A/N: Happy Mother's Day!

Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard

Goblin Gratitude

Chapter Two

Love is whatever you can still betray.

Betrayal can only happen if you love.

John le Carre

"You actually—" Bill rubbed his temples. "Do you have any idea what it's like to make an enemy out of the Goblin Nation?"

"I did not pick a fight with the goblins."

"No, you great sodding idiot, instead you went and bloody accused one of the most high-profile goblins of them all of manipulating Hermione Granger into allowing herself to be adopted out of misplaced guilt and some twisted sense of debt and-or obligation."

"Do you have any idea just how respected and dearly cherished our Hermione is in the Glu—Nation?" Bill asked, rubbing his head. "She is their most beloved success story— a human witch who ultimately chose the goblin way."

"I've always had supposed enemies," Snape growled.

"Not like the Goblin Nation."

"You think Granger will just run back home and cry?"

Bill narrowed his blue eyes at the older wizard. She won't have to say a ruddy thing, Severus. Doors will close against you. Opportunities will disappear overnight. You won't be able to bank anywhere, and I do mean anywhere, goblin or Muggle. How far do you think your apothecary business will go if you have to hide your profits under the floorboards? How will you manage to finalise business contracts without a financial backer?"

Snape scowled at him, but Bill was no longer a young boy intimidated by fierce glares.

"Look," Snape snapped. "I'm not asking for your help, Weasley."

"You should be," Bill said, his fingers running around the scar on his face. "She was nothing but polite to you, and you threw it right back in her face."

"I didn't ask her to be."

"No one should have to ask for simple kindness, but you got it from a goblin, Severus. Others will watch her very carefully to decide how to treat you, and she won't have to say a single word. She will simply turn the other cheek."

"If you're such a ruddy expert on the subject, then why haven't you gone goblin?"

Bill startled and then laughed out loud, sobering himself quickly. "I wasn't good enough. I had a family to think about, and I like the job I have. If I did succeed, family is expected to agree together. I couldn't ask my Fleur for such a thing, and our children are far too young to make such life-altering decisions. Honestly, I'm good with being a curse-breaker for them. I'm good with the goblins being my bosses. I don't want or need to join the Nation completely to embrace my own little family. I'm perfectly okay with being away from my parents and siblings since they made the choice to shun my wife. Mum basically informed me that I had to choose between the Weasley family or that, and I quote, "brain-sucking French trollop". Oh, she helped arrange the wedding and all but she didn't truly support it, and when she realised I wasn't going to jilt her and Fleur wasn't going to dump me at the altar, things stayed disgruntledly civil, at least until the war was over. Then— she started to insinuate that with YKW dead, I didn't need to stay married to Fleur anymore. Fred's death made her a bit mad, I think. She would see Fred everywhere. People attempted to placate her, stepping on eggshells around her, and she came to expect it. I wouldn't, and she couldn't handle it. Fleur and I left— and then she started harassing Ron and Hermione to make her grandchildren. Real grandchildren."

Bill scowled, his fist clenching. "You have no idea what my brother and her supposed best friend did to her when she went up to the goblins to repay what she could towards the damages to Gringotts after they escaped on a dragon. She had no one at her back, and the few who did try were ostracised even more. Kingsley tried to keep her employed at the Ministry, but when he was driven out by the Potter-Weasley bloc and accepted Minerva's offer to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts—"

Bill trailed off. "She was blocked by every single agency in the Ministry because Harry Potter was a top Auror and media darling. Of course, my sodding bother of a baby brother was right there at his side to tell everyone all about what a frigid little cocktease Hermione was. Wasn't long before there was no master willing take her on as an apprentice, not wanting to sully their reputation with her infamy and drama. She'd gone and kissed a pureblood wizard and then run away from a perfectly acceptable marriage and all, you see. Of course, since my idiot brother wasn't happy, Harry wasn't happy, and with both of them unhappy, my mother was ultimately even more unhappy."

Bill's scarred face twisted into a grim expression as his brows furrowed and his lips tightened. "Hermione had Obliviated her Muggle parents to protect them from the war. She sent them away to Australia for their own safety. She had no connections left, and her one-time friends all turned away from her because if Harry Potter didn't support her, then none of them dared to go against him and his reputation as the almighty hero, the Man-Who-Conquered."

"Minerva tried to hire her, but the Board of Governors wouldn't even hear of it. They didn't want an infamous Muggleborn harlot as a teacher."

"When no one else would have her, the goblins stepped up, took her in, offered her a new life, a career— a family. She accepted. She apprenticed with them. She learned the language. The goblin ways. She found a home and solidarity with a people who knew all about betrayal at the hands of the Wizarding world."

"You didn't just insult her, Severus," Bill explained, his blue eyes very serious. "You insulted her family. Her chosen people. The people who had helped her up and made her strong again. I don't even know all of what you said to her, but I know that if she went all formal on you, then she was truly insulted. That kind of thing amongst goblins never ends well."

"How is that any different from having anyone insulted by me?" Severus said darkly. "People have been insulted by me for entire generations, if you would believe the word of mouth."

Bill sighed. "Goblins are a people of the Earth, Severus. The Earth itself responds to them. They don't even have to do anything with active intent, and the very ground can rise up to trip you at the worst possible moment. It can erode a building's foundation and let rodents and other undesirable critters into your domicile. It can become impenetrable for no explicable reason. Homes can be covered entirely in ivy overnight. Gnomes suddenly infest your garden in droves. You can bet that my baby brother and his best mate are still suffering— subtly. Minor things. Completely natural, yet terribly karmatic in nature."

"Draco may punish Ginevra through family influence and guile, but a goblin doesn't have to. They hold a grudge, yes, but understand, that is all they need to do."

Severus shook his head. "I've heard quite enough goblin propaganda for today, Mr Weasley," he said, his dark eyes flashing. "If Granger is even half as forgiving as she wants everyone to believe, then she can get off her high horse and start judging herself with the same eyes."

The potions master stood, slamming coins on the table to pay for the food and beverages before storming out of the Leaky. "I don't appreciate being lectured after an alleged invite to lunch. I will pay for myself."

Bill slumped as Severus disappeared, shaking his head. He placed his coins on the table to cover his meal and walked out.

Meanwhile, a certain beetle crawled out of the tiny vase of silk rosebuds on the table and flew off.

Shamed Floozy Granger Dupes Goblin Nation Into Taking Her In

To Escape Justice of Harry Potter and the Depressed, Jilted, and Tormented Ronald Weasley Who Only Wanted to Start a Family With Her

Oh, do I have a story for you, faithful readers. I, Rita Skeeter, have been dutifully digging up the truth to bring you the very latest news on the current activities of that cheap Muggleborn floozy, Hermione Granger.

Not only did she spread her legs for, kiss and then run away from the honourable Auror Ronald Weasley shortly after the war and then shame her supposed best mates in front of the goblins by bringing unproven debts to Gringotts' goblins, but she has apparently deceived an entire nation of goblins into pitying her and taking her in once her wizarding work opportunities dried up and went away.

Having used up her supposed friends, soaking up the last few drops of their attempts to be good, forgiving, kind-hearted individuals, she turned her sights upon the poor goblins who had been hoodwinked by her willingness to pay for some made-up damages.

Later, she even accused the heroic Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley of shamefully ignoring their own share of those self-same, imaginary debts.

Ronald Weasley, who had been slaving away tirelessly to save his poor, destitute parents from financial ruin after having lost their house during the war and having to pay for the burial of their son, Fred Weasley, hardly had enough to pay for his own food. He was forced to eat mashed turnips and crusted, hard bread so his loving parents would be able to eat well.

Yet that shameless little tart, Hermione Granger, would demand that this overworked, heroic Auror fork over even more money to pay for an event that never happened. Everyone knows that Gringotts deepest vaults are guarded by the most formidable magic as well as dragons. No mere children would have been able to break the defences of a veritable fortress like Gringotts.

No, and now Hermione Granger would fool an entire goblin nation into thinking she's one of their own. But to what end other than the obvious financial benefits? Rest assured, I will do everything in my power to find out, my rabid readers.

If anyone deserves to be reprimanded and have her ridiculously overpriced drink business shut down it would be Hermione Granger, breaker of innocent hearts and manipulator of the goblin nation.

Maybe the goblins will stuff her into one of their deepest vaults and force her to live out the remainder of her life in solitary darkness for daring to deceive them.

We can only hope.

Rita smiled with cruel satisfaction as she waited impatiently for the drama to unfold. Keep me in a jam jar, will you? I'll show you, missy.

She couldn't have asked for better when a visibly angry Snape sat down with that Weasley pariah, Bill. Snape was always good for inciting a rage-filled outpouring that made the tabloids simmer and quake.

