Because I had this silly idea and couldn't help myself. Enjoy, and a bottle of top-quality firewhiskey for reviewers!
He looked so . . . dejected, she thought. Most everyone had cleared out when the storm picked up, but not him. He had sat there toying with his firewhiskey until he was the only one left, looking up only to sigh in supercilious exasperation when the wireless announced a Celestina Warbeck set coming up next.
She had to say something, she thought. It was just what barkeeps did. Even in those Muggle films she would never admit to enjoying as much as she did, the bartender talks to everyone, and vice versa- like a confession booth, but public, and while drunk, and in a bar, which kind of discouraged celibacy . . . okay, it was nothing like a confession booth.
She poured herself a short tumbler of firewhiskey and looked for a moment at the blizzard raging outside. She glanced back at the slender man huddled up at the end of the bar. They'd never spoken much at school- she was four years behind him, and a Hufflepuff to boot, although he'd been assigned to tutor her in Defense once- she'd been deeply intimidated by the surly, notorious seventh year, but she'd never botched a Shield charm again after that. A little warmer from the drink, she slid along the bar and said "I'm thinking of closing up soon, so . . ."
He glanced up. "Oh, Rosemerta, yes, I suppose I should . . . how much do I owe?" he looked like he'd forgotten exactly where he was until that moment.
"One sickle, three knuts, Professor," she felt vaguely relieved that he wasn't about to regale her with a tale of love and loss like the customers in the Muggle films were so apt to do. She knew he'd had a hard time of it in the second war, and it must be a little awkward for him with McGonagall as Headmistress these days. But then she heard him sigh in irritation.
"Rosmerta, I've known you since you were thirteen, and there are no students around; my name is Severus." He glanced around the pub in mild dislike. "Could I ask you something?"
Thirteen. He remembers tutoring me- that's weird. She'd have thought he'd only remember his morbid little cronies from his own school days- and of course Lily. Everyone in Hogwarts had known about that- with the possible exception of James Potter. She remembered Lily; pretty, friendly, but not quite there. Ethereal. She wondered if he still missed her. "All right then, Profes- Severus," she said. The name tasted strange on her lips.
"Why did you stay? You were clever, you could have done anything- why did you stay here?"
She smiled and leaned against the bar with her elbows. "My mother's pub, my grandmother's, mine." She shrugged. "I grew up here; it's been in my family two hundred years. I live upstairs, always have, except when I was in school. It's home. What about you? Top marks like yours, you could have been in the Ministry or something. Why'd you stay?"
For just a moment, Severus Snape smiled. Not a grin, not a grimace, not a smirk, but a smile. He had a nice smile, she thought. He'd be handsome with those sharp features if he didn't seem so miserable. "Same reason," he shrugged. "It's home."
A strand of Rosemerta's hair had come loose from her bun, and the dark curl grazed the wood of the bar. Unthinkingly, Severus twirled the strand between his long pale fingers. He looked up at her. He had never seen a woman who looked less like Lily Evans- short and curvy where Lily had been tall and willowy, messy dark curls where Lily's hair had been red and silky, nut-brown eyes instead of green. Even the way she talked was so different- straightforward and open, with none of Lily's vague pauses or barbed wit. Despite all that, perhaps because of the drink or the candlelight or the half-shy way she was smiling, he had a strange thought; he wondered why in all these years he'd never noticed that Rosemerta was beautiful.
Rosemerta had been prattling on about who-knows-what when she noticed Prof- er, Severus was still playing with her hair. She wasn't sure he noticed what he was doing either, as he had been absently nodding along with what she was saying, occasionally murmuring in vague assent. But then there eyes met and- it was so hard not to laugh- Severus Snape blushed. She hadn't known he was even capable.
"Thanks, Pro- Severus, you have a good night now," she said, feeling oddly disappointed.
"Good night, Rosemerta," he said, and then, entirely unthinkingly, leaned over the bar and pressed his lips against hers. It was a quick, gentle kiss, not especially dramatic, and it felt like something they had already done a thousand times before and would do a thousand times again. Rosemerta had had a few lovers over the years, and certainly several patrons too far gone into the whiskey had tried to kiss her before, so there was no reason this should have taken her breath away. Except it did.
Severus couldn't believe himself. He tried to put the blame on the drink, but he'd hardly had any. Certainly there'd been a woman or two since Lily died (including an unfortunate incident when he'd fed himself love potion in an attempt to move on), but it was- he hadn't wanted to kiss them, and he had wanted to kiss Rosemerta, as he so clearly demonstrated. He made for the door, desperate to be out of there.
Rosemerta watched him go, glancing out the window at what was becoming a blizzard. He was almost at the door when she heard a voice that must have been hers say, "Severus?"
"Maybe stay a few minutes longer? The storm, and- well, it's awfully cold out there."
This, they both knew, was the height of ridiculousness. They were wizards, for heaven's sake! The weather was hardly a limitation on them. He looked at her for a long minute. Then he walked back to the bar, sat back down, and though he could only meet her eye for a fraction of a second, he half-smiled and put his hand over hers.
"You're right," he said. "It is awfully cold out there."