Dear Wizarding Britain
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, I probably wouldn't be playing around on fanfiction.
A/N-1: I did awful with the timeline for this story so far. I'm estimating that by the time Astoria was rescued in June, she was about eight weeks along, so if she carries the baby to term, she should be due around February of the following year, which for simplicity's sake should be 1999, if I haven't screwed up the timeline again. I've written this note, before I've started this chapter, just to help myself remember a bit better for when I do start it.
A/N-2: Side note, I made an attempt at reading Lord of the Rings in between this chapter and the last one, only to realize my Kindle Unlimited subscription only gave me access to the first book, so I pretty much wasted my time there. Also, I'm going to just stop apologizing for the length of time between updates, because by this point, I've just accepted that it's inevitable that I'm gonna take forever in coming up with the next plot to the next chapter. I'm hoping to eventually write some one-shots to supplement this story, but as I haven't yet done the one-shots that I had intended to do with Harry and Merope to the Rescue, it may not get done any time soon.
WARNING: Luna is a bit OOC in this chapter, I'm finding it hard to write her usual whimsical personality.
Also, this chapter takes place between September and October of 1998.
The morning after Harry's and Daphne's first major hurdle in their relationship found the couple sitting down to breakfast with their friends, minus Fred and George, who were mostly living with their girlfriends. Daphne had been unsure about whether or not they should share their news with their friends just yet, but after Harry pointed out that it's not the type of thing they could hide for all that long, she relented. Considering she was only about a month or two behind Astoria's pregnancy, it wouldn't be very much longer before her condition became obvious to their friends.
There was mild small talk while they ate; discussions of plans for the day, what they might want to do the next day and so forth, with James babbling in the background as he shoved pieces of Cheerios into his little mouth. Harry was about to make the announcement about the new baby, when Hermione piped up and asked Astoria, "Astoria, have you considered going to see a healer?"
Astoria froze with her fork midway to her mouth, caught off guard and speechless, as if her brain had partially shut down and lost the ability to respond.
Seeing what Hermione interpreted as confusion, Hermione added by way of explanation, "I've read that it's typical during pregnancies to visit a healer regularly, in order to keep track of the baby's development, along with the health of the mother, in order to catch any irregularities before they might become an issue." Looking sheepish, Hermione added, "I realize it's not any of my business, but…" looking around, as if waiting for someone to tell her she was out of line.
Astoria's thought process suddenly came back to her in a rush as she suddenly lost her appetite and laid her fork down, then pushed her plate away. She sighed and slumped her shoulders. "I didn't see any need to see a healer until I had made the decision to keep the child or not."
"Oh," Hermione breathed out in shock, "I didn't realize that. I hadn't realized there had been any indecision in the matter." She added in a breathy tone, "I'm sorry if I was out of line in bringing it up."
Astoria shook her head and said, "No, it's alright that you asked. It just reminded me that I'm running out of time to decide." She rubbed her baby bump, as she fell silent.
"Sometimes babies conceived from the most despicable of circumstances can grow up to be the person that can accomplish the most miraculous things," Luna said softly.
"Those same babies can grow up to be Snape too," Harry mumbled, as he suddenly remembered the glimpse of memory he had seen from Snape's mind during the failed occlumency lessons in fifth year, memories of a small boy cowering away from an angry adult. Not that Harry now suddenly thought that any child raised in abuse was going to turn out to be like Snape, as Harry himself could attest to, but he was brought out of those thoughts when Astoria spoke.
"I was under the impression you were against my terminating the pregnancy, even if you've never come right out and said it," Astoria replied.
Harry shrugged, "I've had a bit of time to reflect on the matter," he stated, as he fiddled with his fork. "While I think all children should be seen as a blessing, no matter the circumstance of their birth or conception," he ran a gentle finger up and down the side of James' face, earning a happy grin and giggle in return, "and, certainly, not things to be discarded like one throwing out the rubbish - especially when there are thousands of people who would love to have children but can't. I also have enough sense to realize that it's not about how I feel on the matter, but how you feel on the matter.
