Storm clouds rumbled in the distance, an ominous grey swathe looming on the horizon.
‘Nearly found them,’ Harry murmured, disillusioning himself. ‘Nearly there.’ He dug into his pocket and pulled out the key. ‘Anafe. Anafe one.’
Lemnos’s cypress groves whirled into a narrow pebbled beach. Red-robed janissaries stood in neat rows before a pair of captains.
He strode closer across the stones, ignoring the cold wash of the waves against his ankles and letting the fierce yearning boil up inside. ‘Imperio.’ Harry turned to the second captain. ‘Imperio.’
The need burnt their will away, seared everything but Atlantis from their thoughts.
‘To Atlantis!’ The witch raised her wand. ‘Death or victory for the janissaries of Suleiman the Great!’
‘Death or victory!’ the other captain yelled.
They disapparated in a thunderous crack.
Harry pulled the cloak out from under his robes and swept it over him, grabbing the thickest key from the bunch Astoria had given him. ‘Atlantis one.’
He stumbled onto a shallow crescent of white sand. Low white stone towers rose over the still waters of the lagoon and beneath them, a glass bubble shimmering with iridescent magic sat over tumbled ruins and glistening clams the size of dinner plates.
‘There you are.’ He turned away and peered along the beach at the cluster of red figures at the far end. ‘Now I just need to find Lysander and the key.’
White smoke burst from his pocket.
The distress beacon. Harry swept it away with a flick of his wand and apparated down the beach to where the zig-zagging ranks of janissaries fired rippling volleys of spells into the shield charms of a knot of Greek aurors in white jackets.
Bodies crumpled into the white sand as spells punched through shields, tearing holes in the janissaries’ line and ripping gaps into the knot of Greeks.
‘Advance.’ The janissary captain thrust her wand forward from the front of the first line.
The Ottomans closed ranks and took a step forward. Spells flashed between the lines and the Greeks wavered, edging back as their numbers dwindled.
The Janissaries are going to roll right over them. Harry spun his wand in his fingers. And once they have, I’ll kill them all, take that key, and get what we need.
A series of loud cracks rang across the beach and Team Hedgehog appeared a few steps from where he stood at the edge of the lagoon. White smoke curled from Gryphon’s pocket.
‘Merde,’ Harry muttered. ‘They had a beacon as well.’
A shimmering bubble of wards fell over the beach and Acromantula and Werewolf darted around the right flank of the Greeks, directing a hail of yellow and orange curses into the end of the Janissaries’ formation. Their spells shredded the end of the line.
They’ve warded us all in.
‘Sphinx!’ The janissary captain shouted.
The janissaries staggered into a narrow wedge behind overlapping shield charms as Dragon, Gryphon and Grindylow spread out to the left of the Greeks.
Time to improvise. Harry pulled Lemon Sorbet’s mask off and stuck Violette’s ring on his finger, transfiguring his robes back to the ones the Duforts had gifted him. They’re the ones that attacked our home. Cold fury clenched its fist around his heart. And they deserve this.
He swept off the cloak and stuffed it under his robes, releasing his Disillusionment Charm. ‘Bonsoir,’ he called.
The unspeakables whirled.
‘Violette,’ Dragon growled. ‘Of course you’d turn up to ruin things.’
Harry thrust his magic into the corpses on the beach, burrowing it into them like worms squirming through mud until an eerie yellow glow flickered over their limbs and in their dull eyes. ‘I was keeping an eye on you all.’
The inferii lunged, hurling themselves at the unspeakables, Greeks and janissaries and clawing at them with long fingernails. Screams rang across the beach as the inferii tore apart a Greek auror at the edge of the knot, ripping his throat out with their teeth.
Spells flashed in all directions, leaving smoking craters in the sand. The wedge of red-robed janissaries scattered from the clawing inferii; their spells deflected off each other, hitting other janissaries as the inferii attacked in a wild frenzy.
‘Ardens flagello,’ Harry hissed, casting a wave of purple and ebony flame at the Greeks.
They twisted, hurling up shield charms, and the flames splashed off, setting inferii ablaze. He took a deep breath. ‘Lacero.’ He blurred the wand motion into a piercing hex, forcing his arm as fast as it could go.
