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...
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: I originally started this story for the Potters Affairs Challenge (2008-4), but stopped when I realized I was not going to make the deadline. Flash forward several years later and I was thinking of dabbling in SIYE again when I found the scraps of this story in an old folder. Its plot is blatantly taken from a bad 80's movie, but it was fun to write again. There will be three chapters total. Many thanks to santafe for beta reading.
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.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Author's Notes: Thank you to those who have checked out the story so far. Hopefully, this one keeps you interested. Only one more chapter after this one.
Arthur sipped the last of his tea as he pondered his current situation. He had approximately twelve minutes until he had to leave for work, and he wondered if he would be better off letting Molly unload what was bothering her now... or later.
It was quite interesting, really, how he knew she was upset. To a casual observer, his wife probably appeared as any typical witch would, casually cleaning up the wholesome breakfast she had prepared for the family she loved so much. But Arthur had been watching Molly Prewett for over thirty years. Her mannerisms were like a dance to him, and it was obvious when it was not being performed correctly. A slight heaviness in her footsteps. A moment’s indecision in choosing what she wanted to tackle next. A little extra force in her wand movements. He suppressed a frown as he began to speak.
“Molly? What’s on your mind, love?”
His wife smiled as she turned to face him. “Just supper,” she lied. “Do you have a preference on what I should make?”
Arthur checked the timer in his head. Ten minutes. She was so transparent sometimes. “All right then. We’ll talk when I get back. I just thought it would be better for you if you didn’t stew over it all day.”
“Stew. What a wonderful idea. A nice beef stew would definitely hit the spot tonight.”
Arthur ignored her forced cheeriness and gently placed his cup on its saucer as he stood from the table. “See you this evening,” he said as he placed a kiss on her head.
Just as he was about to leave the kitchen Molly said to his back, “A car, Arthur? Isn’t it a bit much?”
This time he looked at his watch. Less than nine minutes. “I thought we’d settled this,” he said as he turned to face his wife. “Harry just needs to get some of this out of his system. I know we can get by without one, but if this is what he wants to do for his family to move on, then we let him.”
“But what will people think?”
“Frankly, I don’t think Harry cares. And if he doesn’t, I won’t raise a fuss either.”
Molly exhaled loudly as she finish cleaning the table. “You’re right, I suppose... I just–”
“You know what he really wants to give us, don’t you?”
Molly jerked her head up. “What–oh, what is that foolish child going to buy now? What did he say to you?”
Arthur set his briefcase on the floor and closed the distance to his wife. He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. “He wants to give us Fred back. But he can’t.”
Molly immersed herself in her husband’s arms and stifled a sob against his shoulder. He stroked her back gently and set his chin on top of her head as he wondered when his heart would not feel so heavy…
Eventually, she broke away from him and raised on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Let me know if you’ll be late. I’ll be sure to keep the stew hot.”
Arthur returned the kiss and nodded as he made his way to the fireplace. He peeked at his watch as he grabbed a pinch of Floo Powder.
He was late.
“Harry... I can’t accept this.”
Harry blinked in confusion at the tall redhead in front of him.
“Why not? I got one for each of us–even Charlie.”
“Well… I… That is, I–”
“I think what Percy is trying to say,” interrupted Ginny as she placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “is that he doesn’t he feel he deserves one.”
The prodigal Weasley looked at his sister with a look akin to gratefulness in his eyes, and then returned his attention to her boyfriend.
Harry scowled. “Rubbish. The past is just that… the past. This is all about moving forward–together, as a family is supposed to. And with all the help you’ve given me in getting this charity started, you deserve to feel like you belong.”
Percy appeared torn between Harry’s kind words and his conscience. Internally, his mind was racing to form something else to say.
Unfortunately, Harry took his silence as acquiescence. “Good. Now that that’s settled, I need to talk to Reg about the letter he drafted for the Wizengamot.”
And with that, he took Ginny’s hand and began making his way to Reginald Cattermole’s desk, giving Percy a smile as they passed by him. Ginny looked back at her brother with an apologetic look on her face as they turned a corner and out of sight.
