Nott: Father and Son

'There,' she told him. She was on her knees in front of him, adjusting his robes. Finally satisfied, she leaned forwards and kissed his forehead. 'What a handsome boy you are, Theodore. You look so very smart in your new school uniform. We have only one more thing to do before we leave for King's Cross Station; we must go and speak to your father.'

'Won't Pater be busy, Mama?' asked Theodore anxiously.

'Your father is always busy. He is a very important man, and always has a great deal to do, but I'm sure that he will find a few moments to see you before you go off to Hogwarts. He wants to speak to you, Theodore.' Theodore's mother stood, carefully adjusted her robes, and held out her hand. He obediently reached up and took it. His mother's long slender fingers encircled and enclosed his hand squeezing it reassuringly. 'Come along.'

'Yes, Mama,' said Theodore.

Araminta Nott led her son down two flights of stairs, along several dark wood panelled corridors, up a flight of stairs, and down another corridor. They marched in sober silence through the labyrinthine passageways of Pennerley Hall, portraits watching them all the way. To Theodore's surprise, instead of asking him where he thought he was going, many of the portraits were muttering words of encouragement.

'Hogwarts, eh?'

'Takes me back, lad, I started there in 1693.'

When they reached the eight-panelled door to the study, his mother knocked. To Theodore's amazement, she didn't wait, but simply opened the door and walked straight in. Theodore prepared himself for an angry outburst. It didn't come.

'I have brought our son to see you, Thornton,' said Araminta. She stopped abruptly fifteen feet away from the desk.

Thornton Nott looked up from his papers and turned to the house elf standing at his elbow. 'Leave us, Skribell,' he ordered. 'We'll finish this later.'

'Yes Master,' murmured Skribell softly. 'Good morning, Mistress, good morning, young Master Theodore.'

'Hello, Skribell,' said Theodore, smiling. The house elf beamed, bowed low, and vanished.

Thornton Nott looked at his wife and son, frowned, and stared pointedly at their joined hands. Araminta released Theodore's hand, shaking herself free of her eleven-year-old son. Theodore stared at his father. He knew better than to try to maintain his grip on his mother. Instead, he clasped his hands behind his back.

'You mollycoddle the boy, Araminta,' said Thornton Nott severely. He stared down his nose at his now very nervous son. 'Come forward, boy, let me see you,' he ordered.

With a worried look up at his mother, Theodore did as he was told. He stepped nervously towards the leather topped mahogany desk, behind which his father sat in a throne-like chair.

'This is man's business, Araminta. It is Nott business,' Thornton told his wife. She nodded and strode silently from the room.

For the first time in his life, Theodore was alone with his father. His eyes flickered around the room, taking in bookshelves, cabinets, chests and wand boxes. With a scrape of wood on wood, Theodore's father pushed back his chair and stood. To Theodore's amazement, he walked around his desk and strode purposefully towards his son. Theodore braced himself for the encounter.

'So, you're off to Hogwarts for your first year!' said Thornton Nott. 'And it is about time, too. It seems like you've been under my feet forever.'

'Sorry Pater,' said Theodore.

'Sorry!' said his father severely. 'Why are you sorry?

'I don't know, Pater, I thought…'

'No, Theodore, you didn't think at all. You spoke without thinking. Never do it again. Never speak without thinking, and never apologise, not even to me. If you make a mistake, put it right. You are a Nott, so you must act like one. You will meet all sorts at Hogwarts, and some of them will believe that they are in some way superior to you. They are not. You will respect your teachers and you will respect your fellow pupils, provided that they respect you. If they do not, you will write and tell me. You will not, however, mix with riffraff or worse, Mudbloods.' Thornton Nott spoke precisely and firmly, staring into Theodore's eyes. 'You are about to leave Pennerley Hall, Theodore, and you will not be back until Christmas. Tell me who you are.'

