Title: Vivat Regina
Summary: The war is over, Voldemort is dead; surely the laws and Wizarding Society would have changed to make life better for those usually marginalized by the Purebloods! Unfortunately they haven't and Hermione Granger finds her usual methods to get her way are not working. A discussion with a certain Pureblood unearths a bit of Ancient Wizarding Tradition that could cut through the tangled mess of Wizarding Laws, Bureaucracy, and Society Rules. Hermione is a Gryffindor and is willing to take the risk. Has she bitten off more than she can chew this time? The Fates don't think so.
Categories: AU, gen, het, Romance, Drama
Characters/Pairings: Hermione Granger/Salazar Slytherin, Harry Potter, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minerva McGonagall, Daphne Greengrass, Augusta Longbottom
Beta: DelphiPsmith – it was wonderful working with you, constructive and energizing
Warnings: graphic sexual/intimate scenes near the end.
Spoilers: Deathly Hallows/Epilogue: EWE
For: LJ Community hermione-smut Round 5. Roadkill2580
1. Marriage Law or Time Turner clichés are awesome. Bonus points if you somehow do both together.
4. The ministry has completely collapsed. As a powerful witch and war heroine, Hermione becomes the head of a new magical monarchy (why it's Hermione and why she decides to do it is up to you). Now, everyone scrambles to get into her good graces.
5. Snark coming from either Hermione or her interest(s) or both would be awesome.
AN: Muses inspired by '13 days of Christmas' by Chelle and 'Harem' by scifichick774. Both are WIP pairing Hermione with Salazar. Both can be read on GrangerEnchanted, Harem is being updated but 13 days hadn't been for a long while.
AN: Please note I took some liberties with the prompts. I'm using a different variant on the Marriage Law theme, not the usual Ministry arranged matchups. There is a common theme in fanfics where soulmates, 'fated' or compatibility-test matched couples must marry. Here the matchmaker is not the Ministry but Hermione is still required to marry to satisfy a certain unwritten law or lose big. The Ministry hasn't completely collapsed, yet, and is in a stalemate situation where nothing can be done. There is a big powder keg just waiting for the spark to set it off. There is no time turner per say, but there is time travel. Hermione's partner (Slytherin) is brought forward.
Summary: Hermione gets the ball rolling to locate a new leader for Wizarding Society and is surprised when she gets tapped for the job.
AN: In this fic new laws are created by the Ministry making proposals to the Wizengamot. If the Wizengamot does not voice a protest those proposals are confirmed as Ministry Law. My beta Delphi said it was sort of like the concept of 'nolo contendere'. She is right.
[Latin, I will not contest it.] A plea in a criminal case by which the defendant answers the charges made in the indictment by declining to dispute or admit the fact of his or her guilt.
The defendant who pleads nolo contendere submits for a judgment fixing a fine or sentence the same as if he or she had pleaded guilty. The difference is that a plea of nolo contendere cannot later be used to prove wrongdoing in a civil suit for monetary damages, but a plea of guilty can. Nolo contendere is especially popular in antitrust actions, such as price-fixing cases, where it is very likely that civil actions for treble damages will be started after the defendant has been successfully prosecuted.
AN: Post B7 DH, ignore the epilogue.
~ooO Quest for a Ruler Ooo~
Hermione frowned as she reviewed the background research for her latest project on neutralizing the gender bias in the older Wizarding Laws. It was not going well. No one was willing to compromise on the exact wording. In fact there was an entire sub-sect of Olde Laws that applied only to witches! Something else that needed to be reviewed and modified to fit modern society.
"Arghh!" Blue sparks shot from her frizzy mass of curls as she tugged at them, completely wrecking the neat bun she had styled before leaving her flat that morning.
"What is it this time, Hermione?" A familiar cool sardonic voice interrupted the Gryffindor witch's private fit.
Dark brown eyes looked up and blinked at the not-unwelcome sight standing in the doorway of her cupboard-sized Ministry office. (Of course the first thing Hermione had done was to generously use precisely calculated expansion charms and wards to increase the space and guarantee her privacy.) It just so happened that Daphne Greengrass was one of the rare Slytherins with whom Hermione found she could work. The Muggleborn witch sagged back in her personalized comfy chair and waved her friend inside.
"I just found the books relating to Witches Law."
The blue-eyed mahogany-haired witch blinked as she stepped in, transfigured the chair into a leather-covered recliner, and took a seat. "You didn't know?"
"How would I?" Hermione cried out in frustrated tones. "I'm a Muggleborn! I don't understand why they don't have Wizard Studies for Muggleborn students in Hogwarts. It would have been a whole lot more useful than Muggle Studies, you know."
