Characters are property of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Universe. Thankfully, she allows me to borrow them for a bit of fun.
The Problems of Drinking
The droning ring in his head was the first clue that led him to realize he had drank entirely too much the night before. A night of frivolity such as the one he had just endured was, in Severus's opinion, highly unorthodox considering not only his age but his profession as well. After all, Hogwarts professors did not have fun, but more importantly, they did not have the sort of fun what would lead to a hangover-induced torpor. Severus cautiously opened his eyes, but instead of spotting the stone ceiling of his private rooms, he was greeted by the gum and bogey covered underside of a table sitting in the Great Hall. He blinked heavily, as if such a gesture would ease the throbbing in his head and the ache in his back. He was not that lucky, of course. As Severus's senses came back to him, it became painfully obvious that he had lost one of his boots throughout the course of the night and was wearing what appeared to be Minerva McGonagall's pointed green hat.
Severus, unsure of his next move, simply lay there beneath the table a long while with a look of sheer panic and confusion etched across his stubble ridden features. That was when he heard it, the slight, snort-like snore that came from somewhere off to his left. Severus turned his head, wincing as the headache he had developed wracked through his brain like a jackhammer on asphalt. It was his colleague, Hermione Granger, who lay curled up asleep on the bench belonging to the Ravenclaw House table. A bit of spittle was oozing from the corner of her mouth, dampening the sleeve of her wrinkled green jumper; truly a frightful sight to behold when paired with her righteous mane of hair that stuck every direction but the one intended.
During his intense scrutiny of his sleeping, graceless colleague, it suddenly occurred to Severus that he had been given a chance to escape and spare himself further embarrassment. He had to get up and get moving before anyone had the chance to spot the end result of his liquor-induced shenanigans. Slowly, Severus rolled from beneath the table and matching bench, his lower back protesting with each movement. It felt like he had been stuck with a red-hot poker plucked straight from a bed of smoldering coals, but he dared not touch the inflamed flesh. He laid there, stomach to floor, for a good minute with the tip of Minerva's hat dangling between his eyes before he finally managed to pull himself upright through the pain. It took Severus several minutes to overcome the severe throbbing in his head before he was able stumble from the Great Hall to the privacy of his personal chambers.
As he walked, supported by the stone walls of the corridor, Severus's addled mind reeled. He was usually one to hold his liquor, but given the current state he was in, It was quite plain that he had had more than his fill. With each step he took, he was reminded by the absent click of his left boot that he needed to retrace his steps and figure out exactly what happened. Now, however, all Severus wanted was a Headache Draught and a hot shower. With his head hung to fend off his massive headache, Severus trudged along on his walk of shame, holding on to the wall as if it would run away from him if he turned it loose.
Headache Draught was, by Severus's standards, a particularly vile potion, tasting like a cross between vinegar and buttermilk. He suffered through two small phials before the acidity ate away at the pressure in his head, giving him his first bit of relief. Once the potion took full effect, however, Severus realized just how much the pain in his back had added to the throbbing in his head. It was an odd burning sensation that he recognized, but couldn't quite place. He had no idea why or how he had garnered such an injury as the last thing he remembered was a few Hogwarts staff heading into a new pub at Diagon Alley to celebrate the end of another term. Severus had no other recollection to speak of but just assumed that, in his drunken stupor, he had pulled a muscle. A good hot shower, he thought, would loosen up the tightness and allow him to get on with his day.
Undressing had been a chore all its own, but that was nothing compared to the miserable time he had in the bath. The hot water stung like a thousand tiny needles were being driven one by one painfully into his back, but he endured it long enough to rid himself of the suds he had lathered in his hair. Severus stepped out of the shower, pulling a towel around his waist so he could examine his lower back in greater detail.
The placement of the injury Severus sustained was rather unfortunate considering he could not see it no matter how he positioned himself. After standing in front of his vanity mirror, twisting and turning on the tips of his toes, Severus was almost positive a seasoned contortionist couldn't maneuver their body enough to spot such a concealed location. The most he was able to make out in the fog of his recent shower was a small, indecipherable black blob that moved from his left hip bone to the center of his back.
Severus wasn't entirely sure what was back there but he was certain something was. He found himself at a crossroads, so to speak. He could continue to contort himself with no luck, or he could solicit the help of someone else. Who that particular person was, at this point, remained to be seen. Poppy Pomfrey was one possible candidate, but the thought of her fussing over him, immediately drove that notion from his mind. Severus considered Filius Flitwick, but their relationship did not extend beyond the castle walls. This stemmed from the fact that Filius couldn't always appreciate Severus's dry humor. Then, of course, it could have also been because Severus found the half-goblin far too chipper for his liking. Whatever the underlying reason, though Severus expected it to be the latter, Flitwick was no longer an option. That left Severus with only Minerva and Hermione Granger to seek for advice.
Minerva, Severus was sure, would not want to be bothered with his current personal troubles, as she was most likely dealing with the affairs normally carried out by the Headmaster or Headmistress at the end of the term. Minerva had also been present at the pub the night before and would probably scold him for behaving in such a dishonorable manner. Then, of course, there was the issue of the hat that he had supposedly commandeered from Minerva at some point during the night. Severus sighed heavily. He was in no mood for the lecture he was sure to get, so that left him with his last possible option. He would have to go to Hermione.
Severus took special care when dressing, so as to not disturb the raw spot on his back any further. That did little to appease the angered flesh, because when Severus finally started his journey to Hermione's chambers, the rough fabric of his shirt would brush against his skin causing him to wince with each step. He could only hope that she was on the third floor and not in the Great Hall, because he wasn't entirely positive he could make it the whole way.
