This chapter was translated anew in April 2020
Chapter beta (2nd time): Dani
Chapter translator (2nd time) Aivy
Finished in Knockturn Alley, I let the time appear in front of me with my new wand. Almost three o'clock?! That was late. On the other hand, I had already done a lot of work, just had to tell it like it was.
Now my footsteps took me around the corner into Diagon Alley. After a quick look left and right, slightly in the shadow of the houses, I pulled the hood back again. Here, in the bright Diagon Alley, I would only attract unnecessary attention by covering my face, and I didn't need that at all. Everything was hectic as usual, just like during my first visit here.
A short while later, I spotted the large, slightly sloping building of Gringotts, the bright white facade inviting me to step through the heavy reddish-golden door. I walked up the shiny steps gleaming white in the sun to the entrance, through the brightly polished bronze gate, past the two guard goblins in their scarlet gold embroidered uniforms, who greeted every customer with a bow, and entered the impressive marble vestibule of the bank.
Then I headed to a counter, behind which a less than attractive goblin sat on his footstool and stamped documents. When he looked up, I stepped closer to the desk.
"Good day," I said, bringing my hand to my chest and slightly bowing my head and upper body in a subtle bow.
When I raised my head again and turned my demanding gaze towards him, the goblin looked at me in astonishment and with eyes widened in suspicion. In general, goblins were not very fond of us wizards and witches and I thought they had good reasons for that. Their distrust of the Wizarding World dates back to the 14th century, when the Wizards' Council had tried to agree on a political order with all human-like and magical beings. Bathilda Bagshot had written in her book titled 'History of Magic':
"The goblins refused to submit to wizardkind as they considered it degrading to be called and treated as heteronomous magical beings. Despite the boycott of the goblins, the Wizards' Council ultimately and quite successfully managed to enforce a hierarchical ranking of all magical beings. Even the rebellions in the 16th century did not help the goblins to free themselves from the incapacitation forced onto them by the wizards. Furthermore, the Wizards' Council had decided at that time that the right to carry wands should only be granted to purely human magical people."
Although goblins did not need a wand to perform magic, as they could do it with their long fingers, they still felt this decision was a slight against their kind, which was only too understandable. Even today, they were still dependent on the use of wizards and witches as curse breakers; despite their magical abilities, they were unable to gain access to treasures that were protected by powerful spells. It didn't really surprise me that I now felt this mistrust, which had lasted for centuries. Goblins were not used to being treated with the proper respect that my bow signified.
"Yes," the teller sneered with a sceptical undertone and gave me a shifty look but he seemed to recover quite quickly.
"I am here on a confidential matter and would like to discuss it with someone in private," I said confidently.
The goblin nodded and said: "As you wish, Madam. Then follow me... please."
Busily, he heaved himself from his high stool and went ahead of me to a door on the left side. He held it open for me and we walked through, finding ourselves in an unadorned corridor from which many doors led away. With a brisk gesture, the goblin beckoned to me impatiently, then a door opened further back. I only heard him say something in Gobbledegook and saw him bow as I had bowed before. I'll give you three guesses from where I got the greeting among goblins. Right, I read it in a book!
I stepped next to him and, in the stiffness typical of the species, he said to me: "Please, Mr Rangok awaits you, madam."
"Thank you for your help," I addressed the goblin who had led me here, again bowing politely, and stepped without looking back through the open door which closed by itself. As if by magic, I thought ironically.
Behind an elaborately decorated baroque desk sat a goblin, slightly taller in stature than the one who had brought me here. He also wore a red and gold uniform, only he had more stripes on his shoulder. I repeated the greeting. Yes, exactly, as already said, I got that from a book about magical beings and their customs. Even though I now called myself a black witch, I still thought that all creatures were to be treated equally, no matter if goblin, house elf, centaur or wizard.
"Delighted, Mrs ...?" Rangok spoke with a pleasantly deep timbre in his voice and was apparently astonished by the respectful greeting I had extended to him. On the other hand, he also seemed visibly pleased, since magical humans generally thought they were the superior, better race. However, goblins are regarded as cunning and spiteful contemporaries, which was certainly not even far from the truth. I, however, hoped to establish a good business relationship with them through respect and courtesy, as they were essential to my plans.
