Everywhere Babies

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Blank, green eyes stared up from the water, bobbing beneath the serpent tongue bridge like a cork. Pale, bloated limbs bumped against the edge of the pool.

‘I don’t think it’s worked.’ Harry clenched his jaw, smothering a stab of panic and closing his eyes. The gentle warmth of his precious wand caressed his arm; he let it whisper through him, a soft, hot possessive murmur. ‘I can’t feel anything but my wand.’

Gabby crouched down and stared at the body. ‘It’s dead. It’s been dead for about a day.’ She vanished the smear of blood upon the edge of the bridge and levitated the body out of the water. 

Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve, shifting his weight onto the balls of his feet.

‘It’s dead, mon cher frere,’ Gabby murmured. ‘Whatever it is you fear, it’s not going to happen.’ She ran the tip of her wand over the still body and vanished it with a small frown. 

Harry let out a long sigh. ‘I watched the amber-masked figure rise from the water here… When I saw the body over the pool, I thought, maybe, the amber-masked figure might somehow come from my horcrux. Like what Tom’s diary attempted.’

‘Not this time.’ Gabby bounced to her feet, the wrinkles on her forehead deepening. ‘But now I’m not sure what to do.’

A little niggle of unease wriggled through Harry’s chest. ‘What’s next?’

‘I don’t know.’ 

The anxiety gnawed deeper.

‘We need—’

‘I know.’ Gabby rested a hand on his arm. ‘If alchemy can’t create a living body bound to our soul, then we’ll have to try something else.’

The bird in the bell aged, died, and was born again before the eye of Harry’s mind. ‘Maybe try something less… defined. Like how I struggled with reversing time while I thought about it like it’s a river.’

She pursed her lips. ‘Go back to see Fleur and Katie, Harry. I’ll tidy up here and take another look at a couple of books. You make the most of the time you’re with us.’ Gabby’s finger’s tightened on his arm. ‘Don’t waste it fretting. We’ve time. And this isn’t something simple. We’ll get there.’

‘I’ll do my best,’ he whispered. ‘Argent.’

The Chamber of Secrets lurched sideways and he stumbled out beneath the fluttering green fronds of the willow tree. The soft rush of the river and gentle rustle of the wild meadows settled the unease. 

There’s still time. Harry closed his eyes and breathed it out. We’re getting there. Bit by bit.

He apparated into the kitchen.

Katie’s wails echoed down the stairs.

‘Oh dear,’ Harry murmured, bounding up the stairs. ‘Someone’s not happy.’

The crying swelled louder as he eased open the door to their bedroom. 

Katie lay on her back on the silver blanket on the floor, flailing her little fists and squalling at the ceiling. Henri the Raven hopped toward her from the wall, flapping his wings. She threw her head back and screamed louder. The toy flew across the room, bouncing off the doorframe beside Harry and out into the corridor. 

‘What’s wrong, baby bird?’ He stepped in and crouched down, teasing a finger into her tiny fist. ‘Why so cross?’

Katie’s hand clamped around his finger and she squirmed toward him on goose-pimpled arms. Pitch black irises stared through her tear-soaked eyelashes as she bawled, her lower lip trembling.

‘Uh oh.’ Harry gathered her into his arms. ‘Now you really look like your maman.’ He chuckled and rested her on his shoulder, swaying back and forth. ‘And you sound just like her after she’s realised someone’s eaten all the hot chocolate powder before she can.’

Katie’s wailing faded to a quiet sniffle and her eyes lightened back to green, the goose bumps vanishing. A little frown creased her face as she stared around. Henri the Raven appeared in her small fist with a pop.

‘Hmmm.’ He glanced down at the soft toy dangling from her hand. ‘I think we might need to start warding everything if you’re going to be constantly magicking about, baby bird.’

A warm arm slid around his waist and lips brushed his cheek. Harry breathed in soft, sweet marzipan and the damp scent of her honeysuckle shampoo. 

‘Was she crying?’ Fleur murmured in his ear.

