Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin, their respective horses, and a snake named AnubisWhere:
Hogwarts, then several miles (er...leagues) away by a small lake, then woods near HogsmeadeRating:
In order--G, then NC-17, then PG, then PG-13Warnings:
For the PG: kissing. For PG-13: vomiting/dry-heaving and flashbacks. For NC-17: sex. duh.Summary:
Rowena and Salazar go riding and end up far from the school. The distance creates an almost dream-like atmosphere in which it is easier to relax, and the usual tension falls away. Their relationship changes drastically in its tone and several issues are addressed, if not always in spoken words.NOTE:
I'm sure some people could care less about reading random useless sex, and if that is the case, then skip over that bit. It's toward the beginning, and all the things that are important to plot happen in the middle/end. In fact, the Viking plot actually begins
in this log, which is why I strongly suggest that you read at least the end.I'll take care of you, Salazar.
Isis was wrapped around Salazar's neck, and to some, it almost looked like she was comforting a lover. Her tongue flicked against the skin underneath his chin as he looked out onto the horizon from the bridge.
Salazar did not respond to her. He was too used to hearing her say things like that to ever bother with responses anymore. She was his best friend, and the only living being to ever know all of Salazar Slytherin's secrets. She was the only living being he trusted unconditionally. Naturally, he had told Isis all about the previous night in Rowena's chambers, to which she’d responded with a soft, almost jealous hiss.
Salazar's history with Isis coincided with the history of the Slytherins themselves. The wizarding and serpentine families have been connected since the Slytherins came to Britain around the first century. It was an odd relationship between wizard and serpent, to be sure.
Salazar stroked her head with his forefinger, and looked down at her fondly for the briefest of moments before turning to face the horizon again. He appreciated her words, but was too focused on other things to take them to heart.
Rowena glimpsed the still form of Salazar standing at the bridge from the window of the Great Hall. She had been passing through, answering the questions of the students in study hour, glancing over the shoulders of a few, giving and detracting House points as necessary. But she paused as she passed the window, breath releasing slowly, the room seeming to grow cold.
She brushed off the next few questions with instructions to look at a certain chapter in this book or that, slipping out of the Great Hall and walking with slow purpose to the bridge.
She stepped quietly, though perhaps this was not necessary, for Salazar did not seem at all to be aware of her approach until she was standing just next to him.
"The lake is lovely at this hour," she commented, leaning forward and pressing her forearms against the railing. And although she spoke of the water, her eyes were turned not toward the lake but to Salazar himself.
"It's the moon," he said softly, tensing up. She was far too close to him for his liking.
Rowena nodded, and her eyes turned toward the water at last, the silvery reflection of the orb of which he spoke shattered by the ripples in the lake. "Indeed," she murmured, resting her chin on the palm of her hand. The moonlight itself reflected off her hair, lending it a whitish glow. "What are you doing out here so late?"
"Thinking," he said vaguely. "Thinking" didn't exactly cover it. He had a red line going across his forehead from furrowing his brow. He only relaxed that part of himself when he noticed Rowena.
Rowena glanced at him once more, leaning forward over the railing as though to attempt to gaze into his eyes. "What about?"
This and that…." You. Salvatrix's grades. Last night. Isis. Our kiss...
"This and that."
Rowena's hands clenched tighter around the railing; over half her body was hanging over the side of the bridge, and she was not at all looking forward to the prospect of falling. Her knuckles were white, throwing the scratches into sharp relief, several of her fingertips still gauzed and bandaged where she had lost nails.
She did not look away from him.
Salazar removed Isis from around his neck and placed her down on the ground. She hissed her reluctance, but slithered away when Salazar asked her to.
"She has grown," Rowena said, nodding toward Isis and falling back onto her feet. "How long is she now?"
"Five meters." Isis was far different from typical European adders. Her line had been enhanced with special serums and potions, not only live longer, but to make them grow larger, more powerful and more venomous by Salazar's ancestors. Your serpent is your biggest ally
, Salazar's grandfather used to say to him.
"Impressive." Rowena rested her upper arms on the railing, dangling her forearms and hands out over the water. She tilted her head to the side to get a different view of the lake. "I do not think she cares much for me, though."
"The only woman she does not despise is Salvatrix," he said bluntly.
"What does she have against women in particular?"
Salazar contemplated her question, thinking over his answer so he wouldn't let anything slip. "She wants to be the only female in my life," he said finally.
"Oh. Well, that makes sense." Rowena kept looking at him, holding his gaze and wetting her lips, hands drawing back, fingers tapping at the wood railing. "She takes after you."
Salazar stiffened, and then slowly turned his gaze to her. He met her eyes straight on, the smallest flicker deep within the green irises. "What does that mean?"
"She is very opinionated. Very protective of what she considers to be hers." Rowena caught the glimmer in his eyes, though she was not entirely certain what it meant.
He relaxed and turned back to the lake. "She doesn't like Diana, either," he added. The last time his serpent and horse were within two meters of each other, Isis had sprung for Diana's neck. If Salazar hadn't been there with a shield charm, his beloved horse would have been dead before the antidote left the castle walls.
"Mmm." Rowena folded her arms over her chest, the autumn air having grown slightly chilly. "Serpents do not mix well with horses."
"That's too true for my liking," he muttered.
