One: Upsetting the Applecart
In which we start the tale….
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty
‘Goblin Market' - Christina Rosetti
illustration from the 1893 London edition of "Goblin Market"
Hermione Weasley was
humming to herself as she finished clearing up the last of the day's
work, preparing to go home. Gary, Sallie and Bess had come home from
Hogwarts for the Christmas holidays the day before, and she was anxious
to get back to the house and finally have the chance to have a proper
talk with them. At the very least she wanted to get to the bottom of
why her oldest was behaving in a rather zombie-like fashion.
She did stop by Harry's
office before she left the Ministry, but he had already gone home himself,
and all she found in his office was a note on his desk that simply read
'GO HOME HERMIONE'. Hermione laughed and left a rather rude note in
response, then made her way out of the building, actually sighing as
she stepped off the bottom step of the entryway. She was secretly thrilled
at the prospect of two weeks off with the whole rowdy crew at home.
Hermione didn't go back the house immediately, however, as she needed
to stop by Diagon Alley for a few things first. Apparating
to the alleyway near the Leaky Cauldron, she quickly ran inside out
of the rain, so she could pass through to the shops.
Hermione turned to
find Roarke Lupin walking over to her, and gave a small laugh as she
"I know you call
me that as a joke, but please!"
"Oh, yes, ma'm," said Roarke, laughing
at her in return. "Last minute shopping?"
"Always. Same for you?"
"You know how
impossible it is to shop for Malcolm; he never says what he wants, just
says whatever you get is fine with him. Git."
Hermione got a glass
of Butterbeer and went to sit with Roarke for a while and chat,
as she had not seen her for quite a while.
"How is your brother?" asked Hermione quietly
after they had chatted about a few non-essentials for several minutes.
Malcolm and his girlfriend of seven years had split-up recently, Hermione
knew from speaking to a rather depressed Remus about it. Roarke gave
a small smile.
Roarke gave a rather
exasperated smile and shook her head, even as she assured Hermione that
young Mister Lupin was much as he always was,
thank you. "He was rather sad, but he’s much better than Dad would
have you believe. He's taking it much worse than Malcolm, actually.
We all liked Storry, but, well, some things
aren't meant to be now are they?"
Hermione shook her
head and smiled back. "No, I suppose not. Glad to hear Malcolm's
well, though. Your father does seem very upset over it. Well, as upset
as he can ever seem, that is. Almost as depressed
as when you, my dear, graduated this last summer and moved out!"
surely not as bad as that. At least he isn't apparating over to Malcolm's
flat every 20 minutes to make sure 'everything's alright'."
"Every 20 minutes?"
2 days, it all seems to run together. I love the lummox to death but
he's got to accept I'm 18. Mum seems to have no trouble with it."
Now Hermione laughed
and shook her head. "No, she's just better at keeping it in check,
trust me. Even after all of these years, we still haven't figured out
how to get Remus to stop doing something he's truly put his mind to,
such as being overly protective; even your highly resourceful and clever
"How's Gary?" asked Roarke, changing the
subject rather suddenly. Hermione gave a shrug.
"I'm not sure.
He seems upset about something, but I haven't had the chance to talk
"Ah. Well, I
might be able to help with that. I had dinner at the house last night;
we all were there to meet Annie when she came home yesterday. She and
I had a long talk about…things."
"Sister things; most of it is rather silly and giggly I'm afraid. But
she told me all about the Yule Ball."
"Did she have
a nice time?"
"Yes. She had
a very nice time with Gary."
Hermione almost dropped
her drink. "Gary? My Gary?"
Gary. That detention Gary and Griffin managed to squeeze in before the end
of term? That was for hexing
each other over breakfast. Griffin rather overreacted when Annie told
him she was going with Gary to the dance."
It also explains why Griffin barely said two words at the train
Roarke nodded and
smiled. "Griffin, I think, needs a wake up owl. Or a very good smack upside the head. Of course, I've been
saying that for years."
but looked at Roarke and waited for her to continue.
"I gather that
Griffin assumed Annie would go with
him, as she usually does for 'convenience', but never actually asked
her. Gary, it would seem, did, and she said
yes. Griffin exploded, as only our dear little Griffin can do."
Hermione shook her
head and smiled. "Well, I know something about people taking forever
to admit their feelings. Ron and I did not have an easy start of it,
Roarke raised her
eyebrows in surprise and Hermione had to smile at how much she looked
"Does Annie know
why Griffin was angry?" Hermione continued.
