Summary: Working Title. Snape and McGonagall talk hard liquor, bad haircuts, disturbing hookups, and temporary tattoos, in no particular order. Something of a crack!fic.
Notes; Wizard tempt tats are more like henna; they fade away, not scratch off, or can be taken off via a potion. Some have movement, and they have to be put in place by another person.
A/N: This takes place in the summer before Harry's fifth year, making Severus about thirty-five. In my mind, Minerva is just as old as I want her to be. So maybe ten to twenty years older .
Time: Approximately 10:00 PM
Chew. Munch. Swallow.
Minerva felt her throat constrict faintly as she sat in her hard-backed wooden chair, hands clasped in front of her on the riddled, worn oak table. It was a rare occurrence indeed for her to be in the kitchens so late at night. In previous years, when she was more energetic and had more of an appetite, she would occasionally wake up during the witching hour with an intense craving for something sweet; this would result in her tromping down to the kitchens and requesting some sort of dessert from one of the house elves on night duty. Those wee hours were spent sitting by the great kitchen hearth, eating fudge brownies, sipping hot chocolate, or working her way through a petit bowl of some frozen custard, then returning to bed sated and not having any yearning whatsoever for breakfast the next morning. . . .
But this was not such an occasion.
Munch munch. Clink.
A grunt arose from the other end of the small table and Minerva looked up from her clasped hands (which she had been fixedly staring at), casting her attention towards her company. Laying her mossy green eyes on the man, she felt her mouth dry up.
Severus Snape, completely oblivious to being studied (or simply not in the mood to care), practically dove into the large bowl of stew in front of him, shoveling food relentlessly into his mouth. His jaw worked furiously around the beef and potatoes; he sat pressed up against the side of the table, hunched over his food, like an animal trying to keep competitors at bay. As McGonagall observed, a droplet of broth hung at the edge of his lower lip for a split second before he licked it off, as if even that tiny drop was invaluable to sate his hunger. His face was barely visible, hidden by his black hair— matted, damp with rain and blood and god-knew what else, long and unkempt, obscuring the majority of his features. She could see, though, the beginnings of a beard, and the chapped mouth, the large purplish bruise on the left side of his jaw. He reeked of a million different things. He probably hadn't bathed or changed clothing in weeks.
But none of that concerned him at the moment. All he seemed interested in was whatever happened to be masticating in his mouth.
Minerva shifted. She felt odd. Odd inside the folds of her soft forest green nightrobe, odd in her aching slippered feet; odd with her greying hair down around her shoulders, sitting stiffly in this little chair, odd to do nothing but watch someone eat. And Severus Snape no less. She'd never watched Severus eat before. At breakfast, he rarely had more than two eggs and his customary black coffee. He took lunch alone, and he rarely came to dinner when possible. She'd always pegged him for a peckish eater.
It was quiet in the castle. Nearby, the hearth fire crackled quietly, politely; in the corners of the kitchens, the sound of the house-elves breathing in slumber, a sound like hummingbirds; the sound of her own weary heart, thudding out a steady beat.
And in front of her, the sound of Severus Snape, wolfing down a sizeable bowl of stew as though it was going to sprout legs and run away from him.
As though he was a starved animal.
"You need a haircut."
The rapid machine-like movements of Severus shoving food into his mouth suddenly halted. His large spoon, halfway to his thin mouth, paused. Dark, coal-black eyes reluctantly left their prize and settled on McGonagall, fixing her with a caustic stare that could send a student fleeing in an instant.
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
McGonagall noted the incredulity and shrieking annoyance in his tone. It was like pure acid. But she was too fazed, still too stunned by the sight of him to be tempered by his acerbic locutions. She raised a finger and pointed:—
"It's getting in your food."
Looking down, Severus' saw that beef and carrot bits weren't the only thing on his spoon; a sliver of lanky black hair floated atop the broth. It was then too that he noticed there was also hair in his mouth.
Gruffly swiping his grotesque mane away, he sat up a little straighter and snarled. "I'll be sure to visit my barber first thing tomorrow."
As Severus bent over his bowl again, McGonagall stared at him openly; one of her hands crept up the side of her neck to play with a stray lock of hair by her ear, an old nervous habit of her schoolgirl days. She swallowed past the dryness in her throat.
"When was the last time you ate?" she asked quietly.
With much exasperation, but without half so much venom as before, Severus sat up straight fully this time. He pushed his bowl away; only a thin layer of broth at the bottom was left.
"An actual meal? A month or so ago. I've been living off rabbits, squirrels, and wild mushrooms," he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "You've no idea what it's done to my digestion."
Miverna pursed her lips, eyes becoming troubled. Food could be easily summoned by magic— not a whole feast, mind, but enough to sustain a single person. "You . . . haven't been able to use magic?"
"Obviously. Or I would have contacted you and Dumbledore before now. I could not risk being detected; nor do I have the necessary energy. . . ."
Minerva nodded slowly, lowering her gaze. Yes, of course. She should have seen that. They all should have seen that coming, months before Dumbledore sent Severus out to rekindle his kinship with other Deatheaters. They should have suspected that it wouldn't be easy. They should have known that the others would not just immediately accept him back with open arms, even if Voldemort already had. . . .
