The Potter safe house in France was built directly into the side of one of the mountains that formed a natural border between France and Spain, and was not far from where Beauxbatons happened to be hidden. Unlike Potter Manor, which more closely resembled a castle than its name suggested, the outside of the safe house was nothing more than a small stone outcropping. Inside, was a labyrinth of rooms and hallways that made Harry wonder what his family had used the safe house for in the past. The signs of age and abandonment could be heard in every creaking hinge and rotted floorboard, smelled in the dust and mold filled air, and felt in the cold lifeless atmosphere between the walls.
Despite all this, it didn't stop Tipsy and Dobby from waging war on the accumulated filth everywhere. It somewhat reminded him of what Daphne had said went on in Grimmauld Place during the previous summer, though the pair of elves were certainly less abrasive with their efforts than Mrs. Weasley had allegedly been.
They had returned from Gringotts and Harry had wasted little time summoning his sword and cleaving right through the cup. Now he was preparing to go with Minerva, Daphne, and Bella to meet with Lucas, who would escort them to the veela enclave. Bella had been rather insistent on going with them, and while Harry was reluctant to put her anywhere near the potential danger that was his life, he found himself fighting a losing battle against the combination of her logic that she was technically older than him and retained more than enough knowledge to take care of herself as well as whatever spell it was that she had cast when she pouted at him that seemed to break through all of his defences. Reluctantly, he had agreed after Daphne reassured him that they weren't likely to run into too much adversity within the enclave itself and Minerva had explained to him that Bella probably just wanted to be with him, where she felt safest.
Astoria, however, had declined coming along. Unlike Daphne, who seemed to at least be able to compartmentalize the grief she was surely feeling over Penelope's death, Astoria had become more subdued since the event, and chosen to remain behind, burying herself in the multitude of subjects she had to learn now that Daphne had lost her place as the Heiress to the House of Greengrass after killing Cyrus.
His mother and Sirius had already left to meet Remus, so Harry and Daphne were both thankful that Newt and his wife, Porpentina, had decided to stay at the safe house and, along with Tipsy and Dobby, be able to keep Astoria company and help her with their studies while Newt assisted Kyddris with the recovery of both Algaeth and Vaulora who were all staying in a massive system of tunnels and caves beneath the mountain range that Kyddris had been working on expanding, if the melted rock along the walls was any indication. Zephyr would stay behind to act as a translator between the human and dragons, making Harry feel a deep sadness as he thought about how so many of the people closest to him had been split up and spread apart.
He found himself watching the Marauders Map often, his eyes following the dots labeled Severus Snape and Poppy Pomfrey as they roamed the empty halls of Hogwarts. Neither had been able to leave with him, Sirius, and Minerva, due to Poppy's oath as Healer to the students at Hogwarts, and Severus needing to maintain the illusion that he was spying for both Riddle and Dumbledore. He worried constantly for them, but reassured himself that neither were technically in any immediate danger as long as they were within Hogwarts.
"You ready to go?" Daphne asked as she joined him outside the safe house, where the sun was setting over the land below the mountains.
Pushing his thoughts aside, Harry smiled and wrapped his arms around Daphne, holding her close to him and taking a deep breath, allowing the smell of vanilla, old parchment, and the slightest hint of blood to fill his lungs and chase away his misgivings. They stood there in silence until Minerva and Bella joined them, they both were garbed in robes that looked more suited for battle, with hard leather pads holding the fabric down and protecting vital areas of their bodies. Harry couldn't help but be reminded by the former of the giant chess set he, Ron, and Hermione had faced in his first year, and how imposing the massive queen piece had been as it went around the board, obliterating their pieces wherever she went. Bella, however, looked nothing short of adorable as she stood next to Minerva, her chest puffed up proudly as her tail swished behind her, belying her excitement.
Reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small letter bearing the Delacour coat of arms, Harry held it out for the others to grab as it began to glow blue. Moments later, there was the familiar tug behind his navel and the ground disappeared beneath him. As quickly as it started, it stopped and he stumbled slightly, making Bella and Daphne giggle, while Minerva shook her head with a slight smile on her face. Grumbling under his breath about his hatred for magical travel, he righted himself and summoned his staff while Daphne raised her hand to her mouth and whistled loudly. He watched as Rosie seemed to rise out of the shadows, and grinned when the massive canine barked happily before tackling Daphne, easily taking her to the ground with her massive size and bathing her in slobber.
After the required minute to calm Rosie down, Harry helped Daphne to her feet, and, once she had vanished the drool coating her face and chest, they looked around and examined their surroundings.
The enclave reminded Harry of Hogsmeade with its quaint, rural feel. Surrounding the village was a forest so thick, it was nearly impossible to see the far off mountains behind it. Despite the gorgeous surroundings, the cobblestone streets seemed mostly deserted, though Harry could just make out people watching them through the closed blinds on their windows out of the corner of his eye.
