Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling.
Severus sat in his bed smoking until the cigarettes ran out. Then the smell of cooking brought him to the kitchen. Septima had made him a delicious dinner and he ate while he thought. He put his dishes in the sink and realized that she had cleaned up quite a bit. He checked and found the parchments she had sorted. She had arranged everything, even their mistakes, in the perfect order.
He wasn't going to marry her. He couldn't. He would only have one wife, if any. Yet, she was a dear little thing, and now there was their child to consider. Somehow, he would have to make it all work together.
He prepared for bed and thought of Septima. Every time she had been near him came to mind. All of the jittery nervousness, the absent-mindedness, the forthrightness whenever she was asked a direct question came to his mind. No, he could never love her, but there was something endearing about her. He owed her so much.
He lay awake long into the night, pondering the way Septima had been as they had made love. She clung to him and buried her head in his chest just as her passion gave way. It was something he'd come to depend upon, and he looked forward to it. He recalled the way she would sit quietly as he combed her hair out and scolded her for letting it get so tangled. He recalled the way she stood in the shower, under the spray of water and his searching hands.
He woke late and stumbled into his lab to discover that she had already been in and cleared away all traces of her presence. He looked more carefully and discovered that she had actually sorted through all of their joint notes and arranged them in just the order he needed them. It was just as she had done at his apartment. There were times when her attention to detail was stellar.
He wouldn't let himself admit to missing her. She was just a woman. He'd been promised many women. He could have a different one every day of the week if he wanted. He looked at his sketch book, something he could do for once without worry of being caught, and thought of the one woman he wanted.
He asked himself, for the first time ever, why he had never wanted Septima to see the pictures of Lily that he drew. What would be the harm? He couldn't imagine why he had hidden Lily from her, it was just important that he had.
I fell in love with you.
He'd never hoped to hear that said to him, ever. Septima loved him. She was pregnant with his child. Why couldn't he love her back and marry her? They would work together in perfect accord for the rest of their lives, like Nicolas and Pernelle.
He hated the idea. He couldn't love her. Yet he missed her. Her mind was quick and in tune with his own. She wasn't very careful, but she was eager to work with him. Her body... he already missed her body.
He found himself on her door step after spending the usual amount of time at the lab. No work had been done; he had simply passed the time thinking of her. As soon as he could possibly justify it, he left the laboratory and went to her apartment.
She looked awful when she got to the door. Her clothes were mussed as though she had slept in them and her hair was a mess. “Did I lose one of the scrolls?”
“Did the dinner I made burn?”
“It was a little crispy, but it was perfect. You're a wonderful cook.”
She turned and walked toward her sitting area. “Then I don't know why you're here.”
“I'm here for this.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her close. He kissed her hard, and the feeling was that of returning home. He kissed her again.
She shook her head and broke away. “I don't think I can... knowing you'll never love me.”
“I love many things about you. I discovered so many today. It will take years to tell you.”
“It's not the same.”
“It's the best we'll ever have.”
“I don't know if it's enough... without love?”
“We'll both love the baby... we'll have a life full of love.”
She looked uncertain and shook her head. “I just don't know...”
“Yes, you do.” He kissed her again. “There's nothing else for you, no one else.”
“No, but for you—”
“I told you long ago not to worry about it. You don't need to worry now, either.”
He wasn't sure what he would do in her circumstances, but he hoped she would say yes. Instead, she simply leaned up to accept his kisses again. “I should say no, but I'm willing to try anything if it means being with you.”
A/N: Thank you for continuing to read. I also enjoy the reviews. Thanks so much to beta reader Trickie Woo.