Across the table, Severus spoke quietly, his voice rough and strained.
"Deatheaters have . . . very limited means of determining allegiance."
Minerva looked up sharply. Severus' head was turned to the side, face towards the fire, eyes lost in the dancing flames. The light played on his sallow, wan face, and Minerva saw even more desolation there than she'd previously noticed. There were cuts and bruises all over his face— the bruise near his jaw was simply the darkest. Blood, brown and crusting, was caked around his hairline; fresh flecks of it dotted the top of his right eyelid, having dripping down from his brow, smearing at he blinked. At his right temple, there was a deep cut, complete with three or four crude stitches— self-made and done, it seemed, without a mirror, with a less-than-steady hand. And, when the orange-ocher light hit him just right, Minerva saw the faint traces of bruises in a tight circle just under his jaw, all the way around his neck.
"It was . . . more or less expected," he half-murmured. His long, thin, grime-drenched fingers played along the table edge, spiderlike. "When the Dark Lord accepted me back into his folds, I was thoroughly surprise not to be punished within an inch of my life. . . ."
"So he sent you to Bruskley and Mormath."
Severus nodded once, wincing at the pain caused by that slight movement. "And Verder and Rene. They generously took it upon themselves to be my punishment." He brought his idling hand to his face, and probed until he found the stitches. "It is quite clever, actually, how the Dark Lord can so deftly avoid getting his hands dirty. . . ."
Watching him fiddle with his stitches, Mivera fought the urge to reach across the table and snatch his hand away. "Don't pick at that, Severus", she ordered. "Poppy will take care of it."
Severus rolled his eyes and drew his hand away. "Yes, I am sure she will," he drawled. "And probably comment on my terrible handiwork as well as the fact that neither the wound nor the stitches are sterilized. Merlin, I don't think dear old Poppy has even seen stitches in the last three decades. . . ."
"The practice is a bit arcane," Minerva murmured, as she watched a house elf— Gottel, she thought, was his name— approach the table discreetly and take up Severus' empty bowl and spoon. She began to ask, "Would you care for anything—?"
"A bottle of McGludgeon's Firewhiskey." The words shot out of his mouth, propelled, it seemed, by intense yearning.
Minerva pursed her lips disapprovingly. She did not, nor had she ever, thought it wise to drown one's griefs and exhaustions in the exonerating blessing of alcohol. She herself was a bit of a prude when it came to the drink; she'd never been more than slightly buzzed in almost the entirety of her life; the drunkest she'd ever been was at a Christmas party in her sixth year here at Hogwarts, and she'd been tipsy enough to kiss the Head Boy Greg Founders, blushing bright red with shame immediately afterwards. Often she had wine with supper, but it was only enough to make the edges of her conscience soft and slightly blurry, enough to get a decent night's sleep on. She'd never drank to the point of puking; likewise, she'd never awoken with a hangover.
Severus, on the other hand, was a drinker— at least, he could be. Given that he was both the
resident Potions Master as well as Head of House, he was not very often afforded the luxury of tying a bun on*. He was further restricted by his reputation of being an uptight hardass (not unlike Minerva herself). His delve into inebriation was restricted to long weekends, holidays, and other such occasions when he knew he would not be disturbed if he retreated to his quarters for a day or more.
He was discreet. He was private. His excursions to the Three Broomsticks to stock up on his favorites were never noticed by students and rarely by staff. No one but Dumbledore had ever seen Severus properly sloshed before. He was quite the private, kosher drunk.
This, in most people's minds, would have made the activity acceptable. However, it was embedded in Minerva's nature to spurn such behavior. Her frown was uninhibited.
Making note of Severus' request, the attentive elf nodded once, pivoted sharply, and was about to zoom off in search of said drink when Minerva held up her hand.
"Wait." She turned her gaze to Severus, fixing him with a sturdy look. "I should not have to inform you that it isn't safe to mix alcohol and whatever healing serums Poppy is going to give you."
"Precisely. Which is why I am going to meet my maker tonight and wait until tomorrow to make my visit to the infirmary."
Minerva shook her head. "No. You need to be seen now. Albus will want to convene with you first thing tomorrow morning, and I won't have you going to him looking such an awful mess; besides, some of these wounds look infected. They need treatment immediately— "
"'Some of these wounds' have been infected for weeks," he replied. "As for Albus . . . it would not be the first time he has seen me in such a state. I daresay he is becoming accustomed to it. Now," he turned to the house elf, who was standing on tiptoe, anticipating orders, "About that bottle. . . ."
"Minerva," he countered; he rounded on her and fixed her with rankled expression, "If you do you indeed so vehemently care about my well-being, you will allow me this small joy and let me forget, for the time being, why I am alive."
Minerva was about to open her mouth, but paused. Her mind mulled his words over, tossing them around in her brain as she considered his request. Next to her, the house elf, not sure which master to obey, bobbed and shifted its feet nervously.
With her entire frame, she gave a long, deep sigh.
"Fine," she said. "But not the kitchens' liquor." She waved off the house elf and the poor thing gratefully disappeared, scampering back into a shadowy corner where its comrades were dozing. Putting both hands on the table, Minerva pushed herself up from her chair; once standing, she adjusted her robe, pulling it more securely around her thin frame.
