirling.’
‘Swirling?’ Harry glanced down into the basin.
‘Swirling.’ She hummed. ‘Well, more kind of twitching and tugging back and forth, like a kite in a gusty wind.’
‘I’m trying to think about time,’ he replied. ‘But I’m not having much luck.’
‘Got bored of breaking clocks?’ Gabby jumped to her feet and apparated up beside him, dropping down and bouncing her white-socked heels against the silver basin.
Harry chuckled. ‘Expectation affects intent, I think. If I look at time like a river, my intent is defined by what I believe it’s possible to do to a river, even subconsciously.’
‘It flows in one direction only,’ he said. ‘And you can slow it, or divert it, but not reverse its flow.’
Gabby cocked her head, small creases wrinkling her forehead. ‘So you’re trying to think about it in a different way, so you believe it can be reversed and the intent of your magic isn’t hindered.’
‘Yes. Only I’m not having much luck.’
‘You’re afraid of it?’
Gabby’s soft grey eyes held his. ‘No need for secrets, Harry.’
‘I’m going to start wearing my cloak everywhere at this rate, you sneaky little magic addict,’ he muttered. ‘I’m not afraid of messing with time-turners.’
‘Of what, then?’ She wiggled her feet and leant back onto the floor. ‘Fleur’s due date? Having a baby to look after?’
‘My utter lack of personal privacy.’
She giggled. ‘If you wanted secrets, you should’ve chosen someone other than my sister.’
‘I think it’s her sister that’s the problem.’ Harry shot her a flat look. ‘But it’s okay, because I love you, Gabby. I love you like the flowers love the sun, bright and clear and warm.’
Gabby squeaked and turned red. ‘Oh no. You didn’t.’
He grinned. ‘No need for secrets, Gabby.’
She rolled onto her face and kicked her legs. ‘No no no.’ Gabby covered her ears. ‘I can’t hear you.’
‘The next bits of that little story were really interesting,’ Harry said, leaning away from her heels. ‘Although I’m going to find it hard to look at courgettes the same way for a little while.’
Gabby choked. ‘I wrote that when I was younger.’
‘That’s the only reason I still eat anything courgette-shaped that you might’ve gotten your hands on.’ He patted her on the back. ‘It’s okay, Gabby. Secrets are silly, remember.’
She flopped onto her side. ‘Well, then. In the interest of there really being no secrets. I’m pretty sure you’ve eaten at least two courgettes that have been… multi-purposed.’
Harry grimaced. ‘Urgh. I’m going to tell Fleur.’
‘She’s too fat to catch me.’
‘She’ll remember for when she’s not chubby,’ he said. ‘I’m almost certain.’
‘She’ll be so mad with me.’ Gabby sighed. ‘In my defence, it wasn’t deliberate and I did wash them before I put them back. Things that size and shape were just quite exciting for a bit.’
‘Oh I know. I read all about it.’
Colour rose in her cheeks. ‘How many of those did you read?’
‘Oh Fleur and I read them all together.’ Harry cackled as her face glowed. ‘I liked the most recent one. James and Isabelle, wasn’t it?’
‘Caught red-handed.’ Gabby pouted and the bright pink rose to the tips of her ears. ‘Can I — er… can I explain that recent one? Just so no doubts about me creep in for you to panic over.’
‘If you want; we’re not that fussed about it. Well, I’m not. Fleur’s a little hard to make promises for, she was cheerful when we read them, but…’
‘It’s the feeling,’ she whispered. ‘I can’t get enough of it. The fear and the need and the hope and the rush, and then those little moments where the two of you just relax and love each other.’ She dabbed her sleeve over her eyes and a huge smile spread across her face. ‘It’s the most beautiful thing, like my own little fairytale to get wrapped up in.’
‘I think you need help.’
Gabby turned her nose up at him. ‘I’m just enjoying the fireworks, they’re your feelings. It’s your heads that aren’t screwed on straight, not mine.’
Harry shrugged. ‘I’m still never eating another courgette again.’
She laughed. ‘Fleur probably won’t let you.’
