Her head aches from the alcohol and the daylight hurts her eyes. She stumbles awkwardly to the bathroom, wondering why she's naked, wondering why her clothes are scattered across the floor, knowing there can be only one reason and wondering why she can't remember it. She tries to drink some water but it makes her stomach heave and before she can move she's sick.
It must have been Marius, she tells herself. He's made his feelings for her perfectly plain since she started teaching. She was on her way to the library last night when he invited her in for a drink. She accepted only out of politeness, not wanting to give him the wrong idea. He opened a bottle of wine and poured her a large glass despite her protests. She's never been much of a drinker. Does he know that? The alcohol probably went straight to her head and that's why she got carried away.
But if it was Marius then why isn't he still here?
She can't think about this now. She has lessons to teach. She needs to pull herself together and get dressed. She'll see him this evening, sort it all out.
When she gets downstairs breakfast is almost over. She sips tea slowly, clinging to the warm cup like a lifeline.
Dimly she registers Albus asking if she's all right and she shrugs off his concern as nonchalantly as she can manage.
Her first class is the final year Transfiguration NEWT group and she does her best to concentrate as they practice complex transformation spells on the lizards she's provided them with, striding between the desks with words of encouragement for some and sharp rebukes for others. Eventually the lesson is over and she dismisses the class. The room is filled with noisy chatter as they gather their things.
Only one boy doesn't move.
He mutters an excuse to his friends and they shrug their shoulders and depart until at last everyone is gone and he's sitting alone.
He won't meet her eyes. Instead he hangs his head and stares hard at his desk as though all the secrets of the world are etched into its wooden surface. What little she can see of his normally pale face is vivid scarlet.
And then she realises.
"It was you," she whispers.
In that moment her world seems to fall apart around her. She's committed one of the worst sins a teacher can commit: she's slept with a student. And worse: she was so drunk she can't even remember what it was she said or did that lured an innocent young boy into her bed.
"Oh sweet Merlin…"
She buries her head in her hands.
"I'm sorry," he says, the first words he's spoken. When she looks up at him there's tears in his eyes. She knows it's all over, that she has destroyed all her dreams of teaching and ruined her career over one foolish mistake. She will be sacked in disgrace, the staff whispering, the students sniggering as she packs her belongings and leaves. How could she have been so stupid?
She feels his hand cover hers and reflexively she leaps backward.
"Mr Lupin," she says, unwilling to meet his gaze. "You should be talking to the Headmaster. He can help you make a formal complaint."
"I don't want to make a formal complaint."
"Then what do you want?" she says a little too sharply.
"N-nothing," he stammers, shocked at the tone in her voice. "I mean… I'm sorry you're upset. But I'm not sorry that I… that I kissed you. And I'm not sorry that we made love."
She stares at him.
"Made love? Is that what you think it was?"
He blushes but meets her gaze defiantly.
"That's what it was to me."
There's a sudden commotion outside the door and she glances across to see her next class milling around in the corridor, impatient at the delay, peering curiously through the window to see what's going on.
"We need to talk about this," she says. She gets to her feet, gathers her robes around her like a protective charm. Carefully she tidies the books and parchments on her desk as if making order there will restore the order that she once had in her life.
"After dinner?" he suggests.
"I'll tell them you caught me wandering about last night and gave me detention."
She nods briskly.
"Fine. My rooms. We won't be disturbed there."
As soon as the words are out of her mouth she regrets the implication that they carry. It's a bad choice: her office would have been better, or even a classroom. But it's said and she can't take it back. She senses something about him change. But she's too busy struggling to hold onto what remains of her professionalism to worry about what it means and she ignores him as, finally, he collects his possessions and leaves.
She stumbles through the rest of the morning in a daze, hardly able to focus on what she's teaching. By lunchtime Albus has sent her to the hospital wing. His fatherly concern makes her feel even worse about what she's done. She's let him down just as she's let her parents down and everyone else who ever believed in her. How will he change when he discovers the awful truth? Will he be forgiving? Or will he turn his back on her, ashamed and disgusted?
The nurse thinks it's flu and gives her a potion that makes her drowsy. She falls asleep in the hospital wing – a deep, thankfully dreamless sleep – and doesn't wake until the sun has long since set and the ward is bathed in peaceful darkness.
When she gets upstairs he's waiting outside for her, slouching unhappily against the wall. She opens the door and motions him inside.
"Quickly," she hisses. "What if someone sees you?"
