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Hermione approached the bank with a bit of trepidation and even a bit of fear. She had thought to never approach Gringotts again after the misadventure that had ended in Harry, Ron, and herself breaking out through the very roof while clinging to the back of a dragon. This had left her completely surprised and without a plan when William ‘Bill’ Weasley had personally delivered her a letter bearing the Gringotts seal requesting she meet with them at the bank at her earliest convenience. She had nearly had a panic attack in fear of what they could want from her in retribution for those events. However, the letter had gone on further and promised her safety, security, and a discussion of her future career prospects.
She had asked Bill if he had similar letters for Ron and Harry, to which she had been further surprised to find out the answer.
“I had only gone in to see about returning from my leave of absence myself and was quite surprised when they asked me to deliver this letter to you. It seems all mail they had tried to send you previously kept getting misdirected. I asked about Harry, but they said they were not at liberty to discuss Harry’s affairs with anyone but Harry himself.” Bill had explained.
Hermione had not liked the sound of that, but she understood privacy, confidentiality, and from what little she had been able to find about the Ancient and Noble Houses and their inheritance laws, it was very possible someone had been trying to meddle in Harry’s affairs that had no business meddling. This had the very real consequence of leaving Harry himself very unprepared. It was not an unheard-of situation among mundane nobility after all, though the scandal when it came out was always painful for the affected family.
She set the thoughts of Harry’s circumstances aside, she couldn’t afford the distraction now, she had her own affairs to see to. Thankfully she still had finances saved outside of Gringotts so she’d been able to replace clothing and could go to this meeting looking respectable at least. She took a deep breath as she approached the great stone doors, refusing to acknowledge the warning carved above them as she stepped in.
“Ah, Miss Granger. Good of you to be prompt.” One of the tellers spoke up as soon as she stepped in. “Please follow me.” He disappeared from behind his desk and came around the front to lead her back deeper into the bank, though not in the direction she was more familiar with. They soon turned down a side corridor lined with several doors, all labeled with small stone plaques she could not read. In moments her guide opened one on the right and gestured her to precede him.
Hermione fidgeted slightly but then stepped into what she quickly discovered was a small office or conference room. To one side there was a small conference table with enough seating for six but to the left was a large desk where her guide quickly took up a seat and set to work. Writing out several things in a waiting journal before closing it and setting it aside.
“Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.”
Hermione glanced at the waiting conference room table and took a seat where she could put her back to the wall and face the dwarfish man. She was getting more nervous as the situation was putting her hard-earned battle training on edge.
“First things first Miss Granger. My name is Sorgok, I’ve been appointed your Account Manager. Have you ever heard of the Dverger?”
Hermione blinked in surprise. An Account Manager? Why would she have an Account Manager? “No, should I have?”
“It would please the hoard if more did, but no, it is not surprising that you have not. The Dverger, Miss Granger, is who we are. The term ‘goblin’, is a slang term much like muggle or even mudblood if you will.”
Hermione stared in shocked horror as the association was made. The first time she had heard the very different terms for non-magicals used she’d immediately recognized that all of them simply were just a form of racism and slander. Muggle, no-mag, half-blood, mudblood, were all practically curse words in their own right. Even the more kind ‘mundane’ despite it literally meaning non-magical, still in its actual use, became a term of slander more often than not with how it was abused. To learn that the terms and names she’d been learning for at least one of the sentient magical races were just as bad or worse was horrifying.
“I had no idea.” She whispered, struggling to hold back on her reaction. Was anything they had been taught in the History of Magic valid?
“As is the case with most of the wizarding folk. Unfortunately, we can only reach out to educate those who come directly into our employ.” Sorgok explained.
“Your employ?” Hermione asked startled.
Sorgok grinned sharply at her then, “Yes, Miss Granger. We wish to offer you future employment. This is a part of the deal we wish to offer you in regards to the events during your last visit to Gringotts.”
Hermione felt herself go pale.
“Yes, that one.” Sorgok continued, “We are well aware that you entered the bank under the effects of Polyjuice potion in the form of Bellatrix Lestrange. We are further aware of the unfortunate events that led to the death of not only one of our distinguished tellers but the betrayer Griphook. Now Miss Granger, while we have monitoring spells and are well aware of what occurred in the lobby, the cart, and outside the Lestrange vault itself. The events inside and what exactly motivated the actions of you and your friends we are not fully aware of. The answers to these questions will in turn determine just how much we can help each other now and in the future.”
Hermione felt tears prickling at the back of her eyes as she was thrown back into that horrible day. However, it seemed the gob-no, the dverger, was not done yet.
“Before you start trying to plan damage control on your own Miss Granger, let me explain a few more things to you.”
