Phew! Can\'t believe I am finally posting an update. There was a slight problem with the e-mail when my beta was sending me the corrected version, and it arrived only today.
Thank you all who took time to review. I am really happy about your enthusiasm towards this story and I sincerely hope to hear from you again after you read this chapter *hint*
Kris, you are the best!!!
Chapter 18- Fate is There to Mock
Severus\' sneer deepened with every minute that brought the evening closer. He was tortured enough at Albus\' Memorial but it seemed as if Minerva had arranged it so that he would be in danger of over-socialising barely half way through the term. In addition, it was almost universally known that Severus Snape was not a fan of society.
As a result, by the end of the day he found himself wearing a scowl while he regarded himself in the reflection of his mirror. During the day, the Headmistress dropped countless hints about her expectations for his attendance, going as far as subtly informing him that nowadays there were more than a handful of capable people in her acquaintance that suited the Defence Against the Dark Arts position. She was turning out to be the same cunning manipulator as the former Headmaster.
What is more, she formally informed all the members of staff that it was practically compulsory for them to dress up for the Halloween Ball in order to \"liven up the spirit\". However, hell would freeze twice over before Severus will dress in a white sheet with two holes for eyes.
Though his clothes possessed his usual tinge of style, it was very far from his former teaching robes and the garments he wore nowadays. This costume was the only thing he could come up with that was far from his usual attire and yet something that would not make him the laughing stock of the evening. Overall, the only thing that stayed the same were the tight breeches that hugged his thighs just as the Dragon Hyde boots covered his calves.
“Oh, dear! I wouldn\'t mind having your image before me for the whole night!”
Severus\' scowl detached from his reflection only to concentrate upon the mirror in general. The last thing he needed at present was to get suspicious hints from furniture.
“Shut it,” he bit out.
“Don\'t get so wound up! It’s not MY fault that you look more like sex on legs than a Hogwarts Professor,” sweetly returned the mirror.
He opened his mouth just to argue but instead let out a string of colourful swear words. The realisation that he was on the verge of throwing himself into a heated debate with his mirror did not lessen his annoyance and ill-humour.
Without another word, Severus exited his quarters with a swish of his cloak. The tap of his boots still echoed dully in the darkened chamber after the door closed behind him.
“Ah. The idiot is going to be all fawned over this evening and he doesn\'t even realise it,” was the only comment that broke the silent interior of the now empty room.
The Great Hall was already bathing in excitement and laughter when Severus arrived. Second doubts began to creep into his system as he observed the collective cheer and enjoyment of the countless students before him. He would have given anything at the moment to appear in his living room, comfortably situated before a blazing fire with a good book in his hand, instead of skulking in shadows among floating pumpkins in hopes that he would be able to avoid confronting HER.
Hermione Jane Granger-Snape. The young woman who caused his guilt to eat him alive every waking and sleeping hour of his present life.
All his hopes of not bumping into her today were crashed just as he heard a voice behind him.
“Are you going to move or have you decided to join the ranks of the suits of armour? You are blocking the way, Professor.”
With his usual irritation resurfacing above the feeling of guilt, Severus sharply turned towards her voice, fully poised to give her a piece of his mind, and froze.
That made the two of them, as Hermione mutely stared back at him with a slack jaw.
The wizard, however, was too entranced at what was displayed before him to notice the perplexed state of the witch. He couldn\'t prevent his eyes from tracing her body from top to bottom, pausing at certain places in the middle.
The Gryffindor was wearing a Victorian dress, made from the palest pink satin. The corset made sure that her waist appeared to be even slimmer, at the same time forcing her breasts upward. Severus watched mesmerised as the pale globes moved with her every breath, resurfacing the memory of how heavy they felt in his palm. The sight before him and the heated memory brought an instant pressure to his loins, just as he felt a sudden desire to lift her bulky skirt and ravish her right there against the wall.
A loud clearing of throat broke him sharply from his fantasy.
“Professor Snape,” the Weasley girl murmured apologetically just as she gave her friend a look that Severus couldn\'t catch.
Without taking his eyes off his wife, he shifted enough to let the redhead witch pass freely into the Great Hall. But not before she inspected him from head to foot with something akin to open interest.
Silence once again descended upon the two of them as neither could find anything to say. Hermione broke the silence first.
“The Phantom of the Opera?” she mused.
Hermione did not know where she found the sheer force to say something while looking at who stood before her. At first when she and Ginny approached the doors, she had no doubt who stood in their way with his cloaked back turned to them. The spiteful comment escaped her by instinct, knowing that she had a twisted upper-hand in the situation. She was unprepared, however, for what met her eyes when the wizard whirled to face her.
