I'm going to change a few things around to suit my story better. I hope that doesn't offend anyone and they'll just be minor changes. They are:

1) In Jo's version 17 is the age of consent in the Wizarding World. In this story age of consent is 18.

2) Remus, Sirius, Fred and Moody are alive and kicking!

3) I can't remember if Rufus retired from the office of Minister of Magic or if he was killed, so in this story he retired from the office and is alive.

That said, I own nothing and make no money.

Chapter 1

Sirius let out a wordless groan before saying in a voice filled with disgust, "This just keeps getting worse and worse!"

"It's not ideal, that's for sure."

Sirius looked at Moody as of he'd just sprouted another false blue eyeball before saying, "Not ideal? That's a bit of an understatement, don't you think?"

Moody let out a sharp chuckle before saying, "Could be worse." Then, while motioning with his staff in the direction of the three women seated at the table, he continued with a grin, "Could be Minnie here instead."

The woman in question bristled at the implied insult before saying sternly, "There's no need to be spouting that sort of hogwash at a time like this, Alastor!"

"All right, all right," Moody grumbled. "Don't go getting your tiger-striped britches all tied up in a knot." Minerva cleared her throat uncomfortably while flushing a bright pink. "I was just tryen to lighten the mood. Miss Granger would have seen the humor."

Face tight with displeasure, Remus stated to the former Auror, "I doubt that. Hermione is clearly unaware of what has transpired."

"Clearly," Minerva agreed with an amused twitch of her lips. "Otherwise, Miss Granger would be most vocal."

"Vocal?" Sirius gave a derisive snort. "She'd be screeching her ire to the high heavens with brimstone and hellfire shooting from that vicious wand and tongue of hers!"

A wave of muffled chuckles swept through the room. Hermione carried the well earned and justified title of a woman of calm, rational reason. Yet, there were fleeting periods of time when they'd all been privy to her volatile nature when taken by surprise or extremely vexed. Unsurprisingly enough, Sirius was seriously gifted when it came to vexing the cerebral young witch, which is precisely why, more often than not, he'd been on the receiving end of a good lashing - verbally and bodily.

Addressing the matronly woman with the faded red hair, Remus asked, "Have you mentioned anything to Hermione at all? Given her any inkling of what is to come?"

"I… uh… no… not really," Molly began and then added, "I mean… I did mention, in passing, that a most unusual law might come to pass. I didn't make a big to do about it or anything, and I didn't give any indication that it would affect her in any way." At the surprised expressions of the Order, Molly then asked, "Was it very stupid of me to believe that it wouldn't come to this, that Kingsley might have been able to have this obscene law over-turned? He is the Minister now and I was supposing such things were within his power."

Shaking his head dispiritedly, Remus replied, "There is nothing that he can do. This law was put into effect before his tenure and, although in most instances he would have had the power to pull some strings, such is not the case here."

"But why," Sirius demanded angrily.

Remus ran an unsteady hand through his own graying hair before saying, "I'm sorry, Pads. There's no other way out around it. This particular law was signed in blood making it unbreakable even by the Minister."

"Well, isn't that just dandy," Sirius snapped sarcastically before downing the contents of his tumbler. "Since when did the aresholes at the Ministry use blood magic in implementing their laws? Isn't that forbidden?"

"Normally, that's true." The answer came from the present Minister himself whose imposing figure had just stepped out from the Floo. Then, sending Sirius a pointed look he continued, "Yours is not an isolated incident. This law is wreaking havoc on the entire Wizarding community. It's something we all have to deal with which is why I am only now just arriving. We've been inundated with owls and howlers at an unprecedented level." Sighing deeply, Kingsley muttered tiredly, "It's a blasted, behemoth of a mess."

With a swish of his wand, Sirius summoned another glass from the sideboard. After pouring a generous amount of whiskey from the crystal decanter he pushed it at the other man.

With a grateful half-smile, Kingsley took it, and then gave an appreciate smack of his lips before declaring delightedly, "This is fine stuff, my friend."

Sirius let out a barking laugh before refilling first his own glass and then the other wizards'. Raising his in salute, he said with mock solemnity, "Nothing but the best for the Minister of Magic."

"Before you two go getten yourselves drunk off your arses," Moody slipped in, "how about filling us in on some pertinent information? Such as, why was the former Minister allowed to use blood to bind this here particular law?"

