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Author Notes:

This story was inspired by (and half of this chapter bears a striking resemblence to) one of Rorschach's Blot's  "Odd Ideas" chapters.   It is used with with full knowledge and permission.

In addition to my usual betas, Dale and Harold, I'd like to thank several others for their help, advice, and encouragement.   I nearly gave up half-way through.   They encouraged me to finish it, for which I'm grateful.   Thank you to Kokopelli, Jeconais, MercuryBlue, Aaron St. Vines, and  Kinsfire.

Head Girl Hermione Granger was heading back to Gryffindor Tower from the library late one December morning when someone pulled her into a dark and empty classroom.   Strong hands clamped on her mouth and wrist, preventing her from saying more than "Wha-" and drawing the wand she had already gripped.

"We're not going to harm you," a female voice whispered in a pacifying tone.   "We just want to talk."

Hermione heard the door close.

"Ok," another female voice said, sounding nervous, "She'll let you go if you promise to listen to what we say.   Deal?"

"Mumph."   Hermione nodded, mind moving quickly.

"I'll take that as a yes," the first voice said.

Hermione felt the hands loosen.   "It was," she confirmed.   She stepped away from her attacker and turned, not releasing her wand.   Her eyes had yet to adjust to the low light in the room, so she could not identify the two forms standing near the door.   "Now who are you and what do you want?"

"It's Daphne and Tracey," Tracey Davis answered, waving her wand and bringing the torches to life.

Hermione nodded, recognizing the two Slytherin girls.   "And may I ask why you drug me in here?"

They looked at each other.   "Please have a seat, Granger," Daphne said with a sigh.

Hermione studied the two girls, noting the signs of tension in both of them.   The fact that they had neither tried to hex her nor grudgingly asked for help with homework - the only two interactions she had ever gotten from Slytherins in her year - piqued her curiosity.   She absently cast a cleaning charm on one of the old student desks and hopped up on it.   "Well?" she asked neutrally.

Tracey let out a breath.   "You're muggle-born.   What do you know of pureblood customs?"

"Why?" Hermione asked with an edge in her voice.

"That's not a slight on you," Tracey hastened to answer.   "I'm only a full-blood myself.   I just need to know how much you already understand of the betrothal customs of the pure-bloods."

"Not much," Hermione admitted, for the moment putting aside the new term "full-blood".

"Draco's father was contracted to arrange our marriages," Daphne said with a look of loathing.

"With the caveat that Draco would not be either of our husbands," Tracy added firmly.

"He still found a way to make this situation awful for you, I take it?"

"What makes you say that?"

Hermione smiled slightly.   "You are both clearly unhappy and are coming to me, a high profile muggle-born which must grate, for some reason.   Is it because I'm the best friend of the Boy-Who-Lived?"

Tracey and Daphne glanced at each other.   "Told you she'd figure that out," Daphne mumbled.   She turned to Hermione.   "You're right about that.

"I'm told that the muggle world is more progressive in their treatment of wives, but in the magical world it all depends on the betrothal contract.   Ours state that we would become our husband's chattel."

"I thought slavery was outlawed in Britain in 1807," Hermione said cautiously.

Tracey smiled wryly.   "Not everything written in books is accurate, Granger.   Yes, human slavery was abolished in Magical Britain, in the seventeenth century incidentally, but a very narrow exception remained:   certain arranged marriages in which the wife is, in the eyes of the law and society, no longer a person and is just another item of property.   This category is called 'chattel wives'.   I call it slavery under another name."

"What?"   Hermione gasped, a look of shocked horror etched upon her face.   "You're kidding?"

"It happens in the pure-blood families," Tracey said with a shrug.   "Even without being our husband, Draco has made it clear that he intends to use us for his own entertainment and to make us the common property of his friends.   We would rather this not happen," she finished dryly.

"I'll die before I allow that," Daphne said with a fierce scowl.

"I don't blame you.   Wait, Tracey, you said you're not a pure-blood, but that this only happens in pure-blood families?" Hermione asked.

"I'm the third generation of full-blood."   She raised a hand at Hermione's impending question.   "Full-blood just means both parents are magical.   Potter, for instance, is a first generation full-blood.   Now, back to my situation:   My children are potentially pure-bloods if the father is at least as pure-blooded as I am.   Not being pure-blood lowers my family's social position, but the fact that we've run several successful businesses for generations makes me acceptable enough to the pure-bloods looking for a wife."

Hermione nodded at Tracey's explanation.   "Okay, so Lucius Malfoy somehow gained the right to arrange your marriages, and he's used it to turn you into slaves for someone."

"Goyle and Crabbe," Daphne supplied.

Hermione rolled her eyes.   "Figures.   Not to put too fine a point on it, but why'd your families allow Malfoy to do this?"

"To arrange a pure-blood marriage is something of an honor with certain unwritten rules as to how everyone should behave, what the terms are, and all that," Daphne said.

Tracey took over.   "Which is why Malfoy got to do the job in the first place."

"You expected his honor to keep him in check?" Hermione asked, trying not to let her disbelief color her voice.

"Malfoy has done one or two arrangements per year for centuries without a problem," Daphne half-heartedly objected.   "I tried to tell my father about Draco, but well . . ."

Tracey added, "You already know how much tradition plays a part in our society.   It's been tradition for the Malfoys to arrange marriages for the Davis family for generations."

"Until now," Hermione pointed out.   "When your parents saw the final terms, why'd they go along with it?"

"Simply put, he'd destroy our families if we didn't sign."

The Gryffindor nodded.   "Okay, that explains how you got into the situation.   What do you want from me?   Or more to the point, from Harry?"

Tracey took a deep breath before resuming.   "Being potential property does help us in this instance.   We can be transferred to another . . . owner without too much fuss.   Draco intends to use that status to his advantage; we intend to use it to ours."


"To put it bluntly, we were hoping that you would help us convince Potter to challenge the goons to a duel."

"Why Harry?" Hermione asked.   "Why not someone else?   It couldn't be hard to defeat those two."

"I could defeat those two," Daphne stated with a derisive snort.   "I'm not sure I could defeat their champion."

"Which would almost certainly be Draco," Hermione concluded in immediate understanding.   "Still, why Harry?"

"Because Potter is probably the most powerful wizard attending classes right now," Daphne said simply, "and the most skilled duelist.   Neither of us is willing to take a chance here."

"Potter is . . ."   Tracey trailed off, clearly trying to find the right words.   "From what we know he's not a berk - he'd treat us well.   Someone we don't know might not, and it's not like we could ask one of the professors to interfere."

"Why not?"

"Everything happening to us is perfectly legal," Daphne replied with a disgusted frown.   "The professors couldn't even challenge the goons to a duel of their own without resigning first; old Hogwarts rule prevents it."

"I've read it," Hermione agreed.   "Without it I'm sure Snape would have challenged Harry in first year.  

"What makes you think they will accept Harry's terms?" Hermione asked next.

"Draco would never pass up the chance to try to hurt Potter," Tracy sniffed.   "After that, we're relying on your influence to keep Potter from selling us off or offering us up in a duel of his own."

Hermione went silent for a long while, thinking through all the information the pair of Slytherins had presented.   "I'll talk to Harry," Hermione finally promised, "but I can't promise you what his reaction will be.   He might not do anything, after all."

