A/N: Merry September.

Chapter 52: Recuperation and theory

The students that were attacked, even if they were far off, have been admitted to the Hospital Wing for recovery. Nobody was kissed, nobody was singled out for any meaningful amount of time to do damage, but a dementor attack is no joke. They shouldn't even be able to do anything like this, which scares people even more.

"Dementors near the school! I said this would happen!" Madame Pomfrey bustles about, grumbling angrily elsewhere in the room.

The unsettling "clean" smell of the Hospital Wing has always been unpleasant to me, despite the fact that my life seems to be short breaks between getting injured. The opposite seems to be true for Hermione. Sitting on her appointed bed, I imagine that reading books in her parent's practice has wired her brain to find this environment very relaxing. The only detour I'd taken before coming up here was to check out a book on Dementors for her, knowing how her mind works.

"I haven't found anything yet about… actually, there's nothing about anybody touching a dementor before." She reaches her hand, blindly, to the bed side table for the hot chocolate. I look down at the bandages on my left hand, they cover the black skin beneath. I had been so tuned out of the world, so blinded by what I was doing through the anger, that I didn't notice the damage I was causing myself.

"This is probably the expected reaction to skin contact, though?" I breathe warm air onto my stiff fingers. "What with the way they freeze everything around them, and all that."

"It would seem so." She agrees. "But the physical interaction between your patronus and the dementors is a mystery, too. I've never read anything like it." She looks up from the book.

"From everything I've seen personally, the patronus charm is a strong deterrent, rather than what happened here." I scratch my chin thoughtfully. Granted my Elder wand patronus is very non-standard, and foolishly tacking on a different way for the spell to be formed in the middle of a fight, it still sort of makes sense with my theory that dementors don't act right with me. Either that, or the Elder Wand has an even stranger relationship with myself, and magic, than I have previously thought. "I'm just glad I wasn't any later getting outside to you." I manage to strain a smile.

"Thank you." Her smile is a lot more genuine. "I just hope that Ginny wakes up soon. After what happened in her first year..." She lets out a sigh, shaking her head. "Have you heard anything more about Mr Crouch?"

"I passed Scrimgeour on the way up here, he looked so busy that I think the entire department has been mobilised, so I doubt anyone is being put on investigating Crouch very deeply at the moment." I explain.

"I'm sure after the damage he caused with the imperius curse on you, he will probably be sent to Azkaban." She frowns, as if not quite believing her words.

"Or claim that he wasn't in control. Happened a lot in the war." I sigh. Lots of sighing. "Maybe I will cheer myself up by scaring the dementors away. If he does get put away, there can be all of these ones right outside his cell."

Not to mention the gaping hole in the lower level wards of Azkaban. I could just travel straight there to visit him. Throw a dungbomb in his cell every now and then. Maybe an "off-the-books" trip is in order. There might be some more of Ekrizdis' research material down there, which could prove helpful in dealing with the dementor problem we have here. Even if I could figure out how to unblock the portal that should lead to the, theorised, magic realm, I don't know what effect the pass-through of every dementor in the British Isles would have on the integrity of the gateway. There are a lot of prisoner souls entombed within the dais, which could prove dangerous if tampered with. Trying to safely disarm a portal held together with magical paper-clips and elastic bands would surely end badly, especially with all the mithril there to disrupt the natural flow of energy.

"I forgot to ask you earlier, but how did the wand weighing go?" Hermione suddenly pops her head out of the book, just as I'd started to doze in the chair beside her bed. Dinner was brought up not long ago, dressed up beneath a silver cloche. "Did our plan work?"

"Seems so." I rub my eyes. "Only my real wand was inspected, so I should be fine to keep the ace in my sleeve." I tap my wand holster. Just having the Elder Wand available greatly increases my chances of not being smash onto the floor in whatever the first task will be.

"You really must go and sleep, Harry. In your bed." She amends the statement before I can protest.

"I know, I know." I stretch my arms above my head. "I'll probably get distracted on my way, end up slaving over a cauldron until the early hours of the morning."

