Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling et al. Any characters or locations you recognise are the intellectual property of these individuals and corporations. I make no money from the writing of this story.

This story was written for the GE Epilogue? What Epilogue? Fic Exchange for DistinctlyME. Prompt used:

Marriage Law - out of either fear for the return of another Dark Lord due to prejudice, or fear of a dwindling wizarding population (you choose), the Wizengamot passes a Marriage Law. There must be no way to get out of it. Hermione must be against it. Find a clever and interesting way on how to choose the respective spouses. Have Hermione and whoever slowly fall in love, but keep it ambiguous. I like happy endings as much as the next girl, but I enjoy an open who-knows-whats-going-to-come-of-this kind of ending much better.


Rated M

Special thanks to my Alphas Kallanit and Articcat621 and my Beta Wildcard who was fabulous (she also came up with the title).



Shakespeare in Shlush


At 2:47am this morning, after a marathon session, the Wizengamot voted overwhelmingly in favour of Bill 2481-H, more commonly known to British magicals as the Marriage Law, writes Rita Skeeter, *Star* Correspondent.

Several witches and a few wizards, notably among them, Ministry Up-and-Comer, Wayne Hopkins and Holyhead Harpies Captain, Gwenog Jones, were seen storming from Courtroom Ten only moments after the act was passed into law.

This publication has been diligently reporting on the long debate since it started three months ago, following a report published by St Mungo's Hospital, detailing the low birth rates in recent years. History shows that after periods of war, a population boom is experienced; a boom that has not happened following the end of the war against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Death Eaters five years ago.

Despite vociferous arguments from several prominent figures in our community, notably The Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter; plain, ambitious, quasi-war-heroine, Miss Hermione Granger; Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall; and respected citizen, Mr Lucius Malfoy, the Wizengamot was determined to see the passing of a law that would require all unmarried citizens of child-bearing age to be paired off within eight weeks, married within sixteen weeks and expecting a child by the time each marriage has passed one year in length.

Dissolutions of marriage will not be permitted once the sixteen week deadline is reached; except in the events of domestic violence and childless unions.

This reporter believes that witches and wizards across the country will need to be quick to snap up the brooding fiancé of their choice. Keep your eyes peeled here for further updates!


"It is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!" Hermione Granger declared vehemently.

"I agree it is not the most ideal of situations, Hermione, but the Wizengamot are so set on this idea it was all I could do to try and slip in some alternate ideas rather than let them go ahead with the original plan," the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt said, trying to calm the irate witch down.

"Alternate ideas? Oh, I shudder to think that if this," she waved a sheaf of parchment in her hand, "is how it looks after you had a go at it then what it was like before!"

Kingsley raised his eyebrows. "Men make the petitions; pureblood requests would take precedent over any other request; existing, childless unions would be declared invalid and the couple subject to this law; monitors would be put in place to ensure regular, correct sexual relations are taking place." The Minister stopped when Hermione put her hand up.

"All right, you have made your point. It could be worse," she sneered.

"We have put the power firmly with the women in that they need to make the initial petition but the wizard has every right of refusal and there is nothing wrong with him approaching a witch to propose and have her submit the paperwork. There will be no dissolution of existing marriages unless it is the will of the witch and wizard involved as per the current laws and there will be no monitoring of relations. Most importantly, nothing can be done without the unimpeded consent of both parties. I have had the best of the best in the Department of Mysteries working on the parchment that will be used to submit these petitions. No one under any form of coercion or impediment will find themselves married to someone they do not wish," Kingsley assured her earnestly. "You know the consequences of refusal?"

"Azkaban," was Hermione's morose, one-word answer.

Hermione was torn between feeling sympathy for her friend, for being the public face of the Ministry and thereby this travesty of a law, and continuing anger for the predicament she now found herself in. She listened half-heartedly as Kingsley went on to explain how the petitions would be monitored and encouraged her to make a choice quickly.

"All right," she conceded when Kingsley paused. "I will co-operate but I want it on record that I do not agree with this…this… FARCE!" Not giving Kingsley a chance to respond, she turned on her heel and Disapparated out of his office.


Seven Weeks and Six Days Later

Severus Snape entered the dingy pub and surveyed his surroundings swiftly. Breathing a sigh of relief that none of his persistent pursuers were in the dimly-lit room, he strode over to the bar and ordered a scotch. This was not an establishment he frequented very often, but it was his refuge tonight.

Ever since that damnable law had been passed he could barely set foot outside his door without being accosted by some witch pushing marriage petition paperwork under his hooked nose and proclaiming that she was the very one he was searching for, to aid in mending his broken heart.

There were five that were particularly dogged and none of whom Severus was even remotely interested in spending one minute with, let alone the rest of his life. He looked into his glass of single malt whiskey as though it might hold the answer to all his problems. 'It doesn't,' he thought before he knocked it back in one go.

"You look how I feel," a voice said from along the bar. Severus looked up and examined the speaker.

"Of all the bars in all the world…" he partially quoted. "If my memory serves me correctly I mentioned this bar to you once; in one conversation we had about three years ago and definitely in passing. Is your memory really that eidetic?"

"As much as yours is for recalling one brief conversation we had three years ago in which you mentioned this bar in passing," Hermione replied. "You said it was a good place to hide; I thought I would hide here tonight before my life ends tomorrow."

"Just to be certain; you are speaking metaphorically, yes?" Severus asked.

"Yes," Hermione conceded with a small nod of acknowledgement. Even after all this time, death was not something that was lightly joked about.

"Let me buy you a drink then and we can toast the end of both our lives as we know them," Severus proposed.

"I'm drinking the same as you," Hermione told him. Severus indicated to the barman to pour two more and he moved to the stool next to Hermione. "To the death of freedom," Hermione said, picking up the glass in front of her.

"To the death of personal choice," Severus responded. They clinked their glasses together and drank them down, signalling in unison for a refill. They drank several more shots together in silence, quickly approaching the state of inebriation they both desired.

"Where does the Ministry get off dictating to us how we should live our lives?" Hermione suddenly burst out. "How can they possibly think that forcing a whole bunch of people together simply to procreate is going to help things in the long term?"

