It happened on the first of October, 1997. The end of War just months before, the Wizarding World was barely recovering. There had been a lot to do. A Ministry to rebuild. A generation of children scarred. A group of young adults, suddenly finding themselves having to be normal adults and not warriors, in a world not quite ready for that.
The new Minister for Magic arrived at the Burrow that fateful, crisp October morning. Kingsley Shacklebolt came in person, to deliver the letter that would change all their lives forever. He seemed regretful as he handed Arthur Weasley the letter to read out to the household at breakfast.
"Dear inhabitants of this Wizarding House," Arthur paused, looking also to Harry, Ron and Hermione who had long since moved out to Grimmauld Place. They were at the Burrow whenever time allowed them to be, but they didn't live there officially.
"And you three." Arthur ad-libbed, smiling weakly. "Due to the unpleasant circumstances in which the War has left it in, the Ministry of Magic has been left with no choice but to issue the Happiness Decree. This was a plan set for after the first war, but delayed until it was completely necessary. That time has come." Arthur paused again, paling. His ears tinged red, alerting those at the table who did not know of the happiness decree that something was wrong. "Surely not, Kingsley?"
Kingsley sighed heavily.
"What is it, Dad? What's the Happiness Decree?" Ron asked, frowning.
"It was... a plan to match up all single men and women between the ages of 18 and 30, in order to encourage happy, normal lives after the war." Arthur informed grimly, to the shocked faces of his children, Harry and Hermione.
"Now, Arthur. I know this is hard to accept, believe me we've tried everything else. This is the last option we have. The economy is about a knut from collapsing and the Ministry can't get any actual work done until something changes in the economy." Kingsley explained, wringing his hands. He was clearly unhappy about the decision, but brought some good news to the table. "But that was the old law, anyway. We've altered it now. It's only for those between 18 and 25. We thought if people wanted to get married they'd have done it already by the time they're 25. And people aren't going to assigned partners either. They can choose their own... but the Ministry needs some idea of who and when they'll be marrying by Christmas."
Silence rang out at the Weasley breakfast table, for likely the first time ever. Seeing as 80 percent of those sat at the table would be effected by this new law, they were all in understandable shock.
"I am very sorry about this, to all of you. This is only a last resort, you must understand. We don't want to control lives. As soon as the world begins to even out again, the law will fall from place and you can divorce if you wish."
Kingsley declined staying for breakfast, being the busy man that he was, and bid farewell with one final apology. There was still a great deal of dismayed faces at the table, besides Harry and Ginny who were so hopelessly in love it was a wonder Harry hadn't proposed already.
Finally, when the silence became unbearable, Molly clapped her hands together sharply to attract the attention of her brood. "Right. All of you, bugger off and find a space to be alone. Think over what you've heard and then we're going to have a family meeting in exactly half an hour." she announced and the table sprung to life. Ron was the first to jump up, practically running from the Kitchen up to his bedroom. Ginny headed out to the Orchard, followed not too inconspicuously by Harry. Fred and George got up together and, ignoring their mothers wishes completely without even pretending to do otherwise, walked out into the garden. Percy wasn't present, having a house and fiancé of his own. He had it all covered and nothing to worry about. Charlie was abroad still, and so exempt from the Law. Bill was again, not present, as he and the pregnant Fluer Weasley were at their own little home on the coast.
Hermione, with no place to really call her own at the Burrow, followed the twins out into the garden, despite the chilly October winds, but walked down to the pond instead and sat on the damp grass, staring at her distorted reflection in the rippling water.
Despite the anger she wanted to feel, Hermione only felt sad at the situation she found herself in. It wasn't the Ministry's fault and they all knew Kingsley would never have implemented this law unless he thought it would work. The problem was, who would want to marry her?
There was no denying, Hermione was very inexperienced at dating, let alone being a wife. She'd dated Victor Krum in her fourth year, but she'd been 15 then and told herself repeatedly that it didn't count. How could a few clumsy kisses compare to being a married woman. She reminded herself that whoever she ended up with, she'd have to sleep with to consummate the marriage. That was such a daunting idea for someone so... unpractised in love.