"Have him come down and talk to us," Daphne requested.   "We'll be here for the next few hours.   If needs be . . . well, I suppose we could give him a sample."

"A . . . sample?" Hermione squeaked.

"Think of it as an advance," Tracy agreed.   "We're willing to do anything - and I do mean anything - within the bounds of our betrothal contracts."

"But -" Hermione started to object, eyes wide.

Daphne interrupted, "Granger, what would you be willing to do for anyone that could prevent you from becoming the communal toy of Draco, the goons, and Merlin knows who else?"

"Point taken," Hermione admitted with a scowl.

"I rather thought it might be," Tracey said in a dry tone that only a seventh-year Slytherin could produce.

"One last question.   Why now?"


"Why approach him now?   Why not wait until after the hols?"

"We're time critical now.   The wedding is Christmas Eve."

"Okay, then why wait until this late?"

"Honestly?   We'd hoped to figure a way out of it without becoming anyone’s property."

Hermione nodded, satisfied with the answers.   "I'll be right back with Harry.   Just wait here, please."

"Thank you, Granger."

They silently watched the door close.   "You think he'll go for it?" Daphne asked several seconds later.

"I think so," Tracy said.   "If all else fails we can always kill ourselves."

"Too bad we can't do things the old fashioned way," Daphne said as she took Hermione's former seat.

"True, just killing the two idiots would solve so many problems.   A shame it would get us killed.   It really would be much simpler."

"Yeah."   After that, they waited in silence for their savior to arrive.

Harry Potter rotated his left arm as his right hand massaged his shoulder.   Hermione found him just before the young man entered Gryffindor Tower.

"Hey, Harry.   You okay?"

"Hmm?   Oh, hi, Hermione.   I'm fine.   Professor Flitwick just got me with a Bludgeoning Hex."

"Oh, you just had a lesson?   How are those going?"

"I think they're going okay.   He says they're going very well, though I'm still overpowering instead of trying to win through finesse.   Anyway, what did you need?"

She paused, unsure how to answer.

"Uh, oh," he said with a chuckle.

"Huh?   What's wrong?"

"You.   Or whatever you're about to say, anyway."

"What?   I didn't say anything!"

He smiled at her.   "Hermione, we've been best friends for over six years.   When you frown just enough for the line to appear between your eyes and then chew the right lower corner of your mouth, that means that there is something you want to talk with me about, I'm not going to like it, but you're going to try to convince me anyway."

She blinked.

He laughed, fist raised in triumph.   "Yes!   I surprised her!   My day is complete."

She laughed.   "Okay, Mister Seer, you're right so far.   But you'll never guess what I need to tell you."

Harry put on an exaggerated pondering expression, tapping his lips with a finger.   "I won't like it, but you're going to try to convince me anyway," he audibly considered the situation.   He snapped his fingers.   "Oh, I know!   Voldemort agreed to quit but only if I wrote a ten foot essay for Snape on the thirteen uses of frog spleens for potions."

She gave him a strange look.   "Uh, no."

"Then you were right:   I'll never guess it."

She rolled her eyes.   "Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis want to talk with you."

"Why wouldn't I want to do that?   What, they want me to marry them or something?"

She paused.   "Not . . . precisely."

His eyes narrowed at her.   "Then what do they want?"

"I think you need to talk with them yourself."

He studied her face for a few more moments before giving a sharp nod.   "Lead on, then."

Harry walked into the room a few minutes later.   Both Slytherin girls immediately stood and clasped their hands loosely in front of themselves, looking somewhere between soldiers at attention and servants standing before their master.   Harry regarded the two girls with an unreadable look for several long moments.   "Hermione says that the two of you have something you want to talk to me about?"

"Just listen to them, Harry," Hermione pleaded, standing near the door.

He nodded.   "So, what's going on?"

"What do you know about pure-blood marriage laws?" Tracey asked.

"Not a thing," Harry replied with a shrug.

Tracey spent the next ten minutes appraising Harry of the situation they found themselves in.   "So, if you win, we become yours," she finished the explanation.

"You can do anything with us," Daphne added.   "If you want to pass us around to all your Gryff buddies, then you can.   I'd prefer not to be treated that way, of course, but legally there would be nothing that Tracey, I, or anyone else could do about it."

"I wouldn't do that!" Harry objected with a frown.

"Which was one of the reasons we chose you," Daphne said with a gentle smile.   "We figured that you'd treat us decently.   You won't turn us into prostitutes or party favors like Draco intends."

"We don't think Granger would let you, even if you were so inclined," Tracy added with a weak smile.   "Or at the least that she'd raise enough hell to give you pause."

"So that's the situation," Daphne said.   "You've got the power, you've got the ability, and we hope that you'll treat us well when this is all over."

Harry was quiet for some time, looking back and forth between the two girls.   For their part, they stood, nervously gazing back.

"What do you think, Hermione?" he asked.

She paused for several seconds, frowning.   She finally looked up at him.   "You're living the dream a lot of boys have," Hermione said with a shrug.   "The fact that you're uncertain about it does you credit, but . . . but if I were in their situation I'd be asking you - no begging you - for the same thing.   On top of that, it's time limited.   You don't have a lot of time to decide."   She herself had a lot more questions to ask of the girls but wanted some privacy once they were safe.

Harry nodded slowly.   "Only one question.   No, two.   First, is this really what you two want?"

Both girls grimaced.  

"Want?" Tracey stressed.   "No, I don't want to do this; I want to spit on Draco's lifeless body, but that's not an option.   On the other hand, it's better than any of the alternatives."   Daphne nodded her agreement.

"Fine.   Last question: Will this hurt me in any way?"   He stared into Tracey's eyes, pouring as much power into a silent Legilimency Spell as he could.   He disliked the necessity of what he was doing, but they were desperate Slytherins.

Tracey recognized at least some of what he was doing.   She faced him fully and spoke plainly, "To the best of my knowledge, what we have proposed will not harm you, directly or indirectly, in any way."

Harry exhaled and brought his hand up to rub at the stress headache he suddenly realized he felt.   "How do I do this?" he asked in defeat.

"Just challenge Goyle and Crabbe in a duel with us as the stakes," Daphne replied, breathing a quiet sigh of relief.   "They have no reason to accept, but if you mention that they're allowed to name a champion, Draco will stumble all over himself to agree."

"Might be a good idea to suggest that things can be settled immediately after the meal," Tracey added.   "Don't give them any time to think about it.

"Traditionally the time and place is named by the challenger.   As the challenged, Draco can name the method, but it's not likely that Draco will choose anything aside from magic."

"Sneer and imply that he's unsure of his magical powers if he does," Daphne suggested.   "Unless you're confident you could beat him with a blade or something."

Harry had a brief fantasy involving the Sword of Gryffindor and copious amounts of Malfoy blood spilling onto the floor.   He shook his head.   Entertaining as that idea was, he admitted to himself that he knew nothing of sword fighting.   "Thanks.   I didn't know anything about how to initiate a magical duel," he said.

"You've been training with Flitwick, haven't you?" Tracey asked in confusion.

"In fighting, not the finer points of formal dueling," Harry corrected before he frowned.   "What makes you say that?"

Daphne shook her head.   "It's an open secret for anyone paying attention.   Which excludes the ferret."

