AN: So…..yeah. It's been a long time since I updated this story. I apologize. Real life made me quit writing for a very long time. But I am back and hopefully I can start pumping out chapters faster. I have a lot of little story bunnies in my head and they all demand to be written, but this story gets top priority. I hope you enjoy!

Hermione POV

"Wow Hermione, you look...well you look good." Hermione heard Harry say as he and Ginny walked up to her in the lobby of the ministry.

"One of these days you are gonna stop doubting my ability to clean up well Harry Potter." Hermione said, complimenting the pair. She hated ministry functions but this one in particular she didn't mind so much. It was a reminder of how strong and resilient people could be, a reminder that they had to come together and not fall prey to fear, prejudice, and hate. She didn't like being singled out as 'one of the golden trio' but she could live with it if it meant giving people a symbol. Something to strive to be or to represent hope. The memorial ball was an important thing to the wizarding community.

"Hermione!" Ginny said hugging her friend enthusiastically and whisked her away to the ladies room.

"Hermione you look stunning tonight. My brother is gonna go crazy for you!" Ginny exclaimed excitedly. "He should be here any minute. He left the house a little after we did. Said he had something to do first. I bet I know what that means!" She said in a sing song voice wiggling her empty ring finger at Hermione.

"Oh stop Ginny." Hermione said blushing a little. "You...you really think he'll pop the question?" She asked contemplatively. "Of course he will! You two have been together for forever and you should have been together even before that! It's the perfect time. Think of how romantic it would be, and what a moment for the press! It would be amazing!" Ginny said a little dreamily and Hermione rolled her eyes. She loved her friend's dramatic romantic notions and the desperation she had for Hermione to be officially tied to her family.

"We'll see. Come on, Harry's gonna want you back." She said leading Ginny out of the girl's bathroom.

Ron and Harry were waiting when she got out and Hermione couldn't help the small bit of satisfaction that came to her face as Ron looked at her. His face was similar to when she had showed up to the Yule Ball with Victor. That had been a good night for her, but being with Ron made any night like this a thousand times better.

"Blimey Hermione...you...uh...I...wow." He stammered offering her his arm.

"Like what you see?" She teased taking it and walked into the elaborate ballroom the Ministry had used for the occasion. It was an amazing display of silks, velvets, color and jewelry. Every witch and wizard dressed in their best.

Ron did the gentlemanly thing and got them something to drink, but soon he was surrounded by people who wanted to hear more about their 'adventures' before the battle at Hogwarts. She was soon shoved off of his side and she listened as Ron regaled people with tales, taking credit and changing things to make himself look better. Nevermind when he had given up and left her and Harry to fend for themselves.

She found herself getting farther and farther from Ron. It was painful, one of the things she hated about Ron. Whenever he had a chance to take the spotlight, he ran with it. She thought it might have been a side affect of being one of so many Weasleys, just wanting to stand out. It was like when he was a keeper and Gryffindor's hero. She felt just as insignificant and unnoticed by him as she did then, only now she didn't have Harry to lean on. He was slow dancing in the corner with Ginny, the two of them lost in their own world. Hermione wanted that, she could spout all she wanted about women's independence and not needing anyone but when it boiled down to it, she wanted someone to look at her the way that Harry looked at Ginny. Ron didn't anymore. They were comfortable, and it was sort of burning at Hermione's insides.

"Did somebody say Draco Malfoy?" Draco said popping up behind Hermione with an amused smirk. Hermione jumped and turned around.

"Mr. Malfoy! You scared me." She said laughing a little as she looked at him. He had come out of nowhere, he had a way of doing that. Of course he would look good. The man was made to wear tailored suits. This one was exceptionally stunning, sleek and a dark metallic grey.

"You can drop the Malfoy stuff Granger. Adding 'Mr.' to the front of it doesn't make it any less malicious. You can call me by my first name." He pointed out and Hermione bit back the urge to say that he still used her last name. Though recently it had seemed like more of a nickname than a dig.

"Very well, what are you doing slumming it with me Draco?" She asked.

