Author's Note - Update for June 1st, 2011. I've decided to post this story on the site Granger Enchanted, and they have a much more rigorous set of rules that need to be followed in order to make the cut. As such, I'm slowly rewriting, revamping, and re-editing the story. The essentials of the plot and most of the dialogue will remain the same but as you can see, this first chapter is a slightly different characterization of Hermione. I hope you all enjoy! If anyone knows any good betas (as it's impossible for anyone to catch all their mistakes themselves), let me know!
Waiting for the Unexpected
Let's face it - the best way to spend the day when storms raged outside was to be cuddled warm under my bed sheets.
I suppose that I should have been studying, and in fact had been studying, if anyone had cared to look in on me two hours ago. But once the rain had started, my mind had slowly started wandering. I'd moved myself and my books from the desk to the carpeted floor, from the floor back to the desk, from the desk to the sitting room, and had finally landed on the bed around noon. All the while, the storm had continued. Rain (being one of my very favorite types of weather which was rather lucky as it rained all the time in this country) had conclusively beat looking my Healing textbooks over. It was incredibly nice to listen to the rain and let my mind float about.
It's nice to have no problems to…solve…
…especially since it had been a difficult year after the War. I was beginning to remember why days like this were so cherished. The pitter patter on the outside continued. I stretched a little then burrowed even deeper into the bed.
Definitely very nice.
With that thought, my eyelids started to slide shut. I let the feeling wash over me…let myself drift off to sleep.
Little did I know that my comfy little world was about to come crashing down.
I woke up sometime later to the ringing of my cellular phone. That in itself was a bit unusual - it was mid-afternoon and most everyone was busy around this time. I rose to consciousness even faster than usual and reached for the phone on the night stand.
"Hermione?" Ron's deep voice came in over the phone. He sounded urgent. And urgent did not mean anything good. "Hermione, we need you to come over right now."
"Ron?" I sat straight up in bed as he continued. "What on earth is the matter? Where are you?"
"Home at the apartment. Something's come up – something that affects all of us."
That might have been the least helpful or explanatory statement ever made. I was inclined to ask for more details but I had a feeling that Ron was quite distracted.
"Come over where? And who's we?"
"Harry, Ginny, you and I. Get to London and meet us outside of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor in thirty minutes?"
I rolled over and looked out the window. It was still raining hard, even though we were at the very beginning of the summer. I glanced back down to the bed beneath me.
There goes the day, I thought a little sadly.
"Ok. See you then."
Worry pushed me into the bath, and in record time, I was dressed and wearing a shapeless trench coat. It took me almost twenty minutes to find my way to the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron. Perhaps I could have taken a little more time to brush my hair, and maybe the slacks I'd dug out of the laundry basket were a little less than presentable but I'd made it with time to spare. Besides, the rain was steady enough that the effort would have been wasted. Instead I was intent on pushing my way through the crowd to get inside Florean's.
Or that would have been the case had someone not bumped into me. I almost fell against the front of the bar. The only things stopping me were the two hands gripping the lapels of my coat.
"I apologize," said the man who held my arms quite stiffly.
The first thing I could think was something that was not suitable for minors. I couldn't see too much of him since the rain was ridiculously forceful. Not only did the hood of my sweatshirt fall off, but my hair managed to get into a friendly match with the wind.
All I could make out was a head of silver blond hair and a heavy black trench coat to match mine.
"I didn't mean to knock…you… down…"
Silver blond hair?
His voice faded. My brain ceased to function for a full minute.
"Granger? The Mudblood?"
Pleasantly enough, those were the last comments I heard before he let go of my lapels and strode off through the rain, without an umbrella or a cloak or even a polite goodbye to send me on my way. I stood there for a moment and simply stared after him in shock.
Such a quick useless exchange.
Such a typical Malfoy exchange.
My brain kicked back into gear.
He'd long disappeared into the crowd by then and I shook myself. I hadn't the time or patience to deal with him. Not when something big was going on, something so big it required a meeting of everyone still in the city. I just brushed myself off and pulled up my hood, then marched through the rain to the ice cream parlor. When I reached the parlor and stepped inside, shaking out my coat and choosing a seat by the window.
Before I could sit, a female voice call out and I dropped the book on the table and turned to see who called.
Ginerva Weasley was one of my favorite people in the world was shoving her way through the crowd to meet me. Although she was currently darting through the crowd with the quickness of a tot, the redhead had matured far beyond her years in the past year. I suppose being in love with the proclaimed savior of the wizarding world, whom she was dragging around behind her, was responsible for a bit of that.
Harry, the Boy Who Lived. Or now that it had been little over half a year since the War - the Boy Who Had Saved the World.
