Severus Snape is looking for the bathroom. It's only his second day in this infernal castle and he's already had to endure unfriendly colleagues, over-friendly ghosts and staircases that seem to deliberately change whenever they see him coming. He doesn't even want to be here but it's not like he has a choice: who else would employ a redundant Death Eater? It's been a long summer of hearings and trials and Severus is tired of the whispers, tired of the rumours, tired of the accusing stares. Self-righteous anger has been replaced by cold-hearted indifference. Who cares what people think anyway? Most of them are either stupid or lying. He's much better off here on his own.
Tonight he's managed to find his bedroom fairly quickly. This is quite a remarkable achievement given that it's just another anonymous door in one of the many identical corridors that weave throughout the castle. But now that he's collected his wash bag there's just one problem: he's got no idea where the toilet is and for the first time since he got here there's absolutely no sign of anyone who might be able to help.
So now he's resorted to trying door handles at random. There's got to be a bathroom here somewhere, surely? After about two-dozen storerooms, classrooms and locked cupboards he finally strikes lucky. It's definitely a bathroom, and what's more it's warm and inviting. Candles flicker from every alcove and flat surface. The bath itself is overflowing with pink bubbles and a delicate fragrance fills his nostrils. Clearly someone in this wretched school is planning a relaxing evening, but they'll never notice if he just slips in quickly to use the toilet.
He pulls his facecloth from the bag and washes as quickly as he can, listening all the while for footsteps approaching along the corridor. There's no sign of life here save for the curl of steam from the surface of the water. Perhaps whomever this bath belongs to has been waylaid by some important task. Severus finishes at the sink and turns to the toilet, but he's only just unzipped his trousers when he hears a slight noise behind him. It doesn't sound like the door but he turns anyway, ready to grab his belongings and beat a hasty, apologetic retreat.
But what he sees behind him makes him freeze in shock.
She's reclining comfortably in the large, oval tub, surrounded by pale pink bubbles and absently twirling the stem of her empty champagne flute in one hand. He only just recognises her as the transfiguration teacher he was introduced to yesterday, partly because of the absence of her spectacles and taut hairstyle, but mainly because she's, well, naked.
"Oh, please don't stop on my account," Minerva McGonagall remarks sarcastically.
Severus feels his face flush crimson and he works hard to keep his gaze on her face, and only her face. She does not look impressed.
"I do apologise," he stammers. "I had no idea you were here, Professor. I didn't see you… with all the bubbles, I mean…"
His treacherous mind supplies him with a few further details, mostly gleaned from conversations with other staff members. She's strict. She's prudish. She's very friendly with Dumbledore.
So this is it. He'll be fired for sure.
She shifts position, twisting around so that she's facing him over the edge of the bath, her chin resting on her folded arms and everything else safely hidden from view.
"Do you make a habit of walking uninvited into private bathrooms, Professor Snape?" she enquires sharply.
"No! I couldn't find-"
"Did you not think that the bathtub was filled for a reason?"
"Well, yes but-"
"So you were planning to spy on me, were you?"
"Are you some kind of pervert, Professor Snape?"
To Severus this is the last straw. He's feeling increasing warm and his patience is fraying fast.
"Kindly let me speak, you infuriating woman!"
Well, he's already lost his job. What else has he got left other than his dignity?
He glares angrily at her and she gapes back, aghast. Words seem to have failed her and he takes advantage of her silence to explain what happened: how he couldn't find the correct bathroom and stumbled in here by accident and how he had absolutely no intention whatsoever of spying on anyone, least of all her.
"But," he concludes robustly, "if you'd simply bothered to lock the door this would never have happened."
"I must have forgotten," she says, slightly taken aback. With a snap of her fingers the champagne glass becomes her wand again and she mutters a quick charm to remedy the situation. He hears the sound of sliding metal as the lock seals itself firmly.
"So," she says, rounding on him straight away. "What are we going to do about this now? I can't afford to have my reputation sullied by staff-room gossip, as I'm sure you'll appreciate…"
She trails off, looking at his crotch with an expression bordering on amusement, and he realises that his trousers are still unfastened. He turns his back on her hastily as he fumbles with the zip and, taking him entirely by surprise, she giggles.
