A/N: I feel like I need a beta, or at least some reviews to let me know what people think. Thank you so much to those of you who have followed and favorited this story. I'd welcome suggestions for how to make the story better and maybe a plot twist or two.

Ch. 2

1 September

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry


Hermione jolted awake and looked around her room. Like all the 8th year rooms, it had a four-poster bed, a small closet, a chest of drawers, and a desk and chair. Her trunk she kept at the foot of her bed as convenient storage and seating. Her window looked out over the Quidditch Pitch. Hermione could not help but laugh at the view considering her lack of enthusiasm for the game. Harry and Ron, on the other hand, would be jealous. A nod to her house was the red and gold bedding.

Down the hall, each room had a small brass or pewter plaque on the door: H. Granger, D. Malfoy, H. Abbott, N. Longbottom, and so forth. Affixed under the plaques was a final individual house touch – a small snake, badger, eagle, or lion for the Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Gryffindors, respectively. Apparently, the Headmistress knew that you could take the Gryffindor out of the Gryffindor tower, but you could not entirely take the Gryffindor out of the Gryffindor, or any other house for that matter. Could anyone honestly imagine Malfoy as anything but a Slytherin? The thought is ludicrous. Individual rooms lined one side of the hall, and the restrooms flanked the large commons on the other side. As luck would have it, Hermione's room was directly across from the commons. It was decorated with brown leather chairs and ottomans and couches grouped around the large fireplace with Floo call access. On the weekends, the Floo was fully functional for transport. House banners adorned the walls, and the small kitchen included a fully stocked drinks cabinet with butterbeer and pumpkin juice. All in all, it reminded Hermione of a university house.

As Hermione wiped the sleep from her eyes and staggered to the female bath, and such a nice bath it was, she almost bumped into Malfoy as he left his room. They both stopped, startled.



And that was it, except for the eye contact that lasted just a bit longer than was strictly necessary. And Godric help her, Hermione did not want to be the first to look away because there was something in those gray eyes that drew her.

As promised, there was a dedicated table in the Great Hall for the 8th years; instead of the house rectangles, it was a large circular affair situated towards the front of the room near the professors with the Hogwarts crest hanging above it. Breakfast was a largely uneventful affair with everyone chatting amongst themselves. Hermione privately speculated that the choice of a round table was not coincidental as no one could be at the head of a round table. Malfoy, unbeknownst to her, had similar thoughts, provoking the trademark Malfoy smirk as his gaze swept the table. Merlin forbid someone believe that they were better than their peers.

Their schedule for the day was busy, but not overly rigorous.

8:30: Arithmancy, Charms, Ancient Runes

10:00: 30 minute break

10:30: Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Astronomy

12:00: Lunch

1:30: Muggle Studies, Divination, Transfiguration

3:00: 30 minute break

3:30: History of Magic, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures

5:00: Dismissal

8:00: Owls with requests for Internships and class selection due to McGonagall

It helped keep the schedule because the professors came to the students rather than the other way around. Everyone met in a classroom on the 3rd floor, and the professors came to the class. Surprise, surprise, the classroom was furnished with yet another round table with extra spaces for the professors to join them. It seems that beyond unity, equality is also a theme for the year. Each professor outlined expectations for the year, and the early morning session proceeded without note.

However, during the break, Bill drew Hermione aside.

"Hermione, I know that you have probably had your fill of Defense Against the Dark Arts, but I would really like you to consider taking on my assistant position. Voldemort is gone, but there are always dark wizards and witches, not to mention the odd historical curse, and I think you would be the one of the best of your year to demonstrate how to defend yourself. "

"Honestly, I had thought to TA for Professor Vector with Arithmancy…"

"I understand. Just consider it. I think you could really do some good with DADA."