Percy looked down at his hand and stared. And then he stared some more. Mud brown. Blinding orange. Dark green. Deep scarlet. It was quite possibly the ugliest shirt he had ever seen. Harry had made several questionable purchases over the past couple of weeks, but these staff uniforms were really something else.
He sighed as he turned and entered his office. He fervently hoped it wouldn’t fit. The last thing he needed was to distract the goblins during his meeting with them later that day.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her boyfriend sitting by the pond, leaning against his favorite tree. She had known immediately that something was amiss when she entered the kitchen and discovered that Ron had risen before her. And then she learned from Mrs. Weasley that he was nowhere within the Burrow and had eaten his breakfast hours before. To say that this was unusual would have been an understatement.
“Ron?” She tried to keep the worry out of her voice, but she heard a slight tremor in her query. She hoped he hadn’t heard it.
He looked at her over his shoulder and smiled, but did not speak. She sat down beside him and lay her head on his shoulder, wondering what had occupied his gaze before she had arrived.
“You sound like Harry–and I didn’t ask.”
“You were going to.”
She didn’t deny his claim and merely wrapped her arms around his waist in response. If there was one activity in which Hermione Granger excelled, it was learning. And for this situation she had learned that sometimes silence was better than asking questions, an impulse that required some effort to suppress. She was aided by the fact that she had not slept well and did not have the energy to pry at the moment. Ron broke the silence a few minutes later, much to her relief.
“How did you sleep?”
“Poorly…” she responded, “What about you? I have to confess I was surprised to find that you were up and about before me.”
Ron exhaled slowly as he gathered his thoughts. “You’ve noticed, haven’t you?”
Hermione paused and then nodded. Harry’s recent spending habits. It had all seemed quite harmless at first. A new apron for Mrs. Weasley… a new hat for Mr. Weasley… some Floo powder for the Burrow. But then it slowly began to escalate… a new broom for Ron… a new sign for her parents’ re-opened dentistry… new shutters for Shell Cottage… And more recently… well, she still could not believe that he had convinced Arthur and Molly to accept a new automobile. What had started as simple generosity was starting to take on a somewhat distasteful air.
“What do you think?” she said hesitantly.
Ron started to speak, but then shook his head. “You first. There’s a reason I haven’t said anything until now.”
Hermione looked at him, but he continued before she could say anything. “It’d be like fourth year all over again. ‘Why does Ron have to be so jealous of Harry?’”
“That’s unfair. So much has changed since then. You’ve changed since then. I mean, you’re not are you?”
“Jealous? Of course, I am–but not like before. This is different. I’m worried too. Something’s off, and I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Always the tone of surprise,” she countered. Ron smiled at the phrase that had become a running joke between them. But he turned serious again when she said, “Something is going on. The question is: what are we going to do about it?”
Ron shook his head slowly as he replied, “I’m not sure there’s anything we can do about it. I mean, it’s his money isn’t it? And it’s not like he’s just throwing it away. Think about what he’s done with the new charity.” Hermione nodded as he continued, “I’d be a right tosser if I said anything against it.”
“I see what you mean. It’s just that…”
“Go on…” Ron said when she did not continue right away.
“Even how he runs the foundation seems ‘off,’ as you put it. He’s renting the office space, like he’s not expecting it to last. Even the furnishings within the office are rented.”
“I’m a little more worried about the staff he’s hired.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s helping those who fled the country to re-establish themselves.”
“That’s not the problem. Does he really need so many people? The last time I was there people were fighting over the opportunity to fill out forms because they were all so bored. There were quills and ink everywhere.”
“Surely it wasn’t that bad.”
“It was worse.”
“They were forms that Percy made.”
Hermione smacked him lightly and said, “I’m sure it’s temporary. It’s only a matter of time before many of them reclaim their old posts in the Ministry.”
“But that brings up another set of problems, doesn’t it? Two weeks from now he may have no one there and the foundation could fall apart just as it’s barely begun!”
“Maybe we should just talk to Harry about this.”
Ron shook his head. “I told you I’m not ready to–”
“Not his spending, the foundation. Maybe we can get a better sense of where he’s going with all this and why he seems so ready to open his money pouch these days.”
