A/N: I own nothing. I just thought of this twist on the Marriage Law Challenge and wanted to share.
"A Single Potion"
Dumbledore rubbed his hands over his eyes as Snape paced his office. Finally, he spoke. "Severus, time is running out. I am using all of my power to halt the law, but we need an alternative. Malfoy is imprisoned, but there are others who have taken his place. The Ministry is actually considering this atrocity."
"How serious are they?" Snape halted as he spoke.
Silently, Dumbledore handed him a scroll. Snape read it.
In an effort to dispel the hostilities brought about by pure-blood social views, the Ministry of Magic hereby decrees that all eligible Muggle-born witches and wizards will marry a pure-blood. pure-bloods will petition for marriage to a Muggle-born, who will chose among said petitions within a month's time. These marriages are for procreation purposes as the number of Squids in pure-blood families has increased over the last decade. Each marriage can be annulled after the couple has produced two magical children.
Snape threw the paper down in disgust. "Not very professional sounding. And they said Squids instead of Squibs. What imbecile wrote this? Percy?"
"It's only a rough draft he wrote during the meeting. Once Dolores Umbridge gets her hands on it, I'm sure you'll approve," Dumbledore joked.
"The Death Eaters could use this to rid themselves of some Muggle-borns."
"Has Voldemort said anything?" Dumbledore leaned forward.
Snape shook his head. "No. He isn't running the Ministry yet, so he may not know about it, but it is only a matter of time. It says 'eligible,' what does that mean?"
Dumbledore sunk into his chair. "It means any witch or wizard who can reproduce. I did get them to see that our students were not quite ready for such a burden. But they decided that if a witch can Apparate, then she can have a baby."
Snape's mask fell to reveal his rage. "They passed their tests today. We could lose all of the seventh-years and half of the sixth-years."
"Yes," Dumbledore said quietly. "I fear for all of my students, but one in particular."
Snape knew without asking whom the Headmaster meant. "Weasley's a pure-blood. I know he's dating that Brown girl or was. Minerva is the one for gossip. But surely for his friend's life…"
"Ron Weasley is, as you say, Severus, a remarkable young man. Yet, I fear, he might not prove up to fighting off Death Eaters at every turn. They will be dying to get their hands on her for Voldemort. No doubt Nott and Malfoy will petition for her. Draco must not be pushed further, I still believe he will come back."
"Leaving me with his dirty work," Snape fumed.
"Severus, we have been over this before; you agreed to follow me. No matter what I asked of you."
"And I was a damn, young fool!" Snape stomped to the fireplace and hit the stone with his fist.
"Love makes fools of us all. I know. I loved a very ambitious person once," Albus whispered just loudly enough for Snape to hear. "It… it led me to do things that will haunt me the rest of my life. But you, Severus. Love saved you; it brought you back."
"I am a selfish bastard, Albus. You know it, and I know it. Don't try and spin it differently." Snape felt the bitter pain of regret. If only he had known, if only he had…
Dumbledore interrupted his grief. "Severus, you couldn't save Lily, but you've saved her son countless times. If your guilt still haunts you, why not help Miss Granger? She is as bright as Lily and just as stubborn. We can't let this happen to her."
Severus sighed in resignation. "You already have a plan. Just tell it to me now, and get it over with."
"Miss Granger needs a husband who is strong and can fight off the Dark Lord." Albus paused significantly.
"Another Weasley?" Snape offered because he knew he was expected to say something.
"Possibly," Albus remarked, indicating that this was not where he was going. "Bill is already engaged. The twins, much as I admire their enthusiasm, are not exactly husband material. Percy is unlikely to be of any use. Charlie… maybe."
"Your precious Lupin?" Snape sneered.
"He is not eligible," Dumbledore said quietly.
"Well, then you won't have to worry about Miss Granger marrying Greyback. He'll be so disappointed. He does love young girls," Snape goaded.
"I was thinking of you." Dumbledore wiped his spectacles as if he had said nothing more interesting than that it might rain soon.
Snape let out a slew of expletives. "I will not bed a student! Has that potion affected your brain? I won't do it. Besides, when in the bloody hell did I become a pure-blood?"
"If you married her before the law went into effect, she wouldn't be eligible. You wouldn't need to be a pure-blood."
Snape walked to Dumbledore until they were nose to nose. "The Ministry would know whom she married. And even if we could keep it a secret, when the Ministry falls—and it will fall, Albus—what will I tell the Dark Lord? Do you have some cunning little plan? Should I tell him it was my idea? That I wanted to ensure that we got her because I knew of her connection to Ron Weasley?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Something like that."
Irritated that logic didn't seem to be working, Snape changed tactics. "Wouldn't it bother your precious principles to think of me riding one of your students? Having mad, passionate sex until we both cry from exhilaration? Is this some sick matchmaking of yours? Do you imagine I have EVER had such desires for ANY of my students? Who do you think I am?!" Snape turned away in a huff.
"If you marry before the law is passed, you would not have to procreate. One time, Severus. There are lust potions. Isn't it worth a small slip in your standards to save a life?"
"And you think the Dark Lord'll be just fine with me keeping her to myself? The reveals aren't full of unwilling witches, Albus. But a Mudblood? She'd be fair game. Not only would I have to witness her torture, I'd have to participate in it. I'd never forgive myself," he whispered.
"Surely, we could come up with some excuse to keep her away," Albus began tentatively.
