Lost and Found - 2nd Cycle
The Good Shepherd
When I started this story, I was shooting for chapters approximately 3000 words in length. I missed on this one.
Matzalen wanted to die.
Actually, she was beyond that by now, whenever now was; she was dead already. There were two remaining foci in her life — the first was getting the twins out of this hell-hole. She was resigned to the notion that to achieve either of her goals she had to let Master think that she was a good little slave, eager to advance as a whore in his stable.
The day they were all captured, a day she left home without her wand, leaving her life behind, she was brought to the man the others called Unai. He explained that she was now a slave, giving her a new name, Mary; as a slave, whether she lived or died depended upon her obedience. He then further explained just what his slaves did to earn their keep. Matzalen vowed that she would rather die first, which, unfortunately, she said aloud in Master’s presence.
The beating was swift and methodical, inflicting maximum pain without leaving marks or permanent damage. After the beating, she was brought back to Master and she spat in his face. He used a terrible spell on her then, causing temporary blindness and excruciating I-wish-I-was-dead levels of pain. Thereafter she was in darkness; for how long, she couldn’t reckon.
When she could next remember, she was in a small room with the twins, who, incongruously, were watching Muggle television cartoons. Her sisters piteously complained that they were hungry, not having eaten for days. Later that day, Master’s goons fetched her for another audience. The choice was presented to her: if she obeyed, the twins would be fed. The alternative was starvation for the twins and further blinding pain for Matzalen. After a brief lash of pain that deprived her of sight for half an hour, she relented.
Master knew all about Veela, even to the extent of speaking Euskara, which Matzalen discovered one day when he replied to a stream of invective she’d been muttering. He knew the extent to which she could control her allure, and likewise knew the effect it had on her when she exercised it for extended periods. After several beatings, she learned how long she could burn her allure before the throbbing became unbearable. She was ashamed when Master showed her how to relieve the throbbing, laughing at the flare this caused in her covering of Veela light.
Early on, they were transferred from the first place to the second place, both of which were by the water. The second place was a large building where they were permitted to move about with relative freedom. Master’s men, and women, would come and go at this place without any discernable pattern. Master dressed her in clothes befitting her new status: gaudy, skimpy things that Maman would have pitched a fit over when Matzalen was alive. Her hair had inexplicably not yet grown back, even with the aid of potions and charms, so Master provided a coarse black wig that made her look like an Egyptian, which Master found amusing, so he darkened her skin to match her hair.
The twins seemed to adapt to the new life fairly well once they moved to the second place. They were shy and avoided the men who came and went in the strange, dark, cold building, but would play with the women. Their days were spent exploring the place, doing rudimentary lessons that Matzalen devised covering reading, writing and maths and on occasion, simple chores in the kitchen. The hardest part of the day was evening, when the twins would ask Matzalen to pray with them before bed.
Papa had always performed that role when Matzalen was growing up, and it pained her to do it now that she suspected that he was dead. The twins had an affinity to faith that was foreign to Matzalen; they believed the same way they breathed; naturally without a lot of thought about the mechanics. Matzalen had gone through all the Catholic milestones, including first communion and confirmation before leaving for Beauxbatons, but what little faith she’d imbibed from her family seemingly drained away when she was apart from them. Now that she was living in this nightmare, she considered it alternately futile and hypocritical to pray to a God she wasn’t sure was there, or listening. The twins, however, maintained an oddly positive outlook.
One night when she’d not properly latched the door separating her tiny bedroom from theirs, the sound of her weeping woke them. They came, hand-in-hand to comfort her, blinking in the light of her room.
"Don’t cry, Matzalen, sister is looking for us," Garazi said.
"I’m your sister," Matzalen said, trying without much effect to hide the effects of her crying.
"Of course, but this sister is hunting for us, she’s a hunter with a mate who is helping her hunt — he has hair that’s black like the night with a scar on his face," Eskarne said, wiping her fingers across her forehead.
"How do you know this?" Matzalen asked.
"Because we do," Eskarne replied.
"We see them in our dreams, but they can’t find us yet," Garazi added.
Matzalen filed this bit of weirdness away. The twins saw things that other witches often didn’t see — prompting Maman to have them evaluated for the second sight when they were seven. The elderly wizard conducting the screening was noncommittal about his diagnosis, but he did leave Maman with a stack of pre-paid Owl-post envelopes so she could send him quarterly reports, which Maman had faithfully filled out thereafter.
In addition to caring for the twins, which she enjoyed, she would on occasion attend to Master’s guests, which usually meant nothing more than serving as a sluttish looking barmaid with Veela-enhanced flirting, although at the last meeting she’d had to perform her tricks like a pet crup, flirting and flashing her allure on command. Thankfully, that little performance hadn’t ended as she expected in a demonstration of some of her other recently acquired skills; she was dismissed to allow the men to discuss business. Master came to her that night, after she had put the twins to bed. He reeked of alcohol.
He often came at night, sometimes just to talk, other times to continue his sordid training. That night he seemed particularly pleased with himself, and after asking about the health of the twins he was silent for a while before asking a strange question.
"Do you love me, Slave?" he asked.
"No, Master, I do not," she answered truthfully. The flicker of annoyance in his eyes made her apprehensive; perhaps he would beat her again.
"The day will come, Slave, when you will joyfully spread your legs for me and beg me for children," he said deliberately, trying to keep his words from slurring.
"Yes, Master," Matzalen said noncommittally.
The expected beating never came.
Matzalen’s second goal became clear that night before she fell asleep: she was going to rescue the twins, of course, but she was also going to kill Master.
Or die trying.
Morning began as it usually did; he was in Gabrielle’s kitchen, making breakfast. Gabrielle crept out of her room, hugging him from behind while his hands were occupied, kissing the back of his neck. The feel of her breath on the back of his neck made him shiver, but he didn’t mind a bit. She disappeared as quietly as she appeared. The sound of the door to the loo closing was the only hint as to where she was in the flat. He continued shaping the pastry dough into shapes, pinching them closed and then popping the sheet of pastry into the oven.
"Harry?" Gabrielle called from the loo.
"Yes, love?" he replied.
"How did I get here?"
"Is that an existential question?" he bantered.
He heard the sound of the toilet flushing along with the sound of running water; Gabrielle was very serious about the basics of hygiene. When the door was pushed open, she was wearing the usual terrycloth robe, but it wasn’t tied this morning, revealing her long, lovely legs peeking out from the shirttails of the shirt he’d been wearing last night. He never looked this good in his clothes, but his opinion was obviously biased.
"How did I get here?" she repeated.
"Well, you see, when a Wizard and a Witch love each other, they get married, and after that. . ."
Gabrielle stared at him for a moment, a look of momentary confusion turning into a smile. "You’re a pervert; you know that, don’t you? What I meant to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, was that I don’t remember coming here last night, nor do I remember getting dressed for bed. So, anyways, there I was in the loo when it comes to me that the last thing I remember from last night was being so tired at Hermione’s cottage, then things got pretty fuzzy thereafter," Gabrielle said.
"You fell asleep. I brought you home," Harry explained.
