[Disclaimer: the characters in this story are the property of JK Rowling and assorted corporate entities including, but not necessarily limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Warner Bros Studios. No challenge is intended to the copyright of Ms Rowling's work, nor will any payment of any sort be accepted for this story, which is a work of amateur fanfiction.]
"The value of a thing is what that thing will bring." -- Robert Heinlein, Requiem
"Hey, youse scunners, we got a cheap lawyer and we're no' afraid to use him wi' prejudice!" -- Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men
"Cheap?" -- "Uri" Handelsman, Freaky Fables
The bell sounded and Harry laid down his quill with a happy sigh. He cast a fond look at Hermione, who was desperately trying to scribble down just a few more facts before the staff collected the four rolls of parchment that she'd already filled.
He wondered if there might be a repeat of the events when the invigilating witch tried to collect her Transfiguration exam paper; he hoped not, even though it had been funny to watch. Hermione's impassioned request to please let her just finish the sentence she was writing had been met with a friendly nod and an, "All right, dear," which the bushy-haired witch hadn't heard, having dived back into the mini-treatise that she called an answer to an exam question. The problem came because the invigilator, being from the Department of Magical Education rather than the school, hadn't realised that a "sentence" written by Hermione could, though perfect in its grammar, stretch on for most of a roll of parchment -- and this one appeared to be doing just that. Finally, when the girl had shown no signs of stopping for several minutes, the older witch had grabbed the parchment and tried to pull it away from her; Hermione had pulled back, and the two of them ended up in what could only be called a tug-of-war over the paper.
For himself, Harry was feeling rather happy, and perhaps even a little wistful. That was the end of his last NEWT exam, which meant that his formal education had now ended and, soon, his time at Hogwarts would also come to a close. There was still a week or so to go before the end of term, but that was traditionally taken up with unofficial classes on various aspects of life as an adult witch or wizard -- and certain extra-curricular activities.
Harry had a few ideas of his own about these "aspects" and "activities," and, now that Voldemort was dead and the exams were over, he was going to put some of them into practice. He'd been preparing for this ever since he'd killed Riddle and cleared Sirius' name by capturing Wormtail; he'd really wanted to get started once his Potions exam was over, but he'd waited, not wanting to disturb the other students' concentration on their remaining subjects. Of course, there were a few people who he would happily have seen so flummoxed that they failed their NEWTs, but he'd decided to be magnanimous -- after all, soon, they were going to have enough problems anyway and, if all went according to plan, they might need whatever education they'd bothered to get in the last seven years.
He grinned and strolled out of the exam room towards the Owlery. He had a letter for Hedwig to deliver to an address in Diagon Alley.
Harry rubbed his hands in anticipatory glee -- metaphorically, at least; actually, his hands were both full, one with his wand and the other with certain pieces of parchment that he had spent a lot of time and effort (not to mention more than a few Galleons) to obtain. And now he was about to put them all to use.
Here came the ferret -- and, of course, the ever-present Tweedledumb and Tweedledaft, otherwise known as Crabbe and Goyle; and there, doing their best to look as though they weren't looking forward to this almost as much as Harry was, went Ron and Hermione, the perfect bait for the trap... but live bait, as it were -- "live" as in live explosives, live power cables, live sharks...
He shot a quick glance across the corridor at Ginny, who was waiting in the opposite alcove with her wand ready and a wicked grin on her face that was all too familiar to those who knew her family well: it proclaimed, in no uncertain terms, "Weasley about to prank someone" -- or, possibly, "Weasley about to take long-overdue revenge." The latter was more appropriate in this case, because what was about to happen was no prank -- or, if it was, it was the mother and father of all pranks -- but it most definitely involved long-overdue revenge. Five or six years overdue, in fact.
He dragged his attention away from his favourite co-conspirator and back to the action; after all, it wouldn't do to mess this up by daydreaming about it rather than doing it! Not that he was expecting any trouble; Malfoy was so predictable...
