Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters that appear in the Harry Potter series written by JK Rowling.
July 4th 1996
It was two am when Hermione came through the vanishing cabinet dressed in her dressing gown. She had just been awakened by a house-elf who had been requested to keep an eye on the Hogwarts' Headmaster as she pretended to work at Hogwarts. She yawned but then smiled as she gazed upon her sleeping husband. Hermione sat on the edge of the bed and bent to give him a few kisses. When he finally stirred, she said. "Winky said Dumbledore went to bed about an hour ago…he should be in deep REM sleep by now."
"It's a good thing Winky and Dobby still work at Hogwarts isn't it?" Harry replied with a grin as he came instantly awake. "Shall we start the fun?"
"Would there be another reason for being here at 2am?" Hermione asked.
"Well…" Harry smirked as he patted her side of the bed.
"Go…" Hermione said as she pulled her husband out of bed and gave him a little shove toward the door. "But I'll be here when you get back."
In Dumbledore's private chambers at Hogwarts, a small device started chirping insistently. The noise slowly pulled Dumbledore from a deep sleep. As he realized what the noise was coming from, he quickly brought himself awake. "Trying to sneak out of Grimmauld Harry?" He asked the air around him as he climbed out of bed and snatched his wand from the bed table.
"Wake up everyone," Dumbledore commanded Kreacher a few minutes later when he came through the floo to the Black ancestral home. "We need to find out where Harry is…he's snuck out as I knew he would."
"What do you mean Harry's gone?" Sirius asked with a not so fake yawn when he appeared a couple of minutes later. He had been visiting Isabella until late in the evening. "He's up in his room."
"I have reason to believe otherwise," Dumbledore replied testily. "Now that everyone's awake, start contacting the rest of the Order…we have to do this quickly and quietly. If Voldemort finds out Harry is outside the protections of this house, there is no telling what he'll do."
"Look before you start waking up the whole city," Sirius said, "let me go see if he is in fact in his room."
"If you must, but make it quick," Dumbledore said with a hint of exasperation. He knew Harry was not there because his detection spell would have quieted the instrument if Harry had passed back through the door returning to the inside of the house. Once Sirius had left the room, he turned to Moony. "Remus, are there any werewolves you can trust to help in this search?" Before Lupin even had a chance to answer Albus had already moved on to Tonks. "Nymphadora, see if you can contact Shacklebolt….." He started but stopped when Sirius appeared leading a grumpy looking Harry down the steps. "I told you Albus. He's right here. What made you think otherwise?"
Unfortunately Bill, Fleur, Remus and Tonks had not been informed of the prank or of the reason for it, so their looks at Dumbledore were laden with the frustration they felt at being awakened in the middle of the night.
"I appear to have been misinformed," The Headmaster replied to Sirius as he kept his gaze upon Harry. Finally he turned to the others and continued. "I apologize for the inconvenience, and hope you realize that I only have Harry's safety in mind."
"Next time keep in mind our sleep as well," Sirius grumbled.
"Why did you think I had left?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore ignored the question as he stared at Harry. Harry could feel the slight Legilimency probe. He quickly made sure his Occlumency barriers were fully up as he stared back. "We can stare at each other all night if you want Professor Dumbledore, but I'm confident that you aren't going to read my mind."
"WHAT?" Sirius exclaimed. "You're trying to probe Harry's mind?"
"He does it all the time," Harry explained to everyone who was now surrounding them. "That's how he knows when people's lying to him or not."
"Is that an admission of guilt Harry?" Dumbledore asked in his grandfatherly tone.
"No…just stating a fact," Harry replied. "Now if you'll excuse me Headmaster of Hogwarts…which this is not; I'm going back to bed."
Harry could see Moony's eyes flash between him and Dumbledore in confusion as he started up the steps. He had to fight to keep the smirk off his face until he was in his room with the door closed. "It was priceless," Harry said to his wife. "He was so sure I wasn't here."
"That was the plan," Hermione replied. "I better get back to my house."
Harry pulled her into his arms and guided her to the bed. "It'll take a while for him to go back to sleep," He murmured as he started kissing her neck. "No need to be in a hurry."
Hermione swallowed as his lips hit an especially sensitive spot and her knees buckled slightly. As she allowed her husband to gently push her into his bed, she replied. "No…no need to hurry at all."
Downstairs Dumbledore tapped the front door with his wand in various patterns, but nothing seemed amiss with his spell. After a few minutes, he respelled the door presuming that he must have made a simple mistake in the original casting or in linking it to the notification device.
"I really need to get back," Hermione said a short time later in a slightly flustered voice. Her eyes closed as Harry ran his fingers lightly over her arm and then traced a route to her cheek. "No…" she said weakly, but finally pulled herself out of Harry's bed. "Winky might be waiting."
"I'll go take a cold shower while you go check," Harry replied with a hint of frustration in his voice.
