Chapter 61 : 60 - Oh, The Tangled Webs We Weave
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The antechamber behind the High Table in the Great Hall was dark, illuminated only by a torch on either side of the entrance and a large fire on the hearth on the opposite side of the room. Severus sat in a throne-like padded chair, almost completely obscured by the high back and heavy arms. His back was to the door. Amycus Carrow stood before him; his back to the fire; arms hanging limply by his sides; chin jutting out defiantly.
“Do you realize the damage that you have caused?” Severus’ voice was calm but threatening. “It has taken months to have Mistress Di Marco feel…comfortable…here. Do not be fooled by her personable demeanour. Although, usually a sign of weakness, in her, it is merely a cover to an inner strength that few understand. She is stronger than you think. Or have you discovered that already?” Severus voice sneered contemptuously at his subordinate. “The Dark Lord will be most displeased to find that your lustful intentions toward our guest has caused a hindrance in our plan. Her work is nearly done. She wants to leave. The Dark Lord does not want this potion to come to fruition. Not to the extent that she is capable. We cannot have certain individuals regaining their memories or becoming active again.”
“The wards were down,” Carrow explained. “She’s a right fine piece of meat. It’s hard to refuse such an opportunity.”
“Just what was your objective?” Severus’ right hand contracted against the arm of the chair. Then, he raised it to stop the explanation. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I have assured her that I would deal with the situation. She is somewhat naïve in thinking that since we are both Potions Masters and share a common oath, she can trust me to some degree. However, if you ever go near her again, I will not hesitate to inform our Lord and let him deal with the situation himself. He wants her alive and would be far less tolerant of your objectives than I.”
“Surely ya can’t be blind to her charms. What kind of man are ya?” Carrow audaciously ventured.
Severus’ fingers twitched, and his wand suddenly appeared in his hand, aimed directly at Carrow’s heart. “I’m the kind of man who would have no difficulty eliminating you from the face of this earth should you interfere with the Dark Lord’s plan again. Do I make myself clear?” Severus hissed.
“Clear,” Carrow muttered as he was dismissed and shuffled up the stairs to the exit.
Hearing the door close, I could see Severus’ hand rise to his unseen forehead as he rested in the seat. A slow and deliberate breath was expelled as the tension released. Severus refused to have the Carrows “pollute” the Headmaster’s office and often met with them here. The wards around the antechamber remained down, unknown to the DADA professor, and the glass in the large mirror by the door fogged as the images faded from the scrying dish on the polished dining table of my quarters. My partner had allowed the voices to filter through so I could hear. Leaning back in the seat, I released a similar sigh of relief.
A heavy rain lashed the long window that overlooked the backwater, melting the mid-winter snow. The thick, black living room curtain had been drawn, but the reflection of the room in the darkness outside cast a dreary mood in the warm chamber. Pinky busied herself cleaning out my wardrobe while Stark nested on the top of it, occasionally, and I’m quite certain, deliberately, dropping small twigs and nesting material over the edge onto the diminutive elf. He was bored and mischief was rising. Pinky scolded him gently, but I could tell that she was losing patience. I smiled while listening to the banter between the two. I didn’t think that house elves had the ability to empathically connect with others, but it certainly sounded like it. She would scold. He would caw. It was like listening to two young children bicker. Finally, Pinky emerged from the bedroom, a piece of cotton fluff atop her head, holding Albus’ box.
“This was pushed way in the back, beneath some spare clothes. Does Mistress no longer need it?” she asked holding the box out for my inspection.
I took it from her and kindly brushed the stuffing from her head. “I would still like to keep it,” I replied while lifting the lid, fingering through the contents. “I’d forgotten what was in here.”
In past months, Severus and I had frequently used the pendulum, and the silver and glass vial still hung around my neck, but the other items seemed more like bits of memories rather than anything of importance. Lifting the star chart from the year that I was born, I examined the information on it: which planets were in line, which constellations were in the sky. I was never very good at Astronomy but understood some of the rudimentary concepts that applied to Alchemy. Replacing it, I peacefully sifted through the rest of the items.
Time passed in the dim light of the chamber, and I startled when the Floo ignited and Severus stepped into the room. He was soaked from head to foot and dripped heavily onto the carpet. Pinky ran to retrieve his cloak while Stark cawed as he flew to the bookcase by the hearth, greeting his Master. Severus looked drained of all energy, paler than usual, and I feared that he had tasted Crucio tonight. Jumping to his aid, I eased him into the armchair closest to the fire, and bid Pinky to get the potion.
