Chapter 24 Life debts
The meeting with the Delacours had just finished and Daniel Mackenzie returned to his office. He knew he only had two hours before he would have to return to Gringotts for the meeting with the Minister for Magic and the other representatives. Upon locking himself in his office he sat down behind his desk and pulled out his bottle of Ogden's Best. He poured a small amount into a shot glass which he had pulled out of another drawer. Slowly he brought the glass up to his lips, but before he could throw it back, a voice called out to him.
"Are you sure that is the best thing for you to be doing right now, with the next meeting you have scheduled perhaps being the most important one?"
Mackenzie dropped the glass in his surprise and he looked around as he called out, "Potter! How the bloody hell did you get in here? Show yourself!"
Harry pulled off his invisibility cloak as he appeared behind his attorney. "I am right behind you," commented Harry with a slight laugh. "I just followed you in off of the street. It wouldn't do me any good to be seen around here by anyone who might know that I am supposed to be meeting with officials from the ministry this afternoon."
Daniel nodded as he turned around to look at Harry, who by now was walking around from behind the desk and took up a seat across from the solicitor. Harry seemed very much at ease as he put his feet up on the desk. "Go ahead, you may want to have that drink," he said as he flicked his wand and the glass appeared back on the table. "In fact, I think I'll join you with a quick drink." With another flick of his wand he conjured a second shot glass.
Daniel was a little more relaxed now as he poured the fire whiskey into the two matching shot glasses. Harry lifted his up to propose a toast, so Daniel followed suit.
"To the future of Ministry of Magic, may it begin anew, rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of the past administrations!"
Daniel smiled as he responded, "I'll drink to that." Then together they threw the clear liquid down their throats. Harry choked slightly on the burning sensation while Daniel merely wiped his eyes which watered briefly.
Harry then began to ask his solicitor how the morning sessions went with both Ron and with the Delacours.
"I suppose Irontooth had more fun with handling Ronald," surmised Harry.
"That he did," agreed Daniel. "By the time we were done with our meeting with Sebastien and his daughters I think they all would have hugged and kissed you if you were there."
Harry grinned slightly, "I can imagine, and I am happy to just leave it at that." Harry then changed the subject to the meeting that was about to begin. "I presume that you and Irontooth have everything ready for the next meeting."
"We better, considering the fees we are both charging you for this service," he replied with a wink. He then pulled out a few more files and then placed them in a leather brief case. "I think we have everything ready. This meeting may take a little longer, but I am sure we will do fine. After all, there is really not that much they have to bargain with."
Harry nodded his approval of the assessment of the situation.
Then Daniel added, "Oh there is one more thing. Mr. Weasley has requested, if it were at all possible, that he could be given a chance to speak with you face to face, one last time. Of course, we promised nothing, I merely stated that I would pass that information along to you."
It was early afternoon on a lovely day in March. There were many witches and wizards walking up and down Diagon Alley, enjoying the unseasonably warm afternoon as they strolled down the famous business district that had continued to grow over the years since the end of the second war with the Dark Lord Voldemort. Obviously, not all of the same businesses had returned, as some of the proprietors had not survived the war. Of course there were the usual mainstays of business: Fortescue's Ice Cream Shoppe, Madam Malkins' Robes for All Occasions, Flourish and Blotts and of course Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
The patrons who were mostly window shopping were in for a slight surprise when the noticed a group of four people heading towards Gringotts, surrounded by several Aurors. In the middle of the group was the unmistakable Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister For Magic, who was accompanied by Amos Diggory, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. There were accompanied by the recently appointed head of the DMLE, Malcolm Savage. The fourth person with them was not familiar to most of the people of magical England, as he was Algernon Croaker, head of the Unspeakables from the Department of Mysteries. The four men were quickly ushered in to Gringotts where a group of goblins were patiently awaiting their arrival. The leader of the goblin welcoming committee bowed and quickly indicated that the four me should follow him. The guards in the lobby of the bank made it clear that the Aurors who had accompanied the four leaders from the Ministry of Magic were not welcome to join them to the meeting room. Soon the four men found themselves sitting in a large conference room, seated on one side of a long table. A minute after they had arrived, Daniel Mackenzie, Esquire, walked into the room with a leather brief case. He quietly walked to the far side of the table, opened up his brief case and quickly removed several folders and placed them neatly on the table in front of him. He then put his briefcase on the floor beside his chair, and then he proceeded to take his seat. Once he had done all of this, he then looked up at the four men opposite him.