Harry and Hermione glanced at each other and burst out laughing.   Harry's was slightly hysterical, but nobody commented on that fact.   "I didn't know anyone else called him that besides us," Harry said, wiping a tear from his eye.

The girls grinned.   "After what Moody did to him in fourth year?   It's become a popular phrase for those of us who're not part of the Death Eater Idolization Club.

"Back to the duel, though, we'll be behind you," Daphne assured him.   "I'll tell you anything you need to know."

"Should we do this now?"

"The sooner the better," Tracy agreed.   "The Yule Ball is tomorrow, so we can't do this then."

She took a deep breath.   "Thank you, Harry," she said quietly.

"Yes, thank you," Daphne added.   "I know I was willing to do a lot more to convince you to accept this proposal; for what it's worth, thank you for not demanding that of me."

"I wouldn't do that," Harry objected, his blush returning.

Daphne and Tracey both looked at him with small, sad smiles but did not verbally respond.

The four silently walked to the Great Hall, each lost in their own thoughts.   Upon entering, the three girls stopped between the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables and watched Harry walk up to the Slytherin table.  

"Crabbe; Goyle.   I challenge you two idiots to a duel with your betrothed as the spoils."   A sudden hush fell over the Great Hall as the students and staff stopped to watch the developing situation.

"Can they appoint a champion?" Draco asked hopefully from his place between them.

"They can," Harry agreed, utterly ignoring the two thugs he had originally challenged.   "Are you volunteering?"

"It'll be a pleasure to wipe that smirk off your face, scarhead," Draco said happily.   "Come to the third floor at -"

"It's traditional for the challenger to name the time and place," Harry interrupted.   "Or did your parents neglect to instruct you in that bit of etiquette on top of all the rest of your appalling manners?"

"I knew, Potter," Draco said quickly, convincing nobody.

"Then you were trying to take advantage of my background, assuming I'm ignorant?"   Harry continued before Draco had a chance to reply.   "Have you no honor?"

"Where and when, Potter?" Draco hissed.

"Here, after the meal."

"I'll be here, Potty," Draco agreed in a growl. "Be ready to be humiliated."   He stood and left the room.

Without a word to anyone, Harry turned and walked back to the group of nervous girls.   "What now?" he asked them.

"Now Dumbledore comes over and tries to talk you out of it," Hermione said.

"What makes you say that?"

"May I have a moment of your time, Harry?" a familiar voice asked.

With a grin to the bushy-haired girl, Harry said, "Never mind."   He turned to find Dumbledore standing behind him with a grave expression on his face.   "What did you need, Professor?"

"Might we speak privately?"

"I'm busy at the moment," Harry said dryly.   "Perhaps later."

"I apologize, but the conversation I wish to have is quite urgent."

"Then I am afraid that you'll have to talk here," Harry replied.   "I have an appointment coming up that I can't miss."

"Yes, that appointment is the topic I wish to speak with you about.

"Harry, I fear that you may not know what you have gotten yourself into.   You have chosen to challenge Mr. Malfoy in public before witnesses, and he has chosen to accept.   The only way we can resolve this is for you to offer up an apology, Severus assures me that -"

"No," Harry flatly refused.

"But people could be injured," Dumbledore said in a grandfatherly tone.   "Surely you don't want that?"

"But people will get injured if I don't do this, Headmaster.   Namely these two lovely ladies.

"If your only wish truly is to prevent anyone getting hurt, then have Draco forfeit," Harry continued calmly.   "Now if you will excuse me, I'd like to relax before we begin."

Dumbledore knew there was no point in continuing, at least in front of the other students.   "Very well, Harry," Dumbledore said with a disappointed look on his face.  

"I can't say that was unexpected," Harry muttered, turning back to the girls.   "Now what?" he asked yet again.

"Now we rub your muscles for a few minutes to get you limber," Tracey said firmly.   She imperiously waved a gaggle of fourth year Gryffindors out of their space at the end of the long Gryffindor table.   "Move aside.   We need some room."   The Gryffindors, after a look at Hermione and Harry, moved down the table.

Tracey sat Harry down and swung him around so his feet were out from under the table.   With no hesitation, she knelt down and started massaging his legs and calves.

Daphne, meanwhile, sat down behind Harry and started running her hands across his neck and shoulders.   "Hermione, could you get his wand hand and wrist?"

"I . . . alright," she agreed.   "You owe me for this, Harry."

"We're keeping score then?" Harry asked with a crooked grin as he relaxed into the ministrations of the three girls.

"Never mind," she laughed.   "Or rather, if we are, then we can start by counting all the essays that I helped you research or that I edited for you."

"Touché."   He groaned as the three girls continued working.   "If you keep giving me massages like this, then the duel will most definitely be worth it."

Tracey laughed without slowing her hands.   "Glad you're enjoying it, Potter."   All four of them ignored the Great Hall full of watching, whispering students.

Harry gave a sudden yelp.   The three girls stopped, startled.   "What's wrong?"

Harry's hand moved, and he rubbed the sore spot on his left shoulder.

Daphne pulled the collar of his shirt back and peeked down his shirt.   "You're developing a bruise here.   What happened?"

"Bludgeoning Hex; I didn’t dodge fast enough," he grumbled.

"Did Professor Flitwick at least teach you how to block it next time?" Daphne asked with humor.   She waved her wand over the area.

Harry relaxed.   "Oh, that's better.   Thanks."

"That's only temporary.   If you win, I'll finish the job tonight."   Her voice dropped to a purr that sent shivers up Harry's spine, "And if you humiliate Malfoy, I'll see what else I can do to make you feel better."

He gave a quiet laugh.   "You do know how to motivate a guy, don't you?"

"Here comes Draco," Tracey nervously said after a few silent minutes.   "Once you're both in the dueling circle, the first thing you need to do is open your shirt to show you're not wearing any armor.   After that, bow and begin.   Good luck, Harry."

"Remember," Daphne whispered, "you can legally kill him in this duel so long as you avoid the Killing Curse, and Draco will most certainly try to kill you.   Don't show any mercy, and don't let up until the judge declares the duel completed.   Remember, if you lose you're effectively killing both Tracy and me.   Please, please don't lose."

"I won't," Harry assured the two frightened girls.

With a deep breath, Harry smoothly stood and stepped toward the open space in front of the Head Table that Professor Flitwick had prepared without being asked.   Harry opened his shirt to show a bare chest. "How about you, Malfoy?   You wearing any armor?"

"How dare you imply I'd do something like that?"   Draco asked haughtily.

"Wearing armor would violate the Code," Flitwick said sternly.

"I'm not wearing any armor," Draco growled.

"Prove it," Harry challenged.

"I refuse to debase myself with such a vulgar act," Draco protested.   "I am greatly offended by the fact that you're challenging a Malfoy's honor."

"The challenge would be to find any honor in the Malfoy family," Harry retorted.   "After all, you didn't even show up to the duel we arranged back in first year."   He grinned as a wave of murmuring swept through the hall, bringing a flush to Malfoy's face.

"We're all waiting," Harry called, when Malfoy still refused to open his shirt.

"Is this all really necessary?" Dumbledore asked.

"Yes it is," Harry said firmly.   "Unless . . ."

"Unless?" Dumbledore grasped at the straw.

"Unless we change the terms so that armor doesn't matter," Harry mused.   "In that case, I suppose I'd have to use spells that couldn't be blocked," he finished with a shrug.

