Beta Love: Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, DeepShadows2

Warning: Shenanigans.


A King Without a Queen

Chapter 13


Inigo let out a burp and spit out a wing casing, licked his eyeball, and snapped at a random fly-by insect before burrowing back into Hermione's hair.

"Who knew vault lizards could belch," Severus said dryly, arching an eyebrow at the lizard in question.

Hermione shook her head and chuckled as she sipped her tea. "I thought it was perfectly normal."

"Maybe for vault lizards, perhaps," Severus mused.

"Excuse me, but can we please get back to the whole Severus is actually the goblin king thing and Granger is now the queen of an entire goblin nation? And that you sprouted wings. And that Death waltzed right in there and served Dumbledore personally!" Draco was pouting again, stabbing at the glazed prawns on his plate with a fork in a very uncivilised manner, hundreds of years of ingrained pureblood family manners and social graces thrown heedlessly aside in a fit of temper.

The goblin serving as their waiter was staring at the massacre of innocent and rather expensive shellfish, looking rather perturbed.

"I suppose we could," Severus said with a shrug.

"How long have you been seeing each other?" Draco demanded suddenly.

Severus and Hermione exchanged glances. "We haven't really."

Draco frowned. "Pardon?"

"We never got that far. We kept being—well, interrupted."

Someone, somewhere in the Underground, dropped a pan with a resounding clatter.

"You went and asked Granger here to marry you—just like that?" Draco stared, his grey eyes very wide.

"Well, you did say, how did you put it—" Severus looked upward, remembering. "Ah, yes. 'Really should go over there, sweep her off her feet and have some disgustingly brilliant babies together' is what you said."

Draco stared down at his mangled prawns with avid interest, his pale face flushing brightly. "I didn't quite mean all in the same night!"

"Oh? My mistake," Severus purred with an elongated drawl as he itched one wing with the other wing.

Draco's head snapped up. "You don't make mistakes."

"On the contrary, I have made many," Severus said. "For some inexplicable reason, however, Hermione seems to believe that I am worth forgiving."

Draco ate some of his food, deep in thought. "What's going to happen to Potter and the Weasel?"

Severus steepled his fingertips with a sigh. "The former Mrs Potter did have every right to pull out monies from the Potter vault at the time that she did, however—the Nation has agreed to sell off the remains of the dress' gold and gems on the rare markets to help Potter recoup at least part of what he lost. Hermione did the juggling and investing herself. Fortunately for him—Ms Weasley will not be in need of a tattered dress robe where she will be working—and she seemed eager enough be rid of it for a—"

Severus smiled. "She gets a choice in her new work environment. Ms Weasley can choose between Antarctica, Greenland, the Tibetan Plateau, or Derweze, Turkmenistan."

"Frozen wasteland or a gas crater that's perpetually on fire?"

"She gets a choice, Draco," Severus pointed out, his fangs glinting in a goblin sneer. "The others do not. Mostly because the other jilted lovers were not nearly as—reasonable as Potter."

"Scarhead? Reasonable?"

"Surprising, indeed—considering, however, that he was blindsided by someone he genuinely thought he could trust—he has kept a far leveller head about it all when compared to his best mate, Weasley."

"Ronald apparently nicked an entire case of firewhisky and proceeded to drink himself into a stupor. He awoke the next morning hanging upside down in the Weasleys' orchard back in St Ottery Catchpole. The good news is he didn't manage to asphyxiate himself in the process." Hermione shook her head. "Molly is a complete wreck, of course, because she knew nothing about Ginevra's plans, and now she can't even call Harry her son-in-law anymore. That long-held dream of keeping Harry close to the Weasley family forever is now just so much smoke in the wind."

"You know, my father always warned me to never cross a goblin—but he also said the same thing about you. Seems to me he was right on both counts."

Snape bared his teeth in a goblin smile. "Hn."

Draco ate with a few more of his manners intact for a while. "I kind of hate to ask this because I know most of the history involved, but what of the returners? Like Black."

Severus took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I think Black learned something while on the other side. He's—different. You can see how he takes in the world now. He is grateful to just be able to breathe. Touch. See. Perhaps being on that other side for a time gave him something even Azkaban could not. In that—he seems to have bonded well with Potter and helped him deal with his betrayals and his sham of a marriage."

"Strangely, he seemed to truly see me for the first time," Severus observed. "The haze was gone from him. The blind hate. He seemed actually remorseful. He swore to me on Death that he would spend the remainder of his life trying to make up for his failures. That he was tired of thinking that his only lasting legacy would be the Black family madness, obsession, and attempted murder."