Daphne tilted her head to one side. "The idea was proposed in the past but it was always shot down," she admitted. "Some customs are private, within families or certain circles. And others are too varied and volatile to be practiced without experienced elders around."
Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose. "So I've found out, through a lot of research and experimentation." She stared Daphne in the eye. "This sort of thing doesn't help bring Muggleborns into the fold, you know. Unless we're exposed to Your Ways, how can they become Our Ways?"
Daphne inclined her head. "I know. That's why Father has been pretty encouraging about our partnership."
Hermione nodded. "And I'm grateful for that. I appreciate the time you and your parents have spent instructing me on the unwritten rules of Pureblood society and the Ministry. But there are still moments when I feel like an ignorant First Year." She inhaled deeply. "Daphne, why is it so hard to make any changes in the Ministry? From what I saw, Fudge and Lucius Malfoy didn't have problems ramming their bigoted laws through when we were students." Sensing Daphne's silent request for details, the Gryffindor witch expanded. "I mean, it's been more than eighteen months since the Battle of Hogwarts. The first two months were bad, everyone was focused on survival and healing. By the time the first anniversary came around, most of the essential repairs were almost done and I truly thought we were ready to move forward, to start some positive changes. But here we are, six months later, and nothing's changed! The bigoted illogical laws, the resistance to any type of change…" Hermione's expression fell. "Why don't they understand change isn't always a bad thing, Daphne? Why don't they understand that if they don't change, the same thing is going to happen again, and again, and again?"
Daphne was saddened by the downcast face of the witch who had somehow become part of her trusted circle. She considered the question and tried to formulate a response Hermione would not poke holes in. "Hermione, how much have you studied about the Wizengamot by-laws?"
"Quite a bit. Most of the proposed changes are stalling in the Chambers because there aren't enough members to pass the bills. What I don't understand is why they aren't filling the seats if there aren't enough members to pass anything. The Wizengamot is useless in their current state."
Daphne twisted a blonde tress and laughed softly. "They can't decide on who to bring in without eroding their own power base. Right now negotiations are still ongoing, and no one can agree on particular names."
Hermione frowned slightly. "Okay. I did try talking to Tiberius Ogden about modernizing the laws, but he just huffed and said that was Just Not Done. I don't understand, Daphne. He's not a bigot, so why did he react like that?"
"Okay, Hermione, time for some unspoken truths." The Pureblood witch watched her friend lean forward listening intently. "The Wizengamot is not all-powerful like they pretend. They cannot undo a law once they have passed it."
"-was not passing Wizengamot law. Ministry Law can be amended by the Department Heads and signed off by the Minister of Magic. Those laws can be challenged and struck down easily. For truly lasting anti-prejudice laws they must be passed by the Wizengamot. Unfortunately the Chamber passed prejudiced laws in the past, and now they cannot pass any laws that go against those already in place."
Hermione frowned. "But that's so stupid!" The involuntary outburst slipped free. "People change. Societies change. Countries change. How can they expect laws to never change?"
Daphne nodded. "That's true, laws change. However, in Wizarding Britain only the Monarch can strike down a Wizengamot-passed law."
Hermione frowned slightly. She had not read anything about the British Monarch having the authority to intervene in Wizarding matters. She heaved an internal sigh. It was probably another one of those unwritten rules that everyone - but Muggleborns - knew.
Not sensing Hermione's distraction, Daphne continued her explanation. "You know how most Wizengamot rulings are either incredibly vague or fiendishly convoluted?" Hermione nodded. "That's to allow the Old Families - or anyone who can afford trained barristers - the option of exercising the loopholes. It's also why the Wizengamot is so reluctant to pass any bills. In fact, they normally only approve whatever laws the Ministry in power proposes, with a few rare exceptions. However, since the end of the Second War, they've refused to even approve the laws the new Ministry has been recommending."
"Hang on a sec, you mean there's a difference between 'pass' and 'approve'?"
"Definitely! Passing a law means the Wizengamot formally registers the law and it's set until a Monarch revokes it. Approving a law simply means they aren't protesting a law suggested by the Ministry. The Ministry can then formalize it into Ministry law, which can be changed by any subsequent government. However, with the recent purges there aren't enough Wizengamot members to form a quorum, to approve any proposed laws. This has made it much harder for the Ministry to operate. Shacklebolt has to work within the current set of laws, and as we both know they are blatantly prejudiced. There are even whispers that the Wizengamot will refuse to ratify the upcoming Ministry budget. That will result in the Ministry shutting down, since there will be no galleons to run the departments or pay the workers."
Hermione huffed, tugging at a frizzy tress. "Okay, the Prime Minister of England knows about magical society, so why can't we go to the Queen of England and ask her to strike down the old prejudiced laws?"
Daphne snorted. "Hermione, sweetie, the Monarch has to be a magical."
