Notes & Disclaimers: First... the purpose of this really, I swear, isn't just to force Tom and Hermione to marry. I wanted to write a Norman Conquest fic, and the story will be about much more than their relationship.
Disclaimer 1: I am not intending to hew too closely to Potterverse "history" as detailed in the Famous Wizard cards and Pottermore. Specifically, there will be some Hogwarts policies that serve as major plot points and don't adhere to the canon timeline. Certain events and character developments will be canon-influenced, but this story occurs in a true AU.
Disclaimer 2: I've never written anything like this before. Although there will inevitably be historical inaccuracies, I will attempt to not make it too anachronistic… with one exception: Their speech won't be archaic. There will undoubtedly be some words in their dialogue that weren't coined yet in real history. Still, I'll try to avoid terms that are glaringly modern.
Disclaimer 3: You know I don't own any of it. I just play with it.
Warnings: This is going to be a very dark story, especially the latter half. When I reach the chapters that may contain triggering material, I'll post more specific warnings in the chapter notes. There won't be rape or sexual assault, but I'm not taking anything else—and I do mean anything—off the table as a possibility.
Another thing: Eventually there will be references to underage sex. It will be consensual, and Tom and Hermione will be teenagers (he is about a year older than she is), but I'm still not going to put detailed scenes in this copy of the story. If you want to read them, they'll be on the Archive of Our Own version, which you can find by following the link on my author profile, and I'll mention when I have censored a chapter here. (If I don't say anything about changes in the authorial notes of a chapter, the AO3 and FFnet copies of the chapter are the same.)
Chapter One: Twilight of the Old Ways
The Gaunt family, Lords of Hangleton, maintained that they had held their feudal fief from before the fabled Battle of Camlann in which Arthur and Mordred fell. Among the last nobles of primarily Celtic ancestry, they avoided slaughter or assimilation by the waves of invading peoples because of one critical factor: magic.
The Gaunts were highly magical, and they used their abilities to protect their fortress and lands. In the days of frequent wars between the Saxons and the Vikings, they isolated their holding from the outside world. It was to their benefit—and the detriment of many who served them. Hiding from religious conflict, they kept to a corrupted, brutal form of paganism which demanded human sacrifice and held that the act of ritual mass killing invoked great magical power.
They taught magic to their own children and the children of their vassals—for they would not elevate any to a title who did not also have the ability to perform spells. One of those vassals became a great master, so renowned and revered for his role in founding a school that the high family even permitted the wizard to marry their daughter.
But with the founding of Hogwarts, the ways of the Gaunts began to change as the light from outside breached their walls for the first time. Their other children, and their vassals' children, went to the school while Salazar Slytherin still taught there, and there they were exposed to the children of the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes—those who had practices different to those of the Gaunts.
When Slytherin left, the Gaunts stopped sending their children there for instruction. No traitors to magical blood would instruct any scions of their ancient line in the art! Slytherin's lady remained, because she had one small child and was pregnant with another, and she did not know where her husband meant to go. The Gaunts resumed their policy of utter secrecy, but the interlude was brief.
In the year 1066, a great prince on a great horse entered the country from across the water and changed it forever. He brought in his company a wizard by the name of Armand Malfoy and set him to rule all magical people in this kingdom—including the reclusive Gaunts. King William the Conqueror was, after all, a Muggle, and although he knew of the existence of magic and wizards, he wanted as little as possible to do with it. Lord Malfoy was his viceroy in all matters concerning the English wizarding population, and he was given almost unrestricted authority.
The Gaunt family later held that Slytherin's son, who bore the name of Gaunt since the great schoolmaster had departed, brooded over the decision to swear fealty to Malfoy. What kind of wizard would put himself in service to a Muggle king? But he was ultimately persuaded by Lord Malfoy's assertion that this king would let wizards manage their own affairs if he had assurances of their loyalty. Was it not better to take an oath than to invite war? Then, too, there was the fact that Malfoy had proper views about the importance of wizarding blood. It was a view that far too many of the wizards in their native land—even some of the landed families—did not share. However, the ones who were traitors to their own wizarding blood—and who refused to take the oath—would be dispossessed on Lord Malfoy's orders, stripped of their lands and titles. In Gaunt's view, it was a just punishment.
Thus Gaunt was among the first English to take the oath of fealty to Lord Malfoy. Malfoy made him swear some additional things. His family would cease open worship of ancient gods and stop practicing human sacrifice—even of Muggles. It was the sort of conduct that was likely to attract the King's attention in a bad way, Malfoy counseled Gaunt. Since his mother had attended the school at Hogwarts and had not herself overseen any of the bloody ritual massacres that his family of old had performed, Gaunt had no objection to swearing this. It paid off. His family held their land and lordship. Malfoy declared Gaunt a Baron.
