So, I really have to apologize for two things this time. First is for how long this chapter took, and second is for how long I took to respond to your reviews. I usually reply to them the moment I see them, but for some reason, I just kept putting it off again and again. You who reviewed the last chapter should have gotten a reply from me unless you are Reiha Sakurai (here's your new chap, by the way), Cherrie-san (you now have the answer to your guess) or one of the two guests who reviewed, both of which were really enthusiastic and made my day.
P.S. I really like it when I can PM my reviewers, so if you can take a sec, please make sure it's enabled, K? Or maybe create an account so I can reply and differentiate between all the different guests. :-P
Anyway, this chapter seemed to come out more as a filler chapter, but I think it's full of a few interesting twists. Tell me how you like it, and I promise that you'll get a reply right away this time! ^.^
By the time Harry and Bruzon finally made their way to the surface - or rather, into a cluster of hallways that had the distinct office building look - an alarm of some sort had been set off. Harry was still dizzy from the cart ride back up, and he was also starting to feel the effects of the small battle. The adrenaline was wearing off and blood loss from the injury on his arm was beginning to take a toll.
Bruzon had torn off a piece of one of the traitors' cloaks before they'd left (no need to ruin either of theirs) and had wrapped it tightly around Harry's arm in an attempt to staunch the blood flow. Still, Harry rested his good arm on Bruzon's shoulder for support at the goblin's bidding.
Goblin's swarmed around them as emerald green lights flashed from points on the ceiling spaced along the hallway. There were no bells or horns sounding the alarm and the goblins did their duties in silence, which made the whole scene look surreal. And then the silence was broken as one of the goblins finally noticed their king and a bleeding wizard standing in their midst.
"Your Majesty!" A goblin squeaked out, dropping a stack of papers. Harry rather thought the goblin had sounded like a house elf at that very moment. At the same time, of course, every other goblin in the hall stopped where they stood, frozen. Harry stood uncomfortably. He realized he was hardly the focus of their gaze, but he had never appreciated being even close to the center of attention when he was injured. Not that he liked it much better when he wasn't.
Bruzon snorted quietly, but no one seemed to notice but Harry. "What has happened?" He asked loudly.
Harry raised an eyebrow, wondering why the goblin would be asking that after what had happened not ten minutes before. There were multiple things that could have set off the alarm. An assassination attempt on the King for one, or the King going missing and said assassination attempt being found lying at the bottom of the tunnels and along the route said king was travelling."
"There has been a break in, Sire!" another goblin managed.
Or, Harry mused, there could have been a break in while the King was busy being assassinated. That worked, too. Maybe there were different types of alarms for each type of scenario. That would explain why goblins were running around with stacks of paperwork instead of swords, too. They'd need to figure out what was stolen.
"Of course." Bruzon muttered under his breath. Louder, he said, "I'll take a look at the vault. Which number?"
"It…it wasn't a vault, Sire." The goblin replied hesitantly. "It was Griphook's office. He was injured and some of his files seem to have been taken. We won't know exactly which ones they were until he wakes up, or until we finish going through them all."
"They stole files? How did someone get into the heart of my bank?!" Bruzon asked venomously, suddenly every bit the Goblin King Harry had expected to see if he'd ever met him. Now he suddenly wondered which was the real Bruzon.
The first two goblins that had spoken were cowed by their king's tone. A third spoke up after a moment, but his voice was shaky. "W-we don't know yet, Your Majesty."
Upon hearing Griphook's name, Harry had frozen, but he kept himself from speaking aloud. He had developed a keen understanding of the need for secrecy lately, seeing as the Dark Lord was sitting in a Hogwarts classroom at the moment, grading papers. The cold anger he'd been filled with lately began to run through him once again. He had a feeling he knew exactly what this was about. And he didn't like it one bit.
"Your Majesty…" Harry mumbled, starting to feel light-headed. He needed to sit down. Then he could tell Bruzon about his suspicions. His hand tightened on the king's shoulder as he maintained his balance. Bruzon looked up at him, as if surprised to rediscover Harry's presence, and his mouth parted in surprised remembrance. He started moving briskly down the hall, ignoring stares from the goblins who parted from his path. Harry could barely keep up, despite the advantage he had with his longer stride. The goblin wrapped a brawny arm around Harry's waist and Harry saw some confused glances aimed towards him.
