A/N: I own nothing. It all belongs to JK. Please read, enjoy, and review!
Chapter One – A Bottle of Firewhiskey
He strode through the house of number 12, Grimmauld Place, enjoying the silence it offered. He had the place to himself, and he was looking forward to the bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey he had stashed in the library earlier that month. It had been a long day of staff meetings at Hogwarts, and he was tired of dealing with people in general. The start of term was only a little more than a month away, and the Headmistress still had not found a replacement for Slughorn, who had insisted upon retiring. This left both the job of Potions Master and the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor to him. It was a weight that he was loath to carry upon his shoulders, but it was his load nonetheless. And his strength was starting to wane.
As he neared the library, he paused. Was that sniffling? After another few seconds of silence, he waved the noise off, assuming it was Kreacher somewhere within the house, and continued his path towards solitude. He halted when he swung open the door. There, sitting on the couch holding his bottle of liquor, was Hermione Granger.
In the past three years, since the defeat of Voldemort and Severus's acquittal of all war crimes, Severus and Hermione had worked together at Hogwarts, repairing the damage and infusing the magic once again into its walls. She had also studied under his keen eye as she moved forward to gain her title as Potions Mistress, as well as Charms Mistress. He wasn't certain that their relationship could be determined as a friendship, but they did have mutual respect for each other, and he no longer carried any ill will towards the girl. In fact, he had expressed to her that he hoped she would be happy in whatever she endeavored to do with her life. And he had truly and sincerely meant every word. He pushed past the heavy door and was able to see her more clearly; it was obvious that she had been crying.
"Miss Granger—what, pray tell, are you doing here?" he drawled in an even voice. He was certainly annoyed that he would not be spending his evening in blissful seclusion, but he couldn't find the strength in him to take his displeasure out on the crying woman that he almost considered a friend.
"And with my Firewhiskey, no less." He glanced down at the bottle in her petite hands. Good gods! He thought. She's drunk a third of the bottle already!
In the few years of working with Hermione, Severus had become familiar with her habits. She was a very neat person and was often cleaning her work space. Her clothing was always clean and fresh, often even ironed. Her unruly hair had been tamed into sweeping flows of honey curls that fell delicately around her slight face. She secured the mass into a tight bun or braid when she worked.
She finally looked up to acknowledge his presence. The girl sitting in front of him was a stark contrast to the woman he had come to know.
She truly was a mess. Her soft brown eyes were bloodshot and swollen, leaking tears consistently down the sides of her face. Her nose was red, as if she had been wiping it incessantly. Her cheeks were flushed and wet and streaked with salt lines from tears that had long ago dried. And her hair was askew and flying every which way it pleased. She hiccupped slightly as she realized his presence.
"Oh! Professor S-Snape. I'm-hic-so sorry. I didn't realize-hic- that anyone would be-hic-here." Her voice was soft and thin. She began to rise from the couch, but she stumbled, and Severus had to reach out to steady her.
"I don't believe you are in a position to go anywhere, Miss Granger." He guided her back into a sitting position and she quickly burst into sobs. He stood, paralyzed, not completely sure what to do.
"I'm-I'm so s-sorry!" she stammered through her tears. "I-I must l-look like a b-b-bluber-er-ing idiot!" She collapsed into hysterical crying. It was when she started hyperventilating that Severus finally moved to the couch and sat beside her, awkwardly patting her back.
"You, Miss Granger, could never be mistaken for any kind of idiot, blubbering or not. But, you do need to breathe. Depriving your brain of oxygen will only heighten the chances of you actually becoming an idiot." Her crying suddenly turned to a watery chuckle as she shook her head.
"You and your jokes, Snape, I'll never quite understand them." Her crying slowly became an occasional sniffle, and she added more Firewhiskey to her tumbler.
"Do you care to tell me what has caused your current state of mind? I don't recall you ever having more than one drink. And that was always with food." His tone was almost bored, but he really was curious as to what had this normally composed witch in such a state that she was bordering on giving herself alcohol poisoning. He Summoned a tumbler for himself and lifted the bottle out of her hands and poured himself a measure. He quickly downed the liquid in one gulp and refilled his glass.
"He's cheating on me," she said, in a voice barely louder than a whisper. "Has been for months apparently. I walked in on him and Lavender Brown earlier when I stopped by his flat to tell him the good news of my job offer." She took a steadying breath. "And then he broke up with me. Can you believe that? I didn't even get the satisfaction of cutting him loose. He did it for me. The fucking bastard!" And with that, she tossed back the burning liquor remaining in her glass.
Severus was again at a loss for words. So he simply said what he had always thought of her relationship with the redhead. "Mr. Weasley never was good enough for you, Miss Granger. Your intelligence level deserves much more substance than Quiddich stats and the latest flying broom specifics." He tossed back his remaining Firewhiskey as well and refilled both of their glasses.
"Now," he started, as he corked the bottle and set it on the table. "I believe that Mr. Weasley deserves no more of your time and tears. Tell me about your job offer." He leaned back against the arm of the sofa and crossed his long legs, facing Hermione.
Her face quickly changed into the excited expression of a child who just found out she was receiving a shopping spree at Honeydukes. She haphazardly swung her leg onto the couch and leaned in towards Severus slightly.
