Rated y/t, safe for all readers of the earlier Harry Potter novels.
Disclaimer: If you recognize them from the books or movies, I hold no legal rights to them.
Set in the summer after Book 3.
No pairings for Harry, mentions of canon adult pairings.
..PS..MCW.. ..PS..MCW.. ..PS..MCW.. ..PS..MCW.. ..PS..MCW..
Harry Potter hated staying with the Dursleys, whom he had been told were related to him. Multiple people had claimed Petunia Dursley had been his mother's sister, making her his aunt and therefore making her precious Duddykins Harry's cousin. Technically her husband Vernon Dursley and Vernon's sister Marge weren't related to him at all, though he was forced to call them Uncle Vernon and Aunt Marge. There was nothing enjoyable about Dursley-land. A boring house that Harry had to do a great deal of chores in that looked almost like every other house on the street. Number 4 was pale grey, with a darker grey roof and white shutters, like a dozen other houses in the neighborhood. Other options were white, a darker grey, a color called beige when it was drapes or carpets, and a pale yellow. The couple at Number 7 Chestnut had caused a short-lived scandal when they had painted their house blue, with darker blue shutters. It had been forgotten when Vicky Long from Number 14 ran away with her boyfriend, to her parents' dismay.
Harry had determined there were exactly three different floor plans, the four bedroom used in Number 4, a three bedroom with an open area like Mrs. Kessler in Number twenty had â€“ Petunia Dursley had lent him out to help the Kesslers re-paper their house â€“ and a slightly smaller house with two bedrooms and a home office â€“ identifiable by the lack of closet â€“ such as Number 3 Wisteria, where Harry had been lent by Petunia to help the Darbys replace their old brown carpets with newer grey carpets a couple years ago. The Darbys had since moved away. It looked just a little more varied because half of the houses had the plans mirrored, with the kitchen and laundry room on the left instead of the right.
The small yards and gardens could have brought more variety, but they were also very similar. Number 4 had a slight deviation from normal in that a snowy owl had been roosting in the large tree in the back yard for the last few weeks. The Dursleys hated that, of course. The cars were almost as similar.
The Dursleys themselves were quite wretched, each in their own particular ways. Harry loathed them all, not feeling them worth hating, but closer to the sense of disgust one often felt when viewing cockroaches or scrawny rats glaring about back alley rubbish bins.
So when they left him locked in his room one late June day to take â€˜wee Duddykins' to an amusement park with his â€˜little friends', Harry took the chance. Fred and George had taught him to pick locks, so he let himself out of his room. He retrieved the majority of his school things from the cupboard under the stairs, and packed everything inside his trunk. Nobody seemed to pay him any mind, though he was sure people were watching through their blinds, as Harry trudged down the sidewalk towing a trunk. Once he was fairly sure nobody could get a good view â€“ which took almost eight blocks and a detour into what had been intended to develop into a small shopping center before getting abandoned, Harry stopped. He had a plan, involving something he'd learned about by accident last summer. He looked around on the slight chance of being observed before summoning the Knight Bus.
The resulting rather indirect trip to Diagon Alley of London was every bit as rough and bouncing and nerve-wracking as he remembered. Though Harry concluded he might like to take a relaxing day to meander through Bath, there was a rather pretty tea shop with massive gardens somewhere near a giant wicker rabbit â€“ he suspected magicals were responsible â€“ and there was a remarkable cottage looking like an over sized top had with a dozen peacocks and at least as many peahens meandering about where the Bus had collected a small woman who looked about a hundred wearing a shawl made from peacock tail feathers. Magicals were weird, but they didn't seem to try to make all their houses look like matching rolled biscuits.
He didn't kiss the cobblestones of Diagon Alley, though the idea did cross his mind. Instead, he stumbled a little on his way to the Leakey Cauldron and quietly asked Tom if he could rent a room for the rest of the summer. Tom had been quite agreeable, though he'd warned Harry to not let any personal mess sprawl out of the room, between the idea of people talking and the suspicion there might be one or two people who'd swipe them for souvenirs. He'd also agreed to put all Harry's meals on a tab to be settled at the end of his stay so long as Harry promised to work a little on his homework each day in order to get it finished before he had to leave for school. Later, Harry had realized putting meals on a room tab was likely quite ordinary for any place which let rooms for people, but it felt nice to have someone fuss a little over his health and education.