"You were the one that had this pregnancy forced upon you, Astoria, not me. You're the one that is fighting for your life due to your blood curse, which is not being helped by the pregnancy that's compromising your immune system. It's you that has to be the one to choose what you want to do, no matter how much I'd mourn for the life the child may never get to live."
Astoria silently reflected on that before turning to her sister. "And you, Daphne?" Astoria asked. "Do you still wish for me to choose to terminate?"
Daphne swallowed a sip of her pumpkin juice before answering, "Stori, I realize that I was wrong to pressure you into a decision, I just don't want to lose you before I'm meant to."
"What blood disease are you all talking about?" Hermione asked with a frown. "This is the first I'm hearing about a blood curse."
Astoria sighed and replied quietly, "It's a blood-borne curse or blood malediction that tends to crop up in the family on occasion, due to someone placing a curse on mine and Daphne's ancestors. Lucky for me, it decided to develop in me. It makes me a bit frail and sickly, giving me a low probability of carrying this child to term and surviving."
"That sounds quite difficult," Hermione replied somberly.
"It is what it is at this point," Astoria responded with practiced calm.
"I wonder if phoenix tears would help?" Luna wondered aloud, making eye contact with Harry.
Blaise, having been mostly quiet up to that point, replied, "Of course, phoenix tears are said to be able to cure anything, but where would we find them?"
Daphne smiled and said, as she turned to look at Harry, "Oh, I know exactly where we can find a phoenix."
"Really?" Blaise asked in wonder.
"Look, just because I am able to turn into a phoenix doesn't mean that my tears would work the same as a real phoenix would," Harry replied.
"You can turn into a bloody phoenix and this is the first I've heard of it?" Blaise exclaimed in surprise. Turning to Hermione with a slight frown, he asked, "Why did no one ever tell me he could turn into a phoenix?"
"Language, Blaise, we do have a baby present," Hermione huffed. "I'm sorry that you didn't know that Harry could turn into a phoenix, it just never came up in conversation," Hermione explained. "I promise it wasn't because we were specifically trying to hide it from you."
"Then why is no one else at this table surprised he can turn into a bloody phoenix?" Blaise asked incredulously, completely ignoring Hermione's acknowledgment about his language, as he looked around the table at their friends.
"I only know, because that's how he rescued me from Hogwarts and then again how we left Gringotts," Astoria replied.
"And I know, because I saw him turn into a phoenix before he left to go rescue Stori," Daphne added.
"And the rest of us didn't know per se, but I guess we just kind of assumed as much, because he seems to have the ability to turn into any animal that he wants to," Neville added his two sickles worth. "Though Luna probably knew before any of us, she seems to always know things."
"Bloody hell," Blaise mumbled. "Any bloody animal? What are you, Merlin reincarnated?"
"I think that's the general consensus at this point, mate," Neville said.
Harry shook his head and mumbled, "I'm just Harry."
Daphne gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "You'll never be just Harry, Harry, and you should stop wishing yourself to be less than what you are."
"Why are we still hiding, if you've got enough power in your pinky finger to take out You-Know-Who?" Blaise wondered aloud.
Silence rang around the table, now that Blaise had brought attention to the hippogriff in the room.
Harry internally sighed at the turn the conversation had taken. All they had wanted to do was share news about the baby and they still hadn't managed to make the announcement.
"Dobby," Harry called.
*pop* "What can Dobby do for Harry Potter, sir?" Dobby asked excitedly.
"Please go entertain James in another room, Dobby," Harry asked. Looking around the table, he added, "While he's not likely to understand a word, it's not something I want him to be around to hear."
"Good idea, Harry," Hermione nodded as she looked at Blaise with narrowed eyes. "Blaise is likely going to keep using foul language."
"Dobby will do," Dobby said, before he gently took James in his arms, who grabbed onto Dobby's ears as they walked out of the room together.
After a long and awkward moment of silence, Blaise pressed on. "Look, mate, I do get your reasons for leaving before. We had all turned our backs on you for one reason or another, or just didn't give a damn in general, because we were living our own lives. And, yeah, it was unrealistic of the magical world to expect you to save them all, you were a kid and You-Know-Who has years of experience over you, but -"
"But now that you know that I have more power in my pinky finger, it's all right to wonder why I don't just take on the big bad all by myself?" Harry asked dryly in reply.
