Chapter 33: Gringotts
Diagon Alley was unnaturally quiet for the hour. It was only just after dark and yet stores were already closed and the few that remained open were almost completely empty.
Still, Hermione took no chances. With Tom planting his Death Eaters at Hogwarts and the Ministry, she knew she was likely a person of interest to them, someone they were to report her whereabouts upon sighting. So she used a few glamour charms. Her hair was short and black. A beauty mark was added to the top of her left cheek and she wore a pair of glasses. Small things, really, but Hermione had learned that less was often more. Anyone looking for a long, brown haired witch would dismiss her upon first glance, not bothering to take a second. Perhaps if she and Albus had adopted this philosophy when she’d first arrived in the past they wouldn’t be in this situation.
But then we also wouldn’t have a direct line to the way Tom thinks, she thought.
Pushing that aside for later perusal, she continued walking down the uneven cobblestones towards the goblin bank. She made sure to keep her head down, just in case, and took unhurried steps, avoiding potholes and other small landmines that could potentially trip up the three boys trailing behind her in the invisibility cloak.
Good lord help her, but it had been a small humor to see them shuffling under that cloak, squeezing in as close as possible until all three were covered. She remembered fondly the times she, Harry and Ron had run around under that cloak as first years. Needless to say, three seventh year boys was a far tighter fit.
Still, they’d managed it, Hermione applying a small sticking charm just in case. She still wasn’t quite sure how they’d fit on the cart to the vault, but at least the charm would prevent the cloak from flying off them and the small silencio she’d also applied would muffle any grumblings should someone have to sit on another’s lap.
She suppressed a small grin at that, knowing that now was definitely not the time, but also knowing she’d have to find humor where she could since there wasn’t a lot going around these days.
When she reached the steps to Gringotts, she gave her surroundings one last, casual sweep and not seeing anything overtly out of place, she took them and entered the bank.
Gringotts was known for keeping all hours, unlike muggle banks. The goblins were only too happy to take and sort money, and there was definitely enough of them that it was an easy thing for them to work all day and night. They seemed to actually prefer it that way.
Keeping her head down, her black hair obscuring her face, Hermione approached the nearest free goblin. Heart pounding, Hermione nervously wiped the sweat of her palms on her robes before clearing her throat.
“Goblin,” her voice was far stronger than she felt at the moment. After discussing it with Lucius, they’d decided she should maintain the popular pureblood attitude of borderline intolerance for goblins. She’d argued against it, but eventually accepted that someone accessing the LeStrange vault and being far more polite than that bloodline had ever been to the creatures would be imminently more suspicious.
The goblin raised his crooked nose from his paperwork and his beady eyes fixed on her. “Madam?”
Hermione steeled herself. “I wish to access a vault 247 immediately.” Thank you, Lucius, she thought. Sure, they could’ve taken her there if she’d just given the vault’s family name, but knowing the vault number was even better. Goblins were a mistrusting sort. Rightfully so, apparently.
The goblin gave gave no outward sign of shock as he confirmed, “The LeStrange vault?”
Of course he knew the number. As far as she could tell, every goblin knew every account in the bank.
“That is what I said, is it not?” she asked, her contempt thinly veiled.
The goblin stood straighter. For a moment, his eyes fixed on the area right behind her where she imagined the boys were standing with wands in hand. His eyes flicked back to her and he gave her an unsettling grin. “And do you have your key?”
“No,” she drawled. Presenting her wand she continued, “I am cosigned on the vault, but don’t have a key. Hurry up and verify by wand. I don’t have all evening.”
“And your name?”
He was right to ask, but it didn’t stop Hermione’s heart from skipping. “Hermione Riddle,” she ground out. Saying the name caused a deep pain within her and for a moment, tears welled up though she wouldn’t let them fall.
Her wounded wrist flared to life and she thought she heard the stirrings of Tom’s whisper. Not good, she decided.
The goblin again managed no outwardly show of emotion, but Hermione was certain she saw a hint of surprise at the name. He seemed to hesitate briefly before saying, “I will need a sample…” His tone was far more cautious than it had been before.
Quickly, she brought the tip of her wand to her finger and drew a drop of blood before handing it to the goblin. “Be quick,” her abruptness was not faked that time. Her wrist was starting to throb faster and she just knew their time was already running out.
