The carved lion snarled in the stone beneath Harry’s feet as he touched a hand to the wedding band and silver acorn beneath his robes. Je t’aime. He fed a little magic into the pendant. I’ll see you and our baby bird again soon now.
The three dark pearls weighed heavy as lead in his pocket as Harry tugged the door open and made his way down the stairs, straining his ears for voices.
Silence hung in the gloom of the tower.
They might be outside. He rapped his knuckles on the door to the map room.
‘Come in,’ Daphne said. ‘Who is it?’
‘Tom.’ Harry pushed the door open and slid in.
Daphne glanced up, dabbing a thick green poultice on the back of her hand. ‘Otto Vogt and the Saxon aurors had another go at storming the wall before dawn. They didn’t manage, but they did injure Wild Cherry and myself.’
‘Atlantis was attacked yesterday,’ Harry said.
‘We surmised as much.’ Daphne held her hand up into the light and flexed her fingers with a wince. ‘We thought you might be dead.’
‘Nearly.’ He took a seat on the edge of the table. ‘I had to fend off some janissaries on Lemnos and by the time I arrived everyone else was dead. The janissaries, Lysander and the Greek aurors, and Team Hedgehog.’
Daphne sighed. ‘Suleiman?’
Harry shook his head. ‘I only saw Violette.’
‘Even Violette couldn’t duel an entire Unspeakable Team and Lysander’s aurors.’
‘I think the janissaries got there first and killed a good number of Lysander and the Greeks, then Team Hedgehog arrived after Atlantis’s distress beacon went off and Violette came in to take advantage after they’d tired themselves out stopping the janissaries. By the time I arrived, only Violette was still alive.’
‘How many janissaries died?’
‘Two ortas,’ he replied. ‘They fought to the last. Death or victory is their motto after all.’
‘That leaves around ten ortas.’ She wiped the poultice off her hand with a damp cloth and watched a cluster of dark boils shrink away on her skin. ‘Janissaries are not aurors, they’re purely a military force. Without Team Hedgehog to hold Atlantis, they will sweep through Greece.’
‘I have destroyed or close to destroyed a couple more on Lemnos, Naxos and other islands,’ Harry said. ‘And surely they can’t throw all eight ortas across the Aegean? What about Tsarina Bugrov? Or Egypt?’
‘Some always stay in Constantinople. It used to be six, but since Suleiman came to power it’s been two. I would not be confident in assuming anything else.’
‘We may have to retreat to Malta, then. I’m not sure I can fight Violette, Vert and six ortas of janissaries.’
And I’m certainly not going to try unless I have no choice.
‘Perhaps,’ Daphne murmured. ‘I will speak with Minister Bones. She has been granted emergency powers by the Wizengamot now and it’s solely her decision to make.’ She cocked her head. ‘Would you mind doing me a favour for a moment while we speak?’
‘Depends on the favour…’
Daphne undid the top two buttons of her robes and pushed them off her left shoulder. Dark boils swelled up on her pale skin.
‘Ouch,’ Harry muttered.
‘A nasty curse, but a poor choice of spell for a real duel. The swellings do very little damage and this poultice leeches the magic from them very quickly.’ She slid the bottle over. ‘Just dab a bit on me. Gently. They are sore.’
Harry dipped a finger into the thick cold green paste and poked a blob onto each boil. ‘You couldn’t get Astoria to do this?’
‘She is fixing Colin.’ Daphne shivered as he daubed poultice along her collarbone. ‘He got struck by an obscure hex that splits bones. It was originally used as a customised gardening spell meant to split saplings for decorative structure.’
‘That sounds very unpleasant.’
‘He will be fine, but Astoria needs to vanish the split bone and any marrow, then fix as much damage as she can to the muscle before Colin can spend the night regrowing his shin bone.’ Daphne swept her slim blonde braids off her neck, revealing three more boils. ‘These are the last ones.’
Harry slathered them in green paste with two fingers. The dark swelling deflated like a balloon and the red inflammation faded.
‘Thank you,’ she murmured as he picked up the rag. ‘It’s been a while since Astoria or I have been hurt. I’d almost forgotten how annoying it is.’
Harry dabbed the poultice off Daphne’s neck and shoulder with the damp cloth. ‘May I ask you a question, Daphne?’
‘How did you end up here?’ He waved a hand at the ceiling. ‘From what I know, they were all fighting against Voldemort and just carried on fighting for Britain, but you and your sister…’
‘Amelia Bones fed our parents to the dementors because they couldn’t prove their innocence,’ Daphne murmured. ‘But we were a known quantity to her, and useful given our skill at duelling, so like the Carrow twins we were spared and offered a position in her new Ministry. In our case, the Unspeakables.’