He deserved it too after having taken care to ward his business so thoroughly and denying every single request for an interview.

Ronald Weasley was such an easy one to manipulate. Put a little food and drink in front of him, and he'd tell you everything. His finances or lack thereof, his need for a good wholesome woman with wide, child-bearing hips and a nice arse, how "his 'Mione" had left him when all he wanted was a nice big family and someone to take care of his Quidditch team of children— he wanted seven at least.

Rita twitched at the thought, a fine shudder running down her spine. Weren't there enough bloody Weasleys in the world already?

Why weren't they stricken with the same difficulties in producing viable offspring like all the other pureblood families?

Rita shuddered again. Ugh.

She itched her legs with opposing feet. Why was she so itchy all of a sudden?

Ever since she had gone to Gringotts to fill a sack of galleons for her next greasing of the cogs, it seemed like she couldn't get rid of the damnable itch.

Worse, the itch began to spread like wildfire after she spied on Snape's place and even more when she scuttled around the Ministry listening for titbits of gossip and potential news fodder— like Ginevra Weasley being pregnant again and the Man-Who-Conquered worrying about being able to afford the cost of another child. Still, that bit of news made for even more gossip, which always made her happy.

Man-Who-Conquered Destitute With Another Child On The Way!

Oh, but she made damn sure that Granger chit was blamed for it. Damn that witch, anyway. She deserved as much pain and suffering as possible!

Damn this itch!

She rubbed her legs with her opposing foot then switched back and forth.

"Perfect weather for fungus growth, I'm afraid," the Longbottom idiot said, poking one of the plant pods. It then opened up and sneezed directly in his face.

"Oh dear," he said sympathetically, patting it with a hanky. The pod drooped, seemingly miserable.

The plant-lover— gods, how Rita hated that lot and their quirky little tree-hugging ways—had been a bust for delicious drama all day. He's just poked his stupid plants like they actually gave a flying fig what he had to say.


He was almost as stupidly boring as that insufferable Lovegood bint.

Rita thought they made a great pair— for being deadly boring.

The both of them were already nuts. There was just no getting a rise out of the terminally idiotic and boring.

After Rita's last adventure wrapping up Xenophilius Lovegood in a nice, juicy scandal involving how he almost got the Boy-Who-Lived killed and thus the entire Wizarding world as well, she'd very neatly caused the Quibbler to fold and sent Xeno running off to Norway to find Funklepron Horksacks or whatever the hell he called them.

Luna, that barmy daughter of his, of course, was far too worried about her doddering fool of a father to even bother challenging Rita's scurrilous claims. She just up and folded— no drama, no fun at all.

At least by the time Rita had done her level best to ensure that little Granger witch was the most reviled un-hero of the Wizarding war, neither Longbottom nor Lovegood had dared come forward to defend her lest they lose their teaching positions at the school and the last shreds of their credibility as well.

As for that mangy old cat, McGonagall—

Rita smirked.

McGonagall should never had told her that she didn't possess sufficient self-restraint to be a proper Animagus.

Well, now she'd be stuck in her cat form until it stopped being funny— and Rita knew it would never stop being funny.

That doctored nip had been the stuffy old cat's end, and her sudden absence had been quickly filled by Filius Flitwick—

And now she had dirt on him, too.

Really, really good dirt.

If she didn't get exactly what she wanted from him, she'd be sure to plaster Flitwick's dirty laundry all over the rag. She might even put some in the Muggle press too but with a different accusation—twisted just so to avoid violating the Statute of Secrecy.

Rita flew out of the greenhouse and up towards the Headmaster's office. She zipped past the open window and squeezed herself onto a convenient bookshelf hidey-hole.

She itched her legs frantically, making a rather loud buzzing sound.

Flitwick looked up from his desk, eyes narrowing sharply.

Rita held very still.



Stupid legs. She hadn't told them to move!

She shoved herself hard against the back of the bookcase, out of sight. She shoved her back legs between the pages of the book to muffle their movements.

Flitwick climbed a stair to carefully peer around the shelf.

Bzzzz Bzzzz.


Flitwick stared and brought his wand up, casting a quick, "Lumos!"

Thump. Thump. .

Heavy footfalls approached the office from the stairway.

"I'm here, Mister Headmaster, sir," Hagrid bellowed.

Flitwick, startled, stared toward the door. "Hello, Hagrid. I didn't expect you until later this afternoon."

"Oh!" Hagrid sputtered. "Yes, well I, er—" The half-giant trailed off. "

Filius hopped off the small stairs and approached. "What is it, Hagrid?"

"We, well, I mean Hogwarts, sir," Hagrid trailed off.

"Do spit it out, Hagrid," Filius said.

"Well, it's the thestrals, Headmaster," Hagrid muttered. "They be needing their potions sir. They're in right a sorry state. They're gaining weight something awful, and they are sprouting fur too."

Filius blinked and stared silently.

"It's not natural, Headmaster," Hagrid insisted stubbornly.

"So— they are starting to look more like horses instead of emaciated, skin-taut creatures?"

"You 'aff to see' em, Sir," Hagrid said. "They are all mulling about— eatin' grass like some kind of ruddy Muggle horse! It's not right, see? It's jus' not natural! They're so sick, sir. People can see 'em aye? They can see them!"

Hagrid made a face. "They need their potions before they start gettin' all cuddly and unnatural-like."

"Why haven't you simply gotten the potion as you have in years past? And what potion is this, specifically?"

"Uh, well, er. It don't really haff a name as much as they just know which one to give me," Hagrid said, shifting uncomfortably.

Filius frowned. "What is stopping you from just getting it as you have so many other times before?"

"Well, er—" Hagrid said, scratching himself as he looked skyward. "Headmaster Dumbledore 'ad a contract wi' them, ye see, sir. It's made in India and the only ones that can bring it over 'ere are, well you see, I mean, it might be—"

Flitwick finally snapped, "Just say it, Hagrid!"

"I haff to get it from the goblins, Sir," Hagrid blurted. "They said the contract must be signed by the current 'eadmaster, and the price paid as per the agreement."

"And what is this price, Hagrid?"

"Well, Headmaster Dumbledore—"

"What was the price, Hagrid?"

Hagrid turned a several different interesting colours as he tried to put the price into words but then tried in vain to hold back what he came up with. "Well, it changes with every new 'eadmaster, sir—"

"Hagrid!" Filius yelled.

"The headmaster promises a favour is all," Hagrid blurted. "Just one, yeah? Nothing too har—"

"No," Filius said firmly.

"But, the thestrals!"

"Nothing is worth signing a contract with the Goblin Nation for a favour that is not detailed in writing."

"But the thestrals!" Hagrid cried.

"You're in charge of Care of Magical Creatures, Hagrid," Filius said sternly. "Find another way to get your potion."

"But, surely you might have an in to—"

Filius scowled. "No!" he said, his squeaky voice managing to become downright shrill.

The bookshelves shook violently as the wave of Filius' anger-induced magical flare caused the globe to tip over and a few books to tumble off the shelves.

"It's the thestrals' job to pull the carriages!"

"Can they still pull a carriage?"

"Well, yes, er, technically—"

"Then they are still able to work. Are they eating?"


"So they are eating."

"Well, yes, but—"

"Are they harming the children in any way?"

"Well, no, but they're downright cuddly with the—"

"Then there is nothing life-threatening that has to be dealt with now, Hagrid," Flitwick concluded.

"Thestrals aren't supposed to look or act cuddly! It just ain't right!"

"Are they happy, Hagrid?"

"I'm telling you, it ain't right how happy they are acting!"

"So you have perfectly happy thestrals who are gaining weight and being seen by students, getting along with them, making themselves and children happy, and you want me to support making them mopey again, colder, and invisible?"

"Yes!" Hagrid agreed instantly, but regretted it when Flitwick's narrowed eyes seemed to burn into him like a Muggle blowtorch.

"I'll contact some of my colleagues at the Ministry to see if they have ever heard of this… malady, Hagrid. I've never even heard of this particular problem before."

"No, I'll take care of it, sir," Hagrid said in a rush, muttering under his breath as he fled out the office door, smacking his head hard into the door frame. He shook his shaggy head, stunned, and then continued back down the stairs.

Flitwick scowled and started to clean up his disheveled bookshelves only to notice a bright chartreuse beetle crawling up the stalk of his singing orchid plant before clamping onto the base of the largest flower. It dangled there, all of its legs making a strange, jerking, slowing wriggle.

Flitwick pointed his wand at the odd-looking beetle. "And what, may I ask, are you?"

