Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Preparing for the new school year was the same as ever and yet very different. Dumbledore kept many things closely guarded, and the Hogwarts professors were expected to act as they always did. Dumbledore encouraged all the members of the Order of the Phoenix to prepare for battle, and for Septima, that meant training in Defense.
Sirius Black was a surprisingly good teacher, and seemingly eager to risk inevitable damage to his mother's dining room, where training and practice duels were staged. He first assessed her abilities and then devised strategies she should follow if she found herself in battle. When actually teaching the spells and practicing them, he concentrated on her diction or her form. However, as soon as he decided the session was over, he started pushing the bounds of propriety.
“So tell me, Professor Vector, why do you hang around with Severus?”
“He's my husband.”
“I don't suppose it's an open marriage?”
Septima would roll her eyes and go into the study Remus had shown her on her first visit to Grimmauld Place. There she would wait until Severus came for her. Once or twice he was done conversing with Dumbledore before she finished her lesson, and he waited for her in the same room.
One evening, Septima sat on a couch and dozed a little. She woke to discover a large, shaggy dog sitting next to her. “Where did you come from?” she asked as she scratched his head. The dog whimpered and moved closer to her. Within moments, its head was pressed up against her chest and its forelegs were worked between her thighs.
“It's a good thing you're just a dog,” she mused. The animal pulled back and made a sound as it shook its head. If she didn't know better, she would think it was laughing.
She relaxed again and must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew was Severus saying, “Black, get your mangy hide away from my wife!”
Septima was fully awake, now. The dog stood on the couch and shook itself. Then it jumped lightly on the floor, and there was a flash of light. In less time than it would take to say it, she was staring into the gray eyes of her host.
“You didn't know I was an Animagus, dear Septima? Severus, you're making it much too easy for me.”
If Severus was distracted, he had what he considered good cause. He was on pins and needles over the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. Usually Dumbledore had some options lined up before the end of the previous school year, but several Order meetings had been devoted to choosing the fake Moody's successor. “He's got to pick me now,” Severus would mumble as they walked home. “All these years he's known that I'm by far the best teacher and the best-trained in Defense. There's no excuse.”
Septima was sure he was right. In various sparring matches staged in the dining room of Grimmauld Place, Severus usually came out victorious. There'd been a couple of stalemates, but so far he'd never been beaten.
The summer ended, and Septima packed her family's belongings in preparation to return to Hogwarts. It was surprising just how much she had accumulated in her office in three short months, but she had used quite a few reference books, and there were other texts she always kept near by, even if she wasn't sure she needed them.
Severus stormed into her office as she finished boxing her books and slammed the door. Septima looked up quietly. “What has our daughter done, now?”
This was more serious. She stood up and brought him over to a small couch, where she could hold his hands and give him her full attention. “What's he done?” Had the Headmaster put them in separate apartments, again?
“He's letting the Ministry choose the Defense professor. I specifically reminded him that he's promised me the job for years, now, but he said he needs to allow the Ministry to feel as though they were properly meddling in the school's affairs.”
It made no difference whatsoever to Septima, but she knew it was very important to Severus. “Do you think this is because of me?” If Severus believed that Septima was the problem, she would stay at the university, although it would cut her heart out. Surely Zinnia would be allowed to stay too, and Sirius had taught her a nifty spell that forced Richard Erwin to stay a full six feet away from her. She and Severus would find moments to be together, sometimes.
Severus cupped her face in a hand and shook his head. With a small smile he said, “No, love, and I know what you're thinking. You're not to consider making that sort of sacrifice. It wouldn't do any of us good if I had to go without your assistance after I've been summoned to the Dark Lord.”
Several times that summer, Septima had found herself using spells and healing ointments or lotions to help her husband recover from various tortures and other injuries. She'd learned a great deal about the healing arts as well as her husband himself. His occasional helplessness had made her feel strong and needed. It had reminded her of their son, and if she had needed a reason to fall in love all over again, it was there.
“What shall we do, then?” Septima asked.
Severus sighed and leaned back. “I guess we do what we've always done. We play along with Dumbledore until he pushes too hard or too far. Then we push back.” His arm was draped along the back of the couch, and now he played with a strand of her hair. “I never dreamed it would be so good just to have someone to talk things over with.”
They had to kick some of the boxes out of the way, but there was time for one last moment against the chalkboard. Afterward, Severus helped cast the charms that sent the boxes back to Septima's office at Hogwarts, but he kept grinning at the board.
“What are you on about, now?” she asked.
“We're leaving one last Septima-shaped smudge,” he said. He took her hand and walked her out of the now-empty office. “We'll let our dear friend, Dick, stew about that.”
A/N: Thank you to Kyria of Delphi for her alpha/beta review and support!