Disclaimer: While the plot is mine, the characters and their interesting world are the creation of J. K. Rowling, so they technically belong to her. I just like to borrow them once in a while.
Author's Note/Background: This story is obviously AU. Books 6 and 7 are essentially disregarded, except for a couple things here and there about Snape's background. Assume canon up to the end of book 5.
I have a fondness for Marriage Law fics—I think the dynamic of having to work together to achieve a good relationship makes for some interesting character exploration. I wouldn't particularly want to have an arranged marriage myself, but I'm definitely of the school that assumes that relationships, arranged or not, require work. At any rate, the marriage law here isn't quite as dire as it is in some other fics, but it serves to get the characters together!
Title and chapter titles come from John Williams' poem, Matrimony.
Chapter 1: Which Both Parties Agree
Hermione Granger sat in her tiny flat, reading the latest article in the Daily Prophet on the new marriage law. There had been a lot of outrage, but also a lot of acceptance. Hermione hated the fact that those single wizards and witches under thirty were being required to marry, in an attempt to rebuild some of the population, after everyone who had died during the war.
She had been avoiding the social parties that had sprung up in the aftermath of the law. There was no one in her age group that she wanted to marry. She'd actually been thinking of how to get out of it. Fortunately, she did have a deadline to work with, and for once the Ministry had been marginally realistic, but two years didn't really feel like enough time to find a spouse, given that the only man she'd dated for a while as an adult was now married to someone else. She could marry a Muggle, she'd supposed, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to deal with the consequences of that. A husband who didn't know her world, and who would have to learn to accept it.
With a sigh, she put down her paper and picked up the letter from Albus Dumbledore. The week before, he had written to offer her a position as an instructor at Hogwarts. He was trying something new, he'd explained. He was offering her years 1-3 in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and years 1-4 in Potions. Severus Snape would be taking 4-7 in DADA and 5-7 in Potions. Hermione, mindful of her inexperience, thought this was not a bad idea. Remembering Snape's teaching style, she thought he worked better with the older students anyway.
She had written immediately to accept the job, and now she was due up at Hogwarts this afternoon at 3 to discuss her job description. She would be moving in later this week. Most of her things were already packed.
She decided to head down to Diagon Alley to pick up extra Potions ingredients for her own personal store. She flung on a robe, made sure her hair was marginally tidy, and Apparated.
She wandered over to the Apothecary, list in hand, and began to make her purchases. Then she heard a familiar voice. "Miss Granger?"
She turned around to find Severus Snape behind her. "Professor," she said. "Hello."
He gestured at her assortment of ingredients. "We will be sharing a Potions cupboard, Miss Granger."
"Will we?" she asked, truly surprised.
"Albus suggested that, in order for us to keep track of our stores more accurately."
She smiled, able to tell that Dumbledore's high-handedness irked him. "It's not as if it'll hurt to have extra. None of these are quickly perishable ingredients."
His mouth quirked in what might have been a smile. "Fair enough. I see some things there that wouldn't be appropriate for the younger students."
"There are a few things I was hoping to work on," she said, "and as I didn't know that we would be sharing supplies, I felt it appropriate to purchase my own."
He nodded, and turned to the apothecary, who was already bringing out a number of packages. "Your order is ready, Professor Snape," he said.
"Mr. Tortelle, this is Professor Granger," said Snape, gesturing to Hermione. "She will be teaching lower-level Potions at Hogwarts. I would appreciate it if you gave her the same consideration as you do me."
The apothecary smiled at Hermione. "Splendid to meet you, Professor," he said. "Let me get those things packed up for you."
As they left the apothecary's, packages in hand, Hermione noted that Snape seemed to be uncertain of what to do next. "I have to be up at Hogwarts by three this afternoon for a meeting with Dumbledore," she said. "Did you want to have lunch and discuss our classes?"
He looked surprised, but agreed, and they found a quiet restaurant and talked about the curriculum for their classes. Hermione was intrigued that he was not the sardonic man she'd remembered. She saw flashes of that man, but the one she was talking to was quieter, thoughtful, more at peace with the world.
Eventually, as conversations do, it turned more personal. "I would have thought you would be out searching for a husband," said Snape conversationally when the marriage law came up.
Hermione groaned. "This new law is idiotic," she said. "All of the available men in my age group are stupid, and I can't marry a stupid man. I'd go mad, or want to strangle him within the first few days."
Snape smirked at her. "Well, if you married and then became a widow, you'd be exempt. It's something to consider."
Her smile had a bit of wistfulness about it. "There's the Professor Snape I remember," she said. "You've changed."
"The Dark Lord is unequivocally dead," said Snape, deciding to be honest. "I'm free, for once in my life. I appreciate my work more, especially since I'll be dealing with only older students." He raised his glass to her. "I have you to thank for that, Miss Granger."
