Orlando strolled up Diagon Alley dodging smaller boys and girls as they ran from shop to shop. The Hufflepuff felt a little lighter in the wake of his encounter with Rose. It hadn’t been a happy one. It was certainly more awkward than anything, but… Hope was a lot these days, and it had given him at least some.
The Hufflepuff stretched his back, stifling a yawn with the back of his fist. The last night was another late night – later than usual, but at least it was productive. It had to be. Time was getting short, and things had to be ready before the train to school. He wasn’t worried. They were always ready. The kinks were worked out, but to be ready there were still some work to be done. The least fun part.
Orlando crossed over to the street, looking up over the tall, white marble building that stood out so prominently in Diagon Alley. Gringott’s Bank. He trotted up the stairs and under one of the columns, by the scarlet and gold clad goblins that stood watch over the doors. “Efternoon, gents.” The boy waved with not a single response. As far as they were concerned he wasn’t even there.
Orlando slipped through the doors into the bank. The bank was all a buzz with the sounds of the hundred or so goblin tellers that sat behind their counters, sliding coins back and forth across to the wizards that sought to take and leave deposits. He leaned against the white pillar and waited.
In a matter of moments, Danny walked through the doors. He grinned as he greeted the stoic goblins. His tennis shoes were silent as he walked across the pale stone floor to his fellow Gentleman.
Reaching his brother, Danny unslung his backpack and smiled. “Hey, Lando.”
“Hey, Danny.” Foozle pushed off the marble. “Aw guid?”
The Ravenclaw nodded. Holding up his backpack, he smiled. “So far so good. I’ve got it to respond to my voice, and I think it’s tweaked to tune in to the perfessers.” He pulled a notebook from his backpack and tossed it to his friend. “We jus’ have to tweak the mix wi’ a little more water to get it to wear off fast enough.”
Foozle caught the book and flipped it open. Across several pages were some neatly written words, all Danny’s. He smiled, digging through his own bag. “Ah think Ah wirkd tha oot lest nicht.” He tossed Danny a vial of a pale translucent liquid. “Wee bit mair snake ile. Less tove pouder. Addit a scooch of essence o merrkit.”
Danny nodded, then dug three galleons out of his pocket. “Hou much muggle money do you think we’ll need?”
The Hufflepuff’s face contorted the way it did when he had to do math. “Like…” He shook his head a little. “Twa hunder poonds.” It was no small feat. “Like… 40 galleons.” This officially made this their most expensive endeavor yet. On the other hand, if successful, it would be their most profitable.
“Beside what I’ve got for books,” he said, digging in his pockets, “I’ve only got 11 Galleons left in my stash, after plannin’ for barrels and mash and whit-not.”
Business was business. You had to lay down the capital to make it back. Both of the boys knew this well enough. “Ahve gat twa-seiven…” He slung his rucksack forward and drew back the flap. “But tha leaves me bone freuch.”
“Yeah,” nodded the Ravenclaw. “And us still short.”
Foozle reached into his bag, mumbling quietly. He felt his fingers slip around the slender neck of the bottle, and he drew it out. Light seemed to bounce off the almost black glass as Orlando turned it in his hand. Across the front was as sample label in blue lettering with yellow accents. The Gentleman. 25. “Leaky Couldron’s as guid a steid as ony tae stairt the merkat… Shuid fetch whit we need. ”
Danny nodded reluctantly. “‘Tho I hate to give any of it up. But business is business.” The Gents shouldered their bags once more, Orlando hiding away the bottle, and walked back across the marble floor toward the door.
They passed between the columns that flanked the arched doors, and through. The boys each turned to a guard with a smile. “Back in a bit.”
“Sae,” Lando started as they trotted down the steps. “Hou’re ye daein?”
Orlando knew Danny, knew him better than most probably. Ever since they were little the two of them just clicked. They were on the same wavelength. After things with Cissy broke down, Dan seemed to be just shrugging it off. He was doing a good job of it too. The brave face was very believable. But Orlando knew better.
“How…” he began, then silently added, do you think Audrey felt? Guilt welled up inside for even thinking about asking that, but Danny was sure he felt much the same way as Orlando’s former girlfriend after their breakup. Regaining control, he continued, “How did it feel, knowing that the girl you loved couldn’t or wouldn’t see you?” he asked, looking his lifelong friend in the eye. “How did it feel when it was Nicolette?”
The half smile was one of those defense mechanisms you couldn’t control. It was that smile people wore when they were sad but still trying to reassure the others they weren’t. “Rotten. Frustratit.” He held Dan’s gaze. A sigh emptied his lungs. “Maistly, Ah felt a lee lane…” He felt so grateful for his brother’s knowledge, to be able to talk to somebody about her. He gripped the Ravenclaw Gentleman by the shoulder. “Ah howp ye dinna feel tha ane.”
