The waves splashed to the sandy beach. The mild wind drove scattered clouds across the sky sending moving shadows over the sand. The thunderstorm two days ago washed seaweed and shells ashore. Eileen made first steps on the soft underground, still supported by her mother. The cold water fascinated the bare little feet of the girl and the white clams inspired to use the subconscious summoning skills whenever Eileen was unable to reach the object of desire.
“Excellent,” cheered Leonor whenever Eileen’s magic worked successfully.
Severus grinned, “Flitwick would be proud to see a first year managing that with a wand and a spell.”
“Unspoken magic,” smiled Leonor, pride in her voice.
Marcus enjoyed the afternoon walk too. He had been whiny in the morning, still unsettled and tired of the birthday celebration the night before. The fresh air and the sunshine did good to him. He huddled against his father’s chest as always, safely embraced by Severus’ arms who showed him stranded items to touch and feel.
“Marcus can also relax in the sand; he’ll get pampered if you carry him around all the time,” said Leonor, a wide grin on her face when Eileen lifted a black mussel and pulled a disgusted face about the fishy smell.
“He won’t,” answered Severus and a line appeared in between his eyes. “He’s just three months old and was born at least two weeks early.” Severus changed into the defence mode whenever Leonor said something about him and Marcus that sounded vaguely as criticism.
“I just meant that he might enjoy touching the warm sand. And I wonder if Marcus attempts the same summoning charms as his sister. I’d like to know if you notice something,” hissed Leonor back.
“No, he doesn’t want to sit in the sand. He’s fine with me. There’s no need to use magic,” snarled Severus.
Leonor just shook her head. “—as if you could stop him using magic!”
Severus looked sullen.
“Tomorrow you’ll teach him how to brew potions,” smirked Leonor lifting Eileen in the air. Their daughter giggled excitedly.
“Indeed, that’s what I do next,” said Severus curtly. “Marcus sleeps better if he can learn things with enough time.”
“Come on! There’s no need to argue on such a good day.”
Leonor approached Severus. Eileen stretched her arms to demand Severus’ attention. He had no other choice than sitting with his children down in the fine golden sand.
“Do you really think Marcus will enjoy potions?”
Severus shrugged; a muscle twitched on his temple. “It’s a quiet work. Loud noise is confusing to him.”
“Give it a try,” smiled Leonor genuinely. “He’s more uneasy than Eileen in the same age.”
Eileen and Marcus played now on the colourful patchwork blanked. Leonor lay on her back, the eyes watching the seagulls circling the sky. Severus sat relaxed and with drawn in knees next to Eileen, helping her to dig holes to find more shells or rounded stones.
“I’ll sort out some things in the next days. Will you manage alone, Leo?” said Severus softly into the peaceful silence.
Leonor frowned. “You are going to the ministry?”
“Not yet. I need to check my—, I should pay a visit to Spinner’s End.”
“What if the Aurors observe the house?”
“Not after two months and not when Potter reported that I died in front of him.”
“The ministry still searches your corpse.”
“Oh yes!” smirked Severus. “I forgot that Rita Skeeter brought a mystery to the light. Potter reported my death but without a dead body.”
“It’s an oddity at least. Nobody believes in the theory that Death Eaters rescued dead fellows.”
Severus snorted. “There are no alive Death Eaters of the inner circle left except Lucius and I; everybody else claims to have been put under the Imperius Curse, probably even rightly so.”
“Do you miss anybody? Minerva perhaps?”
Severus stared into the distance. They both mentioned neither Hogwarts nor the Dark Lord until now, except the facts that led to the downfall of the evil.
“I’d like to know how Draco is doing,” said Severus quietly.
“He’s been lucky that the ministry put an arrest aside. Exams are scheduled for October and Minerva as the new headmistress pushes to make use of it instead of repeating the full school year. The destruction of Hogwarts seems to give her headaches about housing all students properly.”
“Draco should put his nose into the books; it keeps the head focused.” Severus got up and paced back and forth. “The fortune of the family cannot help him, all temporarily confiscated.”
“Severus—,” whispered Leonor. “Draco will manage, also without money. I think of him too, and a bit of Narcissa. I’m not sure if they had grown so bigoted without Lucius and Bellatrix.”
“Lucius may have learned something recently. Bellatrix was a lost case — in love with the darkest wizard of all times,” gnashed Severus and shook his head.
“Have you ever considered to escape England? It’s still a possibility.” Leonor asked with care into the thoughtful silence.