For a long time, Hermione had told herself that she loved Ronald. It seemed as though there were meant to end up together, but when they had kissed during the Battle of Hogwarts a little voice had popped up in her mind and told her no. It was just wrong. Ron was not the man for her and, as she soon found out, she wasn't the woman for her.
After the Battle, Ron had ignored the subject of their kiss completely and ended up back in a relationship with Lavender Brown for a months or so until he found the nerve to dump her again. That was the final straw for Hermione. She could see, then, that Ron would never make her happy. He was a friend, but not her true love.
The only problem was that Hermione was then left with no-one she wanted to marry. Or, at least, no-one she'd ever considered for marriage. Hopefully she could be paired up with someone she trusted, perhaps from school or the Order of the Phoenix. That way things would be much easier and less stressful, until the law was out of effect and they could divorce.
"Who'd want to marry you?" Hermione whispered at her reflection, sighing at her wild hair whipping her face in the wind. Not even the kindest soul on earth could tell her that she was beautiful. Hermione admitted she wasn't foul looking. The Yule ball had proven that. But the effort to make herself look that good had been too much. Besides, that had been before the war. Now she had an appalling scar on her arm and post-traumatic stress disorder that even she didn't want to deal with.
"Hermione? It's time."
Hermione tugged her long sleeves down, realizing she'd been absently trailing her fingers over her scar. Ginny was calling her from the front door. With a heavy heart, she stood and made her way back to the Burrow.
As she entered, the house, Hermione realized how cold it had been outside and shivered; kicking off her shoes. The kitchen was emptier now, Arthur left for work and Molly stood at the head of the table. Hermione took the last remaining seat opposite Harry and the clan all looked to Molly expectantly.
"Right then. Who'd like to go first?" Molly asked simply, flicking her wand at the windows behind her so that they slammed shut.
There was a long pause before Harry finally coughed and sat up a little straighter. "Well, uhm, as you know- Mrs Weasley, I love your daughter very much and well, this isn't really how I'd planned to propose but I'd be honoured to marry her even if there wasn't a law." He stumbled and tripped over his words, but at the end of it he was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek from Ginny. The younger girl's smile lit up the whole room, her brown eyes sparkling happily.
Mrs Weasley beamed, mimicking her daughter. She swept around the table and hugged the pair, clasping their hands together happily. "Oh congratulations. Oh, I'm so happy. Ginny, Harry. Wait till your farther hears. He'll be delighted!" This continued on for a long while, Harry and Ginny both pink in the face.
Hermione sat across from them, feeling happy for her friend. He deserved to end up with the woman he loved. Unfortunately, that didn't solve her problem.
Eventually, George coughed loudly to regain his mother's attention.
"Oh, of course, sorry dear."
"Not at all mother." George rolled his eyes.
"We have all the time in the world." Fred continued dryly.
"If the world is going to end in two months." George added bitterly.
"Which it might as well be doing." Finalised Fred.
They were, of course, referring to the deadline that Kingsley had set for the Marriages. Hermione frowned inwardly. She'd been so worried about herself that she'd almost forgotten everyone else had to marry as well. Fred especially was not one for commitment, he'd always made that clear. Then again, so had George until he fell for Angelina.
"Now, now boys. We're all going to take this one step at a time." Molly reprimanded them softly, understanding their anguish completely.
"Well, I guess I'll have to speak to Angie then." George sighed heavily. "But we never intended to marry, really."
George was sent away by his mother to write to Angelina Johnson, his long time girlfriend, and Harry and Ginny followed him awkwardly- simply as an excuse to get away.
"Who's next?" Molly prompted. "Ron?"
Ron shrugged. "Hermione, I guess." He said lazily and a sudden rage built up in the pit of Hermione's stomach.
"Hermione, I guess?" She repeated, viciously. "Were you going to consult me on this, Ronald, or just ignore me until the big day." She added sarcastically. The nerve of him! To even think about suggesting they marry.
