Chapter 1 - In bed with a girl
Harry Potter woke up and quickly realized it was still night and he was, once again, in the hospital wing of Hogwarts. Soon his memory was active, and he remembered the reason he was once again there in Madame Pomfrey's domains: his godfather, the notorious fugitive Sirius Black, was indeed innocent, and Harry had just aided him in escaping once more from the dementors.
But now was no time to give in to regrets. He could hear footsteps walking toward him and turned to see who would be there at that hour. His two best friends certainly were not, since he could see them occupying the next two beds on his side opposite the door.
The approaching figure was small. Was it an elf? No, elves didn't have long hair. A young girl then, maybe a first year. Ginny was bigger than the approaching figure and he could not remember any other girl younger than him. The faint lunar light from the windows and the fact that he wasn't wearing his glasses made impossible for him to distinguish more than an imprecise silhouette.
Before he could think of any action, the silhouette moved, striking him with a spell. Harry did not notice anything after being hit, until he tried to ask his visitor who she was and found out that he had been silenced. He reached down to the bedside table, picked up his glasses and put them on, acting slowly so as not to scare his visitor. The girl did not interfere with his action, preferring to put a silencing spell around his bed and get rid of her robe, which she dropped to the floor unconcernedly.
In fact, it was a younger girl in pyjamas, since Harry could note the absence of characteristic curves that the girls of his year began to display, to the boy's continuous embarrassment as he was beginning to be seriously influenced by these curves without exactly understanding the reason.
"Give me some space, Potter," she said in a voice he didn't remember hearing before, and to his amazement the girl began to climb onto his bed. Harry hastened to obey.
"Some space, Potter, not all space. Don't be so puritan! I don't have cuties, if that's what you're thinking, nor am I here to molest you sexually, although I might well agree to some experimentation, you know? I'm starting to get curious about it ..."
Harry was happy with the darkness, since the girl would not see how flushed he was. 'Or am I blushing so much I get to shine in the dark?' he thought worriedly.
"Who are you?" he asked curiously ... and once more he felt himself blushing when he realized that his voice had failed and had come out sharper than he wanted.
The girl giggled a little before replying, "For now, just a girl with a proposal. You will only know who I am by accepting the proposal."
"And what would that be?" asked the suspicious boy.
"First let me explain why I chose you," she replied, taking control of the conversation. "You already have considerable fame in the magical world, and I have discovered that you are also a mighty wizard. If I had any doubts about that, the corporeal patronus you used against that abortion of nature who called himself the 'Prince of Slytherin' was more than sufficient proof. You didn't know the spell when you played against Hufflepuff, and learned before the game against Ravenclaw. Not bad, not bad at all."
"Uh ... well, I had help ..."
"Of course you did. Do not try to minimize your achievement, Potter. I like your humility, but you have to learn to measure it. And that's one of the points where I can help you."
"And why would you help me?"
"Because I want you to help me in return, it's obvious," said the girl without hesitation.
"Uh ... at least you're sincere," he said.
"I studied you all year, Potter. I know full well that my only chance with you is to be totally honest with my goals."
"And what are your goals?" asked Harry.
"To be the owner of myself, and to be able to live my life as I see fit," she replied.
"What do you mean?" the boy asked, really confused. "Cannot you do what you want?"
The girl let out a long sigh before continuing. "I'm a pureblood from a traditional family, Potter. Don't you see what life is like for us? We are the property of our parents until they give us in marriage to a new owner, in exchange for certain advantages for the family, that is, for themselves. Look at the pureblood women who have been able to do what they like: they are all single and unattached to their elders. The female teachers here, for example. None of them married, none of them in touch with their father. Either they were orphaned or totally abandoned the family. "
"Wow ... I ... I had not noticed that. But the other teachers, the men I mean, are not married either."
"They married the profession of their own free will, but that was their choice, which women don't have."
"But ... so ... you want to marry me, is that it?" asked Harry in astonishment.
To the boy's surprise, the girl laughed, and laughed a lot.
"Oh, Potter, you're a figure!" She finally replied. "You still don't know who I am and you're already talking about marriage! I'm touched! But no, we don't need something so radical, otherwise I wouldn't be so sure that my proposal would interest you. As much as you wanted to help me, it would be too much for me to expect such a serious commitment from you so quickly, even more so at our age."