"You brought me to your flat," Gabrielle said accusingly.
"Yes," he said.
"And then you brought me here," she said.
"Uh-huh," he said.
"And then you dressed me for bed?"
"Which meant that you undressed me first," Gabrielle said.
"Kind of," Harry said. "I unbuttoned your blouse, slipped off your trousers, enlarged your camisole and then did a switching spell."
"A switching spell?"
"My shirt for your camisole," he said with a deadpan expression.
"And the expansion charm on the camisole?"
"Was to make sure I didn’t blow it up — I didn’t think it would fit otherwise," he said.
"You were wearing my camisole?" she asked incredulously.
"Only for a moment," he said, the faintest blush arising to his cheeks. "Once you were in my shirt, I put you to bed."
"So I didn’t get my nuzzling?" Gabrielle asked with a pout. "No gropes?"
"You were asleep."
"I’m not asleep now," she purred, running her fingers up the back of his neck.
Several minutes later the timer pinged, prompting them to come up for air. "Get them from the oven," she commanded. "We can continue on the couch while they cool."
"Wouldn’t want to eat them when they’re too hot," he said agreeably.
"No, we might get burned."
The brioches were successfully removed from the oven; the display of affection moved to the couch. As Harry was laying a string of kisses along her collarbone, Gabrielle threw her head back, eyes closed; the couple was ablaze in a covering of silver light, most of which was coming from Gabrielle, but Harry didn’t particularly care at the moment.
Gabrielle jerked underneath him.
"Damnation," she muttered.
"What? Did I do something wrong?" Harry asked; his eyes unfocused.
Gabrielle straightened up, buttoning the buttons that had somehow come unbuttoned in the last few minutes. "That’s my line," she said with a smile. "Someday we will discuss how anxious I am that I’m not experienced enough to please you. No, this is far more important, and, by the way, what you were doing was marvellous."
"Thank you. So, what is it?" Harry asked.
"I know where Matzalen is -- I think — I felt her scrambled signature when you were kissing me. As much as I’d like things to get out of hand here and now, I think it’s time that we eat breakfast and get back to work."
"So, where is she?" Harry asked.
"Unless I’m wildly mistaken, on L'ÃŽsle d'If."
The District Superintendent was pacing in her office when they arrived.
"Tell me that you have some good news," she said, pausing to look out the window.
Gabrielle looked at Harry, who nodded.
"We think we know where they may be," Gabrielle said cautiously.
The District Superintendent turned towards them, gripping the back of her office chair. "You have their signatures?"
"Not exactly," Gabrielle began, "we have reason to believe that their signatures are masked — what we’ve found in Marseilles is a masked signature. We tested the hypothesis in Cyprus and then took a reading on Matzalen’s hair for good measure."
"And the result?" the District Superintendent asked, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.
"The masked signature on Matzalen’s hair from Cyprus matches what I found in Marseilles this morning," Gabrielle said firmly. "The only problem is that because it’s masked, I have no idea how fresh the signature is — they could be somewhere else, but it’s the first lead we’ve had in weeks."
"Indeed," she said, turning back towards the window. "My news is not as happy. Our friends in the Balkans intercepted another message. Apparently Unai has successfully auctioned off the twins; the buyer should be arriving anytime in the next three days. This case is enough to start me smoking cigarettes again. How certain are you of the location?"
"That’s a problem," Gabrielle replied. "I think they’re under some sort of an Anti-Apparation barrier — once I determine the parameters of the barrier, I’ll be able to get a better fix on their location. It’s also entirely possible that they were there in the recent past, but now are somewhere else."
"So, where do you think they are?" the District Superintendent asked.
"L'ÃŽsle d'If," Harry said.
"In the Chateau?" the District Superintendent asked.
"Probably," Gabrielle replied.
A chiming box on the District Superintendent’s desk interrupted them. The District Superintendent opened the box, revealing a small vertical ring of fire. Michele’s voice came from the small, fiery opening. "There’s a messenger here for Mademoiselle Delacour, Madam."
The District Superintendent looked up at Gabrielle. "Were you expecting something?"
"Yes, Madame," Gabrielle answered.
"Send him in, Michele," the District Superintendent said.
"Yes, Madame," Michele’s voice hissed as the District Superintendent shut the box.
To Gabrielle’s surprise, the messenger was one of the Weasley twins, George she guessed, as his French was much more passable than Fred’s. He delivered two cases, the first contained a collection of spheres the size of oranges and a launching device. The second case he didn’t open or describe, other than saying it was a "special package" that Harry was familiar with. George excused himself, claiming that he’d love to stay and chat, but while he was in Marseilles, he needed to drop in on a supplier in Provencal before returning to the shop in London.
The District Superintendent frowned after the door closed.
"There are problems if they are indeed at the Chateau d’If," she began.
"What sort of problems, Madame?" Gabrielle asked.
"The Chateau was bought several years ago by the Basque Embassy - they continue to use part of the Chateau as a tourist attraction, but for all intents and purposes, the island is theirs," she replied.
"It is still part of France, is it not?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes, but the status of the buildings is murky. What you’ve told me right now wouldn’t be sufficient for a warrant, given the diplomatic entanglement," the District Superintendent said.
"So we can’t go in?" Gabrielle asked incredulously.
"I didn’t say that, Gabrielle, I’m just saying that if we applied for a warrant, it would most likely be denied," the District Superintendent said, brushing hair away from her face with an unconscious gesture. "If, however, an Auror team were to find themselves on the premises and subsequently called for assistance, the full might of the District would respond. Do I make myself clear?"
Gabrielle smirked. "Perfectly, Madame," she said.
They spent another half-hour discussing the details of the now-unauthorized and possibly illegal operation.
An hour later, they were on the water, sailing a small rented sailboat to conduct their reconnaissance of L'ÃŽsle d'If. Originally, they intended to release the field-revealing powder over the entire city, which would best be accomplished using modified fireworks. Now that their attention was focused on a smaller area, they could use a more discreet launcher, which George had already provided.
Gabrielle thought that it was a fine day for sailing, riding the fine dividing line between autumn and winter in Marseilles, where the dedicated sailors are out on the water ten months out of the year. They were dressed in sailing clothes, which was unfortunate, in Gabrielle’s estimation. If they were doing this in summer, they’d be dressed in swimsuits; which was almost the same thing as being naked, which led to all sorts of satisfying daydreams.
"Penny for your thoughts, love," Harry said.
Gabrielle smiled broadly. "I was being a scarlet woman again, thinking about how I’d rather that we were married already, which led to thinking about what I’d being doing if I was out for a sail on a lovely day with my husband."
"Ah, nooky on the high seas — would I have to wear an eye-patch and talk like a pirate?" Harry replied.
"That wasn’t the fantasy that I had going, but that could work too," she said. "You must think that I’m a terrible tease, always winding you up about sex but waiting for you to make the first move."
"Not really," Harry replied. "I figured it had something to do with the performance anxiety you mentioned."
Gabrielle put her index finger on her nose. "Exactly."
"What is that all about, anyway?" Harry asked.
"Oh, please! Do I have to spell it out for you?" Gabrielle asked.
