A/N – I am indebted to my two patient betas – Kathy Rose (my editor) and Larilee (my canon nazi). It goes without saying that I owe them my first born child. I'm still trying to figure out how to divide him between the two. This story was written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made.

Fame and Misfortune

--

Glaring at the sea of Hogwarts' students, Severus scowled. Why was he still here? The bloody war was over. The Dark Lord was defeated. The ungrateful wizarding populace was safe – safe until the next source of evil surfaced. His role in the war, his sense of purpose for the last two decades, was gone. A slow agonizing death would have been preferable to what he suffered through now. Not only was he forced to teach the blithering spawn of wizards and witches, he had to deal with something far more unpleasant and far more dangerous – the media.

Even though it had been more than five years since the end of the war, the celebrity status of being a bloody war hero had not waned in the slightest. If it weren't for Albus "Memoir-Writing-Bastard" Dumbledore, no one would have ever known his role in the war.

Not only did he have to deal with hormonal teenagers, he had to deal with their mothers and grandmothers constantly harassing him. Everyone was fascinated with the spy who had duped the Dark Lord for well over a decade.

He could feel the curious stares of the students as he sipped his morning coffee. Last night had proven how out of control things had become. Students, female students in particular, were purposely out after curfew, hoping to capture his attention. His patrol of Hogwarts' grounds had netted a record number of house points. He did not discriminate between the houses.

In fact, he had taken the most points from Slytherin. Glaring at his house table, he shuddered. The last thing he needed was a Slytherin woman trying to seduce him.

The stupid chits were becoming more and more aggressive. One had even tried to slip him a lust potion. He had tried to get that student expelled, but Dumbledore had conveniently overlooked Hogwarts' policy and had assigned the student detentions for the rest of the year. Filch would definitely be getting his use out of that upstart.

Would the indignities he'd had to suffer throughout his forty-five years of existence ever end? Would things ever be normal?

Severus snorted into his coffee with a derisive smirk. Normality was a concept he would probably never know in this lifetime. He'd been a spy most of his adult life. That was anything but normal. Hogwarts was normal. It was his home. The school would have to burn to the ground before he would leave.

His reverie was cut short as Severus heard the squawk of owls entering the Great Hall. As had become his morning custom, he transfigured his napkin into an umbrella and quickly deployed it. An undignified chuff sounded at the other end of the table as fan letters rained down upon the staff's table. By the time the owls were finished delivering his fan mail (and it was his, for all the other staff had had theirs redirected), the deluge would be ankle deep.

Grinning, Severus took a bite of his toast and ignored Minerva's outbursts over how many letters were in her porridge. He rolled his eyes as he looked down the table. Flitwick, who was sitting beside him, had taken his lead from Severus. The Charms Professor had transfigured one of his utensils into an umbrella. He could hear the giggles from the student body.

"Really, Severus!" Minerva stood up with as much dignity as she could for she was slipping on the letters on the floor. "I do not see why you can not redirect this fan mail. It is very inconvenient."

Ignoring the Transfiguration mistress, Severus turned his stare upon Dumbledore, who was calmly pulling a letter from his juice.

"Pity, Severus," Albus stated. "This one appears to be ruined. You really should think about getting your mail redirected."

"I do have my mail forwarded, Headmaster," Severus replied calmly as he disposed of his umbrella. "Any correspondence of importance is forwarded to Gringotts."

"I see," Dumbledore said with a knowing smile.

Yes, you bloated old goat. Just smile and make no apologies. If I have to suffer, everyone around me is going to have to suffer.

Brushing the letters off the table and uncovering yesterday's copy of the Daily Prophet , he unfolded it and read the headline. He rolled his eyes. Thankfully the headline wasn't Potter-related. Unfortunately it was Granger-related. Good Gods! Weren't there more important things in the news other than Miss Granger's sacking from St. Mungo's?

"What a rag," he muttered under his breath. "Why do I even subscribe to such tripe? I might as well have a subscription to the Quibbler.

