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48 HOURS by thalassa [Reviews - 54]


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This story was entered in the Sycophant Hex: Spring Faire Festival under the General Story: Severus Snape: I Want to Kiss the Bride.

The criteria is below:

Summary: Hermione is about to get married when a certain Potions master realizes she should marry him instead. He has forty-eight hours to stop the wedding and get her to marry him.

Rules:
1. Severus Snape is to be portrayed by Severus Snape. He does not have really silky hair. His nose is hooked, not aquiline. In other words, keep the Snape as close to canon as possible, in both appearance, and characterization.
2. Snape does not kill the other canon male involved (i.e. potential groom).
3. Snape does not snatch Hermione away from the wedding or some other such rubbish.
4. Snape is not to be turned into any of the following:
- Mr. Darcy
- A fluffy bunny
- A sap

Notes:
1. Hermione's potential groom may be any other canon character.
2. Any characters can be enlisted to help Severus in his endeavor.
3. Genre up to the author. The story can be comedy, angst, drama, or any other combination the writer chooses.
4. Hermione does not have to end up marrying Snape.
5. All standard SH rules and submission policies apply.







48 HOURS
by Thalassa



A very old house elf, carrying a large tray with several plates on it, made his way to the huge wooden table of the almost dark dining room.

There was only one person sitting at the table, at the head of it. He was reading by the dim light of the candle in front of him on the table. He almost didn't notice the elf placing the plates in front of him. The elf served the food and then retreated from the room. The dark-haired man closed the book and looked at the plates. He picked up an orange and some vegetables, and with a move of his hand banished the rest of the food.

An owl arrived with a scroll attached to its leg. He glared in irritation towards the bird. It approached, and he untied the scroll. He waved the bird off and opened the scroll. The resident scowl on his face deepened as he read the scroll's content. He burned the scroll, using the small flame of the candle in front of him.

He stood up and left the room, his black robes billowing behind him. He reached another room, a library. He started pacing inside the room, mumbling incoherent words, and picking up a book every now and then from the numerous shelves.

* * * * * *


Somewhere, quite far away, hundreds of people laughed and smiled and chatted under an enchanted ceiling. The Great Hall was decorated in red and green, as the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry celebrated the upcoming nuptials of two professors. Hermione Granger — their teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts — and Blaise Zabini — the Hogwarts Potions Master — were getting married in less than three days. Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had made a long speech on the importance of the upcoming wedding, as it would be a union between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin, between a Muggleborn and a pureblood. The pair themselves sat next to each other at the staff table, both beaming.

In the whole Great Hall, there was only one person who did not participate in the general uproar — Professor Sibyll Trelawney. She had tried earlier to warn them both, but they would not listen. She recalled their talk.

"Professor Granger, it is unwise to proceed with this marriage without giving thought to the curse. Your future will be doomed, and your child will be offered to the dark forces even before it is born." Sibyll hadn't been cryptic, and she hadn't claimed that it was a vision she had had.

Still, Hermione Granger had not believed her. "Sibyll, you have always foretold doom and death for all my friends. It isn't any different now. I won't allow you to ruin my wedding with silly tricks."

Hermione's answer, which Sibyll had expected, still didn't solve the problem. Blaise Zabini had answered her in almost the same way, adding a threat that he would make Sibyll suffer, if she frightened his future wife with such tales.

So the couple rejected Sibyll's warning, and now sat in the Great Hall, ignoring the Divination professor. The Headmistress asked the happy couple who their best man was going to be. They answered in unison, that they had just sent that morning an invitation to the only candidate.

* * * * * *


After the final battle and Albus Dumbledore's demise, he had wanted to immediately resign from teaching at Hogwarts. When the Headmaster's will was opened, there was a letter for him. No one else knew the content, but after he had read it, he decided to stay three more years at the school. He started training his successor, a young Slytherin who had just graduated — a good student, and one who had not been a Death Eater. After only a year, his apprentice was sent to the Ministry in order to finish his training.

Soon afterwards, he was asked to train the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts. She had spent a year in the Ministry receiving the standard DADA education, and he was to teach her the rest. When he finished with her training, he resubmitted his resignation and left the school. Ever since then, he had remained secluded in his personal estate, working on his projects and experiments. He rarely received any news from the outside world, and he never accepted any visitors.

The scroll he had received a few hours ago changed everything. The only two apprentices he had ever had were going to get married to each other, and they wanted him to be the best man. He returned to the books opened before him. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He inspected his notes and looked at the clock on the wall. He had exactly forty-eight hours to stop this wedding.

----------------------------------------

He arrived at Hogwarts, a place he had been certain that he would never again see in his life. He had not sent any kind of message, therefore he expected no one to be there to welcome him. He was surprised, not that he would ever let it show, when he saw Sibyll Trelawney waiting for him at the front gates. He didn't believe in divination, and neither did he believe in seers.

Sibyll Trelawney ignored his scowl and smiled. "I am glad you came. However, be warned there is only one way to stop this wedding." He had never before heard the Divination professor speak without riddles and without using her eerie tone. Still, her words unnerved him. She knew why he was here.

He entered the castle and strode through the familiar corridors until he reached the Great Hall. It had been seven years since he had last been in this same room. None of the current students had known him as a professor, though most paled at his sight, as the legend of the evil git of the dungeons took life in front of them.

Minerva McGonagall stood up to greet him. She had doubted that he would come. She could hardly picture him as a best man. Little did she know about his true motives, as unlike the previous Headmaster she was not omniscient.

Blaise Zabini, raised in the best pureblood manners, stood up and bowed before his old teacher and mentor. Hermione Granger greeted him in a more Muggle way; she was one of the few people alive, if not the only one, who dared to hug him.

