Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ Gringott's ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Hermione Granger paced nervously outside the huge front door of Gringotts, the Wizarding bank run by Goblins. Her eyes kept flicking to the message engraved there. “Thief… beware…”

The last time she had visited Gringotts, it was as a thief. She was there to steal a cup from the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange. The break-in had been… messy. The doors had been repaired, but the damage caused when the dragon forced its way through was still visible.

She checked the time. He had warned her not to enter too soon, but it was now eleven o’clock. She clutched her bag tightly and strode through the battered doors.

The goblin guards inspected her closely. They insisted she empty the bag, but she had little in it. They looked curiously at her Oyster card, but eventually permitted her to proceed.

She walked slowly to the main desk. “My… my name is Hermione Granger. I have an appointment.”

The goblin slowly raised its head and stared at her for several seconds. When it spoke, its voice creaked and rustled. “You are expected. Ragnok will talk to you, soon.” It lowered its head and continued to scribble with a quill in a huge ledger. Hermione could only see the tip of the feather fluttering back and forth.

She wondered whether she was expected to go somewhere, but the goblin had given no indication as to what she should do. Wizards and goblins continued to traverse the hall, but nobody looked at her.

Suddenly a voice came from behind her, unpleasantly close to her ear. “Granger? I am Ragnok. Follow me.”

He scuttled through the crowd and she scampered after him, almost losing him among dozens of similar scurrying goblins. He reached an almost invisible door set in a wooden panel which he opened and stepped through. She pressed past a gesticulating witch and followed him.

The room was long and thin – almost more like a corridor. Unlike the opulent marble and polished wood of the entrance hall, the walls were of coarse-hewn stone. The ceiling was high. At the far end was another door, similar to the one by which they had entered. The room was cold, and Hermione could see her breath.

“This is my office,” said Ragnok. There was no desk, no chairs. Ragnok had no ledger with him.

“I… I’d like to withdraw some items from my vault,” said Hermione.

Ragnok laughed coldly. “Did you read the warning at the entrance to Gringotts, Granger? The punishment we promise to those who steal from the goblins?”

“I read it,” said Hermione, her voice a whisper.

“You broke into the Lestrange vault. We do not yet entirely know how. Griphook knew, but Griphook is dead. Dead along with many other goblins, killed in your little adventure. A dragon that was a safeguard for two hundred years is lost, perhaps forever. Damage of millions of Galleons, still not wholly repaired. What did you think the consequences would be, Granger?”

“The cup… it was a Horcrux! It was part of Voldemort’s soul!”

Ragnok pointed at her, a great thick nail curving over the end of the gnarled index finger. “You will not leave here, Granger. Your life will be long, and hard, and every minute you will spend repaying the goblins for what you have done.”

Hermione grabbed for her wand, but it was gone. When she was being searched it must have been taken, somehow. She turned to the door but it had vanished, replaced by unyielding stone.

Ragnok stepped towards her, a claw-like hand outstretched. “I had expected to spend many months finding you – you, and your companions. It has been a convenience that you came here. We will make an allowance for that. Bagman was a more difficult quarry.”

Hermione’s back was pressed against the wall where the door had been. He promised, she thought. He said it would be all right.

There was a sudden loud creaking noise from the far end of the room. The other door was opening. A figure stepped through - the familiar form of Bill Weasley, the scars on his face visible from the far side of the room, still wearing his earring and dragon-hide boots.

“What do you want, Weasley?” said Ragnok. He sounded angry, but goblins usually did.

“We are to bring Granger to him,” said Bill.

“On what authority?” Yes, Ragnok was definitely getting angrier.

Bill pulled a scroll from his pocket. “The signatures of five directors. Three is sufficient, I believe?”

Ragnok snatched the scroll from his hand and scanned it quickly, then threw it aside. “Very well, then. It may not be a mercy to her, though.”

He walked to the wall and tapped a curious pattern on the stone. There was a hideous creaking noise and a great slab swung aside, revealing a spiral staircase heading downwards.

“You first, Weasley. Then Granger. I will follow,” said Ragnok.

Bill stepped into the doorway and Hermione after him. The steps were narrow, and even keeping to the outside, Hermione’s feet extended over the edge. She tried to step sideways, but found herself losing her balance.

“Move quickly, but don’t run,” said Bill. “If you fall, I might not be able to catch you.”

