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Seeking The Lost by apAidan
Chapter 9 : Chapter Nine - Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 4

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Chapter Nine - Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

As Ginny and Seaxwielder disappeared through the doorway, Harry looked over at Hermione. Shaking her head at the anxiety she could feel from him, she placed her hand on his. “Harry, she’ll be fine. Griphook wouldn’t have assigned her an escort who would allow her to get into any sort of trouble.” Turning to Griphook, she smiled. “Please tell my overprotective husband that she’s in good hands.”

“Even without an assigned escort, I would be willing to wager that Ms Weasley would be able to find her vault and return unscathed. She has proven herself most resourceful and competent during the past year and she is well known to the bank’s staff through her brother and her father.” Seeing the look on Harry’s face, Griphook chuckled. “Unlike some of the wanded, very few goblins thing that all humans look alike.”

Smiling, Harry tipped his head in acknowledgement of the truth of Griphook’s statement. Shaking his head at the common arrogance most of the wizarding world displayed towards the beings that kept their fortunes and secrets, Harry began to relax. “I know I shouldn’t worry about her here of all places. It’s more that I’m not looking forward to explaining to her mother if anything were to happen to her only daughter while she was putatively in my care.”

“Having been on the sharp end of Molly Weasley’s temper, I can quite understand your concerns.” Shaking his head, Griphook nodded towards the desk before them. “Allow me to collect some folios and we’ll retire to a conference room to discuss your accounts and vaults.”

Reaching into the central drawer of the desk, Griphook pulled a collection of leather bound folios. As some of the volumes were quite ancient, Hermione’s eyebrows drifted towards her hairline as she unobtrusively tried to make out the labels on the bindings. As the annotations were in gobbledygook, she was only able to make out some of the names before they disappeared into Griphook’s carrying case.

Looking up, Griphook smiled at her and nodded. “All in due time, Mistress Potter,” as he gestured towards a smaller doorway to the left of where Ginny and Seaxwielder disappeared earlier.

The three of them, with Griphook only slightly in the lead, proceeded towards the door. As Griphook approached, the door silently opened in the opposite manner of what Hermione would have expected, given the positioning of the door handle visible to her. Catching Griphook’s eye, she quirked an eyebrow and waited.

After they had proceeded through the door, it had closed behind them and they had started down the broad set of stairs behind it, Griphook nodded. “A minor enchantment that we actually borrowed from the construction of Hogwarts.”

“You’re referring to those dreadfully annoying stairwells aren’t you?” Shaking her head, Hermione mentally rolled her eyes at some of the, to her thinking, unnecessary foibles that surrounded her alma mater.

“Yes, they have been allowed to get out of hand there, but the original purpose was a sound one.” Seeing the surprised look on Hermione’s face, Griphook shrugged. “According to the construction journals we have from the goblin and dwarven crews that were involved in the original construction and the subsequent remodeling attempts, the stairways were originally put in to allow for the management of access in the school. If no classrooms in a particular wing were scheduled for use on a given day, then the stairs wouldn’t connect for students, in the theory that unsupervised witches and wizards will generally allow themselves to get into mischief, or worse. Also, in times of crisis, unauthorized visitors or invaders could be shunted to areas where they could be dealt with easily.”

“That actually makes sense. If we would have had something like that last month, we could have worked up a better plan.” Looking disgusted, Harry’s frown deepened as he began to think about the ramifications of this new information. “Why isn’t it working that way right now?”

Shrugging Griphook made a peculiar gesture with his hands, that the two were coming to associate with ‘what can I say’ in a goblin. “Part of it, that night, was a bit of confusion since Headmaster Snape hadn’t technically been replaced and so Professor McGonagall, as Assistant Headmistress and Acting Headmistress, was not able to fully deploy the castle’s defenses in the most effective manner.”

Pausing a second, the goblin looked carefully at the two teens before continuing. “Also, there was the residual effect of former Headmaster Dumbledore’s ‘approach’ to things.” Seeing both of them scowl, Griphook continued. “We never really understood why, but your former Headmaster had a very chaotic and haphazard approach to certain things. Some of the decisions he made regarding the school...”

“Were absolutely bloody ridiculous and borderline psychotic.” Fuming, Hermione shook her head. “I’m not certain who decided Albus was one of the greatest wizards of the age, but for the most part, the man was a certified genius when it came to magical theory and practice, but was absolutely certifiable when it came to anything resembling real life.”

Turning to Griphook, Hermione nodded her head. “Please accept my apologies, but when I think about some of the decisions that man made over the years, I’d still like to hex him into oblivion.”

