In this follow-up to Epithalamium, Minerva and Albus venture into the Muggle world to enjoy a romantic winter interlude in Venice. Join them as they board the Orient Express, enjoy some good food, fine art, and, of course, a bit of romance.
“You look a bit peely wally.”
Minerva smoothed Albus’s tangled hair out of his face.
He had just awakened with a groan and put a hand to his head.
“We did have a lot of wine last night,” he said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes with a fist. He blinked several times before her face came into focus. “How do you look so bright this morning? You had almost as much as I did.”
“I’m younger than you. Also, I took a bit of Hangover Potion earlier this morning.”
“I need to get my hands on some of that.” He stretched his legs, grunting as his knees cracked. “Also something for the aches and pains. We were a bit … unrestraineed last night, and, as you so kindly pointed out, I’m not as young as I used to be.”
She kissed his cheek and patted his knee. “I’ll get it.” She got up and found his bag, rummaging through it for the potions.
Albus watched her. “I didn’t … I didn’t hurt you? Last night?”
She turned to look at him. His brows were knitted in concern. “No,” she said. “It was fun.” She found what she was looking for and brought him the phials and a spoon she had Conjured when she’d arisen earlier that morning with a thumping hangover and a deep ache between her legs.
It occurred to her that she had perhaps asked too much of him the previous evening. They had broken the bed, after all. She suppressed a smile at the memory.
“Did you enjoy it?” she asked.
He grasped her by the wrist and pulled her down to sit on the bed they had hastily repaired before sleeping. “I think I made my feelings on the matter quite plain at the time,” he murmured, kissing her neck.
She gently disengaged herself from his embrace. “Your potions,” she said, holding out the phials and the spoon.
He dutifully poured a dose of each and swallowed them, grimacing at the taste.
After a moment, his brows relaxed, and he let out a sigh.
“Better?” she asked.
After bathing and dressing, they had a light breakfast of bread, jam, and coffee at the pensione and set out to explore the Rialto market. It was cold, and the last of the morning mist dampened their faces as they walked. Minerva pulled her soft woollen muffler up over her chin and mouth.
Albus leant down and whispered in her ear, “I could do a wandless Warming Charm if you like.”
She glanced around at the crowded street and shook her head.
“Suit yourself,” he said, and she took the arm he offered her.
Once over the Rialto Bridge, they found stall after stall of delights both familiar and foreign, offered in a lilting cacophony of Italian carried on great puffs of steamy breath from the vendors crying their wares.
The bins of the Erberia were a riot of colours and textures. Pale green stalks of cardoon and bunches of dark cavolo nero competed with purple-headed cauliflower, bright, fragrant clementines and mandarins, and a bewildering array of radicchios for the attention of the shoppers.
Stout, black-clad and veiled old women stalked the stands, and despite her lack of Italian, Minerva could hear from their tone that they were questioning the vendors on the freshness of their wares just as rigorously as she’d ever quizzed a class of reluctant N.E.W.T. students on Gamp’s Third Law of Transfiguration.
The clean scent of the sea drew Minerva and Albus into the fish market, where they strolled among the stalls, jostled aside by Venetian shoppers engaged in the serious business of vying for the best of the city’s famous frutti di mare. It was almost overwhelming, the variety of items offered—tiny cuttlefish from the Lagoon, scallops, eel, blue sardines, glistening clams …
Albus stopped to examine a crate of tiny squid dotted with black ink and nestled into a bed of crushed ice.
“Amazing,” he said, picking one up between his fingers and turning it this way and that to examine it. “It’s like a miniature replica of our giant squid.”
Minerva laughed. “I doubt our squid would appreciate the comparison.”
He put the little cephalopod back beside its brothers.
“You know, I’ve always wondered about the giant squid,” said Minerva as they continued their tour of the pescaria.
“What have you wondered, my love?”
“Where it came from. How it survives in a freshwater loch. It isn’t in Hogwarts: A History or any other book I’ve been able to find.”
“Of course, you’ve researched it thoroughly. In your first year, no doubt.”
“My third, actually. That was the first time I saw it in the flesh. Rupert Davies had fallen off his broom and into the loch. The squid pulled him out and set him on the shore, which was lucky, as he apparently couldn’t swim.”
“Yes, the squid can be quite helpful that way,” Albus said.
“But there’s nothing about it in any of the books. It’s as if it’s always been there in the loch.”
Minerva gave him a wary sidelong glance.
“What exactly do you know about it, Headmaster?”
“Not much, but I have a few ideas.”
He walked on ahead of her, stooping to examine a bin of what looked like tiny, grey lobsters. Minerva caught him up and tugged on his sleeve.
“They’re called canoce, apparently,” Albus said, gesturing to a sign, “and they look delicious.”
“Don’t be obtuse, Albus. I mean, tell me about the giant squid.”
He leant down and kissed her nose, which was red and numb from the cold.
“It’s Albert, my dear Victoria. And I’ll tell you about it over lunch. All this seafood is making me hungry.”
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