"Are you certain, Severus?" Albus Dumbledore asked the irritable man. "You are under no liability to proceed with this."
Severus Snape squirmed in his seat under the stare of the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore had a parchment in his hand that would legally bind Severus matrimonially to a student, one Miss Hermione Granger.
The Headmasters purple velvet pointed hat balanced on a corner of the high-backed chair he was occupying. His silvery mane and beard flowed over his shoulders and down the front of his robes. His sharp blue eyes peered over the crest of gold wire-rimmed spectacles and settled on Severus.
"Certain enough," said Severus. A strained expression passed over his features. He pinched the skin between his eyes.
"Very well then," Dumbledore sighed and turned over the parchment to Severus, along with a new quill. Severus took it, hands trembling and signed.
Hermione Granger was enjoying her breakfast with her best friends, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, when a large barn owl swooped down and dropped a light blue scroll in front of her. Her hand froze midway to her pumpkin juice.
Ministry of Magic: Department of Matrimonial Destiny was etched across the scroll.
"But you're not eighteen yet, Hermione," said Ron, staring at her dumbfounded.
"I know," replied Hermione sounding distressed.
"Then what's that for?" he asked hysterically.
"I don't know!" cried Hermione, leaving the scroll untouched near her plate. Harry reached out and grabbed it. He unfurled it and read.
"It looks like your activities with the time-turner have been considered when establishing the time of your availability," Harry raised his eyebrows.
Hermione snorted. The Marriage Law. Another crackpot scheme of Fudge's to safeguard the coming generations of the Wizarding community. His latest plan was to lower the position of muggle-born witches to property and allow pure-blooded wizards to petition for their hand.
"You had three proposals in the initial hour of your availability, so you're being given permission to choose your husband." Harry studied the page. "I'm very sorry, Hermione," he mumbled.
"Why didn't anybody tell me?" Ron asked shocked.
"You wouldn't be permitted," Harry explained firmly, before Ron had an uncontrollable outburst and lost them the House Cup. "You're still underage. And your relatives are spoken for," Harry added as a consideration.
Hermione paled and searched in her pack for a quill. Ron watched as she scrabbled on the parchment and the owl that brought it plummeted down from the crossbeams to send it back to the Ministry.
"So that's it?" Ron asked, calmly.
"I think so," answered Hermione.
"Who did you go with?" inquired Harry.
"Who did you have to choose from?" asked Ron.
"Gregory Goyle, Garrick Ollivander, and Severus Snape," Hermione said blankly.
"Are you serious?" asked Ron.
He felt powerless. He and Hermione had never made things clear, but he had always intended to settle down with her when he had enough to offer. Now the Ministry had torn her away before they had an opportunity. He had watched the same thing occur to Percy after Penelope had been matched to a tailor in Brighton. She was legal property of somebody.
"Who did you go with?"
"Snape," hissed Hermione annoyed. "He's in the Order. He must have asked for me because of that."
"That would make sense," Ron said, looking a little more positive. "He will protect you."
"Well, I have to thank him later," Hermione said, gathering up her planner out of her pack.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked.
"We're getting married tonight," Hermione said, writing an entry in her planner.