Hermione Granger knew her summer was not off to a good start when Dumbledore called an emergency meeting.
Voldemort had been defeated by Harry with a limited amount of casualties. Many of the Death Eaters had not been rounded up however, and fear still remained in people's hearts. The new Minister of Magic was working overtime to round up the remaining Death Eaters and to quell the lingering terror.
Hermione had not removed the enchantment from her parents; they were both still safe and clueless in Australia. There were plenty of Death Eaters still at large who were focused on revenge for the fall of their master. Hermione had been planning on spending the summer at Grimwauld Place with Harry, Ron, Ginny, Sirius, and the occasional members of the Order who dropped by. Although Mrs. Weasley had graciously offered to let them stay at the Burrow, Hermione was growing wearisome of her failed attempts of matchmaking between herself and Ron, and Harry had wanted to spend more time with Sirius. Ginny and Ron had both heartily agreed getting away from their mother was a welcomed idea and Sirius had been more than willing to host them all.
So, at eight in the morning, Hermione and Ginny reluctantly climbed out of bed, dressed groggily, and met Ron and Harry on the stairs.
"What do you suppose it's about?" Harry yawned.
"Hopefully nothing serious. It sounds like they invited the whole Order though," Ginny sighed.
"You'd think killing you-know-who would be enough."
"Honestly Ron, he's dead, you can say the name already!"
"Well, it was taboo for so long it became a habit!"
"Ron, you would never say it before it was taboo!"
"Would you two care to stop bickering and join us?" Fred called from the hallway.
"Yeah, you're arguing my ear off!"
Fred groaned, "We need to find you better ear related humor, George."
Laughing, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny entered the kitchen with Fred and George and seated themselves in a corner. Ginny was correct, the entire Order was already seated at the table. Dumbledore sat at the end of it, looking grave. He stood up, and the quiet talking came to a halt.
"I'm sorry to divert you all from your summer plans," he said, his blue eyes scanning around the room, looking more serious than usual without their usual twinkling, "but I'm afraid that the Department for the Control and Regulations of Dangerous Creatures has been appointed a new head, Dolores Umbridge."
There were quite a few mutters and swears accompanied by this pronouncement.
"Toad," Ron grumbled.
"She has recently passed a new act that will be brought into action." He pulled out a piece of paper and started to read, "All wizards and witches who have abilities not normally possessed by wizarding kind will be subject to the Marriage Law. Any veela, part veela, werewolf, vampire, or parseltounge over the age of 18 will be required to have chosen a spouse. This spouse may not be an above mention creature. Those who do not comply with this law by the set deadline will be subjected to punishment under the law for the Department for the Control and Regulations of Dangerous Creatures." Dumbledore put down the paper. "The deadline is in a week. Naturally, the ministry is hoping for an excuse to imprison those accused of causing trouble. There is still much prejudice, some of it justified, floating around in wizarding homes. They believe that marriage would give the impression of being more 'domestic'."
Glances were exchanged across the table. Fleur, who had become part of the Order with Bill during the previous year, look immensely relieved as she fingered her wedding ring. Harry looked slightly uncomfortable, but Remus Lupin was furious.
"This is insane! They expect me to just suddenly marry someone within a week! I will not allow anyone be bonded to me!"
"The punishment, Remus, is most likely Azkaban, and we can not afford to lose a good man to the likes of that place."
"Albus! If I marry someone, I'll be condemning them to a fate worse than Azkaban! Who wants to marry a filthy beast? Tonks certainly provided an excellent example of why no one wants my kind!"
"You can definitely find someone better than her," Ginny said venomously.
Tonks' actions had shocked all of them, especially Ginny, whom Tonks had treated like a close younger sister. Tonks had persistently convinced Lupin for months that she truly loved him, something Remus was rarely told. He finally lowered his shields and accepted her and the two started dating. A few weeks later, Tonks was found at the ministry by Kingsley, passionately kissing a new Auror trainee. After confronting the man, Kingsley found she had been dating him for as long as she had been dating Remus. She had simply gotten carless that time and not changed her appearance from her normal bright purple or pink hair. It had broken Remus' heart. He had become more isolated from everyone, including Sirius, with whom he had been closest.
Dumbledore's eyes flashed. "Nympahdora's actions were less than noble, Remus, but she is only one woman."
