Disclaimer: I will never own Harry Potter and its characters which belong to JK Rowling, be it from the movies and / or the books.
I was inspired to do this little plot bunny by two things. One, by our first Beater's favorite pairing, Severus / Hermione. Second by Arpad Hrunta's "Harry Potter Drabble Pit" specifically the chapter "Magical Mixology"
Also, this is my Entry for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition (Season 3 - First round) for the Caerphilly Catapults against the Wimborne Wasps while using these prompts: (dialogue) "You have about as much charm as a flobberworm", (word) change and (setting) a restaurant.
Special thanks again to my ever reliable beta frustratedstudent for being my sounding board and the voice of reason besides the grammar check for my fics.
Lastly, this is set in an alternative universe without Voldiemart and the Death munchers, cheers then.
Hermione Granger, assistant field officer in the Department of Magical Creatures, is currently having the worst month of her life after graduation. She finished her bottle of Guinness to please Rosemerta after failing to find someone who could make a perfect Unicorn's Hoof. In the Three Broomsticks, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She recalled the last few weeks that made her life miserable enough to bring back her old habit of drinking.
In the first week of August, her five year boyfriend Ron Weasley broke up with her for Gabrielle Delacour of all people. She in turn reminded him again why she used to be called Hermione "Right Cross" Granger. She left him knocked out with a broken jaw in the middle of the streets of Diagon Alley at high noon.
The second week found her demoted from field officer to assistant field officer. It was a right mess after all those Horklumps that a muggle accidentally released in the middle of the London Underground. "Even though I led that operation, it wasn't my fault Dennis Creevey and Marietta Edgecombe are complete idiots for fumbling with their stunning spells. Instead of hitting the last two Horklumps, which are the size of watermelons at 20 feet away, they hit the train operator and the son of the Minister of Education who was about to go to his friend's house." Hermione muttered angrily, gripping the empty bottle tightly for a moment to compose her emotions.
The succeeding week was a string of failures to find the new alcoholic mix that Ginny gave her called Unicorn's Hoof. One sip and she knew it was one of the best drinks she ever had. For some reason, all the pubs had them on the drinks list but could never execute the perfection of her first taste.
'Sure, I'm not an alcohol virtuoso, but I do have the reputation of being king of the hill at our group's drinking sprees.' Hermione thought as she remembered the first time she drank with Harry, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna at Neville's flat after they all graduated from Hogwarts.
"Oh come on Hermione, it's just us and we promise not to spread pictures of you doing something stupid." Ginny teased, handing her a bottle of Guinness.
Hermione took a tentative sip then drank the bottle straight up just as she was dared to do by Harry and Ginny. She smiled as she finished and her eyes sharpened, just like those times she was fixated on a book. 'Game on,' She thought as the night dragged on.
A few hours later and around 10 bottles or more, she's buzzed but still sober, wrapping Harry in a blanket who is the last man down. Ron passed out first on the table, snoring like a foghorn. Luna and Ginny went down next, both giggling like six-year-olds in their sleep on the two couches. Neville quit on them, made it to his bed and went to sleep. It left Harry and Hermione drinking and chatting until Harry gave up after he ended up laughing a bit too loud.
Before Harry laid down on the sleeping bag Neville keeps handy for his Herbology trips, he looked at Hermione and shook his head. "You're really something Hermione. Remind me to bet on you if you ever get into a drinking match." he muttered, which earned him a smack on the shoulder.
"Get to sleep, Potter. You're spouting gibberish already." Hermione replied with a soft smile, seeing her longtime bestfriend fall asleep and unofficially getting his self-proclaimed title as the King of the Guinness bottle mountain. It also marked the end of their teasing about her being a killjoy.
*End of flashback*
She wanted to end this month on a high note, trying to find the bar with the perfect glass of Unicorn's Hoof. Luna was about to be married next month and she wanted to have a last girls night out before the wedding preparations.
Bidding Rosmerta goodbye, Hermione went outside of the Three Broomstick. She apparated to London and walked towards the Leaky Cauldron, which is the last pub on her list for the night. By her count, she already had two imperfect Unicorn's Hoof glasses and 4 bottles of Guinness tonight. "Here's to hoping third time's the charm then." She whispered a wish, arriving in front of the Leaky Cauldron.
When she opened the door, it surprised her that the dingy pub she remembered three years ago was gone and is now a restaurant with a homely feel while maintaining a bar. Judging by the crowd's noise, it told her that everyone was enjoying their time in the Leaky Cauldron under the new owner, Anthony Goldstein.
On stage playing is the show band Galloping Ghouls, who is currently doing their take on the Rolling Stone's Paint It Black.
Heading straight to the bar, she took one of the empty stools and rested up while fixing her white blouse absentmindedly. Hermione found herself greeted by Seamus Finnegan and she said, "Good to see you Seamus. You work here?"
"It's my first day here. Hopefully the supervisor isn't hard on me too much." Seamus replied.
