WARNINGS: This is a very dark, disturbing story based on the Marriage Law Challenge, where Muggle-borns are forced by law to marry Purebloods in an attempt to strengthen magical blood. In this story we have a very brutal and dark Severus, a rather twisted Hermione, graphic violence, mutilation, abuse and brutal sexual scenes in coming chapters. Also it portrays the Potions master as a man who has several women he deals with intimately, as well as occasionally serving as a porn star for the Dark Lord. So if you are a straight HG/SS shipper, this might not be for you. Still, it is a love story…just a tad deviant in the telling. If you think you can handle the content, please feel free to descend into my Alternate HG/SS universe.

Disharmony in the Dungeons Part 1

The Marriage Law had to be the stupidest idea the Ministry had come out with in many a year. Professor Snape was not thrilled when Albus cornered him and informed him he would have to make yet another sacrifice for the greater good and marry Hermione Granger to keep her out of the Dark Lord's clutches. She was still seventeen, but her eighteenth birthday was fast coming up and every single petition for her hand was made by known deatheaters.

"But Albus, for all intents and purposes I am a deatheater too, so my marrying Miss Granger won't afford her any more protection than if she were to marry a loyal deatheater," Severus said, frowning at the Headmaster.

"Not so, Severus. Since you work for me, the Dark Lord will find it best that she be left alone in order to keep your cover. He knows if anything happens to Miss Granger, you will become suspect. As much as he would like to get his hands on her, your place at Hogwarts is much more important," the Headmaster said.

The Potions Master scowled. He did not want to do this, but knew arguing with the Headmaster would get him nowhere. Once Albus had a plan in mind, it was cemented in place.

"Of course this is meant to be a marriage in name only, Albus, correct?" Severus asked. He had no interest in bedding little Miss Know-It-All. He already had several women who visited him regularly, all of whom would not be pleased with this development.

"Yes, Severus," Albus replied, "If that's the way you and Miss Granger want it." The Headmaster's eyes twinkled merrily. Severus didn't like that twinkle at all.

"Of course, she will have to stay in your domicile, Severus. I will add several rooms so you can live in comfort and relative privacy from each other. Another bedroom, bathroom and small kitchen for Miss Gra…I mean Mrs. Snape," Albus said.

"A kitchen?" Severus said, frowning. Even he didn't have a kitchen. He had to count on meals prepared by house elves. He was quite a good cook. Hmm. Well, since she was going to use his name, he was going to use her kitchen. At least that was one small benefit.

"Yes, Miss Granger likes to cook. I feel it might make the transition easier," the Headmaster said, drumming his fingers on his desk. He looked at the Potions Master. "I don't believe you will have to stay married to Miss Granger for long, Severus. Already protests are happening all over the wizarding world. The Ministry has gone too far. The Marriage Law will be overturned shortly, then the marriages can be dissolved if both parties agree."

"I guarantee you, Headmaster, Miss Granger and I will be the first couple on the Ministry steps when that day comes," Severus replied.

Albus raised his eyebrows.

"As you say, Severus," the Headmaster responded, a slight smirk on his face.

"How does Miss Granger feel about the upcoming nuptials?" the Potions Master asked.

"Er…well…I don't rightly know, Severus. I haven't told her yet," Albus admitted, playing with the sleeve of his robe.

"You haven't told her yet?" Severus said, looking at the Headmaster incredulously. "Gods, Albus…you are making all these plans for her and the girl doesn't know?"

"She doesn't really have a choice, Severus," Albus said, "She is required by law to accept a petition. You are the only option."

Severus pinched his nose. Miss Granger was not going to take this well.

"As her husband, I have a right to beat her, don't I?" Severus asked.

The Headmaster scowled at him. Severus smirked.

"You can discipline her within reason, Severus. Remember, Miss Granger is not one of your…paramours. Very likely she won't welcome physical punishment," the Headmaster said, his eyes narrowed. "I think it best if you two just live as separate lives as possible. Just tell her your rules. She is a smart girl. There should be no reason for you to put your hands on her, Severus. Hopefully this situation will not last long."

Severus rose from his chair.

"Very well, Headmaster. When will we be tying the proverbial knot?" the Potions Master asked.

"Saturday afternoon," the Headmaster replied.

Damn. Catherine was coming over Saturday night to spend some quality time with him. He hoped she wouldn't take his marriage to Hermione too badly. No one could give head like that witch. He'd hate to lose her talents just because of a little thing like a wife. He sighed.

"Couldn't we do it Sunday?" the Professor asked.

"No," Albus said firmly.

"Very well," Severus said, heading for the floo.

"Thank you for not fighting me on this, Severus," the Headmaster said. The Potions Master turned to look at him, his black eyes glittering.

"Albus, I could have raged about this the entire time I was in your presence, and the outcome would have been the same. The fact is, you have me at a disadvantage, and have since I first agreed to serve the Order. I know my duty, sir. Whether or not I like it is of no consequence. So there is no need to thank me. My whole life is lived under duress."

With his trademark billow of robes, the Potions Master stepped through the floo and into his private rooms. He immediately walked over to his liquor cabinet and poured himself a stiff drink. Sipping it, he walked around his study musingly, trying to imagine the changes that would be made to it to accommodate his bride. He realized that her rooms would have to be hidden, because certainly Lucius Malfoy would be coming to pay him a visit to see how married life is treating him, and to carry word back to the Dark Lord. They would have to appear to be happy newlyweds. Severus shuddered. Knowing Malfoy, he'd try to get a little piece of the Gryffindor himself, since he was a 'brother". He could easily back him off because of Dumbledore. But this was still more trouble than it was worth. He hoped Miss Granger appreciated what he was doing for her.

"What? Professor Snape? Oh, my gods, Headmaster…isn't there anyone else? Lupin? Even Flitwick?" Hermione asked, horrified.

"Lupin's pureblood, but a werewolf, so that cuts him off. Flitwick is already married. Besides, neither could offer you the protection Severus can, Miss Granger. I am afraid you will have to marry him," Albus said.

Hermione dropped her head in her hand for a moment. Professor Snape for a husband. Then her head snapped up.

"Headmaster, I wouldn't have to…" she started to ask him.

"No, my dear. You don't have to consummate the marriage, although the Ministry expects you to bear a child within three years of the nuptials. Most likely, the Marriage Law will be repealed by then. So you don't have to worry about that unless you and Severus are married more than two years. Which I highly doubt," Albus said kindly.

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. She couldn't imagine letting the Professor shag her. He was such a cold, unfeeling man. Sex with him would probably be equally as cold and unfeeling. He'd probably need to beat her first or something to warm up. She shuddered.

"Would I be able to have my friends come visit me?" she asked the Headmaster.

Albus looked at her evenly.

"You will have to discuss that with Severus. He is not very social, Hermione, but you will have your own rooms. I suppose I could add a small sitting room for visitors," Albus mused.

"Can I have my own private entrance? That would make it easier. He might not complain if they didn't have to enter through his office and study," Hermione stated. Albus looked thoughtful.

"Yes, that is a good idea, Miss Granger. Out of sight, out of mind," the Headmaster said. "And if you should become too lonely, you could always visit Gryffindor Tower. Your life doesn't have to stop because you are Mrs. Snape," Albus said, thinking that Severus had no intention on stopping his life because of his marriage. The Headmaster looked at Hermione and decided he had better let her know about the Professor's women.

"Miss Granger, you realize that this is a marriage of convenience only," he said to her.

"Yes, Headmaster," Hermione replied.

"So neither you or Severus are required to be 'true' to each other. Which means you can see anyone you wish on a personal level without repercussions," the Headmaster said. "Severus has several women he associates with, and has made it clear he does not intend to stop seeing them because of his marriage to you. I hope this doesn't cause you any distress."

"Why should it?" Hermione asked him. If the Professor had other women to screw, then she would feel a whole lot safer being in the rooms with him. Though she was rather surprised. She didn't imagine the snarky Potions Master even had a sex life. Most of the students believed he was so mean because he hadn't been laid in years. Several women? Obviously, he had quite an active sex life. Now Hermione was curious. She'd like to see what kind of women the Professor liked to bed. This promised to be interesting.

"I'm glad the Professor has something other than ruining students' lives to occupy his time," Hermione said.

The Headmaster chuckled.

"Well, the wedding will occur on Saturday afternoon, here in my office. You can invite four guests. I've already begun construction of your rooms in the dungeons. Is there anything you need or want to know?" he asked.

Hermione shook her head. "Nothing I can think of, Headmaster. If I do have any other questions, I will get back to you," she said, rising from her chair.

Albus rose also.

"Very well my dear. I am glad you are mature enough to understand why things must be the way they must be," he said.

"Yes sir. The Professor is the lesser of a number of evils, I suppose, though not much less," Hermione replied.

Albus walked out from behind his desk, and escorted her to the door.

"You might find out he's really not that bad," the Headmaster said, smiling down at her.

Hermione snorted.

"I'll probably find out he's worse than I ever imagined," she responded. "Goodbye, Headmaster."

"Goodbye, Miss Granger," he said.

He watched as she took the spiral staircase down to the corridor, his blue eyes twinkling.

Hermione didn't show it, but her calm conversation with the Headmaster had taken on a surreal quality. She felt as if she were in some kind of dream as she walked through the corridors. She came to the shifting stairwells and was about to walk down the closest one when she saw a black-robed figure ascending the stairwell coming toward the ledge she was on. Oh, gods. Not yet. She wasn't ready to see him yet. But it seemed fate had other plans.

Severus Snape walked up the stairwell, his black eyes somber as he looked upon the small, Gryffindor witch standing on the landing, clasping her hands together nervously. She had never seemed so young. Yet, as he drew closer, the Potions Master could see that physically, she wasn't as young as she appeared. Her curves beneath her robes were definitely womanly. Funny he had never noticed that before.

He stepped off the stairwell and looked down at her imperiously.

"Miss Granger," he said, nodding his head at her curtly.

"Professor," Hermione replied, a little quaver in her voice as she looked up at him. She hadn't realized how tall the Professor was before. She barely reached his throat.

"I suppose Albus has told you of our upcoming nuptials," the Potions Master said, watching her closely for her reaction.

"Yes sir," Hermione replied, "I suppose I should thank you for helping me."

He looked at her.

"No thanks are necessary, Miss Granger, because it is not my doing or my idea. To be honest, I would rather not marry you. I would rather not have my privacy infringed on. I would rather not have to explain to my lovers what a little virgin is doing sleeping in my rooms mere meters from my own bedroom," he said, his black eyes hard.

Hermione scowled at him. This wasn't her ideal situation either. And she hated the way he was talking down to her, like she didn't know anything about anything.

"How do you know that I'm a virgin? You don't know anything about me other than I'm your student, Professor. For all you know I have a rather active love life myself, and might have some explaining to do as well," she said haughtily.

The Professor looked at her, amused. An active love life? He almost burst out laughing at the idea.

"More like an active imagination, Miss Granger," he replied silkily.

Hermione turned red with rage. The Potions Master grinned inwardly. She was a little spitfire, that was for sure.

"You'll see how active an imagination I have when I move into my rooms," she seethed. "You won't be the only one with visitors."

"Yes, I'm sure Potter and Weasley will count among your many paramours," Severus said, goading her.

"Harry and Ron are not the only men in my life," Hermione said, scowling at him. Actually, they pretty much were. But if she had to add a few wizards, she would…just to spite him."

"I'll believe that when I see it," he replied coolly, beginning to walk away. "Just remember, I will not allow you to disturb the peace of my domain too much, Miss Granger. You may be my wife legally, but you will be a guest in my rooms until such time as we can dissolve this mockery of a marriage, and you will conduct yourself as such."

The Potions Master scowled at her a moment as if daring her to respond. When she didn't, he reached in his robes pocket and took something out of it.

"Here, take this and put it on," he said, passing the object in his hand to her. Hermione looked at it. It was a ring. A very nice ring, a small diamond in a platinum setting.

"And don't lose it. I'll be expecting it back when this is all over," the Potions Master said, watching as she slipped it on her small finger. It was a perfect fit. Hermione looked at it, then up at the dark wizard. Now her situation was all too real.

"We are officially engaged. Now go celebrate with your friends," he said smirking. He knew that celebration would have all the joy of a wake.

Then, without another word Severus turned, glided up the hall and out of sight.

Hermione was furious.

"Not disturb the peace of his domain, eh? Well, we'll see about that," she growled to herself, heading for Gryffindor Tower. She had to break the news to Harry and Ron about her impending marriage.

She wasn't looking forward to that at all.

Ron was absolutely horrified on learning that Hermione not only had to marry Professor Snape but live with him down in the dungeons. Harry was not pleased either, though he did understand why the Headmaster had arranged the marriage.

"You, alone with Snape? He's going to try to shag you Hermione, mark my words. He probably hasn't been alone with a woman in years," the red headed wizard said, frowning.

"Actually Ron, that's not the case. According to the Headmaster, the Professor has not one but several women he sleeps with. He's going to continue with them after we're married, so I don't have anything to worry about," Hermione said.

Both Ron and Harry looked incredulous.

"He has girlfriends? Multiple women? That he actually sleeps with? Great Merlin's nobblies. Who'd have thought it?" Ron said amazed at the revelation that the Potions Master was getting some regularly. "So that means he really is just snarky by nature."

Hermione grinned. "Yes, it seems so," she agreed.

"The good thing is I will have my own rooms down there, with my own private entrance, sitting room and kitchen. So you can come down and visit with me anytime you want without running into him," Hermione said enthusiastically.

"Your own rooms? That doesn't sound too bad at all," Harry said, "Especially the private entrance. You might not have to see him at all."

"No, only in class if I'm lucky," she said, then she scowled a little.

"What's wrong, Hermione?" Harry asked her.

"I need to increase my circle of friends. Male friends," she said quietly. "I need to start dating."

Ron and Harry looked at each other, then at Hermione.

"What do you mean, dating?" Ron asked, his brow wrinkled. "You're about to get married and you're thinking about dating? What gives, Hermione?"

"Well, you're going to think this is stupid, but the Professor insinuated that I was a virgin…" she began.

"You are, aren't you?" Harry asked her, wondering if she wasn't, how he missed it.

"Of course I am," Hermione said. Both Harry and Ron breathed a sigh of relief. They couldn't imagine Hermione getting shagged by anyone. She was a good girl.

"But he made it sound like something bad," she continued.

"But it's not bad," Harry said. "It's good, Hermione. For a girl anyway."

Hermione scowled at the double standard her two friends held, but didn't comment on it.

"Well, he's going to be having his women friends over, and I don't want to seem like I'm not enjoying myself too," she said.

"What? You want to make him jealous?" Harry asked, not understanding at all.

"No, I can't make him jealous. He doesn't even think about me in those terms, Harry. I just don't want him thinking I'm such a goodie-two shoes. That I'm so innocent," she said.

"But you are innocent, Hermione," Ron said, "And that's how we like you."

"I just want him to think I am seeing other wizards," she said stubbornly.

"But why Hermione? You said yourself it won't make him jealous. What's the purpose of it? It doesn't make sense," Harry said.

Hermione frowned at him.

"Does every fucking thing have to make sense?" she snarled. Harry looked taken aback. Hermione rarely cursed.

"Well, normally with you it does," he replied

"Well, sometimes I can act stupid if I want to," she said.

Ron looked at her.

"Yes, you can, I guess Hermione. But I've never known you to want to act stupid," he said, shaking his head a little. He thought the upcoming wedding was getting to her.

"Well, you can pretend to be dating one of us. I'll snog you right in front of the greasy git," Ron offered. He really did have a thing for Hermione.

"No, that won't fool him. I need some other wizards," she said, looking over the male students in the common room thoughtfully. Hermione was quite pretty, and the truth was a number of wizards would love to date her, and more, but she always seemed so unreachable. All she seemed to care about was schoolwork and books.

Harry looked at her perusing the other wizards.

"It might be hard to get them after you get married Hermione. Almost everyone is afraid of Snape. No one will want to mess with his property," Harry said, his green eyes meeting hers earnestly.

"I won't be his property!" Hermione sniffed. "I belong to myself."

Harry's eyes shifted to her ring.

"That's not what that ring says Hermione. That ring clearly says you are or will be the wife of Severus Snape, one of the meanest wizards in the wizarding world. You'll be hard put to get someone to date you. They might be scared Snape will hex them, or worse if he found out," Harry said.

"Not if I make it plain I'm available," Hermione said, "that I'm in an 'open' relationship."

Both Harry and Ron scowled at her.

"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of being married, Hermione? You are marrying Snape to be protected," Harry said.

"As long as I have his name, I will be protected, Harry. But this is a marriage in name only. He intends to live his life, and I'm going to live mine," Hermione said firmly. She looked thoughtful.

"I need to see Ginny," she said, "She knows how to attract wizards."

"Oh no, Hermione…not Ginny," Harry and Ron said together.

Ginny was Ron's younger sister, and was very popular with the young wizards of Hogwarts, much to Ron's chagrin. She knew how to turn it on, and although Ron tried his best to control her love life, he failed miserably. But his sister was nowhere near as promiscuous as Ron thought. She just attracted a lot of interest and dated a lot. She only put out now and then, and was quite choosy as to whom she shared herself with. Actually, the wizards she had been with never said a word, so Ginny's dalliances were mostly conjecture. But she was still awfully hot.

"She could help me change my image a bit. Be a bit more 'approachable'," Hermione said, warming to the idea.

"She will turn you into a wizard magnet," Harry said, shaking his head. He had witnessed the transformation of several rather ordinary looking witches into very hot ones under the care and tutelage of Ginny Weasley.

"I don't know about this, Hermione," Ron said, looking at her with longing eyes, "I still don't see why I can't pretend to be your boyfriend."

Hermione looked at him.

"Because Ron," she said softly, "You wouldn't want to keep it pretend, and I just don't feel that way about you. You're my friend, and that's all you'll ever be. I'm sorry."

Harry looked away from Ron. He could see the misery in the young wizard's face.

"Fine," Ron said, walking away quickly and ascending the stairs to the boy's dormitory.

"He really cares about you, Hermione," Harry said, looking after his friend.

Hermione sighed. "I know Harry. But we're too different to be anything more than friends. Ron wants a woman like his mother. Who'll stay at home and take care of him, and have lots of kids and be satisfied with that kind of life. You know that wouldn't make me happy, Harry. I don't even want kids. Ron would spend all his time trying to change me. We'd end up hating each other in the end. It's better we never try."

Harry looked at her. She was right. She was too brilliant to get tied down with Ron. She had great things to do with her life.

"You're right, Hermione. Maybe Ron will understand one day," he said.

"I hope so," Hermione replied, looking at her engagement ring.

She was already going to be tied down in one loveless marriage for a while. But she was going to have some kind of life of her own while in it. Somehow, books and studies were fine when she was just plain Hermione Granger. Let's face it…she was a young woman now, and there were other pursuits she needed to experience. Funny she had never really thought about it until Professor Snape made a reference to his own lovers. And how unhappy he was about having a virgin in his rooms.

She fully intended on staying a virgin. She wouldn't actually shag someone to spite him…there wasn't anyone who moved her that way anyhow. But then again, who knew? Maybe one of the wizards she spent time with would move her that way. Only time would tell.

She stood up.

"Harry, I'm going to talk to Ginny and see what she suggests," Hermione said firmly. Harry looked up at her doubtfully.

"All right, Hermione. You know what you want to do. I'll be here if you need me," he said. He didn't like this at all. He thought it would backfire on her some way. Hell, she might end up attracting Snape. What a horror that would be.

Hermione smiled at Harry tenderly. He really was a sweetheart.

"Thanks Harry," she said, walking off in search of Ginny.

Harry watched her go. First she had to marry Snape, then she wanted to become some kind of wizard magnet. He wondered if she were cracking under the pressure.

Hermione found Ginny walking toward Gryffindor Tower in the company of a rather good-looking Ravenclaw seventh year, tall, well built, black-haired with amazing blue eyes. His name was Austin. He seemed rather quiet. Ginny seemed to prefer the quiet ones.

After introducing him to Hermione, Ginny kissed Austin goodbye on the cheek, a slow lingering kiss that made his blue eyes heat up. He gave her a perfectly beautiful parting smile and left. Hermione looked after him.

"Wow, Ginny," she breathed. "He's gorgeous."

"Yes, he is," Ginny responded. "He's on my 'to shag' list. He's trustworthy. Wouldn't tell a soul."

"How do you know?" Hermione asked her curiously.

