. . .
'It won't do you any good, Your Grace," Ragnok said, stopping the witch in her tracks. "Mr. Potter's wishes were very specific and we at Gringotts carried them out as perfectly as possible. We pride ourselves on meeting as well as exceeding our customer's demands."
Hermione turned on the goblin with an angry glare. "What have you done with my Harry?" she demanded. Most of those watching couldn't help but to smile abit at the term My Harry the witch let slip. Not because it wasn't true but rather because it was the first time Hermione had openly admitted what they themselves had known for a long while. Harry was as much hers as she was his, a fact everyone but the two of them seemed to know.
"Nothing more than what he requested, Your Grace," Ragnok replied, unruffled by the girl's apparent anger. Goblins had long ago become accustom to angry wizards and witches, they had to as the wand users always seemed to be upset with them for one reason or another. It is not our fault that they cannot manage their galleons or there time, he thought to himself. It was after all the goblin way to glean as much profit for one's self as possible. Something they never seem to understand.
"And what might those wishes have been, Sir?" the Queen enquired, giving the irate witch before her a chance to gather herself. As a Queen she would of course support her newly made Duchess, but as a woman she also understood Hermione's desire to find and protect the man she loved. I would do no less if it were my Philip!
"My apologies, Your Majesty, however Gringotts is sworn to maintain the confidentiality of our clients," the Bank Manager replied. "It is apart of our reputation as the world's Wizarding Bank. If we were to suddenly divulge our client's information then we would lose our credibility in the eyes of our patrons. The financial fallout would be devastating to us as well as the financial world, magical and muggle alike. Before you know it the Gnomes of Zurich have all your gold and are giving it away to the Leprechauns," he stated with a distasteful shudder.
Hermione's mind raced trying to find a way to get the information as to what had happened to Harry. If I can find out what was done to Harry maybe I can figure out a way to undo it. Harry!That's it! "You yourself proclaimed that Harry Potter no longer exists. If such is the case then how can he be a client with you? If he is no longer a client of Gringotts then you can tell us, can you not?"
"He thought this might come up. Mr. Potter was very adamant about placing several specific clauses in the contract. There is a time clause on the agreement will remain regardless of either or both party's deaths," Ragnok informed her of. "Gringotts is not allowed to reveal the contents of the contract until the specified time has expired."
"How much time?" Hermione asked, hoping that the missing wizard hadn't been as thorough as possible when negotiating the terms of the agreement.
"200 years," Ragnok replied. The goblin could see the wheels spinning in the young woman's head as she tried to find a loop-hole in the contract. Try all you want Duchess, Gringotts doesn't make mistakes…unless they are in our favor, he thought smugly.
"Was what happened to Harry in the contract?" the Duchess pressed, having suspected something of that nature. "Did the contract specifically state what the procedure would do to him?"
Ragnok opened his mouth to answer but then paused as he thought about her question."Not the procedure specifically," he was finally forced to admit."Only the name of it was stated."
"So you are legally bound not to tell us the name of the procedure but there is nothing preventing you from informing us what exactly the procedure did to Harry!" Hermione exclaimed victoriously, only to see the goblin nod in agreement. "Then tell us of the procedure that was done to Harry," Hermione said. "We needn't know the name of the procedure, just what harm it did to him."
"I do not understand everything the procedure does," Ragnok answered."Only a Rune Mage could explain it fully."
"Then perhaps you should bring one here," the Queen interjected into the conversation. It was apparent to her that the goblin was trying everything it could not to divulge any information that it didn't have to. They appear to be as tight-fisted with their information as I was told they were with their gold, she surmised. She had previously instructed Kingsley to give her a full report on what to expect today, who would be there as well as their backgrounds so that she would know what she was walking into.
"They are forbidden to leave their sanctuary, Your Majesty," the goblin explained. "Their charge is one of the most sacred within the Goblin Nation."
"Then take me to them and I will ask them directly," Hermione ordered, growing more frustrated by the moment.
"That too is not allowed, Your Grace. Non-goblins are not allowed into the Ritual Chamber," Ragnok replied.
"But Harry was allowed in there," Hermione pointed out.
"Yes, but as he has no memory of that or what he saw, it is rather a moot point, Your Grace. Surely you can understand that?" Ragnok asked.
"So then what did the procedure do to Harry? Were his memories altered in some manner?" the determine witch pried. "Tell us what you can of it."
