A single shadow swirled in shining silver, faint as summer shade, silent before the shining, dawn-bright light blazing in the Mirror of Erised.
‘One,’ a girl’s voice murmured in his ear, soft as Fleur, bright as Gabby. ‘One, papa. One final victory.’
The shadow split apart, scattered into shreds of tattered dark, spreading like ink through water and turning the mirror black. Countless awed eyes lit up within the gloom, shining like a thousand little candles in the night; they hovered like the red motes of magic beneath Kart Hadasht’s domes, stretching on forever, numberless as the stars.
‘One of two,’ the girl whispered.
The dark swept back into a single silhouette. It pressed a hand against the glass, stretching the smooth, shining silver, tearing through the gleaming surface. Shadow spilt through the splits, trickling down the mirror and bursting into drops of dark mist.
‘One of two,’ Harry muttered.
The mirror shivered and burst into silver sparks, showering like falling fireworks and fading into smoke.
A shadow stood on white pebbles.
Faceless, its gaze pierced through him. Voiceless, its whisper thundered in his ears. A chill wind tore past it, bending all the world, twisting it, tearing it, ripping pieces away into an endless dark. The shade stood still as stone, murmuring faster and faster, shivering with the thud of Harry’s heart, strong as the pulse of Kart Hadasht.
‘Dreams are dust,’ Harry whispered, the words tumbling off his tongue. ‘Dandelion seeds sailing into the sea on a cold breeze.’
He opened his eyes into the gloom.
‘Mon Amour?’ Fleur murmured, flopping an arm over his shoulder. ‘Is Katrina crying?’
Silence hung through their shadowed bedroom.
‘There’s something I need to see.’ Harry eased himself out and pulled on some clothes, stuffing his invisibility cloak under them. ‘I can go now or I can wait until it’s more risky.’
‘Because of what happened in Carthage?’ Fleur asked.
‘Yes,’ he murmured. ‘I just — I can’t doubt.’
‘Do you doubt me?’ she whispered. ‘Us?’
‘No.’ Harry bent and pressed a kiss to her warm cheek. ‘Never. This is my perfect dream, come true, as I hardly hoped it ever could.’
One of two dreams. He slipped his wand into his sleeve and spun the Elder Wand in his fingers. And the other one must stay dead.
‘Don’t be away long.’ She snuggled into the covers. ‘I have plans for you.’
‘It’s your turn to change the baby, mon Rêve.’
A muffled laugh came from beneath the silver blanket. ‘That’s not what I meant. Although it will involve taking off clothes.’
‘I definitely won’t be away long, then.’ Harry transfigured his face, threading grey through his irises, sweeping his hair into dark curls, and shifting his face into Julien’s. ‘À bientôt, mon Trésor.’ He wrenched the world back past him and stepped into an old, red phone box, punching in the number.
‘Welcome to the Ministry of Magic,’ a dry female voice said. ‘Please state your name and business.’
Harry slipped his wand back into his sleeve. ‘Sophonissa. Just grabbing something from work for a friend.’
A white badge slid from the booth with a click as it jerked and slid down into the ground. He pinned it to the front of his robes.
The booth jolted a halt.
A bright, gold sun hovered at the apex of a white marble hall, blazing amidst floating white clouds and above the red flames of the row of fireplaces and the white statues of the fountain. Four red-jacketed aurors stood halfway down the hall before a shivering red ribbon of magic, wands in hands.
This place has changed. Harry strode down the steps.
‘Your wand.’ Alicia Spinnet stepped forward and thrust out a hand. ‘Rest assured we don’t document anything about your wand and will not tamper with it in any way while you are within the Ministry.’
‘It will go in here.’ Colin Creevey held out a small wooden box. ‘You will have the only key.’
‘Be careful with it,’ Harry said, slipping his wand from his sleeve. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. ‘It’s like a piece of me.’
Colin placed it in the box and snapped it shut, twisting the key and passing it to Harry. ‘Thank you, Sophonissa.’
‘Sounds like a girl’s name,’ Alicia muttered, clenching her jaw. ‘Some stupid old pureblood family tradition no doubt.’
‘It’s just a name,’ Harry replied. ‘It’s who you are that matters.’
Alicia’s face softened and she stepped back, waving her wand at the red ribbon of magic. It parted like water.
Harry stepped through.
Familiar marble faces stared from the fountain. He searched for hers, scanning past Nymphadora Tonks, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Sirius Black and Amelia Bones until he found her.
Hello, Katie. A soft pang twisted beneath his ribs. I’m glad they’ve not completely forgotten you.
‘Don’t touch it,’ Colin shouted. ‘They changed the wards since Pansy Parkinson tried to deface it. You don’t want to touch it. Auror Captain Longbottom will stick you in Azkaban for a day if you ping them and waste our time.’
