Title: Love is a Fire, Burning aka Cream: It's Good on Top

Mich A/N: Sorry for the delay, peeps. We haven't forgotten this story, but we've been really busy. I got sucked into a brand new fandom, (Firefly) and have just been generally lying low. Thank Zambi for this chapter, because she finally tracked my down and kicked my ass. I promise there won't be as many delays in getting the next one out.

For those of you who aren't in love with B flicks from the 80s, "Eddie and the Cruisers" is a great little movie with the everhot Michael Pare and some kickass tunes by the Beaver Brown Band. We snagged half the chapter title from the awesome "Season in Hell".

Zambi A/N: Hey, sorry for the delay. It was hard going from totally AU to completely AU with this story, and Book 7 sort of kicked us both in the butt. I was worried that Mich wouldn't want to finish, but I'm glad she did! I know I couldn't have gone on without her. Hopefully the next few chapters will go up without a hitch.

The evening with Flavius ended, in Snape's opinion, all too soon. He was sorry to see his brother walk back down the beach, arm wrapped firmly around Xanadu's shoulders. They had made plans to meet the following day to explore the Wizarding areas of Greece. Snape and Hermione stayed at their little table on their lanai for several hours after their guests left, watching the sunset and stargazing for a few moments.

"I'm cold," Hermione said, standing up. "I think I'll take a shower and turn in."

Snape followed her into the house and watched her as she headed for the bathroom, before going back into the sitting area and extracting the pertinent parts of the day into a glass bottle. Hermione had said so many unusual things, and Snape was worried. More than worried, really. He flooed Albus and handed over the bottle.

"I take it that she isn't doing any better?" Albus asked in a concerned voice.

"She knows my middle name, Albus. She knows all about my mother, and the most about my father that I would ever be willing to divulge. It's frightening to say the least."

Albus rocked back on his heels, fingers steepled before his lips. "I'll investigate, Severus, and I'll have Poppy analyze your memory as well. I won't lie, Severus. I am also quite worried. But I am hopeful. Now you run along and have a good night's rest. Perhaps that's what we all need right now, and we'll give this a fresh perspective in the morning."

Snape nodded and extricated himself from the Floo. He felt the weight of Hermione's illness on his heart and his mind, and could in no way block the uneasy feeling he had that everything would end so very, very badly.

Rising, he made his way barefoot into the bedroom and found Hermione laying face up, wrapped only in a towel, eyes wide open and pained. Her skin was an unhealthy shade of pink.

"What have you done?" he asked, sharper than he meant to.

"Oh, Severus. I was so silly. I don't think I put on enough sunscreen earlier and now I'm in so much pain. I didn't realize how hot I was until I got in the shower—too distracted by our wonderful day, I guess. Please, can you help me?"

He sighed. "Hopefully Albus thought to pack sunburn cream."

"I'm sure he did," she mumbled. "I hope he did. Ugh, my skin feels so tight."

"It doesn't look very pleasing, that's for certain." Snape agreed, as he fumbled through their bags. "All right, here's the cream, and thank goodness it's a large jar. What were you thinking? What was I thinking? I should have forbade you to lay in the sun like that."

Hermione managed a small chuckle that Snape did not share.

"I jest not, Hermione. It was a stupid thing to do, and now you are in pain and ill."

A tear escaped her eye and she drew a deep, shaky breath. "I didn't mean to ruin our honeymoon."

Snape sat beside her on the bed and brushed her hair away from her face. "Hermione, we're not on a honeymoon. We've been married for years. This is just a holiday." He suddenly realized how foolish he felt. He had just played into her fantasy. Her madness really was catching. Rallying himself, he managed to say the only thing that seemed to make sense. "Where should I start with this?"

Hermione look miserable. "Anywhere. Everywhere. My entire body aches."

Snape sighed as he studied her intently. She really did look horrible. Her hair was a still-wet mass of snarls from the shower she had taken, and he could feel the heat radiating from her skin from where he stood. Dipping his fingers into the jar, he loaded them with a copious amount of the orange burn cream, lighter in color than the cream used for fire burns, and modified to heal the effects of the sun. The following morning, aside from some fatigue and a little stiffness at the skin covering her joints, Hermione would more than likely be fully recovered. He hoped.