His attention was drawn to a nearby building that Harry figured must have been some sort of community center or town hall, as it was larger than the rest, with a large dome over the center of the building and two equally large wings stretching forward, creating a sort of horseshoe shape around a beautiful garden with a sparkling fountain in its centre. A large pair of doors opened, and Harry grinned as Lucas Delacour stepped out to meet them, holding his arms up in welcome.
"Bienvenue, Harry!" He exclaimed, wrapping his arms around Harry and pulling him into a hug before planting a kiss on both of his cheeks. Daphne giggled at his awkward expression, and Harry scowled at her as he returned the hug.
"It's good to see you again, Lucas," Harry replied before pointing at the rest of his group. "This is Minerva McGonagall, a mentor and good friend of mine." Minerva curtsied and held her hand out for Lucas to take a plant a kiss on the back of.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance Monsieur Delacour," she said politely.
"And this little one," Harry said, placing his hand on Bella's shoulder as she tried to hide behind him. "Is Bella. She will be starting her first year at Beauxbatons in September."
"Bonjour, Bella," Lucas said softly. "My daughter, Gabby will also be starting school in the fall. Would you like to meet her?"
Bella smiled and nodded her head shyly, holding tightly to Harry's hand as they followed Lucas into the building. Harry had barely stepped over the threshold before he was tackled by a silvery-blonde blur.
"Harry! It's so good to see you! I've missed you so much! The old lady said you would be coming, but I didn't know if you would, and then Papa said that he had sent you a portkey and I've been so excited to see you!"
Harry chuckled and returned Gabrielle's hug. "It's good to see you too, Gabby. I'd like you to meet Bella, she'll be joining you at Beauxbatons in the fall."
Gabrielle grinned and waved to Bella, who let go of Harry to return the gesture. Within a minute the two girls had run off and their shrieks of laughter and rapid-fire conversation could be heard echoing through the halls. Meanwhile, Lucas led the rest of them up the stairs at the back of the large foyer they were in.
"So, Lucas," Daphne asked. "Have you found any more leads on that man who was killing vampires?"
"Not much, I'm afraid," Lucas replied solemnly. "The vampires are reluctant, at best, to work with humans, and it has taken everything I 'ave to keep them from retaliating against the werewolves they believe are behind the attacks. The other European ministries 'ave been reluctant to provide any aid, either due to their own trouble with zee Dark Lord's forces, or a lack of caring for those who are not human."
"Somehow, I'm not surprised," Minerva grumbled.
"There are even those within my own Ministry who believe that assisting the enclave is not worth the time or resources, while those who support our efforts here are more concerned with the safety of the Oracle than that of the veela providing her with refuge. I have, however, managed to track down a lead on the identity of the man you saw that night, Daphne."
"Who is it?" Harry asked.
"I have no positive confirmation on 'is real name," Lucas said. "But I believe 'e goes by zee name Ghost, and is a mercenary of sorts. Zat is not the most interesting piece of information I've stumbled upon, though."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean zat I 'ave heard rumors zat Dumbledore is attempting to correspond with the vampires. It seems 'e is trying to recruit them to his side for the war."
"You think Dumbledore's trying to capitalize on this Ghost fellow manufacturing an increase in tensions between the werewolves and vampires?" Minerva asked.
"Whatever 'e is doing, it 'as been with little success," Lucas said as he led them up yet another set of stairs. "But it will do no good to speculate on these things at this time. There is a more important reason for you being here."
"You mean the Oracle?" Harry asked.
They came to a stop outside a door on the third floor and Lucas' expression turned grim. "Oui. The Oracle of Delphi is not well. She will not be of this world for much longer, and she asked to speak with you, Harry, before her spirit moved on to find its next host."
Lucas opened the door and Harry entered the room to find Fleur and her mother standing next to a large bed where the oldest woman Harry had ever seen lay. Her skin was dark and leathery as it hung off her in large wrinkles, and her eyes were cloudy and unfocused, making Harry think she was blind until she cocked her head to the side and seemed to stare right through to the depths of his soul.
"Hello, Harry," she croaked, her accent making Harry think she must have been from somewhere in the United States. "It's good to finally meet you."
"H-how do you know my name?" Harry asked, making the Oracle chuckle warmly.
"I'm the one who asked for you, remember?"
"Right," Harry said awkwardly, flushing with embarrassment. The Oracle chuckled once more, but it quickly deteriorated into a series of chest rattling coughs. Harry rushed forward, but was waved off by the Oracle as Fleur stepped in with a glass of water and a handkerchief. Harry watched silently as the Oracle coughed into the handkerchief, noting the familiar shade of red left behind on its intricate embroidery as she accepted the glass of water. After a few shaky sips, she gave the water back to Fleur, who took it in silence, and turned her attention back to Harry.
