Crépuscule

‘I’ve never actually had crêpes before,’ Harry said, watching Fleur drizzle lemon juice over the small mountain of sugar piled on hers. ‘I’ve had pancakes, but they seem slightly different.’

‘Crêpes are better.’ Fleur set the lemon juice down and rolled her crêpe up with the tip of her knife. ‘You should eat yours while it’s still warm.’

‘I was forced to wait while my bird-wife used all the sugar,’ Harry teased, dribbling lemon juice across his. ‘I think they were very surprised we didn’t order clafoutis, but they might just have been shocked you ordered so many crêpes.’

Fleur sliced off the end of her ninth crêpe. ‘I like crêpes. And Gabby is watching over our little hatchling, so I thought it would be nice to have something else.’

‘She is a cherry fanatic.’ Harry folded his crêpe into a tangle. ‘Why didn’t that happen as nicely for me as it did for you?’

Fleur licked shining sugar crystals off her pale rose lips with the tip of her tongue. ‘Because you didn’t roll it, mon Cœur.’

‘Ah, I defer to the experience of my sugar-addicted bird-wife.’ Harry unfolded his and rolled it back up. ‘That did work better.’

Fleur smirked, eating her crêpe in small, delicate bites and licking sugar off her lemon-juice glazed lips.

Harry’s heart flopped about beneath his ribs. ‘You look very kissable.’

She hummed. ‘Then kiss me, mon Amour.’

He leant over the table and pressed his lips to hers, the sweet lemon tang of her mouth lingering as he drew back.

Fleur smiled as she ate the last of her crêpe. ‘I’m going to the bathroom, Harry. I’ll be back in a moment.’

‘We should head back soon. Katie won’t go to sleep if one of us isn’t there to tuck her in.’ Harry chopped his dessert into sixths with the edge of his fork and watched Fleur vanish into the bathroom with a soft smile. 

Perfect wishes can come true. He savoured the sweet lemon taste of each piece of his crêpe, poking the escaped sugar crystals into a circle on his plate. Who knew?

Fleur reappeared, stacking sickles up beside her empty wine glass. ‘Time to go back, mon Cœur?’

Harry swallowed his last mouthful and stood up, huffing a stray sugar crystal off his clothes and wiping lemon juice off his mouth onto the serviette. ‘Let’s go.’

She took his hand and the café lurched sideways, blurring into kitchen tiles and cupboards.

Red trickled through the splintered wreckage of the table, pooling through smashed tiles.

Blood…

Panic clamped its fist around his hammering heart, tearing the breath from his lips and leaving his head spinning.

‘Katrina,’ Fleur whispered.

‘Find her.’ Harry ripped his wand from his sleeve in a flood of black mist. ‘Find Katie.’

Fleur pushed half the table aside with her foot.

Laurent and Apolline lay beside one another in the door to the hall. Bluish-purple entrails sprawled from Apolline’s stomach and a fist-sized hole in Laurent’s ribs dripped blood onto the floor.

Blue flames and feathers burst from Fleur as her face shifted, sharpening into a thick, serrated beak.

I’ll find Katie.

‘Homenum revelio,’ Harry pushed every drop of magic he could muster into the spell.

A pair of red figures flickered in the corner of his eye, down at the far side of the small orchard.

‘Outside.’ He grabbed Fleur’s arm, ignoring the searing heat burning the skin from his hand and wrenched the world back past them.

Katie hovered within a faint shimmer of magic, her green eyes full of tears. 

Gabby sat beside the bubble of magic in the wet grass, her back against the trunk of the apple tree, staring up at the quiet dusk sky. ‘Fleur. Mon cher frère,’ she whispered.

The blue flames guttered out and Fleur’s face shifted back. ‘Gabby.’ She cupped Gabby’s cheek. ‘Are you hurt? Is Katie hurt? What happened?’

‘We were attacked.’

‘Who?’ A fist of ice clenched in Harry’s chest. ‘What did they say? Did they say anything?’