Draco's brows knit together. "Pretty deep for a Black. I mean—Mum is probably one of the most stable Blacks I know. Now that Auntie Bella isn't around, she and Aunt Andromeda are actually having tea on Saturdays. I never knew her—hell, I never even knew she had a third sister until I got older. Aunt Andromeda is a bit eccentric, but I think she has this sense of humour about her that I didn't expect. Purebloods are raised to believe that being outcast from a family is essentially death. She did all right."

"High praise from you, Draco," Severus commented.

"Don't derail me, Severus," he sniffed. "What about the others?"

"George is, of course, utterly ecstatic to have his brother back," Hermione said. "He said now they'd have three ears between them to better hear their mum's gnashing of teeth. After he heard about what his family had done to me, well, I'm glad they are supporting me, but I feel bad that he had to come back to find his family in a shambles."

"Lupin and his wild-haired Tonks get to know their son again," Severus said thoughtfully. "And given how the Weasleys have been the past few years, I'm thinking that is a move in the right direction."

"Alastor actually apologised to me," Severus said after a moment of puzzled frowning. "I never thought I'd live to see that day." Severus seemed thoughtful. "Apparently, Death showed them all a lot of interesting things. Truths. Things they had caused. Things they had missed. I think that is why Albus has a long line of spirits waiting to speak with him. Or worse."

"So Fred knows the sins of his parents and his brothers?"

"Bill works for the Nation as a Cursebreaker," Severus said. "He of all people knows the inner workings of the Nation and what it all means. He and George were perhaps the only ones to sympathise with my lady queen but neither of them knew of their parents' duplicity. The one called Charlie, well, he was never really close to his family to want to be tied up in that drama. But to Fred's credit, and George's as well, once they found out about their parents saddling Hermione with the debt for their house—they immediately cut ties with them. Considering how much business they do with Gringotts, it was a wise financial decision as well as an ethical one. Oddly, we have Potter to thank for that epiphany revealed. Death did not show them everything, but it seems all those that he allowed back have a kind of penance to live for or some renewed raison de vivre. They were all unjustly manipulated or killed by Albus, if not directly, through his endless schemes. And while it did not allow for more people to be given the chance at life again, it did allow for some of the more recent victims of Albus'. There were those like Lily and Potter—they died not due to their manipulation by Albus but due to their foolish trust in Pettigrew. Their mistakes were entirely their own."

Severus frowned. "While my personal feeling is that Black deserves no kindness from me, he was—one of the ones most frequently manipulated by Dumbledore. He was simply manipulated in a way that inflated his ego and set him upon me like a rabid dog."

"It did not make him any less of a bastard, however," Severus sighed, "but there is some doubt as to if he would have been as homicidal if not for Albus' continual indulgence and overprotective manipulation for Lupin's condition. They were all used—just not quite as much as I was."

Hermione placed her hand over his, and Severus drew his fingers over her knuckles with his free hand. "I think we were all pawns on his ultimate living chessboard. Harry was isolated and ostracised then brought back without any real support save for the conveniently willing Weasleys. Who knows what other long-reaching plans he had if he'd intended Harry to be the one to free him in the event of his 'death'."

Hermione tilted her head, remembering. "He is the one who gave me the book with the original story of the three brothers. Ironically, he is the one who gave me the way to realise what that stone really was."

"But you said Harry broke the Elder Wand and threw it into the river," Draco said, frowning.

"He did—but it was the Elder Wand," Hermione explained. "I suppose it pulled itself together and waited for Harry to call upon it again."

"I'm kind of impressed that Scarhead would even be willing to do so much considering he wouldn't even stand up for you before."

Hermione tilted her head. "He's had quite a few shocking epiphanies in the last week or so that may have helped him come to a few others."

"You wearing a crown notwithstanding?" Draco said with a sniff.

Hermione shrugged. "I think his mind was more broken by the fact of who gave me that crown." She eyed Severus with a heated look which he returned with interest.

"So, why did you help him?" Draco asked. "And please for the love of Merlin do not snog in front of me. Even knowing who you are, were, am, whatever—I'm just not ready to see that!"

Hermione's shoulders quaked with laughter as Severus gave Draco a steeply arched eyebrow, the tip of his tongue running across his lizard-like pointed teeth. "I helped him for the friend he was to me when I sorely needed one. Times and relationships may have changed since then, but for a lonely girl who had no friends in a magical world—it meant a lot to me then. Had it not been for that, I may not have been here. All debts are paid, and even he did not deserve the ire of Death—or for his entire line to be cursed by Him for insults and arrogance."

Draco nodded. "I suppose I can see it well enough when you put it that way. I don't exactly hang out with my old mates from Slytherin—I have to admit many of my memories included them. Of course, Crabbe immolated himself, so there is no reconciliation to be had there. Goyle—I think he just wants to live a quiet life away from Britain and all the things that went wrong here. If anything, Crabbe's death woke up something in the both of us about how deep we had fallen into a hole of our own making."

