The Purloined Legacy
Taylor Hebert's future seems bleak, indeed: No parents, no friends, no super-special parahuman powers. Moving to Britain and living with crazy magic relatives that she never knew about before... That's gotta be worth a try, right? Even if it's all based on a teeny-tiny, itty-bitty... Okay, a HUGE lie.
TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL. TPL.
Twirlpike had spent all of thirty minutes in the company of Lester Speight, yet he'd nevertheless been forced to downgrade his already low opinion of the wizard from "overly talkative nuisance" to "utterly vacuous simpleton".
That was probably about average by Twirlpike's standards, really. While he was generally able to endure roughly three quarters of an hour in the presence of a wizard, before the urge to plant a battle-axe in the aforementioned wizard's empty skull made the vein in the goblin's forehead throb at a dangerous pace, that statistic was only true of wizardly blowhards, and witchy ditto, in general terms.
Speight, however, was a Ministry blowhard. Buffoons of such a rarefied calibre belonged in a category of their very own... or in a padded cell, for preference. It would probably be a safer arrangement, both for them and for the rest of the world.
"Step lively, now! Come along, Turnpike, come along," Speight called out, as he traipsed along the sidewalk. "We'll be late for the meeting, and who knows what those Muggles might do to that poor girl if we don't rescue her in time!"
The goblin scowled at the Ministry wizard's back. The difference in the lengths of their respective stride - between a goblin with fine physique, and a freakishly long-legged human - was enough to give Speight a frustrating advantage in speed. "My name," he growled, puffing a little. "Is Twirlpike. And we could have been on our way twenty minutes ago, if somebody had been prepared to leave at the scheduled time."
"My department has been burdened with a considerable amount of paperwork, due to the unusual and untested means of transportation involved," Speight sniffed. "My departure was extremely hurried, under the circumstances."
"The 'means of transportation' has been thoroughly tested," Twirlpike grumbled. "Gringotts certified."
"Not tested or certified by the Ministry, though." Speight glanced at Twirlpike's shoes, mingled wariness and avarice in his eyes. "Proper studies would-"
"...Would require a licensing agreement," Twirlpike said, cutting off the wizard with a dismissive tone. "Goblin artifacts are a proprietary Gringotts trade secret, except when leased to unaffiliated, and paying, customers."
Speight sighed, and shook his head. "Suit yourself, Pearltyke. I just don't see what's supposed to be so impressive about a pair of plain walking boots."
"Twirl-pike," the goblin snarled. "And they're Planeswalking Boots. Now, unless you wish to Apparate home from here, travelling between one plane of existence and another under your own power, I suggest that you-"
"Look!" Speight pointed at a shop window. "Look at what those horrid Muggles have done to the poor orphans!"
Nonplussed, Twirlpike peered at the window display. "What are you babbling about?"
Speight goggled at him. "They've killed those defenceless children, and put the bodies in the window! What kind of orphanage is this?!"
"...Those aren't corpses," Twirlpike sighed. "They're mannequins. This is a shop that sells clothing, they use those dolls to display the wares they have for sale."
"'Dolls'?" Speight frowned. "You mean... like dressmaker's dolls? But... why aren't they moving?"
Twirlpike pinched the bridge of his hooked nose. "Muggle goods tend to be inanimate, more often than not."
"Really? Are you sure?" Speight mulled this over for a moment. "You must have gotten the wrong address, then. The orphanage should be right here!"
The Ministry wizard brandished a sheet of parchment, thrusting it in Twirlpike's face. The goblin scowled, and slapped it aside.
"The address on record is correct," Twirlpike hissed, pointing a clawed finger at a building across the street. "It is, in fact, right over there."
Turning to follow the goblin's finger, Speight examined the bland-looking office building on the opposite side of the road. "...Brockton Bay Child Protective Services? So, the Muggles do actually protect their children?"
"A novel concept for wizarding society, I'm sure," Twirlpike muttered.