He raised his hand to stop her. “No need. I’m just exhausted,” he replied sinking into the softness.
“What’s happening?” I asked, warming a blanket and laying it across his shoulders.
“The Dark Lord as been on a personal mission. He’s in search of something that has eluded him and has been away. I’ve been overseeing his followers. It’s not an easy task, especially when everyone has their own agenda.” Severus pulled the blanket tighter as he involuntarily shivered.
“Do you know what he’s looking for?” I asked settling on a footstool opposite him.
“He searches for a wand to beat Potter,” he stared into the fire.
“But he knows that Potter’s wand is broken, doesn’t he?” I questioned.
Severus shrugged. “This wand has a violent history. Invincible they say. The Elder Wand.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” I shook my head.
“Only those who know wand lore or have a specific interest in myth would know of it.” Severus accepted a hot mug of soup from Pinky and sipped it carefully, leaning comfortably back in the seat. “It’s miserable out. I Flooed to the office, and then came directly here. I hope you don’t mind the intrusion,” he gazed up through sopping hair.
“Never,” I smiled.
The rain still pounded the sides of the castle in the early hours of morning. Severus had fallen asleep the moment his head hit the pillow, and didn’t move for the entire night. He shivered occasionally, and I pulled the covers over his shoulders and snuggled closer to warm him, but his breathing remained steady and deep. As a roll of thunder rumbled through the living room, he startled and raised himself onto his elbows, uncertain of where he was. When he saw me watching him from the cosy confines of the duvet, he smiled and snuggled in beside me, pulling me close.
“I’ve missed this,” he whispered as our noses met, and his hand ran up my back.
“Me, too,” was my quiet reply. And wrapped in each other’s arms, with the storm raging outside, we dozed off again.
“Where did you put my pants?” Severus demanded as he rapidly buttoned the long line down the front of his shirt.
“Here,” I said, handing him the folded trousers. As he hurriedly pulled them up, I shook out his frockcoat, ready for him to take. “You would think that one would find a spell to dress more rapidly,” I commented as he hopped around the end of the bed trying to pull on a boot.
“You would think,” he said sardonically. “By the way, how did you remove my clothes? I don’t recall.”
“Ah, a little spell I developed hoping to have better use for it than last night. It’s Valentine’s. Come back tonight, and I’ll show you how it’s supposed to work,” I wagged my eyebrows playfully, loosening the front of my bathrobe.
His face was solemn as he eyed my cleavage. “I wish, but I can’t make any plans at the moment. Things are happening that demand my attention,” he paused and raised his eyes from my chest to my face, “and I may need your assistance.”
“Anything,” I answered seriously, closing the robe.
“I’ll have to let you know,” he replied as he finished fastening the coat.
Morning bell rang for breakfast, and Severus dashed to the Floo. Ever since his chat with Carrow, he had been making it a point to attend meals more frequently, especially early in the morning. Last night, Carrow had been at the meeting, and Severus wanted to keep an eye on him.
Kissing me quickly and slipping a small package into my hand, he stepped into the fire and transported back to the Headmaster’s office. His day would begin from there.
The deluge continued for the rest of the week, confining most to the castle and immediate grounds. The tensions that were already high manifested into small brawls and trivial duels between rival Houses. Teachers were short tempered, and detentions were at a peak. Poppy was overloaded with hexes and minor curses and appreciated my assistance in the hospital wing. We were kept very busy, and just when we though things were settling down, another flurry of anxiety began. Ministry officials stormed the grounds in search of the groundskeeper and several of his friends. Both students and staff were in an uproar as Severus strode through the halls, heading toward Hagrid’s hut. Poppy and I watched from the hospital wing’s large window, my heart in my throat. Severus had managed to impede the attack long enough for Hagrid to get away without his interference being blatantly obvious. We would need the half-giant’s skill and knowledge of the forest and its creatures if the fight were to take place at Hogwarts as we suspected. I hoped he wouldn’t go too far.
“Mistress Di Marco,” Poppy called from the bedside of a fifth year Ravenclaw, “would you keep an eye on this one. I’ll be right back.” She quickly disappeared into her office at the end of the ward.
