Astoria pushed her quill around on its side in circles on top of the small stack of files with the tip of her finger, a little smile on her lips. Daphne watched him with cool eyes in the reflection of the window.
Three days and all you’ve done is linger suspiciously. Harry bounced his wand in his sleeve. Whatever the Last Scions are planning, you’re running out of time.
Isobel yawned and flopped her head onto Celine’s shoulder. ‘Wake me up if someone brings food.’
‘Don’t wake her up,’ Harry whispered. ‘Eat all the food.’
‘You’re a bad petit frère,’ Isobel muttered. ‘I was up too early.’
‘Did you see anything interesting?’
‘I saw them getting changed.’ She grinned. ‘Worth it.’
‘Not that sort of interesting.’
‘Then no.’ Isobel settled herself on Celine’s shoulder, huffing golden curls off her nose. ‘All they did was read again.’
‘Do they know we’re watching?’ Colette asked.
‘I think they probably know we are watching them, I don’t think they know when we’re actually there.’ Harry frowned. ‘I don’t like waiting and hoping they’re not going to manage anything.’
‘Maybe they won’t.’ Celine poked Isobel in the cheek with one finger until Isobel moaned and stood up straight. ‘No napping while President Lee is speaking, sister. You have to suffer with us.’
Joseph Lee snapped his pocket watch shut and cleared his throat. ‘As always, the powers of the Old World have resolved their squabbles by trading the nations trapped under their heel like chattel. The demands of the Union have not changed. The complete withdrawal of European powers from the Caribbean and Americas.’
‘In return for what?’ Amos Diggory asked. ‘It was American attempts at subversion that provoked this conflict. Britain will give you nothing.’
‘You have no right—’
Tsarina Bugrov stood. ‘By your logic, the magical communities on the east and west coasts should also leave. Are they not the descendants of wizards and witches who emigrated alongside the muggles seeking adventure and prosperity in the New World.’
President Lee scoffed. ‘They are American. As American as the native tribes or any other older magical community.’
‘It’s the exact same argument.’ Isobel yawned. ‘Again.’
Helga sighed. ‘Perhaps we should settle the Dutch question and come back to this matter last.’
‘I agree.’ Amos nodded. ‘Once we have all established our conditions for peace, America can decide if it wishes to choose peace or war. As if it truly has a choice.‘
Lee’s face soured. ‘If America must fight to defend liberty from the machinations of backwards powers, it will.’
America will prevent peace. A flash of fury seared through Harry. They’re going to create the amber-masked figure’s crucible.
‘He knows he hasn’t got the support from the other states in the Union to pass a full vote,’ Celine murmured.
Colette leant past Isobel. ‘The American papers say he’s not even close and won’t be unless the defensive clause is triggered.’
‘So he’s just wasting our time,’ Harry muttered. ‘Fantastic.’
If he just shut up and declared one way or another, I could go home. A fierce longing seized him, snarled up in Fleur’s soft smile and Katie’s bright green eyes, and his breath caught. I need to be there.
‘The Germanic Confederation is open to continuing its current arrangement in the Netherlands, Minister Diggory,’ Fürst-Elect Weber said. ‘That is more than acceptable. Many of us feel we owe them a debt for the actions of Grindelwald.’
Ansgar Fürstenburg frowned. ‘The wizards and witches imprisoned in Château d’Acier ought to be returned.’
‘They can be,’ Présidente Desrosiers said. ‘A peace agreement would assure France that they will not find themselves at crossed wands once more within days of release.’
Amos Diggory laughed. ‘Well, that was simple. Perhaps this would be a good moment for a short break, I could use a cup of tea.’
Helga snapped her fingers. ‘Gellik.’
A house-elf appeared with a loud crack. ‘Lady Helga.’
‘Refreshments, please. The same as before.’
Harry sighed. ‘Can we just get on with it,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘Patience, Henri,’ Celine whispered.
Colette smiled. ‘You will be free to go home soon.’
‘They are taking forever.’ Isobel moaned. ‘And now I have to listen to President Lee chew with his mouth open again.’
