Title: A Convenient Marriage http://inkstain.inkquill.com/isf/archive/13/aconvenient.html Author: Diana Williams SB begs SS to fight LM for HP’s hand in marriage; both inexp,
Pairing: SS-HP SS takes control, HP unhappy, HP kidnapped, SS rescues,
fall in love
Sirius Black stomped all the way down the stairs to the dungeons, cursing Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape equally under his breath. This whole mess was Snape's fault! He was just sure of it, even if he hadn't figured out yet just exactly how blame could be laid at the bastard's door. He wasn't surprised that Lucius had pulled a stunt like this; the man was as slippery as a snake and had more lives than a cat. Just look at the way he'd managed to keep out of Azkaban again, even with Voldemort dead and the rest of the Death Eaters dead or locked up forever.
Sirius smirked slightly. Well, Lucius hadn't escaped retribution completely. The new Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley, had seen to that. Lucius had been stripped of much of his holdings, including his manor house and his Gringott's bank accounts, to be used to help compensate Voldemort's victims. In addition to these woes, his son, Draco, had been killed in the final battle, and Narcissa had divorced her disgraced husband to return to her family. Of course, Sirius didn't doubt that Lucius had squirreled away a tidy fortune in Muggle banks - the man had always been one to play both sides - but Lucius Malfoy was in pretty bad shape in the eyes of the wizarding world these days.
Sirius scowled as he recalled just exactly how Lucius had decided to repair the family honour, and he was still scowling as Snape opened his door.
"Black," Snape said, his voice as warm as an iceberg. "How unpleasant to see you. Go away."
Snape started to shut the door but Sirius wedged his foot in the doorway. "I've got to talk to you, Snape."
"Unfortunately for you, I feel no corresponding desire for communication. If you don't remove your foot from my doorway, you and Moody will soon have something in common."
"It's about Harry."
Snape frowned but stopped trying to shut the door. "What has the brat done now?"
"Hardly a 'brat'," Sirius growled, irritated by the slur on his beloved godson.
"Pardon. 'The Shining Light of the Quidditch World', then," Snape said with a sneer.
"Lucius Malfoy has invoked the Colligare Gentes. I need you to counter his offer," Sirius said flatly.
Snape blinked and released his hold on the door. With a smirk, Sirius pushed past him into Snape's living room. "Got anything to drink?"
Snape shut the door, gesturing towards the bookcase-lined wall as he did. Sirius prowled over and perused the collection of cut crystal bottles, raising his eyebrows as he recognized a very fine wizarding whiskey in one of them. He poured a healthy splash into one of the glasses and then, after looking over at the stunned Snape, poured a second glass and carried it over to the man.
"Here," he said, handing Snape the glass. "You're going to need this."
Snape automatically took a sip and the whiskey appeared to jog his brain a little as he immediately glared at Sirius. "You must be out of your mind."
"What, you think Malfoy wouldn't try to pull a stunt like that?" Sirius asked, settling himself comfortably into what he guessed was Snape's favourite chair. He was starting to enjoy himself. Despite Harry's predicament, it was almost worth it to see Snape off-balance. "Harry's the last of the Potter line, unattached, and under twenty, plus he's the hero of the wizarding world. Of course Lucius would try to grab him. It's his only hope of being allowed back into polite society."
"The Colligare Gentes hasn't been invoked in over a hundred years," Snape pointed out, frowning as he paced over to the fireplace and stood leaning against the mantle, looking into its flames. "The Ministry enacted so many restrictions to its use that it became impractical to use."
"Malfoy evidently doesn't think so, and Albus says the man's covered every requirement. If we don't come up with a Champion for Harry, Malfoy's got the legal right to demand Harry's hand in marriage."
"And you want me to be Potter's Champion," Snape said, his voice flat and emotionless. "Why?"
Sirius shrugged helplessly. "Who else am I going to get? It has to be a member of an old wizarding family. Albus is too old, I'm Harry's godfather, and Remus' curse disqualifies him."
"The three older boys are married, Ron's engaged, and I doubt the twins or Ginny could best Lucius Malfoy in a duel. Frankly, you're Harry's only chance."