With a curious look, Severus followed suit, rising with her; his injuries, McGonagall noted, made him move like a man twice his age. He maneuvered around the side of the table cautiously, coming to stand next to her.
"I don't suppose you are intending for us to raid Albus' supplies?" he said; his voice was hoarse and rough, exhausted and scratchy. "The man has impeccable taste in hootch; seeing as my only intent is to drink to intoxication(and not for enjoyment), it would seem to be a terrible waste of his stocks."
"No, we are not going to rifle through Albus' liquor," Minerva replied tiredly; she turned her back and began to make her way towards the door out of the kitchen.
Severus watched her, his expression growing more curious by the minute. "Then where, pray tell, do you intend to get bubbly from at this hour?"
"Believe it or not, Severus, you, Albus, and Hagrid are not the only adults in this castle who keep 'bubbly' handy," she called irritably over her shoulder. "Now, will you come along?"
Involuntarily, Severus felt his eyebrows raise and nearly disappear into his hairline. If he had been more alert and less battered, he might have taken a considerable moment or two to contemplate the notion of Minerva McGonagall having her own private cache of booze. But, as it was, he was in no physical state nor the mood to give a damn where his jollies were coming from. He simply gave the barest of shrugs and gingerly started after her.
"After you, M'Lady," he muttered.
It was a dismal journey to Minerva's chambers, where said bottle of bliss was kept. Severus, in the state he was, limped along for the most part; had it not been for the promise of booze, he might have moved at a glacial pace. But his motivation was strong enough to enable him to nearly keep up with her at a steady pace, only pausing occasionally to rest for a few seconds. When they approached a flight of stairs, she offered to levitate him up it (seeing as he had not the energy to do it himself) but he refused. This did not surprise her. Beaten and battered though he was, his pride still presided over the majority of his behavior; and as vexing as it was to deal with such a stubborn man, it was an odd comfort; as long as Severus Snape was still an impossible twat, there was something still right in the world.
And, for all practical purposes, it was a good thing that he resisted her help: he would tire all the more quickly for it.
It took them the better part of twenty minutes to reach Minvera's quarters. By the time they reached the fourth floor landing where McGonagall's chambers were located, Severus was beginning to show the true extent of his exhaustion.
"Whatever you have stocked up in your rooms better be well worth it, Minerva," he muttered sourly under his breath.
Rolling her eyes ever so slightly, Minerva strode over to the dead end of the hallway and planted herself right before a large portrait of a garden scene; just before Severus came up beside her, a naked nymph squealed and dove behind a dense cluster of rose bushes.
"You'll appreciate it, I'm sure," she replied crisply. Taking out her wand, she tapped on the edge of the picture frame and said, "Cor lionus."
As the painting swung forward to reveal a gothic archway, Severus made a scoffing noise. "Really, Minerva. 'Heart of a lion'? It's a wonder you don't have more break-ins with a password as obvious as that."
Annoyed, she stepped back and motioned for him to go through before her. "Oh? And what is your password then, pray tell?" she retorted.
She was sure that if she had been drinking something at the moment, she would have choked and spewed everywhere. She stared at him. "What? Why?"
Slowly, Severus limped through the doorway. As he passed her, he flashed her the barest hint of a smirk. "What would prompt anyone to guess that as the Evil Overgrown Dungeon Bat's password?"
Minerva opened her mouth, as if to rebut him . . . but then closed her mouth. He had a point.
Shrugging to herself, Minerva followed him through the doorway, down a short, narrow passage, and came out into the main sitting room of her chambers. It was a simple sort of room, equipt with a plushy sofa/loveseat done up in dark red, a large armchair of the same color, and a coffee table all situated around a sizeable hearth, currently dark. The room was efficient, lacking in complex decoration; the walls were mostly lined with bookshelves, and a glass cabinet or two with scrolls, papers, and other materials. A small writing desk sat near a sliver of a window, through which moonlight spilled through the room and across the carpeted floor.
Upon entering, McGonagall removed her wand from her pocket; with a single sweeping wave, several previously unlit lanterns around the room ignited, their flames growing tall and wavering, giving off a soft, warm glow.
As Severus looked about him, taking the room in with more substantial light, Minerva strode across the room, towards the hearth; as she passed, she gave her wand another flick, and flames sprang from the dry wood. On the left side of the hearth, there was a small cabinet; pulling open the little wooden door, she reached in and extracted a very large bottle with a crusting label. As she brought it into the light, it gleamed amber and orange. Severus felt his pulse quicken in anticipation.
"And what, may I ask, is that?" he inquired, his voice straining slightly.
Minerva gave the bottle of a gentle shake, upsetting its contents; the auburn liquid flashed an iridescent red before settling back into its original color. She smiled a lopsided sort of grin as Severus' dark eyes widened by a fraction of a millimeter.
"Yew brandy, 100 proof, but made more effective with nontoxic amounts of tarantacula venom. 1945, stored in an oak barrel— not that you care," she added dryly.
