Disclaimer: Some characters not mine, some mine. Universe and some situations not mine ; they're a bit of JKR's canon and a lot of fanon.
Author's Note: This is another story that was supposed to go into "Midgets and Mooncalves", but in the course of going from a one-line concept to a thousand-word mooncalf, it developed enough plot to become a story. Very annoying. I'd smack myself upside the head for my inability to focus on what I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't get the angle right for a good smack. I'd ask for volunteers to smack me upside the head, but the line would go all the way around the block.
Harry sat in the inheritance department, deep underneath London.
"We asked you in today to address several inheritances."
"I don't understand," he complained to the goblin behind the desk. "Why are inheritances handled through a bank?"
"It's just the way it's done. Whom else would you trust to do it, the Ministry of Magic?"
"Good point. Er, shouldn't there be other people here? From the list of names in the papers you sent me, I'd think there would be other heirs."
"You are either the sole known heir or the only reachable heir for ten families. On a personal note, allow me to congratulate you on your ruthlessness in eliminating so many other heirs and consolidating so much wealth and power in one person."
"Er, I didn't have much choice in 'eliminating' the other heirs. All the people I killed were trying to kill me."
"Yes, it was very clever, setting up situations where you would be legally blameless. Again, my congratulations. However, this does leave you with a few problems."
"Yes, I will address them shortly. We shall begin with your new acquisitions. Now that you have reached the age to inherit, you have something over five million galleons, two manor houses in habitable condition, several lesser residences, and partial or full ownership of two dozen businesses. Full details are provided in these folders. You have also inherited several lordships. As soon as the titles are confirmed, you will be Lord Potter-Black-Gryffindor-Hastings-Carlson-O'Connor-Smith."
"That's good, I guess. What do all these lordships get me, any Wizengamot seats or anything?"
"Absolutely nothing. You may call yourself Lord Potter-Black-Gryffindor-Hastings-Carlson-O'Connor-Smith, which is likely to aid in 'pulling the birds', as the saying goes. There is no other benefit."
"And now we come to the problems. First, the Black and Carlson families had a deadly feud going a century ago. After a great deal of glorious bloodshed, the feud was resolved with a marriage contract. This marriage contract had a one-century time limit for fulfillment, and you are only six days from triggering the penalty clauses. Because you are the head of both the Black and the Carlson families, you will be subject to both sides of the penalty. To avoid the penalties, you must have a member of the Black family marry a member of the Carlson family. As you are the only known member of each family, this obligation will present you with a few challenges."
"Marry!? How am I supposed to get married that quickly? Even if I didn't have to marry myself?"
"That is not my problem, Mr Potter. I am merely relating the terms of your inherited obligations."
"Hmmph. OK, I guess."
"Moving along, the other obligation is a blood feud between the Hastings and O'Connor families. Again, not only are you the head of each family, you are the only known member of each family. You will be able to earn honor by your skillful handling of this challenge."
"Don't tell me, I have to kill myself within a week or I'll die anyway."
"I will not tell you that, because it is not the case. There is no fixed deadline, but in your role as head of the O'Connor family you must do your best to kill, discredit, or otherwise injure the Hastings family, and the same in the other direction."
"Guh. OK, I'll think of something."
"Very well. That concludes what I have to tell you. If you have no questions, get out of here, Lord-to-be Potter-Black-Gryffindor-Hastings-Carlson-O'Connor-Smith, and stop wasting my time."
The next five days were frantically busy for Harry. He went to the Ministry first thing in the morning, but that was nothing more than a waste of half a day. The bureaucrats would have been happy to make it a full day, but he just walked away after the third referral to "Mr Johnson, down on the third level". There was no Mr Johnson on the third level, and he likely would not come into existence just because Harry checked one more time.
They were lucky his seven lordships didn't give him any real power. He was ready to, uh, whip whoever annoyed him, or whatever it was that lords did with their power.
After that, Harry tried to find a lawyer to help him puzzle out the mess of his inheritances.
