Turn of the Tide
The handle turned and the door creaked open.
Severus saw the booted foot of Amycus Carrow stepping into the room and heard the gabbling tones of his sister, Alecto, as she pushed her way through the entrance.
A moment later Severus felt Contessa’s warm fingers wrap around his jaw. She turned his head, forcing his gaze to meet hers again; her face, her lips, mere inches from his.
“Open your mouth,” she whispered.
Severus noticed his heart racing and he complied without thinking.
Contessa placed the succulent end of the strawberry between his teeth. Her warm breath stroked his cheek as she laughed gently. Severus’s senses came alive as he took a bite of the red fruit, the juicy flesh melting sensuously on his tongue, contemporaneously sweet and tart. He closed his eyes as he chewed and swallowed, luxuriating in the sensations enveloping him.
Severus felt the soft warmth of Contessa’s weight above him, the tickle of her cascading hair on his neck and shoulders, the nearness of her face and the flow of her breathing.
When he opened his eyes again he was met by two oceans of cerulean blue, shining with reflected sunlight.
She blinked, and the connection severed.
Just as Severus began to regain his internal locus, Contessa dipped her head and brushed her lips against his neck. Sparks of tingling current erupted down his spine as she nibbled delicately on his collarbone. A minute arch in the crook of his back caused his chest to rise, pushing Contessa’s moist lips onto his skin.
The sensation was like nothing he’d ever experienced before, so innocent in comparison to his previous encounters with women, yet somehow more electrifying and erotic. Somewhere, in the dampened-down recess of his thoughts, he wondered how that could be possible.
It was only when Amycus spoke that Severus realised he had stopped breathing.
“Evenin’, Snape,” the Death Eater grunted. “What’s all this?” he asked, pointing at the champagne bottle and the box of chocolates on the coffee table.
“Ain’t it a bit early for Valentine’s Day?” Alecto chimed.
Severus forced his brain into action, trying to ignore the tickle of Contessa’s hair as she worked her way slowly down his chest. He noticed her mouth was no longer making contact with flesh; she was hiding from the Carrows behind the shield of her hair.
Instinctively, his hand reached out for Contessa and his fingers slid into her tresses, pulling the curtain away from her face. The loss of her safeguard caused her to look up, startled. Before he even knew what he was doing, Severus’s thumb was stroking her bottom lip, which he noticed was trembling slightly under his caress. He felt a heady rush of power.
Contessa responded in one smooth movement, sliding her leg to one side and moving to lie down beside him. Her back was towards the Carrows as she refocused her attention to his torso, kissing his ribcage with her mouth, followed soon after by the warm flick of her tongue.
Severus was suddenly grateful she had dismounted before he disgraced himself.
“We’ve started a little early, that’s all,” Severus said, noticing his voice was husky and deep. “We intend to make a weekend of it.”
He felt Contessa’s hot breath against his stomach as she paused. The sensation was exquisite.
“Well,” Alecto said gruffly, “What we’ve got to discuss won’t wait ‘til Monday, Snape.”
“Surely, Alecto, school matters will keep until morning?” Severus replied, realising just how much he wanted the Carrows to leave.
With a jolt, he noticed Contessa lips had travelled further south than either of them had intended; they hadn’t planned anything beyond this point in the charade. His elbow nudged the cool glass bowl on the floor beside him.
Severus plucked another strawberry and reached out for Contessa. His fingers felt the warmth of her scalp as he wrapped them around the back of her neck. As he pulled her towards him, the chain around her neck slipped and the Tiger’s Eye ring fell from underneath her blouse, landing on the exposed skin of his torso.
The silver band tingled as it dragged against Severus’s chest and suddenly Contessa’s thoughts rang simultaneously through his mind.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
Her fear of failure crashed through Severus’s body and he knew, indisputably, that he had voyaged unintentionally into Contessa’s mind.
When the ring left his skin it was as though he had been hit in the face with a cold, hard slap. An icy shiver descended his spine and he sobered instantly.
Then a vice of iron tightened around his chest: he had been a fool to think she might return his feelings.
The muscles of his jaw tightened as he offered the strawberry to Contessa. She stared, wide-eyed, for a moment, then opened her mouth timidly.
Severus smiled nastily when he whisked the fruit away at the last second, stuffing it smartly into his mouth.
This time he tasted nothing.
He pushed Contessa away, sat up quickly and hoisted himself to his feet. Severus half-buttoned up his shirt and offered his hand out to Contessa as if she were an afterthought. Appearing disconcerted, she grasped his hand and followed him to the sofa. As he fixed the last button, he felt Contessa’s hands slide around his waist. He forced himself to shake off the sensation, reminding himself it was merely pretence.
He slouched to a sitting position and patted his lap, signalling for Contessa to join him. She reclined on the sofa, lying down on her back, with her head resting in his lap. Severus didn’t look at her.
“Pass me that bowl, will you, Amycus?” he said lazily.
Amycus huffed as he reached down to collect the strawberries and plonked the glass bowl on the coffee table in front of Severus.
