Gringotts, Sirius decided, was an odd name to give a bank. He tried the name out in his head one more time. He sampled it, lingered over it, and let it permeate through his mind. Yes, it was a rather odd name, it did sound quite funny. He remembered quite well how he and James used to wonder who "Grin" was and what he had "got". They had even made a knock-knock joke based on the name. It wasn't brilliant, but what do you expect from a pair of eleven year olds?
Sirius passed through the silver doors (as always, he rolled his eyes at the inscription – these goblins had a penchant for being over-the-top). He reflected that Gringotts wasn't as bad a name as say, Coutts. Then again, the Goblins did own that bank too. Sirius wondered if the reason why they bought it from the Muggles quite a while back was because of the unusual name.
'I would like to speak to Grimjaw, please.' Sirius told the teller politely.
The goblin gave him a surly look and fiddled behind his desk, out of Sirius' view.
Soon enough, the Black family account manager came in. 'Mr Black,' he said with a nod. 'Please follow me.'
'First off,' said the goblin as he took his seat behind his desk. 'Congratulations on being exonerated.'
'Thank you,' Sirius said thinking of the trial that had just concluded a few scant minutes back.
It had been quite straightforward. Thanks to Amelia Bones, and the presence of a very much alive Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black was declared innocent of all charges placed against him before. All of this was done under the heavy and impotent glares being sent Sirius' way from Bagnold, Barty Crouch and Lucius Malfoy.
According to Andromeda Tonks, there really was no doubt about the outcome of the trial. After all, the former minister of magic and the former head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had imprisoned Sirius without a trial. The Ministry of Magic could only hold a suspect for up to a month. After which, they were compelled to either give him a trial, or set him free. Since there was no proof of any such thing as a trial (made up or real) and Sirius had been held for twelve years, the Ministry had no choice but to let him go even if they had found him guilty.
Still, it was much better this way. The whole world now knew that Sirius Black was an innocent man, and that he had been unjustly thrown in prison.
Peter was charged with fraud (for faking his death), being a known Death Eater and spy for "the Dark Lord" and finally for the murder of twelve Muggles. Additionally, he was charged for having caused the deaths of no more than twenty Muggleborn, having admitted as such when questioned under Veritaserum.
Sirius never felt so happy in his life when he watched the crying and begging form of Peter Pettigrew being dragged off by the dementors to serve the remainder of his life in Azkaban. He had also been stripped of his Order of Merlin. Regina Pettigrew, Peter's mother, could also be seen sobbing as she was made to return the medal.
That happiness was dampened when it came down to reparations. The Chief Warlock had stood up and announced that Sirius had "graciously" decided to donate the one point two million Galleons, which was supposed to go to him as compensation, to charity.
Sirius smiled at the twinkling eyes of the old codger when he really was fuming inside. He knew that the old bastard was getting him back for what he had done to Snape.
From letters written by Harry, Sirius knew that Snape had survived the encounter with a fully transformed werewolf. However, the Potions Professor was nowhere to be seen as Potions classes were cancelled. Dumbledore had not mentioned anything about that incident, and Sirius now knew why.
Sirius wouldn't be surprised if the money had been used to fatten the old man's bank account. Not only was he unhappy about the money lost (even to a rich man, a million Galleons is a significant amount), but he was unhappy about the injustice here. He had lost twelve years of his life thanks to that old man and Dumbledore still had the guts to try and discipline him?
He could fight it, and call the old man out on the lie, but he had a feeling the headmaster had already anticipated that move. The best move here was to bide his time. Dumbledore
wouldn't know what hit him after Sirius was done. Besides, two could play at
this game. For one, it was quite hard for werewolves to get a job. Sirius was going to take steps to make it harder.
This was why he was now in Gringotts. Having claimed the headship of the Black family, Sirius directed Gornuk to take him to the Black family vault.
After one hair raising cart ride (Sirius was sure that the goblins had increased the top speed of those things). Sirius stood in front of the vault, watching Gornuk shoo the dragon guarding the entrance away using the Clankers.
Stepping inside the vault, Sirius went towards the far end, not giving the various priceless artefacts and treasures a second glance.
He pressed his ring into the indentation in the far wall. At once, nine numbers faded into view in a perfect square over the indent.
Touching the right numbers in the correct combination, Sirius stepped back as the wall slid to the side, revealing the true treasure of the vault.
'Good evening, cousin.'
Lucius Malfoy observed the man sitting in front of him. While Sirius Black no longer looked as handsome as he did in his youth, he looked more respectable now that he had cleaned up a bit. The long scraggly hair and beard he had seen in the pictures was no longer there. Instead the hair was cut stylishly short (Lucius suspected that it had also been washed many times over) and the man was clean shaven. However, the gaunt face looked even thinner under the shock of longish jet black hair.
'Black,' he finally said to his cousin by marriage. 'How may I help you?'
Thin lips stretched into a smirk as the grey eyes flashed in amusement. 'Straight to business, Malfoy? You seem to have lost your penchant for small talk.' He took on a reflective mood. 'Not that I blame you, I find my capacity for small talk also diminished.'
