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Chapter 28 : Chapter Twenty-Eight - Severus
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A week after Avrille’s birthday was the start of Easter holiday. Many more students would be staying behind at the school this time than during Christmas break since now the parents thought Hogwarts to be completely safe once more. Also, most of the older students were studying for their quickly approaching exams. They would be using their two “free” weeks to toil through the reams of extra work my fellow professors and I had assigned to cover all of the topics on which they would soon be tested. For myself I found the spring holiday to be a mixed blessing. I was all caught up on my own work and would therefore have ample amounts of free time to spend with Avrille. On the other hand, I had no idea how exactly to spend that time with her.
Over the past couple months, most of our time alone was allocated to exploring Avrille’s newly reacquired powers; teaching her how to control them if they were too wild, and therefore dangerous, or figuring out how to create the desired effect if a simple spell didn’t work for her. Avrille’s powers were so boundless and complicated that even I had a difficult time trying to guide her through them. It was as if the magic I was used to and that I taught to students was like words on a page, whereas Avrille’s magic operated in all three dimensions.
Surprisingly, it was the relatively simple spells that gave her the most trouble. Advanced magic, like Conjuring and Transmuting, came to her almost as second nature. It was the basics of witchcraft, like Levitation and Summoning, where we had to work together to find a way for her to do them without grossly exaggerating the spell by accident. For example, once when we were in the forest, I had asked Avrille to try to levitate a small stone off of the ground. Not only had she levitated the stone but had also sent aloft an ancient pine tree behind it, the tree’s roots groaning as they struggled to keep a hold on the ground. Avrille, of course, immediately cut the spell, sending the tree crashing back into its hole. Because of her caring for all living things, she had then refused to practise more until she had run a thorough magical diagnostic to ensure the tree had not been harmed.
It was now Easter Sunday, and the holiday break had officially begun. I had already spent the past few days signing out students, who had returned home the previous morning on the train. Avrille and I had spent a few hours after dinner in one of the empty dungeon galleries near my own rooms, practising advanced defensive spells. Since learning about the despicable actions of Lucius earlier in the year, I was adamant Avrille would not be so unprotected the next time someone tried to take advantage of her.
We had found early on in her magic lessons that the dungeons made for an ideal practise space. Though I insisted I didn’t mind and could repair everything, Avrille was quite hesitant to keep destroying the possessions in my parlour, so we had moved into this space instead. Since the Slytherin dormitories and my classrooms were in another part of the dungeons entirely, this half of the space under the castle guaranteed isolation. Further along the same corridor as my own rooms was the spacious gallery we were currently occupying. It was nothing more than a stone chamber with utilitarian lights and towering, bare windows that showed the lake. However, the room had a good, solid, oak door and thick walls that were soundproof and able to withstand the vicious, though mostly accidental, magical onslaughts of my most beloved treasure.
Avrille had just finished producing the advanced Shielding Charm I’d been teaching her when I thought I might have her try to conjure a Patronus. Though it was highly unlikely Avrille would ever encounter a Dementor, I thought it would certainly not hurt for her to know the charm since it could also be used for communication with others. It was growing quite late, but I figured I could at least give her a basic idea of the spell, and we could continue working on it through the week if she found the concept hard to grasp at first.
“The most fundamental part of the Patronus Charm,” I explained while Avrille listened raptly, “is that it is fuelled by your own focus on a strong, happy memory. Try to think of a time when you were at your most joyful, and let the sensation flow through you. This is one of those few spells that requires an incantation, at least until you are so familiar with your Patronus that you can produce it at will. The spell is: Expecto patronum, and I’m sure simply thinking it will be enough for you.”
I watched Avrille as she mouthed the words of the spell a few times to herself to entrench them in her memory.
“So, I simply think of something happy then invoke the spell?” she asked.
“Simply that,” I said as I pulled out my own wand. With a single flick, I summoned my own Patronus, which took the shape of a large panther, and had it lope once gracefully around Avrille before setting it to stand motionless beside her.
“A beginner’s Patronus will first appear as a misty light, but a true Patronus takes the form of an animal unique to the one who produces it. Just as how no two witches or wizards are the same, no Patronus is exactly alike another, making the spell a very useful one to identify yourself with.”
Avrille nodded then leaned over to put a hand out to the panther, which regarded her curiously. She looked up at me and said, “I knew you were a cat person,” before righting herself and raising her wand.