'I am Theodore Cai of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Nott, Pater. We are the progeny of the seneschal, the offspring of the foster brother, we hold the key to the treasures of the once and future king, of Arthur, friend of Merlin. We are noble, and we are ancient. But no one other than a male of the line of Nott can know this. Not spouse, nor lover, not friend, nor enemy. This is our secret, and no one must know it. To the world, I am Theodore Nott of Pennerley Hall.'

'Good boy,' said his father. 'I see that you have remembered your lessons. Skribell has taught you well. At school you will come under the influence of others. You have lessons to learn, but you must always remember who you are.'

'Yes, Pater.'

'Which house do you hope for?' Thornton asked.

'Ravenclaw, Pater, like you,' said Theodore. He chose his words carefully, as this was a topic on which he had not been briefed by Skribell. 'Although I think that Mama's house, Slytherin, would also be acceptable.'

'My father, and his father before him, were in Slytherin House, Theodore,' said Thornton. To Theodore's surprise he sounded almost wistful. 'Most Notts are placed in Slytherin. I was the aberration; I was the first Nott in Ravenclaw for almost two centuries. My father told me that I was too clever by half. I believe that he was correct.'

Theodore remained silent and deferential, realising that his father had fallen into a contemplative mood.

'You can rest assured that Slytherin certainly would not disappoint me. At least they keep out the riff-raff, unlike Ravenclaw and the others. A Slytherin's blood is pure, Theodore, unlike that of the other houses.'

'I will give you some advice, Theodore. It is the advice my father gave me when I first went to Hogwarts, over forty years ago. You are a Nott, you are beholden to…' Thornton Nott paused, his face failing to mask his regret. '…you are beholden to no one. Choose both your friends and your enemies wisely. It is best to have neither, because friendship makes a fool of the wisest men and conflict can lead to calamity.'

'Make neither friends, nor enemies,' said Theodore slowly. 'Pater, what do I do if someone wants to be my friend?'

'It is likely that they will want no such thing, Theodore,' Thornton Nott said. 'It is likely that they will merely wish to ingratiate themselves, to get something for themselves.'

'I understand,' said Theodore, although he didn't, not really. He had, however, been advised to simply agree with his father.

'Remember this, Theodore; whatever nobility and breeding anyone else claims, you are a Nott, your blood is the purest of pure, and the House of Nott is strong.' Thornton Nott hesitated. Theodore held his breath, realising that his father was about to reveal something really important. 'I will admit that we are not well respected at the moment, but we remain strong.'

'Not respected, Pater, why not?' Theodore asked.

'Because, my son, I made a mistake; I disregarded my father's advice. It was a long time ago, before you were born. I placed my trust in a man; I became beholden to him. He was a man who promised me more wealth and more power, and I believed in him. Trust is a dangerous thing, and although you would not want this man as an enemy, there was, I discovered, very little benefit in having him as a friend. Do you know who it is that I am talking about?'

Theodore nodded, and tried to swallow a lump the size of an orange which had appeared in his throat. 'You are talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Pater,' Theodore spoke firmly, and managed to keep the stammer from his voice. The rumours, it seemed, were true, despite what his mother had assured him.

'Well done, Theodore. The Dark Lord, that's what we called him. I tell you this in confidence, Theodore. You must say nothing to anyone. Not even to your mother. I will be very angry if you tell anyone.'

'What happened, father?' Theodore asked.

'You know the story. The Dark Lord tried to destroy a baby, a child who was mere months younger than you, a boy named Harry Potter. Instead, somehow, the baby destroyed the man. Like all of my former "friends", I have always denied my allegiance to the Dark Lord. However, as you grow, you must learn, Theodore. It will take years for me to rebuild the respect we deserve. You are my son and heir; you are the future of the Notts. You must know all of our secrets, the light, the dark, and even the ones your mother does not know. Now, leave me, I have much to do. Your mother awaits you outside. She will take you to by Floo to our London apartment. From there it is mere minutes from King's Cross. I will not wish you luck, because a Nott makes his own luck. Fare well, Theodore. Make me proud.'

'Yes, Pater. Goodbye, Pater.'

