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Books & Brews

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There was a new bookstore in town, so of course Hermione had to go check it out. What else was a bookworm to do?

It was tucked into a row of restaurants, stores, and cafes. The sign was unobtrusive: Books & Brews, it read. A bell above the door tinkled and she found herself in a pleasant little shop. The place was more bookshelf than air and in a moment, Hermione felt her heart be captured simultaneously by several thousand beautiful rare books. Soft classical music wafted between the shelves.

Towards the front of the shop, a bar sat looking out through the windows and onto Diagon. Not far from it, a man stood behind a counter, sorting bags of tea.

He was tall, that was the first thing she noticed, and wearing an emerald green turtleneck. Dark brown hair was pulled back into an adorable little ponytail, streaks of silver coming from his temples. Nearly black eyes darted between bags of tea. There was something familiar about him, but she couldn’t quite place what.

At the tinkling of the door, he looked up at her. Thin pale lips pulled into a genial smile. He held up a hand, waved, and words appeared shimmering in the air as he signed in what must’ve been Wizarding Sign Language: [Hello there! Welcome. Please shout if you have any questions!]

The words were made of a deep green light. An arrow of the same light pointed to a chalkboard sign right near the entrance. It read: ‘I can not speak. Please let me know what language works for you!’ The same sentiment was repeated in several different languages.

Hermione, suddenly aware that she was very noisy herself, gave him a thumbs up and a “Thank you!” before slipping between the stacks.

The selection of books carried by the store was positively delicious. Whoever this storeowner was, he had taste. Really good taste. Hermione soon had her arms full, and was piling more on, when the man poked his head in. A whirl of his finger, and a little trolley rattled into the aisle. It looked like a refitted antique tea cart, now made for holding books.

“Oh!” Hermione carefully placed her load in the trolley’s basket. “Thank you so much!”

He smiled, nodded, and disappeared.

The trolley was adorable. It followed her along, and even eagerly nudged her when she was debating on whether or not to make a purchase. Hermione knew better than to set limits for herself when book shopping, but this trolley was making things extra difficult--particularly because she found it hard to resist.

She told the man as much when she was checking out. “Your trolley is as persuasive a salesman as I’ve ever met. I hope you give it a decent commission?”

The man smirked, and his dark eyes twinkled with mischief for a moment. [You’ve got no idea.] The words appeared in green light as the man’s hands were busy tallying up her massive purchase, so the lights must’ve been triggered by something besides his hands. [That trolley nets me a solid ten percent of my sales per annum.]

Hermione laughed, and the trolley rattled in a self-satisfied manner. “You own this place?”

[Yes.] The man stuck out his hand, across the register. [Simon Inkwell.]

The introduction gave her pause. For a moment, Hermione paused to examine the man. He was pleasant, but there was no recognition when he looked at her. Had he not recognized her? That was a downright miracle. It was extremely annoying to be recognized as Harry’s sister or Ron’s ex, and she didn’t mind a bit of anonymity in a quiet little place like this.

She shook his hand. “Fantastic name for a bookstore owner. Call me Jean.”

[Nice to meet you, Jean. It’s all my parents’ fault, really; they doomed me to bookkeeping before I was even born.]

Chuckling, Hermione cast her eyes over the broad selection of teas. “And a tea shop?”

[Who doesn’t love a book and a cuppa?]

“It’s brilliant, truly. I’ll take a pot myself--what do you recommend?”

Simon arched a brow, as if in warning, as he carefully stacked her books into a bag. [That’s opening a can of worms, my dear. My opinions on tea are… extensive.]

“I entrust myself to your expert and extensive opinions, then.”

His cheeks pinked. Was he flattered? Hermione couldn’t yet tell. She wasn’t a stunner, that was never going to change, but getting out of her awkward teenage years had certainly helped her looks. Apparently the papers called her one of the most sought-after bachelorettes--and the constant hounding proved it. Or maybe the constant hounding was a result of the media coverage? She couldn’t tell causality at this point, and it was probably a self-feeding cycle.

Hermione was distracted as his aspect changed. His black eyes glimmered, and swept up and down her form. Hermione felt like she was a child in Potions class again, getting her mettle tested and merit observed. [Alright, challenge accepted. A moment, if you don’t mind.]

He turned and disappeared into the back room, and Hermione sat there and began to count out her galleons as she heard rummaging from beyond the door. A lot of rummaging. After a moment, the man returned with a metal tin of loose leaf.

“How much for the tea?” she asked.

He waved a hand dismissively. [On the house. Sit down, I’ll get it started.]

“O-Oh, thank you.”

He just nodded absentmindedly, turning to an enchanted teapot and beginning to make the tea. Hermione noticed that he had entirely forgotten to count up her money. With all the stealth she could manage, she slipped in another galleon as a tip.

With one imperious flick of his finger, the galleon shot back into her wallet. [Nice try. Better luck next time.]

“Challenge accepted,” Hermione replied, and sat herself down on a stool at the bar. She could see the corner of his lip curl upwards. “Quite a lot of wandless magic.”

[A necessity, when your hands are busy signing. Although I do less of that nowadays.] He floated the tin of loose leaf up into the air and popped the lid off with a flick of his finger.

The simple action triggered such an immense wave of deja vu that Hermione was at first afraid she was having a flashback. But… no. The arc of his finger was identical, the angle of his wrist--that was exactly how Severus Snape had opened his vials when he was making potions.

Her heart leaped up to her throat, and she swallowed it down. “Would it be terribly rude of me to ask how your writing charm works? It’s brilliant, and I have no idea how the hell you’re doing it. Pardon my language.”

Cheekbones pinking, he glanced down with a bashful grin. [Absolutely; flattery will get me to do just about anything. Besides, most people want to pity party me and hear about how I lost my voice in the first place.]

“Noted.” Hermione grinned.

Simon (‘Simon’) rolled his eyes and poured out some tea onto what had to be an acromantula silk mesh. [Did you know that the muscles of the mouth, lips, and throat will subconsciously form the shapes of words that someone thinks?] He bent over, observing the contents carefully, and then poured out a little more. With that done, he waved a finger again and the tin closed itself, the action once again reminiscent of potions class.

“Yeah, it’s terribly minute, though. You managed to detect that?”

