Due to the unfortunate quantities of deaths during the war and the increase in tensions between muggles and magical beings, on behalf of the new minister of magic, all wizards and witches between the ages of 17 and 35 must comply with a new wizarding law, effective on September 1 in order to ensure that the magical race does not die out:
1. Those in the designated age range are required to marry a member of the opposite sex within six months of the law's effect (March 1).
2. The only exceptions to this rule are those individuals currently convicted or suspected of being death eaters, violently unstable, or mentally ill.
3. A ministry official must preside over the proceedings.
4. Within a year, the couple must have, or being on the way to, having a child. If this has not happened, the couple will face an investigatory hearing and examination of both by St. Mungo's doctors.
5. Each wizard or witch will be assigned their marriage partner by the ministry's new committee.
6. Those witches or wizards who wish to submit for a different partner may do so within 3 months, as long as they can provide adequate proof that they have dated and attempted to be in a relationship with said partner.
7. This marriage will last for a course at least two years, at which time both parties may apply for a hearing at the ministry if they wish to separate. Only those in extreme situations will be allowed to separate. Those who do will be assigned a new partner, whom they must marry within three months.
8. Those who fail to comply with this law will be subjected to the immediate breaking of their wands, a ministry trail, and possible sentencing to Azkaban.
Each member will receive an owl from the ministry by September 1 with details of their chosen partner.
Former Head Auror
"Bloody hell," Ron says shakily as Hermione finishes reading the letter out loud. She looks up to find the entire Weasley clan sitting at the large kitchen table in the Burrow, clearly shocked by the turn of events. Can't we ever just have peace and quiet for once? We only just defeated Voldemort.
With a sigh she looks over to Harry. He has lost so much and now he has to deal with this? She observes him studying Ginny, worriedly, probably wondering what would happen if he didn't get paired with her.
She turns to find Ron looking at her, a curious expression on his face. He wants us to be together, I know he does. That should make me happy, right? I do love him. I really do. It would make me happy to be with him. And she truly believes that. Ron is all she has ever wanted. Fear overcomes Hermione as she wonders what will happen if she isn't placed with Ron.
Mrs. Weasley clears her throat suddenly, "Well, this is quite a shock, isn't it? But, no matter, no matter. We'll get through it. I think I'll go have a word with Kingsley tomorrow. Perhaps he'll change his mind," she states uncertainly.
"Dear, he won't. Trust me, many ministry members have been against this but Kingsley won't budge," replies Mr. Weasley.
"ARTHUR! Don't tell me you knew about this? How could you keep a secret like this from me?" He suddenly looks nervous and the kids take that as their cue to leave the room because things are getting awkward.
Fred and George, currently living at home because death eaters blew up their shop and apartment so they can't move back until it's rennovated, flop down on the couches in the living room.
"Reckon you'll get placed with Angelina, George?" Fred asked.
"Dunno. Maybe. Who'd you think you'll get?"
"Dunno. As long as it's not Pansy Parkinson. Real piece of work, that one."
George grins. "But the real question is, who's the poor sod that's going to be stuck with Ginny?"
"HEY! Just because you're jealous of my good looks-" Ginny looks at them, annoyed.
They only grin more and lean closer.
"We're not jealous of you, Gin."
"Yeah, how could we be?"
"We just don't fancy the git who has to put up with your temper-"
"Right nasty, it is."
"Shut it! At least I'm good looking, unlike you two prats," she growls and the twins shrug.
"Well, I do reckon I'm the better looking one, George. Sorry, someone had to break it to you. Glad it wasn't me."
George just rolls his eyes. "Oi! We're identical, you idiot!"
They continue to argue about who's better looking and Hermione just smiles. The bond between those two has always amazed her. Ron and Harry begin talking and she tunes in.
"I hope I get Ginny," Harry says worriedly, his face bleak.
"Better you than some other wanker, like Dean or Malfoy," shudders Ron.
"Don't even dare mention Malfoy as her husband, Ron."
"Right. Erm, who do you want to be paired with, Mione?" Ron looks at her nervously.
"It's not like I really have a choice, Ron. I'd like to be with you, but-"
Ron cuts her off, his arms encircling her and pulling her into a tight hug. "Me too," he whispers. She ignores the desire to push away, telling herself that she's just not used to be hugged by him yet and smiles.
"OI! Get a room!"
"Oh, shut up or I'll tell mum you used her cookware to brew your nosebleed nougat potion last week after your cauldrons blew up at your shop, " Ron sneers.
The twins' faces turn red. "You wouldn't dare..."