She found that if she kept to a steady rhythm she could just keep up. Bill was moving quickly, and she feared he would get away from her, leaving her with the goblin. He did not speak, but she could hear his breathing and his claw-like fingernails scraping against the stone. But Bill waited for her when he was too far ahead to be seen.

The stairs continued on and on. The further down they went, the darker it became, though the darkness was never absolute. There was a faint glow, seeming to come from the stones themselves. Finally the stair came to an end, in a tiny chamber.

“We are below the vaults, now,” said Bill. “This is the deepest that the goblins have delved – and nobody has dug deeper than the goblins. This pit was here before the first wizards came to England. Before the first men.”

“Will you tell her all our secrets?” snapped Ragnok. “Open the passage!”

“Turn away, Her,” said Bill. Hermione turned her back and was surprised to see Ragnok turn his as well. She could hear Bill tapping on the stone. “Now you,” he said. Ragnok exchanged places with him. They stood looking up the stairs while Ragnok tapped in a different pattern.

“Not long now,” said Bill.

“Where are we going?” whispered Hermione.

“Gringott’s grave,” said Bill.

The tapping ceased and Bill turned, pulling Hermione around by her shoulder.

“I will lead,” said Ragnok, stepping into a gap that had opened in the chamber wall opposite the foot of the stairs.

At first Hermione thought the gap had not fully opened. It was barely a foot wide, and a little over five feet high. The goblin was scurrying into it, however, somehow sliding sideways.

She hesitated. The passage was completely unlit, and she couldn’t tell how far it extended – or even if it narrowed further down. More than that, she felt a sense of dread that hadn’t been present even while she’d been descending the never-ending stairs.

“Come on, Her,” said Bill. “Can’t be helped. I’ll be right behind you.”

She squeezed into the gap and inched along sideways. It was slow and uncomfortable, but she was able to keep moving. The goblin was far ahead, invisible in the total darkness, but she could hear scraping against the stone.

After a while, she started to think she would never get out. I’m going around in circles, she thought. I’ll just keep going around and around and it will get narrower and narrower, and … I’ll just lie down for a moment, and shut my eyes.

Her legs trembled and sagged under her, but her knees jammed against the opposite wall. She was about to topple sideways when she felt Bill’s grasp on her arm, just above the elbow.

“Can’t stop, Her. Can’t go back. Take a deep breath and keep going. Not long, now.”

She nodded, and stood upright. Step by step she moved along, her legs aching with the unnatural motion. She was relieved to find that after a while longer, the passage opened out.

Bill grasped her again. “Careful, Her. The edge is close.”

She looked carefully at the ground. There was very little light, but just enough to see that they were standing on a ledge, overlooking a pit.

“How deep?” she asked. Her voice echoed for the first time. She looked up, but couldn’t see a roof.

The goblin chuckled nastily from a dark corner. “Throw in a stone, Granger. Then follow me.”

She looked on the ground but it was solid flagstones. “There,” said Bill, pointing to the right. There was a small heap of pebbles.

She picked one up and tossed it in. There was no sound.

“Hurry,” said the goblin. He started to move across the chasm.

The bridge was barely worthy of the name. It was a single strand of thick rope, above which was a slightly thinner strand. The goblin was inching rapidly across, his feet on the lower rope, holding tightly to the upper.

“Best get it over with,” said Bill quietly.

She grasped the upper rope tightly with her right hand, and placed her right foot on the lower rope. If this were a foot above the ground, it would be easy, she thought, and started to move across.

“Just keep moving,” said Bill.

She was almost at the other side when she heard a faint splash from below. How deep? she thought, and suddenly her left foot had slipped from the rope and she found herself swaying backwards. She held on grimly until the swaying had stopped, and then carefully placed her foot back on the rope. She was still dangling backwards, but only had a few more inches before safety. She moved her foot to the right, and then dragged her hands, one after the other, along the rope. Then the other foot, and suddenly she was on the other side.

She moved quickly to stand tight to the wall, as far as possible from that immense gulf. Bill was quickly beside her. They were on a ledge about four feet deep, facing another solid wall. “Well done,” he said. “That’s the worst bit.”

The goblin was tapping at the wall. “You now, Weasley,” he said. Bill went over and tapped a different pattern as Ragnok turned away. A gap opened, and bright light streamed out. The goblin stepped in, and Hermione followed.

