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Chapter Twenty Seven
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Severus woke with a start, something dragging him instantly alert. A sound! A door, to be more precise. He launched himself out of bed, slowing only long enough to grab his wand from the bedside table. He was out of his bedroom and halfway across his living chamber before his brain woke up enough to tell him who had probably made the sound. Eyes widening in horrified shock, he spun an abrupt about face and strode back to his room, slamming the door shut behind him. In his startlement he had completely forgotten he wasn't alone in his quarters!

He hadn't seen her in his brief, trouserless jaunt to the front room. Thank Merlin! he thought fervently. He could feel his face heat at the very thought -- something that happened very rarely these days. He didn't want to imagine what he would have felt if she'd actually been in the room. He frowned. She must have been heading for the bathroom. It had been a door he'd heard.

Shaking his head, Severus glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was only 5:30 He looked longingly at the bed for several seconds before shaking his head again. There was no way he'd get anymore sleep, even if he did go back to bed. Besides, it was less than an hour before he normally rose, anyway.

Grabbing yesterday's robes and throwing them on over his night shirt, he moved efficiently around his chambers gathering what he needed for his dash to the bathroom, his normal morning mood souring further as it sunk in that he was going to have to wait to get into his own bathroom. Added to that, there would be no careless in and out, wearing little to nothing, today.

Or any time in the near future, he thought sourly. With another deep sigh, he dropped back onto his bed getting settled to wait for the student that had invaded his life. At least she wasn't one of those typical females who would take forever in the bathroom -- not if he were to judge by her everyday appearance. This situation would have to be worked out, however. He simply wasn't willing to wait to get in to his own bathroom every morning.

Every morning.

The thought sent a shiver through him as he contemplated how long this situation would continue. At absolute minimum they would have to remain married for a year. They couldn't get out of it until after they'd-- Right. And he wasn't going to even contemplate that until such time as his new bride was no longer a student. Wife, or not, he had never slept with a student, and he wasn't about to start now.

WIFE.

This was intolerable! How was he supposed to concentrate today? Almost every thought he had led him directly to the new circumstances in his life. He didn't want to think about it at all, let alone every moment he was awake. Part of him acknowledged that he was over reacting. After all, he hadn't been awake very long. Of course, it would be the first thing he thought about, it being the most profound change in his life. Mostly, however, he simply didn't want to think about it at all.

He dropped backward, lying flat on the bed, and threw his arm over his eyes and waited . . . and waited, resolutely keeping his mind free of his current situation. Finally, turning his head, he glared at the clock. It was now 6am and he had yet to hear a peep from the girl. Either, she was the quietest person on the planet -- he snorted at the very thought -- or she'd gone and fallen asleep in her bath! Angry now, Severus launched himself from his bed and strode toward the bathroom door. Only a last minute, 'eep!' from his conscience, halted his abrupt opening of the door.

He knocked instead . . . firmly.

No response.

His frowned deepened into an angry scowl. This time he pounded.

No response.

To hell with his conscience! He pulled the door open sharply, glaring.

The room was empty.

Bloody hell! He'd heard the chit leave, not go to take a bath! He'd waited all that time for nothing! The blasted girl had left without so much as a by-your-leave!

Now, in a truly foul mood, he slammed the door behind him and proceeded with his morning ablutions. No sooner had he closed his eyes as he stepped under the nearly scalding water, when the very thoughts he'd been fighting all morning won, the events from the day before flashing through his mind.

Severus shifted restlessly, unable to make himself stand completely still. Grousing semi-silently to himself, half of him wanted to just get on with it, get it over with. The other half of him was screaming inside him, demanding to know what the hell he thought he was doing. There had to be a better way. He quickly shook himself free of the useless thoughts, however. All they led to was more frustration than he was already dealing with.

Movement to his left, brought his attention round to his two least favorite Gryffindors. He glared at them, as a matter of course, but was slightly disappointed when they didn't react to it . . . didn't even appear to notice the look.

So much for that distraction, he thought in annoyance.

Albus and Minerva entered the great hall through the staff door and Severus froze, then had to force himself to remain where he was, focusing all his attention on the loathed students. It was either that or storm out of the great hall right then and there. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on point of view, music he didn't expect began, startling him out of his pan-- worries.

Potter and Weasley's reaction, however, had him turning to face the door of the great hall. Walking toward him was Ginny Weasley, and for a horrified second Severus thought the something had gone unutterably, horribly wrong. Before the thought fully processed, however, he saw Miss Granger and his mother following behind the 6th year red head. His eyes widened as he took in Granger's changed appearance with something akin to shock. There was a young woman walking toward him where he'd expected to see a girl. Stepping slowly, her movements in time with the music, her skirt floated around her legs like gossamer leaves. The bodice of her dress clung to all the right places, fitting against her like a well-tailored silk glove. To his astonishment, it revealed a figure that, up until now, had been well hidden by school robes and loose casual clothing.

He swallowed heavily as she drew closer, his eyes locking with hers. Mouth drying, he watched his doom approach, because doom she was indeed. He was going to die sometime within this school year. He had never been more certain of anything in his entire life. Death, wrapped up in a surprisingly pretty package.

His mother handed her over to him, placing her hand in his. The ceremony after that was a blur of vows heard and vows spoken, and when the dreaded lies about love and cherishing never appeared, something inside Severus simultaneously relaxed and drooped. As much as he usually scoffed at the notion, that was what marriage was truly supposed to be about. And while he had long ago given up any thoughts that he would marry 'for love', believing himself neither capable, nor worthy, of it, he'd also never pictured marrying without it.

As he listened, however, he was grateful to Albus for the carefully worded ritual. This was something they could both live with -- for however long they had to. If the student standing beside him really meant the words she spoke, then perhaps the two of them could make it through this, both alive and with their sanity intact.

Hands shaking as he placed the ring on her finger, the entire situation suddenly became real and it took all his effort for his uncertainties not to show in his voice as he spoke the first of the vows.

By the time he'd neared the end, however, something about the words he was repeating, spoke in turn to him and he found himself hoping they could be lived up to.

"As this ring is a circle that never ends, let it also be a reminder of my promise to always honor and respect you, to listen and be the helpmate you need."

"Via the power granted me by tradition and wizarding law, I now pronounce you husband and wife. May you always remember the vows you have taken today, and may the two of you live in peace and harmony with one another."

Of course, that hadn't been the end of it. Just as Albus had made that odd 'benediction' at the end, Sybil had interrupted, and things had gone chaotic. That had been the last moment that he'd seen his 'bride' -- awake, anyway.

Savagely turning off his shower, Severus grabbed a towel and quickly dried himself, trying to banish the images from his mind. They certainly weren't appropriate.

Unfortunately, he had yet to reconcile the woman who had walked toward him at the ceremony with the student he'd known for the last 6 1/2 years -- the same student he'd seen sleeping on his couch last night. It was an odd juxtaposition to realize that they were one in the same person.

"Get over it, Severus Snape!" he snapped at himself, impatiently fastening the last of the buttons on his teaching robes. It didn't help that he discovered Granger's note on his desk just as he was about to leave. He snarled at it, crumpling the piece of parchment and throwing it into the unlit fireplace. By the time he was stalking down the hallway, he was literally growling at himself.

He also vowed that he and the know-it-all would talk tonight. If he had to assign her detention to do it, he would. He snorted, realizing that really wouldn't go over well at all.

TBC