Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Early August, 1993
Severus peered into the forest. The frightened witch in the local pub had been right. There were some strange shadows in these woods. He quietly followed the trail he found and watched. He came to a clearing and swore. It was yet another community of vampires. Perhaps Quirrell had met the Dark Lord here. Perhaps the Dark Lord was still lurking here. However, if he was, he clearly didn't want to be found by Severus Snape.
He made his way back to the inn where he was staying and ordered his dinner. The literature rack of the inn had a newspaper that was new to him. It was a Daily Prophet from late July. It was now August, if he recalled correctly, but that was how long it took for British news to reach this small town. He settled down to read but quickly cursed and stood up.
It was like ripping a scab off an old wound. Sirius Black, the man he had sworn to kill if he ever saw him, had done the impossible and escaped from Azkaban. The man responsible for Lily's death was at large, and Severus was not able to capitalize upon it.
He remembered the morning after Lily died. He'd stolen comfort from Septima in an act of grand larceny, but she had done the impossible and kept him from destroying himself or anything else. At some point he'd had to go back to his rooms. He'd wallowed in the cold emptiness and mourned the loss of his love.
In the days that followed, he had learned, as everyone Magical had learned, just how perfidious Sirius Black had been. He'd had his own legal troubles to overcome in those days, but he swore to himself that Azkaban or no Azkaban, he would find a way to even the score. Now he would be able to do that. It was time to go back to Hogwarts, anyway.
Suddenly he ached for the woman who would comfort him again. The last weeks with Septima had been glorious. For some reason, she had been unusually free with her passion, staying the night in his rooms quite often. They were discreet as always, but once the door was closed, she had been completely unrestrained with him.
He had been furious when Dumbledore proposed this trip to the Continent. When they had parted for the summer, she had given him a sad smile. “Always remember that I love you, Severus Snape,” she had said with her hand along the side of his face. “I don't want you to feel any obligation or strain because of it. I just want you to know that someone loves you, and that you're important to me. Whatever does or doesn't happen, I'll never stop loving you.”
Septima would comfort him. Of that he was sure. She would soothe him and ask nothing in return except permission to continue loving him. He welcomed it. He could admit to himself that he needed it.
* * * * *
She wasn't at Hogwarts when he arrived. The elves told him that she had been gone for over a week and wasn't expected until the term started. There was nothing left but to go to Dumbledore's office. The Headmaster went straight to the current crisis.
“It's a concern, but the boy is safe and there's been no sight of Black.”
Severus felt the blood leave his face. “The boy is in danger from Black?” If Potter was in danger, what was the fate of the boy's two friends, particularly the one who happened to be his daughter?
“Well, yes, we can only assume so, since Black helped Voldemort kill the boy's parents. He's well protected for now, and he'll be at the school soon enough.”
Severus took a deep breath and prepared to angle into the next topic. “I was hoping to see Septima when I got back...”
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled in the way Severus found most annoying. “Ah, yes, she's taking care of some things for me.”
“Indeed?” Severus felt his eyes narrowing.
“Given the fact that Black is at large, I took it upon myself to offer the Defense job to one of his best friends.”
Since Potter and Pettigrew were both dead, that left... “Remus Lupin? I protest!”
“You have no reason to protest, Severus. You can make him the Wolfsbane, and he will help us. He's one of the few people who really knew Sirius Black, after all.”
Severus forced himself to let it go with a sigh. “What does this have to do with Septima?”
“I took her with me when I offered the job to Remus, and she tipped the scales in our favor. They've become quite close ever since. I believe she's helping him prepare for the school year. At least that's what they're calling it.”
“Septima... and the werewolf?” He refused to believe it. She loved him.
“He's not always a werewolf, Severus, and you can make the Wolfsbane, of course.”
Severus closed his eyes. During their schooldays, Lupin was not the womanizer that Potter and Black had been, but he had enjoyed a certain popularity with the witches. Was Septima the sort of witch to be sucked into that? Or was Dumbledore meddling again? Strike that. Dumbledore had definitely been meddling, he couldn't help it.
“You've tried your hand at matchmaking, haven't you?”
“She wants a husband and children, Severus.”
“I would give her all of that.”
“Nonsense. You're a man of the world, like me. We don't need wives or children. We have the memory of that one perfect love to hold us. It will be nice to see some new little ones from the old Order of the Phoenix.”
Suddenly Severus felt ill. Not only had Dumbledore maneuvered Septima out of his life, but he'd turned her into a mere vessel for the werewolf. He couldn't stay in this office any longer. He stood up. “If that's all, Headmaster, I believe I'll retire for the night.”
“That'll do for now. Welcome back.”
Black eyes glared into the blue ones for a moment before Severus left Dumbledore's office.
A/N: Thank you for continuing to read! Thank you to Owlbait and Kyria of Delphi, who beta read while Trickie Woo is taking what we hope will be a short break.