Disclaimer: JKR owns the Harry Potter Series, and I am not JKR; however, this story will follow her time honored tradition of screwing with Harry's life, though hopefully with a better reward at the end than to marry Ginny.
After the debacle at the Department of Mysteries Harry Potter was understandably quite upset and, as was his way, he spent considerable time blaming himself for all that had gone wrong. The list of his mistakes played over and over in his head, Sirius dead, Hermione and Ron almost died, Ginny with a shattered ankle, Neville's broken nose and his father's wand, and Luna hurt as well. Harry would gladly have taken all of their pains on himself if he could have, and he would do anything to have his godfather back, but Sir Nicholas had convinced him that Sirius would have moved on, and that had helped, though not so much at the time. It was Luna who pulled him out of his funk, and as soon as he'd gotten back to Privet Drive he'd sent a long letter off to her about what her friendship meant to him.
He'd also sent off letters to the others that had gone with him that night, but he hadn't heard from his two best friends yet, or Ginny for that matter, and he was a little worried. He consoled himself with the fact that while Ron hadn't always stuck by him Hermione had, and he didn't think Ginny would hold her injuries against him, though he knew she had a temper. Still, everything had seemed alright when school had let out, and…he just wasn't sure, which is why when he saw a small owl at his window he leapt to let Ron's little owl Pig in.
He hardly seemed to notice that Pig wasn't acting like a hyper-active child on a sugar rush, and he only found it mildly surprising that Pig raced back out the window as soon as the short letter was removed from his leg. After reading the letter Harry slumped onto his lumpy mattress in shock, and once again failed to notice something as two quick flashes of magic shot out of him. It would be several hours and two thick letters from Gringots Wizarding Bank later before the shock would were off enough for Harry to move from his slumped position, only to find the two letters, read them and be shocked senseless yet again.
Meanwhile at the Burrow, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were seated at the dinner table with Fred and George, Ginny, Ron, Bill, and Hermione enjoying a lovely meal, though Molly did wonder at the looks on the faces of her youngest two children and Hermione. The looks were most obvious when she or Arthur mentioned Harry, and for the life of her she couldn't understand why their faces would take on such a look. She almost thought they hated Harry, but without him none of them would have survived the Department of Mysteries, surely they must understand that, she thought. She finally decided that she had had enough and was simply going to ask what was wrong when suddenly two deep, blood red beams of magic struck Ginny and Hermione and they vanished.
After the confusion and uproar was settled and Bill made a quick check of the wards to confirm that no one was about who could have done such a thing the family quickly went to check the Family clock only to find Ginny's small portrait hovering between lost and prison. About an hour after the disappearance a large black owl appeared and, recognizing one of the owl breeds most commonly used by Gringots, Bill quickly took the letter from the birds' leg and read it.
To the Weasley Clan Head Arthur Septimus Weasley:
We at Gringots Wizarding Bank regret to inform you that as of approximately 5:32pm, on this, the 23rd day of June, your daughter, Ginerva Molly Weasley, has violated the terms of a life debt to one Harry James Potter, and thus her life and freedom are surrendered to one Harry James Potter. From this moment on, unless other arrangements can be made, you should consider your daughters' life forfeit and, at your earliest convenience should transfer all of her belongings into the hands of her new owner, Harry James Potter.
Also enclosed with this letter is a brief description of the penalties of violation of a Magical Life Debt for your perusal and a description of the events that led to the formation of a Magical Life Debt in case you are unaware.
From Gringots Wizarding Bank, Diagon Alley, London Branch
Head Goblin in Charge of the Management of the Potter Investments
Meanwhile a very distraught Daniel and Emma Granger, who received a similar letter moments before, and who immediately got in their car and got to the Leaky Cauldron in record time for muggles, quickly passed through the pub and into Diagon ally with the assistance of the proprietor, Tom the barman. They thanked their lucky stars that they had been provided with access to the magical world, or as they well knew, they wouldn't even have been able to find the Leaky Cauldron, and they thanked Tom for letting them through before running towards the large white marble building that was Gringots.
Upon entering the bank a goblin came up to them and said, "Daniel and Emma Granger?" At their frantic nods the goblin said, "My name is Griphook, recently promoted to assistant to the goblin Bareblade, whose name should be familiar to you. I compliment you on your quick arrival, now, please follow me," and with that Griphook quickly led the Grangers to a waiting room and explained that, "Master Bareblade will see you shortly," then Griphook left.
