Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all of the characters are owned by J.K. Rowling. Professor Sheridan and a few other characters in here are mine, though.
A/N: Fair warning, I've changed some of the events from the books, mostly deaths. So, this story is clearly set in an alternate universe. Also, I've recently revised this story to make things a bit more linear and clear as of October 20, 2014. Enjoy.
The sounds of pens scratching against paper filled the room as a class full of students obediently copied down the notes from the whiteboard. A woman in her mid-sixties stood at the front of the classroom, her voice echoing throughout the lecture hall as she addressed her students about their final project. At the sound of the bell ringing suddenly, the professor sighed.
"I guess that's all we'll get through today, class," she said with a forced laugh as she waved her hand to dismiss them. The class quickly started to disperse, save for a few. "Miss Sinistra, a word if you please." She gave a curt smile to the younger, curly-haired woman and waited until only they remained. "I must say that your paper was, if anything, most intriguing. Your conclusions relied heavily on the theory, of course, with the most amazing insight, but you were a bit lacking in the practical research unfortunately."
Her student sighed. "I know, Professor Sheridan. Honestly, I had toyed with the idea of actually setting up such an experiment and playing it out so to speak for my final project."
"Hmm." Professor Sheridan tapped her finger against her lips as she nodded, thinking on it for a moment. "Well, it could be interesting, I think. And it's certainly a rather inventive project. Definitely fresh. Not to mention ambitious, but then again I'd expect nothing less from a Snake." She smiled at the younger woman. "You could see firsthand how your coworkers would react to such a scenario. See actual student responses. And your school could benefit greatly from the knowledge you procured."
"Exactly. Only I'd need a willing adolescent couple, and honestly I'm not sure I could talk one of my students into it. That, and I'd clearly need an extension if I'm to pull it off."
"Well, too bad there's no such thing as magic, hmm, Aurora?" Professor Sheridan winked.
"Yeah. Too bad," Aurora replied with a smile, sharing the inside joke with the supposed Muggle.
"Well, all you would need to do then is have Albus sign off on it. Though, I'd imagine that he'd enjoy the experience. He was quite the one for social experiments when I knew him." Sheridan laughed, clearly reminiscing about some long ago event. "I'll give you until the end of your next school year to complete it, but I need your proposal by next Tuesday. I look forward to your results, Miss Sinistra."
Two hours later, Aurora Sinistra walked into her rooms she shared with her husband of three years. She caught his look as he sat at the table reading the Daily Prophet, sitting in the same position as he had before she left. She only laughed, quickly removing her outer robes and hanging them beside his.
"I take it by your good mood that class went well today?" he drawled, raising an eyebrow.
"Class went very well today. Thank you for asking," she said with a laugh.
"Oh?" He set the newspaper down, giving her his full attention.
"Professor Sheridan signed off on my experiment, giving me until Tuesday to submit my formal proposal. So, if I can get Albus on board, then I'll be a step closer to completing my final project."
"Ah, yes, your final project," he replied dryly.
"All I've heard these months is about your secretive project. Yet, I've heard no details, though."
"Curious, are we, love?" She kissed his cheek, laughing when he pulled her down into his lap.
"Intrigued is more like it," he corrected, holding her gently.
She rolled her warm brown eyes. "So, you are curious then." She heard his scoff but ignored it, leaning her head back against his shoulder. "I'll tell you the moment Albus accepts it. Promise."
"And if he doesn't accept it?"
"Hush. He'll accept it." She sighed softly, still smiling as they enjoyed a silent moment.
"I don't enjoy you keeping things from me," he admitted quietly, knitting their fingers together.
"I know you don't, Severus. But you kept secrets from me for seven years."
"You'll never let me forget that, will you?" he murmured.
"Forget all the times you wouldn't let me in about the danger you faced?" she clarified. "No. Of course I won't. This secret is nothing like that, though. No one will die over it. I promise. It's more like a social experiment actually."
"I'll be glad when I get my wife back," he remarked softly. "When all I have to deal with is you spending all your time up there with your stars and me having to drag you home afterward."
"Awe. Did you miss me?" She glanced up at him, catching his soulful black eyes.
"Well, I missed you," she said, turning her head and giving him a simple kiss to the cheek. She giggled when she heard his grumble. "What?"
