Summary: Hermione's had it with Ron and Snape offers to teach her how to drown her sorrows properly. Sorta compliant with DH, except Snape lives and Ron's a git.
Not even Halloween, yet the weather raged. Rain pelted the window panes angrily from various wind-swept angles, completely obscuring the grounds below. Heavy black clouds roared and a strike of lightning lit the east wing corridor.
Severus Snape stood there observing the storm. Silently he thanked the Gods for relieving him of the task of gathering potions ingredients… at least for tonight. He was tired. More importantly however, he resented the fact he had been given the menial job. It was a pitiful attempt of keeping him busy now that he had been "liberated" from performing magic. He had to admit to himself however, that the job did keep him here at Hogwarts. And for some unidentified reason he needed to be here, even if that which once made him feel safe was no longer here.
The storm mimicked his thoughts; thunder underscoring the painful memory of striking his friend down and the darkening sky like his foul mood taking hold. He was so deep in his misery that he almost mistook the commotion of a Gryffindor barreling down the corridor for the growl of the angry sky.
She approached in a fury, eyes red and swollen and hair a wayward mess as if she had recently rung her hands through it. A bolt of lightning illuminated longs streams of tears that rolled down her flushed face. Apparently, she too was lost in her thoughts as she nearly ran full into his tall dark figure.
"Miss Granger," he called alerting her to his presence to avoid collision.
She straightened with a start and looked up at her former teacher. "Oh, Professor Snape," she said in surprise taking a slight step back.
She was a wreck. Seventeen years experience teaching adolescent girls told him that this was the work of a boy. A Weasley, most likely, if he thought about it. He tried not to.
"Your face is leaking," he said bluntly.
Hermione should have known not to expect anything less from him. She let out an angry snort and replied, "Yes. Well, you-," she stammered. "Ugh! Sod off Snape!" She blew past him, continuing on her original path.
"How dare you," he thought, spinning quickly around to grab the offender by her arm, stopping her immediately and turning her to face him. He stood there keeping her in his grip, angry but unwilling to do anything about it. Fear overtook her already-disheveled appearance and it stilled him. Slowly he released her and reached into his sleeve.
Hermione stood frozen, fearing retaliation for her rude behavior and expecting him to curse her. She watched him; first in terror then with great surprise as his hand returned not his wand but a white handkerchief. He offered it to her and she took it apprehensively. She turned her face back up to him in question. "Who are you and what have you done with Severus Snape," she thought.
"If they see you cry, they win," he said solemnly.
She shook her head with understanding and slowly began blotting the tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry, Professor. I'm just so-" She found herself unable to articulate fully what she was at this moment and slumped in exasperation.
"Yes, well I deserved it, I suppose." Snape drawled. He allowed her a few moments to compose herself. "So, just where are you off to in your current state?" he asked at last.
"Are you joking Miss Granger?"
"No I'm not!" spat Hermione. "Madam Pince has ousted me from the library for crying too loudly and Gryffindor Tower is infested with Weasley's," she grumbled, staring angrily back into the handkerchief.
"You've only just noticed?" he quipped.
Hermione sneered at him in response. "I'm only hoping that Ginny will be asleep by the time I return from the Three Broomsticks," she added.
"Intending to drown your sorrows? Really, Miss Granger?" he asked raising an eyebrow at the young woman.
"What of it?" she said, placing her hand defiantly on her hip.
"You mean aside from the fact that butterbeer is a highly inefficient means to your ends," Snape sneered mockingly.
"Then firewhiskey it is!" she returned hotly. "I AM of age. It's about time I learned of its allure."
"Well, that does conjure and amusing image," he smirked as a drunken Hermione wobbled down the halls in his mind eye. "but I'm afraid I cannot allow it."
"Well I'm afraid you have no say in the matter, really. You may have forgotten that you are no longer my instructor, nor have you been re-instated as Headmaster. In fact, I recall that you are not even teaching a single course this year. Can you even deduct house points? " she taunted. "The truth is that you have absolutely no authority over me Professor." She finished by folding her arms over her chest.