A few minutes, and several times rereading the letter, later and a slightly larger goblin entered the office and sat down behind the desk. Before the Grangers could speak the goblin said, "I apologize for the delay, but we are still awaiting the reply of the young Lord Potter, and until he responds to our letter there is little we can do but to assure you that your daughter has been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. My name is Bareblade and, while we wait, I'm here to answer any questions you may have about this situation."
The goblin looked calm and collected, and it was clear he was trying to be sympathetic. The Grangers realized all of this and they had had a little time to collect themselves on the way to the Wizarding Bank so as calmly as he could, Dan Granger asked, "How could this have happened?"
Bareblade smiled slightly, being careful not to expose his pointed teeth, as for some reason that unnerved some humans', and he recognized the panic in the eyes of the two people before him, and had no wish to increase it. Finally he said, "As the letter should have indicated, your daughters' life has been forfeited to Harry James Potter for violating an unfulfilled Magical Life Debt. In this case, the Debt was formed when your daughter first entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and on the 31st of October, 1991, when a fully grown mountain troll entered the school and Mr. Potter saved her life. Such a debt can remain unacknowledged and unpaid, but if violated can have drastic penalties, such as your daughter has recently found out."
The smile at the end of Bareblade's short speech was not as friendly as the one at the beginning, but the Granger's soldiered on and Dan asked, "But how could this have happened? For years Hermione has written home about Harry…he's her first friend, so how could this have happened?!" Dan Granger's voice rose at the end, he didn't understand it. From everything his daughter had always written he'd always assumed that Hermione thought of the boy as either the brother she never had, or as a boy she had a long time crush on! It just didn't make sense, and now his little girl was basically a legal slave to her first real friend?
As Bareblade was explaining the situation to the Grangers the Weasley's were slowly collecting themselves. Naturally, both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley intended to go straight to Gringots, but Bill managed to stop them long enough to figure out the whole situation. Luckily, Ron looked so guilty that they knew right were to direct their attention to, and after he had a chance to personally read the letter he turned a sickly shade of green. It was eventually dragged out of him that he, Ginny, and Hermione had sent off a letter to Harry that they all had signed, and in that letter they had basically said that they wanted nothing more to do with him and that they blamed him for almost getting the lot of them killed in the Department of Mysteries.
Unsurprisingly this led to a long series of loud arguments and, when it came out that Ron had talked the other two into sending the letter, very nearly had Ron banished from the family. Ron was sent up to his room where he sulked quietly while downstairs discussions were under way as to what could be done.
Fred and George were both for going to Harry and asking his forgiveness, they had all but given up their sister to her fate, but they were sure Harry would be good to her so it wouldn't be all that bad. Besides, they had long since adjusted themselves to the idea that Harry was the only one in the world good enough for their little sister, and while they might not currently think much of that sister, they still thought that Harry would forgive her and that they might still end up together.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were of a similar opinion as the twins in that they saw that Harry had been wronged and that he deserved better from those he considered friends. They both found their loyalties somewhat mixed in this, as they had come to think of Harry as a black haired son among all the red, and now they were wondering what they really thought of their two youngest. Ultimately though their disappointment and anger fell directly upon Ron, and it was around this point that serious consideration was made in the plans of kicking the git out of the family. Luckily for Ron, Mr. Weasley knew you should never make hasty decisions while angry and so sent Ron up to bed. Ron almost said something about dessert, or at the least, about staying until the problem was resolved, but one look at his parents faces and he was up those stairs like he had an incendio spell after him.
Bill managed to calm his parents and convinced everyone that going to Harry now would be a bad thing, as it might be surmised that they had done something to him if later he suddenly released Ginny. Instead, he pointed out the passage from the short note that said there were other ways of resolving this situation, and he assured his family that, if they would let him, he knew of at least one such way. His parents trusted their eldest's judgment and, holding their wands upright in their wand hands, swore to allow their son and primary heir to mediate on their behalf, the release of their daughter, Ginerva Molly Weasley, from the indentured servitude she had fallen into.
