Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters, which belong to JK Rowling.
Summary: Everybody knows that attack is the best form of defence. With the marriage law coming, Hermione Granger decides to strike first. Takes place during the 6th year, slightly AU.
CoverArt by SusanMarieR from LiveJournal
It was the first week of her sixth year at Hogwarts when Hermione Granger stepped into the Headmaster's office.
"Good evening, Professor Dumbledore," she greeted the elderly wizard.
"Ah, Miss Granger, come in, come in! It's always good to see you. Lemon drop?"
When she shook her head, the Headmaster smiled at her over his half-moon spectacles, "How can I help you, my dear?"
Hermione took a deep breath. She had been preparing for this conversation for most of her summer holidays but she still felt nervous having to start it for real.
"I'd like to ask you a question, Sir," she said, willing her voice to sound calm and composed, "I would also like to request that you answer it with complete honesty without trying to protect my feelings or withhold information for any other reason."
If the Headmaster was surprised by her request it did not show. His relaxed attitude, however, disappeared in an instance as he straightened in his chair and gave a young witch a penetrating look.
"You must understand, Miss Granger," he replied seriously, "there are issues that I cannot discuss with you."
The witch forced herself to smile, "It's not that kind of question, Professor. It has nothing to do with the Order, or Harry. On the opposite, it's completely personal." She paused, looking at him, this time noticing his posture relaxing slightly. She waited for Dumbledore to nod his assent to her request and looked him in the eyes, "It's about the Marriage decree, Professor." She noticed the Headmaster frown and continued in a hurry, "It's not so much of an answer I am looking for so much as a confirmation. It is going to be a law, Sir, isn't it?"
"Miss Grange," Headmaster started.
"Please, Sir," the witch interrupted him, forgoing her usual politeness, "I am not that naive and I promise you, I am not about to become hysterical. But I've been reading anything I could find about it: all the polls and editorials. I know that he," she waved her hand knowing that she did not have to resort to 'You-Know-Who' in his presence, but not wanting to say the real name, "supports the law. Since he practically controls the ministry and judging by the members of the Wizengamot, I don't really see it not happening."
Her large brown eyes stared at him beseechingly and, for a moment, Dumbledore had an unfamiliar feeling of inadequacy.
"I am afraid so," he replied after a pause. "We are still fighting it but it's very difficult with the evidence available. The fact of the matter is that the wizarding world needs something like this, Hermione. There is no doubt about that. Too many squibs are being born to the old wizarding families. The only solution is to infuse their gene pool with an influx of new blood in order to produce magically powerful offspring. Even Tom Riddle recognises that. Of course, he had always championed Pureblood supremacy but as long as this law is done on his terms, he would support it. It would also aid him in winning the war; such a disruption would divert public attention from the fighting at hand and toward the marriage law. His followers will petition for the key members of the side of light like yourself, thus considerably weaken our cause."
He gave the young witch a kind smile, "You need not worry yourself, my dear, when the time comes we will find a way to protect you."
He expected the girl to give him a sad and grateful smile but was surprised to see none. Instead she straightened her shoulders and looked squarely in his face.
"This is what I wanted to talk to you about," she said in a quiet but determined voice. "I don't want to sit here and wait for the law to be passed before doing something. Instead, I want to take the matter into my own hands."
The elderly wizard gave her a quizzical look. Hermione took a deep breath and continued, "The law will only apply to unmarried witches or wizards. Therefore, if one is married already they would be out with its remit." She saw understanding dawn on her professor's face, "Sir, I would like to get married before the law is passed so that I could do it on my own terms and not the Ministry's."
Silence followed her words and she felt the full force of his wise blue eyes, the twinkling completely absent. After, what seemed to be, hours the Headmaster asked in a measured voice, "And who is the lucky wizard you had in mind, Miss Granger?"
His question was not wholly unexpected. After all, this was all-knowing Albus Dumbledore; she could count on him to see straight to the point. Part of her really did not want to go any further but she did not come all this way to turn back now. She took a deep breath and willed her voice to sound calm and even.
"I was thinking about Professor Snape."