Wiping his hand across his face, Kingsley informed them, "There is a clause stating that during times of war - under dire circumstances - the Minister is allowed to use whatever means necessary to ensure the maximum amount of protection. In such cases laws can even be passed without the Wizengamot's consent or voting rights."

"How on earth could that have been permitted," Minerva sputtered, completely outraged. "And why is this clause only now coming to light?"

"It is little known and not openly available to the public. To the best of my knowledge it hasn't ever been put to parchment." Noting the appalled silence, Kingsley explained further, "For centuries it's been passed down orally from Minister to Minster."

With a disdainful sniff, Minerva said, "I might have expected such nonsense from Cornelius who'd been politically power-hungry and paranoid of all those around him. I had, however, thought much better of Rufus." With a voice tinged with a high degree of disappointment, Minerva continued, "I'd believed him free of wicked corruptions, but it appears as if he too was easily swayed by those of wealthy means, social standing, and the lure of politics."

"I don't think political power nor greed was behind his actions," Kingsley respectfully disagreed. "He did what he did because he felt it would benefit the Wizarding World."

Sirius jeered into his glass, "The man was an idiot. The way he pestered Harry to be his little poster-boy was just one of the many asinine things he did in order to make himself look good in the public eye." Swallowing more whiskey, Sirius remarked snidely, "He was every bit as dotty and as much of a bully as Fudge was!"

"Be that as it may, he still had the welfare of us all foremost in his mind."

Aghast, Sirius asked with words that came out slightly slurred, "Do you honestly believe that drivel?"

Nodding his head, Kingsley stated firmly, "I do. He had valid concerns. In the first War vast numbers of witches and wizards were killed. Some were hunted down and murdered outright regardless of Blood status or whether or not they opposed Voldemort's New World Order. For all of his 'high ideals' and partiality to Purebloods, when push came to shove, he was nothing more than a twisted psychopath."

"I'll not argue that point," Remus acknowledged whole-heartedly. "But, to force wizards and witches to repopulate our world is morally wrong and undoubtedly a huge misuse of power and position on Rufus's part."

"Agreed," Kingsley conceded. "There is also the tasteless fact that he stipulated all witches of marriageable age must bind themselves to Purebloods."

"That right there reeks of Blood prejudice," Sirius exclaimed while waving around the now empty whiskey container. Not even Molly's disapproving frown and muttered tsk'ing prevented him from strolling to the cabinet and pulling out another.

Remus watched in despair as his friend struggled to open the new flagon with fingers that had suddenly become all thumbs. After several failed attempts, Sirius settled for ripping the cork from its neck with his teeth, flashing them all a triumphant grin at his success.

Remus volunteered in a soft voice, "I'd marry her myself if I could."

"Now wait just a damned minute, Remus!" An irate Tonks jumped up, placing her hands on her hips, and exclaimed, "There is no way that you are going to marry that child! I've never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life! I won't stand for it, I tell you!

Moody's cobalt blue eye rolled in beleaguered vexation. The silly chit just couldn't get it into her head that Remus was done with her. As far as he was concerned their relationship had run its course, and Remus had made that clear time and time again. An honest bloke was Remus. But Tonks was a most determined witch and had refused to let Remus 'throw away a perfectly wonderful chance at real happiness because of some silly reservations' that he was harboring.

Molly was behind Tonks one hundred percent and aided and abetted her at every turn. Moody didn't know who was more embarrassed by her shameless, unsubtle machinations: Remus or Arthur. Both men spent a great deal of energy attempting to ignore all those accidental run-ins and meetings.

And then, there were those countless evenings when Tonks lingered behind after the Order had adjourned with the flimsy excuse of helping Molly clean up. An absurd notion if there ever was one because anyone who was the least bit familiar with Tonks knew damned well that the woman had a clumsy hand – along with everything else. When Remus hadn't responded in a manner in which Molly had hoped, more drastic measures had been taken.

One such instance had occurred only yesterday. The lock on the pantry door had mysteriously become jammed effectively trapping Remus and Tonks in very close quarters for well over an hour and a half. By the time they'd been released, Remus had been red-faced with barely suppressed rage while Tonks had nervously fiddled with the ends of magenta-hued locks glancing anxiously at her partner in crime. As for Molly, she showed no signs of being regretful about being in cahoots with the female Auror, nor at having been the person responsible for the faulty lock.