Sure enough, the sight of two of "Potter's hangers-on" was more than the swaggering blond prat could resist, and the fact that the couple was holding hands was grist to the slimy git's mill.
"Oh, look, boys, if it isn't Weasel the pauper and his Mudblood tart, flaunting their pathetic relationship. You should be ashamed of yourselves: you're nothing but a disgusting blood traitor, Weasley, and no Mudblood should even be here, much less aspire to taint a pureblood family, even if it is full of penniless, Muggle-loving morons."
Malfoy would have said more, Harry was sure, but a sudden feeling that something wasn't right seemed to have got through the Slytherin's armour of self-righteous arrogance, however belatedly -- which surprised Harry: even Voldemort's downfall hadn't done much to dent the prat's overweening self-importance. Maybe he was actually acquiring a little sensitivity -- at least to possible danger to himself -- now that the Death Eaters, including his father, were dead or imprisoned. Not that it mattered: Harry knew why the stupid git had always been able to consider himself superior to far better people, and he was about to cut that crutch right out from under Malfoy's feet.
Part of what might have made Malfoy hesitate was Ron's reaction. Ordinarily, the youngest Weasley brother would have turned bright red with fury by now, and Hermione would be struggling to hold him back as he tried to get at the ferret, but that just wasn't happening. Instead, a widely grinning Ron simply took a single step to one side... leaving his sister and best mate with a clear shot at his would-be tormentors.
"STUPEFY!" rang out from Harry and Ginny as they sprang out of their hiding places, and also from Ron and Hermione, who had had their wands concealed up the sleeves of their free hands. All four hexes struck home, and the three Slytherins went down hard -- in Malfoy's case, doubly so, as both Ron and Hermione's stunners hit him almost simultaneously at point-blank range, and he flew back several feet before crashing into a wall.
For just a moment, Hermione looked rather pleased with herself, presumably for being able to cast spells with her wand in her "wrong" hand, but then she scowled and walked over to the comatose Malfoy and kicked him as hard as she could in a certain anatomical region found only in the male of the species.
"Ow! That's going to hurt when he wakes up..." Ron murmured, wincing in unconscious sympathy. He stared at Hermione in astonishment as she nodded her head in satisfaction and turned back to face him with a pleased smile.
"Um... Hermione..." he said uneasily, "Not that I'm complaining or anything, but... what was that for? Why did you kick him?"
"Because he deserved it!" she replied forcefully. "I am not ashamed of my family or my boyfriend, and I will not let that arrogant, bigoted prat insult your family any more! Harry's right: enough is enough, and it's time he got what he deserves."
From the odd look on his face, Ron didn't know whether to gape at her in astonishment, burst out laughing, or kiss her. He ended up doing all three, in more-or-less that order. Meanwhile, Harry and Ginny had joined them and were pointedly ignoring their friends as they went about a rather odd "ritual" of their own.
"Got the bags, Gin?"
"Yep," she said, pulling three small, clear objects from a pocket. The objects turned out to be plastic document protectors; they were an unusual sight in a magical place like Hogwarts, but perfect for this occasion -- and besides, Harry thought it all too appropriate to use them, given Malfoy's bigotry against Muggles. He quickly opened each one and slid one of the parchments, suitably folded, into each protector, and then rolled them into tubes... and stuck one into the mouth of each of the unconscious boys.
He stepped back from the three prone Slytherins and regarded his handiwork for a few moments. Then, his voice grimly amused, he muttered, "Right, you stupid gits, you have been well and truly served... and, with any luck, so has justice."
He turned away from them and gave his three friends an unusual smile, receiving much the same from each of them in return. He offered his arm to Ginny, who took it happily, and the four headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
Harry turned in his chair at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall to watch as Malfoy stormed across the room towards him, visibly livid. He was waving a familiar-looking piece of parchment about as if he was trying to swat an attacking swarm of Doxies, and Harry smiled. The fun was about to begin.