The two Death Eaters sat themselves down on the opposing sofa. Alecto lifted the lid from the box of chocolates and helped herself to a truffle.
Severus leaned forwards and chose a small strawberry from the bowl. He dangled the red fruit above Contessa’s nose for a few seconds, before he let her bite into it with her teeth.
“What’s all this about then?” Severus asked Amycus, with tones of intolerance and boredom.
Amycus was poised to speak, but was superseded by his sister.
“It’s partly about that woman lying on your lap,” Alecto said, speaking through a mouthful of melted chocolate.
As the uncouth mastication of the truffle continued, Severus fought the urge to ram another chocolate down her throat.
“Oh, really?” he said.
“The time’s come for changes at Hogwarts,” Amycus said abruptly. “Discipline ain’t keepin’ the kids in line anymore. The problem needs sortin’ once and for all.”
“I would agree discipline can sometimes lack cohesiveness,” Severus replied, hoping to throw Amycus off track. “But individual teachers are responsible for punishments – it’s one of the many Hogwarts traditions we undertook to uphold.”
“Snape,” Alecto said, with a sneer of impatience. “The previous Headmaster was a Muggle-loving traitor. We’ve been here long enough to start makin’ changes, it’s time we ditched Dumby’s old ways and made up our own. If we don’t get to grips with the kids, there won’t be a school left to run.”
Alecto turned her attention to Contessa, who froze in Severus’s lap. “Your bit-on-the-side Potions Assistant is providin’ a soft option for the troublemakers,” Alecto continued. “That punishment’s nowhere near enough for the likes of Longbottom and Weasley. Penalties should be harsher. We can’t let them little shits take over Hogwarts.”
“Marchbanks is perfectly capable of meting out appropriate punishment,” Severus countered.
Alecto smirked. “Are you sayin’ she’d use the Cruciatus Curse on that runt, Longbottom?”
Severus felt Contessa’s shoulders tensing against his thigh. His heart skipped a beat when her lips parted and she inhaled a slight gasp. Quickly, he reached for another strawberry and placed it neatly in her mouth.
“The Cruciatus Curse is not going to be used as a standard punishment by any of the professors,” Severus said. “They will never agree.”
“That’s why you need to hand over control of discipline to us, Snape,” Alecto manoeuvred. “We’ll be firm and consistent. It’s the only way you’ll control the ringleaders of Dumbledore’s Army.”
Severus knew Alecto had backed him into a corner. “I’ll think about it,” he said after a short while.
“What’s there to think about? Things are already out of hand.”
“There might be another solution.”
Alecto hissed snidely as she shook her head. “Happen I’ll see what the Dark Lord thinks?”
Her words provoked a stab of pain, as if Severus had been shot in the abdomen. He knew where Alecto was leading, and he knew couldn’t afford to follow. Severus couldn’t hold back the turn of the tide; his indecisiveness would ensure his swift demise.
“The Dark Lord would not wish to be consulted on a matter this small,” he said finally. “I shall announce to the school, presently, that Professors Carrow are to be placed in charge of discipline.” The words choked in his throat with a swirl of acid.
“A wise move,” Alecto mewed.
“Leave it to us, Snape. We’ll have them kids sorted out in no time at all,” Alecto affirmed.
Severus shuddered at the thought.
“We’ll let yeh get on with yeh romantic evening, then,” Amycus said, grunting as he stood up. The Death Eater offered out his hand to Severus, inviting a hand shake.
Severus pretended not to notice and turned his attention to Contessa, rigid and pale on his lap. He ran another strawberry against her cheek until it rested on her lips.
Out of the corner of his eye he watched the Carrows leave the room and the door closing behind them.
Contessa pushed away the strawberry and sprang immediately to a sitting position, resting with one leg wrapped underneath her. The change in posture flushed her face, long hair tumbled across her shoulders and her bottom lip quivered.
Such body language could have been construed as attraction or ardour, but Severus knew it was neither. More likely it was pity. And that was the last thing he wanted from her.
“Severus,” she said softly, “I’m so sorry – I think I made the whole thing worse. If I hadn’t agreed to Horace’s request –”
“No apology necessary, Contessa,” he said coldly.
Severus pulsed with satisfaction when he noticed her flinch at the renewed use of her birth name. The feeling was quickly replaced by a ripple of shame.
He needed her to leave before he betrayed his true feelings. Before he made a fool of himself. He wasn’t about to be stung by unrequited love for a second time in his life.
“You should go,” he said stiffly.
Contessa sat, quietly stunned.
When she reached out to touch his hand, he felt the warmth of her soft skin and he almost faltered.
“Go,” he said more firmly.
Her hand snatched away and he watched her uncoil her legs and rise up to stand. She lingered for a moment and Severus could feel her eyes burning through his curtains of black hair, seeking contact.
He retrieved his wand and cast a charm past her, opening the door ready for her departure. He continued to stare dead-ahead until she turned to leave.
“I’ll be back on Saturday night, then,” she said sadly.
“We have an appearance to maintain,” Contessa explained.
Severus didn’t reply. He wished he were a million miles away from her.
He heard the latch snap shut as Contessa left his quarters.