Rowena rolled her eyes, making sure he could see the expression. "Oh, yes," she said sarcastically. "We both know you prefer lies to anything else." Her tone was caustic, but it held amusement just below its surface.
Salazar stayed silent. he was she was jesting, but the part of him that searched for every little thing about her in order to inspire his hatred screamed in protest when he didn't storm away.
Rowena played with the ends of her hair, examining them by the light of the moon. "Anyway," she said, "we should go riding together."
Rowena shrugged. "Whenever you please. Tonight, tomorrow, next week…it makes no difference."
Salazar turned away and walked in the direction of the stables. Riding would be the perfect escape, he thought. She would be near him, but too occupied to talk.
Rowena nodded although he could not hear her, lifting her skirts slightly so that she could quicken her pace in order to keep up with his long strides.
The stables were near the gamekeeper's hut, past the end of the bridge, near the forest. Rowena's horse was a proud white stallion, a male with a penchant for galloping exceptionally fast and seducing every mare within a ten-meter radius. His name, fittingly, was Eros.
When he got to the stables, Salazar went straight to his black Irish horse, Diana. She kicked the ground happily when she saw him. Salazar and his horse shared a bond that he was never willing to share with any human.
Rowena glanced sidelong at Salazar as she swung herself up onto Eros' saddle, hitching her skirts up toward her hips and knotting them tight, comfortable enough with Salazar to be willing to let the majority of her thigh be less-than-modestly bared.
Salazar mounted Diana, and before he was even able to grab onto the reins, the horse galloped out of the stables and onto the grounds. Salazar was far too used to her excitement to be startled by this. It was the ultimate feeling of freedom for him, and in truth, he reveled in it.
Rowena dug her heels into Eros' sides, and he sprang into a gallop, determined in his own right to catch up to Salazar and Diana. It was a matter of pride for him, and for a moment Rowena's knuckles went white on the reins before she accustomed herself to the speed. It was seconds before they were level with Salazar, Eros grunting softly, Rowena herself slightly out of breath from the sheer exhilaration of it all.
Diana stopped at the gate, waiting patiently for Salazar to open it. Tonight she would not be content with riding around the grounds, and fortunately for her, neither was Salazar. He pulled his wand out of his pocket, and opened the gate. Before he even slipped it back into his pocket, Diana was darting to the village, Salazar's black cloak billowing behind them. If Salazar had his hood up, he could have looked like one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse darting through Hogsmeade.
Were Rowena been the type to express happiness in any way, she would have laughed, or at least smiled. As it was, though, she grit her teeth and leaned low over Eros' back, chest pressing to his spine, letting the wind whip over her body and speed their pace
Salazar felt strangely like he did in the heat of battle, when he rode Diana, sword whipping through the air like a silver blur. He put his hood up to take him back to those times (Diana was more than capable of steering herself, and Salazar always content to go wherever she took him) and he wished he would have thought to run back to his chambers to grab his sword to complete the look….
Rowena's legs were freezing cold, but the thought did not quite seem to register as she kicked Eros' side once more, spurring him onward until they had passed Salazar, galloping at nearly full speed, hair whipping out behind her, a stream of blood-stained ribbons.
Diana reared on her hind legs, neighing loudly, voicing her displeasure at being passed by Eros and Rowena. She then went full speed ahead, Salazar crouching low on her back until they were neck and neck with the other pair. Despite the sound of the wind whipping past them, Salazar could be heard laughing.
"Think it's funny, do you?" Rowena called out, lifting her voice to be heard over the hum of the wind against her ears. "We aren't even going full speed. We would hardly want to embarrass the two of you that
much." She quirked an eyebrow, the closest thing she would ever give to a smile, her hands moving from Eros' reins to instead curl in his mane.
"Have it your way, then," Salazar called back, bending even lower on Diana and jabbed his heels into her sides. They were far ahead of Rowena and Eros in a matter of seconds.
Rowena urged Eros onward, for despite his sweat-slick sides, she knew that he wanted to win this race as much as, or perhaps more than, she did. She was breathing shallowly, the thrill almost too much for her. It had been a long time since she had ridden, much less this fast, and rarer still with Salazar.
have it my way!" she yelled out to Salazar as Eros quickened his pace to ride at Salazar's side once more. “So I suggest you be prepared!”
Suddenly, Diana changed her course and headed straight for a lake two miles or so away. She skid to a stop at the bank, and expertly, Salazar managed to remain seated.
Caught off guard by the sudden change in direction, Eros came to a halt a second or two later, Rowena gripping his sides tightly with her legs to keep from falling off. She glanced toward Salazar, hair tangled and windswept about her face, a bloody halo.
"What's going on?"
"She wants a drink," he said, his voice soft with his exhilaration as he dismounted. He tucked Diana's reins into the saddle and she immediately bent her head over the lake to take a drink.
Rowena guided Eros over to the water, knowing that through pride he would never do so himself, before slipping off his back and unknotting her dress from around her hips, letting it fall to its full length. She nudged her horse with her foot, until he finally leaned forward to lap the water.
"This is nice," she said, glancing out over the lake and the continuing forest on the far shore. "I thought I had seen most everything in this area, but...it seems that I was wrong on that count."
"We've been riding at full speed for almost an hour," he pointed out. "I am not surprised that you have never been here before."
Rowena crossed toward the edge of the forest and sat down delicately, curling her legs up beneath herself and leaning against the trunk of a tree. She lifted a quizzical brow in Salazar's direction. "What, have you?