I pulled myself from the window and sauntered over to the bed. The student was covered in blistering pustules that popped every so often making the teen wince slightly. “So what does the other fellow look like?” I asked with a slight grin, and the boy pointed to the opposite side of the room and several beds down. There, a sixth year Slytherin lay with a heavily swollen face and a pig’s snout. “Nice work,” I added, returning my attention to the Ravenclaw. “What started it?” I ducked a minor eruption from his face.
“He made a crack about someone in our House. Death Eaters boarded the Express at Christmas, and she was taken. No one’s seen her since. It’s been weeks. She was rather odd, but she was okay. He said it was “no loss”. I couldn’t let it go.” He stared up at the ceiling, eyes brimming with anger and unshed tears.
I placed my hand comfortingly on his arm. No brilliant words of wisdom could ease the pain or fear that war brings.
As I sat there, the hospital wing doors crashed open, and Severus strode in, black robe billowing behind, fury on his face. He pointed to me as Poppy re-emerged from her office. “You were told not to involve yourself with the students. My office. Immediately,” he barked.
“But, Sir,” Poppy began in my defence, “I needed her help. There were so many.” She turned to the half full chamber.
He stood, huffing like a madman, taking in the number of students who had managed to get themselves injured in trivial matters. “My office,” he repeated firmly.
I rose, sending a reassuring empathic message to my friend, and followed the Headmaster from the ward. The students and teachers parted before him, eyeing me with pity. It was obvious that he was livid, and I was about to feel his wrath. Charging up the steps, past the stone gargoyle that guarded the office, the doors magically opened for him, and we entered to the chatter of the portraits. Severus paced to the desk, then spun to face me.
“This attack was just the first,” he ran his right hand through his limp hair, breathing heavily. “The Ministry is on the hunt for anyone who openly supports Potter. That great oaf was foolish enough to hold a party in honour of the “Boy Who Would Be A Pain In The Arse.” He shook his head. “Word is that the Weasley’s are next. I can protect the girl while she’s here, but Arthur needs to be alerted…today. It could happen at any time. Arthur knows that he’s a target, but he remains at his home. They need to find someplace else…now.”
“You want me to warn him,” I stated professionally. “I could leave the castle on the assumption that I need to do something at St. Mungo’s. I’ll actually make an appearance, then divert to the Burrow with the warning.”
Severus nodded, his arms folded across his chest. Pointing to the chairs by the fire, he said, “Let’s plan this well.”
The hill overlooking the Burrow had one lone tree, just as Severus had described, but the Weasley home was heavily warded with a variety of Protective Shields. Tapping into the elements, I could sense where the building was, and under a Disillusionment Charm, I blindly walked toward my destination. Once through the wards, the rickety, multilevel structure stood before me, looking exactly as it had been described. Carefully walking the path to the front door, I lowered my charm and knocked. Hearing voices suddenly hush, I knocked again.
“Arthur Weasley,” I called, letting my Italian accent drift through the door, “You knew me once and kept my secret safe. I must repay a debt. You’re in danger.”
I could hear the shuffling of feet and whispering on the other side. “Identify yourself,” a familiar voice returned.
“What name should I use? I’ve been known by a few,” I answered.
“Answer this question for me?”
I smiled. I knew that voice well.
“What does a wolf do on a full moon?” the voice asked.
“The wolf banes,” I replied with a huge grin.
The door flung open, and I was caught up in strong arms. Returning the hug, I was lifted off my feet and into the kitchen. Settled back onto the ground, I took an unsteady step back to look up at my old friend.
“Gods, it’s good to see you,” I exclaimed.
“And you,” Remus grinned. “You’re taking a huge risk being here. We know Arthur and the family are in danger.”
My smile dropped. “But did you know when it would happen?” Turning to my old contact, I directed, “I hope you have a place to stay. Gather your family. You have to move now. There’s not much time.”
Arthur protectively placed his arm around his wife. “We’ve met before. With Remus. And, I’ve seen you at the Ministry. A few years ago. You’re with the Italian Ministry? Wolfsbane. Right?” He looked between Remus and me. “What did you mean by “you knew me once”? What secret did I keep?”
I paused and glanced up at Remus. Casting my hand across my body, “Finite Incantatem” dissolve the Vagueness Charm that had become a part of my daily routine.