"Alright, alright. Calm down. Bloody hell, Hermione." Ron said, somewhat alarmed at Hermione's behaviour as he sat straighter in his chair.
"No, I will not calm down." Hermione said, outraged. "You had your chance with me and you blew it on Lavender Brown. TWICE. So go and guess if she'll take you back."
"Oh, come on Hermione. You know that was an accident..." Ron attempted to say, but was cut off promptly by the three venomous glares of Hermione, Fred and his mother.
"Ron, I'm going to say this once and only once. You are my best friend and I'm sorry for snapping but I cannot marry you."
Ron's ears tinged pink and he nodded, dejectedly. "I get it. Now would probably be a good time to tell everyone that I'm actually dating Padma Patil then."
Ron was promptly beaten out of the room by a collection of cutlery, thrown in his direction. When he was gone and only Hermione, Fred and Molly remained, Hermione lay her head down on the table and tried very hard not to cry. How dare he. Just because she didn't love him like that any more didn't mean that him toying with her emotions didn't hurt. He was such a pig sometimes. If only he could stop being so... Ron.
"Don't fret over Ronald, dear. He never understands what he's missed until it's too late."
"I don't care, Mrs Weasley. Let him marry Padma. I feel sorry for her, if anything." Hermione sighed into the table. Frankly, she didn't need this stress right now. There was so much going on in her life and trying to find someone to marry in two months had never been on the agenda. She had a job in St. Mungo's and a flat to find and a whole bookshelf of books she'd intended to read before she even thought about getting into a relationship.
"Too right." Fred inputted and Hermione could imagine him grinning wickedly.
"Now Fred, why don't you get in contact with that lovely Alicia girl who came for lunch that time?" Molly suggested cheerfully, trying to get back on topic.
"She's married mum. Can we not do this now. I'd really like to just not think about this for a little while..."
Molly accepted reluctantly as the rest of the Weasley's began re-entering the Kitchen. Noise soon picked up as Harry and Ginny spoke excitedly about their plans for the future. Angelina flooed in around lunchtime to talk to George, as did Padma who apologised to Hermione on Ron's behalf. Some of Hermione's anger dissipated when she saw how tame Ronald was around Padma. Perhaps she would be good for him.
Hours had passed before Hermione began to get bored of Wedding talk and slipped, unnoticed from the room. She decided to go for a walk in the extensive garden again, just to get some fresh air and clear her mind. If all else failed, she could always move into the muggle world or move abroad but that was definitely a last resort.
Stepping out into the chilly garden once more, Hermione's eye was caught by the vivid, red hair of Fred Weasley sat by the pond with his feet dangling in the cool water. Intrigued by his morose expression, Hermione decided to pay him a visit.
I didn't mean to be short with my mum earlier this morning. To be honest, I was just trying to get used to the fact that sooner, rather than later, I'm going to be married. I've never really thought about getting married. I always figured, if I did find a girl who could put up with me, then we'd just work things out. Never, in a millions years, did I think I might not get to do that. Honestly, I'm just angry that the Ministry are interfering- despite their good intentions.
It's alright for George, he has Angie. And it's not that I'm not happy for him, because I am. But I'm only 20. Not exactly ready to settle down. Even if I was, there's no-one I've ever really thought about settling down with.
I'm broken from my thoughts as Hermione approaches, walking slowly across the garden to meet me. She looks as confused as I feel, her chocolate eyes wide. It must all be very infuriating for her as well, and at least I don't have to put up with my git of a brother. Ron's behaviour was bloody sickening, and that's coming from family! I don't know where mum and dad went wrong with the kid, but thank god Ginny didn't get it too.
Hermione doesn't speak as she finally reaches the pond and sits opposite me, pulling off her shoes with nimble fingers and lowering her feet into the murky water, her painted blue toes disappearing into the depths.
"You managed to escape too?" I ask after a moment, referring to the busy and excited 'family' get-together happening in the Burrow. All my siblings and their respective partners, all competing over who's going to have the best Wedding. It's pathetic, considering the law has only been in place for one morning. It seems everyone else has accepted the new law easily but I know there's not a chance in hell I can until I stop worrying about the poor bugger who'll end up married to me.
