Disclaimer: Oh how I wish I were J.K.R... Please, oh wise wonderful J.K.R. will you not adopt me? Needless to say, these characters do not belong to me and I am not taking any profit from this. I am just making her characters dance to the beat of my drums.

Author's Note: After reading several HGSS fics, I thought I'd try my hand at one. Lemme know what you think...and yes, I do believe the characters are a little OCC, but well, this is my creation, bear with it please. All constructive reviews are welcome. Flames or needless complaints are not desired nor wanted. Thanks and enjoy!


He sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. Who knew he could do anything 'gingerly' outside of potions? There was a lot behind the eyes in the mask of the devil, and while most of it was horrible, there were bright spots amid the chaos. He had his back to her. He was supposed to be dark, frightening, and downright evil, but how did one portray those things when forced into this situation? His back was ramrod straight, but his hair was unusually soft as if it had been freshly washed and dried. Normally it hung in greasy locks that added to his demonic appearance, but tonight was not a night for the demon. No, it was not fair to her. She had given up so much to receive so little in return. No, I cannot do this. Not to her. Not to anyone. His mind was chasing itself in circles. It was easy to see by the tension in his shoulders, and, without his normal enveloping robes to hide them, the tension was visible to anyone who looked. You have to. She knew what she was getting herself into. She's not a child; she's a fully-grown woman now, and perfectly capable of making her own decisions. He could feel her presence behind him. She had gotten here first and was already covered neck to toe by the sheets. You do not deserve this. You have done so many terrible things to so many people to ever deserve this kind of sacrifice. She doesn't know the terror you are. How could she? She would believe the best in anyone and you are anything but that.

She could see him fighting with himself. They had made it through the ceremony and exchanged vows with no problems, but that was the easy part. Words were just that, words, but this here, this was an action and once done could never be undone. She knew that he was a terror. So many years immersed in horror and death would do that to any man or woman, but she had seen something more to the man besides his potions and pain. Buried deep was a man who was her equal in intelligence, who would challenge her, and cherish her for who she was even if he never came to love her. Maybe in time he would, but she would just be happy with respect. It was all she had ever wanted in a husband and somewhere in there was a man who would do just that. She just needed to find him under the façade. That was why she had volunteered for this.

Was it only a moonturn ago that McGonagall had come to the order with news of this? A law had been put into place to ensure the continued existence of wizards. Each unmarried male wizard whose bloodline with either half or more pureblood would choose a wife whose bloodline was half or more muggle. And she, being from a fully muggle family, found herself the object of much desire. Letters of proposal had come in almost daily, and while she had the right to refuse, she knew that eventually a law would be passed to enforce the compliance of the women. It was a loophole in the original law that would soon be closed, but never did she think that she would accept a proposal until the day she was forced to. If she had anything to do about it, that law would never be passed, but events had shifted and here she found herself married. Here she was in her wedding bed with her new husband seated on the edge.

He refused to show any signs of weakness. No student, former or current, had ever seen so much as a hint that he was anything other than the bat of the dungeons, poised and ready to destroy anything that dared cross him, but here, here he was forced to share what had been most private for many years with a mere girl. She is not a girl any longer. His mind reminded him over and over of this fact, but all he could see was the know-it-all whose papers always exceeded his demands by at least a meter, whose analysis of any potion were so detailed that even he had a difficult time devising critical remarks to leave on her papers. There was no doubt to her intelligence. She was one of the few to enter his classroom who truly had an appreciation for the exact science and art that was potion making. How can I do this to her? But there was no way around it. He was a descendant of one of the purest bloodlines left, and even though he was not wholly pureblooded, the law had applied itself. For days after he had read about it in the Daily Prophet he had awaited his letter. After a whole week had gone by, he began to think that somehow he had been skipped, but that simply was not possible in the wizards' world. People may forget but magic never does. An owl had come just after his classes had finished for the week, and in light of his duties to the wizarding world he was given an extension of time. Ha! Some extension! A whole four weeks to provide them with his choice of a suitable woman. He scoured the law and every book available on wizarding law, but to no avail. There were even clauses for men who had proven infertile! Finally, he did the only thing he knew to do. He took his dilemma to the only woman he knew that was familiar with the witches who were not pureblooded. He could remember it clearly.

