At dinner, he stood up mid meal and Snape's heart plunged into his belly.
"Oh, no, oh, no." he said, staring at the old headmaster who had that telltale twinkle back in his eye and a somewhat mischievous grin.
"I have an announcement that may come as a surprise to many of you but is one that should be celebrated none the less." He said. Everyone quieted and Snape could hear the clinking of silverware being set down and the shifting of bodies and attention to the staff table.
"Professor Snape has been married this weekend!" he said. There wasn't a sound. There was not a sound. No student said anything. They stared at Dumbledore and then to Snape with bulging eyes and open mouths, half full of food. It was impossible! Who would marry him? Some of the Slytherin started clapping half-heartedly and the staff did as well. He looked around first to Minerva who looked angry. Then to Harry who looked angry. Finally he looked at Ginny who looked pale and as if she was tensed to run at any moment. "And he has been married, to our own Miss Ginny Weasley – or should I say – Ginny Snape." He said. For the quiet that had been so complete a moment before, the chaos that happened now was overwhelming and immediate. All of – ALL OF – Gryffindor stood and the benches they'd previously sat on flew out and toppled, taking out the backs of most of the first year Hufflepuffs. Ginny had lept from her seat as soon as her name had first been said and fled the Great Hall. Severus had stood as well as most of the staff if only to turn and stare at him. The Slytherins were utterly confused. Malfoy and his lot were laughing and pumping their fists like it was some sort of victory and the rest looked disgusted that their head of house had married a Weasley. Everyone else was simply floored and all a titter and probably using the moment as an excuse to go crazy and start throwing food. And Ron… at first Severus couldn't see Ron, where was he? He saw, first, Hermione and Harry's horrified looks and then Ron Weasley had launched himself up to the staff table and threw himself against Snape, his hands wrapping around his neck and squeezing. It didn't take much for Snape to fight him off and pin him down. He was outraged at first before he realized that Ron was fighting as hard as he could and losing, tears pouring down his ruddy, freckled face. Dumbledore had sat back down and resumed eating his chicken. Snape, completely at a loss as to how to get the school back under control grabbed Ron by the neck of his sweater and drug him out of the Great Hall.
When they were alone, in the hallway that led to the staff table, a place Ron Weasley had never been, he said,
"I hate you."
"That's not changed, then." Snape said. "I owe you an explanation." Severus Snape never liked to owe anyone anything.
"Where's Ginny?" he spat. "I don't even believe that it's true." Severus stuck out his left hand to show the ring that Ron might recognize.
"It belonged to your great-great grandfather once and then to your sister and now to me. It activated a spell and it's been months." He said. "Your sister, I believe, is in my bedroom and I think she would like to talk to you, and then to your family, and then to your friends."
"What do you mean a spell?" he asked but at long last they were walking and he'd stopped trying to beat Snape into a bloody pulp. It was a start. He was wiping his face with his sleeve and he looked defeated.
"It's a true love spell – I didn't name it so don't look at me like that. You are still my student." He snapped. "It means that your sister and I are very compatible and the spell bound us to one another somehow. We cannot be apart – physically – for more then a day or we get sick and eventually die."
"That's ridiculous." Ron said.
"I agree but because it's so rare and generally a good thing in a wizarding population that is becoming extinct, there is no counter spell. It is what it is, Mr. Weasley." They arrived at the door and he opened it. He could see a heap on is bed; Ginny was under the covers.
"That was a horrible thing for him to do, Severus!" she yelled, her voice muffled but unmistakable. "I want to leave this school."
"Ginny…" It was Ron. The thrashing pile stilled at the sound of her brother's voice. Slowly, the frizzy head emerged and the two Weasleys stared each other down. "Hullo."
"Hullo, Ron." She said. "I was going to tell you."
"So it's true, then?" he asked.
"Yes." She nodded. "It's not bad. I mean, I know you hate him but it isn't bad." Snape looked relieved and thankful of this.
"Mum's gonna go mental." He said.
"She knows about… about the rings and the spell but yeah." Ginny said.
"I can't even imagine the howler you're going to get." Ron said, looking at Snape. Snape rolled his eyes. "I guess this wasn't your best birthday ever." He said.
