The first time he touches me, the sun is on its way down already, drawing warped shadows at my feet. The horizon shimmers a silvery hue, vibrating with heat. His step is as quiet as the land surrounding us. As I feel the lightest brush of fingers, my breath hitches, the sound too loud in my own ears. His answering low chuckle feels cool against my skin.
After traveling with Scorpius through the busyness of the big cities up north―Florence and Rome―Apulia feels like another part of the world entirely. The days are languid here. Even time seems molten and distorted under the heat. I like it. There is no wizarding district here, and you can count the Muggles from the nearest town on one hand. But while I felt myself gliding seamlessly into the sultry days and pitch black nights, Scorpius got restless. He said he couldn’t bear the barren heat and the emptiness here, in the heel of Italy. Here, the ground is dry and cracked in places, the sparse vegetation not able to keep the dust clouds from dancing around your feet, accompanying your every step. The heat makes the landscape shudder and muffles all sounds.
Scorpius said he wanted to travel north again, back to the cities with their brightness and their life. He looked at me and said ‘it’s okay’, I could stay if I wanted to.
And so I did.
Villa Zabini stands at the edge of the world. The white rocky cliffs are surrounded by sea, never-ending and impossibly blue. Birds dive down into the waves breaking on the jagged stone, soaring just over the flecked, foamy whitecaps. I can gaze at it for hours, drinking in the colours and the briny warmth of the air.
The second time he touches me, I am sitting at the edge of the cliff, drawing stick figures in the dust. His steps whip up tiny dust clouds rolling my way but I had noticed him before that, sensing his magic. The afternoon sun is low, and when his shadow falls over me it is long and stretched.
I quit mid stick figure, sitting motionless in the sand.
‘He arrived safely, and hopes you’ll have a good time here, too.’
I turn around slowly, squinting my eyes against the sun. Blaise is standing right behind me, tall and statuesque in his airy, flowing summer robes. My throat feels dry. I swallow, and his gaze travels to my throat, lingers there for a second, before he kneels in front of me and looks me straight in the eyes. His eyes are dark, darker even than the skin stretching over his jaw, over his high cheekbones. In this moment, he’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. I close my eyes against his proximity, against my want for him suddenly surging and almost boiling over, burning unbearably under my skin. When I open them again his face is just inches away from mine, his mouth crooked in a smile, before he rises up again, looking calm and unperturbed as ever.
‘Dinner is in an hour, Albus.’
I don’t move as he walks away, gazing at his silhouette until I can’t distinguish him anymore from the shimmering heat at the horizon. My stick figure stares at me. Suddenly embarrassed, I wipe out its face. The dust is red on my palms.
That evening I don’t eat much. Blaise has poured me a rich and velvety Negroamaro, and I sip on it until I feel lightheaded, from the warmth and the wine and from him. I feel restless and my skin’s too tight, my head spinning from the way his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. The wine shimmers dark on his lips. He says nothing, calmly eating his spaghetti alla puttanesca. But every time I look away, restless and flushed and my skin too tight, I feel his gaze resting on me.
The first time we kiss, he cups my face in his hands as I feel his mouth on mine. His steps are soundless and the night is dark, but his magic precedes his touch, gliding over me and slowly enveloping my skin. His mouth is soft and hot, and as he deepens the kiss I melt into him. I press my body against his, feeling his hands roaming over my back and cupping my arse. My hips start rolling, and he pulls back, laughing softly.
I kiss him again, embarrassed by my begging and the little control I have over my body. But he kisses me back, softly pulls my head back so he can kiss my throat and my pulse point, jumping and fluttering under his mouth. He tastes like salt and olive oil and the wine we drank. I can smell the searing summer on him, and the rippling sea below us, rolling against the rocks in the depth. I want to drink him in, to bottle the taste lingering on my lips, the smell of his warmth and the way his magic makes my head spin. I sigh against his body and close my eyes.
The sun is burning as I climb down the cliff to the glistening sea below. The heat of the rocks is almost unbearable under my feet. Seagulls are flying around the cliff head, screaming whenever I come too near. Sweat forms on my body and makes my palms slippery. I look around, then whisper a soft Wingardium Humaniorum and slowly glide down until I reach the water. The sea is cold, so much colder than the air above it, and I submerge myself in the water, careful to stay away from the turbulent waves around the sea stacks. Blaise didn’t join me, just smiled languidly when I asked him to, and resumed his writing. I spread my arms and let myself float on the salty water. Days have turned into nights have turned into days, until my sense of time disappeared altogether. There is only this, now.
