Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it belongs to the goddess, JKR. The idea was given to me by the "When I Kissed The Teacher" Yahoo Group (many thanks to Crystalline Temptress and a host of others for the plot bunny). It was originally part of another story but I decided it was best as a stand-alone. It takes place six years after Hermione's graduation. Severus and Hermione are a couple (yes, I know it's narrative cheating...it will rest lightly on my conscience). One night, they go out to a local pub, where interesting things happen as the wine flows freely. Special thanks to my beta, who is a goddess in her own right, Tessie.
In Vinum Veritas
"May I ask you a rather impertinent question?" he drawled.
She smirked good-naturedly. "Only the one?"
He smiled awkwardly and placed a hand over hers. She could feel that it trembled slightly and wondered if he really should have any more wine.
"Why are you with me?"
She was about to say something trite but noticed a haunted look in his eyes and thought better of it.
"Why do you ask me something to which you should already know the answer?" she asked, trying to keep the tone light.
"Waxing Socratic on me, are you, Hermione?" he muttered, looking down at his half-full glass of cabernet sauvignon.
"Enlighten me with your thoughts on the subject, Severus. Tell me why I have chosen to stay with you these past six years. I am sure it would make for an interesting conversation," she challenged, swirling the chardonnay in her glass slowly. She was still on her first glass. She had lost count of how many glasses Severus had consumed.
"For one thing, you enjoyed the looks of horror on your friends' faces," he pointed out sarcastically.
Hermione suppressed the urge to giggle. Of all the things she had expected him to say, that was quite low on her list.
"I won't deny that the look on Ron's face was worth many, many Galleons. However, dear Severus, the pot cannot call the kettle black...specifically Sirius Black. Don't think that your telling Sirius and Remus about us was not among the more enjoyable moments in your life."
The scene had been priceless...it could not have been scripted better if it had been planned that way.
"Severus, who on earth would be knocking on your door at this time of night?" Hermione asked sleepily as she snuggled against him and tried to drown out the intrusive sound of someone banging on the door to Severus' chambers.
"I had better see who it is. It could be Headmaster Dumbledore," he whispered as he kissed her cheek softly. "Wait here, love."
He drew the curtains around her so that she was hidden from view and then cast a silencing spell so that she could sleep uninterrupted. He pulled on a pair of black cotton pyjama bottoms and threw on an old black Slytherin robe. He looked around quickly and, pointing his wand, sent all of Hermione's clothes into a closet. Thus having hidden any evidence of his not being alone, he calmly walked over to the door and opened it.
"It's about time, Snape," growled Sirius Black, pushing his way into the chamber. He was quickly followed by Remus Lupin, who looked around the room curiously.
"Don't you ever get tired of black?" Remus asked, looking at Severus' attire.
"To be honest, Lupin, I have always found Black tiresome," Severus replied, staring pointedly at Sirius while Remus chuckled appreciatively.
"A sense of humour, Severus. Who would have thought it possible?" Remus smiled.
"Sense of humour my..." Sirius glared at Severus.
"Honestly, Sirius, you would think you were both back in Hogwarts, each trying to outdo the other," Remus chastised.
"Well, he never could outdo me in the female department," Sirius gloated, strutting ridiculously like a drunken peacock.
Severus' face showed his fury.
"Just because I did not bed half the women in Hogwarts does not mean that you outdid me. Quality meant a lot more to me than quantity. I certainly did not have anything to prove to you then and I don't now," he said quietly, a menacing tone in his voice.
"You're just jealous that no one wanted you," Sirius smirked.
"Sirius, that's enough," Remus rebuked in a warning tone.
"I was the one all the girls wanted," Sirius strutted brazenly, "not some greasy-haired, big-nosed git like yourself who wouldn't know how to pleasure a woman if the instructions were tattooed on her..."
"Sirius, please!" Remus pleaded. They had come in here to discuss an upcoming Order of the Phoenix meeting at Dumbledore's request. Since the defeat of Voldemort, the purpose of the group had changed to one of vigilance, in order to ensure that another entity like The Dark Lord could not rise in power. He and Sirius had stopped by The Three Broomsticks and Sirius...well...Sirius had had a few too many glasses of spiked pumpkin juice. Remus was afraid something like this would happen.
"My personal life is exactly that...personal. There is no place in it for a brute like yourself," Severus crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Sirius sternly.
"Severus, he has had too much to drink...just ignore him. We're here to talk about the meeting tomorrow night," Remus tried to get the conversation back on track but Sirius would have nothing to do with it.
"You never had a woman of quality...a woman of quality would never look twice at you," Sirius shouted as Remus looked to the heavens for guidance.
"And you did? I don't think you remember even a tenth of the women you slept with," Severus smirked.
"Severus...don't encourage him. You're only making it worse," Remus was noticing that Sirius was clenching his fists and was afraid a full-out brawl would soon ensue.