Minutes later found Harry in a large, neat, and simply decorated office, almost like a big-shot businessman's office he had seen once on the Dursleys' TV. Minus the windows, of course. Bruzon shut the door of the office in the face of some goblins who had been scrambling after them after throwing out a multitude of orders, including one to search the tunnels for survivors of their battle – which made the goblins' eyes widen comically – and one to bring a medi-kit. Harry raised his hand to grasp at his injured arm before slowly making his way to one of the two chairs situated in front of Bruzon's desk.
Bruzon, freed from the public eye, trudged over to his own, rather more expensive desk chair, and flopped down into it. He leaned back and let out a frustrated sigh.
"All in a day's work?" Harry asked dryly.
"I can't say that it's the first time that I've been the subject of such attempts," Bruzon started, waving his hand downward vaguely, though Harry understood what he was referring to. "But I can say that this is the first time anyone has successfully stolen documents from these halls."
"Right…er…about that…" Harry started sheepishly. Bruzon raised an eyebrow at him, and, for a moment, the gesture seemed to mimic Severus' usual expression when he demanded answers to his questions. "Well, you see…You remember how I told you that Griphook sent me down to see my vault?"
Bruzon's eyes widened. "You must be…I see. That's why the name seemed so familiar. I saw the papers that requested for your vault to be examined for evidence of theft just before I went down to inspect the tunnels. It was sitting on my desk for an okay. I signed it and sent it back to Griphook."
Harry was almost amused. When Bruzon had begun to speak, he's thought for sure that the goblin had finally realized that Harry was the Harry Potter. But for once, Harry was just another one of the human crowd. And he was going to enjoy it while it lasted.
"Right. I think that it was my file that was stolen, actually."
Bruzon's eyes narrowed. "Why would someone want your information?"
"I think that it was Albus Dumbledore, the man who I was accusing of theft." Harry answered after a beat.
"Well, that wouldn't exactly help him in the long run. We could always replace the information." Bruzon replied.
"Yes, but what if he was trying to gain some time? Maybe build a case to discredit me. It's something he would do."
Bruzon grunted. "We'll find out soon enough. For now, though, I will have my employees place extra attention on the condition of your vaults."
A deep-pitched knock, almost hollow-sounding, came from the door to Bruzon's office. Bruzon called for the person to enter and a harried-looking goblin came in carrying the medi-kit that the king had requested. Bruzon directed the goblin towards Harry and the wizard soon found himself under the ministrations of an apparent physician.
Harry did not get to hear the goblin's name before he left, but he was briefly reminded of Madam Pomfrey's precise motions as a skilled healer.
After only five minutes or so, Harry sat alone with Bruzon in the Goblin King's office. Only now, he was stuffed full with two blood-replenishing potions and his arm was bound up tightly. It appeared that though the goblins had access to potions and such that worked on wizards, they couldn't perform the same wound-closing magics. Right now, the slice on his arm was only just beginning to clot and his arm was held close to his chest by a supporting sling.
"I must thank you, Harry."
The sudden voice that broke the comfortable silence made Harry blink in confusion. "For what?"
Harry could have hit himself for even thinking that question, but Bruzon clarified himself anyway. "For saving my life. I have no doubts that I would be dead if you had not been there."
"I'm glad I was there, then." Harry smiled, rolling his neck stiffly. He was beginning to feel sore, and his arm hurt terribly, but he'd refused a pain potion, knowing that he'd be able to take one of Severus' more potent ones if he only waited a bit longer.
"If there's anything I can ever do…"
"Heh, don't worry about it. I got to meet the Goblin King. And call him by his first name." Harry joked. Having the freedom of anonymity was great, he mused. He could actually meet someone famous and get to be impressed about it!
"Speaking of which, I want you to keep doing so." Bruzon said with a grin. "You've earned the right."
"Alright, then. I think I can manage that. But even in public?" Harry asked with a quizzically raised eyebrow.
Bruzon nodded. "Recognition where recognition is due, I say." He leaned down to reach for something behind his desk and came to his feet with an elegantly crafted sword in hand. He pulled the sword he already had in his belt from it and laid it carefully on his desk before belting on his own blade. Harry was intrigued by the motion. He would have expected the goblin to throw it down in disgust. Bruzon say his expression as he fumbled with the buckle for a moment.
"When a goblin claims a blade in battle, it becomes his own. We must treat it with respect. I have many such blades in my home."