"You screamed, Malfoy?" he quipped, thoroughly amused and not hiding it.
"What the hell is this?" the Slytherin yelled from the other side of the table, slamming the parchment down in front of Harry.
"It's what it says it is -- or can't you read?" Harry replied, pitching his voice so that he could be easily heard by everyone there. "It's a Magical Injunction -- a restraining order, requiring you and all members of the Malfoy family to refrain from certain acts until such time as a number of legal actions brought against them are resolved, in or out of a wizarding court."
"What?" the incensed blond youth squealed. "What are you talking about? What legal actions? What is all this rubbish?"
"Oh, it's not rubbish, Malfoy -- quite the opposite. This is very serious." Harry leaned back in his chair, exchanged quick, gleeful looks with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, all of whom were having trouble not laughing, and met Malfoy's furious glare with a cool, calm stare.
"It's quite simple, really: you're being sued, Malfoy -- by me and several other people -- both personally and as the current head of your family. Ordinarily, that would be your father, but he's been sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban and is therefore ineligible."
He paused and grinned maliciously. "Why am I telling you this? You're the one who's so big on old pureblooded families and their rights and traditions; you should know all this stuff. You should certainly know that a convicted criminal cannot be recognised as the head of such a family if there is another male or unmarried female member of the family in the direct line of descent.
"So you're it, as far as the Malfoys are concerned. All suits against the family are addressed to you, and at the moment there are at least six suits being brought against your family and you personally, and something like another two dozen currently in their initial stages. You should get the rest of the paperwork in a few days, and so should your sidekicks; they have their own suits to face -- and, of course, the accompanying injunctions."
"But... but..." Malfoy sputtered, incomprehension overwhelming his anger, "but why? Why am I being sued? Why these... these things?"
Harry just stared at him, finding it hard to believe that even Malfoy could be that thick -- or, more likely, self-obsessed; maybe continually being with Crabbe and Goyle had had an effect -- a sort of stupidity by association?
"Once again, it's really simple, Malfoy," Harry said cuttingly, "Ever since I had the misfortune to meet you, and, for all I know, from the moment you were born, you've tried to lord it over everyone, thinking that you can bully and insult anyone as you please, with no fear of repercussions or the consequences of being an arrogant git. And why? Because you come from an old, powerful, pureblood family -- which, when you boil away the bigotry and self-aggrandisement, basically means that you have money.
"That's all. You think you can taunt people like the Weasleys for being poor, or insult Hermione or any other Muggle-born witch or wizard, or get away with all of the other disgusting things that the students of this school have had to put up with from you ever since you came here, just because you're rich."
Harry stood up and leaned forward over the table, fixing the furious Malfoy with a glare of such intensity that the Slytherin instinctively recoiled and stumbled backwards a step or two.
"Well, no more! Enough is enough, and all your money won't help you or your goons now, because those suits are backed by someone who is far wealthier than even your family, and he is determined to see you pay for all the pain you've caused! And that's 'pay' as in damages -- punitive damages, in fact: if you've managed to read that far, you'll have seen that each one of the writs you've been served with mentions a claim or multiple claims for at least ten million Galleons on each count. The other suits are for even larger sums; that's why they're taking longer to prepare."
Malfoy's expression was now almost completely blank. All his anger and hatred, and even the fear he'd shown at Harry's challenge, had drained away as he realised the scale of what was happening and the magnitude of the threat he and his family were facing; all that was left was astonishment that he, Draco Malfoy, could be in a situation like this, and confusion as to who could possibly be doing this. It couldn't be Potter... could it?
"Who..." he began, but his voice trailed off as he found that he couldn't think of the proper questions to ask; he knew what he wanted to know, but coming up with the words was beyond him just then.