As usual, I momentarily wondered how that cowlick of his managed to defy gravity in a way that also defied explanation. I also took a moment to wonder if he might ever consider accepting the gel I'd purchased for him a few weeks ago. As if he knew exactly what I was thinking, he gave me a look.
I smiled innocently enough and waved everyone over.
"Well, do sit down already," I said easily. "Where's Ron?"
I spoke too soon. Ron, looking more lanky and freckled than ever, was wading through the crowd with a single ice cream cone in hand. . At 6'6, Ron beat out Harry at 6'1, Ginny at 5'8 and myself at 5'6. It was a shame, really. I couldn't even intimidate him anymore. I eyed him apprehensively - things had to be bad if he only planned to eat a simple double-scoop cone.
"Hello," said Harry and Ron at the same time. Ginny just reached over and gave me a hug.
"So what's happening?"
Ron was looking a touch serious. I tugged my trench coat back around my shoulders to brace myself.
"You'll never believe what the Ministry of Magic has pulled…and it's permanent."
"Well, what is it? And how come I haven't heard of this yet if it's so important?"
"Well, you know Mr. Weasley works at the Ministry-" Harry said.
"-so we always hear stuff first," finished Ginny.
"And it's going to be announced tomorrow – letters and all that lot sent out." Ron licked his ice cream rather glumly. "There's no way out of it."
Which still managed to tell me nothing about something. They were falling all over each other to tell me absolutely nothing about why I had braved the rain for magical London.
"What, exactly, are you all on about?"
All three shared a look before Ginny answered me.
For the second time today, my brain ceased to function.
"Arranged…wait, what?" I asked stupidly. "Arranged what?"
"The Ministry is arranging marriages," Ginny said simply. "As in us. Everyone from ages 16 to 29 who aren't married will be owled tomorrow morning with a letter stating their betrothed and whatever bullshit reason they have for arranging marriages in the first place."
"You're trying to tell me that a nation-wide marriage law is going into effect?"
I still couldn't fathom it.
"And it is going into effect tomorrow?"
They nodded again.
"But we're only eighteen years old and Harry-" I waved a hand, "- is still seventeen while Ginny only just makes that cut-off!"
"I know," Ron sighed as he leant back in his chair. "Doesn't matter. Dad's said it's been in the works for months now, although we have no bloody idea why."
A marriage law, I thought slowly. If memory served, there wasn't much of a precedent for divorce in magical culture, I couldn't say that there was much of one for magical enforcement of a marriage. I had yet to meet a couple that had legally decided to separate ways. It just seemed…well, for lack of better words, it seemed absent from wizarding world culture.
This was the grand ploy of the Ministry? To lope us all together in neat little pairs?
If the Ministry had been brewing this for months then there wasn't much of a way out. At all. Magical law is as binding as Muggle law, and magic ensures that surveillance on the wizarding community is as efficient as possible. Of course I would still look up as much as I could but-
Oh my God. Arranged marriage.
The Ministry had now come along and aimed the equivalent of a country-wide Stunning Charm at its youth…with no loopholes in sight.
But how to get out of it?
No way as far as I could see. And although countries in war-time often dispense with citizen liberties, we were no longer in War Time. Death Eaters no longer controlled government.
This was an invasion that was completely unheard of. I hadn't too much of an idea of the mechanics of age-old arrange marriages because it was a practice that had been restricted to much of the old-Pureblood families. I hadn't come across it any of my studies, and I doubt I would find much without having the Hogwarts library at my disposal-
I looked up, chin in hand. My mind was already racing ahead - where could I find texts on this? Would Professor Lupin or Tonks know anything about arranged marriages? Or even Mr. & Mrs. Weasley? How much money-
"Yes, yes," I said abruptly, "I'm listening."
"You aren't." Ron was smiling a little bit, arms crossed over his chest. "What you are doing is finding a way to fight this. Any ideas already?"
"Not a single one. There is no precedent for this, and we don't know anything about the kind of magic they are using to bind two people together. Perhaps, if we knew that, I'd be able to-"
I honestly had nothing.
"There's nothing we can do," Gin said sadly.
And when I really thought about it, I rather agreed. I was surprised to find that I was dazed. Numb, even. Who in heavens name had thought as far as a home, husband, kids? I'd been glad to get out of the War with my loved ones intact, and God knows that studying for my Healing exams were more than I could handle at the moment.
And now this? A marriage? An arranged marriage?
I wouldn't be able to tell you how I got home from Florean's. My mind was racing much farther ahead than the present but the rain didn't soothe as it should have. It made me unbearably tired, instead. I didn't even move all the heavy red and bright blue books scattered on my bed before I fell unto it heavily.
Immense change that was about to be implemented in my life.
And not even by me.