Disclaimer: With all the schoolwork I do, I would never have had time to write seven novels.
Chapter 14: The Bar
Harry Potter had survived being hit with killing curses, lived through three years of intense war, survived hundreds of attempts on his life, preserved most of his sanity despite decades of friendship with a certain Miss Lovegood. And yet, only now did he understand the true meaning of the word dread.
Shopping. With Draco Malfoy. Worse, shopping for a gift for Hermione Granger with Draco Malfoy.
Hours. Hours upon hours of shopping.
With two weeks until Christmas, the streets of Hogsmeade were beautifully decorated. Lights of all colors floated eerily in the air, casting a glow on the melting snow. Garish wreaths welcomed customers on every door. Jolly holiday songs could be heard coming out of every single shop.
Of course, Draco being Draco, he could not simply owl-order a gift for Hermione. No, that obviously lacked gentlemanly poise. He had to visit every shop in person in his quest for the perfect gift.
Harry had the misfortune of discovering all this after ten continuous hours of shopping, during which every boutique in Hogsmeade—no matter how unsavory or distasteful—was thoroughly examined, and then every shop in Diagon Alley—even those that were merely another franchise of those previously visited in Hogsmeade. Of course, when Diagon Alley proved unsatisfactory, Draco had expressed the certainty that returning to Hogsmeade and going to every single shop for a second time would bring about success in the search for a present.
When Harry had accepted to sidekick Draco in his quest for the perfect gift for Hermione, he had foolishly believed that the main difficulty would be to accomplish the feat of transfiguration that would allow them to regain their adult appearance for the day so that they may escape recognition; as neither first years nor amazingly-famous-curse-scars were supposed to leave the castle without their parents. The shopping itself should have been an easy task. After all, Draco had always been a disturbingly efficient shopper.
Apparently, it was not the case when it came to buying gifts to Hermione Granger.
Exasperated, Harry had repeatedly suggested simply buying her an amazing book. After all, bookworms like books. Hermione was definitely a bookworm. Ergo, Hermione would like receiving a book. Of course, Draco then had to add that Harry's argument might have worked were it not for the fact that the premise wasn't that "bookworms like to receive books and only books", but rather, that "books are one of the things bookworms like to receive".
And so the quest went on for ten hours continuous hours shopping until Draco found The Gift.
One might wonder where he bought such a perfect gift as to satisfy his desire to please Hermione. What shop could hold such a rare item?
The answer: none.
After twelve bloody hours of continuous shopping, Draco Malfoy decided that buying a gift was plebian, and that as a truly superior being he would make her the perfect gift.
At which point he turned on his heels and abandoned his drinking buddy in his haste to return to the castle.
Abandoned his drinking buddy without allowing him to drink himself into oblivion and forget this dreadful day. Desert his drinking companion of the two past decades.
Plagued with a skull splitting headache, the boy-who-live-to-be-42-and-go-back-in-time-only-to-be-deserted-by-his-bestfriend-when-in-need-of-a-drink did something had never done before.
Something he would never have done in the past because of its sheer imbecility:
He entered a bar with the firm intention of drinking until Fudge could sound intelligent.
One more week.
One more week before most of the cockroaches swarmed out of his domain. Then he would be blessed with three weeks where he could brew in relative peace in his quarters.
One more week of 'teaching' class; one more week of correcting 'essays'; one more week of holiday cheer.
He wouldn't make it.
Today he had had the 'honor' of escorting third years and up as they did their holiday shopping in Hogsmeade
Lips were blanched, eyes were clenched and the brick of a nose was pinched at the memory.
Salazar's balls, he needed a drink.
Looking in direction of the castle, he calculated the time it would take him to make it back to the castle, avoid the headtwinkler, dodge his students, flounce to the dungeon and rescue a bottle of rum from its dust covering.
He wouldn't make it.
Turning on around, he let his weary feet guide him to Hogshead. The dusty, dirty, smoky, cheap bar had the advantage of at least being far quieter than the Three Broomsticks, and less likely to be plagued by Christmas Spirit.
The bar was as inviting as in his memory. Sadly, the holiday cheer seemed to have brought an unusual amount of drinkers to the dim lighted, smoked filled establishment.
Glancing around the room, he failed to discover a free table. After re-calculating the time needed to reunite with his rum in Hogwarts, he sighted and directed himself towards the bar, his last hope to drink in peace. Here he hoped to be able to sit and drink, while staring at his glass and ignoring the person next to him, a feat impossible at an occupied table.
Sadly, the blissfully-lonely-bar-drinking was only a theory; one that life saw fit to contradict. The woman next to him, a somewhat curvy thing with reddish-brown hair and far too much lipstick, who drank some kind of fruity concoction mixed with coconut milk and vodka, had sadly not received the lonely drinking memo, and instead acted on the sad-and-lonely-therefore-horny code.
Perhaps under the impression that she was attractive—and to be fair she was not completely devoid of beauty—she attempted to subtly flirt with the dark brooding man next to her. But her concept of subtlety was like most people's concept of intelligence; it did not match Snape's. Indeed, wandering hands and other gestures in the realm of indiscreet flirting warned Snape that his attempts at discouraging the thing were either ignored or not noticed at all.