"It isn't anymore ridiculous than Sirius doing it," the wizard in question pointed out reasonably.

Stamping her foot like a petulant child, Tonks whined, "But, Remus…"

"Calm yourself, Dora," Remus sternly rebuked. "It's a moot point. Although, I am a Pureblood in theory, I also carry tainted blood making me exempt from the law. I can't offer myself to Hermione as a replacement to Sirius."

Much as I might want to, he added silently. There were worse things in life than being bound to Hermione Granger. At least, they had much in common with similar interests and hobbies. It didn't hurt that he found her very attractive, and had, for far longer than was probably deemed appropriate. That, added to the wealth of respect and very real affection he carried for the young witch would have made it an ideal answer to their dilemma. Dora was a different story all together.

Truth be told, he wouldn't ever have entertained the notion of marrying the fuming witch before him, not even to save her from the alternative. While he'd enjoyed their short-lived forays into the physical – he certainly wasn't going to label it a romance – he had made his intentions perfectly clear. Intentions that did not include ties of a permanent nature. Thankfully, she too was exempt from the clause. It would have been an utter nightmare if she hadn't been. As it was, it was getting trying having to deal with the continuous match making of Molly Weasley. Both women were going to have to adjust to the fact that happily ever after was not going to materialize out of the fantasies of either witch!

Giving him a hearty slap to the shoulder, Sirius said with a smirk, "Moony, old friend, I would be delighted if you could take our little bookworm off my hands. I have no wish to bed that sharp-tongued, passably pretty harridan." Molly winced at the mention of bedding which amused Sirius to no end. "The little dear will be as horrified, as is Molly here, that it will be I who will have the dubious pleasure of being named her husband."

"Better you than Remus," Tonks declared with a satisfied look at the outcome. "While it's true that she gets along much better with her former Professor - Tonks felt that using the title of Professor would thrust under Remus' nose the absurdity of marrying that swotty little cow - having sex with Hermione will carry certain benefits for Sirius." At the confused faces surrounding her, Tonks elaborated, "At least he'll be able to perpetuate the Black family line."

Sirius let out a strangled, bitter cry, before saying darkly, "That's not exactly a cheering thought, cousin. The Black family has a way of producing offspring of a disappointing nature in one manner or another." Cackling wildly, he added, "Still, I suppose I did manage to escape with my fabulous good looks, charming personality, and most of my mental marbles intact."

Choosing to ignore Sirius' semi-drunken tirade, Moody drew them back to the real issue at hand by saying, "Well, if there's nothing for it we'd best be informing Miss Granger of her fate."

Molly stood, and then running her sweaty palms down the sides of her dress informed them quietly, "She's in the library."

"Now there's a shocker," Sirius quipped caustically while accidentally sloshing amber liquor onto the tabletop. At Molly's apprehensive expression, Sirius jokingly suggested while holding his glass aloft, "Need a bit of Dutch courage before entering the lion's den?"

Molly shocked them all when she swiped the glass from Sirius' grasp, and consumed the contents with a very un-ladylike gulp. Grimacing at the taste, she dropped the tumbler back into Sirius' open palm before straightening her shoulders and saying in a bracing manner, "Right then, off I go."

Molly wasn't a squeamish witch. With seven children under her belt she'd been privy to plenty of unappealing things. It hadn't bothered her finding semen stained sheet – young boys wanked, it was a well known and accepted fact – but she'd been mighty grateful when each and every one had finally mastered the Scourgify spell! It had taken a push or two on her part to get her blushing and blustering husband to take the situation in hand, so to speak.

Ginny'd had female problems of her own which Molly had dispensed with rather quickly. Otherwise, as the only other female in the house, she would have gone in for some serious ribbing from her bumbling brothers. Those of the male persuasion were notorious for being awkward when it came to estrogen-laden issues, and the only way to deal with that awkwardness was to mask it with wisecracks of questionable good taste.

She'd taken in stoic stride: bloody noses, dirty nappies, illnesses of the projectile nature, broken bones, scraping and scrimping of finances, the hostility and prejudice of those witches and wizards who held themselves above her family, the indecency of two Wars and its aftermath. Yes, she'd borne all that and more with nary a batting of an eyelash. Yet telling Hermione what had to be done to ensure her safety had her stomach rolling violently.

