Warnings: Unabashed crack!fic, unapologetic time travel, drunken Goblins and the obligatory Sirius/serious joke
Author’s Notes: The inspiration for Lily and Ginny meeting in this rabid plotbunny came from plaidphoenix’s own story A Stitch In Time(the fic is incomplete at that link).
Beta: The ever-patient Sherylyn, who wrangles commas and capitalization with the best.
The day started out normally enough. It was December 29th, that calm time when the Christmas celebrations have mostly wrapped up and the New Year’s parties have yet to begin. The prevailing gloom and depression of the War had somewhat abated in the face of concerted holiday cheer, and I was feeling decidedly claustrophobic.
I stood from the chair in the den where I had been curled up for the past hour, re-reading the same two paragraphs over and over again. “That’s it,” I announced. “I need to get out of here.”
James, my ever-loving husband, merely grunted. He probably didn’t hear me at all. He may accuse me of being a bookworm, but when he gets buried in his comic books, the house could probably collapse around him before he noticed.
“I’m going to Diagon Alley. Do you want me to pick up anything?”
“That’s nice, dear.”
“I’ll take the box back to the vault.”
“I love you, too.”
I tried one last time. “I’m running off with Remus and we’re going to make a whole litter of red-headed were-cubs.”
“Have fun.” There was a pause. “Wait, what?”
I smirked at the adorably baffled face that peered over the top of the comic book. “Now that I have your attention: I’m going to take the box back to Gringotts; do you need me to pick up anything while I’m out?”
“No, I don’t think so.” He hesitated. “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Lil?”
I rolled my eyes at him. Honestly, I love James to death, but he can be so over-protective sometimes. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s the middle of the day and I’m just going to Gringotts. Besides, even Death Eaters take a holiday.”
“If you’re sure,” he replied skeptically. But you’ll note he wasn’t so concerned as to drag himself away from his comic books and offer to come with me.
I changed into decent robes — I still prefer my trousers and jumpers around the house, but goblins appreciate a bit of formality — and snagged the box from my dresser. Grabbing a cloak from the closet, I stepped into the antechamber and Apparated. “The box” in question was a jewelry box containing a sapphire pendant the size of an egg, and matching earrings. They had been given to Great-great-great-Grandma Potter by some Indian mogul “for services rendered” (I’d never had the nerve to ask for more details than that) and generally resided, with a small fortune of other jewelry, in the Potter family vault. However, James had insisted that I wear them to the Ministry’s Boxing Day Ball. While he had long since grown out of his “I’m a rich pureblood and you’re not” phase, James definitely understood that a tasteful display of wealth was useful upon occasion. Particularly when dealing with the Ministry. Besides, I enjoyed playing dress-up sometimes.
At the bank, I requested to be taken down to the vault and was treated to a hair-raising ride. I didn’t complain, though. Unlike many people in the Wizarding world, I don’t mind dealing with goblins. I find their lack of sexism a refreshing change from both the Wizard and Muggle worlds. I am a true bra-burning child of the ‘60s and the Victorian-era attitudes of most wizards tend to grate on me. Goblins, on the other hand, make no distinction between the sexes, except when a hvarla’r (female) is nearing her birthing time. Then she is put on administrative desk duty, usually after much protest, and given —
Ahem. Sorry about that. You really shouldn’t let me wander off like that; I can go on about goblin society for hours. I have been fascinated with them since my first trip to the bank, mere hours after I had been introduced to the Wizarding world. I suppose that is one reason I chose to work for the Gringotts curse-breaking division after Hogwarts.
At any rate, it was a perfectly normal December day until Griphook (the Potter family liaison) and I stepped off the cart and into the corridor containing the Potter family vaults. That was when things started to go pear-shaped.
To understand what happened next (and believe me, it will be hard enough as is), there are a few points that need to be clarified.
First, there are two ways in (or out) of every goblin vault. The track entrances, the ones that most wizards see, are the ones with the fancy vault doors, the dragons and the complicated-sounding entrance procedures. These are mostly for show. The real entrances to the vaults are around back, with normal doors that are keyed in to specific Gringotts’ employees when access is needed. Oh, the curses on the track entrances and the dragons are real enough, and certainly help to deter thieves. But, really, who would want to go through that rigmarole every time we needed to do an inventory of a vault? Goblins are nothing if not practical and efficient — yet another reason I often prefer working with them over other wizards.
