"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Chapter 7: Happiness in Marriage

The evening of the wedding was certainly lovely enough. Dumbledore had arranged to hold the ceremony in a small chapel-like gallery on the western side of the castle, where they would have an excellent view of the sunset through the large windows. The entire area had been cordoned off with privacy charms and wards so no wayward students could interrupt the ceremony.

Someone had placed bouquets of flowers on each of the windows, giving the entire area a pleasant, floral scent. It was nearly enough for Severus to gag. Didn't they understand that this was the least romantic wedding in history? If he could, he would have had a simple exchanging of vows in the Headmaster's office without even changing out of his teaching robes. This atmosphere was wholly unnecessary.

As it was, however, Severus had changed into his dress robes at the behest of Albus. They were still black, but cut slightly differently, and of much finer material.

The Headmaster looked festive in dress robes of periwinkle with a pattern of silver crescent moons. Minerva, too, had dressed for the occasion in robes and a matching hat of brilliant crimson. In fact, the only figures that looked as dour as Severus felt the occasion merited were the two Ministry witnesses wearing plain Ministry-issued robes in a dull brown.

Music began to play softly, startling him from his reflections. Severus looked around for the source and realized that the flowers had been charmed. He shot Minerva a reproachful look, and she shrugged, directing her gaze to Dumbledore, whose twinkling eyes confirmed his role in the enchantment. Severus barely restrained a roll of his eyes at the unnecessary sentimentality.

His attention returned to the scene before him, as a figure appeared at the back of the room. Granger—no, he corrected himself—Hermione wore a gauzy white set of dress robes. With the setting sun framing her, she looked rather ethereal. The robes draped around her, and she seemed to glide as she walked. The only indication of her apprehension was the tight grip she had on the bundle of flowers she carried. Miss Weasley walked elegantly behind her friend, carrying the long veil, which as Hermione drew closer, Severus could see was attached to a garland of flowers woven through her hair.

While her body language portrayed calmness, when she was within a few feet of the altar, Severus could see the panic in her wide eyes and the tightly controlled facial expression she resolutely held.

Only four people stood as audience to the ceremony: the Ministry representatives, Minerva, and Ginevra Weasley. Nevertheless, Albus faced the four with the same amount of dignity as if he were speaking to a gathered crowd.

Dumbledore began the ceremony. "Ladies and gentlemen. We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls in the marriage of Hermione Jean Granger and Severus Tobias Snape. There are many things to say about the joining together of two souls. With each union, more knowledge is gained and more wisdom gathered. The law of life is love unto all beings. Without love, life is nothing, without love, death has no redemption. Love comes before Life, lasts beyond Death, and is the initiation of all things. If we learn no more in life, let it be this.

Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after considerable thought and reflection. As with any aspect of life, it has its cycles, its ups and its downs, its trials and its triumphs. With full understanding of this, Hermione and Severus have come here today to be joined as one in marriage."

The speech was sentimental and dramatic, as could be expected from Albus.

He spoke first to Hermione, asking, "Hermione, is it true that you come of your own free will and accord?"

She swallowed, and answered tremulously, "Yes, it is true."

Ginevra Weasley stepped forward, to affirm Hermione's answer. "I stand as witness."

Dumbledore turned and asked, "Severus, is it true that you come of your own free will and accord?"

He found his voice. "Yes, it is true."

Minerva affirmed the statement.

The Headmaster smiled. "Please join hands and listen to that which I am about to say." Severus reached for Hermione's hands. They were shockingly cold, and seemed utterly limp in his larger hands.

Dumbledore continued, "Above you are the stars, below you are the stones, as time passes, remember:

"Like a stone should your love be firm, like a star should your love be constant. Let the powers of your minds and intellects guide you in your marriage, let the strength of your wills bind you together, let the power of love and desire make you happy, and the strength of your dedication make you inseparable. Be close, but not too close. Possess one another, yet be understanding. Have patience with one another, for storms will come, but they will pass. Be free in giving affection and warmth.

"Hermione, if it be your wish for Severus to be bonded with you, place the ring on his finger."

The Headmaster held out his hand, with the two rings on his palm. Hermione let go of Severus' hand to retrieve the ring.

"It is my wish," she stated, and slipped the ring onto his long finger. It felt unusually warm, which Severus attributed to its former resting place in Albus' pocket.

"Severus, if it be your wish for Hermione to be bonded with you, place the ring on her finger.

"It is my wish." He retrieved the ring, and slid it onto her cold and slender hand. The charm adjusted until it fit perfectly.

Once again, he grasped Hermione's cold hands. She met his eyes for a moment, and then redirected her gaze to the connection between them.

The Headmaster raised his wand, pointing it at the hands before him. Golden ribbons of light appeared around them, weaving in and out of their grasp. Severus could feel the energy from the magical bonds.

Dumbledore's voice seemed to grow more powerful. "Do you, Severus Tobias, take Hermione Jean to be your bonded wife?"

"I do." His voice did not falter, for which he was glad. The ribbons of light flashed brighter.