“Now, if you’re ready, try to think of a powerful memory—” I began but was stunned into silence as a blinding silver light erupted from Avrille’s wand tip. The light bubbled, frothed, then reformed itself until I found myself being stared down by a shape so enormous it filled three-quarters of the cavernous room; I actually stumbled backwards a few steps from pure shock and almost fell over. After opening its massive jaws and emitting a silent roar, the Patronus circled the gallery in a rush of gleaming white sparks before charging back into Avrille’s wand. She stared at me for a moment, her hair cascading back down over her shoulders after being whipped around from the force of the spell.
“Wow,” she stated.
“I couldn’t have put it better myself,” I said weakly, passing a hand over my eyes to gather my wits before walking back over to Avrille. My own Patronus, which had flattened itself to the ground at the initial light, bounded gratefully across the flagstones to me as I recalled it back into my wand.
Avrille held her own wand up at eyelevel as though trying to look into the tip like a telescope. “What exactly was that?” she asked.
I took a deep breath, unable to believe my own words as I uttered them, “Unless I just experienced a severe hallucination, that was a Chinese Fireball dragon.”
“Wow,” Avrille said again. “It, um … probably isn’t very common for someone to have a dragon as a Patronus, is it?”
I shook my head. “I have never heard of anyone having a Patronus so large. I think the extent of your powers will be clearly evident if you ever showed that to someone. Just out of curiosity, what exact memory were you thinking about?”
Avrille placed a few fingers over her mouth. “Oh. I kind of forgot to think of a specific one. I suppose I was just happy enough being here with you. Was it strong enough, anyway, do you think?”
I closed my eyes slowly and forced myself to remain calm. She was able to produce that without even consciously trying to. “Yes, I should think that would suffice. I wouldn’t be surprised if you held all of the Dementors in Azkaban at bay with that beast.”
Avrille beamed happily. “Should I try again?” she offered and started to raise her wand.
“No!” I exclaimed and put up a hand to stop her. I then cleared my throat and tried to sound less desperate. “Rather, I think it’s safe to assume you have that spell down pat for the time being.” Though obviously I had known the apparition was simply a Patronus, being sized up by a pair of silvery eyes each as large as my office desk had nevertheless been slightly unnerving.
It was nearing midnight, and I didn’t think I could handle any more after that dragon, so Avrille and I retired to my rooms to unwind. We sat on the sofa together, and Avrille asked me to read a little from the book I had started the other night. Even though jumping into the middle, she would have no idea what the plot was, she insisted the sound of my voice relaxed her.
I reached forward to grab the book off of the coffee table. While I flipped through the pages with my right hand to find my place, Avrille lightly ran a fingertip down my left arm. Preoccupied with the book, my mind was too late in preventing me from flinching instinctively when she brushed against the inside of my forearm. It was only around Avrille that I felt such a self-conscious shame of the area which I knew bore the Dark Mark. This was already the second time in a week that I had reacted to her touching that spot, and I knew I would be deluding myself to hope Avrille hadn’t noticed.
Indeed, she said immediately, “Why do you do that when I touch you there?”
I sighed, tossing the book back onto the table, and rubbed at my forehead. Avrille already knew the worst of it, so a few more details wouldn’t change how she felt about me. I was still loath to even touch on the subject, though.
“When I swore my allegiance to the Dark Lord and became a Death Eater, I was branded with his sigil here, on my arm,” I explained, gesturing to the spot. “It’s called the Dark Mark, and all Death Eaters have one. It was both a way to reveal ourselves to each other and for the Dark Lord to summon us instantly to his side. It began fading the day the Dark Lord fell, and though it is completely invisible now, it’s still there and probably will remain a part of me until I die. I suppose I just didn’t want something so evil to touch you.”
Avrille took my arm in both of her hands, and I did not pull away this time. She carefully undid the buttons on my cuff and pushed up my sleeve. With one hand around my wrist and the other supporting my arm near the elbow, Avrille stared at the innocuous-looking area of skin. Then she removed her left hand from my elbow and began running her fingertips over my forearm slowly, as though stroking the back of her cat. My skin felt warm and tingled where she brushed against me. After a few more passes with her fingers, Avrille held my arm fast again and stared at it for another minute. Finally, she sighed and shook her head.
“It’s no good. I can’t remove it from you,” she said sadly. I had suspected she was trying to do something like that.
