It was on the way out of the jewelry shop that all further plans for the day were shot to hell.
"Daddy!" Tracey squealed, running past Harry.
Harry's head snapped up in time to see Tracey throw herself into the arms of a burly wizard. A well-dressed witch stood nearby, watching the two with affection.
Harry walked toward the trio, a grinning Daphne trailing him.
The witch nodded to Daphne before fixing her attention to Harry. "Lord Potter, I am Anna Davis, Tracey's mother."
"Ma'am." Harry nodded politely, more than a little scared of her reaction to the situation.
She apparently saw his nervousness and gave a relaxed laugh. "Don't be so nervous, young man. I'm not angry at you for what is going on, nor what will happen. In fact, I'm relieved that Tracey ended up with you instead of Vin Crabbe."
"Indeed," the elder wizard agreed. He stuck out his hand. "Randall Davis."
He nodded. "Yes, I know." He fixed Harry with an intent stare. "You know, when I approached Anna's father for permission to marry her, the evil man grilled me for hours. How was I going to support her, whether I understood what I was asking, whether I loved her, and so on. I was a gibbering wreck."
Harry nervously shifted. "Well . . ."
Davis waved him off. "Much as I want to, I have no right to do the same to you." His face clouded. "It's my own stupidity that forced this situation upon you and my daughter."
Tracey hugged her father and laid her head upon his shoulder.
Harry kept very still, not wanting to disrupt the fragile, emotional scene in front of him.
Anna picked up the thread, "What my husband is trying, in his own bumbling, male way, is that we're grateful to you for what you have done for Tracey."
Harry let out a relieved breath.
She smiled at him in amusement. "That was Randall's reaction when my father let him off the hook finally."
"Evil man," Randall grumbled.
Anna smacked him on the shoulder.
Surprised, Harry let out a laugh at their antics.
They both grinned at him. Randall waved toward a pub. "Come. I'll buy you a drink and we can get to know our daughter's . . . husband."
Shortly after settling down, Daphne's parents and younger sister, a Slytherin fifth year that Harry recognized only by her family resemblance, had arrived. Daphne's mother and sister - Lauren and Astoria he later learned - immediately settled around Harry's fiancée and started chatting with her.
"Walk with me, Mr. Potter," Mr. Greengrass said.
Harry, resigned to the necessity, stood and followed the slight but well-dressed man out of the pub.
Tracey and Daphne watched him leave with trepidation, but they were held in place by their mothers.
Outside, the older man started walking casually down Hogsmeade's High Street. "Paul Greengrass," he introduced himself, not offering a hand and instead keeping his face up and studying the passing clouds.
"Harry Potter, sir," Harry quietly replied.
"Yes," Greengrass absently replied.
The two continued in silence for so long that Harry grew nervous.
Greengrass finally broke it. He grinned at Harry in embarrassment. "Sorry. I tend to ignore the rest of the world if I'm thinking about something."
Harry nodded hesitantly, not sure what kind of response he should give.
"Oh, relax, young man. I'm not mad at you." He let out a long breath. "In point of fact, I should thank you."
"Sir -" Harry started.
Greengrass waved him to silence. "Let me say my peace, please.
"Now, from what Daphne has said, she and Tracey sprung this on you only a couple days ago. That had to be . . . shocking." He grinned at Harry's snort of humor. "Quite. At any rate, I'm aware that this was all dumped on you without any kind of warning. You were wizard enough to take on the burden without complaint, and for that I thank you."
Harry kept his ironic thoughts about dark lords and prophecies to himself.
Greengrass continued quietly, "In an effort to save my family, I agreed to give one of my daughters away." He sighed. "Randall and I tried to protect them as much as we could. Tried to keep them away from Draco, or so we thought. That bastard Lucius managed to design that betrothal contract . . . Well, Daphne said she'd given you the specifics already."
"Yes, sir, she has."
He nodded. "So I don't have to get into how badly Lucius managed to hoodwink us." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry you had to get pulled into this, Lord Potter, but I feel much better about you than I do about that Goyle boy."
They walked a bit further before Harry asked, "Is it true that Malfoy threatened to kill you?"
Greengrass grunted in reply. "Threatening to kill me wouldn't have gotten my cooperation. No, he threatened line extinction. Not only killing me, but also everyone with the name or two generations removed from it."
Harry grimaced. This kind of threat did not surprise Harry at all. Malfoy had bought his way out of trouble after the Department of Mysteries. When Fudge was impeached, the former minister, in a vain attempt to keep himself out of prison, blamed Malfoy for having driven him into breaking the law. Malfoy, unsurprisingly, simply bribed, blackmailed, or intimidated the court into releasing him once again.