Hermione felt his frustration and sighed. "I know it's frustrating sometimes…I want you too," She said as she kissed Harry. "But…I had thought that…" She gave him another kiss, "we could celebrate your birthday in a special way." She gazed in his eyes for a few seconds. "Remember that I have your memories of your childhood and know about your birthdays. I...I've already taken the contraceptive potion because I thought...your birthday would be...well wouldn't that be an excellent birthday present?"
"I don't know," Harry replied cheekily. "Hard to top a Broomstick Servicing kit."
"I think my virginity might be a bit better than that," Hermione replied. "Which reminds me. I need to go to the library and get a few books on the matter."
"Don't," Harry said gently. "Don't get any books. I know you like to know everything ahead of time, but let's figure this out for ourselves. I think in this particular matter, hands-on learning is much better than books."
"As well as practicing?"
"Practice makes perfect, right?"
Hermione couldn't argue with her husband in that regard. Soon, after a few more kisses she returned to her home only to return less than an hour later. "He's asleep again."
Harry, as he had done earlier in the night, crept slowly down the staircase and walked through the front door. Once he had closed it behind him, he apparated to the Grangers' garage…a few seconds later he was back in his room.
Dumbledore had finally drifted back into a deep sleep when the small silver device started chirping insistently again. "What are you up to Harry?" He asked but he finally climbed out of bed again and made his way to the floo.
*** E E ***
"What do you mean I can't tell them?" Miranda exploded. "They are soulmates which give me complete dominion over them."
"As you well know, fate can supersede your claims when necessary."
"And what does Fate have to do with someone trying to poison one of my soulmates?" Miranda growled.
"Interesting question when Fate has had so much influence on the two of them already."
"And has done a crappy job of it so far."
"To answer your question though, another soul hangs in the balance when it comes to this matter," The voice explained as it ignored the jibe. "We must allow that soul to find its ultimate path."
"And you won't tell me who that is?"
"And allow you to drop hints Miranda? I think not."
"Just so you know that if Hermione Potter dies, I will wring Fate's neck," the Goddess of Love declared and to herself. "I might just do it anyway."
"I'm sure she's quite aware of her FATE!" The voice chuckled at its own joke. "You have always been a feisty one Miranda."
"I'll feisty you…" Miranda replied but knew the God with no name was already gone. "I think I need to pay a visit to Death. He likes Harry. Then maybe go see Fate…"
*** E E ***
"Well he's countered you," Sirius said two days later. Dumbledore had reappeared twice more over those days believing Harry had left the house only to find the raven-haired youth still in Grimmauld Place.
"What do you mean?"
"He's going to have Mad-Eye keeping an eye on the front door tonight," Sirius explained.
Harry sighed. They had known it was a possibility, but had hoped that Dumbledore would just stop trying to control Harry. "Any ideas?"
Sirius shrugged. "Not really. You can't use your cloak since Mad-Eye will see right through it."
"Well it was fun while it lasted," Harry remarked. "We'll just have to think of something else…besides Mad-Eye can't be there every night can he?"
"No but it'll prove Dumbledore was right if it only happens when Moody isn't here," Hermione said. "And also give him reason to keep doing what he's doing. I just wished there was a way to make his spell activate without actually going through the door."
"What if we put a similar spell on a different door," Harry suggested as he turned to his Godfather. "Can you copy his spells?" He asked. "I mean if you can put the same spell on the bathroom door…"
"Oh that's brilliant…but no," Sirius replied with a sigh. "Dumbledore may be a bastard, but his reputation with his wand is well earned. Besides he'd have some kind of physical device he'd link the spell to. There's no way for me to duplicate it, even if I could."
"What about transfiguration," Hermione asked. "We should able to transfigure the front door into a different door when no one is looking."
"That…that's brilliant," Sirius exclaimed. "I can definitely do it today and tonight…"
"Dumbledore is going to be surprised when Mad-Eye tells him I never left," Harry smirked.
"I think it shall be most interesting," Sirius agreed with a glint in his eye. "Leave it to me."
"Wait…" Hermione called before Sirius could open the door. "Let's not do it tonight. Let's let Dumbledore think he's figured it out and when we start back in a couple of days it'll add to his confusion."
"You are one devious witch," Sirius said admiringly.
Later that morning there was a knock on the bedroom door. "It's Tonks," Nymphadora voice called. When Hermione opened the door, Tonks was standing that with a package in her hand. "This was sent to Madam Bones' office and she thought you might want it."
"What is it?"
"Skeeter's article and a copy of the front cover of the next Witch Weekly," Tonks replied as she handed over the package. "Madam Bones wanted me to make it clear that all packages delivered to her office are opened and scanned. She wasn't trying to peek into your mail."
"Why'd Rita send it there?" Harry asked.
