LL Chapter 4

A/N: Again, Ginormous thanks to Yiggersentia. My word count increases by just looking at you! And thank you to all who’ve reviewed and encouraged! Again, I own nothing, only play ;)


Who are you?”

Ha. To ask another person that question was so ironic. Would that he could answer that question, himself. It did feel better to have some knowledge float back, such as his work with potions, but then to have it compounded with the revelation of this young man’s apparent connection to him…

What would make the boy loathe him at one point, then change? Was he making it up in his confused mind? Perhaps he didn’t know him at all, or perhaps it was a coincidence. Perhaps the boy wasn’t answering because his question was considered rude. If they had known each other, then the question would surely be seen as an admission of weakness or worse…he could pity him for asking.

Enough time passed in silence that the idiocy of the question reverberated back to him, curling a sneer across his face. Of course, he couldn’t expect compliance and intuition from every person in his range of contact. The boy most likely was offended by the absurdity of the query, and if not, was stuck in a pity-loop, not sure what to say next.

Fantastic. Severus glanced at the other in his periphery, looking for some signal of how to react. Hmph. Nothing. Perhaps the boy was simply stupid. He turned his head away and sighed, irritation boiling just above the level of his embarrassment—

“I’m sorry, Professor, just…give me a second. I didn’t expect you to ask that question.”

He swung his head back to the young man in surprise. Professor? He blinked…yes, he supposed he had taught at one time. It felt right, but old, like a long abused epithet engraved across his mind that was slowly revealed with careful cleaning and a brighter light shone just-so.

They stared at each other for another moment when Green Eyes cleared his throat and continued, “I’m Harry Potter.”

Severus had started to face forward again, only to glance back in annoyance. “Your moniker helps me none, young man. I asked ‘who are you’, not ‘what is your name’.”

The Potter boy scrubbed his face with his hand and scoffed, groaned. “Still the same Snape, I see.”

He felt like biting off some sharp remark except for one word in that statement of his: “Snape?” He furrowed his brow, scowling at the dark-haired menace sitting in Hermione’s seat. The word, the name, felt familiar…his and yet not…strong and feared…powerful.

The brat stared at him, open-mouthed in shock, “Jesus, you have lost your memory, haven’t you?”

Severus’ scowl darkened at that incredulous statement. “Thank you for the obvious. I shall go back to interrogating myself for answers as I will have a clearer and more intelligent discussion.” Why was it so insufferably difficult to get a simple answer out of the boy—man—whatever age this person was. Damn. He stared across the darkened shrubbery to his left, looking for something, anything to pull his attention away.

After a few moments of blessed and proud silence, there was a sigh, a shift of the man moving on the bench and a subtle noise Severus knew came from the wand. The gentle silver-blue glow faded away as he plucked blades of grass beside him.

More silence.

His eyes grew adjusted to the darker darkness and caught the moonlight’s deft fingers caressing the glossy, tiny leaves of the boxwood. Some night animal moved inside the bush-

“My name is a lot of who I am, I guess. So many people just…know me.”

Arrogant, but oddly informative. Severus tossed the broken leaves of grass carelessly in front of him, watching the gentle breeze carry them a few inches off their mark. The boy had not tried to boast or brag about his infamy, but had rather made it sound more of a burden. Interesting.

The boy’s ponderous, confused tone continued, “Do you remember Voldemort?”

He sat, frozen still by that question, his fingers curling into a running root of grass, ripping it slightly in his tension.

Do you remember Voldemort?

Those four words galvanized him. Ate through the synapses of his brain one by one in a horrific cascade reaction that opened doors, windows, rooms of memories…

Voldemort

The name should have been whispered, suggested, never spoken aloud and yet where was the inevitable punishment to follow such a brazen act? Where were the cloaked and billowing shadows come to eat away at sanity?

