'Cause when my back is turned,
My bruises shine.
Our broken fairytale,
So hard to hide.
I still believe it's you and me 'til the end of time.
When we collide we come together,
If we don't we'll always be apart.
-Many of Horror, by Biffy Clyro


Severus Snape leaned against the wall, growing angrier by the second, watching her.

She spun, scantily clad in the matte silk navy blue dress that he had told her not to wear, long curls falling messy down her back, white gold earrings shaped into bows glinting from among her kinky brown hair.

Hermione was dancing with Lucius, their host, a ploy by the older and still married man to infringe upon the arranged marriage he knew was failing fast. Though perhaps to fail it had to have been good in the first place.

Arranged by the Ministry, that is. Some crock of a marriage law had been enacted, forcing half- and pure-bloods to marry Muggleborns or Muggles. The famous sole exception to the law had been Ginerva Weasley and Harry Potter, both purebloods, but who had been allotted special leeway by the new Minister (Shaklebolt) due to Harry's "involvement in the Voldemort war."

Bullshit, in Snape's opinion. Why hadn't he earned a pardon from the crap of a law? He'd done more than anyone else to ensure the Dark Lord's downfall, and yet, he lived in infamy and with no place to go in society. Unless, of course, he was trailing after his heathen of a wife. They'd opened a potion supply company together, with the purse winnings that came with their Order of Merlins (Hers: First Class. His: Third). It was the only time their fighting and ignoring one another was at a minimum; though, perhaps that was due to the separate potions labs on either side of their sprawling house (a wedding gift from Lucius, less to please Severus and more to rub it in everyone's face that he could still afford to be frivolous with his money).

He caught his wife's eye, as she and Lucius stilled from their dancing and made their way toward him. Her face, relaxed as she laughed with Malfoy, tightened as she met his gaze.

"Your wife, Severus," Lucius said, keeping his hand where it rested discreetly at the small of her back. Severus nodded sharply.

"Thank you, Lucius, that will be all."

The blond man, a predatory glint in his eye, smiled broadly at them, bowed slightly to Hermione and kissed her hand, before making his way out into the crowd.

"You make me look an imbecile," he shot at her, from where he leaned against the wall in the shadows, arms cross and a glare evident on his face.

"Oh, shall I not dance with anyone? Any other marital rules I should know about?" she shot back, face reddening, gaze fierce.

"Just the standards. Not engaging with other men, for one." His voice was low and deadly, his eyes narrowed at her.

"What do you mean, other men? It's not as though we 'engage,' as you put it. Eloquent as always."

He bared his crooked teeth slightly at her insolence.

"Watch your tongue, girl," he all but growled.

"Why bother? You seem to be watching it quite closely for me, Snape," she hissed.

Their argument, though hushed, was loud enough to draw a few nosey gazes from the crowded ballroom, old busybodies peering in their direction and whispering behind their hands.

"Let's step outside, love," he snapped, grabbing her wrist and pulling her with him. She pulled against him, attempting to pry his fingers from hers, but realized the publicity of the action and refrained, following after him into the huge courtyard of Malfoy Manor.

There were several couples outside, sitting by the ornate fountain or hiding behind shrubs, who gave them curious glances as Severus stormed into the garden, Hermione stumbling behind him.

"Leave. Now," he said loudly, releasing her arm.

The women grabbed at the hands of their lovers, and the men wrapped a protective arm around their lady-loves, shooting frightened glares at Severus, but not daring to oppose the obviously furious former Death Eater.

When the garden was clear, Severus turned toward her, cheeks pink from anger. Seeing the curious faces peering at them through the panes of glass, he grabbed her wrist again and pulled her partway through the twisting hedges, until they'd encountered an alcove, complete with a wide stone bench and several trees.

"You cannot speak to me like that," he growled.

"I can speak to you however I want, sir."

"Not after the spectacle you made of yourself with Lucius, you can't."

"Spectacle!" she scoffed. "That wasn't a spectacle. We were dancing. Surely you've heard of it?"

"You were not dancing, he was trying to get you into his bed. And it didn't look like you were protesting. That is not how a married witch should behave," he said, hands clenched at his sides.

