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A Hand in Marriage

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Billowing black robes whipped out behind him, unfurling in angry snaps as students threw themselves out of his way. Severus Snape was angry and no one wanted to be the scapegoat.

Through the hallways he stalked, fist clenched around a paper at his side. Past classrooms, past portraits, past fellow professors who asked him what was wrong-to no avail. All of his attention was focused on his eventual destination. He was headed straight for the Headmaster's office.

Snapping the ridiculous password at the gargoyle, Severus stomped up the stairs, throwing open the Headmaster's door and shouting through its reluctant groan, "There had better be some sort of explanation, Albus."

As the Potions Master stood fuming, stance rigid, fists clenched, Albus Dumbledore glanced up from behind his half-moon spectacles with a twinkle in his eye. "Ah, Severus. Have a seat."

"Don't toy with me, old man. I haven't time for trivial niceties. What the hell are we going to do about this?!" With a dramatic flourish, the dark-robed wizard threw the paper down on top of the Headmaster's desk.

"Of course, Severus," Albus answered, unaffected. "Sit down. Sherbet lemon?"

"Oh, to hell with your bloody sweets, Albus! This is a disaster! Haven't you seen today's Prophet?"

Albus only sighed. "Not yet, but I did anticipate that you would react violently to the news."

It was as if the old man had smacked him across the face. "You knew!?"

"I tried to dissuade them, of course…"

"You're Albus Bloody Dumbledore! You 'tried' to dissuade them? You could have stopped this with your left pinky finger, if you had bothered to so much as lift it!"

"Now, Severus, we must choose our battles wisely…"

"And you didn't think this merited the effort?!"

"Forgive me for considering Voldemort a more pressing concern."

"They're completely unrelated, Albus. The two are not mutually exclusive."

Albus twiddled his fingers. "Yes, well, Cornelius gets touchy when I appear to have too much control."

Severus fumed silently, glaring fiery hatred into the other man's cool blue eyes. "You're putting me up on the auction block like a fattened summer piglet just to keep up appearances!?"

"If I had had a choice…"

"A choice!? Albus, this is insane!" the young spy threw up his hands, pacing the office restlessly. "What purpose could it possibly serve?"

"The Minister believes that the best way to counteract impending war is with a show of solidarity. By returning to this old tradition, they hope to appease those who believe we are losing our ways while simultaneously uniting our population across blood-status lines."

Severus stared down at his employer for a long moment, glaring like a petulant child. "Surely they could have come up with something… else."

"Yes, well, Cornelius often does act rashly on these matters, but what's done is done. It would be better for us to focus on what we can do about it now. Actually, I had been about to send for you…"

"Really? Thought to include me, did you? Thought maybe I'd like a say in my own bloody future?" Without waiting for Albus to respond, Severus dropped himself gracelessly into the chair he had been offered earlier and folded his arms across his chest.

"Now," the Headmaster began, everything else having been merely introduction, "the Marriage Law itself is not the issue." Severus snorted in disbelief and Albus raised an eyebrow, but continued. "You are my primary concern. After all, as a half-blood you will be eligible for petitioning. All it will take is one pureblood to decide she'd like to get her hands on you, and you will have no choice in the matter. Of course, if more than one pureblood witch petitions for you…"

"Bloody likely…" Severus scoffed.

"…then you will have the choice. Alternatively, as a half-blood you are also eligible to petition for a witch half-blood or less. Obviously, I need to ensure that my spy is matched to someone who already knows your secrets… as you will have to live with her."

Severus groaned, pulling a hand down his face in defeat. "And to whom, may I ask, are you planning to bind me?"

Albus's eyes twinkled. "I should think it would be obvious."

Severus narrowed his eyes at the old man. "You can't… I know you can't mean…"

"I am sorry, Severus. There is no other choice."

"Please, Albus. You must know someone else. Anyone at all."

For once, the old man's crystal blue eyes seemed sincere in their apology. He shook his head, willing his spy to understand. "I'm afraid not, Severus," he sighed. "It must be Nymphadora."

…*~*J*~*…

"SURPRISE!"

Hermione was jolted out of slumber as a solid mass landed hard at the foot of her bed. Bolting upward, her forehead very nearly collided with something bright and pink before the object in question suddenly launched itself onto the other girl's bed.

"Wake up, sleepy-heads!" Tonks shouted happily, pulling Ginny's pillow from beneath her head only to smack her in the face with it. "It's CHRISTMAS!" And just like that, she was gone, sprinting through their open bedroom door and down the stairs as loudly as she could manage.

The twins appeared in the doorway bearing expressions of admiration for the bubbly Auror's display. "Good of old Remus to finally come around," Fred commented, taking a bite of a Christmas plum.

"Yeah," George agreed, "that Tonks is a right trip when she's happy."

Christmas breakfast was an arrangement of communal plates and bowls haphazardly situated around, beneath, and on top of gifts in various states of unwrapping. Colorful paper and ribbons and bows covered everything, including the floor, and excitement seemed to hum in the air to the tune of Christmas carols. Before meeting the Weasleys, Hermione had never seen anyone so excited to receive a sweater. Packages and sweets alike flew through the air from one ginger to another as she sat nibbling her bacon and eggs. And above it all, Tonks seemed to preside, tearing through a mountain of gifts and tossing them out to their respective recipients. When Remus Lupin appeared in the doorway, the Metamorphmagus unabashedly leapt onto the table, tripping her way down the length-and upsetting a bowl of figs in the process-to tackle her beloved werewolf from above.

"Easy now," Remus admonished, smiling tenderly at her even as he rubbed his freshly-cracked spine. Hermione had to shake her head at the odd couple, but glanced away when their mouths met, embarrassed by the sincerity of their passion. She caught Ginny staring openly at the tender display with an expression of hopeful longing. Seeming to sense the other girl's study, Ginny met Hermione's eye and smiled knowingly. Just last night, Remus had asked their opinion regarding a certain ring that he hoped to place on a certain witch's finger in the very near future. Even Hermione eagerly anticipated the announcement.

But as they all settled down to the table once more, Albus Dumbledore appeared in the doorway with a grim expression. Immediately, the merriment ceased and a murmur of dread descended upon them. Whatever the Headmaster had come to impart, it couldn't be good.

"I am afraid I have some unhappy Christmas tidings," he informed them, withdrawing a folded copy of the Daily Prophet. Tossing it into the middle of the table, the old man stood back as the others present scrambled to get a view of the title. It was Remus who unfolded the paper, holding it out for the others behind him to read.

CONTROVERSIAL MARRIAGE LAW TO TAKE EFFECT. 'RETURN TO TRADITION,' SAYS FUDGE.

There was a moment of shocked silence before the twins broke it with a murmured "Bloody hell."

Tonks ripped the paper from the werewolf's hands. "Ridiculous! Is this some sort of joke?"

"Oh, they've done it this time," Mrs. Weasley said.

"Now, now," her husband consoled, "I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation."

"Well," said Remus, standing from his place at the table, with some effort, and turning to the pink-haired witch, "I suppose this is an appropriate time," he grasped the back of her chair to help himself kneel, but was stopped by the Headmaster's hand on his shoulder.

"I'm afraid, Remus," the old man began in a weary voice, "that I need to speak with you and Nymphadora… alone."

A half hour later found Hermione sitting on the stairs, paper in hand, as Ginny paced outside the door to the little study. She had read the article a dozen times and still could make no sense of it. Why would Fudge want to do something like this? How could the Wizengamot just allow it? And perhaps most distressing, what if someone petitioned for her?

"Uggghh!" Ginny articulated, throwing up her hands in impatience. "What could they be talking about in there?" Hermione only shrugged. The redhead had been asking the same question every two minutes for the past half hour. "It can't be good, or why would Dumbledore have looked so grim? And why did he stop Remus from making his proposal? We all knew that was what he was about to do."

"I don't know, Ginny, but it's out of our hands."

"Ugggh!"

As far as she could understand it, the Marriage Law, as it had been termed, pertained to witches and wizards between the ages of 18 and 65. That included her. Most of their year was still 17, but Hermione Granger was nearly a year ahead of the rest of them, and that was not including her Time-Turner days. Basically, the way the Law was set up, the Purer your blood the more options you had. No one could petition for someone with Purer blood than themselves, which meant anyone could petition for her. Telling herself to breathe, Hermione made a mental list of all the Pureblood men in her life who would jump at the opportunity to save her from her fate (ah, the benefits of living with Gryffindors). If she was petitioned by another-and that was a big IF-she could simply have Ron petition for her and marry him instead. Now, of course that wasn't ideal, she cringed and pinched the bridge of her nose, but it also wasn't the end of the world.

More terrifying was the vague allusion to 'forced breeding,' as one of the sections of the law was said to detail. Hermione's hands itched to get her hands on the official paperwork. Until she did, the actual contents of the law would remain unclear.

The Study door opened with a bang and Tonks tore past them, brushing away a stream of tears. Ginny and Hermione were frozen with shock, staring after the other witch. Fear burned across Hermione's skin as she turned back to see Lupin in the doorway. The werewolf seemed to have aged a decade. Lines of worry and despair pulled at his sharp features as he rubbed his forehead with weary resignation. "Remus?" Ginny breathed, reaching a hand out to touch the man's arm.

Remus brushed her off of him and shook his head. "Not now," he murmured, sounding broken. Then he brushed past her as well.

The door to Twelve Grimmauld shut with a weak, unsatisfying click and the girls were left in silence. Ginny's eyes turned up to hers, wide with fright and confusion. Then she, too, hurried up the stairs, presumably in pursuit of Tonks. Hermione was torn between following her friend and remaining on the stair, contemplating her own worries and her feet.

When the Headmaster emerged from the Study, looking as old as he probably was, Hermione couldn't help the question. "They aren't getting married, are they?"

Dumbledore looked up at her and hesitated before shaking his head. "I am afraid not," he told her in a weary voice.

Somehow, the hard certainty of that statement sent a fire of anger through Hermione's heart. It was the same fire that had ignited when she first learned about the Hogwarts House Elves, or when Umbridge had forced Harry to carve up his own hand. "Why?" was all she could say to sum up this feeling of righteous indignation. But though the Headmaster clearly had a world of knowledge to impart, he said nothing in answer to her question. In response, she stood from her place on the stairs and stomped down to stand before him. "I mean, why them?Why Tonks and Remus? Why can't they just be left alone?"

The old man's sad eyes stared down at her in understanding. "Oh Hermione," he murmured in such a patronizing, grandfatherly tone that the young Gryffindor visibly bristled. "You have always been so compassionate. The first one to triumph the underdog's cause." He lifted a hand to her shoulder with an air of breaking some terrible news. "My child," he said. "Nymphadora… is the only witch in the Order… who can marry Severus Snape."

…*~*J*~*…

So. Professor Snape was a half-blood. That certainly was a surprise, but more intriguing was the notion of the famously proud man stooping to accept charity from Nymphadora Tonks. It must have been quite a blow to his ego to have to turn to Sirius's cousin and Remus's lover to save him from this awful Law. For once, the austere Slytherin was the victim in need of saving. It almost made her like him a little bit more.

Almost.

Hermione brushed her chin with the tip of her quill, having lost interest in the notes she had been taking. Wow. How embarrassing for him! And naturally, of course, everyone in the Order would only hate him more because of this. That was unfortunate. He was truly stepping into the Lion's Den. Which was ironic because Tonks was definitely a Badger.

The door to the Study opened and Hermione swung her legs down from the arm of the couch and oriented her body toward the door. It was Ginny, looking angry as an evicted Garden Gnome. "Tonks is inconsolable," she said. "You won't believe what Dumbledore said. She has to marry Snape! Can you believe it? The Greasy Git! Of all the terrible luck…"

"How is she?"

"Well her hair is brown again, if that tells you anything. Gods' truth, I was afraid to leave her alone."

"You don't think she might… do something rash?"

"Nah. I thought about that at first, but it wouldn't make sense. She'd sooner run away with Remus and leave Snape to his bloody fate than do something like that."

Hermione sighed with relief. "That's a good point."

"What are we going to do?" Ginny groaned, flopping down onto the couch.

"I don't know," said Hermione. For her, helplessness was the worst feeling in the world.

Tonks did not show up for dinner, but Mrs. Weasley prepared a plate for her anyway and handed it to Ginny. "Wait," Hermione was suddenly compelled to say. "Let me take it to her." For some reason, she felt like she needed to see the young Auror.

The landing outside of Tonks's bedroom was completely silent. Had she expected to hear sobbing through the door? Somehow, the absence of sound struck a chord far sadder than crying. She knocked on the door, expecting no answer and getting none. "Tonks," she called gently, "it's Hermione. Can I come in?"

Torn by the lack of response, the young Gryffindor decided that maybe Tonks had gone to sleep, and that she should leave the plate on her bedside table just in case. But the grimy hallway light landed on a face that was certainly awake, staring off at the far wall with unseeing eyes. For a moment, Hermione's heart plummeted, but the witch's body was slowly rising and falling with the living rhythm of breath.

"I've brought you something to eat," Hermione said, trying to sound persuasive. She set the plate on the little nightstand, but couldn't force herself to leave. "Tonks?" she whispered, sitting on the bed beside the other witch. "Are you alright?"

With those words, the Metamorphmagus heaved a heavy sigh, squeezing her eyes shut as tears leaked out from behind them. Her breath caught on a sob as she buried her face in her arms. The image broke Hermione's heart.

Some instinct drove the younger witch to run a hand through her friend's mousy hair. Even her skin seemed to have been leeched of color; drained to an unnatural grey. "It'll be alright. They'll overturn this law in no time. You just wait. I won't rest until I've seen it overthrown."

But Tonks's slender frame began to shake with sobs as sad sniffles told Hermione that she was holding back. Nothing she could say could make this better. Nothing she could do.

But no. She would not stand for it. She would not sit by idly and watch something so perfect fall apart. How could she allow two good friends and two of the best people that she knew to suffer if there was something she could do? And wasn't there? Fire seemed to inflate her chest with an uncomfortable sensation of restraint as she descended the stairs. Could it be coincidence that Dumbledore was there? He appeared in the doorway of Twelve Grimmauld just as she made it to the bottom, and Hermione knew immediately just what she had to do. "Professor Dumbledore," she said, facing him square on and looking him straight in the eye, "I need to talk to you."

The old man's eyes sparkled behind those half-moon specs, and he smiled down at her. "Yes, Miss Granger," he said. "I had a feeling you would."

Chapter Text

"A return to tradition, Albus? Uniting the Wizarding World?" Severus dropped a stack of papers on the Headmaster's desk and leaned across the surface, glaring at the older man conspiratorially. "It's all a ruse! They're putting Monitoring Charms in place, so the whole thing is just masking an attempt to track us!"

Dumbledore was not phased by this information. "Good morning, Severus."

"Don't 'good morning' me, old man. This is a disaster!"

"Yes, and you always were drawn to the dramatic. By the way, you no longer have to marry Nymphadora."

The Potions Master froze, staring down at his employer for a solid moment in uncertainty. "I no longer…"

"I do not mean to suggest that you have escaped the Law. Merely that another witch in a similar predicament has volunteered to tie herself to you."

"Volunteered?"

"Indeed. As she is subject to the Law, herself, it only makes sense to pair the two of you and let Remus have his bride."

There was a moment of charged silence before the younger wizard spoke. "And once again I have no choice in the matter?"

"Now, Severus, I am sure you do not mean to suggest that you would rob Remus of his happiness when presented with an alternative?"

The dark wizard scoffed, scowling. "Far be it for me to ruin the happiness of a Gryffindor."

"Anyway, I think this new arrangement will be better for you, as well. She is more like you than you know; intellectual, independent, stubborn."

"Are you going to make me guess, old man?"

"The two of you have similarly passionate dispositions. Of course, that might make for some interesting arguments. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that first fight…"

"Albus…"

"The only problematic consideration, of course, will be the age difference."

The Slytherin spy glared down at the older man. His worst fears were coming true before his eyes. Now the bastard was going to pair him with some old biddy! Images of Hestia Jones and Emmeline Vance began to flash through his mind. And then… oh gods… please not… "Don't tell me it's Minerva."

The Headmaster had the gall to chuckle at that. "It is not Minerva."

Severus slumped with relief only to tense again when he caught the twinkle in the other man's eyes. "Put me out of my misery, old man," he said, bracing for impact. He felt like a convict awaiting sentence to Azkaban-and he knew the feeling only too well, after all. But Albus only smiled kindly and reached a hand across the desk, as if to console him. Whatever the answer was, it couldn't possibly be good.

…*~*J*~*…

"You don't have to do this, Hermione." Remus's concern hid a sort of desperate hope. The lines on his face had faded and his skin had a healthy glow. But his eyes were wary. This was a man who had learned not to hope too much.

"I know," the young Gryffindor answered, taking a bite of her toast and brushing crumbs from the papers in front of her. "Besides, I am subject to the law, myself. If anyone were to petition for me, we'd have to find another suitor. This arrangement kills two birds with one stone… so to speak."

"Oh, Hermione. You know Ron would gladly volunteer."

"I know, Remus, and of course that would be easier for me. But both of us would still only be doing it because of the Law, and the two of you really love each other."

Remus reached across the table to cover her hand with his own. The look of pride and gratitude in his eyes only made her stomach twist up into knots. She wished everyone would stop reminding her how difficult this was actually going to be.

Just then, the door burst open and Tonks appeared. Her hair was bright pink again and her smile seemed to light up the room. Jumping into her werewolf's arms, the Metamorphmagus peppered his scruffy face with kisses, heedless of the audience in the room. When she finally pulled away, Tonks practically fell across the table, clasping both of Hermione's hands-sending a piece of toast to the floor in the process-and beaming into her eyes. "Oh, Hermione, you little angel! You just don't know!" The pink-haired witch yanked her up and kissed her happily on each of her cheeks.

"Don't mention it," Hermione murmured, smirking at the other woman as she settled back into her chair.

"Remus Lupin!" Tonks declared, turning back to her shaggy lover. "Take me upstairs so I can do unspeakably naughty things to you!" The werewolf blushed, glancing awkwardly in Hermione's direction before allowing himself to be pulled from the room.

Alone once again, Hermione heaved a heavy sigh and turned back to the letter of the Law. Dumbledore had brought her a copy this morning, and she'd been pouring over it ever since. The truth was, the more she read about it, the more terrified she became. Oh, Merlin. What have I gotten myself into? Not only were the couples required to procreate, they were monitored 'to ensure weekly copulation.' It was a nightmare! She could only hope that Dumbledore had some ideas about how to get around that part, but as he had not had a way around the rest of the Law, her hope was feeble. Closing her eyes, Hermione couldn't help the uncharitable vision of her professor that came to mind: fully clothed, robes and all, panting and heaving above her prone body like a mating bat. She shuddered. And then she was filled with shame for having conjured such an image of the man. After all, it was her own fault they were to be paired together. That was a sacrifice she was willing to make. For Remus and Tonks. Remus and Tonks. Remus and Tonks, she chanted, pinching her eyes closed to keep her focus on the goal. Now that the two were happily out of harm's way, that fire which had led her to tell Dumbledore that she would take the other witch's place had been snuffed out. There was no one to save anymore. No one, that is, except herself.

She glanced at the clock. Just a quarter of an hour before Dumbledore had promised to return. With her fiancé. Oh Merlin. Hermione rested her head in her hands, staring down at the parchment before her through a hazy fog of curls. Nervousness poured like acid into her stomach at the thought of what he might say. If she had thought that the idea of him accepting help from a Hufflepuff was bad, she didn't want to know how he'd react to a Gryffindor. It was bound to be painfully humiliating; accepting thanks from such a proud man. How could she possibly respond without seeming too self-righteous? After all, she wasn't doing this for him.

The door opened and someone entered, though she did not glance up to determine who. "Hey, 'Mione," Ron's voice said as the boy sidled over to his friend and slipped into the chair next to hers. "Whatcha doin'?"

"I'm reading over the terms of the new Marriage Law," she answered in a weary voice.

"Oh," he said, immediately bored.

More footsteps stopped in the open door and Harry's voice broke the cautious rhythm of her thoughts. "Hey, is there an Order meeting today?" he asked.

The answer was 'no,' but Ron seemed to consider. "I dunno, why?"

"Because Snape's in the hall upstairs."

Hermione's head snapped up at that and her heart was immediately pounding. "He's here?" she screeched. A full quarter hour early?!

"Yeah," said Harry. The boys were staring at her in alarmed confusion. They didn't know yet.

Hermione suddenly straightened in her chair, pushing away her breakfast and shuffling the papers into one neat pile. Heat burned in her cheeks and nerves twisted in her belly.

"Alright there, 'Mione?" Ron asked. Her friends were understandably concerned.

"I'm fine," she snapped.

"Yeah, alright," Harry said, cautiously stepping toward her, "except you really don't seem fine."

And then Dumbledore was in the doorway and Hermione's heart leapt. "Ah, Harry," he said, "Ron. Sirius was hoping the two of you might join him in the attic. Apparently it's time for Buckbeak's breakfast."

"Brilliant!" Ron grinned at Harry and the two turned eagerly toward the door, hurrying out so that they wouldn't miss the feeding. But Ron stopped on the threshold and turned back to Hermione. "You coming?" he asked.

Dumbledore answered for her. "I'm afraid Miss Granger will have to miss out. We have other business to discuss." Her redheaded best friend frowned in confusion but left without another word.

When they were gone, the Headmaster stepped aside and Professor Snape swept into the room. His sudden appearance took her breath away. Why on Earth was she so nervous? Of course, it didn't help that his dark form towered over her and his scowl seemed to sink into her soul. Then Dumbledore was closing the kitchen door, shutting himself out and the two of them together without so much as an "I'll leave you to it." She was trapped.

For a long moment, he just stood there, cold black eyes boring into frightened brown ones. Somehow, Hermione didn't think he was about to thank her.

"I want you to understand," Snape said at last, his posture rigid as if with restraint, "that I was not given a choice in the matter. If I had been, I would have chosen that metamorphing clutz… over you." Hermione's jaw fell open. Why, of all the ungrateful… "You have read the law, haven't you?" he asked in his most acidic voice. Raising one peeved eyebrow, Hermione simply lifted the papers in front of her in one hand and let them drop back down to the table. He narrowed his eyes at her. "Then you must know what we will have to do, if you go through with this."

At that, Hermione found her voice. "If I go through with this?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I am going through with this. Sir." The response was automatic, but his continuing glare ignited a fire of righteous indignation in her belly. "And, what's more," she continued, fanning the smoldering flames, "I believe it's only logical that I should. It would be senseless to drag Tonks and Remus into this mess when I'm up for petitioning as well."

Snape brought a hand to his face, pinching the bridge of his nose as if she were trying his patience. "Miss Granger," he began in his most patronizing tone, "I am your professor. I am twice your age. Look at you." He gestured to her with dismissive wave of his hand. "You're still a child."

"I am not a child," Hermione returned with an edge in her voice. "I am legally an adult and subject to this new law, the same as you. Besides, sir, I think you and I both know I've seen and done things beyond my years."

At that, Snape was suddenly upon her, slamming his palms down on the kitchen table and glaring her straight in the face. "You think you are so grown up," he spat, his eyes flashing. Hermione couldn't keep from flinching away from him in sudden fear. "You think you have seen the world." She opened her mouth to dispute this notion, but he didn't give her the chance. "You think reading a few books can make up for a lifetime of experience. You think you're better than the rest. Well, I see you as you really are; a pampered little Gryffindor brat!"

"Pampered?!"

"Yes, and any denial on your part is only proof of your ignorance."

"Well if I'm so young and innocent, then how does that reflect on you for shouting insults at me?"

Snape scoffed wickedly. "Innocent, are you? Miss Granger, in the time I have known you, you have broken more rules…"

"Innocent in the ways of the world, as you put it. I have no experience, you say."

The anger suddenly drained from her professor's face as his eyes grew wide with comprehension as he straightened to his full height and stepped away from her. She hadn't exactly meant it like that. That is, she had, but she hadn't expected it to have such a dramatic effect on the man. Heat rose in her face as she turned her eyes down to her fiddling fingers. She was surprised to see that he was… surprised. At last he spoke. "Another reason not to go through with this."

"But…"

"There are a hundred men-boys-of your acquaintance who would make a better partner for you than me."

"Well, that's not really what this is about, is it?"

"No. Apparently it's about your bloody Gryffindor Saviour Complex."

"If you mean that I am not afraid to take advantage when it is in my power to make other people happy…"

"I mean that you get off on it," he spat.

Hermione was taken aback by his vulgarity. Apparently her professor's anger was stronger than he was letting on. "Well," she said, incensed, "if you think I'm going to ruin three extra lives just to prove you wrong…"

"Three?"

"Yes. Tonks, obviously, Remus, and probably Ron…"

"They would survive."

"And so will you!"

Again, her professor slammed his hands down on the table, hunching over it, presumably in an effort to intimidate her. He hardly needed try. "I might rather die than bring a child into my bed!" he shouted.

Furious, Hermione leapt up. "You think I'm looking forward to it?!"

"You're the one with the power to prevent it!"

"Too bad I'm not as selfish as you!"

"I'm twenty years older than you! It's perverse!"

"Yes, and Tonks is a full six years older than me!"

"Six years is a third of your age!"

"Yeah? Well you know what I think?!"

"WHAT?!"

"I think you don't care so much about the age as you do about the fact that it's me, because you've hated me since my very first day in your class and you DON'T WANT ONE OF YOUR ENEMIES TO SEE BEHIND YOUR MASK!"

Her professor was silent. His eyes became slits and he glared at her with churning fire in those dark depths as she panted into the deadly silence of the kitchen. When he spoke, his voice was calm and low and dangerous. "Do not make the mistake of believing that you will ever see that part of me, Miss Granger. Wife or not, you will remain my enemy, as you say. And I will remain yours."

Hermione gawked at the older man. "Well that's just silly," she told him, completely at a loss.

"No," he growled, his anger spiking once again, "what's silly is the bloody Ministry and this ruddy, stupid Law!"

The young Gryffindor smirked up at her professor. "You see? We're in agreement on that, at least."

But the Slytherin only glared at her, narrowing his eyes. "We're not a team, Miss Granger," he said, straightening to his full, intimidating height. "You aren't going to recruit me to your cause. I'm old and set in my ways, so if you're harboring the deluded notion that you will be able to soften me in any way, you are terribly mistaken. The sooner you accept that, the less effort you will waste in the interim." At that, he spun away from her and swept toward the door. "If you will not see reason," he growled, turning back to her with his hand on the doorknob, " then we are done here." And without so much as another word, her professor threw open the door, sweeping past a smiling Albus Dumbledore and disappearing down the hall.

Dumbledore shuffled into the kitchen. "Well, that could have been worse," he said cheerily. But the young Gryffindor wasn't listening. Snape's last words kept ringing in her mind, and Hermione swore, right then and there, that somehow she was going to prove him wrong.

Chapter Text

Apparently it was a part of the Gryffindor Honor Code that any and every male affiliated with a witch was supposed to defend her from the encroaching Slytherin. Severus felt like the dragon who stole the princess from her tower. Now all the little heroes wanted a shot at slaying him to free their damsel from her fearsome captor. Of course, if the analogy were really accurate, said damsel was the one who leapt out of the window and onto the dragon's back, attempting to break him to her will. As if she ever could. Well, hopefully she didn't get scorched in the process. But honestly, it would serve her right.

His arch nemesis, Sirius Black, and the youngest Weasley boy had each started shouting matches with him earlier that very day. Arthur Weasley had given him a stern talk about how the little angel never put herself first, and how he should keep in mind that no matter how steadfast she seemed to be she was still only a girl. Ha. As if he needed reminding. And now it appeared to be Potter's turn. Harry Potter. The Chosen One. The Golden Child. The Boy Who Lived. If anyone was going to slay the dragon, it would be him. The miserable wretch had already killed one giant snake. But this Knight in Shining Armor was barking up the wrong dragon… so to speak. There wasn't anything Severus could do. After all, it wasn't like he hadn't tried.

"Professor," the boy began, cornering him at the top of the stairs. "Can I talk to you?"

"Apparently you can."

"Look," Potter sighed. This seemed to be quite difficult for him. "I know there's nothing you can do to stop this." Severus was taken aback. This was certainly a different approach. But the boy was doing his best to avoid his professor's eyes. "Hermione's unstoppable when she decides to do something."

"Well at least one of you…"

"And I know she seems strong," Potter cut him off. He had an air of needing to finish what he'd come to say before he could change his mind. "But really she doesn't have a clue what she's getting into. I guess I'm just trying to say… please don't make this any harder for her than it has to be." Finally those bright green eyes met his with an ardent plea. Severus didn't know what to say. "She's always stood up for you, you know. I mean… she respects you a lot." Blessedly, Potter lowered those eyes, almost sheepishly staring at the floor. "So just… please don't prove her wrong."

The boy left without another word, apparently too embarrassed by his cloying words to await the man's response. For his part, Severus was left to fume in silent rage at his presumption. What nerve! To suggest that he had any sort of responsibility toward the girl… to put that weight on his shoulders… why if she had such high opinions of him, either she would be proven wrong or she wouldn't be. But who was Harry Potter to suggest that it would take serious effort on Severus's part to live up to such expectations? Who was Harry Bloody Potter to suggest that he ought to do just that!?

And anyway… it wasn't as if he planned to hurt the girl.

Severus swept toward the door, deciding that he was far too early for the New Year's Eve festivities and that he would return as close to the punch line as possible. No need to spend more time than he had to with this bunch, after all. He had work to do. But as he passed the door to the Black Family Library, he caught sight of his bride to be. Her nose was buried in a book (Typical) and she was stretched out on the couch. The most shapeless jumper he had ever seen smothered her tiny frame and that miserable hair covered her face from his view. Looking at her, all he could see was that buck-toothed First Year, waving her arm in the air. And soon he would have to fuck her.

'Repulsed' didn't begin to describe it.

When he returned that night, near the stroke of twelve, he had it in mind to try one last time to dissuade the chit. Making his way toward her, he was cut off as the crowd of witches and wizards gathered began to count down, staring at the grandfather clock. Glasses of champagne were raised in the air and the excitement was tangible. How utterly absurd. It wasn't as if the New Year came with anything exciting, in and of itself. The Earth didn't celebrate this particular position in its cycle around the sun. But he'd let the cheering die down before he pulled the girl aside.

But then the strangest thing happened. The minute hand reached its apex and before it had even had a chance to begin its descent, all of the mated pairs of witches and wizards in the room simultaneously wrapped their arms around each other and caught lips. It was as if perhaps there really was some strange magnetic phenomenon in the first second of each New Year. Noting this, it became even more awkward that he was standing beside his betrothed. She seemed to sense it, too, if her awkward shifting from one foot to the other was any indication. Did she honestly think he had come over here just to kiss her? Idiot girl.

He was just about to disabuse her of this ridiculous notion-assuming, of course, that the thought had crossed her mind-when there was a collective intake of breath and all of the attention shifted from the ignorant clock to a couple in the back of the room. Remus Lupin was making an arse of himself by kneeling down on one knee, for no apparent reason, in front of his chosen witch, Nymphadora. He withdrew a tiny box from his shabby jumper pocket and the woman looked, for once, completely at a loss for words.

"Dora," the wizard said to an inexplicable flutter of excitement from the witches in the room. "I don't know how I was ever fortunate enough to meet you, but you make me happier than I ever knew that I could be. I want you by my side for the rest of my life… if you'll have me..."

"Yes!" the pink-haired witch gasped excitedly.

"Will you…"

"Yes! Yes, oh yes, Remus! Yes!"

"Marry me?"

"Yes!" The impatient witch suddenly tackled her werewolf, knocking him backwards onto his arse. Their faces melted together as the others in the room awkwardly turned away from the excessive display of affection. To Severus, it seemed as if they were almost accustomed to this sort of behavior. He shook his head, turning back to the girl beside him, preparing to put in one last attempt. But her eyes were glued to the practically mating couple with a look of such unadulterated, sincere happiness that he knew it was no use. Were those tears in her eyes? Yes, there was no denying it. He had already lost.

…*~*J*~*…

Professor Dumbledore believed it would be best to have them married and settled into the Potion Master's chambers before the rest of the student population returned from Christmas hols. And that meant today. Hermione had expected to be nervous, but making arrangements for this to actually take place was more nerve-wracking than she had realized it would be. Now, it really felt real. Staring into her closet, she couldn't help but wonder at the strangeness of it all. For one, she certainly hadn't expected to choose her 'Wedding Gown' from the clothes she'd stuffed into her luggage for two weeks at Grimmauld.

There was a tap at the door and Ginny entered. "So… today's the big day, huh?"

"Apparently," Hermione muttered glumly. It wasn't that she regretted this decision; far from it. But she wasn't exactly looking forward to it, either.

"Looking for something to wear?"

The older girl grunted in the affirmative. "Trying to decide. We're just going to the Ministry and signing some papers. Snape will probably roll his eyes if I wear anything more than jeans and a jumper. But…"

"But it's still your wedding day," the redhead finished for her. Hermione nodded. Ginny chewed her lip. "Stay right there," she said suddenly, "I'll be right back." And then she hurried back out into the hall.

When Ginny returned, what seemed like hours later, it was with Tonks and Mrs. Weasley at her heels. Tonks was carrying a bundle of white knit which she threw casually at the other girl. Hermione flinched, but caught it, staring wide-eyed at the other witches.

"We found an old jumper and did some minor Transfigurations," Ginny explained.

"The least we could do, really," Tonks added, almost sheepishly.

Hermione unfolded the item and took a look at her wedding gown. It was a simple sweater dress, mid-length and a rich, warm cream. A lump formed in her throat.

"Put it on so Mum can alter it to your size," Ginny told her, staring unabashedly into her eyes. The other witches backed out the door, but Tonks had to grab Ginny's elbow before she even thought to follow. Never much for modesty, was Ginny.

Trying the thing on sent a flutter of nerves through Hermione, and then a jolt of panic when it turned out to be nothing so much as a huge wad of knit practically swallowing her whole. She let the other witches back into the room, smirking shyly at the funny way the material hung on her bony frame. But Mrs. Weasley smiled kindly, setting to work without a word and slowly shrinking the item to fit snugly against Hermione's slender form.

The sleeves were long, but the dress left her shoulders bare ("My idea," Ginny told her with a wink). The hem reached just a few inches above the knee, which seemed appropriate and subtly sexy all at once. Looking down at herself, Hermione couldn't help but smile. But when they turned her around to face the mirror, the image took her breath away. It was perfect.

"Hermione!" said Ginny. "You look fantastic!"

"Beautiful," Mrs. Weasley whispered, tears suddenly filling her warm brown eyes.

Tonks shook her head in apparent awe. "Snape won't know what hit him."

"It's not," Hermione began sheepishly, tugging on one tight sleeve, "too much?" But the other witches all fervently began to shake their heads. They were smirking at her with strange expressions of something akin to triumph and Hermione began to feel it, too. This was her day, damn it. And she was wearing white.

..*~*J*~*…

"What could possibly be taking so long?" Severus growled. He was pacing in the front hall of Twelve Grimmauld, waiting for his bratty little bride.

Albus only twinkled knowingly. "It is my understanding that witches take inordinate amounts of time to ready themselves for such occasions. The hair… in particular… seems to be quite a process."

Severus snorted. "If they're attempting to tame that ridiculous bush on top of her head, we'll be here all day. And anyway who is she trying to impress? We're only signing a few papers." At that, the Slytherin stopped short, whipping around to face his employer with an expression of utmost dread. "We are only signing a few papers, aren't we?"

"It's not too late to opt for a full ceremony, if you prefer."

"Don't be ridiculous, Albus." The dark wizard had only just continued his pacing when Miss Weasley suddenly bolted down the stairs, bypassing him with a smirk and throwing open the door to the library.

"Guys," she called into the room, "Hermione's coming down." Next, Molly appeared at the bottom of the stairs, clapping excitedly as an exquisite stranger appeared. Severus had to shake his head. It was Granger. Her hair was pulled back into one thick braid and she wore a dress that was nearly immodestly snug. And good god, she had breasts. And hips. And legs. When had she gotten those? Who gave her permission? He realized he was staring as she walked toward him with an uncertain smile, and he scowled in answer. Suddenly, it was as if the hall had been flooded with people. Remus and Potter and every Weasley on the whole damned planet poured out of the library.

"Hermione!" the twins shouted in unison. The girl in question stepped right past her intended and into the waiting arms of the other men. Severus watched as they all seemed to want to take a turn.

"You look beautiful!"

"Like a… bride!"

"You sure you want to go through with this? It's not too late…"

Granger laughed a delicate tinkling laugh that immediately grated on Severus's nerves. "I'm afraid it is too late, Ron," she said. Severus scowled. Not that he hadn't already been scowling. But he scowled even harder. What right did these boys think they had touching… embracing… taking liberties with his wife?

…soon-to-be wife.

Well, when they were married, he would make sure no other man could touch her. Not that he was jealous. It was a matter of pride.

Albus Dumbledore stepped forward, clearing his throat. "You look lovely, my dear," he told the girl. "Are you ready?"

"I… yes," she told him, nodding as if to convince herself.

"Then we'd best be off."

Their departure from the house was followed by a crowd of waving witches and wizards and a slew of shouted 'Best wishes's, 'Good luck's, and one "Go break in that old Slytherin bed!" shouted by the Weasley twins through obnoxious grins, which Severus answered with a scowl. He didn't know much about weddings, but he was pretty sure there shouldn't have been so much scowling involved.

…*~*J*~*…

They made quite a sight. That was for sure. Hermione was embarrassed by the number of wizards whose eyes seemed to follow her as they trailed through the marble halls. But she was amused to see that Snape's glare could part the sea of Ministry employees the way it would a crowd of Hufflepuff First Years. It was not a wonder when the official in charge of marriage certificates gave them an odd, calculating look. He was a short, pretentious looking man with spectacles and a weak chin. And he was officiating her marriage. It was hard to tell if he was serious or being an arse when he asked which of the two men (Dumbledore or Snape) was to be the groom. Snape gave the man a death glare. Then they signed some papers and that was it. "I now pronounce you Man and Wife," the official tossed off in a dry, sarcastic tone. Hermione was pretty sure the man didn't actually have to say that and just thought he was being clever. It made her scowl. Instinctively she turned to her now-husband. Strange. Her husband. Her tall, dark, intimidating professor-husband. Strange. But he just scowled down at her, making it perfectly clear he was certainly not going to kiss her. Had she expected him to? No. Certainly not. Well, she could scowl just as well as he could.

Honestly, Hermione didn't know much about weddings, but she was pretty sure there shouldn't have been so much scowling involved.

Chapter Text

"What's taking so long?" Ron Weasley pulled aside the curtain once again to peek at the quiet street beyond. He, Harry, Ginny, and the twins were playing Exploding Snap in the Library, but he kept losing because his mind wasn't on the game.

"So long for what?" Ginny asked absentmindedly as she reached for a card.

"For Hermione to get back. Weddings don't take this long, do they?" the sun was setting somewhere out of view. Golden light mixed with a greenish twilight in what he could see of the sky. It cast an eerie orange-ish glow on the street below.

Ginny snorted, looking up at him. "You don't expect Snape to bring her here for the uh… honeymoon, do you?"

The idea was so preposterous that Ron whipped around to gawk at his little sister. "Honeymoon? What are you on about?"

"Come on Ronikins," said Fred.

"We've been over this," agreed George.

"When a Mommy Witch and a Daddy Wizard are forced into a Ministry-run Mating Program…"

"I know what a honeymoon is! I meant… hang on. Did you say Mating Program?"

At this point, all of the eyes in the room were on him with looks akin to pity. Even Harry had broken out of his silent moping to stare at his best friend. Ron's stomach churned. It was Ginny who broke the silence. "Ron, didn't you read any of that article?" He could only shake his head. She sighed. "Does someone else want to tell him?"

There was a moment of silence while they all glanced around at each other. Ron was on the brink of shouting at them to spit it out when Harry finally spoke. "She has to sleep with Snape. Once a week. It's part of the Law."

The news hit him like the Hogwarts Express. "No… I…" he sputtered, trying to make sense of it all at once. "You're joking!"

The twins reaction to his distress was to smirk menacingly in a way he knew meant that they were uncomfortable with his pain. "Hey, that could have been you, mate," George said.

"More's the pity," Fred added, shaking his head.

"Shut it!" Ginny hissed, swatting George's arm.

Ron was staring off into space in horror. Hermione sleeping with Snape? Or… really… Snape sleeping with Hermione! Snape forcing himself on Hermione! "But what if she doesn't want to?" he blurted out.

"Well of course she doesn't want to!" Fred agreed helpfully.

Ginny smacked him, too. "Hermione knew what she was getting into, Ron. She read the Law. And anyway, didn't you see how he was scowling? It's not like he's excited about this, either."

"And anyway, think of it," said George, thoughtfully. "Maybe Snape won't be such a bastard once he's getting some action."

"Getting some action!? It's Hermione!"

"Yeah," agreed Fred with a dreamy expression, "did you see her in that dress today?"

"And he gets to take it off of her…" George shook his head.

"Lucky sod."

"Shut it!" Ron and Ginny shouted together. Ron's mind was spinning out of control. Anger and helplessness seemed to inflate him to the bursting point but he couldn't quite explode. Suddenly unable to be in the room with the rest of them, Ron leapt to his feet and stomped to the door. "I can't take this," he snapped, "I just… I've gotta go."

Pacing the top floor of Twelve Grimmauld didn't help abate his anger. If anything, it only seemed to fuel it. It felt like his fault. When they had first read about the Marriage Law, everyone had known that he would petition for Hermione if she needed him to. Well, apparently everyone had known, anyway. His mother had to sit him down to explain that that was what he would have to do, and why. And he would have been happy to do that for her. Not that he felt…you know… that way for her, but she was his friend and he would have protected her.

But no one had mentioned this part of the Law. It changed everything. For the first time since Hermione had decided to marry Snape, Ron didn't feel relieved. Oh sure, at first he was happy not to have to get married at such a young age. The idea was daunting, after all. But he never would have agreed to let her sleep with Snape. Once a week. He would have had sex with Hermione. Once a week. That could have been him. Why did that make him more jealous than marriage did? Why did that make it seem like maybe it wouldn't have been so bad? Being married to Hermione. Sex once a week. Or more, if she wanted… But no. Now she was going to be sleeping with their Potions Master. What if he hurt her? The pervert! What if he made her do it more than they had to? What if she tried to fight him off and he held her down? He was a grown wizard. A powerful, dark wizard…

"Ron, are you alright?" The boy in question whipped around to see Remus Lupin at the top of the stairs. The anger seemed to rise up in his chest, focusing on that one soft-spoken man who had failed to protect Hermione.

"How could you have let her marry Snape!?" he shouted. Lupin's eyes grew wide with shock. "You knew what they had to do!"

"I tried to talk her out of it," the man protested.

"You were happy!"

"I admit, I wasn't… well I…"

"You were glad it wasn't Tonks! You were glad Hermione was there to take her place. You sacrificed her!"

"Now, Ron. It wasn't my decision…"

"Someone should have stopped her! It's Snape! He's going to hurt her and everyone knows that and everyone thinks it's okay…"

"Severus is a good man…"

"HE'S A DEATH EATER!" Downstairs, Mrs. Black began to shriek, but Ronald Weasley didn't care. He wanted to tear this whole house down in his rage. What a useless pile of shite it was if the Order couldn't even protect Hermione! She was the most important one! Other than Harry… And they'd just thrown her to the wolves… so to speak.

"Ron. Severus Snape is an Order member." Ron scoffed angrily. "Dumbledore trusts him."

"Dumbledore's WRONG!"

"You're hurting. You feel helpless. You want to place blame. But Hermione is very strong. She can take care of herself."

The anger seemed to be building up in his head, behind his eyes, threatening to burst them from their sockets. It was turning cold, leeching into his soul, pulling his heart down into his stomach, sucking his strength out. "She's the one who… the one…" He slammed a palm against the wall and leaned into it, collapsing against the old, dusty wood.

"She doesn't need you to save her, Ron," Remus was saying. The words seemed to puncture the last of his resolve, letting his emotions come pouring out as he sobbed hard into his sleeve. He sank against the wall. "She will be okay." The voice was getting closer, sinking down beside him. "Hermione is strong." Of course she was. She was the strongest person he knew. "This is for the best." Could that really be true? "There is nothing else you could have done to stop her. And she didn't expect you to."

"But I should have," he whined through the shameful tears. "I should have said something to her. I should have been there… let her know that I was there if she needed me."

"She did know that. We talked about it; her and I. She said that it would have been a lot easier for her to marry you, but that it wasn't about what was easy for her. She married Snape so that Tonks could be with me. I told her she didn't need to do that, but she was determined. You know how she can be set in her ways. Once she's decided something… there's no getting it out of her head."

Ron rubbed his eyes, pulling his face out of his arms and breathing in a shuddering breath. "You're right. I know you're right, I just… I didn't know she was going to have to… that they would have to…"

"I know."

"And we just… let her. We just pushed her right into his arms…"

"Hermione Granger is not helpless. She made this decision herself, and she would murder you if you ever let on that you thought of her like that. Like… a victim."

"But she is, though. Oh, she's strong and brave and usually it's her that's trying to help someone else, but… this time she was the one who needed helping. And we just let her go." Ron rubbed his eyes again. They were beginning to ache.

"She isn't gone forever, you know. You can still be there for her. As a friend. That's what she needs right now. It's going to be hard enough being married to Severus Snape without her friends telling her she made a bad decision."

Ron only nodded, understanding. She needed his support. Well, he could be that for her. He could do that much. Merlin knows she would have done it for him.

…*~*J*~*…

Hermione scooped the contents of her underwear drawer into the seemingly bottomless trunk and sighed. She had refused to allow the Hogwarts elves to take care of it for her. But… it had to be done. She was moving into the dungeons with her new husband. How strange. She was moving into the dungeons to cohabitate with Professor Snape. Flopping back onto the bed, she let out a groan.

Gryffindor Tower had been her refuge here at Hogwarts. Before term had even begun their very first year, this bedroom had been hers. She had always known that she could come here to escape whatever problem was plaguing her. It usually had something to do with the boys. But now… now she was moving right to the problem itself. Now, she would be stuck with it. With him.

Snape had barely said three words to her since their "marriage" earlier that afternoon. He'd sent her to pack up her things with vague instructions to meet him beside the Potions classroom in an hour. Well, it hadn't taken nearly an hour to dump all of her carefully laid out belongings into one big trunk. Now, she had only to wait.

Staring up at the scarlet canopy, Hermione wondered what the Potions Master's quarters would be like. She had known that the professors lived at Hogwarts, but had never wondered what sorts of spaces they inhabited. Was it like apartments? Just bedrooms? Maybe a sitting area for visiting… who? For visiting students? Surely not.

And what would they do? She was bound to be stuck with him all night. Would he want to get the… the… consumation… out of the way? Or would he put it off to last minute and make her wait? Hermione would just as soon have it over with, even if it was only the first of many repeats. She wasn't looking forward to that aspect of their new life together. She wasn't looking forward to it at all.

And what would it even be like? Snape didn't exactly strike her as a romantic type, but she had little to go on with regards to sex. That is… she'd seen a few chick flicks from time to time with artfully obscured sex scenes showing moments of passion between lovers, but she really couldn't imagine anything like that transpiring between herself and her professor. Of course, she really didn't know. Maybe men were just so caught up in their own physiological responses that seemingly affectionate gestures just sort of happened.

