Dear Wizarding Britain
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, I probably wouldn't be playing around on fanfiction.
A/N: I feel like I'm always apologizing for taking so long to update, it's easier for me to deal with interruptions while I'm reading, but very difficult to deal with them when I'm trying to write. And I've had quite a lot of interruptions during my weekends the past few months.
It's also been pointed out to me that the time frame has become a bit skewed, but I'm not sure if I care enough at this point to go back and fix it. I had forgotten that Harry and Neville had had their 18th birthdays when I had the plot bunny to have Harry rescue Astoria. I've taken so long between updates on this story, that I've gotten it all messed up in my head. I cannot even recall at this time which chapter they turned 18 in, but I'm sure it was before Daphne and Blaise came to the island. I suspect I mixed up the timeline at about the time I added James to the mix, which then made me think that I was still close to May 1998 (since Teddy would have been born not long before that time and James is my version of Teddy), but it probably should have been around May 1999.
I think it's past the point of fixing at this point, so my apologies for the confusion. This story seems to be playing a certain way in my head, but apparently putting it down to words is turning problematic for me.
Sorry for the long author's note, and I'll try to get going with the rest of the story in some semblance of order now.
While Astoria had been transferred to one of the sofas until she woke up on her own, Daphne was speaking in whispers to Harry with fear and worry for her sister.
"How did that prat get Astoria pregnant?" Daphne seethed. "She'd informed me in her letter that she had taken some sort of potion that rendered her sterile until she took an antidote."
Harry, doing his best to remain calm while holding James, said, "I suppose we'll have to assume that Nott was able to find out about the potion somehow and took actions to counter it."
Daphne looked up at Harry, nearly on the verge of tears, "My sister inherited a blood curse that will make it very dangerous for her to carry a baby to term, Harry." She let out a shaky breath. "This could kill my sister sooner than the curse would; that imbecile doesn't care about that, all he cares about is the continuation of his stupid name."
"I'm not trying to defend Nott, so please don't take what I'm about to say as if I am," Harry replied tentatively, "but how can you be sure that he knew about her ailment? How can you be sure that it wasn't kept from him?"
"Oh, I guarantee he bloody well knows, he just doesn't care," Daphne replied sharply. "I wonder if she's planning to keep the baby," Daphne wondered softly.
A quiet snort was heard, followed by a softly spoken, "Of course he doesn't care, he's a bloody death eater. He's been bred to not care about anyone but his Lord, his family name, and himself. I'm not ready to think about having a baby right now, much less what I should be deciding to do with one."
The last part of Astoria's comment made Harry frown internally, growing up without his parents, he struggled with the possibility of a parent not wanting their own child, coupled with the fact that he knew his parents had died to protect him. It's what caused him to be so quick to claim James as his own son, he didn't want any child to grow up feeling unwanted or unloved. He was brought out of his internal musings when he heard Daphne cry out.
"Astoria!" Daphne cried out, extracting herself from Harry's arms and rushing over to the sofa where Astoria had been placed, then pressing the back of her hand to Astoria's forehead, to feel how warm she was.
Pushing Daphne's hand away, Astoria huffed, "I'm fine. You don't have to hover."
"I'm just worried about you!" Daphne exclaimed. "I haven't seen you for months, you can't expect me to not want to make sure you're alright."
Narrowing her eyes as she studied Daphne, Astoria asked, "You've never acted this concerned for me in my life; are you sure you weren't sorted into Hufflepuff?"
Daphne gasped, "You take that back, you horrid sister! Here I am, concerned for your health, and you're going straight for the insults! Besides, with the way you acted at Hogwarts, it's not as if I felt that showing my concern for you would be welcome."
Astoria rolled her eyes, and attempted to push herself to a seated position, which Daphne prevented by laying a hand on her shoulder and said, "You should stay put for a while."
Growling in frustration, Astoria said, "If you don't allow me up, you will have to vanish quite the mess off of this sofa, and then I'll never be able to look anyone in the eye again."
"Astoria!" Daphne exclaimed in shock, while Harry could be heard chuckling.
"I think you should do as she says, Daphne," Harry said in amusement.
"Fine," Daphne relented, "let me at least help you up."