Chuckling, Griphook nodded in agreement. “The Council could work with him because he was fairly egalitarian when it came to working with the other races and
wasn’t corrupt or prone to following the Dark. But some of the decisions he made regarding Master Potter here raised quite a few eyebrows, I can tell you now.”

“Really now? How so?” Hermione’s voice, while entirely reasonable and calm had that touch of intensity to it that Harry always associated with ‘the calm before the storm’ as it were. Looking sharply at her, Harry projected calm and acceptance to her as she attempted to draw out Griphook on the current subject.

“Harry, I meant what I said to Albus. But if I’m going to be a full and active partner in this relationship, I need to know exactly how your holdings have been manipulated and used over the years.” Looking at him out of the corner of her eye, she smiled. “Unless, of course, you’d rather investigate all of these holdings yourself and then brief me in at the end.”

Shuddering dramatically, Harry shook his emphatically. “Not at all. I’m perfectly content with you finding out as many details of ‘our’ holdings as you want.” Subtly stressing ‘our’, Harry smiled. “I just don’t want you getting yourself worked up over things that Albus has done in the past. We gave him a clean slate that Sunday, and as far as either of us knows, he hasn’t done anything to warrant hexing.” Seeing the look in his wife’s eyes, Harry conceded, “Yet.”

Nodding in satisfaction, Hermione turned back to Griphook and missed the subtle smirk on Harry’s face. “You were saying?”

“After Master Potter’s sixteenth birthday...” Hearing the subtle clearing of Harry’s throat, Griphook nodded and amended. “After Harry’s sixteenth birthday, the terms of both his parents’ will and later on the will of Sirius Black, stated that he should have taken limited control of both estates. While the vast majority of the vaults and properties would have remained in trust until he reached his majority, there were assets and properties that would have been available that previous summer.”

“And Professor Dumbledore prevented that?” Arching her eyebrow, Hermione nodded slowly, allowing Griphook to continue.

“By invoking a loophole in the Wizengamot’s rules, yes.” Seeing the look of confusion on both teens’ faces, he shrugged. “With the death of Sirius Black, Harry’s magical guardianship was vacant. Professor Dumbledore allowed it to remain so, rather than passing to one of the next individuals on the list that your parents had filed with the bank.”

“Harry should have had a new guardian, at least on a temporary basis, when Sirius went to Azkaban, shouldn’t he?” Looking perturbed, Hermione shook her head at the look on Griphook’s face.

“Another loophole. Since Mr. Black was never tried, he was never convicted, so he remained Harry’s magical guardian and godfather until his untimely removal from the scene. After that, he never pressed Mr. Lupin’s position as the highest surviving person on the original list Harry’s parents provided.”

“Surviving?” Harry’s voice was flat, and Hermione reached over and took his hand and gently squeezed.

“Not only were your parents very involved with the fight against Voldemort, but so were all of their close friends. The Longbottoms were on the list, as was Aranrhod Jones, though she married Xenophillius Lovegood not long afterwards.”

Shaking his head, Harry closed his eyes and allowed Hermione to guide him as they continued descending the stairs. When they reached the bottom, he opened them and looked up at Griphook. “Are there any survivors on the list?”

“Two. Muriel Crouch was listed as being a person to consult if there were problems with the others on the list. The only other survivor on the list is Kaylee Abbot.” Seeing the surprised look on Harry’s face, Griphook shrugged. “Muriel Crouch is somewhat of a character, as wizard’s go. She inquired several times regarding finding a suitable candidate, but Dumbledore kept insisting that no change was needed while Sirius was still alive. And then afterwards, he allowed the protests of Sieur Malfoy and others to prevent guardianship from being transferred to Mr. Lupin.”

“This Kaylee Abbot, she’s a relative of our friend Hannah?” Looking a bit distressed, Harry squeezed Hermione’s hand as they continued down the corridor.

“I believe she is the young lady’s aunt. Both she and her brother were muggle-born classmates of your parents. Ms Abbot was a very close friend of your mother’s, she went to America shortly before your parents were killed, and we weren’t able to contact her for notification.”

“Harry, we’ll find her. If for no other reason than to let her know you’ve survived to become someone your Mum is proud of.” Squeezing Harry’s hand, Hermione added finding Ms Kaylee Abbot to the mental list of things from Harry’s past that needed tending.