Hermione sagged back in her chair. "We're doomed!" she groaned. "Elizabeth the Second isn't, a witch and her son and grandsons are definitely not wizards."
Daphne looked amused. "Don't be silly, Hermione. When I said the Monarch could strike down Wizengamot passed laws, I meant the Wizarding Monarch."
Hermione sat up straight. "Wizarding Monarch? I didn't read anything about Wizarding Britain having a king." She frowned. "Wouldn't that be illegal? Or treasonous?"
Daphne shook her head. "The Wizard Kings and Queens are not crowned in the same manner as the Muggle ones."
Dark brown brows knitted. "I don't understand."
"The Magical Crown of Wizarding Britain is not passed from father to son, or even in a particular family. The Monarch is chosen by magick itself." Seeing Hermione's brown eyes widen and satisfied she had caught the Gryffindor's attention, Daphne continued. "The last Wizarding Monarch was Richard Peverell. He was crowned in 1445 and assassinated in 1457. There have been no monarchs after him."
"Peverell? The same family in the Deathly Hallows fairy tale?"
Hermione absorbed the new information. "Okay. So how does magick select a monarch?"
Daphne grinned impishly. "I did some comparison essays in Muggle Studies and was very interested in how Merlin's Arthur became King."
"A true Wizard Monarch can draw a certain sword from a certain stone."
"No. You know the original sword he pulled from the stone was damaged in battle."
"And Excalibur was returned to the Lady of the Lake after Arthur's last battle," Hermione pointed out thoughtfully.
Daphne inclined her head. "Correct. Merlin enchanted the same stone with a different sword and similar rules… To select a Magical Monarch for the British Isles."
Hermione leaned back heavily. "Surely someone would have tried to trick the enchantment!"
"Oh yes! But none have succeeded in by-passing Merlin's Enchantment. In fact most have given up on ever seeing a true Magical Monarch anymore. It's part of the reason why the Ministry managed to get so much power in the last two centuries."
Hermione bit her lip. "But surely some powerful wizard would have tried it recently."
"I heard Voldemort tried and failed dismally." Daphne admitted candidly. "He couldn't even cross the outermost protections encircling the stone. They're very ancient and resistant to all magic, even the Dark Arts."
Hermione nodded firmly. "Okay. So we need to find a monarch. A monarch who can give Wizarding Society the kick it needs to get moving."
Daphne was amused. "Sweetie, it's not as easy as you think."
"Yes, I know, it'll probably be ten times harder than what you even estimate, but we can't just give up!"
Daphne sighed. "Okay, I know that look. What mad idea is percolating in that brain of yours this time?"
Hermione leaned forward. "We get every single adult magical in Britain to try to draw the sword from the stone."
"You're mad. No one has even touched the stone in nearly three hundred years! It has injured, and even killed, those it deemed as unsuitable."
"Maybe, but I don't see any other alternative. We can get all the Ministry workers and everyone we think could be suitable candidates to try. If none of them passes, we can post an advert in the Prophet. Anyone interested can give it a shot for two galleons." Daphne snorted but Hermione continued unrepentant. "It would help keep the budget solvent, too."
Daphne was horrified. "Oh, Merlin! You don't mean that!"
"Of course I do." Hermione was affronted. "But I don't think it will come to that. Harry is a hero and good-hearted. He pulled Gryffindor's sword out of the Sorting Hat in Second year. I'm sure he can pull this sword as well." She leaned forward. "Where is this Sword in the Stone kept? Is there a particular Department that administers the test? Who do I need to speak to?"
Daphne frowned slightly. "I don't know where the Sword and Stone is kept but the Department of Mysteries should."
Hermione grinned broadly. Hypatia in the DoM owed Hermione a favour for the Arithmancy analysis she had done for them last month. She grabbed a sheet of parchment and quill to compose a letter to Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic, requesting a meeting.
Harry Potter stared at his best female friend before turning to look at what was in front of them: a narrow path paved with uneven gray granite slabs leading to a set of five shallow steps. At the top of the steps was a wide roughly circular platform carved with softly glowing runes on all sides. In the center of the platform was a waist-high boulder of sparkling pink granite, the stone acting as a sheath for the sword thrust into it, its hilt pointing straight up.
"I'm not sure about this, Hermione."
"Go on, Harry," Hermione urged softly.
"But what if-"
"If you're not the one, you won't be able to pull it out."
"Just do it, Harry!" A familiar female voice called out from behind them.
"Yeah, mate. If you can't, then let the rest of us give it a shot. I'm sure one of us can pull it out. I'm fact I'm sure I'd be a great king!" a more familiar masculine voice boasted.