Hermione leans back, her hands supporting her petite frame. "I wasn't escaping, Fred." She scolds me lightly, for referring to my family like that. I grin at her in reply. "I just came out for air and saw you here, being very unlike yourself. Are you alright?" Her tone turns from annoyance to concern, her forehead wrinkling into a frown.
"Me?" I repeat, grinning. "When aren't I?"
She gives me a look that tells me I haven't fooled her in the slightest, and my smile fades.
"Alright. I'm not alright. Just thinking about this stupid law." I admit with a heavy sigh, kicking my feet in the water petulantly so that a load of ripples scatter across the water. "It's been 6 hours and I feel like my life's been turned upside down."
Hermione smiles weakly, her sad eyes a stark contrast. "I know the feeling."
Yes, I remind myself, she does.
"I'm sorry about Ron, 'Mione. He's a prat. Hopefully Patil will find a nice tight leash for him." I say and she laughs a little. I know I'm doing an awful job of cheering her up, but I can't quite find the energy to say anything more than how annoying my little brother is.
"You can say that again." Hermione reaches her hand into the water, her fingers dancing on the surface. As she reaches forwards, her sleeve is tugged up and the bottom of her scar is revealed before she can tug it back down again. I look away as she yanks her hand back up and hides the scar she hates so much.
"Do you remember the Quidditch World Cup? When we had to run from the Death Eaters?" I ask her, and she looks up at me with knowing eyes.
We had been running for the longest time, but the screaming didn't seem to be getting any quieter. The fires raged around us, threatening to envelop us all. The ground beneath our feet was uneven and swamp-like, littered with the tents and camp-fires that had been abandoned in the panic and confusion. It was like running an obstacle course and if you tripped or paused for even a moment, you were in the greatest danger.
We all were.
So much for a fun outing. The World Cup had been pretty fantastic up until the point when the Death Eaters had attacked. Dad and Percy had disappeared god knows where and we'd been separated from Harry and Ron. But we couldn't stop. The boys normally got into tricky situations and came out alright. What mattered was making sure that we all escaped, safe and unharmed.
We were making our way to the forest, but it was tricky. I was following George, who's hand was tightly linked with Ginny's – thank Merlin. If we lost her, there's no way we'd be able to go home. Forget the Death Eaters, mum would murder us in a far more excruciatingly painful way.
I was trailing behind, attempting not to lose Hermione, who seemed far more agitated that I'd have expected her to be. Surely she was used to dangerous situations by now? That had to be one of the negatives of being best friends with Harry Potter.
Before I knew it, Hermione had paused and I had continued running. I turned on my heel and raced back to her, my heart pounding in my ears; louder even than the screaming. Hermione was screaming for Harry and Ron, which came as no surprise honestly, but as the Death Eaters continued to march through the destroyed camp site, we really had to move.
"Hermione! They're probably in the woods already! We can't stay here!" I implored, tugging her arm. She shook her bushy haired head stubbornly.
"Just wait a minute! They could be in the crowd!" She said with an air of forced calm. I gritted my teeth. That crowd had not even a glimpse of red hair in and no lightening bolt scar either. They weren't there and the crowd were over taking us quickly, leaving us as the only ones left on the site.
"Hermione!" I repeated, forcing her to look at me. "I'm a blood-traitor and you're a muggleborn! We're not exactly on the best of terms with Voldemort's followers!"
Hermione rolled her deep brown eyes, in a very Hermione-ish way. "Yes, and the boy who lived and his best friend are?" She retorted sarcastically.
I snorted, despite the situation we were in. I appreciated her dry humour. It was more subtle than my own and sometimes much more effective.
"Alright, Granger. Let's just go." I replied, smiling wryly and offering her my hand. She took it, somewhat tentatively, and we set off again.
The run was considerably shorter to the Woods now and we could see Ginny and George a little way in, beckoning to us. We headed to them, our hands still tightly wrapped together. It was both comforting and a reminder to run, which we did- until we reached the outskirts of the forest.
