Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or any of its characters or world.
A/N: This story was inspired by a scene written by one of my favourite authors, Kiera Marcos. The story it was in has been taken down for finishing and editing but I encourage you all to check out her website and other stories.
Harry was sitting with Hermione in the parlour of 'The Leaky Cauldron' finishing his charms homework when Mr and Mrs Weasley came in accompanied by Professor Dumbledore.
"Have you got a minute Harry?" Arthur asked diffidently.
"Of course" Harry said politely putting down his quill. "Is this anything to do with why everyone's been so weird about my security. I really was fine staying here on my own you know. I've been looking after myself as long as I can remember."
"No Harry dear. This has to do with what happened at the end of the last school year" Molly said.
"Is Ginny all right?" Harry asked concerned. "Is there anything I can do to help? Does she need a specialist healer?"
"Ginny is physically fully recovered from her ordeal" Arthur said smiling at Harry. "However there are complications arising from your saving her life."
"We need you to sign this Harry dear" Molly said handing over a roll of parchment.
"What's this?" Harry said reaching for it and unrolling it to find a document written in what looked like Latin. The only part he could understand were the numerals 100,000 followed by the word Galleons.
"It's a contract for the settlement of the life debt Ginny owes you. We hoped…" Arthur began nervously.
"It's a betrothal contract for you and Ginny" Molly replied calmly.
"What's a betrothal contract?" Harry asked innocently.
"It's a really old fashioned marriage agreement Harry. Typically arranged between parents to make political alliances or for financial or social gain" Hermione explained. "They haven't been used in the muggle world for about hundred years."
"Then why would you give one to me?" Harry asked uncertainly. "My parents wouldn't have done that to me. They married for love didn't they? Everyone said how much they loved each other. They would have wanted me to fall in love too. To marry someone I loved."
"You saved Ginny's life. She owes you a life debt" Molly began explaining.
"I don't want her to owe me a debt. I went to help Ron save her because he's my friend. She doesn't owe me anything" Harry protested interrupting.
"Nevertheless she does owe you a life debt and marriage is the most honourable way to pay that debt. Sign the contract Harry" Molly said determinedly.
"But I'm not in love with Ginny" Harry protested.
"If a life debt isn't paid it puts pressure on Ginny's magic to pay it, given that you were injured trying to save her she could even become a squib" Dumbledore said gently.
Harry looked at Ginny who was sitting crying. He felt sorry for her but he had to admit he didn't really know her because she'd always been too shy to talk to him normally.
"I don't want her to become a squib" Harry admitted. "But I don't want to be forced to marry her either. So what are the other ways she could pay of a life debt?"
"This is the most honourable way" Molly repeated before anyone else could answer. "After all we've done for you, you owe us to sign the contract."
"I don't owe you anything" Harry protested, for a moment he was reminded of Vernon and Petunia who always told him he owed them for the meagre care they'd given him.
"We took you in when you had nobody and now you're refusing to help Ginny" Molly said. "An honourable boy would sign the contract."
"What do I owe you? I saved your daughter's life. How can that mean I owe you something. I thought you'd be grateful I saved Ginny, not angry at me for it" Harry asked confused.
"We've treated you like family. And now you're shaming us" Molly yelled.
"How can you say that you treated me like family? I spent two weeks with Ron last summer after the twins rescued me, and you sent me Christmas presents for the last two years and some snacks this summer. You still had no concerns about sending me back to spend the summer with people who hate me. A real family would care what happens to me more than that" Harry replied.
"Harry the headmaster said you need to stay with your Aunt and Uncle for your own safety" Arthur replied.
"My relatives are the main cause of most of my injuries. How on earth does living with them keep me safe?" Harry demanded incredulously.
"Harry we discussed this. There are wards at your family home that protect you from Voldemort" Dumbledore said calmly as if he had no idea why Harry would be upset by this.
"You have to sign the contract Harry" Molly said returning to the original conversation. "Ginny will be hurt if you don't. You need to take responsibility for your actions.
"So I'm being punished for saving Ginny's life?" Harry exclaimed shocked.
