Mia Madwyn/CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES9
The world and characters belong to JKR.
Thanks to Leigh-Anne, my fabulous beta!
Author's Note: Because so many readers have remarked that this is the first SS/HG they've read, I have belatedly realized that perhaps I should point out that in canon, Severus Snape was only 37 years old at the beginning of the Golden Trio's Seventh Year. So many people have only associated Snape with the much older Alan Rickman that I decided this point was just as important to clarify as is the fact that Hermione is of age. Yes, there is still a 19 year age difference between them (he was born in 1960 and she in 1979) but he's also still (in wizarding terms) a young wizard in the prime of his life and strength. That said, I hope you enjoy my tale!
She flung the door to the Potions classroom open with a bang, her robe billowing around her. "Professor!"
Snape raised his face from the papers on his desk. If he was startled at her sudden entrance, he certainly wasn't showing it. "Ten points from Gryffindor," he drawled, then lazily lifted his wand. "And term hasn't even started yet."
She felt something–a force–hit her square in the chest and her heels dragging across the floor. He was ejecting her from the room!
"Expelliarmus!" she gasped. His wand flew through the air, and she had to lunge to catch it. She stood up, feeling quite smug.
Until she saw the expression on his face. Those narrowed black eyes and thin lips were frozen, expressionless, but those eyes burned. Oh, my.
She gulped. She had disarmed a teacher!
She scurried forward, placed his wand on his desk and backed quickly away. Cleared her throat. Tried to appear calm. "There. Now that I have your attention—"
"Quite." His voice was barely more than a whisper, but even so, his tone was acid.
Hermione glanced nervously at the door. She waved her wand quickly so that it closed a lot more quietly than it had opened. Another flick of the wand and it was locked for good measure.
She looked at him, determined. "I need your help, Professor!"
Professor Snape slid his eyes toward the locked door, and back at her, without moving any other part of his body. And remained silent. Scarily silent. In fact, he was more frightening while silent than if he'd raged at her.
She closed her eyes. Breathe, Hermione. And realized, of course, that he was proving her right. Everything about his reaction to this horrid visit was supporting her theory. And after that quick sense of relief, a surge of self-righteous anger filled her.
She opened her eyes and glared at him. "Do you know what they're going to do to me?" She couldn't stand still. She dragged her free hand through her hair, took a few steps toward the window, whirled back. "Have you seen my list of–of–" she could barely choke the word out– "suitors?"
Finally, he moved. He eased back in his chair, relaxing. "I can't see any reason why such a subject would be of any interest to me, Miss Granger," he hissed, but she got the distinct impression he was enjoying her situation.
She clenched her wand more tightly and snapped, "I never implied that it was. I simply asked if you knew. But I suppose that doesn't really matter—"
A sneer twisted his lips. "I'm thinking I've been remiss by not keeping up with your love life."
"Love life!" She stopped herself just short of stomping her foot, but noticed his gaze flicker to her knee-twitch as if he realized what she wanted to do even before she stopped herself. "Draco Malfoy? What kind of joke is this, Draco Malfoy wants to marry me? That's pure insanity." She stormed across the room. "And–and—Mundungus Fletcher!"
He covered his smirk with long fingers and leaned back in his chair.
"Kingsley Shacklebolt, George and Fred Weasley, Ron, of course. And Viktor—"
"Herr Krum? Now that is a feather in your cap."
"Professor, suffice it to say, I have reason to know it is not! But that's not the least of it. It seems that I'm some sort of project–like a virgin territory to be either conquered or protected!"
Other than a clever arching of one skeptical brow, his expression didn't change.
"Professor, surely you are not implying that I'm not a–" She sputtered to a stop, unable to continue.
He smirked. "If I had reason to care, I'd have no problem finding the answer to that question, Miss Granger." He allowed the thought to hang there, pregnant, as it were, with meaning.
She huffed in a breath, quite speechless.
"You really must learn to keep your mind out of the gutter, Miss Granger. It's unseemly." One corner of his mouth slanted in a quick smirk. "I am a Legilimens, as I'm sure you know."
