A Sirius Challenge by sanidad
Summary: The war is over. Harry is looking forward to living in a magical world without Voldemort. Before he can, however, Gringotts calls him in for a meeting...
A Sirius Challenge by sanidad
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes:
Harry’s eyebrows rose slightly as the largest goblin he had ever seen waddled into the room. Like many goblins who worked at Gringotts, the goblin completely ignored his customers until he was ready to address them, taking several minutes to arrange two chairs to accommodate his unusual girth.
“That explains why we were shown into their largest conference room,” whispered Ginny.
He suppressed a chuckle, but squeezed her hand under the table in affection. He had been dreading this meeting for weeks, and only the threat of seeing the Black family fortune go to Narcissa and Draco Malfoy had brought him to Diagon Alley to finally settle Sirius’ finances. To say that he was thankful for Ginny’s presence would have been an understatement.
“I am Gripfork and I will be acting as the executor for Mr. Black’s last will and testament.”
Harry nodded when he realized that the goblin was waiting for some kind of response.
“Now then, Mr. Potter, I assume that Miss Weasley’s presence means that you are betrothed?”
Harry’s eyes widened, and he swallowed before he could reply coherently. “Betrothed?”
“Yes, it means you are arranged to be married.”
“I know what it means,” Harry snapped at the goblin as he knit his eyebrows. “I just don’t understand–”
“Simply put, according to Gringotts’ by-laws, she can not be privy to your personal financial affairs unless such an event is in your future together. If not, I will have to insist that she leave the room and wait in our lobby until our meeting is concluded.”
Ginny simply arched a single eyebrow, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Harry hoped she could not tell how clammy his hands had just become.
Not daring to look at her, he cleared his throat and said, “She can stay.” His sweaty hand received a squeeze, and his eyes flashed to the side at Ginny. She had already turned her attention back to Gripfork, but she was beaming, unabashedly beaming.
“Very well. Let’s get down to business.” The large goblin rang a small bell that Harry had not noticed earlier and six small (that is, normal-sized) goblins entered through a side door of the conference room carrying a large stone artifact.
“Is that… a pensieve?” Harry asked as the goblins struggled to place it gently onto the middle of the conference table.
“Indeed, Mr. Potter. Mr. Black chose the unconventional, but not uncommon, medium of a memory to declare his last will and testament. He did have a flair for the dramatic, as I recall.”
A weak smile formed on Harry’s lips, in agreement with Gripfork. It was still difficult to think of Sirius sometimes, but part of him was thankful for this unexpected opportunity to see him again.
“How does it work?” Ginny asked, shaking Harry out of his reverie.
Gripfork and Harry both started to speak, but a look from the goblin stopped Harry short.
“As I was saying… once I pour the memory into the Pensieve, you need only lean your faces into the bowl to view the memory. You will feel as if you are being transported into another place, where you will find a likeness of Mr. Black. You will not be able to interact with his image, and it will take approximately five to ten minutes for him to dictate the terms of his final wishes. At the end of the memory, you will find yourself back in this conference room where I will be available to answer any questions you may have.”
Harry raised his hand as if he were still in school.
“Yes, Mr. Potter?” The edge in Gripfork’s voice betrayed his annoyance while Ginny bit the corner of her lip to suppress a giggle.
“Whose memory will we be viewing?”
This time the goblin did not even try to display any sense of formality. He sighed loudly and said, “Mine, of course.” After which, he stood up to move closer to the Pensieve.
Harry and Ginny also stood up from their seats and moved closer to the stone basin, albeit on the other side of the conference table from Gripfork. Once they were in place, the goblin pulled out a dagger from inside his waistcoat. Its handle was richly jeweled with emeralds and sapphires, and Harry could not help but wonder how much it was worth. Gripfork proceeded to spit on the blade and the jewels began to glow in sequence. When they had finished, the goblin grabbed it by the handle and poked his temple. When he pulled the knife away, a single drop of blood trailed down the side of his face while a heavy trail of liquid smoke trailed from its tip. As he brought the knife closer to the Penseive, the memory seemed to hang from the blade like a bat in a cave.
After he had dropped the memory into the Penseive, Gripfork noted the look of wonder on Harry’s face and said, “Wandlore is not the only means of practicing magic, Mr. Potter.”
Harry could only nod his head and prepared to enter the memory. He felt Ginny tense when she leaned over the edge and saw the swirling cloud within. He squeezed her hand and tried to put on a reassuring smile. From the look of confusion on her face, he guessed that he had failed miserably.
Gripfork coughed and said, “I have another appointment in thirty minutes.”
Taking the hint, the two teenagers dove into the mist.
Harry found himself in a room that looked remarkably like the one he had just left, but whose colours were more muted. Next to him, Ginny was facing the other direction, standing perfectly still. When he turned to see what she was looking at, he understood why.
“Sirius...” The name fell from his lips in a whisper. He had not seen his godfather since using the Resurrection Stone on his fateful journey into the Forbidden Forest. He felt his hand start to reach out, but stopped himself. It was only a memory after all, nothing of substance. He had almost convinced himself of that when it started to speak.