"I'm not an invalid," Astoria grumbled, but allowed Daphne to help her anyway.
"Well, excuse me for having worried and worried about you and your safety, only for you to faint dead away the moment I finally see you again," Daphne responded with an irritated huff, as she reluctantly helped her sister sit up.
"Now, where is the nearest loo?" Astoria inquired, ignoring Daphne's comment.
"I'll show you where it is," Daphne offered.
"Ugh. Will you stop hovering?" Astoria complained. "I'm not dying yet, and I would like to feel a little bit of freedom before I do. Just tell me where I may find the loo, and then I'll happily find my own way there."
Before Daphne could respond, Harry replied helpfully, "You'll have to excuse her, Astoria. She's only just found out that she's to be an aunt, so she's worried about you. The nearest loo is just down the hall, second door on the left."
Astoria sighed, "Thank you, Potter," ignoring the comment that alluded to her being with child. Then she stood up, stayed still long enough to make sure she would not suffer from any dizzy spells, then left in the direction Harry had given her.
"I'm worried about her, Harry," Daphne said worriedly, as walked over to where he stood. "It's not safe for her to carry a child to term." Not that she necessarily condoned the thought of killing a child in any form, whether it be in the womb or not, but it was hard to care about that aspect of it when it was her sister's life that was at risk due to the, presumably unwanted, pregnancy.
Harry opened the arm that was not holding James out in welcome, and Daphne burrowed herself into his side. "I understand you're worried for her, love, but she's old enough to make her own decision about it; don't you think?" He, of course, was smart enough to not speak about his own feelings on the matter for the time being. He was not the one that had the ability to make a decision in this particular circumstance. He hated the thought of a child being callously thrown away under any circumstances, even if the child had been conceived in less than ideal circumstances. He only hoped that he'll be able to provide an alternative option, should he be consulted for his opinion on the matter.
Sniffling, Daphne said, "A discussion she's apparently not ready to think about. I only just got her back, Harry; I'm not ready to lose her again." Harry conjured a handkerchief for Daphne to blot her eyes with, causing her to give a watery giggle. "I don't know what's wrong with me, I never used to be this emotional."
Harry's only response was to just hold her to him, and give her a comforting kiss on top of her head.
A few moments later, Astoria returned back to the room, where she found Daphne holding a cuddly baby, while Harry relaxed next to her, smiling as he watched the two of them bond further. Clearing her throat, Astoria brought their attention to her as she made her way back to the sofa and sat down.
"So," Astoria started out a bit awkwardly, "what is my nephew's name?"
Daphne blushed a bit and cleared her throat, as she debated whether or not to disclose that she was not James' biological mother, but Harry spoke before she could decide.
"Well, this is James, but until the Dork Lord is no longer a threat, his alternate name is Jeremiah," Harry explained. "And he's actually my son -"
"Pull the other one, he looks too much like Daphne to be only yours," Astoria interrupted Harry to say, ignoring the name Harry used for the Dark Lord, though it was mildly amusing to her.
"If you'll let me finish," Harry said with a pointed look. Astoria blushed just a little, but waved her arm as if to say, Well, carry on then.
"He's my son," Harry started again, "and he's a metamorphmagus, so he can change his looks at will." Astoria's eyes widened at that revelation. "Though he does look to Daphne as if she is his mother, which makes him feel comfortable adding her features as his own," Harry added, as he turned to Daphne with a small smile on his face, looking her in the eye as he finished, "and I hope that when I ask her to marry me, she'll say, yes, so that she can become his legal mum, too."
Astoria snorted in amusement and said, "I thought you two were already engaged." She looked at Harry pointedly and said, "You signed your letter as 'your friend, and hopefully, future brother-in-law' after all."
Harry opened his mouth to respond, but was swiftly cut off by Daphne's response, "The answer will be, yes, whenever you do get around to asking that question." Then she threw herself into his lap, readjusting her grip on James, so that he could be included in the impromptu family hug, then she gave Harry a quick but thorough kiss on his lips.
Astoria sighed and sarcastically, "Go right ahead. Snog each other, rather than speak to the sister that you haven't seen in several months."
