The small cluster of rocks rose from the white-crested waves. Red-robed figures drifted across it behind the faint shimmer of their wards.
‘It will not… be easy,’ Liliana rasped. ‘Even for… someone as… strong as… him.’
‘Can you take the wards down?’ Harry asked, poking the toe of his boot into the thin wash of the tide.
‘If they don’t… reinforce… them, I can.’
‘Once the wards are gone, I’ll wipe the whole island away.’ He clenched his fist around the Elder Wand and sucked in a deep breath. The desperate heat of the need, clawed at his heart. ‘Then I’m going home.’
Liliana glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. ‘They might… come back.’
‘So?’ Harry pointed his wand at the wards. ‘If we get trapped in here, we’re no use to anyone.’
‘That is… true,’ she whispered. ‘I will go… back then… and see if… we should… return… You stay just… in case… I will not… be long.’
‘Don’t be. I don’t want to be here for a single second longer than I need to be.’
I miss you. Harry closed his fist around the acorn and his wedding band, squeezing until the tip of the acorn stabbed through his robes into his palm. I miss you both so much.
‘Liliana,’ he murmured, forcing the words through the hot yearning swirling in his heart. ‘I would like to go home. Get rid of the wards.’
‘Of course.’ She thrust her wand out. ‘Fianto… duri!’
The rush of white magic smashed into the shimmering bubble of wards and burst like fireworks. The wards guttered out.
Liliana slipped to one knee. ‘I am… going to… need a… moment.’
‘Take as long as you need.’ Harry thrust his magic into the water, pouring his will into the waves. ‘They have nowhere to run once that rock’s gone.’
‘There are… still wards… over the… island,’ she rasped.
They won’t matter.
He swept his wand up. The sea rose, shrinking back from the white sand and hovering in the air. Harry flicked his wand in a circle and the water curled around the island like a snake.
Brief flashes of will stabbed through the water, ripping little gushes away.
‘Forget the water!’ Ginny scrambled up to the peak of the island. ‘Go for Violette!’
Red-robed aurors appeared beside her with loud cracks and spells streaked toward him. Harry twisted his wrist; the coils of water tightened, bits of stone crumbled away, sinking down into the sea. Curses ploughed into the sand and streaked past him.
‘Protego,’ Liliana whispered, throwing up a faint shield of white magic.
A purple spell punched through, ripping a burning line of fire across Harry’s ribs.
He closed his eyes and imagined the amber-masked figure caught in the coils of his spell, clenching his jaw and clawing up every drop of magic.
The island shattered in his grasp.
Merde. Harry let his magic go with a ragged gasp. That wasn’t easy.
The water crashed back into the sea, sending cloudy waves rushing up the beach. They broke past his legs in a cold wash as he watched Ginny’s aurors drag themselves onto conjured rafts.
Spells flashed, bursting in sprays of sparks against Liliana’s shield. She let out a low hiss through clenched teeth and winced as a volley of spells smashed into it.
Harry hurled hexes back, drawing on the dregs of his magic and forcing his arm faster and faster until his muscles burnt. The storm of spells hammered into Ginny’s silver shield. Little washes of colour rippled across it as the raft bobbed closer and closer to the beach.
Are they going to try and land here?
Harry swatted a pair of blue spells away into the sand and compressed his magic into a single silver spark at the tip of his wand. ‘Close your eyes, Liliana.’
She clamped them shut as he whipped the spark into Ginny’s shield. A flash of silver seared his eyes through his eyelids and cries rang out from the raft. He clawed a little more magic up from aching limbs and wrenched the world back past him, stepping onto the raft and touching his wand to the wood.
It crumbled to dust as he apparated back behind the shield, plunging the British aurors into the sea. They flailed in the swirling sea, struggling through the waves into small groups and vanishing with loud cracks.
Liliana lowered her shield. ‘They did not… try to… breach the… wards.’
‘Where do you think they’ve gone?’ Harry asked, staring out over the waves.
‘Back to… Puerto… Rico,’ she said. ‘They went… in groups… so they… probably… portkeyed… away.’
‘Go back to Paris.’ He held out his hand. ‘See if we need to stay here any longer.’
Liliana clasped his hand, pulling herself up his arm. ‘I won’t be… too long… Violette… I promise.’
‘Good.’ Harry slipped the Elder Wand back into his sleeve. ‘I doubt they will be back without more trolls or some new plan.’
She nodded. ‘Someone will… still have to… remain here… to keep the… wards up… for when they… do attack… again.’
Well it better not be me. I couldn’t care less about this stupid island.
‘Go,’ he murmured. ‘I’ll keep watch from the belltower just in case.’
Liliana apparated away with a loud crack.
Surely Ginny will have to go fight the Americans. Harry drifted back up the sand through the cacti into the shade of the white-washed belltower. Or the wards will weaken and they’ll manage to get a foothold in the Caribbean again.
‘Violette!’ The mayor stumbled from the hall, waving a baggy robe sleeve at him.
What now? Harry sighed.
The mayor jogged over. ‘Are they gone?’
‘For now.’ He glanced back at the beach.
‘Will they come back?’
‘I’m not sure.’ He shrugged. ‘Their captain doesn’t seem like she’s going to let this go, but there are two US auror captains she has to fight as well as us and Britain are stretched very thin.’
