Emma Swan has been the Defence against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts for going on three years now. Despite a rocky start (because teaching is hard and why did no one tell her that when she took the job?), she knows the drill now. She’s seasoned. A veteran. It helps that she has a couple of bad ass scars and a few war stories from her time as an auror—and before that, during her time as the Saviour of the wizarding world.
That whole situation was so embarrassing. Upon finding out she was a wizard, all she had wanted was to play Quidditch (people! On brooms! Playing competitive sports!) and learn how to turn someone into a frog (because that was what witches did, wasn’t it?). Instead she’d arrived at Hogwarts on the train and people had talked about destiny and truth and prophecies there had been all these expectations that didn’t lend themselves to a professional Quidditch career, no matter how exceptional a beater she was for the Gryffindor team.
Despite that, Hogwarts was the first place she’d ever felt like she’d belonged and the moment the job became available she’d fought for it.
In her brief tenure as a teacher, Professor Regina Mills—Potions professor, best seeker Gryffindor had ever seen in over a century, and someone with a complicated history—has barely said two words to her together. When they’d first encountered each other at Hogwarts, on Emma’s first day, Professor Mills had looked her up and down, sniffed, and returned to conversation with Madame Álvarez without a word. And their relationship had continued very much in that vein.
(Except, of course, for that one Christmas party where they’d all had a few too many shots of Firewhiskey and Professor Mills had felt her up outside the staff room but Emma doesn’t count this as Professor Mills speaking to her because garbled moaning is not words.)
It is a Monday afternoon and she has just finished with her fifth year students—her last class of the day—and she’s exhausted, honestly. She is vaguely shuffling papers around at her desk and pretending like she intends to grade them when Professor Mills storms in, a whirl of black robes and rage.
“Professor Swan, you gave my son detention,” she says, coming right up to the desk, and leaning forward, over Emma. It’s incredibly intimidating, Emma’s not embarrassed to admit it. “Explain yourself.”
And, well, shit.
Somehow in the madness that is the start of term, she has forgotten that the Henry Mills in her first year Defence class is Professor Mills’ son. “I caught him outside the fifth floor corridor,” she says, sighing. Professor Mills just stares at her. “Which is out of bounds.” Professor Mills continues to stare. “At three in the morning.” Professor Mills raises an eyebrow. “Trying to summon a lesser demon.” Professor Mills’ eyebrow heightens further.
“A misunderstanding I’m sure,” she says.
“Really wasn’t,” Emma replies. “I mean, he told me quite cheerfully that’s what he was doing.”
(He had. “I was curious,” he’d said when she’d caught him. “Just wanted to find out if I could.” He had grinned at her, all eleven-year-old boy charm and she couldn’t help but laugh, even as she had written him a detention slip.
“Ravenclaw house was the worst thing that ever happened to you,” she’d said.)
Professor Mills glares, her chest rising and falling too quickly, and Emma feels compelled to add, “he accepted the consequences with pretty good grace too.” Which is more than she can say for his mother right about now because Professor Mills’ jaw stiffens and her nostrils flare.
“You will rescind the detention,” Professor Mills says, sharp and determined. Emma catches a whiff of jasmine, the scent heady, and for one mad moment she’s inclined to agree to this.
Sanity prevails however. “No,” she says. “I won’t.”
Professor Mills stares at her. Emma stares back, pinching her own lips together. She’s not just a little pleased when Mills blinks first. “This isn’t over,” Professor Mills warns, stepping back and crossing her arms over her chest.
And then she storms out, robes sweeping behind her, and Emma bangs her head against the desk several times really loudly, because, oh my God, she is not sexually attracted to the professor who is a) threatening her b) the Head of Gryffindor and so technically her superior, and c) the daughter of the Queen of Hearts who Emma vanquished as the Saviour of the Wizarding World (something they have never spoken about, but then they have not, until this very moment, spoken about anything).
After class on Tuesday, Henry approaches her. “Professor Swan, I am so sorry,” he says, fiddling with his tie anxiously. “Mom’s just. Well. You know.”
Emma does know. “Don’t worry, kid,” she says, barely resisting the urge to pat him on the head. He’s got a very pat-able head, Henry Mills does. “It’s not your fault. I’ll see you in detention after dinner.”