Ron pondered the suggestion and then nodded his head in agreement. “I just don’t want to come off as…”
“I know,” she said as she gave him a squeeze. “If it helps, I don’t see you that way.”
Ron turned and kissed her forehead. “It helps.”
Bill frowned as he stared into his wife’s mirror. He shook his head, wondering what exactly Harry had been thinking. But, there was nothing for it… this was quite possibly the ugliest shirt he had ever seen.
Bill turned and looked at what was supposed to be his breakfast adorning the floor of their bedroom. His stomach grumbled as he stared forlornly at his bacon, tomatoes, eggs and toast, and wondered if any of it was salvageable. Eventually, he looked up and noted his wife’s horrified expression.
“Take eet off! Take eet off this instant!”
Bill smirked and slowly began peeling off the offending garment, but Fleur ignored his laughable attempt at seduction. “That’s ees not what I meant, and you know eet. No husband of mine will be seen wearing zat… zat… thing in public!”
Bill contemplated his wife as he pulled the shirt back down over his torso. “Everyone else will be wearing one.”
“And eef everyone else jumped into a patch of Devil’s Snare would you do eet too?”
Bill barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “What I meant is that everyone at the foundation wears one of these shirts. It’s like a uniform. I thought it would help me get into the spirit of things since I’m going down there today to help out a bit.”
“And ees eet working? Are you feeling more charitable?”
Bill looked back into the mirror. “Actually, it makes me feel… nauseous.”
Fleur giggled as she stepped over the lost breakfast and behind her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist. She smiled at his reflection and said, “Eet ees good to know that you have acquired at least some of my fashion sense.”
Bill placed his hands on top of his wife’s hands and turned to give her a kiss on the cheek. “If you say so.”
“I too think this foundation ees a good idea… and I want to support ‘arry… but…”
The eldest Weasley sibling took pity on his wife and did not wait for her to finish her sentence out loud. “I’ll wear my dragon-hide jacket over it. And, I’ll take it off as soon as I get home.”
Fleur sighed. “I guess zat will have to do.”
As Hermione and Ron walked through the front door of the Lily Foundation, they were immediately struck by the unusual level of noise from the foundation’s staff. There wasn’t any. The two heroes looked at each other, sharing the same thought: perhaps Ron’s prediction had come to pass earlier than they expected. Although the war had ended nearly three months ago, the young couple drew their wands as they slowly explored the office, looking for clues to its current state of abandonment. However, all they found were short stacks of parchment and mostly full inkwells on the scattered desks.
“Percy has his own office?” Hermione said aloud as they approached a door on the far side of the room.
“Apparently,” Ron said as he turned the knob. “It’s locked.”
“Are you a wizard or not?”
Ron pulled out his wand and pointed it at the door. “Alohomora!”
Hermione tried the knob again, but the door did not open.
“That’s odd. I know I did the spell correctly.”
“Of course you did… they must have used something special on it. I wonder what they’re hiding…” Hermione was still staring at the door when Ron decided they were better off exploring the rest of the office.
Just as they about to turn and go home, they heard a noise from one of the back offices whose door was also locked. Unlike the other offices, there was no sign to indicate who used it. They drew their wands and cautiously made their way through the rows of desks until they were standing outside the office from which the sound had come.
As they got closer to the unmarked office the sounds were soon distinguishable as that of two voices that would occasionally break out into fits of giggling. Hermione was about to open the door when Ron grabbed her wrist.
“What if it’s Harry and Ginny?” he whispered.
“So? What if it is?” she whispered back.
“I don’t want to go in there if they’re… you know.”
“First of all, why do you even think that this is Harry’s office? There’s no sign, unlike the others,” said Hermione as she gestured with her arm at the rest of the floor.
“Yeah, but his name isn’t on any of those either,” countered Ron. “So, this office has to be his, right?”
Hermione hesitated. While she was not used to Ron being logical, she could not find any fault in his thinking either. Harry was in charge, so it made sense that he would have an office somewhere.
“All right, say it is Harry’s office, why would you assume that they’re–”
Hermione was interrupted by more giggling, obviously from a female voice, and more… flirty than before. It was followed by more sounds, which was either two people taking humming lessons or two people snogging.
