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Chapter 61 : Chapter Sixty-One
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"And it is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Coulthard. My nephews speak very highly of you," he replied, taking her meek handshake with one that was much more firm and assured. She blushed and once he let go of her hand she withdrew it awkwardly. Despite his politeness and the favour he'd just done her, he wasn't exactly easy to relax around. But then, she supposed that no circumstances would be easy for her to relax in currently.
Calm, she told herself, trying to clear thoughts of Barty and Skeeter from her mind and just focus on whatever Arien wanted. Once she managed to clear her head of panic somewhat, she found she was very curious as to what in Merlin's name he was doing here. "Please, take a seat. What can I help you with?" Her voice sounded satisfactorily calm and professional as she sat back down and he took the chair opposite her.
He cleared his throat before beginning. "Well, Miss Coulthard, as you have been advising my nephews on investments in their business and securing financial support for the UK branch of the company, I feel I should alert you to the fact that their father – and my brother-in-law – may shortly be paying you a visit in an attempt to repurchase all shares held by Gringotts. While I appreciate you cannot prevent him purchasing any available stocks or shares with his own money, I would please request that you do not advise him to do so. Jeroen is…" Arien paused a moment, considering his words, and then said, "Not fully aware of the workings of wizarding finance, or indeed the workings of the wizarding world in general, but recent developments have led him to believe that buying out as much of the company as possible is in the best interests of his sons, whether they wish him to or not."
Following that there was a pause, during which Gwen tried to fully understand what he was telling her. Finding she couldn't, she opened her mouth and was about to express her puzzlement, but seeing that his explanation had been inadequate Arien continued.
"Of course, I understand this must make little sense to you given how little you know of the situation," Arien said apologetically. "Please allow me to elaborate further. Following the downfall of He Who Must Not Be Named, Jeroen has developed concerns about the future of the company and there is some dispute among he and his sons about the extent of his involvement in their affairs. There are also other matters in dispute that I will not burden you with, but Jeroen believes he will be able to solve these by investing his own money in Desdinova Dark Detectors, despite Sander and Martijn's requests that he remains uninvolved in the business. I have tried to dissuade him of this, but he will not listen to me nor to his sons. I would hope that if an expert were to advise him on the matter, he would be better persuaded to abandon this foolish plan of his."
There was another pause, during which Gwen found she was beginning to make more sense of this, but it was also raising further questions. It wasn't as if she didn't already have enough on her mind, but for the sake of her job she was trying to keep up. "So, you're saying that Sander and Martijn's father wishes to buy out shares in DDD? Which you don't want him to?"
He nodded in confirmation. "That is correct, yes."
And now for the part that puzzled her. "And do Sander and Martijn know about this?" If they did, she wondered why it was Arien here speaking to her and not one of them.
Arien looked like he was about to begin his answer, but then he sighed wearily and seemed to choose a different reply to the one he'd initially intended. "I'm afraid the situation has grown rather complicated, but no, I do not believe Sander and Martijn are fully aware of their father's intentions, nor will they act on it if they become so. Therefore I feel it is down to me to intervene. Although I have had some involvement with the company, I do not own it and I understand you cannot discuss the business's current financial arrangements with anyone but my nephews, but that will not stop my brother-in-law from trying. Jeroen will most likely attempt to contact you regarding an investment in DDD, and I would be most grateful if you would advise him against any and all things he proposes."
Although the circumstances behind this were still a mystery to her, Gwen seemed to think she understood his basic request. "So you'd like me to prevent him from becoming financially involved in the company at all, if he comes to me about it?"
Again, he nodded. "I would be most obliged."
Gwen couldn't help but frown a little as she considered it, feeling a little awkward. "Mr van der Lijn," she began, sounding apologetic, "While I appreciate what you're telling me, the truth is that it is my job to advise clients on sound investments. Desdinova Dark Detectors is in a strong position: it has stocks available and its share prices are rising. Any wizard with the means to buy shares currently would be well advised to do so."