Tonks was sitting in the corner, looking unabashed, but still had the sense not to correct Dumbledore's use of her first name. She calmly avoided all the glares sent in her direction. Remus was well liked and many of the Order felt she should have been removed for such conduct.
"You aren't the only one affected Remus," Mr. Weasley pointed out, "Harry is under the law as well."
"Harry is not a deranged monster once a month!" Remus stood up. "I will not be responsible for an innocent woman's life!"
"I'm afraid you have no choice!" Dumbledore rumbled. "Sit down and we will discuss this matter further."
Remus was reluctantly pulled into his seat by Sirius.
"Relax Mooney, married life can't be so bad."
"Sirius, you know more about the dangers of my condition than anyone here!"
"And Prongs and I never cared did we?"
"We were younger and much more foolish. I could have bitten you!"
"But you never did."
"We got lucky!"
"You know, as much as I love listening to you two imbeciles fight, I have more important things to be doing, unlike you two, so shall we continue?" Snape sneered at them.
Remus and Sirius both shot him filthy looks .
"Upset the law doesn't force you to get married Snivelly?"
"Well, Black, at least I would be able to leave the house with her!"
Dumbledore cleared his throat and Snape and Sirius fell silent.
"Gentlemen! Harry, why don't we discuss your situation first?"
He glanced nervously at Hermione. "Well, I um…"
"Go on, Harry," Hermione whispered, "you two make a great couple."
"I was planning on proposing to Ginny." Harry blushed. "This obviously isn't the best place for a proposal, but I have the ring upstairs if…" he broke off and looked nervously at Ginny. She grinned and leaned over to kiss him.
Mrs. Weasley was so thrilled she ignored Ginny and Harry who were now in a fierce lip lock.
"Well! That's one matter settled. I must say, you two make a wonderful couple. Another wedding to plan! So soon after Bill and Fleur's wedding too!"
Ginny looked up. She was positively beaming. "Thanks mum."
"Remus, do you have anyone in mind?"
The temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees. Remus let out a hollow laugh. "Not since Nymphadora."
Tonks finally stood up. "I already apologized, Remus!"
Lupin made to stand up, but Sirius stood up instead, pushing Lupin down.
"You think an apology covers what you did? You're beginning to act more like our dear Aunt Bella!"
Tonks drew her wand and everyone in the room execpt Sirius went to draw out theirs.
"Get out of here. The Order doesn't need your cheating filth!"
Tonks laughed shrilly, her spiky pink hair lengthening and turning black. Her resemblance to Bellatrix was increasing with every word.
"A Marauder suddenly having principles! That's a laugh."
Sirius drew out his wand and pointed it at her.
"I meant get out Nymphadora!"
"Remus will never find someone else who will want him," she called, storming out of the kitchen, "if you want to talk about filth look no further!" There was thud of the troll umbrella stand and then the slamming of the front door.
"Ignore her, Remus," Kingsley offered, "she doesn't matter."
"She's right though," Lupin said resignedly, "who'll want a-"
"ENOUGH! Remus, I understand your feelings, but I am afraid we cannot give the ministry an excuse to detain you. If you have no one, I am afraid you will have to choose an unwed member of the Order so you only place the burden of marriage on them, not of an illegal secret society as well. Why don't you and any eligible partners stay to discuss it?"
Remus protested, but Dumbledore had already swept out of the kitchen. Most of the other Order members followed suit.
"Well! I'd better start wedding preparations!"
"Bill and I vill come 'elp you."
Fred and George followed their parents, Fleur, Bill, and Charlie out the door, clapping Harry on the back as they left.
"Good luck mate!"
"You'll need it with her!"
Harry laughed and squeezed Ginny's hand.
Only Ron, Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Arabella Figg, Hestia Jones, and Professor McGonagall were still sitting.
"Guess I'd better go and join them," Hermione whispered, "wish me luck."
" You can't seriously be considering marrying him?"
"Ron! He's not going to chose me I'm sure, but if he did, then yes, I would consider it to help him."
"Well I'm not going to let you!"
Harry and Ginny exchanged glances and wisely slipped out of the room. They knew how these arguments with Ron and Hermione went. They had started dating after the war; they had also been arguing more and more frequently since the war.