Minerva and he were seated at the large wooden table in the Black manor's kitchen. Even after the war was said and done, the Order, while shrunken in size, still held meetings keeping their eyes open for monsters like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and taking care of them before they became too powerful. The meeting had ended, and he had quietly asked to speak with Minerva privately after everyone had left. As he had expected she was not surprised to find that he had been included in the law, but she was surprised that he was going along with this law let alone asking her for help. He explained to her that even though he had been cleared of all wrongdoing after the war, who would trust the man who killed Dumbledore? It was best if he went along with this and allowed someone else to fight this battle for him and everyone else. Minerva had chuckled at this. It was a typical Slytherin who allowed others to do all the dirty work. They discussed and subsequently discarded every name she could think of. There just weren't that many unmarried witches his age of "impure" breeding. They had come to the bottom of the lists they had made when a small voice from the door startled them.

"I will," it said.

It was all he could do not to jump out of his skin. Menacingly, he turned to face the intruder and tell her to take herself and her friend elsewhere, but not only was she quite alone she had obviously been listening to them for quite some time. Minerva grasped the meaning of those two words far faster than he did, for it was she who stood and walked over.

"Do you realize what this all entails, Miss Granger?" she asked incredously.

"Yes, ma'am, I do. I've read all about it, and, as I'm sure the both of you have, I've tried to find any loophole out of this. It is not something I agree with, however, I am sure Professor Snape has no desire to be under the scrutiny of the wizarding world once again," she replied evenly and confidently.

"No! Absolutely not! Child, a book can not give you any inkling of what this is about," he shoved the chair from him so violently that it crashed to the ground setting off the portrait of Mrs. Black for the thousandth time, "You do not understand the situation, nor do you have the maturity for such a substantial commitment. Nor it does not surprise me one iota that you have taken the typical Griffendor attitude to this situation. Fling yourself in to be the savior without thought to yourself and your own well-being. Are you so irresponsible to give up your studies at the first chance you can?" He advanced on the smaller woman looming over her to attempt to dissuade her in any way from her ridiculous notions.

"While I may be young, may I remind you, Sir, that I have not been considered a child in this world for at least two and a half years if you count the time the use of the time-turner added, I haven't been a child for over three years! I should think I know my own mind, and I have thought of myself in this matter. How long do you think it will take the minsitry to realize that no woman has to agree to marriage and force this utter nonsense onto women as well? I can tell you that they are already fully aware of this problem, and a draft for this has already been made. It will only be a short time before I too am forced into the same situation you already find yourself. I would rather do this by my choosing than have my choice stripped from me by the likes of them! Nor do I plan to give up my studies so soon. I have already spoken with my university director, and since I am studying potions it would be no trouble if one of the leading experts in potions would agree to finish my education. All I would need to do is pass my exit exams, and I will get my degree just the same as anyone else," she retorted not in the least perturbed by the dark man looming over her.

Deflated, Snape withdrew, swirling his robes behind him, and returned to the table. Minerva then stepped forward, "Well we can certainly tell you know have the wit and strength to stand up to him, but dear, do you understand that there is no backing out of this? This will be a wizard's marriage after all, and while divorce does exist, it is deeply frowned upon and I highly doubt that Severus will agree to it. There is a sort of stigma attached to a divorcee that simply does not exist in the muggle world."

"Professor, I have thought this through. I knew the moment the law was passed, the position Professor Snape would be in. After all, he is the only remaining male member of the order that is unmarried. I…" she paused seemingly at a loss for words, "Well, in a way I owe him. During the final battle, it was he who watched over me and kept me from a surely gruesome end, and even though this is a very large price, I feel that it is owed."

"A simple action for a few moments in time does not justify you attaching yourself to my side like a lost puppy for the remainder of your days," Snape said into the air. He had his back to the women, intently studying the wall in front of him.

Hermione sighed, "That's not the only reason, but it's one among many. Look, I will admit I listened to you as you discussed the few other women that you deemed appropriately aged and each one you dismissed for some good reason. I agree with you Professor," nodding towards Professor McGonagall, "those women aren't married for good reason. I feel that I can live with Professor Snape without constantly getting underfoot and keeping up the front of a proper wizard's wife."