The trek to his colleague's rooms took almost five minutes longer than it should have, and Severus was almost certain he looked like some sort of invalid given the way he was slowing slinking his way down the corridors. By the time he reached Hermione's door, Severus was hardly moving his upper body and he certainly didn't care if anyone saw. Knocking on the door was a particularly difficult affair, but thankfully the door squeaked open after the third rap.
Hermione Granger stood on the other side of the door, looking much better than the last time Severus had seen her. "I see you're still in one piece," she said as she held the door open for him to pass through.
"That, I'm afraid, remains to be seen at this point," Severus managed as politely as the situation would allow.
Hermione returned to her spot on her settee, a strong cup of tea in her hand and a smile on her face. "What can I do for you this morning?"
Severus stood awkwardly in the middle of her floor before he finally decided there was no point in beating around the proverbial bush. He turned around and pulled up his oxford, presenting his white back to Hermione. All the while, his fingers were pointing to the spot of flesh giving him distress. "I'm sorry to subject you to this sort of thing, but I must figure out what the hell that is?"
"Oh, Severus," Hermione began, her voice strained with genuine concern and the slightest bit of humor, "not you too."
Severus slowly turned around, his face a slightly lighter tint of white. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Hermione tried in vain to conceal a slight smile as she spoke. "It means, I don't think you really want to know what's going on back there."
Severus huffed in annoyance as he hiked his shirt up even further. "I can assure you, Hermione, any dignity I had before yesterday evening has long since died under the Slytherin House table. Spare me further torment and just tell me what it is."
Hermione grimaced, but did as he asked. "It's a tattoo."
Severus, who had been fidgeting with the tail of his shirt, suddenly went as rigid as a marble statue. Slowly, his hand extended to the reddened, agitated flesh as if he was attempting to decipher it like a blind person would braille. When slender fingers ran over the raised flesh a pained hiss seeped from his lips. "What does it say?" he whispered, suddenly sounding as if he was referring to something indecent in nature.
"It doesn't say anything," Hermione clarified. "It is a picture."
Severus gulped, fearing the worst. "A picture of what?"
Hermione shook her head, not really wanting to divulge such a scandalous secret. "Well, from the looks of it, you have a very well-endowed witch parading around topless on your lower back, Severus."
"You're lying," he said, suddenly sounding scandalized.
"If only I were," Hermione said as if she had a bad taste in her mouth. "She appears to have Minerva's likeness, oddly enough. I wonder if the Headmistress knows."
Severus hastily yanked his shirt down, his face flushing bright red as the realization of what he had supposedly done slowly sank in. By the look on his face it was quite clear that Severus would have rather been dragged to the bottom of the Black Lake by the giant squid than learn of the incriminating truth within his very skin. "I have to get this off!"
"Well, you can't just wipe it off," Hermione said matter-of-factly. "You'll have to go back to the artist and have him remove it magically."
"I know that!" Severus snapped, the panic in his voice taking control. He sat down stiffly on the edge of the nearest chair, his head in his hands. "What on earth possessed me to do something so idiotically stupid, I'll never understand."
"I've got one too, if it makes you feel any better," Hermione admitted, trying not to laugh at the sight of the unnerved wizard in her living room.
Severus looked up at Hermione, his face void of any humor. In fact, it looked as if he was about to keel over at any moment from the shock. "How could that possibly make me feel better? I can almost guarantee that you don't have the image of an elderly indecent woman flouncing about on your backside!"
Hermione's face remained passive still, though on the inside she was had completely lost control of her laughter. "You're right. I don't have that particular thing, but neither do you."
Severus's head snapped up. "But you said..."
Hermione smiled slyly, and suddenly Severus understood that he had been duped. "That was for leaving me in the Great Hall this morning. You could have woken me, you know."
"So, Minerva isn't on my back?" he asked, ignoring Hermione's comment.
Hermione shook her head. "Not at all, but there is someone there."
"How do I know if I can trust you?" Severus asked as he studied her face for the slightest bit of deceit. "You've lied to me once already today which I will get retribution for, I can assure you."
"You'll just have to take me at my word I suppose," Hermione offered. "I can tell you this: It appears we received our respective tattoos at the same time."
"Let's see yours," Severus said suddenly as though he was testing her for truthfulness.
Rather than object, Hermione walked over to him, hoisting her shirt up to reveal a strikingly familiar silhouette on her side. Severus's eyes went wide as he recognized the hair, the nose, the familiar billowing robes as the tiny ink man walked his usual gait of disdain and intimidation.
"I'm afraid so."
"That would mean the topless witch on my back is you, then?"
"The tattoo artist was particularly meticulous, right down to the beauty mark that hides here," Hermione said lazily, pointing to a concealed spot on her left breast.
Severus eased himself back in his chair so as to not agitate the stinging evidence of their night full of far too much fun. "Such a shame the cad put it where I couldn't get a proper look at it," he said to himself, though the saucy comment was loud enough to travel to Hermione's ears.
Hermione looked at him quizzically as she brought her tea cup to her mouth. "I'm sure if you pressed the issue enough, you could see the primary source for yourself."
Severus cocked eyebrow as Hermione casually sipped her tea, the hint of a salacious smile creeping across her face.
Author's Notes: This is incredibly silly and somewhat OOC for all involved. It would also be imperative to mention that this is my first attempt at stepping out my normal angsty world. At any rate, reviews are welcomed and greatly appreciated!
Also, I would like to extend a very special thanks to Meladara for taking the time to read over this nonsense. You rock my dear!