"I am fully aware that I have no authority over you Miss Granger," he growled slowly. Towering over her he bored his black eyes into her. "But perhaps you can rein in your emotional deluge long enough to take note of the weather," He jabbed a finger in the direction of the window as another round of thunder and lightning lent emphasis to his words.
She turned to the rain-assaulted window and frowned into the bleakness. Snape stepped up behind her, leaning into her ear. "Go if you must, little girl," he whispered darkly. "As you are so easy to point out, I am useless to stop you. But know this. Should you find yourself lost on the path back to Hogwarts, especially after a rude education on the not-so-subtle properties of firewhiskey, I'll be under no obligation to save you."
"Bugger," she grumbled in defeat. She closed her eyes and began crying again, leaning helplessly on the castle wall for support.
Snape wanted to leave her in her misery, especially after her snarkiness. But something in her apparent desperation to be numb reminded him of a twenty-year old man learning that the love of his life had agreed to marry his enemy.
"Granger," he said reversing some of his earlier sharpness. But Hermione did not answer. He stepped closer and grabbed her wrist. "Come with me," he said pulling her down the corridor. She followed mutely.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked quietly as they passed the Great Hall and turned toward the dungeons. Now it was Snape's turn to remain silent as he continued past the Potions classrooms. Fortunately the halls leading to the Slytherin dormitories were empty at this hour as most everyone else was still at dinner. They descended the spiral staircase and entered his office and private Potions laboratory through an arched doorway.
Snape released Hermione's arm and glanced quickly at her before pulling back a heavy tapestry to reveal his quarters. He stepped inside but did not ask her to follow. She wondered if he intended for her to remain in the laboratory or to enter his quarters behind him. Hesitantly, she let herself past the tapestry and stopped just inside the sitting room. Snape's head spun around to register her entrance, but he said nothing.
"Oops," she thought. He stared at her briefly, but then turned back towards a wooden cabinet at the far end of the room.
"Sit," he said with his back turned. Hermione took a seat in a cushioned black chair close to the door. She surveyed the room, taking in the modest furnishings, minimal decorations and overall lonely feel. Books lined the walls in all directions and she began wondering about the dark magic contained therein.
The clinking of glass ripped her from her thoughts. She turned to find Snape offering her a glass of amber liquid in a short crystal glass. Firewhiskey.
"If you are bent on experimentation Miss Granger, then perhaps you will indulge me by doing so a more controlled environment." he said.
She tentatively took the glass and sniffed. The heavy stinging smell of alcohol hit her nose and she snorted slightly.
She could feel his amusement but remained focused on her glass. She peered up momentarily to see a thin smile creep over his face, daring her to drink the liquid. With a sudden burst of courage she took a large sip.
The appropriateness of the beverage's name caught Hermione's immediate attention. She inhaled deeply from shock. Bad idea. Her entire mouth and esophagus seemed to burst into flames and she choked repeatedly. The liquid hit her stomach in seconds and a wicked warmth spread throughout her abdomen and chest. She took another deep intake of air, finally managing to catch her breath. The hair on the back of her neck stood up in protest and a light sweat came over her lip.
She opened her eyes at last, not realizing she had even closed them, to find Snape holding a clenched hand to his lips. Apparently he was physically restraining himself from laughing out loud. "Was it everything you had hoped?" he drawled silkily twisting his face into a mischievous smile.
"I don't know yet," she rasped. "It'll take some getting used to, that's for certain," she said pursing her lips on the exhale. She challenged the amber liquid with a scowl before taking a second, much smaller sip.
"Aahhgh" she exclaimed. Taking it slower did not prove to reduce the fire on her tongue at all. She sniffed the liquid again, still determined to finish what she had started.
Snape took a seat on the settee across from her and, taking a modest gulp from his own glass, sat back to quietly admire the Gryffindor's bravery. He let out a small huff of laughter when Hermione shivered slightly after another sip. It reminded him of himself as a child taking a dose of a foul tasting medicine. But the child doesn't take medicine as willingly as the adult who knows fully of its purpose. Snape studied Hermione. He wondered if her bravery to endure the burn was out of a need to feel its effects or simple curiosity… to 'learn of its allure'.
"This is rumored to be a sipping drink. Yet the flavor is quite horrible, really," she observed.