He was invited to sit with them. He turned his back to the chair provided next to Blaise Zabini and instead sat in Zabini's chair, thus effectively separating the couple. He completely ignored the new Potions master and started talking to the DADA teacher.

"Miss Granger, I have never doubted that you were a silly girl, but your stupidity has grown with the passing years. A wedding on February 29th and with full moon? What happened to that brain of yours everyone was so proud of?"

As he growled he kept glaring at her, and she recognized in his eyes that he was furious indeed. "Blaise's mother asked us to choose this date," she replied with steadiness.

He thought that she had finally believed in herself and in her powers, yet in this case it would be better if she hadn't. "You are the DADA expert, Miss Granger. You should not allow any Slytherin ambitions to cloud your reasoning."

He was the only person who still called her Miss Granger, and she felt as if she was back in her first year sitting in the Potions classroom.

He shifted his attention to Blaise Zabini and starting arguing with him in a low yet threatening tone. Truth be told, she had never truly grasped the fine concepts of pureblood politics and intrigues. Instead of listening to their argument, she used the opportunity to study her former Potions professor and mentor in the Defense Against the Dark Arts. He should be now forty-eight or forty-nine. She could tell that there were a few white strands in his long hair, which was as greasy as she remembered it. His skin was white and sallow. She had forgotten how crooked his nose was.

As she watched him, she noticed his other features, which she had expected to soften with time. He was still cruel and sarcastic, as intimidating and as powerful a presence as he had ever been. She owed him her life, and still she hated him. His tutelage in the dark arts had saved her from death and doom more than once, yet his teaching methods and his cruelty had left scars in her soul. In the one and a half years that he taught her DADA, he had never ever touched her in any way, neither had he physically abused her.

Instead, he had played with her fears and insecurities until she had reached her limits and couldn't take any more. She had climbed to the top of the Astronomy Tower prepared to put an end in her life. He had been waiting for her there. He had asked her whether it was worth it to give her life away for a job. He had offered her a recommendation letter for an apprenticeship in potions. She should have been honored; everyone else would have taken it and left on the spot. DADA was never just a job for Hermione, though. The moment her two best friends, Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, had fallen victims of dark magic — the toll for finally defeating Voldemort, DADA had become her personal goal. He had known and yet he continued to fight her until she was drained. She had given up hope that it would ever end, that he would ever consider her training as complete; and when she had finally surrendered, he offered her his congratulations on successfully finishing her training and he left.



Severus Snape studied the young man he was arguing with. Zabini was an adequate Potions master, he had the cunning required for the Head of Slytherin, and he had ethics, something unusual for his house. Severus could have been proud of him, if he ever acknowledged to care for any of his former students. He could have possibly agreed to be his best man, if he had chosen any other woman as his bride. As things were now, Severus had forty-seven hours left to stop the wedding. His main target would be to frighten Miss Granger enough to make her postpone it. However, there was a possibility that this would not be an option, that Hermione would have to get married in two days. If so, there could only be one groom, him.

He was annoyed by the sound of the students talking as they ate. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He wished he could still deduct house points.

"I have to talk to both of you. I will be staying in your rooms for these two days, Mr. Zabini. Meet me in an hour there," he commanded, then he left, black robes billowing behind him.

"Love, are you sure it was good idea to invite him?" Hermione asked her future husband.

"It was not an option. It is proper etiquette. More than that, you should know by now that for Slytherins obligations and debts form an unbreakable chain."

"I am afraid that my Muggle background will never allow me to fully understand the ways of purebloods and Slytherins," she sighed.

"No need to worry, my beloved." He kissed her hand tenderly.

They slowly made their way to the dungeons. Hermione mused that her future husband would have to stay with her in her rooms for the night, as his chambers were now occupied.

The pair found Severus Snape sitting by the cold fireplace. Blaise always had a fire lit in the room. Tonight was the first time in seven years that they saw the fireplace dark, as it was in the years before. They sat opposite of him, their hands clasped together, intertwined.

"Why did your mother choose this date?" Severus Snape jumped directly to the matter in hand.

"She said it ensures powerful offspring."

He smirked, his eyes black pools full of sarcasm and mockery. "Powerful indeed."

Hermione shivered as she heard his silky voice and the sarcasm in it.

"My mother has performed a ritual associated with the date," Blaise continued, not noticing the sudden grimace in his mentor's face.

Hermione jumped at her future husband's words. "You never told me that!"

"You do not care for pureblood rituals and ceremonies, so I just thought you wouldn't be interested."

She looked in the dark eyes of her former professor. "I have a feeling that you know about this."

"I am afraid so. Miss Granger, I only came here with the aim to stop this wedding. My initial plan was to convince you to postpone it, until you would be able to see why this marriage is impossible. Then came Mr. Zabini's disclosure about the already performed ritual, which unfortunately will demand a wedding, your wedding, to take place on February 29th as the full moon rises. As I cannot allow you to marry Mr. Zabini, you will be marrying me in forty-six hours."

Blaise stared at the older man who was his guest. Respect would not allow him to attack a guest, yet it was obvious that Snape believed indeed that he was going to marry his precious beloved fiancee. He hugged Hermione, who was torn between kicking out the older man and attacking him.

Severus summoned a glass of brandy and drank it quietly, as he saw the couple trying to find the best reaction to his words.

Finally Hermione was able to talk. "I love Blaise, but even if I didn't, you could never be a candidate for me to marry. The wedding rituals demand the couple to give body and soul to each other. Why would I ever want your old, greasy, and ugly body? As for the second element, how could you give me your soul when you have none?"

Her words were cutting and to the point. Severus felt their sting. He could be proud of her. She had learnt well from him. His eyes showed emotion for just a moment. Hermione and Blaise were both shocked when they read the brief flare of emotion. It was not hurt; it was acknowledgement of her value as a fighter.