"Ron!" Hermione spun around in a huff. "This is not a game we're playing here! Whoever becomes the Wizarding Monarch has a great responsibility to all of Magical Britain. It is nothing like playing for the Cannons!"
"Hey!" Ron was quick to take offense against any slight to his beloved Chudley Cannons.
Arthur Weasley was quick to intercede. "That's enough, Ron." Arthur smiled encouragingly at his surrogate son. "Give it a shot, Harry. The protections have never harmed anyone who carries no ill intent, only those with truly malicious plans."
Harry wanted to run and hide. Hermione had gathered the whole old crowd, all the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army, before making her presentation. Of course she hadn't provided an explanation when calling the meeting, only said that she needed an hour of their time. Curiosity had drawn everyone in; they knew Hermione would have never sent out such a meeting request without very good reason.
"If the protections don't allow you to pass, just step aside and let someone else try," Kingsley murmured.
"Do you honestly think I'm the one?" Harry had very little confidence in himself.
Kingsley considered the question before answering. "Truthfully, no. But you have to be the first, so there are no disputes later."
"Why?" Harry asked. "You don't think I can hack it?" He forgot that just a minute ago he had been fighting Hermione from the other side.
"Do you really want to?" Kingsley challenged calmly. "Are you willing to fight another war, this time to reform bigoted unfair laws, bring change and improvement for all of Magical Britain? In this war right and wrong will not be so clear cut. It will be more of an uphill battle than fighting Voldemort."
Harry looked away. "No," he admitted before his spine stiffened and he completed his response. "But I would do it, if I pulled the sword out."
"I know, Harry, but I've known many good wizards and witches who tried and failed. It is not a slight upon your character."
"Oh yes. You wouldn't know this of course - nor would Hermione or Daphne, not yet - but it's part of the oaths one takes in reaching a certain rank in the Ministry. You're taken to the sword and you try to remove it. The last one who succeeded was a Junior Secretary, Richard Peverell, almost six hundred years ago."
Harry nodded, turned away, and began walking up the path. As he moved up each step the excited murmurs built behind him.
"No one has crossed the third step in fifty years," Terry Boot murmured.
Then Harry was on the edge of the platform. He took one step and then another to stand right next to the stone. He leaned forward to grasp it - and yelped when his hand hit a shield that set off gold and silver sparks.
He tried a second and third time before giving up. His fingers were red and twitchy.
"I can't touch the sword," he called out.
"Damn it!" Harry wasn't sure who cursed but it sounded an awful lot like Hermione. "All right, everyone, time for Plan B. Form a line and give it a shot."
Harry retreated down the steps and watched as those present did just that. Hermione hugged him tight as he moved away from the queue being formed.
"I'm sorry, Harry, I honestly thought you'd pull it out," she whispered.
Harry shook his head. "I'm glad I didn't," he confessed. "It would be just one more burden I don't want." He looked his best friend in the eye to prove it. Seeing her relax slightly he did as well.
They stood side by side and watched many witches and wizards try and fail at various stages in the path. Some managed to get onto the platform but none were permitted close enough to the stone to even try to grasp the hilt.
They watched Ron swagger up the steps, bounce off the third step, and fall flat on his arse. And repeat the same feat five times before his father pulled him away. Various Ministry employees did not even try approaching the stone. Harry supposed they had tried before and failed. After forty minutes it became clear that the Enchantment did not find any of the candidates suitable.
"What do you want to do now?" Kingsley asked Hermione, deferring to her since she was the one who had started the whole ball rolling in the first place.
"We open the floor to anyone willing to try." That caused a massive outcry but Hermione's blunt words cut through. "The Enchantment works. It will not allow anyone unsuitable to be chosen. And we need a Wizarding Monarch. So, we let anyone who thinks he or she can do it try." Hermione's tone was level and unyielding.
Kingsley frowned slightly. "That could become unmanageable. Certain families will insist on being first in line to make the attempt."
Hermione smirked evilly. "If they want an earlier place, they can pay heavily for the privilege. I refuse to believe snots like Malfoy or Parkinson will succeed where we failed. To go to the head of the line is a hundred galleons. Otherwise, the first shot is free, a second shot is fifty galleons, a third is five hundred, a fourth is five thousand, and so on. All the fee money will go into the Ministry budget."
Harry laughed. He could almost see Draco Malfoy insisting on re-trying many times.
"And what about the Purebloods who wish to be first among those who pay a hundred galleons to go first?" Kingsley wanted to know.
Hermione bit her lower lip. "Let them. For a one-time fee of five hundred galleons. After that, the next candidate is randomly drawn from those in the waiting room."
Arthur snorted softly. "It will take days!"
"Then let it!"
"The entire magical world will laugh at us," someone else objected.