"Good afternoon, Minister, Chief Warlock, Mr. Savage, and Mr. Croaker I presume," he said in a pleasant but quiet voice. "I do believe that Ragnok shall be joining us shortly. He and his son Irontooth will be here to oversee this meeting which I have called."
Malcolm Savage was an impatient man. "Now see here, Mackenzie is it? Just who do you think you are calling us away from our busy schedule to meet with these goblins? We do have more important things to do than waste our time with the likes of them!"
Daniel Mackenzie's face remained impassive and he showed no outward reaction to the verbal attack from the head of the DMLE. Before he could voice a response, Algernon Croaker spoke up.
"Malcolm, my friend, I think it would be best if you were to hold your tongue. I have already reviewed much of the information which we are about to discuss prior to coming to this meeting. I think we will all find it most educational, if not at least a little disturbing." Croaker's comments caused the other three men to reconsider just what sort of business they were getting themselves into with this meeting.
Kingsley Shacklebolt spoke up. "Gentlemen, we are here simply to represent the Ministry of Magic in what we have been informed is a very important revelation that may have grave effects on our lives and our government. I think we best just settle down and wait for our hosts to present to us the information which they feel is so urgent and of such importance that the four of us were summoned for this discussion."
Savage was still visibly irritated about having to be at a meeting being run by goblins, but he started to relax slightly as he was not sure just how long they would have to wait.
At precisely 1:30 in the afternoon, at the pre-arranged time for the meeting to commence, the door swung open and two goblins walked into the room and took seats at the head of the table.
"Greetings Minister, and respected associates, in case you have never met me, I am Ragnok, Chief Administrator of the London Offices of Gringotts Bank." His toothy grin did nothing to comfort any of the four men from the Ministry of Magic. "With us today is Irontooth, my son and the senior account manager for Lord Harry James Potter. Also joining us today is Lord Potter's solicitor, Daniel Mackenzie, Esquire."
Ragnok then sat down in his chair without another word or gesture. At this time, Irontooth stood up and began to explain the situation. "Gentlemen, we here at Gringotts pride ourselves in the reliability of all services which we provide for our customers, the citizens of the magical world. Our vaults are the most secure that you will find anywhere in the world. Our mages and seers provide the most reliable rituals for determining blood status, inheritance evaluations, as well as other less commonly used methods for assuring the veracity of various claims made by or about other magical beings. One of these rituals was recently performed on Lord Harry James Potter. He was seeking to determine what debts that he might owe others, or what others might owe him, as he was eager to make sure that he was not beholden to anyone or any group. Upon completing a very important task for the goblin nation, Lord Potter was found to be indebted to no individual or group of individuals. However, this ritual did discover that there were several individuals who owed his lordship a life debt. Of note, and a most unusual occurrence this turned out to be, was the most unique life debt that the goblin nation has ever encountered. It was so unusual that we shared our findings with the Unspeakables, specifically with Mister Croaker. It is this information that we are here to discuss with you."
Savage and Diggory looked at Croaker, whose expression was blank at this time. Shacklebolt noted the non verbal interaction and then turned back to Irontooth. "Please share with us just what this finding is that you have described as unique. That is why we are all here," he added.
Irontooth seemed to be enjoying himself more than a goblin normally would in the presence of so many wizards. "It appears that Lord Potter is owed a life debt from all of magical England, from the Ministry of Magic itself."
The three men who had not seen this information previously were all astonished. The silence was broken as Amos Diggory spoke up. "But that is preposterous!" he exclaimed. "That cannot be. There is no precedence for such a thing. We cannot accept such a debt!"
Kingsley remained silent and again he took note of the impassive reaction from his head of the Unspeakables. "Algernon," he calmly stated, "I presume that this is the information that you were asked to review by the goblins. Have you seen the information of which they speak that was gained from their ritual? Have you had the chance to validate their findings?"
