Chapter Eleven – The Dagger Unsheathed

“Honestly, it’s not as if we’re the ones who get themselves into trouble every time we’re left alone, is it?”

As Ginny turned towards Hermione and gestured up the corridor, it was as if time began to slow. Further down the corridor they were standing in, the way Harry and Hermione had just come, Ginny heard a furtive intake of breath and the sound of a wand being drawn from an inside pocket, accompanied by the sound of two pairs of leather soles moving stealthily across the rough surface of the corridor floor.

Spinning to her right, she pushed Hermione behind her as she vaulted over the waiting carrier containing her godson, landing with her knees flexed as she was reaching behind her to touch the collar of the jacket she was wearing with her off hand. As a deep voice rang out from beyond the illumination of the torches that were flanking the entrance to the vault, she let go with her conscious mind and simply reacted.

Her off hand flashed forward, hurling the ancient pugio as if it here a short hafted spear. Her eye kept track as the improvised missile flew down the corridor as the wand that appeared in her right hand pulsed twice and streaks of lightning were overtaking the dagger as “Death to the Mudblood whore!” rang out from the darkness.

The light from the two pulses of electricity illuminated the scene some forty feet down the corridor. The one pulse impacted with the wand that a tall, dark complexted wizard was wielding, obliterating the greenish light gathering around the tip with the blue-white blaze as it shattered the wand. The other pulse struck the witch beside him in the center of her chest and threw her backwards down the corridor.

As the witch began to fall back, the pugio struck home in the chest of the wizard, burying itself to the hilt. As he slowly began to topple forward, Ginny noticed that he bore a striking resemblance to a member of Draco Malfoy’s coterie, Zabini.

Time returned to its normal flow, as she leaped forward, putting herself between her friends and any other hostiles in the corridor. At the prompting of the voice in her head, she summoned the dagger to her hand as she carefully moved forward to observe the pair lying on the floor of the corridor.

“What in Merlin’s name just happened?” Looking up, Ginny could see Harry moving towards her, wand in hand. Hermione was up from where Ginny had pushed her to the ground and kneeling beside Teddy’s carrier, scanning the corridor in both directions. The two goblins both had daggers in hand, Seaxwielder scanning the corridor from his position on the other side of the group from Ginny and Griphook speaking calmly, but forcefully into a device in his off hand.

“Harry, I’d say an attack of opportunity.” Looking down with disgust at the witch and wizard lying on the corridor floor, she toed the wizard with her right foot, flipping him over so his face was visible. Under other circumstances, the shocked look on his face would have been comical.

The witch was still lying on her back, twitching as pulses of blue energy were visible along her extremities. Her eyes were rolled back into her head, and her body was arching and then relaxing in time to the pulses along her arms and legs. “Ginevra, you can cancel the spell on her. She won’t be able to summon up the presence of mind to cast a spell for a good hour, even if she had the inclination.”

Sighing, Ginny relaxed and allowed the specifics of the spell she cast to come to the forefront of her mind. Seeing that there was a specific counter-jinx, a simple finite would actually make matters worse, she passed her wand over the witch and nodded as the blue pulses faded and the witch fell back against the floor. “I’m thinking he used to be a Zabini, but I’ve never seen her before.”

“Ginny, what the heck did you just do, and where did you come up with that pig-sticker you’re waving about?” Staring at her for a second, Harry closed his eyes, counted to ten and then opened them again. “Gin, I’m sorry. Thank you for saving Hermione’s life.”

Nodding to him, Ginny looked over his shoulder to where Hermione was watching the pair of them intently. Nodding to her friend, she turned her attention back to Harry. “Harry, I can honestly say that no thanks are necessary, at least to me. And no apologies are necessary, either. I can imagine that I looked like quite the madwoman there for a moment.”

Noticing that Griphook was approaching them, Ginny instinctively took a half step forward, placing herself between Harry and the approaching goblin. Seeing the approving look on his face, she rolled her eyes and stepped back to where she was.

“No need to be embarrassed, I’d be a bit jumpy after something like this if I were you.” Nodding his approval, Griphook looked down with disgust at the pair lying on the floor. “Your Ministry has been notified and a team of goblins will be down here momentarily to take charge of these two.” Looking at Harry, Griphook inclined his head. “Allow me to convey the bank’s sincerest apologies for this happening here. Reparations will be sought from the families involved and you will be kept informed, along with any communications we receive from the Wizengamot after we’re done with them.”