"You've been gone all damn day, and all I get is a kiss on the damn cheek?"
"Not good enough for our dear Potions Master?" she teased.
"You're damn right that it's not good enough, witch," he growled, entirely frustrated with her. "I require a proper kiss from my wife since she abandons me every damn morning to run off to her stupid university class." He sounded like a sullen child, but he didn't give a damn currently.
"You require a proper kiss?" she repeated, snorting a moment later. "Since when did our marriage turn into you bossing me around?"
He frowned. "If that is the way you see me, then perhaps we should end this right now."
"Severus," she said quietly, slowly turning around. "Don't be like this."
"Don't be like this?" he repeated deadly soft. "Tell me, Aurora. Just how am I supposed to feel when my wife is off who-knows-where all morning with who-knows-whom? Am I supposed to be happy about that? That every morning my wife abandons me in favor of others?"
"I'm not abandoning you, Severus," she argued.
"Your class finished two hours ago, so unless you got lost returning from Oxford . . ."
"I was talking to Albus about my proposal."
He scoffed. "Your proposal. Of course."
"Severus," she warned. "You're acting like a jealous git right now."
"Oh, yes, and you're entirely innocent, aren't you? Tell me. Did Professor Sheridan enjoy his extra hours with you? Perhaps he informed you about an extra assignment he'd like from you? Perhaps one that requires you either on your knees in front of him or against a desk?" he hissed coldly.
"Severus!" It was his anger and jealousy speaking. That's all. "Professor Sheridan is a woman."
"Do not lie to me," he hissed, baring his teeth.
"I'm not, you jealous arse," she snapped back. "She's Professor Amanda Sheridan. She attended Hogwarts long ago before she started teaching at Oxford. Go ahead and ask Albus. He'll tell you."
He blinked. "Then, you're not having an affair?"
"Of course not!"
"Good," he replied flatly. All of the tension in his body vanished with her answer. Once more, he was calm. As if his outburst and anger had never happened.
"That's all you're going to say, 'Good?' Honestly." She ran a hand through her dark curls.
"What would you like me to say, Aurora?"
"Oh, I don't know. An apology maybe?
"I am not going to apologize for you spending all your time away from me lately." He made no reaction when she pulled herself out of his embrace suddenly.
"Would it be so hard for you to support me after all I've done for you?"
"I do support you. However, I do not support you hiding things from me. You rarely give me any details about this Muggle class of yours. Who you're with, what you're doing. It's always your class either went well or didn't. That's all you give me. What else was I supposed to think?"
"I don't tell you about it because you don't care about any of this stuff."
"An assumption based on no facts," he replied flatly.
"So if I told you about my class, everything I learned, you'd listen to it willingly? You'd not be wishing you were off brewing or whatever instead?"
"Considering that I'm not allowed anywhere near a cauldron or fairly much of anything as I recover, I'm yours, Aurora. Entirely. I have no other matters to attend to anymore. Just stupid therapy."
Her face fell as it hit her like a punch to the gut. Circe! The Final Battle seemed like a lifetime ago. Like it had happened decades before. Not just three months time. Her eyes glanced at his neck where she knew underneath his collar the deep scars were, the remnants of Nagini's attack that nearly— She looked away. Here she was going on about her stupid class, forgetting about his therapy sessions.
"I'm sorry, Severus. I—"
"Glad one of us can forget it," he replied dryly, rubbing his left forearm.
"No it's not. I—"
"Aurora, it's fine," he repeated with a familiar edge to his voice.
She sighed. It wasn't fine. How could she forget about that? At the start of the summer holidays, she had even toyed with the idea of putting off taking the class a year. He, however, practically forced her into going, telling her that there was nothing she could do for him as he recovered. That he understood and wanted her to take her class instead of fussing over him. That it would do them good.
Circe! She was an idiot. Severus nearly died. How could she forget that? She sighed, shaking her head. She paused when his hand tilted her head upwards so she'd look at him again.
"Aurora, stop worrying about me. I'm fine. I don't need yet another woman fussing over me. I'm doing everything Pomfrey's asked. I'm attending my sessions with her every day. I'm fine."
"I forgot about it." She caught his flinch instantly.