"The Ministry is not the problem, it is the Wizengamot," Severus pointed out. "Bunch of sodding old farts, that all had their marriages arranged, and so believe that what they are doing does not constitute a gross curtailing of our basic right to live the way we choose," he said bitterly.

"Are you… I mean has anyone…um…" Hermione tried to phrase her question in such a way as to not offend her new drinking companion.

"Has anyone asked the Greasy Git of the Dungeons to marry him?" Severus asked sarcastically.

"No! Well yes… I mean… damn me, when I drink I lose all ability to be tactful. Has anyone petitioned you for marriage, Severus?" she asked, stressing his name and hoping he knew she meant she was referring to him for himself.

He lifted the corners of his mouth, amused by her comment. "Yes, Hermione," he answered. "I have had several offers; none of which I am inclined to take, whence my presence here this evening."

"Oh, when you say several…" she trailed off, clearly expecting an answer.

"Too many to count, actually," he said morosely. "There are five particularly stubborn witches who won't take no for an answer though." Another shot was knocked back. A pleasant buzz was finally beginning to settle in his brain. It was perhaps what prompted him to respond to her query of who the five were.

"Irma Pince, Marietta Edgecombe, Bianca Zabini, Rita Skeeter and Rosmerta Burke," he listed. Hermione choked a little on her drink.

"That's a rather… eclectic list," she said delicately. "You're not interested in any of them?" she asked with a mock-fascinated tone.

"Let's see," Severus said. He held up one finger. "Irma Pince—former colleague who is actually outside the parameter of this law, but so desperate to be married she has gone to the length of submitting herself for testing to prove she can still bear a child. Call me old-fashioned but a woman who graduated Hogwarts more than a decade before I even began there is off my list.

A second finger went up. "Marietta Edgecombe was a pain in my arse the first time around and, in my opinion, has proven to be completely untrustworthy several times over." Obviously Hermione was aware of Edgecombe's betrayal of Dumbledore's Army back when they were at Hogwarts, but the girl had clearly not learned her lesson. The witch still went around the Ministry reporting on her colleagues for even the slightest infractions. Hermione was all for punishing a witch or wizard for gross misconduct but when you accuse people of using the milk for their morning cereal in the same tone as someone caught taking a bribe to pass a critical piece of legislation, your allegations end up being generally ignored.

"Bianca Zabini; I survived a ruddy great snake bite—I have no desire to be in the clutches of a Black Widow following that. It is tempting fate too much I believe. Rita Skeeter. In two words: fuck, no!" By now he was holding up all five fingers.

Hermione snorted at that. She could definitely see his point there. "I am surprised though that you would not be partial to Madam Rosmerta," she said. "Most men salivate over her."

"Not me," Severus replied quickly. "She has been propositioning me ever since I began my employment at Hogwarts and I had no interest in her at all, as I am sure you would be aware." Hermione nodded, knowing his feelings at the time encompassed Lily Potter to the exclusion of all others. "She has approached me several times in the last seven weeks but I get the feeling that she is simply trying to finally get me, rather than that she wants me. What about you? Surely there must be several potential suitors for you out there."

"Several dozen, it seems," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes. "I have been approached by so many men I don't even know or only know by sight. The general consensus is 'with my brains and his good looks we would make perfect children'," she said in a mocking tone. "In my opinion, most of them had a high opinion of themselves."

"So no one has captured your interest?"

"No, there is one man I might have been interested in but it is clear that he is in demand so my plan is to go to the Ministry tomorrow and pick the best of what's left."

Severus frowned. He was certainly not going to feature in any sort of list entitled 'The Best of What's Left'. More's the pity. He rather enjoyed the company of the young woman currently seated next to him. She often took the chair next to him at the many meetings and functions they were required to attend each year as members of the victorious Order of the Phoenix. Conversation always flowed easily between them, even if they did not actively seek each other socially. He thought for a moment of what it would be like to wake up every morning to her presence in his life. For the first time since this damnable law had been presented, he did not shudder with revulsion at the mere idea.

"Do you have any idea of who is still on that list?" Severus asked. Perhaps he could throw a spanner in her works, make her see what a catch he would be. Potentially. Maybe. 'The best of what's left.'

"Oh, yes. The Ministry kindly sent me a reminder two days ago along with a list of all the still-unattached males. After a quick perusal of that I had thought of a few that might be tolerable enough to cohabit with," Hermione said.

"Such as?"

"Why are you so interested?" Hermione asked, suddenly realising she was sitting there having an almost normal conversation with Severus Snape of all people. Normally they stayed firmly in the area of academia. It was safe and fairly impersonal. Only snippets of their personal lives were ever revealed.

"Humour me, Hermione, it is my last night of freedom after all," he said mockingly. "But, with my insight, perhaps I can assist you in reaching a decision."

"All right then, purely because I already know him, Charlie Weasley."

"Hmph, another name for dragon fodder."

"That's not very nice," Hermione admonished.

"He is living on borrowed time. Most dragon handlers have either moved on to safer employment by his age or they have become an appetizer for one of the creatures' meals."

"Well, he is a last resort," Hermione admitted. "I had a small taste of what Molly Weasley would be like as a mother-in-law and I'm not really too keen on it." Following the war, Hermione had dated Ron Weasley for several months before the two of them decided they worked much better as best friends rather than lovers. As they had been residing at Ron's parents' house for that period of time, Molly took it upon herself to 'educate' Hermione in the ways of being a witchly wife. Her own mother had not done half as much for her father as Molly instructed Hermione to do for Ron. To his credit, Ron told her he had no interest in having a wife wait on him hand and foot as though she were a house elf and he had no intention of making her do anything she did not want to do.

"I also thought of Cormac McLaggen," Hermione continued.

Severus choked on his drink. "That arrogant sod?" he asked incredulously.

"I know, he was a complete prat back at school but he has changed. But I think a couple of girls might have already expressed their interest in him anyway and he is waiting for tomorrow to make his choice. I believe Kevin Entwhistle may be acceptable.

"Barely. I do not think you could choose anyone more straight-laced if you tried!" Severus declared.

