Harry stared back through the towers of glass and steel at the fading sunset. The thrum of Manhattan echoed out past him over the sea; a whirring, rumbling hubbub dwindling into the waves.
‘We’ll have to be very careful,’ Ginny murmured, glancing down at Roxie. ‘The island of New Amsterdam is behind very strong wards to avoid detection and it’s a mile or so out to sea from here, but anything that gets past those is going to break the Statute. Permanently.’
Whatever it takes. It’ll be night soon.
‘It should be fine in the dark,’ he replied. ‘Shall we get this over with? There’s no good reason to waste time.’
One more step today. Harry brushed his fingertips against the acorn and wedding ring hanging beneath his robes. Nearly there, baby bird. You won’t have to wait too much longer.
‘They know we’re coming.’ Ginny pointed her wand out over the heaving grey sea. ‘I sent them twenty severed heads to let them know.’
‘One would probably have been enough,’ Harry said. ‘But I guess the more the merrier. It’s not like they were using their heads anymore.’ He crouched down and gave Roxie a gentle poke in the shoulder. ‘Are you ready?’
You need to be, Roxie. It hurts. If you’re not prepared to suffer for it, you can’t save yourself. Harry crushed a niggle of guilt down into the emptiness. But it’ll be worth it. You’ll finally make your wish come true.
She tore her gaze away from the sea, a determined gleam in her green eyes; little threads of dark magic danced in the whites of them, swirling and coiling like tiny snakes.
A small smile crept onto Harry’s lips. You look ready.
He reached down and took her hand. ‘I’ll break through the anti-apparition wards and get it all started. Ginny, you and the squad follow me in, but be cautious. Once it all kicks off, make sure nobody can get out and whittle them down. It doesn’t matter if we have to spend all week here so long as we get our hands on President Lee and do enough damage to terrify him into surrendering and not causing any trouble for the next century or so.’
‘Got it.’ Ginny’s mirrored visor swept up over her face and she turned to her squad. ‘This will be the same as before,’ she said, drawing her wand. ‘Visors up. No mercy. Not for any of them. If you’re not absolutely certain they’re dead, you put another curse through them and make sure.’
Tracey took a step forward. ‘What about—’
‘No prisoners. And don’t let me see you fucking about with stupid curses, Tracey. Or you, Angelina. Keep it simple. Quick and clean. They’ll fear us enough when we win.’
‘Yes captain,’ Tracey murmured.
Angelina nodded her head, sweeping the mirrored visor over her head with a flick of her wand. ‘Understood captain.’
Harry slipped his wand down his sleeve and charmed a tiny silver cross onto the side of her boot. I’m going to find you later, Angelina. And if it was you, I’ll turn all your dreams to dust and let you drown in it.
Harry pictured the low, grey stone quay of New Amsterdam, crushing the wards and spinning the world back past him. He stepped onto the end of the quay, catching Roxie’s arm and ushering her away from the edge.
Roxie pulled her wand out.
‘Don’t wave that around too much,’ he said. ‘I’m quite hoping President Lee is angry and egotistical enough to come and say something about backwards European nations and their dark magic.’
‘Why?’ she asked, screwing up her face.
‘Fear needs a face. A name.’ Harry snorted. ‘Lemon Sorbet is going to go out of fashion really fast in America, but hopefully they’ll stop causing trouble.’
It doesn’t really matter now. All I have to do is make sure you succeed and take you back with me.
Ranks of grey-jacketed aurors appeared in a thunderous crack.
And here we go.
President Lee took three long strides out from the front of them, grabbing the sides of his jacket with both hands. ‘We will never accept—’
‘Let me stop you there,’ Harry said. ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to talk. And talk. And talk. About how backwards Europe is. About how great America is. And I’m not going to listen. Because I don’t care about your rhetoric.’
President Lee sputtered. ‘I am the pres—’
‘Just another wizard, really. There’s nothing great about you.’ Harry imagined the black web of veins sinking into Katie’s skin and let dark mist pour from his sleeve; frost crept across the stones of the quay and the breath of the aurors misted in the air. ‘But I am here.’ The words welled up, a half-familiar weight on his tongue. ‘And I am great.’