Salazar nodded, and sat down close to her. "How do you think she knew where to go?"
"Horses can smell water from several leagues away," Rowena said, the fact spilling from her lips almost automatically. The bark was rough against her back and she shifted slightly to get more comfortable, the movement unconsciously drawing her closer to Salazar.
"That is what brought us here the first time."
Rowena nodded, one hand reaching almost absently for a twig on the ground, bringing it to her lap, her fingers toying with its jutting edges. "Of course," she said softly, ratifying his words, turning her head to look at him, hair catching just slightly on the bark of the tree.
Salazar's face was still covered by his hood, but the smallest smile crossed his lips. His guard was down and, for the first time in a very long, he didn't care.
"I think I'm still out of breath from that ride," Rowena admitted, fingernail scratching along the twig, peeling off its thin sheath of bark. "And you might have been the victor this time, but I can promise you that I will win on the way back."
"How could you possibly be out of breath?"
"Exhilaration, Salazar. It is quite a pleasant feeling. You ought to try it, sometime," Rowena said, amusement high in her tone, tossing the twig aside. She was astonishingly at ease with him at the moment, and felt nearly happy, a sensation that she had not experienced in years.
"Exhilaration,” Salazar echoed. “Like this?" Without warning, he moved closer to her and brought his lips to hers, wrapping his fingers around the back of her head and parting her lips with his tongue.
Rowena made a surprised sound against his mouth, eyes wide and staring for a brief moment, her mind going completely and utterly blank. The shock of his action caused her heart to skip a beat, thrown into adrenaline and something like a defensive reaction. It was several seconds before she finally came to her senses, eyes fluttering closed and her body relaxing. Her lips began to move against his tentatively, well aware that any moment now he might pull away, tense and cold once more.
Salazar put his free hand on the small of her back, pulling her even closer to him. He didn't break the kiss, nor did he even want to.
Rowena felt heat ignite where his hand rested on her back, traveling rapid-fire up her spine and exploding in her stomach. One of her hands lifted of its own accord, despite her own trepidation, to caress his cheek, the backs of her fingers smoothing along his skin until she rested her hand on his neck, feeling his carotid artery pulsing rapidly against the side of her thumb.
Salazar's heart beat against his rib cage as he pushed Rowena onto her back and climbed on top of her, never breaking the kiss for even a split second.
Optimism and something akin to hope swelled in Rowena's chest as she finally let both hands touch him, curling one arm around to his back, fingers gripping his torso, her mind now quite colourful with the tide of emotions that his kiss had conjured.
Salazar kissed down her chin and along her jawline, moving his hand along one of her thighs and wrapping her leg around his waist beneath his cloak, which was sprawled over top of them like a blanket.
Rowena hardly cared any longer about the hard ground, or the rocks pressing into her spine. She pushed back the hood of his cloak with one hand, her fingers entangling themselves in his hair. Her own head tilted back, scalp pressed against a sharp twig, giving him access to the arch of her neck.
Salazar continued to kiss down her neck as he slipped his hand between them to undo his pants, and slip them down his thighs. He used the same hand to pull up the front of her dress. Kissing her once more, he thrust himself into her.
Rowena gasped in surprise, the sound muffled against his lips, eyes flying open. Her other leg now wrapped itself around his waist as well, her tongue exploring the interior of his mouth. The hand that had been curling itself around the back of his head slipped down his neck to instead grip his upper back.
Salazar was in too good of a mood to notice that as he thrust in and out of her, the slightest hint of his feelings poured into the movement. He broke the kiss and rested his head on the ground, his mouth next to her ear.
Rowena's eyes squeezed shut. She had never quite felt like this before, the rush of emotion high and sharp in her veins, every centimeter of her body on alert, teeming with firing nerves. It was a sensation of utter--well, exhilaration
, his body moving against hers, his breath hot against her skin, his weight pressing onto her chest and hips and legs."Salazar...."
Salazar moaned her name in Parseltongue in return. He placed his hand on her breast, caressing her through the fabric of her dress.
Rowena's head lifted upward, chin nearly touching her chest, each breath ragged in her throat. Sweat was already beginning to bead on her back and thighs, making her skin slick, her dress cling to her body. Her cheeks were tinged pink, eyes wide and glassy, hardly even seeing at all through the pleasure of his hand moving against her breast, and each thrust against her hips.
Salazar braced himself on his elbows and brought their lips together again, kissing her similarly as to how he had before their relationship became complicated by his feelings. The kiss was unguarded, natural.
The vulnerability of the kiss in itself was enough to send Rowena over the edge, mind spiraling into the most brilliant darkness she had ever seen, legs tightening around him, muscles straining against his body as she came powerfully, inhaling abruptly, and with the exhale her words were shaky, uneven. "Oh...oh God…Sa--Salazar...."
Salazar chuckled against her lips, quickening his thrusts to intensify her pleasure.
One of Rowena's hands fell back, palm pressed flat against the ground, fingers digging roughly into the dirt, gripping the earth as her eyes closed once more. She could not breathe for the taste of his lips, the feeling of his body between her thighs. It had been so long...too
Salazar pressed his face into her neck, now feeling close to climax himself. He pressed his body harder against her and quickened his thrusts even more.
