This story was written for the winter 2006 round of the SS/HG Gift Exchange on LiveJournal. Averygoodun requested a "Humourous jaunt through a fairytalesque storyline, preferably where Snape is in the "damsel in distress" position and Hermione is the rescuing knight/prince/whatever. Happy ending preferred."
To clarify, the title comes from Robert Herrick's poem "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time." Hiddenhibernian's SSHG story that shares a name with my fic was also named for the poem, but our stories are completely separate entities, and I hope you enjoy both of them.
WARNING: This story contains references to offstage, non-graphic, non-consensual sex. It is not used in erotic context. It is mild enough that I didn't feel the entire story warranted an overall non-con warning, but I also don't wish for anyone to be unpleasantly surprised.
Enormous thanks to Mr. 42, my intrepid, brilliant, beloved beta reader and the moderators at the exchange for their excellent work!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I am going to tell you a story. It is a lie, but not all of it is false.
Every story has already been told, some in a thousand different forms. Like many of those stories, this one is a story about magic, villains, and heroes. You will hear about people committing atrocious acts and deeds of great heroism. You may even hear a song. If this is not to your liking, I bid you a good evening and a safe journey to wherever you wander. But if you have the time and the inclination, sit by my fire and I'll try to give you a story about this hero that you haven't heard before.
My story begins not too long ago in a place not terribly far away, when kings were called Ministers of Magic, and Wizards and Witches lived their lives in secret, hidden away from prying eyes. Though the wisdom of the Magical folk gave the Minister his power, it was the wisdom of the Minister that determined those who advised him. And, my friends, I am very sorry to say that this Minister was young and not at all wise, making him easy prey for the ruthless and ambitious.
He was the kind of man that every bureaucracy needs- thorough and attentive to small details, and lacking in imagination. He was swept into office on a wave of sympathy following a great war, in which his father had been killed. The uncharitable might note that it was to the young man's great advantage that he bore his father's surname and an unmistakable family resemblance. It is with this Minister, Percy Weasley by name, that our story begins.
One midnight, there was a soft knock at his door.
"Excuse me, Minister? I was hoping I could speak to you for a teensy moment." The request was followed by a high girlish giggle, the sort of which is merely irritating from a small child and unbearable from anyone past puberty.
The Minister's chair was facing the fire. A mountain of parchment sheets lay at his feet, each covered with scribbles, scratches, and the occasional unobscured word. "Yes, Dolores. What is it?"
The villain of this tale, Senior Undersecretary Dolores Jane Umbridge, crept into view, hands folded demurely in front of her. "I'm afraid I have some terrible news, Minister," she said, her fluttery voice at odds with her words. "The band of ex-Death Eaters has struck again."
The Minister removed his horn-rimmed spectacles and massaged the bridge of his nose. "How many dead?"
He abruptly looked up. "None?" he repeated incredulously. "Then why did you disturb me? You know I have to present my recommendations to the Wizengamot tomorrow morning, and I'm going to have to divert funds from St. Mungo's in order to pay for additional regulatory controls on commercially available cleaning potions, and that will go over like a ton of-"
"None were killed, Minister," she interrupted. "But there were two… casualties. Sisters aged fourteen and seventeen."
"What do you mean, 'casualties?' Were they disfigured or - oh." His face turned bright red, then drained of color. "Not again."
"We won't be able to keep this one out of the paper," said Umbridge. "Too many people know about the others."
"I suppose they wouldn't believe that the Dark Mark in the sky was just Muggle fireworks?"
"Not a second time, no."
"And I suppose they won't believe that it's just a few blokes having a laugh. Boys will be boys, after all."
The Undersecretary blinked hard.
"I suppose you're right," said the Minister. "I don't mean to make light of this tragedy, it's simply horrid."
Dolores's lips twisted upward in what she believed to be a polite simper. "If I may suggest, Minister-"
"It's simply horrid that this band of miscreants had to strike on the very eve of my budget presentation. Why did this have to happen now?"
"Well, if I may say, Minister-"
"We shall have to take decisive action," said the Minister, standing and turning to face her at last. "First of all, I shall decree a nationwide curfew. Anyone caught out after eight o'clock without a Ministry-approved escort-"
The Undersecretary gave a little cough. "Hem, hem!"