"Probably, I’m not that quick on a lot of the subtle things," Harry answered.
"You and Ginny were together for years," Gabrielle began.
"And I fear that, after we’re married, when we finally do make love that you will compare me to Ginny, and that I will not measure up," Gabrielle replied, giving him a fierce look that was betrayed by a quivering lip.
Harry said nothing; he began to shake.
"What? You are laughing at me!" Gabrielle shouted, making a fist to give Harry a backhanded thump on his ribs. When she opened her fist a small ball of fire appeared in the palm of her hand.
"I don’t think it warrants a fireball, love," Harry replied, giving her a quick kiss on the side of her neck.
"And why not? I open up and reveal my deepest fears to you and — and - you mock me!" Gabrielle replied.
"I was laughing at you, not mocking you. There’s a difference," Harry said, his eyes moving from laughing to serious. "There’s not going to be a comparison; Ginny was a virgin when she died, which is some kind of ironic thing, because if she hadn’t been a virgin, she couldn’t have destroyed the last Horcrux."
"Mon Dieu, I’ve done it again," Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Made assumptions rather than just asking you," she said. She was silent for a while. "How did Ginny die?"
Harry didn’t answer for a long time, looking out at the horizon while he guided the tiller.
"We got together at the end of my sixth year at Hogwarts," Harry began.
"And then you broke up with her after Dumbledore died. That was very stupid," Gabrielle said.
"Yeah," Harry said, pinching his nose briefly. "That was stupid. She convinced me that while my intentions were noble, I wasn’t really protecting her at all, and I was making both of us miserable. When Ginny turned seventeen, she joined us on the Horcrux hunt, about the same time that Luna and Neville joined us. It took a while to find them all, and then we had to figure out how to destroy them. Voldemort had a thing for perverting artefacts from Founders of Hogwarts — the last Horcrux was something from Rowena Ravenclaw."
"What was it?" Gabrielle asked.
"A prayer book — something a noble lady of her era might own. Apparently Rowena’s mind wandered when she was in church. She charmed the flysheets to hold reams of her scribbling. Everything from her shopping lists for market days to thoughts on whether or not her soul was immortal," Harry said with a laugh. "Appropriate enough, given the context. It was the Horcrux that took us the longest to figure out how to destroy."
"Why was that?"
"When Voldemort turned it into a Horcrux, he put a powerful protective curse that could only be broken by a girl, a virgin, who was in love," Harry said quietly. "Luna figured out the curse, she was always incredibly gifted at Charms work. Once she deciphered it, she discussed it with Ginny. They never mentioned it to us."
"Because you’d try to talk them out of it," Gabrielle said.
"We found Luna’s diary afterwards — it mentioned that she was pretty sure that the virgin could break the curse, but it would kill her in the process. Ginny insisted that she was the only one for the job, although Luna was helping her all the way to the end," Harry said grimly. "Of the three girls, she was the only one who was still a virgin. Luna was right — when they broke the curse it was like a small atomic explosion — they never had a chance."
"I’m so sorry — I never knew," Gabrielle said sympathetically.
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Was there anyone in your life after Ginny?" Gabrielle asked.
"Not really," Harry replied.
"That’s a question that should be answered with a yes or no," Gabrielle said.
"There was a girl in Alaska — a young Army widow who ran a supply shop in a little town outside of Denali. She looked like Ginny; I never went beyond flirting with her though," Harry said.
"Why is that?"
"Because I was smart enough to figure out that I really didn’t want to get to know her, I just wanted someone to stand in for Ginny."
"Am I a stand in?" Gabrielle asked, digesting what he’d just said.
"No — you don’t have red hair," he said, smirking. "I finally worked that kink out — it took me long enough. Does this help?"
"Yeah, thanks," Gabrielle said.
"We’re in position now; let’s just see where that field is," Harry said.
They were upwind of the island, striking their sail for a moment to drift slowly in the stiff breeze. They loaded one of the powder balls into the launcher, charming the ball to release at apogee. Once the launcher was armed, they donned the charmed sunglasses provided by George Weasley.
"What did George mean when he said that I needed these more than you do?" Harry asked.
Gabrielle blushed, looking away for a moment. "Well, for one thing, I can already see in the infra-red spectrum, it’s a Veela thing," she said.
"Veela are predators — being able to see in the infra-red spectrum made night-time hunting a bit more efficient," Gabrielle explained clinically.
"Yeah, but that’s not what is making you blush," Harry said.
"Launch the ball already, Harry, you know me too well," Gabrielle said.
The launcher gave a muted bark. The ball quickly disappeared as it flew straight up. When the ball burst at apogee, the fine powder dispersed in the wind, looking like a yellow sheet of shimmering silk when viewed through their charmed glasses. To the naked eye the powder cloud was invisible.
"Veela light," Gabrielle said, scanning the sky.
"Yeah, it kicks in when you’re letting your allure rip," Harry said.
"And when I’m aroused, or angry, or distressed, or when I’m trying to communicate powerful emotions to another Veela," Gabrielle said.
"And I’ll need sunglasses because?" Harry asked.
"I’m told that when I climax it’s like a flashbulb going off," Gabrielle said, still looking at the sky.
"You don’t know?" Harry asked.
"My eyes are never open then," Gabrielle said drolly, flipping open a sketchpad, drawing a diagram of the field as it began to appear in a ghostly golden glow as the powder fell to earth.
"Okay," Harry said slowly. "Something to look forward to, I guess."
"You better be looking forward to it, since you’re making me wait," Gabrielle said, looking up from her sketch pad. "Okay, I’ve got it — it’s a field just like what you built on Cyprus, with five anchor points."
"Yeah, we’ll need to take out at least two of the anchors to collapse the field," Harry said, pulling out the special package.
"Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?" Gabrielle said.
"It depends whether or not your mind is in the gutter again," Harry said, looking over the rim of his sunglasses. "We both know that if we go back, we’re not going to get a warrant issued."
"So?" Gabrielle said.
"So, we need to visit the Chateau and see what we find inside — if the children are there, maybe we can spring them," Harry said.
"Simple, direct, very hazardous — very Harry; it’s no wonder why I love you," Gabrielle said.
Harry smiled. "Fancy going for a climb up the cliff?" he asked, pointing to the island.
"Why not dock at the pier?" Gabrielle asked.
"I’m sure whoever’s at the Chateau is watching the pier, but they won’t expect us, or see us, if we come in from the cliff."
"What about the boat?"
"Well," Harry drawled. "We can either anchor it and disillusion it, or charm it to return to Marseilles without us."
"How do we get home then?" Gabrielle asked.
"Assuming that we can bring the field down, we’ll Disapparate."
"I vote for anchoring the boat and disillusioning it," Gabrielle said. "It keeps our options open. And, to answer your question, yeah, I fancy a climb. It looks like a good rock face. Who’s going first?"
"I figured that I’d carry the equipment, so I’d let you go first," Harry said.
"You just want to be able to watch my bum from below," Gabrielle said lightly.
"I won’t say that the thought hadn’t occurred to me," Harry said.
"You are a pervert," Gabrielle said before she kissed him.