Hermione frowned. "I am truly sorry that we couldn't save Crabbe too."

Draco huffed quietly. "You saved Gregory—you didn't have to do that. By all rights, you didn't have to save me either. He wasn't a victim of Dumbledore like the others. He was a victim of pureblood politics and his blind faith in it. Dumbledore didn't have to encourage anything there. It was already working against us from birth."

"And yet, here you are," Hermione said. "Parlaying with the likes of goblins and Mudbloods."

Severus winced at the word choice, but Hermione squeezed his hand. "After a lifetime of prejudice, I choose to not let a word dictate my life's worth. While a word can hurt, its power is limited by what I allow it to get away with."

Severus looked into her eyes and his thumb brushed against her bottom lip. "I can think of a word for you," he growled deeply.

Hermione's eyes widened. "Oh? And what word would that be? Know-it-all? Aggravating?"

"Mine," he said definitively, his head dipping so his mouth could capture hers. His hair shed the oil once more, springing up like a Kabuki wig.

Draco gave a strangled cry as he turned to stare fixedly in the other direction, not wanting to see evidence of the man he'd known as Severus all his life snogging the life out of a witch he'd grown up with.

When Jareth pulled away reluctantly, his dark eyes smiling, Hermione bit her lip.

"I think I can live with that, my king," Hermione whispered heatedly.

"I'm not listening!" Draco said, blushing furiously and sticking his fingers into his ears.


Molly and Arthur Weasley walked into Gringotts to see about drawing some money from their account to fund a new business venture. Molly wanted to start up a family bakery, but Arthur really just wanted to retire. Fortunately, after all the post-war renovations that were made to the Burrow, it was perfectly set up for a home business, but there was still quite a bit of paperwork that had to be filled out and the relevant fees paid to various offices.

Molly had at first wanted to ask Harry for the start-up money since he'd offered to help them out before, but with Ginevra having foolishly annulled their marriage just to get a shot at becoming the goblin queen, Harry Potter wasn't even talking to them anymore.

And now their dear Ginny was serving time digging out vaults without magic in some Merlin-forsaken hole in the ground in bloody Greenland.

And that little slag, Hermione!

Chosen as queen?

Skeeter was so right about her, she figured in her jealousy. Hermione surely had some sort of secret foul concoction that lured in men and bound them to serve her selfish Muggle whims.

Well, it was a good thing that Hermione was the one who had signed off on the loan that made it possible for them to rebuild the Burrow. She couldn't default on it without bringing shame upon herself and her farce of a marriage to some bloody goblin who imagined himself a king.

Fred had returned, but he had chosen to throw his lot in with George and believed his twin over the word of his own mother.

Just like Bill. He said that to try and deceive the Goblin Nation was pure folly. That what they did to Hermione Granger was absolutely appalling and unforgivable.

Now whispers were floating about that possibly Hermione Granger had been right to ask the Goblin Nation for forgiveness instead of just letting it get swept under the war rug, and that had turned her sons even more against her!

She couldn't even celebrate Fred's return!

She couldn't babysit sweet little Teddy anymore because the newly returned Remus and Nymphadora had quickly retrieved their son from Andromeda and fled Great Britain for parts unknown. They were now rumoured to be living in an Unplottable and Secret-Kept home somewhere far from the British isles.

To top it all off, Andromeda flatly refused to tell her where they had gone or when Teddy would be visiting next.

So, Molly was determined to build her own business and do something she'd always wanted to do long before she ended up having so many utterly ungrateful and disloyal children.

Fred and George had even released a new "stress-relieving" squeezable figurine named the "Molly Coddle," and it bore quite a striking resemblance to herself—

Ungrateful!

Disrespectful!

To hell with them!

She was going to have her own bakery and do what she wanted to do for a change.

Molly walked up to the free goblin at the nearby desk. The goblin was scribbling with a plume-like quill.

"May I help you?"

"I'd like to make a withdrawal from the Weasley vault."

There was a lizard perched on the goblin's shoulder, and it hiss-barked at Molly, mouth agape and teeth bared in clear threat.

The goblin nudged the lizard slightly with one hand, and the reptile glowered at Molly before unfolding its wings and fluttering off. Another lizard poked its head out of the quill cup, its glowing eyes fixated on Molly.

"Wand please," the goblin said.

Molly put her wand on the counter.

The goblin passed its hand over it. Molly could never tell a male goblin from a female goblin. They all looked the same—toothy and short with sour-looking faces. This one looked—well, somewhat less short, but it was still toothy and had a sour expression.