Either way, soon enough, her naked body was going to be touching Snape's. How weird was that? Now, Hermione Granger was no prude. She considered modesty an emotional response. But she had no experience to draw on. Would he kiss her? Would he touch her? It all just seemed so strange.

Closing her eyes, she tried to imagine Snape turning toward her, approaching her in a dimly lit dungeon chamber, a giant four-poster bed in Slytherin green dominating the room. She would want to draw away from him, but to do so would be to show weakness, and that would never do. She would stand strong, shivering as he stepped into her personal space and brought his fine-boned hands to rest upon her waist. Hermione shuddered. She was feeling quite confident today, as she had spent the afternoon being gawked at by wizards of an age with her husband. Clearly, she wasn't too young or too scrawny for any of them. Maybe… maybe he thought she looked pretty, too?

She would place her own hands on his upper arms, but it wouldn't be quite natural, and she would end up with her hands behind his neck, pulling her even closer to his dominating frame. Those dark black eyes would bore into hers, impressed by her boldness, daring her to do even more.

Maybe she would press her breasts against his chest, watching to see if his eyes dilated. She would ask him without words if he wanted to touch her, and his hands would twitch involuntarily. 'You are no longer a girl,' he might say, letting his eyes rove across her newfound curves.

'It's about time you noticed,' she would answer. Then he would crush her hard against him and slowly lower his mouth to hers. The first kiss would be brief, awkward, but she would moan against his mouth and he would growl into hers. Suddenly overcome with desire, he would kiss her fiercely, thrusting his tongue into her mouth and pushing her backwards until she collapsed into his sheets.

Hermione bolted up in the bed, gasping. Her skin seemed to be on fire, pulsing with embarrassed warmth. Maybe she wasn't only anxious about the night ahead. Maybe she was actually looking forward to it. Oh come on, Hermione, don't be daft. It was only a fantasy, after all. Snape would never look at her that way in real life. He thought of her as a girl; a child. She would never be anything more than a bony chit to him. He would never want her.

Did she want him to?

She waited a solid ten minutes outside the Potions classroom before the man in question decided to make an appearance. He growled and glared and gestured for her to follow, not so much as offering a helping hand with her heavy trunk. After all, as he kept telling her, she could have had the elves do it, but she just had to do it herself.

Dragging her luggage after her professor, Hermione followed the insufferable man down the darkened corridor, past the classroom, past where Harry and Ron said the Slytherin Common Room was, and deep into the heart of the dungeon. There were fewer candles and portraits the farther they went and eventually he stopped in front of a mural of a tree that was framed by a plane stone arch. A series of nonverbal spells released what appeared to be a number of intricate wards and the façade melted away.

It would have been comforting for the melted mural to have let out a stream of warm, homey light. Unfortunately, the room beyond the arch was darker than the corridor. Snape waved his wand again as they stepped across the threshold, and a couple dozen candles lit themselves around the room. Hermione gasped. She hadn't known what to expect, but this certainly hadn't been it. His chambers were the epitome of a fictional Sorcerer's Lair. Half of the walls were covered by books; the others by shelves of jars of potions ingredients. Strange animals, liquids, powders, insect bits, organs, leaves, and stranger things than she had ever used in Potions class seemed to have been haphazardly strewn across every available surface. Counters were crowded with parchment and cutting boards. Knives had been left out. Mortars and pestals and strange metal tools littered the spaces in between. There were cauldrons stacked in corners; some standing ready on tables; two softly simmering over an open flame. There was a single wooden stool and nothing more.

He ushered her past this room and through a heavy wooden door into what appeared to be his bedroom. A dark, oak wardrobe was the most imposing piece of furniture. Around it, three parchment-strewn desks were crowded into the corners with one rickety chair between them. A fireplace was flanked by two more bookshelves and attended by one huge threadbare wingback chair. Hung on the opposite wall was an impressive clockwork structure that appeared to be slowly moving. Wheels and gears held spindles with metal balls at the ends; circles upon circles that she couldn't make sense of. It was strangely beautiful. And beneath that was his bed. It was a sad, rickety little grey thing with blankets that were probably as old as she was. Hermione swallowed. And she was going to live here.

Panic was beginning to seep into her chest, pulsing angrily and urging her to feel regret for her mistake. And it was a mistake. Anything that could have led her to live in this place must surely be categorized as such. No. No. Get a grip, Hermione. It's only a bedroom. It's nothing to panic about. But it was hardly a bedroom. This was a workspace. The bed itself seemed to have been squeezed in as a last minute consideration. Oh, yes, and I might have to sleep at some point. Merlin! There was no space for anything of hers. No space in that bed for the two of them! What the hell was she going to do?!

Too late, she noticed her professor watching her. "Admiring your new accommodations?" he asked her in a deadly quiet tone.

She swallowed. "I…" she didn't know what to say. "Where should I put my things?" she asked, instead.

It may have been her imagination, but some of the tension seemed to leave the man at that. He led her to the wardrobe and threw it open, shifting all of his belongings to one side. They only took up half the space. Well, no one had ever accused Professor Snape of having a diverse wardrobe.

Hermione nodded in thanks. "And my books?" she wondered.

There was a long pause in which her Potions Master seemed to simmer. "I told Albus this wasn't going to work," he spat. "I don't have room for all of your silly things. Next, I expect you'll want to know where you can put the doll house!"

Hermione couldn't help herself. "You think I want this? I wanted to stay in Gryffindor Tower…"

"Yes, well, you can't can you?"

"But the Law doesn't say anything about…"

"It's nothing to do with the Law! It's Wizarding custom. Allowing you to sleep anywhere but at my side would be shameful."

Her eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You mean you're the one who's making me live down here?"

He scoffed at that. "Don't be ridiculous. It was never a question…"

"Well, then, you ought to make accommodations for me."

That was going too far. Snape descended upon her, curling his tall, slender form until she seemed trapped even though he hadn't touched her. "I owe you nothing," he hissed. "As my wife, you belong to me."

At his words, Hermione felt the first shiver of fear. How could she have even imagined this man gently touching her? How could she have ever thought that he would be tender? "Belong?" she asked, dismayed when her voice was barely a whisper.

He sneered wickedly at that, pulling himself up to his full height. There was a twinge of bitterness in those black eyes. "Yes, Miss Granger. Belong. You belong to me, now. That is what marriage is."

"But it… it doesn't mean anything," she protested.

"Oh, but it does. It means everything, Miss Granger. It means that you can never oppose me in a court of law."

That information hit Hermione like the dull blow of a hammer. What the hell had she gotten herself into?

Sensing her distress, Snape pulled himself nearer to her, approaching her in a twisted mockery of her fantasy from earlier. "It means," he growled, his voice darker and deeper than she'd ever heard it before, the mere vibrations sending shudders down her spine, "that I can do anything I want to you. And there's nothing you can do."

She stood strong. "But y-you won't hurt me."

He laughed at that, the cruelty of the sound piercing deep into her heart. Here she was proving faith in the man and he could think of nothing better than to rip it out from under her. "You are fortunate, Miss Granger," he told her, sweeping sparkling eyes down her shivering form. She hadn't felt so exposed by the tightness of her dress until that moment. Then his eyes locked onto hers, but he did not speak, teasing her with fear and anticipation.

"Why?" she couldn't help but ask.

"Because," he growled, his eyes narrowing wickedly as he basked in her response, "there is nothing that I want to do to you."

Chapter Text

Footsteps in the other room made Hermione's head jerk up in the direction of the door. She knew it was silly, but it felt like an intrusion sitting in her husband-professor's chair. He had left her to tend to his brewing with the single instruction that she should unpack without disturbing his belongings. But he had yet to reenter the bedroom and she didn't want to disturb his work in the other room. So here she was, sitting in anxious anticipation, trying to read a book for class, despite the fact that classes didn't begin for another three days. She just couldn't concentrate. Her mind kept wandering around the room. First, to the books on the shelves, in stacks on the floor, and strewn across the desks. There were so many and her hands itched to search through them for herself. Next, to the strange clockwork structure that she had decided must represent the motion of the celestial bodies (which was very important in some obscure potions, after all). And then… to the bed. The grimy, rickety, too-small bed. Her Potions Master's bed. This is where he slept. This is where the Bat of the Dungeons, the Greasy Git, the Head of Slytherin House… wow, it was amazing that the Head of Slytherin House slept on such a pathetic little cot. No wonder he was always cranky.

She tried not to repeatedly imagine him bursting through the door and dragging her to said bed to throw her down upon it. After his outburst earlier, she didn't know what to expect. Would Tonks know what to do? She felt pathetic even wondering. Tonks was an Auror. She would arrest the foul git if he tried anything with her. But Hermione was no slouch with a wand, either. And she knew quite a bit about the law. True… she hadn't known that marriage basically diffused the rights of the witch involved… but that was something she'd look into later.

Well. What was the worst that could happen? She would survive, wouldn't she? He wasn't about to kill her. Anything else, she could grit her teeth and bear. She was strong. She was smart. She was a survivor. Of course, they had to have sex, but if he was rough, she could give him what for.

…*~*J*~*…

Severus had already finished the potions for the Hospital Wing and was scrambling anxiously for something to occupy his mind. Ideally, he could have spent the evening working on one of his many unfinished projects (mostly potions he was trying to invent), but he was too distracted to be inspired. There was a bushy-haired know-it-all in his bedroom, and he didn't know what to do about it. Grumbling impatiently, he snatched up his copy of the new Marriage Law and plopped himself down on the stool. There had to be some sort of loophole hidden somewhere, and he was determined to find it. But where? How? He didn't want to face the girl in the other room without a good strong defense. How could he?

Hermione Granger had always been a nuisance. On one hand, she reminded him far too much of Lily. On the other, she was best friends with Potter. Again with the reminding him of Lily. Oh, she'd never been the shining, beautiful star that Lily was. She'd never drawn the stranger's eye and turned grown men into puddles of mush with a smile. But she was bright and strong and compassionate. She loved her studies and she excelled in them-annoyingly well. He truly had despised her in the beginning. Still did. She had the shiny new paint of an unjaded innocent. She had a bright future that she hadn't yet thrown away. In another Universe, he might have had everything it would have taken to be her, but he didn't. He had lost it all to foolish impulse and was now forced to pay the price. Had she just thrown away her future, too? Severus wasn't sure if he wanted to think she had or not.

But she wasn't that gangly, big-haired brat anymore. Somehow, she had managed to acquire the body of a woman. The body of a woman capable of drawing the attention of every… bleeding… wizard at the Ministry earlier that day. Even his most formidable glares couldn't deter the wretched droolers. He resented her for that. What had she done to deserve beauty on top of everything else? Why did she deserve that when he didn't? Of course, that was illogical. He understood that. She hadn't done anything to merit such. But it didn't matter. She was beautiful and he was ugly and she would resent him for that simple fact. She would hate him for touching her. She would never be his to touch.

Not that he wanted to. She was practically a child. She knew nothing of the ways of the world. She still thought she was mature, and in some ways she was, if he were honest with himself. But her experience didn't begin to compare with his. Her understanding of the nature of the world was inherently naïve. She was coming from a perspective with a completely different outlook. They would never see the same side of anything. They were doomed from the start!

And what would she think of him?

Severus drew a hand down his face, flipping the pages of the law for some escape. He kept himself so locked away, so hidden from any prying eyes. How could he open himself up to such ridicule? How could he possibly have sex with her? She would laugh at him! Or pity him. Somehow, she had saddled herself with the Bat of the Dungeons. What intrigue! Wonder what the Greasy Git wears to bed. Wonder what he looks like when he comes. He could just hear her laughing about him to her friends. He was pale. He was skinny. He was not an attractive man. And she was the virgin sacrifice on the altar of his cause. Damn that Albus Dumbledore! Damn the Dark Lord! Damn the Minister of Magic for making all of this happen to him! Damn all of them for turning him on his head again so the world could see up his robe.

He slammed a fist on the table and stood to pace again. There had to be some way around this law.

…*~*J*~*…

Hermione was yawning and eyeing the little bed, weighing the pros and cons of falling asleep before Professor Snape returned. Could he really blame her? It was nearly two in the morning and he hadn't come out of his lab (if that was what that was). Consummated or not, Hermione needed to get some sleep.

There were footsteps again. She had practically learned to ignore the footsteps by now. But this time the door was wrenched open and her husband appeared. It made her heart stop. Her legs were draped over the arm of his chair and she had changed into pajamas hours ago. He glared down at her, still in his robes, hair greasy, bags darkening beneath his eyes. He was very much her Potions Professor, and he was getting ready for bed.

The chit was wearing some sort of thin trousers and a Muggle tee-shirt that was nearly transparently white. For all that it appeared to be virginal, he could see the pointed tips of her breasts. She quickly swung her legs down from the arm of his chair and his eyes caught a sliver of midriff before the shirt slid down again. His cock twitched. "Making yourself at home?" he growled, releasing his anger onto her. He was furious with himself for even considering how soft she looked.

The girl only sputtered. She seemed torn between apologizing and arguing with him. He pushed past her and made his way into the bathroom, shutting the door behind himself with a satisfying thump. Resting his hands on the countertop, he sighed heavily and began to run the sink.

What on earth to wear to bed? The girl was wearing some sort of cotton that looked designed to feel as absolutely delicious as possible, but he refused to think about that. Would she feel good held against his body? Objectively, yes. But she was his student. She was 18 years old. She was friends with bloody Potter. Ah yes, if anything could cool down an inflating erection, it was Potter. Why was he thinking about these things? Why was he noticing now what he had never deigned to notice before? Was it just the proximity? The fact that he would have to have sex with her? His cock jumped in answer to the question. Severus groaned. Bloody hell. He was actually looking forward to it.

Sweeping out of the bathroom, Severus threw open his wardrobe. Colors of every hue and shade assaulted his eyes. Merlin's balls. She had thoroughly taken over his armoire. Pushing her belongings to the side, he searched his options. Usually, he wore nothing to bed. Why should he? It was much more efficient to simply remove his clothes or sleep in them. And they were dreadfully uncomfortable. He considered the old nightshirt at the very back. He hadn't worn that in eons, but it wouldn't do either. More than anything else, it was much too readily suited for mockery. With no other option, he ripped out a pair of old trousers and a shirt and stalked back into the bathroom.

Hermione was amazed by her professor's ability to stay angry for an indefinite period of time. He'd been in the other room for hours, but he was still fuming like a cauldron. She traced the edges of the book on her lap, wondering what he was doing and how she could possibly calm him down.

Severus made a few adjustments to his trousers so that they were more comfortable before considering the shirt. To wear it or not to wear it? It really was overkill, even in the winter in the dungeons. Fighting poor blood circulation in the coldest part of the castle, Severus had long ago charmed the blankets of his bed to keep him warm. The extra layer of a linen shirt would probably leave him hot and uncomfortable.

On the other hand, his bare chest was hardly something to write home about. He had a bit of muscle tone in his arms, but not much. The rest of him could best be described as wiry. And pale. With thin, black hairs that weren't thick enough to be what women seemed to consider sexy. Nothing about him was sexy. Or impressive. But why the hell should he care what she thought? She was just a little slip of a girl who knew nothing of the world. She was just a bookworm and a loudmouth and an annoying little nuisance. Who was she to make him cover himself up and hide away? Who was she to make him feel insecure? He was a grown wizard, damn it. He would wear what he wanted to bed.

Hermione jumped when her professor finally emerged from the bathroom. He had exchanged the billowing robes for black trousers and a white shirt buttoned nearly up to his neck. He looked peeved and uncomfortable. Stalking past her, he stared down at the bed. She was relieved when he withdrew his wand to enlarge the sad, pathetic thing. Even when he was done, it still wasn't quite luxuriously large, and it made the room feel even more cramped than before. Hermione suppressed a sigh. At least for a little while, it would just have to do.

"Well," her Potions Master grumbled, "if you ever plan to get some sleep tonight, I would rather you took the side against the wall." She blinked up at him. "Merlin knows how late you stay in bed," he continued, "and I loathe the thought of climbing over you."

More than feeling offended, Hermione was confused. Why did it matter which side she was on right now? Wouldn't he more or less be on top of her? At that thought, a jumble of nerves hit her like a punch to the stomach. Concentrating on breathing, she decided not to question the man. Perhaps it would be better if she just followed along.

He watched the chit climb onto his bed and suppressed another surge of unexpected arousal. He had noticed in her wedding dress, and he was noticing again, that Hermione Granger had the most perfectly round, pert little arse. She probably expected him to consummate the marriage tonight. Right now. The thought nearly made him groan aloud. As the law was written, technically they had a week to get it done, but she didn't know that yet. He could climb on top of her right now, if he wanted to and… No no no! Stop it, you fool. Stop thinking these things! She's your student. Stu-dent. 18. Potter's friend. Ah yes, that did it.

Hermione situated herself on her side of the bed, right up against the dungeon wall. When she glanced back at her professor, he was glaring down at her. Had she done something wrong? Her stomach twisted nervously. Maybe he was just really dreading what he was about to have to do. But Snape only slipped under the covers on his side of the bed and turned away from her, waving his empty hand to extinguish the candles lit all around the room. The fire hummed and spit into the silence, warming the freezing dungeon room. Hermione was stiff as a board, lying on her back, unsure what to do. I guess he's not going to do anything, she thought. But, of course, she had to ask.

"Professor?" she whispered.

"What, Granger?"

"Don't we… I thought we had to…"

"No." It was his only answer.

She wanted to leave it at that. She really did. Only, so many questions were flying through her mind, and he was the only one who could answer them. And he was right there. "So…" she began again, "but we do have to eventually…"

Professor Snape sighed into the silence. She could tell he was put out, but she couldn't help herself. "The Law only specifies 'once a week,'" he said.

"Oh." She was feeling pretty foolish, now, staring up at his clockwork Solar System like a baby in a crib. She was literally trapped against the dungeon wall by the Potions Master. How on earth was a Gryffindor to sleep? The phrase 'between a rock and a hard place' sprang to mind. "So…" she began again, another question on the tip of her tongue.

"Go to sleep, Granger," her professor growled.

He wished the girl would learn to hold her tongue. How the hell was he supposed to get to sleep? It almost made him eager for the nightmares that he knew were soon to come. The thought made him freeze. How would Granger react if he woke up screaming with her in the bed? What if he thrashed in his sleep? Bloody hell. He hadn't even considered the ramifications of having another person in his bed. Clearly, there was only one thing he could do. Withdrawing one hand from under the coverlet, Severus Summoned a bottle of Dreamless Sleep and uncorked it. Here's to my marriage bed, he thought dryly, raising the potion like a toast to his own future before downing the damn thing.

Hermione was afraid to look at her professor; afraid that he would sense the subtle gesture and know that she was staring. And her breathing. Her breathing was too loud in the quiet bedroom. Was he bothered by it? Would he tell her to stop? The thought nearly made her snort aloud, but luckily she stopped herself. Then the thought of what he would say to her laughing caused another chuckle to rise up in her throat. Really, the whole situation was hilarious. She was practically having a sleepover with the Head of Slytherin House! At that, a snort really did escape her. She clapped her hands over her mouth in embarrassment. It was as if the first domino had been struck. Delirious laughter seemed to bubble up inside her. In a panic, she tried to smother it with her palms. Fantastic. What better way to prove her immaturity than by giggling in the Potions Master's bed? Somehow, she doubted anyone had ever done that before. She thought of Harry, Ron, and Ginny. They were probably sitting on their hands back at Grimmauld, silently contemplating the horror she was going through. And here she was, crowded into their professor's bed like a neglected teddy bear. The images had her shaking with silent laughter as she pressed her palms against her mouth. Tears sprang to her eyes inexplicably as relief and hilarity fell over her in waves.

Without warning, Snape swung around, propping himself up on one arm and leaning over her in anger. "WHAT?" he snapped. At that, she burst out laughing, choking back gales as she tried to muffle them with her hands. She could only shake her head. "Do you want to sleep on the floor, Granger?" he hissed. It only served to make her laughter double. The Head of Slytherin House didn't seem to know what to do.

Severus could feel his face growing warm. It was one thing to acknowledge a humorous situation, and another thing entirely to be that situation. He wanted to hex the impertinent girl or hurt her or lash out in some way that might teach her never to make him feel like this again. But before he had a chance to say something cruel (which was really his only option, as physical punishment was completely out of the question), her laughter subsided enough for her to choke out a few words.

"I'm s-sorry." Hermione had to fight to catch her breath. "It's not that funny, I just…" she felt foolish and relieved at the same time. "Can you imagine… if someone had told us this time last week that we would be here right now?"

"Yes, I believe I can imagine it, as someone did tell me this would happen, and I didn't want to believe it." The Dreamless Sleep was beginning to hit him and Severus fought a wave of panic. Had he known that she was going to do this… well, he wouldn't have downed that bottle.

"I'm sorry," Hermione told the angry man. Her laughter was derailed by the seriousness of his response. Now, she simply felt foolish, staring up at the man who was her husband. He must think me a complete twit. It was hardly the best way to begin their relationship. Relationship. How strange.

"Yes, well, you shouldn't…" her professor yawned, swaying slightly as his eyelids fought to close. "You shouldn't get so… carried away. It's…" Weariness had taken the place of anger in his voice, and he slipped down to rest on his elbow beside her. "It's… bad form." And suddenly, inexplicably, his arm buckled beneath him, his eyes slid closed, his face grew slack, and he was fast asleep against the pillow. For a long moment, Hermione gawked, not comprehending. The realization hit her like a punch to the stomach. There was a bottle on the table by the bed. Had he taken something? Apparently. And now he was out; absent. And yet… present. The always alert spy, sly enough to walk the line between Voldemort and Dumbledore, had cast his defenses aside. She could see him.

It was strange. Hermione had never had the opportunity to study Professor Snape's features. One couldn't look at the paranoid wizard without meeting those inky black eyes. That was a defense of his. As long as he was looking at you, you couldn't see anything but his eyes.

But the moment he closed them, falling down onto the pillow, his lips parting to breath heavily the cold winter air, the rest of his face appeared. The light of the fire deepened the circles beneath his eyes and disappeared in the harsh lines across his forehead and around his mouth. For the first time, Hermione wondered how old her professor was. Her husband. His long black hair spread out beneath him and she was prickled by the question of why he kept it so long? Was it just another veil to hide behind?

Suddenly at ease, Hermione settled onto her side to watch her husband's countenance as she drifted off to sleep. Her last thought echoed into dreams. Who was this silly man who wore a fully-buttoned linen shirt to bed? And would he ever let her know?

Chapter Text

She dreamt that she was camping with her parents in the Forest of the Dean. She'd gone off on her own and stumbled across a stranger's campsite. The fire was crackling, but no one was there. Suddenly weary, she stretched out beside the fire. The ground beside it had been warmed and the hot earth scorched her soft skin. She was too close. Too close to the fire. It was burning her arm and the side of her leg. She opened her eyes.

All was dark, but she could hear the heavy breathing of the man beside her. She flinched. Their arms and calves were pressed hard against each other. The realization made her skin burn with embarrassment. Slowly, cautiously, she tried to pull away. He didn't so much as groan. Searching the sheets, Hermione found her wand and cast a Tempus Charm. Eight o'clock?! How was it so dark if it was… oh. There were no windows in the Potion Master's quarters. How dreadfully depressing. Hermione lit the tip of her wand and slowly pulled herself into a sitting position. Snape had taken a sleeping potion of some sort, she remembered. Maybe she wouldn't wake him if she tried to get out of bed.

Casting the soft glow of Lumos over her husband's sleeping form, Hermione was struck again by how enormous he seemed to be. His limbs looked longer without his robes to envelop them. And though his frame was far from wide, his chest and shoulders were broader than she had thought they'd be. Perhaps it was mere proportion. He was a large man and his parts were large when viewed up close. She blushed at the thought, her eyes snapping to the juncture between his legs. The blankets had been pulled back when she sat up, and the edge just barely covered the top of his trousers. Even through the thick material, she could see a prominent bulge. Heat flooded her face. She had read about the phenomenon of morning arousal in men, but to witness it for herself… Heavens, she was practically staring at her professor's… well his… the bulge in his trousers. Shaking her head, she ripped her eyes away.

For a long moment, Hermione Granger just sat there. What was she to do? He had trapped her against the wall. Between a rock and a hard place. She almost giggled at the thought. And then she groaned, remembering her giggle fit the night before and realizing how stupid she must have seemed to him. With sudden force, she threw off the covers, baring a bit more of himin the process. She froze. He would be furious with her if he woke right now and saw what she had seen. And yet… she couldn't keep her curious eyes from settling on the proud outline of her husband's… of his… of Snape's penis. Oh gods, how odd.

Hermione had never considered the fact that Professor Snape had a penis. He was just her professor; a man who played a role in her life; a very fully grown adult wizard who practically owned her at the moment. Hermione gasped. She had been holding her breath, her heart pounding wildly as if the man before her were some sort of sleeping dragon. Sleeping Serpent, more like. Shaking her head, she crawled to the foot of the bed rather than risk the humiliation that would come with waking her husband by climbing over his sleeping form.

Having escaped her marriage bed, Hermione stood in the middle of the floor and wondered what she ought to do. She had waited hours the night before for permission to go to sleep (essentially), so she didn't feel the need to bother asking if she could please take a shower. Pathetic. Her mind made up, she padded over to the wardrobe and searched the contents for something to wear. Selecting a pair of comfortable jeans and a soft, white jumper, she grabbed her bag of toiletries and slipped into the bathroom.

For a man with so few items dedicated to personal hygiene, Professor Snape sure did have a messy bathroom. Nothing seemed to be in order. Empty toothpaste tubes hid behind a full one without a cap. Multicolored potion bottles littered the counter around the sink. The shower was full of replicas of the same old brand of shampoo (presumably empty ones he hadn't bothered tossing in the bin). And there was a bathtub, but it was dusty with cobwebs.

Tempted by the prospect of a bath as she was, Hermione didn't feel quite comfortable enough in her professor's bathroom just yet. Perhaps she'd hold off for the nonce. But now was as good a time as any to set her own belongings out around the room. She certainly wasn't going to keep them in a bath bag like she was on perpetual holiday. Perpetual. The word made her shiver with dread. Somehow, she still believed this was all just temporary.

Thank Merlin she had an over-the-showerhead rack for her various soaps and shampoos, or she never would have fit them in among the empty bottles cramped into the corners of the shower stall. Next to the green-grey, white, and black tiles of the bathroom, her pink and red and yellow bottles seemed to glow. It made her chuckle a little. Everything else in the bathroom was monochromatic, but her orderly little rack of bottles made the eye pop right to them. She hoped he wouldn't mind. And bugger him if he did! Oh, Hermione, that's a terrible thing to think. She shook her head. If they were going to get along, she couldn't start off on the defensive.

Fiddling with the knobs, she got the shower working and stripped out of her clothes. The water was hot and hard against her skin, and Hermione sighed. She could get used to this. She was lathering her hair with shampoo when she noticed a long black hair clinging to the shower wall. Lavender Brown always left hair in the shower, but it was somehow different knowing that this hair was Snape's. She had a sudden vision of him standing naked beneath the same torrent of hot water and her stomach jumped up into her throat. It suddenly seemed so forbidden that she was naked in her professor's bathroom, her hair mingling with his in the drain.

Once she had noticed them, she couldn't help but see them. Long black hairs stuck here and there and wrapped around the old shampoo bottles at her feet. And then there were smaller hairs lower down, little curling coarse black hairs that couldn't be anything other than… Snape's pubic hair! The thought should have grossed her out, but she found her mind wandering back to the bulge in the front of his trousers. Proof that he was a man. She had known that. She had never doubted that he was. But somehow seeing the evidence made her comprehend the fact more fully. He was a grown, male wizard. And he was going to sleep with her soon.

Reaching past the shower curtain, Hermione snatched up her wand. She banished the hairs and Scourgified the walls and floor for good measure. While she was at it, those empty bottles had to go. There was only one that had anything in it, anyway. Even his single bar of plain white soap was given a good rinse with her wand, washing away the single curly hair that had somehow wrapped around it. Ever since the first summer she spent with the Weasleys at Twelve Grimmauld, Hermione had known that boys were messy and unhygienic and gross. But she had never imagined that grown men could be the same. Well, in retrospect it shouldn't have been so surprising. Everyone knew the Greasy Git with his crooked teeth and oily skin didn't know how to bathe. Was it any shock, then, that his shower was such a mess?

When Hermione stepped out of the shower, she gave the same treatment to the rest of Professor Snape's bathroom. Those empty toothpaste tubes were completely unnecessary and the cobwebs could be cleared away with one sweep of her wand. Honestly. Was it really so hard? She dried off her hair and dressed in clean clothes and stepped out into the professor's bedroom. And he was still asleep. Incredible.

For a minute, she just stood there, debating her options. It would be nice to get some breakfast and fresh air, but she didn't know the wards to his quarters yet, so she'd be locked out until she found him. On the other hand, there wasn't much to do here but wait until he woke up.

Of course… there were the books…

Leaving the bathroom light on, Hermione meandered idly over to the bookshelves, glancing casually at the titles while sending furtive glances back at her sleeping husband. Her heart pattering, she lifted a hand to the row of books before her, trailing the tip of one finger across their leather spines. Snape was dead asleep (another glance confirmed), so she shouldn't be so nervous.

There was no rhyme or reason to the order of the books. They weren't in order of category or alphabet and some seemed to have been stuffed in wherever it looked like they would fit. Sections of the shelf were turned sideways in a stack, as if he hadn't bothered righting them when he was done. Even a couple of obvious collections were separated by unrelated tomes or shuffled out of order. It made Hermione cringe against the instinct to organize.

There was quite a variety. Mixed in with the obvious Potions and Dark Arts textbooks were texts about Arithmancy, Herbology, Divination (shocking!), Magical History, Muggle History, Muggle Chemistry, Astrophysics, and even, much to her surprise, a few Muggle Science Fiction novels tucked into the corners of the bottom shelf. Sending another guilty glance over her shoulder, Hermione withdrew what looked like a collection of experimental potions papers that looked promising. She flipped it open and was skimming the Table of Contents when a load groan made her jump and nearly drop the damn thing.

Snape was stretching his limbs and groaning wearily in a way that made her face grow warm. What would he say when he saw her standing there watching him? What would he do when he saw his book in her hand? But he only hooked a hand beneath the hem of his linen shirt and dragged it up to scratch his belly. Hermione froze, her heart hammering as she stared transfixed at his pale, hairy flesh. The man was ridiculously thin, but his stomach looked soft and was covered with long, black hairs. They circled his navel and disappeared in tapering lines up under his shirt and down beneath the band of his trousers. Which were still tented.

For one long minute, Hermione stood there, not breathing, watching in fear that he would slip those long, pale fingers down that slope of wiry hair and plunge them into his trousers to fondle himself. When he, instead, turned onto his side and let out a deep breath before growing still once more, she almost sighed with relief. Then, assuring herself that he was indeed asleep, she stuffed the manual under her arm and left his chambers without a second thought.

…*~*J*~*…

When Severus could hold the waking world at bay no longer, he was surprised to see his bathroom light on. Had he forgotten to turn it off? No. No, it wasn't him, his tired mind remembered. Granger was there now. She must have done it.

Groaning, he pulled himself up into a sitting position and buried his face in his hands. His head ached something awful. He would need to take a potion for that. It took all of Severus's strength and determination to pull himself up out of bed and drag himself over to the bathroom. And when he did, he was met with quite a surprise. It was clean. She had cleaned it. The empty bottles and tubes were gone and the surfaces shone like they hadn't since he could remember. Heat rose in his face and he snarled. How dare she! The nerve of that little Gryffindor brat! What made her think she could touch his belongings? Clean them and banish them at her will? What if he had needed those bottles for something? Well? Of course… he didn't… but that wasn't the point! Growling angrily to himself, Severus stripped out of his clothes and ran the shower.

What the hell are all of these?! The chit had put up a rack of her belongings-and a rack was necessary. Just look at them all! How on Earth could one little witch need so many hair-care products? And the soaps! 'Bath gel,' 'body scrub,' 'clear skin,' and even something called 'warming body wash!' Hmmm, of course, that last one sounded rather intriguing. He lifted the bottle out of its carefully designated slot to read the label. It's of Muggle make? Remarkable. Of course, nearly all of the ingredients were toxic, but that was no surprise. They weren't strong enough to cause any real damage, anyway. Maybe if he just tried a little dab…

Oh wow. The stuff really did warm against his skin. Incredible. The scent was familiar; a sort of warm honey spice that he had smelled somewhere before. On her, his mind provided. He had smelled it on Granger. Of course. His lip curled up in distaste and he stuffed the item back into its place on the rack, turning instead to his own bottle of shampoo and beginning to lather his hair.

As much as taking a shower usually seemed like a necessary nuisance, there were times when the hot water felt just right against his skin. The burn of it seemed to melt the pain out of his shoulders. Of course, that might just be the potion he had taken. He reached for his bar of plain white soap and began to systematically scrub his dripping body. It was then that he saw one long, curly hair clinging to the wall of the shower. The image hit him hard and unexpectedly. Hermione Granger standing naked beneath the same hot torrent, dripping wet and sudsed up with a dozen different soaps. Even as his mind remarked on the strangeness of that realization, his cock rose in answer to the image it evoked: her pale, milky skin flushed with heat, pert breasts dripping with water, bathing her extremities with those delicate hands. Furious, Severus slammed the tap to cold, dousing himself with ice water before jerking the curtain aside and stepping out.

Having nothing else to do, Severus spent the day brewing in his lab. As per usual, he didn't even notice that he had neglected to eat until the evening rolled around and he began to feel light-headed. A glance at the clock confirmed that it was time to head to dinner in the Great Hall. His wife had not returned, but what concern was that to him? The more time she spent away from his quarters, the better his life would be.

Sweeping into the Great Hall, Severus immediately noticed the girl sitting at her house table, reading a book. The other Gryffindors were scattered across the length of the table, as was the case with the majority of the houses. In fact, only the Hufflepuffs had all come together-older students with the younger-to sit in the middle of their table.

As he began the long trek down the center of the Hall, Severus began to notice the whispers and stares of his students. It didn't take a practiced spy to deduce that they had heard about Miss Granger and himself. To his disgust, he felt his face growing warm under the scrutiny. It made him jumpy and self-conscious. For the first time, he wondered if it was really appropriate for his wife to be sitting somewhere besides at his side. It showed a sort of independence that might undermine his authority over her. But if he was going to change that, it would have to be now. The place where she sat was fast approaching and she hadn't even looked up to acknowledge him. So transfixed was she by the book in front of her-a book that looked familiar-a book that was definitely his!

"Miss Granger," he growled in his most acidic voice. She nearly jumped out of her seat, whipping her head around to meet his eyes, her rosy lips popping open in surprise. "I see you have welcomed yourself to my bookshelf." Oh, yes, that embarrassed blush was a satisfying hue. "We will discuss that later. For now you will follow me." When the girl only stared at him blankly, Severus sighed in exasperation. "Your place is by my side. You sit at the Head Table now."

"But…"

"I have no patience for your questions today, Miss Granger. Come."

The girl's eyebrows came together at that in a deep frown. She was actually glaring at him. The image made him smirk in satisfaction. But regardless of her hesitance to do so, Granger started packing up her bag and stood to follow him, reaching at last minute for her half-eaten plate.

"Leave that," he told her. "You will have a new one."

"But that's wasteful," she argued.

"It hardly matters. Leave it."

"My parents always taught me not to waste…"

"You needn't listen to your parents anymore. Now… you listen to me."

"Excuse me?"

"I am your husband now. A good wife must learn to obey."

The girl's jaw dropped in angry shock. She stood there for a long moment, seeming to consider as she glared into his eyes. Then, shockingly, she sat back down and turned away from him. Severus felt his face grow warm. The eyes of his students were upon him and they were beginning to notice that something was wrong. His hand came down on the table a little harder than he had intended and he spoke softly into her ear. "Do not undermine my authority again! Is that clear? You will cease with this infantile display. Rebellion is not tolerated. You put me in this position, so it's time you accepted that I am your husband now."

"Yes," she hissed back, "and I am your wife."

"Then you ought to start acting like it."

"What? By continuing to obey you like a schoolgirl? I am your equal now."

"Equal?!" Had the girl gone insane?

"Yes."

Severus was momentarily taken aback. "Not in the Wizarding World, you aren't. You are my property. You obey me."

"Well, Professor, I'm afraid that's just not the kind of wife I want to be." Her eyes bored into him and Severus could feel that they had reached a stalemate.

"Come to the Head Table with me now, and we will discuss the rest of this later."

"I'm fine where I am, thanks."

It took all of Severus's self-control to keep from shouting at the arrogant brat. He held his breath for several seconds and released it in one impatient sigh. When he spoke again, his voice was cold and low and dangerously civil. "Miss Granger, if you will accompany me to the Staff Table, it will go easier for you in the long run."

"Well, sir, easy has never really been my way."

By now the entire Hall was watching them, and Severus was seconds away from smacking his new bride. He simply couldn't approach the Staff Table without her. And yet, as the girl lifted her fork and opened his book and began eating her potatoes as if he weren't there, Severus knew that there was nothing else he could do. Furious, he snatched the book away from her and stalked to his place at the top of the Hall.

Hermione began to feel pretty foolish as she sat there eating her cold potatoes with nothing to read. The eyes of her professors and classmates were upon her. In hindsight, perhaps that hadn't been the appropriate time to stand up to the backwards wizard. She hoped her other professors wouldn't think any less of her. Maybe she should have gone with him, anyway. That would have been a much more diplomatic way to handle things. After all, they needn't air their dirty laundry for the world to see.

Well, it was too late. And she wasn't sorry. Her professor needed to understand that she wasn't just his chattel and she wasn't about to follow orders. Still, it wouldn't be an easy evening with the dark, resentful man. She would have to follow him back to their room, and she had no delusions about what waited for her there. There was no doubt in her mind. It was going to be bad.

Chapter Text

Severus glared down at his plate, spearing bites of roast beef as if they were his wife. He resented her for standing up to him, but more than that he resented the fact that he would have to face her again tonight.

It was no easy thing, having a girl in his rooms. Severus Snape had always been a very private man. And this was his student. And she cleaned my bathroom. The very thought filled him with shame. How was she ever going to respect him now that she'd cleaned his shower for him? But that was ridiculous, of course. If anything, she ought to respect him more.

What had he looked like to her when she woke that morning? The thought made his shoulders tense with humiliation. Maybe he shouldn't take Dreamless Sleep again tonight.

The truth was, Severus had never lived with anyone before; not since his parents, back before he'd joined the ranks of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And he'd certainly never slept with another person in his bed. The very thought made him cringe in disgust. If it hadn't been for that potion, he did not doubt that he would not have slept all night. It was… strange. Two people stretching out beside one another for the sole purpose of getting some rest. Was there some way that he could avoid it?

Noticing that the girl had pushed her plate aside and sat sitting there with nothing else to do, Severus smirked maliciously. He leaned back in his chair and slowed his pace. There was no hurry, after all. Let her wait.

Hermione half wanted to leave the Hall and find some better way to occupy her time. But how on earth was she to get back in their rooms if she didn't follow her professor? He hadn't taught her the wards yet, so she was helpless without him. Briefly, she considered the possibility of spending the night in the Room of Requirement. It would certainly be more comfortable than their dingy dungeon chamber. But Snape would probably find some way to punish her for it if she did. And so she sat there, waiting for what felt like forever for her grouchy husband to sweep from the hall.

And sweep he did. Right past her. She was so taken off guard that she practically tripped over the long bench as she reached for her half-open bag and hurried after him.

Snape didn't stop until they reached the entrance to the rooms they now shared with each other. Oh, he knew she was there, panting in an effort to catch up. He just didn't care.

"You need to… teach me… the wards," she panted, leaning over with her hands on her knees when they finally entered his rooms. He spun around to face her, making her lose her breath all over again.

"Don't tell me what I need to do, Miss Granger. You need to learn your place!"

Hermione scoffed, disbelievingly. "And where is that?"

He didn't answer right away, apparently not knowing exactly what to say. "You are my wife now, Granger. You are to do as I say. I will not be made a fool…"

"Ridiculous! If the Minister of Magic wants Muggleborns to marry into the general population, he'll just have to accept that we come with a few cultural differences." Snape sputtered, but didn't know what to say. "For one, in the modern Muggle world, men and women are seen as equal and wives do not submit to their husbands."

"Well this… this isn't…"

"Really, I don't know why on Earth you expected me to be submissive."

"Hardly," Snape scoffed.

"Then you can hardly be surprised…"

"Miss Granger, you openly defied me in front of everyone tonight."

Now it was Hermione's turn to scoff. "Most of the school isn't even back from holiday."

"Be that as it may, you undermined my authority…"

"But that's just what I've been trying to explain, Professor. In a Muggle marriage, the husband doesn't have that authority."

Snape glared down at her, his face growing red with restraint and anger, and Hermione almost felt the need to take a step backwards. It was hard to reconcile this man with his robes and piercing eyes with the one stretching lazily, still in bed at midmorning. The angry professor act was almost enough to make her believe he didn't have pubic hair. Gods, Hermione, will you stop with the bloody hair? For Merlin's sakeShe bit her lip.

"Granger," Snape began at last in his deadliest tone, "I have enough concerns at present without you making my life more difficult. At least Nymphadora would have understood the necessity of not fighting with one's husband in public."

Hermione flushed a hot red and glared back at him, but the fight had gone from her with his words. He was right. "I'm sorry, alright? I shouldn't have done that with everyone watching, but you shouldn't have put me in that position!"

"Excuse me?"

"I tell you what, Professor, I'll make you a deal. I won't defy you in public if you don't order me around."

For a long moment, Snape glared down at her, searching his mind for some way around what she'd said. "Fine," he spat at last. "I will attempt to withhold my demands, but in return you must obey what I do ask of you without question. I will not waste time explaining my every motive to you, so you will just have to trust me."

"Alright," Hermione agreed readily, smiling slyly up at her husband. "In that case, you must be willing to trust me when I give you a command."

"WHAT?"

"It's only fair, Professor. I may have just as good a reason to ask something of you."

"Fine. I will… endeavor… to adhere to any wishes you make known to me in public, if I believe they have sound reasoning behind them."

Hermione nodded shrewdly. "Yes, and I will listen to you, if what you ask isn't completely ridiculous."

"No. You will listen to me without question…"

"Then you must listen to me without question."

Snape was sputtering again, clenching his fists at his side. "That's not how it goes…"

"But it is what I am proposing. I'm not your student anymore, sir. I'm your wife. Like it or not."

With no other argument to offer the girl, Severus dismissed her, remaining in his laboratory while she strutted obnoxiously into his bedroom. He had shown her the wards, so she would not feel the need to follow him around anymore. Unfortunately, there wasn't much brewing to accomplish this evening, as he had done so much during the day. But Severus was desperate for some excuse not to spend time with her. And so, having nothing else to do, he sat on his stool and poured over the contents of the Law, searching desperately for some way around it.

When, at last, he decided to brave the bedroom, the girl was already asleep. Severus felt immediately uncomfortable. She was at home in his rooms, now, sleeping without being given leave to do so. Not that she needed his permission. And yet, for her to presume… but that wasn't fair. This was her bed too, now. He couldn't control her. Really, he didn't want to.

Severus readied himself for bed, debating the linen shirt again before grumpily pulling it on. No need to shock the girl. Not yet anyway. He hesitated by the side of the bed, holding his breath. She was fast asleep, stretched out on her back, her lips parted and her outrageous hair spilling all over the pillow. Slowly, he reached for the edge of the blankets, pulling them back so that he could slip beneath them. And her knee was sticking right into his half of the bed. He froze. Should he push her? Nudge her? Wake her? Oh, he really didn't want to do that.

Steadily, Severus slid into the bed, gently pushing her knee with his own (it felt too intimate to use his hands) until it was safe on her side of the bed. He was so preoccupied with her errant leg that he hadn't noticed how far he'd pulled the covers off of her until, upon settling down, his eyes suddenly snapped to her breasts. Oh dear Merlin. Unhindered by undergarments, the soft orbs rested farther apart than when she was standing, the pert tips pointing outward. They were deliciously full, their organic shape so obvious beneath her simple white shirt, coming to more of a point than he had expected. Not that he had been imagining her breasts. Well, at least not on purpose. And oh gods he was staring. What sort of pervertwas he? If she woke to find him looking at her like that, she'd be disgusted! What was he when compared to her youth and beauty, if not old and ugly? Merlin. And he was going to have to have sex with her.

Severus pulled the blankets up and turned onto his side, facing away from her. Desire and self-loathing were throbbing inside of him, fighting for dominance. And he didn't want either side to win. It seemed the only solution would be another dose of Dreamless Sleep. He hoped to the gods that Granger didn't wake up first again.

…*~*J*~*…

She dreamt that she was stirring a potion in the familiar dungeon classroom. The other students were blurred impressions in her peripheral, but the scent of the potion was clear. And yet, she could not define it. Somehow it just made sense that this was a generic 'Potion.' She was brewing it perfectly, as usual, and wanted the professor to notice. And suddenly he was behind her, leaning over her to gaze into the cauldron, placing a hand on her waist and one on the stirring rod as he pulled her back against him. The sudden closeness made her insides melt and she gasped, wondering if he could stir her the way he stirred a hot cauldron. She was tight in his embrace, melting right into the man himself.

When she woke, she was on his pillow. That infamous, long, black, greasy hair was tickling her nose, teasing her with the scent of the potion from her dream. Her insides twisted pleasantly at the thought. And then shock and embarrassment fell over her as she realized that she was practically spooning her professor. She rolled away in humiliation, heat rising through her skin, fanning off of her in waves. She sat up, staring down at the sleeping man. If she leaned over far enough, she could see his slack expression. His mouth was slightly open and long lashes rested against the dark bags under his eyes. He's not so bad when he's asleep, she thought.

Quickly and quietly, Hermione rose and got ready for the day. Perhaps she'd spend it in the library, preparing for the term and watching snow drift by the windows. She loved to watch the snow fall. Anyway, she ought to be spending the time on something productive. Tomorrow, her friends would return to Hogwarts, and they would want to know all about her marriage.

It was nearly time for lunch, as Hermione poured over her Arithmancy notes from the comfort of her favorite table in the back of the library, when the sound of another studious person rifling through papers met her ears. She didn't think much of it until said person appeared, arms laden with books and scrolls, frowning in concentration at one of the papers. Professor Snape stopped short when he saw that she was there, hesitated, then turned on his heel and went in search of another table. She couldn't explain the odd emotion that came over her at that. Why on Earth should she feel so put out?

It was hard to concentrate on Arithmancy with her husband audibly rifling through parchment at the other end of the library. The sound made her inexplicably angry, as if every rustle were a reminder that he hadn't wanted to sit with her. And that was ridiculous, obviously, but it hurt all the same. Rather than her homework, Hermione found herself contemplating their relationship and how she was ever going to make it an agreeable one. Maybe it was time to extend the olive branch.

Packing up her belongings, Hermione lifted her chin and marched across the library. Every step seemed heavier and her resolve began to melt away the closer she came to him. And yet, when she finally reached his little nook, and he lifted his face to greet her with an annoyed expression and one eyebrow raised, she hadn't yet lost all of her nerve.

"What are you working on?"

