Other Sons and Daughters
A/N: Disclaimer, spoilers, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1.
It was about a twenty minute walk to the tunnel where the Lestrange vault was located. Ginny never would have found it without a goblin to lead her. There were two trolls armed with clubs at the mouth of the tunnel, and there was a massive dragon breathing slowly about halfway down the tunnel, well in front of the vault door.
The dragon exhaled, and the burst of flame gave off more than enough light for Ginny to see a lot more detail. The dragon was bleached white from a lifetime underground, and it was blind. It had hideous scars on its face and around its legs. One of its legs had a massive metal cuff chaining it to the rear wall of the tunnel, so it couldn’t try to escape. She wasn’t fanatical about dragons like Charlie was, but this was just cruel.
She walked beside Griphook into the tunnel. Her inner Slayer writhed angrily at the trolls, who ignored her as long as she was with a Gringotts goblin. But she had no doubt that Griphook could summon them in the blink of an eye. Perhaps without even moving. And they were big. Massive, smelly trolls who were nine feet tall and as wide as she was tall. It was all she could do not to yank some cloth out of her bracelet and slap it over her nose. Having Slayer senses wasn’t always a good thing.
There was a wooden box filled with chains and metal pieces. She had no idea what it was, but it wouldn’t have been sitting there unless there was a need for it. And it had to be far enough away from the dragon to avoid being blasted no matter how far the dragon could go, or the wood of the box would have been incinerated long ago. She looked along the walls, and even in the near-darkness of the corridor she could see where the burnmarks stopped. That might turn out to be really important, if she had to fight the dragon and the trolls to get out of here. She was fairly certain from stories she’d heard from her dad and her brother Bill that no one could disapparate down here, and Disillusionment Charms and Disguising Charms wouldn’t work either. She had no idea which defensive and offensive spells would
work, and she didn’t want to try one in an emergency and find out the hard way that she had chosen poorly.
Well, that was all part of her plan, as wobbly as it was now that the goblins had to know something was up. And she couldn’t trust Griphook, even though she needed him. And she was depending on her Slayer skills to get her out of anything her magic couldn’t. And she had a couple surprises from Hermione that she was hoping the goblins were really not expecting.
Griphook picked up the metal stuff from the box. He smirked, “These are clackers. The dragon knows to back up when he hears them. He has been trained.”
And Ginny could guess how the goblins had trained the dragon. After watching Harry in the first task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Ginny had never thought she would ever feel sorry for a dragon. But she knew they had tortured the poor thing. Probably every scar she could see was part of this hideous ‘training’ so they could make it move forward and backward to guard these vaults.
Griphook let the clackers clatter and clang. The dragon roared, but backed up as quickly as it could manage. When it was at the far end of the tunnel, Griphook stepped up to one particular vault door and placed his palm on it.
The door simply dissolved at his touch. Ginny knew the door would magically re-form in a matter of seconds, so she was going to have to get Griphook to go into the vault with her, or else she would be trapped in the vault, maybe forever. She knew the Weasley family vault didn’t have magical safeguards like this one. But she also knew they couldn’t afford a vault like this. The Weasley family vault usually was nearly empty, even now that Bill was married and Charlie lived in Romania and Percy lived in his own flat in Diagon Alley and the twins had their own place as well. Ginny just hoped that when she and Ron no longer lived at home – assuming she was even alive by then and not one more dead Slayer – her mum and dad could afford some of the things they had sacrificed for so long to take care of all of them.
But Ginny did know about vaults like this. The Blacks had several, and her dad’s mum had been a Black before being cast out of the family for having the sheer nerve to marry a poor Weasley. The Prewetts had one, and her great-aunt Muriel had taken her to it several years ago to talk to her about what family heirlooms the only girl of the Weasleys would probably end up with. That goblin-made tiara that Fleur had worn at the wedding, for one. When great-aunt Muriel passed away, almost everything she had would go to either Ginny, her mum, or two distant cousins who didn’t speak to the Weasleys and hadn’t even come to Bill and Fleur’s wedding. She wondered how they would act if she really did have a chance to marry Harry. She might be a nobody, but every witch and wizard on earth would eat Hagrid’s rock cakes morning noon and night to get a chance to go to the wedding of The Boy Who Lived.