"Harry. Go to your room, shut the world out, and just sleep." If she weren't on a hospital bed, she would have her hands on her hips. "You sitting here worrying isn't going to help anyone."

"That sounds wonderful, actually." I push myself up off the chair. "I'm coming back first thing tomorrow morning." I peek my head around the curtain to see that Ginny is still asleep. "Try not to stay up too long with that book."

"Go!" She points to the door, smiling indulgently.


"I know she's got enough brothers, but I still worry about her a lot. After what she went through in her first year, I can't help but feel guilty. I should have spoken to her about it more."

I had snuck out of Hogwarts, illegally apparated to London, then gone home. I wouldn't class it as sneaking, but I was using the invisibility cloak, so by definition I was being sneaky.

"Did you at all?" Tonks asks. We are curled up on the sofa under a blanket, listening to the wireless. David Bowie.

"At first I gave her some space." I reply, shaking my head. "I didn't want to crowd her when she was trying to come to terms with everything that had happened. Shit way to start Hogwarts. I assumed her family would be enough, close as they are."

"You're taking too much blame." She squeezes my hand. "From everythin' I've heard about her, she's fine. A bit rough around the edges, but she's grown up with six brothers. I'm surprised she still has six left after living with Fred and George." She laughs. "You've taken the wrong time to analyse it, the poor thing just got attacked by a bloody dementor."

"But if I'd gotten rid of the dementors earlier-"

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself." She groans, resting her head against the back of the sofa. "It happened, you can't save everyone." She rolls her head to look at me. "Best you can do sometimes is to try and prevent stuff from happening. Being an Auror isn't about responding to action, a lot of it is minimising risks for the population. I don't like being stuck on Diagon duty, but it's a deterrent, knowing that you've got a pair of Aurors lurking around is enough to turn some people away. If you want to spook away the dementors around Hogwarts, think of it as making it safer for first years wandering about, rather than revenge – It's not healthy."

"Just Hogwarts?"

"I don't want the paperwork if you get rid of the ones in Azkaban, too." She winks at me.

Tonks is pro-Azkaban. I am very anti-Azkaban.

She doesn't like that she is, but it makes the justice system easier to manage when there is an ultimate punishment sitting out in the ocean. Knowing that anyone they put there will stay there until they die or get released. Maybe she would change her mind if she ever actually went there, but I hope she never has to.

"I don't even know if I could, honestly. That's where they came into this world from, so I don't think they would be very happy with leaving."

"Oh, yeah. That big arch." She shakes her head, marvelling at the idea. "Crazy that nobody even knows it's there. I'm basically one of the most knowledgeable people in the country when it comes to dementors."

"I think that's more because everyone knows the same things, and you have like 3 or 4 facts on top of that."

"Exactly! That makes me… top 3, at least." She has a point. "Can't you just throw them back through?"

"There's the soul toll, remember." I remind her. "I'd have to make a ticket to contain one and just make sure the dementor doesn't lose it in whatever transition there is. Big difference from the Hogwarts Express, I'm sure."

"I wonder what's on the other side, though. Must be pretty grim if dementors live there." She muses. Or great enough that Ekrizdis didn't want to come back. "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure, really. I've been toying with the idea that there are different worlds out there for a while now. Travel between them must be possible." I run my fingers through my hair. "I think when Dobby went to visit the pixies, he unknowingly traversed a bridge between Earth and the pixie place. Time didn't quite match up, which is why I was getting worried when he didn't return." Maybe Zaldimar figured something out? It wasn't done with the Elder wand, but he was more of a runemaster, than charms. "It could just be that pixies, being in touch with time as they are, were just messing with things in an area."

"But there could actually be a place like that?"

"Well it's only a theory, but there is more evidence that we aren't alone." I explain. "Take a galleon, for example. There are more galleons, by weight, in current circulation, than there is gold on this planet. Multiple times over. Sure, we can work under the assumption that there is a philosophers stone, or similar device, that Gringotts possess to create more gold, but could that be enough?"

