Harry was holding himself very still as he listened to what the goblin was saying to him. He'd been summoned to Gringotts for the reading of Sirius' will, and he'd gone thanks to a portkey that they'd provided when he'd responded that he was locked in his bedroom by his relatives, and with members of the Order guarding the house in case he somehow got out and tried to leave. The will reading hadn't been too bad. Sirius had left him pretty much everything with instruction to live it up and make a good go at trying to spend it all, however difficult that may be. He'd left a decent wad of cash for Remus as well, along with a property in the lake district. He'd even left some old prank notebooks to the twins, officially recognising them as the next generation of Marauders, even if not by blood. It was a few of the things that came with all of the 'everything' that Sirius had left to Harry that was currently making the sixteen-year-old wizard slowly lose all the colour in his cheeks.
Betrothal contracts. Promise contracts. Feud-ending marriage agreements. The list – and it was a list – had Harry as being in a legally binding agreement of some kind to marry a female from fourteen different families, and because of the way marriages were conducted in the wizarding world, there was no divorce, so they were all going to be stuck with him – and each other.
The reason that there were fourteen different contracts were because they had been handed down like ... well honestly like a bit of junk jewellery that they couldn't get rid of but weren't inclined to keep either. Any of these contracts could have been fulfilled by a past member of his family and he wouldn't have had to worry about them, but they hadn't been, and they were still legally binding to him. He could also hand them down to any future offspring, provided that he fulfilled at least one of them.
His dad had apparently gone with the 'introduce new magical blood into the family by marrying a muggle born' contract, which was a valid option for every generation of the Potters, regardless of if it had been fulfilled by a previous generation or not. Of course, there weren't just the Potter contracts. Sirius had declared Harry as his heir and the Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black in his will, which meant that Harry got all of the Black contracts as well. The only 'muggle born' that Harry could think of was Hermione, and she'd probably rip him a new one for thinking of asking her, unless of course she actually liked the idea.
The other girls that were 'eligible' to fulfil the many and varied contracts with him were also being informed today, so they'd all know, and could all potentially become very offended if he chose someone else over them. It almost didn't help that he knew them all on some level. At least they weren't telling every 'muggle born' girl about it, or he'd have been completely swamped.
There were contracts for all three of the girls who had been on the Gryffindor quidditch team when he'd joined – all three of whom he knew were in relationships; Katie with Oliver, Angelina with Fred and Alicia with George. Old pureblood contracts for marrying the 'cousins' again when they became sufficiently distant as to prevent producing idiots, while still keeping the Family solid and united.
There was an alliance contract with the Patil family, which meant Parvati or Padma, so that the old Indian magical family would have the support of a powerful British family. Apparently the only reason it hadn't been fulfilled before now was because their kids had always been of the same gender before, and it wouldn't do any good for James Potter to marry Mr Patil, for example. Though they'd stayed in alliance since the contract was formed anyway, waiting for it to be able to be fulfilled. The trouble was that he was fairly sure that they didn't like him much since the Yule Ball.
There was an international relations contract between the Black family and the Delacour family, which meant Harry was in line for marrying Fleur or Gabrielle. This contract had gone unfulfilled because of a poor political environment in previous years, mainly based in that the Black family was actively taking part in a war that France did not want to be dragged into, and after that there was the issue of "has the Veela blood been watered down enough that we aren't going to be dealing with very dangerous wives yet?" He was also fairly sure that Fleur would rip him a new one right along side Hermione if he made overtures with Gabrielle, and Bill would join in if he went with Fleur instead.
There was an agreement for the ending of family feuds by marriage between the Potter house and the Greengrass family, which meant Daphne or Astoria, the latter of whom was interested in Malfoy, and the former of whom seemed to hate all men. There was another between the Potter family and the Black family (interestingly enough) which meant (even more interestingly) he'd have to marry Tonks, since one of the things Sirius had done in his will was to posthumously reinstate Andromeda back into the Black family. Probably the most interesting thing about the contract was that the feud had been due to his grandmother, Dorea Black, getting married to Charlus Potter in the first place. He got the feeling that Remus would be a little unhappy about this particular contract, to say nothing of Tonks herself. There were more of the same from the Black line which meant Tracy Davis – who was as cold towards men as Daphne – and one of the Carrow girls were added to his list of possible wives. He suspected that Flora and Hestia preferred each other to anybody else though.