"You're not going to let me, Ronald! Since when am I under your control?"
"You're my girlfriend!"
"Girlfriend. Not property," Hermione hissed furiously, "I can make my own decisions!"
"What a great decision to consider marrying a werewolf! You're going to marry me remember?"
"Do you want him to go to Azkaban, Ronald? Are you that heartless? And I am not marrying you! Not that you even bothered to ask me!"
She stormed down to the table in the center of the room with the other women leaving Ron to stomp out of the room. He cast one furious look backwards at Hermione who pointedly ignored him.
The women around the table sat in silence for awhile awkwardly looking at one each other and at Remus, who had his head lying dejectedly in his arms.
"Erm…well I don't want to be rude or anything, I'm sure you are a great guy Remus, but I've had a boyfriend for a while now, and he's thinking of proposing," Hestia muttered.
"Same for me, there's this lovely chap down Privet Drive who always comes over to help me with my cats! He makes the best cup of tea. In fact, we were planning on meeting today for lunch. I really would hate to be late."
McGonagall looked expectantly at Hermione.
"Um… I've only got a stupid controlling boyfriend who I have no plans of dating further much less marriage."
McGonagall looked at her carefully.
"I'd be willing to…marry Remus," Hermione choked out, "I'm guess the only option left, unless, Professor, you want to."
"I'll go tell the others to start packing your things," she said crisply and started to follow Hestia and Arabella out the door. She turned back suddenly and leaned down so Remus wouldn't hear.
"You two really would be wonderful together, you have lots in common. Remus would be much better with you than with us old maids."
Hermione was taken aback that a decision such as this had taken such little time, but considering the small amount of unwed females in the Order, and excluding Tonks, there was a very small percentage left. She herself was hesitant at making this decision, but surely the law wouldn't last that long.
McGonagall strode off, leaving Hermione and Lupin seated alone. He decided to break his stony silence.
"Hermione, you're not marring me!"
"Well, would your rather marry McGonagall, or break up an engagement between the others? I mean obviously I'd rather not rush into marriage, especially with the age difference between us, but there really is no other alternative. I'd hate to see anyone in Azkaban."
"I can't harm anyone in Azkaban."
Hermione slammed her fist on the table. Her fury at Ron directed at Lupin.
"You are not going to Azkaban! You saw what that place did to Sirius!"
"You've heard the truth before Hermione. I'm too old, too poor, and too dangerous."
"You're more polite and caring than most people who are young and wealthy and safe! And you don't have another option! And you're not—never mind. You are old, poor and dangerous. And I could care less!
"You will! You are not thinking this through! Do not make a rash decision. Just because you and Ron may be having a small argument-"
"-small arguments that we seem to have almost every hour!"
"That's not the point! You will be throwing away your life marrying me!"
"I will not! I've seen you transform before, remember? And I have a job at the Ministry so money is not an issue."
"You never saw me after the transformation!" He sighed deeply. "That was almost six years ago. Transformations get worse with age. Eventually the toll of the transformations on my body will kill me when I get older! And that's not to far away! Don't you understand? You are only nineteen! When you're thirty you are not going to want to be taking care of an old, invalid werewolf!"
Hermione looked at him closely. He was not what one considered handsome. His sandy brown hair was prematurely streaked with copious amounts of grey. Scars ran all across his face; his could have resembled Mad-Eye Moody without the magical eye. He looked extremely tired and his face was slightly lined making him look years older than he really was. Her deep brown eyes meet his light blue eyes.
"I never abandon my friends. Ever. And do you honestly think Azkaban would be better than being married to me?"
He saw the stubborn look Hermione would often develop and surrendered.
"Alright. But you must promise me this: if you ever want to leave me, don't feel guilty because I will more than understand."
She hesitated, but promised.
"We'd better go tell Albus," he decided and walked over and offered her his hand, a gesture Ron was never chivalrous enough to do. She took it, and they left the kitchen to find Harry, Sirius, Kingsley, and all the Weasley's gathered outside.
Ron took one look at Hermione's hand on top of Lupin's and growled.
"Don't come running to me if that werewolf hurts you!"
Lupin made a small stifled noise that only Hermione heard. She tightened her grip on his hand.
"I trust him over you, Ronald!"
