(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: A twist on the Marriage Law theme: Severus and Hermione are magically compelled to be together (via love potion? Errant spell? Enchanted artifact? Get creative!). How does this forced coupling morph into true feelings? (SS/HG.)
Summary: None provided.
"But, 'Mione, what about that kiss in the Chamber? You have to admit it was pretty hot."
Hermione rolled her eyes at the whinging red-head. "Really, Ron, it was just a moment of insanity. I just don't feel that way for you. Why can't you accept that?"
Ron shrugged. "You know you like me. We were meant to be together, everyone says so. Mum is expecting an announcement any day now."
"WHAT?" Hermione flexed her wand hand as she moved towards her almost former friend. "Ron, I have NEVER given you the idea that I liked you at all in that way. I love you like a brother, but that's all. And WHY does your mother think we are together?
"Ron backed away from the magic that fairly crackled off of Hermione. "Now, Mione, just calm down. I might have... "
"You might have what?" She hissed. "WHAT. DID. YOU. DO?"
"You have to understand, I don't want to go back to Hogwarts and mum was pushing and it just came out. Besides, you know we would be good together. Come on, 'Mione, you know I love you."
Hermione took a deep breath, and moved to walk out the door. "I have got to get away from here. How could you do this? You know I have plans and they don't include marriage, much less marriage to you." She angrily swiped at the tears that burned her eyes.
Ron reached his hand out to grab her arm, trying to stop her from leaving. "Hey, where are you going? We aren't done!"
Hermione jerked her arm away and ran out the door. A minute later the crack of apparition marked her escape.
The Ministry was crowded as usual. Wizards and witches bustled from Floo to elevator to door, while paper airplane messages darted above their heads. Ron Weasley hurried to the bank of elevators, not paying any mind to the crowds of people pushing through alongside him. He knocked into one wizard, and in his haste to get to the open elevator, he pushed an elderly witch over.
"Here now! Watch where you're going, you aren't the only wizard needing the elevator!"
Ron flushed bright red, but barreled forward and pushed another wizard out of his way and fell into the crowd loaded onto the elevator. The slamming doors cut off the shouts and complaints of the other passengers.
By the time Ron got off the elevator, his ears were ringing and he was looking around like a Howler was chasing him. He slammed into the closest office door and collapsed at the closest desk. Seamus Finnegan sat at the other side of the desk. He looked at his old friend with some trepidation, but his tone was welcoming.
"I understand you need my help."
Ron swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, mate. See, Hermione has decided to finish Hogwarts, and take her NEWTs, I want to get married."
Seamus looked at Ron strangely. "I didn't know you and Hermione were engaged."
"Well, it isn't official, but mum is already planning the wedding, and Hermione just won't listen. I need you to help me get the paperwork for a binding. That way she CAN'T say no."
"Now, see here, mate, I can't be helping you trick somebody. If Hermione doesn't want to get married, then she doesn't." Seamus shook his head fiercely. "I'm sorry, Ron, but I can't help you."
Ron looked at the agitated wizard. "You will help, or I'll let it slip how you were banging your boss's wife in Muggle London last month. I would hate for you to lose your job."
Seamus' head dropped and his shoulders slumped. "Fine, but this is it. I want a Wizard's Oath that we are square and this conversation never happened. What exactly do you want?"
Ron, smug in his triumph, agreed readily and swore the oath. "Percy told me that there was an old law on the books, from a long time ago. He said that a wizard can pick the wife he wants and she has no choice to marry him or lose her magic. That's what I want."
Seamus wrote out a note and tapped it with his wand. The paper obeyed readily, flew out the transom window, and disappeared. After it was gone, Seamus got up and paced the floor. Severl times he stopped and made to say something, but shook his head and kept walking. Finally, a larger paper airplane flew into the room and skidded across the desk.
"I hope you know what you are doing, Ron."
"Just fill out the paperwork, I need to get to Hogwarts before 'Mione unpacks. Girls take way too long to get ready to do anything."
Seamus bent over the paper and scribbled with his quill. After a few moments, he pushed the papers to Ron and pointed at a dotted line. He didn't speak, but simply threw the quill at Ron getting ink all over his robes.
