The tall, dark man walked briskly away from the cottage, a book gripped firmly in one hand. He took long, purposeful strides towards the woodland, his black hair falling in front of his pale face. It was the summer solstice, and this evening was a particularly balmy one, with the golden light winking through the trees and casting dappled shadows. Even so, the man was dressed head to foot in black robes, as if he had no desire to be basking in the clement weather.
Severus Snape knew this place like the back of his hand; he'd spent many long hours practicing magic in the woods at Spinner's End as a child, and the place still held a sense of solace for him. He'd used the woods as a place to escape from hurt, pain and the outside world when he was younger, and even now as an adult, the trees seemed to offer a silent embrace no person had ever given him. He made his way quietly, skilfully through the thicket, heading for the shady copse, hoping to kick off his boots, open his latest tome and rest.
As he veered down the path to the right, he was sure he could hear a voice coming from further ahead. Cautiously, he withdrew his wand from his jacket and crept ever onwards.
The voice, he could now tell, was female, and she was speaking a very strange language indeed, it sounded to his ears part Latin, part something unrecognisable. The tone of her voice sounded like she was performing some kind of spell.
Gripping his wand tighter, he edged forwards, a muscle flexing in his jaw with anger. He felt far more annoyance than fear. Who dared to intrude on his private place? And what the hell were they doing?
The voice was getting louder as he approached, and he knew the clearing was just ahead of him, behind the clump of bushes. Crouching now, he found a perfect spot in which to observe and was so shocked by what he saw he nearly let out a gasp of astonishment.
In front of him was a young woman, completely naked except for a strange tiara in her brown hair, standing in the middle of a circle marked with candles around the edge. She held a wand and was making funny shapes in the air with it as she spoke, and yet, Severus noted, no light emitted from its tip. His first impression was that he'd stumbled across either a Squib caught up in fantasy, or else an unfortunate who needed to be taken straight away to St. Mungo's. As he crept further to the right, however, he saw a flag hanging from a branch, decorated with a golden, interlocking five-pointed star, surrounded by a circle. In front of this was a tree stump with objects and yet more candles on it. A small fire burned to one side.
Wicca, he thought with surprise. Severus had dimly heard of Wicca, or "Muggle-magic" as it was known in the wizarding world, and thought it at best a ridiculous and laughable notion. However, sightings of such activity were extremely rare. Only a handful of wizard writings existed on the rituals and performance of Wicca, and so his curiosity coupled with the blatant nudity of a nubile young female in front of him was enough to pique his interest and make him stay put.
The woman dropped to her knees, laying her wand on the wood-stump altar next to a silver chalice. She picked up a sharp-looking silver knife, which had a dark jewel glinting on the hilt. Holding it flat for a moment, she then raised it with both hands high above her head, the blade tip pointing downwards as she murmured more words. She threw her head back, and for an awful moment, Severus thought she was going to stab herself. His wand arm twitched in anticipation, but to his relief she thrust the blade into the chalice, chanting all the while.
Removing the blade and settling it once again on the altar, the woman raised the cup up with both hands in the same manner as the knife and made some kind of blessing before drinking deeply from the cup.
Next, she took a small dish from the side and appeared to anoint herself from it, touching her wrists and neck and, he watched with a jolt of excitement, her breasts and pubis. Severus was fascinated and couldn't tear his eyes away at this point even if he'd wanted to.
She took a deep breath and picked up a bright red candle from the altar. This time, she spoke clearly and deliberately in English:
"Oh my lover, come unto me;
Hide from me no more.
Burn me with your fiery heart;
Come at last to my door."
Severus gasped as on the third line she'd tilted the candle, spilling some of the molten red wax onto her breasts, and yet her voice did not waver.
Placing the candle down, she held up a sprig of what he recognised to be rosemary. He was surprised at this, because rosemary had been used for centuries in wizarding love potions also. With a shiver of arousal, he watched as the woman began to rub the herb all over her body whilst continuing her rhyme:
"Time waits for no-one;
And yet I wait for you.
I'm longing for your touch.
Let our love begin anew."
This time at the third line, the woman ran the rosemary between her legs and Severus flushed.
Now she held the rosemary above the fire, dropping the sprig to the flames beneath on the third line once more:
"Oh my lover, come unto me.
For our love will be like fire;
And full of passionate desire."
She raised her wand, swirling the sweet rosemary smoke around her as she turned in a circle. As she spun around, Severus ducked to avoid being seen, his foot hitting a dry twig that cracked loudly in the silence. Startled by the noise, the woman glanced straight into the bushes where Severus was hiding, and all he remembered before Disapparating was her clear green eyes.