"What now? Do we just wait for someone to come?" Ginny asked, merely slightly breathless after the long run, which only showed how athletically fit the fourteen year old was.
"No way." I said sharply, trying desperately to catch my breath and eyeing the camp site and the fires that we'd just avoided. It had been too close a call in my opinion. "God knows what's coming."
"What about dad?" George said quietly, linking eyes with me. It was probably the first time we'd both decided to be mature in public, which was peculiar. Though, I decided then was as good a time as any.
"Dad will manage and we can't just wait here. They're Death Eaters, Georgie, hiding in the woods won't work." I told him, my voice raising over a new batch of frightened screams.
"If only they were scared of trees." Hermione remarked lamely, earning herself another sharp laugh from me. She was on fire.
"I say we apparate then." George declared, agreeing to our idea. "I'll take Ginny, you take Hermione?"
I nodded, only just realizing I was still holding Hermione's hand tightly. Despite the chill, her hand was a warm source of comfort and she hadn't seemed to have noticed our close proximity.
"What do you mean, apparate?" Hermione asked, aghast. "You're don't have a license!" She added, horrified by the very idea that George and I could even suggest breaking the law. I couldn't help but grin at her attitude. It was so very... Hermione.
"You don't say?" George smirked wickedly. "Hermione, we've been at this rule-breaking thing for a while now-"
"-We know what we're doing." I finished for him, turning to the girl at my side. She looked very pale in the dark. Her eyes were wide, both in fright and lack of sleep. "Trust me and I'll get you home safely." I told her softly, as George and Ginny took a step away to apparate. There was a crack as my siblings left and then it seemed as if the woods were empty, save for Hermione and I.
"Okay. But if you splinch me, I'll hurt you." Hermione replied after a second, her worried expression cracking into a small smile. I grinned back and took her other hand, focusing intently on the Burrow.
The second we made to apparate, the Death Eaters reached the woods and we were shot at by nearly twenty red lights. None hit us, as far as I knew, but they were enough to distract me momentarily.
Therefore, upon reaching the Burrow I realized there happened to be a lot of blood over my shirt. I stared at Hermione, trying to work out where she was hurt and then promptly collapsed. I felt my knees hitting the concrete of our path and I heard a final scream. One which was far more painful to hear than any of the screams in the camp site.
"When you splinched yourself?" Hermione asks, her voice almost inaudible. It had been Hermione's scream I heard as I passed out that night. She'd asked me not to splinch her and so I'd done the very opposite, slicing my chest open from my collarbone to my hip, in varying degrees of depth.
"Yes. I still have that scar. I see it all the time and sometimes I hate myself for letting myself get distracted, for screwing up that bad. As much as we like the joke otherwise, scars aren't much of a turn on as they say. Georgie got lucky with Angelina. Anyway, the point it- no matter how much I hate this stupid scar, I know that me splinching myself was what got you to safety."
Hermione nods, not meeting my gaze for the longest of moments. "I know." She says finally, her voice quiet as if she's about to cry. "I'm not ashamed of being muggleborn. I could whip any purebloods arse at anything I wanted, if I wanted." She bites her lip before continuing. "But every time I see it, I remember her standing over me and torturing me. I was so weak. I couldn't stop her. I actually begged her to stop. Some Gryffindor I am." Hermione is actually crying now, trying to stem the flow of tears before they join the water at her feet.
"No, Hermione. You are a Gryffindor. You're one of the bravest people I know. You got Harry Potter through a war! Let's face it, both he and Ron would be dead many times over without you."
She lets out a watery laugh, looking up so I can see into her teary, brown eyes.
"It's been 5 months and I still don't feel any better about the War. Everything is good now. I have my parents and a career and everything I could want. But I still can't sleep for nightmares and I still feel so lost. And here I am, hours after a life changing law, sitting with my feet in a pond and crying about the past. I'm so sorry Fred." She laughs, rubbing her eyes furiously like her own tears have offended her.