Hermione snorted indelicately. "It's not like we have a better option." Her eyes glowed. "In fact, let's make it as public and transparent as possible! Have a press conference announcing the situation: anyone interested in trying to pull the sword out can give it their best shot, and if they want to be ahead of the rest or try more than once, they have to pay for the privilege."
"This will have to be supervised by impartial, respectable witnesses," Kingsley warned.
"I'm sure we can persuade a few Wizengamot members to earn their healthy stipends by spending a few shifts in rotation as witnesses," Hermione murmured acidly.
Kingsley and Arthur both choked on their laughs. The younger witches and wizards, members of the DA, were not so restrained and laughed openly. Molly Weasley was scandalized but Hermione paid no attention. Her mind was focused on working through the logistics of such an event, considering the names of those she could cajole, bribe, or blackmail into assisting.
"Come on, Hermione. Eat something. It'll make you feel better," Harry cajoled as he spread out tea towels and laid out a variety of wrapped sandwiches prepared by Kreacher and Winky. Usually his sandwich was gulped down at his desk, but Kingsley had asked him to talk to Hermione.
It had been ten weeks since the Ministry announced their plans to locate and crown a Wizarding Monarch. The response had been very positive. As Hermione had predicted, the Purebloods insisted on being first in line and paid very generously for retries. In the weeks that followed, many an average witch and wizard gave their best shot, Pureblood, Halfblood or Muggleborn, to no avail. As the days passed Hermione's energy flagged; she was discouraged but not quite ready to throw in the towel.
"Just try some. Cheese and ham, your favourite," Harry wheedled, holding out a sandwich wrapped in waxed paper.
Hermione sighed but accepted the offering, unwrapping the food and nibbling on it half-heartedly before putting it down and sipping the fresh tea Harry had prepared. Feeling a bit relieved that she was at least trying to eat, Harry unwrapped a BLT and began eating. He was good at cooking, thanks to the Dursleys, but he liked eating good food prepared by someone else.
"Thank you, Harry. I just don't feel too hungry," she confessed.
Harry swallowed before speaking. "What is it?" He already had a very good idea what It was: the Sword in the Stone.
"Oh, Harry! All my plans are falling to pieces. We need someone to become the Wizarding Monarch to start anything! I was so sure that you would be Chosen, or that someone would be Chosen! But no one has succeeded in even gripping the hilt! The only ones of legal age who haven't tried are in St Mungos or Azkaban!" She tugged at a scroll buried under a pile of similar documents. "I've gone through the records of candidates and compared it to the most current census data. It clearly indicates ninety-three point two seven percent of qualified registered adult witches and wizards in Britain have tried and failed."
"Do you have a list of those who haven't yet?" Harry asked practically. "Have you sent a Ministry employee to ask them to come and try?"
"I was working on that. Percy has offered to assign a few interns to do it."
"Can I have a look at the list?" Harry asked.
Hermione sighed as she handed the scroll over. Harry unrolled it and scanned through the list of names. Most were unremarkable. Some were ancient and Harry was certain they would not pass. Then green eyes fell on one particular name.
"Hermione, your name is on this list."
She looked up from her half-eaten sandwich. "What? Oh yes, I'll have to remove it."
Harry's brow furrowed. "Hermione, didn't you take your turn?" He thought hard, trying to recall details of that first day he and the others had tried to pull the sword and failed. She flushed a rosy hue. "You didn't, did you." It was more of a statement than a question.
She flushed a brighter pink. "Oh come on Harry, surely you don't think I could do it!" She laughed slightly, in a self-depreciating manner.
Harry studied the witch who had been one of his most loyal and trustworthy friends from the very beginning. They'd had differences of opinion but never for petty selfish reasons, at least on her part. She had always wanted what was best for everyone around her.
Then he had an epiphany. Hermione never saw the true worth in herself. He heard her voice, from years ago: "Me? Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery." She was a true friend and at times much braver than she knew. Hermione would make a great monarch because she wanted to make things better for everyone else.
He grinned. "Come on, 'Mione. It was your idea to have every witch and wizard give it a shot. So why won't you?"
She tossed her head. "Harry Potter! I don't have time to waste on such nonsense. There's no way I'd pull the sword when you've failed."
"Come on, who'll it hurt?" Harry cajoled with a smile. "You need a break from all this paperwork."
"I have other projects-"
"They can wait!" Harry cut her off. "I know you always come early and stay late. You work during lunches and even on the weekends at home. You deserve a little break."
Hermione stared at her oldest friend and could not come up with a good reason not to try. Harry had tried to pull the sword and failed. So had more than ninety percent of the witches and wizards in Britain. It was no shame to fail in this test, especially when it wasn't one she could study for.
"Oh all right," she conceded, grumbling. "Just let me send a message to Padma and post a note on my door."