It wasn't that Sirius was a bad man, but he did have a nasty tendency to cat around. It was that sort of behavior added to his rather immature mind-set that gave her serious qualms in regard to this union. She'd hoped, that sometime down the road, Hermione and Ron might make a match of it. Not that Ronald was much more mature than Sirius, but he was of a closer age and being still a boy, had a legitimate reason for his immaturity. That along with the looks that Ron and Hermione seemed to have been exchanging lately also gave rise to thoughts of romance. Another cherished dream consigned to the rubbish bin.

Molly opened the library door to a familiar scene. Harry and Ron were crouched low over Harry's chessboard - a gift from his godfather - each examining the others moves with fixed intensity. Hermione was close by tucked cozily in an overstuffed, wing-backed chair paging through a massive text which sat across her knees. Occasionally, she would glance over at the other two and offer advice to a frustrated Harry who was, as usual, losing badly.

How young they all looked with the constant stamp of desperation and fear erased from their faces. And finally free. Free to be the children they were always meant to be. Free to finally have the childhood that had been denied them by fate and Voldemort. At least, that had been the assumption they'd all been living under. A false assumption for Hermione as it turned out.

When would it all end? This horrid war had taken its toll in all manner of ways. So much had been lost. They'd had friends, family, homes, and land forcibly taken from them, leaving them with no other option but to watch helplessly as they'd all been systematically destroyed without a second thought. And poor, sweet Hermione had lost more than most. Yet, for her, this war wasn't over. Oh no, not at all, now it was going to take even more.

Hermione was like one of her own. So she'd best get herself together and put on a brave front because that young woman would, no doubt, turn to her as a source of strength and solace. She was going to have to pull on all of her experience as a wife and mother in order to try to make this transition as painless as possible. Molly's palms began to sweat once more.

"I won again!" She heard her son crow in triumph. "That there is three in a row, mate. Good thing we're not playing for chocolate frogs."

Harry heaved a disappointed sigh, before saying, "Cripes, Ron. Once, just once, I'd like to get the drop on you! I've managed to kill the most powerful wizard of all time, but I can't beat you at a lousy game of chess! Where's the justice in that, I ask you?"

Giggling, Hermione asked, "Why do you even bother agreeing to play Harry when you know darn well how it'll end?"

Sending her a fake glare, Harry said, "I keep hoping he'll slip up one of these days and then I can dangle a win over his head like he's always doing to me."

"No chance of that," Ron informed him good-naturedly while clearing up the broken chess pieces. "I'm in my element once I get in front of the board."

"You might be right on that one, but I can whip your sorry arse when it comes to dueling any day of the week and twice on Sundays."

"Language, Harry!" Hermione admonished with no real heat behind the words, and then remarked airily, "If we're going to be tossing about accomplishments let's not forget that I can run rings round you both when it comes to dueling and the casting of spells, and while Ron is truly brilliant at Wizarding chess, he's pants when it comes to checkers!"

Hermione let out a surprised squeak when two large pillows came hurtling toward her, one hitting her in the face while the other bounced lightly off the top of her head.

Grinning from ear to ear, Ron laughingly replied while lowering his wand, "Real quick on there draw there, aren't ya, Hermione?"

"I'll say," Harry agreed, and then added with a smirk, "Constant vigilance at its finest, Moody would be ever so proud."

Pushing the pillows out of the way, Hermione declared in a huff, "Vigilance or, lack there of, has nothing to do with it." Combing her fingers through her tangled mass of curls, she went on, "I am unarmed, as you two very well know, and as such was unable to adequately defend myself." Giving up on trying to put her mess of a mop to rights, she settled for wagging her finger at Ron and saying crossly, "You would never have raised a wand to me otherwise."

The two boys shared a quick look that spoke to the truth of Hermione's statement. She was right wicked with her wand and even Ginny readily admitted that the female member of the Golden Trio's could cast a Bat Bogey hex that rivaled even her own, and that there was really saying something.

"You're just very lucky that I love you as much as I do. Otherwise, I'd be forced to take a page out of Sirius' book and seek revenge by way of Marauder mischief."

Hermione had the satisfaction of witnessing a flicker of unease cross the youngest male Weasley's suddenly pale face. Pressing home her advantage, she said, "Keep it up and even the love in my heart won't be enough to prevent me from hexing your manly bits."