"Yes and no." she said, crawling out of the bed and going to stand next to her husband.
"I did get you a present, Gin." He said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a bit of candy. "It was a surprise. Fred and George sold their first bit of candy to the joke shop. If you eat it, you get the bat bogey hex. It's named after you." He said. She smiled.
"That's sweet." She said, and put it into her own pocket. "Maybe I'll offer it to Dumbledore later." She said. Snape chuckled at this.
"Well. I need to go have a word with our headmaster and try to bring order to chaos. Why don't you stay here for a moment?" he said to Ron. "I'll be back."
Severus was tired of always being on damage control. He could still hear the din of madness in the great hall. He walked back in and put his wand to his throat. "Sonorus." Taking a breath he said, "Everybody SIT DOWN." His voice dominated the room, echoing and causing students to grab their ears in discomfort and sit down immediately. "Finite Incantatum. Albus, a word, if you please?" He said. The old wizard nodded and walked down to where Snape waited, a bread roll still in his gnarled fist. Severus wanted to punch him in the face.
"To my office, then." Dumbledore said merrily.
"To mine." Snape snarled and pivoted out of the hall. Dumbledore followed him along, munching on his bread and patting the crumbs out of his long beard. In his office, he turned to the older man.
"Now what did you want to talk about?" Dumbledore asked, having a seat.
"I am done owing you anything." he said. "You can consider my debts settled."
"Debts?" he asked, feigning ignorance.
"I do not deny that you saved my life when I left the dark lord, but after what you just did to me, after what you did to Ginny, I think that our time of working together has come to an end." he said.
"You're resigning, then?" Dumbledore asked.
"I will stay until the end of term. Is that what you wanted?" Snape asked.
"I suppose that it is. I did not do this to be cruel. So many people come to teach at Hogwarts and never leave. They never meet anyone and never fall in love and they grow old here alone if not unhappy. But look what fate has dropped in your lap, Severus! A beautiful young wife who longs to be with you always. Perhaps it is time you left the comfort of this castle for good and go live a real life doing something you love." Dumbledore said.
"I doubt Ginny will want to come for her last year, either." he said.
"I didn't think so but she won't be the first Weasley to choose her own path." He said. "I hope in time you can forgive me." Dumbledore didn't wait for an answer before leaving Snape's office. Sighing, he went to go check on Ron and Ginny. He found that the group had multiplied to include Hermione and Harry all sitting crossed legged on his bed.
"Please, come in." he said, sarcastically, but none of the young Gryffindors seemed at all threatened.
"I was just explaining." Ginny said. "Sorry for inviting them here."
"Don't apologize. What's mine is yours, as you well know." he said, pulling up a chair bedside and sitting down. "I've resigned."
"What! You can't!" Harry exclaimed and then looked confused.
"I thought you'd be celebrating." Snape commented, a smirk on his face.
"Me too, actually. But if you leave, who will I blame everything on?" He asked, shrugging.
"Severus, I won't come back if you don't." Ginny said stubbornly.
"Dumbledore thought as much. You don't have to. I'll teach you everything you need to know for your N.E.W.T.s and you can take the exams at the ministry instead of in school." Snape said.
"Now you've gone and married and dropped out of school?" Ron asked, looking sick. "I always thought you were the good one."
"I guess I ought to owl mum and tell her everything." Ginny said. "In the morning, though."
"Yes, why don't you all get out." Snape said.
"Severus, don't be rude." Ginny said, lightly.
"It is our wedding night; I hoped to be alone with you." Severus said.
"Oh!" Hermione said, grabbing Harry and Ron's arm and pulling them off the bed and towards the door.
"That's a thought I didn't need." Harry said, wrinkling his nose.
"If you hurt her I'll kill you." Ron said, looking steadily at his potions professor.
"I don't doubt that." Snape replied, just as evenly. "And as I want a long, fruitful life with my wife, you needn't worry."
"Good." Ron said.
"Bye guys." Ginny said and they left, chattering all the way back to Gryffindor tower.