--

Marking the pathetic essays while his fifth-year students finished their assignment, Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Ironically enough, they were brewing the Draught of Peace. After the fiasco in Hogsmeade village this morning after breakfast, he was going to have to seriously reconsider staying at the school.

Severus had met a business associate at the Three Broomsticks and Madam Rosmerta had cornered him on his way out. Merlin, her breasts were huge! He knew this because they had actually blocked his view of the paparazzi he had been observing.

His relationship with the vermin and toads was most inconvenient. He was safe on school grounds, but past the gate he was fair game.

The flash had blinded him and, before he had known it, Rita Skeeter and her enchanted quill had been in front of him, asking absurd and ludicrous questions.

With a vicious final swipe, he set his quill down and looked at the time. "Ten minutes!" he snapped at his class.

Sighing, Severus leaned back in his chair. Was he ever going to have a moment's peace? Between the stupid chits in his class and the paparazzi outside Hogwarts' gates, he doubted it.

He needed a diversion – something that would dissuade witches from stalking him. He needed to take himself off the market. Tapping his chin, Severus looked at the ceiling. Short of death, there really didn't seem to be much of a solution.

A loud, smelly hiss disturbed his concentration. In the back row, the contents of what was supposed to be the Draught of Peace spilled onto the floor.

--

Ah, yes! The Draught of Peace was exactly what he had needed – that and a long hot shower. Steam obscured his vision. Untying the sash on his robe, he made his way to his bedchamber. A good night's sleep would set things right.

"My, my, Severus," a catty feminine voice purred from the direction of his bed. "If the public knew what kind of package you had, you'd never have a moment's peace."

Pulling his wand from his pocket, he pointed it at the naked blonde witch who was posed seductively on his bed.

"For one so skinny, I would have never thought it would be so impressive," Rita Skeeter moaned breathlessly.

With a quick succinct movement, Severus covered himself and raised his wand again. "Get out," he warned, his inflection low and ominous.

The hack smiled and moved around on the sheets as though she was trying to scratch an itch that she couldn't quite reach. "Oh, come now, Severus." The poisonous witch winked at him. "I can make you famous."

Severus approached the bed and lifted his wand higher, pointing the tip between the reporter's eyes. "I'm already famous," he growled, "thanks to your hack journalism."

"Severus," Rita replied with a sulk, "you wound me."

"That's not all I'm going to do to you."

A loud pop in the corner of the room sent the seductress scrambling for the duvet.

"Y-yes, sir, Professor Snape, sir," Dobby stammered.

"Please escort Miss Skeeter off school grounds," Severus commanded, "without clothes and without her wand."

Rita scoffed in alarm. "You wouldn't."

"I would."

With a snap of Dobby's elfish fingers, Rita disappeared.

--

Snape stabbed at his eggs with a vengeance, ignoring the prattle around him. That ruddy cow had ruined a perfectly good Draught of Peace. Within minutes of her graceful departure, he had felt a headache coming on.

"I'm fighting a losing battle," Severus muttered lowly to himself.

Filius flicked his Daily Prophet and wheezed, "Oh my! Severus, did you have a run in with Rita Skeeter recently?" the stout wizard asked cautiously, handing him the morning paper.

Grabbing the daily tripe, Snape skimmed the headlines. He didn't have to scan far. Rita's stab at revenge was today's headline news.

Sorry Ladies: Local Hero Not Interested

It is this reporter's sad duty to inform all the hopeful Missus Snapes that they are barking up the wrong tree. I have it on good authority that Professor Severus Snape is not interested in women at all. In fact, it is rumored that Snape's taste leans toward the bizarre and unusual.

It would seem that the reclusive Potions master of Hogwarts has a fetish for house-elves…

"Bloody fucking hell!" Severus' voice boomed above the buzz of conversations. All eyes were on him.

Further down the table, Dumbledore cleared his throat and gave the student body a stern stare. "Relax, Severus. It could be worse. We all know the rumor isn't true. Take my brother, for instance. The tale of him and the goats was never proven."