Voldemort

He looked to his arm, pushed the material up and stared at the blank, white scar tissue that once had been a privilege, a brand, a shameful act, regretted, reviled…the Dark Mark…

The Dark Lord…

Dark versus Light, a battle fought between the wizarding world and within his own mind for decades. Dark, twisted tunnels of reasons built upon shame, guilt, reparations—both inside and out of himself. Dear gods, that was it! The battle on the edge of reason…

He inhaled as much air as his body could possibly hold at this catastrophic epiphany, watching the waterfall of images wash over his inner eye with each horrendous act returned to his memory. Performed by others while he watched, performed by himself while others watched…always watched…constantly watched…

A dull roar of blood flooded his ears, brought them to piercing pain as a hissing cacophony filled his hearing with crackling flashes of war and pain and torture…endless nights, days, weeks, months, years,decades, bent under the pressure of that name…that creature…

Voldemort. Pressure. Pain. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t hear. He couldn’t see!

“Sir?”

Hands. Get off! Get the hands off.

“Sir!”

Go AWAY. Stop it!

“Snape! Snap out of it!”

A jet of light shot off into the night, blinding him into submission, into Green Eyes. Whose Green Eyes? A pair at the end and a pair at the beginning…they were connected…guilt, grief, obligation, longing, hatred, despair…

Oh, gods, the despair!

He felt himself holding his knees, rocking back and forth, not knowing how to stop, not wanting to stop, shaking his head and not wanting to stop. Go away, go away, go away-

Crack!

He heard the footsteps, couldn’t make himself turn to see who it was. Friend or Foe? “What’s wrong?” That was her voice. Friend. Hermione. Relief. The grip he held on his knees gave slightly and he stopped rocking so quickly his body spasmed in small shudders down every limb.

“He just…lost it. I think he’s having some sort of panic attack.”

She rounded on him like a mother in front of her cub. “What did you do?” That made Severus look up in shock. She was protecting him? He shook his head slightly. He didn’t deserve it…

The Potter boy took offense, offered a defense. “What did I do? Hermione, we were just talking.” He gestured with his free hand towards Severus and without provocation, he flinched. It was a tiny thing, but she didn’t miss it.

“About what?” She rushed to his side, knelt into the grass beside him again. “Severus?” Their eyes met and he knew his freshly tormented mind was openly bleeding through his eyes. He didn’t like it, but it seemed an inevitable state at the moment and nothing he could do would release his eyes from this protector at his side. She was a fortress, a bulwark, a candle in the darkness.

Her lips thinned as she held onto his upper arm and growled over her shoulder, “Good God, Harry, what the hell were you talking about?”

Potter would have answered, but Severus shocked them all, himself included, by saying the name that was tearing his mind and his heart from him with every newly revealed memory, thought, action, “V-V-Volde-m-mor-rt.” Merlin, even his voice was having a hard time associating himself with such a name. It choked and floundered over the power that should be there, should invoke pain and suffering. He winced and shuddered in shame, dropped his head into his hands.

Voldemort had dropped the death sentence. He was the snake, the owner of the snake, the one that had bitten away his existence.

She was still holding onto his arm, but her voice crackled with anger. “Go. Inside. Right now.”

What? She would punish him like that? He snapped his head up at her betrayal, only to see her stare heatedly not at him, but at Potter…he looked dazedly from her rigid, vibrating frame to the one who shared his shock.

Potter stared at her as if she were turning unusual shades of purple. “But-”

“Don’t argue with me.” He could practically hear her teeth grinding.

“Yes, mum.” The oddity of their interchange was enough to distract him from the chaotic hell of his memories…for the moment.

The boy stalked off a few paces, and she seemed to regret her harsh tone. “Harry, I’m—” She stood up and reached for him, but he yanked his arm away just before she could touch it. “Fine.”

He nodded curtly and kept walking. She blew out a great sigh, looked back at Severus, then muttered under her breath before rushing towards the iron gate. “Dammit. Harry? Send back some food.”

He called back from the other side. “I’m not an elf.”

“Please?” She actually bounced on her heels slightly, holding onto the cross bar of the gate.

Another response. “I’m not bringing it.”

“Then send someone else, I don’t care.”

Slam! That must have been the heavy door they’d been using. Since the food was apparently for him, it didn’t matter. He was used to going a while without eating.