The goblin worked on a parchment furiously, his quill working extra fast. "Do you have your key?"

"Of course."

"Very well, Dragnar, take the Weasleys to their vault."

A rather scrawny-looking goblin bobbed his head. "Of course, Elder Ragetooth. At once."

Molly frowned as the scrawnier goblin seemed to have a rainbow turkey-feathered butt and waddle-strutted like the bird whose tail it wore. What strange creatures.

Molly and Arthur got into the minecart with the goblin and waited. It took off slowly, carrying them all into the gloom of the vault passageways. It got progressively darker as they went, but the passages were lit with glowing plants and crystals.

That was new, Molly thought to herself.

She frowned as what seemed to be flying lizards flitted about in the air, and that had never been something she'd seen going down to her vaults before. One landed in her hair, and she shooed it off frantically, earning herself a painful bite on the finger.

Arthur yelped, having done much the same, and he sucked on his finger where it smarted as he gave her a baffled look.

Molly's head was pounding as if a herd of Erumpets were galloping around inside her skull, and her ears were awash with sound. Tweets, hisses, scrapes—echoes upon echoes.

She winced, sticking her fingers in her ears.

The relief was only temporary and secondary to the pain of her throbbing finger.

By the time the minecart stopped, and the goblin beckoned for them to use their key on the vault door, both Molly and Arthur were wincing from the pain of an epic migraine as well as the ongoing cacophony of hisses and squeaks and other sounds that seemed to fill the entire underground.

The sight of their galleons all safe and sound brought a slight comfort, but the sight of a group of lizards sitting on top of them caused Molly to screech at them, flailing her arms to get them to leave.

The lizards flew off, irritated by her voice, but they weren't the only ones.

Arthur put his fingers into his ears, grimacing in pain. The goblin that had brought them there seemed ready to cry, his face twisted in both anguish and suffering. But Molly was not entirely immune to the effect of her own voice—the sound of it seemed amplified and torturous, and she fell to the ground clutching her head, her ears covered with her hands.

The sound in the vault seemed to echo off the coins and walls, and a few bats flew out of the crannies and away, annoyed by Molly's shrill screeching.

The goblin that had brought them there seemed to stand as far away as possible.

Still, Molly seemed at least satisfied that the money was still there for the taking—far more than they'd had before thanks to not having to make payments on the loan for the Burrow. They'd fully intended to pay it all off when Hermione had put herself down as the guarantee the loan would be paid off.

But then Hermione had to go and blab to the goblins that she wanted to make things right for having released a dragon and wrecked however many layers of the goblin caverns—as if the war didn't make it all perfectly excusable.

Why did she have to bring it up?

Why did she have to drag their poor Ronnie into it too? And Harry too? Harry had saved the bloody Country, for Merlin's sake. He deserved to be off the hook for some paltry little debt the goblins for sure already had the money to cover in full anyway.

Everyone knew the goblins were a bunch of miserable little misers and bloody slept on piles of gold!

Everyone.

Hermione should have simply kept her bloody trap shut and just let the boys be proper heroes. After all they had been through, they deserved to get a good pat on the back and some positive press for once.

Usually, he thought his beloved Mollywobbles could be a teensy bit, well … extreme, but that little bint had gone and mucked up their youngest son's reputation and then flatly refused to marry him.

The papers were all too clear on how she had shamelessly manipulated her way into the goblin king's fancy, and now their only daughter was being forced to perform manual labour in some foreign hellhole so far away from home.

No, Hermione Granger was completely deserving of being stuck with whatever was left on that loan they'd taken out to rebuild the Burrow. If she was really the goblin king's new bride, then she could always use her Muggle sexual wiles to get the king to look the other way on her debt,just like she shamelessly manipulated everyone and everything else.

I wish they'd leave.

Yeah, they're really noisy.

Way too noisy.

Humans are always noisy.

She's not noisy.

She's different. She's ours.

I guess so—

The bats agree.

"WHO'S THERE?!" Molly demanded shrilly. Her high-pitched shriek at top volume caused Arthur to shudder and visibly wince.

Such a noisy one.

Too noisy.

Maybe she'll take her money and leave.

Maybe.

Bats rustled above them, agitated.

Go away.

Our babies are trying to sleep.

We're trying to sleep.

Rude human cow.

Take your coins and begone.

SCREEEEEE!

"Come on, let's go," Arthur said, tugging on his wife's sleeve. He wanted out of the vault. His head was pounding.

Molly scooped up several handfuls of galleons into her bag and fled out the vault, Arthur close behind.

Yeah, get out of here!

Stupid human!

Rude human!

"I want out of this place right now," Molly bemoaned as they hopped in the cart.

