Harry charmed small purple runes onto a sheet of parchment with the tip of his wand, cradling Katrina’s head in the palm of his other hand as she peered over his shoulder.
‘What is so interesting over there?’ He poked his runes into a crescent and glanced behind him.
Gabby froze, pulling weird faces from the doorway.
Harry snorted. ‘Ah, now I see.’ He kissed the top of Katrina’s head. ‘Your Auntie Gabby is very weird.’
‘No more weird than you,’ Gabby chirped, bouncing across the kitchen and crouching down. ‘Hello, little chick,’ she cooed. ‘Look at that beautiful little smile. She’s so cute. I kind of want one of my own now.’
‘Don’t even think about it,’ Harry said. ‘I’ve only just started getting to sleep at night again, the last thing we need is another little banshee hatchling.’
A gleam of mischief hovered in Gabby’s eyes. ‘Fleur would be very cross, too.’
‘Yeah, I don’t think it would count as one of the it’s-okay-to-be-close-to-Gabrielle situations.’ He twisted his piece of paper around. ‘Want to take a look at this? I’m trying to start putting runes together while I’m not off being Violette.’
‘What are the it’s-okay-to-be-close-to-Gabrielle situations?’ She booped Katrina on the nose, showering her with kisses. ‘Who’s a really cute little baby veela bird?’
Katrina burped and gentle warmth soaked into Harry’s shoulder.
‘Urgh.’ Gabby moaned, holding out her white-spattered arm. ‘Baby sick.’
‘You got off lightly, she got Fleur right down the front of her dress last weekend.’ Harry picked his wand up and vanished the sick off his shoulder and Gabby’s hand. ‘Didn’t you, Katie?’
‘Hmmm.’ Gabby slid into the chair next to him, tugging the piece of parchment in front of her.
He put his wand back down and lifted Katrina off his shoulder, resting her in his lap. ‘Hmmm? Spotted something you think won’t work?’ Harry tapped his finger at the top of the crescent. ‘This is just one part, there’s going to be others, in other patterns, and then I’m going to put them together.’
‘The hmmm wasn’t for this.’ Gabby slid the runes back across. ‘It was for Katie.’
Katrina peered over the table, grabbing at its edge with her little hands. Her tiny fingernails gleamed in the light from the window.
‘You don’t like it?’ Harry murmured, a little flutter of anxiety trembling in the pit of his stomach.
‘I think it’s fine,’ Gabby said. ‘But I’m not the jealous, possessive girl you married and had a baby with. She might not take kindly to you nicknaming your daughter after the only other girl you’ve loved.’
‘Hmmm.’ Harry slid his wand out of reach of Katrina’s flailing arms. ‘That’s true. I didn’t think about that.’
She shrugged. ‘But, then again, she might also like it, because it means that all the love you have for Katie is going to be associated with her daughter.’
‘I should have married a less complicated veela.’ He sighed. ‘Ah well, I guess I’ll find out whether it’s bird-who-got-the-cake-smirk or angry-veela-eyes-and-fire when she hears it.’
Gabby grinned. ‘It’s not too late for you to marry a less complicated veela.’
‘As far as I know polygamy is still not legal and I don’t think Fleur would take divorce well,’ Harry said, glancing over his shoulder. ‘You know, usually Fleur appears behind me at times like this.’
‘She’s in the shower. You’re safe for now.’ Gabby teased a finger into Katrina’s fist and smiled as she waved it around. ‘We’re going to scour through Les Inconnus for things on creating bodies when she’s ready in a moment.’
‘Leaving me to look after the baby bird.’ Harry bounced Katrina on his lap. ‘What do you think, Katrina? A morning of runes? Does that sound exciting?’
She grabbed hold of the parchment covered in his runes and dragged it toward her.
‘Clearly it does.’
Katrina stuffed it into her mouth, wrinkling her forehead.
Gabby giggled. ‘Your runes haven’t passed the Katrina taste test, back to the drawing board.’
Harry pried the page out of her fists and smoothed it back down on the table, squinting at the damp, crumpled patch in the middle. ‘Did she manage to eat any?’
Gabby shook her head. ‘She just stuffed it in her mouth, no chomping.’