Au contraire. Taking in the sight of the bottle, Severus let out a slow breath. "Christ," he muttered in appreciation. Drawing his transfixed gaze away from the brandy, he gaze Minerva a somewhat awed look. "I had no idea that you would . . . make preparations for such an undertaking. I have yet to see you drink more than a goblet full of wine, much less become even remotely tipsy."
"I am, as you will find, full of filthy surprises," McGonagall replied, nearly drawling. She dropped her gaze to the bottle. "I was actually saving this for a momentous occasion. . . ."
Severus raised a silky eyebrow. "Such as . . . ?"
Minerva shrugged tiredly. "Oh, Merlin knows. The death of He Who Must Not Be Named? Or perhaps seeing some of these children live long enough to have offspring of their own. Either would be momentous. However," she began hastily, seeing Severus about to object, "this seems as appropriate an occasion as any. The way things appear to be going . . . I would not be surprised to have a fullscale war on our hands. And, in my condition, I do not fully expect myself to live through it."
Snape narrowed his eyes at her, shifting his stance and wincing minutely as he did so. "'Condition'? And what condition might that be?"
Minerva sighed. She suddenly looked very tired, and for the first time that evening, Severus noticed the small traces of sleep around her eyes. "I am not exactly a nubile young witch, Severus. I may not be quite as old as Albus, but I am getting on in my years."
Severus looked at her strangely. Minerva McGonagall had been a professor about two decades ago when he himself was in attendance at Hogwarts; but she had been new, fresh, young. He remembered her distinctly: the stern Professor McGonagall, who, despite her austere appearances and sharp reprimands, was attractive enough to pull at the eyes and loins of more than a few boys as she paced about the classroom. Now, twenty odd years later, she did not seem much different to him. Older, yes; greyer, yes; thinner, yes; prude as hell, definitely. But she was by no means an old woman. He opened his mouth—
McGonagall firmly held up her hand. She shook her head.
"Don't. I do not want to hear it."
It was Severus' turn to purse his lips in disapproval. "Fine. I won't broach the subject. Now if you would be so kind," he gestured at the bottle.
Minerva nodded, but held up a finger authoritatively. "Yes. But under one condition."
His look went from disgruntled to uneasy. "Yes . . . ?"
Instead of pointing up, her finger aimed itself at him, and gave a small jab in his direction. Slowly and deliberately, she intoned:—
"You. Need. A. Bath."
"I always knew that someday would have me stripping for you, Minerva my dear."
His voice, before quite rough and haggard, had been made smoother by the moisture in the air. She imagined that, with a little soaking time in the bath she had drawn up, and a few days rest, it would be back to its smooth, velvety self.
Now, if she could just get him into the bath. . . .
It had taken a great deal fo scolding and coaxing on her part just to get him this far, actually standing in her washroom. Snape seemed to think it perfectly ridiculous that anyone would use alcohol as a bribe to make a person take a bath; not only was it demeaning, it was almost cruel. But, as Minerva suspected, the trek up the staircases had tired him to the extent that he would not be returning to his own chambers tonight without help, and Minerva certainly was not going to give it to him. He had no real choice but to obey her.
But, for futility's sake, they had stood there, exchanging challenging banter whilst she went about filling up his bath.
And since she had made it this far, she chose not to be baited by his tone, dripping with sarcasm and scathing humor. It was a strange mix, one that prevented her from being able to tell if he was merely jesting, or trying to get a rise out of her— or both. "Oh, shut it and give me your things."
Compliantly, Severus shrugged his bony shoulders. Giving a silent sigh, he shed his heavy cloak, and it pooled like something dead around his feet. Laggardly, he brought his hands up and began fumbling with the buttons on his robes (or what was left of them; his impressive columns of gleaming black buttons were in tatters, like the rest of his clothing, at least half of the buttons torn off or missing). Eventually, he undid the lot of them, and cautiously removed his outer robes, leaving him in a simple white dress shirt and trousers. Off came the dress shirt (not really white, Minerva noted, but off white, stained with blood and dirt, with tears everywhere); he then bent to take off his shoes.
Once he stood back up, Minerva was able to take in the full magnitude of his distressed and malnourished physical being. He had a thin frame by nature, but now he was even more so, not quite skeletal in appearance but boderline; she could see clearly most of his ribs, and his collarbone jut out. His skin . . . it was a perfect canvas of cuts and colors. Blue, red, yellow, violet, black— all painted the white surface of his body, given texture by the myriad of lesions. Though not unfamiliar, it was a sickly sight; she could scarce help but gape.
Feeling a pair of grey-green eyes rove the battered whole of his ragdoll body, Severus fought the urge to cringe. He hated being without clothing, resented being so bare and naked; without the many heavy layers of fabric to protect him, he felt vulnerable, almost small.
What was more: in the Dark Lord's circle, being ogled in such a way generally meant that the person to whom the eyes belonged intended to make a ripe example of you.
The feeling made him sick.
"If you are quite done gawking at my perturbing frame, do turn the fuck around." His tone had gone from lightly scathing to poisonous. He hadn't meant it to; Minerva did not deserve such behavior, he knew.
But he could not bring himself to care. Not now.