"-entering any Magical commercial center, all must go through a Dark Detector, submit to a wand weighing, and undergo a cursory check for unauthorized Portkeys."
Umbridge's cough was a bit sharper. "Hem, hem!"
However, the Minister seemed to have a full head of steam. "-powerful barriers must be erected around the Ministry. One can't be too careful, you know-"
The Undersecretary's face was pink from the effort of coughing so emphatically. "HEM! HEM!"
The Minister blinked. "Are you well, Dolores?"
She paused a moment to catch her breath. "Yes, Minister. I was thinking that perhaps we might tackle the problem from a slightly different direction."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you see," she gave her signature giggle. "All of the steps you mentioned have already been in place for weeks, but they haven't stopped the attacks."
"Already in place?" he sputtered. "On whose authority?"
Dolores's giggle was a bit shriller this time. "Why Minister, you laid out the plans for me yourself!"
"Yes, but that was ages ago, and I didn't mean for you to implement them, I just meant that we ought to consider them! Really, Dolores, I must protest!"
"Oh, Minister," she simpered, making his title breathy. "I would nevereven think of overstepping the authority you've been so kind to give me. You must admit, I did anticipate your wish to heighten security, did I not?"
The Minister let out a testy sigh. "I suppose so."
"Then we'll not mention it again," she said, beaming at him. "Now about these most recent attacks-"
"Terrible. Simply terrible."
"Terrible, indeed," she said, drumming her fingernails on the Minister's desk. "And you're so right to want to take drastic measures. It's a mark of good leadership."
The Minister smiled and patted her hand in a patronizing way. "Of course it is." His smile quickly faded. "But Dolores, if you've already implemented my contingency security plan, I'll have to come up with something to tell the press tomorrow, and I simply haven't the time!"
"You'll think of something," the Undersecretary declared. "Now, let me see. What have all the recent victims had in common?"
"They're all young ladies," said the Minister.
"Excellent point, Minister."
"Of course! We keep all young ladies under lock and key!"
"I hardly think the young ladies will approve, Minister. And many will be of voting age long before your term is over."
"Oh, yes, I see," said the Minister, loosening his collar.
"What else do they have in common?" prompted Dolores. At his blank stare, she gave another laugh. "My dear Minister, did you notice anything else about them? Their families, perhaps?"
"Yes, of course! They are all from old Pureblooded families! We'll make all Pure-bloods marry Muggle-borns and have children straight off to get their minds off the attacks!"
The Undersecretary blinked hard.
"No, you're right, it's an absurd notion." The Minister sighed and threw himself down in his chair. "What am I going to do?" he moaned. "I wanted this job because I thought I could make the world safer through legislating uniform cauldron-bottom thickness and limiting public access to the Ministry, but now it's just so difficult."
"There, there," said Dolores. "I'm sure you'll hit on a solution. You always do."
The Minister said nothing.
"But if I may be so bold as to suggest something-"
"Yes, yes, anything!"
"You were so clever to notice that all of the girls who were attacked were from Pureblooded families, and it occurred to me that there is a particular virtue that Pureblooded families tend to instill in their daughters that, shall we say, newer elements are less strict about."
The Minister frowned. "You think we should give Muggle-borns lessons in table manners?"
"I meant chastity," said the Undersecretary with thinly veiled impatience.
"My dear Dolores," said the Minister. "If you think for a moment that a few maidenhead-happy criminals are any reason to force anyone to have sex-"
"I don't think it's the Ministry's place to make that decision for them," said Dolores quickly, "but if we were to impress upon them that their virginal state puts them at risk of death or worse and offer a safe, sanitary Ministry solution to the problem, don't you think people would be grateful?"
"What sort of safe, sanitary solution did you have in mind?"
She handed him a bound report. "I took the liberty of drawing up an organizational chart for the new Department of Deflorestation and making a few little recommendations. You'll see on page six that I've outlined all of the positions-"
"Really, Dolores!" said the Minister in scandalized tones.