“Lonely, maybe. Alone, never. The Ravenclaw smiled at his brother. “I’ll be okay. Either she’ll come around or she won’t. Either way, I’ll be okay in time.”
They walked the rest of the way to The Leaky Cauldron in silence. They passed through the small little brick-lined courtyard that separated Diagon Alley from the tavern that served as a gateway to Charring Cross Road and London. Inside it was dark and worn down. Even so the Leaky Cauldron had a rather warm feeling. The pretentiousness of many wizard establishments were not to be found here. Here all were served equally by the man behind the bar.
“Hullo, Tom.” Danny and Orlando saddled up beside each other along the stretch of faded old wood that was the bar. They waved over the bald old man drying glasses over with a pair of fingers. “Two Firewaters.”
“Oi,” The barkeep grumbled and set down the glass he was cleaning. He looked out over the full tavern of people drinking and eating in his establishment. “I warned you two about selling yer wares in here…” He set down two squat little glasses and pulled bottle from the well. “It’s bad for my business…”
“Different story the day, Tom,” said Foozle, sliding a few coins across the wood in payment.
“Yeah,” Danny nodded, “we’re here to talk to you this time. And I think you’re going to like the why.”
Tom’s brow rose up high on his forehead with skepticism. “Really…” That skepticism rang through in his tone.
The two Gentlemen rose their glasses. “Really.” They tossed the amber drink back.
“Alright,” he laughed a little. Without any teeth in the man’s mouth it wasn’t exactly a pleasant sight . “I’ll bite. What is it? Some sort of new drink order system?”
Orlando gingerly set the bottle on the table, shiny and black. He turned it so the label faced the barkeep. “The Gentleman?” That skepticism drifted into a level of definite level of curiosity.
“Aye,” The Hufflepuff slid the bottle forward a little, encouraging the Leaky Cauldron’s barkeep to take it up and examine it. “Single maut.”
A small chuckle came from the man behind the bar. “25 years?” He looked at the boys, “You lads aren’t even 17…”
Danny’s accent suddenly appeared. “Gif ye dinnae believe us, then we’ll take it elsewheres. But ye should at least hae a sip first.”
Still skeptical, Tom broke the seal of the bottle. “How do I know you’re not trying to pull a fast one?” He poured a finger into each of the lads’ glasses before getting one himself. “You go first.”
The boys just shrugged and clinked their glasses together before allowing the flavorful liquid to caress their palates. With a smile and a sigh of contentment, they sat their glasses down on the bar.
“That may be our best batch yet.”
“Aye, nice finish on it.”
The bartender eyed the boys and that grin they wore. He lifted his glass, turning his attention to the amber liquid that swirled at the bottom. He lifted it to his nose. Tom was no Malt Master by any means, but he had years of experience filling glasses behind him. It’s round oaky aroma tickled his senses. What he smelled started to drop that skepticism from his face. That look only made the boys smile bigger. Then he drank it.
The skepticism was gone. Just one sip was all the man needed. The Scotch Whiskey rolled over his tastebuds. Though the accents were quite unique and quite hard to place, it was very indistinguishable from the 30 year old bottle of MacHutcheon that sat rather high up behind the bar. It was, in a word, unbelievable.
“How?” Though he questioned the boys, his eyes were on that bottle. They knew they had him.
“Please,” they groaned.
“Ye dinna expect us tae tell ye oor secraits.”
“Tae lat slip whit maks it speicial?”
“Tha wadna be Gentelmanly…”
Tom looked back and forth between the boys. Their skills at mischief, if the reports were to be believed, seemed to be equaled by their distilling skills. “And how much is this going to cost me?” he asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“Weel,” Danny mused, his left eyebrow cocked. “Yuir gettin’ in on the ground floor o’ a furst rate operation here, Tom.”
Orlando nodded. “Sae we’re gauntae gif ye a special price. Eighteen Galleons.”
The barkeep’s eyes widened. “Eighteen? The MacHutcheon only cost me sixteen!”
Leaning in close, the two boys discussed the price in sotto voice. Their faces were grim and serious. They shot the bartender a few looks then exchanged a few more private words. Finally, the two Gentlemen nodded.
“Alricht,” Dan said as Foozle rummaged through his bag once again, “Ma associate and Ah hae decideit tae mak ye a deal. Ane time offer.”
“Fifteen fer the 25.” A second bottle hit the table. It was identical, save the number. “Gif ye buy the 12 year fer 10…”
“Ane time offer. Fuirst dibs, Tom.”