"Celes, please," he said, using his nickname for her. "Everything's fine." His eyes darted to the phoenix when it suddenly appeared in their rooms. He seemed relieved now with the respite.
She closed her eyes before walking to the phoenix. She gently grabbed the rolled up message and watched the bird vanish again. Returning to Severus, she unrolled it and read Albus's short response.
"Well? Did he accept it?" he asked, his hands folded atop of the counter.
"Yeah." She glanced at him, unsure of herself again. She couldn't get past how callous she was. Here she was, a stupid class keeping her from standing beside him as she had done throughout their life. She had abandoned him. There was no other way to state it.
"Congratulations," he stated with a forced smile. "I suppose you'll be busy with that now?"
Her heart ached at the underlying hurt that was in his voice. The hurt he hid that she could only hear because she knew him intimately. "Do it with me," she blurted out. "Do this with me. Please."
He watched her for a few moments silently. "All right," he finally said. "Tell me about it."
Silently, Aurora stood beside her husband as he sat on the cot in the hospital wing. All they needed was Pomfrey to okay their idea since Albus had seemed to know their plan already somehow. The matron waved her wand over Severus expertly.
"It's unorthodox. I'll give you that," Pomfrey remarked with a quiet sigh.
Aurora placed her hand on Severus's shoulder. She thought about asking her question, but she knew it'd only upset him if she did. He hated it when people acted as if he wasn't there.
"Will there be any issues if I do this, Madam?" he asked quietly.
"That depends solely on you, Severus," the matron replied. "You'll heal just the same physically. Mentally, well, that rests entirely on your shoulders. Though, from what you stated earlier about your outburst in your rooms, it sounds as if the spending time apart now is already setting you back in terms of healing."
Aurora glanced down at the floor. That was her fault. Not his. He had been doing so well before she went off to her stupid classes and left him. She wasn't going to jeopardize all the progress he made just for a stupid class. She'd take the incomplete. He was more important.
"We understand, Poppy," Aurora said with a faint smile. "Thank you."
"If you need me, I'll be in my office." Pomfrey then walked away, leaving them alone.
"What are you thinking?" he asked moments later, glancing up at his wife.
"I'm thinking I'll owl Professor Sheridan and inform her that I can't do it."
"No. It's fine. Really. It is."
"What about your credit?"
"I'll take the incomplete." She shrugged. "It's not a big deal."
"So, all your hard work you've done these past few months was for nothing? Because of me?"
"Of course not, Severus."
"Then, what is the issue?" He frowned. "It's not as if I'm teaching next term anyway. Not with my ongoing intensive therapy sessions. Which you heard Pomfrey. I could continue with them while participating in your research. I have the perfect excuse. You'd be on sabbatical. I'd be on continued medical leave."
"What if there's an issue?" She caught his hand clenching instantly.
"Then, we'll deal with it," he replied flatly.
"You've made so much progress lately. I don't want to ruin it."
"You won't. You heard her. There is a slight chance it could help me heal faster."
She sighed. "I should have never taken this class."
"I assure you that you fussing over me and caring for me as you would have done would not have healed me any faster. I needed this time alone. To sort out my priorities. I'm less confused now than I was after my attack. I am healing. With Pomfrey's help while you go to your class."
"But earlier in our rooms—"
"Was not your fault. I took my frustration at a stressful day of therapy out on you. It was wrong of me to do so. My acting out about my situation will not help things."
"You sound like Pomfrey now."
"Well, considering it was she who said that to me earlier," he replied with a shrug. "We can do this, Aurora. In fact, the main point she tells me during our sessions is that I'm supposed to try to regain a sense of normalcy. A routine in other words. What is more of a routine than that?"
"What if—" At the feel of his finger against her lips, she stopped speaking instantly.
"Stop thinking negatively. It's not good for me." His lips quirked upwards as if he was holding back a smile. "I want to do this with you. It's unorthodox surely, but it'll get my mind on other things. If it becomes more difficult for me to function, however, I'll speak with Madam Pomfrey more regularly. We can do this, Aurora. There's no need for you to get an incomplete after all the work you've done so far for this class." His hand fell to his side, allowing her to speak.
"All right. I'll get Pomfrey." She gave him a soft kiss. "I love you."
"And I love you. Now, go. We have things to take care of before we do this."