"It is what you need it to be," he offered in a slow misty voice that had Hermione suddenly pondering the potential magical properties of her drink. "There are many ways to enjoy it if you are willing to experiment. If your intention is to forget… to go numb," he said staring into his glass, "take it hard and fast. If you prefer to savor it however, I suggest you undress it with a splash of water." His black eyes met her brown ones.
Hermione's mouth dropped open slightly at his words. "God, did he know how that came across?" But one read of his devilish smile convinced her that this Slytherin never chose his words carelessly.
"Too far, Snape," he admonished himself silently as he registered Hermione's understanding. "I assumed from your emotional outburst earlier, that you required the former. But if you insist on sipping it, I'd be happy to add a bit of water for you."
"And what if I want something in between?" she asked cautiously, not sure if they were still talking about whiskey.
"Then I suggest you disguise it. Many women prefer it with a sugar cube and a cherry. Some take it with juice. But I find that both often produce a nasty hangover, especially since it's easier to lose record of your consumption."
"Hmmm." Hermione considered her options momentarily then downed the remaining liquid. She held her breath for a few seconds and held the empty glass out to Snape. "Another... please," she breathed with a devilish smile of her own.
He hesitated for a moment, looking for signs of intoxication. Her eyes were a bit dilated and her cheeks flushed. But not too much. It was a small pour, the first round, after all. He retrieved the glass from her hand and went to fill it.
Hermione stood up as he headed to the cabinet and giggled quietly to herself as she realized that the alcohol had begun to take effect. She headed towards the book shelf as a title beckoned her closer. She recognized it as one of the several books that she had consulted to save his life.
It had been five months since she found him at Malfoy Manor clinging to life. And two months since the trial and the Interim Council's decision to keep him out of Azkeban, but imprisoned in a body stripped of magic. She didn't agree with the ruling but he had accepted it without comment. She suddenly felt guilty for not asking him sooner about his new "life" and a little shamed for taunting him earlier.
"I'm sorry," she muttered almost to herself.
"For what?" he said from a position surprisingly close to her. She hadn't heard him approach at all and nearly jumped at the sound of his voice. "Relax Miss Granger. You seem to forget. I can no longer hex you."
He handed her the refilled glass and took a long drink from his own, never taking his gaze off of his former student. Hermione took a tentative sip and noticed a subtle difference in the scent of the amber liquid. She stared at her glass questioningly. He couldn't hex her, but would he be so devious as to slip something in her drink? It would be fair, she supposed, as she had done the same months ago when he refused to take a pain potion.
"Water. It changes the aromatic properties." he explained.
So he had decided she should savor it. She was thankful that she didn't have to explain the need for a change in pace. She was certain that her nose was growing a bit numb but didn't care to share that with him just now. "The undressing," she said with understanding.
"Now, what were you apologizing for Miss Granger," he asked after she had taken another sip.
"Hermione." she offered. "As we are here sharing drinks, the formality seems hardly appropriate."
"Well then. Since I have been relieved of my teaching duties, as you so kindly pointed out earlier, you may call me Severus, if you wish," he replied.
She winced at the reminder of her rudeness earlier. "I really am sorry about that. I suppose I've had enough of everyone telling me what to do lately. Not that you have had much choice in your life either. I certainly don't wish to diminish what you must be going through… what you've gone through. And I'm sorry for not coming to see how you were handling the Council's decision. You must be-"
"Hermione!" he said trying to interrupt her babbling.
"Sorry," she said smiling and touching her finger to her nose.
He let out a soft chuckle as he realized he may have misjudged her level of intoxication. "Sit," he commanded once again. She took a seat on the settee rather than the chair and he joined her on the other end. Feeling very warm suddenly, Hermione removed a light blue silk scarf from around her neck and set it between them.
"This is NOT butterbeer. That's for sure," she admitted with a giggle.
"No," he laughed. It was a full laugh. Not a stifled chuckle, not a snide cackle. And the smile that remained was true. Not the haughty smirk she had grown accustomed to. She wondered how long it had been since he laughed. She remembered the smiling child from the pensieve and hoped it hadn't been that long.
"How are you, Severus?" she asked tilting her head slightly, penetrating him with the efficiency of a fine blade. The smile disappeared.