His lips twisted with annoyance and he bowed his head once more. "That, Miss Granger, is none of your business."

"I was only curious," she continued in what she hoped was an encouraging tone.

"Far be it for me to leave your curiosity unsatisfied," he grumbled. "Very well, I am searching the Law in the hopes that something will provide an escape from our current predicament."

It was as if someone had dropped lead into her stomach. "Oh," was all she could say. Was he really so disgusted by the thought of sleeping with her that he would spend hours of his time studying legal documents and looking for a loophole? She brushed the thought aside, determined not to let him see the effect it had upon her. Resolved, she remembered why she had come over. "It's about time for lunch," she told him, biting her lip. It was important that she phrased this exactly right. "I was… wondering if you still wanted me to sit with you."

Severus Snape grew very still. She had the distinct impression that he had stopped himself from denying her outright and was now seriously considering all of the nuances of their situation. "I suppose it would be healthy to seek nourishment at some point today. Very well, Miss Granger. I will meet you in the Great Hall."

Hermione shuffled her feet. She wasn't about to march into the Great Hall and seat herself at the Head Table all alone, Gryffindor bravery or not. "Actually, sir," she began uncertainly, "I was hoping we could go together."

Those fiery black eyes snapped up to hers and seemed to take her measure for a long moment. She was almost culled into forgetting the whole thing by the time he spat out his answer. "Fine."

Every step toward the Great Hall seemed to weigh on Severus's nerves. Why had he accepted the silly chit's offer? Why hadn't he told her to go on without him? It would have given him the upper hand. He would have entered independently. Not to mention, had he changed his mind, he could have simply not shown up. But here they were, headed toward those double doors, side by side. He was careful to keep his pace just swift enough that she was stumbling along in his wake. And yet, they still were so obviously together. It hardly mattered, of course. By now, the entire school probably knew (even those away on holiday). Two high-profile figures of such striking contrast to one another getting married just after the passing of the Law? Of course it had been in the Prophet. Fortunately, so far they had only put in a standard announcement. He dreaded the day Skeeter decided to pick up the story. And what would happen if they failed to consummate the marriage properly? Could news of that get out? Would they turn it into a scandal? He would be humiliated.

Severus forcibly ejected Skeeter from his mind as they swept through the double doors and made their way down the length of the Great Hall. Granger was doing her best to look dignified while practically running to keep up with him. He smirked. There should be no doubt who had the power in this relationship. He would not have his students questioning his authority over his own bride.

When they reached the Head Table, Granger slipped him a secret scowl. Oh yes, she had noticed. He probably hadn't heard the end of it, either. Ah well. It was a small price to pay. He could deal with her, after all. She was no threat to him.

He caught Albus's eye and the old man winked at him. Severus froze as if he had been caught at the feast in his underwear. Then he scowled at his employer. No need to encourage the girl.

The few students sitting out in the Hall were whispering and shooting them curious glances. Severus scowled as he filled a plate. Miss Granger seemed thoroughly unbothered by the attention, which only annoyed him more. Of course, upon closer inspection, she did seem a bit tense, particularly when Minerva McGonagall arrived.

"Professor Snape," Minerva greeted formally, seating herself to the left of the girl. "Miss…" but the Transfiguration Mistress stopped herself, seeming to realize that the girl no longer went by that name. There was an awkward pause, but Minerva never got the chance to establish just what Granger's new name was before Filius Flitwick entered.

"Ah yes, good day Minerva, Severus," he said cheerfully, pulling out the one tall chair at the table. He paused to wink at the girl and added, "Hermione, dear. Welcome to the table." Hopping up into his seat, Filius rubbed his hands together eagerly. "Oh, I do love a good Shepherd's Pie. Minerva, would you pass the pumpkin juice?"

Pursing her lips together, the stern woman passed the jug without a word to her associate. Severus had the impression that she was trying very hard not to voice her opinion on the matter. And he didn't think the matter was the pumpkin juice.

He chanced a glance at his young wife. She was frozen with her fork halfway to her mouth, staring down at the table before her, lost in thought. Seeming to sense his gaze, the girl came to, looking up into his eyes. She seemed confused and a little worried.

"Professor," she addressed him, much to his immediate embarrassment, "I am still a student here, aren't I?" Severus was taken aback by her question, and it must have shown on his face. "I mean," she continued in a hurried tone, "I can understand not being able to continue my classes with you, but… surely my other classes…"

"You will not be withdrawn from any of your classes, M-," Severus cut himself off. He had been about to call her 'Miss Granger.' "So long as you receive your education, no one cares if you may have had an advantage."

"But…"

"Your NEWT scores will reflect your skill and your ability to retain information. Marriage to a professor will give you no advantage there." His lip curled back as a wicked thought occurred to him. "I hope you were not harboring such delusions."

Her wide eyes suddenly narrowed as her mouth slammed shut. "Of course I wasn't," she hissed. "The thought hadn't even occurred…"

"Yes, that much is obvious. One has to wonder just what did occur to you, Miss… That is, what did you expect to happen?"

Frowning, the girl turned away from him, choosing not to answer his impertinent question. He had the sudden impression that she was thinking of him as she speared her potatoes, and he allowed the faintest smile to touch his lips. Yes, he felt much better when he had the upper hand.

Chapter Text

After lunch, they headed together down to their rooms. Their rooms. It still sounded strange. The room that she shared with Professor Snape. A more absurd roommate she'd be hard pressed to find.

He went straight into the bedroom and dropped a messy pile of parchment and scrolls onto one of his three desks. Hermione decided against stealing his chair while he was in the room and opted instead to read her book in bed. Snape started when he turned around and saw her there, but only for a second. Then he was pulling off his teaching robes and settling himself in the rickety chair before his desk.

It was odd. They were both reading quietly in their respective corners of the room. It was almost… companionable. Hermione chewed her lip, considering a question she had been wanting to ask him. He seemed in such a good mood today, perhaps it would be a good time.

"Professor?" she finally began. He only grunted in response. Hermione wasn't sure why, but she took that as a good sign. "I realize now that I shouldn't have borrowed your book without permission…" At that he looked up at her, meeting her gaze with a suspicious expression. "But I… I had a question for you. You see, I was reading a paper you had written… the one about lacewing flies..." She paused, waiting for him to respond, but he only waited for her to continue. That was probably all the encouragement he was ever going to give. "Is it true that purer, stronger results may be obtained by using only the wings and discarding the bodies?"

"I believe that is a direct quote from the paper," he drawled impatiently.

She blushed. "Right. I… er… I suppose what I want to know is… if that is the case, why don't we do that in class?"

To her surprise, her professor sighed. "Yes, you might well ask that. Mostly, it's because the use of the wings, as opposed to whole flies, would not be acceptable during your exams."

"But… why? If it's a better way to do it…"

"The tests do not necessarily keep up with the latest research. They keep up with the textbook."

"But… that's our education! They can't just…"

"Miss Granger, I could go on at length about the politics of your education. I do not intend to do so."

"But…"

"No. It's a tired subject and I have no desire to spend my afternoon arguing with you." With one last calculating glance, he turned away from her and bent to study his papers once again.

"Yes, alright," she grumbled, pursing her lips and readjusting the book resting in her lap. Only, she couldn't concentrate on reading it anymore. So many questions were now flitting through her mind. She felt betrayed, somehow. It was the first time she had been led to believe that what she was taught was not exactly what was true. Of course, it made a funny sort of sense. At least it answered her questions about Harry's Advanced Potions book. If the text wasn't accurate to begin with, maybe this 'Prince' really was a potions prodigy. She hated to admit she had been wrong not to follow his instructions.

But that about the lacewing flies… She had been blown away by his research, and he hadn't let her finish reading the paper. It left so many questions. And she just couldn't help herself. "Professor?"

"What is it now, Granger?"

"I was just wondering… about the lacewing flies… does that mean that their bodies have no chemical or magical properties?"

He looked up at her at that. "Actually the bodies have basically the same properties as the wings, but in less concentrated amounts. The trouble is their organs become impurities in the finished potion, and their hairs can be detected in the texture. It isn't palatable."

"So do you use the same number of flies, but leave off the bodies? Or do you add more wings to compensate for them?"

At this, to her delight, her professor leaned back in his chair, linking his hands behind his head. "It depends on the potion. The bodies possess such a small quantity of the necessary compounds that the difference is minute to begin with. On the other hand, some potions do better with more flies than is usually prescribed, anyway. I am to the point in my career that I do not need a recipe. The potion communicates its needs to the brewer, if he only knows how to listen."

"You make adjustments to all of your potions?"

"Most professional potioneers do. If they are worth the title."

"I suppose that makes sense. It's a bit like following a recipe from a cookbook."

His lip quirked up and his eyes slanted as if to patronize her. "Yes, Granger, it's exactly like a cookbook," he drawled.

Hermione hurried to continue before he could turn away. "Have you ever invented a new potion, Professor?"

"Dozens," he said, drawing out the words in a deep, velvety tone. The syllables seemed to vibrate in the air as he smirked arrogantly back at her.

"What sorts of potions?" she asked to cover the sudden thrill of nerves that had run down her spine.

"All sorts." His smirk grew and Hermione was certain she would not get any more information on the subject. But she didn't want to stop talking to the fascinating man. By Snape standards, this conversation had been almost… friendly. And yet, scrambling for something else to say, she found herself at a loss, and he turned away.

Hermione tried to return to her book, but she couldn't stop thinking about him. It was almost as if he were a different man. From this angle, she could just see the profile of his face as he bent in concentration over his desk. There was a seriousness in the frown on his face that was different from the anger she so often saw there. This was a man at work; a man putting his mind to a task; a man determined to avoid sleeping with her at the end of the week. What is he so afraid of? she wondered.

They spent the rest of the afternoon in relative silence, reading their respective material in their respective corners of the room. It was difficult to keep track of time without any windows, and neither of them seemed to notice that they'd missed dinner until Snape cast a Tempus Charm and smirked. He called for a House Elf named Moppy (ignoring Hermione's scowls) and had her bring down tea and sandwiches. The normally tidy young witch was surprised when he set her plate on the bed beside her, but she said nothing. After all, he had no table besides the three small desks that were piled with parchments.

"Milk?" her professor asked her, pouring tea into a cup. She blinked. Severus Snape was serving her tea.

"Yes please," she told him in breathless voice, thanking him when he handed it to her.

"Yes, well I'm not going to starve you," he grumbled. Then he poured his own cup, leaving it black and taking his plate back over to the desk. She was still watching his profile when his lips pulled back as if with a sudden humorous thought. "A galleon says that Minerva asks us why we didn't come to dinner."

His implication dawned on Hermione so abruptly that she nearly snorted her tea. Surely her other professors didn't think they were… oh Merlin. A nervous smile broke out across her lips. "You're on," she told him seriously. He didn't turn toward her, but she could still see half a grin. It made a funny tingling rise in her chest, and it took her a minute to realize that she was excited to see him smile. But it was gone as quickly as it appeared and Hermione found herself wondering why he felt like he had to hide.

She couldn't help laughing to herself about the absurdity of it all. She was sitting up in her professor's bed, nibbling on a sandwich, and watching his profile over the top of her book when his eyes suddenly squeezed shut and his shoulders hunched forward. She heard the slightest huff of air and knew immediately that he was somehow in pain. But before she could ask him if he was alright, the man had relaxed and slammed his cup down on the desk. Pushing his chair back, he stomped over to the wardrobe. She was afraid to ask him what was wrong, choosing instead to await his explanation.

"I must go," he told her in a gruff voice, and she watched in confusion as he pulled out a heavy winter cloak and headed for the door. It slammed behind him and Hermione sat gawking at the air, wondering why he had left so suddenly. A half-eaten sandwich still rested on his plate. And then she realized with a punch to the gut that he had been called away. He was off to visit Voldemort, himself, and she was sitting there eating sandwiches in bed. Suddenly, she wasn't hungry. Nervous fear was twisting in her stomach. Intellectually, she understood that he had such meetings all the time, and that it was very unlikely that he was in any real danger. And yet, the thought of what he had to face… Merlin. And to think she was worried about exams.

…*~*J*~*…

As the Order spy approached the Manor, he silently ticked off the objectives of this visit as he had discussed them earlier with Albus. Likely, there would not be many present tonight, as he was probably being called to account for his recent marriage. Stepping over the threshold, he cleared his mind, emptying it of any emotions attached to the girl and of all thoughts pertaining to the Headmaster.

"Ah, yes. Severus," Lord Voldemort hissed with cold nonchalance when he entered the Dining Room. What had once been the stage for elaborate feasts had now been repurposed as a sort of conference room, much grander than the basement kitchen of Twelve Grimmauld.

"My Lord," the Potions Master drawled as he took his seat. He was surprised to see that so many of his fellow Death Eaters were present, almost filling the long table. He wasn't sure if that was a good sign.

"Severuss," the Dark Lord repeated, toying with the name to draw out anticipation. "I hear we are to congratulate you." Severus bowed his head in acknowledgement. "It was a hasty arrangement, I suppose. You did not feel the need to inform me."

"Forgive me, my Lord. Dumbledore surprised me with his decision. I could not persuade him to delay."

"Yes. No doubt he believes she will be safest with you." A grin spread across that evil face as snickers whispered through the room. "A union between my spy and Potter's closest friend. He is playing right into my hand. Tell me, Severus, is your bride aware of your connection to me?"

"Indeed, my Lord, the girl has been allowed the same information as precious Potter," he snarled.

"Good. She must be made to trust you." He fingered a nearly non-existent chin and stared off, deep in thought. "And has the marriage been consummated?"

Severus was careful not to hesitate. "Not yet, my Lord. I thought it best to await your counsel on the matter. The Law only requires that it happen within the week."

"Yes. I thought as much. You will express reluctance. Do only what is required and try your best to please her." He paused, shooting his spy a doubtful look, to the delight of the others present. "Or, rather, be sure that she believes that you are trying. If she learns to trust you, she may begin to confide in you."

"Yes, my Lord."

"Of course, if she begins to initiate…" he continued doubtfully, a grin spreading wickedly across his face as the others laughed at his expense, "you are welcome to indulge her." The mockery stabbed at his insides with the familiar knife of self-loathing, but he only nodded in response.

"Now then," Lord Voldemort continued. "This Law comes as a surprise, but we will endeavor to make use of it. The old fool has given us an unexpectedly convenient start, but I intend to exploit this new law to its full potential. Certain contacts at the Ministry are working as we speak to acquire a complete list of all those who are subject to the law so that I may best determine our next move. It is my hope that this little detour from the plan will aid our progress in more ways than one."

Dolohov cornered him after the meeting with one scarred arm across his path. "Snape," he growled, searching Severus greedily with his eyes, "got anything for me?"

Severus smirked. "I do. The same as last time. I brought it in case you wanted more."

"'Course I bloody want it. Come on." He gestured for his brother to follow him out of the Manor, and they Apparated to a familiar street. It was a quiet night. Few people were scattered about the small pub when they strode through the doors. Antonin went straight to the bar, and Severus sent a glance around the room.

A trio of aging wenches sat playing cards and laughing loudly at a table near the bar. They might proposition him after this game, but for the moment they were occupied. At the counter, a hag and a couple of miserable-looking wizards hunched over their respective pints, and one fat drunk was passed out in the corner. None of them had taken much notice of the newcomers, and he could easily beat any one of them in a duel. The barkeep, himself, was a familiar face and one that did not concern Severus overmuch. He wasn't likely to trouble them. Yes, as far as Knockturn Alley went, there was no immediate threat.

Sweeping over to a shadowy corner, Severus chose a chair with his back to the wall and facing the door. Once again, he slipped a hand into one of many inner pockets to assure himself that his All-Purpose Sobering Up Potion was there. He had it on hand at all times, just in case, but habitually found himself checking to be sure.

The table wobbled dangerously when his scrawny, sunken-eyed brother set down two frothing pints of beer. "Alright then. Let's see it," he said.

Severus withdrew a stoppered blue vial from his robes and passed it over. His comrade pretended to inspect it (as if he knew the first thing about it) before carefully pulling out the cork and wafting the scent of it under his nose. It was painfully obvious how anxious he was by the greedy glint in his eyes as he dug a hand in his pocket, withdrawing a small crystal stirring rod. Even with shaking hands, he was very precise; dipping the rounded head of the rod into the potion and giving it a practiced flick to shake one drop into Severus's beer. Repeating the process for his own, he corked the vial and raised a toast.

"To the Dark Lord," he murmured offhandedly, watching for Severus to take the first sip. It was customary for him to partake of the first serving whenever he brought potions to his brothers. After all, for all they knew, he could be a traitor.

The irony was that he gathered some of his most important intel just sitting in their parlour or the pub.

Almost immediately, a feeling of warmth washed down Severus's spine. The worries of his life faded into distant echoes and he was suddenly struck by how beautiful the flickering candles were. What a miraculous world they inhabited, where a force such as fire could be harnessed with wax and held in the palm of your hand. Why would he ever want to throw away the life he had here in this magical, beautiful place?

"Fuck," Antonin growled, slamming his mug down and leaning his head back against the wall. Severus was inclined to agree with him. He was in no state to return to his wife right now. Indeed, he was in no state to think about her.

…*~*J*~*…

Hermione's socked feet were numb with cold as she paced the dungeon bedroom, but she hardly noticed. Professor Snape had been gone for hours. At what point did she sound the alarm? Honestly, he should have briefed her about this at the very least. Impossible man! How dare he run off and leave her to worry without offering any explanation? But, of course, if she hadn't been married to him, she wouldn't have known he had gone, and she wouldn't be worried at all. It probably happened all the time. Really, it was ridiculous for her to be so concerned about him.

But she was.

For the first hour or so, she had been able to continue her book. As time progressed, however, it became more and more difficult to concentrate. Her mind kept jumping back to the realization that he was with Voldemort at that very moment, and all she could think about was whether or not he was ok.

It was nearly four o'clock in the morning when her professor stumbled through the door. He was moving sluggishly, grasping his way around the wall with his hands, and at first she thought he was hurt. Gryffindor instinct overtook her, and she hurried to his side. In a flash, he spun toward her, swinging an arm out in defense. Before she even had the chance to stop, the menacing wizard had his wand pointed at her throat. Her limbs froze so fast she almost collapsed onto the floor. But he only gasped with sudden relief. "Fuck Granger! D'you've death wish?" The man dropped his pose, leaning heavily against the bed frame and attempting to pull off his heavy cloak.

It took a moment before Hermione's breathing started again and her heart panged hard in her chest. "Sorry, Professor," she breathed. But he had already dismissed her. Turning toward the bed, he was crouched over, reaching down in what seemed to be a futile attempt at removing his boots. He was drunk. Horrified, Hermione didn't know how to react. Should she offer to help? Should she leave the room? Should she get Professor Dumbledore?

No. That was ridiculous. She was his wife now, and she could handle him on her own.

Professor Snape eventually managed to free himself of his boots and climb onto the bed, collapsing onto his back and stretching out with a long, low growl. The sound made Hermione's face grow hot. His eyes were clenched tight, as if with pain, and his whole body tensed for a moment before relaxing with a soft grunt of relief. Her heart was hammering audibly in her chest when one heavy eyelid lifted to reveal a dark black eye. "You're up late," he growled.

The absurdity of his words broke through Hermione's stupor and brought her anger to the surface once again. "I-Well of course I'm up late! Did you think I would be able to sleep with you… out there?"

Her professor didn't answer. He was frowning at her now, but his eyes were searching her body, not her face. "You aren't wearing that to bed, are you?" he asked.

"I… what?" Hermione's eyes darted down to her overlarge t-shirt and cotton leggings. "Of course I am! What's wrong with it?"

But the man only groaned, slapping a hand over his face.

Something inside of her exploded. "Don't you do that! Don't you even do that! You're always looking down on me like some… big…" she waved her arms frantically, looking for the word "vulture! Well, I've been waiting up all night for you to get home, so I don't have the patience left to deal with your judgment right now. I don't know what you expected when I moved in, but I'm not some pet you can boss around. This is my home too now, and I'm going to wear whatever I bloody well please!"

He didn't respond. His hand was still over his eyes and his mouth was slack. She froze, watching him breathe in and out; slow, shallow breaths. Oh! The nerve! She almost stamped her foot. How dare he fall asleep when she was talking to him?! For a long minute she stood there, debating what to do. The only thing that kept her from railing at him was literally biting her tongue. But as she reluctantly accepted her powerlessness, another concern leapt to the forefront of her mind. Her professor was stretched out in the middle of the bed.

Hermione paced up and down the room, as if looking for something else she needed to do before going to sleep. But she had already done everything. Stopping again at the foot of the bed, it dawned on her that it was time to face the inevitable. Anyway, Snape was dead asleep, so it hardly mattered. Slowly, cautiously, she climbed up the mattress, insinuation herself between the wall and his jutting knee. If she slept a little lower down the bed, she could just curl around it. The heavy quilt was bunched up at the foot of the bed, and she dislodged it, pulling it over the two of them as best she could.

When she realized she was effectively tucking Snape into bed, she had to laugh. How odd. Would she ever get used to this? She tried to remember the last time she had shared a bed with another person. Could it really be her parents, back when she had been a child? Nothing else came to mind. At some point she had slept in a bed with her cousins, but that was different, too. With this fully grown wizard passed out in a drunken stupor close beside her, Hermione had never felt more like a trespasser in her life. Would he be angry with her for seeing him so drunk? She certainly hoped not.

Weariness began to settle over her like a blanket as she watched his profile, her breath slowly synchronizing with his. She waved a wand to snuff out the candles, but left the fire slowly burning down to embers. It allowed just enough light to watch the shadows dancing on his face. With his lips parted and his eyelids gently closed, he looked nothing so much as tired. All the fierceness and the anger… all the worry was absent while he slept. And she had a very strange thought as she was drifting off to sleep. How could she possibly stay angry with him when he looked so goddamn sweet?

Chapter Text

...*~*J*~*…

Hermione slept lightly that night. Despite her exhaustion, her cramped position on the bed made it impossible to relax. She couldn't seem to stay asleep for long before she was waking up again to twist her body into increasingly uncomfortable poses. It didn't help that her professor seemed to be doing the exact same thing. Over the course of the night, her little slice of the mattress grew smaller and smaller until sometime around dawn when she finally pulled herself up as far as she could on the bed and pressed her back against the length of the wall. . Somehow, this seemed to do the trick. She was finally out; succumbing to the tug of darkness behind her eyes.

Her dreams were anxious; full of her friends' faces and the classes that were soon to resume. Snape prowled the dungeons, deducted points, and then slipped away to fight the dark lord all alone. Suddenly, she was there with him, tugging on his robes, digging her heels into the ground, begging him to come back home. Home to her four poster bed up in Gryffindor tower, where he was so out of place. She was afraid her friends would see, so she hid him behind her scarlet curtains, and crouched beside him on the mattress. Stretching out, they were crowded into the tiny bed, pressed up against one another. She was staring into his eyes. Dark black eyes that seemed to bore into her soul. And then he leaned toward her and her heart skipped a beat as their lips came together. A sudden heat blossomed deep inside her, and she found herself kissing him back like it was the most natural thing in the world. He was so warm, and his lips were soft, and their contact teased a primal urge somewhere deep inside her. When she pressed herself closer to him, he let out a ragged groan. Desire erupted from a cage somewhere within her, and the unfamiliar emotion was shocking enough to wake her up.

The chilly air of the dungeon bedroom kissed the flush in her cheeks even as she registered her current situation. She caught her breath mid-gasp, suddenly afraid that she might wake the sleeping Potions Master. It wouldn't be difficult to accomplish, in fact, as his face was presently buried between her breasts. For a moment, she was frozen in shock. But as she absorbed the situation, heat pulsed deep within her body. It was a strange sort of anxiousness that she had felt sometime before. But she had never understood what the feeling was. Until now. The dark-haired wizard had one leg pushed between hers and one hand clutching her waist. His face was pressed between her breasts, where his labored breathing fell hot across her skin even through the thin cotton of her shirt. And something else, hard and insistent, was pressed against her thigh. The embarrassed flush that followed this realization only heightened her arousal. Right now, in the blurry uncertainty of waking consciousness, it was so easy to recall her vivid dream. She nearly moaned.

And then, sober reality began to hammer into her brain, reminding her just who this man was, and telling her that such fantasies were unrealistic. Her desire evaporated at the thought, disappearing into the lockbox from which it had come, and leaving behind a cold trail of fear in its wake. What would he say when he woke to find her like this? Humiliation pulsed in her very blood. He had been drunk the night before. He hadn't meant to touch her. And what was worse, there was no way she could slip out without waking him. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut. Ohhh.. Damn him! Why did he have to go and get drunk? This is not. My. Fault. Hermione wracked her brain for some way out of this situation. If she pretended to be asleep, would he believe it? He was a spy for Merlin's sake! And yet, if she tried to escape right now, it would certainly wake him. It seemed she had no other options. She would just have to wait it out. Pretending to be asleep. For however long it took. Just lying there… with her professor's face buried in her breasts and his… his… his erection very insistent upon her thigh.

Resigned, Hermione closed her eyes and focused on breathing. One, two, three… maybe if I fall back asleep? Four, five … not bloody likely… six, seven, eight… that was a very odd dream… nine, ten… not… unpleasant… Her mind began replaying images from the dream. Snape kissing her, Snape groaning into her ear. At first she was disturbed by what her subconscious had revealed. Married to him or not, she was NOT supposed to be attracted to Professor Snape. What would her friends think? What would he think? And yet.. well… she was married to him, after all. Was it so bad for her to want to do what they would so soon have to do? …If he didn't find a way around the Law. The thought leeched her rekindling arousal so fast that she opened her eyes. Severus Snape would never want her. He must despise her intensely to spend so much time pouring over legal documents. Suddenly, she was ashamed for having fantasized about him. He would be revolted if he knew.

…*~*J*~*…

The fuzzy mumble of half-forgotten dreams slowly died away in the wake of a piercing headache. His tongue felt like sandpaper, it was so dry, and despair seemed to burn in the core of his soul. So dazed was his hung-over mind that it took him a moment to notice that the soft orbs pressed against his face were not a pillow. He froze. Feeling came back into his limbs, and with it the feel of the slender body pressed against him. And the full, round, firm breasts so soft that he wanted to suck on them. His cock pulsed hard against her leg, but that peak of arousal was answered by an equal stab of misery. It took all of his bodily strength to roll away from the girl. Granger. Another jolt of arousal was followed by a sinking iciness in his chest that made him nauseous.

Breathing hard, he collapsed against the mattress on his side of the bed. It was hard to tell if the girl was awake, but at the moment he didn't care. All he could focus on was breathing and not letting the world spin all around him. This is not worth it, he thought for the hundredth time. Of course, Albus might have a different opinion. Dolohov had expressed some very interesting concerns in his potion-induced haze. It was a wonder they never noticed that Mellotos Elixir contained Veritaserum as well. It had taken years to build an immunity to the truth serum, but inventing his Elixir had been the work of several weeks.

Closing his eyes, Severus focused on breathing. In. One, two, three… Out. One, two, three… Slowly, mercifully, he sank back into oblivion.

When Severus woke up the second time, he was alone. He could tell from the ache in his bones that it was late in the day, but that wasn't unusual after a night of taking potions. He had learned long ago that the after-effects of any potion were equal to and opposite the immediate ones. No matter how much he experimented, nothing ever seemed to change that fact. Perhaps that was owing to his own psychology. When compared to the high a potion could provide, the truth of his real life would always be a low. And his real life was low to begin with.

He groaned. If he had taken the All-Purpose Sober-Up Potion last night, he wouldn't have slept a wink, but the pain would be over by now. The downside of that emergency provision was that the low was immediate, and the result was nearly unbearable. A gradual re-introduction to reality was always preferable when it wasn't a matter of life or death. Of course, it had been a risk, coming back to Granger in that state. He froze. Granger. He had woken up that morning with her breasts in his face. He groaned. The immediate arousal was accompanied by a stab of self-loathing at the thought. He pulled a hand down his face in humiliation. At the time, he had not bothered to take note of her state of consciousness, but now it seemed obvious that she couldn't possibly have been asleep.

Severus avoided Granger for the remainder of the day. The rest of the brats would be showing up soon, and he already had a headache. Albus did nothing to help that, of course, but the Headmaster was pleased with the information he presented. Well, at least his misery wouldn't be for nothing. Closing his eyes, he tried to remember the feeling of peace he had had the night before. But it was no use. Doubt and denial crushed even the slightest glimmer of the emotion that the Mellotos gave so freely. And so he cursed and blamed the world for seeping every happiness away like the pit of despair that it was. Had he not had a crucial role to play, he might have gone back to sleep for good and escaped this world altogether. It was Albus who nurtured the tiny part of him that still cared. The old manipulator knew exactly how to stroke his ego in just the right way to make this whole ordeal seem worth it; if only for a while.

As he approached the Great Hall that evening, the excited racket of happy voices assaulted his attention. Their echoes throbbed inside his mind, behind his eyes, and made him grit his teeth and ball his fists in angry frustration. He would take Lord Voldemort any day over the unmerited excitement of children.

Severus nearly stopped dead in his tracks when he caught sight of Potter and Weasley. Quelling the instinct, he pressed on, raking his eyes across the Entrance Hall for any glimpse of her. But she was not to be found. That must have been what the two imbeciles were awaiting, for they ran toward him as soon as they saw him approaching.

"Where's Hermione?" Potter demanded.

Severus folded his arms across his chest and lifted an eyebrow in disdain. "Chained in the dungeon, where a good wife ought to be," he drawled, delighting in their horrified expressions.

"You slimy bas…"

"Calm yourself, Weasley. It would be a pity to lose House Points so soon after returning from your holiday."

"Where is Hermione?" Potter repeated, more forcefully. His fists were balled into knots at his sides, and his temple looked ready to burst with the pressure that was building there.

Severus sneered. "She is my wife, not my broomstick. I don't put her away when I'm done with her."

At that, Weasley lunged toward his professor, stopping only when Potter latched onto his robes. "No, Ron!"

Severus was about to tell Potter to teach his dog to heel when Granger suddenly appeared beside him. Her unanticipated arrival made his gut sink sharply as a flush rose unexpectedly to his cheeks. He hoped to all the gods she had not heard what he'd said to the boys.

But the girl only seemed excited to see her friends. "Harry! Ron" she greeted, throwing her arms around the boys each in turn. Severus suddenly felt like an intruder upon their intimacy. Normally, this would be his cue to slip away, but he suddenly recalled too vividly the way her breasts felt pressed against him and anger ignited inside him as the boys each held her close.

"Enough," he croaked, rage obstructing his voice. "Granger, you're coming with me."

The girl swung around to face him with a glare and for a moment he was afraid she would decline. But he met her eyes, daring her in a glance to defy him openly, and she finally blushed, dropping her gaze and nodding slightly. "I'll talk to you later," she told the boys. They tried to protest, but she hushed them, stepping past her husband and leading right into the Great Hall.

Given the choice, Severus chose not to enter the Hall in her wake. The last thing he needed was rumors that the Head of Slytherin was being led by the balls. Instead, he took the opportunity to address the insolent brats now glaring up at him with hate. "Like it or not, Miss Granger belongs to me, now," he seethed. "And you will do best not to touch her… ever," he paused for emphasis, "again."

…*~*J*~*…

Hermione was halfway down the aisle that stretched the length of the Great Hall when she realized that her professor wasn't following. Her step faltered, but she caught herself before she stopped and made a fool of herself. There were enough eyes on her, already, without doubling back for her wayward husband. Instead, she lifted her chin, ignored the buzz of whispering, and marched all the way up to the High Table alone. It would seem the school was caught up on the latest bit of gossip involving their least favorite professor and his least favorite student. She had hoped the news would be lost in the onslaught of new marriages that had come about due to the new law, but it was quite a scandal, she supposed. The thought tugged at the pit of her stomach. Merlin forbid Rita Skeeter decide to pick up the story.

When Snape finally swept up to the platform and settled in his seat, Hermione gave him a reproachful glare. "Was that really necessary?"

He smirked. "What? Scolding your little boyfriends?"

"Making me walk up here all alone. What do you mean you were scolding them?"

"I wasn't aware you required an escort."

"Well of course I don't…" she broke off, taking a calming breath. "You know what I mean. Everyone is talking about us."

"Do you imagine they would talk less if we skipped down the hall together, holding hands?"

Hermione had been about to say something else, but froze at the humorous image. There was something very strange about Snape making a joke. It was as if he had flipped a switch. "Pity we didn't plan ahead, or you could have put me on a leash," she quipped.

Snape choked into his water goblet, drawing McGonagall's eye. "Don't tempt me," he growled back in a dangerous voice. Hermione hid a smirk behind a sip of pumpkin juice.

"Good of you to come tonight, Severus," the Transfigurations Mistress remarked acidly, scowling at her colleague. Hermione's interest was immediately piqued.

Snape grimaced. "All those cheerful faces freshly returned from holiday? How could I miss it?" His tone was dry, but Flitwick laughed, and Hermione was surprised to hear him remark on his own infamously foul demeanor. It was as if… he were in on the joke.

"Yes, well," McGonagall's expression was so pinched she might have eaten something sour, "seeing as you didn't bother attending yesterday…"

Rats, Hermione thought. I owe him a Galleon.

Chapter Text

"Come on," said Harry, turning them away from Gryffindor Tower and down another familiar path. The group continued in silence, heads bowed, not daring to speak until they were safely ensconced within the walls of a much more private place.

The Room of Requirement arranged itself into a cozy living room with a fire and squashy armchairs. The air was warm, but not stifling, and the light was dim and comforting. Harry and Ginny plopped down together onto a love seat across from the fire. Ron and Hermione each took a chair. They were the sorts of chairs you can sink into and be comfortable for hours. Perfect for reading. Hermione would have to keep that in mind. Her husband's quarters were hardly accommodating, after all. For now, she contented herself with perching on the edge, too tense to relax so fully.

Ron was the first to speak, mumbling out of the side of his mouth. "Surprised your husband let you out of his sight."

Hermione was taken aback. "I beg your pardon?"

But Ron only shrugged. He was hunched down in his own chair, his arms folded, his legs stretched out in front of him, looking like a rebellious child.

"How's it been, then?" Ginny cut in before Hermione's anger could run away from her. "Living with Snape," she clarified, prompting her friend, patiently. She had pulled her legs up underneath her and was cradling Harry's hand in her lap, their fingers laced together. Her grip looked pretty tight.

Hermione sighed. "Not so bad, actually," she confessed.

They all looked at her like she'd gone completely daft.

"Living with Snape?" said Harry.

"Are you mad?" said Ron.

"But... don't you have to…" said Ginny, running out of words as they all turned their faces to the floor.

"Well," said Hermione, taking a breath. "Actually… not yet."

Her friends perked up at that, their eyes wide, particularly Ron's. "What do you mean 'not yet'?"

Hermione shrugged, not quite meeting their eyes. "I mean… technically we just have to… within a week."

Harry wrinkled his nose. "Great. There goes your Saturday."

But Ron perked up. "But… that means… it's not too late!"

"What?" His sister spat, incredulous.

Ron leapt out of his chair and started pacing. "It's not too late," he repeated, his eyes wide with thought. "You can have it annulled. Like it never happened."

Hermione was shaking her head. "Annulled. Ronald, what on Earth are you on about?"

He stopped in his tracks and turned toward her. "'Mione," he said. His face had gone ghostly white. "I should have offered earlier. I'm so sorry. I never should have let it go this far…"

"Let what go…"

"But we'll have a new start..."

"Ronald…"

"I'll go to Dumbledore. We'll have it annulled and then… and then…" he looked so earnest, so desperate, staring into her eyes, his own wide and red-rimmed. Hermione couldn't let him finish the thought.

"Ron! It's done. We're not going to change it. I had my reasons for going through with this, you know that. Between Tonks and the Order… It just made sense. Alright?"

"But…"

"And anyway," she continued, her brow furrowing, "I'm not sure how it makes a difference whether my marriage was consummated yet or not."

Ron turned red at that.

"So anyway," said Ginny, changing the subject once again, "it seems the whole school knows about it."

Hermione sighed, collapsing back into her chair. "I know."

"What are we supposed to say to people? You know… if they ask?"

"Well, Dumbledore's thought of that, of course. We're going to tell them that I had been planning to do an apprenticeship at Hogwarts after our NEWTS and that this was the only way I could stay at the castle."

"Brilliant," said Harry, nodding thoughtfully. "So you'll finish out your classes then?"

Hermione nodded. "Apparently magical folk don't much care if professors have biases for one student over another. Not that surprising, considering… well, considering my husband's behavior over the years."

The others chuckled a bit, at that, and even if it was a bit forced, the tension seemed to disperse, if only a little.

"I'm just glad I finished my reading early, since I haven't had my textbooks." Hermione froze, her heart nearly stopping. "Oh no. You did bring my luggage back with you, didn't you?" Somehow, the thought hadn't even occurred to her.

"Yeah, no worries," said Ginny. "Your stuff was mostly packed, as it was. Hope you don't mind the rest being kind of… thrown into your suitcase. I'm not much for folding, to be honest."

Harry laughed suddenly, drawing Hermione's eyes to him. "But you really should have seen Ron try to wrestle your cat into his crate."

Ron huffed. "Yeah. The latch on that thing is bloody impossible. The menace kept getting out."

The image would have been endearing-Ron, of all people, trying to coax Crooks into his basket-if it hadn't doused Hermione with sudden, icy fear. "Oh hell!" she hissed beneath her breath.

The others' laughing faces froze.

"What is it, Hermione?" asked Ginny. Her eyes were wide.

"Crooks! How could I… I forgot all about him. I suppose…" Hermione met the other girl's eye. "I suppose he's been delivered to my rooms."

…*~*J*~*...

Severus slammed the door between his bedroom and his lab. "Ha!" he barked, wand raised. He was still for a long moment, listening for sounds of the beast. Had he run into the bathroom? Was he hiding under the bed?

Severus channeled all of his Slytherin stealth, moving noiselessly across the stone floor. Slowly, ever so slowly, he peered around the ancient, wingback chair.

There was a terrible noise, like a shriek or the screeching of something breaking painfully apart. And perhaps something was breaking, as Severus shot off spells in his haste to get a hit on the creature. He missed at least three shots of something that may or may not have been lethal before trapping the thing in the corner of the room. At last! Victory was his.

The door slammed open and Severus' eyes left his prize just long enough for it to escape. And escape it did, leaping right into the arms of its Gryffindor Salvation. Hermione Granger. His wife.

"What the bloody hell…" he began.

"I'm sorry, Professor. I'm so, so sorry. I completely forgot to mention…"

"You forgot to mention…"

"I hope it's alright. He's really very well behaved…"

"He almost DESTROYED MY LAB!"

The girl met his eyes for a long moment, her own shocked and full of fear. "But… he didn't." She smiled like that made all the difference in the world.

"Get him out," Severus said with no remorse.

"But…"

"Out!"

"That's not fair! You scared him! How did you expect him to react?"

"I don't care. I won't risk my valuable potions for the sake of some dander-ridden menace."

A change came across the girl's face. Her fear melted away in the wake of her rage. "Well, these are my rooms too, now! You can't just eject my cat."

"I assure you, Miss Granger," Severus drawled, lowering his voice another octave and taking a step in her direction. "I can."

The insufferable chit had the nerve to stick her chin up another inch in the air and declare "Fine. We can discuss it tomorrow."

Severus was about to object with scathing comments about her presumption and general disregard for his authority when the girl turned on her heel and carried the creature back into his potions lab.

"Don't you…" he began, hurrying after her, but he stopped when she opened the door to the hallway and poured the ball of fluff into the cold air of the dungeon corridor.

"Now you be good, Crooks," she cooed, patting it on the head. The damn thing had the nerve to purr and lean into her touch like he hadn't just been locked in battle mere minutes ago. "Don't get into too much trouble." she was saying. Yeah right.

Then she pushed the door shut and stood to face Severus, folding her arms across her chest. "It's late," she began in her bossiest voice, glaring up at him like he'd done something wrong, "so we won't discuss it now. But tomorrow…"

Severus decided not to give her the upper hand. He spun around and marched back into his bedroom, leaving her standing there, the words still hanging from her lips. How dare she presume to lecture him? And when she marched right past him and into the bathroom, his lips curled in a smirk at her obvious behaviour. The girl really thought she was a match for him.

But she was wrong.

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione woke to the heavy chill of early morning. It was disconcerting, not having any sunlight to judge the time by, but she cast a Tempus Charm. 6:00 in the morning. Her internal clock was faithful as usual.

It was comfortable beneath her professor's heavy, winter blankets. She had even started getting used to the way his body heat mingled with hers beneath the sheets. It was an odd intimacy, and it gave her an odd longing to snuggle closer to him in the gloom.

She shook her head. Snape would have a coronary if she ever attempted anything like that. Instead, she peeled herself out of the soft cocoon and climbed carefully over her husband and out of his bed.

A hot shower was a welcome way to start the day, melting the sleep from her eyes and waking her skin up with a tingling flush. She took her time lathering and washing her hair, savouring the fact that Hogwarts' hot water never ran out.

Once she was clean and awake, she stepped from the shower in a cloud of steam and onto the cold, tile floor. He really needs a rug.

There was something delicious about standing around naked in Snape's bathroom. She stretched and yawned, rubbing the steam from the mirror so she could examine herself. Never thought I'd find myself here.

The tiles had warmed a bit beneath her feet, so Hermione reached for her toothbrush and a tube of her parents' recommended brand. Today was bound to be a stressful day, so she needed a good, solid head start. And she had plenty of time.

…*~*J*~*...

Severus stepped toward her. She was staring up at him with wide, cinnamon eyes; eyes that shone with curiosity and… lust. Her lips were parted; rosy lips so plump and soft he wanted to suck them between his teeth. Between them he could see the pink tip of her tongue, wet and wanting.

She stepped backward, not dropping her gaze, drawing him to her as her nightshirt dissolved to reveal the dark tips of her pointed breasts. He stepped toward her, both edging closer to the bed. And then she collapsed upon it, her breasts bouncing, and he followed her down, covering her body, his bare skin melting to hers with such sweet friction.

She was so soft…

His alarm shrieked out into the early morning gloom, making his heart nearly burst in his chest as he bolted up in bed, gasping in the cold air of the dungeons. Fuck! It was morning. The first day of school.

He hardly had a chance to let the dread set in before Granger burst out of the bathroom, a fluffy white towel wrapped haphazardly around her dripping body.

"What? What?" she gasped, glancing around in alarm. Severus's surprised eyes jumped to the tops of her golden thighs and his mouth went dry. They were plumper and softer than he had imagined, the soft flesh bouncing slightly as she leapt into the room. Beads of water running down them. Her skin flushed pink. He shook his head, snapping his mouth shut and silencing the alarm with a sharp gesture of his hand.

"Are you done in there?" he growled.

Granger gaped at him, water still trickling down her long arms, down her neck, pooling in the hollow of her collarbone. "Was that your alarm?"

Severus threw the covers off and was halfway to the bathroom door before she stopped him.

"Wait! Alright, just let me get my clothes."

And Severus waited patiently, silently, glaring at no one and nothing as he tried his damndest not to notice her delicate shoulder blades and how the towel split over her thigh as she retrieved her garments from the bathroom floor.

He slammed the door, locking himself away from the girl, and finally took an agonizing breath.

And nearly choked on sweetly scented steam.

The whole bathroom smelled like her; like his pillows, like her fluffy hair and her soft skin… No! He couldn't think about her like that.

Damn! He had been having such a wonderful dream. Such a sick dream! She would hate me if she knew.

He nearly tore his clothes as he ripped them off, throwing them to the floor in frustration. He turned on the taps and let the shower get hot before stepping beneath its brutal torrent. His cock still ached, but he couldn't think about that right now. Instead, he let his eyes fall closed and he reached for the soap, lazily lathering himself as he was lulled back into a semi-conscious state.

The water was so hot against his skin. And the soap so slick. And ohhhh it felt so good. And it smelled so good. And he could still remember the dream he'd been having. It was a damnshame he hadn't been able to let it play out.

But the girl was naked in his bedroom at that moment. With her plump, soft thighs, still slick from the soaps he could smell in the air. And finally he didn't have the strength to fight it anymore. He wrapped long fingers around his aching cock and pictured the way those droplets of water would taste on his tongue. After that dream, he was already so close, pumping hard, his fist tight with need.

Her body beneath him. Those pointed breasts. Dark pink tips. And those soft thighs; how he wanted to press the tip of his cock against them, between them. She would be so slick…

"Professor?"

FUUUUUUCK!

Granger knocked on the door. "Professor? We're going to miss breakfast."

Severus's hand fell slack, his arousal deflating with shame so fast it made him dizzy. He slammed a hand against the shower wall.

"I don't want to bother you. I just thought… people will talk."

Severus jerked the tap to cold, running a hand over his face before turning off the water and stepping out into the fragrant steam. He couldn't stop glaring as he pulled on his clothes and threw the door to his bedroom open. Guilt and shame warred with annoyance and frustration as he stalked past his nubile wife. It was not going to be a good day.

Chapter Text

Severus speared his sausages with angry jabs of his fork, keeping his eyes on his plate and trying not to notice his wife squirming in the seat beside him. He was disgusted with himself. As a man of such vigilance and self control, he could not deign to justify his behaviour this morning with the mere excuse of having been half asleep at the time. After all, he’d made an unspoken vow to himself not to sexualize the girl sitting next to him, and he’d broken that vow the first moment an opportunity presented itself!

 

Granger shifted in her chair again and though Severus kept his eyes trained on his plate, his peripheral insisted on noticing her and his mind’s eye conjured an image of her thighs rubbing together beneath her skirt. His cock jumped at the thought and he glared down at his plate in accusation. Maybe if he’d at least been able to bring himself off, he wouldn’t be so frustrated right now.

 

He speared another sausage, glaring out across the hall, searching for some distraction. She kept bumping his elbow, forcing her presence onto his consciousness, making it increasingly difficult not to wonder how such a slender girl could still be so full-figured. Fuck.

 

He was not looking forward to class with her today.

 

Hermione’s face was hot with embarrassment. She could feel the eyes of the Hall constantly flitting to her. This was just the beginning. She knew how cruel the students of this school could be. She’d been at the receiving end of their gossip before. And it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, they would grow bored with their taunts and dismiss her again as nothing to write home about. But today was Wednesday, which meant double Potions with the Slytherins.

 

It was going to be bad.

 

“Professor,” she murmured to her husband in as low a voice as she could.

 

“What?” he snapped, sounding even meaner than usual. And no wonder he was such a grouch, the way he woke up in the mornings.

 

“How should I address you? In class?” Her anxiety was really amping up and with it came all the questions she should have asked before now.

 

He stiffened. “Perhaps you should refrain from addressing me at all.”

 

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, but… oh Merlin, we really should have talked about all this.”

 

“Breathe, Granger. I’m sure even you can manage a single class period without feeling the need to flaunt…”

 

“I just want to be prepared . I should think you , of all people…”

 

“Careful, Granger. You may be my wife now, but I am still your Professor.”

 

A nerve ticked in Hermione’s cheek. “And I am still your student. The same student, I might add, that I have always been, and therefore…”

 

“There is a limit to my patience, Miss Granger, and you are about the cross it.”

 

“I believe it’s Mrs. Snape now, which is entirely the point.”