Blaise stood up. "With all due respect, sir, you cannot possibly believe that I will let you have my mate, the person I care most about. I also wish to warn you against trying to kidnap her, as the wards around Hogwarts will not allow it."

"Do I need to remind you, Mr. Zabini, that I was one of the wizards who restored the wards after the war? As for trying to stop me, I expected nothing less from you."

"Professor, why would you ever want to marry me? You complained that I was a know-it-all, a thorn on your side, one-third of the golden trio which plagued your life." Hermione Granger was angry that he had turned up only two days before her long-anticipated wedding, aiming to ruin it. However, she was also curious, and his intentions remained hidden for the time being.

"You are correct in your assessment, Miss Granger. I don't want to marry you. Nevertheless, there is no other choice, for neither of us."

She stood up, flustered by her anger. "You will leave these chambers right now. Go back to your lair, and never ever disturb us again. You are no longer the resident of these chambers; my fiance is."

He laughed, a laugh which sounded horrible in her ears.

Blaise paled. "Hermione, no, wait — you know nothing of how things work in Slytherin. As long as he is alive these chambers are his, if he requests them; not only the chambers, but also every power and every authority of the Head of Slytherin." He hugged his fuzzy-haired fiancee and pulled her out of the dungeons.



Hermione ran to the gargoyle, seeking Minerva McGonagall, who would know how to stop the lunatic in the dungeons. She reached the office of the Headmistress and immediately started explaining everything to a sleepy Minerva McGonagall, while trying to catch her breath in between.

Minerva tried to calm her down. She called a house elf to return Hermione back to her chambers, then she threw some floo powder in her fireplace.

"Severus Snape, get up here this moment!" She backed away as the very next minute Severus Snape appeared in her fireplace, waving the dust from his voluminous robes.

"Charming as always when you shout my dear Minerva. Why is it that you only shout when you think that one of your precious Gryffindors needs protection? One would think that by obtaining this post, you would overcome your prejudice against the other Houses."

She sat down behind her large desk. "You used to be able to bait me in this way, Severus, but not any more. I have no intention to fight with you over spilled milk. I only wish to know why you are trying to stop this wedding."

"The curse, Minerva. Do you remember why it was always so hard to find a competent DADA teacher, and why Albus never allowed me to teach the subject?" He scowled as he remembered the former Headmaster, the only person who had ever cared for him.

He didn't wait for an answer but continued expressing his thoughts. "The dark arts and dark magic leave a scar on the victim's soul, even when the spells are successfully countered. In order to protect against getting marked in this way, the person must have inner strength and have their powers focused. To be able to keep one's defenses at all times, the fight against the dark has to be really important, a personal crusade, so much more than a simple teaching job.

"In my case I thought that it would not matter whether I got one more scar, if I had one more part of my soul torn apart, because it was already so scarred that it would not make any difference. Miss Granger was correct earlier today, when she claimed that I have no soul. However, Albus wasn't prepared to sacrifice the last remaining bits of my humanity; that's why he never gave me the post. Miss Granger has been surrounded all this time by the dark magic, the residues of little hexes and curses, the remainders of dark arts performed around her in the final battle and in this school."

Minerva McGonagall handed him a glass filled with brandy and remarked dryly, "Unfortunately, I am very well aware of the curse. I also informed Miss Granger about it. She said she had run all calculations, and their love would be enough to protect her."

"There are certain dates when magic is stronger. You know that, Minerva. Full moon, equinox, February 29th every four years. Any combining of these, such as full moon on equinox or full moon on February 29th, increases further the magic. Any marriage binding performed on such a date is destined or doomed to have consequences. Zabini's mother is ambitious, a true Slytherin, if I might add. She obviously wished to set the specific date in order to overcome the fact that her son is getting married to a Mudblood."

"Severus!"

"Muggleborn, if you prefer the term, even if it changes nothing. Having never been particularly adept, Madam Zabini failed to notice the fact that Miss Granger is mostly surrounded by dark magic, and thus any wedding on such a day will also increase the pressure of the dark magic on her. What will happen when she gets pregnant and is defenseless during the nine months?"

"We could just give her a leave of absence for this period. Then she would not have to come into contact with any dark magic. That, in combination with the protection from Mr. Zabini, should be enough."

"Minerva, you have missed my main point. There is already so much around her, haunting and hunting her, that she would not have to come in contact with dark magic ever again and still she would be greatly affected. Do I need to explain to you that, if she falls, the baby born will be the next Dark Lord? Or do I need to run calculations of her odds for survival?"

He watched the older woman as a very sad smile formed on her lips.

"Severus, my boy, I always knew you were special. Not many know about the curse, but even fewer understand the consequences. I am to blame for the upcoming marriage, too. I knew the signs, and yet I chose to close my eyes to them. I never wanted any other woman to suffer as I did."

His dark eyes focused on the older woman, his mind working rapidly.

"You are aware that I never got married," Minerva said reluctantly. "Yet I was once pregnant. I was young, the youngest teacher in this school, teaching DADA. Don't be surprised, Transfiguration was not of any interest to me back then. I was happy and in love. We knew that we couldn't get married and that we could never have any children, but we didn't mind, because we loved each other."

"Pretty stupid of both of you if you thought that you could stop nature. Powerful witches are meant to have children! Celibacy is the only way to prevent it from happening."

The older woman waved her wand and placed a silencing charm on the former Potions master.

"Yes, Severus," Minerva acknowledged. "It was pretty stupid to think we could fool nature. We both paid for it dearly. Patrick died in his effort to protect me, and I had to terminate the baby, as it was taken by the dark forces. I would never want to see it repeated in the case of Miss Granger. How could you protect her, better than Blaise?"

She took the silencing spell off him.