"The ritual does not alter the memories of the subject, it removes them completely. Once every memory is removed, new ones are put back in," the Bank Manager explained. "Before you ask, I do not know what the new memories are but they would cover his entire life. He will know none of you, remember none of you or any of this," he added with a gesture to encompass everything around them. "His memories will be of another life, another family and other friends. Seven different Rune Mages were used to create his new memories, so there is only one person who will know the entire story of his life now."
"Harry," Hermione stated only to see the goblin nod that she was correct. The heartbroken witch turned and hastened towards the burrow.
"Where are you going?" Ron called after her.
"I have to try!" Hermione tossed back over her shoulder just before she entered the Burrow. Racing to the kitchen she grasped a pinch of floo powder and tossed it into the flames. "#12 Grimmauld Place," she spoke clearly before stepping into the green flames and being whisked away.
Hermione stumbled from the hearth and automatically reached out for the kitchen table to steady herself. Her hand grasped nothing but air as the room was completely empty. Unable to stop herself she fell to the floor rather ungracefully."Where's the table?" she mumbled to herself as she got to her knees.
"Oh dear that must have smarted," a woman's voice said from the kitchen doorway. "Are you alright?"
"Is Harry here?" Hermione asked as she struggled to her feet.
"Harry?Oh my no, though I wish he were," the lady replied with a giggle. "If he was here then I could get so much more for this property. He sold this place to the goblins who asked me to find a buyer for it. Angela Willard," she introduce herself as. "Just the fact that Harry Potter lived here will drive the price up a great deal though," the realtor confessed, looking forward to her cut of the final selling price. "The showing isn't till tomorrow morning. I'd be happy to give you a tour now though if you'd like?" The sudden crack of Hermione's disapparition left her slightly confused. "Oh well, hopefully she'll be back tomorrow."
Hermione traveled to several places including Godric's Hallow, the Shrieking Shack, the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts and even #4 Privet Drive. Her search took her any place she could think of, including several they had visited while hunting horcruxs, all to no avail. It was a very weary and discouraged witch that finally returned late that night to the Burrow.
Hermione jumped when she heard a voice ask, "No luck finding him?"
It took a moment for her to realize that it was Ron who was sitting on the back stairs of the Burrow apparently waiting for her return. Seeing the witch shake her head he shifted over and made room for her on the step. The discouraged and weary witch took the offered seat and rested her head against her friend's shoulder. "I've lost him, Ron," she said in a tear filled voice.
Ron slipped his arm around Hermione's shoulders as the witch cried, giving her what comfort he could. "Don't worry, we'll find him," he told her.
Four Years Later…
Hermione Granger Black, Duchess of Hogsmeade sighed and set the parchment she had been reading down on the cluttered desk before her. The young woman, undoubtedly the most famous and influential witch since Morgan le Fay, had never realized what she had been signing on for when she had accepted her titles.
The title 'Duchess of Hogsmeade' had been a little misleading apparently. The new Duchess was actually responsible for a great deal more than just the sleepy hamlet of her title. The environs of her Duchy included the Black forest, Hogsmeade as well as Hogwarts. There were also a number of non-magical towns and cities within the county of Banffshire, where the castle, town and forest resided. The Peerage granted by the Queen extended into the non-magical world as well as the magical.
At the start of it all the Ministry was thrown into disarray, still reeling from the war. Large portions of the Ministry workforce had either been imprisoned or killed by the Death Eaters when Voldemort had seized control. When the Dark Lord had finally been beaten, many of those remaining at the Ministry had fled for fear of being prosecuted as sympathizers or supporters of Voldemort. There just weren't enough bodies left to run the current government.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been named interim Minister, at least until the Queen has declared him the actual Minister that is. Under the advice of Hermione and the Queen, Kingsley had declared martial law and suspended the Wizengamot. Veritaserum was given to every remaining Ministry employee to determine where their loyalties lay. The results of which were even more employees being let go when they confessed to aiding Voldemort or having a bigoted belief in pureblood supremacy. Over the course of the next six months Shacklebolt, Hermione and the Queen had hammered out a new governing body which more resembled the one in use by the non-magicals.
The Minister for Magic would hence forth be appointed by the Crown, much as it currently appointed the muggle Prime Minister. The Minister for Magic then had the ability to appoint ministers for the various department heads such as for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Magical Transportation, Muggle Relations though that was renamed to Non-magical Relations. These department heads became the Minister's Council and were there to advise and assist the Minister.
