A/N: A new story! Yay! I just couldn't get this plot out of my mind, so here it is. This is my take on an adapted "Marriage Law" story. I will try to stay in-character as much as possible, and I'll be keeping with the general flow of major canon events. I hope you enjoy it!
P.S. Each chapter starts with a quote that I felt applied to a major plot point. Just thought I'd point that out.
"Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!"
-Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
The scrap of parchment weighed heavily upon Albus Dumbledore's hand. It bore only a few hastily scrawled sentences, but its message was of great importance. The words troubled Albus. He paced the room, thinking over his options and possible responses. Blessed with a brilliant and clairvoyant mind, and able to see the broad picture, he wasted no time in assessing the situation.
After a few moments' rumination, his mind settled on a plan both ingenious and appalling. For a moment, he hesitated, reflecting on the hefty consequences of his idea, and the deplorable immorality of the plan. After an absent-minded adjustment of his spectacles, the headmaster strode to his desk and dipped his scarlet quill in his inkwell to pen a short note. Attaching it to an owl and instructing her on the destination, he opened a windowpane and sent her on the way. Watching her take wing, he once again pondered the implications of his decision. With a sigh, he returned to his desk to finish reviewing Argus Filch's weekly report on the lamentable state of student conduct at Hogwarts.
For him, the greater good obscured all precautions of morality.
Chapter 1: For Moral Reasons
Hermione Granger was enjoying a rather satisfying Sunday afternoon. She emerged from the library, having just finished every essay due in the foreseeable future. Ah, she thought to herself. A good book before dinner would be just the thing. Perhaps a bit of Dostoyevsky? Back in her room in Gryffindor tower, Hermione directed her wand at a mug, filling it with water, and then she muttered a charm to bring the temperature to just under boiling. Moments later, she was curled up in a chair by the window, with a cup of tea and her copy of The Brothers Karamazov. The book was new—a present from her parents just a few days ago for her seventeenth birthday. After only a few pages, however, a loud and insistent tapping at the window interrupted her tranquil afternoon. She startled, and the tea in her hand sloshed, but thankfully it did not spill. Carefully, she set the tea down and unlatched the window, letting in the large owl responsible for the disturbance. The owl bore a note addressed to Hermione, and she read it quickly.
If you would be so kind as to make your way to my office, I have received rather important information that requires immediate attention.
My deepest apologies for the interruption of such a lovely afternoon.
P.S. I quite enjoy Turkish Delight.
Hermione was perplexed, but immediately gathered herself together. She wondered, though, what could possibly be so urgent that Professor Dumbledore required her immediate attention?
The gargoyle leapt aside, and Hermione ascended the spiral staircase. The Headmaster was standing, staring out the window deep in thought. He turned as Hermione entered the room, and offered a kind smile.
"Please, Miss Granger. Have a seat," he said as he moved toward his own chair, indicating to her the comfortable chair across the desk from him. "Would you care for a lemon drop?"
"No, thank you, sir." She sat, and waited, hoping he would jump right into the pressing business he had mentioned in his note.
Dumbledore folded his hands on the desk in front of him, and leaned forward.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I called you here, Miss Granger." He paused, and she affirmed with a slight nod.
"In a few moments, Miss Granger, you will receive an owl from the Ministry of Magic with a letter selecting you as one of seven witches subjected to a law that is over five centuries old. You may read the full text of the law then, Miss Granger, but I will try to summarize it briefly for you. Have you ever heard of the Law for Perpetuation?"
The term sparked no recognition with Hermione. "No, sir," she responded.
"I didn't suppose you would have come across it. Professor Binns often omits it from the lesson plans. It is, as I said, over five centuries old, and the product of an era of crisis in the magical community. Inbreeding among purebloods and the systematic elimination of muggleborns threatened the population. Dowry prices increased dramatically, and few couples were marrying or producing magical children. The Wizard's Council passed a law forcing all unmarried women to accept the petitions of wizards of blood status not similar to their own, marry, and produce heirs or face arrest. It was extreme, but the crisis was averted. Sixteen years later, they rewrote the law to mandate seven random witches selected every seven years to fulfill the requirements of the law. Later, after the Ministry of Magic formed, it amended the law again to allow those witches still in school to defer their obligations until graduation if they receive no petitions."
Hermione wondered where he was going with this history lesson. "Professor Dumbledore, this is all very fascinating, but what does this have to do with me? Surely you can't mean that… the Ministry still enforces this? And are you suggesting that… I… must…marry?"
Dumbledore sighed deeply. "Yes, Miss Granger. The law continues to this day. I regret to say this, but you must begin to adjust to the idea."
She sat in stunned silence, trying to process what the Headmaster had said. As if for dramatic effect, a large tawny owl chose that exact moment to knock on the windowpane. Dumbledore flicked his wand, and the window opened to admit the owl. It clutched a rather large and imposing scroll, tied with silver ribbon and sealed with a very official-looking "M" in burgundy wax.