Algernon sat quietly and slowly assessed the three men who had accompanied him for this meeting from the Ministry of Magic. "I have reviewed all of the information which they presented to us. IN fact, I was even able to repeat the ritual that had been performed on Lord Potter, and I was able to completely confirm all of the information which Irontooth has just shared with you."
Diggory's jaw dropped. "Bloody hell, that boy is still trying to embarrass all of us at the Ministry. Do his pride and ego have no bounds? What other scheme will he come up with next?"
Kingsley Shacklebolt raised an eyebrow at Amos Diggory's outburst. "My friend," he started quietly, "I think you would best be served by settling down. First of all, we all know Lord Potter, and Harry has never been one to try and embarrass us, or to seek fame or glory from his actions. He has made no demands on us. If there is a life debt, it is not of Harry's doing, but it is magic itself calling out for justice." Kingsley then turned to Croaker, "Is that not the nature of a life debt? Is it not beyond our decision, but inherent in the very core of our magic, that when a life debt is owed, our magical core recognises this subconsciously even if we are not cognisant of the debt?"
"That would be an accurate statement, Minister," answered Croaker. As Diggory and Savage just stared at him in silence, he then continued, "It is true that I have verified the authenticity of the findings of he debt ritual, and it is completely unheard of for an entire group of people, let alone a government, to owe a life debt to any one." He then turned to Mr. Savage. "Malcolm, as head of the DMLE, you are well versed in what legal obligations may exist when an individual owes another witch or wizard a life debt. Would it not then be the same when the Ministry of Magic owes this life debt?"
Malcolm Savage was quickly running through his mind the various ramifications and relevant laws as he tried to extrapolate the information to pertain to the current situation. "There would clearly be a legally binding debt that can be called in through a number of ways. However, as we have never had to deal with such a situation before, I am not sure just what this will entail for the ministry."
Irontooth now spoke up after the men had finished their brief discussion and debate, "I do believe that Mister Mackenzie has a letter to read to you from Lord Potter."
The attention of the four men was now drawn to the solicitor.
Daniel cleared his throat as he pulled a letter out of one folder and then he began to read:
It is an odd situation that I find myself in, being owed a life debt from all of magical England. As you are now aware, I have begun to seek restitution for this life debt. However, there are things that need to be understood fully before this debt can be released. There will be things that need to be done before every magical man, woman and child is released from this bond.
First, there needs to be acknowledgement of the wrongs that have been done. The wrongs done to me personally since the time my parents died. The wrongs done to me during my time at Hogwarts, including those perpetuated by the Ministry of Magic itself. The wrongs done to me through the press over the years through their blatantly false and shoddy journalism in the name of sensationalism. The wrongs done to other students at Hogwarts during my time due to actions and inactions of the faculty and staff. The wrongs done by magical society as a whole in allowing and supporting the way it deals with the class system it has created. Magical England treats pure-bloods different from half bloods, and even more so than muggle borns. This is a travesty of justice that will no longer be tolerated in our world.
Second, the Ministry of Magic must make it absolutely clear that there is only one class of person — those who can use magic. It will no longer matter if someone comes from a pure-blood family, or if they are a first generation magic user. Such distinctions in the eyes of the Ministry and the people only foster dissent, anger and distrust, the perfect breeding ground for more dark lords to arise.
Justice needs to be afforded to all. The evils that have been committed in the past forty years can be blamed in part on the way the Wizengamot operates and the government allowing of bribes. There is a solution to this. Our government needs to be changed. It needs to work for all magical citizens. Obviously, we cannot just abandon everything that we have, we cannot abandon all of the traditions of magical society. We can however, work on making changes. Such changes should include a separate judicial body from the Wizengamot. A panel of judges, appointed by the Minister For Magic, and approved by the Wizengamot, should be established, similar to non magical America. Also, we should update the Wizengamot to be more of an image of our non magical British counterparts. We should have a second governing body, equivalent to the House of Commons, an elected body which can have representatives that are muggle born, or half blood or even pure-blood. New laws would need to be approved by both the Wizengamot and this new house.
If these changes are enacted within the next six months, then the life debt owed to me by the Ministry of Magic and all of magical England will be released.