Or drinking.

Or bloody magic. These people…they used magic as if it were air. He used to use it…used to be considered powerful…He stared at his hands, watching the useless, bony caricatures of what they once must have been flex and bend…

Nothing.

Empty.

Like him.

Nothing there to protect himself when the demons of hell came to drag him down where he obviously belonged…nothing to ward off the evildoers that were so very much out there, regardless of the outcome of that last battle…

Nothing…He had nothing…He shouldn’t even be here…

His breathing grew shallow, fast, and the night fell colder about his body, tightening his knees and starting the rocking again. Where was his safe place now? He looked to the dark sky, the dark trees, the dark bushes, the dark grass. No light. No color…

No magic…was he truly alive?

The hands in front of his face trembled and he felt himself shake hard enough to rattle his teeth. That home inside his head that made everything bearable…he’d only ever reached it when they gave him his pills-not-potions—

She! She took him away from there. Who would give him his pills now? Where would they come from? How could he get back? His eyes closed against the darkness and no matter how hard he tried, he could not summon up the safe place. No light, no leaves, no safety…

No magic! No LIFE!

He knew there was sound coming out of his throat, but had no idea how loud it was, if it was audible at all. He clenched his hands, clawed at the fingers with the other hand, itched the palms, please PLEASEsomething come out! Let it out! Where was the magic? Was it in his blood? Would it come out if he could see the blood? Merlin, gods, somebody, where was the mag-

“Shh.” Arms surrounded him and he instantly stilled. The shock of bodily contact was…the heat was…Dammit, those were NOT his tears! “Shh. I’m here,” she held his hands in both of hers, pulling them into his chest as she embraced him from behind. “It’s fine, he can’t hurt you now, it’s all gone. He’s dead.”

Dead?

“Do you remember that?”

Yes, I remember death now.

“We killed him. You helped us. You helped Harry kill him.”

What was she talking about? Didn’t she realize…? “I d-di—” I died.

“You did.”

What? How did she—?

No. By her tone, she was refuting a denial, not confirming his death, and yet, somehow, the answer fit all the same. He had died that day. Severus Snape had died that day. Today…he was someone else with a stranger’s name and a world of memories belonging to someone else. Someone he didn’t want to be.

Another tremor wracked his body and he felt a jealous sickness pass through him as she sent something magical from her wand to encompass the garden. A ward. It was to protect them, if he remembered correctly, but even as he started viewing her as a source of protection, he viewed her as something to despise. She had so many things, so very many things he wanted. Memory, knowledge, information, magic.

He twisted his shoulders to shove her away and leaned forward, pushed his body farther away in the grass. He looked back at her young confusion and determination and realized she was somewhere in her younger years. Twenty or so. He compared himself and felt so much older. Was that from his actions or from reality? Did it matter? What was age, anyway? A number by which to gauge one’s relative experience and abilities. Hmph.

That was something else of which she had the advantage over him. Time.

As was starting to become his habit, he turned his eyes to the stars but now, something was less than comforting. The stars were less than dazzling and as one twinkled, slightly blue, he remembered another set of eyes…

Who did the stars remind him of, and why did they make him feel so desperately alone, regardless of the warmth that had so recently pressed into his back telling him he was not so for the first time in years…

/

Every memory he gained seemed to bring back the sour Potions master she’d known so long ago. Was she glad? Wasn’t that good? He’d let her—well, seemed to welcome her touch less than a half-hour ago, but now…Now he seemed more like his old self, more enclosed within.

Hmph, as if one could get more self-enclosed than spending two years in a box with no real windows and no true human interaction.

She dropped her head forward and rested her hands on her thighs. Her knees were starting to strain from pressing into the ground with all her weight on them, so she shifted to sit tailor-style behind her former teacher. Her mind ran in circles, trying to place where she stood with Severus. What was the protocol for this situation, for how they were to interact?

With a sigh, she realized she needed books. Desperately. Perhaps she could do that and offer to find more material for Remus if she took some time in the London Library tomorrow. He’d certainly come up with some interesting information on his own today.