"You are not filling me with confidence, Severus," Hermione said ruefully.

"Just trying to assist you in a monumental life decision," he reminded her.

Hermione sighed. "Kingsley is still available, he would be all right I guess."

"Really?" Severus was genuinely surprised at this revelation. It was also interesting that Hermione was willing to consider an older man. He was fishing for a reason to discount him though. If Hermione put her hat in the ring so to speak, he was sure the Minister would snap her up in a second.

"But I think he has a lot of options as well," Hermione dismissed him from her thoughts. "The only other name that interested me was Wayne Hopkins."

"Gay," Severus said firmly.

"Really? Are you sure?" Hermione asked.

"Hufflepuff lost fifty points and Hopkins and Finch-Fletchley both earned a month of detention when I caught them so, yes," Severus said drily.

"Right," Hermione said, wide-eyed.

Severus held up his glass. "To difficult choices," he toasted.

"To bloody impossible ones," Hermione elaborated. Their glasses clinked together before they knocked back their shots. This was the shot that finally tipped Hermione over the edge from tipsy to drunk. She giggled as she swayed. Severus caught her deftly by the shoulders.

"Perhaps we should move off the stools," he wisely proposed.

"Hmm, p'rapsh we should," she agreed. "P'rapsh… pappsh…" she cleared her throat loudly. "Per-hapsh," she enunciated (somewhat) clearly before dissolving into giggles again. If Severus himself were a bit more sober he might have found her incessant drunken giggling annoying but as it was, he actually found it quite endearing. He even permitted himself a small smile at her exuberant display. After guiding Hermione to a nearby table and sitting her down, Severus returned to the bar and asked for several rounds of shots to be delivered to the table to save them having to continually get up.

"Y'know, there's shomething I always wanted to ashk you," Hermione said. Severus was almost mesmerised by the glazed look in her eyes.

"Ask away," he said.

"How did you shurvive that shnake bite?" she asked.

"And this distilled liquor drink thou off;

When presently through all thy veins shall run

A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse

Shall keep his native progress, but surcease:

No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;

The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade

To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall,

Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;

Each part, deprived of supple government,

Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death" he quoted. (1)

"Ohh," Hermione whimpered. "You shurprise me."

"Why? Because I know Shakespeare?" Severus asked with a sneer.

"No, because you can quote it when you're dr—hic—drunk!" Hermione declared.

"Can you not?" Severus asked with a challenging glint in his eye.

"Um… I think it's, 'give me, give me!'" Hermione giggled.

"Why are you laughing? That is correct," Severus said.

"She should shay GIMME, GIMME!" she shouted before laughing hysterically.

"All right, let us cease butchering Shakespeare. Draught of Living Death, to answer your previous question; coupled with the anti-venom potion I developed when Arthur Weasley was bitten," Severus explained.

"To Shakeshpeare," Hermione said, holding up her glass. "And to your clever brain."

"I'll drink to that," Severus muttered. They both drank again.

"You know, that's what I want," Hermione said.

"A clever brain?" Severus asked. "Surely the brain you have is clever enough?"

"No, well, yesh, I am quite happy with my brain," she said. "I meant that whatever man I choose I want to have a clever brain. One that can quote Shakeshpeare when he is dr—hic—drunk. What do you want?"

"Someone who slurs their esses when they are pished," Severus answered with a smirk.

"It'sh my tell," Hermione confided in a whisper. "I can convershe perfectly well, jusht the eshes get me."

"And your eyes glaze over," Severus said as he took another drink. Really the whole thing was quite amusing.

"Really?" Hermione crossed her eyes as though she were trying to see for herself. Severus could not help but choke on his drink at the unexpected sight. "I jusht thought of shomething!" Hermione suddenly declared.

Severus raised his eyebrow in query. "Yes?"

"Shinshe I want shomeone with a clever brain, and you want shomeone who shlurs their eshes when they're pished, then we should be each other's shomeone!" she said enthusiastically.

'Well, that was even easier than I thought.'

"That would solve both our problems, wouldn't it?" he said.

"It makesh perfect shenshe. Shenshe. Shhhenshhhe… Oh damn, you know what I mean!" Severus had to give her credit for trying. "May I tell you a shecret?" Hermione whispered.

"Of course."

"You were my firsht choishe anyway." She quickly knocked back another shot of whiskey as though it would restore the courage she had just used up in her admission.

"Do not be ridiculous, Granger," Severus said dismissively. He took another drink himself. Although he was considering her as a potential partner in this farce of a law, he did not need her platitudes.

"It'sh true!" Hermione declared. "I think you are wonderful. You have a clever brain, you are gainfully employed, when we talk I don't feel like I have to be lesh clever than I am and, well, I think you have a hot body."

He stared at her dubiously. "A hot body?" he repeated. "I seriously doubt that—it is the drink talking."

"No," Hermione said thoughtfully. "I've long thought sho. Oh, not shtraight after the war of courshe—frankly you were all shkin and bones then—not good, but onshe you recovered and shtarted to eat properly and filled out a bit. Now, you are built exactly how I like my men to be built."

"And how is that?" Severus asked. It was not often he was complimented in any way, let alone for his physique; he thought he should find out while he had the opportunity.

"Well, you are tall, you have broad shoulders and a trim waisht. I should probably shtop drinking. I am shaying too much, maybe," Hermione said. It did not stop her from knocking back another shot. "What are you really looking for, anyway?" she asked.

"I told you, someone who slurs their esses when they're pished," Severus said. He smiled slightly when she swatted the air near him in admonishment.

"I'm your girl then," she declared confidently.

"Let's go and sign the paperwork," Severus said, knocking back the last shot on the tray. He assisted Hermione from her chair and the pair exited the pub.

"We probably shouldn't apparate," Hermione said reasonably.

"No," Severus agreed. "Come, there is a floo connection in an abandoned house around the corner." Despite their inebriation they were able to make their way to the small abode nearby Severus had indicated. "Your place or mine?" he asked, holding up a bag of floo powder.

Hermione placed her hands on his chest. "Do you have a copy of the paperwork?"

