Severus was mildly worried about the Hen Night; he didn't think that Hermione would suddenly discover a deep-seated passion for either Ron or Harry: that would be silly. If Hermione wanted either of them, she would have had them by now.
Nonetheless, he was still mildly concerned at the thought of his wife-to-be having other male parts wiggled around in front of her. It didn't seem proper to him. Minerva had been invited, and Molly, as well as most of the female teaching staff of Hogwarts; a whole group of middle aged women on the town together was a recipe for disaster.
On the whole, he thought it would be wise to keep an eye on the lot of them, but he didn't think Hermione would allow him to attend, even if he sat discreetly at the back of whatever third-rate hostelry they had selected for the party.
It was time to play it cool, feign disinterest and gather all the information he could; he couldn't stop Hermione having a Hen night, but he could, by Merlin, keep an eye on her. And ... and... step in and rescue her if it was needed. Yes, it wasn't that he didn't trust her; it was that she might need protecting.
Even Severus couldn't imagine what Hermione, even without her coven, wouldn't be able to deal with, but whatever it was, he would be there to sort it out for her.
And if he wasn't caught doing it, what was the harm?
He kept up a steady stream of complaints on the matter, partly to allay her suspicions, and partly because she would always reassure him that he was wonderful. He had a sneaking suspicion that he ought to build up large reserves of being told he was wonderful, because soon the wedding arrangements would be upon them and there would be no time for anything other than serious discussions of colour schemes and choices of flowers.
He was looking forward to being married; he just thought that getting married was a bloody nuisance.
"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" Hermione asked, breaking in on his reverie.
He merely grunted, doing his best to seem sulky and grumpy. It wasn't that much of a stretch; he felt sulky and grumpy.
"Don't be like that," she said, dropping a kiss on his nose. "I promise, I'll keep my eyes closed, and I won't look at all. You don't think I actually want to see Ronald Weasley in the nude, waving his bits around, do you?"
And when you put it like that, he supposed not.
Still, barely thirty minutes later he found himself ensconced in the back of the Three Broomsticks, under the cover of a very powerful glamour.
His wife-to-be had invited almost everyone she knew, and they had invited a couple of friends along, and fortunately for him, she didn't know exactly who would be coming. He had a cover story ready – something about a distant Weasley cousin, there were enough of them – but he knew he had to stay away from Hermione who would be able to spot him straight away. He shuddered to think what she might do to him – maybe even get him up on stage with Remus and the boys.
Severus had heard of girls' nights out before; he gathered that the female members of staff regularly went out together on a Friday night. He made a mental note never to be found within three miles of such a gathering. Their behaviour was appalling. He'd always thought that Ginny Weasley was quite well behaved – for a Weasley – and he was dismayed to find her taking a seat close to the stage, next to Hermione, holding a large bowl of peanuts.
Peanuts which she didn't seem to be eating at all.
Severus had, in his youth, attended several wilder parties at Malfoy Manor. All before Lucius had married and Narcissa had put a stop to That Sort Of Thing, largely on the grounds, it seemed to him, that if she wasn't allowed to have that sort of fun, neither was anyone else. There had always been rumours that these essentially bachelor affairs had involved pain, suffering and torture; nothing could be further than the truth – apart from the morning after anyway, which could be rather painful. There had been naked ladies - but they had been admired from afar - and an awful lot to drink.
He was therefore entirely unprepared for the spectacle about to be presented to him.
He'd never liked modern Muggle music, though he had a soft spot for Sinatra and Dean Martin; it was all pounding bass and drums, and more primitive than he cared for. Nothing about the choice of music tonight was going to change his mind. It was loud, it was raucous, and it was struggling to drown out the volume of the witches baying for action.
He'd never realised that women were so badly behaved before; it was more than a little unnerving. What if he were to be recognised and they were to turn on him? He huddled deeper into the recesses of his cloak and tried to look inconspicuous.
The music reached a crescendo, there was a flash of sparks, and the boys appeared on stage. Ron Weasley – the pillock – had a broad grin on his face, and was wriggling his bottom in time to the music. He fondly imagined it looked suggestive.
