The slim piece of glass flashed, flaring red beside Fleur’s clock of floating cogs.
That’ll be Lemon Sorbet being sent to kill vampires, no doubt.
Harry watched it flash twice more and rested a hand on Fleur’s shoulder. ‘Mon ange,’ he murmured, giving her a gentle shake. ‘I have to go.’
‘You took me to bed, mon Amour.’ Her blue eyes slid open and she squirmed across the mattress toward him; the purple wisteria flower swung from her ear on its slim silver chain. ‘I fell asleep on the desk.’
‘Your pillow was a very uncomfortable looking book. And you needed to sleep.’ He tucked a stray lock of silver hair behind her ear. ‘I have to go, mon Rêve.’
‘Violette?’ Dark shadows hung beneath her eyes. ‘Fürst-Elect Weber?’
‘My favourite ice cream.’ A faint smile curved her lips as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and stretched. ‘Where?’
‘Vampires. That festival of mysteries.’ Harry pressed a light kiss to the tip of her nose. ‘Sleep a little longer, Fleur. I’ll be back soon and Lemon Sorbet will be dead.’
Fleur held his gaze with soft blue eyes. ‘I can’t sleep, mon Cœur,’ she whispered. ‘I have to keep trying.’
His heart sank. ‘I know…’
‘Don’t waste time.’
‘I won’t.’ Harry pulled on his robes and transfigured them into the loose black garb of the Unspeakables. ‘There’s just one step left now. Liliana will find it for us. And then you’ll find a way to catch it.’
‘I will.’ Fleur raised her chin, a fragile fierceness in her blue eyes. ‘Fleur Delacour does not fail.’ Her fingers crept to the wisteria earring and her gaze drifted to the red rose he’d gifted her and its slim glass vase on her desk.
‘We can’t fail.’ Harry slid Lemon Sorbet’s ring onto his finger. ‘We’re too close to fail.’
‘Go,’ she murmured. ‘I will seek out Liliana and her necklace today, to see if I can convince her to let me study it and maybe…’
‘Maybe,’ he whispered, placing Lemon Sorbet’s mask over his face.
Maybe soon, little chick.
Harry reached down and squeezed Fleur’s fingers. ‘Bon courage, mon Trésor.’ He slipped a hand under his robes to cup the acorn pendant. ‘Argent.’
Harry staggered across the smooth stones of the Chamber of Secrets before the gleaming eyes of the serpent effigies. One last step. He sucked in a deep breath of cool air. And then La Victoire Finale.
Harry wrenched the world back past him, stepping into Susan Bones’s office and the soft green glow of the lamps. The short blade of a letter opener stuck from the desk, pinning a single piece of parchment to the desk.
I guess that wasn’t good news. Harry skimmed the words upside down. Cedric Diggory has resigned on grounds of principle. He always was a pretty decent person.
A finger poked him in the side. ‘Hi, Orange Gelato.’
He snorted, glancing over either shoulder into the vacant smiles of Team Ice Cream. ‘Hello, Peanut Shock.’
Astoria snickered. ‘Say hi, Smooth Mint, or you won’t get to make cute ice cream babies with Lemon Sorbet one day.’
A long sigh escaped Daphne. ‘Hi, Lemon Sorbet.’
‘Hi, Smooth Mint.’ A faint flash of humour tugged at the corner of his mouth. ‘It’s good to see you again.’
I owe you both. For helping me get to Roxie.
‘Right.’ Susan cleared her throat. ‘If I could have your attention?’
Harry turned back to face the desk.
‘Présidente Desrosiers has suggested we attack the Hraddrakan Mysteries and try to barbecue some of the vampire princes,’ she said. ‘Frankly, it’s not just a good idea, but it might be crucial. I’m told that if the elder vampires join Grindelwald in earnest, anyone beyond the ward lines after dark is as good as dead. I discussed this with Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise already, when the idea was presented to us a few days ago and they have agreed to lead this foray into the Sunset Princedoms.’
‘We are going north from Epidamnus,’ Daphne said. ‘The Hraddrakan Mysteries festival takes place at Castelul Prințului Alb, in Scarita Belioara.’