Ron soon felt himself being led out of the building by his red-faced girlfriend. “What about–”
“We’ll find a better time to chat with Harry. Just… not now.” Ron exhaled in relief and followed her home.
Ten minutes later Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott left the building. Neville’s shirt was inside out.
The wizard looked down his nose at his companion. It was difficult to hide his discomfort at dealing with these creatures, but he accomplished it nonetheless. He had a reputation to uphold, after all.
“I don’t have all day,” he began. “What have you brought me?”
Jollnar reached into the inner pocket of his coat and retrieved a folded piece of parchment. He paused before placing it in the wizard’s outstretched hand. “My fee?”
The wizard withdrew his hand, barely concealing his ire. “Of course,” he replied with an obviously false smile. “It must have slipped my mind.” He reached into his cloak causing the goblin to shrink back in fear. When the hand returned to view holding a small purse the goblin relaxed.
The exchange was completed and Jollnar hurried down a side alley, avoiding the main thoroughfare. The wizard looked around until he was sure that no one was paying him any attention, and then he strode down Diagon Alley, eager to get home and read the information he had just acquired.
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Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Author's Notes: Thank you readers for sticking around until the end.
Percy looked up from his desk as three wizards and a witch entered his office. He suppressed a sigh and looked back down at the work he had been trying to complete. Two forms. He had only needed to complete two forms and he could have avoided this… for a little while, at least. His eyes darted sideways to peek at his watch. He wondered if his stomach would have still grumbled if he had not looked.
“Do you have what we asked for?” one of the wizards asked.
Percy frowned without looking up. “Yes.” He took a quiet breath before continuing, “The goblins were helpful… with a little prodding.”
The group waited for Percy to elaborate. When he remained silent another wizard, an older one, stepped forward and spoke, “And?”
Percy gathered his thoughts before sitting up to look them in the eyes. “This feels wrong. It is a complete invasion of Harry’s privacy.”
“Since when are you so protective of him?” asked the witch off to his right.
Percy replied without hesitation, “Since he began treating me like family.”
“Are you saying that we don’t?”
Percy looked at George tiredly, “Of course you do. It’s just… different with him.”
“Because he didn’t have to?” George offered.
“You didn’t have to either,” Percy shot back.
“Of course we did,” Molly said, as she joined the conversation.
Percy was about to reply when his father spoke up. “Percy, please don’t think that we are insensitive to your position. We understand what we’re asking of you… but there’s a lot at stake here. We’re quite worried for him.”
At this, Percy exhaled audibly and slumped back in his chair. “I know… I suppose you have a right to be…” At his last words he pushed a sheaf of papers forward towards his family.
Arthur picked up the papers and read through them quickly. He shook his head in confusion as he passed them to his wife. Bill and George looked over her shoulders as she tried to make sense of the information.
“Twenty-five thousand Galleons!” Bill cried.
“That can’t be right,” said Molly as she skimmed down to the bottom of the page, “no one can spend that much in–Merlin, what is that boy thinking?” She looked up and noticed that her husband was facing the wall in his traditional thinking pose, with his head bent down and the fingers of his right hand pinching the bridge of his nose. “Arthur?”
He straightened up, but spoke to a painting of Hogwarts rather than face his family. “I keep telling myself I’m not his father… that I have no right to impose any demands on him–especially now that he’s of age.”
“You’re right, Dad,” said Bill. “But twenty-five thousand galleons? What if the press gets wind of this?”
“I don’t know,” said George, “it’s only been a couple months since he put down old Voldy. People might say he’s got a right to celebrate however he likes… I would.”
“It’s not just Harry that I’m worried about,” said Bill. “What about Ginny?”
“What about her?” replied his mother.
“We all know what the press is like. It’s not hard to imagine what kind of filth they’ll write with him throwing Galleons about and her on his arm.”
Molly gasped. “They wouldn’t–”
“Of course they would,” interrupted Arthur. “Perhaps I should have paid heed to your instincts, Molly. I just didn’t want to hinder his recovery.”
His wife shook her head as she responded, “Don’t blame yourself, dear. We were all doing the best we could.”