Harry grinned and watched her do that before dragging her to the lower levels, the oldest parts of the Ministry where the Sword in the Stone Chamber lay.
For most of the last three months these rooms and corridors had been packed with those wishing to attempt the Test. By three weeks ago the crowds had thinned to stragglers and few retries. In recent days the only ones stopping by were the occasional witch or wizard who had been out of the country on holiday. In the beginning the witness boxes had been packed with senior Wizengamot members and Ministry employees. Now a junior Ministry employee and Wizengamot aide were seated playing a game of Exploding Snap to pass the time. There was also a junior reporter for the Daily Prophet. What surprised Hermione were the House Elves sitting in one witness box.
"Harry, what are the House Elves doing here?"
Harry glanced in their direction. "They've been posted by the pureblood families that own them, so they will be notified immediately, if the Sword is drawn. At the start the Purebloods watched in person. Then they sent their House Elves. Now only the diehards who can afford it have an Elf watching."
Hermione snorted softly. "So they can be first in line to lavish praise and curry favour," she scoffed.
Harry shrugged. "I guess. But somehow I don't think the Enchantment will choose anyone who can be bribed or intimidated. That's probably why a Wizarding Monarch hasn't been Crowned in centuries."
They approached the three humans in the witness box closest to the steps. Hermione smiled at her old schoolmates. "Hello Hannah, Ernie, Penny."
Hannah Abbott had decided to work for the Ministry after finishing her NEWTs. Ernie was assisting his grandfather, a Wizengamot member. Penelope Clearwater Weasley had decided to work part time for the Daily Prophet, mainly covering community events ("filler fluff pieces that paid the bills," as she described it at a Burrow Sunday dinner).
Now she nodded at them. "Hello Hermione, Harry."
Ernie was more blunt. "What are you two doing here?"
Harry grinned. "Hermione is going to give the sword a shot," he said.
All three turned towards the Gryffindor witch.
"You didn't try already?" Hannah sounded amazed. "Why in Merlin's name not?"
Hermione blushed. "I was too busy," she confessed. "First with the research, then organizing the event, then I wanted to bone up on Pureblood etiquette regarding the monarchs."
Harry gave her a pointed look. "Her name was on the list of those who didn't try, so I insisted she come down and take her turn."
Hermione scoffed. "If you failed, I don't see any reason I'd succeed."
All four of them blinked and stared at her.
"Why not?" Hannah said.
Hermione sighed. "I did some research on the old Wizarding Monarchs. Each and every one of them were from Old families - and not snots like Malfoys, either. They were the best and brightest, the most brilliant minds and most powerful of their day."
Harry snorted. "Bollocks. You're the brightest and most powerful witch of our generation Hermione. Both Minerva and Dumbledore said so."
The witch blushed. "Thank you Harry, but it's different. They were original thinkers." She sighed wistfully, longingly. "I'd love to have access to their private papers and read what they were working on, things that they had put aside for other projects."
Penelope nodded in understanding. "I totally agree. The Royal Archives have been sealed for more than four hundred years. It would be a great boon to review projects past Monarchs have worked on."
Hermione nodded firmly. "That's one of the reasons I pushed for this. If a new Monarch is Crowned, things can change so much for the better."
There was a pensive silence, which Harry broke by pushing his friend forward onto the granite path.
"Go on," he urged softly.
She scowled at him briefly then took a deep breath and faced the stone. She took each step carefully, shaking out the skirts of her charcoal gray robes. When she reached the platform she stopped. Only thirty-four witches and wizards had reached this point. She stepped towards the stone. Only eighteen. She leaned forward hesitantly, to grip the hilt. Only seven had succeeded in reaching for the hilt, including Harry. Just before she could touch the hilt she froze. At this point Harry had been stopped by the Enchantment.
Several meters away, Harry frowned. He had not seen any sparks indicating that the shield had been triggered. "Go on, Hermione! Grab the sword and draw it," he called out.
The three standing beside him reacted swiftly, realizing something different was happening.
Penny Weasley fumbled with her camera, moving to get a better unobstructed shot. Hannah and Ernie shifted their positions to get into a clear line of sight so that they could provide a complete Veritaserum or pensieve witness account. A series of soft pops sounded from behind them as the House Elves moved in to see what the humans were watching.
"Draw the sword, Hermione," Hannah called out encouragingly.
The witch at the top of the platform trembled before reaching out, slowly, to grip the golden hilt encrusted with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.
A melody eerily reminiscent of Phoenix song echoed in the Chambers; the music dipped and rose and trilled and shimmered and rose into an exultant crescendo as Hermione Jean Granger pulled the Sword out of the Stone and held it point upwards in the air, the steel blade glowing with a bright white light that filled the Chamber for a brief instant.
