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Harry / Tonks ship

Ten o'clock in the morning of August thirty-first found Harry Potter in the outdoor seating area of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor hovering over the remains of a chocolate malt while reading the Daily Prophet.   There were multiple articles that caused the grin he was sporting.

First was a verbatim copy of Harry's letter to the editor (they had even printed the word "Voldemort"), giving the true and complete story of Tom Marvolo Riddle and his Hogwarts career.   This included opening the Chamber of Secrets and the death of Moaning Myrtle.   After the history lesson, Harry went on to explain the more recent opening of the Chamber and his subsequent rescue of Ginny.   He had gone far out of his way to depict her as a victim of not only Voldemort but also Lucius Malfoy.   The article ended with the Daily Prophet's promise to investigate and their demand of explanations from the ministry for Hagrid's relatively recent imprisonment.

Article number two was an investigative piece on Barrister Dewey and his law firm.   It noted, again, that Dewey seemed more interested in attacking Harry than he did in convicting the nine Death Eaters that were actually on trial.   As it turns out, the firm had a long association with dark and suspected dark families, including Lestrange, Malfoy, and Black.   One of the partners was also a former business partner of Fudge.

The third article that caused Harry's ebullient mood was a letter from the editor.   In it, the Daily Prophet renewed its demands for an investigation of Fudge.   This included a prominent picture of Fudge and Malfoy shaking hands and looking like the best of friends at some event or another.   The picture was less than six months old.

"You can stop gloating any time now," Kingsley's disembodied voice said in amusement from behind Harry.

"Why would I want to do that?" Harry asked without looking up.

A chuckle answered him.

Before the conversation could degenerate any further, a large owl, a shocking purple color, landed on Harry's table.   Harry raised an eyebrow at it.   The owl's return hoot sounded resigned to his fate even as he held out his leg with parchment attached.   Suspecting who it was from, Harry examined the parchment carefully before satisfying himself that there were no spells on it.

As he reached forward, the owl visibly braced himself.   Now moving cautiously, Harry retrieved the letter.   The owl promptly turned a shade of neon green that threatened to burn Harry's eyeballs out.   The owl, surprisingly, seemed relieved by this.   One strong beat of his wings, and he flew off.

Dear Co-Conspirator Partner,

It has come to our attention through our vast and intricate spy network (we looked out the window) that you are currently in Diagon Alley.

You are cordially invited to the first annual shareholder's meeting of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.   The festivities meeting will commence at three o'clock this afternoon.   If you cannot make that time, feel free to show up whenever the heck you want.

Obnoxiously Sincerely,
Gred and Forge

"So we have plans this afternoon after you see Ginny?" Tonks asked from beside him, her head still craned as she read the parchment.

Harry smiled over at her unfamiliar face.   "Yup."   Seeing her inches away, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

A flash was followed moments later by, "Hiya, Harry!"

Harry sighed and pulled his hand back from his wand.   "Hi, Colin."

The spunky soon-to-be fifth year Gryffindor, totally unaware of the messy end that he'd just narrowly avoided, plopped himself down in the seat across the table without invitation.   Once seated, he looked at Tonks in curiosity.

"Colin Creevey, meet -"

"Ingrid Kinsfire," Tonks interrupted, leaning forward to shake Colin's hand.   Once she released his hand, she wiggled under Harry's arm and did her best to mold herself to his side.

Colin raised his eyes even further at this.   "Um, Harry?   What about -"

"Hiya, Harry!" Ginny Weasley dropped into the remaining chair at the table.

Harry smiled.   "Hi, Ginny."

Ginny looked at Tonks who now appeared to be trying to burrow under Harry's skin.   "You must be the girlfriend he has written me about."   She extended her hand.   "Ginny Weasley."

"Ingrid," Tonks said.   She giggled.   "Call me 'Innie'."

Harry, seriously concerned about the wide-eyed, agog look that Colin was sporting, attempted some damage control.   "Now, Ingrid, no need for that act.   Colin and Ginny are friends."