Rowena's other hand drew down his back, pressing her nails into him through the fabric of his shirt, biting against his lips, bruising them. She was determined to leave her mark on his body, a mark that would still be there the next morning, and the morning after that, long after he had grown cold once more, as he so undoubtedly would....
Her right hand, palm now black with soil, came up to run through his hair and then press against his shoulder blade, pulling him down against her, pressing their bodies together, specks of dirt staining his skin.
Salazar came then, and he bit her collarbone with previously unseen gentleness.
Rowena came a second time, the climax stimulated merely by his own. A deep, shuddering breath escaped her lungs after the heat had passed, her body relaxing into the ground although her hands never stopped touching him.
Salazar lingered on top of her for a few more blissful minutes, for once feeling like the world was perfectly correct. He kissed her one more, before raising himself up on his knees and pulling his pants back up.
Rowena sat up as well, though more slowly, her skirt unfurling to pool against the ground around her knees. She leaned forward, hands resting on his thighs, smoothing upward toward his hips as she drew in to kiss him softly, gently, an emotion that she could not quite place pouring forth into his lips.
Salazar felt the spark that passed for her lips to his, and he inhaled sharply with surprise. He could not identify it, but his mind was screaming at him to pull away, his survival instinct kicking in full force. He pulled back, looking shocked and startled.
"I'm sorry," Rowena said quickly, drawing back, quite unwilling to invade his space and risk his anger. "I don't know...I shouldn't have…I’m sorry." She was slightly out of breath, eyes wide, holding his gaze.
"That's fine," he mumbled quickly, uncomfortably. He moved to lean against the tree with his gaze fixed on Diana, who was drinking from the lake again.
Rowena could feel his come, still hot, trickling down the inside of her thigh, though she ignored it for the moment. Her cheeks were flushed even yet from the combination of lingering pleasure and growing chagrin. She moved to lean against the tree next to him, though she put a tactful amount of space between their bodies.
Salazar ran his fingers through his hair, and felt the dirt clumped in his scalp. He jumped as if someone had pinched him from behind and quickly tried to wipe the dirt away.
Rowena glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "It's just a bit of dirt, Salazar," she said softly. "It will wash out easily enough."
She turned away from him, picking a twig out of her own tangled hair.
Salazar stood quickly, and began removing his clothes. The only he could endure the journey back to the castle was if he washed, even if he could only wash with water. Once he was completely naked, Salazar stepped down to the lake and walked in, ignoring the freezing cold of the water.
Rowena tilted her head back against the trunk of the tree as he washed, eyes falling closed, incapable of keeping them open at a time like this. It was...so awkward. Even though they had been getting along surprisingly well earlier, and he had initiated the sex...the tension was palpable.
Salazar submerged himself, running his hands hastily through his hair to dislodge the dirt. He ran his fingers though his hair again when his head broke the surface, checking for any left over dirt. Satisfied, he stepped out of the water.
Rowena did not even notice him getting out. One of her hands had found its way to the bark of the tree behind her and was picking at a knot, scarcely even breathing. Her legs tilted in toward each other, knees pressed together, drawn nearly to her chest. It was not a ladylike position at all, though Rowena was hardly in the mood to care.
Salazar dressed leisurely, enjoying the feel of the cool air on his wet skin. He put his hood over his face and sat down against the tree.
He looked at her curiously from under his hood. "I can see up your dress," he commented blandly.
Rowena's eyes flew open and she quickly adjusted her position, legs falling to the ground and automatically crossing at the thighs. "Pervert," she muttered, infusing her voice with light amusement despite her depressed mood.
"You put it on display," he responded, smiling slightly under his hood.
"So what if I did?" she said, turning her head toward him once more. "Admit it, you were looking." She arched an eyebrow, eyes glittering with an invisible smile.
"I thought that was obvious." Salazar laughed quietly, and then turned his attention to the lake.
The sun was just beginning to rise, gray light seeping over the horizon, casting shadows beneath the trees and across the valley. Rowena enjoyed the landscape for a moment, relaxing into a sort of contentment, given Salazar's lightening mood.
"It was," she agreed after a few seconds. "But hearing you admit it is so much more flattering."
Salazar laughed again and he muttered something, but the only intelligible word was "you".
Rowena glanced at him, picking a leaf out of her hair and letting the breeze carry it off her hand and toward the lake. "What was that?"
"Nothing," he muttered, shaking his head. "Nothing important."
"Normally I would not be able to tolerate that as an answer, but since the lake is so pretty, I think I will let you get away with it. Just this once." Rowena swept one hand through the colourful autumn leaves gathered on the ground, and they blew up automatically in the air, catching on the wind.
"Oh you will, will you?" Salazar chuckled, his mood brightening even more. He didn't know why he felt so light, and he didn't care. It was a pleasant change for him and he wanted to keep it.
"You made me come twice, you dirty bastard. You can get away with anything for an hour at least." Rowena threw a few of the leaves toward him, forgetting at least for the moment that she was supposed to be maintaining distance.
"Now you’ve done it," he said in a playfully threatening tone. Salazar grabbed a hand full of grass and dirt and threw it at her.
"Cruelty! I warn you, my liege, that my anger is easily ignited." Rowena knew that she could smile if she let herself, but for the moment she merely reached up and pulled a handful of leaves from the tree, letting them fall onto his hood and reached over to push some down the back of his shirt.
"Hey! Hey, hey, hey. That's just plain torture!" Salazar pushed her arm lightly, playfully.