"In the same way that I could have taught DADA, not by fencing it, but by taking it in. I do not have much to lose."

"Lose? You mean your humanity and, following that, your life."

"There would be enough time for the baby to be born and for them both to be safe. Being a widow, she could then marry Mr. Zabini, and they would live happily ever after." He mockingly raised his eyebrow as he uttered the last words.

"They will never accept your plan. Miss Granger would never take another's life to ensure her happiness."

"They don't need to know."

"How do you plan to convince them, then?"

He smirked with malevolence. "She owes me her life, and I will demand to collect the debt. He is a Slytherin, which means following the code of the ethics is more important for him than his life, than his love. I am his superior in all aspects; he will have to obey and retreat."

"So you really care for both of them!" It was a statement, not a question.

"That is nonsense, Minerva. It is just that I have nothing to lose. Maybe I only want to ensure the continuance of my family line." He left the office and started descending towards the dungeons.

Alone in her office, Minerva McGonagall cried. She cried for the baby she never gave birth to. She cried for James, Lily, and Harry Potter. She cried for Ronald Weasley and Sirius Black. She also cried for the man who had just left her office, because even though he was still among the living, his life was lost and so was his will to live.



He passed by empty classrooms and corridors. As he took another turn, he heard whispers coming from an empty-looking classroom. He turned and entered it.

Blaise was sitting on the floor, cradling Hermione in his arms. He whispered her words of love and of comfort.

"It is inappropriate for two professors to be snogging like some hormonal teenagers in empty classrooms."

They looked up towards the familiar voice and saw him looming above them.

"It is none of your business, you greasy git!" Hermione shouted.

Blaise looked surprised at his fiancee. She had always been polite with everyone. He had never witnessed her swearing or insulting anyone.

Severus ignored her outburst and calmly talked to Blaise. "I will be returning Miss Granger to her room."

Blaise knew then that Severus was going to use his right to choose first, his right over every other Slytherin in Hogwarts. He bowed his head, anxious for his beloved fiancee, yet unable to act against the ancient tradition.

She felt betrayed and looked at Blaise with big eyes, silently urging him to help her, to be the one who would accompany her to her rooms.



Severus grabbed her elbow and started pulling her behind him as he walked out of the room. He took her all the way to the top of the Astronomy Tower.

"Are you afraid of me, Miss Granger?"

She shivered, but she answered steadily. "No."

"You should be."

"I will never marry you. Take me away from Blaise, and I will do what I planned to do seven and a half years ago." She looked down from the Tower, contemplating that she wanted to live with her beloved, not commit suicide.

He knew the outcome. He would just demand her debt to him, and he would have her, an unwilling offer in a sham of a marriage. Still, he wanted to try and make her understand before things led to that. He cast a binding spell on her so that she would not leave, then he sat next to her on the cold floor of the top of the Astronomy Tower.

"Tell me, Miss Granger, what is it that you find attractive in Mr. Zabini?"

She found the question strange. She knew the former Potions master didn't care about anyone's feelings, but his question gave her hope that if she could explain he might leave them in peace.

"I love Blaise dearly. He is intelligent, and he has a great sense of humor. He is comforting when I need him to be, but at the same time he respects my independence. He is kind to me, and he treats me well. He is gorgeous, and he pleasures me as I pleasure him. We both appreciate the same things, such as theatre and music and books. Despite our cultural differences he has never looked down at me, and he has been very supportive when his parents treated me badly. We are the same age, and he knows of the things I have been through."

"Humans are no different than animals. You are a female, and the time has come for you to procreate. As with every female in the animal kingdom, women also seek the most powerful male, which will give them healthy children. Common interests and merry social outings have little to do with this need."

He grabbed her face between his hands and pulled her closer. He caught her mouth in a bruising kiss. She refused to open her mouth and fought hard against him. He continued his kiss for several minutes, biting her lips and causing her pain. He then abruptly pushed her away and stood up.

"Do not worry, Miss Granger. You will never love me. You will probably hate me, but as I am the most powerful wizard within these walls, you will desire me." He undid the spell that held her bound.

She jumped up and faced him as she stated, "You are a deeply horrible person." She then left the Tower running, before she could hear his answer.

"Indeed, Miss Granger, indeed. That's what my mother told me, just before she died."

He checked the time. He had forty-two hours left to ensure that the wedding to take place would be his wedding.



Hermione ran all the way to find Blaise. He was waiting for her in her chambers. She sobbed as she told him of Snape's kiss and of his words. She was surprised that Blaise showed little understanding. This angered her. After all, it was his fault that Snape had dragged her there. Had he defended his fiancee, this would not have happened. It was not as if she had wanted this.

Blaise only asked one question. "Did you desire him, when he kissed you?"

She had promised him long ago when they started dating that she would never lie to him. "I disliked it, I hated it, and I hated him. Yet, it aroused me." She lowered her eyes, feeling ashamed.

She heard him leaving the room, and flinched when she heard the door slam.

A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on her door. She hoped that it was Blaise, wanting to discuss things.

She hastily tried to close the door again when she saw it was Severus Snape at her doorstep. He quickly placed his foot in the gap; being more powerful than she was, he kept the door open.

"As we are running out of time, I only wanted to help your conscience. Your only fault towards Mr. Zabini is the fact that you told him the truth. Stupid Gryffindors complicating your own lives." He walked to her couch and sat down.

She hated the man. Maybe if she hexed him he would go away. He started playing with a wand, which she recognized as her own. Damn him.

"Anyway, as I was saying, it is not as if you had a choice, my dear. The way the human body responds is completely irrelevant to our feelings and our wishes. Some responses are only natural. To prove the truth of this to Mr. Zabini, I asked a keen seventh year Slytherin student to bind him to a chair, and then use her tongue to stimulate him. I suppose that he will succumb, as he will not have any other choice."