‘You Europeans always think you’re so much better because you hoard dark magicks and use them to kill anyone that disagrees with you.’ President Lee sneered. ‘You’re barbaric. Grindelwald. Voldemort. Grindelwald again. Your empires are crumbling. Our union is the future.’
Just a little more.
‘Your union can’t even look out for its own children,’ Harry snapped. ‘You leave little girls to suffer. How many American aurors have wasted their time and lives stirring trouble beyond your borders? How many obscuri could have been saved if those aurors had been at home?’
A white-speckled hawk swept down out of the sky, shifting back into the shape of a tall, wiry man. Twisting patterns of red and white lines ran through the thick black bar painted across his nose and cheekbones and across the shoulders of his grey jacket. White feathers sprouted from the collar of his thick coat and hung from a short slim lace at the curved handle of his wand.
President Lee smirked. ‘Cetanawuaka, take the unspeakable alive. Let’s see what dirty secrets we can pry out of his head.’
Cetanawuaka took one step forward. ‘The unspeakable isn’t alone and our wards are compromised.’ His sharp light-brown eyes studied Harry. ‘And he doesn’t seem worried.’
Harry let the magic of his horcrux pour through his fingers and swirl around his arm.
‘Dark magic,’ President Lee spat, edging back a step. ‘Bring him in, Cetanawuaka.’
‘And the girl?’ Cetanawuaka asked.
‘She’s not important.’ President Lee waved a hand. ‘Just stun her or something.’
Roxie’s grip tightened, her fingernails digging into Harry’s wrist. ‘They don’t care at all,’ she whispered, little patches of darkness bubbling on the backs of her hands. ‘They just want to get rid of me too.’
‘She is very likely the third tier obscurial missing from the hospital near New Kleves,’ Cetanawuaka replied. ‘Rescuing her—’
‘Kill her.’ President Lee edged back behind the front row of aurors, fiddling with the buttons of his jacket. ‘She’s betrayed her country. She destroyed an entire town. I’ve discussed it with the house of representatives, dangerous obscuri can be put down if need be.’
‘She’s an obscurial.’ Cetanawuaka’s jaw stiffened. ‘It’s no fault—’
‘Do it, Cetanawuaka!’ President Lee thrust a thick finger past the broad shoulders of one of his aurors. ‘Or I’ll send you to sweat in a dirty hole in Panama with that idiot Grant Hardsworth.’
‘You’re just like them,’ Roxie hissed. ‘You want to hurt me. You want to hurt him.’ She trembled, dark magic boiling beneath her skin.
Cetanawuaka raised his hands. ‘Easy…’
Roxie released Harry’s hand and jabbed her wand at President Lee. ‘Avada—’ her scream rose into an eerie ear-splitting shriek.
Harry clapped his hands to his ringing ears and the aurors reeled back, scrabbling for their wands. Black magic exploded from Roxie, shattering the quay beneath their feet like glass.
The aurors disapparated with a loud crack. Harry thrust his magic into the air and caught himself above the heaving waves, lifting himself up above the rooftops. A churning, bubbling vortex of ink-black magic swirled through New Amsterdam with a piercing scream, shredding houses like parchment as it tore toward a great statute of a rearing bison. Red-robed aurors crouched on the rooves at New Amsterdam’s edge, hurling spells down into the scattering figures in the streets.
They’re all split up. A cold pit of fury cracked open in Harry’s heart. Something cruel coiled there, its thin lips curling back from countless needle-like teeth. Where are you, Angelina?
He disillusioned himself and wrenched the world back past him, stepping out beside the nearest figure with a soft snap and studying their boots.
Harry apparated from auror to auror until he found the small silver mark on the inside of a boot. ‘Angelina.’ He dropped his Disillusionment Charm.
Dark mist lunged from his sleeve, smashing her back against the chimney and pinning her limbs to the stone. One slim tendril snaked around her face and crushed the mirrored visor, driving sharp pieces of glass into her skin and curling around her throat. Blood oozed from the bristling shards, trickling down over her lips.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ she choked, writhing and kicking against the stone.
