[[Author's Note:I've been working on this story for years now (Almost 9! Thank you writer's block) so the first several chapters are not as great as they could be, I was in high school! This I promise you, it gets a whole lot better :D. Also this was written before HBP was published so keep that in mind and it takes place in the Trio's seventh year. P.s. Reviews keep me coming back!]]
Hermione sat at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, staring into her bowl of oatmeal and fervently wishing that she could go back to bed for just a few more minutes. One more hour of sleep and she wouldn't feel like hexing the whole school into next year. She could always skip Charms... but of course that was out of the question, Hermione Granger simply did not skip class. She smothered a yawn. She had stayed up late studying for her NEWTS, they were fast approaching and she was determined to get the highest score in each subject... but she was so tired. Not to mention grumpy. She'd woken up cursing (not literally of course) at Crookshanks for waking her and then throwing in a few curses at various Professors for good measure. It was not going to be a good day. That much was obvious.
She had just nodded off and was dangerously close to falling face first into her breakfast when her issue of the Daily Prophet landed in front of her, startling her so much she nearly knocked over a glass of orange juice. Yes, this day just needed to be over with already. The sooner the better. Just the thought of sitting in class all day, taking notes, listening to lectures, for once it did anything but excite her. This whole school year so far, only a few months into it as it was, had been one long drawn out study session for her. Only several more months to go. She could make it, more importantly her brain would make it, but first she needed to get through the day without murdering someone. Or at least performing a well aimed Unforgiven on a Slytherin.
"Are you all right, Hermione?" asked Harry from beside her. "You seem a little out of it."
"Studying," Ron finished the sentence with a smile while she punctuated it with a yawn. He just shook his head. She knew what he was thinking, what they were all thinking. She was taking school way too seriously.
"You're going to drive yourself nutters if you don't ease up a bit. It's just a test for Merlin's sake," Ron said, stuffing almost a whole piece of toast into his mouth. Hermione watched as a bit of jam slipped from the corner of his mouth. At least she was amused. Ron, Ron, Ron. Whatever was she going to do with him? He had to get serious about his studies. They all did. This school year was going to be the most important of their lives. There was no time for adventures or detentions or sleep for that matter. At least not in her opinion. She'd have time to do all of that after graduation and she couldn't wait.
"It is not simply a test. It will determine the rest of my life. The rest of our lives. You've got to start thinking about that. Pretending it doesn't exist isn't going to make it any easier to pass." No one knew how fervently she wanted to pass with flying colors, this was her chance to prove herself, prove that she was the smartest, that she was the best. Hermione Granger aced the NEWTs. That's what everyone was going to say. Harry was always the Brave one. Ron was always the Loyal one. She needed to be the Smart one. Not that they weren't smart because they were. But logical thinking was what she was good at. Reciting passages from books was what she was good for. For some reason she was beginning to feel like her place was slipping away. That maybe all of her book smarts didn't count for much compared to bravery and loyalty. Not that she was lacking in those qualities but she wasn't quite sure she embodied them. She wanted to stand for something.
This was her chance.
"Come on, Hermione, you could have passed the NEWTS in your fifth year," Harry said encouragingly, "You'll do fine, I'm sure of it." She looked over at Harry and smiled. He was the brother that she'd never had. He and Ron both. They balanced her in a way that no one else did. It was hard to explain unless you had been through all that they had experienced. They all filled the missing parts of each other. At least they had, until lately. Something had changed, they had changed, she had changed. She didn't know. All that shedid know was that she felt this aching emptiness sometimes and neither one of them filled it. She wasn't even sure they knew it existed. Maybe she missed her parents and family back home, maybe she realized that after graduation things would never be the same.
She was excited for all of the possibilities, yet at the same time absolutely terrified of the realities. The reality that Harry and Ron were going to go off into the future, eventually get married, have babies, do all of these wonderful things. She was going to be left in the dust, clutching a book, and looking for answers that she couldn't find. Hermione knew that she needed to stop worrying about things that hadn't even happened yet but it was still always on the edge of her mind. Her studies were too important to her to pass up for boys and dating, but sometimes she felt like she was missing out on a learning experience that everyone else was having.
