Her head was fuzzy the next morning; she had woken half-drunk with emotion to remember that she had forgotten to settle how they would share the after-dark rounds. The idea of sending him an owl containing her plans was tempting, but it was mad to believe that she could go for even a day – perhaps much less – without running into Grimm. He would be everywhere, and all that she would see of him was the red mark on his cheek. Even if it did not show for anyone else, she would see it, a haunting vision of her uncontrolled passion. Breakfast did something to revive her, the food being rather more appetizing than the night before. First day nervousness was irrational, but so was most of her behaviour of late.
He was there, of course, cutting his toast into soldiers with scientific precision. The intensity of his work was comical at the same time that it suited him. It was too easy to imagine him acting the same way over a bubbling cauldron or beakers of obscure liquids. And his family thought all that he did was impractical, yet there were times....
The first bell rang. Minerva rose from the bench like a woman thrice her age and walked with an ever-straight back out of the Great Hall. Her first class was Transfiguration, both a blessing and a curse. Grimm would never set foot in Dumbledore’s classroom, and, this morning, Minerva did not wish to either. All that she wanted to do was crawl back up to bed and sleep for another three days. She appeared her normal self, but beneath she was far from normal.
Dumbledore was his normal self – charismatic and engaging, except for the fact that, no matter how hard she tried, Minerva could not pay a whit of attention to anything he said. It was the first lecture she had missed in all her years at Hogwarts, and she had not missed it due to illness. Well, not physical illness, because something inside of her was most definitely ill. She could not, even if she wanted to, name the part. She had never needed it before, and did not know it well.
“Perchance Minerva would know the answer?” Dumbledore’s voice resonated through her ears. His eyes assessed her from the front of the classroom. Of course he had known that she hadn’t been paying attention.
“It depends on the question, Professor. I didn’t hear it clearly enough.”
A close save, if that.
The blue eyes twinkled behind the half-moon spectacles. She realised that they always did, whether he was speaking to her or not.
“I asked, Minerva,” – why did he always call students by their first names? None of the other professors ever did – “What the difference is between ordinary human-to-animal Transfiguration and the Animagus spell.”
Someone in the back row chuckled.
A person to the left of her crumbled up a piece of parchment.
“Yes, Minerva?” Dumbledore persisted, his eyes growing brighter.
Another giggle, this time closer.
Minerva took a deep breath. “Ordinary Transfiguration would transform the human mind into one of an animal, so the person would lose all human faculties. Animagi, meanwhile, can refrain their human mind while existing within an animal’s body.”
Dumbledore nodded, that knowing smile on his face. “Very good. Now let us move on....”
She was mercifully allowed to remain silent for the remainder of the class.
One class after another passed before Minerva started toward the library for her study period. The endless rows of ancient books were a great temptation – peace, quiet, and an effective place to hide from whomever was out to bother her into an early grave. She thought of the dust rubbing off upon her hands and robes. Yes, she had missed the castle library. Other than the books she had bought with counted sickles, there were no libraries of magic near her home. To live nearer London, or at least Edinburgh, would have changed everything.
Voices in the corridor ahead stalled her footsteps.
“It’s only the first day, Myrtle. Are they teasing you already?” Grimm’s voice had taken on that soft tone he used at the strangest times.
There was a girlish sniff. “I’m al-alread-dy m-missing m-my b-b-books.”
“I will keep a look out for them, and for you as well.” Minerva could imagine him patting Myrtle on the shoulder. “Now off you go to class. You’re already late.”
His footsteps approached her hiding place. He rounded the corner and walked into her before she had the chance to move. She felt her balance topple before he caught her. His steadying hand was warm on her arm.
“I thought you’d run away.” The softness remained in his voice, making it impossible for her to look at him. “That’s how little I’ve seen of you lately.”
She turned her face away from him; he smelled somewhat like sulphur. “Can you blame me, Tiberius, after last evening?”
“No, but I never took you for a coward.”
Minerva allowed a small smile to present itself. “Gryffindors cannot be cowards.”
One stupid little syllable. That’s all it ever took to try her patience with him.
“Do you doubt it of me, Tiberius?”
She wished that the library was much closer. She needed all the excuses she could get to escape his consuming presence.
He stopped in mid-step. “Never.”
Minerva did not check her stride, nor did she reply. One step, two. She increased the distance between them. Her footsteps echoed off the walls and ceiling; the only other sound she could hear was his breathing.
Her steps slowed. Something in his voice called to her.
“Sorry, but I have work to do.”
She sped up again.
“Do you hate me?”
