Some Mysteries are solved while new ones emerge.
Chapter 4: Diagon Alley and Fortune
Sometimes a routine is just the ticket, and sometimes people think you're bonkers. So when I got up at five in the morning and immediately kneeled beside my bed to pray for two hours every morning, I was harassed for my convictions. A good moral person would turn the other cheek and bear it, but when that person is using that time to receive or change out their spells irritation turns quickly into malice. After the third time the twins had interrupted me during one of these sessions, I retaliated. Nicking some dreamless sleep potion from their mother, I tainted some of their candy. Ok, so there might have been some collateral damage on that when Harry and Ron nicked some of the candy, but Fred and George got theirs. When they finally did awake, all four were glued to the floor on their knees with elbows glued to beds and hands glued together. I prayed quietly in my shared room that morning and every morning thereafter that I stayed at the Weasleys. The four delinquents 'prayed' for release until supper time when I finally found my universal solvent. So it was that I was grateful for this experience because I had to 'pray' for four hours to retrieve all my spells from the previous day's fiasco.
Getting finished at nine caused me to miss breakfast and to miss the opportunity to save Harry from an unpleasant first experience with Floo powder. Oh well, I grabbed the second to last pinch of Floo powder made sure my pack was strapped on securely and rushed after the frantic Weasley Matron. This time through the Floo network I paid more attention to the magic soot swirling around me, hoping to learn how lessen my traveling speed in the future. It was with great surprise when I noticed that I had just passed one of the Weasley twins whilst en' route. Again I came rocketing out of the fireplace; this time crashing up the stairs on the other side of the Leaky Cauldron's dining area. Rolling up to the second floor, I passed a blond haired boy about Harry's and Ron's age and what I assumed to be his Father since he had the same shade of blondish white hair. Landing on something small, boney, and moving threw me off for a bit until I discovered that it was the couple's House Elf.
A moaning House Elf with two broken legs and one broken arm was what I discovered when I stood up. Feeling bad, I started to kneel to help the little elf when Blonde SR. roared, "YOU! YOU'VE CRIPPLED MY HOUSE ELF! I DEMAND RESTITUTION!"
"What would be a fair price for him? I'll buy him from you as is. I'm Xixtosovix Steel and your name is?"
Cooling down quickly into his business face, "My name is Lucius Malfoy and this is my son Draco. A fair price for a crippled servant, hmm, how about ten thousand Galleons?"
"That's a laugh how much can crippled servant accomplish? Two thousand for a worthless elf is more like it."
"Ah, though I can see your point it was you that crippled him. I've lost a very helpful servant, nine thousand."
"True, but what use is he to you now? He cans barley move, let alone clean, four thousand."
"Very true indeed, but I'm still selling a lost resource, seven thousand."
"I'll pay you six thousand and not a Knut more Mr. Malfoy."
"You drive a hard bargain. Very well, six thousand it is," he said with a smirk that told me I'd been swindled.
Smiling to myself, "I'll give you a bonus if you levitate him to the bank for me so that we might conclude this deal."
"Done, shall we go? Levicorpis," he cast on the hurt elf.
Passing a frantic set of Weasleys, I gave them a simple, "I'll explain it to you later Mr. Weasley. I'll catch up to you at the bank."
When we arrived at Gringotts I approached a free goblin. These goblins, I learned, looked like a cross between a goblin and a mountain dwarf from my world. Their language I was relieved to find was a highly accented form of the Goblin language I had learned fifteen of my years ago. Speaking to the teller in Goblin, "Sir, I wish to open an account at your bank. I would also like to translate some of my treasure into Galleons today before we settle on the size of my account."
Astonished that a young wizard would attempt to learn the Goblin language, "Certainly young sir, what treasure are you wanting to translate today?"
Pulling a diamond out of my pocket that on my world was worth a thousand gold pieces, I said, "How about we start with this. And if I find later that you've cheated me, you won't live to regret it."
Eyes wide at the size and luster of the gem in front of him, the goblin got his jewel appraising tools out from under the desk. Studying it carefully with his instruments and consulting a table he spoke, "Ten thousand Galleons sir."
"Good, give me six thousand Galleons in a bag now and hold the other four thousand for me for a moment in a private room where we might conclude our other business." I gave him a slip of paper with my name written on it and heaved the prepared bag of gold to Mr. Malfoy.
"Here is your money Lucius. Please perform the ritual of transference so that we may part company."
"Very well," Him raising his right hand and the magic of what he was doing raising mine, "I, Lucius Malfoy do hereby transfer ownership of Dobby to Xixtosovix Steel. Dobby is to serve from henceforth his new master in whatever he commands. So Mote It Be!"