"Good luck to you then. I'll have an order of Unicorn's Hoof please." Hermione wished him luck with her order. However she wasn't surprised that a few minutes later, she heard an explosion and shouting.
With her curiosity winning out, she tried to hear the contents of the scolding.
"… None! None you idiot! If you want to brew conviviality, bottle conversation and stopper joy, rather than set things on fire, you'll have to work harder at mastering the subtle science that is mixology!"
Hermione shook her head and muttered, "I must be too buzzed. It sounded familiar but surely it can't be…"
Before she could complete the sentence, lo and behold, Severus Snape, master brewer walked towards her, looking apologetic. She noticed that he was wearing a plain black shirt, a pair of jeans and trainers and had his shoulder length hair tied in a ponytail, making him look younger than the drab swishing black robe she always associated him with.
"I apologize for the inept excuse for a bartender, Miss Granger?!" Severus said, with surprise in his normally disinterested tone. 'Well this is a surprise, one of my best but most obnoxious of students looking for a drink and slightly buzzed.' the potions master thought, squaring his shoulders and looking intently at Hermione, who was slightly fidgeting in her white blouse and pencil cut skirt.
"It wasn't a surprise to me since it was Seamus Finnegan, pyrotechnics extraordinaire." Hermione quipped, hiding her blush from her one time Potions professor and crush.
Steeling herself, she looked back at Severus and remarked, "Lost the bat wings I see? It looks better on you than the faux intimidation tactic you used at us in campus."
'So she has learned the subtle art of repartee? I approve. It's time for a little payback for the headache she gave me teaching her advance Potions.' Snape thought and replied, "Still presumptuous even after all these years? I prefer my robes to your long winded essays."
Slightly annoyed at him with her senses almost out the window, Hermione raised an eyebrow and retorted, "However your choice in personnel is reminiscent of your tolerance for annoyance, Mr. Snape." her eyes glanced at Seamus for a moment before focusing again playfully on Severus.
"A minor detail, given that I was not the one who hired him, Ms. Granger. With all this banter, I am under the impression that you are trying and failing to be charming." Severus replied, using his wand to summon a bottle of Ogden's Firewhiskey and Midlred's Magical Malmsey.
"Charming is one of the traits I am most capable of, unlike you Mr. Snape. You have as much charm as a flobberworm." Hermione stated, leaning forward on the table and looking intently at Severus.
'Touché, Granger.' Severus thought to himself, enjoying the first time they ever had a casual banter with each other. "Perhaps or perhaps not, Ms. Granger, call me Severus." he said, his right hand offered an introduction. His left had her Unicorn's Hoof.
Hermione smiled at him and shook his hand firmly, pleased with the strong grip behind the lanky frame then took her drink from his hand. "I will as long as you call me Hermione, Severus. I've been out of Merlin U for two years now."
Hermione took a sip of Unicorn's Hoof and smiled contentedly. It was perfection.
While Hermione mused on her drink, Severus turned his attention to Seamus for a moment and shouted, "You better clean up the mess and stop blowing up the bar, you incompetent nitwit! Hurry up!"
"Some things never change, I see. What brought you here anyway? I thought that being Potions Master in Merlin U was a cushy job?" Hermione inquired, taking another sip of her beverage.
"Before they hired the demolitions expert there, I had fun moonlighting as a bartender here at the Leaky Cauldron. The patrons tip better too." Severus replied, noticing Hermione's dour mood a few minutes ago. Taking a stab at the dark, he asked, "I never thought you'd be a lush, Hermione. Had a rough day?"
"More like a rough month." Hermione replied, lifting the drink a bit for examination. She noticed a sprig of mint that balances out the boldness of the firewhiskey and the delicate flavors of the malmsey. Hermione nodded her head in approval, finally finishing her drink.
"I assure you that my Unicorn's Hoof is nothing but perfection." Severus boldly stated, noticing that his new patron had reached her limit.
Hermione giggled, feeling the kick of the alcohol getting to her finally. "Most definitely Berry Snape. I've had the worst luck with the other bars looking for the perfect one. Thank you." she fished out two galleons from her pouch and paid for her drink with a generous tip.
Successfully standing up, she nodded at Severus and took three steps before losing her balance. Just as she was about to fall, Severus caught her and led her to the fireplace. With her left arm on Severus' shoulder, they arrived there without incident.
"I'll see you soon then." Severus said, letting go of Hermione.
Hermione took out her business card from her pouch and gave it to Snape. "Call me and let's meet up this week in more sober circumstances. I suppose you are not averse to sunlight, you cute old bat." she whispered to him, her eyes glazed over from the alcohol but still exuding seriousness.
A few seconds later, Hermione went home using the floo with a smile on her face.
Severus' eyes lingered at the fire place at a moment more, shaking his head at being hit on by Hermione Granger of all people. "She called me Berry Snape and cute old bat? What a nitwit." he muttered to himself with amusement, deigning it appropriate to keep Hermione's business card to meet her later that week. His musings and smirk disappeared when another explosion thundered in the restaurant a minute later. "FINNEGAN!"