A/N – Firstly, everything recognizable from the Harry Potterverse is owned by JK Rowling and her merry band of corporate partners. No infringement is intended, I simply derive satisfaction catering to the masses on various fanfiction sites.
The inspiration from this story came from reading a line from a fanfiction by The Ardent Shepherd on The story was listed in Paledeus' community 'The Book of Requirement' and is entitled 'Against the Odds'. I hereby acknowledge borrowing part of the concept from his story which inspired the evil plot bunny who jumped up and mugged me while I was trying to do some reading in a coffee shop. Not to spoil either story, but I also borrowed the concept of the opening line about Hermione wanting to kill Harry over something he did while at Gringotts from his story.
This story is a bit unrealistic, but since it's poking a bit of fun at the numerous marriage contract stories, I'm hoping you'll enjoy it in the spirit that it is intended.
And for the record, I've got a couple of marriage contract stories in the works.
Chapter One – I'm So Dead
Friday, 13 October 1995 3 p.m. Gringotts, London
"I'm so dead. Hermione's going to kill me when she finds out I signed something without reading it."
That thought kept running through Harry Potter's mind as he walked across the marble floor of the lobby of Gringotts London with his friend Neville Longbottom's formidable grandmother the Dowager Lady Longbottom by his side. Keeping his eyes totally focused upon the floor in front of his feet, Harry came to a surprise stop when they reached the floo that Gringotts kept for customers that were considered to be friends of the goblins. .
Apparently both the Longbottom and Potter families fell into that category since Lady Longbottom was very disapproving of Harry's suggestion of flooing from Professor McGonagall's office to the Leaky Cauldron and walking up Diagon Alley to the bank. While the five minute lecture she gave him amused Professor McGonagall to no end, all it did for Harry was set the tone for the disaster that was to come.
Looking up at Lady Longbottom for the first time since they had left Griphook's office, Harry blinked a couple of times and tried to smile.
"Lord Potter, it's not the end of the world," Augusta Longbottom began. Having heard the stories that her grandson Neville had told about the young man, and having had several long conversations with Minerva McGonagall, Muriel Crouch, and Amelia Bones about his situation, she was torn between being very sympathetic since he was in way over his head and being very amused for the very same reason.
"I'm certain that the young woman in question will understand and the two of you will work this out. From what Neville's told me, I don't think that this is half the disaster that you're expecting this to be."
"Lady Longbottom, this has been a disaster from the start. Granted, we do now have a plan how to deal with Um …" Seeing the sharp look in Neville's grandmother's face, Harry paused and realized that using names might not be the best idea in a public place. Starting again, he was gratified to see her smile approvingly.
"Granted we now have a plan on how to deal with that woman and her unusual style of discipline," Harry began again, rubbing the bandage on the back of his hand and covering the scars that declared that he must be truthful, "but that's not going to get me off the hook with Hermione. She stressed, several times mind you, that I should read and understand everything before signing anything."
Shaking his head sadly as he reached up and grabbed a pinch of floo powder from what appeared to be the skull of some sort of humanoid that was sitting on a pedestal beside the fireplace, Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"I'm not certain exactly how I'm going to explain this whole thing to her."
Placing her hand gently on his forearm, Augusta waited until he opened his eyes before answering.
"Start from the beginning, tell her everything, and then prepare to dodge until she calms down."
Seeing the surprised look on Harry's face, she chuckled. "I used to tell James and Frank the same thing when they were trying to figure out how to break something to Lily or Alice. Eventually your Miss Granger will calm down, and then you'll be able to discuss it."
"If she doesn't, Voldemort will be sending her a dozen roses after she saves him the trouble of killing me," Harry snarked as he threw the floo powder into the flames. After they turned the correct shade of green, he called out in a firm voice, "Assistant Headmistress' Office, Hogwarts School." Waiting the three seconds, he added the password Professor McGonagall had given him for the floo "Bannockburn!"
As he disappeared into the flames, Augusta finally allowed herself to smirk before heading back to Longbottom Manor. Tonight should see some interesting revelations.
Spinning through the floo system, Harry arrived in Professor McGonagall's office in his usual floo arrival position, a pile on the floor in front of the floo. Picking himself up and trying to dust himself off, he was almost bowled off his feet as the Hogwarts equivalent of a Harry seeking missile locked onto him and acquired her target.
