ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: A huge thank you to MrsaTurtle, ShayaLonnie, Freya Ishtar and Canimal for Alpha-Reading this for me. A special thank you to Abbi for all the help with the summary. Summaries are the bane of my existence, so I adore you all the more for helping me. I was hestiant but super excited to share, and wouldn't have without your encouragement on this one. Love you, ladies!
WARNINGS: This fic includes Triad relationships that are M/F/M. If you can't handle mentions of or allusions to slash, probably don't read. It's also Dub-Con because it's a Marriage Law fic.
"So tell us, Hermione," a tipsy and giggly Lavender Brown nudged her playfully. "If you had to describe your perfect man, what would he be like?"
"Oh, I can't wait to hear this one!" Ginny Weasley piped up, her eyes slightly unfocused from the whiskey they were all drinking, camped out in the seventh year girls dormitory, high in Gryffindor Tower.
Luna Lovegood was nodding along, looking more interested in the conversation than she had been all night long and Hermione gulped slightly to find the attention of nine witches suddenly focused on her.
"Oh, I don't know." Hermione tried to evade the question. "Who has time for wizards with studies to attend to?"
"COP OUT!" Fay Dunbar shrieked, lobbing a pillow at Hermione from across the room before she began necking most of the Elf-made wine left in the bottle she clutched.
"Come on, Hermione," Lavender wheedled. "Who are we going to tell? We're all too tipsy to even remember any of this tomorrow."
Hermione bit her lower lip, glancing at the other girls in her dormitory. She was a bit reluctant to go listing the traits she most enjoyed because, well, it was so hard to choose, wasn't it?
"TELL US! TELL US! TELL US!" Ginny began a chant, sloshing whiskey from her glass as she waved her arms about dramatically, already particularly intoxicated.
"Fine!" Hermione snapped, clapping her hands over her ears until the chanting stopped.
Collecting her thoughts, Hermione took a sip of her whiskey before she began.
"My perfect wizard would be… someone who could make me laugh," Hermione said quietly, closing her eyes to truly think about it. "Someone as volatile in his moods as I am. Someone powerful who would make me tremble just to be in his presence. Someone charismatic. Focused, but fun-loving. Someone broody and secretive, but yet transparent with me. He'd have to be someone I could heatedly debate magical theory with. Someone who would make my insides quiver and make the place between my legs ache to have him inside of me. Gods, he'd have to be someone quick-witted. I can't imagine ever being with a man who couldn't keep up with me intellectually."
"Oooooooh!" Lavender quivered in her chair and Ginny stopped goofing off long enough to actually look over in surprise at Hermione descriptions.
"That sounds like more than one wizard," Parvati told her, frowning slightly. "Volatile but fun-loving? Charismatic but terrifying? Smart and silly? You'd need two wizard to meet all of that criteria."
"Hush up, Parvati." Lavender shushed her best friend. "You're ruining the image. What does he look like, Hermione?"
"Hmmm." Hermione kept her eyes closed, sipping her whiskey again as she filtered through the appearances of what seemed like every male she knew.
"Someone with dark hair," she told the other girls. "Worn a bit longer than most wizards tend to wear theirs, I think. Oh, and tall. He'd have to be tall, but not a meat-head."
"And his eyes?" Luna asked, looking dreamy as she imagined the man – or men – Hermione could be describing.
"Oh, the eyes are the hardest, aren't they?" Hermione sighed softly. "I've never been able to decide what kind of eyes I like best. Dark eyes filled with secrets? Bottomless wells that I could lose myself in, if he'd let me? Or maybe lighter, something bright and alive with mischief, like an icy blue or grey? But then green eyes are so alluring as well."
"Oh, green eyes are divine," Ginny sighed, obviously thinking of Harry as she said so.
"I've always been partial to hazel eyes myself," Parvati mused. "Eyes that look like they change colour in different lights. Oh! You know whose eyes do that? Do you all remember Oliver Wood? He had the most delightful hazel eyes that just came alive when he'd talk about Quidditch."
"Oliver was dreamy," Ginny agreed. "I wonder what he's up to these days. Last I heard he was still playing for Puddlemere."
"He still does," Luna said softly.
"Oh, tell us you're ideal bloke, Luna," Lavender said. "Before I drool over the idea of Hermione's perfect man."
"Men," Parvati corrected.
"Hmmm," Luna said quietly. "I think I'd like someone interesting."
CALLING ALL WITCHES
The Ministry of Magic have invited every able-bodied witch to attend a special gathering at the Ministry Offices this week, requiring that any witch currently unmarried and over the age of seventeen present herself at her earliest convenience.