A legislative government was created and given the name of The House of Magus. Witches and wizards were then elected by the people to serve a term of no greater than ten consecutive years. Elections were held every five years. After the ten years they must step down, though they would be allowed to run again when next the opportunity arose. The Minister and his Council were held accountable to The House of Magus of which they were a contributing part. Bills would be presented and debated before the entire house before being submitted to the Minister for approval.
The Crown preserved its Executive Authority as well as the rights of Royal Prerogative. Ultimately the Crown spoke for the Realm and hence had the final say in any matter. Hermione, as the designated representatives of the Crown, was heavily involved in all matters of the creation of the new government as well as the day to day running of it. The young Duchess days were long and grueling, often starting as early as six o'clock in the morning and not ending till the stroke of midnight, if then.
Nearly another six months had passed to get the new government up and running as well as ironing out several major problems that had arisen. It hadn't taken the overly bright witch long to realize just how uneducated the Wizarding world of Britain actually was in comparison to the non-magical world. The Bill before her on the desk was the painful and exhausting accumulation of the past three years of her life. It called for an entire overhaul of the current educational system within magical Britain.
All magical students would begin their education together at the age of five. As the child grew so to would the number of classes and subjects they were taught. In this manner it was hoped that everyone would have the same education up to and including their A-levels. Hermione's goal was to make it so that magicals could attend non-magical universities were they inclined to do so. She had been appalled at just how much additional schooling was required to enter Universities by non-magical that left the Wizarding world to make their way in the regular world.
Non-magical parents would be contacted as soon as their magical child was born. It had been a huge shock to the Grangers to find out that their daughter was a witch and had been for the previous eleven years. The parents of first generation witches and wizards would be given access to the Wizarding world that their child would be a part of. They would also be given classes that explained the magical world as well as its customs and traditions. A witch or wizard would be assigned to them as a liaison to answer any question they may have and assist them to adjusting to life with a magical child. It was again hoped that education would prevent them from fearing that which they didn't know or understand.
Hermione felt that as a child she had spent far too much time separated from her parents. This had only served to drive a wedge between them. Her Mum and Dad knew only what the young witch had told them about the magical world she had become a part of. It was hard for them to embrace their daughter's future when they knew next to nothing about it. Educate the parents first then educate the children was her goal. Likewise the magical parents were given an opportunity to learn about the non-magical world if they were inclined to do so.
The educational reform was a long term goal, one Hermione knew wouldn't pay off dividends till the first class that started at age five actually graduated from their seventh year at Hogwarts and became contributing members of society. That group of people would be far more educated than their parents were or any group before them. Tomorrow Hermione was to present the reform bill to the Queen for approval though that was nothing more than a formality. The Minister and his cabinet had already approved it as had she which was why she knew the Queen would as well when the time came.
"Working hard I see, Your Grace," drawled an aristocratic voice from her doorway.
Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose right between her eyes and rubbed gently. It was already very late at night and the last thing she wanted to do was deal with this annoyance. I knew I should have taken it home to read rather than stay here longer, she bemoaned silently. Due to the demand on her time, Hermione had reluctantly accepted an office at the Ministry even though she held no title other than being the representative of the Queen and a member of The House of Magus. "Someone has to, Mr. Malfoy," she finally replied after pausing for a few moments just to irritate the man.
"You do know you work too hard, Granger?" Draco rhetorically asked as he leaned in the doorframe to her office. "There is more to life than this office you know." They were not idle words as the witch seated behind the desk did in fact work just as hard, if not more so, than anyone else at the Ministry.
Hermione sighed knowing he was right and hating the fact that she had to agree with him."A bit more to do here than what you have as Minister of Foreign Liaisons I suspect," she replied removing her hand from her eyes and turning her head to regard him.
"I have no doubt, Your Grace," Draco replied with a grin, "but I am better at delegating the work instead of trying to do it all as you seem to try. You should try it some time," he suggested.
Hermione knew that he didn't delegate the work at all. His being here at this late hour told her a different story. The man before her wasn't the Slytherin boy she knew from school. Directly after the war things had not gone well for the Malfoy family. The only reason Malfoy senior had not found himself in Azkaban was because Harry had not gone after him. The Ministry had decided that if the Chosen One could forgive them that it could as well, though that didn't mean that they trusted them either.