"Well, what are you waiting for, Twerplike? Quit your dawdling!" Speight stalked imperiously across the street, towards the front door. "We must hurry, and save that poor young witch!"
The goblin glared daggers at the wizard's retreating back. "TWIRLPIKE!"
Several bystanders and random pedestrians stopped and stared at him. Eyes widened, jaws slackened in surprise, and a low chorus of murmurs broke out. Words like "cape" and "para-human" were bandied about, with the phrase "case fifty-three" putting in an occasional appearance... Whatever the kruggosvlat that meant.
Twirlpike grimaced, and stomped after Speight. The wizard had cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm on himself, keyed to Muggles, when they arrived in this city. Evidently, the spell only had a limited area of effect... Not that Twirlpike would ever permit the wizard to cast any spell whatsoever at him directly.
By the time Twirlpike caught up with Speight, the Ministry blowhard had already gone through the front door, and headed past a startled-looking secretary.
"Um, excuse me? Sir? You can't just go in there," she called after him, fidgeting nervously and looking as if she debated calling a security guard.
Evidently, Speight's attempt at a Notice-Me-Not Charm had been sufficient to make the Muggle humans overlook his ridiculous garb and outlandish mannerisms, but not enough to compel this secretary to automatically assume that a scraggly-bearded stranger, dressed in a bright yellow anorak and fluffy slippers ("Casual Muggle attire, Traplick! Trust me on this... After all, which one of us got an 'Exceeds Expectations' in Muggle Studies? You or me?") had any kind of legitimate business in a place full of vulnerable children.
Feh. Typical slipshod Ministry work.
"We have an appointment," Twirlpike growled, digging a piece of paper out of a folder under his arm, and shoving it at the secretary.
Goblins might be prohibited by Ministry fiat from owning wands, but that just meant they were forced to come up with more... creative outlets for magic usage. Crafting enchanted arms and armor, for instance - or composing very convincing legal documents. Goblins were skilled at working metal in a forge, but they were quite deft hands at forging paperwork, as well.
The first piece of paperwork made the secretary pause, but didn't seem to have assuaged her concerns completely. Twirlpike followed up his initial salvo of weaponized bureaucracy with a laminated card.
She gave the small rectangle a flustered once-over. "Ah... Erm, I'm not sure what... Is this your driver's license? Or some sort of... ID? This... is your identity, isn't it? Mister, uh... Pike?"
"It is an identity, certainly," the goblin said, in a voice as close to affable as he ever got.
"Well, um... This all seems to be in order," the beleaguered secretary whimpered.
As soon as the secretary showed signs of defeat, Twirlpike yanked the papers away from her, cramming them back in his folder as he brushed past her.
She watched him leave, but thankfully didn't try to stop him, this time. "Erm... Have a nice day...?"
"Too late for that," he grumbled to himself.
Soon, Twirlpike caught up with Speight. The wizard was currently looking around at the doors lining the corridor.
(Preblagsh forfend that the feckless meat-bag should make himself useful, and cast a Confundus Charm on the secretary to save Twirlpike from doing all the work.)
"Ah! There you are," Speight cried out, when he noticed the goblin. "If you're quite finished fooling around with that Muggle woman, we need to find the girl."
"'Fooling around', am I?" Twirlpike sneered. "You would, perhaps, prefer to have a dozen security guards breathing down our necks?"
"I really don't see the point of all this silliness," Speight huffed, folding his arms. "Messing about with the Muggle government, setting up appointments with them, kowtowing to their flunkies... It would have been much simpler to just seek out the girl at a time of our choosing!"
"Oh, what a marvellous plan," Twirlpike drawled. "Except for a few minor details... Such as the total and utter lack of magical authorities in this world. No Aurors to save your hide, no Obliviator Squads to cover up your messes."
Speight's pomposity deflated, just a little. "...Ah."
"Yes, 'ah'. Much simpler to just work within the constraints of the local bureaucracy." Twirlpike glared at the wizard, shooting his ridiculous outfit a contemptuous look. "...And avoid drawing attention to ourselves."