"Hey! What the bloody hell was that for?" Ron sputtered dabbing at his clothes. "Why couldn't you just hand the damn quill to me."
Seamus just glared in answer. Ron, after a moment of uncomfortable silence, bent back over the paper and scratched away. Rolling the parchment, he handed it to Seamus and said, "thanks, mate."
As he walked out the door, Ron turned around and smiled. "Say, you want to get together this weekend and celebrate my marriage? You know, a real bachelor's party!"
Seamus frowned, then answered, "get the bloody hell out of my office, and never speak to me again. We are no longer mates."
Ron just shrugged and disappeared down the hall.
It hadn't taken long to wrap up the Apprentice ceremony. Hermione had been delighted and thrilled that Professor McGonagall had offered her the position as Transfiguration apprentice. It had been a relief to not have to worry about finding a place to stay before term began. The Weasley's had offered, but after the fiasco with Ron, Hermione didn't think she could bear to be at the Burrow. Ron was bad enough, but having to fend off Molly Weasley was worse! So, instead, Hermione would be spending the summer in Animagi study, her formal apprenticeship to begin along with the new term.
Hermione looked down at her new robes and the heavily ornate ring that dwarfed her left ring finger. She snorted a laugh at the irony of the ring. She was, for all intents and purposes bound like a wife to her Master for the next two years. Ron, would throw a wobbly when he realised that it was marriage to him personally that she objected to. She had tried so hard to discourage him after those few months and the heart-rending drama of her crush ended. Funnily enough, it had been his actions towards Lavender that had killed that growing attraction. As smug as she had been when he called her name in the infirmary and had broken Lavender's heart, her own come-uppance had occured when she overheard Ron tell Harry that if he had known mumbling Hermione's name in his sleep would have gotten rid of Lav-Lav, he would have done it sooner.
Hermione broke out of her reverie just in time to be surrounded by her fellow Hogwart's staff members, each offering congratulations and advice. She smiled and thanked them all prettily, laughed and talked for what seemed like hours. As the reception would down, the Headmaster stepped forward, and handed Hermione a flute of elf-made champagne. She smiled shyly, and Severus Snape formally welcomed Hermione to the staff.
"Apprentice Granger, your binding to your Master was successful, and Hogwarts Castle has accepted you as one of us. You are now under it's protection. Use your time here wisely. Welcome to Hogwarts."
Hermione bowed her head in acknowledgment of the welcome. "Thank you, Headmaster. I will never abuse the trust that has been placed in me, not only by my Transfiguration Master, but also by you, and by Hogwarts itself. I accept my place here, and all its protection."
"RONALD WEASLEY! Come down at once. Dinner is ready and we are waiting on YOU!" Molly Weasley barreled into the kitchen. "If that boy doesn't start doing something other than hiding in his room all day, I won't be responsible... "
Arthur Weasley stepped into the room behind her. "Molly, George has offered Ron a spot in the shop. I think we should encourage him."
"If he would ever come out of his room, I would," Molly declared. "I don't know what he is doing, but it can't be any good as Hermione has continued to ignore invitations to the Burrow. If she doesn't come visit soon so we can discuss the wedding, there won't be anything or anyone here. The summer is almost over and Ron said that he and Hermione wanted to marry at "
"Molly, I am sure that Hermione has everything under control. She is spending time with her parents, and will be around as soon as she is ready."
The Weasley's conversation was interrupted when Ron staggered through the door and fell into a chair at the table. His eyes were blood-shot, and he looked like he had gone several rounds with a hippogriff. "What's to eat, Mum," was all he said before laying his head on his arms.
"Ron, get your self off my table!" Molly squawked. "Have you been drinking? What are you doing in your room? Is this why Hermione won't answer the Floo at her parents? What have you done?"
Ron winced at the tirade. "No, mum, everything is fine. Hermione is on a trip with her parents. And I am not drinking. Just doing some important stuff to get ready for Hermione to come home."
Molly smiled in relief and understanding, missing the ugly sneer on her son's face. Arthur, however, saw it and wondered just exactly was going on between his son and his supposed fiancee.