‘She was a little bit unhappy.’ He flicked a cool, damp lock of her hair off his neck and kissed her. ‘She’s all calm again now.’

‘Silly little chick,’ Fleur smoothed Katie’s short, silver curls back off her face. ‘I was only gone for five minutes to shower.’

Harry patted Katie on the back. ‘We probably need to ward things. Poor Henri the Raven went flying out of the room and then reappeared.’

‘We’re already prepared,’ Fleur said. ‘Maman got the furniture enchanted when Gabby and I started setting fire to things. I tweaked the wards, so Katrina can’t apparate herself out or anything like that, and we added all the normal baby wards after you said she summoned that glass ball.’

‘Sure?’ He cradled Katie against his heart. ‘She’s quite loud, usually in the middle of the night, but I’d miss her if she vanished.’

Fleur kissed him on the cheek. ‘Quite sure. Accidental magic’s not very dangerous at five months old, it’s just little whims. She’s not strong enough to do anything much, even if she seems to be a little ahead of the curve.’

‘If she can levitate or summon a toy, she can levitate or summon a knife, mon Reve.’ A little stab of concern bit through him. ‘And she does like shiny things.’

‘We have warded everything,’ she murmured. ‘Maman has apparently been doing it since before Katrina was born and I’ve checked it all myself. She won’t be able to get hold of anything to hurt herself.’

Katie’s head slumped onto his shoulder and warm, steady breaths huffed against his skin. Harry caught Henri the Raven as it slipped from her fingers and set him down on the edge of the blanket.

‘All worn out from her little tantrum,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Pop her back down on her blanket, mon Amour. We’ll hear if she wakes up and nobody’s there.’

‘She still doesn’t like being left alone?’ He lowered Katie onto the blanket, smoothing the wrinkles from her clothes and brushing her hair off her face.

‘Non.’ Fleur smiled. ‘She gets very unhappy if she wakes up and nobody’s there. Even Henri the Raven can only forestall her temper for a few minutes.’

‘What happened to fluffy Isobel, Celine, and Colette?’ Harry asked.

‘The cerberus is in Gabby’s room, I think. Katrina likes it, but she prefers Henri.’

‘Of course.’ He drew Fleur into his arms. ‘Birds are much better, especially bird-girls.’ Harry chuckled. ‘Katie’s eyes go all dark like yours now, mon Ange.’

‘I know,’ she murmured. ‘It only happens when she gets really worked up. Was she that upset about me being away for a few minutes?’

‘It’s okay,’ Harry whispered, glancing down at where Katie slept. ‘She seems quite happy now.’ He crept out.

‘She’s always happy while she’s napping.’ Fleur tiptoed after him, easing the door shut. ‘Soon she’s going to be crawling about, too.’

‘Like a tiny feathery demon.’

She huffed. ‘Our little chick is not a demon, mon Coeur. She’s perfect. The absolute best of both of us.’

‘She’s not feathery, either,’ Harry said. ‘Not yet, at least.’

‘Soon, though.’ Fleur smiled. ‘Katrina gets the little feather bumps for her baby feathers when she gets cross now. Maman says they’re annoying and itchy, so Katrina’s going to probably get even more cross when she gets going now.’

‘When can I bribe her with cake?’ he asked. 

‘Not for another month.’ She took his hand and led him down the stairs into the kitchen. ‘I bought her a spoon for when we start her on solids.’ Fleur rummaged through the drawer and produced a soft, blue rubber spoon. ‘It should be easy on her gums.’

‘When do we know she’s ready for the exciting blue spoon?’ Harry poked it. ‘Hmm, it’s squidgy.’

‘Emilie said when she can sit up by herself, swallow things independently, and can coordinate her hands and mouth.’ She put the spoon back away. ‘She left me a big book, as well, just in case.’

Harry laughed. ‘Well she can definitely do the last one of those. Katie has no trouble putting things in her mouth, it’s usually your hair.’