"I'd imagine." Harry said quietly, eying the sword. He nodded and stood stiffly. "Are we going to see Griphook?"
"For a human, you catch on fast." Harry snorted. "Yes, I am. But are you sure you are well enough? You can go back to your school to rest. Or stay here if you wish."
Harry shook his head. "No. No, it's alright. If Griphook got hurt because of my files, I want to be sure he will be alright in person."
"Alright, then. Follow me." Bruzon then proceeded out his door and down the hall at a brisk walk, with Harry on his heels.
"Severus, have you heard from Harry?"
If he had been anyone else, Severus would have jumped out of his skin at the sudden, barked question. As it was, he flinched harshly and turned a glare on his former 'master'. Tom had just thrown open the door to his private potions lab, risking a possible explosion, as Severus was making a very complicated potion.
"What are you thinking, Tom?" Severus hissed, uncaring that the man he was speaking to had once been a terror to the whole wizarding world. As a matter of fact, he still was, depending on who you talked to. "One wrong move and this potion could-"
"Sorry." Tom apologized distractedly. He crossed the room in three strides, placing both hands on the table that Severus had placed his cauldron on. "Harry is gone."
"What?" Severus narrowed his eyes. He finished what he was doing and then placed a stasis charm on the cauldron. He moved around the table and came face to face with the Dark Lord. "Explain."
Tom was apparently too worried to notice Severus' tone, which was something that concerned the potions master in and of itself. Thankfully, it wasn't the normal type of worry you'd expect from anyone else, where they would be freaking out, yelling, crying, or all of the above. But Tom's form of worrying included brooding silence and a frustrating lack of real information as he used Severus as a sounding board for his inner thoughts.
After five minutes of getting only small scraps of information and lots of silence, Severus was seriously tempted to use legilimency. Then Tom suddenly snapped out of his ruminating thoughts and exited Severus' lab without a word, leaving Severus to hurry after his trailing robes.
"Tom! What is going on?!" Severus growled. Again he received no answer, but he saw that Tom was directing his path towards Severus' fireplace. When he reached it, he finally spoke.
"I'm going to Gringotts to bring Harry back. He left to go there early this afternoon and hasn't returned." With that, Tom was gone.
Severus snorted. He supposed he should wait here since Tom hadn't ordered him to come as well. But then, he didn't have to listen to Tom anymore, did he? With a smirk, he retrieved his personalized medi-kit and flooed to Gringotts.
If he knew Harry Potter at all, which he did, the boy would be needing some medical attention by the time they got there.
Not five minutes later found Harry and Bruzon in a miniature hospital wing. Harry supposed that the goblins needed medical attention every now and then, too, so he wasn't too surprised at the existence of such a place, though he wasn't sure where he'd expected Griphook to be.
The goblin, who Harry had really begun to think of as an ally if not a friend, was indeed laying on one of the six beds that filled the room. Only one other of the beds were filled, but Harry didn't pay any attention to that patient, heading straight towards Griphook's bed. He heard Bruzon's steps close behind him.
Griphook was still asleep. It wasn't a wonder why, either. He was covered in bandages, starting at his right ear, then his throat. His arms, which were left uncovered by the crude hospital gown he wore, were also wrapped in the white cloth. Harry could see one foot, which had come uncovered at some point, and was also bandaged. Harry pulled the large hospital blanket back down over Griphook's foot with a sort of horrified deference.
"Holy…" Harry choked on his next words, which likely would have not been polite at all. Bruzon grasped Harry's uninjured arm and pulled him back and away a short distance from the bed. About a minute later, Harry realized that they were standing next to what he could only guess was the doctor for the ward. He turned his eyes away from Griphook and listened to their conversation.
"…covered in long scratches and cuts, grouped in fours. Claw marks most likely. I haven't heard of a wizarding spell that can imitate such damage."
"That's because there isn't." Harry jumped and turned around to look at the doorway to the hospital wing with wide eyes. There stood Tom and Severus. He gulped as he saw the both of them eying his injured arm with nearly-identical raised eyebrows. Thankfully though, Tom turned his attention back to the goblin doctor and he and Severus came further into the room.
"Claw marks are unnecessary when you can use a simpler spell to create one slice. There are no spells that could create such organized wounds."