"Well, yeah. At first, I thought it was a no-brainer, there was no way you'd be able to defeat him for good and survive," Blaise said, as if that made his questioning of it any better. "But now I realize that you have the power to defeat him, I just wonder why you'd be content to just hide away the rest of your life?"
Harry ran his hand down his face and took a deep breath, "It was never about whether or not I could defeat him, Blaise, whether prophecy dictates that it has to be me to defeat him or not is irrelevant. If I'm to fight against my parents' murderer, it's going to be on my own terms, not because the magical world demands it of me, not because Fate requires it of me. Besides, he's done something to himself that makes it a moot point to try to kill him, because his spirit can obviously stay on this side of the veil and not cross over."
"So perhaps we could look into ways to trap his spirit where he cannot escape after we are able to kill him," Hermione mumbled in thought.
"Killing and trapping him won't fix what he and his followers have done to Britain," Astoria replied with a sad shake of her head.
"They've allowed the nargles and wrackspurts to infect their minds so much that it would be dangerous to allow any of them to stay free and not cause trouble," Luna agreed with a nod.
"Fine," Harry snapped. "You," pointing at Hermione, "research ways to trap Tom. But I make absolutely no promises that I'm going to go out of my way to kill him." Harry gave an unamused chuckle, "It's only a matter of time before he gets bored enough to come after me anyways, so I may as well have a plan to deal with him when he does."
"I'll start researching as soon as we're done here," Hermione said with a nod.
"Great. Now that that's settled, you need to transform into a phoenix and fill this vial with your tears, so we can get Astoria all cured up and allow her to make the decision on her pregnancy without her health being a factor," Luna ordered matter-of-factly.
"You know, Daphne and I did have some news to share," Harry started to say, but was cut off when Luna said, "You can share the news about your new addition later, Harry. Right now, we need to collect your tears and cure Astoria."
Harry tried to respond, but all he could do was open and close his mouth with no sound.
"What new addition?" Hermione asked with narrow eyes.
"Tears now; talk later," Luna ordered.
"I don't even know if I can produce tears on command, Luna," Harry complained.
"No time like the present to find out," Luna retorted.
Harry sighed and said, "Fine." Then he shifted into a blue phoenix with green feathertips.
Luna nodded, "Good instincts, Harry. The colors that are most associated with healing are green and blue."
"That's not the color you were when you picked me up from Hogwarts, Harry," Astoria said curiously.
"Oh, I suspect his metamorphmagus abilities allow him to also change his coloring," Hermione responded matter-of-factly.
Harry warbled a tune of phoenix song, momentarily forgetting that he was transformed and unable to respond, bringing the conversation to a stop.
"Oh, that sounds lovely, Harry, but I can't bottle up your song, it's your tears I need," Luna said in her airy tone.
If a phoenix sound could sound annoyed, then Harry's sharper tone came quite close.
"Well, I'm sure I don't know how you're meant to cry on command, Harry, I'm not a phoenix, after all," Luna responded, as if she could interpret what Harry was saying with his musical notes.
Even Neville joined the rest of the friends in looking at Luna as if she'd lost her mind.
"Luna, dear," Neville started.
Luna turned to Neville with a smile and answered, "Yes, Neville?"
"Perhaps we're going about this the wrong way?" Neville suggested, using the type of tone that a member of the male species typically took when speaking to what they think might be an irrational female.
"I'm quite sure if Harry just thinks about how sad he would be if we lost Astoria all because he was unable to produce a few tears, then perhaps he would be able to fill up this vial," Luna replied unconcerned. She tilted her head to the side in thought and studied phoenix-Harry with narrowed eyes before saying, "Or perhaps if Astoria's imminent death and Daphne's subsequent heartbreak over it isn't sufficient motivation for a few measly tears, perhaps he should imagine how he should feel if something should ever happen to James or -"
Before Luna could finish her suggestion, phoenix-Harry had begun crying so many tears into the vial that it was near to overflowing and he was having trouble stopping the flow, so much so that Luna had produced another vial so the tears wouldn't be wasted.