Ginny broke into the battle of icy stares and gave Hermione a hug.
"Congratulations! We knew it would have been you over the other three."
"Gin, it's not really con-"
"I know, but still."
She looked over at Remus who was being reassured by Harry and Sirius.
"Charlie and Bill have all your things, luckily you didn't have a chance to unpack," Mrs. Weasley told her, "you'll have to live somewhere with Remus now I'm sure. It's shame as you just got here yesterday, but unexpected things happen all the time now. You'd think it stop with his downfall and everything, but… "
"Keep in touch," Harry made her promise.
"I will," she cast a nervous glance at Ron, "I just hope I can make amends with Ron. At least as a friend"
"He'll come around. He usually does. And listen," he lowered his voice casting a weary look at Lupin, "I know he'd never intentionally hurt you, but if he does, promise you'll tell me okay? I heard Dumbledore talking and he and the Order are fighting to get this law revoked. It won't be long until it finally is. But still, promise me."
"Alright, but I'm a big girl Harry, I can take care of myself; contrary to what Ron thinks."
"You know, I almost pity Remus, having to live with you. Try not to nag him to death, will you Hermione?"
She laughed, "I'll try not to, Sirius."
Kingsley held out a quill and an official document. He cleared his throat importantly.
"Dumbledore felt that I should have this prepared. It's a legally binding magical contract. It states that you are both held together in marriage until the law is revoked, you must live in the same residence, and you may not be involved with anyone else romantically while in this union."
Hermione signed her name down.
"I'm afraid I don't have a house that we could live in. My parents' house was burned down by the Death Eaters."
"I have a house. It's rather small, but it should be…suitable." He signed his name down the paper disappeared in a flurry of sparks. Their marriage was official.
"Sirius is going to let Harry and I live here together," Ginny told Hermione excitedly.
Ginny hit Hermione playfully on the arm and then leaned backwards into Harry who put his arms around her.
"We should leave so you can settle in," Remus told her, "as you don't know where it is we'll have to side-along side apperate. I hate to leave in a rush like this but-," he hesitated, "-I have a muggle job at a factory as the wizard community is feeling pretty anti-werewolf at the moment. I can't be late."
Hermione nodded and he grabbed her suitcases. Thanking the Weasley's and hugging Molly, Ginny, and Harry one last time, she grabbed Lupin's forearm and they left with a pop.
They landed in front of a small, one story house in the middle of nowhere. There were no neighbors visible for a good distance. It was mostly empty farm land. Remus had a look like he was sentenced to death row as he unlocked the door and placed Hermione's bags on the floor. Lupin glanced at his watch.
"It's almost ten; I work at a muggle warehouse in the nearest village. I'll be back around five or so."
He left Hermione standing in the empty hallway. Deciding she should get used to her new house, she wandered into the rooms. There were no furnishings anywhere; the most she saw were drab curtains and a simple wall clock. There was a small living room with a couch, a small bookshelf, and a fireplace that had been boarded up. All the books were devoted to lycanthropy.
There was a small bathroom and a kitchen that had dust-filled cabinets, a small fridge, and a small wooden table with four matching chairs. A few soups can, stale crackers, and a few bars of chocolate were scattered in the cupboards. The bedroom had a dresser and a bed. It was the most depressing house Hermione had ever seen. She was starting to doubt her hastily made decision, fueled by her anger at Ron. She put away her clothes in the empty drawers in the dresser. Next to the dresser was a door leading downstairs from the bedroom.
Descending the stairs, she found a stone room lit by a single light bulb. A steel cage was in the corner of the room with a large padlock on the front. She knew how dangerous the wolf was, but this seemed like an extraordinarily painful place to transform. Blood spatters were on the stone wall and the stone floor. The wolf must have attacked himself. Wolfsbane was now an illegal potion to buy and it was very expensive on the black markets. Shivering and slightly disturbed, Hermione left the basement. She glanced at the small clock on the wall. It was only eleven o'clock.
How could he live like this for so long! Finding her quill, parchment, and ink in her belongings, she scribbled a quick note to Remus and then left.
Six hours later, Remus came home. The house was empty. She's only been in the house a few hours, without me, and she's already left. He spotted her note on the kitchen table.
Gone shopping. It's about 11 now, so I should be back a little after you. ~Hermione