"Fortunately for both of us, I can think of few subjects that interest me less than the status of your hymen." He flicked an invisible speck of lint from his black wool sleeve.
This was not going well at all.
"I'm sure—" She tested her voice and found it relatively strong so continued. "Professor Dumbledore thinks he's being helpful, but the list includes–oh, too many to name and some wizards I've never even heard of! Oh, and—" She fought to remember the name. "Wilbur Oro—Oro—"
At her nod, he shrugged. "Perhaps you should consider that one, Miss Granger. The Orograndes are one of the oldest and wealthiest wizarding families in–"
"I am not stupid, Professor."
"My apologies. I sometimes forget."
"They live in Cornwall! How could I study in Cornwall?"
"I had no idea you were such a prize, Miss Granger," he sneered. "I'm sure this will be an exciting choice for you, but again—" He pushed away from his desk and rose to his full height. "I can't see that it has anything to do with me. In fact," he glowered at her, "I cannot fathom why you are even here at Hogwarts four days before term starts, and furthermore, why you aren't taking your whinging to your own head of house?"
"I thought it quite obvious why I can't go to Professor McGonagall!" She glared at him. "She can't save me, but you can."
If he had any clue of where she was going, he wasn't revealing it. He just … waited. For her to continue.
"Professor Snape, you aren't thick," she snapped. "I want you—I need you to marry me."
His glance raked her coolly from top to bottom and back up again.
And then, dismissively, "Do you have fever with these fits? Perhaps a visit to Madam Pomfrey?"
She felt foolish tears stinging her eyes, and blinking them away, sniffed.
Disgust rolled off him in waves. "Please spare me displays of feminine weakness."
"I'm not weak!" she snapped. "I'm just--overwhelmed."
Only Professor Severus Snape could imbue one word—two syllables—with such contempt.
She spun away nervously, pacing. "If I marry any of the men on that list, I'll have to leave Hogwarts! My life will be ruined!"
"And if I marry any of the—" She did an about-face, flung her wand hand in the air and waved for emphasis. "The boys—"
Her cheeks burned but she forced herself to continue, whirling to glare at him, her hands fisted on her hips. "I refuse to be shackled to a teenaged boy who thinks I'm available for him to rut any time he gets the urge because I'd never get out of bed!"
He folded his arms in front of him and allowed himself to relax against the stone wall. And smirked.
He was taking pleasure in her dilemma, damn him. And she hadn't swayed him to help her at all. She leaned forward, bracing herself on the edge of his desk. "I have to be at Hogwarts, for my–my education–and because–" There went those tears again, she stopped, her throat clogged, unable to continue.
"Because…?" he drawled, studying a smudge of ink on one of his fingertips.
"I won't be safe anywhere else," she said. And met his hooded gaze. "With anyone else."
She glared at him. "You are the only wizard I know who could actually protect me!"
"You clearly need to meet more wizards." He began gathering the papers on his desk. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
He shot her a venomous look. "Aren't we quite through?"
She felt her last hope slipping through her fingers. And she'd been so sure—so very sure—that he wouldn't be able to turn his back on her. "It's obvious, you are a very powerful wizard–and not afraid to fight dirty, I might add!" she pleaded. "I can't imagine a wizard anywhere who could protect me as well as you could."
He scowled at her but said nothing.
"Well, except for Professor Dumbledore." Honesty compelled her to add, "But he's clearly too old and well, very busy, and I couldn't ask him to do such a thing."
Snape's nostrils flared as he gave her a sharp look.
"And then, I thought I had derived the perfect solution when I realized that, well, I am sure I could convince Professor Lockhart—"
"It makes a lot of sense, actually," she said brightly. "He's at St. Mungo's, so I can hardly be expected to live with him. I could continue my studies here."
"And pray tell," Snape drawled, "why aren't you at St. Mungo's at this very moment, throwing yourself on his mercy?"
"Well, then I realized the problem with the 'being protected' part which he clearly couldn't do, and of course, there's the—the—" Her stomach clenched with disgust. "Consummation part. With him! In St. Mungo's!" She shuddered. "I think I'd rather die!"
