The Face of Ianus

‘What are you doing down here, mon Trésor?’ Harry watched the dark ink of the willow fade from beneath his nail. ‘It will be twelve soon…’

Fleur reached down into the gleaming silver bowl of the pensieve. ‘I miss Gabby.’ She levitated the gold band and the resurrection stone out with a flick of her wand. 

‘It doesn’t help,’ he whispered, striding across the pebbles and wrapping her up in his arms. ‘It’s worse.

‘I have to,’ Fleur murmured, staring into the dark stone. ‘I have to. She was always there. Chirping in my ear. Making sure I never felt completely alone—’ tears trickled down her cheeks, leaving little shining trails ‘—and now it feels so quiet.’

‘Do you want me to stay? Or go?’

She stiffened in his arms, her arms tightening around his waist. ‘Yes.’ Fleur blinked tears off her lashes and dabbed her cheeks dry. ‘I don’t want to do this alone.’

‘Then I’ll stay.’

‘Merci.’ She turned the ring over three times. ‘Gabrielle Delacour…’

A smoke-like shade shivered into being before the black silk covering the Mirror of Erised, bleeding little wisps of shadow as it sharpened.

‘Fleur Delacour doesn’t cry,’ Gabby’s ghost whispered, stretching out fingers of soft, silver mist to brush Fleur’s tears. ‘She told me so. Over and over. For years.’

Fleur raised a hand to cup Gabby’s against her cheek; her shoulders slumped as it slipped through the silver mist. ‘Yes she does. You could feel it. You could always feel it.’

‘Not anymore.’ Gabby’s hand slid through Fleur’s fingers. ‘It took me so long to really be part of your sunset—’ a deep sadness hung in her silver eyes ‘—and now I won’t ever see it.’

‘You might,’ Harry said. ‘If there’s a way.’

‘Are you hoping, mon cher frere?’ Gabby drifted through Fleur’s arm to cup his cheek with fingers of cool soft mist. ‘If I am not sacrificed, how will you pay the price of La Victoire Finale?’ She shook her head and stepped back. ‘You know where hoping leads.’

Harry’s heart sank. She’s right. She gave her life for La Victoire Finale. For Katie. And if we want to pay the price for it, we can’t bring her back. We can’t even hope. We have to believe.

Silent tears slid down Fleur’s face. ‘I will burn every single one of them, Gabby. I promise.’

‘I don’t want fire,’ Gabby breathed. ‘It wasn’t fire you promised.’

‘No more secrets,’ he whispered. ‘Je promets, Gabby.’

A sad little smile hovered on her lips. ‘No risking the sunset that everything else was sacrificed for. S’il te plait. Pour moi.’

‘I promise,’ Harry murmured. 

‘Je promets, Gabby.’ Fleur dashed her tears away. ‘But I will still burn them all. They deserve it.’

Gabby drifted back. ‘All I ever wanted was to be close to you—’ she raised one hand of grey mist and watched it shiver ‘—and now I’m so very far away…’

Fleur pressed the resurrection stone into Harry’s hand and buried her face in his chest.

Harry watched Gabby’s ghost fade, holding Fleur close. ‘Anything you need from me, you only have to ask, mon Reve.’

She glanced up, her blue irises darkening to pitch black. ‘I want you to go. Go back to Britain. Get to Greece. To America. Get everything we need. And find them. You lost Katie and Salazar and Sirius. And now I have lost my parents and Gabby. I don’t want them to die for nothing.’

A cold sick feeling settled at the pit of Harry’s stomach. ‘Perfect things shouldn’t be sacrificed for nothing,’ he whispered. ‘It won’t be. It can’t be.’

‘So go.’ Fleur pushed herself back from his arms. ‘I will be fine, mon Amour. You endured this for us and defeated Voldemort. I can do it too.’ She took a deep shaky breath, fresh tears glistening in her eyes. ‘And the more it hurts now, the more beautiful it will be. We will sit with our baby bird and watch the sunset and it will be more perfect than we can even imagine.’

Harry kissed her tear-stained cheeks. ‘I’ll be back soon.’ He dipped a hand into his pocket and held out Violette’s ring and the enchanted earpiece. ‘Can you work the magic on this into the ring? If I’m going all over the world, I’ll need to understand what they’re all saying.’

‘It might take a few days, mon Amour, Gabby was better at this than I was, but I’ll make it work.’

Harry dipped a hand inside his robes and clenched his fist around the acorn pendant. ‘Argent.’

The willow tree whirled away and he stumbled out into the Chamber of Secrets.

Silence hung between the serpent effigies and their stone eyes tracked him across the cold stones to the edge of the pool.

Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve, transfiguring his hair blonde, altering his cheekbones, nose, and chin, and threading grey through his irises. There.

Gabby’s eyes stared up from Tom’s face, hovering on the still surface of the water.

It must be just past twelve by now. He transfigured his robes into the plain, dark robes of the Unspeakables and wrenched the world back past until he stepped out onto the cobbles before red umbrellas. 

Harry caught sight of Neville’s red uniform a few tables away and wound his way through the tables, sliding onto the bench opposite him.

Neville glanced up. ‘Can I—’

‘Help me?’ Harry smiled as the blood drained from Neville’s face. ‘Yes. And you will.’

‘I’m sorry for—’

‘Don’t. Don’t waste my time.’

I have none left to waste. Who knows how long Gabby’s magic will last?

‘What do you want?’ Neville whispered.

‘I’m going to help you,’ Harry replied. ‘Or…’ He plucked a name from the air. ‘Thomas Gaunt is. Harry Potter is dead. He stays dead.’

Neville nodded. ‘And in return…?’

‘This is the second time you’ve come begging for my help and then people I care about have been killed.’ Harry let the ice seep into his tone, felt its razor sharp edge on his tongue. ‘You are going to tell me who. You are going to tell me how. And I will take my price in my own time and on my own terms.’

‘I don’t know,’ Neville muttered, twisting a gold ring around his finger.

A gold oak tree glinted on its flat surface.

Desrosiers ring. Cold fury clenched its fist about Harry’s heart. She gave him her emergency portkey. That’s how he got in.

He slid his wand from his sleeve, pouring his magic into the air and closing it over Neville’s arm.

Neville gulped. ‘Harry…’

‘Tom.’ Harry flattened Neville’s hand onto the table, splaying his fingers on the wood. ‘My name is Tom. And this—’ he tapped the tip of his wand on the ring ‘—this looks very interesting.’

Neville stiffened. ‘It’s just—’

‘If you lie to me again, I will rip every sane thought from your head and leave you screaming in the street.’ Harry pulled the ring from Neville’s finger. ‘I know what this does. Who else has had access to it?’

‘I lock it in my safe at work—’

‘So any competent person could have got to it.’ Harry clenched his jaw. ‘I’ll keep this.’

‘It doesn’t work anymore.’ Neville stared at his hand. ‘I tried, after the attack, but the name she gave me doesn’t activate the ring anymore. They must think it was me.’

‘They probably do.’ 

‘Tell them it wasn’t,’ he pleaded. ‘Harry, you must. We were so close to stopping all this.’

‘No.’ Harry tapped the ring with his wand and watched it crumble to dust. ‘I’m here helping you because it will get me what I want. I’m not risking even more people coming after me and my family because you can’t do anything yourself.’

Neville grabbed his wrist, tugging at his hand. 

‘You’re not going anywhere.’ Harry sighed. ‘Not until I have what I want.’

‘I can’t just let you murder people.’

‘But you will let them murder people I care about?’ He tightened his grip on the air surrounding Neville’s hand. ‘Think very carefully about what you will actually accomplish by telling me no. You are the reason we’re here.’ Cold rage seized him. ‘Because you’re so pathetic you had to come crying for a hero again. You can’t afford any more enemies Neville. And I will make the rest of them look like the children you all got to be while I saved you.’

A low groan ripped from Neville’s mouth as he clutched at his hand. ‘I don’t know who did it.’

‘I don’t care. I’ll find out for myself.’ Harry relaxed his grip on Neville’s hand. ‘You’re going to put me somewhere I can. Somewhere I can act with independence and impunity.’

Neville’s eyes lit up. ‘An unspeakable? If you’re prepared to fight for Britain, I can get you there. That’s the best place if you want to keep your identity a secret.’

Painfully transparent, Neville. But why not?

‘Tom Gaunt.’ Harry released Neville’s hand. ‘Not Harry Potter. If I hear so much as rumour…’

‘You won’t.’ Neville massaged life back into his pale fingers. ‘I will forge all the paperwork. The Order of the Gryphon can even forge old school records. We’ll pretend you were meant for Hogwarts but never made it because your family were travelling and you were ill.’

‘Anything plausible, but nothing specific. And I will have to return to France from time to time, so you will cover for me.’

‘If I can.’

‘You will.’ Harry let wisps of dark mist curl off his wand. ‘Or I will do it all myself no matter the collateral damage.’

Neville shuddered. ‘I will set you up as if you’ve been one of my aurors. Deep cover. Hunting for Harry Potter. They’ll all believe that. Susan too.’

Risky. But we have no time for safe.

‘And…?’