He started on her arms, lightly applying the lotion in gentle strokes, and trying not to notice the tiny goose-pimples that appeared on her skin as he stroked it. Her skin, despite its heat, was soft and tantalizing. He wondered where, exactly, she expected him to apply the cream and tried to ignore the sudden heat sizzling through his veins.

"That feels so good, Severus," Hermione sighed, "but I think my arms are done now."

Snape blinked at her, before looking at his hands as if he couldn't believe they were free of burn cream. He dipped into the jar again and watched in fascination as she slowly undid the towel wrapped around her slight frame and opened it. The skin under the towel was just as pink as the skin on her arms, but the color did nothing to distract him from the sight of her. He had already seen her naked, of course – just the other day in the shower, as a matter of fact – but he hadn't let himself dwell on that. It was hard not to dwell now. Her waist was narrower than he remembered, her legs shapely, even though they weren't overly long. His gaze traveled over her, taking in her contours, memorizing every inch of her, before they slowly drifted to her breasts, which were a painful red.

"How did your breasts manage to get so burnt when they were covered," he demanded, hoping that she would mistake the gruffness for anger and not lust, which it most certainly was.

Hermione turned her head to the side and bit her lip, her eyes suspiciously bright. "I bought one of those swimming costumes that you can tan through. I-I thought it would be sexy to have a tan all over."

Snape simply could not help himself. He began to laugh. "Sexy?" he managed to spit out between breaths. "Sexy? My dear, I have a pallor to my skin that only a Vampire could envy. What in heaven's name could possibly lead you to believe that I would find brown, sun-damaged skin sexy?" Her eyes were still moist with tears, but to his surprise, she began to laugh at her own stupidity. "Oh, shut up," she said, giving his chest a little kick with her foot. As she did so, she gave another yelp of pain.

"Keep still." His hands moved forward and dropped softly across her collarbones, fingers skimming across her skin as he applied the cream. His hands took on the same gentle movement they had when he'd rubbed the cream into her arms. She sighed in pleasure as they drifted down her sternum and smoothed across her stomach, spanning her ribcage. He couldn't believe how very white his hands looked against her.

"Severus," she whispered, "I need…"

"I know what you need," he replied just as softly, his voice low and hoarse. His left hand drifted up, skimming across a heated breast, before lifting away to reach for more cream. Instead of digging into the jar to get some, he tipped it over and watched in fascination as it dribbled on to her skin. She shivered at the cold feel of it, and shivered again when he returned his hand to her breast. His other hand drifted up as well, until both palms cupped her. Her nipples were so hot and tight they branded him. He gritted his teeth against the sudden sharp pleasure stabbing his gut, but could not ignore how perfectly her breasts fit his hands as he smoothed the cream over them.

She was shivering lightly under his touch and her hands had come up to grasp his wrists. She didn't try to push his hands away, however. Instead, she held them there. When he looked at her face, her eyes were glowing with pleasure and desire, despite her pain. "How long does it take this cream to work?" she whispered.

"The burn won't subside until the morning," he answered.

"I don't want you to stop touching me, though," she murmured. "I've missed you. I've missed us."

Against his better judgement and all rational though, Snape found himself drawn into her fantasy. "You should have thought of that before allowing yourself to get burned all over," he growled. "Turn over and let me get your back."

"My back isn't burned," she replied, "just my front. You can keep doing what you're doing."

Snape grinned at that, his teeth flashing quickly before he could prevent it. "You're a tease, Hermione."

"You always say that," she pouted at him, her eyes flashing with happiness. "You like being teased."

"Do I now? And what else do I like, hmm?" He couldn't help responding to her gentle flirtations. She was beautiful to him, even red as a lobster and radiating enough heat to roast a marshmallow. More beautiful, in fact, because she was letting him touch her and stroke her. He was imprinting the feel of her skin in his brain, so that when this was over and she was hating him again, he'd always be able to remember.

He jumped when one of her hands released his wrist and dropped to the bare skin of his knee, just below where his swim trunks ended. She grinned up at him, her mouth wide and ripe. "Now who's teasing?"

