Daily Prophet Article one month after the final battle:
Yesterday the Wizengamot passed a controversial decree. It stated that any contract with a marked death eater is null and void. Any contract to be renewed must be attended by a neutral third party. When questioned why they took this action Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt stated the following as the reason behind the decree.
We at the Ministry have been receiving several complaints from various witches and wizards about contracts they were forced into by death eaters during the last twenty years. One of these is a complaint about a marriage contract that was forced just this last year on a family of a girl turning seventeen in July. The contract forces the girl to marry a death eater twenty years her senior and the family was going to be forced to pay the man to do it. We feel that this travesty cannot be allowed to continue. It made us wonder how many other atrocities have happened in this manner. Not all contracts are that drastically bad and may be reinstated if all parties are in agreement and it's approved by a neutral third party.
We at the Prophet applaud the Minister and the efforts for fair and ethical treatment for all our citizens.
"Outlandish." Lucius yelled, "How can they do this, it's preposterous."
"Father it's of no matter." Draco tried to placate him, "Astoria's family will reinstate the contract we had. It was beneficial for both of us."
"That's not the point Draco." Lucius sneered, 'You see how they turn vicious when we show the slightest weakness. Next they'll be forcing us to marry muggles."
"They won't force us to marry muggles." Draco sighed, his father tended to get overly dramatic, "If we just visit Astoria's parents today we'll have another contract drawn up. A neutral party will approve it and it will be fine."
"Draco you don't understand." Lucius stated.
"No Father, you don't understand. This is the result of Mulciber trying to replace his wife with a seventeen year old." Draco stated, "He's disgusting, no one in their right mind would want to marry him. Then he tried to force the man to pay him to take the daughter. It was stupid and anyone with half a brain would have stopped that contract."
"The support Kingsley is getting from this will be the ruin of us." Lucius lamented.
"Not if we play our cards right." Draco said, "We just need to follow the new rules and reestablish our contract and everyone will know we are dealing fare, we won't take advantage. Then opinion will be with us."
"No we need a new contract with a new girl." Lucius grinned evilly, "You'll save us all by marrying a light side girl."
"Father Astoria and her family remained neutral during the last years." Draco tried to make his father see reason, "It's good enough."
"No, we'll marry you to that Weasley Girl. Even Arthur couldn't turn down a step up like that. His little girl won't have to live in poverty like her parents did. Arthur will agree." Lucius strode from the room ending the conversation.
"Mother you can't let him do this." Draco pleaded, "I want to marry Astoria she's a proper match."
"I will try Draco." Narcissa stood to leave, "But prepare yourself."
After she left the room Draco contemplated his newest predicament. If his father tried to force the Weasley's to marry Ginny to him it would ruin them not save them. Making his decision he left the manor to set his plans in motion.
Draco knocked on the door to the Greengrass estate. It wasn't as large or nice as Malfoy manor but it was better than many others. Astoria answered the door.
"Draco, how are you? Please come in."
"Not doing quite as well as I'd like to be." Draco replied, "Thank you. I've come to talk to you in private for a few moments if I may."
Astoria closed the door as she stepped out. They walked the front garden in plain sight of the house for a few moments before Draco could gather his thoughts.
"Father is insane." he chanced a glance at the girl beside him. Her steady gaze helped him go on, "Instead of renewing our marriage contract he thinks he'll save himself a return to Azkaban if he can get a contract with Arthur Weasley. I wanted to let you know that I detest his idea, I want to marry you."
"Thank you." Astoria replied her eyes never leaving his face.
"I'm going to try and stop him, Mother is trying to help. I will do my best to make sure his… insanity doesn't affect us." Draco swallowed hard, "So that being said, would you still want to marry me?"
"Yes Draco, I would like that." Draco, Astoria noted, was a much different person. The last year had molded him into a better person, more mature and less arrogant, "I will also endeavor to put off any contract until yours is settled. But I think you should talk to father first."
"I will I just wanted to know what you thought first." Draco followed her into the house and explained the situation to her father. He agreed with Draco and Astoria and promised to give him a week before accepting any other offer that may come in.
"Thank you sir." Draco said, "Now I must leave so that I can work to prevent this travesty."