Hermione had not thought of it in those terms. Now, she found herself wishing that Harry and Ron were back with her even more. Harry would have been the perfect teaching assistant for Bill, thus freeing her to take Arithmancy. Or Ancient Runes. Or even Charms. But no, both Harry and Ron elected to head straight into Auror training. Of course, if Ron was at Hogwarts, he probably would have chosen Care of Magical Creatures. As Hermione looked around the room, she tried to match her classmates with their choices. Leaning over to Hannah, she asked, "Have you decided with assistantship you are going to apply for?"

"Well, my favorite subject is Transfiguration, but Charms is a pretty close second."

"You don't want DADA? You were really good in Dumbledore's Army back in 5th year."

Hannah blushed, "Thank you, Hermione. But no, my heart just isn't in it. Besides, I thought you would want DADA. You've faced just about everything out there – I bet the underclassmen would love having a member of the Golden Trio as their TA!"

"Well, I was thinking about Arithmancy…."

"Oh. Well, I know that is Terry Boot's favorite subject, but I'm sure Vector would choose you – you were at the top of the class in 6th year."

Hermione paused. "I didn't think anyone else really liked Arithmancy but me. Who do you think will go for Charms?"

"Blaise is a dab hand at Charms, and he does get along with Flitwick, even though they are from different houses. What about Potions?"
"You are joking, right? Malfoy, obviously. I mean, he may not be Slughorn's favorite student, but he has always been talented at Potions." Hermione paused and thought back. "I definitely think Potions for Malfoy. Snape may have been his godfather, but Malfoy was better than almost everyone, every year in Potions."
"I didn't know you paid so much attention to me, Granger." Draco's sardonic drawl interrupted the conversation. "Glad to see you acknowledge my innate superiority."

"I did say 'almost everyone,' Malfoy." Hermione smirked.

"So you did, Granger, so you did. My mistake. Or maybe it was yours." Draco turned his attention to Bill as he called the group to attention. If Hermione had been able to see his eyes, she would have seen a smile in them. Instead, she rolled her eyes, flipped her hair, and looked to Bill.

1 September, Late Evening

8th Year Common Room

"What did everyone request? Did anyone find out how they would decide if there were two requests for the same subject?"

"I'm sure Granger knows."

"As a matter of fact, I did ask, Malfoy. Professor McGonagall told me that in that case, our grades from 6th or 7th year would be considered, as would the professor's preference."

"I guess that makes sense. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who requested Herbology, though. Aren't I?" Neville looked around to see if anyone else was going to claim his favorite class. He was greeted with smirks and shrugs. "I'll take that as a no." He grinned, almost looking like the boy he had been before the previous year of hell that was Hogwarts under the reign of the Carrows and Snape.

"Did anyone choose Astronomy?"

"I've better things to do at night than study Astronomy." Blaise's smooth drawl rolled across the room. He shared a look with Draco, and winked at Parvarti. He and his Slytherin friend chuckled and clinked their butter beers in a toast.

"Hear, hear!" The guys all laughed as the girls rolled their eyes.

"Really, Blaise. We are here to learn – " exasperation sounded in Hermione's tone.

"Let them have their fun, Hermione. Boys will be boys, right ladies?" Hannah interjected.

From his lounging position with his feet propped on the soft ottoman, Draco ribbed Hermione, "yeah Granger, boys will be boys. Live a little." Hermione just crossed her arms and rolled her eyes again. Her best friends were boys, after all. And she knew that there were some things she would never be able to change.

2 September, Breakfast

The Great Hall, Hogwarts School

Ten owls swooped down towards the 8th years. Hermione felt like she was a first year again as she tore into her letter.

"What did you get, Hermione?"

"Defense Against the Dark Arts, what about you, Hannah?"


"I really like Transfiguration. I thought about requesting that, but went with DADA. And I like Fleur, but I'm not sure I'd want to work with her that closely."

Just a few chairs away, Draco leaned over to Blaise, "Did you get Charms?"

"Yeah – Potions for you?"


"You okay with Slughorn?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "Yeah, even though I'm not in his precious Slug Club. But it's not like I want work with Weasley in DADA."

Blaise leered at the Professors' table; "I don't know, I wouldn't mind working with Weasley in Transfiguration."