No luck there, either, and it was Harry's own fault. Sort of. Harry's fight against the self-proclaimed Dark Lord (a lordship which was never confirmed, the bearer of seven titles snidely noted) and his followers had broadened into a general fight against evil.
And that was the problem. Once all of the provably evil people were killed, there were no wizarding lawyers left in Great Britain. It was an unexpected and unfortunate consequence, but Harry couldn't honestly regret getting rid of all of them.
The next day, Harry did what he could to find other heirs. This took just an hour or so. All he did was buy ads in the Daily Prophet and the Wizarding Wireless. There was no point in putting an ad in the Quibbler or Witch Weekly, as they wouldn't come out in time to do any good.
It was too bad that he hadn't been able to think of any other ways to contact other heirs, anything to take another hour or two. By noon, Harry was muttering imprecations under his breath. By early afternoon, he was practicing the wand movements for the most deadly curses he knew.
After he'd bought the ads, Harry had gone straight back home to look through the contracts, nailing down his obligations and looking for loopholes.
It was pointless. Pointless and frustrating. The wills and contracts were written in dense legalese, full of strange words, all but impenetrable to a normal human mind. After a day of trying to puzzle them out, Harry really regretted having killed all of the lawyers. Not so much to have one available to interpret the wills for him, but because he wanted to kill them all again.
If only Hermione were still around, maybe he could have dumped the task on her. She'd tear through those legal documents or know the reason why.
Alas, Hermione was nowhere to be found. She'd gone off for a wanderjahr before starting her university education because gotten her fill of the magical world's nonsense.
She'd gotten her fill of Ron Weasley, too. After yet another argument, which included the new element of him telling her she needed to keep herself pure until their marriage, she'd wheeled on the large-mouthed fool and declared that her sex life was hers to decide and that it was nobody's business but her own if she chose to get banged twice a day by complete strangers.
Not only complete strangers. Harry and Ron's friendship had been irreparably broken when Harry stepped into the widened void between his two friends and asked her if she only wanted complete strangers to bang her. She'd told him to start her off and pave the way for all those strangers, apparating away with him and leaving a pair of shouting redheads behind.
That was a good afternoon, evening, and night – Hermione made good use of her extensive book learning on the subject – but in the morning she followed through on her plans. "Have fun and stay safe, Harry. I'll see you in a year when I come back for university."
Yes, it was too bad Hermione couldn't be reached. Not just for her ability to make sense of tons of tangled text but because she might consent to take over the Carlson family and marry him to fulfill that obligation. Hermione had been his friend for years and he was pretty sure she really liked him and she was imaginative and uninhibited and … and other good stuff.
She wasn't available, but it was still a good idea. Who did he know who'd be willing to drop everything, be adopted into one of his families, and marry him on no notice?
"Say, Luna, do you have any plans for the next few days?"
"Nothing beyond continued investigation into the ministry's endemic corruption and incompetence, Harry. Why, were you propositioning me for seduction and ravishment over a period of several days?"
"Funny you should mention that…"
Alas, Luna was unwilling to help him the way he needed.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Harry. I care for you very, very deeply, but it would devastate my father if I were to leave the Lovegood family to be adopted into the Carlson family. I would do anything for love, but I won't do that."
The visit wasn't a total loss. Luna invited Harry to share her dinner, insisting he eat second and third helpings of meatloaf because he'd need his energy, then dragged him away from the table. She'd taken Harry's mention of marriage as an indication of his willingness to seduce and ravish her, and proceeded to seduce and ravish him with mind-blowing thoroughness.
It was a good night, but then a tiring morning and afternoon and then a painful night. It wasn't until morning of the following day that he was able to escape from the tireless wildcat's ravishing, and it took him the entire rest of the day to recover from it. He'd lost two days that he couldn't afford to lose for working on his problems. Nevertheless, he bought a large bouquet for Luna. She meant well. And the first eight hours had been good, very good.