Bzzzz. Bzzzz.

The beetle seemed frantic, but even while its wriggled out of control as if to free itself, its mandibles remained clamped tightly to the base of the flower.

Then Filius spotted distinctive spectacle-shaped markings on the beetle's head.

He leveled his wand at the insect as his lips pressed into a thin, straight line.

Interdepartmental Memo

From: Healer Pachenko

Re: Rita Skeeter, severe cordyceps infestation due to Animagus form

Please be aware that personal protection shields and disposable robes must be worn at all times when making contact for treatment and assessment of the progress of Ms Skeeter.

While we know the cordyceps fungus is specific to her species of beetle, we do not wish to contaminate or spread the fungus outside her containment room due to the virulence of the infection.

At this point, no further spread of the fungus body has been detected beyond the point when she was last forcibly reverted into a human state, but every time she attempts to escape using her beetle form, the fungus grows swiftly and she is forced to find the highest nearby plant and grasp onto it.

Ms Skeeter shows no signs of fungus growth or the release of neurologically altering chemical control while she remains in her human form.

She does, however, continue to experience a number of random seizures of varying severity on a daily basis that have neither been relieved nor exacerbated by any treatment protocol we have managed to devise thus far.

The strangest side-effect to these seizures is a startling chain of shocking confessions from as early as her childhood, school years, from her young adulthood up to the present. Strangely, they all seem to involve herself at the center of it, and (so far at least) they have all checked out.

A scribe has been assigned to her case courtesy of the DMLE to record the astonishing litany of crimes she has been confessing to. As of yet there seems to be pressure from the DMLE to release Ms Skeeter to their care, but we cannot do so due to her possibly fragile situation.

Head Auror Potter seems to think Ms Skeeter has some information crucial to a case, but I will not release a patient until I am sure they are able to function outside the hospital without bringing harm to themselves— wittingly or no.

Hermione pulled off her protective robes, mask, and gloves before heading for the decontamination shower. The warm water loosened her stiff muscles and washed away any residual plant residue that may have clung to her body.

The vault she had been tending to belonged to none other than Neville Longbottom, and he stored a very interesting collection of odd fungi and rare magical plants within the humble walls.

The old Hermione might have found it hard to separate work and personal feelings, at least when it came to Neville and Luna— both having stood on the side of those who chose to shun her when she had been so desperate to find support on her quest for an apprenticeship.

Sure, she knew now that Rita had done her best to encourage it and had succeeded, but it all came down to she she had desperately needed support and friendship, her supposed friends had turned the other cheek.

The old Hermione would not have been able to cope, but goblin Hermione had an extra helpful of ruthless detachment combined with the ability to hold a grudge with interest.

The irony was, Neville's plants would never grow in his greenhouses— only in the goblin-maintained vaults. The climate was perfect, and had experimental plant breeding he was working on would only thrive with goblin-tending.

Of course, Neville had no idea she was well and truly a goblin, nor would he have believed it even if he read it. The latest drivel from the Prophet had proven that even when faced with the simple truth, no one in the Wizarding world cared to believe someone could really be transformed into a goblin. Impersonate one? Possibly. Actually convert? Not hardly.

Now, Neville paid handsomely every month for the very specific climate controls in his vault, quite unknowing of goblin's affinity for earthen foliage and fauna. All he knew was that if he tried to take the plants out of his vault, they would quickly shrivel and die, so he was forced to pay for the stewardship.

The vault bats on her shoulders squeaked and allowed her to soap them off, patting them down with a soft spidersilk towel so they could return to her hair. They, too, helped tend to the vaults, but in Neville's case they did less watching over and more, well, pooping for profit.

Vault bats apparently made the best fertilising guano unknown to the outside world.

The vault bats had been her first friends when she started helping repair the damage she'd done while breaking out of Gringotts on dragonback. Grissnak said it had been the first sign that she was capable of adopting their ways as the vault bats were choosy about who they helped and allowed to handle them without getting a distinctively painful, purulent and even septic bite— the kind of bite that made a komodo dragon bite look like a small, insignificant thing.

Hermione wasn't sure if that was just Grissnak reading something into coincidence, but she did have to admit that vault bats were damn useful and pretty adorable to boot.

Being a goblin allowed her to hear their squeaky language too, which wasn't too bad of a benefit either.

Once the bats had judged her a-okay for friendship, then the vault spiders had crawled out to befriend her too— forgetting, of course, that just sauntering up to someone new could be somewhat hazardous for those of their kind.

After a freaked-out Hermione had slammed a pail over a number of them as she fled screaming out of the vault, her goblin father had laughed uproariously and dragged her back into the vault to meet one of their main vault-tenders. The bats managed to look a little sheepish at having not warned her sooner.

One particularly cheeky spider took to wearing a miniature pail over his head in remembrance of having almost been brained by a frantic, startled witch.

Hermione hadn't been able to live that down for months.

Hermione smiled viciously, her sharp teeth showing in a moment of pure malice. There was a certain special karma in having permitted a clueless Rita to ride one of the other goblins down into the vault to do some spying and trampling through Neville's delightful little fungal biosphere in the process.

Neville hadn't paid for anti-Animagus wards on his vault. Who, he reasoned, would dare brave Gringotts just to steal a bit of fungus?

It wasn't the goblins' fault when someone wanted something specific but didn't want to pay extra for another service.

Was it really Hermione's or any goblin's fault for not having stripped down and frisked each other before going into low security vault on the upper levels? Sure they were all underground, and they were all secure from standard intruders, but every level had different set of protections.

It was odd, Hermione realised, that Rita had done herself in not even a day or two out from publishing her latest little smear campaign.

Karma was, she realised, alive and well, even when she'd thought otherwise after having been treated so poorly after the war.

Well, she figured, not so much poorly but certainly unfairly.

Harry had gotten on a fast track to Auror management. Ron had become some hoity-toity strategist at the Ministry. But Hermione—

She, however, couldn't even get her apprenticeship for potions or even a post as a teacher at Hogwarts.

Minerva had suffered an unfortunate mishap that had seen removed her from Hogwarts, no one at the Ministry wanted to sponsor her thanks to Rita's malicious smear campaign, both Harry and Ron were royally brassed off at her for having dared to insist that they all help rebuild Gringotts with her, and Neville and Luna's one-time offer to help her fell on deaf ears after Luna's father, Xenophilius, was forced to flee from Britain for reasons as yet unknown to her.

Part of her was curious, but the more practical and pragmatic goblin side of her didn't care for reasons, only results.

She realised the younger Hermione always wanted reasons. She spouted book facts with the same fervor of the hand-waving swot she had been since she'd first been introduced to the library.

War had transformed ideals into harsh reality.

Her inability to get an apprenticeship without her N.E.W.T.s thanks to Rita Skeeter focusing on how "unfair" it was for "Hermione Granger cheating the system to get an apprenticeship" with a free pass on education after being a war criminal turned heroine.

Skeeter had painted her a single-handed mastermind in breaking out of Gringotts on a dragon, trying to shame her best mates into paying restitution for her crimes— the list went on and on.

The public gobbled it all up, too.

They didn't want to believe the hero, Harry Potter and his loyal sidekick slash dutiful best mate could or would break into a bank, after all. Better to blame the Muggleborn witch who was always so annoying anyway. Surely it was true since Ronald gave such a "great" interview saying how annoying she was. Harry, of course, couldn't not stand by his best mate and get him caught in any kind of lie— not and endanger his loving adopted family in the Weasleys and the love of one Ginevra Weasley, who loved the spotlight, the attention, and—

The money.

The Orders of Merlin, the rewards, the publicity—

Ginny ate it up.

And Ginny had made it very clear that she valued that over any supposed loyalties to Hermione.

"Well, it's not like I know anyone to help you, Hermione. If you really want to apprentice, maybe some other master from a different country will take you. Then you could travel."

"I don't want to travel!"

"Well, don't look at me!" Ginny protested. "Why not settle down and work for the Ministry?"

"I don't want to work in the Ministry, Ginny, I want to apprentice under a master and get my mastery!"

"I don't see why it's such a big deal! Just go get a job like anyone else! Don't expect Harry to help you after that stupid stunt asking him to help repay the goblins, either. Mum is really mad at you about that, dragging Harry and Ron into debt like that."

"We broke through about twenty floors of living areas, the main floor of the bank and the roof, Ginny!" Hermione had protested. "I'm not even saying financially, if they would only just help rebuild what we—"

"Just stop, Hermione," Ginny said, rudely dismissing her.

Hermione cracked her neck at the memory, one pointed ear flicking. There was a reason, she supposed, why she didn't have Sunday lunches at the Burrow anymore— not that she was ever really welcome, not like Harry.