Harry pulled Lemon Sorbet’s mask off and crushed her wand under his heel, grinding the splinters into the tiles. ‘I’m going to ask you a question. It’s a very important question, Angelina. If you get it wrong, you’re really really not going to like what’s going to happen to you.’
She spat blood into his face. ‘Fuck you, traitor.’
‘Maybe we should have some warm up questions, so you can see just how serious I am.’ He wiped his face clean and picked a piece of glass out of Angelina’s face.
She flinched and her breath hitched. ‘Ginny will kill you.’
‘No she won’t.’ Harry pulled another shard out of her cheek and tossed it aside. ‘She’ll never know. Nobody can see you behind the chimney and they’re all rather busy at the moment.’
‘I’m going to ask you a question now,’ he said, offering her a small smile. ‘It’s not the question, but I do suggest you’re honest. I’ll know if you lie. And I don’t like it when people lie to me.’
Harry let their thoughts merge. ‘When was the last time you went to France?’
Angelina stiffened. ‘I’ve never—’
An abandoned building and Presidente Desrosiers’s gold ring on the palm of a hand flickered through their thoughts.
He pushed the shard of glass back into her face with one finger until she writhed. ‘Lie to me again and I’ll put one through your eye. Slowly.’
She shuddered and clamped her mouth shut.
‘You used the ring Neville had. You went to France for the Resplendent Sun. You tracked him when he went there, didn’t you?’ Harry pulled a long piece of glass out of her chin and wiped it clean on her shoulder. ‘Didn’t you, Angelina?’
‘Yes.’ She eyed the shard in his fingers, her face twisted in horror. ‘Yes. We were watching him. He went to France. To meet someone. We knew he’d been meeting with someone from France. We couldn’t have him ruining everything, but we can’t touch him. We need every auror and especially good ones with a popular reputation. And he’s an outspoken opponent of us, it’d be suspicious if he vanished.’
‘So you followed his steps back to France and killed everyone you found.’
Harry pressed the piece of glass against her lips. ‘Legilimens.’ He tore through her fearful swarming thoughts; they bubbled up through desperate flashes of Hogwarts’ Quidditch hoops, buoyed on swelling fear.
Gabby deflected curses away into the orchard with both hands on her wand, her sweat-soaked silver hair clinging to her face. Katie clung to her leg, dark-eyed and crying, feathers prickling through her clothes.
‘Fucking get them. No mercy, remember!’ Tracey shouted from beneath the cherry trees, hurling curses at Gabby as she stumbled backwards toward the distant willow tree. ‘Cor exaruit!’
A flash of light burst through Gabby’s shield and struck Katie in the chest.
He ripped their thoughts apart.
Angelina twisted her face away and the piece of glass slipped from her lips to smash on the tiles. ‘What do you care?’ she hissed. ‘Did Neville set you up to this? It’s his own fault. What did he think would happen to his accomplices when we found them?’
‘That little girl Tracey cursed, do you know her name?’ Harry stepped back, cold fury coursing through his veins. ‘She didn’t seem at all familiar to you?’
‘No.’ Angelina swallowed. ‘She was just some poor kid in the wrong place.’
‘When my daughter was born, she was everything I had ever hoped for,’ he whispered. ‘I never truly believed in perfect things until I held her in my arms. We named her Katie—’ Harry dragged his wand from his forehead to his chin, untransfiguring his features ‘—after my best friend.’
All the blood drained from Angelina’s face. ‘No. No, this can’t be true. You died. After Katie died.’ A flash of horror passed through her eyes. ‘Oh… that French flower girl—’
The distant scream of Roxie’s magic faded and a tense silence fell.
Harry glanced up.
Amidst sprawling rubble and half-ruined houses, the vortex of dark magic burst apart into fading wisps of black fog.
‘I’m going to go get Roxie. I’ll be back in a moment.’ Harry transfigured his face and placed Lemon Sorbet’s mask over his face. ‘But just in case someone happens to come up here…’
His horcruxes’s magic uncurled from her neck, splitting into several thin tendrils and prying her mouth open; they coiled around her tongue and ripped it free in a spray of blood. Angelina screamed as the black mist clamped around the stump of her tongue, stifling her cries and the spurting of blood to a trickle.