Daphne was torn between glaring at Luna for her method of motivation and being grateful that the suggestions she'd made actually worked. Deciding to ignore Luna for the time being, Daphne reached out to phoenix-Harry and ran her fingers softly through his feathers, "Shh. It's okay, Harry. You've given Astoria more than enough. She's alive. I'm fine. James is fine. Shh."
Phoenix-Harry had managed to fill up three vials before he was able to figure out how to stop the flow of his tears.
"Thank you, Harry," Luna said cheerfully. "One vial was more than enough, because Astoria should only need one or two swallows. But now we can store the extra tears for potions experimentation and emergencies without you having to turn into an emotional wreck, isn't that great?"
Harry changed back into his human form and gave Luna a narrow-eyed look.
Luna ignored the look Harry was giving her and poured out a measure of the tears for Astoria. Handing it over, Luna said, "Here you go, Astoria. Bottoms up."
Astoria looked at the tube in her hand dubiously, trying desperately to not get her hopes up, but ultimately figured she didn't have anything to lose. She closed her eyes as she lifted the tube to her mouth and quickly swallowed the tears. If she had been asked to describe the flavor, she would have been unable to. The only word that came close was otherworldly.
The changes that took over Astoria were almost immediate. Her once pale skin began to take on a healthy glow, hair that had previously been gradually going dull now looked full and shiny. The bags that had been under her eyes more often than not were now gone. The thinness of her face was now filled out to a more healthy-looking roundness.
Taking a breath, Astoria opened her eyes to see everyone staring at her in awe. She laughed in amazement and said, "It feels like it's worked. I feel better than I've ever felt before in my life!"
Daphne squealed in excitement and dashed around the table to throw her arms around Astoria, squeezing her into a tight hug in joy. Astoria returned the hug with tears of joy running down her face.
When Daphne pulled away, Harry handed both girls a tissue to dry their tears with, after which he found his arms full of both girls and the waterworks started up all over again.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Daphne exclaimed between kisses.
"You should be thanking Luna," Harry replied. "It was her idea, after all."
"Perhaps," piped in Luna, "but you were the only one that could turn into a phoenix, so I do believe the thanks should be to you."
After the excitement calmed down, Hermione said to Harry, "I believe you said you had something to share?"
Harry cleared his throat and said, "Yeah, I'm not sure how else to say it, so I'm just going to say it." After taking a breath, Harry gently took Daphne's hand into his own and said with a smile, "Daphne and I are having another baby."
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Really, Potter, did you never learn contraceptive charms?" Blaise asked dryly.
"Good on you, mate," said Neville.
Luna just gave a knowing smile.
"I'm so happy for you," Astoria said softly.
"Well, it might not be quite the ideal time, seeing as we're still looking into our bonding options," Harry stated, while looking down at Daphne with a loving smile, "but we're quite excited and looking forward to giving James a little brother or sister."
Daphne returned Harry's smile and leaned up to give him another kiss.
A/N-1: The chapter is not as long as I would have liked to make it, but I have had to stop and start on it a lot since starting it and kept losing the momentum I had every time I had to deal with interruptions. I realize there are a lot of folks probably waiting for an update, so I decided to go ahead and post it now, rather than wait and see if anything else pops in my head to add over the rest of the weekend.
A/N-2: As to whether or not Astoria should keep her child or not is not something I've made a decision on, so I've decided to take the time to create a poll to allow readers to vote what their choice would be. That seems to be the easiest way for me to make the decision on it. So if anyone is interested in the fate of Astoria's pregnancy, then please participate in the poll and vote. I'll go with whatever the majority decision is, whether or not the outcome agrees with my personal beliefs or not.
A/N-3: Lastly - and I know this chapter has had a lot of author's notes already - feel free to point out any grammatical errors I've made, if you notice any. Though I have proofed this chapter more than I have the last few of the more recent chapters.