Harry had chosen his surrogate family and future family. Ron had wanted as many kids as—correction at least more kids than—his brothers and sister.

Goblins did love their goblets— the goblin children, not the drinking vessels, though she supposed they loved those too to a certain extent— but a goblin didn't want their own personal Quidditch team of children. Goblets were raised by the community as a whole, neighbours and family often exchanged parental duties. When she had been adopted, she hadn't just gained a few members of a family. She'd gained so much more.

She had a long time in which to plan a family, and she had time to decide on the right person.

Hermione cricked her neck. Probably not likely to happen anytime soon, she figured. The only one she found any interest in at all was most definitely not interested in her. He didn't even know she had any interest in him, either. Perhaps, when she thought about it, she was better off alone, without such fantasies of someone with whom she could share her complicated life— of someone who could accept both her and her affection.

But first things first, she reasoned.

She had vaults to maintain and seal.

The trip to vault 687 was, as usual, uneventful. Every month the Aurory sent a team to check on the status of the vault, and every month, the goblins complied with the stipulation that nothing at all be touched let something unfortunate, unforeseen and irreversible happen.

They were allowed to count every coin with whatever magic they chose, but if anything was removed or touched, the magic of the vault would swallow them, locking them within until the next month.

Harry had sent his chosen people there in his stead, hoping that perhaps they could access what he could not, but goblins were very specific about Auror-accessed vaults. Nothing could be removed without an exhaustive paper trail and official Wizengamot warrant. To do otherwise would mean breach contract, and no goblin would bother to raise a finger to stop the activation of the vault-protective magic should such a thing go unheeded.

Hermione had watched impassively the first time vault 687 had devoured the Aurors. The rules had been more than clear.

She wondered how she had managed to avoid such magic in breaking into the Lestrange vault in the first place and then realised that some of the older magical families despised goblin magic and wanted as little as possible on their vaults, believing that a dragon was, at its worst, far more of a deterrent than anything else.

Since Hermione had been adopted, however, all the vaults had been protected by goblin-earth-magic.

Even the Potter vault.

Perhaps, especially the Potter vault.

She could always tell the experienced Aurors who kept their hands to themselves no matter what their orders had been. Aurors Savage and Proudfoot had always performed their assigned tasks dutifully and respectfully. They had always treated her with utmost respect, too. They touched nothing, recorded that nothing had changed, and simply left.

It was the younger, rookies that she had always tried to warn—

Most people knew that attempting to run their finger along the doors like a goblin would get them nowhere if not dead— but few knew that the protections extended well into the vault itself.

Most of them, anyway.

The higher vaults, well known for their smallness and lack of zealous protection, no one usually tried to break into anyway because they just weren't worth it. If you were going to be frankly suicidal enough attempt to rob Gringotts, you weren't going to break into the small vaults with a only a few galleons to be had.

The sole exception was the vault of one Weasley family (sans that of William and his wife, Fleur). The Weasley vault had been sealed as thoroughly as the lowermost vaults after the war after Ronald had made a public outcry that he didn't owe the goblins a damn thing. His and any vault connected to those who would willingly support him was sealed, officially waiting for restitution for his share of the damages resulting from their destructive exit of Gringotts on dragonback. .

Bill and Fleur, however, knew better than to siphon money to their estranged family. Bill was a Gringotts curse-breaker and knew goblin ways all too well to even contemplate such foolishness.

Honestly, she thought, what the goblins had wanted (at least back then) was simply a helping hand repairing the damage. Money was more a token to them and even unnecessary. And while Hermione had worked many long hours helping move and set stone with her magic (being uninitiated into earth-magic at the time) her best mates had chosen instead to party and celebrate the end of the war.

She'd managed to befriend the vault bats though, and that had impressed the goblins enough to set her fate into motion.

Her most cuddly vault-bat chittered into her ear, sensing they were being thought of. The bats could fit into a sliver of a crevice in rock and spy on the insides of vaults, alerting goblins of shifts in magic and air as well as earth. They preferred, however, to snuggle into the warm necks of their favourite goblins, share their space, and assist with their day-to-day tasks.

The biggest change for Hermione was never feeling alone when below the surface. The earthen magic was warm and full of life, and she wondered often how she had not sensed its power before. It's warmth and comfort was so obvious to her now that she was a part of the glutra that the very thought of missing that sent a bit of panic through her.

There was a new set of Aurors looking through the Potter vault this time around, and Gnenish was standing just outside the vault door looking annoyed. His ear was twitching slightly as his foot tapped. He'd never been pleasant when dealing with humans, she noted— not since a gang of them had accosted him in Diagon Alley, dragged him to Knockturn, and tried to beat information on how to break into Gringotts.

All of that had gone down long before Hermione's time, but his memory was still fresh of it. Oddly, he had been one of the first to befriend her once he noticed the vault bats had started whispering about her— her kind hands and accepting touches.

It had embarrassed Hermione to be caught cuddling a bat, and she hadn't realised at the time that getting the respect of Gnenish was like getting a goblin silver seal of approval, complete with filigree and intricate detailing.

Gnenish was always the first to warn her not to trust humans, even knowing that she had once been one.

Humans could not be trusted.

Humans did not understand.

In a way, he wasn't so wrong. Most humans were— quite lacking in any desire to understand goblin ways, yet the goblins were expected to know all about human ways. Thanks to the Malfoys, old laws that forbid goblins to carry wands was no more, and for that, the Malfoys were rated far above most humans.

Ironically, the Malfoys were viewed as knoginah— honourable dealer, or person who does not disappoint and does not break contracts.

Contracts were something very big, she admitted.



Count on goblins to make one word mean about twenty-odd or so in English. English stumbled around multiple words trying to describe the meaning in a single word of Gobbledegook.

"Kahzi tahl," Hermione greeted the elder goblin, her elder at least.

Hell, there were many goblets older than her, but she was a bit of an anomaly having grown up human first. She'd gone through her Rite of Passage, the Rogufai, and become a true adult in the eyes of the Nation.

Some of the goblets thought she was nuts to do so before she was at least a few hundred years old.

Gosh, what was she thinking?

Hermione smiled.

Glethkar, the overachiever. Some things never changed.

She had to admit, goblin children had a nice, long childhood. They were taken care of, taught many different skill sets long before they had to choose a trade to stick with, and yet were allowed to be— children.

No goblin child would be put in a situation to oh, say, save the world?

Then again, no goblin child would ever be forced to live in a cupboard, either— not that goblets didn't adore small, cramped places to hide and even sleep. Hah. Goblets were part cat and part bat, she mused. Curious and prone to small, dark spaces.

"Kahzi tahl," Gnenish greeted back to her, his mood seemingly better upon seeing her.

Kahzi tahl meant "Earth keep you," which was basically pulled from the old days when goblins were hyper-aware of their own safety and used to hide themselves underground to keep from being caught out in the daylight and killed.

Goblins had come a very long way since then, but there were still a great many inequalities when dealing with the human world. They still had to wear glamours in the Muggle world, and oddly enough Muggles would pick on people of short stature like that mattered more than whether you could pay your bill.

Goblins were, and Hermione chuckled about it often, master wandless and silent magic users. Humans had not allowed them to use wands for fear of them being dangerous, but goblins were already dangerous because they adapted in spite of it. No wand? No problem, we'll do it without wands.

That was the goblin way.


Determination to live as a free nation.

Perhaps, Hermione realised, that was why she found Severus Snape so fascinating. He lived his entire life in defiance of one sort or another— a Dark wizard living the life of a teacher, saving lives while being a Death Eater. He was— complicated.

Most things in the Glutra were, by default, complicated.

He did have the most purrable voice, though. It had always been so, but now— gods— it was like he spoke in the thrumming frequency of the Earth's vibration, the low rumble of magma under stone.

He could read me the bloody dictionary, she realised. I'd be happy with that alone.

He had anger issues, though. Enough to spare. He was convinced that somehow the Glutra had given up on Professor Flitwick and there was no coming back, but Filius Flitwick had chosen to turn his back on the Nation— many and multiple times. He had chosen the life of his human heritage, shunned any and all contact with the goblins save for a banking account, and skillfully avoided mentioning his mixed heritage whenever possible. He wanted to be human, treated as a human, seen as a human, but not just in the Wizarding world.

He wanted to be treated as human by the goblins as well.

That was why he was Gaz'kiar. The Earth no longer sang to him to sleep. He was a surfacer— utterly oblivious to the ground he walked on, just as the fully human wizard he wished so desperately to be.

It was his choice, just as it had been her choice to embrace the Glutra.