This time even Dumbledore could not hide his surprise, his eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up. Then a deep frown creased his forehead.
"Professor Snape?" he repeated, "Miss Granger, please explain yourself."
Hermione forced herself not to flinch from his harsh tone, "As you wish, Professor." She paused mentally running through her rehearsed speech. "My thinking is as follows," she started, "First of all, I need to marry a wizard who will be part of the Order, so that he does not object to me helping Harry and remaining friends with him. This in turn, requires for the said wizard to live at Hogwarts since by the wizarding traditions, a wife could not reside away from her husband. These two conditions significantly narrow the number of candidates available. The obvious person would be, of course, Ron but..." here she paused and this time lowered her eyes to the floor.
"Both Harry and Ron are like brothers to me, Professor. We grew up together and even the thought of us as a husband and wife makes my stomach turn. In addition, I believe that Ron is harbouring some feelings for me, which would make the whole situation so much worse. For the same reason, I can't marry any of his brothers or Harry as it would completely break down the relationship in a way that we cannot afford. Harry needs support from his friends, not added worries."
She lifted her eyes again and looked straight at Dumbledore. "If you add to the mix that my husband needs to be powerful enough to protect me yet also receive the approval of Voldemort, Professor Snape is the only rational option."
The Headmaster raised his eyebrows again, "And why do you expect Tom would approve such marriage?"
Hermione allowed herself a small smile, "But, of course, everybody knows how much Harry dislikes Professor Snape. If I marry him, Harry would stop trusting me and hence lose the brains behind the Golden Trio. You-Know-Who would be very pleased with such an outcome."
Her smile disappeared as she prepared herself for more questions, but none came. Albus Dumbledore was deep in thoughts and Hermione resorted to waiting patiently for his answer, but not before she delivered a final touch to her plan. "Please, Sir," her voice was soft but calm, "Professor Snape might also be a party to the law. Considering how important he is to our fight, and how precarious his position, it would be in the interests of the Order to make sure that he ends up with someone who can be trusted."
Three days later Hermione was summoned to the Headmaster's office after dinner. While she made her way to the gargoyle—her heart thumping loudly in her chest—she tried to prepare herself to whatever was to come. She did not regret her actions, but could not suppress the sinking feeling that settled deep in her heart after her conversation with Dumbledore.
Hermione was well aware that she was playing a dangerous game where the prize was—if not life or death—at least a life-time of happiness versus misery. There were no divorces in the wizarding world. A marriage meant literally 'til death do us part.' She was damned if she was going to let some bureaucrat in the Ministry, or worse Voldemort, make this decision for her.
Once the Gargoyle stopped moving, Hermione took a deep breath and tried to relax her muscles. She felt exhausted after being unable to sleep during the night, her head buzzing with all the scenarios of what might happen. She hoped that today she would get a decision either way so she may at least stop worrying about it. She knocked on the door and after hearing a muffled, "Enter," stepped into the office and froze on the spot.
Dumbledore was not in the room. Instead, she was greeted by Professor Snape, who stood next to a chair his black eyes focused on her and his face an expressionless mask.
"Miss Granger," he gave her a curt nod, "The Headmaster thought that it would be more appropriate if we met here."
His voice broke through Hermione's shock but she could not force herself to speak, or stop staring at him. She had never seen her professor like this. He had abandoned his usual teaching robes instead donning a set of dress robes adorned with a green hood with the trim embroidered with silver snakes. Hermione could only presume that these were his Head of Slytherin House ceremonial robes. Realising that she was still gaping at him she forced herself to nod her head in understanding.
For a moment they stood in silence, the Potions master seemed to study her, his dark eyes fixed on hers. They were glittering and she could not—did not want to—look away. It occurred to her that Snape's eyes were a perfect reflection of his soul: utterly mesmerizing and completely unattainable. They were a force to be reckoned with. He could control the classroom with a single sharp look, bend the wills of his students with a hard stare and keep everybody else at arm's length with a warning glare.
Through her years at Hogwarts there were a number of times that she experienced his glare but never in her life had his eyes been so focused on her without one of her friends sharing the weight. She willed herself to remain strong but with each passing minute it became harder and harder to maintain even a tiny veneer of composure.