"Mr. Rangok, pleased to meet you. My name is Granger, Miss Hermione Granger," I answered honestly.
"Oh. ... But... Please, have a seat." - I heard him take a deep breath as he stared at me intently. - "You see me a little confused because I remembered your appearance differently... You understand? The Prophet?" He apologized suspiciously. I had sat down during his little explanation and placed my hands in my lap modestly, then I looked Rangok firmly in the eye.
"Well, Mr Rangok," I said, "I'm wearing some spells to disguise myself, but I'll undo them for you for a moment." I pulled my wand from my robe to circle it over my head. When all the spells fell away, I was left with my normal appearance. "Well, I hope now, with your background knowledge based on the photos, you can see who I am," I added and showed him a slight, sarcastic lifting of the corners of my mouth.
I gave him a couple of seconds, then I lifted my wand again and muttered the incantations to change my hair and eyes, thus regaining the looks of Minna Cale.
"All precautions. I hope for your discretion," I demanded now very quietly but resolutely. Rangok looked at all this with big eyes glittering with deceit, but also with his mouth slightly opened in astonishment, so that his sharp teeth could be seen.
"Uh, no, no!" He brought himself to heel. "Of course, I mean. We take our clients' wishes very seriously. I promise you, no one will ever know that you... well... are you. However, I am surprised, aren't you as old as ... the Boy-Who-Lived, as far as I remember? How is it you're allowed to do magic?" Disbelief and mistrust resonated in the voice of the goblin, who still sat before me slightly shocked and confused.
"That's right, I shouldn't use magic either. Why I can do it, you needn't be interested in," I said curtly, whereupon his eyes narrowed to slits, which is why I added a little placatorily: "Please understand, I have secrets that no one can discover!" I shrugged my shoulders apologetically, while his deliberate gaze lay on me.
"You are absolutely right! It is immaterial to our business and therefore not my concern. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see you, Miss Granger. What can I do for you? After all, time is money." He now showed himself all business-like and a greedy, sneaky glow entered his eyes.
All they cared about was gold and money, and that was good for me!
"How right you are. Well, my concerns are manifold." I, too, got up to speed now. My open friendliness ended here and gave way to my sharp intellect. Goblins knew how to rip you off mercilessly, so I had to show Rangok what I was made of in terms of my finances. "First, four years ago, my grandmother and aunt died in a plane crash. I was the beneficiary of the life insurance policies and the inherited the assets of both women. My parents deposited the money in Muggle banks in my name. Now my question and request: Could you get this money to Gringotts so I could access it at any time?" I looked at him intently.
Interested, he looked back as he replied: "Well, Miss Granger, we work very closely with the Muggles and also their banks. Please give me a few minutes to consider how we can help you." Then he opened one of the drawers of his desk and took out a parchment, "Miss Hermione..."
"Jean," I said quickly, for the sake of completeness.
"Ah, yes, Miss Hermione Jean Granger. Born on...?"
"September 19, 1979 in Chelsea, London," I answered, whereupon Rangok began to write in a frenzy.
I leaned back in my seat a little and watched his actions. He pushed the parchment into a metal slot at his table. While it disappeared immediately, he used this time and was already looking for other documents. No sooner had he got everything together than a piece of paper landed in front of him from somewhere.
Fascinating, I just thought, always mesmerized by the magic.
A devilish grin, which made the goblin look not particularly nice, now lay on his sharply cut face.
"As it appears to me, that should not be a problem, Miss Granger. You are registered as the beneficiary everywhere and our laws concerning asset management are a bit different from those of the Muggles. So do you want to employ us...?" He tried to appear reputable, but all in all he only seemed devious in his zeal and that made me smile inside. Yes, even for a pragmatic and still very young woman like myself, a visit to the bank could be quite fun.
"That's why I'm here, Mr. Rangok. I hereby instruct you to make this transfer from the Muggle world. Transfer the money ..." here I tilted my head and wondered, "to my present vault or to a new one? Which do you think would be more appropriate? Is my vault secure enough?" My question made the person across the desk look at me calculatingly.
