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The Tears in the Gloom

Little orange tongues of flame licked at the metal pan hovering between them. Harry poked at it with his wand, flipping sizzling sausages. The scent filled his nose, setting his mouth watering.

‘Those smell good.’ Katie plopped herself down. ‘Really good.’

‘My emergency food stash,’ Harry said. ‘I forgot about it until this morning.’

‘What else have you got?’ Her stomach growled and she flashed him a grin. ‘Asking for a friend.’

‘You can have some.’ He squinted at the sausage. ‘In a minute or so.’

Tracey brushed out of their tent and stretched. ‘Have you even moved, Harry?’

Harry shrugged. ‘I had to get up to go get the sausages. You weren’t complaining when you got to sleep instead of watch out for wights.’

‘Had time to breathe?’ Her green eyes pierced through him.

He flipped the sausages, ignoring the weight sinking within his breast. ‘I’m still processing.’

‘So you hid out here to avoid me all night and you didn’t even think about it.’ Tracey glared and stalked off down the line of braziers. ‘I’m going to look at this door, make sure Pina has breakfast!’

‘You were out here all night?’ Katie asked.

‘I didn’t want to be in the same room as her,’ he muttered. ‘I needed some space.’

‘What did she do?’ 

Harry levitated a sausage out of the pan and over toward Katie. ‘Turns out, that after I said I wasn’t feeling ready for anything big and lifechanging and she broke up with me, she didn’t actually go and get railed by a different guy every night.’

Katie’s brow wrinkled as she took the sausage. ‘Isn’t that good?’ 

‘Well, I’m glad it didn’t happen, because I was really not okay with it,’ he murmured. ‘But the fact she made it all up just to hurt me doesn’t exactly fill me with joy either.’

‘Want me to cheer you up?’ She held the sausage up, sweeping her hair back over her shoulders and slipping the tip between her lips. ‘So good.’ Katie let out a little moan and bit through the tip with a grin. ‘Oops.’

A faint stab of humour pierced through and he mustered a smile. ‘Nice technique. Had a lot of practice?’

‘Not really.’ She munched on the rest of the sausage. ‘I see my attempt to cheer you up failed, unless you think we’ve got time for the real thing…’

‘I need to feed Pina.’ He glanced around. ‘Wherever she is.’

‘Not even a hint of a smile.’ Katie poked him in the side with her finger. ‘Want to talk about it?’

‘Not really.’ Harry watched the other sausage blacken, inhaling the little wisps of smoke and the scent of burnt meat. ‘I just need a bit of time to let all the feelings get buried.’

‘Or you could talk about it instead of stewing over it.’ She levitated the other sausage out. ‘You’ve burnt your breakfast.’

‘You have it, I’m not all that hungry.’

‘You just want to watch me pretend to give it a blowjob again, don’t you?’

Harry laughed. ‘It’s by far the most entertaining way I’ve seen a sausage eaten.’

‘Well, too bad.’ Katie thrust it under his nose. ‘You need to eat. Now… say ah.

He took a bite, wincing at the heat stinging his gums and swallowing. ‘Happy?’

‘I still think you should talk about it,’ she said. ‘And, well, it’s probably not smart for me to get involved because Tracey clearly has issues with me, but your other options aren’t great.’

‘Pina’s probably the next best bet.’ Harry shuddered. ‘Blaise’s advice would be awful. He is not a good person.’

‘What would he say?’

‘He’d probably tell me to try and sleep with both you and Trace and then see what happens when you both find out.’ He sighed. ‘He’s really a bit of a dick. He volunteered us into pretending to parent Pina knowing full well it’d cause issues between Trace and I.’

‘Prick.’ Katie winked. ‘Want to do the first bit anyway? I don’t mind sharing my tent and a little more with you.’

‘Nah, I’m fine now,’ he said. ‘Was just the immediate reaction, I’m less worked up over it.’

‘You do seem completely unbothered and cheerful.’

‘Would you stop?’

‘Okay.’ She waggled the sausage. ‘But only if you eat and listen to me talk instead.’

‘Deal.’ Harry gulped the rest of the sausage down.

‘You should’ve taken the talking option, I’ve got so much I need to get off my chest.’ Katie glanced down. ‘You didn’t get lost that time, Harry. Well done.’

‘Get lost?’

‘Last time my boobs were mentioned your eyes went wandering down here.’ She drew a line down from the hollow of her throat to her cleavage with one finger. ‘Oh look, there they went again.’

‘You did that on purpose.’

Katie giggled. ‘I one hundred percent did, it’s flattering.’ She dropped her hands into her lap and sighed. ‘I’m kind of jealous of you and Tracey, you know. There are times when you’re just so nice together, so effortless and perfect.’