Ron's hands immediately flew to the front of his trousers in a protective gesture causing Hermione to break out into gales of uninhibited laughter. Both boys quickly followed suit and in no time at all they were lost in the hilarity of the situation.

"Oh, Ron," Hermione gasped, wiping away tears of mirth, "if only you could have seen your face! Absolutely brilliant!"

"You shouldn't be going around threaten' a bloke's private areas," the red-head chastised with a feigned glare. "Downright rude, that's what it is! Back me up on this, Harry."

Chortling merrily, Harry exclaimed, "Forget it, you're on your own, mate. I know better than to go against Hermione Granger whether she's packing a wand or not!" Eyeing his best female friend, he remarked with curiosity swimming in the depths of his jade-green gaze, "Come to think of it, how come you aren't carrying your wand? It's never been far from your side." Tilting his raven head, he continued, "I remember a time when you slept with it clutched in your hand, or under your pillow, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of it for days."

Hermione placed the book carefully on the floor while pulling her legs up underneath herself and answered slowly, choosing her words carefully. "I suppose, as odd as it sounds, I've come to feel somewhat safe here."

"In Grimmauld," Ron demanded incredulously, totally baffled that anyone could feel safe in Sirius' oppressively dark family home. "Have you gone bleeden barmy?"

Clicking her tongue in reproof, Hermione answered softly, "It isn't the same place that it was." When he rolled his eyes in a sign of disbelief, Hermione insisted, "It isn't, Ron! I'll admit there are a few lingering shadows, but nothing that can't be routed out. The atmosphere has brightened considerably since Sirius has taken the time to alter the draperies, the furniture, and the even this dreary wallpaper."

"Having Kreacher take down those disgusting elf heads went a long way to improving the space as well," Harry added in an effort to prove Hermione right because he pretty much agreed with her. Like Hermione, he'd been living here for months so he knew what she was talking about.

"Exactly," Hermione agreed with a smile. With a wave of her outstretched hand, she continued, "Take this room for instance. There was a time when I was afraid to come in here without Remus." Sounding absolutely horrified she exclaimed, "Can you imagine it? Me? Frightened of a library? The very notion is absurd, but I was!"

Looking around the renovated room with eyes that were now more aware, Ron mused, "I reckon you got a point. Still, I get the heebie-jeebies in the place. Don't know how you both manage it. Weren't so bad when we was all here. What with all the noise and plenty of people to disguise the creaks and groans of the house. Now, I bet you hear every little thing."

Shrugging his shoulders, Harry remarked casually, "It's not so bad, and I don't particularly mind the small noises. Sirius says it's the house settling, and it isn't as if we're completely alone. Remus is just across the hall from Hermione's room and me next door. Sirius is one floor up, but he's really only a few steps away."

"What about having Kreacher skulking about? Don't be telling me that doesn't worry you. As daft as he is there's no telling what he might do."

Hermione cast a right royal stink eye in his direction before proclaiming sharply, "He's just misunderstood. He spent years being brainwashed and abused by Sirius' bint of a mother. He'll come around; a little kindness goes a long way."

"Hello, my dears."

All three turned toward the door where the ample figure of Mrs. Weasley stood in the archway.

Ron's face brightened as he asked, "Time to eat?"

Oh, Ronald, Hermione thought in affectionate exasperation. Filling his stomach remained one of Ron's top priorities and nothing short of a personality transplant was going to change that little attribute about her friend. And, in all honesty, she didn't really want it to change. It was a definitive part of who he was, just as much as his red hair and his freckles were.

"Not yet," Mrs. Weasley said. "But, I do have some news to share with you all before dinner."

"Does this have anything to do with some of the Order members being here," Harry asked, while absently pulling on a loose thread of his red jumper.

"In a manner of speaking," Mrs. Weasley admitted with a nervous smile.

"Thought so," Harry answered reflectively as he pulled the frayed string free from its moorings. "Usually they come every third Friday of the month and that was last week, so it must be something if they're showing up two weeks in a row."

Although, the Order was now in essence obsolete, it had never been officially disbanded. The Dark Lord had been vanquished and the majority of his followers imprisoned, yet there were still those who'd held allegiance with Voldemort, who walked around free of any kind of punishment, impediment, or restitution. Those were the ones that the Aurors and the Order kept close watch over: The Malfoy's, the Zambini's, the Greengrass's, and several other prominent Wizarding families.

