Hermione was speechless. For the first time in a long time, longer then she could even remember, she was speechless.
"They've lost it!" Ron said, throwing the newspaper down on the table. "Kingsley's let the stress get to him."
Marriage Law. Two words dreaded by any young witch or wizard. At least it wouldn't be random pairings. The article had explained that come the following Friday, all witches and wizards aged between seventeen and thirty would be getting tested to determine mental health, physical health and a personality test to determine who their highest match would be. Race, blood status and age would not be a factor.
Next to her Ron continued to rant and rave as she numbly reached for the paper. She re-read it again for the fourth time. It looked simple enough; they would be paired up, marriage must be within three months of receiving their match, there were certain criteria that had to be met for a pardon and if you didn't meet the criteria there was no point in petitioning, the marriage had to consummated, if a child had not been produced after three years and the marriage had failed then you could petition for a divorce. Mrs Weasley hovered by the stove. Since the paper had arrived she'd cooked three batches of scrambled eggs, two dozen scones, and baked a cake. It seems the older woman was dealing by cooking. Hermione rubbed her hands over her face and sighed. It wasn't fair. It was barbaric. Maybe it was just a sick joke from the Daily Prophet. But even as the thoughts formed, four official looking owls landed at the window; one for each of them, each baring a letter from the Ministry.
Hermione reached for her and read the personal note from Kingsley, apologising for the circumstances but insisting it was necessary.
"Voldemort is finally gone and now we'll be forced into loveless marriages." Hermione spoke for the first time since new of the impending Marriage Law broke.
Ron put a comforting arm around her and placed a tender kiss at her forehead. On the other side of the table, Ginny and Harry were in much the same position except for the tears flowing steadily down Ginny's cheeks. The two had only just gotten back together after weeks and weeks of talking and fighting, rebuilding trust and knocking down walls.
Hermione sighed heavily and leaned into Ron. They themselves had only been together for a six weeks, ever since the battle ended. Hermione had been looking forward to this year; their first year back at school without the threat of Voldemort, without deaths and disappearances. They were returning for their seventh year but now her plans for not only her last year of school but for the rest of her life were hopelessly dashed into the ground.
"Bastards," Hermione muttered and in a moment of weakness a single tear slipped down one slightly freckled cheek.
The Friday of testing rolled around and all too soon they were headed to the Ministry were the testing would take place. Seeing all the wizard and witches mingling in the testing room, Hermione wondered just how the Ministry had come to the conclusion that they needed to introduce a Marriage Law. Looking around the room she was reminded of a muggle emergency room, there were dozens of cubicles cordoned off with curtains. Hermione felt someone bump into her from behind and turned to glare as Malfoy, Blaise and Goyle slinked by. Blaise smiled an apology and she nodded slightly to acknowledge no hard feelings. It was an odd trio and though she held nothing but dislike for two-thirds of them, she couldn't help but feel a touch of sadness that Crabbe no longer trudged along with them. Shaking her head, she decided she was far too nice for her own good. Crabbe had tried to kill them, after all.
The four of them stood nervously as they awaited for their name to be called.
"Granger, Hermione!" she heard and with a wave to the others she headed in the direction of the nurse that had called her name. She shuffled in and the nurse slid shut the curtain behind her, effectively silencing all noise so the only sounds that could be heard were Hermione nervous breathing and the nurse's scratching quill.
"Undress," the nurse said, abruptly but not unkindly. "This is the physical medical, just to check you're fertile and don't have any illness or disease."
Hermione swallowed audibly and with a blush, shrugged out of her robes. She lay down on the cold table, nothing but a thin sheet separating her skin from the metal.
Hermione winced as the nurse began. The first spell stung a little but after that they didn't hurt, they were just uncomfortable. Hermione closed her eyes and tried to think of pleasant things, like Ron and the library and when the four of them had got caught in the rain the week before.
Twenty minutes later the nurse was all finished, diagnosing Hermione perfectly healthy, fertile, and physically ready for marriage and all it entails. Hermione smiled, not sure what the correct response was and after getting dressed, she re-entered the throng. She couldn't see Harry, Ginny or Ron but did hear someone directing those finished with their medical to enter the next room where the psychological test would be performed.
This room was set up much the same but instead of medical equipment, each cubical contained a desk and two comfortable armchairs. Hermione again heard her name being called and this time met up with a handsome young wizard who smiled flirtatiously at her before they got down to serious business.
"So, you're Hermione Granger."
"So they tell me." She was in a bad mood. She didn't plan to make this easy for Dr Cutie in front of her.
"You resent being here?" he asked, making notes on his notebook.
"How old are you?" she asked instead of answering his question.
"Twent-eight," he said, indulging her.
"So this effects you too? Do you have to get poked and prodded, your brain picked at?"
"Yes, I do. No one is exempt. It would be easier on both of us if you just answered the questions honestly and to the best of your ability."
Hermione shook her head, royally pissed off. "Fine."
He sighed and began again.
"You officially testify that you are Hermione Jean Granger…"
Later that night Hermione lay curled up on the couch with Ron, he was absent-mindedly running his fingers through her curls, something he had been dreaming about since fourth year.
Hermione was staring off into the fire. She knew, she just knew that they wouldn't be matched. Someone at the Ministry would be looking for perfect couples, not realising that the imperfections are what made relationships special and unique.
"What if they don't match us up?" she said quietly, testing where Ron's head was at.
He sighed and his fingers stilled. "I don't think we will be matched up."
Hermione nodded, acknowledging that she too was thinking along the same lines.
"I – I think I could have loved you," Ron whispered. Hermione let her tears flow freely.
"I know I could have loved you."
They sat quietly together, an unspoken decision that come the morning, they would part. Over before they started.
A/N tear Occasionally I do like Ron and I hated breaking their hearts right off the bat but thats what makes a story a story right?
If you review I will give you... hmm... Apple Pie ;)