Neither had a clue what he would do to actually take care of this mess, but all in the household trusted that he was capable of dealing with the situation. After all, who better to deal with the goblins than one who had worked for and with them for the past several years?
From this point, Bill quickly made his way, not to Gringots, but to his girlfriends' apartment, where he had been staying in the spare room. He thought they should share a bedroom, she thought they should wait until they were married, but if he did what he was planning it soon wouldn't matter. She wasn't home so he collapsed onto the couch with his head in his hands. He was wondering if he could really do it, but his indecision lasted less than ten minutes. He silently cursed his youngest brother for putting him in this position.
The worst part is he should have known this would happen, he thought. It was just last summer when he asked about life debts, said he'd saved Hermione's life once and was wondering if that got him anything. I was so disgusted with him and now I'm about to do the same kind of thing, but if it's Ginny or Fleur, I have to save my sister.
Resolute, he went to his room gathered his clothes and other small possessions and shrunk them all down to fit into his one piece of luggage, then shrunk that and put it in his pocket. With some quick spell work he cleaned the room and made his bed, and then he picked up a small box he'd left out and looked inside briefly. It had held his hope for the future, but now only held a means to an end. He knew he'd not soon forgive himself, but family is family, no matter how much you might sometimes wish otherwise.
He closed the door to his room, wrote a brief note to Fleur, and apparated to Diagon ally where he quickly made his way to Gringots. After a brief discussion with a manager he went and found Fleur.
"Bill," she cried happily upon seeing him, followed immediately by rushing to hug him.
Her English really has improved, Bill thought with a sad smile. "Hi Fleur, there's something I'd like to ask you."
"Oh? What is it?" She seemed confused, then somewhat alarmed as she noticed the way he was smiling. She grabbed his arm and said, "What iz ze matter?"
Bill made an attempt to put a better smile on and it must have worked, because she immediately calmed down. It helped thinking about her accent. It's so sweet that it comes out whenever she gets upset like that. Before he could become melancholy he said, "Not here, let's go get a bite to eat."
Smiling coyly she asked, "Something sweet?"
He gulped and tried desperately to control himself, he wasn't sure if he wanted to start snogging her then and there, or start crying for what he was giving up, and her losing her battle to suppress her Veela charm wasn't helping. He knew she wouldn't have let go of her control, even to tease him, as he also knew that it infuriated her that so few were immune.
He couldn't remember how many times he'd had to hear that Harry Potter was immune to her charm. Well, he thought, at least that might be one bright spot in this mess for her. At least, she'll be able to be herself around him. Oddly, that brought a small smile to his lips and he quickly took her hand and kissed her knuckles before taking her arm-in-arm down to Fortescue's.
After they shared a bowl of 'Bananas on the Rum' Bill got down on one knee and silently opened a small box.
Very pleasantly surprised Fleur's smile could easily have lit up the whole street, and her control on her Veela charm slipped completely and Bill gasped in shock. He very nearly dropped the ring when he got up to kiss her after she said, "Yes!"
He had quite forgotten about Ginny and was well on the way to forgetting his own name before she regained control, and he again wondered if he shouldn't let Ginny get herself out of this mess. What stopped that line of thinking was that he wasn't sure what Harry would do. If he had known Harry better he wouldn't have worried, but not knowing, he was afraid that Harry could do anything to his little sister.
Images of all the horrible fates that could befall his little sister settled him on his course, and with one last kiss he escorted her back to work, but once inside he stepped away from her and formally declared, "This day I do hereby trade the life and freedom of Fleur Delacour for that of Ginerva Molly Weasley, so mote it be."
Quicker than the words could register she was gone and in her place stood Ginny who confusedly asked, "Bill? What's going on?"
He could tell she'd been crying, but he felt no sympathy, he merely grabbed her roughly by the arm and, with a nod to the goblin manager he'd dealt with, dragged her out of the bank and immediately apparated away.
Meanwhile, inside of one of the vaults of Gringots Wizarding Bank, a very confused Fleur Delacour sat in a room that looked like it had been set up hundreds of years ago. Being a highly intelligent young witch the words Bill had used didn't take long to register though, and when they did she broke down in tears.
Author's Note: Parts of this story were inspired by 'Earl of the North' by Lord Silvere. Also, if anyone's interested the ice cream flavor mentioned is a Ben & Jerry's that sounded good. TTFN