Bottomless black eyes looked down at her from a white mask that hid half of the man\'s face. His raven-winged hair was loosely tied at the nape of his neck with a black ribbon. Hermione\'s eyes trailed down to find him wearing a white lace shirt that displayed the pale flesh almost halfway down his chest. A long dark cloak hung from his broad shoulders and a fencing sword was snuggled close to his hip.
There was barely any doubt about whom he represented this evening. She found it deeply ironic that Snape chose the character who, just like him, chose to hide himself behind a white mask for most of his life.
She was incapable of stopping the turmoil of emotions from flooding her when she saw naked lust flush in Snape\'s eyes as he became entranced by her bodice. Excitement at her own body\'s response, fear for what he had in mind, anger at his power over her, smugness at her capability to affect him in such a way, all these emotions blended into one.
“The Phantom of the Opera?” she mused.
This was the only thing she found herself capable of saying as blandly as possible. She did not wish Snape to find out what one look from him was capable of rending to her treacherous body.
In answer to her question, his gloved hand lightly touched the mask.
“Yes. The mask fits me perfectly, don\'t you think?” he enquired mockingly.
“I wonder why...”
The Phantom threw her an impressive sneer of his own before offering her his arm in a graciously played movement.
“I shall be immensely honoured if the Lady would accept my offer of escorting her to the Ball.” Snape\'s sarcasm did not go unnoticed by Hermione.
“And if I refuse?’
She saw the way his whole body stiffened but his eyes remained their usual impassive selves.
“I can assure you, Mrs. Snape, that I am no more eager and enthusiastic in having you as a companion for the evening either but there exists some rules of social etiquette that we are obliged to follow as a married couple. So just stuff all of your hatred deep underneath the surface and act as everyone expects a young bride to be,” he said coldly.
Forcefully swallowing the anger that right now wouldn\'t help the situation, Hermione mutely accepted her husband\'s arm. In all, she needed to save all of her energy for the little \"surprise\" that Snape did not even guess awaited him.
The conversations began to halt the moment Severus and Hermione entered the Great Hall. By the time they made half a dozen steps, all the talking was rendered to silence and occasional whispering as everybody watched the couple with awe.
A quick side glance told Severus that the young witch beside him was anything but shy and embarrassed. With a posture that would have put a queen to shame, Hermione moved with determined grace even as her slightly lifted head displayed her will power.
An unaccustomed feeling of pride stirred in his chest as his vanity informed him that this proud and unyielding woman was his wife. That feeling was quickly squashed, however, by the inevitable acknowledgement of what forced her to behave thus towards her fellow students. The idea of marriage might have appeared perfect in theory but reality was much harsher than that.
Pushing aside the less than positive thoughts about both of their situations, Severus led his companion to the seemingly waiting Headmistress McGonagall.
“Ah, Mrs. Snape! As lovely as always, you almost seem to shine from within!” exclaimed the elderly witch, her eyes flicking restlessly between the couple.
“Thank you, Professor,” was Hermione\'s tense reply. She obviously wasn\'t happy about something, if her clenched jaw indicated anything.
“It is nice to see you with much more colour today than usual. Did you see Madame Pomfrey yesterday?”
“Yes.” One clipped, angry word.
Severus began to feel uncomfortably left out of the conversation, having a sense as if the two witches were talking about something beyond his comprehension. Nevertheless, worry crept up into him at the Headmistress\' words.
“Madame Pomfrey?” he repeated. “Was Mrs. Snape unwell?”
The older witch carelessly shrugged her shoulders just as her eyes looked Hermione up and down.
“Well, it depends on your definition of ‘unwell’.”
The phrase for some reason seemed to throw Hermione off her hook. With a desperation that momentarily shunned Severus into shock, the witch grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him towards the dance floor, at the same time addressing McGonagall.
“If you would excuse us, Professor, my...husband and I need to...eh...perform our duty –“ a sudden blush crept up onto her cheeks at her choice of words, “- I mean...our SOCIAL etiquette duty and have one civilised dance.”
Severus was too dumbfounded to register Headmistress\'s merry laughter as the two of them found themselves in the middle of the group of dancing couples.
Mutely, Hermione\'s slender hands clapped on his shoulders as she stiffly started to dance on the spot. With an exasperated sigh, Severus placed his own hands upon her waist and mentally willed her to relax. He did not wish to provide any more entertainment for the curious onlookers. One glare from him, however, was enough to make any student suddenly get interested in the stone floor.
He waited a few moments to make sure that the witch in his arms did not plan to start a conversation before he opened his own mouth.
“What are you and McGonagall playing at?”
A pair of innocent eyes unflinchingly met his unblinking obsidian gaze.
“I have no idea what you are talking about, sir.”
Clenching his jaw in irritation, Severus flexed his long fingers around his wife\'s slender waist more firmly and bent low enough so that only she would hear his next words.
“I am not blind and neither am I deaf. I have spent too much time as a spy not to be able to recognise when vital information is hidden from me,” he warned.