“No, you wouldn’t be able to. The Dark Mark is created by the most evil and depraved magic. You are too pure to understand it enough to alter it.” I tried to pull my arm away gently to roll down my sleeve once more, but Avrille refused to let go.
“Does it bother you?” she asked quietly.
“Physically, no, but in other respects … I suppose it does. It’s hard to bear a permanent reminder of a mistake you committed a long time ago.”
Avrille lifted my forearm towards her and gently kissed it. Again, it was my instinct to pull away from her to keep her lips from touching something so cursed, but I knew it was her way of expressing that she didn’t care about it. Her kisses were soothing but were also rapidly stirring feelings that effectively distracted me from worrying about what exact part of me her mouth was touching. As if reading my thoughts and wanting to make things even more uncomfortable for me, Avrille climbed on to my lap and began kissing my lips with a tenderness that was at complete odds with the way she dragged her fingertips down my chest.
Relieved that talk about my Dark Mark seemed completely finished, I laced the fingers of one hand through Avrille’s hair, forcing her lips to press harder against mine. Avrille deflected my attempt for control by pulling back coquettishly and turning her face slightly away from me. Refusing to be denied, I brushed my lips across the silken skin of her neck instead. I slid my hand down so that I was cupping her face gently, yet firm enough to prevent her from pulling further back away from me. Avrille sighed quietly and ran her fingers through my hair sending a shiver down my spine. I turned her face back towards me, and this time Avrille allowed me to fully capture her mouth. She kissed back fiercely and slowly slid her tongue between my lips, parting them. As her tongue touched mine, lust flared up inside of me so hot I was sure my fingers touching her face must have been burning her.
I let my hand slide ever so slowly from Avrille’s waist to her hip. I wanted more than anything to go further but didn’t have the courage to cross that invisible line. Avrille instantly made the decision for me and, without interrupting her sinful kiss, placed her hand over mine. Though she was wearing a floor-length skirt, the way that Avrille had straddled my lap had gathered it to over her knees. Taking my hand in hers, Avrille guided me to the place where the fabric stopped short. I held my breath as she slid my hand up her skirt slightly so I was touching the warm smoothness of her thigh. Assuming I would know what to do from there, Avrille removed her hand from mine and began to slowly unbutton the top of my shirt.
I knew now that we had come too far. My mind struggled to regain control of my body, which could not fathom why it had to stop. Every part of me that was simply a man wanted to push Avrille back down onto the sofa and peel every last piece of clothing from her exquisite body. Apparently she was thinking along those same lines since she already had my shirt half undone. Somehow through the rushing of blood in my ears, I managed to hear the clock on the mantle strike midnight, signalling that it was now Monday morning.
I pulled slightly away from Avrille and placed a finger over her lips.
“It’s late. We have to get up early tomorrow,” I said.
Avrille momentarily interrupted her undressing of me to playfully bat my hand away.
“No, we don’t. Tomorrow is the beginning of school vacation, remember?”
Damn it. I actually had forgotten. Avrille finished unbuttoning my shirt, and my mind scrambled for another excuse to send her back to her own rooms before I completely lost control.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me again. Then she pressed her lips against my ear and whispered seductively, “We have all night. And I never gave you a birthday present.”
Avrille bit my earlobe, sending my temperature soaring even higher. She slid her hands down my bare chest and stomach to rest for a second on the waistband of my trousers. In a sheer panic, I seized her wrists with my hands just as she started to unfasten them. She cried out in surprise and pain. I jerked my hands away and saw to my horror that my fingers had left white marks on her wrists, which quickly darkened to an angry red. Avrille stared at my hands, still hovering an inch above where I had grabbed her.
“I … I’m sorry …” she stammered.
“—I think you should go back to your room,” I said sharply, cutting her off. The confused and contrite tones in her voice infuriated me, though it was not at her my anger was directed. Right at that moment, I had never hated my father more in my entire life. Because of the fear and doubts he had instilled in me at the time of his death, I had just deeply hurt the person most dear to me in all the world.
I dropped my hands and started to button up my shirt once more. Avrille slid off of my lap and stood in front of me for a moment, but I forced myself to keep my gaze lowered at what my hands were doing. I allowed my hair to fall forward, effectively blocking her from my view. I saw Avrille’s shoes turn and heard her move away to the fireplace. My hands were shaking so badly that I had only managed to get the bottom three buttons fastened when the light under my eyelashes flashed green as Avrille stepped into the Floo. But no matter how hard I tried to concentrate on what I was doing, I still heard the quaver in her voice as she stated her destination. With a whoosh of air and ash, she was gone.
