Hermione trudged down the stairs of the Burrow. The seats around the table were already filled with former Order members and the Weasley family plus Harry. She took the last available seat between Ron and Ginny, swiping a piece of Ginny's bacon. "Any progress?"
"Not yet," Mr. Weasley said apologetically.
She looked over at a grimacing Ginny and wrapped her arm around her shoulders. "How long until the lists get here?"
"Anytime now," Bill answered her. "But it won't come to that. We won't let it." She could hear the assurance he tried to put into his words, even though he knew that it just wasn't something he could promise.
"I know, Bill." She tried to smile, but it was almost painful. She reached for a piece of Ron's toast just as he stuffed it into his mouth.
"Sorry," he mumbled around the mouthful, spitting crumbs at her. She simply nodded at him; she could barely stand to look at him. She understood his decision but couldn't bring herself to forgive him yet.
"Oh no," Ginny whispered.
Hermione looked up to see a stately looking owl headed toward the kitchen window. "Oh god," she choked. She released Ginny's shoulder, grabbing instead for her hand. Harry leaned back, around Ginny to place a hand on her shoulder. She was really the only one going to be affected by the lists.
Mr. Weasley took the thick envelope from the owl and sent it on its way. With a nervous look at her, he opened the envelope. He flipped through the letters, choosing the final one in the stack. He took a deep breath and read it aloud. "Should Miss Hermione Granger not find herself married by the twentieth day of August, below is her list of potential husbands. If each of the below listed bachelors be married by said time, a new list will be generated and she will be given to the first available wizard." Arthur took a deep breath. "Theodore Nott, Oliver Wood, Draco Malfoy," he paused and looked at her, "Harry Potter, Marcus Flint, Marcus Belby, and the list goes on. There's at least thirty names here. Do you…?" He held the paper out to her, but she shook her head and looked down at the table.
"Awe, Hermione," Sirius interrupted, "It's not going to come to that. You're a nice looking girl; you can find yourself a bloke." He reached across the table and patted her shoulder roughly.
"Like who?" she asked no one in particular. "Start suggesting here, because honestly I don't know where to start."
Several eyes immediately flew to Ron, who looked guiltily down at his plate. He had already promised Katie Bell, who he'd been seeing for more than the few months that he and Hermione had been broken up.
"Neville," Harry said quickly.
"Erin Smith," Ginny responded. Neville had only gotten engaged to a girl in Ginny's year a few days ago.
"Seamus," Ron sounded hopeful.
"Parvati," Hermione provided.
There was no answering name. "It's worth checking," Mrs. Weasley said, pulling out a piece of parchment and quill, starting a note to the Hufflepuff. "Who else do we know?" The list continued, school friends, work buddies, vague acquaintances, any man that didn't have a known fiancé was written a short letter and sent out right away. "Anyone else?" Molly asked over an hour later. No one answered so she declared it done for the morning. "Best to wait and see what we hear back from the inquiries we sent out. Don't you worry, dear, we'll sort you." She kissed Hermione's head on her way to the living room.
After the room emptied, Hermione laid her head on the table and resisted the urge to cry; it'd be pointless and embarrassing should anyone walk in on her. She huffed a tired breath and tried to muster the energy to get up and go about her day, like her world wasn't falling apart. She also tried to ignore her mind's insistence on going over the consequences of not finding a husband. If it were banishment, she would be heartbroken but could have gone back to the Muggle world she grew up in. However, the punishment for refusing to wed the husband she was assigned was to just ignore her refusal; given the Ministry approval, she would be married, consenting or not. Should she not allow her husband his bodily rights as specified by the new Marriage Law, he would be responsible to 'take' said rights. If he wouldn't or couldn't, they would both suffer a stint in Azkaban Prison.
"Hermione," a voice whispered from beside her. She looked up to see Ron watching her sadly. She wiped the stray tears from her cheeks. "I really am sorry."
"Don't worry Ron, I wasn't really hungry anyway."