"I have no doubt that he and the Death Eaters are capable of carrying out this threat to me and my house," Greengrass added.
"Agreed," Harry said. "With that in mind, though, sir, what's to stop them from attacking you now?"
"Presumably Malfoy was doing this to punish you, scare other neutral families, or reward the Crabbe and Goyle families. Now that Tracey and Daphne are out from under Draco's thumb, so to speak, none of those things have occurred. What's to stop them from targeting you, just to make a point?"
"What stopped them from doing so two months ago?" Greengrass responded. "More importantly, the fact is that the contract is public, including who the arranger was. If we're attacked now, it'll look like Malfoy is lashing out at us in anger."
"Which would be true."
"Which would be true," Greengrass acknowledged. "However, it won't happen, at least for some time. If it happened now, he'd lose a lot of the pureblood support he and his dark lord rely on. Remember, everything you've done is perfectly legal and according to the traditions. So if he attacked now, he'd be flying in the face of those traditions."
"His own need to follow the pureblood traditions will keep you safe?"
"In the short term, yes. In the long term, we're in the same danger as anyone else."
"I respectfully suggest, sir, that you'd be in much more. After all, you're going to be tied to me through your daughter."
Greengrass looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Hmm, you have a point, young Potter. I'll have to speak with Gringotts about improving our wards and suggest that Randall do the same."
The elder man opened the door to the pub and moved to take a seat next to his wife, leaving Harry to sit between him and Mr. Davis.
Harry did not for a moment believe that the seating arrangement was a coincidence.
Listening to the conversations between the two families and within each one, Harry slowly relaxed. His is what he thought family should be. Fun, laughter, and easy conversation.
Harry, Daphne, and Tracey left after dinner and began walking back to the school through the lengthening shadows.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Daphne asked quietly.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I'm fine."
She visibly relaxed. "After Dad pulled you outside like that, I was worried. I mean, you seemed fine afterward, but . . ."
Harry chuckled. "No harm done. Mostly, he wanted to thank me for rescuing you from Goyle."
She nodded. "And rescuing is about the right term, too."
"I spoke with your fathers, obviously, but hardly said a word to either of your mothers. How are they taking all of this? And your sister, Daphne?"
"Astoria doesn't know how to take it. I mean, she feels bad for what almost happened to me, but she hardly knows anything about you. That, and she looks at me and knows that it could easily have been her bound into a sham of a marriage contract like that instead. I just hope Mom and Dad do better with her.
"Mom is . . . unhappy with the situation. Oh, don't worry, Harry, she isn't mad at you. Like everyone keeps telling you, we're thankful to you for what you're doing for us."
Tracey nodded her agreement. "Mother feels the same. This mess is of her and Father's making. She's just grateful to you for making this as easy on me as it has been so far."
"I missed you this morning, my lord," Daphne said, trying to stifle a yawn.
Harry looked up from his breakfast. "Good morning."
Tracey grinned as she slipped in beside him. "Thank you. You, too. Daphne is still miffed at waking up alone, though."
Harry turned to his other fiancee. "I got up at five for training," he said. "If you want me to wake you up that early next time . . ." he trailed off with a dry tone and slight smirk.
Daphne blanched. "Thank you, my lord, but I prefer to be asleep at that time." She seated herself on his other side.
"That's what I figured."
As the girls were tucking in, Flitwick stopped on his way from the head table toward the doors. "Good practice this morning, Harry."
Harry smiled at the diminutive professor. "Thank you, Fil. I enjoyed it."
"You enjoy the dueling lessons?" Tracey asked incredulously.
"Sure. Learning new fighting tricks is great. Besides, a good duel is stimulating."
Daphne's head came up and she quirked a smile at Harry.
Harry blushed at her arch look. "You know what I mean."
"Any bruises I have to heal this time?" she asked.
"Your own private nurse, Harry?" Filius asked with a smile tugging at his mouth.
Harry rolled his eyes. "She's been taking lessons from Madam Pomfrey."
Flitwick nodded. "So I've heard. This, Harry, is a good thing. Be grateful for a healer you can trust." He smiled at all three. "Do let me know if you three need any extra Charms lessons. Totally discreet, I assure you." He ignored Harry's blush. "Keep up your exercises, Harry. I'll see you tomorrow and then when the next term begins?"
Harry nodded, blush fading. "Thanks for everything, Fil."
"Think nothing of it, dear boy," Flitwick said cheerfully as he walked off.
"You two are getting along a lot better than I'd heard," Tracey observed.
"He's been giving me private lessons for a year and a half. He gave me permission to use his first name in private almost a year ago now. He's become a good friend in addition to a professor I can trust." He scowled. "There aren't many of those, unfortunately." He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the unpleasant thoughts.
