Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. In other words, I don’t own J.K.R.’s characters. Please don’t sue me; I’m not worth it anyway. Once I’m done, I’ll buy them dinner, several good bottles of wine and put them back where I found them.
AN: Hello. So here is the sixth chapter of my multi-chapter. As time is a pressing commodity at the moment, each chapter will be short. By keeping them short I hope to be able to update regularly. As to the content, it deals with the possible ramifications of a forced marriage. Please note that I make a distinction between marriages that are arranged with consent and those that have no element of consent to them. As such the tone of this piece is different to my usual stories, but I hope you give it a go anyway. Oh, and yes, it is based on the concept of the Marriage Law, and so if the idea of such stories gives you an allergic rash consider yourself warned.
A huge thank you to my beta Liongirl and to Serpentine for the feedback and encouragement.
Fruit Of A Bitter Harvest
Separately Hermione and Severus had proven to be ingenious in their suggestions for protests against the Law. Together, however, they were fiendishly ingenious.
One of the earliest successes, which made the international wizarding press, was such a collaboration. The idea occurred to Severus whilst he had been fingering, with distaste, the official invitation to the welcoming dinner for the International Humanitarian Society for Magical Beings Conference. He suggested that for once the Ministry invitations were a boon and that such an excellent opportunity to showcase their protest should not be passed over.
Arthur pointed out that as the Minister was to give the welcoming address any such protest was sure to be instantly crushed.
Severus said nothing, leaving it to Hermione to point out that at a conference concerning humanitarian issues such a rash act would generate an enormous amount of ill opinion for the ministry. So, whichever way the Minister reacted the protesters would benefit. Severus calmly added that if an entirely peaceful and law abiding protest by people exercising their right to free speech was illegally interfered with by the ministry, then any aggrieved party would have the right to bring suit against said imbeciles.
The night of the function had arrived and was startlingly well attended. As each guest was announced a surprising number were seen to be wearing identical sashes, bearing the motto “Not one victim more, ban the Marriage Law.” The sashes provoked a great deal of comment and conversation amongst the delegates as thanks to a clever piece of spell work by Hermione the motto was instantly translated into the delegates respective languages as it was read, each delegate seeing their own language.
The Minister furiously demanded that the Auror in charge of security remove the offending sashes. The senior Auror, who had seen more ministers than he cared to remember in his long career, regarded the Minister for a long moment, before respectfully reminding him that to forcefully remove them would be an illegal act as no law had been broken. He went on to respectfully remind the Minister that any such illegal act by himself or his team would open the Ministry itself to the potential of a class action and to considerable international embarrassment.
Enraged the Minster spun away from the head of security. Much to Severus and Hermione’s delight, he was immediately approached by the delegate from Finland. She politely, and not at all innocently, enquired as to the Ministers opinion on the colourful sashes that so many people were wearing.
After that occasion invitations to official Ministry functions stopped abruptly.
Hibbert, the old head of security for the Minister, took early retirement a month after the function. He had been summoned to a meeting, where it was made clear to him that he would do well to remember who his employer was. Hibbert, who took his oath of service very seriously, replied calmly that he had always known who his employer was ever since he had first taken his oath to uphold the laws of the wizarding world for the state of Great Britain and its head of state, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Truthfully, Hibbert was glad to be rid of a duty to a man for whom had lost all respect. Shortly after his retirement he was retained by the campaign against the Law as a consultant. He found it to be a far more honourable position.
Unfortunately, his replacement was a young and vigorous Auror who was keen to climb the career ladder. Regrettably, his keenness to impress was matched by his lack of scruples. With the Ministers knowledge, he unofficially engaged a team of people whose job was to cause disruption and incite violence at the increasingly popular protests. The Minister would have deniability and the protesters would appear to be a source of civil unrest.
When the first edition of Severus’s Advanced Potions textbook arrived Hermione congratulated him on the achievement with a hug.
‘A somewhat limited achievement, Hermione,’ he had said.
She thought his reply was due to the textbook being a revision of existing Potions. She did not fully understand until she read the updated dedication which now included the protesters motto.
‘Severus, the Ministry will never sanction this as an official textbook with this in the dedication.’
He shrugged. ‘I wonder how I will ever live with such unpopularity,’ he said sardonically.
Despite the Ministry’s refusal to sanction the book as the official textbook it sold well and steadily, much to their distaste.
They had been reading the morning mail and discussing the protest planned for that day when Hermione surprised him by saying, ‘You know you don’t have to come, don’t you? The rest of us will cause more than enough trouble.’ He carefully finished buttering a piece of toast and gave every sign of not having heard her. ‘Severus?’
‘I was calculating the amount of trouble you are capable of generating.’
‘I will be coming with you.’
‘But, Severus, I know how much you hate the crowds at protests.’
‘And I assure you I have no intention of starting a riot, so you can take the opportunity to work in your lab this morning. I know you want to move your experiments along to the next stage. I’ll see you later.’
She got up and went into her rooms to get a coat. When she emerged a few moments later, it was to find him dressed for the outdoors and waiting for her.
‘Severus ...’ He held up a hand to forestall her.
‘It is true that I despise crowds, and I could indeed spend a valuable morning in my lab, rather than accompany you. Doing so, however, would make me a rather inadequate friend. In addition, I rather enjoy watching you disturb the composure of the Ministry morons, and whilst I trust you not to provoke a riot, I do not trust the Ministry to be so restrained. Therefore, you will need a friend to watch your back, and so I will be coming with you.’