Shocked out of her daze by both his tone and word choice, Minerva startled; she blinked twice, then turned on the spot, facing the doorway. She stared straight ahead, determined not to even glance at the vanity mirror beside her; all she saw was faint movement out of the corner of her tired eyes.
Behind her, there was the sound of sloshing water, and a low, aggravated hiss.
Cautiously, Minerva turned back around.
Severus had shed what was left of his filthy clothing and lowered himself into the steaming back. The hiss he had emitted was most likely due to the hot water touching his wounds, though in this there was both pleasure and pain. The water stung like hell, but as he lay there, eyes closed, the pain began to subside, giving way to a throbbing ache, which soon became voluptuous. Involuntarily, he groaned.
Quietly, Minerva moved to pick up the reeking mass that was his clothing and retreated from the room, closing the door behind her. She was about to call a house elf to have them cleaned— but then thought better of it. The clothes, she was sure, were ruined beyond reasonable repair. It was a lost cause.
Sighing, Minerva approached the fire, which was now blazing brightly. Stooping a bit, she tossed the pieces of clothing one by one into the raging flame, ritualistically watching each one be consumed before adding the next piece onto it.
When she was done, she stood up straight and tossed a glance around the room. Her eyes landed on the bottle of yew brandy, which she had set down rather forcefully on the table while having some equally forceful words with Severus. It gleamed like a petroleum sunset, devilish and tempting.
She had told him that he would not be allowed a single drop before he got into the bath. He was in now; might as well give it to the man.
Picking the brandy up by its slender neck, she approached the bathroom door again. Giving a small knock to let him know she was coming in, she hesitantly opened the door.
Sitting in a bathtub full of soap suds did not suit Severus well. She couldn't recall seeing him ever so utterly naked before— not that he was indecent. The suds did enough to thickly cover the surface of the water; the only body parts in sight were his scarred knees, and his torso from the collarbone up. But it was a leery, amusing sight nonetheless. Snape in a bath. If the situation had been any different, she might have laughed— which was, if anything, an increasingly rare occurrence. She didn't laugh. Didn't smile.
She couldn't help, though, but pose the dry question:—
"Care for a rubber duckie?"
Snape, who had been leaning back in the tub, neck over the rim, lids closed, cocked a tired black eye at her. "I have no desire for such an inane muggle toy. But I will take the brandy now . . . if it so pleases your ladyship," he sneered, without much animus.
McGonagall curled a lip. "It pleases."
With a nod of her head, she magicked up a little stool right up beside the tub. Sitting gracefully beside him, she mustered her strength and uncorked the bottle with a small pop; the smell of alcohol burned her nose, and she quickly handed the brandy to Severus.
He accepted it from her, a sort of mild bemusement playing on his weary visage. "Are you going to sit with me whilst I drink and bathe?"
Minerva shifted on the stool, crossing one leg over the other and tucking a stray lock of stormy grey hair behind her ear. "Bathe? In your condition? I do not imagine you'll do much more than simply soak in the tub; and, despite the animosity between our houses, I personally don't find the thought of you drowning due to inebriation in my bathtub very pleasing."
Severus considered this, rubbing his thumb in slow circles over the mouth of the bottle. ". . . I see," he said. "I am, of course, obliged to point out the fact that our difference in gender could make this rather . . . awkward. . . ."
McGonagall let out a very uncharacteristic snort. Severus' eyebrow twitched.
"Please," she replied. "We're proper adults. And it is hardly as though you have anything I've not seen before."
She meant that as a half-hearted joke, but Severus did not take it so lightly. Either he missed what she was getting at or he disregarded it. "I wouldn't be so sure," he murmured, bringing the bottle to his lips. He tilted it back and chugged, taking a large swig. His eyes screwed themselves shut, and he gave the smallest of shudders— which was impressive, seeing as undiluted yew brandy typically made most grown men retch. The only person who she thought might have just as small a reaction to it was Hagrid; but even he would make some remark upon the toxicity. Severus just drank it silently and pursed his thin lips.
They sat in silent for a while. The bath, charmed to remain hot, gave off a steady amount of steam, which fogged up both Minerva's mirror and her spectacles. Taking them off for a second, she performed small drying charm upon them before settling them back on her nose.
Sitting languidly in the bathtub, Severus watched her with great interest— far more interest than he would have if he were sober. But having taking three good swallows, he was feeling the beginnings of a definite buzz. It put him in a much better mood.
"Why do you even bother?" he asked, sounding curious and incredulous all at once and far too enthusiastic about his own question.
Adjusting the hooks of her glasses behind her eyes, Minerva turned to him and asked with some confusion, "Pardon?"
He unwrapped on long finger from the bottle and pointed at her face. "With the spectacles," he said. His words wrapped themselves around each other, came out easily and more smoothly than before. Carelessly.
She gave him a confused look, her eyebrows knitting together. "I need them?" she replied. "I cannot read properly without them on."
"Well, you're not reading now, are you?" Severus shifted, sloshing water around in the tub. His mouth twisted in a slight frown. "Why keep them on?"
Minerva sighed. "I do not know," she replied truthfully. "Force of habit, I suppose. There is rarely a moment in my day when I do not find myself looking down at some document or paper or other."