"We'll sort that right away." Again, he was rummaging through parchment before he elicited an, "Ah here!" ...and then gave a negative reply with a frown. "I don't think your school vault is safe enough for such a large sum of money." Then he got all business-like again, and the greedy, devious glint returned to his eyes as he continued, "I would recommend a high-security vault with blood protections. What you have is a standard vault, quite common for students, and at present it contains only ten thousand Galleons," the goblin showed me his contempt quite arrogantly.
"Excuse me? High-security vault? How much is it if ten thousand Galleons is nothing to you?" I was flabbergasted. This broke my mask of indifference, as my parents had only told me that my future was secure and that I would not have to worry about money.
"Please wait just one moment, Miss Granger." He gathered parchments again and slipped them to me. "Now, the documents have been prepared. Please read them." Immediately he continued: "You hereby give us the order to collect your money from the Muggles. If everything is to your satisfaction, you will just have to sign with this Blood Quill."
From now on, he was motionless for a few minutes, just waiting and watching, the thirst for gold gleaming in his eyes.
I, on the other hand, did as I was told, read the document carefully and could not discover anything negative, except for the 1.5 percent expense allowance to the goblins. I picked up the quill and signed it with a flourish. Because of my book-learned knowledge about the brief pain that accompanied the writing with a Blood Quill, similar to being scratched with a blunt edge, I was able to suppress showing any emotion, knowing that Rangok would watch and notice every single twitch of a muscle like a hawk.
The last stroke was done and the document rose and disappeared.
"Very well, we can put this matter to rest in a few minutes. Shall we continue?" He seemed tireless. I just nodded 'cause I didn't want to show him that this speed amazed me.
"The second point of interest would be my inherited house in Wiltshire, Rose Cottage. I don't know if you offer something like that, but I would like to have it professionally protected," I said.
"Correct! We do offer such a service. Things of value need not always be Galleons. Gringotts protects everything of value, that's what we have a field force for. Our mobile protection unit is made up of the best! However, to be on the safe side, only the goblins in your case. A curse breaker will probably not be necessary, so we'll forego the wizard. One moment please," he explained assiduously and was immediately back in his element.
Rangok turned around to reach a shelf on the wall and take a file from a compartment. He opened it and eagerly looked at me again, for the prospect of a deal seemed to inspire the goblin.
"I could offer you a meeting at the site tomorrow around teatime..."
I shortened the whole thing with a quick throw-in: "That's fine. So tomorrow afternoon I will be at Rose Cottage at five o'clock, as I also want to give my blood for a Blood Ward," I said determinedly. The corners of Rangok's mouth pulled up slightly, impressed.
"You know very well what you want, Miss Granger, despite your young age. How delightful, it saves me time!" He bared his teeth in a menacing grin that looked very sardonic to me.
Because of the goblin's hidden compliment, I bowed my head slightly to express my gratitude.
"Well, that settles that point as well."
A rustling could be heard and a document shot out of a slit in the wall behind him to land quickly on the table with the other parchments.
"And that brings us back to point one," he commented, busily skimming the document. "So, I am pleased to inform you that we have opened a blood-protected vault for you in the high security area. The cash value of the two bequests is around six million pounds, or three-and-a-half million Galleons. Your aunt left you a stock portfolio with a current value of five hundred thousand pounds. This has all just been transferred to your new vault," he told me very succinctly and casually about my financial assets. My heartbeat had increased noticeably. I had never been aware that I was rich.
Wow! Unbelievable! I'm going to have to digest this tonight, I thought slightly shocked. Quickly considering the consequences, it would make my future plans and actions easier. One worry less, which is quite nice, I thought, because fortunately I was pretty pragmatic by now and took it as it came. So I said pompously:
"I'm glad, Mr. Rangok, that everything is going so smoothly. Please convert the six million pounds into Galleons and sell the stock to the best price possible at the earliest opportunity. However, you will leave the proceeds in pounds, i.e. Muggle money, as I would also like to have such funds at my disposal. I also want Gringotts to increase the wealth and make a profit." I couldn't help but add an ironic: "Not that this gold has the chance to collect dust."
The goblin's head had started to move back and forth in a steady nod. He looks like the bobblehead figure on the hat rack in our old neighbor's car, flashed spitefully through my mind.