The cemetery was on the outskirts of the village of Pennerley, and the Nott family crypt lurked in its most shadowy corner. Beyond the crypt was the deep V of a steeply sided valley, a gash in the hills known locally as Black Dingle. The hills, the Stiperstones, glowered balefully down at the black-clad witches and wizards. Black rocks protruded from the purple heather hillside like rotting teeth, and black clouds hung threateningly above their rubble strewn summits.

In the cemetery, Theodore steeled himself. He had been strong during the memorial service, and he would continue to be strong. He would shed no tears. His father would disapprove of tears.

Theodore watched in silence as distant relatives he barely knew carried his mother's coffin into the crypt. Within moments the pall-bearers, now unburdened, strode silently from the crypt. As the last wizard left the mausoleum its carved stone iron door crashed closed with a clap like the thunder which heralded the end of the world. The noise was echoed by a bright flash on the horizon and a distant rumble above the hills. The storm clouds had gathered and another storm was rapidly approaching.

Theodore walked silently alongside his father as they led the procession downhill, winding through the fields towards Pennerley Hall. En route they passed several Muggle dwellings, but the Muggles did not see them, the ancient enchantments of Pennerley Hall made certain of that.

Two hours later, their guests had left. Theodore and his father stood in the great hall watching the house elves returning the medieval hall to its usual echoing emptiness.

'This really is most inconvenient,' murmured Thornton. 'Really, it could not have happened at a worse time.'

'Inconvenient!' exclaimed Theodore, finally failing to stop the tears from flowing. 'Mother is dead! Your wife is dead, Pater. It's more than simply inconvenient, it's … it's …' he sobbed, unable to say more.

'She was very useful,' said Thornton. 'She bore you, Theodore; she gave me an heir and she looked after you. She was quiet, obedient and decorative. Araminta was everything a wife should be…' Thornton Nott stared solemnly into his son's tear-stained face. 'I will miss her,' he admitted. For a moment Theodore thought that his father would show some emotion but, after one slow blink, Thornton Nott's face hardened.

'Dry those tears, Theodore!' Thornton ordered harshly. 'We have no time for mourning, no time for pity. We stand at a turning point. When you have composed yourself, attend me in my study. We have much to do.'

Turning on his heels, Thornton strode up the ancient wooden staircase, leaving his sobbing son alone.

'Master,' a voice said hesitantly. Theodore looked down into the large dark eyes of Skampa, his mother's house elf. She was holding a handkerchief.

'Thank you, Skampa,' said Theodore. He took the handkerchief, wiped his eyes, and blew his nose. 'How did it happen?'

'Master said that the Mistress…' the house elf began.

'I don't want to know what "Master said" happened, I want to know what actually happened,' ordered Theodore.

'It began in March, young Master,' Skampa's voice was barely more than a whisper.

'I noticed, when I came home at Easter,' said Theodore. It was true, he realised. He'd sensed something; an invisible wall seemed to stand between his parents. His parents were never demonstrative, so he'd been uncertain what it was he had been noticing.

'Not long before Easter my Mistress saw something, a mark on your father's arm. She said nothing to him, of course, but she was suspicious. Afterwards, he kept the arm covered. When he refused to attend The Third Task with her, she was angry. He said that he had an appointment he could not break, not under any circumstances. She demanded answers, but he would not tell her where he was going. She went alone, as you know.'

Theodore nodded encouragement, and Skampa continued her story.

'After the tragedy at the third task, the death of the Diggory boy, she arrived home. Your father, however, did not return for five days. When, finally, he did return, they argued. She told him that he had lied to her. She said that he had told her, he had promised her, that the rumours were untrue, and that the accusations against him were false. But the even then, five days later, the Mark was still there, dark and burning on his arm, and it proved otherwise. It proved that your father was… that he followed…' Skampa's dark eyes were glistening, and she was shaking with the effort of speaking. Theodore took pity on her and did not force her to say the word.

'I know what my father is, Skampa,' said Theodore. 'I have known since before I went to Hogwarts.' Realisation struck, all those years ago, his father had taken him completely into his confidence, and he had not realised. 'No one, not even mother, knew this, and you must never, ever reveal this to anyone else,' Theodore ordered.