Harry almost expected the doctor to challenge Tom's expertise, but he underestimated the goblins' uncanny ability to just know and person's identity. The doctor merely nodded.
"Ah, I see. Thank you, Mr. Riddle."
Tom nodded in acknowledgement of the thanks and then turned to nod far more deeply at Bruzon, who inclined his head slightly. Harry supposed that Tom knew that Bruzon was the Goblin King, though he wasn't sure how. Severus copied Tom's motions and came up with a question on his lips.
"What has happened here?" Severus drawled, looking at Harry's injured arm once again.
"Umm…well…" Harry tried to think of a way to explain, but couldn't quite manage. He looked to Bruzon, who took up the question.
"Harry and I met in the tunnels, just before I became the target of an assassination." Tom and Severus snorted, and though Bruzon looked curious and amused at their reactions, he continued. "We fought them off and returned here, only to find that Harry's financial manager had been attacked and that some files have been found missing."
Harry thought that the whole situation had been seriously understated, but saw that Tom and Severus grasped the importance of the happenings easily. They both focused their gazes on Griphook and made their way over to him.
"Harry, was it Dumbledore?" Tom asked quickly. Bruzon answered before Harry could.
"We will not know anything for sure until we have catalogued all of the files in Griphook's office. I have been told that his attacker left quite a mess to clean up; Griphook's desk was completely broken in half."
That was the first Harry had heard about that. But he supposed it wasn't necessary information. Griphook continued.
"Though if it was indeed Harry's files that were taken, I am not sure it was Albus Dumbledore." Tom looked up, surprised.
"Well, I was under the impression that Dumbledore did not employ the services of magical creatures. With the exception of house elves, of course." Bruzon said. Harry suddenly noticed that the doctor that had been with them had disappeared. He berated himself. He should be more observant.
"No. He doesn't have any qualms about that." Tom said with a scowl. He pulled back the edges of one of the bandages to take a closer look at the scratches. "He only says he does. He even has a werewolf on his side."
Harry found himself becoming a little defensive at the tone Tom had used when he referred to Remus. "Remus wouldn't do anything like this!" Harry exclaimed. He was a bit discomforted as three pairs of eyes were drawn to him. Tom nodded in slow agreement.
"You're right, Harry. It was just an example. These marks look like a vampire's work, anyway." Tom said. He fixed the bandages that he had undone and moved more towards the head of the bed, by Griphook's head. He had already reached up to open one eye before Harry realized what the man was doing. He moved towards the man without really thinking about what he was doing and pulled Tom's arm back.
For a moment, no one moved, and Harry suddenly realized who exactly he was interfering with. He tried his best not to show his sudden anxiety. He looked around, avoiding Tom's gaze, and saw that Bruzon had a rather surprised expression on his face, while Severus seemed to be trying to avoid looking at him and Tom at all, for fear of letting a laugh escape. Harry tried his best to avoid the slight fear that was boiling up in the pit of his stomach. He decided to explain himself.
"You can't. He doesn't deserve to have his memories carded through. We can wait until he wakes up."
"And if Albus doesn't afford us the time to wait?" Harry tried to ignore the sharpness in the voice of the man whose arm he still held firmly. But then, he didn't have an answer for Tom. He just knew it wouldn't be right to invade Griphook's privacy like that. Not after he had helped Harry so much.
"I…" He started, but Bruzon interrupted him.
"Why don't we do this? We can interrogate him." Tom, Harry, and Severus all turned to look in the direction that Bruzon pointed. Harry saw that the goblin's bony finger was aimed at the exact bed that he had almost completely ignored earlier when they had come in. Now that he really looked at it, though, he could see that the goblin that laid in it was actually chained to the hospital bed. Not tied with that comfortable little bit of leather that regular hospitals used. No. They were full-out cast-iron chains.
Harry felt Tom shift and finally looked up at the man. He scowled at Harry's hand, and Harry quickly released the man's arm. "It would have been helpful had you mentioned that sooner, Goblin King."
Bruzon grinned, taking no offense at the gruff tone. "And had I known you wished to use mind magic in my halls, I might have."
Harry saw Tom grimace. "Touché." He said. Harry guessed that doing such a thing was…improper in Gringotts. Well, that was helpful to know.