Dumbledore wordlessly passed her the scroll, and she broke the seal to read:
By decree of the Wizengamot, as declared 13 September, 1576, revised 14 January, 1592 and 23 May, 1694
A Law For the Perpetuation of Magickfolk:
Every 7 years, 7 unmarried witches between the ages of 17 and 50 will be selected and notified of their selection for this program of magical Perpetuation. Within a month of notification, each witch must marry an eligible wizard of blood status not identical to her own. Eligible males may petition for a witch's hand, and if a witch receives multiple petitions, she must accept only one. The witch must become pregnant within a year of marriage. Failure to chose a husband or produce a child will result in expulsion from the magical community, with possible further criminal prosecution.
To monitor that the specifications of the law are obeyed, the couple will be bound with a tracing charm to ensure that they engage in intimate connubial relations a minimum of once every two weeks.
After a minimum of seven years of marriage and a minimum of three children, a couple may petition for divorce.
Hermione's read it once, then twice. Her brain seemed to slow to a sluggish churn, echoing only one syllable. WHAT? The word rattled around in her thoughts as she tried to control her disbelief. Then her mind resumed its normal pace, and began churning ideas and questions at rapid speeds.
She looked up, meeting Dumbledore's piercing gaze.
"Sir, you mentioned that witches enrolled in school could defer from this. So, I'll have until graduation to deal with this?"
He moved his gaze to somewhere in the right rear of the room, avoiding meeting her eyes. "There is a stipulation on the amendment, Miss Granger. Only those witches without petitions may defer for educational purposes."
Well, then. She'd try another approach. "But who would know about this and wish to petition for me, sir?" she retorted.
"I cannot be sure, Miss Granger. But I rather think that within certain groups of wizarding society, this opportunity will not pass unnoticed. I'm afraid that the news that the muggleborn friend of Harry Potter is subject to this law will spark an interest in a few wizards with less-than-noble intentions towards you. Miss Granger, you would be a powerful tool, for example, to a Death Eater. I do hope for your sake, that this is not the case." A glance at his face told her that he fully expected Death Eaters' petitions.
Merlin. Marriage as a tool of war? She supposed it to be possible, but never would have thought it plausible that she could be so trapped. "When will I know about petitions, sir?" "Ministry owls will be sent as soon as a petition is filed. Please let ne know immediately when you receive any." He looked over his half-moon glasses, and his demeanor softened. "Miss Granger, I am deeply sorry that this has affected you. I will do my best to help you make the best of this. Take some time to adjust yourself—I know this must all come as a great shock to you."
She nodded numbly. "Thank you, sir. I'll inform you if I receive any petitions."
She did not have to wait long. She had just returned to her room when another Ministry owl tapped on the window.
The new message was in an envelope, not a scroll, but that did not make it any less imposing. She opened it with great trepidation.
Attention: Ms. Hermione Jean Granger
Dear Ms. Granger,
The Ministry of Magic is pleased to inform you of petitions of marriage received on your behalf. The following wizards extend offers of marriage:
Amycus Carrow [pureblood]
Thorfinn Rowle [halfblood]
Malvin Yaxley [pureblood]
You have one month to accept a petition.
Offices of Domestic Magical Relations
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Shit. Dumbledore was right. Three Death Eaters, all clamoring to be her husband. She penned a note to the Headmaster, and then curled up in bed. She wanted to be brave, but first she needed to cry a bit. Once she got those emotions out of the way, she could better think to plan.
The next morning, the flapping of wings alerted the Great Hall to the arrival of the Owl Post. Owls delivering the Daily Prophet, letters from home, and packages of goodies swooped over the breakfasting students, who eagerly grabbed at the missives and gifts.
Hermione was less eager. She spotted a large Ministry owl, and knew its destination even before it located her. Sure enough, the owl dropped another envelope into the napkin on her lap.
"What's the Ministry on you about, Hermione?" asked Harry, scooping eggs onto his plate.
"I have no idea, Harry." She quickly changed the subject. "Ron, you could just ask me to pass the butter, there's no need to reach across me to grab it," Hermione admonished her friend.
"Sorry, Mother. I'm just eager to eat. Really hungry. Late night studying, and all that. Y'know?" Ron was already cramming the buttered toast into his mouth.
Hermione exhaled with exasperation, but the corners of her lips turned up in amusement. For a moment, she almost forgot the weight of the envelope in her lap. But then she felt it shift on the napkin as she reached for her pumpkin juice, and she felt her heart give a small jolt, followed by a panicked pain in her chest.
"Sorry, just remembered that I left my potions book in the Tower. I'll meet you in class." She grabbed a piece of toast and fled. Instead of returning to Gryffindor tower, though, she walked quickly to a deserted corridor, seeking a tucked-away alcove to open the letter.
More petitions. Antonin Dolohov. And… PETTIGREW? She choked a little bit. Certainly, every single petitioner was a Death Eater, certain to torture her every day of marriage. But Pettigrew? Blegh. Traitor rats were almost worse. At least the others were straightforwardly cruel and evil. Pettigrew was treacherous, slimy, and utterly vile. She jotted a note to Dumbledore, and then realized she had no way to send it, as she was already running late for class. Hermione dashed off towards the dungeons, passing the Great Hall. As luck would happen (or perhaps not—he probably planned it), Professor Dumbledore was exiting. She greeted him, passed him the note, and proceeded to class, thoroughly agitated.
It was one of the longest classes she could remember.
A/N: Please, please review! It makes me so incredibly happy! I welcome all constructive criticism and/or encouragement.
I hope to update soon. The next chapter is already partially written :)