Well, Severus was set on ignoring her for the grass again, so she let her mind wander back to her dinner conversation with Remus and Tonks:

“How is the old goat?”

Hermione looked back at Tonks with a bit of surprise. “What?” She grabbed a plate and a glass from the wooden cupboard next to the sink, then settled across from Remus at the trestle table that ate up most of the kitchen. Old goat? Was she referring to Severus? She mentally kicked herself. Well, she certainly hadn’t meant Harry. “Oh, he’s…quiet. Adjusting, I guess.” She conjured water with a silent Aguamenti.

Remus looked up from his newspaper. “I would imagine it’s a lot to take in.”

“Mmm.” He’d caught Hermione taking a sip and Tonks leaned over the table with a bowl of chicken salad.

“Here ya go. Made it myself.”

She smiled and helped herself with the spoon already dug into the salad. Tonks was so proud of her growing culinary skills, especially since their son, Teddy, seemed to finally be starting on normal food and she could create the same meal for all of them. Hermione’s smile turned to a grin as she remembered a disastrous attempt at chicken salad a few months before, “Are there any bones in it?”

“Ha bloody ha.”

Somehow, seeing Tonks—would she never go by Lupin?—stick her tongue out was comforting. Hermione looked around the kitchen and noticed its almost-full-time occupant missing, “Where’s Ronald?”

Remus replied from behind his newspaper, “He went upstairs to finish catching up on sleep. Apparently the boys had quite the adventure.”

“Really?” Shocking, “You mean, he didn’t even eat?”

Tonks laughingly replied as she clambered over the seat next to her husband. “Remus said he was knackered, not gone off. He nearly ate Sev’s portion until I snatched the bowl out of his hand.”

She swallowed her mouthful and rolled her eyes, “Oh, God, thank you for that!”

Tonks smiled in return, “No problem. How’d he take meeting Harry?” Her smile devolved into a penetrating, nervous look and Remus lowered his newspaper again, interested in Hermione’s response.

She thought about the multitude of expressions that had run across Severus’ face as she took another bite and swallowed, considering what was the best thing to say. “I don’t know. He seemed to recognize him, but not. It was a strange thing to see.”

Remus folded the newspaper and set it on the table. “How do you mean?”

She stared at the couple, wondering what they were looking for in an answer. The reality was difficult to put exactly into words, but she supposed it was necessary to try. “Well, I’m not sure. He seemed surprised by Harry, almost as if he recognized him, but kind of like he couldn’t remember from where.”

Tonks looked to her husband and shrugged. “Perhaps he and Harry will have a chat and something’ll come back to him.”

He looked thoughtful as Hermione ate. “Hmm. Well, while you two were out lounging in the park, I did a bit more research into our Mr. Hestry and his facilities.”

Trust Remus to keep them productive. It was one of the reasons he was the leader of their recovery group. “Did you? So, what did you find?”

“Remember how we couldn’t find any Muggle records on him?”

She nodded.

He grinned and leaned a bit forward. “On a whim, I tried Ministry records.”

His grin was promising, leading her to think, “You found something?”

“Something.” He grinned and snagged a forkful of salad from the bowl, taking the time to eat it slowly.

“Remus!” Oh, she could smack him! She wadded up her napkin and tossed it at him across the table, which he easily batted away with a chuckle. “You picked a bad time to take a bite, now what did you find?”

He swallowed while laughing, “Hestry’s a squib.”

“What?”

He knew she heard him, the gleam in his eye told her so. “Yes, and his facility is not on the Ministry list of care facilities, so I imagine he’s gone completely rogue.”

Well, now, that was an interesting development. That was also rather convenient. They wouldn’t have to deal with the Ministry for using magic in front of Muggles due to their little rescue mission earlier in the day. She wondered, though, “Did you find anything else?” Why would a squib be running a fake psychiatric hospital? In Bath? And then extort money from the local populace or anyone gullible enough to come along?

It still stuck in her craw that she’d been that gullible—expecting it, even.

