Disclaimer: I own my hat and own my shoe, but, sadly, Harry, don't own you. So I'm not a poet, but I make no claim to the Harry Potter series, characters, and related stuff. This story was written for entertainment purposes only and no copyright infringement was intended. Please, don't sue.
A/N: This story has a marriage law in it, but it's a bit diferent. The time picks up near the end of the summer of the trio's 7th year. The situation of things at that point, who's alive and dead, and my take on Snape are either explained later or hinted at here. Everything previous is cannon. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: A Perplexing Proposition
Indignation. Outrage. Absolute befuddlement! Those were the emotions shifting roughly through Hermione Granger as she sat, calm and reserved, in her seat at the table of the Order of the Phoenix.
It was a seat she was proud to have earned and one she enjoyed sitting in most of the time. It was a seat, however plain and uncomfortable, that made her feel as though she were doing something to avenge the deaths of the ones she'd lost and restore a sense of justice and tranquillity for those left behind. She was fighting to protect those who could not defend themselves. She was finally doing something with her life that she considered to be worth while, as she had told Ron and Harry (in only their fifth year) she wished to do.
She had waited as patiently as she could for an assignment, and it had taken such a long time, she felt. She had practiced, prepared, and studied; believing she was ready for anything. She had looked forward, as much as her companions, to completing her first real task for the Order. She wanted, desperately, to prove herself in the way those sitting around her had.
There was Hagrid, who Dumbledore had trusted with his life, with delivering Harry twice, and even with carrying the Sorcerer's Stone. McGonagall was still as strong a fighter as she was a wise Headmistress. Snape was someone of ultimate sacrifice and greatest self-discipline. Moody held the title of not only "ministry malcontent", but also "renown dark wizard catcher". Of course, Lupin was brilliant, had mastered control over his inner wolf, and stayed strong in the face of all loss. The Weasleys, as a whole, were invaluable in many aspects; from the elder fighters and recruiters, to the twins with their inventions, to even Percy (who had made himself into a rather fine inner-ministry informant). Tonks and Kingsley had taken down several Death Eaters themselves and taught the younger members, such as herself, a lot about dueling. Even Mundungus had served his purpose. It often seemed daunting to compare her few scrapes and escapes with the deeds of those that surrounded her at this table.
Now, she had finally been handed a personal assignment, but it was one she wanted to throw back in their faces. She was not prepared for this! Indeed, she thought, as Lupin's words fell upon her deaf ears, she would rather do any mission-any mission- but this one. Indignation. Outrage. Absolute befuddlement!
So came forth some of the last words any of those present expected to hear from Hermione Granger. More than a few of them were outrightly taken aback when she declared, in little more than a whisper, a calm, but decisive: "No."
"No?" Mrs. Weasley popped out.
'What was so hard about understanding that?' She wondered. 'What else could I possible mean other than that? I will not. I refuse. I cannot force myself to purposely delve into that sort of hell. No, sir. No thank you. No.'
However, as this ran through her head quite clearly, what came out was: "No..you...you can't be serious. You aren't really going to ask me to do this, are you?"
"Hermione," began Lupin gently. "I haven't even said what it is you will actually be doing."
"You're going to ask me to marry Draco Malfoy under this new law and manipulate him as he teeters precariously close to coming over to our side. Meanwhile, I am to use this opportunity to find out what I can about the Malfoys and Voldermort," she stated flatly. "Have I got the gist?"
Lupin looked only vaguely surprised while other members, such as Ron and Harry, looked nothing short of appalled.
"The Order would never ask you do something like that Hermione!" Harry protested.
"Never!" shouted Ron with fervor.
Hermione, who would normally feel comforted by her friends show of defense on her behalf, only had her eyes trained on the elder members as she waited for Lupin to confirm, or deny, her worst fears.
"Essentially," he all but sighed.
"What?" all three paretically yelped. Their cries were joined then by others, like Mrs. Weasley and Tonks. Before anyone could present their argument against the atrocity of a plan, however, Snape interrupted insistently.
"I told you Granger lacked both the mental strength and maturity to deal with such a mission," he spat. "This was a waste of time."
'How dare he?' thought Hermione viciously. 'How dare he? She was clever enough, and she had been studying occlumency with Harry and Ron for weeks in addition to plenty of other advanced magic. She was not mature? She, who had fought Death Eaters, reigned in Harry and Ron over the years, and took her parents death- how had Snape himself described it when he did not know she was listening?- "in stride", she was not mature?'
But, if she were honest with herself, she had been immature just then, she realized. She had wanted so badly to help, and offered her assistance with practically every task the Order faced, spreading herself thin. Now that she had been asked to do something that may actually help someone with remaining hope-might actually benefit the Order in a way only she could- she was about to shy away from it. Why? Was she really going to be so juvenile as to let a school grudge have such control over her? He had called her a mudblood- so what? He hadn't gone through with killing Dumbledore, had he? Wasn't this the kind of magical cooperation and unity they needed now?
Sure, it was a personal and difficult thing for her to do, and that's why it was her that must do it! After all, wouldn't Lupin rather do anything than work with werewolves? Snape had been forced into killing his mentor for goodness sake's! Wasn't that asking a lot? Furthermore, would his sacrifice be rendered useless, and Malfoy's potential laid to waste, because she was too stubborn, or too afraid, to go through with it? No! She would not let that happen.
Interrupting the argument that had ensued and brought Ron and Snape to their feet, Hermione stood and firmly, responded: "I will, of course, do my best to complete any mission the Order assigns me. Although, how do figure on getting Malfoy to marry me? I am a filthy mudblood after all, and one he saves a particular dislike for at that."