Neville. Harry tore his eyes away from the bright smile on Katie’s pale, stone face and strode on, hardening his heart. Perhaps I should make a little detour. He stepped into lift and studied the buttons, pulling his cloak out from under his robes. But let’s go to the Department of Administrative Affairs first, just in case they watch the lift.
He pushed both buttons and waited.
‘Floor Six, Department of Administrative Affairs,’ the woman’s voice announced.
The lift dinged and the doors slid shut.
‘Floor Four. Department for War and Magical Law Enforcement.’
Harry swept the cloak over his head and slipped out, drifting past offices until he saw Neville’s name in gold leaf upon a door. He twisted the handle.
Locked. A handful of runes marked the lock. And warded. But you can’t keep out Death, Neville.
Sliding the Elder Wand from his sleeve, he severed the lock and pulled it open, striding in.
Hannah Abbot smiled and waved from the wooden photo frame atop his desk, surrounded by stacks of paper. Susan Bones stood beside her aunt in high-collared auror robes on the front page of yesterday’s Daily Prophet.
‘New Minister for War Susan Bones mourns tragic loss of aunt.’ Harry skimmed through the stacks of paperwork, sliding open drawers of files until a gleam of bronze beneath in the office’s back corner caught his eye.
You look interesting. He knelt down and scooped files off the top of the safe. Witness accounts of Voldemort’s death and our duel.
‘No body. No corpse. No body. I didn’t see him die.’ Harry flicked through the pages and sighed. ‘I’m sensing a pattern.’
He set them down and studied the small circular door, touching the tip of his wand to it and closing his eyes. Patches of magic floated in his mind’s eye.
Join the dots in the right order. Neville, this really isn’t a very good safe. Anyone capable of overpowering the intent of the creator can get in. He chuckled under his breath and forced his magic into the enchantment, tearing parts free until the patches of magic shivered and the door clicked open. But you’re probably going to realise that tomorrow.
A small, black notebook lay inside beside a single vial of silver mist.
That looks like a memory. His heart quickened and he grabbed the book, skimming through pages of Neville’s scribbling. Fleur Delacour. Gabrielle Delacour. He turned through pages. Henri Decolmar. A little ice prickled down his spine. He’s got dates and names, but no proof.
Harry flicked through the next few until the scrawl stopped. And the memory is just of Fleur taking my body back to France. He blinked. Amelia Bones’s memory?
He snapped the book shut and stacked it on the files, dropping the whole lot into the safe. ‘Proof of a connection with Fleur and France, even if Amelia Bones is dead. Enough someone might try and dig deeper…’ Harry spun his wand in his fingers. ‘Best if this all disappears, I think.’
Maybe he’ll take a hint and stop writing us letters. He dragged up the amber-masked figure and Sophonissa’s whisper, bathing the small pile of evidence in Fiendfyre. There. Harry squashed the magic beneath Katrina’s toothless smile. Now he’s got nothing.
He closed the safe door, sticking it shut with a simple charm, and hurried back to the lift, prodding the last button. The lift sank.
‘Floor Thirteen, Department of Mysteries,’ the woman’s voice stated. ‘Visitors be warned that attempting to enter or tamper with the entrance to the Unspeakables’ Department is punishable by up to five years in Azkaban if innocence cannot be firmly established.’
He strolled down the corridor to a plain, dark arch. They replaced the door.
Harry strode through into the corridor of shining, dark slabs, extinguishing the torches with a flick of his wand. ‘Now, which room was it?’
He poked his head into the first. Fire-scarred walls surrounded an old, blackened table. A bird sat within a glass bell jar, being born over and over.
Interesting. Harry touched his wand to the bell jar. How does it work?
The bird hatched from its egg, fledged, grew, and died. Magic wrenched at it, spinning back upon itself, twisting in a dizzying spiral, swirling like water down a plughole and bursting from above.
Harry blinked. That makes no sense. It goes forwards and somehow ends up backwards? It’s like those stupid maths posters of impossible stairs Hermione liked. He sighed. This was created with an abstract expression of intent not specific runes like Liliana tried, but I wonder… In his mind’s eye, he died within the jar and was spun back to be born again. Could this be our answer?
‘No…’ Harry stared at the sphere of glass, turning it over in his head as the bird hatched over and over. ‘We can’t live trapped in a bubble like that’
And it’s too high a price just to create a time-turner. Countless bright eyes shone up from amongst the tattered shadows of his dream. If you sacrifice too much there’ll be no dreams left.
He drifted down the corridor past the hall with the Veil, ignoring the Hall of Prophecies and stepping into the room of the Mirror of Erised. Harry conjured a dark cloth and cast it over the mirror, levitating it up above his head and disillusioning it.