[Partially.] Tucking his hair behind his ear, he tilted his head so Hermione could see an intricate silver ear cuff, fixed with a number of jewels and a small vial of some pale yellow, glittering fluid dangling from it. [This is enchanted to track those muscles, and create the writing. To make it more accurate, I created a legilimentical tie between my mind and the charm, so my conscious thought patterns can influence it.]

“Fascinating,” Hermione murmured, leaning in to examine it. Her fingers twitched, but she tucked them beneath her chest as she leaned against the bar. “Is that kyanite? I suppose its crystalline structure would allow for a legilimens to use it as a conduit for thought.”

He nodded. [Precisely.]

“And that vial--is that altered Volubilis?”

Another nod.

Hermione sat back, gazing at him with open wonder. Brilliant, brilliant man. This had to be Severus Snape. She didn’t know who else was smart enough to invent such a glorious creation. He’d survived the snake, and now he’d made himself an entire prosthetic voice. And now he was here, running a very small bookstore with a sentient trolley. And, and, the best part? He still didn’t recognize her.

There was no way that Hermione was going to pass up the chance to weasel her way into her old Professor’s life.

“You’re a genius,” she told him simply.

[Really, it’s not-- ]

She started speaking before the words finished appearing. “No. No humility. You are a genius. You made yourself an entire prosthetic voice. You invented a new potion and at least two new spells for it.”

He hesitated, his fingers dancing in the air but not signing. [I suppose… if you put it like that.] He looked down, shrugging in what looked heartbreakingly close to defeat. [I just did what I needed.]

“Isn’t there some quaint cliche about necessity being the mother of invention?”

Simon Not Severus looked up at her, and his shoulders started shaking. At first she was afraid he was crying--but then she realized, from the tentative smile on his face, that he was laughing. [I suppose you’re right, once more.]

Grinning with her triumph, Hermione leaned in and propped her chin up on her palm, cocking a smirk at him and enjoying the way he pinked visibly. “You’ll notice soon that happens a lot.”

He arched a brow, the expression so familiar Hermione could’ve sobbed. Simon Not Severus jerked his head back towards her mountain of books. [Makes sense. You don’t look like an intellectual slouch.]

Hermione laughed. “Oh, don’t try and excuse my book addiction. Let’s be quite real: I probably need an intervention.”

His shoulders shook again in laughter, and he grinned as he poured her a cup of tea. [If you’re the addict, I’m the dealer.] He slid a teacup and saucer over to her. [May I ask what you do for a living? Your titles are diverse and not very helpful.]

“Healer,” Hermione replied, blowing on her tea. She was actually the Master of Healers at St. Mungo’s, but telling him that would probably tell him who she was. “Which means I should confess that if you’re ever looking for a way to get a little extra cash, I would love to have some of my team take a look at your charmed earring. You’d get a substantial cut of any profits. I know a few patients who could use something similar.”

Simon Not Severus paused, the lines on his face relaxing as he turned thoughtful for a moment. Finally, he drew breath as if to speak, but only glowing green lines appeared. [Thank you, but… it would be wrong for me to profit off of another’s suffering.]

“Oh!” Hermione waved a hand dismissively. “God, no, I wouldn’t charge them! But,” she smiled a little, “I would definitely put it on the Ministry’s bill.”

He arched a brow, a glimmer in his dark eyes. [Stealing from the government? Why didn’t you mention that up front? I’d be happy to.]

Hermione laughed heartily, and her laughter continued to mingle with his glimmering green words for the rest of the afternoon.

 

***

 

Hermione wasn’t expecting the Marriage Law. But it came nonetheless.

The announcement had been dropped into her lap one morning along with her list of Ministry-approved wizards: Charlie Weasley, Ronald Weasley, and Simon Inkwell. No, fuck no, yes.

So she’d gone to burn down the Ministry. She’d ranted and raved about reproductive rights, human rights, patient safety, patient consent, regular consent, and domestic abuse statistics. But apparently the Ministry cared more about the presence of its population than the health of that population.

So Hermione had thrown her letter of resignation at the Wizengamot--and nailed Minister for Magic Arthur Weasley in the head with the envelope--and marched herself out of the room.

She headed to Books & Brews. She’d been visiting about three times a week, and now she was absolutely certain that Simon Not Severus was flirting with her back.

“Broken homes,” she hissed to Simon Not Severus as he calmly poured her another cup of tea. “That’s what they’re fucking making, the Ministry. Not families. They call it the fucking Family Restoration Act, but it should be called the Skyrocketing Domestic Abuse Act, because there’s no way that things are going to work out. Can you imagine? A bunch of eighteen fucking year olds, fucking? That’s a recipe for unhealthy dynamics.”

Simon Not Severus nodded and slid her the cup of tea. [My mother had me when she was sixteen. It did not work out well.]

Hermione froze. Eileen Snape had been sixteen? Dear fuck, that made so much sense.

[My father was twenty-eight, so that may have contributed.]

She wrinkled her nose without thinking. “Ooh, I would’ve loved to take a pair of garden shears to his gonads,” she hissed.

Simon Not Severus made a strange half-wheezing noise, and Hermione turned to him, alarmed. But he was doubled over--laughing? Was he laughing so hard that he was making noise? This was the first time she’d heard him make any noise, let alone something so beautiful and authentic as laughter. Hermione was unable to keep the smile off of her face as she watched him. After a moment, he dabbed away a tear. [Fuck, I can see it. That’d be brilliant.]

“He still alive? Or am I going to castrate a corpse?”

Simon Not Severus shrugged, deflating a little. [Don’t know. I’ll let you know if I ever find out.]

“Fair. My garden shears are at your command.”

He grinned again, the touch of moroseness he’d gained disappearing. [Your gallantry will make me swoon, one of these days.]

She snickered, taking a sip of tea. Her eyes widened as what tasted like rainbows exploded in her mouth. “Fuck, Simon, what is this? It tastes like happiness.”

[I thought you’d like it.] He smirked a little, looking quite satisfied as he poured himself a cup. [Mango and strawberry-infused jasmine pearls.]

“Have I mentioned you’re a genius?”

[Occasionally, but I certainly don’t mind hearing it.] He leaned in, mirroring her pose with one arm tucked under her and cup in her hand.

Hermione chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “Hey, Simon. How old are you?”

He blinked, and furrowed his brow. [44.]

“So you’re caught by the law, then, too.”

[Yes.] Simon Not Severus arched a brow, and the motion made her stomach tumble over and explode into butterflies. [I’m not sure what you’re getting at.]