I stood and glanced at the fireplace to make sure Avrille had really left. Seeing that I was indeed alone, I kicked over the table in front of me then grabbed a near-by antique vase and flung it with all of my might at the wall, shattering with a satisfying crash. I dropped to my knees in front of the hearth, bits of sharp porcelain painfully cutting through the fabric of my trousers as I raked my fingers through my hair. However, none of this made me feel any better; the vase could be instantly repaired, and my shredded knees could be healed just as quickly. As I held my face between tensed, trembling fingers, I realised that, for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to cry. I wanted a physical release from all of the pain twisting through me, but no matter how hard I desired it, no tears would come after so many years of being locked away.
What must Avrille be thinking right now? To her there would be no logical explanation as to why I had just acted the way I did, and honestly, I couldn’t think of such an excuse for myself, either. I had known the instant Avrille had first kissed me months ago that this moment would come eventually, but I had been trying my damnedest avoid thinking about it. And now, because of my refusal to consider the consequences of my actions, I had ended up hurting Avrille, who had been doing what was simply natural.
I sat back against the wall and started to pick the pieces of vase out of my skin, relishing each stabbing pain as a personal punishment. I now had three options left to me: I could break everything off with Avrille, ruining both of our lives; I could reveal all of the details of the Death Wish, which would really accomplish nothing except creating undue embarrassment for me; or, I could say to hell with it all and just take Avrille into my bed like I had been yearning to since the first moment I saw her. Only the third option seemed at all plausible.
I siphoned the blood off of the small pile of white fragments in front of me then restored the vase to its rightful form. I held it between my palms and studied the pattern of birds and bamboo leaves distractedly. My great-grandfather had bought the vase in Kyoto over a century ago. I really shouldn’t have thrown it. Avrille had remarked on its beauty several times in the past, and I had been toying with the thought of giving it to her as a wedding gift, if that ever became a true possibility.
I stood once more and limped over to my desk; I would heal the lacerated skin on my knees before bed, but right now the throbbing pain was something concrete for me to focus on. Sitting down, I popped open the secret drawer in the desk and pulled out a small package. I placed it square in front of me and stared at it with my arms crossed. The package was wrapped in plain brown paper, and lying inside, undisturbed since I had put it away months ago, was a diamond ring. I had bought it on a euphoric whim the day after Christmas, when I had gone into London to pay my yearly taxes. The night before, Avrille had accepted the shames of my past without question, and I had thought I deserved to be allowed a shred of optimistic hope for a change. I believe that it is custom for a man to spend the equivalent of one month’s salary on an engagement ring; I had spent a full year’s.
Since Avrille and I had only grown closer and more in love with each other as time passed, I figured, if I dared, I would propose to her once school recessed for the summer. That had seemed such a long time away, and I was sure I would have figured out an answer to my “problem” by then. After all, I knew that following the wedding was the wedding night, and certain things were going to be expected of me. I also knew I could not ask Avrille to be my wife until I was certain I was not still somehow damaged goods.
I shoved the wrapped ring back into the secret drawer and locked it securely. Healing my injuries and repairing my trousers with a vague wave of my wand, I retired to my bedroom, where I fell onto the bed on my back and buried my face in my arms. After what had happened tonight, things could not go on as they had been. Although she probably wouldn’t ask for one, Avrille would be desperate for an explanation of my behaviour, and I doubted I could think of one that would sound at all believable. What man in his right mind would send the love of his life away when she was trying to take his clothes off?
I dressed for bed, made slightly easier by the fact I had never bothered to finish buttoning my shirt, then lay wakeful in the peaceful darkness. I kept replaying over and over in my mind the last few moments of my father’s life. Unable to sleep, I restudied the wording of the final curse obsessively but was not able to make any more sense of it than when I had heard it for the first time. It was obvious how the curse would be invoked, but not so clear as to what the actual result would be. Something I was rather certain about was that whatever it was, it seemed to be irrevocably bound to me. It seemed unlikely Avrille would be in any danger from it. I let these thoughts circle through my mind for hours.
From the parlour, I heard the clock dimly chime four in the morning.
