Disclaimer: I do not own JK Rowling's story or characters. I just play with them a bit.
"…and so I would suggest holding your shares until the crisis lessens, Mr. Macmillan."
The wizard nodded.
"Will that be all, sir?" the goblin asked. At Mr. Macmillan's nod, the other turned to his left. "Alphard, if you could deposit Mr. Macmillan's earnings…"
"At once, Dr. Grobschmied," the young assistant said, moving to his employer's desk to take the check.
Mr. Macmillan scrutinized Alphard. "Are you not of the Black family?" he asked curiously.
Alphard nodded. "Pollux Black is my father, sir."
Mr. Macmillan raised an eyebrow, and Alphard awkwardly looked away.
"Mr. Black is one of our best interns," Grobschmied told Macmillan sternly. "With his potential, he could be one of the most influential financial ministers in the Ministry of Magic."
Alphard's face reddened, but Mr. Macmillan said nothing. Grobschmied shot the intern a sympathetic glance, having already heard of the trouble the boy received from his mother, Irma Crabbe Black, for having such a "commonplace" occupation, and Alphard had already received comments from patrons about it. But Macmillan said no more. He nodded to Grobschmied, and then quitted the room.
"I'll take care of this, sir," Alphard muttered as he stepped toward the office door. Then he paused, and added, "Someone's left you an owl, Dr. Grobschmied. The letter's on my desk."
Grobschmied nodded. "Try to be finished by half after two," he said. "I have an appointment with Mr. Prewett."
As Alphard left the room, Grobschmied went to the desk and picked up the letter addressed to him. He smiled slightly as he recognized the handwriting, and sitting down at his own desk again, he broke the seal and began to read.
My dear Benedict,
Thank you for your last letter. The story of your little adventure in the Goblin Liaison office was very amusing. You are an excellent fellow, and goblins like you make me wonder sometimes at the Ministry's attitude toward your people.
Things are quiet for me at the present moment. I'm afraid that Hokey's taken ill lately. I do what I can for her, but she soon will be unable to climb the stairs without assistance. She's fortunate that she's not employed by the Black family, knowing what they do to their house-elves when they get too old to work.
Caractacus Burke is after my father's set of goblin-made armor again. He's made an offer of five hundred Galleons for it, but he'll have to do much better than that for it. I've told him that he'll have to pay at least the amount that I had to pay for the locket. I have to admit, however, that Burke's assistant is a very charming man, quite the gentleman. He even brought me flowers today, when he arrived.
Grobschmied stared at this last bit. He supposed that he should have known that Burke the swindler would send his little charmer to Hepzibah, but he couldn't stop the chill that went up his spine as he thought of the strange young assistant at Borgin and Burke's. Unless he could advise Hepzibah himself, Grobschmied was certain that Riddle's engaging manners would coax Hepzibah into giving Burke the armor at a less-than-fair price before the week was out.
It was odd, but Burke's assistant made Grobschmied uneasy. Perhaps it was Mr. Riddle's extraordinary ability to procure artifacts for Mr. Burke at the most astonishingly low prices, or perhaps it was simply the old cultural assumption many goblins made about wizards concerning such treasures, but Grobschmied's dislike of Riddle grew every time Burke hid a new artifact in his vault, and Riddle appeared with an immense pay raise. Frowning, Grobschmied returned to Hepzibah's letter.
Of course, I made it clear to Mr. Riddle that Burke would have to offer a better price for the armor, but Riddle accepted this very politely. He is a very obliging man, and not to mention, quite handsome. I wish I aged as slowly as your people do, Benedict, because if I was thirty years younger… but never mind. I also believe that Riddle works at Borgin and Burke's because he appreciates the history of the artifacts there, not how much they're worth. I thought it would interest him, so I showed him the cup and the locket.
Grobschmied, who had just taken a sip of mead, choked at this last sentence, his astonishment growing. Hepzibah didn't show just anyone those particular artifacts, and she had carefully kept her possession of Hufflepuff's cup secret from people like Burke for years.
He enjoyed examining them, of course, particularly the locket, although he went a bit funny when I put them away.
