Well... I'm starting over. To be honest, I wasn't exactly happy with the last beginning, so I redid it. Sorry, all, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist with my writing, lol. So this chapter follows much the same plot, but it's a different format and timeline.
I hope you still like it!
Severus Snape picked up a forkful of potatoes, looking over the Great Hall with a dismaying look in his eyes. Another year of horrid, ill-behaved adolescents torturing him into a slow, painful death. Speaking of horrid students… Snape almost smiled when he realized the absence of misters Potter and Weasley. Maybe they were deathly ill and would be absent all year? One could only hope… However, one tack in his ass was still there. Miss Granger sat toying with her Head Girl badge idly, the other hand massaging her forehead. The little witch looked up, as if sensing Snape's gaze and her large brown eyes found his black ones. She looked away quickly. Then, with a nod to reassure herself of something final, Hermione laid the badge on the table, leaving it lonely, and hurried out of the Great Hall. Snape's interest piqued slightly, wondering if the trio was finally going to set out to commit Potter's final at of heroism.
He ignored the words of Albus Dumbledore as the old man stood, spread him long arms and welcomed all the brats. Snape stabbed a turkey leg and vaguely speculated if McNair had been given the Cruciatus for failing his last mission. The man couldn't even manage to capture some old brooch from some decrepit lady. Pathetic. Would the Dark Lord send him instead now?
Snape looked up at the sound of wings rustling through the hall. It was a bit early for mail… The owls landed directly and only before seventh year girls. The Marriage Law had just been reeled into effect. The young women must be married by September 30.
Hermione sighed her hunger and rolled onto her side, then groaned when a root stuck in her side.
"Bloody… hell…" Hermione yawned, then got to her knees and crawled out of the tent flap. The nights were getting colder, and Hermione suddenly wished she had stolen blankets in addition to food from the last house. She didn't dare light a fire, as she was following the tracks of Ron and Harry, and Death Eaters were sure to be trailing also.
Ron and Harry… Damn the imbeciles. They had left her behind, simply worried for her safety. If anyone was in more danger right now, it was them. She didn't realize their plan until she was sitting alone at the feast at Hogwarts. She left it all behind to find them… Her NEWTs, her Head Girl status… When she found them, she vowed to kill them.
Snape let himself into the Headmaster's office and watched him pace with a bored expression.
"…have no idea where Harry has gone to. You say they were not with Miss Granger when she left? They must have left her behind," Dumbledore said.
"How very chivalrous," Snape drawled.
Dumbledore paused, looking thoughtfully out his window and over the lake.
"She has fifteen days, Severus, until she will be married. I wonder if she knows it yet?" Snape didn't answer, not being able to bring himself to care. "Do you know what happens at the deadline, if the witch has not chosen?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
Snape pursed his lips as the thought hit him. That put a damper on his apathetic outlook. The old man finished answered his own question, as he typically did.
"A wizard can choose her, any wizard, and she won't have a say. Imagine the wizards that can use her to get to Harry," said Dumbledore. He sat behind his desk and interlaced his fingers.
"We can only wait," Snape offered.
"Yes… I suppose you're right," Dumbledore sighed. "Lemon drop?"
The newspaper, stolen from an unfortunate owl Hermione had stunned in flight, shook in her hands like a strong breeze was agitated, but the evening was really very still. Hermione's eyes swept through the beginning of the article.
"Ministry of Magic passes the Marriage Law by need…"
"Our kind is disappearing…"
"All seventeen year old, eligible women must marry a wizard…"
"By September 30…"
"In addition to the marriage…"
"The young woman must be with child…"
"Pregnancy must be proved a year following the day of marriage…"
"In your hands to rescue the race of magic."
Hermione crumbled the paper up tightly in her small fists, gritting her teeth in rage. The story continued on the next page, but she didn't want to read anymore. Never mind that, she would hide from it.
Class was over for another day, and Snape would be relieved to retreat to privacy. He was, however, being stalled by Draco Malfoy, who seemed to be waiting for his classmates to leave. Snape watched expectantly as the young blonde aristocrat approached him with a mischievous look.
"Any sign of the Mudblood yet?" he asked.
Draco paused, looking thoughtfully at Snape.
"Father says I can have her if she doesn't come forward by the thirtieth," he finally said, and then watched for Snape's reaction. When the professor simply waited, Draco continued. "He says I will be able to use her as a tool, and it will likely earn me a rank."
