Disclaimer: Everything here belongs to J.K. Rowling.

In the Dark of the Night

Severus heaved a sigh, resigning himself to the inevitable. It had been a difficult day, and it promised to be an impossible night. With both his hands in the pockets of his robes, he strove for a neutral expression. It was difficult; his scowl had always found a permanent home on his face. Inwardly, he snarled. If only I hadn't promise Albus I'll play nice. He of all people should know what I have vowed all those years ago: if I cannot have her as my wife, I will have no other… Still, it wouldn't do both of them any good if he unleashed his famous temper at her now. She was sitting on the giant bed of his with her back towards him, trembling from nervousness or fear he did not know. Remembering his promise to the headmaster, he decided that he had no desire to make the whole experience for her more unpleasant than it already will be. After all, he thought bitterly, she is a victim of this farce of a marriage, too. For the tenth time that day, he silently cursed the Ministry for throwing two unwilling, virtual strangers together.

Severus moved towards the bed and sat down on it. He started to reach out for the woman, hoping to gain her attention, but thought better of it. No point not prolonging the inevitable, especially when the inevitable can be prolonged. The woman in question suddenly stopped shaking, but Severus noticed that her body had stiffened as she turned to face him. Severus could see a mixture of anger and hopelessness and the occasional burst of determination splashed across her face. She seemed to be struggling with some internal demons. Severus observed and pinpointed the exact moment when her determination won and she opened her mouth to speak.

"Let's get this over and done with, Professor."

Severus frowned. Something in her tone irked him and he suddenly decided that 'playing nice' was as tiring as trying to deceive the Dark Lord. But unlike lying to the Dark Lord, he knew he could always quit 'playing nice' and still live to see his obnoxious students the next day. So he did just that.

"It's Severus, Hermione. The Ministry has seen fit to announce us husband and wife. Use my given name when we are alone. The professor in me does not make a habit of bedding his students." He smirked when Hermione's eyes widen and her hands clutched at his bed sheets when he accentuated the true nature of their relationship, and continued "However, in the presence of the staff and the other students, you will still address me as Professor Snape. Those occasions will be minimal, as you have completed your potions NEWTS early. I will avoid you during the day, and I trust you to do the same."

He paused and Hermione jumped in, "Fine, I won't call you 'Professor', but I refuse to call you by your first name. It's personal, everything this whole…marriage (she shuddered) is not. I'll call you 'Snape'."

Following that, she suddenly looked thoughtful. Her face lost its stiffness and her eyes softened. Severus thought it made her look every inch her seventeen years, and not the woman he had married earlier in the day. Unbidden, the image of his lost love materialised in his mind, accusation radiating from her beautiful sapphire eyes. For the eleventh time, he cursed the Ministry.

"You can call me 'Hermione' since I'm not 'Granger' anymore and calling me 'Snape' is an insult. And anyway, it'll confuse you."

Severus shrugged, but frowned that she thought something as mundane as last names would confuse him. "Whatever," he replied.

The silence in the room stretched. Minutes passed and Severus decided that the time has come for the first part of the marriage contract to be fulfilled. Least as he believed in rushing head first towards unpleasantness, he believed even less in staying up the whole night, wondering who was going to make the first move. Reluctantly, he reached out and pulled Hermione's rigid form towards him and planted his lips on hers.

Closing his eyes, he whispered an apology to the dead for the betrayal he was going to commit against her.

Forgive me, Mel. I broke my oath to you. Forgive me, please, Mel…

Mel. Little did the newlyweds know that the name was to become the salt that rubbed into an already open wound.