"You would really . . ." Dumbledore gasped.

"Your choice, Malfoy," Harry stated calmly, completely ignoring the sputtering Headmaster.

"No . . . no I refuse to allow those spells to be cast in these halls," Dumbledore interrupted.   "Open your shirt, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco's hands shook in his rage, but he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a black, dragon hide vest.

"Looks like I win then," Harry said with a satisfied smile.   "As I understand it, Malfoy violated the Code; he loses."

"We still have one more duel, Potter," Draco sneered.   "For the other who- I mean prize."

"Why don't we have it now then?"   Harry suggested, ignoring the verbal slip.   "Providing of course you remove your vest."

"Damn you, Potter," Draco hissed.

"Was that a yes?" Harry asked.   "Be back in ten minutes or forfeit, you bloody coward."

Harry returned to his seat and the girls immediately sat him down to massage the returned tension out of his muscles.   "You have to relax," Daphne advised.   "Please, you're better than him.   It's not worth getting worked up about."

"His grades prove he's rubbish at anything but potions," Tracey agreed.   "And he only does well there because Snape cooks his grades.   You've got nothing to worry about, just close your eyes and relax."

"Giving me orders, Tracey?" Harry asked with audible amusement.   He did not, however, bother to open his eyes.

"Call it a strong suggestion.   Besides, I'm now your betrothed."

Daphne asked, "How do you figure?"

"He challenged Crabbe first," Tracey answered with just a trace of smugness.

"Damn, you're right," Daphne answered.   She leaned over and whispered into his ear, "And remember: though you've humiliated Draco already, you haven't rescued me yet.   Therefore I still have no incentive to make you feel better."

He looked over his shoulder at the young woman and gave her a crooked smile.   "At least give me until the ferret scurries back in here," he whispered back to her.

"Want something to drink, mate?" Ron interrupted, handing a glass forward.

Harry focused on his friend. "Thanks, Ron."

"No problem, mate.   Shame Malfoy is such a coward."   His eyes shifted from each of the girls to another.

"I still have one more duel to fight," Harry assured him. "I'll bust him up real good for you then."

Ron laughed.   "I'll hold you to that."

"Something's happening," Hermione whispered, having kept her head up as she rubbed Harry's wrist and hand.  "Snape is talking to Dumbledore."

"You are sure you can finish this without harming him?" Dumbledore repeated.

"I believe so," Snape assured the man.   While he had no intention of leaving Potter able to walk away under his own power, it was important to tell the old fool otherwise.

"We were lucky on the first duel," Dumbledore muttered with a sigh.   "We may not be so lucky on the second.   Remember, Severus, as educators it is our duty to insure that none of the students are harmed."

"Of course, Headmaster," Snape agreed smoothly.

Snape turned and said loudly, "Change of plans, Potter.   I'll be facing you in the next duel."

"According to Hogwarts: a History, it is strictly forbidden for students to duel Professors," Hermione replied before Harry had a chance to respond.

"Unless the Headmaster gives his permission," Dumbledore said.   "This really is for the best."

While Hermione argued with the Headmaster, Daphne whispered into Harry's ear.

"To the death then," Harry loudly interrupted the two.

"What?" Dumbledore asked, paling rapidly.   "Surely you can not mean that, Harry."

"I couldn't set that term on my duel with Draco due to his still being a student," Harry corrected.   "As a fully accredited wizard, I can make that term to Snape."   He smirked at the Potions Master.   "One of us won't be leaving this duel outside of a box, Snape."

"I've been waiting . . ."

"I forbid it," Dumbledore shouted, nearly in a panic.   He knew just how valuable Harry was to the Light.

"Then Draco has . . . one minute to get here," Harry said with Daphne's prompting.  

Harry sighed and turned to Dumbledore.   "As to the duel you tried to contrive with your pet Potions Master, it's rather disconcerting to see you flip-flopping on the permissions and rules with so little forethought.   I believe such interference post-Challenge against me bends the Code Duello rather badly, too."

"He's right," Professor Flitwick spoke up.   "Perhaps it would be best if you were to stay out of this, Albus."

"I -"

"I'm here, Potter," Draco shouted as he came into the Great Hall.

"With ten seconds to spare," Harry said with a glance at Daphne's watch.   "Are you ready, Malfoy?"

"Ready, Pothead," he growled back, taking his place on the dueling stage.

"Then let's see you open your shirt," Harry demanded without moving from his very comfortable location.

"You can't really think . . ."

"You've shown today that you are a liar, a coward, and bereft of even a shred of honor," Harry repeated what Tracy was whispering into his ear.   "I repeat my demand to see if you are wearing any armor."

"Damn you, Potter."   Draco's hands were again trembling as he exposed his pale, sweating chest.

"Let's get started then," Harry said as he stood and moved across from Malfoy.

"You're supposed to return my bow, Potter," Draco sneered.

"I don't respect you," Harry replied.   "Why should I even pretend?"

"Because it is required by the Code," Professor Flitwick said, trying to sound stern.

"Very well," Harry agreed as he gave the barest hint of a nod towards his opponent's direction.

Without waiting for Flitwick's signal to begin, Draco shouted, "Flamere!"   A jet of flame shot out of Draco's wand towards Harry.   While it was not a Dark spell, it was a good dueling spell as it was quick to cast and difficult to dodge.

"Contego Gelu."   A large shield of ice appeared before Harry, completely blocking Malfoy's flame spell.  

Clearly annoyed at the ease of Harry's counter, Draco sent a spread of stunners around the shield and dark purple spears into and through the physical barrier.

He was counting on Harry's lack of visibility to keep him behind the shield to avoid the stunners, letting the spears break through and impale him.

What he failed to remember was that the blocked visibility worked both ways.

When the first stunner came flying past his shield, Harry tapped his shoe, casting, "Subsulto."   Jumping up and forward, Harry easily cleared the ice shield thanks to the Jumping Charm.   He was already above the action just as the first spear was connecting to the shield.   Coming down toward the visibly startled Draco, Harry pointed his wand.   "Contrecto Poena."  

A vivid blue light caused Draco to drop his wand and scream in pain.  

"Concussus," Harry cast as he landed.  

Draco's eyes rolled into the back of the head, and he collapsed to the floor.  

From beginning to end, the duel took less than fifteen seconds.   Despite the speed of his spells, Harry never once seemed to be excited or hurried.

"Potter wins," Flitwick announced to the shocked Hall.

"I suggest you get him to the hospital wing," Harry said nonchalantly as he slid his wand back into its holder.

"Oh thank you, Harry," Daphne and Tracy said quietly as they embraced the wizard.

"No problem," Harry whispered to them.   "Now that we have more time to talk, what do I have to do to set you two free?"

"Die," Daphne said bluntly, "or kill us."

That answer rocked Harry back onto his heels.   "What?"

"The contract is unbreakable," Tracy explained in a low tone.   "You're stuck with us."

Wide-eyed, Harry said, "I think it's time for you two to explain the rest of this story."

Tracey led Harry and Daphne to another unused classroom near the Great Hall.   As the three were seating themselves, Hermione and Ron entered and sat together a short distance away.   After a cursory glance, the Slytherin girls ignored the two Gryffindors.   Tracey opened her mouth to speak, but the door opened yet again to admit Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, and Snape.