Draco gave Blaise his trademark smirk. "I prefer brunettes, but I can see the attraction."

"I think it is one particular brunette," Blaise said.

"What you on about now?"

"Oh, nothing." Blaise raised his eyebrows in Draco's direction and glanced over at Hermione.

"You don't know what the fuck you are talking about, mate."

"I didn't say anything. Just thought I was picking up on something."

Draco's features flattened so perfectly, so quickly that even Salazar Slytherin would have been impressed. "You weren't."

"Whatever you say."

A gong rang out, signaling the end of breakfast, and as a group the 8th years moved towards their first class, Charms. They were all together until Arithmancy, when only Terry, Draco, and Hermione remained.

5 September (Friday)

Late Evening, 8th Commons Room

"How are you liking that TA in Muggle Studies, Anthony?"

"It's pretty fun actually. Muggles have this really cool thing – their computers can connect to one another. It's called the Interwebs or something like that. I'm helping the 2nd years complete a project on it. What about you, Padma; what do you think about Ancient Runes?"

"Oh, it's fascinating!" Padma pattered on about the day's lesson.

Beside Padma on the couch, Terry Boot looked at his classmates and decided shake things up a bit. "Who's up for some of Ogden's Finest?" He pulled a bottle out of his bag at his feet.

There was a chorus of assent, but predictably, Hermione opened her mouth to object, "It's against the rules; we can't poss…"

"Granger, remember how you need to live a little?"

"Come on, Hermione. Don't be a stick in the mud."

A chorus of teasing admonishments rang in Hermione's ears, as Anthony busied himself conjuring 10 glasses. Even Neville took the mickey, "What kind of Gryffindor are you, Hermione?"

"Did you just call me a chicken, Neville? Don't call me a chicken. Give me one." Hermione snatched a glass and threw the shot down in one swift motion. The reckless effect was ruined by her coughing fit and tearing eyes, which set off a round of laughter.

Half an hour later, the 8th years were comfortably laughing with one another, recalling past glories, and a slightly tipsy Hannah, giggling, piped up – "We should play a game of Truth or Dare!"

"Yeah, that would be fun!"

"Let's make it a drinking game. If you refuse to answer your truth, you drink. If you refuse to do your dare, you drink two."

"No. Let's just have questions. Everyone has to answer the questions, and if you refuse, you will have drink, and complete a dare."

"We'll use Truth Serum instead of Veritaserum. That way you won't be forced to answer. Drake, didn't you make some Truth Serum with the 4th years today?"

"I 's in my room." With a lazy movement of his wand, Draco summoned the potion, "accio truth serum."

Within moments, a phial filled with blue potion landed in his outstretched palm. "Put a drop in everyone's butter beer, and it will wear off in a couple of hours," he directed. After the butter beers had been altered, Blaise placed an empty bottle on the floor in the middle.

"We'll spin the bottle to see who goes first." Around and around it went, and final drew to a stop, pointing at Hermione. "You are up, Granger."

Hermione turned to Hannah at her left; "Why did you come back this year?"

"I did not have a good year last year, and I wanted to replace those bad memories with good ones."

Play turned to Terry, beside her. His answer was simple, "I really want my degree." These sentiments were echoed around the room, but Draco smirked from his perch directly across from Hermione, without anger, added "and because the Ministry of Magic told me I had to."

"Okay, Hannah, what is your question? And make it more fun that that." Hermione glanced at Blaise and huffed, "Well, I never…"

"Come on, Granger, you have to admit that question wasn't much fun."
"I don't have to admit any such thing, Malfoy. I really wanted to know."

"Of course you did, Granger."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"So, my question is this: 'If you had to kiss anyone in front of the Great Hall, who would it be?" Hannah interrupted the brewing confrontation with a question that was unquestionably more fun than Hermione's had been.