May had faded into June and June into July. It was mid-month, the castle was repaired and ready for the new term scheduled to begin on the first of September. Hermione had been working hard between her Animagi work and her other duties. Because becoming an Animagi wasn't part of the formal Transfiguration Apprenticeship, Hermione had insisted on on doing something to earn her keep while waiting for term to start. The only thing available for Hermione to do was to assist the Headmaster. After having been cleared of any wrong-doing in association with both the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix, Severus Snape had been returned to the Headmaster's Office. It wasn't so much his choice as it was Hogwarts itself choosing him. Until the Board of Governors agreed to reinstall Snape as head of the castle, the building refused to allow anyone entrance. Newly minted Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt vouched for the Potions master, and now the dark man had a second chance at a future.
Unfortunately, along with the reins of the castle, Snape was also inundated with paperwork and potions. He had taken it upon himself to restock the infirmary as he did every year, however he didn't take into consideration the paperwork that would be involved in renovations and repairs of the castle, or of hiring new professors. Enter the little know-it-all, Hermione Granger. She had eased into his office and as he was just beginning to realise, his life.
Hermione made her way into the Headmaster's office and sank into one of the heavily cushioned chairs that fronted the fireplace. It had been another long night of bad dreams and pain. The dreams were odd as she was terrified every time she woke, but she could only ever remember being wrapped in chains. She sighed lightly and rubbed her aching hand. That was the other oddity. Her left hand was painful and swollen, and she couldn't figure out why.
She figured it was the affect of something that happened during the Final Battle, but she didn't want it to interfere with her studies so she cast a slight glamour and went about her day with no one the wiser.
She was sitting in the chair musing about the dreams she had been having when Severus entered the room. He stood to the side and watched the girl as she clenched and unclenched her left hand. He had noticed her favoring the appendage roughly a month before, but as she had never mentioned it neither had he. Now, however, she winced as she worried it and he could see that the glamour she had placed was wearing off in the face of her unusual fatigue.
"Miss Granger," was quietly spoken, though in the silence of the office it seemed to boom, and Hermione startled at the noise. "Forgive me, I didn't mean to frighten you. You were lost in thought... is something troubling you?" Severus stared pointedly at her left hand.
Hermione followed his eyes and realised that she had given herself away. She debated on whether she could just brush it off, but decided to take the Headmaster into her confidence. Perhaps he could even fix the problem.
"About a month ago, I began having night terrors. I wake up drenched in a cold sweat and gasping for breath. I know that whatever it is scares me beyond belief, but I can only ever remember standing in a light and being bound in chains. To make matters worse, my left hand has begun swelling and it is almost impossible to use. It has begun burning too."
Severus frowned at his companion. "Hermione, let me see your hand."
The witch jerked her eyes up to Severus'. He never called her Hermione even though she had offered her name when they began working together. If he was calling her by her given name, well it didn't bode well at all. "Headmaster, do you know what is wrong with me?"
"Let me see your hand."
Hermione dropped the glamour, and showed Severus her hand. It was worse than it had been. The swelling was just before causing her Apprentice ring to cut the circulation off to her finger. It was horribly red around the ring, and the the skin had started to weep some. Severus took a handkerchief out of his pocket and dampened it with a dark blue potion he took from his desk. He dabbed it gently around the ring and watched as it soothed the fiery loooking skin.
"You MUST answer this question honestly, Hermione. It is a matter of utmost importance that you do. Answer fully and honestly. Before you came back to Hogwarts, before the Apprentice Binding with Minerva, did you bond with anyone, anyone at all?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, sir, I have never made any kind of binding or bonding promises with anyone other than Minerva. The day we held the ceremony was the first time I had ever seen one."
"Are you sure? You must be absolutely positive. I don't mean another apprenticeship, either. You haven't promised to marry anyone, or to have a binding ceremony?"
"Of course not, Headmaster. I will tell you like I told Ron Weasley the day before... " Hermione swallowed hard. "Oh, Merlin, could he have cast a hex on me without me noticing?"
Severus looked at Hermione with some concern. "What happened between you and Mr. Weasley? I need to know everything you can remember about your conversation."