Ignoring Astoria, Harry said, "I had intended to wait a bit longer to ask you, but I guess it's time to go pick out a ring then."
Daphne gave a playful growl and said, "Just because I told you the answer would be, yes, does not mean that you get to wiggle out asking me to marry you properly."
"After what your father allowed to happen to your sister and was going to allow happen to you, I refuse to go back to Britain to ask him for his permission," Harry said dryly.
Daphne rolled her eyes and said, "I was disowned, remember? You don't have to have my father's permission."
Before Harry could respond, Astoria snarked, "She means you still have to ask her with an elaborate romantic gesture."
"That's not what I meant at all," Daphne said, looking at Astoria with a small frown. Turning back to Harry, she ran her hand along the side of his cheek and said seriously, "I truly don't need an elaborate proposal. And if that was indeed your proposal, then I would be honored to say yes to your proposal, I only preferred it to be posed to me as a question, rather than a if/when scenario."
Harry leaned forward and kissed her on the lips and said seriously, "I hadn't intended for my comment to be taken as a proposal, but if you're not opposed to accepting it for a proposal, I would be honored to call you my fiancee."
Daphne returned the kiss and said, "I'd be honored to call you my fiance too."
"Great," Astoria interjected, "now, when's the wedding so we can get past all the sappy romance?"
Shrugging, Harry said, "Well, all we really need is someone to officiate it. Everyone we would want to be present is already here."
"The question becomes, can we find someone to marry us that we can trust with your true identity, or do we have to get married in disguise under false names?" Daphne wondered aloud.
"I guess that's something we'll have to find out," Harry sighed.
"Lovely," Astoria stated. "Now, can someone show me to my room, so that I can lay down? I'm feeling a bit knackered and need to rest."
"Dobby!" Harry called.
"What can Dobby do for Harry Potter, sir?" Dobby asked the moment he popped in.
"This is Daphne's sister, Astoria," Harry introduced. "Please show her to her room, so she can rest. And, of course, provide her with any refreshments that she may ask for. After she wakes up, please show her where we can be found, then we'll decide what we'll do from there."
"Dobby will do!" Dobby replied enthusiastically. Turning to Astoria, Dobby said, "Please come with Dobby Missy Storia. Dobby will shows you to you's room."
"Have a pleasant rest," Daphne called out, as Astoria was led out of the room by a happy Dobby.
After Astoria had left the room, Daphne sighed and said, "I really hope she'll drop the attitude after she's rested."
Harry shrugged and replied, "I can't pretend to know what's going on in her mind or what her real personality is, but my first instinct is to think that it is a defense mechanism."
"She's always had walls up," Daphne informed. "I haven't seen genuine emotions from her since she was a toddler. The letter she left me the night I escaped depicted a completely different girl from the one I had grown to know."
Giving Daphne a comforting squeeze, Harry replied, "Well, let's hope that being here away from pureblood politics will help her learn how to be herself."
Meanwhile, back in Britain:
I hope this letter finds you well, as I have both good news and bad news to inform you of.
The good news is, we confirmed today that Astoria is carrying your grandchild, the next heir apparent to the Noble House of Nott.
The bad news, however, is that when I returned to our room, where I had left her to rest while I attended my remaining classes for the day, she was flashed out of the room with the help of a bloody phoenix. Where she found a phoenix, I don't know, as she's barely been out of my sight since we've been here at Hogwarts.
I would very much like to be allowed to leave school to find my wayward betrothed, but will, of course, await your instructions as to what you would have me do.
Your son and heir,
Theodore Balthazar Nott
Heir to the Noble House of Nott
Balthazar Nott, Lord of the Noble House of Nott growled in frustration, finishing off the remains of his firewhiskey, before throwing the glass against the wall of his study in anger, though the sound of the glass shattering did little to alleviate his anger.
"How dare the little bint abscond while carrying the next Nott heir," the Nott lord growled to his empty study.
"What are you babbling about?" asked the portrait of Cantankerus Nott.
Ignoring the portrait of his father, Balthazar pulled out some parchment to write out a response to his son.
Stay at Hogwarts. I will speak to our Lord and request permission to hunt down the stupid bint myself. If I have to resort to using the imperius curse on her to keep her in line next time, I will. She doesn't necessarily need her mind and free will to carry and birth the next heir and spare for the Noble House of Nott, after all.