Draco had attended his final year at Hogwarts, though from what she had heard he had been little more than an outcast in his own House while there. It had really been no surprise when the young Malfoy scion had begun to work in politics. Many assumed he was trying to follow in his father's footsteps, though Malfoy Senior had retired from the public eye by that time. What had truly surprise Hermione, and many others, was Draco's outspokenness in full support of the changes the Ministry and she were trying to make. "You've changed, Malfoy. You're not the spoiled little brat you were in school."
Draco chuckled though there was little humor in it. "Potter didn't leave me much choice in the matter. It was either change or die like the other Death Eaters who supported Voldemort." The young man shifted a bit uncomfortably recalling his previous attitude and misguided beliefs. "I still owe him for that actually. If not for him I probably wouldn't be standing here now."
"I'm sure that's part of it. Harry can have the effect on people at times," Hermione replied with a sad frown at the thought of her missing friend. She had spent a considerable part of the Black family fortune, as well as her own personal time trying to find him, with no luck as yet. That didn't stop her from trying though. Private investigators, both magical and mundane, were hired in many different countries and paid handsomely for any possible lead into the whereabouts of the missing wizard.
Draco sighed, realizing that perhaps a bit more was called for. "My father showed me what following the old ways gets you. He bowed and scraped to ahalf-blood wizard who would have sacrificed him and his entire family, myself included, without a moment's hesitation. That type of loyalty is just bent around the bend and then some."
"It showed me that I did not want to be just like my father. I want to be my own man and not someone else's. The time working with you and Minister Shacklebolt has opened my eyes. There is a whole wide world out there of which we're just asmall part of. I may not like everything about the muggles but I should learn as much as I can about them. Apparently they are a great deal smarter than us in many areas."
"They have the same flaws and fallacies that we do. The only difference is that we have magic so our mistakes are made that much larger," Hermione replied."My father once told me that a man makes his own way in the world. I'm glad to see that you're doing that."
Draco smirked, "Scarhead told me the same thing once," he confessed."Of course that was right after he accused me of being a boy playing at being a man. As I recall is was directly after he and Weasley pulled my arse from the fiendfyre in the Room of Requirements." There were times he still had nightmares about that incident.
"I guess Harry truly understood that then," Hermione said, implying that he had in fact made his own way in the world when he left the Wizarding world behind. "Better than most apparently," she added sadly. There wasn't day that went by that she didn't miss his presence in her life.
"Still no sign of him?" Draco enquired in a gentle tone. He, like everyone else, had read Harry's final letter which was published in the Daily Prophet. For awhile there had been a mad rush to race out and find the missing hero. There were sightings reported of him daily for several months. As time went by the sightings became fewer and fewer. A year after his disappearance hardly anyone concerned themselves with the hunt. With all that was going on in the ministry and the changing government people could care less about the missing boy who had saved them all through his actions and sacrifice. True to form, the Wizarding world did just what Harry had asked them to do, nothing.
The tired witch could do little more than shake her head. She tried not to think about it for the most part. She had taken Harry's request to heart and had dived into making the Wizarding world a better place just like he had asked of her. Due to this she had mostly had to leave the searching to those she could hire to do so. Fliers had been handed out to the populace, both magical and non-magical. She had even offered a substantial reward but as yet no one had stepped forth to claim it. After two years no one but she and a hand full of Harry's closest friends even cared any more. "Not from lack of trying," she said with a weary sigh.
Draco cocked his head to the side slightly as he stared at the woman before him."When was the last time you went out and had some fun, Granger? You do recall what that is, don't you?" he added with a smirk that was reminiscent of his old self.
Hermione snorted humorously, "As if I have the time for that," she replied. Fun is not a luxury I can afford right now, she told herself.
Draco nodded, having suspected as much. "All work and no play makes for a-"
"Dull witch?" Hermione interjected.
"I was going to say spinster, but I guess that works as well," he replied with another smirk. "You should go check this place out," he stated as he tossed her something. "I highly recommend it."
Hermione caught the small item and looked at it before looking back up at the fool standing in her office doorway who was smiling smugly at her. "And just what am I supposed to do here?" she asked with an arched brow.
"Just, oh, I don't know," Draco replied offhandedly still smiling as he spun about and walked out of her office, "have a look around," he called back over his shoulder.
The Duchess of Hogsmeade flipped the book of matches over in her hand and read the cover aloud, "Pints and Pins," it said. "I don't even know how to bowl!"
