Two words.

Two words were all it took to shatter every illusion that she was okay. Every wall that she had erected over the past six months were gone. Just Like That.

Voices buzzed all around her, some happy, some shocked, some sounded angry. But none of that mattered, for once she couldn't gather the energy to care about everyone else. For once all she could only think of herself. All her plans, everything she worked towards ruined. Ruined by two simple, ugly words.

Two words.

How could they be the end of her?

"Hermione? Are you okay?" Ginny's voice broke through the fog.

She blinked, once, twice, three times, trying to fight back the tears and then choked out, "Lucius Malfoy."

It seemed as if everyone fell silent.

Yes, she wanted to shout, I know, Lucius Malfoy spells the end of my sanity.

Instead she took one last look at the room, turned and fled. Once she escaped the confines of her friends pity and the tight quarters of the room, she apparated.

~two weeks earlier~

Hermione steeled herself, releasing one small sigh, and knocked on the door to the Burrow. It was exactly two minutes till two, and as usual she was going to be on time. Hermione Granger, was never late.

The door opened, and Hermione found herself being pressed into the healthy bosom of one, Molly Weasley, "Oh, my sweet girl, do come in and don't mind the mess, dear, you know how the boys are."

Yes, she did know how the boys were, six months on the run and you know far too much about your best friends. But Molly didn't wait for a reply, she just manhandled her through the door and into the living room. Where, by some act of god, all the boy were already assembled.

That should have been her first clue, but she was too busy pasting on a smile to notice anything else. She greeted everyone, eyes roaming the room for a place to sit.

"Hey 'Mione," Ron called from the couch besides Harry. As if he didn't know how much she loathed that nickname; Harry chimed in a second later. Though, he at least had the decency to refer to her by her actual name. She really did hate nicknames.

"Hello boys." She called back, nodding to Bill, Fleur and Charlie, whom she was rather surprised to see there. As she hadn't seen any of them in the months since the final battle. All three returned her nods, than faded back into the quiet conversation they were having.

Finally, she made her way to the small couch occupied by her three favorite red-heads, the twins and Ginny. Ron had fallen to dead last, after the final battle, where upon her rejecting him he'd turned into a complete and total arse.

"And here we'd thought you'd forgotten us," The twins chimed, identical smirks pulling at their faces.

They shot her quick winks when they though Ginny wasn't looking.

Ginny corrected that with a swift slap to the back of the head, "Keep your eyes off my best mate, you animals," she growled, before sending a smile her way, "Now there's plenty of room over here, so make yourself comfortable."

Hermione simply rolled her eyes at the twin's antics and seated herself between George and Ginny, because she had no intention of placing herself between the twins. Not unless she wanted to die a slow, torturous death. Even if it was death by laughter.

On second thought, maybe she should have sat next to the twins, she could do with a good laugh. She hadn't had a genuine laugh since sixth year. Or at least, that's what it felt like.

"So, do any of you guys know what's going on?" She asked, letting her gaze wonder between all their faces.

"Nope, not a clue," The twins chorused, "We just know mum wanted us here, and so here we are."

Ginny simply shrugged her shouldered, looking just as confused as Hermione felt.

Before she could ask the others, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley entered the room, Kingsely Shacklebolt at their side. Well, apparently the question was about to be answered for her, and from the looks of things, she was going to wish she hadn't asked.

The conversations in the room all quieted as everyone noticed them enter, and the confusion grew on all faces but her own. If there was one thing she'd learned in the past few months, it was how to keep her emotions in check. How to show the world only what she wanted them to see.

"Well, children," Mrs. Weasley started, the upset clear on her wizened features, "Minister Shacklebolt has some grave news."

That boded well for all of them.

"I'm going to get straight to the point with this one," Kingsley boomed, his deep timber did nothing to cheer her up today, "I've fought alongside each of you and owe you that at least."

He paused, and it was as if he aged ten years in those two seconds, "The Wizengamot, has elected to create a marriage law, against my many protests. It is their hope that this will help to mend the divide left in the wizarding community and aide in the regrowth of the wizarding population following the devastation of the war."

For a few blessed seconds there was silence. Then all hell broke loose.

"How dare they…"

"I refuse to have any part in this…"

"I'm already married, why am I here?"

"We ended a war for them and this is how they repay us?"

It went on and on for what felt like hours. Hermione seemed to be the only one with nothing to say. She knew there was no point in protest. From the defeated look on Kingsley's face, he had done everything he could and that meant there was nothing any of them could hope to do.

She was just tired. Tired of fighting, tired of being strong. For once she just wanted to let it happen. For once she didn't want to be on the frontlines of the battle.

The yelling escalated until nothing could be understood. Until it was nothing but angry people, making angry noises. Finally, with a shout that echoed through the room and silenced everyone, Mrs. Weasley bellowed, "Silence!"

Unsurprisingly, everyone shut the hell up, as they should when Mrs. Weasley shouts like that. "I know this is hard for you, I can only imagine what you must be feeling, but Kingsley came to help, to give you a warning. Let him speak, you lot should know he wouldn't be here if there was anything to be done."

The room remained silent, even as angry as they were, they could acknowledge that logic. At least, that was here assumption after a good two minutes of silence.

"I hope you have more faith in me than to believe that I would not have fought tooth and nail against this," Kingsley began, the melancholy in his voice touched her soul, "I came here to give you a warning, the news will hit the press in two weeks' time and you're match will be given to you a day later. I wish there was something I could do, but they've already arranged a system to work out the best matches for each individual. I don't know how this is decided, all I know is that every pureblood will be paired with a muggle-born or a half-blood. There are to be no pureblood duos, muggle-born duos or half-blood duos. Though, I believe they will make some exceptions because the number of purebloods is far less than the number of muggle-borns and half-bloods."