The goblin hopped off his stool and conferred with another. Her wand was then tested and verified as her own, and the drop of blood was tested and proven true as well. When the goblin came back, he was far more obliging than before.
He attempted another smile when their eyes met, but then he quickly dropped his to the floor. Of course he was afraid of her. The goblins had long memories and while the wizarding world may have forgotten the name Riddle, she was positive the goblins haven’t.
“Your wand,” he handed it back. He glanced again to the area behind her before bidding her to follow him to the carts.
She settled herself as small as possible in order to give the boys more room. In her mind’s eye she imagined Ron sitting in Draco’s lap with Harry kind of draped over them. She smiled again and felt a small jab to her back in response. It had to have been from Draco. Like father, like son.
The ride to the vault was just as unsettling as it always was. She had a slight fear of heights that forced her eyes closed most of the way and when they finally reached their stop, she had to tell the goblin to wait as she found her legs again. Merlin, she could practically hear Ron laughing. Harry wouldn’t laugh, but he wouldn’t fight the grin fighting to break out either.
With the vault now before her, Hermione scanned the landing area but found it empty. No one was in this corridor, at least, so it appeared.
“Open the vault and then wait for me be the cart. I don’t know how long I’ll be,” she snapped.
The goblin frowned, but obediently opened the vault and then moved to the cart that was a good ways away. Gathering her courage, Hermione stepped into the vault, giving the boys time to follow her in before closing the door, knowing that it was charmed to remain unlocked to those within.
She heard Harry say, “lumos maxima” and then light exploded around them. With the cloak removed, the boys were quick to put as much distance as possible between them.
The LeStrange vault looked like a slightly more organized Borgin and Burkes. Money seemed gathered in one half of the vault and items on the other. The problem, though, was the sheer volume of items. Rows and rows, some reaching towering heights, stood before them.
“We have to be quick,” Draco murmured. “I’m pretty sure the goblins will send notice that the vault has been accessed.”
“Sweet Merlin, we’ll never find it. Look at all this!” said Ron, halfway between dismayed and impressed by the wealth before them.
Hermione looked at Harry. “Did you really think that would work?”
Harry shrugged. “Not really, but it was worth a try.”
She gave him a small smile. “Right. Well, remember, don’t touch anything. We’re not sure what sort of items are in here, but you can bet they’re cursed and pack a wicked wallop. We all agreed the cup was most likely here, but make sure you keep an eye out for the diadem, and possibly the wand. Time is already short, so I think we should split up.”
Draco shot her a look. “That’s a horrible idea. We’re too vulnerable alone, especially if someone accidentally brushes an item and gets cursed. Let’s do pairs.”
It would take longer, but he was right. There were too many variables to consider in this situation. Like he said, one of them can simply touch an item by accident and fall victim to a painful curse with none of the others the wiser. At least this way they could cover some ground and still be prepared to defend themselves, be it from dark objects or Death Eaters storming in.
“Agreed. Draco and I will cover the left side, you boys cover the right. It’ll be easy to lose track of each other so send up green sparks when you find the horcrux, and red sparks if there’s trouble. Be quick, but methodical. Harry, keep the cloak with you. If worse comes to worse and the Death Eaters come, you need to get yourself out.”
“No Hermione, you should take it, you and Draco are both-”
“No,” she she snapped. “Harry, you know the prophecy. You have to face him and you can’t do that if you’re dead. I may be hurt by Death Eaters, but you know he wants me alive. And sorry Malfoy, but his life is more important than yours right now.”
Draco looked grim. “She’s right, Potter. Take the cloak. I can take care of myself.”
“Let’s get to it,” she said. Not giving Harry and Ron time to protest further, she grabbed Draco’s arm and went off to start their search.
They’d only been at it for a few minutes when she felt compelled to say, “I’m sorry. About what I said, your life not being important.” She kept her eyes furiously scanning the shelves, her wand at the ready.
“That’s not what you said,” Draco murmured. “You said Potter’s was more important, and loathe as I am to admit, you’re right. Scarhead has to make it to the final showdown, but it’s not exactly necessary for me to be there.”
“But you will be,” she promised. “I still don’t like you, but I will do my best to keep you safe.”
“How touching,” he drawled, but she could see him slightly smiling out of the corner of her eye.