"No, but I do have hangover potions," he said. "Something tells me we will be in need of them come the morning.

"You're right there, I have potions as well," she said.

"Yours then." He threw down the powder and stepped into the flames, almost dragging her along behind him.

"Granger residenshe!" Hermione called. The pair spun away into the night.


Hermione took a quick look around when they emerged in her sitting room. Apart from the piles of books lying around, the place was clean and tidy. Somehow she knew that Severus would not mind the books. "Have a shee—" she abruptly cut herself off when she realised how her offer would sound given her drunkenness. "Um, I mean shi—oh for Merlin's shake. Couch, you," she pushed his shoulders down so he would sit.

Shaking her head and wishing the effect of the alcohol would wear off quickly, she quickly crossed the room to her extremely organised desk. Pulling one of the many drawers, she extracted a piece of parchment and picked up a quill and inkpot. She came back to the couch where she had left Severus.

"Are you sure about this?" Severus asked.

"As sure as I can be," Hermione responded. "Look, thish is not ideal; thish is not the way I envisaged thish moment in my life to be. At least the two of us can tolerate each other, and the alternative is not even to be considered. Considered. Conssssidered. I have my esses back!"

"Oh, and I was so hoping you might have attempted my name at some point," Severus drawled.

Hermione's eyes widened with amusement. "Sheverush," she said impishly.

Severus smiled; truly smiled. Hermione could not help but gasp at the sight. His entire face transformed when he did so. His eyes came alive and his features somehow did not seem quite so stark.

"You should smile more often," Hermione said softly.

"I would not want to destroy my reputation," Severus countered.

"'One may smile, and smile, and be a villain'," Hermione quoted.

"'At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark'," Severus finished. (2)

"Drunk and quoting Shakespeare," Hermione said.

"As are you," Severus acknowledged. "Perhaps we are a match made in heaven," he drawled.

Hermione burst out laughing. "I hardly think so," she said.

Severus was quite pleased that she picked up on his sarcasm. This boded well. This was nothing like a match made in heaven. They were both trapped by a travesty of a law that would turn them into breeding machines with little thought to the long term repercussions of it. The Wizengamot often forgot they were dealing with real people with real emotions when they came up with some of their ideas. Yes, he believed that Hermione was the one witch he could see himself living with under the current circumstances but would he have even broached an idea of getting to know her more under normal circumstances? Probably not. Would she have ever approached him? Who knew?

"So, shall we do this?" Hermione asked, gesturing to the parchment. Severus nodded and they both proceeded with completing the relevant sections of the form. Once Severus had signed his name he drew his wand, preparing for the drops of blood to be added.

"Together?" he asked. Hermione nodded and drew her own wand. Simultaneously they used their wands to cut the skin on their thumbs and squeezed a couple of drops out onto the form. The bright red splotches stood out starkly against the pale cream of the parchment. "So that's that then," he said.

"No, it's supposed to roll up and disappear," Hermione said in confusion.

"Pardon?" he asked.

"Harry and Ginny's and George and Angelina's rolled up and disappeared straight to the Ministry. It's part of the magic to make sure…oh," she said in a small voice. "We are drunk."

"I think that has been established beyond a doubt," Severus said. "It is not impairing my judgement in any way, let me assure you."

"Me either," Hermione said. "But Kingsley told me that the parchments would be spelled in such a way as to ensure that no coercion could take place. I could have gotten you drunk and forced you to sign." She sighed. "I have some Sober-Up Potion but I don't have another form."

"It would not help. The Sober-Up Potion just removes the inebriation effect of the alcohol; it does not remove it from your blood. If you took one and tried again the same thing would happen. There is nothing for it but to wait until tomorrow." Both of them slumped back onto the couch.

"Tea?" Hermione offered.

Severus nodded and stood up fluidly. "Allow me," he said. He headed in the direction Hermione pointed him in, with her following in his wake.

"This probably gives us a chance to discuss a few other things," Hermione said.

"Such as?" Severus asked as he filled the kettle with water.

"Where do you want to live? How should we split the bills? Do you want to start trying for a child straight away or wait until the last possible minute? Are we going to share a bed? You know, the sorts of things normal couples have quite some time to work out," Hermione said rapidly.

Severus was silent while he thought about her questions. It was typical of her to have thought out all of this. "Let us start slowly," he said. "How do you take your tea?"


By the time they had consumed several cups of tea they knew each other's preferred foods, favourite colours and books and what sorts of things they liked to do in their spare time. Their mutual love of reading came as absolutely no surprise. They had also decided they would live in Hermione's house (it was bigger), would split the bills fifty-fifty (it made sense after all) and any and all Ministry decrees would be fulfilled at the last possible minute (it was a passive-aggressive form of rebellion).

"If we are married, Hermione, I would like for us to be married," Severus said seriously. "If we are going to be forced into this farce and bring children into it then I would like at least a semblance of what would be considered normal. Part of normal, to me, is that we share a bed."

"I understand. Our poor child, between my hair and your nose it won't stand a chance," Hermione quipped.

Severus snorted a breath of amusement through his nose. "I concur," he said. "At least there is a double chance for it in terms of our clever brains."

"We would do our best by him though, wouldn't we?" Hermione asked plaintively.

"Yes, we would," Severus vowed.

"You know, we still have about ten hours before the Ministry opens tomorrow. Perhaps we should try sharing the bed tonight," Hermione suggested.

He was unable to hide his surprise. "Uh…" was his verbose answer.

"As loquacious as ever, Severus," Hermione said with a grin. "I just think that if we are going to get married, then maybe we should make sure we are compatible physically before we make that final commitment."

"Trust me, you will have no complaints with me on that front," Severus said firmly.

"Prove it!" Hermione challenged.

Severus regarded her coolly for a long moment. Hermione was just about to give him an out when he leaned forward and captured her lips in a soft kiss. With a sigh of contentment, she melted into the kiss, returning it and encouraging it to go deeper. For the next several minutes, they explored each other's mouths with their tongues as their hands began a slow caress, learning the curves and contours of their bodies. By the time Hermione found herself straddling Severus' thighs, both of them topless, she realised she should move this party to the bedroom lest they work out their physical compatibility on the couch, rather than the bed.