Remus answered, determined, “No, but that doesn’t mean we won’t.”

That had been when Harry’s stag Patronus galloped into the kitchen. Hermione dropped her fork and ran to the front vestibule, Apparating into the park immediately.

Oh, God. OhGodohGodohGod, what happened? Severus or Harry? Or both? Were they under attack? Her eyesight adjusted to the darkness and she saw Harry standing over Severus, who was still huddled on the grass in the same place she’d left him, only this time, he looked like he was holding himself so tight he might break. She skid to a halt between them. “What’s wrong?”

Harry looked dazed, as if Severus was a wild animal that had just tried to bite him. “He just…I dunno, lost it. I think he’s having some sort of panic attack.”

Panic? What did he have to panic about? He was safe now! He’d been fine when she left! “What did you do?”

Harry stared back at her in disbelief. “What did I do? Hermione, we were just talking.” She followed his gesture to Severus and watched in horror as the abused man shrank in on himself as if expecting a blow. Oh, God—what in hell?

“About what?” She rushed to his side, knelt into the grass beside him again. “Severus?” She held his arm in her hands and tried to garner his attention, to see what was going on in his mind. Surely, there would be some inkling, some idea of what he was going through written on his face if she could only look close enough…

Her stomach flipped. There was no need to look closely, his torture was screaming through the broken defenses of his oubliette eyes. Her lips thinned as she held onto his upper arm and growled over her shoulder, “Good God, Harry, what the hell were you talking about?”

Harry’s face wracked with hurt, anger, defense, but Severus stuttered the answer to her question, sending needles of fear down her spine, “V-V-Volde-m-mor-rt.”

He choked over the word as she stared at him, open-mouthed and afraid of what that name meant to him now. When he dropped his head into his hands in apparent shame, she couldn’t help but feel rage coursing through her. Of all the calloused, idiot, dunderheaded things to say to a man in this state, Harry had to bring up that name!

“Go. Inside. Right now.”

She seethed. How dare Harry sabotage her rescue efforts with such a carelessly placed subject? She had done nothing but stand behind him for ten years, ten bloody years and this was how he repaid her efforts!

Harry’s eyes widened, condemning his culpability in her own. “But—”

“Don’t argue with me,” she growled.

His shock turned to a sneer. “Yes, mum.” As soon as he stomped off, however, her sense of betrayal was snapped. What was she thinking? This was Harry and Severus! What else did they have in common? God, she was stupid. This was all her fault, she should never have left them alone!

“Harry, I’m—” She reached for him, but he yanked his arm away just before she could touch it. “Fine.” She sighed. He would need some time to cool off before she could apologize.

He nodded curtly and kept walking. She blew out a great sigh, looked back at Severus – he was so bloody thin – then ran towards the iron gate, gripping the cross bar in both hands. “Dammit. Harry? Send back some food.”

She could barely see him, but he kept walking as he yelled over his shoulder. “I’m not an elf.”

“Please?”

He stopped on the stoop with the door open, letting just enough light out so she could see his outline. “I’m not bringing it.”

“Then send someone else, I don’t care.” He glanced back over his shoulder, tilted his chin down in begrudging agreement, then slammed the door behind him.

She huffed and dropped her hands from the gate to her hips. Why—what was it about this situation that had her on tenterhooks? Shaking her head, she turned to see how Severus was doing.

Her guess was, not good.

He was staring at his hands as if they were something foreign, opening them and closing them like a child, just like Teddy when he’d discovered the tools of their endless torment at Grimmauld Place. Severus turned his hands over, examined the palms as if they held the mysteries of the universe, or at least the universe of himself—he started shaking, his hands palsying and clenching in front of him as if separate from his control.

Moonlight shifted back and forth across the cropped and silvering darkness of his hair as his head swung side to side – oh God, he really was having a panic attack or something!

By the time she reached him, he was tearing at his hands, scrubbing them against this face, his chest, clawing the palms, “Shh!” She hurriedly knelt behind him and reached around him, grabbing his flying hands, catching his wrists and holding them against his chest. “Shh. I’m here,” Oh Severus! She rocked into him, willing comfort and concern, help, through her body into his.