When it faded the music died away with it leaving a shell-shocked Hermione staring at the sword she held in her right hand. A shimmer on top of the rose granite block faded to reveal an embroidered leather scabbard and belt.
"I did it." Her voice was thin and reedy. "I drew the sword."
Harry could clearly see this was an event she had not even thought possible nor accounted for. He turned to the awed faces around him, taking control of the situation. "All right, everyone. Hermione needs some time to adjust and Kingsley needs to be told. Sit tight on this until you get the okay from him. Penny, this will give you time to write the article you want: the new Wizarding Monarch."
His words were enough to snap Hermione out of her shock. "It's not possible." Her voice was uncharacteristically uncertain. "All the past monarchs have been Purebloods, or from a magical lineage."
"And haven't you always said you're as good as, if not better than, any Pureblood?" Hannah retorted sharply. She herself was a Halfblood and more than a little familiar with scorn from prejudiced Purebloods.
Hermione's spine stiffened. "You're right. It's just… it's something I thought was never possible."
She picked up the scabbard and belt and then came down the steps holding the sword point down. Penny took advantage of the moment to take a few more shots as Hermione joined them.
"What next?" Harry asked.
"The Coronation Ritual," Hermione responded after some thought. "My contacts in the Department of Mysteries wouldn't tell me much about it."
"Well, you drew the sword so they'll have to tell you now," Harry pointed out. "But first we have to go and tell Kingsley." He stared at her. "I think you should try to hide that sword before we go out, or else everyone in the building will know in five minutes." There was a soft popping sound and everyone spun around to see the House Elves vanish. "Forget the Ministry, all the Pureblood families are going to hear that a Muggleborn drew the Sword and is our next Monarch." He looked Hannah, Penny, and Ernie directly in the eye. "Keep mum as long as you can. I need to get Hermione out of here."
She opened her mouth to protest. "Har-"
He cut her off. "Don't Harry me. You're going to be the target of mobs and every leech in existence. Let me protect you as you protected me."
She closed her mouth and nodded shortly.
Hannah spoke up. "I'll let the Department Heads know so they can begin sealing the building."
"I'll let my grandfather know so the Wizengamot can be assembled," Ernie added as well.
"I'll tell Luna and Neville," Penny offered. "They can inform Minerva and the rest of the crowd discreetly."
Hermione was suddenly very grateful for their offers of assistance. "Thank you."
"Now get going," Ernie urged. "Before the Family Heads show up."
Harry and Hermione didn't have to think twice about his advice to escape. Unfortunately when they reached the office of the Minister of Magic, his secretary informed them that Kingsley had already left for the day.
For twenty seconds they dithered, trying to decide what to do next. Then Harry hit on an idea. "Neville's grandmother is part of the Wizengamot and she knows a lot of Wizarding Traditions. She would know what to do next, or at least who would know."
Kingsley's secretary was a bit confused by their request to use his private floo but didn't see a reason to say no, since their close friendship with the Minister was common knowledge. Luckily Augusta Longbottom was at home and willing to see them.
Hermione was the first one through the fireplace, tossing floo powder and calling out "Longbottom Manor" before vanishing. Harry was just seconds behind her.
Five minutes later the secretary was confronted by a mob of pureblood Family Heads, Heirs and Matriarchs all seeking the whereabouts of Hermione Granger.
Their repeated floo-calls to Longbottom Manor failed, as Augusta Longbottom was not accepting any messages.
Augusta Longbottom's usually steady hand trembled as she prepared tea for her guest. She was very grateful Mr Potter had tactfully asked for a tour of the greenhouses. What she had to discuss with Miss Granger was for her and her alone.
Once both of them were sipping their tea, her aged eyes fell upon the sword and scabbard lying on the coffee table between them. The Sword from the Stone, Bright Dawn of New Hope. The Longbottoms were one of the few families who still had records from before the time of the Founders. No Longbottom had ever become Monarch, but they had always been advisors and trusted confidants to them. Given Miss Granger's close relationship with Neville, Augusta could see the same relationship forming again. If Miss Granger was willing to risk it all, to make the necessary sacrifices.
Hermione put her nearly empty cup down with a soft clink. "Madame Longbottom, I'm sorry if I sound rude but I need to know."
"Could you specify what, exactly?"
"What happens next? I've drawn the sword but no one can tell me what the next step is."
Augusta nodded slowly. "The next step is your Coronation and Marriage."
Hermione Granger went very still. "My...what?"
"All Wizarding Monarchs are married."
"But I'm not even in a serious relationship!" the younger witch sputtered. "They can't force me. I mean, I am the monarch now, right?"