He had never taken the Rogufai, and thus had never been recognised as an adult in goblin society. There was a small chance that he could at some point in the future, but Hermione didn't really see him doing it.

Really, the only respect Filius needed to show to at least be considered pleasant— erm, socially untense— terms was allow the elders to manage his bank account. That was something that just happened in the Nation, as natural as breathing.

Flitwick had refused such "tinkering" as he wished to manage his own.

That was krakah— insulting.

He insulted the elders by implying they were not trustworthy.

He was still a child to them.

Professor Flitwick had made quite a name for himself as a Hogwarts professor, Charms Master, expert duelist, and all-around outstanding wizard. He had achieved what he had worked so hard for.

The elders said that when the Earth abandoned you, the body didn't age the same way. Sometimes it got "mixed up" trying to figure out where to land.

Hermione wondered if that was why in her first year, Professor Flitwick had looked old and shriveled but in the years after he had seemed strangely younger.

His voice lacked the rich timbre of the song of the Earth woven into the tone. Humans would call his voice rather— squeaky. It wasn't a bat-like sort of squeaky, either, or even the light squeaks of vault-spiderese. Even they had the Earthsong woven into their voices.

"Your father was singing in the lower vaults again," Gnenish said with no little amusement. "Quite drunkenly, I might add."

"Impossible," Hermione scoffed. "Who spiked his drink?"

Gnenish bared his teeth, amused. "One of the goblets."

Hermione facepalmed and rubbed the tips of her ears. "Good thing they are so young. He'd have their hides otherwise."

Gnenish laughed. "The young are curious and full of mischief. None more so than a goblet."

Hermione snorted. "Father tells me that you were quite the young goblet in your youth."

Gnenish smiled wickedly. "I was a very apt prankster."

Hermione read between the lines. "Have you been encouraging certain goblets to make mischief with my father?"

"Specifically? No," the goblin replied, his black eyes twinkling. He peered into the vault where the two Aurors were "doing inventory." "Have you told your father whether you wish to have Snape's vault declared krekvist?"

Hermione's eyes widened. "Merlin, nash!" she exclaimed. "He just had an unfortunate fit of temper. He did not insult on purpose. I hardly want to close his vaults to the honour-debt."

"It's well within your right," Gnenish said sombrely.

"Ka, ka," Hermione agreed. "He truly had no idea what nonsense spouted from his mouth, I think," she mused. "It was a purely emotional outburst in nature— something I would not have seen in my youth. In a way, it was somewhat flattering he felt open enough to be emotional. I am just sad that it had to be that."

Gnenish shrugged. "You have a soft spot for humans," he ribbed, his ear twitched with playfulness that most humans would not have seen as anything but insulting.

Hermione huffed, feigning insult.

"You do have a soft spot for that one," Gnenish said, now serious. "The Earth sings in your voice whenever you say his name."

Hermione flushed. "Great, now the Earth itself is tattling on me."

Gnenish chuckled.

Hermione sobered. "Regardless of what my idiot heart thinks, I'm realistic enough to know he doesn't feel the same about me."

Gnenish shook his head. "Don't be so sure."

Hermione gave him "the look."

"He marched in today, waited for two whole hours to see your father, proclaimed his abject apology in front of Grisshivar'nak'tal and everyone, and wished to know what he could do to make things right."

"My father? Grissnak?"

"How many fathers do you have, child?"

"About a hundred or more, as you well know," Hermione said somewhat accusingly.

Gnenish laughed heartily. "A child of the Glutra is the child of everyone," he said with a fang-toothed smile. He sniffed and lifted his head. "Grissnak has him working with Tranka on a cure for the cat-witch," he said. "Perhaps a combination of goblin and wizard magics can free her from being stuck as a cat— though I happen to think she is far more acceptable in fur."

"Gnenish!" Hermione protested, turning red.

Their conversation was cut short by the sound of the vault door slamming closed accompanied by the sound of a great avalanche of coins.

Gnenish sighed as Hermione rubbed her temples frantically.

"Idiots," they said together.

"How long do you think the paperwork should take before we can open the door?" Hermione said, arching a slim brow.

Gnenish sniffed. "I don't know. I don't hear anything,now. Perhaps the Aurors left." His smile was absolutely vicious.

Severus realised that he could, in fact, feel even more of an idiot as he was permitted to enter what was probably the most elaborately laid out alchemical and potions laboratory he had ever seen in his entire life.

After being allowed into the areas he was sure most if not none of the outside world was permitted to see, being pranked by goblin children in a good-natured and admittedly genius way, and having been told none too sternly exactly what the elders would have done to his vaults had Hermione been even remotely inclined to call a debt of honour upon his insult—

He had definitely dodged a killing curse there, both for himself and his business.

As if being royally dressed down by Narcissa over tea hadn't been bad enough. He shuddered at the memory of certain particularly grave threats his best friend's wife had issued with regard to his manhood if he didn't rectify the situation at once.

As far as Lucius Malfoy was concerned, the former Lily Evans was nothing compared to the sodding cockup he had performed in the present in trying to assassinate both their business and his personal life in one fell swoop.

So, much as he'd done when he prostrated himself on the Gryffindor stairs as he begged Lily to forgive him, he'd marched in for an audience with Gres… Grev… Grisshev...shiv… bother and damnation. No wonder they called him Grissnak.

He'd yet to see Hermione since his stupid ego and indignance on Flitwick's account had shoved his head firmly up his own arse and given Rita Skeeter one more damning story to publish.

There had been a time when no one could have spied on the spy— his extreme paranoia would not have allowed it.

But he had angrily met with William Weasley— more to vent than to resolve— and he had made an already bad situation worse.

Now, people believed Hermione to be some sort of deluded witch manipulated by the goblins into a lifetime of servitude—

At least they didn't believe her to be a real goblin, but that was beside the point. He'd put the spotlight on her.

Just as assuredly as he had with Lily.

He'd done his best to assassinate Hermione's character as well as he'd turned the Dark Lord's eye towards Lily Evans— Potter.

Gods, would he ever manage pull his head out of his own arse and learn to bite his damnable tongue?

What use was quick wit and mental fortitude when he went and bungled things up so easily?

Master of potions, my arse, he scolded himself. Bloody master of foot-in-mouth.

Goblins were openly whispering to each other as he passed by, strangely unimpressed by his normal billow and ceaseless black. They all spoke in Gobbledegook, so he couldn't even tell what they were saying to each other.

It didn't take much to tell, however, that they wondered what he had done to be allowed into the private, goblin-only areas.


"OUCH!" Snape cried as a blur of silver and black fury mauled his ankle.


The silver tabby was picked up by one of the goblin children and was promptly absconded with. The tabby gave him a glare—

"Minerva?" Severus whispered.

So, it was true then. Minerva was trapped in her cat form. Why had he had such a hard time believing that?

Perhaps, he thought, he couldn't believe that a witch as skilled and powerful as Minerva McGonagall could be trapped as a feline. Maybe he just didn't want to that think the odious Rita Skeeter was savvy enough to pull one over on Minerva.

Of course… Ms Skeeter wasn't exactly talking anymore, was she?

Then again, perhaps Potter had some other plan in store for Ms Skeeter— if he ever managed to get her out of Mungos. Severus didn't know, and at one time he would have said he didn't care, either.

That was then, however.

That was before—

Severus winced.

Why was it that every time he finally came to terms with some sort of powerful feeling, he ended up epically mucking it up?

His love of his mother had made him choose Slytherin.

His impotent wrath against his father had driven him to the Death Eaters.

His indignation and rage had caused him to call his best childhood friend a Mudblood.

His baggage from making bad choices and wanting desperately to be forgiven for them had egged him into being wrathful for Flitwick's sake and thus flipping off an entire nation.

He was a sodding mess.

"This is what we have done so far," the elder goblin Tranka said as he set down a very large tome.

The writing was utterly immaculate— as clear and pristine as a textbook, written with an impeccably neat hand.

As Severus looked it over, he realised just how much had already been done. The complexities were far beyond anything he'd seen in even his fellow masters. He'd always easily surpassed his peers, but this goblin was no fool, and he needed no wand to get his results.

"I will need some time to look this over," said Severus, tapping the pages with one finger.

"Of course," Tranka said with a sniff, his eyes narrowing as he looked across the room. "You may make yourself—" He paused, tilted his head. "Comfortable. I will find you something that will not poison you to eat," he finished, leaving no room for conversation otherwise as he walked off, leaving Severus in the laboratory of his dreams but sadly unable to utilise it.

He had no doubt the goblin knew every single item in there and would sense if anything at all was amiss.

So, he sat and read Tranka's notes, trying not to oogle too much at the sheer grandness of the goblin's potions laboratory.