“I’m certain that no one in the bank had anything to do with this, and I’d hope to think that the families of these two had no idea that they were capable of something like this.”

“The Zabini are opportunistic and mercenary, but I’d thought that they were a bit more realistic than this.” Shaking his head in disgust, Griphook turned to the witch who was lying quietly on the floor. “This one, however, is trouble from a family that courts trouble.”

Starring at her, Ginny’s brow furrowed as she began to notice the family resemblances in the face of the witch before her. Her temper spiking as the connection was made, she involuntarily hissed and the dagger was back in her hand before she consciously realized it. “Carrow” was all she could manage to say.

“Yes, Euridice Carrow actually.” Shaking his head, Griphook nodded towards the witch on the floor. “Quite mad, even by the standards of that family.”

Fighting to control her anger and her reaction to the witch in front of her, Ginny took two steps back and willed the dagger back into its sheath. Taking several deep breaths, she could feel Harry and Hermione’s eyes on her as her heartbeat slowed and the tension left her body. “If she’s barking mad compared to the two that were at Hogwarts last year, then she shouldn’t be allowed anywhere without a leash, much less here.”

Inclining his head, Griphook held the pose for several seconds. “Demoiselle Black, my profound apologies for this. The bank is in your debt for your resolving this manner of honor for us. Please be advised that there will be appropriate recompense in your vault before the end of the day.”

Starting to demure, Ginny stopped as Amaudru gave her a crash course in the advanced intricacies of goblin honor that went far beyond the basic lessons her father and brother had given her.

Smiling, Ginny nodded in return. “Grawldkep Griphook, I was honored for the opportunity to serve. I’m certain that Gringott’s exercised extraordinary due diligence on behalf of my patrons and friends, and this was something that no one could have foreseen.” Feeling the surprise and tension coming from Harry and Hermione, she inclined her head to the goblin in return. “I think that the discussion we were going to have when this began is now mandatory, no?”

“Demoiselle Black, I think you are correct.” Nodding towards Harry and Hermione, Griphook smiled. “As was mentioned earlier, there is a conference room just up the corridor. My associate and I will await you at the entrance to the Black vault.”

Taking the surprised nod from Harry for assent, Griphook and Seaxwielder turned and took up positions near the door to the Black family vault complex.

“Harry, Hermione, we really need to talk and we need to do it sooner than later.” Seeing the look on both their faces, she sighed. “Honestly, this is the first chance I’ve had to talk to you.” Turning to Harry, she blushed.

“Harry, would you be upset if I had this conversation with Hermione, first?” Seeing the shocked look on his face, Ginny lowered her eyes. “I’m not trying to hide anything from you, and I know that you’ll know everything, but there are aspects of this that I need to discuss with her. Please?”

Looking at Ginny for a second, Harry studied her intently. Glancing over at Hermione, he shrugged and bent slightly to pick up the carrier that Teddy was in. “We’ll just join the rest of the guys over here and let you witches have your chat.”

Taking one step towards her, Harry wrapped his free arm around Ginny and pulled her to him. “I owe you more than I can ever express, of course I trust you. You needn’t explain anything you don’t want to.”

Kissing her gently on the cheek, Harry nodded to Ginny, who was blushing furiously, and then smiled at Hermione before he turned to join the goblins waiting by the door.

Looking at Hermione, Ginny nodded towards the alcove up the corridor. “Hermione, I’m not certain exactly how much sense all of this will make, but I’ll explain everything I can.”

Shaking her head, Hermione chuckled. “Regardless of what Harry and I found in those moldering vaults this morning, I’m will to wager that you’ve had the more exciting morning.”

Querying Amaudru regarding the feasibility of introducing her to Hermione, Ginny absentmindedly answered, “You don’t know the half of it,” as she opened the door to the conference room.

As she entered the room, Ginny paused for a moment in the door so she could check out the room before continuing. Seeing that the room was empty, as far as she could tell with her augmented senses, she stepped into the room, allowing Hermione to pass her through the door. Closing the door behind them she followed Hermione over to the conference table.