“We still are,” said George. “But what are we supposed to do?”
Percy frowned as he chose his words carefully. “It comes down to this… do you trust Harry?”
The Weasleys looked at each other anxiously, each lost in their own thoughts.
Harry twirled his wand in his right hand. Eleven inches, holly, phoenix feather core. It had seen him through some of his most difficult times... But, if he were to be honest with himself, his current situation did not quite qualify as such. His thoughts swirled repeatedly around three words, “two more days,” and his best friends. He wondered where they were at this moment. Shopping in Diagon Alley? Helping to put Hogwarts back to rights? Maybe they were sitting by the pond behind the Burrow, learning to enjoy each other’s company as a couple…
The familiar sound of the Floo signalled the arrival of a visitor and he rose from the kitchen table to see who it was, although he already knew. When he reached the sitting room he smiled as he felt himself melt into his girlfriend’s welcoming embrace.
Ginny pulled away a bit and said, “I thought you’d be happier with the challenge being almost over, but it seems like you’re actually getting more tense as the last day comes.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I’m just concerned.”
“I’ve just been thinking about Ron and Hermione,” Harry admitted.
Ginny nodded. “You’re not used to keeping things from them.”
“Oh, I’ve had my share of secrets… but this is just the type of thing I would have shared with them in the past.”
“If it’s any comfort, I don’t think they’ll blame you when they hear the truth–especially when they hear about Sirius’ role in everything.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think there’s anything we can do until Friday. I’ll just have to suffer their suspicion until then. It’s not like I haven’t before.”
Ginny tilted her head and said, “When?”
Harry took her hand and led her to the nearest couch. “When we were still looking for horcruxes. They often whispered to each other, probably wondering if I was leading them on a wild goose chase.”
“Was it really that bad?” Ginny asked as she pulled her legs up on top of his and placed her head on his shoulder.
“I think the worst part was wondering if they were right–that I really had no idea what I was doing and that I was going to get us all killed.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Yes, well I didn’t know it was all to going to work out, did I?”
“Does it really matter now?”
“I suppose not.” Harry let his head fall back as he stroked her hair. Ginny had not realized how tense she was until she felt herself relax and had to stop herself from purring. She had almost nodded off when she raised her head suddenly.
“What if we bring them to the final meeting?”
“What?” said Harry as he sat up a bit.
“Well, we can’t disclose the terms of the will to them, but if we at least invite them to come to Gringotts with us, maybe that will ease some of the tension. We can give them the sense that we’re not hiding anything from them on purpose, or at least that we have a plan to bring them in on everything.”
Harry tilted his head slightly as he pondered her suggestion. “I think that will work… but what if they say ‘No?’”
“Do you honestly think Hermione would refuse the chance to get to the bottom of things?”
Harry chuckled quietly as he turned away from his astute girlfriend. “KREACHER!”
The elderly house-elf popped into the room and bowed low. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“Would you mind preparing lunch for four? We’re going to have guests.”
“Of course, master. Kreacher will take care of everything.”
After the little elf had popped away Harry stood from the couch, gently placing his girlfriend’s legs on the spot where he had been sitting. He grabbed a handful of Floo Powder as he knelt in front of the fireplace. Throwing the powder into the fireplace, he said, “The Burrow!”
Ron ignored Hermione’s glare as he changed positions for the third time in the past ten minutes. They were sitting in a conference room at the bank awaiting the executor of the Black estate (Garkfool, or something or other). When Harry and Ginny had asked them to come to Diagon Alley and then go out for supper, his mind had only registered the invitation for food… at first. It did not take him long to realize that they were finally going to answers. It had taken his girlfriend no time at all. But then Ron was told they had to go to Gringotts...
Shortly after the final battle at Hogwarts, Kingsley had met with the head of the bank to explain the necessity of the break-in that had resulted in the loss of their dragon. The next day, Ron, Hermione and Harry had each received owl messages stating that they had been forgiven for breaking into Gringotts, and that the bank would not be pursuing any legal action against them, though there was an obvious implied threat against any further misbehaviour. When they arrived at the bank this afternoon, it seemed to Ron that several of the goblins still bore a grudge. The stares they had drawn as they entered the building were as intimidating as he predicted they would be. The walls seemed to frown in disapproval as they were led to the conference room. Even the gigantic hourglass in the corner seemed to be looking down at him.