‘I’ve already heard everything I want to hear from you,’ he said, conjuring a swathe of barbed wire and lashing her to the chimney. ‘Don’t go anywhere, Angelina. We’re going to do a bit more catching up in a moment.’
She moaned, dribbling red down her front.
Harry tapped her on the head with his wand, disillusioning her, and apparated down before the twisted wreckage of the bronze bison. Roxie sat between the horns of its fallen head, her arms wrapped around her knees.
‘There you are,’ he said, striding through the rubble.
Her head snapped up. ‘You’re okay!’
‘More or less,’ Harry said.
‘I thought – I thought…’ her lip trembled.
‘I’m fine.’ He held out his hand. ‘And so are you.’
There’s no more time to waste.
‘Are you ready, Roxie?’ Harry pulled the mask off and tucked it into his pocket. ‘Are you ready to make your wishes come true and save yourself?’
A fierce gleam rose in her green eyes and she grabbed his hand. ‘I tried. I tried the spell. But when I said the words, I screamed and it all just burst out.’
Harry took a deep breath and swallowed his fury, taking a firm grip on her hand. ‘Come with me, Roxie. Let’s try again, shall we?’ He apparated them back up onto the roof. ‘We have to leave today, Roxie. We’re running out of time…’
She froze, black threads flickering through her eyes, clutching at the wand in her pocket. ‘But I need to find someone! Someone to use that spell on! And rip it out! I don’t need it anymore—’ tears glistened in her eyes ‘—I want to go with you,’ she whispered. ‘I want to be with you. You’re the only person who’s ever been nice to me since mom died.’
‘It’s going to be okay. I have a person.’ Harry disillusioned Angelina. ‘Here’s one I made earlier, Roxie.’
Roxie flinched. ‘Isn’t she…? One of your friends?’
‘No. She cursed my daughter and killed a… my sister,’ he said, crouching down next to her. ‘And does it really matter when it’s going to be a completely selfish act? If you want to save yourself, it’s now or never…’
Roxie pointed the wand at Angelina, an eerie glow in her green eyes and black magic bubbling on her hands. ‘I’m not sorry. Everyone always hurt me because they could. Nobody stopped them. Now it’s my turn.’
Angelina moaned and shook her head, dribbling blood down her chin.
‘You’re lucky, Angelina,’ Harry said. ‘I was going to do much worse to you than she will.’
But Katie comes first. La Victoire Finale comes first.
‘Avada kedavra,’ Roxie hissed.
A bright green flash struck Angelina and she slumped over the wire.
‘Now rip it out,’ Harry murmured in Roxie’s ear. ‘Rip it out and entrust it to something precious. Something that was always there, just like it was.’
‘Will it hurt?’ Her voice shook.
‘More than you can imagine,’ he wrapped an arm around her. ‘But afterward, you’ll be free. And I’ll be here to look after you.’
She closed her eyes and screamed, thrashing in his arms. Black tears trickled from her eyes; they burst into wisps of mist and swirled into her chest, seeping through her dress as she clawed at her front.
‘It’s going to be okay,’ Harry whispered, holding her close. ‘You’re nearly there.’
Roxie’s screams grew hoarse, turning to thin raw whistling gasps and she collapsed over his forearm, sobbing and shaking.
‘Roxie?’ Harry lifted her onto her feet and spun her around.
Smoke curled from her seared, weeping hands.
‘Vulnera sanentur,’ he muttered, pouring magic into his spell until the burns melted closed. ‘When you wake up, Roxie, you’ll be free. I promise.’ Harry clapped Lemon Sorbet’s mask on his face and transfigured Angelina’s corpse into a stack of grey roof tiles. ‘I must be close enough to apparate back across the Atlantic from here…’
He wrenched at the world, stumbling across a string of bleak, windswept tower tops onto the cobbles of Diagon Alley. ‘Argent,’ Harry whispered, pulling the acorn pendant up from under his robes.
He stepped out under the willow, heat flaring on his thumbnail, and lay Roxie down on the ground.