"So what is the plan today?" Daphne asked.
"Yesterday before we met your parents you said something about needing to stop at Gringotts?" Harry asked.
"Mr. Potter." Slipknot the goblin glanced at both witches flanking Harry. "My apologies. Lord Potter. How may Gringotts serve you today?"
"You are in charge of the Potter account, correct?"
"Among others, yes."
"As you're apparently aware, these two ladies are about to become my chattel."
Slipknot nodded. "You wish to arrange to move their vault contents to yours?"
"I would prefer they retain their own, actually."
"They cannot," Slipknot stated flatly. "As property, they are not permitted to hold property. You can keep the vaults open if you wish, but they must, by ministry and goblin law, transfer to you."
Tracey laid a hand on Harry's arm. "Don't worry about it, my lord. We knew this was going to happen. Go ahead and transfer the contents and close down the vaults. It's not like Daphne or I will ever be able to access them again even if they were separate."
Harry winced at the reminder that their slavery would be permanent for them. "Okay, go ahead and transfer the contents and close down the vaults."
Slipknot started filling out a few forms, sliding them across the desk for signatures as needed.
"While we're at it, I understand that the girls' school tuition next term is not covered as of yet. Please deduct that from my vault."
Both girls relaxed slightly and graced Harry with smiles.
Slipknot merely nodded and continued processing forms.
As the last parchment settled down, Slipknot settled a monocle to his right eye and ran a thin finger down a column of numbers. "After these transfers are completed and after your marriages, your total assets, Lord Potter, will include one Unplottable home, an empty parcel of land in Godric's Hollow, some twelve thousand galleons, and two under trained witches."
"I was under the impression that the Potters owned significantly more than that," Harry said in surprise. After all the fuss people made over his family name, he expected there to be more money left in his vaults. He was not destitute by any means, but could hardly live the life of luxury that Sirius had hinted such old names were entitled to.
Slipknot gave a negligent shrug. "I am not responsible for what you believe."
Harry grimaced. "That wasn't what I was implying, sir."
The goblin glanced at the clock on the wall. "Was there anything else?" he asked, sounding immensely bored and slightly impatient.
"Is there a way I can give these two access to my vaults?"
"You may give them your key. In the eyes of goblins and your wizarding law, they have roughly the same rights as house-elves. They are permitted to make transactions at your instruction."
"They can't have their own money?"
Harry looked increasingly frustrated and angry, so Tracey interceded. "Harry, really, we knew this was going to happen. Don't worry about it."
Grumbling, Harry dropped that topic and started another one. "The Unplottable property: I'm aware of it. How would I go about selling it?"
"What is the address?"
"It is under a Fidelius Charm."
Both wizard and goblin ignored the stares from the two witches. "The Fidelius Charm would need to be dropped, the property assessed, and all back taxes would have to be paid," Slipknot said as if reading from a list of things to do.
Harry winced. It had not even occurred to him that taxes may be owed. "When was the last time the Black family paid taxes on a home in London?" he asked, trying to get at the information he wanted indirectly.
Slipknot snapped his fingers and a weighty ledger popped into existence in front of him. After several moments of turning pages, he ran one finger down the page. "1980," he stated, closing the book again.
"How much in taxes would I owe if -"
Harry stopped as Slipknot shook his head. "You do not have enough cash in your vault to cover the back taxes, which would be the first step in trying to sell it."
"You can't do anything about it now," Tracey pointed out. "Just leave it all as it is. We'll worry about it after graduation."
"Or after Voldemort, anyway," Harry reluctantly agreed. He stood. "Thank you for your time, Slipknot."
The goblin turned to the piles of parchment on his desk without a word of farewell.
Harry woke up on Christmas Eve alone in his bed in Gryffindor Tower.
For some reason, that felt wrong to him. After a few seconds of thought, he realized that even after only two mornings, he was already accustomed to waking up entangled with Daphne.
He snorted quietly. After meeting her less than a week previously, he was already used to sleeping with her. And he'd be marrying her that afternoon. And she would immediately become his property, his slave.
The world was truly mad.
Sighing at the perversity of fate, he headed off to his shower.
Toweling his hair, he found his four roommates had returned to the castle and entered the room while he was gone. "Hey, guys."
"Surprised to find you here and alone, mate," Ron said.
Harry stopped in the act of pulling a pair of boxers from his dresser. "What is that supposed to mean, Ron?"
He shrugged casually. "Two hot babes, soon to be concubines . . ."
Seamus smirked, but the other three boys frowned at Ron.
Surprisingly, Neville spoke up, "Grow up, Ron. Harry is trying to be a gentlemen to them. It isn't like they want him to be rutting with them like rabbits in heat. They, and Harry, were forced into it. Personally, I'm impressed with how they're handling it."