‘They said the sun never sets,’ Gabby murmured. ‘Je suis désolée.’ Her eyes drifted to Katie. ‘Je suis désolée…’

The world spun, slipping away from him like red rose petals down into the drain’s darkness.

No. Black mist shredded Harry’s sleeve to tatters, swirling through his fingers, cold as Petunia’s winter pond but burning like boiling water on his skin. I refuse to feel that again. Any of it. He clawed it all back in, shoving it down beneath a shaky gulp of air.

‘Is she okay?’ Fleur whispered. ‘Is Katie okay?’

‘They hit her in the chest with some curse,’ Gabby murmured. ‘I did everything I could do. Je promets, Fleur. Je te promets. I just — there were too many…’

Harry reached through the bubble and pulled back Katie’s collar, tugging the little buttons on her front open one by one.

Dark veins spread over her heart, sinking deep into her skin.

‘What did you do?’ Fleur slashed her wand at the bubble. ‘Gabrielle, I can’t get through!’

‘I bought you time.’ Gabby raised her other arm. Blood washed from a long, clean cut along her arm in slow, fading pulses and dripped from her elbow into the grass. ‘All the time I could…’

Harry’s heart sank. She didn’t…

He fought for it, dragged it back up from the numb cold place in the pit of his stomach and forced faint hope onto his lips. ‘We can—’

‘She’ll die if you do.’ Gabby offered him a faint smile, the blood trickling down her arm shining black as pitch in the soft dusk moonlight. ‘Just promise me. Promise me no more secrets.’ She leant her head back against the tree. ‘S’il te plaît, mon cher frère, ma chère sœur. No more hurting. Be happy.’ A soft sigh escaped her lips and she dropped her arm into the blood-drenched grass. ‘No more secrets…’

‘Je promets.’ Fleur’s voice shook. ‘Je t’aime, petite sœur.’ 

‘I promise,’ Harry choked past the lump in his throat. ‘We promise.’

Fleur watched the light fade from Gabby’s eyes, trembling from head to toe. ‘I will burn them all.’ She knelt and brushed Gabby’s hair back behind her ear, wiping smudges of blood and dirt from her face with her thumb. ‘Every single one of them. To ashes. And – and—’

‘We can’t.’ He turned to Katie. ‘Not yet.’

She whirled.

‘Katie first.’ Harry poured his magic into the air, the dark mist of his horcrux wrapping itself around the shimmer shielding their daughter and Gabby’s body, lifting them up. ‘We heal Katie and make sure she’s fine, and then—’ something stirred in the burning cold point of ice in his breast ‘—then we burn them all.’

And I will rip away everything they ever wished for first. In the freezing cold storm beneath his ribs, thin lips peeled back to bare a bottomless maw of countless black fangs and sharp, dark eyes slid open; it howled an endless shriek of hunger from somewhere in his heart. There will be no dreams left for any of them. 

He wrenched the world past, stepping out before the willow tree, and set Gabby’s body down on the white pebbles. Fleur appeared beside him, touching the tip of her wand to the shimmer surrounding Katie. 

‘What did she do?’ Harry asked as the mist faded back into his wand. ‘Can you heal the curse or do we need to find someone?’

Fleur stiffened, murmuring under her breath. ‘Gabby warded Katie against all magic to stop whatever curse is killing her.’ She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her quivering hands into fists. ‘I cannot get my magic through her ward to heal our daughter.’

Harry swallowed hard, forcing down a fierce surge of panic. ‘Then we find something that can. Something more powerful.’ He thrust a hand out and summoned the Caduceus from the base of the pensieve. ‘This could. And it’s fixable. Gabby—’ he glanced at where she lay still upon the cold white pebbles ‘—Gabby said so.’

‘It would take—’

Harry dropped the two fragments to the ground and etched runes around them in a single ring of purple flame. ‘Not like this.’ He pressed the two halves together and poured every drop of magic he had into the runes. ‘It will only take a second if the price is right.’

A brilliant white flash seared his eyes and the Caduceus sprang back together.

Fleur snatched it up.