‘When she’s not trying to twist my arm or mess with my head,’ Harry muttered.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like that,’ she murmured. ‘My parents were so strict. It was all about doing well and getting qualified, and, well, you know what I was like.’

‘Quiet?’

‘Yup.’ Katie nodded. ‘Quiet little good girl. That’s me.’

‘So when did you go off the rails?’ Harry asked.

‘I don’t think I ever really did.’ She scraped dirt off her red-painted nails. ‘I had a massive crush on Ollie Wood, and on Cedric Diggory, but my parents were not keen on my dating, and so I just didn’t, because I didn’t want them to get mad at me.’

‘That was a while ago.’

‘Ten years.’ Katie shivered. ‘I nearly couldn’t breathe when I saw the opals on that staff, you know. I think I’d probably have a panic attack if I had to touch them.’

A pang of pity twisted under his ribs. ‘You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, I promise.’

A little smile spread across her face. ‘Thanks, Harry.’

He cast a quick cleaning charm and swept the pan back into its bag. ‘So… you were about to tell me when you stopped being your parents’ little good girl and turned into an incorrigible deviant?’

‘Yeah…’ Katie’s smile crumbled. ‘I guess it started when I passed all the practical auror stuff, I got all my confidence back and there were plenty of nice guys around. I got over being quiet and learnt to flirt, but those other exams just swallowed up my life. I had a few tries, but guys were always so disappointed.’ She balled her fists. ‘You know what the last guy said, you talk a good game, but you’re all vanilla when it matters.

‘Sounds like a dick.’

‘He was. He never really seemed all that interested in me after the first few times, which makes sense in hindsight, because he was banging two other girls at the same time.’

‘Ouch.’

‘Yeah.’ Katie hunched her shoulders. ‘That messed me up for a bit. I felt sick. I tried to figure out what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t enough, but I kept failing the auror exams and eventually I ran out of tries.’ A tear trickled down her cheek. ‘I couldn’t even cry when I told my parents I’d failed, I just didn’t care. I stood there and said I was going into this department and it’d be fine, and they believed me.’

Harry slid an arm around her back and gave her a squeeze. ‘And then that North Sea thing, which probably wasn’t ideal.’

‘Yeah, goodbye two thousand year old wonder, thanks, Katie, good job.’ She smeared her sleeve across her face. ‘After that, I just didn’t care about anything.’ She managed a shaky laugh. ‘You know what snapped me out of it?’

‘No.’

‘Smith.’ Katie shuffled into his shoulder. ‘He came to give me an offer and I knew what he really wanted the moment he looked at me. Made my skin crawl.’ She sniffed and dried her eyes on her shoulder. ‘That got me going again, I did not want to end up sucking his dick every day under his desk or being fucked in his office first thing in the morning.’

‘Well, we have a plan.’ Harry patted her shoulder. ‘You’re going to be flying high soon. Nothing to worry about.’

‘Yeah…’ She sighed. ‘I don’t really care about that, though. I just want to get away from him.’

‘Well, you will. I promise.’

‘I was tempted to make sure of it,’ she whispered. ‘Yesterday, when you got angry. For a moment I hoped you’d do it, I even thought about urging you on, but I didn’t know what to say.’

‘Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t,’ he said. ‘I probably would’ve done it. I’ve not been angry like that in years, not since…’

‘Voldemort.’

‘Yeah,’ Harry whispered. ‘But that wasn’t my anger, that was his. We were… connected. When he was angry, it bled into me, and if we were both angry…’

Katie stared at him with wide brown eyes. ‘What was it like?’

‘Like burning up from the inside. All that fire. It was pretty unbearable.’

‘Like when you thought Tracey was…?’

‘No,’ Harry replied. ‘That was different, I was angry, but I was so jealous and hurt and everything else that I mostly just felt awful. I processed it, eventually. She wanted something I wasn’t ready to give her, so of course she moved on.’

Katie scrunched her face up. ‘She doesn’t seem like she has, she seems very not moved on.’

‘Complicated.’ He sighed. ‘Same thing happened with Ginny. Everyone was getting married, or having kids, or doing something big and life changing. I didn’t even know what I wanted or who I was. Voldemort was gone and I just needed some space to breathe, to find myself, and be myself.’

‘That’s only fair.’

‘Trace was the only person who let me have any.’ Harry glanced after her blonde hair and caught a glimpse of Pina bouncing around her waist. ‘We were doing our thing away from the world and she was there for whatever I was ready for.’

‘Until…’

‘Yeah, maybe she thought I’d get over things faster.’ Harry laughed. ‘I thought I had. I don’t have nightmares anymore, I’m happy doing this.’

‘That’s probably why, you know.’

‘What?’

‘You don’t want to do anything life-changing because you’re already happy,’ Katie said. ‘You know, she’s probably just looking for the same thing.’

