Author's Notes: Written for the hpcon_envy community at LiveJournal for avery_goodun, who prompted me thus: Snape, Hermione and an old blue suede shoe.
Disclaimer: © 2010 Mundungus42. All rights reserved. This work may not be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur non-profit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by JKR or any other lawful holder. Permission may be obtained by e-mailing the author at mundungus42 at yahoo dot com
Going through the possessions of a departed loved one is never a pleasant experience, even in the best of circumstances. No thanks to her daughter and son-in-law, who had left the unpleasant task to her, Hermione was progressing through Andromeda and Ted's house with all due speed and detachment, discarding what could be discarded and cataloguing everything else, until she opened the cupboard off of their bedroom. The tiny space was filled with cardboard boxes and a rack of coats and brightly–coloured clothes.
Hermione was about to close the door when the scent of old leather and cloves hit her, and she froze, recognizing the distinctive smell of a friend long gone. Of course Andromeda and Ted had kept some of her things, presumably to give to Teddy at some point in the future. Hermione felt a lump in her throat and nearly closed the door again, not wishing to disturb the memory of Tonks that hung almost tangibly in the tiny cupboard, but a shiny box that seemed out of place caught her eye. She frowned and lit her wand, squatting to see if she was simply misreading the name on the box, but there it was, in festive ribbon-like letters: Louboutin.
Curiosity piqued, Hermione opened the box. Nestled in a bed of paper lay the sexiest shoe she had ever laid eyes on. It was a peep-toe court shoe with a precipitous and skinny heel, cobalt suede upper, and Christian Louboutin's signature red sole. It was in pristine condition, as if it had never been worn. Hermione took the shoe from the box to hold it up to the light, and a Muggle Polariod photograph fluttered to the ground. It appeared to have been taken in some sort of pub. Tonks was draped against Remus, who was holding her awkwardly around the waist, as if he had saved her from a nasty fall. They were both laughing so hard that Tonks had tears running down her face. Hermione's eyes stung to see them looking so young and so happy. Hermione flipped over the Polaroid and found a messy scrawl that read, "Dora and Remus, June 14th, 1997."
Hermione turned over the picture once more and looked more closely. Remus was wearing dress robes- shabby, old-fashioned ones, but dress robes nonetheless. Tonks was wearing Muggle jeans and a white t-shirt, and her hair was bright blue. One bare foot was raised awkwardly in the air. The other foot, just visible in the frame, was shod in cobalt blue. Andromeda and Ted were just visible behind her, beaming, and Andromeda was carrying a bouquet of flowers the same shade as Tonks's hair and shoes.
Hermione blinked as the details in the photograph fell into place. It was their wedding. Hermione couldn't help remembering her own wedding, with all its overblown pomp, wearing the meringue monstrosity that Molly had insisted would keep her from being outshone by the gaudy floral arrangements she'd ordered. Tonks and Remus had had their difficult times, to be sure, but she envied Tonks her wedding day laughter. All Hermione had felt was exhaustion and relief that it was all over, sentiments she also recalled feeling the day she and Ron signed the divorce papers a few short years later.
Hermione was sorely tempted to go through Tonks's other things when the stair to the bedroom give a telltale squeal. She sat up, wondering if Teddy had changed his mind and decided to help after all. Or perhaps he was escaping his wife's demands- Hermione remembered the odd cravings she'd had when she was expecting Rose and would not be at all surprised if her daughter suffered the same pangs.
However, the face in the doorway belonged to the last person she expected to see. Severus Snape stood in the hallway looking every bit as surprised to see her as she was to see him.
"Severus?" she said at last. "Why-"
"I've come to pay my respects," he said brusquely.
"Teddy's not here, I'm afraid," she said. "He's-"
"Not to the whelp," said Severus, with uncharacteristic affection. Hermione vaguely wondered how Teddy had managed to worm his way into the notoriously prickly man's good graces.
"Then what-" Hermione began again, only to fall silent as Severus joined her at the entrance to the cupboard. He took a deep breath through his nose and closed his eyes.
"You found her," he said at last, opening his eyes and fixing Hermione with that unnerving stare of his. His eyes traveled over the shoebox and photograph in her hand.
"She wore it on her wedding day," explained Hermione, holding open the box.
"I know," said Severus, as he reached into his robe and pulled out the shoe's missing mate.
Hermione did her best not to look as dumbfounded as she felt. Fortunately, he seemed not to notice.
"I have no idea why the silly woman chose to wear a pair of stilts to get married when she couldn't cross a room barefoot without falling all over herself," he murmured, rubbing his thumbs over the soft nap of the leather.
"A girl wants to feel beautiful on her wedding day," said Hermione softly, looking at the shoe in Severus's hand. This one was scuffed on the slender platform beneath the toe, as if the wearer had knocked it against something.
He snorted. "A girl can't feel beautiful while being herself?"