McGonagall shook her head. As much as she cherished her former students, she also knew they had this habit of growing up, Hermione quicker than most. The girl would be hard pressed to find a suitable husband who would be a compliment to her intelligence, but it wasn't an impossible task. There just wasn't a single witch that met Severus' exacting standards that wasn't already married. Hermione fit them all except the age, and well age something overlooked often in the wizarding world simply because of the long life spans of most wizards. There wasn't really a reason she could think of, besides her own mothering instincts, why Snape shouldn't marry the girl.

"Severus," McGonagall spoke softly, "As much as we both dislike the idea, she is right. You aren't the most social of creatures, and, well frankly, a willing solution has presented itself. If you still disagree, I understand, but I do not think you'll find a young lady as willing or capable as our Hermione."

Snape didn't respond. He just shifted slightly so that he could stare at the fire still burning long after dinner had been eaten. He leaned on the table; his long fingers splayed before him. The firelight flickered creating odd shadows and reflections about the room. The dark clothing Snape wore looked out of place in the warm glow in the room. Still silence prevailed. Taking this as her cue, Hermione left to return to her room. Snape would come to the same conclusion as she did, but he would do so in his own time and that could not be rushed. He needed to see it for himself otherwise he would feel as if she pushed him into this for the rest of his life.

It didn't take too long for Snape to realize that she was right. Less time that Hermione thought it would take, but she was not surprised. A strange black owl appeared at her flat one evening, just as the sun had settled itself below the horizon, with a small, string drawn bag in it's beak. Like the owl the bag was black, but it was made of some sort of extremely soft material she could just not place. Hermione shook herself out of her reverie. Out of the bag slipped a band, far heavier than gold, but the color of silver. Intricately carved with so many symbols that she could spend all day and not puzzle them all out. This must have been Snape's answer. With only a moment of hesitation, she slipped the band onto the third finger of her left hand. It slipped easily over the knuckle, and settled neatly at the base.

The next morning a second owl arrived. This one was from Minerva, and it carried a letter telling her that the ministry had been informed and had agreed to wait for the actual wedding until her term at college was over as to not interrupt her schooling, but that was all that they would do. They had waited as long as possible and pressured the ministry as much as any human, wizard or no, could and they simply refused to budge. This was the future of the wizarding world in their minds, and they would not be swayed.

The school term ended far too quickly, and the betrothed couple did not see nor speak to one another during the entire time. Not that there was much of a chance. Hermione was determined to cram as much in at school as possible, and Snape was not one for idle conversations. So now Hermione lay in her wedding bed with her former professor seated precariously on the edge. Like some ancient muggle marriages, wizarding marriages require that the couple consummate the marriage within twenty-four hours of the vows being spoken, and a spell would be used to ensure that it was. If the spell was broken, and it could be by simply not consummating the marriage, it was null and void, and Snape would be right back at square one with all of this. She could watch his mind fight with itself. He knew she was far to young for him, and all of the other worries and concerns. Actually, it was all quite touching really. She was sure it wasn't meant to be, but well, in it's own awkward way it was.

"I can't do this" she heard him whisper finally, slouching to drop his head in to his hands, "There are so many reasons why this is not right."

Hermione slid over next to her new husband. Words would accomplish nothing here. They could debate until they were both blue in the face and nothing would get worked out. What was done was done, and now they needed to ensure that it did not all come undone. Pushing her nerves aside she laid her hand upon his shoulder. The cloth of the robe he wore was cool to the touch, and the skin underneath shivered under her fingers. Gently, she pushed aside his hair with her other hand and laid a soft kiss on the skin where his neck met his shoulder. He stiffened at the touch of her lips and tried to pull away, but the hand on his shoulder held him firmly in place. Again, Hermione placed her lips on his skin, this time dragging her teeth against the smoothness of his skin. Snape shuddered under her ministrations. She slid her hands under the collar of the robe and pulled it from his shoulders. With a hiss, the fabric collected at his waist. He was not a large man, in fact he was quite slim, but none of that mattered at this point. Snape could feel something falling into place as he dropped his hands to his lap and laid his head back as Hermione's hands made their way to his chest. He could feel her breasts pressed against his back. The sheet had slipped from them allowing skin-to-skin contact. Pushing his thoughts to the back of his mind like he had done during dark revels, though now for a far less sinister reason, he turned to meet his wife face to face. Her brown eyes glistened with the effects the spell was having on her and her face was flushed.