"Well, it was just like the others we have had recently. He tried to convince me that we were meant to be together. He took it too far this time though. He actually told his parents that we were getting married because he didn't want to come back to school. We had a huge row, and I told him I wouldn't speak to him again until he got that nonsense out of his head." Hermione sighed. "I have refused all his owls, and all the Weasley's attempts at contact. But, honestly, I can't believe he would be able to do something like this. He isn't that stupid. And what kind of hex affects just the hand. It isn't even my wand hand."
"Thank you, Miss Granger. I am sure you are correct concerning Mr. Weasley, but it doesn't take away the fact that someone is attacking you. There are still dark wizards about, and it is possible one of them is attempting to gain control of you, and by default, Mr. Potter. I will get back to you as soon as I can. There is a potion that will ease your hand better than one I just used, but it takes several hours to brew. If you will return to your quarters, I will retrieve you when it is ready."
Hermione nodded and slipped out of the room as Severus rose to make his way to his private lab.
As soon as Hermione was out of earshot, Severus went to the Floo and called Minerva.
"Come to my lab, Min, we have a problem."
Minerva came through the Floo, brushing the soot from her hands and robes. "Whatever could be worrying you today, Severus." She smiled at the man pacing the room. "Surely you haven't decided to give up as Headmaster?"
Severus rolled his eyes at the witch, "Minerva, this is serious. Hermione is in trouble, and we must act quickly."
Jerking her head up at the usage of her apprentice's given name, the Professor quickly became all business. She would not take any chances when it came to her cubs. "What is going on, Severus. And what do you need me to do."
"It seems that someone is trying to gain control of Hermione. Your apprentice is suffering the side effects of an attempt to overcome a binding."
"But, Severus, there have been no signs... "
"Miss know-It-All cast a glamour on her hand, and has hidden the nightmares from everyone."
"Her hand was swollen to the point of her ring cutting into the flesh. It has to be burning like Fiendfyre, but she has hidden it well."
"Severus, is there anything we can do? Other than find out who is behind this and stop them?"
Severus turned from the cauldron he had been stirring and stared at Minerva for several long minutes. "I only know of one way to fix this and I am quite sure it will never happen. I suggest we research replacing one binding with something other than another binding."
The Potions master returned to his brewing, effectively ending that conversation. Several minutes later, Minerva was gone in a flare of green.
For several weeks the only success with Hermione's situation was the potion that Severus brewed for her. They were no closer to discovering who was behind the almost daily attacks that were beginning to wear Hermione down. She couldn't sleep and that combined with the increasing pain had left her appetite something to be desired. Severus had finally called in Poppy Pomfrey to prescribe a nutritional potion. Hermione had begun to cling to the Headmaster as she became more and more despondent. He was the only one who didn't baby her, or coo over her, or try to pamper her. He treated her as he always did, even if it was with more ease and solicitousness than she would have ever imagined. Severus was the only thing keeping her from jumping off the Astonomy Tower.
Finally, towards the end of July, they got some news. The Daily Prophet had gotten word from the Ministry that a little known, and even more rarely used Marriage Law had been envoked over the summer. Witches and wizards alike were running scared that this was the beginning of some new way to control the population. Severus and Minerva discussed at length the probability that this Marriage Law was behind Miss Granger's issues. The question now was how to use this information to fix said problem.
"Severus, I have had word from a contact in the Ministry. A petition under an archaic law was indeed sworn out in Hermione's name. We can't get the name of the person behind it until the binding is complete. And at that point... "
"Then there is nothing to do until that person comes forward. If it is a Death Eater, they may wait until the apprenticeship is complete and attack when she leaves school. I will continue to brew the potions she needs, but I don't know how long she will hold out."
Hermione sat in front of the fire and watched Severus as he finished up his daily paperwork. He had been quieter than usual, and almost shy in his dealings with her. Frankly, it was beginning to scare her more than some unknown wizard trying to bind her to him. Her musings were interrupted when Severus joined her on the love seat she had comandeered as her own.
"Hermione, I must talk with you."
She nodded in agreement and sat attentively while he gathered his thoughts.
"As you know, the only reason that you are not bound to this unknown assailant is because you are bound to Minerva for two years and the magic of Hogwarts is protecting you. Unfortunately, the daily assaults have battered the bond you have as Master and Apprentice almost to the breaking point. Each day the outside bond is getting stronger. That is why your ring is beginning to damage your hand."