They wrinkled their noses. ‘Urgh.’
Harry nodded. ‘Urgh.’
Pots of coffee and delicate china mugs appeared on the tables. Présidente Desrosiers poured herself a cup, breathing in the steam with a hint of a smile on her face.
‘Let’s go find that file, Daph.’ Astoria bounced from her seat and poked her sister in the side. ‘Come on, don’t be slow.’
‘Another lost file?’ Harry watched them prowl out. ‘That’s stretching belief…’
Isobel’s grey eyes sharpened. ‘Should we go after them?’
‘Better to stay here,’ Celine said.
Colette passed coffee cups across to her sisters. ‘But be wary when we leave, in case of traps.’
Harry shook his head as she proffered the coffee pot at him. ‘No thanks.’ He watched Tracey Davis pass tea to Neville, Ginny and Amos Diggory. ‘Unlike you, I’m awake.’
‘Being awake is the problem,’ Isobel said. ‘Come here, Henri. Celine isn’t letting me nap on her.’
‘I am also not a pillow.’ Harry snorted. ‘And you have no idea how much fire and feathers there would be when Fleur learns about you getting that close to me.’
‘But I’m your sister…‘
He levelled her with a long look and lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘In your case, that just makes it worse.’
They burst into laughter, flashing him three identical smiles.
Isobel set her coffee cup down. ‘What a mean older—’
Amos Diggory’s teacup exploded, bursting his head like a balloon and blowing his right hand away. Chunks of brain and bits of bone splattered the great glass window. Blood spurted from the stump of his neck in great ragged red gouts.
Silence fell upon them.
The headless corpse flopped off the chair with a dull thump.
‘Merde,’ Harry muttered, slipping his wand from his sleeve.
Ginny’s wand flashed up. ‘Violette!’
Neville grabbed her arm. ‘Impossible. It was the tea cup and he’s not moved. This isn’t France. They were getting what they wanted already.’
‘Nobody move.’ Helga flicked her wand at the splinters of bone china and watched the cup reform. ‘Whoever is responsible is in the room; this is not the cup the tea came in.’
A tense silence descended.
‘The Americans,’ Tracey Davis hissed. ‘Everyone else agreed to peace, but they refused and made stupid demands. They wanted war.’
‘Preposterous,’ President Lee said. ‘America has no need to stoop to the level of backwards Europeans.’
Ginny narrowed her eyes and thrust her wand at him. ‘Let’s see what you think of backwards when I turn your stomach inside out.’
Megan Tarbeck jumped to her feet and drew her wands. President Lee cowered behind Grant Hardsworth, clutching his wand and pocketwatch together in both hands.
Spells flashed between Tarbeck and Tracey Davis.
‘Captains.’ Présidente Desrosiers leapt back from her desk as a stray spell set it alight. ‘Back to Tungrorum. Make a portkey.’
Celine and Collete threw a bubble of golden magic up over them and Isobel snatched up a chair, jabbing it with her wand. ‘Grab hold.’
Harry seized the back of the chair as spells burst against the shield and the bloodstained glass window shattered.
Suleiman leapt over his desk, wand in his left hand, curved blade in his right. He drove the tip into the floor and twisted. Golden runes flared along the blade and the air shimmered like water. Spells faded, shields vanished, and the flickering flames of the enchanted torches guttered out.
‘La Belle France,’ Isobel whispered and the room lurched.
They staggered into Tungrorum’s Square, the chair clattering across the cobbles.
‘We were deceived.’ Présidente Desrosiers stood still as stone in the square’s centre. ‘Britain will declare war on whoever they hold responsible.’ She tugged at the pale band of skin on her left forefinger. ‘I cannot believe there are any so stupid as to plunge us back into war when the memory of Grindelwald is still so fresh.’
Harry lifted Violette’s ring from his pocket and slipped it back on. ‘As long as they don’t blame France…’
‘I need to call an emergency meeting,’ she said. ‘Captains, return to La Déesse and prepare our aurors for the worst. Violette… Grise will inform you of what is to be done.’ She vanished with a loud crack.
