Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
It had been a difficult couple of days to begin with. Septima had come out of the bathroom in the afternoon with a very white face and quietly told him that there was no baby. Several emotions had gone through him at once, including both loss and relief. Looking at her, he realized she felt many of the same things. It was a subdued afternoon and evening after that, with no expectation for the bedroom that night beyond holding his witch close and listening to her breathe.
The next morning, they lay together, trying to relax. Severus cuddled his wife closely, but decided it really wasn't what he wanted. He ran his fingertips up her back and tipped her chin up, kissing her deeply. She pulled away. “It's just not a good time, Severus. You know it will make a frightful mess, and right when we're packing up to go back.”
He rolled to his back and looked at the ceiling, frustrated by several things. He couldn't be angry with Septima for being a woman, since it brought him so many benefits most of the time. He looked over at her. She seemed chilled and a bit scared of him. Would she ever be completely at ease with him? He sighed as he recalled the answer to that. He smoothed some of her hair down her back.
“Why don't you sleep a little longer and I'll take care of things?” The smile he received in return was just the start of the reward he knew he would eventually receive. The requirements of nature left Septima all in for a day or two, but the rest of the month she was gloriously his.
Nicky shouted from the nursery just as the coffee was ready. Severus poured himself a cup and walked into his son's room to behold the child's diapered end sliding over the top of the crib rail.
“That will be enough, young man,” he said with a chuckle. He set the coffee on the dresser and picked up his son. After taking care of the baby's necessities, he held the child in one arm and picked his coffee back up.
In the kitchen, the Snape men proceeded to make breakfast. Severus gave careful instructions to his son, who indicated his agreement by banging his spoon on the tray of his high chair. Occasionally the spoon splatted right into the middle of the bowl of cereal Nicky was not eating. Snape reflected that having children was good practice for Vanishing the disasters that happened in Potions class.
A tray was just about filled with a lovely meal, ready to take to the bedroom, when there was a knock at the window. Severus saw that it was a Hogwarts owl, and it looked like school stationery, too. He considered turning his back, but he could tell that the owl knew he was looking.
Septima looked so sweet that he hated to wake her, but there was no other way. “Love, you need to wake up.”
He passed her coffee cup in front of her face and her eyelashes flickered. “Hm?”
“I need to go to Hogsmeade.”
She sat up and grabbed the coffee cup. Her sigh of contentment told him that it was perfect. Then there was a frown as she digested what he had said. “Hogwarts? It can't wait until tomorrow?”
“The note said Dumbledore would rather discuss it without being seen by everyone at the school. He means Umbridge, of course. I'm to meet him at the Hog's Head.”
“What do you suppose it is?”
“I couldn't say, but I want to get it over with, now.”
“I'll be back soon.” He leaned down and kissed her. She was much more receptive than she had been earlier. The reward he was looking forward to was a definite possibility.
“Severus, where's our son?”
He turned and looked around. “He's trying to use the waste bin to stand up.”
The bin fell over, and the baby gave a roar of annoyance. “He's just like Daddy when he gets mad,” Septima giggled.
Severus frowned at her, making her giggle more, and picked up the baby, handing him to his mother. After kissing them both, he grabbed his cloak and left, hoping to get his meeting over with quickly.
* * * * *
“It must be you, Severus.”
“I don't see why. It ought to be you, Headmaster.”
“There are several reasons I must distance myself from the boy, particularly because Voldemort shouldn't have such access to my mind.”
Severus winced at the Headmaster's use of the Dark Lord's name. Would he regret using that word someday? “You must understand that I don't want that boy to have access to my mind, Albus.”
“You can use the Pensieve.”
“So could you.”
“Do you realize just how long I would spend emptying my mind before his lessons? You must do it, Severus.”
“All right. Tell the boy to come to my office Monday evening.”
“Oh, no, Severus, I need you to tell him. He's been at Headquarters for the Holiday. You'll find him there.”
Severus looked in stupefied amazement as the Headmaster got up and left, leaving a galleon on the bar as he did.
Old Abeforth grunted. “Can't hold his water like he used to. Still pays well, though.”
* * * * *
Sirius happened to meet them at the door. “Ah, if it isn't the Snapes, here to grace my abode with their sniveling presences.”
Severus instantly bristled, but Sirius wasn't done. “I could never figure out how it was, Snape, that you had such an attractive wife, but now we know she's just as much a sniveling sneak—”
He stopped when Severus's wand came under his chin. He hissed quietly, because of the portrait on the wall. “Call me what you like, Black. I've learned to ignore your adolescent jibes, but my wife is off.limits.to.you.”
Sirius narrowed his eyes. “It's too bad. I rather enjoyed being involved with her.”
Septima sucked in so much air, Severus thought she'd take flight. “We were never involved! You were just helping me, and I never, ever...” Her face turned to Severus. “Never!”
For that instant, Severus knew that even if he missed a cue and allowed Black to hex him, the most important thing was to reassure his wife. He squeezed the hand he was holding and caressed her face with his other one. “I know you, love. I know what lies between us... and who doesn't.” He never stopped looking at her; he just nodded his head over at Black.
Septima's eyes filled with happiness, even though she was still aware of Black glowering at them both. Black cleared his throat. “Was there some reason you needed to come here, Snape?”
Septima took a step back and released his wife's hand so that he could concentrate on his business. “Yes, I have a letter from Dumbledore for you, and I need to speak with young Mr. Potter.”
Molly's voice came down from the stairs. “Shall I fetch Harry, then?”
“Have him come to the kitchen, Molly. Snape and I will wait for him there.” He looked at Septima.
“You can take your sneaky self to the study. Maybe you can find some new hiding places.”
There was a growl in Severus's throat, but Septima nodded. “Certainly, Sirius. I'll wait for my husband there.” That reward he had thought about this morning was getting closer.
He stopped to watch the hem of her robe sway up the stairs. “Coming, Snape?”
He sat where told and watched impassively as Black read Dumbledore's letter, once, twice, and then a third time. He slammed it on the table. “I won't allow it.”
“You may take it up with the Headmaster. I, on the other hand, have been given very particular directions.”
Whatever Black had been about to say was forgotten as the boy came into the room. The conversation that followed was tense, and nearly got out of control until the Weasleys burst into the kitchen. Severus got caught up in the conversation that swirled all around, until he realized that it was not his family, and he could leave.
Still carrying some of the anger from his conversation with Black, he stopped in the hallway. Without realizing Septima was there, he took her hand and spoke as his mind wandered. Something that had caught his eye was the way Arthur had looked at Molly. Even recovering from an injury, the wizard had never taken his eyes away from his wife. Severus reasoned that it wouldn't be long after the train left Kings Cross before the two disappeared for days. Then he realized he wouldn't have to wait even that long.
He turned to his wife. Perhaps she would reward him for this ghastly day. The smile and quiet response she gave him were most encouraging.
A/N: Thank you to Kyria of Delphi for beta reading!