I'll also pay a visit to the Greengrasses to make sure the bint didn't go back home, and to ensure we are notified the moment she does return to them, if she hasn't yet.
Balthazar Cantankerus Nott
Lord of the Noble House of Nott
Nott did have to wonder what good attempting to retrieve the witch would be, considering the bint had access to a bloody phoenix, she could call it to escape at any time. Hopefully, he'd be able to case imperio on her the moment he found her and then she wouldn't be capable of calling the phoenix to rescue her again.
The next day:
"My Lord," Balthazar Nott said by way of greeting, as he bowed to Lord Voldemort. "Thank you for granting my request for a meeting."
"This had better be good, Nott," Voldemort replied darkly.
Nott cleared his throat nervously before he attempted to explain his reason for requesting a meeting. "I received word from my heir that his betrothed has absconded from Hogwarts not long after finding out that she was carrying the next heir to the Nott family."
"And you expect me to do, what exactly, about that?" Voldemort asked curiously. Not that he actually cared about the girl one way or the other, except that she carried another potential follower.
"I requested a meeting with you to ask for permission for myself and a few men leave in order to search for her and bring her back," Nott replied respectfully.
Lord Voldemort was silent for a moment, while he thought about how to respond to the request. For all he knew, this could turn into a fool's errand. Though why the Nott heir would claim his betrothed to be missing when Voldemort had received reports that the boy himself had been seen in the company of the Greengrass heiress outside of Gringotts not 24 hours ago was somewhat baffling. It was starting to smell of treachery to him.
"Very well. I will allow you one week to do what you feel you need to in order to find this wayward witch," Voldemort replied. "I won't allow you more than two men to aid you."
It was more of a concession than Nott was expecting. "Thank you, My Lord, I am in your debt."
"You were already in my debt, Nott," Voldemort responded with a smirk.
Nott swallowed and gave a bow, "Yes, My Lord," and then turned to leave.
Voldemort called him, "Oh, and Nott."
Nott turned back and said, "Yes, My Lord?"
"Crucio," Voldemort said with a cruel smile, as Nott fell down and screamed in agony.
After holding the curse for about 30 seconds, Voldemort ended the curse and waited for Nott to catch his breath. "I haven't dismissed you yet."
"My apologies, My Lord," Nott gasped out, as he crawled to his knees and remained with his arms stretched out before him, his face barely an inch from the floor.
"Before you leave on your quest," Voldemort spoke, allowing the 's' in quest to draw out, "I require 1,000 galleons be transferred to the war fund."
"War fund, My Lord?" Nott foolishly asked.
"Crucio," Voldemort cast boredly, ending the curse after a few seconds. Nott, once again, was left panting from the pain of the curse.
"It is not your right to question me, Nott," Voldemort hissed. "You may well think the war all but won; however, if we want to eventually conquer those outside of our borders, it's going to require money."
Nott very carefully tried not to allow his thoughts to wander too far into territory that would see him punished again, though he did have many unspoken doubts tickling around the edges of his mind. He was personally content with being one of the leading purebloods in Britain, he had no desire to try to conquer any other part of the world.
As if reading his unspoken thoughts, Nott received yet another crucio that was held for a few seconds. Finally, he caught his breath and gasped, "As you wish, My Lord. I will stop by Gringotts before I leave for my search."
"Very well. You are dismissed," Voldemort replied.
"Thank you, My Lord," Nott gasped out, before cautiously making his way out of the room.
Once Nott was gone, Voldemort decided he wanted to let off a little steam. After considering that Bellatrix had been punished for long enough, he sent for her with orders to have her wait for him in his playroom. Perhaps he would have one of the muggles brought up from the dungeons to join them in the playroom as a reward for Bellatrix's acceptance of her prior punishment.
Voldemort nodded, yes, that's what he would do. As he recalled, there was one such muggle who had an eerie resemblance to the Potter brat's mudblood mother, minus the green eyes. Yes, that one should do quite nicely for what he had in mind. He might even use her as a way to lure Potter out of hiding. Not having regular conflicts with the brat was making this whole conquering thing a tad boring, not that he'd admit that to anyone, which was why he was even planning to expand his territories.