"You have to watch them a while. Look for the braggarts. They always tell. I have all brothers so I was up on this a long time ago, even before I was interested in wizards. Even Ron brags," she said offhandedly.

"Ron?" Hermione said incredulously.

"Yeah. Ron's no virgin, Hermione. He's had a couple of witches here at Hogwarts. Harry, too," Ginny said, blushing a little.

So, neither of her friends were virgins. Hermione didn't know that. Well, they didn't share everything with her, that's for sure. She was surprised about Ron, but then again, he was on the Quidditch team, and really was a good-looking wizard. Tall, broad shouldered, nice smile and he could be fun. Yes, she supposed some witches would shag him. And obviously did.

Ginny's blush when she mentioned Harry wasn't a virgin told her all she needed to know about that. She guessed Ron didn't know. Even though Harry was his best friend, she doubted if Ron could accept the fact he'd shagged his sister. More than likely Ginny was the aggressor in that situation. Harry wouldn't have crossed that line unless sorely tempted. And if anyone knew how to tempt a wizard, it was Ginny Weasley. She could probably make an angel lose his wings.

"So what's up, Hermione?" Ginny asked her. She and Hermione were friends, but they weren't as close as Harry and Ron.

"I need your help, Ginny. I want to attract some wizards," Hermione replied, blushing.

Ginny stopped and stared at her.

"Putting down the books and picking up wizards eh?" the sixth year grinned at her. Immediately Ginny started looking her over. "Well you have plenty to work with Hermione. I know for fact there are wizards interested in you."

Then Ginny noticed the ring.

"What's that?" she asked the witch, her brow furrowed, "It looks like an engagement ring."

"It is," Hermione said. "I am going to marry Professor Snape…because of the marriage law."

Ginny looked at her.

"Wow. Professor Snape is hot, Hermione," she said wistfully.

"What? He's what?" Hermione asked, not believing what she just heard come out of Ginny's mouth.

"He's dead sexy, Hermione. Don't tell me you haven't noticed that. You've been in his class forever," Ginny said, examining the ring.

"He's a lot of things, but sexy isn't one of them," Hermione replied, looking at Ginny as if something were wrong with her. Professor Snape sexy? Blech.

"You keep your face in books too much, Hermione. He is one of the sexiest wizards around. He's so commanding, dominating. His voice is like a caress…and those hands. Gods. And Merlin only knows what he hides under those robes. And those eyes. Circe, what would it be like to look into those black eyes when he's…" Ginny breathed

"Enough!" Hermione cut her off, "Ginny, this is just a marriage of convenience. I won't be shagging the Professor. He has other women for that," she said. "I just want to have some kind of life of my own while I'm stuck down there in the dungeons."

Ginny looked at her quizzically.

"He's going to let you see other wizards while you're married to him?" she asked.

"I don't see why he wouldn't. He has women he intends to see. I don't want to seem like I don't have a life too," Hermione said.

Ginny raised her eyebrows.

"So, you're going to try and make him jealous?" she asked the witch, her head cocked.

"No! Why does everyone keep asking me that? I'm doing this for me," Hermione said, clearly irritated. "He doesn't even want me in his rooms. But since I'm going to be there, I intend to make full use of them and have some fun."

"Fun and Professor Snape don't seem to belong in the same sentence, Hermione," Ginny said with a small smirk. "But, if you want to attract wizards, then I'll help you do it. You'll have to be a little friendlier though. You're already pretty. A change in wardrobe will make them flock to you, but your attitude is what will snag them," she said.

Hermione looked thoughtful.

"Ginny, I'm marrying the Professor this Saturday. I would like to look less like a student and more like a young woman at the wedding. Will you help me with that? I have quite a few galleons saved up. I can afford new clothes, and a nice dress," Hermione said, holding her breath.

Ginny thought about it.

"Well, I was going to go out with Austin this Friday night, but I can put it off. It'll keep him hungry," she said with a wicked grin. "Yes, we can go to Hogsmeade Friday evening and go shopping. Pick out your wedding dress. You don't want anything traditional do you?" Ginny asked.

"No, I want something that makes me look grown up, attractive…desirable," Hermione responded, her eyes glazing a bit.

"All right, it's a date," Ginny said, smiling at the witch. But in the back of her mind, Ginny wondered if this really was for Hermione or if the witch had some subconscious desire to make the Professor look at her differently?

Because if Ginny had it her way, he would. He wouldn't be able to help himself.

Hermione's parents were not thrilled about their little girl's forced marriage to Professor Snape. Her mother was so distraught that she refused to attend the wedding. When Hermione told her why she was marrying the Professor, her mother wanted to know why she didn't just leave the wizarding world and come home.

"Mum, I'm a witch. Asking me to leave the wizarding world is like asking a fish to leave the ocean and live on land. I'd die. Anyway, I am already registered as a witch. The Ministry could come get me, as could any of the deatheaters. I'm better off marrying the Professor. Don't worry mum, it is only a marriage in name only," Hermione said, trying to comfort her mother, "It won't last long. Even now people are working on overturning the law. We can have the marriage annulled later."

Her mother felt a little better about this but still refused to go to the wedding. Her father, on the other hand was raring to go.

"I want to meet this Snape character," he said to his daughter, his eyes narrowed.

"Now Dad," Hermione said warningly. Her father was very protective about his only daughter. A confrontation between him and the Potions Master was very likely. "Professor Snape is a very powerful wizard. You can't get into a brawl with him."

Hermione's father was a big man. He stood six feet and weighed about two hundred and ninety pounds. He was a dentist, but he worked out and had a huge chest and arms. He wasn't above throttling a gent if he got out of hand either. Many men who had hit on Hermione's mum found this out the hard way. Her dad wasn't young, but he was in good shape. If the Professor didn't tell him what he wanted to hear concerning his daughter, there could be some nasty business.

"Jonathan, you make sure he knows not to mistreat our baby," Hermione's mum sniffed at her husband, who put a huge, comforting arm around his petite wife.

"Don't worry, Sarah. I'll read him the riot act loud and clear," he said, kissing her on the temple and giving her a squeeze. Hermione sighed. She hoped the Professor would restrain himself when her father talked to him. She'd hate to have to hex her husband on their wedding day.

Hermione made arrangements for Harry to pick her father up on Saturday. Since her mother wasn't coming, she invited Ginny in her stead. The witch was elated. She'd get to see first hand if Hermione made any kind of impression on the Potions Master. The bride was going to look absolutely delicious.

Saturday came quickly. Hermione was up bright and early. She didn't sleep well the night before, but Ginny was prepared for that and brought replenishing and pepper-up potion for her. She helped Hermione bathe and dress for her nuptials. The witch was so nervous she had to keep toweling off her sweaty palms. Finally, Ginny flooed to the infirmary and got a calming potion from Madame Pomfrey, who was very understanding.

"That poor little witch," she said, handing Ginny the potion. "I hope she comes out of this all right."

Ginny thanked the healer and returned to Hermione's rooms and gave her the potion. It worked, almost too well. Now Hermione was as calm as if she took a handful of tranquilizers. Her amber eyes had a glazed look to them. Ginny decided to dose her with another bit of pepper up potion before they left.

Harry had retrieved Mr. Granger as scheduled. Now the burly, chestnut haired muggle stood in Albus' office, scowling slightly, waiting to meet his son-in-law. The Headmaster offered him a seat, but he said he preferred to stand. Harry and the Headmaster looked at each other worriedly as Hermione's father paced the office. He didn't look happy. More than likely, Professor Snape wouldn't be in the best of moods either.

Severus was in his rooms putting on the final touches to his wardrobe. He wore his best dress robes, and his long silky hair was tied back in a ponytail. He put on a touch of sandalwood, and checked to make sure he had the ring. It was a match to the engagement ring, the diamond much larger. He had his own ring too. A simple platinum band. He looked at himself in the mirror.

"This is as good as it gets," he said to himself. Then he walked over to the floo, threw in a bit of floo powder from the box on the mantle and stepped through to Albus' office.

He saw Harry Potter first and scowled a little. He knew the boy-who-sickened-him would be there, but he was still displeased about it. Then he saw Albus, and then a rather big, red-faced muggle who was looking at him skeptically. The man walked up to him and offered his hand in a brusque manner.

"Professor Snape? I am Jonathan Granger, Hermione's father," he said.

Severus hesitated, then took the man's hand and shook it. The grip was rather strong. The two men looked each other in the eyes, black to amber.

"Mr. Granger," Snape replied, nodding slightly. They released each other's hand.

"I wonder if I might have a word with you, privately," Mr. Granger asked, challenge in his eyes.

Dear gods. The man wanted to have a father-in-law/son-in-law talk. How aggravating.

"Certainly, Mr. Granger," Severus said silkily. Then he turned to Albus, who had a worried look on his face. "If you'll excuse us, Headmaster."

The Headmaster nodded helplessly as both men walked out of his office and stood on the stairwell landing. Mr. Granger studied the Professor for a moment. The wizard was much older than his daughter, and seemed to be a man of experience. He had a bit of a cruel cast to him that Jonathan didn't like. He seemed cold and unfeeling. Not the kind of man he had hoped his daughter would marry. However, this marriage was supposed to be in name only. He just wanted to be sure that the wizard understood he was not to mistreat his daughter in any way.

"Professor, I want to get right down to it. You are marrying my daughter, my only child. She is the light of my life and I don't want her unhappy. I imagine she already is, having to marry a man she has no feelings for because of some absurd marriage law. But I don't want her any unhappier than she already is. You treat my daughter right, Snape. If you hurt her or harm her in anyway while she is in your care, I swear, wizard or not I will snap you in two," he seethed.

Snape looked at the muggle coldly. Were they all so testosterone driven? His black eyes flicked over Mr. Granger, noting his strong build. Definitely a brawler.

"Mr. Granger, I assure you your daughter is not the only one unhappy with this arrangement. The light of your life, in this case is a dark cloud in mine. I am only doing this to save her, Mr. Granger, from a fate worse than me. Whether she is happy or unhappy is totally up to her. I have no intentions on interfering with her life whatsoever. She will continue to live as she always has as far as I am concerned, as will I. Other than her being in my rooms, in her own separate rooms, there will be no change. And as for you snapping me in two, Mr. Granger…I assure you that is easier said than done," Severus replied, his black eyes flashing dangerously.

Mr. Granger's face became even redder. He was about to respond when Ron came running up the stairs. He stopped when he saw the two men.

"Oh…er, hi Mr. Granger," Ron said. He had met Hermione's father on several occasions. Jonathan nodded at the red-haired wizard, then his amber eyes shifted back to Severus. Ron looked at Professor Snape and swallowed.

"Hello, Professor. Um…Hermione's on her way," he said.

"Thank you, Mr. Weasley," Severus said, stepping aside so Ron could enter the office, his black eyes back on Mr. Granger. Ron slipped by and entered Dumbledore's office. Harry and the Headmaster stood on tiptoe, trying to see the two men outside before Ron closed the door.

"Look, Mr. Granger. It wouldn't do to come to blows before the marriage is even legitimized. I doubt you would like your daughter to arrive here and see us brawling. But I assure you, if you ever feel the need to exercise your fatherly duty in protecting your daughter in the future, I will gladly accommodate you, without magic, at any given time," the wizard said, meeting the muggle's gaze steadily.

"Well, at least he's not a coward," Jonathan thought as he eyed the dark wizard.

"I'll be checking in with her regularly," he said, still frowning at the Potions Master, "And if she gives me the slightest inkling that you are mistreating her, you can be sure you will be 'accommodating me' in spades, Professor. You have my word on that."

"Fair enough, Mr. Granger," Severus replied smoothly. Hermione's father was quite a brave muggle. A foolish one, but still brave. Obviously he loved his daughter very much. Severus gestured toward the closed office door. "Shall we enter and await the arrival of my wife?"

Jonathan grunted and they both re-entered Albus' office.

Harry and the Headmaster breathed a sigh of relief at their return. Both wizards had their wands at the ready, intending on breaking up the fight that seemed imminent. Thank the gods it hadn't occurred. The situation was hard enough as it was.

The four men stood around as men do when waiting on women to make their grand entrance. Ron kept glancing at the Professor, a slight scowl on his face. He didn't like this at all. Suddenly the door opened and Ginny walked in. She was dressed in a nice blouse and skirt. She was followed by Hermione. Every man in the room froze, including the Professor.

Hermione was dressed in a strapped, silk white dress that fell mid thigh and hugged her curves nicely, but not too tightly. The front of the dress was cut rather low, showing her cleavage in a very complimentary way. Her hair was swept up in an elegant roll, and a white flower graced her shining chestnut locks. She held a bouquet of small white roses, and wore three-inch heels. She looked breathtaking, and as un-little girl-like as was possible.

Ron stared at her, then stepped forward and clasped both her hands around the bouquet.

"Gods, you look amazing, Hermione," he breathed…his eyes shining. Hermione blushed prettily. Suddenly Ron was shouldered rather roughly out of the way by Professor Snape.

"If you would kindly unhand my wife-to-be, Mr. Weasley," he growled at him, then slipped an arm through Hermione's. Ron looked at the Professor with hate-filled eyes. Harry shook his head at him slightly. Ginny smirked.

The Professor felt a burly hand on his shoulder.

"My daughter, Professor, whom I'm to give away," Jonathan said, taking Hermione's other arm. The Professor released the witch, scowling a bit and walked up and stood slightly to Albus' right, looking at Hermione. Absolutely shameful that she should dress in such a manner. She was definitely showing too much.

His black eyes swept over her face, then down her curvaceous body to her shapely legs, then back up again. He had been correct. Miss Granger was not a little girl. His eyes flicked over the guests. Ginny was looking at him with a rather odd smirk on her face. Harry only had eyes for Hermione, but Ron was looking at him with hatred. Ah, so Mr. Weasley was sweet on Miss Granger. Well, well.

Mr. Granger walked Hermione up to Albus, who began the ceremony. Mr. Granger reluctantly handed Hermione to the Potions Master, who gripped her arm possessively, which made Ron growl audibly. Severus looked back at him with a half-smile.

When it came to the part of the ceremony where objections could be made, both Ginny and Harry stepped very close to Ron, ready to stop him if he tried to say anything. Ron held his lips in a thin, tight line. He didn't speak, though he trembled quite visibly.

When it came time for the marriage kiss, Hermione chastely pursed her lips. But the Professor swept her into his arms and dipped her, kissing her soundly for more than ten seconds. And he wasn't cold at all. Harry had to catch Ron's arm, and Mr. Granger's eyes narrowed. That wasn't the kiss of a man who intended to leave his daughter alone. Ginny still smirked.

When he finished kissing her, the Potions Master looked at his bride closely before releasing her. Her lips were rather tasty. The look of shock and surprise on her face was worth a million galleons.

"Don't look so surprised," he purred quietly so no one else could hear him, "I assure you, that kiss was only for show, Mrs. Snape." He stood her back up.

"I give you Mr. and Mrs. Snape," Albus said. For all the reaction that announcement got, he might as well had pronounced a death sentence.

"Congratulations, Hermione," Harry said kissing her on the cheek. The Professor still held her tightly by the arm.

"Thanks, Harry," Hermione said, aware of the tight grip the Professor had on her.

Ron walked up to her. His eyes met hers, then he looked at the Professor, who made it a point to adjust his possessive grip on the witch. Ron wanted to tear her away from him, tell him to get his greasy mitts off of her. But he couldn't. Legally Hermione belonged to Snape now.

"Congratulations, Hermione," Ron said half-heartedly, kissing her on the cheek softly, his eyes glistening.

"Thank you, Ron," Hermione said softly, hating the pain on her friend's face.

Albus and Ginny congratulated her too, and then her father came and took her out of Snape's grip to hug her.

"Remember, Poppet, if you have any problems, any at all, you call your old dad, all right?" he said, glaring at Snape over her shoulder.

"All right, dad. I will," Hermione said. As soon as her father released her, Severus snaked his arm back in hers.

"I and my wife will be retiring now," he announced, walking toward the floo with Hermione.

Ron was livid. She was going down to the dungeons with the Potions Master. She was too beautiful. The evil git was going to try something, he knew it.

"Don't go with him, Hermione!" Ron cried out, unable to stop himself, charging at the couple.

Before anyone could move, Severus thrust his palm at the approaching young wizard, stunning him wandlessly. Harry caught Ron before he fell, glaring at the Professor hatefully.

"When Mr. Weasley wakes up, remind him that Hermione is my wife and not his," the Potions Master said silkily, tightening his hold on the witch and stepping through the floo.

Severus and Hermione stepped through the floo. This was the first time Hermione had ever been in the Potions Master's rooms. He held on to her arm still, but she slowly pulled her arm away from his as she gasped quietly. The Professor's study was filled from ceiling to floor with books. Severus watched as the Gryffindor witch's eyes began to shine with a lust that he had only witnessed in the bedroom. Gods, she really liked books.

As if hypnotized, Hermione walked over to a shelf and lovingly traced book spine after book spine, letting out little shrieks and other interesting sounds as she read the titles. She stopped at one and gently pulled it off the shelf and opened it reverently.

"Professor, this book has been out of print for over a century," she breathed, looking up at him in awe. "Will you let me read it?" she asked him, a pleading look in her eyes. She looked very lovely, very lovely indeed.

"We'll see," he said gruffly, "Access to my books depends on how much you cooperate, Hermione," he said silkily.

Hermione's eyes widened.

"Cooperate?" she asked, terrible images starting to form in her head. He said this was to be a marriage of convenience. Severus saw the terrified look in her eyes, and for some reason it irked him.

"Don't look at me like that you silly chit. I have no designs on taking you," he growled at her, "by cooperate I mean how well we can coexist here without you getting on my last nerve," he said, unbuttoning his robes. Hermione's eyes widened again. The Professor scowled at her.

"Hermione, I am just taking off my dress robes. I have clothes underneath them, I assure you. I am changing. I have a date tonight," he said, removing his robes.

He wore a white button up shirt and black pants beneath. For the first time, Hermione saw what the Professor's body type was. He was bigger than she thought he was. She had the impression that he was very thin for some reason, but he was a good-sized wizard. His shoulders were quite broad, and he was lean but not skinny. His clothing fit him quite nicely, actually. The Professor noticed her amber eyes sweep over him.

"Get used to seeing me without my robes, Hermione. I don't wear them much in the privacy of my rooms. Actually, I usually don't wear much of anything," he said with a bit of a purr in his voice. Her look of alarm almost made him chuckle, "But don't worry. I will always have at least boxers on when I am about. I imagine you will be in your rooms most of the time anyway."

Hermione looked around.

"Where are my rooms, sir?" she asked him.

Severus walked over to the bookshelf furthest on the right and motioned for her to come over.

"Pull this book out," he said.

Hermione looked at the title. "The Entrance to Her Heart"

The Professor pulled the book and the shelf on her left pushed out and slid over, revealing an entrance.

"Your rooms," the Professor said. "I understand all your things have been moved into your rooms. But before you enter, we have to talk. Come, join me by the fire."

Hermione walked over to the fireplace and sat down in one of two armchairs that sat in front of it. Severus watched her walk, following her, noting the sway of her hips. He blinked, then walked around the chair and sat down. He looked at her. Damn, in that dress she hardly looked like a student. His eyes flicked over her breasts. Very nice.

Hermione looked at him uncomfortably. She felt like covering up but didn't move.

"What did you want to talk to me about, Professor?" she asked.

"First, in these rooms you are to call me Severus. My first name. We are married and we need to speak as if we are, and get used to it. Because there will be visitors checking on us. So we will have to appear to be happily married, and intimate from time to time. Some of your clothes will have to be put in my wardrobe, and your personal items in my bathroom. You may be required to lounge about in a housecoat and nightie from time to time. Luckily, none of these visits will be surprise visits. I will know who is coming and when, so you will have notice," Severus said looking at her intently.

"What about your 'girlfriends'? If we are to appear happily married, how are you going to explain them?" Hermione asked, frowning a little.

"Oh, well these visitors won't find it odd that I have other women besides my wife. These will be fellow deatheaters visiting me. All suitably undercover of course. Upstanding members of the wizarding community for the most part. The wives of deatheaters accept their husbands' paramours. Actually, it is expected that I have two or more women on the side," the Potions Master said, smirking.

"Your having separate rooms will not be strange to them either. I was rather concerned about it at first, but after talking to other married deatheaters, I found it is a common practice for husbands and wives to keep separate quarters as well as a common bedroom," he informed her.