He'd spent a little of each morning on his homework, when he first woke up and there was nothing else to do, but he couldn't get back to sleep. He'd learned the afternoon of his second day there, from an absent minded witch with rumpled ash brown curls, the Ministry's Trace didn't really track who did the magic, just the location. So if he did magic here, the Ministry couldn't tell who, just what, and they'd assume anything in the Leakey Cauldron or Diagon Alley was nothing to worry about unless it was an unusual spell.
He planned on never telling Ron he'd been picking up housekeeping spells from Tom and that absent-minded woman, who'd said to call her Annie. He'd stopped in at Madam Malkin's on a few occasions, and now owned a nice selection of new and gently used magical clothing, and had ordered his school robes. He didn't plan to let on that he'd picked up a couple magical spells for mending and removing small stains from fabric either. It wasn't anywhere near enough to make his own clothing, or to keep a job at a clothing shop, but it should be enough to keep his things looking tidy while off at school. Between a few rumors he'd heard and Madam Malkin's whispers of the Ministry being up to things, he'd let her talk him into ordering a set of formal robes. They'd negotiated, and he was going to let her second daughter design the robes, and they would teach him a few charms to make sure the folds were pressed, the other areas didn't wrinkle, and anything supposed to stand up where a muggle would use starch would stand without the starchy scratchy feeling.
He only told Hermione he'd found a magical second hand book store after he'd bought the things which caught his fancy. He'd found a set of magical literary classics, two magical encyclopedia sets, volume two of a series of magical children's stories, and a leather bound copy of the Hobbit by Tolkien. He'd also bought a packet claiming to be muggle-born orientation, old school books for charms, potions, runes, arithmancy, warding, healing, spell-analysis, and older books for divination and magical creatures. It might be easier to refer to a book which didn't try to bite or hide, after all. He didn't even think a few of those classes were taught anymore, but they sounded interesting. He'd also found a book published in 1946 claiming to detail all the possible careers in magical Britain, and thought it might help him figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up. He figured he could give Hermione one of the magical encyclopedia sets for her birthday.
Best of all, he'd gone to Gringott's and learned a few useful things. There was a goblin called FlintShard who was in charge of the Potter holdings, though those weren't his only responsibilities. The vault Harry had seen was his trust vault, set up to ensure he had something and for him to eventually start learning to manage his own money. He was allowed to start making decisions involving more than ten galleons and not connected to school supplies after his thirteenth birthday, and there had been a long talk about proper communication and tracking his account statements. They still didn't know where they were going, but FlintShard had accepted Harry had not been receiving them, didn't know why, and FlintShard had sworn the matter Would Be Investigated. Harry didn't know why he was so certain there were ominous capitals, but there had been.
An alternate arrangement had been made for future statements and tested, and while Harry didn't pretend to understand it, the test message had appeared in a small wooden box charmed to remain near Harry and only open for Harry or FlintShard. The family home, where Potters had lived for generations, was currently sealed under plague wards after the Dragon Pox which had killed his grandparents, and should be released in another year or two. At the time of their demise, his parents had been leasing a cottage from a Mr. Deadelus Diggle, and their possessions from there had been placed in the Main Potter vault after the events of Halloween.
Harry couldn't remove any coins, jewelry, artifacts, active legal documents, or â€˜assorted miscellaneous valuables' from the vault, but he could go inside and look at things. He could read family journals and legal documents, both of which helped him learn about his family history. He'd since learned a spell to make a temporary copy so he could take the copy somewhere he could consult a dictionary and encyclopedia to figure out what some of the things meant. The chance to learn so much about his family was priceless to Harry. The Potters had lived near Wales, and yes, some of them had made pottery, but they'd also dabbled in marketing goods, broomstick development and manufacture, potions, and law enforcement. One great-great uncle had been a professional duelist, another had been a stage actor.