I was glad to hear that you've employed young Alphard Black. His father's been giving him such trouble lately. I am convinced, Benedict, that that family isn't going to come to any good. They even look down on other purebloods.
Hokey's just brought me my supper, so I had better close. Hope to hear from you soon.
Grobschmied stared at the letter. The unease which he felt around Riddle increased tenfold. Hepzibah normally would rather die than hand over either the cup or the locket to any procurer, and personally, Grobschmied felt that the two artifacts belonged in a museum, rather than in anyone's hands. But on the other hand, Hepzibah normally kept the existence of the cup and the locket secret. She didn't just tell anyone about them, normally; but somehow she told Riddle, a youth she hardly knew. Grobschmied scowled as he folded her letter and stuffed it into a inside pocket of his frock coat. Within a week, possibly it wouldn't just be the armor gone from Hepzibah's house, but also her two most precious artifacts.
Unable to shake the discontented feeling, Grobschmied looked at the date at the top of the letter, and saw that it had been written two days ago, meaning that it would only be a matter of time before Riddle went back there to cheat Hepzibah into practically giving the relics away. Grobschmied glanced at the clock, and saw that it would still be another hour before Ignatius Prewett's appointment.
Normally he didn't intervene in Hepzibah's buying and selling of ancient artifacts, but his conscience wouldn't be swayed until he visited Hepzibah and warned her about Riddle.
As he stepped out of his office door, he bumped into Alphard Black, who appeared to have just returned from processing Macmillan's check.
"Alphard, could you look after things for an hour?" Grobschmied asked. "I have to run a quick errand, but I'll be back in time for Mr. Prewett's appointment."
"Of course, sir," Alphard said. Then seeing Grobschmied's troubled expression, he added, "I hope everything's all right, sir."
"It's probably nothing," Grobschmied assured him, "but I hope you're right."
He then turned and hurried down the hall until he reached the lobby. He fairly ran toward the fireplaces at the right side of the chamber, and reached into a flower pot next to one of the lit fires, scooping up a handful of Floo Powder. Then, scattering it into the fire, Grobschmied stepped inside it and shouted, "Smith Manor!"
He tensed as he started spinning rapidly, trying not to breathe in the soot, and closing his eyes against the whirl of green flame. Floo powder wasn't his preferred method of travel, but it certainly was the fastest.
Finally Grobschmied stumbled out of the fireplace into Hepzibah's tidy front room, and brushed dust from his coat.
"Hepzibah?" he called out.
There was no reply. Grobschmied frowned, and called out again, but there was nothing. He sighed, hoping she hadn't gone out, and raised his voice again.
There was a loud pop, and the elderly house-elf Apparated before him. Before she could greet Grobschmied, however, she swayed, and the goblin instantly stepped forwaryd and steadied her.
"Thank you, Mr. Grobschmied," she croaked.
"I'm sorry to get you up, Hokey," Grobschmied told her gently, "but I must see your mistress. Is she at home?"
"Yes, sir," Hokey said quietly. "She is in her dining room. I just took her her breakfast."
"Has anyone else been by today, Hokey?"
Hokey frowned for a moment, and shook her head. "No, sir. I hasn't seen anyone."
Grobschmied exhaled. "Show me to her, then."
"This way, sir."
As Hokey slowly led Grobschmied down a well-kept hallway, Grobschmied passed the suit of armor that Burke had been after for so long. The uneasiness returned, and then as they approached the dining room, Grobschmied realized that it was very quiet, abnormally quiet. He couldn't hear the sound of cutlery on dishes, or the sipping of tea, not the remotest stirring.
Grobschmied frowned as Hokey opened the dining room door, and stepped inside. She opened her mouth to announce him, and then she stopped, staring frozen at something inside the room. Then she screamed.
"Mistress Hepzibah! Mistress Hepzibah!"
Without a word, Grobschmied stepped inside the dining room, and he froze as he saw his old friend slumped back in her chair, her glassy eyes wide and staring, but her face ashen, with an expression of shocked terror in its elderly features. Hepzibah Smith was dead.
Author's Note: The outline of this story was written long before DH was published, so this is a post-HBP story with no connection with or influence from Deathly Hallows. It basically is how I would have ended the Harry Potter series.