Arthur put an arm around her as the "chatter" of voices seemed to follow them from the vault, all demanding that they leave at once.


"You wish to take out another loan?" the "old" goblin said as his quill swiftly moved over parchment.

Defaulter!

Dishonourable wench!

Watch your mouth! The Queen doesn't like it when we curse!

Sorry!

The goblin narrowed his eyes at the Weasleys. "The amount desired?"

Molly and Arthur exchanged glances.

"Three thousand galleons," Arthur said as he peered down at the parchment he had filled out to include licencing, legal, equipment, cost of start-up supplies, ingredients, and for adding a little space onto the Burrow for the actual baking ovens and racks.

"One year, two, five, or ten-year contract?" the goblin said.

"Ten."

The goblin continued to scribble. One taloned finger moved around the beads on the abacus, and he wrinkled his nose before writing down his calculations.

"Twenty-two percent interest. The loan can be paid in full at any time to spare yourself any remaining interest."

"That's fine," Molly said eagerly.

Pushy.

She should read the contract.

Yeah, if they miss a payment then the interest doubles.

"We can do this without the insults!" Molly seethed.

The goblin's quill paused as he looked up. "Does my silence offend you?"

Molly looked around to see many goblins staring blankly at her. Utterly silent. Mouths unmoving.

Yet, even so—

Rude.

Not quiet at all.

I wonder if they sleep.

Not if she's talking.

Wait, are you sure that's a she? It's so hard to tell with humans.

Maybe the screechy one is the male.

Like Saltlick. He's always singing.

If you choose to dignify that by calling it singing.

Screeching, singing. Same difference.

I'd prefer singing. Especially if the king and queen are doing it.

True.

Molly saw not one mouth move, yet the conversation was loud. She could hear chairs being shifted around, quills moving, footsteps going to and fro, and the grating sound of people talking, crying, having conversations out on the main concourse.

Arthur was wincing near her, and she grit her teeth. She began to open her mouth to yell again when—

"Please remain here a moment as your new loan is underwritten and approved by the elders." The goblin stood and walked away from the desk.

She looks about ready to explode.

Maybe she will. Well or he will. Whatever it is.

I still think it's a she. She has those roundish things on her front side.

Mammaries?

Whateveries.

Passamaquaties?

Ascites?

No, I don't think that's right.

"STOP TALKING ABOUT MY BREASTS!" Molly yelled, her face turning a bright shade of beetroot.

Dead silence filled Gringotts as absolutely everyone, goblin and human alike, all turned to stare holes through her.

Molly turned an even deeper beetroot red and then stared down at the desk as an elder goblin approached.

"Your loan has been approved with a twenty-two percent rate of interest, Mr and Mrs Weasley. You will be each other's guarantors. Should you default on your loan, your vault will be closed and sealed, and its fate at that point will be determined by our King and Queen. If you wish to read through the details before signing, you may have your barrister come here to read it. It will be saved here for one month from today."

"It's fine!" Molly said, picking up a quill and signing on the line. She elbowed Arthur sharply and vultured over him until he signed.

The elder goblin's eyebrows shot up in surprise, but he took a quill and signed on the witness line. "As you wish," he said. He gestured to another goblin who brought over a velvet bag. They counted out three thousand galleons and put them back into the sack. "Your loan, Mr and Mrs Weasley. Your payments start next month on the first."

Molly snatched the bag of coins and grabbed Arthur by the arm and stormed out.

"Bye, bye rude man."

"That was the lady."

"Bye, bye rude lady!"

"Good riddance."

"Think they'll pay it back on time?"

"Who knows."

"Did you brush your teeth after biting them?"

"Of course. The Queen encourages clean mouths."

The elder goblin watched the vault lizards fly off to find their mistress and whatever mischief they tended to get into on the way there and back again. He smiled.

"Elder."

"Yes?"

"Why would the lizards gift such annoying humans?"

The elder smirked. "No, Raguda," the older goblin said. "It was not the gift they gave them. It was the curse."

Raguda's eyes widened. "Oh."


The vault lizards lined up as Hermione passed out small cubes of soft and chewy sweet rice cakes. Each cube was a different colour, and each lizard seemed to take pride in whatever colour they received, jealously guarding it from all other lizards.

Hermione laughed as the lizards in her mane of hair chewed noisily, each enjoying the sticky, chewy treat they were given.

"You spoil them rotten," Severus said.

Hermione smiled. "They are wonderful."

The lizards hummed their approval and a few of the various coloured babies bit Hermione's ears with solidarity.

Hermione sighed. "I'll never not be bitten by vault lizards."

The lizards crooned in approval, biting her a second time for good measure.

