(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Marriage law fic during the war where Hermione picks Severus over other Death Eaters. Hermione doesn't know that Severus is a Veela and she is his mate.
Summary: On her own after Harry and Ron go off to find the Hallows on their own, Hermione continues to fight as best she can, until the Ministry brings her in on charges of evasion and law breaking. Desperate for help, Hermione thinks up her most impossible chance for freedom. What she doesn't know is that her desperate plan will lead her to the fiercest ally she never knew she had.
Hermione sat trembling in the large chair set into the middle of the courtroom floor. The stone material of the seat was hard and chilled, disregarding any heat her body might have been trying to impart to it. Her breathing was fast, her skin hot, while an all-immersing fog of fear sent a contrasting coldness through her spine.
"Miss Hermione Granger," Umbridge called sharply from her perch atop the judges' stand. One shadowy face flanked her, left and right, while a larger panel of faceless murmurs were farther off to Hermione's right.
"You are presented here today on the charge that you have not been registered for the muggle-born registry, enacted by the Ministry last October, following the perilous security events of last year." Umbridge's nostrils flared as she took a sharp intake at "events."
Right. Perilous security events.
Dumbledore murdered. Hogwarts a chaos of spies and an uproar of division and rebellion. So much terror, and panic. She remembered fighting, doing what she could. She remembered the small gains, and what always felt like insurmountable losses. Remembering brought the slow, sharp burn of gathering tears to her eyes. She remembered looking for Harry, and Ron, to warn them, to help. She remembered finding their beds empty, the flash of worrying if they were alright, where they could be.
Learning that they were out there, fighting other battles, their own battles. Learning that she had simply been left there, perhaps out of concern for her safety—more likely because she was a silly little girl.
"Well?" Umbridge concluded. Hermione was drawn back to the courtroom. She wouldn't cry, not here, not again. She was smarter than this. And that made her stronger. She straightened as best she could within her chair's restraints, and took a deep steadying breath. She nearly chocked on it from the stale air of the room.
"Yes, you are correct. I did not register my name on the muggle-born—"
The loud crack of a wooden gavel cut her off. "Ten years in Azkaban for your negligent regard towards the laws and rules of the wizarding world. Next!"
Hermione's pulse raced. That was it? No defendant statement? No jury deliberation? Of course not. Who was she kidding? This was Umbridge she was dealing with. Hermione felt a coldness creep deeper into the room, shadows moving along the walls.
Dementors. Her personal escort.
Her heart hammered. Bile rose to the back of her throat. 'Someone help me!' she desperately thought. Her breathing quickened, her vision starting to blur. 'Please,' a watery, gasping intake for breath, 'anyone.'
She thought of Harry and Ron, out there somewhere, planning and fighting.
She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, forcing the tears down, trying to keep herself together, but she couldn't, it was too late, she couldn't—
A voice in her head. Her own voice, calm and collected.
DO NOT SHOW THEM YOUR FEAR
The world stopped darkening, her head no longer a rush of blood and raw panic.
She would not go to Azkaban. She would not let that woman, that monster of a woman, and these people, demean and torture her. But how could she get out of this? There was no means of reasoning or sense with these creatures, human or otherwise.
Her pulse raced. She had no means of aide for miles, her friends either scattered about the country or locked away in Hogwarts. She felt a hand grip her bicep and tug hard. She was jerked out of the stone chair, restraints unclicked and dropped, loud and harsh. The Auror's face was carefully blank as he began to force her away. Hermione gave a half-hearted struggle, knowing her physical resistance could not match his, and knowing that she needed more time. She looked frantically about her. She saw the faceless jurors, a dimmed mass against the far wall. Then she jerked her head to the judge panel, where Umbridge sat carefully aligning the sheaf of papers before her. Her gaze flickered over to meet Hermione's, morphing into a horrible, gleeful sneer.
That sneer. A face flashed before her. That sharp sneer, a long, crooked nose upturned. Dark, mocking eyes, glaring and accusing and hateful.
"Wait!" Hermione screamed out.
Umbridge raised her chin and deftly turned away, back to the papers before her to announce the next arrival. "Next we will bring in a Mr.—"
"I'm exempt!" Hermione screamed again, struggling in full force now against the Auror. He grunted but kept his grip.
"Exemption from the registry!" Umbridge looked down and met her gaze again.