Harry and Ginny had been little help in the matter. The two lovebirds were so oblivious to the outside world that he began to wonder why he and Hermione had been invited. His girlfriend was obviously not thinking the same thing; he could practically see the wheels and cogs turning in her mind. She had just opened her mouth to say something when an unusually large goblin walked into the conference room, rearranged two chairs, and sat down.
A light bulb lit up in Ron’s head. Gripfork. The executor’s name was Gripfork.
“Mr. Potter, may I ask why Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger are present?” the goblin asked pointedly.
Ron began to sweat anxiously. The large goblin had not even bothered to say hello.
“In…,” Harry began as he looked at his watch, “... two minutes, the need for secrecy will be pointless.” Ron was not sure if he was making a statement or asking a question. He looked at Hermione and the look of surprise on her face lit another light bulb in his mind. Secret? What secret?
The goblin grumbled quietly to himself before replying. “Very well. But, I must say that this is quite irregular. I was hoping that after the events of this past May our dealings with you would be of a more… routine nature.”
“Blame Sirius, not me,” Harry replied, trying to look innocent. Ron snorted. If Sirius had something to do with all this, perhaps he could relax after all.
Gripfork was about to reply when Draco Malfoy entered the conference room, escorted by a younger goblin. Draco was smiling, his usual sneer absent from his face. That could only mean one thing: there was trouble brewing.
“Ron!” Hermione whispered loudly. He let go of her hand quickly, not realizing that he had been squeezing it so hard.
“May I ask why Mr. Malfoy has joined us?” Harry looked calm, but Ron noticed that one of his best friend’s hands had drifted below the table, presumably to grab his wand.
“Mr. Malfoy will be the legal heir to the Black estate if you fail the conditions of Mr. Black’s last will and testament. It seemed appropriate that he be present as we conclude our business today.”
Finally, Hermione could not hold it in any longer. “What conditions? Are they supposed to be secret? Is that why you two have been acting so unusual lately?”
Ron suppressed his laughter as his eyes found Gripfork. His girlfriend was so predictable sometimes. He noticed that Harry and Ginny also had smiles on their faces. It was at this point that Malfoy’s trademark sneer returned.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Potter fulfilled the easiest requirement of the will.”
Harry made eye contact with his old rival and said, “On the contrary, keeping such a big secret from my friends was rather difficult. Sharing is the nature of real friendship. But I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that… would you, Draco.”
Malfoy’s hand twitched, but Harry’s did not. Ron was a bit awed at his best friend’s restraint. Even Hermione’s hand had jerked a bit at Draco’s anxiousness. Either Harry was not worried about out-drawing Draco, or he knew something that others did not. From the corner of his eye, Ron could see that Gripfork was frowning at them.
“Perhaps we should get started,” he said as he straightened some papers. The goblin’s lips had barely opened to speak.
Harry turned to the goblin with a hint of a smile at his lips. Ron could just imagine how much Hermione’s curiosity was eating at her right now; he could barely contain his own eagerness to finally get some answers.
“Now then,” Gripfork continued, “we have established that Mr. Potter told no one of the secret conditions of Mr. Black’s last will and testament, thereby fulfilling the first requirement. Are there any objections?”
Everyone turned to Draco, who simply rolled his eyes and made a haughty gesture with his hand.
Satisfied, Gripfork said, “And now, the main requirement: Mr. Potter was to spend 25,000 Galleons in thirty days in such a manner as to have no possessions at the end of the test period which he did not already own.”
“Huh?” Ron said.
“Harry had to spend a lot of money and have nothing to show for it at the end,” explained Hermione, ignoring Gripfork’s impatient glare.
“But why?” continued the tall redhead.
Gripfork’s face contorted, as he felt caught between his irritation at Ron’s lack of tact and disbelief at Ron’s obliviousness. Ginny wanted to giggle, but held it in.
