A bronze door gleamed between dark, basalt pillars. Glowing red runes spread across it, a tangled spider’s web of crimson patterns.
‘Wow,’ Harry murmured, rubbing at his twinging neck. ‘That’s…’
‘Yeah.’ Tracey folded her arms. ‘And if you’d not spent all yesterday sneaking off with Bell and playing around with Pina, you might’ve been able to help me get through this stupid thing.’
‘I don’t think I would’ve been any help,’ he said. ‘If you can’t get through it, I certainly can’t.’
Tracey’s eyes softened. ‘Probably true, but it would’ve been nice to have someone to bounce ideas off.’
‘You had those four.’ He waved a hand back over his shoulder at their camp.
‘Smith and the aurors are not only unpleasant but stupid and useless,’ she retorted. ‘And Blaise… he was worse than useless, just spent the whole time talking about you and Bell.’
‘Of course he did.’ A little heat rose onto Harry’s tongue, honing his words. ‘He’s stirring shit up again, he finds it funny. What was he saying?’
‘That he was glad I’d dumped you and moved on, because he was hoping you and Bell would hook up so we could use what she knows.’ Tracey’s arms tightened. ‘I’m sick of him trying to get under my skin, Harry. Once we’re done here, we get rid of him.’
‘What?’ She shook her head. ‘No. Don’t be stupid. I mean we’ll go off together. We don’t need Blaise, he’s just a smooth-talking twat. I can do the smooth part and you can—’
‘Pretty sure you have to do the twat part.’
‘If you want that part, you need to stop fawning over Bell.’ Tracey smirked. ‘Her little victim act has got you all twisted around her finger, Harry, it’s almost funny.’
‘She’s not… I don’t even know where to start with that.’
‘Oh please.’ Tracey rolled her eyes. ‘If she’s not fucked Smith, both aurors, and a bunch of other people to try get what she wants, I’d be shocked. She knows what she’s doing and she knows how to get guys to do what she wants. She’s clearly pegged your helping girls thing and you’re just eating it up.’
‘It’s not an act.’
The Elder Wand’s hot whisper coursed through his veins like liquid flame, singing sweet as sugar to his fraying temper. Heat crept across his chest from his jacket pocket.
‘Well just stop fawning,’ she snapped. ‘It’s — it’s fucking annoying.’
Harry scowled. ‘Maybe I should fuck her. And then I’ll come tell you about every little detail and how much better than you she was.’
Tracey flinched. ‘Ouch,’ she whispered, her fingers creeping to her chest. ‘Low blow, Harry.’
‘Yeah, doesn’t it just fucking suck,’ he hissed, his blood pounding in his ears. ‘Now imagine I do it another twenty times, over and over, and see how you like that.’
Her lip trembled. ‘I’m sorry.’ She reached out a hand. ‘I really am, I promise.’
‘You’re sorry because it didn’t work,’ he retorted, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
‘And because I didn’t realise how bad it was,’ Tracey whispered. ‘I wish Bell wasn’t here so much, Harry. I want the ground to open up and swallow her. I don’t know how you didn’t end up murdering one of those guys.’
‘Well it turns out they weren’t real, so I’d probably have killed some poor stranger.’
She winced. ‘Yeah. Look, I’m making a mess of this, I just — I just wanted to tell you that I’m still here. And trying to be clever and nudge you completely fucking backfired, so here are my cards. I’m just going to lay them down.’ Tracey took a step toward him. ‘I want you. Fuck, Harry, the last few days my blood’s been on fire. I spent half of last night with my fingers in myself listening to your breathing and hoping I was loud enough you’d wake up and fuck me so hard I screamed.’
A little heat trickled through his veins and he stamped out flashes of the two of them together.
‘I was dead tired after staying up the whole night before, it would’ve been over in about two minutes,’ he quipped.
Tracey laughed. ‘You’ve never disappointed me there.’ She let out a soft sigh. ‘You’ve never really disappointed me at all, except for needing time, of course.’
‘Anyway.’ She shook her hair out and stole another step toward him. ‘My cards…’
‘I thought that was your card?’
She snickered. ‘No, that’s just one card. I want you. I want you to have a reason to stay. A proper reason I can actually trust. I want those moments where Pina’s being a baby and we’re together to be real. I want it so much it makes me cry when I think about how much I’ve fucked it up.’
Her lip shook. ‘I want you to call me that again. Like how you used to. All the time. All soft. I want it to go back to how it was before I kept pushing at you, but I can’t help doing it.’
Harry glanced back at the camp.
‘They’re trying to get the rubies out of the walls,’ Tracey said. ‘Except Bell, she’s probably stolen your pillow and is busy finger-fucking herself with her face buried in it.’
‘That’s weirdly specific…’
She turned pink. ‘I had a lot of bad ideas last night, okay.’
‘Good thing I didn’t wake up,’ Harry muttered.
She held up her hand, her thumb hovering a hair’s breadth from her finger. ‘You were this close to waking up to me completely naked with your dick in my mouth, but I really wanted to talk to you without making things any more complicated.’
‘So what, you got tempted to steal my pillow?’ Harry threw his head back and laughed, his neck twinging. ‘Wait… I have a real crick in my neck this morning.’
Tracey’s flush brightened. ‘I’ll make it up to you. I’ll make it up to you all night. You know I’m game for pretty much anything.’
He took a deep breath and held it, trying to stifle the racing of his heart. ‘Can you stop? My self control is not amazing, as you well know.’