Hermione admitted defeat with a wry shrug, gesturing him to lead the way.
‘I think I can quite confidently predict that the future career of that particular mouthpiece of the Ministry is one which will be marked by a meteoric rise,’ Severus had said upon their return from the protest.
‘Oh, I thought he fared rather badly, I mean he did try to debate you.’
‘My point exactly, Hermione. His performance was ... I fear there is not an adjective sufficiently pejorative enough to describe it.’ Hermione frowned, and so Severus elaborated. ‘As such, his performance displayed the utter incompetence I have come to associate with the highest echelons of the Ministry. I have no doubt, therefore, that he will be rapidly promoted beyond his woeful ability, to plumb new depths of inadequacy.’
Hermione smiled. ‘I’d like to disagree with you, but I think you might have hit upon the promotion criteria for the Ministry.’ She gazed over at the table, her smile fading, and she frowned. ‘I don’t remember putting a letter there this morning.’
‘Nor I. No doubt it was delivered in our absence by one of the abundance of over-eager house-elves.’
Hermione crossed to where it lay, glanced at the writing and picked it up.
‘It’s from Harry.’
‘If it contains an invitation to tea and cakes, I regret that I am unavailable.’
‘From Harry, it’s more likely to be beer and pork scratchings,’ she said and smiled. She slid a finger under the flap to break the seal. From where he stood, he saw her smile falter, and then she stumbled, dropping the letter to the floor.
He was not in time to prevent her knees from hitting the floor with a heavy thud, but he managed to catch her under her arms. He sunk to the floor with her, cushioning her fall. His stomach lurched sickeningly. A lifetime of instinct told him that the letter had been tampered with and poisoned.
‘Accio bezoar,’ he said. He cradled her with one arm and raised his other hand, deftly catching the summoned bezoar. He tried to get her to swallow it, but she fought him, batting his hand away.
‘Do not fight me, Hermione! You need to take this!’ he said desperately. He tried once again to make her swallow the antidote.
‘No, Severus, wait. I’m not poisoned. Cast a diagnostic, you’ll see.’
Somewhat impatiently, he cast the spell and relaxed as its result revealed no poison. She felt the tension leave him and twisted to face him.
‘Severus?’ Hermione asked at his silence.
‘Whilst you have not been poisoned, dramatic collapses are not a regular past-time of yours, Hermione.’ She looked somewhat uncomfortable and a little uneasy, he thought.
‘Yes, I know. Poppy said this might happen. I was going to tell you this morning and then we had the meeting ...’
‘Tell me what, exactly?’
She glanced at the floor nervously before looking back up to meet his gaze. ‘I’m pregnant, only about three weeks along. Poppy said that I might get dizzy spells for a little while; that’s why I went to see her initially. It’s something to do with the first bond of magic between a mother and her baby.’
Snape stood rigidly still, his face preternaturally calm. Silently, he held out his hand and helped her to her feet, steadying her when she wobbled slightly.
‘Would you like me to get Poppy?’
‘No, there’s no need. This phase is only likely to last a week or two ... oh, that’s better,’ she said, as the dizziness obviously passed. Severus nodded the same look of un-natural calm on his face. She reached out and touched his sleeve. The fine wool was soft under her fingers. ‘Severus?’
He glanced away and, in a low voice, murmured, ‘I’m sorry, Hermione.’
She was astonished. ‘Why? You have nothing to be sorry for.’
‘You would hardly have chosen me to be your partner, Hermione, given the freedom of choice,’ he said quietly. ‘It follows that you would not want a child by me. I ... I would have spared you this further ... violation.’
The last word was barely a whisper, its quietness belying the violence of the meaning. She heard the self-disgust in the echo of his tone, and her heart ached to hear it. She had come to know the worth of Severus as few people ever had. She knew that the scale of any fair balance would tip in his soul’s favour and hated to hear the self-disgust in his voice.
‘Without the Law, I don’t think either one of us would have considered the other as a potential partner, Severus,’ she said gently. She saw his shoulders tense at the seeming confirmation, and she rushed on. ‘So, the one thing I should be grateful to the damned thing for is selecting you.’ His head jerked up. ‘I might not have realised it then, but I am so lucky. When I think of George,’ her voice faltered, then gained strength. ‘But I got you. I’m not going to pretend that when I imagined having a child, I thought it would be, well different, but the fact that we are having a child is nothing you should feel guilty about. I never want you to feel that way. This may not be as I imagined it, but this baby will be loved. Moreover, I will be having it with someone I have had the privilege of getting to know, someone I like and admire, my best friend, in fact. And, Severus, you have done nothing to me that you need be ashamed of. Rather the opposite, in fact.’ She tightened her grip on his arm. ‘Without you I don’t know what I would have done.’
Snape wondered at how well she had come to know him and the ghosts that haunted him. He swallowed hard at the swell of emotion rising in him. ‘I have always thought that a child would be a very great responsibility. I doubt that I will be ... ’
‘Are you nervous, Severus?’ she interrupted, halting his train of self-doubt. ‘Because I am. I’m bloody nervous, really bloody nervous, in fact.’ It was his turn to look surprised. ‘Well, telling you makes it all so much more real.’
She found herself subject to his sudden, intense gaze ‘I believe such a feeling to be entirely normal. Perhaps we could be nervous together.’
She smiled. ‘Together. I like that idea, Severus.’
‘Then together it will be, Hermione.’
End of chapter six.