AN: I have a tendency to drag my characters through horribly angsty situations that may, can, and will traumatise them emotionally. This is so that they can climb out a changed person on the other side. The situations I put my characters in may include violence, abuse, domestic violence and abuse, sexual coercion, sexual assault, forced marriages, forced pregnancies and the death of loved ones (including pregnancies and children). I often have characters that experience mental illness that may result in the need for counselling. I may use gore as a shock factor at times. I will rate anything that has these sorts of themes as mature but if tagging for one of these situations would reveal a major spoiler, I'm reluctant to do so.

If any of these situations (or others) may trigger you, I do apologise and encourage you to private message me so that I can give you warnings up front. I don't want to upset any of my readers. Fanfiction is something we all indulge in and I believe we should be able to curtail our experiences to things we enjoy. In order to facilitate that, if a story sounds interesting (even as a WIP) but you'd like a more thorough warning of anything that may present itself within the story, please PM me.

Thursday, 7 May 1998

Hermione's trainers squeaked on the tile floor of the Ministry of Magic's corridors as she walked past the courtrooms and down a half flight of stairs to the holding cells for prisoners. She was alone because Ron and Harry were at the Burrow trying to hold Mrs Weasley together and keep George from doing something horrible in his grief.

Hermione had received the owl from the Ministry earlier that morning. Prisoner #34 claimed she owed him a life debt and he wanted to discuss repayment. Hermione had made the appointment for the early afternoon after she'd fire-called Kingsley to make sure it was legit. It was. While she showered, dressed, and waited for her appointment she ran through a mental list of any Death Eaters who might have saved her life. She could think of only one.

Rabastan Lestrange.

So, in the mood to spite the man, Hermione redressed herself as a muggle instead of the new robes she'd purchased to wear to the funerals. Jeans and a tee were good enough.

Hermione reached the door and was greeted by an Auror on guard duty. She signed the board and checked her wand, Bellatrix's wand, with him. She wasn't allowed to take it into the cell in case the prisoner overpowered her. Hermione didn't want to let it go but understood the policy. She was ushered through the door and led to a door halfway down the corridor. If it hadn't been labelled with a 34, she wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. The solid door looked heavy when the Auror shoved his whole body weight to swing it partially open.

Once inside, she realized that the room was tiny. There were no windows. There was a cot that looked too short for a man of average height and a worn porcelain bowl that she assumed was what passed for the toilet. The space would have been tight with just her, but with Lestrange in the room as well it was downright claustrophobic.

He was sitting cross-legged on the bed against the wall that doubled as a headboard. He was dressed in black and white vertical striped robes that looked used. There was a hint of an Air Freshening Charm but it didn't cover the smell of sweat and unwashed body.

"I'd stand to greet you, Miss Granger, but I'd be worried I'd crowd you," his voice was quiet and smooth, with an aristocratic accent.

She stood in front of the door with her arms crossed. "What did you want to discuss, Lestrange?"

He nodded, seeming to understand that she didn't want to linger over ridiculous small talk. "I saved your life in the battle at Hogwarts. Pulled you away from falling rubble. I'd like to call in that life debt."

Hermione tried not to let her slight confusion cross her face. "Death Eaters are going to be given trials. I don't think I have enough clout to prevent you from getting a Dementor's Kiss if that's what you're asking for."

"No, I'm not asking for that. I've already asked for my barrister. What I want from you is an heir."

Hermione was sure that surprise was written all over her face. "What? No, that's... That's not how life debts work. That twists it all around."

"No, it doesn't. I saved your life and that debt can be repaid by saving my life or that of my progeny. Giving me an heir, creating life with me, will satisfy the debt."

She was speechless. She'd prepared all sorts of different arguments regarding saving his soul from the Kiss or sparing him time in Azkaban, but this—this request—was horrible and there had to be some way, some loophole, to get out of doing it.

Unfortunately, it seemed Lestrange had thought of that. "Life debts are an old magic, like blood and family magic. Debts are beyond the Ministry's scope and there are laws on the books that require the Ministry to enforce compliance when a life debt has been called in."

She shook her head, disbelieving. There had to be something that could be done. There was no way she was going to—to sleep with Rabastan Lestrange—or bear him an heir. No way in hell.

"I understand that you're sceptical," he continued, still calm and quiet and gentle, "so I'll ask you to go to someone you trust in the Ministry. Someone who knows the laws. A pureblood of the Sacred Twenty-Eight would know the basics but an Auror or solicitor of English law will know the details."

"I can't believe you'd ask for something like that. An heir. Aren't you worried about the purity of your precious bloodline?" Hermione snapped. "I'm a Mudblood if you hadn't forgotten."

He didn't flinch. "You're also young, attractive, educated, clever, cunning, ruthless, brave, and a war heroine," he countered. Before she could respond though, he continued, "You also owe me a life debt and that's the trait that matters the most at this juncture."