Hermione took a shaky breath. “That was a most terrible day.”
“I’m relieved to hear you say so.” Sorgok offered, “However hard it will be to hear, the additional information I have for you is best heard before any plans are made or decisions made.”
Hermione took a deep breath and nodded in acceptance so that he could continue. She had a lot of practice at holding back her building panic as she gathered facts and information. This would be no different. “It can’t be much worse than what I’ve learned about mundane-born and women’s rights in this hidebound society.”
Sorgok paused at that, “Perhaps I should have a calming draught brought?”
Hermione’s gaze narrowed and she felt the burn of her anger at the lack of women’s rights let alone ‘mundane’ start to flow up through her. “Perhaps you should just get it all out now if you please.” She recognized the clipped tone of her own words and almost winced. Well, he had asked, hadn’t he.
Sorgok eyed her steadily for several long moments. “Very well then. The truth of the matter Miss Granger is that between Albus Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic you and all your peers are woefully unprepared for any career you may choose, and I do mean any career. Both the late Headmaster and the Ministry have spent years trying to control just what the students at Hogwarts were allowed to learn and this has resulted in the society you now see.”
Hermione silently fumed, it wasn’t anything she hadn’t suspected though it made her furious regardless. She nodded her understanding as Sorgok continued.
“The education quality, particularly of the most recent years, has been particularly bad. The ministry testing standards are so far below the international level it is a miracle they get away with them at all. The small handful of British magicals who leave and find careers outside the country spend years making up for the gaps in their education. Never mind those who find their calling in fields they never even considered or prepared for. Hogwarts does nothing to help you find what your magic calls you to.”
Hermione stared at the dverger. “What are you—you can’t be—” she stood and began pacing as her mind raced back over the various classes at Hogwarts and all the mentions of other different classes in passing that were no longer offered with no explanations as to why. No supplemental self-study options, books were always being removed from the library or marked as restricted. She remembered the so-called career counseling, there had been no career preparations offered. The one time she had asked Professor McGonagall about keeping up with mundane classes as well, the woman had looked so confused. Hermione couldn’t have been the first mundane-born to want to keep up with her primary school courses? She’d had to limit herself to summer courses and correspondence work. It had been hard, but she had managed to finish her secondary Education and she had every intention of continuing with her A-levels along with furthering her magical education.
“I see you understand. Good. We keep a careful watch on all who maintain their mundane education along with their magical. It is a requirement for any who wish to continue and further their education on to the International Academy of Magic or seek careers with the ICW. Gringotts’ has sponsored the few who have done so through the rest of their education and helped them find the careers of their calling.”
Hermione sat back in her chair with a startled huff, “How can you, I mean—”
“So, Miss Granger, knowing this information, will you tell me why? What drove Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and yourself to barter with Betrayer-Griphook, break into the Lestrange vault, and become accessories to murder of one innocent dverger, and cause a great deal of damage to the bank itself.”
Hermione clenched her fists so tightly she could feel her nails biting into her palms as she battled with herself over what she could say. They had sworn never to speak of what had been created by Voldemort. “There was a dark object stored in the LeStrange vault that belonged to Voldemort. We had to destroy it before Harry could defeat him. It was a vile cursed object and your bank is better off with it no longer polluting its space.”
Sorgok considered her answer carefully. “The sword of Gryffindor, Griphook bartered his assistance for it.”
Hermione nodded, “But he betrayed us, as we could not give it up until Harry’s sworn tasks were done. This included the destruction of the cursed artifact. The sword was required for that. Harry had the right to use the sword since it came to him when he was twelve and he used it to kill a basilisk.”
Sorgok opened the journal he had set aside previously and made a few notes before closing it and setting it aside once more.
“The death of Teller Olavi while unintentional, was still a direct result of your results. He would have been nowhere near that dragon otherwise.”
Hermione’s hands clenched in her lap once more.
“That is a fact you will have to live with. The three of you brought the wizarding war into the very heart of our bank that day Miss Granger.” Sorgok took a long pause, as he seemed to study Hermione carefully. She felt as if she was being examined, measured, but not quite judged as the small dverger studied her. “However, much of the fault can also be laid on the Betrayer-Griphook. These mitigating circumstances have allowed for the option of wergild to be paid in place of more stringent punishment. Teller Olavi’s clan is taking most of the restitution from Betrayer-Griphooks holdings. It is their wish, however, that you give up any career plans in the Ministry and seek a career plan through the bank instead Miss Granger. It is a most generous offer, and in truth, mutually beneficial. The ministry will do you no favors and will never let you reach your full potential; you already know this is true.”
