AUTHOR'S NOTE: Wherein Hermione saves dragons, steals dining implements, and gets a new pair of slippers!… You know these stories where everything starts logical, but the endgame is an absolutely ridiculous tally? This isn't that story. This story is ridiculous all the way. …Or is it? I can never tell. Anyway! Thanks again to all readers, and particularly those who outwardly show their support through Favorites, Follows, and, especially, Reviews! Please consider joining that merry jamboree if you haven't yet!
Chapter XXXXVII: The Violin of Gringotts
"Over forty years, I have helped run this bank, Blordak! Forty years. And never. Never! Have I seen something like this!"
"I… understand, Bogrod. I…"
Bogrod was an old Goblin with slightly greenish skin, a pair of glasses framed in gold, and a look of crankiness only matched by Argus Filch on his best days. Being apparently the senior Gringotts teller at the moment, he had been the one to intervene when Blordak had begun desperately calling for help.
"As for you, the human!" continued Bogrod, turning towards Hermione. "If you think you can come in here under false pretenses, and attempt robbery—"
"I am not robbing anyone," Hermione protested. "I merely—"
"Get. Off. Our! DRAGON!"
"Human, I have handled cross-species disputes in Gringotts for sixty years now. And never. Never! Have I seen something like— what is that?"
"Oh? Just something I picked up in the mess, Mr Gnarlok; but I think I know who it belongs t—"
"Was this from the Lestrange Vault?"
"Er, yes, I suppose it must have b—"
"Human, I have been the Lord President of Gringotts for seventy years. I have seen many odd things. Many outrageous things. But this—!"
"Well, I'm sorry, Mister Regnast," Hermione huffed primly, "but if there is one thing I will not tolerate, I mean, beyond cruelty to sentients, it's cruelty to animals."
"That is no excuse to rob the Lestrange Vault!" growled the Lord President, his claw-like nails digging into his desk — which, interestingly, showed many identical claw-marks.
"Oh do shut up with that, already!" Hermione said in exasperation. "It's your bloody fault keeping a Dragon with fire powerful enough to melt through a vault right next to that vault! I mean honestly! What did you suppose was going to happen!?"
"Well we didn't suppose that a crazy witch," Regnast spat out the word, "was going to go tickle the beast! Not that this is an excuse for stealing from the open vault. And, for the record! The Dragon's fire! Should! Not! Have had this capability!"
"No! We had its and every other Dragon's fire tested on the vault doors long ago, you fool! Who do you think we are? Wizards?"
"On the vault doors," Hermione repeated snidely.
"That is what I said. Stop wasting time!"
"—but not, I expect," she said, continuing her thought, "on the vault's stone walls."
To this credit, the Lord President Regnast did not start screaming, as Senior Teller Bogrod and Interspecies Relation Spokesgoblin Gnarlok had previously. He did, however, bury his claws frighteningly deep into his desk. And stop breathing for a minute or three.
Then he muttered something in Gobbledegook which, again, made a lumbering guard seize her by the wrist and drag her through tunnel after tunnel, towards some other office, belonging to someone even higher-ranking. It was getting boring.
…Although, who was higher than the Lord President of Gringotts in Goblin society, she wondered? Perhaps at some point they'd rise so high they'd come back out the other way and she'd be dragged to the shack of the one Goblin tasked with shoveling the Troll dung. Wouldn't that be fun.
"Well then, human. We have been reigning on the Goblin Nation for seventy-two years, and never—"
"Oh, right, Goblin King," she said to herself. "Should have known."
The Goblin King — Ragnuk VII, if she wasn't mistaken — was surprisingly simple for a King. For one thing, he wasn't gigantic like the Alizor King. He was also not wearing fancy robes with white mink trimming, or holding a scepter, or standing on a throne. Instead he had a very normal office (that was to say, by Gringotts standards; the collection of axes on the walls would have been somewhat out-of-place in a normal office, full stop), and wore ordinary Goblin business robes.