"I was wondering if you might fancy a dance." Draco offered and Hermione looked at him as if he had a third eye.

"Of course. I'd be happy to." She replied poised, regaining her composure. She offered her hand to Draco and walked out onto the ballroom floor with him. As it turned out, Draco wasn't a bad dancer. Not nearly as bad as Ron or Harry anyway. He knew how to lead and Hermione didn't have to think about where she was stepping with him.

"Enjoying the party?" Hermione heard him ask from what sounded like a distance, even though they were close together.

"It's a party...I'm sick of the fanfare really." Hermione said. She didn't have to front with Draco because she didn't care what he thought of her. He already hated her so it really couldn't get worse from there. At least that's what she was telling herself as they moved around the floor.

"I know that feeling. After a while all the parties blur, the food tastes the same, the champagne tastes flat, and the conversation is all different variations of the same thing. My mother liked to throw grand parties when I was younger, they still stuck with me it seems." He offered in that sort of standoffish tone of his.

"Hmm, I suppose it's similar." Hermione conceded. "Why did you come tonight then?" She asked curiously.

" I have to show everyone I'm being a good boy. Besides...I'm alone too often." Draco said with an honesty that stunned Hermione.

"Ah...right..." She said and would have said something if Ron hadn't stepped up next to them. Of course when someone else was dancing with her he would come. That's just how Ron was.

"Can I cut in?" He growled glaring at Draco who stepped aside. "Goodnight Hermione...Weasley." He sneered, glaring right back at him. At least some things never changed. It was unnerving and frustrating at the same time.

"Ron...what was that all about?" she asked irritated as Ron awkwardly steered them away from Draco.

"What do you mean what was that about? He was dancing with you Hermione. Have you forgotten who he is?" He asked as if she were brain dead.

She shrugged. "People change Ronald. You did." She retorted with a little bit of a growl herself, irritated by all the hate. Tonight was about forgetting that burning hatred and burying the hatchet. Ifnyone Had Ri

"Anyway...I wanted to talk to you." He said but as he started to speak, Kingsley Shacklebolt took the stage.

He put a big hand up and smiled at the crowd. "Thank you, thank you all for your support. Thank you for coming tonight and showing the wizarding world what being united is all about." He said and then his smile faltered. He became almost...solemn. It was disconcerting, even for Kingsley.

"Speaking of staying united...it...it is my unfortunate duty to announce something tonight. The wizarding world is healing. We all know that it has been a slow process. The war took a big toll on our magical families and especially on our children. So much talent and promise was lost. Now, it is our duty to rebuild, to make the wizarding world what it once was. And so, it is with great solemnity that I announce that we are bringing back The Marriage Act of 1873. All witches of a certain age will be required to register. We have made the laws a bit more reasonable. All witches have a year to find a suitable mate before one will be appointed for them. Please, do not despair at this news. This is a chance to form even stronger bonds in our community and bring joy out of so much darkness. Thank you and enjoy your evening. " He said softly.

The second he got off the stage, the murmurs started and were a dull roar against the soft music that played. Hermione was speechless. Ususally laws were part of the rumor mill at work. Anyone who worked in the ministry got wind of them months in advance. This was completely out of the blue and she wasn't sure what to do. She felt the world spinning around her and she couldn't seem to get the air in fast enough.

Hermione watched in sort of a dozing state as Ginny and Harry came up to her happily. "Well….that was unexpected." They said trying to hide their happiness because for them, this just made the process go a little faster. it cut through the red tape of having to have a big wedding. They could just go down to the Ministry like they had originally wanted before Molly got her hands on their wedding plans.

"Yeah….it….was." Hermione said in a very uncharacteristically inarticulate way.

"Guess this means there are wedding bells in your future. Congrats!" Ginny said unaware of the rolling turmoil within Hermione.

Ron chose that moment to come up to her looking a sickly green color. "We should get going then." He said quietly, shuffling his feet. Hermione knew he was referring to home. She knew how to apparate but sometimes she preferred to just drive places. It was cathartic. So she had insisted on driving to the ministry that night. She was starting to regret that decision.