Severus looked forward to the moment when he realised that his Mum was in the crowd.
Harry was shy, and he felt a moment of sympathy for the poor lad. He had no sense of rhythm - his pelvic thrusts were random and jerky – and you pitied any future, or past, girlfriends. A veritable hail of underwear was being thrown at him. Severus hoped that the witches concerned had brought it fresh, as it were, rather than it being worn to the event.
The attention was increasing Harry's confidence, and he was beginning to play to the crowd a little. His wriggling was nowhere near as pronounced as Ron's efforts, but they were now at least vaguely in time to the music.
Remus appeared last of all, and it was clear that he had no reservations about appearing on stage. He positively strutted onto stage, made a couple of dips that, though impressive for a man of his age, would obviously be playing merry hob with his back the day after, and then began to remove his shirt.
It was clear from the anxious looks exchanged between parties, and the similar moves, that some attempt had been made at choreography. Shirts were unbuttoned to whoops of encouragement, and then thrown into the crowd for witches of all ages to fight over.
He was pleased to see that Hermione appeared unmoved by the display, other than being seized with fits of giggles; she certainly didn't seem to find it sexy. This was a relief he'd had visions of being expected to behave in the same way in the privacy of their rooms, and he was fairly certain that his hips wouldn't move like that at all.
The boys – he thought Remus qualified as a boy on the grounds of his infantile behaviour – continued their routine by fondling their flies in a manner that was clearly intended to be raunchy but merely made them look as if they were undecided on whether to go to the loo.
One witch, presumably with poorer taste than the rest, was so carried away by the moment, that she cast a charm to remove Remus's trousers. Severus was firmly of the heterosexual persuasion, and therefore couldn't be expected to view another man's tackle with enthusiasm, but he was convinced that no witch could think of that as anything other than unsightly. Good grief, the man was hairy, and surely it wasn't supposed to bend like that. He knew he didn't, and he supposed that was normal.
Hermione certainly didn't appear to have any complaints.
A witch – possibly the same one as before, unhappy with what was revealed – cast a charm to remove the trousers from the other two performers. Potter did the decent thing and clutched at his privates, in an entirely successful attempt to cover them; he didn't even have the excuse that it was cold in the pub. Weasley, by contrast, thought the whole thing was a huge laugh, and began waggling his todger in the faces of his adoring fans.
Potter turned his back on the audience and wiggled his arse, allowing him to maintain his modesty, whilst still performing as required by Hermione. He couldn't quite see what happened next, but it appeared Miss Weasley had found an unorthodox use of her peanuts, as Harry shot up in the air with a squawk that could be heard over the music, and clutched at his buttocks.
Severus smiled. That was a sight worth seeing. However, the crowning glory of the evening – so far anyway, though he didn't see how it could be topped – was the moment that young Ronald Weasley strutted up to the front row and gyrated. It was certainly impressive to see him manage to get his todger to describe a perfect circle. It was impressive to see him change directions with a casual flick of his hips and manage the same feat anti-clockwise – and no one could tell him that the boy hadn't been practising in front of a mirror.
However, the absolute cherry on the top of the icing on the cake was the moment that the lad realised he was doing this in front of his sister, which was bad enough, and also his mother.
He stopped twitching like a man with St Vitus dance. His cock flopped down and tried to hide between his legs, and Severus was intrigued to notice that he flushed from head to toe.
Ginger pubes were unattractive in their own right, but were not enhanced by their proximity to bright tomato red.
"Ronald Weasley!" shrieked his mother. "What are you stopping for? It's nothing I haven't seen before."
"Mum, it's different," Ron wailed in anguish.
"It bloody isn't!"
Even Severus thought that was a bit much, and likely to scar a lad for life, and on the whole he had come to quite like Ronald. Surreptitiously he cast a Charm on Molly, who was suddenly overcome with an urge to head for the Bar and have another drink.
Bloody hell, he was supposed to be here to protect Hermione and not some idiot boy; he must be getting soft in his old age.
