Severus supposed he couldn’t be surprised that ignoring any and all news from wizarding Britain would bite him in the ass.
After the Ministry threw an Order of Merlin at him, the public made it quite clear that Severus wasn’t welcome anymore. He’d agreed. So he’d hopped the pond and ended up in New York City, where a few quick investments and several new potions patents turned into a burgeoning financial empire. His citizenship in wizarding Britain was kept exclusively to make importation easier, and to allow him to retain his house at Spinner’s End--which, despite being dilapidated and awful, was still something he couldn’t bear to let go.
His life was solitary. His vice presidents ran most of the day-to-day work of a mass produced potions business, while he was free to roll in the money and continue his research. When he needed socialization, he attended a muggle book club. He didn’t make friends, and his only heir was a hairless kneazle named Goblin. And, well, Draco, he supposed. Not that the boy needed more money.
For the past five years, he’d ignored everything from Britain save the occasional correspondence from Draco. Draco’s wedding to Harry Potter had been the sole event that had brought Severus back to England, and even then he just dropped off his gift, snatched some of the fine wine, and portkeyed back to New York.
So when an owl arrived with a Ministry seal, Severus felt like the debt he’d worked so hard to clear himself from had chased him halfway across the world.
He cracked open the letter and his stomach plummeted.
Dear citizen of wizarding Britain,
In the wake of the disastrous Second Wizarding War the Wizengamot has unanimously decided to revive the ancient Marriage Law. As a halfblood wizard, you have been matched with muggleborn candidates via arithmantic equations. These equations take into account your magical compatibility and any possibility of soulmate magic. You must select one of these candidates to become your legally wedded spouse.
The rest of the letter was a thinly veiled threat to put him on the international wizarding criminal list if he didn’t show back up and pick a muggleborn to rut with like some beast in heat. The law itself, outlining the aforementioned rutting, followed. Then came the list itself.
Congratulations, SEVERUS TOBIAS SNAPE! You have been matched with the following witches.
There was only one name. Severus’ world shattered at the next three words.
HERMIONE JEAN GRANGER.
Severus looked out the window of his sixty-fourth floor flat. He briefly considered tossing himself out the window, but the thought of Goblin having to endure Malfoy stopped him.
Fine. He wouldn’t take the coward’s way out. He would return to Britain and solve this like an adult: hexing as many Ministers as necessary to get off the list.
He stood up, finding Goblin’s travel carrier and packing a small suitcase of clothes. He dressed differently now. All black suits and black shirts, with high collars to hide the scars from Nagini, and emerald green ties. Shrinking his suitcase, he let his house elf secretary know that he’d be out of the country for a while, tucked Goblin into the carrier, and portkeyed to London.
Severus had long ago installed a permanent portkey to Spinner’s End, in the necessity of a swift exit. (Some habits never died. Paranoia was one of those.) He arrived with a flash in the dusty living room.
The house was decrepit and in shambles. His wards had held, but the place itself felt colorless and long ago drained of life, like a dementor had permeated the place with its energy.
Kneeling down, he released Goblin from the travel carrier. A quick scratch under the hairless kneazle’s chin comforted the cat after the portkey.
“I’ll be back tonight, to clean up and make this place liveable for you,” he told the cat. “But I need to find someone with a copy of the law.”
Severus put on his long black travelling coat and apparated to Malfoy Manor.
He landed on the cobblestone walkway up to the Manor. It was drizzling. Wards were in place, but a gentle push told him that Draco had still keyed them to let him through.
That boy is going soft, he thought to himself to cover the twinge of sentimentality. Had Draco hoped that one day, Severus would return? He hadn’t known that his godson was so fond of him.
The charms on his travel coat kept away the water as Severus took his time walking up the way to the Manor. The gardens had been almost completely renovated, and Severus noted several pavilions that looked like they could be used to hold the charity galas that Draco was now so fond of. His insides mixed about uneasily at the familiar sights, but there had been a lot of modernization.
Massive ebony double doors opened up in front of him, and several house elves bowed. “Master Severus,” one of them said, one that was distantly familiar to Severus. “Welcome to Malfoy Manor. Please follow us. We will alert the Master.”
Severus nodded, following silently into the remodeled parlor. The place had gotten a great deal more homely and cozy, and he noted with quiet interest a couple of brochures on adoption. Were the Malfoy-Potters thinking of adoption?
There was Draco now. Severus turned just in time to get embraced in a full-on hug by a pajama’d Draco. (That’s right, what time was it? He’d forgotten about time differences.)
“Draco,” Severus said, but his voice cracked, his throat suddenly very tight and dry. “Hello.”
“I’m so happy to see you!” Draco was definitely crying. He released Severus to gesture towards the dining room. “Come on, let’s get you food. What do you want? The elves are absolutely wonderful after Hermione came through and taught Harry and I how to work with them.”
Hermione. The name curled Severus’ blood. He suddenly lost his appetite. “Maybe some coffee.”
Draco frowned at him. “Oh no. You’re not getting out of food, godfather. Here, let me take your jacket.” He practically dragged the jacket off of Severus’ frame. “You clearly haven’t been taking care of yourself still. And don’t give me bullshit about the company being hard to run, we all know you really just give the orders and make the potions.”
Severus was silent, taking the chair that Draco pulled out. He was not hungry, especially not in this massive hall. Draco sat beside him, calling over the elves to order something hearty but easy on the stomach. They arrived after a moment with banana bread, butter, and eggs.
“I take it that you’re here because the Ministry got you?” Draco asked conversationally as Severus deigned to have some of the food.
In response, Severus just pulled out the scroll and handed it to Draco. He watched in slight bemusement, with a mouthful of banana bread and eggs, as the boy’s mouth dropped.
“Hermione? Oh, that’s great!” he said, beaming. “I mean, I know you think you hate her, but she’s much better. Promise. And then we can be brothers-in-law!”
Severus arched a brow, still silent.
“Hermione’s family adopted Harry in the muggle world,” Draco explained with a shrug. “And Harry adopted Hermione in the magic world. They’re siblings now.”
He didn’t even bother responding to that. Instead, he took another bite of banana bread.
“I wasn’t even sure you still had your citizenship here,” Draco muttered. “I’m not sure what the law has about multiple citizenships. Let me get my copy.”
He conjured a scroll and was looking through it when Severus finally decided to speak. “It doesn’t matter what the law says. I’m here to hex Ministers until they release me from this insipid law.”
Draco laughed. “That’s the spirit. Although I don’t know what that’ll do for your international reputation. Your best chance might be to marry now, wait until the law inevitably gets repealed at all the public outrage, and divorce Hermione then.”
“That is assuming she agrees to marry me.”
There was a meaningful pause, and then Draco looked up, his eyebrows raised. “You do realize, godfather,” he said with the sort of level tone that often came with proclamations of doom, “You were her only candidate. She was absolutely certain you would never assent, so she’s already agreed.”
“Is that why she’s my only candidate?”
Draco shook his head. “No, that’s not it at all. She’s been trying to get her hands on the arithmantic calculations they’re using--with limited success so far--but the only incidences of having single candidates that we’ve heard of have been for soulmates.”
Soulmates. The word made Severus suddenly regret his oddly timed breakfast. “That notion is ridiculous.”
Shrugging, Draco tapped the scroll. “There’s no exclusions for multiple citizenships,” he said. “We’ll bring you to the Ministry later today--it’s four in the morning, godfather--and then you can decide what to do.” He held out the scroll with the law, which Severus snatched up and secreted on his person, followed by his letter from the Ministry.
“I will take the time to study the law,” Severus informed him.
His godson nodded. “Do you need a place to stay?” he asked. “We’ve got plenty of rooms.”
“With all due fondness, Draco,” he said, standing, “I do not think I could stay here if my life depended on it.”
Draco also stood, pulling him into another hug. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m here if you need anything. I… I missed you, godfather.”
Severus hesitated, then returned the hug. “I missed you too,” he admitted. “I’ll be at Spinner’s End.”
“Alright. Meet us at the Ministry, eight o’ clock.”