Waiting for the older witch to seat herself in one of the chairs that surrounded the table, Ginny perched herself on the table near to where Hermione was sitting. Reaching into her jacket, she removed the letter she had received earlier from Sirius.

“When I went into my vault, this was waiting for me from Sirius.” Keeping her face neutral, Ginny passed the letter to Hermione. As she unfolded the parchment and began scanning it, she could see the emotions playing across her face.

Placing the letter on the table, Hermione shook her head. “That meddling fool. He had no right…”

“Hermione, he had every right.” Ginny interrupted, placing her hand on Hermione’s to get her attention before she got wound up. “As the Head of House before, and as Harry’s godfather now, he has the right to be worried about the circumstances the three of us have found ourselves in.”

“There’s no obligation for you to worry about, this is preposterous.” Shaking her head, she looked up at Ginny. “Honestly, we don’t feel you’re obligated to us at all.”

“Hermione, there’s something you need to remember.” Seeing the look on her friend’s face, she nodded. “Magic will have its due. Magic doesn’t care about niceties or friendship or anything like that.

This is the one advantage I have over you. I don’t know one tenth of the things you know about magic and the underlying theory that makes it work, but the one thing Mum and Dad drummed into all of us since we were old enough to understand is that Magic itself will not be denied. There are a lot of things you can play fast and loose with, and some people do, but debts and obligations that touch upon your magic will always come due.”

“Exactly what did Sirius guilt you into?” Eyes narrowing, Hermione began thinking about all of the subtle differences in her friend and the astonishing things she had just accomplished during the attack in the corridor.

Neither she nor Harry were slouches at defending themselves, and she was certain that goblins of Griphook’s caliber were very capable, but Ginny had left the four of them standing still and gaping, literally taking care of two assailants before the rest of them had realized that something was amiss.

“It seems that the history of the Black family is a bit different than what we think it is. Before they came to England and became the slightly dodgy, Dark inclined, Slytherin loving group of criminals that we have come to know, back in France they were very respected and a very militant family regarding the Light and protecting society.”

Seeing the mildly surprised look on her friend’s face, Ginny shrugged. “You could have knocked me over with a doxy egg when I heard it, but my source is unimpeachable and I’ve gotten a ton of corroboration for that.” Seeing Hermione’s nod to continue, she sighed.

“This is where it gets a bit ‘strange’.” Seeing Hermione’s raised eyebrow, she giggled. “Seriously. The necklace Sirius mentions is actually an artifact that is the current incarnation of the witch daughter of Charlemagne, the muggles’ Holy Roman Emperor.”

Ginny went on to explain the items that Sirius had left for her, their capabilities and the memories that she had accessed to allow her to utilize the abilities they carried. Seeing the look of disquiet on Hermione’s face, she shrugged. “But what I’ve been dancing around is the fact that these toys come as part of a job. I guess you could say that Kreacher and I are both Black family retainers now. Though it seems that I’m also a part of the family.”

“Ginevra, exactly what did you do?” While not intending to, Hermione began to echo Molly Weasley, much to Ginny’s amusement.

“Well, Mum, it’s like this.” Seeing the shocked look on Hermione’s face, Ginny grinned for a second and then continued. “Remember when I said that the Lenoir family, what the Black’s were called in France, was fairly militant about being champions of the Light?’ Seeing her nod warily, Ginny continued. “It seems that they created an office in the family to ‘deal’ with matters and Dark Wizards that needed a forceful but subtle touch.”

“Ginny, I don’t think I’m reading …” Breaking off, Hermione closed her eyes for a second as she worried her lip between her teeth. Opening her eyes, she stared at her friend in disbelief. “You didn’t?”

“From the look on your face, I’d have to say, ‘I did’.” Trying to keep herself calm, Ginny was starting to worry as Hermione’s face became more distressed.

“The Black Dagger?” Shaking her head, Hermione’s mind swirled with the legends and scraps of information she had read regarding the mysterious magical assassin.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds. The Daggers have, over the centuries, done some fairly drastic things upon occasion, but it’s in the interests of keeping the Dark at bay.” Seeing the look Hermione was giving her, Ginny glared. “For Merlin’s sake, I work for you two. It’s not as if Harry’s going to have me execute four or five quidditch teams so the Cannons will finally have a shot at the championship.”

