If you don't like the SS/HG pairing, leave now or forever hold your peace.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter series or the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
"This is insane," Severus Snape muttered, sprawling his signature right below Hermione Granger's. "Absolutely mad."
"Oh come, Severus," Minerva McGonagall sniffed, smirking a bit below her red tartan hat. "It's Dumbledore's birthday, he just wants to have a bit of fun. Don't take it too seriously."
Snape's hopes flared up, the red in his pale face clearly displaying his agitation. "So the contract isn't magically binding?"
McGonagall gave a short laugh, pushing her spectacles up her nose and quickly thwarting every bit of a dream that Snape had about the party being enjoyable, or, at least, tolerable. "Again, Severus, it's Dumbledore's birthday. And he wants to have a bit of fun."
He crossed his arms stubbornly across his chest, glaring steadily at her as she sprawled her name below his. "It won't be anything life changing. Trust me, Professor. I'm sure it will be as boring as your lessons."
She smiled mysteriously at him and left the room, leaving Severus alone with the contract. He glanced over at it, taking a mental picture of who had been invited and agreed. The head girl and boy, Hermione and Draco…that would be interesting, if not inconvenient.
He fought back the urge to tear it up with his bare hands, though he knew it was probably under such a heavy Protection Spell that it wouldn't even fold.
"I've gone mad," he muttered, giving the contract's stand a swift kick. He knew he shouldn't have signed it. What was he thinking? "I've gone bloody mad."
He began to leave, pausing to shoot a nasty glare at a portrait that suddenly decided to blurt out such randy comments as, "Who knotted your knickers?"
McGonagall's words rung in his head as he left the tiny room, mumbling angry words to himself and hands twitching in rage. "It won't be anything life changing…trust me…"
"Professor, I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous." Hermione paced impatiently across his dungeon classroom, hugging her arms close to her for warmth in the chill. "And impossible. If you didn't want to go this badly, then why did you sign in the first place?"
"I honestly have no idea what came over me, Miss Granger," Snape said coldly, watching her pace from his large desk. "And if you keep chiding me like a disobedient child, you will force me to withdraw the assignment as extra credit and instead make it a requirement for you to receive a passing mark in this class."
She opened her mouth, her face red with anger, and then closed it again. It dropped open a bit yet another time, and she squinted her eyes in a threatening gaze. "You wouldn't."
"One more word…and I will."
An angry silence followed, quickly escorted by Hermione's irritated sniff. "What if I am not successful?"
A book suddenly wormed its way into her hands, levitated from the bookshelf. The title, written in peeling gold foil letters, read Legal Counter-Charms for the Legally Hopeless.
Hermione glared at the dusty volume in her hands, then carefully set it on the desk next to her. "And what am I supposed to do with that?"
"I believe the term is "research", Miss Granger. I know you are an annoying girl, but I didn't expect you to be so naïve." He allowed a pause so he could revel in her aggravation. "There must be something in there about breaking Birthday Party Binding charms. Believe me, I would rather do this myself, but with your class's N.E.W.T.s coming soon, I simply find I do not have the time. Enjoy."
He waved her out, and she could do nothing but comply, for the sake of her grade. And perhaps her life, knowing him.
"Oh, Miss Granger, you simply must wear this."
Hermione stood in Dumbledore's office, glaring in irritation at the silver whirring objects lining the shelves and the smirking portraits on the walls.
Dumbledore tented his fingers under his spectacles, smiling faintly. "I insist."
"But…" Hermione stared down at the robes she was wearing. The silky fabric flowed gently around her ankles, cascading from all the right places, the colours slowly bleeding into different shades of the sunset. Yes, she wanted it. But…Dumbledore had startled her. It wasn't everyday that one would walk into the Headmaster's office to ask a question about the Order, and suddenly have their normal clothes disappear.
Or maybe it was. Hermione really didn't want to know.
"Well…yes…I like them…" she hesitated, eyeing the pink parasol that had rolled by itself to her feet. "But this just might be a bit much…"
Dumbledore continued with his faint smile. "No, it's not."
"But Professor…" The smile remained. She silently swore to herself. Stupid magical contract.
She took the parasol and stamped off to her room, muttering to herself and spinning the pink lacy thing over her shoulder.
"Has everyone gone mad around here, or is it just me?"
Dumbledore had chosen the theme "India Nights" for his party, though no one exactly knew why. But instead of the usual silence, faint Hindi music was playing in the background, accented with the appearance of mini flying carpets floating across the high, star-struck ceiling.
Snape glared at Hermione Granger with disdain, but not without the tiniest bit of amusement. She had failed to find the charm he had so graciously requested, and did nothing but sulk after he chided her for disappointing him immensely. But now that he thought of it, she might have been right. He didn't think there actually were any counter-charms for breaking any sort of magical contract.
But the amusement did not wane.
He couldn't help but smirk a bit. Hermione was standing against the wall of the sparsely filled Great Hall, looking radiant in a set of beautiful, colour-changing dress robes, but obviously annoyed. Her arms were folded stubbornly across her chest, and a pink parasol leaned up against her leg, the laciness somewhat out-of-place against the stone, and incredibly hideous next to the sunset gradients of her wears.
Silently, in a swiftness that only few creatures could imitate, Snape approached her from the side.
"Good evening, Miss Granger."
Hermione glared at him from the corner of her eye, refusing to meet his gaze directly. "Good evening."
He mimicked her posture, giving the hideous parasol a bit of a nudge with his foot. "Must I tell you again how greatly disappointed I am with your unsuccessfulness in getting me, and perhaps yourself, out of this nightmare?"
