Chapter 5 : The End of The Innocence
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The Manor’s garden was a terraced one, dropping in a steep gradient away from the house and it was as long as it were wide. On this cool, summers night it afforded a generous clear view, stretching for miles around. The first thing I noticed as I walked along the gravel path and past the pair of sizeable gargoyles perched on magnificent high Grecian pillars was the distant flicker of the Muggle street lamps from the towns below shimmering wildly like fireflies. At first I didn’t notice the dark silhouettes of the two shadowy figures walking along the second terrace, nearest the water garden. I moved slowly into the shadows as I strained to hear the conversation of the couple who were strangers to me at present; their faces masked by the fading light. The taller, more muscular figure turned to face the smaller, more feminine one. As I stepped behind the rhododendron bush to hide my face from view I knew who they were, and my heart seemed to stop beating for a fleeting moment.
Looking around to check no one had followed me I transformed into the dog so I could listen to the conversation without the need to get any closer. As soon as I had I knew I may live to regret it. The female voice was Arella, the tension in her voice was unmistakeable; and the other resonant, cold and abrupt voice was none other than Severus Snape. I listened to his every word intently, though it did not surprise me to find them both there.
“Will you not be missed back at the house?”
Arella hesitated. “I might, but I chose to walk out here in the gardens alone. It’s not as if I intended to meet you here. You flatter yourself if you believe I did.”
I watched as his face turned away, apparently transfixed by the trickling water of the fountain nearest to him. Tentatively, he held out his hand and placed it in the darting sprays of water, interrupting the never ending flow. “I never presumed such a thing.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea, Severus.”
He turned back his attention to her face. “ I was under the impression you belonged to someone else now.”
Arella’s voice grew more stilted with her underlying anger. “Then you were mistaken. I belong to no one.”
“And does he know that?” he smirked.
The tension built up in the back of her throat. “He?”
He scoffed at my name. “Black. I was led to believe that you and he were on the path to marriage, or at least his brother seems to think so. I had also heard you are cohabiting.”
“We are, not that it is any of your business.”
Severus nodded in agreement. “Indeed it is not, but I find it strange you should both have a change of heart. He comes back here, apparently converted from his loyal Gryffindor ways, and you suddenly fall in love with him. It hardly sounds like the two people I knew from our days at Hogwarts. And now his Mother is crowing about a pureblood marriage and her forthcoming grandchildren to continue the Black family line. Am I to congratulate you? An engagement perhaps? Or has Black already sown his filthy seeds and the pitter-patter of tiny feet are to be the next thing?”
“No! I am expecting neither an engagement nor a child by Sirius or any other man. It is not an option at present, besides which we are not…” She stopped herself from going any further and he pulled his hand out of the water. Swiftly turning his body around to face hers, he tilted his head slightly as he attempted to read her thoughts.
“Not what?” He glared at her. and looked deeply into her eyes, but she would not reveal her secrets to him. “The Ministry have taught you well; your occlumency skills have improved greatly, but I do not need Legilemency to tell me what you meant. You have never taken him to your bed, have you? Oh, what perfect irony I see before me now as the schoolboy Cazenova cannot have what he wants. Well, well, he has lost his charms, hasn’t he?”
Arella stared back at him, but the intensity of his gaze was unbearable and she turned away to avoid his prying eyes. “This has absolutely nothing to do with you, Severus.”
He sneered as he took another step closer to her. As she sensed his all too familiar body near hers, it felt too close for comfort and she took a sharp intake of breath. Straightening her back to defy his aggressive behaviour, she spitted her words out bitterly.
“You are making assumptions with no basis of fact. This is all purely the fiction of your petty little mind and if you have nothing more to say that pure speculation I ask you kindly to leave me be.”
“I will not and I cannot.”
“Don’t be so ridiculous! What business is it of yours if I have slept with Sirius or not? I love him, and I intend to marry him, when he asks me, just as his family have been saying. I will take him to my bed on every feasible occasion and have as many children as I can damn well bear. The fact that he is a Black is a bonus I would say, but then, as you well know, we have always been a little …intimate.”
Severus turned his face away again, though his body remained tantalisingly close to hers, almost touching. I longed to go over and separate them, but I knew she was in total control and I must allow her to continue, however much it pained me. Pausing to look at the night time skyline and weigh up his heavy words, he gazed across at the horizon as he said quietly “Are you in love with him?”