"Harry, what on earth happened?" Hermione's hug trapped both of Harry's arms against his sides and came closer to breaking most of his ribs than Hagrid had ever come. "Professor McGonagall came and got me. She said that she had gotten a message from Neville's grandmother and that there were complications at the bank."
Finally releasing him, Hermione held him at arm's length, looking him up and down. Taking in the two crests on his robes and the two rings he was wearing, she looked puzzled.
"One of those is the Potter ring and crest," she began. Seeing him nod and self-consciously touch the ring that had the stylized Griffin cut into the stone, she waited for an explanation.
"And the other isn't," Harry replied. Looking around, he could see that there was a tea service sitting on a table between two chairs over near the window overlooking the lawn. Motioning towards the table, Harry walked Hermione over and waited until she took a seat before sitting across from her. Seeing that she was getting more worried by the second, and a worried Hermione was never a good thing, he decided to take the advice he was given and start from the beginning.
"Your plan went beautifully," Harry began as he poured a mug of tea for her. Adding a splash of milk to it, he looked up to see the appreciative smile as he handed it to her. Pouring his own, and ignoring the sniff of disapproval as he added two large sugars to it, he sat back and took a deep breath.
"Once Lady Longbottom and I arrived and were escorted into our meeting with Griphook, it didn't take very long to present the basic case."
"Griphook accepted that the Ministry High Inquisitor was using a blood quill on students?"
Looking faintly surprised, Hermione took a sip of her tea and leaned back in the chair, cradling the mug between her hands. "I must admit I'm a bit shocked at that. The best I thought we could get would be a promise of 'we'll look into it'".
"Apparently Umbridge is well known and very disliked by the goblins. And the idea of having Dobby 'retrieve' the box of quills from her office went off without a hitch," Harry added watching her carefully. Hermione hadn't been too keen on the idea of involving a house elf, especially Dobby, but since they were able to time the meeting when Umbridge would be in class, she gave her grudging acceptance of the plan. Especially when the alternative was Fred and George creating a diversion and Harry trying to sneak in and out under his invisibility cloak.
"Then what's the catch?" Looking at Harry very sternly, Hermione waited until he dropped his eyes from hers before continuing. "Harry James Potter, what aren't you telling me?"
"Well, the sticking point came when Griphook pointed out that if Harry Potter, even if he's the 'Boy Who Lived' filed a complaint, it would take several years to find its way through the layers of Ministry bureaucracy before Susan's aunt would be able to officially do something about it."
"Harry, we knew that. That's why you've got the Potter ring and crest. Lord Potter can expedite the process. It's unfair, but it's what we have to live with."
Looking a bit sheepish, Harry nodded slowly. "True, but the goblins wouldn't allow me to just claim the Potter ring." Seeing the raised eyebrow, he swallowed nervously. "While normally I wouldn't be able to accept the Potter ring until my seventeenth birthday unless it said otherwise in my parents' wills, which were sealed by the way so no one knew what was in them. You were correct in your argument, since the Ministry and the school had declared me an adult last year I could take up the Potter family seat right then and there, as long as I was willing to accept the other title the Ministry saddled me with."
"Go on," Hermione prompted. "When did the Ministry saddle you with another house?"
"Well, technically it was the Wizengamot, at the prompting of Neville's grandmother and Luna Lovegood's father, of all people, but the Minister at the time signed off on it and here I am."
"And where is that, precisely?"
Pointing to the other crest on his robes, Harry blushed. "Right. It seems that the Wizengamot declared that I had vanquished 'the Dark Lord known as Lord Voldemort' the night my parents were killed and through right of conquest I acquired all of his 'titles, goods, lands, and chattels'. Since no one in the Wizengamot either knew or was willing to admit knowing who he was or where he came from, no one filing the paperwork realized that Voldemort was really Tom Riddle." Pausing for a second, Harry added in a very soft voice, "the last magical member of the Gaunt family and the Heir of Slytherin."
Sitting there stunned, Hermione's mind spun in circles as the facts Harry had just revealed settled in. Closing her eyes for a moment, she quickly toted up the pros and cons of the situation and decided that everything was a wash, with one little exception.
"We need to tell Fred and George. It'll be painful to do it in person, but they'll be able to get it out of their systems if we tell them in person before they read about it in the Prophet."
