Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Severus sat at the next start-of-year feast and watched the first years come in with some trepidation. He didn't know how to look at the one child whose name would no doubt garner a great deal of attention. As long as Harry Potter didn't look too much like James, he thought he could handle it. On the other hand, if he looked a great deal like Lily, he might not be able to stand that, either.
Severus's attention was snatched away by a little girl who walked in. She had hair that could have used a good combing and a way of walking as though she owned the place. She had an intelligent look that he had first seen across another room thirteen years before. He watched as she looked around curiously. He quickly calculated dates, and they matched what was before his eyes.
He looked down the table to where Septima usually sat. She, of course, was gone. Was this the secret she had been keeping? She'd obviously had their child and put it up for adoption. His mind ran through the times he'd seen her that spring. There'd only been a handful, and then she'd had that nervous breakdown. She had worn loose robes, and she had been very protective of her middle. Yes, she could have just about done it, he decided.
He watched in helpless rapture as the little girl sat down on the stool. He tried to gain access to the Hat's mind, begging it to put her in his house or perhaps her mother's. “Gryffindor!” it said, and she smiled as she gave the Hat back to Minerva. Then she walked over to the red table and sat down in obvious satisfaction. He was so angry that he barely noticed what happened after that. Was there a gleam in the Hat's eye?
* * * * *
When he wasn't teaching or tied up in business for Dumbledore, he investigated the child. When one knew where to look and how to whisper a Confunding charm or two, it was much easier to obtain certain documents. He discovered that her parents had adopted her at two weeks of age. With a little careful prying into her mind, he realized that they had never told the child herself, so he could not ask her about it. His further investigation discovered some rather hazy paperwork, a definite indicator that magic was involved.
When he pulled a couple of strings at St. Mungo's, he discovered that Septima had walked into the hospital as a maternity patient and had been discharged from the Janus Thickey Ward. The nervous breakdown may not have been entirely a ruse; he would have to tread carefully.
In the meanwhile, he had no idea how to behave around his daughter. She was as smart as both her parents and fortunately lacked that annoying tendency of Septima's to get distracted. Unfortunately, it seemed she also had some of his worst characteristics, like a desperate need to show off her knowledge and prove herself.
* * * * *
“Severus, I need a potion.”
He wanted to smile at how he enjoyed hearing Septima's voice, but he didn't look up from the essay he was grading. “I'm sure you don't need my skills for what you desire.”
“I need the potion you made for me before, for contraception.” The last word was barely audible.
He did look up at that. “It didn't work.”
She looked at the floor. “It worked well enough, and later... I used the rest when Professor Erwin...”
“You slept with Professor Erwin?” He looked at her in surprise. He would never have imagined it.
Her look was of horror. “There wasn't any sleeping. It's was—He said you told him that you thought it was an excellent idea.”
He made a dismissive noise. “I did no such thing.”
“He told me that he had asked you, and that you had given me a glowing recommendation.”
“He and I were discussing his becoming your advisor.”
“No.” For the first time he really looked at her. She looked ready to throw up. “I stayed with Oiler the whole time, of course. Erwin was on the committee and wouldn't read my thesis unless I—and he said you told him that you couldn't recommend the situation highly enough.”
“As his student!” Severus shook his head. “I can't believe you traded your body that way.”
There was a squeaky gasp. “He told me you said—I wanted—” She shrugged and whispered, “It doesn't matter any more.”
He frowned at his ink pot. “I can't imagine what was worth your self-respect.”
They looked into each other's faces and then both looked away. “I wanted to be close to you, and I would have done anything. I needed my degree, and he refused to read my thesis unless—I guess it didn't work out the way I hoped.”
This was it. This was what he'd been waiting ten years to discover. This was the secret she had been holding, and very likely the source of her rage. He felt a little sick himself at the role he had played in all of this. “Surely you can use whatever you've used since then.”
“I haven't used anything. There's been no one.”
Some little flicker lit within him but was quickly doused. “Until now, you mean.”
“There really isn't now, either.” She was looking at him now, and he didn't need Legilimency to see that she still loved him.
A/N: I can't tell you how I appreciate your reading. Thank you, and feel free to drop a line to tell me what you think. Thank you especially to Trickie Woo, who has beta read this chapter at least three times.