Severus took another swig and nodded in her direction. "Oh, silly me," Severus mumbled, "and here I thought it was more for effect than anything else. Care for a drink?"
As he held the bottle out to her, a droplet fell from the mouth and hit the rim of the tub. Upon hitting the glazed ceramic, it sizzled, hissed, and evaporated, as though the tub were a hotplate. She looked back at the bottle, and without much consideration, shook her head.
"No, thank you. One of us should remain sober whilst you are in my tub."
Severus raised an eyebrow and made an all-knowing humming sound. "Ah. I see." Taking another small swallow, he blinked several times to clear his head, which was now starting to swim hazardously. Looking down at the bath Minerva had drawn up, he saw that the water was now a dull, brick-red color, and small chunks of debris and dirt were floating near the top. He also happened to notice that the bubbles and suds previously protecting him from indecency were dissipating.
"I believe I am ready to get out now," Severus announced. "If you would be so kind as to hand me a towel and turn a-bloody-round."
She wanted to tsk at him for the unnecessary cursing . . . but she opted instead to let it slide; he wasn't trying to rile her up, but cursing for the . . . personal satisfaction it brought him. Silently, she stood and took the bottle which Severus was offering back to her. She then went to a nearby cabinet, and opened it; retrieving a fluffy white towel, she handed it to Severus and dutifully turned around.
As if cued, a house elf suddenly appeared in the small bathroom, carrying in its twiggy arms a bundle of black fabric: robes, boxers, and trousers. But not Severus' usual billowing, black, wing-like attire. A bathrobe.
Severus looked at the clothing he was handed and snorted. Ignoring the house elf for the moment, he put one hand on either side of the tub and pushed himself unsteadily to his feet. He was hit, rather abruptly, by a wave of vertigo, and he swayed where he stood in the tub, his knees trembling beneath his less than impressive weight.
The house elf (who had wisely chosen not to stay and keep out of a potentially awkward situation) had left the pants and robe meant for Severus on a metal wrack nailed into the wall. Shakily, he stepped out, dripping water all over the while tiled floor. Still dizzy, he used the towel Minerva had handed him to dry himself: it came away heavy with water, and stained with dirt, grime, and smears of blood. Discarding the towel carelessly on the floor, he grabbed first the boxers. After slipping them on, he reached next for the pants and began to struggle into them.
Minerva, still facing the door, rolled around the bottle of yew brandy in her hands as she listened to the fumbling going on behind her. Severus sounded as though he were having some difficulties with his trousers; she would have offered to help, but even in his condition, Severus would have refused, so staunchly private he was. So she simply continued playing with the bottle, feeling its cool, warped surface. It looked as though Severus had downed at least five or six good swallows. Which was enough to seriously intoxicate most adults; either Severus had a liver of iron and the tolerance of a giant, or the effect hadn't quite hit him yet. If the latter, it was about to come down on him hard.
Fortunately, he managed to pull his pants after a few minutes of struggling. When Minerva turned back around, he was gingerly slipping the soft black robe around his shoulders. He looked down, and examined his pant line. Hesitantly, Minerva directed her gaze to his waist as well, and noted that there were a few inches to be spared of fabric. The pants hung loosely about his jutting hips, and she saw (with a teeny blush) that they hung low enough to expose some of his happy trail.
"I seem to have shrunk in the wash," Severus mumbled.
Minerva snapped back to attention, direction her gaze to Snape's face, which was still tilted downward; he was still rather stoic looking, but another slightly bemused look accented his sharp features.
"Is that your idea of a bad joke?" she asked, bending over to pick up the dirty towel.
"No. That is my idea of a clean joke," he sneered at her— though it was more mild than unkind.
Minerva threw the towel over the bar holding up the unused shower curtain and straightened back up. Her stern mouth quirked minutely at his remark. "Am I to assume that you tell many dirty jokes? My my, Severus: I thought you had better morals than that."
"My morals are not the issue and, for yer information— " he stopped suddenly, catching his slur. He started again, "For your information, Minnie dear, I only make such jokes when I am extremely wasted. And speaking of . . ." his hazy eyes went to the bottle and held out his hand, "May I have that back, please?"
Smiling grimly, she shook her head. "Only if you stay here to drink it," she told him.
His face shifted slightly, a conflict arising in his dark, swimming eyes. Though Severus detested staying anywhere but his own chambers, the temptation of the yew brandy was great. It really was excellent stuff. And he couldn't exactly go back to his chambers as is: one, the dungeons were at least three or four flights of stairs down, even with secret passage ways; two, though he didn't sound it, he was rather tipsy. He imagined that getting lost in the castle in such darkness, and in such a mental state as his wouldn't be too terribly difficult; he was also in peril of tiring out before he reached his desired destination. He did not fancy the idea of falling asleep in some random place only to be prodded awake in the morning by a student, Filch, or Peeves . . . especially without a shirt.
Besides, what was the worst that could happen if he stayed?
"Fine," he replied gruffly. "But I have one condition."
Both of Minerva's brows raised slightly.
". . . yes?"
Was she imagining it, or was that a trace of a leer creeping onto his thin mouth?
Slowly, Severus raised one of his scared hands and pointed an accusatory finger at her.
"You're drinking with me, madam."
