Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
In December it was an elf-made wine. Septima woke in Severus's arms after having nightmares. At first she had dreamed of that recent discussion during which Dumbledore had told her to break it off with Severus. Then she had dreamed of Professor Erwin. As she came to awareness, Severus was holding her close and muttering, “That bastard is still going to pay...”
She looked up at him and understood what must have been happening. She had helped him with this potion just a month ago. “You've been dosing me with different versions of that potion. You weren't content with the peeks of my mind you got before.”
“Septima, please.” He tried to pull her close and kiss her, but for once she wasn't having it. She pushed away and moved to the opposite end of the couch.
“What in a bloody snitch are you seeking?” she asked him.
He stared at her helplessly and a little foolishly. She knew it was one of the few times he'd ever been caught out. He looked at his hands and then at his wine glass. After draining it, he looked at her again. Then he nodded to himself.
“Septima, your memories have been modified.”
“You're lying.” She could feel her heart start to beat quickly. This conversation was making her very angry... and worried... and... and... angry.
“I have a Calming Draught if you would like it.”
That was insulting. What was he implying? That she had no cause for anger? “I don't need a Calming Draught. I don't need any more of your potions tonight. There's nothing wrong with my memory, Severus Snape. Take it back.”
“The way you feel now is a symptom. When you come close to the memories that are modified you become agitated or you suddenly switch to a different train of thought. I've watched you do both during the same conversation. I'm getting close to figuring it out.”
“I don't believe it, and I think you should go now.”
He nodded and used his wand to direct the wine and glasses back to the box in which he brought them. He very deliberately placed a vial of Calming Draught on her coffee table. “All right, then. If you decide to pursue this, I'm at your service.” He moved close enough to carefully kiss her forehead and left.
* * * * *
Remus had been kissing Septima with greater frequency over these months and indicated his interest in moving even closer to her. “I'd like to start on a future with you, Septima, and I can't imagine the need to wait.”
She usually felt addled after his kisses, since they tended to remind her of Severus, but his hands did not. Remus's gentle hands were better than Erwin's overeager groping, and her lonely body welcomed the physical touch. Yet they were nothing like what she had known with Severus. When Severus touched her, he was an artist bringing life to a canvas. She stared at the shiny spot on Dumbledore's chair during staff meetings and wondered sadly if the way Remus touched her would always remind her of what she had lost, or more accurately, what had never truly been hers.
She tried, after dancing, to do what she knew he wanted. He held her so tightly when he kissed her that she couldn't ignore his desire. When he fumbled at her zipper, she simply undid it herself. She stood there, practically naked and turned her face so she wouldn't see what he looked like. She couldn't take it if he leered greedily as Erwin had. Instead, Remus leaned down. Septima could feel her knees shaking. What was he going to do down there?
He picked up her dress and held it in front of her. “I'm not going to pretend that I don't want you, Septima, but I can tell you don't really want this. It would be something like rape if we did it tonight, and I can't stand the thought of that.
She turned and saw that his face was kind. “I-I guess I'm not ready yet, Remus. I hope that I'll be ready soon. I'm just not ready now.”
He smiled indulgently. “I look forward to it, Septima. I know it will be worth the wait.”
Severus's forays into Septima's mind made her furious. It changed everything. After her argument with Severus, she went to find Remus at breakfast. “How about New Year's? I think I'll be ready, then.”
In response, he beamed tiredly at her and reached for her hand to kiss it. “I can't think of a better time to start our life together.”
Septima tried not to look at Severus, yet she couldn't help but notice his face from the corner of her eye. He was completely white, and his hands were clenched. He looked angry, but to her it seemed that he was hurt. She hardened her heart just a little bit, but then she turned quickly away. Dumbledore said this was for Severus's good, and besides, she was still feeling betrayed by what Severus had done last night.
* * * * *
The look on his face when she went to brew her potion in the dungeon was even worse. She'd been making it all along, but today was different. He turned his back to her and quietly asked, “Is it for you... and him?”
“He says he loves me.”
“Do you love him?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“Then why, Septima? Why couldn't we go on as before?”
“Thanks to your snooping, you know the answer to that, too.” She couldn't help saying it bitterly.
He stepped closer to her. “Does he know about us... that we made love in the staff room, or the other times?”
“Don't call it that! It was just sex... meaningless...”
He could smell the change in her just at the thought of it. He spoke softly as he reached out to trace her wrist. “It wasn't 'just' anything, Septima. It was us, as brilliant and wonderful as ever. The table still gleams where I pressed your body down and we moved together. That table has never been so forcefully rubbed... or your chalkboard... and tell me he could ever do what we did the last time.”
She took a gasping breath. “It didn't mean anything; it never does.”
“It's always meant something to me.”
“How can you say that? We both know that when it started it was just sex to you. For a while, maybe, you cared, but...”
“You don't care for Lupin. How can you treat him this way?”
She shook her head. “He's so kind and gentle that I'm sure we'll be content and besides, you—you betrayed me. I'm not sure I can forgive you for that.”
Sucking in a deep breath, he turned away and spoke quietly to her. “When you're angry at me, there's nothing to compare to it. You told me to go to hell all those years ago, and in a way I did. Your rage kept us apart for ten years after that. Septima, are you truly angry enough to separate us forever now? Are you that irrational?”
A/N: Thanks to Kyria of Delphi for looking this over for me, and thank you all for your continued support.