He also looked very jaded with his life, as opposed to haughty and majestic.
But to be fair, be he did wear a crown, and did speak of himselves in plural, so Hermione figured she shouldn't be too harsh; so she held back a scalding remark and let him finish his little speech.
"Y-You presume to interrupt us?" said the King.
"I didn't presume, sir," Hermione answered, "I succeeded."
"True. True!" said Ragnuk VII, and there was something appreciative in his voice. "So you have attempted to steal from Gringotts, they say?"
"I didn't attempt," she corrected. "But I did succeed. Entirely by accident, you understand. This is the thing in question."
She held up a golden cup which she could have sworn was the mythical, lost Cup of Hufflepuff. The King raised an eyebrow.
"Helga's Grail?" he recognized. "An odd choice. You break into Gringotts, but it is a human-made thing that you steal? We would have a right to be offended; and here we speak for all Goblins, rather than our self."
"I'm not a thief!" Hermione asserted. "If anything, it's the Lestranges. Their family has no legal claim to a Hufflepuff heirloom; believe me, the Hufflepuffs are probably the only pureblood family even the most diehard Slytherin bigots would rather marry a mudblood than interbreed with. I mean — could you get me some shoes?"
"We do not understand," the King explained, "is this a new human idiom we do not know about? To get one… some shoes? Did we hear this correctly?"
"No, no," Hermione laughed, "sorry for the non-sequitur, I just mean, do you have some shoes I could borrow? Goblin shoes will do, I could resize them with magic. I came here barefoot as you can see; unclothed, even; but I didn't count with Gringotts' floors being so cold."
"What did you expect?" chuckled the King. "We are in Goblin lands. Underground tunnels, and made of stone. This is not the surface, human!… But if we are not being rude, we would ask; why did you come unclothed?"
"Precisely to prove I had the best of intentions and was most definitely not a thief," Hermione blurted out, relieved to finally have an opportunity to explain it. "Funny how that worked out. But I hoped to avoid any trouble this way. What thief would put themselves at such a disadvantage? You can't slip a coin in your pocket if you don't have anything even remotely like pockets."
"You know, that is not a bad idea," hummed Ragnuk. "Not too bad at all. We should tell our Lord President to implement such a policy within Gringotts, at least for the higher security yes. …You know, human, for one moment, we believed this nudity was merely a new human fashion trends. We thought, how silly will they get next? Men wearing trousers already beggared belief."
Ah, trust Goblins to be the one civilization in the western world where women wore trousers while men wore those dresses that they, along with the Wizarding World, insisted on calling 'robes'. But, her thoughts drifting to how certain Muggle youths had taken to dressing lately, Hermione allowed herself to share a knocking cackle with the Goblin King.
"…Well!" said Hermione after they'd both caught their breath, "do I get the shoes, or don't I?"
"Certainly, certainly!" said the Goblin King, genial. "Let it never be said a Monarch of the Kobolds was a bad host! Heh! Heh! Let us see."
The Goblin took a few steps back, almost leaning against his axe-covered wall, and suddenly began waving his hands in complicated patterns and muttering strangely-accented Gobbledegook. After a solid minute of this, a pair of perfectly appeared before her, to her delight. Less delightfully, they were green and clashed awfully with her mauve skin; but when she tried them on she found that they were perfectly-sized, which was more important, and warm, which was more important still.
"Thank you very much, sir," she thanked him sincerely. "Wonderfully made. Even wanded, such a flawless Conjuration would have been an unattainable feat for most mages I know. Remarkable."
"Thank you, thank you," said the Goblin King, breathing heavily. "We must say, this took a lot out of us. Damn the wizards and their wand ban… if you pardon our saying?"
"Damn away," she said, waving a hand. "The Wand Ban is a ridiculous display of anthropocentric bigotry, and I'm working on having it repealed."
Just like that, the cheerful atmosphere dropped.
The Goblin King's black eyes bore into her like drills.
