Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Severus picked up the parchment Septima left and stared at it. Perhaps he would be able to decipher whatever it was that had upset her. Then he saw it. He was almost as shocked as she had been, but for a different reason.
When they were together as students and Septima had been pregnant, she had fancifully merged runes for each of them to create a third rune. “That's the baby,” she had quietly said when he asked. He had not wanted to be reminded of the baby, so he had shrugged and gone back to the potion text he had been reading. Yet now, today he was staring at that very rune, which clearly answered the question, “Who will be attacked next by the monster?”
He ran out of her office and followed her to the window where she stood staring at the grounds. It was a snowy night, and there wasn't much to see. She turned her head slightly, indicating that she was aware of his presence, and then she turned back to the window.
“Is that what happened to your research?” he asked.
“It's so long ago that I don't really remember.”
“Not at all?”
She sighed and shook her head. “When I got out of the hospital, they told me I would be fine, and I was. I just wanted to know about the baby, what she would have been like and that sort of thing. I thought that maybe if I knew... The numbers kept telling me that she was happy and well—”
For once Severus didn't ask her not to cry. He understood. Instead he slipped his hand around hers. “So it was easier to simply not let any terms dance inside your head.”
“I suppose that's it.”
“I believe you will come to understand it all, eventually.”
“Do you think so?” She looked up at him with such hope that he nearly kissed her. It wouldn't be right. It was the sort of thing loved ones might do for each other. He limited himself to tightening his hold on her hand.
“Why don't I see you back to your rooms? That monster may target you, next.”
She shook her head. “I'm a pureblood, Severus, and you're you. Somehow I doubt either of us would be attacked.”
“Nevertheless,” he said. He tugged her hand and drew her back down the hallway to her office. Neither spoke during the short walk, but it was quite companionable. They arrived at the door and he was again tempted to hold her in his arms. Instead he released her hand and moved a half step away. “Good evening, Septima.”
She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Severus.”
Why would the monster target their daughter next? Severus pondered the question long into the night. With three magical grandparents, the girl was not truly Muggle-born. The monster must be using the same perceptions that everyone at the school had. It must have been getting its directions and information from someone who only knew what he or she was told. It was a clue, but he wasn't sure how to use it.
* * * * *
He couldn't help trying to influence events. As his next second year class ended, he said, “A moment, Miss Granger.”
She stayed behind and looked up at him expectantly. He looked down, unable to control his thoughts for a moment. Had he ever had a chance to look at her this closely? He memorized everything about her. Then he remembered what he wanted to tell her.
“I wanted to remind you that there's some sort of monster wandering the halls of the school, seemingly at will. Please be careful and encourage your friends to do the same.”
“All right, Professor. Is that all?” At his nod she looked at him searchingly and went on her way. He couldn't remember where else he'd seen that facial expression until he was shaving the next morning.
* * * * *
Later in the spring, Severus was summoned to the infirmary to check the latest victim of the monster and his heart stopped. Renée was there, turned to stone. “Has anyone told her mother?”
“It's harder with Muggles, but we're in the process of contacting her parents,” said Minerva. Severus looked at her in confusion until he remembered that no one knew—even Septima didn't seem to know—that this was their daughter. He remembered that for practical purposes he wasn't the child's father, either. He had been summoned as a professional who might have an idea about her case. He forced himself to confer with Poppy, agreeing that the Mandrake potion would be the proper remedy for both of the students affected today.
Late at night, he returned to the bedside of his daughter. Poppy appeared to have retired for the night and everything was quiet. The only inhabitants in the infirmary were unable to move or speak. He walked toward her and stared for a long while. She had Septima's hair and eyes. Somehow the rest of her face reminded him of his mother's, during the brief moments she had smiled at him. He stared for several minutes and wondered what would have been if he had made different choices.
He finally leaned down and touched her as he had never been allowed to do before. She was turned to stone, but he could at least touch her hair and pat her hand or her shoulder. He did this for several nights while wondering how Septima could possibly have given her up. Didn't she know that their daughter would be better with their own kind?
He'd gotten nowhere in ascertaining the nature of her memory modification, so he could only guess. When they had broken up, he had just become a Death Eater. Perhaps Septima wanted to protect their daughter from that life. For eleven years she had grown into a brilliant child, free of danger and distress. Perhaps it was for the best.
“Perhaps what was for the best?” Severus turned and beheld the child's mother.
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! Thanks especially to beta reader Trickie Woo.