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A/N: Shameless plug time!
Writing for the Fic Exchange at the DG Forum has concluded, and stories will be posted from tomorrow. That means more than a dozen anonymous, shiny, new and - most importantly - completed Draco/Ginny stories for you to read over the next few weeks!
Go and check it out, as all the writers (myself included) have been working really hard to give y'all some quality fics. You can find all the links on my profile.
Many thanks to Hannah Askance, Samurai-Kagome and idreamofdraco who all had a hand in editing this chapter/story concept for awesomeness.
Of Marriage Laws and Liberal Feminism
"Have you heard?" Hermione asked me breathlessly as she barged through my front door, unwinding the woollen scarf wrapped around her neck that looked suspiciously like my mother's handiwork.
I followed her through to the kitchen, setting the kettle to boil with a wave of my wand. "If you're trying to get me to join S.P.E.W. again, it's not going to-"
"No, no," she assured me as she fell into a nearby chair, her hands resting on her extremely pregnant stomach. "It's not about that. Or rather, it is about welfare, but not for the house-elves."
I crossed my arms and leant against the ancient oven completing my rustically furnished kitchen. Mum had insisted I would absolutely need one, despite the fact I could barely make toast without burning it. Then again, she'd absolutely insisted that I marry Harry, and look how that turned out. "Fine, but you need to stop getting so worked up. I'm sure it's not healthy for the baby-"
"The baby's fine, and this is important-"
"Merlin, Hermione, could you at least let me finish my sentences? What's gotten into you?"
She shook her head, then pulled a folded copy of the Prophet from her pocket and slapped it onto the table. "The Ministry's done it. They've actually done it."
I tried not to roll my eyes, sure that they'd finally passed a bill for the regulation of magical libraries, or some such nonsense, but froze as I caught the title of the article covering the front page.
Wizengamot To Introduce Arranged Marriage Act
"No," I hissed in disbelief. "I thought that pamphlet George sent me the other week was a joke. They can't do that!"
Hermione leant over the article, reading aloud, "For all the single ladies of wizarding Britain: It's your lucky day! No longer must you torture yourself in order to chase down the ever-elusive bachelor tugging at your heartstrings! He'll be yours for eternity with the flourish of a quill on the planned Requested Arrangement Application and a healthy donation to the Ministry of Magic.
"The Wizengamot's solution to the ongoing population crisis is to introduce an amendment to the marriage act, enabling all currently unattached witches and wizards of appropriate age, health and financial stability to form unions based on various personality and compatibility assessments, as well as formal interviews with an exclusive panel currently being assembled by the Ministry-"
"Fucking Rita Skeeter," I hissed as I caught the author's name scribbled at the bottom of the article. Her perfectly made up face blew me a kiss from where it sat tucked against the margins, so I blasted the image to ash with my wand.
"Was that really necessary?" Hermione asked me, bemused, as she swatted out the flame. "I still hadn't finished with that copy."
"It made me feel better," I replied as the kettle began a high pitched whistle, so I rose to make our tea. "What tripe. If anyone thinks they're going to force me into this, they've got another thing coming.
"What are they even thinking?" I continued my rant as I laid out my worn, mismatched china, most of which I'd inherited from Aunt Muriel. "And how on earth is forcing people to get married going to solve this? What happened to all of those migration initiatives they set up last year?"
"They didn't work, obviously; you know the economy has been terrible since the war. I don't know why the Ministry insists on interfering when the Goblins do a fine job of it on their own..." Hermione shot me a sympathetic look as I handed her the blue spotted teacup she always used at my place. "You don't need to worry. They'll never pass this bill - not if we can help it."
I chewed my lip as I fiddled with the tea bag sitting in my own teacup - my favourite, black bordered and spattered with lilacs and roses, the gold edging long worn away. "It's crap, all of it. They're nuts if they think people will allow it."
"Rita Skeeter was careful to make the program seem optional," she frowned. "I'd like to know what they mean by 'appropriate age, health and financial stability'."
I nodded in agreeance, though I had my suspicions. "Unless I fall off my broom and break my neck in the match against the Cannons this weekend, I would assume I fit under all three categories." After a weighty pause, I couldn't help attempting to lighten the mood. "You must be kicking yourself that you settled for my brother, huh?"
"Charlie has his moments." Hermione allowed herself a small smile, before becoming serious again. Sometimes I wondered why we got along at all, until I remembered that she'd been one of the only people to truly support my decision to break off my engagement to Harry - even if he was her best friend.
"Wait," I said, as I glanced at the clock. It was three in the afternoon, the time we usually met for tea on a Thursday, but I was sure that Hermione would have come to me sooner rather than wait until our usual time with this kind of news. "Did you see Harry this morning?"
Her expression was contrite, and I instantly felt guilty for bringing it up. "Well, you're both single..."
I eyed her suspiciously. "What did he say?"