"Who's doing this? Is that what you're trying to ask?" Harry said, tauntingly, "Would you like to know the name of the person who is bound and determined to see you recognised for the stinking, egotistical bigot that you are, and to make sure that you and your moronic cronies pay for all the harm you've caused? Is that what you want to know? Well, I'd be only too pleased to tell you. All you have to do is ask... politely."
He fell silent and regarded the other boy with a gleeful grin. Malfoy, speechless, stared back. Everyone else in the Hall was watching and listening to them avidly, hardly daring to whisper, and the silence stretched out until it began to hang heavily between the two youths -- or on one of them, at least. Harry had no need to say anything, and so was quite comfortable; Malfoy, by contrast, was becoming agitated. Finally, he burst out, "Well, tell me, you stupid, Muggle-loving..." The rest of his near-scream was purely abusive and will not be reproduced here.
"Ah, ah, ah, Malfoy," Harry reproved the furious Slytherin, repressing a snicker -- or almost managing to repress it. "Manners! That could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called polite, even for a foul-mouthed twerp like you. But I'll tell you anyway, just for the pleasure of seeing you squirm."
He paused for several seconds, again visibly amused as Draco did just that. It took considerable effort to restrain himself from bursting out laughing as he watched the blond boy struggle against his natural inclination to scream abuse and/or try to hex his tormentor -- but even Malfoy realised that doing that was not going to help him find out what he wanted to know. Harry grinned to himself and, as he'd promised, spilled the beans:
"Well, my dear Draco, the instigator of all your legal problems and the financial backer of the people who are suing you is the person who, according to Gringotts, is currently the single richest wizard or witch in the entire world; he certainly is richer than your family by something like a factor of ten, so he's got plenty of money to spend keeping you tied up in court for the rest of your miserable life!"
Malfoy's expression was a truly rare one, especially for him. Half-furious, half-terrified, he gaped at Harry in disbelief; he had trouble accepting that anyone could be richer than a Malfoy, but the idea that someone who was could do something like this to him and his family was quite beyond him.
"And that's exactly what he's going to do, because he hates your guts -- you and all the other pureblood supremacist morons, but you most of all. And the biggest irony of all is that half the money that is going to go into all this legal stuff came from one of the most bigoted, vicious, Dark-addicted families of them all -- the Blacks."
The penny dropped, and Malfoy stared at the Boy-Who-Lived in horror.
"That's right, Malfoy: it's me. Inheritor of the Black and Potter fortunes, both of which dwarf yours, and, more to the point, someone who doesn't give a damn about money -- so there's no reason not to spend it. I took care of old Moldywarts and most of his Death Tweeters -- like your precious daddy -- and now I'm going to bring a little justice to those of his supporters who managed to slip through the net after the battle. You and your goons are first on the list."
He leaned forward to whisper to the now utterly dumbfounded Draco, "I'm going to break you, Malfoy. I'd like to save time and effort, not to mention money, and do it the same way that I beat that prat Tom Riddle, but it seems that it wouldn't be legal to simply gut you with the Sword of Gryffindor; I checked, and Tom was considered a special case -- an insane mass murderer and war criminal. So I'll have to do it legally... and this is the start.
"I've engaged one of the finest firms of wizarding solicitors in this country -- Featherstonehaugh, Grabclaw and Partners--" He paused momentarily as Malfoy flinched. "Ah, recognise the name, do you? I thought you would -- and I bet you remember the shady dealings that made them life-long enemies of your father. That wasn't wise of Lucius: you should never piss off a goblin; they have nasty tempers and long memories. Do you know, more than one of the partners told me that I've given them the opportunity of a lifetime -- in the form of an unlimited budget to use to hound you and your family in the courts. Mr Grabclaw himself came out and wept as he shook my hand in gratitude. That's an odd sight, a goblin crying tears of joy.