Severus gaped, his hand that was holding the paper shaking.

--

Storming into Auror Headquarters, Severus wove through the desks until he reached the one he was looking for. He slammed the paper on Potter's desk. "I demand restitution!"

Harry looked up at him with dispassionate green eyes. Then he looked at the paper. "Is it true?"

Feeling the blood boil in his veins, Severus gaped at James Potter's spawn. "Of course it isn't true!" he hissed, spittle flying from his mouth.

Shrugging his shoulders, Harry looked down and wrote something. Once he was finished, he looked up and sighed. "It doesn't matter what she prints. The Prophet has deep pockets. If it sells papers, they will print anything. I suggest you retain the services of a barrister and file a petition. Only then will you get your restitution."

"I should have known better than to come here!"

"Then why did you come here?" Harry asked.

Severus grabbed the paper and walked away, mumbling under his breath. Potter had a valid question. Why had he cancelled his classes, traveled to London, and sought the prat out?

If anybody knew how to deal with the press, he did, he mused as he entered the lift. The press had hounded him mercilessly ever since his fourth year at Hogwarts. Only when Potter had married did the press seem to lose interest in printing blatant lies about him.

Epiphanies were rather rude awakenings as far as he was concerned, and the thought that just crossed his mind was beyond insane. He shook his head as if he were trying to banish the errant thought into oblivion. Looking at the crumpled paper in his hand, Severus started to unfold it.

A rather unflattering picture of Hermione Granger pushed the camera away on the front page below his story. Her brown curls were even more prominent and out of control than when she had attended Hogwarts. The girl had rounded curves now. In fact, she was actually somewhat chubby. The caption under the picture read:

Healer-In-Training Hermione J. Granger clears out her belongings after being sacked from St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

Severus took small comfort in her obvious displeasure. She looked harassed, angry, haughty, and…scared.

The stupid chit should be scared. Her career is basically in the toilet. She was too young to have any substantial savings to live off of while she looked for work.

Severus shook his head again, stamping the absurd thought that kept bubbling to the surface of his consciousness.

Marry her, kept resounding in his head.

"I've done it," he groused out loud. "I've lost my marbles. I'm completely insane."

Marry her and the press will go away, the voice in his head insisted.

"I'd be exchanging one problem for another," Severus argued with himself.

It wouldn't be that bad, the insanity whispered. You would only need to bed her once to make the marriage legal, and then you could go your separate ways and never speak again.

He shuddered as he stood in the elevator, mumbling to himself. The idea was absolutely ludicrous. There was no guarantee that the media would leave him alone.

The elevator door opened and flashes blinded him.

"Professor Snape, is what the Daily Prophet true?" a reporter shouted.

"Are you in love with the house-elf?" another asked.

"What's her name?"

"How long have you two been together?"

Finally able to see, Severus pushed his way through the throng of hacks toward the fireplaces. He shoved one reporter out of the way and reached for the Floo powder.

Short of dying, it really is the only way, the inner voice affirmed.

--

Shoving a piece of Daily Prophet into the vase, Hermione wrapped another sheet of the newspaper around it and sniffled.

"At least the stupid rag is good for something," she mumbled to Crookshanks who flicked his tail in agreement. It was thanks to that widely read tripe that she had lost her apprenticeship – well, that and her other problem.

Feeling another sneeze coming, she grabbed page three of the newspaper and held it in front of her just in time to sneeze into the paper.

Hermione sniffled, wiping and blowing her nose on the sports section. "Ah, yet another use of the Daily Prophet. Wouldn't you agree?"

Crookshanks stared at her with wide eyes, yet gave no reply.

Placing the vase in a box, she straightened and looked out the window. The vultures were camped out across the street. Things definitely couldn't get any worse than they already were. Not only had she been unfairly sacked, now she had a cold, a cold that made it difficult to do magic.

