It was another one of those abysmal parties at the Malfoy Manor that had put Snape in such a bad mood. Lucius adored entertaining hundreds at his fancy home, decorated with silks, the tables set with china and crystal. It was the entertainment that he always failed to specify about though, and that was the very reason Severus never went anymore, unless ordered. The few times he did, he made his excuses as soon as possible and escaped that lavish hell hole.
Lucius's favourite entertainment was girls, writhing semi-nude around the room. He called it dancing, although it was a far cry from any type of dancing Severus had ever witnessed. As the night drug on, alcohol poured from cut glass bottles, powder came out of pockets, and clothing (both the girls and the guests) came off. None of this was so bad though, he could have frequented those parties if it had not been for one fact that stood stark as the sun rose.
Those writhing girls never went home.
The very first party he ever threw, back during the Dark Lord's first reign, had been, as Lucius put it, 'epic'. Hundreds of guests flowing between the rooms, a full orchestra playing from a raised platform, delectable food and drink, and of course the writhing girls. Yet none of them knew what was going to happen that first time, so they all drank and ate and danced in their tuxedos until they were giddy and asked for a room. As for the writhing girls, Severus only knew their fate because of the terrible hangover he suffered, which had caused him to go down to the kitchen too early for some coffee. There, being 'taken care of' were the bodies of the young, pretty writhing girls, eyes still open from the curse that had hit them before they even knew what was happening. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but Severus found himself retching into the bushes, grabbed his coffee, and took refuge in his room. He haven't spent the night nor enjoyed himself with a writhing girl since.
Now, though, he had just escaped from a party and was making his way back to the dungeons of Hogwarts. It was certainly late, perhaps midnight, but not too late for the professors and adults of the castle. There was certainly no reason for him to quite literally run into a student at such an hour.
At least he was back in his black cloaks and not in that miserable tuxedo, but it did not help the confrontation. The student ran directly into his chest as they were coming down the stairs, and he had to grab them by the arms so that they did not fall and deface themselves.
Stupid, clumsy students, walking around in the dark in a castle with moving staircases, trick stairs, and ghosts. You think they would have learned, but no, dumb, thick children.
"I...I'm sorry, so sorry Professor. I didn't see you, sir..." A girl was stammering over her words, and under no other circumstances would he have recognized her voice except for the fact that this one talked so much. The tip of his wand lit, and the girl, wide eyed, was nearly trembling, either from cold or fear or something else, he couldn't tell and didn't care to know.
"Miss Granger, what are you doing out of bed at this hour?"
"I'm Head Girl, sir-" he rolled his eyes. For being able to answer any question any teacher threw at her, she was horrible at what most people called 'street smarts'.
"You're Head Girl duties were over at least an hour ago, Miss Granger. You have no excuse for being out of bed, unless there is some horrid emergency in Gryffindor tower. Is that the case?" He knew he had her, and triumph curled the tips of his mouth into the tiniest bit of a smirk. The perfect little Miss Granger had finally gotten caught breaking the rules. Expulsion seemed like a wonderful idea.
"Well sir, um, an 'emergency' of sorts... I was just going to Madam Pomfrey; you needn't concern yourself, really." She was blushing and trying to edge down the hall to the infirmary, but his hand tightened like a vice around her wrist, and she winced.
"What sort of emergency would leave you capable of running to the Hospital Wing at this hour," he sneered. She was probably trying to sneak off the library, or to some Ravenclaw lover in the other tower. He'd thought she was involved with the Weasley boy, but the lad was awfully dim for her.
"Please sir, I really just need to go to Madam Pomfrey..." She tried to pull her wrist free with more force than he thought her capable of, but he held fast.
"Students are not allowed to just go waltzing around the halls at any hours with pretend emergencies just because they have leadership roles, Miss Granger. You do good to remember that. Now, how many points should I take for this little infraction? 50? 100? Yes, 100 is a good number. You should be thankful I'm not dragging you to the headmaster."
Tears were slowly leaking down her face (Merlin, did girls always have to cry about everything?) "Please, Professor, I really, truly, need to see Madam Pomfrey. You don't understand."
"Did you not listen to a word I just said girl? Back up to your tower or else I'll take another 50 points." Gently, she removed her wrist from his grip and wiped her face.
"Sir, I need to go the infirmary to get some...um...feminine hygiene products." The sneer dropped from his face.
Merlin, Severus, why do you always have to be a bastard at the worst possible moments? Sure enough, as she sprinted down the hall, a bright circle of blood stood out on her shorts. He turned and fled to the dungeons, bludgeoning himself the whole way.
