He threw the Lumos out from his wand toward the last spot he'd seen her. The light traveled down the side of the mountain like a Bludger, bouncing off outcroppings and the odd growth of fauna until it came to rest on what now appeared to be a rock ledge. He couldn't see much more than that, but he suspected the ledge might be acting as a doorway to a cave.
There had been no sign of movement any lower than that, but he couldn't be sure; he was losing daylight fast. Taking a deep breath, willing his natural fear of heights to lie quietly, he jumped down to the ledge, using wandless magic to slow his fall. The last thing he needed to contend with up here was a broken ankle. Bad enough she was injured, if indeed she was.
He landed lightly, quickly turning to find the cave, as he'd expected. Listening intently, he heard no sound from within. That could only mean she'd stopped moving, wanting to avoid alerting him to her presence. Lighting his wand, he entered the cave, hoping it didn't wind up having more than one direction to follow. The sooner he found her, the sooner he could try to straighten out this whole fiasco. What a monster she must think him!
And to think, just yesterday, she'd been happy to be with him.
Severus had been surprised when the usual obstacles hadn't kept him from going to Greece for his summer holiday, and he hadn't even been all that annoyed that Albus and Minerva had tagged along as well. Greece had long been a favored spot for the British wizards and witches; they could relax here, without having to worry about Muggles catching on about them, even should they happen to see magic being used. They simply looked the other way, being convinced that anyone who was not Greek was weird anyway.
And so, he'd begun to really enjoy his time off, even to the point of making the acquaintance of Gail. He'd bumped into her in the pub a week ago, causing her to drop the drink she'd been carrying. Apologizing profusely, he'd helped her wipe up what he could. He'd been just soused enough to try to wipe away the wetness from her blouse, and instead of slapping his face, she'd laughed and simply grabbed his hand to stop him. He'd been encouraged, and had spent the rest of the evening getting to know her better, in spite of the amused and indulgent eyes of Albus and Minerva. The hell with them, he'd thought at the time; Gail was too intriguing to let slip away simply because of outside interferences.
He'd found her to be charming, intelligent, and very nice to look at. Never before had he been so hell-bent on pursuing a woman. And she had seemed to return his enthusiasm, letting him know where she was staying, how long she'd be in town, and where she lived when she wasn't on holiday.
Meppershall. Just a quick pop of an Apparation from Hogwarts. Everything pointed to a possible relationship.
When he'd awoken the next morning with a slight hangover, he couldn't believe how much he was looking forward to seeing her again. Positive that she'd given him a phony address and phone number, he'd nevertheless set out after breakfast to find her.
Afraid of scaring her off with a phone call, he'd simply located her hotel and knocked on her room door. She had answered it quickly, smiling brightly at seeing him there. They'd enjoyed each other's company through the following week; dancing, dining, and even just walking around town, taking in the sights. When he learned that she was leaving soon to return home, he made plans to cut short his own stay in Greece to follow her. He hadn't hesitated to take her up on her invitation to stay with her in Meppershall for the rest of the summer.
She was leaving tomorrow. Well, she would be, if he could get her out of the cave and back to town. It was hard to reason with her, now that she was convinced that everything she'd come to know about him was false.
He carefully picked his way past the narrow opening of the cave, listening for movement, the almost silent sound of breathing. He followed the echo of moisture dripping, almost sure he heard a footstep scraping across rock. Muttering a silencing charm on his own footsteps, he quickened his pace, following the passage until it opened off to the left.
There she was, trying to hide in a non-existent corner. As he approached, he saw her pull into a ball, making herself as small as possible, just like a wild animal hiding from a deadly enemy. His heart cried, knowing the fear she was feeling. Fear of him. He pushed on, forcing his presence on her and kneeling beside her.
He slowly stretched his hand out toward her, his heart breaking further when she flinched away from him. He relentlessly pushed onward, gathering her into his arms and holding her tightly when she would have fled. He could feel her trembling, and he began to whisper to her; his words were nonsense, his hands were soothing her. Gradually, either from surrender or exhaustion, her trembling began to subside and he could feel her relaxing.
He, in turn, could feel his muscles ease somewhat, his nerves began to calm. And so when the pain in his solar plexus hit him, he was unable to take a breath for a long moment. When he could, he belatedly gripped her tighter, but she hadn't made a move to escape. She'd hit him in anger or frustration, not in defense, and he guessed that was a good sign.
"Why did you do it?" she demanded. "Why did you kill that defenseless animal? I know enough about your world that killing a unicorn is one of the worst things you can do."
"It wasn't a unicorn," he began.
"Don't hand me that! I know a unicorn when I see one."
"It was an Animagus. He was only a unicorn when he wanted to be. Normally, he was a Dark wizard. This particular Dark wizard had been a fugitive from justice for the last seventeen years. He's responsible for the deaths and torturing of too many innocent people to count. And it was either kill him or be killed."
"But isn't your soul damned to hell or something now?"
"Yes. But not for this. He was not a unicorn, Gail."
He pulled her close, murmuring into her ear as he unobtrusively ran his hands over her, checking for injuries. She appeared unhurt, and her arms came up to encircle his neck. He buried his face in her hair, thinking about spending the rest of the summer in Meppershall. There had never been any unicorn sightings there.