Title: On Marriage, Chapter One - The Proposal

Disclaimers: I own none of it. Everything you recognize is owned by JK Rowling, her publishers or someone else, but not me. I'm just playing with the characters for a little bit. Please don't sue me; I have nothing.

A/N: This is my response to the WIKTT Marriage Law Challenge. I don't think it's going to end up following all of the guidelines but, as my first fan fic, is proving to be a lot of fun to write anyway. I hope you enjoy it as well. Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. I will try to update quickly and regularly, but promise nothing until the holidays are over.

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The war against Voldemort was over. Unfortunately, Ministry Aurors and the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix still had their hands full attempting to quell the last of Voldemort's followers. Surviving Death Eaters had been putting on vicious displays all summer in the hopes of gaining additional followers, but were being identified one by one and taken to Azkeban.

Still labeled as too young to be members of the Order, despite their role in final battle of the war, Harry, Hermione and the two youngest Weasleys were spending the last half of their summer holiday at 12 Grimmauld Place. It was technically Harry's home now, but he had been happy to let it remain Order headquarters as well.

Midsummer afternoon found the four sitting around the long table in the kitchen, looking over a list left by Molly Weasley. It was everything she wanted to have completed before the Midsummer Night feast she was planning for Order members.

"Mini-feast anyway," Harry had joked, though with the entire Weasley clan planning to be in attendance, 'mini' was something of a subjective term.

Ginny and Hermione had, after some groans from the boys, just finished dividing up the workload when the kitchen door opened. Minerva McGonagoll stepped into the room. She looked somewhat distracted.

"Miss Granger, may I have a world with you, please?"

"Certainly, Professor," Hermione replied. She put the chores list into Ginny's hands and followed her head of house out into the hallway. She had no doubt that Ginny would be able to get Ron and Harry started on their own tasks. Professor McGonagoll opened the door to the study across the hall from the kitchen and ushered Hermione inside.

Albus Dumbledore stood beside a large desk, looking through a stack of parchments there. He looked up and smiled as the two women stepped into the room. "Ah, Miss Granger, do come in and sit down." He motioned to two chairs in front of the desk. Hermione sat herself in one, and Professor McGonagoll took the other, still looking as though she was thinking through a particularly difficult problem. Severus Snape stood on the far side of the room, his arms crossed over his chest, a scowl directed through the window. Hermione thought it looked as though he hadn't even registered that anyone else had entered the room.

"I trust that your summer has been enjoyable thus far?" the Headmaster questioned. He was still smiling, but Hermione noted that the usual sparkle was absent from his blue eyes.

"Yes, sir, it has been." Hermione sent a quick glance to Professor McGonagoll, but the older woman quickly averted her gaze. Hermione sat up straighter in her chair, her heart rate picking up as she began to worry. "Is everything all right, sir? Has something happened?"

Dumbledore chuckled slightly, but the sound held little actual mirth. "Dear girl, sometimes I think you might be too perceptive for your own good."

Hermione swallowed hard, her mind tumbling over possible scenarios. There were still several Order members that she hadn't seen since Voldemorts demise. She nothing had happened to anyone during a raid on the remaining Death Eaters. But I wouldn't have been pulled aside for news like that, unless. "My parents?" she whispered, brown eyes growing wide with a fear she was unable to hide. Hermione knew she wouldn't have traded her friendship with Harry for anything, but being close to The-Boy-Who-Lived had put all of them in danger and, by extension, their families as well. The Grangers had decided to take a long-awaited vacation once they had received word that Voldemort was dead. Members of the Order had been keeping an eye on them up to that point, but everyone had assumed that Hermione's family would be safe after that.

"Oh no, Miss Granger, nothing so drastic as that," Dumbledore assured her with haste. She sighed with relief at the news and waited for him to continue. "You are aware of the new marriage law that applies to muggleborn witches such as yourself, are you not?"

Hermione couldn't stop a snort of derision worthy of Professor Snape at the mention of the Ministrys latest bit of foolishness. It had already affected quite a few of her acquaintances but she knew that there had been a large public outcry against the law and hoped that it would be overturned before she was required to submit to it.