"As a matter of fact, you might have a couple of passes made at you by my visitors. It's up to you whether or not to take them up on it," the Potions Master said with a gleam in his eye. "Deatheaters share their wives if the witches are amicable. The choice is entirely yours."

"What?" Hermione said scowling at him blackly, "I will not be shagging any deatheaters, I assure you." Severus smirked. He didn't think she would be.

Then Hermione looked at him a bit wickedly.

"Severus, if you are allowed to have women on the side, I presume I am allowed to have a couple of paramours visit my quarters as well?" she asked him. The Potions Master froze for just a moment.

"If you are discreet, yes," he said, his eyes sweeping over her again.

When she was dressed as a student and innocent looking, he was sure she wasn't involved in any sexual activity. But looking at her like this…he wasn't so sure any more. She was still too young to have been hardened by her encounters. Still fresh. Did she really have lovers?

"Good," she said with a rather lustful smile.

The Potions Master looked at her closely. Could he have been wrong about the innocence of this witch? Women were so good at hiding their true colors, though the Professor believed there was a little slut in all of them. It was just a matter of bringing it to the surface. Severus rose from the armchair, picking up his dress robes and draping them over his arm. He looked down at Hermione, trying not to focus on her creamy cleavage. It was really disconcerting how she was dressed. Like a child playing makeup, and doing it too well.

"Well, as I told you, I have a date tonight, and I will be bringing her back here. I haven't yet told her about you, so I'd appreciate if you would stay in your rooms tonight. We won't disturb you," he said, walking into his bedroom to change into his everyday robes.

Hermione watched him go. A date on his wedding day. He could have at least made an attempt to spend a little time with her. But then again, what would the purpose of it be? He was her husband in name only.

Hermione stood up and walked into her rooms. They were quite nice. She had an ample sized kitchen, with utensils, pots and pans and a cooler. There was a sitting room for company, and she had a king-sized bed covered in Gryffindor colored bedding, a wardrobe and dresser and a nice sized bathroom with a sunken tub with several scented spigots and a shower big enough for two. There was a closet filled with fluffy towels and her personal products had been placed neatly on the shelves. She could live with this. She walked back into the bedroom and opened the wardrobe and found her clothes and robes there, including the new clothing she and Ginny had bought. She plopped down on the bed, bouncing on it. Just the perfect firmness…for sleep.

She wandered back out of her rooms and into the study, just as Severus emerged. He looked pretty much like he normally did now. Obviously, he didn't dress up for his date. He headed for the study exit.

"Have a good night, Miss…er…Hermione," he said, "I'll be returning with my date at about ten. I trust you will be securely out of the way."

"I certainly don't want to get between you and your date, Pr…Severus," Hermione said rather sarcastically. Actually, she had a mind to be lounging in his study in the shortest nightie she could find at ten o'clock, just because he was making such a big deal about her being hidden when he brought his little trick home.

"See that you don't," he said a bit dangerously. He turned the torch down and exited. Hermione scowled after him.

"Prick" she said under her breath, as she walked back into her rooms to take off her dress. As she headed for her rooms, she thought about her wedding.

"Poor Ron," she said to herself. He sure was taking it hard. He probably thought the Potions Master was doing her right now. Like that would ever happen. Then her mind went to the kiss Severus had given her. It had been surprisingly soft and warm, even slightly pleasant in a squicky kind of way. He certainly wasn't as cold as he appeared, at least not while kissing. But he was just showing off to aggravate Ron, and probably everyone else. Or trying to prove he was in charge. Whatever. It didn't matter in the least.

Hermione looked at her wardrobe. Hm. Since Severus was gone, she might as well go up to Gryffindor Tower to reassure Ron and everyone else she wasn't pinned in the Potions Master's bed with her heels in the air. She'd wear her new jeans, the ones that hung dangerously low on her hips, and the little black shirt that showed her belly button, and the new silver hoop she had there. Ginny convinced her to get a piercing. It was quite cute.

That decision made, Hermione changed clothes and took her hair down. She looked in the mirror. She really did look hot. She smiled, feeling rather sexy and rather free. She flipped her hair back and struck a few pouty poses in the mirror, then laughed at herself.

"Ginny must really be rubbing off on me," she said shaking her head. Grabbing her wand and sticking it in her pocket, Hermione left her rooms by her private door, ready to embark on her first journey out as the very married, but very available Mrs. Severus Snape.

When Hermione walked into Gryffindor Tower the first thing she saw in the common room was Ron sitting on the sofa surrounded by several sympathetic female housemates, all saying "Poor Ron," and petting him She snorted. However Ron might have felt about her being taken to the dungeons, he seemed to be recovering nicely.

Harry, who was sitting on the edge of the sofa, was the first to see Hermione come in.

"Hermione!" he cried, jumping up and running towards her. Then he did a double take and tried to stop, sliding right into her. They both fell.

"Oops, sorry 'Mione," Harry said, standing up and helping her to her feet.

By now everyone in the common room was looking at Harry and the new Mrs. Snape. And what a Mrs. Snape she was. Dressed like she was, Hermione was the hottest thing to come through Gryffindor Tower in a while. The male students had to roll their tongues back up into their mouths, and the girls looked at her with narrowed eyes.

"Wow, Hermione," Harry said, looking at her appreciatively. "You look…look..damn. Hot just doesn't do it."

Hermione smiled at him. "Ginny," she said. Harry nodded. Yep. It looked like Ginny's work all right. Hermione looked awesome. Ron wrestled away from the bevy of girls surrounding him, ran up to Hermione and grabbed her, swinging her around.

"Hermione! You're all right!" he cried, setting the dizzy witch down.

"I'm fine, Ron," she said.

"How'd you get away from him?" Ron asked, "Did you hex him?"

"No, Ron. He had a date," she replied.

"A date?" Ron echoed, as the other students' ears perked up.

The information that Professor Snape went on a date on his wedding night circulated through the common room quickly. Most students had assumed this was a real marriage and Hermione would be shagging the Potions Master. Obviously, they had been mistaken. Shudders went up all around. Who would date Snape? But then again, they wondered who'd marry the git. Hermione answered that question.

"Yes, a date. So I decided I come visit you to let you know I was okay. You seemed very upset when I left with him," Hermione said, her eyes sliding to the group of girls still on the sofa, "though it seems you were recovering fine."

Ron looked at the girls.

"Yes, I guess I was doing all right," he said sheepishly. "But it's good to know he didn't put the moves on you."

"I don't think that will be happening, Ron. He has plenty to keep his mind off me," she said.

She looked over at the chessboard.

"How about a game of wizard's chess, Harry?" she asked brightly.

"Sure, Hermione," Harry said, walking over to the board. Hermione joined him, followed by about ten Gryffindor wizards, all determined to help her win, and get her attention. Hell, she wasn't really Snape's wife after all…and she certainly looked attainable. Very unlike the Hermione Granger of the past several years. Their hot little eyes swept over her curves and lingered on her little belly button hoop. Hermione was sizzling.

Hermione beat Harry and took on another wizard. She declined playing Ron, he was too good. Ron was pouting a bit at all the attention the other students were paying to Hermione. She seemed to be enjoying it, smiling at the wizards and laughing at their jokes, and, could he believe it, flirting?

Hermione had no idea she was flirting. She just was enjoying herself, and enjoying the attentions of the young wizards. It was kind of heady, and she felt powerful. When she mentioned she was thirsty, several wizards almost got trampled when a group of them ran to get her something to drink. At least ten glasses of pumpkin juice was shoved at her from as many directions. She lost track of time, and realized it was after curfew.

"I've got to get back," she said to the wizards surrounding her. Cries of "aw, and no" filled the common room. Hermione smiled.

"Um, Mrs. Snape, I'll walk you back to the dungeons," said Erin Bradcliff, the Head boy. He was quite a good-looking young wizard, blonde-haired and gray-eyed.

"Thank you, Erin. I'd appreciate that," Hermione said, slipping her arm into his boldly. He smiled down at her.

"Night all," she said, waving as they exited the common room.

"Night, Hermione," the wizards all said in unison. Ginny shook her head.

Hermione was a natural.

Severus and Catherine walked through the main door, and headed down the dungeon corridor. Catherine was hanging on to the Potions Master for dear life, since she was pretty toasted. She had started drinking without him. Catherine was about thirty years old, brown-haired and brown eyed and had been around the block a few times. She was a little on the hippy side, and her breast weren't as firm as they could have been, but she could give a hell of a blowjob, especially after she had a few. Severus had brought her home sober a few times, but it wasn't as good. He preferred her drunk and uninhibited. Sometimes he'd have sex with her…he wasn't sure if he would tonight. He had different women for different sexual acts actually. If he felt like shagging, he'd usually get Veronica or Sheena. They were younger witches and still relatively tight. But they were promiscuous little hussies, and he had to perform all kinds of cleaning spells on them before he'd stick his tool in them. When he wanted anal sex…he found Bernice. She was one of the few witches he'd encountered that could handle him full force. He had yet to find a woman he could have oral sex with.

"Ooh Severus, I can't wait to get hold of your huge wand," Catherine drawled.

"That makes two of us, Catherine," the Potions Master said to her as he guided her toward his rooms. Hermione better be absent when they got there. He didn't see Hermione and Erin turn down the corridor behind them.

Hermione looked at the couple in front of them, her amber eyes wide.

"Oh wow, there's my husband," she said to Erin, who looked a little taken aback.

"He has another woman with him," the handsome Gryffindor said, "And she looks nowhere as good as you do, Hermione." He looked down at the witch. She certainly was pretty. Sexy too. The Professor must be crazy.

"We have an 'open' marriage, Erin," Hermione said, speeding up so she could get a good look at the woman. She looked a little used, and a little drunk too.

"What's that mean?" Erin asked her, his brow wrinkled.

"It means we can see other people," she said still looking at the Professor and the giggling woman.

"Oh, I see," Erin said. This sounded quite interesting. He grinned to himself and tightened his grip on Hermione's arm. She didn't notice.

Severus was at his door now, and about to open it, when he looked back and saw Hermione on the arm of the Head Boy. He did a double take when he saw how she was dressed. Her jeans were dangerously low, and her shirt dangerously high. And was that a piercing on her taut little belly? He hesitated as the couple walked past him. The young man nodded at him.

"Good Evening, Professor," he said. Hermione smiled and waved at him and kept going towards her room. She stopped outside her door.

Severus scowled, and Catherine said, "Come on, Severus, let's go love."

"All right," he growled, opening the door and letting her in. He looked back at Hermione who was opening her door. Was she taking the Head Boy to her rooms? The little slut.

The Professor's nostrils flared as he walked into his office and slammed the door loudly behind him. Hermione looked back, her eyebrows raised. What was that all about? She shrugged and looked up at Erin, who had a rather hopeful look on his face.

"Thank you for walking me to my rooms, Erin," she said, smiling at him a little shyly.

"You're very welcome, Hermione. I'll be happy to do it anytime you stay too late at Gryffindor Tower," he said, "which I hope is often."

"That's sweet," Hermione said, opening her door. She turned toward him.

"Good night, Erin," she said, stepping inside.

"Um…Hermione," Erin said softly.

"Yes, Erin?" she replied.

"How about a little kiss for the walk?" he asked hopefully.

Hermione smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you, Erin," she said, closing the door.

The Head Boy stood there for a little while. He'd been kissed by Hermione Granger…well Hermione Snape now, but still. That had to be a first. He always thought of her as a rather cold, bookish girl, but she certainly didn't seem cold and bookish now. Not at all.

Smiling to himself, Erin made his way back to Gryffindor Tower, clearly smitten with the witch.

In Severus' bedroom, Catherine wasn't having much success with the Professor at all. He just wouldn't rise to the occasion.

"What's wrong, Sevvie-poo?" she asked him as he sat with his back to the headboard, and she worked on him.

"Don't call me Sevvie-poo, Catherine. I hate that," he snarled at her, pushing her head back down. "Keep going."

She did.

Severus couldn't get the image of Hermione with the young wizard out of his mind. Was she shagging the boy right now in the room next to his? Shit, she had his name. If she should be shagging anybody, it should be him.

The Professor shook his head. Where the fuck had that come from? He didn't marry the little chit with the intentions on bedding her. But hell, he had thought she was a virgin then. If she was already giving it out, then why shouldn't he indulge himself?

No. She was still his student.

But damn, she was his wife too, and she was probably on her knees right now sucking that wizard off, doing a damn site better than Catherine was. Snape looked down at the witch. Suddenly he caught her by the hair.

"Forget it, Catherine. Just go home," he said, rolling out of the bed and putting on his housecoat.

"But Sevvie-poo…" Catherine said.

Severus looked at her coldly and waved his hand at her so she was fully dressed. He went into his drawer and took out a port key that would take her directly home. Catherine looked hurt.

"What's the matter with you?" she asked him.

Severus looked at her.

"I got married today," he answered her. Catherine stared at him, sobering up very quickly.

"Married? You're jerking my kneazle," she said, frowning at him slightly.

"No. I married a seventeen-year-old girl today. The Marriage Law. There were extenuating circumstances," he said, looking at the woman. He had been seeing Catherine once a week for the past year. He didn't even know what she did for a living.

"What kind of circumstances?" she asked. "Is she pregnant?"

"No. I've never touched her," he said, his eyes hardening.

"So where is she?" Catherine asked.

"In the room next to mine. She has her own quarters. You saw her when we came in," he said.

Catherine seemed to search her memory.

"You mean that slinky little piece with the belly-button ring?" she said, her voice sounding a bit shrilly.

Severus nodded.

Catherine scowled at him.

"And she stays here with you, in the same rooms?" she repeated.

"No, she has her own rooms," he said. "She's probably in there right now with that young wizard she was with," he said, his voice a bit bitter.

Catherine looked at him sharply.

"Ah, I see now why you couldn't get it up, Sevvie-poo. Pining for the piece you can't have. You're too old and too ugly for her," Catherine said nastily in the way of women who have been deeply hurt. Pain for pain.

"Get out, Catherine," Severus hissed.

"Fuck you, Sevvie-poo!" she screeched at him.

Before the Potions Master knew what he was doing, he backhanded the witch, knocking her to the floor. Catherine screamed, and held her hand to her bleeding mouth. Severus looked down on her.

"Get up, and get out of here before you get worse than that, you whore," he breathed at her, his black eyes murderous.

Catherine stared up at him, her blue eyes full of fear. He had never struck her before, or shown the slightest inclination that he was capable of such an act. She crawled to her knees and stood up. She looked at her hand, and the blood on it. Her eyes filled with tears.

Severus turned away from her.

"Get the fuck out!" he breathed, on the brink of exploding. Catherine heard the danger in his voice, grabbed the port key and whispered "Portis"

She was gone.

Severus paced his bedroom for a few minutes. Then he stripped down and climbed into bed, trying not to imagine Hermione getting shagged next door. What did he expect? He had gone out to bring someone home. But he didn't expect her to do the same thing…not on the night of her wedding, if at all. He expected her to swipe one of his books without his permission and curl up with it. That's the way he always imagined the girl spent her nights, curled up with a book, not with her legs on the shoulders of some randy young wizard, who wouldn't know what to do with her if the instructions were written on her ass.

The Potions Master scowled. Perhaps this marriage agreement required some rethinking. If Hermione was already a sexually active young woman, then he'd be within his rights to get a piece of her, wouldn't he? It would be nice to have one woman for all his needs instead of the way it was, even for a little while. He'd have to think about this.

He rolled over and tried to sleep but found himself with a raging erection. Shit. Now it worked.

He growled in frustration and lay there, his eyes on the ceiling, thinking about his new wife getting reamed next door by some wet-behind-the-ears little wanker. His mood got blacker and blacker, but finally he fell asleep.

Fuck. She was even in his dreams.

The next morning found Severus up bright and early, prowling his study and waiting for Hermione to appear. But Hermione was sleeping in, which didn't make her look too good to the Professor, who thought that she was exhausted from the previous nights activities. The truth was the entire week prior to the wedding she hadn't slept well, and now her body was playing catch up.

Severus was furious, though he had no right to be. It was he who told her it would be a marriage in name only, and he who said she could have wizards in her quarters as long as she was discreet. And she had been relatively discreet, except for the fact that he saw her, but she saw him also, and didn't seem very upset about it at all. But why would she be? She didn't have any kind of feelings for him. What did she care who gave him head?

Severus thought back to the wedding. To the kiss he gave her. She had looked surprised, and it seemed as if she had kissed him back, a little. But it was more of a possessive kiss on his part, he really didn't give her the option to participate. But she had looked surprised, and the surprise wasn't all due to the suddenness of the kiss either. It was as if she didn't expect him to be able to kiss. Yes, most likely that was it. Most people presumed that because he was so disciplined, that he had no heat. No passion. But they were very wrong about that. Especially when it came to women. Pounding a woman was a true joy to Severus, it fed his need for pleasure and for domination. Sadly, the selection he had didn't inspire much passion. Release, yes, but passion. Not really. But he worked with what he had available.

One woman would be ideal, but he couldn't find what he needed in one woman. Plus, one woman would want affection, emotion and most likely love. He could go for a sex buddy, but he didn't want to do love. Too consuming, too messy, to hard to clear out. Trying to get rid of all the emotions attached to loving someone when it was over was like trying to clear cockroaches out of a labyrinth. He didn't want to go through that. He thought about Hermione. How long had she been seeing Mr. Bradcliff? Did she just pick him up last night, or was this something ongoing. They were both in the same house after all. But Severus was sure he would have noticed something. Both of them were in his Potions class, and one thing he knew for sure was that young people who are attracted to each other would find ways to sit and work together. And Mr. Bradcliff and his wife had done neither. So most likely she had latched on to the young wizard last night. This irked the Professor.

He looked at Hermione's rooms. Where the fuck was she? Was the young wizard that good that she needed to sleep the entire morning away in order to recover? He scowled. No youngster could outdo him sexually. If Hermione slept like this over a boy, he'd have her out for forty-eight hours at least. He considered going into her rooms and waking her up. Then he got an idea. The kitchen. That would be the perfect excuse to be in her rooms. He had intended on making use of it. Yes, he could make breakfast…no, brunch. Brunch for two. That was it. He could wake her up then under the guise of feeding her. Why? Because he felt like it. He didn't have to have a reason why. She was a Gryffindor. She would automatically assume he did it to be 'nice' a word not normally associated with him.

He slid the book out of her bookcase and walked into her rooms. First he went to the kitchen and checked her cooler. She hadn't stocked it yet. Fine, he would just go to the kitchens and get what he needed and bring it back. He crept down the short hall and peeked in her rooms. He saw a shapely bare leg sticking out from under the annoyingly Gryffindor colored sheets. He could make out the roundness of her bottom too. She was asleep on her stomach, lying crossways in the bed. Is that how the wizard left her? Well at least he wasn't still with her.

The Professor exited her rooms, walked over to the floo, and grabbed some floo powder. He threw it into the flames.

"The kitchens," he said and stepped through.

At around eleven o'clock, Hermione stirred and rolled over in the bed. Her nose woke up before the rest of her. It smelled something delicious. Food. Breakfast. Coffee. Her amber eyes blinked open and she sleepily registered that the wonderful smells were coming from her kitchen. She rolled out of the bed, then headed for the loo to relieve herself. Then she washed her face and smoothed down her hair as best she could. It was long and curly now, but looked sleep tousled. She'd take care of that later, her stomach was growling. But who was cooking?

She tied on her housecoat over her nightie and padded out to the kitchen. She stood in the doorway and watched incredulously as Severus padded around the kitchen, cooking and setting the table simultaneously. For two.

"Severus?" Hermione said, rubbing her eyes.

The Potions Master turned and looked at the witch. His black eyes swept over her. She was barefoot, in a housecoat, her hair tangled as if she had been under a lover for most of the night. His nostrils flared a little at that thought. But she certainly looked lovely in the morning, tousled or not. Despite seething on the inside, Severus put up a good front. He had a lot of practice at hiding his true feelings due to his dealings with the Dark Lord.

"Good morning, Hermione. I thought I'd break your kitchen in," he said rather pleasantly. Hermione looked suspicious.

"You made me breakfast?" she asked him, approaching the table. It certainly looked and smelled good. Sausages, eggs, pancakes, milk and coffee.

The Potions Master looked at her.

"Actually, I made me breakfast," he said a little snarkily, "but I made enough for two, seeing as this technically is your kitchen. I couldn't very well just eat in front of you."

