It is perhaps surprising that Sirius was quite correct in his assessment of how the conversation would go in terms of violence. However the actual aspect of the violence was a long way from the mark. Harry too, had been expecting to dodge one of Daphne's impressive right hooks and so after he finished explaining the situation to a stone-faced Daphne, he unconsciously edged backwards. He turned to flee when he saw her rising from her hospital bed but he wasn't quick enough to escape. She grabbed him, flipped him to face her and pulled him into a toe curling kiss. Harry tensed at first but was soon overwhelmed by the feelings, allowing himself to sink into the kiss.
It could have been seconds or even hours before they finally broke apart, leaving Harry fighting to regain his breath.
"Er what were we talking about again?" Harry asked sheepishly.
Daphne giggled, "You were asking to marry me. Although I must say you need to work on your delivery, it was certainly lacking in romance."
"And you're fine with this?" Harry spoke cautiously, it seemed as though he was in the clear but he'd been wrong before.
"Of course I am you idiot. Would I have kissed you if I wasn't more than fine with it?"
Harry shrugged eloquently causing Daphne to shake her head in exasperation.
"Look Harry we have spent the last six months or so spending near enough every day together. Of course we argue and all of that stuff but we get along really well, we even share compatible magic for Merlin's sake. This will work, we will make it work. I know we're young but I…" she trailed off.
Harry looked deep into her eyes, "I love you Daph."
She eyes shimmered with tears and she pulled him into another breathtaking kiss, releasing him eventually and hugging him tightly.
"I love you too" she whispered in his ear.
They pulled apart but not too far and they remained holding hands. "I spoke to the Healers before I came in to see you and they think you're ready to leave the hospital. So I flooed your parents to ask if they would let me take you out of here and spend the day together, there are a few things I want to show you. They are fine with it so come on let's get out of this place, hospitals give me the creeps."
"Where are we going?" Daphne was very confused as Harry led her straight past the fireplaces in the entrance hall of St Mungo's.
"Trust me, it will be fun."
Daphne looked at him sceptically as he walked into a nearby alley, took something out of his pocket and enlarged it.
"You expect me to get on that with you?"
"It's only a motorbike Daph, I'm a good rider honestly. Here just put this helmet on and hold on, it's nearly impossible to fall off believe me I tried."
He pouted at her until she gave in and took the proffered helmet, pulling it onto her head. She swung her leg onto the bike, behind Harry, and held onto him for dear life.
"Not so tight Daph, I'm not going to go fast. Just sit back and enjoy the ride."
Against her better judgement, she did just that. Harry guided the bike away at a sedate pace to get her used to the feeling and moved into the traffic.
A twenty minute journey later Daphne was slightly disappointed that Harry seemed to be slowing down. She wouldn't say it outright but she had thoroughly enjoyed being on the back of the bike and had silently been urging him to go a bit faster. They pulled up outside a nondescript looking building near the Thames. It was surrounded by a wire fence that looked to be in slightly better condition than the fences around any of the other nearby buildings.
Harry unlocked the gate with a key from his pocket and grabbed her hand to pull her inside.
"Welcome to the first official business site of Marauder's Inc. This is the building where all of the stuff from the Room of Requirement is currently in storage and is being sorted." He had a mischievous gleam in his eye as he watched Daphne's eyes light up in understanding and her start to fidget as she itched to go exploring. Laughing lightly at her, he beckoned her inside.
The outside may have looked a little rough but the inside was a different story. The entire area was well lit by huge lamps on the ceiling as well as standing lamps that could be moved to where they were needed. Near the entrance there were three large desks arranged in a U shape facing towards each other. Each desk was distinctly different in its contents, with papers, books and other curious items covering their surface. However each did have a large swivel chair on wheels and a computer set up.
Currently only one of these chairs was occupied. Peering intently at his computer screen, Ripfang didn't even hear the two enter the warehouse. Harry lightly coughed causing the goblin to jump slightly. He hid it well though and calmly spun his chair to face the intruders, not quite able to stop the slight smile as he did so.