"Sorry, I wasn't laughing at… I mean, it was just funny to see you shouting at me when you… when your…"
His dignity restored, Severus turns to face her and wonders what on earth to do. Why did she lock the door? Does she want him to stay? Perhaps this is a trap, designed to catch him out.
"Oh, feel free to derive as much amusement from me as you possibly can," he says sourly. "I didn't really want to work here anyway and I've certainly got better things to do with my time than watch you in the bath. Go ahead and fire me. I really couldn't care less."
She sighs heavily and transfigures her wand back into a glass – a full glass now – of pink champagne.
"I'm not going to fire you, for goodness sake. I just had to be sure you weren't trying it on."
"Well, I wasn't!"
"I know!" she snaps back. "Just calm down, will you? This isn't Azkaban, you know."
As soon as she's said it, she realises her mistake.
"Sorry, I didn't mean-"
"Just leave it, all right?"
Azkaban is the last thing he needs reminding about. Does she know how close he came to rotting in a cold cell for the rest of his life? Only Dumbledore vouched for him, and somehow that had been enough to save him.
There's a chair nearby and he sinks slowly into it, resting his face in his hands. He doesn't need this now. He just wants a quiet life: a comfortable bed and three meals a day. If teaching is the only way to get this, then he'll teach. He's not here to make friends and he's certainly not here for sex, whatever Minerva McGonagall might think.
"I'm celebrating, you know," Minerva says conversationally. "I don't usually drink champagne. It makes me… well, never mind. Do you like champagne? You can have some if you want."
The situation is beginning to feel increasingly surreal. Why doesn't she just throw him out? Surely she's not just trying to be polite?
"What, er… what are you celebrating?" he enquires awkwardly.
"My new appointment. Albus has asked me to be Head of Gryffindor."
"Oh. Well, congratulations."
"Thank you. The bottle is over there."
He looks up and she gestures to a shelf at the far end of the bathroom. Her glass is empty again, and a spare one has materialised next to the bottle, presumably for him. She's playing with him again, he realises. She can quite easily transfigure an empty glass into a full one, as she's already demonstrated. Severus hasn't touched alcohol for almost a year: spying demands a clear head and alcohol can dangerously loosen the lips. His spying days are over, though. What the hell, he thinks. A drink is exactly what he needs: several drinks, preferably, and then he can sink into oblivion and forget this whole horrible night ever happened.
Obediently he rises. The bottle is icy cold despite the humid heat of the bathroom and he refills her glass before topping up his. He's uncomfortably aware of how close he is to her but she seems not to mind. She watches him thoughtfully, leaning awkwardly over the edge of the tub in order to keep her glass upright and her breasts hidden.
Not that he cares, of course.
He returns to his chair and takes deep sips from his glass, savouring the sharp jolt that it sends through his tired veins. It's good. Minerva seems to have fallen silent and that's good, too. Maybe he can pretend that this isn't her: that this is just some strange woman in a bathroom and not one of his new colleagues.
"There's a lot of people who really admire you, you know."
Her tone has softened considerably and he glances up to see her sitting a little more upright than before. When she drains the last of her drink her body stretches slightly: long, lean arms and the soft curve of her full breasts illuminated beautifully by the candlelight. She leans over to set her glass back down onto the floor before settling back into the water with a small sigh.
And he starts to feel something other than despair…
He empties his own glass, but when he goes to refill both she stops him with a hand on his forearm. He doesn't pull away. He wants to see if his suspicions are correct. Maybe this is all just innocent. He's hardly a contender for Hogwarts' Most Eligible Bachelor, after all. Maybe she's just a bit naïve.
When her fingertips gently graze his stubble he knows that 'maybe' means 'not at all'.
"It's hard being so strict all the time," she murmurs huskily.
"I can imagine."