Ah, that sounded about right. Hermione's suspicions were allayed. She went to sit down and the Potions Master hurried over and pulled her chair out for her. Hermione looked at him a moment, then took the seat. He sat down across from her. Hermione looked at the food.

"It certainly looks delicious, Severus," she said, "I didn't know you could cook."

She began piling food on her plate. She was starved. She hadn't eaten since before the wedding yesterday. To the Professor however, it looked like she was famished from her nighttime activities. He scowled a little.

"Of course I can cook. Anyone who chops and measures and simmers as I do is naturally a cook," he replied with a hint of irritation. Hermione caught it in his voice, and looked up at him.

"Is everything all right?" she asked him. It was obvious he was out of sorts about something.

"Everything is fine, Hermione," he replied.

They ate in silence for a while, Hermione tucking the food away with dispatch, then piling more on her plate. The Potions Master seemed to be getting madder and madder.

"Um…how was your date last night, Professor?" she asked him.

Severus looked at her blackly for a moment.

"It was fine. And how was your 'date' last night?" he shot back at her.

"My date?" Hermione asked him, puzzled.

"Yes, with the young wizard I saw you taking to your rooms last night, Mr. Bradcliff I believe," the Potions Master replied, looking at her sharply.

Hermione realized what was wrong. The Professor thought she had brought Erin into her rooms for a late night shag. She started to tell him he was mistaken, but then, she thought about him bringing the witch into his rooms and decided to let him think what he wanted, maybe with a little help from her.

"Oh, it was wonderful," she breathed. "Erin is very, very sweet."

Severus snorted. If she ever spent the night with him, sweet would definitely NOT be one of the words she'd use to describe him.

"I suppose you go for the 'sweet' type," he said, looking at her as he chewed a bit of sausage.

"Sweet is nice," Hermione replied, "but I like intelligent too."

Severus looked at her. He was intelligent. Extremely so. Hmm.

Suddenly, Hermione caught a spasm in her neck. She had slept on it wrong and shifted in her chair uncomfortably then winced. Severus scowled.

"Severus, do you have anything for pain available?" she asked him.

"So, you have aches from last night?" he asked her tightly.

"Wrong position," she responded, referring to how she'd slept. Of course he read it wrong.

"Wrong position?" he asked her, his nostrils flaring again.

"Yes, my head was all wrong and I caught a cramp in my neck. I should have rested it on a pillow instead of the mattress. Too much weight on it," she said.

Images of Mr. Bradcliff pressing Hermione's head down into the mattress while he stroked her from behind filled the Potions Master's head. His black eyes raked over her, and for a moment he was tempted to just go ahead and take her. Shove her up against the wall, lift up her nightie and show her what it was like to be taken by a full-grown wizard, not some boy. Hermione looked up at him, noticing the dark look in his eyes.

"Are you all right, Severus?" she asked him a bit worriedly.

The Potions Master rose, his hand clenching together spasmodically.

"Severus?" Hermione asked again. She was getting a cold, fearful feeling in her stomach as she looked at the Potions Master.

"I'm going to get you something for pain," he said tightly, stalking out of the kitchen and into his own rooms. He entered the study, walked over to one of the armchairs and punched it violently, several times before taking a deep breath. Then he exited the study, walked through his office, into his classroom and then to his potions stores. He took out a purple vial.

"I can't believe I'm giving my own wife pain medication for aches she's feeling as a result of another man bedding her," Severus muttered. He certainly was referring to her as his wife quite a bit. He locked his stores back and returned to Hermione's rooms. She was still seated at the kitchen table, finishing her coffee.

"Here," he said, holding out the vial and looking at her darkly. She took it, and he returned to his seat. He watched her drink it down. Hermione sat there a moment, then a look of relief washed across her face.

"Much better," she breathed, "Thank you, Severus."

The Potions Master grunted, drinking down his coffee. It was cold. He looked at her.

"What are your plans for today?" he asked her.

Hermione stretched, her breasts pressing against her robes in a very luscious way. The Potions Master's eyes glittered. Hermione had her eyes closed so didn't see his look.

"Oh, I was going to go visit Gryffindor Tower," she said.

"And Mr. Bradcliff?" he asked her, willing his voice to stay steady.

"Yes, if he's around. But I want to see Harry and Ron too. And Ginny," she responded.

A likely story. More than likely they'd hole up in the Head Boy's private rooms and shag some more. She really was a piece of work. Just like most women. Sluttiness must be inbred in females, some kind of gene or something that is triggered when they all reach womanhood.

Severus rose.

"I'll come back and take care of the dishes," he said shortly, heading for the door.

"No need, Severus, I can take care of them," Hermione replied.

The Potions Master whirled on her.

"I said I would take care of the damn dishes, Hermione! You just get dressed and go where you're going!" he yelled at her. Hermione jumped.

"All…all right, Severus," she said, rising slowly, easing out the kitchen door and backing down the hallway cautiously, ready to run for her life. The Professor watched her, his black eyes glinting with anger, looking for all the world like he was going to attack her. But he didn't. He let her leave.

Hermione backed into her bedroom, closed the door, locked it, then ran over to her wand, picked it up and warded the door securely. Then she sat down on the bed and let out the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding since the Professor's outburst.

Damn. Was he acting like that because he thought she had Erin in her rooms last night? That's what it had to be. But why would he act so crazy about it? What did he care who she shagged? It's not like he had any feelings for her. She thought it might be wise to stay out of the Professor's way for a while. She had never seen the Professor lose it like that before. He looked positively murderous. Like he wanted to hurt her.

What the hell had she gotten herself into?

Severus stood in Hermione's kitchen staring after the witch, trying to regain control over himself. Needing to do something, he started gathering the dishes up off the table and transferring them to the sink, much like a muggle would do. The Professor caught himself, stuck out his hand, murmured the scourgify incantation and cleaned everything at once. Then he put the dishes, pots and utensils away. He looked back towards Hermione's bedroom, then stiffly exited her rooms and closed the entrance to it.

He paced his study back and forth for a few minutes, cursing his outburst. The witch had no idea why he was acting so insane, and he was acting insane. He hadn't been married to Hermione even a full day yet, and he was raging about her infidelity, when he had no right to. He sat down in the closest armchair and gazed into the fire.

He had always thought of Hermione as a very bright young witch, with a focus on the future, not one of these hormone driven little chits who flipped on their backs anytime a wizard had a kind word for them. Actually, he admired the fact that the Gryffindor witch was so goal-oriented, so dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge, and worked so hard to master almost everything she put her hands to. She very nearly had perfect marks in his class, if he were more lenient on her, she would…but he felt he had to be a foil against all the simpering Professors who merely gushed over the witches abilities and didn't attempt to challenge her. If he simply allowed her to breeze through his class, she would have no idea how to work against adversity, or to handle failure. So far, she had turned out to be quite the determined little witch and up to this point he had been rather proud of her, though he would never tell her so. He never gave her his approval, just as he never gave her perfect marks, whether she deserved them or not. He figured he would let her know how well she had really done when she graduated.

Until yesterday, she had always been Hermione Granger the student, the know-it-all, the chaste, focused little Gryffindor, part of the Golden Trio, and Dumbledore's pet as well as the pride of Gryffindor. She was still the buck-toothed little chit that almost ran to the dais to be sorted into her house, all bushy hair and excitement. Yes, he noticed some subtle physical changes in Hermione, but he didn't focus on them. He was her Professor, and his real focus was her mind, developing and sharpening it, filling it with knowledge, teaching it how to think for itself. When Hermione entered Albus' office dressed like the young woman she really was, it threw him for a loop. He couldn't remember her becoming beautiful or desirable.

Severus had kissed Hermione the way he did during the ceremony primarily to irritate those in attendance, but a part of him wanted to taste her, and touch her, possibly to affirm that she was real. Even then, he was almost sure that she was pristine, was still that chaste little Gryffindor he imagined, though she did tell him he knew nothing about her. The Professor had thought she was bluffing, that she was just reacting to him calling her on her innocence. Being innocent wasn't a bad thing. It was a very good thing in all actuality. And it was the one thing that kept Hermione below his radar up to this point. But with the discovery that she wasn't the pure, inexperienced young woman he thought she was, she was now a blip on the screen.

As far as Severus was concerned, what Hermione was learning now with partners like Mr. Bradcliff was the children's primer to sex, when she was probably more than capable of handling the unabridged volume of his sexual knowledge and craft. She would be a joy to teach, too, he was sure, just as she was in the classroom. He wanted to teach her badly, now that he knew she was so obviously suited to learning, and there was no messiness of virginity to get in the way.

He groaned a bit. There was a coiling in his belly that had one name on it. Shit. He had to find some relief before he focused on Hermione. Catherine was effectively out of the game, but he needed to do someone, vent some of the built up stress and pressure he was feeling. Empty out the lust that was inside him. A substitute would do fine. Hm. He wondered if he could find Sheena. He still had to inform her of his marriage.

Sheena was a twenty-five year old witch, dark-haired, dark-eyed with some dark, twisted tendencies he appreciated. She was a lovely young witch, but rather promiscuous. She had a high sex drive and loved rough sex. She said it was the only thing that made her feel whole. Initially, she had teased Severus when he met her at the Hog's Head inn, told him he was too old, and that she would probably kill him. Severus was only in his late thirties, not old at all for a wizard. But she still implied it. And that got him pissed and determined to seduce the witch and bring her back to his rooms. He succeeded.

"Who's old now?" he had hissed as he tore into the witch's body mercilessly. He rode her until the sun came up. Sheena was instantly hooked on the Potions Master. She had never met anyone like him. For Severus though, the initial excitement wore off quickly. Now she was just another release, another vessel to fill with come. But he sure could use her right now, before he did something to Hermione that would ruin him. She was his wife, but there were still laws about rape. The Ministry would be hard pressed to prove the charges against him, especially since they were the catalyst for this marriage in the first place, forcing people together, but it would be much more satisfying to try to seduce the witch and then pummel the shit out of her.

He stood up, walked to his rooms and got dressed. He was going to see if he could find the dark-eyed witch and talk her into an afternoon dalliance. Now he regretted not getting the two-way mirrors Sheena had asked him for, but he felt the witch was getting too clingy. He didn't want her constantly contacting him with idiotic conversations of "I've been thinking of you, are you thinking of me?" He shuddered. He only thought of Sheena when he wanted a quick, hard shag. He exited his rooms, running right into Hermione. He looked her up and down and his belly tightened.

Hermione was dressed in red and black. Snug fitting red jeans, that also hung dangerously low on her hips, and a black strapless shirt, that had a line of what looked like diamonds running down the center of it, that still exposed her midriff and the silver hoop in her navel. And her hair! She had red streaks in her hair that matched her pants! She wore a pair of red and black sandals as well, and had some sunglasses resting on the top of her head. She looked amazing and extremely shaggable.

The Professor's mouth worked silently for a moment as he gazed at his wife, noting every curve, every inch of exposed skin. She smelled of jasmine. He never remembered the Gryffindor witch dressing like this. Even in muggle clothing, she wore demure blue jeans and perfectly acceptable, rather large t-shirts. But that was back when she was hiding her sexuality, and not trying to attract wizards. The newer, freer Hermione was laying it down hard.

"Hermione, do you not have an outfit that fully covers you? This is, is indecent!" the Professor said, eyeing her, his black eyes flicking to her face.

Hermione scowled at him.

"This is a perfectly acceptable outfit, Severus. I am not an old maid. I'm seventeen, about to become eighteen and fancy free," she replied, spinning for him so he could see the whole effect. It was breathtaking. The Professor scowled.

"You are not fancy free. You are a married woman," he seethed before he could catch himself. Shit.

Hermione's eyebrows rose at this statement, threatening to disappear into her scalp.

"In name only, Professor. Remember? Now, let me see…" she said, looking up at the ceiling and tapping the side of her face with a red fingernail before lowering her amber eyes and looking into his black ones steadily, " I believe you put it something like this…you would rather not marry me, you'd rather not have your privacy disturbed, and you'd rather not have to explain me to your lovers. Does that sound like the words of a doting, caring husband to you, Severus? It doesn't to me. That sounds more like the words of a wizard that doesn't want to be married to his wife, and for all intents and purposes acts unmarried. So what is good for the wizard, Severus, is good for the witch. As far as I am concerned, I am fancy free."

And with that, Hermione slipped by him and walked up the dungeon corridor, her hips rolling like a ship out to sea. He blinked after her, his black eyes locked on her bottom. He got an immediate erection. Circe. Scowling, he followed her, heading for the main door and Knockturn Alley to find that vixen, Sheena.

Hermione entered the main hall first. She was about to take the stairwells up to Gryffindor Tower when a voice called out to her.

"Mrs. Snape?"

Hermione turned to see a wizard approaching her. A very familiar wizard. A strong, large hand captured her own and brought it up to a pair of very soft, accommodating lips. The wizard stood up and gave Hermione a brilliant, smile. Hermione couldn't help but let out a small gasp as she looked into the cold, gray eyes of Lucius Malfoy.

The wizard looked at her appraisingly, and gave a half leer. He didn't release her hand.

"You've all grown up I see, Mrs. Snape," he purred. His eyes fell on her belly-button hoop. "Nice piercing." His other hand rose to touch the ring when Severus appeared and quickly walked up to them. Lucius released Hermione's hand and gave his fellow wizard a slight bow.

"Ah Severus, I was just saying hello to your …rather delicious little wife," the wizard said, his eyes back on Hermione rather lustfully. His gray eyes looked sharply between the couple.

"So, how is married life?" he asked them, not waiting for an answer. He looked at Hermione speculatively, "Knowing Severus as I do, I take it the wedding night was one to remember, Mrs. Snape?"

Hermione blushed at the intimacy of the wizard's question. Severus was glad for it. It implied that what Malfoy insinuated was true. Lucius' eyes swept over her from head to toe. She certainly was a luscious little bit. Maybe she could be persuaded to share. A little trim among the brothers was all right. Severus frowned at the wizard. He knew what the handsome blonde deviant was thinking. About boning Hermione. As angry as Severus was at his wife, he wouldn't wish this twisted bastard on her. But then again, if she wanted a go with him, it would be her choice. Lucius was quite handsome. Several wives of deatheaters had consented to sleep with him. They only did it once. Lucius couldn't get off without causing pain first.

Severus moved closer to Hermione, and placed his arm around her waist possessively. Hermione moved into him. He was the safer of the two wizards. The way Malfoy was looking at her made her distinctly afraid.

"I just came by to congratulate you on your nuptials," Lucius drawled, removing a small package from under his cloak. "And to give you a small present."

Hermione reached out her hand to take it, but Severus got it first, giving her a slightly warning look as he did so.

"Thank you Lucius, but you are aware you are to contact me first before you visit," Severus said, a bit of an edge to his voice as if Lucius purposely breeched protocol. The wizard smiled.

"My apologies, Severus. I didn't mean to be an imposition," he said. Then his gray eyes flickered over Severus' cloak.

"Ah, were you going somewhere, Severus?" he asked him, his eyes flicking back over at Hermione, who quailed a little.

"As a matter of fact, I was Lucius. I had a little errand to run," he said.

"I see," Lucius said. His eyes focused on Hermione, "Perhaps your lovely wife would entertain me while you're gone." His gray eyes glittered. His meaning was clear.

Severus moved a bit more in front of Hermione.

"I'm afraid after last night, my wife is not up to 'entertaining' Lucius. Besides, she is on her way to visit her friends," he replied. His black eyes were hard.

"Pity," Lucius said, his eyes dropping freely to Hermione's breasts. "I'm sure we could have had a lovely visit. Perhaps some other time, Mrs. Snape?"

"Perhaps, Lord Malfoy," Hermione replied, not knowing what else to say.

Lucius' eyebrows rose in surprise, then his gaze narrowed as he looked at Severus.

"Your wife seems quite friendly, Severus. I look forward to seeing more of her," he purred. He nodded to Hermione and Severus, then strode out the main door.

"What a horrible wizard," Hermione breathed, clutching Severus' robe.

Severus turned looked at her, then placed both hands on her shoulders firmly, shaking her a little. He seemed to be genuinely concerned.

"You have no idea, Hermione. Never, ever let yourself be alone with him. You understand me? He will hurt you," Severus said, frowning at her, "Badly. No matter what experiences you may have had prior to this, you are not ever going to be ready for Lucius Malfoy. I assure you."

"Experiences?" Hermione thought. Then she realized that the Professor thought she was sexually active.

"All right," she said

Severus' eyes shifted toward the door that Lucius exited out of. He knew the dark wizard had just targeted his wife.

"Perhaps I should walk you to Gryffindor Tower," he said, walking her toward the stairs.

"It's not necessary," Hermione said. Severus scowled at her.

"Hermione, you might only be my wife in name, but you are still my wife. I am responsible for you and won't let any harm come to you," he said, his eyes glittering at her. "Whether you appreciate my efforts or not."

He took her arm and walked her up the stairwell, and didn't release her until they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.

The Professor looked at her.

"I was going to go out, Hermione, but I think I will stay at the castle after all. I will be in my rooms if for some reason you need me," he said. She looked up at him for a moment. She had never seen him look so concerned.

"All right, Severus," she said softly, "Thank you."

He nodded at her, his black eyes intense. As Hermione looked into them, she caught an inkling of what Ginny had talked about. He did have amazing eyes…they looked as if they could swallow her whole down into their depths. The witch started uncomfortably, turned and said the password. The portrait swung open and Hermione entered the passageway. She took one more look over her shoulder at the Potions Master, who stood there watching her. Then she walked down to the common room, the portrait swinging closed behind her.

Severus stood there a moment, staring absently at the portrait.

"Ooh, is someone pining after the princess?" the Fat Lady tittered. The Potions Master's dark eyes shifted up and he scowled at the painting.

"Shut up you sow," he hissed, turning away and heading down the stairwell, robes a-billow.

"Well, I never," the Fat Lady said, frowning after him.

When Hermione walked into the common room of Gryffindor Tower, she was in a kind of daze. Ginny was sitting on the windowsill, looking out of it across the school grounds. No one else was about. Hermione saw her friend and walked over to her.

"Hi, Ginny," Hermione said rather hollowly.

Ginny turned a little startled. She thought she was alone. She looked at Hermione.

"Wow, Hermione, you look even hotter than you did yesterday. The boys are going to be falling at your feet and worshipping you," she said, smiling at the witch as she looked her over with approval.

"Yeah," Hermione said absently. She looked at Ginny sort of blankly. Ginny frowned.

"Hermione, what's wrong?" she asked.

Hermione looked at the red-haired witch.

"Two things," she said, "First, I'm pretty sure that Lucius Malfoy wants to do me, and expects me to let him do it, and secondly, I noticed something attractive about my husband," Hermione replied.

"Lucius Malfoy! Gods, Hermione…he's the hottest wizard in the wizarding world," the young witch breathed. "How do you know?"

Hermione looked at Ginny. She couldn't tell her about Severus being a deatheater and how the deatheaters often shared their wives with one another.

"Just by the way he talked to me, he didn't exactly say it, but I could see it in his eyes," Hermione said.

"I'd do him in a minute if he asked me," Ginny said, "He's gorgeous. Built. Sexy…"

Hermione frowned at her.

"But he's cruel, Ginny. He would hurt you," she said to the witch.

"I don't care…it would still be good," Ginny retorted.

Obviously, the horror of her little Chamber of Secrets adventure had worn off when she hit puberty. Lucius Malfoy had been the one to give her Tom Riddle's diary in the first place.

Hermione didn't think so. Severus didn't say exactly what Lucius would do, but Hermione thought it was far beyond rough sex. The Potions Master said she could never be prepared for what Lucius Malfoy would do. He looked so concerned and worried, Hermione believed him.

"Well, he gave me the creeping flummoxes, Ginny. I don't care how handsome he is. I don't want him near me," Hermione replied, shuddering.

"No accounting for taste," Ginny said, changing the subject, her eyes widening with interest, "So, what did you find attractive about your husband?"

Hermione looked out the window for a moment, thinking about the Professor looking down at her.

"His eyes. They really are beautiful. So dark. When he looked at me a little while ago, I felt…I felt…well, I don't know what I felt except that his eyes could maybe swallow me up," she said, then she looked at Ginny, "Does that make me sound like an idiot?"

Ginny shook her head.