Snape's subtle opposition (rather than a more overt and quite possibly brutal solution) was most certainly not due to him being flattered by her attention or any other misplaced sentiment. Quite simply, after throwing diverse glances at the room, it was quite clear: the bar was his best hope of drinking his precious alcohol. Hexing the bejesus out of her would not be conductive to his drinking-while-staring-at-his-glass plan, and he didn't fancy being thrown out by the headtwinkler's brother again. Hence, he endured the flirting.
Sadly, Lipstick apparently believed that his reticence could be overthrown with more forceful persuasion.
Under this delusion, she placed her hand high on his leg... uncomfortably high.
Far from being aroused, Snape jumped to his feet. Luckily, none of his precious alcohol was spilled.
"If I wanted to be molested by a tentacled monster, I would have drunk this rum on Hogwarts Lake, and made offers to the giant squid. As it is," Snape looked her up and down with a deep sneer, "its company seems preferable to yours."
Gulping down his drink in one shot, he asked/demanded another from the bartender, and grasped it.
Snape desperately sought a place to drink in relative peace. The bar was crowded; the smoke filled the air, preventing him from having a clear view of the more distant tables. He was about to give up, and resign himself to return to the castle, when he caught a glimpse of a free table in a corner, particularly dim lighted due to a burned light bulb. With this oasis in mind, Snape made his way through the crowded bar, his full attention on trying to go through the crowd without A) spilling his drink, or B) pushing someone too hard, which could result in a fight, which in turn would ultimately result in spilling his drink.
A relieved Snape finally made it through the crowd, heavily sat down at the table, and took a rewarding gulp from his miraculously un-spilled drink. However, when he lifted his eyes from the marvelous liquid, Snape's celebration of his victory—that of finding a place to drink alone—was cut short.
Sitting across from him, his back to the corner wall was a stranger. His drinking oasis was violated by the presence of a man.
Snape stared at the dark clothed man, who dared sit in his refuge. But after more ample reflection, the shape of the stranger matched what he had previously identified as an old drape from across the smoky room. The stranger had been there before he had even spotted the table. And judging by the man's choice of liquor and location, he too had sought to drink alone.
Disappointed and cursing Lipstick once again, Snape began to rise to his feet.
The man was staring at him. Not a judging stare or a measuring one, nor a disgusting predatory look like the one that Lipstick had cast upon him. A simple stare, neither blank nor stupid.
Snape had risen to his full height when the stranger blinked.
"You will spill that if you try to cross now," the stranger's gaze had moved to the room behind him. Looking in at the bar, Snape noticed that some drunken idiots had started to jerk... or were they dancing...? Staring for a few moments, Snape had to admit that the idiots would cause him to spill his drink. Damn. He turned once more towards the stranger. At some point, the man must have decided that Snape was more interesting that the idiots, for he was staring... again.
Snape's limbs obeyed before his mind processed the word. When it did, he was irked that the man dared order him like a vulgar dog. He was about to deliver a suitably cutting remark when the man spoke:
"Barmaid, two glasses of you best rum, unmixed."
Snape turned, surprised to indeed see a standing next to him. The woman departed to fetch the glasses. The stranger's stare turn to Snape once more. "You were blocking her path."
An irritated Snape was rising to leave this arrogant stranger's table when the barmaid appeared with two glasses in her hand and thrust one in his direction.
Snape was about to bark that he had not asked for a drink when he noticed the sheer quality of the divine liquid. This was good rum, not the cheap imitation that he had gulped down a moment ago. Staring at the liquid, he twirled his glass and took a sip. Marvelous. After a few moments, or perhaps minutes, he detached his gaze from his glass… and met the stare of the stranger.
The man lifted his glass in a silent salute and took a long sip from his glass. The stare did not lift, but it held no demands for communication, no expectations.
Snape lifted his glass, and drank.
(Harry Potter's POV)
Harry Potter sat in the corner of a shady drinking establishment, back to the wall. From his dust-covered table, he had a clear view of everything going on in the bar. Or, at least he would have if the air had not been made almost opaque with smoke. A few sight enhancing charm solved the problem, he could now gape happily at the clientele in all its morbid glory. Draco would have fallen over dead at the atrocious fashion violations; they made Luna most eccentric ensembles look positively tame.
After ingurgitating liquor so cheap and harsh that it had made him reconsider his considerable love for alcohol, Harry managed to convince the barmaid to bring him a decent drink.
Sipping at his drink, he suddenly felt horribly exposed. How could he drink when he was out in the open? Anyone could see him or attack him. That simply wouldn't do. Minutes later, dozens of protective wards encapsulated his table. A newly burned light bulb added to the welcoming atmosphere.
A few glasses of rum had appeased his headache.
His pleasant buzz was almost enough to make the smoke inhalation appear worth it. A few glares had sent those who dared approach his table on their way.
But he was bored.
He had never drunk in a bar before. As a teen, he had been too law-abiding to consider drinking. As a young adult, it would have suicidal for him to go drink in a bar. As an adult, he preferred staying the fuck away from the public.