‘They’re all getting rubies…’ Tracey slid a step closer, her fingers curling into his t-shirt. ‘We can make it all morning instead of all night…’
Harry swallowed and waved a hand at the door. ‘We should really figure out this…’
‘A few hours won’t make any difference.’ She tugged his mouth onto hers, pressing herself against him and sliding her tongue over his lips. ‘We can do anything, I swear, I’ll love it no matter what it is, my body’s burning.’ Tracey’s kisses grew hungry and hard. ‘Anything Bell has promised you, I’ll do better. I’ll do more.’
Harry pulled back and turned away from her kiss. ‘Okay, you need to cool off.’
Her breath caught. ‘You don’t—’
‘I very much do and you know I do,’ he murmured. ‘But it’s complicated and if we do this, I’m not doing it because you’re getting all worked up listening to whatever rubbish Blaise has implied about Katie and I. Like last night, we need to work through things before we leap into anything that’ll make it even more complicated.’
Tracey moaned. ‘I hate it when you want to be mature. I swear, it’s like that time my drink got spiked with some potion and you leveled the bar. I really need this.’
‘Deep breaths,’ Harry said. ‘You remember what happened after you got spiked.’
She scowled. ‘You locked us in the bathroom without my wand and sticking charmed my butt to the bath. I got all excited thinking you were about to finally give me what I wanted and you just sat there with me until it wore off and I fell asleep.’
‘You were very cross.’ He chuckled. ‘But it was better I made you wait it out, wasn’t it?’
Tracey pouted. ‘Only because I came back un-potioned two days later and you fucked me until all I could do was curl up on you and sleep.’ She shivered and leant forward.
‘No.’ Harry sidestepped her kiss.
‘I’m not spiked!’ Tracey glowered. ‘I want to.’
He shook his head, ignoring his racing pulse. ‘You know why and you know I’m right.’
‘Let’s think about the door, that’ll distract you,’ he said. ‘And me, too.’
‘Fine.’ Tracey pulled her wand out and turned to the red runes glowing on the door. ‘But, you only have until tonight or you’re going to wake up mid-fucking-blowjob from me and we both know you’re not going to fucking resist then.’ She scooped her bangs away from her green eyes. ‘Or maybe you’ll just wake up in me. Fuck, this isn’t fucking helping. Are you sure—’
‘Door.’ Harry pointed at the runes. ‘Please.’
She let out a long sigh. ‘Fine. I tried to rip the magic out with Daphne, it didn’t work. At all.’
‘I can’t hook her into the magic,’ Tracey said. ‘It’s like trying to hammer a paper nail into a steel bar. I don’t know what that door’s made from, or who cast the magic on it, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.’
‘Can we open it the normal way?’ he asked. ‘If the magic’s working, they must have had a way to open their own door.’
‘Right.’ She pointed at the runes. ‘That’s what I thought, only, I can’t make much sense of what the runes mean.’ Tracey tapped her wand on the ring in the centre. ‘About all I can get a sense of is something to do with hearts?’
Don’t scream. The crimson lady’s whisper rose from the back of his skull and her fingers pressed the ruby into his skin, hot as fire as it seared through his ribs. Your heart is mine now.
A strange certainty gripped Harry. ‘We need one of those rubies.’
Tracey dipped a hand into her pocket and pulled one out. ‘For what?’
Harry tugged it from her hand and pressed it into the centre of the door. The crimson light at its heart flickered and grew bright, heat washed off it, burning his fingers like an open flame. He grit his teeth and pushed. The ruby melted into the bronze and a ripple of crimson magic washed through the runes.
A dull low rumble echoed through the hall and the door sunk into the floor.
‘How the fuck did you figure that out so fast?’ Tracey asked.
Harry swallowed a deep disquiet and smothered the cold fist of fear closing around his pounding heart. ‘I don’t think it’s a good thing,’ he whispered. ‘In fact, I really really wish that hadn’t worked.’
‘What are you not telling me?’ Tracey demanded.
Harry patted her down, sweeping his hands down her from ribs to thighs and patting the front of her jacket.
A little gasp and a moan slipped through Tracey’s lips and as his hands slid over her breasts. ‘Did you change your mind?’ she whispered. ‘Please say yes.’
‘No.’ He stepped back. ‘Do you have any more of those rubies?’
‘Really?’ She rolled her eyes and shook her head. ‘I only got that one, Smith and Blaise and those aurors hogged the rest.’
‘Good.’ Harry took her face in his hands. ‘Don’t pick any of them up. Don’t even touch them if you can avoid it.’
Tracey nuzzled into his fingers. ‘Whatever you want,’ she murmured. ‘I don’t care about rubies, just as long as we get the goblins off your back. I want you. I’ll let Blaise and that lot have every speck of treasure if you take me back into that tent and we see how many times you can finish in me before we have to go down there.’
Harry chewed the inside of his cheek, wrestling with heat singing in his blood. ‘Will you promise? A proper promise.’
Her eyes lit up. ‘Yes. I swear. I promise. Whatever.’ She grabbed his hand and tugged hard. ‘Come on, Harry. I’m burning up. It’s been in my head for days while you’ve been flirting with Bell and my fingers just aren’t enough.’
‘Not even with my pillow?’
She flushed. ‘That just made it worse, it smelt so much like you.’
Harry took a deep breath. ‘You go back and soundproof the tent. I’ll ward the door quickly.’
Tracey grinned. ‘I’ll be waiting on the bed. In just my socks.’ She pressed her lips to the side of his neck. ‘And I am soaking wet,’ she murmured.
He tugged out his wand and watched her stride to their tent. This is another bad idea. Like the balcony. Harry sketched a few runes in a line along the door. But at least my inability to resist is going to stop her touching those rubies.
The dark beyond the door thickened, falling still, and the Elder Wand’s thrum quickened with the hammering of his heart. The hairs on the nape of his neck rose.
‘What are you?’ Harry whispered into the black.
Soft laughter echoed back.