Draco appeared at the Leaky Cauldron. He sat at a table and started to plan his next phase. He was at a loss about what to do exactly but a plan started to form when Harry Potter arrived and went into Diagon Alley. Draco jumped up and hurried to follow. He was slowed by the crowds of people but when he saw his target slip into WWW he relaxed. When he finally made it into the store the crush inside was worse than the one out in the street. He slowly moved through the store trying to find either Harry or a Weasley. Finally he located them near the curtained door that sectioned off the storage area. By the time he reached them they were watching him steadily.
"Can I speak with the two of you in private?" Draco asked politely.
Harry nodded his consent and George ushered them into the back of the store. Draco was amazed at the activity behind the curtain, cauldrons bubbling and candy wrapping itself was just a portion of the activity in the large room.
"Ok, what do you want?" George asked curtly.
"I'm here to warn you." Draco tried to squelch the urge to hex the both of them, "My Father has decided to go insane. He thinks he can keep himself out of Azkaban if he can get a marriage contract between me and the Weaslett. I know you don't want her to marry me and I don't want to marry her. So I'm hoping you'll use this warning to keep it from happening."
"You have to be kidding." George said.
"Unfortunately I'm not." Draco sighed, "I'm sure he is planning a way to force this to happen just in case your family isn't interested in his offer. Please take steps to secure yourselves against anything he can think up."
"Thanks Draco." Harry said, "We'll get this covered."
"Just make sure you cover every possibility. He's desperate not to go back." Draco left the Alley hoping Harry could live up to his reputation for saving people. Having done everything he could Draco returned home.
"Do you think he's telling the truth?" Ginny's voice came from the stair way.
George shrugged as he turned to her but Harry said, "I think he is. He would hate to be married to you. Your brothers and I would always be keeping a close eye on how he treated you and he knows it."
"Thanks." Ginny plastered on a fake smile, "So what are we going to do to stop this?"
"Marry me." Harry stated.
"I can see several flaws in that plan." Ginny stated she still hadn't gotten over Harry breaking up with her. She really hadn't even talked to him since the battle. He had tried but she couldn't face him dumping her again, "First I can't get married right now I have a year of school left. Second if we got engaged they could still force us to break it."
"Are those the only flaws?" George asked.
"No but the biggest ones." Ginny stated.
"They can't break a marriage contract." Harry said.
"I'd just as soon not have a contract thank you."
"What ways could they force a break of an engagement?" Harry asked.
"The only way I can think of that he could use is a debt call." George said thoughtfully.
"Your parents owe the Malfoy's money?" Harry asked in shock.
"Not them but Gringotts. He can claim that Dad is planning to default on his loans and Gringotts can decide to make them pay everything off. Then in steps Malfoy to pay them off if Dad signs a marriage contract." George stated and Ginny shuddered.
"I could pay the loans off before he has a chance to do that." Harry said, "I got the reward for stopping Tom, would that cover it?"
"It would cover their loans many times over." George said, "But they won't accept it."
"I would have given them money anyway." Harry said, "I may have stopped Tom but they along with many others certainly helped me do it. If they incurred any debt because of the order then this should be used to cover it anyway."
"You know they aren't the only ones to go into debt because of the order." Ginny said.
"I'm heading to Gringotts." Harry said, "George can you call a family meeting tonight? Include Hermione."
"Sure Harry anyone else?"
"Not that I can think of." Harry crossed the street and approached the bank. As he entered the bank Kingsley was leaving, "Can you come with me Minister?"
"Sure Harry, what's going on?" Kingsley asked.
Harry waited until they were in a private meeting room, "I need you to make a list of everyone in the order."
When the goblin arrived several minutes later he was astonished at Harry's request, "Let me get this straight. You want to pay off any debts owed by the people on this list?"
"If I can do it with the award from stopping Tom then yes." Harry said.
"Mr. Potter the award will certainly cover all of this, but why?" the goblin was perplexed.
"These are the people who helped me." Harry said, "They went through some very dangerous situations to make sure I was safe before I was old enough to do it myself. But they received no award for their hard and dangerous work. This is a thank you from me."
"This transaction will take less than half of that money."
"The rest will be divided into several other accounts." Harry said, "Do you have another parchment so I can write it down?"
The shop was closed when he returned when he knocked on the door a note told him to go to the Burrow. Stuffing the note into his pocket he hurried to a floo. He stepped out of the floo and into a mad house. All the Weasley's had gathered to discuss what Draco had said. Harry moved to Ginny and pulled her aside.
