The Transfiguration classroom was abandoned and quiet, only the sad smells of students' mistakes and their disastrous consequences for their test subjects still hung in the air- an acrid smoke like burning feathers. As always, the classroom was scrupulously clean – no burnt feathers in spite of the smell that had seeped into the book case, the board had been cleaned until the dull black sucked up every light and hung in front of him like a large, black pit. The desks sat abandoned, too, the polished, worn wood outlined by the little light there was, eagerly facing Minerva's desk. There was no fire, nor embers left in the hearth, and Minerva's desk was looking at him accusingly. A strange floating, tingly sensation took hold of his stomach as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him into her classroom.
Severus stood himself in front of her desk for a minute to look around, but felt uneasy at the front of the strange classroom. He felt wrong, out of place. His place was not up here, but there, in the second seat in the last row from the back. He sidled over and slid into the seat with a practiced motion that did not work as well today, now that he had to almost fold himself in half to fit. He had grown a lot. From here, the view was more familiar, and he felt something inside him slide into place and his shoulders release a tension he had not even realized was there.
He was secure. Alone in the empty classroom, drinking the silence, he summoned ink and quill, straining his ears for more noises before dipping his quill into the inkwell. The sounds there were all muffled by the closed door. He was alone, a burning in the pit of his stomach as he hastily wrote the first line.
I must not enter the Transfiguration classroom after hours. I must not enter the Transfiguration classroom after hours.
He looked at the first two lines and frowned, acutely aware of what he must look like – the Potions teacher, clad in black robes, tall, sticking out from this desk that was too small for him, ridiculous. He moved a hand to crumple the parchment when a voice cracked through the silence like a whip.
"Don't you dare, Mr Snape. You will finish those lines. In silence."
He froze, his heart caught in his throat, afraid to even put his hand back down.
"Continue, Mr Snape," the voice said sharply.
A shudder ran down his spine and he put down his hand. He could hear his pulse thundering in his ears, his stomach and face were on so hot he was convinced he must be emitting a red glow of shame. A vein had started throbbing in his forehead and he lowered his face until it was nearly obscured by his falling hair.
The click-click of boots on stone moved over to him as he unwillingly moved dipped his quill into the inkwell. When he breathed in, he took in the scent of heather and lilies that he had come to associate with Minerva. He briefly closed his eyes, his pulse thumping.
"I do not see you writing. At least a hundred lines. You have no business being in my classroom this late."
The small cracking sound of the last "t" sent a shiver down his spine and set off a spark that twitched through his lower body, filling him with pressing heat. He quickly put his hand on the parchment again. Minerva moved to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder, he could almost feel the outline of her body by the heat radiating off her.
She exhaled, not sounding pleased.
"You will write the last line again, your handwriting is impossible to read."
A flick of her wand erased it and her boots click-clicked her way back to the teacher's desk. He peered at his parchment when torches lit up around them, one by one, and he hunched his head between his shoulders, not looking at her.
"What are you waiting for?"
"I'm writing," he mumbled.
"Speak up," she snapped.
"I'm writing, Professor," he repeated, only barely louder.
For the next half hour, she sat at her desk, watching him, and he finished his hundred lines under her burning glare. When he was done, the Head of Slytherin put down his quill sheepishly and sat in front of his work, heat coursing through his body, too ashamed to look at her. He never dared stopping, uncertain about how to extricate himself from this situation, and, as time passed, less and less eager to get up because of the visible effects of his emotional state.
The lines grew on the parchment and turned dull as they dried in the golden light from the torches. With every line, he felt lighter, yet also more keenly aware of the time that had passed. What was she going to do? Why was she doing this?
Finally, it was done. A hundred lines. He counted them, quietly mumbling the numbers under his breath, then sat down his quill, head bowed. What now?
Minerva's shape did not move for a while after he had stopped writing. Silence stretched between them and fear crept up on him. What would she do? Then, her chair scraped over the floor, there was a rustle and again, the sounds of her heels of her boots on the stones as she came to stand next to him. She picked up his work and critically examined it.
"Good," she repeated quietly and put his lines neatly back onto his desk. "Get up, Mr Snape," she said.