"Hey- Don't worry about it. And that life changing law? You have months to deal with that. I'm always here if you need to talk, 'Mione."
Hermione leaves not long after that, visibly shivering from the cold. I stay sat out, my feet dangling in the pond. All this time, I had no idea she was still suffering like that. I should have guessed really, because she's not alone. Ginny told us that Harry still gets nightmares. George does, about the night he lost his ear- though they're very rare and they don't trouble him as much as they used to. Hell, mum still has nightmares about the first War so Hermione is perfectly normal.
I'm lucky. I don't get nightmares. I do, however, have insomnia. It's normally that I wake up very early. If I'm having a good day, I'll get out of bed and go do some experimenting with potions. If I'm having a bad day... I just lay in bed and think over all the things I should be having nightmares about. Sometimes it's the World cup. Sometimes its the Ministry of Magic where Sirius died or the night that Dumbledore died. More often than not, it's the Battle of Hogwarts and that wall is falling on me, trapping me forever.
I'm glad Hermione calls me inside before I lose myself in my thoughts any further. Apparently it's time for dinner and everyone is saying.
The dinner moves out into the garden, seeing as though the kitchen isn't big enough. With a whole bunch of heating charms around us, the long table goes something like this: on the left is Harry; Ginny; Angelina; George; Audrey; Percy; Bill and then on the right is Fluer; Charlie; Ron; Padma; Hermione and an empty chair, with Mum and Dad on either end. Mum always sat close to the kitchen so she could get up as she needed to, whilst Dad always sat close to Hermione or Harry to learn about whatever muggle items took his fancy.
I take the empty chair beside Hermione and across from Harry, listening rather than talking as I dish myself up some food. Dad is asking about the muggle way of growing plants, unaware that they do it exactly the same as we do. Having never really paid attention in Herbology, Harry splutters for a moment before Hermione steps in and kindly explains that there is no difference, other than the fact that Muggles use something called 'science' to determine when plants are at their best. It's oddly fascinating listening to Hermione explain the process. She has a much nicer voice than Spout. If Hermione had been the teacher, I probably would have passed Herbology. It's not that I don't know the stuff, I just had no motivation back then.
"Fred? Are you listening to me?" My head snaps from Hermione to Ginny, a blush creeping onto my face.
"Of course, my darling sister. I was just imagining what it would be like if I'd lost the ear instead of George." I improvise, flashing her a charming smile. She rolls her eyes, seeing right through me, and smiles wickedly.
"And if your eyes were constantly fixed in the direction of Hermione?" She mutters under her breath, earning herself a kick under the table.
"Watch it, Potter-to-be." I retort quietly, but she merely smiles at me. That's the problem with Ginny... she's too much like George and I. She's clever, mischievous and downright wicked when she wants to be. Other than that, a first rate sister.
"You might like to know, sweet brother of mine, that Hermione is staying here for a week or so. Aren't you, Hermione?" I glared daggers at the back of Ginny's head as she turned to Hermione who, up until then, had been thankfully absent from our conversation.
"Aren't I, what?" Hermione asks, confusedly.
"Staying here this week." Ginny prompts her.
"Oh, yes. I'd suggest we switch places if Fred weren't here." Hermione winks at Ginny who giggles and I cough pointedly, though I'm not really annoyed. It looks as if Harry and Ginny are going to be married soon anyway.
"No, go ahead. Then I'll get you all to myself, Granger." I reply, smirking with all the grace of a Slytherin. My words have the desired effect as Hermione blushes pink and looks away.
I stick my tongue out at Ginny whilst Hermione isn't looking and my baby sister glares at me. If she wants a battle, she's going to get one.
Okay. There you go. I don't know if this is any good, at all but that's for you to decide. If you would like me to continue, I imagine this will be a good few chapters. There will be a hint of plot but it's nothing majorly mind-blowing or intricate.
I was writing something else with a Fred/Hermione pairing which was a lot harder to write so I thought I'd give myself a break and go for a nice easy marriage fic. I hope it isn't boring and un-original.