“Yes.” she answered clearly, without hesitation, and my heart pounded so loudly I feared it would give me away. Snape turned back to her in a whirl of ebony robes and clutched at her shoulders, making her gasp out loud. It took every muscle and sinew in my body to restrain myself from harming him.
“And yet still I cannot believe you. Why, after all these years would you want to saddle yourself with a no-hoper like him? Do you have no respect for yourself anymore? He is not worthy of you, Arella!”
“How dare you? And who is worthy of me, Severus? You? You had your chance before and you threw it aside it meant so much to you. The day you rose your wand in anger towards me was the day I realised I could do better and how right I was too. A Death Eater’s wife would never have been the life for me.”
Shaking her slightly, his anger welled up inside him, but he whispered his answer bitterly. “If Black had not performed that idiotic prank I would still be with you myself and happily married at that, with the life I deserved. Instead I find you in his arms and I became a servant to the Dark Lord. What kind of poetic justice is that?”
Swiftly, Arella pushed his hands off her shoulders and took a step back, now visibly growing more angry by the minute.
“How dare you damn well blame him for your mistakes? They were all your own doing, Severus Snape, and I doubt very much whether Sirius had any involvement in the path you chose. Your destiny was always to be with them, marrying me or not. I was not your saviour, Severus and I will never be so.”
He snatched her hand and placed it in his, anxious to connect with her again; touch her bare skin, feel her warmth in his cool, lonely, aching body and I knew exactly how he felt. She did not withdraw her hand and I slowly closed my eyes.
“You could still save me, Arella.”
Arella reached forward and placed her hand behind his head, tangling her fingers in his dark hair. He obeyed her suggestion as he bowed his head to meet hers and she drew herself in to meet his waiting lips, kissing her roughly and with fervour. I watched as their lips teased and nipped at each other and their tongues sought out one another’s mouths in a passion I could only dream of. That kiss stabbed at my aching heart, and it seemed to go on for an eternity. They pulled apart slightly and, as he looked into her dark brown eyes, he let her glimpse at his inner feelings, and she stepped closer still to whisper in his ear.
“You must go to Remus, Severus. You cannot leave and survive and if you have second thoughts he can help you now. I have had doubts about who he is connected with but you cannot do this alone and …and I cannot help you now. Remus will listen and so will Dumbledore. He may be a misguided fool sometimes but he could still help you.”
He withdrew his hand in one fast move and sneered, his mood changing with the swirling breeze. His words were edged with a bitterness I recognised only too well.
“You will not help? Then you are truly lost, aren’t you? All this is a charade and you cannot keep up the pretence forever. You are no more a sympathiser than you are in love with Black, whatever you say, and they will soon see that and destroy you. When did you become so foolish, Arella? I would never leave the Dark Lords service to lower myself and consort with a half breed such as Lupin. But it worked to gain your sympathy and reveal your feelings in that kiss. At least now I know who to come to on the long dark winters nights that will soon be here. You may pretend to love him all you wish but do not pretend that when you lie with him and close your eyes that you will not think of me. When he takes you in his arms you will think of me and wish me there like we were before all this happened…before he happened.”
Standing tall and upright, Arella flung her arm back and landed a slap across Snape’s waiting cheek, sending him a step or two backwards as she did. Reddened and livid, Arella spat at him as he held his stinging cheek.
“You flatter yourself far too much, Snape. Sirius is a better man than you will ever be in every respect of love and I will not think of you as I close my eyes. I will only ever think of him, and what exquisite, intoxicating pleasure I gain from him too. But I wish you the damnation that whatever whore you take to your bed next will remind you of what you once had and what you have now given to your enemy. And as she calls out your name in a moment of passion, if she ever does, for you are nothing like Sirius in that respect, then I hope she may rip out your heart and poison your soul as she does. It is far more than you deserve. May you burn in hell and if I never see you again it will be too soon.”
Arella turned heel and flew down the gravel drive, leaving Snape still clutching at his cheek and standing watching the best thing that ever happened to him leave him for good. At least I hoped she had. Quickly, I transformed and came out of the bushes just before she approached me, a face upon her as black as thunder and a wild look about her eyes I had never seen before. I startled her.
“Bloody hell, Sirius. What are you doing lurking about the place? Were you checking up on me?”