The question did more than stop her. It made her trip on the uneven edge of the floor. Her books and parchments strewed themselves across the corridor’s width while she hit the stones with a cry. The bruises would be bright by the evening. Tears smarted in her eyes. She did not have the strength to push away Grimm’s careful hands. He said nothing, only helped her to rise before collecting her scattered materials with his wand. His hand remained on her arm, even when he held all of her various accoutrements.
“Well, I guess you don’t, not if you’re falling at my feet.”
“Thank you, darling.”
“Get your hands off of me!”
Professor Flitwick down the hall chose that as the opportune moment to dismiss his class. Fourth year Ravenclaws and Gryffindors streamed from the room, at once observing the positions of the Head Boy and Girl in the corridor.
Minerva knew better than to push Grimm away – looking guilty would put them both in an even worse situation. She also wanted the day to end as fast as it could.
“Thank you for your help,” she said to Grimm in a voice louder than required.
After a sideways glance, he replied. “It was quite a fall you took.”
Perhaps it would have sounded less contrived it he had called her “my dear”. The whisperers would have taken it in with pleasure, as they did with any hint of anything.
“Yes! I told you it was true! Why do you never believe me?”
“Oh Merlin, they’re so perfect!”
“She’s so smart, she should have been a ‘claw, don’t you think?”
“Hush! They’ll hear us!”
Each of the students in turn stared at the couple – who would have been scandalised to ever hear anyone referring to them as a couple. Minerva felt rather like an animal in the menagerie, just another spectacle to be jeered at. She did not avert her face, nor did she reveal any sign of weakness. She glared back with all her might until they looked away and turned the corner.
Grimm offered a half-hearted smile and whisked off down the hallway, away from the library, and still carrying Minerva’s books and parchments and ink. She watched him go, her face burning crimson, vowing to hate him until the end of her days. So without her books, without her parchments, and without her ink, she stalked off to the library, limping slightly, to spend an afternoon reading everything but that which had been assigned to her.
~ * * * ~
As soon as he dropped the pile of books on his chamber floor, Grimm remembered that they were Minerva's, not his. He looked at the books, then out he window at Gryffindor Tower. He could run over to the portrait hole with them; he wouldn’t even need to speak to Minerva, just to whichever Gryffindor first appeared.
But what if the first one he met was her? Or worse, it could be Dumbledore strolling past to check up on his Gryffindors. Then what would Grimm do? Glaring at the books, and wishing he could kick them across the room, he kept his back turned on them the rest of the evening, and night, and following morning. The pile remained in that very spot beside the door for the next two-and-a-half days. He did not bother to return them and she would not bother to ask for them. He glanced at the pile whenever he left the room, fell over them whenever he re-entered the room, and stared at them whenever he happened to stay for an extended period of time.
She hated him, but that was obvious.
Maybe feared him too. Or what she thought he wanted from her.
But there had been something in her eyes. It was like she had wanted him to take action, to do anything to make the situation be like it looked. Wait. That didn’t even make sense.
He fell back against his pillow and stared at the ceiling instead.
At the end of the second day, he collected all the books, the bottle of ink, and the collection of parchments, which included a letter with a French stamp, and put them in the arms of Myrtle Myers, who was all-too happy to escape her dormitory. Grimm travelled back up to his chamber, remembering the words of the note he had written to Minerva in apology. She’d likely rip up the note upon seeing it, but at least the words were out of his mind.
Min. Sorry I kept these so long. I meant no ill in taking them. Tibbs.
He went over to stand by the window, the one that faced Gryffindor tower. Her light was on. He wondered what she was doing. Reading? Writing? Just sitting? Perhaps she was looking back at Ravenclaw tower wondering the same things as he did? Grimm shoved the window open to clear his view. Was that her shadow moving about the room? Some minutes had passed, so surely Myrtle had delivered the books without difficulty.
His gaze turned to the dark landscape surrounding the school. The forest was a black splot in comparison to the silvery lake near to it. It would be a suitable simile for how he felt next to Minerva – she the calm, sparkling waters while he was the unbearable, pestilence-ridden forest. She looked at him that way, most of the time.
The window pulled shut with a dry squeak and Grimm looked back at his room. Most everything was in its place, or at least in a place where he could find it. Half of his books were lined up upon the shelf while the others were piled upon the floor. His parchments were stacked on one corner of the desk, while the drawers were filled with his spare ink and numerous, often colourful, quills. His trunk enclosed the remainder of his belongings, including the single family photograph he kept. Grimm knelt beside the trunk and reached in to retrieve his one prized item.
His hand came out empty. Strange. He reached in again. Nothing.
Wand in hand, he emptied the trunk. No notebook.
When had he last used it?