The magic made me reply, "I accept ownership of Dobby, commanding him however I wish. So Mote It Be!"
After the magic had surrounded both of us and Dobby, Lucius asked, "And what about this bonus?"
"An introduction to my benefactor, I'll owl you the location and time that you can meet him. He's very interested in meeting with you, and he might be interested in purchasing some of the rare items that you might possess."
"I'll be awaiting your owl. Come Draco!" He said whilst shrinking the bag of money and swooping out of the bank.
Carefully gathering up Dobby in my arms, I returned to the teller that helped me and again using the Goblin language, "Is that private room ready yet?"
"Yes it is. Snaphang! Please take this customer to conference room 5."
Yet another goblin stepped forth and led me to a room with a round conference table surrounded by five chairs. Gently setting the unconscious elf down on the table, I quickly started to set his bones as Snaphang left the room. Making sure that the door was closed, I had to cast two Cure Serious spells and one Cure Critical spell to fully heal Dobby. So it was, when an old goblin in a three piece suit came into the room, he was greeted by the sight of a very thankful blubbering House Elf hugging a small boy.
Prying the elf from my person, I commanded, "Dobby! You can thank me later; right now I want you to place anything that falls on the floor on the table in front of this chair."
"Dobby is happy to serve, Master!"
Taking this as his cue to speak the suited goblin introduced himself, "Ah, the mysterious young Steel boy has finally made an appearance. My name is Fanglynch, and I have been keeping your family's holdings in trust for the last forty-five years." Setting a thick folder on the table he proceeded, "Mr. Steel, you stand to inherit what is left of a great fortune since the tragic deaths of all your known relatives nearly forty-six years ago. All that is required to proceed is confirmation of your identity. Please place your right hand in the circle on this piece of parchment."
Doing as instructed, I placed my hand in the circle. Feeling pain as something sharp sliced into my hand, I removed my hand quickly, leaving a small amount of blood behind in the circle. The parchment absorbed the blood and started glowing different colors. At first the circle was glowing the same steel color as my hide for a few moments, then it changed into a dark green color streaked with blue lines and highlights before the glow faded out and the parchment returned to a normal with a crest in the place of where the circle was located. Below the crest a list of properties and assets started appearing in green-blue ink.
"Intriguing, young sir," Fanglynch started, "the magic encompassing the Steel holdings has adopted you as its rightful heir. Though I am a bit confused as to how this could have happened, and there is the odd matter of the paper listing your age as forty-five, I see no general problems with the legality of this document. In fact, since this paper lists you as older than the age of majority in Wizarding Britain, you may cast magic at any time that muggles are not present and there are some other documents that need to be signed.
"What other sorts of documents?"
"Well there is the 'Intent to have an Heir' form, and the 'Pureblood Testing Parchment', and the 'Inheritance Tax Document'."
"Let me guess the 'Intent' form has either a time limit or guidelines for suitable wives?"
"Yes, it does. It states that if you are not married, then you must start looking for a wife in the next five years, be a fiancÃ© in the next seven years, and have your first child in the next ten years. If the P.T.P. proves that you are a pureblood, then you get a tax break and an even bigger tax break if you marry a pureblood. Also, if the P.T.P. is passed, then you are waived from paying the Inheritance Tax."
Sighing, "I guess we'll start with the Pureblood test, or are they all blood based?"
"Just the first two, please place some of your blood in these two circles," he said after placing two separate pieces of parchment on the table.
Re-opening the wound from the previous test, I placed three drops of my blood into each circle. Both of the circles began to glow the same steel color as my hide. The 'Intent to have an Heir' form glowed for ten minutes before fading to an inked circle of steel. The P.T.P. form continued to glow for over thirty minutes before Fanglynch said anything.
"I think that it is safe to say that you are a pureblood. The way that test worked was that it was supposed to glow one minute for every ancestor generation that was magical. This is the longest I have ever seen or heard about the glow lasting and it is still going."
"Then all that's left is my account review and a money exchange." Glancing through the proffered estate documents I found no glaring errors. Mostly I owned land, a few castles, and percentages in a few companies that I learned were all Wizarding businesses. The Steel vaults at Gringotts held mostly heirlooms, magical items, and rare books. The dividends earned by my stock went into property upkeep and expenses with a small annual net gain of an average of fifty thousand Galleons per year. Every few years the accumulated money was used to buy more stock or another piece of property. Currently the money vault held just over one hundred ten thousand Galleons.
"All this looks to be in order based on the documentation. I'll want to take a trip down to the money vault today and one of the heirloom vaults as well." Opening up my pack and removing a sealed Bag of Holding type IV, "I'll also want to deposit some of this into my money vault. Some of these bags are to be either placed into my storage vault or into a new dedicated vault."