I looked down at the floor as if I were the scolded young child of my youth. I slowly followed the outline of her lithe body as I raised my head with a grin placed upon my lips, trying my hardest to take away the seeping poison he had implanted in her within his kiss. I wanted to steal back that connection we had found in the dance when she had held me close and I had believed she was all mine. At first, as she looked into my eyes, she remained flustered and distraught, but the more I held her gaze and opened my thoughts to her, the more her chill lifted. A wicked glint in her eye told me she was a Legilimens, as I suspected. She stepped forwards, tracing a solitary finger slowly along the neat row of buttons, flicking then as her talon-like fingernails clicked against them. She worked her way further down to my waistband and stopping tantalisingly close to the sensitive skin just below the navel. She transferred her finger to my cheek, and stroked the skin along my jaw line slowly; the fine layer of stubble evident as she did so. Taking her hand to my hair and entwining her hands through the strands and layers of dark curtain she pressed her lips to mine gently and whispered seductively against them “Did you see us, Sirius? Did you hear us?”
I nodded, not wanting to ruin the moment by speaking, but needing to with a passion, and letting my lips brush teasingly against hers, as I couldn’t suppress the smile within me any longer. “Yes I did, and I was very proud of you, my darling. I couldn‘t have done it better myself, though minus the kiss you understand. At least he now knows how you really feel about him. You were very passionate, so passionate… I wished I were him.”
She leaned in again towards my face holding her body close to mine and brushing her warm lips against the delicate skin of my ears. “Take me home, Sirius. I‘ve had enough of playing these party games. Let‘s go say our goodbyes and go home. Who knows what tonight will bring.”
An uncontrollable, throaty growl escaped my lips as she winked at me after the last suggestion and I grasped her around the waist, pulling her even closer to me. I pressed her lips roughly against mine, memorising how he had taken her in his arms and I found I was competing with his ardour. I wanted to show her that he was not the only man that desired her that night, and her hints of something even more delicious to come drove me so wild I knew I could not spend another minute among this wretched company. I wanted Arella more than any vague piece of information they may all be chatting about at that point in time - hell, I wanted her more than if Voldemort himself had appeared unarmed in front of me. She returned my advances, and I felt her hands grasp at my hair, pulling my face as close to hers as possible, lost in the passion of the moment as we had been before. Holding a handful of my hair, she pulled my head away from hers and muttered with a false innocence in her eyes and voice “Time to leave, Sirius or we’ll never get home, will we?”
Breathing in the familiar aroma of her intoxicating, heady perfume, I stepped away to look at her and nodded slowly as I took her hand in mine. We headed indoors to say our goodbyes.
I didn’t notice the significance of Malfoy, Snape, my brother and the other men plotting and scheming in the corner that night, nor the excited whispers and sudden silences as we entered the room. Our mutual affection and want was bubbling away under the surface of our skins, begging for a moment of privacy and release. My mother, at least, was accommodating in her gracious and brief goodbyes, though her fawning and preening in front of Arella was irritating at best and nauseating at worst. We practically ran down the length of the gravel path we had hesitated on only hours beforehand and found the safe apparating point back to the house and safety once more. The lateness of the hour brought a chill to the air and as we held hands again before we were to apparate, Arella shivered uncontrollably. I took off my robe and wrapped it around her shoulders to warm her, holding the edges of the material up to her chin and fastening it for her. My fingers brushed against the smoothness of her face as I did so, and I gasped a little at the touch of it against my sensitive skin. Gazing deeply into her eyes I whispered to her “You first.” and she disappeared with a pop, with myself following closely behind.
I wasted no time in getting the door of the house open, and Arella threw off my robe nonchalantly, She walked over to the whisky decanter on the sideboard and poured herself a drink, asking me if I cared to join her, which I did. From the other side of the room I watched her pour the liquid into the crystal glasses, listening to the way her long nails tapped against the edges of the glass. Slowly I made my way over to behind where she was, just mesmerised by her in a way I had never been before. It was not the first time I had seen her pour us both a drink, nor was it the first time I had watched as the smooth liquid passed between her sensuous lips but her movements were so much more erotic and pleasing to me I could not take my gaze elsewhere. Something had happened between us that evening at the Manor, and I needed to search her heart for the truth. Could we really have something more than we had always had before now? I had admired her from afar before but never felt about her the way my body desired it to be now. I did not want to lose what we had, but my instincts told me not to give up hope for the delightful promise of something so much more than I could ever have dreamed of. As I came up behind her, and promptly gulped down the whisky she had now handed to be, I took my hand up to the silky warm base of her elegant neck and slowly slid my trembling hand down towards her shoulders. I repeated the action down the other side with my other hand until both hands were placed upon her shoulders, pausing as I prayed for some kind of response.