She still hasn't decided what to do. Seeing him stood in her living room unsettles her even more. It's her personal space, her sanctuary. Or at least it was. Now it's the scene of her crime.
She sighs and sinks heavily into an armchair.
"Professor?" he says uncertainly. "Are you all right?"
"No. I am not all right."
"Because it's wrong, that's why!"
"I'm eighteen. I could leave school now and marry you."
"Don't be ridiculous," she snaps, even though she can hear the conviction in his voice.
"I would for you. To be with you."
And when she sees the expression on his face she believes him.
She's always been attracted to him, though she hardly dares admit it, even to herself. He is the reason she brushed Marius aside so quickly. His quiet intellect was the first thing that caught her attention. He was forever attentive, keenly asking questions even when his friends poked fun at him for it. His interest gratified her, made her feel more confident in her new role. And then she began to notice the other things: the sadness buried deep in his slate grey eyes, his
His lycanthropy could so easily have turned him bitter and resentful; instead he was considerate and generous.
She feels her resolve crumbling uncontrollably. She wants him to lean towards her. She wants him to kiss her.
She wants to lose herself in him until it all goes away.
Even though it's wrong.
"I'm old enough to know what I want," he says quietly. "But if you don't want me then just say and I'll go. I won't tell anyone what happened and everything will go back the way it was."
She looks up and sees him stood there. He looks lost, worried, more alone than he's ever been before in his life. She's been so wrapped up in her own feelings she hasn't bothered to think about him. But he is brave enough to be honest with her, and to want her to be honest with him. Does he really care about her that much?
She goes over to him and embraces him.
"Oh, Remus," she whispers. "I'm so sorry."
He holds her tightly.
"Don't be sorry," he tells her. "Life is too short for that."
She closes her eyes, inhaling the scent of his hair. She's remembering it now: his eager kisses, his hands shaking slightly as they caressed her bare skin. They've already broken the rules, they've already done the unthinkable. What difference will it make if they do it again? Already she can feel her skin tingling with arousal. Already she's reluctant to let him go.
She releases him from her embrace and with one hand gently sweeps his hair back off his face. The palm of her hand grazes his cheekbone. It's a gesture that would have been almost motherly had it not been for the heat between them. He watches her earnestly, waiting for some indication of how she feels, of what she's going to do.
She presses her index finger against his lips and waits until he falls silent. Then she makes her mind up at last.
"Minerva," she says. "My name is Minerva."
He tests the name like an unfamiliar spell, balancing it carefully on his tongue to ensure he's got it right. Then he smiles and she kisses him, all restraint gone, her hands running feverishly, almost desperately over his body. He meets her with matching hunger.
For the second night in a row they discard their clothing breathlessly across the floor. This time he needs no encouragement and he lifts her easily onto her bed. When she looks up at him she sees the shame and the worry has vanished from his gaze. He stares at her in wonder. His eagerness astounds her. She's never met a man who treated her like this before, like she's delicate and fragile and special. She's never met a man who delighted in touching her and she lies back and lets him explore her with hands and mouth until he finds the very centre of her pleasure and she's writhing and moaning beneath him.
And then he's inside her and on top of her and all around her, calling her name as he drives her over the edge. Seconds later he follows and they collapse together into a sweaty, tangled embrace.
And she thinks: how can this possibly be wrong?
Later they lie together on her bed. Her detentions normally take several hours at least; she knows they've got time. In his arms she feels safe, secure… loved. She pulls the bedspread over them as protection against the evening chill. Then she rests her head on his chest and hears his heart still beating fast under his pale skin.
"What if you regret this?" she asks.
"I will never, ever regret this."
There is no trace of doubt in his voice, no room for argument.
They talk about his childhood, about her childhood. His parents loved him dearly but he felt suffocated and was glad when finally he could escape to Hogwarts. He wants to teach like her but he thinks his lycanthropy will make it impossible. The last of the twilight drains away and night unfolds its velvet blanket across the sky. They make love once more and then reluctantly she rouses him and he gets up, gathers his clothes and starts to dress, smoothing his rumpled brown hair with a quick splash of water.
She pulls on her tartan dressing gown and stops him at the door.
"What will you tell them?"
"I'll tell them you had me practising for my N.E.W.T. for three hours solid. I'll tell them you told me I should be concentrating on my studies instead of wandering the school at night."
She smiles, reaches her arms out for one last embrace.
"I'll see you soon," she promises. "We'll sort something out but we have to be careful."
"Goodnight," he whispers.
And then she's alone once more.