"Only owls that Dumbledore has approved can come here," Hermione said absentmindedly as she started reading the article. "Hedwig, school owls, Pigwidgeon…"
"This is a nice picture," Harry said as he pulled the cover from the package. The picture showed Hermione sitting at Fudge's desk with a quill in her hand. The headline read 'Hermione Granger; Harry Potter's girlfriend is more than a pretty face' "Hey Sirius is on here as well," Harry continued as he pointed to the lower left corner that showed Sirius standing next to an attractive lady Harry and Hermione recognized as the make-up lady. She had her hand in his unbuttoned shirt as she looked lustily at him. The title under that picture read 'Sirius Black; Mysterious, Dangerous and Available.'
"Well maybe he can finally get a date," Hermione said as she returned to the article.
"I thought he was seeing someone," Tonks replied. "That widow…I mean he's been over to her house a few times this week."
"That's just Mrs. Edgecombe," Harry replied. "She's an old friend from school. She lost her husband a few months back and he's just been a good friend."
"Is that what he's telling you?" Tonks asked with a bit of a chuckle. "Because the look on his face when he returns from her house suggests something else."
"He's an adult," Hermione said and then corrected herself, "Most of the time anyway so I believe we'll let that stay his business. I just hope he's not taking advantage of the poor lady."
"I'm sure he isn't," Harry defended his godfather.
"Well that picture and the article the picture refers to isn't going to help much," Hermione replied and then shrugged. "We have enough to worry about…" and then she remembered Tonks was in the room still, "..with studying and everything, to worry about Sirius' love life as well." She flipped to the last page of the article and quickly finished reading it. "Want to read it?" She asked Harry.
"Are you happy with it?"
"She kept the exaggerations and innuendos to a reasonable amount," Hermione responded with a shrug. "I wished she'd drop the story about me altogether, but we both know that's not going to happen."
"Wonder what she's going to write about Sirius?" Harry queried.
"Again, we're not going to worry about Sirius and his love life," Hermione replied as she picked up a quill. "We'll send this back to Rita with Hedwig as soon as I've given it another review," She glanced at Tonks. "Thanks for bringing this by; was there anything else from Madam Bones?"
"She said to let her know as soon as the thing tomorrow is done and if it's going to work the way you thought it would," Tonks replied. "She said you'd know what she meant."
"We do and unfortunately we can't tell you what it is," Harry said.
"I figured as much," Tonks shrugged. "Anything you want me to tell Madam Bones?"
"No," Hermione replied. "Not right now."
"Then I'm off to Hogwarts," The metamorph said.
"What's going on there?"
"There's a nest of Acromantulas that's going to be eradicated," Tonks explained with a slight shudder. "Supposedly there are hundreds of them."
"Yeah, I know all about them," Harry said with a glance at Hermione. "Met them in my second year."
"What do you mean you met them?"
"Their leader is Hagrid's friend," Harry explained. "When we were trying to figure out who was petrifying the students, Hagrid told us to follow the spiders right before he was arrested. The spiders led us to the Acromantulas."
"Hagrid sent you to the Acromantulas?" Tonks exclaimed, the shock clearly evident on her face. "Was he off his rocker?"
"He didn't think they'd hurt us since he was friends with Aragog. That's the name of their leader," Harry explained. "But they would have killed us except for Arthur's car." At the quizzical expression on Tonks' face as she mouthed the word 'car', he held up his hand. "Another time, it's a long story. But you're probably going to have trouble with Hagrid. Want us to come along?"
"Madam Bones only mentioned that Dumbledore might interfere," Nymphadora replied. "Nothing about Hagrid. As for you coming along…I appreciate the offer, but If I'm going to already have trouble with Dumbledore and possibly Hagrid, then I could really don't need something else to be concerned about."
"Here then," Harry said as he lifted his wand to his head. Hermione, realizing what he was going to do, was already conjuring a bottle when Harry extracted the same memory they had shown to her parents. Harry lowered the silvery mass into the small bottle and handed it to Tonks. "This is the memory of the Acromantula threatening to eat us. Ask Madam Bones to let you show Hagrid this memory in the pensieve. I think it will help you if Hagrid sees the dangers. Also maybe you can let Aragog stay. He's blind and no longer a real threat to anyone. As I said, he's an old friend of Hagrid's."
Tonks just stared at the young man who was acting much older than the moody kid he'd been the previous summer. "Marriage is suiting you Harry," She smirked as she tussled his hair. "You're even starting to act older."
Harry grinned in return. "If you only knew."
"I better get going if I have to go back by the Ministry before going to Hogwarts," Tonks said.
When Tonks had departed, Hermione started flipping through Rita's article on her one more time, making minor corrections and notes in various places. When she finished, she looked over at the modified cage where Hedwig slept. The door and the top of the cage had been completely removed. They both agreed that Hedwig could go where she wanted, when she wanted. As if she knew she was being watched, Hedwig's eyes opened and she looked at her mistress.
"Can you take this to Rita Skeeter?" Hermione asked holding up the article.
"Prek," Hedwig answered in a tone of annoyance.