"Uh, I'm not sure you want to know," she said, not making eye contact with me.
I let that sit for a moment. If Hermione thought I didn't want to know, then she was probably right; I didn't. Besides, my mind was busy churning over other problems. They'd probably even force poor Dean to marry some unsuspecting woman, and I was pretty sure that gave him the worst fortune out of the lot of us, thanks to his penchant for well-muscled men.
Letting the topic go, my brow furrowed as I thought. "We need a plan. You're the expert on this kind of thing; what do you think we should do?"
She considered for a moment. "We need support. Anyone we can get, but ideally as many wizards with influence over the Ministry as we can bring on board. Celebrities speaking out will help bring people over, too," She shot me a pointed look, which I tried to ignore - the idea of being famous still made me awfully uncomfortable. "Then we need to make ourselves heard."
Ministry Endorses Family Values
I glared vehemently at the offending advertisements for the Prophet that had been posted about Hogsmeade, as though their front page was intentionally attempting to provoke me.
My eyes couldn't help but glance over the rest of the article, and I scowled when I saw the 'unbiased interviews' the Prophet had conducted on 'impartial citizens' in an attempt to trick us into thinking the Ministry was providing a great service to us. Interesting how they only interviewed wizards who were already married and well over seventy.
"Yeah, right," I remarked bitterly as I tore the poster down, to my own enjoyment, promptly replacing it with my own flier.
Rally for Marital Independence
Say 'No' to Oppression!
The loud font screamed at me, and I smiled, pleased with the handiwork Dean and I laboured over. Hermione and I had Flooed him straight away, knowing he'd be against this Marriage Act more than the average person, and enlisted him for our own campaign.
I couldn't help my grin when I walked out to the main street, pleased to see small clusters of people gathered around our posters covering every fence, building and lamp post. Bundling my remaining flyers together, I headed into the Three Broomsticks to ask Madam Rosmerta to leave a stack at the counter.
It was my own voice on the wireless that greeted me when I entered the building.
"Of course I'm against the Marriage Act." My static-filled voice flooded through the speakers. "The Ministry wants to force me to give up my Quidditch career and expects me to spend all my time pregnant, instead - and they didn't even ask for my permission. What self-respecting woman would agree to that, anyway?"
When I spotted the group of younger women crowded around the wireless, I smirked. Good. The message was getting out, and we'd be rid of that bloody bill in no time.
As I dropped my flyers next to the register, I craned my neck in an attempt to overhear the hushed conversation that had started now that the interview had finished.
"Can you believe her?"
"What's wrong with babies? Does she hate children or something?"
"No wonder Harry Potter broke it off with her; she's probably a man-hating lesbian."
I jerked back, aghast at their ignorant, and quite frankly inappropriate, remarks. I was about to storm over there and give them a talking-to about feminism and all its glory, when Madam Rosmerta herself came back to the counter with a tray of empty glasses. "This isn't one of those bars you're used to getting thrown out of, Ginny Weasley."
I offered the older woman a winning smile. "That was a phase. I haven't been thrown out of a pub since 2003."
"One year without being caught in a fist-fight still doesn't leave you the best track record," she commented as she began wiping down glasses. She eyed the stack of colourful flyers I'd left for her customers. "I'm not sure that's the best idea, after that interview you gave."
I couldn't help my indignant scoff. "Are you kidding? That interview was brilliant - and more importantly, it was the truth."
She put down the glass she'd been washing to shoot me an exasperated look. "Did it ever occur to you that some witches might be content with marriage and children?"
A heated blush crept across my cheeks. "Of course I know that. I absolutely respect my mum for doing what she does... but she's from a different generation."
"Some women aren't as lucky in their relationships as your mother," she commented, and I got the sense that it grated her to say as much. I wondered absently if Madam Rosmerta resented her single status, even if she was such a successful entrepreneur. "You should probably try not to insult women who choose that kind of lifestyle while you're flying off the handle."
"And you should leave before those women recognise you," she commented with a nod to the group in the corner, who'd continued their heated debate.
I scowled at the blunt dismissal, but gathered my flyers and left.
I wasn't surprised to see Hermione's tawny owl resting on my windowsill when I got home.
We need to do damage control, as soon as possible.
I scrunched up the note and threw it across the room. I misspoke once and everyone pounced on me like I'd tried to drown a bag full of baby pygmy puffs.
Instead of Flooing Hermione immediately, which was exactly what that letter demanded of me if I read between the lines, I stalked to my bedroom to throw on some training gear.
If there were three things I could rely on in this world as a distraction, they were alcohol, sex and Quidditch. Since it was eleven in the morning and I had a match tomorrow, the first option was out, and unfortunately being single and female meant that a failure in the first option automatically negated any opportunity for the second. All I had left in life was strenuous exercise.