He did not move.
"I said: get up."
Severus wanted to jump up, shove her aside, obliviate her while she was lying on the floor and run for it. Pack his things, leave the school, never see her again so he could not see in her face how worthless and pathetic his behaviour had been. He also wanted to press himself against her, taking in her smell, go to bed with her, feel her hands on his skin as he pressed his lips against her warm body.
Instead, he got up slowly, clumsily, his heart pounding, hand firmly clasping the handle of his wand, just in case.
"Look at me."
"What do you want, Minerva?"
He unwillingly lifted his eyes, his expression not managing to be carefully blank. Severus glared at her in defiance. He could end this, he thought heatedly. Obliviate her, burn the paper, pour away his own memories and this weird incident would never have happened.
To his immense surprise, her face was not filled with loathing or disgust. She did eye him reproachfully now, though.
"That is 'Professor' to you," she corrected.
"Professor," he had repeated in correction before he could stop himself. Angrily, he looked aside when he felt a light touch on his hand.
"I am glad I have found someone who… likes this." Minerva said, and her voice was unusually awkward for his eloquent colleague.
"Although I assume it might not be quite appropriate," Minerva added sensibly, adding a gesture around the room that seemed to encompass both of them, and Hogwarts, and he understood. Her eyes followed her hand and she seemed unable to meet his gaze. "I enjoyed this. Mr Snape. Severus."
Her head turned back towards him. Blasted Gryffindor bluntness! He flushed crimson as he saw her shamefilled features, valiantly staring into his eyes. He looked at the lines for a moment before speaking again.
"I… I hope the lines were to your satisfaction, Professor?"
She took a step back from him and looked him up and down, standing next to his old desk like a schoolboy, albeit one in robes, taller than her, a teacher himself, a Head of House, damn the woman, his expression carefully blank. This is absurd, an inner voice told him, you are being ridiculous.
"They were indeed, but you will have to write a set tomorrow, because while you entered my classroom without my knowledge last week, you also entered it today to write your lines, and that won't do at all."
"Yes. Thank you, Professor."
He could not explain to himself the shudder that followed her voice and when he looked up, he saw her smile. He bent down slightly to kiss her and was surprised how warm she was, how eagerly she reciprocated his advances.
Later, when they were holding on to each other vaguely sheepishly in the quiet darkness of her bedroom, she gave him an unfocused look. Her glasses were lying on the bedside table, smeared with fingerprints due to his earlier clumsy haste. When she spoke, her voice was quiet.
"Severus, I noticed you were avoiding me. And I greatly enjoyed trying to catch you, and even more finding you today, but I think that this can't continue like last week in future."
Severus frowned, unwilling to concede there could be a "this". He tried to settle for a nod, but her eyes stayed firmly fixed on his. He thought for a while, reddening, then shrugged unsuccessfully, her lying on his right shoulder.
"I would very much like to do something like this again," she said, again with a bluntness that made his face burn with shame, but also flooded him with a relief he had not anticipated.
"Me, too," he mumbled barely loud enough for himself to hear, but she seemed to pick it up and exhaled with a smile.
"That is great. Still, we can't have this sort of game interfering with our working lives."
The Potions teacher sighed.
"I agree. But what should we do?"
"I think we should take care that this only occurs after hours. When you should be in your own bed, anyway, Mr Snape."
The sentence hung in the air a long time after she had said it and he did not answer. His eyes searched the shadows in the canopy above her bed for meaning, but he didn't find any. When she rested her head against his shoulder, a warm sensation of contentedness washed over him.
"Yes, Professor," he breathed into her hair.
He was good again. She had forgiven him. He had not lost points. And paradoxically, he was still her equal. She still saw him as a teacher. She had approved of his lines. She had let him bite her in a frenzied moment and inhaled sharply, which he loved. She had vanished only one of his sentences. He had relished the feeling of her naked skin on his. He had written lines for her in punishment. She had kissed him with abandon once they had entered her quarters.
When she turned and rested her head on his shoulder and let him hold her, he felt at the same time as though it was the other way round and he was resting in hers, protected, safe, at ease.