"I don't like her either but she's kept her end of the bargain and she's a useful ally," Hermione replied.
"Prek," The tone was a bit more conciliatory this time.
"What about this?" Harry asked as he held up the cover.
"I don't think we need to send it back," Hermione replied then a thought came to her. "Let's sign it and send it to that saleslady…Maria."
"We do owe her don't we?" Harry replied. "Do we know her last name?"
"Yes, she wrote it on that card," Hermione replied. She pulled the index card from her planner and glanced at it. "Maria Watkins. Hedwig can you deliver this to a squib? Her name is Maria Watkins. She has a full witch as her roommate."
"Prek," This time the tone let Hermione know she could in fact deliver the message and was insulted that Hermione might suggest she couldn't.
"Sorry," Hermione replied.
As Harry watched his wife communicating with Hedwig, he couldn't help the feeling of happiness that came over him.
*** E E ***
"Ginny…Ginny...," Ron said as he pushed opened his sister's shut bedroom door. "Are you planning on trying out for the team again? I know Harry will be back as the Seeker but I think you'd do well as…"
"RON! GET OUT!" Ginny screamed at her brother.
"What?" Ron said. "I just wanted to know…"
"GET OUT!" Ginny repeated as she moved a bowl of something out of view.
The movement caused Ron to notice his sister had gloves on. That only added to his confusion from his sister's outburst. He then saw the cutting board and the knife as well as something green beside it. "Why aren't you doing that in the kitchen? Or did mum send you up here? Are you in trouble again?"
Ginny rose from her desk and pushed her brother out of the room. "It's none of your business. Now I said get out and don't come back in."
Ron shrugged as he heard the click of lock on his sister's room and went back to his own room where sheets and sheets of drawing of various Quidditch plays were strewn about. "Wonder what got her knickers in a twist?" He was still trying to compile possible players for the upcoming year when he thought of his sister again. "Wonder why she was trying to hide whatever she was cutting up?" He thought. "It was just some weed," In a moment of clarity or maybe someone might call it Fate, the weed lying on her desk came to mind and he knew what it was. "Wonder what she's doing with the hemlock?" Then a possible explanation came to mind. "Fred and George probably asked her for it and she didn't want mum to find out she's helping them," He thought as he remembered Harry telling him how they grabbed some of the poisonous doxies last year. Though it seemed the most logical explanation, he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it.
*** E E ***
It was early evening when Harry and Hermione heard very heavy footsteps on the staircase quickly followed by booming knocks on the door. When they opened the door they were surprised to see Hagrid there.
"Ye shoulda told me, Harry," The half-giant said as he squeezed through the doorway and grabbed Harry and repeated. "Ye shoulda told me."
By now Tonks had followed Hagrid into the room. She was covered in mud and she had strands of silky looking substances hanging from her.
"Ye shoulda told me…ye coulda been killed and it woulda been my fault," Hagrid continued in a voice that was quickly deteriorating into a sob. "I couldn't believe my old friend would say that…." Hagrid stopped hugging Harry long enough to pull out his huge handkerchief and blow his nose.
"It's alright Hagrid," Harry said as he finally realized what was going on. "Ron and I survived."
"Always wondered why Fang wouldn't go back there with me," Hagrid said as he wiped his nose, "But they're gone now. All but Aragog an' two o' his sons an' they won't bother yeh," The last was said with such certainty that Harry and Hermione wondered what exactly happened.
"You should've seen it," Tonks said as she tried to explain. "Of course Hagrid didn't want us to do what needed to be done, but then I showed him your memory Harry. It all changed then."
"O' course it did…he was goin' to allow his children to eat Harry," Hagrid said. "And I was the one who told 'em to go there."
"Hagrid marched right into the forest and confronted Aragog," Tonks continued. "We were there of course…me, ten other Aurors and few people from the magical creatures office surrounded by over one hundred of these giant spiders. Then a few of the younger spiders started to attack us. We had just formed a defensive position when Hagrid here grabbed a couple of the spiders and knocked their heads together and then he did the same with a couple more of them. Then a dozen of them rushed Hagrid all at once and he disappeared under them. I started throwing a few spell at them hoping to save him, suddenly the entire pile exploded and Hagrid was standing there while the spiders were scurrying away as fast as they could run."
"Ya gotta show them you mean business," Hagrid explained. "They were just a bit frisky."
"Anyway to sum up the rest…we're shipping the whole lot of them to some island where they supposedly came from," Tonks said. "All but Aragog, who one of our experts said would never survive the journey and two of his sons who are too old to father more children. They will remain to take care of Aragog until he passes and then will depart as well."
"How are you getting them there?" Harry asked as he tried to imagine how you moved hundreds of Acromantulas.
"That is not my problem," Tonks replied. "But I believe there is a squib who owns a large ship of some sort and the spiders are going to take some kind of potion that will put them to sleep."
