Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Perhaps a night filled with Septima had addled Severus's mind. Under normal circumstances, he would never have opened her door when he heard the knock. As it was, he cursed himself when the wizard who stood there pushed his way in.
“Snape! I came to check on Septima. Where is she?”
“She's in the shower.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Severus pulled the dressing gown closed and shrugged. “Isn't it obvious?”
“You bastard! She needs a man who will be gentle! She needs tenderness!”
Severus was tired enough to sit down on Septima's couch. “You speak as if you think me incapable of such attributes.”
“You're a Death Eater.”
“Whatever I may or may not have been in the past, Lupin, has nothing to do with the relationship Septima and I share. I can assure you that I was exactly what she needed last night.”
Lupin sat down and hissed the next part. “She was an innocent! She knows nothing of love.”
Severus thought for a moment, remembering. Then he smiled and nodded. “Yes, she was an innocent the night we first became involved, long ago at the university.”
“You... and she... since... then?”
“Well, there were a few years when she wouldn't speak to me, but for the most part, yes.”
Lupin thought for a moment, and Severus could see understanding work its way through his face. “Then when you goaded me about a lover... it was you?”
“You mentioned a child.”
Severus winced at the mention of Renée. “Lost,” he whispered, “and I wouldn't mention it to Septima. No one knows.”
“You almost look human now, Snape. Tell me, why aren't you married? Why play these games?”
“I had foolish ideas when we were young, and now that we both want to marry, Dumbledore won't let us.”
At the mention of the Headmaster, Lupin's eyebrow raised. “I never dreamed that you would be interested in Septima. I asked Dumbledore when I saw how close the two of you were, and he gave me a very different impression about you.”
“Oh?” This might be interesting. Severus watched the werewolf open his mouth, but Septima came in from the shower. Before she realized they had company, she propositioned him in a way that reminded him of the Septima he had known long before, who was comfortable with her sexuality and confident of him. He regretted the need to stop her.
* * * * *
An hour later, Severus was in his office grading essays when an elf brought him a message from the Headmaster. He carefully put the scrolls away and then went up to the tower where the Headmaster's office was kept. He hadn't seen Septima since her meeting with Dumbledore and didn't know what to expect.
The response to his knock was uninformative. “Enter.”
“You asked to see me, Headmaster?”
“Yes. I was just looking through some old notes and thought you might be interested. Have a brandy and a seat.” He conjured a comfortable chair and waved at a glass on his desk. It would be better to do what the old wizard asked in order to get it over with. When Severus sat down, Dumbledore handed him an open picture album. Severus caught a glimpse of the old wizard wiping his eyes before he had a chance to focus on what was before him.
It was Lily.
It must have been taken right before she and Potter went into hiding. There she was, smiling and nodding at something off frame. She was as beautiful as ever, beautiful enough to break a man's heart all over again. He traced her face for several moments and his eyes blurred, making him feel almost as if she was smiling at him.
Severus didn't want to turn the page but found his fingers fumbling at the vellum. Now Lily's lifeless eyes looked directly at him. It was the official photo taken of her as she lay in death on the floor of her son's nursery. Her beautiful body was in perfect condition as she lay there, and the only indication that she was dead was the emptiness of those beautiful green eyes.
“Why did you want me to see this again?” he asked over the lump in his throat. He took the brandy that he was given and swallowed without thinking.
“It occurs to me that you've forgotten why you're here and what you need to work toward.”
“I haven't forgotten,” he said quietly. His soul felt stripped bare; his grief was suddenly as fresh as it had been thirteen years before. He ached to get away, to find some sort of comfort somewhere. He thought of Septima just as Dumbledore spoke again.
“That witch has distracted you. She's caused you to betray your true love.” It was as though he'd been reading Severus's mind. He refilled the brandy, and Severus drank again without thinking.
“You know what you need to do.”
“Yes.” He said it absently. Something in his mind was fighting for a chance to be considered, but the brandy pushed it away. Lily was important and he had forgotten her. He'd betrayed her memory. How had he gone so far astray?
He barely noticed the hand on his shoulder or the other hand that took the picture book before he could turn any more pages. “There are other ways to assuage your grief than to bury it in some woman.”
He must have meant revenge. Severus stood up. “I won't forget that, Headmaster.” He placed the glass on Dumbledore's desk and wandered from the office, firm in his resolve to remember Lily and work toward the final victory over her killers.
A/N: Thank you, as always, for reading and reviewing! Thank you especially to Owlbait for beta reading.