Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to the HP universe except some DVDs and books. I checked. Still don't own the characters. Not making any money here. Drat.

A/N: Please read and review!


Ch. 4

16 September

Late Evening

8th Year Common Room

"Where the fuck is Granger?" Malfoy's normal unflappable demeanor was showing definite cracks.

"She's in her room with the Weaslette." Blaise knew Draco's temper well enough to avoid provoking him further when he was in this kind of mood.

"Longbottom, go get her."

"Excuse me, Malfoy. If you want her, you go get her. I'm not your damn trained pet." Neville was not in the best of moods, either.

Draco realized that if he went to Hermione's door, demanding answers, he'd get none. So, like his house emblem, he decided to utilize some of that cunning nature. "Fine. I will." He stalked across the hall to see if he could find more information.

Knock, knock. "Granger, could you please come to the door." He went for polite first. After all, if you were nice first, you had a back up position.

Hermione opened her door, "Yes?"

"Could you please come across the hall and talk with us? We have some questions, and I think maybe you could shed some light on them." He moved aside so that she could see her fellow 8th years through the door.

Shite. If it had just been Malfoy, she would have ignored him until Satan was lacing up ice skates, but it wasn't. It was everyone. Shite. Shite. Shite.

"Ginny, I've got to talk to my classmates. I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you stayed."

"No, no. I need to get back to Gryffindor tower, anyway. Just keep me posted if you hear anything new, yeah?"

"Absolutely." After a quick hug, Ginny headed down the hall to the main 3rd floor corridor. Michael could not help himself.

"I hate to see her go, but, man, I love to watch her leave."

Hermione laughed. "You are such a prat."

"Yeah, but you love me anyway."

After everyone settled into their seats with butter beer in hand, Hermione started at the beginning and ran through everything she knew. Unfortunately for her classmates, there was not much new information. When she told them that Harry and Ron had already had their appointment with the Sorting Hat, nothing would do but for them to Floo call them.

"Harry, Ron are you there?"

"Hey Hermione! We didn't expect to hear from you so soon. What's up?" Hermione moved to show them where she was and all her classmates.

"My classmates had a few questions, and they were hoping you could help."

Malfoy chose to let the others ask the questions; he was smart enough to know even Blaise would get further with the Dipshite Duo than he would. By unspoken consent, the guys let Neville take the lead. How Granger had put up with them for the last 7 years was beyond his comprehension. And why neither of them had tried to…. Never mind. Back to this sodding Marriage Law. This shite had to be illegal.

"Hermione said that you already had your appointment with the Sorting Hat. Did it tell you anything? Who it was going to pair you with?"

"It didn't tell me who it was going to pair me with, but I got the idea that it was going to pair me with someone who wasn't from Gryffindor, but that was just a feeling; it might still." Harry spoke first.

"Same here. But, it basically told me that I was not going to be paired with Hermione." Draco shifted almost imperceptibly in his seat at that. Of course, Blaise caught it, but Ron in the fireplace was oblivious to the small motion.

"So, you don't know who you are paired with?" Blaise asked.

"No. I think it was scanning us, and then it will make a final decision when it reads the women."

"That makes sense." Terry and Michael nodded their assent to Anthony's statement.

"One more thing – Ron, you might know about this, but McGonagall called the marriage a unitatas sponsus. Do you know what that is?" Ron nodded. "Could you explain it to Harry?" Ron nodded again. "Thanks, Harry, Ron. I love you two. Talk to you next week, yeah?"

"Love you too, Hermione. We will see you next week. Take care."

Love? She said that she hadn't done anything with them. "I thought you said you were just friends with them." Draco didn't like the jealousy seeping through his tone, but it was too late to take the comment back.

Hermione turned back from the fireplace and sent him a withering glare. "There is more than one kind of love, you prat." Looking to everyone else, "Now you know everything I know. But I need some help." She turned to the Purebloods. "What is this unitatas sponsus? I'm going to research it, of course, but somebody give me a basic rundown."

Draco leaned forward, placed his elbows on his knees, and clasped his hands. "The unitatas sponsus is an ancient marriage rite. Old Magic. All marriages used it routinely until about, what 75 or 100 years ago, Blaise?" her turned his head and looked to him for confirmation. Blaise nodded, his attention still in the fire where Harry and Ron had been.

