Light poured through bright-painted walls. She ran over creaking, polished wooden floorboards and thick, soft rugs as the old pictures laughed and smiled from above. A cool weight squished between her forearms and her chest.
‘Stop running, Bell!’ Cissy toddled in her wake. Her blonde curls trailed down her back and her dark grey dress stained with water. ‘We need to get Andi together.’
Bell paused and cocked her head. ‘Ok, itty bitty baby Cissy.’
‘I’m not an itty bitty baby!’ Cissy waved her chubby fists in the air. ‘You’re an itty bitty baby, Bell.’
‘Hush,’ Bell whispered. She grabbed a globe of water from her arms and dropped it into Cissy’s. ‘There, now you’ve got one, too. Andi’s hiding up here, she always hides up here between the two clocks.’
Cissy shook the globe of water in her hands and watched the bubbles swoosh through it. ‘Andi always wins,’ she moaned.
‘Not this time.’ Bell leant in to Cissy’s ear. ‘I climbed up the clock and moved the old shelf from on top. Now, we can throw water over the top when she hides there. You go first, then if you miss, I’ll get her instead.’
Cissy stumbled over the rugs toward the door at the end of the corridor, giggling under her breath. Her bare feet pattered on the wood, then padded on the rugs.
Bell bounced after her. ‘I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister. I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister. I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister,’ she murmured.
Cissy darted through the door toward the clock and hurled her globe of water at the gap between them. It burst on the clock’s edge spraying it and its twin with water. Andi’s quiet giggle rang out from the dark in between the two clocks.
Cissy wailed. ‘I missed!’
Bell tip-toed past the top of the stairs and behind the vases and sculptures, creeping along the balustrade, clutching the last water globe in her hand. The flared wings of the stuff griffon blocked her path.
Stupid griffon. I forgot you’re in the way. Bell scrambled up on top of the balustrade and ooched along it until she could see past the griffon’s wingtips.
Andi poked her head out, then splatted her globe of water right on top of Cissy’s blonde girls. ‘Got you!’ she sang.
Cissy burst into tears. ‘You ruined my hair.’
‘Aww.’ Andi stepped out from between the clocks and swept Cissy into a hug, squashing her face into the front of her blue dress. ‘It’s ok baby Cissy, Bell and I will curl your hair again a little bit later.’
Cissy’s tears slowed. ‘Bell will get your hair all wet, too.’ She squirmed out of Andi’s hug and looked around. ‘Where’s Bell?’
Andi froze, then snatched her other water globe out from between the clocks. ‘Bell’s here?’
Bell hurled her globe. It burst against Andi’s shoulder as she spun and threw. Andi’s water globe sailed up past the griffon’s wing and struck Bell in the chest. The balustrade slipped away from beneath her. Andi’s horrified, pale face vanished beyond it and Cissy’s scream rang in Bell’s ears. She clutched for the marble railing, but her fingers flailed through air.
The floor flashed up from below and a desperate shriek tore from her throat.
Bella jolted awake on the ice-cold stone floor of her cell. I want to play with my sisters again. She stared out through the frosted iron bars at the dark sky and distant stars. I hate this place. It’s boring. I want to leave. Hot tears trickled down her face. I just want to play with Cissy and Andi again.
‘We have to leave if we want to play, Bell.’ Bella smeared her tears away and stared at the bright, violet glow of her eyes in the shining wall of the cell. ‘But we can’t use our trump card just for that. We’ll get out of here soon, anyway, then we can go see Cissy and Andi.’
It’ll be just like before, Bella. Her reflection stared back, all long, tangled, matted curls, pale, grime-smeared skin, and yellow teeth. We look terrible. Cissy and Andi will tease us.
She cocked her head. A thick, dense quiet lay over the cells; it curled round her and closed over her head like water.
‘I don’t want to be in this silly room anymore.’ Bella huffed and slapped her fist on the floor. Fire seared through her blood and curled round her heart. ‘I hate it.’
A ripple of air burst from within her and tore the door off its hinges; it thudded into strange boy’s cell door, then to the ground.