‘And yet you joined the Last Scions?’ He wiped the rest of the poultice away. ‘Just to spy?’
She shook her head, little goosebumps rising as he patted her neck and shoulder dry with a handful of his sleeve. ‘I… I was fine. Astoria was upset about our parents, like you and your mother, Tom. We joined the Last Scions as spies, but also because she wanted to get back at Amelia Bones. They were just like Voldemort’s Death Eaters, though. Short-sighted. Caught up in their own little worlds while the real one struggles with bigger things. They were only going to do more harm and get more families killed in their poisonous hateful quest. We kept them ahead of Neville for a while at Amos’s instructions while they were useful, made them think they were pulling the strings, and it stopped anyone from dying for a bit…’
‘But in the end…?’
‘They stopped trusting us,’ Daphne said. ‘They got Amelia Bones, but she was a liability to Britain on the ICW and a threat given her popularity and control over the Resplendent Sun both in the Wizengamot and the Aurors. Amos told us it was best to let it happen. That her death might staunch the wounds. Someone in the Resplendent Sun did it, but Gemma never explained how she got them to do it. It didn’t stop them, though; they got Amos at Copenhagen…’
‘I guess nobody saw that one coming.’
‘I have no idea how the Last Scions managed it,’ Daphne murmured, pulling her robes over her shoulder and buttoning them up. ‘Perhaps Gemma again. We were more concerned about Violette.’
‘It’s strange, seeing Britain so different,’ Harry said.
‘Astoria and I never believed it would happen when we were first told, but we were proven wrong.’ Her cool blue eyes swept over him. ‘How is your illness, is it troubling you much?’
‘I’ve pushed myself a bit too hard; my illness flared up duelling Violette and I had to hide until he gave up and let his wards down.’ Harry allowed himself a small smile behind Lemon Sorbet’s mask. ‘Violette has left Atlantis for now, but he may be back.’
Daphne glanced at the map on the wall. ‘Are you well enough to get back there quickly?’
It depends if I’m going alone or not.
‘Lysander’s symbol of office is the key to the wards in the lagoon.’ She picked her mask back up. ‘If we can retrieve that, it may prove a useful bargaining chip later. And if Team Hedgehog’s masks are there, you should gather those and destroy the bodies.’
‘I’ll look.’ He cupped the three pearls against his ribs. ‘But then I have to rest for a few days or I might collapse.’
‘Watch over Atlantis and the islands while you do, defend what you can. We’ll see what Minister Bones wants us to do.’ Daphne stood up. ‘But the loss of Team Hedgehog was not something Britain could afford. Not now the Germanic States are involved.’
Harry nodded. ‘I’ll do my best, but with my illness…’
‘I don’t know much about magical illnesses, I’m afraid,’ she murmured. ‘None of us do. But if you need assistance when it comes, you can stay here. Astoria is good at looking after people who are unwell and I will do my best to help you.’
A faint warmth welled up in his chest. It wasn’t them, was it? Underneath it all, they’re rather kind.
‘There’s no cure.’ Harry shrugged. ‘It will get me killed one day, I’m sure of it.’
Very sure. I can’t be Lemon Sorbet and Violette forever.
‘That would be a waste.’ Daphne’s slim blonde brows drew down into a shallow vee. ‘I do despair of us all sometimes, so caught up in our own little worlds we don’t see the real one dying.’
Harry glanced at her shoulder. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes, thank you, Tom.’ Daphne pointed down at the floor. ‘I must check on Astoria and Colin, then take over from Strawberry Sundae watching the woods.’ She vanished with a loud crack.
Harry dug the key out of his pocket. ‘Atlantis one,’ he murmured.
The tower jolted right and he stepped onto the lagoon beach, striding across the sand toward the sprawling corpses. Gulls and crabs hopped among the bodies, picking at them with beaks and claws. They scattered into the air and scuttled for cover as he approached, the cries of the gulls echoing out over the sea.
Harry bent and tugged the worn silver key out of Lysander’s pocket, dropping it into his own. The dead unspeakables lay in the sand, their dark robes hanging off pale swollen skin. He kicked one half of Bill’s gryphon mask into the mound of corpses and balanced the bloodstained other half on his hand, pulling Lemon Sorbet’s mask from his face.
‘Crete. Then home.’ Harry untransfigured his face, switching rings and changing his robes back to Violette’s. ‘Portus.’ He tapped his wand on the top half of Bill’s mask. ‘Hedgehog.’