Hermione raised her hand before anyone else could start shouting, "What if we get pair with a deatheater? Is there any way to get out of this?" She managed to keep her voice calm.

Kingsley couldn't met her eyes, "If you do not wish to participate in this, they will snap your wands and erase your memories. Though, if you are being treated poorly or abused by your future spouse, after one year you are allowed a trail. If your spouse is found to be unsatisfactory, you will be given a divorce and assigned another partner."

"So, there's no escape?" Hermione asked, her voice hollow.

Kingsley shook his head, and from there things only got worse.

-Two weeks later—

Somehow, assembling at the burrow made her stomach sink, and sweat gather at her brow. She hadn't slept since the last meeting two weeks ago, thank god for concealing spells, or people might question the front she's been putting up.

Today, would be the day she was going to find out who she was going to spend the rest of her life with. That didn't exactly fill her with good feelings.

But with another sigh, she opened the door, she wasn't in the mood for Molly's bosom today. So, she didn't feel the need to knock, everyone was expecting her anyway.

No one exchanged greetings.

She took a seat at the table between Fred and Ginny, Harry was besides Ginny and George was besides Fred –the two had been practically inseparable since Fred almost died during the final battle-. The nervous energy in the room, forced her to keep herself from fidgeting, people with their shit together didn't fidget. At least not to her knowledge.

Minutes passed and still not a single word was spoken. Each of them absorbed in their own minds, trying to swallow the fact that today would decide the rest of their lives.

Any minute the owls would come pouring in and the questions would begin. Once everyone got over their shock, joy or anger, they would want to know who everyone else was to be chained to. Either to share in their joy or their misery.

As if on que, there was a knock on the window, and Mrs. Weasley rushed to open it. As soon as it was opened, owls rushed in and landed in front of each of them.

Her owl was small, with eyes brighter than gold, and feathers the color of caramel with small white rings. With trembling hands, she reached out and grabbed the scroll attached to the owl's leg. With care she didn't know she was cable of she opened the scroll and started to read:

Dear Hermione Granger,

This letter contains the formal details of the Marriage law which will be put into effect immediately. Please read through each details of this law thoroughly because failure to comply with any of the following terms will result in the immediate stripping of memory, magic and expulsion from the wizarding world. The terms of Wizarding Law 20356 are as follows;

Section One: All witches and wizards are required to marry within a month. Witches and Wizards will be married as they have been for centuries, without any deviations. The Ministry's decision is final and anyone who tries to rebel against our decision will face the consequences without pity or care for title, powers or history.

Section two: To ensure fertility, every witch and wizard will be tested vigorously to ensure that they are fertile, before the wedding takes place. Should both the witch and wizard be proven fertile, they will have exactly 24 hours after the wedding to consummate the marriage. The ministry employ who dictates the wedding, will also place a spell on each witch and wizard to ensure that they go through the consummation process.

Section three: At anytime during the marriage a witch or wizard is found to be using any means of contraceptives, whether muggle or magical, they will be sent to Azkaban for a minimum of six months. In order to ensure that this part of the law is followed, check-ups will be scheduled monthly, all witches and wizards will be tested to make sure that they complying. Though after the first child is born, these visits will cease, unless a witch or wizard has been accused of disobeying this law.

Section four: By the time of the marriage, all witches and wizards are expected to be living permanently with their spouses in a residence chosen during the month allotted them (whether it is purchased or chosen between their residencies). Spouses will be required to sleep in the same bed, be warned that a ministry employ can stop by unannounced at any time to ensure that this is being done. Two warnings will be issued, if it is found that a witch or wizard is refusing to comply and if a third warning is issued, a minimum of six-months in Azkaban will be awarded. There is only one exception to this, if a witch becomes pregnant, she is allowed to sleep in her own bed, but only if she is uncomfortable sharing a bed with her spouse.

The ministry asks that all witches and wizards with whom this law applies, please follow the afore mentioned conditions because as the Ministry cares for each and every wizard under its rule. They would regret having to carry out any of the punishment mentioned above, though make no mistake, ANY failure to comply with this law will result in the harshest punishments, because the ministry believes in leading by example.

Sincerely,

The ministry of Magic

P.S. The ministry wishes to congratulate all witches and wizards on their up and coming marriage.

Confused, Hermione glanced once more at the small owl, and found another smaller scroll attached beneath where the other one had laid. Well, here she'd thought they were going to make it easy. Of course, they were the ministry, she should have assumed there would be some level of absolute douche-baggery. Sending it in two different letters, which only served to heighten suspense, definitely counted.

After grabbing the other letter, she opened it, hand steady and revealed the next letter:

Dear Hermione Granger,

After numerous tests, we have determined that Lucius Malfoy is most suited for you. We hope that this letter finds you in good health,

-Sincerely,

The Ministry of Magic

Two words.

Two words were all it took to shatter every illusion that she was okay. Every wall that she had erected over the past six months were gone. Just Like That.

Voices buzzed all around her, some happy, some shocked, some sounded angry. But none of that mattered, for once she couldn't gather the energy to care about everyone else. For once all she could only think of herself. All her plans, everything she worked towards ruined. Ruined by two simple, ugly words.

Two words.

How could they be the end of her?

"Hermione? Are you okay?" Ginny's voice broke through the fog.

She blinked, once, twice, three times, trying to fight back the tears and then choked out, "Lucius Malfoy."

It seemed as if everyone fell silent.

Yes, she wanted to shout, I know, Lucius Malfoy spells the end of my sanity.

Instead she took one last look at the room, turned and fled. Once she escaped the confines of her friends pity and the tight quarters of the room, she apparated.