And now, here he was, bored, buzzed and missing Draco's company. The whining git was a melancholic drunk, but he was also hilarious and entertaining. They had spent two decades getting drunk together, after all. Hell, they had had some brilliant ideas while drunk out of their minds.
He missed the whiny, pompous git.
Harry drained his glass again, and hailed the barmaid.
One glass of rum later and he was staring off into the crowed remembering…
That is, until a tall, dark figure caught his attention.
He seemed quite disgusted with the dingy appearance of the bar. For one second, Harry thought that the man would turn around and leaves, but after a moment of hesitation, the man made his way to the bar.
Whereas most customers slouched in their seats, the man sat rigidly, shoulders pulled back and head held high.
Harry used his enhanced sight to peer at the drink that had appeared in the man's hand. Rum. Cheap rum, though. Erk.
The man seemed content to drink while staring at his glass.
Seconds (or was it minutes?) later, a woman started to talk to the man.
She was pretty. Curvaceous, red-haired, flirty, with long eyelashes. She offered the man an ample view of her bosom.
He would probably sleep with her tonight.
Harry finished his glass, and ordered another one.
The woman was flirting quite heavily and touching the man wherever she could reach.
He turned to face her for the first time and Harry caught a glimpse of a rather familiar nose. Snape. Potions Master Snape.
Funny, they were in the same bar. Who knew that Snape drank? Perhaps he was simply here to pick up a woman.
For some reason, Harry felt oddly cheated and disgusted. Severus Tobias Snape should not be going to bars to pick up women. Why? He had no idea, but he was clearly indignant.
Oh, they were talking now. What were they saying? Curious, drunk and giddy, Harry thoughtlessly performed a spell that would allow him to hear what was being said.
Soon he wished he hadn't. Merlin, she was laying it on thick. He couldn't believe that Snape would sleep with such a moron. His potion professor was far too … far too something to sleep with such a witless, tackles, tawdry woman. Right?
From his words and actions, Snape seemed to agree with him. He would not like to have sex with the Red-Haired-Curvy-Idiot. Well at least that was what Harry gathered from his considerable sarcasm.
The girl just didn't seem to be able to take a hint.
He watched as Snape jumped as though Dumbledore had pinched his butt cheek.
The man seemed to have decided to leave. Harry mentally congratulated him for his escape from the Lipstick-Smeared-Tentacled-Monster.
But now, he would be bored again.
Harry lost himself in his thoughts, as he was warrant to do when drunk.
Staring off into space, he remembered…
He was brought back from blood-spattered rooms by a person sitting down at His table.
He was about to chase them away with a glare when he noticed that the intruder was the object of his previous musings.
He was nursing his drink. Cheap rum. Poor chap.
The more paranoid part of Harry's mind wondered how he could possibly prevent Snape from finding out the similarities between him and himself.
Snape seemed to be enjoying his drink, good on him.
But how to prevent him from…
Oh, lifted his head What to do…?
Staring into Snape's black eyes, Harry was jerked out of his contemplations by the man standing up.
Was he leaving? But why?
Looking pass his potion professor into the room, Harry saw that people had started to dance. They looked ridiculous. Harry didn't like dancing. He had hated the Yule Ball, and never attended another formal dance, much to his relief. Did Snape dance?
For the life of him, Harry couldn't picture Snape being part of the swaying masses; he would spill his drink.
"You will spill that if you try to cross now," Harry thought good to inform him.
His professor turned his head to look at the twitching-people, soon his features settled into a look of utter disgust.
The barmaid was behind him, and his drink was running low. Snape was blocking her way; the way of the alcohol bearer.
Snape's glass was running low as well. That wouldn't do.
"Barmaid, two glasses of your best rum, unmixed."
The alcohol bearer departed in her glorious quest to fetch his drink. He turned his attention back to Snape—who was staring at the departed woman. Displeased, Harry sought to snatch the man's attention from her retreating form. After all, this Snape spent far too much time ignoring him.
"You were blocking her path."
His remark was rewarded by an icy glare, while the man rose from his seat.
The swift arrival of the Maenad and the appearance of quality alcohol, stopped the man in his tracks.
Harry was utterly satisfied at the Snape's blissful expression as he sipped his drink.
There. No one should have to drink horrible alcohol.
Snape looked oddly peaceful.
Harry lifted his drink in a silent toast, and drank.
The next morning, a loud curse resonated off the walls of the dungeons, as the resident potions master woke up naked in his bed with little memory of the previous evening past a certain silent salute.
He dragged himself off his bed, downed a hangover potion, changed his password and prayed that his blurry memory of coming back to the castle accompanied by the stranger should not include sex with the unnamed man.
Was eight in the morning too early to start drinking again?
A/N 1: I should probably add that I don't condone excessive drinking. Harry, Draco and Snape are messed up. I think wars mess up good people.
A/N 2: November 25 2012: As the more perspective readers have already noticed I have not updated this story in a long long time. This is unlikely to change due to my absolute lack of inspiration and gradual desertion of the Harry Potter fandom. So to all the disappointed readers, I'd like to say sorry and thanks for reading.