"It went out of fashion because more and more people wanted the freedom to divorce. But McGonagall had the right of it. It's forever. Death is the only out. Today, mostly only Pureblood marriages are unitatas sponsus. "

"Why not mixed marriages?"

"Pureblood marriages make certain that blood remains pure."

Hermione's grimaced at the blatant racism. "Fine. What did she mean by infidelity is difficult?" Hermione had been trying to figure that out since dinner.

Draco leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs European style, the picture of well-bred leisure. "Well, Granger, if you are in a unitatas sponsus, if you cheat, your spouse will know."

"How?"

"I'm not sure. I think your tattoo will burn. Or it might just be a knowing. "

"I'm sorry – what was that?"

"The tattoo or the knowing?"

"The tattoo!"

"Leave it to you to focus on the fucking minutia, Granger." Draco shook his head. "Most couples still wear wedding rings and bands, but at the bonding ceremony, the spell tattoos your ring finger where your ring rests with a matching design. My parents have them. The upside is that if your mate is in danger, you will know, and your tattoo acts as a homing devise for the two of you." Draco suspected that unitatas sponsus was the real reason that Lucius had thrown himself on his sword, metaphorically speaking, at his trial. The bond would probably not allow him to knowingly place Narcissa in unnecessary danger.

"That sounds beautiful." Hannah interjected softly.

"I think it sounds like a invasion of privacy." Hermione abruptly stopped herself. She had just agreed to be a face of the law. She realized she needed to be careful of the image she portrayed, even amongst friends. "Thank you, Draco. I appreciate your help." Draco couldn't help but wonder if she realized that she used his given name. That also made him feel a little – soft – inside. Salazar's rod, he was turning into a fucking Hufflepuff.


17 September

The Great Hall

Hogwarts

The 8th year appointments were all within an hour of one another. Draco and Blaise were on the way in while Michael and Terry were headed out.

"Did it tell you anything?"

"Not really. It sounded pretty vague. Ron definitely got more specific information than I did." Terry sounded a bit peeved that he could not at least eliminate a candidate or two.

Both Draco and Blaise could relate. Waiting until next week was going to be torture. Draco went before Blaise.

He sat down carefully on the rickety stool, and McGonagall placed the tattered hat on his head.

Hello, Mr. Malfoy. I have not seen you for many years. Still very Slytherin, I see. But I see something else. Is that a strain of nobility? Of honor and courage? Plenty of brains too. Humm. If those qualities had been so apparent when you were sorted I might have had to think about where to put you. Because at eleven, you were almost purely Slytherin. Not any more. But now, I may know exactly who would be the best partner for you. Yesss, much to think about. Alright. Up you go.

Draco nodded curtly to McGonagall who took the hat, while Draco traded places with Blaise. A few moments later, Blaise was ready to go, "anything of note?" he asked.

Draco shook his head. "It was gibberish. What about you?"

"I'm not sure why, but I get the feeling that I won't be with a Slytherin. I mean, most of what it said was nonsensical, but just the tone. You know what I mean?" Draco nodded.

"I agree. And same here."

"I'm going to Hogsmeade on Friday. Do you want to come with? I think a night of drinking is definitely in order." Blaise took the words right out of Draco's mouth.

"Absolutely."

The afternoon and next day saw a veritable parade of Hogwarts male alumni. George Weasley, Seamus Finnigan, and Dean Thomas all stopped into the 8th wing as did several men from the other houses. George was especially jealous of the accommodations. "The damage Fred and I could have done with this kind of set up…." Hermione could practically hear the wheels turning his head. But he soon turned his attention to more serious topics. "This is some shite, Hermione. Ron told us what Shacklebolt said."

Hermione cut him off before he could continue. "I know, it really is unfair. But, you will be back on Monday evening, right, for the ceremony?" She gave him a warning look as if to remind him that they were not in the kitchen at the Burrow. George glanced around and realized that despite a studiously casual air, there were several people paying very close attention to their conversation.

"Right then. Why don't you come to the Burrow on Saturday? It's your birthday, and Mom would love to see you. The whole family will be there, except Ginny. I bet she would send back a few cakes."