“Sirius could have willed me the gold in his vault, but that wasn’t really his style,” said Harry, “He needed to be–”
“... a Marauder,” finished Ron. He grinned, reassuring Harry that all was forgiven.
“Are you through, Weasley?” Draco said to Ron, his trademark sneer returning. “I’d like to collect my inheritance now.”
“And what makes you so sure I failed to spend that gold?” asked Harry.
“Oh, I’m sure you spent the required amount…” began Draco.
Ginny felt a stone drop in her stomach. She knew what was coming next, but for the life of her she did not know why it was happening. She thought they had been so careful...
“... however, I happen to have three items on my list which indicate your failure to meet the second condition set forth by that–” The look on Harry’s face stopped Malfoy short and he visibly collected himself before continuing. “... that is, the terms set forth by Mr. Black.”
“Indeed, Mr. Malfoy,” said Gripfork as he sat up and leaned forward. He did not like surprises, especially big ones. “Jollnar, why was I not notified of this prior to now?”
The younger goblin that had led Draco into the room looked at his supervisor with a look akin to that of a deer with a bright light shining in its face. He then made his fatal mistake. He looked to Draco for help. For his part, the Slytherin stayed focused on Gripfork while he maintained his cool fašade, leaving his accomplice to fend for himself. Gripfork did not miss the exchange.
“Jollnar, please fetch Pilgrodd and then retire to my office... I will deal with you later.”
The younger goblin visibly swallowed and then stood up from the table. He hung his head as he exited the conference room. Ron could not help but notice that Harry was still on edge. He hoped that his friend had a miracle up his sleeve. Upon Pilgrodd’s arrival, Malfoy’s eyes were gleaming as he began his attack.
“Where shall we begin…”
Ron snapped, “Just get on with it.”
Draco glared at the Gryffindor, but complied. “The Lily Foundation–”
“... is a perfectly legitimate charitable organization,” interrupted Hermione.
“Yes, yes…” said Draco as he took back control of the conversation. He reached into his cloak and pulled out a familiar shirt. “However, the uniforms he purchased for its employees...”
“... belong to the foundation,” said Harry. Ron guessed he was trying to sound bored, but his stiff posture said otherwise.
“And since you own the foundation, you own these… garments,” countered Draco.
Hermione and Ron stiffened. How could Harry make such a fundamental mistake? They were quite confused when they noticed that Ginny was smiling.
“Actually, Harry doesn’t own the foundation.” Everyone turned to the young redhead. “No one does. He helps direct its efforts, but he doesn’t own it. We made sure of that, didn’t we, sir?”
Ron felt himself relax when he saw the bored look on the Griphook’s face.
“Indeed, Miss Weasley. And, for the record, I must commend you on your design, Mr. Potter. I approached the president of the bank with the idea of having employees wear similar tunics on Fridays.”
Everyone else at the table stared at the Gripfork, not daring to say a word. Finally, Hermione said, “How nice…” as everyone else nodded.
“I thought you made them ugly on purpose so people would want to give them back?” whispered Ginny from the corner of her mouth.
“Not now!” Harry whispered back.
“If the other items on your list are of a similar nature, Mr. Malfoy, perhaps we can resolve them quickly,” said Griphook, steering the meeting back on track.
At this, Draco leaned back. Ron was not sure if he was savoring what he was about to say next or was daydreaming about how to spend the Black fortune.
“It has come to my attention that Potter has been carrying upon his person a rather expensive ring. He started this practice immediately after 500 Galleons were removed from his account.”
Draco’s statement upended the atmosphere of the room. Hermione and Ron looked at their best friend in shock. Surely they would have told him if he was planning to… Griphook was livid. He did not care about the ring, but Malfoy’s knowledge of the details of the account was unacceptable! Ginny was trying her best to get her heart to slow down. For once it seemed that her hands were the clammy ones. It was then that she noticed how relaxed Harry’s grip on her hands was.
“I think we can settle this quickly,” Harry said calmly. “The 500 Galleons was a donation to the Ardere Dragon Reserve in Romania.”
“So you don’t have a ring in your pocket?” Draco said with a raised eyebrow.