Snape frowned as he took a sip of his whiskey and then he turned to look at Sirius. "You understand that if I were to agree to be Potter's Champion, he would be equally obligated to marry me."
Sirius nodded, frowning as well. "Better you than Malfoy," he said reluctantly. "You may be an obnoxious git, but at least I know you've got Harry's best interests at heart."
"Thank you for that ringing endorsement, Black," Snape said dryly. "Does Potter know you're here?"
Sirius shook his head. "No. He doesn't know anything about it - his team's in Italy this week and he doesn't get back till late tonight. Albus received a head's up from Arthur this morning and contacted me, and I came straight here from his office."
"In that case, I think we should wait to see how young Mr. Potter feels about the situation," Snape said, and Sirius thought he must have gotten over the shock as he sounded more like his normal snarky self. "He may have a more appropriate candidate in mind. Therefore, I must request you cease drinking my expensive liquor, vacate my chair, and go home to await his return."
"There isn't a more appropriate candidate, and you know it," Sirius said stubbornly. "Malfoy is one of the best duellists in the country. You're the only one who has a hope of defeating him."
"Black - "
"Please," Sirius forced out between gritted teeth. "I'm begging you, Snape. Please keep Malfoy from getting his slimy hands on Harry."
Snape stared at Sirius in stunned silence for a full moment. There wasn't a trace of the usual arrogance on Black's face, and the sincerity in his eyes was beyond question. "All right," Snape said slowly. "I'll do whatever is in my power - as long as Potter agrees to this as well."
"He will," Sirius said, relief obvious in his voice as he set down his glass and stood up. "I'll make sure he understands what's at risk the minute he gets back."
Snape sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "No doubt you'll completely balls up the whole thing," he said irritably. "Say nothing to Potter when he returns. Bring him here tomorrow and we'll discuss the situation completely. I'll ask Albus to stand as my second in the negotiations."
Sirius nodded and headed for the door, then turned around and came back. Hesitantly, he held out his hand. "Thanks, Snape. I'm in your debt."
Snape stared at the extended hand and then cautiously, as if expecting a trap, took Sirius' hand and gave it a brief shake before releasing it. "Get out, Black, so I can salvage what is left of the night."
Sirius grinned and left, and Snape sank into his favourite chair, to sip his whiskey and contemplate this strange new twist to his life.
Harry followed his godfather down the steps to the Hogwarts' dungeons, still mystified by Sirius' insistence that they come here first thing this morning. When Sirius had first Flooed to his flat, Harry had been less than thrilled with his request for Harry's company. He was worn out after spending the last month on tour with England, and was looking forward to relaxing in his flat and maybe going clubbing with his flatmates. But Sirius had been insistent, almost desperately so, and Harry had finally agreed.
Harry's first thought had been that something had happened to Dumbledore. However, when Sirius turned towards the dungeons, he wondered if Snape was in some sort of trouble. Even though Voldemort was no more and most of his Death Eaters were dead or in Azkaban, there were a few like Lucius Malfoy who had managed to escape justice. Any one of them would have been more than willing to inflict harm on the traitor Snape. Just because he didn't particularly like the git didn't mean that he wasn't worried about him. So Harry was considerably relieved when a healthy-looking Snape opened the door to his private chambers, even if he immediately snorted and stalked away to the fireplace.
Harry blinked his eyes - the spell to correct his vision made it harder to adjust to rapid changes of light - and looked around the room. The sight of Albus Dumbledore seated in one of the armchairs made Harry's smile widen, and he crossed the room to greet the elderly wizard.
"Headmaster," he said. "You're looking well."
"Harry, my dear boy." Dumbledore smiled fondly at him. "I've heard great things about England's chances in the World Cup this year."
"We'll do our best, sir," Harry said, grinning. He looked from Dumbledore to Sirius and back again. "What's this about, then?"
Harry turned towards the fireplace where Snape stood with his back to them. "I beg your pardon? What has Malfoy to do with anything?"
"A lot, I'm afraid," Sirius said heavily, and Harry looked back at him. "Malfoy's filed the Colligare Gentes on your behalf."