Severus stopped by the liquor store on his way back to Spinner’s End. It was open 24/7, which was definitely illegal, but also definitely profitable in a place like Cokeworth. Then, returning to his ramshackle abode with a bottle of the store’s most expensive whiskey, Severus set about to read the law.
Three and a half hours did not yield anything promising besides a slight buzz. He took a potion to sober up before he headed out, making sure Goblin had access to food and water. The kneazle was quite contented in his spot on the sofa.
Then he went to Diagon.
The streets were crowded, but the people parted in his path. He wasn’t sure if it was the eternal, well-practiced glower, or the black travelling coat, or the fact that he was Severus Snape. The whispers in his wake told him it was all three.
He arrived at the Ministry and secured a lift (empty, as no one else seemed particularly keen to ride with him when he was in such a clearly bad mood) and ascertained the floor with the marriage offices. A large, heavily warded sign declared, PLEASE WAIT TO BE ASSISTED.
Severus saw no personnel to hex, so he opted to wait for Draco to get there and set about laying several hefty jinxes that would only be triggered by marriage ministry personnel.
There was an obnoxious DING! and the lift opened again. Severus turned around from his jinxing to see Draco, Harry, a gorgeous woman, and another man he didn’t recognize.
The woman was wearing a full suit, wayfarer-frame glasses, and her long golden-brown hair up in a polished twist. She was stunning, with how her heels clicked on the marble floor and the way her eyes flashed. Severus’ mouth suddenly became very dry. Of course he would find the first attractive woman he’d seen in twenty years on the very day of his government-mandated marriage. Fate never liked him anyway.
She was talking, clearly giving instructions to the man he didn’t recognize. “No, Roan, I’ll deal with the basilisk skeleton myself. I don’t want Credgeworth touching those fangs, he doesn’t know how to deal with the toxins anyhow. I want you to head over to the Archives and see what you can dig up on this abominable law.” She stopped midway through the lobby to pull a piece of paper from a briefcase and hand it to the man, presumably named Roan. “I’ll fucking double-check their homework if I have to.” That comment made Severus smile.
“Yes, ma’am,” Roan said.
“This is the permit for you to check out the books. Got it? I’ll handle the arithmancy calculations once I’m back.” She stood proud, confident, her golden eyes filled with an undeniable, inevitable power. And yet he still didn’t recognize her. Severus was certain he would’ve remembered such a creature, so fascinating and so at ease with the dangerous and complex magics she was discussing.
Roan nodded. “I’ll tell the Master of the Archives you sent me.”
“Yes. That’ll be perfect.”
Draco hurried over while the woman talked to Harry briefly. “Godfather,” he said, greeting Severus with another hug. “How are you?”
Severus just arched a brow. That was a question Draco ought to know the answer to. He nodded to Harry’s friend. “Who is that woman? She’s stunning.” Her attitude was as attractive as her looks. She took charge with ease and a competency Severus hadn’t seen in years. “Of course I would find an attractive woman the day I get married.”
Draco was staring at him. “You don’t… oh, Merlin.”
Just then, a door opened from within the Marriage Department another woman came out. She was round and curly-haired and while cute, certainly nothing on the force of personality in the lobby. That was likely Granger, Severus decided. Almost-definitely-Granger waved at Harry’s friend. “Master of Antiquities!” she called in greeting.
Harry’s friend was the Master of Antiquities? Oh, that was interesting. A field he could definitely find plenty of things to read and research about. He’d always loved ancient magic, and of all the Ministry departments, that had to be the most interesting.
“Delilah!” the Master of Antiquities called, hurrying over to embrace Likely-Granger. “How are you? Come to marry me off?”
Wait. Delilah? Severus’ world stopped, and then for the second time in five hours, shattered. He looked between Likely-Granger and the Master of Antiquities. Delilah was not Granger’s name. That meant that Likely-Granger could not be Granger. Which meant… his gaze slid over to the Master of Antiquities--who had mentioned she was getting married.
Was that… Hermione Granger?
Draco chuckled, grinning at Severus wickedly. “Granger!” he called, making the Master of Antiquities--Granger?!--spin. “You’re forgetting the most important person! Your dashing groom is here.”
