Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
“It wasn't enough to make me thoroughly unhappy, you had to kill my work, too.”
Severus looked up from his cauldron. From her stance, he realized she must have been standing there a while and that she had waited until this instant, when he could actually turn away from his potion. He had to be grateful for her consideration, even if it looked like he would need to beware of her fingernails.
That thought wasn't worthy of him. She wasn't going to claw at him, but she did look as though she intended to get a pound of flesh. Whatever this was about had broken through the rage she usually felt for him. He wondered what could be troubling her until he recognized the research journal in her hand.
After a few attempts at conversation, they had given up trying to work together. Severus had tried every opening he could think of, only to be met by anger or rage. He finally decided to simply give up. Their few interactions since had ranged from cold to indifferent. He cut the heat and walked toward her.
“Incredible stuff they're doing at Durmstrang, isn't it?”
“This is my project.. the one you told me was idiotic!” She stabbed her finger at the open page. “They're going to win an award with this one!”
“It wasn't enough that you had to drop me and trade me off as if I were—” She shook her head. “It's as though you planned the whole thing out. How to ruin the life of a woman in three steps.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about, Septima.”
“You said this wasn't a good path for study, and when you withdrew your support, so did Oiler and Flammel. Zosimov's group is just a few steps away from the potion I wanted to try.”
Ah, she wanted to go back over the old argument. “The one that converts poisonous materials into their own antidotes? Why would anyone need that when the Philosopher's Stone is handy?”
“Will it always be?”
Actually, Dumbledore had mentioned recently that it might not, but it wasn't a topic of conversation for this moment. “There are other excellent potions out there, Septima. Surely this one would be superfluous.”
She shook her head. “I never told you, because I felt so foolish, but back when I was trying those equations, one of them told me that we are going to need that potion desperately. You and I, Severus.” She looked up at him, and he was suddenly lost in her brown eyes.
“I'm sure I'll have plenty of the Elixir of Life to draw upon,” he answered. “Now, as to your other claim that I ruined your life—”
“How can you be so dismissive?” She was angry again, and he backed toward the desk in his classroom. “Do you have any idea how you hurt me and then hurt me again? Do you have any feelings at all?” She reached him and was shaking as she held the journal up in her hand. He feared she would throw it or hit him with it, so he grabbed her wrist and twisted so that her back was against the chalkboard.
She just looked between his hand on her wrist and his eyes in shock. He looked down at her in surprise. Giving in to a long-buried instinct, he pressed his body into hers, up against the chalkboard. Then he kissed her.
One question was instantly answered. Whatever else she had done in the decade or so since their breakup, Septima Vector was not seeing another man. The passion within her was like that of a hibernating creature waking after an overlong season of slumber. Severus could feel her body become taut and eager as she began to press back into him. Her knee did that maddening thing along his. He had no idea why he started this kiss, but now he felt his body responding to hers.
He had just about maneuvered the hem of her robe up to her hips when suddenly she tensed up. She pushed against him and shook her head. “Stop.”
“Ah... sweet...” he murmured, lowering his lips to her neck. “The students are gone, we can do this...”
She shook her head again. “No, I can't do this. Please, Severus, stop.”
Sighing, he took a step away from her but then a half step back as she nearly tumbled down. After righting her, he turned and took a deep breath. “What's the problem? I want to, and I know you want to.”
“I do,” she said, and he could hear it in her voice, “but I've learned a lot in the last ten years.”
“Such as?” Now he was feeling impatient.
“When we were together, before, I wasn't that important to you.”
“You mattered to me.”
“Not like the other woman.”
“There was never anything between me and her.”
“There was in your heart.”
He sighed. “I suppose. What does that have to do with us here and now?”
He watched her breathe deeply for a moment or two before she answered. “It would mean far too much to me and nothing whatsoever to you. I accept that I was just a sort of plaything to you. I can come to terms with that in our past. I just can't allow it to be part of my present.” She moved up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. Then she picked up her journal and left.
He watched her back as she moved down the hallway. No one walked like her, he thought to himself. He should go to her, explain that she was never just a plaything to him, but he wasn't sure what he could say. If she had gone along with his urges just now, what would have happened after that? He somehow knew he would need to answer that question before approaching her again.
He sat at his desk and considered the Septima-shaped smudge on his chalkboard.
A/N: Thank you to Trickie Woo for beta reading!