Yes, she could buy a potion and cure her cold, but money was tight. She'd just have to muddle through the drudgery of packing the Muggle way. Tearing another piece of paper for packing material, Hermione stopped as a familiar picture scowled up at her.

"House-elves!" she sputtered as she scanned the article about Professor Snape. Rolling her eyes at the ludicrous allegations, she balled the paper up and tossed it into the nearest box. "At least my life isn't the only one that rag is bent on ruining."

Stretching, Crookshanks mewled and jumped off the windowsill. He pranced to the door and looked at her expectantly.

Being a properly trained owner, Hermione walked to the door and opened it. She didn't hear the pop of Apparition behind her. "Poor Professor Snape. What could he have possibly done to deserve such a smear upon his reputation?"

"I threw Rita Skeeter out of my bedchambers," a cold voice replied behind her.

Whipping her wand from her sleeve, Hermione pointed it at a very irate Severus Snape. Her hand shook as she stared at him, but she did not lower her wand.

"Please forgive my intrusion. I would have Flooed you, but your Floo has been disconnected," he said, walking over to the window and pulling the curtain aside. "I owled ahead, but you obviously did not get it."

Her wand still pointing at her former professor, Hermione shook her head. "My mail is forwarded to the Ministry."

A puzzled look flitted across Snape's face. "You have your fan mail forwarded to the Ministry?"

"Yes," she replied, gripping her wand tighter. "I mean no."

He gave her that sarcastic look – the one that she'd grown accustomed to over the years she'd known him.

"Which is it, Miss Granger?" he asked.

She shook her head, trying to make her thoughts clearer. "W-what are you doing here? How did you get through my wards?"

Severus clicked his tongue and looked pointedly at her wand. "Perhaps, it would be best if you put your wand away."

Eyeing him warily, Hermione lowered her wand. "How did you get through my wards?"

"A trade secret," Snape replied with a snap.

Flexing her hand on her wand, she kept it unsheathed – just in case. "What are you doing here?" she repeated, trying to get at least one straight answer out of him.

He turned his attention toward the window again, staring out of it as though he had to take a bitter tonic. Finally, he sighed and turned to face her. Running his fingers through his lank hair, he licked his lips.

"I've come with a proposal," he stated, and then winced.

"Oh?" Hermione sniffled and tucked a wild curl behind her ear. He looked nervous. Or was it scared?

Opening his mouth to say something, Snape quickly shut it and frowned. "Are you ill?"

She walked past him into the kitchen. Her eyes were watering and she could feel another sneeze coming on. Grabbing a dishrag, Hermione sneezed with a deafening "Achoo!"

"Miss Granger?" His voice held more annoyance than concern.

"What?" Hermione answered his question with a question, becoming more chafed by his presence.

He looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. Boxes were stacked on boxes and everything was in disarray. "You're moving," he said, stating the obvious.

Pinching the bridge of her nose to stay another sneezing attack, she sighed. What did her former Potion's master want? "Yes," she snapped and walked past him to fold the flaps of the box and shove it to the side.

A puzzled look crossed his face. "And you're not finished yet?"

"No," she growled irritably.

"Why are you not using magic to pack?" He crossed his arms over his chest.

"Because," she chuffed as she lifted a box filled with books and placing it on another box filled with the same thing. "I have a cold." She sniffed for emphasis. "I've tried using magic, but it's just not working for me right now."

"Why do you not take a potion for your ailment?" Snape moved aside hastily as she walked past him.

Question, question, question, she groused inwardly.

Putting her hands on her hips, Hermione set out to answer all his questions. "I'm not taking a potion because I haven't enough money to purchase one, much less the ingredients. I don't have enough money because I've been sacked. I was sacked –" Her voice caught as the tears threatened to surface. Getting her emotions under control, she continued.

"I was sacked because of 'my inability to control my personal life.' I am unable to control my personal life because of that bloody rag of a newspaper." With each sentence, her voice rose an octave. "Which is kind of ironic, because I really don't have much of a personal life."

