Christmas Eve ball

He watched as she entered the ballroom with her date. Some bloke who did not deserve her. He had his filthy hands around her waist, as if he possessed her. He watched as they tilted their heads together, she whispered something and they laughed at a private joke. She dabbed a napkin at the corner of his mouth. They danced, so tightly wrapped they might as well have been joined at the hip.

Hermione was bored. Her date, Henry, was chatting up some blonde witch who was dressed in an offshoulder gown that showed off her considerable cleavage. He was practically staring down the twin peaks, completely forgetting she ever existed. She considered leaving the XMas Eve ball, a quick scan showed that most have left anyway, save for a few dancing on the floor.

As she slipped her purse to her shoulder and headed for the entrance, someone blocked her way. She looked up, ready to give him a piece of her mind. It was Snape, he was swaying on his feet.

'Are you alright, Sir?' she asked, genuinely concerned.

When Snape spoke, she knew in that instant, he was drunk. Hopelessly drunk.

'You.'

His black eyes narrowed at her accusingly. He took a shambling step forward. Startled, Hermione took a step back.

'You.' he repeated, spitting the word out as if it disgusted him.

'Me?' she asked, looking behind her, hoping he meant somebody else. Nobody wanted to be the target of her former Potions Master's wrath.

He backed her up against the wall. The uneven stony edges dug into her back. That was uncomfortable since her dress was silk.

'You,' Snape slurred and pointed an unsteady finger at her. He missed and poked the stone wall instead, ' are not allowed.'

They were quite close and every word exhaled from him reeked alcohol fumes. Pheww...How many had he had to drink, she thought? Come to think of it, she hadn't even expected to see him at a ball such as this.

She looked up at him, eyes wide. Drunk as he was, he blocked her exit path with his body. She didn't think he'd move if she shoved him.

'Not allowed to...go home?' she guessed helpfully.

Snape only shook his head, swaying on his feet. He seemed to be trying to find the right words but they are failing him. It is not every often (in fact, never!) that Professor Snape was at a loss for words. His cheeks were a flushed from all the whisky he had been drinking. It actually improved his appearance.

Eyes still closed, he began, 'You are not allowed to bring dates every year who escort you due to your status after the War. Who then dump you for the next big breasted broad who waves jugs in their faces..'

Oh Merlin, a lecture. Hermione tried to slip under his arms but he roughly shoved her back against the wall as if she were a guy.

'Ow!' she complained.

He continued in a softer tone, his accent made thicker with drink. 'You are not allowed to look stunning and beautiful in that dress. You are not allowed to take my breath away everytime you enter a room. You are not allowed..' He stopped and his next words sounded so sober, Hermione was taken aback.

'To steal my heart away.'

He finally stopped his tirade, breathing heavily as if saying all that put a heavy toll on him. He had stopped his swaying and his eyes were closed as if he did not want to look at her. For someone as introvert as he was, what it must have took to spew all this at her.

She saw a thin trail of silvery tears track down his left cheek. His face bore no expression, yet the tears betrayed him. She reached up, realizing her hands were shaking, wiped his face dry. He flinched at her touch and she pushed herself off the wall, coming closer, maintaining contact. She saw the tension melt off his face with her touch and he allowed himself a moment of indulgence and hope, leaning his face against the palm of her delicate hand.

'I'm sorry,' she said, breaking the silence.

His shoulders slumped, he had been expecting that reaction from her. But it felt good albeit embarassing to voice out everything he had pent up. He gave a small nod and turned away to nurse his broken heart.

She tugged on his sleeve and he looked back.

'I'm sorry..' she began, 'you think I would steal your heart away without giving mine in return. And I'm sorry,' she smiled apologetically, 'that I can't make my confession to you as poetic and memorable as yours.'

Did she just say what he thought she did? Snape refused to look up, afraid of shattering this alcohol induced daydream. He continued to look at her fingers on his sleeve, his heart beating in his ears.

'Sir?' she tugged his sleeve again.

He met her eyes and he could see genuine concern for him in them. And a hint of love. Could she learn to love a man like him? He stood rigid like a statue, unsure of what to do.

So Hermione stepped in and wrapped her hands around his chest. And when he still did not respond, she took his arms and guided them to her waist where they were home. And when he did nothing more, she stood on tiptoe and kissed his chin.

Slowly he looked down at the witch in his arms. He had only dared dream of moments like this. It was so surreal, he felt...nauseous. Alarmed, he pushed her away for the second time that night, as he felt his gorge rising, thanks to all the liquor he had drunk earlier. He barely made it outside where he vomited his evening dinner and various other liquids he had ingested earlier. He retched horribly as his stomach heaved. A warm hand on his back, soothing him, crooning to him, helping him stay on his feet.

As the last of his heavings ended, Hermione helped him to his feet. She looked worried, her brow furrowed. Was she was worried, for him? His heart did a little flip.
She wiped his mouth dry with a napkin she had wisely brought out with her.

'This will be a great story to tell our kids,' she mused.

'Kids?' He had only just declared how he felt and here she was, ready to bear his children. His heart soared.

'I'll take you home,' she offered, her hand at his elbow steadying him, keeping him grounded.

He nodded, too proud to say no. Together, they stood, the older Slytherin leaning onto the younger Griffindor as if it were the most natural thing in the world. As they got ready to Apparate, Snape turned to Hermione who was tucking his cloak snugly around him.

'Hermione.'

'Hmm?'

'Thank you.'