There was a goodwill contract between the Potters and the Lovegood family, so add Luna, who probably wouldn't mind, and one between the Blacks and the Changs, so add Cho, who definitely would. There was an agreements with the Bones family, which meant he'd be marrying Susan as well, and then, the (mercifully) last contract was with the Abbot family. Well, he knew that the last two girls were friends, so they'd be able to complain about the situation together at least. He'd probably hear a load from Ernie MacMillan as well, for Susan, and Neville might even cold-shoulder him a bit for taking Hannah.
None of this was even taking the Voldemort Issue into consideration either. Some of those potential wives were Slytherin and potentially part of Death Eater families.
"Do you have any questions Mr. Potter?" enquired the goblin who had handed him the pile of contracts and simplified list of girls.
"Is it legal in the wizarding world for a person to have multiple spouses?" he asked. "It isn't in non-magical Britain."
"Quite legal," the goblin answered.
Harry sighed and raised a hand to rub at his face in a weak attempt to wake him up from this nightmarish reality he found himself in. Some of these contracts really should be filled as soon as possible, for the sake of the family alliances or feuds that had been going on for so long, while at the same time he really, really wanted to put as many of them off as he possibly could. Apart from anything else, when all the boyfriends found out that he was marrying their girls, Voldemort would probably be the least of his worries.
"In the interest of future generations, I suppose it would be advisable to get as many of these contracts cleared up as possible, wouldn't it?" he suggested, thinking out loud. "I don't know how I'd keep up with one wife all the time, let alone fourteen."
"The 'muggle-born' contract is not one that needs to be fulfilled quite as urgently as the others do," the goblin advised.
"No," Harry agreed. "But I grew up in a muggle house. I'd feel better if I had someone who understands what that's like in there among the others if I can. Besides, thirteen is an unlucky number, in the muggle world anyway. Not so sure about the wizarding world."
The goblin grunted. "The same is true through both Mr. Potter. May I assume you intend to fulfil all of the contracts?"
Harry sighed again, nodding weakly. "I'd like to arrange to meet all of the girls together, and their boyfriends, if they've got them, at the same time, if possible. Can Gringotts arrange for that?" he asked.
"We can. Do you have any particular date you would like for this to happen?" the goblin asked, drawing quill and parchment closer to himself.
"Today is the twenty-eighth of July... Well, might as well make it a party. The thirty-first of July please? Say, ten in the morning? I think I'll spend the time between now and then getting familiar with the properties that Sirius and my parents left me. With all these wives, I'm going to need somewhere to live with them sooner or later," he commented.
"Very good Mr. Potter," the goblin said. "If you can provide us with a list of the males we will need to contact, then Gringotts shall arrange a conference hall and send out the summons. You may use the floo system to return to Gringotts if you will be at one of the Potter or Black estates in the intervening time."
Harry nodded appreciatively. He hoped that holding the meeting on his birthday would stave off any immediate inclination to kill him, though it would be rather poetic to die on the same day as he was born.
The day of Harry's seventeenth birthday came, and he couldn't help but wonder if it would be his last day among the living, what with all of those very different girls and all of their boyfriends as well. He had asked that of the Greengrass sisters, Astoria not be called in, only Daphne, so at least he wouldn't have to deal with Malfoy today as well. Though there were still going to be four Weasley boys, and as much as they liked him and he liked and respected them, he didn't delude himself for a moment into believing that they wouldn't be able to pull off the same sort of scary as their mum's howlers, or their sister's bat bogey hex. Okay, maybe not Ron so much on the scary aspect, but he was Harry's first friend, so he didn't much want to screw it up. The other boy might not take to kindly to Harry's asking Hermione to this meeting as well, but he wanted them both to be there to know what was happening, even if they suddenly became very unhappy with him.
Harry watched from a hidden room as the girls and their men entered and seated themselves at the long table. He noticed that Gabrielle didn't come with Fleur, and he guessed that the Delacour family had figured out from the vague wording of the summons that this meeting was about the marriage contract. At least he wasn't going to be the one making the choice, but he doubted that would make Fleur or Bill any more happy with him. There would be no empty seats though, as responses had been returned to the bank saying who would be attending the meeting where there was more than one daughter invited. Harry was a little surprised that both of the Carrow girls had come, as well as both of the Patils, but when everybody was seated he went to join them, a goblin by his side carrying all of the marriage contracts, most of them in duplicate so that boyfriends or twins would each have a copy as well to read for themselves, rather than it having to be over someone else's shoulder. Harry would be keeping the copies of the contract about marrying a 'muggle born' though, rather than passing it straight to Hermione. He'd only give it to her when she asked why she was there, not before. Of course, he was also keeping one copy of all of the contracts for himself to reference to throughout the meeting as well.
