Les Pires Surprises
A swirling figure appeared out of mid-air, and a slightly panicking Kingsley Shacklebolt began to speak as soon as his mouth was fully formed.
"I'm sorry...I did everything that I could...outnumbered..."
He stopped attempting to speak and gasped a quick breath.
"Kingsley? What's the matter?"
The remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix all cried out in alarm at the intrusion, despite the familiar face.
In spite of the fact that Harry had so impressively defeated Lord Voldemort in the spring of 1998, the order would occasionally convene for social events. Many of its members were friendly with one another, even when away from the order, and they enjoyed a good get-together complete with the exceptional culinary talents of Molly Weasley.
Kingsley was still gabbling away nonsense until Arthur Weasley had the sense to hit him over the head, albeit gently. This calmed him down enough so that he was able to impart the two very words that would result in the panic of the others, as opposed to alleviate it.
At the sound of those words, silence dropped around the room. The knife that Molly had been using clattered to the floor, but no one dived under the table to pick it up. They all sat there, not moving, as if they had all been turned to stone.
"They wouldn't dare..." uttered Molly softly, her mind still not able to grasp the unexpected news.
"They have," said Kingsley, who was able to, at least, breathe normally now. His normally calm exterior and reassuring voice gave away every inch of the anger that he was feeling.
Quiet mutterings floated above the group as they attempted to come to terms with the new turn of events.
"It will be effective as of tomorrow morning. They plan to announce it in the 'Prophet'."
"But what do you mean by 'marriage law'? Do we have a certain amount of time to get married in?" said George, looking very pale, indeed.
"Do we have a certain person that we have to get married to?" continued Fred, orange freckles more prominent than ever on his now pale skin.
Everyone hushed themselves in anticipation of his answer. Hermione began to get a hollow feeling in her ears, as though the sounds that she was hearing were coming from somewhere distant. It felt like all the blood had drained from her head in the small space of time it took for Kingsley to report all the information that he knew.
"You get a choice in who to marry...initially. There will be a specific time-frame in which you will marry, and conceive your children. If you do not comply, your wand will be snapped and you will be forced to live as a muggle. An outcast. The ministry will make sure that you are not welcomed back into the community."
The feeling in Hermione's ear intensified as she begun to feel light-headed. Black spots appeared in her vision as she gripped the edge of the table to steady herself.
"How long do couples have, to marry?" Hermione heard Arthur try and prod more answers out of Kingsley.
The darkness completely covered Hermione's vision and she heard no more.
The buzzing grew louder in Hermione's ears. It was like she had been submerged within the walls of a beehive.
She heard Molly's anxious voice cry out from the side.
There was a scuffling sound that was made across the room as Molly made her way over to Hermione.
Hermione, on the other hand, merely tried to get her eyelids to open. Step one was to have them fixed in that position, while step two was to get her eyeballs to focus onto what was going on around her,
'What happened?' she thought as she felt her heart race in apprehension.
She tried to lift her head from the soft place on which it was resting, however, she was greeted by a throbbing sensation and pain in said location. Reflexively she raised a hand to clap her forehead as she lowered it back down, but this only served to cause her more pain. As her hand hit her cranium, she felt an enormous lump underneath her fingertips.
'This must be what hurts' she thought with all the insight that was required to match-up pairs of freshly laundered socks.
"Why does my head hurt?" she asked the room at large before anyone else had the chance to say anything.
Molly, who had been hovering nearby in worry, was the one to answer.
"You hit your head on the table..." she replied, hesitating slightly before finished her explanation, "just as you fainted. Or rather, it was because you fainted."
It was at the mention of the word 'fainted' that Hermione's memories reached the fore of her brain, and she remembered the exact reason why she had lost consciousness and subsequently hit her head.
Very slowly, and with the aid of Molly, Hermione lifted herself from the sofa into a slightly more dignified sitting position.
She completely disregarded her injury and continued her thought process, verbally instead of internally.
"How can they do this to us? Surely there had to be some kind of loophole."
"Mr Weasley," said Harry, speaking for the first time, "Did you know anything about this?"
Mr Weasley's face held a facial expression that would have been otherwise appropriate at the sick-bed of a close friend, or perhaps at a funeral. He shook his head.
"This must have been kept very secret. I've never heard of such a thing."
"I bet it's a Death Eater thing," said Ron suddenly. "Now that their precious Dark Lord is gone they'll be wanting to take control again. This way, they can take control of us, and any future generations. I bet it'll scare loads of people shitless."
He growled in frustration, words seemingly not enough to express his anger anymore.
"First things first," said Bill, voice commanding authority as he spoke with the logic of a curse-breaker. "We need to get a copy of the law in its entirety, and see exactly what we are dealing with. Maybe there is a way that we can get out of this mess."