When he turned his eyes were shuttered. The same stony mask he'd worn was still in place. Would this be the way it was from this day forward? No, it wouldn't be. The man before her had much cause for pain, but she would guide him through it. She would forgive him for everything in hopes that someday he would forgive himself. She leaned her head onto his chest and traced random patterns on his back. Soon he brought his arms up encircle her. For a moment they just rested, one hand on her head the other on her lower back, but soon they began to move. He caressed her back and sides at first, then he included her arms and stomach and finally he brought his hands up to cup her breasts. His hands were rough from the years of cutting and grinding various ingredients. His rough skin scraped against the smoothness of her breasts arousing her. He was amazingly gentle for a man who had always had a rough personality. His thumbs grazed over her nipples, teasing them until they stiffened. She lowered her hands to the belt that held his robe to his waist. It took a moment of fumbling through the soft fabric, but hopefully he took the movements for caresses. Finding the belt along the back she followed it to knot that held it together. Please don't stop. She repeated to herself over and over. The knot was tied loosely so that all she had to do was tug the short end of the belt and the knot undid itself and the robe fell to the bed making two green pools of fabric on either side of his hips.

Snape jumped as he felt the cool air of the room hit the heated skin underneath his robe. He had been so caught up in his own movements and making sure that they were right that he hadn't even noticed her hands moving to undo the knot at his waist. He stared at her face. She was the same girl that he'd tortured in his classroom simply because he knew that she had so much potential, but the girl he had know had grown into a woman in her own right. The soft candlelight softened her features and somehow made her look like the mature young lady she was now instead of the child she had been in his mind until this moment. She still wore the circlet from the ceremony and the crystals that hung from it caught the light creating little stars in the dark mass of curls that framed her face. Those curls were soft to the touch, her skin was warm and smooth, and when he jumped she, thankfully, did not look down, as many witches would have done, but instead she looked at him as if she were asking permission to move her gaze elsewhere.

She deserves better. You are not the loving man she imagines you to be. You are not fit to be husband to anyone let alone a young girl who could have her pick of most any man she met.

She chose you though. You have said it yourself; she is one of the brightest witches of her age. She knows what she's getting into and she's doing so willingly.

That doesn't make it right.

No, it doesn't, but you did not force her into this. Not even that injudicious law forced her.

There had to be a way around it. I should have searched harder.

You both searched; Minerva searched. You and others have protested and yet the law still stands. You did the most you could in the time you had.

This isn't right.

No, but you can do you best to make it so.


Compromise Severus, compromise

I do not compromise. No mere girl will get in the way of my work.

She's a potions student, and a very capable one at that. She won't be in the way; in fact, she will be quite helpful.

The other half of his mind was silent.

She's waiting for you…

Snape shook the thoughts from his mind. She was still staring up at him, waiting for him to continue before she made any more moves herself. Her hands were on his hips. He could feel that they were cold and shaking slightly. She was nervous for all that her face bore nothing but confidence.

What is done is done. Get through this night and you and she have the rest of your lives to find a way out of this. Be gentle, give her what she desires this night. She made a sacrifice for you; the least you can do is make this night hers.

He sighed. He hated giving into anyone. He'd had enough of that in his service as a spy to the Dark Lord years ago. He was his own man now, but one night wouldn't kill him in the least. He cupped his hands around her face and looked, truly looked at her and let her see into him.