A storm of purple and yellow spells ripped into the Greek aurors’ flickering Shield Charms and the knot melted away into a heap of corpses. Harry swatted away Acromantula’s and Werewolf’s curses and strode forward. Beyond the pair of unspeakables, Grindylow and Gryphon duelled the janissary captains back-to-back as an inferius crawled past their feet toward a thrashing, dark-robed figure and burning inferii hurled themselves at the scattered janissaries.
Harry reached the edge of the mound of Greek corpses and sent a torrent of Fiendfyre rushing over them at the pair of unspeakables. He set it free and disillusioned himself, dropping to one knee as a blue spell streaked from Acromantula’s wand into the cliff.
‘He’s vanished,’ Werewolf snapped. ‘But our wards are still up, so either he’s slipped out or he might be back after he’s taken a breather. Let’s get rid of the janissaries quickly. Fuck them.’
They turned away, hurling hexes across into the scattered janissaries.
Where’s Lysander? Harry scanned the bodies.
A bloodstained, tattered purple sash hung from the shoulder of one of the bodies. Harry dragged the corpse out from under two others and ripped an ancient, worn silver key from around its neck.
And now I just have to get rid of anyone else, or this will be very hard to explain to Liliana and Grise. He pulled off Violette’s ring and dropped it in his pocket, transfiguring his robes back and putting a few holes through them. I can’t believe I’m going to do this again. Harry set fire to his left arm, wincing from the heat and squashing the flames out.
‘Right.’ He placed Lemon Sorbet’s mask back on and let the cold dark mist trickle through his fingers. ‘Time to save the day.’
He abandoned his Disillusionment Charm and apparated into the midst of the janissaries, crushing their wards. The magic of his horcrux scythed through them, spraying blood across the sand. Acromantula and Werewolf picked off the last few with piercing hexes and turned on the two janissary captains, snaring them in a swathe of conjured ropes and finishing them off with two cutting curses.
‘Who’re you?’ Gryphon demanded, stomping across the sand.
‘Lemon Sorbet. I arrive just in the nick of time.’ The corner of Harry’s mouth twitched as he squashed the Fiendfyre with a wave of his hand. ‘Heroes always do.’
Acromantula groaned and tucked their wand away. ‘Not another ice cream. They’re ruining our reputation with those stupid names.’
‘I drove off Violette,’ Harry said. ‘He and I have a score to settle.’
‘When? Where? And by yourself?’ Grindylow let out a low whistle. ‘Fuck… Maybe you are a hero.’
‘My magic is well-matched to countering his.’ Harry glanced at the glass dome and the pearls beneath and smiled. ‘I’m sorry I was a little late to the party, I had to drive them back from Lemnos and Naxos before I could answer the distress signal, but like I said, the hero always arrives just in the nick of time.’
‘You did the right thing.’ Gryphon swept their gaze over the beach, stabbing their wand through their belt. ‘This is a fucking mess. The Greeks are going to be pissed. Bloody Violette. Did you kill him?’
‘No. He set fire to me a bit, I put a few holes in him. He didn’t seem keen to get serious or you definitely would have noticed us duelling.’
‘Because he knew the job was already done.’ Gryphon growled and ground their heel into the sand. ‘We’ll have to abandon Crete and fall back here now Lysander and his aurors are dead. That puts us on the back foot.’
‘The rest of your team are still pinned down in Epidamnus, right?’ Grindylow asked, stuffing their wand into their pocket.
‘Yeah. It’s just me hopping about protecting islands.’ Wry, dark humour tugged the corner of his mouth up into a small smile. ‘There’s nobody but us left.’
And who are you all, who tried to take our sunset from us? Harry let the cold fury well up in his breast, felt the mist tremble and swirl in his sleeve. It doesn’t matter so long as they’re not in the way anymore.
‘At least we’ve got someone who can handle Violette,’ Werewolf said as they poked their wand into their pocket with one finger. ‘He makes me feel like a kid again, watching Voldemort come across that courtyard at school like there’s nothing that could ever stop him.’
‘Voldemort was stopped.’ Acromantula waved a hand at Harry. ‘And Violette can be too. Just takes another British hero, right, Lemon Sorbet?’
‘You don’t deserve a hero.’ Harry twisted his wand.