‘That’s in muggle Romania to you, Dishevelled Cherry,’ Astoria chimed in.
‘Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise have provided us a way in.’ Susan tugged the letter opener out of her desk and put it down around Cedric’s resignation letter. ‘Vampires don’t use magic the way we do, but they do pay for good wards over their strongholds so we can’t apparate there. However, the Castle of the White Prince is fortunately one of very few we do know the location of, so we can portkey there.’
Astoria pulled out a stack of ice cream sticks. ‘Portkeys!’ She handed them out. ‘We start with Smooth Mint and go through our names to Lemon Sorbet. These will take us across various Dragon Reserves and other places British wizards and witches have been to and we know are safe to use as stepping stones. We checked them out yesterday.’
‘Do not get drawn into dark places when we are there,’ Daphne murmured. ‘We will attack as Présidente Desrosiers suggested. In daylight. The main hall and galleries of the Castle of the White Prince have a long roof, we will tear that off and set fire to everything with Fiendfyre.’
Luna raised her hand. ‘Who can cast it?’
Daphne and Astoria glanced at Harry.
‘Lemon Sorbet can, right?’ Susan demanded. ‘You said so, Pistachio Surprise.’ She growled. ‘I hate using your stupid codenames. Why did you have to pick something so ridiculous as ice cream.’
‘I can…’ Harry said. ‘I can’t control it all that well, but I guess that’s not really a problem here.’
‘No.’ Susan pointed the letter opener at him. ‘Rip the roof off and set fire to the elder vampires first. Stick about to do as much damage as you can and then get back here. We can’t afford to lose our last unspeakable team.’
Set fire to the vampires and then myself. Lemon Sorbet is getting in the way. The need swelled, a great hot wave searing the breath from his lungs and stinging his eyes. Nearly there. Nearly there, baby bird. I promise.
‘Seems simple enough.’ Vanilla Delight edged forward. ‘What are the specifics?’
Astoria poked Daphne in the hip. ‘Smooth Mint? You give the coolest briefings.’
Daphne sighed. ‘The final portkey lands us on an old watchtower along the ridge running across from the main castle. There will be vampires there. We do not know how old or powerful they are, but it will be daylight and we should catch them by surprise. Vanilla Delight will ward us all with an age line and we will destroy them all.’
‘And then we can sneak along the wall and up onto the roof and cause chaos,’ Astoria chimed in.
‘Much of the Hraddrakan Mysteries festival is rumoured to happen in the caves and catacombs below the mountains and castle,’ Daphne said. ‘But we believe that the seventh day of the festival involves a dance that takes place in the main hall.’
Harry turned his ice cream stick over. ‘These are two-way portkeys, right?’
‘Yes, Lemon Sorbet.’ Astoria flapped a hand at him. ‘Smooth Mint would be upset if we left you behind.’
A quiet sigh escaped Daphne’s light green mask.
She’s going to be upset then. A little niggle of guilt ate into him. But there’s no choice. Katie first.
‘Pistachio Surprise and I will take off the roof,’ Daphne said. ‘Stand at the eastern end of it on the wall when we get there; we’re going to push it away from the east end where the main windows and vampire princes are and drop it on the rest. Lemon Sorbet will then set fire to them. Wild Cherry has a few things to toss down there to help stoke confusion. Vanilla Delight and Strawberry Sundae will watch Lemon Sorbet and Wild Cherry’s backs with us. We won’t get more than a minute before they’re onto us and when they are, we get out using the portkeys in reverse and meet back up in Epidamnus.’
‘All clear? Don’t linger anywhere. We’re hopping right through.’ Astoria waved her ice cream stick. ‘Ready or not, here we go!’
Harry snorted. ‘Smooth Mint.’
The world lurched.
Green blurred before his eyes.
He clamped them shut. ‘Vanilla Delight. Strawberry Sundae. Wild Cherry. Lemon Sorbet.’
The jerks yanked him this way and that, sending him staggering into cold stone. Harry’s eyes snapped open and he twisted, flattening his back against the white wall.