Dean nodded his agreement as Harry smiled at his normally shy roommate. "Thanks, Nev."
Ron and Seamus shared a shrug before Seamus started rummaging around in the rucksack he had brought along. Presently, he pulled out a bottle of firewhiskey.
Harry rolled his eyes. "How you can drink that stuff is beyond me," he grumbled.
"Hey," Seamus objected. "You're going to get married today. No time for a real stag party, so this'll have to do."
Dean grimaced at the bottle. "Couldn't you at least have gotten some Ogden's? That cheap stuff tastes like lighter fluid."
"It probably is lighter fluid, whatever that is," Neville said with a matching grimace.
Harry laughed. "Seriously, Seamus, get some better taste. That back alley stuff'll rot out your stomach lining."
"I'll have you know that this is the best brand that ten sickles will buy."
Everyone winced. "I rest my case," Harry muttered.
"No taste," Seamus sniffed.
Dean gave an eloquent snort.
Seamus ignored him. "It's a wonder I offer to share this with you."
Harry rolled his eyes as he was pulling some casual clothes on. "If you insist, I'll have one shot, but I want a clear head for later."
Ron leered. "I bet."
"Grow up," Neville repeated in disgust.
"Why?" Ron asked.
"Because Hermione will dump you if you don't," Dean answered.
That at least shut Ron up. Harry gave Dean a look of gratitude.
Together, the five boys walked down for breakfast.
The instant Harry entered the Great Hall, Hermione let out a high-pitched, "Eep!" and stood, holding out her arms so her robe blocked his sight of Daphne and Tracey. "Harry, leave!"
Neville and Ron looked at her like she had lost her mind.
Harry gave her a small smile. "I asked, Hermione, and that's a muggle superstition."
Hermione stilled. "It is?"
Dean turned to Harry. "It is?"
"What are you talking about?" Ron asked.
"Bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony," Hermione answered, looking closely at Harry.
"They saw each yesterday, didn't they?" Ron asked blankly.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "On the day of the wedding, Ronald," she huffed.
"Huh," Neville said wonderingly. "Never heard that one."
Harry turned to her with a clear "I told you so" look.
Hermione, face pulled down in a disgruntled grimace, dropped back into her seat.
"I told you," Tracey said lightly as the boys sat down across from the girls. "Good morn, my lord," she added with a bright smile at Harry.
"Tracey, Daphne," Harry said, smiling at the two. "Sleep well?"
"How kind of you to inquire, my lord. I'm quite well rested and ready for any exertions," Tracey answered with a grin.
Harry choked on a rasher of bacon.
Ron and Seamus howled in laughter.
Daphne winced as if in pain.
"Must you encourage them?" Hermione asked pleadingly.
"Must? No, I suppose not," Tracey said thoughtfully. "Though it is a lot of fun."
"You do realize what the red-headed git is thinking right now?" Harry demanded.
"Yep," Tracey said. "Did you need me to explain it to you, my lord?"
Daphne buried her face in her hands.
Harry sighed, glaring at Tracey.
Neville's mouth twitched. "You have to admit that it was funny, though," he said to Harry.
The side of Harry's mouth curved into a small smile as his color returned to normal. "I suppose it is." He turned to Tracey, "You remember what I was saying about you being so reserved?"
"I take it back."
She grinned. "You've made it clear, my lord, that you want us to continue to act as we wish."
"Don't, Harry," Neville spoke up abruptly.
Harry turned to him. "Huh?"
"You were going to say something like, 'But not at my expense,' right?"
Harry blinked. "Yeah."
"Remember, as your chattel, they must follow your orders. If you say that, then they can't tease you. That'd break the spirit of your previous order to them, right?"
Harry and Hermione looked at him in respect. Ron just looked confused.
Neville shrugged in embarrassment. "I'm the only one here who has elves, right?" He smiled at the two girls. "At least of those who can still contradict Harry."
They relaxed fractionally and nodded to him.
Neville turned back to Harry. "Since I've had elves since I can remember, I've had to think about these kinds of things before. Granted, not to the same degree or for the same reasons, but the idea holds."
Harry smiled at Neville. "You're right, of course. Thank you for pointing these things out."
Neville shrugged but gave him a pleased smile in response.
"So when's the ceremony?" Dean asked, changing the topic.
"Why so late?" Hermione asked.
"It'll be a simple service," Tracey answered. "Malfoy's contract dictated the particulars."
"So what're we supposed to do all day?" Seamus complained.
Ron had the good sense to keep his mouth shut in the face of Hermione's frosty glare.