"Um... Well..." Speight desperately seized the handle of the door beside him. "Let's just find this girl, shall we?"
"That's a washroom." Twirlpike gritted his teeth, and jabbed a clawed thumb at another door - one that bore a sign labeled 'MEETING ROOM 14'. "Try this one."
Wonder of wonders, Speight suffered from a sudden fit of manners, and remembered to knock before barging in, this time.
Inside, the meeting room was plain and mostly unremarkable, akin to a thousand others of its ilk, although distinctly Muggle in style. It sported a table, a smattering of chairs, and a few potted plants. Also, there were quite a few toys, stuffed animals, picture books, and various other knick-knacks that someone had deemed suitable for distracting under-age humans in a mostly harmless manner.
There were two humans in the room, already seated. One was an adult woman, harried-looking with a polite smile pasted on her face. Her outfit suggested "Muggle government drone", in Twirlpike's experience.
The other human was likewise female, but much younger. Although Twirlpike was hardly an expert in these matters - one human looked much the same as any other, to him, apart from little cosmetic details like hair colour, which could easily be altered through application of simple charms and cheap potions, in any case - the child appeared to be taller than most witches of her age.
...Possibly. He only had the word of these otherworldly (not to mention American) authorities, as to whether she really was the age that they'd listed in her file. Pureblood wizards tracked their own genealogy and dates of birth with obsessive fanaticism, but who knew whether these Muggles were just as big sticklers for such details? You'd think humans could apply the same degree of care to upholding the dates and terms of the contractual obligations they entered into, but oh, no... Fat chance of that happening.
In any case, the girl was just as ugly as any other human: Black hair, spectacles, big eyes that looked red-rimmed from too much weeping or not enough sleep, or both... Her mouth was sufficiently wide to look halfway normal, but her teeth would almost certainly turn out to be hideous, ivory white, rounded human chompers, nary an honest fang in sight.
The Muggle government drone frowned, staring at Speight and Twirlpike with a dubious expression. "Ah... Hello? I was informed that an individual who's distantly related to one of our... clients had been located, and would attend this meeting...?"
Her eyes flicked from side to side, gaze sliding away and struggling to focus on them, as she evidently fought Speight's feeble spellwork, intended to let them walk among the Muggles without drawing too much notice. "Would that be... one of you?"
"Not quite," Twirlpike rasped. "We are representatives of... British government agencies."
Technically true, just not the same government, or even one that the Muggle woman would have any chance of knowing about; after all, Gringotts had strong ties to the goblin rulers.
"We just need to perform a few simple tests to determine whether the girl is, in fact, related to one of our citizens," Speight cheerfully explained. "You really don't need to be present for this, so if you could leave us to it, we'll get started."
The Muggle government drone looked a little alarmed and affronted at this suggestion. The girl didn't look too happy about that idea, either.
"I really couldn't do that," the glaring woman said. "It would be completely irresponsible to leave a child, unsupervised, in the company of a pair of strangers, who have yet to identify themselves."
"Identification?" Twirlpike smirked, retrieving his special goblin-made paperwork from the folder he'd brought along. "Rest assured, once you've seen my paperwork, you will-"
A jet of red light leapt from Speight's wand, aimed at the woman. It struck her in the chest, and she promptly slumped forward onto the table, unconscious.
The girl's large eyes widened even further. She opened her mouth to scream-
...And was cut off by Speight's Silencing Charm.
"Of course, now he remembers that he owns a wand," Twirlpike groused.
The Ministry wizard cast a few more memory-muddling spells on the unconscious woman - even Speight could reliably hit an immobile target at point blank range, it seemed - while Twirlpike hopped up on a chair and took a seat.
By now, the girl was looking decidedly frightened. Her eyes darted between the wizard, the Stupefied woman, Twirlpike, and the door.
"Relax, human," Twirlpike said, shuffling his folders around and lining them up on the table in front of him. "We're not here to harm you."
Twirlpike paused for a second. "Well... Not much, anyway."
This announcement did not seem to reassure her at all.