Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling.
Two weeks at Hogwarts without Septima was horrible. Severus couldn't remember what he did before she slept in his arms at night. He couldn't understand why he should be so irritable without her in the mornings. The only thing he was sure of was that the prickle in his arm was worse than ever, and there was no one to rub soothing lotions into it or distract him with her ripening body.
There was a project or two to work on in Septima's absence. Hermione sent a letter to her parents asking if they could remember who their contact had been when she was adopted. Severus had considered going to their home and using Legillimancy. He decided that if Dumbledore were involved in an attempted adoption of Nicky, it would be better if the Grangers never saw Severus. Someone would have to tell the Grangers soon that there was no baby boy to adopt, and he didn't want them to mention him.
Hermione wrote her letter and waited several days for a reply. She brought it to him with her Potions essay one afternoon. The Grangers remembered the kind lady who brought their baby girl to them very well. Her name was Alice Longbottom, and she was very helpful. As they went over the paperwork, she explained that Hermione would have some peculiarities, and that there would be a special school in her future. They had always wondered what had happened to Mrs. Longbottom, who mentioned that she and her husband were hoping to start a family soon. They had been under the impression that she would return to help them get Hermione ready for school and were disappointed that she didn't.
Severus read the letter in his office and swore. “Is that Neville's Mum?” asked Hermione.
“Yes, she's been—ill—since the Dark Lord fell, such that she wouldn't be able to tell us anything. She was an Auror, and a member of an organization that I suspect was marginally involved, but she probably did her part in good faith. In any case, we're at a dead end for now.”
Severus scratched his arm. “Septima will be back tomorrow. I'm sure you'll want to visit with her then.”
“Every day it seems like I think of new questions.”
“No doubt she has, too.” The clock chimed; a new class would be lining up outside the Potions dungeon. He walked her to the door and spoke more loudly. “It's off to the library for you, Miss Granger. Mind you write your next essay with slightly larger print. Making me blind will not give you a higher grade.” He stood in the hallway and stared at the second-years queued up outside the classroom.
* * * * *
Septima was a bundle of nerves the next afternoon when he arrived at his mother's house. “Are you sure this is all going to work?”
“I told Dumbledore he can have us all or none of us. He chose all. Besides, where would he find an Arithmancy Professor with your credentials?”
She smiled and handed him the bag she had packed to take back to Hogwarts. They quietly made their way to a quiet corner of the neighborhood, Apparated to the gates of the school, and walked up the drive.
“Why am I so nervous?” she asked.
“There's no reason to be. Everything is ready in our apartment and we have all afternoon to get settled.” Severus opened the door and held it for her.
“Ah, Professor Vector, I wonder if I might have a word?” Dumbledore was standing on the first landing of the great staircase, twinkling at the students going into the Great Hall for dinner.
“Certainly, Headmaster,” she said. Under her breath she said, “Now I know why,” as she handed Severus the baby and followed Dumbledore up the stairs.
Severus had no idea what the old man had planned this time, but he was not worried. He smiled to himself as he looked forward to an evening with his witch by his side. He arrived in his lounge and set the bag on the coffee table. He had no idea what was in it or where Septima wanted it put. The baby yawned and closed his eyes, so Severus decided to put him down for a nap. He walked over to what had been Septima's room and cursed for a full minute.
The door was gone. Bare wall stood in its place. Where had the crib for the baby gone? He looked around the lounge. It wasn't there. He walked to the doorway of the bedroom. It wasn't there, either. He looked around the entire apartment and realized that in the last two hours, every trace of Septima had been removed.
Still holding the baby, he took the stairs two at a time.
* * * * *
“Ah, come in, Severus!” said Dumbledore in response to his furious knock. The door opened.
Severus felt somewhat incongruous, storming into the office while cradling the baby against his chest. Septima saw the look in his eyes and quickly reached for the child. He didn't speak to her but instead handed Nicky to her. Her grasp of the child was gentle but firm. No force, Muggle or magical, would take her child away from her when she looked like that.
“Headmaster, this is not what we agreed to!”
“Professor Snape, I am speaking with Professor Vector just now.” Severus could do nothing but fume and watch Dumbledore's scheme play out.
There was no chair for Septima to sit upon. She would be forced to stand like a pupil who had misbehaved. Dumbledore, however, seemed quite comfortable. He rearranged some of the devices on his desk and finally folded his hands on his blotter.
“I believe I made it clear that I did not want you to marry Professor Snape.” He looked up at her, indicating that a response was required.
“You did, sir.”
“Yet you did so, anyway?” He looked at her again.
“I have the paperwork prepared and a family ready to adopt your son, but I've been told you refuse to have that done?”
“We do.” Severus couldn't remain silent.
“Professor Vector, I'm asking you.”
She straightened her shoulders. “I will raise my own child, Headmaster. I never agreed to any adoption, and it's the last thing I want.”
Dumbledore sat back in his chair. “It was just a suggestion.” Now he smiled that smile that he flashed at Septima just when he was about to hurt her. “Your living arrangements will have to be discussed. It was one thing to have you and Severus sharing quarters when he was looking after Remus Lupin's interests. I'm not pleased with your part in that deception, by the way. Now, however, we must look after Severus's interests. Something tells me that he's about to be very busy, and we need to keep him from being overtaxed. You will therefore return to the Arithmancy Professor's quarters.”
Whatever the old man said, he was part of the conversation, now. “I need the witch, Headmaster.”
“I don't believe you do, Severus. You did perfectly well before Voldemort's death, if it can be called such.”
Severus snorted. “Not perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. Not well, either, if it comes to it. I need Septima in my apartment. She takes care of me.”
“We have a well-trained Mediwitch and a fully stocked Hospital Wing for that, Professor Snape.”
“You don't understand, Dumbledore! I need her near me. She comforts and soothes me.”
“I've told you time and again that there are other means to your comfort.”
“I want her.”
“She's a distraction we can't afford, and her things have already been moved to the other apartment.”
Septima looked exhausted and defeated, but she spoke with the dignity of a queen when she said, “I'll head there, now. Severus, if our special project students are looking for me, please tell them where I am.”
Looking closely, he realized that their son was wriggling against her chest, looking for a meal. He looked at Dumbledore with a raised eyebrow. “It appears that motherhood has won your argument for you. This isn't over.”
A/N: Thank you to Owlbait and Kyria of Delphi for beta reading!