"The Davis and Greengrass families will be here in a bit, so the girls and I will be busy," Harry said.
"Meeting the in-laws?" Dean asked with a grin.
Harry chuckled, knowing it was not a malicious tease from the tall, black boy. "I met 'em on Monday. No, this is more a case of getting to know each other better."
"Don't you think you should've met the mother-in-law further ahead?" Neville asked, getting in on the teasing.
"It hasn't exactly been a traditional engagement," Harry answered dryly.
"Winning 'em on the field of battle? No, not exactly the usual way it's done," Ron observed with a snort.
"I didn't have much of a choice, Ron," Harry said testily.
"Whoa, mate. I didn't mean anything by it."
Harry frowned. "Then why do you keep thinking that they’re toys, making these little digs?"
Ron looked blankly at him. "They're going to be your property," he said as if it were obvious.
Everyone except Seamus glared at him. "They're people, Ronald," Hermione said frigidly, "despite the stupidity of current wizarding laws."
Ron winced, knowing that tone of voice. "Sorry," he mumbled, ducking his head.
"Hmm?" Harry asked, straightening the collar of his robes in the mirror.
"Haven't you forgotten something?"
Harry checked himself. He was wearing his dress robes, they were fastened up properly, he was wearing shoes, and he had even convinced Hermione to put his hair like it had been at the Yule Ball. One hand felt his pockets. Yes, the case for the girls' headbands, the item the three of them had agreed to use for the ceremony, was in one pocket and his Master's Ring was in another. Harry had seen Daphne's uncle earlier, so he was present. McGonagall had long since convinced the Headmaster to allow the ceremony to be held in the Great Hall. A quick check of the clock at his bedside showed that there was more than enough time to make it there before the ceremony.
"I can't think of anything," Harry said, throwing a questioning look at Ron.
"You need to pick a Best Man," he said. He puffed up his chest, standing beside Harry's bed in his dress robes.
Harry managed not to roll his eyes. "Thank you for offering your services, Ron, but there won't be one."
The other three boys stopped what they were doing and looked at him in confusion.
Harry shrugged. "Remember, Malfoy wrote out all the particulars for the ceremony; no Best Man."
"Who's going to Witness?" Neville asked.
"Sign as the witness. Just sign their agreement that the ceremony occurred." Neville shrugged. "Traditionally, it's been the Best Man and Maid or Matron of Honor, but technically anyone who actually watched can do it. It's a requirement for the marriage to be legal."
At that moment, Nit the elf popped into the room, handed a note to Harry, and popped out without having said a word.
Susan just pointed out that you are probably unaware of the requirement of a Witness.
It is merely a legal requirement, signing that they witnessed the ceremony take place. Per the agreement, our fathers are Witnessing for each of us.
We beg of you a favor, Our Lord: Allow Hermione to Witness for you. She is not only one of your best friends, but has become a friend to us in the preceding few days as well.
Tracey and Daphne
"Well, that answers that." He handed the parchment to Ron and turned back to the mirror.
After reading it, Ron walked over to his bed and dropped into it with a grunt.
Neville caught Harry's eye in the mirror and rolled his eyes. Harry grinned back sadly, knowing exactly what the problem was with his best male friend.
Minutes later, the five young men walked into the Great Hall.
Harry immediately moved to join Tracey and Daphne near Elder Greengrass. The two girls smiled greetings to him, both visibly tense.
Harry ran one hand up Daphne's arm. "Relax," he whispered.
"Easy for you to say," Tracey muttered.
He half smiled at her. "I'm just as nervous," he confided. "Just no point in being so jittery. It wastes energy."
Daphne closed her eyes and took a few deep breathes. Upon opening her eyes again, she was calmer. "Professor Flitwick's lessons?"
She smiled. "Thank you," she whispered, nodding toward his hand that was still running up and down her arm.
He jerked it back as if suddenly scalded.
Tracey smirked faintly.
"Are we ready?" Elder Greengrass asked the three.
Glancing at each other, they turned to him and nodded.
He waved them toward the front where the staff table had been removed. Once standing about where Headmaster Dumbledore's lectern usually sat, he addressed the small audience composed of Davis and Greengrass families, Molly and Arthur Weasley, a handful of professors, and Harry's Gryffindor friends, and a few other student friends of theirs.
"We are here to witness the marriage of Harry James Potter to Daphne Queenie Greengrass and Tracey Rosalie Davis." Elder Greengrass paused and shifted slightly before resuming, "This is not a standard marriage. Even in a society where marriages of alliance are hardly unknown, this marriage is more unusual yet. In point of fact, it was arranged in such a way to present the worst kinds of insult to both the Greengrass and Davis families. On behalf of both families, I have been asked to express our gratitude to Mr. Potter for his part in mitigating the situation. He has our heartfelt thanks for his actions these past days, unusual though those actions may have been.