They were in a brightly lit, broad passageway. It seemed to be formed in perfectly carved marble, with elegant arches supported by mighty columns. So smooth was the marble that Hermione could see her reflection in it. Her face looked strained. The passage extended for a considerable distance, but it was wide and level and well-lit from some unknown source. After walking for about a mile, doors began to appear on either side – made from some kind of shining metal. As they walked past, Hermione could see endless reflections of herself between the mirrored surfaces, like an army on the march, anxious, but determined. There were goblin runes inscribed on the metal, writing that she did not know how to decipher. Each door had a different inscription.

Ragnok scurried ahead, examining the runes. He was nervous now. Several times he scampered back to re-examine a door he’d already looked at.

They walked on, seemingly endlessly. Once Hermione started to ask Bill when they would reach their destination, but he shook his head and held a finger to his lips.

Finally, Ragnok stopped outside a door. “Together, then, Weasley,” he said.

Unlike the tappings and knockings at the other doors, this time Bill and the goblin worked in unison, gently pressing and touching, precisely tracing their fingertips with exact precision. The pattern was complex and beautiful in its intricacy.

They stepped back together and the smooth even surface suddenly split apart into metal rods that slowly sank into all four sides of the door. The chamber beyond was carved out of the rock, quite crudely. It was narrow, not extending as far as the other doors on either side. There must be hundreds, thousands of chambers like this, thought Hermione.

The chamber was empty apart from a single large misshapen rock in the middle of the floor, and lying next to it, a thick steel bar, roughly forged, about five feet long.

“You do it, Weasley,” said Ragnok.

Bill removed his jacket and handed it to Hermione, and rolled up his sleeves. Then he picked up the steel rod and gave the rock a huge blow. The rod bounced violently off the rock and rang loudly. Hermione stepped back. Again and again Bill battered at the rock, until shards began to fall off it. The noise was almost unbearable.

Suddenly a sound came, barely audible above the noise of the vibrating rod. It took a moment for Hermione to recognise it as a voice. It was like goblin speech, and yet far more rasping and inhuman – indeed, unlike a sound a living creature would make.

“Enough,” it said. Bill slowly lowered the bar to the floor. There was a violent scraping noise, and the rock slowly began to separate. Breaks appeared at various points, and suddenly it seemed to open up into a shape like a badly carved statue of a goblin. It stood erect, with a red glow coming from where the eyes would be, twin recesses in a shapeless lump of a head.

It spoke again, in a voice that sounded like stones grinding together. “I am Gringott, Granger. I am the manager of this bank. Your friend has awoken me, on your account. I do not like to be wakened.”

“Gringott, this is the girl who…” began Ragnok.

“I know who she is. Ragnok? Yes, the boy Ragnok. Be silent.” Gringott moved forward slowly, swaying from side to side. Bill Weasley stood aside. Gringott stopped inches away from Hermione and stared at her.

“You know what you did, Granger. What expiation can you make?” Hermione had thought she had been afraid of Ragnok, but she realised that she was more frightened now than she had ever been in her life.

“The cup… the cup was…” she began, and paused, unable to speak. She started again. “The cup that we took was a Horcrux. It contained a part of Lord Voldemort’s soul. We destroyed it.” Her voice was clear and defiant. “We defeated Lord Voldemort. He would have enslaved you, taken this bank and everything you own.”

The hole where Gringott’s mouth would be slowly curved into a parody of a grin. “He would not have enslaved us. We are not elves.” His voice as he said the last word dripped with gravelly contempt. “But there would have been… problems.”

“Gringott, the reputation of the bank has been tarnished forever by this human witch!” Ragnar's voice was high and excited.

Bill Weasley spoke, calmly and levelly. “If this item had been retained, then Lord Voldemort would have won. He would have ruled over us all, wizard, Muggle and goblin alike. If the bank had given up the cup to be destroyed…”

“…that would have been a breach of our trust,” continued Gringott. “We have never, since I founded the bank, given any item to anyone but the depositor. Ha. Ha. Ha.” It took Hermione some seconds to realise that the horrible sound Gringott was making was laughter.

“Ragnok.” Somehow Gringott managed to convey anger and contempt in that grotesque, grinding voice. “You were asked, by this human…” He paused.

“Weasley, Gringott,” said Bill.

“This Weasley… you were asked to mediate an alliance between goblins and Dumbledore’s supporters, against Lord Voldemort. Is this so?”