The depth of his eyes swallowed her world. There was pain, longing, hate, love, and loathing swirling in the depths. So many emotions, so much that was completely foreign to her, and she couldn't begin to fathom it all. He had lifted his mask and this was the man underneath. He was not unkind, but he was not kind either, neither loving nor cold, but a complete and total mixture of it all. The confidence he displayed in the classroom and in his potions failed him in many other fields. That was the key! He knew that he had done terrible things; he knew he wasn't the most attractive man in the world, and he made up for those things by excelling in what he could do and shunning all the things he felt he was only mediocre at. Oh, how she understood that. Ridiculed in the muggle schools for her hair and teeth she had immersed herself into the world of books. They would never laugh at her and they took her away from the world of people who did. She was determined to show all of those kids that she was smarter than they were even if she wasn't as pretty. It wasn't until she met Ron and Harry that she found that she could be accepted for who she was, and by then her love of books ran as deep as her friendships did.

Accept him for who he is. He will never be loving or kind; he's forgotten most of how those work, but remember that he will do his best by you. Eventually, the two of you will figure a way out of this silly thing, but until then just be understanding. You volunteered for this so you cannot complain about it. He will probably do things apurpose to push you away. Accept that and accept him.

He had unwittingly given her the key to making life together bearable for any length of time. He leaned in towards her. Expecting a kiss, she closed her eyes. Just as his lips touched hers he whispered, "That, my wife, is something you may never show or tell anyone."

Her eyes opened at the venom with which he said those words, "Not a soul, on my honor as your wife," she replied.

He kissed her then. His lips were thin but smooth. His kiss was demanding but not overpowering. Her lips responded to his, parting themselves slightly. He did not take advantage of this yet. His taste was almost bitter, but oddly refreshing. It reminded her of a menthol rub that her mother had used on her when she'd had a cold. The smell had been horrible, but after it eased her breathing it was almost pleasant. She opened her mouth deepening the kiss, surprising the man before her. He responded by moving one hand under her hair to hold her neck, the other snaked itself around her waist and pulled her in close to him. She drew her arms around his waist as well and pulled him towards her. She was almost seated in his lap and could feel his flushed skin against her own. His desire pulsed through him. It must have been a long time since the last, she told herself. She felt something insistent nudge her side, and she forgot to breathe. At last he broke the kiss. She was dizzy. No one had kissed her quite so expertly. He was exact in everything, giving nothing more that was necessary and taking nothing that was not needed.

She tasted of cider and cinnamon. She was soft where he was rigid. At this moment he almost believed she was his perfect compliment. She was spice to his chill. Her lips were soft; he truly did not deserve this woman. When she opened her mouth to his, he couldn't help but draw her in. She had made the decision to become his wife, but she did not need to share more than that with him. When he showed her who he was she did not flinch, she didn't even bat an eye. She accepted it. She accepted the man she would be sharing her life with until they got this law revoked and any marriages made under it annulled. He broke the kiss and slid his hand under the sheets reveling in the feel of her skin uninterrupted by clothing. Catching her under her knees he lifted her slightly and moved her to the center of the bed. He laid her back onto the pillows gently pulling back the sheets so that he may look at all of her. His last time with a willing woman had been during his last year at Hogwarts. The awkwardness of two teenagers in the midst of lust had been most unsatisfying, but when you are only seventeen that doesn't matter. There had been other women, but those had been at the bidding of the Dark Lord for one reason or another.

Her body was soft; it's curves gentle and flowing. Here and there were scars of the past. He traced a white seam gleaming in the candlelight that began where her collarbone met her left shoulder and ended halfway to her elbow. That injury he remembered clear as day. He had seen Lucius too late to stop him from reaching her, thinking that because his wand had been destroyed he was no longer dangerous, but he had more tricks up his sleeve. He lunged with a knife drawn towards a distracted Hermione. Snape had yelled out a curse that only grazed the white-haired demon, but it was enough to make his strike miss her throat and thus saved her life. However it wasn't enough to keep him from his goal. To his horror he saw the knife sink into her uniform, parting the cloth as if it were nothing but gossamer and slicing the skin with just as much ease. She had dropped her wand in the shock of the pain for she had never seen the attack coming. The unadulterated joy that filled his face had sent Severus over the edge. He threw a slicing curse at Lucius, killing him in the way he had intended to kill Hermione. She sank to the ground delirious with pain. Her wand had dropped from her nerveless fingers and she clutched her hand to her shoulder looking astonished at the blood dripping through her fingers. He stood over her for the remainder of the battle. Injured, she was an easy target for any Death Eater even the bumbling Crabbe and Goyle. At some point she came to her senses and he saw her flinging curses and counter-curses from behind his robes despite the injury.