Arella put down her whisky glass in front of her and turned as I loosened the grip on her shoulders, stepping further into my embrace and never relaxing the intensity of her stare. And there we stood, watching one another as of some imaginary line had formed between us and we were involved in a game of dare, teasing one another with furtive glances to see if the other would cross that line. Her eyes darkened further still, and her foot twitched as if willing the rest of her body to follow. But I could wait no longer as her mind weighed the pros and cons and I crossed that line with such fervour I felt my soul would catch fire. Forcing my hands roughly around her face to hold her head I pressed my lips to hers. I felt the tingle of passion and electricity springing from her lips as she wrapped her arms around me and pushed against my hips to show her feelings. Grasping for breath, I broke the kiss and cradled her reddened face, wiping away the remainders of her lipstick with my thumb while she kissed and teased my other fingers a moment after I did so. She was caressing them one by one in an exotic dance to entice me. But there was no need for this foreplay. I was hers already, prepared to surrender myself to her to do with me what she wished; and she knew. As she flicked her tongue over the soft white skin of my fingers, and nipped playfully at my hand, she looked at me out of the corner of her eyes and smiled in the most wicked way I had ever seen any woman smile. Despite all the valid reasons not to, she knew we had gone beyond the imaginary lines of friends and I did not hesitate as I swept her up into my arms and laid her down on the sofa opposite the fireplace. She giggled as I kneeled up between her feet and looked down at her with a glint in my eye.
“Really Sirius, I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to lay me down on your sofa.”
I lowered myself against her stomach and she gasped as I kissed her lips and she arched her back as I found the zip to her scarlet dress, undoing it in one swift move like the expert I was.
“I was saving the best ‘til last, Rellie, that’s all.”
“I bet you say that to all the girls.”
I teased her lips in mine and slid my hands down across her hips. Carefully, I removed the layers that kept me from her and I kept watching her as she struggled to keep her composure under the pressure of my aching and wanting body. “I’ve waited for you a long time, Arella. Tell me you think it’s been worth it.“ Exposed and vulnerable, she looked more beautiful to me now than she had ever done before, and I ran my hands along her soft flesh, in steady, circling movements to drink in the moans that escaped her inviting lips. “Yes, Sirius. Yes, it will be worth it, I promise you that. Now you’re really not suitably dressed, are you?” Carried away by her now, I started to help her undress me in a hurried frenzy of buckles, buttons and materials, not noticing the noise coming from the empty fireplace as my bare flesh touched against hers; far too busy to realise we were not alone. James was standing in the room with us, just arrived via the Floo network.
“Oh shit! Sorry Sirius! I’ll turn my back. Lily did say I should send an owl or…something but this was too important to wait.” He did as he had suggested and turned his back to us, but then realised who my companion was and turned to face us again swiftly.
“Bloody hell! Arella? Is that you?”
Grabbing at the robe she chucked upon the sofa as we had come in from the party, Arella covered her modesty, and pushed me away to face our intruder. Had it been anyone apart from James Potter appearing in my house I would have murdered them for interrupting me at that delicate moment. But, as I turned to see the ashen face of my best friend, I knew whatever it was would not wait. I sat beside Arella, wrapping my arm around her to protect her from James’ shocked and dismayed stares. He paced the rug in front of us and muttered.
“ The Prewitt brothers were killed tonight, you two. Killed in cold blood by at least five Death Eaters, some of which Moody thinks were in your company earlier and one of which we know to be Dolohov. Do you have any idea what this means to the Order now? Any idea what this means for us?”
I shook my head at James’ infuriated face, knowing exactly what he was implying, and biting my tongue to suppress any immediate response but Arella spoke before I had a chance to fight with my tangled and confused feelings.
“It means that if they can kill the Prewitts, then they can target any of us. It means that while we were thinking of only ourselves they were being murdered. It means that no one is safe anymore. And it means that you and I could possibly have prevented it. That‘s what you‘re thinking, isn’t it, James?”
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