"Very well, as you wish. I have noted everything down and will see that everything is done to your satisfaction. Please sign these two documents again with the Blood Quill. Please note that we will receive a commission of zero point fifteen percent of the vault's contents when we work with the money," he diligently explained.
I read, looked up, nodded and signed. Again I was mesmerized by the ink, which was my own blood, and watched with fascination as the deep dark red stood out against the bright white parchment. This had a certain appeal, albeit a very final one.
"As part of this, you will receive a Blood Purse linked directly to your vault. That will save you a lot of trips, because you won't have to go to the dungeons to fill it up again," he said, holding out a dark brown pouch to me. In the other hand was a small dagger. "You must put blood in the purse. Ten drops should be enough to activate it," he explained to me unnecessarily.
I took both items, opened the pouch and placed it on the desk, took the lavishly bejewelled golden dagger in my right hand and lifted my other one over the pouch. With a bold stroke, I drew the razor-sharp blade across the palm of my hand and curiously examined the resulting superficial cut.
Again I knew Rangok was watching me and again I gave him no sign of any emotion on my part. Without a change of my expression, I closed my left hand to a fist and let my blood drip into the purse. After ten drops, I aimed my wand at the wound and spoke an Episkey, causing it to close within seconds and thus the pain faded immediately.
"There you go. Now it is of no use to anyone but you, Miss Granger. I also have a card here which I'm sure you are familiar with as a Muggle-born. It allows you to withdraw money from any machine or counter in a Muggle bank. Just sign on the back with the Blood Quill and write a four-digit combination of numbers."
I took the card, which was like a Muggle credit card, and did as I was told. As soon as I had written a sequence of numbers on it, there was a sudden loud hissing sound and the numbers disappeared.
"Now I ask you to follow me. You still have to give your blood for the protections on your vault," he said, already rising hastily from his large office chair and stepping to the door on his left. So I also got up and followed him, staying on his heels.
As soon as I stepped through the door, I was surprised. Here, the surroundings were no longer impressive, but rather eerie with the bare dark stone and the corridor illuminated only by torches. I followed him along the narrow tunnel until we came to a cart that would take us down to the depths on railway tracks. We sat down inside and the bumpy and rapid ride through the labyrinth of Gringotts began. It lasted until the lorry came to an abrupt stop.
Astonishingly gallant for a goblin, he helped me to get out of the cart, only to guide me purposefully further through the rough, unadorned corridors until he stopped in front of a huge double door shimmering in a silvery matt finish and assigned me a spot in the middle of the panel of the left door onto which I was to press my hand.
"Please, place your hand here," he instructed nasally and I followed suit. Of course I was one hundred percent sure that I would be stabbed in the hand in a moment. Well, what can I say: I should always bet with myself, because I would have won. A short burst of pain occurred immediately and the gate lit up golden for a moment.
"Wonderful. Would you like to see the contents right away?" he asked profusely. One look at the clock and I shook my head in denial.
"Another time," I said and off we went on our way back to his office. After this was done and I had definitely pocketed all the documents and the pouch, I looked at my watch again and then checked it with a Tempus. It was indeed six pm and according to plan I was still not finished for this evening.
"Fair enough. How come you made it through the trip so well? Many of our customers prefer not to take this journey too often, as they tolerate it much worse." He sounded almost disappointed that I hadn't hung over the edge of the cart, retching. These goblins were a truly vicious bunch, as I discovered once again."Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Granger?"
"I love roller coasters, an invention of the Muggles, and it's quite intense, though not to be compared with your ride into the deep. To be honest, I enjoyed it. And yes, there would be a lot more to discuss but, unfortunately, I'm running out of time," I said.
"No problem at all, then I'll give you an appointment to tackle those matters. Would the day after tomorrow be fine with you, say one o'clock? Shortly after noon?" Mr. Rangok immediately offered dutifully.
I nodded in agreement and said goodbye: "That works for me and thanks for everything. See you the day after tomorrow."
Standing up, just like the goblin, I brought my hand to my heart, bowed, and hurried out of the building. Then I quickly left Diagon Alley to get dinner ready for my parents in time.
What a stress, I thought sarcastically as I made my way to the Apparition Point to twist around my axis and vanish.