Insider information at Hogwarts says that the Ministry has even arranged to have all female students who meet the required mandates Flooed to the Minsitry offices throughout the week for testing. No word yet on how Headmaster Dumbledore is taking this most recent of rash actions undertaken by the Ministry within Hogwarts.
"Miss Hermione Jean Granger?" a witch dressed in a formal looking lab coat asked, eyeing Hermione over the top of her spectacles. "That is your full name, correct?"
"It is," Hermione confirmed, sitting on the edge of the examination table she'd been asked to utilize and twisting her hands nervously in her lap.
"Do you currently, or have you ever had any children, Miss Granger?" the woman asked her.
"Are you now, or have you ever been pregnant, Miss Granger?"
"No." Hermione frowned.
"Are you currently sexually active, Miss Granger?"
"I hardly see how that's any of your business," Hermine snapped.
"Answer the question, Miss Granger. These are routine questions that all of your classmates, and indeed, all of the witches meeting our criteria are being asked about. Myself included," the witch said in a voice that suggested she was in no mood to play games.
"I'm not currently sexually active," Hermione replied coldly.
"Are you a virgin, Miss Granger?"
Hermione's cheeks bloomed crimson at the question. She opened her mouth, intent on telling the woman to stuff it, but bit her tongue on the urge.
"No, I'm not a virgin," she bit out coolly.
"Historically within your family, have your ancestors predominantly produced male or female offspring?" the woman asked her.
Hermione blinked, her anger dissipating at the odd question.
"Erm… a bit of both, really," Hermione frowned thinking through her cousins and her aunts and uncles. "Maybe a few more boys than girl in each generation."
The witch made a note on the chart she was filling out as she quizzed Hermione.
"Are you currently dating anyone, Miss Granger?"
Hermione shook her head.
"If you had to describe your ideal partner, what words would you use?" the woman asked.
"Erm…" Hermione bit her lip again, thinking back on the conversation she'd had with the girls just last week. "Charismatic. Volatile. Fun-Loving. Quick-witted. Powerful. Intellectual. Funny."
The woman wrote down each of the words Hermione used.
"Do you have a preference for what type of men you are usually attracted to, Miss Granger?"
"I like dark hair," Hermione offered, her cheeks pink. "The darker the better."
"How old are you, Miss Granger?"
"Eighteen," Hermione told her. "It was my birthday yesterday."
"Oh. Happy birthday," the witch wished her, a small smile pulling at the concerns of her mouth. "However, are you sure that your birthday is accurate? Our testing has you listed as being closer to twenty in physical time spent living on this planet."
"Oh, um, that's probably because I was using a Time-Turner during my third year," Hermione explained, "I had to use it many times each day throughout that year in order to attend all my classes and handle my study load."
The witch made another note on the parchment.
"What are you feelings pertaining to marriage, Miss Granger?" she was asked next.
Hermione frowned again. "I don't know. I expect it's something I'll do eventually, with the right person."
"When you envision your future, are children a part of that plan, Miss Granger?"
Hermione wanted to snatch the clipboard from the woman and figure out what the questions were all about.
"Yes. Eventually," she said instead.
"How many children do you envision yourself having in the future, Miss Granger?"
Hermione scowled at the question.
"Maybe three," she sighed, knowing that getting angry and making a scene would do her no good. The Ministry had been doing all manner of odd things recently in its attempts to further hide from the truth about Voldemort.
"Would you be willing to compromise on that number?" the Ministry witch asked.
"I suppose." Hermione shrugged. "Is this going to take much longer?"
"No," the woman shook her head. "I only have one more question."
Hermione sighed. "Fine, ask it."
"If you were to find the right wizard who met your criteria," the woman said. "Would you care if he had a criminal history or had made poor decisions in the past?"
"Not if he'd changed his ways," Hermione frowned, thinking of Professor Snape, who had undoubtedly done bad things before joining the Order. Thinking of Sirius who had a criminal record and was technically still on the run, but who was a good man nonetheless.
"Excellent," the witch hummed, looking pleased. "Thank you for your time, Miss Granger. The Ministry will be in touch with you regarding your answers here today should there be anything further we need to clarify with you."
Hermione's frown deepened in confusion as she was ushered out the door.
"Oi, Moony?" Sirius Black called to the werewolf he shared a home with inside of Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.
"Yeah?" Remus Lupin asked, sounding slightly stunned where he stood in the kitchen with a letter clutched loosely in one hand.
"You had an owl this morning?" Sirius asked.