"I ordered this weeks ago." He grinned, "It was my plan to ask you on your birthday, provided you were speaking to me again. I know I hurt you and I'm sorry I did. But I'm not sorry that you survived. And because I knew you had survived, I survived. I was given a choice and I chose you. Will you please choose me too? Will you marry me?"
"First explain, what do you mean about you surviving because I did and when were you given that choice?"
"I had to die in order for Tom to die; my life was keeping him alive. When Tom killed me in the forest I sort of died. But I was given a choice to come back to fight or go on, to where on is I don't know but it's a wonderful place. I knew you were still alive and I chose to come back. If you had died I would have chosen to go on." Harry whispered these things to Ginny, "I want to spend my life with you and I'd rather not live than live a life without you in it."
"How can a girl refuse a proposal like that?" Ginny threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly. When they parted arguments were still going strong. No one had noticed the kiss in fact no one had noticed Harry's arrival.
Harry pulled the ring out of his pocket and put it on her finger, "I'll still offer a contract if there is no other way out of this."
"I hope it's not. Did they let you pay off the debts?"
"Yes." Harry was still grinning like mad, "I even had enough left over to set up a few other accounts I wanted. Including a trust fund for Teddy and one for you to pay for the wedding. You'll need to go to Gringotts to sign for it."
"What?" Ginny was astounded, "Why did you do that?"
"I want to have the best wedding we can manage. This should cover anything that your parents can't do." Then he got a mischievous look on his face, "It should also cover your schooling this year. If it doesn't I'll just add more to it."
"Harry." Ginny sounded mildly disapproving.
"You've agreed to marry me. What's mine is yours."
"Not until we're married." Ginny whispered.
"What are you two arguing about?" George asked after finally getting everyone to shut up.
"He's trying to pay for the wedding and I'm trying to tell him it's not necessary." Ginny stated.
"I can't believe you're trying to marry her off to Draco Malfoy." Charlie yelled angrily.
Harry and Ginny looked at each other in confusion and then started laughing hysterically. Charlie and a few others pulled back in shock at the behavior, but Ron and Hermione caught on and started laughing too.
"What's so funny?' Charlie demanded still angry.
"He's not paying for a wedding to Draco you imbecile." Ginny chocked out, "He's trying to pay for my wedding to him."
"What?" all but George, Ron and Hermione were still confused.
"Harry asked me to marry him. I said yes. He gave me this ring." She held up her left hand, "He told me he set up an account to pay for it all and I was arguing that it wasn't necessary I didn't want to take his money. But he's saying it's my money too."
"Congratulations dears." Molly cried as she swept down on them giving bone crushing hugs, "I knew it was only a matter of time."
"This is wonderful." Arthur said, "I would love for you two to be married, but I'm not sure this will stop Lucius."
"I've already told Ginny I'll beat any contract he tries to get you with." Harry said.
"But I'd rather not have a contract unless it's the only way." Ginny added.
"There are still other things he can do." Bill said, "For instance he can force a Gringotts debt call."
"Already covered." Harry said, "I was at Gringotts earlier and paid off all debts owed by order members. They helped me when I needed it the most and I'm returning the favor."
"But Harry you'll need that money." Molly argued.
"Mum, I have plenty." Harry said, "I used the award from defeating Tom."
"He does have plenty." Bill said, "That award should more than cover those debts."
"It did." Harry said, "It used less than half. The rest was put into several other accounts. One which I intended to pay for the wedding." Harry turned to look at Ginny as he finished his sentence.
Ginny threw up her hands in defeat, "Fine. You get me out of this mess with Malfoy and I'll let you pay for whatever you want."
"Harry how's this a good deal for you?" Ron asked scratching his head.
"I get to marry Ginny." He grinned.
"Ok, how else can Malfoy throw a wrench into this?" Charlie asked calmed by the true meaning of Harry's argument.
"About the only thing that can't be broken is a contract or a bond." Hermione said.
"How do you know?" Ron asked exasperated, "When have you had a chance to study marriage law?"
"When we learned about Tom's stuff I started looking for ways to protect Harry." Hermione said, "I was worried that his link would kill him when Tom was killed. I studied bonds of all sorts to see if anything would do that and how to stop it if it did. Nothing covered anything close to what you had in that link. Anyway I know that contracts and bonds are very hard to break."
"I could live with an engagement bonding." Ginny said.
"What is a bond?" Harry asked, "What do I need to do?"
"It's a magical ceremony." Arthur said, "Just one step below a marriage bond like Bill and Fleur had done. We need someone to perform a spell and you get a sigh that indicates your compatibility. Molly and I got a circle."
