Chapter Five – The Return to the Scene

Climbing the marble steps to the imposing front doors of Gringott’s, Harry and Hermione glanced at each other a bit nervously. ‘Returning to the scene of the crime’ as it were, this was the first time they had publically set foot at Gringott’s since their raid on the Lestrange vault to recover the Hufflepuff Horcrux. Harry had entered under the cover of his invisibility cloak with Bill’s assistance to acquire a gift for Hermione earlier, but this was the first time either of them had openly returned to the bank.

The marble steps and impressive façade brought Harry to mind of the first time he had seen the imposing structure, many years ago with his friend Hagrid. Stopping at the top of the marble steps, Harry gazed at the pair of goblin guardians who were eyeing them suspiciously. Sharing a guilty grin with Hermione, Harry tightened his grip on her hand for a second as they both prepared mentally for their return to Gringott’s.

Giving Ginny a brief ‘certain you want to be seen with us’ look, Harry smiled as she rolled her eyes and nodded. Stepping forward to take hold of the ornate door handle, Harry stepped back as the door began to swing inward before he could take hold of the handle. As the door swung open, the sight of the last being he expected to welcome them to Gringott’s greeted Harry.

Nodding to the goblin waiting expectantly for them, Harry smiled warily. “Griphook, I’m pleased to see you again.”

Nodding, the goblin returned a toothy grin to the trio. “Surprised is most likely the word you are looking for, Master Potter. I would imagine that you would have thought my presence in these hallowed halls would be even more unwelcome than yours.” Nodding gravely to the two witches accompanying Harry, Griphook smiled again. “Mistress Granger, Miss Weasley.” Looking down at Teddy who was staring most intently at the goblin, he smiled. “Young Master Lupin”.

Nodding cautiously to the goblin, Harry looked around a bit before answering. Not seeing a phalanx of fauchard toting goblins bearing down on them, he answered. “Well, ‘surprised’ is another word I would use. However, ‘pleased’ is also in order since your return to these ‘hallowed halls’ would indicate that our presence is not entirely unwelcome.” Watching the goblin carefully, Harry could see a curious look in the goblin’s eyes.

Turning towards Hermione, Griphook sketched a quick bow before speaking. “Mistress Granger, are you familiar with the concept of ‘grawldkep’?”

Brows furrowed in concentration, Hermione studied the goblin carefully before answering. “It’s a very formal phrase, not very common in modern usage. It’s from Middle Gobbledygook, it’s a title for a redresser of wrongs or unbalance.” Looking at the goblin curiously, she shrugged. “I’m not certain how that would apply in this situation.”

Nodding gravely, Griphook sketched another quick bow to her. “My clan and this establishment thank you for your explanation, Mistress. You are very correct. More than just an abstract concept, it’s also a title that is conferred by the Council of Clan Chiefs and the Council of Syndics. A title that has been conveyed upon my most unworthy self and the three of you who accompanied me. The three of you are the first of the Wanded to be accorded such an honor in over seven of your centuries.”

“The three of you must be the luckiest people I’ve ever heard of. You break into a Gringott’s vault, make off with a historical artifact and a bloody dragon and then break out through the front lobby, letting the entire world know that someone did it.” Shaking her head in disbelief, Ginny broke out in laughter. “And then they declare the three of you heroes of the entire Goblin Nation for your trouble.” Ginny watched as the stunned expression on Harry’s face gave way to a furious blush.

Laughing, a sound that was faintly reminiscent of a pan full of rocks caught in a grinding mechanism, Griphook nodded in agreement. “Miss Weasley is essentially correct. As ‘Grawldkep’, the three of you are accorded all of the rights and privileges of members of the Councils.” Shrugging, Griphook turned back to Hermione as he waited for her next question.

Harry surprised them both by finding his voice before she could continue. “And just how did we manage to accomplish that?”

Nodding again, Griphook sketched a minor bow to Hermione. “Ah, the answer to that is you assisted Gringott’s in redressing an unknown blot on our honor. It seems that the four of us didn’t break into a vault; we simply retrieved a stolen item that Gringott’s was unknowingly sheltering in the vault of a family that was using their status to put Gringott’s’ honor at risk and returned it to a rightful agent of ownership. The Lestrange family was in violation of the Accords and we redressed that violation for the Bank.”