“Yes, Gringott.” Ragnar's voice mixed fear and defiance. “I refused.”

“You were right to do so. When wizards make war on each other, it ends, eventually. Then all they would remember is what we goblins did. All would blame us. We must be neutral in such matters.”

“But Voldemort would have…” began Hermione.

“Be silent, Granger,” said Gringott. “I am aware of what Voldemort would have done. I was awakened six times due to his actions. Voldemort offered us wands! And yet we did not align ourselves with him. We did not wish Voldemort to succeed, but we would not wage open war. Ragnok! Is that not correct?”

“Yes,” said Ragnok, sullenly.

“Granger! This cup – Helga Hufflepuff’s cup – contained a portion of Voldemort’s soul. You wished to destroy it. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Gringott,” said Hermione.

“It seems that the only way to defeat our enemy without breaking our bond was for this cup to be stolen. Is that correct, Weasley?” He looked up at Bill.

Bill nodded. “Yes, Gringott. That appears to be the case.”

He turned to Hermione. “It may be that you had assistance from some renegade goblin?” Hermione opened her mouth to answer but Bill shook his head at her.

“It seems we can never know,” continued Gringott. “Griphook might have known, but he is dead. So, the cup that had to be destroyed was destroyed, and the bank has not betrayed its trust.”

“The least bad outcome,” murmured Bill.

“But… but… the damage! The dragon! The deaths!” spluttered Ragnok.

“The damage to the building has been repaired. It is damage to the reputation of the bank that concerns me. We will find the dragon and return him to his appointed task, or, if not, there are other dragons. Other beasts. The deaths were inflicted by Voldemort. This girl, and her friends, have avenged them.” Gringott slowly turned to Ragnok, creaking like a millstone.

“Ragnok, return Granger’s property to her, and close her account. Granger, you are not welcome here again. Inform your friend Potter that his vault will be emptied and the contents sent to him. Weasley, your brother…”

“Ron doesn’t have an account on his own behalf,” said Bill smoothly.

“Nor will he in future. Escort Granger from the premises,” said Gringott, pointing to the doorway. “Ragnok will remain here, and we will discuss how Lord Voldemort attacked the bank, killing many goblins. How Bellatrix Lestrange took her own cup from her own vault, and how it was destroyed by the dragon which drove Voldemort away. How there was no theft from Gringott’s. There has never been, and never will be.”

Bill took Hermione by the elbow and gestured to the door. They had almost reached it when Ragnok called after them.

“Weasley. Remember what you need to do.”

Bill’s shoulders tensed.

“It is necessary, Weasley. There will be no further consequences. We must be safe.”

Bill nodded and stepped into the corridor.

“Granger?” Gringott called.

“Yes?” said Hermione, cautiously.

“Why did you not threaten us with your powerful friends? The Order, the Minister?”

“I don’t respond well to threats,” said Hermione flatly. “I thought Goblins would be the same.”

She stepped after Bill into the corridor.

 “Potter promised to return the sword of Gryffindor!” Ragnok shouted after them.

“Harry did return it,” Hermione said. “The goblins lost it again.” Shining metal bars emerged from the edges of the door frame to make a seamless reflective surface.

“Bill? What did he mean? What do you have to do?”

Bill started to walk down the corridor. “Well, it’s up to you, really. But they can’t have you giving your version of events – the correct version. And this,” he gestured around him, “this is not to be talked about.”

“I… I wouldn’t say anything...” said Hermione, her heart sinking.

“Goblins aren’t a trusting lot, Hermione. It’s a rule that anyone not a member of the bank – even other goblins – who see the goblin tombs – have to be prevented from talking about it. In the past… well, let’s say that things are a bit more civilised now.”

“What are the options?” said Hermione, scurrying to keep up with Bill’s long strides.

Well, there’s the memory option,” said Bill. “We draw out the memory and replace it with another version.”

Hermione thought of the puzzled expression on her mother’s face, as she struggled to recognise her only daughter. “I… I don’t think I’d like that.”

“As I say, it’s your choice. The alternative is a variation on Confundus. Whenever you talk about this place, or the break-in, your words will become muddled. You’ll remember it, but you won’t be able to communicate about it in any way.”

“And is there another option?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said grimly. “And they would use it.”

“Oh,” she said. “I think I prefer Confundus. I’ve never read about that version. Where does the spell come from?”