Fleur flashed him a smile. ‘Katie’s a little ahead of the curve when it comes to accidental magic and chewing on things. Gabby and I were, too, according to Maman.’

‘Ah, a bird-girl thing.’ He grinned. ‘Of course being a bird-girl means she’s more trouble than normal.’

‘You are not blameless, mon Coeur.’ Fleur turned her nose up at him. ‘She did not get the strong accidental magic just from me.’

‘I don’t know if I did much when I was little.’ A little of his good humour faded. ‘I never dared or cared to ask.’

Her eyes darkened. ‘You would have done. You’re a powerful wizard, mon Amour.’ A little heat shivered from her hands. ‘I am sure your muggle relatives were awful about it.’

‘Maybe…’ Harry shrugged. ‘I remember a few things, but mostly, I just let it all drift away. I’m not sure I really wanted anything enough to do accidental magic.’

‘Forget about them,’ Fleur murmured. ‘They are dead. They are gone. We are here. And we have everything we dreamt of.’

‘Nearly,’ he whispered. ‘Spare me didn’t work out.’

She hummed and cupped his cheek. ‘Gabby will get there. Don’t fret, mon Coeur. There’s plenty of time. You’ve done your part?’

‘Most of it,’ Harry said. ‘I’ve got runes for the anchor, though we still need to choose the object.’ Anxiety coiled inside him, clamping tight about his heart. ‘And then there’s the price…’ he whispered. ‘I don’t know what we will have to sacrifice, but I do know I would trade almost anything for it without hesitation.’

A glimmer of worry flickered through Fleur’s eyes. ‘You’ll think of something.’ She pulled him into a soft kiss. ‘The Hallows, your horcrux, whatever else we need.’

‘Maybe,’ he murmured. ‘I wonder how many dreams it would cost.’ A pang of regret knifed through his ribs. ‘Maybe I should’ve kept Kart Hadasht, we could’ve used that.’

Fleur leant her head on his shoulder. ‘You’ve got time.’

‘But…’ A little ray of hope burst through the clouds of Kart Hadasht’s storm of screams. ‘I let it go for our dream, I gave it all up for us; it wasn’t worth it.’

‘Sacrificed,’ she whispered. ‘Does it count?’

‘Yes.’ A faint smile crossed his face. ‘It all counts, in every ritual, in every spell, for as long as you’re still pursuing what you sacrificed it all for.’

‘Maybe that will be enough,’ Fleur said. ‘Now, I’ve been doing my bit.’

‘What was your bit again?’ Harry teased. ‘Baby-sitting?’

A delicate pout curved her rose-pink lips. ‘Death, mon Coeur.’

‘Ah yes, romance.’ He chuckled and pressed a light kiss to her pout. ‘Sneaky bird-wife.’

Fleur smiled into his kiss. ‘As always.’ She leant back. ‘But recently, I’ve been trying to help Gabby by researching natural examples of alchemy and transmutation. I think, now we’re creating it with emotive magic rather than runes, we don’t really need much about death, it’s already in the anchor of purpose.’

‘Probably true.’ Harry frowned. ‘Did you find anything?’

‘A lot of interesting magical plants and animals,’ she said. ‘The seaghost jellyfish can reform its entire body using just magic and water so long as it’s not scattered by ocean currents.’

‘Really? How?’

‘There was a memory of a witch whisking it up with razorwire whisk and then leaving it in the jug for three hours until it complete reformed.’

‘I guess we can’t do that.’

‘We’re a lot more complicated than jellyfish, mon Amour. And we’d likely get scattered, so it wouldn’t even work.’

‘Find anything else?’ Harry asked.

‘The osirian worm.’ Fleur pulled her wand out and drew a little wiggle of white light in the air. ‘If you chop it in half, it grows into two worms—’ she divided the line ‘—but when it cocoons to become a butterfly, all the worms from the same original worm go into the same cocoon together, even if you mix them up.’

‘Weird. How do they know?’

‘Some magic,’ she said. ‘They still do it even if you use magic to stop them being able to use their normal senses.’

