No further Special Editions were released that week and so the following Sunday found The Burrow so packed with bodies that the weekly family dinner was forced outdoors into the gardens. Mrs. Weasley was positively aglow with the livelihood of her little home and all of her children around the table for the first time in years, and was excited for the annoucements she was sure would come.
"5 galleons says everyone here's matched up," said George smiling.
"5 galleons says Hermione's still methodically trying to wiggle out of it," said Fred.
"5 galleons you're both idiots and Hermione and Ginny are still old spinsters," said Harry.
Dinner went off without a hitch, and with very little talking, as Mrs. Weasley had seen to outdo herself once she realized her company would be expanded. Once everyone had finished their meals and dessert a comfortable silence settled around the table.
"So..." Molly started, "does anyone have anything they wish to share?"
"Molly!" chided Mr. Weasley good naturedly.
"I'm moving back from Romania..." Charlie started.
"Oh," said Molly casually. "Is that so? I thought you loved dragons."
"I do. But Hagrid asked Madame Maxime to marry him, and she agreed, so he will be moving to France. I agreed to take up the Care of Magical Creatures post at Hogwarts," said Charlie simply.
"Those'll be some scary babies," muttered Ron, causing half to table to choke on their drinks.
"You're going to be grandparents," said Bill out of the blue. "Fleur is expecting a baby. She's due in April."
"Make that grandparents times two," said George. "Katie and I are gonna be parents in January."
"Bless my soul," said Molly wiping tears from her eyes. "And have you set a date young man?" she asked leveling a glare at George.
"Yes mam," said Katie. "I want to be married in the fall. We were thinking late October. But we've already applied for our Certificate."
"How beautiful. And none of that mam stuff young lady. We're family now. You can call me Molly."
"I'm afraid your best looking child has been taken, Mother," said Fred stretching back in his chair. "Ang said yes."
"Well that's a relief," said Arthur. "Here I was thinking we would have to pay someone to take you two."
Everyone laughed at that and silence reigned once more for a while.
"Mother, Father," started Percy, "I plan to ask for Penelope's hand in marriage, and I was hoping that you would be most agreeable."
"Of course son," said Arthur through Molly's tears. "Whatever makes you happy."
Percy just smiled and excused himself, presumably in search of his girlfriend.
"How about you Harry? This new law must be awful for you. I can't imagine how hard this will make finding someone," said Molly.
"Actually...I've already found someone. And I love this someone, a lot. They love me too. Just me. Not...you know," Harry blushed.
"Son, if you're afraid we won't approve, don't be," said Arthur. "You may not be my son in blood, but I claim you none the less. Any decision you have made, I know you did so with a clear head and a sound mind."
"Draco Malfoy has asked me to marry him, and I've said yes. We looked into the law, and, considering everything, we would still be complying."
"'ou are hiz mate, oui?" asked Fleur.
"How?" began Harry.
"I can zee et. 'ou have zese glow to you. And you zmell like 'em."
"And where pray tell is Mr. Malfoy?" asked Molly.
"He's making plans for a dinner party Saturday next. I'm supposed to invite everyone."
"Well. Tell him his presence is required next Sunday, and that we will be in attendance to this...party."
"Yes Molly," smiled Harry.
"I'm out," said Ron. "I asked Pansy to marry me and she said yes. She said her dad would handle all the Ministry stuff, and she wants to be a June bride so, whatever, yeah? She's happy, I'm happy. Happy! Happy!"
"You all suck," pouted Ginny. "I'm still hopelessly single. No one wants to hitch up to a girl and her 12 million brothers."
"There's only seven of us counting Harry. It's not that bad," laughed Bill.
"That's what you think," she mumbled.
"I refuse to conform to this Barbarian act placed upon us by the Ministry. I will find love in due time, and no one can force my hand in the matter," said Hermione stiffly.
"So, Charlie. What about you?" asked Arthur.
"There might be someone," said Charlie fondly. "We're still in negotiations. Don't wanna get my hopes up."
Harry smiled. He was very aware of Charlie's secret love. He had been there when the order had come into Severus Snapes potions shop.
"I wouldn't worry about getting your hopes up. You have an extremely capable negotiator," said Harry so softly that only Charlie could hear.
"Thank you, Harry," Charlie smiled back.
"Oh I can't believe it! All but three of my children spoken for, and two of them having babies of their own! We have been blessed!" Molly cried.
"Indeed, we have."
When the Special Edition came out Wednesday afternoon it was mainly an advertisement for matchmaking services, complaints about the absurdity of the new laws, and an entire section devoted to the 'match making' party that was to be held at Malfoy Manor the following Saturday. It was therefore no surprise when on Saturday at promptly 7:45 pm, thousands of guests began descending on the grounds of Malfoy Manor for what had been touted as the 'party of the century'.