Team Ice Cream drew together, a cluster of dark robes and bright vacant smiling masks before the clear blue sky. Anthony cast a circle of runes around them with a swish of his wand, drawing a glowing ring of magic about their feet.
‘Lemon Sorbet,’ Daphne said. ‘Get inside the age line. The vampires beneath us in the tower will have heard us appear and come looking.’
Harry leapt over it, sliding into the circle beside her, brushing shoulders with Daphne and Luna. ‘To keep out old vampires?’ He reached for his horcrux, letting the dark mist trickle from his sleeve and curl around his hand.
‘They’re all a lot older than nineteen,’ Astoria chimed in. ‘We’re not.’
A dark figure blurred up the stairs and stumbled out into the sun. ‘Intruders…’ The slender, dark-haired witch bared her fangs and hissed, her red eyes bright in the sun. ‘Mihai!’ She sprang forward.
‘Eicio,’ Luna murmured, thrusting her wand out.
White light tore through the vampire’s chest and she crumbled to dust.
‘Nesăbuit, Marie.’ A broad vampire stepped out into the sun, rolling his shoulders. ‘Reckless,’ he said, watching the dust drift away in the wind. ‘As children often are when convinced of their immortality. Poor Marie…’
Harry let his wand slide down into his grasp within his sleeve, flexing his fingers on the ebony.
‘I am Mihai,’ the vampire murmured, caressing his name, leaving its syllables singing in the sun and lingering in Harry’s ears. ‘Will you come back with me, dear guests? The White Prince will be so keen to meet you.’
‘That sounds like it would… suck,’ Astoria replied.
Rings of grey mist swirled around them, pouring from Daphne’s sleeve and rippling past Harry’s waist.
A deep chuckle rumbled in Mihai’s throat. ‘I did hope you would refuse. The White Prince wastes our time with human squabbles and Grindelwald. The only place for humans here—’ a gleam of hunger rose in his crimson eyes ‘—is as prey.’
‘Eicio!’ Luna cried.
Mihai twitched out of the path of the white light in a blur of motion. ‘Ah, I know this magic. Once it seemed so fast. Capable of snatching away immortality in an instant. Now it has been two centuries and it crawls toward me like the slow break of dawn.’
‘Guess you’ll have to come to us,’ Astoria said. ‘Shame none of us are neck-tarine flavour ice cream.’
Mihai rolled his shoulders and blurred forward, his shape shifting, twisting and rippling into a huge dark-furred wolf, bounding forward between spells, slipping through the swirls of grey mist as he circled the glowing white ring of magic, red eyes glowing like rubies.
‘Can’t get through the age line?’ Anthony taunted, hurling curses at Mihai.
The wolf wove his way through them, baring his fangs as the hexes scorched fist-deep holes into the wall. A deep snarling rumble rose from his chest and he sprang forward. White light tore through Mihai’s foreleg and he stumbled, smashing into the group.
Luna smacked into Harry’s shoulder, sending him sprawling to his knees.
Harry rolled across the stone and sprang to his feet. Well he got through the age line. Ebony vapour lanced from his sleeve, punching holes through the pale stone as Mihai leapt over his head.
Merde. He whirled, ice flashing through his veins.
Grey fog snatched Luna and Colin from beneath the great paws of the towering wolf as Mihai batted Anthony into the wall with a sweep of his foreleg and lunged in a blur of white fangs and black fur, bursting through the grey magic circling Daphne and knocking her to the ground.
Dark mist burst from Harry’s sleeve, splitting into thin tendrils and spearing Mihai through the belly as his fangs closed on Daphne’s neck, smashing him back into the wall.
The wolf blurred back into the shape of a man, ripping free.
Mihai dragged himself up, blood pouring from the wounds in his stomach. ‘Well now, that was quite exciting.’ His skin melted closed beneath the tattered holes in his shirt. ‘That black magic is faster than the grey magic.’ He grinned, baring long, curved fangs. ‘You should run, little humans, the longer you make my hunt, the longer you live.’
‘Cover the door, Pistachio,’ Daphne said, sweeping the grey fog of her magic across it. ‘He is weakening in the sunlight. Lemon Sorbet, finish him.’