"Morning Rip, good to see you're still enjoying the spinning chair. How is it going in here today?" Harry asked, desperately trying to keep from laughing at the stern look he was now on the receiving end of. Any other goblin looking at him like that and he would be worried but he knew Ripfang well enough now to know when he was actually angry as opposed to his normal grouchy.
"That girl has got to go" he exclaimed, throwing his arms skyward.
"Ah" said Harry, deciding to push his luck a little, "and which girl would this be then Rip?"
"You know full well who I mean. She flits around like an overactive cave fly. It's impossible to get anything done while she's making a racket and interrupting everyone's thinking."
Harry nodded solemnly. "I'll talk to her. Found anything interesting lately?"
Ripfang's annoyed expression disappeared and was replaced with a slightly creepy smile. "We have come across an axe that may be the long lost weapon of the Great Goblin Zagrod. I need to do some tests to make completely sure but I am hopeful. If it is indeed the legendary weapon, Skullcleaver, then the Goblins will pay handsomely for its return. Alternately if you gifted it back then you would gain vast amounts of favour with the Goblin Nation. The choice will of course be yours. How it came to end up at Hogwarts I have no idea, the last we know of Zagrod is that he was fighting the Dwarves somewhere in Scandinavia."
"Sounds interesting Rip, keep me updated if you confirm that it is indeed that axe. I'll go and talk to Jess. See you later."
Daphne was slightly bemused by the whole situation. Seeing a goblin on a spinning office chair and using a computer had temporarily thrown her. Seeing said goblin then proceed to glare at her boyfriend, but him completely ignore it, had only added to her current confusion.
As they got around the corner, out of earshot, she turned to Harry. "Why weren't you worried when he glared at you like that? Goblins can be incredibly dangerous."
Harry shrugged it off, "Nah it's just Rip, he's always like that. Same thing with Jess. He complains bitterly about her every single time I speak to him but if I actually did fire her, as he constantly suggests, he would be livid with me. He's very protective of her; it's almost like an exasperated father with an incredibly precocious child. Come on lets go find her, see what she's done to annoy him this time."
They wandered through the maze of different items. According to Harry there was a system in place, at least he was told there was, but it just looked a mess to Daphne. All around them were different things, you never know what you would see next as you turned a corner. There might be an antique cupboard, an abandoned trunk, potions vials or a hundred other things that Daphne couldn't even begin to recognise.
Finally they reached an area that actually looked to be vaguely organised, or at least more so than the rest of the warehouse. There were bookcases stretching right around a twenty square metre area. There were some books on the cases but most seemed to be stacked on the floor inside the square.
"This is Jess' domain. She is currently trying to organise the thousands of books into some sort of order. I'll let her explain. Hey Jess you got a second?"
A blonde head poked around an especially large and dusty pile of books. She pushed her glasses back onto her nose as they had slipped down again and walked over, giving Harry a hug.
"Harry so good to see you and this must be the lovely Daphne. Hi I'm Jess, Chief Librarian of this dusty little corner. Oh you must come and see this book I've just found, it seems to be the original, handwritten notes from Yarlington, detailing his trip through the Amazon rainforest studying the plants there. It must be 300 years old at least but it's in remarkable condition and the diagrams are beautiful."
She looked to be about to explain more about the book but Harry held up his hand to stem the flow. "Jess, what have you done to upset Rip this time?"
She shrugged and wrinkled her nose, "nothing as far as I know. We were having such fun yesterday, he found a scroll written by a contemporary of Ptolemy and we were looking through it together."
"Well can you try not to annoy him, you know how he gets."
"Of course" she scoffed, "but I'm always careful not to interrupt him now, especially after the telescope incident."
Harry rolled his eyes, it was nearly impossible to keep the two of them from arguing or coming into conflict. They simply saw the world in two completely different ways.
"Anyway Jess do you want to explain to me and Daph how you're getting on here?"