"So now they're hard at work readying those suits -- and a lot more; you'd be amazed at the number of people who would like a chance to sue you if they could afford it -- and now they can. And it won't end there: even if, by some ridiculous chance, you win one of these cases, we'll appeal -- right up to the Magical Law Lords if we have to -- and we'll keep going until the Malfoys haven't got a Knut between them to save themselves from starvation. And when we're done, I'm going to buy your precious Malfoy Manor, raze it to the ground, clean out the dungeons and magically decontaminate the entire place, and then I'm going to sell it to the local Muggle council for a landfill site -- a rubbish tip!
"I'll see you in court, Draco."
With that, he sat back down and regarded the flabbergasted Malfoy with open amusement. It took several seconds for the Slytherin to react, and it was obvious that he'd given up on any self-restraint now that Harry had told him who was behind all this. He launched into a vituperative tirade against Harry, Sirius, Dumbledore, the Ministry and all Muggle-lovers -- which, to his disgust and further infuriation, had no effect whatsoever on its recipient.
Harry's calm in the face of his insults drove Draco to become even more abusive, and he began to widen his range of targets, looking for something that would pierce that impassivity. It wasn't until he started in on Harry's friends, and Hermione in particular, that the Gryffindor reacted, and it wasn't in the way Malfoy expected. Harry began to grin, and looked at his watch as if he was expecting something...
And shortly thereafter, the silently watching staff and students in the Great Hall found out what it was: an owl with the distinctive markings of those birds in the service of the Ministry of Magic appeared in a window, swooped to pass over Malfoy, and dropped a large black envelope onto his head. The envelope bounced off, but didn't fall to the floor; instead, it rose into the air and hovered in front of Malfoy. As he watched -- in fact, as everyone watched -- it opened and a piece of parchment appeared from inside and began to unfold itself...
"Merlin's beard, what's that?" Ron whispered, the low sound of his voice carrying surprisingly clearly in the sudden silence that had come over the Hall. Hermione, to whom this baffled query had been addressed -- if Ron had actually been asking anyone in particular -- stared blankly for a moment in utter confusion until she remembered an obscure reference on page 864 of Hogwarts: A History and suddenly realised what she was seeing -- and what they were about to hear.
"I think it's what is known as a Legal Howler; they're very rare these days, but they're still a recognised method of communication... and I think we'd better cover our ears!"
She suited her actions to her words, and Harry had already done so after waving at Ginny and the others nearby to warn them. Ron, though confused, was quick on the uptake in matters involving his own health and comfort and did likewise, just in time. The letter finished unfolding and a deep voice began to speak in extremely loud, sepulchrous tones that sounded as if it was reading an important document -- which it was.
"You have been found guilty of Contempt of Court, in that you did, on this date, use the word 'Mudblood' to describe Miss Hermione Granger, in direct contravention of Magical Injunction number 98/0141DM, issued by the Wizengamot Civil Claims Tribunal on the first of this month, pending the outcome of Granger vs Malfoy, the court date of which is, at present, yet to be determined.
"You are hereby fined the sum of one thousand Galleons for this offence; or you may, if you cannot pay this fine, choose to serve one month's imprisonment in Azkaban. I await your owl in acknowledgement of this letter, together with payment of the aforementioned sum to the Gringotts account of the Ministry of Magic's Department of Magical Law Enforcement; or, alternatively, your formal acceptance of the prison sentence in lieu of such payment. You are hereby advised that the final date for settlement of the fine is the last day of this month, and failure to pay by that date will be taken as tacit acceptance of the term in Azkaban, which shall be deemed to begin at midnight of that day.
"You are further advised that the penalty for each subsequent offence against this or any other of the Injunctions currently in force will double, and said increases will be cumulative for each such offence.
Magical Magistrate and Queen's Wizarding Counsel"
The letter fell to the floor at Malfoy's feet amidst complete silence -- that is, until Harry began to laugh -- hard. It didn't take long for Ron to join him, and Hermione and Ginny were not far behind. Soon, most of the students in the Hall were laughing -- even some of the Slytherins -- and there were unusual expressions on the faces of more than one of the professors that a suspicious observer might have thought to indicate a significant struggle not to join in.
