A/N: Please let me know what you think of this. I have always been fascinated with the idea of Snape falling in love with another muggleborn. There's more to the story, so let me know if you want to read it.
Also: This follows the plot of the series up through the sixth book. I ignored the seventh book, though included some things from it for the sake of time.
I looked down at the letter in my hand, stunned into silence. When the Ministry of Magic passed the Law Regarding the Safety of Marriage six months ago, I didn't think anything of it. I had read about it, of course. I knew what it said. But, for some reason, I figured it wouldn't affect me too greatly; I mean the purebloods had been trying for over a hundred years to weed out all the muggleborn bloodlines. Now, with this letter from the Ministry in hand, I realized the extent to which this new law reached. Not only were the wizards and witches younger than me affected, but apparently those left unmarried at my age also were. I knew of only one couple that was married at our age—we had just finished our seventh year eleven months ago.
The law dictated that all muggleborns be married within six months after turning eighteen. It was explained that this was to ensure the quality of magic future generations of the wizarding community produced, but it was understood that it was really to protect the muggleborns. With the fall of Voldemort almost a year ago, former Death Eaters that had managed to outrun the Ministry had taken muggleborns for spouses. But instead of a happy honeymoon, there would be an unexplained death of the muggleborn witch or wizard. It continued in this fashion, with the Death Eaters taking spouse after spouse until the Ministry of Magic stepped in with this new law.
Knowing all this didn't make the situation any easier, though. It just made me more frustrated with the world Voldemort had unknowingly created. I found myself playing with the package that came today, trying to sort through my thoughts, when two pieces of parchment fell out of it. I opened the one that had my name on the outside of it.
Due to your exceeding accomplishments regarding magical use and overall intellect, the Department of Tracking Magical Bloodlines, in accordance with the Law Regarding the Safety of Marriage, has found you to be eligible to marry wizards of lesser than pureblood status. Please find enclosed a list of men with suitable bloodlines that have expressed an interest in marrying you.
I didn't look at the list. I couldn't bring myself to face it yet. Instead, I returned to the original letter that had been sent to me the day before, grabbing it. My hands anxiously creased the parchment in the same place over and over again.
The grace period allotted to you after the passage of the Law Regarding the Safety of Marriage has come to an end. A formal acceptance of a proposal from an approved suitor must be received by 30 July. A list of eligible suitors is forthcoming. Please contact the Department of Tracking Magical Bloodlines with any questions.
I flipped between the two letters, trying to organize my thoughts into something comprehensible. I had to pick a man by the end of the month—that left me three weeks. There was no way around it. Disregarding the law would warrant action from the Ministry; and after the Second Wizarding War, the Ministry was much more strict—and efficient. I wanted to be sure in my decision. That meant hours of analysis, weighing options. The earlier I started the process, the more time I would have to accept my decision before the suitor would be informed.
I sighed and reached for the piece of parchment that had been left untouched. I opened the scroll and was instantly shocked by the number of names on it. I laid it out on the desk. It was sorted into two columns: those with a pureblood bloodline and those with a bloodline that ranged from halfblood to just short of pureblood. I took out a quill and ink and bent over the parchment.
With the preliminary look through, I crossed off suitors known to be dangerous towards muggleborns. It only eliminated a few men. On the second time through, I decided that I would not settle for someone I had never even met. I mean, what if they didn't even speak English? This eliminated over three quarters of the list. I transferred the remaining suitors to a new parchment, putting all the names in one column. The bloodlines of the suitors didn't matter to me. I looked over the names again.
Ron Weasley. George Weasley. Charlie Weasley. Seamus Finnegan. Viktor Krum. Harry Potter. Severus Snape.
I started in with my quill again, immediately removing Ron and George from the list. George, I knew, was engaged to Alicia Spinnet. The wedding was only a few weeks away—the short time to prepare necessary because of the new law. Ron was my brother. I knew why he had put his name on the list—we had discussed it the previous night when I received the letter informing me that I had to make a decision. He wanted to know that he would be willing to marry me so that it wouldn't feel so forced. But there was no way around the truth: this was forced. I didn't want Ron to have to give up the possibility of a happy marriage in the hopes of providing me with an acceptable marriage, when I knew that we would both be miserable. I couldn't condemn him to that. So he knew that I wouldn't pick him, and he was alright with that. Next, I crossed off Harry. His wedding was already planned-it was only two weeks away. Hell, I was Ginny's maid of honor.