"Yes?" Tracey asked the professors in a cool tone.

"I don't now how you got into this situation, Potter, but you should release them," McGonagall said without preamble.

"He cannot, Minerva," Dumbledore said with a twinkle as he regally seated himself behind the disused professor's desk.

"What do you mean, he can't?" she asked in shock.

Snape answered, "It is an unbreakable betrothal contract between Miss Davis to Mr. Crabbe and Miss Greengrass to Mr. Goyle.   Potter here can't release them except through death.   Preferably his."

"Now, Severus," Flitwick chided the man.

Snape continued, undaunted, "Your Golden Boy has won them as chattel.   What do you think of him now, Minerva?   One of your precious lions is now a slave owner."

"Is taunting Minerva really necessary, Severus?" Dumbledore asked reprovingly.

Instead of answering, he turned to the Headmaster.   "Once they become property, they cannot remain Slytherins.   They will have to be moved out of the dorms as well."

Dumbledore nodded.   "I am aware of that.   Arrangements have already been made."

Snape gave a sharp nod.   Turning to Harry, he sneered, "For the good of wizard-kind, I beseech you to use Contraceptive Potions before you . . . enjoy the fruits of your conquest.   I would prefer to avoid the next round of Potter spawn as long as possible."   Without another word, he swept out of the room.

"The git was probably jealous," Ron said to Harry with a grin.

Harry, the girls, and Flitwick grinned.   McGonagall's lip twitched.  

"Mr. Weasley, that was uncalled for," Dumbledore admonished him.

Tracey gave a disgusted snort.   "Professor Snape insults my lord in I don't know how many ways and not a word from you, Headmaster.   Then Weasley here says one moderately amusing thing, and you're on his case about it?   What a double standard you have."

The words hung in the air for several long moments.

Harry looked at Tracey in admiration.   "Well said," he congratulated her.   "However, no matter our status, please never call me 'my lord'."

Flitwick spoke up, "Technically, she is correct, though."

Harry groaned.   "Don't tell me that I have another title from the whole Boy Who Lived business!"  

"No, this is a much more recent title.   Anyone who owns human chattel has the title of lord."

Harry sighed.   "It's not like I had a lot of choice."

"I'm aware of that, dear boy," Flitwick commiserated.   "I am simply stating the facts."

"As to that," McGonagall spoke up, lips pursed in disapproval, "you and your . . . brides will have to move out of the regular dorms."

"There are married student suites available in the castle," Dumbledore spoke up.   "I had already informed the house-elves to have two of them prepared by the time the students returned from Yule break.   I will let you know where your new room is at that time, Harry."

"Don't you mean you'll inform all three of them?" Hermione asked.

Dumbledore gave a slight shrug.   "He will be the Master.   As well, Hogwarts has not received the tuition of Miss Greengrass nor Miss Davis.   Considering their status . . ."

Harry glared.   "You knew what they were destined for, didn't you?   And you did nothing about it?"

McGonagall transferred her disapproving look from to Harry to Dumbledore.   "Is that true, Albus?"

"I knew of the betrothal contracts, yes."

"And you were going to let them become little better than the toys of the upper class Slytherins?" Harry asked incredulously.

"It was for the greater good," Dumbledore said, looking just a bit uneasy.

Everyone in the room stared at him.   "How is it ever for the 'greater good' for two innocent students to be sold into being sex slaves?" Harry demanded.

Dumbledore winced at the term.   "I had hoped to keep the upper class Slytherins from turning to the Dark."

"By sacrificing two girls to Malfoy and his clique?" Hermione fairly shouted at him.

"Severus assured me that is not how it would -"

"Yes it was, and you know it if you would be honest with yourself," Tracey countered flatly.

"Albus," McGonagall accused him, "you have not denied that you knew precisely what was going to happen to these two young ladies."

"Minerva, I do not know how -"

"Stop!" McGonagall barked.   She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths before continuing in a brittle voice, "I think you should leave, Albus, while Filius and I help these young people try to reassemble their seriously disrupted lives."

"You'll notice that Snape has already abandoned these two lovely ladies," Harry observed to nobody in particular.   He turned to McGonagall and Flitwick.   "It'll be nice to have some adult help for a change, Professors.   Thank you."

Dumbledore looked from one face to another.   Hurt confusion in Ron and Hermione's faces, cool anger on the professors', and blazing anger from Harry, Tracey, and Daphne shone back to him.

Bowing his head, Dumbledore stood and left quietly.   The tension visibly abated when the door closed.

"Albus and Severus may have known the particulars, but I do not.   Could one of you please inform me?" McGonagall asked curtly.

Tracey pulled the Deputy Headmistress aside and launched into the tale again.

"What are the details of the betrothal contract?" Flitwick asked, pulling on his bottom lip as he thought.

Daphne pulled a scroll from her bag and handed it to the Charms Professor.   "Here you go, Professor.   Also, if we're still students, may Tracey and I join Harry for the dueling lessons next term?"

Flitwick glanced at Harry.   "Been sharing information already, Harry?"

Potter shook his head.   "They knew before we talked.   It's apparently an open secret around school."

Flitwick nodded.   "Yes, Miss Greengrass, you two may join us, though it is not for formalized dueling, rather for true magical fights."   He unrolled the scroll and started reading it.

McGonagall sighed sadly when she and Tracey rejoined the others.   "Albus, what were you thinking?" she asked, looking toward the door.

"It sounds like he believed Snape's assurances far more than reasonable."  

McGonagall nodded with a frown.  

"Why does he believe Snape so much, Professor?" Hermione asked.

The Deputy Headmistress sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose under her spectacles.   "I wish I knew, Hermione; I wish I knew."

Shaking off her mood and ignoring the students' expressions, she took one more breath and then straightened.   "Mr. Potter, now that I have all the facts, I must commend you for what you are doing."

Harry released a breath.   "Thank you, Professor.   I'm glad someone in authority is actually on my side."

"I have been on your side the whole time, Harry," Flitwick said without looking up from the scroll.

"Sorry, Fil, but you know what I meant."

Ron and Hermione looked at each other, startled.   "Fil?" they silently mouthed.

Flitwick looked up and grinned.   "I'm teasing you, Harry.

"Now, on to this contract.   It is not common for the brides to become chattel, but it’s still legal."

"I'd wondered how I never heard about the possibility," Hermione said.

Flitwick winced.   "Such things don't reflect well upon the wizarding world and are . . . rarely spoken about.   It is not all that surprising that you would not have found references to it.

"This is much more restrictive than most I've studied in the past.   The terms for the wives are as they have stated:   They will become chattel at the conclusion of the ceremony, are not permitted to harm their Lord, must be obedient to him, have limits placed on what they can say and do, even limits on how they can dress.   As I said, such things are uncommon, yet legal.   The wedding ceremony itself is clearly defined and is to be paid for by the groom's family, though the brides' families have the right to invite a total of twenty people.   The ceremony will take place on Christmas Eve of this year."

"Does it go into detail on what the Greengrasses and Davises get?"   Hermione asked.

Flitwick shook his head.   "It does not, if anything."

"So I'm now under a legally binding contract to marry them and they immediately become my slaves?" Harry asked.

Flitwick grimaced at the blunt summation but nodded.

"You could have warned me," Harry said to Tracey and Daphne.

