Laurent set the paper down with a deep frown and sipped his coffee. ‘Susan Bones, Amelia Bones’s niece, won the Wizengamot’s vote over who should succeed Amos Diggory for the rest of his term. The Minister for Magic of Britain is the same age as my children.’
‘It was inevitable,’ Harry said. ‘It’s a backlash against Voldemort; what’s left of the older generation isn’t trusted to lead after that and Susan Bones has a lot of public sympathy.’
‘It’s dangerous.’ Laurent pushed the paper across the table. ‘Look at that photo and what she said. She’s just like her aunt…’
Susan stood in tight red auror robes, a shining bronze badge shaped like the sun on her chest as she waved to the cheering crowd in the Ministry’s atrium. The marble faces of the monument to Voldemort’s defeat smiled behind her.
‘I didn’t know her very well.’ Harry skimmed the words below the picture. ‘She’s a British nationalist. Or close to one. Neville said so.’
‘There’s going to be war. With America.’ Laurent sighed into his coffee. ‘What madness. I can’t decide who I think is more stupid, America and Joseph Lee for provoking an unstable, wounded Britain or the British nationalists for courting open war when they could have walked away victorious without it.’
‘I doubt it will just be with America,’ Harry murmured.
Laurent choked on his coffee. ‘Surely they don’t want to pick a fight with everyone.’
‘Neville seemed to think they do. Or at least anyone that threatens them.’ Harry grimaced. ‘Perhaps they think they can just wipe all their enemies away and finally be safe.’
But they’re just going to create the amber-masked figure from the flames. Fleur won’t like it, but maybe after we’ve completed La Victoire Finale I should go back, nothing can steal our sunset then.
‘I had better head into Paris.’ Laurent finished his coffee and rinsed the mug out under the tap. ‘Présidente Desrosiers will want to have several meetings on the back of this and the sooner I’m there, the better-prepared I’ll be.’
‘Have fun,’ Harry muttered. ‘Is Gabby about?’
‘Painting with Apolline and Katrina, last I saw.’
He snorted. ‘Cheering Katie on to make a huge mess, then.’
Laurent cracked a smile. ‘It is very hard to hold it against her, Katrina is very sweet. She reminds me a lot of Gabrielle when she was quite small.’ He straightened his robes and drew himself up with a deep breath, vanishing in a loud crack.
Harry drifted upstairs and along the corridor toward the sound of giggling.
Katie sat on a pile of white sheeting, patting paint-smeared hands all around her with peals of laughter. Apolline watched with a tearful smile, dripping paint from the tip of her brush into her lap.
‘Mon cher frère!’ Gabby stuck her head out from behind Apolline’s blank canvas. ‘Which colours do you think we should add to Katie’s masterpiece next?’
Harry studied the array of blue and green handprints. ‘You may as well let this silly little chick choose.’
She snickered. ‘Good idea.’ Gabby bounced around the canvas and set a trio of paint pots down in front of a wide-eyed Katie. ‘Which do you fancy—’ she pried off the lids ‘—we’ve got pink and red and orange.’
Katie grabbed the orange one and tipped it over the sheets.
‘Ah, carrot colour.’ Harry snorted. ‘Could’ve seen that coming.’
The orange paint soaked across the sheets and into Katie’s striped socks. She poked at it with one small finger, scrunching her face into a little frown.
‘Yes, you’ve made a huge mess again, baby bird.’ Harry chuckled. ‘You get through an awful lot of paint for someone so small.’
Apolline smiled. ‘I was going to get her to do handprints on here so we could put them up on the wall, but she was having so much fun down there I thought I’d wait.’
‘Gabby and I are going to have to leave you to watch over the veela hatchling,’ he replied. ‘Just for a bit while we sort out some wards; Fleur might come get her in a moment.’
‘That’s okay.’ She glanced down at the spots of paint in her lap. ‘I don’t really get any painting done with Katie up here, but I don’t mind. Watching her paint is quite fun too.’
‘Let’s go then.’ Gabby swept the paint off her hands with a flick of her wand and kissed Katie on the top of her head. ‘We can start getting things ready while Fleur finishes with the Unyielding Shield Charm.’
‘Ah, that’s where she is. I thought she might have snuck off to raid the cake hoard and get some peace and quiet away from the tiny feathery monster that was crying all night.’ Harry wrenched the world back past him and stepped out onto the white pebbles. ‘Katie really wasn’t very happy in her new bedroom.’
‘She’s not used to being in her own room.’ Gabby stepped around him. ‘She’s used to sleeping with you two close to her.’
‘Do you think we should bring her back in with us?’ he asked.
Gabby shook her head. ‘Katie can’t sleep in your room forever. Better to do it now and let her get used to it.’
Harry nodded. ‘I suppose so, but…’
‘She’ll be okay. She’s just very clingy still.’
‘She’s very used to being doted on,’ he murmured. ‘Part of me kind of dreads her growing up and getting less clingy.’