Stopping in front of a pair of bronze bound double doors in the side of the hall with the Gringott’s seal on them, Griphook motioned towards the doors. “We’re here. Inside, you’ll be meeting with the Clan Chief who is responsible for Gringott’s.” Smiling reassuringly, Griphook watched both teens look at each other out of the corner of their eyes. “Relax, it’s been almost sixty years since Ragnok’s actually maimed a client.”

Turning towards the door, Griphook put his hand on the door. Pointedly not looking back at the two teens, he smiled to himself as they were looking at each other. “That was a joke, you two. Lighten up.”

As Griphook opened the doors, Harry and Hermione looked up to see a room that appeared as if it had come out of a time warp between the Middle Ages and the Square Mile. Modern leather executive chairs surrounded a long conference table, constructed of rough-hewn timbers. Sconces for torches surrounded the room, but what appeared to be a large digital display covered one wall.

At the head of the table sat an older goblin, dressed in what appeared to be a cross between the usual dress of Gringott’s goblins and Saville Row. Leafing through a set of leather-bound ledgers in front of him, he appeared to be totally engrossed in the information he was revising.

Stepping into the room ahead of Griphook, Harry and Hermione glanced at each other once before stepping up to the table. Waiting for Griphook to close the massive brass bound doors, the pair waited silently as their guide rejoined them. Only the rustling of the parchment broke the silence in the room as Ragnok turned the pages in the tome he was reviewing.

“The pair of you seem to have a talent for thoroughly overturning the established order of things on a regular basis.” Without looking up, the older goblin slowly turned pages in the ledger book he was studying, occasionally jotting a brief annotation on a scroll that rested beside him. “Not that that’s a bad thing, but you do realize that the wizarding world is much less tolerant of change than English society in general.”

Looking up, the older goblin studied the pair quite thoroughly for several seconds. Feeling just a tad self conscious, Harry’s hand unconsciously reached out for Hermione’s as he placed the carrier containing Teddy gently on the table. Finally nodding, the goblin at the end of the table stood up, smiled and walked towards them.

“I am Clan Chief Ragnok, and I’m very pleased to finally get a chance to meet, face to face.” Reaching out his hand, the goblin shook hands with each before nodding to their companion. “Young Weasley’s sister is attended to?”

“Yes, Clan Chief. Seaxwielder is escorting her to the vault that Sirius Black left her in his bequest.” Nodding respectfully, Griphook stood a half step behind the pair.

“One of Bladebreaker’s get?” Seeing the nod in return from Griphook, Ragnok shrugged. “He acquitted himself well on behalf of the Gnomes during the Grindelwald unpleasantness; he should be able to relate to her if she’s still feeling raw about the past year.”

Seeing the perplexed look on the teens’ faces, Ragnok smiled. “We’re not quite as out of touch with what’s going on as most in the wizarding community at large would believe. We’re fully aware of the resistance efforts that the students at Hogwarts engaged in, and who was responsible for leading them.” Pointing towards a pair of chairs near the place he had been seated, he nodded. “If the two of you would care to join me, I think we have several vaults to discuss.”

“Well, yes, that would probably be best.” Nodding encouragingly to Harry, Hermione smiled at the Clan Chief and started to follow him around the table. “Needless to say, all of this is a bit overwhelming to both of us. While Harry has been dealing with Gringotts for a while now, all I’ve really ever done was change money from time to time.”

“But the pair of you have made some initial forays into the economic side of the wizarding world.” Smiling, Ragnok gestured towards the chairs to the left of his seat as he returned to the head of the table.

Looking over at the digital display on the wall, Ragnok shook his head in disgust. “Griphook, have someone in Acquisitions contact our enclaves in Tel Aviv and Manila. Explain to them that I don’t really care if they are ‘only’ muggle companies, losing money is losing money. Unless they want a transfer to active garrison duty protecting our assets in the Yucatan from that never-ending guerilla war going on there, I’d suggest they start paying attention to their bottom lines.” Nodding, Griphook bowed slightly and excused himself from the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.

“Guerilla war?” Looking perplexed, Hermione nodded towards the display. “I remember reading somewhere of a civil war in the Yucatan almost a century ago, but wasn’t it resolved back at the turn of the century?”

“Very good, young one. The muggle side of things resolved itself, but the Aztec priest kings and the Mayan wizard-priests have been going at it in the jungles down there for almost a thousand years now. Gringott’s has facilities throughout that region, and neither side is particularly shy about occasionally ‘mistaking’ one of our facilities for something controlled by the other side.”

