Disclaimer: Harry Potter and everything related belongs to J. K. Rowling. And the places I mention, in the story do not belong to me.
Author's note: This story is set in the same era as Pride and Prejudice, that is 19th century in England. This chapter is beta-ed by Cassgrass!!! I am deeply curtsying in gratitude!!!
Warnings: Alternate Universe, NON-MAGIC. Harry is a female. You will find swear words but quite seldom. I will add further warnings as story progresses.
Chapter 1: Trouble in the Weasley Household
Harriet suddenly woke up in the middle of hot summer night. Feeling incredibly thirsty, she moved towards the jug of water placed on the nightstand. She sighed when she realized that it was empty. Pulling her nightgown tightly around her waist, she quietly walked out so as not to disturb another person sleeping in the room.
As she descended the creaky stairs, she heard hushed whispers coming from the master bedroom of the house. Not wanting to eavesdrop on her parents' conversation, she continued her journey. But muffled sobs coming from her Mother stopped Harriet on her tracks. Harriet frowned in concern as to what might be the cause for her Mother's distress.
Making a decision to listen, Harriet slowly crept close to the door that was slightly ajar with dull candlelight spilling out of the room. She felt guilty about listening in on them but she knew that her parents would never discuss whatever concerns were troubling them with the children, so as not to worry them.
"How did this happen, Arthur? How could Aunt Muriel betray us like this?" Molly sobbed.
"I knew she was angry with us but I never perceived that she was holding a grudge on us like this," Arthur murmured, equally distressed.
"She knew how much we were counting on that inheritance, still she left us nothing, Arthur, nothing at all," Molly moaned quietly. "I thought she loved Bill. I thought she would eventually forgive us."
"I suppose Aunt took Bill marrying Fleur as a personal insult," Arthur said sighing.
"Bill never showed any interest in Marie-Ann. You know that I wasn't pleased with Bill's choice in a spouse either. But the boy was in love," Molly sniffed.
"Inheritance or not, we would not have forced Bill to marry someone he didn't like," Arthur agreed. "And since Bill refused to marry her, Aunt probably thought her fortune would attract men to Marie. Otherwise Aunt knew the girl did not have any marriage proposals."
"Yes, but to give away the entire fortune to the girl... We would have found a nice young man for Marie-Ann ourselves. After all, she is our relative too. Besides, Bill and Marie-Ann would have never made a good couple. Bill is a dashing young man with an attractive future before him and she is just a dim witted girl who isn't even pretty," Molly said angrily.
"Molly!" Arthur said in disbelief.
"Oh, I am sorry, Arthur. After the way Marie treated us so callously this afternoon, the moment we learnt of Aunt's will, well let us say I no longer have feelings of affection for that girl," Molly sniffed again. "She ruined all of our lives just because Bill refused her hand in marriage."
"I had hoped that I would clear our debts with that inheritance but now Mr. Thicknesse gave me an ultimatum that if I didn't pay at least 25% of the money I owe him, he will take away our land and cattle," Arthur murmured in dismay.
"What are we going to do, Arthur? We have no money left," Molly moaned.
"At least all our children' education is complete," Arthur sighed.
"Not if Ronald wants to go to London and study higher. And we still have to get our two girls married," Molly said in disagreement.
"Ron hasn't informed me of any such plans. As for Harriet, she just turned 18 and Ginny is still a minor. I think their weddings could wait a couple of years," Arthur said quietly.
"Oh Arthur, you are so naïve. Unlike Marie-Ann, our daughters are beautiful and intelligent. The only reason no young man has requested us to court them yet is because they were minors. But now that Harry is of age, you'll see how many men will be asking for her hand in marriage. And we have to arrange for a dowry if a particularly good match comes along. Why, a few months ago Mrs. McMillan was hinting that she would be quite happy to have Harriet as her daughter-in-law," Molly gushed, momentarily forgetting her distress.
"Oh, Molly, I am sure you would be ecstatic to organize our daughters' wedding but don't you understand? If Mr. Thicknesse makes good on his threat it would become quite difficult to even feed our children with just my salary," Arthur said with shame in his tone.