Daphne looked down and bit her lip, but neither girl said anything.

"Harry," Hermione said softly, drawing his attention, "remember what they said.   They willingly chose this option.   Besides, even if you knew, would you have done anything differently?"

Harry fought his anger down and thought about it for a few seconds.   He deflated slightly before speaking.   "I suppose not, but I'd have preferred to have known ahead of time.   I had more than enough of being entered into contracts without my knowledge or consent back in fourth year."

This time, McGonagall winced.

"I am truly sorry, Harry," Daphne said softly.   "If we had more time, we would have informed you.   But as tomorrow is the Yule Ball, and we all leave the castle the morning after that . . ."

Harry gave a short snort of laughter.   "I was planning on going to the ball stag.   Looks like you two simplified at least one thing in my life."

All the girls gave him reserved smiles, but Ron laughed aloud.  

"Happy to be of service, my lord," Tracey quipped.

Harry gave her a dirty look but softened it with a smile a moment later.

"He is not your lord yet," Flitwick pointed out.

Tracey and Daphne shrugged.   "Technically true, but he will be soon enough."

"Which brings up another issue," McGonagall said thoughtfully.   "Do you two think you are safe for the next two nights in your dorms?"

Harry's eyes widened, but he remained silent.

"Good point, Min," Flitwick said.

Ron gave both professors an incredulous look.

Flitwick smiled at him.   "We are well aware of how things really are and how they may become, Mr. Weasley, even if we are not generally permitted to do anything about it."

"More of Dumbledore's interference, no doubt," Harry observed neutrally.

McGonagall frowned heavily.   "Before these latest revelations, I would have phrased it differently, Mr. Potter, but essentially correct."

Tracey and Daphne had been looking at each other as the others talked.   "You have a good point, Professor," Tracey said reluctantly.   "Slytherin may not be safe for us."

McGonagall nodded regretfully.   "I was afraid of that.   Well, the married student quarters won't be available until January, Albus said.   Perhaps we could put the two of you up in one of the Head Girl quarters?"

"They can stay in the Ravenclaw Head Girl rooms," Flitwick offered.

"Thank you," McGonagall said.   With Hermione being Head Girl, the Gryffindor rooms were occupied.   "We can get one of the house-elves -"

"Professor," Tracey interrupted, "could we use the Gryffindor Head Boy quarters instead?"

McGonagall looked at her in confusion.   "Why would you rather do that, Miss Davis?"

"So Harry can visit us more easily."

After a moment, Flitwick said, "It makes sense.   He is betrothed to them.   It'd probably be a good idea to get to know them," he added dryly.

Harry gave a nervous laugh and blushed.

"True," McGonagall said, ignoring Harry's reaction.   "Miss Granger, could you please show Miss Davis and Miss Greengrass the quarters?"   She turned toward the back of the room and sharply clapped her hands.   "Tilly!"

A house-elf popped in.   "Mistress calls?"

"Move Miss Tracey Davis and Miss Daphne Grengrass's belongings from the Slytherin dorms to the Gryffindor Head Boy room."

The elf bowed and disappeared with another pop.

McGonagall turned.   "I shall let you know where your new quarters are after the break, Mr. Potter.

"Do any of you have any further issues you wish to bring up with us now?"

The three teens in question shook their heads.

She nodded.   "Very well.   Then may I speak with Mr. Potter for a few moments?"

Taking the cue, the other four teens followed Flitwick out into the hallway.

"Yes, Professor?" Harry asked.

"Though he phrased it crudely, Severus did have a point.   It would be far preferable for all concerned if you and your two brides took precautions such that they don't become pregnant."   She became agitated, or at least as agitated as she ever got without a full scale brawl happening before her.   "I don't know how much was covered in your muggle education, Mr. Potter, but if you need to be informed -"

Harry hastened to interrupt, "The basics were covered in my health class in muggle school, Professor.   This last summer, Remus took me aside and gave me the . . . What'd he call it?   Ah, yes, the 'Little Wizard's Talk'."   Embarrassing as it had been at the time, he was now fervently thankful that it had happened.   The concept of receiving 'The Talk' from his Head of House was more than little frightening.   She probably even had moving diagrams.   Harry shuddered internally.

McGonagall relaxed.   "Very good.  

"You are excused from curfew for tonight.   I highly recommend you get to know your new ladies.   Though the situation has been thrust upon you, you'd be doing them as well as yourself a grave injustice if you did not at least attempt to make the best of the situation."

Harry inclined his head in acknowledgement, surprised that, after the previous topic, McGonagall had essentially told him to spend the night with them.

"One last item.   Are you still intending to spending the break here in the castle?" she asked.

Harry nodded firmly.   "Definitely.   I moved out of the Dursleys' house.   I don't intend on ever going back."

McGonagall looked momentarily sad.   "Yes, well, there are many other things to discuss:   arrangements for transportation to and from the ceremony, where to live after graduation, and so on, but they will keep for a few days.   Get to know the girls, Harry.   Not all Slytherins are evil."

Harry blew out a breath and headed toward the door.   "I know.   I just saved them from one who is, though."

Harry found the four teens standing in the hall in an uncomfortable silence.

McGonagall followed Harry out and evaluated the scene in one glance.   "Miss Granger, please show these three the Gryffindor Head Boy suite."

"Yes, Professor."

"Oh, and just so you're aware, I've excused Mr. Potter from curfew.   Please do not give him a hard time if he chooses to stay with the ladies for some time tonight."

Hermione nodded her understanding.   Ron's mouth dropped open.

McGonagall turned to Harry and the girls.   "You three, please feel free to contact me with any questions or problems with which I may help you.   This situation is not of your making, and you shouldn't be required to deal with it on your own."

Tracey gave her a tentative smile.   "Thank you for understanding, Deputy Headmistress."

McGonagall gave a curt nod.   "For your safety, I'd recommend having your dinner in your new rooms.   Have a good afternoon."   She turned and strode off.

Ron stared after her.   "Did she just give you permission to spend the night with these two, Harry?"

The two Slytherin girls gave him a narrow-eyed look.   Harry scowled.

Hermione rolled her eyes.   "Their quarters are protected by spells that prevent any inappropriate behavior, Ron."

Ron's face took on a look of comprehension.   "Oh, that's why you stopped me from -"

"Yes," Hermione hurriedly answered, blushing.

Harry managed to keep a grin from forming.

Daphne rolled her eyes.   "Could you show us the rooms?" she asked politely.

Hermione turned and silently led the other four to a portrait near the Gryffindor dorms.   Harry and Ron recognized her as Violet, the friend of the Fat Lady.   "Fidelis," Hermione said clearly.

Violet nodded, looking at the two Slytherin girls in clear curiosity.  

As the portrait swung open, Hermione continued, "Tracey and Daphne will be staying in the Head Boy rooms for a few nights.   Harry is permitted unlimited and unsupervised visitation with them.   They'll move out before next term begins."

"My pardon, Miss Granger, but I cannot accept orders like that from a student, even the Head Girl," Violet said in a mixture of apology and clear confusion.

"Professor McGonagall will confirm the orders," Hermione said as she waved the others through.

"This story I have to hear," the portrait muttered as she moved off the side of the frame.

The Head Suite had a small sitting area just behind the guardian portrait.   It was a great deal smaller than the house common rooms but was decorated similarly and served the same purpose.

