Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
The Yule ball was brilliant but exhausting. Septima danced with several Hogwarts professors. She discovered that dancing with Flitwick was not as odd as dancing with Moody. She knew Severus distrusted Moody and tried to stay away from him even as Moody sought Severus out. Tonight, Mad-Eye seemed a little over-interested in Septima.
“You are quite light on your feet, Professor Vector. I can't believe you aren't in greater demand among the wizards or even married... with children. Is there a wizard in particular you've pined for?”
There was something about his eyebrow—she'd seen another face do that, years ago. “I'm perfectly happy as I am, Professor.”
“I can teach you Defense Against the Dark Arts. I know things other wizards could never show you.”
The song wound down to an end. “I'll keep your offer in mind,” Septima said with a smile. She went back to her table, glad to have it over. It was just small talk after all. If his facial expression reminded her of someone she'd known as a student, perhaps they were related. All the pure-blood families were, if one looked more than three generations back, and most of the half-bloods only needed four generations.
After an all-too-brief interlude in the gardens with Severus, Septima worked her way down to the dungeon and the rooms she shared with him. She sat in the lounge and watched the fire for several minutes before deciding to prepare for bed. Surely Severus would wake her when he got in. She stared at the two bedroom doors before going toward Severus's room. She left her own door shut.
She had just doused the light when she heard the main door to the apartment open. She stretched luxuriously and considered calling to Severus, but she heard two voices in the lounge.
“It appears that the witch is asleep in her room, Severus, so we can finish our talk.”
“As you will, Headmaster. I've been hounded to death by one school's headmaster, who can't stop talking about his Dark Mark, and now I've been insulted by you telling me I don't belong to my own House.”
“I only meant that you could have been in Gryffindor.”
“By which you mean that Slytherin is somehow less desirable. It's an insult either way.”
“Be serious, Severus. You know as well as I do what the prickle in your arm means. You know what you will have to do.”
“You mean that I'll have to go back to him, that I'll have to apologize for not having all the information about the prophecy, for hiding behind your robe during the trials, and then living in your good graces for all these years, that I'll have to hope that he doesn't kill me, and then that I'll have to withstand whatever punishment he metes out?”
“We all have our role to play, and yours is based upon the sins of your early life. Thank Godric the child isn't yours. I need you, Severus, and you can't afford any hostages. Just in case anyone has figured out about Septima and thinks it's yours, I'm making arrangements to have the child removed from the situation so it won't be an issue.”
Septima shrank back in the bed. In the back of her mind she heard echoes of conversations about the children of Death Eaters. There had been one conversation in Dumbledore's office, but if she lay really still she could recall something much longer ago. It was just a snatch of a whisper. “Much safer for the child this way...”
She was brought back to awareness by something Dumbledore was saying. “It's going to be a cold night. I could have some brandy fetched down here and stay...”
“I think not, Headmaster. I need to keep my wits about me in case something happens. The witch's burden is getting cumbersome, and she may need assistance.”
Septima thought she could hear the old wizard shudder. “I'd best leave, then. Happy Christmas, Severus.”
“Happy Christmas, Albus.”
The main door shut and Septima heard Severus fix himself a drink before sitting down with a sigh. She pulled her dressing gown on and went into the lounge. “Is adoption a better option?”
He looked at her and smiled tiredly. He reached for her with his free hand, and she went to him as if Summoned. “I don't think it will matter. He still hasn't told me how the Dark Lord will supposedly come back to life, but if it does happen, the fact of our children's existence will be easily found and exploited.”
He pulled her onto the couch next to himself and slid his hand down to her bottom. She wasn't ready. “Our children are in danger?”
“Renée has been in danger since she sorted, thanks to her deplorable choice of friends. If the Dark Lord returns and considers Potter an enemy, then our daughter will be an enemy as well. I can only hope, if it comes to it, that I will have some sort of influence...” Severus's voice got thick. “Our son, however, will be viewed as a future Death Eater, just as any student in Slytherin. I think he will be fine. We simply must hope for the best.”
Septima snuggled closer to Severus. “Is that all we have?”
He put his empty glass on the table and slid his hand around her belly. “It's all I've got to offer you, Septima. Do you regret casting your lot with me?”
“It's not as though my heart ever gave me a choice,” she answered. “Somehow I think I'll be as well off at your side as I am anywhere else.”
He plucked at the tie of her robe. “Did you know that Aurora is pregnant?”
“I don't think she's as far along as I am.”
“So you knew?”
“I guessed. She's been so happy this year.”
“He mentioned a witch being pregnant and I thought he meant you, but from what he said, he must have meant her.”
Septima's skin started to feel very warm under his hand. “Are you really more interested in other witches than in me?”
After the holidays, time seemed to speed and drag at odd moments. Miss Granger had a quick visit with her parents and then spent the first few weeks of the term staring at Septima, which was disconcerting. Septima was strangely tongue-tied around the girl, now. She looked at her and knew she was the child she had carried, but there was no sense of connection. She wasn't sure if she should tell her or not. Since she didn't know what she would be offering if she did tell Miss Granger the truth, she shrank away from it.
Getting up and down the stairs between the Great Hall, the Arithmancy classroom, and the dungeons became more and more of a chore. As January wore on, Septima started having odd pains in her belly that made her sit down quickly from time to time. Poppy explained that they were small contractions that weren't actually part of labor but simply allowed the body to prepare. “It's just practice, dear. Get used to them now and practice the breathing patterns you've learned.”
Septima longed for a day when she could have her body back to herself, and yet was completely surprised on a Friday at the end of January when Poppy told her to dress quickly and then handed her a Portkey. “I believe it's time for a visit off-campus,” she said with a cheery smile. To Dumbledore she explained, “She doesn't have much longer before the child comes. She should get out and see the world for a bit before that happens.”
“Will she be all right by herself?” asked Dumbledore.
“I think she'll be fine, and Severus's classes should be over soon. I'll send him after her, and he'll make sure she gets back.”
“I trust you to know your business,” growled Dumbledore.
“Look at how pale and worn she looks. I think a few hours away from Hogwarts could give her the energy she needs.”
“Very well,” said Dumbledore. He tapped the Portkey with his wand, and within seconds Septima felt the pull of magical travel.
A/N: Thank you to Kyria of Delphi and Owlbait for beta reading!