Author's Note: This is my own spin on the Marriage Law challenge. I've striven to write something new and to avoid some of the tropes I often find in the other Marriage Law fics. So first of all, don't expect them to fall in love right away. I'm trying very hard to keep everyone in-character. Secondly, the backstory is canon except for Snape's survival. Thirdly, I hope you enjoy my take on this! Don't be afraid to click on that little button that says "Review."

By the Order

of the

Ministry

of

Magic

All unwed witches and wizards over the age of seventeen are required to wed and move in with their chosen partner by the end of this year. Any over-age witch or wizard who chooses an underage spouse must apply for a waiver by the Head of Magical Law Enforcement as well as permission from the underage spouse's parents, provided that the chosen spouse is no less than sixteen and no less than one year younger than the over-age party, in which case the over-age witch or wizard must select another partner. Any over-age witch or wizard found without a chosen spouse by the 15th of December must complete the application within this pamphlet and send it in to have a compatible spouse chosen for them by the Ministry of Magic.

The above decree will go into effect immediately. For your own safety, it is imperative that you wed before the New Year. Any witch or wizard who remains unwed will suffer the effects of a possibly harmful curse placed upon Decree Number 612 by You-Know-Who during the downfall of the Ministry. It should also be known that married couples must cohabitate to avoid the effects of said curse.

Signed,

Minister of Magic

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Hermione Granger lowered the purple and gold-emblazoned pamphlet, her face blank despite the shock coursing through her.

There were whispers all around her, students all up and down the long Gryffindor table standing and craning their necks to see who else had gotten the purple pamphlet by owl just moments before, their breakfasts forgotten as their mutterings and exclamations filled the Great Hall.

"It must be a joke!"

"Come off it, who sent these?"

"Who expects us to believe this rubbish?"

"Get married? Ha! I only just turned seventeen last week!"

"Did you get one, too?" a voice whispered into Hermione's ear.

Hermione jumped slightly and looked around. Ginny had slid unnoticed into the seat beside her.

"It must be a joke," Ginny said, echoing the students around her. Lowering her voice she added, "Right?"

"I don't know." Hermione bit her lip and looked up at the staff table, where the teachers were all in deep, serious conversation, glancing nervously at the buzzing Great Hall every few seconds. "They seem rather worried, don't they? And it's a rather feeble joke, don't you think?"

"What sort of curse d'you think You-Know-Who could have put on a decree?" Ginny asked, frowning.

"I'm not sure I want to know," Hermione said with a sigh. "Something very nasty, I'm sure. But I wonder what this Decree Number 612..."

Her voice was drowned out by the ringing of the bell. With a terrified squeak, she jumped up and threw her bag over her shoulder.

"I'm going to be late for Potions!" she moaned.

"We're going to be late for Potions," Ginny corrected her as she too shouldered her bag.

They rushed out of the Great Hall, pushing through the waves of students who were still puzzling over the Ministry pamphlet. By the time they'd hurried down the stone steps and reached the door to the Potions classroom, the second bell was already ringing.

"Weasley, Granger, you're late," said the familiar, sneering voice as they entered. "Ten points from Gryffindor."

Throwing Snape's back a look of deepest loathing as he turned to write today's potion on the blackboard, Ginny flung herself into a seat at the back. Hermione joined her in tight-lipped silence; though she found herself longing to throw a diatribe at the Potions Master and Daily Prophet-coined war hero, she had withstood his mistreatment long enough to know opening her mouth would only land them in even more trouble.

"Evil git," Ginny growled, glaring at Snape as he began to lecture them on the correct way to brew a Rejuvenation Elixir. "We were only a second late!"

The corners of Hermione's mouth twitched as she copied down Snape's words. She could remember a time, so long ago, when Ginny's brother had said almost exactly the same thing...

As Snape moved away from the blackboard to sit behind his desk and her fellow N.E.W.T. students began to bustle around and start their potions, Hermione allowed herself to wonder what her two best friends were doing at that very moment at the Auror Headquarters.

Despite her many pleadings and insistences that nothing was more important than having a full education, they had refused to return with her to complete their seventh year. She could understand why, of course; how could they turn down Kingsley's offer of becoming Aurors even without their N.E.W.T. levels? What did the man who brought about the downfall of the most evil wizard of their time and the best friend who'd helped him need with N.E.W.T.'s?

Of course, Kingsley's offer had extended to Hermione too, but she had refused. She had known even when she'd told Harry, so long ago, that she would go with him to find the Horcruxes that she wasn't really giving up her seventh year, but delaying it. The idea of not returning to Hogwarts afterward had never even crossed her mind.

She was not lost in thought for long, for today's potion was exceptionally difficult and Snape was prowling amongst the students, looking for a victim to torture, and Hermione was determined that it would not be her. Concentrating fully on her potion, she was soon even able to drive the Ministry pamphlet she'd received that morning from her mind.