“Vital?” repeated Hermione, “I don’t think Ron would agree with that characterisation.”
Severus felt his eyes narrowing at the mention of her friend\'s name, as well as at the blush that now decorated the witch\'s cheeks. Suspicion quickly reared its ugly head.
“What the hell does the idiotic sidekick Weasley have to do with all of this?” he asked.
“Don’t insult him like that!” countered Hermione angrily.
Whatever distraction she was looking for, Severus had no intention of straying from the conversation at hand.
“What happened between you and him?”
“Nothing of great importance,” vaguely replied Hermione, without looking at him.
The next second the young witch gasped in surprise as she found herself pressed chest to chest with the man in front of her, rending her immobile. The strength of the hands around her waist intensified until the point when she thought that metal chains would have appeared softer in comparison to her husband\'s muscles.
The black eyes that she met, however, were capable of burning the path to her very soul.
“Did you kiss him? Fucked him already?” he hissed through his teeth.
It took all of Hermione\'s pride and will power not to quiver under the amount of anger that was directed at her. With them pressed tightly against each other, she could not but notice the way his tall body seemed to vibrate with tension and some other restrained emotion. Fortunately, the insulting accusations thrown at her proved that her rising anger was stronger than whatever fear she expressed towards her teacher of six years.
“Don\'t you dare to speak like that to me!” she hissed back. “I am not a slut to whore around with my friends!”
However, it seemed as if Severus did not hear her words or translated her words into a different meaning. Hermione\'s eyes widened in panic as she felt herself being forcefully jerked against him, his hard body an unyielding force in front of her. There did not seem to be an inch of free space between them and she had no other choice but crane her neck as far backwards as possible in order to look at him in the face.
Whilst Hermione was experiencing a devastating mix of panic and excitement at the feel of his body, Severus was fighting a loosing battle with his jealousy. A feeling of possessiveness so strong gripped his whole being that he had to close his eyes at the way it reflected in his very heart. When he at last opened his eyes, however, they were as hard and unforgiving as always.
“If you ever have a mere THOUGHT about betraying me,” he growled into her face inches away, “you will curse the day your mother lay her eyes upon your father after I am through with you.”
He leaned closer down towards her, so that his following words were spoken right into her mouth, his lips slightly brushing hers.
“And if you ever allow another man between your thighs, you as good as forsake your fate as well as that of your partner\'s.”
With the following promise, Severus lifted his head enough to see Hermione\'s whole face. He expected to see fear or even disgust at his sincere words but the blankness in her brown orbs surprised him. As he watched, a single crystal tear ran from the corner of her right eye to trace a thin moisture path down her cheek. All this time she looked deep into his face without blinking. When she spoke next, it was in a whisper void of any emotion.
“I am pregnant with your child, you fool.”
Realisation came to Severus slowly. When it did, he was only dimly aware of his slack hands sliding from her waist, only for them to hang limply against his body. Open-mouthed, he stared at the seemingly fragile young woman standing in front of him, a girl of eighteen years, not only his student but also his wife, the woman who now carried his child in her womb.
Fear so strong seized him that he was unable to hold it back from showing itself in his eyes.
Hermione\'s face at once froze into a cold mask. With her back visibly stiffening, she regarded him with a hint of something akin to disappointment and crashed hope at the corners of her eyes. Severus mutely watched as she regally inclined her head at him.
“There is no need to speak, sir. Whatever there is to hear from you is clearly expressed in your eyes. I will take myself and your curse swiftly away from your presence,” said she coldly and without once turning back to him, walked out of the Hall.
The rest of the evening passed in a mist. Severus had no recollection to whom he spoke, or of what he did. The only thing he acknowledged was whatever alcoholic drinks he could find and the temporary illusion of peace that they could provide.
Even before the wards were lifted from his chambers, he knew that she wasn\'t there. An unnatural coldness graced the room as he stepped towards the empty fireplace, black and devoid of any heat.
Tearing the white mask from his face, Severus absent-mindedly stared at the ashes. An empty bottle of Firewhiskey was still clutched in his grasp but the wound proved to be too deep to be drowned with liquid. Nothing was capable of helping him forget what had passed so long ago anymore. The realisation was undeniable.
The bottle fell down from his limp fingers, the crash of glass echoing the emotion of his soul.
Severus\' back slowly slid down the wall as silent tears started to flow uncontrollably down his contracted face. Instinctively drawing his body into a fetal position, he was no longer in control of the shuddering sobs that shook his body. The chambers stayed noiseless. Severus\' grief was beyond any pain that could express the emotion in the sound of crying. He thought he forgot how to cry a long time ago, but fate mocked his mistake.
“No...no...not again...I will not survive through this...”
The sobbing Severus Snape was left half lying against the wall, alone with only his old memories to keep him company.
Note: I feel so bloody evil!!!
Sweet Surrender by witch