- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
An eagle owl winged its way towards Hogwarts, a letter tied to its left leg. A special medallion hung against its chest, the Gringotts crest worked into the metal glinting in the sun. It caught an updraft, soaring up towards the Headmaster’s office before gliding through the specially enchanted glass of the stained glass owl window. It landed on the perch kept there just for that purpose, ruffling its wings as it waited to be attended to. Fawkes let out a soft warbling cry in greeting, earning a quiet hoot in reply from the owl.
The Headmaster was busy examining several delicate silver contraptions on his desk, occasionally poking at one with his wand or tapping another a few times in a specific sequence. When Dumbledore didn’t pay attention to it after after a solid ten minutes of waiting, the owl gave a loud and rather imperious hoot. Dumbledore didn’t look away from his work, merely flicking his wand in the owl’s general direction to attempt to Summon the letter.
However, the owl and its burdens it carried were protected by the extensive charms and enchantments the goblins had laid on its medallion. When the letter didn’t come floating over to him, Dumbledore finally turned to properly look at the owl, his eyes widening when he saw the Gringotts medallion.
“Ah! My apologies, my friend,” he said, rising from his seat and then going over to the owl perch. He relieved the owl of its burden and then stepped back to allow it to take flight. The owl ruffled its wings before launching itself off the perch, doing a quick lap around the office and then exiting the way it came. Fawkes watched Dumbledore open the letter, read a few lines in, and then rush to the Floo, disappearing in a flash of green flames with a cry of “Gringotts!”, the letter fluttering to the floor.
Curious, Fawkes glided over to where the letter lay on the floor. He cocked his head, running one beady black eye over the words.
Due to the will of Lord James and Lady Lily Potter being read, the bequest that you have been granted has been enacted and any monetary values placed into your personal account. The exact wording of the bequest is to be found below:
To Albus Dumbledore, our mentor and former Headmaster: we leave two thousand Galleons and a ten-year supply of lemon sherbets from Honeydukes, one year each for the time we’ve had you in our lives. May you enjoy them in our memory.
Come to the bank in order to collect your bequest and the voucher for Honeydukes. Ask for Teller Dragonblade when you arrive. If you do not do this within three days’ time of receiving this letter, the voucher will be placed in your vault for you to claim later.
Senior Account Manager Goldthorn
Fawkes let out a confused warble, his head cocking further before he shook himself out and then returned to his perch. The Headmaster was such an odd human, even for a wizard. Fawkes tucked his head under his wing, intent on getting a good nap in before Dumbledore came back. Maybe he’d even dream again of the one to unite and rule Avalon. He always liked that dream.
The arriving Floo at Gringotts was not open to the general public, but rather selectively connected to a short list of the bank’s most wealthy and/or influential account holders. Even then, it was kept in a highly monitored area of the bank, with two guards in the receiving room around the clock. The beginnings and ends of their shifts varied every day so no one could try to figure out their patterns and sneak in during a gap in a late-night shift change.
The two guards currently on duty saw the Floo flare and then spit out a harried looking Albus Dumbledore clad in soot-covered robes that had moving planets and shooting stars traveling over its midnight-blue fabric. They watched him go, one waiting until he’d been gone for a minute or so before leaning over to their companion and muttering in the goblin tongue.
“Who won the pool on that one?”
“Axejaw, the lucky slaghead,” the other guard grunted in the same tongue after a moment’s calculation. “Damn, now I owe them a case of honey wine.”
“It could be worse,” the first guard said.
“You’re not the one having to deal with Dumbledore right now.”
There was a thoughtful pause at that as both of them considered the idea.
“Suddenly, I pity Goldthorn.”
Albus strode through the lobby of the bank, maneuvering around other patrons as he absently used his wandless magic to remove the ash and soot from his robes. He slid past a wizard bickering with his husband and managed to get to the front of a momentarily free teller’s line. He smiled warmly at the teller, though the smile barely reached his eyes.