“Well, Harry, if you’re seeing this, then luck was not on my side. It was probably too much to hope to survive two wars with Voldemort. I just hope it wasn’t Malfoy, or–God forbid–Snape who did me in. Whoever it was, I trust that they didn’t survive either.”
Harry heard Ginny growl, and he felt his spirits rise. Merlin, he loved that girl.
“From the look that Gripfork is giving me, I’m getting the feeling that I should get on with it… As you are no doubt aware, the Black family has a long tradition in the Wizarding world, and quite an estate to go with it. This is my way of ensuring it’s all put to some use. I suppose I could just say ‘It’s all yours’ and be done with it, but I thought we should take this opportunity to have some fun.”
The mention of the word “fun” brought a smile to Ginny’s face. In contrast, Harry’s face bore a look of apprehension.
“As of the time of this memory, the total value of the estate is in excess of one hundred million Galleons, and I suspect it will be even larger by the time you watch this. In order to inherit the Black family holdings, you will need to spend 25,000 Galleons in the next thirty days, and have nothing to show for it. That is, you can not have anything in your possession that you did not already own prior to seeing this memory. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Harry, and no, you can not just donate the whole sum to charity.”
Harry scowled, causing Ginny to giggle briefly.
“I’ll let you donate 1,000 Galleons, and not a Knut more to some worthy causes. Furthermore, I’ll let you spoil your friends with another 1,000 Galleons. Otherwise, you need to get in the spirit of this. It’s time some of this wealth did more than just collect dust in Gringotts. What that is, will of course be up to you.
“One other thing… You are not allowed to tell anyone about your challenge. This is as much to protect you as it is to make things fun. The last thing I want is for every Tom, Dick and Godric to elbow each other for your attention about their latest investment opportunity–although I suspect that will happen to some degree anyway.
“I will allow you, one–ONE–person, in whom you can confide as a sort of financial advisor. And, if I may be so bold, I think there’s a lovely red-headed witch who would love to fill that role, though she may protest otherwise.”
Ginny laughed as Sirius waggled his eyebrows, and Harry fought to suppress the flush he felt in his cheeks.
“I suppose that’s everything. If you have any questions, Gripfork and I worked out a few more details which he wrote down shortly before taking this memory. Good luck, Harry. Make me proud.”
On Sirius’ last word, Harry and Ginny felt themselves being whisked back to the conference room, where they found Griphook snoring lightly in his chairs. The couple looked at each other, but it was obvious that neither had a clue as to how to wake the sleeping goblin. Finally, Harry settled for coughing gently, hoping that Gripfork was a light sleeper.
“Ahem, yes, well…”
Harry and Ginny did not even try to hide their grins this time.
“Do you have any questions, Mr. Potter?”
“Yes, actually… when–how did Sirius come to Gringotts to do this? He was a wanted man up until… until he passed on.”
Gripfork noted the young wizard’s discomfort and felt a rare moment of pity. “He was a rather… resourceful man, in my estimation,” the goblin began. “And we goblins have our own means of knowing when our clients have or have not departed this life.”
Images of Sirius and Wormtail in their animagus forms flashed in Harry’s mind and he nodded. He spoke again just as Gripfork was about to. “Sirius said I couldn’t tell anyone about the challenge, but my friends are going to notice when I start splashing gold about.”
“Ah, yes… Mr. Black was somewhat sympathetic about that. I believe the phrase you are allowed to use is that you’ve been ‘given an advance on your inheritance.’ However, any mention of the thirty day deadline is strictly forbidden.”
Harry frowned a bit, but eventually acquiesced with short shrug of his shoulders.
“Was there anything else?”
Harry was about to say no, but stopped himself. “Yeah... in the memory, Sirius mentioned some notes?”
“Yes, he had a few suggestions to help you out, as well as some reminders on how not to spend the money such that you would fail his conditions at the end of the thirty days. I will have a copy sent to you by owl by the end of the day.”
Harry nodded. “That would be great. Thanks.”
Gripfork then rang his bell and two goblins entered the room with a wheeled cart. Atop the cart was an enormous hourglass filled with black sand. The wooden frame attached to the glass was at least as tall as Ginny and was inscribed with several runes and other unusual glyphs. If Harry had to guess, he would have ventured that the hourglass was several hundreds of years old.
“I hereby declare the challenge begun,” said Gripfork. At his words, the hourglass rose from the cart by unseen hands, turned itself over and resettled onto its initial spot. Satisfied that the black sand within had begun to pour into the empty chamber, Gripfork turned to the two teenagers.
Harry and Ginny stood dumbly for a moment, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Mr. Potter, I believe you have some spending to do?”
And with a final ring of his bell, Gripfork had them escorted out of the building.
Sitting at an outdoor table in front of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Ginny was savouring the last spoonful of her dessert (one scoop each of peach and strawberry ice cream with extra whipped cream on top) when she noticed Harry frowning. She sighed silently to herself. If she were to be completely honest with herself, his brooding could get a bit trying at times.
“Thinking of Walden Macnair?”