At the end of the lesson, Snape passed her perfect Rejuvenation Elixir without comment. Although she was quite used to this, as he'd treated her exceptional potions the same for six years, she felt a twinge of agitation. She would have thought that being awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class for his bravery during the war would have cheered him up at least a little.

"Why is he even teaching Potions again?" Hermione wondered aloud as she and Ginny left the smoke-filled dungeon and headed toward the common room for their free period. "I would've thought he'd go back to Defense the Dark Arts after stepping down from the Headmastership."

"Maybe they couldn't find another Potions Master after Slughorn retired again," Ginny shrugged. "So he stepped aside for a new DADA professor instead."

Somehow, Hermione didn't think so, but didn't get the chance to voice her disagreement. They'd just entered the common room, which was packed with sixth and seventh years, most of whom were holding the purple pamphlets and talking in serious tones. Until then, she'd managed to forget all about the decree.

"McGonagall reckons it's not a joke," a gloomy Dean Thomas told Hermione as she sat in her favorite armchair by the fire. Dean was one of the few of her fellow classmates who'd returned for their last year at Hogwarts. "I was sent to her office this morning after – er – accidentally spilling a Swelling Solution on a Slytherin. She seemed a bit grim, but said the decree's legit."

"This is ridiculous!" Ginny exclaimed angrily, pounding the arm of her chair with her fist. "How can they make us get married? I've only just turned seventeen, for heaven's sake! I'm not ready for marriage!"

"At least you have someone to marry," Hermione said dryly. "And let's face it, you would have probably ended up marrying Harry anyway. It's just a bit sooner than you expected."

"Why would the Ministry make up a law like this?" Dean asked. "You don't think they're still under the influence of a Death Eater, do you?"

Hermione slowly shook her head. "No. Remember what the last bit said? They're trying to counteract another decree Pius Thicknesse – or rather, Lord Voldemort – put into effect during his rule. I just wonder what this decree 612 is..."

Her voice trailed away as she stared unseeingly at a gold-and-crimson tapestry over Ginny's head. Then, jumping up, she threw her bag over her shoulder again. "I'll be in the library," she said hurriedly, before rushing out of the portrait hole. Ginny and Dean, neither of whom were strangers to her rushing off to the library, rolled their eyes and started on that day's homework.

XXXXX

Hermione spent the rest of the free period searching through copies of the Daily Prophet dating back over the last year and a half. When the bell rang for lunch she ignored her growling stomach and continued to flip through each issue; the desire to just know was gnawing at her, burning her insides, the same way it used to back in the old days when she was trying to find Nicolas Flamel, or trying to help Harry find out how to breathe underwater, or trying to find out who the Half-Blood Prince could be...

Finally, just minutes before her next Transfiguration lesson, she found it. The slightly-yellowed edition was dated January 1st of that year. The front cover was dominated by large writing:

Ministry of Magic Demands Reestablishment of Bloodlines

In a surprise move, Pius Thicknesse, Minister of Magic, signed Decree Number 612 this morning, a law decreeing that all unwed witches and wizards who have been given Blood-Status are required to marry and cohabitate with another established witch or wizard by the end of this year. Thicknesse, seen below speaking before the International Confederation of Warlocks, says this change is necessary for the reestablishment of pure bloodlines hitherto sullied by Muggles, previously known as Muggle-borns, who have stolen magic from unsuspecting purebloods.

"The sooner over-age witches and wizards marry and bear magical children, the sooner our society will heal from the damage done to it by the thieves previously known as Mudbloods," says Thicknesse. "If we do not make it mandatory, we fear witches and wizards will either continue to marry Muggle-borns, thereby dirtying our bloodlines further, or end their bloodlines altogether by staying unmarried and childless. It is crucial that we revive our dwindling pureblood population, and if it must be done by force, so it shall be."

It has been hinted that there will be dire repercussions for those who either refuse to abide by the law, or who are unable to find a mate by the end of this year:

"The Ministry will know who has heeded this decree and who has not," Thicknesse added. "There have been certain spells and charms cast to ensure that everyone obeys it. And believe me, the consequences won't be pretty if you don't."

Hermione felt sick as she replaced the newspaper in its folder. Distantly, she heard the bell ring and stood, distractedly shouldering her bag and heading for the Transfiguration classroom.

It was certain, then. Voldemort had cursed the decree so that something horrible would happen to those who disobeyed it, and the newly re-formed Ministry didn't know how to lift the spell. Unmarried witches and wizards everywhere would have to wed, whether they were ready for it or not.

With a sinking sensation, Hermione realized this meant she would have to get married too, and she had less than two months to find a husband.