Griffin is, and always has been, her best
friend. Period. I truly think she has no idea
why he was so angry, she simply ranted about him 'making daft assumptions'.
She also pointed out that when word got out that Griffin was 'available' for the dance there
was a considerable uproar, and Griffin took full advantage of it before
he decided to take Raven Brocklehurst to the
Ball. Annie did, however, tell me that in a rather bitter tone of voice."
gorgeous and a Chaser on the Gryffindor team. Talk about fearless; she's practically dangerous
out there. Ron should put her on his prospects list."
it to him."
Hermione stood up
and smiled at Roarke. "Say hello to everyone for me, and let your
mother know we will be there spot on eleven on Christmas. We should
also have a little pow-wow with Liz about this, well, rift, with Griffin and Gary so it doesn't endanger us during the
As she turned to leave,
a Ministry Wizard stepped up to the table.
"Excuse me, ladies,
might I have a word?"
Hermione saw Roarke
get a rather steely look to her, but they both nodded, and Hermione
sat back down.
of you here last night, per chance?"
Hermione shook her
head, but Roarke nodded.
"I passed through
to use the fireplace to return home," she said in an icy voice.
The wizard looked at her.
"What time would
that be, Miss?"
Sorry I don't have the exact minutes for you," she continued
in the same cold voice. The wizard looked at her for a moment, then
"Well then, thank
you but you can be of no service to us. Good day." He moved on
to the next table and asked the same question of the wizards and witch
seated there. Hermione watched Roarke continue to give the man a bitter
glance as he moved off into the crowd.
Roarke turned and
looked at Hermione with a flat expression.
"We're not all
idiots at the Ministry, you know."
Roarke nodded and
managed a weak smile.
"I know that,
Hermione. Please give my love to Ron and the rest of them and I'll see
you on Christmas."
Hermione left to do
her shopping, returning to the Leaky Cauldron as it got dark to make
her way home. It was surprisingly quiet when she got there. Hermione
found the twins in the parlour diligently doing their homework in an
effort to get it done as soon as possible so they could enjoy the break,
and smiled to herself, deciding not to disturb
them just yet, other than to say hello. Making her way to the second
floor, she found Ron in the den working on a games schedule. This she
Ron looked up and
smiled at her, then pulled her down so she was sitting on the arm of
his chair and wrapped an arm around her, though he still kept at the
Well, all done at the Ministry?"
I am free, I think, for two weeks."
he said absently as he kissed her hand and continued to scribble.
"Do look up
at me, please, dear."
Ron glanced up with
a slight grin at his wife.
"Have you seen
"I saw a blur
that gave a muffled and rather unenthusiastic 'hi dad' as it dashed
up the staircase trailing bits behind it. As it looked suspiciously
like our son I let it pass."
Hermione had to smile
and shake her head. "You should, um, talk to him."
"Heart, you sound
rather uncharacteristically subdued. That frightens me somewhat."
"Ron, put down
the quill and the games schedule and look at me."
"Now that's more
"Shut up. Listen,
Gary needs to have a talk, with you, right
"Does he? Did
he say so or are you saying so?"
"I'm not in the
mood, Ron. He's done something rather rash and I think he could use
a little talk. Unfortunately, there's no real way to make it easy for
"Now I'm scared.
He and Griffin haven't hexed something illegal again,
"I doubt from
the sound of things he and Griffin will be hexing anything but each other
in the near future."
"Now that is
a bother. Out with it, Mione."
"He asked Annie
to the Yule Ball."
Ron gave his wife
a surprised look.
"She said yes."
"Oh, that's …interesting.
What possessed him to do…Good gods; Annie didn't manoeuvre an invitation
out of him did she? Not like her."
"No. Now please
go talk to him; it explains why he's looking like he is and why Griffin barely spoke yesterday. I met up with
Roarke this afternoon and she had a talk with Annie about it. Annie
was happy to go with Gary, and they had a nice time, but, well, what can I say? You and I know something
about what this is all about, don't we?"
Ron chuckled, even
as he stood up. "Yes, we do. Only we do have an unknown factor
here. We have all known for years how Griffin feels, no matter how silent he is,
but what about Annie? Are we making up her mind for her?"
my point. If Annie doesn't return Griffin's feelings isn't the issue; the fact
is that Griffin and Gary are having a fall-out because Griffin doesn't admit his feelings.