Harry stopped at the only empty chair – the one at the head of the long table – and put the contracts down in front of him.
"I'd say thank you for coming to my birthday party," he said, smiling weakly to them all, "but even though it is my birthday today, we are most definitely not here about that. The papers that are being handed out to you, however, are why we are here. While yesterday I was only the Heir to the Ancient and Most Noble Houses of Black and Potter, as of today I am their Heads, and that means that I have certain responsibilities. A lot of them I only learned about three days ago. Some of you will have known or had a vague idea before arriving here today what this is all about, for others of you, I do not doubt that this is a sudden and even possibly unpleasant thing to suddenly be learning of. I know I was in shock when I discovered that I was tied to fourteen different contracts, and could really only dodge one-and-a-half of them without smearing an elevated and Noble Family's name."
"One and a half?" Daphne Greengrass asked.
"I am bound as the Head of the House of Potter to marry a daughter of the House of Black in order to end a centuries old feud that doesn't exactly matter any more, as I am also the Head of the House of Black. That's the half," Harry answered.
"Meaning?" Remus asked.
"Meaning that Tonks has some wiggle room to get out of my marriage contract to her, but it will take possibly years of paperwork to get sorted out completely," Harry answered.
"Harry," Hermione said from his immediate left. "I don't think you're really supposed to be calm when you say things like that."
"Believe me Hermione, I have been in shock, gone through hysterics, and finally turned to studying the laws of wizarding Britain frantically in the three days since I found out about all this, as well as going over all of the estates that my family left me. Until a couple of days ago, I didn't know that it was legal in wizarding Britain for an individual person to simultaneously have multiple spouses, even if it isn't done as often."
Those last few words seemed to do the trick for enlightening even the most hard-headed of boyfriends, as a roar went up at Harry stealing their girls. Most of the girls were also visibly unhappy – some angry, others nearly crying.
Harry waited for the yelling to die down and for some of the boyfriends to dry their girl's tears before speaking again.
"Yeah, I get it. You're unhappy about this. You have every right to be. As a matter of fact, I'm not any happier about it. I would have quite liked the chance to go out and find someone to love and who loved me, rather than having to marry more than ten people because of a large pile of papers. However, just because I am unhappy with the situation does not mean that I intend to share my unhappiness. It is possible for me to pass on these contracts to future descendants. I have to fulfil at least one of the contracts that are in this pile before me," he said, resting his hand on his pile of copies. "Which only means that I'd be dropping this same situation on any kids I had, and doing all of the families I hold contracts with a great disservice. My dad didn't mind so much, fulfilling only one contract option, and my godfather didn't marry at all, fulfilling none of them. Some of these contracts have gone unfulfilled for generations because of circumstances that prevented their fulfilment. The sons of two families obviously cannot marry for the sake of unifying the two families with their offspring, for example."
"Dad mentioned that," said one of the Patil sisters. "Said he could have been the one married to Narcissa or Bellatrix, but they were not from the head family and had chosen to fulfil other contracts instead anyway."
"In non-magical Britain, it could potentially be possible to marry, divorce and re-marry upon finding that we don't get along. The stipulations of the contracts before you all are simply that we marry, not stay married – except that marriage in wizarding Britain is not done the same way, and divorce cannot happen. Besides, divorce could potentially create another family feud where the marriage was supposed to either end one or to strengthen an alliance between the two families."
"Harry," Hermione said quietly. "Why am I here?" There was a very serious look in her eyes.
Harry slid the contract for marrying a 'muggle born' over to her. "This is the contract that my father fulfilled, rather than any of the other ones," he said quietly. "You are also my friend, and I kinda needed a little moral support," he added, more nervously.
"Hey Potter," Ernie MacMillan called out from where he was sat. "Why'd you get all us blokes here if it was all about you marrying our girls?"
"Finally someone thinks to ask!" Harry exclaimed, raising his arms and eyes to the ceiling as if praising God. "Two good reasons," he said, looking around the room. "The first is simply that I thought it better all round for you to hear straight up exactly what is going on. The second, is that there is a very convenient back-door in this whole thing. Earlier you all heard me say that it is legal in wizarding Britain, and I quote, 'for an individual person to simultaneously have multiple spouses', that's what it says in the law books. It isn't that 'a wizard may have multiple wives', but this slightly oblique and very official sounding wording refers to the old practices of a witch having multiple husbands."
In the silence that followed, Harry practically saw the metaphorical light-bulb go on over each and every head as they understood what he was saying.