That left four men.
I decided that the next important factor would be where we would live. That immediately took Charlie off the list. I didn't want to relocate to Romania. I took Viktor off the list, too. Even though I was pretty sure he would move wherever I wanted to, I knew his Quidditch career would limit the options—and none of them would be England.
It took me two hours, but now I found myself down to two suitors. I bit my lip, tapping my quill on the parchment. What would be the deciding factor? The apprenticeship offered by Hogwarts? The current state of the relationship? Age?
I mulled over the choices. Seamus was my age. We hadn't talked much, but we were civil with each other. He wanted to work for the Ministry. Professor Snape wasn't my age. We weren't civil with each other. He was Headmaster of Hogwart's. I bit my lip, nervously tapping my fingers. I took a deep breath and then circled my choice.
I grabbed a roll of parchment from my trunk in the corner of the room. I addressed the Department of Tracking Magical Bloodlines, briefly stating that I was accepting the proposal of Severus Snape. I went over to the owl the Weasley family gave me for Christmas the year before—the owl I affectionately named Pumpkin because of his brown-orange coloring. I strapped the letter to his leg and led him to the window. "This goes to the Ministry," I told him seriously, "as quickly as possible." He hooted back at me. I opened the window, and he leaped easily from my arm out into the mid-morning air.
The air was warm; it kept me standing in front of the window. I shivered a little, the heat running through me, trying to fight off the cold that was seeping into me as the reality of my decision settled over me. I stared out across the street, not really seeing. I registered that the sun had come to shine onto the houses across the street. It was close to midday; almost two hours had passed since I sent the letter to the Ministry.
I jumped when there was a knock on my door. I looked up, surprised to find Remus standing in the doorway. A plate full of food was in his hands. He raised his eyebrows. I shrugged my shoulders. He walked up to me quietly, his footsteps making no sound. He looked at the various pieces of parchment scattered on the desk. "Decision making can be a difficult process."
I nodded. "And time consuming."
"Important decisions should be time consuming. I'd be worried if you didn't allow enough time to make a decision you can live with." He looked back at the desk. "Have you made the preliminary list? In six hours, I imagine you would be able to do that."
I bit my lip again. I took the plate of food from him before walking back to the desk. I set the plate down and looked at the various lists of names. I handed him the final list—the one with the seven names crossed out and one circled. Remus took it, looking over it. He looked back up at me, his eyes pulled together in confusion. "Hermione, is this right?" I took a deep breath and nodded. He raised one eyebrow. "Why?"
"I suppose the most immediate reason is the offer of becoming an apprentice under Professor Slughorn," I explained. Remus nodded. "And at least that's one thing that we have the same: a passion for Potions." I paused for a moment, organizing my line of thinking. "But it goes deeper than that. I know that Profes—I mean Severus—and I don't get along well, but I, at least, respect him. And if I want a marriage that even remotely works, that's where the relationship needs to begin." He nodded again. I took that to mean that, at the very least, my logic was sound.
He handed the list back to me. "It makes sense. It positions you to be able to continue your education with, perhaps, the least amount of outside stress." He paused, seemingly lost in thought for a moment. "I encourage you to speak to Molly Weasley about anything regarding physical—"
"I don't think that'll be a problem." I cut him off quickly. I didn't want to think about all the possible fallouts of my decision yet. He nodded, remaining serious. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone who I picked, though I don't mind if everyone knows that I have made my decision," I told him while taking back the list. "I've already sent my formal acceptance to the Ministry, so there's no backing out now. I would rather speak to him about it before everyone else is told."
"Of course, Hermione," he said. He leaned in and kissed my forehead, then turned around and left the room.
I looked out the window for another moment from where I stood next to my desk, but then I remembered the food he had brought me. I sat down and ate as much as I was able. It wasn't much. The stress of making my decision and the new anxiety that festered in the pit of my stomach seemed to have made it impossible to eat as a normal portion.