"No Harry of course you're not. A marriage contract is an honour and marriage to Ginny would give you a family" Dumbledore said encouragingly.
"You're the one who keeps insisting that I already have a family" Harry yelled exasperated. "You can't have it both ways sir."
"Your Aunt and Uncle will always be your family Harry. Signing the contract would give you family in the wizarding world as well" Dumbledore hastily corrected himself.
"If I sign this would it mean I would come and live with you and never have to go back to the Dursleys?" Harry asked.
"No Harry. You need to spend time at the Dursleys every summer to recharge the wards there" Dumbledore answered before Molly or Arthur could agree.
"If I didn't have to go back there it wouldn't matter if the wards fell" Harry argued.
"Then your family would be at risk" Dumbledore reminded him patiently.
"They could move, in fact they'd prefer to move house if it meant that they'd never have to see me again" Harry said stubbornly.
"You're exaggerating Harry. I'm sure your family love you deep down" Dumbledore said calmly.
"And I'm sure they don't" Harry retorted.
Harry looked at Hermione sadly. "Do your parents hate me too for saving your life and incurring a life debt?" he asked.
Hermione looked shocked. "I didn't tell them anything about it" she admitted. "But my parents love me Harry. They would be grateful you saved my life if they knew about it."
"Why didn't you tell them?" Harry asked.
"I'm afraid they'd pull me out of Hogwarts if they knew how dangerous it can be" Hermione said worriedly.
Harry nodded, "I guess I'm lucky the Dursleys wouldn't care if I died, they'd probably be glad so long as they didn't have to pay for the funeral" he said cynically.
"I'm sure your family love you Harry" Dumbledore interjected twinkling his eyes.
"And I'm sure they don't" Harry repeated crossly.
"I'm glad Ron didn't lose his sister but I don't want to marry her. If my Mum and Dad were alive I bet they wouldn't let you force me into this" Harry said furiously. "And what if I'd already been betrothed. There must be another way for Ginny to pay off the life debt and save her magic."
"Do I owe Harry a life debt too?" Hermione asked anxiously. "Is there a spell to tell?"
"No offence Hermione but I love you like a sister. I don't think I want to marry you either" Harry said morosely.
Hermione gave him a quick hug. "I love you too little brother" she said grinning.
"We're too young to be thinking about who we want to marry."
"I want to marry you Harry. I know we'd be happy together" Ginny spoke up for the first time.
"Well you're lucky I didn't know about this life debt nonsense Ginny" Harry said. "Because I don't know if I'd save someone else's life if I knew it would ruin my own. Maybe that's why Lockhart wanted to obliviate us instead of trying to help us save you."
"No Harry, I think he was just too much of a self centred, lying, coward to do anything for anyone else" Hermione said her rose coloured glasses having been violently torn off by Harry's and Ron's story of what had happened in the tunnel below the school.
"You couldn't possibly mean that Harry. That you wouldn't save Ginny if you had a choice" Dumbledore said firmly.
"All my life I've dreamed of one day having a family who loved me, someone I could love and now you're saying that I can't. That I never will. That I have to marry Ginny instead because I saved her life" Harry said miserably. "How is that in any way fair?"
Saving Ginny took away any hope for my dreams ever becoming reality. No one would ever save anyone else if they knew it would destroy their own future" Harry said bluntly.
"Headmaster?" Hermione asked anxiously. "You didn't answer my questions. Harry risked his life to save me in first year too. Does that mean he has to marry me as well?"
"No of course not. He is going to marry Ginny" Molly yelled.
"I don't understand why he has to marry Ginny when he didn't have to marry me last year" Hermione pressed. "He nearly died when that troll grabbed him."
The headmaster waved his wand in a complicated pattern and Harry lit up like a Christmas tree with hundreds of spokes going off in every direction blinding them all. He hastily cancelled the spell and tried to cast it again with the same results frowning worriedly.
"What's that spell supposed to do?" Hermione asked.
"It's supposed to show life debt bonds but it doesn't seem to work in Mr Potter's case" the Headmaster replied frowning.