"I am required to marry because of these contracts. After that, I may also approve for my wife to marry other men, or even to hold pleasures with other women if that is more to their taste. There are other details that come with this. If someone to whom I am married were to marry another who had multiple spouses, I would not be married to those spouses, and that person would likewise not be married to mine. In either instance, should the mutual wife so desire, she may call both myself and her other spouse or spouses to the same bed, either with her joining us or simply so that she may watch us interact – but they must be married to her directly. I can also have more than one of my wives if my bed at the same time. Consent, of course, is advisable. In the event of children, if I am the only husband to the witch who bares the child, then obviously I am the father and the child falls to the name of Potter or Black, depending on the contract under which the union occurred. If I am not the only husband to the child-bearing witch, the parentage may potentially be contested unless there are obvious physical traits of one of the witch's husbands. For example, in the event that I were to marry Fleur, she also married Bill, and then bore a child with red hair, it would be safe to assume that the child would be recognised as a Weasley, rather than a Black. If the child's features were a mirror of Fleur's however, then the child would be brought to Gringotts or St Mungo's, the latter being more likely unless it were a home-birth, and a test would be performed so that the parentage could be certain and we'd know what name to register the child under. The same test would be taken if the two husbands looks were sufficiently similar that distinguishing the parent was too difficult."
"Wow mate," Ron breathed, awed. "You have been busy, figuring all that stuff out."
Harry smiled weakly. "Well, I have all this stuff that I have to do, but I didn't want my friends to kill me before You-Know-Who just because I'm stealing all their girls away. Another little bonus is that I can approve for my wife to marry someone who her family might have disapproved of, because she will have become part of my family, leaving her parents behind, from a legal stand-point anyway. Of course, I can't force marriages or arrange them, but should my wife approach me I have the power to override parental, family and even Ministry decisions."
"What!" Tonks yelped.
Harry smiled. "That's right," he said. "Hermione, may I create a hypothetical?" he asked.
Hermione nodded, smiling a little crookedly.
"Thank you. Now, for example, if Hermione were to marry me, and then come to me asking to marry, say, a werewolf or vampire, both of which the Ministry does most certainly not approve of, I can give my blessing as her husband for the match to go ahead. It will be my responsibility as the person who approved to provide wolfsbane potion or bags of blood as needed for the werewolf to be safe or the vampire to be kept fed enough that they aren't going to think about hunting, but I may override the Ministry's decision that neither of these are fit for marriage. Of course, I'd have to be convinced that the werewolf or vampire was worthy of Hermione, that they loved her and her them, make sure that there were no love potions or mind control involved, etcetera, simply because I would have taken over as the one in the position to approve or disapprove of who my wife married. Of course, I'd want to be sure that Hermione wasn't under the effects of a love potion or mind control if she brought a normal wizard to me to be her second husband just as much. After all, it's my responsibility to make sure that no one is taking advantage of her as she is my wife. If Hermione were married to both myself and Ron, and then wanted to marry a werewolf as well, then she would have to get approval from both of us, and the more financially well-off or the one who is best at potions among us would make sure that there was wolfsbane potion sufficient to keep the werewolf safe on the full moon nights."
"I'll marry you Harry," Tonks stated. "I'd just as soon avoid the years of paper-shuffling to get out of it. There's just one thing..."
"He has to ask you before you can ask me Tonks," Harry said, grinning at the purple-haired woman. "Or you have to get a yes out of him at least. There's a private room just through there," he added, gesturing to a door off the right hand side of the room. "If you want some privacy to talk it through."
Tonks grinned back, grabbed Remus and had shut the door behind them before half the congregated witches and wizards had blinked.
Harry laughed, slumping in his chair. "He's got no excuse now!" he cheered. "Remus is going to be happy whether he likes it or not!"
The Weasley boys and Hermione all laughed with him, the others in the room quickly catching on.
"I have a question," Tracy Davis piped up as the laughter began to settle down. "I want to know if you are going to be able to support being married to so many women."
"Between the Black fortune and the Potter fortune, as well as the estates I own and the various businesses that I own large amounts of, I will be able to comfortably support fourteen wives for at least four hundred years. This includes if each witch had two children to me and we bought all new school materials to send them all to Hogwarts and they all needed broomsticks to play quidditch, as well as me providing this same full support for one child that is not my own to each wife."
"But the support for any child would properly fall to the correct father, wouldn't it?" Bill asked.
Harry nodded. "Strictly speaking, yes, but would you begrudge me buying gifts for my child's half-sibling?"