He had to hand it to her, she was an excellent improvisation actress.   Instantly gone was the air-headed, wide-eyed look, and in its place was a serious, calculating expression.   "Very well, Harry."   She turned to the two fifth-year Gryffindors.   "Forgive me, but I'm rather protective of our relationship and privacy."

"No problem," Ginny said easily.   Harry saw the amused expression she wore, though.  

Colin looked lost.   "But Ginny, I though you and Harry . . ."

Ginny shook her head.   "It's true that I had a crush on him years ago, Colin.   He knows about it, but it was never more than that.   If he wants to date someone else, I'm happy for him."

"Thank you," Tonks said.   "Harry's told me a lot about you, and your approval means a lot to the both of us."

"Yes, thank you, Ginny," Harry said.   He turned to Tonks.   "Dear, if you're so protective of our relationship, then perhaps you shouldn't have picked quite so . . . public a location to prove we had one."

"You kissed me first."

"So I did.   I'm not about to apologize, though."

"I didn't ask you to.   Not for anything up to and including snogging in public.   Anything beyond that, though, better not be in public."

"We might get arrested, after all."

"Exactly, gorgeous man o' mine."

"Uh, Harry?" Colin asked.   The poor boy's eyes appeared likely to roll out of their sockets at any moment.

"Sorry, Colin.   We sometimes forget ourselves.   Did you need to talk with me about something, or did you just want to stop and say, 'Hi'?"

"Yes.   I mean, no.   No, I didn't need anything.   Look, what did you want me to do with this picture?"   He was clearly uncomfortable with the situation.

Harry slowly shook his head.   "Sorry, Colin."

Nodding, the young man stood.   "I won't even develop this one, then.   See ya, Harry."   He made his escape.

Once he was far enough away, Ginny broke into laughter.   "Hi, Tonks," she finally said through her fading laughter.

"Ginny," Tonks acknowledged, scooting back from Harry just enough that they could both comfortably sit.

Ginny looked back and forth between them.   "Was that an act, then?"

Harry smiled and kissed Tonks's cheek again.

"Good," Ginny decided.

Harry turned to Tonks.   "That WAS kind of over the top, though, Nim."

She shrugged.   "We talked about it.   I'm not supposed to be a consistent person in public, remember?"

Harry nodded.

Ginny was confused.   "What?"

Harry said, "To keep the public from knowing we're dating, she's going to be someone different every time we're seen in public together."   He turned to his girlfriend.   "I wish you didn't have to do that."

"I know.   It doesn't bother me, though.   You know it's me under here, and that's all that matters."

Ginny smiled at the couple before frowning.   "If she's going to have a different look everytime you're on a date, why did you ask Colin to destroy that picture?"

"Because we want to APPEAR to be trying to hide our relationship," Tonks answered immediately.

Ginny thought that one through for a moment.   "Very Slytherin."

Tonks smiled.   "Thank you, but it was Harry's idea."

Ginny turned an incredulous expression to him.

He just shrugged.

"You're full of surprises, Mr. Potter.   By the way, was that Owl?"

"Owl?" Harry asked in slight confusion.   "There was an owl here, yes."

Ginny rolled her eyes.   "My insane brothers named their owl Owl.   They think it's funny.   Anyway, I was asked to tell you that they were looking for you when I saw you today."

"I got their message," Harry assured her.   "How's your summer going, Ginny?"

"Really well.   We -"

"May I have a word, Baron Black?"

The unexpected voice jerked Harry's head around to find Draco Malfoy standing a polite distance away and looking very uncomfortable.

Realizing how he'd been addressed, Harry stood and faced the other student.   "How may I help you, Baron Malfoy?"

Draco's eyes flicked toward Ginny and Tonks.   "I'd prefer to speak of our business privately, Baron Black."

Struck by the overly formal tone, Harry glanced over at Ginny.   "Ginny, would you mind?"