Her fingers traced swirls and patterns around his kneecap, before tracing down the front of his leg as far as she could reach. After a few moments, she drew her digits back up his leg and allowed them to drift under the cuff of his trunks, until they moved restlessly against his inner thigh. He hissed in a breath, and teased her nipples with his fingers, smirking at her when she gasped and arched her back slightly, pressing herself into his hands. "Don't start something you can't finish, Hermione," he murmured.

"I always finish what I start," she gasped back. "Gods, that feels so good, Severus."

Her breathless moan brought him back to himself with a start, and he pulled his hands away from her as if she'd burned him. Her hand was gripping his thigh now, and she looked at him in confusion. "Severus, why did you stop?"

Her eyes were wide and confused, and he wanted so badly to touch her again he almost gave in to the silent plea in them.

"We can't do this, Hermione," he replied instead. His voice had gone cold and stiff again, and he watched as she flinched back from it. "You…you're still recovering from a concussion, and now—this damnable sunburn. We…I…You…I just can't do this to you, Hermione."

"Do what?" she demanded, suddenly peeved. "Touch me? Love me? I'm your wife, Severus. Your wife! Is it…is it something I've done?"

"Of course not," Snape retorted. "It's…me. I don't…I refuse to hurt you, Hermione. I won't—can't—take advantage of you that way."

"Every time you push me away, you do hurt me Severus! It's like…you're acting like you did when we first married; when you didn't want me." She was sniffling at the thought. "You're acting like you don't love me anymore!"

Snape watched in dismay as Hermione suddenly drew away from him and wrapped her arms around herself, hunching into the covers. He reached towards her, placing a hand against her back, unable to bare the thought she was crying over him. "Of course, I…love…you, Hermione. How could I not? But I am…I'm responsible for you, and you're still recovering and…I can't…Why must you make this so hard, damnit?"

"Why must you be so noble?" she retorted. "I'm telling you, I'm fine. I miss you. Just because I bumped my head doesn't mean the rest of me is broken. I want to make love with you again. I need to feel you against me and inside me. It's…I miss you!"

His hand rubbed soothing circles against her back as she spoke, and he tried to ignore the way his heart jumped and his body surged at her words. "I just want to make sure. Please…Hermione…"

She turned again, facing him, eyes awash in tears. "If you won't make love with me, Severus, at least…please…kiss me. Hold me. I know I'm being foolish and you're just trying to take care of me, but…I hurt more when you pull away from me. Please…"

He lifted his free hand to her tear-stained cheek and rubbed the moisture away with his thumb. "Hermione, what do you want of me?"

"I want you to promise me you'll stop worrying so much and trust me to know what I need, Severus. You can only use the excuse of a concussion so long, and tomorrow this burn will be gone. What then?"

When he didn't reply, she sighed. "If you won't make love to me tonight, will you at least relax and lie down beside me? Perhaps—kiss me? And tell me that you love me again, Severus. I really need to hear it right now."

Snape sighed and leaned down, kissing her very gently on the lips. She tasted of the margaritas they'd been drinking earlier, and smelled of the sea and the burn cream. Her mouth opened against his, her tongue darting forward and licking across the seam of his lips hotly, before sliding inside it. He bit back the groan building in his chest and allowed her to shift to her side as she pulled him down beside her naked body. Her mouth drifted from his and across the hard contour of his jaw, before she reached his ear and bit the lobe softly. "I love you, Severus."

"I love you too, Hermione," he replied against her hair as he gently pulled her against him. "Gods help me, but I love you too."


The next morning, Snape awoke to a feeling of foreboding. He couldn't quite put his finger on what had happened, but he knew that something had gone terribly, horribly wrong. Calming his first burst of panic, he managed to calm his mind and start again at the beginning. The bar. The concussion. Albus. Greece. Flavius. Xanadu--had he dreamed him up? Hermione. Sunburn. Far too many margaritas. I love yous. Kisses. Lots of kisses. He hadn't been kissed so much in the whole course of his life, and certainly never by one so eager. Or talented. If he didn't know better, he really would have believed that they had been married for seven years.