The media and her barmy admirer had made sure of that.

--

"I see," Severus stated softly, secretly pleased that her life was in shambles. It could prove to his advantage. Hermione sneezed again, derailing his train of thought. She took the dishtowel and held it up to her face as though she were trying to plug a leak.

"What do you want, Professor?" the young witch asked.

Looking at the woman he intended to marry, Severus shuddered. Her clothes were baggy, hiding the rounded curves he'd seen in yesterday's paper. Most of her hair was pulled into a haphazard bun. It appeared that she could not contain the dull brown mass. She had dark circles under her eyes, rosy cheeks, as if she were feverish, and a bright red nose.

She looked like she was well on her way to hag-dom and spinsterhood. He would definitely be doing her a favor.

Severus cleared his throat. "I see that you are having as much difficulty with the media as I am."

"And?" Her tone dripped with acidic sarcasm.

Staring at her, he continued. "I have come up with a way to temper the unfair exposure you and I both suffer at the hands of those journalistic hacks."

She looked at him, her wide chocolate eyes glassy.

"I propose…I mean I suggest that you and I marry," he asserted.

Her eyes narrowed and she gaped at him.

"If we were to portray 'the happy couple,' the conjecture would die down and the public would lose interest."

"But Harry and Ginny are married and they are in the news daily," she muttered softly, arguing with his theory.

Nodding his head in agreement, Severus began to pace. "I believe that Mr. Potter is the exception to the rule. I mean only to dissuade those piranhas that wish to wed me. I'm tired of the women and their constant schemes."

He approached her and she backed away. That was when he noticed that she still had her wand in her hand. He scowled, feeling his plan dissolving in front of him.

"I would reward you for any inconvenience," he persuaded aggressively. "You could unpack – stay here while you look for another job." He waited, hopeful for a positive response.

"You've gone stark raving mad!" she blurted, then slapped her hand over her mouth.

Hoping for something one didn't want in the first place was shallow and empty. Yet, having that hope snatched from one's grasp was a harsh reality indeed. Severus could feel the spiteful thoughts churn and did nothing to temper his response.

"I would be doing you a great service, Miss Granger," he snapped. "Not only would I allow you to remain here, I would bestow upon you a status that you could only dream of.

"I would save you from a life of pity after you've dried up into the old maid you are destined to become. Most of your contemporaries have married and started their families. But you have been unable to capture the attentions of a man because your physical assets are anything but appealing.

"When you reach a certain age, children will point at you and whisper, referring to you as a hag. Undoubtedly, you will own several cats by then – none of which will be able to fill the void in your life that you so desperately ignore.

"Your hair is dry and wild and completely unappealing. Your figure is overly large." Severus took a breath as if winded. "So you see, Miss Granger. I would be doing you a favor at an enormous cost to myself."

--

"For your information, Professor , I have had several offers of marriage," Hermione spat, affronted. Yes, the majority of my proposals have come from whackos and dodgers. But the wizard before her needn't know that.

"I may be unconventional in my wants and desires, but I assure you that I will not end up an old maid. I will be respected in whichever field I choose. Unlike you, I have my future ahead of me. Unlike you, I will not wallow in bitterness and hatred.

"As far as my physical appearance," she railed indignantly, feeling the blush of humiliation and anger flood her cheeks. "I've had plenty of lovers who have thought differently!"

Stomping toward the door, Hermione yanked it open and looked into the hall. "And you're a fine one to talk! You could probably milk your hair for potion ingredients and you could certainly use the services of my parents!

"Now," she stated sweetly, "if you would 'do me a favor' and leave, I would be forever grateful."

His dark eyes constricted, but he did not move.

"Leave now," she instructed through gritted teeth, raising her wand. "Or I will have you forcefully removed."

"Very well, Miss Granger." He nodded his head as he walked past her and into the hall. Once in the hall, he turned. "Should you reconsider my offer, you know where –"

Hermione didn't catch the rest of what he was saying as she slammed the door in his face.

--

TBC