"It's 'Mrs.' actually," she panted, her throat hoarse, still trying to project to the room. The Auror continued to hold her, but he no longer was dragging her away. That was something.
Umbridge shot her a bemused look. "'Miss' Granger, there are no exceptions from—"
"My husband," Hermione pushed to speak over her, "is a pure-blooded wizard. Our, er, recent marriage should allow me exception from the registry."
Umbridge stood slowly and cupped her hands before her. "No, Miss Granger, you are still a mud—" Umbridge coughed lightly here before continuing, "a muggle-born, and the Ministry rules clearly state—"
"They do not!" Hermione interrupted. Umbridge's sneer returned. "In the event of marriage, a blood status may be re-registered. We did so," she finished frantically, not sure where that particular nugget of law knowledge was coming from but appreciating the appearance all the same.
Umbridge continued to glare, but then her face suddenly brightened. "Why, yes, of course," she added sweetly. "I would, I mean the Ministry, would be very eager to re-evaluate your blood status, 'Mrs.' Granger. Perhaps we can contact your 'husband' to verify?" Her voice was as upbeat and cheerful as a psychopath in pink. "Where is he? And of course, who is he?" Her smile bordered on a smirk. "One of your school friends, perhaps?"
Hermione stomach quavered; Umbridge thought she'd name Harry or Ron— she thought she was still in touch with them, was about to give them up to save herself.
'You don't have a clue, do you?' Hermione thought bitterly. Would she give them up, even if she could? She didn't have time to deliberate the hypothetical.
His name bubbled and rose to her throat. This would be the most far-fetched and impossible plan she had ever come to, by far—so much so that it wasn't really a plan, so much as a way to buy time. But buy time to what? Escape and hide, or re-group and fight? There wasn't any use doubting herself. She was out of any other option.
"My husband," Hermione's voice cracked. She gave a light cough and straightened against her guard's hold.
"My husband's name is Severus Snape."
Severus sat comfortably on his worn, threadbare couch. There was one half-filled glass of wine before him atop a low set, dark wood coffee table, jagged and worn with abuse. Two wax candles were hovering, lit in separate corners, a soft warmth struggling under the natural darkness of the room. There was a musty, wet smell about floor and furniture.
For Severus, this was his hell-hole of a home.
He had not expected the knock at the door—unexpected visitors were a bad sign. He rose from the couch and, wand at the ready, approached the front entrance. If his wards and charms were still in place, it couldn't be any of 'them.' He waved his wand before the door, and a shimmering image misted from the dark oak.
Three wizards. One of them, obviously a Ministry official, stood closest to the door. The other two were likely Aurors from their clothing and stances. There was a fourth person in the group as well, Severus realized, tucked away in the middle of the group. He couldn't define their features, but assumed from the height and build that it was a woman. He steeled himself for his usual stoic and impartial expression, and opened the door.
"Good evening, Mr. Snape," the Ministry official greeted curtly with a nod.
"What is the meaning of this evening disruption," he replied sharply. He tried projecting a bit of anger as well. Whatever this was, he was sure he didn't have time for it.
The Ministry official nodded again and drew a rolled parchment from his sleeve. "Ah, well, it has come to the Ministry's attention that… well, essentially, a muggle-born witch is claiming exception from the Over-watch and Registry Law, due to her marriage to a pure blood."
The official unrolled the parchment, read it over briefly, then re-rolled it and looked at Severus expectantly. Severus raised an eyebrow and said nothing, staring down at the official. The two Aurors shifted minutely in the silence.
"Er, would this be the case, Mr. Snape?" the official tried prompting.
Snape's irritation was escalating rapidly, and he let it show. He figured the Death Eaters had better control over the Ministry so as to not permit this sort of frivolity.
'Or perhaps,' he considered, 'this was some sort of test?'
He looked at the official again, then at the Aurors behind him. He could assume the person they were shrouding was the woman in question; it was hard to see any features, beyond her height and build being small enough to be hidden between the two larger men. There was a rustling—a cat slinking near the corner by the bins. One of the Aurors turned to the sound, and as his cloak shifted the slightest distance back, Severus caught a glimpse of mousy, bushy brown hair.
His breath escaped him, and he felt his eyes widen.