"Thanks, Harry," she said smothering another yawn as she pushed her thoughts to the back of her mind. "Maybe I am studying a bit too much." Sometimes it was best to concede, she knew that this was an argument that she was not going to win. Perhaps he was right, she was studying a lot, and so tired. She unfolded her issue of the Daily Prophet and then grabbed a muffin and began eating.
"A bit?" Ron snorted while he tried to chew the rest of the food that he had stuffed in his mouth, "You've been studying day and night since the beginning of the year."
Hermione pointedly ignored him while she looked over the front page of the Daily Prophet. All thoughts of sleep and studying and Ron flew out the window in wake of the large headline, 'Ministry Enacts New Marriage Law'. Her curiousity peaked, she quickly scanned the article. Her mind refused to process what she was reading so she gave it another once over, making sure that she read every single word.
When she was satisfied that her eyes were not playing tricks on her and that this wasn't some sort of prank she gave it to Harry in disgust, her face red with anger. "Read this, it's revolting. How can they do this?" she asked, her voice was dangerously strained and there was a furious glint in her eye. It was very rare that something made her blood boil to this extent. The entire premise of the article was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
All around her others were also reading the article and reacting in much the same way.
"How in the world can they ordermuggleborn witches and wizards to marry purebloods? It's insane, it's nothing more than a breeding program, like we're animals or something. It's bordering on slavery!" she protested, feeling sick to her stomach. Her muffin was sitting on the table forgotten and almost entirely uneaten. "This is just disgusting. They can not do this and get away with it."
When Harry was done reading the article and was sharing the information with Ron, she took the paper back and reread the article once more hoping that somewhere in the decree there was a 'Ha ha fooled you'.
'As issued by the Ministry of Magic at six o'clock in the morning on January 17th in the year 1998, in an effort to preserve all of wizarding kind, all unmarried witches and wizards of an all wizard linage are required by law to petition marriage to a witch or wizard of an all muggle linage providing both persons are of the age of eighteen. This new law comes after a report issued by St. Mungos genetics department last month about the increasing problem of 'weak-blooded' wizards caused by the blood links connecting nearly every 'pure-blood' family in England.
'In the past few decades there have been alarming numbers of children born with deformities or mental defect, the miscarriage rate has gone up and St. Mungos believes that this is a cause of inbreeding. "If our world is to survive and prosper then this problem must be dealt with immediately," Yimil Razanstaff, head of St. Mungos research department, said in a statement yesterday evening.'
Hermione stopped reading as she felt her stomach churn. To think that she was going to end up having to marry a pure blood. She just wouldn't do it. Absolutely not. She would march right down to the Ministry herself and protest if need be. There was no way that she was going to allow herself to be trapped. She had plans and ideas for herself and she wasn't going to let a law or any pure-blood family get in the way of that.
"Well I guess this explains what's wrong with the Slytherins, the whole mental defect thing," said Ron with a chuckle, from where he was reading over her shoulder. She looked over and glared at him. This should be taken seriously. It was nothing to laugh at. She supposed that the full impact of what it meant had yet to dawn on him. That was Ron, he had a habit of not looking at the big picture. She decided to point it out to him.
"Ron this is serious and in case you've forgotten you happen to be a pureblood too, which means in a few months you'll have to pick someone to marry," she pointed out matter of factly. When she saw the look on his face she kinda wished that she hadn't been the one to remind him of his own Pure-blood status.
Ron's face went bright red as he downed a goblet of water. "Fred and George are going to be furious about this," he muttered, "and Mum must be blowing a gasket."
Hermione sat the paper down, her logic and analytical thinking returning in the wake of shock.
Really, there was nothing to be worried about.
"Ron, this 'law' is going to be appealed by tomorrow. Do you really think anyone's going to abide by it? No one is going to accept this, they just can't. The Purebloods will revolt at the thought of having to marry someone who is impure and the Muggleborns aren't going to happily offer themselves up to the people who have looked down on them all of their lives. This thing isn't going to last long enough to see anyone married." She had to be right, Purebloods wouldn't want their blood tainted and Muggleborns wouldn't want to deal with that sort of family. Surely no one wanted to marry if there wasn't love involved. Of course, there were a few families like Ron's who were good and decent but she had to admit from what she had seen, more than half of the Purebloods she knew were Slytherins. That was nothing to look forward to.
She looked over at the Slytherin table and her eyes fell to Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott and Zabini. There was no way she was going to get roped into marrying one of them.
No way at all.