Remus hadn't allowed himself to be distracted by Ron's humiliation, and had moved to stand in front of Minerva. He was disappointed to see that that otherwise fine and upstanding Witch was admiring Remus with an unholy look of glee. Dear god no! He couldn't bear it if they became an item and he had to endure regular visits to Hogwarts from the werewolf. If that happened, it would be time to look for another job.
For Minerva, obviously. He was damned if he was going to leave Hogwarts just when Hermione had got Albus so well trained.
Harry had taken advantage of the confusion to disappear off the stage. Judging by the leg Severus could see making its way through the crowd, Harry was making a spirited crawl for the entrance hidden under his Invisibility Cloak.
Severus hadn't cast the spell, though he'd been tempted to; it was Ginny. Her eagle eyes had also caught sight of the limb, and had decided to do something about it. Harry stood up, cast a wild-eyed look at the crowd of suddenly-silenced witches and made a run for the door. The lad was just as lucky as he had been with Voldemort and made it to the door before any of the witches had recovered enough to make a grab for him.
One down and two to go, and things were getting a little rough for Severus' taste. Well, in the sense that he might be caught in the cross-fire if he were discovered. Ron would be safe – Hermione would protect him, Ginny would protect him, and his mum would definitely protect him. He would be utterly humiliated but completely safe.
On the other hand, he couldn't help hoping that something truly embarrassing was going to happen to Remus. However, it appeared that his concerns about Minerva were proving entirely justified, as she was escorting him to safety, though whether anyone could be called truly safe when they were standing next to a witch with that particular look in her eyes was another matter.
Harry had gone, Remus had gone, and Ron was sitting quietly in a corner being nagged by his mother. What next? Surely this bunch of debauchees wouldn't be calling an end to the night quite so early?
He was right.
Ginny made some rude suggestion to Hermione; he assumed it was rude from the large cackle Hermione gave as a result. With a wave of her wand, a large picture of Severus Snape appeared on the wall, under the legend 'Not Just a Potions Master'.
He was horrified.
He was even more horrified when, after whispered consultation, Hermione waved her wand and his robes disappeared. He was gratified to see that poster Severus was indeed anatomically correct, and displayed to advantage compared to the other tackle that had been displayed. His sense of self-congratulation didn't last long; the naked Severus began to move. Instead of doing what all right minded men would do and covering his genitalia with his hands – no matter how inadequate a covering that would prove – the illustration began gyrating suggestively in the manner adopted by Mr Weasley.
He hoped that that hadn't been how he had learned his technique.
The illustration – finally - stopped moving, and Ginny called out, "Who wants to play pin the tail on the donkey, Potions Master style?"
Severus was confused. There was no tail, there was no donkey, although it had to be admitted there was a Potions Master.
It appeared they would. Ginny cast a spell, the genitals were detached from the poster, and were handed over to Hermione who was apparently going first. She took one look at them, grimaced, and then cast an enlarging spell, announcing to the whole room that that was more like it.
Severus was gratified and blushing at one and the same time. Whilst it was nice to be appreciated, it was less pleasant to be appreciated in such a public place. Still, it was immensely amusing to see the awestruck expressions on her companions faces.
"So that's what you see in him," guffawed one witch, obviously in an advanced state of inebriation. "I've always wondered."
"What I see in Severus is none of your damned business," snapped Hermione.
A nasty incident was only averted by the simple expedient of thrusting a free drink in the hands of the lippy witch, and Ginny holding Hermione's hexing arm very firmly whilst muttering that she wasn't worth it and to leave it.
They exchanged glares, and Hermione would have had another go, if Ginny hadn't tightened her grip and pulled her in the direction of the Poster Potions Master. Once her eyes settled on his form, they softened, and a faint smile settled on her mouth.
It would have been sweet, if she hadn't been holding a fourteen-inch cardboard penis in her hands at the time.
Ginny placed a blindfold on Hermione – Severus made a mental note to acquire one, because it had given him ideas – turned her round several times, which could only succeed in making her more dizzy, and pointed her in the general direction of the poster.
Hermione carefully walked towards the poster, very much in the manner of a drunk. It was hard to tell how much of this was due to alcohol, and how much due to being spun round, but she did manage to find the wall without too much difficulty. There were catcalls, and advice was offered: go right, go left, go up, go down.