"Yep," Moony said, his voice constricted slightly.
"From the Ministry?" Sirius asked. "I think Kingsley must be having me on in some stupid attempt at a joke."
"You got one too?" Remus asked, swivelling to face Sirius, his brow furrowed deeply in concern.
"One what? A letter from the Ministry?" Sirius clarified. "Yeah. Why? You too?"
Moony nodded mutely.
"What does it say?" Sirius asked his best mate worriedly.
"It says…. The Ministry has instigated some kind of law that means…"
"Limerence Laws," Sirius nodded, his gut clenching tightly.
"Means…. All that testing they were doing, summoning able-bodied witches who are of age…" Remus said, his green eyes wide and shot through with the gold of the wolf. "They were matching…."
"Matching?" Sirius frowned. "This isn't a fucking match, Remus. This is a fucking ordinance that I'm to be bloody married."
Remus nodded. "Mine says that too. Must be married within the week."
"It's a fucking joke!" Sirius snarled. "I won't fucking go through with it… this is bullshit. I don't know what they were doing, but this isn't a 'match'. What does yours say? Who do they think you should marry?"
Remus blinked at him, his body beginning to trembled as the rage of his alter-ego fought to break free, to take over and protect them from the deemed threat of the letter's contents.
"It says… Sirius… have I ever seemed… bisexual… to you?"
"You realise you're asking the only bloke you've ever snogged, yeah?" Sirius asked, some of his anger and confusion fading at the way Remus looked so lost. "Your letter say you've got to marry two people? A witch and another wizard?"
Remus nodded mutely.
"Yours too?" he asked hopefully.
Severus Snape stared at the letter he'd just received, stamped with the Ministry emblem and signed by the Minister for Magic himself. A joke. Surely it was a joke done in extremely poor taste?
There could be no other explanation.
Glancing down the table, Severus spotted Albus clutching a similar letter in a hand that trembled very faintly. To the untrained eye, the grandfatherly persona of the Headmaster seemed undisturbed. But Severus Snape had a very well trained eye to spot weakness and Albus Dumbledore was showing it right in that moment. Weakness and disgust and fear.
"What is the meaning of this?" Rolanda Hooch snarled, scrunching a letter of her own, her hazel eye narrowed hatefully. "Who the ruddy hell sent this bollocks? I won't go through with it! Fucking disgusting! Albus? What is the meaning of this?"
Severus would very much like to know the answer to that himself.
Because he most certainly was not amused. This was no laughing matter. An ordinance – a command, even - issued by the Ministry that he was to be married within the week. As though that thought weren't insulting enough in itself, the sight of the two names listed side by side upon the parchment were enough to make his temper flare.
Disgusting was an apt description. Abominable was another. Detestable, still another.
"The meaning, Rolanda," Albus said in his soft-spoken voice that Severus knew so intimately meant he was bordering on losing his own formidable temper. "Is that the Ministry has issued every able bodied witch and wizard with an edict to be married."
"I won't do it!" Rolanda declared. "Two, Albus! Two! They expect me to marry two wizards! At the same time! It's ridiculous! Outrageous. Disgusting, even! I won't stand for it! What could possibly possess them to think that they can tell me who to marry! Two! This is offensive!"
"It would seem," Albus went on calmly, though a hint of a steely edge crept into his tone. "That the Ministry had decreed that due to the ever-aging population and the propensity within wizarding society for boys being born more prevalently than girls, that in order to fix the problem, every able bodied witch is to marry and reproduce with two wizards. She is to take both husbands' names and each child born to the union is to be DNA tested and given the surname of whomever amid the triad happens to be his or her father."
Severus felt sick.
"At least one child must be born of the husbands'," Albus went on. "Essentially, the Ministry is seeking to play Merlin, matching us all up lest certain names and certain families die out. With the recent expungance of the McKinnon, Prewett, Shafiq and Hennings lines, I expected the Ministry has taken action to ensure that the wizarding population will be replenished and no further linages will be allowed to die out."
"And if we don't consent to it?" Aurora Sinistra asked, tight lipped.
"That's in the fine print at the bottom," Albus said, his knuckles going white as he gripped his own letter so hard that it began to smoulder with barely restrained magical rage. "As you can see, ladies, each of you has been sent the trio of Ministry-issue rings to complete the ritual. As I understand it, they monitor sexual activity between spouses to ensure their decrees are being met – once per week with the witch in question, excluding the menses week each month. If anyone should choose to refuse the ordinance, they will tracked down via the Trace office at the Ministry, be stripped of their magic and have their wand snapped, immediately. Everyone has until a week from now to locate and wed their decreed spouses or they will cease to belong to the magical community."