The younger Gryffindor looked back and forth between the two standing men.   "Very well, Harry.   I'll be back in a few minutes."

"Thank you, Ginny."

"Yes, thank you," Malfoy quietly echoed, causing surprised expressions from Harry and Ginny.

When Ginny had left, Draco glanced at Tonks again, a question clear in his expression.

Harry shook his head.   "She's a member of the Black family.   She stays."

Draco looked incredulously at her.

"I'm the daughter of Andromeda Black-Tonks," she answered the unspoken question.

Draco nodded.   "Nymphadora, the auror."   He turned to Harry.   "Is she Lady Black?" he asked bluntly.

Harry's eyebrow rocketed, knowing what Draco was actually asking.   "No, but if that changes, I'll be sure to let you know."

Draco shrugged unconcernedly.   "Very well.   I pass along a message from my mother, Baron Black.   She has decided to take the opportunity that the former Baron Black made to her."

Harry nodded, not really surprised.   "And you, Baron Malfoy?"

Draco grimaced.   "I am still undecided."   He shifted uncomfortably.   "Look, it's no secret that I don't like you.   To just denounce my father and join your family . . .   I know my father has made poor choices, but don't know if I can just abandon him.   Incomprehensible as it may be to you, I DO love my father, Potter."  

"I will inform my solicitor about your mother then.   I'll hold your offer open until Christmas holidays."   Harry paused and added in a quieter tone, "Escape Voldemort while you can, Draco.   You KNOW what will happen to you if you stay."

Malfoy was silent for a moment before answering in a whisper, "It wouldn't be for the Dark Lord or my sake that I'd stay."   Straightening, he gave a stiff half-bow.   "Thank you for your time, Baron Black."

Harry nodded back.   "Good day, Baron Malfoy."

As Malfoy was walking away, Tonks quietly marveled, "Don't that beat all?"

"He's scared out of his mind, but he doesn't want to abandon his father," Harry observed, his eyes still following the youngest Malfoy.

"Everything okay, Harry?" Ginny asked as she reappeared with a small dish of ice cream.

Harry nodded.   "Yeah, I think everything will be."   He relaxed and took his seat again.

"Ginny!   There you are!" they all heard.   The Weasley matriarch walked up to the table with Ron and Hermione in tow.   She nodded tightly to Harry before turning a piercing stare onto Tonks.

"Hello, Molly," Tonks said in her normal voice, allowing her eyes to flash pink for a moment before going back to their previous blue.

Molly's eyes narrowed.   "Oh, it's you.   And I suppose you've been trying to seduce poor Harry, here?"

Harry was immediately angry at her treatment of Tonks.   "Not that it's any of your business, Mrs. Weasley, but no, she hasn't."

Without averting her eyes, Molly nodded once.   "Good, he's entirely too young and innocent for the likes of you."

"Mrs. Weasley," Harry snarled, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't speak to Tonks like that."

Molly's entire demeanor changed when she turned to Harry.   "Now, Harry, dear, I didn't mean to insult you.   Not at all.   I can understand you wanting to hang onto the memory of Sirius as long as you can, even if it means spending time with that Lupin person and pretending you're dating . . . her."

Harry stared at her in shock.   "Mrs. Weasley -" he began again.

"Oh, you can call me Mum if you'd like."

Harry glared, realizing that she was trying to get him to abandon his current course through a combination of promised safety (which in reality was closer to imprisonment) and emotional blackmail.   His response, therefore, was harsher than it needed to be.   "Mrs. Weasley," he ground out, "you are not Lily Potter, nor will I ever pretend that you are.   Now, about my friends and presumed dating habits:  I don't know why you think you have any say over them."

She blinked at his tone.   "I'm just looking out for you, dear."

"I can look after myself just fine," he replied flatly.   "A fact that I wish you and certain meddlesome headmasters would understand."