The dubious look returned to Tom’s face.. His previous experience with the duo only served to enforce the skepticism. “And you aren’t selling to anyone but me?
In unison the Gents shook their heads. “Twa years, exclusive rights.”
“The only other bottles are in our personal stock.”
“And if I run out, what then? You’ll be in Hogwarts, with no way to supply me.”
“Send us an owl.”
“An’ we’ll send ye anither bottle.”
“Payment can be sent upon delivery.”
“The Gentlemen trust ye.”
With a scowl, Tom cracked open his cash box and slid the money across the counter, snatching the bottles as soon as he did. “And you owe me eight sickles.”
“For what? Private stock.”
Tom smiled. “Four each for the top-shelf scotch you just drank.”
A pair of scowls fell across the face of the two boys, but it was brief. “Alricht,” They nodded, scooping up their payment.
The Gentlemen hopped off the stools. “Tak it oot o yuir next order.”
With their purses a bit more full they strolled back behind the tavern and through the folding brick gateway back into the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley. They gave a few looks around. A trip back to Gringotts was in order if they were to buy the notebooks they wanted. “We need tae restock up some. The essence of merrkit an Snake ile especially. We’ve no gat enouch tae handle the lot o kits.” He looked over to Dan. “You pick up beuks yet?”
A smile crossed the Ravenclaw’s face. “A few. I’m holding off on a couple, ones I’m sure Colette is going to have. But I still need Arithmancy and some others.”
They strolled across the street. Foozle smirked. “Ah dinnaken wha onybody’d want tae ruin magic wi math.”
“Well,” the lad laughed, “It is useful in curse breaking. And who knows what might come up. After all, we are in our sixth year. Time to think about those things.”
The Hufflepuff nodded a little. “Ah telt Sproot Ah wantit tae be a Saicret Agent. She thoucht Ah wis crazy. She alsae didnae ken wha 007 wis.” Foozle laughed.
“She thinks you’re crazy anyway.”
“She wisna tae keen on the pub naither.”
“Really? According to Flitwick it’s,” He mimicked his head of house’s voice, “a very admirable profession”
“Nice.” Lando laughed again, holding the door open. “Ah jalouse Flitwick’s mair praegressive than Sproot. She seems tae think Ahm mair suitit tae clerking at Zonkos…”
“Flitwick seems to think we’d belong more in R&D than as clerks…” the Ravenclaw laughed.
“Smairt man, tha Flitwick.”
They started to head to Flourish and Blotts, but Danny veered off as they reached the entrance to Knockturn Alley. “What’s up?”
“Thought ol’ Grimm might have some used school books in stock that ‘Master DuMorne’ might be able to catch a deal on.”
Foozle smirked, trotting down the narrow steps that lead down into the dark alley of dark and questionable magics and magic things. “Cannae pass up a guid deal…” he replied, following just a few strides behind. His eyes darted from window to window, eying the forbidden fruits in the darkened windows.
They walked through the doors of Grimm’s like they owned the place. “Grimm, my good man. I have a list of book I need for the coming year of pablum that will be fed to us by Dumbledore and his lackeys.”
“Aye,” added Orlando from behind. “An a copy o Invisible Beuk o Invisibility… The ane wi the charm tae dis-illusion the disillusionment chairm on it…”
Glancing at his fellow Gentleman, Danny nodded. “Right. The invisible books. And anything else that might be useful.”
“Who are… Oh, Master DuMorne! Yes, let me see your list, and we’ll see what we can do.” The dark bookseller snatched the paper from Danny and went about his shop, finding books and stacking them in his arms.
When he returned to the counter, Grimm had several books for both Danny and Orlando, including the tome on invisibility. Foozle watched the slender bookseller neatly organize the books beside the register. “Ye git such guid service here. Beats Flourish an Blott’s haunds doun, brither.” He elbowed the Ravenclaw playfully.
“Flourish and Blotts. Phui. They peddle bland, uninteresting books. No real magic in them.” He gestured to the stack of texts. “Like these.”
The Hufflepuff’s arms folded over the counter. Unlike Danny’s rather firm expression, Orlando bore that wry MacFoozle grin. “We dinnae come juist fer the chairming comany, ma guid fere.” He winked. “Chairming tho it is.”
Grimm sneered at the other boy. It was a clear indication of level of service Orlando might have received had he not been in the company of his Ravenclaw companion. Those bookish eyes met Daniel’s. “Will that be all, Master DuMorne?”
Danny nodded and presented a second list. “A have a few nae on the approved reading list,” he said, steely glare in his eyes.