Albus's letter went up in flames as he spoke the last word and Severus felt his own rage begin to boil. Throughout the hall, those students of sixth and seventh year who were of age within the magical world were receiving their own letters of condemnation.
"This can't be allowed to occur, Albus," Pomona protested. "Some of these matches are… I, well, Albus, I've been matched with a student!"
Severus's insides twisted painfully to learn he wasn't the only one.
"As have I," he inserted smoothly, causing Minerva McGonagall and Septima Vector – whom were sitting either side of him – to shoot sharp, cautious glances at him.
"With students?" Albus repeated, looking shocked out of his rage for a moment, struck utterly dumb at the very idea.
"Students!" Pomona hissed. "Look at this! I've been matched with Quintus Mulciber – he graduated almost ten years ago – and with… Gregory Goyle."
Severus felt his lip curl, his mind's eye calling forth both wizards and finding a number of similarities in both their personalities and their builds.
"Mulciber and Goyle," Minerva asked. "You're sure, Pomona? Those two are…."
"Eerily similar," Severus finished for her. "Suggesting the Limerence of these Limerence Laws is based upon the witch in question having a particular 'type'."
"Students?" Albus asked again, his blue eyes losing their ever-present twinkle.
Severus might have smirked to see the old bastard so incensed that he lost that fucking twinkle – he had, until this moment, prided himself on being one of the few able to make that twinkle vanish – if not for the burning feel of bile threatening to rise within his stomach of the notion of marrying the witch and wizard he'd been 'matched' with.
"Who among you have been matched with a current student residing within Hogwarts?" Albus asked, glancing along the table at his staff members.
"I have, obviously," Pomona huffed.
"I have too," Aurora murmured, staring out across the hall, her eyes fixed on one wizard in particular.
Severus followed her gaze, singling out the sight of Tobias Entwhistle, who seemed to be dealing with the news within his own letter by turning to his fellow Ravenclaws and debating the merit of the law.
"And I have," Severus said quietly, allowing his eyes to sweep over the hall, intent on find the student with whom he had been 'matched'.
His black eyes narrowed when they landed on her, finding her sitting at the Gryffindor table and peeling open her own letter of condemnation with a frown marring her brow.
"Severus?" Albus asked, his blue eyes narrowing as he followed Severus's gaze to the witch in question. "No. This can't be… who else, Severus?" Albus demanded, reaching over Minerva where she sat beside him – her letter bearing the names Albus Dumbledore and Alastor Moody, ironically enough – to take the smouldering letter from Severus's hands.
Severus heard Minerva gasp when Albus pried the letter from Severus's fingers and pulled it closer to better read it.
"No. It can't be," Minerva whispered. "They can't… surely, they won't, Albus."
"This cannot be correct," Albus said, his voice lowering, heading towards dangerous territory that meant he was rapidly losing his temper.
The crockery and the silver-wear within the hall began to shudder and shake upon the High Table and then out across the hall, causing many of the students to look up in alarm. The sky outside the castle, visible through the enchanted ceiling, turned a wretched shade of black, thunder and lightning booming and cracking loud enough that many of the junior students – unaware of the ordinance – began to scream in terror.
Severus couldn't truly say who was responsible for the violent surges of magic that made every witch and wizard's hair stand on end within the Great Hall. He didn't know if it stemmed from his own fizzing and festering rage and hatred, or if it stemmed from Albus's fury, but it rocked the very foundations of the castle.
"I'll kill him," Severus snarled, already shooting to his feet and snatching his letter back from the Headmaster. "I'll murder him now and save myself the hassle later."
"Severus, you can't!" Minerva clutched his arm – every hair on her head suddenly standing at attention and looking most alarming indeed. "It's in the by-law. If you attempt to harm either spouse you've been matched with, you'll be struck dead."
"That would be preferable, Minerva!" Severus growled at the witch, his eyes swivelling once more to land on the witch whose 'type' had landed him in this wretched mess.
The girl looked up just in time to see Severus's letter go up in flames before he spun on is heel, jerking himself free of Minerva as he did so, and stalked away with a billow of black robes.
The pit in Hermione's stomach – she had been certain – couldn't have opened any wider when she saw the decree and the names of the two wizards she was expected to marry. But that was before she saw the hatred glittering in his eyes. Before she saw the disgust on his less-than-handsome face.
"Hermione…?" Harry asked, sounding as though he were adrift in a sea of confusion, unable to make sense of the letter dangling limply in his hold.