Oh how young and innocent Muggleborns were, Augusta thought. Few of them understood the truth that one must sacrifice for power. It might be yourself or your kin, your allies or your enemies, but you sacrificed to gain power. Always. "Please be silent and listen, Miss Granger." Augusta waited until the young witch complied and settled down to listen. "During the Coronation Ritual, the crown appears in the hands of the spouse, who then crowns the monarch."
"And if the monarch isn't married?"
"There have been instances when the monarch was unmarried when they drew the sword, yes. In such cases, if the monarch is betrothed and the bond stable, the crown appears in the betrothed's hands. If the monarch is not betrothed, then the Fates decide who is best fit to be his or her spouse and consort. During the Coronation Ritual, the crown will appear in the hands of your true mate. In fact there have been instances when a betrothal was broken because the crown appeared in the hands of another, one deemed more suitable by the Fates."
"And if I were to go out and get married right now, before the Coronation? Or if I married a Muggle?"
"I would strongly suggest you not do that. The Fates will not be fooled by such a transparent trick, and you only demean what you have won by doing so." Augusta was pleased when the younger witch sagged and seemed to accept the words. "If you wish to become Monarch you must go through the Coronation Ritual within three days."
"Three days!" Hermione sounded aghast.
"If you do not, the sword will vanish and reappear in the stone," Augusta warned. "You will not be able to draw it out again because you were unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices, for the greater good of all."
Hermione was silent for a while before voicing a question that concerned her. "Does anyone have any theories about how the Fates choose a consort?"
"There are many theories, but the Fates have never chosen wrong." Augusta's voice was sincere. "Even if you have doubts, my dear, you must accept the one in whose hands the crown appears. If you don't, the crown will vanish and the sword will reappear in the stone."
"You're making me very nervous, the way you say that."
"You should be. The Fates are harsh but impartial. Their choices are made without prejudice, with good reason. There have been many consort matches that seemed quite odd and unlikely, but resulted in stable and successful unions."
"What do you mean?"
"Some of the consorts chosen were ancient, or even deceased. The Fates actually resurrected and rejuvenated them to a similar age as the monarch. Those unions were exceptionally powerful matches."
"I never read anything about that in my research!"
"It is not something publicized. Most of the revived souls chose different names and did not attempt to renew ties with their living descendants, fearing that there would be conflict, especially over assets and control. Besides, as consort their allegiance and loyalties were rightfully directed towards their spouse, not their past families."
A small furrow creased Hermione's smooth white brow. "Is it ethical? Or even desirable? I mean, the Fates reviving dead witches and wizards! I don't think I'd be too happy if I was told I was going to be resurrected for the sole purpose of marrying a total stranger!"
"All past resurrected consorts confirmed they had freely agreed to the Fates' terms. And all of them became productive contributing members of Wizarding Society in their second lives."
"Who were they?"
Augusta rattled off a list of several well-known names from Wizarding history, many notable enough to have their own Chocolate Frog cards.
Hermione's expression turned pensive. "They were all powerful and brilliant. But there was nothing about them being a Consort in their biographies."
"There wouldn't be. It is not our way to record a magically bestowed title unless the recipient did something significant in regards to it. Most of the Consorts didn't, so the title wasn't added to their biographies. It is part of the Crown Magic. Unless they exercise the power they lose the title status. It is part of the reason why most of the traditions and history surrounding the Wizarding Monarch are not published but rather passed down orally through the generations in certain families or recorded in handwritten Family Grimoires," Augusta explained.
Hermione inhaled sharply. "Is there anything else I need to know about this Consort the Fates are going to choose for me?"
"This also is not common knowledge, but there has always been a tradition of balanced or contrasting pairings: if the Monarch is Light-oriented the Consort is Dark, and vice versa. Since you are a strongly Light-oriented witch you must be prepared for the possibility of a Dark-oriented Consort."
Hermione grimaced. "As long as the Fates don't bring me Voldemort, Grindelwald or some other psychotic Dark Lord, I suppose I'll be okay." She grinned more cheerfully. "Besides, from what you've said the Consort is always brilliant and intelligent. That leaves out most of the Dark Lords I know of." Her expression became cautiously thoughtful. "I think I would be okay with a Dark oriented consort as long as he doesn't call me Mudblood and look down on me as inferior."
"I don't think we have to worry about that, Miss Granger. Fate-Chosen Consorts are always more than what you could have ever imagined. And they are always constructively beneficial." Augusta Longbottom hesitated. "But...be prepared for anyone. He may be someone you know, someone you love or hate or have no real opinion of, or a complete stranger, but you must accept him because the union must be consummated and sealed within five hours of the bonding."
"What do you mean?"
Augusta raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure I don't need to define the word 'consummated' to an intelligent young woman like yourself."
Hermione paled. She hadn't considered this possibility but she was not ready to back off.
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