"That's a ship I wouldn't want to be on," Hermione shuddered. She remembered fighting the Acromantulas at Hogwarts during that final battle. "Though if they are going back to Borneo they'll have to pass through the Indian Ocean."
"If you say so," Tonks said.
"There are a lot of pirates who operate in that area," Hermione explained.
"Pirates? As in Jolly Rogers and all of that?" Tonks asked unbelieving.
"Well not that type of pirates, but they do steal ships," Hermione explained. "But could you imagine being a pirate and find out the cargo hold of the ship you just took is filled with nothing but giant spiders?"
*** E E ***
"Love – Thirty" the announcer said. It was the third match of the men's final at Wimbledon and Harry and Hermione were sitting on the edge of their seats. Krajicek was won the first two sets and was currently leading this set five games to three. His opponent, MaliVai Washington was serving, but had been off his game all day.
The next serve struck the net solidly and fell to the surface and the young ball boy in a purple shirt dashed out to retrieve the errant ball as MaliVai walked slowly back to the serving position.
The next serve was beautifully executed and Krajicek return volley landed in the net. "Fifteen-Thirty" The announcer called.
"He only needs one more game," Hermione whispered to Harry. "It looks like it's going to happen."
MaliVai's next serve landed long and he had to take a bit off of his next serve. After an exchange of volleys, Krajicek pulled a cross court forehand that Washington hit long. "Fifteen-Forty" the announcer said.
"One more point!" Hermione said a bit more loudly this time. Harry could only shrug. The scoring in tennis didn't make sense even after Hermione explained it. Quidditch was much simpler.
"Pulling for the underdog are you?" Jean asked. "He's definitely on his game."
"Uh…nothing against the American of course," Hermione replied.
"Well this is Match point," Jean replied and turned back to the telly where MaliVai Washington, on the right side of the court threw the ball in the air and sent a perfect serve that caused Krajicek to slip as he reached for it, sending it into the net. "Thirty-Forty."
"No…" Hermione groaned.
"Still match point," Jean said. She had no vested interest in the men's side since Pete Sampras had been eliminated, but having the man who had beat him win would be the right thing she believed.
By now MaliVai was already tossing the ball up as he started the next serve. It slammed into the net once more and fell to the ground. Again a ball boy raced down the net to retrieve the ball and scrambled to the other side.
The next serve set off a quick volley that concluded when Malivai put a backhand into the net.
"Krajicek, three sets to love" The announcer said but Hermione and Harry weren't listening anymore. They were just staring at each other. "EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION GALLEONS!" The coverage had already told of the young lady who had sprinted across the court right before the match began wearing naught but an apron.
"I think we need to send a message to Amelia," Hermione said.
"And I'll tell Sirius," Harry replied. He quickly announced to Jean that he had to use the bathroom. Once the bathroom door was shut and locked, he pulled out the mirror.
"Alone?" Harry asked when Sirius's mug filled the mirror.
"I'm currently visiting someone," Sirius replied.
"She needs a friend," Sirius replied as he glanced to his right and smiled.
"Well, it's over…and it happened. We've sent an owl to Madam Bones."
"You might have saved the Wizarding World Sirius…see you later."
Sirius chuckled. "Don't wait up." And just as the mirror was closed, Harry heard Sirius continue, "Sorry Bell…"
Hedwig brought the return message less than an hour later. "Tomorrow morning. Tonks will escort you to my office at 9am. We'll take this matter to Ragnok himself."
*** E E ***
July 8th 1996
At nine-thirty in the morning, Amelia Bones led Sirius, Harry, Hermione and Tonks into Gringotts. With confident strides, she made her way across the lobby floor and stopped in front of a white marble desk with an ancient goblin sitting behind it. Though his head was bald and skin wrinkly, he had a magnificent short white beard that ended in a perfect point. Though it was obvious the Goblin knew they were there, he spent a few seconds shuffling rolls of parchments on his desk before he looked up.
"May I…ah Madam Bones," The Goblin said in an indistinguishable tone. "How may Gringotts help you today?"
"I am meeting with Ragnok this morning," Bones replied. She refused to use the word appointment or a particular time which would give the Goblins the upper hand in the negotiations.
"Of course," The Goblin replied as he gestured to several seats in a small alcove. "Have a seat and I'll send word to his office. I'm sure someone will be down shortly."
"I don't think so," Amelia replied evenly but firmly. "My time is just as important as his. You can have someone show us the way." Even that was unnecessary since she'd been there twice in the last few weeks trying to negotiate with the Goblins.
The goblin stroked the point of his beard before giving a slight nod of his head. "Of course Madam Bones." He gave a quick hand gesture and a young goblin rushed over. "Escort Madam Bones and her party to the Head Goblin's office."
"The He…head Goblin?" The young goblin squeaked out. He was both nervous and excited at the same time.
"Pardon this one," the white bearded Goblin said to Madam Bones. "He is young and this is his first day."