"All is fair in the game of war. Didn't they teach you that in Strategy and Tactics?" She pushed him back, slightly harder than he had her, but still playfully, still teasing. She pushed back his hood with one hand. "Come, now, such a handsome face should never be shadowed." These words were followed by another handful of leaves on his head.
Salazar jumped into a standing position and brushed the leaves out of his hair and out from the back of his shirt. "You're making me itch," he said, and then suddenly had a deviously wicked gleam in his eyes. He suddenly grabbed her, lifting her into his arms and walked over to the lake. With a smirk, he tossed her into the water.
The freezing water shot Rowena through to the bone as she was submerged, but the shock quickly faded as her body adjusted to the temperature. She pushed herself up from the bottom, now thoroughly glad that she had taught herself to swim.
Pushing soaked hair out of her face, she fixed a furious expression on her face, stalking out of the lake. "You fucking bastard!" she yelled at him. "What the fuck
was that? How dare
In no more than a second, Salazar's mood dropped drastically and where he looked happy and amused, he now looked angry, and hidden underneath, hurt.
But Rowena was at his side in a second, and the slightest hint of happiness was in her eyes once more as she grabbed his arm, dragging him after him to push him into the lake, diving into the deep waters just after him, using the moment underwater to choke back a laugh.
Salazar was weighed down by both Rowena and his wet clothes, but he managed to kick to the surface to take in a deep breath.
Rowena surfaced a second later, pushing hair out of her face, both eyebrows raised, the air cold on her wet skin. "Serves you right," she said breathlessly.
Salazar splashed water in her face, laughing all the while. "And that
Rowena, serves you
Rowena pushed off the bottom for leverage and threw herself on top of him, dunking him under the water, holding him there for at least fifteen seconds before she let him free. "Victory!"
Salazar couldn't help but laugh when he reemerged, and the laugh was louder than it had been in years.
Rowena swam forward toward him and grabbed his head with both hands, kissing him briefly on the lips before releasing him and ducking under the water once more.
Salazar immediately followed her under the water, and he opened his eyes to look at her. The water was brown, and very few of the infant sunrays penetrated the surface, but he could see her hair floating about. It gave him a warm feeling in his chest.
Rowena had her eyes open as well, and the slightest hint of something like a smirk twinged at one corner of her lips. She swept her arms to the sides to propel herself forward and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him toward her and pressing her lips toward his again, opening her mouth only after she had already made contact and sucking slightly on his lower lip.
Salazar put his hands on her waist, pulling their bodies together. He felt sudden dizzy, but whether it was from being underneath the water or her kiss...
The air in their lungs brought them to the surface, but Rowena did not stop kissing him, though she drew back briefly to take a breath before her lips captured his once more. The contact made her heart race almost painfully fast.
Salazar pulled away from her, breaking the kiss, but he kept his arms around her. He studied her for a few moments, and something seemed different about her, but he could not quite place it. He supposed that it her better mood was simply having an effect on hers.
Rowena held his gaze for a moment, breathless, her shoulders rising and falling shallowly. She could not seem to draw her eyes away from his. The sensation was...almost hypnotic. It was several moments before she could speak.
"What is it?" Even her voice was soft, edged with lack of breath.
"Nothing," he answered quietly, but he continued to stare at her.
Rowena rolled her eyes and playfully splashed a bit of water in his face, running the fingers of one hand through his hair, mussing it until it was thoroughly tousled on his head.
"Hey!" Salazar splashed her in return, with more force than she had given him. "It's rude to mess with my hair."
"It was flattened down. I had to fix it." Rowena ran both hands roughly through her own hair, tangling it so that it hung in wet, untidy curls around her face. "There, happy?"
Salazar brushed her tangled hair behind her ear, his gaze drifitng down to her mouth. "It'll do," he said absently.
The slightest tinge of colour rose in Rowena's cheeks when she realized where his eyes had rested. There was a strange feeling twisting in her chest, and on impulse, she touched a hand to his cheek gently, running her thumb along his cheekbone.
Salazar froze suddenly, and then ducked under the water qucikly to shake off the feelings of discomfort and confusion. He stayed submerged, staring at her torso.
Rowena reached down, hands moving blindly for his arms. Finding them, she grabbed him around the torso and pulled him back to the surface once more. "Salazar," she said, seizing his gaze, "you have to kiss me. Right now."
"Why?" he asked breathlessly, wiping the water out of his eyes to see her better.
"Because I cannot resist you when you're soaking wet, that's why. It is maddeningly...what is the word? Sultry.
Salazar laughed, and kissed her deeply, putting his hands on her hips to pull her closer to him.
Rowena's arms automatically circled around his neck, one hand running its fingers up through his hair. She kissed him back with as much intensity as he gave her, pouring emotion and affection and passion into that one simple gesture, mind light and high due to the simple exhilaration of the kiss...and the heady knowledge that, at least for the moment, things were exactly as they ought to be.
Salazar never wanted the kiss to end, and that terrified him. If it lasted too long, when it ended he would go back to be cold and lonely, melancholy and angry. Still, despite his better judgment and his survival instinct kicking in, he did not break the kiss.
Rowena pulled away after a few more seconds and watched him for a moment, wetting her lips, even chewing on the lower one. "Well," she said, never unwrapping her arms from around his neck.
"Well," he echoed, though he had no idea what he was saying. A rock settled in his stomach once their lips parted, and it grew and grew as the sun rose.