There was a child, or at least what he thought was a young goblin child, carefully lifting the bottles, cleaning them, and setting them back on the shelf. The very thought of a child in his laboratory horrified him, knowing what even older children did when trying to get ingredients out for their potions.

"Kha va ne stan?" the child asked— thin air?

He heard a soft chittering, and then he noticed a small bat nestled against the child's neck.

"Ka!" the child said, bobbing her head in response. She carefully dusted the space where the bottle was before carefully putting it back. She smiled and continued on with her chores, always stopping immediately whenever the bat chattered commentary, adjusting her touch or position, speed or movement.

Severus suddenly realised the child was not unattended in the slightest.

The child saw something outside the lab and carefully set down the cleaned objects before rushing out the door and happily pouncing a very familiar bushy-haired figure.

"Kahzi tahl!" the child greeted excitedly, "Suta vita!"

"Oof! You found me!" the witch replied, turning around in a spin to amuse the child. "You know better than to speak Gobbledegook around our honoured guests, Mishin."

"But he scowls a lot," the child protested. "And he stares at me."

Hermione laughed. "So do you, my dear."

The child pouted and then laughed. "I don't want him to cure the cat-lady. I like her and want her to stay!"

"She can stay without being a cat all the time, love."

The child tilted her head. "She can?"

"Of course, pet."

Mishin beamed. "Yay!"

Hermione scratched under the bat's chin with a smile, offering up a large grasshopper.

The bat squeaked excitedly, taking to it with gusto and loud crunching noises.

The bat on Hermione's shoulder squeaked covetously. The witch chuckled, sharing another grasshopper with the protesting bat.

"Are all your chores done for the day?"


"Did you help Master Tranka?"

The child nodded.

Hermione pulled a golden galleon out of thin air. "You can go get some of that homemade Italian ice you like so much, but don't forget your glamour and watch out for traffic."

Mishin beamed. "I'm always careful, Auntie! Come on, Tulse!" she told the bat on her shoulder. "Let's go!"

She shined up the galleon with her sleeve and dashed off, but not before stopping by an elder goblin standing under an awning nearby. "Elder, will you honour me by taking my galleon and allowing me enough to get a treat?"

The wizened goblin, nodded and sniffed, inspecting the shiny coin. He pocketed it and handed her a fistful of Muggle coins in turn. The child beamed at him, baring her teeth, which the elder mirrored as he patted her fondly on the head.

Mishin disappeared down the hall as a few envious others watched her from where they were still performing their own chores for the day.

Severus watched as the elder goblin ran his finger along the wall nearby. A special chute formed, and he placed the galleon inside it, traced something on the wall, and observed the galleon then shoot off to some predetermined destination.

"Haar da te Glutra, Kla'wor Gnivkar," Hermione greeted.

She knelt and they rubbed noses before putting their foreheads together. They bared their teeth at each other before she placed a plump sack of coins in the elder's hands.

He clucked his tongue as he looked through it, counting them out extraordinarily quickly, and then he nodded. He traced the wall again, placing the bag into the formed chute, and sent it off.

The pair embraced again, the older goblin gently patting her hands before shuffling off into one of the other working areas.

"Your meal, Master Snape," Master Tranka said, having silently returned to the lab like a soft-footed feline in the dark of night. "I hope I found you something palatable to your tastes."

Snape jolted out of his (albeit lousy) attempt at spying and now found himself faced with a large table full of various odd-looking foods that he had never seen before.

"I consulted with Kla'wier Hermione to discover which of our foods would not immediately kill you," Tranka said.

"Kla— we-ear?" Snape sounded it out.

Tranka tilted his head. "Oh, that means she is a Master but— younger than I. She is… quite formidable, learned. When my age reach— someone to be reckoned with." He seemed to stumble on the English, as if his mind was caught between the languages. It made Snape wonder how many languages Tranka knew, or how many he'd forgotten.

"She is already— very much a force to be reckoned with," confessed Snape.

Tranka's lips twitched. "She is a goblin. That is a given."

The meal, as it turned out, was wonderfully flavourful, and Snape found himself eating it without problems. He wondered how many things he was not allowed to eat due to considerable differences in biology.

"That is sika," Tranka explained. "It is a type of fern from below. "This is kholda, an edible fungus that likes to grow near our vaults. It is a purifier of the blood, and eating it is considered very healthy. This—" He pointed to the asparagus-like spears. "This is vok. It only grows in the very deepest pools in the Earth where the great underground lakes flourish. This one that you liked so much is a rare treat. Truka, the stone turkey. It turns to stone if it spots you and is utterly impervious to any and all capture or hunting. To hunt them alone is to be exceptionally skilled— to successfully bring one back is considered very lucky, indeed."

"Thank you for the meal," Severus said, having never felt so full in his life, and having been at Hogwarts for at least some of his years, he had not exactly lived entirely in famine.

"Does it all grow naturally here, or can you farm it?"

"Ka," the goblin said, musing. "It can be… both? Kla'wier Hermione built us an extensive hydroponics setup when she helped to repair the lower levels. It was her—" Tranka frowned, searching for the words. "She called it a form of atonement and meditation."

"She did it, or so she thought, without goblin magic, but what she did not realise was that she was using goblin magic. It called out to her— she could hear the bats, and through them she heard the Song of the Earth. When she meditated, she created vast caverns of habitat for growing many of our traditional foods and a subterranean lake and hot springs. She never even realised it, which is why Grissnak wanted to adopt her. She is— a natural. The Earth sings in her blood."

Severus boggled at the extent of the knowledge he was gaining just from being allowed in to help work on a cure for Minerva— insight into the rich culture he never knew existed and the witch he hadn't even thought of until that one night stumbling into the Glacial Gambol.

Only now, he couldn't seem to get her out of his head.

She was strong, powerful, and she did not need the likes of him to complete her.

Even though a part of him selfishly wished that he could somehow catch and keep her eye.


He'd gone a long time without any thought of having a witch in his life after he'd gone and royally made a mess of his life with making increasingly poor choices.

He was still making horrible choices and letting his tongue and fury get him into bad situations. He would never have wished Skeeter on Hermione Granger, maybe someone else that deserved it, but Hermione wasn't one of them. Even after prostrating himself in front of Elder Grissnak—

He still felt like he was making the same kind of stupid mistakes as when he was sodding seventeen.

Maybe, just maybe, he could manage to keep his head on straight, finish the task at hand, and find some way to win himself back into Granger's more accepting graces— the tolerant, warm smile that seemed to welcome even him.

First things first, though.

He had to find a way to help cure Minerva—and Ms Skeeter was quite probably under lock and key on Potter's watch, deep in the Aurory's most well-guarded cells outside of Azkaban.

He'd have to do it without Skeeter's memories of what she'd done to the feline Animagus.

Just finding out about Skeeter's involvement had been sheer luck in having overheard one of her odd, involuntary confessions at Mungos while he was there delivering potions. Shortly after, Potter and his minions had descended upon Mungos and taken Skeeter into DMLE custody, despite all the healers' protests.

What, he wondered, had been so dire that it required sequestering Rita Skeeter now versus all the other times before?

Severus narrowed his eyes.

Anger smouldered under his very skin. Something had happened after the war that had separated Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley from one Hermione Granger. He'd had enough of self-serving secrets being kept close around him while leaving him very much in the dark.

Severus may have been new to the Goblin Nation, but he was no inexperienced whelp when it came to recognising suspicious behaviour.

Of all the goblins that came in and out of the living area and all the ones he'd observed intensely in his effort to get to know the people Hermione had become a part of, he could practically smell something wrong.

The cure for Minerva was finally completed— at least on paper. The brewing would take upwards of a year to complete with a mixture of standard potion ingredients and goblin-sourced ones. The standard ones were by no means easy to come by, either, standard or not.

Standard did not necessarily mean common.

Every goblin seemed to have a very tight community bond, save the new transfers from other branches.

Hargnoc was a recent transfer to Gringotts London from across the pond, and he had immediately taken great offense to the "tall goblin" and cursed at her in Gobbledegook, fully believing she wouldn't know what he was saying.

Hermione had calmly corrected his faulty grammar and then informed him that if he really had an excess crop of cabbages that he wished shove up another goblin's nethers that he should probably consider a career change for agricultural management rather than finance.

That was Hermione Granger, all right.

She had gained quite a bit of sass since he knew her in school, then again, perhaps she'd always had it but had too much respect for her professors to show it.

That seemed about right.

Hand-waving and bouncing in her seat aside…

The child that had once had so much to prove was gone.

Hermione Granger was a grown, powerful witch who had come into her own despite being firmly blocked from the original careers she had wanted. Ostracised from her original species, even.