Lord Harry James Potter
Daniel Mackenzie put down the parchment and looked across the table at the four men. Croaker had an unreadable expression, whereas Shacklebolt appeared contemplative. However, the other two men appeared to be nearly apoplectic.
Amos Diggory was the first to blow. "How dare he!" he blustered. "He has no right to do this! He can't force our hands! Why, this is treason, that what this is! Savage should go arrest him right now! Throw him in Azkaban! He's trying to destroy our society!"
The other men all just stared at him. Algernon Croaker spoke up first. "Excuse me, Chief Warlock, but there is no treason in any of Lord Potter's statements. He actually clearly states that he supports the position of Minister For Magic and he is proposing changes to our government, not overthrowing of the ministry. Changes that Lord Potter obviously believes would be beneficial."
Diggory dismissed Croakers comments with a wave of his hand. "Beneficial to who? To us? I think not! This is just some grand scheme of his to garner more attention for himself. He wants to be back in the spotlight!"
Kingsley Shacklebolt scoffed. The other men were surprised that the Minister For Magic reacted in such a clear and vocal manner. "Amos, my friend, listening to you speak makes me wonder if you have ever met Lord Potter, before the other day when he joined the Wizengamot."
"Of course I met him!" exclaimed Diggory. "I met him before the Quidditch World Cup. And then of course there was that whole fiasco with the Tri-Wizard Tournament where he was responsible for my son Cedric being killed."
Kingsley shook his head in dismay. "The events at the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament are in no way the fault of Lord Potter. We are all sorry for the death of your son, and Harry truly felt responsible for what happened. But it is well known that it was a disguised Death Eater who entered Harry into that tournament, that it was that same Death Eater who made the port key that took Harry and Cedric into the graveyard, for the sole purpose of resurrecting Voldemort and to kill Harry. The war was not Harry's fault."
Amos was becoming incensed that the minister was sticking up for the attention seeker that caused his son's death. "My son died in that war. No thanks to Harry Potter. My family was torn apart because of what happened that night."
By now, Savage was averting his eyes from the Chief Warlock as he was embarrassed to witness this outburst. Kingsley spoke up again, trying to maintain a comforting and friendly tone despite his growing frustration with the man sitting next to him.
"And what about Harry? He lost his parents when he was merely a toddler. He lost friends, his godfather, teachers, family. He lived a horrible life hidden away from the magical world before he went to Hogwarts while we all enjoyed the peace that was brought about by his parents' sacrifice, by the miracle of his becoming the boy-who-lived. And now you aim to place the blame on that young man for the war that was caused by our generation and the generations before us to allow bigotry and hate to grow and enable a person such as Voldemort to gain the power he did and to gain his followers and unleash their terror upon our society. None of that was the fault of Harry Potter. And now, Harry actually has come up with a plan to help us prevent another Dark Lord from ever arising again. And you want to vilify the man who withstood years of loneliness and betrayal but still stood firm against the darkness and defeated the man who was once known as Tom Riddle."
Amos Diggory sat in shock. He had never before felt the experience of being admonished so completely, and he realised he had no recourse at this time.
The silence that followed the impromptu speech from the minister lasted a few awkward minutes.
Malcolm Savage cleared his throat and then he turned to face his colleague, the head of the Unspeakables. "So, Croaker, apparently you were already made aware of this little bit of news. So, I have to ask you the next most important question, have you figured out what would happen if we ignore the young lord's demands?"
Croaker looks thoughtful as he silently considers the question that was posed to him. Even Mackenzie seems eager to hear the response to the question, despite having already been filled in on the goblins' assessment of what would happen if the life debt was to be called in.
"I have not had time to sufficiently review the possible ramifications and the effects of such a magical situation, should the life debt be called in due to a refusal to comply with the requests," answered Croaker softly. "There are, however, several possibilities that come to mind."
There was an anxious silence as all eyes in the room implored him to continue.