"Oh, I should have protested someone paying attention to me? Treating me like a woman? I'm sorry, but generally married women don't need to look outside their own homes for that sort of attention. Generally, married women's husbands speak to them, and tell them they look beautiful, or at least spend time in their beds. We aren't married in anything but name," she hissed, but he almost thought he saw something else behind the bitter words.

"Is that what you want, wife? Someone to hold you close, and wipe away your tears, and coddle you with flowers and chocolates?" he snarled, taking a large step toward her, closing the space between them so that she had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes. He could feel the rapid rise and fall of her breasts against his upper stomach, the delicate silk catching on the buttons of his frock coat.

"It's not like it would kill you to spend time with me!" she yelled.

"It's not like it would kill you to remain faithful to me!" he shot back.

"I have never committed adultery. I've never even spent more than ten minutes alone with a man not Harry or Ron since I married you last year. Unlike the numerous times you've been to Aphrodite's Palace of Wonders in Knockturn Alley!"

His eyes narrowed. "How did you know that?"

She laughed bitterly. "I've seen the transactions when I approve our Gringotts accounts every month."

"It's not what you think," he said, voice slightly less fiery than it had been moments prior.

"Oh, a rousing defence. Let's hear more, shall we?"

He glared down at her. "I'll tell you nothing beyond that. You should know that I wouldn't engage with prostitutes."

"Oh, of course not. Not when you're so satisfied in your marital bed. Apparently you're one of those men who only need be sated once a decade," she hissed, eyes flashing.

He stepped even closer, forcing her to step back, but she was caught between him and an unyielding tree.

"I never claimed to be satisfied, woman," he said, voice silken. "But I do not take my commitments so lightly, as you seem to. And I have not engaged with a woman since putting that ring on your finger."

"Oh, that's rich, I'll bet—" she began, but was cut off with his mouth dropped to hers, just to shut her up, one large hand trapping her head, mouth fierce and demanding, teeth biting her lip viciously. She opened her mouth to protest, and he took the opportunity to delve his tongue into her mouth, running it sinuously along hers. She moaned softly, digging her fingers hard into his shoulders. Wrapping his fingers in her hair and palming her breast with his other hand, he kissed her for a long, hot moment before dropping his hands to her waist and lifting her against the tree, letting the pressure of his body hold her there while he pressed a muscled leg between hers. He heard the fragile fabric of her skirt tear, and she gasped slightly into his mouth, and he released her mouth to drop his face to her collarbone, both hands on her breasts, biting the crook of her neck before sucking the skin and running his tongue incredibly softly from there up to her ear. He sucked the soft skin behind her ear, pleased to hear the way her breath caught and she ground herself against his leg. He pulled back to catch her mouth again, sucking her lower lip hard, and she mewled. Merlin, he'd made his wife mewl. What twisted sort of night was this?

He didn't have long to ponder, though, because his brilliant mewling little wife had realised that they were both still clothed and was struggling with his buttons to remedy the situation. He stepped back slowly, letting her slide down the tree, and pulled his wand out of his sleeve, casting a series of complex Silencing and Disguising spells around their alcove, designed to make passer-bys think that no such alcove existed. There was also a strong Repelling spell thrown in there, which would set the intruder's pants on fire if they tried to step past the boundary.

He turned back to see Hermione kicking off her impossibly tall beige suede stilettos, already down to her lacy navy knickers and nothing else. He felt himself grow even harder as he watched her standing there, naked in the Malfoy's garden, for him. He started on his coat, undoing the buttons with a practiced speed, then tugging the thick thing off entirely. He pulled at his white dress shirt, speeding up when she ran her hands across her breasts, tugging at her nipples before bending over and pulling off her knickers, then reaching one hand between her legs and rubbing circles into herself. He tripped over himself as he tried to kick his shoes off as he unbuttoned his trousers, finally succeeding and shoving his trousers and underpants to the floor, pulling his socks off as he stepped out of the pile of garments. He closed the distance between them in two strides, and was replacing her fingers with his own calloused ones as he met her mouth again, hard, bruising. She tangled one hand in his lank hair, pulling herself up to him, bending one knee up to his waist so he had better access to her depths as she wrapped her other hand around his cock, foregoing gentle foreplay for a firm grip and quick tugs. He groaned, hand stilling inside her, and he managed to pull himself away from her mouth long enough to look over her shoulder and push her toward the bench.