Fred and George turn toward one another. "Y'know, Fred, I do believe it's time we taught ickle Ronnykins a lesson or two about respecting his superiors."
"I think you're right, George. What do you think? Ton tongue toffee? Love potion? Or... maybe we should just keep you guessing. Let you get so nervous that you freak out like that one time that git, what's his name-'Kenneth Towler?-came out in boils because he was so nervous during O.W.L.S., d' you remember?'"
"'That's 'cause you put Bulbadox powder in his pyjamas.'"
"'Oh, yeah," Fred grins. "'I'd forgotten… hard to keep track sometimes, isn't it?'" [a/n: quote source: 6th book]
George just grins back and they walk away, leaving a slightly nervous Ron in their wake.
"I'd shake out your clothes before putting them on, Ron, if I were you," Ginny laughs before going upstairs.
Later that night, Hermione tries to fall asleep but fails miserably. What if I'm not placed with Ron? What if I get assigned to someone like Draco or Crabbe? Ugh. Or someone who doesn't respect me at all and wants me to stay home all day instead of work or someone-"
"Hermione? You okay? You keep tossing and turning," Ginny whispers from her side of the room they're sharing.
"I-I'm scared, Gin. What if I get placed with someone like Malfoy or someone who hates me and never lets me see your family and Harry again?"
"Oh, Hermione." She hears the covers rustle and sees Ginny's shadow walking across the room to her bed. "Can I get in?"
"Sure," she smiles at the girl who has become one of her beset friends as she lifts the covers. Ginny lays on her side, propping herself up on an elbow as she always does when they share a bed and talk.
"I'm scared too, Mione, but it'll be okay. The law said we could re-petition for a new partner and, besides, Kingsley is pretty reasonable. I'm sure he'll take our feelings into consideration."
"Yeah, you're probably right. Thanks, Gin."
They're silent for a few minutes and Hermione's almost drifted off to sleep when the door creaks open and Harry and Ron peer inside.
"Hermione? Ginny? You awake?"
"Mm. Go'way Ron! Trying to sleep here," Ginny mutters.
The boys come inside anyway and sit on Ginny's bed. Hermione sits up and leans against the wall, looking at their shadowy figures in the dark from over Ginny, who's almost asleep next to her. "What's wrong?"
"Couldn't sleep," they reply at the same time, looking at each other and laughing silently before sobering.
"Yeah," they both reply but don't say anything else, never being good at expressing their feelings.
Ginny screams, Hermione pulls out her wand and points it at the noise, Harry yells out a defensive spell so fast that it catches everyone off guard, and Ron's knocked to the ground as someone lands on top of him.
"Blimey! Shut up, you lot! Are you trying to make mum come up here," George whispers.
"Will you get off of me? You're crushing me!"
"Oh! Sorry." He moves to sit on the floor by his twin, who just moved from where he landed on top of Ron.
"Bloody hell. Why can't you two walk places like normal people?"
"Apparation saves us time, Ron."
"A bloody two seconds, maybe. You're just down the hall."
Hermione hears them moving around, getting more comfortable, and someone says, "Ouch! That's my foot you're stepping on!"
"Harry! You can't sit here," Ginny squeals as Harry tries to sit on the bed the girls are occupying.
"Oh, this is ridiculous! Lumos maxima!" Hermione smiles in satisfaction as everyone blinks in the sudden light. Harry turns to find himself sitting on Ginny's legs and gets up, his face red.
"What are you two doing here, anyway," Hermione asks the twins.
"Well, dear Hermione, we couldn't sleep and we heard Ron and Harry walking past our door-"
"Not exactly stealthy, are they?"
"And we figured they were coming in here to talk to you two-"
"So we thought we'd protect your honor from these two buggers," they finish happily.
"Aren't you worried about the marriage law? You two seem so happy," Ron asks.
"Course we're worried, Ron, but it's not like we can do anything about it-"
"Right now anyway."
"Besides, unlike you, we're able to charm most witches to fall in love with us-"
"Due to our dashing good looks."
"More like large supply of love potions," Ginny whispers and snorts.
They talk until the early hours of the morning, everyone wondering who they'll get paired with and secretly worrying about what will happen if it doesn't work out.
The next morning, Hermione wakes up to find that Ginny and Harry have already left the room. She sits up slowly and peers around, noting that Ron is still sleeping soundly on the floor and twins are curled up in Ginny's bed.
She gets up slowly, grabbing her clothes, and tiptoes to the loo, before quickly showering, changing, and pulling up her hair.
