It's not working, Callista thought, staring down at the potions formula, trying to decide what kept going wrong. She was frustrated and in over her head with this project. I shouldn't have turned down Severus's offer to collaborate.
It was now halfway through February, and she was utterly stumped. As much as she hated to admit it, she needed his help. He was a genius at experimentation, able to see how a potion came together in his mind before he even started brewing. She bit her lip, mentally hearing his snide voice tell her that he had been so certain she would muck it up. Had she prepared the unicorn placenta incorrectly after all? Could she deal with his veiled I-told-you-so comments? That was just a chance she would have to take. He would bring in a fresh perspective and hopefully find she had overlooked, and they could spend time together away from the prying eyes of the students.
She went over to the fireplace, tossed in a bit of Floo powder, and called into the flames. No answer. He was probably still doing rounds. She grabbed a quill and parchment, scribbling a hasty note.
Need a second opinion. Will make it worth your while.
Either way it would get his attention. Dispatching it with a house-elf, Callista re-read the notes. It wasn't long before the fireplace flared brilliant green, and Severus's thin frame stepped into the room.
"Problem?" he asked smugly.
"A slight snog, I mean, snag." Cheeks flaming, she handed him the notes, her fingers brushed against his. The contact made her tingle, and a fleeting look in his dark eyes confirmed he felt the same before he turned his attention to the task at hand.
"Here." Callista leaned over to point at the notes, intentionally pressing her breast against his arm. She smiled at the sharp intake of breath. "Things weren't progressing."
"You decided to request my expertise." The fingers of his left hand trailed delicately down her back, resting on her hip.
"You know I value your experience." Molding herself to his side, Callista could hear his heartbeat quicken. She lifted her face, and he captured her mouth in raw kiss that left them both breathless at the parting.
"Work before pleasure," he said, disengaging himself. "What are you trying to do?"
"Reconstitute the dried unicorn placenta, but it's too mushy."
He frowned. "What method were you using?"
Callista sighed. "Cold water hydration."
"You should know never to use cold water on any you want to keep firm." Severus shook his head and took his wand, tapping the container, slowly heating the water. The shriveled organ began to show signs of returning to its original state. "As you can see, a gradual application of heat can bring about the desired results."
"May we further examine that theory?" she asked. "We both love to explore new possibilities."
Callista pressed against him, feeling his rising need. They were not going to waste this opportunity. When she met his gaze, there was an unmistakable glint in his eyes as he began to caress her. Severus pressed his lips to her neck, whispering, "The process could take some time."
"Really?" Her fingers were in his hair, and she inhaled his intoxicating, masculine scent.
"Yes, an hour or more." He was undoing the front of her robes.
She pulled him closer, asking, "How will we pass the time?"
"I have a few ideas," he said. "Are you in the mood for more experiments?"
Callista guided him towards the fireplace. "I think we may need a more appropriate workspace."
Some time later Severus slouched against the headboard of his bed, catching his breath. Satiated, Callista curled up against him. "Was it worth your while, Severus?"
"Very much so." He pressed his lips to her forehead. When he spoke again, his words were edged with mock-sarcasm. "I suppose you used your problem with the potion as a thin excuse to ask for my assistance." A smirk played at his lips as he teased. "Even Longbottom could have worked it out."
"Oh?" She averted her eyes. In hindsight, the solution was glaringly obvious. But if he wanted to view it as an excuse, so be it. "I should have known you'd find me out."
Tracing the line of dark hair on his belly, Callista said causally, "I would like for us to continue working together and be partners in every way."
"Partners in every way," he agreed, kissing her again.