The stone was cold when they lay on it, and he imagined she must be much colder than he because her whole back was splayed across it, but their skin was so overheated that it didn't matter. She spread her legs wide, knees bent, and he leaned over her, supported by his hands on either side of her head. She ran her nails down his stomach, causing his muscles to clench momentarily, before she used one small hand to pull his large shaft to her centre. He paused, transferring his weight to his left arm so he could use his right hand to grab her breast, rolling her nipple between his thumb and forefinger.

"Never, witch," he growled, voice sandpapery and low. "I've not done this since we were wed. Not once. I was faithful" —he paused as he slammed his length into her, causing her to arch up against him with a gasp, eyes shut, digging her nails into his back— "to you" —another thrust— "every damn day of the past fifteen months," he finished, thrusting hard before stilling inside her, transferring his weight back to both arms and watching her face.

"Severus—" she said, voice choked, opening her eyes and looking up at him. She tangled a hand in his hair and pulled his head back, leaning up and biting his neck, sucking hard to ease the sting. He thrust forward, involuntarily, the jerky nudge earning him a gasp. She dropped her head back.

"God, Severus, please just fuck me," Hermione growled softly into his ear, pulling his head down to hers. He groaned, and though he'd meant to make her beg harder for it, he began to thrust again, hard, motions growing jerky well before he'd meant to because she mewled again, caught his mouth with hers in an open-mouthed kiss that was more rapid breathing than lips. He felt and heard her come over the peak, clenching around him and wrapping her legs around his waist as he slammed four or five more shallow, uneven thrusts into her, coming hard inside her from the increased pressure and the feel of her sweat-soaked skin pressed hard against his own.

Severus collapsed beside her, breathing hard, hot and sweaty. She curled up next to him, keeping her leg wrapped around his waist. He shifted, turning slightly towards her so he could put an arm around her waist, and his sharp hipbone pressed into her core. He'd have thought nothing of it, but she gasped inaudibly, pressed her face harder into the hollow of his collarbone and rocked against him once before he felt a hard shudder run through her body, dissipating slowly, and she relaxed her tight grip on his arm and let out a shaky laugh. He chuckled too, for a moment, but kept his eyes shut, holding her, just breathing. He didn't want to break the moment, the thin thread of whatever had brought them together so fiercely.

But as their breath slowed, and their pulses calmed, he realised how cold the garden was in the late September air, felt her shiver, and he stirred. She sat up with him, and he kept his arm around her, as though they were in a real relationship instead of just a sham of a marriage.

"I'm sorry I was giving you such shit about Aphrodite's," she murmured, rubbing his thigh with her hand. "I believe you, I just didn't have anything else to be upset about. And I'm too stubborn to back down when we get going."

He laughed softly, but not really with happiness.

"I think that sums up most of our marriage."

She laughed too, pressing her face into his chest.

"The Aphrodite thing…" he began, unsure in this unknown territory of openness.

"There's a girl there. One of Lucius' discarded lovers. I pay for an appointment, and we talk. She'd gotten with child from the affair, and Lucius didn't think before he publically ruined her. He left her with nothing."

Hermione was silent, her jaw loosed, eyes looking up at him.

"You… you just talk?" she asked, voice soft again, disbelieving.

He nodded curtly. "She has nothing. I just try to help her. Picking up Lucius' stray ends, as always."

"And she… you've never… been with her? At all?"

He nodded again, suddenly feeling incredibly vulnerable, searching her eyes for something. What, he didn't know.

Hermione ran a hand along his collarbone, dropping her gaze not quite meeting his eyes.

"She doesn't mean anything to you?" That time, her question came out as an almost-whisper, as though she almost didn't want to ask for fear of the answer.

"Beyond helping her and her son, no."

She laughed, a surprised little thing that he hadn't expected but didn't want to end.

"I've been so jealous all these months of a girl you've never kissed," she said, smiling slightly at him. "I should have just asked you. It's why I've been so nasty lately, and why I've been flirting with Lucius, and why I wore that scandalous dress."

He smiled, tucking her hair behind her ear with two long fingers.