Snape stacked his papers together and picked them up, sparing Draco an uninterested glance while saying, "I suppose you'd better find her then."
A spell grazed her shoulder, and another swiped across her cheek. Hermione could feel the blood starting to seep out but she threw back a few dangerous hexes and kept running. The night was being illuminated by their spells, lighting the path for Hermione.
She had come so close to them! She could see the red of Ron's hair and the glinting green of Harry's eyes! But they didn't see her. Death Eaters had ambushed before she could yell to them, and she was camouflaged by her black, hooded robe.
Hermione could hear screams of pursuit behind her, but no matter. She was safe. She ducked into her small, heavily warded campsite and turned to watch. Two Death Eaters ran by only feet from where she was, doubled over in pain and exhaustion.
Snape was in the Headmaster's office again that night, and his eyes were growing tired for the endless pacing of the old man. The mystery of how Dumbledore stayed fit had been solved. Snape looked at the clock above the fireplace. 11:45.
Granger had fifteen minutes.
Dumbledore stopped to look down at his desk, and Snape was temporarily distracted for the lack of movement. They both gazed down on the marriage license.
"Severus…" Dumbledore began. Snape glared at him in reply. "Please, listen to me."
"You marry the twit," Snape snapped.
"You know I can't. A Headmaster marrying his student? I'd be scorned by all parents," Dumbledore said.
"She is also my student."
"Yes, but…" Dumbledore trailed.
"The parents of the whelps already hate me and that is much less consequential than your situation?" Snape said sarcastically, supplying the words. Dumbledore shrugged slightly and nodded. Snape looked at the clock again. 11:56.
"Consider the consequences of letting young Mr. Malfoy have her," Dumbledore said as he sat down opposite Snape.
"What of that Viktor Krum boy?" Snape snapped, dread filling his stomach.
"He's married already."
Dumbledore pushed the license toward him and held out a ready quill. Snape took it slowly, feeling unmistakably sick at what was about to happen. He signed "Hermione Granger" on one of the two lines and hesitated. He could feel piercing blue eyes on him and Snape rubbed his long fingers down the quill. Marry Granger, marry Granger… Absurd. No, not Granger. Hermione… Snape.
And then he signed his name.
Hermione coughed and wriggled closer to the fire. She couldn't bear the cold any longer when the sun had left her lonely. There was that one warm night, two days ago, when a heat filled her chest and an unexpected happiness racked her. Her sickness had lessened then, but now it was back. Hermione pressed her forehead into the ground as another violent coughing fit seized her.
She prayed for Harry and Ron to come by, watching almost all night and willing herself not to sleep, but they never showed.
Snape woke in the middle of the night, something pulling inside his chest. He rolled over and his hand fell into the empty side of the bed. Something felt wrong about it. The thought of marriage troubled him again, and he knew he wouldn't get back to sleep. He had a wife, and where was she?
Snape wasn't being sentimental, as he always sneered at the emotions, but an unexplainable feeling sickened him. It worried him. When people get married, he wondered, do they gain connections? ...Did she need his help?
Hermione Apparated to Hogsmeade, hoping desperately that she didn't splinch herself. She knew she couldn't be strong enough anymore. Sickness was ravaging her weak, frail body. She hadn't eaten in several days. The cuts caused by the hexes were infected and Hermione couldn't heal them.
She arrived outside of Hogwarts gates in one piece, although her robes hung in tatters off her body. Exerting much more energy than normal, she pushed into the grounds and trudged toward the castle. She looked up at her tower and saw the light glowing through her window. She vaguely wondered who her roommates married. She hadn't forgotten about the Marriage Law, and now she might have to face it, but she couldn't hide anymore.
Hermione drew a sharp breath as she neared the castle doors. A black figure had slipped out and was looking at her as if surprised. She drew her wand and jumped, for the figure was walking to her quite quickly.
"St-Stay back!" Hermione warned feebly.
"Miss Gr…" the voice trailed off and addressed her instead as, "Girl."
She waited, out of exhaustion and the need to trust someone. She wasn't sure how much longer she could hold on. A pale face and black hair appeared and Hermione smiled.
"Severus," she whispered, dropping her wand and holding out a bruised hand.
The professor grabbed her hand, pulling her body to his before she fell to the ground.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter!
Okay! I hope you still like it! I wanted things to go a little faster and I'm much happier with this now. This is the only chapter that will have the dates in it. I just wanted to show the progression of time.
Pleeeease let me know what you think! I continue only if I think it's worth it!