Professor Mills sits next to her at dinner—a most singular occurrence—and passes her the potatoes when requested. “I assume you have reconsidered Henry’s detention,” she says, holding the dish just far enough away from her that Emma can’t grab it.
“I don’t appreciate threats, Professor Mills,” Emma says, tone light because Mary Margaret Blanchard is on her other side and is an incurable gossip.
“I’m threatening nothing,” Professor Mills says blandly, handing her the roast potatoes. However, she then leans forward, whispering in her ear, and breath tickling Emma’s skin, “it’s not threatening when you fully intend to make someone pay should they not accede to your wishes.”
Emma shudders, though she’s not entirely sure whether it’s from fear or arousal.
And then, on Wednesday morning, she goes down to breakfast as usual. She sits in her usual spot and takes her usual breakfast. She bites into her toast. It lets out a high-pitched scream. She picks up her steaming cup of coffee. Despite the coffee pots being enchanted to keep coffee perpetually hot, it is cold and bitter. She cracks her egg. A baby chick peeps out.
And at the conclusion of breakfast, Professor Mills turns Professor Blanchard into a tortoise.
Admittedly, that last one might not be related to the detention because Mary Margaret had been trying to set Professor Mills up with the gamekeeper at breakfast. “He’s really very nice,” she’d been saying not long before Professor Mills had snapped.
Emma catches Mary Margaret the Tortoise and takes her down to Professor Hua in Care of Magical Creatures. “It’s a temporary curse,” Mulan assures Emma, trying desperately not to laugh. “What did you do to piss off Regina?”
Emma sighs, stroking the tortoise’s hard shell. She wriggles happily beneath the touch and then stops, retracting her head into her shell as though embarrassed. “I followed procedure,” she says.
“That’s rough,” Mulan says but, again, she looks like she’s trying not to burst into laughter and Emma scowls at her.
“I’m hurt by your lack of sympathy for my plight,” she informs her and stomps off to her first class.
By the end of the day, Emma has had enough. She has been plagued with screaming food, is under-caffeinated, and her Gryffindor fourth years are apparently so fiercely loyal to their head of house that they spent the whole lesson talking over her and calling her Professor Saviour when they normally they hang off her every stupid word.
(She just barely managed to resist mocking them for their insipid nickname for her because, like, one of them might remember that she called their head of house ‘Professor Millstone’ when they moaned to her about the amount of homework they were getting for Potions in her first year of teaching.
They had all stared at her utterly blankly and three years later she still has flashbacks about that particular unfunny moment.)
So, once classes are finally over, she storms down the endless corridors until she reaches the dungeons where Potions is housed. She slams the door open and if her entry isn’t quite as impressive because she’s wearing dragon hide trousers and boots instead of dramatic robes, well, she feels like she still cuts a menacing figure. “What got up your ass and died?” she asks.
Professor Mills looks up from a pile of essays. “Language, Professor Swan,” she says mildly, looking at her over a pair of spectacles that, quite frankly, should not be allowed.
Emma crosses her arms, frowning because she’s not going to be intimidated by her colleague, damn it. “You don’t talk to me for three years and then I follow school rules for once in my life and suddenly it’s all weird curses and lesson sabotage?”
“Yes, well,” Regina says, removing her glasses, and Emma can see the anger starting to rise from the flush in her skin and the tension in her jaw. “Forgive me for not wishing to spend much time around the person who murdered my mother.”
“She tried to kill me first,” Emma says. This, as it turns out, is not an especially sensible thing to say to someone struggling to remain calm; Professor Mills reaches for her wand on the desk, fingers twitching in an effort not to curse her.
However, she clenches her hand into a fist instead and continues as though Emma has not spoken at all. “And,” she says, “forgive me for defending my son.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Emma replies, rolling her eyes.
At this, Professor Mills stands and moves around the desk and Emma’s suddenly aware of how close she is and in this one moment of snarled lip and clenched jaw, she reminds Emma of her mother and she backs away, upsetting a teetering tower of cauldrons, which clatter to the ground. Red light flashes beneath her eyelids, claws grasp at her heart, and she draws in a shuddering breath. Professor Mills must see the fear in her eyes because she steps back. Sitting on a desk, Emma concentrates on breathing, in the steady in-out, in-out.
