If Harry and Ron don't stop talking about Quidditch, Hermione's head will explode. She's sure it will. All over the bacon and toast. Ron probably wouldn't even notice, just keep shoveling food in his mouth, bits of her brain right along with his fried eggs.
At the staff table, Professors Sprout and McGonagall are laughing about something, and Professor Snape looks in even worse humor than usual, if that's possible. His eyes are hooded with dark shadows under them, and she notes that it's one of his greasy hair days. It only looks like that some of the time, usually on the days when he looks particularly haggard, as though he hasn't slept well.
As though feeling Hermione's eyes on him, Snape looks up from glowering into his coffee cup and turns his glower on her. Her breath catches at the intensity of it. He appears to be furious at her. She knows she hasn't done anything—or at least she hopes she hasn't—so it's probably just a mad-at-the-world glower rather than anything aimed at her personally.
When he looks away, she follows his gaze to the owls swooping into the Great Hall. Snape expels a breath and pinches the bridge of his nose as an owl drops a copy of the Prophet in front of him. Hermione watches his jaw tense as he picks it up, as though he knows what's in it, and he glances back at her before he opens it, an unreadable expression in his black eyes.
Hermione's own copy is delivered then, and she puts a coin in the owl's pouch and feeds it a bit of toast before opening the paper. She hears the gasps from around the Hall even before she reads the headline: Muggleborn Marriage Law: All Witches to Wed.
Marriage law? What kind of barbarous, medieval nonsense is this? She scans the article quickly, sees that it applies only to witches, not wizards. Figures. Magical Britain is so bloody sexist. According to the article, every Muggleborn witch in Britain—of course it's only Muggleborns—between the ages of seventeen and forty-seven is to marry either a Pureblood or Halfblood wizard within the next three months, and have their first child within the next two years. Requirements regarding subsequent children vary according to the age and previous offspring of the witch in question.
Her head snaps around to glare at Ron. "What?"
"Um…there are sparks coming off your hair."
"I bet there'd be sparks coming off you if you weren't male and Pureblood, Ron." She glares at the paper. "Sexist, blood-purist arseholes."
People are staring at her, but she doesn't care. Seamus is Muggleborn, but he's male. Lavender and Parvati are witches, and Lavender's turned seventeen, but they're both Pureblood. None of the witches in seventh year are Muggleborn. She's the only Gryffindor to fall under the law. She glances at the other House tables. One Hufflepuff seventh year is sobbing.
Harry says, "I can marry you, Mione."
"No, you can't," Hermione says. "You aren't of age yet, and won't be when the three months are up. And even if you were, what about Ginny?"
Harry looks down the table to where Ginny is sitting with Dean. The frustrated longing she sees on his face tells Hermione everything she needs to know. She looks down at her plate and pushes a sausage link around with her fork. Ron won't make the same offer. He'll turn seventeen just before the three months are up, but she knows he won't ask her. Lav-Lav wouldn't like it, and even if he didn't have his tongue stuck halfway down that stupid bint's throat every night in the common room, he still wouldn't want to marry a bossy know-it-all like her.
"I'll bet one of my brothers will marry you," Ron says, as if on cue.
Hermione snorts. That's rich. Offer to put someone else on the chopping block in his place.
She looks up at the staff table, where the Headmaster catches Professor Snape's eye. Both men stand and make their way towards the staff exit. Professor McGonagall is looking at Hermione. She's taken off her glasses and is dabbing tears from her eyes with a tartan-edged handkerchief. They're all looking at her with pity—Sprout, Slughorn, Flitwick, all of them.
Knowing she shouldn't, but unable to help herself, Hermione looks at the Slytherin table, where Parkinson taps her ring finger and smirks. Her eyes move to Malfoy, sitting beside Parkinson, expecting to see the same smug, ha-ha, fuck you, Granger look on his face as the one Parkinson wears, but that's not what she sees. Malfoy is looking at her, but it's with an expression she can't quite read. Speculative, she supposes she'd call it. Well, whatever Malfoy has in mind to torment her, it's nothing beside this law—this horrid, barbarous, medieval law.
Hermione looks down at the cold, congealed mess on her plate and Vanishes it in disgust. Her reflection looks back at her from the now clean plate. Bushy hair, average features. Except on rare occasions like the Yule Ball, she's never paid all that much attention to her appearance. It seemed to matter so much less than her grades and her academic future. And, of course, defeating Voldemort.
Voldemort. Is he the one behind this law? He must be. He controls the Ministry and the Wizengamot, who appear to be nothing more than his puppets.
But why? Why would a blood-supremacist ideologue want filthy Mudblood witches marrying Pureblood wizards? She forces her eyes back to the newspaper, and continues reading from where she left off. The article cites falling birthrates and an increase in Squib births to Pureblood couples. Well, of course, she thinks. Don't the stupid, inbred arseholes understand genetics?
And then it hits her. Whoever is behind this law does understand genetics. And if that person is in fact Voldemort, he's not an ignorant, inbred Pureblood. He's a diabolically intelligent Halfblood who probably understands—even if he can't admit it to his bigoted followers—that part of the reason for his own exceptional power is the genetic diversity that his Muggle father brought to his mother's withering Pureblood line.
That's when the first of the proposals arrive. Antonin Dolohov, who, she suspects, is more interested in finishing what he started at the Ministry than in what she might do for his bloodline.
The next is from—gods, if this is a joke the Weasley twins are playing, it is not funny—Draco Malfoy. She swallows, hard, folds the parchment before Ron or Harry can see it, and refuses to look anywhere near the Slytherin table.
When the third owl swoops toward her, she thinks, great, which Death Eater now? But this one is from Fred Weasley. She closes her eyes and breathes deeply. Thank God. Not that she's in love with Fred—or even has so much as a schoolgirl crush on him—but at least she likes him.
And he isn't a Death Eater. A pretty low bar for accepting marriage proposals, but that's the point to which this law has brought her.
This is my first Hogwarts-era story, and it's a little darker than my others, since Voldemort is alive and engaging in his nefarious Dark Lordery. I've only written Hermione as an adult before, and I was a little hesitant to tread the precarious path of pairing a young Hermione with Snape. Lovely beta readers turtlewexler (whose outstanding new stories can be found on AO3) and Daphne Karitaina (who hasn't written her own stories-yet-but is a perceptive and discerning reader) both tell me that I've successfully avoided squickiness in this regard.
There is some comedy in this story, but it's a little darker than usual. The romance is a slow burn, despite the, ahem, requirements of the legislation. Perhaps my biggest challenge was writing Lucius Malfoy, who as readers of my previous stories know, is a vain, fussy, scene-stealing charmer in the postwar world. But this is the during-war world, and Lucius is arse-deep in Death Eater politics. Once Lucius makes an appearance later in the story, do let me know how you think I've managed.
In the past, I've updated stories erratically rather than adhering to a schedule. This time, I'm going to try the scheduled approach, posting new chapters first thing in the morning (US time) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My inner validation-whore tells me to post weekly as so many writers do, since one gets more reviews that way, but I HATE waiting that long for chapters of a WIP, so I'm going to post thrice weekly.
Trigger warnings for dubious consent (in one chapter) and rape (off-screen, in another, and not between the paired characters). I'll mention those in author's notes when I get to those chapters.
Finally, the "Bound" in the title refers to marriage binding, and is a play on the old expression "bound and determined" meaning extremely determined (not sure if people still use it; my grandmother used to). If you're looking for BDSM, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere.