Author's Note: I'm posting the betaed version of this story. Thanks a lot to swirlsofblack from Hawthorn and Vine who worked so hard to whip this story into shape! Apologies if you are in the middle of reading this, I'll do my best to upload the chapters as quickly as possible.
I was asked to write this story by a reader. The criteria I was given are as follows:
Harry is secretly dating Daphne Greengrass.
Harry is secretly friends with Draco.
This story contains an extremely stubborn and OOC Hermione for at least the first 10 or so chapters. This is so I could meet the criteria of Harry secretly dating Daphne and being friends with Draco. She was also pretty fun to write this way too. It's always Hermione who is the grown up one so I enjoyed writing her a different way. She does get better so please bear with her.
Disclaimer: This work is written for fun and not profit and I think it's more than obvious that I'm not JK Rowling. This Disclaimer stands for the whole story.
Hermione stormed out of Harry and Ron's Floo connection in a rage. Harry could practically see the steam pouring out of her ears and Ron swore that her hair took on a life of its own, looking almost like Medusa's snakes.
"Have you seen this?!" Hermione yelled.
Harry winced. He hadn't had his coffee yet, and Hermione at full volume was never something you should have to deal with unless you'd had your morning caffeine.
"Good morning to you too, my sweetness," Ron said ironically.
Hermione just glared at him, not in the mood to be distracted by his irritating asides right now. "Well, have you seen this?" she screeched once more, waving a letter around like a demented person.
Harry just put his hand out and beckoned for her to give it to him. He'd get no peace - and more importantly, no coffee - until she'd shared what had her so mad this morning. Harry opened the scrunched-up parchment.
Dear Miss Granger,
We regret to inform you of a curse that has been placed on students from Gryffindor and Slytherin Houses. In order to combat this curse, we have had to take extreme measures, which, however distasteful, are necessary. We have had to pair all Gryffindor students with Slytherin partners where available. We have undertaken rigorous personality checks to at least try to pair you with compatible matches.
We therefore notify you that your match is Draco Malfoy.
We cordially invite you to come to a meeting on Thursday, 27 October, where more about the curse will be revealed, and you will get to reacquaint yourself with your future spouse.
Minister of Magic
Harry passed the letter over to Ron. "It could be worse, Hermione."
Hermione raised her wand in threat against him. "How exactly could it be worse, Harry James Potter? First off, what curse is this? And secondly, Malfoy? They'll have to drag my dead body up the aisle before I agree to this."
Harry ignored Hermione's brandished wand, knowing full well that she wouldn't really hex him; she was just very worked up. "You could have gotten Goyle or that oral disaster, Flint."
Hermione huffed, "I think I'd take my chances with either of them over that bloody ferret. Pairing us up with Slytherins is evil. How could they do this to us?"
Ron, who'd been keeping strategically quiet up to this point, couldn't help himself and leapt in with one of his witticisms. "Think of all those cute little albino ferret cubs you'll have. Are baby ferrets called cubs?" he asked, getting distracted.
Harry didn't know how he managed to do it, but he manfully suppressed the laugh that was dying to explode from his chest, gave Ron a look that clearly asked if he had a death wish, and watched as Hermione struggled to speak through her anger.
"Oh no, I believe baby ferrets are called kits. I look forward to playing uncle to your litter of kits, Hermione," Ron continued, clearly not taking Harry's warning into account.
"I'm glad you find this amusing, Ronald, but some us remember the true nature of the Slytherins and do not find it funny that we are now expected to marry them," Hermione said, throwing her hands up in the air before storming out of Ron and Harry's kitchen in the same manner she entered it.
"I think she may be rather upset at who she was paired with," Ron pointed out sarcastically.
Harry shook his head at his red-headed friend. "We'll give her an hour to calm down, and then we'll go over and attempt to make her feel better."
An hour later and Hermione was still as upset. She'd pretty much paced a hole into her carpet and was stomping up and down, pulling at her hair when Ron and Harry arrived to see how she was doing.
"Want to see who we've landed?" Harry asked as an opener, hoping that her curiosity would overcome her extreme rage.
"I hope, Ronald, that you have Millicent Bulstrode," Hermione said nastily.
Ron just quirked an eyebrow, "Sadly, well, for you anyway, I've been drawn with Tracey Davis. I can't say that I really remember her. Any memories you can share, Hermione?"
"Errr, nope, sorry," Hermione said, her anger abating briefly in order to answer the question. "What about you, Harry?"
"I've been paired with Daphne Greengrass," Harry said carelessly.
"Oh! I assumed that one of you would get Pansy Parkinson. I wonder who they've landed with the pug."
"Dunno, but the meeting is only a few days away, guess we'll get the gossip then," Ron pointed out.
"Oooh, the Ministry won't be waiting until then to hear what I have to say. I can't believe that they've done this to us and then given me that coward of a Death Eater to boot. I'll make Hestia see how bad an idea this truly is."
Harry sighed, recognising the signs of Hermione working herself up into a magnificent anti-Slytherin rant. "It's a curse, Hermione. I'm sure that Hestia didn't find herself bored last week and decide that this would shake up the monotony of her job."
"It's eight years since we left Hogwarts; how come we're just hearing about this curse now?"
"I don't know; I don't have special insight into the workings of the Ministry."
"You and Ron are Aurors. Why haven't they spoken to you about this?"
Harry ran his fingers through his already messy hair in exasperation. Hermione was nigh on impossible when she worked herself up like this. "Dunno and, no, before you even think it, I'm not going to play the 'I'm Harry Potter and therefore special' card just so you can find out what is going on. Besides, Hestia never falls for that even when I am stupid enough to let you talk me into playing it."
Hermione realised that Harry wasn't going to bow to her desire for information this time and released her anger with a big sigh and collapsed onto her sofa. "Has anyone spoken to Ginny? Any clue who she has?" Hermione asked.
"She's away at a Harpies training camp. They're meant to be incommunicado as their first game of the season is on Halloween, but I suppose the Ministry will have pulled their weight and will make sure that she attends the meeting," Ron answered.
Ginny had gone on to play professional Quidditch for the Holyhead Harpies much to the consternation of her Quidditch-crazy brothers, none of whom had been offered even a trial with a professional club, let alone a contract. Ron had been particularly put out but was soon comforted by the fact that he got free tickets to Quidditch games and had even supported his sister's team over his much beloved Chudley Cannons.
"I have to marry Malfoy! What am I going to do?" Hermione asked with a wail.
Harry and Ron shared a look before they sat next to Hermione and put their arms around her. "Come on, Hermione; it can't be that bad. The letter said they'd done personality tests, so maybe you guys are more compatible than you think," Harry said optimistically.
"Who are you and what have you done with Harry?"
"Harry's right. Hestia wouldn't screw you on purpose, Hermione," Ron remarked. "Maybe you need to give him a chance. He might have changed."
"What's wrong with you two? You hate Malfoy more than I do. Or at least, you used to."
"We're not at school anymore. We've had to work with people who we wouldn't have given the time of day back then. I mean who'd have thought that I'd be partnered up with Adrian Pucey and that we'd actually get on?" Ron pointed out. "You just haven't because you work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures."
"That pretty much proves my point and is hardly a huge endorsement for highlighting how much the Slytherins have changed."
Ron screwed up his face as he tried to think of a way to counter Hermione's argument but, as usual, he was stumped. The girl was far too smart for her own good.
"Try and put a positive spin on it, Hermione. The Ministry wouldn't be making us do this without good reason," Harry reasoned.
Hermione looked thoughtfully for a minute. She seemed to be murmuring a little to herself. Harry recognised this as Hermione thinking something through before revealing to him and Ron. "Hang on a minute," Hermione said and pulled her crumpled-up letter out from behind a sofa cushion. "Look, the letter says they have had to pair us up but it doesn't say that we have to marry them. I'll just refuse. What's the worst they can do? Threaten to kick me out of the magical world? I'd like to see them try," Hermione crowed, feeling triumphant at having found a loop-hole.
"I don't know, Hermione, they speak about a curse. I'm sure that pretty much indicates that we have little choice in the matter."
"So, it's a curse. I'm sure with a little bit of research we can find out what it is, and, with Bill's help, we can break it. I really think the Ministry has overreacted."
Harry and Ron watched as Hermione flew around her living room pulling out random books from her many bookcases and flinging them onto the coffee table. "I'll get a head start and do some general research before the meeting later this week."
They shook their heads but knew better than to try and interrupt her mid-thought. "Hey, Ron, is Bill back from Egypt yet? I'd like to meet with him before the meeting to see what I can glean. I bet he's heard something about this curse."
"Er, I'm not sure. I've not really been home for a while but I can owl mum and Fleur and see if he's back yet."
"Yes, I'd be grateful if you could owl home."
Hermione has seemingly pulled out all the books she had on curses and was now flicking through a couple of volumes at the same time while muttering to herself. Harry and Ron knew better than to even bother saying goodbye as they traveled by Floo back to their flat. She'd be more annoyed that they'd interrupted her than she would if they said a proper goodbye. It would be hours before she'd noticed that they'd left.
They collapsed back in their kitchen, and Harry made them both a cup of tea, feeling that they needed it after dealing with a manic Hermione that morning. She was getting worse with her discrimination against the Slytherins. Harry and Ron didn't quite know how to help her get past it. She had always been the sane, rational one at school but she'd seemingly switched at some point during the war, and it had left her vengeful and full of hate.
"So when are you planning on telling her?" Ron asked.
Harry grimaced. "I don't know. I'd hoped to ease her into it but I guess I'd better just drop it on her before she finds out from someone else at the meeting."
Ron sniggered at his distressed friend, "I don't envy you mate, and I'd definitely pick a public place just in case she completely loses it."
"Daphne's going to be unbearable, too. She's been nagging me for ages to tell Hermione about us. She wants to go public, and the fact that I've been dragging my heels about Hermione is driving her crazy."
"I don't know why she puts up with you. She's far too classy for a slob like you."
"Hey, you're meant to be feeling sorry for me, not making me feel worse."
"What's there to feel sorry about? You've got a gorgeous girl who loves you and you're too much of a wuss to tell your other best friend about her. You're just lucky she hasn't dumped your pathetic arse."
Harry banged his head on the table, "I know. I'm a complete wimp. But Hermione is so scary when she's angry, and she hates Slytherins. I didn't think it was possible, but her hatred has escalated the longer we've been graduated."
"She does campaign to free house-elves. That's hardly a profession that's going to make her feel all cuddly regarding the House of Snakes."
"Well, when are you going to tell her that you've been sneaking off to play Quidditch with your reptilian friends? She thinks you just tolerate Pucey, not that you're good friends that socialise on the weekend."
"How did we get into this mess?" Ron groaned.
"We let our guard down, and the next thing you know, we're dating and hanging out with a bunch of Slytherins."
"And lying to Hermione about it. We really do have a death wish."
"Yep, and that's without her knowing about us burying the hatchet with Draco."
"Oh, we should go and see him. I'm curious about his reaction to his letter." Ron said, bouncing out of his seat in excitement.