Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
He leaned against the headboard on one side of the bed, and she lay back down on her side. Severus slid one hand down through her hair and patted her shoulder. She felt protected when he did that. She chanced peeking into his face and saw that he looked contented himself.
“Thank you, Severus,” she whispered. “When he got here tonight, I realized I couldn't, and he was going to force me. I was starting be frightened. When I knew it was you, I was so relieved. You can't imagine.”
He was quiet for a long time. Septima thought he might have gone to sleep. She looked up again and saw that he was staring at her.
“I had no idea what the man was after. If I'd had any idea what he wanted, I would have hexed his bits off when he asked about you. As it is, he's going to pay. I'm going to make him suffer in every way a man can suffer. I promise you, Septima.”
She was quiet for a while, unable to decide what he meant. “I didn't think you cared about me one way or the other.”
“How can you say that? You're the best lab partner I ever had... not to mention the best time I ever had in bed.”
“I'm not sure I believe that.”
“I've seen some of the witches you date.” Her eyes were burning as she looked at him. If he lied now, she would hex him. She would hex him, and then she would lie down in this bed and never wake up again.
“I won't try to tell you that I've been a hermit, Septima. I've had a few experiences.” He looked at her and shut his eyes. His voice turned cold. “Don't cry. You asked.”
She sniffed and swallowed hard. “Yes, I did. Go on.”
He looked at her again, and she fiercely nodded. “All right then. I was trying to forget you. I was so angry when you cut your hair, and then when you suggested that there was someone else, I assumed it would be someone handsome and powerful... the things I'm not.”
“Why would I want someone like that? I cut my hair because it would have been a desecration for Erwin to touch it. It was a desecration anyway, but that would have been entirely too much.”
He was touching her hair again. “And I thought it was different. I went with those women to try to forget you, but it didn't work.”
“It was an abortive effort at best. They weren't you, and it didn't help me forget your handsome and powerful lover.”
“Who never existed.”
“No, and if I had ever suspected what had really happened to you, Septima, it would have been different.”
“I should have said something. I should have sent a note before I—”
He leaned over. “Hush, I can't stand it if you cry. Please, Septima.” She swallowed again and blinked hard. “It never worked. I imagined you, and I remembered how it was with us. I just couldn't face it.”
“I never got as far as unbuttoning my waistcoat.”
“I wish I'd never said yes to Erwin.”
“You were under extreme duress.”
“I blamed you for it. I've been thinking a lot over the past few days, Severus, and I'm sorry for being so angry. All these years we might have been working together.”
“I understand now, what you thought and what you thought my role was. I regret my part in the misunderstanding.”
“I never quite hated you.”
“Nor did I ever hate you.”
She sat up. “If you don't mind, I'm going to change into a nightgown.”
He waved his hand in acquiescence, and she slipped to the bathroom.
She glanced at a frilly neglige she had once purchased in the hopes of such a situation, but she changed into a nightgown that was very simple and not revealing. When she returned, he was sliding between her covers wearing boxer shorts and his shirt. At her glance, he shrugged. “I didn't plan to be here tonight.”
“No you didn't.” They both slid between the sheets and she looked at him one last time. “Thank you, Severus, for everything.”
They lay apart but facing each other. Septima doused the lights and tried to sleep, but it was awkward.
A/N: Thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing! Thanks, as always to Trickie Woo for beta reading!