A/N: So here is chapter three! Hope you like it. Oh, and I think that most of the chapters are going to be fairly short; I just hope to get them out fairly fast because of it.
Bill had only just got back to his flat when a large barn owl swooped in. Sighing good-humouredly, he dumped his jacket in the hall and went to the table where the owl sat hooting indignantly. From a long experience with barn owls, Bill knew it was better to give them what they wanted rather than make them wait, if you wished to be able to write the next day.
Fortunately, Bill could see from the large and messy scrawl on the front that it was just a letter from Charlie. About time, too! Bill could have sworn that the last time he’d recieved a letter from him was back in Egypt. Admittedly neither of the brothers wrote the most literate and lengthy letters to each other, but they were close, and preferred to keep in touch.
Still, by the relative thickness, it was quite a long one for Charlie. It’d better be good to have made me wait this long, Bill thought. He unfolded it and left it on the table before bringing the new owl to old Llewellyn’s cage, where his own brown owl (the aforementioned Llewellyn) perched with his head under his wing. He was probably sleeping – it was all this old owl did any more, but Bill didn’t grudge him for it. After thirteen long years of extremely active service to his master, Llewellyn deserved a decent retirement consisting of sleep, extra owl treats, and the occasional letter to Molly Weasley to convince her he didn’t need his hair cut.
He still remembered the day he had been given Llewellyn, by his overjoyed parents in the bustling Diagon Alley. He had been a very handsome owl, and although he only flew at a mediocre pace (fast for his kind), he had a lot of stamina. He had certainly lived to a ripe old age.
Considering Bill had been eleven at the time, Llewellyn had been a good name. He remembered being infatuated with ‘Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn, and that’s why the owl was named Llewellyn. The fast life of the crazy quidditch player who had completed so many famous manoeuvres, and eventually gone on to be incinerated by a chimaera, had fascinated Bill to the extreme.
Unfortunately for his eleven-year-old self, Bill had only ever possessed an average talent for quidditch, barely keeping up with Charlie, until the said younger brother became very good in the two years they spent apart, and eventually went on to become a quidditch legend. Bill still remembered how trampled-on his nerves had felt when, as a third-year, his little squirt of a brother was being heckled for such brilliant Seeking.
Fortunately, there were no lingering annoyances over that. As a Weasley, one became used to making sacrifices and adapting, and no one family member carried a heavier load than any of the others – except for Molly, who the world over was celebrated as a heroic mother.
When Ron had written home in first year that his best friend Harry Potter had been called ‘the new Charlie Weasley of seeking’ by McGonagall, all the Weasleys roared with laughter and pointed out that Charlie should be the Boy Who Lived then.
Lots of people had expected Charlie to go on to play professionally after that, but he had defied expectations and gone on to become a dragon tamer instead, which was what he always wanted really. It was every little boys’ dream – but Charlie apparently got to beat all the other tamers out there hands-down at quidditch anyway.
Bill was just picking up the letter as the barn owl excitedly pecked at the food when another owl swooped in, screeching urgently. Bill cursed under his breath before quickly crossing the room and untying this second roll of parchment. He had a suspicion he knew which organisation of freedom-fighting witches and wizards it would be from, though – the Order had re-formed over the summer, since Harry’s bold declaration of Voldemort’s return, and Bill had immediately signed up, much to the chagrin of his mother.
Since then, they had been sharing news and assigning various suspicious cases to relevant members. So far, Bill had been given none, except calls to meetings from imperious owls that liked to perch on the windowsill with their letter-leg stuck out, before gobbling up any treats lying around.
For this reason, Bill brought the new owl over to Llewellyn’s cage and attempted to place him in, before even glancing at the letter. It didn’t work; the cage had only been designed to hold one owl comfortably, not three large ones who were each rather indignant at this new squash. They created a chorus of indignant hoots until he gave in, bringing poor Llewellyn out to perch on his shoulder and sleep there instead.