And after his dismal affliction of severe foot-in-mouth disease, he was determined to prove he was better than his anger and— better than this obnoxious foreign goblin that was making all the other transplants look bad.

As Hermione ran her finger across the impossibly large vault door that housed the funds of his business, the great door creaked and rolled aside. He saw the flicker of movement out of the corner of his eyes, smelling a change in scent that was out of place.

He also smelled that American goblin— Hargnoc.

He couldn't quite place why Hargnoc smelled different, either. He just had a peculiar scent about him that smelled of different earth than Britain. He'd come to know what Hermione's extended family smelled like: clean earth and loam and ancient stone.

He smelled of foreign land and a sort of highly coveted, expensive cologne that had been washed off but not totally obliterated.

Snape put a restraining hand on Hermione's shoulder, silently putting his finger to his lips as his eyes moved to the side.

Hermione, who had been nothing but polite— if but formally so, turned and cocked her head, ears flicking. Then her eyes narrowed, and her clawed hand slammed against the walls of the vault stone, sending a surge of ancient, powerful magic through the stone.

The bats were a flurry of black, browns, and greys. They filled the entire corridor— save for one distinct void and—


Severus whirled, but it was already too late.

Hargnoc had leapt on Hermione's shoulders and pressed a distinctive injector ring to her neck. "Turn off the alarm," he ordered, not even bothering to use Gobbledegook. "Or I end you here. Now."

Snape saw the darkness grow in Hermione's eyes— the blackness of a decision made.


Hermione let out an almost silent SCREEEEEEEEEE just before the poison-filled ring was thrust into her neck, and she fell heavily to the ground.

"Sectumsempra!" Snape yelled, his wand not even in his hand as his incandescent wrath boiled over.

Not her.

Never her.

The panicked bat on Hermione's shoulder squeaked in obvious distress, bumping into her head over and over, trying to get her to respond.

The other bats swirled around even more densely as they carried off some sort of—

Potter suddenly stood exposed as he ducked and covered from the frantically swirling bats, having not even noticed that his cover was now gone.

Hargnoc fell to the ground, bleeding profusely from a hundred slashes.

Severus' body was aflame with fury. His fists clenched as his mind was filled with the memory of Hermione's gentle smile— before he had so stupidly fucked everything up.

"Haar da te Glutra," Severus snarled, as his hand clenched, and blood dripped from his fingers. He slammed his hand down to the earth and his own blood mingled with the stone as magic heard his agony.

A blast of magic crackled forward like the chasm between tectonic plates, and Harry James Potter was transformed into a startled-looking turkey that promptly turned to stone upon being seen by something other than another truka.

A flood of goblins and curse-breakers were flowing into the area by rail car, but Severus didn't see them.

He cradled Hermione tenderly in his lap even as he fell to his knees, touching in her a way he dared not do previously. He crumpled, pressing his forehead to hers as his nose slid against hers, tears he hadn't shed previously curled down his hooked nose, splattering against her skin. He pulled her into his embrace, his arms wrapping around her like the folding of bat wings.

He saw her in his mind as she taught the young goblets, wistfully wondering what it would have been like if one of them had been theirs.

"Master Snape," she admonished the goblets, correcting them as they called him Snape. "He's a potions master."

He saw the bats lined up on the counter as she named each one before giving them a plump cricket and a fond scritch under the chin.

He saw her brewing her drinks with the same dedication of a potions master, closing her eyes as she sensed what to do instead of following a recipe from a book.

He saw her weaving intricate wards, crafting gardens and oases under the ground to grow food and bring peace to all who lived there.

Laughing as she served drinks to her people.

Smiling as her fingers touched his as she passed him his drink.

The peace on her face as she fell asleep reading a book, the clutter of attention-loving fluffy spiders curled around and tucked in her arms, having evicted the bats for attention—

The bats sneaking back into her hair, having refused to be evicted for long.

The genuine look of relief at seeing him alive and well—

The wistful longing in her expression to be understood by him before the cold settled in after his blunder—

The great care she had taken to make absolutely sure that she never stepped out of bounds with him after that—

Never accidentally touching.

Never implying more than simple politeness.

His fault.

His fault.

His fault!

He fumbled as he pulled a vial out from around his neck, popped the cork, sniffed it once, winced, and then chugged it into his mouth, activating it with his magic, will, and power— the antivenin had always been so, lest the Dark Lord find it and realise what it was.

He had always kept the secret safe and close.


Granger— Hermione!—must have figured out how to activate it and save his life. No one else could have figured it out so fast.

She'd saved his life. THAT was why she had never asked him for an apprenticeship. She'd instinctively known he would have seen it as blackmail, and he would hated her. That was what he was good at: reacting stupidly without thinking in his personal life. Oh, sure he could be a SPY, but when it came to saving himself, he was such an utter Gryffindor.

He pressed his mouth to hers, hoping, praying that the antidote that had saved him from Nagini would also save her from an unknown venom or poison. His hand clasped her neck, stroking the muscles to encourage the swallowing reflex.

Please, Merlin, work.


No movement. No blink. Not a breath—

People were trying to pull him back— flashes of healer green.

He fought them, trying to hold on to her, desperate to save her so he could tell her how he really felt, explain his stupid anger, beg for her forgiveness.

"We can die, of course, but short of murder we live a long time," Hermione had said.

"Please," he begged, his voice breaking as he breathed against her cheek. "Please."

"I will never forgive you," Lily had hissed. "Go back to your Death Eater friends."

Coward, his heart accused.

"I need you," he whispered.

The devil on his shoulder crowed, "If she dies, the life debt will be gone."

Severus' seething rage subsequently consumed the apparition in fire.

"There is nothing without her!" he screamed from his heart as he realised his willingness to embarrass himself in front of the Goblin Nation was just one more symptom of his fallible love.

It had nothing to do with a life debt.

It had everything to do with HER.



Compassionate her.

His face twisted into a grimace as a his grief fought with sheer desperation.



There had been nothing in the future with Lily. That was an act of fate.

But his lack of relationship with Hermione had been his own doing— emotional sabotage chased by rude indignant rage for the wrong person, to the wrong person.

"I was afraid," he choked out the words. "You don't have to be with me. I don't deserve you, but please. Please fight. Please. Use that bloody Gryffindor spirit. Fight. Live! Please!"

He wept raggedly, his face twisted as a low groan transformed into a howl of anguish.

Her smile was there in his mind's eye, brilliant and full of life.

Oh, but if he had met her as a child. His life would have been so different.

Lily had been a flame of beauty and talent.

Hermione was a beacon of pure life and compassion chased by a shining brilliance that outshone almost everyone. If she had possessed the ambition, she could have taken over the world, by force if necessary.

The bat that had been desperately trying to get Hermione to move panted heavily with exhaustion, its sides heaving as it struggled to gather the strength to push against her chin once more. Just once more.

Severus saw himself in that small creature, even as his own breaths came in struggled, agonising heaves.

His bloodied hand brushed against her pale cheek as her wild curls tangled with his fingers. He pressed his lips to hers in a kiss, pouring his energy, magic, will, desire, and pain into the one act he had been far too much of a coward to do while she was awake and standing before him.

He could feel the Earth within her.

It still sang from her very soul.

Save her.


Save her!

"Kahzi tahl," he wept, using the greeting he'd learned meant "Earth keep you."

It was a greeting.

It was farewell.

It was a prayer.

Her soft breath brushed against his mouth as her eyes opened. Black eyes met his. "Kahzi tahl," she repeated, her hand brushed his cheek.

Her eyes closed, and Snape felt panic encircle his heart and squeeze tightly.

"Hold me," she whispered.

He held her close to him, a sob rising in his chest and escaping.

"Don't let go."

"Never," he swore. "Ever."

Her eyes met his— hope and fear dwelling within. "Would you bind your life to mine? A goblin. A pariah."

Severus looked deep within her gaze. "When I am with you, I hear the Song." He pressed his forehead to hers, brushing his nose against hers as he bared his teeth in the goblin sign of respect. "I would be with you and only you, always."

"A goblin lives a very long time," she said, a tender smile on her lips.

"I look forward to every century, every year, every hour, every moment. Our rows will most likely be epic, but I promise you I will always desire to meet you halfway, and I will try very hard to get rid of this terrible case of foot-in-mouth disease I have seemingly picked up."



"Tell me to turn to page three hundred and ninety-four."

Severus frowned, cocking his head. "Turn to page three hundred and ninety-four."

Hermione let out a contented sigh. "I think I'll live," she said, her eyes closing as her head thumped against his chest. Her hand cupped the little bat against her sternum as it let out a heavy sigh of relief and squeaking.