It had been well over ten years, after all. Not to mention that I had never been able to discern anything different about myself after that night. If there had been some trace of residual Dark magic on me, then surely Professor Dumbledore would have mentioned it, or it would have come up in my yearly physical with Madam Pomfrey …
There was just no way of knowing for sure. Though books had been written and research conducted on the phenomenon of the Death Wish, it was all pure conjecture and no solid facts. The magic invoked at the time of death was singular to the one casting it, and no two experiences would be alike. After all, Lily had cast a Death Wish when she sacrificed herself for her son, and it turned out that it was still protecting him to this day; Quirrell had found that out, much to his eternal discomfort. But surely the power of a mother’s love was a much stronger and more enduring magic than vengeance …
I rolled out of bed at eight without having slept at all. I needed to see Avrille so badly that my heart ached in my chest. I had to make sure she was all right and not in torturous agony like myself. Unfortunately, those many hours of sleepless pondering had not resulted in any words I could say to her to explain myself. I hoped that a heartfelt apology and pledges of my undying love for her would be enough.
As soon as I had made myself presentable, I walked to the Great Hall for breakfast. When I saw Avrille, already seated and chatting with Lavinia, my mouth went dry, and I almost turned around and left. But, of course, doing something that unusual was not helpful to one trying to act as though one were certainly not having a passionate love affair with one’s own apprentice. Avrille met my gaze briefly as I took my seat next to Professor Dumbledore, but there was no sign of the warmth and barely concealed excitement in her eyes like when she normally made eye contact with me in public. It was as though I were a complete stranger entering the Hall, not worthy of her attention, and she turned her focus quickly back to Lavinia.
I found that I had little appetite, the lack of sleep certainly contributing to the problem, though I forced some food down my throat. At the very least, it was something to keep me occupied while I tried to not look at Avrille more than once every thirty seconds. I knew I was being stupidly obvious to anyone who might guess our true relationship, but I was being both driven mad and completely relieved by the fact that Avrille looked fresh and rested as though she had just slept the best night of her life.
Since Avrille had started breakfast before me, she soon finished and left the Hall with Lavinia, without sparing me even the most passing of glances. I finished my meal as hurriedly as I dared then made myself to walk calmly from the Hall. As soon as I was alone in the stone corridors, however, I picked up my pace to try and see where Avrille had gone. It was my hope that she had parted with Lavinia and returned to her rooms—I knew how much she hated getting up early—so it was there I tried first. I would have never dared to at any other time, but since it was now the spring break and all of the students remaining were either at breakfast or still in bed, I assumed no one would be around to notice that I happened to be walking in the direction of Avrille’s quarters.
As it was I saw no one at all except Peeves, who was floating near the stairs and sticking used chewing gum on every other step. He flashed me an obsequious, nervous smirk as I passed, as though I really cared what he was doing, and probably happily resumed his mischief-making once I turned the corner.
Seeing the corridor was completely empty except for myself, I stopped in front of Avrille’s door and tried to compose myself. I had never actually visited her rooms before, just from some old-fashioned notion of mine that it would be dishonourable to enter the private rooms of a lady, but at least I had known where they were. I knocked on the door several times but there was no response. She was probably just not in, since I doubted she would simply not answer the door in case it was me. At least, I sincerely hoped not. The thought that she might consciously avoid me had never crossed my mind, and I wished it had stayed that way.
Then I thought, perhaps, she might come down to my rooms to talk. I quickly returned to the dungeons and spent two hours trying to read but really just watching the fireplace out of the corner of my eye while I flipped pages distractedly. Reconsidering the idea, it did not seem likely she would return here uninvited since I had basically expelled her last night. So, grabbing my school-robes once more, I vowed to wander aimlessly around the castle until I found her and was able to beg her to come talk to me.
Avrille was still not answering her parlour door, and she wasn’t in her office, either, so I spent the afternoon checking her usual haunts, like the greenhouses and the lakeside. Around three, I finally located her as I walked through the library. She was sitting at a table with a dozen seventh-year girls and appeared to be conducting a study session for the N.E.W.T.-level Potions exam. Again, like at breakfast, Avrille met my eyes briefly and dispassionately before returning her attention to the students. Some of the girls looked nervously at me, as though I might dock points for flagrant studying, but I simply walked resolutely in the other direction, where I would be able to hide behind some book stacks and watch Avrille until she was free for me to talk with her alone.
The study session was a long one and didn’t end until the lamps had already been lit in the library. Madam Pince gave me a queer look as she walked past me for the fourth time with a book trolley, but I tried to exude the impression I was simply fascinated with the lives of famous wizards whose last names began with the letters H through K.
