Chapter Five – Familial Evasions

As he had expected, Severus Snape found himself wandering through the dark countryside long after the moon had risen and the air had turned frosty. Muttering angrily, he clutched his cloak more tightly about him and stepped forward. He didn't know where he was or, more importantly, where his father was.

"I know you're out here," he hissed. His breath frosted in the night's chill.

There was no answer, but then, he hadn't really expected any.

Severus shuddered and drew his heavy cloak more tightly about his shoulders.

He was on the grounds of the Snape Country Estate, a manor removed from the bustle of London both Magical and Muggle by miles and miles of dank, dark emptiness.

It would have been, on any other occasion, a simple task. Erasmus Snape had been sending subtle hints along to his only heir for years about filial obligation and family visits. Had it been a winter solstice greeting rather than a betrothal contract that had winged to his lap that Sunday evening Severus knew that he would been welcomed with eagerness at the London townhouse, not left tramping through the English wilderness on what was looking more and more like a wild goose chase. Or, in this case, a wild wizard chase.

"Damn and blast," Severus muttered, stepping over a thick tangle of thorny weeds. His cloak caught and he was forced to grit his teeth and tug at the material. His pulled only served to wrap the wind of the cloth further into the dark and twisting weeds, effectively trapping him to the spot.

Cursing fluently now, Severus pulled out his wand and muttered "lumos". The faint light from the wand's tip revealed little but a jumble of plant growth and a knot of pulled threads.

The spell did not reveal a hidden cottage, a manor, or any other sort of dwelling or shelter where Erasmus Snape could possibly have been hiding.

Yet this was the place that the owl had flown to, the place from when the paper had returned with a gray seal rather than one of green.

Clearly, he was missing something.

He pulled his cloak free of the briars with an irritable tug and stalked forward, squinting. Was that a hint of light he saw up ahead? He blasted a few patches of weeds, ducked a dozen or so low-hanging tree branches, and finally emerged onto a pristine field of grass. Looming over the field was a stately manor home – Erasmus' ancestral manor, to be precise. A manor that, one day, Severus himself may call home.

If, that was, his illustrious father ever actually kicked the bucket. Knowing Erasmus, that wasn't going to occur any time soon. He'd probably wait, in fact, for Severus to break down and buy himself his own well-maintained, well-addressed estate, then kick up his toes, leaving Severus with the expense of two estates. He'd probably even refuse to cross the veil and haunt him for a few centuries to boot.

Severus stalked across the well-maintained, exquisitely cut grass, his wand casting a circle of light before and illuminating his feet. At least he wasn't going to fall into any gnome holes. Between the light and the length of the grass, that was pretty much impossible. He crunched to the door, and thumped the portal twice with his fist, then once more for good measure.

No response.

He gritted his teeth and pounded again.

The door slowly creaked open. Severus inhaled sharply and corralled his thoughts and irritation. It would never do to present a scattered front.

Anticlimactic did not begin to describe the scene beyond – dust-covered hall furnishings, musty-scented air. The lights were dimmed.

On the single uncovered table was propped a glossy black envelope.

Severus grit his teeth, brandished his wand, and flicked.

His father's voice filled the empty hallway:

"Sev, m'boy! I must have just missed you. Off for a bit of fun in the wild. See you at the wedding!"

The envelope and paper simultaneously burst into confetti.

Severus, shoulders and greasy black hair covered in bits of flashing, glittering paper, cursed his father six ways from Sunday.


Hermoine lay back on the bed and let the Contract scroll roll from her hand. She exhaled loudly, staring, once again, at the blank stones of the ceiling.

She guessed that she had thought to find something earth-shattering in the Contract when she re-read it, now that she was aware of all the hidden depths lurking behind the bureaucratic nonsense and quasi-legalese. She wanted to be convinced that she had made an error, she supposed, when she added her name to the list. Certainly, she had had her reasons, but in retrospect the choice had to be ludicrous, right?

Unfortunately, no. Even upon this last, deep reading of the terms and conditions she saw nothing overtly objectionable in the Contract. Certainly, large gaping holes were left where cultural knowledge would fill most wizards' mental blanks – muggles and the muggle-born were at a definite disadvantage when dealing with the Ministry to begin with, though – but there was nothing that sparked thoughts of fear or objection to logic.

The Contract was cut and dried. The wizarding birthrate was going down, inbreeding and inbred abnormalities were on the rise. The solution was clear to even the dimmest bulb – intermarriage with the magically-talented muggle-born would bring new blood to even the most twisted and gnarled of family trees. The Contract was an incentive for purebloods to make the choice as much as for the muggle-born – after all, in the wake of Voldemort's deatheaters and the pureblood hatred of what some families persisted in calling mudblood pollution, even the pureblooded wizards would need some coercion to make the choices that had to be made if the wizarding world were to survive.