"I take that as a yes," Dumbledore said, raising his eyebrows slightly as he peered over the tops of his half-moon glasses at Hermione. He paused for just a moment as he looked through the parchments on the desk and selected three. "The first of your proposals has arrived," he said simply.

Hermione gasped and blinked at him. Both Professors Dumbledore and McGonagoll seemed to have frozen where they sat, waiting for her respond. After a brief moment, Hermione let her breath out in a little laugh.

"That's impossible. I won't be of age until September. That's still two months away and no one can make a claim on me until then."

Hermione was convinced of the truth. No one could dispute her birthday, it was on her birth certificate. And the law itself stated that it applied only to witches and wizards aged eighteen and above. The first sound in the room was a soft rustle of robes as Professor Snape turned his attention from the window to the conversation that had been taking place at the desk. Professor McGonagoll made a quiet, nondescript sound of comfort and placed a hand on Hermione's arm.

Dumbledore didn't say anything in response, just handed the first sheet of parchment to Hermione. She read through it quickly, color draining from her cheeks as she reached the bottom of the scroll. The Ministry knew she had used a time turner in her third year and had added those hours to her actual age, which meant that she was considered to be eighteen even though her actual birth date was still some two months away. It also meant that any unmarried pureblooded wizard over the age of eighteen could request her hand in marriage and she would be forced to comply.

"You said I had already received a proposal?" she asked weakly, raising chocolate eyes from the Ministry parchment to meet Dumbledore's kind blue gaze. She wasn't terribly hopeful for good news, but there was always the slight chance that a school acquaintance had signed a petition for her. Several of her classmates were already bound in similar arrangements.

"You have already received two proposals, my dear," Dumbledore replied, handing her two sealed scrolls of parchment. Hermione placed the Ministry paperwork in her lap and looked at the wax stamps on the new scrolls. She gnawed on her lip, trying to recognize the family crest on the first, but didn't recognize it. Popping through the wax seal, she unrolled the scroll and skimmed over it quickly.

"Theodore Nott," she stated listlessly.

She turned her attention to the second scroll, hoping for better news, and her stomach lurched. She recognized the family crest immediately and almost refused to open the petition. Knowing that it wouldn't make the situation any less real, Hermione took a deep breath and broke though the green wax. The contents of the scroll came as no surprise.

"Draco Malfoy."

Professor McGonagoll 'tut'ed softly and patted Hermione's arm again. Hermione forced a small smile in thanks for the older woman's concern, then stacked the three sheets of parchment and took a determined breath.

"I'm certainly not going to marry either one of them," she announced. Dumbledore nodded slightly.

"Of course not."

"I have seven days from the last petition to make my choice," Hermione continued matter-of-factly. "Ron had planned to petition for me in September, but he can do it just as easily now. I'll choose Ron and that's that." Hermione had always hoped to marry for love, but had already admitted to herself that the current situation wouldn't be likely to allow for it. She loved Ron, but wasn't in love with him. Still, he was someone that she knew and trusted and cared a great deal about. They had talked at length about the possibility of one day being married because of the Ministry law and Hermione was at least assured that they would have a pleasant life together.

From the window, Professor Snape snorted. "And the moment as you accept Mr. Weasley's marriage proposal, he will come to a quick and nasty end."

Hermione twisted in her chair to look at her Potions professor. She was able to get the full benefit of his sneer before turning back to look at Professors McGonagoll and Dumbledore.

"I'm afraid that Severus is correct in this situation, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said without hesitation. "The two offers you have received thus far are both from the sons of prominent Death Eaters. Voldemort may be gone, but his supporters still exist and are looking to do damage in any manner possible. You are a very bright muggleborn witch and played a large role in Voldemort's defeat. That makes you very valuable. Anyone who plans to wed you in place of one of these young men needs to be in a position to protect himself against retaliation."

Hermione shook her head in confusion. "That doesn't leave very many people."

Professor McGonagoll shook her head. "No, it does not. However, there are suitable bachelors."

"Who?" Hermione asked simply.

A clatter at the window interrupted any answer. Professor Snape unfolded his crossed arms and pushed open the latch. A nondescript owl fluttered into the room, circled Snape's head and dropped a scroll of parchment into his hand before disappearing back through the window. Snape looked at the scroll over in his hand, scowled at it, and stepped towards the desk as he offered it to Hermione.

"Me."