Hermione took a moment to pull her Gryffindor courage up by the bootstraps, and opened her mouth to reply.

The bell over the door clanged as someone burst through. Hermione stared as a man she wasn’t sure she knew ran over with a massive bouquet of flowers.

“Hermione Granger!” he greeted her, eyes gleaming.

“Uh,” Hermione said, pointedly aware that her cover to Simon Not Severus was definitely broken right about now and her ex-Potions Professor was definitely about to hex her into next week. “I don’t know you.”

“That’s okay.” He knelt and pulled out a box. “I’ve been a fan for years! With the marriage law this is my chance. Will you marry me? I would treat you like a queen and you’d never want for anything, I could--”

“Thanks but no thanks.” Hermione took a deep breath and rubbed at her temples. “Not interested. May I suggest someone you know?”

The man stared at her, opening and closing his mouth several times, sort of like a suffocating fish. “N-No? But… I’m in love with you. You’re--You’re playing hard to get,” he finally decided with a nod of his head.

“Not in the slightest. I’m flattered but the answer is no, and it’s firm.”

“Hear me out at least!”

Hermione buried her face in her hands. “No,” she replied. “The answer is no. Please. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I don’t know how many other ways to say I’m not interested. The word ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

There was a long pause. “You bitch,” he spat, finally. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were interesting, you whore.” Hermione heard the bouquet of flowers slam into the ground, and then the ding of the bell again.

“God fucking dammit,” she sighed, dragging her hands over her face. She found Simon Not Severus staring at her with wide eyes and a look of sheer terror. “I am so sorry.”

He was staring at her, and then his eyes flickered towards the back door. He was thinking of running.

“Please don’t,” Hermione said, completely willing to beg. “I… I was just so happy that someone didn’t recognize me, you know? And that someone found me interesting regardless.” She sighed, and ran her hands through her hair. “I was going to tell you, eventually. Once I figured you wouldn’t, you know…” She trailed off and finally finished, “Feel embarrassed.”

Simon Not Severus was still staring at her. He looked like a deer in headlights. Little sparks of green were flickering ineffectually in an aura around him as he apparently tried to gather his thoughts.

“I spent the morning trying to throttle the entire Wizengamot,” she admitted. “They weren’t budging. They didn’t even consult me beforehand. I was the fucking Master of St. Mungo’s, and they didn’t fucking consult me beforehand! So I told them that clearly they didn’t care about my opinion and threw my letter of resignation at the Minister for Magic.” She sighed for the millionth time and slumped against the counter. “Who happens to be my ex-boyfriend’s father. And it hit him in the head. I just wanted a fucking cup of tea. Not a proposal. I’m sorry you had to see that.”

Simon Not Severus blinked. A few words floated into being and then faded out just as quickly. ‘Fuck’ happened at least once. ‘Oh no’ was another, along with ‘run.’ Finally, words appeared in thin, shivering green light. [Does that--] the words wavered for a moment, disappeared, and a new sentence appeared. [Does that happen a lot?]

“Way more than you’d think.” Hermione held out her hand and summoned the bouquet to it, examining it. “At least this one had decency. I’ve gotten bouquets of condoms before.”

[Bouquets of condoms.]

“Yeah, I was primarily shocked that they knew what condoms were. Turned out they were muggleborn.”

[You’re Hermione Granger.]

“Hermione Jean Granger,” Hermione confirmed. She glanced around, towards the few tables that he had arranged by the windows to the street, as a little cafe area. “Think that your tables could use little centerpieces?”

[Y-- ] The writing cut off. [You’re Hermione Granger.]

“Yes.” Hermione dropped the bouquet onto the stool next to her. She chewed her lip, looking at the clearly shocked and terrified Simon Not Severus in front of her. “Look. Okay. I was honestly planning on doing this before the Marriage Law even forced my hand.”

His eyes were still wide and flicking over to the door every few moments, but it seemed like Simon Not Severus was frozen for the time being.

Hermione drew a deep breath. Given the way that he was leaning towards the door, she had a solid idea that he was going to bolt the instant she blinked, so she’d have to get this out in one go. “You’re one of my candidates for marriage, and I think you’re fascinating and brilliant and hilarious. I think we’ve got a better chance than most pairs, so I would like to ask you to dinner.”

Those dark eyes stared at her. He blinked once.

Twice.

And then he whirled, and with a crack, disapparated.

A moment later there was the squeaking of wheels, and the semi-sentient trolley poked out from behind a bookcase.

“That went a lot better than anticipated,” Hermione told it, standing up. It wheeled over, nudging her gently. “It’s okay. Will you help me with some centerpieces? It’d be a pity for this bouquet to go to waste.”

 

***

 

When Severus finally dared to return to his bookstore, he didn’t know what he’d find. He approached through the back door, wand drawn and fully prepared for the entire thing to be trashed, ransacked, or worse.

Instead, he found the place immaculate, with every single table in the cafe given a pair or trio of roses from the bouquet delivered this afternoon. Severus slumped against the counter, his wand clattering to the ground.

She’d cleaned up the tea?

Oh, fuck. He crumpled to the ground in a pile of limbs, scooching himself beneath the counter’s overhang and between two of the stools.

The soft squeak of wheels indicated his trolley was arriving. It wheeled to a stop in front of him, and slid a note off of its tray. He recognized Hermione’s handwriting immediately. Severus swallowed hard, wincing absentmindedly as the muscles of his throat yanked on the scar tissue.

The offer stands - I’ve got a pair of tickets to Midsummer Night’s Dream and dinner on Thursday.

Fuck, Severus tried to say, but the air passed impotent through his throat. The trolley rocked back and forth, nudging at him encouragingly.

Severus let the note fall to the floor and covered his face in his hands. A lot had happened today. A lot that he wasn’t prepared for. After a moment, he waved his hand to close the shop, then snatched up the note and hurried to his apartment above the store.

He’d waited five years to move back to wizarding London. He’d hoped that by then, everyone would have forgotten about him and nobody would notice another little weird bookstore.

That had worked for all of a week.

Jean had looked familiar, but Severus just assumed that maybe he’d seen her every so often his past life. Not that… not that Hermione Jean Granger would become that, that… unreasonably attractive human being. Unfair. It was all terribly unfair. When she’d walked in, all smiles and curiosity and intellect, he’d become a puddle at her feet. And then she’d stayed, come back each day, just to talk to him. He hadn’t known what he’d done to be so blessed, but Severus wasn’t about to question such a gift.