"I would assume a circle is the best sign to get then?" Harry asked.
"Almost." Ginny said, "The eternity symbol is the best. It's supposed to mean together forever even after death."
A pop in the yard gained the attention of the entire house. Kingsley strode up to the door which was thrown open before he could knock.
"Malfoy's are at the contract office." he stated, "Lucky for us there are about ten people ahead of him. What are you going to do?"
"Can Kingsley do the spell?" Harry asked the room at large.
"What spell?" Kingsley asked.
"Ginny and Harry are engaged and want to do a bond." Arthur said.
"Let's do it." Kingsley said, "Can you change your clothes and get back here in ten minutes?"
"Dress robes Harry." Hermione called as she pulled her beaded bag. Her wand was a blur for a few minutes as she set up the tent out in the yard and summoned the dresses. The tent they had borrowed from Bill was set up quickly and then she caught several dresses as they flew at her, "Ginny is your dress from Bill's wedding ok?"
Ginny hesitated so Harry said, "You looked amazing in it."
Laughing at his red face she pulled him in for a kiss and then followed Hermione and Molly into the tent. Looking back she said, "Fleur are you coming?"
"Yes, I'm just going to pop home for our clothes first. Bill and I will be only a minute." Fleur smiled as they popped away.
The rest of the men ran up stairs to get dressed and Kingsley waited in the yard. The men returned walking sedately out the door.
"Where do you want to do this?" Kingsley asked.
Harry stopped at the door to the tent, "Gin, where do you want to do the ceremony? I was thinking down in the orchard."
"Orchards fine." Ginny yelled back.
In ten minutes everyone was ready. The men were in the orchard clearing a spot as the women moved towards them.
"Stand in front of me and join hands." Kingsley instructed.
Harry and Ginny stood in front of him and held hands then Kingsley started the spell. Golden streams snaked out of his wand and surrounded the two of them. The streams gathered and brightened until a symbol formed above their joined hands, by the look on Ginny's face Harry decided it must be a good sign.
"Eternity symbol." she whispered to Harry clearing up his question.
In the contract office Lucius yelled, "What do you mean she isn't available?"
"I mean her name won't stay." the man said, "She must already have a contract or something."
"I want to see this contract." Lucius demanded.
"I don't have the contract yet." the man said, "It's not filed but it's still valid."
"Father let's drop it. We can still get a contract with Astoria." Draco pleaded.
"We'll see about his other contract, come Draco." Lucius turned and stomped out.
Draco sighed looking at the ground and then turned to follow his father. He was stopped by a whisper.
"I can begin a contract with Ms. Greengrass if you want. All you would have to do is get him to sign it. I can have it ready by this afternoon. Did you want the same one as before?"
"Yes I do. Thank you very much. With any luck at all we'll be back for it." Draco whispered in return and then hurried to follow his father.
The Weasley's and Kingsley were all still dressed up and sitting down to a fabulous dinner at a table outside the Burrow. When they arrived Lucius drawled, "Well this looks like a wonderful little celebration."
"It is. It's not every day a bloke gets to be bonded to such a beautiful, amazing witch." Harry said as he hugged Ginny to himself.
His smile was so large it looked painful to Draco, who was fighting a smile himself. Leave it up to Harry to save the day; he knew he had gone to the right place.
"You must have been planning this for some time." Lucius said
"What do you want?" Arthur interrupted him.
"Well I was going to offer you a marriage contract between Draco and your daughter." He sneered at Arthur, "And if you're willing to stop this stupidity we could still discuss it."
"There is nothing to discuss." Arthur stated, "We are quite happy with Ginny's choice."
"Well I guess I'll just be going to visit Gringotts then." Lucius threatened forgetting the Minister was seated at the table.
"Go ahead." Kingsley said, "But you have nothing to gain by doing that. Save yourself some trouble Lucius, you can't break this."
"The only thing I can't break is an eternity bond. Everything else is negotiable." Lucius sneered.
Ginny was smiling widely as she started laughing.
"You got an eternity symbol?" Draco asked incredulously forgetting to act aloof for a moment.
"Yes." Harry looked him in the eye.
Draco broke into a smile at last and said, "Come Father, if we're lucky no one has offered Astoria a deal better than we can manage to beat." Lucius stomped away and Draco mouthed thank you to Harry and then turned to catch up to his father.