Fleur’s quiet breaths brushed against his neck, her silver hair fluttering against his skin and tickling his jaw.
Perfect. Harry pressed a gentle kiss to the tip of her nose and smiled as she stirred in his arms, her summer sky blue eyes sliding open.
‘Bonjour, mon Trésor,’ he whispered. ‘Ca va?’
A soft smile spread across her pale, rose lips and she tightened her hold on him, snuggling her head into the crook of his neck. ‘You smell all sleepy, mon Amour. And your hair looks like something made a nest in it.’
‘Probably a bird-girl,’ Harry replied, slipping one hand out of the blankets to pat at his tufts. ‘So long as it was my bird-girl.’
Fleur’s fingers curled into the blankets against his back. ‘I’m the only bird-girl now.’
He cradled her head close. ‘You’ll have your little veela hatchling back soon, Fleur. I promise. Whatever it takes.’
‘But not Gabby,’ she whispered. ‘My little sister is never coming back.’
‘It’ll be okay.’ Harry held her tight. ‘You’ll always miss her. But we’ll have our sunset. And there’ll be no more secrets and no more hurting and if Gabby can see us, she’ll be happy for us.’
‘But if she could, she would be,’ he murmured. ‘And she wanted us to be happy, remember? She gave us all the time she had and hoped we would be. We can’t leave Gabby wishing in the emptiness alone. It can’t be all for nothing.’
Fleur leant back, her blue eyes full of tears and took a deep shuddering breath. ‘I miss her.’
‘You will. I will miss my Katie every time I go back anywhere we were together.’ Harry kissed the faint salt tang of her tears away. ‘But just because they took away Gabby doesn’t mean they get to take away our sunset too.’
‘No,’ she breathed. ‘We will sit on our branch in the willow tree with our Katie between us and everything will be perfect.’ Fleur pushed back the duvet and stepped out into the room, plucking her wand from her desk.
Harry’s eyes slipped down the pale curve of her throat to the swell of her breasts and the soft pink of her nipples, dipping to her dark blue lace underwear.
Fleur scooped Gabby’s wisteria flower in its ice crystal off the shelf from beside his red rose and shrunk it, conjuring a slim silver chain from its peak. ‘There. So she gets to come with us.’ She swept her silver hair over her shoulder and stabbed the chain’s pin through her ear lobe. ‘What do you think—’ Fleur turned on her heel and angled her head, spilling a cascade of silver over her breasts ‘—does it look beautiful?’
Harry swallowed. ‘Very.’
The corner of Fleur’s mouth curved into a faint smirk. ‘And the earring, mon Amour?’
‘Also very beautiful.’ He threw the sheets aside and stepped into the cool air, wiping a little crimson trickle off her ear. ‘I hope it didn’t hurt too much.’
‘You know I like it to hurt a little,’ she whispered, sliding a step closer. Her warm breath tickled his neck and her fingertips left little hot flutters as she trailed them down his stomach.
Harry wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her into a soft kiss, tracing the curve of her upper lip with the tip of his tongue as he slipped his thumbs under the hem of her underwear.
‘Take them off, mon Amour.’ Fleur ran a fingertip along him, curling her hand around him and giving him a gentle squeeze. ‘If you want me, I’m yours.’ She caught his lips with hers as he turned her around and eased her down onto the bed. ‘And you’re mine.’
He slid her underwear down, brushing his fingers through the soft, silken wetness as she parted her thighs. Fleur’s breath hitched. Harry touched his fingers to the tip of her tongue, holding her smouldering blue eyes as her trembling lips parted and she took his hand, slipping his thumb into her mouth.
Harry dipped his head, drawing gentle circles around her nipples with the tip of his tongue as he slipped two fingers into her. She moaned and arched her back as he brushed his thumb over her, sucking hard. Little gasps tore from her lips and her legs shook and snapped tight, trapping his wrist.
He tugged his hand back and pulled her forward to the edge of the bed, lifting her up and easing himself into her as slow as he could.
‘You’re teasing me,’ Fleur gasped around his thumb, her fingers curling into the silver blanket. ‘More, mon Amour. Don’t tease. I want to feel you in me.’
