AN: Okay, first off, I just want to apologize for not updating this story in almost 6 years. I know all too well what it's like to get hooked on a story that isn't updated. I will not make excuses, just know that this time I plan to finish what I started. Now that the series is over, I have a broader scope for this story. The first 4 chapters were vague as to the timeline and I intend to address this issue in further chapters. I will stick to the general ideas in the books, but most of the content will veer away from cannon. Obviously, Dumbledore is still alive and its set in sixth year, so Severus has yet to save Draco and Harry has not yet started his search for the Horcruxes. Since we all know what happens in the books, this story will concentrate on the events as they relate to the budding relationship between Severus and Hermione. I hope this time around, I do not disappoint.

Avoiding Humiliation

Chapter 5

Severus sighed as he sat at the Head Table trying to enjoy his breakfast. He was glad it was a Saturday morning because if he had to deal with high-strung, nervous students all day he would most likely snap and be sent to Azkaban for endangering a minor. The students were in an uproar because all those over the age of seventeen were paired off by personal choice or by ministry involvement and now they were preparing for their futures. Their excitement bubbled down to the younger students, making it impossible for anyone to concentrate on academia.

It was for this reason that Dumbledore announced last night that classes would be postponed for the next two weeks. This time was for the students affected by the Marriage Law to prepare for testing and plan weddings. The younger students would be sent home for a brief break and would return to continue there school work unencumbered.

Tonight, the Order would be meeting at Grimmauld Place to discuss the Marriage Law and other related topics. For the first time, Severus was to make it clear to everyone involved that he was indeed working for the side of Light. In the coming months, he would need their support. Especially now that Hermione would be intimately involved in all of his movements. He needed them to be completely supportive so that no harm would come to her. He kept telling himself that the reason he is so worried about her is that she is so innocent.

Thoughts of his future wife made his gaze once again slide over to the Gryffindor table where she sat with her friends. They had not seen each other since the previous day when they discussed their changing relationship. As appalling as this whole ordeal was, Severus could not help but think that it could have gone much worse. Hermione was extremely level-headed for her age. She might even provide the support he had been craving in his life up until now. Severus sighed again as he crushed that hope before it blossomed; he had long ago given up on the hope that he would have someone in his life to help him bare his burdens. Even if Hermione was his wife in name, he couldn't very well expect her to want to be his true partner. She was just looking for someone to marry who would leave her to continue her furture plans, whatever those may be.

As Hermione sat with Ron and Harry at the Gryffindor table, she tried to stop herself from continuously looking up at the Head Table. She had managed to avoid speaking to her friends yesterday by spending the entire afternoon and evening in the library, not returning to the Common Room until she was sure they were all sleeping. She did not wish for them to catch her staring at Professor Snape before she could break the news to them gently.

"Let's go down to the lake and talk after breakfast," Hermione offered in response to her friends inquiries. "We all have a lot to talk about." Her friends wholeheartedly agreed and began to stuff their faces so that they could hurry to the lake.

Hermione sighed. If she was completely honest with herself, she was glad that Ron decided to pettition for Lavendar Brown. She loved Ron, like a brother, but she did not want to spend the rest of her life dumbing-down her thoughts and pretending to care about Quidditch. If she was brutally honest, she would even go as far as to admit that she was fortunate to have such a brilliant man as Severus Snape as her husband. A part of her was kind of excited about the prospect of the intelligent conversations they could have and how much she could learn from him.

Don't be silly, Hermione. Professor Snape will be your husband only in name. He wants someone to leave him alone; he doesn't want to be true partners.

"I don't know about you lot, but I'm kind of excited about the break." This of course from Ron.

"Seriously, Ron?" Ginny frowned at her brother. "You may be older than me, but I swear an outsider wouldn't be able to tell." Harry chuckled and squeezed Ginny's hand.

Hermione smiled at her friend's antics. It was hard to believe that their carefree days would soon be over. On top of the Marriage Law, they would be included in an Order meeting tonight. It seemed kind of silly to her to be worried about weddings when Deatheaters were on the loose.

"So, perhaps we should get this over with." Hermione wanted this over with. She was tired of her stomach being in knots. "Since it's completely obvious that Ginny petitioned for Harry and that Ginny's parents would never allow her to leave the protection of Hogwarts, I can only assume that Ginny will continue her education, while Harry tests out of classes so he can concentrate on Order business." At Harry's nod she continued, "So that leaves you and me, Ron."

Ron blushed, "Well, I petitioned for Lavendar Brown. She accepted, but wishes to stay at Hogwarts. We'll most likely get married this summer and she will come back to school for her seventh year. I'm going to finish out this year and study extra hard so that I can take my tests before the wedding. While Lavendar is finishing Hogwarts, I will most likely get a job and find a house for us."

Hermione nodded. From what she could gather about the Law, couples could put off having children for multiple reasons. Finishing school and finding a steady job were among them. Although the Ministry wanted magical offspring, they also wanted those offspring to be raised in a stable enviroment. They didn't need children running around whose parents cannot support them.

Finishing her thought process, Hermione realized that they were all looking at her. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Please let me finish before you comment." Her friend's nodded in an attempt to hurry her along. "No, you have to promise."

"Out with it, Hermione! It can't be that bad!" Ron was trying to be supportive.

Looking down, Hermione forced the words out of her mouth, "I'm going to marry Professor Snape. After a run-in at the Shreiking Shack, we both realized that we were going to be forced to marry someone the Ministry chose for us if we did not receive any petitions. So, Professor Snape petitioned for me and I accepted..." Hermione trailed off and looked up, expecting a storm of indignation and disgust. Instead, she saw three stunned faces.

Harry recovered first. "Jesus, Hermione! Whoever the Ministry would have picked couldn't have been THAT bad. They would have at least picked someone our AGE. And we don't even know for sure who he is loyal too!"

At this point, Ron broke in, "Ew, Hermione, you can't actually be thinking of having kids with the greasy git! That's disgusting!"

Hermione stood as she felt her temper rise. She looked to Ginny, "Anything scathing to say before I continue?" Ginny shook her head silently, knowing full well her friend did not make dicisions lightly.

"For your information, Harry, whoever the Ministry picked could have been worse! You know how important my education is to me. I refuse to be just someone's housewife. Professor Snape and I have come to an agreement on the subject. He will allow me to continue my education unencumbered if only I allow him the privacy to continue his work. And since neither one of us wishes to be on unequal footing, I am going to graduate as soon as possible before we marry and them I will probably go on to university or take an apprenticeship. As for the loyalty issue, if I were to be petitioned by a Voldemort supporter, think of what that would mean. I'm sure the Ministry has no way of screening for potential Deatheaters before they make some unwitting muggle-born marry them. Can you imagine? Dumbledore trusts Professor Snape and that's good enough for me...and it should be good enough for you!"

With that, Hermione stormed off. She knew she was being childish, but she really couldn't stand being with them for another minute. She would give them time to process the news and give herself a chance to prepare for the Order meeting. She decided to spend the rest of the morning taking a kuxurious bubble-bath away from the possibilities of running into her friends.