Bill smiled and shook his head.
"Of course, my estimates of 'comfortably' are my own, and everyone has different measures for that. My own opinion of 'comfort' is very simple, but the estates at which I would live with my wives, and of course their other husbands if they wanted, would be the ones that I have inherited. Some are, naturally, more luxuriant than others, and I'm not even taking into account how many comforts can be magically created."
"Harry!" Tonks called, opening the door and beaming at him.
"The answer is yes Tonks, but you have to marry me before you marry Remus. Part of the rules for this," he answered, smiling back at the enthusiastic woman. "We're bound by contract after all. Business before pleasure and all that."
Tonks cheered, then stopped. "Am I going to have to sleep with you first?" she asked, suddenly serious.
Harry burst out laughing. "No!" he answered. "As long as the marriage is official and binding, you never have to be in my bed if you don't want to be. I just have to be the one who walks you down the isle and give my approval visibly at the ceremony when you marry Remus. If you want to marry a third guy, we'd both have to walk you down to him and give our approval as well, and so on. Okay?" he said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes as he calmed down.
Tonks grinned. "Bril!"
After that, the only slight trouble was if he married Padma or Parvati of the Patil twins, and Flora or Hestia of the Carrow twins. The girls ended up tossing a coin, and Harry let them.
The goblins, for a fee, performed a quick, quiet civil service for thirteen contracts to be fulfilled immediately after the meeting had been concluded. Harry was then able to rest easy in the knowledge that there would not be another such pile-up of marriage contracts for a long time, so his kids, however many they might be, wouldn't have to worry about them.
Then the other stuff started to happen. Beginning with Tonks getting a name change so that she was now Tonks Potter, rather than Nymphadora Tonks. It left Remus a little put out that he couldn't call her Dora any more, but she had, blushingly, allowed that one small concession. Their civil service had been done quickly as well, so that no one could separate them.
Once that was over, Katie came to Harry saying that Oliver wanted to marry her. Harry had approved, but the pair had decided to have an actual wedding, with a big white dress and other family members present. Bill had immediately approached Harry about marrying Fleur as well, with Fleur there as well saying that she really did love the red-haired curse-breaker.
"I approve," Harry said. "Fully and completely," he added as a smirk slid onto his face. "Invite me to join in some time?" he asked.
Bill and Fleur laughed, hugging him between them.
"Now you've just got to tell Molly," Harry said with a grin when they released him.
Bill went pale.
Harry laughed. "Don't worry, I'll back you up," he promised.
Slowly over the rest of the day, others approached Harry about their boyfriends becoming husbands, and he approved of all of them. Even Ernie who'd given him a bit of a hard time over the years. None of them got married that day though, instead deciding to have big white weddings with their families in attendance.
Harry was showing them all around one of the larger estates where they'd be able to settle themselves in and live when Hermione finally approached him, holding the contract that he'd slipped her earlier.
"You seem all tied up in contracts Harry Potter-Black," she said quietly.
He nodded. "But the one you're holding there is the only one that hangs around even after it gets fulfilled. It's apparently called a 'within family contract'. It's a final escape for if none of the other contracts are appealing to whoever would have to fulfil them. It's really quite progressive, considering when it was written and how long it has stayed in effect," he said.
"Harry, I don't want to be part of a collection," Hermione said firmly.
Harry's eyes softened as he looked at her. "I wouldn't want you to be part of a collection," he answered. "A lot of what I'm in are paper-marriages Hermione. I'm fulfilling an obligation and that's pretty much it. Of all the girls I married today, nine out of thirteen girls have definitely got someone else that they'll be spending most of their time with, I'm just getting old contracts out of the way. It's a loveless marriage but one that offers support and friendship if not eventually maybe even some love. Add in that I suspect at least three of the other four aren't going to bother with me all that much, and that just leaves Luna, who doesn't bother with reality as we know it all that much."
"What about Ginny? I thought you two were going out," Hermione said.
Harry blinked and said, very solemnly, "Ginny and I broke up just before summer break. Even if it worked out, right now she'd have to ask every one of the girls I've just married for their permission to marry me because I have no contract with her. That's why they all had to ask me about marrying their boyfriends – no contract already in place. I do, however, have a contract allowing me to marry a 'muggle born' witch, with specific intention to children based on the witch being brilliant. That you happen to be one of my very best friends, and I think that I could fall for you with just a very little bit of effort... Hermione, will you think about it at least?" he asked, taking her hands in his.
Hermione nodded. "I'll think about it," she agreed.