"The what?" Harry said blankly.
"What are they teaching children these days?" Snape sneered. Harry ignored him, looking inquiringly at Dumbledore.
"Colligare Gentes literally means binding bloodlines together," Dumbledore explained. "It is a provision to keep the old Wizarding families from dying out completely. When there is only one underage member remaining in a family line, another pure blood family can petition to marry the young person to one of their own family. The first child from that marriage is the property of the 'adopting' family, but all other offspring belong to the endangered family line."
"In theory, anyway," Snape said sneeringly. "In practice, it was common for one pure blood family to wipe out another family except for a child who would then be forcibly wed to one of their wretched offspring. Easier than negotiating bridal agreements, especially since they could glean the choicer bits of the 'bride's' inheritance."
"But I'm not a child and Draco Malfoy is dead."
"You are under twenty-one, the age of majority under the Colligare Gentes," Snape said, "and Lucius Malfoy is very much alive."
"He wants to marry me?" Harry asked, grimacing in distaste.
"Ah, Potter has some shred of intelligence after all," Snape said mockingly.
Sirius glared at Snape. "Belt up, Snape. This isn't helping matters."
"So what do I have to do?" Harry demanded. "You're not just going to let Malfoy marry me, are you?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Unfortunately, we don't have too many choices in this matter. Lucius has filed the required paperwork, and you are the last of the Potter line."
"There is another alternative," Sirius said hesitantly. "To stop just the sort of misuse Snape was describing, an amendment was made to the Colligare Gentes. The party in question - that's you - can choose a Champion. Your Champion would then fight a wizard's duel with Malfoy, winner take all."
"That's a relief," Harry said, smiling at Sirius. "So, who's going to fight Malfoy, Sirius - you or the Headmaster?"
To his surprise, Sirius refused to meet his eyes. "It's not quite that easy, Harry. If your Champion should win, you have to marry him. I can't because I'm your godfather. Albus is above the age requirements, Remus is disqualified because of his curse, and the remainder of your friends are either married or not skilled enough to fight Malfoy."
"So who does that leave?" Harry asked impatiently. Sirius' eyes slid to Snape and then returned to their contemplation of the dungeon floor. "No. Oh, no. You're having me on."
"I am equally overjoyed at the idea," Snape said dryly. "Nevertheless, there are no other alternatives."
"Couldn't Snape just fight him and we get engaged, then call it off before the wedding?" Harry asked. "We could say we're incompatible. No one would doubt that."
"And Malfoy could once more file the Colligare Gentes," Snape said in a bored tone of voice. "Personally, I am not prepared to keep challenging Malfoy for the next two years till you turn twenty-one or Malfoy tires of the game."
"But it'd be a formality, right?" Harry said, a tinge of desperation in his voice. "We wouldn't be really married; it would be just the legal stuff."
"If you are referring to consummation of the marriage, I'm afraid that is a requirement as well." Harry blanched and Snape smirked. "What, frightened by the thought of our wedding night, Potter? I promise to be gentle."
"Bastard," Harry hissed at him.
"Gentlemen," Dumbledore said quietly. "This gets us no where."
Harry turned to his godfather, looking at him desperately. "Sirius, don't let them do this to me."
Sirius sighed. "Actually, Harry, I'm the one who asked Snape to do this for you."
"'Begged' is the term I'd use," Snape said, smirking again.
Harry blinked. If Sirius had begged Snape, his bitter rival, to marry Harry, then this was deadly serious. "Shit."
"A colourful but nevertheless aptly descriptive summation of the situation," Snape said. "You can hardly be more distressed by this turn of events than I am."
Harry snorted. "Right. I bet you couldn't resist the opportunity to humiliate me one more time."
"That is one compensation of this agreement," Snape said. "And there is the matter of securing an heir to the Snape line."
"In case it escaped your notice, I'm a potions master."
Harry blanched. "There are potions that can make a man pregnant?"
Snape sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "Why do I even bother trying to teach these imbeciles anything?" he muttered. "Yes, Potter, there are several potions to enable a male wizard to bear young. Otherwise, given the large number of gay wizards in the population, we would have died out centuries ago."
