Tracey raised the slim, silver shape of Astoria and stuck out her hand. ‘I need my fucking wand for this, Harry.’
‘Right.’ Harry pulled out Tracey’s wand, frowned and pulled out Katie’s too. ‘Before I give these back, I want to make a point of how angry I will be with you if you try and kill each other again.’
‘Just fucking give it to me.’
‘I will.’ Harry passed Katie’s wand to Pina. ‘Go give that to Maybe-Tasty-Katie.’
She giggled and bounced across the skulls. ‘Here you go, Maybe-Tasty-Katie!’ Pina beamed and thrust the wand into Katie’s hands. ‘Don’t try and curse anyone.’ She cocked her head, fixing Katie with a piercing orange stare. ‘Or I will have to eat you.’
Katie stuck her wand back into her jacket and crossed her arms. ‘Thank you, Harry.’
Harry handed Tracey’s wand back to her. ‘Do you think we can get through?’
‘I don’t fucking know.’ She shrugged. ‘I really don’t.’
‘Well, we better find a way,’ he replied. ‘Because we can’t go back and we’re out of rubies.’
Pina beamed. ‘I broke them all.’
‘Yes, you did.’ Harry watched Tracey run her wand across the arch, a deep frown on her face. ‘Any ideas?’
‘These runes aren’t stopping us getting in,’ she said. ‘They’re—’
‘Stopping the Shadow of Minos getting out,’ Harry said.
Pina shuffled into his side. ‘Is it in there?’
Yes. He smothered a stab of fear. She’s waiting.
‘They’re stopping something getting out,’ Tracey muttered. ‘I don’t fucking know, Harry. These wards, they’re twisted, like someone took the lock and bent it out of shape so no key would ever fit. Let’s see if I can just fucking rip through the magic. That’s the only thing I can really try.’ She placed Astoria against the bronze and touched the tip of her wand to the end.
A shadow flickered through the bronze and the slim, silver chisel crumbled into dust, spilling through Tracey’s fingers.
A sharp gasp tore from her lips. ‘No,’ she whispered, clutching for the dust. ‘No, Astoria. Harry, catch her! Catch the dust! Please!’
He knelt on the skulls, but the dust trickled away through the bone. ‘Tracey…’
She thrust her wand at her bag, fury blazing in her green eyes. ‘I’m going to smash this stupid fucking door,’ she hissed. ‘And every fucking ruby I find in here.’
Daphne rose into the air and floated forward.
‘Wait!’ Harry cried.
The silver cylinder shattered as it brushed the bronze, the shards skittered across the skulls, collapsing into silver dust and pouring away into the dark.
‘Well that went well,’ Katie muttered. ‘Now how are we going to get through?’
‘Not a fucking word, Bell.’ Tracey balled her fists, tears leaking down her cheeks. ‘I don’t want to fucking hear anything from fucking anyone.’
‘Hey,’ Harry murmured, stepping close. ‘I—’
She held up a hand. ‘Don’t fucking say anything.’ Tracey drew herself up and smeared the tears off her face.
‘Are you crying?’ Katie’s forehead wrinkled. ‘They’re just tools.’
A flash of white hissed past her hair and shattered a handful of skulls. Katie dragged her wand out, deflecting a trio of blue curses and retaliating with a pair of purple hexes. A streak of red hit them mid-air and bounced off, hammering Harry in the ribs and hurling him back across the floor. Pain exploded across his chest as he gasped for breath, dragging himself to his feet and pulling the Elder Wand out. It shivered in his hand, a soft, hot little thrill tracing through his veins.
Pina backed away, blurring around the curses streaking away from the pair.
‘Stop!’ Harry swept the Elder Wand at them, but his disarming charm burst amidst the hexes. ‘Fuck.’
‘Just fucking tools!’ Tracey screamed. ‘Just fucking tools!’
Katie fended off a frenzied hail of curses, backing away toward the corridor. ‘Well they were!’
Harry conjured a thick piece of wood between the two of them. ‘Pina, get Tracey’s wand,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t break it.’
He let the Elder Wand tug at his magic and ripped Katie’s wand from her fingers. Pina snatched Tracey’s and blurred across to his side.
‘Are we done?’ Harry demanded, letting his piece of wood thud to the floor.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ Katie retorted. ‘She just bloody snapped.’
‘They’re not just tools,’ Harry said. ‘There’s nothing Tracey owns that was more important to her than those.’
Katie winced. ‘Oh.’
Tracey glared at them with red-rimmed eyes. ‘Give me my fucking wand, Pina.’
Pina glanced at Harry.
‘In a moment,’ he said. ‘When you’ve calmed down again. I don’t want you hurting Katie.’
Tracey stiffened. ‘We can’t get through if you don’t give me my wand.’ She took a deep breath and held up her hands. ‘I am calm.’
‘Okay.’ Harry tucked his wand away and tossed Katie’s back to her.
‘Thank you.’ Katie slid it into her jacket and folded her arms. ‘But when we are out of here, I am making sure this bitch gets what she deserves for attempted murder.’
Pina bounded across the ground, skipping over the scorched, smoking holes in the skulls to Tracey’s side. ‘Here you go.’
‘Good.’ Tracey snatched her wand out and levelled it at Harry’s chest. ‘Don’t move, Harry. Not a fucking muscle.’ She scooped her bangs off her face. ‘Bell, you put your hands as high in the air as you can. I want to see you on your fucking tiptoes.’