Seeing the puzzled look on Harry's face, Hermione chuckled. "Remember our second year? 'Seriously evil wizard coming through.'?"
The colour drained from Harry's face as he remembered the Weasley twins having a field day with the fact that most of the school thought he was the Heir of Slytherin.
"Well, that's just the icing on today's cake," was Harry's only reply. Still looking at him carefully, Hermione sighed and put down her mug. Leaning forward, she captured his hand with hers.
"Harry, tell me. Don't pull a Ronald and make me drag every little detail out of you. As far as I can see, the Gaunt thing is a positive. Yes, we have to say that the twins were right. But this now gives us a fourth seat of the Ancient and Honorables that we can use in slapping her down."
"Yes, and we don't have to reveal our trump card regarding House Black until we absolutely need to, but that's not the problem."
Looking distinctly ill at ease, Harry slid his hand inside the formal robes he was wearing and drew out a parchment scroll.
"Since Griphook was being so helpful, when he asked me if I would cash out an old family obligation that the goblins had been holding in trust for the Potter family, I agreed."
"After Griphook explained what the obligation entailed, correct?" Narrowing her eyes, Hermione stared carefully at Harry. "You did read the paperwork and then have Lady Longbottom check it over?" Seeing the studiously blank expression on his face, Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Harry James Potter, how many times did I tell you before you left, 'Don't sign anything until you read it and Lady Longbottom looks at it'?" Pausing for a moment, Hermione squeezed Harry's hand sharply. "That wasn't a rhetorical question Harry."
"Oh, right." Closing his eyes, Harry thought for a moment and answered, "Since breakfast, twelve times."
"And if we count in the times since we first came up with this idea, it's close to an even hundred."
Releasing Harry's hand, Hermione slumped back in her chair and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"How much trouble have you gotten yourself into trying to do the Goblins a favor?"
"It was just one family agreement. Apparently, it stems from a wager back in the tenth century …"
"You obligated yourself over a thousand year old gambling debt? Did your great-great-great-grandfather bet on how many consecutive games the Cannons could lose?" Opening her eyes, Hermione's frustration was clearly evident.
"How much do you owe?"
"Well, the good news, I suppose, is that it's not money." Harry answered quickly, but his face fell as he thought about the situation. "Actually, it would have been much better if it had been money since that wouldn't be much of a problem." Sitting up a bit straighter, Harry sighed.
"And, for the record, it wasn't my ancestor that lost the bet. The seventh Earl Potter merely covered the debt of a friend of his and they signed a promissory note regarding repayment."
Looking totally confused, Hermione sat forward with what Harry called her 'thinking face' on.
"That doesn't make any sort of sense. Why is it taking ten centuries for this family friend to pay your family back for covering the debt?"
"Well …" Pausing for a second to try to figure a good way to explain the mess he was in, Harry decided to take Neville's grandmother's advice. Sitting forward in his chair so his feet were firmly on the floor allowing him to move quickly if it came down to hexes, Harry took a deep breath.
"It was before the Statutes of Secrecy, so Earl Potter was attending a tournament with a friend of his, a Scots laird." Pausing for a second, Harry tried to remember the exact title. "He was Morrow something or other."
"The Mormaer, Harry. The ancient Pictish or Scots equivalent to a Jarl or Earl," Hermione added without thinking. "Obviously your ancestor's friend was fairly important. How is it he couldn't cover his own wager?"
"Well, he thought it was a sure thing," Harry began but breaking off at the snort of laughter from Hermione.
"Be nice, from what I was able to puzzle out in the letter that Griphook showed us, he could have covered the bet, but didn't want to part with part of the wager."
"Part of the wager?"
"Well, apparently people didn't wager just money back then. The Mormaer put up his favorite horse, a shield, two swords, and his favorite hound against some property in Less Britain and a sailing ship," Harry began. "He found out that he lost the wager just after he found out that the female hound was expecting a litter of puppies, so he tried to renegotiate."
"Apparently, that didn't go so well," Hermione added dryly, still not seeing the problem.
"Well, actually it did. Apparently it was a French noble they were bargaining with and he took a shine to Earl Potter's horse, so he said he'd take the horse instead of the bitch." Pausing for a second, Harry waited to see if Hermione would correct him regarding his language. Seeing that she was just smirking at the look on his face, Harry grinned and continued.
