Tottenham Court Road was busier than they might have wished, particularly now that they were under attack. Sure, if the people who were around had been armed with wands, it would have helped; but instead, it was Muggles whose lives were being put at risk.
With little hope in sight, Hermione did the only thing she could think to do in such a situation, i.e., being chased by Death Eaters who had probably been told to kill them.
She gave Harry her bag.
"It's got everything you'll need in it!" she shouted, trying to match his strides. "Please, you can't lose it. No matter what, keep going!"
"Hermione, you have to stay with us!" Harry hollered back.
"Of course she does!" Ron said, also shouting, as they ran along, their feet clattering on the ground. "She wouldn't leave us, would you?"
Hermione shoved the two boys into an alleyway.
"It opens like a normal bag," she said, panting slightly. "You know I'm not as athletic as you are. In case anything goes wrong," two Death Eaters crept up behind them, the boys concentrating too much on what Hermione was saying to notice, "you have to remember," they suddenly grabbed her arms, dragging her backward, "to keep going!"
"Hermione!" the boys yelled, lunging forward, but Hermione was apparated away before she even knew what was going on herself.
How did I know this might happen? she asked herself as they arrived in a dark room.
She didn't know how long she was there. What the hell was going on? Would the boys find her? Did she really want them risking so much, so many people, just for her?
Eventually, someone opened the door, and a light shone inside, making Hermione squeeze her eyes almost shut. There was a cackle, and her blood fairly froze. That sounded like Bellatrix Lestrange.
It was Bellatrix Lestrange.
"Come now, deary," she said, grabbing Hermione's arm. The girl had been disarmed immediately she had been apparated into the room. She wasn't skilled enough at wandless magic to do anything to her two captors. Now she was regretting not having tried harder.
Bellatrix pulled her down corridors, Hermione dragging her feet to try to postpone the inevitable; but madness made the Lestrange woman a lot stronger than she looked, and Hermione didn't stand a chance.
"Good work, Bella," Lord Voldemort hissed as they entered his room, and Hermione started to shake where she stood. "Come forward, child."
"Do as he says," Bellatrix warned Hermione, and she pushed her forward so violently that Hermione fell to her knees, wincing with the pain. There was laughter from all sides of the room, and Hermione swiftly turned around, reaching for her wand automatically, only to feel distressed when she realised that she was still unarmed.
"The Mudblood is confused," Voldemort said, and Hermione shuddered at the sound of his voice, tinged as it was with amusement.
"What do you want with me?" she asked, turning back to look him straight in the eyes.
"My dear, you are most fortunate," he said, wide-eyed with mock innocence. "Here you are, at Malfoy Manor," Hermione ground her teeth, "and you're worried about my motives in having you brought here? Why, just look at your surroundings. Aren't they magnificent?"
"I feel sick enough as it is," Hermione said. "I somehow don't feel like making it worse."
"Why, you little br…" Lucius Malfoy started to say, but Voldemort shot him a look, and he wisely shut up.
"You will soon be taken to your new home," he told Hermione, who still hadn't taken her eyes off him, all senses on alert.
"My new home?" she asked, trying to remember what Professor Snape had taught them about wandless and non-verbal magic. Oh, what had he said?
But the thought of the former teacher made her feel sick all over again, and she realised that she wasn't paying attention to what Voldemort was saying.
"Huh?" she asked, focussing again.
"Such an inarticulate answer for someone who's supposed to be the brightest witch of her age," Voldemort taunted. The other sniggered yet again, and Hermione's jaw tightened.
"So sorry," she said sweetly, "but I wasn't really paying attention. That was my way of asking you to kindly repeat yourself."
Now the Death Eaters collectively held their breath. Hermione wondered what the collective term was for Death Eaters. A murder of Death Eaters? No, that was a murder of crows; though judging by the uniform, it would be close enough.
"You can think about collective nouns at a later time," Voldemort said, and Hermione mentally cursed herself for having forgotten that he was a Legillimens. "No. I'll just explain again. I want someone to carry on in my place after I retire from what it is I am doing. Someone who can continue with Salazar Slytherin's noble cause. And if I never retire, someone to lead from the other side of the world."
"I'll never help you, except maybe over a cliff," Hermione said, a growl in her voice, and Voldemort smiled.
"Did I forget to say that you have no choice? Dear me, how remiss. Oh well. Crucio."