‘Good.’ He moved the runes out of reach. ‘I don’t think her first solid food is meant to be parchment.’
‘Knowing Fleur, it will probably be cake.’
‘Knowing Fleur, it will probably be your cake.’
Gabby pouted. ‘She’s holding all the times I teased her while she was chubby against me.’
‘I don’t know what you were expecting,’ he replied. ‘But even I could have told you that your sister was going to do that.’
She laughed and leant down to wrap her hands around Katrina’s. ‘It was worth it. Wasn’t it, baby bird?’ Gabby cocked her head. ‘Hold still, Katrina.’
A jolt of ice bit at Harry’s heart. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing’s wrong.’ Gabby rested a warm hand on his shoulder, peering into Katrina’s eyes. ‘Don’t fret.’
‘What is it then?’
‘There’s green in her eyes,’ Gabby murmured. ‘Just a tiny little bit around her pupil.’
‘Your maman said her eyes are meant to change colour after a month or so,’ Harry said, scooping Katrina off his lap and setting her on the edge of the table. ‘Even if they stay blue, they’re meant to change a bit.’
Amidst the bright summer-blue of Katrina’s irises sat a tiny patch of emerald.
A small smile crept onto his lips. ‘So there is.’
‘It’s like a little bit of you in a whole lot of Fleur,’ Gabby said.
A warm gentle glow rose at Harry’s heart. ‘Sounds about right,’ he whispered. ‘You’re going to be just perfect, aren’t you, Katie?’
Katrina clutched for him with a soft wail, jabbing her little fingers into his cheek.
‘Ow.’ Harry laughed and swept her back into his lap. ‘Come here, Mini-Fleur.’
‘Awww.’ Gabby wrapped her arms around herself and beamed. ‘That’s a very nice feeling, mon cher frère.’
‘Mini-Fleur?’ Fleur’s voice drifted from the hall. ‘Are you giving our daughter silly nicknames I’m not going to like, mon Amour?’
‘I absolutely am,’ he said, shuffling his chair around. ‘Look, Mini-Fleur, there’s Not-So-Mini-Fleur. You’re going to look just like her when you’re older, only by then all your maman’s teeth will have fallen out because of her sugar addiction.’
Fleur rolled her eyes, lifting Katrina from his lap and sitting across his thighs. ‘Has Gabby told you we’re going hunting at Les Inconnus?’
‘I’ve been told I’m on veela hatchling duty, yes.’ Harry winced as Katrina squirmed in Fleur’s arms, digging her heels into his stomach. ‘She’s already expressed a keen interest in runes—’ he held up his damp page ‘—mostly in eating them.’
A soft laugh burst from Fleur’s lips. ‘I think she just likes to see what interesting things taste like. Anything that’s colourful or an exciting shape gets stuck in her mouth.’
‘At least there’s no beak yet,’ he replied.
‘Not for a good few years.’ She kissed him on the cheek in a whiff of marzipan and honeysuckle. ‘Are you ready, Gabby?’
‘I’m ready.’ Gabby stood up. ‘Have you seen Katrina’s eyes?’
Fleur scooped a stray lock of silver from her face and peered into their daughter’s face. ‘Her eyes?’
‘There’s a little tiny bit of green in them,’ Harry murmured. ‘Around the pupil.’
‘A little green-eyed girl with silver hair,’ she whispered, cupping his cheek. ‘Are you happy, mon Amour?’
Harry swallowed a hot lump and gave her a shaky smile as his heart flip-flopped around in his chest. ‘Very.’
Perfect dreams do come true. He pulled Fleur close and pressed a kiss to the tip of her nose. This one, at least.
Gabby hummed, leaning into Fleur’s shoulder with a soft smile.
She stood and set Katrina down in his lap. ‘We will not be long. I fed her when I woke up, so she shouldn’t be hungry for an hour or so.’ Fleur straightened Katrina’s blue top and smoothed her short, silver hair down. ‘Have fun with your papa, baby bird. We’ll be back soon.’
Katrina squirmed and wailed, kicking her feet.
‘Uh oh,’ Harry said, bouncing her on his knee. ‘What’s wrong, Katie?’
Katrina’s cries grew louder, wriggling in Harry’s lap and grabbing at his clothes.
