Chapter 12: The Balance of the Scales
Harlot Granger Spreads Her Legs for the Goblin King,
Much to the Horror of Infinitely More Worthy Wizarding Witches
The trollop Hermione Granger does it again by ensorceling the Goblin King with the same spells she infamously used to force many wizards, Viktor Krum, Harry Potter, and Ronald Weasley among her unfortunate victims, into emotional love triangles where she pitted their love against each other and then callously dumped them to seek out other unwary victims upon whom to work her insidious wiles.
Using her status as war-heroine, Granger used her influences to smooze her way into the goblin king's court despite having not been invited by the Ministry and then made herself the only acceptable choice at a ball meant to cater to witches far above her own paltry status.
Successfully sabotaging all of her competitors' beautiful gowns and robes, Granger became the sole focus of the king, who quickly fell victim to her vile charms. She condemned hundreds of innocent witches to spend multiple gruelling years of physical labour without the benefit of magic due to an insidious clause in the contract everyone signed in order to be put on the list for a guaranteed date and dance with the king at the masquerade ball.
What is this insidious clause, you might ask?
Oh, readers, do let me enlighten you.
Anyone who was caught using glamours or body-altering magic, influencers, or enhancements of any kind upon themselves or their attire is required to serve a number of years digging vaults by hand (literally) in some of the harshest environments in the world, the length of said "service" to be determined depending on the specifics of the infraction of each person in question.
Well, it's perfectly obvious, isn't it?
Granger sabotaged the whole lot, preferring to win by virtue of being the only candidate left.
Surely, our good Ministry will not permit this shocking travesty of justice to stand?
The contracts that were signed by all those other well-meaning witches (and some wizards) are obviously completely illegal. Goblin legal phrasing is well-known to be quite confusing in nature, if not completely obscure!
Granger should not be allowed to get away with her latest in a long string of horrific manipulations, much less this latest shameful bid for power. The Ministry needs to step up and bring her to justice.
Hermione Granger deserves to be chucked into Azkaban as the remorseless Muggle criminal she is.
For the protection of good wizarding society, Granger MUST remain locked up. preferably for the remainder of her days.
"Conners, how the hell did this last article get here?"
"Via owl, sir."
"Where is Rita?"
"Haven't heard from her since she covered the goblin masquerade ball."
"I want her scrawny little arse in my office immediately the very moment she gets back."
"Who the fuck do you think manages the finances of this paper, Conners?"
"Get the hell out of here now and find Rita. I want her grovelling on her knees before the Goblin Nation right in front of Merlin and everyone. I want her to make a public apology ASAP … before the goblins proceed to destroy this paper, all because fucking Rita refuses to let go of her stupid vendetta against Hermione Granger. Oh, make that Queen Hermione. And, by the way, get me the head of our records office. I want every single one of Rita's cases sent to the Aurors office by noon today. If she's been moonlighting as a fucking bug and endangering our own reputation, I want that blonde bitch to writhe ."
An absolutely livid Barnabas Cuffe slammed his fist down upon a moving photograph of an oddly-hued golden beetle with markings highly reminiscent of Rita's signature red spectacles on its head.
"You are not using this paper as a shield to protect you from the fallout of playing your petty little games, Rita. I will not tolerate being made a fool."
"You don't scare me, Granger," Rita hissed.
"Oh, I don't particularly care if you're scared, Rita." Hermione smiled with a hint of fang … and multiple rows of fine lizard-like teeth.
"You kill me and you'll rot in Azkaban!"
"Kill you?" Hermione laughed. "Don't be absurd. You're in the very heart of the Goblin Nation. The Ministry has no authority here. But killing you? How terribly … human."
" I know all the real dirt about this sodding place, Granger, and I will see you drown in it!"
"Do you really?"
Rita smiled smugly, pulling a stone out of her pocket. "I know that you've been using this place to hide Albus Dumbledore!"
Hermione blinked at that, clearly baffled. "What?"
"Lemon sherbets," Rita said, smirking at the small stone in her hand, and it shimmered as it turned into a remarkably detailed figurine of a phoenix. It pulsed with newly revealed, distinctively human magic.
The entire cavern shook violently amidst the ensuing Longbottom-worthy explosion as a powerful blast of magic tore through, sending a rain of stone and random objects flying in all directions.