“Hello. I’m here to speak to Senior Account Manager Goldthorn. Please let him know I’m here.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
Albus’ smile froze some, his beard mostly hiding it from view. “Not at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to see me. I’m one of his best clients, after all.”
The goblin stared at him for a long moment before writing a quick note in a jagged script on a slip of parchment and then slipping it into a slot on the desk. Barely a minute later and a different slip of parchment popped up out of the slot. The goblin read it, nodded, and then hopped down to the floor, gesturing shortly for Albus to follow before moving from behind the teller desk and starting to cross the lobby.
Albus did so, mind racing. He wished he’d seen what had been written on the parchments the goblin had sent and received. He’d learned the goblin tongue but had never quite gotten the hang of the written script the smaller beings used, particularly those of the banking clans. Each clan had their own variant as well as a more universal script used in their joint day-to-day work. All of the goblins’ written languages were held as secrets to bank employees and goblins only, and part of the oaths given by the non-goblin workers at the bank when they were first employed was to never share the secret of the written languages of their employers, even after they left their jobs there.
He shook himself out of his thoughts once the goblin had taken him through several winding hallways and then left him at the door to Goldthorn’s office. Albus readied himself before knocking on the door.
“Enter!” came the reply through the heavy wood of the door. Albus swept into the room, intent on showing that he had the power in the situation. Goblins respected power and wealth, after all.
“Mister Dumbledore,” Goldthorn said, looking up from the various bits of parchment on his desk. “How can I help you?”
“Ah, Goldthorn, old friend,” Albus said, shutting the door behind himself before taking a seat on the chair in front of Goldthorn’s desk. “I received your owl and came to speak to you about it.”
Goldthorn merely looked at him, not saying anything. Albus waited patiently, folding his hands in his lap. He was used to politics. Playing the waiting game was old hat to him. The silence stretched between them for a good five minutes until Albus spoke again.
“It was in regards to the Potter Will,” he prompted. “The Wizengamot sealed it two days ago for young Amaranth Potter’s safety. It shouldn’t have been read.”
Goldthorn arched an eyebrow at that but still didn’t speak, instead turning his attention back to his parchmentwork as if Albus wasn’t even there. Albus bit back an annoyed huff and tried once more.
“If you tell me why it was that the will was read, I’ll do my best to make sure that the Ministry doesn’t come down too hard on the bank for this misstep.”
Goldthorn continued to ignore him, the gentle scratching of his quill across the parchment only adding to Albus’ annoyance. Albus gritted his teeth, forcing himself to keep a civil tone as he spoke one last time.
“I’m sure we both have quite a few things to attend to today. Will you tell me why the will was read?”
Goldthorn looked up at that. He set his quill aside on a specially made rest that would keep the ink from dripping onto his desk and then focused on Albus. “Because Magic willed it and the primary beneficiaries were all there,” he replied, folding his hands on the desk in front of him. “The Wizengamot has no right to ban the reading of a noble’s will, particularly not one of a Most Ancient and Noble House like that of the House of Potter or Black.”
“All of the primary beneficiaries?” Albus pressed, his breath catching in his chest. Goldthorn arched an eyebrow.
“All of them,” he confirmed calmly. “The will couldn’t have been read otherwise.”
The color drained from Albus’ face as he got hurriedly to his feet. “Was Amaranth Potter there?”
“Like I said, all the primary beneficiaries were there.”
Goldthorn snorted softly as Albus left the office in a rush at that. Wizards and witches were so strange. Goblins had it far easier. Take expression of gender, for example. To humans, it seemed like all the goblins they saw were male, leading to the misconception that the females were hidden away or were something the male of the species were ashamed of, thus leading to the common use of ‘him’ for any goblin they met, regardless of actual physical gender. That was hardly the case at all.
Goblin society was actually surprisingly gender-neutral, with the word for an individual translating closer to ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’. Goblins as a species weren’t too sexually dimorphic, with the females only slightly smaller and a little less boxy-shaped than the males. Armor and well-tailored clothing tended to hide the differences enough for the two genders to flow near-seamlessly together. The few obviously female goblins that had interacted with humans often had been wearing glamors to conform to the human perception of femininity, often to make more money or to be underestimated by those who’d seen them.