He can feel his shirt growing damp as she leans closer and the moisture from her breasts soaks into the dark fabric. The warmth of her breath tickles his neck and he puts his glass down, knowing that if he doesn't he'll drop it soon. It's lucky he's fastened his trousers or things would be a lot more embarrassing now…
She's kissing him softly, teasing him with her tongue. One hand is still tracing his jaw while the other grips his shoulder, gentle but firm, and with a confidence that surprises him. He may not know much about women but he can feel her hunger. She knows exactly what she wants and she'll take all he's willing to give. He feels strangely empowered by this knowledge; he's always been the pursuer before and he's always failed miserably. Tonight he's not even trying, though he's not foolish enough to read anything more into this than simple gratification.
He wishes he were brave enough to go through with it, to match her fire with a heat of his own. His instincts are crying out to him, telling him to take control and show her exactly who's wearing the trousers. He wants to trail his hands over her smooth skin until he finds the places that will make her writhe with pleasure, but even as she's drawing him further into her embrace he's pulling away. It's not her: goodness knows she'd reduce most men to quivering wrecks with her current appearance. It's not even because she's going to be his colleague, although by rights that should be enough to stop him in his tracks. It's because…
He can't even admit it to himself in his head, and this itself strikes him as a damning indictment of just how pathetic he truly is.
"Don't stop," Minerva whispers in his ear, grasping his hand and drawing it to her breast, still lost in the fantasy.
The sensation of warm, slippery skin burns itself indelibly on his memory in the instant before he jerks away.
But that's all it is: a fantasy.
"I can't," he says sadly. "Sorry."
She's gazing wide-eyed at him.
"Oh. I see."
She regains her composition rapidly and nods thoughtfully to herself as she settles unselfconsciously back into the water.
"I must say, I'd never have guessed."
He stares at her in bewilderment until he catches her meaning.
"I'm not gay!"
"No?" She arches an eyebrow at him as she reaches for the soap. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm bloody well sure!"
"Fine," she shrugs. "Suit yourself."
It's obvious she doesn't believe him and he scowls angrily, torn between his need to get out of there as fast as possible and his desire to prove her wrong. She already appears to have lost interest in him, concentrating instead on washing herself, beginning with her arms and shoulders. Most of the bubbles have evaporated now, leaving only a rather enticing view. He suspects she must be at least fifty, though she looks no older than him, because he vaguely remembers her from his own schooldays. She was new to the job then: new enough that she only taught the younger classes, never his own group. He wonders if she does this with all of her new colleagues but decides from her earlier reaction and her staff room reputation that this is unlikely. If he leaves now he'll probably never get this opportunity again – but is it really worth the risk of confessing all?
He can't help but laugh at himself. A few months ago he was risking his life - and the lives of others - on an almost daily basis. Why is this suddenly so hard?
He reaches a decision and starts to strip. It doesn't take him long: beneath his bathrobe there's only his pyjamas and undergarments. She watches closely, her attention seemingly focused on the part of him that's already painfully hard. Even if she's laughing at him tomorrow it'll be worth it, he decides. Anyway, it's either this or a cold shower, and for that he'd have to look for another bathroom.
"I thought you didn't want to…"
"Yes," he admits, "But at the same time I don't want to die a virgin."
Once more she gapes at him in shock, but this time her expression rapidly shifts into a warm smile.
"Yes. Is that amusing?"
"Not at all," she assures him, her tone entirely genuine. "I'm flattered, in fact."
She slides over to make room for him and reaches her hand out.
"I won't tell anyone," she promises earnestly.
Seconds later he feels the warm water engulf his pale body, drawing him into its depths where she's lying in wait for him. And she's naked: naked and soft and beautiful and there beneath him, ready for him. Wanting him. She slides her body against his, eyes closed, and the sensation drives him crazy with lust. Soft moans escape her lips. He feels her rather than sees her: her hips settling on his, the tightness of her thighs, her mouth gently stroking over his cheek. Her hands reach his groin and his last thought before he loses it completely is: this is definitely worth it.
* * * * *
Later as they lie together on her bed he's reminded of her earlier remark.
"What does champagne make you?"
"You said 'champagne makes me…' but you didn't finish."
"Oh. Well, I suppose if you must know…"
"What?" he persists.
"It makes me amorous. There. Are you happy now?"
"Yes," says Severus Snape, and means it.