“How much time before they get here?” she asked.
For her and Draco, there was no if the Death Eaters came, but when.
“Frankly I’m surprised they’re not here already. You did well with that goblin, but you know as well as I do that they were expecting us.”
That was true. Tom was no fool, and he knew she wasn’t one either. He would’ve anticipated this move, was probably counting on it.
My Hermione… his voice was faint, but he sounded nearly gleeful.
She hissed when her wrist flared white hot. Draco’s eyes shot to her and focused on her hand around her bad wrist. “Fuck,” he muttered.
They moved faster, knowing their time was nearly up. They scoured two more rows when Draco grabbed her arm and pointed up. “Sparks,” he said.
Sure enough, green sparks were coming from the opposite side of the vault, right in the corner. Neither of them needed anymore motivation to have them break out into a run to where the horcrux awaited them. Hermione wasn’t nearly as athletic as Draco so when she began to trip, she was grateful when he yanked her back up and continued to haul arse, his hand forcing her to keep up.
It took only a minute for them to scurry to a stop in the corner the sparks had hailed from, but they were shocked when Harry and Ron arrived seconds after them, both gasping for breath.
“Where is it?” asked Harry, trying to catch his breath.
“You tell us,” Draco said. “We just got here.”
There was a beat of silence.
“You didn’t send up sparks?” Hermione asked lowly, not that she couldn’t already tell the answer.
Harry’s eyes were wide and he was about to respond when laughter cracked and echoed throughout the vault. It was female and tinted with a touch of insanity.
“Bellatrix,” Draco confirmed, right before a curse smashed into the shelves right above them, sending item after item tumbling down towards them.
“Run!” Hermione screamed, shooting off after casting a quick shield above.
They should’ve known better. Of course they’d been here the whole time, waiting for them.
The four of them took off, Draco in the front and leading them to the opposite side of the room. Curses where flying after them, some of them so close she could feel the air whoosh as they slipped by her, barely missing.
“Keep looking for it!” Hermione screamed as she launched stunners in the general direction where the hexes were coming from.
They could hear Bellatrix laughing. “Well hello there ‘ickle babies. Time to come out and plll-aay!”
Her voice was grating and sing-song. Hermione shot Harry a quick glance, gauging his reaction, and was satisfied when she all she saw was the tight clenching of his jaw. He wasn’t about to go off looking for a fight with her, not yet, at least.
“Hermione, down!” Draco yelled, pushing her out of the way of a spell. The look to Harry had almost cost her.
“Ohhh Herrrmione! Come out, you filthy little Mudblood!”
Unlike before, there was a real anger in that one, something that hinted at a very true desire to cause her pain.
That might actually be useful, she thought before shoving Ron out of the way of another hex. They’d been running aimlessly and had been lucky so far, but she knew something was bound to give soon.
“How many are there?” Ron wheezed when they crouched behind another shelf for cover, ducking out to launch a volley of spells and catching their breath.
“No idea, at least five given the directions the spells are coming from,” Harry answered breathlessly.
“They’re herding us,” Draco gritted out. “We need to find the horcrux if it’s still here.”
“It’s here,” Harry said. “I can feel it. It’s got to be here.”
“Bloody hell,” Ron cried as a slicing hex grazed him.
Hermione hit him with a healing charm and decided their plan had well and truly gone to hell and it was time for some Gryffindor impulsiveness.
“Move,” she shoved Draco out of the way. “Reducto!” She hit the shelves shielding them and created a wave of cursed objects flying out and away from them.
They could hear some startled yelps coming from some that were hit, but Hermione ignored them and pushed out back the way they came. She could see Harry looked a bit confused on why they were running towards the danger, but logic told her that if they were trying to herd them then they were likely trying to keep them away from the horcrux.
As they closed in back to where they started, the number of spells aimed at them increased. The boys had adopted her reducto idea of just blasting everything out and aways from them. Clearing a path and hitting random Death Eaters in the process.
A hand shot out from no where, grabbing and twirling Hermione so her back was to his front. She gave a startled yelp when a hand squeezed her throat, causing the others to turn to her in alarm.
“Let her go!” Harry yelled, wand aimed.