"Oh, you can't mean that, Harry.   If Sirius would have been a better role model to you -"

"Stop!" Harry barked, causing everyone around the table to flinch.   "You have constantly belittled Sirius, and it will stop RIGHT NOW!   Have you considered that your constant barbs at him about being a poor parental figure may have contributed to his death?   No?   Well, perhaps he took it to heart.   When he heard I was at the Department of Mysteries and could be in trouble, do you think he might have thought about your comments about being a bad parent and Snape's comments about hiding?   Could they have pushed him to do something a bit more reckless than he otherwise would have?   Hmm?"

He dropped the light, mocking tone and glared at her, eyes smoldering.   "You don't have the right to talk to me about Sirius, so STOP IT."

Molly's eyes flared, but she kept control of her temper.   "I am looking out for your best interests, Harry.   I want you to stop all this nonsense and move back into headquarters where you will be safe and away from . . . bad influences."

Harry simply stared at her for a few seconds.   Her absolute refusal to acknowledge what he was saying was staggering.   "Go away, Molly Weasley, and don't try to contact me until you understand what you're talking about and come to beg my forgiveness."

"Really," she huffed, "there is no need to be this way, Harry."

Harry ignored her.   "Ron, Hermione, I think we need to talk."

"Why are you treating her like that, Harry?" Ron asked.

"Because she's treating me like a child.   I never asked her to do my thinking for me."

Molly made a rude noise of exasperation.   "If anyone is interested, I'll be in Madame Malkin's."   Ron, Hermione, and Ginny nodded to her, and she stomped off.

"That was uncalled for, Harry," Ron repeated angrily.

Harry snorted in disgust.   "If she treated me as an adult, capable of making my own choices, it wouldn't have happened.   Since she's treating me like a ten year old imbecile . . ."   He trailed off with a shrug.

"It was still rude to treat Mum like that."

"Yes it was.   So what?" Harry asked challengingly.

"Now you're angry with me?" Ron asked, getting angry himself.   "What've I done to you?"

Harry sighed and rubbed his forehead.   "I don't want to get into this with you, Ron.   A fight with one Weasley was bad enough.   I don't want to have to yell at a second one."

"Oh, this is rich!   You think you have the right to yell at me?   Okay, come on, let's hear it.   What do you think you have the right to yell at me about?"

Harry sadly shook his head.   "What's Dumbledore told you not to talk with me about in the short notes you've added to Ginny's letters?"

Ron frowned at the unexpected question.   "Just headquarters and the group from there, why?"

"So the fact that you and Hermione are dating is somehow protected information?   Or did you think it wasn't relevant to tell me, supposed best friend to the both of you?"

Ron turned pink.   "What makes you think -"

"Oh, grow up!" Harry yelled, causing a few heads around them to turn.   He lowered his voice and continued, "I have secrets, and so do you, Ron.   So don't go and try to play it off as if you're the injured one, here."

Looking thunderous, Ron leaned forward over the table, trying to tower over Harry.

Harry just looked up at him.   "I understand that you tried to talk Hermione out of snitching my Diagon Alley visit three weeks ago, and I appreciate that."   Hermione's gasp was ignored.   "Don't think that that excuses the attitude you're displaying without knowing the first thing that you're talking about, though, Ron.  

"One last thing you may want to think about.   You don't want to do anything rash, here.   You're going to lose any fight you start.   Very painfully."

Ron's jaw clenched a few times as he slowly stood up.   "I'm leaving.   Hermione, Ginny, come on."

Harry spoke quietly in a vain attempt to remove the sting from his words, "They are not yours to order around, Ron.   You need to realize that.   Ginny is welcome to stay, and I think Hermione and I have a few things to discuss."

Looking ready to explode, Ron spun around and left.

Harry's head fell forward onto the table.   "That couldn't have gone worse."

"Yes, it could," Ginny said.

"You could have been forced to send him to the hospital," Tonks agreed.

Harry just sighed.

"I'm sorry," Hermione said quietly.

"For what?" Harry asked without moving his head.

"For not telling you we are dating and for telling the headmaster about your trip to Gringotts."