Goldthorn ran a hand over their face and then shook their head. Time was money, and they were wasting it by contemplating the idiocy of humans. No doubt Dumbledore would be back to demand to know where Amaranth Potter was, but for the time being, that was in the future. Besides, Goldthorn had no idea exactly where Potter Manor was, just that it still existed. The location’s Secret was kept by the reigning Lord, Lady, or Regent of House Potter, tied to the Familial magic of the rings. Merlin had created the Portkey that had taken them from the bank to the Manor, thus keeping the Secret intact throughout the centuries.
Goldthorn turned back to their parchmentwork and were soon immersed in the complex work that went into the upkeep of all the various vaults and accounts they were in charge of, humming the soft strains of an old goblin war song as they worked.
While Dumbledore was running around both the Muggle and Magical worlds like a chicken with its head cut off in his attempt to find out Amaranth’s location, Sirius was feeling more like an insect under a magnifying glass. His grandfather was watching him with a piercing gaze, his more advanced age hardly showing. He was still relatively young for a wizard, as those with magic tended to live to at least a hundred and fifty years old, if not a little longer, so he’d really only hit middle age a few years ago. Most witches and wizards only died younger because of an accident, battle, disease, or some other magical malady that couldn’t be cured with a potion or spell.
Sirius fought the urge to shift in his chair like a guilty child, instead drawing on his Auror training and the training his mother had, at times, literally beaten into him when he was younger to keep himself still, only occasionally taking a sip from the tea cup that had appeared on a saucer on the side table next to his chair. The tea was perfect, as no house elf bound to Arcturus Black would ever dare to serve inferior tea to their Lord or any of his guests, and was just as Sirius preferred it, temperature and all. He reveled in it for the time he was able to, trying to savor the tea before it was gone or taken away from him.
“So,” Arcturus said once he’d finished his own tea, “you’ve finally taken up your Heir ring. Care to tell me why?”
“Mother told me I had been disowned when I was sixteen,” Sirius replied, setting down his teacup carefully on its saucer. “I went to live with the Potters at that time. She’s always been disappointed in me that I was never a perfect Pureblood son and went into Slytherin like she wanted. I was at the Potter will reading when the account manager told me that the ring was still waiting for me.”
“Ah, you worked with Goldthorn, then?” Arcturus mused. “He’s the account manager for quite a few of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses. As for your mother, she had no right to tell you that. She has no power to disown you, thus why the Heir ring was still waiting for you.”
He sighed softly. “I thought that by taking a step back from the day-to-day running of the Family, it would allow it to run more smoothly. It appears I was wrong. The very fact that your mother and father were married… I should have stepped in then. At least your cousins were able to marry out of the Family. I applaud young Andromeda. She married into fresh blood and brought forth an old Black gift that hasn’t been seen in well over a century, if not longer.”
“So why was she disowned?”
“Yet again, she wasn’t,” Arcturus replied. “Another mistake for me to rectify.” He sat back in his chair, rubbing thoughtfully at his chin. “I’ve let the House and Family languish for too long. It seems like it’s time for me to step back into my proper role.” He smirked. “If nothing else, it’ll give those blowhards in the Wizengamot something to think about.”
Sirius stared at his grandfather. He’d expected Pureblood rhetoric to be spewing from his mouth the moment he brought up Sirius taking up his Heir ring. Instead, Arcturus seemed to be surprisingly sane and reasonable. It was very disconcerting, especially given what his mother had said about him.
“So…” Sirius began, pausing momentarily before continuing on. “You don’t hate Muggleborns?”
“I dislike the fact that Muggleborns don’t pay attention to our values and traditions,” Arcturus said with a faint sneer, “but it’s hardly through any fault of their own. They enter our world knowing very little and are taught near-nothing in regards to how things work. There used to be classes at Hogwarts about it as well as music, dance, and other electives, but Dumbledore successfully petitioned to get them removed.”
