Harry cupped his wedding band and the acorn pendant in his fist, feeding a little of his magic into the acorn. Je t’aime.
It flashed hot against his skin and a little smile crept onto his lips.
‘Violette… are you… ready?’
‘I’m ready.’ He slipped his wand from his sleeve. ‘Are you going to scry?’
‘For you.’ Liliana pressed her fingertips to her throat and closed her eyes. ‘There is… an auror… the Cretan… captain… he knows… something… I think… it is… a faint… impression.’
‘I scried… for how… to find… the lotus… and I saw… him.’
Harry twirled his wand in his fingers. ‘Let’s go upset some wards, then. When he turns up, I’ll pull his thoughts apart until I find something.’
‘The team of… unspeakables… will come… as well.’
‘Probably.’ He shrugged. ‘It can’t be helped.’
Whatever it takes. A little ball of ice settled in his heart. And if some of the Unspeakables that attacked us happen to die, well… The corner of his mouth twitched. That’s just the cherry on top of the clafoutis.
Harry held out his hand. ‘Back to where we were before?’
‘It will… do as… well as… anywhere,’ Liliana rasped, taking his arm.
He spun the world back past them and stepped out onto the grass-tufted dunes amongst the pink flowering cacti. ‘Do it.’
‘Fianto… duri!’ She thrust out her wand, sending a torrent of white magic up into the shimmering ward above.
The white-jacketed aurors apparated onto the opposite dune. Black-robed unspeakables appeared beside them.
Dragon. Gryphon. Grindylow. Acromantula. Werewolf. Cold fury clawed its way up inside. You cursed Katie. You killed Gabby. And Apolline. And Laurent.
A torrent of Fiendfyre poured from his wand, searing the grass to smoke and turning the sand dunes to mottled glass in a roar of hungry whispers. The aurors and unspeakables apparated away, scattering across the dunes. He swept the Fiendfyre around into a circle, trapping the Unspeakables.
‘Violette,’ Liliana whispered.
‘Ward them in so they can’t apparate out of that.’ Harry set the flames free and tugged his arm out of her grip. ‘No risks, Liliana.’ He apparated after the long-haired captain.
‘Shit.’ The captain hurled spells at him, swearing each time Harry deflected one away into the sand. ‘Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.’
Harry thrust his magic into the ground, wrenching it into a giant fist that closed its fingers around the captain, pinning his arms to his sides. The other aurors scrambled up the sand slope as the tongues of crimson flame raged across the dune beyond. He sent their spells hissing back, punching through the shield of the closest wizard and clipping his shoulder in a spray of red, sending him sprawling into the sand.
‘No!’ The auror captain cried. ‘Go back! Don’t fight them. We can’t fight them. Let the Unspeakables do it!’
They glanced at each other.
‘I’m not going to hurt him,’ Harry said. ‘I just want to know where the lotus that the British want to unleash in the Nile is being kept.’
‘Lotus?’ the wizard replied in broken French, clapping one hand to his bleeding shoulder. ‘No lotus. Not for years.’
‘There is one.’
There has to be. Harry caught the auror captain’s eye and touched their thoughts together. Liliana scried one.
His thoughts tangled in a twist of fear, snarling on a scatter of white jackets and smiling faces. He smoothed them out and took a deep breath.
‘Get out of here.’ The auror captain strained against the stone fingers and grimaced. ‘All of you. I’ll answer his questions.’
‘Are you going to let me go?’ the captain asked. ‘Really?’
‘Yes.’ Harry tugged the wand from the man’s fingers. ‘If you tell me where that lotus is. I’m here for unspeakables and Britain, not Crete. You can answer in Greek. I’ll understand.’
‘Well we haven’t seen one. I swear it.’
Perhaps he doesn’t know he knows.
‘Anything like it. Anything that might be it.’
The auror captain frowned, staring past his shoulder at the raging red flames. ‘There were some disappearances. Muggle ones. Near an island just north of Heraklion. I sent a pair of aurors to investigate but I’ve not heard back from them since. I thought you—’
White sand and gentle rolling waves fluttered through their thoughts with a scatter of photos of muggle faces and a pair of dark curly-haired aurors.
Harry swept the stone hand back into the ground and held out his wand. ‘Go.’
‘You’re really just going to let me go?’ The auror captain reached out and took his wand.
Harry kept hold of his end of the wand. ‘I fought in the Caribbean. Ginevra Weasley sent every Tainos hit-wizard she could order around to die before she fought herself. Remember that…’
‘Admetos. My name is Admetos.’
‘Well remember that, Admetos.’ He let go of the wand. ‘They have their dreams. And you have yours. If they have to choose theirs or yours…’
‘We’re not their meat shield.’ Admetos drew himself up. ‘This lotus… if you find it?’
‘I’ll destroy it.’ Harry apparated back beside Liliana. ‘Are they still in there?’
‘No… they broke… my wards… and left.’
‘I got what we needed,’ he said, squashing the Fiendfyre beneath Katie’s happy babbling and banana-smeared smile. ‘Analipsis beach. They denied knowing anything about it being weaponised, of course, but this is the memory—’ he pulled a thin strand of silver from his temple and held it out ‘—if you can scry for that, we’re one step closer.’