She walks down the stairs into the kitchen to find Mrs. Weasley bustling about, but Harry and Ginny are nowhere to be seen.
"Morning, Mrs. Weasley."
"Morning, Hermione. Breakfast will be ready shortly. Oh, there's a letter for you on the table, dear." She turns back to the stove and stirs something in a pot with her wand.
Hermione walks to the table and grabs the letter, her heart jolting at the familiar penminship.
She tears it open quietly and reads:
Your father and I are going on a business conference to Italy in a week, so I may not recieve any more post until then. We will be gone for two weeks. How are you doing, darling? I'm so glad you were able to spend the first half of the summer with us after you restored our memories (your father said to remind you that we are not mad about that anymore. We understand you did what was necessary for our safety and yours-you are so brave). We just wanted to check up on you and make sure that all your needs are being met by the Weasleys. Know that if you want to come and visit before we leave, you are more than welcome. But we also know that you belong with them, in their world, and need time with your friends. It's up to you, sweetie. Oh, and I'm sending you that package of books you requested from your room through Fed-ex.
Hermione smiles tearfully, missing her parents, but glad she was able to restore their memory after the war ended and that they bear no grudge toward her. She laughs to think of Fed-Ex arriving at the Weasley's front door. Hopefully Mr. Weasley won't be home to exclaim about the wonders of Muggle systems...
"What're you laughing about?" Ginny asks, plopping down next to her. Hermione looks at Harry, who also sits down and notes the guilty look he gives Mrs. Weasley. Clearly the two were outside somewhere, snogging just a few minutes ago.
"Oh, mum sent me a package through Fed-ex to the Burrow. I was just wondering how that would go."
She knows Harry gets what she means as he snorts into his orange juice.
SWIIIIISHHHHHHHH! Pillows come flying into the room and hover above their heads.
Mrs. Weasley looks up. "What in the?"
Her question is answered for her as the pillows explode and they are suddenly covered in feathers.
"FRED! GEORGE! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT THIS INSTANCE! FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! I JUST CLEANED THIS KITCHEN! YOU WOULD THINK BY NOW THAT YOU TWO WOULD GROW UP A LITTLE AND LEARN..."
Her voice fades away as she storms upstairs and the trio just look at each other in surprise.
Ron stumbles into the room, looking bewildered. "Bloody hell, can't we ever have a quiet morning around here?" Another pillow zooms from who knows where and promptly explodes above his head, raining him with feathers.
Hermione, Ginny, and Harry burst out laughing.
They spend the next month-and-a-half of summer that way, lazing around the Burrow. Fred and George re-brew their joke shop supplies during the day, barely coming out of their room, while Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Ginny spend their days by the quidditch pitch or nearby lake, avoiding Mrs. Weasley. She seems to think they should spend their free time doing chores around the house or de-gnoming the garden.
It's the end of August, now, and their letters could arrive any day. Ginny and Hermione are laying on the grass by the lake.
"Hmm?" She looks up absently from her book to find Ginny staring at her instead of her Witches' Weekly magazine.
"Do you think we'll get them soon?"
Even without saying it, Herimone knows what Ginny's talking about. It's been the subject of many conversations at the Burrow in the past month. "Maybe."
"Are you nervous?"
"Yes, but I'm trying not to think of it."
"Oh. Sorry," Ginny whispers, then pauses. "Mione?"
"What if I don't get placed with Harry?"
"Oh, Gin. I'm sure you'll get placed with Harry. If not, you'll just have to re-petition."
"Yeah, you're right. I'll get Harry and you'll get Ron and everything will be exactly like it's supposed to be."
Yes, exactly, she thinks. But why doesn't she feel content, then?
"OI!" Ron runs up to them, breathless. "C'mon! The letters have just arrived. Mum's about to throw a fit."
The girls sit up with a start and grab their stuff before running back with Ron to the Burrow. They arrive out of breath in the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley, the twins, and Harry are already there, everyone varying between degrees of nervousness and downright denial about the situation.
"We're just waiting for Arthur. He's coming home from the ministry. I just floo'ed him the message."
Everyone sits down at the table, picking up their respective letters.
CRACK! Mr. Weasley arrives and walks into the room. "All right, now. No need to panic." His statement seems to apply more to himself as he is the only one who looks like he's about to faint.
"Reckon we should just open them all at the same time. Seems only fair," mutters George. Fred nods in agreement, as does everyone else.
"On the count of three, then. One, two... three," whispers Mr. Weasley.