"I think," Rowena said at last, "that kiss was perfectly wonderful, and we ought to return to the castle before the moment is ruined." She reached down and grabbed his hand underwater, squeezing it once.
He nodded and released her almost regretfully. Salazar walked out of the water, and immediately pulled out his wand to dry himself off.
Rowena did the same, taking a moment to pull her still-tangled hair up into an even messier bun, securing it there with a bit of twine. "Do you think we will make it back to the castle by breakfast?" she asked Salazar, turning toward him.
"I doubt it," he answered, walking over to Diana and rubbing her neck. "Breakfast is probably nearly finished by now."
"Should I miss my first class, I will be sure to direct all interrogative remarks toward you," Rowena said, throwing Salazar an amused glance as she beckoned for Eros, who trotted obediently to her side.
"You'll miss it," he said confidently, taking his seat on Diana's back. "Possibly your second class as well."
Rowena paused for a moment to tie her skirt up at her hips once more before swinging her body up to straddle Eros' saddle. "Well, so will you," she pointed out. "So don't sound so pleased."
"It's healthy to have a break every so often."
"It's even healthier to line up a substitute first." Rowena dug her heels into Eros' sides and he took off immediately, almost instantly accelerating to a full gallop.
Salazar and Diana moved along with a casual trot, in no hurry to get back to the castle and responsibilities.
When Rowena realized that Salazar was not just behind her, she wheeled Eros around and cantered back to him, turning once more to trot at his side. "It will take hours to get back if you keep that pace."
"That's the idea," he said, smirking out of the corner of his mouth that she could not see.
"Oh?" Rowena drew Eros closer to Diana, so that their sides were nearly brushing. "Aren't you hungry? At all?"
Rowena gave him an odd look, but did not question him further. Her bun was coming unraveled despite twine, and so she simply took it down and ran her fingers through her hair, catching on snags and tangles all-too-easily. Giving up, she began plaiting it over her shoulder.
Salazar whistled ever-so-quietly as they walked back to the castle, a cheerful, happy melody.
Rowena finished the braid and did not secure it; her hair was just wavy (and tangled) enough that it would not easily come undone on its own. She turned back to Salazar, reaching over to push him lightly with one hand. "Are you singing?
" she accused him.
He turned to her, and he fought to hide a smile. "I'm not allowed to be in a good mood?"
"It's such a rare occurrence," Rowena commented in amusement. "Besides, I don't believe I have ever heard you sing before."
"Not singing, whistling
"Sing," she demanded, pressing Eros closer so that her bare leg was pushing against his. "I want to hear what your voice sounds like."
For some reason, even the simple contact of their legs touching made a shiver run up Rowena's spine. She was far from virginal...closer to whorish, in fact, but even this mere touch was exhilarating.
"No." he shook his head firmly. "I do not
"I won't tell anyone, I promise," Rowena said playfully, eyes sparkling just slightly. "I will sing with you if it makes you feel any better. You know...'I'll show you mine if you show me yours,' and all that."
He shook his head again. "No."
Rowena rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever you please." She drew her horse away from his once more, pressing her shoes hard into the stirrups, the only inclination that she was at all trying to release pent-up frustration.
"Don't seem so upset," he said, "I never sing in front of anyone."
Rowena glanced at him, frowning. "I'm not upset. Disappointed, though, that you do not feel comfortable with me." Her gaze turned to Eros' mane, her fingers curling in the coarse hair, holding back the words she wished she could say.
"Don't take offense to that," he told her. "It makes you no different from anyone else."
Rowena turned to look at him so hard that it made a jolt of pain shoot through her neck. "Of course I take offense," she said, and her voice had gone very soft, barely audible. "Of course I do, Salazar. You don't understand, do you? I don't want to be just another colleague
to you. I want to be different. I want to be part of your life--." Suddenly Rowena cut off, reigning in Eros suddenly and slipping off his saddle, kneeling on the ground. A small garden snake lay on its back, twisted into itself, and it was obvious that it had broken at least two vertebrae.
Salazar watched her with a fixed blank expression when she spoke, and watched her curiously as she jumped from the saddle and knelt on the ground. "What is it?"
Rowena jerked her head once toward the snake. She was not certain if she ought to touch it; her knowledge of snakes was limited to the little that she saw of Isis. Perhaps it was best to let Salazar handle this.
"Broken spine, in at least two places," she murmured.
Salazar jumped down from the saddle and was next to the injured snake in a second. He spoke in Parseltongue to let the serpent know that he meant no harm, and that no harm would come to him while he was around. He gently ran his fingers down the snake's spine to judge the damage. He would need to take it back to the castle to completely heal the little thing.
"What happened to you?
" Salazar asked him soothingly.
"Big men in fur with thick metal. Stepped on me
," the snake replied, and Salazar looked suddenly, deadly furious.
Rowena looked at him, concern etched into the lines that had sunk into her forehead. "What is it?" she asked, fingers pressing hard into the dew-wet dirt. "What did he say?"
Salazar ignored her, and pulled out his wand to put charms on the snake to take half of his pain away, and to prevent any further damage on their journey back to the castle. Much to his displeasure, they would need to side slowly for the sake of the serpent.
He gently picked it up with one hand and cradled it to his chest. "Vikings," he hissed.