Shaking his head, Ragnok sighed dramatically. “Both sides are paranoid in the extreme and able to justify themselves having been locked in a war with the other for nearly a millennium. But a shadow war half the world away isn’t why you’re here today is it?”

Nodding, Hermione smiled appreciatively as Harry conjured a low footstool and placed Teddy’s carrier on it where they could both see it. “We came to the bank today to discuss the Potter and Black legacies. It seems now that we have a bit more to discuss than that.”

“Very true. At the very least, I would consider the addition of the Peverell, Gaunt, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor legacies as ‘a bit’ to discuss.” Smiling Ragnok nodded as the pair glanced at each other. “Feel free to discuss matters between yourselves, I won’t take it amiss in the least.”

“Clan Chief Ragnok, I can understand the Peverell legacy, since the Potters and the Peverells are related.” Smiling, Harry thought about the cloak that he had inherited from his father and its connection to the Peverells. “And apparently the Gryffindor connection is there also, though I was given to understand that family line had died out.” Smiling wanly, Harry reached down and tickled Teddy’s foot as he waited for an answer.

“It didn’t ‘die out’ as much as it went underground, as far as the wizarding world was concerned. Pretty much the same thing for the Ravenclaw line, a couple of cadet branches of the family retired to the muggle world due to disagreements with the attitudes becoming more prevalent in wizarding England. While one of the daughters married a Peverell, both a son and a daughter of the pair settled in Wales and Scotland, respectively, and left active participation in the wizarding world.

Once Slytherin’s ‘instability’ became apparent, the other founders used their magic to conceal family members in the muggle communities for a period of time. The uptick in muggleborn over the past few generations is the outcome of Rowena’s plan.” Sitting back in his chair, Ragnok smiled and waited.

“The pair?” Almost simultaneously, both Harry and Hermione seized on the comment at the same instant. Looking at each other, Hermione frowned while Harry just shook his head. “Please,” Harry continued, “it’s been way too many generations to worry about anything like that.”

“Harry, don’t start. There haven’t been any real studies into the genetics of magic, but I’m willing to concede that after a thousand years, you’re probably not my long lost twin.” Shaking her head, Hermione smiled as she thought, “Like a sister?”

“For the hundredth time, I was an idiot.” Smirking, Harry shrugged and turned back to Ragnok. “That explains Gryffindor and Peverell, but how in the name of anything imaginable can I be the last heir for the Gaunt legacy?”

“Actually, almost everyone in the wizarding world can trace some sort of connection to the Gaunts, not to mention a large number of muggles. The mental instability of the wizarding Gaunts of the latest generations prevented them from being able to access the family resources.” Seeing the calculating look on Hermione’s face, Ragnok leaned back in his chair again and waited.

“Gaunt.” Shaking her head, Hermione sighed. “As in ‘...of Gaunt’?”

“Precisely. John of Gaunt, grandson of the the Hammer of the Scots, also known at the Goblinbane.” Turning his head, Ragnok made a spitting sound and something struck a brass spittoon sitting nearby. “That would make the pair of you very distantly related to almost any muggle claiming title to any European royal title you can imagine.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Hermione smiled. “Let me guess, by the time Salazar Slytherin came along, he ‘tinkered’ with the succession just a bit.”

“Not precisely, Slytherin ‘inserted’ himself into the family tree a few generations before John of Gaunt. Although they weren’t considered ‘unforgivable’ back then, it was considered very grave to use magic in the way he did to alter the succession of the English and Scottish thrones. Slytherin was looking to manipulate the Treaty of Ben Loyal to allow for the establishment of a magical empire before he disappeared.”

“Wouldn’t his ‘insertion’ into the family tree have broken the succession at that point?” Looking a bit amused, Harry shook his head as Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

“Ah, but you’re jumping to the conclusion that Slytherin ‘impersonated’ a male member of the royal family.” Seeing the shocked look on Harry’s face and the thoughtful look on Hermione’s, he nodded. “He apparently discovered a variant of the the polyjuice potion, reinforced with several spells, that allowed a wizard to maintain a new gender identity for about eleven months, long enough for a heir to be brought forth.”

“Let me guess, a new bride gives birth and ‘dies’ shortly afterwards, but the child survives and is raised by the next royal broodmare.” Shaking her head, Hermione smirked at the look on her husband’s face. “Harry, if someone were determined enough, it can be done. Even with the standard polyjuice potion, Barty Jr. impersonated Mad-Eye for over eight months. This wasn’t even an impersonation, old Salazar simply ‘got in touch with his feminine side’ if I’m understanding the Clan Chief correctly. Even so, it does give new meaning to that old saying about playing both sides of the quaffle.”

