Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
He felt lighter of heart for many days after that weekend. He imagined Septima working on her equations with a new eagerness, now that they were friends again. He laughed at himself. Friends were the last thing they were. They were lovers again, and there was no reason not to continue after she came back. Severus would glance at the Headmaster from time to time. As soon as this business with the stone was ended, he would bring up the subject of his own future.
He remembered the weeks of Septima's pregnancy, when he had looked forward to the child in spite of himself. He had planned to be a good father and prove to Lily that he wasn't as awful as she seemed to think. He looked toward the Gryffindor table during meals and imagined becoming a family even now with Septima, their daughter, and perhaps a new one already on the way.
He received her tear-stained note less than a month after their weekend together.
I don't wish to hold you in suspense a moment longer than necessary. It didn't happen, and you need not fear any responsibilities due to that most magical of days that we spent together. I won't lie; I had such hopes that my dreams were filled with you and a future that doesn't exist.
My feelings for you are unchanged from all those years ago, but I understand if you don't wish to continue anything beyond a professional relationship.
He re-rolled the parchment and held it to his forehead.
“Unhappy news, Severus?”
“It's fine, Headmaster.”
“Would it have anything to do with Septima Vector and that week you were away from the school so much?”
“I don't care to discuss it.”
"I received a rather distraught visit from Richard Erwin on a particular evening.”
“Indeed.” Severus forced himself to breathe slowly and willed his heart rate to decrease.
“He told me the most fantastic story about Death Eaters spoiling his romance. I discouraged his inclination to go to the Ministry.”
“That might have been the best solution for everyone involved.”
“That's why I advised him to let it go. Now, suppose you tell me what is between you and Septima.”
“It's my private affair, Headmaster. I don't wish to discuss it at this time.”
“You have no affairs private from me, Severus." The Headmaster was leaning close and looking at Severus over the lenses of his glasses. Severus was irked at being required to explain.
“Fine, then. I wish to marry her.”
The Headmaster's face was bland as he said, “You cannot do that.”
“Headmaster?” Severus tucked the letter into a pocket and looked at his employer.
“You need to be unhindered as we continue our fight. Now that Harry is growing and developing his skills, you will be needed more than ever. It seems your other master is somehow regaining strength. Quirrell will only be the beginning, I fear.”
“You can't dictate our private lives.”
“No, but I can tell you that you are not to get married, and I will be forced to fire any unmarried female professor who becomes pregnant.”
“You would throw a witch and a defenseless child on the street like that?”
Dumbledore shrugged. “It would be out of my hands. The governors would demand it. There's only one child who matters. Without him we're all defenseless.”
He didn't know how to respond to Septima's note in the light of Dumbledore's comments. While mulling it over and patrolling the castle he was alerted by one of his students to some mischief that Potter and Granger were embarked upon. Once he discovered the miscreants he had to give detentions to Potter, Granger, and Longbottom. Unfortunately he was also forced to give a detention to Malfoy.
One hundred fifty points from Gryffindor was not a bad night's work however, and it was with a cheerful heart that he penned a response to Septima's note:
I regret your sadness. However, it is perhaps as well that nothing happened. I have discovered that I shall be quite busy for the foreseeable future. I do not wish to lead you on nor suggest that our relationship can progress beyond working together.
I hope that we can have a positive working relationship; I look forward to your return to Hogwarts.
He posted it before he had a chance to change the wording. All they would have in the future was working together. Perhaps now that could include further research. From what he heard, the project would be unfinished even though the stone would soon be destroyed. Perhaps he and Septima would be allowed to continue working on the potions that weren't yet worked out.
He imagined late nights together, working. They would discuss their work, argue about it, agree, and sometimes they would have breakthroughs. He closed his eyes and tried to even his breathing as he thought of what would happen whenever there was a breakthrough. He shook his head and decided it couldn't happen. He couldn't allow the possibility that Dumbledore would cast her out of the school without any means of supporting herself. Perhaps in a year or two things would finally be resolved and Severus could finally have a future that mattered. Without Lily, it made sense to have that future with Septima.
Once the decision was made, he looked forward to her return. Sometime after the finals were completed and graded, she would come back. After that he would at least be able to look at her and enjoy her presence at the school. Anything beyond that, however, would be folly.
A/N: Thank you, as always, for your kind attention. Thanks to Trickie Woo for beta reading!