Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Septima was a disaster in the Potions lab. Severus glanced over and revised his thoughts. She wasn't entirely a disaster. She was quite clever and insightful, and she understood the theory better than anyone he knew outside of himself and his advisor. She was obviously clever and well able to handle the work.
The problem was that she didn't pay very close attention to what she was doing with her hands. She must have spent extra time studying Arithmancy to make up for the fact that she simply wasn't very careful with the things she did. He resolved every morning to watch her closely whenever they were brewing, knowing that he would have to fix her mistakes or bear the consequences.
She didn't really need to brew. He was simply enough of a purist to think she should. It was his stated opinion that she would have a better feel for their work if she actually touched and worked with it. It was his unstated opinion that it would even things up a bit if she was as lost in his area as he sometimes was in hers.
Over the weeks, he found that he didn't mind fixing her mistakes. She was kind of cute in her blue jeans that molded to her derriere, and the snug t-shirt that molded right around a figure that seemed otherwise unrestrained. He found ways to correct her mistakes without her noticing and enjoyed the smile she made when the potion came out right. It was rather nice to cause that reaction in an attractive witch.
On balance, he hadn't had so much fun in a Potions lab since he and Lily had stopped being friends. There was some adventure every morning in trying to figure out ahead of time what mistakes she would make and how he would expend his skill in preventing disaster. It had to be that. It couldn't be looking at her lips and wondering which wizards had kissed them. It couldn't be the feeling that went to his middle when he looked at her in the morning chill and realized that she wore nothing under her t-shirt. It was never the sensation that he felt when he stood near her and his hand was just a whisper away from the back pockets of those blue jeans. His sense of anticipation for the coming day was certainly due to the intellectual stimulation he knew was coming. She kept him at the top of his art.
Just now, she was absent-mindedly stirring a potion and looking at him inquisitively. He wondered what was on her mind. It was never quite what he expected. He would have to ask. “Is there something you need?”
“I honestly don't know if I do or not.”
“What is it?”
“You've come to the right place. What potion do you need?” He held his coffee cup up to his lips.
She blushed dark red, looked at the floor, and whispered. “Contraceptive.”
His coffee spurted across the floor and landed in front of her trainers. “What do you need that for?”
She shrugged. “I don't, I guess.”
“Why do you think you want it?”
“Because I really like... I very much hope... I just want to be ready when it happens.”
He quashed the sense of irritation that rose at the idea of her body beneath that of a wizard and nodded. “That's quite prudent. Do you have anyone in mind?”
She looked away. “Not exactly. At least, I want to, but I'm not sure about him.”
“You're quite a desirable young woman, Septima. I think if you just give him a hint, he'll be eager.”
“Really?” She had stopped stirring and was staring at him intently. He had the briefest glimpse beyond her eyes and into her mind. Suddenly he understood. He backtracked from her mind and looked for a way to change the subject.
He cleared his throat. “I'm sure most wizards would feel honored.” He rescued her potion, which would be just about done with a little vigorous stirring. Setting that cauldron aside, he Summoned a clean one and filled it with water, which simmered quickly. “Let's start that potion.”
She looked more carefully into the cauldron than she had in a long time. He wondered if he should have started such a potion sooner. Or perhaps he had discovered the source of her distraction. He put in a few base ingredients and pondered a few others. “Do you mind if I ask an embarrassing question or two?”
She bit her lip as she looked up at him. “It will work better if I answer them, won't it?”
She really was adorable, if he was looking. “Have you ever been with a man before?”
She shook her head. “No one has ever even kissed. me.”
He selected a bottle based upon that and then asked a question or two about her cycles, which for some reason came easier after the first question. The potion came to a simmer, and he allowed it to cool and thicken. He wrote the directions on a label, which he fixed to a bottle.
They worked on their notes in silence as they waited for the potions to be cool enough to put away. He wondered if he should have made the contraceptive for her. It might encourage her fantasies where he was concerned. He ought to have just sent her to the Apothecary.
He couldn't make good on those fantasies. She was kissable and very fit, but she wasn't Lily. Surely she knew that he had seen what she was thinking. Would Septima think that his making of the potion was a declaration of intent on his part?
She took the pony tail out of her hair. He couldn't believe just how messy the girl let it get. His fingers itched to take a brush to it. He watched through the curtain of his own hair as she shook it out and smoothed it with her fingers before putting it back into its elastic band. The scent of her wafted over the table and hit him. He got up and bottled her potion. He handed it to her.
“Here, Septima. Every night, just as it says on the label.”
“Thank you, Severus.”
She looked up at him in gratitude and longing, and he found himself leaning over. The next morning they would meet again, and he would wonder the same questions about her as he ever did. One question was answered, however. Exactly one wizard had now touched her lips.
A/N: Thank you to those who have read and reviewed! Thank you especially to beta reader Trickie Woo.