She smiled radiantly and rolled up her sleeves. "Of course. So, I've managed to collect most of the books into this one area now, although there are a few dotted around here and there. At the moment I'm going through each individual book and categorising it by subject. Each bookcase here has a clever bit of magic that we discovered that allows the books on it to be stored in a pocket dimension. This increases the capacity of each bookcase by about one hundred times but doesn't change the size of the bookcase at all. This gets over the major drawback of space expansion charms. Each bookcase is now a different subject although some, like charms, have been further divided into different areas like duelling and so forth. There are books going back hundreds of years but there is quite a lot that are the same. For example there is usually at least five of any book that was a core textbook for more than a year. That's not to mention something like Hogwarts a History, there must be 150 copies of that around. Interestingly though different editions say different things, it's only in the last century or so that Slytherin has begun to get such a horrible reputation in the book. Before that the books were essentially fair although usually a little biased to one Founder over another. You can track the different authors or editors throughout the years if you want. For example the editions from 1643 to 1692 are favourable towards Gryffindor, and then they change and for the next 84 years are more favourable to Hufflepuff. It is a fascinating study of the different things each author chooses to emphasise over another."
"I should very much like to read these different versions sometime" said Daphne.
"Of course, after all they are your books. I'm just glad I have the chance to play around with them, even for a short while." Her face fell here before she forced a smile again.
"What is it Jess?" Harry asked.
"Oh its nothing, I'm being silly."
"Oh it's just you're going to sell all of these wonderful books and I won't get a chance to read them all."
"Jess, while we are going to sell some of the books, we are only intending to sell the duplicates. Everything else is going to form the start of the Potter Library. A library that it is likely you will have full access to, if not be in charge of. You heard Daphne, she is just as excited as you to look at the different editions of Hogwarts a History and I can't wait to read some books that have been thought lost for centuries." His tone was gentle but it was clear he was not going to be dissuaded from this course.
"You really mean it?" Jess asked plaintively.
"Of course" answered Daphne and she was immediately grabbed in a fierce hug by the blonde. She might only have been small but she had some strength to her.
After a few seconds Jess let go with a horrified look on her face, "oh God you have just come out of the hospital, I haven't hurt you have I?"
Daphne laughed, "No, I'm fine. I got the all clear today; after we have finished here I'm going home."
Jess, too, laughed in relief and grabbed Daphne's hand to lead her off to some wonder in the library. Harry chortled at the sight. "Will you be alright here for a while Daph? I'm going to go look for Steve."
Daphne waved her hand absently; too engrossed in the tattered book she was being shown. Harry knew he might as well be invisible for a while now and so swiftly took his leave.
Steve was in the process of directing Dobby to move different items as they were currently in a tangle. His ever present cigarette was tucked behind one ear while another one hung from the corner of his mouth as he gesticulated wildly. If Ripfang and Jess made an amusing pair then that was nothing compared to the double act formed by Dobby and Steve.
"What are you doing you long eared cretin? I said move the red thing not the blue." Steve shouted in the direction of a pile of junk.
There was no verbal response from the pile but an elf shaped hand emerged with one particular finger raised in salute in Steve's direction.
Steve was about to respond when he spotted the arrival of Harry. "Alright Boss?" he asked, flicking the ash from his current cigarette.
This was another quirk of Steve's; he refused to call Harry, or anyone else, by their actual name. It was always 'Boss' or 'Sunshine' or most confusingly 'Dave'. When asked why this was, Steve merely shrugged and answered 'don't rightly know Dave'. Harry had given up and learnt to accept it although he did still laugh whenever Ripfang was referred to as 'Sunshine'.
"Not too bad Steve, how are things coming along down here?"
He was about to reply when his attention snapped back to Dobby, "left, I said take it to the left Dave."
"That is the left, cant you tell left from right? Want me to write it on your hand so you can tell the difference?" Dobby shouted back.
"Well I want you to take it to the other left then Shorty." Steve responded before looking back to Harry. "It's going alright, could do with a bit more intelligent help but I can make do with Dave over there. Pretty much everything is nearly sorted now into different sections. Not a lot more I can do then until I get some stuff from the other two to sell. Probably be years before that happens though, they take ages to look at every single little thing rather than say it's a chair and move on."
"That's because they are actually interested in the historical value of each item and not the monetary value like certain mercenary scumbags like you" said Dobby as he returned from depositing whatever it was that he was carrying.
