I'm baaaaaack! It's been a long and crazy hiatus, but you get something good from it-this story! Special thanks to Rickmanluvr44 for suggesting that I do a Marriage Law fic, which inspired me to find out just what the heck a Marriage Law fic was, and hence this story was born! For those of you that are reading The Cure, I promise I haven't given up on finishing Hermione's POV, I've just gotten a little distracted : )

Update: I've noticed a few errors in formatting and am going through briefly to try and correct them.

Chapter One

I am staring at the man that I hate most in the world. The man that caused the death of my best friend. The man I have thwarted at every turn for twenty years even though he thinks me his most trusted adviser. And I am forced to call him My Lord. The words are heavy on my tongue. They stick in my throat and leave a bitter taste in my mouth. And yet I say them with respect and humility- things that I loathe. Now I am asking them slowly, pretending that I do not know what he means. "My Lord?" I know what is coming, I have counted on it for years now. I have planned out this moment down to the most minute detail. I know the children -not children any more, I must remember that they are adults, after all they will go on to save our world- are just outside and can hear my every word. I will be nearly gone by the time they come to me. But I must hold on long enough to do what needs done.

"Nagini," he whispers in that vile rasp. I do not try to defend myself from the snake as she uncoils and strikes.

It is quick, almost painless at first. The fangs sink deeply into my neck, severing the artery. An instant later Nagini is slithering away from me and to her master's side as he leaves me here. I know I am in shock. I am grateful for it, because it holds the pain at bay. I feel numb, my breath coming in weak, wet rasps. I must hold on only a few moments longer and then I can go. Finally I can be free.

The children- the adults!- the trio comes out from where they have been hiding and kneel in front of me. My eyes skip over Weasley. He is of little consequence. They pause ever so briefly on Granger. She really has grown into a lovely woman. The brightest witch of her age, everyone said. Everyone but me. Would it have killed me to tell her just once how brilliant I find her? Yes, probably. There could be no sign before. No hint, no whisper that I was anything other than what I appeared to be. But others will tell her. Maybe she will hear from Potter why I have done everything I have done, and she will realize that I have always admired her in my own twisted way. Potter. My eyes go to him now and stay there. He is staring at me. I am gathering what little strength I have left for the last bit of magic I will ever do. I must pass the information on to him. He has to know, at the proper moment. He has to know so that he can die.

I feel tears prick my eyes and I haven't the strength to hate myself for them. Displays of emotion show weakness, of character and will. But I am weak now. I am dying. I can feel my blood flowing away from me and pooling on the floor in a small black pond. A black, endless pond... glassy and... fathomless...

I try to focus. Potter. I must make sure he gets the memories. Potter. How will he react to them? I do not want to reveal to him my greatest weakness, and yet I have no other choice. I owe that much to her. So much that I can never repay, that can never be repaired, but this I must do at least. There is so much of her in this boy, this man. And so much of his father. The man I hate and yet do not hate. The boy I love and yet do not love. His son. The child that should have been mine. The child that I once tried to offer up to Voldemort to save Lily's life. Can he ever know how much I loathe myself for that moment of selfish weakness? Will he know that I see in him a living reminder of my greatest failure? That though I loathed his father with every fiber of my being, I did not, could not, hate him? His father made the woman I love happy, and I have to be grateful to him for that. I resent the gratitude. I resent that I am merely this boy's teacher and not his father. He should have been mine... I am jealous of him, jealous of this student because he shares a bond with Lily. Jealous of a son who never knew his mother. I knew her, I could have given him my memories of her as he grew, shared her with him. But he is Potter's son and I must lie to the world and hide everything that I am. He will find out soon, though, the truth of it all. I have spent so many years guarding my secret so carefully that I am reluctant to let it go now. I have become so accustomed to being this hateful, snide man that I don't want the world to know the truth that I have been harboring. I do not want to be seen as weak. I am strong. I am very strong. I am strong enough for her, to give her this.

Lily. Lily, my debt to you will soon be repaid. I lift my heavy lids and focus on Potter's face. There are so many similarities to his father that it incites jealousy within me but I push it down. I won't waste my last thoughts on James bloody Potter and what he took from me, what he gave her that I couldn't. I want to think of her, only of her. Lily.

I release the the memories and let them float into the air. We watch as silvery strands escape me. He stares at them, awed and shocked.

"Take...it...take it!" I manage to gurgle the words, reminded yet again that this is James Potter's son. Lily would have known what to do instantly. She would not have wasted precious seconds gaping at me like a gasping trout. Granger pushes a flask into Harry's hands and I feel a flash of pride and gratitude for the woman. At least someone in the group has some sense. The memories flow into the flask, filling it up to the brim. There are no more left. I have nothing left to give. Now, my debt is repaid. For you, Lily. Now, I can let you go. Now I am free. I want to see her again, to look into her eyes and feel no guilt or pain. Just the same happiness and affection that I used to feel. But I know that whatever happens to souls...mine will not be going to the same place hers has gone. I am too dark, too defiled to share a resting place with such innocence and courage. I will never see her again. But a part of her resides within Harry. Her son. The son that should have been mine.