"I've outlined all the job titles and their responsibilities."
The Minister flipped through the booklet with an incredulous expression. "You can't be serious about this list of –er –Defloristers."
"This list comes from comprehensive research. I accounted for nearly every age, taste, orientation-"
"But Higgenbottom? The man's two hundred if he's a day, and if his heart ever gives out, General Accounting will be in it up to their necks!"
"I thought the young ladies would benefit from his great experience."
"What about Auror Tonks? Her husband would eat anyone that opted to take advantage of her services!"
"Her metamorphmagus abilities would make her a great asset to the department-"
"And most of these people on your list are married. The whole thing couldn't be more likely to sow discord if we had planned it!"
The Undersecretary's eyes darted quickly from side to side. "Now really, Minister," she said in a honeyed voice, "the list of Defloristers is flexible. If you think it would be wiser to exclude married people in the Ministry, I'm sure it's a very good idea, and I will revise the list. Tonight, I'd like you to approve the chain of command. Now, as you see here on page eight-"
She handed him the booklet, and he gazed at the chart.
"Good Lord, Dolores. You've put me at the head."
"Of course, it's only natural that you should oversee the department," she said, batting her eyelashes, "Such a young, handsome Minister. Why, I wouldn't be surprised to come in and find a whole queue of girls waiting for your personal attention."
He blinked in surprise. "Me? A whole queue of girls? Do you really think so?"
"I know so," said the Undersecretary, baring her teeth in a smile.
"Well," said the Minister, preening, "I hadn't considered that."
"Good," said Umbridge with satisfaction, "that settles that. I also took the liberty of preparing a press release for you to read tomorrow. I'll owl the potential Defloristers tonight-" she nodded deferentially, "only the unmarried ones- and give you a rough list before your press conference."
"You're a marvel, Dolores. I have no idea how you do it. Every crisis that comes up, you have a ready solution. Every ex-Death Eater attack, you're at my door five minutes later and always know what to do." He winked at her "Are you certain you're not a Seer?"
She giggled, a brittle sound. "I'm not a Seer, Minister. Let's just say I have a talent for trouble."
"Very good, very good. Now, if that's all you need me for?"
"I just need your signature here and here, and then you can get back to your budget."
The Minister signed with a flourish, then turned back to his parchment.
"You can't be too careful with budgets," he remarked apostrophically, as he often did when speaking of accounting. "You never know when someone will try to slip something by you. Receipts: that's when you get them, especially if their supervisor signs off on it. That's why I fired Larchley last week, you know. Didn't bother to read the fine print on a proposal, and exceeded the Department of Magical Catastrophies budget for potions stores by ten thousand galleons! The devil's in the details, Dolores. Always in the details."
The Undersecretary smiled her shark-like smile, and left the Minister to stew in his own ink.
As she left, she removed a small porcelain figure of a kitten from her pocket, which she tapped with her wand.
When she entered her office, there was a man's head waiting for her in the fireplace.
"You called, Undersecretary?"
"Yes, MacNair. I wanted to congratulate you on an excellent night's work. Two girls in one attack is remarkably efficient."
MacNair preened. "It was all in a night's work."
"You will be compensated. However, I need you and your boys to take a few weeks off. Go on holiday, if you like."
"Why? Are the Aurors getting close?"
The Undersecretary's laugh was shrill. "How could they possibly do that? No, the Minister is taking decisive action on tonight's attacks, so your talents will be required elsewhere."
MacNair licked his lips. "The Department of Deflorestation?"
"I'll tell the boys they're at liberty."
"You might also let them know we're looking for unmarried Defloristers," said Umbridge, seating herself primly at the desk. "I have a roster to fill by morning. You may go."
But the man's head remained. The Undersecretary looked up from her writing. "What is it, MacNair?"
He looked at her, curiously. "I was just wondering about one thing. If me and the boys aren't out causing a panic, I don't think the public's going to tolerate the Ministry stealing the blooms from their little roses for too long. Eventually, they'll smarten up, get mad, and someone's going to have to pay for it."
Umbridge dotted an "i" with a bit more force than necessary. "I appreciate your concern, MacNair. Should that time come, I suggest you take it up with the head of the department."