Finally, the seventh-years packed up their bags and left for dinner. Avrille stayed behind, pulling her things together slowly as though she knew I was still there. I crept from my hiding place and, checking to make sure there was no one besides the librarian in sight, walked over to stand next to Avrille. She didn’t look at me or say anything as I approached and only stopped organising her notes when I placed my hand discreetly on top of hers.
“Avrille,” I said quietly. “Would you please come down to my rooms after dinner?”
Avrille finally looked up at me. She smiled faintly, but her eyes were those of a puppy looking up hopefully at an abusive master. Those wounded eyes ripped my heart into bloodless shreds.
“Of course,” she said as she placed all of her things into her bag.
“Thank you,” I whispered then virtually fled the library. I couldn’t stand to be next to her for one more second, unable to take her in my arms and beg her forgiveness for hurting her.
Again, though I still had little appetite, I forced myself to eat some dinner. It was slightly easier to stomach now that I knew I would soon be talking with Avrille, who was seated just a few places away from me and looking relatively happier than I had seen her this morning. Our eyes met once, and in hers I saw the trace of a warm spark, which gave me hope.
After dinner I practically ran back down to my rooms to wait for Avrille. Unable to remain still, I took up my usual activity of pacing and glancing at the clock every minute. I had to wait another torturous hour for her to arrive. Concerned my constant turns back and forth in front of the hearth would wear a strip in the carpet, I had been making rounds throughout the entire parlour instead.
As it happened, I was on the opposite side of the room when Avrille finally arrived through the Floo. The moment I saw her, I started forward quickly but then stopped, finding myself inexplicably sheepish all of a sudden. Avrille had done much of the same, taking a few steps but then stopping as she saw I had done. Reminding myself that the sudden awkwardness between us was entirely of my own doing and thus my responsibility to mend, I crossed the room until I was right in front of her. However, I found the few words I had pulled together fled from my tongue as I hesitantly opened my mouth. Avrille saved me the anguish of trying to start the conversation.
“I’m sorry it took me a while. Lavinia wouldn’t let me go until she filled me in on the latest details of her Henry,” she said with a shy, apologetic smile.
Her simple, everyday words shook the reticent feelings from me, and I pulled her into my arms. For a moment she allowed me to fill all of my senses with her wondrous presence once more, but then she gently pushed herself back so she could look me in the eyes.
“I want to apologise for last night,” she said quietly. “I was moving too fast, and I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable—”
“—No, you’re not allowed to apologise,” I interjected. “You did nothing wrong. I was just … surprised.” That was the best wording I could think of. I took her face between my hands and kissed her forehead. I had finally reached a decision, which was to let Avrille make the decision for me.
“I want you to tell me,” I said, “what you want. Whatever it is, I will do it.”
Avrille hesitated for a moment then stated matter-of-factly, “I want to go to bed with you.” Though her cheeks flushed a soft crimson as she said it, her eyes never left mine, and it was her honest, unblinking gaze that finally nailed down my resolution. It was her wish, and I was not about to argue with her.
I wrapped one arm around Avrille’s waist as I swept her up and carried her towards my bedroom, the doors slamming open as the urgency of my magic preceded me. I laid Avrille gently upon the bed and settled my body over her, propping myself up on my forearms so she wouldn’t feel trapped. With a hand I waved out the candlelight, but Avrille took hold of my wrist and, without even a movement from her, a few candles sputtered back to life, casting us in flickering half-shadows. I traced the outline of Avrille’s face with a single finger. I was about to ask her if she was sure this was what she wanted, but she pre-empted me by dragging her fingers roughly through my hair and pulling me down on top of her. I lost all train of conscious thought as she pressed her lips hungrily against mine.
As though silently commanded by Avrille, I blindly undid and slid my arms out of my fitted waistcoat, throwing it to the floor beneath us. While I buried my face in her neck, kissing the delicate skin and relishing the feel of her throbbing pulse beneath my lips, Avrille kicked off her shoes and deftly slid out of her trousers. As she had done the night before, she placed a hand over mine and guided it downwards. However, now that I knew I had her full consent, I gently gripped her fingers and pushed her arm up over her head before reaching back down to drag my rough, unworthy fingers up along the inside of her satiny thigh. Avrille moaned quietly and took hold of my chin so she could force her lips against mine once more.