Rowena's eyebrows shot up and she stood quickly, never taking her eyes off of Salazar, even as she lifted herself back onto Eros' saddle. "How recently?"
"When did this happen?
"Before the last dark.
"Yesterday," he said to Rowena, jumping into the saddle and holding Diana's reins with one hand. He looked at their surroundings, trying to see if he could find any evidence of their direction. He found nothing.
Rowena sat still for a moment, not really seeing anything, chewing her lower lip. After a few seconds like this, she slid off her saddle once more and walked a few paces into the forest, trailing one hand along the trunks of the trees she passed, until she knelt at last, ten or so meters away. It was faint, but there was an indentation on the ground, the leaves flattened just slightly, more wet than they would have been normally. She glanced upward again, now along the trees. One, a birch, was missing a low, slender branch. It lay now on the ground, snapped in two.
Rowena gauged the angle between where she knelt and the tree.
"Northeast," she called back to Salazar, standing. "Or southwest, I suppose, depending on which direction they continued. Can you tell?"
"I think they were only scouting," he said, looking around again. "It's too peaceful now. I don't think there were many of them, twenty at most. Heading.... northeast."
Salazar sniffed the air, as if trying to catch their scent. "This doesn't make sense," he said after a few moments.
Rowena returned to the horses, though she did not mount Eros just yet. "No, it doesn't," she agreed, fingers curled loosely around her stallion's reins. "They should be coming from
the northeast. And scouting...they should be more spread out than this, shouldn't they?"
"They should," he agreed. Salazar now searched the skies, looking for any sign of smoke coming from a perhaps pillaged village. Nothing. He used Homenum Revelio
to check the trees around them. Nothing again. "They're gone."
"I will send out scouts in twenty-four hours. Four groups of six, each heading initially toward a major compass point. Fifteen miles in, they will split three-and-three, to circle through the minor points, then spiral in at different rates in different directions."
Rowena swung herself up onto the horse now, gripping his sides with her thighs. "That's all we can do for now."
Salazar nodded, and pressed his heels into Diana's sides to get her to move. Slowly and very queitly, Salazar began to sing to the snake in Parseltongue.
Rowena's eyebrows lifted almost instantaneously, though she was careful to not even glance at him, keeping her gaze fixed on the horizon. His voice was nothing extraordinary, but he carried it well, a low baritone, with a dark tone and a tessitura that comfortably ranged the notes straddling baritone and the slightly deeper bass-baritone.
Salazar sang a lullaby, a song he was taught by his first lover, Mischa, when he was sixteen. He hid the anger in his voice well, as to not upset the snake any further, though has he sang, his mind raced with thoughts of the terribles deaths the vikings would just because some of their fellows injured this poor, little serpent.
Rowena looked toward him now, recognizing the song, a southern Russian folk lullaby. She joined in with him, harmonizing, her voice easily two and a half or three octaves higher than his. There was affection in her eyes as she watched him, mixed with concern for the snake and something deeper that was unrecognizable, even to her.
Salazar didn't take notice of that fact that she was looking at him, or that she was even singing with him. He was too concerned for the snake and getting back to the castle to pay attention to anything else.
Rowena gripped the reins slightly tighter; the sun was now fully in the sky, the clouds shot through with brilliant rose, scarlet, and tangerine. The light reflected off their forms, turning Salazar's skin a pale gold, igniting a vivid red fire in Rowena's hair. It hurt almost to look at the horizon, so Rowena kept her gaze somewhere between Salazar's face and the ground as she continued to sing with him, letting the extensive training she had received in Constantinople take over, voice remaining a lovely lyric coloratura soprano even as her mind wandered to thoughts of the snake, of Salazar himself, and partly even to the classes that they were missing even as they rode.
The song ended on a long note, and Salazar pressed the snake into his chest, and the snake coiled his tail around Salazar's wrist.
Rowena glanced back to the mane of her own horse, feeling slightly uncomfortable now, as though she had caught Salazar in the act of doing something truly embarrassing.
Salazar could see the tiny outline of Hogsmeade on the horizon, and he let out a breath he didn't realise he was holding.
"How is he doing?" Rowena asked after several minutes, looking back at Salazar once more. She asked more out of wanting to speak to Salazar than concern for the snake.
"He'll make a full recovery," he said. "But it will take a few days."
Rowena nodded, her hands stroking Eros' neck almost absentmindedly. "Has he told you his name?"
Salazar slowly turned his head to look at her, his eyes alight with amusement. "Snakes are solitary creatures. Do you really think they have any use for names?"
Rowena rolled her eyes. "Forgive me for my ignorance, Salazar, for I am but an unlearned child." There was a similar glint in her own eyes and she rode closer to him once more. "You must instruct me in the ways of the serpent." Sarcasm was heavy in her tone.
"For your future reference--" he breathed a laugh, "-- serpents only get names when a Parselmouth gives it to them."
"I see," Rowena said, her grip on Eros' reigns relaxing just slightly,
"I will endeavour to remember that from now on." She glanced at him sidelong, gauging his expression as though that could somehow reveal a scrap of information...though what this information entailed, she was not entirely certain.
Salazar chuckled, and playfully kicked her leg. "I would appreciate that. And I'm sure Isis and this one would, too."
The slightest hint of a blush lit Rowena's cheeks and she turned her head away quickly. She had not felt this virginal chagrin
since she was ten, with...with Adrian...and his ridiculous hate, that absurd, petty rivalry.