"No, it makes you sound like you are paying attention to the wizard you married. If you look further, you'll see other things about him, too. Take a good look at his hands next time. And just listen to his voice…not what he says, but what he sounds like…then imagine what he could sound like if he were saying other things…whispering to you…saying dirty things…"

"Ginny!" Hermione said, "Snap out of it!"

Ginny's glazed eyes reverted to normal.

"What?" she asked as she looked at Hermione, who had her hands on her hips.

"You went off on quite a tangent there, Ginny. Sounds to me like somebody's been fantasizing about my husband," Hermione said, grinning.

"Every night for weeks for a while there," Ginny said, "but I'm the realistic sort. The Professor wouldn't shag me. I'm not smart enough."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Hermione said, remember the drunken woman the Potions Master was with the night before. "I don't think his standards lean toward the intellectual. I saw his date last night. Not top of the line, believe me. I suspect 'talent' has a lot to do with his preferences. She probably did what he liked."

"Did you asked him about his date?" Ginny asked, curious.

"Yes. He didn't say much about it. He was more concerned with how my date went," Hermione replied.

"Your date? You didn't have a date last night. You hung out here until you went back to your rooms…Erin walked…" Ginny faltered, her eyes widening with understanding, "Oh, he thought you and Erin…"

Hermione nodded. "He saw Erin walking me to my rooms when he was returning with his date last night. He went into his room before I entered mine and assumed I brought Erin in with me," Hermione said.

"You corrected him, right?" Ginny asked.

Hermione didn't say anything.

"Right, Hermione?" Ginny pressed, frowning a little

"No. I let him think what he wanted to think," she replied, "Hell, he had someone in his rooms to shag. Why shouldn't I?"

"How did he react?" Ginny asked her quietly.

"He was upset. Very upset. He yelled at me to get dressed and get out, basically," Hermione said.

"Wow. He's got it bad for you," Ginny breathed. Hermione looked at her shocked.

"What?" Hermione asked Ginny, looking at her like she'd been hit in the head by a quaffle a few times.

"Why else would he be mad about you shagging somebody, unless he wanted to shag you himself. The Professor wants to have sex with you, Hermione," Ginny said. "He's your husband too, it's really his right."

"I'm not the age of consent yet," Hermione said, "even if I wanted to, I couldn't. And I don't want to."

"You're his wife, Hermione. That wouldn't matter. Anyway, you'll be eighteen in a few more weeks. It's not that far away," Ginny said quietly.

"But Ginny, he already has women," she said, "He already said how he didn't want to marry me, how I infringe on his privacy, and he feels about having a virgin sleeping meters from his room."

"Yeah, but he doesn't think you're a virgin anymore. That kind of changes the game, Hermione. He thinks you're shagging other wizards, and you're his wife. That's why he was probably so mad this morning," Ginny said.

"I thought he was going to attack me," Hermione said quietly. "For a moment, he had a look in his eyes that made me scared to death. Just before he went to get me the pain potion."

"He's an intense wizard, Hermione. It's the quiet ones that have the tempers and the passion. That's why I like them," Ginny said going dreamy-eyed again, then she snapped out of it, looking at Hermione sharply.

"Pain potion? Why did he have to get you pain potion?" she asked.

"I slept in the wrong position last night. My neck hurt me," Hermione replied.

"Did you specifically tell him your neck hurt you?" Ginny asked, one eyebrow arched.

Hermione thought about it. "No, not really. Parts of it I guess," the witch replied.

"Hermione, think. What did you tell him exactly?" Ginny asked, "This can be important."

Hermione thought about it, then told Ginny what she told the Potions Master as they ate. Ginny slapped her hand over her forehead.

"Hermione, he thought you needed the potion because of Erin," she said, almost giggling. You told him you needed it because you were in the wrong position. He probably thought it was a sexual position, not your neck. He must have been furious that you'd give him such a detail."

Hermione understood now why he blew up at her. He probably thought she came to Gryffindor Tower to hook up with Erin again. That's why Severus had asked about the young wizard so pointedly. Why he told her to just go. Go and shag Erin again. Circe. What a mess.

But still, when Malfoy showed up, Severus was ready to defend her. Whatever he was going to do, he changed his mind because he thought she might be in danger. He wanted to protect her like a husband would protect his wife. Then he walked her to the Tower, where he believed she was going to meet her lover. Now he was waiting in his rooms, concerned for her safety.

Hermione stood there quietly for a moment, thinking things over. She made a decision. She looked at the red-haired witch.

"I think I need to go back to my rooms, Ginny," Hermione said softly. "and come clean about some things. After all, the Professor only married me to protect me. I think I need to clean up his opinion of me. He thinks he married a slut. Not that it should bother him, but obviously it does. I don't want to make him crazy."

"Sounds like a good idea," Ginny said to the witch as she headed for the common room passageway. "I'll see you later."

"Bye, Hermione said, pushing past the portrait and heading for the stairwells.

Ginny smirked.

She thought Hermione was going to be revealing a lot more to the Potions Master than she thought she was.

In his study, Severus put the small package Malfoy had given him and Hermione on the floor before the fireplace. Extending his hands, he said an incantation and blasted it to bits. Whatever Lucius had given them, Severus was sure it was something designed to spy on them, something that would collect information. Severus knew how the wizard worked. He would do the same to any gift he received from deatheaters. If they wanted to know anything, they'd have to ask him.

Severus then walked over to the bookcase Hermione first pulled a book from when she arrived in his rooms. He searched the titles until he found the one he was looking for and pulled it out. He opened it gently and leafed through it, then put his large nose to it and smelled the old leather scent of the binding. He too loved books. The Potions Master carried the tome over to his desk and sat down, placing the book down as well. He pulled open the drawer, removed a large piece of parchment and set this down also.

He placed the book on top of the parchment, and started to wrap it.

Severus was sitting in front of the fireplace, sipping a firewhiskey when the door to Hermione's rooms opened and the witch emerged. She could see him sitting staring into the fire.

"Severus, I'm back," she said to the Potions Master.

There was silence for a moment, then the Professor said rather coldly, "Well, that was a fast visit. Was Mr. Bradcliff not in, or did you both opt out for a quickie?"

Hermione could almost feel the iciness in his words as she walked around the chair to face him. His eyes flicked over her for a moment, then dropped back to the fireplace. She noticed a package on the table next to him. She took a deep breath.

"Severus, I need to talk to you. To clear things up. May I join you?" she asked him.

The Professor grunted assent and took another sip of his drink, before setting it back down. He didn't look at her. Hermione settled down in the armchair next to him. He could smell the jasmine scent she wore clearly.

"What is it you wish to tell me, Hermione? About your other paramours, perhaps?" he asked her, his black eyes shifting toward her. Hermione was taken aback by the coldness in them.

"There are no other paramours," she said, "In fact, Severus…there are no paramours at all."

He simply looked at her. He knew what he saw last night. She was clearly going to her rooms with the young wizard, and this morning she said he had been wonderful and sweet. What more did he need to know?

"You don't need to lie to me, Hermione. You told me on the stairwell before I gave you the ring that I didn't know you. That you might have a rather active love life of your own. I didn't believe you. You proved me wrong. It seems my assessment of your virtue was deeply in error," he said, turning his eyes back to the fire. She thought she heard a touch of disappointment in his voice.

"You weren't wrong. It's just…when you mocked me about being a virgin, and said how much of a problem I would be to explain to your lovers, I got angry and I … well, I shot back at you with that lie. You made it sound like I didn't know anything…and I didn't…I don't. But, you were so fucking smug that all I could think of was making you think you were wrong. I planned to make you think I had lovers from that moment on. I had Ginny help me get a new wardrobe and school me how to act to attract wizards," she said.

Severus turned his black eyes on her again. She continued.

"Last night, I went to Gryffindor Tower dressed in my new clothes and attracted almost every male wizard there. I felt like I had power. All I did though, was play wizard's chess. I overstayed and it was past curfew. Erin only walked me back to my rooms. You went inside before you could see him leave. He never came into my rooms. All I did was kiss him on the cheek to thank him for walking me back to my rooms. Then he left." she said.

Severus continued to look at her, his eyes unreadable. She went on.

"And this morning, when you asked me how my date went with Erin, I realized you thought I brought him into my rooms and shagged him. I started to tell you that you were mistaken, but then I thought about the woman you brought to your rooms, and I…I just didn't want to seem like I spent my wedding night alone when you didn't. I've never had sex with anyone, Severus. It was all a scheme to make you think I had my own lovers to occupy me…it was like a kind of pissing contest. Your lovers against my lovers. I didn't want you to think I didn't have a life beyond my books and studies. I didn't want you to see me like some little girl you had to baby-sit for. I guess I wanted you to see me as a woman, not just a little know-it-all you got saddled with. I'm sorry I made you so angry. I'm sorry about everything."

Hermione stood up to go.

"I'll just head back to my rooms now, Severus," she said, starting to leave.

"Sit down, Hermione," the Potions Master said in a low voice. "Don't leave yet. Now I have something I need to say to you."

Hermione sat back down. The Potions Master leaned forward in the armchair and looked at her directly.

"Are you familiar with the term 'playing with fire", Hermione?" he asked her silkily.

Hermione nodded.

"Well, that is what you were doing when you chose such an asinine and immature course of action. I am that proverbial fire, Hermione. If what you are telling me is true, you have no idea how close you came today to losing your virtue to me, because I assumed you were a loose woman." Severus said, letting his eyes sweep over her before continuing.

"I can't say I believe you, Hermione. You dress provocatively, you ask me if you can have lovers in your quarters, and you return to your rooms after curfew with a young wizard on your arm. What am I to think? Why did you need the pain potion for this morning then, if you did not let Mr. Bradcliff ride you ragged?" the Potions Master asked her pointedly, "you told me yourself you were sore because you were in the wrong position. That seems quite clear to me."

Hermione sighed inwardly. Ginny was right. Severus did think she meant a sexual position caused her pain.

"No, Severus. I simply slept wrong, and my neck was hurting me. I woke up all sideways in my bed, and my head was bent awkwardly," she said.

The Professor thought about this. He peeped in on her this morning, and she had been sleeping crossways. He looked at her, and decided she was telling the truth.

"It was a very foolish thing to pretend you were a slut to spite me, Hermione. It almost caused you to lose the very thing that kept you virtuous. I came very close to taking you in your kitchen this morning, believing you to be the kind of young woman I could do that to without much repercussion. Because of your obvious promiscuity, I believed you would have recovered and taken it in stride afterwards. But I caught myself. My urge to have you was so great, I was leaving to seek out an acquaintance of mine to relieve me, when Lucius arrived. Because of him, I stayed here…"

The Professor looked at her, his black eyes glittering.

"…and I still have not been relieved."

Hermione swallowed reflexively at this statement. She didn't know she had caused this reaction in the Potions Master. She hoped he wouldn't ask her to relieve him. He continued to stare at her several minutes, without saying anything.

Finally, Hermione said in a small voice, "I'm so sorry, Severus. I never meant for this to happen."

"I know you didn't Hermione. You have no idea how a beautiful, young woman who seems accessible affects a man. But now, I have a problem. You are already set in my mind as a desirable woman. I've had several erections thinking about you, and because of you, I've lost one of my female paramours. I was unable to…complete a satisfactory liaison with her because my mind was on you last night. A rather ugly situation arose because of it, and it is over between us. There was no emotional tie, but still she was adequate for my needs."

He looked at her, his dark eyes reflecting the flames before them.

"Hermione, I believe you are telling me the truth, simply because this sounds like something you would think up and do. You have a talent for trouble, you always have, and for playing with fire. I am glad that you came to me with the truth, Hermione, but you have accomplished one thing in all this that is irreversible. I no longer see you as a student, or a young girl. You are a woman to me now, and cause all the reactions in me that a lovely woman causes in a man. You've awakened a hunger in me for you, and I will have to deal with that hunger for the time you remain here as my wife. I can seek out my other lovers, certainly. But I have a fear that my desire for you will ruin those liaisons as effectively as it did last night. I ask you, Hermione…what am I to do?"

Hermione looked at the wizard in the flickering firelight, not sure what to say. Severus just told her he wanted to bed her…but she didn't want to do that. She didn't feel anything for him that drew her in that way. She hoped he wouldn't insist on her enacting her wifely duties. Her misgivings must have shown in her eyes, because the Professor spoke.

"I have no intentions on forcing you to sleep with me, Hermione. Not now. Not knowing what I know about you. If you had not come to me with the truth, I really can't say what would have happened tonight when you returned here from Gryffindor Tower, and I believed you to have spent the entire day shagging the Head Boy. But the reality of the matter is I would like to have you in my bed, and will probably work toward that goal. Do you understand what that means, Hermione?" he asked her, his voice going low and seductive.

Hermione understood him, but didn't understand him.

"No," she said, her voice almost a whisper.

"It means I will be courting you. Attempting to make you feel things for me that will make you want to come to my bed. Wanting a woman as badly as I want you can make a wizard go entirely out of character. But knowing what I know, I will be able to be patient. I couldn't say that earlier."

The Potions Master's face softened somewhat as he continued to address the witch.

"I can be kind, Hermione. Not sweet as you described Mr. Bradcliff, but kind. And I can offer you things that younger wizards cannot. Things a witch of your caliber needs. You are brilliant. There aren't many wizards your age who can satisfy your intellectual needs. I can offer you knowledge, conversation, and growth while you remain with me. I can offer you understanding and support as well. I will protect you regardless of what happens or does not happen between us."

Then his voice dropped low, and the look in his eyes became so intense, Hermione felt as if it was next to impossible to draw another breath.

But I need you to understand Hermione, that to claim you is my ultimate goal for as long as you remain my wife. Virgin or not, I want you and I intend to have you," Severus said, his voice barely concealing a growl.

The Potions Master sat back in the chair and stared into the fireplace for several more moments, allowing Hermione to try and digest all he had said to her. He had just staked his claim to her, and any young wizards sniffing around her were going to find this out, soon enough…beginning with Erin Bradcliff. If she needed escorting anywhere, he would do it.

Hermione sat as still as stone, her stomach all aflutter. Her eyes shifted down toward the Potions Master's hands. They were masculine, pale, long-fingered. He reached for his glass of firewhiskey, and his fingers curled around the vessel holding the amber liquid gently, but firmly as he brought the glass to his lips. Hermione again saw what Ginny saw. He did have beautiful hands.

"The package. On the table," Severus said suddenly, "It's for you. Open it."

Hermione reached for the package, then hesitated and looked at the Potions Master, who scowled at her.

"For gods sakes woman, the damn thing isn't going to explode," he said snarkily. "Or I wouldn't be in such proximity to you. Now, go ahead and open it."

Heartened by his snarkiness, Hermione picked up the package and shook it close to her ear.

"Why?" she asked him, "Why are you giving this to me?"

Severus scowled, tempted to ask her if she had been listening to him. Because he wanted her, that's why. But he didn't say it.

Instead he said, "Consider it a belated wedding present."

Hermione frowned. "Husbands don't give wedding presents. Friends and family do."

Severus scowled at her. Why was she making this so difficult?

"This husband does. Now open the damn thing," he sanrked, his brows drawn together.

Hermione opened the package and stared at the book. It was the one she first examined when he first came to his rooms. The one she asked if she could read. He had given it to her. It was priceless.

"Oh my gods. Severus. This book is so valuable, I couldn't possibly…" she began. Severus cut her off.

"Please don't protest, Hermione. Firstly, It is tiresome. Secondly, I can't stand when a person dearly desire an item and then stupidly claim he or she can't accept it. Take the book as a gift and have some dignity about it," he snarked.

Hermione looked at the Potions Master. Then smiled her first genuine smile of happiness inspired by him. Severus felt a sense of satisfaction and victory. He would have to make sure she gave him more of those kinds of smiles in the weeks to come. It would bring him closer to having her.

"Thank you, Severus," she said, holding the book close and sniffing it, just as he did when he took it off the shelf with the intentions of giving it to her. Then she did something entirely unexpected. She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

The Potions Master stared into the fire without reacting and growled, "I wouldn't advise doing too much of that, Hermione. It makes me crave more intimate kisses. Remember, I haven't yet been relieved."

The Potions Master's reference to kisses made Hermione think of the kiss he gave her at the ceremony. His mouth had been surprisingly soft and warm. What other surprises could he have? What would it be like to relieve him? She caught herself, shocked. Was this the way it started? The seduction?

Slightly off-kilter, Hermione stood up to leave again. This time he didn't stop her. It was time for her to go so he could think and plan. The witch thanked him once more for the book and exited into her rooms, closing the door behind her.

The Potions Master touched his cheek where she had kissed him, then stared into the fire for a long, long time.

Several days later, Severus eventually located Sheena in a little hole-in-the-wall in Knockturn Alley and relieved himself of his lust for Hermione, using the dark-eyed witch and his imagination for a substitute. Sheena was delighted with his performance right up until the moment he came groaning Hermione's name.

"Hermione? Who the fuck is Hermione?" Sheena demanded, trying to wriggle out from under him, unsuccessfully. When he was finished releasing, Severus rolled off her and on to his back, sated.

"My wife," he panted.

"Your WHAT?!"

Sheena was no Catherine. Severus was lucky to have made it out of the ratty little hotel room with both heads intact. He had a nasty hand-shaped bruise on his left cheek, a long scratch on his right cheek and a lock of his silky hair torn out. He made sure to collect every hair, Sheena clinging to his back scratching and biting like a tiger until he managed to throw her off, scourgify her, put her in a body bind and beat a hasty retreat. Sheena dabbled in the ancient arts, and was good at casting particularly nasty hexes from a distance using the personal effects of an individual. Severus didn't dare leave a single hair or drop of semen behind. He didn't want to wake up with a tool the size of his pinky finger.

No doubt Sheena would tell Veronica about his marriage. The two witches were friends as well as lovers, so he could mark her off the role as well. The only paramour left was Denise, and he hadn't felt the urge for her particular talent in a good, long while. She might have forgotten about him altogether.

But Severus figured that now he could wake up in the mornings without being cross-eyed with lust, he could begin to court Hermione, and back any other interested parties away. He began his pursuit of the witch in a rather simple way, giving her free reign of his library and his study to use as she liked, then discussing the books she read in the evenings after she finished her assignments and he completed his marking and lesson plans. He was very pleased with her quick mind and original thought processes. Most discussions ended up being heated debates over fine points and opposing theories, with Hermione running to the shelves and pulling out tome after tome of evidence supporting her thoughts. Severus found that he enjoyed her company, she was intellectually stimulating, and that was something his life had lacked for a long, long time.

Soon it became their custom to have supper in Hermione's rooms, preparing meals either separately or together, continuously arguing and debating, before, during and after eating. But during classes, they conducted themselves as usual, with Severus taking points from Hermione, and hence Gryffindor at every opportunity as usual, and still giving her hell with her marks. They had agreed not to discuss these situations outside of the classroom. The only difference was Severus addressed Hermione as Mrs. Snape rather than Miss Granger. At first, Hermione's fellow students believed she was going to get preferential treatment, since most thought she was shagging the Potions Master. She was his wife after all. But Severus soon dispelled that notion. He was as snarky to Hermione as ever.

"She must not be shagging him right," was the general consensus of the class. Some suspected she wasn't shagging him at all, since the Professor continued to be so mean. They were right. But that had nothing to do with his meanness. Severus could get laid five times a day and still give his students hell. He wanted them to learn.

Hermione, for the most part, continued to wear her new wardrobe and attract the attention of young wizards throughout Hogwarts, though she wasn't actively doing it for dates at this point and was simply enjoying herself. During school hours, she was her usual, studious self, focused on her classes and her marks. Mostly it was the weekends when she dressed up and visited her friends or invited them down to her rooms under the guise of hanging out. But Hermione was still Hermione, and she generally turned visits into study sessions. So the visits from her friends became less frequent, and tended to increase whenever important tests were coming up. In other words, the usual. They still used Hermione for her brains.

Things became so comfortable between Hermione and Severus that she eventually was able to relax around him, and almost forget that he wanted to bed her. The Potions Master was every bit as patient as he said he would be. He was finding out there was more than one way to enjoy a young woman as gifted as Hermione. He got a distinct satisfaction from watching her curl up comfortably in one of the armchairs, reading while he sat at his desk and marked papers, or watching her stretch out on the floor in front of the fire with four or five books, writing some essay that wasn't due for several weeks. Hermione, for her part, found herself quite drawn to her husband's knowledge, intelligence and sarcastic wit. She also began to appreciate other things about him, more personal. His voice really was wonderful. Soft, silky, and smooth. It had an almost hypnotic quality, and she found she loved to listen to him talk about almost anything. He had some rather archaic ideas about the roles of men and women. Hermione liked to call his outlook the "Neanderthal Premise".