He bent and kissed her, moving in and out of her in time to the quickening beat of his heart as she squirmed on the sheets and clung to him, her fingernails digging into his skin. A soft moan slipped through Fleur’s lips and she came undone in a gentle shudder, wrapping her legs around his waist and sucking hard on his thumb.
Harry pulled back and kissed her forehead, tasting the faint tang of her sweat. ‘Je t’aime, mon Trésor,’ he whispered. ‘Je t’aime a la folie.’
‘Je t’aime.’ Fleur drew him close, reaching down and pulling his tip back into the hot wetness between her thighs. ‘I want to feel you finish in me. Like when we made our baby bird.’
He drove deep, tearing a little gasp from Fleur, thrusting faster as his heart began to pound and the heat tightened in his stomach. She closed her eyes and bit her lip, letting out soft moans with each thrust, her breasts shaking.
Harry burst within her, spending himself in ragged spurts as she smiled.
‘That feels so good,’ Fleur murmured with a quiet sigh. ‘I missed this bliss of just the two of us together. We should do it more often.’
‘I won’t object.’ He gave her a grin as he pulled out, watching the white trickle from within her and pool between her legs. ‘Not at all.’
She stretched, spreading her toes and sweeping her hair back over her shoulders. ‘But after, mon Amour…’
Because the more we give up now, the more likely it is we’ll get there.
Harry smiled and kissed her on the tip of her nose. ‘Katie first. La Victoire Finale first.’
‘I’m going to get dressed and go down to the mirror,’ Fleur whispered. ‘Are you coming back to Paris today?’
‘Lemon Sorbet has to go to London today. And then I will be recovering from my illness so Violette can visit Chateau D’Acier.’ He watched her rise from the bed and drift toward their bathroom. ‘If you can help push Grise and Liliana toward that today…’
‘I will go to the Sunshine Room and see if there’s an opportunity. I do not think they will need much pushing. The goblins have a long track record of rebelling at these moments. Especially at Chateau D’Acier.’
Harry pulled his clothes on, sticking Lemon Sorbet’s iron ring on his finger. ‘Don’t be too obvious. No risks, mon Trésor. I can always just go alone and pretend to be Grindelwald’s supporters. Even if my suggestion gets denied, they still won’t be able to discover us.’
‘I will be careful,’ she called over the rush of the shower. ‘Go to Britain, mon Coeur. Every second counts…’
I know. He transfigured his face, glancing over his shoulder at the bathroom as he threaded Gabby’s grey through his irises. There’s no time left to waste. But we’re nearly there. And perfect wishes do come true. Ba’alat Tanit’s Looking Glass shows it.
‘Au revoir, mon Amour,’ he called.
‘Au revoir.’ Fleur’s voice drifted out through the drumming of the shower and the soft gurgle of the pipes.
Harry lifted the acorn out from under his robes. ‘Argent.’ He staggered out onto the tongue bridge of the Chamber of Secrets and took a long deep breath of cool air. ‘Three more steps, baby bird.’
You only have to wait a little bit longer now. Harry placed Lemon Sorbet’s mask over his face and disillusioned himself, wrenching the world back past him, stepping out into the Ministry’s atrium. We’re almost there.
He wound through the stream of ministry workers and slipped into the lift with a trio of sharp black-robed undersecretaries, scanning the buttons.
I assume my ring will let me into the Department of Mysteries. Harry poked his wand from his sleeve and took careful aim past the hip of an old witch at the third button. But I might as well go straight to the Minister’s office and see Susan.
He pushed the button with a gentle Banishing Charm and leant back against the wall.
‘Did you hear about your deputy head, Asmodeus?’ the old witch asked, turning to the short, bald wizard on her right. ‘Stormed out of the room on the Slug and left him hanging in the middle of his little welcome speech praising Amelia Bones’s clever recruitment to rebuild Britain after America’s surrender. Listening to the Slug pat himself on the back with Amelia Bones’s dead hand was nauseating.’
Asmodeus smiled into his short, white beard as the lift whirred down. ‘Cedric is a good boy, Celia, he reminds me of his father. Lets us old timers get on with things and sticks to doing his part of the job. It’s why we’re the best run department so long as Dean Thomas’s office door stays shut.’