"This is stupid!" Hermione exclaimed as she threw her quill down on the desk in frustration. She had found it difficult to sleep when she had arrived home last night. She was certain it was due to speaking about Harry with Malfoy. Every time there was mention of the missing wizard her heart hurt and she had difficulties falling asleep. It wasn't the lack of sleep that was bothering her though, but rather a piece of folded cardboard with matches inside that currently resided on the corner of her desk.
The young witch had a strange dream last night once she did manage to finally fall asleep. In the dream she had been bowling, which wasn't all that strange except for the fact that she had never been before. The thing she recalled most about the dream after waking was that every bowling pin had sported a pair of emerald colored eyes situated on the top round portion of the pin. A sharp knocking on her door was a thankful distraction from her thoughts. "Enter," she called out.
Kingsley Shacklebolt's head popped in after the door had opened a bit. "So, how'd it go?" the Minister for Magic enquired expectantly. He actually had little doubt that it went well, however he had learned early on not to take anything for granted when dealing with royalty.
Hermione waved the older man in with a large grin. "Just as we thought, she signed it and gave it her royal approval," she informed him as she withdrew the now legal school reform document from her desk drawer. "We have a few months to get everything ready but I think we should start contacting new parents after the first of the year. After that we can start reaching out the parents whose children have not yet started school."
Kingsley crossed from the door to the large desk and accepted the document, glancing it over to make certain it was indeed signed and sealed as she had said. The one piece of parchment represented three very long years of work from the both of them. "I still can't believe that The House actually approved it."
Hermione was just as surprised as the Minister had been that The House of Magus had ratified the bill with only minor changes. Granted this had been the seventh rendition of the original bill. "Maybe they finally realized that these changes would be for the betterment of all."
"Which is exactly why I was surprised they agreed," the Minister quipped back quickly. "Those old codgers are used to thinking only of themselves and the number of galleons they have in their vaults. They could care less about the masses!"
Hermione just chuckled. "When it is the masses that determine if you stay in office or not it is in their best interest to take care of them," she said."They want to make certain that they can stay in office and keep being paid those galleons they are so in need of. People have long memories, Sir," she told him only to frown as she thought of Harry and just how fast he had been forgotten. Maybe not long enough, she corrected to herself.
Kingsley heard the note in her voice and took a long hard look at the witch before him."Are you alright? You don't look to well, Hermione," he said upon noting the darkness around her eyes and the slumped nature of her shoulders. Over the last few years Kingsley had taken it upon himself to be Hermione's father-like older friend and concern himself with her well-being. He, like many others, knew the young witch had a tendency to overwork herself.
"It has been a long three years, Sir," she replied in an attempt to brush aside his concerns. She had wanted to make a difference in the world and she had been given that opportunity in spades, thanks to Harry. The young Duchess was not about to let the opportunity slip through her fingers while she sat idly by. There was still far too much to do for her to sit back and rest now.
"And you've been in the thick of it since the start," Kingsley said with a nod of agreement to her words. "You should take some time off. We can handle things here for a while."
"I've got too much to do. There's the Werewolf registration reform and that equal opportunity bill I'm trying to get voted upon the floor of the House," Hermione protested.
"Nonsense!Take the next few days off. I'll have Alice clear your schedule for you. That's an order!" Kingsley declared seeing the witch about to protest once again."I'm not about to have Her Majesty mad at me because you worked yourself into the ground, Granger!"
"Fine!" Hermione declared, her shoulders slumping further in defeat. "But just till Monday and then we need to discuss what issues to tackle for the winter session!"
The large man smiled charmingly, the picture of politeness. "Thank you, Your Grace. I am so glad we had this conversation." The Minister turned and made his way back to the door but stopped upon hearing his name called.
"Shack," Hermione called out and then waited till he had looked at her. "Thank you," she offered in a small appreciative voice. She hated to admit it but if he hadn't forced her to take time off now and then she very well would work herself silly. Hermione was touched that he continued to look after her.
"Anytime," he replied with a smile before slipping out and closing the door behind him. I promised Harry I would look after you and that's one promise I'm going to do everything in my power to keep, the Minister thought to himself. Even if you'd prefer I didn't, he added with a small grin.
Hermione's eyes fell to her desk and alighted upon the book of matches sitting in the corner. "Pints and Pins, huh?" she mused before standing and reaching for the item to get the address.
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