Feeling his head being gently moved away from the breast he was feasting upon, Severus looked up into her eyes quizzically. "Take me to bed," Hermione said huskily. In a move that surprised her, Severus gripped her thighs firmly and stood up. Hermione instinctively wrapped her legs around his waist for greater stability and clasped her hands around his neck.

Severus moved to the stairs, still kissing her, and slowly started to climb them. When he reached the small landing, he was confronted with five closed doors. "Straight ahead," Hermione told him between kisses. Moving to the door she indicated, he felt the way she tightened her legs around him, allowing him to free one hand to open the door to an unsurprisingly very tidy bedroom. Again, the only form of clutter came from the precariously stacked tomes resting on both bedside tables. He walked over to the bed and gently placed her down on it, stepping back and reaching straight for his belt to remove it. "Allow me," Hermione said. He liked the slightly feral gleam that had entered her eyes.

With a feather-light touch, Hermione ran her fingers over Severus' navel before grabbing the leather of his belt and slipping it out of its buckle. With one fluid movement, she pulled the belt through the loops of his trousers and discarded it on the floor. Wasting no time, she immediately undid the buttons holding the placket together and separated it, revealing the hard ridge of flesh clearly outlined in his underpants. She growled as she ran her fingers along the fabric with just enough pressure to elicit a growl from him in response.

"Harder," he said huskily. Hermione looked up and smiled. She curled her fingers around his erection and began to stroke back and forth. Severus groaned—it had been so long since another's hand had been wrapped around him. Despite the number of offers he had had since the end of the war, he had taken none of them up on their propositions. There was too much potential for them to take advantage and he was not about to put himself in the clutches of another person so easily. When Hermione slipped her hand into his underpants and grasped his cock, he groaned. He had almost forgotten the feeling of a foreign hand. Impatiently, he slid his hands into the elastic of his pants, pushing them and his trousers down to the floor and kicking them aside. His erection sprang out, proud and free.

Hermione let go and her eyes widened at the impressive specimen of manhood waving in front of her eyes. "Oh my God," she breathed. She looked up at him again, the feral gleam back with a vengeance, and grinned. With both hands, she began exploring. The fingers of one hand began carding through the curly hairs at the base of his cock while the other resumed stroking the hard length. Severus wrapped one of his hands around hers, increasing the pressure and speed, showing her exactly how he liked it. With the other hand he gently guided hers from where it was playing down to his bollocks, again showing her just how he liked to have them rolled and squeezed while he was being stroked. Ever a fast-learner, Hermione quickly got the hang of pleasing him to his exacting standards and he allowed his hands to drop away, burying them in her hair and stroking her head. He was able then to give himself over completely to the pleasure she was giving him, only occasionally having to remind her to go harder when her grip slackened slightly.

In a matter of minutes, he felt a tingle in his balls indicating he was about to come. "Stop, stop," he ordered quietly. Hermione did so but looked at him in confusion. She was sure he had been enjoying her caresses, especially given the litany of moans and curses that had been falling from his lips. He bent down and kissed her, his tongue sliding against hers while he willed his orgasm away. He wanted to be in her the first time he came and he certainly wanted her to come at least once before he did. "It seems I am the only one being satisfied," he said.

"I aim to please," Hermione replied. She allowed him to pull her to his feet though and divest her of her remaining clothing. They both lay on the bed and began an oral investigation of each other, licking, nipping, sucking and kissing whatever stretch of skin was in front of them as they moved around the mattress. It was not long before they found themselves in a sixty-nine; Hermione straddled on either side of Severus' head while her her mouth was fastened around the head of his cock.

She tried to give him the same amount of pleasure as he was giving her but it was near impossible. Although he was punctuating his oral attention with exclamations of 'Yes!' and causing all sorts of delightful sensations every time he moaned, his absolute skill of rolling her clit around his mouth as though it were a boiled sweet and the way his tongue penetrated her was rather distracting her from her appointed task. She felt her orgasm building the same as a wave reaching its crest as it approaches the shore. Just knowing that this would be one of the most intense feelings in her life, she made sure her mouth was nowhere near his cock as the sensations built higher and higher lest she cause him an injury that would seriously curtail any further activities for the night.

Severus felt the trembling in Hermione's thighs and knew that she was approaching her climax. He took a moment to ensure that her legs were positioned in such a way that his head would be safe when the inevitable pleasure would cause various instinctive muscle reactions in her and then he went to town on her quim. Pushing two fingers inside her channel, he started to gently thrust them in and out, feeling around for that sensitive bundle of nerves guaranteed to excite any woman to heights of orgasmic bliss. His tongue was busy lapping up the juices that excreted out around his hand and he moaned at the sweet, musky taste of her. Upon finally brushing his questing fingers over their goal, Severus immediately latched his mouth onto her clit and sucked hard. Hermione screamed through her climax, the sound muffled from her face being buried in his groin. Rivers of come flowed out of her and into his waiting mouth, and he drank her down like the sweetest nectar. His fingers did not let up, continuing to brush over her g-spot until a second, slightly less-intense orgasm washed over her. Only her breathless pleas for him to stop ceased his oral and digital ministrations of her. Severus gently moved her legs to one side and extricated himself from underneath her.

Hermione was breathing heavily, still moaning from the pleasure wrought by this man. If this was how he could make her feel just from his mouth and hand then she wondered if she would be able to survive what he must be able to do with his cock! She lay on her back and turned her head toward him when he lay next to her. His lips and chin glistened with her come and she leaned across to kiss him. Finding, for the first time, that she actually like the taste of herself combined with him, she set about licking her essence from his face. Severus responded by grabbing her and pressing her into the mattress, his lips meeting hers in an almost bruising manner.

"You naughty girl," he said. "Do you always do things like that?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, that was the first time I did that," she said shyly.

"Did you like it?" She nodded. Severus manoeuvred them so he lay in the cradle of her open thighs. His cock was throbbing with the need for relief; he did not think he had ever been so hard. When she had licked her own essence off his face, he was hard pressed not to immediately turn her over and ravage her right then and there. Nothing in his life had ever turned him on more; to know that she had done this for the first time had made him heady. He wondered how it might feel to taste both of their combined essences in their mouths and resolved on the spot to find out—one day soon!