"Well, apparently the Scots lord wouldn't just take the horse, so he and my ancestor came to an agreement. Earl Potter really didn't want anything for the horse, but for his friend's sake, he agreed to accept the first daughter of his friend's house as a bride for a descendent of his that attended Hogwarts together …"
"You're in a thousand year old marriage contract because some teuchter wouldn't give up a breeding bitch?" Her face turning red, Hermione shook her head in disbelief. "Harry, cut to the chase. How is it this hasn't been cleared up in a thousand years?"
Pausing for a second, Hermione's insides turned to ice and melted. "Bloody hell. First bloody daughter of the house to attend sodding Hogwarts.
"You're engaged to Ginevra, aren't you?"
Her world spinning out of control, the wizard she had fancied for the past four years was now going to be forced to marry the bloody queen of fangirls; Hermione felt the blood draining from her face. Closing her eyes, Hermione whispered, "Harry, tell me it's not true."
Shifting forward, Harry took both of Hermione's hands in his and squeezed gently. "I'm not engaged to Ginny Weasley. The reason it took this long is because the Scot was a muggle. Earl Potter was trying to accept collateral that would save face for his friend, but he never thought that it would ever come to pass. While the Potter family was involved in the muggle world, though the knowledge of this involvement didn't survive the Statutes, he was very good friends with a Scots laird named Dubacan of Angus."
Pausing for a couple of seconds, Harry added, "It seems that one Alexander Granger is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of that particular Mormaer of Angus."
"You can't be serious," Hermione began. Seeing the look on Harry's face, she scowled.
"Not one word even resembling a joke about your godfather."
"Hadn't occurred to me, even though he's one way out of this for you," Harry replied avoiding her eyes. "Apparently the rules that pertain to this sort of thing only leave us three options."
Sitting back in her chair, Hermione stared at Harry in disbelief. While she had, so she thought, hoped against hope that Harry would notice her as more than just a friend, the thought of jumping from 'best friends' to 'married' in one fell swoop was more than she could wrap her mind around.
"What are my parents going to think," was the first thing out of her mouth.
Trying not to smile, Harry replied truthfully. "I suppose your mother is going to tell your father that his however many greats grandfather caused this, so he needs to fix it," Harry suggested, trying to take her mind off the situation at hand.
"Harry, what are our …" Breaking off, Hermione stared at him suspiciously. "Harry, I don't really have any options in this, do I?"
"Of course you do," was Harry's quick reply. "As long as I have any say about this, we'll do this the way you want." Seeing the surprised look on her face, Harry got up from his chair and knelt by hers.
"I know this isn't what you want, but there are only three things we can do." Seeing her nod, Harry took her hands and squeezed gently before beginning.
"Since you mentioned Sirius, one of the quirks in the inheritance laws is that since I'm his godson and my parents are deceased, technically I could make you his problem."
Seeing the indignant look on her face, Harry quickly continued. "What I meant was that legally I could allow him to acquire the responsibility of this and in that case since the Blacks are of equal status with the Potters, wizarding law allows that sort of obligation to be renegotiated."
"But Sirius is a fugitive, how does this help?" Looking a bit hurt, Hermione watched Harry's eyes very carefully.
"If he remains a fugitive, then nothing's done and you can go on with your life and it would just pass along until your first daughter attended Hogwarts." Seeing the look on her face, Harry sighed.
"I told Griphook and Lady Longbottom that wouldn't work. Neither of us are the type to put things off like that." Smiling for a moment, Harry tried not to grin so she wouldn't take it the wrong way.
"Though, through researching this with the Gringotts legal staff, we found a way to force the Wizengamot and the Ministry to drop the entire case against Sirius." Seeing the look of interest in her eyes, Harry continued.
"It seems that while that Corpse Writ you suggested wouldn't really work, there's a provision in the law that can force the Ministry to drop the charges against Sirius. He won't be acquitted, but the entire thing disappears."
"Harry, why am I not surprised that the Wizengamot and the Ministry of Magic don't have to answer a writ of habeas corpus?" Stopping to think, Hermione paused for a second before asking, "How can you get the case dismissed?"