"Me Man. You Woman. I Hunt. You Cook," Hermione would mock him.

But it was during these kinds of discussion the Potions Master would often go silent, and simply look at her, making her flush all over under his dark eyes before she would change the subject. She knew instinctively where he thoughts were concerning the real role of men and women, and his desire for her. But he never made a move.

He did however have a habit of popping up whenever she was being hit on by younger wizards, staring at them imperiously before escorting his wife to her next class or wherever she needed to go. The message was loud and clear to the students. "Don't hit on the Professor's wife." In the case of Erin Bradcliff, however, Severus was a bit more direct.

Erin had taken to waiting for Hermione after classes following the first evening he had walked her back to her rooms and received a kiss on the cheek from her. Severus did not immediately take the young wizard to task as he had loose ends to wrap up with Sheena and had not yet started wooing his wife in earnest. But he kept his eye on the wizard. The boy was playing the friendship angle, not moving in too fast but establishing a relationship of trust. Erin was one of the friends Hermione would invite to her rooms, and he came religiously, despite her turning the visits to educational seminars. He was truly smitten with the witch.

Once he was in wooing mode, Severus followed his wife and the Head Boy one afternoon and took a little look in Erin's mind after the boy had walked Hermione to Arithmancy. Just as Severus suspected, the young wizard was fantasizing about doing his wife, apparently in some Hogwarts corridor behind a statue. It was quite a realistic fantasy. Mr. Bradcliff clearly knew what he wanted to do to Hermione. Severus clearly knew what he wanted to do to Mr. Bradcliff.

Later that night, Severus adjusted his rounds to coincide with Mr. Bradcliff's route and intercepted the Head Boy up in the high halls of the castle, where very few people ventured.

Erin was walking up the dark corridor with his wand lit, when Severus stepped out of the shadows with a billow of robes, startling the young man. Erin was about the same height as the Potions Master, and roughly the same size. But the Potions Master was much more imposing. The young wizard's gray eyes met Severus' black ones and shifted away rather guiltily. He had an idea what this was about.

"Good evening, Mr. Bradcliff," Severus purred.

"Good evening, Professor Snape, sir," Erin replied stepping back a bit. The Potions Master was standing rather close to him. Uncomfortably so.

"Why are you in this part of the castle, sir, if you don't mind me asking?" Erin asked the Professor.

"I wanted to speak to you privately, Mr. Bradcliff," Severus replied silkily, "About my wife."

"Your wife, sir?" Erin asked, swallowing a bit.

Severus scowled at him slightly.

"Yes, Mr. Bradcliff, my wife. You know her. About five three, chestnut-haired, amber-eyed, rather curvaceous. Goes by the name of Mrs. Snape. You walk her to every class you can. Remember her now, Mr. Bradcliff?" Severus asked him, his eyes narrowing slightly.

"Yes, sir," the wizard replied.

"I want you to forget her," the Potions Master snarled.

"Forget her, sir?" Erin repeated.

"Is there a fucking echo in here? Yes. Forget her. Leave her alone. Stay away from her," the Potions Master said dangerously.

Erin must have summoned up some courage from someplace, because he said, "It's my understanding, Professor, that you and your wife have an 'open' relationship and see other people."

Severus leaned in very close to the wizard, his face mere inches from the wizard's now paled visage.

"From here on out, Mr. Bradcliff, consider our relationship marked 'closed'." he breathed. "I saw your little fantasy about shagging my wife behind a statue via Legilimency. I assure you, it will never happen. And if you attempt it, your disappearance from Hogwarts will remain a mystery for years to come. She is my wife, and belongs to me, and me alone. The only one doing her will be me. Do we understand each other, Mr. Bradcliff?"

Severus' eyes had a crazed look to them as he studied the young wizard. He was ready to take him out right now if necessary. The Potions Master was very serious about Hermione belonging to him, even if he hadn't taken her yet. He wanted no competition whatsoever.

"Yes sir," Bradcliff answered in a rather cracked voice.

Snape straightened.

"Good, Mr. Bradcliff. You may continue your rounds," Severus said.

"Thank you, sir," the young wizard replied. His stomach was feeling queasy as he walked away from the Professor.

"Oh, Mr. Bradcliff?" Severus called after him. The wizard turned.

"Yes sir?" he asked.

"I don't want word of our little conversation getting back to my wife," Severus said, his black eyes glinting.

"No sir. She won't hear a word about it," Erin replied.

"Good. Carry on," Severus said, melting into the darkness like a wraith.

Erin stood there for a moment, looking at the empty space where the Potions Master had stood. Then he bolted for the nearest window and vomited.

One evening, about eleven weeks into the marriage, after Severus had left the rooms to do his rounds, Hermione was curled up in an armchair in front of the fire, when she heard a knock on the Potions office door. She looked at the clock. It was nine-thirty. Half an hour past curfew. She was dressed in comfortable sweats, a t-shirt and barefoot. She put the book down, picked up her wand and walked to the study door. Hermione pulled the torch to open the wall and padded out into Severus' office.

"Who is it?" she called through the door.

"It's Ginny, Hermione. I need to talk to you," came the reply.

"Ginny, what are you doing out so late?" Hermione called back unwarding the door and opening it.

Suddenly Hermione was hit in the side of the face by a staggering blow and knocked backwards into her husband's desk. Her wand hand was grabbed and the wand torn from it. She heard the office door close and a ward whispered over it. A hard body pressed against hers. Still stunned from the blow she received, Hermione opened her eyes and looked up into the cold, gray eyes of Lucius Malfoy.

"Good evening, Mrs. Snape. Your hubby at home?" he asked with an evil smirk.

Lucius grasped Hermione by her throat and dragged her up from the desk. Then he turned her and fisted his hand in her hair tightly, bringing his mouth close to her ear.

"Let us go into the study, Mrs. Snape," he said, guiding her forward and through the open study door. Once inside, he pulled the torch with one hand and lowered the door. He said a ward over it. Then he pushed Hermione forward roughly, releasing her hair. He was very familiar with Severus' rooms.

Hermione stumbled forward and turned. The side of her face was throbbing where the blonde wizard had struck her. She brought her hand to the side of her face. It hurt. She probably had a bruise there. She looked at the wizard wide-eyed.

Lucius stood there, looking cool and collected, his gray eyes sweeping over her with an unmistakable gleam.

"What do you want?" Hermione asked him.

Lucius began to unbutton his robes.

"You, Mrs. Snape. You're going to help me settle an old debt I have with your husband," he said as his hands moved deftly down the front of his robes.

"What kind of debt?" Hermione asked him, her eyes wandering slightly, looking for something she could use to defend herself.

"Back when I married my wife, Narcissa, Severus exercised his right to share her, with her consent of course. I don't know what he did to her, but she was smitten with him…"

Here Malfoy's eyes went dark with rage.

"…and to this day her eyes go smoky at the mention of his name. I believe my wife loves your husband, Mrs. Snape. He stole her heart from me. I doubt that I will do the same to you unless you have some sick love of pain, but I will get my pound of flesh and ruin his wife like he ruined mine."

Lucius peeled off his robes. He only wore a pair of boxers underneath. He was a very well built wizard, with a broad chest, washboard stomach, well-defined abs and strong legs. His boxers were tented.

"Undress," he said, his eyes going hard. "Cooperate and I'll be quick."

Hermione looked around the room desperately and then ran. Lucius was expecting this and took off behind her. Hermione got an armchair between them, her back facing the fireplace.

"You'll be sorry you did that, Mrs. Snape," Lucius breathed. Then he shoved the chair forward, catching Hermione off guard and hitting her legs so she fell forward into the chair. Lucius quickly reached over it and grabbed her by her hair again, pulling her painfully up in the chair and slapping her face hard several times. Hermione screamed.

"Yes!" he said walking around the chair, still holding on to her hair and standing behind her. He began to tug at her sweatpants, yanking them downward.

"Perfect position, Mrs. Snape," he breathed as her knickers came into view. Suddenly he reached around and grasped Hermione's breast, squeezing it hard, causing pain to shoot up her chest as she screamed again. He yanked it, inciting a fresh scream, then twisted her face toward him and covered her mouth with his, shoving his tongue almost down her throat, raping her mouth. He pulled away from her, and slapped her again, before yanking her knickers down and exposing her buttocks.

"How pert and pretty," he breathed, then he slapped her cheek hard, making Hermione sob and leaving a handprint.

"Severus will like seeing my handprint on your bum, I bet," Lucius breathed as he pulled her towards him. Hermione felt him spread her cheeks.

"Ah, looks like you've never been buggered, Mrs. Snape. A first for you. How lovely for me. You're in for a treat, my dear," he breathed, "A shame I have no lubrication."

Hermione heard him rustle, then spit. Then she felt his member pressing between her cheeks.

"NO!!" she screamed, struggling. Lucius grabbed the back of her neck horribly tight and shook her like a rat, then punched her in the ribs as hard as he could. There was a cracking sound. Hermione let out a groan and fell forward in the chair. Gods, that hurt.

"Now, hold still," Lucius said. Again, Hermione felt him pressing between her cheeks. She couldn't let him do this. She felt him pull back, and desperately kicked her foot upward. Malfoy let out a choked yell. She had kicked him in his nads.

"I'll kill you, you bitch!" Malfoy groaned, holding himself and looking at her with death in his eyes. Hermione pulled up her pants and climbed over the chair, adrenaline helping her to try and escape as Malfoy moved toward her. But he was in pain and couldn't move very fast. Hermione's eyes shifted toward the box of floo powder on the fireplace…she just had to get him out a bit farther.

"I'll never let you rape me," she said to him, "you filthy deatheater."

"I'm not going to rape you. I'm going to kill you," he breathed, coming toward her.

Hermione waited as long as she dared, then darted past him…but he managed to grab her t-shirt. It tore as Hermione lunged for the floo powder and threw it into the flames. Malfoy let out a roar when he saw what she had done and rushed to get to her before she could get through. The flames turned green.

"Main hall!" Hermione screamed, diving through the floo, topless.

She landed sprawled in front of the main hall floo. She scrambled away from it.

"SEVERUS!" she screamed into the empty hall, her voice echoing through the silent castle, tears streaming down her burning face as she covered her breasts as best she could, and folded over, rocking against the pain in her side.

"SEVERUS!" Hermione screamed again, sounding like a wounded animal. "WHERE ARE YOU? SEVERUS!"

The Potions Master was in the third floor corridor when he heard his wife's anguished voice rising from the main hall. His blood ran cold.

"HERMIONE! I'M COMING!" he bellowed, taking off at a run to the stairwells, his heart pounding, not knowing why she was screaming for him in such a broken, crazed manner. He arrived at the landing and saw his wife below, no shirt on, bent over and screaming for him at the top of her lungs.

"I'm here, Hermione! I'm coming!" he cried.

A disillusioned Lucius Malfoy watched from the head of the dungeon corridor, seething as Snape jumped down the landing to the next set of stairs. He was still in pain, and glared at the bent witch with hatred. The fucking bitch.

"Next time you won't be so lucky, Mrs. Snape," he growled. He limped to the main door and cracked it slightly, slipping through into the night.

Severus reached the main stairwell and ran as fast as he could to Hermione. By now, the Head Boy and Girl had also appeared on the upper landings and were looking down, their faces pale. They watched as the Potions Master ran to his wife and gathered her in his arms. She screamed again.

"It's me, Hermione. Severus. I'm here," he said trying to calm her. She broke down into wracking sobs.

Severus lifted Hermione's face and his black eyes went hard as diamonds when he saw the bruises there. Further examination showed finger marks on her throat and a bruise on her left breast.

"Who did this?" he demanded, holding the sobbing witch close.

"Lucius," she whispered though her sobs, "He said he owed you a debt."

"I'll kill him," the Potions Master said to her. "I promise you, Hermione. I will kill the son of a bitch for touching you."

Hermione collapsed against him, still sobbing. Severus quickly unbuttoned his robes and threw them around Hermione and lifted her in his arms. She screamed again when his arms went around her waist. Severus pulled back the robes, looked and saw the ugly bruise on her side. He touched it and she cried out. The bastard had cracked her ribs.

"I'll kill him, Hermione," Severus said again as he carried the sobbing witch up the stairs and to the infirmary. "I'll kill him with my bare hands."

Severus watched as Poppy worked on Hermione. Her face was badly swollen on one side, her eye closed from the swelling. Ugly finger marks circled her throat, and a large hand shaped bruise colored her right buttock. The bastard had gotten her pants down. Poppy examined the witch…and she looked a bit surprised as she looked back at the Potions Master.

"Did he…?" Severus asked her, his belly tight.

"No. She is still…intact," Poppy said, eyeing the Potions Master curiously. His wife was still a virgin. They had been married almost three months now.

Severus sighed in relief. Then his eyes went hard again as he looked at his battered wife. Hermione was naked, but he had no lustful thoughts as he looked at her petite, bruised body. Only vengeful ones. Lucius would pay for this. Dearly.

Poppy studied the Potions Master surreptiously. She knew Severus rather well. His exploits with women were the topic of a lot of staff gossip. How was it that Hermione was still untouched by him? This would cause quite a stir over coffee tomorrow.

"How is she otherwise?" he asked the medi-witch, rousing her from her thoughts of gossip.

"Her ribs are badly cracked. He hit her very hard…probably with the intention of breaking them. Her face is badly bruised as well as her body. I will mend her ribs and treat her bruises. She will be here for a couple of nights. I want to make sure there is no internal damage. I can't believe Lord Malfoy would do such a thing," Poppy said, looking at the young witch with sympathy.

"He's done worse, believe me," Severus seethed, "but this is the last time. Take care of her, Poppy. I have something I have to do."

"Severus! Don't leave me," Hermione called to him. The Potions Master hesitated, then walked back to the bed.

"I promised to protect you, Hermione. I failed you. I'm sorry. But I am going to make Lucius pay for what he's done to you. Rest. I will return after a while," Severus said.

"I don't want you to go, Severus. I don't want anything to happen to you," she said despairingly.

The Potions Master felt his chest tighten at the fear in her voice. Fear for him. She cared about him.

"Nothing's going to happen to me, Hermione. Trust me," he said softly, "We still have things to do." Then he kissed her forehead.

Poppy sniffed a little at this rare display of affection by the Potions Master. Severus stood up and scowled at her teary-eyed look.

"You just take care of her until I get back Poppy," he said gruffly. He strode toward the infirmary doors, his eyes ablaze. When he reached them, they swung open and Albus Dumbledore stood there.

"I heard what happened Severus. I came as soon as I could. How is she?" the Headmaster asked him as he studied the Potions Master.

"Broken and bruised, that's how she is," he said, making as if to step around the old wizard. Albus stood in his way.

"You can't go into his presence like this, Severus. You are too angry. He'll be displeased," the Headmaster said, trying to reason with the irate Professor.

"Right now, Voldemort can kiss my pale ass. I want Lucius Malfoy and he's going to grant me permission to kill him for this atrocity…or I will kill him without it. No one abuses my wife. No one," Severus said.

"Severus, remember…this is a marriage of convenience. Hermione is your wife in name only," the Headmaster said, his blue eyes somber.

"She is still my wife, and under my protection," the Potions Master retorted. "I haven't even touched her. You think I will allow Lucius to, and live?"

"Severus, soon the marriage law will be overturned, and Hermione will be gone. Do you want to risk everything you've gained for something that will not last? You may do irreparable damage to your relationship with the Dark Lord if you pursue this," the Headmaster said.

The Potions Master looked at Albus, his black eyes filled with a terrible light.

"I promised Hermione I would avenge her. And I will. The Dark Lord be damned," he said coldly and with conviction. Albus was aware of a surge of magic around the wizard. Something took hold. Something powerful. An Oath by the feel of it. Albus knew there was no stopping the Potions Master now. He was magically bound to avenge his wife. The Headmaster sighed.

"Very well, Severus. Go and do what you must. But remember, the wizarding world counts on you greatly. If we lose you, we may lose everything," the Headmaster said.

The Potions Master looked back toward the infirmary with a rather heated look. He turned back to Albus.

"I have to come back," he said, "I have unfinished business with my wife."

With that, the Potions Master walked past Albus and disappeared down the corridor. Albus looked after him a moment, then entered the infirmary to see how Hermione was doing.

Severus took the closest floo to his rooms, walked directly into his bedroom and to the far wall. He pressed a series of bricks, and the wall slid open, revealing a set of robes and a skeletal half-mask. He removed his staff robes and donned the set in the niche. He pulled the mask over his head, and raised his hood.

He was now in deatheater mode.

Severus concentrated on the Dark Lord, trying to reach him. Suddenly the Potions Master gripped his forearm, as his Mark began to burn. He had succeeded in contacting Voldemort and the summons was being issued. Grimacing, he disapparated.

He was going to see the Dark Lord.

Voldemort sat on his throne, looking bored as he watched the remains of the evening's entertainment be dragged away. A muggle woman. She hadn't been much fun, passing out after only the seventh raping. The Dark Lord ordered her flayed alive, then her throat cut. She let out a few blood-curdling screams as the skin was cut from her body, but she passed out again. Even the enervate incantation wouldn't rouse her. Not much fun at all. Lazily, he scourgified the blood from in front of his throne, and looked around at the few deatheaters that stood watching, anxious to serve him.

"I am bored," he said to them. They all cringed. Well, almost all.

The Dark Lord half-heartedly cast the Cruciatus curse on a deatheater that was engaged in conversation with another, watching him writhe in agony for a few moments before he released the wizard, and he fell gasping to the floor. Voldemort sighed. He wanted some action. Maybe he should send his followers out to round up a few small muggle children to feed to Nagini. They were always good for a laugh as they ran screaming for their mothers, pursued by the snake. It was more fun once the remaining children realized what the snake was going to do to them. Voldemort was just about to give the order when he felt Severus reaching out for him. Hm. The Potions Master was in a rare mood. This could prove interesting. The Dark Lord issued the summons and in a moment, Severus appeared, and knelt on one knee before him.

"Ah, Severus. It's been a while since you've been in my presence," Voldemort said in his high-pitched voice, his forked tongue flicking out for a moment, tasting the air and the scent of the wizard before him. "I sense you are disturbed about something. Something you feel I can help you with."

"Yes, my Lord," Severus replied, still on one knee, his head bowed.

"Rise and approach me then, loyal servant, and tell me what it is that troubles you," the Dark Lord said.

"Thank you, my Lord," Severus said rising, lowering his hood and removing his mask, sticking it in the robes pocket. His black eyes were glittering with hatred. Voldemort liked that look. Severus had a horrible, violent temper. Whenever he got that look in his eye, things were bound to get entertaining.

"My Lord, I ask you for the Blood Right concerning Lucius Malfoy," the Potions Master said, looking Voldemort squarely in the eye. The Dark Lord didn't really approve of this. It wasn't the proper deference, but the Potions Master was obviously overcome with emotion, so he let it slide…for now. Voldemort straightened on his throne, interested. The Blood Right was the right to kill a deatheater for some unforgivable crime against another. Severus wanted to kill Lucius? Interesting.

"Why would you want to kill Lucius, Severus?" the Dark Lord asked him.

"He violated my wife, my Lord," Severus said in a low voice.

"Ah yes. The little mudblood you married. The one my deatheaters have been clamoring for as treat for a Revel. Your marriage to her under the eyes of that damnable Headmaster ruined my plans for her," the Dark Lord said, his red eyes narrowing a bit with displeasure. "But she's a mere mudblood, Severus. Surely a little sport with her doesn't warrant Lucius' death."

"My Lord, the witch was not amicable to his advances. In order to share a wife, there has to be consent…is that not the law?" Severus replied, pressing the wizard.

Voldemort looked at him tiredly.

"Yes, Severus….that is the law…but as I said, she's a mudblood. Hardly even a real witch," Voldemort said. Severus felt the blood rush to his head. He fought to control himself.

"My Lord, Lucius has tampered with what belongs to me. Mudblood or not, I demand satisfaction," Severus said. The Dark Lord's eyes glinted as the deatheaters around him muttered. Severus demanding satisfaction from him? Demanding? Either the wizard had gone mad, or he was truly caught up with this mudblood.

"Show me your relationship with this witch, Severus…maybe I can see for myself why you think she is fit to be avenged," the Dark Lord said.