Hermione could feel him throbbing against her thigh. She lifted her hips, trying to move him into the position she wanted. Severus pulled back slightly. "Are you protected?" he asked. Hermione nodded. She had taken one of her last contraceptive potions two days ago. There were only two more doses before she would not be allowed to take one anymore—a last-minute addition to the law had been to specifically prohibit contraceptives (both magical and muggle) to be used after marriage. Part of their discussion earlier had been about ways to contravene that particular addendum and they had decided that a combination of the rhythm and withdrawal methods would be best. At the moment, Hermione was fully protected by the potion.

He delayed no longer. As he kissed her, he slid into her slowly, stretching her deliciously and stilling when he was fully seated. "You can take all of me," he whispered. He had never had a woman be able to do that—there was always just a little bit more to go.

"You can fill me completely," she whispered back. He was pressing delightfully against her cervix, something she usually only felt after a particularly hard (and often painful) thrust. She pulled her hips back as he started to withdraw and they thrust together again in unison, both of them groaning at the stimulation from their synchronised movements. As they set a rhythm going, neither was afraid to tell the other of something they liked or disliked. Hermione had Severus start to tongue her ear. Severus had Hermione rake her nails down his back. Given the length of time Severus had held off his pleasure it did not take very long before he reached between them and started to finger Hermione's clit, determined to make her come along with him.

"Yes, Severus, yes!" she called out. "Harder!"

"Oh, God, Hermione!" he groaned as she dug her fingernails into his shoulder blades. He could hear her start to moan as she had prior to her last orgasm and he knew she was close. When he felt her channel start to clench him tightly he found he had trouble holding back. "Come for me, Hermione, come… come!" He stuck his tongue back in her ear and breathed hotly into it. Combined with his finger still relentlessly rubbing her clit, it tipped Hermione over the edge. She came again with a shout, her pussy grabbing his cock in such a vice-like grip that it was impossible for Severus to hold off any longer. With a grunt and prolonged groan, he emptied his balls into her, continuing to thrust lightly in order to keep the pleasure going as long as he could.

Hermione was laughing with delight as she came down from her high. "We are definitely sharing a bed!" she declared. Not that she would tell him right away, but that was the best sex she had ever had.

"I concur," Severus said. He kissed her languidly, ensuring he kept as much of his weight as possible on his arms. He wanted to stay this close to her for as long as possible. Even if it never got better than this, he would happily live with this woman in marriage for the rest of his life.


They came together twice more during that night in between bouts of restful sleep. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, Severus left to go back to his flat via the floo. Hermione promised to meet him there as soon as she acquired a new set of paperwork from the Ministry.

Hermione had suggested for them to go together but Severus had several potions brewing that needed his attention that morning. This was the last day to make a decision on partners before the Ministry would get tough and it was likely the building would be quite the madhouse so they thought it would be better for Hermione to get there early while he attended to his potions.

When Hermione entered the Ministry she saw immediately that they had prepared for the expected deluge of single witches and wizards. Several barriers were set up to marshal the expected crowd and have them form orderly lines. Not long after the law had been passed, many people came out saying they would leave it until the very last minute to make their decisions. Indeed the only couples Hermione knew who had already submitted their paperwork were ones that were previously engaged—such as Harry and Ginny and George and Angelina; or ones eager to show that they were complying with the Ministry's every decree—such as Percy and his girlfriend Audrey and Draco Malfoy and his girlfriend Astoria. The thing all these couples had in common was that they were already in long-term relationships.

She joined the end of the well advanced queue and pulled a book from her bag, settling in for a lengthy wait. It was only after a few pages that she heard her name being called. She looked back to see her friend Ron standing in the line with their former classmate, Susan Bones. Waving back at them, she relinquished her place and moved the five or so places behind to where they were standing. She greeted Susan in a friendly way and gave Ron a hug and kiss on the cheek.

"So, you two decided to take the plunge?" she asked.

Ron put his arm around Susan. "Yeah, you were right, we do have a lot in common," he said. Hermione grinned at the couple. "Best of a bad situation, huh?" Susan gave him a withering look and Hermione shook her head at his words. "I know, I know, I suffer from eternal foot-in-mouth disease," he groused. Hermione just chuckled. Her friend would never change.

"What about you, Hermione?" Susan asked. "Have you chosen someone?"

"I have, as a matter of fact," Hermione said. She looked around at the line, trying to determine how quickly it was moving.

Ron and Susan stared at her, then each other before Ron blurted out, "Well?!"

"Well what?" she asked innocently. She smiled when Ron just stared at her again. "Severus Snape," she said.

The reactions were priceless. Both of their eyes bulged from their sockets and their jaws dropped. Hermione just smirked—she was going to enjoy this period of time when she could thoroughly shock everyone. The line started to move and jolted Ron and Susan from their stupors.

"Snape?" Ron repeated incredulously.

"Severus Snape," Hermione corrected him. "If I'm going to marry him then you'd best get used to calling him by his first name."

"But… but… you could have your choice of anyone," Ron persisted.

"I do have the choice of anyone, Ron. And I choose Severus," Hermione said firmly.

Ron looked up at the large board which listed the names of the available wizards. "But there are so many other choices up there," he pointed out. "What about Neville?"

"Neville?" Hermione repeated incredulously. His name had never even crossed her mind. "It may as well be you or Harry!"

Ron looked a bit sheepish. He supposed Neville had been moved into the friend-zone many years ago, just as Harry and he had; after they had tried dating anyway. "Okay, okay, point taken. Kingsley then; oh." Just as he said Kingsley's name, a neat line drew through it on the board, indicating the Minister had made his choice. As quickly as Ron identified other, potential spouses for his friend, their names disappeared from contention. Now that the last day was finally here, people were rushing to finalise their choices.

"There! Wayne Hopkins," Ron said, pointing at a name on the board.

"Gay," Hermione and Susan said in unison.

"Really?" Ron asked in surprise.