Hermione refused to scream. She point-blank refused. This was only physical torture, not the emotional or psychological torture that she went through in her years before Hogwarts, being shunned by the other children for being different. After all that she had been through, this she could handle.
"Now," Voldemort said, lifting the curse. "You are going to help by bearing a child for me to raise. As, due to my advancing years…"
"In other words, you're old," Hermione interrupted, and he frowned at her.
"I may not be able to—how shall I put this?—help in the process," Hermione snorted, "you will marry someone of my choosing, and your first-born with him may, one day, be my heir. How would you like that?"
"Who am I supposed to be marrying?" Hermione asked, laughter clear in her voice.
"All in good time, Miss Granger," he said. "All in good time."
Hermione muttered something; but Voldemort, with his excellent hearing, chuckled when he recognised the name 'Charlie Chaplin'. She looked up in surprise, and frowned at his reaction, before looking down once again. Then she had it.
"I know!" she cried. "An idiocy of Death Eaters!"
She burst into fits of laughter, holding her stomach as she laughed hysterically.
Before she could think, Voldemort grabbed her up into his arms, and apparated her away. It was with a start of surprise when she saw that they were outside the gates of Hogwarts, but was soon being pulled through the gates, up along the path.
The sky was cauldron black; the cold nipped at Hermione's arms and legs, which were still bare despite the shawl twisted around her shoulders. Death Eaters flanked her, and Voldemort's left hand gripped her arm so hard that she was sure her skin was colouring already.
"I warn you," he said, the hiss in his voice more pronounced as the breeze around them threatened to strengthen, "if you dare to warn anyone of your—or our—presence, five innocent people will die most painfully, and you shall follow after you watch them suffer. Do you understand, Miss Granger?"
Hermione nodded; when his fingernails dug into her skin, she whispered, "Yes."
They crept indoors. It was holiday-time, and so late at night, that no one wandered the corridors. Not even Mrs. Norris could be heard; her usual padding paws were absent from the gloom of the dark Entrance Hall. Up the stairs, along hallways. Hermione soon realised that they seemed to be heading towards the headmaster's office, but couldn't understand why.
"What…" she began, as they stopped at the guardian gargoyle. Voldemort raised his eyebrows at her, and then looked at the gargoyle. Hermione was terrified to see that it just leapt out of the way at his look, as though frightened of him. What was going on?
They reached the door to the office and it opened, again with no word from him. He politely gestured for her to precede him into the office, which she did. After all, she was unarmed, so she really didn't have any choice.
With a sudden burst of anger, Hermione saw that Severus Snape sat behind the desk of the man he had so lately killed.
"You," she whispered quietly, fury blazing within her. Severus saw it in her eyes, and he watched her unsmilingly.
"I believe you know Severus Snape," Voldemort said, tilting his head. Hermione glared up at him, and then back down to her former teacher.
"Not as well as I thought I did," she said, and Severus looked at her warningly. "To think of all the times I defended you against Harry and Ron, all the times I tried so hard in class, just because so few appreciated potion-making as much as I do."
There was silence for a few moments, as Severus continued to look at her, still expressionless. "Well, he's the new headmaster of Hogwarts," Voldemort said, and Hermione gasped, looking at him, "and your fiancé."
When Hermione came to, she opened her eyes to the sight of her future husband's face looking down at her, dark hair framing his face, dark eyes burning into hers. If she hadn't known better, she would have said that he looked concerned.
Future husband. Fiancé. Oh dear.
Tears crept down her face, threatening to poison her ears like the ears of King Hamlet were poisoned. She sat up, burying her face in her hands, and freely sobbed.
"Don't worry, Miss Granger," Severus said drily. "I had the exact same reaction when I was told that I had to marry you."
Voldemort and the other Death Eaters laughed at his remark, and Hermione just glared furiously at her fiancé.
"Glad to know that tearing your soul apart hasn't made a dent in your store of sarcasm," she said acerbically, and Severus' eyes flashed. He took a hold of her hand, and helped her to her feet, gentler than she would have expected, glancing at her hands while he pulled.
"Che gelida manina," he said softly, and Hermione looked at him.
Noting her look of confusion as she allowed herself to be helped up, watching her former teacher's face closely, Voldemort decided to clarify the situation.
"Severus has strict instructions not to harm you, as you must soon carry a child for my future use, if I'm unable to impregnate the Pureblood girl I've chosen," he said, drawing Hermione's attention back to him.