Barely able to keep my hands steady, I slowly undid the delicate pearl buttons of her blouse to reveal a thin, rose-coloured silk camisole that was only a few shades pinker than the creamy, flushed skin beneath. The blouse soon joined the growing pile on the floor, and for the first time, I allowed my hands to explore every inch of Avrille’s body. As I trailed my fingertips over the soft curve of her breast and shallow basin of her stomach, I was met with the realisation that nothing besides two flimsy scraps of silk now stood between me and her nakedness; and my own clothes, of course, though Avrille was quickly remedying that.
Apparently convinced my methods took too long, Avrille gripped the closed halves of my own shirt and pulled them apart, showering us with several buttons, which she impatiently brushed off the bed. Tossing my ruined shirt aside, Avrille pressed her hands against my chest and forced me to roll over so she could lay on top of me instead. This change of position I welcomed, breathing in the perfume of her hair as it fell softly across my face. I threaded my fingers through it to hold back its tumbling stream so I could find Avrille’s lips once more. She kissed me back fiercely, first flicking her tongue against mine then pulling back to bite my lower lip, which once more brought to my attention how uncomfortably tight my trousers were becoming.
I dropped one hand from her face, causing her hair to rush forward and blind me once more in a sea of cinnamon brown strands, and unfastened my waistband. I pulled my trousers down as far as I could then allowed magic to strip them off completely. Seeing that I was now completely bare and not wanting to be left behind, Avrille quickly tossed off her remaining undergarments then stretched her sinfully soft body across the full measure of mine. Reaching backwards, I managed to bring down the edge of the blanket and, with a slight shifting of position that left me once more strategically on top, I pulled Avrille under the bedcovering with me.
The crisp coldness of the sheets meeting the hot skin of my back sent a small shockwave through my body and helped to quiet the voice of my basest animal instincts, which were screaming for me to take Avrille immediately. As it was I found my years of perfecting self-control served me well in this new situation, and I was able to allay the hungry beast to focus instead on bringing as much pleasure to Avrille as possible.
Now with nothing but our own skin between us, I ran my hands wildly over Avrille’s body, her arched back and whispers of my name spurring me on. The sheets soon warmed from our passionate fire. I kissed Avrille slowly and tenderly, allowing my lips to convey the depths of my love that I usually could find no words to express.
Finally Avrille’s moans turned the subtle curve of insistent to impatient, so I settled myself over her once more and gently parted her legs with mine. At that moment I found myself hesitant; not only were insufferably annoying thoughts of my curse circling through my mind, but I also knew from viewing all of Avrille’s memories that I was her first man. Even through the urgency of feral lust, I was still afraid of hurting her.
Avrille apparently held no qualms over the matter and joined us herself while I was in the midst of inopportune mental debating. The suddenness of the action nearly sent me over the edge, but once more my rigorous training in self-denial served me well, and I was able to hold back the impatient tide of more than a decade of complete celibacy. I knew that a gentleman always made sure his lady was well taken care of first, and I also wanted to stretch this moment out into infinity.
I closed my eyes and allowed Avrille to guide my motions. Blind in the red-tinged darkness, I kissed every part of her I could reach without breaking our unity. I responded with increasing forcefulness as Avrille’s kisses became more urgent, her fingernails boring deep grooves into the skin of my shoulders. With a hand, I held her hips tightly against mine, and I could feel the clenching of her muscles beneath my fingertips.
Finally, when I thought I could no longer hold back, Avrille cried aloud, and I allowed myself to join her in her swells of ecstasy, my mind, for once, numbingly thoughtless and filled only with splashes of colour and light. I felt as though my heart would burst as years and years of supressed emotion broke forth in those few eternal moments of unadulterated bliss.
When it was over, I collapsed on top of Avrille and gulped shuddering breaths of the hot air between her neck and the pillow. Avrille ran her fingers through my hair with a gentleness that was almost unbearable as my skin tingled from sensory overload. I raised my head and looked at Avrille, who was lying with her eyes closed and a contented smile on her lips. Watching her beautiful face, I was so happy that I started to laugh. She opened her eyes and stared at me quizzically.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, lightly dragging a finger down the side of my face.
“Nothing,” I replied, still laughing. “Absolutely nothing.” I kissed her deeply.
I had consummated my love with Avrille, fulfilling the stipulation of the Death Wish, and nothing at all had happened.
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