“I’m tired from hiding, had enough of a double life,” spat Severus. When Leonor looked conscious stricken, he continued milder. “You ‘travelled’ ample in your life too. How many names did you use? Would it make you happy to continue a new quest, moving from one place to another whenever there is the slightest idea of being identified? I felt nowhere home or welcome when I was a child. I don’t want that for Eileen and Marcus.”
“I’m not completely sure that you will escape unscathed from the wizarding court. The Aurors are searching to sentence followers of the Dark Lord but there are only a few remaining for minor crimes. It makes me uneasy.”
Severus stopped pacing and looked at Leonor; his eyes brimmed with concern. “They cannot hurt me, not anymore.”
“We’ve been undyingly lucky. Our family survived. I cannot get Nymphadora and Remus out of my head. I received Andromeda’s note about the birth of Edward Lupin a day before Marcus’ birthday. The little boy is now an orphan, living with his grandmother.”
“Tonks was a good Auror, a pleasant student, not so big-headed like Gryffindors. A pity—” said Severus, obviously dwelling in memories.
“Let’s go back, it’s getting cold.” Leonor brushed over the goose bumps on her skin and took Marcus in her arms adding quickly, “Sev, please walk with Eileen. I have a pain in my back from bending down and straightening up all day.”
The easy mood was suddenly gone, and they walked to the cottage without speaking.
The next morning started equally tense. Severus got up early. He leaned against the windowsill with a mug of black tea, stroking the miserable looking Phoenix. Then he inspected the wizarding robes he wore on the day of the final battle; everything looked new again. Magic cleaned and repaired what would have been lost otherwise. In the end he decided with a grim face to take a cloak and wear the muggle clothes beneath.
“When are you leaving?” questioned Leonor, sitting on the kitchen table feeding Marcus. Eileen helped herself with porridge and fruits.
“Soon,” replied Severus sparsely.
“But you come back tonight?”
Severus grunted something that sounded like a ‘yes’ and sat down, picking a toast. “Do you mind if I bring some things here?”
“No. Why should I? What do you plan with the house of your parents?”
“Do you still have personal things in Hogwarts? I mean things you like to have back?”
“Books. I hope Irma puts them to the library.”
“She will.” Leonor squeezed Severus’ hand, a gesture he thanked with a wry smile.
Severus threw the cloak over his shoulders and hugged Eileen and Marcus, pressing them a sweet kiss to the forehead. “Be good,” he whispered leaving them and Leonor alone for the first time.
“I follow you to the door,” whispered Leonor, her voice shaking. She straightened Severus collar, resting her fingers on his chest. “Take care. I wait for you tonight.” Her cheeks flushed in a light shade of pink. She could not have looked prettier, or more desirable, the hair still tousled from sleep and the black dressing gown allowed feeling too much skin.
Severus wanted to kiss her, both types of kisses tender and hungry. He decided for the tender one; the passion was for the day when everything was settled.
“Don’t worry. I won’t be too long away.”
Then he walked swiftly across the sandy ground with the bristle oat bending in the sea breeze. He turned on the spot and vanished right after the kissing gate.
Two weeks later
The neglected narrow house appeared lost in the dirty lane. A grab dredger tore down the buildings at the other end of the cobbled street. The construction noise drifted through the dust-laden air. Spinner’s End was scheduled for soon demolition.
A witch gave birth to a dark-haired boy thirty-eight years ago and that man sold the house with the tiny backyard. Severus Snape walked down the narrow staircase and turned in the living room. The furniture had been removed — the size of the working-class home issued the feeling of a poor cage to live in. No clue told that a wizard owned the place for years. Severus Snape closed the front door carefully as if banging it made a difference. He learned that; the boy and the grown man survived by behaving silent, coming, and leaving unnoticed had been essential. Every muggle left Spinner’s End meanwhile, the windows of the neighbours’ houses stared at him, black and blind. The riverbank and the playground were already overthrown and straightened for the first new houses in Cokeworth’ first class residential area.
A last time Severus Snape looked down the street; a stray cat vanished behind a broken windowpane. A reasonable amount of muggle money was stashed in the wizard’s pocket. If Tobias Snape knew, he turned green for envy that Severus got such a good price for the ground. The thought of leaving forever filled Severus with nothing more than indifference. He left the place with a quiet plop wrapped in a cloak attracting no attention at the destination.
