Harry Potter and all associated characters, objects, places, plants and product placements belong to other people, some of which have the initials JKR and WB. Would that they were mine, for I would now be retired living on a tropical island somewhere.
My many thanks to both Rien and Felina Black, my most excellent beta readers for this piece.
Straight on down the aisle until the gap by the broken globe. A sharp right there, then five steps straight forward. Another sharp turn, left this time, then twelve paces straight forward to the wall.
The sequence of steps and turns came automatically now. After all, it had been three years since she'd first stumbled across this place buried deep within the dusty stacks and determined that it would be hers and hers alone. Her private study, her sanctuary from the noise of the Gryffindor common room and the gossip of her room-mates. She'd learnt and enacted several powerful charms to ensure that it stayed hers. Not the least of which was this.
Follow the wall to the left for seven steps. Stop just to the right of the suit of armor and turn to face the wall.
And there it was, the faint outline of a door, brass handle at waist-height shining dully in the moonlight. Lily smiled to herself. She was proudest of this out of all her concealment charms. It had taken her the better part of four months and several illicit trips to the Restricted Section to learn, then another week to cast. Ingressus Dissimulo. Thanks to it, even if someone knew that the door and room were there, they couldn't enter it unless they followed the exact pattern of steps laid out by Lily. It wasn't a patch on some of the other concealment charms she'd read about, but it was the strongest she thought she could cast without attracting the attention of the teachers.
She adjusted her bag on her shoulder, reached out for the handle and was halfway inside before she realized that the room was already occupied. Her mouth fell open.
"Come to gloat, have you, Evans?"
The lank-haired figure sitting at her desk, half-hidden by books, didn't appear to have looked up at her entrance.
"I... no... what... How the hell did you get in here?" she demanded finally, aware as she did so that she sounded inane at best.
"Through the door. How else? Speaking of which, you can shut it on your way back out," Snape sneered, raising his head from the parchment and flicking his quill in the direction of the door.
His tone snapped Lily out of shock and right on in to anger. She strode the rest of the way into the room and slammed her satchel down atop the desk, almost upsetting his ink bottle. The door gently clicked shut behind her.
"How did you get in here?" she repeated, glaring down at him.
"I already told you. Through the door." When her expression didn't change, he rolled his eyes. "You know, 'door'. It's a piece of wood with hinges on it that allows passage from one room into the next."
"This is my room, you great greasy git! Mine! I charmed it so that no-one else could find it! Nobody else was supposed to be able to get in here!"
"Insults aside, Evans, charmed it with what? I ask," he drawled, sneer returning, "because it obviously didn't work."
"Ingressus Dissimulo, among others. It took me ages to work out how to..." She caught herself. "Not that it's any of your business!"
His eyebrows rose at that.
"I'm here, aren't I? I think that makes it my business. At any rate, you might want to take the precaution of dusting every now and again after you re-cast it. I followed your footprints right on in."
"Do you make a habit of walking in other people's footprints?" she demanded.
"Only when I don't wish to leave any of my own." He treated Lily to a sardonic half-smile and returned to his work. She stared at the top of his head, momentarily at a loss for words.
Scribble, scribble, dip pen in ink, scribble, scribble, turn page...
"Was there something you wanted, Evans?"
There was that drawling tone again. Bored, almost, as if irate looming Gryffindor females were commonplace.
"Yes. I want you out of my room."
"Your room? I wasn't aware that the Headmaster had begun allocating students private study areas."
Scribble, scribble, pause, examine illustration...
"He's not. But I found this room, and I charmed it. It's mine."
"Such proprietary instinct, little lioness. And yet I fail to see your name written anywhere."
"Look on the desk."
"Graffiti," he dismissed with a flick of his quill.
"Stop glaring at me, Evans, it doesn't suit you."
She glared harder. He rolled his eyes again and laid down his quill. He looked almost... amused.
"If you prefer, I could hex you right here and now and we'd have done with it for the evening."
"If you survived what I'd do to you if you tried, you'd be expelled for sure."
"Ah, but it would be so satisfying." Again the sardonic half-smile. "Besides, Longbottom never got expelled for hexing Deliah right into the hospital wing last year."
"That was different!"
"Yes, I suppose it was different. Longbottom was a Gryffindor and Deliah was a Slytherin, not the other way around."
"They were both prefects, I mean."
"And as such should be held up to a higher standard than we mere mortals."
"I don't know... you were held up pretty high today, weren't you, Snivellus?"
It was a low blow, she knew, and she saw it strike home with dreadful effect. His face shifted through several different emotions with blinding speed; hurt, frustration, humiliation and a burning, malicious rage of terrible intensity were all visible for a fraction of a second before his face went utterly blank. Lily felt as though the temperature in the room had suddenly dropped several degrees.
"I suggest you leave now, Miss Evans," he said in cool and clipped tones, as if the words were distasteful. "Go back to your glorious Gryffindor chums and celebrate a job well done. Leave me in peace."