"What bags? I only see the one."
"Oh, sorry," I undid the drawstring and poured out twenty-five more sealed Bags of Holding type IV's from the original Bag. After searching for a bit, I found the five Bags that were full of gold pieces. "Each of these five bags contains fifteen hundred pounds of gold coins. I want to keep the bags and deposit the gold. I'd also like to have the four thousand Galleons from my earlier transaction placed into a one of these emptied Bags."
As quickly as I could I repacked my haversack whilst Fanglynch arranged for transportation for the three of us and our cargo. Helping Dobby and the Goblins with the loading of the large cart that came to pick us up was looked upon as being eccentric by the Goblins, and Dobby was scandalized that his master was doing mundane manual labor. The cart ride down to the vaults was entertaining. At number four hundred sixty-eight we stopped to empty my sacks of gold, and at number three hundred ninety-six we stopped to enter a goods vault. There I dropped off eighteen of my Bags of holding; keeping seven of them, one filled with spell components.
When I got back up to lobby, the money pouch in my haversack and Dobby sent off to clean my Dracken Crest house, I found a girl that from Sirius's descriptions could only be Hermione standing alone, obviously waiting for someone. The 'Intent to have an Heir' form still fresh in my mind, I introduced myself, "Hello, you wouldn't happen to be Miss Hermione Granger, would you?"
"Yes, that's me. Do I know you?"
"Not yet, my name is Xix Steel. It's always a pleasure to meet beautiful young ladies such as you," I said as I gave a bow and kissed the back of her hand.
"Xix Steel, where have I, oh, you're that kid that was staying at the Weasleys this summer aren't you?"
"You have me pegged. I hope your friends didn't depreciate my character too much in their letters. Getting to know you better might be a lot of fun."
Blushing, Hermione said, "Only something about you gluing them to the floor."
"Yes, but frankly they deserved it after nicking Fred and George's candy. Fred and George, however, raised my ire on something far different."
Seeing her friends coming out of the vault tunnel, she said, "I'll have to speak with them about their omission then. And here they are now."
I turned and sure enough they had returned from their trip. It was amusing to see Harry trying to hide his jangling, black leather bag from the Weasleys. On the steps of Gringotts we all separated. Molly and Ginny were getting robes. Harry and friends went wandering off. I went with Fred, George and a friend of theirs a Lee Jordan to get started on my shopping. Arthur was insisting on taking the Grangers off for a drink.
"We'll all meet at Flourish and Blotts in two hours to buy your schoolbooks," Mrs. Weasley said, taking off with Ginny. "And not one step down Knockturn Alley!" she shouted at our retreating backs.
The twins directed me to Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Leaving me to my own devices after giving me directions to the bookstore, they headed off to Zonko's Joke Shop. Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch which was dressed all in puce.
"Hogwart's dear?" she said, when I started to speak. "Got the lot here - a young lady being fitted up just now, in fact."
In the back of the shop, a girl with dirty blonde hair and large blue eyes was standing on a footstool while a second witch was adjusting her hem lines on her dress. Madam Malkin stood me up on a stool next to her, slipped a long robe over my head, and started pinning it to the correct length.
"Hello," I said, "What year are you going to be in?"
"It'll be my first, you?" said the girl.
"It's my first year as well. Are you good at anything?"
"My father says I'm good at making people think."
"A most admiral quality to have in a friend if you'll have me? My friends that have fought with me say that I'm good at strategy."
Extending her hand to me she said, "Luna Lovegood."
Taking her hand with a free one I said, "Xixtosovix Steel. Xix for my friends."
We both finished at about the same time so I asked, "Are you here alone?"
"Yes, my father thought he saw a niggling nekkler in an animal shop so he stopped to investigate. He gave me enough money for my things so I probably won't see him until I get home."
"Would you do me the honor of letting me accompany you then? I'm new to the area and don't know the shops very well."
"What are friends for?" she said smiling and crooking her arm to me.
Taking her arm, I smiled as we set off to get our supplies. Cauldrons, potion ingredients and other miscellaneous supplies were acquired to the stories of the Crumple Horned Snorkack and savage tales of dragon battles in which the dragons won. Finally it came down to the books and our wands. Not wanting the day to end quite yet, I suggested we get our wands first.
"What are the different wand shops around the area, Luna?"
"Well there's Ollivanders, they use phoenix tail feathers, unicorn hairs, and dragon heartstrings for the cores of their wands. Baxter's Wand Shoppe uses powdered mandrake, nymph nectar, and faerie honey as the cores for their wands. There's a really good place to get custom made wands down at the other end of Knockturn Alley if you don't mind what is actually in your wand, or if you want a special spell group specific wand.