"I'm fine Miss Granger," he said turning away from her instantly.
"I'm sorry. It just seemed that maybe you needed someone to talk to about everythi-"
"You're wrong." he said bluntly as he took another long draw of his drink. "I neither need nor wish to discuss anything."
"But you can, if you like." she offered softly, her brown eyes pleading for both his forgiveness and trust.
"Tell me then, why were you crying when you nearly ran into me this afternoon?" he shot at her sharply. The question was heavy with venom, prying her open in the manner he imagined she meant for him. She did not answer. But her furrowed brow and watery eyes spoke volumes. "Hmm? Or is talking about it too painful?" He drew the words out like pulling a blade slowly from bowels of an enemy.
It was scary how easily this man's mood could turn on her. But Hermione recognized his cruelty as a defense mechanism.
"Fine then," she said defiantly, hoping her honesty would prompt him to talk. "I was crying because I had just had another row with Ron. I told him I wanted to end our relationship days ago and he lashed out me about the 'way I ended it' at dinner. He's been a total arse about it, really."
"You ended it?" Snape replied in disbelief. "I assumed from the waterworks that he dumped you," he added hurtfully.
"He did not!" she shot back. "I told him that I no intention of following him around like some Quidditch groupie for the rest of my life. If I had to leave him to follow my dreams I would." Hermione ended her rant with a heavy pull from her glass.
"Good on you, Hermione," he added softly.
"Damn right! I can't help it if the only available potions apprenticeship is in Romania. I mean, he could have easily tried for the Romanian team, but that would mean following me around like a 'kept man'," she fumed. "Why should his dreams be more important than mine?"
"They shouldn't be. It's clear that Weasley is ill-suited to you," he said, wishing immediately he hadn't said it aloud. Hermione's head spun around and she narrowed her eyes at him. He reeled a bit from the force of her gaze. "See? Now didn't it help to talk that all out?" he teased darkly.
She snorted as she closed in on the distance between them and licked her lips. "Yes. It did."
Suddenly Hermione couldn't take her eyes off Snape. Was it the alcohol? The double entendres? Or the fact that there were other things lacking in her relationship with Ron that she didn't dare speak of with Snape. She wasn't sure about any of it except that Snape had the most delicious looking lips and his eyes were deep and inviting.
They sat there staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity. It was consuming all of Snape's will not to take her. But he had barely forged this… what was it? Friendship? In any case, he didn't want to undo it with a revenge fuck. "I think you-" he began. But her lips descended on him before he could stop it. He grabbed her hair instinctively, desperately and deepened the kiss. She was sweet and warm and everything he needed right now.
But it was wrong. "Not like this." He pushed her away gently and held her in his gaze as he spoke. "Hermione, you don't really want this."
She did, but for all the wrong reasons. She didn't tell him that. She nodded and pulled herself up from the couch. "I should go." She made to leave through the door but he grabbed her by the wrist.
"Use the fireplace. Dinner is out now and there will be Slytherins in the halls. I needn't tell you what they'll make of an inebriated Hermione Granger exiting the private quarters of her former teacher." He offered her a bowl of floo powder.
She smiled at him. One needn't be a Slytherin to spread rumors about teachers and students. And news of a tryst between the fairest of the Golden Trio and the double agent/hero of the recent war wouldn't stay within the walls of Hogwarts for long. She took a pinch of the powder.
"Good night, Hermione," Snape whispered.
She leaned up and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, Severus"
With a call to the Gryffindor common room, she disappeared into the green flames and he was alone.
He downed the remainder of his beverage and made to go to bed, passing the settee on his way. A length of light blue silk caught his eye and he leaned down to pick it up. Hermione's scarf. He twirled the smooth fabric in his fingers. He would have to send it to her tomorrow… along with a hangover potion, he thought. When he brought the scarf to his nose and inhaled her scent it threaded itself through his lonely head.
Maybe he would send the potion alone.
A/N This is a subplot in a longer story (that explains how Snape will get his magic back) that I am working on, but I thought it could stand on its own as a one shot. Please let me know how my first fanfic is. I could really use a second pair of eyes on it.