He snorted. ‘She wants promises, and rings, and for us to not be pretending to be parenting.’

‘Okay, I guess that’s not quite the same,’ she said. ‘But not that much would change, except you’d have to pay for an expensive wedding and look after a baby.’

‘I don’t know, it feels like a lot.’ Harry kept a watchful eye on Pina as she danced down the hall toward them through the flickering red braziers. ‘Is Trace really who I want to spend the rest of my life with? Sometimes, it’s so good, but it’s not — it’s not always special.’

‘I get that,’ Katie whispered. ‘I’m done with dating.’

‘You don’t think there’s something special you might find?’ he asked.

‘I think I’ve probably missed the boat on that one.’ She ticked off her fingers. ‘Didn’t go after any of the boys I should have when I was younger, the first guy cheated on me after a week, the second guy was cheating with me on someone else, and the last guy was cheating on all three girls.’

‘That’s not great.’

‘Nope.’

Pina blurred across and sniffed. ‘Why did you make her sad?’

Harry slipped his arm back from around Katie and poked Pina on the nose. ‘What did we say about using your creepy sense of smell to pry into people’s lives?’

Pina grinned. ‘Not to.’

‘So…?’

‘Sorry for bringing up the fact that Harry made you cry, Maybe-Tasty Katie.’ Pina stuck out a hand. ‘Mummy said you were going to give me breakfast.’

‘Can we stop the whole Mummy and Daddy thing now, Agrippina,’ Harry said, rummaging through his bag. He held out a bottle. ‘I’ve got one more in my emergency stash, but you might have to snack on the wights.’

‘Or you?’ She grabbed the bottle and shook it, grinning at the slosh. ‘What about you?’

‘Blaise first.’

‘Right.’ She nodded, slurping on the straw. ‘But after I’ve eaten him?’

Katie laughed. ‘How about… Smith, then Michael, then Dean, then Blaise.’

‘What about you and Harry and Tracey?’ Pina asked. 

‘Me last,’ Harry said. ‘You’ve already nearly killed me. It’s Trace’s turn to get eaten.’

‘Okay!’ Pina chirped, peering down the straw. ‘Awwww, all empty already.’

‘Can you grab Blaise for me?’ he asked. ‘I want to ask him about this place, see what he knows. It’s giving me a really bad feeling.’

Pina squinted. ‘Why are you asking him and not me?’

‘Do you know anything about this place?’

‘Nope!’

‘That’s probably why,’ Harry said. ‘Now shoo, Pina.’

She giggled and pranced off.

‘You know,’ Katie said, a little pink rising on her cheeks. ‘Watching you with Pina all the time is probably a big part of why Tracey’s getting broody.’

‘Watching me with the tiny vampire?’ Harry’s eyebrows rose. 

‘It’s more the parenting part.’ The pink blossomed across her cheeks. ‘A few years ago, I’d not have batted an eyelash, but these days it does kind of give me a little tug of feeling…’

‘Not you too.’

Katie shrugged. ‘Girl thing, I guess. Or maybe it’s a guy thing, as well, you just haven’t got to it, yet.’

‘I think it’s a girl thing.’ 

‘Well, imagine if Pina was really yours.’ Katie’s gaze dropped to her lap. ‘Imagine if she was ours, like we’d made her, together, and watched her grow up, and taught her everything, and seen her stumble, and succeed, and smile, and cry.’

A sweet little heat twisted in his heart. ‘Nope.’ He shook his head. ‘All I get is this oppressive fear of commitment, Trace told me so.’

Katie glanced up through her lashes and flushed. ‘You liar!’ 

Heat crept to his face. ‘Don’t call me out when I’m deflecting, that’s not playing fair.’

‘Too bad.’ A wicked little gleam welled up in her eyes. ‘No wonder you weren’t flustered by me giving that sausage a blowjob, you’re already fantasising about putting a little baby inside me.’

‘Aaaannnnd we’re done here.’ Harry jumped to his feet. ‘I think Tracey could probably use a hand.’

Katie’s giggles rang in his ears as he swept everything away. ‘I could use a hand, too, Harry. Although, a couple of fingers is usually enough…’

His face flooded with heat, and his gaze strayed up the curve of her thighs to the zip of her jeans. ‘I liked you better quiet and shy.’

‘No you didn’t,’ Katie crowed. ‘I saw where you were looking. I know what you were thinking about.’

Harry smothered a tangle of Katie’s face and Tracey’s bare breasts. ‘Nope. I wasn’t.’

‘Liar.’ She patted him on the cheek with her hand. ‘You’ve gone so red I thought you might have a ruby stuck somewhere.’

Slim, pale fingers pressed a ruby through his skin in his mind’s eye and the humour drained away. Just a weird dream. He took a deep breath. That I had twice. Once while I was awake.