"Your pervert, love, never forget that."
They changed their gear silently, transfiguring what they didn’t already have on board the boat. Anchoring the now-disillusioned boat, they Apparated to the foot of the cliff face. They used charms to lighten each other and the equipment pack that Harry was carrying, figuring that they would climb up without equipment, but set pitons to support a rope for their exit, if necessary. Cinching the last strap into place, Gabrielle gave Harry a long look, and then kissed him.
"For luck," she said when she broke away from the kiss.
"You don’t have to have a reason, love," he replied, watching her scale the face of the cliff. As usual, the view from below was excellent.
He waited until she was half-way up the cliff before starting his own ascent, thankful that this climb was aided by the lightening charms. When they were both on top, he Disillusioned them both, creeping quietly until they were underneath the magical field covering the Chateau.
"Uh, Harry, what do you see around the Chateau?" Gabrielle asked nervously.
"Nothing but a big ugly stone castle; why, what should I be seeing?" he asked, reaching for his charmed sunglasses.
"I don’t think the glasses are going to help," Gabrielle said grimly.
"What do you see?" Harry asked.
"A ring of fire around the Chateau — ten metres high and about ten metres from the wall — I didn’t see it until we were under the magical field," Gabrielle replied.
"Veela specific illusion?" Harry asked.
"I don’t think so," Gabrielle replied. "If it’s what I think it is, we may need to divide our labour differently than planned."
"Talk to me," Harry said, setting up a peeping charm to scan inside the Chateau.
"If it’s what I think it is, it’s something Nana used to tell me stories about. It’s a Veela specific curse — rather much like a fence that replicates the effect of the Cruciatus curse. A few centuries ago there was a nasty blood-feud in the Basque highlands between the Flock and a clan of Basque wizards. They’d set this curse up around a Veela encampment in the shape of a hemisphere and then set fire to the encampment. The Veela would burn to death rather than cross the curse barrier. I thought the clan that specialized in that curse died out three hundred years ago," she said bitterly.
"How do we tell for sure?" Harry asked.
"The same way my ancestors did — trial and error," Gabrielle said, sighing deeply.
"Let me try it first," Harry said.
"I’m not going to fight you for that honour," Gabrielle replied.
"Walk me up to the ring of fire," he said, taking her by the hand.
"We’re here," she said after they’d crossed the field separating the cliff from the Chateau.
Harry reached out. "I can feel something here, but it’s just a faint trace of magic," he said, stepping back and facing Gabrielle.
"Silence me," she commanded, closing her eyes as she gathered up her resolve. "If I start to scream, pull me away from the Chateau — if the stories are accurate, once I touch the barrier, I’ll be stuck to it."
"Charming," Harry replied, applying a silencing charm to his beloved.
He felt the crackle of energy before he heard anything as she stretched out her hand, presenting the back of her hand to the invisible barrier. He could see her flinch before she thrust her hand forward the last few inches. Her body went taut and her head flung back, mouth open. She was screaming, but making no noise. Harry yanked her backwards, feeling terrible.
He removed the silencing charm. "Are you okay?" he asked.
Gabrielle was gasping, cradling her hand as she caught her breath. "Now I am. I suspect that this was designed to keep Veela in, rather than keep Veela out, but unless I can Apparate into the Chateau, I don’t think I’m going to be able to follow you in, love."
"Still think I should go in?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, just be careful. How are you going in, disguised or disillusioned?"
"Both — if I have to bluff my way in, I’ll look like a deliveryman, picking up the Veelas," he said.
"That’s not much of a plan," Gabrielle said.
"This may be just reconnaissance of an empty building," Harry said soothingly.
"And it may be full of armed men, some of whom are pretty desperate wizards," Gabrielle countered.
"I’ll be careful," Harry replied.
"It’s not just your life on the line any more, Harry," Gabrielle said, biting her lips.
Harry pushed a strand of platinum hair back behind her ear. "I know — that’s what really scares me, love, but I’ve got something to live for again."
Gabrielle smiled sadly, but said nothing as she transfigured his climbing clothes into clothes that might be worn by an underworld hit-man, or high level messenger, taking care to adjust his now-transfigured hat so that it obscured his famous scar.
When it came time for Harry to pass through the ring of fire, she looked away until he was through. She then busied herself with satchel charges from the other package, reckoning that she’d destroy at least two of the anchors holding the field while her love was scouting the building.
The Chateau d'If was built originally as a fortress, resembling a squat ugly castle with four towers, three of which survived to the present day. The westernmost tower was used as a museum, visited by tourists who wanted to see the prison made famous by the Dumas novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.
In his first walk around the perimeter of the castle he’d determined that there was nothing alive in the museum tower. Walking through the middle tower he couldn’t get a flicker on anything either, leaving the easternmost tower, where he suspected he’d get a different result. He alarmed each door on the outside of the castle, a lesson he’d learned the hard way during the years he’d been searching for Horcruxes.
Like the other towers, the east tower was unlocked, but it did have some simple alarms, both technical and magical, which he bypassed with ease. The life-seeking charm indicated that there were living beings of some sort in the building, so with a brief smile, he refined his search strategy. The below-ground levels didn’t indicate anything living, so after alarming those, he moved on. He was still disillusioned, walking with silenced footsteps. The second and third floors were also empty, but the life-seeking charm flared brightly when he passed the door leading to the fourth floor. He quickly ran up to the upper floors, confirming that they were as empty as the first few floors, alarming the doors as he cleared the floor.
He took a deep breath as he placed his palm on the stairwell door leading to the fourth floor.
Gabrielle was worried, which wasn’t a surprise; she was always worried when she was doing operations in the field. The ring of fire had further shaken her composure; the notion that her soon-to-be mate could get in serious trouble in the Chateau and she couldn’t do much beyond calling for back-up was disturbing. The ring of fire taunted her; Unai knew she was looking for the children; the barrier was just further proof that Unai was hedging his bets against the day that she’d show up on the island.
The process for seating the explosive charge around the anchor stone was tedious, but keeping her hands busy helped with the agony of waiting, which, like all waiting, still sucked. She connected the igniter at last to explosive charge and the switching device (a Muggle mobile phone handset) and eyed the next location. She decided that the next charge could wait a moment; she was going to reach out with her tracking senses and see if she could locate Harry, who she already missed, or any of the children. To her surprise she was able to locate Harry’s scrambled signature with relative ease, and shortly thereafter, Matzalen’s scrambled signature also. Harry was pensive — he was pacing through the Chateau.
Better pensive than under attack, Gabrielle thought, smiling as she imagined him racing through the halls of the Chateau, disillusioned, walking with silenced footsteps. She couldn’t find the signatures of the twins, but given the ferocious interference coming from the magical field and the ring of fire and the fact that as younger children, they were bound to have a fainter signature; she was not surprised. Matzalen’s signature, on the other hand, was so strong that Gabrielle was sure that she was there, which was comforting.
It was time to place the second charge.