Hermione bit her tongue and slammed her hand back into the door next to her thigh, unwilling to turn her back on Lestrange until she was sure the Auror guard was there. She refused to say another word to the man sitting on the bed, matted auburn hair framing his stubble covered face. His calm demeanour irritated her.

Once she was free of his cell, free of the stench of his still-battle weathered body, she could finally breathe deeply again. She hardly paid much attention to the guard who gave her wand back and instead stormed down the corridors towards the lift. She had a pureblood Auror-turned-Minister to see.

* . * . *

Hermione stood outside the Minister's office while she waited for the secretary to tell Kingsley she wanted to speak with him. The door opened and the secretary walked out but held the door for her.

"He'll see you now," she said.

Hermione walked in and Kingsley stood to greet her. "Hermione, It's always a pleasure to see you. What can I do for you? You spoke with the prisoner that asked for you?" He gestured for her to sit and she complied, though she really wanted to pace away the anxiety.

"It was Rabastan Lestrange, and yes, he wanted to discuss calling in a life debt I owe him." She took a deep breath, "He said he wanted an heir. But that doesn't make any sense, and I don't see how 'creating life with him' has anything to do with saving his life. It's completely ridiculous and he must be mistaken, life debts don't work that way." She was going to continue her diatribe but when she glanced up and saw Kingsley's face, she stopped. "Do they?" she asked.

He didn't say anything for a moment, just frowned and nodded as he stared at his desktop in thought. "They do work that way. A life debt can be repaid up to and including saving one's life or one's progeny. Seeing as how he doesn't have progeny at the moment, creating life would repay the debt." He finally looked back up at Hermione, "Have you acknowledged the debt then?"

"Acknowledged? What do you mean?"

"The next time you see him, you'll need to formally acknowledge the debt. 'I,' your name, 'recognize that my life is indebted to you,' his name, 'and I acknowledge the debt and will repay it by' and then say a few words describing the repayment. Providing him with an heir or creating life with him would both work. The wording should be specific to the situation. Formally saying it will make it a vow; something he can't change and you can't back out of. This complicates things, though."

"But I don't want to—to have—" she couldn't bring herself to even say the word 'sex' in regards to the unwashed Death Eater downstairs. "Isn't there some way to get out of it? And what sort of complications? Besides ruining my life?"

"Yes, aside from that," Kingsley said, a sardonic smile painting his face. "If I remember correctly there are two laws this situation might invoke. The first of which is that no expectant parent can be incarcerated in Azkaban."

"What? That's ridiculous! And he's not expecting!"

"He's called in a life debt, which means everything—including his trial and incarceration—is put on hold until you conceive."

Hermione ran her hands along her thighs wiping the sweat from her palms. "This can't be happening. Not... Not now, not to us, we haven't even been through all the funerals from the battle yet!" She took another heavy breath and let it out slowly. "What was the second law?"

"Oh, right. I'd have to make sure it's still on the books but it was when I finished the law section of Auror training. Any witch who becomes pregnant who's not in a formal courtship is expected to marry the father of the child, with exceptions for rape or incest. It's one of those pureblood laws that just hasn't been struck from the books because most times it's not an issue."

Hermione wasn't sure if she muffled the sound of her gagging enough that Kingsley didn't notice. He didn't say anything if he did. "That's... That's awful. How can... that's..." Her brain seemed to click into high gear for a moment before she latched onto something missing in that law. "And if the man is already married?"

"Polygamy isn't unheard of in the Wizarding World, just fallen out of practice. I think the most recent two instances of it were the Shafiq family in 1830s—twin sisters and one husband—and Bathilda Bagshot's parents. Mr Bagshot had two wives in the 1870s."

"Back on topic. He, Lestrange, said that the Ministry would enforce..." Hermione redirected the conversation. Although interesting, polygamy among wizards in the 1800s wasn't changing the fact that her life as she knew it was being destroyed.

"Not physically. The Ministry just won't stand in the way of someone collecting a life debt."

"So he could rape me and the Ministry would look the other way? And make me marry him after that?"

Kingsley shook his head. "No, if he raped you, even if he fathered a child on you, the life debt would be erased and the Ministry could prosecute him. He wouldn't do that, it's not in his political best interest."

"Well, maybe I could—what was it?—enter into a formal courtship with Ron," she tried to come up with an alternative that would keep her from having to marry a Death Eater.

"Everything is put on hold until you conceive when he called in that debt. Even if you and Ron got engaged tomorrow and tried to get married, the Ministry would not recognize your courtship and it wouldn't be valid."

"Why don't they teach this sort of thing at Hogwarts? I've never even heard of a formal courtship. And what could the Ministry do if Ron and I got married in a Muggle ceremony?"

"A lot of it is pureblood laws and most purebloods don't even know them. I only know about them because I was interested in law so that was one of the electives I chose in Auror training. With a Muggle ceremony, though? I don't know. I suppose the Ministry would recognize both men as your husbands."