“Actually, I’m carrying two,” said Harry, reaching into his pocket with his free hand. Ginny held her breath as he pulled out a jewelry box and opened it. Inside, she saw two gold rings, one with a garnet stone mounted on it and one with a bloodstone.
“They belonged to my parents,” explained Harry. “I found them in the Potter vault. I’ve been looking into getting them charmed.”
“And why do these rings needs to be charmed?” asked Ginny. She knew now was not the time, but she could not help but try to play on her boyfriend’s embarrassment a little.
“You’ll find out… eventually.” Harry closed the box and returned it to his pocket. Ginny was impressed that he looked so unruffled. When she turned away from him, she was greeted by a wide grin from Hermione and a rather maroon faced Ron.
With a loud sigh, Gripfork recaptured everyone’s focus. “Was there anything else on your list, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco’s eye was twitching. He quietly exhaled and composed himself. When he was ready, he revealed the final item on his list. “Two weeks ago, Potter purchased a rare… postage stamp. Apparently, Muggles enjoy collecting them. I suppose they’re like expensive Chocolate Frog cards or something.”
Hermione was about to ask Harry what he had bought, but he seemed eager to refute Draco’s claim. “Considering how much that stamp cost me, even you would have to admit that it’s nothing like collecting Chocolate Frog cards.”
“So you admit it? You bought this…” Draco looked down at the parchment he was holding and then continued, “... Penny Black?”
Hermione gasped. “That’s one of the most expensive stamps in the world! Harry, why would you buy such a–”
“Do you have the item I asked you to bring?” said Harry, trying to prevent his best friend from getting too worked up.
“That postcard you sent to my parents from Manchester? Yes, but was does that have to… Oh! You didn’t!” Hermione opened her handbag and retrieved the item in question. She briefly looked at the corner of the card before handing it over to Gripfork with a smile. The goblin copied her actions and turned to Draco.
“Mr. Potter has complied with the demands of the will.”
“I don’t understand,” replied the blond teen.
“This stamp,” began Gripfork as he pointed to the corner of the postcard, “only had value until it was actually used for its intended purpose of allowing a piece of post to travel through the Muggle postal system. Muggle postal workers imprint information on the stamps to prevent the items from being used more than once. As this stamp has been marked as such, it is no longer considered Mr. Potter’s property.”
It took a few moments for Malfoy to understand what had happened, but it was quite obvious when the knut dropped. His expression contorted from anger to frustration to disgust and back to anger. His mouth pressed into a tight line, and then he swiftly stood from the table and gave a curt nod to Gripfork before walking briskly out of the room.
“Good riddance,” said Ron. Gripfork gave him a look, but his enthusiasm would not be dimmed.
The goblin then turned to Harry and pushed a piece of parchment towards of him. “If you’ll just sign here, we will have the remainder of the inheritance transferred to your vault.”
Harry quickly signed, just in case Malfoy had anything else up his sleeve.
“Just out of curiosity, Harry,” said Hermione. “What is the rest of the inheritance?”
Harry put down the quill and pushed the parchment back to Gripfork. He paused a moment before replying in a soft voice. “One hundred million Galleons.”
When he looked at his friends he was not surprised to see their mouths open in shock. Ron broke out of it first and said, “What are you going to do with it all?”
Harry shrugged and said, “I don’t know. But, I wasn’t about to let Malfoy have it.” His friends nodded in agreement, but were still finding it difficult to say anything. A soft cough brought their attention back to Gripfork.
“I have another appointment in ten minutes.”
As the door to the bank closed behind them, Harry turned slightly to his best friends and said, “I’d like to say I’m sor–”
“It’s fine, Harry,” said Hermione.
“Well, yeah,” said Ron. “Sirius was just having a bit of fun, wasn’t he?”
Harry grinned. “Thanks. It was killing me not being able to let you in on it.”
“No problem. But why was Ginny allowed to know?”
“Last one to the Burrow has to de-gnome the garden!” cried Ginny. And in one swift movement she grabbed Harry’s hand and twisted on the spot, disappearing with a pop.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other in confusion.
“What was that all a–” began Hermione, but Ron disapparated before she could finish.
“Typical,” she said to herself. And with a slight twist, she too apparated to the Burrow.
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