Matzalen was surprised to see the man in the hallways. The number of Master’s men and women would ebb and flow in the building, but everyone seemed to have disappeared that day, which was odd. She reckoned that he was a wizard because he’d managed to surprise her. The stone walls in the building made for loud echoes, which she’d become rather adept at reading, being able to identify individual members of Master’s retinue by the sounds they made. This man, however, was moving silently, which meant that he’d probably used magic to deaden the sound of his footsteps.
"Excuse me, Mademoiselle, do you work here?" he asked politely as his eyes moved up and down her scantily dressed body.
It was time to be charming. "After a fashion," she said, tugging on the hem of her tunic, which then tightened across her chest.
"I’m here for the Veela," he said, assuming the posture that indicated that he was used to being obeyed.
Matzalen froze, her mind gripped in panic. She’d heard whisperings of some scheme concerning the twins, but she thought she had weeks, if not months to deal with that. "Veela?" she asked.
"Yeah, some little blonde girls," the man replied, looking mildly put out. "Do you know where they are?"
Thinking fast, Matzalen began to flirt, throwing everything she had into the attempt. "Why would you want little girls, Monsieur, when you can have a big girl?" she asked, striking a provocative pose. She strained to push her allure to heights she’d never attempted.
Understanding seemed to dawn in the man’s eyes, along with something else that Matzalen couldn’t quite read. "Do you know where the little girls are?" he asked again.
"Why don’t you come to my room and we can talk about it?" she suggested, giving him a wink as she turned away. Watching the shadows on the walls, she could see that he was following, so she made sure that her walk was worth watching.
Placing the second explosive charge was as tedious as placing the first, but at least now she knew what she was doing. Kneeling on stones had its limits, so before she inserted the igniter into the charge, she stood to stretch her aching back and then reached out with her senses to find Harry.
She screamed as she felt the blade slide into her back, piercing between her ribs. As her knees buckled, she felt a slash behind one leg and knew that she was bleeding, badly. Her vision went black for a moment. Gabrielle took a deep breath, noting that she could do so without a fiery pain in the right side of her chest. She reached around to the back of her left knee, feeling for blood, but finding only the dry fabric of her jeans. Her mind was racing, trying to interpret the mixed signals she was experiencing. She reached out with her senses again, panicking when she found him. His lively signature was throbbing and fading; she could feel the pain in his leg and chest and knew that he was about to black out again. Veela light poured from her as she tried to put the pieces together. In a burst of clarity, she grabbed the smaller of her two satchels and ran towards the ring of fire. She was deathly afraid of being caught in the barrier, but more afraid of what she knew would happen if she didn’t take prompt action. She closed her eyes, concentrating on Harry’s fading signature as she sprinted towards the Chateau. She disappeared a moment before striking the ring of fire, a scream playing on her lips as she did so.
There was blood everywhere. She’d struck on the right, assuming that’s where his heart would be, slicing his leg with her stiletto above the knee for good measure to make sure that once he was down, he’d stay down. He appeared to be breathing still, although he made an odd gurgling sound as he did so. Matzalen decided that she had to turn him over so she could properly slit his throat and put him out of his misery; even thugs deserved some measure of mercy.
He began to pulse with a faint silver light as she turned him over, which was odd, but not nearly as odd as the scar on his forehead once she got him on his back. Eskarne’s voice rang in her memory. "Hair that’s black like the night with a scar on his face." She then remembered the only time she’d ever seen a man produce silver light, remembering how the light would flow from Papa when he was particularly proud of Maman. The shock that she might have mortally wounded a Companion of the Dawn, combined with the horror from the blood everywhere made her shrink away from the man.
Gabrielle Apparated into the room, smacking into the wall as she still had a fair amount of forward momentum from clearing the ring of fire. Pushing away from the wall, she circled, wand out, scanning the room, noting at some level the smell of blood, the cowering, shimmering girl in the corner, a bloody stiletto on the floor in front of her, and the supine body of her chosen mate.
"Don’t move, Matzalen; if you move I will not hesitate to kill you," she said coolly as she crouched beside Harry. Airway, Breathing, Circulation. She ran the first diagnostic — shock was setting in, his right lung was in trouble, and he was bleeding profusely from his leg; all things that she could deal with, but the bleeding was the most urgent problem, if he bled out, there wasn’t much the best Healer could do to revive him. She turned his body over, pressing down on the spurting wound.
"Get me a towel," she commanded, forgetting her prior threat to Matzalen.
Matzalen complied, bringing a fresh towel, which Gabrielle used to compress the wound, stopping the bleeding for a moment.
"Who are you?" Matzalen asked, her voice trembling and small.
"We’re Aurors, we’re here to rescue you," Gabrielle said curtly. "Here, press down on this; I’ve got other things to do."
The two Veela switched positions, Matzalen pushing down on the back of the man’s leg while Gabrielle pulled some materials from her pouch before she crouched beside Harry. She waved her wand in intricate, small patterns above his body, concentrating first on the leg, then on the back, over the crimson spot below his shoulder blade.
She had to return to the leg several times; the repair would not hold. "Harry, you bastard, you can’t die on me — we’ve come too far," she barked as she returned to the leg to try yet again to patch the severed artery.
Harry murmured something indistinct in reply. Gabrielle ignored him for the moment until she finally got the patch on the artery to hold. Bending her head low to plant a kiss on his cheek, she murmured, "What was that you said, love?"
"Not a bastard, I’m an orphan, like you," he whispered, opening his eyes briefly as he tried to smile.
"He is a Companion of the Dawn?" Matzalen asked.
Gabrielle looked up, staring at Matzalen as if seeing her for the first time. "Yes, he is to be my mate, if he lives," she said.
"I’m sorry, I thought he was one of them," Matzalen said, looking down at the floor.
"We’ll sort that out after we get you out of here," Gabrielle said. "Where are your sisters?"
"Across the hall," Matzalen whispered, blinking her eyes as she started to weave.
"Don’t you dare faint on me, Matzalen," Gabrielle commanded, casting a calming charm on the girl. Matzalen’s colour improved a bit. "Harry, what’s buzzing in your shirt?"
"Alarms — someone’s entered the castle," he said weakly. "Can you help me sit up?"
"Are you able?" Gabrielle said.
"Able enough," he replied. "Why can’t I breathe right?"
"Your right lung’s collapsed," Gabrielle said.
"Well, that’s a first," Harry said sardonically.
"See, I told you that you’d have new experiences hanging out with me," Gabrielle quipped.
"Yeah, well, up to the last hour, it’s been great," Harry replied. "So, Matzalen, where are your sisters? It’s time to get out of here."
"They’re across the hall," Matzalen said, not looking up from the floor.
"Can you do a Disillusionment Charm?" Harry asked.
Matzalen shook her head.
"Let me Disillusion you, you’ll be almost invisible. Get your sisters and get them back here," he said to Matzalen, flicking his wand over her head. A moment later, appearing as a wraith, she left the room. Harry turned to Gabrielle. "Did you blow the anchors to the field?"
This time Gabrielle shook her head.
"Let’s blow them then. You did bring the mobile?" Harry asked.
"Uh, yeah, I’ve got it, but the igniter isn’t hooked to the switch on the second charge," Gabrielle said.
"Something come up?" Harry asked.