"Draco. I can't do this," said Harry.
"Of course you can. Where is all that Gryffindor bravery? Besides. No one will be looking at you, they will all be too taken with me," Draco smirked, primping himself in the mirror.
"You are such a prat sometimes," Harry said smiling.
"Yes, well, I'm your prat. So use some of that bravery and save me from all of the drooling ladies desperate for a profitable union," Draco sniffed.
The party was indeed a smash. Nearly 2,000 witches and wizards mingled, danced, and in some cases, negotiated deals, long into the night at what the Ministry would later claim as their first, and most successful 'matchmaking extravaganza'. Several couples announced their engagements, Draco and Harry among them, and several individuals left broken hearted, unable to grab up the juicy piece of meat they had so desired.
July slowly turned into August and the list of available witches and wizards began to dwindle down to the dregs of wizarding society. On 1st August the Prophet ran a 72 page special edition which showcased the remaining 2,000 or so eligible bachelor and bachelorettes, complete with pictures and a resume in romance. Hermione and Ginny were mortified to say the least.
"Can you believe this! Parading us around like a bunch of cattle," sneered Ginny.
"I think you should begin to worry. You and Hermione have to be the only two decent candidates left under 25 who bat for the other team, and the list of eligible bachelors is well..." Draco trailed off.
"Stuff it Draco," huffed Ginny. "I hear it enough from my mother. I might as well wait the 9 extra days and let the Ministry choose someone for me so that I may poison them and have them die in their sleep. Contract null and void."
"Or I could set you up on a blind date with a secret hidden bachelor whom I happen to have on good authority has already spoken with the male members of your family and has gained exclusive permission to spend the next eight days trying to convince you to cave to his wicked good charm, which he picked up from me," Draco smiled.
"Is he deformed? Gay? Old? Smelly?" Ginny asked her voice rising with each new word.
"None of the above. He is very good looking. He could go either way. He is well within your age range, and he prides himself on personal hygiene."
"Do I know him?"
"You've seen him around."
"Is he one of your friends?"
"Obviously. I wouldn't dare set you up with a stranger."
"I'm not going on a date with Crabbe or Goyle."
"Goyle is taken I'm afraid. Sorry to dash your hopes. And Crabbe is holding out for...something."
Ginny narrowed her eyes.
"Who is it?"
"Now what would be the fun in telling you? I have a blind date proposition for Hermione as well. Why don't you just run along like a good girl and get all pretty and be ready to go by 7pm?"
"I'm not going on a blind date Malfoy," said Ginny annoyed.
"Of course you are. It's that or Bachelor 974. Who probably is 974...Imagine. Or not. I need to go scrub my brain."
"I hate you Malfoy!"
"I only do this because I love you. And because Harry asked me to. And then Pansy made me."
"I hate them too!" Ginny screamed and promptly slammed her door.
Hermione on the other hand took the announcement of her 'blind date' a bit more calmly, and was politely thankful to Draco and Harry for taking the time out of their 'blissfully together' lives to take pity on her and round up someone they had deemed suitable, which must have been a feat in and of itself. The last she had checked the youngest 'eligible' bachelor had been 73. It was a horrendous thought and had Hermione been faced with that decision, she would have snapped her own wand and left the wizarding world of her own accord.
As she looked at herself in the mirror, steeling herself for what was yet to come, she took note of the subtle changes her body had made in just the last few months. She was a bit taller, and since her clothing fit her better when not on the run, she had more curves than she had noticed. Her face was sharper, with a perfect nose and high cheekbones, her skin a healthier color, and her once bushy hair now fell in soft curls mid way down her back. Her little black dress left nothing to the imagination and the heels Ginny had picked out made her legs seem like they went on forever. Paired with the barely there make-up she had on, and the diamond pendant she had around her neck, she looked very much like a confident young lady who would be in total control over the nights events. Inside, she was a squirming ball of nerves. All Harry had told her about 'Lord Prince' was that while he was quiet a bit older than Hermione, he was still very much in the prime of his life, and was looking for intelligence and friendship in a partner, not good looks and sex. He did admit that while not the sexiest man alive, this Lord did have a rugged handsomeness to him, and that over all, he and Draco both thought that Hermione would be very pleased, and that they had in fact been most surprised when the man had approached them first to voice his interest in procurring a date with their dear, horribly single, friend.
"Hermione," Ginny said as she knocked once on the door and enter. "Let's get this torture fest over with. I want to have time to drown myself in a bottle of Vodka before the night is over."
"It won't be that bad. Besides. Maybe everyone will get off our backs after this," smiled Hermione.
"Yeah, right," snorted Ginny. "My mom being placated with one half arsed date? You must have been hitting the bottle early."
Hermione swatted Ginny lightly on the arm and the slowly descended the stairs to face her fate.
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