Second, as a Gringotts employee, I always used the back door when going to our vault. The back door to the Potter vaults lies just off the intersection of two corridors, connecting the Accountant’s section on the A4 level with the Experimental Labs on C12. It is also the quickest way to get from either of those places to the employee lounge. Trust me, this will be important.
Lastly, while goblins use the same basic calendar as humans, their holidays are slightly different. In point of fact, December 29th is one of their biggest festivals, commemorating their victory over a cartel of trolls some 500 years ago. Gringotts always throws a party for their goblin employees, and, as with most goblin festivities, it involves a lot of drinking.
Anyone who is feeling a prickle of foreboding... well, I hear there’s a position available at Hogwarts for a Divination teacher.
Griphook and I were about to round the corner to the Potter vault door when we met — head on — a group of three goblins, obviously on their way back from the Sfarkil Day celebration in the staff lounge. They were each carrying a mostly-empty bottle of Ouzo (I only recognized it because Sirius had fallen in love with the stuff on his last trip to Greece, and brought some over for us to try), and it was clear they had each consumed their fair share. Here’s another interesting fact about goblins: they have a much faster metabolism than humans. When they drink, they get plastered. Fast.
Unfortunately, as we were about to step out of the way and let the stumbling trio past, a human and a goblin came up from the direction of the Labs, moving at a rapid rate and each carrying something.
I suppose a collision was inevitable, and the next thing I knew, the seven of us were extracting ourselves from a pile of arms and legs. There was a lot of swearing, mostly in Gobbledegook, which is a rather satisfactory language to swear in. As we were righting ourselves — some with more success than others — I heard a wet-sounding splash. One of the bottles of Ouzo and the vial one of the curse-breakers had been carrying — containing pixie wings, I was later told — had both smashed and were now forming a sticky-looking puddle around a Goblin Warding Stone, which the other curse-breaker must have been carrying. I wouldn’t swear to it later, but I think the puddle was glowing faintly. One of the drunken Goblins pulled out his focus ring (Goblins use metal focus rings for their magic rather than wooden wands. It has something to do with the goblin affinity for — never mind. That’s a story for another time.) and began chanting the goblin equivalent of Scourgify. The other curse-breakers and I all paled and started to shout, “No!”, in various languages, but by then it was too late.
The next thing I knew, there was a blinding flash of light and I felt myself being thrown through the air. I put my hands protectively over my abdomen — only James knew I was two months pregnant — and tried to roll with the blow. Then it was just dark.
I slowly came to my senses again and groaned. Everything ached. Carefully, cautiously, I opened my eyes and for a moment I thought I was in front of a giant mirror. The room itself was simple stone and I was sitting slumped against one wall. In front of me was my reflection — or so I thought until I took a second look. Frowning, I looked down at myself. No, I had definitely worn my green robes today, not the blue ones. Yet my blue robes were clearly shown in my reflection. Then the “image” stirred and I realized I was not looking at my reflection, but at another person. One who looked remarkably like me, but a different person nonetheless. At least I hoped she was. I really didn’t want to deal with clones or doppelgangers.
Careful of my pounding head, I eased myself into a standing position, with my back on the wall. Partially to prevent the other person from sharing the same confusion I had, and partially because she was an unknown quantity.
“Ugh,” she groaned. “Wha — what happened?” Her eyes flew open and she looked around wildly, although I could tell that she wasn’t really seeing anything. She patted herself frantically but then relaxed as she felt the inside of one of her wrists and withdrew a wand. Reminded, I cautiously felt for my own wrist holster and relaxed marginally when I discovered my wand still there.
“I can’t tell you what happened,” I said quietly. Her head whipped towards me and she winced. “But if you feel anything like I do, your head is probably killing you.” She started to nod and winced again.
Cautiously, I took a step forward. “I have some basic Healer training, I might be able to dull the pain a little, if you’ll let me,” I offered.
She eyed me warily through half-closed eyes and then apparently decided that the opportunity to think straight again outweighed the risk of having an unknown witch wave a wand at her. I knelt beside her and cast a Numbing Charm at her forehead and then repeated the process on myself.
“What is this,” she mumbled as I worked, “a trap for red-heads?”