Seeing the objection he was about to make, Hermione smiled. “And before you mention the fact they were both blokes, remember I was ‘you’ for about an hour the night we rescued you. Which, by the way, gave me enough ‘first hand’ experience to deduce that Ginny was talking out of her hat when it came to certain aspects of her relationship with you.” Turning back to Ragnok, Hermione nodded thoughtfully while Harry sputtered in disbelief beside her. “You mentioned that the mental instability of the wizarding Gaunts prevented them from accessing the vaults?”

“Slytherin instituted very strict restrictions on the accessibility of both his personal vault and the inheritances through the Gaunt family. Priding himself upon the mental acuity and wizarding prowess he possessed, Salazar Slytherin incorporated charms into the vaults so that, with the exceptions of small maintenance sums paid to keep the less suited descendants from totally being destitute, the Gaunt family vaults haven’t been accessed in over two centuries.”

“But, that still doesn’t explain how we’re getting access to them, especially if most wizarding families can claim some sort of relationship to the Gaunts.” Looking puzzled, Harry shook his head. “For that matter, Riddle himself should have taken possession of them.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Ragnok smiled. “Either as Tom Riddle or Lord Voldemort, he would have had access to them. The stipulations regarding the passing of those vaults would have overlooked the fact that he framed his maternal uncle since Morfin was manifestly unfit to access them. But Voldemort wasn’t interested in the Gaunt vaults after he was rebuffed in his claim on Slytherin’s vault.”

“Wouldn’t the fact that he was Slytherin’s Heir have made him the holder of that particular vault?” Looking puzzled, Harry turned to Hermione, who had a very disturbed look on her face.

“Harry, remember the prophecy. While I doubt he’s actively pining for Norwegian fjords, the vault wouldn’t be released if he was only ‘mostly’ dead.” Shaking her head, Hermione turned back to Ragnok. “He’s alive enough to keep the vault from changing hands, no?”

“Whatever the current fate of Salazar Slytherin, his vault still only recognizes his right to access it. And vaults of that deep a level aren’t in the same league as the one you inherited from Bellatrix Lestrange, it won’t be fooled by a simple polyjuice, regardless of whose wand you’re carrying.” Looking blandly at Hermione, Ragnok waited for several seconds before continuing.

“For lack of a better term, the Gaunt family vaults have passed to your control through right of conquest. Your public defeat of Tom Riddle made you the undeniable heir to that legacy, while we’re going to have to wait for the Ministry and the Wizengamot to straighten out their bookkeeping, a significant change in the balance of power in wizarding England is occurring with these inheritances.”

“Harry?” Turning, Harry glanced towards Hermione, who had an unusually thoughtful look on her face. “Remember the briefing documents Kingsley dropped by the house the other day, the ones on the Wizengamot and our seats in the chamber?”

“Fairly well. I didn’t study them as closely as you did, but I do remember the high points. Why?” Watching his wife, Harry could almost see the mental gears turning as she was manipulating multiple theories in her head until she came up with the one that best suited their long and short term goals. “Or is this another thing you’ll tell me later if I’ve been a good little wizard?” Ignoring the snort of laughter from Ragnok and the baleful look from his wife, Harry just smiled.

“Prat. Do you remember the large block of seats in the Wizengamot rosters that were marked, ‘Unclaimed – Pending’?” Smiling to take the sting out of her words, she nodded to him as his eyes widened. Turning to Ragnok, she chuckled. “Since I seem to remember that almost a third of the total seats for the Wizengamot were listed under that heading, I take it when we take up our seats in the Wizengamot, a substantial number of the seats that have previously been unavailable will now be claimed?”

“Between the two of you, almost seventy percent of the unclaimed votes in the Wizengamot will be claimed and available for voting.” Seeing the stunned looks on their faces, he continued. “And that doesn’t count the number of binding proxies that will be unbound the moment the two of you set foot in the chamber. A drastic shift in the balance of power in English politics is about to occur.”

“Binding proxies?” Shaking her head, Harry tried valiantly to remember the basics of the two lectures that Professor Binns had conducted their fifth year about the structure and rules of the wizarding world’s governing body here in England. Looking over at Hermione, he quirked an eyebrow and sent her a thought. “How much trouble are we in, now?”