She was worried that her response might provoke irritation or displeasure from him, given that he seemed to be a man accustomed to getting what he wanted, but instead he just gave a small smile. "Of course, I understand perfectly Miss Coulthard, and I apologise if you feel that as a professional this is not something you could do. However, you should perhaps be made aware that Jeroen is a muggle. His understanding of these matters is not the greatest, and I cannot see things ending well for him. In truth, I believe his intended actions to be in retaliation against Sander rather than an attempt to make a sound financial investment. You see, Miss Coulthard, despite his non-magical background Jeroen has attempted to immerse himself in the wizarding world as fully as possible, and I do not think he has been as successful as he believes himself to be. He currently owns bonds for the Dutch Minaret, which I believe he intends to sell in order to purchase shares in the UK branch of DDD. However, the value of the British Galleon has strengthened considerably following the defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named, and therefore the exchange rate with Dutch currency is much poorer than it was a month ago. The returns on the company would therefore not justify the sale of these bonds until the economy has shifted. I'm sure you can agree that in this situation, the best advice you could give him would be to advise that he do nothing at all."
There it was again; that smooth politician's rhetoric that he'd deployed against Skeeter earlier. Although Gwen was still a little uncertain about this, she wasn't sure she could really say no to him. "Yes, I see. If he should contact me I'll advise him against making such a move."
Arien smiled, seemingly satisfied that the conversation had concluded the way he'd wished. "Thank you, Miss Coulthard. I would appreciate that. Should he ask, also please assure him that Desdinova Dark Detectors is in a secure position financially. I know you are not at liberty to discuss the details, but if only he would be more convinced that Sander and Martijn are capable of taking care of themselves, perhaps he would not be so inclined to make foolish decisions."
Gwen didn't comment on that, feeling that it wasn't really her place to have an opinion, but she gave a small nod of confirmation. "I can assure him of that."
He nodded back in acknowledgement before rising to his feet. "Thank you again, Miss Coulthard. I apologize for the spontaneity of this meeting, but I have only arrived in England this morning and felt I should see you before Jeroen grasps the opportunity to do so first. I shall inform Sander and Martijn that I have been to see you, and I expect that they will wish to discuss some things with you further, but it is likely that Jeroen shall make contact with you very soon."
Gwen got awkwardly to her feet as well, still feeling a little cowed by him although he had been perfectly pleasant towards her. "Well, um, thank you for making me aware of that." As she contemplated the possibility that she'd soon be meeting yet another of Sander's family members, she found she was actually quite eager to see what he was like. She hoped he was much more like Sander, although given the way Arien had talked about him she wasn't sure what to expect. "And thank you for earlier, as well. For getting rid of her, I mean."
His expression darkened momentarily once she said that, a look of distaste crossing his features as he was reminded of Skeeter. Gwen found she was inclined to agree with the sentiment. "It was no bother," he replied, "Unfortunately, it seems that journalists are part of a profession that requires them to show neither dignity nor respect, although we are not permitted to deal with them as brutally as we are with other pests." He then reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and took out a small rectangular piece of card, which he held out towards her. "If I can ever be of service to you again, Miss Coulthard, in any matter please don't hesitate to contact me."
She took the offered card and examined it. In glossy gold lettering was printed "Arien van der Lijn" in cursive script, with a title in Dutch below it followed by two addresses which Gwen assumed were for floo and owl, although the only word that was the same in English was "floo". A moving icon of a dragon was creeping its way around the edges of the card in perpetual circles.
Gwen looked up at Arien again, who was straightening out his jacket and then cleared his throat. "If you would excuse me, I have a meeting at the UK Auror Office I must attend, although it was a pleasure to meet you."
He offered her his hand again in farewell, and she shook it a little more confidently this time. "Likewise."
A moment later he had left the office.
As the door swung shut behind him, Gwen sank back into her chair again, still wondering what to make of that whole encounter. Already too much had happened today, and it seemed likely that she would later be encountering Jeroen Westerbeek as well. This was all too much. As she recalled how Arien had mentioned a meeting at the Auror Office it immediately dragged her thoughts back to Barty and her stomach gave an uncomfortable squirm. Closing her eyes, Gwen put her arms out on the desk in front of her and let her head fall onto them, feeling overwhelmed by it all.
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