"…who are you?"
"The crazy, scary one? The Parselmouth of Gryffindor? I do like Lady Macbrains. Or, if you want to skip the nicknames, just Hermione. Hermione Granger. How do you do?"
"You are the one!" said the King, almost giddy, but tense also. "The Hermione Granger we have heard about — the one to whom the fool wizard Minister is a puppet! We have longed to learn of you, we did not believe our spies in Hogwarts, thought they must have the wrong human, another by the same name—"
"Wait, you have spies in Hogwarts?"
"Disguised as House-Elves," the King stated matter-of-factly. "They never mingle with the real Elves, of course, but wizards are too careless to notice the one in rags scrubbing at their floor is one species or another, if they are not human to begin with."
"That… actually sounds plausible," Hermione commented. "Huh. Clever of you."
"We like to think so," said the old Goblin with a toothy grin. "But then! You truly are the Hermione Granger. And you would lift the Wand Ban? But, now… this is wonderful!"
"Er, hold your hippogriffs, majesty," she interjected. "I do want to lift it, but I only rule Wizarding Britain, and only sort of. Infiltrating the I.C.W. will take years yet, I'm afraid. Though I'll get there in the end, I'm sure."
"…Right," Ragnuk calmed down, massaging his large and wrinkled forehead, temporarily lifting the crown to do so. "Yes. But hope for a few years' time, still, it is infinitely more than no hope at all short of a war. Yes. …Tell me, Witch Queen, if you and we are to be allies… We asked, earlier, who you were. But perhaps, perhaps the true question was: what are you?"
"What do you mean?"
With a look of blatant confusion, the King gestured at her figure Her purple, glowing figure.
"It is obvious you are not quite human," he said. "We felt it from the start. And we suppose it would explain… heheh. Yes, it does, doesn't it? It would explain the bias in your politics as I have witnessed them, towards helping the nonhuman. Obviously your human appearance is but a glamour, we assume?"
Unthinkingly, Hermione had opened her mouth to correct his understandable misconception. No, she was not human, it had to do with her Resurrection Ritual, and the Acromantula's Blood, and she now had a very well-defined, finite list of perks she got from it, and—
But then she had an idea.
She could use this.
(Something within her chided her for thinking in such blatantly Slytherin traits, but she silenced her own criticism: it's not Slytherin until you start dressing in black and green, and sneering.)
Every magical species had had to start somewhere. Some — most, perhaps — had been slow magical mutations, happening over the span of generations in millenia long gone by. Fleet-footed tribes had grown shorter and quieter, and became Elves. Carvers became Goblins. A family of Legilimenses, painfully twisting their beyond belief to get sustenance from other men, had withered away into Dementors. All either historical fact, or, failing that, plausible reconstructions accepted by most scholars. But there were also a few undeniable cases where magic had very deliberately, abruptly been the dawn of a new kind of being; there were, of course, Acromantulas, bred as guardians for treasure by greedy wizards. And it was no secret that an ancient Greek ritual had been the source of the Centaur line, though wizard and centaur scholars could never agree on whether it had been a ritual gone wrong, or a ritual gone right.
So then; if she should ever have children, they would no doubt carry her magical traits.
Was she not the first of a new kind?
The Adam and Eve of a new world?
…Well, not really, Muggle science and, really, the most basic skepticism, would have said. But it wouldn't hurt her image to play it off that way.
Now then, quick, she must think of a name for her new species. Hermians? Grangeroids? Blah, certainly not. She was going about this the wrong way. What was her "species"' distinguishing trait? Ah, the color. Er, er…
"…I'm a violin."
…Why had she said that? Bad brain!
Bad! Bad! Bad!
She was so busy mentally kicking herself that she didn't notice the Goblin King had started talking again until he was a few words in.
"…do see…" he said. "An old and noble people, the Violins, we're sure. The Goblin Nation has… not had contact with them for… a long time."