As the dust cleared, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore brushed the coating of debris off himself as he stepped out of the hollow in the stone wall— a hollow shaped exactly like a certain wizard. He cracked his neck and peered around himself, slightly disoriented.
The entire cavern was black as pitch and heavily charred, shards of crystal scattered about everywhere as limp, burnt vegetation clearly marked the path of a blast of extremely powerful magic.
He was quite dizzy and had a bit of a nasty headache. He picked up the phoenix figurine off the cavern floor, frowning as he noticed a woman's pale hand pinned beneath a pile of debris.
He would have to boggle about that later.
He needed to get to his safe house as soon as possible.
He held the figurine out. "Licorice snaps."
A shadow moved as vines sprouted up out of the char and regrew. Crystals bloomed and unfurled as the cavern began to glow. Fungus and lichens shimmered as they erupted from the dust and ash. Glowing eyes blinked in the gloom, staring— watching.
"Well, well, well, Headmaster, was this your grand plan? Your wondrous escape? "
Albus whirled. "Severus."
"Tell me, did I kill someone who looked like you or was it a mere simulacrum?"
"Severus, I require you to take me someplace safe."
Albus stared at him meaningfully, his blue eyes narrowed. "On your Vow. Severus."
"You are in the safest place possible, Albus," Severus said simply.
"Severus," Albus growled warningly.
"No one will ever find you here," Severus said, arching a brow. "No one but goblins."
Severus looked down at the ground where a pale hand seemed to glow in the dim gloom. "Was she a part of your plan too?"
"She never could resist a damn story," Albus muttered derisively.
"Funny way to show gratitude to the one who saved you."
Albus' expression darkened. "Harry was supposed to be the one to do that."
"So he could do what, precisely? Survive Riddle only to die in a horrific cavern collapse?"
"My spell would have recognised Harry."
"His wand, you mean," a voice said as the sound of bones cracking interrupted. Hermione stood in the midst of the gloom, her voluminous hair covered in dirt, moss, ash, and a little of everything else.
Dumbledore's eyes widened in startled surprise. "Miss Granger?"
"In the flesh, if not for a lack of trying on your part," Hermione said, eyeing the very still form of Rita Skeeter. "Your plan would never have worked without Skeeter. Harry would never have come here with the Elder wand. He broke it in half and threw it into the river so no one would have to die for its power again."
Dumbledore seemed to pale at that. "He what?"
"Threw it in a river. Never to be seen again."
Albus' eyebrow was twitching.
"Well," Hermione said, itching her ear. "This is what you get for not telling anyone your plans," she said. "You let everyone believe you were dead so you could come back and become the Master of Death, hrm?"
"You're far too clever for your own good, Miss Granger."
"Oh, I'm so much more than clever," Hermione said stonily. "To the wizarding public, I'm a harlot, you see. A whore. I seduce men, boys, kings— my own so-called friends think I'm utterly mad for walking into the Goblin Nation and offering to submit myself to their justice— maybe I am mad. Being tortured by the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange can really put things into perspective."
She pulled out a small, smooth stone— the very same stone that had plagued her for months, refusing to be transfigured. "Could this be what you're looking for, Dumbledore?"
"Ahh, so it is," Hermione said calmly. "Having been in an explosion, I remembered something I was told when I first started learning goblin magic. One, goblins are immortal except when killed by another immortal and only if outside the physical limits of the Underground— the true Goblin Kingdom. Now— what I didn't realise at the time was that goblin magic had been blocked away. Kept from merging with this world for reasons I had no idea— until today."
Severus eyed Hermione with furrowed brows, having realised she had experienced an epiphany she hadn't been able to share with him.
"Now, I asked myself as rubble came cascading down upon my head, what could possibly hope to benefit from such a large and showy magical explosion, and then I remembered there had been one before. Before my time, you see. An explosion that killed the previous goblin queen— and everyone blamed it on one unfortunate goblin who had a very bad handle on explosives. But goblins don't really dabble in human magic. They have their own. So they had no reason to scan for it."