Most shops in Diagon Alley were still closed at the early hour of the day. A hooded man in a heavy black travelling cloak headed swiftly towards Gringotts and a goblin admitted him into the bank immediately. It took a while before the man exited through a side entrance with a portfolio and hurried along some backstreets to Knockturn Alley. There he entered a filthy tavern which was empty with exception to a young man with white-blond hair.
Draco Malfoy looked even paler than Severus remembered him, the pointed chin more prominent, the eyes a mask of false toughness. The older man ordered a drink for both and sat opposite the boy without lowering the hood.
“How are you?” asked Severus and Draco almost jumped by the mild intonation; then he nodded as if everything was alright.
“How are your parents? Is your mother alright?”
“Detained at home, more comfortable than in Azkaban,” muttered the boy with a bit of confidence. “Mum’s unsettled, father copes better with the situation that the Wizengamot prepares a full-blown trial.”
“When?” asked Severus slightly alarmed and swallowed the amber liquid. The disgusting taste shook him.
“Earliest in September. Goodman says that the ministry prepares a directive about how to deal with supporters of— him.”
“He’s gone forever,” replied Severus quietly touching Draco’s hand, but he jerked it away in distress.
After a tense silence, Severus continued to speak. “Who’s Goodman?”
“Goodman & Webb, the law office at the end of Diagon Alley.”
“Did Lucius hire them?”
Draco shook his head. “I do a traineeship there and hear certain things. Perhaps I can help. Goodman says that it’s better to be humble and rueful in our case.”
“You like to become an attorney?” asked Severus curiously.
Draco looked to his pale hands on the sticky table. “It’s interesting.” A small smile flitted across his face. “Goodman expects that I pass the exams first.”
“Well done,” said Severus with admiration. “Where do you live, still at home?”
“No. I have a room for rent above the office.”
“Do you cope with the situation?”
Draco swallowed the bad whisky, pulled a face, and nodded. The boy looked older, grown up perhaps.
“Send a note to Leonor Scott’s apothecary if you need help, alright?”
“The apothecary is closed,” replied Draco defiantly.
“The mailbox is checked daily — and no word to anybody that I am alive, also not to Lucius or Narcissa,” added Severus threateningly calm.
“You wriggle yourself free! Why are you still here? You could have fled!” The expression in Draco’s face changed from defiance to desperation.
“No need to get despaired. Your parents are not yet convicted,” hissed Severus.
“The odds are against them.”
“Concentrate on the exams, Draco. You cannot change the opinion of the ministry. Look forward.”
“I won’t manage the exams in October. I worked on the wrong things for two years,” sniffed the young man and slumped down.
“Listen Draco, I’ll come soon into the open, and then we see what will happen. You’ll understand one day why I have responsibilities that needs clarification before. I met you to offer help if you want it. Understood?”
Draco nodded once again and blushed ashamed saying, “Mother always relied on you. Your praise protected me from— him.”
“Precisely! See you soon and Leonor is adept in many things you need for the exams. She will help you no matter what happens to me or your parents. You can rely on her,” said Severus with a firm voice. “Perhaps she needs also a helping hand when I’m gone.”
Severus scrutinized Draco fearing that his private plans got jeopardized by a too soon discovery. He wanted to make the way to the ministry out of his own free will and not lead away in handcuffs.
When Draco’s looked up and nodded, the former teacher gave a curt nod and left the tavern thrusting some sickles to the counter.
Leonor squinted against the rising sun. “Where are you going today,” she yawned crumbling a biscuit for a tiny Flint who vanished into fire the day before. Now the bird was grey and naked and snuggled into the nest of ashes.
“Nowhere,” called Severus walking into the kitchen with damp hair and a towel around his shoulders.
Leonor raised an eyebrow. Severus had been travelling almost daily and mentioned nearly nothing about his business, except that the muggle house in Cokeworth needed attention.
“Finished in Cokeworth?” she said nosy but without hope to hear something new.
“What are your plans for today?” asked Severus. It sounded like a change of topic. He had not asked for a while.
“I have two home visit requests. If you stay here, I seize the opportunity to leave.”
Leonor gave Severus a reproachful look. The last two weeks had been weird with an uncommunicative and unresponsive man in the house. Even Eileen cried once, unsatisfied with the excuses of her father letting the family alone. The situation improved slightly after that at last.
“No problem, I’ll take the kids to the beach and take a swim. Do you need to do something else?”
“Marcus and Eileen need something for the coming season. The wind makes it sometimes chilly outside.”