Severus carefully lowered his occulmency walls over any damaging thoughts and memories, then opened his mind to the Dark Lord. Voldemort searched his mind. He cocked his head as he witnessed some of his and Hermione's debates.

"She is very intelligent, Severus. Very bright. Is she powerful?" he asked Severus.

"Yes, my Lord. She has great magical ability. From a child she could perform intricate spells that gave much older witches and wizards difficulty. And even now is leaning towards becoming a Spells Mistress," Severus replied.

"A Spells Mistress? Interesting," the Dark Lord said. He didn't have a Spells Mistress or Master among his ranks. Having someone to create spells would be quite an asset. As Severus' wife, perhaps the witch could be turned to his service in the future. The Dark Lord continued to look in Severus' mind. The Dark Lord paused, his scaly face screwed up in disbelief.

"She is untouched, Severus? You haven't bedded her yet?" he asked the normally lusty Potions Master.

"No, my Lord. She remains pristine for now. I want her to come to my bed willingly," he said.

The Dark Lord looked at him consideringly.

"The marriage law is going to be overturned soon, Severus. You might not have much time to deflower her," he said thoughtfully.

"I know my Lord. But killing Lucius might speed up the process. She will be grateful to me," he responded. But Severus didn't want to kill Lucius to bed Hermione. He wanted to kill Lucius because he deserved to die for what he'd done.

"I can see why you are angry, Severus, being that the witch is untouched. She also seems to have potential. Certainly a high quality mudblood in any case. Was she injured badly?" the Dark Lord asked.

"You can see for yourself, my Lord," Severus said, careful to shield the image of him talking to Dumbledore. Voldemort looked on the bruised body of Hermione.

"I've seen Lucius do much worse. She is quite shapely, Severus…albeit small," the Dark Lord said, his red eyes glinting. The Potions Master did not reply to the Dark Lord's assessment of his wife's physical attributes. Voldemort looked at Severus for several moments then made a decision.

"I will summon Lucius, and see his side," Voldemort said, "I expect you to restrain yourself, Severus. Overstep your bounds and you will feel my displeasure even more than I currently plan for you," the Dark Lord said warningly. Severus knew that he would be punished for demanding satisfaction. He didn't care at this point. As long as Lucius died.

The Dark Lord concentrated. After a few moments, Lucius appeared before the throne, next to Severus bowing on one knee before Voldemort. It took every bit of strength for the Potions Master not to grab the wizard and start beating him.

"Rise, Lucius," the Dark Lord said.

Lucius straightened, lowered his hood, removed his mask, then looked sidewise at the Potions Master, a dark glitter in his gray eyes.

"How's your wife, Severus?" he smirked. The Potions Master's knuckles went white.

Voldemort watched Malfoy goad the Potions Master, then said, "Lucius, Severus has asked for the Blood Right concerning you, because of your dalliance with his wife. What do you say to this?"

Lucius gave an ugly little laugh.

"The Blood Right? For roughing up a mudblood? That's absurd, my Lord. That's like giving a man a death sentence for whipping a dog, my Lord."

Severus seethed at the comparison.

"Were you aware, Lord Malfoy, that the witch is untouched. A virgin?" Voldemort asked.

Lucius looked at Severus in disbelief before answering.

"No, my Lord. I didn't. If I had, I would have been aiming much lower when I attempted to indulge myself with her," he replied. Voldemort laughed at the wizard's nerve.

"Let me see what occurred, Lucius," the Dark Lord said. The blonde wizard bowed his head as the Dark Lord entered his mind.

"Lucius," Voldemort said, his voice serious, "You were intending to kill the witch, not have your way with her."

Severus' eyes went black as death at this revelation. He would have returned to find Hermione raped and murdered. Oh, he needed to kill the wizard…now.

"I lost my temper, my Lord. It was only my intention to indulge in her charms, as is my right as a brother," Lucius replied.

"Yes, Lucius, but as you know consent is a part of that right. The witch was not willing. And quite resourceful. She deserved to escape you. Attempting to kill another deatheater's wife is a serious offense. If the witch had not escaped, she would be dead now," the Dark Lord said.

His red eyes shifted between the two.

"I believe Severus is well within his rights to claim the Blood Right in this matter, Lucius. You must face him," Voldemort said. Lucius looked at Severus then back at Voldemort.

"With pleasure, my Lord," Lucius said bowing.

"No magic," Severus growled. Voldemort looked at him.

"What, Severus? You wish to fight Lucius to the death without magic? That is positively beastly," the Dark Lord said. "I like it. Very well. No magic."

The two wizards bowed to the Dark Lord, then backed away from each other. From out of the attending deatheaters, two females approached, one for each wizard. They began to unbutton their robes and removed them. Then they removed the wizards' shirts as well, and their boots, or in Malfoy's case, his shoes. Then their socks. Severus watched Malfoy the entire time. The women carried the robes and shoes away.

Severus and Lucius stood facing each other, both shirtless and barefoot. Lucius' build was much broader that that of the Potions Master, his arms were larger too. Severus was leaner, but well-muscled and fast. He felt as tight as a coiled spring as he looked at the blonde-haired wizard, and imagined him beating and mauling his tiny wife. His pale face snarled into a mask of complete and utter hatred.

Lucius' gray eyes were cool as he sized the Potions Master up. He knew the wizard was a deadly fighter, but Lucius was no slouch either. He had killed men hand to hand before, and he would kill this wizard, and not just because of the Blood Right. He hated Severus, ever since he returned to his wife and felt the change in her body when he shagged her that first time after Severus'. The Potions Master had claimed her, overriding Lucius' own claim. It wasn't supposed to be like that. She wasn't supposed to long for the wizard, to dream about him.

Lucius had nearly killed Narcissa when she sighed the Potions Master's name during sex. He had beaten the poor witch senseless. He was lucky she survived, but she was never the same towards him after that. And he took his rage out on every other woman he came in contact with since, longing for the day he could pay Severus back. When the dark wizard married, all Lucius could think of was revenge. He wished he could have killed the mudblood. Obviously she meant something to Severus, something beyond the marriage law. No matter, he would get his satisfaction when he pissed on Severus' corpse.

Voldemort sat straight up in his throne, nearly quivering with excitement. Now this was entertainment. But something was missing. Ah, yes. He flicked his wand toward the two men. At their feet, two wicked daggers with entwined pewter serpents for handles appeared. Severus quickly grabbed his and held it at the ready, crouched low and thirsty for blood. Lucius picked his knife up, and tossed it from hand to hand, testing the weight and balance of the blade. Yes, it should do nicely. He'd gut the bastard. Lucius set himself ready for battle.

Every deatheater in the room was silent as they eyed the two wizards. Who would live? Most hoped Lucius would win. Severus was greatly disliked, and the feeling was mutual. He didn't serve the Dark Lord to make friends. He served the Dark Lord with the intention of destroying him one day. And as good an actor as Severus was, his hatred for every single one of them still registered dimly on those around him. The Dark Lord savored the tension for a moment longer…

"Begin!" he cried.

The two wizards charged each other, blades raised high and hungry for blood.

The two wizards clashed, each grabbing the other's wrist, straining, chest to chest, body against body, each trying to drive his blade down into his opponent's flesh while attempting wrest his knife away.

"How did you get to my wife, Lucius?" Severus growled through gritted teeth as he glared at the wizard, the tendons in his neck standing out.

"Muggle hobby. Impersonation," Malfoy growled back.

They turned, still struggling. Severus attempted to tangle Lucius' legs in his own. Lucius fell back to the ground and rolled, carrying the Potions Master with him, flipping him over, then scrambling in an attempt to drive his blade into him before he recovered. Severus caught him with his foot and kicked the blonde wizard back. Both scrambled to their feet, and circled each other, jabbing, feinting and slashing, trying to get close enough to strike.

Voldemort was feinting and dodging with them from his throne, his red eyes locked on the wizards, his mouth drawn up, the forked tongue flicking in and out. He was actually hissing with excitement. Now this…this was something special.

Severus dove in and Lucius spun, slashing the Potion Master's side in passing. Severus clutched his side, feeling his hot blood pour from the wound. But it wasn't deep. Lucius grinned.

"First blood," he hissed, going for the wounded wizard again.

But Severus stepped to the side and brought his knife down into Lucius' thigh with a quick downward motion, pulling it back. Lucius howled as his pants legs darkened with blood.

"You're dead, Severus…dead," the wizard hissed, charging the Potions Master again.

Severus met him for an instant, then turned with him, using Lucius' own body weight to fling him away, then following, his dagger raised. Lucius stumbled, then desperately threw himself to the side, swinging his dagger back and catching Severus across the stomach with the tip of it. If the Potions Master had been any closer, he would have been disemboweled. It was a good cut however and blood poured from the slash. Severus's black pants glistened with fresh blood, and crimson smeared both wizards' upper bodies and arms from contact with each other.

The two men faced each other, chests heaving, eyes murderous. Somebody had to die, soon. Severus made as if to charge Lucius head on, and checked himself, just as the other wizard swung his blade, leaving his right side open for a moment. Severus saw his opportunity and drove his blade deep under Lucius' ribs and ripped sideways opening a huge gash, which poured out blood and gore. Lucius grunted and staggered, swinging wildly at Severus as he bled horribly. His legs were weakening from loss of blood.

Severus crashed into the mortally wounded wizard, knocking him down. He straddled the wizard, and without hesitation, drove his blade straight through his windpipe with a bloodcurdling yell. Lucius' gray eyes went wide and blood poured from his mouth and throat as he gurgled. Then his eyes dimmed and he fell still. The wizard was dead.

Severus still straddled him, glaring down at the dead wizard before he began to beat him in the face wildly, not caring that the wizard was beyond pain, reveling in the solid crunch of bone against bone, breaking the corpse's nose and jaw, pummeling the hated face of his wife's abuser until he had no strength left. Lucius was all but unrecognizable by the time the Potions Master finished venting his rage.

"That's enough, Severus. Your wife has been avenged," Voldemort said quietly, his own bloodlust sated by the violence of the irate Potions Master. Severus looked up at the Dark Lord, panting, then rose from Lucius' body, his knuckles covered in blood. He staggered a bit from his own loss of blood. But Lucius was dead. Hermione would never have to worry about him again.

Voldemort looked at a deatheater standing by with a flask.

"Attend him," the Dark Lord said.

The deatheater bowed then walked up to Severus, uncorked the flask and handed it to him. The Potions Master drank deeply, and felt the healing potion take effect. His bleeding stopped as did the pain.

"Thank you, my Lord," he said to Voldemort. The Dark Lord eyed him and pointed his wand toward the ceiling. Two manacles dropped down.

"Well, Severus. You have received your satisfaction, and killed one of my most loyal deatheaters in the process. You are quite valuable to me as my eyes and ears at Hogwarts, but Lucius' resources were important to me also. Now I shall have to wait until I can get his son's hand of fidelity to continue the use of his wealth," the Dark Lord said, his eyes glittering.

Two burly deatheaters walked forward and clamped the manacles securely around Severus' wrists.

"Waiting displeases me," Voldemort said, flicking his wand. The chains jerked upward, pulling Severus up until he hung a foot off the floor. The eyes of the deatheaters around him glinted excitedly. Two deatheaters approached, one with a large club, the other with a scourge.

"You made demands of me, Severus. You know better than to do that. I am your Lord. It is I who make demands. Obviously, you felt your duty toward your wife superseded your duty to me. Whether you were driven by love or lust I do not know, but such an act cannot be ignored. You set a bad example for the others. You felt your wife worth killing Lucius for and risking my wrath. Let us see if you still feel that way after I am through with you," Voldemort said coldly.

The kind of loyalty Severus displayed for Hermione was the type the Dark Lord coveted for himself. Severus could not serve two masters. Voldemort nodded to the deatheater with the club. The deatheater drew it back and hit Severus in the gut as hard as he could. Severus jerked and swung in the chains from the contact, grunting against the pain, but didn't cry out. Voldemort then nodded to the deatheater with the scourge, who walked behind the Potions Master, drew back his arm and lashed his back viciously, the little bones in the scourge digging into the Potions Master's flesh and ripping it to bloody ribbons.

Severus' head snapped back and his entire body tightened up as he convulsed against the pain, then relaxed. His chest heaved as he dangled, perspiring and swinging slowly, but still he didn't cry out. His black eyes looked at the Dark Lord steadily, keeping his mind clear of the hatred he felt, knowing the Dark Lord would try to look beyond his pain. He found his small center of inner strength and clung to it, willing his mind to separate from his body, detach itself from the oncoming torment. The Dark Lord wouldn't kill him. He only had to survive the torture. Survive and return to Hermione.

"You are strong, Severus…but you know I am stronger," the Dark Lord said, nodding to both deatheaters again. They began to beat the Potions Master in earnest.

Hermione spent much of her birthday asleep in the infirmary. When she was awake, she asked for Severus constantly. Poppy sadly told her he wasn't in the castle, and no one had seen him. She had to give the distraught witch several calming draughts to keep her sedated enough for continued improvement Albus had left instructions that she not be disturbed by visitors, but Harry, Ron and Ginny hovered outside the infirmary for almost the entire day, missing classes as they worried over Hermione's condition. When the Headmaster approached, all three surrounded him, shooting question after question at him.

"Where was Snape?' Ron demanded, "He was supposed to protect her! That's why she married him!"

Professor Snape was on patrol. As I understand it, Lord Malfoy tricked Hermione into letting him into her rooms by altering his voice to sound…"

Here, the Headmaster paused, looking at Ginny.

"…to sound like a friend," he concluded, not wanting to make the young witch feel guilty, although she had nothing to do with Malfoy's deception.

"Hermione said he was wicked," Ginny said quietly, her brown eyes shifting toward the infirmary doors. "I didn't believe he was that bad."

"Yes, Lucius is a very sick and twisted individual. He had a lot of people fooled, Miss Weasley. What I don't understand is why he would risk everything…his position, his name, and his freedom, in order to hurt Hermione," Albus said.

"He probably was intending to kill her so she couldn't tell who did it," Harry said, his eyes narrowed hatefully. He'd like to find Malfoy Sr. and cast the Killing curse on him. He was sure he could do it. He had enough hatred in his heart.

"So, where's Snape? Hermione's in there all beaten up, and he's nowhere around. He doesn't even care," Ron said bitterly.

The Headmaster's eyes looked on Ron with disapproval.

"On the contrary, Mr. Weasley, the Potions Master cares very much about the welfare of his wife," he said rather tightly. Albus was worried about the Potions Master.

"Really?" Ron said with a snort. "So where is he, then?"

Albus looked at him sadly.

"I don't know," he replied.

"Exactly," Ron said, crossing his arms. "Probably hanging out with Malfoy. Deatheaters stick together…share their wives and stuff like that."

Dumbledore's face went black.

"Mr. Weasley," he said so sharply that Ron blanched, "Don't you ever refer to Professor Snape as a deatheater! Do you understand me? Never, in or out of my presence!"

"Yes sir," Ron said, chastened.

"That wizard has suffered more than anyone you will ever know. He risks his life for you, for me, for the entire wizarding world every single day, and receives no thanks and no reward. He is a very courageous and selfless man, Ronald Weasley. Don't you ever forget that!" the Headmaster seethed at the red-haired wizard.

Harry and Ginny looked at Albus, startled. They had never seen him this angry with a student before. He was absolutely livid.

Ginny looked from the Headmaster to Ron curiously. There was something going on with the Professor that she didn't know about. She looked at Harry with narrowed eyes. She'd get him to tell her later.

Harry tried to defuse the confrontation as Ron dropped his eyes in shame. The Professor really was a hero. Ron was just frustrated and lashing out. He knew it wasn't Snape's fault, but he was so convenient to cast blame on.

Harry looked at Albus.

"So how is Hermione, Headmaster? Poppy won't let us in to see her, and it's her birthday," he said, his green eyes full of disappointment. Hermione hurt and in the hospital on her eighteen birthday. This was supposed to be a happy day. She was officially an adult now.

"She is healing nicely, Harry. Madam Pomfrey is taking good care of her," Albus said, walking toward the infirmary door. Harry reached into his robes and pulled out an envelope.

"Will you give her this, Headmaster? It's a birthday card," he said, swallowing. His eyes were very wet. Albus looked down on him kindly as he took the card.

"Of course, Harry. I'm sure she will appreciate it," he said kindly. Harry gave him a small smile. He hoped it did make her feel a little better.

"I am going to excuse you from your classes today, since you've already skipped them, and the circumstances are extenuating, but tomorrow I want you all in class. We will let you know when Mrs. Snape can have visitors. Now I want you all to go to supper, and then continue your day as usual. You can do nothing hanging about here," the Headmaster said. Then he gave them all a sad smile, and entered the infirmary, closing the door behind him.

The next day the Daily Prophet and other wizarding newspapers all carried a similar headline:

"Marriage Law Repealed!"

All over the wizarding world, people were celebrating. The Ministry was swamped with couples dissolving their marriages. There were even a couple of old married couples there, trying to get past the no-divorcing rules of normal wizard marriages to no avail.

Hermione was sitting up in bed, reading the article in the Prophet about how all the protests and outcries forced the Ministry to rescind their previous ruling. Her facial bruising was almost gone now, and her ribs were healing nicely. She could move with only a little pain now. She glanced over the article a second time. Now, she and Severus could dissolve the marriage, and she could return to Gryffindor Tower and be Hermione Granger again, her virtue intact. But why didn't that excite her?

"Madam Pomfrey, has there been any word about Severus?" she asked the healer.

Poppy shook her head.

"No, Hermione. Not a peep. I'm sorry," she replied, "If I hear anything I will be sure to let you know."

"Thank you," Hermione said. "By the way, do you know who is teaching his class?"

"I think Albus is," Poppy replied. Hermione smirked. Severus would be livid if he knew the Headmaster was in his class, diddling around in his stores and probably having the class make lemon drops.

Hermione was putting up a good front, but she was worried sick about the Potions Master. He had murder in his eyes when he left her in the infirmary that night, and it had been two days since anyone had seen him. Where was he? Was he still alive?

Hermione felt tears rising and slid down in the bed, turning her face away from Poppy. The healer would force another calming draught down her if she caught her crying. She didn't want him to be dead. Especially because of her. Why couldn't he just let the Aurors handle this?

Hermione sighed.

She knew why. Because the Potions Master considered her his. Even though this had been a marriage of convenience, he felt he had a duty towards her. The idea of Lucius touching her had driven him over the edge. She was sure Severus went to track the blonde wizard down and kill him, just as he promised her he would. But Hermione felt that Azkaban would be better for the twisted wizard. That way there wouldn't be blood on her husband's hands. But Severus had wanted blood. Nothing else would do.

Gods, please let him be all right.

Two days later, Hermione was released from the infirmary and returned to her and Severus' rooms. She didn't return to classes, however, being instructed by Poppy to rest a few more days before resuming her daily regime. Her first day back, she a mass visitation of many of her Gryffindor housemates descended on her, and her small kitchen was filled to overflowing. She received belated birthday presents and cards. She wasn't in the mood for either and tried to put on a strong front but it was all so overwhelming. She just wanted to be left alone. Severus still hadn't returned and four days had passed. She was worried about him, but no one else seemed to care. Everyone was happy and joking all around her, talking about her imminent return to the Gryffindor fold, a free woman. As usual, Ron was the catalyst that made the cauldron boil over.

"Hey 'Mione, now you can drop the Snape surname and move back to Gryffindor house. Want me to help you pack?" he had asked her in front of the rest of her guests. He was serious.

"No, Ron. Not right now," Hermione replied. She didn't want to talk about leaving when Severus hadn't yet returned.

"Why not? You don't have to wait for the git to come back. He knows you're out of here. You don't need him anymore," Ron said, "The marriage law's been repealed."

"I know, Ron. I…I just don't want to leave before he comes back," she said quietly. Ron was rankling her.

"Why not?" Ron asked, "It's not like he's going to miss you or anything. You should be glad to get out of here."

Hermione scowled at him.

"Get out of here to do what, Ron? Listen to you talk about Quidditch for hours, or help everybody with their homework assignments, or listen to Ginny gush about wizards all day? Not that I mind that sometimes, but it's tiresome. I never knew how tiresome it was until I moved here," Hermione said, her lower lip trembling.

Ron looked at her as if she had grown another set of legs. Everybody else was completely silent. Hermione drew in a deep breath and continued, deciding to let them all know how she felt.