 

At that, Snape’s whole body snapped around to face Hermione and his narrowed eyes squinted down his overlong nose at her. “There is a war at hand, Miss Granger. I assure you, there are much graver matters to dwell on than the petty question of what name I should call you.”

 

Hermione’s eyes narrowed in response and she glared back at her husband. “You think I’m petty?

 

Snape jerked his chair back and swept to his feet in one smooth motion, slamming his fork onto the table with rather more force than was required. “I think the fact that you are so concerned with my opinion proves the point,” he hissed. And then he turned on his heel and swept away before Hermione could respond.

 

Her cheeks burned crimson as she returned her attention to the crowd of students, many of whom were now whispering excitedly behind their hands. She ignored them, doing her best to focus on spearing the remaining sausages on her plate. One thing was for certain. The man had an alarming effect on her blood pressure.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus’s first class was with Third year Slytherins and Gryffindors. Ah, the precious age of thirteen, when his students started learning all the dirty jokes and giggling at everything. They were the worst. Even though he put on his foulest expression and let them know early on that he had no patience to spare today, they continued to whisper and snicker behind his back. It nearly drove him mad.

 

Toward the end of the period, he caught a couple of Gryffindor girls passing notes and snatched it out of their hands. Among other humiliating observations, they had been expressing the opinion that he really ought to have been more cheerful now that he was getting shagged. He gave the two a withering stare he hoped would dry up any residual curiosity and sentenced them to a week of detention with Filch.

 

His second class was with Seventh year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs who were so respectful and mature one might be inclined to think they had no opinions on the matter. But this only made Severus angry, wishing they’d do something, anything, to address the elephant in the room. He decided at last minute to assign an essay out of spite.

 

Hermione’s first class was History of Magic, but though the content of the lecture was riveting, she could hardly keep her mind on the subject at hand. Lavender and Parvati were passing notes back and forth, giggling and snorting and glancing conspicuously in her direction. Hermione ignored it, pretending not to hear them at all. She didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. But inside she was furiously itching to throw her textbook at their heads.

 

On top of that, Neville was acting weird. He’d avoided saying hello to her and moved from his usual seat beside her to one in the corner of the room. Every time she looked over at him, he glanced hurriedly away and fidgeted as his face went ghostly white. What on Earth?

 

Her second class was Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. This was usually a good time to talk to her friends and relax a little while she worked in the dirt, but Harry and Ron were stony and silent and Neville, her usual partner, paired up with Seamus, instead. Hermione ended up working with Dean, who kept glancing at her when he thought she couldn’t see, and acting like he wanted to ask her something. She didn’t give him the chance.

 

By the time lunch rolled around, Hermione was stiff and exhausted, and she hadn’t even dealt with the Slytherins, yet. She dragged herself to the Great Hall, barely said goodbye to her friends as she passed the Gryffindor table, and slumped down in her seat at the top of the Hall.

 

Professor Snape wasn’t there yet, but she decided to tuck in without him. It was distinctly uncomfortable, sitting up there with all of her professors while they ignored her and a hall full of people watched. It only got more and more awkward as she waited for her tardy husband, until she realized he wasn’t going to come. He’d abandoned her. He’d left her to face them on her own.

 

Hermione pulled out a book, attempting to hide behind it, as if she weren’t being stood up by her husband on a stage in front of the entire school. What an arse! No matter how she tried to pretend it didn’t matter, she only got angrier and angrier with him as the time went on. He probably thought he was clever, slinking back to his lair without her, leaving her conspicuously alone. He probably thought he had the upper hand. Did it make him feel powerful? Was this a punishment for something she’d done?

 

Oh, he would regret it. He would never do this to her again.

 

Severus did slink back to his lair for lunch. He needed a break from it all. This wouldn’t be nearly as bad if he’d married Nymphadora. Oh, there would be jokes, but it wouldn’t be such a juicy scandal. The little pests were tickled silly at the thought of his least favorite student ( almost least favorite student) being subjected to… to… aarggh! it was unbearable!

 

Severus slammed the door between his lab and his bedroom and began to pace. Perhaps it could be annulled. He could find a replacement. Beg Nymphadora…

 

No . It wouldn’t do to contemplate impossible solutions to his current predicament. The most he could do was find a way around his most pressing concern: Saturday. He couldn’t bear to face the girl in such a vulnerable way; to undress in front of her, touch her, fuck her. He couldn’t bear to look down into her open, honest face and see her horror as he subjected her body to his pleasure. There had to be a way out!

 

Heaving a sigh that came out more like a roar, Severus dropped into the chair beside one of his desks. He would spend every free minute he could between now and then studying the Law.

 

There had to be a loophole somewhere.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

It was with heavy dread that Hermione followed Harry and Ron to the dungeons. The whole corridor was tense with anticipation. It simultaneously took forever and no time at all to reach the door to the Potions classroom. And the Slytherins were already there.

 

Malfoy wasted no time. “Granger!” he shouted in greeting. Then he planted on an exaggerated expression of shock. “Oh, wait, I suppose it’s ‘Snape’ now, isn’t it?”

 

In her peripheral, Ron scrunched up his face and balled up his fists. “Don’t,” she hissed. “Just ignore him.”

 

Draco sauntered over to her with an arrogant smirk. “You know, Mrs. Snape,” he said putting a hand on her shoulder, “your husband … has always been... like an uncle to me.” He sent an obnoxious grin to the Slytherins snickering against the other wall. Hermione glared, folding her arms across her chest, meeting his eye when he turned back to her. “So I guess that makes you... my aunt.”

 

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Harry growled, holding a red-faced Ron back before he could do something stupid.

 

Hermione pushed Malfoy’s hand off her shoulder, but said nothing. What could she say? The words wouldn’t come. He hadn’t said anything she could correct or refute.

 

Luckily, it was then that the students in the hallway began to shuffle to either side as a tall, dark, forbidding figure swept down the middle, his robes billowing out behind him. Hermione’s heart leapt up into her throat as her husband stalked past her without so much as a glance her way. The bastard.

 

As they filed into the classroom, Hermione noticed Neville hanging back. She bit her tongue in frustration and took her usual seat, waiting to see who would be her partner for this class. It turned out to be Seamus, as Neville paired up with Dean this time. She was too angry to acknowledge either of them. What is going on?

 

Silence descended as the class slowly realized their professor was waiting for them to shut up. “I trust...” he began in that deep timbre that quietly demanded attention, “that you have all had ample time to complete your reading assignment... over the several weeks you had for holiday.” He trailed off, glancing around the room as Gryffindors and Slytherins, alike, failed to meet his eyes. “In which case I am certain that each of you should be able to answer a few simple questions.” He let the pronouncement settle over them as a sense of foreboding filled the room.  “Who can tell me, when is the best time to pick moonseeds, and why?” He glanced around the room, daring anyone to answer.

 

Hermione watched desperately as no one raised their hand before hesitantly lifting her own into the air.

 

Naturally, he ignored it, his eyes passing straight over her to rest on poor Neville’s ghostly white face. “Longbottom?”

 

Neville gave a little yelp and shook his head.

 

“You don’t know?” He surveyed the room with one long glance, completely ignoring Hermione’s hand. “No one?” he asked in that velvety voice. Some of the Slytherins snickered. Hermione shot a glare at them as she reluctantly lowered her hand. “And I suppose no one will be able to tell me the use of Octopus Powder?” Again, he glanced around the room. Hermione gritted her teeth, silently begging someone, anyone , else to answer. “No one?” he asked again. “In nearly four weeks of free time, not one of you found the time to prepare yourself for my class?”

 

Finally, Hermione raised her hand, looking reluctant and glaring at the snickering Slytherins on the other side of the room. And again, her husband’s eyes swept past her as if she didn’t even exist. “Potter,” he barked, his voice malicious and triumphant all at once, “surely such a promising talent as yourself has not made the mistake of thinking you are too… important … for my assignments?”

 

Harry glared up at his professor, but said nothing.

 

“No?” said Snape, staring down at Harry with such superiority and malice. “Pity.” He let his eyes linger, continuing to ignore Hermione’s hand. Her eyes were narrowed, staring straight ahead, and she felt every snicker bouncing off of her, pushing her anger higher and higher in her throat. Finally, she let her hand drop to the tabletop again.

 

“Well, then, let’s try one more. Surely some of you can tell me about the magical properties of knotgrass, as I believe you have had experience with it before.”

 

Knotgrass. That wasn’t even in the reading! Now he was just being unfair. Knotgrass was used in the making of the Polyjuice Potion, so of course she knew what it was. And he knew she knew. Bastard! He was definitely baiting her. Taunting her for the enjoyment of his Slytherins. What an arse! Angrily, Hermione raised her hand once more. She glared at her husband, daring him to meet her eyes as he swept the room with a knowing smirk, not even trying to hide his taunting now. The Slytherins were all in hysterics, sending her wicked grins and whispering to each other behind their hands. She ignored them, lifting her chin a little higher and waiting for her husband to ignore her once again.

 

Snape raised his eyebrows in mockery as his gaze landed on Ron. “Weasley?”

 

Ron glared up at him, his face red. He did not deign to shake his head. Snape smirked down at him. “How… surprising.”

 

It was the last straw. Hermione’s anger overtook her at last and her voice shook the scene with one biting word “ Sir .”

 

But Snape continued as if he hadn’t heard. “Perhaps I should not have expected so much from my seventh year students…” he began in his most scathing tone, pacing back towards the other side of the room.

 

“But, Sir …” Hermione began again, her voice harsh with rage.

 

“After all,” he kept on, his lips turning up at the corners as Malfoy and his gang hunched over in their seats, hands clapped to their mouths to hold back laughter, “you are only in your last year here, preparing yourselves to step out into the world…”

 

Hermione’s anger spilled over. “ Severus, ” she snapped over her professor’s voice. He stopped in his tracks and spun around to her, eyes wide with shock. Even the Slytherins went quiet, their wide eyes trained on her in sadistic glee. Hermione quickly took advantage of the silent room. “Moonseeds must be harvested the morning after the full moon, as the light of the full moon strengthens their magical properties. Octopus Powder makes most potions stronger. And knotgrass is used in Polyjuice Potion as its magic ties two people together, but as that wasn’t covered in the assigned reading, I’m not sure how you expected...”

 

“Detention, Mrs. Snape ,” Severus snarled in a bored tone, lifting an eyebrow. “Friday evening. Here in the dungeons,” he told her, “it seems you have a lot to learn about… propriety.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Instead of going to dinner in the Great Hall, Hermione decided to stand her husband up as he’d done to her and headed back to their quarters. But he was already there, sitting at one of his desks, pouring over parchments, a fire crackling happily in the fireplace. When she saw him, she nearly turned right back around and left, but then her anger got the better of her and she glared at him, fuming.

 

Detention?!” she snapped. “Are you kidding me!?”

 

Snape narrowed his eyes. “You should consider yourself fortunate I only gave you one night…”

 

“Didn’t you even consider for one moment what sorts of jokes they’ll be making about us now?”

 

Snape froze, his face paling slightly. If she hadn’t been watching carefully, she might not have noticed at all. But clearly the man hadn’t thought about that. “It is important that you remember that I am still your professor. I was compelled to answer your disrespect for my authority…”

 

“You were baiting me. Don’t think I didn’t know that.”

 

“If you were aware, why did you choose to respond?”

 

“Because… because…” Hermione sputtered. “ Oh! You are such an arse!

 

Snape lifted an eyebrow. “Such language from an innocent, young Gryffindor.”

 

Hermione scrunched up her nose, shaking her head at him in derision. “Oh bugger that.”

 

“Perhaps you should spend some time alone,” said Snape, smirking at her, “to get that temper under control. I have work to do.” With that, he turned away from her, returning his attention to the parchment on his desk.

 

“Oh, no. I’m not finished speaking to you.”

 

“Granger,” Snape growled, not looking up, “you’re trying my patience. I only have three more days to find a loophole in this godforsaken law so that I don’t have to bed you.”

 

Hermione froze, her mouth hanging open. It felt like a slap in the face. Was he so disgusted with her? And anyway, who used “bed” as a verb anymore? But then her face was flooding with heat, an unbidden vision of his lanky body stretched out on top of hers flashing across her mind. Weren’t men supposed to be eager for an opportunity at sex? Weren’t they supposed to want it even when their partner was not ideally matched? Was something so wrong with her to make him so desperate to escape it altogether?

 

Feeling her temper flaring to life inside her, Hermione balled up her fists to keep from shouting at him. “Fine,” she snapped with as much restraint as she could. It was all she said before stalking from the room and slamming the door behind her.

 

Hermione stomped all the way to the Great Hall, deciding at the last second to sit down at the Gryffindor table if for no other reason than to spite her impossible husband.  She was just in time to fill a plate before pudding was served. Between angry bites of broccoli quiche, she met eyes with Ginny Weasley. “Can we talk?” she asked her friend, on impulse.

 

Ginny lifted an eyebrow. “Anytime,” she said with a definite smirk.

 

They finished their dinner in silence before leaving the hall together and heading to Gryffindor Tower. Only once they were enclosed in Ginny’s four-poster bed, curtains drawn around them, did Ginny speak.

 

“What’s going on ‘Mione?” she asked.

 

“I’m just… upset.”

 

“About what?”

 

“It’s silly, really. I don’t understand why I’m so angry about it.”

 

“‘Mione, you can tell me anything. You know that right?”

 

“I know. Ugh, this is going to sound so stupid, but… Snape is trying really hard to find a way around having sex with me.”

 

Ginny lifted an eyebrow. “Is he really?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And that… bothers you?”

 

Hermione felt her cheeks grow warm. “Well it’s just… really insulting, isn’t it?”

 

Ginny shrugged. “I mean, if it gets you out of having to sleep with him…” she broke off, narrowing her eyes at the other girl. “I mean, you don’t… want to… do you?”

 

Hermione chewed her lip. “I don’t know.”

 

Ginny’s jaw dropped. “‘Mione, Merlin’s sake!”

 

“I know, I know. He’s nearly twice my age and he’s kind of an arse…”

 

“Kind of? ‘Mione, he’s the Greasy Git! Never thought you’d actually want to shag him!”

 

Hermione’s face was hot with embarrassment. “It’s not like that!”

 

“It’s not?”

 

“I mean… well, maybe it is. I don’t know! But the point is, he isn’t interested in me. I mean, I know I’m not his first choice, but…”

 

“Ha! Bollocks! Snape couldn’t pick up a woman half as attractive as you if he tried.”

 

Hermione bit her lip. “Do you think? I was wondering... I mean… he can’t really be as repulsed by me as he acts, can he?”

 

Ginny shook her head. “No way. It’s probably just an act. Look at him! It’s not like he’s got options. He probably hasn’t had sex in… like ever.”

 

“I dunno.”

 

“No, really. Think about it, ‘Mione. He lives here at Hogwarts. He’s really busy with this whole double agent business. Plus, his hygiene… I mean… come on.”

 

“Right, so… why is it, then? Do you think it’s because I’m so young?”

 

Ginny shrugged. “Maybe. I mean, you are like half his age. With his job, he can’t go around fancying teenage girls.”

 

“True. And I wouldn’t want him to, either. But do you think he could learn to be attracted to me?”

 

Ginny scoffed. “I think he already has. Didn’t you see the way he looked at you in that wedding dress? I mean, granted, all the guys were looking at you in that. But no, Snape has eyes, doesn’t he? He’s definitely noticed that you’re not a girl, anymore. If anything, I bet it makes him feel guilty.”

 

“Oh.” Hermione sat back against the pillows, pulling her knees up to her chest. “That would make sense,” she said.

 

“Yeah, definitely. And now you’re sleeping in his bed with him, sharing his bathroom… Plus , you’re not the average 18 year old girl. I mean, for a guy like him, your intelligence has got to be a huge turn on.”

 

“You think so?” Hermione chewed her lip.

 

“Definitely.”

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Hermione spent another hour or so with Ginny before returning to her new quarters in the dungeons. Professor Snape was sitting at his desk, massaging his temples. He said nothing as she came in.

 

Ignoring the stab of resentment that the infuriating man’s refusal to acknowledge her existence caused, Hermione slipped into the bathroom to get ready for bed. She took a little extra time tonight and considered her reflection, wondering whether her husband would notice her shorts and how smooth her bare legs looked. The thought sent a shiver across her skin. Did she want Professor Snape to be attracted to her? The warm knot in her belly said yes.

 

When she stepped from the bathroom, Snape was leaning back in his chair, holding a parchment up close to his face. She bit her lip.

 

“Professor?”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“Do you think I could use one of your desks for my homework?”

 

He hesitated, then sighed dramatically. “I suppose.”

 

Hermione studied the various desks and their piles of parchments and books and ink and quills. Not one of them was clear enough for her to use. “Is there somewhere I could move your things?”

 

Snape smacked the parchment back down onto the desk and turned his neck until he was glaring over at her. She didn’t miss the way his eyes darted down for a split second to her thin, white tee. He caught himself so fast she might not have noticed, if she hadn’t specifically been wondering what his reaction would be. She chewed her lip, thoughts flying through her mind. Was it possible?

 

Professor Snape pushed his chair back with exaggerated impatience and stalked over to the farthest desk away from his own; the one closest to the bed. In one angry sweep of his arms, he shuffled all of his papers into one stack and carried them over to drop onto the third, unused desk. “There,” he told her, his voice an angry grunt.

 

“Thank you,” she replied. She didn’t mean for her voice to come out so breathy and she nearly bit her tongue at the frail, feminine sound. If Snape noticed, he didn’t let on. Ignoring her racing pulse, Hermione pulled out her textbook, dropping it down onto the desk.

 

It was then she realized there was no other chair. She chewed her lip. She certainly wasn’t going to ask him for help. This was a problem she could solve on her own. There were stools in the lab, she remembered. She’d just bring one of those in here.

 

By the time Hermione had acquired a stool and shortened it to a more appropriate height, her pulse had gone back to normal and her nerves had relaxed. She perched atop its flat, wooden seat and got to work on the essay her husband had assigned.

 

Severus had reread the same page about fifteen times. Every time he reached the end, he realized that he hadn’t paid any attention to the content he’d just read. How could he? Granger’s mere presence was unnerving him. He was hyper-aware of her position in the room, the way she made herself at home. Of course he’d noticed the tiny shorts she’d worn. Too small! Especially for the time of year. True, the fire in the grate made the room warm enough, but they were still unseasonable clothes.

 

He was trying to read about contractual magic. It was actually a very interesting subject and something he’d never thought to study before. Under normal circumstances, he would be riveted upon his reading. But that was not the case. It was nearly impossible to focus on the words on the parchment before him when his mind’s eye insisted on picturing Granger every time she rustled a page.

 

It had been a long day, and his mind began to fuzz over, conjuring images of Saturday night. What the hell was he going to do? Maybe they wouldn’t have to undress all the way. What he needed to do was find out how the contractual bond worked so that he could only fulfill whatever was inescapable to avoid breaking the contract. There would undoubtedly be consequences if they did break the bond, and he didn’t want to find out.

 

Severus shook his head, deciding that it was simply too late to concentrate. He’d had a long day with a rough start and he needed his sleep if he was to function tomorrow. Pushing away from his desk, he stood and cracked his aching joints, allowing only the most fleeting of glimpses toward the Granger girl. She looked so out of place in his dungeon bedroom, with her curly hair pulled up and her brightly colored shorts so invitingly soft. Oh Merlin . He should try not to think about that. And she was chewing the end of a Muggle pen she must have brought from home, a look of deep concentration on her face.

 

He was quiet and self-conscious as he opened his wardrobe and pulled out his newly designated sleep clothes.

 

“Professor?” The girl’s voice startled him more than he cared to admit.

 

He turned to glare at her. “Yes?”

 

“It says here that Moonseeds are extremely poisonous, but… I thought most plants associated with the moon had healing properties.”

 

“Is there a question there, Granger?”

 

The girl’s eyes narrowed and her mouth became one, sardonic line. “Oh, excuse me. I thought the question was implied.”

 

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Well, if that was all, then…” he began, turning toward the bathroom.

 

“No, wait!” The girl sighed, rolling her eyes. “Alright then… so why is it these ones don’t conform to the rule?”

 

Severus folded his arms, leaning against the wall beside the bathroom door. “Well, there’s nothing inherently beneficial about the moon. It is merely an incredible source of magical power. In fact, its light tends to increase the magical properties of many herbs, not simply the ones listed in your textbook. If you to study the potency of any plant as it changes over the course of a month, you would most often see a correlation between potency and the phases of the moon. It just happens that with some of these plants the effects are especially marked, and most of those fall into the category of ‘healing herbs.’ It’s more a matter of coincidence than anything else.”

 

Interesting. So is it always best to pick herbs right after the full moon, then?”

 

“Not necessarily.” Severus shifted his weight, considering the question. “Many herbs lose their potency the longer they are cut, so they must be used fresh. Some vary so little that it makes no difference. Others have traditionally been picked at specific times, for Merlin knows what original reason, and therefore most potions call for amounts dependent on the potency they have at that specific time of the month…” Severus broke off, realizing that he was rambling. That was a habit he had tried to break in his interactions with women. But then he saw that Granger was hooked on his every word, her eyes shining with curiosity. He wanted to kick himself. She was his student . Why on Earth was he worried about boring her?

 

“So, why do we never focus on harvesting herbs and other Potions ingredients in class?” she asked him.

 

Severus cleared his throat. “Well, you would in an apprenticeship.”

 

The girl’s eyes flitted to the ground and she chewed her lip. He knew what she was going say before she said it. She was so obvious, he didn’t even need Legilimency to read her mind. “Speaking of that,” she began, “I suppose I have to decide on an apprenticeship sometime soon.”

 

This was beginning to feel uncomfortably like a personal conversation, now. Severus shifted his weight, glancing toward the bathroom door. “That would probably be wise,” he said, then slipped into the bathroom before she had a chance to respond.

 

While her husband changed into his ridiculous sleep clothes, Hermione finally gave up on her homework and slipped into bed. He seemed to hesitate when he saw her there, but he covered it well, moving to join her in their bed with as little awkwardness as possible. With a swish of his wand, the lights went out, leaving only the faint glow of the embers in the fireplace.

 

Hermione turned onto her side, watching as her husband tipped a bottle down his throat. Dreamless Sleep? She continued to stare at his profile as he lied back down. “Goodnight,” she told him, on impulse.

 

She watched his mouth open and close. “Goodnight, Granger,” he finally growled, sounding annoyed. She smiled into the darkness. Living with him really wasn’t so bad.

 

Long after her husband fell asleep, Hermione remained wide awake, watching his profile and his sleeping form gently rising and falling with his steady breath. It was so easy, in the dark, late at night, with her sleeping husband so close she almost shared his warmth, to imagine intimacy with him. She could almost picture him rolling over, right now, so that he was on top of her. The thought sent shivers down her spine. Ok, so it would be awkward. It would be nothing like the first vision she’d had of their first time together. But she wanted it, just the same. Awkwardness and all. She wanted his body against her own. She wanted him to look at her, to peel off her clothes. She wanted to look into his face and know that he wanted her back.

 

She wanted to know what he’d think if he knew she was thinking about that.

 

Groaning, uncomfortable, Hermione stretched out on her back, trying not to think about her husband and the night they had to come. For now, she just needed to sleep.

Chapter Text

 

Endless hallways twisted and turned and she was never any closer to her destination. Whispers and laughter followed her everywhere. Endless streams of students passed her by. Whispers. Laughter. She clutched her books to her chest. Whispers. Laughter. Malfoy pointed at her while the Slytherins laughed. Whispers. Laughter. Whispers. Laughter.

 

Endlessly, she switched between the never-ending hallways and the chilly dungeon bedroom where her limbs ached from lack of sleep and no position was comfortable enough to keep her asleep for long. She twisted and turned beneath the sheets. She twisted and turned down the halls. Pillows and sheets. Pointing classmates. Elbows and knees. Whispers. Laughter.

 

Until ahead she saw a familiar figure, clothed in black, watching her with deep, dark eyes. And then she was wrapped in his embrace, her arms around his torso, enfolded in his robes. She was safe from the world. And he was so warm. He held her close against him and a fuzzy tightness blossomed in her belly.

 

Hermione woke with a start, her eyes popping open, her mind fully awake. Her nose was pressed against her husband’s skin, where his neck and shoulders met. One arm was draped across his chest and one leg was hooked over one of his own so that the warmth of his thigh radiated through the fabric of their clothes to burn a fire in her core. She ripped away, heat flooding her face. He would have been mortified to wake up with her that way.

 

Hermione knew even before she cast a Tempus Charm that it was time to get up, but she wanted to lie back down a while longer and savor the delicious dream she’d been having. Indulging for a moment, she watched her sleeping husband’s profile, studying the parts of his face she could never focus on when he was awake. Even sleeping, he looked exhausted. There were bags under his eyes and his brow was furrowed as if in consternation. Part of her wanted to lean in to him, to comfort him, to push his hair back from his face and press a kiss against his forehead. Hermione shook her head, rolling her eyes at herself for developing this weird attachment to the man. Was she completely daft?

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

They didn’t speak as they readied themselves for the day and they kept their silence all the way to the Great Hall and all the way through breakfast. Yet somehow, the shared silence was more intimate than speaking would have been.

 

Severus was already regretting his impulse to give Granger detention on Friday, but there were some lessons she needed to learn. At least he wouldn’t have to deal with her today. Honestly, he needed a break.

 

When the post came, he was surprised to find that he had a letter from Lucius. He stuffed it away, careful not to let his wife see, although he wasn’t quite sure why. Rather than read the letter straight away, he left breakfast early and read it on his way to his first class. Apparently, Lucius was wanting a potion. Well, he’d have to confer with Albus about that.

 

“You have tested this new one?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Albus cocked an eyebrow at his Potions Master, as if to say ‘ I needn’t have asked .’ “But it is different from the one you gave Dolohov?”

 

Severus nodded. “Antonin is a weak, simple man. I gave him a Voluptatem potion, designed to increase pleasure. Highly addictive. He’s already desperate for more of it, but I control the supply. Lucius… is a subtler breed.”

 

“Indeed.” Albus smirked.

 

“The potion I have brewed for him, the Satisfecho , increases happiness . Serotonin, as opposed to dopamine. According to my readings, and my own experience with the substance, it increases openness to emotions that are locked away. It gives the user a sort of shield, so that they may examine their emotions without feeling the full force. It is my hope that Lucius will see his own folly and, perhaps eventually, become open to possibilities heretofore… unacknowledged.”

 

Albus nodded. “Of course, you will have to confide in him, to prove your confidence.”

 

“Indeed. I intend to complain about my subservience to you, Headmaster.” Severus’s lip twitched up on one side. “It shouldn’t be too hard.”

 

“Ah, you are still upset with me.” The old man gave him a knowing glance at that. “Are you still searching so desperately for a way around the Law?”

 

“Of course I am. I’m married to a child, Albus. A student of mine.”

 

Albus’s eyes grew sad. “The situation is not… ideal, perhaps. But Miss Granger is mature and wise, for her age. She understands that small battles must sometimes be lost if the larger war is to be won. And I think… she is less worried about it than you.”

 

Severus glared at his employer. “Yes. She’s your little Gryffindor martyr, isn’t she? Of course she’s happy to give herself up to the Cause. She probably thinks the worse it is for her, the greater her sacrifice, the better that makes her for putting up with it.”

 

“Now, Severus, you know that isn’t true.”

 

“Isn’t it?”

 

“Are you really so afraid to consider the alternative?”

 

“And what alternative is that?”

 

“That, contrary to what you are so determined to believe... the girl has a very high opinion of you.”

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Hermione’s day dragged by in a haze of anxiety and exhaustion. She hadn’t slept well the night before, haunted as she had been by anxious dreams. That being so, she had very little patience left today. And no one was making it any easier for her.

 

To start, Charms with the Slytherins was awful. Malfoy kept Charming pieces of paper to fly over to her with lovely little cartoons illustrating her upcoming detention with her husband. Some of them had her ripping the paper to shreds, her cheeks on fire.

 

Transfiguration was fine, until McGonagall took her aside after class to let her know that if her husband mistreated her or took advantage of her in any way, the older woman would always be on her side. And it was comforting to know that, but it was also humiliating, not to mention disconcerting. How could this woman, who had known Professor Snape since he was 11 years old, possibly think anything of the sort about him? It wasn’t a comforting thought.

 

The rest of the day flew by in a breeze. She was getting used to the whispers in the hallway and the comments made behind her back. Maybe having experienced this before made it easier to deal with this time around. She just didn’t care anymore. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself.

 

When she finally made it back to their bedroom and dropped her bookbag full of things onto the desk he had assigned to her, Professor Snape was walking out the door. “I will be back late,” he told her in passing, “I am having dinner with a colleague.”

 

“Okay,” she heard herself saying, though a prickling suspicion told her it wasn’t true.

 

And then he was gone and she was alone in their quarters. She found her interest drawn to his desk and the papers he had been reading last night. Step by cautious step she approached the messy surface, unsure why she felt guilty for wanting to know.

 

It turned out to be a series of papers about contractual magic and its workings. Hmmm . She supposed their marital contract must bind them with this sort of magic and perhaps he hoped to find a loophole by studying it. Skimming the top page, Hermione was immediately intrigued and soon she found herself cuddled up in his bed with his papers, learning all about it.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

The Hassan II Mosque was more spectacular than Severus could have imagined. Not that he had spent much time imagining it. Lucius certainly had a flare for choosing the setting.

 

The potion was beginning to take effect as they meandered among the enormous columns. The golden light of late afternoon filtered through the carved arches all around them to sparkle against the polished inlay of the floors.

 

Lucius sighed. “A more beautiful place I have never seen,” he said. Of course, he had said the same thing about Versailles and the Taj Mahal.

 

In silence, they stepped out into the evening air, savoring the light, seaside breeze. They had dressed in simple black trousers and long-sleeved Muggle button-down shirts. The weather here was much more agreeable than back home. Home . Under the influence of the potion, the thought of home was safe and warm. Severus shook his head, dislodging the errant thought and turning his attention to the beauty surrounding him.

 

“It is a shame,” Lucius drawled as they walked across the white stone, following the sound of crashing waves, “to have such power, capable of bringing us here anytime we please; the power to chase the perfect season all year long. And yet…” he trailed off, turning away, holding back. He must have realized the potion was taking effect.

 

“I know,” said Severus, hoping to prompt the other man. “Such a waste.”

 

They slipped back into silence as they approached the delicate barrier and looked out over the gentle, perpetual surf. The wind kissed their faces with a soft caress, the air was full of the scent of saltwater, and the sun dipped ever lower in the sky. Severus began to feel that it was a waste to spend this time in anxious scrutiny of his long-time friend. What was anything worth in the world if he could not enjoy this moment?

 

“I would love to bring Narcissa here,” his old friend said, leaning over the ledge to stare out across the sea. “ Merlin ,” he sighed, “this is brilliant. I feel like we’re back in our 7th year; a world of possibilities before us.”

 

“It does feel like that,” Severus agreed. And he meant it. Standing here, it was easy to believe the war and the tragedy of his past were invented stories. The real truth was this ledge and this friend and this sunset sending golden light across the sky. How did he pass each day without witnessing this majesty? The marvel of the turning of the Earth and the brilliance of the heavens lit with painted fire. He could weep to see its beauty.

 

The sun dipped inch by inch beneath the horizon and the two men soaked up every second of it, bathed as they were in awe. Only when the last beams of golden light had disappeared from sight, sending a faint orange glow across the horizon, did the men remember they were not alone.

 

“Sometimes I wonder,” Lucius began again, his usual drawl slipping a bit into what sounded like a younger voice, “where would we be now, if…” and then he cut himself off. He remembered where he was and cast his brother a sideways glance.

 

Severus knew he needed to put his brother at ease. “Indeed,” he found himself saying. “Sometimes I wonder where I’d be.”

 

“And where do you think that is?”

 

He considered for only a moment. Although he couldn’t remember ever sitting around and wondering about this, the answer came to him immediately. “I think I might’ve sold potions. Not… this sort, but… a more useful variety. I certainly wouldn’t teach.”

 

Lucius let out a bark of laughter at that. “No, never has been your greatest strength, has it?”

 

Severus chuckled and it felt good, like something was releasing deep inside him. “And what about you? Where do you think you’d be?”

 

Lucius leaned his weight against his elbows, considering. “Perhaps I’d build a palace. One as grand as this. Can you imagine? Or travel the world with Narcissa and Draco, chasing the perfect season all year long.”

 

“Well, maybe you can do that someday.”

 

Lucius’s lips turned up in a sad, little smile. He turned to study his old friend. “And what about you? When all of this…” he gestured absently, “is said and done… you could set up shop with your new wife.” He smirked, lifting one eyebrow as he studied his friend’s reaction.

 

“Gods,” Severus groaned, bowing his head over the ledge as anxiety poured into his heart. “Don’t remind me of that.”

 

“What? Your wife? I should think you’d be happy. Pretty, young thing like that.”

 

“Yes, young. Too young. She’s one of my students , for Merlin’s sake.”

 

“You’re joking. Do you know what most men would give to have such a pretty, young wife?”

 

“Yes well, they haven’t taught her since she was eleven . Think of it. She’s Draco’s age. It just isn’t right.”

 

“Not right? I was not aware you had such lofty moral standards, Severus.”

 

Severus rolled his eyes. “It isn’t the same.”

 

“Don’t tell me you aren’t attracted to the girl.”

 

“Well of course I’m attracted to her.” Severus’s eyes went wide at the confession. He had been hesitant to admit it, even to himself. He’d not given the girl a good glance since she’d matured until the day they had to marry. But of course he had noticed that she was not a girl anymore. Of course he had seen every bloody night how her slender frame had filled out in all the right ways .

 

“Is it that she’s a mudblood?” Lucius asked. Severus’s head whipped around and he just barely stopped himself from glaring at his old friend. “Because you know, you don’t have to procreate with her.” Lucius winked at him and Severus thought he might be sick.

 

“No,” he choked out, frightened at the effect the other man’s words were having on him. “No, it’s not that. It’s…” he shook off the emotion and turned his mind back to the subject at hand. Why was it that he was so reluctant to enjoy his nubile bride? “It’s that… How can I enjoy myself when she’s…” he cut off, embarrassment encroaching on the edges of his consciousness. The truth, he realized, was humiliating.

 

“When she’s what?”

 

But perhaps that was the sort of vulnerability he needed to show. To win Lucius’s trust. “I mean to say…” he continued, shame pooling inside of him, sharper than anything he’d felt in years. “She can hardly be looking forward to this. I-I’m her hated Potions Master. You should hear the sorts of things they say about me…”

 

“Ah, so you’re afraid she doesn’t want it? But think of all the things you could teach her; of all the ways you could please her that she’d never expect...”

 

Severus snorted. “Not likely.”

 

“And why not?”

 

“Well, I’m hardly going to be… that is, I’m certainly not going out of my way… this is just business. Anything else would be gratuitous and… vulgar. To her, I’m just a lecherous old man.”

 

“Oh, come now, Severus…”

 

“No, it’s true. She…” and the truth hit him like an insight he didn’t know he’d been hiding from himself. “She deserves better than me.”

 

Two hours later found the two old friends sipping glasses of dark red Syrah on a Moroccan terrace. As the effects of the potion faded, Lucius ordered more and more wine, by the bottle, to make up for it until it was apparent he couldn’t bear the thought of returning to his normal existence. Severus felt little more than guilt for putting his friend in this situation, though a distant part of him knew he should be pleased. This was exactly what he had wanted. Wasn’t it?

 

It was a little before midnight when the two men realized they couldn’t delay the inevitable forever. Severus had school in the morning and Lucius had the Dark Lord’s suspicions to contend with. In all honesty, they were not in fit shape to Apparate that far, but they didn’t let that stop them. And soon Severus was stumbling through the door to his own quarters, the warmth of serotonin a blur buried beneath the buzz of alcohol pulsing in his veins.

 

Hermione startled. She had been so absorbed by the material that she’d lost track of time. “Professor,” she gasped, looking up to where he towered over the bed, “I’m so sorry. I was just curious and I couldn’t help but see…”

 

Severus snorted. “Of course you were,” he said plopping down onto the side of the bed and reaching down to try to pull his heavy Dragonhide boots off his feet. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the girl had been sticking her nose in his business. In fact, it made a funny sort of sense that he, the accomplished spy, would be locked into a marriage with the nosiest woman he’d ever met. Girl. The nosiest girl.

 

Hermione watched her professor struggle with his laces. Even from her vantage point behind the man, it was obvious that he was heavily intoxicated. He could hardly seem to get his boots off his feet. And then, without warning, he was pulling off the button-down shirt he’d been wearing to expose the pale surface of his naked back. Her eyes went wide. Somehow, she’d never considered that he might have scars etching swollen red lines across his flesh. There weren’t many, but they stood out in sharp relief against the pallor of his skin.

 

And then he was standing and turning to face her, putting one hand against the wall to hold himself up. Heat flooded her face. Surely, he didn’t mean for her to see him like this. But she couldn’t look away. His slender torso was spattered with fine, black hair. It trailed in a line from the sprinkling that covered his chest, down across the faintly curved surface of his belly, around the nub of his navel, to disappear in a tapering patch beneath the hem of his thick, black trousers. Which he was beginning to unbutton.

 

“Oh, no no no!” she sputtered, leaping up onto her knees and reaching for his wrist to stop him before he unbuttoned too far. Inadvertently, she got an eye-full of the thick, black curls his trousers had been hiding. But thankfully, that was all. “You’ll probably want to keep those on,” she told him in a consoling voice.

 

“Uggghhh,” he groaned, collapsing onto the bed and stretching out onto his back. If his trousers had been open any further, they probably would have slid right off just now. “Damn uncomfortable trousers,” he moaned, fingering the hem. His eyes were red and half-lidded. She didn’t trust him not to pull his trousers off.

 

“That’s okay!” Hermione squeaked, “that’s okay. We’ll fix it.” She leapt out of bed, heading over to the trunk where she had stored the clothes not suited to hanging in a closet. “We’ll fix it,” she kept murmuring, as if to console herself. Digging around, she found two pairs of pajama bottoms. There was one covered in little purple bunnies. She didn’t think he’d appreciate that. The others were a plaid in red and gold. Gryffindor colors. A devilish grin spread across her face. She might enjoy her Gryffindor pajamas even more on her Slytherin husband.

 

Engorgio ,” she whispered, pointing her wand at the flanel garment. She eyed the size and hoped it was close enough before tossing the pajamas over to her Professor. They landed on his hairy stomach and he grunted in surprise before lifting them up between two fingers. “Put those on,” she commanded. “I won’t look.”

 

“Yeah, alright,” he grumbled, sounding like an adolescent boy. It made her smirk.

 

For an age she listened to the sound of him kicking off his trousers, keenly aware that he was now naked right behind her. Then he stopped. And she listened for the sound of him putting on his new pajama bottoms. “Professor?” she asked at last, beginning to question the wisdom of asking him to undress. “Have you got your new trousers on?”

 

He grunted with what might have been irritation. “Alright, alright. I’ll put ‘em on.”

 

She couldn’t suppress a giggle. He was acting like a child. She listened again for a long moment before asking him again. “All dressed?”

 

His grunted answer seemed to be in the affirmative, but she wasn’t entirely sure. And so, it was with great trepidation that Hermione Granger slowly turned around to assess her husband’s condition. He was indeed dressed in her pajama bottoms, which fit him perfectly . A bit too well, if she were honest with herself. There was something very satisfying about seeing the Head of Slytherin House in her Gryffindor pajamas. His long black hair was spread across the pillow and his legs were stretched out before him so that she could clearly see the bulge in the front of his trousers. It made her pulse race and a warmth rush to the juncture between her legs. She shook her head. Now was not the time for such nonsense.

 

“Alright,” she told him, crawling back onto the bed, “I’ve just got a few more pages and then I’ll turn out the lights.”

 

He grunted in response and she settled in to finish the reading she’d been doing on contractual magic.

 

Through the haze of dizzying drunkenness, Severus turned his head to study his wife. She was wearing those damn tiny shorts again, her bare legs golden in the candlelight. Such perfect, shapely legs. They looked smooth as satin. Part of him wanted to reach a hand out and run it up and down her thigh. The thought made his cock jump.

 

Her professor pulled the blankets up to his waist, bending his knees and planting his feet against the mattress. “Here,” he grumbled, throwing a stretch of comforter over her legs, too.

 

“Oh gods no,” she chastised, pushing the blankets off, “it’s too hot in here for that.” And it was true. She hadn’t tampered with the fire he’d had burning since he left and the room was cozy and warm.

 

“I’ll fix that,” he said, waving a lazy hand toward the hearth. The fire went out at his command. Considering the state he was in, Hermione couldn’t help but be impressed. “There. Now, you need blankets.” He tugged on the blankets and tossed a length of it over her again.

 

Hermione laughed. “Well, that’s very kind of you, but I’m quite comfortable without them, thanks.”

 

“Uggghhh,” he groaned, “just cover up your damn thighs.”

 

“Wh-what?”

 

Her professor dragged a hand across his face. “I don’t need…” he trailed off, gesturing at her legs.

 

Hermione’s face grew hot and she pulled up the comforter, if for no other reason than that she had nothing to say. Inside, there was a thrill running up and down her spine, settling in the pit of her stomach like molten coals. She must have read the same sentence ten times before she calmed down, took a deep breath, and continued with her work.

 

“Granger?” Professor Snape murmured in a hoarse voice. She had thought he was asleep.

 

“Yes, professor?”

 

“Have you ever been to Morocco?”

 

A confused laugh escaped her at that. “No.”

 

There was a long pause and then her professor said, “d’you think, someday, you’d like to go with me?”

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ll drop me a line to let me know what you think!

 

:} llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

Whispers. Laughter. Twisting halls. Quills signing names. Old parchment covered in an antique scroll. Running through the corridors, past laughing faces, deep into the heart of the dungeons.

 

Where she was safe.

 

Straight into the arms of the Potions Master, who pulled her close, wrapping her up in his warmth. And then tumbling into his bed. The wiry hairs of his torso tickled the bare skin of her belly as she opened her legs to him. Heat. His lips at her neck, hot breath against her ear. They moved together. Tight warmth pooled deep in her belly as pleasure blossomed deep inside her. Something was rising up within her, cresting, so close . Her professor moaned into her ear. Over and over. He sounded like he was in pain.

 

And then she was wide awake, gasping in the chilly darkness. She hardly had time to register her husband’s groaning before something hard collided with her face. She cried out in pain, clutching the bridge of her nose as tears spouted from her eyes. And the lights came on.

 

“Oh no, oh no,” Snape murmured reaching out to take her face in his hands. “Forgive me. I… I-I was asleep. I… forgot…”

 

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she said, waving him away.

 

“No. Let me see.” He pushed her hand away, lifting her chin so that her face was in the light. “So sorry,” he whispered. “I’ll get you a salve.” And then he was out of bed, padding across the dungeon floor on bare feet in her Gryffindor pajamas. She could hear him rifling through the cabinet in the bathroom for a minute before he reemerged with a jar of bruise salve. In a blink he was cupping her chin in his hand again and spreading the cold, pungent ointment across her cheek with his long, pale fingers. It took him a moment to realize how intimate the gesture was. And when he did, he pulled away, the concern melting from his eyes which now turned down coolly as he busied himself closing up the jar.

 

“You didn’t take your Dreamless Sleep,” she said, understanding. “Is this why you always take it?”

 

His black eyes met hers, considering, before turning back down to his own hands. “Yes,” he said. “I should have told you before now.” He shrugged. “A side-effect of psychological torture.”

 

“Oh.” It was all she could say.

 

“It’s better you know, now. I cannot continue to take Dreamless Sleep forever.”

 

“No, better not,” she answered, lamely.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

She nodded. “Fine. More shaken than anything.”

 

“Would you like some tea?”

 

Hermione’s brow furrowed as she studied her professor. Was he really offering tea at this time of night? “Sure,” she found herself saying.

 

“Dobby...” Snape murmured, trailing off. She had just enough time to wonder what he was going to say about Dobby before the Elf appeared, standing, in the middle of their bed.

 

“Oh!” the Dobby cried. “Miss Hermione Granger! Dobby is hearing that you are living here, now, but Dobby is not knowing that he will get to see you!”

 

“Er… yes, Dobby. It’s very good to see you, too.” Of course, that was not entirely true, as Hermione could not throw off the strangeness of having the Elf in her bed with her and her husband, Professor Snape.

 

“Dobby,” Snape addressed the excitable Elf, “would you be so kind as to fetch us some tea?”

 

“Of course, Sir! Dobby is happily serving Professor Severus Snape and Miss Hermione Granger, Sir. It is Dobby’s great pleasure!”

 

“Much obliged,” the professor drawled as Dobby disappeared on the spot.

 

“You know Dobby?” Hermione asked before she could stop herself.

 

Professor Snape lifted an eyebrow. “Indeed. The master he once served is one of my oldest friends.”

 

Her cheeks flamed at that. Of course the Malfoys were old friends of his. Hadn’t Draco Malfoy just said that Snape was like an uncle to him?

 

The silence between them grew awkward and Hermione reached for something to say, but came up empty. Her eyes flickered up to his only to find him studying the sheets, as much at a loss for something to say as she was. She took the chance to study him. They were both sitting with their legs crossed on top of the blankets and he was still wearing her Gryffindor pajama bottoms. His chest was bare. The dim light cast a dramatic shadow across his face, emphasizing his enormous nose. And suddenly, all she could think about was the dream she’d been having, the way his face felt pressed against hers, his breath falling hot against her ear. It had felt so real. She wanted to relive it again. She wanted to bring it to life.

 

Dobby reappeared in the middle of their bed with a tray full of tea things and chocolate biscuits.

 

“Oh, Dobby! Thank you so much!”

 

“Of course, Miss Hermione Granger! Dobby is doing anything Miss Hermione Granger asks. Miss Hermione Granger is Mister Harry Potter’s friend.”

 

“Yes,” Snape cut in with a dry, deep tone, “that will be all, Dobby. Thank you.”

 

“Of course, Professor Severus Snape, Sir,” Dobby said with a bow, and then he disappeared and the tray rattled as it settled on the mattress.

 

Silence elapsed once again and Hermione snatched up a biscuit, taking a huge bite to cover the awkwardness. Her professor only stared down at the tray in contemplation. “It probably needs to steep,” he said obviously.

 

“Mmmhmm…” she agreed, flicking her eyes over his form. She could still remember the way his skin felt against hers in that dream, his coarse black hair tickling her navel, sweat making the friction slick and hot. “We should probably talk about Saturday,” she heard herself say. Snape shifted uncomfortably, sending his eyes away across the room. “I’ve been reading those papers about contractual magic and… I think I understand the premise now.”

 

“Indeed?”

 

“Mmhmm. Basically, it depends on the idea that if a lawyer could find a loophole, the magic won’t work. Only… it’s more like a computer program because you don’t actually have to argue the point. If there is a loophole, it just won’t work.”

 

“Hmm…”

 

“So because the contract literally states that we agree not to use birth control, it will notify them if we use any sort of birth control at all.”

 

Severus’ eyes leapt up to hers at that. Merlin . He’d been so focused on the task of trying to find a way around the Law, altogether, he hadn’t even considered the potential ramifications if there was no way.

 

“So, obviously this is not ideal,” she continued, “but it looks like our only option is to use the... er… the... pull-out method.” She waited for him to respond, but his eyes were locked on the wall and his face had gone blank. “That’s the method where…”

 

“I know what the bloody method is, Granger.”