Just the mention of Voldemort’s name and he was this way? Her eyes fought back tears at the enormity of what he must be digesting from opened memory… “It’s fine, he can’t hurt you now, it’s all gone. He’s dead.”

He stopped, even leaned into her a fraction of an inch. She kept talking, “Do you remember that?”

Maybe expanding on what good he did would help calm him? “We killed him. You helped us. You helped Harry kill him.”

He shook his head again, slightly, jerking denial, “I d-di—”

How could he think that? “You did.”

She dropped her chin to his shoulder and held him tightly. Perhaps he’d feel better with increased protection? Maybe not more people, but another show of placing a ward? She tentatively let his hands go, kept one of her hands on his shoulder and slipped the other slowly around to retrieve her wand from her pocket.

As soon as she cast the spell, he tensed, watching the light spread from her wand to encompass their garden. His head shifted so he could see her out of his peripheral and she leaned over to look at him better, but he took the opportunity to twist his shoulders out of her grasp.

What did she do? He scooted away at least a foot and tossed another glare over his shoulder at her.

What? Would he not accept her help now?

She stared at his back with her fists in her lap as he ignored her for the sky once more.

Well.

He was obviously remembering something or he wouldn’t be acting like this…unless…

She covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh God, oh no! The medication!” She scrambled over to Severus as he leveled a piercing gaze on her. “Was yesterday the last time you had your—the medication?”

He blinked, clenched his jaw, stared at her with that eyebrow. Damn his eyebrows! “I’m serious, Severus, when did they last give it to you?”

He threw away a blade of grass he’d obviously been worrying between his fingers. “I would that I knew.”

Her mouth dropped open at least a half-inch, searching his face for any more information than that. She knew he’d been given medication yesterday, but how long did the residual stay in his system? Had they dosed him again after she left? She remembered reading somewhere that some medications can take up to a week or more to completely clear out of the human body.

Her own words came back to haunt her. What would the magical backlash be once the chemicals started working out of his system? She looked around the garden, knowing he couldn’t be out here when that happened. They needed stronger wards, he needed more strength—

And where was that damned food?

The iron gate’s hinges groaned and she spun around, hiding her wand behind her leg.

Tonks grinned and sauntered over with a plate in hand. “Wotcher. Harry seemed a bit put out, so that left me to bring dinner.”

“Thank you, Tonks.” Hermione took the plate and set it on the ground between herself and Severus. He stared at the plate as if it were about to crawl away of its own volition, then looked up to Tonks.

“No problem. Hiya, Sev.” The older woman tossed a wave at him, expecting familiarity…and getting it? Hermione watched him, stunned at his easy recognition.

He responded with a solemn nod, “Nymphadora.”

“You know her name! You remembered her name!” How did he know her name? Was he already cured?

He blinked at the apparent surprise and looked back down at the dinner plate with narrowed eyes. “So it seems.”

Tonks’ hair flared crimson and she frowned, “Great. Now you can forget it again.”

Severus smirked but Hermione interrupted, “No, Tonks, this is fantastic!” She turned back to him, prodding her hand on his shoulder to gain his attention. “How much do you remember now? What do you think is missing?”

His lips pursed and his eyebrows raised in disbelief. Such a ‘Snape’ look. “You expect me to pick through a lifetime’s worth of memories like some jigsaw puzzle and find the missing pieces?”

His face was implacable, but she needed to press on. What was an obvious way to find out? Ah! “Well…do you remember who I am?”

He glanced from her to Tonks and back with a perplexed expression, squinting his eyes slightly as if trying to detect a trick. “You’re…Hermione.”

She deflated. “Oh.” So much for wishful thinking. Why did that feel a bit hurtful? Why did he remember Tonks and not her?

His defensive response confused her. “That’s what everyone has been calling you.”

She looked into his eyes, hoping for some spark of recognition, fearing what that might entail at the same time. “That’s not what you’ve always called me, though.” Granger, Insufferable Know-it-all, Silly Girl

He continued staring at her, twisted his lips and spat out, “Well?”