The lagoon blurred into the small, plain room of Liliana’s Cretan hideout.
‘Violette.’ Liliana turned from the small table at the window, a short, slim-feathered quill in her hand. ‘You were not… gone that long… after all.’
He turned the mask fragment to dust and watched it trickle through his fingers with a soft swell of satisfaction. ‘The unspeakables on Crete have been wiped out.’
‘All of them? How did… that happen?’ She stared at him with a strange gleam in her dark eyes. ‘Or should I… ask how… you did it?’
Harry stepped across and sat on the end of her bed. An ink sketch of a rose lay in the light of the window, its half-finished stem fading off the page.
‘Liliana… loved to,’ she rasped. ‘Now I can… do it… again.’
‘Why a rose?’
‘Something… familiar… to start with. I used… to draw roses… a lot when… I was a… little girl.’
I should give Fleur more roses. Harry frowned, picturing the blooming red rose Fleur kept in their bedroom and tugging on his magic.
A lopsided, wilting red flower drooped from his fingers.
Maybe not this one.
‘Easier with… a wand,’ Liliana said. ‘But you should… not be… giving… roses… to me.’
He laughed. ‘I was just practising. I know another girl who loves them. I promised to give her as many as she could ever want.’
‘I would still… use your wand.’
‘I’ll practise a bit more before I try like this,’ Harry replied.
Liliana put down her quill. ‘You are… avoiding… my questions.’
‘Oh.’ He pulled the red petals off one by one and let them slip through his fingers to the floor. ‘I think the best answer to your question is that I strongly suspect that that unspeakable team was behind the attack on France.’
‘For a… Greater Good… and for… revenge,’ she whispered. ‘We have… the upper… hand here now.’
‘Exactly.’ Harry slid his wand from his sleeve and vanished the remains of his rose. ‘I’m going to briefly return to France, Liliana. I have good news to share.’
‘I will… wait here.’ Liliana picked her quill back up and added faint shading to the stem. ‘Now you… have your… vengeance… let that be… the end of… your hate.’
‘A ruinous poison?’
‘Look what… hate made… of Liliana,’ she rasped. ‘I made… two choices… based on… hatred… and neither… brought any… good to… anyone.’
‘And believing… in Grindelwald,’ Liliana whispered. ‘It all seemed… so very… bleak and I… could not help… but hope he… was right. I should… have known… better. In the end… he was right… about people… but so very… wrong about… the rest.’
‘He is where… he belongs.’ She pressed her fingertips against the dark veins on her cheek. ‘I should… not speak… of him… much more… even if… I am… free to… hate him. I should… be better… than that.’
‘Au revoir, Liliana,’ Harry murmured. ‘I’ll be back soon.’
He apparated back to the beach and grabbed a couple of pieces of driftwood, portkeying back to Iphika, Bari and out into the cool stone hall of Bonifacio. ‘Argent,’ he muttered, clutching the acorn pendant and his glowing wedding band in his fist.
Black silk fluttered over the Mirror of Erised, rippling in the breeze whispering through the willow leaves above as his thumbnail flashed hot.
Harry tugged the veil away, letting it pool over his boots.
Katie stretched her arms up at him from behind the gleaming glass, bouncing on her butt and babbling through her excited grin.
‘Hello, baby bird.’ He swallowed a hot lump and dug the three dark pearls from his pocket. ‘One step closer.’ Harry sketched the runes across the glass and pressed the pearls to the mirror.
Just the dragonbane gem. And the obscurial. And the damaz-kar. And the phoenix’s magic. Anxiety gnawed at him as his daughter beamed beneath the shining silver. And the sacrifice. Whatever it needs to be.
He pulled the cloak out from under his robes and pressed it to the runes until it vanished and appeared around Katie’s shoulders ‘Just the stone…’ Harry stared down at the ring within the pensieve, temptation niggling at his heart.
Just once more won’t hurt. He summoned it into his palm and flipped it over three times. ‘Gabby.’
Grey mist coalesced before the Mirror of Erised.
‘Mon cher frère.’ Gabby reached out to touch one cool fingertip to his cheek. ‘Have you upset my sister again?’
‘No.’ Harry smiled. ‘Not yet, at least. It’s probably only a matter of time, though.’
‘You shouldn’t call me unless you need me,’ she whispered. ‘It will only hurt you more. Hurt us more.’
‘I do need you. Fleur needs you.’
‘She has you. And Katie.’ A small, sad smile curved Gabby’s lips. ‘You stole my sister from me.’