The points, Severus, you really ought to give her back the points.
Stupid conscience. A wave of his hand restored those sparkling rubies back in their hour-glass as he collapsed onto his bed. Sleep finally claimed him at about two in the morning.
After Hermione got what she needed, she made her way back to her dorm.
Merlin that was embarrassing.
As if it's not bad enough to wake up to mind numbing cramps in the middle of the night to a period that has gone completely off schedule, she had to run into a professor. And not just any professor, because any other would have let her go and see Madam Pomfrey without an interrogation. But no, of course he would make her wait, embarrassment growing as he made a speech, as she grew desperate to get what she needed. Now though, lying up her in bed, she could cool her cheeks and try and slip off the sleep.
It wasn't really that bad, she thought, and he had been far more embarrassed than she was. As long as everything was normal tomorrow in class, and it would be. And as long as no house points were missing, although she doubted he would withhold them now.
The next thing she knew she was waking up and traipsing down to the Great Hall with Ron and Harry in tow. They both ate too much, although in her opinion they always seemed to eat too much, at every opportunity.
Why do boys shovel everything possible down their throats, and then surface for more?
Before mail had even arrived, she went off to the library, promising to meet up in class. Luck of the draw, Potions was first. An unofficial seating order had come about in the first few months, and now everyone knew where to sit. She had pulled Harry and Ron onto the front row, although now she regretted that slightly.
Snape made his appearance and class proceeded as normal. Harry got the worst of his criticism for everything, yet he seemed to hold back a few comments from Hermione. He still didn't call on her every time she raised her hand or speak in a less harsh tone, but he bit back the scathing remarks he normally threw at them. A minute before the clock was about to chime and they were cleaning and packing their bags, he cocked his head at her from behind his desk. She scurried forward, heart pounding.
"Sit, Miss Granger." She plopped down, and he took a long breath before talking. "I wanted to...apologize for my actions last night, and assure you that no house points were missing. That's all."
"Thank you sir." He waved his hand and she went back to Ron and Harry, who had been putting back supplies and hadn't even known she was gone.
At lunch she was surprised to receive a letter. Mail always arrived during breakfast, but then she remembered that she had felt the pull of the books and had left before her owl had even had the chance to arrive. It had the Ministry of Magic stamp on it, so she broke the seal and read.
Dear Miss Granger,
We are pleased to inform you of a new marriage law which went into effect today, November Eleventh. (See Clause 182, Marriage Law, Section 2A) To help increase population all witches and wizards between the ages of seventeen and fifty are being asked to wed and produce at least two children (one within the first year of marriage). A list of suitors has been provided for you who live/work near your place of residence. Please take careful consideration before picking a match. Your wedding date has been set as November 29th.
-Mr. Walden Alder, age 23, bounty hunter
-Mr. Gerlind Heinrich, age 35, broom maker
The list went on until she spotted a few familiar names close to the bottom.
-Mr. George Weasley, age 20, entrepreneur
-Mr. Fred Weasley, age 20, entrepreneur
-Mr. Severus Snape, age 37, professor
Thank you for your time and consideration. Economic assistance is available (apply within five days of wedding) as asked for.
Have a wonderful day!
She wasn't able to seriously consider the letter until all her classes were done for the day, her homework was complete, and she had successfully sealed herself in her bedroom. That was when she allowed herself to freak out, calm down, and think.
Ron hadn't reached his 17th birthday, and wouldn't by the wedding date.
Curse early birthdays. And that time turner business probably didn't help.
Harry wasn't eligible either, although he was like a brother to her. Still, he was better than the strangers on the list. Although not all of them were strangers.
She knew three people on the list. Fred and George. She buried her head in her pillow for a moment before thinking about it. How could she do that to Ron? Marry one of his brothers after they had been friends and skirted around a relationship for so long? Plus, how was she supposed to pick between them? Would she have to move in with her choice and floo to the school, or would they live together after she graduated? Fred or George certainly didn't seem like a bad choice. To break up the Weasley family, over marrying one of Ron's brothers...
But Snape was the only name left, and under no circumstances would she ever marry him. She looked back at the letter- "Wed and produce at least two children, one within the first year of marriage". Merlin, how could she ever do that with any of the people on the list, much less the three she knew? Neither choice was appealing, but at least she knew Fred and George, and at least she was comfortable with them.
Maybe a professor would know what to do. Yes, Professor McGonagall had always known the right thing to do, and she was in the Order.
Snape had received the letter that morning, before breakfast, and had the expected reaction.
A marriage law?!