Then he found some documents which turned everything upside down for him. In honesty, he hadn't realized what they were at first. They'd looked like some sort of business contract, or maybe sales of real estate. But there had been a woman's name and a male Potter name on most of them, and a few with a female Potter's name and some man's name. A few of the family names were familiar â€“ Abbott, Bones, Greengrass, Vector. Some were less so â€“ Black, Glenwoods, Marchbanks, Tofty. But then it had seeped in for him that they all contained a few common words. Bonded. Announcement. Nuptials. A few mentioned Betrothal or Consummation.
Harry had no idea what to think about the realization he'd found a stack of contracts involving marriages. Marriages for his ancestors. He wasn't sure if it meant what it sounded like â€“ magical families arranging marriages like a business deal. Or maybe it was yet another example of things being different for magical than muggles. But one thing was clear â€“ he needed an adult familiar with both magical and muggle culture to explain just what he'd found and what they meant.
Tom from the Leakey Cauldron was close enough to pure-blood for generations, with what he counted as the main line of his heritage all magical for almost six hundred years, and all of them taking magical spouses, though some of those spouses were half bloods or muggle-born. Tom had enough familiarity with muggle culture and behavior to double check if clothing was muggle-acceptable, change muggle money, and give directions to a few shops. He wouldn't stick out nearly as much as some magicals, but he would admit he wouldn't know how to live full-muggle. Madam Malkin's family had been magical â€˜as long as they'd been British', which turned out to be a few centuries, and they'd come over from France and Germany before then. Harry wasn't quite willing to talk about his family matters with the other shopkeepers enough to ask.
So he wrote a letter to former Professor Remus Lupin. They'd talked more than a few times about things when Harry was resting during the patronus lessons. Professor Lupin was a half-blood, and familiar with both sides of his heritage, though he didn't get along too well with his father's side. He was quite familiar with the muggle world, and seemed like the best of Harry's rather limited options. He simply wrote that he'd found something odd and suspected it was the magical-muggle language gap confusing him, and asked if Professor Lupin could drop by to hopefully translate.
The first part of the response told Harry that as he no longer worked at Hogwarts, there was no need to continue calling him Professor. He could call him Mr. Lupin if he wanted to be formal, or Remus, or Uncle Remus, or even Uncle Moony, which he had called him as a toddler, after a fashion. There had been a few comments which Harry summed up as please be working on your summer assignments, even the Defense, which likely won't be collected by whoever takes the job for next year. Best, he agreed to meet Harry at Florian Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor on Thursday afternoon, with the further comment that he'd aim for sometime around one.
Harry prepared for Uncle Remus as best he could, though he still wasn't quite sure the name felt comfortable. He made temporary copies of several of the contracts, including the one reading James Charlus Potter and Liliwen Grace Evans. He hadn't actually known his mother's name hadn't been Lily, which was what everyone had called her when talking to him. Then again, Ron was short for Ronald, and his brother Fred was officially Frederick, so maybe it wasn't such a shock. A bit of research had found the name Liliwen was Welsh, which since he'd known the Evans family came from Wales, made sense. He knew Petunia had a Welsh middle name she never used because it was unusual â€“ Ebrill, for the month she was born.
The contracts elaborated on property, speaking of accounts at Gringott's and Barclay's, and discussing plots of land and a summer cottage near the coast of Devon. The one for Pedr William Potter and Victoria Rose Abbott stated Victoria would not pursue a Potions Apprenticeship until their first child was at least five years of age. One for Arthur Siams Potter and Mariel Ivy Prewett declared she would retire from the active roster of the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team, with the option to rejoin after the birth of a second healthy child.
Harry was seated at one of the little tables, working his way through a Banana Bend, something similar to a banana split but with only two scoops of ice cream between the banana halves. He'd chosen walnut and chocolate, with a bit of whipped cream and chopped nuts over the top. He had his History of Magic textbook covering the copies of the contracts, which he'd refreshed this morning just to be sure they wouldn't fade away while he was asking questions.
