Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
The witches were in league against him.
He wasn't sure he believed that, but it was a working hypothesis. For some reason, they snapped, fussed, or sniffed at him. It had started on the first day of classes, and as Christmas approached, it didn't appear that it would change significantly.
Hermione hadn't waited very long after her first Potions class to come to his office and tell him that he was treating Potter shamefully. “Shamefully!” was her exact word.
“You have no reason to treat him that way,” she raged at him.
He flashed to a moment of his childhood, when he had yelled at his mother for some reason. Eileen had worn the same look on her face, but he recognized the voice as his own. He knew he was right in both cases, of course.
“You have no idea what lies between Potter and myself,” he answered.
“Harry tells me everything,” she said, with her chin set just so.
“Are you sure?” he couldn't resist needling her. Where Potter was concerned, the sooner the girl ended the friendship, the better for everyone. She looked at him and ran off in anger.
The next time he saw her, she was complaining about another Professor. This was dangerous ground for him. Quite often he'd wanted to take her part when he didn't think other professors were treating her fairly, but he needed to maintain order in the school.
“Professor Umbridge, Miss Granger.”
“Professor Umbridge then. She won't teach us anything. We won't be prepared for our O.W.L.s!”
This was something different. He didn't like Dolores for other reasons, and perhaps he could use it to his advantage. At least he could help his daughter. She, at least, would do brilliantly in all of her exams.
“Why don't you teach yourself?” he asked. “A copy of every text ever used for the subject is in the library.”
“I wouldn't have a chance to practice and improve, but...” she trailed off as a look crossed her face. “I know what to do!”
She looked to see no one was watching, then hugged him quickly and ran from the room. She was gone before he had a chance to stop her. Somehow he suspected the High Inquisitor was not going to like Hermione's plan.
* * * * *
The High Inquisitor was the biggest thorn in his side. First she'd gotten the job that was rightfully his, and now she felt it was her job to poke into everyone's business. She enjoyed asking students about him during class, and more than once she had caused a student to put the wrong ingredient into his cauldron.
Going to Dumbledore was no help with the menace. “Oh, I'm afraid my hands are tied, Severus,” he would affably say. “You've seen the Educational Decrees, yourself.” He would bestow that damned benign smile upon him and then say, “Tell me about Septima. Are you getting tired of her yet? Don't you find that sleeping with a witch is annoying?”
He would stomp out of Dumbledore's office, but he knew the Headmaster wasn't entirely wrong. There was something tiresome about Septima, lately. It was as if she'd suddenly found that she couldn't stand certain things about their relationship. She rarely came out and said what troubled her, but she wore it like a cloak.
Upon occasion, he would make the slightest comment about being disappointed in love, and she would turn on him. It was never for more than a moment or two. She would make some bitter comment about his lost love and how it somehow shamed her. It always made him feel uncomfortable, as though there was something lacking in him.
More than once, as she bit her lip and walked away, he had wanted to tell her all about it. As far as he knew, she didn't even know Lily's name. Yet, for some reason, he couldn't give that to her. Once he did, something would be breached and Septima would own him more surely than she did now—not that she was in any sort of possession of him, he corrected himself. That was just a figure of speech.
Instead, he would follow Septima to whatever corner or office she had hidden herself. He would gently whisper into her ear or run his finger along the inside of her elbow. Whatever he did, she would whimper and turn into his arms, eager for his kisses. He would slide his hands under her robe, and soon she would be whispering his name in ever greater bursts of passion. They would find a bed, table, couch, or chalkboard, and he never failed to remind her as well as himself that they belonged together.
Later in the nights, he held her close and pondered how perfectly she fit within his arms. He resolved to find out what it was he needed to do to keep her happy so that he could do it. Then the day began, filled with glares from his daughter over his treatment of Potter, cheerfully impossible demands from Dolores, and the occasional cold shoulder from his wife.
In early December there was a day that was reasonably good for him. He'd not had the fifth year students in his class, and there had been no visits from the Grand Inquisitor. It seemed that Septima had borne the brunt of Dolores's cheerful stings today. She sat on the corner of their bed, all shrunk into herself, as if she was trying to reduce the amount of space she took up in the universe.
He summoned the hairbrush and knelt behind her. “What did she do to disrupt your class?”
“She told me that I should be able to use my art to find criminals such as Sirius Black. She said that I should be able to predict the future. She said that I'm little better than the Divination professor and that she's going to recommend that we combine the programs. So I tossed an equation up there about Dolores herself, just to shut her up. The answer came back horses! The entire N.E.W.T. class laughed, and Dolores wrote heaven knows what on that clipboard of hers.”
“Dolores has some dread fate that involves horses, then?”
“Well, something horseish. It wasn't the proper rune for horses. Centaurs, maybe?”
“No wonder Dick wasn't enough for her.”
Septima's breath came out in a spurt of laughter. “Severus, be good.”
“I'm trying,” he answered as his free hand slipped around her middle. He backed her onto the bed and started touching her.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“After all of these years and two children, I expected you to know,” he said with a smirk.
“Oh!” she gasped as his searching fingers found a delicate spot. “I think it's coming back to me.”
A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing! Please, if you have a minute, spare a kind thought for Kyria of Delphi, who's been sick.