Ginny woke up early to write to her mother but found it was unnecessary. On Sundays, Severus had the Daily Prophet delivered to his room as he rarely got out of bed in time for breakfast. Ginny dug around until she found a knut to give the owl and unrolled the front page, procrastinating the letter that remained unwritten and unexplainable. Severus was still sleeping, his body relaxed and almost glowing in away. The lines on his face went away when he was asleep and he looked young. It was a shame she had to wake him. But the picture of Severus Snape on the front page of the paper under the headline 'Hogwarts Professor Weds Student' really did warrant his attention.
"Severus wake up." she said, shaking him roughly. "Severus, we're in the paper." she said.
"We're in the bloody paper! Listen: 'Professor Severus Snape, Hogwarts Potions Master and one time follower of you-know-who turned good has married 17-year-old Ginny Weasley, Hogwarts student at a secret ceremony in Hogsmeade yesterday.'" she read.
"Let me see that." he said.
"I guess I don't need to tell anyone now." she said, putting her face in her hand. As if on cue, there was a knock on the outer door. Ginny pulled on Snape's black robe and went to answer the door, knowing that whoever saw in her a robe wouldn't possibly be worse then what had already happened. It was McGonagall.
"Sorry to wake you so early, dear." she said, but it sounded strained. "Have you seen the paper?"
"Yes." she said.
"Ah, good. Well, Professor Dumbledore sent me to retrieve you. You're parents are here."
"HERE?" she screeched. "At school?"
"In Albus's office." she said.
"How are they?" she asked, running her fingers through her hair nervously.
"What do you think?" McGonagall asked philosophically. "Either way, best not to keep them waiting and best not to come alone." she said.
"I'm awake." Severus said, startling Ginny. She turned to see him already dressed. "Go put your clothes on. Let's get this over with." Ginny dressed quickly. She wished she could have a shower and look presentable and adult but she felt like a child and looked as unkempt. The three walked to the headmaster's office silently. Ginny had no idea what her parents would do, how Severus would react, what Dumbledore would suggest. And how did the paper find out all the details so quickly. Malfoy had probably told his father who'd alerted the media instantly… she'd bet money on it. When a Weasley bet money, you knew it had to be a sure thing. But she wasn't poor anymore. She'd forgotten. She slipped her hand into Snape's and he gave it a light squeeze.
When they entered the office, her parents just stood there and stared at her until finally her mother spoke.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" she asked.
"Now, Molly, we said we wouldn't accuse or judge." Arthur said, laying his hand on his wife's shoulder.
"Shut up Arthur." she snapped. "Severus! Honestly, we trust you with our children; we spent the summer together at the horrible house… I mean, you have to responsible! She's just a child!" she said, her voice getting louder with every word.
"She's not a child, any longer." Snape said. "And as I recall you weren't but a year older by the time you were married with a baby on the way." he pointed out.
"That was a different time." she said.
"Not so different, really. War then, too." Snape replied.
"As much as I enjoy you all talking about me like I'm not standing right here, may I say something?" Ginny said.
"Yes, of course." Arthur said. "I'd like to her your explanation."
"Severus and I were friends before this even happened. And the spell never would have worked if we weren't good for each other. I love him and I hope that he loves me. This is what I want and I'm not giving it up no matter what you say. Even… even if you never want to see me again. I choose Severus." she said.
"Oh, Ginny." her mother said.
"I mean it. I don't want to give you up but if you can't accept Severus then you'll lose me just like you lost Percy." she said. She'd played her trump card. Percy was most definitely out of the family and it was the sorest spot in Weasley history, one her parents never wished to repeat.
"Of course we'll accept this marriage." her mother said.
"Good, it's settled then." Dumbledore said.
"Not quite." Ginny said. "I've also decided to not come back to school next year."
"WHAT? YOU WILL FINISH YOUR SCHOOLING YOUNG LADY! I DID NOT RAISE YOU TO BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE ABOUT YOUR FUTURE…" Sighing, Severus sat down on a tucked back loveseat next to McGonagall. This was going to be a long morning. It was going to be a long marriage with a mother-in-law like Molly Weasley. Still, he was the happiest he'd ever been. He looked at the ring on his hand fondly, the figures dancing with glee.