"This ceremony was delineated by the originator of the original contracts. This is not a standard wedding ceremony. So, for you students, don't feel that this is the way a wedding usually happens." He unrolled a scroll and looked down at it before glancing back up at the three nervous teens. "Mr. Potter, do you have the . . . items?"
Harry nodded and pulled out the case containing the two headbands. They were both sterling silver and bore the Potter crest in addition to sporting several enchantments.
Elder Greengrass said, "Daphne, read your vows."
Taking the scroll, Daphne read, "I, Daphne Queenie Greengrass, of my own free will enter into the Marriage of Chattel, binding myself to Harry James Potter as my Master. So mote it be."
Tears leaking out of her eyes, she handed the scroll to Tracey, who recited the line as well.
Harry, with a heavy heart, pulled out the first headband and gently slipped it onto Daphne's head. The second headband went into Tracey's hair.
Taking the scroll, he swallowed past the lump in his throat and got out, "I, Harry James Potter, of my own free will enter into Marriage of Chattel, accepting Daphne Queenie Greengrass and Tracey Rosalie Davis as my concubines. So mote it be." He handed the scroll back to Elder Greengrass. With a trembling hand, he pulled out the Master's Ring and slipped it onto his right hand.
A short flash of light came from the headbands and Harry's new ring. Two newly bound witches and one wizard took a deep breath.
Daphne and Tracey both immediately lowered their gazes. Harry kept his head up, but his expression was anything but happy.
"That concludes the ceremony," Elder Greengrass said quietly. "If the Witnesses will come forward to sign the contract?"
Both Mr. Greengrass and Mr. Davis came forward immediately, faces unhappy but determined. Harry looked around for a moment before moving over toward Hermione and leaning down to whisper to her. "Hermione, could you Witness for me?"
She blinked in surprise through her tears. "Me?" she squeaked in a whisper.
Harry smiled faintly. "You."
"I . . . I'd be honored, Harry."
Hermione stood and walked over to Elder Greengrass, signing on the indicated lines.
While she was doing that, McGonagall had announced that all visitors were encouraged to stay for dinner. After her announcement, she walked over to Harry. "Mr. Potter," she said quietly, "I have arranged for the three of you to have rooms at the Leaky Cauldron for the remainder of the holidays."
Harry smiled at her to cover his surprise. "Thank you, Professor. That's very kind of you."
McGonagall sighed. "The enchantments on the Head suite or your dorm room would prove . . . problematic. This is the only thing I could think of to do to give you the most freedom possible."
Harry nodded. "I appreciate the thoughtfulness."
Flitwick walked up to Harry and handed him a shrunken trunk. "Min told me what she had planned. I've already packed you three and placed the gifts you received into this trunk and shrunk it. It is a Portkey that will take you to Diagon Alley at five thirty."
Harry glanced at his watch and growled when all it showed was a broken face.
"Five-ten, Master," Daphne said quietly from beside him.
Flitwick nodded. "Hagrid has a carriage ready for you. It may seem I'm pushing you out the door, but I'm trying to lessen the spectacle."
Harry smiled gratefully at the small professor as he took the trunk. "Thank you, Fil. I owe you one."
Flitwick smiled sadly. "No, dear boy, you don't. It is the least I can do under the circumstances.
"Now, you three need to go. Don't worry about them," he waved at the crowd sitting at the tables behind him. "I'll explain that you've left to get some rest. Just go."
Harry nodded and thanked the professor again. Turning, he indicated the girls should precede him out the door. Tracey subtly shook her head and muttered that they must follow, never lead their master. Flushing at the deserved rebuke, mildly as it had been delivered, he led the two girls out the front doors of the castle and toward where Hagrid was holding a thestral-drawn carriage in place, clearly waiting for them.
The overly-large man smiled as the three approached. "Hiya, 'Arry. Been waitin' fer yea. Got a carriage all ready fer ye three." He opened the door and helped each girl into the carriage.
"Thanks, Hagrid," Harry said.
Hagrid gave an embarrassed shrug. "The carriage? Ah, 'twern't nuthin', 'Arry."
Harry shook his head. "Not that. I mean being so . . . I mean not making a big deal about . . . well, everything that's happened today."
"Ah," Hagrid observed. "Ye haven' done nuthin' wrong. Ye 'ave jus' done what ye needed to. No matter wha' anyone else says, ye done good by 'em, 'Arry."
Harry let out a long sigh. "I hope you're right, Hagrid."
"I know I am," Hagrid said comfortably. "Now, ye need to be goin' to make yer Portkey time. Off ye go, now."