‘I need to talk to Blaise about this place,’ he said. ‘You should get ready to move on.’

She saluted. ‘Yes Lord Potter Master Boss Sir.’

Harry chuckled and shook his head. ‘You’re dismissed, Captain Maybe-Tasty-Katie.’ He slung his back over his shoulder and strode toward where Pina dragged Blaise away from the ruby-studded wall by the arm.

‘What was important enough to stop me grabbing rubies?’ Blaise demanded, massaging his arm as Pina scampered off toward Tracey. ‘Smith and his two bent aurors are probably prying the rest out right now.’

Harry rolled his eyes. ‘Forget about the rubies. What do you know about this place?’

‘As in…?’

‘The legends you mentioned. Was there anything dark down here?’

Blaise’s blue eyes narrowed. ‘It’s just a story.’

‘Which says…?’

‘We’re not leaving without the treasure, Harry,’ he hissed. ‘I swear it. I’ll die down here before I leave empty-handed.’

‘Whatever,’ Harry replied. ‘Getting back to the story…’

Blaise crossed his arms. ‘As long as my point was made.’

‘Oh I’m well aware of how obsessed you are with getting rich again after your mother finally got caught murdering people.’

‘Good.’ He pulled a ruby out of his pocket and held it up, watching the crimson magic dance within the gem with a sly smile on his lips. ‘The legend’s pretty short, it’s about stuff that happens elsewhere, and this place is only mentioned in passing once. Mostly it’s all about the ruby riches and ivory and wonders.’

‘But?’ Harry scowled. ‘Stop trying to sell me on the treasure and just answer the fucking question.’

‘Fine.’ Blaise’s smile vanished. ‘The temple is mentioned as being a wonder of the ancient world, but it’s mentioned as a wonder with the caveat of being free of the tyranny of the Shadow of Minos or something a bit like that.’

‘I knew there was something dark down here,’ Harry muttered. ‘I can almost taste it in the air.’

‘You’re just paranoid.’ Blaise tucked the ruby back into his pocket with a thin smile. ‘And you can’t get out without Tracey, and she’s not going to want to go until we’re very rich.’

‘Is that all it says about the Shadow of Minos?’ Harry asked. ‘Who even is Minos?’

‘Minos was a kingdom. It had a hegemony over Crete during its golden age.’ Blaise waved a hand around them. ‘Which is probably how they got their hands on all these lovely shiny things.’

‘I thought he was a person.’

‘You’ve been listening to your muggleborn friend again.’ Blaise’s lip curled. ‘Their legends are based on very small grains of truth, distorted by prejudice and stupidity.’

Harry cleared his throat. ‘Didn’t we agree not to talk about this in case I ended up cursing you?’

‘Yes.’ Blaise’s sneer faded. ‘Either way, the Shadow of Minos is mentioned in just the one story, in passing, and never again, so they can’t have been that bad. Probably just a bad priest-king or something.’

The red irises of the crimson lady burnt before the eye of his mind; blood dripped from the khopesh in her hand and spread from her feet.

‘Priest-queen,’ Harry murmured, the hairs on the nape of his neck prickling. 

‘What?’ Blaise asked. ‘I can’t hear you if you mutter under your breath.’

‘It was just a thought.’ He glanced at the door. ‘Are we ready to move on?’

Blaise’s lips twisted. ‘Yes, but—’

‘Leave the fucking rubies,’ Harry snapped. ‘There’ll be more and the quicker we get to the treasure and get out of here the better.’

Blaise’s expression darkened. ‘Fine. I’ll drag Smith and his goons away from the wall. Have you buttered up Bell, yet? She’s turned on Smith, but have you got her all eager to help us?’

Harry swallowed bile. ‘I told her we were here to prove Smith was the Black Niffler. We’ll use the memories of this and let Katie take him down.’

‘I’ll amend the ones from the start,’ Blaise said. ‘Stitch him up properly.’

‘As long as it works.’

‘Just go and make sure you’re screwing Bell well enough to keep her happy,’ Blaise said. ‘We can make this work for years, Harry. We feed her a few things about our rivals and get her high up on the success while getting rid of our competition, and then she tells you useful things and we quietly profit. You just have to keep fucking her.’

His stomach churned. ‘I’m not sleeping with her.’

A sly smile spread across Blaise’s face. ‘Not yet.’ He strode toward the wall. ‘And if you don’t have to do it to get what we want, then all the better, I don’t have to listen to Tracey be all bitchy that way.’

I’m not going to. He shoved everything deep down inside. I’m not doing what Tracey did. Or pretended to do. The searing bitter tangle of thorns snapped tight about his heart and the Elder Wand hummed, flashing warm against his ribs. His temper flared hot. Fuck. Shut up. Fuck this place.

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Published inFanfiction StoriesFor Whom the Bell Tolls

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