Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
It was a long summer without Severus. Septima didn't know what he was doing, but suspected it was either very dangerous or very tedious. Dumbledore seemed to delight in giving such tasks to Severus. She ached over him, willing him to be safe and hoping that he would come back soon.
Yet she dreaded his return, too. She didn't know what Dumbledore had told him, but she feared it would be up to her to maintain a professional distance. She woke up from nightmares in which he had a hurt look on his face, but even worse were the nightmares where he shrugged and walked away.
There was a lot of notice in the paper and among the staff about an escaped prisoner from Azkaban. Everyone rehashed the night of the Potters' deaths. Some said it had to be due to Sirius Black while others wondered if something else had happened. The fact that a dozen people had been killed on a London city street was insurmountable, though. The fact that Black had laughed while waiting for the Aurors was proof of his guilt... and of him being unhinged, like his mother and his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.
It wasn't important to Septima. After several weeks of moping around the castle, she was summoned to Dumbledore's office for another meeting. She went with trepidation, knowing that he would have some unpleasant task for her to do. Maybe it would be news about Severus. Suddenly she was awash in fear that Severus was hurt... or worse.
“Ah... Septima, there you are. I wonder if you would accompany me today. I have a meeting with a prospect for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.”
“I don't see why you need me, Headmaster. I'm pants at Defense.”
“You're a good teacher, Septima. Perhaps I just want to see you outside of this castle for a few hours. I need to look after my staff, you know.”
That was a bit rich, coming from him. Yet it didn't really matter. “All right then.”
“Why don't you go put on something nice, prepare to stay in town for a while, and we'll meet at the gate in about half an hour?”
She shrugged. “I'll be there.”
* * * * *
She remembered Remus Lupin from her school days. He had aged a great deal, and he seemed rather low. “Remus, perhaps you remember Septima Vector. She teaches Arithmancy at Hogwarts.”
“The answer is still no, Albus. I can't be around the students, and you know it.”
“There's a potion that will make your condition... ahem... less contagious, and you know you'll enjoy being at the school again. Plus, as Septima can attest, there are other compensations. Tell him, Septima.”
She had to say something. “I'm sure you won't regret it, Mr. Lupin.”
Remus looked at Septima, and she felt him appraise her as a woman. It was a new experience. Most of the wizards she'd dealt with assessed her abilities as a witch or scientist. This was a man, looking at her as a potential mate. He took her hand and kissed it. “All right, Albus, I'll give it a try,” he said with a sigh. His eyes never left Septima's face as he smiled at her.
“Excellent!” The Headmaster clapped his own hands together. “Septima, why don't you help Remus make his arrangements? You have an apartment in London, don't you?”
“But Headmaster, I know nothing about teaching Defense.”
“You know all about teaching, Septima. That's the part Remus will want help with.”
Dumbledore was quickly gone, and Septima found herself looking awkwardly at her new colleague. “Well,” she said, “there are several bookstores where Hogwarts has accounts. Dumbledore is pretty lavish with letting us choose our materials.”
“Perhaps you'll take me?”
She sighed. “I need to look into a few things, too.”
“Excellent.” She realized that he had a crooked smile that added a certain charm to his face.
* * * * *
Septima spent many days during the rest of the month working with Remus, helping him choose curricula and coaching him on different styles of classroom management. He was interested in many things and asked her many questions. His style was very different to the wizards she had known in her mostly scientific professional life, yet he was clearly just as studious as any of them.
He also seemed interested in her personally. He had asked whether there was anyone in her life and after her quiet “no” had starting asking about her personally. He often brought her a flower when they met. She wasn't sure whether to feel charmed or awkward.
They had dinner together on the last night before school would start. Remus was nervous but cheerful. She hadn't seen him for a few days, and tonight he looked particularly tired and worn. She mentioned it as they walked to her apartment. “It's nothing,” he said. “I have a—condition—that occasionally makes me feel ill. If Dumbledore has arranged for me to get a potion to ameliorate the worst of the symptoms, I shall be all the better for working at Hogwarts.”
“You have a lot of good ideas. I'm sure you'll be brilliant.”
“It means a great deal that you think that, Septima.”
“Well, you can't be any worse than Lockhart,” she teased.
“Impertinent witch,” he laughed. They reached her door and stopped walking. He drew close to her. “Septima,” he said.
“I wondered if it would be acceptable to kiss you.”
“Oh. I'm not sure—”
He didn't wait for an answer but leaned over and touched his lips to hers. She gasped at his boldness, and something like a growl came from his chest as he opened his own mouth and kissed her more fully. Before she had a chance to panic, he pulled away and smiled at her. She put her fingers over her mouth and looked at him. He took the key from her trembling hand and put it in the lock. He glanced inside her apartment before standing aside for her to go in.
“I've wanted to do that for a while now. I'm glad you wanted it, too. I'll see you tomorrow night, then.”
Septima had her hand over her mouth and just nodded. He smiled once again and walked away. She shut the door behind him and stood against it in confusion. She hadn't meant to let him kiss her, let alone like that. She certainly hadn't wanted to learn that his teeth were a bit crooked, like Severus's, and that while kissing Remus she could think of the man she loved.
A/N Thank you to Kyria of Delphi and Owlbait for beta review.