Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
Septima didn't know why it was, but she was irritated. It was something she'd tried to avoid telling herself and something that broke her heart when she finally couldn't avoid it. Severus, her husband, the man she'd loved since she was practically a child, irritated her.
He was cold and brusque. She'd known that all along and had chosen to accept it. He kept secrets from her. There were fewer than there used to be, so that was actually a sign of improvement. What bothered her was his constant saying what it was he loved about her. Given the context of their lives together, it was a reminder that he would never simply love her. She'd given him children, she'd comforted him when he was injured, and he always said he'd never had better sex. What did she have to do?
The days grew shorter, but the work became much more involved and took longer. Having Umbridge on staff was an irritation for Severus, who blamed her for all the no-smoking decrees that made his life difficult. For all the teachers, it meant an inordinate number of forms to fill out and checklists to follow. It was harder and harder to find time to devote to proper intellectual pursuits. Late one afternoon, Septima was re-copying some text she'd written. The improbability of the spell or potion to work is, of course, its greatest strength. As soon as the activation energy is overcome, tremendous power is released, allowing that magic to progress and potentially spilling over into other forms. Great care must therefore be taken...
“Professor Vector, can you help me with this problem?”
“Love, I need you to look over these calculations for my new potion.”
The comments were made almost simultaneously, but Septima looked in disbelief at her husband and daughter. Her irritation bubbled over to actual anger. She was exhausted of everything.
“I've been trying to get this article published since last spring.”
“Yes, I recall, on the improbability factor?” Severus had the look of someone who was relieved to remember the barest minimum of a subject that was very important to her.
“Today, I finally got a letter stating that if I can make certain corrections to my text, they'll be able to publish it. I have to send it off tonight.”
“I see. But when do you think you'll—” He held up his notebook, but she put her hands up and shook her head.
“If I can have ten minutes without students or staff interrupting me, I may just be able to complete this. Then I might get to have the satisfaction of actually finishing something around here, and after comments come back, I might—just might—get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that at least my peers think I'm worth something!”
There was a red haze around everything as Hermione looked at her with a wide open mouth and Severus looked deeply into her eyes. Finally he nodded and turned around.
“Come, Miss Granger. Let's see if we can work on your Potions essay while we wait.”
Septima watched them leave and shut her door. Then her head dropped onto the desk for a moment. She was sure that somehow she would be punished for that outburst. Severus had been much kinder of late, but he wouldn't accept that sort of thing without reprisal. She thought about it. Severus had been much kinder. What did that portend?
She shook it off. Getting this paper sent off was the job of the moment, and other projects would have to wait until that task was done. Severus must have put some magical spell to ward off any further questions from students or faculty. Septima had her ten minutes and then some. She finished copying her paper, checked once again that the edits were made, and said the spell to dry her ink.
She was returning from the Owlry when she remembered the look on Severus's face. It had been unreadable, but she'd always seen something or other in his expression, usually based upon her own worries. Would he be in his office, fuming that she hadn't dropped everything to help him? Would he take her to task for not assisting a student, especially since the student was their daughter? She had almost talked herself into thinking that her own aspirations were unimportant and should have been set aside when she reached the stairway that ended at the doors to the Great Hall.
Headmaster Dumbledore was leaving dinner with Professor Umbridge at his heels. “Headmaster, I have something else to discuss!” she trilled as she sped as fast as she could on too-short legs under a too-snug skirt.
The latent irritation she'd been feeling came back to the fore, although it was dulled and weak. She did have a right to her own work, and she had not been entirely wrong in chasing Severus and Hermione out of her office. Perhaps she could have been nicer. Yes, she did owe them an apology about that. Yet there was something more out there for her. She could tell. She shouldn't have to give up what she had with Severus and their children to have it, should she?
She heard murmurings as she passed through Severus's office that became conversation. “You may ask your mother, but I believe you're applying the function improperly to these two terms. The distributive property needs to consider things like negative and positive factors.”
“Oh, I see! Yes, that's what she said in class, but I guess I didn't quite see it in this sort of case.”
Then Septima heard something completely new. Over the past several months, her son had delighted her with gurgles and soft laughter. She'd gotten used to whole conversations with him in which he had only said one or two syllables over and over and over. Tonight was completely different.
“He's giving you the rattle,” said Severus quietly.
Septima looked through the door into the lounge and saw her daughter put her pencil down and pick up not just the toy but Nicky himself.
“Is that my name?” she asked. She rubbed his belly with her head and giggled.
“My-mee-ee!” he answered with giggles of his own. Fortunately the rattle was soft, because he beat it against her head in his joy.
Septima felt a frisson of envy. Why couldn't it have been “mama?” She brushed it off. It didn't matter. That would come soon. What was important was that her children had found each other and were bound together in ways that she couldn't quantify. This wasn't the something more she had wanted as she came down the stairs, but it was something.
A/N: Thank you to Kyria of Delphi for her support with this!