"A writ of habeas corpus," Harry replied going slowly over the Latin phrase so as to not mangle it again, "is valid since Wizarding law came from the same source as English common law, but there is a law that puts a limit on just how long the Ministry can hold a person without actually charging them with anything or having a trial. And since Sirius was never charged or tried …"
"You mean he could have been free after the first year?"
"Actually seven." Seeing the look on her face, Harry shrugged. "Apparently the Black family representative back in the 1890s proposed a law that was passed to force the Ministry to either charge someone or release them and dismiss the charges within seven years."
Seeing the incredulous look on her face, Harry smirked. "Apparently, the quote was 'if Hogwarts can turn a muggle into a fully-qualified wizard in seven years, then the Ministry should be able to bring someone to trial in that amount of time.'."
"Will he have to stand trial for escaping from Azkaban?"
"The penalty for escaping from Azkaban was removed during the Grindelwald war." Seeing the astonished look on Hermione's face, Harry rolled his eyes.
"Think about it. Closet supporters of Grendelwald were able to pass a bill that included a line that made it not a crime to escape. Since very few people successfully escape, no one wants to admit it's possible so they just ignore the fact it's not illegal."
Chuckling at the gobsmacked look on Hermione's face, Harry shifted his position so he was kneeling on his other knee. "Do you want to get back to that wager thing?"
"You mean the one where I'm apparently considered to be the equivalent of some breeding hound?" Hermione asked archly.
"Hermione …," Breaking off, Harry looked away again before starting again.
"And that's the second option." Turning back to look at her, Harry could see the look of shock on her face. "I'm not going to do this, unless you tell me to, but one option is for me to reject you, state that I didn't consider you fair value to cover the obligation."
"Harry, if that's what you …" Hermione's eyes became the size of saucers as Harry's finger covered her lips.
"Never. You're worth ten thousand horses. I'll not subject you to ridicule like that." Seeing the understanding in her eyes, Harry closed his and sighed.
"I can almost hear Malfoy going on about it."
Scooting forward, Hermione put her hands on Harry's shoulders and pulled him closer to her. Feeling the stiffness in his body, she wrapped her arms about him as he came to rest against her.
"Harry, I don't care. To get you out of this, it doesn't matter to me."
Surprised when Harry pulled back, Hermione saw the tears in his eyes. "You're wrong. If anything, I'm not worthy of you." Closing his eyes again, she could barely hear him whisper, "Ron's going to have a fit."
Stunned, Hermione watched Harry closely. Seeing the pain and regret on his face, she came to a conclusion.
"Harry, why didn't you ask me to the Yule Ball last year?"
Seeing him blush and look away, she sighed. "Oh Harry, please don't tell me you didn't ask because you were worried about Ronald fancying me?"
Taking the silence that stretched on as an affirmative, she rolled her eyes. "Harry, I waited. Honestly I did. And when Victor asked, I put him off for three days before I said 'yes', all the while hoping you'd get your act together and ask."
Realizing he wasn't going to answer, she reached down and cupped his chin with her hand. Raising his face so she was looking in his eyes, she smiled warmly at him.
"Harry James Potter, Ronald and I bicker all the time. We can't help it. That, in and of itself, wouldn't make him a bad person, just an unsuitable one for me to seriously consider dating, much less marrying."
"He's a good enough bloke …" Harry began before Hermione cut him off by placing her index finger against his lips.
"Harry, I know he's your friend, and he was the first friend you can remember your own age, but Ronald's petty and childish. What was acceptable when we were eleven isn't at fifteen." Eyes narrowing, Hermione shook herself for a moment.
"And we're not going to get sidetracked. How long do we have for option number three?"
Looking around, Harry saw that they were still alone. Glancing up at the lone portrait in the alcove they were occupying, Harry waited until the witch in the rocking chair looked up at him.
"Could you please ask Professor McGonagall to step back in?"
Smiling, the grey-haired witch wearing a set of robes that were very ornate chuckled as she got up from her chair. "Not to worry dearie. I'll have her back in a couple of moments." Looking off to the side, she turned back. "Now answer the young witch. In my day it was considered impolite to dodge questions regarding your upcoming wedding."
"Technically, we're past the restriction in the contract," Harry began, resisting the urge to glare at the portrait. 'It was supposed to occur by my fifteenth birthday, but since there wasn't an official 'Head of House' for House Potter then, the contract would have been in abeyance until it could be executed."