She felt herself starting to shake and it seemed to be a sign for the dark wizard that he had unnerved her enough. "Miss Granger," Snape's voice was cold, "are you sure that your request to the Headmaster is really what you want? Have you thought this through at all?"
His eyes flared with a dangerous glimmer obviously aimed at reminding Hermione who stood in front of her.
The Gryffindor witch looked straight at the Potions Master—this was the question she was prepared for, "Yes, Professor. I have been thinking about it all summer and I would never have approached the Headmaster without being sure. All I am waiting for now is your decision."
Hermione was so focused on his eyes that she almost missed a change in his expression. It was so fleeting that she could not even begin to decipher it. "Very well then," Snape's voice was unusually soft. The glitter in his eyes disappeared and instead they became lifeless. He took a step towards her, "I, Severus Tobias Snape, request you, Hermione Jean Granger, to consent to be my bride and the mother of my children."
Hermione's world crashed around her. This was not what she had expected, not what she had prepared for. It was too easy, too soon. Never in a million years had she expected him to propose like this. Her brain could not process the meaning of this, the implications of such behaviour. A sinking feeling rose in her stomach and her heart thumped wildly in her chest, adrenaline flooding her bloodstream. Flight or fight? She could not flee now. She started this after all. Her voice shook terribly as she forced the words out of her mouth.
"I, Hermione Jean Granger," she gulped more air to stop herself from hyperventilating, "give my consent to you, Severus Tobias Snape, to become your bride and the mother of your children."
The moment her words died down, Snape took another step towards her and gracefully lowered himself on one knee. Later on, Hermione would silently thank Lavender and Parvati for their incessant interest in everything dealing with engagements and weddings. Listening to their continuous stories and chatter provided her with enough knowledge to recognise a traditional wizarding engagement ceremony and respond to it appropriately. For now, all she could do was stare transfixed at a dark wizard kneeling in front of her.
From the pocket of his robes he pulled a ring and Hermione forced herself to stretch her shaking hand. His long, warm fingers wrapped around her wrist as he slid a white-gold band on to her finger. The next moment, his lips touched the large round emerald encased in a nest of small diamonds. Moving on autopilot, she repeated his gesture and then kneeled in front of him. All that was left to do was for her to kiss him. The magic of the ring activated by his lips and strengthened by hers, would merge in the joint kiss and create an engagement document, which would arrive to the ministry and be authorized into a marriage license. Hermione lifted her face and looked straight into his unreadable face. She had never been so close to him. She could feel the heat of his body, could smell a spicy hint of cologne mixed with potions ingredients, and could see the tinniest lines around his mouth.
She desperately wished to be brave enough to look in his eyes but could not. Instead, she leaned and gently touched his lips with hers. The next moment a parchment appeared in thin air. Snape was already up, pulling out his wand. When he touched the scroll it disappeared with a quiet pop leaving the Potions Master holding a copy in his hand.
He pocketed the document and looked at the Gryffindor witch who was scrambling to get up as well. "Miss Granger, when I receive the license from the Ministry, I will let you know. I don't expect it to take longer than two weeks. I suggest that you start wedding preparations. Your Head of House will be able to assist you. I will provide Professor McGonagall with my Gringotts account details so you are able to charge your expenditure to it. Good day."
With that he strolled from the room without another look at the witch. Hermione stared at the closed door, thoughts and emotions reeling through her mind. She did not bother trying to organise them. There was only one important feeling that had permeated her heart and soul. It all had gone terribly wrong and she had no one to blame but herself. She knew that if she stayed in this office one more minute she would start sobbing like a child. Without bothering to wait for the Headmaster, she darted to the door, flew down the stairs, and ran as fast as she could to the Room of Requirement. That night when Hermione Granger returned to the Gryffindor common room, it was way past midnight and nobody was there to see her tear stricken face.
I know that the marriage law has been done lots of times. This is my take on it. Hopefully it will be sufficiently different to be interesting. Reviews are as always very much welcome.
I would like to thank my beta KG613, who has now proof-read this chapter so I could resubmit it.