"Oh yes! Well, Minerva asked me to step in as Potions Mistress at Hogwarts! She also said that she was in need of a Head of House for Gryffindor since she wasn't able to carry out the duties anymore, and there wasn't another teacher from the house." Her words were slightly slurred and they tumbled out of her mouth so quickly that Severus barely understood them. "I told her I would love to teach and be Head of House, but I wasn't comfortable taking some of the older classes just yet. I was in school with them and I think it might be awkward, you know? So she suggested I discuss splitting some classes with you!" As she finished, she slumped back onto the side of the sofa, beaming at him.
The weight he had walked in with was now lifting. He would not need a Time-Turner to survive the next school year.
He refilled both of their tumblers with Firewhiskey and raised his in her direction. "Congratulations, Miss Granger. Your new position is well deserved. A toast to your continued success." As she lifted her own tumbler to make contact with his, she blushed with satisfied embarrassment. She is lovely when she blushes. Realizing what that thought had just implied, he shook his head as if to rid himself of such an indecent notion.
"I am sure we can come to some sort of arrangement," he said quickly, not wanting to linger on how appealing the faint color in his former apprentice's cheeks made her seem.
"I believe we can both agree that Potions is your forte, can we not?" he continued. She was adequate in Defense Against the Dark Arts and there was no doubt that her Charms work would be sufficient for the younger years; but Potions was where she shined. Her N.E.W.T. score in Potions had rivaled his own. He would have felt threatened if he hadn't been so damn proud of his former student and apprentice. It was slightly annoying. He was proud of a Gryffindor. A Gryffindor!
"Oh, yes," she responded cheerfully. "Quite definitely. Shall I take years First through Fourth for Potions and First through Third Years in Defense?"
He shook his head adamantly. "No, I'd much rather have only Potions students who want to learn. I am quite certain that I may just lose my self-control if I am to endure another careless dunderhead blowing up a cauldron. No, I will take only the N.E.W.T. students in Potions and Third Years and above in Defense. Is that agreeable to you?" He looked at her pointedly.
She cocked her head to the side and stared into the air as if reading an invisible blackboard in the air. "No, that's not completely fair. First through Fifth Years have two classes each; whereas the N.E.W.T. levels only have one. If we do as you suggest, that gives you ten classes and leaves me fourteen! Uh-uh! I may be slightly drunk, but you won't get one over on me!" She swayed a little as she finished her rant, bringing her fist down swiftly to make contact with her opposite hand. Severus had to stifle a snort.
"Well, let me assure you, it was not my intention to use your inebriation to my own gain. What say you to my taking the Second Years and above in Defense? That should even out our schedules. Hm?" Hermione again looked at the invisible blackboard in front of her.
"You just don't want to deal with Firsties," she answered with a smirk.
"Are we agreed?" He held out his had to seal the deal, praying that she remembered all of this in the morning.
She gave him a lopsided grin and gripped his hand. "Agreed, Professor Snape."
Severus took another long sip of his Firewhiskey while arching an eyebrow. "Indeed, Miss, or should I say Professor, Granger." Her face shone with pride. Her scholarly side had always been a priority. It was one of the qualities Severus admired in the girl. No, woman. Hermione Granger had grown quite nicely out of the bushy-haired know-it-all into an intelligent, attractive woman. An unconscious smile appeared on his lips as he drained his glass once again.
"And just what are you smirking at?" Hermione questioned, refilling both of their glasses. Her words were becoming more slurred by the minute, but it was almost enchanting. He had never seen her this relaxed before.
"Just reminiscing about one such dunderhead my second year of teaching…."
An hour and half later found both Severus and Hermione completely and utterly drunk. The empty bottle of Firewhiskey lay forgotten by the sofa, along with Hermione's shoes and robes, leaving her in only grey trousers and a thin, green tank top. Severus had taken off his own black robes and frock jacket and was only wearing black pants and a cotton button-down shirt. They were now both in the middle of the couch, laughing at something neither one could remember. And that's when it happened.
Sometime during her giggle fit, Hermione's curls fell forward, obscuring part of her wonderful face. For reasons unbeknownst to him, Severus instinctively reached out and brushed the strands of wayward hair behind her ear. Her laughing ceased, but the brilliant smile remained.
Severus stopped seeing Hermione as a student in his class. The woman sitting in front of him, her hand resting on his knee, laughing with him, not at him, was beautiful. And she was his equal, his colleague.
It's just the alcohol talking, Severus, his logical mind attempted to reason with his spontaneous side told him over and over again that she was now his equal. The Firewhiskey overshadowing his logic, Severus leapt into waters of which he hadn't skimmed the surface for years. He leaned over slightly and gently kissed Hermione. A surprised look came over her delicate face, and for a brief second, he regretted his actions. But her smile broadened, and she leaned in to kiss him back.
He couldn't believe he was doing this. He shouldn't be doing this. They were both drunk and not in a right frame of mind, but morals be damned! He had never been kissed so avidly in his life, and he was enjoying it as much as she seemed to be.
Their kisses became more and more passionate, their hands roaming each other's bodies. Severus was acutely aware of how narrow the sofa they were occupying was and pulled back from her fervent kisses to whisper, "I've taken up residence in a room upstairs."
Her eyes glittered with just a hint of lust as she nodded and rolled off the couch very ungracefully. As quickly as his alcohol-addled body could manage, he stood. Grabbing her hand, he led her up the stairs.
A/N: Many thanks to my wonderful beta, AmyLouise. Also, to my friend and alpha reader, Morgan. You two make my fandom world awesome. *hugs*