"Really," Susan confirmed.

"Apparently with Justin Finch-Fletchley," Hermione supplied.

"Well, him I can see, but Wayne?" Ron asked. Both girls shrugged their shoulders. "You could always go with Charlie," he suggested in desperation.

Hermione's mouth scrunched up, trying to repress a smile as she recalled Severus' argument against the redhead last night. She certainly could not say that to his brother, even if it had been a bit macabrely amusing. 'Huh, who knew; his sense of humour is actually quite appealing as well,' she thought. "No, Ron," she said aloud. "Charlie and I would never work out."

"I don't think you've thought this through," Ron continued. "Have you even spoken to him?"

"Of course I have, Ron," she said with a scoff. "Plus we have had a very lengthy discussion regarding our living arrangements and what we expect to get out of this marriage."

"It just seems like it's a bit of a whim," Ron said.

Hermione just gestured around them. "Show me one couple here not on some sort of 'whim'," she challenged him. Susan just looked at them sympathetically. They were all in the same boat. She remained silent while the friends quarrelled though.

Ron actually looked around, hoping to find some long-established couple he could point out. While he was almost sure there must be at least one pair that had been going out for years and were just having their hands forced, he did not know any of them. With a sigh, he said, "But, Hermione, you have to live with the git."

"Exactly, Ron, I have to live with him, not you. And kindly refrain from calling my husband-to-be a git. You don't hear me referring to Susan here as a hag," Hermione said.

"And you'll have to, you know, sleep with him," Ron persisted.

When Susan saw the small, secretive smile that blossomed on Hermione's lips she broke her silence. "Hermione!" she said with a broad grin. She playfully swatted at the brunette. "How was it?" she asked conspiratorially.

"It was good; great, actually," Hermione said, her smile getting bigger. Although he was a private man, Hermione was sure he would not object to her confirming his prowess in the bedroom.

"What do you—oh Merlin! You already did it?!" Ron asked in a scandalised whisper. Hermione raised an eyebrow at him. "You're picking up his looks already! I can't support this, Hermione."

"Ron, let me be clear. I love you and I cherish your friendship. None of us wants to be in the situation we find ourselves in, but we have all had to make choices we might not normally have made. I have respected Severus since first year and since the end of the war I have come to like him quite well. When this law came into effect there was no one even on my horizon that I was remotely interested in romantically. I always thought love would come and hit me when I least expected it. This came instead. Since I did not want to come between any established couple, I waited until today to make my choice. I happened to run into Severus last night and we talked. And talked and talked, and we decided that we would make a go of it," she explained with a shrug.

"Where did you run into him?" Susan asked interestedly.

"At a pub," Hermione answered.

"Were you drunk?" Ron asked. It was the only explanation he could think of as to why Hermione might have come up with this mad scheme.

"Yes, as a matter of fact. So was he. But it made me see that he was someone I could live with quite easily and he saw the same I guess," Hermione said.

"No, no," Ron said, shaking his head. "I can't let you do this while you're drunk."

"I'm not drunk now, Ron," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes. "Neither was he anymore this morning when we reiterated our physical compatibility and resolved to go ahead with this." She threw in the last comment just to screw with her friend's mind. Given the look of nausea that crossed his face, she had succeeded.

"What was the moment?" Susan asked.

"Moment?" Ron asked. "What makes you think there was a moment?"

"We had our moments," Susan said. "You told me you knew when I unpacked the picnic basket and it contained all your favourite foods, and I knew when you told me about your friendship with Harry and Hermione and what it meant to you. The way your eyes shone when you spoke about them, it really moved me."

"Ours was nothing quite so romantic," Hermione said. "I knew I could make a go of it with him when he quoted a passage from 'Romeo and Juliet' despite being drunk."

"What about him?" Susan asked.

Hermione shook her head. "I'm not really sure but there was obviously something I said or did that convinced him."

"Do you love him?" Ron asked.

"Ron! What a thing to ask someone!" Hermione admonished.

"I just want to… oh Merlin, I'm not sure what I want to do… this is really upsetting me, Hermione," he said.

Hermione's patience finally snapped. "For God's sake, Ron, I don't understand why you're so upset! I'm the one who has to live with him! I'm the one who has to sleep with him! I'm the one who will bear his child!" she said angrily. "I'm not standing here pouring cold water all over the idea of you and Susan even though you only started dating less than a month ago!

"I know this has come out of the blue, Ron," her voice softened as she realised several people around them were suddenly very interested in their conversation, "but all you need to do is to continue to be my friend. I am happy with this choice. Well, as happy as I can be with a choice I was forced to make. Would I have made it under normal circumstances? Probably not. Would he? Who knows; but I'm leaning towards no. Not many of us are finding ourselves in a position where we can make a fully considered choice. I've realised Severus is the right choice for me, just as Susan is the right choice for you under the circumstances. You don't have to worry about my choices. I hope you have enough respect for me though to know that I am making the best ones for myself. All I ask is that you support me as best you can."

"I've just got to be your friend," Ron said, chastened.

"Yes, please just be my friend," she confirmed.

Ron put his arms around her and gave her a tight hug. "I can do that," he said. Susan clasped her hands over her heart. Here was a demonstration of the friendship Ron had told her about.

"And be nice to Severus. And help me tell Harry," Hermione said, her voice muffled.

"I will do my best to be as nice to him as he is to me," Ron said cagily. "And you're on your own when you tell Harry."

"Thanks," Hermione said drily. "Well, it looks like it's my turn." She quickly hugged Ron and Susan again before heading to the counter, calling out to them to send her an owl later. She was able to quickly retrieve a new form and have the charms applied so she would not have to come back. With a wave to her friends, she made her way back out of the Ministry to head for Severus' flat.


'What a lovely day for a walk,' she thought as she cut through Leicester Square Garden on her way from Whitehall to Dean Street where Severus' flat was. As soon as she came into sight of Severus' building her steps slowed. She could see several witches hanging around the street, lying in wait for the Potions Master. 'Oh no, you don't,' she thought. She quickly cast a disillusionment charm on herself. She passed several of them, all of whom were muttering, practicing their opening remarks to convince the taciturn man to sign their petitions and make them his wife. Hermione could not help but smirk at their fruitless endeavours. As she made her way closer, she began to recognise some of them as girls who had been in years above her at school, along with a few older witches she knew by sight from the Ministry.