Hermione blinked back tears. “I didn’t know I had any other choice. It was try to fix this backward-society using their own system or give up magic. I can’t give magic up. I won’t give up magic! I have seen a lot of horrible things done with magic, but… Mr. Sorgok when I was a little girl my parents took me camping. I was only five years old when I first saw a unicorn. It was not until I was eleven that I was allowed to believe it was real. It was beautiful and wonderful, and it meant everything to me when nothing else did.”
“Ah, lass. Every sentient magical may be called to one profession or another. Some may be called to enchanting, potion-making, metalcraft, healing, the study of law, even teaching. When you find your calling, your magic will resonate within you. It is why so many of the courses are kept so broad focused traditionally, to give you a solid foundation. Sadly, even some of the most important foundation courses have vanished from Hogwarts and even started to disappear from Britain altogether. Everyone deserves to find their calling.” Sorgok explained.
Hermione chewed on her lip in thought. “What about all the rest of the students? I know my class is being invited back for an extra year because this last one was a waste for everyone. Can’t anything be done?”
Sorgok smirked, “And now we begin to get to the heart of things.”
“Bellatrix Lestrange caused you grievous permanent injury. In doing so she owes you reparations. We have received testimony on these facts from more than one source. It is in the power of Gringotts to award you the contents of her dowry vault, previously termed ‘the Lestrange’ vault. We have already extracted the cost of repairs to the premises of Gringotts from both Lestrange and Potter-Black vaults, and yes Miss Granger, Mr. Potter has been made aware. He has had meetings of his own to attend, I assure you. I am sure once he is able to discuss the status of his affairs with you he will do so.”
“You can do that?” Hermione asked surprised.
“As I said previously Miss Granger,” Sorgok said his tone very clear he was not joking, “Your wizarding war found its way into the heart of the bank that day. War-times cause for special measures.”
Hermione thought about that for a long moment. “War-time measures… there are special clauses in the treaty with the dverger that give you special privileges in the bank?”
“Oh, not just the bank, Miss Granger. No wizard or witch had dared to bring the war into our domain before that day. That you and your friends did, and only now reveal that Voldemort himself has been attempting to use us as his own-personal fortress without permission. That will indeed change some things and give Gringotts and the dverger quite a few more options in how to respond.”
“So, I’m not signing myself away to be an indentured servant by becoming an employee of Gringotts?” Hermione asked. It has been the one question that had been growing and burning in the back of her mind that she had been most afraid to ask.
Sorgok smiled at her, almost gently, “Of course not Miss Granger. Consider it an investment in your future and a guarantee that you and anyone you are likely to associate with will never be so inclined to repeat your actions. We are well aware of what you will do for your friends after all.”
Hermione felt the fear begin to ease. “You never answered my question about the rest of the students?”
Sorgok chuckled then. “You would have found out when you reached Hogwarts of course, but the ICW, specifically the International Commission for the Education of Magic will be taking over the school for at least the first two weeks if not longer. From what I understand they are thrilled to finally not be blocked by either the Ministry or the late Headmaster and are launching a full assault starting with a Career fair. Your classmates are in for the same information I’ve just given you. Only without the sponsorship to support them in making their choices. Remedial course work will be filling Hogwarts halls this year more than new coursework I fear.”
Hermione sat back heavily in her chair stunned.
“What if some choose not to attend this year?” She asked, thinking of a certain redhead.
Sorgok shrugged. “That is their choice. After all, it is in the end, up to the individual to pursue their education as they wish. Though I can’t see it serving them very well long term.”
Hermione winced at that, but then let the thought go. She couldn’t keep pulling Ron along behind her forever. “What of the Ministry, won’t they interfere again?”
Sorgok’s grin turned sharp again. “Ah, now that is a lovely thing, though it will have quite a lasting impact I’m afraid. Due to Voldemort’s takeover, the entire system has been deemed compromised by the international community. The ICW has shutdown the ministry and is beginning a thorough and deep dive of the government charters and laws before they allow the Wizengamot members to be reinstated let alone any ministry employees. It’s quite the scandal on an international scale. I’m pleased to say, Miss Granger, that your Ministry will be nothing like it was when things are finally up and running again.”
Hermione let out a low whistle. “But we have so many heirs in my age group.”
“So you do.”
Hermione considered that. “Heir’s that have been undereducated and manipulated….”
“I wondered if you would catch that, and it’s not just those you are thinking of.” Sorgok offered, his grin sharp once more.
Hermione’s gaze narrowed critically then. “You are helping Harry just like me.”
Sorgok chuckled at that. “He said you would figure it out, and no not exactly like you, but yes. We are offering Heir Potter-Black sponsorship in his educational endeavors and have already come to a satisfactory agreement in terms of reparations to the damages done to Gringotts previously.”
“May your gold flow and your enemies fall at your feet, Miss Granger.”