Severus narrowed his eyes at her and shook the bottle near her face. It flashed red instantly, then faded back to crystalline auburn. "Pl-please, Minnie, when's the last time you drunk?"
Having had several more generous swigs, Severus' words were now starting to run together and slur; he was also using contractions more freely. They were both sitting on her comfy couch at either end with one cushion-width separating them. She was sitting primly at her own end, robe secured tightly around her frame, hair repositioned, ankles and arms both crossed; she was fixing Severus with a strict glare. He gazed at her from his end, completely unfazed by her burning glare, leaning against the armrest. One of his legs was lying bent comfortably on the couch, the other foot resting on the floor; his own robe had come loose, and now some of his distressingly pale chest was showing. His own expression was somewhat chastising, and expectant of an answer.
In response to his question, she replied crisply, "Last night. I had a glass of wine with my supper—"
"Allow me to put it to you another way: when's the last time you woke up with a bloody hangover?" he interrupted with more volume than necessary.
For all her years, for all her austerity— the question had Minerva blushing, both with embarrassment and anger. Her gaze had turned irritated, and her throat was constricted. Her lips moved in speech, but Severus could not make out the words.
"I peg pardon, madam?"
McGonagall looked down, infruriated.
"Never," she said quietly.
When Severus didn't say anything immediately, she looked up.
In her fourteen years of knowing Severus— twenty one, if his own school years were counted— she had never seen him grin. Not once.
And, Merlin's balls, it was scary.
With a sneaky, sly, positively Slytherin smirk, he leaned closer to her; stopping a foot away from her face, he brought the bottle up to eyelevel. He jostled the contents suggestively.
Minerva watched the liquid. . . then looked uneasily back into Snape's black, mischievous eyes.
"I think you'd better have a drink then."
"Oh, come on now, Minnie dear. Have some fucking fun, why don't you?"
"I do not have fun, sir. And will you stop calling me that asinine nickname?"
"Why?" he shot at her. "The old fool calls you that."
Despite herself, Minerva half-gasped at Severus' mention of Albus. It was rare that anyone— let alone Severus Snape— showed Dumbledore anything less than the highest respect. But Severus merely curled a lip smugly at her. He thrust the bottle towards her.
"Please do. Drinking alone is incredibly boring."
The look she gave him could have melted the polar ice caps and chilled a dementor to the core. She was positively steaming.
Severus let his lips play on the rim of the bottle, eyeing her impertinently.
"No. I re-fuscking-fuse to believe that. Not a chance in Hades."
"I swear, by Morgan's tits, I saw them going at it!"
The horrified expression that then dominated Severus' generally void features sent Minerva into a peel of laughter.
Severus, thoroughly sickened by the image that had formed unwillingly in his mind, brought the bottle of brandy to his lips and took drink. Since Minerva had finally given in and consented to drink with him, he'd been taking smaller sips. The burn was lessening now, and he could swallow without grimacing. "That is disturbing," he muttered.
Minerva reached out her hand for the bottle and Severus compliantly handed it to her. She'd been pouring out a small amount for herself in a tumbler and watering it down; considering her tolerance and how strong the drink was, it hadn't taken very long for her to become equally sauced.
"Why do you find that so dis-hup-quieting?" she inquired, gloating that she had made him so uncomfortable. She poured herself a bit more brandy and then filled the rest of her glass from a silver pitcher of water on her coffee table. She handed it back presently.
"Because I didn't think that Hagrid possessed the socia- social skill to convince a woman— especially a dignified frenchie— into his little house, much less coerce her into swapping saliva. . . giantess or otherwise. . . ."
"Oh, but he did. He certainly did."
"Do you swear by Godric's mighty, sweaty testicles?"
"Did he get handsy?"
. . .
"I used to wish I had a tattoo."
The slim fingers of her right hand played up and down the snake-and-skull tattoo practically etched in his arm. Its color was dull at the moment, like an old prison tattoo.
Severus watched her through a heavy, drunken haze; there was a dull pounding in the back of his brain, but it was like someone beating on his skull through a pillow. It only allowed him to comprehend half of the current situation. He could mostly only register what he could see: one, at some point, he had shrugged out of the robe for one reason or another, and was now bare-chested; and two, McGonagall was practically lying on top of him, whilst playing with the skin scarred by his Dark Mark. Something told him that this could be a potentially awkward situation; but he also sensed that it would only become so if he outright called it awkward.
Instead, he merely told her, "You . . . wouldn' want one like this. . . ."
She shook her head; a small strand of her grey-black hair trailed along his chest. "No . . . but I remember. . . . when I was about eighteen this girl named Amanda Markes . . . she had this wizard tattoo on her left shoulder . . . it was a butterfly, I think. It fluttered its wings when she wanted it to. . . . and for a long time after I saw it, I wanted one. . . ."
Severus shifted an eensy bit. He blinked slowly, thinking.
"Do you want one right now?" he ventured.
She looked up at him, green eyes confused.
"Eh . . . what?"
"It's funny, actually. I confis-confiscated some temporary wizarding tattoos from that brat Lee Jordan last May . . . they're still sitting in my desk drawer. He had a load, we could accio them up or a send an elf for them; I think there may have even been a butterfl— "
"No." She pushed herself up and away from him.