You need to explain to Gary that, well, this is complicated. Right?"
"Don't I know
it. But between you and me, I think Annie does feel
the same way."
"I haven't a
clue. According to Roarke and Katie, she's never given any indications
of it, so there you are. And if Gary fancies her, he has every right to
ask her out. He just needs to understand that it could get very…messy.
And I truly hope he hasn't fallen completely for Annie because I honestly
don't know what she might decide in the end. This is most likely…."
to force Griffin to get off the bench.
Yes, I see that and I feel for Griffin. Well, Fine. I'll go be a good dad.
By the way, a letter was dropped off for you from Sirius. I've put it
on your desk," he said, waving a hand absently in the direction
of her desk as he walked out. "Wish me luck."
Hermione walked slowly
over to her own desk and looked at the scroll lying there. She really
didn't feel like opening it, but Sirius never bothered her with anything
unless it was important. Or at least, unless he defined it as important,
which didn't always hold up to other people's interpretations. Deciding
to get it over with, she sat down and opened the scroll to find a short
letter and a cutting from the Daily Prophet.
Did you see this in
this morning's paper? It is carefully not mentioned in here that
this is the third time this has happened in two months. Are you lot
in the Legal Department working on this, or have they pushed it all
into the Department of Mysteries in the hope it won't come to light
again? I actually tried to get Percy Weasley to tell me something. Luckily
his aide was there to cast a quick revival spell. Ah well.
talk with you soon.
- The Boy told me what happened. He has only himself to blame, as far
as I'm concerned, but I was a good daddy and didn't say that. He's not
mad at Gary, as such, mostly at himself. Nice
to see his mother's good sense so strongly in him; I would have been
rather wretched. BTW; if you have no idea what I'm talking about, contact
me at home by the fire.
quietly, imagining Griffin logically and methodically explaining what had
happened as he was prone to do, then completely loosing his temper and
refusing to speak about it again. 16, such a great age that was….
She opened the cutting
and glanced at the headline. It was small, so it must have been in the
back pages somewhere, so she wouldn't have read it. Sirius was the only
person she knew who read every single inch of the paper everyday.
Attacked Outside of the Leaky Cauldron
An unidentified Muggle was attacked and robbed last night across the
street from the Leaky Cauldron. He identified his attackers to the Enforcement
Arm as 'insane midgets'. It is suspected that the man was in fact engaged
in trade with Gringotts in some capacity,
and that is why he was targeted. After his attack, the man was then
charmed by an unidentified wizard in public. The Enforcement Arm arrived
just as the unidentified wizard and his companions fled the scene in
an unregistered automobile. The Minister of Magic declined comment,
and simply stated that the man had had his memory modified, and was
returned to his home no worse for wear.
Hermione then looked
at Sirius' notes in the margin.
- Engaged in trade = 'unofficial'
- Why is Gringotts
using unregistered cars?
- Who is stupid enough to mess with gblns but oth. Gblns
- Contact Dexter - since when does he decline
comment? Is this related to that 'favour' he needs?
- Ask H. if she's seen this
Despite herself, Hermione
couldn't help but wonder why on earth Sirius cared about this. It sounded
to her like some disreputable wizards and a goblin or two probably got
drunk and just decided to have some fun with the Muggle. Lord knows
I deal with enough of those situations. But she looked again at
'Is this related to the 'favour' he needs' and thought about that. The
Minister of Magic only used Sirius for 'favours' he'd rather not talk
about in Cabinet sessions and the like. And if someone was getting in
the way of the Gringott's operations, that
certainly qualified as 'hear no evil, see no evil' at the Ministry.
Hermione tucked the
note and the clipping into her desk, and decided she'd wait until tomorrow
morning to get back to Sirius.
Griffin Black wandered
in a rather aimless fashion around the house until he decided to go
and see what his father was up to, in a desperate effort to distract
himself. He had no idea where his mother was, but assumed she'd be back
in time for dinner. He sulked past the large Christmas tree in the front
room, waiting to be decorated by them that evening, but that was one
of the last things he felt like doing. Ho, ho, bloody ho, Griffin grumbled to himself as he moved into
the hallway towards his father's office.
It was very dark in
the hallway, as Sirius had not emerged all afternoon and had not yet
risen to light the lamps. The only light was the faint orange glow of
his father's fire that came through the slightly ajar door at the end
of the hall. Griffin could hear his father speaking softly,
and assumed he was speaking to someone in the fire. Griffin hesitated, but if his father had the
door open, it was an invitation in. Griffin did slow and stop before he entered,
however, just to try and make sure it would be okay for him to go in.