"You'd think they were trying to turn you into a goblin," Severus said, dipping his head to capture his wife's mouth with a kiss.

The lizards hummed in approval again even as one lizard chomped the king on the nose.

Severus' hair sprang up into the wild mane that Jareth was notorious for, and he sighed in weary tolerance.

Hermione giggled, but she snuggled into her husband's embrace.

Severus tutted his tongue, but he held her close with a soft expression, his claws tenderly combing her mane.

"So Harry Flooed me earlier this morning," Hermione said as she looked up into his eyes.

"Dare I ask what drama follows the House of Potter?" Severus wrinkled his nose with a sniff.

Hermione tapped his nose with her finger with a smile. "It seems Aurors were called in for a wellness check on the Burrow this morning."

"Was it consumed in Fiendfyre?" he asked dryly. "Woe be the day."

Hermione snorted. "No, but both Molly and Arthur were boarded up inside the Burrow with padding on the walls to keep out all light and sound, and they were inside whimpering that the birds wouldn't stop screaming at each other and the garden creatures wouldn't stop having loud sex."

Severus' face scrunched as he tried not to laugh, failed, and just shook his head as he chortled. "The Curse, I presume?"

The vault lizards hummed approvingly.

Hermione rubbed one of the lizards under the chin affectionately. "So it would seem."

Jareth put one talon under a lizard's chin and looked it in the eye. "So, how strong of a bite did each of them get? How long will the venom curse afflict them?"

The lizard chomped his finger lovingly and flew off, looking mischievous.

Hermione shrugged. "I think—they gave them a rather extra-long and loving sort of bite. And by loving, I mean spiteful. How long that means for Arthur and Molly, however, I do not know. My winged friends never let the effects of their bite wear off of me for me to even make an educated guess."

A pink and a blue lizard nodded their heads decisively in agreement from her shoulder.

"Well, they are still biting you, and you're a hundred percent goblin, now," Severus said with a chuckle.

"And they are still biting you as well, my husband King," Hermione said with a smug smile.

He rubbed his bitten nose. "So it would seem."

We bite her because we love her.

Yup!

We bite him because he's a git, but she loves him anyway.

Also, yup!

A few of the lizards flew off, chasing insects to eat.

Severus scowled, shaking his head.

Hermione covered her mouth with her hand and tried not to burst into laughter.

He sighed. "Why is it that it always feels like love is determined to make me a fool?"

Hermione's expression softened. She snuggled closer and placed a tender kiss on his jaw. "I think love just took some time letting us know that we were fools to attempt looking elsewhere."

Jareth plucked a pink lizard off his ear where it sank its baby teeth into the shell. "Ow, you insufferable little creature."

The vault lizard bit his finger and flew off making cute baby noises.

"I seem to be cursed to deal with painfully irritating children of whatever species," Severus muttered as he ran one hand through his kabuki-like hair.

Hermione stiffened in his embrace.

Severus' brows furrowed as he placed a curled index finger under her chin. "Wife."

"Husband?" Hermione said, wincing as she steadfastly tried to look anywhere but in his eyes.

"Something you wish to share with the rest of the class, Ms Granger," he drawled in his viscerally potent professorial voice.

Hermione closed her eyes and slumped. She turned her face to his and opened one eye. One hand reached to touch his steep eyebrows, her fingertips running over the fine, shimmering scales that "shadowed" his eyes with silver-white light. She swallowed with difficulty, biting her lip. "And if you were to be faced with the prospect of hypothetically non-irritating children?"

Severus' eyes narrowed. "Do such creatures even exist in the real world?"

Hermione murmured into his row of buttons, "Perhaps in a little over eight months."

Jareth's eyes suddenly widened as comprehension dawned. His lips mouthed, "Goblets?"

Hermione nodded with a touch of trepidation.

He hoisted her up in his arms and spun her around joyfully. "Goblets!" he cried, his face breaking into a broad smile.

The Goblin Nation simultaneously stilled their quills as they heard the queen's squeal of delight and their king's announcement of, "Goblets!" just before his voice sang out, "But I'll be there for you-ou-ou/As the world falls down."

The Nation burst into a flurry of celebration as news of the coming of royal goblets spread throughout every floor and every vault. Every lizard and every bat made sure to spread the joyous news into every crook and cranny.

Back in the royal living area, Jareth's smiling mum held a delicate blossoming orchid in her hands, which she lightly blew on. The flower bloomed wider accompanied by the tinkling sound of bells as powerful magic swirled around it. A nova of magic blew through the Goblin Nation as the mingled sound of bells and children's laughter filled the air as it travelled to every last inhabitant of their world.