Mum had disapproved of me moving to somewhere so remote, but then again she'd never understood why, of all her children, I had to be the one making a career of flying. My cottage was perfectly suited to me in every way - if you ignored how well fitted out the kitchen was - with enough surrounding land and forests that the wards at the boundary to shield my flying probably seemed like overkill.
I quickly retrieved my broom from the renovated firewood shed nestled behind my back door and made my way up the beaten path that lead to the open space on the crest of the hill where I preferred to run my drills.
It was a cold morning, but I ignored the numbing sensation slowly creeping through my body as I began my warm up stretches. My breath fogged in front of me with every exhalation, and I could feel my muscles stretching blissfully beneath my skin as I pulled them in every direction.
I was only halfway through my first set of sit ups when I spotted Hermione waddling her way toward me from my cottage. Suppressing a groan, I pushed myself to finish the set and begin my push ups.
Hermione was almost breathing as heavily as I was by the time she reached me, and I was already up to my shuttle runs.
"You really need to find somewhere better to practice!" she called to me as I whipped past.
"It's just... a little hill," I told her between my ragged panting as I dropped to the ground again, starting my second set of sit ups.
"I think we need to go over your interview-"
"I'm busy," I told her without dropping my pace, though my muscles were already screaming at me because I was pushing so hard today.
She gave me an exasperated look. "Ginny, this is important."
"Well, so is my career."
"I know you're probably embarrassed-"
"Embarrassed?" That stopped me mid-push up, and I stared at her incredulously. "Why would I be embarrassed?"
Hermione's expression went blank. "You mean, you haven't seen it yet?"
I flipped over, looking up at her from the ground, a cold feeling of dread washing over me. "Seen what?"
She reluctantly pulled out copies of Play Witch and Witch Weekly, and I only had a moment to ponder why she seemed to have an endless supply of print media stashed on her person before I caught sight of their latest covers.
On the first there was a picture of a younger me - three years younger, to be exact - being thrown out of a pub just as Rosmerta had accused me of that same morning. My face was viciously contorted as I struggled against the security guard's grip on my arm before accidentally hitting one of the gawking onlookers. I'd frozen in my tracks the moment that poor person had gone down, but of course the photo only began to replay itself from there.
Feminazis: Taking No Casualties
Why Feminism Is Harmful To You and Your Women
Feeling my anger starting to boil, I reluctantly glanced over the Witch Weekly cover, which was, arguably, worse:
Ginny Weasley Lashes Out Against Her Mother In Exclusive Interview:
"What self-respecting woman would agree to [marriage], anyway."
And of course the magazine had somehow gotten ahold of the photo of me accidentally knocking into Mum at Ron and Hermione's wedding, and of course the angle made it look like I'd shoved her to the ground on some drunken rampage.
"One of my siblings is going to be murdered tonight," I told Hermione through gritted teeth. "And hopefully before Mum manages to get her hands on me."
"Well it certainly wasn't me," she replied with a wry expression. "Guess who wrote the articles?"
Almost manically gleeful that I hadn't left my wand back home today, I pulled it out and blasted the magazines to pieces.
"Feel better?" Hermione asked me.
"Not really," I said as I sat down, letting my head fall to rest on my knees. "Some people really need to get lives."
"It's not so bad," She said, trying to comfort me, but we both knew she was lying to make me feel better. "We just need to deflect attention from you."
"Oh, yeah? Do you have photos from another Falmouth Falcons sex scandal up your sleeve?"
"That wasn't quite the distraction I was thinking of." Hermione shuffled uncomfortably. "Maybe if you and Harry-"
"No," I cut her off vehemently, returning to my push-ups. "No way."
"Okay, okay. How about you just avoid interviews for now until all this blows over, and we can focus on getting some of the Ministry's benefactors on our side instead?"
I nodded in agreeance. We needed to derail this ridiculous law before the Ministry managed to brainwash anyone else. "Sure. Who do we start with?"
Hermione didn't look me in the eye, and I knew this was going to be bad. "The Malfoys."
Ignoring my sudden urge to throw up, I focused on the fact that I would rather become Lucius Malfoy's live-in maid than be forced to marry anyone. "Give me a time and date and I'll be there."
ADDITIONAL A/N: I really, really hate Marriage Fics. REALLY hate them. They are the bane of my existence for several reasons, which I won't bore you with. Just know that Marriage Fics are THE WORST EVER.
*coughs* So. This is my take on a realistic (in my opinion) series of events preceding the implementation of a "Marriage Law", and I freely admit that my knowledge of these legal concepts is minimal, so I will be avoiding the fine details as much as possible.
Please give me feedback as I haven't decided whether or not this should be continued, and let me know how you feel about Feminist!Ginny. To clarify, I'm intentionally misrepresenting Feminism in this story, to an extent. It's for Ginny's character growth, and the clue is in the title and summary.
I don't want to neglect my other WIP regardless, and I won't be, but this is also a plot I would love to work on in future.