“It’s goblin magic,” said Bill. “They’re obsessed with secrecy and privacy.”

“I’d have liked to study goblin magic,” she said wistfully. “That won’t happen now.”

The corridor ended in a great open chamber, from which six other, identical corridors branched off. In the centre of the room was a semi-circular wall, about six feet in diameter. Just in front of it there was a narrow metal pole. Looking closely, she could see that it was in the form of a screw. There was a circular stone about six inches thick, resting on the floor, into the middle of which the metal pole fitted. Beside the wall dangled a thin rope.

“Just step on the stone,” said Bill. “Keep your arms and legs in tight, but don’t touch the screw.”

She stepped carefully onto the stone. Bill tugged once on the rope. After a few seconds, the screw started to turn. The stone had a small stub protruding into the wall, which prevented it rotating, so the screw forced it up. She found herself rising upwards.

In a few seconds, she had reached the roof of the chamber, and was now completely enclosed in a circular tube, the walls of which were passing by quite quickly now. She stood perfectly still, the walls and the screw only inches away, hoping that there was no loose clothing that might get caught in the mechanism.

There was no noise at all as stone ground against stone and metal. Goblin work, she thought. So precise.

After a few minutes, her legs began to cramp, and she longed to be able to lean against something. No chair, nothing to hold on to – that’s goblins too, she thought. A single slip and I’d be crushed. Serve her right, they’d think.

Quite suddenly she found herself passing through an opening into a large, cluttered room. The stone on which she was standing fitted perfectly into the floor. A goblin stood at a console of switches and levers. “Step away,” he said curtly.

She moved across to the corner of the room. There was a troll in a metal cage, standing on a treadmill. The goblin pulled a lever, and the troll began to trot. The stone disappeared downwards, leaving a hole in the floor.

“Wait there,” said the goblin. He ignored her as the troll continued to trot on the treadmill for some minutes. Then there was a loud click, and the troll stopped. The goblin pulled another lever and waited. After a few seconds a bell tinkled, barely audibly. The goblin gestured and the troll began to trot again, more slowly now.

Hermione stared dully around the room. How long had she been under the ground? It could have been hours, or days. She would not have been surprised to be told that she’d been gone a month.

Eventually Bill’s head appeared through the hole in the floor. He walked briskly across to her. “Let’s get your stuff,” he said.

Bill led them to a counter, where a pile of papers was neatly stacked. A goblin watched silently as Hermione packed them into her bag.

“You didn’t keep a lot here,” he said.

“I don’t have much wizard money, until I can get a job.”

“Nothing very important to collect, then,” said Bill.

She shook her head. “Something very important,” she said. She took two golden vials and very carefully placed them in her pocket.

“Would you like a coffee?” asked Bill, as they walked to the main door of the bank.

“A coffee?” she asked, surprised. “In a Muggle place?”

He grinned. “Lately I’m mostly involved with exchange with Muggle currency. I’ve been regularly visiting Muggle shops and restaurants just for the practice. I even get an allowance. The goblins are strict, but they aren’t mean. So, the coffees are on me.”

The goblins at the door gave Hermione only a cursory examination, and didn’t check Bill at all. However, when Hermione looked for her wand, she found it in its holder, where it had been when she entered.

They sat quietly for a while in the café, five minutes’ walk from the bank. Hermione had a small cake with her coffee, and Bill had a pile of beef and ham sandwiches. He pulled the meat out of the bread and chewed it quickly.

Hermione spoke first. “Is that the actual Gringott? I thought he must be dead. I didn’t think goblins lived that long.”

Bill drummed his fingers on the table. “Well, in a sense, he is dead. Goblins don’t die like humans, unless something kills them. It’s a lengthy process. Gringott has ‘returned to the stone’ as they call it. At some stage he’ll fully merge into the rock. I don’t totally understand it. I know a lot about how the bank works, but goblins…” He shook his head.

“I thought I wouldn’t get out of there,” she confessed. “I know you said…”

“Goblins are hard. Very hard. But fair. You saved them – maybe even more than the wizards and Muggles. Voldemort and his kind hated all the independent creatures, and goblins, who live among us, worst of all. Gringott knew this.” He took a sip of his coffee.

“I’m surprised that they didn’t blame you for what Ron did,” she said.