Harry looked up at her.   "Anything else?"

"What else is there for me to be sorry about?" she asked as if it were a ridiculous question.

"If you don't know, then I don't see the point in explaining it to you," Harry answered, fed up with the whole situation.

Hermione colored.   "That is unfair, Harry.   How can I apologize for something if you've never told me what you think I did wrong?"

"Ah, but I did.   After your howler, what did I reply with?"

"'Next time, listen instead of just hear.'"

"Exactly.   You yelled at me for sending a howler to you.   You didn't listen to what it actually said, did you?   You were just mad at what you saw as my attempt to embarrass you, weren't you?"

Curiosity and surprise momentarily overcoming her mounting anger, she simply nodded.

"I admit that sending that howler to you was over the top, but I was angry at what I saw as another person attempting to control me."

"I never tried to control you," Hermione objected.

"You did, Hermione.   Among other things, you told me to get professional counseling.   You didn't ask me to do it, you TOLD me.   It may be a minor distinction to you, but that is the core of the problem.   You, Mrs. Weasley, the whole bloody wizarding world, and especially Dumbledore don't ask me to do anything.   You all keep TELLING me what to do, like I'm some idiot child who doesn't know anything.   Yet you all expect me to save you from the big, bad, dark wizard.   Interesting dichotomy, don't you think?"

Harry sighed.   "Hermione, you're one of my oldest and dearest friends.   I don't want to lose that.   I have precious few true friends.   But you need to think about what I just said before we talk again."

Harry stood from the table and offered his hand to Ginny as Tonks stood and tucked her hand into his other elbow.   "I'm going to visit your brothers.   Care to come along?"

Ginny's eyes went from Tonks to Harry's offered hand to Hermione's stunned expression.   "Thank you for the offer, Harry, but not this time.   I'll send you an owl after school starts, okay?"

Harry nodded.   "Have a good year."   He grinned.   "Tell me how the house points are going, okay?"

Ginny looked at him curiously.   "What do you know?"

Harry tried to look innocent.   "Me?   I don't know anything.   See ya."

"Hear ye, hear ye."

Harry looked at Fred incredulously as the Weasley pounded a rubber chicken on the table as if it were a hammer.   "What in the name of Merlin do you think you're doing?"

"Saw it on the muggle telly.   I thought it would be a good way to start our meeting."

"You're certifiable; you do know that?"

"Why, Harry, that was the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

A strange sound - half snort and half laugh - came from Tonks.

Fred smiled winningly at her.

"Not to change the subject, but I'm going to change the subject.   You two wanted to see me about something?"

George nodded and turned to the shelf.   "I solemnly swear to tell the whole truth," he said while tapping one of the large books with his wand.   After pulling it down and glancing at the cover, he handed the book to Harry.

The first page was an accounting summary sheet, detailing current debts and assets.   Harry glanced over it before paying a lot more attention to the number at the bottom of the page.

"As you can see, we're doing pretty well for ourselves.   As the board of directors, we need to decide what direction to go."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa.   I don't know anything about business, guys.   Besides which, I GAVE that money to you.   I didn't expect a partnership for it."

"Too bad.   You legally and officially own one third of the business."

"If you're a partner, you really should learn, Harry," Kingsley mentioned, pulling the invisibility cloak off of his head.

Neither twin even flinched.

Harry sighed, remembering all the businesses he'd inherited stock in.   "You're probably right.   I know you two could teach me," he smiled briefly at the twins, who preened, "but you're busy running this place."

"Mum could probably teach you," Tonks offered.

Harry stared at her in surprise.

Tonks shrugged.   "Before she was disinherited, she was taught all the ins and outs of business.   Not all pureblood families teach their daughters very well, but the Blacks certainly did."

Harry nodded thoughtfully.   "I think I would like that."

Kingsley grinned in a truly disturbing manner.   "You're going to ask the potential mother-in-law for lessons?"

Harry paled.

Fred and George laughed at his expression.   "I didn't realize you two were dating," one of them observed.