Arthur gasped. “Impossible,” he choked. “I was there. I carried your body…”
“You, James, Sirius, Remus and Alastor. Albus’ words were few. The funeral service short. He had to get me out of there as quickly as possible.”
“ “What name should I use?” Now, I understand. Alicia. Elizabett. Daniella. Are there any others?”
I smiled. “No. I think that’s enough.”
Arthur released his confused wife and took two paces to me. I met him in the middle of the kitchen in a heartfelt embrace.
“How? Why?” he stuttered clinging tight.
“It doesn’t matter. It was necessary, but now we have to save you,” I pulled back. “When darkness falls, we should be gone.”
“Arthur?” his wife was at his side.
“Molly, this is…a friend. Many, many years ago, during the first war, she worked for Dumbledore.” He turned to me. “You never stopped, did you?”
“For a little while. My injuries were severe, but as soon as I was well enough, I was back at it.” No further details were forthcoming. We didn’t have the time, nor did I have the inclination to revisit the past. “We have to get you moving. Pack what you need. Summon the boys. Your daughter is safe where she is at the moment.”
“The boys should be arriving soon anyway. They were coming for dinner,” Molly offered.
“Perfect,” I smiled.
“What started this? Why now?” Molly asked curiously.
“The Ministry tried to capture Hagrid earlier today, something about a “Support Harry” party. Since you’re so close to the boy, it was advised that you move as quickly as possible. You may be next.”
Remus rolled his eyes. “As much as I admire the man, Hagrid’s loyalty is bigger than his brain. We should have seen this coming. How did you get this information? Your bond?” Remus asked suspiciously.
“I’ve been at Hogwarts since September. I was helping Madam Pomfrey when the attack occurred. My resource delayed the attack, and suggested that you be warned. There’s no time to waste.”
While Arthur and Molly rapidly gathered their already packed belongings, and we waited for the twins to arrive, Remus and I were able to catch up. He was so excited about becoming a father and hoped that I would be able to meet Tonks soon. I was glad that things had worked out for him. He was such a sweet man and deserved to be happy.
It was late when I returned to the Headmaster’s office, and Severus was sitting up waiting for me by a blazing fire.
“All went well?” he inquired, leaning forward in his seat, pouring a hot cup of tea, and passing it in my direction.
I nodded. “Arthur knows who I am. I released my charm.”
“Hmm,” he leaned back pensively, “I don’t think it will be a problem. You’re well known as Mistress Di Marco, pride of the Italian Ministry’s research department, not Alicia Lacosa, long time spy for Albus Dumbledore. If anyone casts Legilimens on him, they’ll immediately see that you once worked at the Ministry. There would be a legitimate reason for him to know you.” He transfigured the large armchair into a sofa and moved over for me to sit. “Are you tired?” he asked with a slight quirk on his lips as I lowered beside him.
“Not too bad,” I covered a yawn. “Why?” My left eyebrow rose curiously.
He stretched his right arm across the back of the sofa, fingers lightly caressing my shoulder. “I was just curious about that new spell of yours, and if you’ve used your Valentine gift.” His ebony eyes sparkled.
“It was lovely. When did you have time to make it?” I asked oblivious of his intentions.
“Essential oils are relatively easy. I hope you like the scent.” His arm reached across my shoulder pulling me close, his eyes beginning to smoulder.
I finally caught on. “Here? In the Headmaster’s office? What about the audience?” I tipped my head toward the portraits that feigned sleep.
Severus shifted closer, his left hand running up my thigh. “So, they’re not in this section of the room, and I could make the back of the sofa higher.”
“My grandfather is one of those portraits,” I embarrassedly whispered, barely moving my lips.
Severus flashed a rare smile. “I know.” Pure mischief was in his eyes as his lips tenderly met mine.
The back was raised, and the seat lengthened to a double bed as we shifted horizontally on the soft mattress. Lying face to face on our sides, we grinned listening to the portraits mutter and move from frame to frame trying to get an unimpeded view.
“Can you see anything?” one quietly asked.
“Nothing,” another whispered.
“Darn,” muttered a third.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, give them some privacy,” Dilys Derwent chastised quietly.
“Why?” Phineas Nigellus drawled, “This is the most action this office has seen in centuries.”