Mihai chuckled and flexed his hands. Long, curved yellow nails sprouted from his fingertips. ‘Caging yourselves in here with me is unwise, little humans. I have made prey of more of you than I can count. And I am faster than the wolf!’ He leapt forward, a black blur streaking across the tower.
Harry whipped his wand arm up and ebony mist tore through Mihai’s ribs.
‘Nesăbuit,’ Mihai whispered, dangling from the dark spines. ‘Nesăbuit. Ah… How my Marie must be laughing from the endless dark…’
‘Fast,’ Daphne murmured.
Mihai crumbled into dust as the black vapour curled back into Harry’s sleeve.
‘Good thing you have your Lemon Sorbet, Smooth Mint. That was nearly a bit of a pain in the neck.’ Astoria prodded Daphne in the side. ‘You good?’
A quiet sigh escaped Daphne. ‘I am fine.’
‘In hindsight, the age line wasn’t a great idea,’ Anthony said. ‘It works with living magic, which vampires may not actually have…’
‘There shouldn’t be much more fighting now anyway.’ Luna craned her neck over the edge of the tower. ‘The wall runs right along the ridge below us and close enough to the main hall for us to get up onto the roof.’
‘Fang-tastic,’ Astoria said.
Harry snorted. ‘How many more of those do you have?’
She snickered. ‘Enough to drive you batty.’
A long sigh emanated from Daphne’s pale green mask.
‘Right, sorry, Smooth Mint.’ Astoria giggled. ‘Upon reflection, even a two century old vampire didn’t look too terrifying in the sun, so we should be fine once the roof is off.’
Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Your puns suck, Pistachio Surprise.’
Astoria cackled. ‘Fangs for joining in the wordplay, Lemon Sorbet, but we need to press on now and get up onto that roof.’
‘Disillusionment Charms,’ Daphne said, tapping Colin on the head.
Astoria concealed Luna and Anthony.
‘Do you need one?’ Daphne murmured as Astoria shimmered out of view.
‘No. Mine’s pretty good.’ Harry disillusioned himself.
‘Very good.’ A soft note of admiration crept into Daphne’s voice as she appraised him. ‘Complete suppression of sight and the other senses too… I only know of one other wizard who can do that.’
Colin, Luna, Anthony and Astoria vanished into the tower in a ripple of magic.
‘Let’s go.’ Daphne wavered out of sight.
Harry followed the faint shimmer of Daphne into the cool dark of the watchtower, winding down the spiralling stairs and striding along the thin wall.
The rough white crag fell away either side, plunging down into thick green forests and rolling hillings. Above them, five tall towers and a great hall perched upon the mountain peak, bright as snow in the sun.
Astoria shimmered back into view where the wall curved near to the side of the hall, her dark green mask staring up at the buttress with its vacant smile. ‘We should be able to get up here.’
Harry abandoned his Disillusionment Charm as the rest of Team Ice Cream wavered back into view.
Grey fog poured from Daphne’s sleeves, wrapping around each of their waists and lifting them past the buttress onto the weathered slate roof.
Astoria’s vapour plucked Daphne off the wall and set her down beside them. ‘Time for some… re-vamping.’
Harry sighed with Daphne.
‘Aww, look, Smooth Mint,’ Astoria chimed. ‘Now you’re doing things together! Isn’t that cute?’
‘Pistachio Surprise,’ Daphne murmured. ‘It’s time.’
‘Fine fine.’ Astoria led them across the slate to the east end of the hall, ushering them onto the stone wall at its edge.
The wind tugged at Harry’s robes and he eyed the long drop down onto the rough white rocks below.
‘So. Lemon Sorbet. Fiendfyre. Wild Cherry. Your potions.’
Colin levitated a string of vials in front of his chest and gave Astoria a thumbs up. ‘As soon as the fire is going well, I’ll hurl these down there.’
And I’ll set fire to everything before I pretend to die and portkey out early. Harry nodded at Astoria.