"We all started there at one time or another," Amelia replied.
That caused the older goblin to give a small smile. "Yet every year it seems less and less likely we acted similarly when we started our duties."
"Of course," Amelia agreed as she returned a similar smile. "I'm sure we both were all knowing and an example of indomitable spirit as well."
"I believe we were," The Goblin replied before he turned to the youngster and said. "Be quick about it and return here immediately."
"Yes…yes sir," The goblin replied and started running toward the back of the bank. He had made it several strides before he stopped and returned. "Uh…." He started as glanced nervously at the elder Goblin and then at the group he was supposed to be leading. "This way."
"I know the way if we should happen to lose him," Madam Bones told the bearded Goblin.
It was ten minutes after they were shown into the most opulent office imaginable that Ragnok entered. "Back to harass me again about some imagined magic we're supposed to have Madam Bones?" He said as he took a seat in a chair behind the huge dark wood desk.
"No," Amelia replied.
"Ah…I see you're accompanied by Harry Potter and his godfather," Ragnok said next. "I presume this must be about those vaults you want access to then? Brought Mr. Potter as some kind of proof that the witches and wizards you claim are dead, are in fact dead?"
"They are dead," Harry blurted. "We saw them go through the Veil."
"You and a couple of other teenagers?" Ragnok said with a hint of disdain in it. "You want me to put the reputation of my bank and my people on the line because you say so?"
Madam Bones raised a hand to stifle Harry's response. "No…that's not why we are here either."
"Then what does the Ministry want now."
"Sirius Black just wishes to collect his winnings from a wager he made and he wanted a Ministry representative on hand to ensure there were no problems."
"Gringotts and the Goblin people do NOT cheat or swindle people who have legitimate claims upon the bank," Ragnok replied testily. "That is in direct contradiction to your Senior MINISTRY employee who swindled this bank out of a significant amount of galleons last year."
"I presume you are referring to Ludo Bagman?" Madam Bones asked and at the confirmation nod from Ragnok she continued. "I have seen no formal complaint concerning his wrongdoing by the Goblins. If you wish to file one, I will guarantee it will be investigated fully."
"Fully?" Ragnok sneered. "Your minister will just sweep it under the rug and blame the entire incident on my people."
"I assure you…"
"How much does Bagman owe the Goblins?" Sirius asked cutting off Amelia before the mattered turned into an argument.
"Not that it's any of your business, but it was thirty thousand galleons."
"Then here's a simple solution to this problem," Sirius said cheerfully. "How about I pay his debt from my winnings?"
"And why would you protect Mr. Bagman?"
"Protect Ludo?" Sirius laughed. "No…I just want to re-establish a bit of harmony between Gringotts and the Ministry. There happens to be a war on, and we both have a common enemy in Voldemort. As for Bagman; you can string him up by his ears and beat him with his own beater's bat if you want."
"I read about your little speech at Pettigrew's trial Mr. Black," Ragnok said. "For someone who was unjustly locked away for so many years , you're giving the Ministry a lot of support."
"And so should you," Sirius replied. "If Voldemort wins this war, you won't have a bank…at least not one YOU control. I don't like a lot of what the Ministry stands for; I don't even really like Minister Fudge, but it's not the time for that fight…not yet."
Ragnok sit back in his chair and considered. "Fine…give me your parchment and I'll get your winnings taken care of."
Sirius smiled at Harry and Hermione as well as Madam Bones and Tonks who still was a bit confused as to why her boss, the head of the DMLE insisted on escorting Sirius, as well as Harry and Hermione to this meeting. With an emphatic gesture, Sirius handed the parchment to the Goblin.
"Muggle sport?" Ragnok muttered as he unfurled the roll and started to read. "This has to be wrong…" He finally touched one of his long fingers to the rune on the parchment. It first glowed green and then a series of numbers rose above the parchment. With a gasp he dropped the scroll onto the desk and glanced up. "What is this? All of your fancy words while at the same time you're trying to rob my people?"
"I am doing no such thing," Sirius replied. "I made a legitimate bet and another as a jest."
"My mother, a muggle, is a huge fan of tennis and Wimbledon," Hermione explained. "Sirius made the original bet because she liked the player's name." It was the most plausible excuse they could come up with.
"You bet four hundred thousand galleons on a name?" Ragnok asked with obvious contempt in his voice.
"Was that what those gemstones were worth?" Hermione queried. "We didn't know." It was the truth that at the time of the bet, they truly did not know what they were worth.
"And I bet on the stripper just to make the goblin write it down," Sirius said with a smirk. "He was so disgusted at writing the bet out that I just had to come back and double my bet so he'd have to do it again. YOUR gambling department ripped me off…or at least they intended to. They wrote it down as a double bet instead of doubling it."