The ride home passed in silence, horribly awkward and forced. Hermione decided to be the brave one and broach the topic that was hanging so thickly in the air between them in the confined space of the car.

"So….pretty big announcement." She said hoping to lead him into talking about it.

"Yeah." Ron replied gruffly and hermione felt a little deflated.

"Are we going to talk about this?" She asked more bluntly.

" What's there to talk about Hermione. We apparently have to get married." He said with a little bit of a sneer which shocked the hell out of Hermione. They had been a little distant lately but nothing so bad as to make him sneer.

"Why do you say it like that? Don't you love me?" She asked with a little bit of a tremor in her voice, pulling the car over as her hands started to shake.

"I say that because I don't want to be forced into it. I….I can't do it Hermione. I won't." He said simply and looked at her almost pleadingly.

"Wait….are you saying that you don't want to marry me?" She asked.

"I'm saying I don't want to marry ANYONE and I can't marry you." He stated.

"So….what does that mean for us? Because according to Kingsley...I've got a year to put a ring on my finger and a man in my home." She said, her breath starting to come in shallow panicked heaves.

"I don't know. I just….I can't do it Hermione." Ron said not even looking her in the eyes.

"Ron...I….you are…." She kept trying to start sentences and everything she was going to say was horrible. In the end the rage and pain that was emanating from her very core prevented her from saying anything.

"Apparate home. I can't stand to be around you any longer." She said and then apparated to her apartment, falling into her bed and cried herself to sleep.

Draco POV

Draco was pulling off his gloves as he walked through the manor and contemplated what had transpired through the night. He was surprised that something as archaic as the old marriage law was being enacted. With all of the 'equality' and 'rebirth' that had happened in the past years, he thought the Ministry was doing away with much of the old world. Obviously he was wrong.

His mother came into the room looking pale but beautiful as ever, even aging could not wane the regal look she had about her. He gave her a soft kiss on her cheek and let himself be embraced by her.

"Hello Draco, how was the ball?" She asked in a soft spoken tone.

"It was eventful." He said a little ruefully and then went on to explain the events that had occurred that night. He told it all and left out nothing, watching the emotions play out on his mother's face. By the time he was done, she was an unreadable block again but that didn't surprise him. Narcissa had years of practice covering up what she truely thought.

"This is a good opportunity for us." She finally said after a long moment of silence. "Our family name has been stained almost beyond repair. A name once revered in the wizarding world is now reviled and sneered at." She said with a quiet sort of anger. She had stopped supporting her husband when he went too far with his beliefs, but it didn't mean that her reaching and social climbing ways were through for. Narcissa was still her family's daughter through and through. The advancement of her family was and always would be her number one priority and Draco was painfully aware of that.

"I know mother." Draco said with a minor bit of irritation.

"There will be plenty of young women who will be in need of a good match. Be careful my son. Find one that will advance our family further and do your heritage proud." She said delicately. Draco frowned and just nodded, saying a very curt goodnight to his mother and went to his room.

He laid on his bed and unbidden thoughts of Hermione floated to his mind. He saw her there, dancing in his arms, with a slight smile on her face. It had felt like nothing he had encountered before and for some reason he couldn't place, he couldn't get it out of his head. His mind traveled to what it would be like to see that smile on a daily basis. His mind came up with all sorts of livid fantasies both wanted and unwanted in a matter of seconds before he stamped them down and rolled over with a jerk.

"She's too good for you Draco. You have no right to think about her." He grumbled and then went to sleep, Hermione popping into his thoughts there too.

AN: Alright boys and girls. That's all for this chapter. It was a little weird but it took me a while to figure out where I wanted it to go and several versions got written. I don't really care for any of them but I hated this one the least. It gets better from here on out. I promise. Much love to all of my lovely readers! Be kind, rewind. Wait….wrong saying. Whatever. You guys have been around this site long enough to know the drill. Reviews are love. 3