Fleur appeared on the white pebbles. ‘Mon Amour…’ Her eyes strayed to Roxie. ‘Who’s this?’
‘This is Roxie.’ Harry slipped a finger under the lace at the nape of her neck and lifted the ring up from under her dress. ‘The first ever obscurial to save herself from her own magic. The obscurus should be in this now. Like a horcrux, in a way. This part of her soul, the purpose she no longer needs, is entrusted to her mother’s wedding ring. I think it could have been melded back into her soul, but we needed it.’
Fleur’s eyes softened. ‘She is okay?’
‘No. She just tore her soul apart,’ he murmured. ‘Let her rest. I have to go back to New Amsterdam. I found them. The ones who attacked us. For real this time. One is dead. I’ll try and get more answers from the other one and kill her as well. They followed Neville, thinking we were conspiring with him to thwart their plans.’
Her eyes flashed black as night. ‘Burn them. I promised Gabby fire. Burn them all.’
We promised her no more secrets. No more hurting.
‘I will, mon Reve.’ Harry swept the black silk off the mirror.
Katie reached up from beneath the shining silver surface, a bright happy gleam in her green eyes as she babbled at him.
A hot lump swelled in his throat at the sight of her smile and the yearning bubbled up beneath his ribs like molten flame, a swirling searing storm burning through his breast. Harry sucked in a deep breath and shoved it down.
‘Not long now, baby bird. Just a few more steps.’
I’ll get Roxie to give me the ring when I’m back from New Amsterdam. And then it’s just the damaz-kar and the phoenix. He watched Katie’s eyes darken as she clutched for him; little white feathers sprouted from her arms and she screwed her face up and wailed. And the price. Whatever it takes.
‘She always looks so happy to see us and then so cross we can’t take her out yet.’ Fleur’s arms slipped around his chest and she rested her head against his back. A faint, warm dampth brushed his neck. ‘What do I say to Roxie when she wakes?’
‘Keep her asleep,’ Harry replied. ‘Just in case it hasn’t worked and she lashes out when she wakes up and I’m missing. I’ll be back in a day or so. As soon as I can get out of America. But if it has worked, her belief the obscurial had fulfilled its purpose might mean that it took all of Roxie’s magic with it. I’m not sure what she was intending and what she believed when she did it. We should find a nice place for her to start a new life, just in case.’
‘I can do that, mon Coeur. There are programmes for relocating muggles orphaned by magical accidents or magical creature attacks, we can slip her into one of those.’ She sighed, her warm breath tickling his neck. ‘Just the damaz-kar and the phoenix now.’
‘Have Les Inconnus asked you to do much?’ Harry asked. ‘With Grindelwald?’
‘No. I’m permanently tied down looking after the wards covering France,’ Fleur said. ‘All the fighting is in the Germanic States and Polans for now. Grise said Tsarina Bugrov has been pushed back into the east of Polans, Suleiman has left Constantinople to stop the vampires raiding muggle settlements in the Ottoman Caliphate and the goblins have gone very very quiet, which is worrying Grise and Desrosiers.’ She cupped his cheek. ‘I brought up Château d’Acier and the grudge with Grise and Vert when they mentioned the goblins. They rebelled in the last two wars right at the end, but failed to take Château d’Acier because they waited too long. Even if they don’t join Grindelwald or rebel again this time, we can arrange something to make it look like they are. Or you can just go and we can blame Grindelwald for what you do.’
‘Whatever it takes.’
‘Go,’ she whispered, stepping back and raising her chin. ‘Go and do whatever you have to to come back here and be Violette at Château d’Acier.’
A cool wind swept the warmth of Fleur’s touch away.
You don’t want me to stay? Not even for a moment? Harry fed it all to the empty place below his heart and gave her a small smile. The more it hurts to get, right, mon Reve?
‘I’ll be back soon. Je promets.’ He cupped the acorn pendant and his wedding band against his chest, feeding a little magic into the necklace. ‘Je t’aime, mon Trésor. A la folie.’
‘Je t’aime,’ she breathed, staring over his shoulder at the mirror with a hungry gleam in her blue eyes. ‘A la folie, mon Amour.’