 

“Oh.”

 

He lifted the teapot and began to pour their tea. “Sugar? Cream?”

 

She said ‘yes’ to both. It was that sort of night. And they lapsed back into silence, once again. But inside Severus’s mind, the wheels of thought were turning. Her words had given him an idea. Of course, he’d need to do more research.

 

The silence was putting Hermione’s nerves on edge. She found herself blurting out again, if for no other reason than to break the interminable quiet. “I also found out that the contracts go into effect at midnight on the day they’re signed, so that means we have until midnight on Saturday. And then we’ll have until midnight each Saturday after that.” She waited, but he didn’t respond. “That means there won’t be overlap if we were to…” she stopped herself, her cheeks heating with sudden embarrassment.

 

“Go on…” he dared her, arching one eyebrow.

 

“If we were to… that is… if we… if we had sex on a Wednesday, for example.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“Then we’d still have until Saturday the week after that.”

 

“I see.”

 

“Just… good to know.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

For his part, Severus’s pulse was racing. He could still feel the afterglow of the Satisfecho potion lifting his spirits and he hated to admit how much he was enjoying their middle-of-the-night tea. He blamed the potion and her insinuation for the fact that his cock was getting hard. If circumstances had been different--if they had not been professor and student, forced together against their will, but merely a young married couple waking up together in the middle of the night--he would have crawled on top of her right now and…

 

Severus shook his head, as if to clear it. “That bruise should be gone by morning,” he said, like an idiot. “I apologize again for… giving it to you.”

 

She shrugged, looking sheepish. “That’s okay. No harm done.”

 

They finished their tea and weariness began to settle over them again. Granger was understandably hesitant to sleep with bruise salve on her face, but Severus assured her that it was easy to wash out of hair. She reluctantly complied. He called Dobby back to take the tray away and stretched out beside his wife. And in a manner of minutes, he was fast asleep.

 

For Hermione, falling asleep took a little while longer. A pleasant hum was buzzing inside of her, and it wasn’t because of the tea. She could smell the faint musk of her husband’s sweat and hear the soft sound of his breathing. And all she could think was that finally he hadn’t said anything to contradict the fact that they were going to have to have sex. Oh Merlin . She still wasn’t sure why she even wanted to do it. She certainly hadn’t only a week ago. But it was true. She was very much looking forward to Saturday night. And she was beginning to think he was beginning to too.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus’s alarm awakened him only as a technicality. There was no adrenaline left in his veins to snap him to attention the way it usually did. Instead, he registered it only as a distant noise, as if far away, or on another plane of being. He dismissed it with a wave of his hand and sank back into his pillow, wishing against all available reason that he could ignore reality forever.

 

The first rule of psychoactive potions was that the after effects were equal and opposite the initial effect of the potion. Whereas pain was the after effect of the Voluptatem potion (the pleasure potion which he had given Dolohov), apathy followed consumption of the Satisfecho.

 

Severus’s mind began, lazily, to reflect on the night before, beginning (naturally) with the parts that should bring him the most pain. He should have cringed to remember the things he’d said to his innocent wife, but he felt nothing. He had no energy to regret his words to her or to dread speaking with her again.

 

It was an eternity later and also no time at all when Granger’s voice interrupted his idle reflection. “Professor?” she asked, sounding hesitant and concerned. He wanted to shout at her to leave him alone, but instead he merely sighed and ignored her. “Professor, it’s time to get up. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll miss breakfast.”

 

“Go,” he groaned, not moving from his position slowly melting into the sheets.

 

She hesitated. “Are-are you sure?” She waited for a response that never came before continuing. “Will you be up in time for class?”

 

“Granger,” Severus growled, mustering up all the energy he could, “I’ve been getting myself out of bed longer than you’ve been alive.”

 

She giggled nervously at that. “Fair point.” Then she waited again before sighing. “Alright. I suppose I’ll see you at lunch.” And then, to his great relief, she was gone.

 

Severus did drag himself out of bed in time for class, but just barely. He left only enough time to dress and down a number of potions before stalking through the dungeon corridors, feeling in a foul mood. He barked at a few students who were dawdling in the halls and swept into his classroom a few minutes late. The chatter dissipated and the tension in the room grew thick with apprehension as he threw instructions for a potion on the board. “Get to work,” he told his class and then he seated himself behind his desk and tried to concentrate on grading.

 

By the time lunch rolled around, Severus was feeling only slightly better than before. He didn’t go to the Great Hall to meet his wife, but instead stalked back to the confines of his bedroom. There was work to be done.

 

Through the haze of numbness that had become his entire world, Severus tried to force himself to read the Marriage Law again. Yes. It was as he had suspected. The Law specifically required “intercourse,” between married couples, once a week.

 

It took every ounce of willpower Severus possessed to make himself leave the safe comfort of his quarters and make his way to the library. He was running out of time. The lunch hour was nearly over by the time he located a recent copy of the Ministry’s official glossary of legal terms.
“Intercourse” was defined as “coitus,” or “copulation.”  “Coitus” was defined as “sexual intercourse.” But “copulation” was defined as “sexual intercourse including penetration of the vaginal canal with the penis.”

 

Severus sat back in his chair, his mind buzzing with ideas.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Hermione half expected her husband to stand her up for dinner, in addition to the two other meals he’d skipped that day. She was pleasantly surprised when he sat down beside her, even if she was still a bit annoyed. She’d been dodging comments from random students in the halls all day. Apparently, the whole school knew she had detention with her husband after dinner tonight. She’d tried to talk to him about it after class this afternoon, but he’d dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

 

Where was the charming man of the night before? The one who had woken up with her in the middle of the night and sent for tea? The one who had tenderly applied a bruise salve to her face and confessed the secret that he lived with nightmares now? The one who had asked her in a slurred but happy voice if she would like to go to Morocco with him one day? She knew the answer without having to ask. He was sober now. His guard was back up. His shields were in place. He was hiding behind them where he thought she couldn’t see.

 

Severus ignored the eyes of the children in the Hall, though he could feel them flitting to his own tired form. He knew they were delighted he had given his wife detention and he loathed being the subject of their ridicule. But at least he had escaped one small humiliation. Partially, anyway.

 

If Granger was right about contractual magic (and she probably was), that meant that they would almost certainly have to have relations of some sort, including, at the very least, penetration. But maybe they wouldn’t have to go any further than that. She had given him the idea with her suggestion that they use the ‘pull-out’ method (he shuddered at the memory). After all, if he didn’t have to finish inside of her, how far could he push that technicality? It seemed, to his logical mind, that he should be able to get away with doing nothing more than penetrating her and pulling out.

 

That was not ideal, true. He would have liked to have found a way to completely circumvent the law. And maybe there was still a way yet to be found, but probably not before tomorrow. This, at least, was something. He sighed with relief. Thoughts of having to force himself on the girl and bring himself off while she cringed in disgust or pain had been giving him immeasurable anxiety all week. Now, he could finally relax. He should have felt elated, but alas… the most he could feel through the haze of apathy was the lightness of relief.

 

After dinner, they both went straight to the classroom. Hermione couldn’t help but notice a few Slytherins lingering in the corridor, hiding their laughing smirks behind their hands. She scowled at them and followed her husband into the room before slamming the door behind them.

 

“Was that necessary?” he asked her in a weary voice as he took his place behind his desk.

 

“Is this? ” she shot back, gesturing to the room around them.

 

His eyes narrowed. “Yes.”

 

“Why? Haven’t you seen the way everyone has been reacting? Don’t you know what they think?”

 

“Indeed I do, Miss Granger, and that is why I had to do it.”

 

“Couldn’t you have given me detention with Filch?” A whine had entered Hermione’s voice and she shook her head in an attempt to dislodge the emotion gathering in her throat.

 

“No,” he told her and his voice was unsympathetic. “You openly defied me, Granger. I could not allow that.”

 

“You were baiting me,” she argued back. They’d talked about this before.

 

“Yes. Just as my Slytherins expected me to do.”

 

Oh. It was the most honest thing he could have said and Hermione was taken aback. She hadn’t thought of it that way.

 

“And you reacted just as the Hermione Granger they know would do,” he continued, steepling his fingers beneath his chin. Hermione was dumbfounded. “And now you are in detention with your angry, Death Eater husband, and they don’t know what is happening right now. And they don’t know what to expect from you tomorrow. Which is what makes this the perfect opportunity to show them that I am in charge.”

 

Hermione gaped at her professor. He was being completely serious. “So…” she began, her mind working over what he had just said, “you expect me to come out of this acting like you put me in my place?”

 

“Indeed.”

 

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, of all the ridiculous things…”

 

“My fellow Death Eaters are watching closely, Granger. They have always watched me closely. They know that I am a spy. And some of them confide in me, as brothers. But many others would love to be the one to prove that I have been a traitor all along. So I can’t give them any reason to believe that. And they will if they think that I’ve been soft with you. You . Hermione Granger, Harry Potter’s best friend, who has aided him several times in keeping the Dark Lord from regaining power. Who now fights on the side seeking to take it away from him again.”

 

“Oh” . Hermione supposed it made a certain sense, when he put it that way.

 

“They know that Albus forced me to marry you, against my will. And they know what the Marriage Law entails. They will expect me to take full advantage of my power over you and to subdue you in any way I see fit. So yes , Granger, I do expect you to emerge from this detention with a different attitude. I expect you to show a certain fear for me, if not respect. Because that is what they will expect from us. If I am truly the loyal Death Eater I need them to believe I am.”

 

Hermione felt very small. He was so right. She should have considered the larger implications. But it still made her feel queasy to pretend to submit to her domineering husband. “I understand,” she heard herself saying. “I will do as you think is best. You know more than I do about this.”

 

Her professor let out a small sigh of relief and relaxed back in his chair. “Good,” he told her, as if the matter had been settled.

 

“But,” she continued, finding her footing, once again, “that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t compromise behind their backs.”

 

He lifted an eyebrow at that. “What?”

 

“Well, for a start, I want my cat to live with me.”

 

What?

 

“He’s very smart and we’ll teach him to behave. Besides, you can ward your workbenches so that he can’t jump up onto them. He likes to be able to come and go as he pleases, so you might not even see him that much.”

 

Snape scowled at her, but didn’t seem to have the energy to argue. “Fine,” he said. “Is that all?”

 

“For now,” she answered, lifting an eyebrow of her own and giving him a satisfied smirk. “I’ll let you know if I think of something else.”

 

He didn’t answer, except to narrow his eyes.

 

Hermione glanced around the room. “Is that it, then? Can I work on my homework a bit so it looks like we took more time?”

 

At that, her professor’s face curled into a hideous sneer. “Oh no, Granger,” he murmured in a dangerous tone, “I am still your professor and you still spoke out of turn. Besides, I have cauldrons that need scrubbing.”

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus was beginning to regret his decision to have the girl scrub cauldrons. Between eating dinner and taking a dangerous amount of potions over the course of the day, the after effects of the Satisfecho were almost entirely gone. As a consequence, Severus’s emotions were slowly filtering back in. And, unfortunately, they were skewed in one particular direction.

 

Scrubbing potions was hot, messy work. Hot water and lots of physical exertion usually made wearing school robes unnecessary and uncomfortable. Granger had decided to remove hers, and Severus’s eyes kept darting to her lithe, curvaceous form. He was supposed to be grading essays, for Merlin’s sake, but he couldn’t keep his attention on his students’ terrible writing with his wife contorting herself in such a vulgar manner over her work.

 

As Hermione scrubbed, her mind began to wander. Inevitably, she pictured the drawings Malfoy had shot at her and all the lewd fantasies he’d had about her detention with her husband. They made her face hot with embarrassment and… something else. One of the drawings had depicted her draped across her professor’s lap while he spanked her ad infinitem. There was something tantalizing about that outlandish image; how forbidden it was, how risque. But that hadn’t been the most shocking of all.

 

She blushed just remembering Malfoy’s worst drawing; the one she’d set on fire as soon as she’d set eyes upon it. It had been a drawing of Snape’s desk with her leaned across it, palms flat against the surface, while her professor pounded against her in quick, jerking movements from behind. Both their faces were contorted in ecstasy, and not in a flattering way. She wondered what Snape would have thought about it if he’d seen it and the thought sent a shiver down her spine. He’d be mortified, of course. But would he think about it? Like she was? Would he picture the scene; imagine doing such a scandalous thing right now?

 

She glanced up at her husband, surreptitiously, and saw him scowling down at the papers on his desk. It wasn’t hard to imagine him standing up and leaning over that heavy, wooden surface, bracing himself and her against it as he… Oh Merlin! She was sweating now, beads dripping down between her breasts. Scrubbing cauldrons was hot, hard work. She wished she could take her vest off.

 

It was like a light bulb flashing on inside her mind.

 

Hermione paused in her scrubbing, the deliciousness of the idea falling over her in waves. She thought back to the conversation she’d had with Ginny; how the other girl had been convinced that Snape must be attracted to her. The thought made heat tighten in her core and Hermione recognized it as arousal. Oh Merlin. She was aroused by the thought that her husband might like what he saw.

 

“Granger, what the hell are you doing?” Snape asked the second her vest hit the floor.

 

“It’s hot,” she replied, feeling called out and embarrassed. He was going to see right through this ploy. “You don’t mind, do you?”

 

Severus had to admit the girl’s face was flushed with heat. After all, telling her to dress herself would be tantamount to admitting he was uncomfortable. And besides, he liked the way he could see the pointed tips of her breasts through her button-down shirt. Gods. He was almost regretting finding a way around fucking her tomorrow.

 

Severus shook his head, shocked at himself for thinking such a thing. “Finish with that one and you’re free to go,” he told her. He couldn’t take it anymore.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

That night, Hermione Granger and Severus Snape stretched out beneath the blankets, their backs to one another. Severus had tried his best not to picture his wife as she showered before bed. Hermione had tried her best not to smile when her husband decided to wear her pajamas again. And both of them now clenched their eyes closed tight, willing themselves to fall asleep, longing for and dreading the day to come, respectively.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Please don’t forget to Review!!!

 

:} llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

I’m so sorry to keep you guys waiting! RL has been hectic! Thank you so much to everyone who has Reviewed to let me know that you care and that you’re enjoying my story!

 

...*~*J~*...

 

Hermione woke with a start. The room was pitch black and the air was cold and she was curled up in her husband’s arms. She gasped aloud. His bare chest was pressed against her back, his arm draped over her waist, and the hard length of his morning erection was pressed into her from behind. Her cheeks warmed and she tried not to move. She didn’t want to wake him.

 

Snape’s breath was deep and even. She could feel it in her hair. But he had her in a tight embrace and she knew she’d wake him if she tried to get free. And anyway, she didn’t actually want to be free. His large frame fit so perfectly around her. It was so intimate. The closeness of him made her heart beat faster as a giddy excitement coursed through her veins. My husband , she couldn’t help but think, rolling her eyes at herself and marvelling at the ferocity of her biological response.

 

It was early morning, probably about the time she would normally wake up. But it was Saturday. Finally , it was Saturday. And she didn’t feel the need to get out of bed just yet.

 

Hermione relaxed into her husband’s arms, savouring the way her pulse was leaping and heat was collecting at the base of her spine. With him so close behind her, his erection so apparent, it was not hard to imagine him waking up and taking her that way. The thought nearly made her gasp aloud and fanned the furnace between her legs. Today was the day they would consummate this marriage. And she was ready. So ready.

 

A familiar scent. His wife’s shampoo. It filled the air and conjured visions in his mind. The shape of his bathroom formed around him, the scorching torrent of his shower pounding hard against his aching flesh. His wife appeared, stepping naked beneath the same cascade. Soap slicked her soft, pale skin. Her soft curves. So wet. He pulled her close, turning her around to press his cock against that firm, perfect arse. Her slender, soft body felt so good...

 

He woke with a gasp, realizing that his wife really was in his arms and that he really was pressed up against her arse. His cock jumped and she tensed in response. Suddenly, he was wide awake. He jerked away from her, rolling onto his back, and fought the urge to pull a hand across his face. Shame and humiliation climbed up his throat, twisting the features of his face. He wanted to run from her. But worse, his cock was still hard and he still remembered the way she felt pressed tight against him. Had he been alone, he would have taken himself in hand and chased the fantasy to completion. But Granger was there beside him, awake and aware of what was happening with his body. He wanted to excuse himself. He wanted to shame her for shaming him. He wanted to roll on top of her and consummate their marriage right then and there. His cock throbbed at the thought. But he just turned away from her and resigned himself, in silence, to frustration and restless fatigue.

 

Hermione waited what she deemed to be a believable period of time before pretending to wake up, shift positions, and then climb slowly out of bed. She was well aware that her husband was awake and her body still thrummed with the memory of his… his penis throbbing against her. It told her that, if nothing else, his sleeping self sure wanted her. Well, it wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

 

Hermione nodded to her professors at the head table as she sat down to breakfast. She loved breakfast on Saturdays, when most of the school was still sleeping so the room was quiet and calm, full of clarity and readiness for the day. The marmalade seemed extra sweet today, flavor bursting on her tongue as her toast crunched perfectly with every bite. Then there were the poached eggs with black pepper and the porridge, which she sweetened with honey and blueberries and cinnamon (an odd but delectable combination). She was happily munching when the post arrived with her copy of the Daily Prophet.

 

A Wave of Annulments

 

the headline read.

 

She dropped her spoon into the bowl. The alarming title was followed by an article detailing the first wave of annulments that had come about as a consequence of couples not fulfilling their marital contracts. Hermione’s eyes went wide. No warning or anything. The couples simply hadn’t fulfilled their end of the deal--they either hadn’t had sex or they used contraceptive--and the whole marriage was void. She tried to swallow a mouthful of porridge only for it to stick like glue in her throat. She caught McGonagall’s eye as the older witch looked over her own copy of the Prophet. Her professor’s mouth became one flat line and it was clear that she had numerous opinions to voice on the matter, but she said nothing.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

As he was already wide awake, his mind buzzing with frustration and shame, Severus finally pulled himself out of bed and got dressed for breakfast. He couldn’t stop reliving the morning over and over again. Granger’s obvious embarrassment and powerlessness at waking up trapped in his arms. The fact that she clearly thought it would be better to pretend to be asleep, as if he couldn’t tell. How long she had lain there trapped, his cock pressed hard against her bum, he’d never know. And then his cock twitching against her in arousal. He cringed. It felt like such a horrid trespass, even if she did belong to him.

 

He was just turning the corner into the Great Hall when Minerva appeared, looking flustered. The woman’s eyes went wide. “ Severus ,” she snapped, reaching for his arm, “a word.”

 

Fuck. He’d been avoiding the witch all week. She was clearly unhappy about his new nuptials and he didn’t think she was planning to congratulate him.

 

Minerva dragged him to the side of the Entrance Hall and cast a spell to keep their conversation private. “ Well ,” she began in a hushed, angry voice, “you have done quite a job of avoiding me.” She glared at Severus who made to respond before she cut him off, poking a finger at his chest. “Now I know this situation couldn’t be helped, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it,” she snapped. Severus opened his mouth only to have her talk over him again. “Miss Granger is our brightest student; the brightest student Hogwarts has seen in a decade. She has a world of opportunity open to her. The last thing she needs is to be tied down.”

 

“Minerva, you are aware that I did not write the law…”

 

“Yes, yes, I know it was not to be avoided, what with your…” she waved a hand up and down his form, “position.”

 

“She is planning to stay at Hogwarts for an apprenticeship,” Severus cut in before Minerva could say anything more. For some strange reason, he was feeling defensive. “By the time she is done, this law will certainly have been repealed.”

 

“Yes, but a lot could happen between now and then.”

 

“Certainly. There is a lot we hope does happen before then.”

 

Minerva rolled her eyes, shooting him an impatient glare. “I mean …” she hissed, “that everything will change if the girl conceives.”

 

“Oh.” Severus’s eyes went wide and heat pooled in his face. For a man normally so practiced at suppressing his emotional response, Severus had certainly been caught off guard.

 

“I have been reading all I can about the law and there doesn’t appear to be any perfect method…”

 

“Do not concern yourself with this, Minerva. I assure you, we have a strategy.” Severus could not believe he was having this conversation. And today, of all days.

 

“Oh! Good. Good.” Minerva visibly relaxed. “Of course . Trust the two of you to come up with something.” But at that her eyes grew sad and she looked up into her colleague’s face. “Oh Severus,” she murmured, her voice full of emotion. It made the man in question rather more than a bit uncomfortable. “She has always looked up to you.”

 

Severus let out a bark of laughter. “That’s ridiculous,” he spat, not knowing what else to say.

 

“Don’t be a fool, Severus, of course she has. The lengths she’s gone to to gain your approval… I’m afraid…” Minerva trailed off, turning her eyes down and biting her lip. It was unnerving to watch such a serious witch display such emotion. “You and I both know that you are unlikely to develop… feelings … for Miss Granger,” she began again. “But I am afraid she will likely fall in love with you .”

 

What?!

 

“Oh of course she will, Severus. She is young. She’s inexperienced. She’s a very passionate young woman. I remember what it was like to be her age.” Minerva’s eyes grew cloudy as she stared off into space, seeing something that wasn’t there. “Don’t assume that a studious, intelligent witch is not susceptible to the siren’s song of infatuation.”

 

“Minerva,” Severus choked out, “that’s… don’t be… ridiculous. The girl is half my age.”

 

The older witch turned an amused grin on him at that. “Yes, and she has a history of falling for older men. Don’t you remember Gilderoy?”

 

Severus flinched back. “Are you comparing me to that buffoon?

 

“She was enamored with that buffoon. And he was about your age, wasn’t he? I assure you, Severus, Miss Granger has always had the highest opinion of you.” The laughter in her eyes grew cold and sad. “Which is why you need to be careful. Loving you is not easy or safe and that young woman has a history of making risky decisions for those she loves. She is, after all, a Gryffindor.”

 

Minerva’s words echoed in his mind as Severus made his way up to the head table. His young wife was still there, to his dismay. He was struck with the recollection of waking up with her in his arms. How had all of this happened? How had she somehow managed to complicate his life even more than it already was? And in only a week?

 

Granger lifted her eyes from a copy of the Daily Prophet as he approached. “Morning,” she said without a note of embarrassment in her voice. “Have you seen this?” She handed him the paper as he took his seat. The article in question was immediately apparent.

 

Merlin ,” he murmured under his breath. Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse.

 

“I know,” she agreed. “It’s strange, isn’t it? I thought for sure it was all a ruse; just an excuse to tag us with Monitoring Charms. But if that were the case, why would they be so strict about the terms?”

 

Severus glanced over at her in surprise. He had come to the same conclusion about Monitoring Charms. “That was my assumption as well,” he confessed, his voice confused. He should learn not to underestimate her.

 

“The article doesn’t detail much. Mostly it lists some of the more prominent couples who were broken up as well as their scathing comments about Fudge and his brainless new policy. Then there’s Fudge’s argument that breaking the law is breaking the law and there are consequences, yadda yadda. The rest is mostly filler.”

 

“Well, perhaps I will pick up on something you didn’t catch,” said Severus, beginning to read.

 

Granger snorted, much to his dismay, “You can certainly give it a try,” she said, “It’s quite vague. I had hoped they might detail the ways in which the couples didn’t fulfill their contract, but it isn’t any more specific than to say that they either abstained or used birth control. I had been toying with the idea of using a Muggle contraceptive, such as perhaps an intrauterine device. They are supposed to be among the most effective and least dangerous as far as Muggle medicine goes… but anyway it’s not worth the risk.”

 

“Mmm,” Severus grunted noncommittally, reaching for a slice of toast. It occurred to him that he should tell her about his plan for that evening and what he had discovered about the law, but here was not the place for such discussion.

 

“Do you think it could be a distraction?” she wondered aloud. “That, perhaps, if they put on enough of a show, we won’t be suspicious about the Monitoring Charm?”

 

“Or perhaps Fudge really does imagine that this is an effective way to unite the populace.”

 

Granger sighed and leaned back in her chair. “I think that worries me the most,” she confessed. “I mean it’s one thing when you’re up against a conniving villain with obvious motives. How do you fight back when it’s just an imbecile with too much power making stupid mistakes?”

 

Severus didn’t respond. He was trying to read the article but he couldn’t stop thinking about what Minerva had said. It was ridiculous to imagine Granger falling in love with him. She wasn’t the little third year twit she had been when she had apparently fawned after Lockheart. She had grown up so much, in so many ways, and he simply hadn’t noticed. Now, she was a brilliant witch, wise in a way that came both from experience and from the curiosity that made her who she was. When all of this was said and done she would go off to do impressive things with her life and likely fall in love with an impressive young man. Just the thought caused his gut to twist with jealousy. Foolishness . But if the alternative was for her to throw her life away for him… He chose not to consider that line of thinking. It was ridiculous, anyway. Hermione Granger was far too intelligent to fall in love with him.

 

“Anyway, I’d best be off,” said Granger, pushing back her chair, “enjoy your breakfast.”

 

He watched her leave, tracing her form all the way down the length of the hall. She had chosen Muggle jeans today and the way they hugged her round arse and shapely legs aroused him more than he wanted to admit. He should be eagerly anticipating the night to come, excited to consummate his relationship with such a beautiful, intelligent witch. But all Severus felt was self-loathing and dread for the coming humiliation of watching the girl reluctantly submit to her professor’s obvious arousal. He cringed.

 

In the eyes of the law, she belonged to him, but Severus knew she would never be his.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

“So… tonight’s the night,” Ginny mused, her lips twitching up at one side.

 

“Shhh!” said Hermione, glancing around. They were wandering the corridors and no one was around, but she couldn’t be too careful. “Yes. Finally .”

 

“Wow, ‘Mione. Never thought I’d see you so anxious to get under your professor.”

 

“I know ,” said Hermione in a tone more of wonder than of shame. “It is strange, isn’t it? I mean, this time just last week I wanted nothing to do with the man. I was worried to death over the pickle I’d gotten myself into.”

 

Ginny’s brow furrowed. “You never let on.”

 

“Of course not,” said Hermione, turning her eyes to the ground with a nervous smile. “The last thing I wanted was the rest of you feeling sorry for me.”

 

“So, what do you think has changed, then? Now you’re so keen on all this?”

 

“I dunno. I suppose, maybe, living with him, I’ve gotten to see more of the man he is than just the facade of our potions master. Plus…” she added, thoughtfully, “he looks damn good in my Gryffindor pajamas.”

 

What?”

 

The two of them giggled hysterically as Hermione related the gist of the story, without saying so much that it felt like a trespass. Odd , she mused, that she had gotten to a place in her relationship with him that she didn’t want to tell his secrets to her friend.

 

“What I don’t understand,” said Ginny, as they meandered back toward Gryffindor tower, “is why he’s acting so reluctant. I mean, I would have expected him to be… I dunno… creepy about it, you know?”

 

Hermione smiled, understanding. “I thought the same thing. But I guess it’s not that surprising that we could be so wrong about him. I mean, how could we presume to know the aloof Slytherin spy so well? I doubt if I’ll ever know the real Severus Snape.”

 

“Does that bother you?”

 

Hermione considered. It hadn’t bothered her. Not until right now. She shook her head. “It’s all temporary anyway, isn’t it? I mean, eventually they’ll repeal this ridiculous law and we’ll… go our separate ways.” For some strange reason, the thought was kind of sad. She pictured her husband sitting cross-legged on their bed in her Gryffindor pajamas. It felt right , somehow. Being with him felt right.

 

She shook her head. That was foolishness, of course. They had only been married for a week and hadn’t even had sex yet. Hell, he was a Death Eater for Merlin’s sake. True, he was on the right side now , but… Or, at least… she believed he was on the right side…

 

“Well,” said Ginny, “not if you get pregnant, you won’t.”

 

“Oh no . We’ve found a way around that.”

 

“Have you?”

 

“Well, it’s not perfect, but… we’re going to use the pull out method.”

 

“Oh gods ,” said Ginny, cringing and holding a hand up to Hermione, “I’m sorry I asked.”

 

Hermione laughed. Their footsteps echoed in the deserted corridor. She needed to work on homework soon, but it was refreshing to spend some time with her friend. “Is it so weird for me to be excited?” she asked.

 

“Well… it’s Snape, so… yes. But… it’s also your first time, so… no, I think that’s completely reasonable.”

 

“I know you can’t imagine it, but he really can be quite… sweet.”

 

“Ugghh gross Hermione.”

 

“I know, I know. But… you know… I already feel like I know him so much better, just living with him. Part of me thinks… after tonight, our relationship will be changed forever.”

 

“Well… yeah .”

 

“I mean… after this… even if… when they repeal the law, we’ll never go back to being just teacher and student.”

 

Ginny was silent for a moment. “Well, do you want to?”

 

Hermione considered. She tried to picture bumping into him somewhere public, like Diagon Alley, years from now; how awkward he’d be; how both of them would be remembering the intimate moments they had shared. “I think I’m already past that point,” she admitted in a breathless voice.

 

“Merlin, Mione. You’ve got it bad.”

 

Hermione’s face grew warm. “I know. I’m an awful fool. There’s no way he will ever return the sentiment, but… I have to admit I’ve grown rather fond of him.”

 

Gods ,” said Ginny, shaking her head. “You’re the only person I know who’d be excited to shag Snape.”

 

“I know. I can’t believe it, myself.”

 

“You’ll have to tell me all about it, of course,” said Ginny with a grin.

 

Hermione raised an eyebrow at her friend. “I don’t think that’s proper, Gin. He’s your professor too, after all.”

 

Hermione decided to eat her lunch in their chambers. He had finally allowed her the use of one of his desks and it was about time she made herself at home there. All of her books were still stacked on the floor and her pens and quills were scattered at the bottom of her suitcase.

 

She called for Dobby and asked him to bring her a sandwich before setting to work. First, she lined her books up on the surface so that their spines were visible and the edges of their pages were pressed against the wall. Perhaps later she could find a set of shelves that fit there, but for now this would have to do. Next, she set out her various pots of ink and arranged her various quills from decorative to useful. She decided the best place for her blank parchment would be one of the three drawers to the side of her chair. Perhaps the bottom drawer. So she pulled it open and froze.

 

From within the depths of the drawer the face of an attractive witch winked up at her from the cover of a glossy magazine. Hermione’s jaw dropped. She couldn’t stop herself from reaching down and yanking out the dusty red and black subscription. The witch on the front was lying on her stomach, her generous breasts pressed seductively against the black velvet of the surface beneath her. The swell of her lace-clad bum was just visible in the background as she lazily hooked and unhooked her ankles, showing off black heels. She winked at Hermione and blew kisses at her with those perfect dark red lips.

 

Hermione should have stuffed the magazine away, but curiosity won out. She couldn’t stop herself from rifling through the pages, gawking at the busty witches smirking and waving at her seductively from each glossy page. They were all so perfect; tall and beautiful and confident with tiny waists and abs and impossibly perfect curves. They made Hermione feel young and awkward and skinny and pale.

 

The door swung open and she jumped, spinning around and trying to stuff the magazine behind her back. Professor Snape’s eyes went wide. In three long strides, he crossed the room and reached around her to rip the magazine out of her hand. She danced out of his way as he Banished the contents of the drawer. He was fuming with rage, but he said nothing.

 

“S-sorry,” she managed, not quite able to look him in the eye.

 

You ,” he began, breaking off. Hermione got the impression he was trying not to say something biting and hurtful. “I…” He huffed, twisting away from her and going to his own desk. In one angry movement, he swept the parchments on top into his arms and strode toward the door. “I have work to do,” he finished lamely, slamming the door on his way out.

 

Hermione stared after him, her cheeks hot. She cringed and ran a hand over her face in shame. “Well, that was… mortifying,” she murmured to herself.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus slammed the stack of parchments down on his desk, several rolls bouncing off onto the floor, and began to pace. Could this day get any worse? She must consider him some sort of pervert by now. He almost considered just letting this marriage be annulled, rather than sleeping with her tonight. At least he wouldn’t have to finish the act. He groaned aloud, running nervous fingers through his hair. None of this would have been so complicated with Nymphadora. It would have been strictly business, no judgment, no emotions. But Granger … It had only been a week and everything was in chaos.

 

Powerless and frustrated, Severus finally threw himself down into the chair behind his desk and decided to pour his attention into grading. It was a welcome distraction. At least for now.

 

He worked on grading for the rest of the day, taking a break now and then to work on lesson plans, and eventually it was time to go to dinner. He considered skipping that altogether, but he’d run out of essays to grade. And besides, he’d have to deal with Granger eventually. Perhaps it would be better to see her next out in public, where she couldn’t make awkward apologies or insist on explanations. Whoever knew what a witch might do? So, finally, reluctantly, Severus made his way to the Great Hall.

 

He arrived late and Granger was already there, chatting happily with Filius Flitwick, which Severus found unusually annoying.

 

“So you can actually create new spells, then?” the girl was saying.

 

“Yes, indeed. That’s the sort of thing you’d learn to do as a Charms apprentice.”

 

“Really? You know, I am wanting to do an apprenticeship here.”

 

Filius chortled happily. “Well, of course you are! And I daresay you could apprentice in any subject you wanted to. Naturally, I would be honoured if you chose Charms.”

 

Severus tried to shut out their conversation and concentrate on eating, but he couldn’t keep his attention from focusing on his wife’s incessant chatter.

 

“Creating spells,” she was saying in a wistful voice that grated on Severus’s nerves.  “Can you imagine? I mean it’s one thing to practice magic; to bring under your command the various spells that others have created before you… but to be the one to create those spells? To call forth new magic for the first time, binding your will with words and the swish of a wand…” she trailed off, clearly overwhelmed.

 

Her words struck a chord inside of Severus, which only annoyed him more. She was speaking with a passion he understood all too well. Yes, it had been buried under more pressing concerns for the better part of two decades, but somehow he found that it still remained. Trust Granger to find the vulnerable places inside of him and poke at them until they bled. What was it about that girl?

 

“Yes,” Filius was saying, his own voice full of pride. “Of course, your husband could teach you a thing or two about that.” Severus choked. “As I understand it, he was writing his own spells as a sixth year here.”

 

What? ” Granger gasped, spinning around in her seat to look at him. He shot a glare at Filius, trying to suppress his own emotional response as his neck grew uncomfortably hot.

 

“That’s right,” said the Charms professor. “He was another one who could have had his pick of apprenticeships. If only he would have turned in his assignments.”

 

Granger turned big, shocked eyes onto him once more, gaping up at him in delighted surprise. “You… you , of all people… didn’t turn in your homework?”

 

Filius chuckled at that. “Severus never did like to be told what to do.” At that, the Charms professor hopped down off his chair and adjusted his trousers. “And speaking of homework, I’ve got some essays to grade. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

 

Granger bid her professor goodnight and turned back to her husband. “I cannot believe …” she began, but he cut her off, hiding his words behind his water goblet, his eyes peering across the room.

 

“Granger,” he bit out in a warning tone, “you are acting entirely too cheerful.”

 

She seemed confused for a moment, evidently having forgotten their detention together last night. But then her eyes went wide as she slouched back in her seat. “Well, how am I supposed to act, then?” she murmured. “I can’t be sure as I’ve never been intimidated into silence before.”

 

Severus coughed over a laugh. “No, I’m sure you haven’t.”

 

“Well, how’s this, then?” she asked, keeping her face turned down to her plate and somehow seeming to shrink in her chair. He didn’t miss the note of sarcasm in her voice.

 

“Not bad,” he told her, suppressing a grin. He couldn’t stop himself from adding “Perhaps you’ll make a good wife, yet.”

 

Granger made a sort of choking sound, hiding a smirk behind a sip of water. “I guess we’ll find out tonight,” she quipped and both of them froze. Severus didn’t know how to respond. A glance at the girl told him that her face was turning red and beneath her furrowed brow he could see the beginnings of a nervous grin. Her breath began to catch on what he knew was suppressed laughter and that was the last thing they needed right now. Thinking fast, he reached out before she could lose control and caught her chin, his fingers biting into the smooth skin of her jaw as he turned her face up to his. Her eyes went wide and her lips popped open in surprise, a fact that he tried very hard not to find appealing.

 

“Are you finished?” he asked her, his voice ominous and deep, his eyes flickering to her empty plate on the table.

 

“Yes,” she whispered in a breathless voice, all humor having fled.

 

“Then go .” And at that he released her chin with a jerk of his hand and turned away from her. She paused only a moment before snatching up her bag and hurrying away. To her credit, she made a good show of trying to be brave and hiding how upset she was as she fled down the center of the room, clutching her bag to her chest, her face turned down. He watched her go with a satisfied smirk, his eyes glinting as, in his peripheral, the Slytherins pointed and snickered at his wife. It wasn’t until she was out of view and he turned his attention back to his plate that he noticed Minerva watching him, clearly shocked and horrified.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

After dinner, Severus found himself pacing in his lab. He couldn’t quite bring himself to enter his bedroom yet. There weren’t really any potions that needed brewing just now, but he could work on some extras, just to bide his time.

 

An hour passed before the door to his bedroom opened and the girl stuck her head into his lab. “Oh! There you are,” she said, sounding surprised. She was waiting for him. Oh gods.

 

“I’m a bit busy,” he growled, stirring the cauldron a little too vigorously.

 

“Yes, alright,” she said, but she didn’t close the door. Instead, she took a couple of steps into the room with him and leaned against the workbench. There was nothing lewd or suggestive about the way she leaned, but he found himself distracted by her presence anyway. And that distraction was only made worse when she began to speak. “It’s Saturday…” she began awkwardly.

 

“Is it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

They lapsed into silence. Severus tried to focus on grinding grasshopper legs, but all he could think was that now was his chance. He needed to tell her what he had found out. He needed to explain what he intended to do. Yet somehow, he couldn’t seem to make the words come. She was standing so close and he could smell her shampoo. His mind wanted to think about how nice it had felt to hold her in his arms.

 

“How much longer will this take?” she asked him and his stomach jumped up into his throat. She was ready and willing and waiting . He could hardly bear it.

 

“Likely another hour or so,” he told her, though that wasn’t exactly true. He would be done with this batch in another ten minutes, but he didn’t plan to stop there.

 

“Alright,” she said, turning to go, “I think I’ll have a bath, then.” And with that she left him alone with nothing but the image of her bathing in his bathtub and only some simple brewing to distract him.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Hermione ran a hot, soapy bath. On impulse, she left the bathroom door open a crack. It was doubtful her husband would seize the opportunity, but she liked the idea of him knowing it was there. Slowly, sensually, she stripped out of her clothes. Already, she felt like her husband was watching. Her body pulsed with desire. She wanted nothing more than to feel his skin on her skin. At last . What had only been a week seemed to have taken a lifetime. The adjustments they’d had to make to their lives, already. The intimacy of sharing a bed and bathroom. The comfort of late night conversations with someone who was previously a stranger.

 

She stepped into the tub, sinking down into the hot suds with a sigh. She had been wanting to put this bathtub to use since she moved in. Of course, there were several things she’d been wanting to do since then. And finally the wait was over. He could only postpone so long. Hermione closed her eyes. Soon, they would be naked beneath the covers together; his lips on her lips; his… his body connecting with hers in pleasure, if not passion. She ached to please him; to see his shields fall down around him in the wake of ecstasy. She wanted to see the look in his eyes when their bodies connected for the very first time.

 

Hermione poured a little of her favorite warming body wash into her hands and lathered it into a froth before running her soapy hands all along the curves of her body. It felt so nice. She closed her eyes and pretended that her husband was the one whose hands were trailing along her skin. How could he not like how she felt? How could he not want to touch her? Her skin was soft and her slender figure had filled out in the last couple of years. She was no centerfold for a wizards’ magazine, but she wasn’t hideous either. Surely, he couldn’t be that repulsed by her.

 

Hermione took her time drying off and dressing in her softest little shorts and a cotton shirt that was a little more snug than her usual sleepwear. Her hair was still piled on top of her head to keep it from getting wet in the bath, but she found that she liked the look of it that way. When she was all ready, she crawled into the bed with one of her books and arranged herself in what she hoped was an appealing way.

 

All that was left was to wait.

 

And wait.

 

And wait.

 

And pace the room.

 

And resist the urge to open the door and remind him what day it was. Again.

 

And take her hair down.

 

And decide she liked it better up.

 

And try over and over to replicate the look.

 

And give up and leave it down in a riot of frizzy curls.

 

And curl back up in bed, no longer concerned about how sexy she may or may not have looked.

 

And wait some more.

 

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the door to the lab burst open and her husband appeared. She was tempted to cast a Tempus Charm, but she knew it had to be near midnight. He really had waited until the very last moment.

 

Snape cast her an anxious glance, his brow furrowed in what looked like a scowl. He strode to the other side of the room, taking his time unbuttoning his frock coat and hanging it in his armoire. He hesitated before removing his shirtsleeves, too. Hermione didn’t budge from her place on the bed, but she did watch him over the top of her book. Her annoyance only grew as he sat in his chair and slowly undid the ties of his boots before carefully sliding them off. He never took such pains with undressing.

 

That done, her professor stood and faced her at last. He crossed hesitantly to the bed and looked down his nose at her, not quite meeting her eye. “I want you to know that I don’t want this either,” he said in a quiet voice, as if he were confessing a secret. “We wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for you…” he continued, his anger beginning to mount.

 

“Yes, fine,” Hermione replied, coolly. At this point, she didn’t even care. He had made sure to spurn her at every chance for the past week. She really should have expected this.

 

“Well, there’s nothing for it…” he began again, taking a step toward the bed. Her eyes flickered over his bare torso in appreciation, but she tensed with nerves when he leaned a knee against the mattress. “You should… remove those,” he said, gesturing to her shorts.

 

“What?”

 

“Did you want to keep them on?”

 

Hermione’s cheeks burned, but she didn’t argue. Shame poured into her as she slid off the soft garment and tossed it to the floor. Somehow, she felt even more exposed and vulnerable with her shirt still on. But then he was climbing onto the mattress and she held her breath, resisting only briefly when he kneed her legs apart. The cool dungeon air fell across her as she let her head fall back in humiliation. Merlin. He really was all business. She certainly hadn’t imagined it happening this way.

 

His hands fumbled with the fly of his trousers, revealing button by button the pale skin and wiry black hair beneath, and she couldn’t look away as he withdrew his cock. The sight of it, hard and swollen with pronounced veins and a dark pink tip, stirred the fire in her belly. Because it meant that as much as he tried to pretend otherwise, he wanted this. That had to be at least partially true.

 

He leaned over her, bracing his weight with one hand on the mattress, his black hair falling on either side of his face. She wanted, more than anything, for him to lean down and kiss her. Instead, he reached his other hand down to take hold of himself, awkwardly bending closer until she felt him between her legs. She flinched, surprised and ashamed by the sudden contact, but he took no notice. He was too busy pushing the head of his cock back and forth between her folds.

 

Oh gods! She was so wet. Severus had never been this aroused. The fact that she was wet must have meant she wanted this too. And Merlin , she looked so good beneath him, her hair spread out on his pillow, her cheeks flushed, her eyes glazed, her nipples hard beneath her snug white tee shirt, her perfect thighs spread just for him. He pushed part of the way inside of her, dismayed to feel the barrier of her virginity. He had known she was a virgin, but he hadn’t ever been with a virgin before and he wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed.

 

“This is going to hurt,” her professor told her in a voice rough with arousal, “but only briefly.” And then he was pushing against her and pain blossomed between her legs. She tensed up, wanting to pull away, wanting to tell him to wait, but biting her lip and being brave. “It will be easier if you relax,” he told her, his voice impatient. She wanted to scowl at him, but instead she tried to do as he said.

 

Severus had to rock back and forth a bit, pulling out and pushing back into her in what he hoped were gentle movements. He tried not to enjoy that too much. After all, it would all end once he’d completed his task. But it felt so good and she was so wet and every instinct he had was screaming to fuck her into the mattress.

 

Finally, when she seemed to relax, he pushed all the way inside of her with one good thrust. Granger made a soft sound in the back of her throat, squeezing her eyes closed in pain. Fuck , she was so tight. She felt so good. He didn’t want to stop. Gods , and he had never told her he was planning to stop. He could just keep going and she would never know the difference. His cock throbbed at the thought. He wanted to fuck her slowly, to stare down into her dazed face and watch her reactions as he rocked against her. He wanted her to make that little sound again. Hell, he wanted to make her cry out in ecstasy. And she wanted that, too. He knew she did. He could tell by the way her lips were parted and her eyes were glazed. She wanted him to fuck her. Fuck!

 

Hermione’s heart was pounding in her chest. It was happening. It was actually happening. Her professor’s cock was inside of her right now. They were having sex. The pain had been like nothing she could have anticipated, but another sensation was taking its place. She could feel him inside of her, so big and eager. She wanted to move against him, to please him, to feel his skin closer against her skin. She wanted to lose herself in passion with her professor. She wanted him to fuck her.

 

Severus pulled out of her, panting, relishing the way her brows furrowed and her mouth popped open at the sensation. It took every ounce of his willpower not to thrust right back in. But then he remembered what Minerva had said and for the first time he realized she might be right. He couldn’t let Granger fall for him. She was young and naive and didn’t know the whole truth. And besides, this was just business. So he stopped himself.

 

For a moment, she just watched him, her face flushed, waiting for and wanting him to continue, but as the seconds ticked by her eyes began to clear and she blinked up at him as he pulled away.

 

“Was that it?” she asked.

 

“All that was necessary.”

 

“What?”

 

Severus couldn’t meet her eye. “The Law only requires… penetration, ” he murmured.

 

What?!

 

Severus flinched back. He couldn’t bear to look at her another minute. Yanking up his trousers, he held them together with one hand as he pulled away from her. Shame and desire were warring with each other in his mind. He retreated; out of the bed and straight to the bathroom, where he locked himself away. For a moment, he just stood there, panting and clenching his eyes shut in humiliation. Then he turned on the shower and ripped off his clothes, stepping beneath the hot torrent and taking himself in hand. He could still picture her face, could still feel her soft thighs… how wet she’d been. He lathered his hand up with the soap that smelled like her and pictured those cinnamon eyes clouded over with arousal and the way her sweet cunt felt wrapped around his cock. He pictured the alternative; imagined what it would have been like to fuck her right then and there, seeking nothing but his own completion. She didn’t know the difference. She would have accepted that without complaint.

 

Severus came in a series of harsh, nearly painful spasms; his hot seed spilling across his hand. And then, as his mind cleared, the hot torrent of the shower filled his perception until he hated himself again. He clenched his eyes in an attempt not to think about what he had just done, but he couldn’t escape his own reality. Not now. His wife was waiting in the other room. He couldn’t avoid her forever. Sinking down to the floor of the shower, Severus let the hot water wash over him, as harsh and unforgiving as his shame.

 

Hermione stared at the ceiling, Her legs were spread, pain throbbing between them. She focused on the way the shadows from the fire played with the arches in the stone. There was a ringing in her ears. Somehow, in all her visions about what this night might entail, she had never imagined it going so wrong. How could he? Did he have no concept of her own humiliation? Did he hate her so much that he would wish this upon her?

 

Distantly, she heard the shower squeak to a halt and turned onto her side to face away from her husband. Any minute now, he would emerge, and she couldn’t deal with that. Not now. She couldn’t face him. What he had done… what he hadn’t … it left a hollow in her chest that somehow made her feel weak and small. Somehow, she was, once again, the little girl with magically enlarged teeth, standing in a hallway, being taunted by everyone, including her professor.