She should go. She didn't really even need to be here tonight. Charms had always been her best subject and she could pass the exam in her sleep. Probably. And, if she was entirely truthful with herself, she was here in part because she wanted to avoid another confrontation with the Feckless Foursome. Who deserved a good telling off for putting her in this situation. Let Snape have the room and she could go back to the Tower and do that and revise with Marcella. She had all but promised to, after all. But... if she let him have the room tonight he'd win... and he'd be back again tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that. And, damnit, it was her room. It came right back and down to that. Her room. Hers. She had invested too much time and effort into it to allow anyone else to use it without her permission.
Lily took a deep breath and steeled herself.
"No, you leave. This is my place, not yours. Anyone would think you didn't have a common room to go to."
They stared unblinking at each other for a long and hostile minute.
"Evans, I used to attribute you with some intelligence," he snapped, breaking first. "You honestly think I'd be able to show my face in the Slytherin common room after today? Even here I can't escape it."
Lily noticed for the first time the tattered pillow and blanket on the floor to one side of the desk, next to her busted record player. For the second time that day, she felt a sudden and unwelcome pang of sympathy and shame.
"You were planning on staying here tonight?" The question came out sounding gentler than she had intended.
"The rest of my life, Evans, the rest of my life. But only if I don't decide to throw myself off the Astronomy Tower tomorrow." His scowl deepened abruptly. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. I hate you. Go away. Now."
"Look, about today..."
"What part of 'go away' don't you understand, Evans?"
"I just wanted to say that –"
"That what? That you're sorry? That it'll never happen again?"
Snape's voice was rising dangerously, his cheeks flushed and eyes glittering darkly with barely suppressed rage. Lily was suddenly very much aware that his wand was on the desk within easy reach while hers was safely tucked away inside her satchel, and that, for all her bluster, she wasn't completely sure that she could take him in a fair fight.
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Evans!" he shouted, standing with such swiftness that his chair rocked back on two legs and nearly fell. "And don't say you're sorry unless you mean it and I know you won't," his voice dropped back down to a hiss.
"Not really. You enjoyed it as much as the rest of them."
"I did not!"
"Liar!" He slammed his hand down on the desk next to his wand, causing it to jump. Lily flinched back instinctively at the sudden noise. "Of course you did. I could see you, you and the other Potter groupies. I'm just surprised you didn't join in the fun with some spells of your own." He was moving now, wand in hand, circling out from behind the desk.
"I tried to stop it!"
"Only so you wouldn't have a guilty conscience! I bet you were that relieved when I gave you an excuse to stop being my savior, weren't you? Weren’t you?" he hissed, face twisting further with malice. He was stalking towards her now, slowly, and she backed away in spite of herself. "Or was it just that you enjoyed the chance to play hard-to-get with Potter? Want to get the love of your life on the straight and narrow so you can finally say 'yes' when he next asks you out? Or maybe, maybe you wanted to improve your chances of being Head Girl? Not that your intervention would matter in that regard. In fact, it'd probably count negatively."
"That's not true!" she protested.
But there was truth there, Lily knew, and it stung all the more for her protestations. Snape seemed to sense it too. In a flash of movement he was upon her, wand at her throat, her back flush against the door. His eyes caught and held hers, sharp and piercing and bottomless.
"Which part isn't true?" Snape whispered harshly. "Hmmm, Evans? Even if you weren't smirking the entire time, I'd have known you weren't intervening out of any great like of me. I suspect you know as well as I exactly what the considered opinion of me is amongst the staff, so it's not that. The initials 'J' and 'P' are inscribed upon the desk with a little heart around them, ruling out that particular denial, though you were rather convincing this afternoon, I must say. That leaves us with what? Salving your conscience. In more ways than one."
He smiled and drew the tip of his wand almost lovingly across her throat.
"So, Evans, tell me true: are you really at peace with your conscience tonight?"
She wasn't, not deep down.
"You are a bastard. A complete and utter bastard," she growled.
"So I am often told. And you, my dear Lily, are a liar and a sycophant of the worst order. Fouler still because everyone thinks you as pure as your namesake."
His free hand came up and touched her hair, her cheek; a pale finger drew a line across her jaw.
"Except, of course, for me. I know better."
Snape moved forward until he was pressed against her. His hand came away from her face, reached around behind her and pulled her roughly to him, trapping her arms against his chest as she futility tried to push him away. Lily was all too suddenly aware that Snape was stronger than he looked, taller too, and broader across the shoulder. She could hear his heart beat, could feel his chest move with every breath he took, muscle and hard bone under her hands. He bent his head down, greasy strands of his hair brushing her face, his breath warm and humid against her cheek.
She had time for a moment's horrified realization.
"Sleep well, Evans, if you can," he whispered in her ear. "Want to be bright and rested for Charms tomorrow."
A sudden twisting movement behind her and the door swung open, spilling her out onto the floor in a cloud of dust. Seconds later, her satchel flew out, landing a few feet away in its own dust explosion. The door shut, silent save for the little click of the latch taking, and melted into the wall.
When she nerved herself, wand in hand, to go back to her room after the Charms practical the following day, she found that he was thankfully gone without a trace. So was all the dust in that area of the stacks.