‘Merlin only knows we’d be better off if Amos was still here running things,’ Celia muttered.
Asmodeus put a finger to his lips. ‘I don’t fancy getting a talking to from some child-auror anytime soon.’
Celia snorted. ‘You’re quite safe. Unlike those poor fools that got fed to the dementors with their entire families, you don’t have a hereditary Wizengamot seat that Susan Bones can give to a friend after you’re convicted.’
The third wizard pursed his lips. ‘They were Death Eaters, Celia.’
‘Not their families, Edmund. By all means feed the ones who were out there murdering people to those ghastly things, but the only reason you’d feed their wives to the dementors and hunt down their kids is to end their families.’ Celia sniffed. ‘And I’m quite sure that the idea of reassigning all those hereditary Wizengamot seats to her own supporters occurred to Amelia Bones.’
I’m sure it did. Harry leant back out of the way of Celia’s elbow as the lift rumbled to a stop. I guess I’ve lost my hereditary Wizengamot seat too, then.
‘Floor Seven, the Department of Muggle Protection and Observation,’ the witch’s voice announced.
The trio wandered out and the doors slid shut. He abandoned his Disillusionment Charm as the lift jerked and ascended back up toward floor three.
‘Floor three, Minister’s office.’
The doors slid open.
Alicia and Justin Finch-Fletchley stood either side of the smooth mahogany door beneath green wall lamps.
‘You’re not on the list,’ Alicia said. ‘Minister Bones is still in a meeting.’
‘Tell Minister Bones Lemon Sorbet is here.’ Harry stepped out of the lift and conjured himself an armchair with a flick of his wand. ‘It’s pretty urgent and very important.’
Alicia’s eyes narrowed. ‘Bloody Unspeakables. Slithering in and out all the time…’
He flopped back into the cushions of his chair.
She exchanged a look with Justin. He gave her a helpless shrug.
‘Stay here.’ Alicia drew her wand and tapped the door, sending a little shimmer of magic across the wood. ‘ If I get chewed out over this, you’re going to pay.’ She eased the door open and slipped in, closing it behind her with a soft click.
‘I’ve not seen you before,’ Justin said. ‘You look just as creepy as the others though. It’s even creepier knowing I probably went to school with you a couple years ago.’
You and Ernie Macmillan thought I was evil and fed people to snakes. Harry studied the portraits of former Ministers on the wall, watching Cornelius Fudge fiddle with his robes. I wonder if you still feel that way now.
‘That idiot is on the Wizengamot now,’ Justin said. ‘Fudge, I mean. Former Ministers for Magic get a seat if there’s a gap and there were a lot of gaps. Helps that he did whatever Amelia told him to, as well. Only way he wasn’t kicked out completely after his disgraceful response to Voldemort’s return.’
‘All those hereditary seats…’ Harry said.
‘Yeah.’ He shrugged. ‘Used to be twenty three nobles who still had hereditary seats and the rest of the thirty three were given to people who earnt it. Only twelve nobles left now.’
‘Who’s still standing?’
‘Well, who you’d expect.’ Justin shrugged. ‘And a few lucky ones. No idea how the Carrow twins dodged the dementors after their aunt and uncle literally died on Amelia Bones’s lawn, but Burke squealed on everyone who ever went into his shop to keep his. And Millicent Bulstrode fought with us all at Hogwarts before Voldemort died, so she gets a pass as far as I’m concerned.’
‘Who knew she had it in her.’ Harry turned away from Fudge. ‘Anyone else on there for exciting reasons, like Fudge?’
‘Shouldn’t you know?’ Justin asked.
‘I don’t care much for politics.’
‘Guess that’s fair.’ He squinted at the ceiling, tallying on his fingers. ‘Macmillan. Bones. Abbott. Prewett but it’s Weasley now the family has actually got someone using it. Longbottom of course. Greengrass, Ollivander and Fawley… I’m missing one…’
Harry stifled a yawn. ‘It doesn’t really matter—’
His blood ran cold. ‘Black?’
‘Yeah,’ Justin replied. ‘It’s empty, that’s why I forgot it, I was thinking of the people.’
‘Aren’t they all dead?’