"Oh," he paused, "I, I actually meant-"
"I know what you meant." She stood and left him sitting there by himself. She ignored the way Sirius watched her from the doorway and headed to the bedroom she shared with Ginny until they returned for their seventh and final year at Hogwarts. Below her, she could hear the Order members taking their leave, promising to think of new names to try. "This is insane," she mumbled, dropping onto the bed. She desperately wanted to talk to her mother, but their relationship had been strained since their return from Australia.
She barely noticed as she drifted off to sleep.
Hermione walked heavily, the weight of the date on her shoulders. It was already the twelfth of August and she had no fiancé, no known bachelors waiting, and no hope. The rest of her friends had long since paired off. She entered the nearly bare kitchen, less Order members came these days, as many of them had no hope to offer her. She slumped into a chair beside Harry and rested her head on his shoulder.
"We've still got time," he said, sounding helpless.
"Time for what? Every man we know that's sixteen through thirty is already married or engaged."
"Well fourteen and fifteen year olds are eligible as partners. So is anyone under fifty and still capable of bearing children."
"Really? Do you know a disgustingly perverted forty-nine year old man that would like to marry me?" Harry's eyes took on a pitiful look and she felt bad for snapping at him. "I'm sorry, Harry. You know I don't mean it. It's just that I feel pathetic. How is it that I'm the only one we know that can't find a decent guy that's…not married…" Her voice trailed off as she thought of the one man she hadn't before.
"I'll be back." She jumped from the table and ran to the Apparition point. She spun out in front of the dark house and slowly approached the door before letting herself in. "Hello?" she called, looking around. "Kreacher? Sirius?"
"Yes?" Sirius popped his head around the corner of the stairs leading to his room. "Hermione? Is everything alright?" He slid into the hallway with concerned eyes.
"I think so, maybe," she answered hesitantly. "Can we talk?"
"Of course." He sounded his normal sure self, but he looked at her a little suspiciously. He waited for her to begin, but when she didn't, he threw out an arm, gesturing towards the lounge. He sat in an armchair facing her on the sofa. "What can I do for you?"
"Marry me?" She winced. She hadn't meant to blurt it out like that and judging by the stunned look frozen on the older man's face, it was nothing that he expected to hear. "Sorry, it's just, I only have eight days left before I'm assigned a husband. I don't have time to be delicate about this. I need your help. Please, please help me."
He remained frozen for another moment before he let out a loud whoosh of air. He opened his mouth to reply, made a strange grunting sound and closed it again. "I, I don't know what to say here," he finally confided.
"Yes, would be preferable."
"Well obviously, but I…Have you thought this through? I mean," he said, gesturing at himself. "I'm not exactly what you're looking for in a husband."
"I don't have time to worry about that. I know you. I trust you. We're friends, sort of. If I have to let some man…well, if I can't have love, can't I at least have like?" He blew out another gush of air and laid his head in his hands. He started shaking his head and she rushed to continue her plea before he could reject her. "Sirius, I've never…I'm a…I'm not…experienced. But you are. You wouldn't hurt me, not on purpose. You could get it over with as quick as possible and not-"
"Hermione, that's enough. Can you just give me a minute? I need to think." He hadn't looked up from his hands. He was silent so long, she started to wonder if he meant for her to leave. "Are you completely sure about this? Have you talked to Molly or Arthur about it?"
"No, not yet. I came straight to you. But yes, I'm sure. You're my last hope, Sirius."
"I can't promise you that I'd be a good husband. After, well…everything, sometimes I have a hard time being with people."
"That's fine. I'm perfectly content to hang around in the library most the time. And after Hogwarts, I'm going into training and then I'll be working. See? Plenty of time for you to be alone. You say the word and I'll stay well clear."
He was silent another minute before he looked up at her and gave her the barest of nods. She was so flooded with relief, she threw her arms around him and started crying. He patted her awkwardly on the back until she released him. "Sorry. I'm not normally like this. I promise not to make a habit of it."
"It's fine." He offered her a small smile, that she wasn't sure was genuine. "Go on; tell the others so they can stop worrying about you. Come back when you're ready to talk about the details."
"Thank you, Sirius." She squeezed his forearm and headed for the door.
Like? Dislike? It's my first (and only) marriage law fic.
A little encouragement goes a long way towards motivation on new chapters.