He paid extra to have the bouquet delivered; there was no way he'd risk getting near her again without a chastity belt.
With only two days before the deadline of the marriage contract, Harry was out of ideas. He found himself walking along Diagon and Knockturn Alleys, checking out any storefront that caught his eye, looking into anything or anyone that looked like it could possibly help him.
He noticed a small business sign after he'd walked past it about the third time.
Ask inside for The Wolf
The Wolf's nickname didn't exactly predispose Harry to liking him – screw you, Remus! – but he certainly had problems that he wasn't solving by himself.
"Good afternoon," the receptionist began. "Welcome to— Oh. It's you."
"Edgecombe. Delightful to see you and your pimples." Harry hid a smirk as she pulled her scarf further down her forehead. When Hermione did something, she did it right. "I'm here to see The Wolf. Is he in?"
After a few more snipes at each other, Marietta finally consented to do her job and see if her boss could see a paying customer.
"Good morning, Mr Potter. I'm Winston Wolfe. I solve problems."
"Good. I got one."
After a quick run-down of Harry's most pressing problem, the marriage contract which would come due the next day, The Wolf told him, "That problem will take thirty minutes to fix. I'll do it in ten. Mari, dear, could you come in here? Now, Mr Potter, you need a wife by tomorrow. Mari, here's a man with a place to live who needs a wife."
"Oh, hell no!" "Ewwwww!"
"Come now, you two, I think fast, I talk fast. Try to keep up. Mr Potter, beggars cannot be choosers. And you, Mari, beggars cannot be choosers, either. You told me you were about to be evicted from your apartment because you spent your paycheck on trying to get those pimples removed. I'm sure that living with Mr Potter will be better than living on the street."
"Ugh. Fine. Stupid marriage contract."
"I suppose living with Potter would be better than the street, and definitely better than going back to live with my mother. And I owe him one and I'll be able to pay him back better as his wife than any other way."
Her words could be taken two ways, but Edgecombe's scowl made it clear which meaning she meant.
"OK, Mr Wolfe, I agree, but I want you to keep looking for other heirs to the Black or Carlson families up until the wedding tomorrow. And for heirs to the O'Connor and Hastings families, while you're at it."
"Agreed. That will be four hundred galleons, please, for today's and tomorrow's work. Mari, you have this afternoon and tomorrow off – with pay, as my wedding gift – but I expect you back at your desk the day after."
An unsmiling Harry adopted an unsmiling Marietta into the Carlson family with Wolfe as the witness. He then escorted her to a shop to buy a wedding gown and arranged a line of credit with the owner, then left her there. He had to arrange for someone to conduct the ceremony. And give serious thought to suicide while he was at it.
The next morning arose, but Harry didn't. He was putting off the inevitable as long as he could. He'd set the time of the wedding for late afternoon for the same reason. Eventually, though, he couldn't put it off any longer. He got himself cleaned and dressed with all the spirited enthusiasm of a man about to be hanged, then made his way to the ministry building. His life as a free man had almost ended there once, so it was fitting that it really be ended there.
Marietta was already there, waiting impatiently. A pile of luggage sat nearby. Right, she'd probably been evicted already.
Besides her and her luggage and the official, the room was packed. Idlers who wanted to witness the marriage of The Famous Harry Ten-Families-and-Seven-Lordships Potter, no doubt.
He trudged past them, hearing a wedding dirge with every step. That wasn't the only thing he heard.
"It's amazing," a member of the audience said. "I've never seen someone go to such lengths to avoid a one hundred galleon penalty."
Harry froze, three steps from where Marietta was tapping her foot. He turned to face the wizard who'd spoken. "What? What did you say?"
"Er, it's only a one hundred galleon fee to cancel a marriage contract which is more than ten years old. No one ever told you? It's been the law for sixty or seventy years now, ever since the Chadwick family lost their entire wealth because of a contract which had been forgotten."
Before Harry could fit this new information into his brain, let alone come up with a rejoinder, there was another interruption.
