Fleur’s soft breathing fluttered the pages of her book, her silver hair pooling around her head on the desk.

‘Sleep well, mon Rêve.’ Harry kissed the top of her head and wrapped her silver blanket about her shoulders, tucking the edges under her chin. 

Fleur stirred with a soft hum. ‘Mon Amour?’

‘Just me,’ he murmured. ‘I didn’t mean to wake you. Pardon.’

‘I’ve been asleep for too long anyway,’ she whispered. ‘I have to finish things before it’s too late.’

‘It’s okay.’ Harry massaged her shoulders, working his thumbs into the stiff muscles of her back. ‘Grindelwald swore an oath. In return for a ritual, we will have a phoenix in a few days’ time.’

Fleur melted into his touch. ‘He didn’t swear to let you leave…’

‘No.’ He kissed the back of her neck. ‘But I will get out. I won’t be stopped now we’re so close. And then we’re nearly there. We just have to put it all together and pay the price.’

She tensed. ‘What if his snare wears off when you get the phoenix?’ Fleur twisted in her chair, a little gleam in her blue eyes. ‘Non. No risks. I have an idea for a cage. Not a real one; I cannot make it last for sure. And not alchemy or enchanting or wards, we do not have time, but mind arts. The pensieve.’ She swept the blanket off and folded it in half, tossing it onto their bed. ‘I’m going to go look at it now, just in case.’

‘Do you want—’

‘You finish what you need for Grindelwald’s ritual, mon Cœur,’ Fleur murmured. ‘You can borrow my desk.’ She straightened the red rose in its vase, pushing the stacks of books away from it. ‘Still beautiful, non?’

What’s so special about roses? Harry admired the conjured flower with a soft smile. Everything.

Fleur pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. ‘I will not be too long. Try not to fret about the price of La Victoire Finale too much while I am gone.’

Everything. Harry’s heart sank as he stared into the rose’s crimson petals.

‘I’ll try,’ he whispered as she flickered away and the willow beneath his thumbnail flared hot. ‘But someone has to pay the price. And it can’t be both of us. And if it’s one of us, it has to be me. I can’t do this without you. And Katie will need you more than she would need me when she’s older.’

Harry dug the small glass orb from his pocket and held it up, watching the tiny purple runes glow within. Grindelwald’s ritual is ready. It just needs his sacrifice and symbols of rejuvenation. He tucked it away. It’s La Victoire Finale that needs one last thing.

‘But how to do it?’ Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve, letting its soft insistent murmur wash through him as its wisps of dark mist curled through his fingers. ‘I could swear an oath. Re-enchant my soul…’ He shuddered. ‘But who knows what that would make of me or what I might do afterwards.’

It can’t have real consequences. Not for Fleur and our little chick. His gaze strayed to the red rose and Fleur’s words welled up from the bottom of his mind. Not a real one…

‘I could do that. Not alchemy. Not enchanting. Not wards. Mind arts.’ The emptiness rose, clawing at his heart with cold, hollow talons, tugging at it, tearing, sinking ice cold teeth in and dragging it down toward the bottomless black pit below. ‘And it would be just me. Forever.’

No. Harry shoved it back. There’s no time to waste on that. 

‘If success is keeping them forever, then the only sure price is losing them forever.’ He pulled a blank sheet of parchment across, sketching runes in a tight spiral. ‘I’ve got the pensieve to create that with a few little tweaks.’

And the loophole that lets me out has to be impossible. So I still pay the price for certain.

‘And that’s simple.’ Harry let his heart go. ‘I just have to give up.’ He drew a line of runes through the spiral, weaving them through its curves. ‘Nothing lasts forever…’ He studied the glowing purple runes. ‘If I abandon the sunset forever, I’ll come out. If I don’t, I stay inside.’ Harry frowned. ‘Only being inside doesn’t actually mean forever yet…’

Merde. Fierce yearning bubbled up like molten flame, searing the breath from his lungs. It’s just one last small step. I will not be stopped. Not now.

Harry folded the piece of parchment up and conjured a small orb of glass over it, threading onto the silver chain around his neck beside the acorn pendant and the soft glow of his wedding band. ‘Almost there, baby bird. Let’s go take a look at that pensieve and see if there’s some inspiration there.’

I just have to find a way to make being inside last forever. Some kind of soul magic, maybe. Dispossessed souls don’t experience time like we do. He tucked the necklace away and wrenched at the world, spinning it back past him and stepping out onto the white pebbles. 

Fleur glanced up from the pensieve. ‘Mon Amour?’

Or maybe I’ll look later.

‘Don’t let me distract you.’ Harry mustered a grin. ‘We’re nearly there.’

We can’t tell your maman, little chick. She might really set fire to me. He swept the black silk away and watched Katie beam back at him, a faint smile creeping onto his lips. Although I suppose me getting turned into a small pile of ash might work too.

She watched him from below the glass with wide, bright green eyes, cupping the three glimmering dark pearls in her small hands.

Harry stared into the swirling black magic within them. Death and despair. 

‘Perfect wishes can come true,’ he murmured. ‘They just don’t last forever. Not for me.’ A thick, hot lump swelled in Harry’s throat. ‘I’m sorry, Katie,’ he whispered, pressing his fingers against the cold glass. ‘But I promised. Whatever it takes. Gabby gave us all her time. And now it’s my turn.’ A small sad smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. ‘Your sunset will last forever.’ The melancholy faded, burnt away beneath a fierce twist of desperate determination like mist in the dawning sun. ‘You’ll wake up. And you’ll come back. And nothing will ever hurt you again.’

I’ll be okay. If I’m inside, the price is paid and I can’t ruin their sunset. And if I’m outside, it still doesn’t matter what I do so long as the price is already paid, La Victoire Finale means nothing can take them away from each other anyway. 

Katie babbled beneath shining silver, clutching the Elder Wand and its swirling ball of purple runes to her chest. 

Harry smiled. ‘You’re going to be just fine, baby bird. Je te le promets. We’re nearly there.’

Fleur’s footsteps grated over the pebbles. ‘What are you telling her?’

‘That we’re nearly there,’ he whispered. ‘And she’s going to be fine.’

She slipped her arms around his neck. ‘Don’t fret, mon Amour. You just have to bring back that phoenix. Then there’s no more waiting. No more hoping. And no more hurting.’ Fleur rested her head on his shoulder. ‘Just like we promised Gabby.’

No more secrets. We promised her no more secrets. Harry swallowed a stab of bitter guilt. Soon, Gabby. I promise. We won’t disappear for nothing.

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