The Unspeakable allowed a rare but faint smile to cross his face, and then he began again. "First, it is actually possible, although highly unlikely, based on what is known about the nature of life debts, that if we failed to comply with Lord Potter's requests and he called in said life debts that absolutely nothing would happen. The second consideration would be that there would be a loss of magic for those either in office or int he employ of the Ministry, or perhaps those who are members of the Wizengamot. The third possibility that comes to mind would be the loss of magical core strength of the population of magical England, which could possibly be channeled into Lord Potter's own core, thus increasing his own strength and magical power."
Croaker waited for the gasps and muttering to continue, and then he held up a hand as a gesture to get the others to stop their chattering and then he continued. "The fourth consideration which I have come up with is that it could lead to a collapse of the Ministry through some sort of magical means beyond anything that Potter could do as an individual, a sort of act of the magical fates as it were. Of course, all of those suppositions could be completely off base, and the actual consequences could be much worse or much more trivial."
"It still sounds treasonous to me," commented Diggory. "Perhaps it will amount to nothing. Perhaps this is just Potter trying to blackmail the Ministry."
Mackenzie couldn't help himself as he scoffed at the comment made by the Chief Warlock. "And just why would Lord Potter feel the need to blackmail the Ministry?"
"I don't know," snarled Diggory in reply. "Maybe because he is an ungrateful little bastard who likes to exploit his fame and strut around like a pompous fool. He thinks he is so high a mighty. Why, I'll have you all know that my Cedric once beat him in Quidditch when they were students, beat the amazing Harry Potter and caught the snitch."
"As I recall," comments Shacklebolt, "the only reason why your son caught the snitch instead of Harry was that he was attacked by dementors during the game. But enough of this foolishness." Kingsley turned and looked at the goblins and then at the solicitor sitting across from them. "We will need to discuss this further, as this will need to be considered, and even if we agree to follow up on Lord Potter's demands, we will need to come up with a plan for how to introduce such ideas to the Wizengamot."
Daniel Mackenzie was a wise wizard and he knew better than to expect anything more than such a response from the four men in front of him. "I am sure that Lord Potter will be eager to hear your reply, as soon as you have had a chance to properly review the situation. I will leave the four of you with copies of the requests, documenting exactly what was discovered by the ritual and what Lord Potter's expectations are for resolving the situation. Good day to all of you." After sliding a thin folder to each of the men, the solicitor closed his briefcase, then he arose from the table and left the room without another word to any of them.
Before anyone could respond, Irontooth spoke up once more. "You have your information, you need to act quickly on this, as I do not believe that Lord Potter's patience on this matter is infinite." With those final words, the goblins, too, departed the room.
The afternoon was winding down, the shadows from the buildings in Diagon Alley were all growing longer. There was the usual bell ringing on the door, indicating that someone had just entered Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The shop was unusually quiet, but it was getting close to closing time and the children who would like to frequent the shop were mostly at school. The read headed man who was busy reorganising some shelves turned slightly to see who had just walked in.
Ronald Weasley was shocked to see the familiar green eyes staring at him.
"Harry, mate," said Ron hesitantly. "I gather you got the message, that I wanted to talk to you."
"Yes, Ron, I got the message," said Harry tersely. "And to be clear about things, I was very serious in the conditions in my letter to you. I do not plan on having any further contact than this meeting here."
Ron gulped slightly at the harshness of Harry's words. "So, that's the way it is now. You become Lord Potter and you're too good for the likes of me." Ron's irritation was evident in his tone.
"No, Ron, that's not it at all," replied Harry coolly. "You just don't get it, and maybe you never will. I never asked to be Lord Potter, or Lord Black, those are things that just happened to me. Everything I've been through, for the most part, I've just been had to endure. I didn't ask to become some sort of hero because a crazed dark wizard was fixated on some prophesy and targeted me for death when I was a baby. And pretty much, everything has just cascaded from that point on. You used to understand that. I don't know when you stopped understanding that. Maybe it was during our fourth year when you actually believed that I put my name in to enter that tournament to try and win the pitiful sum of 1,000 galleons. And ever since the war ended, you've been trying to compare yourself to me. You'll be going round the twist if you don't stop Ron."
There was an awkward silence. The Harry began to speak again, this time with a friendlier attitude. "When I learned about the life debts, the ones owed to me from you, and others, that got me thinking. The goblins explained that our magic understood there was a life debt that was owed. That life debt has been tearing you apart insides, or at least, I think that may be part of it. It's gone now Ron, as long as you keep your part of the agreement."