Taken aback, Hermione shook her head. “Gin, we trust you. I just want to know why?”

Sitting back on the table, Ginny closed her eyes and tried to relax. “Honestly, there were two reasons I took the bloody job.” Opening her eyes, she stared back at her friend.

“Does the scar that Bellatrix gave you at Malfoy’s ever haunt you? Or the one that Dolohov left when he almost killed you at the Ministry?” Seeing the look on Hermione’s face, she shrugged. “Neither of those two should have been walking around to do that, much less the things I survived at school last year.”

Holding up her hand, it was suddenly filled with the matte black pugio that was the symbol of her office. “If someone had been wielding this, if someone had taken up the mantle, then some of the things that happened during the war wouldn’t have happened, some of the people who died might still be alive.” Shaking her head, she blinked back some tears.

“Evil didn’t go on holiday when Harry killed Tom Riddle. There are still Death Eaters out there, and worse. Salazar Slytherin is somewhere out there waiting for an idiot like Lucius Malfoy or Pansy Parkinson to bring him back so he can have his shot at conquering the world.”

Standing up, she closed her eyes and willed the change, so she was standing there dressed in black with the hat and cloak around her. Staring at her friend, she shook her head. “I’m sick to death of waiting for these slimy gits deciding the rules and who has to suffer and who has to die.” Invoking the ability of the ring, she faded from sight. “I’m not going to wait; I’m going to take the fight to them.”

“Ginny, that’s a very fine line you’re choosing to walk. Why?” Waiting, Hermione smiled as her friend faded back into view and perched herself on the table.

“I said there were two reasons. The first reason is that someone needs to do this, and this allows me to feel as if I’m contributing to what we’re doing.” Nodding seriously, Ginny smiled. “I think I can trust you two and you can trust me, so this works on several levels.”

“And the second reason?” Speaking quietly, Hermione tentatively reached over and placed her hand on Ginny’s arm. “Does this have anything to do with what we didn’t discuss that night after the Horcrux?”

Closing her eyes, Ginny nodded. “I know you saw what happened that night. I need to do something to try to take back control of my life. This isn’t a cure-all, but it will allow me to feel in control of things, in control of me.”

“Ginny, there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for you, and we trust you.” Shaking her head, Hermione stepped forward and moved to embrace the younger witch. Wrapping her arms around her, she felt the tension leave Ginny as she held her close. “How much of this do you want me to tell Harry?”

“About the Blacks, everything. According to my source, he’ll find out as soon as we enter the vault.” Stepping back, she eyed Hermione carefully before she continued. “Also, I don’t want to be the reason you two start keeping secrets from each other. I’m not going to ask you to do that, unless it’s necessary.”

“And the other?” Looking apprehensive, Hermione watched the younger witch carefully as she thought for a moment.

“I just don’t want Harry and my brother storming the gates of Azkaban to drag the Carrows out and taking matters into their own hands.” Seeing Hermione was about to protest, Ginny shook her head. “Please, you know those two. Tell me what their first thought will be as soon as they find out what happened.”

“I’d like to think that Luna and I have a bit of control over them, if nothing else we’ll come up with a plan to make certain that the Carrows pay for what happened without any of us spending time there.” Shaking her head, Hermione closed her eyes. “I’ll do my best, but you know how things are with the two of us, there aren’t many things we don’t share.”

“The Headmistress knows, and I was able to give her the names of the other students who were assaulted. Most of them went home afterwards, but we’ve got the testimony of the Resistance members and Poppy about what happened, so the Carrows won’t get away with it, and it’ll be a short wait until they’re punished, once the trials start.”

“Gin, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do…”

“Then make certain Harry doesn’t blame himself when he finds out.” Seeing the shocked look on the other witch’s fact, she nodded. “Honestly, the first thing he’s going to do when the shock wears off is start beating himself up over it. He’ll start with thinking our three week whirlwind romance put me in danger, and then he’ll switch to telling himself if he’d only let me come with you guys, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Staring defiantly, Ginny adamantly shook her head. “I wasn’t the only one, and I certainly wasn’t the first, so he can forget about thinking he put me in danger. If anything, they were watching me closely to see what I knew about Harry’s whereabouts and I think that was one of the reasons it took the Carrows so long to get around to ‘choosing’ me."