‘You have to prove it to take the seat away. Ernie explained it to me, his dad has the Macmillan seat.’ Justin frowned. ‘There was some story a year or so back, Amelia tried to confiscate all the Black’s wealth but the goblins wouldn’t let her because they have some inheritance dispute going on.’
‘Between dead people?’
Justin laughed. ‘Yeah, I don’t get it either. But the rules are you have to have no doubt or something to take the seat away. Like with Potter. Everyone knows he has no immediate family who don’t already have a seat and there’s a bunch of people who saw him die, so Amelia took the Potter seat. Ernie said it was the last hereditary one that’d been on the Wizengamot since its founding even though the name had changed a lot of times.’
‘Maybe there’s a Black lurking out there somewhere still.’
Me and someone else, Bodak did say something about a dispute when I went back.
‘Probably some illegitimate kid who’ll never know.’ Justin glanced over his shoulder at the rumble and scrape of chairs. ‘Ernie reckoned that was it.’
Harry snorted. ‘If it turns out to be Bellatrix Lestrange’s secret daughter, don’t let her get her hands on anything dangerous like a wand or a time-turner.’
The doors swung open and a handful of department heads swept out in dark formal robes. Dean Thomas and Zacharias Smith chatted and laughed over a copy of the Daily Prophet, and Marietta Edgecombe tittered behind her long red curls as she trailed at their heels.
The Resplendent Sun. A small point of fury froze in his breast as he watched them pass into the lift. One or all of them sent Tracey and Angelina to France.
‘They cleared the whole meeting for you…’ Justin let out a low whistle. ‘Must be very important.’
Alicia stepped out and waved a hand. ‘Get in there, then.’
Harry jumped up and vanished his chair. ‘Thank you, Alicia.’ He strode in, pulling the door shut.
Susan sat behind her desk and a scatter of chairs. ‘Lemon Sorbet. I was contacted by the vice president of America yesterday. They have surrendered. The Spanish are not very happy they couldn’t push through Panama to get their hands on more of their former provinces, but in the grand scheme of things, we have bigger problems.’
‘I know they surrendered. I was there.’ Harry dropped into one of the seats and rested his feet on another. ‘I’m going to be away for a short while now. My illness…’
‘Very well.’ Susan folded her arms. ‘But not too long if it can be helped and be aware we may have no choice but to call you back if Grindelwald gets a firm grip on the Germanic States and starts looking to swiftly expand.’
Lemon Sorbet may be outliving his use.
‘Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise told me your illness was not completely debilitating and I trust their assessment. They seem to think highly of you.’ Susan Bones stared at him. ‘Take the mask off, Thomas Gaunt.’
Harry pulled Lemon Sorbet’s mask away and tucked it into his pocket.
‘As you are aware, our other Unspeakable team was killed defending Atlantis,’ she said. ‘I have decided, seeing as you took it upon yourself to go against what I expressly told you and promote yourself over Ginny in the US, to act as if that decision was actually sanctioned by myself and make you a provisional Unspeakable Captain. Full status will await you when we manage to put together a new team. For now, you’re still a part of Team Ice Cream.’
‘You don’t seem very pleased.’ Susan’s brow wrinkled and her expression darkened. ‘That’s not a small promotion, especially after you broke the chain of command.’
‘I don’t really get on with rules very well,’ Harry said. ‘I never really have.’
‘That’s why you’re being made provisional captain,’ she snapped. ‘My aunt would have demoted you down to patrolling Knockturn Alley for a year first, but Smooth Mint persuaded me that would be unwise at this precise moment in time.’
‘I’ll be sure to say thank you to her,’ he replied.
‘Her?’ Susan’s eyes flashed. ‘You believe you know their identity?’
‘If I say yes, will I get demoted for knowing, or promoted again for managing to find out?’
The tips of Susan’s ears turned red. ‘I am the Minister of Magic. Don’t treat me like… like that.‘
Harry rolled his eyes.
She clenched her jaw and sat back in her chair, breathing hard. ‘You will receive a special commendation for your accomplishments in America. I’m told you and Ginny dealt severe damage to both New Kleves and New Amsterdam using an obscurial, and killed several squads of aurors.’