"By you signing something without reading it," Hermione added in. Seeing the chagrined look on Harry's face, she shrugged her shoulders in disbelief. "We'll talk about Lord Potter's tendency to leap before he looks later. Right now just tell me if I've got enough time to tell my parents or is there some sort of justice of the peace waiting in the corridor."
Plopping himself down on the floor, so he was sitting at Hermione's feet, Harry leaned against her and reached for her wand hand. Grasping it firmly, he started up again.
"Apparently, I can ask for a delay of three complete lunar cycles until we formalize things," Harry said cautiously. Not feeling Hermione react, he released the breath he was holding.
"Which part of the cycle," was Hermione's response? Seeing Harry look up in confusion, she smirked. "New moon, full moon, what?"
"Actually, Miss Granger, it's your lunar cycles that are the trigger," came Professor McGonagall's voice from the other side of the office.
Both teens looked up and Harry jumped to his feet while Hermione stood also, blushing fiercely. Taking a moment to let what her Head of House said sink in, she turned to Harry and glared.
"A bloody test drive?"
"You could look at it that way," Harry began carefully seeing that Hermione wasn't taking this part of the conversation as well. "But I'd thought that if we were going to move forward with this, it might give you and your mum time to plan an appropriate wedding. From what I've been told, these things just don't happen overnight."
Remembering the look on Lady Longbottom's face when Harry first suggested a couple of weeks as enough time to arrange things, Harry blushed a bit.
Seeing Hermione's look soften, Harry tried to smile. "That is, unless you just want to chuck the entire thing. We can always involve Sirius and let him and your father figure out a way out of this for you."
"Or my father could just give you a bloody draft horse to square the original debt," Hermione countered.
"Actually, from what Mr. Potter's account manager conveyed, you'd have to have it trained as a war horse and throw in a full set of tack for it," Professor McGonagall added. "I know it offends modern sensibilities, but that would have been considered quite a handsome bride price, back in the day."
"Harry, answer me. Which is it? Me or the bloody horse because I'm not putting my future into Sirius' hands." Seeing the look on Harry's face, Hermione continued. "He'd threaten to marry me off to someone totally inappropriate to try to get a reaction out of you."
"Does it really matter? And you're not answering the question."
"Neither are you," Harry countered. "I started this off by saying the choice of how we proceed is yours."
"Just what every girl wants to hear. The bloke she's engaged to couldn't care less if they actually get married or not." Standing there, hands on hips, Hermione starred daggers at him. "Which is it, Potter? Me or the bloody horse."
"Language," was all Harry said in a quiet voice. Leaving Hermione speechless and staring at him, Harry turned to Professor McGonagall.
"In case she ever gets around to telling me what she wants, could you give me a reasonable time frame to plan a fairly simple wedding?"
Before Professor McGonagall could answer, Hermione put her hand on Harry's shoulder and spun him around to face her. Seeing the question in his eyes, she took both of his hands between hers and asked, "Marry me?"
"Are you certain?"
"Harry, when you started explaining this, my first thought was that I had lost my chance with you, that you were going to have to marry Ginevra. Right now, you're the head of two of the most important families in wizarding Britain, and while I can't begin to imagine what entanglements that will entail, I do know two things."
Pausing for a second, she shyly raised his hands to her lips and gently pressed a kiss on the back of his hand.
Looking back up, she smiled. "The first is that you really can't be let run around loose by yourself. If I'm going to protect you from yourself, my only hope is to marry you to try to keep you out of trouble."
"And the second thing you know?" Trying not to grin, Harry stepped closer to her.
"That I do love you and that if I didn't know better, I'd swear Sirius concocted this whole thing as a prank to make us realize what we feel for each other."
Turning back around, Harry grinned at his Head of House. "Is there anywhere I can get a fake ID? You have to be sixteen to go to Gretna Green these days."
Staring at Harry in astonishment, Hermione replied without thinking. "Only on the muggle side. The wizarding smith in the village is still under the old rules; the bride and groom have to be twelve and fourteen respectively."
Shaking her head, Professor McGonagall tried to keep a smile from forming on her face without much success. "While I will avoid asking either of you just how you know these tidbits of information about marriage law, Lord Potter I presume that you wish to do this post haste to keep certain individuals from interfering?"