"Hold the ceremony! I have found heirs of the Carlson and Hastings families!"
Everyone in the room turned to face the entry. There stood Wolfe, a beautiful blonde, and a fat, ugly man. It took Harry a moment to recognize Gilderoy Lockhart. He looked terrible without all his makeup.
"I have here Cherish Carlsdottir, of Sweden, and Gilderoy Lockhart, of the St Mungos Ward for Incurable Magical Maladies, the head by blood of the Hastings family and a member by birth of the Carlson family, respectively."
"Oh, thank God," Harry said, looking at the blonde. She was tall, statuesque, and beautiful. "I am Harry Potter, head of the Black family, and I would be delighted to marry a natural-born member of the Carlson family."
"And I would love nothing better than to marry the head of the Black family," Lockhart said with a ghastly parody of his once-famous grin. "Imagine my surprise to find the feeling is mutual."
"Wait, what?" Harry spluttered. "Aren't you in the Carlson family, Miss Carlsdottir?"
"No, my mother was a Hastings. She married a Swedish Carlson, thus my name," she replied.
"Weren't you listening?" The Wolf asked. "I said their names and families in the correct order. Try to keep up, OK?"
"So, what, I'm supposed to fight her to the death after I marry Lockhart?"
"Do me a favor, dear girl, and wait until after I've had a decent honeymoon," Lockhart put in.
"Raaaargh!" Harry screamed in utter fury. "What's going on here? Is someone messing with me, screwing up my life just for fun? If I find out who's doing it, I'll tear them to shreds!"
"Oh, crap!" a wizened witch near the back exclaimed. "We're busted! Evacuation Plan A!"
Harry stared in shock as several members of the audience hurried out the room's one doorway.
His shock didn't keep him from noting some faces and names. He'd see to them later.
Marietta still stood at the altar, attempting to cast curses at him with her eyes.
Lockhart still stood near him, trying to borrow a quill so he could sign autographs that no one wanted.
Cherish still stood nearby, looking vaguely amused.
His problems were about to solve one another.
"Gilderoy. Do you accept a place in my family, taking me, Harry Black, as your head, promising to obey my orders as head of your family and acknowledging my responsibility for you?"
"Why, yes, you sweet boy. I must say, I did expect that I would be the groom in this marriage. I am the elder, you know. Still, all's well that ends well. Shall we pose for our wedding photographs and then be off to our honeymoon?"
"Oh, no. We didn't get married, Gilderoy. You were just adopted into the Black family. Now, as your head of family, I'm first declaring you unfit for any position of responsibility until you have been cleared by the St Mungos mind healers. I'll continue as the head of the Carlson family until then. Second, as the head of both of your families, I order you to fulfill our family obligation by marrying this woman of the Carlson family. Marietta, as the acting head of the Carlson family, I order you to fulfill our family obligation by marrying this man of the Black family."
Despite quite a bit of weeping ("He's so old! And fat and ugly!" "She's a girl! And those pimples, so unsightly!") the ceremony had been carried out and the not-so-happy newlyweds were portkeyed to the apartment that Harry provided for them.
Now that the show was over, most of the audience filtered out. Harry noticed that the Swedish beauty remained, giving him an appraising look over a half smile.
"So… enemies?" he asked her.
"Mmm, deadly enemies," Cherish replied, looking him up and down. "And I do love a man who is decisive and moves fast… but doesn't finish what he starts too fast."
"And I love a deadly enemy whose robe would look best on the floor. Think we can work something out?"
"I'm sure we can. Come with me to my hotel room and we'll see what we can put together. I'll have champagne sent up to lubricate the negotiations."
Harry came close so Cherish could apparate them both, then darted away to buy the wedding photographer's spare camera. "We can take candid photos of each other for blackmail so we can fulfill this stupid feud."
His deadly enemy wrapped her arms tight around him and, with a crack of disapparation, they left to begin working against each other all night and well into the next day.