‘I wonder what she’ll do when I tell her about me eating them.’
‘Drag you into her bedroom and do whatever she thinks will erase the thought of any other girl from your head.’ Gabby snickered. ‘Maybe wait to tell her until after the baby’s been born.’
‘Good idea.’ He grinned. ‘It’s a lot of fun when she gets all worked up about something silly sometimes. You should try it.’
‘I don’t like it,’ Gabby muttered. ‘I really don’t.’
‘That’s not what all those horrified courgettes learnt.’
A quiet laugh escaped her lips. ‘Not that. I enjoy that. I mean it being another person.’
Harry’s smile faded. ‘Really?’
‘Really.’ Gabby scrunched up her face. ‘It makes my skin crawl. I’m used to being loved. Fleur will deny it, because she is Fleur, but she loves me very very much. I can feel it. And it’s been there all my life, like she’s always holding my hand. No matter what. Everything guys or girls feel for me, it’s so shallow and ugly by comparison.’ A little shudder swept through her. ‘I could never let one of them close to me let alone in me.’
Harry wrinkled his nose. ‘Maybe you just have to find the right one.’
‘Non.’ She shook her head. ‘I need that intimacy, that feeling, or I just couldn’t stand it.’ Gabby sat up and stared down at her white-socked feet. ‘In another life, if Fleur was just a little less… Fleur, I wonder how much of a mess we might’ve ended up in.’
‘Are you happy?’ he asked. ‘If you’re not… Well, I don’t really know, but if I can do something…?’
Gabby grinned. ‘I am happy. At worst, when I feel the two of you together and a little part of me wishes for unwise things, I am still content.’
‘I guess it’s good that Fleur is Fleur, then,’ Harry murmured.
‘Not for you.’ She snickered. ‘Fleur is not the only one who loves me, mon cher frère. If you were just a little different you could’ve really had a veela harem.’
Harry snorted. ‘And then died mysteriously when your Papa realises I’ve slept with both his daughters.’
‘Ah, tragic endings.’ Gabby giggled. ‘It would’ve been okay, Fleur and I would’ve just carried on without you.’
He laughed, a warm little glow welling up in his chest. ‘Nice to know I’m so important.’
She leant into his side, resting her head on his shoulder.
Harry tensed, small chill fingers dug their nails into his stomach. ‘Gabrielle?’
‘Don’t fret,’ Gabby murmured. ‘I just want to be close. I can feel how much you love me, it’s all warm and soft, and it makes me want to be close. And now you understand, I don’t have to pretend.’
Unease chewed at his gut with blunt, cold teeth. ‘I’m still telling Fleur you tried to snuggle up to me.’
Gabby laughed. ‘I’ll tell her myself. She will be cross if I don’t tell her, but she will understand. Why do you think she only really gets cross when she’s all birdy? She always understands. When I was younger she used to hold me close all the time, it was so nice.’ A gentle sigh left her lips. ‘You know something I’ve never told Maman and Papa?’
‘Are we back to the courgettes?’ Harry quipped.
‘Non, Harry. Something serious. I think, when Fleur was younger, her magic was the same as mine is,’ Gabby whispered. ‘Only, she had nobody to hold her close all the time like I did.’
‘She’s never said anything about it to me.’
‘I don’t know if Fleur even remembers, she says she doesn’t,’ she replied. ‘But Maman says she always used to cry whenever nobody was holding her or with her.’
‘Can your magic really change like that?’
‘Magic does what you intend it to,’ Gabby murmured. ‘The compulsion is a little bit different between each of us. When was the last time Fleur had trouble with her magic attracting too much attention?’
He blinked. ‘A while, I think. Not since before I died, and even then it was hardly an issue unless she wanted it to be.’
‘I think she finally got what she wanted with you, and, well, Fleur is Fleur, she still expects to be noticed, but that’s a much weaker desire.’
‘Abstract magic is tricky,’ Harry said. ‘But I know nothing about veela magic, my only source of information keeps telling me all sorts of ridiculous things about mating bonds.’