‘We only get to use it once,’ Harry said. ‘Then it’s gone forever. That’s the price for fixing it in an instant instead of over years.’

‘We only need it once.’ She pushed the end of the staff through the bubble and touched it to the dark veins on Katie’s chest.

A flicker of emerald magic rippled along it and the staff crumbled to dust. Hope swelled in Harry’s heart, a swooping rush of relief hanging on the faint rise and fall of Katie’s ribs.

‘There,’ Fleur breathed. ‘The Caduceus can heal anything. Any curse. Any wound.’

The flicker of magic faded out in the air above Katie’s chest and all the little dark veins spread across her torso seemed to sink deeper into her skin.

It didn’t work.

Harry’s hope drowned somewhere in her frozen green eyes with a sickening wrench that ripped the air from his lungs. Blue flames exploded from Fleur’s fists in a wash of searing heat and a raw screech tore from her beak, scattering the ravens from the trees and quieting the birdsong in the meadows. 

Dark spots swirled before his eyes. 

He clawed for air past the raw pain in his breast, dragging ragged shallow gasps past numb lips. 

We can’t get through Gabby’s magic. Nothing can. Harry took a deep breath and fed everything into the emptiness, let the heat of Fleur’s fury, the bubbling panic in his stomach and the awful web of black veins on his daughter’s chest drift into the distance like red rose petals falling through his fingers onto the concrete. Gabby only bought time. She gave her life, but they would have killed her anyway and she knew it.

‘When the ward fades, Katie will die. Probably within just a few minutes.’ His voice echoed from somewhere so far away he barely heard it. ‘And no magic can affect her while the ward is up. We can’t heal her.’

‘Non.’ Fleur’s beak twisted back into her mouth and chin. ‘Non,’ she hissed. ‘She is not allowed to die. You are not allowed to run away. Whatever—’

Harry pulled her close. ‘Katie is going to die, mon Amour. We can’t change that.’ He held her tight as she fought his embrace, ignoring the heat of her tears soaking into his shoulder and the flashes of pain as her nails tore his skin. ‘But we can make sure that after she dies, she comes back…’

‘La Victoire Finale,’ Fleur whispered, sagging in his arms.

This is why we needed it. Without it, our dream dies. Guilt chewed at him through the stinging little cuts on his arms with cold blunt teeth. If we’d just been faster. If we’d just known. We were so close…

‘La Victoire Finale.’ Harry ripped the dark silk away from the Mirror of Erised. ‘No risks. Not with our little girl. None.’ He lifted the opal pendant over Fleur’s head and hung it around Katie’s neck. ‘Sweet dreams, baby bird, if you’re sleeping.’ He pressed a kiss to her silver curls and tugged her collar back up. ‘Je t’aime. We’ll see you when you wake up.’

We will. Harry hardened his heart. I saw it.

‘Soon,’ Fleur promised, kissing Katie’s still hand. ‘We won’t leave you waiting for long.’

He cast a circle of runes across the mirror with a flick of his wand and lifted Katie toward his reflection’s outstretched arms. ‘Keep our little angel safe,’ he whispered. ‘Until we can save her.’

Katie faded from his arms like smoke through his fingers.

Beneath the shining silver surface, his daughter smiled and waved her small hands, her green eyes shining with laughter as she reached out toward him, clutching at the air.

Harry pressed his fingertips into the cold glass. ‘I’m going to miss you, baby bird.’ Words snagged on the tangle of hot, sharp thorns in his throat. ‘More than anything.’

But perfect wishes can come true. He crushed the storm of molten emotion down and let cold fury seep in to numb his aching heart. I know they can. I saw it in Ba’alat Tanit’s Looking Glass. I saw it. And nothing will stop it.

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4 comments

  1. Very reminiscent of OG Katie’s death, came out of no where to tug on the heart strings, so cruel ;-;

    1. If it makes you feel any better, it probably tugs just as hard at me while writing! But I wanted to write a story where there are consequences and bad things happen. I think it helps show how truly valuable the good things are.

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