"What are we going to do? We are good people so why are these things happening to us?" A moment's silence later, Molly continued, "can't we ask Bill for some money? After all, a large part of that debt was spent on his wedding," Molly asked hopefully.
"You know that Bill spent quite a lot of money recently to buy a house. I could not ask him for money especially now that Fleur is pregnant," Arthur answered with a sigh.
"They didn't have to buy one when they could have lived here and I could help Fleur with her pregnancy," she grumbled and then added, "If only Bill had accepted the dowry the Delacours were offering then we wouldn't have had to borrow money for the wedding."
"Molly, you know that I respect Bill's ideals and am quite proud of his decision in that matter," Arthur said quietly.
Nodding in resignation, Molly asked, "what about Charlie?"
"Working as an assistance pays him only enough for his livelihood," Arthur said. "And Percy is out of question," Arthur added firmly before Molly could say anything.
"Then what?" Molly sobbed.
"I'll see if any of my friends could loan us some money," Arthur said in a sigh.
"What are we going to tell the children about inheritance?" Molly asked worriedly.
"The truth. They will be angry but will eventually understand that nothing can be done about it," Arthur replied. "We should sleep now. You have to get up early."
Muffled sobs came from Molly again and Arthur comforted her by saying, "oh, Molly, like you said, we are good people and nothing bad will happen to us. You'll see we will come through this just fine." There was some shuffling heard then the candle was blown off leaving Harriet in complete darkness as she stood shock still on the stairs.
"Good morning, Mother," Harriet said as she entered the kitchen where Molly was making breakfast.
"Morning, dear," Molly responded with a strained smile. As Harriet gathered the breakfast in the tray she noticed the pale pallor and dark circles hidden underneath the powder in her Mother's face.
"Are you all right, Mother?" Harriet asked trying to be nonchalant.
"Yes." Harriet noticed that Molly's hand shook as she answered. "Why do you ask?"
"You look tired," Harriet shrugged but inside she was really concerned about her Mother's welfare.
"Breakfast!" Ron's yell coming from the dining room ended Harriet's inquisitive stare at her Mother. As Harriet rolled her eyes and carried the breakfast she heard Molly sigh in relief.
After breakfast, Arthur Weasley announced the fate of Aunt Muriel's fortune. All the children stared in shocked silence at their father. Ginny was first to recover.
"That bitch!" Ginny exclaimed outraged.
"Ginny!" Arthur said while, "Mind your language, young lady," came from Molly.
"What? You are worried about my language when she stole the money that should rightfully be ours from right under our noses?" Ginny asked angrily.
"Bu…but how can Aunt do that to us?" Ron spluttered in disbelief.
"Yes, after all we are much more closely related to Aunt Muriel than Marie-Ann," George said to his father.
Arthur shook his head saying, "the will clearly states that the fortune must go to Marie-Ann."
"But isn't a part of that money Uncle Alfred's?" Fred frowned.
"All of Uncle's possessions were lost in the famine 40 years ago. Every pence that remains was the fortune that came from Aunt Muriel's father," Arthur explained.
"So there is nothing for us left?" Fred asked.
"No," Arthur said quietly.
"I knew she was up to something living alone with Aunt in her house. It's always the quiet ones that are the most dangerous," Ginny muttered bitterly.
"And how do you know this?" Molly asked suspiciously.
Ginny just shrugged.
After a moment's silence Ginny spoke. "Father, it has nothing to do with Bill marrying Fleur, is it?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at him
Arthur averted his eyes and that was answer enough.
"I knew it. Fleur did bring nothing good for the family since they married. Now we've lost the fortune we were counting on," Ginny shrieked loudly.
"Ginny, you know that we would never force our children in a marriage that they don't approve of," Arthur said reasonably, "and Aunt Muriel did what she did because Bill refused to marry Marie-Ann, not because he married Fleur."
"You didn't want your brother to marry someone he didn't like, did you?" Molly asked gently.
The children remained silent.
"Harry, aren't you going to say something?" Ginny demanded. She looked the most distressed by the news than the others.
