Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Septima didn't know what possessed her to request that potion. Severus must have realized that she was hoping to become—involved—with him when she asked for it. It was entirely his fault. He stood in the lab, looking so good, and the wireless was playing a song she loved. When he asked what she was thinking about, she blurted the first thing that came to mind.
Now she had to take the potion. She could never face him if she didn't. Somehow she knew he would know. The first dose didn't kill her. She took it and read textbooks long into the night as she always did, falling asleep sometime after one in the morning. Perhaps she couldn't be blamed if she spent more time thinking about that kiss than about her study, but at least outwardly things were normal.
The potion didn't affect her morning habits, either. She woke, showered, brushed at her hair just enough to get it into a messy ponytail, and ran to her daily meeting with her advisor. After her meeting, she went to the lab where Severus worked.
She was a little early, and she caught him working on a sketch he fussed with from time to time. She'd once gotten close enough to get the impression of one of those girls whose hair always fell into exactly the right spot. Maybe he had a girlfriend, or he was in love with someone.
He had a whole life she didn't know about. A lot of people stopped in to speak with him from time to time. By the way they dressed and acted, she figured they must be from Slytherin House. Some of them seemed a bit dodgy, but she wasn't there to critique his friends, only to learn.
“Hello!” she said loudly, before she got close enough to see what he was drawing.
In a single movement he looked up, swept his notebook off the table and into his bag, and stood. “Good morning. How did you sleep?”
She blushed and pushed a stray wisp of hair behind her ear. “Fine.”
“No nausea or other strange symptoms?”
She shook her head.
“Let's get started then.” He had ingredients and a cauldron set out.
Stung by his abrupt change of subject, she pulled her shoulders straight and resolved to do better today than ever. She cut and minced carefully, she stirred exactly as he directed her. This time, she didn't want him to have to fix her mistakes. Sure, she let him think that she didn't realize what he was doing, but today she had the feeling that she needed to actually prove herself.
When her cauldron bubbled over, she moaned in exasperation. “Even when I do it exactly right, something like this happens!”
His chuckle went down her spine. “You didn't read all the way to the end, did you? You did do it correctly, and that's exactly what was supposed to happen.”
“Oh.” She read a little further, saw that was indeed the case, and followed the last instructions about lowering the heat and stirring in one last ingredient. “So I did it right this time?”
He couldn't help smiling at her enthusiasm. “Yes, you did.” He pointed to the directions. “I think we've identified why you don't succeed more often. You know you should read the directions all the way through before you begin.”
“I know... it's just that it takes up time...”
“But if you knew what was going to happen...”
“All right, I see your point.”
She bottled her potion and cleared away her mess, feeling awkward. Sometimes she thought they had a good working relationship, but that was right when he said or did something that pulled the rug out from under her. Knowing that he was watching to make sure, she filled out her notes perfectly, instead of waiting until later like she often did. She was rewarded by a nod of his head and kinder look than usual.
“I was thinking...” he said.
“You're ready to move on to the next level of potions. In a few weeks, we can even try a few that will prove or disprove whether the Arithmancy you've worked out is correct. How would you like to have dinner together tonight? We can discuss things that way.”
“Oh! Of course!” she answered. Then she cleared her throat. Did she sound too eager? “I agree. There are a great many things I've thought about as I've read up on texts in the evenings.”
“Shall we meet at seven, then?”
She nodded shyly. “I'd like that.”
“I'll see you then, Septima.”
“Yes, Severus, seven o'clock.”
She moved toward the door but there was something around her wrist. Before she realized that it was Severus's hand, his lips were over hers again. This time she was aware enough to taste him. He tasted of cigarettes, coffee, and some indefinable something that was him.
Dinner was in a cheap Chinese place down the street from student housing, but the quality of the food didn't matter. She could listen to him forever. When he spoke, numbers and symbols danced in her head as had happened in the coffee shop. She pulled a small notepad out of her bag and made small sketches that she could use later. He scoffed at some of her notes and praised others. As dinner ended, she was going to head to her apartment, but his hand closed over her wrist again.
“We still have more to discuss,” he said as his mouth closed over hers.
A/N: This story is back! I'm going to post it pretty consistently for at least a couple of weeks, now. I have several chapters ready to go. Thank you for reading and reviewing. Thank you to Trickie Woo for her virtual red pen and great advice!