As for the muggle-born, well, the advantage was clear. Acceptance – and not only for a muggle-born female, but for their future children, as well. Acceptance and power.

For Hermione, whose future in the wizarding world was uncertain at the very best – good grades were wonderful, but internships and apprenticeships in Wizarding London, well, Wizarding England, for that matter, were obtained mostly by having the right family, the right friends, the right attitude. Hermione was going to leave Hogwarts with two strikes against her to begin with: she was muggle-born, and she was totally unconnected.

Of course, having Harry and Ron as friends helped somewhat, but with their current relationships? Well, Ron's family was already pushing societal limits, despite the flourishing Weasley birthrate, and Harry… well, if Harry didn't grow up some she didn't know how much she wanted him to be a friend.

So, faced with a job as a shopkeeper or third-rate witch in some production line, or starting University and embarking on a life in non-magical England… well, the Marriage Law still seemed like a good deal.

After all, not all pureblooded wizards were snobbish, muggle-hating snots. It was the bedamned former deatheaters and their families that were the huge honking fly in the pudding.

And, she toed the Contract and let a smile creep across her face, she had been picked by Professor Snape! Well, Snape's father, at least. He was connected... He was one of best Potions experts in Britain, maybe even in Europe! He clearly had family with some pull… his father had to have gotten the list early from the Ministry for her to have gotten the notification so soon after the actual publication – and before Ron's father had managed to set hands on it! As for the personal stuff, well, that was a blessing as well, no?

He was nasty, but he worked for the Order. He was a friend of the Headmaster's! Sure, he and Professor McGonagall scratched at each other, and yes, he had been a deatheater, but she simply couldn't imagine that the Headmaster would have allowed someone of uncontrolled evil teach a class, let alone a dangerous one. It also counted for him that in all the years he had taught Potions there had only been one fatality!

And, unless he decided to quit his job and move, she was going to be living with the Headmaster and the other teachers for the foreseeable future. That gave at least some inkling of safety, right?

Her last thoughts, as she felt herself drifting off to sleep, were of the most personal of personal aspects of a betrothal and marriage. Sex. Intimacy.

He was Professor Snape. She was a student.

She was completely off the hook!

She slept happily for the first night since Ginny's troubling revelation about the dark nature of Wizarding society.

To Be Continued...

Author's Note:

Some have been asking that I include the requirements of the Marriage Law Challenge in the fic, which is totally reasonable. Of course, in the year since I began and first posted the beginning of this story the 'net has been populated with MLC fics, and mine is only one of many such stories. However, for those who haven't yet run across a MLC fic, the requirements are below.

Also, for those curious, the Marriage Law Challenge is a product of the WIKTT yahoogroup – When I Kissed The Teacher, a list devoted to the Hermione Granger/Severus Snape 'ship of Harry Potter.

Requirements: (I removed the deadline because it passed quite some time ago… but I'll still finish the fic.)

The Marriage Law – by Chelleybean

Challenge Requirements

There have been more and more fanfics cropping up that note the interbreeding that appears to be rampant in the Pureblood families. Some fans may have even noticed how the Purebloods often seem to be depicted as less intelligent and less attractive than the half-bloods and Muggleborns, even in JK Rowling's books themselves. Why not put this to good use?

My challenge is this: The Ministry of Magic has finally acknowledged, publicly, that the wizarding world is in danger as the continued intermarrying of the Pureblood line causes more and more stillbirths, squibs and barren children. In an attempt to save the old families The Marriage Law has been put into place. Under this law any Pureblood wizard or male head of a Pureblood family can petition for a betrothal contract giving them legal power over a Muggleborn witch. This step has been deemed necessary as they discovered Muggle families feel that betrothal contracts are too 'old fashioned' and would rather let their daughters 'fall in love'. Our leading man of choice is going to get a contract on Hermione.

Deadline is 04/09/14

Conditions:

Your choice of how his contract comes to be:

Severus' father, desperate to save the Snape family, selects her for her brilliance and power.

Severus falls in love with Hermione, but she rejects him, forcing him to take a more 'high handed' approach.

There must be a confrontation between Severus and Hermione's father.

No Rape! Hermione must either skillfully convinced or romantically won over into being a willing participant in the marriage bed.

Lucius Malfoy must challenge, either by duel or wizard court, Snape's claim to Hermione in an attempt to get her for Draco.

Freebies:

No limit on length or rating, but remember to warn younger readers if you're going to be racy.

Be funny, serious, however you want to be.

Remember, jealous young snots are fun to screw with.

If you're going to post on WIKTT, please put the story in the challenge folder so we can find it.

Enjoy yourselves!

I love picture, so feel free to throw in illustrations as well.