She shrugged. "I might have to leave if I can't find a husband before the deadline," she said. "I'll be damned if I'll just let them pair me up with a random man."
"Good girl," he said approvingly. Then he folded his hands, tapping his fingers against his lips, thinking. His brow furrowed in a way that she didn't recognize, since it wasn't in anger or frustration.
She sipped her water, waiting for him to speak. When he did, what he had to say was quite unexpected.
"You could always marry me," he offered.
Hermione's brow furrowed now. She told herself that she should be disgusted at the offer. This was Professor Snape. She'd heard Harry ranting about him since they were eleven, although Harry had changed his mind about him somewhat in the last few years. But at the same time...he was intelligent. On those grounds alone, they were equals. Their discussions today had shown her that he respected her opinions. He was, she knew, brave, and one of the most scrupulously honourable men she had ever met. This would allow her to live her life without worrying further about the marriage law. She looked at him, surveying him, and saw that he was waiting patiently for her response. He didn't repulse her, she reflected. He never had. Being married to him would be...tolerable. Perhaps more than.
"That could work," she said slowly. "But why would you marry me?"
His eyebrows went up. "I would prefer it if you worked at Hogwarts for the time being. Introductory courses have never been my strong suit, and I dislike them. I know that you will be an extremely conscientious instructor. Should you choose to alter your career in the future, that would be something we could arrange for. As for marriage...I have grown discontent with being entirely alone. You are highly intelligent, as am I. You need a husband. You only have a year and a half before the deadline, Hermione. Do you really think that you will find a man to meet your needs in that time?"
"No," she said. "I highly doubt it. But does a pragmatic marriage appeal to you?"
"I would not have offered if I had not meant it," he replied, eyes solemn. "Could you live with this? With me?"
Hermione nodded. "I could."
"Then will you marry me?" The note in his voice—was it nervousness?
She took a deep breath. "I will."
They stared at each other across the table. Then he offered her his hand, and she took it. His eyes glittered, and her breath caught in her throat.
"When did you wish to...?"
"Soon," she said. "We'll be working together, we might as well."
"Agreed," he said. "We should speak to Albus first. Did you want a wedding, or is a Ministry ceremony acceptable?"
She shuddered. "Weddings are too much of a fuss. We can just go by the Ministry and get married."
"We could do that tomorrow—you're moving to Hogwarts this week anyway," he said diffidently.
"Yes," she said. "I think I'd like that." Her hand tightened around his. He glanced down, unsure of how to respond to her words.
"Fine," he said. Then he glanced at his watch. "We should go. It's nearly 2:30."
"Have we been here that long?" said Hermione. They gathered their things, and Snape insisted on paying the bill.
When they got outside, he offered her his arm, she took it, and he Apparated them to Hogwarts. She followed him down to the potions lab, where they left their purchases, and then they went to the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore didn't look surprised to see Snape with Hermione. "Ah, good, you've gotten reacquainted," he said. "Splendid. You'll need to coordinate your curricula."
"Yes," said Hermione. "Ah, Professor Dumbledore, I need to apprise you of a change in my situation."
"Oh?" he said.
"Hermione and I have agreed to marry," said Severus, glancing apprehensively at her, almost as if he were worried she might change her mind.
"Yes," she said. "Is that a problem?" she asked the Headmaster.
"Not at all," said Dumbledore, "although it's a little sudden. How did you come to this conclusion?"
"It made sense," Hermione said shortly. "I have to marry, and we suit."
He nodded. "Very well. Have you set a date?"
"We're getting married tomorrow, at the Ministry," said Severus. "I will help Hermione move her things here after that, and we'll settle in."
"Were you planning on a honeymoon?"
Hermione and Severus exchanged glances. "Ah, not at the moment," said Hermione. "With moving, and planning courses, it's probably better to wait a while for that."
"I see," he said. "Well, Hermione, we need to talk over your job description, salary, benefits, and so on, and there's a contract to be signed. Were you planning on taking Severus' last name?"
"Um, I don't know," she said. "It might be confusing to have two Professor Snapes. Perhaps I had better be Professor Granger. Unless you object, Severus?" Hermione realized that this was the first time she had called him by name.
"No, I agree with you," he said. "Although the name Snape does work to quell the students."
She smiled at that. "If I need extra quelling power, I'll remember that."
"Good," he said. "I should put those potions ingredients away. I'll see at you at supper in the Great Hall?"
She nodded. "See you then."
Dumbledore's eyes glinted with amusement as Severus left the room. "I never thought I'd see the day," he commented. "How ever did you get him to agree?"
"It was his idea," Hermione said.
Dumbledore's eyebrows swooped up at that. "How very singular! Well, I wish you both very happy. Now, here's the contract for teaching. Read over it, and let me know if you have any questions."