Now the gaping wound was nothing more than the white line under his fingers. Odd, he'd never even seen the original wound, but the scar told him enough. He knew there was another on her ribs along her back from a slicing curse she had not deflected entirely. He had heard her scream in pain from behind him, but thought no more of it when he saw her hex the offending enemy. It was only after the battle when the medi-witch had healed her that he learned of the second injury.

His fingers came to the end of the line and his eyes met hers once more, "I have never thanked you for that," she said softly into the candlelight.

"I do not expect gratitude," he replied simply.

"Still, I am grateful. In many ways," she countered.

Her eyes drifted over his face, memorizing small details that were not apparent from a distance. She then followed the line of his neck to his chest. It was pale and bare before her. Her eyes drifted to his stomach and waist. He was not a chiseled Grecian godling, but he was by no means fat or disgusting. She then moved her view to his feet, too embarrassed to look just below his waist, and she studied his legs for a moment. Not skinny, but not overly large. They almost looked as if he'd done a lot of running. Then again, the years of stalking the castle at night had probably kept them looking this way. She looked once more to his face only to catch his gaze raking over her. His eyes were drinking in the details. She felt oddly self-conscious. What if he didn't like what he saw? It wasn't as if she didn't have her faults as well. Her teenage years had left a few scars on her shoulders, besides the obvious knife-wound, and she wasn't the willowy beauty that was currently in fashion. Yet, he did not seem displeased, and the longer he looked, the more confident she became. Finally, she gathered the courage to look at the rest of him. Dropping her gaze to his hips, she did what any inexperienced schoolgirl would do; she just stared. It wasn't as if she had anything to compare it to, but it wasn't disgusting or deformed or anything. Embarrassed, she returned her gaze to a safer point, the middle of his chest.

He lifted the sheets to slide himself under them, and turned towards her, "I'll be quick," he said.

"We aren't expected anywhere until morning. There is no need for quick unless that is what you want," she replied.

He lay on his side beside her and lowered his lips to hers and continued his caresses. She softly gasped as his hands reached lowered and brushed the hair between her legs. She threw her head back in pleasure at the sensation of his touch in such a private place. He took the opportunity to capture one of her breasts in his mouth. Her eyes flew open at this new sensation. Sure her and Viktor had fooled around but it had never gone beyond some awkward groping and kissing. Here she lay, completely naked with a man with just as much clothing on, utterly alone. She tangled her fingers in his hair, pleasure coursing along every nerve. His fingers slid between her nether-lips slick with her excitement. He seemed surprised at this. Didn't he know what he was doing to her? Finally, she had the presence of mind to return his favors. She reached down towards him and ran her fingers along his length. He took in a deep breath, but made no move to stop her. Gathering courage she wrapped her fingers around him and gently began to stroke him.

His fingers made their way to the center of her pleasures. He gently rubbed at first, but she could feel his inexperience coming to the fore so she took hold of his hand, showing him the small quick circles that felt astounding. Waves of pleasure washed over her from head to toe. Her body began to shudder at the strain of keeping those waves in check. Grabbing his hand and moving it before she came, she calmed herself. It wouldn't do to give herself away so soon. Delirious with the remnants of his ministrations, she turned herself onto her side began to kiss her way down his chest.

When she reached his stomach, he realized her intention, "No," he breathed.

"I want to do this," she said between kisses.

She reached her destination without further complaint from him. He wanted this, he just didn't want her to feel obligated. She kissed the tip and ran her tongue around the ridge before taking it into her mouth. He couldn't help himself, he groaned deep in his throat. It had been far too long since anyone was willing to do this for him. Slowly, she took as much of him as she could into her mouth, feeling him shudder at the sensation. She heard him sigh as she withdrew him from her mouth letting the air hit the now wet skin. Again and again she took him in, slowly building up speed. She could feel him twitch and soon his hands entwined themselves in her hair. Suddenly he jerked her head back, forcing her to release him. It hadn't hurt; it was just sudden and unexpected.

He took a deep breath, "Any more and well…" his voice trailed off at the glint of understanding and the flush of embarrassment in her face.