“Lily– Lady Potter –she used to say that the Muggle Studies class was very out of date,” Sirius said with a small smile as he remember Lily’s rants against the subject. “Did you know that the Muggles have been to the moon? They’ve sent a dozen men up there and brought them all back home successfully. The Muggles are advancing by leaps and bounds, and we talk about them as if they’re nothing more than funny animals acting human.”
Arcturus leaned forward, an intrigued expression on his face. “They’ve gone to the moon and back? Truly? That’s amazing. To be able to do something like that…” He smirked. “Maybe we should bring this to the attention of the Wizengamot. If nothing else, it’ll stir them up and give them a good kick in the rear.”
Sirius smiled at that.“I think I know the perfect person to help with the classes at the very least,” he said. “Dowager Longbottom is well known for her dogged determination in getting change done, especially when it comes to the school. Her son is very much the same. Lord Longbottom is a good friend of mine. I can speak with him the next time I see him if you like.”
“Do so,” Arcturus agreed. “I’ll be calling for a Family meeting soon enough where I confirm you’re my Heir.”
“Alright. About that,” Sirius said. “I… James…” He closed his eyes momentarily, taking in a lungful of air before letting it out slowly and opening his eyes. “Lord Potter gave me leave to adopt his daughter as mine in blood and magic in his will. I can’t have any biological children of my own due to several curses I took in the course of the war. I’ve gone to several healers and cursebreakers, but no one has been able to help. I would like your permission to take her as my Heir to help secure the direct line of succession.”
“Albus Dumbledore has assured the Wizengamot that the Heiress Potter is safe and sound hidden away from the Wizarding World,” Arcturus pointed out. “How would you make her your Heir if she’s not available?”
Sirius smirked. “Albus Dumbledore doesn’t know everything,” he replied. “She’s safe and sound, and will be taught everything she needs to know according to her station when she’s old enough. For now, she just needs to be an almost-two year old.”
“And who will be teaching her how to be a proper Pureblood witch?” Arcturus asked.
“She’s hardly going to be a weak-willed fashion plate,” Sirius said with a scowl. Arcturus merely raised an eyebrow.
“I never said she would be,” he said calmly. “She will need to learn the Old Ways from proper witches. She has a godmother, yes?”
“Yes, Lady Longbottom,” Sirius replied. “If she’s willing, maybe Narcissa would be willing to tutor her, assuming her husband lets her.”
“Mm. Narcissa was never Marked at all and Lord Malfoy was unwillingly Marked,” Arcturus said idly as he snapped his fingers. His teacup refilled itself due to house elf magic, steam gently rising from the surface of the milky tea within. “His marriage contract with young Narcissa is still valid. It would have been declared invalid due to the fidelity clauses worked into it if he had.”
He sipped at his tea, looking entirely unconcerned that he’d just shattered some of Sirius’ long-held preconceptions. Lucius Malfoy hadn’t been a willingly Marked follower of Voldemort. That didn’t excuse what the man had done, but if the contract was unbroken, then releasing that information to the public might be beneficial to both the Blacks and others. Having someone of Lucius’ political standing on their side might not be such a bad thing in the long run.
“Huh,” Sirius said as he digested that information. “When will the Family meeting be called?”
“On the next new moon, as it should be,” Arcturus said. “You have my permission to adopt young Amaranth as your Heir and daughter in blood and magic at that time. I won’t pressure you to marry, though having a bonded wife or Consort would help stabilize your magic even further.”
“I know, but I’m more focused on Amaranth right now,” Sirius said. “I want to honor James and Lily with the trust they placed in me.”
“And I’m sure you will.” Arcturus set his tea down. “You mentioned in your letter that you had far graver news to share with me that could end the threat of the Dark Lord permanently.”
Sirius nodded and then began to talk, trusting in his grandfather’s vaunted privacy wards to keep the information protected. They spoke late into the night, drinking many pots of tea and healing wounds that had lain open and festering for years on end.