The Sugar Quill
Author: Thing1 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Goblin Market  Chapter: Chapter One: Upsetting the Applecart
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Chapter 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 roots?

‘Goblin Market' - Christina Rosetti

 

 

 

 

Laurence Housman, 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.

"Mrs. Weasley!"

Hermione turned to find Roarke Lupin walking over to her, and gave a small laugh as she hugged her.

"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!"

"Oh, 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?"

"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 mum."

"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 with him."

"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."

"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?"

"Your 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."

"That's interesting. It also explains why Griffin barely said two words at the train station."

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."

Hermione chuckled, 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, you know."

Roarke raised her eyebrows in surprise and Hermione had to smile at how much she looked like Remus.

"Does Annie know why Griffin was angry?" Hermione continued.

"No, honestly. 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."

"Pretty, this Raven?"

"Rather 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."

"I'll mention 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 party."

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.

"Were either 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?"

"Around nine. 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 nodded.

"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?"

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 did interrupt.

"Hello, Ron."

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 games schedule.

"Hi there. Well, all done at the Ministry?"

"All done. I am free, I think, for two weeks."

"Good," he said absently as he kissed her hand and continued to scribble.

"Ron?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Do look up at me, please, dear."

Ron glanced up with a slight grin at his wife.

"Yes, Mione?"

"Have you seen Gary today?"

"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 like it."

"Shut up. Listen, Gary needs to have a talk, with you, right now."

"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 him…."

"Now I'm scared. He and Griffin haven't hexed something illegal again, have they?"

"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.

"Annie Lupin?"

"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?"

"You're missing 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…."

"Going 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.

Hermione -

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.

Thanks; talk with you soon.

Sirius

PS - 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.

Hermione chuckled 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.

Muggle Attacked Outside of the Leaky Cauldron

(UWI) 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.

  • midget/goblin?
  • 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."

"What's embarrassing about it?"

"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?"

"Moony, some 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."

"I understand. 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."

"Mine would, yes. Very grown up, he is, you know."

"Everyone's grown 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 them."

"She stopped 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.

"Yes?"

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 and divinations."

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 Dexter."

Griffin looked surprised. "They're letting Remus represent the Ministry on his own? That's…well it's great, but it's unusual."

Sirius gave a slight scowl, even as he stood up and held his arm out for his owl to climb onto.

"Well, it's not exactly a 'glamour' job we're being asked to look into. Something to do with goblins."

"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, right?"

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.

"What?"

"You're as tall as I am now, Young Mr. Black. Wow."

"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,

"No."

//
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