When they were all settled happily, Bill returned to his letters, momentarily putting aside Charlie’s in favour of the Order’s doubtless more urgent one.
As expected, the crisp cream parchment was blank with a single ink smudge in the top left-hand corner. Bill moved his wand over it, then touched other random points over the page whilst muttering strings of Latin in the hope that some of them would work. Sure enough, Remus’s familiar handwriting appeared over the page eventually.
It took Bill several minutes to scan the neat script and then re-read it, trying to take in the words properly. Then he sat back and thought.
Remus wrote that three muggles, of the same family name, had gone missing: a middle-aged man and two young boys, aged six and four. They had been missing for nearly a week, and had been connected to a certain Gringotts worker.
The wife and mother was a witch, and it was therefore in doubt over whether or not her boys were magical also, as their father was obviously not. Most oddly, the woman had been reported back at work today. The family were the Yateses; the woman Mhairi Yates, Head of Vault Management. The Order wanted Bill to investigate the situation carefully, and report back anything odd. They wanted nothing offensive or large, and weren’t aiming for any large chunks of information about her. They simply wanted to know what had happened to her family without Moody ordering a full-scale kidnapping and interrogation.
Bill grinned at this task. Remus made it sound like a walk in the park, but Bill knew better. Yet, how could he resist? The fact that it was his duty to the Order was a mere detail – life at Gringotts was definitely a step down from curse-breaking in Egyptian pyramids at all hours, and needed a good dose of drama to spice things up a little.
This was sure to be a medium-sized dollop of drama, anyway.
It had been ten days since Mhairi’s disappearance, yet she had returned after five days away, with a rather long and surprisingly cheery explanation about how her boys had been seriously ill with a life-threatening disease. Dick Richmond (real name Richard Richmond, but that just sounded ridiculous), who was the Big Boss, the Chief Executive, had not been very happy with Mhairi; but since she had got straight on with her mountains of work in a ridiculously happy manner, he had accepted it with a shrug.
Fleur thought that she would never be that happy to catch up on the work if she came back to a pile of work a fraction of the size of Mhairi’s after five days off. Because Mhairi was now so joyful all the time, she had stopped drinking the coffee except in small shots. Pretty much the whole department was grumpier for it, now that the boss expected them all to drink less coffee too.
But Fleur couldn’t help wondering why it was that Mhairi had come back from this supposed nursing stint so happy. Mhairi had been neutral towards her work at the best of times. At the worst she would have angry-calm breakdowns, and mostly, you would find her frantically going through piles and piles of admin work with her hand repeatedly running through her hair and stress lines.
After all, it was a well-known fact that Mr. Richmond exploited Mhairi, Mhairi with her sense of hard work and organised mind, yet he shamelessly carried on working this way. Many times, people from her Vault Management department had told Mhairi to tell Dick to lighten her workload. She refused, though he could and would not have said no: Fleur did not understand why Mhairi did not; maybe she had a fear of confrontation? It did not fit in well with her character, this rather doormat-like attitude.
These English people, they worked from so early to so late with so few breaks! Where in France lunch would have been an hour and a half or so, these people ate their sandwiches at their desks or went around the corner to a pub for five minutes. Maybe it was just the Gringotts work ethos, as the goblins resented even loo breaks.
Overall, Fleur decided there was something fishy about Mhairi’s whole situation, and decided she wanted to find out what. As luck would have it, Mhairi turned up just a few hours later with an odd request.
“Hello, can I have the spare key to vault 206 please?” she asked cheerfully. Wanting to give her an odd look but instead keeping her eyes respectfully lowered, Fleur grabbed the key from the tray and handed it over to her without comment.
She had hoped that Mhairi would expand on the request, but instead, Mhairi thanked her and walked off.
For a moment, Fleur sat and grappled with her conscience. When you went down to a vault with a spare key, you were driven on those awful carts. Only the goblins could drive them, and because it was a really old vault Mhairi was going to – probably a Clankers one, with the dragon guarding it – you would need some goblins to get past the dragon and open it for you.