Hermione tilted her head. "I did. This area fought me for months upon months. While all others eventually came to terms with me. But this area— no. Until something rather miraculous happened here, and all of it returned to normal except for this one stone." Hermione's eyes met Dumbledore's and for a moment he seemed to think he'd won, but then he pulled back sharply with a jerk of his head as phantom teeth and claws seemed to scrape and claw at his eyes and mind.
"This is the real Resurrection Stone, isn't it? The one type of magic that never quite fits and whose very essence explodes when coming into contact with destructive magics. This— resurrected you, didn't it?"
"Was the one you gave Harry merely a skillful construct? Built on the phantoms of those you knew he would most desperately want to see before facing his death like a man? Was his death supposed to release you? And the wand would return to its longing original owner? So you could take the cloak, the stone, the wand— and finally become the Master of Death?"
"The world would have been a far better place," Dumbledore claimed stubbornly.
"But it takes a death to preserve a life, doesn't it? There is always a price. There is always some semblance of balance that Creation itself demands."
"So you killed an immortal with an immortal being's stone to preserve your life in case something unforeseen happened. Something unplanned."
"Gaunt's ring," Severus whispered, his voice a low tremor. "For the stone you required to convince Potter of his so-called destiny—"
"He always did require a more emotional form of persuasion."
"And the curse? Was that to convince him? Or me?"
Albus seemed to look slightly uncomfortable. "My return to the magical world is not to be published."
"Oh, and what exactly do you plan to say when Rita crawls off to let everyone know that you're very much alive, hrm?"
Albus stared blankly at where he thought Rita had been.
Her arm was there— still pinned under a large slab of stone— but the rest of her was currently missing in action.
"You said this place is safe."
"How could it be if she is out there spreading her stories?"
"You are safer here, Albus, than anywhere in the world— well any human place. You saw to that, didn't you?"
Albus did not look terribly convinced.
"Even if that hideous woman does manage to find her way to the surface and tells everyone, the chances of them surviving a trek into the Underground are very, very slim, indeed.
"I want out of here, Severus," Albus demanded. " Now ."
"Very well," Snape said with a weary sigh. He gestured to the nearby minecart that had miraculously survived the explosion with tracks intact.
Albus stared at him.
"As I said, Albus. This is the safest place you could be." Snape cracked his neck by moving his head to the side. "Getting in and out are equally difficult. I would recommend the cart as the walk would be— quite long. The days when this place was just a hole in the ground, isolated and connected by only one tunnel are long gone. But, if you should choose to leave here— things will know you left."
Albus' tone was rife with scepticism.
"The Nation is filled with various native species, teeming with life the likes of which the human world cannot fathom." Severus rubbed the top of his nose with his fingers. "They tend to focus their attention quite avidly on those who do not belong here."
Albus suddenly noticed the movement amongst the shadows, some large and some small, all skittering about in the darkness, his human vision unable to glean much more detail than that of strange, indistinct shadows, however.
Hermione turned, perhaps catching sight of the shadows moving in the dark, and Albus promptly seized the opportunity to snatch her wand out of her hand and grab her by the arm, pinning her it harshly behind her back. She winced in pain as he pulled her tightly against himself.
"I truly am sorry, Miss Granger, but if I'm going to be riding in a ghastly goblin death trap, I'm not going to be there alone."
Hermione staggered backwards as Albus dragged her into the minecart.
"They are hardly death traps," Hermione protested, grimacing in pain at the rough treatment.
"Let us both hope that proves to be the case," Albus hissed. "Severus. Get me out of here. Safely. At once."
"How, precisely, do you expect me to manage that when you're sitting in a two-person minecart?"
"I am quite sure you'll think of something, lest something … unfortunate should befall Miss Granger."
"Unless you expect me to somehow miraculously transform into Fawkes and carry the minecart out, I rather doubt it," Severus pointed out. "And do you seriously believe that threatening the witch who was a constant thorn in my side for all of her school years is going to spontaneously move my heart?"
Doubt shaded Dumbledore's icy blue eyes.
Suddenly, Dumbledore straightened, the infamous twinkle settling in his eyes as a flaming ball of feathers swiftly slammed into Dumbledore and they disappeared in a blazing fireball of swirling phoenix magic.
"Fuck!"Harry spat as he threw off the invisibility cloak that had been concealing himself and Kingsley. " Nowwhat?"
Snape curled his lip, his fangs glinting. "He will not get far."