“Goblins don’t think like that,” said Bill. “They don’t recognise families. That’s why they get so annoyed when their artefacts are passed down when the original owner dies. They know that Ron and I share a name – that he’s my brother - but they’ve no concept that I might be to blame for what he does.”

“I’m glad that we didn’t lose you your job,” she said.

He shook his head. “Far from it. Talking to you about Muggle money and how it all works has really boosted my career. There was a whole market for exchanging money that we just weren’t exploiting. What do you call those magic boxes that dispense gold?”

Hermione thought for a moment. “ATM’s?” she asked.

“That’s it. I’m leading a team that’s developing a wizarding version. Imagine not having to visit your vault every time you want some cash!”

As Bill talked on about his job, Hermione couldn’t help thinking that he sounded a little like his brother Percy. A cool, laid back, a slightly flashy version, perhaps. She smiled. Her fondness for the Weasleys was as much for their few flaws as their many virtues, now.

“How’s Fleur?” she asked, when Bill’s flow of shop-talk was temporarily interrupted.

“Fleur should be along shortly,” said Bill.

“Oh, that’s nice,” said Hermione, with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. Bill’s wife Fleur was not hugely popular with the rest of the Weasley family, and Hermione had never liked her.

However, Fleur had supported Bill when he’d been seriously injured by Fenrir Greyback, and married him even when there was a risk of him becoming a werewolf. She had fought bravely against Voldemort, and even disguised herself as Harry Potter, putting herself into grave peril.

Irritatingly, she seemed to be the one person who was able to snap Molly Weasley out of her misery. They didn’t talk much, but somehow Molly was always bustling after Fleur to make sure she was comfortable. Harry and Hermione were normally left to fend for themselves. Indeed, Molly had on a number of occasions asked Hermione to fetch Fleur a cup of tea, or to ensure that she had enough pillows.

Even when Fleur made the horribly embarrassing blunder of forgetting that it was Fred, not George Weasley who had died, Molly had brushed it aside. Though Molly had originally disliked Fleur as much as the rest of the family, Fleur’s loyalty to Bill had changed her view completely.

“Hadn’t you better do the charm before she gets here?” asked Hermione. “I assume that she’s not allowed to know about…”

“Oh, they’ve done the charm already,” said Bill. “On the way out, when they returned your wand. It should be working by now. Ah, there she is. Over here, Fleur!” He stood up and waved.

“Bill! What do you mean, you’ve done it already? I wanted to talk about it… hello, Fleur,” said Hermione dolefully as Fleur Weasley sat down at their table.

“’ermione! So nice to see you! You ‘ave done sumsing wiz your ‘air?” Fleur stared hard at Hermione for a second. “No, I sink not,” she said, disappointedly. Hermione gritted her teeth.

“How are you, Fleur? Lovely to see you,” she said, trying to mean it. As Fleur had walked across the room, men and women (and an eleven-year-old boy) had all turned their heads to look at her. Hermione found Fleur trying even in a private setting, but in public she felt at best dowdy, and at worst invisible.

Bill made a small gesture and a cake and a cup of black coffee appeared in front of Fleur. “Hermione’s been visiting the bank,” he said.

“Oh? What are you doing zere?” asked Fleur.

Bill raised a hand to stop her, but it was too late. “I called in to frogspawn mendicant caramel,” she said, and clapped her hands over her mouth.

Fleur clapped her hands with delight. “Bill? Did you do zis?”

“It will take a while to bed in,” said Bill. “After a couple of weeks, it’s only… well, private things you won’t be able to talk about. And you’ll be able to sense when it’s kicking in and just… well, not speak. In the meantime…”

“What can I talk about?” wailed Hermione. “Can I talk about money? Yes, I can. What about numeral Dalmatian corporeal benefit squeeze? Aaah!”

Fleur had been taking a bite from her cake, but burst into laughter and spat crumbs down her front. Even then, Hermione noted sourly, she looked absolutely gorgeous.

“Bill, eet is so funny! Fred, ‘e will be so jealous.”

“George,” said Hermione curtly. “It’s not a joke. Just…” She felt a tickle at the back of her mind, and sought for different words until it disappeared. “It’s just business. Work.”

Bill smiled and squeezed his wife’s shoulder. “I was thinking that we might visit the Burrow next week,” he said. “Will you be there, Her?”


Hermione shook her head. “I have an errand to run,” she said quietly. “It might take the rest of the summer.”