"Why are you doing this? You are not just trying to stop the wedding. You are trying to make us hate each other." Tears were rolling down her face.

"Tsk, tsk. My dear Hermione, you don't mind me calling you by your first name, I suppose. After all, the day after tomorrow, you are going to be my wife." His tone was sarcastic, and Hermione wanted to punch him.

She put her mind into work, and all of a sudden she knew what she would have to do. He was not the only one able to perform wandless magic. She had practiced long ago, and she was finally going to use it.

Hermione waved her finger towards the big closet standing at the far end of the room. She kept four boggarts in there, and every now and then she took one out and practiced. She had never taken all of them out at once. Now, the doors of the closet opened, and four boggarts jumped out. She retreated, leaving Severus on his own to face them. Dealing with one boggart would be easy for him, but four of them at once could not be handled even by the best of wizards. She remained in the room, curious to find out what his worst fears now were.

She gasped when the first boggart turned into her, a dead version of herself. The second boggart turned into a dead Blaise. She placed a hand in front of her mouth, terrified.

The third boggart turned to a dead pregnant version of her. The last boggart was a version of herself looking very much like a demon, holding a baby with red eyes and snake skin, an infant version of Voldemort. These weren't her own fears, and yet she was petrified. The fourth boggart had reminded her of the obscure dark magic book Severus had made her read during her training, and she suddenly realized her danger in marrying on this date. She did not want to give birth to a future Dark Lord. Her legs could not hold her any longer. Hermione fell on the floor and started sobbing. Her cries awakened Severus, who had been staring trance-like at the four images surrounding him.

He shouted, "Riddikulus!" and the dead Hermione changed into a much younger version of Hermione with huge teeth.

Severus shouted, "Riddikulus!" once again, and the dead Blaise changed into an adolescent with red and yellow spots on his face. Blaise had once told Hermione of the first time he had been victim of one of the pranks of the Weasley twins.

One more shout, and the dead pregnant Hermione changed to a cat-like Hermione. She almost smiled as she recognized herself as she had been after the Polyjuice incident.

He shouted, "Riddikulus!" to the last boggart, but it didn't change. Evil Hermione with demon baby was approaching him, and he seemed helpless for just a moment. He shouted again, and the boggart took the form of himself in Neville Longbottom's grandmother's clothes. She had no idea that he knew of the incident in Lupin's class. Severus sent all four boggarts back into the closet and turned to Hermione, who was still shaking on the floor.

"Nice try, Hermione." He knelt next to her, picked her up, and carried her in his arms to the adjoining room. He placed her in the bed and pulled the covers above her. He stood up and walked to the door to leave.

"Please stay."

He looked at her. She seemed to be much younger now than she actually was. He raised an eyebrow, but bit back a sarcastic remark. She knew that he would never show to anyone any kind of feeling. Still, his fears — as she had just witnessed them waking into life — proved that he cared. More than that, they proved that his intentions were her and Blaise's protection.

"Could Blaise and I just postpone the wedding? Or even cancel it and live together without being legally bound? I would never want to endanger Blaise's life, but I cannot imagine my life without him."

"Postponing the wedding or canceling it would have been an option if Mrs. Zabini had not been vain and ambitious by performing the ritual for the date. Her stupidity has bound you, not Blaise, to a specific ceremony. Not going through the ritual would cause you to lose all your magic and maybe die."

"Will you help me find a way around this ritual? I understand now your reasoning for me not marrying on the specific date and for not marrying Blaise, but I want to be with him."

"Hermione, there is no other solution than the one I proposed. You will have to marry me."

"That is not an option. I would rather die."

"You do not want to die."

"No, I want to be with Blaise for the rest of our lives."

"As getting married to a know-it-all is a gloomy prospect for me, I will assist you in searching for another solution. Yet if we are unsuccessful, promise me that you will come to the altar on your own will, and that you won't make me force you."

They heard approaching footsteps and turned to see the newcomer.

"Why should she trust you? You want to marry her. You are not going to help her. You are going to make sure she doesn't find any solution." Blaise sat on the bed next to Hermione. "Don't worry, my beloved. I have asked my mother to come here as soon as possible. She will find a solution."

Hermione sighed. Had it really been only hours before that she was making last-minute preparations for her long-awaited wedding day?

"Hermione," Severus said. "Be in the library at eight o'clock tomorrow morning if you indeed wish to go through the relevant studies in search for a preferable solution."



Severus retreated, leaving the couple alone in her rooms. He knew there had been enough revelations in the past few hours that ensured that the couple would spend the next hours fighting, instead of making plans to leave and get married somewhere else. He also wanted to talk with Sibyll Trelawney. He had never talked with her in all the years of his teaching career in Hogwarts. Still, there was something that had been troubling him.

He had always been a very intelligent man with an ability to combine facts. Minerva McGonagall was not omniscient regarding the happenings in Hogwarts; this could only mean that she was not the Secret Keeper of Hogwarts. Sibyll Trelawney had expected his arrival and knew he was at the gates of Hogwarts; it was something Albus would have known in the past. Severus also knew that it wasn't her talent in divination, or rather the lack thereof, that helped the woman know.

As he approached the top of the North Tower and prepared to knock on the office door, the door opened and he heard her voice.

"Come in, Severus."

He shivered as he remembered Albus Dumbledore doing the same on several occasions. He did not wait for an invitation to sit down, and just sat on the nearest armchair.

"Things are proceeding quite well, as I gather, even though I have my objection for your taking her to the Astronomy Tower in February," said the thin woman. "Professor Granger could have caught a cold."

"You are the Secret Keeper of Hogwarts. Why didn't you warn her about the curse?" He glared at her.

