The Marriage Law is the brainchild of WIKTT.
Author's Note: A while back, I came across a miserable little one chapter Marriage Law fic entitled, I believe, "The Only Solution," in which Hermione kills herself. I have not been able to find that story again, so I do not know the identity of the author and I'm not sure even of the title, but it inspired this little story. I don't like dark fics, character torture, or tragedies. Life is sad enough. The reason I peruse Hermione/Snape web sites is to enjoy the pairings, not to read stories where the characters die before being paired. So this is my offering, for what it is worth. Please be kind. And to whoever wrote that original story...This fic's for you!
THE BETTER SOLUTION
He couldn't remember when it had originally happened, the exact month, week, or day. It had crept up on him gradually like the appearance of evening shadows at the coming of dusk, shadows that moved so slowly as to be almost unnoticeable...almost, until the moment one discovers that it has suddenly become quite dark. He didn't really notice that his feelings and perceptions were changing until one day he realized that the brainy little chit, who had annoyed him for the last few years, was beginning to annoy him in a completely different way.
He found that he liked her. Odd, that. He found himself taking far more interest in her work than he ever had before, more interest in her work than anyone else's. She was an exceptional student, probably the best he had ever taught. She mastered every concept, every technique, with ease and confidence, and worked conscientiously at every task she was given. She was quick to understand the "why" as well as the "how" in what she did, which was essential to the true mastery of potion making. Any wizard who put their mind to it could memorize the steps to make a potion. But to understand what made it work, to perhaps have insight into it's possible modifications...that was genius. And that was the brilliance he saw in Hermione Granger.
And he was beginning to see more than just brilliance. He was finding her attractive...beautiful, in fact. He found himself watching her in class, in the Great Hall, and any place the two of them were likely to be. He found that he was always acutely aware of where she was in proximity to himself, a new awareness that suddenly seemed terribly essential to him. By the time he had realized what had happened it was too late to stop it. Once begun, it could never be undone. To his horror, Severus Snape realized he was in love.
Snape didn't view this revelation with any joy, but with something akin to despair. Not only had he fallen in love with a student, he had fallen for an underage student. That alone branded him a pervert in his own eyes and emphasized the acute hopelessness of his situation. He could never pursue a relationship with a student and he knew, with a certainty, that there wasn't the slightest chance of the object of his affections ever returning them.
Miss Granger would never, ever, be attracted to him. There were too many reasons why not and he knew them all too well. Aside from the fact that he was at least twenty years older than her and seriously homely, he had gone out of his way to snub her for years. She had always been the constant companion of Potter and Weasley, and that, in and of itself, had been enough to embitter him to her. The fact that she quickly turned out to be the best point-earner Gryffindor ever had made him go out of his way to show her no mercy whatsoever. He regretted that now.
It wasn't that he thought she hated him. Miss Granger didn't seem to be the hating sort. She had an actively kind disposition, as well as a righteous one. It was one of the things he found so beautiful in her. But he had a very strong feeling that should Miss Granger even have an inkling that he harbored any tenderness for her, she would pity him. That thought was enough to make his gut writhe as though battling the Cruciatus Curse. She must never find out. He would have to continue to hide his feelings carefully behind a mask of sarcastic cruelty. He would have to go on treating her as he always had--snubbing her, ignoring her, scowling or sneering whenever he saw her. It pained him to have to do that, but it was the only way. It was better, after all, to be hated than pitied.
But he observed her secretly. He watched her smiling and conversing with her friends. He watched her hold her head high with dignity when taunted by other students, usually Slytherins. He watched her pour over her work, serious eyes scanning book and parchment, absently biting her lower lip in concentration.
She was strong, capable, and brilliant, yet curiously vulnerable. He sensed an aloneness to her similar to that of himself. She hid behind her studiousness and her high achievement. Something drove her relentlessly to academic perfection. Was it similar to what had always driven him? The more he pondered that, the more he didn't think so. Hermione Granger came from a background of love. He sensed no horrors in her past, no childhood trauma such as that which festered in his own. The recent loss of her parents had left her somewhat quieter, but that was all.
She was still poised, still confident academically to the point of exhibition. But he sensed she was shy socially, a secret shyness that she disguised behind her glittering school achievements. Was she shy with men, perhaps? Although she seemed to have far more male friends than female friends (she was always with Potter and Weasley, for instance,) they were obviously only just friends. He had noticed Weasley looking at her more than once with desire but she never even seemed to see it. Snape hadn't noticed Miss Granger looking at other women with anything suggestive either, so he didn't believe there was any lack of natural inclination. She was, he mused, simply unawakened, a complete innocent.
What would she think if she knew that he wanted her, and how he wanted her? Weasley, her so far unnoticed suitor, was as innocent as she was. Severus Snape wasn't. There wasn't a reasonable sex act he hadn't assiduously practiced. And he had practiced quite a few unreasonable ones as well. He knew exactly how he wanted to please, and take his pleasure with, his innocent all-star student...if she would let him. But that would never happen. No, she would surely end up in the bed of that red headed oaf, not his. It was probably just as well, he thought. He, Snape, could hardly be considered a good match for her.