A pain started in his left temple and shot all the way down his side to his feet. He groaned, and a soft hand immediately wound around his chest and started stroking the fine hair between his pectoral muscles. He closed his eyes and relaxed a moment. He loved being rubbed there. He loved the way her young, naked body felt cradling him, comforting him. The pain began to subside.

"Hmm, good. You're awake," she hummed against his back.

Snape wondered, not for the first time, why he couldn't just turn around and make love to her the way she wanted him to. Hell, the way he wanted himself to. Was his damnable honor so important?

Yes, he knew that it was. Eventually, he reminded himself, Hermione would come out of this, and she would hate him even more than she already did because of what he would do to her. There would be no way around it then, no way to claim insanity, however temporary. No way to claim he was doing something for her own good. He was already in up to his neck with no way to turn around and go back to shore. All he could do was continue to tread water and hope he didn't drown.

"So," she mumbled, "I've been thinking..."

"This does not bode well." He turned to her and instinctively pulled her against him, tangling his hands in her hair, and gazing into her lovely brown eyes. "Looks like your skin wasn't the only thing the sun damaged yesterday," he murmured, gently combing his fingers through her hair, now a shade or two lighter than it had been when they arrived.

Hermione's hand went to her curls, and she gave a little smile. "Is it horrid?"

"Oh, no. It's rather fetching. I think it suits."

The smile she gave him was almost enough to melt his heart.

Snape was an average male in that he awoke every morning half-mast from whatever hedonistic fantasy decided to play about in his subconscious whilst he slept. When his bed-mate decided to pull him closer and kiss him, he went from half-mast to full salute in a matter of seconds, and there was absolutely no way to hide it. WHY did she have to be naked and alluring? Hadn't he managed to get her into some clothing the night before?

Oh, that's right. They were snogging then, too, and clothes really would have gotten in the way of that. At least, her clothes would have. He had fallen asleep in his swim trunks—had insisted on keeping them firmly in place, despite Hermione's best efforts to divest him of them, much as she was attempting again.

"Hermoine, I–" he started, his voice rough and breathless as her hand slid under the elastic at the waist and stroked the skin on his back.

"What was I saying? Oh. Right. I have an idea." She grinned at him as she squeezed his left buttock firmly and darted her head forward to kiss his collarbone. He lurched against her at the sudden wet heat of her mouth against his skin, and fought to keep his voice even as he spoke to her.

"Well, if it involves more margaritas and sunbathing, you can really count me out, because I am done with this tropical life. In fact, I would rather just contact Albus and go back to Scotland."

"Severus," she breathed into his ear. He could tell from the tone she was pouting and flirting with him all at the same time. "You don't really want to leave, do you?"

"Well, I won't, obviously, because you're so happy here, and Flavius is here. But it is rather tempting. I feel useless lazing about all the livelong day. A wizard's mind could turn to mush out here."

"With all the fresh air and the sea breezes, you mean?"

"Precisely. Damned unhealthy, if you ask me, all this sunlight. Now, what about this idea of yours?"

"Oh, well, I just thought that we should get Flavius and Xanadu together, and go down the shops, and maybe...maybe," her courage failed her for a moment, so he gave her a gentle nudge on the shoulder with his nose. "Well, I know you said that you didn't want to do it again, Severus, but talking with your brother and his partner yesterday really got me thinking about it… I want to find a little church, any church along here, I don't care if it's Greek Orthodox or not, and I want to renew our vows. For real this time. For keeps. Forever."

Snape tried—really tried—to ignore the possessive thrill that raced through him at her softly spoken words, but found that he couldn't. For keeps. Forever. Sounded good to him.

Bloody hell.

A Season in Hell

by the Beaver Brown Band

See the writing on the wall
I think I was bound to fall
Voices whisper in the wind
I can hear them calling
Love is the fire, burning
And I want to burn

Darkest now before the dawn
Times we've known will soon be gone
Flames of freedom fill the air
I can hear them calling
Love is the fire, burning
And I want to burn

Can you see the light
Can you hear the sound
Can you feel this ol' world turning around