Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
The Dark Lord was torturing him. “Crucio! Why couldn't you get me all the information? Why couldn't you get the address of their house? Why are you Half-blood... Why are you a freak? Why can't you be normal? Why do you look at me that way?” As so often happened, the spells turned to slaps and he looked up, way up, to see his father tower over his eight-year-old-self.
Severus awoke to the sound of a squeaky cry followed by a thump on the floor. He sat bolt upright, bumping his shins into the portable writing desk he kept in his room. The desk slid off the bed, and he looked at the floor to see Septima laying there, very still.
“No,” he whispered. Had he somehow injured her during his nightmare? Wait, it was his side of the bed, and ink was leaking everywhere. With a twist of his wand, he set the desk to rights and put it back on the table where it usually lay. He knelt down beside Septima and looked for any sign of injury.
“Gathering...” she whispered. He pulled her into his arms, and she nestled there but spoke no more. He lifted her up and carried her to the other bedroom as he called for a house-elf.
The house-elf fetched Poppy, who came out of the fireplace tying a dressing gown on. “What is the matter?” she asked when she saw him.
“I'm not sure. I woke up, and she was lying on the floor.”
“Let's look her over, then.”
Poppy bent over her patient, and Severus had a chance to pull his own dressing gown on over his shorts. His arms had just about gotten through the sleeves when there was a knock at the door.
Dumbledore walked toward the room containing Septima. “The portraits said... Great Godric! Poppy, is the baby all right?”
“She's had an incredible amount of magic pass through her, but Septima and the baby are fine.”
Severus cleared his throat. “I heard a thump and found her on the floor. I brought her here.”
“What was happening before that?”
“I don't know.” Wait, what was the writing desk doing out? “There might be something.”
Dumbledore was staring at him. Severus quickly averted his eyes. Had he betrayed anything in his worry? It didn't matter right now. What was important was to find out if something had happened that might have hurt Septima or the baby.
* * * * *
It didn't take long to find. When Septima had fainted, it had rolled up and under a corner of the bed. “Accio parchment.”
He only glanced at it for a minute and then swore when he bumped into Dumbledore.
“I wondered whether you found anything.”
“It was under the bed.” He held out the scroll and started walking back through the lounge.
“Why would she be in here?” asked Dumbledore while unrolling the parchment.
Severus shrugged. “She gets up frequently at night to use the bathroom, and I was having some sort of nightmare. She must have heard me.”
“This is her handwriting?”
“Absolutely. You can feel her magical touch upon it, too.”
“Yes, but where would she see this symbol?”
Severus rolled up his sleeve. It was still there, almost as dark as it had been when he awoke. “She must have seen this.”
“Have you been showing it to her?”
“No.” It was clear that she had been looking, however.
“Severus... You two are in close quarters here. Have you been...” Dumbledore suddenly blushed. “I just wanted to point out that if you had any sort of an itch, there are ways...”
“Are you suggesting that I would poke my wand in the werewolf's incubator?”
Dumbledore chuckled as he handed the parchment back to Severus. “Of course not, but I know you were close in the past. If you should have feelings for her...”
Severus turned away. “I'm not developing feelings for the witch.” He realized that the feelings were already there.
Poppy's voice found them. “She's awake.”
Severus forced himself to walk carefully into the other bedroom behind the Headmaster.
“How's the mother?” asked Dumbledore.
“I'm feeling terribly embarrassed,” she answered, looking from one to the other. “I shouldn't have attempted that calculation. It was like the other time when the magic charged through me without my control. Is the result in Parseltongue this time, too?”
“See for yourself,” said Severus, holding out the scroll.
"The Dark Lord rises to gather his own." Septima looked between the two wizards in the room. “What does it mean?”
“I can only guess,” said Dumbledore, “but I think we'll all know before long.” He cleared his throat and looked at Poppy. “Are you sure the baby is fine?”
“Yes, he's thriving. Whatever Severus has been doing to take care her is exactly what she and the baby need. He should do a great deal of it.” Poppy gently guided the Headmaster out of the bedroom and through the lounge. “We should let these two get back to sleep.” She winked at Severus, and an instant later the Matron and the Headmaster were gone.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Owlbait and Kyria of Delphi!