"So what do you want?" replied the rather indignant boy.
"A betrothal contract would suffice ..."
"What do you mean by a betrothal contract? But..."
"A contract that leaves us with the option to get out of it! Understand that such a contract would prevent my father from negotiating me to another. If we put a wedding date for when I'm already of age, something like after finishing Hogwarts, and then we gave up getting married, I'll be free! My father will not have any more rights over me!" she explained quickly, realizing how much the boy had been nervous about the idea of marriage.
Harry thought a little about it, weighing the pros and cons. At last he resumed the matter, calmer and more rational.
"First point, I'm still underage. Who would sign this contract for me?"
"Potter, to answer your question I would need some assurance ... Would you really do what you can for me if I commit myself to do everything I can for you?"
"A little too vague, don't you think?" he said. "What exactly do you expect of me, besides a betrothal contract, and what can I expect of you?" he asked, leaning on his elbow, trying to see the girl next to him.
"What I really need from you is the contract. What I would like, if possible, is to be your friend, even if in secret, and some protection, if I ever need it. What I can offer is my help for you to realize all the potential that I see in you, Potter. How much this help will do for you will depend on how much you commit to following my recommendations and how much you trust me and let me help you. For your safety, I am willing to take a magical oath that I will keep your secrets and will not do anything that could harm you ... Uh, we will need to think well how to put it into words, so that you are satisfied but I don't take risks of losing my magic due to some misunderstanding or forgetfulness ..."
"Your part of this deal still seems a bit too vague. I don't want to be rude, but you're still in the first year, right? What can you know that might be so important to me?"
The girl became visibly agitated and annoyed at Harry's comment, but then calmed down and asked, "Promise that all our talk will be kept just between us?"
Receiving confirmation from the boy she went on to clarify: "No one pays much attention to first year students. With that, I was able to discover many things. You were not the only student I've been studying, though you are the one who I studied the hardest. I know of people who may be great allies to you, as of others who are enemies to you who are far more dangerous than that fool Malfoy. The summer is coming. You aren't too happy about having to go back to your relatives' house, are you?"
"How?" asked the terrified boy. "What do you know about that?"
"You have scars all over your body, Potter, and not all are from Quidditch or your adventures here."
"Hey! How did you figure it out?"
"I said I'm starting to be curious about boys, didn't I? And the Quidditch locker rooms aren't so protected!"
"You ... you ... how could you?"
The girl responded with a naughty giggle before continuing: "I have a lot of resources, Potter, and I can help you a lot. Are you at least likely to help me too?"
Harry thought for a long time at the question. The girl's tone had made it clear that there was something important depending on his response.
"This marriage contract ... What if any of us are interested in anyone else ... later, of course ... but ..."
"The contract can be kept secret, Harry, no one needs to know about it. It is only a guarantee that my father will not auction me without my consent. You will be free to satisfy your legion of fans."
"Ha, ha, very funny," he replied, a little hurt by her play. "But who would sign the contract for me? Dumbledore?"
"Never! But you have a magical guardian, Potter, who can not only sign the contract but give you a better place to live than with those mistreating relatives of yours!"
"Sirius? How do you know?" he asked worriedly. "Hey, who's your father, James Bond or some KGB spy?"
"Oh, no ... I don't know who these are ... But I followed you guys yesterday, did they really give Granger a time-turner? I saw you two almost interfering with your previous' selves. That's a danger, Potter!"
"You followed us all the time? Even to the shrieking shack too? "
"Shrieking shack? Is that where ends the tunnel under the whopping willow? No, I didn't go there, I waited near the lake until you returned ... But the important thing is that I found this ..."
With that the girl got off the bed, took something in a pocket of the robe that she had discarded on the floor and showed it to the boy. The sun must have been rising already, as the light in the infirmary had improved a little. Harry could tell that the girl had long blonde hair, which ran more than halfway down her back. But the important thing was what she held so he could see: a small cage, with a fat and somewhat maltreated rat inside. A rat that was missing a finger on a front paw.