"Humm," Terry opened his mouth to answer, "can it really be anyone? I mean, does the person have to be a student or can it be a celebrity?"
Hannah opened her mouth to answer and then closed it again. After a moment, she said, "Ummm, I think it needs to be someone here. But 7th and 8th years only."

"Padma." Terry didn't pause to think after her answer. Padma, from beside him, did a double take.


"Yes, really."

"Well, I would pick you too."


"That is so sweet." From beside her sister, Parvarti beamed at the pair. All of the girls succumbed to the sentimentality of the situation, as several of the guys rolled their eyes.

"Can we move on?" This from Mr. Impatience, Draco.

Parvarti startled. "Oh, okay. I would kiss, well, umm, it wouldn't be terrible to kiss any guy here."
"But who would you most like to kiss? You need to pick one." Hannah played judge and jury on the answer since it was her question.

"Oh fine. Blaise."

Beside Draco, Blaise's lip just barely twitched into a smirk and his eyes heated. The expression was gone almost as quickly as it came, subsumed to the blank gaze so typical of Slytherin house.

With that, play turned to the Gryffindor beside Parvarti.

"I would kiss Luna." Neville named his girlfriend.

"Luna is so sweet! It's amazing how strong she is despite all she went through last year." Hermione glanced at Draco to gauge his reaction. But his features, as usual, gave away nothing of his inner thoughts. It was really fortunate that they were not playing the Muggle card game, poker, because Draco would be almost impossible to beat.

Anthony paused a beat and took a sip of his butter bear. "Sarah Ferguson." He named a 7th year Ravenclaw with whom they were all familiar, but not close.

"Ginny Weasley, but I really don't want Harry to hex my balls off." Michael laughed, and the circle chuckled with him.

"I don't think you need to worry too much about that. Harry and Ginny are really dating anymore." Hermione thought back to the end of the summer and the remarkably amenable break-up. It helped that both Harry and Ginny had grown and matured so much over the past year. They both recognized that their relationship, while precious to them, was not a passionate one, but rather a friendly one, more like Hermione and Ron.

"Seriously?" Michael looked intrigued at the thought.

"Seriously." Hermione confirmed.

"Hook me up?"

"Oh, I think you need to do that yourself, Michael. But I might give her a nudge."

"Thanks, Hermione."

"It's no problem. Us 8th years have to stick together. Unity and all that, remember?" Hermione smiled at her fellow 8th year.

Beside Michael, Draco rolled his eyes and thought, Unity, Salazer's y-fronts. Do I take the dare? Or do I tell the truth? Fuck it. I'll tell the truth.


"Yes?" Hermione responded to her name.

"I was answering the question." Malfoy looked amused.

The room performed a face vault at Draco, except Blaise, who smirked widely and gave Draco one of those damned knowing looks that made Draco want to hex his face off.

"You are lying to get a rise out of me, you bastard."

"I can't lie, Granger. Truth serum, remember?" Draco took another sip of his butter beer. "Yep, still the same answer. I'd kiss Granger." He turned to Blaise, "Can you imagine the looks on the faces of the Weasel and Pot-head? Fucking priceless."

"So you would pick me to kiss make Harry and Ron angry? I ought to hex you right now."

"Bring it on, Princess."

"Parvarti." Blaise cut the growing tension with his answer. Parvarti's eyes widened across the circle as she exchanged glances with Blaise.

With that, Hermione was out of time. She thought about her answer. Of course, she knew her answer, but she needed to figure out a way to couch her truth to mitigate the impact.

"Draco." She paused for effect. "How humiliating would that be for the Purest of the Purebloods to have to kiss a little old Mudblood like me?"

Draco's expression flattened even further, but his eyes gave him away as they darkened from ice grey to charcoal in almost an instant. But Hermione had a sinking feeling that he recognized what she had done when he mockingly raised his butter beer bottle in a toast to her. "Well done, Granger, well done."

"Don't call yourself that, Hermione." Hannah admonished Hermione. She cut the tension, "So who would I kiss? Humm, so many boys, so little time. I would pick…" she glanced around the room, considering her classmates, "Anthony." Anthony paused mid-drink, blushed, and widened his eyes.