"Miss Granger…" His voice was low and almost, well, dangerous. "Did you forget that you'd also have to consummate the contract with me? Down here? In the dungeons?"
"Of course," she said primly, straightening her robe. "But that's different."
"How?" The word thudded between them.
She looked up at him, surprised. "I thought it would be quite obvious! Other than the, um, consummation part, we wouldn't even have to live together. You could continue doing everything you always do; I certainly wouldn't stand in your way, and I'd continue living in Gryffindor Tower with my friends, and nothing else would have to change at all!"
"Except – tell me again, about the… consummation part?" He sounded almost intrigued.
For the first time, she felt a lilt of hope skitter through her. "But it's brilliant, isn't it! Neither one of us want to do it, and I'm sure we could get it over quickly and be done with it."
"Oh, please, do go on," he drawled.
"Why I thought it would be quite obvious!" she stammered. "You're a teacher! And I'm a student!"
"And your point is…"
She almost growled in frustration. Didn't anybody actually read anymore? "As if there weren't the obvious reason why it would be totally inappropriate, in Hogwarts: A History," she spoke slowly, as if to Ron, "it explains that ever since the rather scandalous tenure of Headmaster Darlingood in the sixteenth Century," she felt her cheeks burning again and rushed on, "professors have been required to take potions to, um, still their, um, desires, to prevent, well—"
She glanced nervously at him, but he merely inclined his head politely.
"Immoral acts with students." She heaved in a deep breath. She blinked. "Which of course, you already know."
"I might ask about the publication date of your source material, Miss Granger, but I'm too fascinated at this point to stop you. Please. Continue."
"Well, while I'm sure that precaution could be waived briefly so we could fulfill our, our contractual obligation, the fact is—" She raised her chin a notch and concluded triumphantly, "You don't even like me, so I can't imagine that you'd want to prolong the activity any more than I would."
She thought she might grow to quite hate that word. "According to my research, it shouldn't take that long, anyway, as you're hardly a boy any more."
"Indeed." It was a snarl.
She stared at him, confused. He needn't be so snippy. She raised her quivering chin. "You can deny any interest or concern, but I don't believe you. You are a teacher, and you are obligated to protect your students. Even--even the ones you don't like very much. And you've proven that again and again when you've protected Ron and Harry and me."
She pulled a folded piece of vellum out of her robe and offered it to him with trembling hands. He took it, flipped it open, read it.
"Death threats?" The words were casual, almost disinterested.
"Well. Only three." She glared at him. "I'm not afraid. But I'm also not stupid. I'm Harry Potter's friend, and Muggle born, and that makes me everything they hate."
"And a Muggle born witch with the appearance of a modicum of talent," he added. "Which gives them even more reason to hate you."
She glared at the floor and cursed inwardly that she'd never learned to control her infernal emotions.
"So. In review, you burst into my classroom in a manner that would justify me turning you over to Filch and his thumbscrews, you disarm me—"
"I gave it back!"
"—and ask for my hand in marriage, assuring me I wasn't your first choice –"
"I wanted you to know I'd considered all the other options!"
"—behind a centenarian and a lunatic—"
"You needn't take it personally!"
"—and that you are choosing me because I am too old to rut—"
"—and then you think by shedding an artful tear, leaning on my desk to expose a swell of breast—"
She looked down, horrified, and grasped her robe closed.
"—and attempting to arouse my pity by flourishing a death threat in front of my face, you think you can induce me to marry you?"
"Miss Granger…" His voice lowered to a gravelly whisper that sent chills skimming down her back. "Have you quite forgotten to whom you are speaking?"
She backed away, toward the door, and grasped it with her free hand. "I—I—I seem to have made an error in judgment."
When the door didn't open, she remembered her charm and waved her wand and turned the handle and—
It still didn't open.
She glanced over her shoulder to see–
Professor Snape, his own wand dangling languidly from his fingertips.
"I don't believe I am quite finished with you."