“And if we would have brought you along?” Suddenly looking very tired, Hermione slumped back against the table.

“I probably would have gotten everyone killed. And let’s not forget the little hitchhiker I was carrying around in my head. If I would have wormed my way into Harry’s bed one night while you and Ron were on guard, you guys would have woken up to having Tom Riddle Junior being in charge of hunting down his later horcruxes. Though I’m really not certain what would have happened if the two horcruxes had come into conflict with each other?”

“Nothing good, I’m certain.” Sighing, Hermione caught Gin’s eyes and looked at her for several seconds. Seeing the slight nod, she wrapped the younger witch up in a hug and held her close. “Everything will work out.”

“And with me being your own personal assassin?” Smiling at the shocked look on her best friend’s face, she chuckled. “Admit it; Walburga would have killed to have the Black Dagger at her beck and call.”

“Up until the moment she realized that you’ve got a mind of your own, and a pretty well defined mandate, I imagine you’re correct.” Rolling her eyes, Hermione chuckled wickedly. “And just for the record, anytime I’m reading The Daily Prophet and I mutter ‘Won’t someone rid me of this meddlesome reporter?’, I’m just kidding.” Seeing the mischievous look in Ginny’s eyes, she nodded. “I’m serious about that; just ignore me when I’m on my usual rant about Rita Skeeter.”

“I can see you’re going to take all of the fun out of this job. Does this mean I can’t apparate down to Surrey and take care of Harry’s loathsome uncle?”

“Remember, I’m still Harry’s primary guardian angel. When I decide it’s time for Vernon Dursley to pay the piper, we’ll take care of it.”

Smiling, both witches nodded to each other and linked arms. As they reached the door, Ginny transformed her outfit back to the jeans and jacket she had been wearing when they entered. “Ready to go out and face the music?”

“Honestly, its just Harry. We’re getting better at the ‘speed of thought’ recap to bring the other up to speed. I should be able to give him all the basics so he won’t be surprised when we enter the vault before we unlock the door.” Shaking her head, Hermione gave her friend a nervous look. “What I’m not looking forward to is having this particular discussion with your mother.”

“Mum? Why on earth would we ever think about involving my mother in this.” Shaking her head, Ginny looked nervously around. “I’d much rather let Kreacher rehang Walburga’s portrait in my bedroom and let her have a go at me for being a blood traitor.”

“Ah yes, but since one of the things that Harry and I did this morning was restore the Weasley family’s seat in the Wizengamot to them, your father as the newly restored Head of House for the Weasleys will certainly wonder why he’s being notified that his only daughter is also a full fledged member of the Ancient and Honorable House of Black.” Seeing the shocked look on Ginny’s face, Hermione grinned and nodded.

“You did?” Beaming, Ginny was positively giddy. “I know I’ve heard Daddy make mention of it over the years, but no one ever expected that the families that held the attachments to our rights would ever relent.” Shaking her head, she smiled. “All three votes?”

“Everything that is due your family has been restored as far as we can tell.” Smiling, Hermione nodded in agreement. “However, you do see why we need to explain something, at least to Arthur.”

“And if you tell Daddy, Mum will know, sooner or later.” Seeing the look on Hermione’s face, Ginny chuckled. “And no, Australia isn’t quite far enough away so we can let her find out on her own while we’re on holiday.”

“True. I still remember the howler your brother got at school after the little incident with that flying Ford he and Harry managed to wreck.” Shaking her head as the pair of witches stepped out into the corridor, she smirked. “It’s a wonder they ever survived a single moment when I wasn’t with them.”

“Including the moment you punched Malfoy in the nose?” Chuckling, Ginny shook her head as the pair of witches walked up the hall to where Harry and the others were waiting.

“Had to be done. No self respecting witch would have passed up that particular moment.” Grinning impishly, Hermione looked over at Ginny and nodded. “Like you would have done any different.”

“Most likely, but it’s much better that you did it.”

“Why?” Shaking her head, Hermione rolled her eyes at the look on Ginny’s face,

“Because that means I’m the one who gets to tell the kids, “…and then there was the time your mother broke the nose of some pompous prat who called her a ‘mudblood’.”

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