"Look...at...me..." I whisper. His eyes flick from the flask and up to me. I look into his eyes and I don't see James, I see Lily. I see her staring at me through her son. And for once, there is no guilt. There is no hatred or anger or disgust. I see forgiveness there. It is done. I have what I worked so hard to gain. My lips try to twitch up into a small smile but the gesture is so foreign to me, so long in disuse that I cannot quite manage it. I don't have the strength left to move the right muscles. But I feel it inside. It blossoms in me like a flower and then floats away on the wind. I float away on the wind...

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Severus pulled himself away from the Adfectus with a shudder. Pulled away from the moment of his death. It had been so close, beckoning so sweetly. If only the Weasley boy hadn't spoken whatever stupid words he'd said to Granger that drove her out of the castle again. If only she'd have forgotten about him as everyone else in the castle seemed to have. But no. It wasn't to be. She had come out of the castle. She had seen the Womping Willow and thought of Snape, her dead potions professor, and thought that, though she did not know of his innocence yet, someone should at least bring his body in.

And somehow, when she'd found him lying in that fathomless pool of his own blood, she'd used magic close to the magic that Lily had once done for her son. Severus thought he knew how. It hadn't been meant for him, of course. She must have been thinking of all the ones that had died that night. All of the innocent lives lost. She'd always put others before herself, always possessed such a soft heart -for house elves and foreign students and animals- it was no great surprise that she was able to conjure up the kind of love that saved life. And her selfless love had been directed at him because he was the one in the room with her. If Weasley wasn't such a git, that swell of emotion might have brought Fred back, or Lupin, or his wife. But she'd been kneeling by Snape's body when it washed over her. As Severus fingered the jagged scar on his neck, he wondered if she had known what was going to happen, would she have chosen to save someone else, even knowing that Severus had been working for Dumbledore all along?

Of course she would have, he sneered at himself. Why would she choose to save her hateful potions professor when she could save one of her friends?

But it had been him she saved. And now, two years later, Severus was staring down at the newest piece of legislation from the crumbling Ministry of Magic, a piece of legislation that would take her freedom away. He read the headline again.

Birthrates Plummet, Minister Passes Bill to Save Our World – Muggleborns Outraged!

The Ministry of Magic has finally acknowledged that the wizarding world is in danger as the continued intermarrying of the Pureblood line causes more and more stillbirths, squibs and barren children. In an attempt to save the old families The Marriage Law has been put into place. Under this law any Pureblood wizard or male head of a Pureblood family can petition the ministry for a betrothal contract giving them legal power over a Muggleborn witch. This step has been deemed necessary as they discovered Muggle families feel that betrothal contracts are too 'old fashioned' and would rather let their daughters 'fall in love'. Though many Muggleborns are expected to attempt to repeal the law, several petitions have already been submitted to the ministry. The big question on everyone's lips now is: who will win the contract on the famous Muggleborn of the Golden Trio, Hermione Granger?

How could this have happened? Had he been so disconnected from the world long enough for it to have fallen into madness? In the chaos after the final battle he had been able to hide away and rebuild his life. It wasn't much, but he didn't want it to change. He didn't want to go back to the cameras and the reporters and the whispered speculation. Back to the world where everyone knew of his affection for Lily and knew he'd spent more than half his life trying to save her son. He didn't want to return to that. So why did he feel compelled to go and try to fix this mess? Was it lingering gratitude for the Granger girl?

Severus tried to tell himself that it had more to do with not wanting the world he worked so hard to save to descend into chaos and anarchy. Which, of course, was where it was headed with laws like this going into effect. Giving "legal power" of Muggleborns over to Purebloods? It was insanity! They were talking about slavery! They could dress it up and call it what they wanted, but giving the rights of a human being over to someone else without their consent was tantamount to slavery. Would they be making Muggles into pets next? Putting a dictator into power? What the bloody hell had they fought the war for if the ideals of Voldemort were to take over the world anyways?!

If it had come this far already, then times really were desperate. For such a law to even make it through the ministry was utter barmey. Severus knew that he'd been a recluse far too long if this was the state of things. He had no delusions of grandeur. He knew that he wouldn't walk into the ministry to gales of applause and cheers. He was no one but the ex potions professor who'd once been deemed a traitor. But surely there was someone left in the ministry with at least a sliver of sanity left. And he'd always been good at being...persuasive. There must be someone left he could talk to and get this nonsense straightened out.

And then he could go back to his seclusion. He could return to the quiet, reclusive life he'd built for himself. Away from all the reminders of his past and and the pain they brought with them. And then, maybe, he could repay yet another debt he owed to a beautiful woman.

Review and let me know what you think! (yes, this story is complete, but I always love feedback even on stories that I've finished!)