Severus and I leisurely walked hand in hand along the wide, wooden boardwalk. The tourist season was in full swing, and stark, white bodies of Muggle sun seekers stretched out on colourful blankets on the sand absorbing the warm rays. Severus lifted a disgusted eyebrow at the scantly clad women in string bikinis and men in minuscule Speedo bathing suits.
“They might as well be naked,” he huffed as we passed a particularly overweight man whose bathing suit was almost completely obscured by his overhanging belly. “It’s indecent.”
I had to agree. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Continuing our stroll, we stopped at the local fish market and the small grocer, picking up a few items for dinner and then headed home. It was good to be back. The past few months had been brutal.
After Voldemort’s essence left the forest, rejuvenated from its kill, it headed back to the castle to plot its next move. It wanted the stone and used Quirrell well to decipher the remaining spells that protected it in the deep recesses of the school.
The Potter boy, living up to Severus’ expectations of being nosy and Gryffindor’s reputation for courage and strong spirit, had battled his way to the hiding spot, through the maze of enchantments and safeguards, to thwart Voldemort’s plan. Discovering the man with two faces in front of the Mirror of Erised, the boy found that his unwavering faith in the “good” led him to break the final spell. The stone magically appeared in his pants pocket. Angered and driven by the Dark force coursing within, Quirrell attacked. The boy fought back and, much to his surprise, found that his mere touch destroyed the host, drying out the shell of the borrowed body, sending the essence fleeing into a non-corporeal realm once again. Racing from the mysterious dungeon, it escaped to an unknown destination.
I had waited for over a week, in the forest, for any new developments, finally receiving a message from Albus, via Stark, that Voldemort had been temporarily defeated and that “my services were no longer required”. I snorted and shook my head at the easy dismissal, but thought, How typical. Returning to the safe house to rest for a few days and gather my belongings, I hoped to hear more, but received only a short note from Severus. He had to continue his duties as Head of Slytherin, leading his classes into exams, as if his roll in this whole unsavoury business had not existed. He would meet me later in the summer in Pineto. I didn’t get to see either him or Albus before I left. Disappointed, Italy and my position with the Department of Experimental and Medicinal Potions looked very appealing at the moment and with the box of “goodies” collected from the Forbidden Forest and Pinky at my side, I quietly returned to my “other” life. I knew that it wasn’t over, that Voldemort would find another way, but for now, I planned to enjoy the quiet reprieve.
“Acciolemon,” Severus cast lazily as he worked at the narrow kitchen counter. Thinly slicing the lemon and placing it on top of the salmon, he sprinkled the fish with a dash of pepper and wrapped it in foil. I tore apart a head of romaine lettuce, added some slivered almonds and orange slices and tossed it lightly. The juice from the orange would create its own mild vinaigrette. As Severus lit the outdoor grill and placed the fish on it, I joined him with a bottle of white Merlot and two glasses. Settling in a couple of wicker chairs on the terrace, we waited in comfortable silence for our meal to cook as the golden summer sun began its decline. This past year had taken a toll on the both of us, and the peaceful sound of the sea against the shore eased our frayed nerves.
With the exception of worrying about me, Pinky appeared to have enjoyed her time at Hogwarts, serving both Albus and Severus, and occasionally joining the other house elves in various tasks around the school. I think she liked being with the children, but she was definitely happy to be home, having run from room to room squealing in delight when we arrived.
Stark also appeared glad to be back, having had the odd run-in with the Whomping Willow. He became quite adept at dodging the flailing branches, and it quickly became a dangerous game, which occasionally got him injured.
Both creatures had been invaluable to me during my time in the forest: Pinky arriving to take care of me whenever I returned to the safe house, and Stark being my lifeline to the outside world, bringing messages and occasionally food from the castle. Without these two “friends”, I’m not certain if I could have carried through. In my opinion, they are not “in service” of me. We look after each other.
Severus shifted and magically flipped the foiled fish, then stood at the balustrade to stare at the calm, blue sea. This year had been his most difficult yet. Having to deal with James Potter’s son was bad enough, but finally coming face to face with the dangers that we knew lay head was something else. The creases on his brow and around his mouth had deepened, and he appeared to have aged ten years in this past one. He had gone to Albus again about the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, adamant that the students needed to be prepared for what lay ahead, but Albus had rejected him once more. We couldn’t understand his desire to hire inept and what seemed to be “disposable” teachers, his newest choice being utterly ridiculous. I snorted at the thought of the pompous fraud, Gilderoy Lockhart having to face anything more dangerous than an overly ardent fan. My heart went out to Severus, though, and I rose to stand behind my love, wrapping my arms around his waist, giving him a gentle hug. He folded his arms across mine, and from the side, I could see a ghost of a smile cross his thin lips. He gave me a squeeze in response but continued to gaze out over the water. He had been in Pineto for a week already, and had another to go before needing to return to his duties.