When she entered the ground floor of his building, she saw Madam Rosmerta, Madam Pince and a witch she could only assume was Madam Zabini, if the black dress and veil was any indication, engaged in a heated discussion of why two of them should immediately leave. She bit her lip to keep from laughing aloud and slowly approached the stairs, avoiding the lifts where the trio of witches were standing. Hermione quickly jogged up them, thanking the Stairmaster she had bought not long after she finished school to keep up the fitness gained from seven years at Hogwarts.

After removing the disillusionment charm in the stairwell, she walked down the corridor toward Severus' flat. As she neared the door, she heard a very faint scuttling sound next to her. Turning her head, she saw a beetle, frozen on the wainscoting rail, seemingly staring at her. Hermione bent over and addressed the beetle with a menacing glare. "If you know what's good for you, you will leave my brooding fiancé alone, or I'll show you just what a 'quasi war-heroine' is capable of," she said firmly. Hermione had been waiting for a chance to get a dig in at Skeeter for that remark for weeks! The beetle immediately took flight, making a beeline for the open window. Hermione waited until the insect had disappeared from her sight before laughing. 'That was fun,' she thought. A crash from further down the corridor startled her and she ran down the hallway.

"Cease and desist immediately, Miss Edgecombe!" Severus' voice boomed from inside his flat.

"You can't see it yet, sir, but we would be a force together! We both know what it's like to suffer rejection and ridicule from society!"

'Yeah, that's the way to convince a man you're perfect for him,' Hermione thought with a scoff. Upon hearing another crash from inside, she became worried. She drew her wand, and then prepared to try an Alohomora Charm on the door when she remembered that she was a Gryffindor. She stood back and pointed her wand at the door, bellowing, "BOMBARDA!" at the wood. It splintered into thousands of pieces and blew through the entranceway of Severus' flat. The man himself came flying into the room, his wand drawn and a hex on his lips, then he recognised Hermione standing silhouetted in the doorway.

"What are you doing, woman?" he asked incredulously.

"Professor, who is it?" a scared, timid voice asked from behind him.

Hermione stepped into the flat like an avenging angel; an angry expression levelled directly at her rival was revealed as she appeared from the shadows and dust and walked into the light. "Your worst nightmare," she hissed menacingly.

Marietta Edgecombe did not waste a second. She Disapparated immediately to the Ministry, resolved to pick another available wizard to marry.

Back in Severus' flat, Hermione smiled brightly. "That was even more fun!" she declared.

Severus regarded her shrewdly. "I don't know whether to be angry with you for destroying my door or to throw you down and fuck that Gryffindor attitude right out of you."

Hermione turned to the door, waved her wand and said, "Reparo." The thousands of wooden splinters lifted and re-formed back to their original position in the doorway. She added a misdirection ward for good measure (several witches had already accessed the building after all) and turned to her wizard. "The latter, please," she said saucily.

In two strides, Severus was in front of her, kissing her passionately and almost ripping the clothes from her body. Both of them were naked in seconds and Severus did exactly what he said he would: threw her to the floor and fucked her hard. It was over in just a few minutes and they lay on the floor, side by side, panting. "That was not the reunion I was imagining," Severus said.

"How did she even get in?" Hermione asked.

"I let her," Severus said.

Hermione turned to him, chagrined. "Why?" she challenged.

"To prove to myself I made the right choice," he said. "I did not expect you to come in swinging as you did. But damned if it didn't turn me on."

"You are such a man," Hermione said, ineffectually swatting the floor beside him. She turned onto her side and flung one leg over his. "Did you prove yourself right?" she asked.

"Yes," he said simply.

"Good. I have the new form," she told him.

"We should fill that in, then," he said.

"Yes, given I already despatched Rita Skeeter from your hallway and now Edgecombe from inside your flat, I think we should discourage the rest of your fan club as soon as possible," Hermione said.

"Skeeter?" he asked.

"Out in the hallway in her Animagus form. She flew out of here as though I had a can of bug spray in my hand," Hermione said with a malicious laugh.

"Life with you is certainly going to be interesting," Severus said as he got up. He pulled her to her feet and handed her his shirt to put on while he redressed his bottom half.

"I have my moments, I think life with you will be interesting too," she said.

"Were there many people at the Ministry?" he asked.

Hermione nodded as she extracted the Marriage Law form from her bag. "Yes, it seems most people waited until today as a form of protest. I had the Charms added so we wouldn't have to go back in," she said.

Severus retrieved a quill and ink from his desk in the corner. He filled in his portion of the form and handed her the quill, waiting for her to do the same. As they had the previous night, they drew their wands and cut their thumbs in unison.

"Last chance," Severus said.

"Are you still a man with a clever brain who can quote Shakespeare, even when he is drunk?" she asked.

"'Why, that was when, Three crabbed months had sour'd themselves to death. Ere I could make thee open thy white hand, And clap thyself my love: then didst thou utter, 'I am yours forever'," he quoted.

"'Tis grace indeed. Why, lo you now, I have spoke to the purpose twice: The one for ever earn'd a royal husband; The other for some while a friend', Sheverush," Hermione finished. (3)

They both allowed several drops of blood to fall on the parchment underneath their signatures. The bright red splotches stood out starkly against the pale cream of the parchment, just as it had the night before. Hermione gasped, thinking the bespelled parchment was going to reject them again when the whole thing glowed for a moment, and then rolled up with a snap and disappeared.

Severus turned to her with a smile which she answered with one of her own and they leaned in to share a passionate kiss.

They may be forced to do this due to an alternative too heinous to contemplate and they may face criticism and concern from various quarters, but they could both say with confidence that each other was the best choice they had. Only time would tell what the years would bring but together, they would be able to face it.


1. Excerpt from 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare.

2. Excerpt from 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare.

3. Excerpt from 'The Winter's Tale' by William Shakespeare.