Hermione walked through the door on the right, the others in tow.   The room beyond was laid out almost identically to Harry and Ron's dorm room, though it contained only one bed.   The girls' trunks were already present.  

Tracey frowned.   "Nit!"

A small house-elf appeared.   "Young mistress calls?"

"Please change the colors of this room to something else.   Brown, perhaps.   And we'll need a second bed.   At six, bring dinner for three to these rooms."

Nit bowed and began moving about the room in a frenzy, changing colors and cleaning.

Ron frowned at Tracey.

She shrugged.   "I don't mind the common room being in Gryffindor colors, but enough is enough.   Brown is neutral.   Not Slytherin and not Gryffindor."

Ron waved that off.   "No, I wasn't worried about that."

"Then what?" Tracey asked in confusion.

"Two beds?" Ron asked.

Daphne glared at Ron.   "I don't know what you are thinking, and I probably don't want to know.   Just because we're both in the same situation and are willing to marry Potter, that doesn't mean I have any intention of sleeping in the same bed as Tracey!"

Ron shrugged easily.   "Whatever.   You're both going to become Harry's concubines in a couple days, anyway."

Now Harry glared at his friend.   "I'm not going to make them sleep together if they don't want to, Ron!   How could you think that?"

"They're both going to be yours, Harry.   If you want both of them to sleep with you -"

"Stop right there, Ronald," Hermione said coldly, "and get your mind out of the gutter.   Harry wouldn’t force these two into anything like that, and you know it!"

Ron shrugged again, unconcerned.   "If you say so; I'll just leave the three of you to get acquainted, shall I?"   He gave a wink to Harry and left, whistling cheerfully.

The long silence was broken by Tracey.   "I think I'm going to like you after all, Granger."  

Not giving the Head Girl time to respond, Tracey turned.   "My lord, I know he is a friend of yours, but I beg of you not to force me to -"

Harry held up a hand, stilling the girl instantly.   "Don't worry about it.   Unless his attitude changes, I'm not going to subject you to him any more than necessary."

"Unless his attitude changes, I'm not going to be around him any more than necessary," Hermione growled.

Harry looked at her in concern.   "Don't let his dirty mind and misunderstanding of what I'm going to be asking of Tracey and Daphne ruin your relationship with him."

"Actually," Daphne said with obvious reluctance and a frown, "it's not really his fault.   From a pure-blood point of view, it's fully expected that you'll be bedding both of us as often as you like."   She gave a wry grin.   "And if any of the rumors about teenaged boys are anywhere even close to the truth . . ."   She let the sentence trail off.

Harry flushed crimson.   "What I may want and what I'm going to force you into are totally separate things."

Tracey shrugged.   "For our sake, I hope you're right.

"But that's a conversation for another day.   For now, I think we need to talk."

Hermione took her obvious cue.   "The loo is through that door.   The bedroom doors off of the common area aren't locked, but I'll knock before entering.   I ask the same in return.   I guess I'll see you three at the Ball if not before.   Bye."

At the smile and wave from Harry and the twin nods from the girls, Hermione left the three alone.

Nit the house-elf finished changing the room to Tracey's specifications and popped out after a quick bow.  

Daphne walked over to one of the beds and seated herself.   She patted the space next to her.   When Harry hesitated, she smiled.   "I don't bite, Harry."   She tilted her head, and her eyes started to sparkle.   "Unless you like that kind of thing."

Harry blushed magnificently again.   Tracey let out a snort of amusement as she seated herself on the other bed.

"Girls, please stop teasing me; it's hard enough the way it is."

Tracey and Daphne glanced at each other before breaking into laughter.

Harry buried his face into his hands as he realized what he had just said.   "I walked right into that one, didn't I?"

"Yep," Daphne cheerfully replied.   She patted the bed beside her again.   "I still need to look at that shoulder, Harry."

Finally understanding, he took a seat and turned his back to her, facing the grinning Tracey.

"Lose the robes and shirt, Harry," Daphne ordered with an audible grin.   "Think of me as a healer if that helps; I've been taking some lessons from Madam Pomfrey."

After a moment of pause, Harry removed his robe and then his shirt.

Daphne quietly sent a Hogwarts house-elf to the infirmary for a bruise cream as Tracey openly appraised the young man sitting bare-chested in front of her.   Quidditch and long hours in the dueling circle had left him toned and wiry.   He certainly had nothing to be ashamed of.

"You want to become a healer, then?" Harry asked to distract himself from the grinning Slytherin facing him.

"That was my original plan, yes," Daphne said.   She took the pot of salve from the elf.   With a minimum of fuss, she spread a bit over Harry's shoulder, rubbing it in with smooth strokes.

"Original?   You mean it's changed?"   Harry tried to hide the hitch in his throat at her actions.

Tracey answered softly, "We're going to become your chattel, remember?   She has to have your permission to get a job at all, and her income would go to you.   If you say so, she will do whatever you order as a profession."

Harry's expression darkened.   "Let's get something cleared up.   If you have things you want to do, you do them.   You don't need my permission for something like that."   He quietly thanked Daphne and moved further along the bed, putting his shirt back on.

Tracey shook her head slowly in answer to his comment.   "Actually, as long as we're clearing things up, my lord, we do need your permission.   It's a legal requirement as your chattel.   Any job she or I would have would affect you as well.   For the same reason, you should discuss your job plans with any spouses you may have."

Harry tilted his head.   "You phrased that kinda strangely.   You're going to be my spouses, aren't you?"

"We will be concubines, not real wives; any children we give you would be legitimate but not primary heirs.   We would be inferior in all ways that matter to a real wife.   You can get married again later if you wanted to."

Harry shook his head.   "This is all just too weird."

"Look at it from our point of view," Tracey said with a grimace.

"True," Harry agreed.   "Speaking of that, how are you handling it all?"

"As well as expected; we've had a couple weeks to get used to the idea."

"You had a couple weeks and you're only telling me about it today?"

Tracey sat up straighter at Harry's flat tone and narrowed eyes.   "Yes, but it isn't as bad as it sounds.   It took a couple days to get used to it, more time to realize how bad the situation really is, then we tried to figure out a way to get out of it, then this plan, then we had to decide who to approach and how to do it."

"Actually," Daphne cut in, "choosing the right student didn't take much time.   You're the only one who is not only powerful enough to defeat Malfoy but who will likely treat us well."

"It took longer to figure out how to get you to listen," Tracey agreed.

"And you went through Hermione?"

"Would you have listened to us without her?" Tracey asked with a shrug.

Harry frowned for a moment in thought.   "I'd like to think so, but I can see how you had to play it safe."

"So, everyone suggests that we get to know each other," Tracey observed.

Harry shrugged.   "My life is an open book.   Literally, if you read Great Wizarding Events of the 20th Century or any of the others where I'm listed."

Daphne made a rude noise.   "At best, that tells your life up to your defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.   No, that doesn't tell us anything about you."

"Call him Voldemort or Riddle."

Both girls stared at him.  

"What?" he asked.

"You mean the article in that tabloid was the truth?"

His eyes narrowed.

Tracey winced.   "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked that.   I was just surprised."

Harry made a rude noise.   "You and everyone else."

"If you don't mind my asking, what was the reason you did that interview?"