"I've heard horror stories about the wands that have come from Ollivanders, so let's see what Baxter's is like."
"Ok, lead the way."
Madam Baxter's Wand Shoppe was cheerful, glittery, and very shiny. A tall beautiful witch with an angular face, slightly pointed ears, and a warming smile greeted us at the counter. "First wands, dears? Excellent! Please step into the back for your measurements."
Taking note of her appearance and sensing something off about her request, I cast a Detect Magic spell while her back was turned. "Well come along dears. I don't have all day," she said turning to face us. Concentrating on her back got me nothing, but when she turned to face us, I saw the strong necromantic glow in her eyes and mouth areas.
"Luna, would you wait here for a moment? I want to talk to this young woman alone about something."
Looking at me dreamily she said, "Ok Xix, you do that."
As soon as we got into the back room she turned on me, the door slammed shut, and she cast a spell at me. Whatever the spell was, I later learned it was a full body bind curse, it washed right over me having no affect. I responded with a Searing Light spell that she tried to duck away from. The ducking motion is probably what caused the spell to hit her in the face.
She started screaming while clutching at her face, "I'll get you for that you bastard! Stupify!"
Again the spell washed over me as I cast a Magic Missile at her.
The next spell she was casting was something called 'Difendo' that missed me by inches and tore up the wall behind me. I responded by casting Invisibility on myself and moving away from where I was standing.
She uncovered her face for a moment, letting me see that she wasn't human. I guessed that she was some sort of Vampire by the altered color of her skin where my spell had hit and by the relatively little amount of damage she appeared to have taken. Taking advantage of the lull in the fighting, I transformed into my more powerful natural form. Lining up a clear shot, I let loose a breath of acid. Catching the creature fully, I destroyed its clothes and its wand exploded taking her left hand with it. A grey naked creature growled as it turned to face me. Not relenting, I cast another Magic Missile at the beast.
That's when she charged me. Attempting to hit me with her good arm and bite me with her extended canines. She caused me no damage both times. So, it was that she was at point blank range with her mouth open when I breathed acid again. This time a good portion of my acid went down her throat and she immediately keeled over and went into Gaseous form.
Following the gas through a trapdoor and through a long tunnel I found her coffin and her treasure. Made of a rich mahogany, it was almost a shame when I crushed her coffin. I grabbed up a splinter and staked her through the heart slaying her instantly.
Casting another Detect Magic spell, I carefully wrapped up all of the magic items for later identification. When I was about to leave, I cast a Detect Secret Doors spell and found a secret room that held a small library of books and objects that I placed in one of my Bags of Holding. I placed her corpse into one of my Bags for later disposal before heading back to the back room. I bagged up all of the undestroyed wands before transforming back to my Xix Persona and heading out to Luna.
When I got to her, she was acting normally again, and she asked, "Did you find a wand that liked you?"
"No, and the shopkeeper isn't feeling very well so we'll have to go someplace else. How about we try that custom shop in Knockturn Alley? Is there a way to get there that doesn't travel through so much of Knockturn Alley?"
"Well, we could take Lumpas Lane to Trocnoer Trail to the other end of Knockturn Alley."
"Sounds good, let's go. The sooner we start, the sooner we'll get there."
Slowly traveling on foot and window shopping we arrived three hours after we started at Al's Custom Wands and Emporium, since 1737 A.D.
Entering the muted lighting in the Emporium we met an old wizard named Al the fifth. Al was an interesting man to say the least. An avid fan of a magazine called the Quibbler that I had learned earlier was what Luna's father was the head editor of, gave us an earful on what he thought about the latest issues. Luna was in her element, also being an avid reader of her father's magazine, she had a lot of insight into the background of many of the articles published.
The staggering base price of one hundred Galleons for magically attuned wands threw me at first, because most of the wands that I had looted from Baxter had a marked price no higher than twenty Galleons. When I asked Al about the discrepancy in wand prices, he explained that the wands that you find in those sorts of places are just slapped together and the wand maker hopes that one day the wand will choose a wizard or witch to be its master. What he did was to attune the wand to the buyer's magical signature in the making process so that the wand produced would channel the wizard or witch's magic better, thereby increasing the ease at which their magical power flowed. This explanation started a long three way discussion on the cost/profit strategies of a custom maker of wands versus a mass producer.