'What can I say,' Lucius said with a nasty smirk of his own. 'I find life too short to be worrying on petty things like beating around the bush. Besides, you certainly do work fast, seeing as you did not waste much time in requesting a meeting. It has been what, eight hours since your exoneration?'
Sirius nodded as he took a sip from his glass of single malt. He was not too worried about there being any foreign substances. Despite their union in marriage, neither family trusted the other. So it was with this understanding of mutual distrust that Lucius barely batted an eye when Sirius cast a few revealing charms after the drink was poured into the glass. As the host, he also had to take a sip of the liquid first. It was a centuries old tradition after all.
'Very well, then.' The gaunt man lounged back on the wingback chair he was sitting on. 'I was wondering,' he said slowly, looking at the contents of his glass as he lazily swirled the glass around. 'If House Black and House Malfoy could possibly make an alliance for the future,'
Lucius sneered. 'And why would I want to make an alliance with the disinherited blood traitor son of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black?'
'Disinherited?' Sirius looked up at Lucius with a look of shock so deep, that it had to be overdramatized. 'Why would you say such a thing?' He theatrically brought his left hand to his chest, splaying the fingers.
Sirius smirked as he saw Lucius' eyes do a double take as he saw the band on his ring-finger. More specifically, the ornate family crest done up in small expensive clear coloured diamonds. 'Y – You're wearing the Black Family ring, I see.' Lucius finally stammered. His face paled. He was sure that Sirius had been disinherited. Before she died, Walburga had assured him and Narcissa of that! Lucius was looking forward to the power, prestige and money that Draco would be able to access at the age of seventeen.
'Why yes I am!' Sirius said in mock surprise. 'From your look of astonishment I can see that you did not expect that. Well, you see, my dear old mother thought that I was disowned. My father, on the other hand, hadn't taken steps to ensure that. Orion likes to hedge his bets, you see. And with one son on either side of the war ... well, you get the point.'
It took all of Lucius' experience and patience, along with his average skills at Occlumency to keep from attacking the insolently smirking man in front of him. He had to aid the new Lord Black. Refusing would be ... quite difficult.
'Anyway, I went to Gringotts, got my ring, made a visit to the family vault...' Sirius trailed off suggestively.
Lucius took a bracing swallow of the whiskey and poured another finger. He definitely had no choice now. The Blacks were notorious for their information gathering skills. It was one of the many reasons that The Dark Lord wanted the head of the Black family to commit to his cause. Not for the first time, Lucius, like many other Purebloods, wondered how they did it.
Seeing Lucius get the point now, Sirius smirked. He had the arse over a barrel now. While he hated his parents, he had to admire his family. His ancestors were so devious that they made Walsingham look like that character from those Muggle spy books that Lily used to love.
Nobody had given one thought to the full potential of the house-elves, except for Pisces Black over five hundred years ago. He had quietly started a business of breeding and selling house-elves to the gentry of the time. Those house-elves, unlike the normal elves that you could get in the market, were bred to be intelligent and were given a good education. This made the pricey elves indispensable and worth every Knut as the head elves of a family. Of course, there was the small disadvantage that these elves were sterile (according to research, the magic involved in making them intelligent was responsible for this). But this meant more business for the Blacks. Nobody really knew of the name of the author of the paper since Sagittarius Black (the first) had made the rather unusual decision of keeping his name out of it.
But what nobody knew was that through a clever manipulation of magic and conditioning, Pisces had ensured that the elves had first loyalty to the Blacks. Oh, they would bond with the other families and their houses, but they would always report secrets to the head of the Black family.
And if that wasn't enough, Scorpius Black, an avid painter and artist, had done the paintings of many a lady of many a house in his day. Unknown to the lady (and her family) there would be a miniature copy of the same portrait in Lord Black's study.
Between the portraits and the house-elves, the Blacks knew the dirty secrets of many affluent or powerful families, no matter their allegiance. Secrets like the true origins of the famous Malfoy-Weasley feud, or why the Weasleys were known as the Weasleys and how they had fallen from power, or (and this was the most delicious piece of information within Pureblood circles that people would die of shock knowing) the secret of the origins of the Flints.
Sagittarius Black the third made sure that nobody knew of the Black ownership of the house-elf farm, burying it under enough paperwork that people just assumed that the goblins owned that business.
The family had used that information to their benefit over the centuries. It was because of this spy network that Phineas Nigellus Black, for example, held on to his position as headmaster of Hogwarts till he voluntarily retired, despite the opposition he received from many fronts (a majority of which had been from the Governors).
The family jealously guarded the secret of their success, only the next head got to know of this when he put on the ring.
Till Sirius' incarceration, the Black family was the power behind the throne. They owned the Ministry, they owned the Wizengamot and they owned Hogwarts. It was a travesty that the power had gone to Dumbledore and the Malfoys.
Well, no longer. Sirius smiled predatorily, sending a shiver down Lucius Malfoy's spine.'Now that we have an understanding ... this is what I want you to do for me.'