Hermione gave him a bemused smile. "The woman got married in jeans and a t-shirt, and you accuse her of not being herself?"
"Why the ridiculous shoes, then?"
"A girl also wants to feel sexy on her wedding day," said Hermione. "There's nothing like a fantastic pair of shoes to do that, especially a pair like this."
Severus was staring at her as if she had descended to earth in a flying saucer, and she sighed. "They are beautiful shoes, and any woman would love to own a pair like this. But how on earth did you end up with one of them?"
"She-" he began, then cleared his throat. "She was crossing the pub to get another beer. The floorboards were old and not entirely flush, and she stubbed her toe. Her shoe stayed on the floor, but she went flying into Lupin. She spilled half the pints in the pub that night, but nobody could stay angry with her."
Severus acknowledged Hermione's curious look with a wave of his hand. "Nymphadora was one of my first students," he explained. "I have no idea why she wanted me to be there, but she asked, and I came."
Hermione tried to imagine what it would have been like to have Severus Snape at her wedding and failed miserably.
"No long after this picture was taken," he continued, "she gave up altogether, complaining that she'd been on her feet all day and couldn't wear them anymore. I took the shoe she'd lost and tried to give it to her, but she laughed and told me to keep it as a remembrance of her. She was dead less than a year later."
Hermione smiled, imagining the cheeky smile that must have lit Tonks's face when she said it. "But you came to return it."
"I think others would cherish such a thing far more than I," he said. "I was there, after all. I need no souvenirs."
"Her son," said Hermione. "Or perhaps her grandchild."
She belatedly realized that he was looking at her oddly. "What size shoe do you wear, Hermione?"
She flushed. "I couldn't possibly."
"I didn't ask whether you could or not," he pointed out. "I asked your shoe size."
"Though you wouldn't believe it from her clumsiness, that was Nymphadora's size as well."
"I wouldn't consider wearing her shoes," said Hermione, willing her mind to comply with her statement.
Severus looked at her and said nothing. Hermione's blood was rushing in her ears, and she heard Tonks's laughter as if from far away. She stared at the shoe, imagining how the arch of her foot would feel with such a heel supporting it and made a decision. She took the shoe from Severus and sat on the vanity stool.
Her sensible flats were off in a trice, she rolled up her trousers to mid-calf, and slid on the shoe that had been in the box. The leather hadn't been properly broken in, so she had to wiggle her heel to get it in, but once past the curved edge her heel sank into the smooth leather. Severus's shoe had a warmth to it, as of the touch of respectful fingers.
She looked down at her pale toes peeking from the cutout and imagined how a woman who lived her life in combat boots had come to buy them. And then she rose to her feet and it all made sense.
Her weight was on the balls of her feet, which usually felt unpleasant in court shoes, but these made her feel as if she were tensed to spring. Her calves were taut, and she cautiously took a few steps toward Severus, hands held out in front of her for balance. After a moment's wobbling, looked at the full-length mirror on the closet.
Even with her incongruous clothing, Hermione felt as if she could conquer the world with a few steps. The muscles in her legs felt strong, as if she could kick the arse of anything that crossed her path. There was beauty in the shoes, to be sure, but there was also the exhilaration, the pleasure, the confidence in her own power that made her smile down at Severus, as if from a great height.
He was sitting on the bed, gazing up at her with an expression that would have been unreadable but for the light dancing in his eyes. He rose and walked toward her, and she couldn't help but break into a grin.
His smile was like water, bathing her in delight, and she reached out for him. There was a soft thunk as one shoe caught on the edge of the rug, and she was falling, the floor rising fast towards her. And then she was safe, held tightly in strong arms, gathered in as if she were something precious.
She belatedly realised that he was kissing her. His lips were warm and gentle as he sought access to her mouth. She grinned against his lips. She gradually allowed his tongue entry, worrying his bottom lip in her teeth. When his tongue brushed against hers, it was like electricity zipping through her body, and she moaned against his mouth. He pulled her tightly against him and growled against her lips, and she felt like she was melting into him.
When they parted, panting, their faces flushed and mouths hungry for more, Hermione struggled to regain her balance. She finally found her feet and stood. Her eyes were at the same level as his mouth, and she noted with satisfaction that his lips were red from kissing.
"I think I'm done here for tonight," she announced. "I can finish the rest in the morning."
His gaze was impenetrable, and he said nothing.
"Would you like to come with me?"
His gaze swept the length of her body, and his expression gave nothing away. "That depends."
"I'll keep the shoes," she said, tossing a grin over her shoulder. "One never knows when a special occasion will arise." She paused, bending to retrieve the Polariod, which had fallen to the floor, and handed it to him.
He placed it in his pocket.
They left the cupboard door open.
Enormous thanks to Mr. 42 for a lightning-fast, excellent beta read and to Avery for such an evocative prompt!