Not that she really thought that would happen. No, she was the Vampire Slayer, and they had life expectancies so short they made Harry’s look like a millennium. She was figuring that some higher power had made her the Vampire Slayer so she could give her life to protect Harry. She didn’t like to think about Harry going on after she was dead, but it was better than thinking about him getting murdered by Riddle. And it wasn’t like there weren’t a thousand girls who would give their wand hand to marry The Boy who Lived, starting with Gabrielle Delacour. And Romilda Vane. And maybe a quarter of the girls at Hogwarts, even if you didn’t count a couple Slytherin girls who maybe had a thing for Harry but maybe were just being scheming snakes. She knew she could trust Hermione and Ron to protect Harry after she was dead, as long as she did whatever it took to keep them alive too.
As soon as the door dissolved in front of her, she was hit by the nearness of the Horcrux. She was nearly overwhelmed with a writhing nausea caused by the sudden exposure to the awful thing. She staggered a little, and grabbed her stomach to try to stop the roiling, twisting sensations inside her.
Griphook moved like lightning as soon as he saw his opportunity. He sprinted as fast as he could run with the sword, and he hurled the clackers to the open end of the tunnel. The dragon lurched forward at the distant noise, thinking it was safe again. It stomped forward and belched a long, vicious gout of fire.
Ginny dropped to the floor to avoid being roasted, even though she knew Griphook would get away. She might be a Slayer, but she couldn’t run through a hallway full of dragonflame, and she was struggling too hard to control her reaction to the Horcrux to do more than put up a small Shield Charm.
Griphook ran screaming down the tunnel, “Thief! Thief! Thief in the tunnels! Call the patrols!”
She knew that if she ran into the vault, the door would re-form behind her and trap her inside. She knew that if she just stood outside the vault, the dragon would blast her with flame, and she would lose any chance at the cup even if she didn’t get roasted into a cinder. She had to do something!
She yanked out of her wrist bracelet the rope with its sticky rubber weight, and she stepped into the doorway of the vault. The ugly sensations from the Horcrux directed her like a flashing sign. There it was, on the far wall of the vault, on a high, inaccessible shelf.
Well, it was inaccessible for a normal witch. She hurled the rubber ball with the Sticking Charm, and her aim was perfect. The ball smacked into the side of the cup, and she yanked on the rope. The cup came flying out of the vault fast enough that it would have been a danger to anyone other than a Slayer. She snatched it out of the air, cast a quick spell to let the Sticking Charm fail for a second, and shoved the cup into her bracelet.
The dragon was nearly on top of her. It bellowed angrily and opened its mouth to try and bite whatever it could find by sound.
She was the Vampire Slayer, but she didn’t think she could beat up a sixty-foot dragon. No way.
She dove under its head and rolled between its two massive front feet. The dragon snapped at empty air, and then turned its head in a vain attempt to find where the new noises were coming from.
But she wasn’t going to hold still for long enough that the dragon could find her, or even track her. She ducked under its massive belly, came up behind its left front leg, and leapt up high enough that she could get a hand on a spine jutting out from its back.
The dragon roared angrily, but couldn’t seem to find her. She looked down the tunnel and saw the two trolls lumbering toward her, their clubs in attack position. Each club outweighed her, probably by a lot. And they had spotted her as she hung from the side of the dragon.
She threw the rope weight again. It went flying high up toward the vaulted roof of the tunnel, and stuck on the wall about forty feet up. She grabbed the rope and leapt, pulling herself upward into the air with her arms at the same time.
A regular girl could swing on a rope, although one this thin would probably slide right through her hands, giving her a nasty case of ropeburn before she crashed hard onto the rock floor. A Vampire Slayer? Completely different. Ginny soared fifteen feet above the dragon’s back and swung through the air like… like… What was that Muggle movie Martha showed her years ago? Tarzan. That was it. She was swinging through the air like Tarzan with those vines.
She swung in an arc downward and toward those massive trolls. Did she have time to fight them? Did she dare leave them behind her? If she fought those trolls right at the place where she would swing into them, would the dragon roast the three of them as it lumbered forward? She had a fraction of a second to decide what to do.
Her inner Slayer knew what it wanted to do. It wanted to pull out the biggest battleaxe she had in her wrist bracelet and hack those trolls into pieces. And it wanted to hack the dragon to pieces too. Ginny didn’t think it would be a good idea to stick around that long, because Griphook would be back any second now with a small army of angry goblins.
She swung right at the trolls, who were still stomping their way toward her. And she let go of the rope.