The sound of tearing fills the room as people rip open their letters. Hermione reads hers in entirety:
Ms. Hermione Jean Granger,
This letter is to inform you that you are subjected to comply with the new wizarding marriage law act, effective on September 1 of this year. This law requires that you date and marry the assigned individual within six months (March 1) and produce offspring within one year. If you fail to comply with this law, ministry officials will arrive to destroy your wand and you will be subjected to an investigatory hearing. For further information, please consult the enclosed full parameters of the law.
Your assigned spouse:
Mr. Frederick Weasley
All questions may be directed to Head of the Marital Law Committee, Mr. Fidelius Green.
Minster of Magic.
Hermione hears gasps all around the table and it becomes absolute chaos as everyone finishes their letters. Ginny launches herself at Harry and they begin snogging immediately. George is grinning like an absolute idiot. Ron looks furious and Fred... Fred is staring at her with an un-readable expression on his face. They lock eyes and only Ron's voice draws them out of it.
"OI! That's my sister you're snogging! Knock it off!"
"Nose out, Ron. He's my fiance now. I'd say he has a right." Mrs. Weasley squeals at the news, enveloping Harry and Ginny in a giant hug and starts in a tirade about how she always knew that they would end up together.
"Now, now. Let's just calm down, everyone. How about we go around and see who everyone got," Mrs. Weasley manages to choke out between her tears of joy at Harry becoming an official part of the family.
"Angelina," he says, grinning. Fred claps him on the back, stunned but happy for his twin that George got his current girlfriend.
"Parvarti Patil." Everyone gasps and heads swivel around to study Hermione's reaction. Ron looks at her too, quite upset.
"Who'd you get, Mione?"
"I-I... well, please don't be upset, Ron, but..."
"Me," states Fred loudly. Everyone turns to look at him and Mrs. Weasley gets up with a gasp, blubbering again about how Hermione will be a part of the family too and enveloping her in a hug.
Ron's face, meanwhile, has turned quite red. "You? Bloody hell! This is ridiculous! They assign my own git of a brother to marry my girlfriend! Rubbish!"
"Language, Ronald!" Mrs. Weasley reprimands him, but he ignores her as he stomps from the room.
The air is tense around them and people quietly start leaving the table. First, Harry and Ginny leave (probably to go somewhere and snog), then Mr. Weasley, and finally, George, after having a silent conversation with his twin, gets up.
Mrs. Weasley remains there, unwilling to leave, and Fred slowly gets up as he walks to Hermione's chair, where her eyes are downcast, refusing to meet anyone else's.
"Take a walk with me, Hermione?"
She looks up to find that same in-definable expression on his face. "O-okay."
They walk to the lake in silence, only speaking once they arrive.
"So. Me and you, huh? Who'd have guessed it?" His attempt at joking, however, doesn't make her laugh.
She sits down, drawing her knees up to her chest and staring at the lake.
"Hermione? You okay?"
"N-no. I'm so sorry this happened, Fred. I mean, Ron hates both of us now and you get stuck with your brother's girlfriend. Not to mention I'm two years younger. Oh! This is such a mess!"
"Hey, hey now," he says softly as he gently grasps her chin and forces her to look at him in the face. "First of all, my brother's a prat and I never knew what you saw in him. And it doesn't bother me that you're two years younger, Hermione. I'd rather have you than someone I don't know."
"Were you dating anyone?"
"No," he says sadly and then, to his absolute surprise she bursts out in tears.
"I'm so s-s-sick of this! We just finished the war and n-now we have to deal with t-this... It's not fair!" He pauses for a moment, unsure what to do before he puts his arms around her and tugs her into his lap. She stiffens before registering the comfort of his arms and his hard chest. She leans against him and cries, enjoying the feeling of safety she gets from being in his arms.
He just softly holds her and rocks back and forth whispering, "Shh. It'll be okay. Hush now."
After a few minutes, Hermione pulls back and jumps off of him, blushing. "I'm so sorry, Fred! I didn't mean to do that!"
"It's okay. I reckon it's been awhile since you've had a good cry on a nice set of shoulders, anyway," he winks.
She just blushes more and then straightens up resolutely. "Well. There's nothing we can do about it now. We'll have to date for three months and then re-petition so that I can end up with, Ron. Right?"
"Of course," but his eyes look slightly sad.
"Until then, however, I think you'll make a great prank partner. Wanna help me prank him?"
A look of horror comes over her face. "Fred Weasley! What are you planning?"
He just grins evilly as the walk back to the Burrow. "Just a little something to get back at him for calling me a git. That's all."
She just shakes her head and smiles despite herself.
These next three months could be interesting.