Harry flinched as he saw Draco was already seated in the room, a young goblin girl with a glorious head of soot black curls squealing with joy as he bounced her up and down on his knee. "Malfoy."

"Potter," Draco said calmly as he touched noses with the young goblet.

"Uncle Draco, why do you call Uncle Harry "Potter"?"

"Because, my dear Alira," Draco said smoothly. "That is also his name, and when we were children, we always called each other by our surnames. It's a habit, love"

"That's strange," the girl-goblet said as she snuggled into his lap.

"We are all a little strange, Alira," Draco chuckled. "Now, where is your darling brother?"

SPLAT!

A spoonful of blueberry mash hit Harry on the forehead and dribbled down his skin like messy rivulets of purple blood.

"Ah, well that answers that," Draco said as a chestnut-haired goblet went giggling off into the next room with nothing on but his diaper.

"Highness, come back here at once!" an older goblin with an oddly turkey-feathered butt cried as he ran after the child.

"HEHEHHEHEHEHEHE!" came the giggly answer.

SPLAT!

Harry sighed and cleaned the goo off his face with his wand. "Cashel is certainly in rare form today."

"Earlier he was only wearing his diaper."

"He's still only wearing his diaper."

"On his head."

"Oh."

"I'm fairly certain that one is not mine," Severus sniffed as he entered the room.

"And whose do you think he would be if not yours?" Hermione said as she seemed to glide in. The vault lizards had Cashel hogtied and trussed up like he was about to undergo a cocoon metamorphosis. They flew him over to the royal playpen and dumped him inside, purposely neglecting to untie him from his impromptu swaddle.

"Gilderoy Lockhart, obviously," Jareth muttered as he poured out the tea.

Hermione spit out her tea in a mist. "Excuse me?"

"Do not fear," the elder queen said cheerfully as she appeared to place an intricate flower arrangement on the table. "My son used to do the very same thing only he wore my bra on his head instead."

"MOTHER!" Severus hissed, his hair standing at attention.

His mother smiled serenely. "Have something to add, dearest?"

Jareth closed his eyes, gritting his teeth. "No, my lady mother."

"Babuuu!" Cashel cried as a random toy went flying by.

The former queen dodged skillfully as it smacked into Severus' cheek.

The goblin king glowered at his goblet with dwindling patience. "Who let him out of confinement?"

A certain turkey-tailed goblin slinked out of the room with all due haste.

Harry picked up Cashel and rocked the boy against himself, cooing gently.

The little goblet was instantly asleep.

"You're hired," Severus announced at once.

Harry's eyes widened. "But I already have a job—"

Draco smiled. "Trust me, the benefits package in the Goblin Nation is to die for."

Harry looked a little dubious.

"By the way, you should know that the Skeeter cow is on your scent again."

"Where do I sign up?" Harry demanded.

Severus laughed as the vault lizards brought him a scroll. "Do read the entire contract before signing, Potter. You do remember how to read, yes?"

Harry muttered something less than polite under his breath.

"Oh, I'm far worse than that," Severus said, tapping his pointed ear.

Harry reddened. "Goblin hearing. I should have known. You could always hear us whisper even in the back row."

"Hn," Severus answered, pulling one wing over to scratch it. "Now, I have the wings to match the myth."

"Harry, how is your shelter project coming with Grimmauld Place?" Hermione asked. "Sirius stopped by the bank earlier today to request an expansion permit filing."

Harry smiled. "It's really good. We host a few kids each year who come from broken homes and aren't safe to go there over the holidays. Kreacher is actually happy to have more things to do. People to serve. We have a few new house elves, too. Kreacher is actually— nice now. We have quite a close relationship with Hogwarts, so they send us their most vulnerable kids, and I really feel like we're helping where it matters most."

"So your arrangements for having them work at Gringotts during the longer hols is still on the discussion table?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded. "Sirius is talking to the Ministry about sponsoring the actual program. Once they outline what they need to see in it, we can figure out how to get them to work and back safely."

Severus stretched, snagging Hermione with his wing and tugging her against him. "The Nation will be happy to do its part to encourage promising young witches and wizards while fostering better relations with the Goblin Nation itself."

"Wizarding Britain, well, everywhere needs a bit more of that, I think, especially now that the binding contract that restricted your people has finally been lifted."

Severus nodded grimly. "And how is a certain retired malcontent Auror?"

Harry's eyes widened. "You haven't heard?"

"We don't read the Prophet here much, Potter."

"Oh, right. Erm—" Harry scratched his head, shifting the goblet in his arms. "He stormed off to Hogwarts, demanded to see ol' McGonagall, and then whipped out a ring and everything in front of the entire Great Hall. They're getting married after the children leave for the summer hols."