To La Victoire Finale.
Liliana took the wisp of silver with the tip of her wand and touched it to her forehead. She closed her eyes. ‘This is… Aia. What we… are seeking… is floating… just across… the waves. I can… feel it… drifting… so light… so free…’ A single tear trickled down her cheek over her dark veins. ‘It’s like… when I… was young… all smiles… no fears…’
‘I’ll keep adding to our network of bases, you wait here for a bit.’
‘You are… lying… to me… Violette.’
Harry glanced up. ‘Am I?’
‘Yes. You are… not just… fighting for… a greater… good, but… also for… revenge.’ She stared at him with dark eyes, the trail of the tear on her cheek shining in the sun. ‘If I… ask, will… you say?’
‘When you… make your… choices… make sure… you wear… that ring,’ Liliana rasped. ‘I hate… Grindelwald… but there… are more… important… things than… my hate.’
‘I’ll wear the ring.’ A small smile crooked the corner of Harry’s mouth. ‘I can promise you that.’
‘You can… become… who I… thought he… was. Fighting… for more… than just… despair… and the… inevitable… collision… of our… worlds. Don’t… lose that… for hate.’ She bit her lip until blood welled up from the small cut and stained her white teeth. ‘And now… I sound… like him.’
‘What if I just want to go home and watch the sun set, Liliana?’
‘For that… you will… have to… stop those… who think that… it never… sets.’ She winced and touched her throat. ‘I scry… for you. You stopped… Liliana… screaming… you gave… her peace… you gave… her hope… again. You can… do that… for others… like I… thought he… was going… to do.’
‘Like a hero…’ The faint smile on Harry’s lips twisted into something bitter. ‘I know what happens to heroes, Liliana. They don’t get to walk off into their sunset. They die. I did it once already.’
Liliana stared down into the mottled glass. ‘And yet… here you… still are. Fighting for… the Statute… and the… hope that… things will… not end… in blood… and hate… as he… so feared… and there… is no… wizard… or witch… that can… match you… not Grise… not Noire, not… unspeakables. If you… fight for… hope, then… we win… and if… we keep… winning… we all… will be… okay.’
But I hate hoping.
‘I’m not fighting for hope,’ he murmured. ‘I just want my little dream. If I didn’t have to fight the world for it, I wouldn’t.’
‘But you… do have… to fight… for it.’ she rasped. ‘That’s how… it works. You fight… for yours… and I fight… for mine… and we all… need the… Statute… so we… fight for it… together.’
‘Better to fight for hope than despair,’ Harry whispered. ‘The Duforts said that too.’
And perfect wishes do come true. I saw it. I saw Katie in the Mirror of Erised and then I held her in my arms. And I saw La Victoire Finale. And I’ll hold her again. He took a long deep breath through the storm of sharp hot yearning swirling in his heart. Whatever it takes. We did it before. We can do it again.
‘We’ll go find that lotus as soon as I can, Liliana,’ he said. ‘I’ll come back and find you.’
‘Where will… you be… until then?’
‘Somewhere else,’ Harry replied. ‘Fighting for a greater good, but also for revenge.’
Liliana’s dark eyes held his. ‘Do not… waste time… we have… none to… spare. The… lotus is… deadly… to muggles… and us… alike.’
‘I know.’ He offered her a small smile. ‘You’re right, you know. As long as there’s just a little bit of hope, we’re okay. It’s when there’s none left; that’s when there’s just no point anymore.’
But I don’t need hope. I know it can be done. I just have to do it.
‘Grise dragged… Liliana from… the bodies… but it… was you… that gave me… hope… after I… lost faith… in him… and his curse… changed me. We will… win here… and you will… find the ones… who killed… Cramoisi.’ She pressed the glowing tip of her wand into her throat. ‘And afterward…. we will keep… fighting… so they… all didn’t… die for… nothing… and we… get to… keep our… hope alive.’
‘Nobody should die for nothing,’ Harry murmured, suppressing a stab of revulsion. ‘What could be worse?’ Soft heat washed across his thumbnail and a dull ache settled on his heart. ‘I won’t be gone long, Liliana. No more than a few days.’
Just long enough to make sure Lemon Sorbet is in the clear.
‘I will… fix this… place,’ Liliana replied. ‘Be careful… Violette.’
‘I’ll be careful.’ He dug in his pocket for the iron keys. ‘Naxos. Naxos two,’ he whispered.
The glass dunes whirled into white sand and small waves.
Harry breathed in the ocean breeze, pulling Violette’s ring from his finger and replacing it with Lemon Sorbet’s. He transfigured his robes back with a flick of his wand and placed the unspeakable’s mask onto his face.
Time to think.
He pulled out the map and hung it upon the air in front of him.
‘Astipaea. Amorgos…’ Harry traced a line west across the sea. ‘Atlantis.’
But I should let them go north and take Anafe next, to muddy the waters and so I have time to get to the lotus before they attack Atlantis. He folded the map away and tucked it back into his pocket. One step closer to La Victoire Finale.