"With a sodding phoenix?"
Snape gave Harry a look.
"Phoenixes are creatures of the air and surface world," he said. "He may have found his way in, but the way he came in will not take him back out."
"What?" Harry barked.
Snape narrowed his eyes.
"Mr Potter," Kingsley said sternly. " Do remember that you are addressing a king."
Harry eyed Snape, clearly suspicious. "Why would a king want to look like Severus Snape?"
Snape's eyes shifted to peer at Harry. "You're such a bloody imbecile, Potter."
The gears started to click together in Harry's poor underutilised brain, stalled, started again, and then ground to a noisy, shard-producing halt as the rusty gears gave up the ghost and shattered completely.
"No fucking way," Harry finally blurted.
Snape moved his head forward to crack his neck. "And you're an Auror. How comforting to know the great Harry Potter is saving us from Dark Wizards all."
Kingsley gave Snape a sideways glance.
Snape waved his hand dismissively. "Put your little toy back on. It will not be long before my lady Queen brings them right back here."
Something seemed to hit Harry straight on the head as his eyes widened. "You— You— Hermione—"
Snape's grin was absolutely feral and filled with fine, lizard-like teeth. "We shagged here. Multiple times. In most glorious consummation. Yes."
"There is no way she shagged Severus Snape!" Harry cried.
"Well, to be technical about it, Potter," Severus drawled. "She shagged Jareth, King of the Goblins who also happens to be Severus Snape." He smiled ferally. "I assure you that the entire Nation heard no complaints."
Harry's face was beetroot red and he looked like he was going to explode, but Kingsley put one finger on Harry's forehead and narrowed his eyes.
Harry immediately cowed as if sweet sanity had suddenly returned in the midst of a raging temper tantrum. "I— I'm sorry, Sir. I— it's just. She and Ron were meant. Everyone knew it."
"You abandoned her to the Nation's justice. Not once did you bother to visit. Not once did you even attempt to check on her. You let the rumour mongers and the likes of Skeeter tell you what to think. You let some stupid opinion that she was meant for your best mate cloud your judgement. And your best mate? He sowed his oats liberally amongst as many witches as he could get— I know because his vaults showed exactly how much he spent to impress them. The Order of Merlin stipend only goes so far— and all of this happens when he's supposedly "meant" for her? And none of that went towards paying off his debt to the Nation, no. He had you pay that, even."
"He had to help his parents pay for rebuilding the Burrow!"
"Lies, Potter," Snape said with a scowl. "I know exactly who paid off the Weasley's housing loan and put their honour down as the guarantee it would be paid off, and it most definitely was not Ronald Weasley."
"Fortunately, goblins always take care of their own, and Hermione Jean Granger was one of us long before she chose to bind herself to me."
"No, Molly and Arthur would have said something to me! I offered to help them!" Harry protested.
"And then Hermione Granger came to the Nation to offer herself up to their justice and signed upon her honour that the Weasley's loan would be paid—"
Severus sneered at Harry.
"But when word got out that Hermione Granger had admitted to having broken into a bank, even for the right reasons with her two best mates— the Wizarding world couldn't handle that. And Molly and Arthur Weasley decided to default on their loan, fully intending to bury Hermione in their debt to make her pay for slandering their youngest son and the son they always wanted. So, they didn't need YOURmoney, Potter— save for one small thing: the Ministry's token agreement that you and the Weasley whelp would pay a set fine for having troubled the Goblin Nation during a time of war— anything to keep the money flowing— the loans coming— the finances juggled."
Severus narrowed his eyes. "And the other Weasley—well, she saw to the rest, didn't she?"
Harry's brows knit together his face twisted in conflict.
"You've been a fine friend, indeed," said Snape finally, his dark brows knitting together. "With a friend like you, who needs enemies?"
"And before you go running at the mouth and yell at me about how wrong I am, you might want to recall that it was only Hermione asking me to help you retrieve the remnants of your funds from Ginevra's dress buying binge that left you with any galleons at all. Any other goblin would have simply let you rot without a single qualm. But she is far more sympathetic to your plight than I—"
"She invested the gems into the markets herself— ensuring that you would not be left in abject poverty living off a relatively meagre Auror's salary when compared your family inheritance."