"I like it here, Ron. I have my own rooms and the Professor is excellent company. He's knowledgeable, intelligent, and witty. He's quiet too. I can actually get my work done without someone disturbing me every five minutes. I can have a decent, intelligent conversation or debate with him about important ideas and interesting topics. He's doesn't tell me I read too much or I need to lighten up because I am too serious about my studies. He supports me learning and growing. He doesn't think I'm a bookworm. He doesn't fight with me over insignificant things or try tell me what to do, like you do," she said, looking at Ron accusingly. "He treats me with respect."

Ron just stared at her, his mouth slightly open.

"And now, he's gone. For all I know he's badly hurt somewhere or dead because of me. I don't know…but wherever he is, he's there because of me. This might have been a marriage of convenience, but he held up his end of it as best as he could and I'm not going to leave these rooms until I know what's happened to him. I'm still Mrs. Snape, and I belong here until the marriage is officially over. And here's where I'm going to stay. If you don't like that Ronald Weasley, then it's just too fucking bad!"

Hermione rose from the kitchen table stiffly, and walked toward her bedroom, leaving her wide-eyed guests staring after her. She paused at the door and turned to look at all of them, her eyes wet.

"And I tell you something else, Ronald, and the rest of you. Going back to Gryffindor House is not the joyful occasion for me you think it should be. Professor Snape might not miss me, but when I leave here, I'm sure going to miss him!" she said, then ran into her bedroom and slammed the door behind her.

The stunned students all looked at each other. Ginny stared after Hermione.

"I think we should go, and give her some time alone. She's just come back and, well, her husband is missing…" Ginny said quietly.

"Her husband?" Ron said angrily, "He's not really her husband. This was all arranged, just set up. There's nothing between them but his bloody name!"

His sister looked at him as the other students filed out of the kitchen heading for the exit.

"Ron, you are so unbelievably stupid sometimes. Didn't you just hear her say she would miss him when she left here? That means she has feelings for him, you idiot," Ginny said, frowning at her git of a brother.

"No…no…she's just upset about everything. Once she gets back to Gryffindor House…and gets used to being around us again…" he began.

"I don't think she's going to come back, Ron. I really think she's going to stay with the Professor and be his wife, for real," Ginny said, looking in the direction Hermione disappeared.

Ron's mouth worked, but nothing came out. Finally some words formed.

"She wouldn't…she couldn't…if she were going to be his wife for real, that means she'd have to…"

"Shag him," Ginny finished for him, a small smirk on her face.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Ron said, holding his stomach and leaving the kitchen.

Ginny took one more look towards Hermione's bedroom, and followed her brother out. She knew her friend needed time. More than that, she needed the Potions Master.

Hermione had cried herself to sleep, and woke up about ten o'clock at night. She was still dressed in her clothes and walked into the kitchen. Her gifts were still on the table as well as the wrappings. She'd have to clean up, but didn't feel like it now. Her rooms felt different. She knew it was because she knew that the Potions Master wasn't next door. His presence was a comfort, even when he wasn't physically with her. She missed him very much.

Hermione picked up her wand, opened her rooms door and entered Severus' study. The fire had gone out, another sign he wasn't there. He always kept the fire lit. She pointed her wand at the grate.

"Incendio," she breathed, starting a fire.

She walked over to the fireplace and sat down in the chair that Severus used, curling up, her face pressed against the back of it. It smelled of spices and sandalwood. Like he did. She breathed deeply and sat there quietly. She began to wish that there had been something more between them now. If he were dead because of her, it would have been a comfort to know that he had at least known her intimately like he wanted to. Hermione realized that she did have feelings for him, and it really wouldn't be that much of a stretch to go further. He was kind to her, and respectful as far as he could be respectful. And he was attractive to her as a man.

The attraction was something that had developed as she grew to know him. Not anything rushed or frenzied like described in romance novels, but something that slowly blossomed as they argued over French toast and syrup, or discussed some obscure book she'd found. He was multi-dimensional, experienced…he had more than surface. The Potions Master ran deep. He had layers that had developed over time, unlike the boys at Hogwarts. Plus, he was a hero, selfless, courageous, his life on the line every moment of every day. Severus had risked the wrath of the Dark Lord marrying her. And although he had made it quite plain that he wanted her in his bed, he never tried to force or cajole her. Never tried to touch her in an intimate way. He had ceased to bring women home too. So he had made changes for her too, though he never brought it up.

Above all Severus was a private man, and reserved. But he opened up to her in the privacy of the rooms. She discovered he could laugh, and did so often when she was ranting about some point of an argument until red in the face. He was private, but he had let her in.

"It's not fair," Hermione thought miserably, knocking her head against the back of the chair lightly. "It's not fair how people realize the truth of a matter after the chance to put it to use has passed."

Suddenly, she heard a thunder crack and sat up. Thunder crack? She was down in the dungeons. You couldn't hear thunder crack down here!

Hermione leapt off the chair and ran through the study to Severus' bedroom, freezing as she clung to the doorway.

There on the floor, lying on his back, was Severus. A broken, badly beaten and barely breathing Severus. Hermione ran to him, dropping on the floor by his head. He smelled like a slaughterhouse and was shirtless and barefoot, bruised from head to toe, his body covered in dried blood, oozing cuts and gashes. His pants were also crusted and stuck to him with old blood, brown flakes falling on the floor beneath him. Yet, he breathed shallowly. How was he still alive?

He groaned.

Torn between trying to comfort him and contacting someone, Hermione ran to the floo and threw some floo powder.

"Headmaster's office!" she cried, then "Headmaster, Severus is back and he's badly hurt! Please come!"

"I'm on my way. Let me notify Poppy," the Headmaster called back.

Hermione ran back over to the ruined Potions Master and lifted his head gently and placed it on her lap. He groaned again.

"Severus? Severus, you're back. You made it," she said to him softly, stroking his bruised brow. His eyes were badly swollen but he managed to open them. He looked at her, and they brightened.

"Hermione," he breathed.

"Yes, Severus…I'm here," she said.

Severus coughed, and his body shuddered with pain. He grimaced, then looked up at her again.

"Lucius is dead," he whispered.

Hermione didn't say anything, just continued to stroke his brow, her eyes filling as his condition settled into her psyche.

"You poor thing," she said to him, "How did you ever survive this?"

The Potions Master made an odd sound, almost like a weak chuckle. It had to hurt him. He said something. Hermione couldn't hear him.

"What Severus?" she asked him, leaning closer. His breathing became a bit more labored.

"I still have to deflower you," he said weakly.

Hermione could have laughed if the situation wasn't so horrible. So what kept him alive was the thought of bedding her. Talk about incentive. She stroked his temple tenderly.

"After all you've gone through for me, Severus, I think you may have earned that right," she replied softly through her tears.

The Potions Master seemed to relax then, his breathing evening out. He closed his eyes.

Hermione continued to hold him, stroking his temple gently until help arrived.

Albus arrived in Severus' bedroom and gently levitated the Potions Master through the floo. Poppy was waiting on the other side and guided him gently to a cot at the far end of the infirmary. The Potions Master hated being in the infirmary and always insisted on being as far from public view as possible. Not that he was in any condition to complain, but they respected his wishes.

Hermione followed them up, and she and Albus stood by as Poppy examined him. When the medi-witch gently rolled him over, Hermione gasped and burst into tears. Most of the flesh on Severus' back hung in tattered strips, and what wasn't was partially scabbed and oozing. He had been scourged, his stripes allowed to partially heal, then beaten again until the raw meat of the muscle was visible beneath the skin that was trying to heal. There was damage to his tendons in his wrists and shoulders so he couldn't move his arms. Poppy said it was probably from him hanging for a long period of time. She assured Hermione she could repair them. He had been beaten severely in the abdominal area as well, with a club or other heavy object. In fact, no part of his body had been spared. It seemed however that the Potions Master had been physically tortured only. There was no sign of the Cruciatus curse being applied.

"He would not have survived if he had been hit with the curse like he usually is," Poppy commented. Ribs on both sides were broken, but luckily none of the bones had pierced any vital organs. One kneecap was completely shattered and his nose was broken. Poppy had Hermione leave the room as she cut away Severus' pants. They were stuck to him by his own dried blood. He had lost an amazing amount to have survived. Poppy used a moistened cloth to work the stuck fabric away from his skin.

Hermione could hear her comments from the other side of the curtain.

"Well, it seems the only part of him they didn't damage is his sexual organs," the medi-witch said.

"That is probably because Voldemort admires Severus' sexual prowess," Albus said, forgetting Hermione was standing outside the curtain. "Severus confided in me that the Dark Lord liked to watch him…er…you know. For entertainment. Because of his size."

"The Dark Lord is a very sick wizard," Poppy sniffed, "The things Severus has to do for him."

"It's part of his job as a spy," Albus replied sadly, shaking his head.

Hermione's eyes went wide. The Dark Lord liked to watch Severus have sex? Because of his size? Good gods. How big was he? And who did he have to have sex with?

Hermione unconsciously wrapped both her arms around her middle and hugged herself. The Potions Master was or had been Voldemort's personal porn star. The Headmaster did use the past tense. But still, it was a pretty disconcerting statement to hear about the man that she was considering losing her virginity to.

There was mostly silence for the next hour or so, punctuated by occasional groans from Severus as Poppy worked on healing his broken body. Hermione paced back and forth outside the curtain listening intently for any sound he made. He was such a brave wizard. He had to know this would happen to him before he went after Lucius. Did he really think she was worth all of that sacrifice? All of that pain and suffering? The idea that he did was frightening to Hermione. What if she gave herself to him and she wasn't as good as he thought she'd be? What if he decided after all he'd gone through, she hadn't been worth it? That would be terrible.

Hermione started suffering from performance anxiety.

Poppy came out from behind the curtain, took one look at the shivering witch and dragged her over to her stores and made her drink down a calming draught.

"Don't be worried, Hermione…he's going to be fine. You'll work yourself up into a full blown panic attack if you don't calm down," she chided the young witch gently. Hermione looked at the healer with the whites of her eyes showing. Poppy had no idea what had made her freak out the way she did.

"You can go in and see him now," the medi-witch said, smiling at her.

Hermione moved the black curtain aside and walked in. She took one look at Severus and all her misgivings died away. He looked much better already. He was dressed in a hospital gown that obviously tied in the back. The swelling around his eyes was almost gone, and his nose had been fixed. Poppy had hydrated him so his skin wasn't dry and flaky, his mouth restored to its slightly cruel but sensuous mien. He was still bruised but it wasn't as bad as when he first arrived. She could make out the binding around his ribs, and his arms looked fine. He was sleeping now. Hermione pulled a chair next to his bed and sat down, placing her hand on his. Albus and Poppy looked at each other, and both walked out, leaving the two alone.

"How long before the Potions Master is back to his usual self, Poppy?" Albus asked her.

"Well, he will probably be able to leave the infirmary in four or five days, though he will start raising hell in three, if not sooner. I've seen him pull off some amazingly fast recoveries from the Cruciatus curse. These injuries look bad, but they are nothing compared to the curse" the medi-witch said, scowling, "but he ought to be as good as new in about two weeks. Good thing for him he stays in shape. He was able to take a lot of punishment. A lesser wizard would have died."

Albus looked back at the curtain, his eyes twinkling.

"Our Potions Master had a rather compelling reason to survive," he said. Poppy looked at him, then realized what he was referring to.

"Ah yes, his wife," Poppy replied…then she leaned toward the Headmaster, dropping her voice.

"Were you aware, Headmaster, that Mrs. Snape is still a virgin? She's been with him over three months and he hasn't touched her. Well, penetrated her anyway," she said, her eyebrows raised as she waited for his reaction.

The Headmaster looked at the medi-witch.

"Actually, I am not surprised at all, Poppy. It was a marriage of convenience after all, and Severus, although he has a lot of rough edges, is a relatively honorable man. I find it highly unlikely that he would force himself on an untouched young woman. But if Mrs. Snape had come to him…shall we say, experienced…he would have most certainly taken full advantage of that fact in return for marrying her. Though I dare say, by the way Mrs. Snape is reacting to him, her virtue is in its dying throes. She is clearly in love with the Potions Master," Albus said, smiling.

"Do you think they will annul their marriage? They only have until the end of the month before it becomes fixed forever," Poppy said.

"Now that, I do not know, Poppy. It depends what's in their hearts. It is hard to know what is in another's heart," he replied, his blue eyes darkening a bit. "But I would like to see the Potions Master happy. He deserves some happiness in his otherwise hard and lonely life."

Poppy frowned.

"I would hardly call him lonely with the amount of women he's been involved with, Albus," she said stuffily. Severus' conquests were legendary. Some said he had the gift of the "Seven Beauties" when it came to women.

"Ah, Poppy, you are equating frequent sex with meaningful relationships. You have heard of being lonely in a crowd of people?" he asked the medi-witch.

"Of course," she replied.

"Imagine Severus lonely in a crowd of women, because that, my dear, is the true nature of his existence. One woman who can meet his needs physically, emotionally and intellectually is what he needs to ease his loneliness. I believe Mrs. Snape can provide that for him, if he will let her. I have a feeling she has already accomplished fulfilling two of those needs. The final will be the glue that seals the deal," he said, his eyes distant.

"Oh, I hope so, Albus. Everyone needs love," she breathed.

"Indeed," Albus replied.

Hermione sat next to Severus' bed, watching him breathe, studying his face and thinking about all the ideas she had about what her first time would be like. She had imagined it would have been the result of a powerful, uncontrollable desire to become one with a man she loved with all her heart and soul. Like being consumed by a fire that he would only be able to put out. She had never felt these things, only heard and read about them. But she felt she owed Severus, and she did love him in a kind of intellectual way. And he was attractive to her physically as well as intellectually. Her emotions had to be in there someplace.

After living with him these past few months, Hermione really couldn't imagine feeling as comfortable with anyone else. Plus, he had been with a lot of women, so he probably knew how to make sex pleasant. He was a thorough man in everything else, she didn't imagine he would be any different when it came to having sex. So there might not be fireworks and exploding stars, but there would be something pleasant, safe and secure, something she could live with. She didn't know for sure if he wanted to dissolve the marriage. If he did, he would probably do it after he had tried her and found out if she were any good. It would make no sense to remain married if she were lousy at it. Knowing his history with women, he obviously liked sex and wouldn't stand for anything second-rate. Hermione sighed, then realized he was looking at her.

"You needn't worry about that, Hermione," he said softly, his voice rasping a bit.

The Potions Master had awakened while she was deep in thought. The look on her face was so intense that he looked into her mind to see what was occupying her so. He would have laughed if it wouldn't have hurt so much.

Hearing the dryness in his voice, Hermione reached over to the small bedside table where a pitcher of water sat, poured him a cup, then helped him sit up and drink a little. She helped him back down, wincing a bit as he grimaced.

"Thank you," he said, his voice regaining some of the silkiness she appreciated.

Hermione looked at him for several moments

"You could have been killed, Severus," she said to him.

"Could have. But I wasn't," he replied, his black eyes searching her face. "I came back for you. I told you I would. After what Lucius did to you, I couldn't allow him to live, Hermione."

He looked at her intently.

"I want to see," he said.

Hermione blinked at him, perplexed. "See what, Severus?" she asked him.

"I want to see what he did to you. How he got to you," he replied, his eyes hard.

"No, Severus. You just returned. You don't need to upset yourself," she replied.

"It will upset me more if I don't see it, Hermione. I have images in my mind constantly. I need to know the truth in order to stop them. Please," he said. "I can do it so you won't relive what I see."

Hermione sighed.

"Very well, Severus," she said, clearing her mind as best she could.

"Think of something pleasant," the Potions Master said as he lifted his arm and placed two fingers against her temple. Hermione thought of a lively debate they had over fried chicken and potato salad as Severus viewed Lucius' attack on her. Presently he dropped his hand.

"I wish I could kill him again," he said quietly.

"It's over, Severus," she said soothingly. The wizard's dark eyes shifted to hers with an angry light in them.

"He could have ruined you. Made you frightened, cold, unable to experience any joy with anyone else," he seethed.

"I might be like that anyway," Hermione blurted out.

Severus' eyes widened as he looked at the lovely young witch. Was she crazy?

"Hermione, why would you say something like that?" he asked her, frowning slightly.

"Because I care about you, and I'm attracted to you, but I'm not feeling any fire or longing or anything like what it's supposed to be like," she said. "I think I am going to be like a robot or something."

"What's a robot?" he asked her, an eyebrow arched in interest.

"A muggle creation that looks like a person, but is made out of metal, and wires. It doesn't feel anything, but does what it's commanded to do," she said.

Severus started to laugh, then winced. Hermione winced in sympathy. He had to be hurting under those bandages.

"I assure you, Hermione. You're not a robot," he said, still wincing.

"How can you be sure? How can you know I'll be any good? What if I'm terrible?" she said, her eyes starting to fill. The Potions Master looked at her soberly.

"You are truly concerned about this, aren't you Hermione?" he asked her.

She nodded.

"Lean down here," he said, his dark eyes beginning to smolder. "I'm going to kiss you."

Hermione leaned down and touched her lips to the Potions Master's, who raised his hand to the back of her head and drew her into his lips more firmly. He moved his mouth against hers slowly, and sensuously, tugging on her bottom lip lightly, then sucking on it.

Hermione felt what could only be described as a heat rising from the center of her lower belly, actually not her belly, but right under her navel. It was the most delicious feeling she had ever felt. It began to spread across her body, and she drew in her breath sharply. Severus broke the kiss and looked into her heated eyes. Hermione looked at him, then began to lean in again. He jerked his head aside.

"See. There is fire," he said, looking at her, his eyes glittering. "You want more. That means you want me."

Hermione sat back in the chair, the feeling of wanting to continue to kiss the dark wizard still with her. She didn't know she had this feeling inside her for the Potions Master.

"That's why I never attempted to kiss you, or touch you. I knew what was underneath. I knew when I kissed you at the ceremony and looked in your eyes afterwards. It wouldn't take much to ignite you. I had no intentions on trying to bed you. It was always my intention to play out this little charade and let you skip back off to Gryffindor Tower as pure as you came to me. But after your little stunt, and I found myself wanting you, I knew if I had kissed you in private and you responded, I probably would not have been able to stop myself, and what would have happened would have happened too soon for you to be comfortable with afterwards Hermione. You would have felt cheap and dirty. You weren't ready for that much passion to hit you all at once, but it was there, longing to get out. You had to know me first as Severus the man, not Professor Snape, the Snarky Potions Master of the Dungeons and bane of your existence for the past seven years." Severus said softly.

Then his black eyes became so intense that Hermione felt her stomach clutch.

"And now…you do," the Potions Master said, a soft growl in his voice.

Severus was glad he had plenty of covers on. He had a raging erection and didn't want to scare Hermione away. But by the look in her eyes, he doubted she could be torn away if she were tied to a herd of hippogriffs at this moment. Yes, his wife was definitely hot for him. How long would he be here anyway?

"I didn't know," Hermione said, her voice almost a whisper, as she looked at him. Now she was feeling what the books described, but much more powerfully than those words could ever express. She was like a Sleeping Beauty. One kiss woke her up.

"You weren't ready to know, believe me," the Potions Master said, yawning. He looked at her. "I think you should go back to the rooms now, and get some sleep. I'm going to be fine."

"No," she said stubbornly. "You've been gone for days. I'm not leaving now."

"Hermione," he said, then faltered as he saw the familiar tilt of her chin that showed she was ready to argue. He sighed.

"Fine," he said.

Slowly, he slid over in the cot. His back hurt terribly, but he managed.

"What are you doing?" she asked him, her eyebrows raised.

"Well, if you insist on staying here, it would be better if you lay down, otherwise you will get another painful neck from sleeping in a wrong position. Come lay next to me. You're small enough to fit," he said.

"But Madam Pomfrey…" Hermione said.

"Have you forgotten you're my wife? We could shag right here if I was in any condition. The only complaint Poppy could have would be with our choice of venue," he said snarkily. "Now, if you are going to stay, get in the bed."

Hermione looked around furtively, then removed her shoes and climbed into the bed with Severus, who extended his arm, then pulled her against him and closed his eyes. Hermione felt warm all over, lying next to him with his arm around her, but safe. Right.

"Good night, Mrs. Snape," Severus said sleepily.

"Good night, Mr. Snape," Hermione replied. Presently, Severus was snoring lightly. But Hermione…Hermione took a very long time to sleep.

A/N: And that is the end of Disharmony in the Dungeons Part 1. More to come.