'No,' he thought. Impossible. She couldn't be- and yet, here she was before him, he was certain. Questions raced through his mind—what was she doing here? How had they captured her? Was she alone?—and he struggled to remember his place. Severus had to think fast, which meant that he couldn't waste time pondering over the details of the situation. He needed to deal with the information he knew now, the extent of which was that Miss Granger was brought here to confirm a pure-blood marriage.
Whether that was a lie or the truth was debatable, but he suspected a lie, seeing as he'd known Potter and Weasley were somewhere west towards the mountains (per their last Death Eater gathering). Whether the pure blood was himself or someone he would know, however, was his most pressing question. He had no means of verification if it was himself, and if she had given another name, he had no way to correctly guess for the official. There was no way of helping her, and Severus had no intention of putting himself at risk in attempting to do so.
And yet, here she was; surely if he denied her claims, she would be sent to Azkaban, if not worse. Severus felt a cold fear at the thought. He needed to think, he needed time to—
The ministry official cleared his throat, and the Auror who was watching until the cat turned the corner turned back to face Severus.
"Preposterous," Severus said flatly.
The official, surprised at the sudden vocalization, was quick to magic a quill and set tip to paper.
"So, you are confirming there has been no such marriage?"
Severus thought he heard a quick, muffled sob. Something in his chest seemed to crack at the sound; he turned to the official with his most hardened glare. "That statement is incorrect," he began.
The Ministry official looked up from the parchment, and shrank back from the glower before him.
"I have in fact taken a wife recently. Within the last two weeks. However, with all the adjustments taking place at the ministry, it isn't any wonder that you fools are an absolute disarray in your records management."
"So…er…" the official started slowly after Snape had finished, "you are married, then?" He looked back at the parchment. "There are not records found as such." He looked back at Snape, and his spine straightened slightly. "If you could please provide your marriage license documents, Mr. Snape, then we should be on our way."
Snape couldn't tell if the official exuded a smugness at the request, or genuine joy at the thought of leaving his doorstep. Either way, Snape had to be quick. He rose himself, thought of everything he'd had to sacrifice up to this moment, and transformed himself.
"How. Dare. You." He snarled, fists clenching. "You should ask your superiors just where my paperwork is," his eyes flashed to the Aurors, dividing out his glare among each of his unwanted guests. "That is, if you are all still employed after this fiasco!"
The ministry official looked like he wanted to interrupt, but Snape waved a hand dismissively. "Enough! You will hand over my wife, now, and be on your way. Merlin help you if you return to Spinner's End again with such pedantic questions."
Severus prayed to Gods and magical creatures alike to make this work. He debated using the killing curse on the three of them, but decided the fallout would be too grand and, more importantly, too unpredictable.
The Ministry official sputtered briefly, his face reddening. One Auror mirrored his bafflement, the another looked bored and faintly amused. The official checked his watch, debated with a glare towards Severus, then decided, "Very well. This will not be the end of the conversation, Mr. Snape," he said haughtily, "However, I have other, more pressing matters to attend." He turned sharply on his heel and began walking away.
"I recommend finding those documents!" he added, turning a corner to the apparition point. The Auror who seemed to find the incident humorous was quick to abandon his charge and follow the official. The other stayed, looking between Hermione and Severus.
Hermione Granger. It was in fact the young witch the stood hunched before him, though her appearance had changed greatly over the last time he had seen her. She looked disheveled and crazed, thin and pale with her bushy hair longer and unkempt. She stared at the ground, perhaps at his feet, and she had her arms wrapped around her midsection, the occasional tremor most noticeable through the extra bag fabric of her clothes hanging off her frame. Her face was dirty, soot and tear tracks caked on in layers.
Severus tried to remember the last time he'd had an interaction with her. He'd always been aware of her, her presence as she passed through the dining room or the halls during classes. Plus, it was hard to avoid notice of her escapades and adventures as one of the infamous Hogwarts trio.
But their last spoken interaction, their last one-on-one exchange?
He looked to the Auror, brows drawn low. "Well?"
The guard hesitated another moment, looking as though he was going to respond to Severus, then, deciding against it, shook his head and walked briskly to follow his companions. Silence settled between the two, who continued to stand in the entrance way of Snape's abode. Severus' mind worked furiously, trying to decide what to do next. His best option was to grab her by the arm and apparate away somewhere—only Merlin knew where. Or perhaps he should turn her in, to the Ministry, to the Dark Lord—he had to remember his mission.