"And who are you sleeping with now? You must have someone 'of quality' sharing your bed," Sirius started to walk towards the bed when Severus stopped him.
"Don't be a fool, Black," he placed a hand on Sirius' chest to stop him and glared daggers at him.
"Sirius, stop this. You really are acting like an idiot," Remus walked over to try to push Sirius back towards the door, realizing that tonight was a lost cause.
"Go home and soak your head, Black. You are of no use to anyone in your present state, least of all a woman," Severus drawled as he turned to walk towards his door, opening it in an unmistakable gesture of dismissal.
Sirius pulled out his wand, "Accio, curtains."
Instantly, the curtains tore themselves away from the frame surrounding the bed and rushed towards Sirius' outstretched wand where they unceremoniously dropped to the floor as Sirius saw who it was asleep on the bed.
"What, in the name of Merlin's ghost, have you done to her?" Sirius exploded.
Severus, torn between outright rage and triumph, calmly walked past a furious Sirius and a confused Remus and sat down on the bed next to the sleeping Hermione. He removed the silencing spell from the bed.
Caressing her shoulder softly, he said in a low voice, "Hermione, we have visitors."
Sleepily, she turned on her side away from them, "Tell them to go away. I don't want visitors," she said petulantly.
"Hermione, please," he whispered.
She shifted slightly, revealing a bit more of herself as the coverlet fell slightly causing Remus to look away, "No, Severus. I do not want visitors tonight...only you," she murmured seductively.
"Hermione Granger!" Sirius shouted and promptly collapsed on the floor in a dead faint.
Hermione sat bolt upright in the bed, clutching the coverlets to her chest in an attempt to cover herself.
"What on earth?!?" She screamed as she hid behind Severus.
Remus came forward, blushing furiously as he levitated Sirius, muttering something rather...colourful...under his breath.
"I am so sorry, Severus, and you too Hermione. I should never have let things progress this far. I should have stopped Sirius" he stammered.
"I believe the door is that way," Severus pointed as he embraced Hermione, who was still rather shaken.
"I would never have thought it possible..." Remus said in a bemused voice as he walked towards the door.
"That someone as intelligent and beautiful as Hermione would ever end up with a..how did Black put it...a greasy-haired, big-nosed git like myself?"
"He called you what?" Hermione muttered angrily.
Remus smiled. "It goes back to what you said about quality, doesn't it?"
Severus smiled grimly and nodded.
"Just be sure to treat her with the respect she deserves...or you will have both of us to answer for it," the tone was light but the underlying meaning was not. "Do Harry and Ron know?"
"They will...there doesn't seem to be much point in hiding it any further," Hermione ventured, sighing at the reactions she was sure to witness from her friends.
"We'll discuss the meeting later. Good night," Remus walked out the door, closely followed by a floating and thoroughly inebriated Sirius, and closed the door behind them.
"Repario curtains," Severus pointed his wand at the crumpled heap of draperies, which magically returned to the bed as if nothing had happened.
Turning back to Hermione, he smiled suddenly.
"I am sorry that you had to go through that. I never thought Sirius would do such a thing. That was stupidity on a level even beyond him...or so I thought."
"Don't fret over it...it was rather amusing to see the look of complete shock on his face. I am simply glad he did not throw up all over your floor," she embraced him warmly.
"Were you telling the truth...about only wanting me tonight?" he asked playfully, wanting to forget the whole incident.
"Let me prove it to you," she whispered as she reached up to kiss him...
*****End of Flashback*****
He chuckled sardonically, "I wish it had happened differently...perhaps with Black remaining conscious just a little longer."
His face grew dark again. "Perhaps he was right."
"What do you mean?"
"I am not an attractive man, Hermione, and I am so much older than you. What is it that
keeps you with me?"
"The age difference has never been an issue...I thought we had dispensed with that years ago. As for your not being attractive, I would beg to differ. I find you very attractive and very desirable. It goes beyond a physical attraction. You are one of the few people I can actually have an intelligent conversation with. You are one of the few people that I look up to and respect both for what you have accomplished and for what you have had to endure. You are someone who has never taken the easy path. You are the only person I know that turned their back on darkness and found their way back. You saved my life..."
"Is it gratitude then?"
She was shocked at how insecure and vulnerable the wine had rendered him and anxiously reached forward to take the glass away from him. He pulled the glass away from her outstretched hand.
"Are you simply trying to erase a debt because, if that's the case, I release you from your obligation. There is no need to stay with me simply because you feel you owe me something for having saved your life," he muttered, waving his hand in a clear gesture of dismissal...like a Roman Emperor telling his servant that he is now free-born.
"You are not an obligation!" she exclaimed, starting to get annoyed and thankful that the pub was relatively empty at this late hour.
"I am a greasy-haired, big-nosed git...that was what Sirius called me that night," he said in a low whisper, draining his glass and motioning to the waitress for a refill, which she did promptly, despite Hermione's mute protests.
"Why did you save me?" Hermione asked, trying to move the conversation away from this stormy topic of his abysmal sense of self-worth.