'Of course not, Master,' said Skampa. 'The Mistress was angry. She was crying and confused and uncertain. She did what she always did when she wanted to think.'

'She went flying,' said Theodore. 'Despite the storm, despite the thunder, the lightning, and the rain, she went out on her broom.'

'Yes.' Skampa nodded.

'Then Pater told me the truth, didn't he?' The pieces finally fell into place for Theodore. 'Not all of it, of course, he never tells me everything. He simply said that her broom was damaged by a lightning strike, and the fall killed her. I didn't believe him, because I could not think of anything which would make her take to the skies in a storm. Now I can. Now, I understand. Thank you, Skampa. Say nothing of this conversation to anyone, not even my father.'

Theodore strode up the stairs from the great hall and along to the study. Briskly knocking on the door, he entered before his nerve failed.

'I now understand why you insisted that I remain at Hogwarts until term finally ended, Pater,' Theodore told his father. 'I know why you did not want me to come home immediately after Mama died. I acquired some useful information in those last few days. At the leaving feast Professor Dumbledore told us that the Minister was wrong, that he was hiding the truth from everyone. The Headmaster said that …The Dark Lord… is back, and that he killed Cedric Diggory. When he told us I did not know what to believe. It seemed impossible, but the Headmaster is an honest man. It is true, is it not?'

Thornton Nott nodded. 'Albus Dumbledore is correct, he usually is. The Ministry is denying it, of course. Fudge, however, refuses to believe the evidence. We are fortunate that the Minister is incompetent. He thinks that if he says something is untrue often enough, it will become untrue. Unfortunately, I know it to be true. I spent five painful days assuring the Dark Lord of my unwavering support.'

'Your unwavering support?' asked Theodore. He was rewarded by a rare smile from his father.

'Lucius Malfoy has promised the Dark Lord everything,' said Thornton. 'He was vociferous in his praise, abject in his repentance, and as self-serving as always.'

'Draco Malfoy was dropping a few hints to that effect on the Hogwarts Express,' said Theodore. 'Draco has been implying that he knows what's really going on, and that the Malfoys will soon be pre-eminent, sitting at the right hand of the most powerful wizard in the world.'

'It seems that Draco Malfoy is a blustering, boastful fool, just like his father,' Thornton Nott said. 'What actually happened during the Triwizard Tournament, Theodore? Your mother asked you at Easter, but she said that you were not making much sense. She said that you were fixated with Malfoy, or, more accurately, with the girl Malfoy took to the Yule Ball, Piers Parkinson's daughter. The Parkinson girl's blood may be pure, but her father is riff-raff, a common criminal.'

'Her mother is a Smith,' said Theodore. 'But that does not matter, not now. What are we going to do, father?'

'I have already returned to the fold, I have begged forgiveness and, once again, I have become a loyal Death Eater. I could do nothing else, except die at the Dark Lord's hand, and I am not yet ready to die. I have much to teach you. It is imperative that I teach you Occlumency, Theodore. You must learn to hide your thoughts, and you must do it quickly. We will begin your lessons later this evening, and unless you learn very quickly I will find out everything about this Parkinson girl. But first, you are going to tell me about Potter. Tell me everything you know about the boy.'

'I do not know him well, father. He is a competent student, but no more than that. He hates Professor Snape, and the feeling is mutual. He is extremely curious, but so far I have avoided his attention. I can tell you little more. He is always surrounded by his fellow Gryffindors, particularly the Mudblood girl, Granger, and the Weasley boy. Potter does not mix with Slytherins, not under any circumstances. Draco has made sure of that,' said Theodore. He hesitated, and added a final comment. 'However, there was a rumour I heard on the train home. People were saying that the …Dark Lord… tried to kill Potter again, and failed, again.'

'That rumour is true, Theodore. Potter certainly bested him in the cemetery,' said Thornton. 'The Dark Lord claimed that his defeat was a fluke, a coincidence, that it something to do with the wand core and with his recent return to full life. Nevertheless…'

'Nevertheless, the Dark Lord has tried to kill Potter twice, and failed twice,' said Theodore.