Harry’s heart wrenched. ‘I—’
‘And then you let me in so I didn’t have to lose her,’ she murmured. ‘I loved you both so dearly. And your little chick, too. Fleur will be fine without me. You were fine without Katie Bell.’
‘But I always miss Katie.’ Harry balled his fists as the dull ache of her lost laughter chewed at his heart. ‘Whenever I think of her.’
‘Fleur will always miss me. Whenever she thinks of me.’ Gabby’s smile softened. ‘But she will be fine: she still has you and your daughter.’
A cold, sick feeling settled in the pit of Harry’s stomach. ‘And what if it was just our baby bird?’
What if the price of never having them taken away really has to be having them taken away?
Gabby’s smile faded. ‘She will not be the same without you. She was not when you were dead. She will… endure. Like she did before. For Katie. And until she can bring you back.’
She might not be able to. Not if it’s the price. Not if I make certain it’s paid. And I have to, or it doesn’t count.
Heat flashed through his thumbnail and he cast the ring back into the pensieve, mouthing goodbye.
‘Mon Amour.’ Fleur’s footsteps crunched across the pebbles and her arms slid around his chest. ‘You’re back?’
‘I took the pearls.’ Harry twisted around and pulled her close, clutching her tight and breathing in the sweet sharp scent of her silver hair. ‘I need to find the dragonbane gem now, before Britain’s defence of Greece collapses.’
‘Grise is expecting Britain to go on the offensive after the Ottomans failed to take Atlantis and lost many janissaries.’ She tugged Violette’s ring from his finger and dropped it into his pocket. ‘What do you know that he doesn’t?’
‘No ice creams ever came to France,’ Harry murmured. ‘But the others…? They might well have been part of the Resplendent Sun somehow.’
Fleur’s eyes flashed black and heat washed over him.
‘They’re dead, mon Rêve. I killed them all.’ He kissed her on the tip of the nose. ‘They were in the way. And we don’t have time to waste on obstacles.’
The dark drained from her eyes. ‘The closest dragonbane gem to Greece is in south-west Romania, I can’t pronounce the real name, but it means Scorched Peak Dragon Preserve. You can portkey there from Greece; I made you one that will take you to the visitors’ entrance.’ Fleur dipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out a pink macaron. ‘One of Gabby’s presents for Katie… but they won’t keep long, so I wanted to use them for something important and not just eat them like any other sweet.’
‘This is definitely something important,’ Harry whispered as she pressed it into his hand.
‘The word is wisteria. And you need to find a way to get in and out without getting noticed,’ she said. ‘No risks…’
I won’t leave any trace of Lemon Sorbet or Violette. We need them to be given free reign for a little longer still.
‘How are you?’ Harry asked, brushing her hair back over her ear. ‘Are you okay?’
I barely see you anymore.
‘I miss our little angel.’ Fleur’s lip trembled. ‘I miss her so much. I want her back, mon Coeur. So go get that dragonbane gem. Stay away until you have it. Make me miss you. Make it hurt. And then…’
‘Then it will be perfect,’ Harry murmured.
‘So perfect,’ she breathed. ‘So absolutely unimaginably perfect.’
‘Stay safe for me,’ he said. ‘No risks, remember.’
‘I’m stuck in France. The new wards are overlaid over the old ones Desrosiers is afraid were breached, but only I can maintain the new ones, so I’m constantly hopping around the border to keep them strong.’ Fleur cupped his cheek. ‘And if I’m not doing that, then I’m hunting for damaz-kar or phoenix magic in the catacombs beneath Paris.’
‘Nearly three out of five.’ Harry covered her hand with his and gave it a gentle squeeze. ‘It won’t be too long now.’
‘Don’t waste time.’ She stared over his shoulder into the mirror with a gleam of hunger in her blue eyes. ‘Gabby’s magic could fade tomorrow. And being both Lemon Sorbet and Violette can’t last. Sooner or later, you’ll have to abandon the unspeakable deception.’
‘Lemon Sorbet will die.’ Harry bent and swept the black silk back over the mirror. ‘But first he has to go to America and get an obscurus, then Violette must steal the damaz-kar from the goblins beneath the alps. And before that, Lemon Sorbet must go to Romania. And you…’
‘Phoenixes,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Je sais. There is nothing, though, mon Amour. And we don’t have another three years for me to learn all the alchemy that Gabby spent so long learning to bring you back and then for La Victoire Finale. We might not be able to recreate the magic. We might have to catch one.’
‘If we must, we must.’ He pressed a soft kiss to her lips. ‘Whatever it takes.’