Hermione ignored it all. She found the edge of the poster with one hand, and then the other edge. She performed a mental calculation as to where the middle point of the poster was, and then, having found it, was clearly working out where the groin region was in relation to her height. Her hand went to the top of her head, traced a line out from there, dipped down a couple of feet, and then her hand shot out and unerringly fixed the cardboard penis in exactly the right place.
Severus wanted to applaud - that was his Hermione, always applying her mind to the problem, and determined to get things right – but the rest of the crowd were unimpressed. Ginny gave a great humph, and announced that Hermione was disqualified for cheating. More like disqualified for winning, he thought indignantly. Hermione didn't seem to mind and handed over the blindfold with good humour; only Severus noted that the slight dip of her hand to her wand.
Oddly enough, no matter how hard the other witches tried, they just couldn't manage to get the penis in the right place; it seemed to have a life of its own, and had a nasty tendency to lurch to one side or another just as the witch was about to pin it on the Potions Master.
Ginny was the only one who was bright enough or sober enough to work it out, despite the large smirk sitting on Hermione's face, but it didn't seem to stop the rest of them enjoying themselves, judging from the racket they were making. He felt oddly relieved that Hermione had protected his alter ego's groin; he wouldn't have felt comfortable being fondled in that way by strangers, and in public too!
It seemed that the party was beginning to wind down. The prize for Pin the Tail had been awarded, the booze had run out, and it was simply a question of picking up the huddled and befuddled witches and propping them up on a wall outside to await collection by husbands and other responsible adults.
Which put him in a difficult position. Hermione had made no arrangements to be picked up, and no one else was in a fit condition to escort her anywhere.
He sighed. He was going to have to come clean, wasn't he? Looking on the bright side, she was not in any condition to argue with him. He rose to his feet, adjusted his incredibly uncomfortable clothes, and carefully made his way to Hermione, stepping over recumbent witches as he went.
"There you are," she said brightly.
"Who is this?" asked Ginny, who was clearly having some difficulty standing.
"Oh, it's Severus....'s third cousin, twice-removed. Very, very distant relative. All he's got left. I asked her along tonight."
"Oh, is she coming to the Wedding then?" Severus didn't like Ginny's grin at all.
"No," said Hermione, at precisely the same time that Severus said, "Yes."
"Which is it?"
"Of course, I will be at the wedding, Miss Weasley. Although if one word of your suspicions as to my identity gets out, not only will your life, and those of your children, be made a living hell, I can assure you that you will not be attending the wedding at all."
Ginny just grinned some more. "Are you going to let him talk to me like that, Hermione?"
"Oh, yes," came a very husky voice. "I like it when he gets all masterful, and of course Ginny is going to keep quiet, because if she doesn't I'll have to tell her mother, well, any number of things really."
"You wouldn't! You traitor." There was a strong note of unease underlying Ginny's humorous tone.
"Oh yes. I have to keep Severus happy you know, especially when he's being all dominant. In fact, why don't you take me home and show me just how dominant you're feeling?"
Severus smirked in response; his smirk broadened when he noticed Ginny's gaze flick to 'the Donkey' and back at him, and her mouth formed a little 'O' of surprise. "Come along then," he said, helping Hermione to her feet.
It took them a long time to make their way back to Hogwarts. Hermione wasn't very steady on her feet, and was feeling fairly frisky; Severus had no objection to a certain amount of light snogging but did object to the suggestion that they might take things a little further on the entirely reasonable basis that the ground was uncomfortable, one or both of them would end up with a knackered back depending on who gained the upper hand, and this would put paid to future activities for a couple of days at least.
Hermione may have had her heart set on al fresco sex, but she admitted that he had a point, and was prepared to compromise, provided they could try it out on their honeymoon where the weather would be warmer. He made a mental note to experiment with some cushioning charms on a blanket, so as to be properly prepared.
And take some strengthening potions.
As he watched Hermione determinedly weave her way towards the castle, and their bed, he couldn't help reflect that allowing Hermione to seduce him all those years ago was the best decision he'd ever made.