The letter from the Ministry with his approved matches was sitting on his kitchen breakfast bar. He’d opened it, and read it, and celebrated. He, in his unfathomable ignorance, had believed that war heroine Hermione Granger would have better things to do than marry some random asshole twenty years her senior. He’d even been disappointed that Jean wasn’t in his list.

Oh, the bitter irony. Nearly as bitter and iron-y as the blood that he could taste in the back of his throat, from trying to scream earlier in the day.

Dropping Hermione’s date invitation next to the Ministry letter, he went to his medicine cupboard and pulled out a wiggenweld. It was modified and dosed with a small amount of antivenin and scar-reduction potion. He swallowed it in small, steady gulps, allowing for the maximum amount of time in passage through his esophagus.

Stupid, stupid Severus.

Putting the potion bottle in his sink to wash later, he grabbed an unopened bottle of firewhiskey and decided to retire to the couch for the evening.

If he’d still had his voice, he wouldn’t have had this issue. She would’ve either known it was him, or would’ve been repelled by his acerbic tone. His voice, his words--they’d always been his one beauty and his one defense. He could reduce an enemy to tears with his voice alone, no spellcraft needed.

Severus cracked the cap on the firewhiskey, and tossed it into the rubbish from across the room, then took a deep pull.

The snake had taken it from him. In the years after, he’d had to reforge himself without his one layer of defense against the world. With no barbs against the world, he was forced to defend himself in other ways. He’d thought he’d become a decent enough person. Tolerable, at least.

Each swallow of whiskey chased fire through the thick scar tissue on his neck, sparks arcing to his spine and making his entire chest burn, but Severus shoved down his instinct to hack and cough. That’d just make it worse. Sooner or later, the painkilling effect of the alcohol would kick in, and then this would all be easier. He swallowed another mouthful of fire.

Nagini had hardly been the first one to ever take away his voice. That honor belonged to his father. He remembered it acutely. He’d screamed when he saw his mother bleeding from her head. Then Tobias turned to him. A basin of water, a hand on the back of his neck, the panic, the darkness…

After that it was Sirius, albeit never as badly. No, not even close--not until Voldemort. And everyone knew how that turned out.

That brought him back to the present day.

Summoning a quill and parchment from across the room, Severus began to write a quick letter. There was one person in the world whom he could talk to about this shitstorm he found himself in, and thankfully he was pretty sure Minerva McGonagall could talk Hermione down from something so foolish as marrying him.

 

***

 

Hermione was not strictly surprised to find an invitation to teatime with her old mentor waiting for her the next morning.

She arrived at Hogwarts in time for brunch, had her spine broken in three separate places by Hagrid’s crushing hug, stopped in to say hi to Flitwick, and then made her way to the Headmistress’ office.

“So, I hear I’m to congratulate you on your early retirement?” Minerva said as she greeted Hermione with a hug.

Laughing, Hermione squeezed back, then followed Minerva over to the small sitting area at one side of the Headmistress’ office. “Indeed. Although I’ve already gotten sixteen offers from a variety of private and public establishments across the world, and at least five political movements asking me to come speak and rally them.”

“I always knew you’d end up being Minister,” Minerva replied with a beam, pouring out two cups of tea. “Although I must admit, I asked you here for a rather different reason.”

Hermione arched her brow. Was Pomfrey planning on retiring or something? She didn’t ask, not wanting to be presumptuous.

Minerva smirked at her expression. “Yes, Pomfrey is looking for a replacement and you’d be given the job in a heartbeat, but that isn’t it either.”

“You’ve got me stumped, then.”

“An old acquaintance of mine wrote to me for advice. Simon Inkwell, I believe you know him?”

“Oh, that man who is definitely not Severus Snape?” Hermione asked innocently.

Minerva was in the middle of a sip of tea when she asked the question, and Hermione flicked up a Protego instinctively as the Headmistress exploded tea all over her shield, the table, and herself. Hermione couldn’t help but burst into a laugh, even as she handed Minerva another handkerchief. She could see Minerva’s grin as she wiped her mouth and scourgified the mess.

With the tea cleaned up, Minerva settled herself into her loveseat with all the poise of a cat who was pretending that definitely didn’t happen. “Yes,” the Headmistress replied, primly folding her hands in her lap even as her eyes twinkled to rival Dumbledore. “You recognize his concerns, given that he is definitely not Severus Snape.”

“Naturally.” Hermione beamed. “Putting aside the fact that he is definitely not Severus Snape, I understand that it’d be difficult to transition from such a private life to something with even my own modicum of fame.”

Minerva nodded. “I think it would be very good for him, truly. But I don’t know how comfortable he’d be with it.”

“Makes sense.” Hermione sighed, sitting back in her chair and running a hand through her hair. “I just… I enjoy his company, I think he’s a lot of fun, I probably have a crush already. I think he’s the best of my options. My other options are Ronald and Charlie Weasley.”

Arching a brow, Minerva’s aspect turned thoughtful as she took another sip of her tea. This one managed to be successfully ingested. “I know your objections to Ronald, but Charlie?”

“Ah.” Hermione winced, fiddling with the teacup’s handle. “He doesn’t…” She trailed off. She didn’t want to out Charlie, not to the media, but he was open to his friends and family. Terrible as she felt, maybe she could communicate that he simply wouldn’t be interested. “I would be fine with marrying him, but the attraction there is… not applicable.”

“I see,” Minerva murmured, nodding slowly. “You and Se--Simon, you’re suited for each other, at least in my opinion.” She placed her teacup on the table, refilling it as she spoke. “And your children will come here, naturally.”

Hermione grinned. “Naturally.”

“I will do my best to calm his concerns,” Minerva said. “As for you…” She fixed Hermione with a sharp look. “He is not something to be ‘fixed.’ People are not things to be ‘fixed.’ But he would improve greatly with some emotional support and therapy.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Hermione said, only half jokingly.

Minerva cracked a smile. “And,” she added, “Don’t be afraid to bludgeon him over the head with your attraction to him. Otherwise he won’t get it.”

Chapter Text

Severus had certainly not expected this past day.

He’d definitely not expected Hermione Jean Granger. That part was destabilizing enough on his little quaint life of happiness.