Pina stared, wide-eyed, glancing back and forth between Harry and Tracey.
‘You stay put, Pina,’ Harry murmured. ‘Let us sort this out.’
‘Bell, put your fucking hands up.’
Katie growled. ‘Not a chance.’
‘If you don’t, I’ll hurt him.’ Tracey took a step forward. ‘I’ve hurt him plenty of fucking times already, what’s once more?’
Katie swallowed and held her hands above her head. ‘There.’
‘Higher. On your tiptoes.’
‘Fine.’ She thrust her fingers up, rising onto her toes. ‘Happy now?’
Tracey looked her up and down. ‘She’s not fucking worth it, you know.’ A dark scowl crept onto her face. ‘She’s not bad, but I’m better. And I fucking waited. And I know you. I fucking love you.’
‘Love?’ Katie growled. ‘You don’t—’
‘Stupefy.’ Tracey’s curse stuck Katie in the chest and she slumped to the floor. ‘There. That’s enough out of her.’
Harry shifted his weight onto the balls of his feet.
Her eyes snapped back to him. ‘Move again and I’ll fucking curse you.’
‘Will you?’ Harry asked. ‘Really, Trace?’
‘Yes,’ she hissed. ‘We’re not getting out of here until you swear me an oath. An unbreakable fucking oath.’
A familiar shadow rose in the bronze behind her. The red smile spread amidst his thoughts, sharp as the gleaming curve of the bronze khopesh.
His heart sank. ‘What oath, Trace?’
A fierce gleam rose in her eyes. ‘Us. Our future. No more fucking waiting. No more fucking breathing space. You’re going to swear to stay with me. Love me. It’ll be how it was, before I fucking messed it up, but you have to swear, so I know you’re not off fucking Bell or some other little whore.’
‘I’m not going to swear,’ Harry said. ‘Nothing we do down here is free of the shadow’s influence.’ He held out his hand. ‘Trace, you’re not thinking straight. This isn’t you. You can’t make me love you. You don’t have to make me love you.’
‘I can’t wait for you to leave me.’ Tracey’s lip trembled. ‘If you don’t swear, I’ll fucking make you.’
‘Swear.’ She took another step forward, twisting her wrist and pointing her wand at his throat. ‘Swear you’re mine.’
‘You can’t just take love, Trace,’ Harry murmured. ‘It doesn’t work like that.’
‘Yes it does,’ she whispered. ‘It gets taken away from me all the time!’ She drew herself up and took a deep breath. ‘I will take it. I will keep it.’ The corner of her lips curved up into a small smirk. ‘Your heart is mine.’
Harry’s heart sank. ‘Go ahead and curse me.’
‘You think I fucking won’t? I will.’ Red light glimmered at the end of her wand. ‘I’ll hurt you until you swear you love me.’
‘Stop,’ Pina whispered. ‘Don’t—’
‘Fucking shut up, Agrippina,’ Tracey snapped. ‘He gives you everything you fucking want, why can’t I have what I want, too?’
‘You can,’ Harry said. ‘I just needed some time.’
Tracey’s green eyes flashed. ‘Cru—’
Pina snatched her wand arm, yanking her back across the room. Tracey smacked into the shining bronze and slid to the ground, leaving a crimson smear down the gleaming metal. Her wand rolled from her fingers across the skulls.
‘Trace?’ Harry edged forward.
Pina trembled, rooted to the spot. ‘Oh no,’ she whispered as Harry’s heart froze. ‘Oh no. Dead world. Dead Agrippina. Dead Tracey. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead—’
‘No.’ He shook his head and knelt down beside her, smoothing the blonde bangs off her forehead. ‘She’s not dead.’
Blank green eyes stared up at him.
‘She’s not dead.’
Soft laughter echoed from the gleaming bronze. Tracey’s blood soaked into the metal and it turned clear as glass, melting away like ice as the red runes fell still and faded. The Elder Wand hummed in his hand; its thrum thundered in his ears with the hammering of his heart like a thousand war drums and fury burnt red in his chest, searing hot flame at his heart, bright as a star.
‘I’m going to kill you,’ he whispered into the dark beyond the arch. ‘I’ll kill you if it’s the last thing I do.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Pina burst into tears. ‘I’m already dead. Already dead. Already dead.’ She sank down to her knees on the skulls, sobbing into her hands. ‘Everything is already dead. And it just goes on and on and on. And I’m so hungry.’
His heart wrenched. ‘Not you, little Pina.’ He sighed. ‘I didn’t mean you.’ Harry crouched down beside her, tugging the water bottle out of Tracey’s back and passing it over. Drink this. ‘It’s just the shadow messing with you. We’ll wake up Katie and then go kill or destroy the shadow.’ He stared into the looming dark. ‘We’re not leaving until it’s gone.’
I’m going to take your heart. He let the Elder Wand tug at his magic, drinking deep. I’ll fucking rip it out with my bare hands. But I’m not going to keep it. And you are going to scream.
He swept the Elder Wand at Tracey, watching her body shimmer into a small, silver acorn upon a slim chain. ‘There. Now you can still come with me everywhere I go.’ Harry hung it around his neck and cupped it against his heart. ‘Just like you took Daphne and Astoria with you.’
And I do love you.