Plastering what she hoped looked to be a genuine smile onto her face, Molly walked briskly into the room taking a seat on the couch opposite the children. For that's what they all were. Their innocent faces were trained directly on her, and Molly had to fight to not to fidget under their openly curious gaze. Merlin's fuzzy beard, this was going to be difficult!

Frowning at his mother's odd demeanor, Ron asked point blank, "Is there a problem, Mum?"

Molly felt a moment of panic. If Ron could read her so easily then she mustn't be doing a fine job of trying to keep it normal. Her boy was a dear - sweet and uncomplicated - but not the brightest wand in Ollivander's shop.

Hermione rose, crossing the scant distance between chair and sofa, and took Mrs. Weasley's clammy hand into her own. That small gesture was almost Molly's undoing. She'd come in here with the intention of informing the kids of the situation and then being on hand for Hermione. Yet, here the dear was comforting her! Molly's gaze shifted to the floor. She needed a moment to calm her self and clear her eyes of the distress that she knew was lying there.

Swallowing back an onslaught of tears, Molly cleared her throat before looking up and saying, "Kingsley has just informed us that a new law has gone into effect." Applying bone crushing pressure to Hermione's fingers, Molly continued, "He'd been looking into the possibility of getting the law thrown out, but due to certain aspects involved with this particular law, he couldn't do it."

"I take it this law isn't exactly going to make our day," Hermione quietly suggested with a troubled frown.

Swallowing once more and taking a firm grip on her courage, Molly responded with the simple, undeniable truth, "No, my dear… it isn't."

"Crikey, Mum," Ron mumbled, eager to get cracking on whatever it was she had to say so that they could get down to the business of food. "Out with it all ready."

"Right, well… uh, before Minister Scrimgeour retired from office he passed one last law. Now, this law was not put to the Wizengamot for a vote." Hermione's eyes widened. Patting her knee gently, Molly nodded, "Yes, dear I know, it is highly unusual. It seems as if Rufus went ahead without the Wizengamot's knowledge and implemented a never before used clause."

Harry, who had up to this point been silent, asked as his eyes narrowed with suspicion, "How bad is it?"

He wasn't the biggest fan of the Ministry, nor of its previous Ministers. While holders of that position were revered and trusted by the general Wizarding public, they'd brought him nothing but grief time after miserable time. But with Kingsley in charge he'd been ready to put his faith back in the Ministry and what it was supposed to stand for. Now, this unexpected bombshell was driving him straight into the mind-set of avoiding that building all together no matter who ended up in charge!

Biting her lip, Molly whispered sounding quite agonized, "Bad."

Molly felt the young witch stiffen beside her and had to fight down an overwhelming urge to pull her close and never let her go. If only she had the power to shield Hermione from what was to come, but it was beyond her, and that was something she was having much difficulty in accepting.

"The law states that every witch of marriageable age must marry, and as quickly as possible." The words flew out in such mad garbled rush that it sounded like a load of undecipherable nonsense, but the kids got the general gist if their expressions were anything to go by.

"Blimey," Ron breathed, slack-jawed, then asked with a short laugh, "You're having us on, right?"

"No, she isn't," Harry bit out harshly. Jumping up, he let out a cry of rage that chilled Molly to the bone. Before she could do anything to stop him, Harry whipped out his wand and with a vicious twist of his wrist, exclaimed hoarsely, "Reducto!"

The chess set – which Sirius had spent a king's ransom on – blew apart scattering dust-like particles within a three foot radius. For a moment there was no sound in the room other than that of the dim tick tock of the ancient standup grandfather clock.

Ron finally broke the awful stillness by saying, "Bleeden, bloody fuck! Angry much, mate?"

"Ronald!" Came Hermione and Mrs. Weasley's simultaneous and scandalized reprimand.

Harry actually cracked a small smile before slowly lowering his wand. "I'm just so bloody sick and tired of those twats at the Ministry controlling our lives! We're not expendable pawns that those arses can move about whenever and however they please to suit their own agenda!"

"Harry," Hermione called to him, her voice calm, expression neutral, "Its fine, really. It'll be okay.

Striding to where his best female friend sat with Mrs. Weasley, and taking her free hand Harry exclaimed passionately, "I'll marry you, Hermione!" Sinking to his knees and staring into her bemused eyes, asked with serious intensity, "Will you be my wife?"