‘Sounds about right.’
‘And you personally ripped President Lee’s head off in front of one of their auror captains.’
‘He was quite annoying,’ Harry replied. ‘But more importantly he refused to surrender.’
Susan drummed her fingers on the desk. ‘When you retire from the Unspeakables, it would be best not to return to America. They want your head. I have refused, naturally, and they’re in no position to do more than ask very nicely since they don’t know your identity, but should you go there, you’re taking your life in your own hands.’
‘Good.’ She stood up. ‘I am going to have lunch with Horace Slughorn and a few friends to discuss recruitment programs which may eventually fill in the Unspeakable Team you will captain. Neville wishes to speak to you. You may borrow my office as it’s far better warded than his and I have no doubt that it would be best if whatever you, he and a small handful of other well-intentioned individuals are up to had best remain a secret.’
The Order of the Gryphon. Who have managed to do absolutely nothing useful for anyone.
Susan swept around the desk and pulled open the doors. ‘Neville. You may speak with Lemon Sorbet in here.’
Neville turned away from the portraits, his smile shrinking as he met Harry’s eyes. ‘Minister Bones.’ He dipped his head. ‘Thank you.’
She sidestepped him and closed the doors.
‘Neville…’ Harry studied his neat auror jacket and gleaming boots. ‘You don’t seem to have been busy doing any fighting. Do they still not trust you?’
Neville’s eyes darkened. ‘You do more than enough fighting for both of us.’
‘I did what I was asked to do.’ Harry lifted Lemon Sorbet’s mask from his pocket and placed it back over his face. ‘What you asked me to do, in fact.’
‘I didn’t ask you to murder a child to destroy two entire towns.’
I didn’t murder her. A fierce flash of pride seized him. I saved her. I gave her what she was wishing for.
‘No. You asked me to save you and came here to complain that I didn’t do it how you hoped I would.’ He shook his head. ‘I don’t have time to waste on this. If you want a hero, go be one yourself. See where it gets you.’
Neville shuffled his feet. ‘Did you find out…?’
‘Tracey Davis was a member of the Resplendent Sun, wasn’t she?’ Harry asked.
‘Does she have friends? Ones who would like to make sure that the sun never sets no matter the cost…‘
‘It can’t have been Tracey.’ Neville lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘Ginny told me they were all on a mission for the Resplendent Sun at that time, but it was chasing after Gemma Farley in Cornwall.’
We won’t let the sun set. Raw, bitter humour tugged at the corner of Harry’s mouth. Ginny lied. Her words from New Kleves welled up in the back of his mind. We do what we must. And she didn’t bat an eyelash at the idea I’d killed Roxie. He took a quiet breath, swallowing the tightening coil of cold fury. I saved all her dreams and she tried to take mine away.
‘Ginny is part of my Order of the Gryphon,’ Neville muttered. ‘She keeps me up to date on what the Resplendent Sun are doing.’
She’s deceiving you. She’s part of the Resplendent Sun. Harry took a long deep breath through his nose and let it back out. Katie first. After La Victoire Finale we’ll see who gets to walk away with their dreams and who ends up as dust.
You’ll do something stupid again if I tell you anything. Harry studied the nervous glint in Neville’s eyes. You’ll warn Ginny, or confront her and let her know someone suspects.
‘Team Hedgehog were the ones who came to France and attacked my family,’ he said. ‘I don’t think the Resplendent Sun are working alone, Neville. There are too many convenient things happening. It feels like I’m watching a line of exploding snap cards go one by one. Some of them must be in league with Grindelwald.’
Neville grimaced. ‘They would never risk Britain falling to another Voldemort. All the blood they’ve shed has been to stop that.’
Harry hunted for words. ‘But he’s not another Voldemort, is he? And a strong magical Britain doesn’t hide behind a Statute. It destroys those who would take away its dream for the future before they can even try. One of them or some of them believe that.’
The colour drained from Neville’s face. ‘But if there’re spies in the Resplendent Sun, Grindelwald will know almost everything we’re doing.’
‘It seems like he does. Julien Aguillard. The Last Scions. Marie Renner, Ansgar Fürstenburg and the others. It all goes back to Grindelwald.’