"Really?" He looked at Hannah through new eyes. "Interesting. Very interesting." She smirked at him from her seat beside Hermione on the chairs.

"Yes, really. Terry, you are up."

Terry laughed. "So, tell me, I mean us, about your knickers, Padma."

She giggled and winked. "Red thongs."

"White lace boy shorts." Blaise's eyes heated again at Parvarti's answer.

"Plain white y-fronts, I'm afraid." Neville confessed.

"Me too, mate." Anthony agreed.

"Navy blue boxers." Michael provided variety to the answers.

"Green boxers. Silk, of course."

"Figures," Hermione snorted at Draco's answer.

"Would you like to see them, then, Granger?"

Hermione rolled her eyes at her nemesis.

"Black silk boxers." Blaise interrupted the by-play between Draco and Hermione.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Black silk and lace boys shorts. I cannot believe you asked that question, Terry."

"Mine have flowers. I got them at a Muggle store – Victoria's Secret something." Hannah offered.

"Plain white boxers here. I just wanted to know what the girls were wearing." Terry shared a laugh with his male classmates. "Padma, what do you want to ask?"

"Who is your secret crush?"

"Thank you, Padma, for calling me out."

"It's no problem, Parvarti, my pleasure."

"You are such a bitch."

"I know." They grinned at each other.

The classmates watched the by-play between the twins like they would watch a tennis match, if they knew what tennis was.

"I've already said. It's Blaise, of course."

Blaise quirked his eyebrow at Parvarti, as if to say, "fascinating."

"My crush isn't secret. It's Luna. I've loved her for years," Neville confided.

"Well, I have a couple of crushes," Anthony began. "One girl I think is hot, and another I've noticed for years, but have just started to really think about that way. So, which do you want? I'm only going to answer one."

"Tell us the one you've noticed for years."

"Hannah." Who promptly blushed.

"I've already told y'all. Ginny." Michael confirmed what most already knew.

"I'll take the dare, I think." Draco broke the mold on the answers.

Padma decided to force him to answer a question she knew he would hate. "Fine. I dare you – to tell us how you really feel about blood prejudice and answer questions about your answer."

Draco's eyes narrowed. "Of course you want me to answer a question. Okay. You asked, I'll answer. It's bollocks."

"Did you ever really believe it?" This from Neville.

"When I was a kid, sure."

"What changed?" Hermione could not resist.

Draco's mouth tightened. "Salazar's rod. I should have just answered the fucking question. Give me my shot. I'll answer after." He threw back the slug of firewhiskey. "It was you, Granger. Brightest witch of our age and all that." He stopped abruptly. But, Hermione had the feeling that wasn't the only answer. She started to press, but Blaise interrupted.

"I've never had a secret crush. I always go after who I want." His gambit for attention worked. "I think I might be going after you, Parvarti. Are you ready?" He reached out, poured himself a shot, and took it as he shot Parvarti a challenging look.

Hermione found herself on the horns of a dilemma. She took another sip of her butter beer. Shite. She opened her mouth to answer, but stopped. Bloody hell. "Dare me."

Padma startled. "What? You want a dare?"

Hermione nodded and signaled for her shot.

"You seriously want a dare?" Her classmates glanced around at each other. Draco's eyes narrowed as he took in her set face. Hermione had a sinking feeling he was reading her deepest thoughts. And that feeling was far from comforting.

Padma saw an opportunity to have a bit of fun with the straight-laced Hermione. "Okay. You said you would kiss Draco in the Great Hall. Do it here. Now."