‘Okay, okay, how about something pretty to grab.’ He snatched his wand from the desk and conjured a handful of bright sparks of magic, sending them swirling around Katrina’s head, flickering through the colours of the rainbow.
Her wailing faded.
‘Is that better?’ Harry murmured. ‘Have you got something interesting to play with now?’
Katrina grabbed for the nearest light and lurched forward.
He caught her by the back of her top and pulled her back into his lap. ‘Oh no you don’t, baby bird. No flying for you until you’ve fledged.’ Harry coaxed the spinning sparks a little closer.
‘Katie,’ Fleur said, trying the word as if tasting it.
Gabby shot him a pointed look from past Fleur’s shoulder.
‘You can say I told you so,’ Harry said. ‘Go on.’
Fleur glanced at Gabby and sighed. ‘I suppose I should’ve seen it coming once we decided to choose Katrina,’ she murmured. ‘I do not dislike it, mon Cœur, but it will take some getting used to.’
‘Sorry, Fleur,’ he muttered. ‘I didn’t really think about it. It just fits.’
She offered him a small smile. ‘It is okay.’ Her little smile curved into a faint smirk. ‘Actually, I think I quite like it.’
Gabby snickered. ‘Possessive Fleur realises it’s a victory.’
‘Hush, harpy.’ Fleur slid the silver ring onto her finger. ‘Let’s go see what we can turn up on transmutation and body creation.’
They wavered out of sight.
Katrina’s little fists stilled amidst the bright lights.
‘Don’t worry,’ Harry whispered into her short, silver hair, sweeping the lights into a glowing orb with his wand. ‘Maman and Auntie Harpy will be back soon.’ He wove the orb into a black, horntail. ‘See that, Katie, that’s a dragon. I nearly got eaten by one of those.’
Katrina stared at it with wide eyes.
He reshaped it into a smaller, cuter green dragon. ‘This is the one your maman had to deal with. It was very tame and didn’t even try to eat her.’
She stretched out with one hand.
‘You can grab it.’ Harry swept it closer with the tip of his wand. ‘It’s only light though.’
Katrina’s small fingers slipped through the green dragon and she scrunched her face into a tiny scowl.
‘Maybe when you’re older we’ll get you a pet dragon,’ he said. ‘Hagrid probably still has a few dragon eggs knocking around somewhere.’
‘It might be wiser to start with something smaller, like a goldfish or a plant,’ Laurent said, wandering into the kitchen and setting a mug down in the sink. ‘Although, having said that, Fleur was not very good with goldfish or plants.’
‘Gabrielle kept them alive,’ Apolline murmured. ‘Fleur seemed to feel that they should be able to keep themselves alive.’
‘That sounds like Fleur.’
‘How is little Katrina?’ Apolline hovered an arm’s length away, biting at her lip. ‘Would she like to come and wander the gardens with her grandmere?’
‘I’m sure she wouldn’t mind at all,’ Harry said. ‘She’s eaten all my runes, so her work here is mostly done.’
Laurent chuckled. ‘Just wait until the accidental magic starts.’
‘We have a few months before that is meant to typically start,’ Apolline said, lingering at Harry’s shoulder. ‘Although with veela it can come a bit earlier.’
Katrina stuck her arms out.
‘Okay, off you go then,’ Harry murmured, lifting Katrina up into Apolline’s embrace. ‘Have fun, little chick.’
Apolline rested Katrina on her shoulder, swaying from side to side as she drifted around the kitchen table. ‘Let’s go see the birds, shall we, Katrina? All the big crows and ravens are hopping around near the fields, would you like to see them again?’
Laurent groaned. ‘Those birds steal all the fruit.’
‘But they’re very pretty,’ Apolline said. ‘And we all like birds, don’t we, mon Amour?’
‘Yes, ma Chérie. We love birds. We love them so much we would never consider warding the raspberry patch.’
‘Bon.’ She wandered down the hall, chattering to Katrina in soft tones.
Harry smothered a chuckle. ‘Have you warded the raspberry patch?’
Laurent grinned and raised a finger to his lips. ‘Gabby did it, but only if she was also allowed to ward the cherry trees.’
‘My lips are sealed.’