"I did warn her and Professor Zabini, but the curse she is facing is not the only curse in this castle. The Cassandra Curse tends to make it hard for people to believe in what I am saying."

"This is not one of your stupid predictions and dreamy visions. The curse is solid and true."

Anyone would have cowered in front of him, but Sibyll Trelawney seemed to have attained more of Albus' charisma after his demise. She held her position.

"Please, Severus, calm down. And I would appreciate it if you didn't share it with anyone, not even Minerva, that I am the Secret Keeper of Hogwarts."

"In exchange for the whole story," he said dryly. Not knowing all the facts disturbed him.

"Very well then. As a student in Hogwarts, I was extremely charismatic and talented in Divination. I was so good that I could almost foresee the content of the tests one or two days in advance. My parents were scared that such power could be disastrous if used wrong. Therefore, they placed the Cassandra Curse on me. It prevents people from believing in my prophecies, and it prevents me from being in touch with my inner eye when conscious.

"I was very angry back then, but not for long, as I was kidnapped by Grindelwald and tortured to share with him my visions. It was very fortunate that the curse on me could only be lifted on certain dates and only in the presence of certain people. Some time later I was rescued, without having given anything of use to the opponent. After that, I decided never to lift the curse from myself. You must have often wondered why Albus kept me here, despite my being a mediocre or worse seer due to the curse."

"It was not my place to judge Albus' decisions. After all, he kept at school a criminal — me."

She continued as if he had not interrupted. "The answer is that both of my parents had been professors at Hogwarts. They were from different Houses, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. I had given something precious — my talent — for the sake of Hogwarts. Therefore, it was decided that I would one day become the next Secret Keeper. Albus had me training for years."

"I always assumed it would have been Minerva."

"She was never eligible. She had been touched by the evil inside of her, from when she taught DADA."

"Does she know?"

"Minerva knows that someone else is the Secret Keeper of Hogwarts, but she does not know who it is. It is a secret to be shared only when necessary, and only with the people required."

"What made it necessary to reveal this information to me?"

"Time will tell." Sibyll reverted to her divination expression.

"You are worse than Albus, when you don't want to reveal something. Very well then, I should be leaving. After all, I only have hours left to stop a wedding and to arrange my own wedding." He left the room and never heard her last words.

"I know that you think you are arranging your funeral," she said in her soft and misty voice. "But this does not have to end with you in the grave."

* * * * * *


"You did not support me. It makes me wonder whether I am indeed as important to you as you claim." Hermione's words were harsh, but they were spoken calmly.

"Hermione, love, I have often told you about Slytherin customs. You know how much I care for you," Blaise tried to remind her.

"This is not the time to fight. We need a solution. What if we get married tonight?"

"I am afraid this is not an option because of the ritual."

"But if I were already married by tomorrow, then the ritual would be void. What exactly is the content of this ritual?"

"You do not wish to know. I could challenge Snape. We would duel. There is a fair chance that I would win."

"Killing him won't help us. The problem of the curse would remain. After all, he is only trying to save us both," Hermione reasoned. Having seen the forms of the boggarts, she did not doubt his intentions.

"I am powerful enough to protect you."

She stood up and started pacing. "A few hours ago, I would have agreed with you, but now I have my doubts. Will you be able to put me above Slytherin traditions, to betray your House for my sake?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Hermione. This is not a combat with Slytherin ethics and traditions. My love for you is not affected by my belief in them."

She looked at Blaise with sadness in her eyes. "But it is. Just today you let someone take me away from you, only because it was dictated by them. Do not fool yourself; you would not sacrifice everything for my protection."

"That is unfair, Hermione. You know how much I love you. Why have you turned blind now?"

She sat down again and prepared to answer, when the flames in the fireplace turned green.

Mrs. Zabini exited from the fireplace. "Blaise, I received your message. Hermione dear, how are you coping?"

Blaise hugged his mother. Hermione wanted to hex her, mostly for performing the ritual binding her to get married on the specific date, without asking her first.

"The wedding is definitely going to take place," Mrs. Zabini said arrogantly. "I'll make sure of it. I first need to speak with the Headmistress. After all, I am a member of the school board, and I see no reason why someone who is neither a teacher nor a student should be allowed to stay in the castle. It is time someone threw out Mr. Snape." She walked to the door and exited.

* * * * * *


"Headmistress, I will skip the pleasantries, as the reason for my visit is of urgent nature."

Minerva McGonagall looked at the woman. She had always disliked Mrs. Zabini, but she also disliked almost every Slytherin.

"Please take a seat, Olivia. Would you like a cup of tea?"

"No, thank you. Have you heard that this bastard Snape is trying to get Hermione for himself?"

"Allow me to remind you that his parents were married when he was conceived, but also allow me to tell you that you haven't heard all aspects of the story."

The Headmistress explained to the quite stupid woman all aspects of the curse, and what would happen to her son if he tried to protect Hermione.

"The way I see it, my dear Olivia, is that you as a Slytherin should be elated. All your son has to do it sit back and wait for a year or so. I mean, if Severus dies due to protecting Hermione during her pregnancy, she will inherit all his fortune and then she will be free to marry Blaise, and she will also be free from the curse. I would have thought that Slytherins could be patient if it served them. But maybe there is still hope for your son if he is Gryffindor enough not to wish to lend his love for a year to another man."

The other woman had a calculating look on her face. "Why are you telling me this?"

Minerva had expected the question. "If your son dies while protecting Hermione, there will be a vacancy in his post. Unfortunately the only other Potions master available is Severus Snape. It took me three years after Albus' demise to throw Severus out of here. I have absolutely no intention of allowing the manipulating scum to obtain the position of Deputy Headmaster. It would be only months because I got somehow poisoned."