She ripped her hands out of Severus', and asked sharply, "Which unfortunate girl were you planning to take?"
"Feeling protective, Mudblood?" Voldemort asked. "Don't worry; I do intend to marry Miss Weasley before impregnating her…"
"NO!" Hermione shrieked, darting forward, and beating him on the chest. "You leave her alone! Oh, gods, please don't do it. Not to Ginny. Oh, please don't. I'll do it. I'll do anything. Just please don't touch her. Never… please, sir," she said, turning to Severus, and grabbing him by the shoulders. "Merlin, Professor Snape, don't let him hurt her. Don't let him near her. She's only a child; she's… please. Leave her out of this." Her heart broke as she fell once again to the floor; this time, her hands trailing down Severus' chest, and then his legs, as she sank to her knees. She clutched at the edges of his robes, sobs wracking her whole body.
"Please us, and she may yet be spared," Voldemort said, cocking his head to the other side as he watched Severus squat down, shaking Hermione's shoulders slightly to try and calm her down.
"All right," Hermione said, weeping. "All right." In her distress, she gripped the nearest person to her, which just happened to be her fiancé. She wrapped her arms around his waist, tears smearing her entire face and staining their clothes as she held tight. With an uncomfortable look and a shrug to the Dark Lord, Severus put his arms around her shoulders, patting her on the back.
"Calm down, Granger," he said firmly. Voldemort smirked.
"Sign this," he said, thrusting a piece of parchment to Hermione, and holding out a Self-Inking Quill in the other hand. She signed where he indicated, blinded by her tears, before burying her face back into the shoulder of Severus' black cloak.
"You shall not tell anyone why you have married him," Voldemort continued, before handing the quill to the headmaster, who then signed the parchment as well. Hermione felt a tingling on her finger, and glanced at her left hand briefly. She looked again as she realised what she had seen: a ring had appeared on her ring finger.
"Oh…" she said, and she looked at Severus, who held up his own left hand. Sure enough, he bore a matching ring. Both rings moved in place, fluctuating on their fingers, and Hermione examined hers curiously, numb from shock.
"They will stop moving once the marriage has been… consummated," the Dark Lord said, another smirk twitching at the edges of his thin lips. The other Death Eaters laughed, until Severus shot them such a severe look that they clammed up, suddenly very afraid. Hermione almost laughed at that, but she stopped when she realised the severity of her situation.
"But…" and she looked wide-eyed at Severus, who merely raised an eyebrow.
"I expect to see a still ring when next we meet again, Severus," Voldemort said, sweeping out of the room. "And you, Mrs. Snape. Have fun tonight!"
Risking a collective snigger, the others followed him out, leaving the newlyweds behind.
"How… how did this happen?" Hermione asked, standing shakily. Severus had to hold her under the elbows to stop her from falling.
"You unwisely signed a parchment without reading it," Severus said, leading her out of the room, "after swearing to the Dark Lord himself that you'd do anything he said to spare the virtue of your precious Ginny Weasley. Now, to bed, wife," he continued, leading her into his quarters, and pulling her to his bedroom.
"Yes, Severus," Hermione said, not really knowing what she was saying, nor what she was doing. Her husband paused when she spoke his first name; and the cease of movement brought her back to earth with a bang. "No," she whispered hoarsely, as he opened the bedroom door, and saw the four-poster resting there, covers pulled back in readiness.
"Oh yes," he said, and he tugged her arm to bring her into the room where they had to finalise their marriage. She followed reluctantly, wondering how long it had been since she had been taken from Tottenham Court Road, wondering where the boys were, wondering whether it would hurt…
A few minutes later, their wedding rings ceased moving on their fingers.
First of all, what do you think so far? ("Roo-bish!" I figured that since I'm writing a time-travel fic, and intend to soon start work on a Time-turner story as well, I thought I should do my own version of a marriage law story. I may yet do a more conventional one; but for the time being, this shall hopefully do.
When Hermione refers to Charlie Chaplin, it is because he got his last wife pregnant when he was, what? 60? 70? 80? 116? And when Severus says "Che gelida manina", he is referring to the famous tenor aria from La Bohéme. It means "Your tiny hands are frozen". Beautiful song; it comes before "Si, mi chiamano Mimi" ("My name is Mimi"), which is also a beautiful song.
In fact… we're at the opening night of La Boheme at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. Tonight. Woo hoo!
Enough from me. Read and review, dear reader/s.