After all, Potter may not care enough for the magicals of Britain to fight for them, but surely he'd care enough for the rest of the magical countries.
The moment Nott arrived back at his manor, he downed one of the few healing potions he had left for suppressing the symptoms of the cruciatus curse, grimacing at the taste, and then finally relaxing as the potion ran through his system to sooth his shaking nerves. He cursed internally when he noticed he had less than a handful of the miracle potion left in stock, the recipe for the potion having been lost when Snape died, as it seemed that it was not a potions recipe the late potions master had written down for others to be able to brew. Damn the man for dying before he could share how to brew such a useful invention.
After resting for a period of time, to allow the potion to finish its work, Nott then poured himself a measure of firewhiskey to calm himself, before he went to take a relaxing bath and make himself presentable for a trip down Diagon Alley and to Gringotts.
After he felt he was presentable enough to show himself in public, he went down to the safe in his study in order to see how much extra he should withdraw from the vault in order to replenish what he termed as his emergency stash. As it turned out, he would need to replenish nearly all of it, perhaps he should not have shown his son where he kept it after all. There's no way his heir needed 5,000 galleons while he was at Hogwarts, not when he only needed to charge his Hogsmeade purchases to the family account at Gringrotts.
Nott shook his head in exasperation, as he closed the safe and swung his father's portrait back over it. Perhaps he needed to create a new hiding space for his emergency fund after he replenished it.
Having floo'd to The Leaky Cauldron, Nott ignored the small crowd that had managed to brave the oppressing atmosphere of Diagon Alley and headed towards Gringotts. He briefly pondered the fact that most of the stores were closed down and that there were perhaps only a handful of businesses that remained open. The reason for that was still lost on him, however, as he had never considered what part of the magical society were actually the ones that kept all of those businesses running.
Stepping inside Gringotts, Nott walked towards one of the open tellers and demanded pompously to be taken to his vaults. After providing his name and wand for identification, his whole world came crumbling down around him, as he was informed that his vaults had been wiped clean and as such, he was no longer considered a client of Gringotts, nor were the goblins under any obligation to tell him who had wiped his vaults clean.
In a rage, Nott drew his wand and had started the first syllable of the killing curse, before he was surrounded by goblin warriors with their weapons pointed at him. The other patrons fled away from the conflict, with only a small beetle remaining as witness, unnoticed by anyone else.
"You dare draw your wand on a goblin while on goblin land, wizard?" one of the goblin warriors growled.
"Do you know who I am?" Nott growled in response.
"I know you're not a client here," the goblin responded, "which is all I care to know about you."
"I demand my vaults be reinstated!" Nott shouted in anger.
The goblin snorted, "You can demand all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that you are no longer a client here and we are not obligated to help you."
"You'll pay for this, mark my words," Nott growled.
"I think you'll find that you'll pay for it," the goblin replied with a terrifying grin. "As per treaty, any wizard that pulls his wand without permission on goblin land is subject to goblin law."
"Those treaties were made with the old ministry, not the new one," Nott argued.
"All the more reason for you to not have drawn your wand, wizard," the goblin growled. "Take him to the holding cells," the goblin directed the warriors.
The last that was heard from Balthazar Nott was his screams of being led through the tunnels, "You don't know who you're dealing with. The Dark Lord will come for me and he'll have all of your heads!"
The response that was growled back was, "If your Dark Lord wants to risk a goblin rebellion so soon after taking over the wizarding world, he is welcome to retaliate, we will be ready."
As the screams faded away down the tunnel, the beetle stealthily flew through the exit and landed in a deserted alley in order to return to her human form and apparate to her safe house.
Once she was safely in her home, Rita Skeeter, for the first time in her career, actually sat to think through all of the ramifications that would be had, should she publish what she witnessed in The Daily Prophet. Did she risk her story being the catalyst for another goblin rebellion? Did she risk the economic failure that such a rebellion would cause?
Perhaps, just this once, she shouldn't publish a story, because Merlin only knows if the magical world could survive a goblin rebellion on top of suffering under the dictatorship of You-Know-Who.