Ron wasn't sure what to say at first. "But we were best mates, we used to do everything together. And now you want to throw that all away, and we have nothing left? You're barmy, mate."
Harry shook his head. He decided to try one last time to help Ron understand. "What we had, we will never be able to reclaim that. We were foolish and ignorant children, thrust into the adult world of deceit, prejudice and war. We didn't ask for it. No one prepared us for it. And hardly anyone even thanked us for it along the way. We each lost friends and family, we have suffered, we have been praised and vilified. It is time for us to move on. Make peace with your past, Ron. Make peace with yourself. Perhaps we can even make peace with each other. But we can never go back to what once was, and will never be again." With those words, Harry turned and walked out of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, never to step foot in the store again.
It was early April, and Draco's wedding was quickly approaching. The sun was shining brightly as Harry approached Gringotts Bank for his final meeting in regard to the life debts he was owed. As he approached the lobby, Irontooth was waiting for him, and immediately beckoned for Harry to follow him.
Harry bowed slightly to Irontooth. "It is good to see you my friend." Irontooth inclined his head slightly to acknowledge Harry's greeting. "And before I forget," added Harry, "could you let your father know after we finish this meeting that I wish to speak with him about an important matter."
"It will be done," answered Irontooth.
As he led Harry to the conference room, he asked a question, "So why have you decided to participate in this session? You couldn't have been bothered to be present for any of the others. Not even to meet with the Minister For Magic."
Harry smiled as he answered. "It's quite simple, Irontooth. It's just because Hermione is my friend, she's been my best friend for many years."
Irontooth scowled at this thought. "You are calling in a life debt from a friend? How odd, you are, human, how odd indeed," As he finished those words, he opened up the door to the conference room and led Harry to a seat at the table. "Your best friend should be joining us shortly," he added with a smirk.
Harry didn't have much time to contemplate Irontooth's smirk when he heard a knock on the door to the conference room. Irontooth opened the door and gestured for the people standing there to join them at the table.
A goblin stood in the door, and he was flanked by a young woman whom Harry was expecting and a tall thin young man whom Harry had no idea who he was. He stood up and crossed the room and greeted Hermione with a hug. He smiled as they stepped back, and then he asked with a slightly bewildered tone, "So, who's this tag along? I thought I only invited you to this meeting."
Hermione frowned at her best friend. "Now just a minute Harry," she snapped as she wagged her finger at him. "I get this letter telling me I have an important meeting at Gringotts that I must attend just before I am to go to Draco and Astoria's wedding. For all I know they are still mad at me for the whole dragon and LeStrange vault escapade."
Harry interrupts her with a smile. "Hey, take a breath. The meeting is with me, Hermione, I thought they would have told you more about the meeting." He looks at the man who is shifting awkwardly form one foot to the other. "So, any explanation about Mister 'Tall, Dark, and Mysterious' standing over here?"
Hermione blushed slightly, as she started to introduce the man. "Oh, sorry, Harry, this is Flynn…"
Hermione was cut off as Flynn stepped forward and stuck out his hand to shake Harry's as he began to introduce himself. "Flynn, Flynn Carsen," he said in a distinctly American accent. "You must be Harry. I've heard so much about you. I heard from Hermione that you had to acquire Ascalon, the lance of St. George. I really would like to have the chance to discuss with you anything you would like to share about the lance, about what you had to do to obtain it. You know, I had a little adventure last year where I had to obtain the Spear of Destiny. Have you heard of the Spear of Destiny?"
Harry's expression was one of dismay as he realised he could not get a word in edgewise. Suddenly Flynn let out a slight grunt due to the fact that Hermione had just implanted her right heel in the middle of his left shin. As tears were coming out of Flynn's eyes, he muttered, "Sorry Hermione, I'm rambling again, aren't I?"
Harry looked quizzically back and forth between the flushed Hermione and the slightly pained Flynn.
Hermione let out a sigh as she started to explain, "Flynn is my date for the wedding. Actually, Harry, Flynn is more than my date for the wedding, we started dating a couple of months ago. Flynn is a librarian."