"Albus, come up with another plan. I wouldn't be able to guarantee her safety."
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "Severus, would I ask you to sacrifice anything else if I had an alternative? This has been on the table for weeks. I only summoned you tonight because it seems inevitable."
"Have you told Miss Granger?" was all Snape said.
"I needed to know if you would agree first."
"You mentioned your guilt earlier," Snape said softly. "I wonder if that is why you are so effective in using me. You know exactly what to say because you know exactly how I feel. If there is no other way… I can't be responsible for another life."
Snape sat in the corner of the Headmaster's office. Hermione Granger was taking the news surprisingly well. She sat calmly reading the scroll with an intense look of concentration on her face. Finally, she spoke. "I can't do this. I'm too young to get married."
"You are seventeen and of legal age according to the Ministry," Dumbledore began. As he launched his plan, Hermione said nothing, only paled slightly.
"Would I still be a student here if I married Professor Snape?" she murmured.
"Yes, no one has to know who you married. We just need you to be ineligible in the eyes of the Ministry and Voldemort," Dumbledore explained.
"Ineligible…" She sat for a moment as her brain worked at rapid speed. "The law is to reproduce… If I can't have babies, I can't be forced into following this ridiculous excuse for a law."
"Brilliant, Miss Granger." The words left Snape's mouth before he could stop them. To save himself face, he added, "How do you plan to do that?"
Her face fell. "I don't know exactly." She tapped her finger on her cheek as she thought. Finally, she said, "In the Muggle world, sometimes when a woman has an abortion she can't have kids any longer."
"You will not mutilate your body," Snape ordered as Dumbledore struggled with what "abortion" meant.
"So you have a better plan, sir?" Hermione turned innocently towards him, but a challenge was in her eyes.
"Unless you want to marry me, Miss Granger, I merely suggest that you find an alternative." Snape wouldn't be set up by his own student. He had racked his brain the night before without coming up with a better alternative. Let her figure it out!
"Since you're so against self-mutilation, why don't you find one?" she demanded as she shot him a look of loathing. It was the first time since Umbridge that Hermione had disrespected a teacher. She was more upset by the news than she had let on, Snape realized.
"Perhaps we could both research—separately of course," Snape added as a peaceful compromise.
Hermione nodded slightly. Dumbledore beamed at them.
A knock sounded on Snape's door as he gave the potion his final stir. Without looking up, Snape knew Hermione had entered. Slowly, he poured some of the potion into a mug before turning around. She looked up at him with big, nervous eyes.
"Is that it?" He nodded in response.
"How long will it take to work?" She rubbed her palms together in agitation.
"I believe the effects will begin in an hour. Did you set up your appointment at St. Mungo's?"
"Yes, and I went to a fertility clinic last week. Just in case the effects aren't actually short-term. I don't want any now, but someday, I think I would like to have children." She sounded husky as if it hurt to speak. As always, she had covered all her bases.
Overcome by her attempts at bravery, Snape reached out and brushed a curl behind her ear. "You are brave, Hermione. You can do this."
"I just can't believe they actually passed it," Hermione said in a monotone. "When I saw the Daily Prophet this morning… I guess the last month hasn't gone to waste."
"No, Hermione, it hasn't," he whispered as he continued to stroke her head. "I'll stay with you until you leave for St Mungo's. I don't want Poppy to know anything. If there are any side effects, I'll be right here."
Hermione nodded nervously. "I never thought much about any of this before. How will I know if I can ever…"
Snape moved his hand away as a faint blush crept into his cheeks. "If your… courses return next month, the potion worked."
Smiling bravely, Hermione said, "Okay," and downed the contents in one gulp.
That evening Hermione returned to Snape's office. She knocked on the door before opening and shutting it behind her. Snape looked up from his stack of essays. Shyly, she approached his desk.
Catching his gaze, she smiled widely. "We did it, Professor. The mediwitch said I couldn't have children. I just got a letter from the Ministry expressing their regret that I am ineligible to participate! Thank you."
Snape nodded as relief flooded through him. "I'm happy to hear I won't have to feed you to the Death Eaters, Hermione."
"Sir." Hermione spoke so softly Severus had to strain to hear her. "If it hadn't worked… I wanted you to know that… well, I don't think it would have been so bad… With you, I mean…"
Snape stared at her in surprise. "Miss Granger, please don't tell me you have developed a crush. I only stoop to student-teacher relations when being blackmailed by my boss."
Hermione laughed, and he smiled. "No, not exactly, sir. Just that in working with you this last month, I've come to appreciate your company."
"Agreed," he acknowledged. "But Hermione, if the potion hadn't worked, you couldn't have married me. The law's already in effect. You'd have had to marry a pure-blood."
Hermione shot him a look of desperation and anger. "You mean you—"
"Had enough confidence in your research to believe the potion would work? Yes, Hermione, I did. Now go back to the Gryffindor common room. I have it on good authority that tonight will be an interesting night. Try to stay out of trouble. By the way, did you tell Dumbledore yet?"
"Ron said he and Harry had left. I guess it was another lesson."
"Damn," Severus swore. Just when it looked like life was taking a turn for the better. "Hermione, whatever happens tonight, whatever you think you see…" Snape sighed. Let her think what she must. He could never tell her the truth. "Just be careful."
Hermione nodded gravely. "You too, sir." As she strolled out the door, Snape wondered if tonight would be the night he would have to fulfill his vow.