"Jealous?" he questioned, heart hammering a little too quickly. This answer mattered a little too much for him to bear.

"The thing is," she said quietly, flushing further, "is that I think I've developed feelings for you."

He stared down at her, mouth hanging open slightly. She smiled wryly, laying her head against his shoulder again.

"I know, it doesn't make any sense. But I have. I… I was so upset from the Aphrodite thing. Devastated. I thought that we could… I thought we could be happy, maybe. Maybe even fall in love. I don't know, I know it's silly, but… I wanted that. That's what I thought marriage would bring, even though it's supposed to be the other way 'round. And then when I thought you were off paying for sex with random women rather than me, it hurt so badly. It made me sick to think that you would pay loads of Galleons to sleep with those harlots, instead of just sleeping with me."

He smoothed her hair back, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

"I know I've been a bad husband—" he began. She started to contradict him, but he shushed her, continuing. "I know I've been a bad husband, but… things have just been so difficult. I was furious with the law, and I was taking it out on you. It wasn't fair, and I'm sorry, but I didn't know how else to deal with it. I didn't know how to be a husband, or even a lover, and marrying a beautiful, brilliant young woman that an old, bitter man like myself didn't deserve didn't make it any easier. You were still in this after-glow of the Final Battle, success and glory soaking your life, and I was shunted off into the corner, my pounds of flesh paid and forgotten."

"I didn't forget you," she whispered, toying with the black hair on his leg with her fingers.

He didn't know how to respond to that, so he didn't.

"If you ever thought I wasn't attracted to you, I'm sorry. I was, unbelievably so, and it was so difficult to leave you on our wedding night, when you were slipping off your dress—" his voice tightened, hoarsened. "When you were slipping off your dress it just seemed so sick, that I, a scarred and emotionally crippled old man should share a bed with something so beautiful and heroic. You didn't deserve to be stuck with me."

There was a pause.

"I have a confession," she whispered, so quietly he barely heard her, even in the stillness of the garden.

"Yes?" he asked, chest tightening, nervousness, causing the hand rubbing the leg that was wrapped around his waist to still.

"I… I asked a favour from Kingsley. Harry got to choose who he married, and I… I did too. I asked to be paired with you," she said, sitting back to look him in the eye. "I wanted you so badly, I thought… I was so selfish, and I thought that if you were trapped with me, maybe you'd come to love me back one day. I didn't mean to put you through any of the things you just said, I just… I wanted you so much." She ended in a whisper again, and she wiped roughly at a stray tear that had run down her face.

He cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck.

"You… wanted me?"

She nodded, turning red. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to force you into anything. I let the law do that for me. We can try to have it annulled, maybe, since it wasn't really following the rules of the law in the first place…" she trailed off, staring out into the bushes, looking terribly lonely in that moment, sitting naked, legs tangled with his.

He shook his head before he realised he was. Now was the time to tell it, if it was ever going to come out. Now, alone in the chilly September air, he could finally tell her his secret.

"No, I… I wanted you. When I saw you, at the ceremonies after the Battle… I was floored by it. I thought I was such a lecher, that you should be with someone who knew about you. Who had things in common with you. I was shocked when I found out that you and I were paired, and I was so fucking happy, and so disgusted with myself for being happy. Because I thought I was stealing your life away."

She was smiling at him stupidly, and he realised the expression was mirrored on his face. He wound a hand in her wild hair, and pulled her toward him, kissing her with every bit of feeling he could find in himself. It wasn't gentle, not quite, but it was so thick with emotion that gentleness paled in comparison. It was deep, and real, and so complex that he felt like he couldn't breathe. But he remembered something, something she'd said, and pulled back suddenly.

"Did you say you loved me?" he whispered, eyes searching hers.

She blushed. He pressed his forehead against hers, hands cupping her jaw, eyes shut.

"I love you too," he whispered, words he'd never said before, words that didn't come easy to him. But now they felt as simple as they were. For all the poetry that spouted off about love, he'd never expected it to be this fierce, this simple. He loved her. That's all there was, and it was the only thing that really mattered.

He felt her smile, and he met her lips with his again in a bruising kiss, trying to verify that this was really happening, and she kissed him back, just as hard.

"Let's go home."