Hermione thought for a moment. "Could it be because of what happened when He-who-must-not-be-named attacked him as a baby? I mean we were all potential targets, so in a way he saved everyone when he destroyed You-know-who" she asked.
Harry went so white he was almost grey and flopped down into the nearest chair as his legs became unsteady. "What?" he whispered.
"No it shouldn't be, usually life debts can only be formed though deliberate actions that directly save the debtor's life" Dumbledore said.
"Well obviously Harry's done something to make hundreds of people owe him a life debt" Hermione said thoughtfully. "Could it be preventing Voldemort from coming back last year and the year before?"
Dumbledore frowned and recast the spell aiming at Hermione. "She glowed faintly golden with two spikes both heading towards Harry.
"That can't be right. I saved Hermione that night too, where's her debt to me?" Ron exclaimed.
"You never came anywhere near that troll. It was Harry that jumped on its back" Hermione replied.
"Then Harry should owe me a life debt for saving him" Ron insisted.
"I'm sure Harry doesn't want to marry you either Ron" Hermione said dryly. "And I thought you had to risk your life to establish a life debt. You really weren't at that much risk standing in the doorway"
Dumbledore sighed and cast the spell at Ron. He produced an extremely faint and patchy gold glow with a ragged beam heading towards Harry. Dumbledore cast again at the older Weasleys producing a single thin line towards Harry more like Hermione's.
"It seems your actions that night did save Harry, Mr Weasley but because you already owed him a life debt andyour own life was not at risk, instead of establishing a new life debt your actions have partially paid back the debt you owed Harry" Albus said seriously. "I assume it didn't entirely cancel it out because Miss Granger was correct in that your life was never actually at risk."
"What's this mean for Ginny?" Arthur demanded.
Dumbledore cast the spell on Ginny and produced a glow exactly the same as Hermione's. "It seems Miss Weasley and Miss Granger both owe Harry two life debts" he said calmly.
"So you're saying that I need to marry both of them?" Harry asked horrified.
"And the rest of us owe Harry a life debt. As well" Arthur said.
"Yes. I would imagine most of the British wizarding world owes Harry a debt for vanquishing Voldemort" Albus said sombrely.
"But what about Ginny. She cannot keep owing Harry two life debts. It will damage her magic. She must be allowed to pay the debt with the betrothal contract" Molly demanded.
"And what about Hermione, I don't want her magic damaged either" Harry said anxiously. "Is there a way they can both pay off their debts without me marrying them. There must be. I cant marry the whole world" he added slightly hysterically.
Albus sighed. "There are several ways of paying off a life debt" he admitted reluctantly. "Firstly by saving your life as Mr Weasley has done" he said glancing at Ron.
"Well I'm not letting you put Harry's life in danger just so we can save it" Hermione huffed crossing her arms.
"Of course not my dear. Deliberately setting it up for you to save him probably wouldn't work anyway" Albus replied soothingly. "A debt cannot be acquired if the person saving the life was in any way responsible for the life being at risk in the first place."
"So that's why I don't owe Ron a life debt" Hermione nodded. "So what else can we do?"
"Betrothal or marriage. Harry can only take one wife so I don't mean you need to marry him yourself but Harry could sign an agreement that one of his descendents could choose to marry one of your descendents."
"So that would mean my children if I have any and their children and grandchildren wouldn't be able to marry for love either" Harry said disgustedly. "There must be another solution."
"Hermione and Ginny could become your concubines until the spell shows the debt is cleared" Albus suggested. "But an honourable man wouldn't ask that of them."
"My daughter is not a whore" Molly screeched.
"What's a concubine exactly? I mean I know what it means in the muggle world but there are lots of things in the magical world that mean different things than I expect them to. How long would it take?" Hermione asked. "And how would you know when the debt is paid?"