Bella giggled. ‘Oops. I broke the door again.’ She jumped up and skipped out into the corridor. ‘I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister. I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister. I’m a – I’m a – I’m a… weird sister.’
Strange boy groaned. ‘Bella, what have you done?’
She laughed and spun herself round until the old, frosted, cracked stones of the corridor blurred. ‘I broke the door again, strange boy.’
His face appeared beyond the bars of his door. ‘Are you escaping?’
We can’t escape like this, Bella. The guards overwhelm us when they’re in groups.
‘No.’ Bella twirled in circles in the corridor. ‘I just don’t want to be in there. I want to do something fun.’
Strange boy stared at her with an odd gleam in his eye. ‘I’m going back to sleep, then. Try and be quiet.’
‘Ok!’ She skipped down the corridor past the iron doors and the thick columns of runes scored into them. ‘I can’t remember where this goes, Bell. Let’s go this way!’
She followed the breeze, chasing the sporadic flutter of cold that swept through the tatters of her black dress. It led her past empty cells, angling up a steep slope in a square spiral until it flattened out into a wide corridor before a thick pair of double iron doors.
That’s the way out, Bella. Bella cocked her head and studied the runes etched into the metal. It’s tough, though. Her fingers crept to the waist of her dress. I need my wand, Bell. It’s no fun without it.
She poked her head into the cells on her left, shoving the doors wide open with loud screeches. She bounced back off the fourth and stumbled back.
‘Move!’ Bella huffed and threw her shoulder into the cell door. Pain flared through her arm. Her blood boiled. ‘Ow! Nasty door!’
The door crumpled with a metallic screech and thudded to the ground. A thin-framed, white-haired man peered up at her from where he huddled in the far corner with his arms wrapped round his legs.
‘Who’re you?’ Bella asked. ‘I’m Bella. Just Bella.’
‘Thaddeus,’ the man croaked. ‘Are you here to break me out? It’s been so long, I thought everyone’d forgotten me.’ He clawed himself up on the wall. ‘Did we win? For the greater good?’
Grindelwald’s motto, Bella. She cocked her head. Oh yeah. I remember, Bell.
‘Nope!’ She giggled. ‘Grindelwald lost ages ago. I just wanted to see what was behind the door.’
‘We lost?’ Thaddeus’ voice cracked. ‘We lost!’ He slid back down the wall and wrapped his arms rounds his legs. ‘We lost. How could we lose? How?’
Bella shrugged and danced out. ‘Same way everyone loses. They die.’
A dementor floated out from the cell opposite. Its hood flared and it swooped toward her, breath rattling and withered fingers groping for her neck. The cold seeped into Bella. Fragments of Andi’s terrified face welled up into her thoughts and Cissy’s scream echoed in Bella’s ears.
‘Shoo!’ She stamped her foot.
It drifted closer.
Bella flapped her hand at it. ‘Go away!’
The dementor’s hood shivered. It took a long rattling breath as the frost upon the floor thickened and spread.
How do I get rid of it?
Bella huffed and pointed a finger into the cell. ‘Fetch.’
The dementor slid through the air toward her.
‘Don’t ignore me!’ Heat bubbled through Bella’s blood. ‘That’s rude!’
A faint shimmer swept out from within her, tossing the dementor back against the wall. It shook itself like a dog, then rose up off the floor. The dark hood swung back and forth between Bella and the door to the cell.
‘Fetch,’ Bella told it. ‘Don’t be bad.’
The dementor swooped past her; its hood slipping back from its face to reveal grey skin and a a gaping maw. A thin, hollow scream ripped out of Thaddeus’ mouth, then silence fell.
Bella giggled. ‘Good floating skeleton.’ She skipped along and prodded the iron doors with her fingers. Small white sparks crawled across the metal. ‘Awwww. Can’t get through that.’
Not without our wand, Bella.
‘I guess we’ll have to wait, then, Bell.’ She ran a finger down the serpent on her arm. It writhed beneath her skin and turned a little darker. Bella laughed and skipped back past the dementor and the glass-eyed old man lying beneath it. ‘Won’t be long now!’