‘That’s not going to happen overnight.’ Gabby rested a hand on his arm. ‘And she’ll still love you.’
‘I’m probably just fretting.’ Harry mustered a grin. ‘After all, you still haven’t stopped being clingy.’
Gabby giggled. ‘I’m older than you now.’
‘Only physically.’ Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve and traced runes onto the roots of the willow. ‘I should get started or we won’t be ready.’
Gabby watched him sketch with a curious gleam in her eye. ‘Everywhere within the willow?’
‘Anything within its reach will be within the wards,’ he said, waving a hand at the Mirror of Erised. ‘So we can stash everything down here.’
‘I should get the rest,’ she said, flickering away.
Harry etched his runes along the roots in violet flame, working his way along toward the trunk. There should be a fail-safe. Just in case. He spun his wand in his fingers. Just a warning whenever anyone crosses will do.
Gabby reappeared with a quiet snap, the huge silver bowl of the pensieve hovering before her. ‘One extremely valuable but entirely useless pensieve.’ She levitated it across and set it down beside the Mirror of Erised. ‘The Caduceus is in there. And the other Hallows.’
He slipped the Elder Wand from his sleeve and sent it rolling down over the glowing white runes of the pensive into the pool of silk cloak and the splintered halves of the Caduceus. ‘We should try to fix that after La Victoire Finale.’
‘The staff?’ Gabby nodded. ‘It would be interesting to see if we could. In theory, I could use the same thing I do to pull wards apart to pull it back together now I’m better at it. Fleur might be able to, as well, because even though the runes and the magic were grown into the wood over a really long period of time, if we can line up all the little threads it would work again and none of the original staff is missing. It will take a very long time, though.’
‘If it could be made, it can be remade,’ Harry said.
‘Even the Hallows could be remade, it’s just that there would be a price.’ Gabby cocked her head. ‘I’d really quite like to listen to the Mirror of Erised at some point, but Fleur wouldn’t let me.’
Gabby’s eyes drifted to the black silk covering the glass. ‘I’m not sure how much of it is the magic and how much is just what it does.’
‘Both.’ Harry frowned. ‘It definitely messes with you a bit if you keep staring into it.’
‘As long as it doesn’t grab you and drag you in.’
‘That would be upsetting.’ He finished the last few runes of his fail-safe and stepped back across the pebbles to study the runes. ‘That should do it.’
‘What does the extra bit do?’ Gabby pointed at the last addition. ‘Some kind of alert?’
‘A trigger. Worth practising those before La Victoire Finale and this trigger is only set up to do what we believe that it should, so it’s not too different from the one to trigger resurrection.’
‘What do we believe it should do, though?’
‘Something small but obvious.’ He spun his wand around on his palm. ‘Maybe a mark of some kind that appears and gets warm when anyone crosses the wards here.’
‘Like the acorn pendant.’ Gabby beamed. ‘Can we make the mark a winged inner veela goddess? Will it be like Aimée’s soul-mate mark?’
‘No.’ Harry snorted. ‘To both of those things.’
She pouted. ‘Spoilsport.’
‘How about I let Fleur choose what the mark is,’ he said. ‘And you can pick where, but I get to veto silly places.’
Gabby snickered. ‘What about on your tongue?’
‘That’s actually not a terrible idea, but if you’re eating something warm, you might miss it and you can’t see the mark.’ Harry turned it over in his head. ‘Somewhere we can see the mark easily and will feel the warmth.’
‘Hands.’ She shrugged. ‘That’s basically just hands.’
‘Stick it under a fingernail,’ Gabby suggested. ‘I don’t want a huge mark on the middle of my hand, people would notice.’
Fleur apparated down to join them. Katie froze in her arms, staring around and blinking with wide green eyes.
‘Was that exciting?’ Fleur bounced their daughter in her arms. ‘Look. See how far we’ve come? Home is all the way back up there.’
‘Papa.’ Katie squirmed, wriggling toward the floor.
‘Still daddy’s little girl.’ Gabby laughed as Fleur set Katie down on the pebbles.
Katie scampered across and grabbed Harry’s hand.
He slid his ebony wand into his sleeve, kneeling down on the cool white stones. ‘Hello there, little chick. You seem a lot less orange than the last time I saw you.’
A huge gap-toothed grin spread across her face and she babbled back, tugging on his fingers.
‘We need to choose a place for the mark first,’ Gabby said. ‘And Fleur has to pick a pattern.’
‘What mark?’ Fleur wandered across the pebbles, watching Katie cling to Harry’s hand with a small, warm smile.
‘So we know whenever anyone crosses our wards here,’ Harry said, standing back up. ‘Gabby said under the fingernail, which will work well enough.’
Fleur wrinkled her nose. ‘Thumbnail. Having it on just one fingernail would look ugly.’
‘Gabby was very keen to make the mark a veela goddess—’
‘Inner veela goddess. With wings.’