"Neither did your mother, Ron, or Hermione.   Or Ginny, for that matter.   If you see them, could you ask them to keep it quiet?" Tonks requested.  

"They're unlikely to listen to us," Harry agreed.   "After all, I'm a child who doesn't even know what's best for himself."

"And I'm the older harlot corrupting his young, impressionable mind."

"For what it's worth, you certainly have made an impression on my mind."

"Sweet Merlin, they're sappy," Fred groaned.

"Are they always this bad?" George demanded of Kingsley.

"Usually they're much worse," Kingsley deadpanned.

"Aw, Shack, I didn't know you cared," Tonks said.

Fred shuddered theatrically.   "We'll warn them to lay off of our financial investor, then.   If only to get this sickeningly sweet scene to end."

"Thank you," Harry sincerely said to the twins.

They nodded.   "Now, as you can see, we have a fair amount of capital available.   You're entitled to take your dividends whenever you want, but there are several other things we can do instead.   We could open another store, we could try to buy out Zonko's or maybe Gambol and Japes, we could diversify, we could expand our store space here, or we could add production capacity by hiring more workers."

Harry frowned.   "I don't need the cash, so me taking my money out - which I still disagree that I deserve, by the way - won't be happening.   Do you guys own this place, or are you renting it?"

"Renting from Gringotts."

Harry nodded.   "We can talk about me giving you a new place down Knockturn Alley later.   If you have the backlog, expanding your production makes sense.   If not, removing competition would seem the best move to me.   You also get their patents, if any, when you buy them, don't you?"

Fred, George, and Tonks stared at him.

Kingsley chuckled.   "You seem to have some of the business instincts down right."

"What was that about Knockturn Alley?" Fred requested.

"Didn't I tell you?   It's privileged information, but it seems that I inherited all of Knockturn Alley from Sirius."

Fred and George glanced at each other for only a moment before they both fell to their knees in front of Harry.   "We're not worthy!"

Tonks laughed.   "I saw that one.   You have a telly back in your apartment, don't you?"

Climbing back into their chairs, they nodded happily.   "Yep, sure do."

"Getting back to the topic at hand," Harry drawled out, "what was that you were saying about diversifying?"

The twins immediately got serious again.   As serious as they ever got, at any rate.   "We've had some ideas that we think could be useful to people like the Order and aurors.   Extendible Ears are like that, but that's only the beginning.   A drop of veritaserum in a sweet, invisibility dust, a scrying stone that looks like a marble, all sorts of things.   We only need the financing to develop them."

Harry nodded.   "With this war heating up, that sounds like something that could be useful."   He propped his chin in a fist.   "What do you have in mind?"

"Those two are downright scary," Tonks, again in the Ingrid disguise, said later.

"You only had three years at Hogwarts with them, didn't you?   Trust me, they've gotten worse as they grew older.   More brilliant and directed, but no less crazy."  

Harry held the door for Tonks and together they entered Ollivander's.

"Thank you for the courtesy, but as your bodyguard, I should hold it for you, not the other way around."

"Would 'Innie' hold it for me, or the other way around?" Harry asked with a grin.

Tonks just nodded in acknowledgment and took station near the door.

"Mr. Potter," Mr. Ollivander said as he entered the room.

"Mr. Ollivander.   How are you today, sir?"

"Very well, thank you.   You are here for your special project, I presume?" he asked, his unblinking eyes fixed on Harry.

Harry nodded and pulled out the nearly dozen little vials he had used to collect the various hairs.

Ollivander hummed happily as he looked over the hairs, raising an eyebrow at a few of them.   "Quite a variety you have here, Mr. Potter.   Metamorphmagus, lycanthrope, animagus, both parents, half-giant.   House-elf and phoenix?   Great Merlin, is this from a centaur?   My, my, Mr. Potter, you have the most unusual range of friends."   He clearly wasn't expecting any kind of answer because he was already at work.   Waving a wand over the lot of them, his eyes lit up when all of the items began glowing.   Now humming happily, he pulled out the armband that Harry had commissioned and began a series of spells on it and the hairs.  