He mumbled something incoherent into his glass of wine.
Hermione sighed in exasperation. She had to be patient with him if she was going to get him through this.
"Why did you save me? Why did you not simply let the Dark Lord have his way with me? He probably would not have killed me. Not right away, at least. Why not simply leave it to Harry or Ron or even Draco to come for me?"
Severus looked up at her, eyes shining with the drunken light of several glasses of cabernet sauvignon.
"Because the very thought of Voldemort touching you...defiling you was more than I could bear."
"I was hardly a vestal virgin if I remember correctly."
"That is not the point. You were too good, too bright, too worthwhile to be subjected to that...that...fiend," he muttered, the words coming out in a strangled voice.
"You're lying," she stated calmly, "Why did you save me?"
"Damn you, Hermione. Why must you ask me that?"
He fumbled with his glass and took a long sip.
"Because I thought of you as my own...a part of me...a part of me I realized I could not live without."
He hunched over his drink in defeat.
"There, are you satisfied? I have told you what you wanted. You are my greatest weakness, my greatest liability...someone I cannot live without. You could walk out that door tomorrow and never look back and I would be left a broken man...someone beyond redemption."
Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Why would I want to leave?" she asked gently.
"Why wouldn't you? Look at me. I was a Death Eater in a former life. I was an evil person who did unspeakable things. Every morning I wake up and am confronted with this," he pulled up his left sleeve to reveal the somewhat faded Dark Mark on his forearm, "vivid reminder of who I was.
Hermione, genuinely concerned, let her hand fall to cover the Dark Mark. She could feel him tense...he had only let her touch it once before...
"You are no longer that person," she stated quietly.
"How can you be so certain of that? Who is to say that I will not turn to the other side once more, given the opportunity?"
"You saved me. You saved me, despite everything...despite how it could destroy your role in the fight and, more importantly, despite the very real danger to yourself. You saved my life...that proves that everything I believe about you is true."
"It proves nothing except your obligation towards me," he replied sullenly, taking another sip of his wine.
"You are a stubborn bastard, Severus," she retorted angrily, standing up suddenly and putting her hands on her hips.
He looked up at her in bleary-eyed surprise.
"You are a stubborn and selfish oaf sometimes. You don't see the forest for the trees and you prefer to stick your head in the ground, like some overgrown ostrich, rather than face the truth that is right in front of you. I don't know what I have to do to prove to you that you are important to me...that I stay with you because I want to...not out of some misguided sense of obligation. You are a complete idiot, Severus Snape. And do you know what? I love you despite the fact that you are a complete idiot and a stubborn bastard and a selfish oaf. I love you because you make me feel...complete. You allow me to be myself. You have never tried to change me. You have always accepted and encouraged me to pursue my career. You have never asked me to be something I am not. You are an integral part of my life. I could no more do away with you than I could my right arm. Laugh at me, if you like. Mock me, if you dare but I love you, Severus Snape. I am sorry if that shatters your sense of who you are but there you have it...deal with it because I am not leaving you."
Her smoldering gaze practically crackled with anger.
Severus sat there, stunned at her abrupt manner. This was not what he was accustomed to. This beautiful firebrand standing in front of him, angry with him...no...furious with him for doubting her. This was not the Hermione he thought he knew.
But, this was the Hermione he loved...more than even he cared to admit.
He stood up and smiled at her...a somewhat inebriated, lopsided grin, to be sure, but a smile nonetheless. He pulled her into his arms and embraced her tightly.
For a moment, she stood there, angry. Then, she relaxed and returned the embrace.
"I am a fool for doubting you," he murmured into her hair, which smelled pleasantly of gardenias.
"Yes, you are," she answered with a teasing glint in her voice.
"Forgive an old fool for wondering why someone as wondrous as yourself would ever waste your time with a wreck of a man like me?"
"I will not have you speaking badly of the man I love, Severus," she remonstrated.
He held her tightly against him, marveling, as always, at how she seemed to fit his nooks and crannies so perfectly...how the very closeness of her made him feel alive.
Alive and worthwhile.
"It will not happen again," he vowed quietly as he pulled away to look at her, swaying slightly on his feet.
She did not say anything but reached up to kiss him lovingly, winding her hands in his luxurious hair and delighting in the way his lips sought hers out...hungrily. There really was a magic about the man...a magic that was dark, yes, but exhilarating.
A magic she never wanted to be without.
It was a need on so many levels...a need that was reciprocated on his part.
Together, they were complete.
Together, they were whole.
"Let's go home," she whispered silkily, her lips brushing his once more...ever so softly, making him shudder as his embrace tightened and their arousal grew.
"Yes...home...with you. For always," he said meaningfully as he put the money down for the wine on the table.
Hermione nodded and held him close as they disapparated together.
A/N: There will be a prequel to this. I am working out the details now and hope to start it in the spring.
A/N2: The title means "In wine lies the truth."