Minerva was very proud of herself that she managed to say all this without flinching. After all, she was not used to such games and lies. The portrait of Albus Dumbledore from the wall behind Olivia twinkled at her.

"Well, thank you very much, Minerva, for your insight. I think I should visit the Department of Hexes and Curses to inquire whether the curse is that dangerous, and whether there is any way it could be countered."

As the woman left, Sibyll Trelawney entered the office of the Headmistress.

"If Hermione finds out Severus will die, she will not let this happen," Sibyll said. "She would never sacrifice another one for her life. But you already know that."

Minerva had the decency to look guilty. She briefly wondered how Sibyll Trelawney knew of what she had been talking about with Olivia Zabini.

"You know, Minerva, he does not have to die. When the time comes, ask Hermione to come and see me."

With these words Sibyll left.

* * * * * *


Mrs. Zabini returned to the castle early in the morning. In the middle of the night, she had awakened the Minister of Magic, who had then awakened the employees of the Department of Hexes and Curses. They had gone through a dozen books.

She found her son alone in Hermione's chambers. Hermione was already in the library, researching a better solution. She talked briefly with her son and left the castle. Neither her presence nor her son's would not be required that evening.

* * * * * *


Hermione sat next to the gloomy-looking former professor as they scanned hundreds of scrolls and books. Three hours later, Hermione stood up.

"I need to speak with Blaise."

He glared at her, and she left quickly.

* * * * * *


"I think I've found a solution. The only way for us to be together is not to have any sexual intercourse. I understand that you might have certain needs, and I am willing to allow you to satisfy these needs with other women." It was difficult for her to say the words. She would have to stick to celibacy for the rest of her life and watch her beloved leave the house to meet with lovers. However, it was a sacrifice she was ready to make.

"Hermione, it is our obligation to ensure the continuation of the bloodlines. This is not a solution. But there is more I need to tell you, so please sit down."

She sat at the edge of the bed.

"My mother had a talk with Professor McGonagall. Maybe following through with Snape's plan won't be such a bad idea. By helping you throughout the pregnancy, he will eventually die, and then we can live together for the rest of our lives." He omitted the information his mother told him about Snape's fortune, as it might upset Hermione, if she thought him to be opportunistic.

She gasped. "He'll die? There is no way that I could accept that."

"Come on, love, if Snape wants to do it, we should accept his gift. After all, he has no reasons to continue to live."

"No."

"Love, there is no other way. You said it yourself." He tried to hug her in order to comfort her, but she quickly stood up and ran away.

* * * * * *


Hermione ran towards the dungeons to find him. As she turned around a corridor, she almost fell on Minerva McGonagall.

"You found out his true intentions?" the Headmistress guessed.

"Why does he always have to be a hero?"

"I guess you and Blaise are sort of family to him, or at least the closest people he has. You are the only apprentices he has ever had."

"I won't accept him. I already owe him my life. I could not live with the knowledge that he died for me."

Minerva understood Sibyll's words then. "He might not have to die. Do me a favor and speak with Sibyll before you meet with him."

It did not seem to be a good idea, but Hermione complied. An hour later, after a short talk with the Divination professor, she sent a note to Blaise and another note to Severus.

* * * * * *


"Professor Snape, I wanted to speak with you before the wedding." Blaise stood on his doorstep expectantly.

He stepped back and allowed the current Potions Master to enter the rooms. He looked gloomily at the younger man.

"I love Hermione. She has her doubts now, but it is due to the fact that she does not understand that Slytherin traditions and customs are part of who I am. She sent me a note that she will marry you tonight."

Severus studied Blaise, who seemed to be calm. There could be only one reason why he would accept his fiancee marrying another man — if he knew that it was not final, that he would get Hermione in the end. He assumed that Minerva must have spoken with him. It did not make sense, though. He trusted that Miss Granger would not marry him if she found out he would die. He would have to find out.

"Professor, I have to tell you that I really appreciate what you are doing, but I also have to tell you that I will continue to love Hermione."

So I was right, Severus thought. No emotion showed on his face as he stated, "Of course, you will love Hermione. In case I die, I expect that you will comfort Miss Granger and ensure that she finds happiness. I trust that you will ensure her safety and the child's safety as well."

"Yes, sir." Blaise smiled broadly. No one would be able to accuse him now of planning the other man's death. He could use this memory as proof of his noble intentions.

"Mr. Zabini, does Miss Granger know of my potential death?"

Blaise's cheeks reddened as he realized that Severus Snape knew. "Yes. She did not want to accept your offer, when she first found out, but I guess she changed her mind."

Severus thought that it seemed strange. Had it been a few years ago, he would have been very content to finally prove that she was not as noble as she appeared to be, but now he felt mere disappointment. He had planned to make her follow through, but he had not expected that she would be willing to do it if she knew that he would die in the process. He rationalized that he could not be disappointed that she finally showed Slytherin tendencies. A Slytherin would accept a third party's sacrifice, if it was going to help their cause, in this case to be with her beloved one. But she was no Slytherin. Maybe he could rub it in Minerva's face that one of her Gryffindors had finally been something less than noble.

Little did he know of what had transpired that made Hermione decide to marry him, despite the little bit of information acquired by Blaise. He shooed Blaise out of the room and headed to the gardens to pick out the flowers for the bouquet.

* * * * * *


She visited the little graveyard, situated in the place where Hagrid's hut used to be.

She passed by Hagrid's grave, the first one after the arched entrance, and proceeded to walk by the tombstones, all bearing familiar names. She stopped between two tombstones under the tree were Buckbeak had been once tied.