"Good afternoon, Harry," Remus Lupin had his own ice cream, a large bowl with several scoops of chocolate ice cream thick with chocolate chips and ripples of fudge, drizzled over with hot fudge and then covered in more chocolate chips. Over all of that was a layer of whipped cream, which had been drizzled with chocolate syrup.
"Good afterâ€¦ chocolate addict. You're a chocolate addictâ€¦ I mean, good afternoon, Uncle Remus," Harry could feel himself flushing.
"Yes, I am rather fond of chocolate. It helped cause a rather interesting rumor during school, but I think that's a story for some other time," Remus was smiling. "What did you find which has you feeling confused?"
Harry pulled the copies of the contracts out from under his book. "To muggle-raised me, this looks like families deciding on a business alliance by way of marrying their children off. Is this a normal thing in magical circles, or am I misinterpreting?"
Remus pulled the contracts over, looking at them with a half smile. "Ahhhhh. Yes, these would be confusing for someone who grew up in the muggle world."
"What do they mean? Socially, and for the people, I know it's talking about assets and weddings and career restrictionsâ€¦ are those common?" Harry hoped Remus would have some explanation which didn't sound crazy.
"Arranged marriages are not common in magical Britain any longer. The wealthy families used them in the middle ages and up to the early eighteen hundreds, but so did many wealthy muggle families. No, these areâ€¦ they aren't people getting married because of a contract, they're contracts because people are getting married." Remus paused and took a bite of his ice cream.
"Some families still unofficially arrange courtships, by way of controlling the social interactions other than school and introducing their children to who they consider the right sort. Not all families use these, justâ€¦. I suppose the middle class and up. Those with assets to protect. The couple decide they really like each other and want to make a future, and so they have a document drawn up clarifying what they have, what conditions will be in place to make things go more smoothly, and if there are conditions which will end their union. Since children and the continuation of the family line are traditionally a big part of why people get married, there are sometimes clauses to restrict the couple from occupations which would leave a high risk of death, injury or exposure to things which could cause problems conceiving or carrying. Like quidditch, experimental potions or spells, curse breaking, or serving as an auror or hit wizard or witch. Not just restricting her, restricting whichever of them or both who is inclined in those directions. My grandfather had to transfer out of his job in the department for the disposal of dangerous creatures when he married my grandmother, he became the Care of magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts instead."
"So they got together because they wanted to?" Harry dragged his spoon through his mostly finished ice cream.
"Of course. These are more like theâ€¦ what's the word? Ah, yes, the prenuptial agreements muggle celebrities use than anything else. It means if something happens, the family properties don't get contested in a messy separation, and it keeps meddling in-laws from causing trouble about someone giving up a bright quidditch career. The discussion of a contract is one sign a relationship is committed. Having a contract for your marriage is considered a sign of success and prosperity," Remus explained.
"Because not everyone has enough stuff to need to have it legally sorted out?" Harry's mind had gone to the Weasleys.
"Exactly," Remus nodded, taking another bite of his chocolate ice cream. "In your parents' case, it was partly to silence some of the nasty whispers about Lily. Some people thought at since she was from a non magical family that sheâ€¦ I meanâ€¦."
"They thought she was a penny-less gold-digger, possibly with a few other insults?" Harry arched an eyebrow.
"Afraid so," Remus admitted. "When you finally have someone you're serious about, you'll need a contract. The Potter family had some holdings, your mother left you a few things, and with your reputationâ€¦ Definitely a contract."
Harry turned pink, sputtering incoherently about being much too young to be even thinking about marriages and contracts, though yes, girls were interesting and he'd like to have a date with one of them some day.
He could deal with a magical prenuptial agreement, and it even made sense. It also meant he wasn't stuck marrying someone because his grandfather or so on made a business deal.
"Uncle Remus?" Harry looked at his father's friend, someone who should have been there for him all his life. The past was gone, but there was still a chance to improve the future. "Thanks for explaining. Maybe you can help me learn more about how magical society works over the rest of the summer."
"I'd be delighted," Remus Lupin smiled. The expression seemed to drop twenty years from his face.
End Pottery Shard: Marriage Contracts? What?!?