"Oh." Harry hadn't thought about that. As a matter of fact, he hadn't thought much about relationships recently. Following the disaster with Cho Chang in his Fifth year, he'd given up trying to understand girls and had concentrated on killing Voldemort. After leaving school, he'd been recruited by England's Quidditch team, which had kept him occupied for the past two years. He'd been so busy trying to prove himself that he hadn't had time for more than a short session with his right hand before falling asleep most nights.
He'd sometimes thought about dating, particularly when he saw Ron and Hermione together, but the only people interested wanted the Boy- Who-Lived, not just plain Harry. He snorted; well, at least he knew Snape didn't want him for his fame. Of course, that brought up another question.
"Um, what if I'm not...you know," he stammered, flushing.
Snape rolled his eyes dramatically. "Your eloquence amazes me, Potter. What if you're not what?"
Harry glared at him. "Gay. What if I'm not into men like that?"
Snape shrugged. "It hardly matters. This will be a marriage of convenience, not a love match, Potter. I don't care what you do, so long as you are discreet. If we decide to produce progeny, we must guarantee that my heir is a Snape, but other than that I really don't care."
Harry's mouth dropped open. "You're giving me permission? To cheat on you?"
"Middle class Muggle morals," Snape muttered.
"Does that mean you'd feel free to cheat on me, too?"
"Yes," Snape said matter-of-factly. "Not that I have much inclination for dalliance. I am much too busy for such things."
Harry glared at Snape and started to say something about Snape's morals, but Dumbledore interrupted. "I take it that you will accept Severus as your Champion, Harry?"
Harry sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I don't seem to have much choice. Between Snape and Malfoy, I'll take Snape any day." He stepped closer to Snape, until they were only standing inches apart, and stared up at the taller man. "Just tell me you can beat him."
Snape sneered. "With my eyes shut."
"Well, keep them open, if you don't mind," Harry retorted, and Snape blinked at the forcefulness in the younger man's tone. "This is my future we're talking about."
The first week of April, Harry found himself pacing back and forth in the tiny room he'd been sent to in the Ministry building. It had been a frustrating three weeks: filing his appeal, meeting with the Ministry official assigned to his case, listening to Sirius and Dumbledore negotiating the marriage contract.... The latter had been particularly disturbing as he was forced to realize that he'd have to change his whole life. He'd have to move in with Snape, for one thing. Not that sharing a flat with two team mates had been perfect bliss - he never seemed to be able to get a hot shower - but it had been his life, and his flat, not someone else's.
Of course, it would be infinitely worse to be in Malfoy's clutches. Hermione had read everything on the subject and had informed him that under the law, everything Harry possessed would legally belong to Malfoy until he turned twenty-one: his vault, his salary, even his clothes and possessions. Malfoy could even cancel his Quidditch contract. And then there was the matter of children.
At least Snape was willing to be reasonable - or at least Dumbledore, as Snape's representative, was. Snape was willing to treat him as an adult - which made his current situation doubly infuriating. It had been the Ministry official who had shuffled him off to this waiting room, "for his own safety", as if he was a child. He'd fought Voldemort, for God's Sake! Surely he could handle a little thing like witnessing a Wizard's Duel.
Harry ran his hand through his hair, thoroughly mussing it up. Although he'd dressed with care in his best robes this morning in honour of the occasion, he'd long since abandoned his outer robe. He'd also unbuttoned the collar of his shirt as he paced, feeling as nervous as a kneazel in a room full of krups.
"This is stupid," he complained for the fifth time. "This is my life we're talking about. Why can't I watch the duel?"
Ron, Hermione, and Remus Lupin exchanged amused looks before looking back at their friend.
"Usually, the person in contention is a child," Hermione reminded him, having read up on the subject once Harry had told her about his predicament. "It would be too frightening for a child to watch a Wizard's duel."
Harry turned to him, an anxious look on his face. "Do you think he's good enough to beat Malfoy?"
"Severus is an excellent duellist," Lupin said soothingly. "I've practiced with him myself over the past two weeks."