“The Cup.” Eyes brightening in comprehension, Hermione nodded enthusiastically. “Bellatrix wasn’t the rightful owner of the Cup, and when she placed it within the family vault; she made the Bank an accomplice to that fact. Riddle killed the rightful owner of the Cup and gave it to her to hide.”

“Not exactly Mistress.” Shaking his head slightly, Griphook smiled. “The witch that the late and unlamented Mr. Riddle killed to obtain possession of the Cup wasn’t the owner. Under Goblin law, she was the rightful holder of the item. Her family had been entrusted with the safekeeping of the Cup until it was needed by one of the Three. Since Master Potter is the heir of Grawldkep Gryffindor and had need of the Cup, it was his right under the Accords to retrieve the item from the vault.”

“Then why in Merlin’s name did we go to all of the trouble of breaking in and almost getting ourselves and you killed?” Shaking her head, Hermione glared at the goblin.

Shrugging his shoulders, Griphook made a curious gesture with his hands before answering. “In answer to that, in the name of Grawldkep Merlin, there are two reasons, Mistress. The first is that since the Ministry at the time was looking for the three of you most vigorously, it was incumbent upon the three of you to enter Gringott’s with a fair amount of stealth and misdirection to keep the Dark Lord from being aware of your presence here.

The second is that, at the time I was assisting you in planning to acquire the Cup, I was unaware of Master Potter’s status since he or his agents hadn’t bothered to inform either the Council or the Wizengamot of his status as Gryffindor’s heir. It was only during my own hearing in front of the Council later that night that the account manager for the Gryffindor family finally revealed this salient fact to the Bank’s management. The status of the Sword and two of you was established most assuredly during that meeting.”

Blinking in surprise, Hermione quickly exchanged a series of thoughts with Harry before responding. “The two of us? I can understand Harry’s status to establish at that time, but what status did Ron or I have to establish?”

Nodding in respect, Griphook grinned briefly before continuing. “Mistress Granger, your status as the current agent for your ‘Grandmother’s’ vaults was established as Master Potter’s status vis-à-vis the Potter, Black, Peverell, Gryffindor, Gaunt, and assorted miscellaneous vaults was established. Her agent was most clear on the terms of your guardianship and the naming of your proxy until you attain your majority.”

Shaking her head, Hermione looked closely at Griphook as she chose her words carefully. “Griphook, I’m of age in both the wizarding and muggle worlds. I’m not certain why I would need either a guardian or a proxy.”

Looking at Hermione for several seconds, Griphook seemed to be waiting for something. When she failed to speak again, he shrugged slightly and nodded. “Different peoples define ‘adulthood’ differently. The wanded have chosen seventeen as an arbitrary marker, the muggle world eighteen. The goblins do not accord the status of an adult in the clan until one proves that they understand the concepts of trade and warfare and have proven successful at both. The centaurs wait for the stars to acknowledge the passing of a foal into the main heard. Elves have decided that thirty-seven is the point at which an elfling is expected to exercise the judgment of an adult. Dwarves take the moment…”

Griphook’s recitation was cut short by laughter from Ginny and Harry and an indignant outburst from Hermione.

“Thirty-seven? Are they mental?” Standing there stunned, Hermione stared at Griphook in disbelief.

Nodding sagely, Griphook smiled toothily at her. “Actually, it’s a much lower bar in terms of percentage of the average lifespan for an elf than it is for a muggle human. The representative was very adamant that a witch of legal age would serve as your proxy in dealing with Gringott’s and your guardian when dealing with other matters until you achieve your majority.”

Snickering, Harry leaned over and kissed Hermione chastely on the cheek. “I only needed to wait two months for Ginny to be of age back when we started this, and we thought that was a long time. The next nineteen years are going to be very difficult to get through.” Turning to Ginny, who was giggling uncontrollably, he smirked. “Any advice to your underage friend here?”

Shocked, Hermione stared open-mouthed at Harry. “You can’t possibly be taking this seriously, can you?”

Shaking her head, Ginny took a couple of seconds to catch her breath before speaking. “Harry, you seem to have a thing for underage women. You might want to see one of those muggle head healers about that.”