"Hah!" Hermione cried with glee. "I told you!"

Severus shot his wife a look. "It was mere speculation. There was no way you could have known for certain."

Hermione lifted her hair a little exposing conspiratorial vault lizards. She lifted one eyebrow in challenge.

Severus sighed. "Fine. You win this round, wife. Females. Treacherous creatures with no boundaries whatsoever."

The former queen smiled as she touched the flowers on the table. They tinkled merrily. "I think they are quite the darling little creatures," she said with a chuckle.

Severus rolled his eyes. "You would."

Meanie bum-face!

Yeah! Where would you be without us!

Pbbbbt!

Hermione burst into laughter and snuggled the lizards that were making cheeky comments regardless of invitation.

See, this is why we love her!

Yup!

She's a keeper.

Forever-keeper.

She's ours. Go find yourself another queen.

Jareth plucked a cheeky hissing vault lizard off his nose and deposited it into the flower arrangement. "My mate, thank you very much. It took me long enough to find her, and I will not lose to lizards this time around!"

Hermione squinted as she laughed. "Not all of them feel that way," she said with a laugh. "Most of them are little matchmakers."

"Woe until the world," Severus muttered as a baby lizard clung to his finger, biting it soundly. "I'd be more amiable to their meddling if they'd stop biting everything that moves."

"Those are just babies," Hermione tutted, dislodging the little lizard from Severus' finger and tucking it into her hair. "They're mouthy. Much like our goblets."

Severus glowered over to where Cashel was sucking on a squishy toy of a Dutch windmill. "You don't say. Where in the Underground did he get his mouth around that?"

Harry made a face. "I have no idea. I think he made it out of his pacifier."

Severus rolled his eyes. "It will be a miracle if he survives to be five."

Hermione wrapped her arms and wings around his and snuggled into him.

Severus stilled, struggled, and then gave in, wrapping his wings and arms around her in reciprocation. "Fine, he may live."

The vault lizards crooned and hummed in approval as the couple cuddled.

"Ugh, really, Uncle? Some of us don't have a fairy tale relationship to fall back on," Draco complained, averting his eyes.

"Don't be an idiot," Severus said as he looked over Hermione's shoulder to glower at him. "You have four of your own sprogs to deal with, so I think your relationship is going just fine."

Harry was out cold, snoring his life away. Cashel was curled up on his chest, rising and falling with Harry's breathing, utterly dead asleep.

"A match made in hell," Severus said wryly.

Hermione kissed the end of his nose. "Harry got better, love. Cashel will improve too."

"Hopefully Cashel does not require a Dark Lord rising and his father acquiring an unwanted tattoo for this to be so," Severus said.

"Let's just leave the Dark Lord and Dumbledore with Death where they belong," Hermione suggested.

"Like a certain pair of Weasleys?" he replied, looking down into her eyes.

Hermione wore her best suspiciously crooked halo. "Dragnar is of the right age to have assistants," she said with a smile. "Besides, you said he needed help.

"Help finding his competence," Severus muttered.

"That's my love," Hermione said. "So pragmatic."

Jareth sniffed, his one hand moving crystal spheres around his fingertips. "Perhaps they, too, can take a moment to dream." He gestured, flicking, and two of the crystals floated off and away. "A chance to find their way out of the labyrinth of their own delusions."

Hermione hummed, laying her head against his chest. "I love you."

The goblin king's eyes seemed to glow with light, each one a different colour that shined with magical potency. "We're choosing the path/Between the stars/I'll leave my love/Between the stars," he crooned to her as he danced with her pressed against his chest. He placed his head against hers, his eyes half-lidded. He spun and dipped her, cradling her in his wings and arms as he looked deep into her eyes. "And I'll be there for you-ou-ou/As the world falls down."

He placed a tender kiss upon his lips, pulling away with a serene, contented smile. "Always."

Alira peered out the central window that oversaw the sprawl of the Underground as it reached out over Gringotts in a perfect merging landscape and gasped.

"Daddy!"

"Yes, love?"

"Are turkey butts contagious?" she asked as she watched two certain Weasleys sporting a familiar damning rear end to match Dagnar's.

Jareth wore a toothy smile. "Never fear, my dear. They only afflict very specific idiots."

Draco peered out over the edge of the chesterfield to see what Alira was looking at and burst out in helpless sniggers and chortles, miraculously managing not to wake the sleeping demon that was one astonishingly accurate blueberry mash flinger.

Alira snuggled into Draco's lap again. "I'm really glad I'm not an idiot, right, Uncle Draco?"

Draco smiled indulgently. "Most definitely, love."


Fin.


A/N: Hope you enjoyed the crossover. Another story wrapped up. Look at that! WEEE!