‘Vanilla Delight and Strawberry Sundae, watch for anything coming at us from outside the hall,’ Daphne said. ‘Pistachio Surprise and I will make sure nothing gets up to us from inside.’
‘Ready, Smooth Mint?’ Astoria asked. ‘No turning back now. Once the roof comes off…’
‘Ready,’ Daphne murmured.
Grey fog swirled from their sleeves, ripping the slate tiles off the roof like leaves and hurling them down onto the swirling dancers below.
Harry pictured the dark veins sinking into Katie’s skin and the amber-masked figure, unleashing a roaring wave of Fiendfyre past the bare beams.
It shrank to a single glowing crimson spark and burst into a wisp of white smoke. A hundred vampires in bright ball-gowns and tailed lace-adorned jackets stared up, their red eyes bright behind the colourful painted masks concealing their faces.
The slate tiles swept back up onto the roof, folding back together.
‘Out,’ Astoria snapped. ‘Portkey out. Now!’
‘Lemon Sorbet,’ Harry hissed, digging the ice cream stick out of his pocket.
The world hung still as stone.
Ice trickled down his spine.
‘Guten Morgen.’ A tall slender man in a sharp grey jacket and silver-buttoned burgundy waistcoat apparated onto the slate roof; the bright golden masque covering his face gleamed bright as flame in the sun. ‘Or, perhaps, I should say good morning, yes?’
Wizards and witches apparated up behind him in swirls of grey robes and jackets. Charlie Weasley stood at the front of them, his wand in his clenched fist and a white winged sword stitched in gleaming silk upon the chest of his charcoal robes.
Soft mist curled through the roof into a slim figure dressed in pure white wool edged in lace and silk frills. ‘It seems your foresight was correct, Grindelwald…’
Grindelwald… Fear churned in Harry’s stomach, flashing hot and cold in the pit of it, and sweat prickled across his forehead. All masked in gold…
Grindelwald lifted the carnival masque from his face and tucked it into his pocket. Deep lines marked his skin and shadows hung in the creases and folds at the corners of his eyes and mouth. ‘I do not make many mistakes, my friend. I trust now that you and yours will see the truth of my words.’
‘Our alliance begins when the festival ends.’ The White Prince dispersed into mist. ‘I leave them to you, Grindelwald. They are your fleeting kin. Do as you wish with them.’
Grindelwald smiled, a flash of bright white teeth in his worn, lined face. ‘Willkommen, Unspeakables of Britain. While chaos might have drawn my eye to the Germanic States, I have, in truth, been waiting to meet you here most eagerly.’
‘We will not surrender,’ Daphne said, drawing herself up.
I can’t surrender. Harry took a deep breath. I have to get back to Katie.
‘Surrender?’ Grindelwald conjured six glowing golden hands with a flick of his long thin wand. ‘I do not wish to keep you prisoner. I want to set you free… So heed my words. Bitte.’ A faint smile graced his lips. ‘Your hero Albus and I, we enjoyed many things of the muggle world in our youth while we studied it, and much of it stuck with us even as we planned to change it. One phrase has long stuck with me, growing more poignant, I think, where other words have dwindled in meaning. Happy is he who has the pure truth in him. He will regret no sacrifice that keeps it.’
Harry kept his eyes on Grindelwald’s wand. Sacrifices have to be made.
‘And the pure truth is that our world is dying. You do not need me to tell you this. Intelligence and proper sense need little art to be expressed. Do we not see the proof with every passing year?’ Grindelwald gestured at the sky. ‘Each solstice, we lose a little more, if not our friends and families and homes, then our freedoms. The muggle world grows and we shrink.’ A sad smile graced his lips. ‘It is us. Or it is them.’
Inevitable collision. Julien thought the same. Harry tensed as three of the golden hands drifted forward. But none of that matters now. Katie first.
‘These are portkeys of my own design. They will return you to Atlantis should you wish to, where perhaps you might gaze into the lagoon and think upon what will be lost if our world continues to fade.’ Grindelwald rested his hand over his heart. ‘I give you my word that they will do nothing more. It is the same magic that brought those that accepted my invitation to me in Nurmengard.’