Severus sighed, "I wish this was easier, but the only solution I can find is to envoke a binding that will override the ones fighting over you. A Soul Binding will keep you safe and allow you to finish your education."
Hermione stared at the Headmaster. "Sir, do you have any idea what you are saying to me?"
Severus nodded. "I know I am no prize, Hermione, but I don't know what else to do. A Soul Bond is permanent, there would be no escape from each other."
Hermione saw the slight smirk as he offered that tidbit. "Sir... Severus, I have always respected you, even if I didn't like you. You have proven yourself to me over and over, and if I wasn't so tired and in such pain I would say no for your sake. I am desperate, though. I accept."
Severus released a breath he didn't know he was holding. "Are you certain? There is no one you would rather be with?"
"No, Severus, in fact, I had pretty much decided that I was going to be an old maid, " Hermione laughed. "I think we can make this work if we take the next two years to get to know each other."
"Agreed, Hermione. We can do the ritual on August first. An auspicious day to begin a binding contract. Can you be ready by the end of the week? I dare not agree to let you leave Hogwarts until we are bound. The Castle has been protecting you."
"I will be ready as soon as you wish."
Severus took Hermione's injured hand and pressed a light kiss to her palm. "Saturday, then, at dusk... "
Lughnasadh. A Harvest Festival, and a favored day for contracts, both marriage and business. Hermione Granger and Severus Snape stood together in the sacred grove just inside the Forbidden Forest. Minerva McGonagall and the rest of the Hogwarts staff stood as witness to the binding of this unlikely pair. It was an arrangement of necessity, but there was warmth there, and trust. And there was the bloom of a grand friendship, one that would last beyond time, and the first blush of something more intimate. It would take time and patience, but the former spy and the bookworm had both in spades. After the ritual was over, the staff had a small reception. They loved any excuse to have a drink, and the binding of their Headmaster to the Transfiguration Apprentice was definitely an excuse. The couple was toasted and teased, and finally Severus raised his hand.
"It is time for us to depart. We will be back to Hogwarts in two weeks. Please refrain from tearing down my castle." Severus took Hermione's hand, and with no further word led her to the fireplace. A muttered destination, and the two were gone in a flash of green flame and soot.
Poppy looked at Minerva. "Coming or going, that boy does love to be dramatic!"
Severus and Hermione stepped out of the Floo into a beautifully appointed room. He had made reservations at an exclusive resort in hopes of making things easier for Hermione. She seemed to be content, but the doubts did linger. The rooms, the resort, the entire two weeks, in fact, were a complete success. The consummation of the Soul Bond was an even greater success. Despite the nervousness on both parts, Severus and Hermione eagerly joined together and found that they were compatible in more than academics. They spent the days talking to each other and the nights learning each other. When it was time to return to the real world, they were more than ready to face whatever came their way.
The night before they wer to return to Hogwarts, Severus and Hermione went to the Burrow to fill them in on the summer's happenings, and to let them know first hand about the binding and why it happened. There was some outrage at first, until Molly understood that Ron had been lying to keep out of school. After the Severus told the tale of the attacks on Hermione, and she had shown the healing wounds on her hand, the two were welcomed with hugs and well-wishes and promises to let the past be past.
The fire in the grate was beginning to burn itself out, occasional sparks and pops sounding its death knell. Most of the occupants of the Burrow had retired hours before, but a small group still remained, talking quietly. It was during a lull in the conversation that a suggestion to join the rest of the household in slumber was offered and accepted rather sleepily.
Harry Potter stood and drew his wand, casting a gentle Lumos to light the way for his fellows to find their beds. He gently kissed Ginny Weasley and offered an arm to escort her to the stairs. They were followed closely by Percy and George Weasley, Severus Snape, and Hermione Granger. No one noticed as the last of the group fell behind watching the shadows elongate and dance along the stairwell walls. As Ron Weasley watched, a bedroom door opened, the light from within casting two shadows in sharp relief. He grimaced, but could not tear his eyes away from the silhouette of a slight female being ushered into the room by a tall man. The last thing Ron saw before the door closed was the gentle kiss pressed onto the lips he so craved.