The king was waiting for him out in the hallway.
"Lovely woman, your mother. Too bad about Alice's attendant being called away," he said. "I would have liked to have met her."
Richard hesitated a moment before answering, not sure of what to say. "Let's step into the office here," he said, opening a door by the hallway's exit. "Have a seat."
The room was primarily used for house-keeping; its secondary use was as a make-shift office. There was a small table, some chairs and a kitchenette with a potions supply cabinet that was warded against all but a few selected Healers.
Inside the cabinet was a small jar of sliced Murtlap, useful for Healers and attendants' protection against wandless hexes that the residents sometimes threw. Out of habit, Richard quickly got the jar, took out a slice and washed it down with a swallow of water. "Excuse me," he said to the king and his attendants. "Would you like a drink of water?" He filled a small tumbler with water and held it up for them to see.
"No, thank you," the king said, eyeing him suspiciously. Soldat looked around at their surroundings. Sorg sat and hiccuped and blew its nose on what little was clean on its handkerchief.
Richard sat at the table, it and the tumbler of water as buffers between him and the strangers. "You said that our conversation wasn't finished," he said. "What more needs to be said?"
The king studied Richard. "I would like to know what happened to the painting; it belongs with her and should be hanging up in her suite. I do not believe that it was destroyed, as it was carefully and thoroughly spelled to last for millennia. There appears to be some lack in Alice's care, and I want to remedy it. She was a successful Runner and is still entitled to the friendship of my subjects; I want that association to resume." Sorg hiccuped and had a pleading expression on its face as it stared up at Richard.
Richard got up from the table and got another tumbler of water and a box of tissues and put them in front of Sorg. Soldat looked as if he were counting the bedsheets stacked on the far wall.
"I don't know what happened to it--I was only a toddler myself when Alice was brought here. Whatever personal effects she had, Mrs. Longbottom--her mother-in-law--probably took. And if Neville says that there were none, I believe him."
"What if the painting was not in the house?" the king said. "Where would it be then?"
"Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, your guesses would probably be better, as you seem to know far more about Alice's past than I."
"Your mother is one of her other regular attendants," the king said.
"Interesting, that you should know so much about my mother. Was she one of your Runners too?"
The king looked a bit surprised. "No. I met her for the first time today. She probably would have been an adequate one, if that sets your mind at ease."
Richard decided not to comment.
"As to Alice and Frank's care," the Healer continued, "the primary responsibility rests with their son, Neville, and Frank's mother. We here at the hospital follow their orders. Whatever further treatments you might be considering have to go through them. Healer Thompson is their primary Healer, not I. Perhaps you should be having this conversation with him. He will be back on duty tomorrow at 9 a.m. Or maybe you should go back to the room and talk to Neville." Richard took another sip of water.
The king said nothing. Sorg hiccuped again. The silence became oppressive.
"I do have a question. What happens to your unsuccessful Runners? What was that about Bite--I mean Bruce being left behind?"
"Lucy succeeded, and Bruce is here in your universe. That is all you need to know," the king said coolly. Soldat looked very nervous. Sorg wiped its eyes. A small mound of used tissues was building up on the table.
"I think not," Richard replied. "You apparently came at Owen's bequest and would have taken Leia. You know about my 'universe', but I don't know anything about yours. You know enough about this 'universe' to use an owl form to trick me into opening the window; otherwise you and your associates would not be here now. Your little 'army' invaded and made a mess of the Anti-Grav room, which is rather a difficult place to tidy up. And I'm a bit suspicious of where the 'army' went after it left. You and your two associates went through the protection wards of this wing, which are in place for the benefit of the residents. I don't even know how to address you: Goblin King? King Jareth? Hey, you? So where should we start?"
The king smirked. "Anything else, Healer Goodfellow? As for addressing me, that is not a problem; I am here."
Richard decided to ignore the comment. "You wish for me to advocate for you to Healer Thompson? To Neville? To Mrs. Longbottom? I have to have something to tell them. After all, Lucy Graves is not a member of the staff, and I'm not aware of any other so-called Runners. If there's anything you and I can agree on, it's that Lucy is not the best example of a character witness." Richard leaned back in his chair, in his best Healer Thompson imitation, and waited, his eyes focused on his opponent's mismatched ones.