Tendrils of dark mist lanced from his sleeve, impaling Werewolf, Acromantula and Grindylow, and spattering the sand red. Gryphon tumbled back into the sand, clutching their face.
And you didn’t get one.
Harry thrust his wand into the sky, layering his magic into a thick mesh of wards. ‘You’re not going anywhere.’
Werewolf, Acromantula and Grindylow dangled from the long dark spikes of his horcrux’s magic. Blood trickled down their limbs and dripped onto the white sand. The black vapour drew back, dragging the masks away as they slumped to the beach.
Two unfamiliar faces stared up from beneath the silver werewolf and black acromantula.
‘I don’t know you two at all.’ Harry crushed all three masks with a flick of his wand. ‘But I knew you, Cho.’ He turned away from Cho’s dull brown eyes as Gryphon pulled their wand out. ‘Let’s see if I knew you.’
Gryphon lowered his hand and let his mask fall away in two pieces. Furious blue eyes burnt beneath long red hair.
Of course it’s him. Harry clenched his fist around his wand and glared at the dragon fang swinging from Bill Weasley’s ear. He tried to take my dream away before. Of course he tried to do it again.
‘Their names were Karl Limpley and Rhonda Fladbury.’ Bill Weasley pointed his wand at Harry’s chest. ‘You’re not Neville’s new fucking unspeakable, are you?’
‘Oh, I am.’ Harry pulled the mask from his own face and tucked it into his pocket. ‘Tom Gaunt. Also known as Lemon Sorbet.’
Bill Weasley shook his head. ‘No you’re not. I worked with the goblins at Gringotts. The Gaunt family have been dead for a while. Tell me your real name. I want to know who I’m going to kill.’
‘You’re right. I borrowed the name to join the Unspeakables.’ Harry pressed his wand to his forehead. ‘You tried to steal my sunset from me, Bill. You wanted her for yourself, because she’s perfect, but she’s my dream and I will never let anyone take that from us.’
Bill sneered. ‘I still don’t even know who…’
Harry dragged the tip of his wand down his face, untransfiguring it. ‘What about now?’
‘You fucking traitor,’ Bill hissed. ‘We were family to you and you threw us all away over that paedo French veela girl. Our dad died because of you. Ron died. Fred died. George died. And now, when we’re finally rebuilding things, you think you can swoop back in and ruin it all again for us? No.’ He shook his head and spat into the sand. ‘No. Avada kedavra.’
Harry conjured a swirl of black-winged butterflies; they swallowed the flash of emerald light. He transfigured them into steel spikes, banishing them across the beach, sending them thudding into a broad plank of wood inches from Bill’s chest and skidding into the sand.
Bill hurled curses back around its splintered edge but Harry swatted them back and into the scarred piece of wood, searing a smoking line through Bill’s thigh. Crushing Bill’s magic from the conjuration, Harry transfigured the thick plank into a snake and looped it around Bill’s legs as he staggered back. Bill thudded into the sand and wriggled free, rolling, bouncing back to one knee and thrusting out his wand. Harry slapped a trio of white spells down the beach and shattered Bill’s hand with a bone-splintering curse.
Bill snatched his wand up in his left hand and slashed it forward. ‘Sectumsempra.’
Harry watched the jagged gashes fade against his shield. ‘You should’ve just left us alone,’ he whispered. ‘I’d forgotten you even existed. We weren’t even going to keep fighting. We just wanted to be left alone to our dream. But you couldn’t do it, could you?’
‘You started this,’ Bill spat. ‘Helping that Death Eater terrorist Parkinson and her pals.’
He’s still lying to me.
The fury stirred within, coiling tighter and tighter about his heart, all sharp, dark scales and glinting black eyes as cold as ice. Slim lips peeled back from a bottomless maw of countless needle-like teeth and the magic of his horcrux exploded through his sleeve, scattering scraps of black cloth into the air and swallowing Bill in a storm of swirling teeth.
‘You never had a chance.’ Harry stared down at the ragged lump of bleeding flesh on the sand as the dark mist shrunk back into his wand. ‘Not then. Not now.’ The cold rage tightened its grasp. ‘But you had to try, didn’t you? You always all have to try and take things away from me.’ He turned his back on Bill. ‘Well, if you want it to be your dreams or mine, this is where you end up. With no dreams left.’