"What is there to say? Father clearly said that there is nothing we can do about it," Harriet said reasonably. "It would be better if we accepted the fact sooner and moved on."
At Harriet's words, Ginny burst out into sobs and fled to her room.
"How can you take it so lightly?" Ron asked angrily glaring at Harriet.
Before Harriet could open her mouth, Arthur answered calmly, "Harry is absolutely right. There is no use crying over spilt milk."
With that, Arthur left for work and Ron stomped out of the house in anger.
Harriet heard dejected mumbles, "We were counting on that money to open our shop," from the twins as they, too, left. Molly sighed and walked back to the kitchen. Harriet, all alone, looked sadly around the chairs that her siblings occupied just a minute ago.
Later that afternoon when Harriet walked into the room that Ginny and her shared, she found Ginny staring out of the window, the tears on her flushed cheeks twinkling brightly from the sunlight.
"I dreamt about buying that beautiful lavender gown since we saw it last week, displayed in the clothes shop, but now it seems that it will only remain a dream," a hiccoughing voice came from Ginny.
"Oh, Ginny!" Harriet sighed and quickly walked up to the other girl, gathering her in her arms. Ginny started crying in earnest in her embrace.
"Ginny, one day you'll own not just that lavender gown but several others, I promise," Harriet told her fervently.
"Do you really think so?" Ginny asked in slight disbelief.
"I don't think so, I know so," Harriet said firmly.
"I just hope that day comes before I become too old and fat to wear one," Ginny jested with a slight quirk on her mouth.
Harriet softly laughed.
Harriet sat under the tree at the bank of lake near Burrow. Since Arthur's announcement, the house that was once filled with joyous laughter, an indignant cry from the victims of twins' latest prank now was gloomy. Harriet knew that withdrawn expressions of the children only added to the pile of worries to her parents. Arthur and Molly did their best to lift their children's spirits.
Harriet could imagine what kind of effect on her siblings it will have if the truth about the family's financial status was revealed. For the hundredth time, Harriet wished she owned some fortune that could alleviate her parents' troubles.
"Harry!" Harriet turned her head around hearing the male voice.
"Blaise, when did you arrive?" Harriet asked with a smile as she watched him walk closer.
"A few minutes ago," Blaise announced smiling widely. "I came to give the wedding invitation to your family. Ron said you would be here."
"Oh, how are the arrangements coming along?" she asked curiously.
"I have no idea. Mother, Susan and her mother are responsible for everything. My only job is to send invitations to my friends and to be at the wedding on time," Zabini replied cheerfully.
"Lucky you," Harriet teased him lightly.
"I am becoming more and more glad everyday that I chose Susan for a wife," Zabini declared happily.
Noticing the strained smile on Harriet's face, Zabini asked settling beside her, "All right, what's wrong?"
"What? No, everything is fine," Harriet said, turning her gaze back to the lake.
"Harry, you know you are a very bad liar," Zabini pointed out. "Now tell me what's bothering you."
The incredible urge to talk to some outsider forced Harriet to open her mouth and blurt out her family's upcoming trouble.
"Blaise, you must promise never to reveal what I've just said to anybody else. None of my siblings know about it and they'll be heartbroken if they find out," Harriet urged him.
"I promise, Harry," Blaise said solemnly and Harriet sighed in relief.
"I wish I could help your family," Zabini replied thoughtfully.
"Blaise, I didn't tell you our problems so you could help us. I told you because I had to talk about them because they were eating me alive," Harriet insisted and then sighing added, "I wish I could do something for the Weasleys. They saved, then adopted and raised me as their own child. And it kills me to see them in despair."
Harriet and Zabini sat in silence for few minutes as they stared at the lake each lost in thought.
"I will try to find a solution for your problem but for now I must leave. I still have several invitations to distribute," Zabini said as he stood up and dusted his slacks.
"Thank you for listening," Harriet said gratefully.
"What are friends for? And Harry, don't worry too much. We will figure some way out," Zabini said before walking away.
UP NEXT: Alexandra's ultimatum
Look out for Draco's appearance!!!!