Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Septima lay across Severus's chest. His right arm was around her, and his fingers idly played in her hair. She was staring at his left arm, tracing around the mark that was clearly visible on it.
He sucked in his breath. “Merlin, Septima, be careful. If you touch it the wrong way, you'll activate the mark.”
“This is what you were doing the day I lost Renče.”
“Septima...” He swallowed hard. “I can't tell you—”
There was a half-shake of her head. “No, it's not like that. We've gone over it so many times already... but I've never seen it. This is the first time... I've always imagined it, and here it is. I've hoped all this last month that it was just hives or something, but... What does it mean?”
“Only the Dark Lord himself could make it do this. Dumbledore will scold me tomorrow for hiding it from him.”
“So He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?”
“I don't believe that's quite true either. If he was, he would summon me properly.”
She bit her lip, afraid to ask the question that filled her with fear.
“Septima, what is it?”
“I don't want you to be angry with me.”
He swore under his breath. “You can ask me anything.”
“You used to get so mad at me. I don't want to ruin this...”
“I'm not nineteen anymore, and I've learned that I love the way you care enough about me to ask questions.” He tilted his head and whispered. “Ask me.”
She licked her lips. “When you were asleep, you were talking. It sounded like he hurt you.”
He sighed and shifted his position. She made to move away, but he held her more tightly. “Don't go away. I want you close to me. I just need—” He pulled her close, and they got comfortable again.
“I shouldn't have asked.”
He tipped her chin so that he could see her eyes. “I want you to ask. I want to tell you.”
Septima took a deep breath. “What was the dream about? Did he really hurt you?”
Severus nodded. “He hurt us all, when we displeased him.”
“Did he hurt you often?”
“Why did you stay with him, then?”
“There was nowhere to hide, love. Those who ran were tortured until they died.”
“And it's happening again?”
“I don't know.” He leaned up and kissed her, which signaled the end of the conversation.
* * * * *
In some ways, the remainder of the summer was uneventful. In other ways, it was a time of discovery. Septima learned how to live with the person who existed behind the idea she had so constantly thought of for years. She found that being very careful around him was a sure way to inspire some sort of annoyance. She couldn't help it; experience had taught her to move cautiously around him. Now he seemed to expect total trust and ease, but she didn't know how to do that yet. Little by little, she took greater liberties with him, and he responded in a positive manner.
They spent the summer working together as they had done in the past, reading and theorizing in Septima's apartment or at Eileen's house. When they needed to brew something to test a theory, they went to Hogwarts, where Poppy continued to nod and smile over the baby's progress. As had ever been the case, they celebrated their small victories on whatever flat surface was available, although the chalk boards were less convenient with a growing baby bump in the way.
Severus seemed to enjoy himself. Septima watched him as much as ever, and he seemed almost cheerful as he paged through reference manuals, chopped leaves, or ground dried ingredients with a mortar and pestle. He ignored Septima's appointments with Poppy, but was present for every one with his mother, often asking questions for which Septima had already told him the answers. “A son,” he would whisper late at night when he didn't think she was awake. He put his hand on the bump and sometimes kissed it.
Parents of students offered them tickets to the World Cup, but they chose to stay in Septima's apartment and listen on the wireless. She was grateful for that decision late that night when Severus sat bolt upright in the bed and said, “No, Master! We only want to serve you!” It took her several minutes to wake him from his nightmare and soothe the angry red mark on his arm. It had prickled and stung off and on, but on this occasion it was angry and throbbing. They learned of the events at the World Cup campsite the next morning and wondered.
* * * * *
The school year began, and shortly afterward, the Triwizard Tournament started. Severus pointed out the obvious romance between Aurora and the Headmaster of Durmstrang. Septima thought him a bit over-intense for her taste, but she was too happy with her own wizard to think much about it. She taught her classes and welcomed the chance to discuss questions about Arithmancy with Durmstrang's Professor Zosimov in person. She would lie in Severus's arms late at night and think to herself that it would be a fruitful academic year—very fruitful, as she was often reminded by some motion from within her belly.
The prickle and sting of Severus's arm continued, and the way Professor Moody treated Severus was no help. For some reason, the man would make some dig about Death Eaters, and Severus would feel an intense pain from the mark. Septima began to resent the older wizard and to avoid him. Fortunately, with the extra professors and students around, it was easier than usual to avoid any one person. That included the Headmaster, whom she only saw during her appointments with Poppy.
The fact of Septima's pregnancy was more or less hidden from the other professors and the students. Severus had some sort of plan that would work better if the situation was not widely known. Dumbledore approved the deception, believing that Septima was going along with the plan to offer the baby for adoption. In fact, he mentioned that he had made a few inquiries on her behalf. Septima was content to let him spend his time that way if it kept him from looking too closely into her personal life. She adjusted her unusually loose robes and went about her business.
A/N: Thank you to Kyria of Delphi and Owlbait for beta reading!