The Death Eater chuckled and Hermione instantly relaxed. He lowered his head to her ear, and Severus whispered, “Two rows from where we started. Get it and get yourself out. Tell Draco, fiendfyre.”
She didn’t nod or give the others any indication he’d spoken, but simply stomped on his foot, hit him with a cushioned repellant charm, and started running again. She sidled up to Draco and gasped, “He says fiendfyre.”
Draco nodded, not needing to be told it had been Severus who’d held her.
“Follow me,” she yelled, throwing out another reducto.
The cup was exactly where he said it was, teetered on the very top shelf a mere two rows from where they’d started the fray.
“Hurry,” Ron shouted.
“Go Harry,” Hermione agreed.
They formed a circle around him as Harry quickly reach into his robe and pulled out his shrunken firebolt.
“Get them!” Bellatrix screamed.
They could actually see the Death Eaters now – four, five, bloody hell, seven of them. Far more than they’d anticipated.
“Two for each of us,” Hermione gritted. “Start now!”
She, Ron, and Draco took the two closet to them and began dueling, giving Harry time to fly up and get the cup.
Bellatrix giggled across from her. “I’ve been waiting for this,” she said, eagerness dripping off every word.
Hermione’s wrist throbbed. She’s always been a bit jealous, she could hear Tom whisper.
“Have you now?” Hermione asked mildly, not taking her eyes away from her or the Death Eater behind her.
“Easy Bella,” Severus murmured. “We’ll take her alive, as ordered.”
Bellatrix seethed at that. “She’s not worthy!”
In her peripheral vision she could see Draco and Ron were back to back, throwing spells in a seemingly never ending stream of light from their wands.
She will ignore orders, Hermione, Tom’s voice was stronger, more insistent than it’d ever been. She’s half mental – useful to me still, but deadly. You know what to do.
Hermione’s heart pounded, and she knew there had to be a hidden motive behind Thomas’s help, but Merlin save her, she still trusted him just enough to believe he wouldn’t get her killed.
So instead of joining the others in jumping straight into a duel, Hermione gave the other witch a smirk. “Your lord feels otherwise. He did marry me after all.”
“You’re not fit to lick his boots, Mudblood!” she screeched.
Hermione laughed. “I’ve licked a lot more than that on him.”
Very good, love…
Hermione deflected the curse easily, but before she could retaliate, she heard Harry give a startled yelp. Looking up, she saw him struggling to hold the cup as it multiplied, tiny imitation cups raining down in the space between her and the others. Her heart clenched when she saw him crash somewhere near Ron when his broom was hit with a stray hex. Still, the cups grew between her and them, raising steadily higher.
Even as she decided what needed to be done, she knew Tom had somehow, someway planned this.
A small sacrifice to have you again, he purred in agreement.
Bellatrix was laughing as Harry struggled and didn’t see the look Hermione shot Severus who nodded grimly.
“Draco, now!” she yelled. “Do it now!”
She could see he didn’t want to, but Draco pointed his wand to the growing pile of cups and cast the curse.
Bellatrix stopped laughing as a roar filled the vault and giant flames in the shape of a dragon sprung up instantly, destroying the duplicate cups even as the flames lashed out at nearby wizards. Hermione knew that Draco was strong enough to control the flames, at least for a few moments, but they now had about five minutes tops before the magical fire destroyed everything.
“Harry,” Hermione yelled. She hoped he could hear her over the fire’s roar. “Throw the cup in the fire!”
If the long standing forgetfulness charm wasn’t still working, she would’ve thought to throw in the locket too.
“No!” Bellatrix yelled, but it was only barely audible over the flames.
They had known that to destroy a horcrux one had to use something there was absolutely no escape from. Something that had no cure. Fiendfyre, Hermione remembered reading, was such a curse. It was far too dangerous to attempt at Grimmauld Place, but here in a bank vault, it was possible the fire would be contained.
And nothing, not even the horrible flames separating her from her companions and trapping her with Bellatrix and Severus, could stop the small victorious feeling that swelled when a low, howling scream filled the room. Harry had thrown in the cup.
Her locket flared and her wrist throbbed. Harry was screaming for her, but it sounded like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel.
Bellatrix hit her with a crucio that had her twitching on the floor before Severus mercifully stunned her.
And even in the darkness, she could hear Tom’s voice.
You’re mine now…