"Just give me
a few days to iron out the details, but honestly I don't think we'll
have too much trouble with the application. You're registered, have
been for years, you have Ministry credentials….yes, limited ones, but
still, you've got them. I’ll ask you to remember how bloody hard I and
a few others worked to get those for you. And, believe it or not, you
do garner respect in odd places."
Griffin heard Remus' quiet laugh.
"Of course it
helps us tremendously that we're asking to arrive two days after the
full moon and we'll only be there a week. The German Ministry actually
only allows werewolves a two week visa anyway, I found out, and the
individual in question either has to leave well before the moon fills
or spend the time confined in some safe house the Ministry has in some
place called 'Sardloch'. I managed to find
it on a map, eventually. And, finally, you have an inexhaustible supply
of potion thanks to that lovely lady you live with there. Don't fret."
"I'm not fretting.
I just…Sirius I still find situations like this, well, annoying. And tiring. And let's face it, embarrassing."
"Oh come on Padfoot, how would you like to stand up in front of a scowling
committee and have them stare at you as you ask, politely, to be granted
status as a human being for a week?"
people still cross the street when they see me coming, you know."
"Yeah. Well, what can we do? Thanks for taking
care of this visa and keeping it all relatively quiet. I hate things
like this getting discussed in front of the children. It's no secret,
but…I don't know."
Although I do feel the need to point out that your 'baby' is 16 and
the other two now live on their own."
Remus laughed again.
"True, but in a way they're always four aren't they? Although yours
might explode if you suggest that."
yes. Very grown up, he is, you know."
up compared to you, Padfoot."
"I'm not taking
that from a man who only last month set up what has got to be the most
elaborate booby-trap I have ever seen purely for the sport of
seeing if he could get all four hexes off before his wife could block
the last one, you know. Then covered me with feathers and hung me upside
down from the central beam in the living room where I hung giggling
for about an hour."
"Well, she was
here with Liz giggling like mad as well, so you're even."
"My love to Liz
and Griffin, and I'll see you soon."
"Give my Katie-girl
a hug and tell that Annie not to fret, sensibility will win the day
in the end."
Griffin cringed, knowing that they must have
been discussing, well, that. Can't I just turn into a moron
quietly in peace and with no bother? Griffin heard a faint 'pop' as Remus disappeared,
then knocked on the office door after a few moments.
Griffin walked in and smiled at Sirius with
a slightly embarrassed look.
"So, you still
think there's some hope for my being sensible?"
Sirius laughed and
nodded. "I know you to be a very sensible young man. Well, about
most things. And I'm pointedly overlooking the fact that, gods help
us all, you seem to have inherited your grandmother's talent for Astrology
Griffin did laugh at this and sat down.
"Dad, you know
I don't believe…." Griffin stopped as Sirius grinned and shook his head.
"I know, I know.
Your mum back?"
"Mrs. Black is
still missing, it would seem."
"Then she's going
to miss dinner, because I can't wait anymore. Must have finally succeeded
in cornering Dexter and is not about to let him go before he really
gets an earful."
"What were you
talking to Remus about?"
"Ah. Well, after
the New Year Moony and I are going over to Germany on a little 'official business' for
Griffin looked surprised. "They're letting
Remus represent the Ministry on his own? That's…well it's great, but
Sirius gave a slight
scowl, even as he stood up and held his arm out for his owl to climb
"Well, it's not
exactly a 'glamour' job we're being asked to look into. Something
to do with goblins."
"The one thing
even I know not to mess with. So, why bother the nice respectable Ministry
Wizards when you can shove the job off on the werewolf and the ex-convict,
Griffin followed Sirius down the hall towards
the front of the flat, where Sirius opened the window and sent the owl
out for some exercise. With a sigh, Sirius closed the window and turned
back to Griffin. He was about to say something when
he stopped and gave Griffin an odd look with a faint smile.
"You're as tall
as I am now, Young Mr. Black. Wow."
"I've had a long
day, that's the best I can muster. Come on, dinner."
"Will you tell
me about the goblins until Mum gets back?" asked Griffin slyly with a conspiratorial grin.
Sirius turned back to him, put an arm around his shoulders to pull him
close, returned the grin, and said,