Most of the guests chattered and happily retired to the Ebony Hotel only a few hours before dawn. But those local retired to their own homes or stayed over with friends and family for the night. A nervous-looking potion master wobbled away as not long after he ran into an alley and began to shake as his face and body began to change into a round fellow with a bushy beard. Tugging on his bowler hat to hide his baldness, Gittins hurries away and apparated near the Monarch pub.
It was snowing rather fiercely and given the rough weather, the Monarch was largely empty at that late hour. Those few patrons that were still there were either half-asleep or passed out in the pub booths. Gittins glanced at the tall, gray bartender who was putting away the glasses and tankards for the night.
Scurrying past the penetrating gaze of the bartender, Gittins wilts under the gazes of Hyde and Floyd. The two burly wizards stare at him with their arms crossed to hastily remove his bowler hat to reveal his shiny crown. Nervously holding is bowler between his hands, he nods at the man before him.
The old weathered man with neatly cut hair in a warm Christmas sweater glances up from his crossword puzzle in the Daily Prophet, and asks, "Do you know a five-letter word for a magical leopard from Africa?"
"No, sir," Gittins almost squeaked.
"A Nundu," Sanderson carefully explained as he filled out the word in his puzzle. "It's a magical leopard-like creature with a breath so toxic and diseased that it can easily wipe out dozens of villages."
Gittins loudly gulps as Sanderson adds, "Why it even takes hundreds of gathered wizards to subdue even a single one of them."
Finally raising his yellow wolfish gaze, Sanderson says, "Well?"
"Four wizards left mid-auction and did not return," Gittins drily said as he apprehensively licked his lips.
"Thank you, you may go now," Sanderson said as Gittins didn't wait to be told twice, before rushing out the door and into the storm. It was safer out there, to be honest.
"Ye were right boss," said, the large fore headed wizard, Hyde.
"Of course! The boss is always right," murmured, the beady-eyed Floyd.
Sanderson didn't reply as he returned to his crossword puzzle. Things were lining up quite nicely now. The goblins were sure to hunt down the thieves effectively closing one more avenue for his unknown enemy to retreat too. And now, what is another fiver lettered name for a creature commonly known as an Asp? Oh, yes, a Viper.
Despite the late hour, Grok Gringotts steps into his luxurious, but simply furnished office and slams the door shut locking his attendants and guards out. Ignoring the fine desk with a rather inviting chair, Grok grabs a pinch of sparkling powder and tosses it into the fire. The flames roar green as he shouts, "Headmaster Albus Dumbledore!" Stepping inside, Grok instantly swirls away to only emerge in a large circular room full of funny noises.
Grok ignores the curious silver instruments that whirring and emitting little puffs of smoke. Nor did he bother to glance up at the portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses, all of whom were snoozing gently in their frames at the late hour. But he did, however, wrinkle his nose at seeing the shabby, tattered wizard's hat the Sorting Hat. It was quite old and desperate need of a good wash.
Standing on a gold perch a mid-sized chick withers red and golden plumage, Fawkes, the phoenix stared down at him. "Do you know, where the Headmaster is?" Grok asked as the bird gave a soft chirp. Before Grok can begin to curse the blasted bird, Dumbledore emerges from the headmaster's private chambers hastily tying a fluffy blue moon and starred robe around himself. His long nightshirt peeked over the end, but not enough to cover his boney pale ankles nor the fluffy red slippers he was wearing.
Peering through moon spectacles, Dumbledore tosses his nightcap back and says, "And how can I help you at this late hour, Grok Gringotts?"
"I'm sure you will be informed in a few hours, but I'd like to inform you in person, Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle are dead," Grok firmly said. "You have my sincerest condolences."
Dumbledore seems to suddenly be lightheaded as he staggers into his chair unable to believe that his old friend and mentor are dead. "How?" Dumbledore asked as Fawkes let out a sad cry.
"Four wizards broke into the vault and destroyed the Philosophers Stone," Grok confessed.
"Who?" Dumbledore asked with a sharp gleam in his blue eyes.
"That won't work on me, Headmaster," Grok snapped feeling an intense headache at Dumbledore trying to see into his mind.
Letting out a sigh of relief at the pressure vanishing, Grok spat out, "Wizards so utterly impatient!"
Dumbledore has the grace to flush in embarrassment and guilt at least. "I'm sorry, but he and his wife were good friends of mine."
"I know," Grok said as he walked over to tiredly slump down in a seat.
"I'm too old to be doing this," Grok murmured as he rubbed his aching head.
"What this or the job?" Dumbledore lightly said in jest.
Grok snorts and says, "That boy of mine is far too greedy only seeing short term profits and not the long-term ones. And as for the others vying for my position, there isn't a single good one among them. But there are some promising prospects at least. We'll see."
The fire crackling is the only sound for some time as the two men stare into the distance. Finally hauling himself back to his feet, Grok says, "I don't know what foul game is afoot, Headmaster, but you best be careful."
Dumbledore was never one to be said no to. "Please Gringotts. Anything," Dumbledore pleaded.
Seeing the distraught expression on one of the most powerful wizard's faces made Grok feel a tinge of guilt and satisfaction. "They served some sort of Dark Lord and had a tattoo with a snake intertwining with a skull."
A flicker of recognition flashes through Dumbledore's eyes as Grok angrily says, "Do you know who they are Headmaster? Because I've got two dead goblins that I will have to inform their families Christmas Eve that they won't be ever coming home!"
Dumbledore for a moment seems to be torn and weighs the pros and cons. After a moment, Dumbledore carefully says, "According to the Auror department said symbol was found hanging in the sky the day that Auror Vinovich was killed. And according to the surviving Auror's present at Caithness, those were the same masked figures responsible for the attack on Malfoy manor last year."
"So, they're all interconnected," Grok whispered as the same thought had long since occurred to Dumbledore and was only being reaffirmed.
The two of them are silent for a moment, before Grok says, "I best leaving you to rest, Headmaster. It is late and I'm sure, you'll be needing to make arrangements for the Flamel's in a few hours. I'll make sure that the goblin clerks will be available to you at any hour while the arrangements are finalized."
"Thank you," Dumbledore said as Grok nodded and tossed a pinch of floo powder into the flames, before shouting his destination and vanishing away.
Fawkes trills softly and flaps his tiny wings as he struggles to fly into the air, but someone manages to land on the desk. Leaning over to rub his head softly against Dumbledore's hand, Dumbledore subconsciously begins to rub the head of his feathered friend. "Thank you, old friend," Dumbledore said, before remaining at his desk thinking all night long until his office was bathed in warm tones of yellow and orange.