MacNair suddenly laughed aloud. "You're setting the Minister up to take the fall," he exclaimed with admiration. "It's inspired!"
She gave him a thin smile. "You're too kind, Walden. You also know what will happen to you if you attempt to cross me."
"You've given me a job that satisfies both my needs and my more unusual wants, Undersecretary. Why would I jeopardize that?"
Umbridge nodded. "Good night, MacNair."
"Good night, Undersecretary."
Allow me to pause in my tale to assure you that not all clever people in government are as horrid as Dolores Umbridge, and not all world leaders are as fluffleheaded as Minister Weasley. If you don't believe me, and I wouldn't blame you, then let me distract you by introducing you to the hero of my story.
She has always been a hero, even more so after the conflict that took the Minister's father, where she stood with the ancient and powerful to defeat the darkest wizard in recent history. At the time of my tale, she has returned to school to sit her N.E.W.T.s and complete her studies. We find Hermione Granger, recipient of the Order of Merlin, First Class, and winner of Witch Weekly's Wildest Hair Award, in Arithmancy, nearly asleep, face propped on her ink-stained hand.
Professor Vector's mild inquiry made Hermione snap upright, which sent her inkwell flying in the process. The other students laughed, though Ginny Weasley shot her a sympathetic look. Hermione quickly Evanescoed the mess and met her professor's eye.
"I'm sorry, Professor Vector. I didn't hear the question."
"I think that much is obvious," she replied. "I know this has been a difficult time for you, but if you come to my class this poorly prepared again, I shall have to give you detention."
"But I'm not poorly prepared," Hermione protested. "I finished my essay and I've done all the required and recommended reading. If you'd just repeat the question, I'm sure I'll be able to answer you."
"I don't doubt that you've done the reading, but if you can't stay awake in class, then you are indeed poorly prepared. Consider this a warning. Now, go back to your dormitory and get some sleep."
Red-faced, Hermione gathered her things. "What about tonight's assignment?"
"You are not to work on any assignments or go to the library until after supper," ordered Professor Vector. "You will go to your room, and you will rest until then."
"Miss Granger, I'm being more than fair. Leave this class now, or I shall be forced to deduct points"
Chagrined, Hermione nodded mutely and closed the door behind her. She wondered if talking to Professor Flitwick about next week's Charms assignment counted as resting. She shook her head. No, Professor Vector was not one to cross. But to do nothing for four entire hours during the day was tantamount to academic heresy!
On the way to her room, Hermione ran through the schedule she'd prepared for herself that evening. She had planned to work on Charms before supper, but that was out. During supper, she had three chapters of Curses Moste Foul to read for next month's Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, immediately after which she had planned to spend the rest of the evening working on an essay for Professor Snape. Well, Professor Snape would have to wait. She was confident that she could put together something interesting on the subject of Billywig stings, even if she waited another night to start on it. Professor Snape had given her the same nearly-perfect-but-not-quite grade on her past five essays, and Hermione was tempted to turn in a few pages of The Hobbit just to see if he even bothered reading her assignments anymore.
Besides, it was her Charms assignment that she was worried about.
Charms was her best subject, but this assignment had already cost her a full night's sleep, and she still hadn't completed the project. The assignment was to create a charm activated by a poem. The style of poem had to be appropriate to the charm, and the rules of the style were to be strictly observed. The upside to such charms was that they could be activated without a wand. The downside was that they were nearly impossible to write if you had a tin ear, which Hermione was dismayed to find she possessed.
She was attempting to create a high-security locking spell that would allow entry to only one person and keep out Polyjuiced imposters. The theory was sound, she could make it work with an incantation and some complex wand movements, but the heroic couplets she had written not only scanned poorly but also failed to produce the desired result.
She stomped into her room and tossed her knapsack down on her trunk, earning a yowl of protest from Crookshanks, who had been napping at the foot of the bed. She kicked off her shoes and flopped down next to him.
"I'm sorry, boy," she said to the cat, who had curled up next to her. "I didn't mean to startle you. I've been sent to my room until supper, and no homework is allowed." She scrubbed her fingertips into his fluffy fur, and he purred with pleasure.