"Do you, Hermione Jean take Severus Tobias to be your bonded husband?"

"I do." She said it so softly, he wondered if the witnesses could even hear her. It didn't matter, though. It was apparent that the words had been said, as the bonds grew brighter and brighter, illuminating the whole chamber. Abruptly, their glow faded, as they seemed to sink into the skin of their clasped hands, disappearing beneath the skin.

Albus opened his arms, laying his hands upon their shoulders. "Then I declare you bonded for life. May Hermione and Severus know great love together, and may they live in the desire to always support each other in positive and uplifting ways. May they strengthen one another in sorrow, share with one another in gladness, and be companions to each other in times of silence. May their home be a haven, and wherever they are plagued by the darkness of the world, may they be united not in word and outward form alone, but by the presence of light in the hearts of each, of the deepening love they share. You are husband and wife. Celebrate with a kiss."

The veil did not cover Hermione's face, so he didn't have to worry about throwing it back. He lifted her chin to him, bending slightly to meet his lips to hers in a chaste kiss.

It was over. Hermione Granger Snape stared back at him.

Hermione was not quite sure how they walked from the gallery to the dungeons. She found herself in a sort of trance as she forced herself to place one foot in front of the other, following two steps behind Snape. Her new husband. Her mind continued to replay phrases from Dumbledore, as if she could barely comprehend her new reality. "Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after considerable thought and reflection…" "…may they be united not in word and outward form alone, but by the presence of light in the hearts of each…"

She stopped abruptly as Snape came to a halt in front of a large tapestry. In the gloomy darkness, she could hardly make out the design. It dissolved in an instant as Snape intoned "Heysechia." A wide, dark door lay behind, and as they passed through, Hermione felt a slight tingle from the heavy wards.

The room was dark, save for a flickering fire in the hearth. Silently, Snape waved his wand and several wall sconces lit, giving the room a cheerful glow that was quite at odds with Hermione's current mood. She realized that he had not spoken a word to her since the binding. His profile against the lights seemed grim and unyielding.

They stood for a moment in silence, Snape stoic and unreadable and Hermione overwhelmed and apprehensive. Snape finally broke the silence. "Now that the ceremony has bound us, you are expected to retain residence here, at least on the weekends. You may, of course, remain in Gryffindor Tower for the majority of your time."

Once again he trailed into silence, seemingly transfixed by the dancing fire. Hermione hesitated for a moment, and then haltingly asked, "Professor, should I… erm… that is, should I get ready now?" Shit, she thought to herself. Could I be any more awkward?

Her question roused him from his contemplation, and he winced at her address of him. "Severus. Call me Severus when we're alone. Yes, if you'd like a few moments, please, take all the time you need, Miss Gr…" he trailed off.

"Hermione," she supplied. Then, with more composure than she actually felt, she walked to her new bedroom.

Once inside, with the door closed, she collapsed to the ground. She found herself wracked with sobs.

She tried to be silent, but felt certain that he must be able to hear her gasping.

After a few minutes, her tears subsided, allowing her to collect herself. She rose, careful of her delicate dress robes, and examined the bedroom. It was tastefully decorated in neutral tones of beige, cream, and gold, and contained a bed, large dresser, wardrobe, and vanity. She spotted a small bag of her personal items, doubtlessly delivered by a house elf.

She caught sight of herself in the mirror, and sighed heavily. Her face was blotchy and puffy, her eyes red. She found the door to the bathroom, and washed her face with cold water, which helped a bit.

Hermione knew that she was only delaying the inevitable. Just outside her room, her husband was waiting to consummate their marriage. Logically, she knew what she had to do. There was no way around it. She could leave, of course, but the Ministry would annul the marriage, leaving her to the mercies of the other Death Eater suitors. She could still go into hiding, but that option was just as unthinkable as it had been when Hermione had made her original decision.

Her bag contained an unfortunate set of lacey lingerie, thanks to Ginny. Her friend had been horrified that Hermione's only undergarments were practical cotton panties and bras in neutral shades. Much to Hermione's dismay, her friend dragged her to the Wicked Witch's Lingerie shop and recruited a shop attendant to help choose the wedding night necessities.

Feeling uncomfortable, Hermione chose a simple button-up and a pair of jeans to cover the negligee, and then checked herself in the mirror. The blotchiness had receded, and the redness around her eyes was hardly noticeable. Her light makeup had not been affected by her meltdown, thanks to Ginny's clever charms. Her hair still looked lovely in its elegant twist, so she left it as it was, only removing the interwoven flowers.

Hermione imagined a happier wedding night; one where the love of her life waited patiently outside the door.

This was not that night. Instead her surly husband sat outside, waiting for a state-mandated consummation rather than a night of passionate lovemaking.

A/N: Sorry to cut that off there, but I'm having trouble finishing the next part, and thought it would be better to get this chapter up now.

The marriage vows I took from resources online, and I merged a few into what is written above. It's been so long that I've lost my sources! Sorry! The credit for those is not mine.