Severus grinned amused and in a good mood, shoving a mug with coffee into Leonor’s hand while he nipped his tea. “I suggest you go shopping and buy something for you too.”
“You are very generous, Sev. What happened to you overnight?” Irony dripped from Leonor’s words.
Severus pouted moving closer, pushing Leonor a step backwards and against the windowsill he tilted his head brushing his cheek against hers.
“Go out,” he whispered in her ear. “You’ve been locked up long enough.”
“Alright, I’ll apparate after breakfast,” she said cocky and escaped from the trap rushing towards the wardrobe getting dressed quickly.
Severus moaned being always aroused in the morning and today he wanted her a lot. In the last two weeks, he exercised restrained and that made it even worse, and she knew that. He grinned with pleasure opening the bedroom door carefully. Leonor wore already jeans; the fly was still open. The upper body still naked except the thin black bra.
Severus took the blouse from Leonor, embraced her waist, running his hands up and down her side and pressing a tender kiss to her neck.
“The children—,” she reproached.
“—are playing for a while, come!” Severus pulled her away, leaving the bedroom door just slightly open. “They cannot see us, but we can hear them.”
“You ignore me for days and then you plan a tryst right after getting up,” mumbled Leonor tenderly; she could not be mad with him when he showed the emotional side.
He looked deep in her eyes, searching for the burning passion that matched his hunger. He took a step backwards and unclasped the bra, taking the straps down slowly before massaging the exposed female curves with his thumbs. Then he shoved the blue jeans down her legs. He hastened as if the seconds were too precious for ticking away. The morning sunlight bathed the room with a white glow, illuminating a perfect body.
Looking at her he said slightly breathless, “That is incorrect.” He continued pressing featherlight kisses to her mouth and down to the navel and the scars on the sweet belly. “I wanted you, now. I don’t need a plan, just need you close.”
Severus lifted her up and smirked mischievously, “—and I know you want me. Sofa or guest room?” Her breasts pleased him, responding to every caress, the rosy ripe buds dancing in front of him.
“Sofa,” whispered her quiet voice tinged with sex and sin. Leonor accepted the challenge of the unknown place for being intimate. She put her arms around his neck, pressing the naked skin against him. It made him crazy. Her eyes showed no fear, no hesitation, only trust, open and pure when he laid her down.
“You smell so good, like a bed of flowers,” murmured Severus hoarsely concentrating to undress himself equally fast. When he was ready, he sank to his knees, trailed the suntanned silky body with his tongue and finally captured Leonor’s mouth with a possessive kiss, parting her lips and pressing her hard to the upholstery, his fingertips kneading the female curves with the stiff velvet peaks and a growing devotion.
He couldn’t deny her nor his own need for a moment longer. Severus withdrew from affection lately and missed it as he never missed something before. His business was settled, and the way forward was clearer than ever; Leonor meant all the world to him.
“Make love to me, now.”
Her words trembled under his touch and his limbs responded to the plea, hardening to the point of pain. Slim fingers moved suggestively to the overly sensitive spot coaxing sounds of passion from her dusky lips. Finally, he touched and straddled the soft thighs before climbing on top, his hands holding her hips and legs in place for the special pleasure of an unexpected play. Leonor’s fingers drew incoherent patterns over his back and down to his buttocks where she gently pressed her fingertips into the muscle. Severus blood raced through his veins at her eager response.
Severus held Leonor close, hands entangled in the hair, lips grazing lightly over cheeks and neck. The warmth of the bodies created a feeling of relaxed vulnerability, the morning air now cool against the skin. They were still filled with emotion, every small move still a tentative exploration. What began as a spark of awareness took a turn to something more demanding, far more fulfilling, far more beautiful and a hundred times more lasting than simple lust.
Tender voices escaped from the other room, one hungry the other looking for distraction. It was time to get going.
“Didn’t you want to go out?” said Severus cheekily, kissing Leonor again and brushing his fingers along her waist. He did not want to let her go although it was a good opportunity preparing for tonight.
“Well, it was your idea in first place.” Leonor traced her lips along Severus’ neck, caressing gently over the scars. She could go with him to bed or continue here but working and concentrating on business seemed almost impossible now.
Severus hands rubbed Leonor’s back and shoulders, and he groaned in frustration to let go before saying, “Should we check what our children are doing?”
“I’ll look after them and you make toast.” Leonor looked suddenly worried and a bit ashamed. The sofa with the innocent English roses got suddenly a new meaning, likely she blushed whenever walking past in the future.
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