Colin stepped forward and reached for the golden hand; it darted back out of his reach.
‘But first…’ Grindelwald said. ‘First I offer you the chance to remain. There are no enemies for you here. We are not enemies. Even if you choose to depart, you will never truly become my foes… but I hope you will decide to stay. There are so many wonders in the magical world and if a world must be sacrificed, logic dictates that it ought to be the lesser of the two. And even should we consider them equal in their own ways, it is our right, is it not, to fight for ours? They will do no different, I assure you.’
Daphne and Astoria exchanged a swift glance.
‘Well? Wild Cherry?’ The corner of Grindelwald’s mouth crooked. ‘What do you believe? Will you spend your life spilling the blood of your brothers and sisters to forestall the inevitable, or will you face the hard truth and do what must be done before it is too late?’
Colin grabbed the golden hand and vanished in a flash of flame.
‘Perhaps another time,’ Grindelwald murmured, turning to Vanilla Delight. ‘How about you, Vanilla Delight?’
Anthony shook his head. ‘No. I won’t slaughter muggles just because a few people don’t like having to be careful about magic.’ He snatched the golden hand and disappeared in a shower of amber fire.
Grindelwald sighed. ‘Strawberry Sundae… I do hope you will join us. Your gift is remarkable magic, to let it disappear would be a terrible thing. Once, I knew another with such a talent, but she threw it away and the world is a little less for the losing of it.’
Luna’s pink mask stared at him. ‘What strange sadness,’ she whispered. ‘What quiet despair.’
Grindelwald smiled, slipping his wand into the inside of his jacket. ‘A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart. I hoped, as I languished in defeat and rotted in near solitude, that it was my heart alone that carried such wretchedness and the world would rise to overcome what I deemed inevitable. It was not to be.’ He ran his hand through his short, cropped silver hair. ‘Can you see what I cannot?’
Luna shivered. ‘No. But you can’t just slaughter them. It’s horrible beyond words.’
Grindelwald bowed his head, the shadows and lines deep and dark upon his face. ‘I am a spectre of our world’s death throes, a ghost of war and horror. It was never my wish to become such a thing, but someone must do what must be done. And none have stepped forward to take the weight from my shoulders.’ He coaxed the golden hand forward with a twitch of his finger. ‘Take care of your gift, Strawberry Sundae. The wonders of magic should not be squandered.’
Luna vanished in a flash of golden fire.
‘Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise…’ Grindelwald extended his hand. ‘Us? Or them?’
Astoria poked Daphne in the hip. ‘Tempted, Smooth Mint? Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side?’
‘Fine fine.’ Astoria sniggered. ‘No. We fight for our own.’
‘We are all our own,’ Grindelwald murmured. ‘Perhaps one day you will reconsider. My offer will remain open. No matter how hard you fight against me nor how many of us you kill, you are welcome to join us the moment you come to realise what we have. I know all too well that it is an unpleasant reality to face. I wish you well.’ He waved the golden hands forward and turned to Harry. ‘Lemon Sorbet—’
‘No,’ Daphne said, folding her arms. ‘We are staying.’
‘Can’t flake on another ice cream,’ Astoria chimed in. ‘Not least this one. Sorbet is superior to mere ice cream, I heard somewhere.’
A rush of warmth filled Harry. Staying. For me.
‘Very well.’ Grindelwald smiled a faint sad smile. ‘It is heartening to see such bonds between others.’ He held out his hand to Harry. ‘So, Lemon Sorbet? Our world? Or theirs?’
Harry studied the wrinkled hand hovering before him. ‘It’s always our dreams or theirs. But to take all those dreams away…’ His stomach squirmed. ‘When you can’t truly know for sure…’
‘An unforgivable crime, sure or not,’ Grindelwald said. ‘There are those who have come before me or in my stead and claimed many things about what we are doing. Make no mistake, Lemon Sorbet. We do not believe our deeds are great. This is no noble quest. There are no heroes here before you. When history speaks of us, it will be with shame and horror, but without us, history will not speak at all. We must will evil to work a greater good.’