Harry's face paled. "Hermione did that? For me ?"
"You do not deserve her compassion," Snape said coolly.
As Kingsley seemed to digest the magnitude of what he'd missed between the members of the once-Order, he pulled the invisibility cloak over them both.
When Fawkes had circled the earthen passages for what seemed like hours, he finally landed, his strength exhausted from his efforts.
Dumbledore found himself back at the very beginning of his journey, and his frustration level had become astronomically high.
"Why are we back to the beginning?" he demanded.
Hermione was silent.
He pointed Hermione's wand at her, dispelling the magical gag that had kept her from annoying him during the flight. He winced as the wand fought him even for a simple spell, resisting his every intention no matter how strong his will was. He hadn't had such a fight with a wand before— even the Elder Wand had been smooth after defeating Grindlewald.
"Why are we back where we started?" he demanded again.
Hermione tilted her head, silent.
"Don't test me Miss Granger."
"She did not, but I did."
Dumbledore startled, whirling with Hermione's wand in his hand. "Who's there? Hominum Revelio!"
He frowned as nothing happened.
A shimmering, wisp-covered female walked out of the wall—
She pointed a thin finger at him. "Albus Dumbledore. The Beyond speaks of you in whispers and yells." Her voice was elongated into a slight hiss. "Death speaks of you most loudly of all."
"You cannot harm me, phantom."
The phantom smiled as her voice seemed to ring out from all around.
"You killed me here,
My unhallowed grave.
A shameful place,
Once a cave.
My life for yours,
An unwilling exchange,
To preserve your life,
And escape death prearranged.
This was a place,
Far from our Home,
A place you sought,
For my catacomb.
But this is now,
The heart of the Nation—
A world combined,
To the goblin's elation.
And a goblin cannot die
Within the arms of their Nation,
Which means your life is forfeit,
Much to your aggravation."
Dumbledore used a spell to freeze the apparition in place, smiling with satisfaction as it was kept in place. "You won't have me, spirit."
"But, I will," said a familiar voice.
Albus turned slowly, his face pale. He saw Harry Potter standing beside Hermione Granger.
Harry had the cloak around his shoulders and the Elder Wand in his hand, a grim expression on his face. Granger purposely placed a certain stone in Harry's other hand even as Albus tried to lunge forward—
An icy cold blast of magic exploded from the floor, covering it with hoarfrost. Bony fingers emerged from the stone, arm bones following, then the rest of the skeletal body.
"Harry, please—" Albus said, his voice trembling. "It was for the greater good!"
"Harry Potter," Death's voice was like the creak of old forest trees in the middle of November. "What. Would. You. Require. Of. Death?"
"Harry—" Albus interjected.
Harry stood straighter. "I give you back your Hallows that you may restore balance where balance was unbalanced. I give these to you freely. My ancestors took what should never have left Your Domain. I return them so you may be whole—and mortals may no longer be tempted."
Death reached out to the objects and as his skeletal hands passed over them, they seemed to slither up and over his bonds and form full robes, a missing rib, and a glowing eye. "You had coaching in your phrasing, Harry Potter," Death rumbled, "but I accept your offer and your— generosity when generation after generation could not do what you have done."
Harry looked at Hermione. "I had help."
"For your act, Harry Potter, I hold you no ill will. Live a long life and I will see you again at the end as all ends eventually."
He turned to Hermione. He floated closer and cradled her head in his skeletal hands. "You, child of man not child of the Underground, Chosen of my small winged friends. They speak of you highly. Her. Mio. Ne." His voice was an ethereal whisper. "You found my stone and you did not use it. You coached your friend to not engage my ire. You expect nothing of me, this I feel, but Death does not ignore true selflessness in the midst of great temptation."
Death placed a kiss upon her brow, and there was a heated blast of magic as bones erupted from her back as a scaled membrane spread between them forming into larger versions of her beloved lizard's wings. "I name you queen of my treasured lizards that you may shelter and protect them even as they shelter and protect you. May your sprogs be many and blessed here in the heart of the Goblin Nation."
"And you, King Jareth—" Death turned to regard him. "Your path has been convoluted and tortured, and I fear there was little I could do to stop it without my Hallows— but I can offer you this, now." He took Severus' head between his hands and pressed a kiss to his forehead.