He slammed the paper onto his desk, cursing the Ministry. How could they try and meddle in his private affairs like this? But of course it was being run by those loyal to the Dark Lord, which explained a lot. Nothing would let him circumvent the law, either, or else it would look like he was being unfaithful to his Master.
"Curse you," he muttered, scanning the names. Women around his age and younger, all strangers.
They couldn't possible expect me to marry a stranger, not with my personality.
At the very end of the list was one name he recognized, and he blanched at it.
-Miss Hermione Granger, age 17, student
As if they could expect him to wed and have children with a student.
Merlin, marrying the Granger girl, how awful would that be?
She was much too young for a man like him, a man whose cohorts were Death Eaters, murderers, and spies, who himself was a spy.
His clock chimed. It was time for the Order meeting, one called to deal with this precise event, no doubt. He went through the floo to that dog's house and sat in the corner, waiting for the meeting to start. Eventually everyone tumbled in, a few idiots even rang the doorbell, but they were finally all seated around the table, Molly Weasley fussing over tea and biscuits.
"Ladies and gentleman, we have a bit of a problem," Albus began.
What an understatement.
He went over the details of the law and took questions, yet offered no solution as to how to deal with those affected. As Snape brooded, Albus turned his gaze to him.
"Now Severus, I believe you got a letter in the mail with selections available. Have you made your choice yet?" He produced the letter and passed it to the Headmaster under a watchful audience.
"No, I haven't been able to narrow it down yet." His words were laced with sarcasm as Albus scanned the list, muttering to himself about each name. His eyes brightened considerably at one suggestion.
"Hermione Granger is listed; I believe she would be a suitable match." If he could have exploded in a fit of rage he would have. Hexing the Headmaster is a good way to get fired, however, so he restrained himself.
"From my point of view, I don't think we'd be a...good match. And I certainly don't want to marry and have children with her." The rest of the Order was silent, waiting for Albus's verdict. To add to his rage, he laughed.
"You two would be a wonderful match! You're both intelligent and love books, she plans to be a teacher and you are one. Most importantly, you're both on the same side in this war. You can't just marry a random woman and then have to explain that you're a double agent. And age, Severus, is just a number. Besides, who wouldn't want a pretty young thing to warm their bed after so many years alone?" He stood in indignation that his own wants were being completely overridden. The old man was crazy.
"Albus, I have no desire whatsoever to marry a child, and I am certain she feels the same. You can't possibly expect us to wed, it's preposterous."
"She is no child, Severus, and frankly you have no other choice. Selecting any other woman from this list could endanger the Order and our Cause, which is much too great of a risk to take. Miss Granger will understand." Minerva stood then, coming to the defense of her favourite little Gryffindor.
"Severus is right, Albus, you can't possibly force them into a union like this. Miss Granger is young and has so much of a life ahead of her. Some of the possibilities on her list are much more appropriate- a couple of the Weasley boys are available, and they would make a very suitable match. We implore you, see reason here." But the set of Albus's eyes could not be persuaded.
"There may be other options on Miss Granger's list, but not on Severus's, and that's the one we're concerned with. There simply is no other option, and Miss Granger will understand that, she's a wise girl. We'll meet with her- Minerva, Severus, and I, when we get back to school."
They got back to the school much too soon, and Snape found himself standing and frowning in the Headmasters office as the sun crept over the horizon. Minerva was seated and wore about the same distasteful expression. Only Albus sat at his desk, a content smile on his face as he continued to try and convince Snape that this would be beneficial for all parties. All about Miss Granger being a young, pretty thing and they would learn how to live together and he was sure that the children would be handsome. The soliloquy stopped when a living, breathing Miss Granger stepped into the room.
It was short and to the point. He stood in the back, glaring down on the scene. Minerva held the girl's hand and whispered assurances, and Albus explained everything in all the details required. In the reflection in the window panes he could see her going from flesh coloured to pale and then paler, clutching Minerva's hand tight and tighter still. As he got to the end of his speech, he gave her a little smile and asked if she had any questions.
"I...I don't want to be rude but...do I have to?" Her teeth worried her bottom lip as she glanced at the professors in the room.
"You are no happier with the proposition than I am, Miss Granger, but the Headmaster has now assured both of us that this is vital."
"But I don't want to marry anyone, at least not at the moment. I want to go to university and get a good job and then maybe get married and all the rest." Severus stepped forward.
"We are at war, Miss Granger, which means that what you want is completely irrelevant at the moment. For the good of all, we are going to get married, and that is that, so please stop griping about it." She frowned at it but stopped talking, trying to prove that she wasn't griping. He sighed. "I have to go get ready for class," and swept out of the room.