Ragnok knew that tactic was a common practice in that department and he also knew the contract was valid. The green glow proved that. He read the contract over several more times looking for any loophole he might use to make it null and void. Finally he laid it down and sighed. "Unfortunately the gambling department surpassed their authority in making this contract. Gringotts does not have the capability of settling a payout of this amount. We can, at most, pay the original bet with a fifty percent bonus; that would make it close to eighteen million Galleons."
"After all of your FANCY words about how the Goblins do not cheat or swindle people," Amelia started, throwing Ragnok's own words back at him, "You are now unable to satisfy a debt made while attempting to swindle someone?"
Ragnok fidgeted with a quill on his desk as he replied. "Twenty five million; that is really all we can afford."
"You do realize that the Wizard-Goblin treaty that establishes Gringotts under Goblin jurisdiction has certain sections that can be invoked if the Goblins refuse…"
"Yes I know that treaty by heart, unlike most of your simple-minded Wizards…" Ragnok snarled. "If that is your goal; A Ministry ploy to seize our bank, you'll have a fight on your hands."
"Neither I nor the Ministry has any desire of your bank," Amelia replied. "We do have interest in your anti-polyjuice and anti-imperio magic though."
"So…the truth comes out at last," Ragnok almost shouted as he stood up from his chair. "I'll pauper my people before allowing the Ministry to take more of our magic. You've already outlawed us having wands, and now you're trying to prevent us from having any way to protect ourselves from the magic of Wizards and Witches. OUT! GET OUT OF MY OFFICE."
"May…may I make a suggestion?" Hermione said tentatively. Seeing the conversation and negotiations turn into a shouting match had shocked her and Harry.
"WHAT?" Both Bones and Ragnok asked at the same time.
"What if there was a way for the Ministry to get what they wanted, which is to secure the Ministry building and maybe the hospital and the Goblins get what they want, to keep their magic and maybe a bit more."
Ragnok eyed the young female witch cautiously but finally replied. "And how would you propose such a thing?"
"The Ministry can set up a waypoint for all floos in and out of the building," Hermione replied as she remembered the security measures of a future ministry. "The goblins can be entirely in charge of that building, ensuring all witches and wizards who enter and leave the building are free of the imperius curse and not polyjuiced."
"And if any of these witches are wizards give you any trouble," Harry added, "The use of Probity Probes and more intrusive measures may be authorized."
Ragnok eyes flashed in possible amusement at that statement.
"Also," Hermione added. "If witches and wizards see your people on constant basis working to protect them from Voldemort, I believe a mutual respect could arise."
Ragnok snorted at that unlikely possibility but was tempted by the suggestion. "What makes you think your high and mighty witches and wizards would go for this arrangement?"
"I believe they would allow themselves to be flushed down a toilet to get into the Ministry without even questioning it," Harry replied with a knowing smirk.
Ragnok looked at Madam Bones. "And you? Do you think it would work?"
"Ragnok, I truly am only interested in protecting the Ministry," Madam Bones replied with a sigh. "We have no way to detect polyjuice or the Imperius curse and that is a glaring weakness in our defenses. It WILL work because it HAS to work."
"What about you and your Minister?" Ragnok asked. "Are you going to bypass this waypoint?"
Amelia Bones shook her head negatively. "No...if your people can protect the Ministry, I will be the first in line and I'll make sure Fudge is there as well."
"And if a Witch or Wizard refuses our measures?"
"If you'd like, I can provide a team of Aurors who will make sure that everyone complies with them…within reason of course," Bones replied. "As long as they are treated respectfully, I will put your senior goblin there in charge of the team."
Ragnok sat back down in his chair and considered his options. By helping the Ministry he would achieve an honorable way out of the mess that some imbecile had created in the Gambling department while at the same time achieve a position of authority over two of the main pillars of Wizarding society…their money and their security. He could already see another division opening in Gringotts concerned with Wizard security. One that in these trying times could be very profitable. Then he considered the downside of the option…Witches and Wizards seeing some of the Goblin magic they used to protect the Bank's vaults as well as the fact it would require the Goblins to openly support the Ministry in the coming war; a concern he voiced out loud.
"Openly supporting the Ministry would greatly increase the danger to the Goblins from Voldemort and his supporters."
"I have to agree that it would," Madam Bones replied.
"But it's also true that if his supporters can take over the Ministry they would be in a position to impose a more hostile attitude toward the Goblin," Hermione added. "If they have the Ministry, I'm sure Gringotts would be next."
"Maybe, but there is no certainty in that," Ragnok argued. "Though he did kill several Goblin families last time, they were mostly ones who openly supported the Ministry."
"If he had won, or does win, I can guarantee he will kill a lot more than just a few Ministry supporters," Harry spoke up finally. "Unless you want your people to cower in fear the rest of your life, I think you know which side is the one you need to support. As Sirius said, there are a lot of things about the Ministry I don't like, but Voldemort is much worse."
Ragnok stared into the intense green eyes of Harry Potter. Though he seemed just a boy, those eyes said he was an adult. "Is there a true prophecy about you and Voldemort as reported in the Prophet?"