 

She should have known.

 

Tears rolled down her cheek even as the door to the bathroom opened and her husband hesitated on the threshold of the room. She squeezed her eyes shut tight, knowing that he couldn’t possibly think her asleep, but needing him to pretend along with her that she was. She couldn’t be here with him right now. But she couldn’t be anywhere else, either. So she closed her eyes and wished herself to sleep; wished herself elsewhere.

 

And as his weight tilted the mattress, her stiff, half-naked form refused to budge. The lights went out. The room grew quiet and heavy with all that had transpired. And the weight of it settled over them both. She heard the tink of a bottle being set on the bedside table and knew he had made his own escape. But for her, the waiting had only begun. The torture would ensue for hours to come until finally, mercifully, she welcomed the oblivion of sleep.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Let me know what you think ;)

 

:} llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

AN: Happy New Year!!!! And Happy Severus’s Birthday!!!!!  

There were a lot of positive Reviews, but also a lot of negative reviews and I really appreciate those, as well. I think I’ve mentioned before that I am an aspiring novelist, so your criticism helps me grow as a writer and that is invaluable to me. That being said, I do want to address the fact that so many people seem to think that I am just trying to drag out the tension here. I know that I started this fic years ago and that many of you are waiting for me to get to the goods, but I promise I’m not trying to tease you. I do have my reasons for the way the last chapter ended and hopefully those will become evident as the story progresses. So, I really hope you continue to read and continue to let me know what you think, good and bad. Thank you so much!

…*~*J*~*...

The wetness between Hermione’s legs was what jolted her out of deep sleep in the wee hours of the morning. She was suddenly very aware of how exposed she was in only her tee shirt. Behind her, Severus Snape was snoring contentedly. She cringed. The night before had been so much worse than she ever could have imagined it would be. Shame and humiliation flooded into her from the depths of her memories and tears rose up behind her eyes.

She couldn’t be in bed with that man anymore.

Hermione sat up, even more aware now of how wet she was. She felt under her pillow for her wand. “Lumos,” she whispered, peeking under the blankets at the mess between her legs. Blood. Of course there was blood. She hadn’t even thought about it the night before, having been preoccupied with the shock over what her professor had done. “Tergio,” she hissed, thrusting her wand at the sheets. The horrifying patch of red grew smaller and fainter, but didn’t disappear. Her eyes went wide. No, no! This could not be happening. She could not leave the sheets in this state for her professor to find. Jabbing her wand at the sheets a few more times, Hermione repeated the Charm until she was nearly whining, her voice cracking on a sob. When it was finally gone, she sat there panting for a moment, relaxing into her relief. Then, running a hand across her face, Hermione scrambled over the covers and out of bed.

The scalding water pounded down upon her as she stood beneath its relentless torrent, scrubbing her skin raw and washing the tears away as quickly as they came. How could he? What an arse! She had been such a fool to hope for romance from that man. He was a cold, unfeeling bastard. He always had been. How could she have forgotten that?

A knot formed in her throat. But he wasn’t , she thought. She could still picture him sitting cross-legged on the bed in her Gryffindor pajamas, his mouth slanted in a lazy smirk. She could still feel his fingers applying bruise salve to her face; so gentle; so concerned. She could hear his voice asking her if she wanted to go to Morocco with him one day. Yes, she had wanted to tell him. Without even having to consider, she had known at once that she would love to. But she hadn’t told him that. In her amused embarrassment, she hadn’t been able to give him a response at all.

Hermione dressed quickly and methodically and slipped out of her professor’s chambers without making a sound. Thank Merlin there was homework. She’d just head off to the library for a bit of research before breakfast. That should take her mind off things.

…*~*J*~*...

Reality encroached upon him like an unwelcome visitor, bringing him back down to the world and the memory of what had transpired the night before. Even half asleep, he cringed, curling further into himself and pushing away wakefulness in a vain attempt to lose consciousness again. But the longer he laid there, the more he remembered. Bits and pieces lunged onto the landscape of his mind’s eye; flashes of horror in the dark. Her shock when he had asked her to remove her shorts. Her reluctance when he had climbed between her legs. Her shame at the feeling of his cock between her thighs. And then the pain so evident in her beautiful, young face, when all he felt was ecstasy. Oh, but that pain hadn’t stopped her from wanting more. No. He could still see those cinnamon eyes, hazy with arousal. She had been so wet; so tight . It had been so clear from her expression that she wanted to continue.

She had been so horrified when he’d told her the truth.

Was that a mistake?  He couldn’t help but wonder. What had begun as an attempt to minimize shame and humiliation may have amplified them instead. He groaned into the pillow.

Severus finally gave up on getting back to sleep and made his way to the Great Hall for breakfast. His wife was sitting in her place at the head table and the sight of her there gave him pause. That was ridiculous, of course. He routinely paid visits to Lord Voldemort, himself; dined with death eaters; held his own at Lucius Malfoy’s Manor among the elite of the Wizarding World. How could he be nervous about having breakfast with such a petite, bookish chit (and a Gryffindor, at that)? Was he an enamoured youth, all over again? The thought was so ridiculous that he shook his head and brushed it aside as surely as he swept right down the center of the Hall.

When Granger caught sight of him, however, she slammed the book she had been reading closed and jumped up from her seat, leaving a half-eaten plate on the table in favour of fleeing from the Hall. He scowled at his cutlery, determined not to let her sour his mood even as he felt the familiar bristling of annoyance creeping up the back of his neck. He couldn’t let her get to him. He had more important things to worry about.

…*~*J*~*...

Draco Malfoy was entering the Great Hall just as Hermione was running out the door. He raised his eyebrows at her, a smirk twisting his pale, haughty lips. “Scared, Granger?” he barked in that annoying way of his. “Must’ve had quite a detention.”

“Oh, shove off, Malfoy,” Hermione spat, clenching her fists as she forced herself to go around him.

“I don’t blame you,” he called out in a teasing voice as she hurried toward the entrance to the dungeons, “having doubts about him.”

Hermione stopped short, her curiosity piqued. But she refused to give in to him, choosing instead to continue her march back to the dungeons.

“After all,” he called after her, “how can you ever be sure?”

Hermione glared down at her Charms essay. Focus , she told herself, don’t even think about it. But that was easier said than done. She had never doubted her professor’s loyalty before. After all, Professor Dumbledore trusted him. But then again Dumbledore was seeming more and more human and fallible recently. And her opinion of Professor Snape had definitely slipped down a notch or two. But that doesn’t mean he’s a traitor.

Another attempt at focus found her contemplating the many weeks to come and whether he would continue to torture her in this humiliating way. She couldn’t let that happen. I’ll just tell him… what? That he humiliated me? That he made everything worse? That I’d rather have him shag me properly next time? “Oh gods.” Hermione buried her face in her hands and groaned.

…*~*J*~*...

Severus spent the day avoiding his wife. He couldn’t even work on potions because his lab was attached to their living quarters. He couldn’t return to his own bedchamber for a moment alone. He certainly couldn’t spend the day in the library, as that was the most likely place in the whole bloody castle to bump into her. So he shut himself away in his office and resigned himself to lesson planning. He was well on his way to having the rest of the bloody year planned out.

Restless and irritable, he did emerge for the midday meal, if only to keep up appearances. He let out a breath of relief when it was clear that Granger would not be joining him, but he couldn’t help feeling also a little… disappointed. How quickly he had grown accustomed to having a companion beside him. Fool. He knew not to get attached to the girl. She was only a transient presence in his life, soon to flit on past to the next, better thing.

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione paced the dungeon bedroom. She hadn’t decided if she was going to go to supper or not. On the one hand, she didn’t want to see her husband any sooner than she had to. On the other, it would be much easier to deal with him in the Great Hall than alone in his chambers, getting ready to climb into bed together once again.

The Great Hall was full and loud with the chatter of students when Hermione arrived. The whispers and snickers of the Slytherins did not escape her notice, but she lifted her chin in the air and marched down the middle of the Hall, straight to the seat beside her husband. He didn’t acknowledge her as she took her place, a fact that both relieved and infuriated her. But she could feel a tension in the air between them and she sensed that he was uncomfortable, too. As he should be .

Severus sulked, eating mechanically, unable to enjoy a bite of the meal with his wife there beside him. He could practically feel her annoyance; her judgment. He wanted to disappear. This was made much worse when the supper vanished and the pudding appeared. For in his own portion, a sparkler had been placed, as it had once a year, as long as he had been a teacher here.

He flinched away from the sparking candle, gaping in horror at its sudden appearance. He’d forgotten. Again. “Bloody hell,” he murmured, snuffing it out with a wave of his hand and darting anxious glances around the room. No one seemed to have noticed. No one except his wife. Her eyes were wide, her mouth open in a little “o” of surprise.

A hand clapped him on the shoulder. “You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you, Severus?” Albus’s eyes twinkled. “One of us has to keep track of it, I suppose.”

“Oh yes!” said Filius, hopping excitedly atop his stool. “A very happy birthday, Severus! And how old are you this year?”

When the Slytherin didn’t respond, Albus piped up for him. “I believe it’s 38 this go ‘round. Isn’t that right, Severus?”

But Severus only banished the dish and lurched out of his chair, sending the two men threatening glares as he swept away.

Of all the ridiculous ends to this ridiculous day!

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione waited an appropriate amount of time before following after her husband. In place of the anger and humiliation she had been nurturing all day, she now felt guilty and contrite. What sort of man forgets his own birthday? And has no one to remind him except his distant and professional colleagues? Whose wife doesn’t even know? She ran a hand through her hair, pushing the door to their chambers open carefully.

Severus Snape was standing in the middle of the floor, apparently staring at nothing. He snapped to when she opened the door and gave her a brief glare before sweeping over to the wardrobe and turning his attention to unbuttoning his coat.

“I didn’t know it was your birthday,” Hermione said in a voice that attempted to be cheerful. He scoffed, but otherwise said nothing. She rubbed her arms, feeling guilty. “I would have gotten you something...”

“Why?” he snapped, spinning around to face her. “Because you’re my wife? ” He laced the word with such venomous scorn that she winced and dropped her gaze as the room lurched into shocked silence. Apparently emboldened, he crossed toward her like a stalking cat. “You and I are nothing more than professor and student . Any… arrangement … between us is merely a matter of business and strat egy. Nymphadora would have known that. She never would have… ex pected anything more from me. You would do well to remember that this is tem porary . And the moment it is over, we will return at once to our sep arate lives.”

At the conclusion of his dramatic, little speech, her professor was standing over her, rather too close for comfort, glaring down at her with something akin to loathing. He didn’t give her a chance to respond, but spun back towards the wardrobe, ripping a cloak from its depths before sweeping out of the room. The sound of the door slamming shut reverberated in her ears and she shut her eyes, letting the many varied emotions run their course through her as she stood there, silent and still.

…*~*J*~*...

Throwing on his cloak, Severus stalked through the castle in pursuit of a suitable place to practice his Occlumency. With everything that had happened in his life lately, he needed it more than ever, yet he had neglected the practice. Emotions and worries had built up inside of him so much that he thought he might burst. He was beyond overdue.

The courtyard he selected waited for him, still and dark and empty, with a layer of ice glinting off the stone of a frozen fountain and the benches set here and there among the withered shrubs and leafless trees. Darkness lurked beneath the arches between columns in the cloisters wrapped around three sides, but the moonlit snow that touched the ground and various surfaces in the open space had an eerie sort of glow. The air bit at his face and burned in his lungs, though there was no wind. And snow crunched beneath his feet. It was perfect.

Severus settled down onto one of the frozen benches and closed his eyes, shaking off the trembles of emotion that clung to him like static. He allowed himself one last self-loathing growl, directed toward his feet as angry fingers snared in his oily hair. Then he took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he focused.

There was very little sound here. The world was muffled and soft. If he focused his ears, all he could hear was the faint whistling of wind beyond this safe enclosure and the sound of his own breath growing more shallow and slow as he focused more deeply.

He opened his mind; allowed the thoughts to come, and with them the emotions. The anger. The fear, humiliation, frustration. The hurt. But as they arose, one by one, he dismissed them, sending them off into this frosted, white abyss to be captured by the softness of the snow. And after a while, there was only him. And he was here, now, feeling the chill of the air and the weight of his clothes and the stone of the bench beneath his frozen arse. And he was calm.

When at last he climbed into bed beside Granger, she was fast asleep. Not even pretending, this time. He leaned over her, glancing down at her sleeping face. The peaceful vision stirred something deep in his frozen depths, but he ignored it. Turning away from her, he forewent the use of Dreamless Sleep and closed his eyes, letting the stillness of his soul carry him off into restful slumber.

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione spent her morning classes the next day in a state of dull apathy. She didn’t have the energy to apply herself any more than she had to, or to think about any of the many things that were oh so wrong right now. She needed a break from it all.

In fact, she didn’t say a word to anyone until lunch when her husband awkwardly spoke up to tell her that she shouldn’t let her friends know of their plans to show the Slytherins how submissive she’d become. Apparently it would be much more believable if her friends were as shocked and put out as one would expect them to be. She shook her head at that, scoffing beneath her breath, pushing past the fog of self-pity to a sort of dark humour unfamiliar to her until now. “Of course,” she told her husband, smirking at her fork, “whatever you say.” She sensed some discomfort from him and perhaps even some concern, but at the moment, she just didn’t have the energy to care.

Potions that afternoon began exactly as she imagined it would: with taunts from the Slytherins and anger on the part of Harry and Ron. She didn’t have to pretend to be broken and dejected. In fact, she probably wouldn’t have been able to pretend this level of dissociative apathy on her own.

It was lucky, really, that Severus Snape was such a talented actor. She knew him well enough (or thought she did) to know that he didn’t really feel the sadistic pleasure his malicious expression indicated when he asked the class if anyone was planning to speak out of turn this afternoon. Those cruel black eyes landed on Hermione as his Slytherins jeered, but Hermione just turned her eyes down to her parchment and pretended to be writing something down. When, later in the period, their professor asked them questions from the chapter they had read over the weekend, taunting the Gryffindors when not one of them raised their hand, Harry and Ron prodded Hermione, urging her to answer.

“You’re not just going to sit there, are you?” accused Ron.

She turned toward him, giving him a flat, impatient look, “If you know the answer, Ronald, why don’t you raise your hand?” This thrilled the nearby Slytherins and after that, the boys sat back and said nothing to her.

After class, in that window before dinner, Hermione set up Crookshanks’ things in their dungeon chamber and brought him in and sat him on her lap to brush out his fur. When her husband appeared, he was visibly taken aback, but said nothing.

It was after dinner as Hermione left the Great Hall, her face turned down to count the stones, her mind a buzzing numbness, that she heard the sound of footsteps chasing after her. Ginny Weasley appeared, out of breath, and stopped her in her tracks. “Hermione, hey, are you alright?”

“Fine,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders as she went around the other girl.

“Yeah? Except you don’t look it. And anyway, last time I saw you, you were so excited! So... what happened?”

Hermione let out a short, frustrated laugh. How could she even begin to explain? She shook her head, trying again to go around her friend. “It doesn’t matter, Gin.”

“Sorry, but it definitely does matter.”

Hermione met the other girl’s bright blue eyes, intending to convey to her in some way just how definitely she could not tell her what was wrong. But to her dismay, at seeing the concern in the other girl’s face, her mind shot back to how excited she’d been and it threw her present state into sharp contrast. A knot formed in her throat and she had to blink back sudden tears. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the emotion that had somehow been released from its cage, as tears escaped and ran away across her cheeks. She tried to smile, tried to say something, but her lip began to quiver and she had to turn away.

“Oh, ‘Mione,” the other girl whispered, “it’s okay. You don’t have to be so brave. Come on. Let’s go up to the tower, alright?”

Hermione huffed, rolling her eyes at herself. But then she met the eyes of her friend, chewed her lip a moment and nodded. Wiping her tears on the cuffs of her jumper, she allowed Ginny to lead her to her old familiar home.

It felt so good to be back in Gryffindor tower, back in the girls’ dormitory with all the fresh white sheets and crimson curtains. She caught a glimpse of her old room as they passed and saw that Parvati and Lavender had begun to use her bed as a sort of storage for their various make-up products. That started the tears all over again.

Ginny shut the two of them away in her own four poster bed and handed Hermione a tissue box. “Alright then,” she said. “Let’s hear it.”

Hermione blotted her face, glancing around for something she could say.

“Come on, Hermione. What did he do to you?”

“No,” she choked out. The word was wet and trembly. “No it’s not like that. He just… was very… I mean… It’s hard to explain.”

“Did it hurt?”

“No! Oh, well, yes, but that’s not… it wasn’t like that.” Her breath hitched on a sudden gasping sob. “He just… he… he wants to be… to keep it… just… business .” On that word, more tears spilled forth. She knew they would stop if she just gave in to them, but she couldn’t seem to let herself.

“What, so no foreplay?” Ginny teased, grinning anxiously in an obvious effort to make her smile.

Hermione shook her head. “And I get it, I really do. I’m… so young. He… likes to be alone. I mean... the man fo-forgot his own birthday, Gin. No one... gave him a present. He… he’s constantly wo-working. What right do I have…”

“Oh no, no, Hermione. That’s not fair. It was your first time! You’re a human being. You deserve respect and consideration! That arsehole!”

“No! No, oh please, Gin. Don’t... say anything. I’ll... be alright.”

Ginny huffed, sitting back and studying her friend. “Alright, well, maybe the next time won’t be so bad?”

Hermione’s face crumpled and she buried it in the tissues as more tears came.

“It’s okay, Hermione. Just let go. Let it all out.”

Finally, she did let go, relaxing with her face buried in the tissues. She sobbed for a moment then tried to speak up, her voice muffled. “I knew it would be… hard. But it’s just… so hard!

“I know, Hermione. But hey, look! I’ve got an idea. Check this out.” Ginny reached through the curtains and rummaged in the drawer of her bedside table for a minute before pulling out a folded magazine.

“Witch Weekly?” Hermione smirked, brushing at her swollen eyes.

“You laugh, but they’ve got some great advice. Look. This one’s got an article called ‘Ten Tips for Teasing the Distant Wizard.’ That’s perfect for you! See, ‘Number One: sexy pajamas!’”

“Oh no, Gin, really. I couldn’t!” But a grin had appeared on Hermione’s face and Ginny continued, encouraged.

“‘Number Two: closing the space between you.’ Ha! It reads: ‘If your man is being distant, close that space! Different people have different personal space bubbles. Next time you’re standing next to him, step a little closer! Trust me, he’s going to notice, and this trick is bound to turn him on!’”

“What? Just by standing closer to him?” Hermione laughed.

“There’s a whole list. Oh, look! I’ve got one of those subscription cards. Hermione, you should really subscribe. Even if it doesn’t help, it’s bound to be loads of fun, don’t you think?” She ripped the little card out of the middle of the magazine and handed it to her friend.

They spent a while pouring over the “Ten Tips,” and laughing at the thought of her doing them to Professor Snape. Most of them were absurd, of course (#6 lounge around in your undergarments and #9 spray a bit of your perfume on his pillow), but some of them sounded like something she might actually try, if for no other reason than to push her boundaries with the impossible man and test her limits in that regard.

Eventually, the laughter subsided. Hermione felt like a burden had been taken off of her. It left her drained and rather sleepy. “Thanks, Gin,” she murmured, giving the other girl a little smile. “I do feel better.”

When Hermione eventually left Gryffindor tower, she headed straight for the Owlery to send off her request for a subscription. If nothing else, it would be worth it to see the look on her husband’s face.

The man in question was sitting up in bed, reading a book, when she arrived. It caught her off guard. Something about the picture didn’t quite seem to suit his character. He was wearing his old black trousers and white linen shirt, again, buttoned all the way up to his neck. No wonder he looked so stiff and uncomfortable. She remembered #2 on the list and stepped over to the side of the bed, putting her hands on her hips.

“Didn’t you like the other trousers?” she asked.

He glanced up at her in confusion, immediately on his guard.

Hermione took note of this, supposing that perhaps she was feeling a bit bolder than usual. The Slytherin spy was bound to pick up on that. She cleared her throat, unable to keep a little smirk from twisting her lips. “The red and gold ones, I mean.”

He lifted an eyebrow at her. “Those are yours.”

“Well, yes, but I’ve got so many and I’ve already Charmed them to your size. Besides, they’ve got to be more comfortable than these .” She plucked at the fabric of his stiff black trousers (#4 little touches). The gesture made both of them freeze. “Er, well anyway, I’m not going to wear them, so you might as well.” He only watched her with confused, suspicious eyes. “Right then,” she said, turning away from him and heading to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Ugh, come on Hermione. Don’t be such a twit.

When she emerged, he was closing his book and setting it down on the bedside table. There was a bit of an awkward moment when she tried to climb over his feet, but he pulled them back for her, making to get under the covers.

When she was settled, he glanced toward her, seeming to consider something, and Hermione had the distinct impression that he had something he wanted to say. But then he turned away, reaching into the drawer of his bedside table for his nightly vial of Dreamless Sleep.

“Goodnight,” she whispered, wanting, more than anything, to mend their… relationship, whatever it was. Wanting things to be good between them. As best they could be.

“Goodnight, Granger,” he replied, downing his potion and stretching out on his back. Soon, he was fast asleep.

Hermione watched his tired visage for a long moment, wondering what she was going to do about him. Severus Snape, the man who forgot his own birthday. She wasn’t even angry with him about Saturday anymore. But things were going to be different, she vowed. Ginny was right. She deserved more than what he had offered her so far. And she was determined to fix that.

But more than that. Neither of them had wanted any of this, but maybe… maybe it didn’t have to be a bad thing. Maybe… it could even be a good thing. For the first time, she considered the effect she could have on this man’s life. One way or another. And she vowed that she would make a difference. For the good.

…*~*J*~*...

I hope you’ll continue to Read and Review!

:}  llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

When Hermione woke, she was immediately aware of a weight on her hip. It was Crookshanks. He had climbed up on top of her and was purring happily, his warmth seeping through the many layers of blankets. She wondered what her husband would think.

 

“Morning, Crooks,” she whispered, yawning and turning over slowly so that he could adjust his position until he was lying on her stomach, blinking contentedly into her eyes. “I missed you. Did you miss me?” She brushed the half-kneazle with her fingernails, laughing quietly at the way he stuck his rump up in the air, before telling him that it was time to get ready for class. He was reluctant, but eventually conceded, climbing off of her and plopping down in the warm spot where she had been sleeping.

 

Hermione headed to breakfast before her husband had even gotten out of bed. After all, why should she wait around for him? The move felt… empowering. She was still her own person. She still had charge of her life. She could damn well go to breakfast when she pleased.

 

Her husband threw himself down in his chair just as the post arrived. Owl after owl landed in front of them leaving two copies of The Daily Prophet and one glossy, rolled up magazine. Hermione’s eyes went wide and her cheeks burned as she snatched the subscription off of the table. What had sounded like an amusing idea last night now seemed juvenile and silly in the morning light.

 

She cast a glance at her husband and he arched an eyebrow at her. “And here I had imagined you were beyond such frivolities, Granger.”

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. “My dear,” she replied, smiling sweetly and reaching over to put a hand on his arm ( #4 Little Touches ), “you have a remarkable talent for wrapping compliments in scorn.”

 

Flitwick choked on his water and Hermione jerked away, her ears growing warm.

 

There was a smirk in her husband’s voice when he said “I see you learn from the best.”

 

She found herself smirking in return.

 

As the day went on, Severus found that there was a bounce in his step. He felt unusually lighthearted, his mood balancing precariously between excitement and anxiousness. On the one hand, his wife seemed to have forgiven him for the disaster that had been Saturday night, but on the other he couldn’t help but worry that Minerva had been right. The girl did seem to have taken to him in a rather unexpected way. No doubt she was projecting her hopes for what a husband should be onto the older man. It made him uneasy. But that uneasiness was preferable to the guilt and shame that had festered inside of him the last few days.

 

His mood was derailed after classes by the sudden appearance of a House Elf in his office, making him blot red ink on an unfortunate first year’s essay. The Elf gave him a low bow. “Professor Severus Snape, sir,” it squeaked, “your presence is requested at Malfoy Manor at your earliest convenience.” Severus lifted an eyebrow. So, Lucius wanted a chat. “If you are not otherwise occupied, sir,” the Elf continued, sounding unusually pretentious for his species, “I would be honoured to give you escort.”

 

Severus sighed, rolling his eyes and setting his quill down before pushing back his chair. “Yes, alright,” he agreed. The little Elf held out a hand and Severus took it, his body lurching at once through the vortex of space.

 

They landed in Lucius’s study. Afternoon light filtered in through paned glass windows at the far end of the room, where a heavy oak desk dominated the open space, its dark wood polished and immaculate despite its disuse. The walls were lined with bookcases full of books he doubted Lucius would ever read, though a few had been artfully stacked on the little tables set beside each of two richly upholstered wingback chairs. The chairs were angled in such a way that Lucius and his guests would be able to converse comfortably, observing one another, but with the option of turning their attention to the magnificent fireplace. It was a grand centerpiece of white and green marble, set precisely between the window and an extravagant crystal and mahogany liquor cabinet (which saw more use than anything else in the room). And above the mantel was a portrait of the Malfoy family smirking and preening for their audience.

 

Severus did his best to hide his discomfort with the side-along Apparition. He straightened the front of his frock coat and approached his old friend just as Lucius spun to face him, a charming smile set like stone upon his face.

 

“Severus, old friend,” Lucius began, clasping the other man’s hand. “Do have a seat, won’t you. Would you care for a Scotch?”

 

“No,” said Severus, seating himself in his usual chair by the fire, “thank you.”

 

“Ah yes, of course. I suppose it is frowned upon for a professor to partake of such substances during his office hours.” Lucius winked at him as he reclined languidly in his own preferred chair. “Some tea, perhaps?”

 

An Elf appeared beside Severus, holding a tea tray complete with steaming pot. Severus nodded to the Elf, only mildly annoyed, and accepted his cuppa black without having to tell the Elf how he liked it.

 

Lucius accepted a steaming cup of his own and the two men sat in silence for a moment, allowing the tea to cool a little before taking a sip. As was customary, Severus waited for Lucius to taste the brew first. It wasn’t out of distrust so much as formality, but that suited Severus either way.

 

“Narcissa and I quite enjoyed your most recent creation,” said Lucius, his tone conversational.

 

Severus recognized the subtle hint. “It was a simple enough potion,” he murmured. “I can easily procure more.”

 

Lucius nodded, taking a sip of his tea. After a moment, he spoke again. “I am hoping to host a little soiree before too long,” he said. “I had hoped you might put that creative genius of yours to use again.”

 

So Lucius wanted a new one. “Did you have anything specific in mind?”

 

Lucius shrugged in a way that was somehow both demure and patronizing. “Oh, nothing so… introspective … as the last one, I think. Perhaps something a bit more… lighthearted.”

 

Severus bowed his head. “That should be manageable.”

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

It wasn’t until after an exhausting day of classes that Hermione remembered her magazine and pulled it out to flip through, for amusement if nothing else. Most of the pages were full of celebrity gossip and adverts for potions and various beauty products. The first article that piqued her interest was one called “Ten New Positions to Bring Back that Spark.” It was certainly nothing she’d put into practice anytime soon, but her imagination was stirred, nonetheless, and soon her face was warm and a pleasant tightness had nestled between her legs as her mind conjured images of trying these positions with her husband. When, afterwards, she tried to turn her attention to her homework, she found it was difficult to focus on anything else.

 

On Tuesday, she gave the magazine another perusal, discovering an article detailing instructions for Transfiguring undergarments “ from the boring, old cotton ones you have to the sexy lace and satin ones he’ll love!” This went right along with #5 on the list from the first subscription: Sexy Knickers. She knew it didn’t matter, as he was not likely to see her undergarments any time soon, but she still spent the better part of an hour Transfiguring a pair of knickers and an old bra until she was satisfied the black lace didn’t look like a home job. Something to look forward to, she thought with a smile.

 

On Wednesday, she brought the magazine with her to breakfast, hoping to amuse herself at the start of the day. This time, she turned to an article titled “Love Yourself.” The first sentence read “ If you don’t know how to please yourself, how can you expect him to?” Then it went into various methods of self-pleasure for women in exorbitant detail. Her cheeks turned pink as she quickly shut it and buried it in with the scrolls in her bookbag, glancing around at the professors on either side. If her husband noticed, he didn’t say a word.

 

After class, she drew a hot bath and tried out a few of the tips the article had mentioned, but to no avail. She wasn’t sure if she was just not doing it right or if maybe she were broken somehow, but it wasn’t working and eventually she gave up. At the last minute, she decided to leave the lacy black bra she had Transfigured yesterday hanging from the handle of the door (#8 Sexy Reminders: Men often have a one-track mind. It can take a little prodding to take their focus away from the task at hand. Little visual reminders will snap that focus right back to you and the sexy moments you have shared! ) Then, despite the tense frustration humming in her veins, she decided to focus on homework for a while.

 

Severus rubbed his temples. The week was only halfway through and he was already exhausted. Between classes and grading and developing a new potion for Lucius, not to mention fulfilling Madam Pomfrey’s requests for medical potions, Severus had no energy left to spare. He left his office a full ten minutes before his office hours were officially over because he just couldn’t wait any longer.

 

The orange contaminant that Granger had the nerve to call a cat was licking its arsehole right in the middle of Severus’s side of the bed when he finally made it back to their rooms. Granger was bent over the desk he had allotted for her, her brow furrowed in evident frustration over something. He ignored her, dumping his teaching robes and heavy cloak across the back of his own chair before sweeping straight into the bathroom for a much needed piss.

 

When he had relieved himself and washed up with the luxuriously hot water perpetually available at one touch of the taps, he glared at his own reflection in disgust. This was a habit of his; studying himself in the mirror and finding any number of reasons to heap on the self-loathing. There was a plentiful supply.

 

He and his young wife had developed a routine, living their lives around each other without having to interact so much. Part of him knew he was postponing the inevitable unfolding of tensions and that it would have to come out on Saturday, if not before. And another part of him wished they hadn’t seemed to put a hold on the development of their relationship. That was foolishness, of course. Keeping this platonic had been exactly what he wanted. She was his young student and when this was over she would go on to live her separate life. Any complications between them now would only make that process more difficult later, potentially stunting her growth in the process. What sort of sad, pathetic man was he to crave the company of a girl so young?

 

When he finally did turn to leave, he reached for the doorknob only to come up short, his brow furrowing as he studied the twisted strip of black material that had been hung there. He didn’t recognize it for what it was until he had lifted it off of the doorknob and stretched it out in front of him, the lace cups and curved underwire registering all at once. He didn’t so much drop the garment as throw it across the room in his surprise. Of course, then it was necessary to retrieve the rather sexy brassiere from the tile floor and return it to its position in the hopes that she would never know he had even seen it. In the process, of course, he couldn’t help but notice how delicate the material was. Without even intending to, he found himself picturing his wife dressed in such a garment, the pale skin of her breasts peeking through between florets in the lace.

 

He shook his head, replaced the artifact, and strode casually back into the bedroom. If he had been alone, he might have taken a nap right about now. As it was, with Granger glaring down at her parchment, he decided it might be best if he returned to his work on Lucius’s potion. There was no telling when the other man might decide to throw this party of his and Severus would need to be ready.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Saturday morning, Hermione woke in the pitch black, her internal clock somehow aware of the time despite the lack of sunlight. As was becoming increasingly common, she was curled against her husband’s side, her nose pressed against his upper arm. He was deeply unconscious, of course, having taken Dreamless Sleep the night before. So he was unaware of the intimacy they shared in these early morning moments when her conscious mind returned to a body that had gone astray in the night. This time, her hand had curled gently around his elbow and her knee pressed firmly against his thigh. It was hardly a shocking position, yet she knew that the Slytherin would be aghast if he knew that they woke up this way nearly every day.

 

Hermione was still half asleep as she seated herself at the head table and helped herself to the dishes of porridge and fresh fruit on offer. She enjoyed the feeling of slowly emerging from the fog of sleep, sipping coffee with cream as she buttered her toast with a sort of glazed expression. It was Saturday again. What was that going to mean? Part of her dreaded the evening to come and part of her couldn’t help but hope. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach whenever she imagined what could be. If only she could discuss the matter with her husband. Impossible man.

 

When homework ceased to distract her from the looming prospect of another Saturday night, she decided to waste a little time by skimming through her now frayed and dented copy of Witch Weekly. The gem she found today was a Charm for hair removal. It started out “ Whether for the look or for the feel , witches go to great length to get rid of that pesky hair! But no longer! With this Charm, you will be able to enjoy satin smooth skin without any expensive potions or creams! ” There was a block of text at the bottom of the page detailing all the potential side-effects and warning inexperienced casters to practice on less sensitive areas. Hermione didn’t bother with any of that. She locked herself away in the bathroom and stripped naked, sitting on a towel on the side of the tub. Her mind made up, she took a deep breath and Charmed her wand, slowly passing it over her tender skin, leaving only a little patch in the front for modesty. She had to admit, it felt divine.

 

Hermione decided to work on homework in bed, giving herself little breaks every now and then to imagine how her husband would react when he discovered what she’d done. She felt deliciously soft and smooth beneath her cotton trousers. There was no way he wouldn’t think so, too.

 

She found herself wondering where the difficult man had gone off to and whether he was going to avoid her until last minute again.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus had been avoiding his wife all day. His intuition told him that she was probably going to try to have a talk with him about their strategy for dealing with this situation, and he didn’t want to have that argument.

 

He was hiding out in his office, having had a House Elf deliver his dinner there, when a white hot pain shot up his arm. His breath caught and his face seized up in an agonized expression. When the pain had passed, he lurched out of his chair and over to the small closet in the corner of the room. Throwing on a heavy winter cloak, he slipped out of his office and made his way to the front of the school and the boundary of the grounds, where the wards against Apparition fell away. There, he twisted on his heel and was gone.

 

As he strode the familiar path from the gate of the Malfoy Estate down to the Manor, Severus cleared his mind, focusing on his objectives and a feeling of loyalty to the Cause. He allowed himself to feel pride for his important position and even the faintest excited greed for the rewards that would be his when at last they had control of the Wizarding World.

 

His stride barely faltered when he reached the dining room where Lord Voldemort held his meetings and found that the Dark Lord was alone. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, but he gave nothing of his fear away.

 

“My Lord,” he purred, bowing to the wizard on the other side of the room.

 

“Severus,” Lord Voldemort hissed, coming around the end of the table with a patient, lingering stride. He was drawing this out for dramatic effect, aware of the way he put his subject on edge. “I think…” he continued, keeping those unblinking red eyes fixed on him, “that you have not been entirely truthful with me.”

 

Severus blinked in confusion, genuinely perplexed, but on his guard, nonetheless. “My Lord,” he responded, letting his surprise seep into his tone, “I have withheld nothing from you. I am but a pawn to be moved as you best see fit.”

 

The Curse hit him almost before he heard the Dark Lord’s icy voice screech, “ Crucio! ” Severus fell to the ground, but he barely felt it. Fire had replaced the blood in his veins, burning him out and ripping him open all at once. Distantly, he heard himself screaming.

 

An eternity passed before the fire died away, leaving him with an empty ache like his very bones and veins had been burned away leaving only the heat and his shocked and drifting mind. “I will ask you again…” came a familiar voice. Fear and hatred flared to life inside him even as the Dark Lord stooped over his body, gripping him by the neck and staring into his eyes. Severus’s mind switched with a practiced flicker to the predetermined state of confused shame. He allowed himself to feel the humiliation of being seen in this pitiful state and the powerlessness of not knowing what he had done or how to stop it from happening again.

 

Lord Voldemort glared at him, suspicion creeping into the crows’ feet around his eyes. “The Monitoring Charm,” the Dark Lord prompted. “My spies in the Ministry have been able to determine its purpose. You must have known what the old man was planning. You should have told me before now.”

 

“Mon-monitoring Charm?” Severus managed. His voice was hoarse from screaming and he didn’t have to fake confusion.

 

Lord Voldemort’s eyes were wide with a manic energy that verged on paranoia. “You must have known!” he shrieked. And then the world was consumed with fire once again.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

For hours Hermione read for class and worked on an essay for History of Magic, all while rubbing her silky-soft legs together and practicing a speech to deliver to her professor on the subject of their marriage bed. It was a compelling argument against his current strategy for circumvention of the law. She didn’t even get angry with him as the hour grew later and later and he didn’t appear. In fact, it wasn’t until the last hour before midnight that Hermione finally began to worry. He had cut it rather close last time, but at least she had known where he was. Was there any chance he had forgotten what day it was? She considered going to confront him in his office, but the impossible man would undoubtedly deduct House Points for her being out of bed.

 

Anger followed worry. He wasn’t going to give her a chance. He wasn’t going to leave her any time at all to make her points. Well, two could play at that game. Hermione slipped out of her pajamas and pulled on a dressing gown. She was determined not to let him humiliate her again by having her leave her shirt on while she bared her lower bits. That had been so undignified. Well, whatever else might happen tonight, at the very least, he was going to have to see her naked. Serves him right .

 

When her husband finally burst into the room, with less than thirty minutes to spare, he was wearing his winter cloak.  Hermione spun around to glare at him, ready to launch into the speech she had prepared. But on seeing his agitated state, she jumped to attention, her plans swept from her mind. “Sir?” she began, intending to ask him if he was alright.

 

“Not now,” he snapped through his teeth, not looking at her. He stumbled into the bathroom, not bothering to shut the door. Hermione could hear the sound of the cabinet being opened and a stopper being pulled from a vial. Glass shattered against the bathroom floor. “ Fuck!

 

“Sir?” she tried again, inching over to the bathroom door. “Can I do something for you?”

 

He was hunched over the sink, clinging to it as if it supported his weight, and a potion had spilled all over the floor. “Yes,” he drawled in a deadly tone without turning to look at her. “You can stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong and leave me the hell alone.” Then, like one heavy piece of cloth, he slipped down to the floor, crumpling up against the wall, his head falling back and his eyes squeezing shut in pain. When he reached again for the cabinet, she saw that his whole arm was shaking.

 

Hermione stood there, rooted to the spot, petrified. She didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, he clearly wanted her to go away. But on the other, he clearly needed her help.

 

Severus Snape reached into the cabinet, pulling three identical vials out with one hand and dropping one in his lap as he tried to lean back against the wall. He unstoppered the first with great effort, his hands shaking violently, and dumped its contents down his throat. When he went to unstopper the second one, Hermione couldn’t watch anymore.

 

“Here,” she said, striding into the bathroom and crouching down in front of him, “let me help you.”

 

“Go to… bed, Granger,” he managed between silent spasms of pain. He dropped the vial in favor of clutching his seizing leg and she snatched it off the floor. The stopper came out with an easy pop , highlighting just how weak her professor was at present. Lead poured into the pit of her stomach.

 

“Here,” she said, lifting the vial to his lips. One of his hands came up to cover hers unconsciously as he allowed her to tip its contents down his throat. She did the same for the third vial, but he was still shivering violently, clenching his eyes shut in pain. “What now?” she asked him.

 

“Don’t… need…” he forced out between his teeth.

 

Hermione’s patience ran out. “Severus Snape,” she snapped, “you are an intelligent man. I’m only trying to help. Now, I know you like to do things for yourself, but you’d be a fool not to use the resources at your disposal. It’s only logical, you know.”

 

He glared at her. “Y-you going to… undress me, Granger?”

 

Hermione’s face grew warm. “If that’s what you need,” she told him, careful not to break eye contact.

 

He pressed his lips together in consternation, narrowing his eyes at her. “N-no, just… move,” he said, pushing past her. She leapt to her feet as he crawled to the door frame and used that to help himself stand. Bracing himself there, he shrugged out of his heavy cloak and unbuttoned his frock coat, letting both garments fall to the floor. He clung to the door frame for a moment, trembling, then limped across the room toward the bed, collapsing against its side and turning over onto his back, his feet dragging on the floor. Hermione followed him. “G-glad I could be your… amusement, tonight,” he choked out, pulling himself up and leaning over in an attempt to undo the laces of his boots.

 

Hermione crouched down in front of him, pushing his trembling hands aside. “Let me,” she murmured. He gave in without a fight, falling back against the bed. It wasn’t easy pulling his heavy boots off of his feet, but she got it done. “What next?” she asked him, no hint of emotion in her voice.

 

He glared at the ceiling. “In the cabinet,” he began at last with a sigh, “short jar, pinkish oil inside.”

 

She hurried back to the bathroom for the jar and when she returned, he had removed his shirt and was beginning on the buttons of his trousers. “Set it there,” he told her, indicating the mattress. “And… don’t… watch me, for Merlin’s sake.”

 

Heat flooded Hermione’s face as she turned away from him. She could hear his labored breathing and the struggle of his movements as he undressed and apparently dragged himself farther onto the bed. When she turned back around, he had pulled some of the blankets across his lap and was straining to open the jar. She stepped over to him and he thrust the jar angrily in her direction, glaring at the thing as if it were its fault he needed her help.

 

“What happened?” she asked as she opened the jar and handed it back.

 

“Cruciatus,” he replied, straining to rub oil on his arms and shoulders. He met her eye. “ Prolonged .”

 

“But… why?

 

He let out a short laugh. It was a bitter, lonely sound. “The… Dark Lord… often sees fit to… test his followers. It is much harder for one… to Occlude … when one is in pain .” He forced himself to sit up, reaching over the folds of blanket he had pulled over himself in an attempt to rub the oil into his legs. It clearly pained him.

 

Hermione’s face was on fire, but she moved closer, gently pulling the jar out of his hand. “And what does the oil do?” she asked, directing his attention to the conversation to distract from the fact that she was dipping her fingers in the jar. He made one sad attempt to stop her, but she brushed away his embarrassed hands and began to rub the strangely warm oil into the hairy skin of his trembling legs.

 

“It’s… for the nerves,” he murmured, giving in at last and collapsing back against the pillows. “To soothe them.”

 

Hermione nodded, searching for anything else to say to distract from the fact that she was massaging her professor’s leg. It should have been messier than it was, but the oil soaked into his skin on contact and his tremors soon began to fade. Yet it was strange and intimate in a way that made her whole body tingle, taut with anxious energy. She remembered the way she’d been hunched over in concentration earlier, zapping the hair from her more sensitive parts. What a fool she had been. All week. Here she was worried about attracting her husband and convincing him to have sex with her. Such frivolity. All of it. Meanwhile, he was off with Lord Voldemort, being tortured! How could she have been so selfish? How had she forgotten the bigger picture, here? They were at war! Severus Snape had enough on his plate without any added stress from his teenage wife.

 

“That’s more than enough, I’m sure,” he said in a dry tone that she knew hid his embarrassment. The tremors had stopped, for the most part, and he looked exhausted.

 

Hermione supposed she should get ready for bed, too, and that was when she remembered it was Saturday. “Oh!” she gasped, staring down at him in horror. “We’ve almost forgotten!”

 

He met her eye, realization dawning and with it a raw horror that she’d never seen on his face before. Hermione cast a Tempus Charm. They had mere minutes to spare.

 

She met his eye again, considering. Clearly, there was no time for arguments, but there was another, more vital, dilemma. “Do you think you can…” she trailed off, her mind buzzing. “I can… I can be on top, if you like.”

 

Her husband’s eyes flew wide and distant, flickering through the possibilities. “I think,” he finally confessed in an embarrassed murmur, “you may have to.”

 

Hermione hesitated. Heat flared in her cheeks and between her legs. Briefly, she considered keeping her dressing gown on. But that would be ridiculous and more trouble than it was worth. Besides, wasn’t this the reason she had put it on? She took a deep breath and undid the tie, savouring the way his eyes grew wide as she let the garment fall from her shoulders to pool on the floor at her feet. Her husband went rigid, his eyes snapping to the ceiling, his hands clasping nervously over the blankets lying across his lap.

 

For his part, Severus could feel the heat flooding into his face even as his cock grew hard beneath the blankets. He didn’t dare look at the girl, though even a peripheral glance at her made his mouth go dry. She was exquisite .

 

Hermione awkwardly climbed onto the bed, planting one knee on either side of her professor’s thighs. He was reluctant to allow her to remove the blankets separating them. When she did, his cock stood proud, eager, the tip a dark pink and veins apparent on the rigid staff. She crawled up his body, painfully aware of her bare breasts and his embarrassed scowl. It occurred to her that this was the first time she had seen him fully naked. Her eyes flickered over him in appreciation, though she was careful not to leer. He was in a vulnerable position, after all.

 

His frame was large, but thin, all sharp angles beneath a layer of faint but firm muscle. His skin was almost impossibly pale and wiry black hair was sprinkled down his arms and across his chest, tapering in a lazy line around his navel before broadening to a thick patch at the base of his eager cock. He gave her the most fleeting of glances in return and tinge of colour touched his cheeks. It wasn’t much, but it made her feel beautiful and powerful and in control.

 

When she tried to lower herself down onto him, the tip of his cock brushed the velvet skin of her inner thigh, leaving a wet spot that turned cold in the dungeon air. Without thinking, she reached down to take him in hand.

 

A broken grunt escaped Severus’s throat. He had rarely ever been so hard in all his life. She was so beautiful and soft, her cinnamon eyes determined to take on this new challenge and do it to the best of her ability. He wanted to know what it would be like for her to try to bring him off this way. Then the tip of his cock brushed against the satin smoothness of her hairless folds, and his breath hitched. Gods, she had shaved off her hair and it felt so good, so smooth and soft. He nearly lost control.

 

Hermione gasped at the contact and at the fire that leapt inside her at his response. There was no doubt anymore. He wanted this. And he looked so good beneath her, the austere facade of her professor falling away to reveal a strangely beautiful, haunted soul, his dark eyes clouded with arousal. When she began to take him inside of herself, his brow furrowed and his arm twitched in frustration with his lack of control. Hermione couldn’t suppress a whimper of desire. He felt so good, she didn’t stop until her thighs rested against his hip bones. She could feel the sharp pleasure of his cock in the pit of her stomach and she wanted to rock against him; to tease that tender place deep inside.

 

Severus kept still beneath her, but every muscle in him itched to move, to thrust into her, to reach out and touch her. She was so beautiful. So perfect. He wanted to hold her body against his own, to press his mouth against hers and make slow love to her as she whimpered with pleasure. Was that so wrong?

 

Hermione hesitated. His skin was hot against her own. His coarse black hair tickled the bare, sensitive skin between her legs, kindling an ache that had begun to throb, making her want to rub herself against it. She wanted to watch his head fall back and his eyes squeeze closed in ecstasy. She wanted to see what would happen if he lost control. “We don’t have to stop,” she breathed.

 

Severus groaned. “ Fuck , Granger,” he rasped, squeezing his eyes shut, “I’ve been tortured enough for one night.”

 

Hermione’s eyes went wide and heat flooded her face as she remembered herself. She pulled off of him so fast that he gasped, his brow furrowing with pleasure. Embarrassed and ashamed, she scrambled out of the bed and padded across the floor to the bathroom, the heat of his body washed from her skin by the chill in the air.