"You might say that," Gabrielle said.
"Well, I appreciate your priorities — let’s blow the first charge. Wait a minute, if the field is still up, how did you get in here?" he asked.
"I Apparated in," she replied.
"How’d you not get Splinched?" he asked with concern.
"I Apparated to your signature."
"Smart girl — how was it passing through the ring of fire?" he asked.
"Painful, but at least I didn’t get stuck in it, which was my fear," she replied.
Gabrielle pulled her mobile from her satchel, thumbing a number in. When she pressed the â€˜send’ button, they heard a distant rumble of thunder. "Well, one anchor blown, for all the good that it will do," she said.
"Can you call in reinforcements?" Harry asked.
"Good idea," Gabrielle replied, thumbing another number into the phone, pressing the â€˜send’ button and then placing the handset back into her satchel.
"Nobody home?" Harry asked.
"Nobody I wanted to talk to," Gabrielle replied. "I put in the code for â€˜officer down’ which usually gets a prompt response. They’ll home in on the location of the phone, although, truth be told, I’d rather be somewhere else when they get here.
The door opened, admitting a noisy, but barely visible Matzalen. "They’re gone! They’re usually in their room right now, but I couldn’t find them anywhere on the floor," she said breathlessly.
Harry braced himself against a chair and pushed up, tentatively trying his weight on his injured leg, wincing as he did so. He conjured a cane, which made standing bearable. "Where would they be this time of day?" he asked the still transparent Matzalen.
"Sometimes they’d be in the kitchens, trying to mooch a snack from the cooks," Matzalen replied.
"Are the kitchens on the second floor?" Harry asked.
"Yeah," Matzalen replied.
"Nothing there on my way up," Harry said.
"That doesn’t mean that they didn’t go down there while you were coming up," Gabrielle countered.
"True," Harry replied. "Are you up to being a scout, Matzalen?"
"Yes, I think so," the teen replied.
"Go down to the kitchens — if you can bring them back without being seen, do so, otherwise find them and come back to us, here. Don’t try to fight with the men, you won’t get the element of surprise this time," Harry cautioned. He handed her a small disk. "Break this if you spot Unai’s men, break it twice if you need help."
"What’s it do?" Matzalen asked.
"It sends me a silent message," Harry replied.
Matzalen nodded. "Can I have my knife back?" she asked.
Gabrielle picked it up, wiped it off and handed it to Harry, who wordlessly Disillusioned it before handing it to Matzalen. He then charmed her shoes for silence. "I plan on us sneaking out of here, not fighting our way out."
"Right," replied Matzalen, "but I feel better when I have it with me."
"Get going," Gabrielle said, reaching back into her satchel.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked.
"Finishing patching you up — you’re still a litre or so short in the fluids department," she said, pushing an auto-inject ampoule against his arm. "That should burn a little."
"It does," Harry said, nodding. "What is it?"
"Blood replenishing solution, healing matrix and an energy boost — you’re going to be wired for a while," Gabrielle warned. "You’ll feel better than you really are, so don’t overdo it."
"Yeah, right," Harry replied. "Let’s hobble across the hall and see if you can get a lock on the twins’ signature."
Gabrielle nodded, but instead of moving towards the door, she leaned against Harry, placing her forehead on his shoulder before gingerly placing her arms on his waist.
"All right, love?" Harry whispered.
Gabrielle shook her head. "I was so scared, Harry. I felt the knife go in," she whispered in reply. "I could feel your life slipping away."
"Good thing; I was ready for a lot of things, getting perforated by one of the girls I was rescuing was not one of them. Moody would have my head if he were alive," Harry said.
"Yeah, well, after we get out of here, I’m not going to leave your side for a couple of days," Gabrielle said.
"I’m not going to complain," Harry said. "Think we should clean up?"
Gabrielle cast a wandless Scourgify as they left the room.
"Pretty good — no wonder your flat is always so clean," Harry quipped.
"One of my many talents," Gabrielle said, smirking before she closed the door.
Harry stood out in the hallway, standing watch while Gabrielle tried to get a good fix on the twins’ signature, standing stock still in the centre of the room, hands outstretched to either side. Harry closed the door, hoping that the light she was casting off wasn’t visible from the room’s small, high window. The signal from Matzalen’s disk pinged on Harry’s notepad, one ping, indicating that she’d spotted Unai’s men.
"Did you get it?" he asked her as she beckoned for him to come into the room. She nodded in reply.
"They are in the kitchen. Matzalen was with them briefly and now she’s coming our way," Gabrielle said.
"She spotted some thugs on that floor," Harry replied, pointing to the glowing dot on the exposed page of his notepad.
"Lovely, the day is looking up," Gabrielle said.
Another dot began to glow. "Someone else has just entered the castle — this time from the cliff-side entrance," Harry said.
"More of Unai’s men?" Gabrielle asked.
"Maybe, maybe some of our Auror friends," Harry said cautiously. "For now, I’m going to assume that they’re all hostile."
There was a very quiet knock on the door, which then opened, admitting the faint outline of a very frightened teenaged Veela.
"The place is crawling with Unai’s men," she gasped.
"Were you spotted?" Gabrielle asked.
"I don’t think so," Matzalen replied. "The girls are hiding in a pantry; they’re very good at being quiet for a long, long time."
"Well, I’m feeling a bit peckish, what do you say we go down to the kitchens?" Harry asked cheerfully.
Matzalen look at Harry and then at Gabrielle. "Is he always like this?"
Gabrielle smiled and then shook her head. "Only in front of strangers, once he gets to know you he’ll start being normal," she said.
"Thanks, love," Harry replied, applying Disillusioning charms to Gabrielle and then himself, repeating the silencing charms for their shoes.
Evading the wandering crews of searching men was not that difficult; they made a lot of noise and weren’t particularly thorough in their searches. It still took a while to reach the kitchens. Harry placed a fresh set of alarms in the hallways leading to the kitchens, and after a bit of hesitation, applied some anti-personnel hexes in layers.
"Nasty stuff, Mr. Potter," Gabrielle commented.
"I hate surprises," Harry replied.
"You assume that we’ll be able to exit by way of the cliffs?" Gabrielle asked.
"Right now, once we get past the ring of fire, I’m assuming that we can do a line of sight Disapparation to the mainland," Harry replied.
"Are you in any shape to Apparate?" Gabrielle asked with concern.
"Better that than fighting my way out," he said glibly. "During the war, I got chewed up on a regular basis, so this is just like old times."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, following Matzalen into the kitchen.
Matzalen pantomimed flicking a wand at the windows and doors. Gabrielle replied by silencing and sealing the room, obscuring the windows with a one-way charm. Matzalen then gave a series of clucks which were answered by the twins from their hiding place. A low cabinet door opened and a small pale hand emerged. The hand was followed by an angelic looking, albeit worried girl, and a moment later, her twin.
Gabrielle crouched down. "I’m a friend of your maman. We’re here to rescue you," she said calmly.
"I told you a sister was looking for us," Eskarne said to Matzalen reproachfully.
"Yeah, well, he was dressed as a gangster, so I wasn’t taking chances," Matzalen replied.