Clarity struck like a bolt of lightning through the night sky. He’s the amber-masked figure. It’s Grindelwald. I was just chasing his pawns.
‘I’ll find them.’ Neville wrung his hands. ‘I’ll get the whole order onto it.’
Good. That’ll keep you from annoying me and wasting my time.
Harry dipped a hand into his robes and cupped the acorn pendant. ‘I’ll be back soon. I have a few things to take care of at home.’
‘Wait.’ Neville swallowed. ‘Team Hedgehog… was it really Violette…?’
Is it better he thinks it was me, or wonders if I’m Violette too? Harry studied the nervous gleam in Neville’s eyes. He can’t suspect Violette. That might cause too much trouble.
He offered Neville a small smile. ‘Has anyone ever told you not to ask questions you don’t want to hear the answer to?’
He shuddered. ‘Did you even know who they were?’
‘Better than you did, apparently.’ Harry shook his head. ‘This time try and actually do something yourself, Neville. I’m not going to be here to save you anymore.’ He lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘Argent.’
Harry staggered out into the swaying green fronds of the willow tree, the pebbles grating under his boots. A lick of heat flared across his thumbnail.
‘Hello, baby bird.’ He pressed one hand to the soft black silk covering the Mirror of Erised. ‘Je t’aime.’
Warmth flashed over his thumb.
Fleur’s light steps neared him over the willow roots. ‘Mon Amour…’
‘Just me,’ he murmured.
‘How did it go?’
‘I’m free to be Violette again and go after the damaz-kar.’ Harry took a deep breath and turned to face her. ‘And I found them. The Resplendent Sun members that came here.’
Fleur’s eyes flashed black as pitch. Heat haze hovered around her hands as she curled her fingers into fists. ‘And…’
‘The ones that cursed Katie and Gabby are dead in New Amsterdam.’ He allowed himself a small cold smile, letting his lips curl back from his teeth. ‘And they didn’t die well.’
‘And the others? Are there others?’
‘There are.’ Harry let his hand fall from the Mirror of Erised. ‘But they can wait.’
‘Katie first,’ Fleur breathed, her irises fading back to blue.
‘How is it going here?’
‘A phoenix was supposedly seen in Egypt not long ago during their celebrations of independence from Britain,’ she murmured, stepping close over the white stones. ‘I will slip away to check, but I don’t think I can catch it even if it is true. Maybe I can lure it back somehow.’
‘I’ll ask Liliana to scry if it doesn’t work,’ Harry said. ‘It doesn’t matter what she thinks, not when we’re so close now. We’ll just have to take that risk.’
‘I have finished the runes for the trigger. You can add those whenever you need.’ Fleur pointed at the mirror. ‘They are in there.’ Her breath hitched. ‘Our little chick was trying to read them. She got all cross and scrunched them into a ball.’
Harry pulled her close, holding her tight. ‘Last time I looked, she was chomping on the Elder Wand like it was her blue spoon.’
A quiet laugh slipped from Fleur. ‘No respect for ancient magical artefacts, just like her papa.’
‘We’ll have her back soon,’ Harry whispered. ‘Am I going to be able to openly go to Chateau d’Acier?’
‘I have suggested we go to inspect and check the wards out in a few days. Just in case.’ She cupped his cheek, resting her head on his shoulder. ‘Could you go to Maman’s shop in Carcassonne and bring back anything useful in the meantime? Keep anything you want to use on you, just in case.’
Nearly there. The yearning bubbled up in Harry’s chest, a frothing, churning maelstrom of boiling heat. In a few days we’ll have the damaz-kar.
‘Then it’s just the phoenix left…’
And the price. Something to make sure it will work no matter what. No risks.
Fleur leant back and narrowed her eyes as they darkened to midnight blue. ‘No more secrets, mon Cœur. You promised Gabby, non?’
‘Je promets,’ he murmured. ‘If you’re right, we won’t need it. But it mustn’t fail.’ The searing hot yearning bubbled up, burning the breath from his chest. ‘It can’t be for nothing.’
‘Breathe,’ Fleur said, pressing light kisses to his cheek. ‘Breathe, mon Amour. It will work. It will all work.’