"The wards allow only select hospital staff, family and friends of the residents, do they not?" the king asked.
Richard gave a slow nod of consent.
"Then they testify as to our place in Alice's world. There are other Runners who may vouch for me, but I am not at liberty to identify them to you."
"But you are to someone else?" Richard asked.
"Not to you," he repeated.
There was a pause again. Half of the mound of tissues fell to the floor. The goblin noisily got off of its chair and carried them to the bin and returned to its seat. The two men ignored it.
"There is something else," the king said with a slight frown. "Sorg here obviously needs help. As you are a Healer, perhaps you may be able to do so."
Sorg looked up at the Healer.
Richard inwardly sighed and ruefully thought, No matter what, a Healer is always on call. "I'm afraid I'm not the expert on goblins, but Sorg, I agree, you do seem to need help." He glanced at the king and Soldat. "And I suppose that there won't be any privacy for me to interview you."
"Of course not," the king replied, but he moved his chair away from Sorg.
Richard went to the sink and washed his hands, giving his mind a moment to change its attitude. What if it Apparates while I'm touching it? he silently worried. He decided to risk it.
He sat next to the goblin and asked it, "May I?" before he took carefully its small wrist in his fingers. The pulse felt strong. With the other hand, he carefully checked its eyes. "How long have you been crying, Sorg?" the Healer gently asked. He knew that answer.
"Ev-ev-er since she for-forgot me," it wept.
"That's been a long time. Have you any other pains? Headaches? Allergies?"
The goblin shook its head, spraying its tears and snot.
"You really miss her, don't you?" he asked, giving the goblin another tissue. "What do you do in your world?"
"Cry a lot," Soldat interrupted. The king shot him a withering stare.
"No," it sobbed.
"Is there any--" the Healer tried to remember what had been said about the other world. "Is there any music?"
"Do you sing?"
"Not-not since..." the goblin didn't finish.
"Well, I think you should sing. For ten minutes a day. Just sing songs. Silly songs. Go outside or someplace and sing. And sing really, really loud. Take big, deep breaths so that you can sing your loudest. Is there dancing there?"
The goblin nodded.
"And the last time you danced was...."
The goblin got another tissue. "Bef-before."
"Well, I think you should dance." Exercise, he thought. "I think you should dance to ten, no, five songs a day. Start with one today, and one tomorrow, and then five. And then do ten. I'll bet you are a good dancer. Are there any flowers there?"
"When was the last time you looked at the flowers? With all of your tears, are you able to smell the flowers?"
It shook its head.
"Every day, go outside and look at one flower. If you feel like it, look at another one. But do look at one a day. It doesn't have to be the same one, even if it's raining outside." Get some fresh air, he mentally ordered.
"Do those things every day--sing, dance, go out and look at flowers. You'll feel better. Promise?" the Healer quietly asked.
Sorg nodded and sniffed quietly.
The Healer looked up at the king. "There won't be a problem with the regimen, will there?"
The king looks annoyed. "Of course not. We have been trying to get Sorg to do all that for years."
"We have?" Soldat asked.
The king gave the goblin a look of doom before he turned back to the Healer. "Is there not a suitable potion or pill?"
Richard was back to business. "As I said, I'm not an expert on goblins. I don't know what effects certain ingredients may have on the goblins in this universe, let alone yours." He went back to the sink and washed his hands again.
What are the children doing now? he wondered. Chaucer is probably just barely keeping them from killing each other -- the library is going to be a mess. When they get through with me, I'm going to be Doxy droppings. He thought about taking some more Murtlap to protect himself from any underage spells but decided against it.
"Pardon me, but don't you have a kingdom to run?" he asked as he dried his hands.
The king made a slightly wry face. "I trust that you will personally escort me out the way I came in." He stood up and went to the door, which Soldat opened. Richard gave the box of tissues to Sorg to take with him.
Out in the hallway, the king paused and looked down the hallway to the Longbottom's suite. Richard made no comment as they all stood in the hallway for a minute, Sorg quietly sniffling. Wordlessly the king turned and marched down the hallway of the Ariana Dumbledore wing, Richard and the goblins following after him. Only Sorg looked back as they passed through the doors.