'You are beginning to think like a true Nott, Theodore. The Dark Lord did indeed fail. Nevertheless, the Dark Lord has forbidden us to kill Potter. It is, apparently, something he alone must do. And so I must wait, and watch the cards being played. I have placed my bet. My fate is inextricably linked to that of the Dark Lord; it depends upon who holds the winning hand. If the Dark Lord is victorious, I win, and therefore we win. If, however, Potter wins, then I lose. My fate is out of my hands, Theodore, yours, however…'

'I cannot back Potter,' said Theodore. 'If I do, and he loses, then I lose, and you lose your heir, so the House of Nott loses. However, if I follow you and the Dark Lord loses, then the line of Nott dies with both of us. My choice is simple, I cannot choose. I can neither support nor oppose.'

'It will require balance, precision, and careful steps, Theodore. You must walk the thin line between both sides,' said Thornton Nott.

Theodore Nott arrived at the Portkey Office at exactly nine o'clock in the morning, just as the main door was being opened. He crossed the lobby, nodded at the receptionist, strode up to the door marked "Portkey Authorisation" and entered. The clerk at the authorisation desk looked up and smiled politely.

'I could set my watch by you, Mr Nott,' he said. 'I said to my wife last night, "Second Thursday of the month, tomorrow, Jessie," I said, "Mr Theodore Nott will walk into my little office at exactly nine o'clock," and here you are.'

'I do my best, Mr Hewitson,' said Theodore politely. 'My father may have been unwise in his choice of friends, but he brought me up to appreciate punctuality, and good manners.'

'Yes, well, most youngsters these days don't seem to set any store by punctuality, or tradition, or anything,' Hewitson grumbled. 'All these modern ideas floating around the Ministry, the Muggleborns in here, a lot of them are even wearing Muggle clothes, it's…'

'Times change, Mr Hewitson,' said Theodore. 'But I hope that you appreciate that some of us respect tradition and routine.' Theodore stepped up to the desk. 'However, today, even I may surprise you, in a very small way.' He smiled, and handed two scrolls to the clerk, who looked at him in amazement.

'Two visits?' Hewitson asked.

'Two visitors,' Theodore corrected. He unrolled the second scroll and pointed to the name on it. 'My fiancée,' he explained. 'I have persuaded her to visit her father, while I visit mine. They are estranged, as you know. Perhaps it's a little old-fashioned of me, but, no matter who he is and what he has done, I would like to get the blessing of my prospective father-in-law.'

'Not old-fashioned,' snorted Hewitson as he carefully checked the prison visitor forms. 'Right and proper, Mr Nott, that's what it is. Right and proper, just like these forms! I know that I can always rely on you to have the paperwork correct, Mr Nott.'

'I know how busy you are, Mr Hewitson. I would hate to create more work for you,' said Theodore. He waited patiently while the Portkey applications were authorised, stamped, and sealed.

'Will a shared Portkey be acceptable, Mr Nott?'

'Of course,' said Theodore.

'Good. As you know, your Portkey will be available for collection from young Tinkler in the Collection Office at any time after ten o'clock tomorrow morning. The Portkey will be a timed departure leaving at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Now, I'll need your signature here, and here.'

Hewitson indicated the relevant sections of the forms. Theodore complied with the clerk's request, handed the form back, and waited for the countersignature and the final "approved" stamp.

'Thank you, Mr Hewitson. I will be back tomorrow to collect the Portkey, and I will see you again next month, I'm sure.'

'Goodbye, Mr Nott,' said Hewitson.

At three o'clock the following afternoon Theodore and his fiancée arrived on a tiny wind-swept spike of black rock. The magically levelled platform on which they stood was no more than six feet in diameter. The wind whipped wildly at their robes, threatening to blow them into the sea. Releasing the silver key which had served as their Portkey into her fiancé's hand, Pansy squealed and grabbed his arm for support. Her gesture was welcome, but it was also futile as she was both taller and heavier than he was.