Evidently she’d told her sisters a bit about the misadventures of the day.
"Right," Harry said, looking at the door leading to the hallway.
"What was it that you said about the ring of fire?" Matzalen asked Gabrielle nervously.
"Unai has set up one of the old fire rings around the building," Gabrielle explained.
"So we’re trapped?" Matzalen asked.
"Not quite, I managed to get through to get here," Gabrielle said. "Do you know how to Apparate?"
Matzalen shook her head.
"Then we’re going to have to take you out one at a time," Gabrielle said.
Harry lifted his eyebrows.
"Not everyone can Apparate twice their own weight, love, some of us have limits," Gabrielle said.
"Master said that no one could Apparate or Portkey onto the island, and that we’d die if we stepped foot out of the building," Matzalen protested.
"We’ve put a crack into the anti-Apparation field covering the island," Harry explained. "We’re going to slip out through the crack."
"Is that cheating?" Eskarne asked solemnly.
"Yes, but we’re allowed to cheat when we’re rescuing good little Veelas," Gabrielle said cheerfully.
"Oh, good," Garazi said, nodding her head.
Harry wished he’d done a half-a-dozen things differently; he wished that he’d left listening and peeping devices at the doors rather than just simple alarms; he wished he’d brought more tools with him for man-trapping the hallways; but most of all, he wished he’d properly identified himself to Matzalen, but in his defence, he hadn’t recognized her until she started pushing out the Veela allure.
They’d made their way to the ground floor without mishap. The life-seeking charms revealed that there were at least two dozen life-forms knocking about in the castle beside them, although the charm wasn’t specific enough to declare whether the life forms were Magical or Muggle. The way to the cliff, and thereafter the beach below seemed to be clear, but they were waiting a few minutes until the sun was lower in the sky, making it harder still to see Disillusioned forms.
The twins bickered among themselves as to who would be the first to leave with Gabrielle. Matzalen finally intervened, suggesting that they play the Wizarding version of rock-paper-scissors to decide the honour, with Harry serving straight-faced as the judge. After three rounds, Garazi was declared the winner. The pair slipped out of the castle, Disapparated through the ring of fire, sprinted to the edge of the cliff, and with Garazi holding on to Gabrielle’s back for dear life, scrambled down the rope to the relative safety of the beach below. Harry was standing watch above, waiting for the signalling charm from Gabrielle to let him know that she’d made it to the beach. Once he felt its muted click, he could breathe again. Another click announced that she was climbing the rock face again, pausing to wait for a signal from him that the way was clear.
With a brief break for a stolen kiss, Gabrielle was out the door again, this time with Eskarne, punching through the ring of fire, sprinting to the edge of the cliff and down the ropes again. Harry leaned against the wall, listening intently to the murmuring sounds of the castle. He did something with his magic, or was it Gabrielle’s magic? It was hard to separate the two magics any more. Reaching out, he found a wisp of something that smelled and tasted like Gabrielle — a ghost of a scent, a shade of flavour. Gabrielle was on the beach again, reuniting Garazi and Eskarne, who would no doubt be holding hands, hiding in some crag until their sister joined them.
His notebook pinged again. The alarm on the doorway leading their way indicated that the hallway had been breached. He gave a warning notice to Gabrielle and quickly turned to Matzalen.
"I’m going to make whoever’s in the hallway wish that they’d stayed in bed today," Harry said cheerfully. "Stay here and wait for Gabrielle. It’s twilight, so if you stand still you’re the next best thing to invisible."
Matzalen nodded solemnly, but there was an odd glint in her eye.
Perhaps she doesn’t take kindly to being bossed around by men, Harry pondered. Not surprising actually, given everything she’s been through in the last few days.
With a feral grin, he slipped on his charmed glasses, going hunting in the dark. Whatever Gabrielle had pumped into him was beginning to fade, but he still had plenty of energy and was pleasantly on edge.
I’m getting too old for this, he thought. Maybe if I buy the station, I can get a job announcing Quidditch with Ron.
He’d decided on his own rules of engagement long ago; he wasn’t an Auror on this mission, he was a hit-wizard. Anything that posed a threat would be eliminated. The only thing that put a kink in that was the fair possibility that there might be French Aurors on the island. The phone had fallen out of Gabrielle’s satchel some time during their clandestine romp through the castle, so contact with their reinforcements wasn’t going to happen easily. If an Auror spent hours tracking it down, he’d apologize to him later. The hallway was pitch dark; Harry’d made sure that none of the Muggle lighting was operational with a few well-placed Reductor curses. Any Magical form of lighting would pose more of a hazard to the light bearer than it would to Harry right now.
A single blob of heat appeared, peeking tentatively around the corner. Harry thought it was a man. The blob was joined by two more blobs. He could hear whispering as they ducked back around the corner. He smiled. Drawing his wand he conjured a handful of metal beads, sending them flying silently down the hallway, banking around the corner where they then struck the wall, pinging and ringing in the darkness. From the muffled oath he heard, he guessed that at least one of the men had slipped and fallen. If he could run, he would have attacked at that moment, but he was still relying on the cane for walking, hardly the portrait of a hit-wizard at the moment.
He saw the cutting curse slide blindly down the hallway — it shimmered with a blue tint when viewed through the charmed glasses. Dodging it nimbly, he sent a complicated charm back in reply: a bolus of magic that would burst into radiant flames as it approached anything alive larger than a mouse, followed by a hail of stunners. Given the screams and thuds he was fairly certain that he’d taken at least two players out of the game. It was time to finish this off so he could then retreat and fight another day.
He heard a familiar voice shout out from further down the hallway. "Surrender and live, Unai! Both ends of this hallway are controlled by Aurors." Harry smiled, only one Auror he knew could sound so perfectly poised while shouting in the darkness.
Unai uttered a more creative curse in reply, inviting Auror Jacque Fuso to do something that was physiologically impossible.
Harry decided that he didn’t want to invite friendly fire. "Fuso!" he called out.
"Potter?" Jacque replied. "I warned you about getting underfoot."
"Yeah, well, I was actually trying to get out of here in time for dinner, but I was delayed by some complications," Harry shouted, taking care to move forward several feet after shouting.
Predictably, Unai took advantage of the opportunity to send a flock of severing curses to the location where he’d just been standing, exploding as they hit the wall, generating shards of rock as they dissipated. Harry replied by sending his own flock of stunners back, using the trajectory of the severing curses to approximate Unai’s location. There was a muffled grunt and thud. Unless Unai was a very good bluffer, he was probably down now. Harry smiled and began to walk forward, slowly.
Harry rounded the bend in the hallway carefully. The body shapes were glowing blobs on the floor. Auror Fuso approached from the opposite end, lighting up the area with his wand.
"They’re still alive; I thought you were a Hit Wizard," Fuso said, half in jest.
"I suspected that there were Aurors about, I didn’t want to take a chance on killing you by mistake," Harry said truthfully.
Auror Fuso shot ropes around the lesser gangsters and then placed a stick-tight gag on Unai’s mouth before reviving him. "The Veela are well?" he asked Harry.