Doling out two hundred Galleons, I made the down payment for both of our wands while Luna and Al continued to talk about something called a Heleopath. Insisting that Luna go first, I watched as Al led her through the process. She chose a sheath of a variety of magical birch, an emulsifier made from the blood of a Mooncalf drawn at the height of the full Moon, and a core of Meteorite dust from the Mountains of Sweden. A special device in the back of his shop handled and put together all of the ingredients into a wand ten and on quarter inches long. When she touched her wand it began to glow silvery white, and when she flicked it, it sang of power. Luna paid Al an additional five hundred Galleons for the finished Wand.
My turn then came. I went through all of Al's wooden sheaths without finding a match. "Interesting, that rarely happens. I guess we'll have to see about my metal stocks," Al said excitedly in a way that screamed, "Cha-Ching!" In the Metals section, I hesitated briefly over Iron and Tin, but I went on. I was surprised to see Platinum, Gold, Mithral, Adamantine, and Cold Iron among his stock of metals. For a moment I thought that the Osmium was calling to me, but in pointing it out, I brushed across the Cold Osmium sample and it literally created a loud note of magical music when I touched it.
"That's the one lad. Metals are a bit different in that you have to hold on to them while picking out your emulsifier and core," Al instructed. The emulsifier that I found also wasn't in his main racks. A mixture of ten percent Deepspawn Blood, forty percent Blackspawn Birther blood, and fifty percent Alchemical Mercury had both Luna and Al looking at me with large round eyes.
Ignoring their stares, I moved on to his wand cores section. Yet again I didn't find anything in his regular core section. Dreading the cost of asking for rare ingredients, I started to ask for them, but Al had already opened up his cabinet of rare cores for me. I finally settled on what was labeled as Core wood willingly given from an Elder Treant.
When I picked up the core for my wand, I heard two loud thuds from the other side of the room. The two loud noises drew the attention of Al the fourth, an even older man, and Al the third, a very old woman, into the shop from the upstairs apartment. Taking in the scene of Al the fifth and a young girl unconscious on the floor and a young lad holding three wand ingredients in his hands, they walked over with wands drawn on me. "What have you done young man!?" the old woman screamed at me.
"Nothing, they feinted, I think. Can one of you put these together for me please?"
Al the fourth took one look at the ingredients and feinted dead away. Al the third's eyesight wasn't that good, so she led me over to the device that put metal wands together. I put the ingredients where she pointed that they went and I turned on the device. Apparently metal wands make a lot of noise when they are being manufactured because the cacophony of noise that came from the process was very, very loud and very beautiful.
Gingerly picking up my nine inch wand, I was rewarded with a soft humming noise. After giving it an experimental flick I was surrounded in a white glow that faded with the humming to nothingness.
Placing the wand on the desk next to their cash register along with the labeled vials in which the ingredients came. Al the third got her reading glasses out and started to add up the damage. "Let's see, nine inches of Cold Osmium, that's nine thousand Galleons. Emulsifier, that's an odd mix, an added twenty thousand Galleons. And finally the Core, huh, I didn't know we still had that, another seventy thousand Galleons. The total comes to ninety-nine thousand Galleons. One of the most expensive and magically powerful wands we've ever made."
"Err; I only have about three thousand Galleons on me. Do, you accept goods in lieu of money?"
"What have you got? My grandson has better eyesight. Could you please wake him up?"
"Sure," lightly kicking his arm woke him up after about three minutes.
"Al, this young lad wants to offer trade goods in lieu of part or all of payment."
"Oh, let's see what you have then."
"First, since you deal in exotic ingredients, you might be interested in this," I said as I pulled the battered, staked vampire from where I stashed it earlier.
"Hmm, a Day Walking Personality Vampire, very rare indeed, where did the stake come from?"
"Its coffin, it was a rather nice mahogany coffin that was almost a shame to smash."
"And about how long has it been staked?"
"I staked it about three hours before I first arrived at your shop, though time has no meaning in those bags, so about an half an hour has passed for the body."
"Very fresh, wake up my father so we can harvest it."
Doing so, they began harvesting in earnest. When they were finished Al gave me a thirty-five thousand Galleon credit bringing my balance down to sixty-four thousand Galleons. Still not wanting to pay that much money for my wand, I started emptying the Bag that contained the looted wands. The wands netted me another twenty thousand Galleons which brought my balance to forty-four thousand. The wand making materials I had grabbed added to all the gold I had looted bought my balance down to twenty-three hundred Galleons of which I used my own money to settle the account.
By the time we had finished with my account it was nine o'clock p.m. The store had long since closed and locked its doors for the night, so the Al the fifth offered to put us up for the night, free of charge. After waking Luna up from dreamland, we talked into the wee hours of the night with the three Al's. By the time morning came, we were all friends and I had gained a reliable place in which to sell any unusual items or dead creatures.