"I was hoping that if he were proven to be a half-blood, he'd lose a lot of support.   Psychopaths like the Malfoys wouldn't change, but he'd lose at least popular support and financial help from the more moderate families."

"Very few of them believed the article.   Even if it were proven, it still wouldn't stop families like Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Black."

Harry's eyes clouded over.   "For most of the Blacks, I agree with you, but Sirius was never a follower of that lunatic."

"Sirius Black was his chief lieutenant," Tracey said carefully.

Harry made another disgusted noise.   "The Daily Prophet wouldn't know the truth unless Fudge or Malfoy misspoke."   Harry went on to explain the real story behind Sirius Black and his connection to the Potters.

The two girls shared a long look, surprised by the information.   Giving a short nod, they silently agreed to keep Harry talking.

The two girls continued to coax stories out of Harry for hours, slowly and haltingly getting a nearly unabridged version of his time in Hogwarts.   When their dinner arrived, all three ate in silence.   Harry was exhausted after his emotional unburdening, and the girls were absorbing all the information.

"Not even Ron or Hermione know all of that," Harry said at length.   "How did you manage to get me to talk about it?"

Tracey suggested, "Maybe you don't consider us any kind of danger to you?   After all, if we're going to become your property, there's nothing we can do to hurt you."

Harry mustered up the energy to frown.   "I'll never treat you two as property."

Tracey smiled at him sadly.   "Thank you for that, but the fact remains that we will be your property."

Harry grumbled but nodded his understanding.   "So what about you two?   Tell me about Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass."

Tracey started.   "I've been brought up to be a proper wife for a pure-blood.   That's part of why my parents went to Malfoy in the first place.   The only problem they saw going in was that most of the pure-bloods are into the whole bigotry thing, which is total tripe if you critically examine it.   You, a first generation full-blood, are the most powerful wizard in our year, possibly of the generation.   Granger, a muggle-born, is the smartest.   Simply put, blood has nothing to do with how good a wizard is.   However, it does matter on the financial and political side.   My parents wanted me to have a more comfortable life than they do.   Though owning some successful businesses, they work fifteen hours a day.   They want me to have an easier life."

"Sounds lonely," Harry observed, well accustomed to that emotion.

Tracey shrugged.   "Nit, our elf, was around to keep me out of trouble.   We also live close to the Bones family, so I've know Susan since we were kids.   I know my parents love me, even if I didn't see them a whole lot."

"Thank you for telling me."

"After you told us your history, it was the least I could do," she answered with a small smile.

"My turn, I guess," Daphne said after a short silence.   "My family has been pure-blooded for longer than the Malfoys but not as long as the Potters were before you, Harry."   She raised a hand at his look.   "I'm not saying that to be disparaging, just a statement of fact.   Historically, we've been neutral in all the fights against Dark Lords.   We recognize that there is a time and a place for Dark Arts as well as uses for purely Light Magic.   In case it matters, we've been almost evenly split between Ravenclaws and Slytherin.   Originally, the family was deeply involved in farming."   She gave a wry grin.   "With a name like 'Greengrass' what else could we be?   Anyway, we were farmers and raised livestock.   We recognized generations ago that the purebloods are inbreeding themselves into extinction."

"But if you've been pure-blooded for so long -" Harry objected with a frown.

"Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?   Simply put, we've been lucky so far.   Inbreeding will produce imbeciles like Greg and Vin or psychopaths like Pansy and Draco.   Not to mention the Lestranges, but fortunately they haven't managed to produce another generation."

Harry grimaced.   "Have you actually seen Bellatrix?"

Both girls laughed.   "In her student days, Bellatrix Black was quite a looker according to Mum and Dad," Tracey said.

"We haven't been farmers for quite some time, though," Daphne took up the tale again.   "Solicitors, accountants, some aurors.   Whole variety of stuff, plus being shrewd with the family finances means we've been comfortable without being truly affluent for generations."

"So what do you want to do after graduation?"

"Healer," she answered promptly.   "I've been taking lessons from Madam Pomfrey after hours."

"Well, I'm glad you two are well-versed in pure-blood traditions.   With my upbringing, I don't have much of a clue on the muggle world let alone the wizarding one."

"With your friendship with the Weasleys, I'd though they would have taught you some of it," Tracey observed, not quite asking the obvious question.

Harry shrugged.   "Not really.   Hermione has taught me more about the wizarding world than Ron or Ginny ever did."

"Well, we'll just have to educate you, then," Tracey stated.   "As heir of a prestigious name like yours, you should know at least some of the basics."

"Makes sense."   Harry glanced at the clock.   "It's getting late.   I'd better turn in.   See you tomorrow?

"You don't have to go," Daphne observed.

"Thank you for the offer, but I know I need some time to think about everything.   Besides, I'll sleep better in my own bed."

Tracey looked bemused.   "Every bed is identical, Harry."

"Maybe, but I bet - well, hope, I guess - neither of you snore like Ron."

The girls laughed.

Harry stood with a grin.   "Good night, ladies."

"Pleasant dreams, my lord."

"Have fun?" Ron asked with a grin.

Harry removed his shirt.   "Yeah, I did, they’re nice girls, both of them."

Neville looked at him, wide-eyed.   "They're your chattel?"

Harry shook his head.   "Not yet.   The wedding will be Christmas Eve."   He paused.   "Merlin!   I'm really going to get married in a few days?"

"Saved time by skipping the whole ask-the-girl-out, dating, and engagement thing," Seamus observed with a wide grin.

"Git!" Harry answered with a laugh and a chucked pillow.   "Hey, all you guys are invited to the ceremony, I guess.   No idea who else to invite."

"Mum will be heartbroken," Ron said.

"Inviting your whole family was already the plan," Harry assured him.

"Not that," Ron said, waving his hand.   "I mean you getting married to someone other than Ginny."

Harry exchanged a glance with Dean.   "Uh, news flash, Ron:   Ginny's been dating Dean for a couple years, and I never dated her."

Ron shrugged.   "You know Mum.   She expected you two to end up marrying.   She has some vision of one big happy Weasley family and scads of grandbabies for her to spoil."

Harry rolled his eyes.   "What, we should suddenly realize our burning desire for each other after a quidditch match or something?   I was always under the impression that dating someone first was a good idea."

"Like all the time you dated Daphne, and Tracey," Seamus reminded him.

"Shut it, you.  You know what I mean."

"I never said Mum made sense," Ron pointed out.   "After all, she still owns a bunch of Lockhart's books."

All the boys shuddered.

"Harry?" Neville asked hesitantly.   At Harry's raised eyebrow, he continued, "Are you aware of how bad this looks?   I mean, owning chattel?     When it's done, it's by the darkest of families.   The idea of a Light family owning human chattel . . .   Well, you're going to get roasted for this."

"Malfoy's dad set it up that way.   I just rescued them from that."

"Maybe," Neville admitted, "but that doesn't change the fact that you will own human slaves."

Harry winced.   "I know, I know.   But under the circumstances, it wasn't like I had many choices."

"I'm not trying to attack you," Neville reassured him hurriedly.   "Just saying that it'll look bad."

"Yeah, I know."   Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes.   "G'Night."

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Author Notes:

As this seems to be a common theme in the reviews, I'll make this clear.

This is merely the first chapter of a multi-chapter fic.   There is more on the way, gang.

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