Giving his large friend a smile, Harry entered the carriage and closed the door. It immediately started in motion, the thestral pulling it along knowing its route.
An uncomfortable silence settled in the carriage.
"Well," Harry said for lack of anything better to say.
Tracey smiled slightly. "Very eloquent, Master."
"Was that teasing or sarcasm?"
Daphne's smile matched Tracey's. "Both, I believe."
Harry smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm afraid I don't know what to say."
"Then say nothing," Tracey advised him.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Makes sense, I suppose. Is that a Slytherin philosophy?"
"A closed mouth gathers no foot."
Harry laughed. "I'll have to remember that one, Daphne. Thank you."
She smiled and nodded.
Harry sighed. "Now I remembered what else I wanted to ask." Both girls gave him their complete attention. "What, precisely, are the terms of a Marriage of Chattel?"
"It is a legal term. We are now your property, have to answer to you, must obey all commands, and can never, ever lie to you."
"So you're legally required to follow my orders, but it isn't magically enforced?"
Harry gave Tracey a dirty look. "I seriously dislike being called Master by anyone."
"Very well, Harry, but in public we must, you know."
Harry sighed but nodded in resignation. "Okay, how about this: In public, you do what you must and I'll do what I must. In private, please act as you have been." He grinned at Tracey. "As you put it, as girlfriends."
Both girls nodded agreement, relaxing a fraction.
"I don't get it, though. Malfoy clearly set this up so you two would be the utter slaves of Crabbe and Goyle and by proxy the ferret." Both girls shuddered. "If you still have free will, which I presume you do -" He paused, and they nodded. Nodding in satisfaction, he continued, "If you have free will, that wouldn't fulfill his ego."
Tracey frowned in distaste. "Legally, what is our status?"
"Yes, but what rights do we have? What is our condition according to the law?"
"Exactly. Last and most important, the Unforgivable Curses are defined as those three curses when cast upon a wizard or witch. We are not people. We're now property."
Harry looked at them in horror. "He expected you two to be under the Imperious Curse?"
Daphne shrugged and nodded. "Probably. We can both throw it off, though."
"Good. That makes me feel a little better."
Daphne smiled. "Do let me know if there is anything else I can do to make you feel better, My Master."
Harry groaned as Tracey snickered. "You are one tenacious witch."
Daphne continued to smile.
The carriage stopped at the edge of town. Harry opened the door and waved the girls out.
"Master is last in and first out," Tracey whispered. "He wastes less time that way."
Grimacing at all the little rules he never would have thought about on his own, Harry exited the carriage and ran a hand down the scaly neck of the thestral. "Thank you," he whispered to it.
It bumped its head to his arm in a friendly manner and turned back, dragging the empty carriage back toward the school.
"It is almost time to go, Master," Daphne said.
Harry nodded and pulled the trunk out. Holding it out in his flat hand, each girl cupped her hand around his and each other, all three firmly in contact with the trunk.
"Two . . . One . . ." Daphne counted down before the familiar sensations of a Portkey pulled all three through space.
Harry managed a shaky landing, staying on his feet. "Hey, the Stabilization Charm helps Portkeys, too?"
Daphne grinned, and Tracey let out a sharp bark of laughter. "The great Harry Potter," she teased. "Slayer of basilisks and dark lords, he's happy not to fall arse over teakettle after a using a Portkey or the Floo. What's wrong with this picture?"
Harry smiled at her teasing, even if it was directed at him. "Hey, I take the small victories where I can get them." He headed toward the back door of the Leaky Cauldron, as they had appeared in the short alley between the inn's back door and the entrance to Diagon Alley. "How'd you know about the basilisk, anyway?"
"You told us Saturday night, remember?"
"Right." Harry nodded as he led the two into the Leaky Cauldron, flipping the hood of his cloak up as he went, an action mirrored by the two girls.
Once the three stepped up to the bar, Tom the barkeep smiled his gap-toothed smile. "Perfesser McGonagall arranged rooms fer ya, sir, ladies. If ya'll just sign in, I can take you up ter yer room."
One by one, the three signed. As the girls were signing, Harry kept his eyes up, looking around the small pub. Fortunately, after five o'clock on Christmas Eve, the place was nearly deserted.
Once Tom got the guest log back, his eyes flicked to the first name. "That explains that," he murmured. "Happy Christmas, Mr. Potter . . . er, Mrs. Potter, and . . ." Eyes wide, he gulped and looked at all three. "Er, Mrs. Potter again?"
"Bine Potter," Tracey quietly corrected him.
Eyes flicking to Tracey in confusion, Harry kept his voice low as he answered Tom, "It is a long story, and I'm afraid we simply don't have the energy to get into it tonight. I will tell you the story, Tom, I promise."