‘But surely if you’re here.’
‘I have other places I need to be.’
Does France even need this stupid island? He stifled a flash of frustration, feeding it down into emptiness. They barely spoke to the mayor for decades. Who cares if Britain has it?
‘But… but what about us?’ The mayor wrung his hands. ‘What if they come back and you’re not here! We know what Ginevra Weasley did to those villages in Cuba!’
‘I would strongly suggest not picking a fight,’ Harry replied. ‘If you can’t use wards to keep the fight on your own terms, they’ll tear through Sint-Maarten like a basilisk through the childrens’ gobstones club.’
The mayor blinked. ‘So we should just… surrender?’
Please do. Then I don’t have to come all the way out here any more.
‘You’re already officially under British protection,’ Harry said. ‘Just stay out of it like you have been.’
‘We want no part of this war,’ the mayor muttered. ‘I watched. You killed four of those British aurors, but dozens of the Tainoans.’
‘That’s why you stay out of it.’ Harry glanced up at the belltower. ‘I need to keep watch in case they come back. Vert is the one tied to the wards.’
‘Sorry.’ The mayor wilted. ‘And good luck, I guess.’
Harry spun the world past him and stepped out beneath the bell, dropping down to swing his feet off the ledge. ‘Well, now what are you going to do, Ginny?’ He stared out across the sea. ‘Whatever your dreams are, you seem to think you need to win here.’
What happened in the year I was dead? You’re so ready to fight for what you want now. When I died, you were all expecting me to do that for you.
He snorted. ‘Maybe after I died you finally realised you should be doing it yourselves after all.’
Liliana appeared beside him with a loud crack. ‘Grise says… we ought… to remain… here.’
Ice tightened in Harry’s chest, trickling through his veins. ‘And did he give a very good reason?’
‘The Unspeak… ables we… fought in… Egypt are… not in Greece… or Egypt,’ she replied. ‘And that means…. they are… probably… here in… the Caribbean.’
‘Which is why Ginny wasn’t worried about the Americans,’ he muttered. ‘Are they giving up on Greece? Who’s defending Greece against Suleiman?’
Liliana sat down beside him. ‘We think… Britain… intends… to seize… Sint-Maarten… quickly… to guard… their back.’
‘Except the whole coast south of us is allied to the US…’
‘Grise is… very… concerned… about Spain,’ she said. ‘If Britain… were to…. conquer… Sint-Maarten… and Spain… attack… their former… protectorates… the US would… be outmatched… unless… full war… is declared.’
‘So the Unspeakables come here to hold off the Americans, Ginny quickly takes Sint-Maarten, the Unspeakables go back to Greece, and Spain and Ginny fight the US here and have the advantage?’
‘We fear… so.’ Liliana drew her hood back and traced her fingertips over the dark veins and scars marring her face. ‘And once… Spain is… involved… it will… be all the… harder… to force… talks for… peace.’
Of course it will be. Harry let the panic bubble in his gut, felt his heartbeat quicken and the cool adrenaline race through his veins. It’s coming. It’s the crucible of the amber-masked figure. A chill prickled down his spine and Isobel’s words rose from the well of his mind. Isolated suffering is the chrysalis of monsters. What kind of monster will hatch from this when there are going to be so many dreams snatched away?
‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop it,’ he murmured. ‘And I’m afraid of what will come out of the fire.’
‘A greater… good,’ Liliana rasped. ‘Someone else… will take… the place… of Noire… and all the… hurting… people… will make… the same… mistake as… I once made.’
An amber-masked figure. Certainty hit him like a hammer. He saw it unfold before his mind’s eye as clear as the golden light he’d seen wash across the world in Julien’s thoughts. A dream forged from a stronger crucible than mine to take our sunset away.
‘Who might take Julien’s place?’
A strange gleam hovered in her dark eyes. ‘Who could… say for… sure? The… dream is… beautiful… and the price… is harder… to measure… than we… ever… believe.’
‘I guess it doesn’t matter who it is,’ Harry whispered. ‘As long as we find them before it’s too late.’
Or make sure our dream can never be taken away. I hope you and Gabby are making progress with La Victoire Finale, mon Trésor. He pressed a finger tip to the acorn beneath his robes and coaxed a little magic into the pendant. Je t’aime.
The acorn turned hot against his skin and a small smile tugged at his lips.
‘They must… die for… the sake… of the… Statute,’ Liliana said. ‘Whoever… it is.’
‘What about Suleiman?’ Harry asked. ‘You said after Dumbledore and Julien, he was the third who faced Grindelwald alone and lived.’
‘He has… not left… Constant… inople… since the… war.’ She winced as a single dark vein crept higher on her cheek. ‘His grandfather… conceded… and fully… split the… muggle part… of the… Ottoman… Empire… from the… magical… rule of… its nobles… it would… be strange… for Suleiman… to fight… against that… now, after… refusing… him.’
Liliana nodded and pressed the glowing tip of her wand to her throat.
They’re probably British. One of the Last Scions who lost everything because of Amelia Bones and now finds themselves caught in the crucible. A little unease churned in his stomach. Maybe I should’ve used Pansy to find and kill them all.