Hermione let her chin fall to her chest as she sighed. "I don't want to get married."

He didn't say anything while she pouted. It wasn't until she sighed again and looked up that he continued the conversation. "I had no idea someone like him would know the old laws; would know when to make his play."

"He was a Slytherin," was the only thing that Hermione offered.

Kingsley's lips twitched like he was suppressing a smile before he added, "Through and through, it seems."

"And if I run?"

"He'd be allowed whatever freedoms he needed to follow you."

Hermione pursed her lips as she thought. "You said he's not allowed to be incarcerated? do you mean he's just played a 'get out of jail free' card?"


Hermione winced. "Never mind, muggle thing. How will he be sentenced if...?"

"House arrest for however many years he would have incarcerated in Azkaban."

"For life?" Hermione asked.

"No. We have a different Wizengamot since the first war. Prisoners haven't been sentenced to life since then."

"Is there any way to appeal this? Both the way he's calling in the life debt and having to marry him."

"Not at the moment, the Wizengamot is swamped with all the other trials and they aren't going to want to draw things out like that since they won't be able to have Lestrange's trial until after you're pregnant. They'll see this as a perfectly valid, well thought out legal plan..." he paused and narrowed his eyes, "Unless... How did he save your life? Was it manufactured?"

"What do you mean? Like did he conspire with someone to cast a curse at me and save my life on purpose, specifically for this?"

"Yes, that," Kingsley confirmed.

"No," she shook her head, "Nothing that clear-cut. I was duelling Dolohov near a wall. Ron was nearby duelling Rookwood, I think. One of Ron's spells was reflected off a Shield Charm and hit the wall beside me, causing an explosion. Lestrange grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the way of the falling stone." She had meditated on the memory when she'd learned about Lestrange and the life debt. She had wanted to know exactly what happened; what she'd told Kingsley was the best she could determine.

Kingsley sighed. "Coincidence then, but well thought out all the same." He seemed to just stare at her for a while, looking at something in her eyes or the tight set of her shoulders or her balled up fists in her lap. "Send me an owl when you're ready to meet him again and we'll make sure he's been cleaned up and is in a different room. Something more suitable."

Hermione wanted to crumple in her chair and cry. There was no getting out of this. Somehow, she found the strength to thank Kingsley for his patience and help and made it out to the atrium without falling apart. She sat on a bench and tried to calm herself down. She couldn't travel by Floo to the Burrow yet, as it was still blocked off from the war, so she would have to Apparate.

* . * . *

She didn't fall apart immediately after Apparating. In fact, she made it all the way through dinner later that evening, until Mrs Weasley looked up at her and asked, "What's wrong dear?" That was when she broke. She explained what Lestrange had wanted and what Kingsley had expounded. Harry and Ron had come around and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, trying to help.

"Is it true? Is what Kingsley said true? I'll have to marry the bastard?" she asked, hiccoughing once as she tried to calm herself down.

Mr and Mrs Weasley shared a look and nodded. "I remember a little about life debts from my younger days," Mrs Weasley said, "and I remember that line about progeny. Protecting or creating, both."

"I would have given you a token of affection, started a courtship, but I figured you'd want to date first," Ron said. His eyes looked a little red like he'd scrubbed at them with the heel of his hand. "As a Muggle-born, I didn't think you'd appreciate me declaring I wanted to marry you right now. Not that I was really thinking about all those weird pureblood things Mum and Dad went over ages ago."

"Even if you had of given her a token this last year, you had been in hiding. If no one sees her wearing a token—it's usually jewellery, dear—then it doesn't really count. No one would have recognized the validity of the courtship."

Hermione glanced around at the others still in the room. It seems that George, Percy, Charlie, Bill, and Fleur had slipped from the room. She hoped they'd eaten enough dinner and that her tears and noisy sobs hadn't interrupted their meal.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Ron whispered in her ear. She laid her head on his shoulder as she slowed her breathing. "Want to move over to the sofa? The floor's not the best thing to keep kneeling on."

She smiled and nodded, sitting back up. She stood but stopped to look at the table. "Do you want help cleaning up Mrs Weasley?"

"Ginny and I will help with the cleaning up, Hermione," Mr Weasley told her, "you go on and relax for a while."

Hermione did just that. Ron sat in the corner of the sofa and she sat between his legs, snuggling down into his chest. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and back and left the other free. Harry set up the chess table next to him and the two boys sat and played quietly. Hermione felt like she was wrapped in wool. She let her mind wander and float, not really listening to the conversations of the rest of the family or thinking about her situation. There was so much she still needed to do. There were at least three more funerals for members of the Order of the Phoenix. She needed to go get her parents from Australia. She wanted to help with the reconstruction of Hogwarts. She needed to decide what she wanted to do regarding her education and her N.E.W.T.s. And now she also needed to go to a book store or library and do a little research regarding conceiving and pregnancy.

She wouldn't go into this without knowing as much as she could.