Flynn now interrupted, "Actually, I am the librarian. The librarian for the Metropolitan Public Library. It's more than just a library for books. We collect artefacts, certain rare and special artefacts."
Harry just nodded to placate Hermione's boyfriend. "Sounds absolutely brilliant, I am sure," said Harry, the sarcasm dripping off of his words like water dripping off the leaves of a tree after a summer rain. Then he turned back to his best friend. "We do have a meeting we need to get down to and finish some simple but important business. Its up to you if you want Flynn to join us, because this is actually a personal issue between you and me."
Irontooth now cleared his throat, which came out more as a raspy growl. "Lord Potter, Miss Granger, we rally must get on with this meeting and address the issues at hand."
Upon hearing the terse comments from the goblin, Harry reclaimed his seat on the far side of the table and then Hermione sat across from him and Flynn took a seat by her side.
"Very well," began Irontooth. "We are to commence with the review of the reason for this meeting. Upon review of all debts owed by and owed to Lord Potter, it was determined that there is an outstanding life debt that is owed to his Lordship from one Hermione Jean Granger."
Flynn spoke up excitedly, "Whoa there, you're talking a real honest to goodness life debt here?" He then turned to face Harry. "You're just simply going to collect a life debt?" he asked incredulously.
Harry was about to say something but he noted that Hermione was already responding. Her gaze was intense as she simply stated, "Flynn, remember how you asked me to let you know if you were intruding into a conversation where you shouldn't be? This is one of those times."
Harry looked at Hermione and gave a subtle nod of thanks, and then he turned to face Flynn. "Look, I'm sure you mean well, but I really just want to get this done, so, either you let us continue in peace, or Irontooth will have one of his friends escort you out of here."
Flynn glanced at Irontooth whose toothy grin was quite disconcerting for the American. He silently nodded to Harry that he understood.
Hermione now spoke to Irontooth, "I understand that there is a life debt, but what I want to know is for which incident? Do I owe Harry more than one? Considering everything we have gotten into together over the years."
Harry shook his head as he listened to Hermione prattle on. Irontooth held back a laugh at her words and then he explained, "There is only one life debt, Miss Granger, and it apparently occurred on October 31, 1991."
"That would be the troll in the bathroom during first year, then," commented Hermione as simply as recalling facts she had revised for an exam.
Flynn gulped, "A troll, when you were eleven?"
Harry cast a stern look at Flynn, "Actually, I was still eleven, Hermione had just turned twelve, and yes, it was a mountain troll, let into the school by a professor. But that's in the past, and you need to not interrupt again. I am sure that Hermione would be more than happy to fill in the details once this is all settled."
"Um, sure," agreed Flynn as he looked over his shoulder at the door to make sure Irontooth wasn't calling in a 'friend'.
Hermione looked at Harry and then set fixed her eyes on him. Her demeanour was clearly not pleased. "What is this all about Harry? I don't understand why you are doing this?"
Harry gave her his trademark lopsided grin, and she noted a slight sparkle in his eyes. "It is like Irontooth explained, I am settling all of my debts, including dents owed to me. Irontooth and my solicitor already dealt with Ron, and with the Delacour girls, as well as the ministry."
Hermione was stunned. "The ministry?" she asked. "As in the Ministry of Magic?"
"One and the same," he said proudly.
"You didn't owe them anything, did you?" Hermione's tone clearly hinted at her concern.
"Of course not," answered Harry with a smile. "I had no idea that a government or a country could owe a life debt to an individual, but that is a story for another time."
Hermione's jaw had dropped. Harry then continued, "So, yours is the only outstanding debt that is owed to me as of right now."
Hermione rolled her eyes, "So what is it? What do you want from me?"
Harry frowned as he detected the frustration and worry in her words. "Hermione, you should know me better than that, after all we have been through."
Irontooth then slid a parchment across the table to Hermione, who went to pick it up.
"Everything is explained right there," added Harry.
Hermione's eyes quickly scanned the document. Then she looked up at her best friend. "You set all of this up just to have me promise to remain your friend? That's all that is needed to release the debt?" She was nearly yelling at him now. "You made me worry about all of this for nothing?"