He hadn’t expected for Minerva to show up in his apartment at noon and hold back his hair while he vomited into a toilet, all while lecturing him on why the old cat thought he and Hermione would make a good pair, and how very cute they’d be together, and that their children would have the cutest black curls.

Severus had glared at her, sullenly, ignoring the very good point about the black curly haired children as she passed him wiggenweld and hangover cure potions. He didn’t reply--he could’ve signed to her, she’d been the one who taught him how--but the only sign he was feeling like that morning was a very particular finger.

When he finally made a move for his ear cuff, she gave him a grandmotherly pat on the shoulder and left, apparently not wanting to endure the evisceration he had planned. Before she’d floo’d out, though, she turned and said the last thing that he’d expected: “Hermione was the one who made me retrieve you for a proper burial, you know.”

He had not known, and Minerva damn well had never told him.

Severus sulked in his room for a few hours before he decided he needed to go out and blow off some steam. He made himself a to-go canister of tea, and then packed up his paints in a bag.

It was easily three in the morning when he set out. Severus had always been a night owl, and the luxury of setting his own time table made it worse.

He was taking the scenic way to his destination, through streets that wavered between magical and muggle London. There was a little junkyard, full of the trash that muggleborn wizards dropped when they decided to immerse themselves in the magical world, and it made for a wonderful studio.

A block away, he heard the explosion.

Severus froze, then ran towards the noise, drawing his wand surreptitiously.

… Once again, he did not expect Hermione Granger.

She was standing on the hood of a car, panting, with a baseball bat. The lights and ever single window of the car were utterly smashed, presumably by the same baseball bat. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, its wiry tight curls exploding from the hair tie.

Severus decided he should really start expecting Hermione Granger more often.

Taking a sip of his tea, he stowed his wand and stepped into the small junkyard, keeping his steps loud enough for her to notice him ahead of time. He was not keen to figure out exactly what she did to make that explosive noise.

She glanced over her shoulder at him, and for a moment Severus found himself frozen mid-step as his heart hiccuped. She was beautiful in profile, beautiful and rage-filled.

“Oh, hey,” she said, breathlessly.

[Bad day?] Severus asked, coming to stand by her, and arching a brow meaningfully at the car.

She let out a laugh. “I figured out a while ago that sometimes you just have to hit things to fix things. Such as hitting Draco Malfoy, to fix Draco Malfoy. Or, in this case, hitting cars to fix my mood.”

[Tea? It’s iced.]

“You’re the best, thanks,” Hermione replied, taking the travel cup of tea from his extended hand. It was when their fingers brushed that he realized what a mistake he’d made. Severus had become so accustomed to offering her tea that he did not realize that this was his only cup and her lips were exactly where his were.

Haha, this was fine.

“I take it you didn’t see today’s paper--well, yesterday’s, it’s three in the morning--if you’re in a decent mood?”

[I don’t…] He trailed off, toeing at the ground as he realized he had nothing to do with his hands. So he put both of them on the strap of his messenger bag and tried not to white-knuckle it. [I don’t keep up with news much nowadays. It’s not something I enjoy hearing about.]

“You certainly won’t enjoy this.” Hermione turned and held up the hand not carrying his travel mug, and a newspaper flew from across the junkyard. She passed it to him. He gave her a suspicious look, but took it.

Severus had seen a lot of horrible things in his day. He did not think that, to quote the cliche, his blood was capable of running cold. In fact, he found that he was quite cold-blooded already and therefore not particularly bothered by awful things.

This, though, made his heart stop.

MINISTRY MARRIAGE LAW - NEW TRACKING AMENDMENT ANNOUNCED.

“How-” His voice came out as a rasp dragged from the depths. It felt like sandpaper against his nerves. Severus froze and clutched his throat, his vision spasming with darkness as claws raked themselves through the scar tissue of his neck. Fuck! He hadn’t accidentally tried to speak in years.

A moment later, something cool and tingling spread across his throat, and the darkness fizzling at the edges of his vision receded. He stared, wide-eyed, at Hermione. She had one hand on his shoulder, and was looking into his eyes worriedly, her wand in her hand.

“Did that help?” she murmured.

Severus nodded, torn between panic and awe. What the hell was that? She must’ve been working on healing spells while serving as the Master of St. Mungo’s, because he’d never had anything like that happen before.

“I’ll show you how to do it later,” she murmured, then turned and handed him the travel mug of tea. “Here. Drink something.”

He wanted to sink to the ground, but found that he was actually already sunk to the ground, apparently having doubled over at the acute pain in his neck.

[How are they tracking people?] he finally managed to ask, as he’d been attempting to.

“They’re tracking physiological aspects to ensure people are meeting the weekly copulation quota,” Hermione said, her voice dripping with enough hatred that Severus was pretty sure she could’ve turned the entire Ministry to stone with a glare.

[That’s fucking stupid.]

She nodded. “It’s just going to perpetuate the problem. The Wizarding Wars were caused by a poorly adjusted orphan because of his poorly adjusted family. Forcing people to fuck is just going to give us more poorly adjusted families and poorly adjusted orphans. Instead of a stimulus package or, I don’t know, some sort of tax break for children to give families the space in their budgets and lives, they’re just expecting that smacking enough genitalia together will solve the problem.”

Severus wheezed an attempted laugh at her words, waving a hand. [Granger, stop, you’re going to kill me.]

“Oh. Sorry,” she mumbled, looking legitimately chastised.

He couldn’t withhold a smile, shifting himself on the ground so he could breathe easier. [What are you thinking?]

“I’m thinking of faking my death and moving to Greece,” she sighed. “Or--” She froze, and looked at the ground.

Severus followed her gaze. His paints had spilled out of his bag, and now cannisters of spray paint were rolling around the ground in the darkened junkyard.

“You spray paint?”

Severus hesitated, then nodded.

“Graffiti?”

Another hesitant nod. Severus didn’t know where she was going with this, but it seemed like she did.

“Oh,” she said, breathlessly. “I have a brilliant, brilliant idea.”

 

***

 

An hour and a half later, fifteen minutes before the Ministry opened, Severus stood back and stared at their masterpiece. Hermione had never painted with spray paint before, but she was a quick learner, and he had her lay down base layers while he did the detail work. The idea was all hers, too, so really it was a joint effort.