 

Severus watched her go, savouring the vision of her naked back, her perfect arse bouncing in just the right way as she hurried across the room. At the sound of the shower running, he closed his eyes and took himself in hand. The vision of her on top of him was still fresh in his mind: her bare skin, firm and smooth; her heavy, pointed breasts, the tips a raw pink, redder than he had imagined with wide areolas around them. So naked, so real. He pumped his fist hard over his cock and pictured the way those rosy lips had parted with pleasure at the feel of him inside her. She had wanted to continue. He imagined her slowly moving against him, cautiously at first, then eagerly, those cinnamon eyes squeezing shut in ecstasy, those pointed breasts bouncing. He came hard, hot seed spilling over his fist as he bit back a moan.

 

The water shut off in the bathroom and he scrambled to Vanish the mess and cover himself, his breathing returning to normal as he tried to pretend he was falling asleep. When the bathroom door swung open, the girl stepped into the room wearing only a large t-shirt and knickers, leaving those satin soft legs bare. Little tease. Her motive was obvious, but he was sated, now; his eyelids fluttering from exhaustion. He averted his eyes from her naked thighs as she climbed over him and settled down awkwardly on her side of the bed.

 

“Goodnight,” she whispered, her voice anxious and unsure.

 

“G’night,” he managed as exhaustion overtook him. He sank into the warmth and comfort of his blankets, feeling spent and satisfied. It didn’t take him long to fall asleep.

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Don’t be mad at me!!! I hope you enjoyed this and I promise not to tease you forever!!! XD

 

LOVE

 

:} llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

AN: I’m SO SORRY you guys!!! I really have been trying to update this fic for forever, but I’ve just had so much going on. I guess everyone’s been a bit stressed out the last couple of years (at least us Americans haha) and life has been depressing and bleak lately. But I think I’m starting to remember that writing revitalizes me. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that when it feels like focusing on being creative can only possibly be an added drain. ANYWAY, on that depressing note… haha… I want to THANK YOU SO MUCH for your continued support. You guys really do keep me motivated to write my stories and I can’t tell you how much it lights up my day every time I get a Review.  <3   I hope you enjoy this chapter and if you do, please let me know what you think!

OH BTW this is kinda important… you’ll notice in this chapter that some parts of Canon are going to start twining themselves together with my story… but the timing of things is going to be very different than Canon and I want to reiterate that this is their 7th year, after the Christmas hols. Cool. Alright, on with the show!

…*~*J*~*...

It was a sort of sticky heat that drew Hermione from her dreams. The blankets were pulled up over her shoulders, the Warming Charm woven into them quite enough to keep the chill of the dungeons at bay. But another, added heat made her cozy cocoon unbearably hot. Her husband’s body had curled around her in the night, pressed against her back. His naked arm was draped across her waist. His hairy legs were pressed against the backs of her own. And pressed between the smooth skin of her naked thighs, his cock was stiff and faintly weeping.

The sudden realization was enough to make her flinch. In response, his body jerked behind her as he woke with a gasp. An instant later, he was ripping away from her and right out of the bed. She turned toward him then quickly glanced away from the sight of him standing there naked, his cock bouncing a little from the sudden retreat, and his eyes wide with horror and humiliation.

“Forgive me,” he murmured in a voice rough with sleep.

“N-no,” she said, “I mean… not at all.”

She kept her eyes averted as he went about snatching items of clothing off the floor and dressing himself in a hasty, self-conscious manner. Somehow, having him dress in front of her seemed even more intimate than waking in his arms. Severus Snape had never dressed in front of her before. He was such a private man and he usually drew a distinct line between his private self and the austere facade he wanted her to believe.

“I, er… need to speak to the Headmaster,” he said, as if to excuse himself. He hesitated awkwardly, then swept from the room.

Hermione collapsed back into the sheets, cringing. Why did he have to go and make everything so awkward? She thought back to the way he’d felt behind her. It wasn’t hard to imagine him waking up in a different sort of mood altogether. Maybe kissing her neck or bringing his hand up to cup her breast. Maybe rubbing his cock between her thighs until she opened them for him. Sliding her knickers off and pressing himself inside of her. Rocking against her beneath the blankets as sleep fell away.

Fire burned in Hermione’s cheeks and between her legs. She slipped a hand down to rub away some of that tension and found herself rocking against it. Her thighs were satin smooth. They had to have felt divine against him. Would he think about that later, when he was alone? Would he think about her and their encounter last night?

She slipped her hand into her knickers, sliding her fingers between her folds and moaned. She was so wet. It was easy to imagine him rubbing against her there, the way he would moan in pleasure then push himself inside of her. She whimpered at the thought, hesitating only briefly before pushing first one then two fingers inside of herself. She gasped, imagining it was him, imagining him finally giving in to the temptation. Imagining him deciding he was going to have sex with her.

Hermione rolled onto her stomach, withdrawing her fingers to rub circles around that aching nub at the apex of her thighs. She pictured him bursting in on her now and being so aroused by the sight of her touching herself that he climbed onto the bed and covered her body with his own. He wanted her. She knew he did. She had seen the truth of it in his eyes last night. Maybe if he knew how badly she wanted it, he would capitulate. He would cast aside his mask of severity and lose himself in sensation with her. If she closed her eyes she could picture the way his brow furrowed when she took him inside of herself last night. She could hear his groan of pleasure.

A warm ecstasy was churning deep inside of her; a fire fueled by her fantasies. Pleasure mounted ever hotter, ever tighter, as she imagined the way events might play out next week. She was determined. Enough was enough. She was going to find a way to convince her husband to give her a proper shag.

Suddenly, the tempest boiling inside of her broke. Her eyes popped open in surprise and she gasped aloud as waves of ecstasy raced down her limbs and across her skin. Heat pulsed between her legs as she moaned into the dark dungeon bedroom, rocking against her hand as the tremors dwindled down to echoes in her blood.

She was as elated as she was shocked. Of all her attempts to bring herself off, none had been even remotely successful until now. Hermione rolled onto her back, panting and savouring a distinct feeling of triumph.

…*~*J*~*...

Severus glared down at his employer. “Didn’t you think I deserved to know…” he began.

But Albus cut him off. “I assure you, Severus, that I remain ignorant of the true purpose of the Monitoring Charm. Our informants within the Ministry have not yet been able to discover it.”

Severus sighed, carefully lowering himself into one of the chairs in front of the Headmaster’s desk. As much as he wanted to vent his frustration on Albus, he had only half believed the older man could have known this and kept it from him all this time. “Well,” he said, in a dry tone, flicking his dark eyes up to meet the Headmaster’s patiently waiting blue ones. “I’m delighted to be able to provide that for you.”

The old man leaned forward, steepling his fingers on the desk, an excited glint behind those half-moon spectacles. “He told you, did he?”

Severus gave him a wry grin. “He revealed the truth of it. Over the course of his… interrogation.”

Albus cast his eyes down at the surface of the desk, the briefest acknowledgement of regret for the situation, before turning his gaze back on Severus expectantly.

The Slytherin sighed. “They’ve used a Charm rather like the Trace. The one used on children to detect underage magic...”

“As it happens, I am familiar with the Trace, Severus.”  

The Slytherin sneered at his employer, then continued as if the old man had not said a word. “It works by alerting the Ministry to the subject’s location if the rules of the contract are broken. When the switch is flipped, the witch or wizard becomes trackable. Apparently, they had to have the impetus of a broken contract for legal reasons. But , the key point is this: once the switch has been flipped, it cannot be turned off.”

“So,” began Dumbledore, in a thoughtful voice, “any couples who break their marriage contract can be tracked by the Ministry... indefinitely.”

Yes.

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione had never enjoyed a hot shower quite as much as she had that morning. Her skin was still flushed and pink from the scalding heat of it when she sat down to breakfast in the Great Hall. It was early and the Hall was still mostly empty, as it often was at this hour on Sunday. Hermione had rarely felt so alive. Besides the tingling in her skin from the heat of the shower, her body felt light and rejuvenated, somehow. She felt confident and capable and… womanly. Femininity had never been an aspect with which she had associated particularly strongly in the past. Now, however, she felt the very essence of feminine sensuality. That was silly, of course. She’d had an orgasm. Alright. And she had bared her body to her husband to what she considered satisfactory effect. And she was determined to talk him out of this foolishness about their marital commitments. She was determined they were going to have sex.

Hermione lingered long enough in the Great Hall that she was still sitting there sipping her coffee and skimming through a Transfiguration text for an essay they had due in a couple of days, when Harry and Ron slouched into the Hall. She didn’t think twice before slamming her book shut and going to join them.

Harry looked terrible. His hair was unkempt and his eyes were red-rimmed and glassy, like he hadn’t slept. “Are you alright?” she couldn’t help but ask.

Ron shot her a warning glare before glancing around the room. “Not now,” he murmured, his tone laden with mystery. He filled his plate with a heap of every different thing on offer then prodded Harry to do the same. His mouth was full of canteloup when he finally frowned at Hermione and said, “you look cheerful.”

Hermione pulled away in surprise at the note of accusation in his voice. “I um…” she began, embarrassed by the reason for that and wondering what excuse she could give. “It’s just good to be sitting at the Gryffindor table again, I suppose.”

Ron’s eyebrows lifted and he nodded sagely, chewing on such a big bite of something that his cheeks were puffed out like a hamster.

“Yeah,” said Harry, turning away from idly stirring his porridge to really look at her for the first time, “it’s good to have you back.”

After breakfast, the boys took her back to Gryffindor Tower and shut themselves away behind the curtains of Harry’s four poster bed. “It’s Dumbledore,” Harry told her with a grave expression. “He says he thinks I have the right to know what I’m up against, so he’s been filling me in on his theories.” He paused for emphasis, looking exhausted. “It doesn’t look good,” he continued, meeting her eye.

“What doesn’t? What does he think?”

Harry chewed his lip. “It has to do with… something called… a Horcrux.”

“A… what?”

The whole idea was preposterous. Hermione had never heard anything about it. She’d have to look into it, of course, but for now she simply couldn’t believe… And yet, it did make a kind of sense. She just didn’t want to admit it. The implications were overwhelming, after all. Surely, that couldn’t be what they were really up against.

After Harry had filled her in about the possible Horcruxes, Hermione could only sit back in dull silence, a million possibilities competing for attention in her mind. This changed the whole game. No wonder Harry looked so worn out and worried. She reached for him, putting a hand on his shoulder and giving him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “We’ll figure it out,” she told him. “Like we always do.”

There was absolutely nothing on Horcruxes in the library. Was it possible the subject was too dark to be allowed at Hogwarts, even in the restricted section? Hermione was at a loss. She felt betrayed. The library had never failed her like this before. But surely someone must have written about this dark magic before. If only she had access…

The idea hit her like a punch to the stomach. Her husband had been obsessed with dark magic from an early age. He was a Death Eater, for Merlin’s sake. And he happened to have an extensive private collection of books.

Searching Severus Snape’s bookshelves proved to be a Herculean task. Not only was she working without the aid of a Dewey Decimal System, but there appeared to be no system at all in the way his books had been organized. In fact, it seemed, (most astonishingly) as if they weren’t, in fact, organized. At all.

She started in the bedroom, assuming that he might have been inclined to keep his most dangerous or provocative texts deeper in the privacy of his chambers. There were several bookshelves here and she scanned each in turn, pulling any promising titles from the shelf and scanning their indices.

Nothing.

By the time Hermine moved to his makeshift lab, scanning titles from the immense collection in the semi-darkness, she had begun a pile for “needs further inspection.” And by the time her husband re-appeared, she was sitting in the middle of their marriage bed, books piled around her, some open to promising passages, and one open across her lap as she leaned back against the headboard, staring in horror at the ceiling.

He froze when he saw her, his brow furrowing. “What’s wrong?”

Hermione flinched, emerging from her reverie with a startled expression, suddenly aware of the magnitude of her transgression.

Her husband’s eyes roved over the piles of books, recognizing them. He froze. The lines in his face deepened from concern to angry scowl. “What is all this?” he asked, reaching over and snatching one particularly dark title off the mattress. “ Granger ,” he hissed, “of all the reckless, entitled…

Hermione shook her head, hoping for some way to derail his anger. “S-sorry, Professor. I just…”

But he cut her off, his voice full of venom. “Did it ever occur to you, Miss Granger , that some of these books could be cursed or dangerous in any way?”

“I…”

“You didn’t think to ask permission before helping yourself to my collection!?”

“Well…”

“You are lucky you didn’t attempt to remove any from my rooms. What were you thinking!?

“I’m sorry…”

“No you aren’t! ” He towered over her and his black eyes seemed filled with fire. “You believed that your need surpassed my desire for privacy. Surpassed any respect for my ownership , let alone the sense to know the risk you might have been taking…”

“No! I didn’t think! I was in a panic…”

No! You didn’t think! That much is clear , Miss Granger!”

“You aren’t being fair. You don’t understand!”

“I think it is you who does not understand. You who are so entitled so sure that whatever you do it is for the best . What concern is it to you if someone’s rights are trespassed upon in your quest?”

Hermione was on her knees, now, pleading with her husband to understand. “I wasn’t thinking! I checked the whole library and I couldn’t find anything. You have to understand, I was in a panic…”

“I don’t care if the future of the Wizarding World depends on it! You should have asked…”

“But it does! I was in shock! Harry just told me what Dumbledore…”

He silenced her with one hasty sweep of his arm and a wandless, nonverbal spell. A look of horror had taken the place of anger on his face. “Don’t tell me ,” he hissed. “Have you taken complete leave of your senses?”

Hermione’s eyes went wide. She had gotten so comfortable with this man that she had forgotten who he really was, what his position was as a spy. She hadn’t even considered the danger of giving him this information. And why did she trust him so complicitly? So easily? How could she be so sure of his loyalty that she would risk everything by telling him something so secret? If Albus Dumbledore wanted his spy to know, he would tell him himself.

Severus Snape sent his books back to their places with another idle wave of his hand, his horrified eyes never leaving her face. She felt his Silencing spell fall away with a mere twitch of his fingers, but she dared not speak.

“Whatever it is,” her husband reiterated unnecessarily in a dangerous, velvety voice, “for Merlin’s sake don’t tell me.” He hesitated and his posture told her that he wanted to be anywhere other than here. But he did not move. “I would leave you to ponder your mistakes,” he said in an icy voice that made regret twist painfully inside her, “But there’s something we need to discuss.”

…*~*J*~*...

For the second time that day, Hermione found herself back in Gryffindor tower. She had to wait for a half hour for the boys to show up. Apparently, they had been out on the Quidditch pitch. It was Ginny who first caught sight of the other girl, huddled in one of the chairs by the fire, staring in horror into the abyss.

“‘Mione?” The redhead prodded, leaning into Hermione’s frame of vision.

The latter snapped out of her daze, shaking her head as she caught her friend’s gaze. “Sorry. Yeah. I need to talk to you.” She glanced around, seeing the boys standing awkwardly a short distance away before adding “All of you.”

“So… what you’re saying…” said Ron in consternation once the four of them were safely cramped together behind the curtains of Harry’s four-poster bed. “...is that if you don’t shag Snape at least once a week… the Ministry will be able to track you for the rest of your life?”

Hermione nodded.

“But that’s… mental .”

“No,” said Harry. “It’s brilliant. They knew exactly what they were doing.”

“Yeah,” said Ginny, frowning at the other girl as if she’d just confessed to some dire medical diagnosis, “I bet they thought they’d be able to track Death Eaters that way. Only… it’ll work the other way around, won’t it?”

Hermione sighed, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. “Exactly. We already know there are Death Eaters within the Ministry. And the Law disproportionately affects Muggleborns. If Voldemort seizes control…”

Ron gasped, his blue eyes wide with horror. “They’ll be able to find them! Round them up!”

Silence fell in the little group as each of them contemplated the potential repercussions.

“Well, ‘Mione,” Ron said eventually, not quite meeting her eye, “I never thought I’d say this, but… you better keep shagging Snape.”

Hermione was letting herself out of Gryffindor Tower when she bumped into Parvati and Lavender. The other girls gasped at the sight of her and Lavender actually grabbed onto the sleeve of her robes. “ Hermione, ” she said, eyes bulging with shock and excitement, “how are you?”

“Oh, er… fine, thanks.”

“Oh dear, it must be so horrible !” Lavender hissed, leaning closer. “Sleeping with Snape, I mean.”

Heat flooded Hermione’s face as she pulled out of the other girl’s grasp. “Oh, no… not really… actually.” She had said it before she had a chance to think better of it and immediately regretted her words. It would have been better to avoid saying anything to the notorious gossips.

Lavender and Parvati exchanged an excited look and the blonde turned back to her victim, pulling closer yet again, greed glinting in her heavily made-up eyes. “Not really? You’re not telling us Professor Snape…”

Severus ,” Parvati whispered seductively with a little giggle.

“...is actually… good … in bed!

Hermione hesitated. What would her husband want her to say? What was the best strategy here? The Death Eaters expected him to be rough and demanding with her, but she didn’t want the whole school to think he was raping her every night. A vision of Malfoy’s hideous cartoon surfaced in her mind. That was what the students expected. That was what they pictured when they whispered about her in the halls, giggling in excited horror at the misfortune of their classmate.

“He is , actually,” Hermione found herself saying before she could calculate the best response.

Lavender and Parvati were thrilled. They met eyes, giggling scandalously behind their hands before turning back to her. Lavender looked positively delighted. “He’s good, is he? How so? What’s it like, Hermione? Is he… big?

Hermione made to push past them. “I’m not talking to you about this,” she said, already horrified that she had made some mistake.

“Oh noooo ,” cried Parvati, pushing out her bottom lip. “He’s tiny . I knew it!”

Hermione’s eyes grew wide. She knew Parvati was playing her, but she didn’t want them telling the whole school that their Potions Master was pitifully endowed. “He is not!” she heard herself snapping. Anger and frustration were leaping up inside her.

Oh? ” said Lavender.

“No! He’s actually…” Hermione glanced around, embarrassed. “He’s actually quite… big .”

The girls cackled wickedly at that. “You don’t sound so convinced,” said Parvati. “It’s alright, you know. You can tell us. We won’t tell a soul.”

“Please don’t,” said Hermione. She was struck by a sudden inspiration. “He’d be all too pleased for the school to know about all that. It’s not like he can boast about it to his students , after all. And he really is insufferable when he’s gloating.”

Parvati guffawed, her eyes wide. “Oh my gods! ” she squealed. “He really is big!”

Lavender pursed her lips, folding her arms across her chest. “Alright, but does he know how to use it?”

Hermione scowled at the other girl, making as if to push past her again. “As if you know anything about that…”

“What do you know!” cried Lavender.

Parvati joined her friend in folding her arms and scowling at Hermione. “There’s no need to get snippy,” she told Hermione. “Just because your husband is taking his frustration out on you…”

“Oh! Really ...” Hermione cried, scowling indignantly at the other girls. “Is that what you think?”

The other girls nodded in unison.

“Well you couldn’t be more wrong,” she snapped. “True, we might hate each other most of the time, but at the end of the day… Severus ,” (She used his first name intentionally, emphasizing it in a proud tone of voice, lifting her chin in the air.), “is very skilled in bed.”

…*~*J*~*...

I’m sorry again for taking so long. I hope you’ve enjoyed this update and I promise to try to post again soon. Please let me know what you think!

:}

llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

AN: Thank you so much for your continued support and your patience , LOL! This fic is a priority. I just have a lot going on. (My other fics are also priorities, but… there’s a pecking order). Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has supported this story so far!!! I know I almost never  actually respond to your Reviews, but I promise I cherish every single one of them. I just never know what to say in return :P 

I hope you enjoy Chapter 18!!! And if you do, Please Review!!!

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

By Wednesday, the whole school knew what Granger had said about him. And yet, he would not have heard a whisper of it had she not confessed to him, herself. 

 

Severus watched the Hall, stabbing resentfully at his breakfast. He hated to admit that he was glad she had told them the lie that she had, if the alternative was the truth. And yet, he was afraid. It was a matter of nuance. Of course he agreed with her that it was terrible to have the entire school assuming that he was forcing himself on her. But Severus Snape was used to having horrible assumptions made about him. The more important dilemma was that he couldn’t have his Death Eaters suspecting him of gentleness toward her. True, the Dark Lord had commanded him to try to please her, but it was not expected that he actually would. If only there were some way he could show his Slytherins, at least, that though he may have pleased the girl in bed, it was certainly not because he actually cared for her. He would just have to show them, somehow, that his motives were ultimately selfish. 

 

WHAM! Severus flinched back from the table. A scruffy brown owl had landed with a clumsy crash right into his plate of eggs and sausages, knocking his breakfast to the floor. He glared at the idiot bird, snatching the scroll off its leg with less care than he would normally have given. 

 

Hey ,” hissed the girl in an angry whisper. “He didn’t mean to. There’s no need to be so rough…”

 

Severus glared at the little twit, silencing her with the venom of his gaze. 

 

He unfurled the parchment. It was from Dolohov. He was anxious for another potion. Severus sighed. It was lucky he had several vials made ahead of time for Dolohov. Between classes and grading, creating a new potion for Lucius, replenishing Poppy’s stores in the hospital wing, and dealing with his marriage in all that it entailed, Severus hardly had time to brew another batch of the Voluptatem potion. He scribbled back a response that he could meet with his brother tonight and tied it with grudgingly less force to the leg of the waiting owl. The owl hesitated, apparently hoping for a bite of Severus’s destroyed breakfast, but the professor only scowled and shooed the bird away. 

 

Antonin Dolohov looked more anxious than Severus could ever remember seeing the man when they met late that night in Knockturn Alley. The skinny, gray-faced Death Eater practically snatched the vial out of Severus’s hand. He nearly forewent the traditional toast and eagerly gulped down his glass before Severus had raised his own to his lips. Dolohov sank back in his chair at their usual corner table with a sigh. 

 

Severus sipped his own cold beer with much more patience and enjoyment. But even so, the tiny drop of potion that had been added to it quickly made its presence known. The dusty, mouldering old bar was full of light and life. The laughing people were no longer veiled threats, but humans living as humans will do. The very essence of reality jumped forth from the darkened corners. And everywhere he looked the world was made of color and texture; all of it tied to emotion. All of it beautiful. 

 

The amber hues of the wood-panelled walls struck him as particularly lovely. That dark, golden gleam was so full of vitality and warmth. It was nearly the exact shade of Hermione Granger’s eyes. Hermione.  

 

Shock exploded in his mind, reverberating out in tingling electricity to the tips of his fingers and toes. And with it a pang of mingled tenderness and sorrow. How could he have fooled himself for so long? But no , he mustn’t think of it! He must Occlude! He mustn’t accept the awful truth. The truth that he, Severus Snape, had allowed himself to become vulnerable once more. That he had fallen in love… 

 

Severus threw up a wall in his mind, his train of thought slamming into it with a painful jerk as a near instant headache pulsed beneath the warm ecstasy of the Voluptatem potion. He could not allow himself to think about that. Not here. Not now. Not ever

 

He glanced over at his brother in hopes of a distraction, but the other man was staring with hazy eyes at the ceiling, lost in the bliss of oblivion. There was nothing he could do but continue to sip his frothy, cold, softly bubbling beer. Had anything ever tasted so good? Or felt so good on his tongue? 

 

But something was itching in the back of his mind. Even this perfect pleasure could not compare to the thought he’d had just moments ago. 

 

I love her I love her I love her… 

 

NO! He mustn’t think about that. He mustn’t think about that. And anyway what is love? He was fooling himself. He hardly knew the girl. It was only the chemistry of his human flesh that made him feel this way. It was only his desire for the girl. His desire to have her. His desire to feel her young, soft, beautiful body beneath his own. Her soft skin. Her riotous curls. And those eyes watching him with raw, unabashed desire. 

 

Severus’s cock was hard beneath his cloak. He wanted nothing more than to return home to his wife and seduce her in their marriage bed. And yes she would succumb. Oh yes. He knew that well enough. He could have her. All he had to do was say the word. 

 

Horror penetrated the haze of aroused pleasure and Severus sat bolt upright. He needed to take his all-purpose sober up potion. But he couldn’t do that here with Dolohov. No one could know he had an antidote to the various poisons they begged him to provide. 

 

“My brother,” croaked Severus, turning bleary eyes to his nearly unconscious companion. The other man did not move except to blink, his dark eyes rolling to meet his brother’s through a sheen of red. “As... stimulating as your company is this evening,” said Severus with a smirk, “I feel compelled to return home to the willing young witch who awaits me.” 

 

Dolohov’s blank face broke into a nasty leer. “Can’t say I blame you, Snape,” he said, and his head fell back against the wall, his eyelids half-shuttered and his expression blank once again. 

 

Severus withdrew the sober up potion the moment he was back in the Alley, but he didn’t dare take it yet. Apparition was dangerous enough with a psychoactive potion pulsing through his veins. But under the extreme pain and immediate illness that was sure to befall him the moment he took the antidote, he would almost definitely splinch himself. 

 

The Hogwarts grounds were frozen and silent. Magical . The majesty of the enchanted castle swelled in the cavity of his chest until it was like to overwhelm him. This was the first place he had ever been safe . The first place he could really call his own. Home. 

 

The stars sparkled brilliantly overhead and all the world seemed to be a wonderland. He wanted Hermione to see it. He wanted to show her this perfect beauty. He wished she were beside him now, holding his hand… 

 

Stop stop stop stop!!! 

 

Severus froze, burying his face in his hands and refocusing his attention on the here and now. The feel of his own hands against his face. Warmth. Dry, calloused hands. Long fingers. Skeletal, in a way. And strangely… beautiful. He wondered if Hermione would think so. 

 

No no no no no!!! 

 

He couldn’t dare to wait any longer. He would just have to struggle through the pain to make it back to his safe, dry quarters. Where the beautiful, young witch would be waiting for him, ready to help him out of his freezing clothes. Wanting to take care of him. Safe . He would be safe with her there. She would take care of him. Hermione would take care of him. 

 

He tipped the contents of the bottle down his throat, staggering slightly in anticipation of the pain. It came in waves. For a moment, he was merely aware. Sober. He saw himself in the distanced, objective way he usually did. He hated what he had become. Then an ache crept in behind his eyes, sharpening to blinding agony that caused him to stumble and nearly fall. He cried out into the night even as bile rose up in the back of his throat. But he could not be sick. Not yet. He needed the potion to take its full effect. 

 

Severus hurried toward the castle, his vision clouding and clearing in waves as pain overtook him. He could not feel the ground beneath him and then it was as if there was only ground and the gravity pulling him down toward it. He was nearly to the castle steps when he stumbled, slamming hard into the frozen ground. He might have broken every bone in his body. And he might be fine. But either way, there was nothing for it but to pull himself up to his feet and continue on. 

 

It took two tries. The first, pain lashed through him so sharp and unforgiving that he gave in and let it take him back to his hands and knees. The second, he managed to stay on his feet, though the dizziness caused him to sway until nothing was up or down but just some soup of sensation that he could not escape. It was by sheer will and years of training his own mental strength, that he managed to stand his ground. 

 

He fell again in the corridor that led to the dungeons. Home. He focused all his will on that destination. Once he was safely tucked away in his quarters, he would be able to collapse or be sick or whatever the potion wanted him to do. He only had to make it that far. 

 

The mural that marked the entrance to his rooms arose like a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness and agony. He clawed his way toward it, slamming hard into its surface and panting as the chill of the stone seeped into his skin. It was so reassuringly solid and strong that it almost didn’t matter how the world still spun in three different directions around him. Severus counted out several long, measured breaths, focusing on the throbbing pressure threatening to burst behind his eyes until it was only a fact of his existence, something he could overlook. At least for the moment. 

 

He opened the door with a practiced movement of his arm and promptly slammed into one of the work-benches inside. Something smashed to the floor. Probably jars of potions ingredients, but he would just have to worry about that later. There was nothing for it now. The bench was a sharp magnet in his belly. He did not seem to be able to pull away. Instead, he slid himself along its length, swallowing another upsurge of bile. 

 

The door to the bedroom slammed open and Hermione was there. Severus shook his head, blinking away the relief and embracing the shame of her seeing him this way. Then he was past the bench and out in the open once again, with nothing to tie him to this version of Up and Down. He swayed and she darted forward, throwing her arms around him. Absurd . The girl couldn’t possibly sustain his weight. 

 

But his hands landed on her upper arms and it seemed he didn’t need her to support him at all. Up and Down were fixed in his mind again. And he was steady. 

 

“Are you alright?” Her voice was full of concern and her eyes turned up to meet his. Those warm brown eyes, the color of polished wood in candlelight. Distantly, Severus knew he was no longer under the influence of the Voluptatem potion. Therefore, his response to the girl was entirely his own. And even perhaps a little more so, considering the draining effect of the antidote he had taken. 

 

He nodded, not daring to speak. 

 

“Here. Let me help you.” Hermione released him slowly, hoisting one of his arms around her shoulders and encouraging him to lean against her as she stepped cautiously toward the bedroom. Severus ignored the instinct to push her away and allowed her to help him. If only this once. 

 

After all, it’s her fault I’m in this condition in the first place

 

Through the haze of pain and nausea, one small pleasure made itself apparent: the scent of her hair. He clung to that, preferring even the shame that came with it to the agony wracking his body in sharper and sharper waves. 

 

She tried to turn him toward the bed, but Severus stopped her with a rasped “bathroom,” and hurried them toward the open door. He nearly dragged her down with him as he stumbled through the doorway and collapsed around the toilet, retching into the bowl with commendable force. 

 

“Oh gods,” Hermione was muttering. “Oh gods! What can I do?” 

 

Severus considered telling her to go to bed and let him deal with it alone, but he was weak. He had not the strength of will to push her away when she could do so much to help him. And even as he was spitting acid and considering how she could best be of assistance, he felt her soft hands at his neck. She was scooping his hair back and pulling it tight, tying it up in a knot behind his head. 

 

He felt so many things at once. Revulsion at the raw tenderness of the gesture and how pathetic he must seem. Shame that she was seeing him so clearly now, his face revealed by the absence of his curtain of hair. And something else, a sort of painful lurching in his chest that was somehow better and yet worse than all the rest. 

 

“It’s alright,” she cooed, rubbing soothing circles on his back. “You’ll feel better soon. Tell me what you need and I’ll do it.” 

 

“Nothing for it,” Severus rasped in a vomit-roughened voice. “Have to see it through.” He would have loved to take a pain potion, but his all-purpose antidote would counteract the effects of that almost immediately. There was truly nothing he could do but endure and let the hours pass in slow agony. 

 

Hermione was silent for a long time while he retched some more. He started to think that she had left the room. But then she spoke up, her voice coming from much closer than he had expected. “Wouldn’t you rather lie down, then?” she said. “Get you out of those clothes? I can fetch you a bin for… all that, and we can put it next to the bed. What do you think?” 

 

Severus panted a moment, staring down into his own foul sick. Finally, he nodded. 

 

Hermione helped the man to stand and told him to keep still, leaning against the sink. She watched in horror as his pale face shifted into tones of grey, the lines deepening, twisting sickly, before fading back to normal. She helped him out of his cloak and then his coat, one arm at a time, then tossed the heavy garments into the corner of the room. Idly, she wondered if he was always sick this often. If, perhaps, that didn’t make a terrible sort of sense. She felt a rush of pity for the man she had known as Professor Snape, suffering all alone and being mocked for it. 

 

He had to take a break to vomit again before she could help him out of his shirtsleeves, and Hermione marvelled at his stillness and resolve. It was strange for him to let her undress him this way, undoing his buttons while he panted into the chilly air, his eyes squeezed shut and his expression twisted with pain. 

 

She pulled off his heavy dragonhide boots one at a time, tossing them aside, but when she made to undo his trousers, he caught her wrist, meeting her gaze with his wide, black eyes. 

 

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” she berated him. “I’ve seen you before.” 

 

He studied her a moment longer before swallowing and releasing her wrist. Regardless of her familiarity with the man’s body, Hermione felt distinctly uncomfortable undressing him this way. Perhaps it was the fact that he was so weak he had allowed it. Or the vulnerable way he stood, helpless, unconcerned. Usually, Severus Snape would be quite concerned about her seeing him this way, so she could only assume that incredible pain was distracting him from his usual shame. 

 

And then there was the fact that his cock was limp. She realized she had never seen it this way before. Simply naked. Not aroused. Not prepared for the awkward joining of their bodies under the law. Just his body, unclothed and vulnerable. It struck her then just how weak he was. 

 

She Summoned her Gryffindor pajamas and helped him into them before leading him back to the bed. His nausea seemed to have abated a little, though the agony in his face told her the rest of his symptoms remained. She fetched the bin from the bathroom and made it taller with a wave of her wand, setting it next to the bed and making sure that he saw it. “Can I get you anything else?” she said. 

 

His red-rimmed black eyes stared at her for a long moment. Then he shook his head. 

 

“If you need anything,” she told him, “just let me know.” And she climbed into bed behind her husband, propping herself up for the long night ahead. 

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Severus awoke feeling exhausted, but without any lingering symptoms of withdrawal. His nose was pressed against Hermione’s soft skin and his arm was draped across her lap. 

 

His eyes popped open. The girl had propped herself up against the pillows, probably the better to stay awake watching him. Her hand was resting in his tousled hair and the hot skin against his nose was the midriff at her waist. He flinched away, glancing up to ensure that she was still asleep. There was nothing graceful about her now, with her neck bent back at an odd angle and her mouth ajar. But he couldn’t help a smile, and the emotion swelling in the cavity of his chest could have been guilt or gratitude. 

 

Hermione drifted through her classes in a stupor. She was unaccustomed to sleeping so little. It was even difficult to focus on her lectures. She wondered if this was how ordinary students felt all the time. She was so tired, in fact, that after dinner she walked right past the door to their quarters and found herself in an entirely different part of the dungeons. Turning around with an irritated sigh, she was only one turn away from the entrance when she heard voices in the corridor. Malfoy appeared, looking smug as ever and telling some story about his father to Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy Parkinson. He broke off mid-sentence when he saw her. 

 

“Well, well,” he said in a smarmy voice, “trying to run away, Granger?” 

 

Pansy cackled. “No Draco, haven’t you heard? Granger likes it right where she is.” 

 

“Oh, that’s right,” said Draco, stepping around Hermione until she was trapped against the wall, “you’ve developed a taste for captivity, haven’t you, Mudblood?” 

 

Something caught Hermione’s eye and she glanced up in time to see Severus swooping around the corner. The flash of anger in his eyes was gone before the others spun around. “Draco,” he said, sounding thoroughly unconcerned, “haven’t your parents taught you not to touch what isn’t yours?” 

 

Malfoy backed off, looking a little guilty but lifting his arrogant chin in the air. “We were only making sure she wasn’t snooping around.” 

 

Severus flicked his gaze from Malfoy to Hermione without moving his head. “My… darling wife,” he said scornfully, his mouth twitching up at the corner in what she had always known as his sadistic sneer. “Come,” he commanded in a deep voice that brooked no argument. He raised a hand out to her. 

 

Hermione skirted around Malfoy and went to stand before her husband, turning back to face the Slytherins the way a rabbit might keep its eyes on a fox. His arms landed on her upper arms, biting in with a little more force than was entirely necessary as he stepped closer behind her  until they touched. “My dear,” he growled, lowering his nose to the top of her head and breathing in gently but obviously. She shivered. There was a smirk in his voice when he continued. “I thought I told you to wait for me in our rooms.” 

 

“I-I know,” said Hermione. And despite her act, she could feel an embarrassed flush in her cheeks and a pleasant warmth collecting in her core. He was pressed against her. She could feel his body close behind her. Her bum pressed against the front of his thighs. She wondered what he was thinking; if he liked the way she felt in his arms. She didn’t even care what Malfoy and his cronies might be thinking, standing over there with their arrogant smirks. 

 

“Go on, then,” her husband purred in a dangerously gentle voice he had never used when they were alone. “I will join you... momentarily.” And with that, he released her, giving her a little swat on the arse as she started back toward their chambers. She had turned the corner when she heard him telling his Slytherins that “Gryffindors are so easily led.” 

 

Hermione stretched out on their bed and pulled her Transfigurations homework onto her lap. But try as she might, she could not seem to focus on it right now. Her mind was buzzing. She could still feel the heat of her husband close behind her, his thighs against her bum. Had he enjoyed it as much as she had? 

 

Hermione groaned, as much in frustration with her husband’s teasing as with her inability to concentrate. Tonight was the night, she decided. She was going to talk to her husband about their marriage bed. 

 

The door slammed open and Severus Snape appeared. He cast her an annoyed look and stalked over to the wardrobe. “Forgive me,” he tossed off in a nonchalant tone, studiously avoiding looking at her as he removed his outer layers, “I thought it prudent to leave my Slytherins with rather a different impression than the one you gave your Gryffindors.” 

 

Hermione watched the man with equal measures irritation and enjoyment as the heat he had kindled within her stirred. “Why are you apologizing?” she asked him, fighting back an impudent grin. 

 

He turned toward her with a suspicious scowl. “For my… bold treatment of your person.” 

 

“Speaking of which,” she said, grinning despite herself, “I was hoping we could talk abo…”

 

“I’m afraid I have no time for frivolous discussion tonight, Granger. I have a lot of work to do in my lab.” And to demonstrate this, he stalked into the other room before she had a chance to say another word. 

 

Hermione glared at the door between them before turning back to her studies. And though she decided to punish him by wearing only a t-shirt and knickers to bed, she was fast asleep long before he reentered their bedroom. 

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

Friday morning, Severus was visited by another owl. This one was far more refined and well-groomed than the first and had the grace and wherewithall not to land in his breakfast. He knew without opening the parchment who the bird must be from. 

 

Lucius was wanting to know how his potion was coming. Well, luckily, Severus had made a good bit of progress last night, but he had another layer he wanted to add tonight and after that he would need to test the thing himself. But reading on it became clear that Lucius was hoping it would be done in time for a “little soirée” he had decided to throw tomorrow night. 

 

Panic seized Severus. It would be a prime opportunity, as a spy for the Order. Lucius had specifically asked for a potion that would lower inhibition, so that would not be considered suspicious. And yet it played right into his hand. Likely the most trusted and influential Death Eaters would be invited, along with a few potential converts. Lucius liked to use revelry as a medium for convincing those who were tempted to join. Between the boastfulness that usually went along with such events and the potion-induced easing of conscientiousness, it was the perfect environment for secrets to be slipped. 

 

But his potion wasn’t quite ready. It really needed a little more time. And he certainly needed to test it before he set it free upon a revel of Death Eaters. Who knew what horrors they could get up to under such unpredictable circumstances? And yet… perhaps if he were to tweak the potion to ensure that the impulses it stirred were not of a violent nature… Or if the potion itself suppressed violent and angry emotions… Yes, that was entirely possible. And he knew exactly how. With a few tweaks, he could be reasonably sure that the effects of his potion would leave the Death Eaters less dangerous than they were without the potion. 

 

Severus ripped his serviette out from under his plate, dug a self-inking quill out of the pocket of his robes, and began taking notes. He could tell without looking that Granger was surprised and excited by this behaviour, but he didn’t have time to bother with her. 

 

“What are you…” 

 

“Quiet. I’m trying to think.” 

 

Lucius’s owl fluttered its wings at that and Severus looked up in surprise. He had forgotten the thing was still here. “Oh, yes,” he told it. “Here.” And he scribbled a hasty message to Lucius, ensuring his colleague that the potion would be ready in time, then leaned forward to tie the note back onto the leg of the owl. 

 

Severus set all of his classes to busywork and spent the entire day working on his potion, writing out different variants and double-checking to make sure nothing was dangerous in combination and that the overall effects would be basically harmless. 

 

He also had to be careful not to make it too strong for himself . It was customary that he take the first taste of any potion he brought for his brothers. And given the nature of the festivities, it was probably wise to keep the potency low enough that he would be able to handle two doses over the course of the night and still keep his wits about him. Of course, this was all guesswork. He would have loved about a month to test out the different combinations and get a feel for their effects on him. But he was nothing if not a masterful improvisor. This would just have to do. 

 

After classes, he shut himself away in his lab, starting a new batch from scratch. He hardly had time (after taking into account the various lengths of time where it would need sit and simmer) to get the potion done , let alone tested . But that would be alright. He was confident in his work. And he had rarely been wrong. 

 

Granger came in a while later. He had just added the porcupine quills and flipped over a nine minute sand timer so the potion could simmer. 

 

“Don’t you think you should eat at some point?” she asked him. 

 

“What?” 

 

“Supper? Sustenance? Fuel for whatever project you’re working on.”

 

“Oh, no. I don’t have much of an appetite, at present.” He leaned against the counter behind him, noticing for the first time an ache in his lower back. “I often don’t,” he continued to cover a grimace of pain, “when I’m working on something.” 

 

Hermione put her hands on her hips. “Well. You’ve put your poor body through enough in the past week without denying it the proper building blocks to repair the damage.”

 

Severus smirked at her, despite himself. “That’s what potions are for.” 

 

But the Gryffindor was not convinced. She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, but her lip did quirk up at the corner. “Are you telling me that you’ve been taking potions to supplement the nutrition you’ve been lacking?” 

 

He mirrored her stance, crossing his legs at the ankle and smirking down at her. “Are you asking me if I’m taking my vitamins? ” 

 

Hermione was smirking back at him, now. She sauntered toward him, around the desk, too close for comfort. It took all of his willpower not to take a step away. Then she folded her arms again and smirked up at him, lifting one delicate eyebrow, her eyes twinkling. “So what if I am?” 

 

He fought to hold her gaze without giving away just how anxious she was making him. Just by being here. So close. He could see the warm honeyed brown of her irises. “Well,” he said in a voice that came out much less stern and more teasing than he had meant for it to, “I would say I didn’t expect you to be that sort of wife.” 

 

“The sort of wife who cares about her husband’s health?” 

 

“The sort of wife who nags her husband as if he were a rebellious child.” 

 

She laughed at that, her eyes crinkling with real mirth. “Is that what I’m doing?” 

 

He smirked down at her, but didn’t respond. What was she doing? Why was she here? And why did he feel like he’d forgotten how to move about like a normal human being? Already, leaning against the counter felt stiff and unnatural. Did she notice his discomfort? Did she suspect its cause? He wished she would leave him alone. 

 

But she didn’t. Instead, she turned toward the work bench, where his potion was nearly ready for the next step. “What are you working on?” she asked. 

 

Severus cleared his throat. He took advantage of the fact that her back was turned to unfold himself from his stiff position, chastising himself when he really was as clumsy about it as he had imagined. “It is a potion for Lucius,” he said simply. 

 

She tilted her face up to him, lifting an eyebrow in an unspoken question. 

 

“The… Death Eaters often request such inventions from me.” 

 

Her eyes went wide. “You mean you’re… inventing one? This? You’re making it up?” 

 

He nodded, stepping next to her to assess his work. “And if you don’t mind,” he said, deciding that the colour was the exact shade of mauve he had expected and watching the last of the sand drain out of the timer, “it is ready for the next step.” 

 

“Can I watch?” 

 

“I would rather you didn’t.” 

 

“Why?” 

 

He grimaced. How could he tell her that his attention would remain on her for as long as she was in this room? “This sort of work requires intense focus,” he said, instead. “And you can’t help but be a distraction.” 

 

“Alright,” she said, sounding dejected. She hesitated, standing beside him a little longer and watching him stir the contents of the cauldron the required dozen times. She waited until he had removed the stirring rod before speaking again. “I had wanted to ask you something.” 

 

He tensed, adding a cup of sopophorous beans and stirring again before answering. “What is it?” he growled in an annoyed voice, hoping she wasn’t foolish enough to broach the topic of sex with him right now. 

 

“I know I can’t talk to you about… my research. But… I… think I might be able to find books about it in Hogsmeade tomorrow. Only… it would probably look a bit odd for me to be buying books of… that nature…” 

 

“You want me to buy them for you.” 

 

“Well, yes.” 

 

Severus sighed. “I won’t have time to go to Hogsmeade tomorrow,” he told her. 

 

“Not even for an hour or so?” A note of desperation had entered her voice. He didn’t like the way it sounded. “I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t really important.” 

 

He considered for a moment. Perhaps there would be time after stirring in the Veritaserum. The rest of the potion would be in a sort of stasis at that point and the truth serum would have a less volatile reaction to the peppermint if it was given time to blend beforehand. He took a moment to calculate about what time of day he would likely be at that stage in the brewing. If he stayed up until 3:00 and woke up at 8:00… Of course, he would also need to make sure the potion was ready in time for dinner at Malfoy Manor. “Alright,” he told her, reaching for his serrated knife, “I can spare two hours at a maximum tomorrow, starting at noon.” 

 

Hermione let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you so much,” she told him, sounding so sincere and breathless that he nearly sliced off his own thumbprint. 

 

“Yes, well… I’ll need to be able to concentrate on this until then. Do you understand?” 

 

“Of course,” she said, turning toward the door to their bedroom. “Good luck.” 

 

His wife was asleep when Severus finally dragged himself to bed. He took the chance and changed clothes right there beside the bed. She slept like a rock. He knew that much by now. 

 

Crawling beneath the covers, he couldn’t help but notice her bare legs. It irked him that she had begun to dress this way to bed. How was he supposed to get to sleep with thoughts of her soft, shapely thighs so close to him beneath the coverlet? How was he supposed to keep her at a distance when she insinuated herself so effortlessly into his life? 

 

Suppressing a groan, Severus turned away from the girl in his bed; turned away from the memory of the thoughts he had had the other night, under the influence of the Voluptatem potion. Squeezing his eyes shut, he turned away from thoughts of her

 

…*~*J*~*...

 

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llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

AN: If you have read this far, thank you SO MUCH for your continued support!!! I can’t tell you how much it means to me. An extra special thank you to everyone who Reviewed my last chapter:  Scaleybark, hendo2207, Councilshivers13, Zoya1416, FrancineHibiscus, Staffatr, aer7980, HopelesslyEmotional, NicoruNS, Cas, stellastark, Angelll, Meglei77, Goldenbassets, Rachaelzi, potionseagle, Lenepeen, User2187, HappyTimeTemp, MangoMama, and emjrabbitwolf.  Y’all are awesome!!!  Putting my stories out there is a very raw and vulnerable act and y’all’s support really shows me that I’ve connected with something inside of you too. I really hope you like this chapter. :} Either way, please let me know what you think. <3

…*~*J*~*...

She found him tending to his potion first thing in the morning. He looked more tousled and harried than ever. His hair was a wild, tangled mess and he appeared to have merely rolled out of bed and thrown on a white button-down over his Gryffindor pajamas. His face was drawn and paler than usual, and his eyes darted about in a sort of manic anxiety. His whole body looked tense as he hovered over the workbench. 

“Sir?” 

“Don’t,” he told her in one stern, deep note. “Can you not see that I am preoccupied at present?” 

“But… you still haven’t eaten, have you?” 

“I am attending a feast tonight. I can survive until then.” 

“Yes, about that… you do realise that today is Saturday, don’t you?” 

He let out an impatient breath and set his stirring rod down on the counter. “No, Granger,” he began irritably, “I have set to work on an elaborate potion that will take hours to complete and have planned my entire day around a trip to Hogsmeade with my needy wife, yet somehow it has completely escaped my notice that today is in fact... Saturday.” 

Hermione huffed, glaring up at him. “I only meant… if you have a feast to attend tonight, we are going to have to find a time beforehand to…” 

“That will not be necessary. I'm expected to arrive early to Lucius’s little soiree, but he will not expect me to stay for the duration. I will return long before midnight.” 

“Still…”

No , Granger. There isn’t time. Now leave me to my work. I need to concentrate.” He turned back to his brewing. “I will meet you shortly after noon for our little… outing.” 