Neville came into the room as George was finishing his bribe. He came to greet George with the hand-shake, back-slap hug that was so universal among good mates. "What's this about Mrs. Weasley's cakes? Hermione will be there, don't worry. She needs to bring back some of those cakes." He winked at Hermione.

Hermione laughed at his antics. "Of course, I'd love to come visit. I'll be there around half 10 if that is alright. Will you let your mom know?, " she asked as George grabbed a handful of Floo powder.

"Of course! Good to see you, Neville. Hermione, I'll see you then." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "You look great, by the way. School agrees with you." He jokingly leered at her and waved at the rest of the room. "Oi, you lot – take care of yourselves." With that, he threw the powder in the fireplace and shouted "Weasley's Wizard Weazes Diagon Alley!," and he was gone.

Draco, standing by the drinks cupboard, turned around, and followed Hermione to her room. "Granger, hold up."

"What do you want, Malfoy?"

"What do you know that you aren't telling us?"

"Nothing."

"Don't lie to me, Granger; you can't get away with it. I've had much more practice finding the truth from much better liars than you."

"Fine. I do know something, but it doesn't have anything to do with you."

He narrowed his eyes and took a step forward. Hermione fell back without realizing that she was letting him in her room. He pushed the door closed behind him. Shite. Hermione reminded herself that that this was Malfoy; he could not hurt her without going to Azkaban. But that didn't make her more comfortable with him in her domain.

"So, Granger, tell me what you know."

"It doesn't have anything to do with you. It has to do with Harry, Ron, and I. And our spouses. And could you please get out of my room?" she insisted. Draco took another step forward, and Hermione, determined to make a stand, refused to move back, putting them within inches of one another.

He leaned forward, his mouth beside her ear, and said "Granger, just tell me." Hermione stiffened and controlled her involuntary instinct to shiver. But he noticed the tell-tale hitch in her breath anyway. His mouth quirked up at the side. "But, think about this – I'm a Pureblood. You are a Muggle-born. We could be paired." He moved his head around from her ear to her face so they were looking each other in the eye. "And something that affects my wife certainly effects…me." His lips came within a hairbreath of brushing hers. Hermione swallowed, a dead giveaway on the state of her emotions, and shook her head in denial. Draco decided to take pity on her. He had planted the seed; that was enough for now; he pulled back a few inches. "Okay, I'll go away. But you will tell me." He spun on his heel, robes flaring behind him, and strode for the door, closing it softly behind him. Hermione groaned and flopped onto her back on her bed, grinding the heels of her hands into her eyes.

Son of a bitch. When did he get so hot? He wasn't hot last spring when they were at his house. Of course, living with Voldemort would probably be enough to ruin anyone's good looks. And he had not identified Harry. That was brave. He knew it was them. Of course, he just stood there while she was being tortured. The bastard. That was very unattractive. But Hermione's sense of fair play kicked in. What could he have done? Nothing could have stopped Bellatrix from torturing her and carving that ugly word into her skin. Ugh. But now she was finding him attractive? He's giving her shivers up her spine? What the hell was wrong with her? He had not even apologized for not doing more to help them that day. Instead, he's invading her room and demanding answers to which he wasn't even entitled! Arghh. Why couldn't she get the tingles with Harry? Or Ron? Or Terry? Hell, Blaise would do. But, no, it had to be Draco sodding Malfoy.


18 September

Late Evening

Hog's Head Tavern, Hogsmeade

Blaise handed Draco the Firewhiskey shot he just got from the bar. "I saw you coming out of Granger's room yesterday."

"Was that a question?"

"No, just a statement of fact."

"I was trying to find out what she knows about this Marriage Law. The Weasel Twin was here yesterday, and he implied something about her and the law."

"She tell you?"

"No." Draco stopped. "But she will."

"How do you plan on making her?"

"That kiss wasn't all one-sided last week, Blaise."

"She got hot last year. I guess all that traipsing through the woods was good for her."

Draco narrowed his eyes at Blaise; "You keep your eyes on Parvarti; I'll keep mine on Hermione."

"So it's Hermione now?"

"It is her name, arsehole."

A short laugh. "That's true. 'Course, we may not have to keep our eyes on either of them much longer."