One member of staff who most definitely was not going to laugh at Malfoy, especially when the laughter was the result of something that Harry did or said, was the Head of Slytherin House. He got up from the High Table and stalked towards the laughing Gryffindors with malice written all over him. Unfortunately for him, Harry spotted him coming, choked down his laughter, and stood up with a wide smile that made a strange contrast with the even-more-intense-than-usual sour look on the face of the professor.
"Ah, Professor Snape," Harry said, meeting the man halfway -- and, more to the point, so that their confrontation was out in the open where it could be seen. "Feeling left out of things, are you? You needn't; I couldn't forget you." He reached into a pocket and took out a roll of parchment, which he handed to the Potions Master. "Here's your injunction, and the summons notifying you of a special court case scheduled for next month -- a formal inquiry into your fitness as a teacher and as a person entrusted with the care and well-being of minors."
"What?!" Snape yelped, quite taken by surprise. Despite his greater age and experience, he was at least as staggered by the news as Malfoy had been -- and Harry was not about to let him take the initiative in this conversation.
"Oh, it's quite simple, just like with Malfoy; I always keep a plan simple when dealing with Slytherins..." There was laughter at that, and Harry grinned -- but for another reason: there were two ways that last statement could be interpreted, but he thought, or hoped, that the Slytherins would be too angry to see the more subtle one -- the one that he intended to claim was what he had meant, should anyone ask, since it could be taken as being a compliment to the snakes.
"The injunction basically says that, until it is rescinded, if you decide to take House points from any member or members of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, or give points to any Slytherin, you must justify that action to the Headmaster or Deputy Headmistress, in writing, within twenty-four hours, and any such decision is subject to review by them on a case-by-case basis. You can take as many points from Slytherin as you like, though -- and give them to the other Houses, but I doubt that will happen; have you ever given points to a student who wasn't in Slytherin?"
Snape was furious, but also horrified, and held his peace, knowing that saying anything at this point was likely to be extremely unwise. Harry, however, was just getting warmed up.
"That's right: from now on, no-one else will have to put up with, 'Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter, for still breathing,' 'Twenty points from Gryffindor, Potter, because you look like your father,' 'Fifty points from Gryffindor, Potter, because Crabbe and Goyle just had their potion explode on the other side of the classroom and you had nothing to do with it.' Nor will we hear, 'Ten points to Slytherin, Mr Malfoy, for answering a question in a NEWT class that wouldn't tax a first-year' -- a properly-taught one, of course.
"But then, three-quarters of your students, past and present, would regard the concept of proper teaching as something that you have barely the slightest acquaintance with, and I have several dozen wizarding affidavits to prove it, and more coming in every day. I'm going to present those affidavits to the inquiry, because that's partly what it's intended to establish, once and for all. The other part is to show that you are an officious bully of the worst sort, one who delights in terrorising children and unfairly wielding your authority, particularly if it helps you work out a grudge -- and you hold grudges for decades after the people you hate are dead!
"Which, of course, is why there's also a separate injunction forbidding you from uttering or writing any slanderous or libellous abuse, or even criticism, of a long list of people. Top of the list are, naturally, my parents, the other Marauders and myself, but it also includes all of the students at this school who aren't in Slytherin and everyone else that I could think of who you've ever sneered at in the presence of either myself or my friends -- except Voldemort and his DTs, that is.
"I'd've added a clause preventing you from having anything to do with OWL or NEWT results, but about the one good thing the Department of Magical Education has ever done is to make those exams independent of the school, so I didn't have to put that one in.
"And now we'll see what the Law has to say about you, Professor. I'd find myself a good legal firm if I were you, but you can't have mine -- it's busy. Very busy."