Emma doesn’t remember a lot—the psychiatrist she was forced to see before admittance into auror training reckoned she’d blocked much of that final battle out, as a coping mechanism—but she remembers Cora Mills, the Queen of Hearts, plunge her hand into her chest. She remembers Regina’s scream (because she was Regina then—young and beautiful and haughty and a spy for their side at great personal cost—not Professor Mills), faint and echoing, red light blasting from a wand, a stunning spell that no one she has spoken to will lay claim to. She remembers the Queen of Hearts falling back and she remembers the final deadly blow she made.
With the sword of Gryffindor because Emma’s kind of terrible at using her magic in survival situations.
(She was suspended in her third year for fist fighting. She was the only one using her fists.)
Silence permeates the classroom. Professor Mills returns to her desk and the only sound is the scratch of quill against paper and Emma rather pities her poor students because that’s a lot of red ink.
“I’m sorry,” Professor Mills says into the quiet, her tone oddly formal as though she is unused to apologising. “That was uncalled for.”
“I’m sorry too,” Emma says. “Not that she’s dead,” she adds and Professor Mills lets out a frustrated puff of air. “Just, no one should lose their mother, no matter how evil.”
“Swan—” Professor Mills starts and she wonders for a moment what she’s about to say, wonders if she might admit to what Emma has long suspected because Regina Mills had always had a real talent for defensive magic (and she had wondered off and on since that final battle how much of that talent had been instinctive and how much had been learned by necessity of living with the Queen of Hearts for a mother) and she’d been closest to Cora Mills. However, Professor Mills seems to change her mind. “You’re right,” she says. “No one should lose their mother.”
Emma stands and leaves. At the door, she turns. “Henry’s cool with his detention,” she says. “Are we good?”
“I shall destroy you if it’s the last thing I do,” Professor Mills says but Emma wonders if perhaps her words lack conviction.
Emma thinks this will be the end of it, but it turns out Professor Mills can bear a grudge like no one’s business. Emma’s Hufflepuff students wish her happy birthday by song all day Thursday and are not moved by her insistence that her birthday is months away. “Why would I lie?” she asks, irritated by the mostly tuneless singing. “It’s not a secret. A bunch of you made me cupcakes on my birthday last year.”
Her Ravenclaws came up with a list of questions she can’t answer, leading her utterly off track and flustering her to the point where she forgets to collect in their homework.
On Friday, during her first lesson of the day, someone draws a penis on the wall of her classroom (and she’s not saying it was the Slytherins but it was 100% the Slytherins).
So, after spending her non-contact time scrubbing the graffiti off her classroom wall, she decides it’s payback time.
“You could turn her into a cat,” Mary Margaret says when she outlines her cunning idea to pay Professor Mills back during morning interval. She’s still a little green after her experience as a tortoise.
Emma rolls her eyes and visits Mulan again, who gives her a tiny acromantula. “He’s the runt of the litter,” she says of the spider the size of a cat, and scratches its belly. The acromantula wiggles its eight legs and tries to bite her fingers. Mulan coos at it.
She’s not proud of what she does next.
(She’s totally proud.)
She has her second year Gryffindor students after lunch and she sends one of them up to the staff quarters to set the spider loose in Professor Mills’ bedroom while she’s teaching her final class. “There’s a chocolate frog in it for the person who does this,” she says and a flurry of hands go up. Gryffindors will do just about anything for chocolate, she thinks smugly, and hands over the cage holding the acromantula.
The kid comes back, buzzing with excitement. “I was almost caught,” he whispers loudly, eyes wide. “I had to hide behind the statue of King Midas so Professor Gold didn’t catch me.”
There is a universal shudder across the classroom. Professor Gold may have been on the right side of the war, but Emma suspects this had less to do with standing up for what was right and more to do with getting one over his nemesis and, well, there’s always been something creepy about the Divination professor.