Forget him. They’re dead. Gabby’s avenged. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, pulling the cloak out from under his robes. Katie first. Another step closer.
‘I guess if there’s a key, there must be a door.’ Harry swept the cloak over himself and stepped into the lagoon.
Warmth crept up over his waist as he strode down the shallow slope and into the clear sea. He cast the Bubblehead Charm over himself as the water rose up his neck and ducked his head under, peering through the blue toward the pale shapes of coral-adorned ruins.
A faint shimmer hung in the blue where the lagoon bed sloped up toward the shore.
Harry kicked down toward it into colder water, holding the cloak tight as the water tugged at it, and poked the tip of his wand into the shimmer. It tapped glass.
Merde. A glass door is going to be a pain to find. He felt his way along the cold, clear wall with one palm, squinting for some sign of a lock.
Fish darted away from him into the gloom as he swam around the ruins, tracing his fingers along the glass. Huge, shin-high clams dotted the anemone-studded marble stones and starfish adorned the columns and broken-limbed statues.
Harry kicked his way back to the beach-side and swallowed a flash of irritation. ‘If you get in the way, I’ll smash you.’
The glass stood cold and clear between his fingertips and the ruins.
Merde. He rested his head against the barrier and sighed, digging the silver key out and turning it over in his hand. Do you show me the way in?
Smooth unmarked metal shone in the faint sunlight filtering down through the sea.
Harry clenched his jaw and slammed it against the glass. ‘Just fucking open.’
The silver key melted into the barrier and the bubble shivered. The glass vanished and Harry sank through the shimmering ward into the ruins.
I hope I can get that back. He smothered a stab of anxiety. I might need it to get out.
Harry let himself descend down onto the white sand and peered into the first clam. A pure white pearl the size of an eye gleamed within; a spark of magic shone under its surface, little ripples of iridescence washing from it across the pearls surface.
Not a dark pearl.
He swam over a tumbled column, startling an octopus away into the shadows in a cloud of black ink. A thick slab of marble lay beneath the fading wisps of darkness, marked with worn old words and surrounded by mounds of thin silver coins.
Remember. Harry hovered over the marble, watching the letters writhe from Greek to English. As you are, we were. And when the Gods will it, as we are, you will be.
A thousand desperate wishes gleamed in the sprawling heaps of pale silver coins, countless ghosts’ hopes whispering through the water as if reaching up to drag him down into the dark.
This isn’t just a memorial, this is a shrine. Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, smothering the cold prickle creeping down his spine. To death and despair.
A handful more clams stood open around the foot of a headless marble woman. White pearls shone from the first three, but a pitch black marble the size of a galleon sat in the next, shimmering with viridescent sparks. Seven silver coins sat in the sand around it.
What’s so special about pearls? He stared down at the silver coins, guilt chewing at his gut with cold, blunt teeth. Sorry, but I can’t die in despair like you all did.
Harry dipped his hand in and snatched the pearl out. The clam snapped shut with a small stream of bubbles.
Nasty. He eyed the faint glow of magic on the shell. I get the feeling it’s very hard to get through that clam shell.
The other clams closed, sending a cloud of bubbles up past the statue’s broken limbs toward the lagoon’s surface.
Harry frowned and moved on, swimming through the toppled walls toward another cluster of giant clams in silver-coin strewn sand at the base of a semi-circle of whelk-spotted marble benches.
Dark pearls shone inside every one of them.
They’re all going to close after I grab the first one, aren’t they? Harry conjured a thick iron bar and dropped it into the nearest.
It closed on the bar, sending a couple of bubbles upwards. He plucked the pearl out and conjured a second bar for the next clam, grabbing a third dark pearl.
Harry vanished the bars and watched the clams close in a gush of bubbles as he swam up toward the surface.
The silver key appeared before him in a flash of light as he crossed the shimmering ward and he snatched it as it sank toward the seabed. He swept the cloak off, apparating back onto the beach and tucking the worn silver key into Lysander’s pocket.
One step closer, mon Reve. A hollow ache gnawed at his heart as he touched his fingertips to the acorn necklace. Je t’aime.
Harry fed a little magic into the pendant. It warmed over his heart and a small smile crept onto his lips.
I miss you too.
The acorn flashed hot against his skin.
Je t’aime a la folie.