The entire front wall of the Ministry’s building, which had been freshly reconstructed after the Second Wizarding War, was now covered in a mural.

The skull leered out at him in eerie, deathly green. Severus had based the image off of what he’d seen over the Potters’ house so long ago, and having been intimately acquainted with the symbol of darkness, he had certainly no problem recreating the emblem.

Instead of the snake, though, they’d replaced it with the golden ribbon that was issued in a traditional wizarding marriage ceremony. The forked ends of the ribbon were positioned where the forked ends of the serpent’s tongue had been.

Written around the whole symbol in a large arc were the words ‘BLOOD PURISM BY ANY OTHER NAME,’ and then at the bottom, because Severus couldn’t resist smashing the viewer over the head with the meaning and because Hermione really wanted the word ‘fuck’ on the Ministry building, ‘FUCK THE MARRIAGE LAW.’

Hermione had just finished her seventeenth protective spell.

[Granger, I don’t think they’ll ever be able to get it off.]

She cackled and grinned in the predawn light. Her eyes were practically on fire. “Good. I want these bricks to become collector items when the revolution comes to destroy the Bastille of neo-purism.”

Severus rolled his eyes fondly. [We should leave before the city wakes up.]

“My flat’s not far from here. It doesn’t have nearly as much tea, but we could stop there for breakfast if you’d like?”

He nodded, and allowed himself to be lead.

Hermione wandered off to take a shower while Severus dealt with the affectionate ministrations of her half-kneazle. He had known the massive ginger beast back at Hogwarts, and had not realized that the cat belonged to Hermione and continued to live--and, apparently, saw right through Severus’ glamour, if the purring and cuddling was anything to judge by.

As soon as Severus heard the shower turn on, he leaned in to Crookshanks. [Listen, you great orange ball of dandruff, if your mistress figures out who I am from your obscene purring--]

The cat evidently could read, too, as Crooks cheekily leaned in to rub against Severus’ face, just inches above the scarring. Asshole.

Finally, Severus managed to calm the cat down. He hadn’t expected that sneaking the beast snippets of ham from the Great Hall would make such an impact. With the half-kneazle giving off a low, rumbling purr like the engine of some terrifying contraption, Severus summoned over the newspaper and began to read the updates on the law.

When she came out, freshly showered, Severus had gone through all of the important parts of the law. [I’m sorry,] he told her. [I would’ve started on breakfast, but your cat is heavy.]

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ve got it this time,” she said with a grin. “You’re always making me tea, after all.”

[That is literally my job, Hermione.]

She laughed. Apparently painting buildings put her in a right jolly mood. “You give me free tea, silly. And discounted books. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

Severus felt himself flush, and he glanced down, which was supremely unhelpful for dodging social anxiety, because Crooks was looking up at him like a literal cat who had got the metaphorical cream.

With a glare, he stood, shuffling the disgruntled half-kneazle to a different spot on the couch and walking over to lean against the kitchen counter, brushing orange fur from his pants. [I was reading the updated marriage law. Do you know what kind of tracking charms they’re using?]

“From what I heard, it’s going to be part of the marriage contract itself. The marriage contract will track and note every time successful penetration is achieved. Then there’ll be officials who check, weekly, on whether or not coitus has occurred.”

Severus tapped his chin thoughtfully, trying to suppress the strange flutters of mischief rising within his stomach. [So there will be someone physically checking the number of times per week a couple copulates?]

Hermione looked up at him from the stove, and grinned in a way that was all too reminiscent of her cat. “Precisely.”

[So while the officials will know if a couple does not have sex, they will also know if a couple happens to, say…]

She dropped the spatula she was using on the counter and came to stand the width of a breath in front of him. Severus could smell her shampoo and soap and the very fact that she had just been naked in the shower hit him like a train. “Have several rounds of sex per week, yes,” Hermione finished, looking very evil. Severus was pretty sure he was flushing like a tomato.

If his life was once more going to hell in a handbasket, he’d be damned if he didn’t have fun with it this time. Fuck it. He’d marry the woman of his dreams, and at least get laid this time before she rejected and abhorred him.

[Marry me.]

“One condition,” she purred, reaching out and taking hold of his sweater, pulling him closer. He went willingly, arching a brow at her as he tucked one hand into the small of her back and pulled them together. “I want our wedding photos to be taken in front of your graffiti.”

[Our graffiti,] he retorted as a grin spread across his face, reaching up with his other hand to gently tap her nose. She stuck her tongue out. [And I wouldn’t have it any other way.]

 

***

 

“Hermione, are you sure you didn’t do that? It really looks like something you’d be involved in.”

“Oh, Harry, you know I don’t have the artistic talent for it,” Hermione replied with a little smile. Harry, Draco, Simon Not Severus, and she were waiting in front of the Ministry for Minerva. The Potter-Malfoys were her witnesses, and Minerva would be Simon Not Severus’.

The graffiti was a tourist attraction, between the attempts by various cleaning crews. A protest against the Marriage Law was brewing already.

Harry squinted at the graffiti. “...Yeah,” he said, sounding terribly uncertain.

“Of course, whoever did make it must be so amazing and artistic and incredibly sexy and--” Hermione was cut off as Simon Not Severus planted an elbow in her side, and she turned to him with a massive shit-eating grin.

He was flushed and she could tell from the twitching of his lips that he was trying very hard not to smile. [You’re going to kill me.]

“It’s Azkaban or cardiac arrest on round thirty-something,” she told him, and he had to cover his face as silent laughter shook his frame. Hermione squeezed his hand and reached over to pat his back gently. “There, there. Breathe.”

[Be careful, if I die before the ceremony you’re technically not a widow, this’ll all be for naught.]

Hermione broke out laughing, earning her a look from both Harry and Draco. “God knows I don’t want to have to wang a Weasley.”

An expression of disgust went over Simon Not Severus’ face then, which was so very Severus that Hermione broke out laughing again. [Why would you put that image in my mind?]

“I--didn’t know you knew the Weasleys… Simon,” Draco said, with the carefulness that indicated a Malfoy mind at work.

Hermione could feel Simon Not Severus tense beside her. She couldn’t have that. “He knows them through me,” she put in. “You have no idea how much I’ve bitched to him over a cup of tea.”

Simon turned to look at her, a curious expression on his face.

“I’m very convincing about getting people to hate things, you know,” Hermione added.