Quickly recovering, as always, Snape responded as they all took their seat again: "Once the law requiring a certain number of muggleborns and pure bloods inter-marriages this year was finally passed- as a pathetic ministry attempt to quell the hatred they feel helped spark and propel the war-Lucius Malfoy immediately petitioned for your hand in marriage-"
"Lucius Malfoy?" she asked, stunned.
"...for his son. Traditional pure-blood marriages are arranged by the parents and, as Draco is not yet of age, his father had to sign for him legally as well."
"Oh, yes." said Hermione, embarrassingly ignorant of the custom. Snape seemed too concentrated on what he was saying to relish that the 'know-it-all' had floundered. He continued.
"Well, I shouldn't say immediately. It was more like immediately after his release from prison. As a matter of fact, it was partly his strong support of the new law that helped get him out. The ministry sees it as further evidence that he's cooperating with them." His tone revealed exactly what he thought of the intelligence level of those making that assumption.
She could hardly say she felt any different. It had been a huge set back to the Order to find that the ministry had set free not just Malfoy, but almost every one of those Death Eaters the Order had captured in the Department of Mysteries. Harry had been particularly furious.
Although now the ministry was at least acknowledging Voldermort's return, little they did seemed to help. In fact, much of their efforts had only complicated things; the new law, for instance, as well as the restrictions placed upon the school for their safety, and their continued emphasis on the tracking down of Voldermort's right-hand man: Sirius Black. She rolled her eyes at the thought, until Snape resumed speaking.
"Draco was outraged when he learned what Lucius had done. Then, his father explained how we could use you to get to Harry while keeping you from helping the Order at the same time. Apparently, if Lucius is to be believed, the Dark Lord was pleased with the plan.
"It was Draco that actually told me ahead of time so that we would have time to find another possible husband. I proposed that, instead, we switch it around on them, and he willingly obliged. He is still acting as though he is dreading it, begging his parents twice a week for them to change their minds, knowing it's safe that they won't."
"He agreed?" she slipped out in undisguised shock.
"Draco holds an especial fascination with you." Snape's dangerously soft tones informed her mysteriously. She wondered what he meant by that, but he left little time for speculation before going on. "He's not thrilled with it, I assure you, but he's willing enough to cooperate for his own reasons."
"Such as?" She ventured.
"First, he hopes it will prove to me that I can trust him. That is a bit of a safety net to him, you see. Not to mention the fact that he doesn't want to marry the alternatives any more than he desires to be bound to you. They're all muggleborns. His role in the arrangement will undoubtedly please his father as well," Here he gave a thoughtful pause, as if trying to insinuate all that might mean. "You should also note that not only would this help the Order and possibly save Draco by bringing him all the way over to our side, but it would also secure your own safety."
"Throwing her to the Malfoy's secures her safety?" Ron demanded.
"Yes. It would blow Lucius' cover should anything happen to her in their care, because the ministry would undoubtedly know immediately. Therefore, you'll be safe. Should the mission become too dangerous I could probably get her out-"
"Probably!?" Ron shouted.
"Anymore good news?" snapped Harry.
"Yes, actually. All that needs to be done is that she must accept Malfoy's proposal of marriage. So, if they extend the engagement, then there may be no need for her to be bound to him for life, nor, fulfil the more delicate of marital duties. That theory holds up only if the final battle comes as soon as is anticipated."
"Bound for life?" wondered Harry aloud.
"Yes. Magical marriages are binding contracts. Have you ever heard of divorced magical couple? The vows are bit different, though." Hermione answered him.
Snape nodded. "And as you would have to marry anyway..."
"It's the most logical choice." She finished for him.
"You're sure he can't hurt her?" Harry asked.
"Not seriously." answered Snape, honestly.
"Well, if you say no, Hermione, you won't hear anything from me, but if not-" Harry shrugged, leaving it up to her.
Ron, on the other hand, was gaping like a fish out of water, but not, she duly noticed, proposing any other plans of action. Since no one else had come to her defense, or been outspoken against it, she assented with a simple nod. Then, in a dream-like state of disbelief, she took her seat once more as they moved on to other topics of Order business.
Try as she might to maintain her usually amount of attention, her mind wandered aimlessly back to fret over the decision she had just been thrust into making.
She would be engaged to Malfoy? The same Malfoy who had hated and harassed her in school? Malfoy that had wished her dead? Malfoy who had a fascination with her? She would be spying, manipulating, coaxing an old enemy for the next few months, while Harry and Ron fought at the front lines. Well, at least she wouldn't have to sleep with him; she hoped. Still, a marriage was a huge weight, but, she reminded herself quickly, they may not actually marry. She may still be free to chose her life after the war, if they both played their cards right.
What had she gotten herself into? How did she go from an awkward, lonely little girl starting fresh at a magical school to a mature young woman clinging to remaining friends and being married off in a war? Was this the potential she held? Was this to be the purpose she was to serve? A Pawn?
Although she had willing followed her friend every step into this, and willingly consented to this new plan, she couldn't help but wonder resentfully if this meant that her bright future had been stolen from her (as her free will had)? What would she have been, she pondered not for the first time, if Voldermort had not returned? An Auror? Minister of Magic? A Healer? A professor at Hogwarts?
She had never been sure, but she was sure of one thing: Mrs. Malfoy was not at all what she had expected. Then again, she had never expected to be attending a school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, or to have made such wonderful friends with Harry and Ron, or for Voldermort to return, or for Dumbledore to die. Was this a tragedy like the latter, or could it be a blessing in disguise? She snorted at the thought, although nothing about it was really funny.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please leave a review so I know what you think. Feel free to critisize (constructively), compliment, make suggestions, or ask questions. I keep everything in mind and I will reply! New chapter ready and to be posted in a week if anyone likes the story, sooner if there are a lot of requests. All chapters are about this length.