‘Apolline gets very upset if the birds aren’t allowed to gobble all the nice fruit,’ he said. ‘I think she’s biased because she has feathers and is afraid the wards might stop her from eating them.’
‘Whereas Gabby just doesn’t share cherries.’
Laurent settled into the chair opposite Harry, glancing at the runes. ‘That looks complicated.’
‘It is,’ he said. ‘It didn’t help that Katrina tried to eat it, either.’
He laughed. ‘Babies are quite focused on what they want, so you may find it hard to juggle both runes and Katrina. Children are quite wrapped up in their own little worlds.’
‘Could be worse.’
‘They usually grow out of it.’ His humour faded. ‘Usually. Current times are testing my optimism about the maturity of some people.’
‘Britain at the ICW again?’ Harry asked.
Laurent shook his head. ‘Because of the tense climate, some of the old laws created after Grindelwald began stirring up trouble have been brought back in France. Wand confiscation and surveillance mostly.’
‘Britain seems to be doing the same thing.’
‘No doubt.’ He sighed. ‘There have been some senseless attempts by parts of our government to use the new laws for their own means. Confiscating the wands of various minorities, for example, and spying on their rivals.’
‘Not exactly the most pressing concern for the country right now,’ Harry said.
‘Non.’ Laurent rested his elbows on the table and stared out the window. ‘They’re drawing up a list of those considered too much of a risk to remain in the country even without wands. I daresay a few hundred will be kicked out of the country come the end of the month.’
‘As long as I’m not on the list.’
A faint smile passed across his face. ‘Your name is not on the list. None of us are. I am well trusted as deputy minister, as is Apolline by extension, and the three of you would have been quietly crossed off for working where you do.’
‘I guess Katrina’s the one to watch, then.’
Laurent laughed. ‘Hopefully her accidental magic is not too bad, but it might be an idea to come up with some clever wards.’
‘That’s for Fleur and Gabby, not me.’ He patted his crinkled page of runes. ‘I can do this abstract stuff, but enchanting things like they do is beyond me. I still need to learn to create anti-apparition wards that I can apparate through.’
‘You have to make them permeable.’
Harry quirked an eyebrow. ‘Did Fleur tell you that? She told me the same thing.’
‘She did.’ A sheepish expression replaced Laurent’s smile. ‘I still can’t do it.’
Gabby appeared in front of the sink. ‘Have you lost the baby?’
‘She’s being introduced to those dark-feathered thieves down near the meadows,’ Laurent said. ‘Your maman is corrupting her.’ He heaved himself out of the chair and sighed. ‘But I had better head to Paris. I need to provide assurances for all the members of my department with certain security clearance by the end of today and there are a few who’ve not yet signed things.’
Gabby giggled. ‘Well, have fun.’
He shot her a long look. ‘It will be very tedious, as you well know.’ Laurent vanished with a loud crack.
‘Did you find anything?’ Harry asked.
‘A whole bunch of interesting books on body restoration, mostly very questionable potions to restore limbs lost to nasty magic.’ A small frown creased her forehead. ‘It did give me a thought about growing a new body from our blood, but I’ve got a few books to read on transmutative magic in salamanders and magically cloning plants first.’
‘Plants that what?’
‘There’s a kind of magical grass from China that grows really long roots under the ground. It grows in connected patches and when it rains in one place, it moves all the water between them.’
‘That sounds like a normal plant.’
‘That’s because it’s not the magic bit.’
Gabby pouted. ‘Stop interrupting. If a patch dies, even if it’s burnt, it regrows identically, but in a different spot.’
‘It seemed worth a look,’ she said. ‘The connected roots made me think of when we were talking about souls, and if we could grow an identical body and just hop between them if one is destroyed.’
‘Better than possessing another living thing.’ Harry nodded. ‘And the quicker we do this, the better. Things are not calming down and the longer we stay a part of Les Inconnus…’
The Peverell sigil burnt before his mind’s eye, hovering amidst the red motes of Kart Hadasht’s magic and the golden brightness of the amber-masked figure. Unease knotted his stomach, gnawing at it like a rat at a fraying rope.
Somewhere in this chaos the amber-masked figure will be born. And if we haven’t won a final victory, they’ll take everything away.