"Hello, Ronald. Hello, Harry. It's been a long time. So much has happened recently, and I just wish you both were here. I am getting married later today. It is not to someone I love. No, I am getting married to Snape. I know, I should say Professor Snape, but it is so hard. I shiver just at the thought of him touching me. He is doing it to save me, and I should be just grateful, but I can't. I fear him. I don't want him to see me naked, I don't want his sallow skin touching mine, his greasy hair falling on my face. What am I going to do?" She sobbed as she sat between the graves.

"Miss Granger you are going to look dreadful at the wedding if you keep crying just hours before the event."

She looked up. To her horror, she saw the object of her anxiety standing before her, wearing his usual smirk on the face.

His features were closed, his eyes impossible to read as he silkily added, "Do not worry yourself, Miss Granger, I have absolutely no intention of taking advantage of our marriage. I will be leaving right after the ceremony. For all I care, you could spend the wedding night and every night with Mr. Zabini. You will only have to inform me when you get pregnant, so that I can come back here to keep an eye on you."

Hermione stood up enraged. "I would never commit infidelity. It is unethical."

Severus turned away and left, thinking of what he did not say. ‘Unethical? So is waiting for someone to die to get his money.'

As he left, Hermione dared a little smile. It was positive that he did not know anything of her true plans, the ones she had drawn with the help of Sibyll Trelawney, the ones containing the only way he would not die in his attempt to save her. If he could make sacrifices for her life, so could she, and that included the greasy git touching her. With a shiver she recalled the previous day and his words, "You will desire me." Something had changed since then, and he did not wish to stay near her anymore. It did not really matter, as he would have no say in this all. Arrangements had been made for the ritual to be followed, and after that a carriage would take both of them away.


As she walked back to the castle, she thought of Blaise. They were in love, but did they love each other? It was confusing. He would have protected her with his life against any enemy, but he would not place her above traditions. She thought for the first time with a critical eye whether they would have been happy together. It was water under the bridge now, but still she felt much better coming to the conclusion that in the long-term they would have been unhappy. It was little consolation though, as she would never be happy anyway, not now with Severus Snape as her husband.

* * * * * *


Hermione prepared herself thoroughly, following all Slytherin customs that Blaise had insisted she learn for their wedding. She was marrying another Slytherin, after all. However, as she had not chosen her groom, she decided to start her little revolution and changed the color of her gown from green, a color chosen at the insistence of Blaise, to red — a deep burgundy red.

On time, she walked to the Great Hall where Severus was waiting for her, standing in front of a minister. Few students were present and even fewer teachers, Minerva and Sibyll being the ones in the front seats. Hermione walked the aisle and reached Severus Snape. He handed her the bouquet, and she noticed that the flowers matched her dress. How could he have possibly known? She shot him a questioning look.

He smirked. "Trust a Gryffindor to be unable to follow a procedure without breaking at least one rule." His answer was in the same sarcastic tone as every word he had ever spoken to her. "This color suits you, though. You are beautiful."

Hermione gasped at these words.

He smirked again. "It is simply part of the procedure for the groom to offer a compliment to the bride."

They stood before the minister, who started the ceremony. It was right after the first sentence that Severus noticed that the words were not following the standard ritual. He took his wand out of his robes, to stop the minister, but Hermione held his hand.

"It is just something I asked him to add," she whispered, trying to reassure him.

He kept his wand out, but did not react. The words and the ritual were quite familiar from other weddings he had attended. It seemed she had opted for a more traditional ceremony then, but the question remained why. As the final words were spoken, Severus realized why, and he looked at her in surprise. There had been few times in his life that he had been surprised, and this was one of them.

He had his answer now. She had chosen to marry him despite the prospect of him dying, not because she wanted to inherit his money to spend with her lover, but because she did not plan to let him die. It was stupid on her part. There was little probability that she would succeed, and she would still have to live with him and even worse share a bed with him. He realized that this was what she had been crying about earlier in the graveyard. She was dooming herself, only because she was unable to accept someone giving his life for hers.

"How very Gryffindor of you, Mrs. Hermione Snape," he commented in a sarcastic tone, his silky voice caressing her ears.

He turned to see Minerva McGonagall, certain that she would be shocked. She might have accepted her favorite former student in a void marriage with him, but she would definitely not endorse such a development. For the second time today he was surprised, seeing both Minerva and Sibyll smiling.

Minerva hugged Hermione and then, to his outmost discomfort and disgust, she hugged him too.

"Mrs. Zabini should not have tried to harm one of my Gryffindors, and her son should not have allowed her to do so. It is as simple as that, nothing personal," the Headmistress claimed.

Her answer was obviously only partly true. Severus thought that as Headmistress she had already gained much abilities from all four Houses.

Sibyll shook his hand and offered a brief piece of advice to both of them. "Happiness lies in the most unlikely places."

As they walked out of the Great Hall, Hermione whispered in his ears, "I think I preferred her, when she only foretold our doom."

He did not answer, as he focused on dealing with this unexpected development.

"Am I to assume that you expect me to move back in here, as you have your lessons to continue?" His question was filled with venom.

She smiled almost too innocently. "Not at all. Remus Lupin will be coming later this week to take my post. As a werewolf he is sterile, and anyway it is rather improbable that he will ever find a mate, so the curse would not matter in his case."

Severus should have remembered that Hermione Granger — no, Snape — was not someone who left things unprepared.

"Would you like some time to pack before we leave then?" he asked.

"Everything has already been sent by the house elves."

"So you are ready then?" He intoned the word "ready," trying to cause her to feel insecure.

"No, I do not think that I could ever be ready for this, but I will give my best effort to it. Have no illusions, it most probably will never be a happy marriage, not even a pleasant one, but if I have any say in this, it will be a very long one."

He looked at his bride and saw the fire in her eyes. He bowed and took her hand in his, then kissed the top of it.


A/N: Sequel coming!


48 HOURS by thalassa [Reviews - 54]


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