"What do you think about the name Anubis for him?" Salazar asked, looking down at the young snake. "It seems fitting, don't you think?"
Rowena glanced back, lifting an eyebrow now, flush vanished from her cheeks. "I was under the impression that Anubis was a hybrid of human and jackal, not human and serpent."
"He is," he said almost impatiently. "Fitting because of all of the Vikings I will send into the Underworld because of what happened to him."
A muscle twitched in Rowena's cheek, almost like the beginnings of a smile, quickly crushed. "I hope that prediction comes true, for the sake of all of us. I have no doubt that your anger will fuel your ability to fight, and kill without conscience or mercy. Conscience has its place, but it is not on the battlefield.”
"My conscience takes a holiday when it comes to the vikings," he said passionately. "At my next chance, I will kill as many of them as I can and leave one survivor to torture mercilessly for every second that this serpent was forced to suffer."
"I will make sure that opportunity is made available to you," Rowena said quietly. And she would. She was always intense in her planning of strategy, but the focus would only be increased by her desire to help Salazar in any way possible. "What..." she paused briefly, unsure if this question would be welcome. "What happened? To make you hate them so much?"
Salazar stayed silent for a moment, considering her question. The part of him that screamed for him to deny her was unusually quiet, so he spoke. "You already know about my grandfather. When I was five, we went to a village on the coast to visit a distant cousin of mine," he began slowly. "While we were there, the vikings came along. It was the middle of the night." He paused to take a breath. "He fought them, just as I do now, while I hid. I had a clear view of him. While he was sword fighting one of them, another came up behind him on horseback. Myself and a young woman were the only ones that survived."
For a moment, Rowena did not speak, did not move. In these seconds, she could be objective, she could let pity and sympathy move through her breast. But then the truth of his words began to sink in, the hard familiarity.
She had not thought, never dared to even recall the memories that were now made so clear.Blood. Faces. Red wine.
Very abruptly, Rowena dismounted, stumbling drunkenly toward the nearest tree, one hand gripping the bark, back curving and rippling forward as she retched, dry heaving, forcing air and pain to her lips and the forefront of her mind.
Salazar was so trapped by the memory of that night that it took him a moment to realise that was no longer on her horse. He turned toward the trees, and stared at her.
Rowena had fallen to her knees now, legs shaking too much to support her body. She tried to force herself to vomit, to spit any sort of fluid onto the ground, but her stomach refused to cooperate. The retching worsened and Rowena closed her eyes.
This was a bad decision.Rage, filling the streets, hate burning in their eyes as the cut down men as they would trees, leaving them bleeding in their homes and gardens, children screaming, others laughing, the murmur of Greek words—
Salazar leapt off of Diana, but Anubis carefully onto her saddle, and walked over to her. He knelt on the ground next to her and placed his hand lightly on her back.
Rowena's right hand curled into a fist around a handful of dirt and the retching continued for a few agonizing more seconds before finally fading, and she took in a deep, shuddering, almost terrified breath. She could not move, but the weight of Salazar's hand on her back was both alarming and soothing at the same time.
"Are you okay?" he asked her warily, bending his head to look at her.
She nodded, swallowing hard, though she did not lift her head from the ground, letting her hair hang forward like a curtain to shield her face from view. "I'm sorry," she whispered, voice slightly raw now. "That was.... Apologies."
Salazar nodded and stood, extending his hand to he rto help her up from the ground.
Rowena took his hand, gripping it with a bone-crushing strength as she rose to her feet. She avoided his gaze, keeping her eyes fixed with brutal determination on the ground. "What happened to you was terrible," she said lamely, returning to a safer, more sympathetic topic.
"Terrible, but necessary. If it had not happened, I would not be the man I am today."
She nodded, though the motion was concealed slightly by the duck of her head. "But regardless," she said, "it should
not have happened. No one deserves anything like that."
"No, perhaps they don't."
Rowena was afraid to lift her head, knowing that if she looked at him, too much would be betrayed by her eyes. So she turned toward her horse and stepped up into the saddle.
"Come," she said to Salazar. "We need to get back to the castle.
Sooner rather than later, so I can send the call through Hogsmeade."
"We should have a drink later," he suggested as he mounted his horse, tone casual although his heart was beating erratically against his rib cage.
Rowena glanced up at last, her gaze meeting his, struggling to keep the astonishment, which had only been increasing since the ride began, from her face. "A drink," she echoed him, the words sounding hollow even in her own ears. "Yes," she said, jerking her eyes away once more to instead look out at the horizon. "I would like that very much."
The beating of his heart only quickened, but instead of the violent pounding from before, it was now fluttering from sheer joy. Salazar was sick of continuing to do "what was best for him". Self-preservation be damned, his happiness was the only thing that matter now, and if it was happiness plagued with heartache around the edges, so be it.
Rowena's grip was tight on the reins, her knuckles gone white. For a moment she was still, Eros fidgeting anxiously between her legs. Then her head tilted toward him once more, and she spoke, surprisingly herself with the words that left her lips. "When?"
"Tonight after dinner?" He didn't mean for it to come out as a question, but he did not correct himself.
Rowena nodded and her eyes looked away, though her head remained turned in his direction. "Fine." There were a few seconds in which she looked as though she were about to say something, then she pressed her heels into Eros' sides, urging him onward back to the castle.