Molly sniffed and reached into her apron pocket to pull out a tissue. Dabbing at the dribbling under her nose she said in a voice shaking with emotion, "I'm sorry, Harry but that won't be possible."

Glaring at the witch who had been a surrogate mother to him for years, he demanded, "Why the hell not? Is there some stupid rule that says the Savior of the Wizarding World can't get married?"

Shredding her tissue with nervous fingers, Molly replied tentatively, "No, of course not, but the clause does state that witches of marriageable age are required to wed Purebloods."

Hermione let out a squeak of protest at hearing this and then said, "I don't understand. Why would he do that?"

"Blow me," Ron interjected, totally gobsmacked.

"I don't understand," Hermione repeated dazedly. "That will do nothing other than to continue to genetically break down the blood lines! It makes absolutely no sense!"

Shaking her head side to side, Molly patiently explained, "More and more Muggle-borns are coming into the Wizarding World bringing in, not only fresh blood, but stronger magical signatures. Both of which will revitalize our society."

"Hold on there, Mum. This here law or clause or whatever… is only for Muggle-born witches like Hermione?"

"I'm afraid so, dear."

"That nasty, bugger," Ron declared, every freckle faded against the suffused color in his face. "There's no way he can get away with it! It won't hold up, that's for sure!"

Before Molly could address her son's statement, already suspecting the worst, Hermione uttered, "Unless he used Blood Magic." Turning bleak eyes back to Mrs. Weasley, she asked woodenly, "He did, didn't he?"

Distressed, Molly answered, "Yes, love… he did."

Harry cut in, sounding thoroughly frustrated, "Would someone please tell those of us who don't have a blasted clue what you mean? What is all this stuff about Blood Magic?"

Molly took a few minutes to explain to the boys the ghastly workings of Blood Magic as it pertained to the newly installed law and the recipients there of.

"I'll do it," Ron said after he was able to find his voice and think things through. "I'll marry Hermione."

Relief coursed through Hermione. Marriage was the furthest thing from her mind, but if she was going to be forced into it at least it would be with Ron; someone she'd been crushing on for the last year and a half and not some half-wit stranger. Although Mrs. Weasley hadn't mentioned it – she had a way of imparting bad news in increments thinking it would lessen the impact – Hermione thought it was a sure bet that if she hadn't been able to connect with a Pureblood of her choosing that one would be provided for her by Ministry officials.

Hermione's relief was short lived when Mrs. Weasley said, "It pains me to have to say this, but that won't work either. Ron isn't of legal age and won't be until next year. Unfortunately, the Ministry won't be able to wait that long. The law is very clear on that matter. Hermione is required to marry within a month's time."

"This just keeps getting worse and worse," Harry declared, echoing his godfather's sentiments almost verbatim. "What'll they do if Hermione can't find a Pureblood of age?"

"Molly opened her mouth to reply, but Hermione got there first. "They'll make me marry someone of their choosing against my will. That's what they'll do."

"Bleeden, bloody fuck!"

"Harry James Potter! I don't ever want to hear that type of language come out of your mouth again," Hermione chastised severely. "It's bad enough that I can't seem to break Ron of that horrid habit, don't you go starting it too!"

"Hermione, dear," Mrs. Weasley gently drew the young witch's attention back to their intial conversation. "The Ministry won't be choosing for you. We've already found a Pureblood who's willing to get you out of this fine fix."

"One of the twins," Hermione asked, her face a mixture of trepidation and hope. On one hand she'd be pleased to be wed to a familiar face, on the other, she was certain that neither one of her pseudo brothers was mature enough for wedded bliss. Still, if one of them was willing to help her out she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

"Both the boys have been dating twin Muggle-born witches." Molly allowed herself a rueful smile before adding, "They're quite infatuated, and have decided to marry them in a double ceremony. Not an ideal way to get my children married off, I grant you, but Fred and George appear to be fine with it."

"How about Charlie," Ron suggested, feeling mighty knackered by all this emotional turmoil.

Hermione doubted that very much. Apparently, Ron was unaware of Charlie's sexual preferences. Not surprising really because Charlie wasn't around much and so, someone who wasn't paying attention or didn't know the small tell-tale signs, would be oblivious to the truth of the matter. Ron not only had Wizarding chess down to a fine art he also had oblivious down extra pat too!