About fifty feet ahead of them stood the infamous island prison. The tall tower of Azkaban stood atop black kelp-covered rocks streaked with the guano of sea birds. The air was filled with the noise of gulls, while puffins zoomed and dived like erratic bullets, skimming above the waves before colliding with the water.

The spike, the entrance point, was a lonely outcrop of rock. It was a thin needle separated from the main island by a narrow rope bridge which swayed in the wind. Theodore guided Pansy across to the bridge and pointed to the sign "Leave wand here or do not cross." He pointedly placed his wand in the cylindrical silver receptacle attached to the pillar from which the bridge was suspended. Pansy, her thick black hair whipping about her face in the gale, looked at her wand, and at the cylinder.

'The bridge will tip you into the sea if you try to cross it while carrying a wand,' Theodore reminded her, shouting to be heard over the birds and the wind.

'Are you sure?' she asked.

'That's what the goblins say, and I've no desire to discover whether or not they are lying,' he said. 'I'll go first, if you want me to. I've done this before, many times.'

'Is it true that the goblins guard the place for nothing, that they don't charge the Ministry?' she asked.

'I don't know,' he told her. 'But that's what the rumours say.'

Pansy reluctantly placed her wand in the receptacle and looked nervously at the bridge. She indicated that Theodore should go first. He nodded, and offered Pansy a hand, but she imperiously dismissed his offer. She was worried. She would have to face her father alone, and he had always bullied her. Theodore had schooled and primed Pansy as best he could, and he knew that, provided she kept her nerve, she could win the day.

Theodore strolled nonchalantly across the bridge. He was used to the sway and bounce, but was momentarily worried by an unexpected movement. Looking back, he realised that Pansy had stepped heavily onto the bridge behind him. He gave her a smile of encouragement and continued to cross.

The bridge ended in a sheer cliff face, the gaunt granite block of Azkaban towering above. When he reached the other side, he waited at the iron door which was set into the cliff below the prison. Moments later, Pansy, white-faced, but determinedly unemotional, joined him. He inserted the silver key into the door, opened it, and stepped into the dimly lit chamber beyond. As they entered the small room, they were instantly deluged with water, and Pansy squealed.

Theodore dispassionately appraised his fiancée, who had now been washed clean of enchantments. He had warned her about the enchantment wash, but he'd known that she had not believed him. He was unsurprised to discover that her skin was less smooth, and her features less even than the ones he was used to seeing. He'd always suspected that she'd been lying when she'd told him that her face was unaltered by magic. Nevertheless, he noted appreciatively, it was obvious from the way the wet robes were clinging to her curves that she was not magically altering her figure.

A warming wind filled the room and they were rapidly dried.

'Of all the outrageous…' Pansy began.

'Passes,' a goblin voice demanded. A small hatch, no bigger than a letter box, opened in one wall. Theodore passed his authorised visitor parchment through the hatch, and indicated that Pansy should do the same. Her mouth, which was more thin-lipped than he remembered, almost vanished in its attempts to show disapproval and her black eyebrows, which were bushier than he remembered, formed a black V above her pug nose. She, too, handed over her pass.

'Names!' the voice ordered.

'Theodore Cai Nott,' he said.

'Pansy Alannah Parkinson,' his fiancée said, looking quizzically at him.

'It's a family name,' he explained.

'Visiting which prisoners?'

'Thornton Cai Nott,' said Theodore.

'Piers Alan Parkinson,' said Pansy.

'Correct. Enter, visitor Nott, enter, visitor Parkinson,' said the unseen goblin.

A door appeared in the wall, directly opposite the one through which they had entered. It swung open, revealing a narrow corridor, lit only buy one flickering torch. Beyond the flickering torch lay darkness. Theodore took Pansy's hand and led her into the dingy tunnel. The torch flickered as they passed it, and abruptly went out. Pansy's whimper was instantly stilled, because at the very moment it went out, a second torch flickered into life ahead.