Gaunt did have a private request, a family exception to a certain decree in the King's law. It was something of a family tradition that he wished to retain, he said to Malfoy in a seemingly apologetic tone, and it was manifestly natural for blood purity. Lord Malfoy agreed. After all, he did have broad authority to oversee wizarding affairs, and what the King did not know would not hurt him.
The fate of the Muggle petty nobles was rather different, and Alberic of the Grange was among the many who were dispossessed of their holdings by the invading Normans. He, his wife, and his son Bryan—who was but a four-year-old boy when he was removed from his family's home—became important figures in the town that they had once ruled, teaching the peasants to read and including Norman French as a subject to learn. The lord who replaced them was benevolent enough to be pleased that his own subjects valued knowledge, unlike—in his opinion—so many of the savages. As the years of his rule lengthened, he came to regard the former occupants of the castle with fondness and respect.
After his parents' deaths, Bryan—now called Bryan Granger—assessed his options. The lord had but one legitimate child, a daughter, and she was prohibited from inheriting in her own right. Granger himself was thirty-two, and it was time for him to marry if he ever intended to. Surely the old lord, who had permitted his family to live and had even allowed them to foster education in the village, would rather his own grandchild inherit—even a half-English grandchild—than a rival step up and bring violence, or try to take the young lady by capture. Besides, Granger was of noble blood, and he did have the support of the village. Many of the villagers still regarded him as their rightful lord.
Granger was shrewd enough not to couch his request for the hand of the aging lord's daughter in a threat. There was no point; the man was no fool, and in any case, why squander the goodwill that had taken years to establish? It was obvious, too, that the old man knew that this would please the locals and quash discontent: a show of respect for their country. The gambit worked, and although Granger was sad that his own dispossessed parents had not lived to see it, he exulted in his recovery of the family home through the marriage.
After Bryan Granger's marriage, the family lived peacefully with Norman rule. It brought yet more culture, learning, and refinement to their home, and Castle Grange boasted one of the largest libraries of feudal England. They had three children—two sons and a daughter. The daughter, inspired by the atmosphere of learning, joined a convent. The two brothers married twin sisters from a nearby fief, knowing it would fall to one of them to secure the line.
Merope Gaunt, aged seventeen, did not look back. She stood beside Sir Thomas in the little church and dutifully repeated her vows before the priest and few witnesses, friends of Sir Thomas who had agreed to stand by him as he married the well-dressed merchant's daughter behind his parents' back.
Merchant's daughter. That was what she had told him, keeping her wand, her cauldron, all the trappings of magic secret. She had to use her real name for the marriage to be legal, but he would have fled in terror—perhaps even in disgust—if he knew that she was one of those Gaunts, the ones who practiced sorcery and used to do vile heathen rites. The ones who were unrefined, uncultured. Savages.
They are, she thought as the priest affirmed their marriage. They are savages, and I was right to run. What they had planned for me— She broke off that thought at once.
It had been very tempting to apply her magical talents to ensnare him. She was good at making potions. However, in the end it had not taken any more than a few well-placed spells to improve her facial features, and she had become—not beautiful, but not at all repulsive either. She had a nice smile, she discovered, and that was quite enough. Sir Thomas was a young knight, hot-blooded and a bit rebellious. His family was sworn to the service of a Norman lord who occupied the manor that they used to own, and in the discontent of his life, he was eager for a romantic adventure.
Well, they would both have one.
New Year's Eve 1129.
Lying in a shabby bed in a London inn, Merope struggled to stay alive. Her newborn son needed her. There was no one else to whom she would entrust him. His father's family would surely not accept him, as he was bound to be a wizard, and the very reason Sir Thomas had abandoned her was his discovery of her greatest, darkest secret. Her surviving family would probably kill him for being half-blood. The Church? He might have a place there—she had heard of one or two wizards who managed to pass off their abilities as "divine miracles"—but it was a risk that she was unwilling to take. No, she had to survive for his sake. He had no one else. She had no one else, for that matter—but he was her son, and that was a reason to try to live.
She fumbled for her wand, that stick of wood that had betrayed her identity to Sir Thomas. It was the cause of this, she thought. Not her lies. Her lies had been necessary. Continuing to live at Castle Gaunt had not been a possibility after what she had discovered, and her elopement with Sir Thomas had been the only viable way to escape it. It was not her fault that he was prejudiced against magic. He had fallen for her—her, the person—while not knowing what she was. She had had to lie. No, the wand was the reason for this situation, so she supposed that she might as well use it now.
She gripped it and pressed its tip against her belly, quietly casting a spell that—she hoped—would heal the internal injuries she had suffered in the birth. As the healing light passed over her, she thought it seemed to be working. Had she felt her tissues knitting back together, perhaps? She definitely didn't feel any further flow of blood. Yes, it must be working. She was feeling better already.