He raised a quivering brow at her. "Shall I forget that you— "
"As you wish, Minnie m'dear."
He leaned over and filled up her glass.
"You ngh . . . you need a haircut."
"I think that's been established."
"I have an empty bowl over there. I think it's about the shape of your head."
"You don't trus me witha wand?"
"Woman, I don't trust you with either. . . . But the most you can do with scissors is cut a major artery."
"So. How about that tattoo?"
"That isn't working again."
That did it.
Sometime around three that morning, they both dozed off. Severus, who had not put his bathrobe back on, was still hung over "his" side of the couch— and McGonagall was passed out in his lap. The bottle of yew brandy, now with a little more than a third of its contents left, had been placed on the mantle. The fire died out by itself, and was nothing but embers by the time six o'clock rolled around.
Her first thought when she woke up was that she was not in her own bed.
Her second thought went something along the lines of, Oh, mother of—
And she didn't get to finish off that phrase because, very suddenly, an immense, overpowering wave of nausea hit her, and she rolled over to retch off the side of the couch. . . .
Right into a lightweight little cauldron someone had conveniently set up for her.
Groaning and tasting bile, Minerva retched several times, holding the little cauldron by its rims, sweating and shaking with the force of her up-heaving. After a few minutes, she had emptied her stomach of most its contents; and although she was still very dizzy, she was now able to grasp several other facts about her situation.
A) She realized that she was not in her bed because she had fallen asleep on her couch.
And B) there was a little note attached to the side of the cauldron.
Head aching and vision spinning, Minerva slowly pulled the note from where it was stuck and fumbled to unfold it. She squinted at the tiny dark handwriting, barely able to make out the words.
I took the liberty of setting this up for you, knowing how well you might need it. In your bathroom, you will find two Pepper Up potions, and a small vial of a potion that will cure your nausea. Take the latter first, and the Pepper Up potions as needed.
After making out the tiny initials at the bottom of the note, Minerva crushed the paper in her hand and put her other to her temple; she had a headache that was throbbing spasmodically. Ugh. Bullocks. So this is what a hangover feels like. . . .
Righting herself, she managed to get to her feet. Tottering with every step, she stumbled across her living room (nearly tripping on a snag in the carpet) and all but fell into her bathroom, shutting the door quickly behind her. . . .
Down in the dungeons, Severus sat in his study, watching the miniature desk-cauldron on his large, mahogany desk simmer, the tar-colored liquid in it bubbling and steaming over the small flame. His eyes were bloodshot, and his face felt like it was about to melt off, but otherwise he felt better. Better than he did at around ten o'clock last night, anyway. Though his body ached intensely from the beatings he'd acquired over the last few weeks, the slight vacation from his body via brandy had done him a world of good; even the dizziness was welcome, seeing as it made the pain all the more bearable. Yes, last night's activites, for all their oddity, had served him well.
Contemplatively, he brought his hand to his mouth. Hm. Last night. . . .
He supposed that worse could have happened. Of course, there was not much to be remembered, but he didn't think there was a chance that Professor McGonagall and he had done anything regrettable. After all, when he had awoken at approximately seven that morning (after a measly four hours of sleep) they both had all their clothes on— with the exception of his bare chest with its criss-cross scars. Actually, it had been almost touching, he thought cynically. His flutter into consciousness was met by the feeling of a body laying over his lap; he couldn't say that he was too stunned to see that said-body was Minerva McGonagall, glasses askew, mouth slightly agape, her every other exhale coming out in a whistle.
I doubt that is something I shall ever see again, he thought with the tiniest trace of amusement, as the potion on his desk turned a hot, bubblegum pink. He leaned over and, using his hand like a good chemist, wafted the scent of it towards him; sweetpea and a nearly untraceable hint of spearmint. Good. Almost done.
He remembered bits and pieces from the night before; he had surmised enough, when he awoke, to presume that Minerva would need the three potions he had supplied for her. He could have given her a straight hangover cure— one of his own inventions— but he thought the experience might sink in a bit better if she had to take several potions to begin feeling normal again.
Of course, there were other . . . physical signs that might make the experience more memorable.
McGonagall's temporary tramp stamp, for one. Though he doubted she would notice it, even if the angel wings did move. . . .
There was also the matter of his hair. Which he did not intend to let anyone see.
Irritably, Severs watched the bright pink potion simmer, whilst massaging a closely-shorn bald spot near his left temple.
It would not have been so terrible if she had actually stayed within the boundaries of the bowl, he mused, only half-peeved. I might have ended up looking something like an extremely malnourished Vincent Crabbe. . . . but she simply could not resist trying for something creative. . . .
Creative. That was putting it mildly. She'd given him half a puddingbowl haircut, and half a sloppy buzzcut. And he had also taken note of the hair in his right armpit, which was curiously shorter than the hair in his left. . . .
He drew his hand away, willing his annoyance to die down. It was fine; it would hardly matter in two minutes when he drank the Rapid Hair Regrowth potion. . . . .
And, all in all, it had been worth it.
Slowly, Snape curled a lip.
That would teach her to try and make him take a bath.