Harry laughed. “That’s true. I know Draco was put through months of Hermione Social Justice bootcamp.”

Draco rolled his eyes, grinning again, but that curious sparkle remained in his eyes.

“I was partially responsible for that too,” came a new voice.

Hermione whirled and beamed. “Minerva!” She launched a hug at her mentor, Minerva laughing and hugging her back. (Hermione didn’t let go of Simon Not Severus’ hand. He wasn’t getting away this time.)

“Oh, I could never forget,” Draco retorted with a smile. “For two lionesses, you do an awful lot of badgering.”

Minerva laughed and let go of Hermione before moving to hug Simon Not Severus. “So proud of you, my boy,” she murmured, before withdrawing and pinching one of his cheeks. Simon Not Severus’ eye twitched, and he looked like he was trying so very hard to not snap on her like the Severus of old.

Hermione squeezed his hand. He shifted to look at her, offering her a very tired look of commiseration. She just laughed at him, earning an eye roll. “Let’s go get married before you come to your senses.”

[I could say the same to you,] he retorted as their small party began their walk into the Ministry building. [Considering you’re a war heroine marrying some random shmuck twice your age.]

“S--” Hermione had to stop herself from blowing his cover right then and there, and she could feel Minerva’s gaze boring into her from across Simon Not Severus. “I am correct in ninety-eight point three percent of situations,” she returned, primly, “And as your wife, I am correct always. So you’d best stow your arguments about my judgement.”

He rolled his eyes. [It would be irresponsible of me not to give you an opportunity to back out.]

“And it would be irresponsible of me not to do the same, but you see, I am quite intelligent and understand you’d run like the wind the moment you came to your senses, so I’m not giving you the opportunity.”

Harry pressed the button to call the lift, and turned with a frown to Minerva. “They always like this?”

Minerva nodded, beaming at them with the most grandmotherly energy Hermione had ever experienced. “Aren’t they perfect for each other?”

Simon Not Severus gave a truly tremendous eyeroll at that, one that was so similar to Severus’ that Draco seemed to be about to suffer a panic attack.

“You guys up for going out to a celebratory dinner after?” Harry asked as they all stepped into the lift. “I know it’s not the ideal wedding ceremony, but I’d hate to see my sister off without a little bit of party.”

Hermione turned to Severus, and he offered a half-hearted shrug, looking like that was the last thing he’d ever want. “Sure,” she said with a grin. “My new husband and I could use the energy before our seven-day sexathon to scare the Ministry--”

The effect of these words was immediate and pronounced. Severus Snape turned and hid his face against the elevator’s wall. Minerva chuckled in the good-natured way that old ladies with a lot of sexual experience did whenever the subject was brought up. Harry looked like he wished he’d decided to take the train in Limbo.

Draco Malfoy looked like he was currently taking the train in Limbo.

“Oh, you two. Always so conniving,” Minerva said with inordinate fondness.

[My cardiac arrest is imminent.] The words floated up around Severus’ hidden face, oriented so that the people in the elevator could still read them. [Should’ve learned the first time not to get tangled up with Gryffindor women.]

Hermione raised his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles. “I’m not letting go of your hand for a reason. I know you’re trying to run off.”

[I hate you.]

“You two are…” Harry’s eyes still had the thousand-yard stare to them. “Something.”

Minerva beamed. “Perfect, that’s what they are.”

The elevator dinged and opened to the marriage department of the Ministry. Hermione turned, and looked Severus in the eyes.

“Last chance,” she murmured.

He looked at her, then out the door, then shook his head and gently tugged her forward. [If my world is going to hell in a handbasket again, I’m going to have fun with it.]

Hermione grinned, tucking herself against his side as they proceeded out into the marriage lobby, followed by their witnesses. There were a fair amount of people milling about the lobby. She could feel Severus tense immediately at the crowd.

“Minerva, can you go get us in the queue?” Hermione asked her. “I’m gonna go find a quiet little room to have a talk with my groom. Find us when it’s time.”

Minerva nodded, ushering the two shell-shocked boy into chairs and hurrying up to the personnel.

Tugging Severus along, Hermione found them a disused little office and warded the door against random passerby. She sat down on the desk, and he leaned backwards against it. She hugged his arm tight to her.

[What did you want to talk about?] The words appeared slowly, almost hesitantly.

“Oh, nothing really. I just figured you’d like to get out of the crowd, and give you a place to breathe and think.”

She could feel the scar tissue shift as he swallowed.

[Then there’s... something I should tell you.]

“If you’d like.” Hermione shrugged, looking up at him. “Or it can wait, if you’re not comfortable. We’re still getting to know each other, I don’t expect immediate and perfect intimacy.” She paused, resting her chin on his shoulder so she could look at him. “You don’t have to tell me anything you’re not comfortable with.”

He looked down, fiddling with his other hand. She could see the rising panic in his eyes, feel the tension in his shoulders. [You deserve to know.]

Hermione drew a deep breath. She knew where this was going. “Not how I work,” she told him, as gently as she could. “I trust you, and I know you’re going to try to make this work and not hurt me. That’s all that matters right now. You deserve to have your privacy and to only tell secrets when you’re ready. Hell knows I’ve got a few I’m not sure I’m up for sharing yet.”

[It’s--not like that, it’s something…] He took a deep, shaking breath. [God, I should’ve told you from the beginning. This never should’ve happened, Hermione.]

“Hey,” she whispered, reaching over to grab one of his belt loops to maneuver her. He made a sharp gasp as she rotated him and pulled him up against the desk between her legs. “It’s okay. I trust you, and you’ve never hurt me.”

Green light was appearing even as she spoke. [You deserve better. I should’ve never gotten wrapped up in this, I don’t--I can’t have someone like you.] The words were flickering around him as fast as she could read them, which looked like a panic attack if she’d ever seen one. [You’re meant for someone better than me, and I’ve been deceiving you into thinking I’m worthy.]

Reaching up, she buried one of her hands in his hair. “It’s okay,” she told him, making sure to catch his gaze. “It’s okay.”

[It’s not, Hermione, I’ve been terrible to you.] She caught that and nothing else as a flood of green writing appeared.

“Listen to me, Severus, I promise it’s fine,” she whispered, unable to keep up with the torrent of green writing that was flickering around him like a discus. “It’s okay, I promise. Please. You haven’t been terrible to me. You’ve been very fun and very cute and very nice and you have absolutely no reason to apologize.”