‘And off we go.’
He strode back to the lift and ascended up to the hall, tucking his cloak back away and sliding the Elder Wand into his sleeve. The Mirror of Erised floated overhead, less than a shimmer beneath the resplendent sun and drifting clouds.
Alicia crossed her arms on the far side of the ribbon. ‘Administrative Affairs?’
‘The most exciting department,’ Harry replied, pointed at the crimson ribbon of magic. ‘You think that’s impressive red tape? You should see what we have.’
She snorted and opened the ribbon up. ‘I’ll stick with being an auror, thanks. I know that what I do is for the good of Britain. Your department just tries to make everyone else’s life difficult. How’s the National Floo Monitoring Scheme coming along? It’s been bogged down in your lot’s red tape for months now.’
‘We’ve hit some difficulties. Mostly technical and legal ones.’
‘Legal?’ Alicia took the wooden box of Colin Creevey and held out her hand. ‘Amelia Bones got everything we needed through the Wizengamot when she had her emergency powers.’
‘I’m not high enough up to know all that,’ he said, dropping the key into her palm. ‘I’m sure things will work out.’
‘They better,’ she muttered, opening the box. ‘You know how many people died to keep this country free and safe? More than just Amelia Bones.’
‘I know.’ Harry caught her hand before she touched his wand. ‘I wouldn’t.’
The aurors tensed.
‘Why not?’ Alicia demanded, snatching her hand back. ‘You know under the new laws I can keep this if I even think you’re suspicious?’
‘It’s closely bonded to me,’ he said. ‘It might burn you. It’s burnt people before.’
‘Oh.’ She flushed. ‘Right. Thanks.’
Harry plucked his wand out of the box with a grin. ‘Any time.’
‘Just apparate off.’ Alicia flapped a hand at him. ‘It’s nearly time for us to swap shifts and I want to go to bed.’
He strode down the hall, tucking his ebony wand back into his sleeve and bringing the mirror down beside him. ‘Bye.’ Harry took a firm grip on the Mirror of Erised and touched a finger to the acorn pendant. ‘Argent.’
He stepped onto white pebbles and into a cool breeze, a tight fist of anxiety clamped tight around his gut. One of two.
The dark cloth slipped from the face of the mirror to pool at his feet.
‘What have you got, mon Amour?’ Fleur stepped around the willow’s trunk, Katrina cradled in her arms. ‘It’s not a very pretty mirror.’
‘It’s quite a famous one, though,’ Harry murmured, vanishing the cloth and turning to face her. ‘I made a little detour and destroyed Neville’s collection of evidence and research, too. Just in case.’
‘You stole the Mirror of Erised out of the Department of Mysteries.’ Fleur’s eyes narrowed, darkening to pitch black. ‘I hope you have a really good reason to take such a stupid risk, mon Cœur.’
Katrina squirmed and screwed her face up. A loud wail cut through the early morning, scattering the crows and ravens from the trees above the meadows.
‘It’s okay, Katrina,’ Fleur whispered, rocking her back and forth. ‘Maman is just cross with your idiot of a papa, don’t worry. You will never have anything to worry about.’
‘She might be hungry.’
‘I just fed her while waiting for you.’ Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘She cannot be hungry again already.’
Katrina’s cries faded and she clutched at Fleur’s silver hair with her small fists, stuffing the tip of one lock into her mouth.
‘That is not food, baby bird,’ Fleur murmured, tugging her hair out of Katrina’s little fingers and pulling the opal pendant from her cleavage. ‘Here, play with this.’
Katrina stuck the opal in her mouth and chomped on it with a small frown, waggling her tiny tongue against the gleaming gemstone.
Harry laughed. ‘Our daughter has no respect for ancient magical artefacts.’
‘She inherited it from her papa,’ Fleur said, stroking Katrina’s little wisps of silver hair off her face. ‘He keeps stealing them for no good reason.’
‘There was a good reason.’ He forced his feet to turned toward the smooth silver surface, wrestling with the taut tangle of fluttering frigid fear within. ‘I wanted to see something important.’
Fleur stepped alongside him, bouncing Katrina in her arms. ‘I only see us.’
Harry dragged his eyes up into the mirror.
Their reflections smiled back from the glass. Gabby leant on Fleur’s shoulder, clutching her elbow and beaming, and Katrina chewed on the opal pendant, tangling her tiny fingers in the slim, gold chain. The world shrank away from them; its days spun past into the distance, a meaningless tumble of sand grains through the hourglass.
One of two. The knot of anxiety burst and sweet relief flooded through his chest, escaping in a soft sigh. One final victory.
‘And Gabby,’ he said, covering the mirror.
‘And Gabby,’ Fleur murmured. ‘Of course. She is part of us.’