Eyes still wide, Tom nodded jerkily and led them up the stairs and to a room with a tarnished number seven embedded into the scarred wooden door. He unlocked the door before handing the key to Harry. "G'Night," said the still shocked man, clearly moving on automatic.
Harry entered their room with a grin, idly wondering how much of that kind of reaction the news would produce in the wizarding world. "What's with the 'Bine Potter'?"
"As chattel, we take your name but are not permitted the honorific of 'Miss' or 'Missus' - which are both contractions of 'Mistress'. 'Bine' is short for 'Concubine'."
Harry grimaced at yet another tidbit of knowledge before he looked around the room properly. "Uh . . . there's only one bed in here."
"How very observant of you," Tracey said.
He glared at her.
She grinned back unrepentantly. "In case it slipped your mind, Harry, we just became your concubines. It's rather expected that you would want only one bed."
Ignoring the implications of her statement, his eyes went back and forth between the two girls. "I remember your reaction when Ron insinuated you two sharing a bed a couple days back." He phrased it as a statement, but the question was still clear.
Daphne shrugged as she removed her cloak and hung it on one of the pegs beside the door. "I'm not interested in snuggling up to Tracey as a warm bed partner. You, on the other hand . . ."
That implication was more difficult for Harry to ignore.
Tracey said, "If you will it, Master, I will of course do as you command."
Daphne tilted her head as she looked at Tracey. "You don't want to," she stated.
Tracey shrugged. "I don't have any kind of a choice, do I?" Hanging her own cloak up, she went to the unresisting Harry and took his cloak as well.
Harry, meanwhile, was thinking furiously. "What are the . . . ah, requirements here?"
"Only your will, Harry," Tracey said, sitting down onto the bed, curling one leg under herself.
Harry gave her another dirty look.
She shrugged as Daphne said, "You may not like it, Harry, but she is correct. Our only requirements are to do as you tell us. We are bound; you are free."
Harry sighed again. "This will take some getting used to." He pulled the trunk out of his pocket and placed it down at the foot of the bed. Once expanded, it showed six wand touch pads, marked as each individual's clothing and other possessions.
Harry smiled at the Charms Professor's handiwork. He tapped the first pad, marked Harry's Clothing, and opened the lid to reveal his clothing packed away neatly. Grabbing a school robe, he said, "I don't know about you two, but I'm getting hungry. Let's change out of the formal robes and get something to eat downstairs."
Tracey bit her lip and said, "If I may make a suggestion?"
Harry stopped on his way into the loo, turning and looking at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Wearing school robes will mark us as students." She peered into the selection of Harry's clothing and frowned. "Do you not have some every-day clothing?"
Harry shook his head. "Just school robes and Dudley's muggle clothes."
Both girls frowned. "We have got to get him to go shopping," Daphne commented to Tracey.
The other girl nodded. "For the sake of our privacy, then I respectfully suggest I go and get some dinner for the three of us and bring it back up here."
Harry thought about that for a few seconds and then nodded. "Good idea." He reached for his money pouch.
Tracey waved him off. "I can charge it to the room."
Over the dinner and butterbeer, the three gradually relaxed again and idly spoke together.
Harry suddenly perked up. "I know what I'm missing!"
"A Christmas tree."
Tracey arched an eyebrow before she pointed to the dresser top. When Harry turned, he spotted a small but realistic looking Christmas tree, complete with a little star on the top.
Harry smiled at it for a moment, idly wondering how he had overlooked it previously, before he rummaged around in the trunk. Giving a muffled exclamation of success, he pulled out two poorly wrapped gifts. He gently placed them under the tiny tree before returning to his chair.
The girls glanced at each other. "I am sorry, Master, but I'm afraid I don't have anything to give you."
Harry waved it off. "I didn't expect anything; it’s okay. I just figured I should get my new wives something." He gave a slight grin.
"Usually it is the husband's place to get his wife, or wives in this case, a present, yes," Tracey agreed. "Nice to see you have the proper instincts."
"We'll see how his instincts lead him tonight," Daphne said with a grin. She checked her watch. "Speaking of which, I suggest we turn in. It's getting late."
Smothering a yawn, Harry pulled out his toiletries and his preferred pajamas from the trunk. "Mind if I get ready for bed first?"
"Chattel don't have a vote," Tracey gently reminded him.
He blushed. "Yeah, right. Uh, do either of you need to use the facilities immediately?"
When the girls shook their heads, he headed in and quickly got ready for bed. Stepping back out of the loo, he said, "So who gets the . . ."
He stopped dead in his tracks at the scene that greeted him, his words trailing off.
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