Instead, he glared at the hunched young woman before him and turned, stepping back to leave the entrance way open. She looked at him hidden under her hair, face swollen and eyes red. After a moment's hesitation, she scampered through the doorway.
Severus, after watching Hermione dart into his residence, turned his head to look back out into the night, listening to the quiet sounds of the alley. He savored this semblance of peace, then turned to follow her, the front door closing swiftly behind him.
Hermione sat on her former professor's couch, body tense, back straight. Her hands were curled into fists atop her knees, and her body still shook with a spastic tremor. She couldn't believe her plan—her misty idea, really—had worked. She felt like she must be hallucinating, or trapped within the most bizarre nightmare. A few hours ago, she had sat restrained to a carved stone seat; now she was sunken into worn leather, surrounded by books in a dim candle-lit room, watching her former potions professor pace before her. The swishing fabric of his robes was the only sound in the room.
Severus was furious, and mostly at himself. This was stupid, incredibly, unbelievably stupid of him. He didn't have time to look over the witch before him, didn't have time to be concerned over her well-being. He couldn't afford to have a weakness.
But then again, she had always been his weakness. But now he'd done this, something as small and inconsequential as to challenge that joke of a Ministry; it was sure to draw attention. Anyone would put two and two together, would figure out his secrets, would know that—
He stopped pacing abruptly, facing a wall so as to keep his face from her. He could feel that part of him, that vile, wretched piece, trying to surface. He remembered his mother's voice from so long ago.
'Now, Severus, this doesn't change anything,' she had confided in him quietly one evening, as he was just starting to develop and properly use his magic. 'You are still a wizard,' she smiled, squeezing his shoulders in a half-hug. 'Our strong, growing wizard.'
'But there is also a part of you, from my mother, and her grandmother before her, that is extra special.'
Severus breathed deeply, inhaling the damp stink of the decrepit room. He felt the Veela slide back under his skin, his muscles, his bones.
'And this will be our special secret, okay?'
He turned to face the young witch perched on the couch. Staring at her disheveled appearance, that thing inside him again tried to rustle free; but following the rising heat of anger was a blooming warmth. He wanted to offer her food, to dampen a cloth for her face, to brush back the tangle of hair over her shoulders.
He didn't trust himself to speak, unsure if the anger or warmth would come out, and knowing that he would regret either utterance.
Hermione met his gaze for a while, then looked down at her hands. Both individuals burned with questions that were only chilled by the knowledge that this time was fleeting, and that they were in a great deal of danger still. But Hermione, still coasting on her acceptance of the unreal events of the day, felt something she had thought died the moment she found those empty beds in the boys' dormitory.
It was soft, a wisp on air. If he hadn't been watching her lips move, he wouldn't have heard or distinguished it.
'She was thanking him?' he thought bitterly. 'Thanking him for not leaving her for dead?'
His body moved without thought, and he took a seat next to her. The two faced forward towards a wall of books, Hermione's gaze still on her hands, Severus' gaze unfocused before him. Slowly, one of his hands drifted to settle over her fist. Her gaze sharped on the hand, her mind foggily registering the smoothness of skin, the warmth growing from the contact.
Severus felt his body, or more likely his mind, about to split in two. The sober, rational half was an absolutely tyrant, scolding and belligerent that he get himself together and get rid of the problem—and run, run as far and as fast as he could.
The other half, though, that despicable buried part of him, had compelled him to sit and offer what little compassion he could spare.
After all, she was his mate. What else could he do but take her in, be her husband, and no longer fight this war for himself or for the ghosts of his past, but for her, this haggard girl fighting back shivers on his couch.
A weight settled in him at the thought. She had chosen him—pressured and forced, yes, but here she was. What were the odds that, despite all the chaos of their world, she would give his name as her savior?
The word came to Severus' mind again, and his hand reflexively tightened on Hermione's. He felt her gaze and turned to meet her. This close, he could still see the bookish schoolgirl under the years of exhaustion and fear. 'Merlin help me,' Severus thought, resigned, 'I'm going to protect this girl, and die trying.'
He cleared his throat, turning back to the wall of books. "We'll need to get the marriage license paperwork in order, and backdated, quickly."