Quiet afternoons and evenings where I drink my wine, push my pasta around on my plate, and stare at Blaise. I stare at his hands, his jaw, his mouth, until my body feels unbearably restless and the wine makes me bold as I round the table to kiss him. His hands roam over my body, testing the limits of my desire. There are none yet. I have never had anyone else. But here, my want is greater than my nervousness, and whenever he breaks the kiss I pull him back in again, begging for his hands on me. I beg him shamelessly, for his mouth, his body, asking him to stay. But above all, I’m begging him to teach me. Teach me the things he does to me, those things that make me forget the world outside the darkness of his bedroom. Teach me, I beg him, and he laughs, and he does.
The water has me shivering, shadows already falling from the rocks. I go back to the villa, waiting for the sun to set.
The first time we fuck, he cups my face in his hands and looks at me incisively. I nod, try to kiss him, try to urge him on. The floor is scattered with our clothes, the linen on his bed soft under my back. But he doesn’t move, the question clear in his eyes.
My voice sounds cracked, hardly louder than his erratic breathing.
‘Please. I want this.’
He always makes me beg. He always has me stuttering, frantic with want, his eyes darkening before he hauls me in again. Before he lays me on the bed, and I have to bite on my knuckles, sheets rumpling in my fist.
But this time is different. His eyes are dark as always, barely visible in the black surrounding us. But he doesn’t want my begging now. My legs wrapped around his waist, I feel his muscles trembling from keeping upwards. Yet he still doesn’t move.
‘Please. I – I want you.’
I look at him, telling him silently, feeling half-mad and desperate for his touch. Desperate for him to give what I want most from him, my body thrumming with it.
The word is barely audible, a whisper against his mouth. I never call him by his name, and for a long moment it hangs between us, floating in the darkness. But then he closes his eyes, and slowly sinks into me on a long, low sigh.
It burns. Oh Merlin, it burns, and I wrap my legs even tighter around him, forcing him to stay. Telling him to go deeper, slowly but surely, until his hips rest against my arse and I feel him deep inside me. His forehead leans on mine, his breath coming in short huffs now. His hands are forcefully grabbing the sheets and his dark eyes are ignited now, filled with want and something else.
I shudder under the realisation, unaware of my hips thrusting up, my heels poking in his back, until he groans softly and starts to move above me.
As I feel the muscles of his back tensing under my hands, I tilt my head and kiss him. His answering kiss is hungry and deep.
The olive trees enclosing Villa Zabini are like distorted silhouettes. Their bodies spiral up from the ground askew, frozen in time. I like sitting under them, when they provide the only shade the land has to offer. Their branches are heavy with olives, green and ripe and smooth to the touch. I pluck one, wiping the dust off on my shirt.
His presence here is quiet and calm. He blends in with his surroundings, languid and slow. And, like the heat, inevitable. I feel myself drawn to him. Wanting him to wash over me at night like the heat does at day. Enveloping me like a second skin, leaving me no choice but to give myself over until I glow with it, sense of time or day forgotten.
The olive tree is poking in my spine. I get up, knees creaking and back stiff. The sun is sinking behind the hills already, its golden light setting the villa on fire.
The last time we fuck, he lays me on my back, then slowly lowers himself down on me. The moon shines through the open window and I can’t stop staring at him, muscles rolling under his skin as he evenly, gracefully rides me. His face looks calm as ever, but for his shining eyes. He feels tight and strong, and I can’t do anything but lie back in awe, being turned to liquid with his every movement. The night smells like sex, like sun and the salt of the sea. It smells like him, and suddenly sadness overcomes me, my chest tight with the realisation of how much I want to keep this moment with me. I want to capture the way he smells, to preserve the sounds he makes, and keep the way he looks at me in a little box.
But I can’t.
Above me, he looks at me understandingly, and for a moment I’m sure sadness flashes in his eyes, too.
Then, he grabs the headboard and starts to fuck himself properly on me, hard and deep. His every movement makes me moan, my eyes rolling back in my head as I feel my orgasm drawing inevitably near.
The last time I see the villa, the sun is burning mercilessly down on me. The landscape shimmers in the heat, the horizon blurry. My charmed suitcase lies heavy in my pocket. I prepare myself for a sense of time again, for cooler days and city nights. Portkeys will bring me up north again, back to pub nights, chatting, dancing, and so many people around me. Soon, this place will feel like a dream and even I will wonder what was real. I squeeze the suitcase in my pocket. The clothes inside are red with dust. When I arrive, Mum will unpack this suitcase and let her meticulous cleansing spells do their work, rinsing away the last tangible part of my memories.
The Portkey, a tiny wooden hourglass, lies lonely under a weather-worn sign that says ‘Poggiardo 30 km’. The glass feels cold in my hand. I watch the sand falling down, until the last grains glide through the narrow neck. For a moment, I consider dropping the Portkey again, the villa pulling at me in an almost overwhelming way.
Then the familiar tug behind my navel starts to rise. I swallow, holding the hourglass tight in my hand, and close my eyes.