"No, I believe you do not, Professor. And again, must I tell you that I wanted to be here?"
"Pink parasol and all, eh?" He hooked the end around his wrist and flung it into his hand, eyeing each curve of the fabric, noting every notch in the lace. Taking his wand out of his pocket, he gently prodded the object and it melted away.
Away, Hermione thought, but only into something else.
It was a sparkling silver necklace, the same intricate pattern as the lace, heavily speckled with deep-coloured jewels of many different backgrounds. Hermione stared at him, trying to keep her mouth from dropping open.
"I believe this will compliment your robes much better," Snape said, smirking. He held it out to Hermione, who took it in reverence and calmly fastened it around her neck, the sapphire in the center casting a blue aura onto her white throat. "It is still the parasol, after all."
Hermione didn't quite know what to say, either to thank him or slap him (thought the latter made no sense…it was just how she felt). She instead settled on a flustered smile and a grateful nod.
They stood in silence for a while, the only noises the buzz of conversation around them and a particularly bad song in the background, until an easily recognizable voice interrupted the icy gap between words. It was Remus Lupin; there was no mistaking the calm, collected, and genuinely friendly voice. "Severus!" He called from his position beside Madam Hooch. "Stop frolicking with the students. We are in great need of your bright company." He smiled broadly, casting a tiny wink aside at Hermione, who grimaced and looked away.
Snape nodded deeply in farewell. "Miss Granger."
After he had left, Hermione felt horribly out of place. She was the only student there besides Draco, who was hovering over the punchbowl with a suspicious bulge in his pocket. She made a mental note not to accept any drink that had already been opened.
Finding no where else to rest her eyes, she allowed herself to observe her Potion's Professor, who was standing in obvious unrest, his arms crossed and foot tapping impatiently on the floor.
Her hand traveled to the necklace, fingers tracing the gentle curve of the silver pensively. The once-pink parasol. The first time Snape had actually done something nice for her.
Perhaps he had already sampled the punch?
It was a thought.
Hermione watched as he edged the small group of Tonks, Lupin, Hooch, and Flitwick a bit reluctantly, folding his hands in front of him with agitation. She couldn't help noting that his movements were graceful and beautiful, the curve of his neck like a swan, his fingers had the agility of a master painter…or a Potion's Master, fittingly. The muscles in his hands were perfectly formed and smoothed from years of chopping, dicing, and grating, the skin a pure, beautiful white…
Hermione suddenly caught her breath, again inwardly cursing herself. She was going crazy. Not only had Snape had the punch, Hermione must have had a sip too…
Oh, for Merlin's sake! He was her teacher!
A loud, cheerful voice suddenly cut through the conversations and Hermione's thoughts, immediately silencing the din in the Hall. Everyone either turned or swiveled their gaze toward the long table at the front of the room.
Dumbledore was standing, holding a tall, crystal glass of glimmering champagne.
To her horror (or pleasure, or something else she couldn't describe), she locked eyes with Snape's briefly before turning back to the Headmaster, blushing furiously.
Dumbledore looked absolutely ecstatic. His eyes glowed their merry blue, a shade to match his robes, from behind his half-moon spectacles. His smile was wide and enthusiastic. "Thank you all," he began. "For attending my birthday parting!"
There was a loud cheering and a few whooping sounds, overlapped by applause.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued, tipping his champagne from side to side. "First of all, I would like to begin with a few announcements."
There were a few exchanges of uneasy glances. It was widely known that Dumbledore could be a bit…eccentric at times. Well, most of the time. Announcements during a birthday party really weren't things to be looked forward to…
"Firstly, the Forbidden Forest is simply…well, forbidden, especially for all you lovers out there."
He must have been expecting a loud, jarring laugh, but instead received a few confused murmurs and some scattered "ew"s.
His smile fell a bit, but remained intact. "Kidding. Anyway…Second, I would like to declare that this is not only a birthday party…but also, in fact a wedding."
This time he got a louder response, though it again probably wasn't what he was looking for. Most people, thinking he was kidding again, burst out into loud peals of laughter, while their colleagues eyed them skeptically.
"I wasn't joking," Dumbledore said quickly, taking a sip from his glass of champagne. "And no, when you're as old as I am, one finds it difficult to become drunk. Well, my dear friends, you must know that I live for the unusual…" more glances and nods. "and I have decided on that. And I was thinking…what could be more enjoyable than a party? Two parties! Celebrating two joyous occasions! So…two of you, though presently completely unaware of your current status, will be married within the matter of an hour."
Hermione pressed against the wall, her eyes squeezing shut. He had completely lost it. What gave Dumbledore the right to do that? What on earth was he thinking?
Maybe if she couldn't see him, he couldn't see her.
Closing her eyes did nothing to block out his voice, however.
"Oh, I think it's a wonderful idea, Minerva. Now please, do sit down. Anyway…" There was a lengthy pause in which Hermione's heart began to beat faster, the cold stone pressing against her back, the necklace beginning to weigh heavily on her neck. "I am proud and incredibly pleased to announce that my choice of the betrothed will be…"
He should be sent off to visit Lockhart, Hermione thought with despair. Permanently.
"Professor Severus Snape and Hermione Granger. Congratulations!"
Hermione opened her eyes and stared at Snape, who was staring back at her with something that looked like a mix between disbelief and disgust. Hermione, a bit disgusted herself, looked up at Dumbledore as if to question his sanity.
Oh no, sanity had left him a long time ago.
He met her challenging gaze with a broad smile and a wink.
And then, Hermione knew, he had planned it all along.
Please review! Next chapter coming soon: "The Curse"