"Yeah, but Malfoy's a cheating Slytherin," Ron pointed out.
Lupin grinned. "So is Severus." He reached out to grasp Harry's shoulder. "Be patient, Harry. Sirius and Albus are in there with him, and they'll let us know the minute the duel is over."
Harry sighed. "I know." He looked at his watch and moaned. "How long is this damned thing going to go on?"
"Relax, Harry," Ron said and handed him a glass of ice water from the table of refreshments. He doubted Harry would be able to keep down anything else. "You know how the Ministry is about these things. The bloke officiating is probably still flapping his mouth about the rules and such."
Harry gave him a grateful look as he took the glass of water. Ron had matured a lot in the past few years, he realized, and hadn't even pitched a fit when he found out whom Harry had to marry. The Ministry had been in a shambles after the war, and Ron had abandoned his own plans to pitch in and help his father, the new Minister of Magic, straighten things out. Harry thought that it was appropriate that Ron's reward had been Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports following the discovery that Ludo Bagman was on Voldemort's side.
"Thanks, Ron," he said and slumped down into one of the chairs. "I'm glad you two are here with me."
"Where else would we be?" Ron asked, grinning at him. "Just like old times, seeing you in the middle of a mess."
Hermione nodded as she sat down on the other side of him. She'd taken time off from her studies in Social and Political Science at Royal Holloway to be with him today, and he was grateful that she was there. "While I don't approve of this whole archaic law, it could have been worse. Professor Snape isn't all that horrid, once you get to know him."
Harry sighed and hoped that she was right.
Almost fifteen minutes later, the door burst open and Sirius almost fell into the room. Harry was out of his chair in an instant.
"Sirius? Is everything all right? Is the fight over? Who won?"
"Who won?" Sirius asked, a grin on his face. "Snape, of course. I told you he was the best man for the job, much as I hate to admit it. And don't you dare tell him I said that."
Harry sagged in relief. "Snape won."
"It was a close match, though," Sirius admitted. "Malfoy threw some curses I'd never even heard of, much less seen. Gave Snape a bit of a hard time for a while."
"Is he all right?" Harry asked, concerned. The man had been fighting to protect him, after all, no matter how Harry felt about him personally.
"He'll be fine. They're patching him up right now, and then you can go in - "
"Patching him up?" Harry said sharply. "What the hell - " He dashed out of the room in the direction of the Duelling Hall, and Sirius hurried after him.
"Harry! Wait! What do you think you're doing?" he bellowed as he followed the young wizard. Ron, Hermione, and Lupin exchanged a look, then Hermione grabbed Harry's robe and they went after him.
Meanwhile, Harry had burst into the Duelling Hall to find the place in chaos. Lucius Malfoy was lying flat out on the floor, his chin swelling and his blood dripping from a split lip onto his elegant white shirt. The shirt itself was singed in several places, as was the long blond hair. Lucius appeared to be out cold as well.
The others in the room were ignoring Lucius in favour of the man sitting on the floor with his head tilted back, a bloodstained handkerchief pressed against his prodigious nose. Dumbledore was looking down at Snape with amused fondness, and as Harry entered, he looked up and smiled.
"Harry! Come in, my dear boy. We were just about to send for you. No, Severus," he added, pressing on the shoulder of the seated man. "Stay where you are and let Poppy finish her work."
Harry blinked as he recognized Madame Pomfrey, and he wondered why she was here instead of one of the Ministry mediwizards. She didn't seem too pleased, either, as she was muttering something under her breath about "brawling like common hooligans" as she poured something down Snape's throat.
"I thought this was a wizard's duel," Harry said as Sirius joined Harry in the doorway, "not a fistfight."
"It was," chuckled a man standing to the side. By the look of his robes, Harry decided he was a member of the Ministry, probably there to validate the duel. "Mr. Snape was just returning Mr. Malfoy's wand when he - Mr. Malfoy, that is - said something. Made Mr. Snape mad, it did. Popped the bas- er, bloke in the mouth. 'Course Malfoy got in his own shot - can't miss that nose by much, can you? - but Snape put him right out on the floor."