Harry raised a hand to try and calm her. "Hermione, it is required of magic, you know that. You've studied the nature of life debts. To formally release you from the debt I needed to have a formal declaration of a magically binding agreement in lieu of an actual event that could satisfy the requirements of the life debt."
"You prat!" she exclaimed.
"Miss Granger," interjected the goblin, "you do need to sign to parchment if your are in agreement with the terms. Then the life debt will be considered paid in full, by Lord Potter and by magic itself."
Hermione was even more frustrated. "Give me a bloody pen, or a quill!" she cried. As she signed the document, Harry stood up and walked around the table. As she finished signing she tossed the parchment back at Irontooth and then she stood up and faced Harry. Harry pulled her into a tight embrace as he whispered in her ear, "Thank you, Hermione, now we can leave this behind us." He leaned away from her after placing a chaste kiss on her forehead. "My best friend, forever," he added simply.
She looked up at the emerald eyes looking down at her as she felt her own eyes begin to water up.
"Enough of that, we're officially done here," said Harry who now turned to Flynn. "So, Flynn, how about joining my fiancée and me for a nice meal, on me of course, and I would be happy to fill you in on any details of Hermione's school adventures."
Flynn smiled hesitantly, "Well, sure, that sounds terrific."
Harry turned to Hermione, "So, where are you staying?" he asked.
"We're getting a room at…"
Harry cut off Hermione's response. "Nonsense, there is plenty of room at the Manor. We'll arrange to get your things, and then we'll head on over to my place, and have a leisurely dinner, just the four of us, and we can get caught up as we get to know Flynn." Turning to Irontooth, Harry added, "I think that concludes our business for now, my friend."
Irontooth did not respond directly as he shook his head. "Foolish humans," he muttered as he turned to leave the room.
Harry walked Hermione and Flynn to the entrance to the bank.
"Hermione, I'll have Mal, the Potter family house elf, fetch your things. In the mean time, why don't you two floo over as soon as you're ready. I'll have Daphne meet us there at six. Right now, I have to go have one more meeting with Ragnok."
After excusing himself, Harry then turned and went back into the bank, nodding to one of the tellers who silently called for one of the guards to come forward. The guard then escorted Harry to the office of Ragnok, the Chief Administrator for Gringotts London Branch.
Harry knocked on the door once and then let himself in. Ragnok looked up and smiled. "It is good to see you again Harry, I was not expecting this meeting today, but I received word from Irontooth that you had a reason to speak with me."
Harry nodded. "I have a proposal that I wished to speak with you about." Harry pulled out a thin folder and slid it across the desk to Ragnok. The goblin just stared at the folder for a moment and then he looked up at Harry.
"Before we discuss this proposal, I am curious. I presume all of your meetings have gone as planned," he said sombrely.
"That they have," replied Harry. "In fact, I am not sure that they could have gone any better. I have dealt with the life debts, I have even managed to arrange for the Ministry of Magic to be modernised, to abandon many of their discriminatory practices, but still keep some of the old traditions."
"You have done well," smiled Ragnok. "For one so young, it is most extraordinary." Then he took the folder and opened it. "Let us see what we have here," he commented as he began to read the single document.
Harry observed the goblin's facial features as he silently reviewed he proposal. A raised eyebrow, a frown, then a furrowed brow, and then Ragnok's features softened as he was obviously re-reading the proposal, and then Harry thought he could discern that the goblin was considering the ramifications of what Harry had proposed.
"No, this will not do," said Ragnok as he looked Harry in the eyes. "Why, this could lead to problems if you were to do it now. It could jeopardise the execution of the contract. While I see that your idea is sound, it has a certain merit, although many would accuse you of being foolish for doing this, but it is something that would only come from you, my young friend."
Harry frowned slightly at these words.
Ragnok noticed the young lord's reaction. "Oh, it is very doable, you just have to wait. It can be done anytime after the event takes place, then the contract is fulfilled, then it would be fine."
"Then you will hold onto that, and we can move on that proposal soon," said Harry as he reconsidered his plan, or at lest the timing of the plan.
Ragnok grinned back. "The timing is the only issue," agreed the goblin as he closed the file and placed it securely in his desk drawer.