He had been using it on the train, but just yesterday he’d held the book in his hands. Then he had placed it on a pile by the door before he left to do his rounds. It had been a very convenient spot at the time, close to where he could reach it when returning to the room. However, when he had returned the previous night, he had gone straight to bed. He had not picked up his book from the pile like he had meant to.
Grimm turned toward the door. There was no pile now.
Of course there wasn’t. He’d just sent it off with Myrtle to give to....
A sharp intake of breath. A clenching of the fists. A glance toward the window, toward the light at the top of Gryffindor tower where she might now be receiving her books, along with his commonplace book, the one that.... He couldn’t even think it. He didn’t want to.
He ran out of his chamber, fell down the stairs, and shot out into the corridor, sending a group of first years flying to avoid his warpath. Perhaps, just perhaps, Myrtle had not walked as fast as he’d thought, that maybe she’d stopped off at the lavatory again, or had been waylaid by that group of bullying Slytherins.... any of that was better than letting Minerva see that book.
Sprinting down the hall, he turned a corner and ran right into Myrtle, who fell to the floor while her glasses flew off in another direction.
“The books!” Grimm breathed, his chest heaving. “Returned?”
Myrtle stared up at him with an open mouth. “Of c-c-cours-s-se, T-t-t-ib-b-b-s.”
Swearing so that she couldn’t hear, Grimm pulled Myrtle to her feet and retrieved her glasses.
“Gods, I’m sorry. You’re alright?”
With a loud sniffle, Myrtle nodded and took the glasses from his hand.
“I’ve been beastly, Myrtle.” His voice was distant, but held sincerity.
“Y-y-you h-h-hav-v-en’t-t-t. N-nev-ver t-t-o m-me.”
Grimm smiled, but he was already looking down the corridor where the Fat Lady glared at him from her portrait door. She could probably guess he wanted to barge through her canvas into Gryffindor Tower and fight through crowds of Gryffindors to reach the very top of the tower where the Head Girl would be reading through his commonplace book that included.... Damn! Hell and damnation! Why had he written so much in it?
He turned back to look at Myrtle, who watched him through her bottle-bottom lenses. How could the eyesight of a witch be so bad?
“Did she say anything when you gave her the books?”
Myrtle shook her head so quickly that her nose became a blurry line. “N-n-no. On-n-nly th-th-ank-ked m-m-me.”
He swore again. This time at a volume that echoed down the corridor, to the chagrin of the Fat Lady, who never expected to hear such a word emitting from the lips of any Head Boy.
“I’ll wait for her then. Thanks, Myrtle. I appreciate your help.” Grimm leaned down to place an idle kiss on the girl’s spotted cheek.
She stumbled back against the wall, face a shade between salmon and lobster. Grimm’s brow furled in confusion, but his mind was still concentrating on the problem of the lost book. By the time that Myrtle had reached the end of the corridor, he had already forgotten her presence.
First he paced the width of the corridor, ignoring the glares offered by the Fat Lady. Then he grew tired of that and sat on the floor, practising various small spells. Time passed again. He closed his eyes and started to recite the ingredient lists of potions in his head. His eyes were still closed when the door of Gryffindor Tower opened and Minerva stepped out to do her rounds. With a sigh, she took in the sight of Tiberius Grimm sleeping on the floor.
His book was in her hands. The spell-o-taped cover was faded and blotched, the binding cracked and loose, the pages ripped off in corners and stained with ink. She had glanced within its pages for a moment, but had shut it when she realised what it was. It had opened to the last-used page, to a drawing of herself sleeping in the train compartment, and now she had stumbled upon the artist sleeping in much the same way. His mouth was even open a bit on one side. Sleep made him appear kinder, softer, but it could not remove the humour in his expression. He would always laugh, even in his dreams.
What was it that touched her lips and pulled them upwards in a smile? Perhaps it had been that picture of her, with the smudged lines and uneven-features he had given her? Or was it the fact that he had lied about drawing her, when that had been exactly what he was doing? Or even that she had known all along that he had taken up artistry, if just to draw that one, single portrait of a girl sleeping on a train?
She watched him, knowing why he had sat in this spot, why he had been so desperate to get it back. Maybe, just maybe, she forgave him a little for his past transgressions. That is, she would until he woke up and once more became the bane of her existence. Yes, she preferred him while he was asleep. It reminded her of why she bothered to ever speak with him, why she bothered to think about him in the loneliest moments of her life. Her present smile was one he would have given everything to see, and it was one that she would have given everything to prevent that.
If only he had opened his eyes at that moment!
Part of her wished that he had, but it was a very, very small part.
She placed the book on his chest and walked off to do her rounds. By the time she returned an hour later, he and the book were gone.
Minerva went to bed that night with the smile still on her face.
He had been right. He was certainly not an artist.