Oh come on. That wasn't fair. There were such things as purple magical humanoids called Violins? What were the odds of that?
"I… expect not," she answered with a forced smile.
"Yes…" the Goblin King continued, smiling as well, "but do believe, that we, the Goblins, never lost hope… that we would… the friendship of the Violins was always very dear to us…"
There were no such things as Violins… so far. But the Goblin King though there might be, the poor, lying, hypocritical, adorable old fool. He thought he was stuck in that oh-so-awkward place of not recognizing an old friend at a party; except the old friend was somehow an entire species you had forgotten about.
Well, that was lucky.
She burst out laughing.
"…Why do you laugh, Queen Granger?"
Oh, this was too good.
Let's see how far I can take this.
"I am not laughing," she deadpanned, instantly stopping her laughter — though she could not suppress a lingering smile. "I am performing the time-honored Violin cry of glee in the face of undying loyalty. Surely you remember?"
"…Yes, of course," said the old monarch, his grin looking faker and faker by the minute beneath the hooked nose and heavy crown. "Of course. But… …When you laughed earlier…?…"
"Oh, no," she assured him, trying to get the conversation back on a more productive, albeit less entertaining, track. "The cry of loyalty is only ever performed once before a given individual, as you know. And never at a time that does not strictly make sense in the conversation. …All this being said, and confidentially, I am only half-Violin. That is why I attend Hogwarts and wear the glamour, you understand. …Anyway, we have digressed somewhat…"
"…Yes, we're afraid so…"
"…the main reason I was brought here, I think," she said, "I mean — except for the whole 'supposed robbery of the Lestrange vault' imbroglio — is because I think I found one big mountain-sized loophole in Gringotts's security."
"You do realize, Granger," the King said with a frown, "that this sort of thing is more the responsibility of the Lord President? Although we would of course be interested to hear it for ourselves as well."
"I understand, sir," Hermione said, grinning faintly at the memory, "and I did tell him, but he seemed to become… upset the moment I mentioned it, and sent me off to you."
"gYurk!" swore Ragnuk. "Something great enough to make the Lord President feel unable to deal with a problem! Now this — tell. Do tell."
"I'll be blunt."
"We like that. Be so."
"…It's the walls."
Where Regnast had completely lost his composure, and temporarily, his heartbeat, Ragnuk the Seventh only dropped down on his decidedly un-throne-like chair. That was, Hermione supposed, why one was the Lord President, and one the actual King.
"We fear, greatly fear, that we see it, but please explain."
"In all its centuries of existence, Gringotts Wizarding Bank has paid millions to geniuses, and formed many great minds of its own, in the art of magical warding. You have pushed the boundaries farther than any before or since, and still find improvement every year, it is said. You have enforced a strict secrecy on your security spells, and made it so that wands or no wands, Dark Magic or no Dark Magic, only Goblins may deactivate them."
"…all to ward the doors. The Vault Doors of Gringotts are among the most hilariously indestructible objects on the face of the Earth. But in all these centuries, none of you thought about the rest of the wall."
"No… no…! Surely… it can't be…!…"
"Ah, but it very much is," she said with a faked sympathetic smile. "I tested it myself today. Oh, I suppose there are one or two cursory spells to prevent pure-Muggle drills, or the very basest of exploding spells. But it's nothing. Mere Dragon Fire can melt through the stone surrounding a top-security vault! Dragon Fire! Need I remind you lot that you already keep Dragons by the vaults?"
"…this is… dreadful," said Ragnuk, nervously running his claws along the length of one of the royal axes. "Absolutely horrible. Never did I… the whole Bank… every vault is the same!… we could never… it is… what must we do?!"
"Oh, well, I can think of a very simple start," Hermione said with a smile that was fast widening.
"You could, for a start, release all of your Dragons. And sell them to some people I know are dying to buy them."
"Why, those wonderful, humanely-run preserves in Romania, of course! I know a terrific wizard who works for them, through a mutual acquaintance, that is. His name is Weasley…"