She lay back against the pillows once more as he moved to cover her body with his own. She shook under him. Why she was shaking so, he could not fathom.

With uncommon kindness he asked, "Are you ok?"

"Yes, I'm fine," she replied her voice only shaking slightly.

He slid his legs between hers, poising himself at her entrance. He looked into her bright eyes, "I'm sorry," he whispered as he thrust himself into her.

There was a slight resistance before he glided into her slick warmth. She cried out under him in pain and the thought of what he'd just done descended upon him with the weight of the entire world, "Oh god…" he breathed, staring into her eyes.

He felt a slight warmth trickle around him, one that was different than what he felt inside her. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked sharply.

"Would you have done it if you had known?" she shot back. Obviously, she was prepared for this and expected an argument to ensue.

Be gentle. This is her sacrifice. His mind reminded him.

"I could not say. Oh god, Hermione, I just… You should have…" he was at a complete loss for words.

It was the first time he had used her given name instead of her surname, "I know, but I chose. This was my choice," she paused, tears forming at the corners of her eyes, then almost inaudibly she added, "Please don't stop".

She felt him move within her. Slowly at first, to lessen the unavoidable pain while it lasted, but when her whimpers of pain transmuted into moans of pleasure he began to thrust harder and faster. The candlelight showed that her skin was flushed and gleaming with the sheen of sweat. The slight movement of her breasts at each thrust entranced him. He caught one of them in his mouth tasting the salt of their exertions. She clutched his back, her nails dragging firmly against her skin. There would be red marks, but nothing that wouldn't fade within an hour or so. She brought her legs up to wrap them around his waist allowing him better access to her deepest parts.

The heat she radiated from within her was more than enough to drive Severus to the edge, but he waited for her. Thankfully, he did not have to wait long. Her eyes brimmed over in pleasure as she cried out his name in ecstasy. She clamped down on him so tightly he could not move. Gratefully, there was no need to. He spilled himself into her, dropping his head onto her chest, his shoulders shaking with exhaustion. Gently, he laid himself on top of her to give his shoulders a rest. He didn't want to think, because if he did he would have to think about what he had just done.

The weight of him on top of her was a comfort. He hadn't just left her after performing his duty. She had given herself freely, but she was glad that he had seemed to take that into his consideration. She had expected him to simply take her and leave her, but it was something she was willing to accept. After a moment he withdrew from her, and after reaching for his wand, cleaned himself and turned to do the same for her. He stopped mid-movement to stare at the stain of red on the sheet between her legs. How many times had he done the same under the Dark Lord's command before the victim was tortured and slaughtered? Too many times to remember. He simply sat there, wand in hand, mid-spell, stunned.

His lack of movement finally registered itself with Hermione, and she closed her legs breaking his view of the stain beneath her. He looked up at her as she sat up. She stared at the sheets on which she and her former professor had just consummated their marriage gathering her thoughts before looking to her new husband's face.

"Whatever you may have done, whatever you may think, that was then and this is now. For the foreseeable future, you and I are one and the same. You were forced to this point, but this was my choice. Freely made, and freely given. You have made your sacrifice, and now I have made mine. This is my sacrifice, and I am happy to be able to make it to you. You are far more deserving than you will let yourself believe."

With that Severus gathered his robe, threw it over his nakedness, and simply left the room without a word. Hermione watched him go then cleaned herself and the bed before settling in it for the night. She had hoped he would stay with her, but he had much to think through and she knew that he needed to do it himself. Gathering a pillow to her she let the dark waters of slumber carry her down into their dreamy depths.

The candle gutted itself out sometime later shrouding the room in darkness. Night passed filling the room with depths only night could create. As the first hints of light seared their way through the faltering night, a dark form slipped in the door, careful not to disturb the room's current occupant. A whispered word cast a clean, steady glow about the room. He gazed upon the woman sleeping in his bed. He had spent hours thinking through the events leading to this moment, and dawn had brought no more answers than dusk had left. With a sigh, and a determination of will he slid into the bed. He had seen far too many needless sacrifices to allow this one to drift by him in vain. Gathering the slight woman in his arms he joined her in the seas of dreams.