“Honestly Harry. We’re not in any trouble.” Shaking her head, she answered aloud to the amusement of Ragnok. “But I think that the influence of some of the older families is going to be vastly depleted since I’m pretty certain that your taking up the Gaunt family votes will mean that quite a number of votes are going to revert to their original families, if we agree.”

“Very soundly reasoned, Lady Gryffindor.” Seeing the look on both their faces, he shrugged. “I could have as easily said ‘Potter-Black’, Potter-Peverell’, or ‘Lady Ravenclaw’, but I thought that one would garner your attention.”

“Why not Lady Gaunt?” Looking amused, Harry winked as Hermione rolled her eyes and snorted.

“Honestly Harry, weren’t you listening? The Clan Chief quite plainly stated that Slytherin had placed ‘restrictions’ on the inheritances of the Gaunt and Slytherin families. Can you ever see him even contemplating a mudblood as Lady Gaunt?”

Seeing the dangerous glint in her husband’s eyes, she shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me, I never put much stock in the petty prejudices of a bunch of inbred fools, but it always irritated me that Draco thought it meant something. Colin and Dennis were as muggle as they come and they were both better wizards than Draco ever dreamt of being.”

Holding up a leather bound portfolio, Ragnok tapped the seal twice before opening the container. “While the bank would never presume to know the wishes of one of our clients, at least without a great deal of interaction and written guidelines, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing one Release from the binding proxies that your associated seats control.” Passing the document over to Hermione, Ragnok waited patiently as her eyes scanned the document. When her grin threatened to split her face in two, he nodded as she passed the parchment to Harry.

Looking at the long parchment of arcane phrases and legalese, in three languages no less, Harry took a couple of seconds to suss out the salient parts. “Oh, this is very good. How long has it been since the family has had the right to vote their own votes?”

“A bit over two and a half centuries, give or take a decade or so.” Nodding, Ragnok chuckled. “I’m certain the Malfoy, Lestrange, and Nott families will be very gratified to know that you’re returning those three votes to the rightful owners after such a long time.”

Staring at the document in his hand, Harry shook his head. “Why did they lose the voting rights in the first place?”

“Forfeit to allow the family to void an ill-advised marriage contract that had been made for the only daughter to one of the Lestranges. Grew up into a totally insane individual, even by the standards of that family. The Head of House wouldn’t allow his daughter to be forced to marry him, so he forfeited the family’s seats in the Wizengamot until a ‘neutral’ party allowed them to return.”

“Let me guess, that was code for being extorted by another family to buy back your own seats?” Shaking her head, Hermione nodded at Harry.

“More or less, though to be fair to the Malfoys, I don’t think that anyone realized that when Malgrimm Gaunt passed away in 1745, he would be the last holder of the seat until now.”

“I would really like for Hermione to sign this, but since it pertains to the Gaunt inheritance…” Trailing off, Harry nodded sadly as he reached for a quill on the table.

“The two of you forget that, for all intents and purposes under wizarding law, you don’t exist as discrete individuals. While Ms Granger can never be ‘Lady Gaunt’, she most certain is ‘Lord Gaunt’ since you are.”

“That’s the most preposterous thing.” Shaking her head, Hermione began chuckling. “Can you just imagine the look on Lucius’ face when he gets his copy of that document delivered to his cell at Azkaban?”

“I’d almost be tempted to deliver it myself, if we weren’t set to go on holiday tomorrow.” Passing the parchment and quill to his wife, Harry smirked. “If you would do the honors, Lord Gaunt?”

“Oh hush, Lady Ravenclaw.” Chuckling, Hermione picked up the proffered quill and signed the indicated place, after initialing twelve different places that she did, indeed, understand that she was releasing three votes in the Wizengamot to the Weasley family. As she slid her thumb over the magically altered section of the parchment next to the signature ‘Hermione Jane Potter – Lord Gaunt‘ the magic in the document sealed the text and glowed briefly as her magic attested to the authenticity of the contract.

“Just a point, don’t ever try to forge one of those.” Ragnok warned. “The consequences are ghastly.”

Vainly trying to imagine what a goblin Clan Chief would consider ‘ghastly’, Harry suppressed a shudder and nodded. “I do suppose it cuts down upon imposters and the like.”

“You’d be surprised. Though only the truly desperate or borderline insane will risk it. However, that’s applicable more often than you would think in the wizarding world.” Ragnok answered so drolly that it took both of the teens a second or two to respond. Bursting out laughing, they traded thoughts of likely candidates for such a designation back and forth at each other, until Hermione finally sent a mental image of Dolores Umbridge, causing Harry to slide off his chair onto the floor.

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