“Shhhhh,” was the collective response, but by this time Severus and I had blocked them out, his hand working up my spine drawing me close, his nose nuzzling the soft spot behind my ear, while I ran a line with the tip of my tongue from the underside of his stubbled jaw to a succulent earlobe, latching on until a low groan rattled from deep within him. Pulling my jumper slightly, he worked his hand up my ribs, finding a silk-covered breast to cup, fingertips running over the smooth fabric, enticing the nipple to rise. It responded satisfactorily, and Severus sighed in contentment as his eyes closed, and he massaged expertly. My hand ran from his strong back to his buttocks, pulling at the length of his coat in search of the waistband of his trousers. Lifting my right knee slightly, I added a bit of extra pressure to the bulge that was forcing against the strained material. He groaned, and I smiled.
“So, what’s this spell of your?” he lifted his head from my neck.
“Mmm, are you in a hurry?” I seductively asked, slowly unbuttoning the tiny frockcoat fastenings. “Sometimes the pleasure is in the anticipation.”
He rolled onto his back gazing up at me as I straddled his hips, my hands spanning his pectoral muscles under the cloth. “And sometimes the pleasure is found in direct contact.” Reaching up, his hand slipped behind my neck, drawing my down. “I want to touch you, to feel your warmth, to smell your skin, to taste you…” He plunged into my mouth like a drowning man. I reciprocated.
Coming up for air, my own desire peaking, I placed my hand on his chest and took a deep, meaningful breath. “Divesta Totalum,” was cast, and his clothes magically appeared in the air, folded themselves neatly, and landed on the nearby end table. The glint in my eye spurred him on as he cast the same spell on me. Both grinning roguishly, I lowered my chest to his, feeling the heat radiate, watching a rosy aura begin to form around the transfigured bed. He rolled me onto my back, quick, playful kisses being randomly placed wherever his lips met skin. I laughed lightly, my hands searching for their own target, until his mouth found a very sensitive spot. I mewled louder than anticipated as Severus latched onto the hardened bud, suckling harshly. Oh, sweet pleasure! My knees opened invitingly, my hand lowering to adjust him into place.
Pulling back, there was almost an evil spark in his eyes, and with an upward twist of his lips he whispered, “Ah, ah, ah, not yet. I love watching you writhe.”
His fingers expertly danced there way across my body eliciting moans and groans that I’m certain the portraits were straining to visualize.
“Oh, Sweet Circe!” I cried feeling the temperature build. I arched toward him, wanting, desiring closer contact, but he rolled onto his back, dragging me on top. I felt the loss, but the assault didn’t stop there. It was my turn. Starting at his collarbone, I worked my way down, my lips caressing across his nipples, following the line on fine dark hair that changed from a thick expansion to a light spattering to a thin line drawing to a twitching appendage that demanded satisfaction. Oh, what I could do, but my lustful intentions were cut short by Severus’ hands lifting me to face him. Slowly lowering, I impaled myself, and we both let out a cry of relief, and the dance began. The aura glowed deep red as the heat within our confine grew. Our fingers linked, and we arched toward each other, feeling the depth of the union. Flipping me onto my back, we continued, feeling the climax build. Balancing on his forearms, Severus pushed hard into me, the last thrust forcing my voice.
“Oh, Gods, Severus!” I exclaimed followed by a roar of pure emotion.
“Severus? Severus? What’s going on?” A third voice had our eyes widen in shock.
Severus balanced on one arm and wandlessly cast toward the fire. “Out!” he roared, shutting the Floo down as I let out another scream. His climax followed mine within seconds, the interruption having very little effect of his performance. As he lowered onto his elbows and rolled to the side, he tucked me comfortably under his arm, I began to chuckle.
“Any idea who?” I asked, spanning my hand across his chest.
“Bloody meddling woman,” he muttered, stroking my shoulder. “That’s one thing I didn’t anticipate.”
As we lay there in the aftermath, a voice from the left side of the desk cleared their throat. “Ahem, if you’ll excuse me,” Dilys Derwent began, “So sorry to interrupt, but I thought you may wish to know. Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout, although it appears that they saw nothing, believe, Sir, that you are torturing someone.”
Severus pressed his lips together and squeezed his eyes shut while I let out a hearty laugh.
“Torture? If that was torture, then, tie me up and do it again!” I exclaimed.
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