After five minutes with little visible progress, Harry asked, "Is everything okay, Mr. Ollivander?"

"Oh, heavens yes, Mr. Potter.   Everything is going quite well."   He looked up.   "I'm terribly sorry for not saying something earlier.   I must commend you on your choices of donors.   Very good choices, all of them.   I daresay this will be a very powerful focus when I am done with it.   You're welcome to stay and watch, but I suspect it will be dreadfully dull to watch.   If you prefer, you could simply return in an hour."

Harry nodded, already bored with watching what was an incomprehensible process to him.   "Thank you again, sir.   We'll be back."

Harry headed back out and toward Gringotts.   "While I'm talking with the goblins, you may want to get your new armor, Tonks."

"What new armor?"

Harry frowned at her.   "Your body armor was damaged in the fight at Shack's.   I ordered a new set for you a couple days later."

Tonks sighed.   "It still works, Harry.   You didn't need to get me a new set."

"Yes, I did.   After one hit, they're not as effective ever again, remember?"

"They only lose fifteen percent of their effectiveness."

"And if that fifteen percent can save your life, I'd cheerfully spend much more than a new set costs."

"Accept that your boyfriend is filthy rich, Dora," Shack's disembodied voice said.

She grimaced in his general direction.   "I will have you know that he is not filthy in any sense of the word."

"What, you helped wash his back this morning?"

Harry flushed, and Tonks grinned.

"Oh, dear Merlin," Shack groaned.

"NO!" Harry objected.   "She did NOT join me in the shower."

"Not for lack of trying," Tonks grumbled, just loudly enough for Shack and Harry to hear.

Harry groaned, and Shack laughed.   "Careful, Harry.   She's a very tenacious witch."

"Don't I know it.   Anyway, you have armor waiting on you, Tonks.   Why don't you get it and join me at Gringotts after that?"

"Take care of him, Shack.   I want another shot at scrubbing his back."   Without waiting for a response, she broke off from Harry and headed toward Abernathy's Armours.

"Her teasing is going to be the death of me at this rate," Harry moaned without rancor.

Shack held his tongue on his opinion on whether or not she actually was teasing.   Instead, he said, "Helluva way to go, though."

"You're not helping."

"Oh, you wanted me to try to talk the two of you out of something?"

"Well . . ."

"You're an adult; she's an adult.   Where's the problem?"

"I'm her Patriarch."

"So?   You saw the Malfoy boy's reaction to that.   None of the purebloods will care.   Taking a mistress from within the family was common practice if they aren't too closely related."

"Mistress?   That makes it sound so . . . dirty."

"You have to remember that this isn't the muggle world, Harry.   Nobody will even blink at a wizard in your position having a mistress, especially one as young and good-looking as Dora."

Harry growled.   "She's not some bloody trophy for me to show off."

"Don't get your boxers in a wad, Harry.   We know that.   I'm just telling you what the rest of the wizarding world will view it as."

"What if I marry her instead?"

Shack was silent as they entered the Gringotts building.   In the quiet lobby, he removed the invisibility cloak without breaking stride.  There was only one human in the room, and she had her back turned.   "Are you serious?" he finally asked as Harry got in line.

"Not right now, but it's something that's been on my mind."

"Brave man," Shack quietly said.   "Just think about it before you do something permanent, okay?   You need to think politically as well as personally, now."

Harry turned to glare at him.

Shack raised a hand.   "I know you don't like to think about it, but you need to.   That's all I'm saying."

Harry sighed.   "Yeah.   You're right.   Sorry."

"No problem," Shack said as the witch in line ahead of them moved out of the way.

"I'd like to speak with Snargtooth, please," Harry said to the goblin sitting at the desk.

