A/N: Many thanks to Muggle Jane and Krissy for looking this over. Thanks for all the reviews! I'm pleased to see so many people are enjoying this so far! xx
Disclaimer: The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
"Miss Granger, I suggest we move down to my office where I can make us some tea," Professor McGonagall said, helping Hermione to stand. She gave Hermione a sympathetic look.
She nodded as she sniffled, reaching up to wipe away her tears. She followed her Head of House through the hallways, not paying attention to any of the students who were currently staring at her.
When they entered the office, Professor McGonagall transfigured the chairs into a couch, moving it in front of the fire. She then motioned for Hermione to sit on the couch while she went to make the tea.
Hermione was thankful for the warmth of the fire. She hadn't realized how cold she had become in the Astronomy Tower until now. Looking around, she saw there was a quilt on the back of the couch. Grabbing it, she wrapped it around her shoulders, hoping Professor McGonagall wouldn't mind. She inhaled deeply, trying to calm her nerves. The blanket smelled like her grandmother's house.
Professor McGonagall returned a few moments later with two cups of tea. She handed Hermione a cup, and then took a seat on the couch next to her. "Hermione, since it's just the two of us, I will allow you to call me Minerva."
"Are you sure? It doesn't seem very appropriate," Hermione mumbled, a blush spreading across her cheeks.
Minerva laughed. "It's fine. Besides, I imagine with everything going on, the two of us are going to become rather close."
"Thank you," Hermione muttered softly. She sipped her tea.
The two of them were silent for a few minutes.
Minerva studied her student with a heaviness in her heart. She couldn't believe the absurdity of this law. No student should be subject to marriage!
Hermione had her life to look forward to; she shouldn't have to throw it away because of some stupid law. Minerva hoped that someone decent would petition for her. Hermione deserved at least a small chance of happiness with her future spouse.
Minerva had known at once that this was Voldemort's doing. Only he would push forward a law such as this.
Albus would have to do something to prevent anything bad from happening to Hermione. She would have to ensure that he did so. And if he doesn't, I will, she thought fiercely.
Hermione spoke up. "What will happen to me?"
Minerva took a deep breath. "I don't know, dear. Nothing bad, of course; I'll make sure of that."
Hermione gave her a small smile. "Thank you for this."
"Hermione, dear, you know I hold you in the highest respect. If you need anything, you mustn't hesitate to ask me," Minerva told her. "I mean anything."
"Thank you." Hermione finished her tea in silence. She was exhausted and there wasn't much else to say. "I think I'm going to head back to Gryffindor Tower."
"I'll walk you there," Minerva said, standing.
"Oh, you don't have to," Hermione replied, straightening her robes.
"Dear, it's past curfew now. Besides, I don't want Filch giving you any trouble."
The two of them walked to the tower in silence. Hermione was still trying to come to terms with what happened today. She couldn't believe she would have to get married soon.
Hermione shook her head. There was nothing she could do to change it. She would simply have to hope for the best.
She hated feeling so out of control.
They stopped outside the portrait. "Thank you again, Professor," Hermione said, giving the older woman a smile.
Minerva smiled back at her. "You can come to my office at any time, just remember that."
"I will. Thank you," Hermione said. The portrait of the Fat Lady swung open, and Hermione climbed through the portrait hole. Harry and Ron were sitting on the couch waiting for her.
"Hermione!" Harry cried, jumping up to greet her. He threw his arms around her, squeezing her tightly. Hermione hugged him back tightly, tears welling in her eyes.
Ron hung back, his hands shoved in his pockets. "You okay?"
She stepped back from Harry shrugging. "Not really."
The three of them sat down in front of the fire.
"I'm so scared," she whispered. Hermione had always liked to be in control of her life, and it seemed that her control was quickly slipping.
Harry squeezed her hand. "Everything will be alright."
"How can you say that Harry? She has to get married!" Ron shouted angrily, causing a few younger students to glance at them.
Hermione let out a sigh. It appeared Ron was still in an argumentative mood.
Harry, however, wasn't going to put up with Ron's attitude. "Hermione needs us, Ron, so you can shove your temper up your arse or go to bed. Your choice."
"Fine," he grumbled. He glanced away from them and stared at the fire.
Hermione knew this was proof that Ron fancied her. Her heart ached, knowing that the two of them would never have a chance now. In all honesty, she couldn't see them working out as a couple, but it still bothered her that the choice had been taken from her.
"I'm just scared. What if I end up with Malfoy or some other Death Eater?" A sob escaped from her lips.
Harry rubbed her back, trying to calm her down. Hermione was crying fully now.
"Hermione," Ron said quietly. "You know none of us would ever let that happen. Dumbledore wouldn't either."
Harry nodded in agreement. "I'm sure Dumbledore is figuring out something right now! You'll see! Everything will be alright."
She sighed. "I hope you're right, because with everything going on, I don't need the added stress of this."
Harry grinned. "Don't worry."
Hermione smiled sadly. She loved the two of them dearly. They were her best friends, and no matter the situation they were able to cheer her up, even if only slightly.
"Can we talk about something else?" Hermione asked, prompting for the discussion to take a new turn.
"Well, I don't like Professor Slughorn," Ron grumbled. "But I hate Snape teaching Defense even more."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's Professor Snape, Ronald, and he isn't that bad at Defense. He's actually lived most of it so he's speaking from experience. We could learn a lot from him."
Harry rolled his eyes. "It's not his past, it's part of his present. Snape's a Death Eater, Hermione."
She sighed. "No, he isn't! Harry, Dumbledore trusts him, and do you think Dumbledore would allow a Death Eater to roam the halls of this school?"
"He is! Malfoy is one, too!" Harry protested.
Hermione shook her head. "Harry, we've gone over this. Malfoy is a git, but he would never be a Death Eater."
"But he disappears! I watch the Marauders Map at night, and his dot just disappears!" Harry exclaimed. He was convinced Malfoy was a Death Eater, and she wasn't going to be able to convince him otherwise.
Ron shrugged. "There's no way to know for sure. We don't have evidence yet, Harry."
Hermione didn't like the way Ron added the 'yet.' It made it seem as if the two of them were planning something. She let out a yawn. "I'm going to bed, boys."
"Night, Hermione," Ron said, giving her a tight hug.
"Night, Hermione," Harry said, hugging her as well.
She waved to them and climbed up the stairs to her bedroom. She was absolutely knackered, and just wanted to crawl under her sheets.
Lavender was up, whispering to Parvati. She glanced at Hermione when she walked in.
"Hermione, we're so sorry," Lavender said, sending her a look of pity.
Hermione grimaced. "I'd rather not talk about it." She quickly changed into her pajamas and crawled into bed. Pulling the curtains around her bed tightly, she cast a silencing charm around it. Putting the pillow over her face, she let out a scream of frustration.
That night, Hermione cried until she fell asleep.