‘I don’t think that’s going to work for us, either.’

‘Not unless you wish to turn into a butterfly, mon Coeur.’

‘Or a lot of worms.’

‘I like you as you are,’ Fleur replied. ‘I didn’t find much useful. Most of the ones we’ve studied aren’t particularly powerful magical creatures, since it’s quite hard to study something like a sphinx. The only reason we’ve been able to study dragons is because they sleep for so long when they get older.’

‘Has anyone ever studied a sphinx?’ he asked. ‘The one I met a few years ago ripped through my head with legilimency like Gabby going through the wards on our bedroom.’

‘What a strange but accurate metaphor,’ she murmured. ‘Not much is known about sphinxes beyond their appearance and a few abilities, they’re very reclusive and you have to be quite stupid to irritate one.’

‘It does seem like a bad idea. I’m a lot better at the Mind Arts now, but I get the feeling from how easily and quickly it tore through my thoughts that it might not make a great deal of difference.’

‘Don’t pick a fight with one, then.’ Fleur waved a hand at the floor. ‘I copied all the good books from Les Inconnus and stacked them in the empty bit of the wine cellar downstairs.’

‘They really need to improve the protective enchantments on their library,’ Harry said. ‘Or does it not matter?’

A little smirk crept onto Fleur’s lips. ‘Taking those books or copying them is undeniably against the best interests of France in all but the most dire circumstances—’ she lifted Sarcelle’s ring from her pocket and bounced it on her palm ‘—anyone wearing one of these shouldn’t be able to do it and nobody can get in without one.’

He laughed. ‘Unless they have a brilliant devious pair of bird-witches to tamper with it.’

‘A bird-witch,’ Fleur said. ‘You have a bird-witch, your bird-wife, and another bird-witch who is not yours that also helped.’

‘Sounds like two bird-witches to me,’ Harry murmured, tracing little kisses down her neck. ‘You know what I can’t stop thinking about… courgettes.’

Fleur huffed and her eyes darkened a few hues of blue. ‘You are teasing me, mon Amour.’

‘Guilty as charged.’ He pulled her into his arms and held her close. ‘It’s because you’re very cute when you pout.’

She stuck her lower lip out and tilted her chin toward him. ‘You should make it up to me.’

‘And just how should I go about doing that?’ Harry pressed a light kiss to the tip of her nose. ‘Cake buying?’

‘Non.’ A little heat rose in Fleur’s blue eyes. ‘You’ve got yourself into a sticky situation, mon Amour. Cake will not be enough.’

He grinned. ‘What would be eenough, zen, Fleur? A keess, per’aps? Would zat sateesfy my debt to you?’

‘Anything to never hear that terrible accent again.’ She pulled his mouth to hers, pulling back only to gasp for breath. A wicked little gleam shone in her eye and the corner of her mouth curved up. ‘We can go raid Gabby’s fantasy collection if you want? I’m sure I saw a particularly good one where Amelie veela-mate bonds to her childhood hero and subsequently becomes his ideal girl by virtue of some very dubious magic.’

Harry snorted. ‘I might not be able to keep a straight face through that one.’ He shot her a grin. ‘Does it involve courgettes?’

Fleur shot him a sultry look. ‘Be careful, mon Coeur. Or it’s going to be less of a sticky situation and more reveling with a veela.’

‘Sounds okay to me.’

‘That’s what all the boys think until they realise where the courgette’s really going.’

Harry laughed. ‘Well, it wouldn’t be entirely unfair, all things considered.’ He wrinkled his nose. ‘I don’t think it’s for me, though.’

Her sultry look melted into a soft, warm smile. ‘Certainly not today, mon Amour.’ Fleur tucked her head under his chin and wrapped her arms tight around his waist. ‘I want you to hold me—’ her breath hitched as his hands slipped to her waist, his thumbs tracing little circles over her stomach ‘— hold me close and tight, and then I want you to kiss me and go slow…

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