Fleur looked around for a few seconds, judged it safe, and darted out with her mug as an alibi. She would make the pretence of going to Human Resources for coffee and listen into the Goblin Resources department instead, hopefully catching Mhairi’s speech as she explained why she needed to go down to the vaults during working hours. No office employee ever did that; except for the Vault Security lot, of course.
Unfortunately, the brilliant plan didn’t work, and Fleur’s adrenaline rush was short-lived. She darted into the coffee room and stood for as long as she could outside without attracting attention so she could see Mhairi’s return, but when Mr. Richmond came along and frowned at her, she had to move along. Mhairi had already gone when she had arrived and now there was no catching her coming back.
As the bitter icing on the soggy cake, Sara Styles from Human Resources walked straight into her as she was heading back to her desk, making the coffee spill everywhere. Fleur highly doubted that the embarrassment which ensued was an accident – Sara was a prime snob from Human Resources, and not one to be crossed. She claimed to be going out with Bill Weasley, and everybody in Gringotts knew that they were an item, though Bill seemed very discreet about it.
An hour later, Fleur watched the ginger Curse-Breaker walk past again. She wouldn’t have noticed his slightly furtive behaviour if she had not been so paranoid about her own, but the way he was walking so casually and making a very slightly over-the-top show of carelessness alerted her to the fact that he was on a less-than-innocent mission.
The other thing she realised was that he was murmuring slightly under his breath, and he seemed to be saying ‘Gornuk’.
Gornuk was one of the few Higher goblins who could take customers to their vaults that required the Clankers. Fleur hated the Clankers; the nasty pieces of whirring metals that made the guarding dragon expect pain.
However, Mhairi’s key had been to a Clankers vault. It had been in the Clankers box, and Fleur had been interested as to who she would take to deter the dragon, hadn’t she? Fleur decided to take the risk and follow a second person to Goblin Resources.
Fleur hoped that this wouldn’t become a habit; she wasn’t very good with the body language lying when moving, and she didn’t want her coffee spilt this time around.
However, as she strolled behind him, saying hello to a few of the less catty English girls along the way, it all went rather smoothly in contrast to her last mission. Bill walked into the room that backed onto the grand entrance lobby of Gringotts, part of the working goblins’ chambers, and went into a corner with Gornuk. Fleur, offering a prayer of silent pleas up to Merlin, carefully disillusioned herself and waited outside the doorway. In a rare twist of fate, the two were fairly near her and she could hear every word they were saying.
“But why did she come down with you to the vault?” Weasley was asking the goblin (who was relatively friendly).
“To put a package in, and reinforce various protections, Mr. Weasley. Why else?”
“But why couldn’t you just do it?”
“It is a Clankers vault. I could have done it, of course, and even the goblins are finding it a little odd, but the Mistress of the vault allowed it and so we let her come through. There’s no more to it.”
There was a pause, then: “Which vault was it? And what package?”
“I did not see the package, and the goblins’ confidentiality prevents me from saying, sir. I am sorry,” the goblin murmured, truly sounding a little apologetic.
There was a pause, then a chair scraping against the marble floor. “Ah well, thanks Gornuk. It’s been a great help, thank you for your time.” From the slight sound of material rubbing, Fleur guessed they were shaking hands, and decided it was time to make her exit as a visible person.
Just as she started away from them, visible once more, she heard Gornuk pause and murmur a few more words that were just loud enough for her to hear.
“Oh, and Mr. Weasley… there has been some new security placed over it, so I wouldn’t be tempted to investigate.”
Bill’s answer was too quiet to be heard, but Fleur was satisfied; she had heard quite enough to be getting on with.
As she casually strolled back to her little desk, secret smirk gracing her features, she couldn’t help wondering why Weasley was interested in Mhairi’s odd vault activity too. But it wasn’t important now; she needed to get the files of the vault and work out which vault it was that Mhairi had visited, as well as what the new security files were.
It all required a little bit of social manipulation, and Fleur grinned; this, above all things, she could manage.