“Ah! Master Snape.” Granger hurried over. Severus recognized her now. The spark in her eyes was the same. She stuck her hand, and Severus, switching into his business instincts, took it and gave it a firm handshake, mechanically, like a golem. Granger smiled. Was she wearing lipstick? She had to be, lips shouldn’t normally be that gorgeous dark red. “I’m sorry for all the hassle. Is there anything you’d like to discuss before we get around to business?”
Severus suddenly found it was no hassle at all. “Draco has given me a copy of the law. I am prepared to…” Sweet fucking Circe. He was about to marry himself off. “... sign whatever forms are necessary,” he finished.
Granger nodded, turning to Delilah again. As soon as her back was to him, Draco’s grin grew tenfold and he nudged Severus with his elbow. Severus just blinked at him, dazed. “Delilah? I believe my groom and I are prepared to sign the damn papers. Harry and Draco will be our witnesses.”
Her groom. Fuck. Severus suddenly regretted not throwing himself out of the window. He also found himself mysteriously unable to hex the shit out of the ministry employee.
“Right this way, if you please,” Delilah said, bustling off.
As they were about to leave the lobby, Granger suddenly froze. She looked at where Severus had cast his jinxes, squinted for a moment, then barked out a laugh and followed Delilah.
Potter fell into step beside Severus and Draco. “Professor Snape, what’s that face?” he asked, looking legitimately concerned.
Severus felt a little bit of warmth at the fact that Potter, despite all the shit Severus had put him through, looked like he actually cared about how Severus was feeling.
Draco leaned over to hiss deviously. “Oh, godfather was just asking who that drop-dead gorgeous woman in the suit was,” he whispered. Severus would’ve protested Draco’s words if they weren’t so damn accurate.
Harry’s jaw dropped. “Oh Merlin. That’s Hermione.”
“I noticed, Potter,” Severus drawled. His mood was swiftly souring.
Delilah lead them into a small office, and took a seat behind a desk. “Master Granger, Master Snape, please stand in front of the desk,” she said. “I’ll need you to sign this certificate.” She pulled out a quill and a massive piece of paper, spinning it around to read.
“We don’t need rings, do we?” Granger asked. “All I could find this morning before the meeting were a pair of sixth-century centaur earrings. They’ll work, but they’re a little… uh, big. Might need some transfiguration.”
Harry snorted. “Where the hell did you even get those, Hermione?”
“Oh, that dig we were doing at Frostridge back in September,” she said, biting her lip as she scanned down the paper. “Pretty sure they were part of the centaur-wizard trade. Really interesting, I’m still translating the records, though.”
Grinning, Harry glanced at Draco. Severus got the distinct feeling he was prodding Granger to show off for Severus’ sake. “What’s that in anyway, Shakespearean English?”
Granger didn’t look up from the paper, just shaking her head, blissfully unaware of Harry’s machinations. “No, no. It’s in Old English. Very different, little more Germanic. They actually use a writing system that’s an offshoot of the ancient runes we learned back in Hogwarts, sort of a dialectical thing. I have a theory that they’re incorporating some sort of centaur written language, but of course nobody wants to believe the centaurs have a written language. Which is stupid. Why else would we be finding fossilized carved trees up in the peat bogs?”
Severus felt like he might faint.
Hermione seemed to have finished the document, and she looked up at him. “I’m done reading. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” he said, having been unable to parse a single word of the document.
She leaned over, showing off the way the heels made her ass curve, and signed her name in one of the spots at the bottom of the document. That done, she stood and handed the quill off to Severus, who, instead of screaming and running like he would’ve liked, signed his name beside hers.
Their audience of three applauded and cheered.
Delilah was beaming. “You can kiss if you want!” she said.
Severus looked at Hermione. His wife. Fuck. “Up to you.”
She nodded, raised up on her tip-toes, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. It tingled like waking up from a good dream on a warm Saturday morning.
“Alright,” Granger said. “Thank you, Delilah. You two-” she pointed to Harry and Malfoy “-need to get back to work. I’ve taken the rest of the day off.” She turned back to Severus, suddenly looking a little uncertain. “Would you like to get coffee, or something? I assume there are things we need to talk about.”
Quite unable to speak, Severus just nodded.