Severus cried out as wings erupted from his back much the same as Hermione's.
"May your sprogs be plentiful and blessed, Jareth King. May your rule with your queen be long and memorable as your father's was before you."
Severus took Hermione into his embrace, their wings entangling in a warm embrace.
Death turned to Dumbledore. "My stone was never intended to leave my Realm. You used it not to bring back the spirits to bring peace to your heart. You used it to kill an immortal and preserve your own life. You shattered the Goblin Nation, driving a wedge between two worlds that should have been together— you subjugated a king's son, twisting his form into a mortal's shell, beating down his pride and mind until only you could save him from himself. I would expect such duplicity from the schemes of a demon, not a mortal."
Death's jaw opened as a pale blue mist escaped. "I return what was unjustly killed, but Creation demands its Balance. It is your time, now, Albus. Time to face the death you should have had and the deaths you have caused with your meddling."
Albus attempted to flee, but Death simply blew on the spectre that floated suspended in mid-air.
She became more solid as Albus became more transparent.
As Albus frantically passed his hands through himself in horror, the ghostly woman became more real, more solid, and more alive.
"Mum," Jareth gasped, stumbling forward.
"Son—" the elder queen said, moving forward to embrace him. "My beautiful son. How I've missed you. Look at these wings! How blessed you are!"
They embraced as a warm gust of magic and wind blew through the cavern. Ethereal chains formed around Albus' spirit, binding his legs with shackles.
"And now you come Home to my Domain, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore," Death said with a creak of his head. "I have many that have waited a long time to speak with you face to face."
Albus' look of pure terror was the last thing the gathered crowd saw as Death sank into the hoarfrost and disappeared, dragging Dumbledore's spirit deep into the pathways that led only to Death's Domain.
"Whoa," Harry said, eloquent as ever.
"Mum," Jareth said, taking his mother's hand and bringing her over to Hermione. "This is Hermione— my beloved. My queen."
The queen of old and the new curtseyed to the other.
"It is my pleasure and honour to meet you, Hermione," the elder queen said with a smile. "May I hug you?"
Hermione nodded silently, stunned.
Jareth's mother embraced Hermione with her arms and pulled her close. "Thank you for saving not only my son but our people, our Nation. A mother worries that she will not see her son grow up and find his own happiness. I have never been so glad to be wrong."
Hermione smiled, a tear running down her cheek. "I look forward to getting to know you, Your Highness."
The elder queen beamed mischievously. "I have baby albums to share."
"MUM!" Jareth hissed.
The two queens smiled conspiratorially as Jareth, King of the Goblins realised he was indeed outnumbered and doomed.
There was a sputtering and the sound of falling rock as the dusty leathered form of Alastor Moody walked out of the darkness. "How the bloody hell did I get here?"
"Don't look at me Mad-Eye. I think my brother gave me bad directions." The red-headed, freckled young wizard rubbed his head.
A pink-haired woman tripped and fell face-first into Moody, earning his scowl. "Nymphadora Tonks, I swear to Merlin I'm going to hex your boots to stick to the floor!"
"It's TONKS!" the pink-now-flaming green-haired woman roared.
"Could you two please stop yelling. My head hurts."
"Moony, you have no idea what a head hurting feels like!"
"Padfoot. I love you, but I'm going to hex your face, mate."
Harry Potter, the hero to the Wizarding World, passed the hell out on the stone floor as tiny aether lizards flitted around his head in a halo of magical sparks.
"Too much?" Fred asked, scratching his ear idly as he stared at Harry's spreadeagle form.
Kingsley rubbed his temples as he took in the scene before him. "This is going to take a lot of paperwork."
"Kerrrkek!" the baffled Fawkes chirped from the minecart's rim.
"Wicked, Hermione! You've done sprouted wings!" Fred cackled.
"And a crown," Tonks noted.
Sirius looked around, nudging Lupin with his elbow. "What's going on?"
Kingsley sighed heavily. "Nothing a large pot of tea and a Pensieve and a massive pile of parchment won't solve."
"Why the paperwork?" Remus asked.
"Because the world thinks you all are dead," Kingsley said, deadpan.
Remus, Sirius, Nymphadora, Alastor, and Fred exchanged wide-eyed glances. "Oh," they said together.