The Duforts exchanged a look.
‘The Greengrass sisters?’ Isobel asked. ‘Henri?’
‘I don’t see how.’ He scowled, recalling the teacup. ‘Someone switched the cup with a cursed one after the house elf brought them in, they had to be in the room to do that.’
Harry snorted. ‘No, I think we were tricked. They’d need to be close to the teacups for the motion of the switching spell to be hidden. Astoria and Daphne drew our eye and someone else did the deed. I think the British murdered their own Minister for Magic.’
Tracey Davis, maybe. They could have used the Imperius to make her do it. He turned it all over in his head, anxiety churning in his gut. Either way, the Last Scions have their war now.
‘I’m going home,’ he said, stamping the coil of cold fear down. ‘While I can.’
Isobel dragged him into a hug, her sisters piling in around them. ‘Don’t forget to say hello to our goddaughter for us.’
A small smile crept onto Harry’s face. ‘I won’t.’ He eased himself out of their embrace and dipped a hand down his front for the acorn pendant. ‘Argent.’
White pebbles clicked beneath his feet and a gentle breeze stirred the green fronds of the willow, rustling the leaves and long grass of the wild fields beyond the shallow river.
All that time there and it ended up exactly as I knew it would. Harry sucked in a deep breath as the panic bubbled up and he rested his head against the cool glass of the Mirror of Erised.
His family smiled back from beneath the silver surface, lit by the warm glow of the setting sun.
I should have quit and focused on La Victoire Finale. He tugged off Violette’s ring and apparated back into the kitchen, wrestling with the cold fist of fear clenched about his heart. If war’s coming, then we’re running out of time.
‘Mon Amour.’ Fleur smiled as she watched Katie totter around the table brandishing Henri the Raven. ‘Did it…’ Her smile faded. ‘It did not go well, did it?’
Katie glanced up at him with bright green eyes, a huge grin on her face. ‘Papa!’ she babbled, stumbling forward to wrap her arms around his leg. ‘Papa.’
Harry’s heart lurched. ‘Hello, baby bird.’ He bent and lifted her into his arms. ‘I missed you.’
She buried her face in his chest and grabbed two handfuls of his robes.
‘I’m surprised she recognises you,’ Fleur murmured.
Guilt stabbed at him. ‘I’m not away that much.’
‘Non, you’ve forgotten about your face again, mon Cœur.’ She drifted over to trace her fingertips over his cheek. ‘You bear a remarkable resemblance to the Duforts.’
‘Oh.’ Harry switched Katie’s weight onto his left arm and slipped out his wand, undoing the transfiguration. ‘I was Henri Dufort for a while.’
Fleur’s eyes darkened a few hues. ‘You are Henri Delacour.’
‘I don’t know, after seeing Colette in just a towel…’ He grinned at the delicate pout curving her lips. ‘And did I tell you that I saw Daphne Greengrass as well…’
‘You are teasing me.’ Fleur’s blue eyes smouldered.
‘What are you going to do about it, mon Ange?’ Harry chuckled and kissed her upturned pout. ‘Tickle me with your cute little feathers?’
‘You are my shiny rock,’ she murmured, pulling him in for a longer kiss. ‘Mine. For my nest.’ Fleur’s kisses grew heated. ‘And I will show you exactly why once you give our little chick to Gabby.’
He smiled into her kisses. ‘Where is Gabby?’
‘Her room.’ Fleur stepped back, a little smirk on her lips. ‘Don’t keep me waiting…’ She vanished.
Harry took a deep breath to ease the heat tracing through his veins and made his way upstairs. ‘Gabby?’ He knocked on her door. ‘Can I offer you a very cute but quite noisy little veela hatchling?’
Gabby pulled the door open and plucked Katie from his arms. ‘Mine! No trade backs.’
Katie squirmed and scrunched up her face. ‘Papa,’ she whined, sticking her hands out.
A soft smile crept onto his face. ‘I love you too, baby bird.’ Harry kissed her on the forehead. ‘You be good for your auntie harpy.’