‘Yes. That.’ He grinned. ‘Whatever it is.’
‘It’s the voice of Aimée’s repressed se—’
Fleur clapped a hand over Gabby’s mouth. ‘Katrina, harpy. She’s learning new words now…’
‘Pardon,’ she mumbled into Fleur’s fingers.
‘Let’s just use a willow.’ Fleur pulled her wand out and touched it to her thumb. ‘Something that looks nice…’
Threads of black ink wriggled from its tip beneath her nail, curling into the spreading roots and branches of the tree.
‘There.’ She tucked her wand away at her waist. ‘That looks nice. How does it work?’
Harry smiled. ‘You had to make it pretty.’ He eased his hand out of Katie’s grip. ‘It will only appear when someone crosses the wards and gets warm so we notice even if we’re not looking or can’t see.’
‘Just in case,’ Fleur murmured.
‘No risks,’ he whispered. ‘I promised.’
Katie let out a small huff and grabbed for his hand. ‘Papa!’
‘Hold on, little chick.’ Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve and cut the ball of his thumb, levitating a drop of blood across into the air. ‘You can have my hand back in just a moment.’
She made a disconsolate little noise and crossed her arms.
He laughed. ‘Look, mon Amour. Our baby bird is already acting just like her maman when she doesn’t get what she wants.’
Fleur rolled her eyes and stepped across to pluck Harry’s rose from where it hung off the Mirror of Erised. ‘Just a drop?’
‘Just a drop.’
She pricked her finger on the largest thorn and watched a bead of blood well up. ‘Voilà.’
Harry drew it across to hover beside his own. ‘We don’t need to do Katie, her blood is ours, but Gabby…’
Gabby held out her hand. ‘Stab me, Fleur.’
‘I’ve wanted to since you first got so chirpy.’ Fleur poked the thorn into Gabby’s fingertip and swept the small drop of crimson across. ‘And now? Is it done?’
Harry watched the cut knit itself back together on his thumb and held his hand out for Katie to snatch and cling on to. ‘Almost. Unless there’s anything we want to add?’
‘We can only get across with this blood.’ Gabby stepped across and healed Fleur’s finger as well as her own. ‘And if anyone somehow gets hold of it, we’d still know because of the fail-safe.’
‘We should hide it,’ Fleur murmured. ‘As well.’
‘That’s clever stuff,’ he said. ‘All I can do is brute force and blood magic. Someone should really teach me some enchanting.’
‘Oh?’ A little smirk hovered on Fleur’s lips. ‘And what do I get for being your professor, mon Coeur?’
‘A very attentive pupil.’ Harry grinned. ‘Also, I might stop asking you to do all the enchanting for me if I can do some of it myself.’
‘You would only botch it.’ She turned her nose up. ‘Like painting that door at the Meadow. I will just have to redo it myself.’
Gabby giggled. ‘Let’s do it, then. Before Katie gets bored.’ Her brow creased. ‘Unless, maman and papa…?’
Fleur shook her head. ‘Here? Where we have collected all these things? The Mirror of Erised? Non, Gabby. It would be a risk.’
‘But…’ Gabby’s lips twisted. ‘I suppose they would not understand, would they?’
‘Non.’ Fleur’s eyes darkened to ocean blue. ‘You know they will not.’
Harry covered Katie’s eyes with his hand and flicked his wand, lowering the blood onto the web of runes spiralling across the willow roots.
A bright flash of light seared their eyes.
‘Now it’s done.’ He tucked his wand back into his sleeve. ‘We’ll see if the fail-safe works when we cross the boundary.’
Fleur replaced the red rose, dipping a hand into her pocket and sticking Gabby’s frozen flower and her shard of crystal beside it. Her fingers strayed to the crimson tesserae. ‘Mon Amour?’
‘Kart Hadasht.’ Harry shuddered. ‘It’s not dead. It can’t die. Not while my bloodline endures.’
‘I thought you let it go?’ she murmured. ‘Sacrificed it. For our sunset.’
‘I have.’ He reached out and took her hand, pulling it away from the small square of stone. ‘I’m not ever going back. For any reason. That way, I have sacrificed it.’
Fleur hummed. ‘Bon.’
Katie tugged on Harry’s hand and pouted up at him with a small frown.
‘Let’s head back,’ he said. ‘Our little angel is about as patient as her maman.’
Harry pulled his daughter close and wrenched the world back past them, stepping into the kitchen. Warmth flared upon his thumb and dark ink spread beneath his left thumbnail.
‘It works.’ Fleur stared at her mark. ‘Gabby?’
‘C’est vrai.’ She waved her hand. ‘It was warm, but not too warm.’
‘Almost there now.’ He watched the willow tree fade away, the dark dissipating like smoke into a warm summer breeze. A soft ray of hope lit his heart and a smile crept onto his lips. ‘Perfect wishes can come true…’