"Thank you," she whispered.

Severus startled. "For what?"

"Saving my life."

He blinked as she was already softly snoring against him, sound asleep.

"You're welcome," he replied as he pulled her under his chin and kept her wrapped in his embrace even as the goblins dragged Hargnoc away on a stretcher, his body bleeding through the bandages.

The curse-breakers eyed the stone truka-turkey that had been or still was Harry Potter. Bats were dangling on the new "statue" as they chattered away.

"What do we do with this?" one asked.

"Save it," Snape said clearly, even as he stood, cradling Hermione to him as he prepared to walk to the rail car.

"Um, for what?" the curse-breaker asked, baffled.

"It's going to be the topper for our wedding cake," Snape said, utterly deadpan, as he carried Hermione away.

The curse-breakers exchanged puzzled glances.

"He serious, you think?"

"He never looks anything but serious."

"Yeah but, does he joke?"

"Not that I know of."


They pointed their wands at the truka statue and levitated it with them as they, too, walked to the rail car to leave.

Harry Potter Missing!

Head Auror Harry Potter has been reported missing since approximately nine pm Sunday evening. Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to owl the DMLE at the Ministry.

Best mate Ronald Weasley and long-time friend, Ginevra Weasley stated he was supposed to show up for a regularly scheduled family dinner, but he never showed. Thinking he had been called in to work on some business, they did not report him missing until nine in the evening when he failed to pick up the tickets to this year's Quidditch World Cup as planned.

"He just wouldn't miss something like that," Ronald Weasley stated as he scratched his head. "Not our 'arry."

Confessions of Rita Skeeter Discovered During Search of

Missing Head Auror Harry Potter's Office and DMLE

Full transcripts of the afflicted former writer Rita Skeeter's confessions have been horrifying the Wizengamot as rumours of the Aurory being rife with corruption under Head Auror Potter's leadership have now been confirmed..

Ms Skeeter confessed to bribing many officials to turn the other way due to the information they had on her, and all of that information came spilling out with a sizeable number of parchment scrolls recordings.

Ms Skeeter was instrumental in deliberately sabotaging the life of Miss Hermione Granger due having been temporarily forced to "write the truth" while Granger was still attending Hogwarts. She now admits to having threatened the key members of the Mastery Guild to get Miss Granger blacklisted from apprenticing throughout Britain, all of them harbouring certain secrets that they did not wish to be revealed.

Other officials, such as former Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, Xenophilius Lovegood, the managers of the Daily Prophet, and more have been "dealt with" by Ms Skeeter through various insidious and underhanded means.

The Wizengamot is going to be very busy the next few months trying to sort through the evidence transcriptions. Trials will start when the evidence is fully gathered, which may take upwards of a year depending on how many cases must be verified.

Ginevra Weasley Arrested for Conspiracy to Marry and Frame

Draco Malfoy to Get Access to Malfoy Fortune

Conspiracy to Break Into Gringotts Revealed After Goblins Lockdown Potter, Weasley Vaults For War Crimes

Former Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt Begged to Return

His Answer: NO!

Rita Skeeter Charged With Assault For Trapping Former Hogwarts Headmistress Minerva McGonagall In Her Animagus Form Via

Enchanted 'Nip!

Bill folded up the Daily Prophet and ate his croissant.

"If Percy wasn't such a ruddy idiot, I'd say he was right about Harry being no good. I mean he was, technically, right but for all the most bizarre reasons."

Hermione looked up from the vat she was tending. "What does Charlie think of all this?"

"Damn glad he's still in Romania is what he's telling me," Bill replied with a shrug. "He never got hit up by Ron to share an account so he could get his paychecks since his vault was sealed, not that he'd ever do that anyway. Why dad and mum did is beyond me. It just got their account locked down too."

Hermione bared her teeth. "Rules were clear."

Bill chuckled. "I know. I just boggle at my family."

"How is Severus adjusting?" Bill asked.

"Five parts curious, one part stubborn, two parts determined, one part frustrated, and one part git," Hermione answered.

"Only one part?" Bill mused.

Hermione flicked her left ear. "He's dedicated to keeping his promise to do what he has to in order to marry me."

Bill smiled. "Well, you're worth it."

Hermione threw a cork at Bill, which he ducked.

"You are," Severus' voice rumbled as he sneaked a kiss.

Hermione squealed and allowed him to gather her up in a crushing hug. "I suppose you're allowed," Hermione muttered, trying to look unhappy but failing.

Severus slumped against her as she massaged his new pointed ears. He bared his pointed teeth in elation, making a low crooning growl. "Who knew goblins had such elaborate courting rituals before marriage. I'm okay with it, though." He looked at Hermione, his expression softening. "She's worth it."

"Probably helped that getting adopted as a goblin cancelled out that cycle of emotional backlash you had going on," Bill said.

"Lucius thinks Dumbledore may have placed it on me as early as when Black tried to assassinate me with Lupin," Snape said. "To make me predictably emotionally charged. I mean, I still feel the emotion, but I no longer feel like I have to run at the mouth or explode."

"Such an odd hex. Insidious. Why do you think—?"

Severus frowned and shook his head. "Who knows. Maybe Albus wanted me to do something stupid and come back asking for favours. Maybe he wanted me to realise my emotions would hurt me and died before he could take the hex off me. I honestly can't say for sure."

"I have to admit, Albus kept his secrets," Bill said.

Severus growled and pulled Hermione closer, seeing her comfort. She relaxed into him, and he, too, relaxed. "I think it was Hermione— her connection to the Song. In connecting with her, it started to unravel, but as about as predictably as it did."



"Can I point out I'm happy with the end results?" Hermione quipped.

Severus sighed and thumped his forehead to hers. "I suppose."

"Albus couldn't have planned for exposure to goblin cevik," Bill said. "Few outsiders even know of the goblin's affinity to Earth magic, and those that do will not speak of it to outsiders that are not a part of the glutra in some way."

Bill looked up. "So, when will father-Tranka let you formally propose to Grissnak's daughter?" he asked with a chuckle.

Hermione facepalmed, shaking her head.

"Once finish the project I promised during my Rogufi," Severus said. "Even though my Rite of Passage is complete, I promised him I would finish a tome with the synergies of basic Wizarding potion ingredients and how they react with the goblin ones. I don't mind doing it, as it had to be done anyway. Most of it is writing down what I learned while developing the cure for Minerva. Once that is done, he will give his blessing as my father to propose in front of Merlin and everyone."

Bill laughed. "Don't sound so excited."

"I do not look forward to that ordeal, the poking, the proding, the jesting—"

"The feasts are pretty worth it," Hermione said. "The games are more amusing as the elders get knackered."

Severus snorted.

"Am I not worth it?" Hermione asked in a pout.

Severus growled lowly, capturing her mouth for a kiss. "You know you are."

Hermione smile cheekily. "I still like it when you tell me so."

Severus sobered a bit. "I never wish you to think my feelings for you will wane. Not ever. What I feel is powerful, and I am a selfish wizard who wants you to himself."

"I like that you are not the type to wander," Hermione admitted. She touched his nose with her fingers. "Sometimes, I feel you are a dream but to disappear with the morning's light."

"If only to close the blinds," Severus groused.

Hermione flicked her fingers against his chest. "I must go. Narcissa wants to shop, and she insists I accompany her."

Severus' gaze lingered upon her. "If you must. I will go and make sure Lucius hasn't burned down our business and turned Draco into a peacock."

Bill laughed. "I feel quite blessed that I am going home to my lovely wife and children and sleeping for a day."

"Kla ve sand moor," Hermione said with a smile and flash of teeth.

"See you both in the morning too," Bill replied, baring his teeth before taking his leave.

Hermione stood on her tiptoes to kiss Severus' nose. "Kla ve sand eir," she said with a smile.

Severus placed a gentle, chaste kiss on her lips. "We shall meet in the evening, love."

"Ka," Hermione agreed as she scurried out the door.

Severus looked on, feeling a warmth in his heart that both lightened his heart and comforted it. He knew that was Hermione's doing, and he would thank every god and goddess he knew for having guided him to the Glacial Gambol what seemed like only the last week.

For now, he had goals, and he knew he would accomplish them. She would be waiting to join him at its end, and then they would walk together through life as a mated pair, deep in the heart of the Glutra where goblins were supreme.

Severus smiled, his tongue running across his pointed teeth.

The world better hold on tight.

"Haar da tu Glutra," Severus said smugly. "Honour to my Nation."

End of Chapter Two

A/N: There may be-possibly-will be an epilogue, but not for a while because I'm back to work tomorrow!