Steve looked thoughtful, "you're probably right Dave." He flicked his cigarette again, "now come on, this time actually move the red one."
Harry left them to it. They might only be able to communicate through abuse but they made a very effective team and were very good friends underneath the bluster. Already they had saved each other's lives in their time working together. Dobby had pulled a cursed ring off of Steve after it caused him to light on fire and Steve had tackled Dobby out of the way of a falling cabinet from an unstable pile of stuff. Of course neither had ever thanked the other for this but Harry knew for a fact that Steve had found a bottle of 25 year old single malt whiskey on his desk the next day and Dobby had found a brand new pair of high quality dragon hide gloves.
He walked back at leisurely pace to where he had left Daphne in Jess' slightly erratic care. He meandered through the piles of stuff, pausing now and then to look at something that had caught his eye. He might not be too interested in the furniture at the moment but it would come in handy in the future when he got a place of his own. He caught sight of a gilded corner of a picture frame and idly wondered if there was anyone as interesting as the Founders in the liberated painting. Daphne and Jess were hunched over a pile of books, talking excitedly. He looked on in amusement before clearing his throat slightly, startling the pair.
"How are you getting on?" he asked.
"Oh it's wonderful; there are so many wonderful books here. Some have been thought lost for centuries, it's so exciting. I could stay here and look through them all for hours."
Harry grimaced slightly, "I don't think that will be possible. I promised your parents I'd have you home this afternoon." He saw her face fall so he added quickly, "but we can come back tomorrow if it's ok with them. That will give the guys here a chance to organise a proper tour to show us the most interesting things and we can begin deciding what we want to keep and what to sell."
She looked about to argue but then seemed to agree with Harry's idea. "Fine, but we are definitely coming back tomorrow."
"Of course, come on let's get going before your Dad hunts me down."
They were about to leave when Ripfang stopped them. "Harry I have been wondering what exactly your plans are for this facility and us, once we have finished sorting these items?"
Harry paused thoughtfully. "At the moment I have no particular plans, surely that is quite a long way off though isn't it?"
Ripfang nodded, "in a way yes but also no. I have been considering this problem and I may have come up with a solution. Despite our differences we work well together here and this has been a most satisfying few months. However at our current rate we are almost certain to finish before the end of this year. I believe that with a few additional staff and some investment, this could become the premier organisation to deal with ancient artefacts and antiques. The use of Muggle technology already gives us a huge advantage over the likes of Gringotts when it comes to research and cataloguing. However with a little work on your part you could adapt some more Muggle technology to allow us to actively search for more ruins. For example I have been reading of a Muggle technique called Geophysical Surveying. This allows them to find structures far below the ground so that they know where to dig. With some modification this could search for wards or magical traces and could be the key to finding long lost places like Atlantis."
Harry goggled, "really? Atlantis?"
Ripfang shrugged lightly, "it is well documented that such a place existed however we have no real idea where it could be other than under the sea, nor what wards could be hiding it. Gringotts has been searching for centuries but has come up blank. Atlantis is merely the tip of the iceberg, who knows what else could be out there that we currently have no idea exists?" His eyes lit up at the prospect of all the hidden treasures.
Harry whistled, his mind too running through possibilities. "Rip, this sounds like a fantastic idea but I'm not sure I currently have the capital on hand to invest in this. However, and you must keep this a secret, I will be taking up my Lordship on my birthday at the end of July. This will give me full access to the Potter accounts, such as they are, but more importantly the Black accounts. This will provide in influx of capital that I can use to develop a few ideas I have and begin making some more money. I tell you what, why don't you begin a little research on how we could set this all up. I'm talking the full works; potential costing, an idea of staffing, projections for how long it would take to get up and running, everything. I would be less concerned about monetary returns on this project as the potential for gains in knowledge outweighs it. However that does not mean that I would want the project to be a black hole that keeps sucking in money with no benefit."
"I will begin right away. Progress in here should increase now that you can visit, as we will have a little more guidance as to what we are keeping and what we are selling."
"Sounds good to me, we'll see you tomorrow Rip." He held out his hand which the goblin took and shook firmly.