Harry hesitated for several heartbeats but knew he had to answer…and answer truthfully. With a breath and a sigh he replied. "Yes though I prefer to not say exactly what it says for obvious reasons, I do believe the Goblins can be a major factor in deciding who wins in the end."
Ragnok kept his focus on the young man as he once again considered his options. Finally he turned to Madam Bones. "I believe we can come to some agreement concerning your security."
"Excellent," Bones replied in obvious relief. "Then while you and I hammer out the details, why don't we send the rest back home."
"Hey…what about the money?" Sirius asked. "It's supposed to be for Harry and Hermione."
"And Luna and Neville as well," Harry added.
"With my concessions to Madam Bones, will the twenty-five million galleons suffice?"
"Actually no," Harry replied.
"Oh?" Ragnok's voice had a slight edge now as he prepared for another fight.
"Make it twenty-two," Harry replied. "And put the other three in a fund to help the families of both Aurors and Goblins who die in this war."
"You are a very unusual Wizard Harry Potter," Ragnok said. "I truly hope you survive this war."
"So do I," Harry replied with a grin.
"What about the cup in Bellatrix's vault?" Hermione asked her husband.
"I almost forgot," Harry replied. "Any ideas?"
Hermione's mind started working through various permutations and ideas and she discarded them one by one until finally she thought of something that might work. "Ragnok doesn't know what the prophecy says…let's use that."
Hermione quickly detailed her idea.
"Uh…" Harry stammered. "Can I have a word with Mr. Ragnok…alone?"
The look Hermione gave Sirius made him the first to rise from his chair. "I need to find a loo anyway," He said. A still very confused Tonks followed her boss and Hermione out of the room as well.
"Yes Mr. Potter?"
"It's about the prophecy," Harry started. "The part where I thought the Goblins could help."
Ragnok sat up straighter in his chair and stared at the young man.
"Understand that what I'm about to tell you must remain quiet or…or it can bring Voldemort's attention," Harry explained.
"I will not disclose what you have to say," Ragnok replied.
"This isn't the entire prophecy of course, but there is a line in it that mentions a stolen cup of the founders sits in a crazed witch's hoard and.." Harry paused as Hermione reminded him of the rest. "and…it must perish by goblin steel before death can take the Dark Lord." It was a horrible rhyme Harry knew but it was the best Hermione could come up with in a few seconds. "Dumbledore knows this and that's why he's been trying to get access to Bellatrix's vault. He's sure that's the 'crazed witch's hoard'."
"And you believe it?"
"I don't necessarily like Albus Dumbledore either," Harry explained, "but he knows Voldemort better than anyone."
"This cup; do you know what it may be?"
"He thinks it's Helga Hufflepuff's cup," Harry replied. "He showed me a picture of it. It's small about this size," Harry indicated the size with his hands, "and it's made of gold. It has two handles and has a Badger on it."
"And the prophecy says it must be destroyed by Goblin steel?" There was an eagerness in the Head Goblin voice now.
Dumbledore had planned on using the Sword of Gryffindor," Harry explained.
"Then it is a good thing you brought this to my attention," Ragnok said. "For your Headmaster would have failed. The Sword of Ragnuk the first; that which you wrongfully call the Sword of Gryffindor was crafted of pure Silver and hardened by magic."
Harry almost swore at the mistake in the fake prophecy that might have destroyed their chance at the cup, but Ragnok had continued. "But we have many fine blades that can do the job I'm sure."
"It's got to have Basilisk venom on it," Hermione reminded her husband.
"You'll help?" Harry asked hopefully as he continued to try to figure out a way to make sure the blade used would work.
"I will investigate Mrs. Lestrange's vault personally," Ragnok replied, "and if such a cup is found I will consider that is proof of the validity of your story Mr. Potter. Of course I will appraise the value of the cup and require a deposit of funds equal to that value until such time we can verify Mrs. Lestrange's right to the cup."
"Thank you," Harry replied. "Uh…then can I make a gift of a special weapon to you?"
"What kind of weapons can you offer that I might not already have?"
"Basilisk venom infused Goblin blade," Harry replied.
"You have such a thing?"
"Yes," Harry replied. "And it's being stored in one of the vaults here." He went on to describe how he defeated the Basilisk in his second year at Hogwarts and how they had acquired some of its venom. He explained the fake Voldemort had come out of a cursed object and had been killed with a Basilisk fang. "I just thought that if something is cursed by Voldemort, the strongest Goblin weapon might be necessary…" Harry finished.
"Then I shall gladly accept the weapon," Ragnok replied. "I am not a fool to believe I shouldn't have the best with me if I have to fight a shade of Voldemort."
"Thank you," Harry said.
That Ragnok is the Head Goblin is NEVER stated in canon. In fact his name is only used because Bill tried to recruit him, but since it is common in Fanfiction to use him in that position I did so instead of creating an entire different Goblin name.