"Well, shall we get on with it?" Harry nearly smiled at Severus' impatient tone. As they walked over, Harry stole a glance at Tom again. Just as soon, he looked away. Tom was giving him an amused look. But that couldn't quite describe the exact expression on the man's face. It just made him feel uneasy. He didn't think he wanted to go back to Hogwarts with the man quite yet. He sighed under his breath and forced himself to calm down.
By the time Harry got a good view of the goblin, he realized that he recognized him. It was the same goblin who had managed to slice his arm open. The one he had blinded and tied up with ropes in the middle of Bruzon's attempted assassination.
A stream of milky white fluid was slowly streaming from the goblin's eyes, and when Tom opened his eyelids, his eyes were unfocused.
"Well. That's inconvenient." Tom and Severus grumbled near simultaneously. Harry would have laughed, but he had a sinking feeling. Legilimency wouldn't work because the goblin couldn't see.
"Umm…sorry." Harry mumbled.
"What?" Tom asked, turning to Harry.
"What's wrong?" Bruzon asked, eyes narrowed. Tom pulled his attention off of Harry to answer the question.
"We can't use legilimency if the subject cannot see. There must be a visual connection. Now, what are you apologizing for, Harry?"
"I, well, I was the one who, umm, blinded him." Harry didn't explain any further, busy berating himself in his own mind for blinding the goblin when he could have just as easily blasted him away.
"Harry helped me fight off my would-be assassins, as I told you earlier. This was the only one found alive when my goblins went back down to search at my order. This was one of the ones that Harry took care of."
"Really? How many were there?" Tom sounded interested now, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief that the man's focus was off of getting information from the goblin.
"Perhaps thirty altogether." Bruzon answered. Tom and Severus' eyes widened appreciatively at the feat of the two against thirty victory. Bruzon continued, though, and Harry found himself blushing from the obvious praise. "I only took out eight, though. Harry took care of the rest. They either died going over the edge of the path or got killed on it. Harry here saved my life!" Bruzon slapped a strong hand to Harry's back, still careful of his arm, and Harry found himself grinning and shaking his head at the king in front of him.
"Indeed." Tom said musingly. "I will have to hear the story in its entirety soon. But for now, what shall we do?" It sounded strange to hear Tom poll for advice, but he said it easily enough. Harry was the first to answer and a short silence.
"Can't we heal his eyes?" He asked.
"Our healer can get him something right away. But I don't know how well it will work." Bruzon said.
Severus moved to the other side of the bed, opposite Tom, and lifted an eyelid to survey the damage. He turned to Harry. "What spell did you use?"
"Relashio." He said after a moment of thought.
"Then it shouldn't take too long." Severus said. "Two days at most. The only problem is that his retinas are burned from such a sudden bright flash."
"Should we come back then, Bruzon?" Harry asked. The goblin nodded.
"Yes. And by then we will know which files have been stolen."
"Right. Thanks. Can you send an owl to tell me when Griphook wakes up?" He was aware that he was overriding Tom's thoughts on the matter, but he wanted to distract him from the option of invading Griphook's mind for as long as possible. He could always change his mind, after all.
"Yes. Go back to Hogwarts and rest, Harry. We'll take care of the clean-up here." It was a clear dismissal of all three of them when Bruzon turned to walk toward the doctor they had spoken to before, who was across the room, writing something.
Harry started walking towards the door. He stiffened when a hand dropped softly onto his shoulder. When he looked up, he was glad to see Severus' face, instead of Tom's, looking down at him as they walked.
"Go out the door and to the right, then go into the first door on the left that you see." Harry realized belatedly, once he was halfway down the hallway they'd stepped into, that Severus had been giving him instructions that would lead them to a room with four fireplaces in it. The man spoke softly. "I hope you know what you are doing. He may not be crazy now, but he still isn't all that merciful."
Harry shivered. Severus had been helping him from making a fool of himself by giving him the directions. If he'd had to relinquish the lead to Tom, it would have made him lose ground in the battle of wills that he was nearly sure would follow once they stepped into Severus' rooms.
When they approached the fireplace, Severus grabbed a handful of powder and flooed to his chambers. Without giving Tom a chance to speak, Harry hurried after him. Just before he was taken away to the Potion Master's den, Harry caught a glimpse of a rather predatory expression on Tom's face.
He wondered why, at that moment, he couldn't bring himself to be scared. It was like everything was back to normal. He really hoped Tom hadn't seen the challenging grin that spread across his face.
It would only get him into trouble, after all.