Blushing, Harry nodded as Hermione spoke up. "I think both of us are convinced that the Headmaster would try to interfere if he knew, and the longer the Defense Professor is kept in the dark about Lord Potter here, the better for all concerned." Pausing for a second, she waited for Harry to chime in. When nothing was forthcoming, she discretely planted her elbow into his side.
"Right, Lord Potter?"
"Ow. I mean, correct Lady Potter."
"Not so fact, bucko. You might have a contract, but I still want a proposal and a ring."
"Not to pick nits, but you already asked, and I don't see you handing me a ring.' Smirking at the stunned look on Hermione's face, Harry reached into the hidden pocket in his robes and grabbed the small box that he retrieved from his parents' vault.
"The shoe's on the other foot now, isn't it?"
"Harry, since you haven't answered me, I'm free to wait for a proposal from you in the mean time." Hermione replied, looking for a way out of this corner she had painted herself into.
"And if I say yes, are you prepared to back it up with a ring?"
"Erm … well …" Looking down at Harry's hands, she sighed. "Do they even make engagement rings in your size?"
With a twinkle in his eye to rival their Headmaster, Harry simply replied, "Millicent's mother. Madame Maxime."
Shaking her head, Hermione muttered, "Paris here I come," as she turned to ask Professor McGonagall a question.
As she turned, Harry dropped down on one knee and held up the ring box. "I know the contract sort of takes the suspense out of it, but since there aren't enough horses in England, would you do me the honor of marrying me?"
Staring at the sapphire, diamond and platinum ring sitting on the blue velvet inside the box, Hermione's brain shut down for a moment. Seeing the worried look on Harry's face when she didn't respond right away, Professor McGonagall cast a silent stinging hex to break her out of her shock.
"Ow. I mean, yes." Looking Harry in the eye, she smiled. "You had this all planned out, didn't you?"
"Except for your ultimatum about you or the horse. Quite honestly it threw me for a bit of a loop there." Standing back up, Harry wrapped his arms around her. "Are you all right with the never having gone on a date thing?"
"Harry, we've been 'dating' since that day on the train," Hermione snarked. "Half of Gryffindor House is convinced we …" breaking off, she cast a worried glance over at Professor McGonagall. Seeing the 'don't mind me' look on her face, Hermione continued.
"Half of Gryffindor House is convinced we went all the way the night of the Yule Ball after that fight I had with Ronald." Seeing the shocked look on his face and the amused look on Professor McGonagall's, she leaned over and shyly kissed him on the cheek.
"I'll explain later."
Turning her attention to Professor McGonagall, Hermione nodded. "I take it you can visit my parents tonight and make certain they're in the proper place tomorrow afternoon?"
"Miss Granger, I'll enlist the help of Lady Longbottom to ensure that your parents are on the border tomorrow at noon." Turning to Harry, Professor McGonagall smiled. "I've also enlisted the assistance of Professor Sprout. You have detention with her tonight, so you'll have to postpone your detention with Professor Umbridge."
Seeing the puzzled look on his face, she chuckled. "You received detention for missing Herbology today and lost 25 points." Holding up her hand to forestall his objection, she added, "and Miss Granger and Mister Longbottom both received 15 points each for their contributions in class today."
Looking at both of her Lions, Professor McGonagall pointed towards the chairs behind them.
"I'm certain that the two of you have many things to talk about, so I'm going to leave the two of you to formalize any arrangements before you go to the Great Hall for Dinner. So we won't need to discuss this outside of my office, both of you have detention with me tomorrow at eleven sharp and Miss Granger has detention with me at six sharp tonight."
Pausing for a moment, she added as she turned to leave, "Dress for your detentions tomorrow will be formal."
Friday, 13 October 1995 7 p.m. Longbottom Manor – informal dining room
The three seated around the small table were just finishing up a very scrumptious dinner. As Augusta Longbottom nodded to her house elves, the dinner settings disappeared, being replaced with coffee and desserts just as Minerva McGonagall entered the room with a very satisfied look on her face.
Waiting until Minerva had seated herself, Augusta took a cup from the senior elf before beginning.
"Minerva, I take it that the Grangers took the news fairly well?" Picking up the china cup, Augusta looked at her longtime friend as she smiled in anticipation of the answer.