I looked at Professor Snape's name in my handwriting, a large circle around it. I traced it with my fingers. The hours slowly passed, yet I only sat there, numb, unable to bring myself downstairs and talk with everyone else. As the sun was shining directly into my room, Pumpkin returned empty handed. I ushered him into the room. As I watched him eat affectionately the treat I had laid in his cage, I suddenly remembered one other point of formality. I hastily wrote a note to Professor Slughorn, informing him that I was accepting the position of apprentice under him, understanding that it was a position to be fulfilled only by a student intent on teaching Potions. I once again sent Pumpkin into the sky with a letter, instructing him that it was to be delivered to Slughorn.
With this completed, I returned to my desk, where I watched the sun set through the window, playing again with the final list. When the sun was completely set and darkness began to settle around the room, there was a gentle knock on the door. I looked up slowly. Ginny stood in the doorway. She pulled her face into a small smile.
"Dinner's ready, Hermione," she said quietly. I nodded and stood up. I started walking towards her before I remembered the list in my hand. I looked down at it, then folded it and put it in my front pocket. I walked over to her, trying to seem composed; I could tell in the way her eyes saddened that she was not fooled.
She reached out to me, taking my hand in hers. We began walking downstairs towards the kitchen, where the majority of the Order was waiting to eat. Even though it had been nearly a year since Voldemort had been killed, many of the Order members found that they enjoyed seeing each other, so they often came to Grimmauld Place for dinner. Ginny squeezed my hand when we reached the door to the kitchen. I started to walk forward, intending to open the door, but Ginny stopped me.
She looked at me intently. "Remus told us that you had informed the Ministry today of your decision. Know that no matter who you choose, I will always love you. I will do whatever you need me to do to help you, alright?" I tried not to cry. I looked at her, biting my lip slightly. She knew me so well. She probably understood what my isolation today meant.
I leaned closer to her, grabbing her other hand, gripping them tightly for support. "Ginny, I'm going to need your help. " She nodded, leaning in closer to me so I didn't need to speak as loud. She knew what was coming. "Ginny…" I took a deep breath. "I chose Professor Snape."
The shock flew across her face before she could contain it. She searched my face for a moment, and then nodded. "Alright," she whispered back to me. And then she hugged me tightly. I hugged her back, hiding my face in her shoulder. She knew. She knew, and she didn't look at me strangely. She didn't tell me how horrible of a person I was, or how I was idiotic for not choosing someone like Ron. I pulled away from her, taking a deep breath.
"Ok. I think I can do this now," I whispered.
She smiled. "I'm with you all the way. Don't worry." I smiled back—a genuine smile. I could feel the warmth of it slowly light up my face. It spread through my body, brining warmth to me; I felt the first bit of hope since the Law was passed six months ago.
She squeezed my hand one more time then opened the door to the kitchen. We stepped inside, and I noticed how there were more members of the Order that came for dinner than on any normal night. Everyone looked up when Ginny walked in with me following behind. Many smiled at me. Mrs. Weasley walked up to me, giving me a big hug. "I'm so happy you were able to make a decision," she confessed into my hair. I smiled when she pulled away. Maybe everyone would still support me, even after they knew the specific man I had chosen.
I sat down between Ron and Ginny. Ron looked over at me as he took a spoonful of mashed potatoes out of the serving bowl. I shook my head. He nodded. "I received a letter this morning. A muggleborn from France picked me. She's coming out here next week." He seemed pretty happy about it. Maybe he was more like Bill than originally thought.
I played with my food, just moving it from one side to the other. Ron was shoveling his in; Ginny was feeding Harry flirtatiously. Conversations were going on across the table. I was engaged in a conversation with Remus concerning the upcoming year at Hogwart's. He was delighted to have been offered the job of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts earlier the previous day. We were discussing avidly what the coming year would bring, the experiences that would be the most meaningful. Our conversation added to the mood of the night; it was a night of feeling the imminence of decisions soon being brought into fruition. The whole environment was pretty loud; I could hardly hear Ginny's giggling beside me.
The door to the kitchen slammed open. Several people yelped in surprise. I jumped, dropping my fork onto my plate. I saw Harry and Remus draw their wands, then lower them. I looked up to see who had showed up late.
Severus Snape stood in the doorway, a piece of parchment in his hand and a look upon his face that sent a shiver of fear down my spine. He looked only at me; it was as if the other twenty some people weren't in the room.