"What does it mean?" Ron asked. "I have to marry another bloke along with a witch? What?"
Hermione blinked, feeling bile rise in her stomach, not of disgust, but of fear. She nodded mutely, pressing a hand to her throat, trying to convince the vomit not to pass her oesophagus.
"But I don't like blokes?" Ron said, still frowning. "Harry, who'd you get? Are your paired with a witch and another bloke?"
"Yeah," Harry muttered. "I'm with… bloody hell, this is twisted…."
"Who did you get, Harry?" Ron asked, his voice tightening.
"Remus," Harry said quietly. "Remus and… Tonks."
"What, really?" Ron frowned, looking shocked by the idea.
"That's what my letter says," Harry nodded. "Bloody hell. Remus hates Tonks…."
"He does not," Ginny swatted Harry's arm.
"He does," Harry assured her. "He's told me. Her crush on him makes him extremely uncomfortable. Who'd you get, Ron?"
"Erm…" Ron muttered. "Oliver Wood and uh… Katie Bell."
"I don't get it," Ginny said, quietly. "They're called Limerence Laws, right? That means it's got to do with infatuation. And since we witches were quizzed by the Ministry and you boys weren't, it would suggest that we witches are the ones who contributed to the 'infatuation', in other words, the type of wizard we project the most interest in. So how the hell did I get landed with these two?"
Hermione tore her eyes from her own parchment.
"Who did you get?" Harry asked, curiously. "Kind of always figured if I had to marry anyone it would be you…"
"That's what I figured too," Ginny nodded, staring into her ex-boyfriend's eyes for a long moment. "But I got… well, look for yourself. I'm really hoping that I'm seeing things."
Hermione peered at the parchment as Harry took it and read it. Her brow furrowed in sympathy and concern.
"Lee Jordan and Blaise Zabini," Harry read aloud, sensing Ron's paranoia. "You've got a type for dark-skinned wizards with a wicked sense of humour, apparently."
"Except I… I've never been that attracted to either of them… I've always just drooled after you, Harry," Ginny frowned.
"The questions they asked at the Ministry required that we list traits we found attractive," Hermione said slowly, traits more so than attributes. "What did you say?"
"Handsome. Witty. Driven. Intense. A bit sassy," Ginny frowned.
"Did they ask if you like any particular attributes?" Harry asked.
"Only what colour hair I liked," Ginny admitted. "I said black. I said all of these things with you in mind."
"And landed with those two," Harry said. "Weird. But then, I don't have that many overlapping attributes with Remus."
"You both have green eyes," Ginny pointed out. "You both come from broken families with unhappy childhoods. You're both intense. And sassy. Merlin knows Remus is sassy."
"But he has sandy hair and he's taller than me," Harry pointed out.
"You've both got significant scars too," Ron pointed out tactlessly. "You from the curse, and Remus from… well, his curse, I guess. Maybe Tonks has a thing for green-eyed, scar-ridden, sass-spouters."
"Sass-spouters? Really?" Harry asked, his voice extremely sassy as he raised one eyebrow at Ron sceptically.
"It's now a thing," Ron nodded. "Besides, I look nothing like Oliver and I got paired with him and Katie. How do you figure that one happened?"
"You're both Keepers. Intense Quidditch nuts. Prone to forgetting tact when there Quidditch matters at hand. Obviously Katie is still Quidditch crazy and has a thing for Keepers," Ginny commented, waving a dismissive hand at her brother.
"Hermione?" Harry asked, turning to her as though finally noticing how silent she'd been. "Bloody hell, 'Mione, you're white as a sheet. Who've they matched you up with?"
Hermione's hands were trembling as she clutched the trio of silver rings in one hand, vaguely noticing the aesthetic designs upon them while her letter was partially crumpled in her other hand. She'd watched the way he'd glared at her before leaving the hall. She'd watched the way he'd set his letter on fire and made the whole Hall tremble and quake with his rage. She'd seen the utter loathing in his eyes and she knew that in that moment, he hated her even more than he hated the second man to whom she'd been matched.
"I… erm…." Hermione said, her voice cracking in her utter terror over the idea of marrying to two wizard that her infatuation had decreed would be best suited to her.
"Who is it?" Ron demanded. "Someone awful? Bloody hell, it's not Malfoy, is it?"
"No," Hermione whispered. "No it's…."
She handed her letter carefully to Harry, watching him take it and watching his green eyes widen in horror before he looked up at her. She knew as she watched him that he'd had the same thought she had. They were going to kill each other. Sirius Black and Severus Snape were going to murder each other.