“Ginevra, that will be quite enough of that.” Glaring, Hermione fixed Ginny with a withering stare. “I’m eighteen for Merlin’s sake. I’m a mother. Quit making it sound as if Harry’s some sort of perv.” Turning to Harry who was laughing she fixed him with a McGonagall worthy stare. “I’m your wife, you egregious prat. How are you going to explain your way out of that?”

Clearing his throat, a sound that sounded suspiciously like he was trying to keep from laughing, Griphook waited until Hermione rounded on him before speaking. “Mistress, perhaps you should take these matters up with your guardian and proxy.”

Staring at Griphook for several long seconds, Hermione inhaled and held her breath for several seconds more. Exhaling slowly, and noisily, she nodded. “Please accept my apology Grawldkep. Would it be possible to speak with my guardian in the near future?”

Looking suspiciously amused, Griphook nodded slowly. “I’m certain that would be possible.” Reaching into the pouch hanging from his sword belt, he slowly withdrew a scroll. “Here is the information on your guardian.”

Taking the scroll from Griphook, Hermione nodded politely to him. Staring at the roll of parchment in her hand, she bit her lower lip and closed her eyes for several seconds. Shaking her head, she opened her eyes, broke the wax seal on the scroll and began to read.

Muttering to herself, her eyes scanned the document. “Female elfling child of Helen and Alexander Granger… rights and responsibilities… guardianship until reaching her majority … awarded to Mistress of the Ancient…” Stopping in mid line, she jerked her gaze up from the scroll and stared at Griphook in disbelief. Seeing the amused nod, she started chuckling and handed the scroll to Harry.

Scanning down the page, Harry got to the salient paragraph and started laughing. Shaking his head, he looked over at Hermione and rolled his eyes. “I should have known she’d do something like that.”

Looking confused, Ginny was rapidly losing patience with the entire scene. “Who the bloody hell is Hermione’s guardian.” A surprised look on her face and she guessed. “Luna? She’s of age?”

Shaking her head, Hermione took a deep breath. “Luna’s in the same boat that I am, she’s also an elfling. Oh this is priceless.”

Looking exasperated, Ginny grabbed the scroll from Harry and scanned down the document. Looking up with a confused look on her face she stared at Griphook. “The Mistress of the Ancient and Honorable House of Potter? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Shaking his head, Harry sighed. “Gin, you haven’t met Maeve yet. This is exactly the type of thing she’d do. Solve a problem for Hermione and not miss an opportunity to wind her up a bit.”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione nodded. “I’m my own guardian and proxy. Very elegant, very Maeve. Though I suspect that how this was presented is Sirius getting me back for you writing ‘git’ on his forehead while he was sleeping in the common room.”

Nodding to Ginny, Griphook shrugged. “Legally the Mistress of the House of Potter is a different person from Ms Granger here as far as the elves are concerned. The person in question can grant guardianship to the one of the other, thereby sidestepping an issue regarding the marriage of these two.”

Looking concerned, Harry studied Griphook for several seconds. “Why would there be an issue with the elves concerning our marriage? Other than the fact I’m robbing the royal cradle, of course.”

Ignoring the glare Hermione was shooting at Harry, Griphook nodded. “The problem is the Treaty of Ben Loyal and elven marriage law. For the wanded, if a couple who are underage were to enact a binding oath marriage, then both parties would immediately be considered of legal age from that point forward. For the elves, the individuals ‘may’ be granted that status, but it’s not automatic. If such status is not granted, then a legal adult of the house they’re marrying into of the same gender is appointed as a guardian and proxy for the elfling at the discretion of the person’s family head. To keep Ms Granger from being declared an adult under elven law, the Mistress of House Potter was declared her guardian and proxy for matters pertaining to elven law and custom.”

“Is there something here I’m not seeing?” Shaking his head, Harry looked at Hermione sighed.

Biting her lower lip, Hermione thought for several seconds. Shaking her head in amazement, she grimaced. “Maeve mentioned the Treaty of Ben Loyal. Which arranged for the elves to withdraw from our world, the ‘sunlit lands’. If I’m an adult, I’d have to leave.”