“What?” She swallowed. If he didn’t remember anything, then he didn’t remember his prejudice of her either, did he? He’d willingly called her by her first name and she rather liked it. How could she get him to continue?

He pressed the issue, “What have I been known to call you? Have I been inappropriately familiar or were you just assuming you could use my given name as you wished?”

Uh oh. “Um…Tonks?” Please, please, help me!

“Yah?” She looked entirely too amused at Hermione’s expense.

Well, it didn’t hurt to ask, “A little help, please?”

She laughed outright. “Oh, no! Ha! You walked into that one, luv. I’ll just leave you to it.”

Tonks—”

“See ya! Later, Sev!” She curled her fingers in a jaunty wave and winked.

“Tonks!” She pled with her eyes, Don’t leave me like this! The older woman laughed again and shook her now-blue hair as she left, closing the gate behind her. Hermione watched the inanimate gate until she heard the door close across the street, desperate to avoid the looming conversation. Maybe he’d forget about it…then again, maybe not.

“I’m assuming since you seem to be the same age as Mr. Potter, and since he addressed me as Professor—”

She interrupted smartly, “For once.”

He continued, irritated, “—that you must have been a student? I’m recovering bits and pieces, but my memory fails at that crossroad. Please tell me, at what point did we became familiar enough to address each other by our given names?”

Oh, about the five-hundredth time I read your last letter to Dumbledore. Bollocks. That was it, then, wasn’t it? “I—um…well.” She stared at her hands as they twined nervously in her lap.

“I see.” Those two words were so cold.

God, this was awful. He was so still. He’d shut her out for sure, now. “I’m sorry…Professor.”

He was silent, but then held out his arms at the elbows, inspecting his garments with haughty disdain. “Well, I don’t believe I’m still in teacher’s robes.”

Her head snapped up to find his expression slightly annoyed, “Pardon?” Was he allowing her—surely he only meant the title was wrong, “Oh, Mr. Snape, then?”

He sighed and straightened his back a bit, sitting taller than she by several inches. “I’m afraid you should probably continue with the familiarity.”

She stared back at him in amazement. He was serious! Her heart skid, tripped, nearly choked her at the permission he was granting, even if she’d already taken it. “Are you sure?”

And there was the unarguable eyebrow.

It was enough to make her smile, even if only a little bit. “All right. Thank you…Severus.”

They maintained eye contact for several moments and she realized with a sinking heart just how familiar she’d allowed herself to be with him. He had not had human contact for two years besides Hestry’s circus and despite seeming to welcome her touch earlier, she rather thought it would be prudent to reassess the situation. Especially when he looked at her as if he could read every wandering thought she’d ever had for him. She swallowed nervously. God, was he still a Legilimens?

She broke eye contact for that very reason and as soon as she did, he responded. “You’re welcome…Hermione.” She took a deep breath and shuddered, thankful to have wriggled her way out of that somehow. Unfortunately, he wasn’t finished, “So…what did I call you?”

He couldn’t be…Did he remember, had he read her mind, or was he still that good at reading people?

Regardless, did she want to tell him the truth? God, help me, what do I say?


A/N: God help ME. Did I use enough pronouns and prepositions, you think? *insert eyeroll* Suffice it to say, I’m not particularly pleased with this chapter, but it’s a vehicle. Hopefully the next one will be more cooperative. Thank you everyone who’s been reading and reviewing, especially those who’ve been critiquing and giving me things to chew on ;) Of course, I adore those who ‘squee’ but at heart, I am a pragmatic gal and know that I shan’t be able to maintain that level of response. LOL

What’s in store for our overly-fanfic’d couple next time? A room with a view, a walk with exhaustion, and a proposition for Snape. *eyebrows wiggle* I may not fit it all in, considering how absolutely verbose I’m becoming, but we’ll see. I’m letting them set their own paces. In the meantime, Cheers! *salutes with and tips back a glass of Balvenie*

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