‘Gabba,’ Katie burbled, grabbing at Gabby’s hair. ‘Gabba.’
‘That’s me.’ A huge grin spread across Gabby’s face. ‘She’s getting the hang of words now. I’ll keep her entertained for a bit if the two of you are busy.’
‘Merci beaucoup.’ Harry stepped back as the door shut and drifted to their room, a little twist of anticipation tightening in his stomach. ‘Fleur?’
‘Come in, mon Amour.’
He eased the door open and closed it behind him.
Fleur stood in the centre of the room over her crumpled blue dress; her underwear dangled from her fingers, swaying back and forth in front of the conjured red rose blossoming on the shelf.
Harry’s breath caught. ‘That does seem like a very good reason to be yours.’
Her lips curved into a broad smirk. ‘Come here and I’ll give you three more.’
‘Who could say no?’ Harry pulled off his clothes, tossing his wand onto the desk beside the spinning cogs of the clock.
‘Certainly not me.’ Fleur pushed him down onto the edge of the bed and sank to her knees, smiling as he hardened before her. ‘I will have my mouth full.’
She wrapped her rose-pink lips about his tip and gave him a light suck, humming as Harry tangled his fingers in her silver hair, and took him deep, bobbing her head in a slow, smooth rhythm.
Heat trickled south, tightening in little jolts of pleasure as Fleur sped up, fed by the soft, wet noise of her mouth on him and the brush of her tongue.
‘Definitely yours,’ he gasped.
She drew back, catching a string of saliva hanging from her rose-pink lips and sucking it off her finger with a smirk. ‘That is just one reason.’ Fleur rose to her feet and stepped up onto the bed, straddling his waist and sinking down onto him.
Harry stifled a groan as he slipped into her warmth, twitching as she rolled her hips and wrapped her legs around him. Fleur moved faster and faster, her breath coming light and fast in his ear as her hard nipples brushed his chest.
‘Is this the second reason?’ Harry whispered, cupping her breasts in his hands.
‘Almost—’ Fleur’s breath hitched ‘—a little bit more.’
He leant her weight back in his lap, sliding one hand up the curve of her neck and brushing his thumb across her lower lip. Fleur’s mouth parted and he slipped his thumb onto her tongue.
‘A little more?’ Harry raised his hips to meet her rolls, heat pooling in his belly as little gasps tore from her mouth.
Fleur came undone, shuddering on his lap and sucking hard on his thumb as little shivers rippled through her. ‘And the… third reason.’ She lifted her hips and reached under herself, pulling him through the wet heat of her sex to rest between her cheeks.
‘Don’t you need—’
‘I did the spell while I was waiting,’ Fleur murmured, lowering her weight little by little until the head of him pushed into her. ‘And I like it to hurt a bit.’
Harry’s hands slipped to her waist as she eased herself down with quiet gasps and hitches of breath until she clenched at the base of him.
She raised her hips, lifting off him and sinking back down with a soft sigh. ‘Reason number three why you’re mine.’ Fleur sped up, clenching around him as her fingers dug into his shoulders and gasping as Harry’s hips bucked with each tightening flutter of pleasure and he pushed deeper. ‘See?’ She leant back and pushed her breasts out, dragging his hand up to her mouth and slipping his thumb through her lips. ‘See?’
‘I can see,’ he whispered, the flames peaking in his belly. ‘You’re perfect.’
A little shiver rippled through Fleur. ‘Go on,’ she moaned around his thumb. ‘Do it in me.’
Harry burst with a groan, spurting into her in flashes of bright bliss. She forced herself down with a little gasp, clenching tight around the base of him.
‘See?’ Fleur pulled his thumb from her mouth and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. ‘Very good reasons to be mine.’
‘There are far more than just three.‘ He held her close as his heartbeat steadied. ‘Far far more.‘ Harry ran his fingers through her hair until Fleur hummed. ‘Je t’aime a la folie, mon Rêve.’
‘A la folie,’ she whispered back.