"I think the meaning is close enough in both worlds though in our world concubines aren't locked away as they are in the muggle world. You could even finish school and have a career if Harry was willing to let you. As for how ling it would take to pay off a life debt that way, I'm not sure. Several years at least possibly decades depending on the feelings of those involved. The tradition is that you be retested for the debt every year on it's anniversary. The quickest way to resolve the situation would be for the concubine to bear a child"
"Well that doesn't work. I'm not old enough to be a Dad and even if I was I couldn't look after a couple of thousand children" Harry replied.
"I don't think that would be an issue" Dumbledore said quietly. "The debt that everyone owes you will sit lightly on each person's magic because it is shared by so many. It is the singular debt Ginevra owes you that could damage her, particularly as she is so young it could affect the way her magic develops."
"And Hermione" Harry said annoyed that they seemed to want to keep focussing on resolving the debt Ginny owed and ignoring Hermione's debt. "Why didn't someone talk to me about this last year after I saved Hermione's life? Surely Madam Pomfrey or McGonagall or someone knows enough about what happened to check us for life debts if it's so important that they're paid as soon as possible" Harry asked.
"You weren't injured saving Hermione. I don't think it occurred to anyone" Dumbledore replied apologetically.
"I wasn't admitted to the hospital wing after saving Ginny either. In fact I felt a lot worse after saving Hermione. I ached for weeks" Harry argued.
"Hermione is obviously fine" Molly said impatiently. "It's Ginny who is suffering now stop quibbling and sign the contract now."
"How do you know Hermione's magic is fine? Nobody realised she owed me a debt so nobody would have checked on it. Does she need to see a healer?" Harry asked anxiously.
"Wait a minute. Why are you all so worried this debt will harm Ginny's magic when the other debts clearly aren't harming anyone since nobody even knows about them?" Hermione asked suspiciously.
"As I explained earlier the debt we owe Harry is shared by all the witches and wizards alive in Britain at the time so it doesn't tax any one persons magic" Dumbledore said placatingly. "I will have Madam Pomfrey assess her when she arrives back at Hogwarts but I'm sure she's fine. She would have noticed it by now if she wasn't" Dumbledore said soothingly.
"School doesn't start for another month and then if she needs treatment she'll be stuck in the hospital wing missing classes. She should see a healer now" Harry demanded.
"I'm afraid she would need her guardians to make that decision Harry" Dumbledore said. "We're worried about young Ginevra at the moment."
"So you're saying that because Hermione's parents aren't magical you're all going to let her risk losing her magic because there's nobody to act in her best interests? And you're saying that Ginny's magic is worth more than Hermione's because Hermione is muggleborn?" Harry asked furiously.
"That's not what we're trying to say. But this meeting was set up for Ginny's sake to organise the payment of her life debt. You'll need to meet with Hermione's parents later to settle her life debt" Dumbledore attempted to calm Harry down.
"No offence Ginny but if I'm forced to marry one of you to protect their magic I'd marry Hermione. She's my friend and I saved her life first" Harry said. "I'm not signing this contract Mrs Weasley until I know that Hermione doesn't need me to marry her."
"Hermione can marry Ron. He saved her life as well" Molly said dismissively.
"But the test showed that I don't owe Ron a life debt" Hermione sad frowning. "I owe Harry a life debt so clearly magic doesn't think that Ron saved my life. Harry did."
"That's it" Harry said decisively. "I'm taking Hermione home so her parents can take her to a healer and get this sorted out." He got up and took Hermione's hand leading her out of the room.
"Harry you promised not to leave Diagon alley" Dumbledore reminded him.
"I promised not to go out roaming in the streets by myself. I'll be with Hermione and she needs a healer. If you don't want us travelling to her house by ourselves you should take us" Harry replied.
"Very well I will take Miss Granger home and you stay here" Dumbledore agreed smiling genially.
"I'm coming with you" Harry said after seeing Hermione's frightened expression. "Surely her parents are going to want to meet the boy she might need to become betrothed to." 'And I want to talk to an expert about life debts, surely there must be something they aren't telling me' he thought to himself.
A/N: I am Australian and write in Australian English which results in many words being spelled differently than American English. I am aware this can be annoying and apologise for your frustration.