‘I’ll convince her how good you are. That you can join the Unspeakables. We lost a couple in Malta.’ Neville grimaced. ‘There’s a French wizard we need to stop. The Duforts are tied down defending France and we have managed to counter their other covert forces, but if he gets sent to Greece or America…’

A small smile crept onto Harry’s lips. ‘What’s his name?’

‘Violette.’ Neville squirmed on his seat. ‘I thought he might be you, actually, but it seems the Duforts have a younger brother.’

‘You thought I’d waste my time and risk my life fighting for France?’ Harry snorted, pushing as much disdain into his expression as he could manage. ‘Why?’

‘I wanted to believe you were out there. He’s not just any wizard, he’s the sort we need you for.’ 

‘I’ll stop him, then.’ Harry smothered a small smile. ‘I’m sure it won’t be too hard.’

‘You’ll have to prove you’re capable,’ Neville warned. ‘If you’re just Tom Gaunt, nobody will believe you. Ginny wants Violette’s head as a wall ornament for her office and even our best unspeakables have struggled with him. I can get you into the Unspeakables with some forgery and a lot of lies, but the rest…’

‘I’ll do the rest.’ Harry slipped his wand back into his sleeve. ‘Tell me everything. Start with the Unspeakables.’

‘Unspeakable captains have the same rank as I do, but they fall directly beneath the Minister for Magic since Amelia Bones restructured everything, and there are three of them.’ Neville pulled his copy of the Daily Prophet out from under his coffee and tapped the cartoon figure standing in America. ‘One team with two captains has been sent to the Caribbean to fortify it and will then leave the ward maintenance in the hands of the Tainos. It worked well for France in Sicily and Italy—’

‘Where’s Ginny?’

Neville glanced around and lowered his voice. ‘America. We sent her and her aurors to our allies in Kepec and Northern America. From there they can strike down into the American magical communities and keep them chasing shadows rather than mustering their forces. And all the while our Spanish allies under de Mendoza attack from the South.’

‘Will it work?’

‘We’re confident.’ Neville fiddled with his empty coffee cup, rattling it upon the saucer. ‘There’s a lot of wilderness to hide in. The magical states are divided and fractious beneath their articles of union, preferring to defend themselves rather than taking any risks to help each other. Ginny will keep them more than busy.’

‘And the other unspeakables?’ 

‘Greece.’ 

Harry smothered a flash of triumph. ‘What about you?’

‘I’m tasked to defend Britain,’ Neville said. ‘The Duforts are in France, so we must guard the Channel and the mountains into Spain against counterattack. Everything is neatly balanced. Tsarina Bugrov and our unspeakables can hold against Suleiman for now and once the Caribbean is secure we have a team to attack with.’

‘What about this Violette?’ Harry asked.

‘The ashwinder egg in our Calming Concoction. He can tip the balance against us or counter our unspeakables when they attack.’ Neville folded his paper back up. ‘If you defeat him, we will be in a position to force our enemies to surrender and bring this war to an end. I think, after a short while, the people will be appeased with victory.’

‘What about the Resplendent Sun?’

‘They need the anger and fear of the nation to cling to power. When it’s sated, then their grip loosens.’ Neville took a deep breath. ‘With you to stop Violette, we can let the anger burn out and I can talk some sense into Susan.’

‘How long?’

‘Until Tom Gaunt exists?’ He twisted his coffee saucer around on the table. ‘A few days. That gives me time to suggest you and get all the paperwork forged. Then I can take you straight to Susan.’

And from there. Greece. Or wherever Violette is sent. Harry released a long breath. The pearls. The lotus. The dragonbane gem. The obscurial. The damaz-kar. 

‘Ha – Tom, Susan is impetuous. She will throw you right in to sink or swim. I know there is some operation planned for the Unspeakables that the Resplendent Sun had a hand in suggesting, but Ginny didn’t have time to tell me about it before she left for Kepec.’

‘So I’ll find myself doing whatever that is without much warning.’ A wry smile tugged at the corner of Harry’s mouth. ‘Don’t worry, Neville. I’m sure I’ve done harder things.’

Neville stood up. ‘I’m being watched by the Resplendent Sun. They don’t trust me.’ He set down a small stack of coins. ‘When I suggest you to Susan, I will tell them I met you here, so don’t change your face. We can use this as more proof.’

‘Names and faces don’t matter.’ Harry pushed the column of sickles over with one finger. ‘What matters is your purpose.’ He watched Neville hurry off into the crowd of Diagon Alley.

The Resplendent Sun are watching him. And if they’re watching, the Last Scions are watching. He felt the cold rage curl its fist around his heart. Did they watch him go to France? Did they follow him?

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