Hermione closed her eyes. Mother of Merlin. She has got to be joking. "Fine. But only if Draco agrees."
"No, no. I don't think he's going to get a choice here. After all, he said he would kiss you in the Great Hall."
Shite. Stupid sodding game. Bloody Fire Whiskey. Hermione gathered her Gryffindor courage and took the few steps to Draco's chair. He sat up. She leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss on his lips and started to draw away. Before she could move back, he demonstrated the reflexes that made him so formidable on the Quidditch pitch. His hands found either side of her face and held her lips to his, simultaneously deepening the kiss. As his tongue swept into her mouth, Hermione moaned softly. Godric help her, she didn't want this kiss to end. She responded by tangling her tongue with his and leaning even closer. She felt the tingles all the way in her belly and lower. Holy shite, if she and Ron had this kind of chemistry, then they never would have decided to just be friends. Michael's wolf whistle intruded into her bubble. She stiffened. "What the bleeding hell am I doing?"

"Happy now? I've done my dare."

"I'd say you have, Hermione." Padma agreed.

In his chair, Draco shifted and crossed his legs, but otherwise did not betray any emotion. What Hermione would not give for a chance to read his mind, but she didn't bother trying to suss out his emotions by meeting his gaze; she already knew what she would see. Nothing. Damn those Slytherins and their closed expressions.

Hannah fanned herself. "That was pretty hot, Hermione. I'm not sure I want to follow that up with a dare. I've always fancied you, Anthony." Hermione found her Hufflepuff straightforwardness refreshing. "Terry, who do you have your eye on?"

He rolled his eyes as if to say "do I really have to say?" and jerked his head towards the witch beside him, Padma.

The game continued – Parvarti asked for favorite colors, and Neville also took it easy on his classmates, asking their favorite holiday (Christmas, for most of them). Anthony went with a similarly simple question. But Michael asked something that they all needed to know. "What is your biggest regret?"

Draco froze with this butter beer on the way to his mouth. Instead of answering the question in the way it was intended, he decided to hedge. "Today, my biggest regret was having kippers for breakfast." Blaise snorted into his butter beer.

"You prat. Take a shot. You don't have to do a dare, but you have to do the shot." Michael rolled his eyes. And the answers around the table were equally superficial. Malfoy, in his turn, decided to up the ante.

"How far have you gone, sexually?" He looked across the group to Hermione, daring her to answer. He already knew what Blaise was going to say, in any case.

"It would be easier to answer what I haven't done." Parvati's eyes widened at that flippant answer. Draco's mouth kicked up on the right in his trademark smirk, all the while staring at Hermione, trying to gauge her answer. He would be willing to bet all the sapphires in his Gringotts vault she was a virgin, but what exactly had she done with oaf, Krum, or that other tactless oaf, the Weasel?

Hermione paled slightly at this question. Merlin, she was tired of being accused of being a good-two-shoes. Heaving a sigh, "Second base."

"What hell is second base, Granger?"

"It's an American muggle game – never mind. We kissed, and he felt my breasts."

"Who was it?"

"That wasn't the question you asked, Malfoy. I answered your question." But Hermione had a sinking feeling she knew what Blaise's question was going to be. She turned and looked at Hannah, waiting for her answer.

"I'm not a virgin."

"Neither am I." Terry concurred.

"My ex-boyfriend and I wanked each other off." Padma admitted. Parvarti said she had had sex the previous year, as had all the boys, except Neville, who said he was waiting until Luna was ready.

"Last question folks – Blaise, you are up."

Hermione braced herself for the worst.

"Who did you lose your virginity to or with whom was the person that you have done the most sexually?"

Damn him. "Viktor Krum, 4th year. Cormac tried to molest me in 5th year, but I'm not going to count that."

"I thought you were in a tent, on the run, with Potter and Weasley last year. You mean to tell me that you didn't do anything with either of them?"

"No, Parvarti, I didn't. We are just friends. Why is that so hard to believe?"

"Well, I saw you kissing the Weasel during the battle last May." Malfoy apparently couldn't resist saying something.
"We had just survived certain death, Malfoy. And don't call him that. His name is Ron! And he is one of my best friends. You would be smart to be nice to him."

Malfoy looked taken aback. "Okay. Weasley, then. But still – nothing in an entire year?"