The green writing froze suddenly, and faded, leaving sunspots on her vision. Severus was staring at her now.

“Okay?” she asked, still very worried at his sudden silence.

“S--” He winced, gasped, and recoiled. She held one hand over his neck and murmured the healing spell she’d used earlier on him. When he looked at her again, his eyes were wide and full of tears. [--Severus?]

“Oh,” Hermione said. “Fuck.”

Something dark and familiar boiled up in his gaze. [Minerva.] The light appeared almost forcefully in the air, as if clawed out by talons of light.

“No--” she started to say, but then the door opened.

Minerva was standing there. “They’re almost ready for--”

Severus whirled and stormed past her.

“Oh no you don’t, you little shit,” Hermione hissed, bolting out into the corridor after him.

He was stalking down the hallway, towards the two very about-to-shit-themselves looking Potter-Malfoys. If there ever was a doubt in Hermione’s mind that this was Severus Snape, she would’ve known in this instant. The posture, the mood, it was too familiar.

“Get back here,” Hermione muttered, following him just as quickly and snatching his hand. He twisted on her, glaring down at her with the force of five years spent with no small children to terrorize.

He might not have had his voice to shout her down, but the green light burned white-hot and brilliant. [Unhand me this instant you insolent harpy--]

“Shut up and listen,” she snapped, drawing herself up and glaring right back. “Don’t you dare go blaming Minerva for this. That woman has done nothing but support you. It was me. I figured it out practically from the moment I started talking to you. It was the this--” Hermione emphasized this very eloquent turn of phrase with an imitation of how he’d unstoppered his vials, and opened his tea tins “--that very first fucking meeting that let me know exactly what was going on, so don’t you dare for a second go blaming anyone other than me.”

He was staring now, rather than glaring. So Hermione continued.

“If you don’t want to get married, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to get married, make it for a good fucking reason, like the fact that I deceived you about my own identity to convince you to tolerate me, or the fact that you don’t like my cooking. Don’t for a second make this about a secret that I knew within five minutes of meeting you.”

“You,” his words were so soft they were just mouthed shapes with breathless air passed through them. “You knew.”

“Yes. The entire time.” She paused, licked her lips, and added, “Also be careful about talking, I don’t want you hurting yourself.”

His expression changed further from disbelief to exasperation, and then all at once, he was wrapped around her. She hugged him back, snuggling herself against his chest as he burrowed his nose into her hair.

[I don’t…] The words faded out. [I cannot believe that is your priority in this moment.]

Hermione shrugged, a little guiltily. “I’m a healer. It’s hard to turn off.”

He shook with laughter and what she was pretty sure was disbelief. [You’re impossible.]

She nodded.

“Granger and Inkwell!” called someone from beyond the hallway.

Severus stood up and loosened his grip on her, looking over his shoulder towards the lobby. She watched him.

“Do whatever you’re comfortable with,” she murmured.

[If my life is going to hell in a handbasket again, I’m going to enjoy it.] He turned to Minerva. [Minnie, do you happen to know where--]

He didn’t get a chance to finish. Minerva held up her hand, pointed her wand at it, and summoned the medal for OM First Class, tossing it lightly to him. Severus snatched it from the air, and ducked into it.

“You saw the man,” Hermione said to Harry and Draco, summoning her own OM First Class medal. “Suit up.”

“Fucking told you he was alive,” Harry said as he summoned their medals.

“I can’t believe Hermione Granger is about to have a seven-day sexathon with my godfather,” Draco said as he ducked into his.

When all five of them marched back into the lobby with their medals, it was Hermione who took the lead. She smiled at the ministry official.

“Hermione Granger and Simon Inkwell?” the man asked, when he managed to retrieve his jaw from the floor.

“Actually, my groom’s name is pronounced Sev-er-us Snape,” Hermione deadpanned back at him with a pleasant smile, as Severus finite’d his glamours and stood there in all of his not-so-dead glory. “Don’t worry, it’s a common mistake.”

 

***

 

A week later, Severus was in his bathrobe reading the morning paper when his wife came out of the shower.

[Pet, did you see the paper this morning? Apparently the Ministry is considering repealing the Marriage Law over concerns about ‘propriety’ and ‘privacy invasion.’ I think they found our scroll.]

“It’s about damn time,” Hermione said with a yawn, as Severus took in the view of his wife in just a towel. “How many members of the Wizengamot fainted from the impropriety?”

[Twelve.]

“Oh, that’s not bad at all.” She nodded, looking quite smug. “If they’re only thinking about it, though, we’d better keep it up for another week. Just to ensure the repeal goes through.”

[I suppose, if it will save the wizarding world once again.]

“Sacrifices must be made for the greater good,” Hermione replied to him with the lecturing tone that she’d often used back when tutoring her peers. “Which reminds me. Have you heard of a muggle device called a humidifier, Severus? I was thinking about how much your throat feels better after some hot wiggenweld tea, and was wondering if we could modify a humidifier and fill it with wiggenweld tea or potion. We’d set it up in the bedroom, and hopefully overnight it’d soothe your throat a little.”

Severus arched a brow. [Definitely worth a try. Wiggenweld tea steam has always felt very good when I inhale it.] He tapped his fingers on the arm of the chair thoughtfully. [Filius and I were talking, and he has this brilliant idea about modifying my ear cuff with a sound-producing charm, and using IPA syllables to recreate my voice. We’d need memories of my voice that aren’t from my head, though, and I was wondering if you’d be able to help. Draco’s already on board.]

“Oh!” Hermione pinked, and Severus arched a brow. She glared at him, then down at the ground, as she shamelessly pulled on underwear in front of him. “I have plenty, yes. But they’re probably all terribly embarrassing for me.”

Severus’ brow climbed higher.

She sighed, and pouted a little. “They probably focus a lot on your voice and your hands,” she replied. “And also the memory of that time with Lockhart, and the other time with Lupin, and the other time with your DADA speech.”

He rolled his eyes fondly, reaching out and tugging her onto his lap as he dropped the paper on the side of his chair. Hermione managed to halfheartedly pout at him as she curled up. [You’re impossible.]

“I am,” she agreed. “And you fucking love it.”

Severus shrugged. [I must indeed, if you say so, my always-correct wife.]

And then he decided to figure out how many of the Wizengamot they could get to swoon with their second seven-day sexathon.