Gabby laughed. ‘I might be wrong, but sometimes I find it hard not to believe. It fits too well.’ She wriggled against him. ‘If I’d not had Fleur holding me close all the time, I might’ve missed that feeling and wanted people to notice and be close to me. And what does magic try to do if not what we want it to?’ Gabby hummed. ‘And then, as she grew up, the sort of attention she wanted changed, and it all grew worse and worse. I blame those romance books about Aimee.’
‘You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this.’
‘I was able to feel that Fleur wasn’t happy for a long time when we were younger. I kept trying to help, but I never could.’ She squirmed to the edge of the basin. ‘But she is happy now. And it doesn’t matter too much why or how it happened, just that we all stay happy.’
Our sunset. Harry smothered a stab of anxiety. La Victoire Finale.
Gabby shot him a sharp look. ‘What was that?’
‘How can you even sense that?’ Harry muttered. ‘It’s not like I’m casting any magic.’
‘I’m not sure. I can sense Maman and Fleur, because veela magic is always being cast a little bit.’ She reached across and poked his wand through his sleeve. ‘I think that is why I can sense you.’
‘My horcrux.’ Harry slid his ebony wand out. ‘Maybe.’ He smiled. ‘It’s all just interesting guesswork really isn’t it?’
‘But fun!’ Gabby chirped, ooching over the edge and sliding down into the pensieve. ‘Go back home, Harry. Whatever is niggling at you, sort it out with my sister or yourself. There’s no need to worry about more things than you have to.’
‘I’ll go.’ He stood up and tucked his wand away. ‘I’m going to tell Fleur about the courgettes.’
Gabby grinned up at him from the base of the pensieve. ‘Not until after the baby. Then we can all enjoy what happens when you do.’
‘We?’ Harry quirked an eyebrow at her. ‘Are you planning more voyeurism?’
‘Think of it like my commission for helping get her all worked up for you.’ She snickered. ‘Now go away, I need to try and tweak some of these runes to see if I can make people experience these memories without the extra mental stress and without realising they’re in a memory. Having your magic swirling about up there is distracting.’
‘I’ll see you later, then.’ Harry chuckled and wrenched the world back past him, stepping onto white pebbles. He swept the small white cairn aside and pulled out the slim, silver disc. ‘Gabby’s right. There’s no need to worry about the amber-masked man anymore.’ Harry slid his wand from his sleeve and sliced a shallow cut across his thumb, pressing it onto the glass. ‘He is gone. Wiped away.’
Let’s put this fear to rest. There’s nothing but the sunset now.
Towering stalagmites rose over a pale, pink-scarred dragon coiled upon the dark terrace and a thick, stone door loomed before the cold, bronze keys in his fingers. Faded crows spread their wings in flight upon the bronze lock.
The Lestrange vault. He tossed the keys down into the dark beyond the white-scaled dragon. Why?
Faint crimson light spilt through the lock onto his hand and the hungry rush of Fiendfyre swelled beyond the stone door. Lestrange’s thin screams rang from within the vault.
It can’t be Rabastan. He’s long dead. The only living Lestrange is Liliana. Harry stared into the crow-marked stone and swallowed a sour taste as the screams faded. Another foe. Why is there always someone trying to take everything away?
The roar of the flames softened to a whisper and glowing, molten gold seeped under the door. A featureless face of gleaming metal rose on shimmering, trembling threads to stare down at him.
No. A stab of fear lanced through him; its cold fist clamped tight about his hammering heart, tearing sharp, ragged nails through his stomach. No, Julien’s dead. I wiped him away.
The smooth mask spread its lips into a raw, bitter smile. Molten gold trickled through its teeth, pouring from its tongue like blood; its heat splashed over Harry’s toes, rising like a wave past his waist and lapping at his neck.
‘Sunsets cannot last forever,’ it hissed. Dawn-bright light burnt and swirled behind its smooth, golden eyes. ‘Meaningless, fleeting dreams are doomed to die.’
The searing gold swelled over his head, swallowing him into endless, writhing, swirling heat.