“It’s so hot, Severus. Why don’t you take that long-sleeve shirt off and feel the sun on your skin?” I coaxed as I stretched out in a comfortable lounge on the sandstone patio of the rented villa.
Before Severus’ return to England, he wanted to revisit the village in Spain where we had spent part of last summer. It was close enough to the ocean to hear the waves but far enough away to be at the base of the mountains, and there was a wonderful little herbalist just off the main street. Nothing in our lives was ever done for one reason. There was always an ulterior motive. Severus needed some supplies, and this is where they were. I didn’t care. I loved the area, and wanted to spend as much time with him as I could, not knowing when we would see each other again.
Pinky was delighted. I don’t know what it was about this little hamlet, but she was thrilled at the prospect of returning. Luckily, we were able to rent the same place that we had last year and were comfortable in the knowledge that it was well warded and protected from prying eyes. It was a fair-sized studio villa, just one main room containing a kitchenette, a closet-sized bathroom and a large open area. It was decorated in pale wood and off-white paint, very light and airy. Beautifully etched, double glass doors opened wide toward the back, hedged-in patio. Perfectly private. No neighbours on either side. Just what we needed.
I rolled over onto my stomach and removed the top of my bathing suit feeling the sun kiss my skin.
“You’ll burn,” Severus chided from under the large, pastel green patio umbrella.
I raised my head slightly and squinted in the sun. “I seem to recall a time when you looked quiet good in a t-shirt.” I smiled but got an indifferent snort in return. “Come on. It’s just us,” I encouraged.
“No,” he stated firmly, flipping the page of his book and continuing to read.
“No?” I questioned mischievously as I rose leaving my top on the lounge and sidling barefoot across the hot patio to where he sat. I caressed the top of the book with the tips of my fingers. “Are you saying “no” to me?” I asked seductively, trying to distract him.
He was hard set not to look up, and I could see the struggle as his head remained lowered. “Yes, I’m saying “no”,” he replied, his voice low and smooth, almost sultry, as he absently flipped another page.
“Mmm, shame,” I leaned forward to tickle his earlobe with my tongue.
With a sudden movement, the book clattered to the stone patio, and the chair flipped backward as he quickly rose, sweeping his right arm around my waist and pulling me close, his lips ardently pressing onto mine. My arms looped around his neck as he lifted me, my legs wrapping around his waist. Smiling at the turn of events, I was carried into the villa and unceremoniously tossed onto the canopy bed that dominated the main room. Giggling, I scooted to the centre of the bed, propping myself up on the huge pillows, while he practically ripped his shirt off and whipped his pants down.
“In a hurry?” I chuckled as he virtually dove onto the bed, tripping over a foot that caught in the waistband of his pants.
I was answered with a series of fervent kisses that traced a path up the centre of my body, between my breasts to my collarbone, then up my neck to the soft spot beneath my ear. He braced his weight over me while his left hand rose to cup a breast. Moaning in response, I arched against him, feeling him hard against my hip. His touch was just the right pressure, not too gentle, not too rough, and I squirmed to feel more. Continuing his assault, his lips shifted to draw a line down my cleavage, his tongue equally skilled at this as it was at casting insults and criticisms. A roaming hand spanned my stomach, silently casting a spell, then finding a moist inner thigh invitingly open. Groaning with pleasure but gently pushing his hand away, I playfully flipped him onto his back. He invited the reversal, pulling me on top while my lips nipped the underside of his chin, following a familiar route that I knew would please. My breasts slid lightly over the sparse hair on his torso that had thickened as he grew older, and I nuzzled the centre of his chest feeling his heart race. Kissing a path lower across his lean abdomen, I met the thin line of coarse hair that drew from his navel to his groin. He flexed against me, inviting the touch as my hands gently spanned the taunt muscles of his thighs. He groaned as I teasingly avoided the area that demanded immediate attention. With a low growl, he slid his hands under my arms, lifting me to meet his face, our chests pressed against each other, hearts beating as one. As I sat up, straddling his hips, we inhaled deeply as we joined to begin the rhythm of this well-known dance.
Thank goodness for Silencing Charms and protective wards for by the time we were finished, every inch of the bed, parts of the floor and about half of the surrounding furniture had participated in the activity.
Sweaty and out of breath, smiling and sated, we snuggled against each other under the rumpled sheet on top of the bed. My head was tucked under his left arm listening to a now-slowing heartbeat. His right arm was tucked under his head, fine black hair spread across the white pillowcase. His eyes were closed, and he looked so peaceful. I chuckled lightly and a curious right eye opened, the brow was raised as I was regarded strangely.
“Well, at least you finally took off your shirt,” I snickered as the warm breeze blew through the open doors cooling our overheated skin. I got a snort and an eye roll as I was pulled into a loving embrace.