The Gringotts employee nodded immediately.   "Yes, Lord-Baron.  Please follow me."   He got down from his stool, signaled for a replacement, and led Harry and Shack down a hallway.   "If I may, Lord-Baron, in the future you're welcome to go directly to Snargtooth's office without waiting in line."

Harry grinned.   "And incidentally not bother you in the lobby?   Thanks, I'll remember that."

The goblin smiled.   Without a word, he stopped and rapped sharply on the door that had a plaque announcing it as Snargtooth's office and opened it.   Shack slipped in and waved Harry forward moments later.

Before entering, Harry nodded to their guide.   "Thank you for escorting me."

The goblin bowed back and left silently.

Harry entered the office and closed the door behind himself.   Once Harry was seated, the goblin said, "Lord-Baron, welcome to Gringotts.   How may I serve you this day?"

"Several things.   Narcissa Malfoy will be accepting Sirius's offer.   I understand that you needed to know."

Snargtooth nodded thoughtfully.   "In that case, may I suggest we owl Lady Malfoy and Mr. Wordsmith and get it accomplished as rapidly as possible?   There are certain elements that would . . . frown heavily upon her actions.   Her physical safety would be better served if she were to leave Malfoy Manor immediately."

Harry frowned.   "You're right.   How quickly can you make the arrangements?"

Snargtooth pressed a long finger to a crystal globe that rested on his desk.   He uttered a long string of what Harry assumed was Gobbledegook.   He looked up again and said, "Urgent, express owls will be going out within two minutes.   Unless they have something pressing, they will likely both be here within a half hour."

Harry was impressed.

Snargtooth's smile would have been frightening if he didn't appear honestly amused.   "Your next item of business, Lord-Baron?"

"The Black accounts concern me.   Based on what I know of the history of the family, the members of that family, and their attitudes, I'm concerned that there is a history to this account that I should be warned of."

Snargtooth cocked his head.   "Are you accusing Gringotts of something, Lord-Baron?"

"Not at all," Harry assured the goblin.   "I'm more concerned that, for instance, Bellatrix Black-Lestrange has withdrawn monies or items for her Death Eater activities."

Snargtooth nodded.   "Ah, I see your concern.   We here at Gringotts do not concern ourselves with wizarding politics to any great extent.   As long as the individual has legal access to the account, we do not limit what they can do with it."

Harry nodded.   "From a business point of view, that is a perfectly reasonable thing for you to do.   However, I have concerns over the history of the account.   Therefore, may I have the transaction history for, oh, the last two and a half years?"

Snargtooth again pressed a finger to the crystal on his desk and spoke.   He leaned back in his chair a few seconds later.   "The records will be available momentarily."

"Thank you.   I'd like to visit the Potter vaults as well, so might I do that while we're waiting on the records and Mrs. Malfoy and Mr. Wordsmith?"

Before Snargtooth could answer, the door opened and a younger goblin entered the room and placed a stack of parchment onto Snargtooth's desk.   The elder goblin pushed the records across toward Harry with an amused expression.   "Here are the records you requested, Lord-Baron.   Griphook will escort you to the Potter vaults.   I suspect Lady Malfoy and Mr. Wordsmith will be here when you return."

Shrinking the papers and tucking them into a pocket, Harry said, "Nymphadora Tonks will be here soon, looking for me.   She will be welcome to sit in on the meeting later, so would it be possible to have her here as well?"


Harry turned.   "It's good to see you again, Griphook."

Both goblins started slightly and shared a glance.   "You as well, Lord-Baron," the younger goblin answered.   "This way, please."

A long ride later, Harry and Shack began packing every book they could find into the trunk they'd brought along for the occasion.     "I LOVE those cart rides!" Harry enthused.

Kingsley's normally dark skin was a few shades off.   "Speak for yourself."

Griphook just chuckled.

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Author Notes:

Bunny One (Prophet article on Tom Riddle) by Fanfic lover 38. Bunny Two (WWW investor meeting) by Dale. Bunny Three (goblins trace back Black money) by Fanfic lover38.