"Why don't they just make more gold? They love gold."

"It would destroy the economy." I shrug. "They need a finite amount of gold so that they can feel wealthy by having a percentage of that. If there were infinite galleons, then they could have castles build from solid gold, but that wouldn't even register as a percentage of infinity."

"Ok, so it's about owning a slice of something tangible." She nods slowly. "But you don't believe that's where it comes from." It's not a question.

"Even with a very generous amount produced through alchemy, wizard or goblin forms, I don't think it would be enough. It certainly wouldn't be worth as much to them. No, goblins value the work behind raw materials, and as far as we can tell so does their magic. The only materials they would work with would have to be mined from the ground. It represents the labour and force into claiming them from the earth, or somewhere else."

"Like another world!" Her face lights up like it's her first trip to Diagon Alley. "You think the goblins have one, too?"

"Well, I don't think they have it. I'd wager that they are native inhabitants to it, like humans and Earth, and at some point they found a way, perhaps accidentally, into ours. They battle to try and claim it, kind of lose, and then we just sort of forget, over thousands of years, that they weren't always here. History gets a bit lost, they rebel, books are written, and then a ghost teaches the subject in Hogwarts." Tonks slumps back against the sofa, trying to process the enormity of the guesswork.

"Fuck."

"Mmm." I agree.

"But where do they get in?" She crosses her legs and turns to face me properly, I mimic the spin. "There must be one in Gringotts, right? Or under it. I only see like… fifteen goblins enter through the front door on a busy day. It's not like every goblin in there marches up the steps with briefcases every morning."

"If I had to guess, I would say that's why Gringotts was built there. Something below it must be the crossover point." I chew my lip. It's such an insane idea, but I can't help but think there is truth to this whole thing. Surely Ekrizdis wouldn't have just wandered through the portal he constructed without being damn sure it would lead somewhere.

"Or maybe the foyer is all they have on this side?" Tonks' nose is scrunched up, eyes darting around as she often does when deep in thought, or solving crimes. It's adorable. "Like you go down a corridor and you're actually in their world, y'know? How would all that fit underneath London, anyway? Have you ever been to the deeper vaults?" I shake my head. "There's huge caverns down there. Mum took me to her vault once when we were shopping. Third year, I think. There's no way it could all be under London without some muggle figuring it out." It does makes sense.

"I always thought it was expansion charms, or something." I shrug. "Or whatever goblins do to make the same effect. I guess I would have to also have limits, like ours. With all the protections in there, it couldn't all be expanded space." I start talking more to my own brain.

"Somebody would've realised though." She deflates a bit. "Hell, you would've realised if you travelled to another plane of existence, right?"

"Uh." I weigh the question. "I don't think I would. If it is as simple as walking down a corridor and the transition is seamless, then it's just walking down a corridor. If this goblin world has the same feel to it, then I wouldn't notice, y'know? If they are getting their gold from there, it feels the same as any other gold." Tonks has perked back up again as I concede that her mad theory isn't impossible.

"So they could just be hiding this under our noses?"

"From what we know, it'd make sense, right? I also think there is a crossover point literally under our noses. Down in 221A. The only people that go through are goblins? And sometimes they go through again with exiting? There's more than one way through. Has to be."

"Bloody hell." She looks frazzled.

"Yeah." I smile.

"I thought you were just going to moan about dementors all night, not drop this on me." She playfully taunts.

"It's a natural progression when I'm planning to scare off a large group of beings from another world. I don't think it's illegal… or very illegal, at least." Tonks scoffs.

"I'll check at work tomorrow? I'll be gone before you're up, I'm on mornings." She stands up, stretching. Her skin is currently adorned with barbed wire 'tattoos' on almost every surface. "Coming to bed?" I shake my head.

"I've got some letters to write, first. I'll be in soon." She leans down and kisses my forehead.

"Try and actually sleep tonight."


A/N: In a frenzy, I re-read the entire story instead of sleeping. This is what happened.

Excelsior!