It doesn’t matter. The yearning bubbled up, boiling hot, breath-taking, swirling in Harry’s chest, a searing storm of razor-clawed flames. There’s only La Victoire Finale. Only Katie. Without them, there’s nothing.
‘No,’ he said.
Grindelwald stared up into the sky and lowered his hand, hooking a thumb through the silver buttons of his waistcoat. ‘Very well. If you should change your mind, seek me out. Until then, I do wish you well, but I hope you understand if I do not wish you every success.’
The golden hand floated forward, grabbing hold of Harry’s fingers. Bright flames washed across his vision and he dropped into the white sand at the lagoon’s edge.
That was just like phoenix travel. Harry’s gut twisted, clamping into a tight hot anxious knot. And he made Liliana’s necklace. Maybe Grindelwald knows what we need. He swallowed a stab of panic. He said the offer was open. If I have to, I can go back.
‘Atlantis,’ Daphne murmured.
‘Something on your mind, Lemon Sorbet?’ Astoria glanced up and down the beach and pushed her mask up atop her blonde braids. ‘Were you tempted?’
‘Tempted to go commit genocide?’ he asked.
Daphne lifted her mask off. ‘But did you wonder? If he is right about the rest?’
‘I have more than once,’ Harry said, pulling Lemon Sorbet’s mask from his face and staring into its vacant smile. ‘What with Voldemort and Le Cancrelat and all the fighting that we just never seem to be able to escape. But we can’t know, can we?’
‘Not for sure,’ Astoria said.
‘He’s got nothing to offer me that I want,’ he said. ‘And I don’t know if he’s right. So I’ve no reason to fight for him if you’re concerned about that.’
‘We just wanted to know if you’re going to stick with us.’ Astoria snickered. ‘Daph’ll miss her favourite ice cream if you end up on the other side. I think she’s planning on some kind of citrus and mint two-scoop combo one day…’
Well, I’m not going anywhere just yet. Lemon Sorbet lives to fight another day. He scowled down at the ruins in the lagoon. Fang-tastic.
Daphne’s cool blue eyes met his. ‘Are you okay, Tom?’
‘Rattled by Grindelwald?’ Astoria chimed in. ‘He does have a scary reputation, but it looks like everyone gets a chance to join the Greater Good.’
‘You’d think he’d just kill us while he can,’ Harry said. ‘Wipe us away, like he did to the Unspeakables last time…’
‘Maybe he thought it would be a waste,’ Daphne murmured. ‘Or maybe he really believes we will join him one day.’
‘Sad and despairing,’ Harry muttered. ‘That’s what Luna said. But he certainly wasn’t giving up. He was determined. He didn’t strike me as someone who would baulk at killing a few unspeakables who might be crucial to the fight against him just because he hoped they would join him later…’
Astoria grinned. ‘Maybe he has a cunning plan to convince us to join him later.’
‘Be careful,’ Daphne said. ‘Check yourself for any magic. Perhaps the portkey spell does more than he promised it would…’
Harry’s blood ran cold. Like a trace of some kind. He took a deep breath. Fleur will find anything that’s there. But I can’t go back until I’m sure I’m safe.
‘Are we headed home?’ he asked.
‘We will go back to London,’ Astoria said, replacing her mask over her face. ‘And let Susan Bones know we failed and that we need to be sure Grindelwald is distracted before we try anything like this again.’
‘You should rest, Tom,’ Daphne murmured. ‘You look tired…’
I don’t have time to rest.
‘I will.’ Harry cupped the pendant, feeding a little magic into it until it flashed warm. ‘And I’ll make sure there’s no magic on me from that portkey, too.’
‘Until next time!’ Astoria chirped. ‘We’ll call you if we need a scoop of sorbet badly enough to risk your illness flaring up before the real fighting starts.’
They vanished with a loud crack.
He slipped his wand from his sleeve, pressing its tip to his hand and closing his eyes. Nothing. Not even a hint of foreign magic. Harry frowned, listening to the soft, insistent whisper of his wand as it swelled, bringing the fierce heat of the yearning bubbling up in his breast. I know. I know. He tucked it away and sucked in a deep breath. We have no time left to waste.