At the sound of her voice, Harry was shaken from his reverie and looked at her as if just noticing that she existed. “I’m sorry?”
“Well, you were frowning just now…”
Harry had enough sense to be embarrassed about it.
“... and I was just wondering what you could possibly be frowning about…”
“I mean… the war is over, you have a vault full of gold, friends and family who care about you and a ravishingly beautiful girlfriend who is completely in love with you. Why would you be frowning?”
“Well, when y–”
“So, you must be brooding about the last few Death Eaters that are still at large or some such… maybe you read about the recent capture of Walden Macnair in The Daily Prophet. Although, I’m not quite sure why you’d be brooding about that, seeing as one, he’s been caught and two, you didn’t have to be the one to do the capturing,” Ginny said as she ticked off each point on her fingers.
“All right, all right… I get the message. No more brooding…”
Ginny chuckled. “Oh, I think asking you to stop altogether would be a bit unrealistic. Besides, you can be cute when you’re doing the brooding hero thing.”
Harry flushed easily at her words.
“And even cuter when you’re blushing.”
Exasperated, Harry stood up and offered his hand to her. “I think we’re done here. Shall we?”
“Of course,” said Ginny as she accepted his hand. She was glad to see him lighten up, but she made a note to herself to ease up on the teasing for a bit, regardless of how cute he was when he blushed.
“What time were your parents meeting us at the Leaky?”
“Five o’clock. Why?”
“I thought I could stop by Flourish and Blotts, maybe pick up a few books for Hermione.”
Ginny looked at him with one raised eyebrow.
“Well, I have to start somewhere, don’t I?”
At this, Ginny let herself grin as wide as she felt. He was finally starting to accept what Sirius was trying to teach him. She would reward him for that later.
“Do you have any idea which books she’s–OOF!” Ginny felt herself almost yanked off her feet when Harry stopped short in front of a shop window. She was about to scold him when she saw what he was looking at. They were standing in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies with Harry’s eyes level with one of the most fantastic broomsticks she’d ever seen.
Ginny read the sign underneath the broomstick as Harry continued to ogle it. The Firebolt Maximus had a top speed that eclipsed the original one. The shaft was made of a familiar ebony and gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. The twigs on this particular model were made of hazel, but customers could order one with birch twigs, if that was their preference. The stirrups were again composed of goblin-made ironworks and were handsomely polished. A small golden plate on the side of the shaft displayed the registration number of the broom, number 7 of 100.
When she had finished, Ginny felt compelled to say something. “It’s gorgeous…”
“Yes… it is…”
“There’s just one catch…” Harry turned to her as she continued, “You can’t have anything a month from now that you didn’t already own. I think you’ll have to wait until after you complete the challenge to buy it.”
Harry’s face fell at her reminder, but then perked back up almost immediately. Ginny was about to ask him what he was thinking when he pulled her towards the shop entrance.
“Harry, didn’t you hear me? You can’t own it!”
He looked back over his shoulder with a mischievous gleam in his eyes. “I didn’t say I was buying it for me.”
Ginny’s heart leapt when she finally caught on to the meaning behind his words. He was definitely going to be rewarded when they got home.
Pilgrodd sighed as he locked his drawer and began to gather his belongings. It had been a most unpleasant day and he was eager to go home and recover.
If he were asked, he would honestly admit that Gripfork was a good supervisor. The large goblin was professional, competent, and conducted his duties with integrity. Occasionally, however, he could be a bit pompous, and today had been one of those days. His constant badgering of his staff to ensure the utmost confidentiality surrounding Harry Potter’s financial affairs was downright insulting. There wasn’t a single member of the estate staff who had been with Gringotts less than eighty years, with the exception of young Jollnar who had only been with them for twenty years. It made no sense for Gripfork to belittle them as he had today.
Pilgrodd sighed as he exited the building and tried his best to relax. His mind tried to come up with something else on which to focus and settled on food. Thoughts of Gringotts dissipated as he considered what to eat for supper that evening. Some jellied gree-worm sounded like a good idea. Hopefully, his wife would be amenable to the suggestion. He slowed as he neared the entrance to Knockturn Alley and pondered his next move.
Pilgrodd dreaded making this decision every day. He could pass through Knockturn Alley, which would shorten his journey home, but raise his blood pressure. He suspected that most decent denizens of the magical community felt unnerved about passing through there as he did. Continuing forward to the other end of Diagon Alley was a more pleasant stroll by any measure, but was notably slower. On the other hand, he was feeling rather hungry today…
He was about to turn into Knockturn Alley when he saw a hooded figure come out of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. Upon exiting the building, the figure turned to the short silhouette following him. Neither moved for several moments, and Pilgrodd wondered why they would pause in the middle of Knockturn Alley of all places to have a discussion.
The goblin caught himself just as he was about to take a step closer to the mysterious pair. What was he thinking? Their conversation was none of his business. Perhaps Gripfork’s over-enthusiastic reminders on proper decorum were not unfounded after all. Pilgrodd took one last look at the pair as he passed by the entrance to Knockturn Alley and thought to himself how much the smaller of the two shadows seemed to resemble young Jollnar.
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