"They weren't happy, but they weren't surprised." Minerva answered. "Having Hermione there helped. Apparently she had told them about the binding magical contract that Harry was subject to last year, so they were able to understand the situation. Mr. Granger was unhappy, but the fact that it was his family's 'obligation' took a bit of the steam out of his outrage." Chuckling, she looked over at Madam Bones, who was shaking her head in dismay.
"Amelia, you need to make certain that Susan doesn't volunteer any information about this entire affair. It's going to be hectic enough Monday morning when the formal announcements arrive from Gringotts for Lord and Lady Potter; I don't want to have to explain to the Wizengamot's newest peers that they've been had."
Looking over at Sirius, Amelia dryly asked, "Exactly how much did it cost you to have Griphook come up with that marriage contract?"
Smirking, Sirius toyed with the piece of pumpkin pie sitting in front of him for a moment before answering.
"Griphook was the family manager when James graduated, and he'd been the assistant manager for the former Lord Potter, James' father. All I had to do was show him how much the bank stood to make in fees with both the Gaunt and Potter accounts going to an active status, and it was child's play to get him to 'find' a thousand year-old marriage contract that would put those two together."
"I realize that there wasn't much doubt that they belonged together," Amelia countered as she sipped slowly on the brandy laced coffee. "But isn't this a bit extreme, even for one of the Marauders to go for a prank?"
"Actually, the real prank will be when the two youngest of the Weasley family realize at Monday's breakfast that things have changed drastically," Sirius replied. Seeing the look on Amelia's face, he chuckled.
"Harry and Hermione have been devoted to each other since their first year. Yes, they're young, but with the level of intrigue around Harry between Dumbledore, the Ministry, and Voldemort, getting him free to control his own destiny was a priority." Pausing for a second, Sirius looked over at Minerva before continuing.
"And Hermione would have been the weak link to manipulating Harry. As a muggleborn she would be subject to all of the behind the scenes games Albus and the Ministry could play with her life and career, not to mention the limitations on how well they could be protected from Voldemort as the parents of a muggleborn student. But as Lady Potter …"
Letting his voice drift off, Sirius smirked at the knowing look from Amelia.
"Yes, I think that the only member of the Wizengamot foolish enough to try to take on the Lady of two of the Ancient and Honorables would be the chair warmer the Lestrange Family has installed and I can't see anyone in the Ministry not seeing how the wind was blowing and backing Fudge on this once Dolores has been dealt with," Amelia continued. "And as the family of Lord Potter …"
"No one will blink around the Grangers once the goblins finish warding their house, vehicle, and business with the wards the Potter family usually deploys," Minerva finished.
"They're safe in their common room," Sirius asked.
With a smirk worthy of a Marauder, Minerva picked up her cup and took a deliberate sip before answering.
"Actually, in anticipation of tomorrow going off without any problems, I gave Miss Granger the password to the set of Gryffindor married quarters that I had cleaned out and freshened earlier in the week with my permission to start discreetly moving some things into the quarters for her and Lord Potter." Seeing the shocked look on Amelia's face, she shrugged.
"As Lord Potter, he's entitled to the quarters even before the official announcements are handed about. I told Miss Granger I would put her in charge of seeing that Lord Potter didn't abuse the privileges this weekend, so she might want to move enough of her things in so she could oversee Harry tonight." Pausing for a second, she chuckled. "There is a second room in the suite, she could be staying there."
Waiting for the laughter to die down, Augusta raised her cup and looked around the table.
"Well, in that case, I would like to propose a toast to the young couple and their Gryffindor fortitude in dealing with the onerous responsibilities imposed upon them by this bit of family unpleasantness," Augusta began, only to be interrupted by Sirius.
"And here's hoping that they never realize that there's a second room in the suite."
All four burst out laughing, and raised their cups in a toast to the happy couple.
A/N - Teuchter is a term from Scots Gaelic that is commonly used, today, to refer to someone from the hinterlands or the equivalent of 'country bumpkin'. The origin of the word is thought to be literally 'the other' someone who's from not around wherever here is.
A/N2 – Updated 10 September, 2013 to correct a mistake with the ages on the wizarding side of Gretna Green. Thanks to noylj for catching that it's the bride who can be twelve and the groom fourteen, not the other way around as I originally had it (which were the actual ages for marriage eligibility before the law was reformed). Thanks for the catch.