The constantly moving light followed them as, with darkness both ahead and behind, they walked for almost a quarter of a mile until they finally reached another door. A hatch opened.

'Names,' another goblin demanded.

'Theodore Cai Nott,' he said again.

'Pansy Alannah Parkinson,' said Pansy petulantly.

The door opened, revealing a long rectangular room with six doors on either side. The room was hewn from the rock the walls and floor were polished black stone.

'Visitor for Piers Alan Parkinson, room two. Visitor for Thornton Cai Nott, room ten,' a goblin voice said.

'Good luck, Pansy,' said Theodore. He pointed Pansy towards the door marked "II" and strode across to the door marked "X". The door slammed shut behind him, and a door on the opposite wall opened.

'Good afternoon, Pater,' said Theodore. 'I hope that you are well.'

'As well as can be expected, Theodore,' said Thornton Nott. 'Thank you for your letters, and for renewing my subscription to The Daily Prophet. You've been very busy since your last visit. I don't know where to begin. You seem to be giving away some of our oldest businesses.'

'Only the ones which the Auror Office are suspicious of, Pater,' said Theodore. 'And I'm sure that you are reading the business pages, you know who now owns those businesses.'

'I do. You've sold them to J X Parkinson and Sons, an interesting choice. Old Jefferson Xavier is long dead and his last surviving son is, like me, enjoying the hospitality of the goblins. And that brings me to the surprising, to me at least, announcement of your engagement to the Parkinson girl.'

'In the absence of her father, Pansy has been attempting to run the family businesses, at least until her brother, Alan Beresford Parkinson, comes of age in six years time. She somehow got into a little trouble with her father's property business, several tenants began to cause problems and the profits fell. As a gesture of my love, I transferred our security business into her ownership, and suggested that she appoint its head, Magersfontein Grimley, to manage the tenants.'

'Good old Grim,' Thornton said. 'The Aurors never pinned anything on him, then? I'm glad. He and I were at school together you know.'

'Yes, he still speaks highly of you, and he's even talking about visiting you, now that "th' Minstry's got ridda them bleedin' Dementors".' said Theodore. 'Three people accused him of being a Snatcher. One vanished, one died, and the other seemed to forget all about making the accusation. Mr Grimley was, for some reason, grateful to me for his escape. He seems to believe that I was somehow responsible for it. However, given his record I could not allow Mr Grimley to work for us.'

'Understandable, but even so, Theodore,' said Thornton, shaking his head. 'Why the Parkinson girl? I thought that she was a passing fantasy of your teenage years.'

'She was, father. This is business, not love. You know the businesses Pansy's father was in, Pater,' said Theodore. 'Magical Law Enforcement was watching him constantly, but even so he made a profit from some very questionable enterprises. Pansy believes that she can control Parkinson's businesses.'

'She can't,' said Thornton with certainty.

'I know, but Mr Grimley can. I am free of an employee with a criminal record, and she believes that she is in control of her father's businesses.'

'Can you trust her?'

'I can trust Mr Grimley, Pater. You know I can. I don't need to trust her. I'm under no illusions. My fiancée is vain and greedy, and she wants to inherit ahead of her brother. I give her gifts, mostly of Mama's jewellery, and I flatter her constantly. It is tiresome, but necessary. I brought her with me. I have persuaded her that she should confront her father, that she demand to take over. He cannot run his businesses from inside Azkaban, and she is of age. She is ten years older than her brother, and she is determined.'

'He won't allow it,' said Thornton.

'I know,' said Theodore. 'He will shout and swear and bully her, and she will fly into my arms and demand that I do something. We have six years before in which to achieve her goal, and by then we will be married. Who knows what will happen after that?'

There was a hammering on the door.

'Theodore, darling,' Pansy sobbed.

He stood and opened the door. Pansy collapsed into his arms.

'My dear girl,' said Thornton Nott, showing a degree of concern and compassion Theodore could not remember seeing before. 'Whatever is the matter? How can we help? Dry those tears, please. I'd like to see the remarkable beauty my son has been boasting about.'