"Yes," Harry replied, feeling uncomfortable.
"We found the mobile phone upstairs and spent a good amount of time looking for them," Fuso said. "Where are they now?"
"Away from the castle — we have a boat off-shore on the eastern side of the island," Harry said misleadingly.
"I commend you on your rescue, and on your victory in this little duel. Should you ever wish to work for a living, I will gladly sponsor your application for the Auror Cadre," Auror Fuso said, dropping a knee for a most formal bow.
Harry bowed in reply, tumbling over when he discovered, too late, that Fuso had hit him with a silent Petrificus Totalis when his head was bowed.
"Your orders, sir?" Fuso asked Unai after removing the gag.
"Find the Veelas, I’d like the little ones back if you can, but the older ones are of little use to me now. If they resist, kill them all," Unai said coolly. "Oh, and prop the hero up before you go, I want to talk to him for a while before I kill him."
"If you could extend the field, sir, I can insure that the Veela will not escape," Fuso said.
"It’s done," Unai said.
Harry calmed himself, being fully aware of the danger of accidental magic in a confined space. He then reached out, feeling for Gabrielle’s signature. He felt a surge of energy, warming his centre. He was thankful for once that the petrification masked his feelings.
Fuso turned to face Harry. "It’s nothing personal, Monsieur, this is just business," Fuso said.
Harry tried to make a sour face in reply, but he was still frozen.
"Your Veela is another question, however," he said maliciously. "If she had been more generous with her charms in the past, I might have let her live." With that, he disappeared into the darkness.
Unai pushed himself up, walking over to pick up and pocket Harry’s wand.
"You fight well, Monsieur, but I expected you to be more imposing," Unai said. He then flicked his wand at Harry’s neck.
Harry felt feeling return to his face, allowing him to wrinkle his nose. "You’re not the first to say that."
"I wanted to thank you, and your soon to be dead lady friend; your actions have given me a wonderful opportunity to reassess my commitments and, as my American friends would say, reinvent myself," Unai said, pacing back and forth.
"Tired of being a gangster?" Harry asked.
"In a word, yes," Unai said. "Eliminating or incarcerating my organization has allowed me to take my investments and redeploy them without worrying about any of them coming after me. I’d been hoping to cap that investment portfolio off with the amount I’d been promised in return for the young Veelas, but your presence here allows me to mitigate that loss."
"How’s that?" Harry asked.
"There are still many people in my world who would pay respectable amounts of money to the man who can produce your head on a pike," Unai said.
"Comforting to think that I can still be useful to someone," Harry replied.
"Any last requests?" Unai asked.
"Dinner with Gabrielle at the Miramar?" Harry replied.
"I’m afraid that I’ll have to go in your stead, Monsieur," Unai said unctuously.
"I don’t think Gabrielle will agree to that," Harry quipped.
"Alas, she won’t be there either," Unai said.
"Don’t count on it, Monsieur," a voice said from behind Unai. Wraithlike hands appeared in the dim light, clapping down on Unai’s ears.
Harry felt a surge of familiar energy. Unai collapsed at his feet, smoke pouring from his nose, mouth and ears. Harry felt warmth and feeling return to his extremities; the paralysis was gone.
"Excellent timing, Matzalen," Harry said.
Matzalen smiled and then dropped a curtsey. She then extended a hand to Harry helping him up. "We need to get out of here. Your boat was shelled and sunk by a police boat," Matzalen said.
"Where are your sisters?" he asked, grabbing his cane.
"On the beach with Gabrielle, they’re safe for now, but we really need to get out of here," Matzalen hissed as they darted down the hallway.
"My wand," Harry said, stopping short.
"I’ll go back and get it," Matzalen said, the fierce look returning to her eyes.
"Go ahead, you can certainly move faster than I can right now," Harry said. It was strange watching her disappear, silently, into the darkness. He slipped his charmed glasses back on to improve his vision in the dark. She returned in a trice, carrying Harry’s wand in one hand, Unai’s wand in the other.
"Thank you, Mademoiselle," he said, taking his proffered wand. "Let’s go find your sisters."
The sun had set by the time they were outside the castle. After the application of Disillusioning and Lightening charms, Harry scrambled down the rope, followed closely by Matzalen. Once they were both on firm ground, Harry dissolved the rope’s anchor, letting the rope fall to the beach in a jumble. He looked for footprints or other signs of where the girls might be hidden, but the rough rocks and pebbles of the beach were singularly uncooperative. He stretched out his senses, seeking Gabrielle’s signature. When he found it a burst of energy flared in his centre.
Are you safe? Gabrielle whispered in his mind.
Quite. And you?
Where are you? He asked.
Turn left, head north for fifty metres or so.
Harry motioned to Matzalen to follow him, walking north, up the beach. He didn’t see any obvious hiding places, there being a sheer rock face on one side, a narrow stretch of rocky beach and then the broad expanse of ocean on the other. Every fifth step or so, he’d close his eyes and try to pick up a hint of familiar magic.
That’s cheating, Monsieur Potter, Gabrielle’s voice chimed in his mind.
Well, if I am to be a Tracker’s mate, it is only fair that I try to understand her world, he replied.
He heard a giggle in reply. Once he’d made his way fifty metres up the beach, he stopped, slowly turning in place. He felt a flicker of magic, familiar magic. Beckoning with one hand, he walked towards the face of the cliff, firing a tickling charm into the rock.
A portion of the rock face disappeared, revealing a small opening in the rock. Matzalen ran forward, where she was mobbed by her sisters, dissolving into a heap of squealing, chattering girls.
Gabrielle walked forward slowly; pressing her cheek against his chest as she carefully wrapped her arms around him.
"So, Fuso was working for Unai all along," she said.
"It appears so," Harry replied.
"Aurors have been searching the beach. They shelled our boat," she said sadly.
"A pity, we’ll have so much paperwork to fill out at the rental station," Harry replied in deadpan fashion.
Gabrielle squeezed him in reply. "The field has been extended out into the ocean — we can’t Disapparate," she said quietly.
"I have my own notion on that," Harry said. "We can still do point-to-point under the field, and you Apparated to a person when you came to me."
"Which means?" Gabrielle said.
"Get a lock on a strong magical signature back in Marseilles, and we’ll all Disapparate together," Harry said.
"Simple, direct, and in violation of about three different principles of magic — I like it," Gabrielle said.
"Well, either that or we could swim," he suggested.
"We’ll try your way; any suggestions as to the target?" Gabrielle asked.
"Can you find the District Superintendent?" he asked.
"In my sleep," she said confidently. "Gather around girls, we’re going home."
Copyright © 2006 J Cornell — all rights reserved.
The chapter title is a reference to a saying in scripture — the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. See John 10: 11-18.
For those of you who couldn’t picture it, Matzalen conjured a fireball between her hands — when Unai’s head was wedged between them. As deaths go, it would be relatively painless, which is a pity, but when she went back to fetch Harry’s wand, she applied another fireball to Unai’s crotch, sending a message of sorts.
Chocolate in the next chapter — I promise.
As always, thanks to GardenGirl for her helpful comments, and to the world's fastest Beta, Runsamok.