Hermione hesitated. She wanted to press him again to eat something or get some sleep before tonight, but she was relieved he had at least remembered his promise to meet her at the bookstore. It would be much less unusual and suspicious for him to purchase a selection of dark magic books than it would be for her to. “Thank you,” she said at last, turning to go. “See you then.” 

When he arrived at the bookstore a few short hours later, she was relieved to see that he looked marginally better. He appeared to have bathed, at least, and was dressed for the biting cold weather, with a heavy winter cloak draped over his shoulders and a soft black scarf knotted at his neck. She couldn’t help but notice how dashing he looked that way. 

He gave her an anxious glance, his eyes trailing up and down her frame. “Well? Haven’t you found anything yet?” 

She raised an eyebrow at him, reaching for one of a number of books jutting out an inch or so further than the rest and handing it to him. “Of course I have.” 

Finally, a hint of mirth appeared at the corners of his eyes. “Of course you have,” he said, accepting the tome and placing a nonverbal Charm on it so th at it floated in the air beside him. “You may begin your pile here,” he told her, turning toward the shelf and selecting a book at random to keep up the illusion. “But do not allow anyone to see you touching these books yourself. Do you understand?” 

Hermione gave him a wry look. She pulled a couple more titles from the shelf and placed them onto the floating stack, then hesitated, biting her lip. “I have gold,” she told him in a low voice. 

“Don’t insult me, Granger. I can afford to buy a few books for my wife.” 

“It’s just… there’s already… quite a number.” 

At that, he turned toward her, giving her an offended glare. “I am not a pauper, Hermione.” 

Her cheeks flushed and she tried not to grin up at him. “It’s just…” 

“I am well aware of the repercussions of bringing Hermione Granger to the bookstore,” he said, turning back to the shelves. “I fully expect to have a ludicrously excessive stack when I leave here today.” 

Finally, she did grin, then turned back to her perusal of the section. They were quiet a moment before she couldn’t help herself anymore. A little sniff of laughter escaped her as a smirk spread across her face. “ ‘Pauper’ ,” she murmured so low he could hardly hear. 

“What?” 

“Did you really say…” 

Granger ,” he warned, “are you trying to make me change my mind?” 

“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head vehemently and smirking at the shelf. “No no.” 

Severus held back a grin, fighting to keep his expression neutral. Why did he let the girl have such an effect on him? How could standing here pretending to read about torture magic be the highlight of his day? And why did it please him so much to buy her books? Just giving her the freedom to choose whichever she wanted felt like a gift to himself as well. He found himself wishing she would tell him about her research. Wishing they could brainstorm the issue together; work through the problem as a team. 

How odd. 

When it was time to leave, Hermione had an enormous pile. He sensed that it made her anxious to ask for so many. She was biting her lip and looking up at him inquisitively and she was about to say something when he cut her off. “Well... it’s not a bad start,” he teased, giving her an arrogant smirk before turning to go. 

“Thank you,” she said. 

He sniffed disdainfully in acknowledgement. 

Hermione stopped him again. “I have a bag for them,” she said, pulling a little beaded purse out of the pocket of her coat. “I Charmed it with an Undetectable Extension Charm.” 

Severus lifted an eyebrow incredulously. “You think I’m going to carry my dark arts texts around in a glittery little handbag?” 

“This can easily fit in your pocket,” she said, still holding it out to him and looking a bit annoyed. 

“And how would I look stuffing them all in?” 

They froze. And then, suddenly, they were both smirking at each other, each imagining the expression on the pimply clerk’s face. 

He shook his head, maybe in answer to her request or maybe in an attempt to cast off the sudden electricity between them. “I’ll have them sent up to the castle,” he said, turning to go.

She blinked and hurried after him.“I didn’t know you could do that.” 

You can’t. But I can. And don’t follow me up there, for Merlin’s sake.” 

“Right,” she whispered, stopping short, “thank you!” 

…*~*J*~*...

Harry, Ron, and Ginny had already found them a table when Hermione arrived at The Three Broomsticks a little while later. 

“Where’ve you been?” Ron asked, scrunching up his nose and leaning back in his chair. 

Hermione lifted an eyebrow. “The bookstore.” 

Ginny snorted. “Big surprise there.” 

“Did you find anything?” asked Harry, fidgeting nervously. 

“I think so. There were a number of texts that looked promising, but I’ll let you know what I find after I’ve searched them more thoroughly.” 

“What, you bought them?” said Harry. “‘Mione, you shouldn’t… let me pay you back for them at least.” 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Harry,” said Hermione, turning pink, “you aren’t the only one here that’s fighting Voldemort.” 

“Well just let me give you some gold,” he insisted. “I’ve got loads of it, haven’t I?” 

Hermione hesitated, fidgeting. “It’s just… I… well, I didn’t actually pay for them…”

Ron straightened in his chair, his eyebrows shooting up. “You mean you stole them? Hermione Granger? Stole books?! ” 

“No, I…” 

Ginny’s eyes were wide. “ Hermione ,” she scolded, “that isn’t like you.” 

But Harry’s expression remained neutral. “You did what you had to do,” he said. “It’s for the Greater Good.” 

“I didn’t steal them! I… thought it might look a bit odd for a student to purchase such a large number of dark arts texts, so… I… asked erm… Professor Snape to buy them for me.” 

The table was silent for a long moment, each of the others staring at Hermione in horrified shock. Harry was the first to speak. “You WHAT? ” 

“I offered to pay him back, of course, but he insisted…” 

Harry was halfway out of his chair now, leaning across the table toward her. “Hermione!” he hissed in an angry whisper, glancing around to be sure no one was listening. “He’s a spy! How could you trust him with this?! How could you…” 

“I didn’t tell him what they were for!” 

“Oh right!” Ron hissed. “Like he’s not going to put two and two together!” 

“Shhh! Keep your voice down, Ronald.” 

Ron did lower his voice, but that only seemed to make him angrier. His face began to turn red as he continued to berate her. “I can’t believe you’ve let him fool you like this! You’ve always had a soft spot for that greasy git , but this is going too far! Just because you’re sleeping with him…” 

Ronald! That has nothing to do with it! I didn’t tell him anything! ” 

“He’s not wrong, Hermione,” said Harry through gritted teeth. “Dumbledore trusted me with this. The future of the Wizarding World depends on us keeping it a secret. And then you go flaunting it right under the enormous nose of that miserable, bleeding Death Eater! I never should have trusted you.” 

“Harry! It’s not… don’t be like that! Ginny, you understand, don’t you?” 

Ginny’s expression went from shocked to grim. She hesitated. “I think it’s really foolish, what you did, Hermione,” she said, sounding solemn. “You used to be more careful.” 

…*~*J*~*...

Her husband’s attention was fully occupied by his brewing when Hermione returned to their rooms later that day. He was hunched over the cauldron and appeared to be stirring in a figure-8 while dripping a clear liquid in at precise intervals. She was careful not to draw his attention away, though she knew he had noticed her enter. 

The books had been piled on one of the desks in the bedroom, and though they were tied in bundles with Charmed twine, she found herself wondering if he had perused them while she was away. 

Ridiculous. She couldn’t allow her friends’ negativity to infect her marriage. Although, to be fair, she also shouldn’t allow her marriage to infect her good judgement and prioritization of the Cause. On the off chance her husband really was faithful to Voldemort, it was not worth the future of the Wizarding World (and the Muggle world, for that matter) to be so careless with the secrets entrusted to her. Severus, himself, had said as much. Hadn’t he berated her for nearly confessing the topic of her research on the first day she had known about the Horcruxes? It was an argument both for his innocence and for her need to be more careful in the future. She sighed, plopping herself down in the chair and beginning her perusal of the beautiful new books. 

It was getting late when her husband re-entered their bedroom. He looked exhausted, but haughty, smirking arrogantly down at her. 

“I take it you’ve finished, then,” she said, holding back a grin of her own. 

“Indeed,” he said simply. “It only needs to sit a while. Can you wake me in half an hour?” 

Hermione did smirk up at him, then. “Certainly,” she said, doing her best to hide how warm she suddenly felt inside. She watched him collapse onto the bed, still in his boots, and bury his face in the pillow. A rush of affection nearly overwhelmed her at the sight of him stretched out on his stomach, already beginning to snore. 

It was suddenly impossible to focus on her research. All she could think about was the night ahead and having her husband inside of her once more. She wanted to feel his skin against hers, his breath on her face. She wanted to kiss him, to tangle her fingers in his hair. She wanted him to make slow love to her beneath the sheets, to press his lips against her own, to run his talented hands down her body, touching, caressing, appreciating her. 

When the time came to wake him up, Hermione stood over him, just watching him breathe. Tentatively, she reached out to him, resting her hand on his back, feeling his warmth through his linen shirt. She let her hand run over his shoulder blade, enjoying the feel of him, then gave him a little shake. His body lurched then went still again. “Time to get up,” she murmured, taking the opportunity to run her hand down to the middle of his back and up again, ostensibly in an attempt to wake him. But inside, she wanted to crawl on top of him and explore the muscles of his back with her curious fingers. 

“Alright,” he grumbled, turning his head from one side to the other, “I’m awake.” 

Hermione took her cue to leave him alone and returned to her studying. But it was a long moment before he pulled himself out of bed and slumped to the bathroom to get ready for the night ahead. 

…*~*J*~*...

Hot water pounded against Severus’s back. In his drowsy state, he found himself drifting back to the bed, remembering the way her hand had felt, lingering against him. Like an electric charge or some sort of elemental magic, she had sent his heart racing with that simple touch. He’d had to rest a few minutes longer just to quell the surge of arousal. How desperate he would have seemed to her had she seen the bulge in his trousers that her simple touch had kindled. 

He hardly bid his wife farewell when he went to bottle the potion and depart. Lucius was expecting him soon and the earlier he was the earlier he would be permitted to leave. 

Malfoy Manor was a flurry of activity when Severus arrived. True to custom, he was there before any other guest, patiently waiting to present his new invention to a very busy Lucius Malfoy. The Hall had been set in a manner somehow both elegant and lewd.  A few chandeliers hung high in the ceiling, but their light was warm and dim. And candles were set on tables here and there, close to the walls. The middle of the floor remained vacant, as if for a ball, but around the edges of the room sofas and armchairs had been strategically placed. Some angled toward each other, as if for conversation, but others had been turned away from the rest of the room. Emerald green curtains hung at intervals in rich, velvety ribbons from the ceiling to the floor, Charmed so that they could be dragged into different positions. Privacy was clearly a factor that had been given a lot of consideration. 

Servants were darting here and there, setting out dishes and lighting the last of the candles. And Lucius was berating a thin bald man in neat grey robes who appeared to be in charge of the catering. Before he had finished with what appeared to be a scathing critique of the catering staff, Narcissa appeared and made her way across the Hall. “Severus,” she cooed, holding a hand out to him, “such a pleasure to see you.” 

Severus took her hand, bowing his head over it before smirking at her. “Planning to attend this one, Narcissa?” 

She shrugged, her eyes trailing off in the direction of her husband. “I suppose. We will be welcoming a number of… newcomers… this evening. They will expect their host’s wife to submit to his demands. What sort of example would I set for the ideal of the New Order if I were to rebel on such an important occasion?” She gave him a knowing smirk. “I understand Lucius has commissioned you for a special treat this evening.” 

“‘Commissioned’ usually implies payment,” he said, smirking back at her. “But, yes, I have brought a little something that I hope will meet the parameters he set for me.” 

“Well, you will forgive me if I do not partake. I prefer to retain my judgment when surrounded by a hundred total strangers.” 

“I will allow it this once,” he said, winking at her. "Honestly, I don’t intend to indulge for very long tonight, myself. I have a pretty little witch waiting up for my return.” 

“Ah, yes. I heard about that,” she said, smirking up at him. “I’m glad to see you are making the most of the… situation.” 

Severus smirked back at her, giving her a wink as Lucius finally pulled himself away and strode towards them. 

“Severus!” he cried, his arms wide and his grin broad upon his haughty face. “I hope you have something for me.” 

“For you,” said Severus, bowing dramatically to Narcissa’s delighted laughter and presenting Lucius with a beautiful cut glass decanter. Lucius would never accept anything less. 

Lucius’s spirits must have been high, because he hardly responded at all to his brother’s sarcasm. “Lovely, lovely, Severus. Your services are much appreciated. Shall we give it a try?” 

Severus inclined his head, still smirking. “Just a drop will do,” he said. He had engineered the potion to linger for about an hour in the bloodstream. He would have a dose of it now and another a little while later. By then, no one would notice if he neglected to partake again. He would be fully aware and sober with plenty of time to return home to his waiting wife. 

Lucius waved over a servant and Severus was unsurprised when an exquisite young witch in a slinky silver gown appeared, holding a tray of champagne flutes. He gave the blond wizard a knowing look. 

“Well,” said Lucius, sneering wickedly, “tonight is about persuasion, after all.” 

“I take it the Dark Lord will not be in attendance, then?” After all, Lord Voldemort believed such lascivious tactics to be without grace or elegance. He would disdain the whole affair if he knew his right hand man was resorting to such frivolity. 

“The Dark Lord believes it best to introduce newcomers incrementally. Those whom we deem fit for service will be invited again in a month or so. We will exclude any who appear… unworthy.” With that, he uncorked the decanter, grinning in appreciation when he saw that the glass stopper tapered down to an elegantly twisted stirring rod. 

“None for me, Lucius,” said Narcissa in a stern voice, lifting a glass off of the tray. 

Lucius looked disappointed, but inclined his head toward his wife and grinned reluctantly. “As you wish, my darling.” Then he cleared his throat and dipped the stirring rod into the pale blue potion, flicking one droplet into each of the remaining glasses with an elaborate flourish before sealing the decanter and passing it off to another of the catering staff. “To the Dark Lord,” he drawled, raising his glass. 

“The Dark Lord,” echoed Severus and Narcissa. And they drank. 

Severus was fully under the effects of the potion by the time the rest of the guests began to arrive. He had anchored himself beside a column, champagne flute in hand, and was resisting the urge to take another sip. Everything was so beautiful. The black and white marbled floor, the flickering candlelight, vases of white roses with their lush, dark green leaves. The small, but talented orchestra playing in a corner of the room. 

The Hall smelled of fragrant oil and roasted meat and living flowers. And he was excited. It was a nice change to be wined and dined, to drink the finest champagne and eat the most exquisite dishes and listen to the most beautiful music all under the influence of a potion that made those pleasurable experiences all the more divine. 

He watched as Lucius offered his potion to each guest upon arrival, never pressing the ones who declined. They would circle back around later, when they were sure it was what he said it was. And when they had seen the effect it had on the others around them. 

Soon, laughter and pleasant chatter filled the air. Severus found himself talking to Corban Yaxley and, shockingly, enjoying the conversation. In this moment, Yaxley was just another man, and one who knew, better than almost anyone in the world, what Severus had been through, how he had ended up here. Yaxley didn’t judge him for the decisions he had made in his youth. He didn’t condemn him for the things he had done, the beliefs he had held. And it felt good to relax and enjoy the moment with someone who truly understood that and didn’t hate him for it. 

True, Yaxley did hate him for being a traitor the first time around. 

And he was still that traitor, after all. If Yaxley knew that he was betraying their brotherhood even as they spoke… 

NO! He could not allow himself to think like that. This was the potion talking. He needed to tread lightly, and keep that in mind. 

Severus excused himself to peruse the many exquisite dishes on offer at the table at the back of the Hall. He needed to be careful. The potion was strong. He could feel how muddled his brain was, now that he was taking notice. He needed to eat something. He had just filled a plate with a selection of delicacies when Lucius materialized in front of him. “Join me, Severus. I am about to make a toast.” A servant relieved Severus of his plate and handed him another glass of champagne as Lucius sauntered toward the steps at the front of the Hall. Severus was right behind him, taking a strategic place a couple of steps down. 

“My brothers,” began Lucius, once he had gotten the attention of the crowd, “and honoured guests… tonight we celebrate... the future . Though some have doubted, many of us have held onto our faith that the vision we have for the future of our world will come to fruition. I am here to tell you that that future is nigh .” He paused, cut off by a round of excited cheers. “For years we have kept these dreams to ourselves, nourishing them in secret. Our dreams of a world where wizards take their rightful place! Where the magical will no longer be forced to hide away, ruled by the Muggle sheep!” 

Severus had to remind himself to play his part, sneering arrogantly up at his brother while the rest of the room cheered with mounting excitement. 

Together ,” cried Lucius, “we will make this vision a reality! Together we will show the world the might and power of Wizardkind. Banish the impure from our ranks and any who would throw their lot in with such filth.” More cheers. Severus’s heart was hammering in his chest. “My BROTHERS! I am here today to tell you that TOGETHER we will RULE THE WORLD!” 

Lucius raised his glass and Severus turned to see a Hall full of Death Eaters, Ministry officials, and wealthy purebloods all standing together as one, lifting their glasses to the common cause. Part of him was moved by this, as if some invisible force were pulling him to unite with this greater body that had come into being in the moment, drawn together by force of will. And part of him wanted to do anything to break this moment apart, to shatter this unity and the threat it represented to the world, no matter the cost. 

“Severus,” Lucius murmured and Severus turned to see his brother dripping another dose of potion into his own glass. When he held out the stirring rod for Severus, the potions master inclined his head, holding his own glass closer so that Lucius might administer the drug. “To our common goal!” cried Lucius and the Hall rang with echoes and cheers as everyone drank. 

And Severus joined them. 

He had intended to wait longer between doses. But the duration of its effects would not be affected by the overlap. It would cycle out of his system in an hour. This only meant that he was slightly more affected than he had planned to be. But the haze of pleasurable delusion was still navigable at present. He would just have to be sure to decline any additional doses and only drink champagne from here on out. Another hour or so and the excitement of the gathering was sure to lead to further, more private debauchery. Before long, he would be free to slip away unnoticed. 

Severus took a detour to the bathroom in the corridor for a much needed piss. The relief was exquisite. He was washing his hands under taps that were perfectly warm and with soap that frothed delightfully, when a couple practically fell through the door. The woman giggled in a way that would have been obnoxious had he been sober as the man led her eagerly into one of the heavy oak stalls. All sound was abruptly cut off as the door shut behind them and Severus found himself grinning at Lucius’s foresight. 

When he returned to the festivities, he immediately filled a new plate from the offerings at the back of the Hall and considered his strategy for the remainder of the evening. He had intended to trick his brothers into sharing their secrets, but that would have to wait until after he had sobered a little more. At present, he did not trust himself in an open conversation with any of them. 

Severus settled himself onto an empty sofa, picking at the elaborate delicacies and then devouring them hungrily as bite after bite proved better than anything he had ever tasted. He was stuffing his face with foie gras when Narcissa appeared, dropping delicately onto the seat beside him. “That must be quite the potion,” she drawled. He glanced up at her, expecting to find her smirking down at him, but her expression was one of restrained annoyance. And her eyes were focused on something across the room. 

Lucius Malfoy was standing with two of the silver-clad servant-girls, an arm around each one of them and a champagne flute spilling from one of his hands. His expression was arrogant and hungry as he spoke to them, running his hands up and down their silky backs. Severus’s cock was stiff and throbbing before Narcissa spoke again. 

“It isn’t that I didn’t expect this,” she was saying, though her words had ceased to have much meaning. “I have sampled your work in the past and I understand this creation is a bit… stronger… than the other.” 

Severus shook his head, forcibly pulling himself away from the image. He shouldn’t indulge in these emotions. He should block them wherever he could. And anyway, he had a beautiful young wife waiting for him at home. He nearly groaned at the thought of her. My wife. Hermione. She was waiting for him, hoping to talk him into making love to her tonight. And there was nothing he wanted more in the world. 

“Well, aren’t you dull this evening,” Narcissa scolded, giving him a scathing glance as she stood and swept away. 

Damn. She would have been the perfect person to talk to while he waited for the effects of the potion to diminish. Soon, a servant took away his empty plate and Severus was left to sit there all alone. He accepted another flute of champagne, to avoid looking suspicious, and sipped it gingerly as he settled further back into the sofa. No one would judge him for getting comfortable, here. Not when so many others were doing so much more than that in the shadowy alcoves and behind the curtains so strategically placed. His cock throbbed at the thought of it and he turned his attention away. 

The champagne was exquisite. He had never tasted anything so smooth, so perfectly bubbly. Sublime. Each cold, fizzy sip was a mouthful of pleasure. The taste. The feel. That fizzy, soft, chilled, sweet, perfection . When he had finished his glass, he allowed himself to accept another. After all, the potion would be out of his system before long and this was an adequate distraction in the meantime. 

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione had thoroughly examined the first of her collection of dark arts texts by the time nine o’clock rolled around. She hadn’t learned much--at least, not much about Horcruxes--but she was completely worn out. Her husband hadn’t been gone very long, but she wasn’t sure when to expect him, so she decided now was as good a time as any to bathe and prepare herself for him. 

The bath was perfect. She had Charmed the water to remain at the exact temperature she preferred, hot enough to melt in but not hot enough to burn. She took her time lathering her body, imagining that her hands belonged to Severus Snape. And a warm tightness was soon building inside of her, begging for release. 

By ten o’clock, she was perched at her desk in only her dressing gown, flipping through Witch Weekly, ready to jump up at any minute and pretend she had just emerged from the bathroom. Every now and then, she found herself wandering back in there anyway to study the mirror and change her mind about her hair. She kept thinking she should put it up and then failing to make that look any better before giving up and letting it back down. 

But by eleven o’clock, Hermione Granger was beginning to get worried. Surely, her husband was just waiting until the last minute again. Miserable, selfish, idiot man! Surely, he hadn’t been held up in any way. They knew now what the consequences would be if they failed to meet the weekly deadline. How could he let her wait in anxious frustration like this? How could he have so little compassion for her nerves? 

…*~*J*~*...

Soft bubbling fizz. Ohhhhh sooooo fizzy and sooooo sweet and soooo “ Mmmmmmmm… ” 

“It’s good, isn’t it?” Perfect perfect perfect.  “Sir?” 

Severus’s eyes drifted away from the glass. A girl. All silver and curves and wavy brown hair. Like Hermione. “Mmmmmmm…” 

“I’m not supposed to drink it,” she whispered, settling down on his knee and draping an arm around the back of his neck. “But I did anyway.” 

Breasts. Arse. Waist. Hair. Such a sweet perfume. The world was a haze of pleasure. Severus moaned into her mouth.

Someone else was there, handing him another glass. He drained it in one luxurious gulp. Giggling girls. One on each thigh. Whispering in his ear. All softness and sweet perfume. And painful, urgent need. 

“Want to close the curtains?” someone whispered. Severus didn’t care about the curtains. He just wanted more of this. More pleasure. And also... relief . Little fingers at his trousers. Unbuttoning. He moaned. 

Severus! ” someone was snapping at him. He ignored it. Little giggles. Sweet breath. 

SEVERUS! ” Pain. Sharp yet distant. Surprising. Sudden clarity. His cheek was stinging. It was Narcissa. She was standing over him, glaring down at him, her expression something between disgust and concern. “Severus, he spiked the champagne.” 

Nonsense. He knew that. He watched the man do it. 

Her mouth tasted like champagne. “Severus…” Silky hair between his fingers. “ Severus …” And someone’s fingers at his buttons, once again. “ SEVERUS!!! ” And again, he resurfaced. “Do you understand me? The champagne. He spiked the champagne!” 

It was the concern in her voice that snapped him out of it. He had been absent. He had not been vigilant. He had lost control. And then the words she had spoken registered in his lust-addled mind. The champagne. Oh gods! Lucius had spiked it all. It was all contaminated. And he… he didn’t know how many glasses he’d consumed. OH GODS! He needed to get out of there. He wasn’t in control. He wasn’t safe. 

He was stumbling across the room. 

Down the darkened corridor. 

Out onto the lawn. 

It was so beautiful. Everything was covered in a layer of sparkling white. Pale orbs of light had been set here and there around the garden like miniature moons. It was magical.  

And he needed to get the hell out of it. 

The Hogwarts Grounds. He was crossing the Hogwarts Grounds. He didn’t remember Apparating, but here he was. His panic eased momentarily and he succumbed once more. 

The snow crunched so perfectly beneath his boots. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. It had been so long since he had relished in the feeling of it. So long since he had been without a care in the world, able to live in the moment. Even the chill of the wind on his face was a sharp pleasure. Delightful. He could die of this exquisite frozen bliss. 

He needed to get inside. 

The corridors were dark, but he knew the way. He needed to get home. 

Home. To Hermione.  

Severus moaned aloud. Finally, he was going home to his wife. To his beautiful wife. His eager, virginal wife. She would be more than willing to...

NO! No no no no no. He needed to regain control. He needed to rein himself in. He needed to take his All Purpose Sober-Up Solution. Severus halted his steps as dread rose up from deep within his addled mind. Except he couldn’t take his Sober-Up Solution. Not so soon after the last time. It could kill him. He would just have to control himself until the potion was… out of… out of his...

He was walking again. Toward home. Marvelling at the mysterious quiet of the night. Darkness billowed all around him. And he was one with it. He was only a trail of thought and sensation in a sea of unending black. 

And here was his door. 

Darkness, warmth, the welcoming glow of a fire in the grate and a few candles lit around the room. Home. The sense of safety and comfort seeped through Severus’s skin, deep into his bones. He leaned against the wall. 

Distantly, he was aware that someone was trying to get his attention. “Are you alright,” she was saying, “can I do anything?” 

Hermione

He nearly moaned in recognition. She was right there in front of him. A single form in a world of twisting light. His wife . He registered her appearance in flashes as the world spun around him. Soft dressing gown. Wild tangle of hair. Golden eyes peering out of the ether and fixed on him. Exquisite. A goddess made flesh . He wanted to pull her into his arms and feel every curve of her body up against his own. 

“Saturday night,” she was saying. He knew that meant something. Something important. But his mind was focused on her height and her proximity, the delicate floral scent that seemed to emanate from her. 

Perfect beauty.

“Nearly midnight,” she continued, and he registered distress. It was enough to make him snap out of his trance and focus for a moment on her words. Oh gods. It was Saturday night. They had nearly missed the deadline. They needed to… They needed to… Ohhhhh Merlin

“S-sorry,” he slurred. His tongue felt thick in his mouth. His words sounded strange. “I’m… I’ll… just...” His fingers found the front of his frock coat and made it as far as the first button before his focus drifted away once again. The fine wool had such a lovely, stiff texture. The buttons were so perfectly round. He ran his fingers up and down the line of them, slowly, lingering. 

“Do you need me to help, Professor?” she asked, sounding anxious and a little annoyed. 

Severus moaned. He could think of nothing he would rather have happen to him right now than for Hermione Granger to undress him. Those delicate fingers fumbling with his buttons. “Mmmmm, yes ” he moaned, dropping his hands and leaning back against the wall. He stared down at her as she stepped forward, all virginal hesitance, and began to make quick work of his tightly fixed facade. She pulled off his frock coat and the button-up he wore underneath, then crouched before him on the floor. 

Hermione hesitated before beginning on the buttons of her husband’s trousers. It was hard to miss the enormous bulge. Last time she had undressed the man, he had been completely flaccid, without the slightest desire to do anything other than go to sleep. Now, however, he was visibly drunk and very ready for their weekly routine. It was enough to make her pulse leap and her stomach squeeze itself into knots. A warm tightness bothered her right between her legs. She shook her head. 

His cock sprang loose when she pulled his trousers down. Heat flooded her face and she tried to ignore the way it bounced then stiffened further before her very eyes. He moaned aloud and she thought her cheeks would catch fire. 

Severus opened his eyes, taking in the sight of his Hermione on her knees before him. He imagined the way it would feel if she took him into her mouth. 

A flash of panic. A moment of clarity. What the hell was he doing? He couldn’t go through with this in such a state!

But then she was standing and staring up at him in alarm, one hand on the sash of her dressing gown while the other toyed with the edge where it covered her breasts. And suddenly all he could think was how very much he wanted her to take that ridiculous covering off. 

“Are you… ready?” she asked him, sounding hesitant. 

“Ohhhhh, yes ,” he moaned. She hesitated, then let the garment drop. Flawless. Naked. Mine. He was about to reach for her, but she turned and climbed onto the bed, giving him the most delicious view of her round arse and just a glimpse of her raw pink fanny. 

Hermione’s whole body was taut with embarrassed arousal. She knew the man would be mortified when he remembered this night, but it was hard to keep that in mind with the way his black eyes roved over her and the way his deep voice sounded when he moaned. So primal. So uninhibited by his usually stoic facade. 

She stared at the ceiling, heat burning her cheeks, her quick pulse pounding in her chest and between her legs, as he climbed clumsily onto the bed. She felt so vulnerable and bare with him hovering over her, one hand and one knee on either side. And she couldn’t keep her gaze from drifting to his naked form. His skin was so pale and his hair so dark. His eyes were clouded with arousal and drink, a little red where they should have been white. And his cock was pulsing slightly between his legs, so swollen and purple that it almost looked strained. 

In one clumsy movement that may have been accidental, he lowered himself down onto her, then groaned. His cheek was pressed against her cheek, his chest against the tips of her bare breasts. He reached a hand down between them to push her thighs apart and gasped hot breath into her hair. He couldn’t seem to stop touching her, running his hand along the length of her thigh, squeezing the tender flesh with reverence. A tiny whimper escaped her throat and he seemed to remember himself, freezing above her before resuming his task of pushing her legs apart and settling himself between them. 

His face was just inches above hers now, but he wasn’t meeting her eye. He had braced himself up on one arm and was focusing on his other hand, where it fumbled with his cock between her legs.

When the tip first brushed against her waiting quim, his mouth fell open and his eyes fell closed. He rubbed it back and forth between her folds in a slow, deliberate way that made the slick friction send pleasant tingles up her spine. “Gods,” he whispered, opening his eyes to stare down at her in awe, “how are you this wet?” 

Hermione bit back a moan. Her body was throbbing in response to his ministrations. She bit her lip, lust spiking again at the expression he gave her, his eyes darting to her mouth. Some part of her knew she shouldn’t egg him on, but that wasn’t the part of her speaking right now. “I’ve been thinking about this all day,” she confessed, and she delighted in the way his brow furrowed and his jaw grew slack as he began to push himself inside. He did so slowly, deliberately, bending closer to her with each short thrust, so that by the time he was buried to the hilt, his face was buried in her hair. 

She could feel his warmth, smell his hair, feel his breath against her ear. His skin was sticky with the first sheen of sweat and his wiry hair tickled her skin where they touched; at her breasts, at her belly, and where their bodies met between her legs. She closed her eyes, trying to memorize this feeling, trying to imagine him finishing the job, but already he was pulling away. 

When he sank into her a second time, her eyes flew open and her cheeks flamed with embarrassment, assuming that he had lost his balance. But then he was thrusting into her again and again and Hermione gasped in shock and arousal at the realization that he was fucking her. 

At the sound of her gasp, he froze, pulling away just far enough to look down at her as his eyes grew wide and his expression morphed into one of horror. And she knew that she should let him pull away, but she couldn’t bear to let that happen, to let this end and have him think he had trespassed when she had welcomed him. “Please,” she said, before she could give it any more thought. And her hand came up to tangle in his hair. 

He gasped, his expression shifting to one of agony and want. He bent forward and buried his face in her hair, breathing her in, pressing his lips against her ear in a gesture so reverent that Hermione gasped. One hand came up to squeeze her breast. Then he was rocking against her again, grinding hard with each thrust, as if lapping up every ounce of pleasure. Hermione moaned. 

Suddenly, his mouth was covering her own. His mouth. Her husband’s mouth. Severus Snape’s mouth was pressed against hers in a rough, sloppy kiss. She froze, taken aback, as he moaned and thrust his tongue between her teeth, slanting his mouth this way and that against her own. 

And suddenly Hermione realized that she was not in control. Her professor was out of his mind, fucking her with no inhibitions, thinking only of his own immediate needs. His mouth trailed down her cheek to her neck as he writhed against her; his slow, savoring movements giving way to something eager and desperate. And she knew that she should have been afraid. But something had awakened deep inside of her and all she could feel was a carnal desire to have this man take his pleasure in her flesh. 

Soon, he was slamming against her, panting into her hair. His cock was almost painfully large. She could feel him all the way in her stomach, each thrust causing a sharp pleasure to build inside of her. She should have been embarrassed. She should have pulled away. She should have done something to bring him back to their shared reality. But instead, she whimpered with pleasure and desperate need, digging her nails into the skin of his back and tangling her fingers in his hair as she writhed beneath him. 

He growled deep in his throat. “ Ohhhhh fuck, he hissed as his rhythm grew anxious and erratic. Somehow she knew he was about to orgasm. “N-no,” she whispered, pushing on his shoulders, “ don’t. ” Suddenly, he was pulling out and freezing above her, pumping a tight fist over his swollen cock and letting out a harsh, broken gasp as hot seed spilled across her stomach and breasts in several long spurts. For a moment, he was as still as a statue, his expression a study in agonized bliss. Then his limbs seemed to give out and he collapsed onto the bed beside her, panting hard in the dungeon air. 

Hermione’s eyes went wide. She ran a finger through the warm, viscous fluid on her belly. In some ways, seeing his come seemed more intimate and forbidden than everything else. For a moment, she stared at the ceiling in shock, knowing that she had crossed a line, knowing that he would be furious about this tomorrow. 

Banishing the mess, she was about to pull away and climb out of bed to retrieve her pajamas when he rolled toward her, draping an arm across her, and pressing his lips to her temple. He yawned into her hair and ran his hand down the length of her body, brushing a thumb over her nipple, squeezing her hip. And she couldn’t make herself pull away. Instead, she found herself turning toward him, curling up in his arms, her knees pressed against his, her head tucked under his chin.

He kissed her once more on the top of the head and she allowed herself the single tenderness of kissing the spot in the middle of his chest, delighting in the tickle of his hair and the intimacy of his sweat on her lips. Soon, he was gently snoring and Hermione snuggled up against him and allowed herself to try to fall asleep. 

…*~*J*~*...

Please Review!!!

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llorolalluvia

Chapter Text

AN: Thank you all sooooo much for your continued support!!! I’m SO SORRY it’s been SO LONG! AGAIN! I’M TERRIBLE! Actually, writing lately has not come as easily as it did in the past and I think there are a number of reasons for that. But you guys keep me going with your Reviews and PMs reminding me that I’m not the only one who cares about this story. So THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who Reviewed the last chapter!!! Y’all really keep me going. Reviews are like candy to me. 

This is a relatively short chapter, but there’s a lot to it. I want to reiterate that I’m starting to include a bit more Canon, but it’s not in Canon order… so they are in their 7th year at Hogwarts in this story. Anyway, without further adieu: 

CHAPTER 20!!!!

…*~*J*~*...

He woke in glimpses. 

A flash of heat against his skin. The scent of sweat and sex. A pang of regret. 

It was dark and the girl was curled up in his arms, her bushy hair a soft tangle beneath his chin, her naked skin sticky against his own. 

Oh gods, what have I done?

The girl was gone. His bed was cold. His head was aching so acutely it felt like a sound. She would never forgive him.

He wanted to curl up and die.

It was nausea that rent him from his bed, sending him stumbling toward the bathroom in a jumble of naked limbs. 

Penance. This was only the start.

…*~*J*~*...

Hermione kept her eyes downcast as she stirred her breakfast around her plate. Flashes of memory from the night before kept intruding on her mind. His mouth on her ear, hot breath in her hair. His callused fingertips rough against the skin of her breast. The way he had rocked against her. 

Reverently.

Then greedily. 

It made her face hot to remember; and a now-familiar tightness formed between her legs.

She could still picture him crouched above her, his fist pumping hard, his face twisted in ecstasy. That velvety voice made rough as he groaned like a feral beast, hot seed pouring out across her flesh. 

She cringed. Had she ruined everything? 

All she had wanted was to push past the awkwardness between them and enjoy whatever tenderness or… pleasure they could find together. Now, though she wanted that more than ever, she could hardly bear to think about their first real time together without hating herself and dreading the next time she had to deal with the man. 

But she couldn't put it off forever. She had work to do today and all of her books were back in his rooms. 

…*~*J*~*...

Severus panted over the bowl, his grip relaxing momentarily. But his mind seized the opportunity to flicker through his many horrifying memories of the night before. 

Gods. He had assaulted her. There was no other way to describe it. He could still remember everything in painstaking detail. After all, his genius potion did nothing to hinder memory.

He could still picture her beneath him, so beautiful, so trusting. He could feel the softness of her skin; remember her tight warmth. So wet. So willing. 

Her hair, so soft against his face. Her mouth. He cringed. He had thrust his tongue into her innocent mouth. He had ravaged her. And she hadn't known how to respond. 

His body seized over the bowl again as he retched. It was purely acid now, burning his mouth and his nasal cavity as he choked and heaved. 

He deserved every ounce of this.

…*~*J*~*...

Tiptoeing through his Potions lab, Hermione silently prayed that he would still be asleep. It was late morning now, but he had stayed in bed longer than this on better days, so there was hope. 

She nudged the door to his bedroom open as quietly as she could manage and was immediately greeted by sounds of retching coming from the bathroom. Her anxiety fled in the wake of her concern and she found herself running toward the open door. 

"Are you alright?"

He was naked on the bathroom floor, hunched over the bowl, vulgar, grotesque, a study in pain.

"Bloody hell, Granger," he rasped. 

She yanked away, leaning against the wall outside the bathroom and squeezing her eyes shut in shame. "Sorry! Can I do anything for you?

"No," he croaked, spitting audibly. And then, "Actually…" he hesitated.

"Yes?"

"Would you… hand me a dressing gown? Just inside the wardrobe."

"Yes." 

She retrieved the dressing gown and handed it to him through the door, doing her best to avert her eyes, then withdrew to stand awkwardly in the middle of the bedroom. Should she leave? There was so much she needed to say and he clearly expected to talk to her or he wouldn't be making an effort to cover himself. 

When Severus emerged from the bathroom, he looked green and thin, his face sour and sick. There was a dull, dead look in his eyes, which were averted. His head hung low. "I can't… possibly… apologize enough…" he began, but she cut him off. 

"Please don't," she said and he looked up at her in surprise. "I knew you were intoxicated. I should have stopped you, but I pushed you to continue. It's my fault."

He stared at her in alarmed surprise for a moment before lowering his gaze again, his brow furrowing. "I was… out of my mind," he told her. "But I remember…" He cringed, shifting uncomfortably at the sudden horrible recollection. "It wouldn't have…" he broke off, swallowing visibly, seeming to reconsider his words. "If I had been… sober… it… would have been…" he paused, shaking his head, more to himself than to her, "different."

Hermione's cheeks flamed, less from his words than from the confession she now knew she had to make. "I… feel guilty," she began, turning her gaze to the floor, "not just because I should have stopped you, but… because… I… enjoyed it." 

She met his eyes, watching them go wide a moment before he jerked away, launching himself into the bathroom and retching noisily again. 

Hermione darted forward, stopping at the door. "Oh no! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you!" She remembered herself and swung back against the wall outside the bathroom, cringing at the ceiling. "I just… wanted to be honest. You can hate me for it if you want to. I won't blame you. I just hated the way we were… handling this… ridiculous…"

"No...," he said in a reluctant voice, "you were right about that." 

Hermione allowed herself to peek around the corner. He had collapsed against the wall opposite the toilet, looking drained. 

He sighed. "It was foolish to think that my little cheat would make our… situation any better."

He met her eye and she gave him a small, sympathetic smile.

"I suppose," he continued, glancing away when it was clear she had no response, "I had thought that you… wouldn't want to… be subjected to anything more than what was absolutely necessary."

Hermione was very still. It occurred to her that he was being more open and vulnerable now than he had ever been before. She could feel how tenuous the ground was between them. It would be so easy to muck this all up. 

And suddenly the way ahead was so startlingly clear. She felt like a fool. All this time she had wasted trying to make him want her. All those ridiculous tips from that ridiculous magazine. They had all been an act, a ploy, a means of distancing herself from any real vulnerability on her part. And that was what he needed, she realized. How could she expect him to open up to her if she couldn't do it, herself? 

Sighing, she stepped into the bathroom and eased herself down onto the floor beside him, leaning her head back against the wall. 

"The truth is…" she began, fixing her gaze on the cabinet so as to avoid glancing over at him, "I've always had a great deal of admiration for you. And living with you has only improved my opinion."

He scoffed in disbelief and she hurried to continue before he could interrupt.

"That's not to say that you're a picnic. You can be a real arse sometimes." She flashed him a smirk and noted the hesitant way he was watching her, his eyes narrowed in apparent suspicion. But he didn't interrupt. "But I think we get on pretty well, all things considered. And it's… It's refreshing… having someone to talk to who's interested in… the sorts of things that interest me." 

He snorted. "You are interested in all manner of things."

"No. Not everything," she protested softly, "not Quidditch. Not petty gossip." 

He had gone very still. "There is a whole world out there, you know. I'm far from the only academic…"

"I know that. And there are others of my acquaintance who fit that description, as well. I'm not writing you a love letter, Severus Snape. I'm only saying… I like you. I enjoy spending time with you. And I don't think it's so wrong for us to… find some joy in the circumstances in which we have happened to find ourselves."

He let out an exaggerated sigh. "I can't see that you are wrong about that." 

She studied his profile, her mouth quirking up at the corner. "So… does that mean…"

"Yes, I suppose it does." He gave her a furtive glance. "As long as you still…"

"Yes. Yes, of course." 

He nodded, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall. "Very well then."

"Good."

"Good."

She hesitated. "And erm… I was also thinking that… we should really move it to Friday nights. We… really cut it close last night and… there's a lot on the line." 

His eyes popped open and he stared at the opposite wall in horror for a long moment. "Yes. How dangerously irresponsible of me."

Hermione shrugged. Knowing what they now knew of the contractual magic that the Ministry had used to bind them together in matrimony, it had been a grievous risk indeed to leave so little room for error. But he was giving himself a hard enough time about it without her adding to his guilt, so she dismissed his admission with a murmured "you were out of your mind."

With that, she climbed to her feet and was about to slip out of the room when his hesitant voice made her stop and turn back to look at him. "Granger," he muttered, his own gaze fixed on the tops of his knees. "Living with you has been… more agreeable... than I had imagined it would be."

She smirked down at him, hearing the confession for what it was. After all, that was probably the closest Severus Snape would ever come to admitting that he liked her too. 

…*~*J*~*...

Over the next few days, they fell into a new, quiet understanding. They didn't speak much, but the silence between them was easy and even… companionable. Hermione pretended to be afraid of him, when others could see, and he began to greet her with a smile whenever she returned to their rooms. 

She was spending more time in Gryffindor Tower now. Harry had insisted that she keep her new dark arts texts there. He didn't trust Snape not to examine them further in an attempt to discover the secrets Dumbledore had entrusted to them. 

And the texts, themselves, had finally begun to bear fruit. So far, they had learned that the piece of soul concealed within the horcrux could only be killed if the horcrux itself was destroyed beyond the potential for magical repair. Knowing this, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by what lay ahead. And yet, at least they were beginning to understand what they were up against.

Wednesday night, Hermione returned to their rooms after several hours brainstorming with the boys to find her husband already preparing for bed. He hadn't slept much all week and still hadn't seemed to have recovered a bit from the damage he'd done to his body Saturday night, so she was relieved when he collapsed into the bed and was promptly snoring. The exhaustion must have finally caught up with him, as he hadn't even bothered to take his Dreamless Sleep.

Hermione stayed up a while longer, working on an essay for Professor Flitwick that she hadn't had time for all week and stroking Crookshanks, who had settled himself happily on her lap. It was well after midnight when she dressed for bed and curled up next to her professor. He looked so peaceful, despite the dark circles under his eyes, and it was all she could do to keep from kissing the bridge of his overlarge nose.

She was just drifting off to sleep, disjointed images of cursed amulets and Slytherin smirks dancing behind her eyes, when the fire roared to life, causing her to flinch awake. 

"Severus!" cried the hoarse voice of Albus Dumbledore. "Help! Quick!" 

Severus Snape had flinched awake, himself, and was staring down at her in dazed confusion.

"Severus!" Albus cried, his voice strained, "Quick! My office!" 

Suddenly her professor was ripping off the covers, snatching his wand off the bedside table and stumbling toward the fireplace. He summoned a dressing gown without saying a word and disappeared, barefoot and bare-chested, through the floo.

…*~*J*~*...

Severus stumbled into Albus's office, throwing a dressing gown around his shoulders as he glanced around the room. 

The Headmaster was crumpled on the floor nearby, leaning back against the gnarled wood of his desk. Severus practically threw himself down beside the man.

"What is it, Albus? What's happened?"

"I am afraid I've made a grievous error, old friend," said the wizened man. 

Severus's stomach dropped. It must be grave indeed for Albus to speak to him in such a way. "What happened?" he snapped again, his patience running thin.

"My hand," said the old man, revealing the appendage, which he had been clutching tenderly. 

Severus recoiled in horror, cursing at the shock of seeing the other man's flesh in such a state of rapid decay. "What did you do?" He growled, casting a series of diagnostic spells, his eyes growing wide as the black rot visibly spread down the other man's wrist. He knew a scant few spells that might slow the progress of the nasty curse, but he'd never seen anything like it before. 

"I'm afraid I may have come into contact with a bit of dark magic," said Albus, smiling as if there were any humor to be found here.

Severus glared at him, his eyes barely flickering away from his work for a second. "You don't say." He finished one enchantment and cast another diagnostic spell, cursing when he saw how little his work had done. 

"It was a cursed object," Albus continued as Severus murmured another incantation over his hand. "I should have known better than to touch it."

Severus cursed. "What the bloody hell could have possessed you…" he snarled, but Dumbledore cut him off. 

"It was an error in judgment, Severus. You must allow this old man the occasional foolish mistake."

"This mistake may well have cost you your life." 

Dumbledore was silent for a moment. "Can you stop it, Severus?" 

The Slytherin met his employer's eye, hesitating long enough to convey his regret. "For now, I can only slow it down. But I will do some research. There may yet be a cure, but for the moment…"

"How long, Severus?" The old man's voice was weak and sad. Severus wished he would stop using his name, stop making it sound like a plea and at the same time a sentimental caress. "How long do I have?"

Severus didn't want to answer, didn't want to think that this was really happening, right before his eyes. "It's difficult to say. We'll monitor its progression, but for now, I think… months? Perhaps."

Albus closed his eyes, leaning back against the desk. When he opened them, there was a twinkle shining through the deep sadness that had been there moments before. "Thank you, Severus. You have been a great help. I think I can manage from here."

Severus glared at the older man as he helped him to his feet and into the chair behind his ancient desk. "I will do what I can to research this curse, Albus, but I make no promises."

"Of course not," said Albus, suddenly sounding as old as he actually was, "no one is asking you to.”

"You need rest, old man. Let me help you to your bed."

"No, no. I have work yet to finish tonight. I will manage, when the time comes."

"But…"

"No 'but's, Severus. Go on. You have been most helpful, this evening." 

Severus's shoulders drooped, but he nodded, turning back toward the fireplace. "Goodnight Albus."

"Goodnight Severus."

He reached for the floo powder and was just about to throw down a pinch of the stuff when Albus's voice piped up again. 

"And Severus," he said, causing the other man to turn back around. His eyes were twinkling and there was a faint smile on his exhausted face. "I quite like your new pajamas."

…*~*J*~*...

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