Hermione shot a final glare at Malfoy, and turned her attention to Hannah. "So, who are we talking about, Hannah?"

"Err, Dean Thomas and I, umm, last year."

"Dean, really? How was it?" Parvarti questioned. Hannah had the grace to look embarrassed.

"Can we talk about this later, maybe not, you know, NOW?"

"Don't stop on our account," Anthony laughed. "You perceive us all ears." At this point, Hannah was blushing almost uncontrollably. Terry took pity on her.

"It was with my ex-girlfriend from 5th and 6th year. She went to Beaxbatons." A nod of understanding. "She and I broke up; she didn't understand why I couldn't leave Hogwarts and Britain. I had to fight. And since she couldn't understand that, then she and I weren't as good of a match as I thought." Another round of nods.

Padma leaned back, "It was one of the Durmstrang guys from 4th year. We kept in touch for over two years. Hermione, you might remember – Viktor's friend, Ivan? He played Quidditch too, but not for Bulgaria. He was a chaser. Anyway, he was pushing me for more, and I just couldn't. And then he started talking more and more about blood purity, and I finally broke it off. It just wasn't right." Parvarti reached over and squeezed her hand. She smiled briefly at her sister. She looked around at the sympathetic looks, "it's fine. I'm good."

Parvarti, still wanting to offer comfort to her sister said briefly, "Seamus, we dated during 6th year."

"Luna." Neville answered shortly.

"Sarah Ferguson and I, last year, when we were hiding out in the Room of Requirement." Anthony's answer prompted Hermione to ask an unrelated question. "Oh – has the Room of Requirement rebuilt itself?"

"Yes, but there the room of Lost and Hidden things is gone," that from Hannah.

"Lisa Turpin, spring term of 5th year." Michael brought their attention back to the game.

"Pansy Parkinson, Yule Ball, 4th year." Hermione wasn't surprised at his answer. She actually would have been more surprised at any other answer.

Draco glanced at his friend Blaise expectantly, and then turned his attention to his classmates. . He was looking forward to the reaction to Blaise's answer. Blaise took the final drink out of the Firewhiskey bottle. "Flora and Hestia Carrow. After the welcoming feast, 4th year."

The final face vault of the evening went to Blaise.

15 September:

London; Ministry of Magic, Wizengamot Chambers

"We have been at this for two weeks, and nothing. The numbers are bloody discouraging. We have to do something. If Merlin's Marriage Law comes into effect…it just doesn't bear thinking on," the bespeckled wizard shuddered.

"No, you are quite right." McGonagall's no-nonsense voice rang out across the room. "This cannot be allowed. Having children get married – 14! No. This is no Shakespearean tragedy. I will not stand for it. We must prevent the law from taking effect again. "

"Minerva, I understand your objections, and I completely agree with you, but what do you suggest?" Kingsley interjected.

A portly wizard in midnight colored robes adorned with constellations cleared his throat. "If I may, I have a suggestion."

The entire company turned their attention to him. "Yes, Orion – what were you saying?"

"We should implement a Marriage Law and provide incentives for currently married couples to have children."

"We can't possibly."

"That is a violation of human rights!"

"You are not serious!"

"Have you lost the plot?"

Objections rang out from all corners of the room. Orion simply waited in silence until his compatriots ended their exclamations.

"What is our alternative? If we do not, Merlin's law will magically take effect. Witches and wizards as young as 14 will be forcibly married, and if they refuse, their magic will be stripped from them. We will all suffer. I cannot, in good conscience, allow that to happen to underage children. I do have grandchildren, after all. No, I am suggesting a modified law, but one that will increase the population quickly, but still protect our youngest witches and wizards. A secondary, and equally important benefit will be the mixing of Purebloods, Half-bloods, and Muggle Borns."

Bodies turned; heads cocked to the side in interest.

And so, the Modern Marriage Law was born of desperation and hope.

A/N: Thought, comments, questions, other concerns? Please review and offer suggestions as you will. Thanks again for reading! If you are interested in being a beta reader, please let me know!