"I'm afraid I haven't much time left," she whispered. "However, before I go, I needed to speak with you."
"Why is that?"
"The Oracle of Delphi has many powers and responsibilities," she explained. "Chief among them is the ability to recall every prophecy that has ever been told. However, I haven't called you here for that. Instead, I simply have a message and a gift that I must deliver."
"From who?" Harry asked, stepping forward and allowing his hand to be taken within her own.
"The Lady herself," the Oracle replied. "She has instructed me to deliver a summons to you."
"Who is this Lady? Is she the same one the house elves refer to? Why does she want to meet me?"
"I'm afraid I can't answer those questions," she replied weakly. "All I can do is give you this." Reaching up, the Oracle closed her eyes and there was a massive pulse of magic that nearly threw Harry to the ground as the room was filled with a bright golden light. When the light eventually faded, and his eyes had readjusted, he saw that the Oracle was now holding a scabbard of some sort. It seemed to be made out of plain brown leather, with a strap of the same material, but Harry could feel the powerful magic flowing off of it and through the room, filling him with a sense of warmth. "Every sword needs a proper sheath," the Oracle said. "And this one is to be yours. Take it and head west to where a giant trembles in the wind, from there you will be granted access to the land where the Lady waits for you."
Harry nodded and reverently accepted the scabbard from the old woman. He reached out his hand and summoned his sword, sheathing it in the scabbard and found it to be a perfect fit, while an approving warmth suffused him originating from the blade itself.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"I wouldn't thank me quite yet," the Oracle rasped. It was clear to Harry that whatever she had just done had used the last bit of her remaining strength. "Where you are going is a place where no man has set foot for over a millennium. A land saturated with magic so powerful, you will find yourself unable to cast your own. You will be a mere man in a land of myths. You will be pushed to your absolute limits and beyond in every sense. Without the guidance of a queen, a lady, and a heart, you will lose your way, and this world will be plunged into an era of despair the likes of which it has never seen. However, should you pass the Lady's trials, and be granted audience with her, you will return to us as the man this world will need, and your birthright will be returned to you." Harry watched as the Oracle broke down into another fit of coughs, before gradually slowing down and closing her eyes. Then with one last rattling breath, he watched as she relaxed and felt more than anything, that she had passed on.
With one last deep breath, Harry straightened himself, strapped his sword to his waist, and turned to face Lucas, Daphne, and Minerva, who both looked concerned.
"What do you think I should do?" He asked staring into the eyes of the one who had enraptured him for so long. Daphne looked uncomfortable, as if trying to make up her mind about something.
"I think that I need to show you some memories," she said after several minutes.
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by a loud explosion from outside that shook the foundations of the building in which they were standing. Running to the window, he saw countless wizards and witches flooding the streets, engaged in combat all over while the veela all seemed desperate to simply avoid getting caught in the cross fire as buildings burned and were reduced to rubble. One duel in particular was happening right in front of the building they were in, and Harry didn't even have to look to recognise the two overwhelming sources of magic clashing as the world fell apart around them.
Riddle had found them.
And so had Dumbledore.
The two were engaged in a duel that would surely find its place in the history books, but all Harry could feel was anger as Dumbledore stepped out of the way of a Killing Curse and a veela who happened to be behind him was struck down, collapsing directly on top of a little girl.
"Dobby, Tipsy, Kreacher!" Harry yelled, watching as all three elves appeared to them while mentally calling for Zephyr, who appeared on his shoulder in a flash of lightning. "The four of you will start evacuating as many people as possible. Daphne, you go get Bella and Gabby, and have Rosie take them back to the safe house. Explain what's going on and ask Newt and his wife if they'll come back with you. Try and avoid the fighting as much as you can, and lend as much magic as possible to Rosie so she can help with getting people out of here. The rest of us will take down any Anti-Apparition wards, and get to work on evacuating the village as well."
Everyone nodded and Harry didn't look back as he ran out the door, drawing his sword and slicing through a Death Eater without stopping as he summoned his staff to him. Skidding to a halt in the foyer, Minerva, Lucas, Fleur, Apolline not far behind him, Harry closed his eyes and started hissing to himself as he tried to find the correct ward to take down. Luckily, it seemed neither Riddle, nor Dumbledore had been the one to put up the wards themselves, and as such, they posed little challenge to them all. Newt and his wife, Tina, appeared not long after that, but never got the chance to say anything before the doors and surrounding wall in front of them exploded and they were all thrown off their feet as Dumbledore and Riddle launched spells that collided with one another and locked them in a power struggle. Bolts of light shot out in every direction, obliterating whatever they came in contact with, and yet Harry knew that neither of them were giving their all. He knew that if these two titans were to go all out, there would be nothing to save any of them.
Cursing himself, he struggled to his feet, mentally calling Zephyr back to him, and ran, tackling Dumbledore while Zephyr dove at Riddle, transporting the three of them far away.