Draco threw the shot back. He had a feeling that even if he was paired with someone else, he would always keep an eye on Hermione. He owed her. And he, Merlin help him, he wanted her. Badly. Dammit all to hell. How could she forgive him for last spring? How could he forgive himself?


19 September

The Burrow

"Happy Birthday, Hermione! Oh dear, it so good to see you! Are you enjoying Hogwarts this year? Such a pity you cannot room with Ginny in Gryffindor tower where you belong. But Bill has told me all about how helpful you have already been with Defense Against the Dark Arts…." Molly nattered on about everything and nothing.

Hermione relaxed and felt calm flow through her. The Burrow was really a home to her and Molly a second mother. She felt as safe here as she did at Hogwarts. Her mind turned to Ron and Harry, and she wondered if they were coming to dinner today. At almost that same moment, she heard a distant crack, and the hands on the clock spun to "home" for Ron and Harry. She remembered in 4th year when Molly added Harry and her to the clock. She knew how much it meant to her that Molly added her the clock, and for Harry, it was truly one of his fondest memories. But to see Fred's picture always pointed to 'lost' was devastating. The most comforting thing about the clock now, however, was that no one's picture was pointed to 'mortal peril.'

"Oh the boys are here! Let's have lunch!"

Lunch was lovely, and Molly made Hermione's favorite cake, carrot, with cream cheese icing. She used a Muggle recipe, but she made it even better with her magic touch. Hermione got her Weasley jumper in Gryffindor colors with a quill on the front, the boys gave her a new book bag, and George, of course, provided a grab bag of WWW products. Charlie sent chocolates from Romania, and Bill and Fleur gave her a lovely self-inking quill. Percy, practical as always gave her a sheaf of parchment paper. Hermione's parents sent a lovely pair of diamond stud earrings set in platinum. They were simple, stunning, and very Hermione.

That afternoon, shortly before turning to school, Hermione drew the boys aside. "I'm not sure we should have agreed to help with the public relations on this law." Harry and Ron shot her an incredulous look.

"But we discussed this. What else could we do?"

"Yes, I know. But what if our future spouses don't want to do it? It's not fair to them; we've already accepted without their consent."

"Blimey. I hadn't thought of it that way." This was from Ron. Guilt flashed in Harry's eyes.

"I think we need to contact Kingsley and tell him we can only do this with the consent and support of our future spouses."

"You're right, Hermione. Why didn't we think about this sooner? And what made you think of now?" Hermione sometimes swore Harry took too much guilt and blame onto his shoulders. They were broad, but not that broad.

"Honestly, Malfoy made me think about it." The boys startled.

"Why were you talking to that git?" Ron would probably never recover from the Manor incident, and, to a lesser extent, the "Weasley is our King" debacle.

"Oh grow up, Ron. There are only 10 of us there. I can't avoid him entirely. I don't like him, but he has been mostly okay." She made a conscious decision to avoid any mention of the kiss or the bedroom incident. Nothing good could come of it. Shite, she needed to tell Neville to keep it under wraps too. Parvarti was a gossip, but she didn't socialize with Ron and Harry. "Anyway – that's not important. As for your question, Harry, are you joking? You, especially, have sacrificed your entire life for the good of the wizarding world. To a certain extent, we have all been so wrapped up in what is best for society, we haven't considered what is best for those closest to us. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were matched with one of us and hated the spotlight? I mean, there will naturally be a focus on us because of all the 'Golden Trio' stuff," Hermione air quoted Golden Trio whilst rolling her eyes, "but can you imagine if you were suddenly thrust into it and made a poster child for this law, which you might despise, all without your consent because one of us agreed for you?"

They both nodded, looking a little sick. Starting out a unitatas sponsus on the wrong foot wasn't something any of them wanted.

"So we are agreed; we are letting Kingsley know?"

Nods all around.

They returned to the lounge and used the Floo to call Kingsley. The brief conversation was not one that Kingsley enjoyed, but, in the end, he agreed to their conditions. After all, what else could he do? He needed them more than they needed him.


Saturday Night

Hermione's Room

When Hermione returned to her room that evening, a beautifully wrapped box sat in the middle of her bed. Inside it was a brilliantly kept 1st edition copy of Hogwarts, A History. There was no card.


A/N: Questions, comments, and other concerns? Please review!