She relaxed into the soft mattress and realized that Professor Vector had been right to make her sleep. She closed her eyes and sent out silent thanks to her Professor for taking the decision to rest out of her hands. However, her descent into sleep was interrupted by an insistent rapping at the window.
She groaned and sat up. Curious, it wasn't a school owl, and it couldn't be her copy of the Daily Prophet. That had arrived with breakfast, but she had been too tired to read it. She opened the window and accepted the parchment, which was tied with a red ribbon that read "Special Edition" in gold letters.
Her exhaustion evaporated with a jolt of adrenalin. It was either very good news or very bad news. The last time the Prophet had printed a special edition, Harry had defeated Voldemort. Intrigued, she untied the ribbon and read:
MINISTER UNVEILS ANTI-VIRGIN DEPARTMENT
By Rita Skeeter
(London) Minister of Magic Percy Weasley introduced a radical new plan today for fighting the band of ex-Death Eaters who have been responsible for at least seven attacks on young witches to date. However, rather than focusing on catching the criminals, the Minister has chosen to target the potential victims: all virgins. At his mid-day press conference, the Minister outlined the newly formed Department of Deflorestation, a department that exists solely for deflowering virgins in order to shield them from attacks.
As part of the new plan, the Ministry will monitor the whereabouts and behavior of all virgins of childbearing age to prevent them from attacks or from engaging in any rash attempts to shield themselves from harm. Furthermore, all virgins who are not yet of age will be tracked with a Minstry-approved device, which will ensure their safety at all times.
"It's rubbish, that's what I think," said one Ministry official under condition of anonymity. "I'm young, handsome, and single, and I wasn't approached about working for the department. It's politics, pure and simple."
When asked if members of the new department were chosen through cronyism, the Minister bristled, deviating from his prepared statement for the first and only time. "It's not like that at all. The entire purpose of this department is to protect witches. Only a person who hated witches would be against allowing the young ladies a safe environment in which to remove this barrier to their personal safety."
Citing an urgent meeting with the Wizengamot, the Minster surrendered the podium to Senior Undersecretary Dolores Jane Umbridge, who gave further details on the department's jurisdiction and duties, which will commence tomorrow morning. The Minister will appear at Hogwarts School to explain the program to the students tonight at seven-thirty.
She skimmed the other articles, including instructions for parents who wished to have their girls "protected," a prudish advice column obviously intended to discourage girls from taking their virginity into their own hands, a series of blurred photographs of the new department's staff, and, in large print, an account of an attack the previous night.
As you can imagine, this was not welcome news to any girl in the Wizarding World, much less to one who had already shouldered burdens that would break many adults. Indeed, one's own sexual history is something the vast majority of people consider to be their own business. Being a clever girl well versed in politics, Hermione knew that the moment a politician declares the sexuality of others germane to public policy, they are trying to divert attention from something they don't want you to know.
She also realized that the Minister of Magic couldn't have come up with the idea on his own. His style was less action, more paperwork. This could only be the work of Dolores Umbridge. I'm sure you all know the story of the first time our hero and villain faced one another. Unfortunately, the villain managed to survive the disastrous Fudge and Scrimgeour administrations. Only those who had been under her beribboned fist at Hogwarts fully understood what she was capable of.
Angered by the return of her old adversary, Hermione crumpled the paper into a tight wad and flung it across the room with all of her strength. It struck a portrait of Elfrida Clagg, whose flock of snidgets flew off in a panic. The portrait's baleful glare rendered Hermione instantly regretful. She approached the portrait to apologize, but stopped short. Her eyes opened wide as a hundred thoughts simultaneously whirled through her mind.
"Merlin," she whispered in an awestruck voice. "It could work."
She ran to her sock drawer to retrieve the fake Galleon she had enchanted in her fifth year. She set the time for the following evening at eight o'clock. That should give her the necessary time to prepare. She only hoped that the Room of Requirement would still be safe, just for tomorrow evening.
When the Galleon warmed to confirm that the message had been sent to the other coins, she slipped it into her pocket. She then sat down and began scribbling furiously in her notebook.