For the first time since her husband had abandoned her, Merope Riddle managed a smile. She was going to live, and she was going to make a life for herself and little Thomas in London.
There was never any fear about the inheritance of Castle Grange. Of the two sons of Bryan Granger, the younger brother and his wife quickly had several children. But the elder brother—who inherited the title directly from his Norman grandfather as a child, although his parents acted as regents until he was of age—struggled with his lady to have any children until she was thirty-one. Like his grandfather, he sired only one child, a girl. As a daughter, they would have to provide for her situation, because the land and title were still limited to male heirs, like most.
Like most Muggle titles, at least—not that Lord and Lady Granger had any awareness of that term until their daughter began to show odd abilities, very odd indeed….
Lord and Lady Granger had never heard of Armand Malfoy, Lord of Wiltshire, until their daughter Hermione turned out to be a witch. Like most non-magical people who did not live in the immediate proximity of witches and wizards, they knew vaguely of the existence of such people, but to discover that their own daughter had the power of magic was another matter entirely.
Their vast library included numerous codices that were exceedingly rare, even considered occult in some quarters, but the Grangers were people of the world, and they could read the text without prejudice. The tomes made it perfectly clear that Hermione's odd talents were magic, and a newer one by a "Mistress Rowena" alluded to the existence of a school of magic somewhere in the north. The Grangers had discovered that it was true, and that the person to see about getting her under the tutelage of the masters of magic would be Lord Armand Malfoy, a very old wizard now.
Severus Snape observed through the bustle of London as Merope Gaunt—no, he corrected himself in thought, Merope Riddle—welcomed her son back from his first year at the Hogwarts School. Instinctively he pulled his black cloak close, though he was sure that they would not recognize him even if they saw him. Still, she might detect that he was a wizard, and he did not want her to know even that much.
Lurking in the shadows, Severus reflected on why he was even here. His family had been respected, titled vassals of the Gaunt family until his mother had married a Muggle lordling. It was not even an elopement; the marriage had been conducted openly and with the full consent of both sets of parents, but this "offense" was enough for Marvolo Gaunt to strip the family of its noble title in outrage. He had only deigned to admit the half-blood Severus as the castle seneschal—a servant—and now Severus was being made to carry out the increasingly insane orders of a tyrant.
Lord Marvolo Gaunt had died a few years ago, and his half-wit son Morfin was now the lord of the castle, much to Severus's disgust. He was loud, boorish, ignorant yet arrogant. He gave orders that made no sense and harmed the standing and interests of the family. He was utterly unable to keep his hands off the enserfed women who served in the castle, but was convinced that his unwanted "attentions" were charming. Severus was reasonably certain that Morfin's—he refused to think of this creature as "lord"—mind was going. His latest outrageous order was for Severus to go to London, find his sister Merope, and bring her "home."
Severus had absolutely no intention of carrying out that order. He would report back to his "lord" that he had heard in the city that Merope was dead. Morfin would not know any better. He hardly set foot outside the castle, and he certainly did not accept owls or other communication from his fellow wizard nobles.
It was a disgrace for a fool to occupy such an ancient high seat while another contender still lived. Severus had queried a few witches and wizards from the magical quarter of London, called Diagon Alley, who had known Merope. All were in agreement that she had sense, intelligence, and was shrewd, frugal, and resourceful. She had maintained herself respectably as a potionmaker's assistant, living a clean life with no hint of scandal attached to her name. And she had an able-bodied heir who could do magic—quite well, if the rumors about young Tom's first year of instruction at the school in the north were true. Severus would have to contact his old friend Horace, the potions master, but he did not doubt the accounts.
Yes, Lady Merope would be a worthy liege, unlike her brother. As Severus saw it, his oath was to uphold the honor and the good of the family, not to unthinkingly carry out the orders of a lunatic. Severus would go back to Hangleton, and then he would do what was necessary.
He was quite good at potions, after all.
End Notes: Armand Malfoy isn't book canon, but in Pottermore he is the first Malfoy in Britain, who came over in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Since that works very well with my setup of a Malfoy as the Norman overlord of English wizards, I made him one of the chief antagonists. I wanted the Malfoys we're familiar with in the story as well, and they'll appear.
You can work this out from the information in the chapter, but just to spell it out: The "present time" is June 1143. Tom has been at Hogwarts for one year. He's 13 years old, and Hermione is about a year younger. I can't see any reason to stick with the seven-year progression of modern Hogwarts for this story, nor the starting at age 11 rule. They'll attend until the professors consider them to have mastered the arts of magic.
This was largely background information to set up the AU. The "story" properly begins next chapter. Thanks in advance for the interest!