Hermione was just about to come up with any excuse as to why Charlie wouldn't be a viable candidate when Harry put in, "No way. If she marries Charlie she'll be shipped out to Romania and we'll only see her at holidays; if that! Charlie hardly ever visits the Burrow." In a voice that brooked no argument, Harry stated, "Forget it! We aren't going to lose Hermione!"

"There's no need for all this upset, Harry," Mrs. Weasley crooned in an effort to calm him. "Hermione will still be staying right here at Grimmauld."

Frowning, Ron asked, "How's that possible? I mean, that would be brilliant and all, but would Hermione's… umm…" Ron faltered before spitting out, "… husband be okay with that?"

"I foresee no problem whatsoever on that score," Molly assured them all with an authentic though strained smile.

"Mrs. Weasley," Hermione began with a puzzled look, "exactly who is it I'll be marrying?"

Anxiously wringing her hands together, Molly took a deep breath to ready herself for the mighty task before her. "Well…"

All four of them jumped nearly a mile when the library door was flung open with such force that it hit the back wall causing a gouge in the newly installed wallpaper. The owner of Number 12 Grimmauld Place sauntered into the room staggering slightly when the toe of his dragon-hide boot caught on the rug.

"Oops," Sirius let out a masculine giggle before righting himself. Then, gesticulating wildly with both hands – one of which was bearing a nearly finished jar of cooking sherry – leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "Nearly fell flat on me outlandishly magnificent face, tragedy that."

Molly came to her feet, fists clenched by her side, and spat out furiously, "Sirius Black! You're drunk!"

Sirius' eyes widened in mock surprise as he gasped, "I am?" Pressing a splayed hand to his chest in a parody of outrage exclaimed, "How bloody awful of me!" Then, grinning like a fool, he brought the cooking sherry to his pursed lips, flung back his jet-black head and downed the remaining liquid. Holding it eye level and looking sorrowfully into its empty depths, Sirius murmured to no one in particular, "Why're these blasted containers so small? It's ruddy awful, I tell ya. Nuthen but a bloomen tease!"

Hermione couldn't recall having ever seen Sirius in such a state. Sure she'd witnessed him drink, they all had. Hermione wasn't one to judge his behavior because she suspected he did it as a way of keeping certain memories at bay. He'd drink whenever they all got to talking about their Hogwarts days, especially when James and Lily were mentioned.

Poker nights were another occasion when the booze was dragged up from the Black cellar. Those were the only times when it seemed as if Sirius indulged in more than a nip or two. Still, it didn't make him an out-and-out lush or anything although he sure was giving a great impression of being one at this moment in time. Something must have really shaken him up for him to get so thoroughly and utterly soused.

Molly stomped on over to a precariously swaying Sirius and thrusting a finger in his face growled, "Out!" Switching her pointed finger to the open doorway she added balefully, "This very minute…get out of here!"

Bypassing Molly's orders, Sirius asked flippantly, "Have you told 'em yet? Bout the grand news, I mean?"

"No," she snapped, giving him a cross glare. "I was just about to when you came barging in here drunk as a skunk."

Giving her a pleasant nod of his head, Sirius said with a savage smirk, "Quite the nattering twit, aren't ya?" Molly's glare intensified. "You lot have been in here long enough to have put paid to this business twenty times over."

"Such things are not to be rushed," Mrs. Weasley insisted, jutting out her chin. "It's a delicate situation."

Sirius gave an inelegant snort, "Load of rubbish you're spouting there, Molly." Addressing the other three people in the room, Sirius remarked in casual absurdity, "It's quite simple really. 'Mione here needs a man." Hermione bit her lip and tried desperately to stop the red heat from traveling up her neck. Did he have to make it sound so sordid? "Therefore, a man of impeccable blood is going to rescue you, fair maiden."

"I figured as much from what you've both been saying." Then, Hermione warily asked the question that was now foremost in her mind, "Who's it going to be? This man who's going to rescue me?"

Spreading his arms as wide as they could go, and sporting a bright distended toothy grin Sirius announced effusively, "Ta da!" Followed by an equally exuberant, "Honey… I'm home!"

Complete silence greeted Sirius' earth shattering announcement. Molly had expected cries of outrage, shouts of disbelief or out and out sobbing on Hermione's part, but there was nothing. A rather disturbing nothing until Hermione dropped her head into her hand, and muttered under her breath, "Bleeden, bloody fuck!"

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