Harry turned away and walked back to his seat, leaving behind him a stunned Potions Master who did an extremely good impression of a statue for quite some time. Then, once he did move, it was only to turn his head in the direction of the High Table, as if in a search for help, reassurance or even comfort -- none of which he found there. Dumbledore shook his head in resignation, wordlessly conveying the message I warned you... and McGonagall had a tight, thin smile and a disapproving look -- but directed at him, not at the students.
Accepting defeat, he left the Hall, unconsciously emulating Malfoy, who had slunk out while Harry and his Head of House had been in "discussion."
Harry and the others finished a leisurely breakfast and strolled out of the main entrance of the school and down towards the lake. They parted at the beginning of the path around the lake, Harry and Ginny turning left and a protesting Ron being dragged off to the right by Hermione. He stopped protesting quickly enough, however, when she whispered something into his ear which made him join the ranks of the people who had been struck dumb by surprise that morning; but, unlike the others, he quickly recovered and broke into a huge grin. He looked after his friend and sister for a few seconds, but happily turned his attention back to his girlfriend, who rewarded him with a quick kiss.
Meanwhile, Harry and Ginny were continuing a lively conversation about the morning's events and certain future plans he had for people like the Dursleys in both the wizarding and Muggle courts. That had them both laughing until Harry reached out to take Ginny's hand, thereby adding yet another Weasley to the aforementioned list, but she, too, was soon smiling, albeit a little nervously.
"Well, Miss Weasley, with those prats sorted out, I think that we might have some time to ourselves for other things," Harry said, "like... planning a wedding for this time next year."
"What?" squeaked Ginny, her eyes suddenly huge, "A wedding? How...? Who...?" She fell silent, completely dumbfounded.
"Now, Ginny," Harry said mock-sternly, "did you or did you not say to me when I told you about my plans that you'd marry me if I could get Snape off your back next year?"
"Well, yes... but..." She had been only half-serious, never thinking that he would actually take her up on a silly promise like that. Even now, she was certain that he must be joking, though part of her was praying fervently that she was wrong...
"Well, I've done that. That court case will take months, if not years, before all the evidence is presented -- Snape has no idea how many old Hogwarts students loathe him and would like nothing better than to tell somebody who'll listen exactly why -- and he'll be under that injunction until it's finished; and even if it's lifted for some Slytherin reason, I'll just slap another one on him. One of Chomondeley's granddaughters is a third-year in Ravenclaw, and she's told him all about Snape. They're very close, so the old boy is just panting at the chance to have a go at the greasy git. Together, we've come up with enough grounds for injunctions to keep him under control until he's as old as Dumbledore."
Harry stopped walking and took Ginny's other hand, gently turning her until they were facing one another and he could look into her beautiful, and rather startled, big brown eyes.
"Which means, my dearest Ginevra, that I consider myself perfectly justified in thinking that we are now engaged to be married, which, I have to say, is something that I've wanted for quite a while now, even though I didn't feel that I could tell you that -- not while Tom was around. You're not going to go back on your word, are you? I'd hate to have to sue you for breach of promise..."
"Oh... Oh!" Ginny's expressive face was a riot of emotion, spanning the gamut from fear to shock to a joyous hope that reassured Harry as nothing else could have -- save a single word. That word was not long in coming after Harry asked one final question:
"You do want to marry me, don't you -- because you are most definitely the woman I want as my wife..."
"Yes! Oh, yes, yes, yes..." Ginny cried, leaping at him. He caught her easily and held her to him firmly as their lips met in a joyously passionate kiss.
No further negotiation took place or was necessary, M'lud. The contract was eminently satisfactory to both parties, and it is expected to be completed in the near future.
~ Finis ~
[A/N: I could have called this story The Golden Rule -- not the Biblical version, but that according to The Wizard of Id: "Whoever has the gold makes the rules." And Harry has it... <eg>
Just for fun, I've used some of the more esoteric English names for the lawyers. What is really odd about these names is the way they're pronounced: for instance, "Chomondeley Farquhar-Featherstonehaugh" is pronounced "Chumley Farkwah Fanshaw." <g>]