“Not precisely. Once you attain your majority, you’re required to choose whether you’ll live the rest of your existence as an elf or a human.” Shaking his head, Griphook looked at Hermione for several seconds. “Irrevocably. The head of your family decided to postpone that decision for you for a while to allow you time to live your life.”

Looking at Harry with surprise, Hermione carefully tried to keep her thoughts private for a second. Seeing the look on his face, she grimaced. “I wasn’t trying to isolate you from this, there were so many thoughts running through my mind just then I was trying to sort them out before I talked to you about it.”

Wrapping his arm around her, Harry hugged her to him. “I was just going to tell you it didn’t matter to me, if you want to go back and live there when the time comes, I’ll be right with you.”

“It would be lovely there, are you certain you wouldn’t be bored?” Shaking her head slightly, Hermione kissed him briefly on the cheek.

“I’m certain we could find something to do to pass the time. Shagging each other senseless without having to worry about Molly dropping in unannounced comes to mind.”  Smirking, Harry tightened his hold on her for a moment.

Laughing, Hermione shook her head and blushed at the looks they were getting from both Ginny and Griphook. “We’re sorry; we were just discussing some possibilities.”

Snickering, Ginny shook her head and blushed. “Please. From the look on both your faces, I know exactly what ‘possibilities’ you were discussing.” Turning to Griphook, Ginny nodded formally. “Sir, is there anything that would keep my friends here from accessing their accounts today?”

Nodding in return, Griphook acknowledged Ginny with an approving look in his eye. “Miss Weasley, there is nothing I am aware of that would keep business from being transacted today for either you or your friends, since Mistress Granger’s guardian is present. Since these two will be occupied for a bit of time getting access to various vaults and accounts, I can offer you the services of a junior manager to take you to your vault and then they could accompany you to rejoin your companions when you are finished.” Finishing with a slight bow, Griphook waited for a response from Ginny.

Looking a bit surprised, Ginny cast a quick look at Hermione and Harry before turning back to the goblin. “I’m sorry, but you must be confusing me with some other witch.”

Looking her over, Griphook shook his head. “You are Ginevra Molly Weasley, daughter of Arthur and Molly Weasley, are you not?” Seeing her nod slowly, Griphook stared at her calmly, “Then you are the Mistress of Vault 823, per the instructions of the Will of Sirius Orion Black. Your parents signed the acceptance documents for the vault when they attended the provisional reading of Mr. Black’s will. The vault was held in trust, pending your majority, and will now be available to you without limitation.”

Shaking her head, Ginny stared at the goblin. “Even so, and I’m not disputing your word or knowledge, we’re well over a month short of my seventeenth birthday.”

Nodding, Griphook smiled. “Very true, Miss Weasley. However, as I pointed out earlier, ‘of age’ is a fluid thing depending upon your viewpoint. Since Gringott’s is charged with managing the affairs of Vault 823 until you are of age and the Wizengamot and the Ministry are in a bit of disarray for the foreseeable future so that getting guidance from the Records Archive is a chancy thing, Gringott’s’ charter allows us to substitute our own standards and judgment in matters such as this. The Council of Syndics for the Bank has taken note of your prowess in both warfare and business over the last year and has declared you and a number of your yearmates to be competent adults in the eyes of the Goblin Nation.”

Reaching into his belt pouch, Griphook produced a moderately sized key and held it out to the witch. Taking it hesitantly, Ginny wrapped her fingers around it and winced slightly as the key extracted a small amount of blood, sealing itself to her. A slow smile graced her face as she nodded in acceptance. “I thank you for your attention to detail and professional expertise, Grawldkep. May your businesses prosper, your clan thrive, and your enemies flounder.” Ginny inclined her head to the goblin, holding her nod for five seconds.

“And may your business prosper, your family flourish, and your enemies be confounded Vaultholder Weasley. Shall I call for a junior manager to conduct you to your vault?

Smiling, Ginny nodded. “I would be appreciative of that courtesy, Grawldkep. Though I will be disappointed to lose your expertise, I’m certain any Clan member you chose to assist me will be a credit to the Council and the Bank.”

Looking at all three, Griphook gestured towards the interior of the bank. “If you four will accompany me, I think we can be about the business of conducting business, no?”

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