She’s never been more grateful for the proximity of her classroom to the staff quarters because she’s able to reach the corridor outside Professor Mills’ rooms first. She loiters there until she hears the clack of high heels against stone. “Professor Swan,” Professor Mills says as she passes her by. “If you’re not careful, people will think you’re up to something.”
Emma just smiles, watches Professor Mills enter her room, and waits for the scream.
Eventually, she gets bored and hungry hanging about in the corridor and so she goes down to the dining hall. Her food blissfully un-cursed for the first time since Tuesday, she eats heartily. It is when she leaves to return to her classroom and plow through her third years’ projects on werewolves that she passes by Madame Álvarez, who is looking around urgently. “Have you seen Headmaster Myrdinn?” she asks. “Regina’s been attacked.”
During Emma’s time as an auror, she had been forced to encounter a fair number of Dementors, felt the numbing chill seep through her body, felt her heart constrict and her head pound and seen the world go grey before her eyes. This is how she feels at the moment she hears something has happened to Professor Mills. “What happened?” she asks.
“Bitten by an acromantula,” she replies and she chokes back a sob. Emma remembers that Marian Álvarez and Regina Mills had been best friends at Hogwarts. Memories of them from her first year at Hogwarts still filter into her mind on occasion. They were Gryffindor house’s two golden girls, and ruled the school: Regina Mills, the head girl, and Marian Álvarez, the Quidditch captain who had brought Gryffindor to victory for the first time in twenty-three years. She had idolised Marian as much as she’d been terrified of Regina in her first year at Hogwarts. “She’s deathly allergic,” Marian says, sucking in a breath and gnawing at her lip. “She’s comatose in the hospital wing.”
Emma doesn’t stay to offer her commiserations. She doesn’t help Marian look for Headmaster Myrdhinn. Instead, all thoughts leave her brain and she’s running up to the hospital wing, pushing past students to get there, heedless of everything but her own heart, beating too quickly.
Outside a curtained off part of the wing, Henry is sobbing, head in his hands and shoulders heaving. The sound wrenches.
And time seems to slow.
Hands trembling, she draws back the curtain and is attacked by a very irritable, runty acromantula.
Henry falls off his chair he’s laughing so hard. “100 points from Ravenclaw,” Emma snarls, wrestling with the acromantula that has dug its pincers into her arm, “for being a dick.”
Henry just shrugs. “Mom gave Ravenclaw 150 points for me to prank you,” he says, and he starts laughing again, is still laughing as he helps Emma detach herself from the acromantula.
She conjures a cage for the little monster and hands it to Henry. “Take him down to Professor Hua,” she says, eyeing the acromantula fondly. “He’s actually kind of a cute little beast. Tenacious.”
“No offense, Professor Swan,” Henry says, taking the cage from her, and holding it gingerly, “but you’re really weird.”
She looks down at her torn robes, at the scratches down her forearm that she should really let Marian look at—and perhaps she will when she doesn’t have somewhere very important to be—and shrugs. “You’re probably right, kid,” she says, and leaves the hospital wing, storming down corridors.
She reaches Regina’s quarters and bangs at her door (and somehow in this incident she’s moved from Professor Mills to Regina in Emma’s mind) and stands, tapping her foot impatiently. Regina opens the door, glasses perched on the end of her nose and a plaid dressing gown replacing black robes. She takes one look at Emma and lets out a deep, throaty chuckle. So really Emma’s only option is to surge forward, pulling her into a fierce kiss.
It stops the laughing at least.
Later, she’s lying in bed beside her and Regina is half asleep on her stomach and Emma’s fingers draw patterns on Regina’s naked back, feeling the shiver of muscles beneath her fingertips. She presses a kiss to the nape of her neck. “This isn’t part of the whole ‘you destroying me’ thing, right?”
Regina rolls over. “Go to sleep, Professor Swan,” she says, voice heavy with exhaustion.
“Right?” Emma asks again.
But Regina doesn’t answer, just starts to snore softly.
And she knows that tomorrow they’ll have to talk, about where exactly that stunning spell came from as Emma was facing death at the hands of Regina’s mother, and about Regina’s high handed, helicopter parenting of her son, and about what exactly this all means.
But today is not that day, and so she buries her face in Regina’s shoulder and drifts off to the steady rhythm of Regina’s breathing.