The bookseller looked at the list of books. Storm and Stress by Polikof Koslov, Curses and Counter Curses by Vindictus Viridan, and Potions, Spirits, and Distillation by K.B. Zosimos. A sly look crossed Grimm’s face as he stacked those with the tome on invisibility.
“Is there anything else you might need, Master DuMorne?”
Danny shot Orlando a questioning glance. “Nae fer me. You?”
Foozle shrugged a little. “Ahm guid.”
Grimm totalled their purchases and Danny paid, shoveling the books into their backpacks. “See ye next time, Grimm,” the Ravenclaw said as they walked out the door.
When they were safely back in Diagon Alley, Danny grinned. “Even with the extra books, we saved almost six galleons.”
“No bad.” Foozle stuck his hands in his pockets and fished out a few coin. He handed them over to Danny. “Ah reck this shoud be a new tradition. Flourish and Blott’s wis a mess the day…”
The pair strolled back out of Knockturn Alley under the dirty glares of the witches and wizards that milled about the shops in the narrow alley. They headed straight back for the massive white marble structure that sat in the center of town. Just a simple nod to the Goblin guards, “We’re back!” and through the massive wooden doors of Gringotts.
When they placed their coins and request on the counter their teller had grumbled a little, those glassy black eyes rather irritated. The way the goblins made it seem, exchanging wizarding money for muggle money was an incredible chore. Nonetheless with some more of that grumbling, the goblin took the coinage and slid a number of pound notes back under toward the boys. “Thanks, mate.”
There was a certain excitement in the air about the two boys as the strode back through the great bank hall. They pushed through both set of doors, “Cheers!” right past the two gold and crimson clad guards and down the marble steps retracing their way all the way back to the Leaky Cauldron. This time they simply waved to Tom behind the bar and plowed on through out into the streets of London.
Charring Cross Road was full of the sounds of cars and muggles whizzing about. Although the context was different, it wasn’t wholly unlike Diagon Alley. There were shops galore up and down the street, mostly book and record shops. The size was a bit bigger and there was that street with the cars, but all in all the feeling was rather similar.
“So,” The two boys looked up the street in opposite directions. “Where to?”
“Howell’s Books and Supply,” Orlando replied fishing a piece of paper out of his pocket. Over the summer he’d spent a few days staying with his grandparents in Oban. He’d perused the BT phone book and made some calls for someplace close by. Howell’s wasn’t far and the lady he had spoken to was quite pleasant. Foozle looked about, catching street numbers. “Shoud be doun here by the corner.”
The duo walked down the street and into the store. It was a bit like Flourish and Blotts, with books, pens, paper and other scholastic and artistic materials. They looked around at the different items, some Danny had never seen before. While Danny milled about in curiosity, Orlando headed to the counter and the young woman who sat on the other side.
“Help you find something?” She had a smile and that pleasant singsong voice.
“Aye,” Orlando nodded meeting her smile with one of his own. “Ah cawed a while syne aboot picking up a box o notebeuks the day?”
“Oh yeah,” that sales clerk smile perked up further. “Orlando Davis right?” Orlando nodded. “Yeah, they’re here all ready and waiting for you.” She dropped down under the counter.
Like a balance of bodies in the room, Danny’s head popped up from behind one of the short shelves. He gave Foozle a cockeyed look. “Davis?”
Orlando nodded. “Aye, Davis.”
“Okay,” he said, walking over to the counter with a wide grin on his face. “I just dinnae know you were using your mum’s maiden name now.”
“Sorry?” She reappeared back up now bearing a heavy cardboard box. She sat it down in front of him.
“Naething,” Orlando smiled and waved it off. “Howfur much dae Ah owe ye?”
The clerk’s fingers ran over the heavy keys of the register as she punched in the numbers. The numbers popped up on those black and white tiles. “200 pounds, hon.”. Again, she bore that happy smile.
Foozle reached into his pocket and removed that folded bills. “Alricht…” He counted off the pound notes and handed them over. He pulled the heavy box down to the edge of the counter and hefted it up.”Thanks kindly!”
The woman behind the counter propped her chin up on a fist. “So what do you two need with all these blank comp books?” She watched as he adjusted the heavy box. “That’s a lot just for class.”
“Och,” Fooze looked about and caught the grin on Danny’s face. “We gae tae ane o thaim ‘schuils fer the gifted’.”
“Yeah,” nodded the Ravenclaw, “You’d be amazed the things they require of us.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of those. My cousin went to one.” The woman gave a sympathetic smile. “I hope they at least let you have a little bit of fun between all that studying.”
The two boys shared a look, then a grin. “We manage.” They both laughed.