"A marriage law? Is this some kind of goddamned joke!" Harry Potter snarled, throwing the paper across his room. If Hedwig had eyebrows, she would have raised one of them. Her master struggled to calm down. "Think, Harry, think. What could this mean for me? What would the Order do? I've got to meet with them as soon as possible. I know I'm a half-blood, so I don't count. But again, is there someone I know who's a mug-" His eyes sprang wide. "Oh, no; Hermione!"
"I have no idea how they didn't tell me a thing! It's outrageous" Arthur Weasley shook his head.
"Sounds like a compromise; it's not straight-faced disenfranchisement but something that does the same thing" Moody closed his one normal eye in thought.
"Then we can look to the ministry to fix it. There has to be enough dissenters-" Ron struggled to form a plan, any plan that could stop this.
"If there was a push from sympathizers, the opposition would use it to trigger a counterattack" Remus Lupin sighed, countering Ron's hope.
"But if we can't use official channels, how would we settle this? Try to form a court case?" Nymphadora Tonks frowned in concentration. She had been struggling all day to find a way out.
"The courts would be stacked against us" Harry answered bitterly.
Ron shook his head in despair, "They're too well organized. We can't take them on in only a matter of days"
"But what does that leave us?" a new voice joined the conversation.
They turned to see a tear-stained Hermione Granger slowly walk in the room, still ready to fight after the news. She leaned on Ginny's shoulder as if in pain. "Must we give in? Isn't there some other way?" It had been bad enough to actually receive a note, but seeing her parent's being coldly ignored by the ministry was a shattering blow. "We've got to organize some sort of resistance"
"That takes time" the usually silent Kingsley Shacklebolt spoke up, "We don't have that kind of time without any warning. We'll have to acquiesce until we can find a counter to this"
"This is a legal problem, and that takes preparation, but we have to rally the sympathizers" Tonks reasoned, "I'll call for Charlie Weasley and see if he can come".
"Harry, could you assemble Dumbledore's Army to see how they are coping?" Lupin turned to Harry. He nodded in reply, "Ron and I will send the owls"
"Hannah Abbot, Terry Boot, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Dean Thomas, Hermione Granger. That's twenty percent" Ron reasoned on his fingers.
"Less" Hermione muttered under her breath.
"I was rounding up"
"And twenty one sympathizers" Ginny insisted.
"I was counting the ones that counted" Ron countered, "Harry, what do the letters say?"
"I'm still sorting them" Harry fumbled with the paperwork. Hermione had already found one and was reading it. "This one's from Terry. He's tried to charm the paper itself, but it's too well protected. Still undecided and hoping for a respite"
"Found Abbot" Ron announced, "She's temporarily settling with Ernie MacMillan, but says she's going to check her mother's lawbook. And here's Dean's-his mother just told him he's actually a halfblood"
"That leaves…Here we are" Harry finally found Justin's letter, "He's doing the same thing, only with poor Susan Bones and his father's legal files. Looks like you're stuck, Hermione".
"But this can't happen! I'm not going to do this to myself! I'm not marrying anyone, I'm only sixteen!" she protested.
Ron bit his lip in thought, "Harry, didn't Dean say something about marching?"
"Only that his grandmother tried to organize one in 1956" Hermione recalled, "It worked for muggles, but we can't stay low-profile as wizards if we mass for a rally. Neville and I found this out while working for S.P.E.W."
"'Spew'. Now that's an appropriate word for this law if I ever say one" Ron grinned.
Harry laughed, "Only if there was an organization called S.H.I-" "HARRY!"
"There's nothing they can do at the time. I have to marry someone" Hermione sobbed on her mother's shoulder.
"I don't understand, Helen; I thought they would never deliberately do something like this" her father sighed.
"I know, dear, but it's a legal problem and we can't do a thing about it"
"I remember when I thought my daughter would grow up in a world free of race hatred. I guess I was being too optimistic"
"Let's check the post. There has to be something your friends can think of" Helen Granger gently suggested. Hermione nodded, still crying, and trudged over to the letters. "Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, Victor Krum, Neville Longbottom…Draco Malfoy?! What in the world?"
"Hm? What do they say, dear?"
"Martin, I don't think she wants to talk about in front of her parents"
"Sorry" Hermione left her parents for her room, looking at the five letters as if they were a kind of venomous snake. She didn't bother to close the door behind her, or to dig out her wand to check for charms, or even bother to brush off Crookshanks. Harry's letter was quickly opened.
He explained that he had no interest in marriage unless all other resources were not available, as there was no attraction (no offense) for him. He wished her the best of luck, and promised to do his best to rescue her. He wasn't a pureblood, anyway. Hermione pitied him, having one of his best friends suffering after losing the closest person to a father he had.
Malfoy's was next. It talked about a dowry, forgiveness for a former enemy, and secrets about Death Eaters. She didn't fall for it. She was on Voldemort's hit list, and even Draco knew that. He must have planned a trap and betrayal for her. Maybe even murdering her to avenge his father. She shuddered at the thought, but couldn't be sure.
Ron did not offer, oddly enough, but instead talked about hiding in the Burrow while having her parents lead the ministry off the track. Typical Ron; it was a good idea, provided the ministry would be polite or weak enough to let it slip. It could work, but she didn't want to incriminate her friends in the slightest. Would it work?
Viktor offered, but also suggested escaping the country. Bulgaria had plenty of places for a wizard to hide, and they could pass off as newlyweds while secretly rounding up sympathizers. On one hand, it sounded like a great way to keep off suspicion. On the other hand, Rita Skeeter had told too many people about her and Viktor Krum, and they would question him. Still, she would consider it.
Last of all was Neville's. He offered the protection of his grandmother and his total devotion to her during the crisis. He promised to keep his distance and not to push his luck before, after, and during the ceremony. Cute. Live with Neville and his gran? It was a rival for rural Bulgaria and the Burrow, all right. Still, he was earnest and she couldn't help but feel something underneath it.
She shuffled the letters in thought. Decisions, decisions. What kind of life would she have? Who could possibly put up with her? How long would this crisis last? She looked down. Then back up. Why not? Crookshanks let out a yowl as Hermione suddenly stood up. Why not him? He was a good person, after all, and deserved sympathy.
"Ron, what did she say?" Ginny insisted. Ron was comatose. "Who did Hermione choose to marry?" No answer, just a blank stare. "Honestly, you can be so ridiculous some times" she grumbled as she snatched away the letter. Then she read it. "Oh my god" "How did she choose him?" he managed to sputter.
"Do you want to see if he's alright?" "Bloody boy's probably off conspiring with his weird friends. Still, we'll get hell from them if we don't check. So, Petunia, I believe it's your turn" "I thought it was yours, Vernon. Fine. Dudley, see what you can do about your cousin Har-" "Scampered off again. I don't blame him with that boy in the house"
"Draco, why are you stomping at that letter?"
"Sorry, mum. Lost my temper for a moment"
"Is it because you're not coming to see the Lord tonight? Aunt Bellatrix is counting on me, you know"
"It's something else. Bloody mudblood thinks she's so damn clever"
"Honestly, I don't see why you would even bother"
"Neville, do you know why your toad's-oh my goodness. Neville, get up. What happened and what are you doing on the floor? Was there a hex on that letter? Crimminy, what does it say, anyway? Let go of the note, dear….She said yes! I knew that Granger girl was a bright one! I told you she'd choose you, m'boy!"