Out of the Ground
A/N: Disclaimer, spoilers, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1.
She had the crossbow out and fired before she landed. The lefthand troll had a crossbow bolt into his eye and out the back of his head, but he was still moving forward. His body just hadn’t realized yet that he was dead.
She threw the crossbow straight up into the air, and the righthand troll followed it with his eyes for just a moment. But a moment was all the time a Vampire Slayer needed. She had a battleaxe out of the bracelet and, with a ruthless backhand throw, flashing across the space between her and her foe.
The battleaxe sliced wickedly through the troll’s neck, and the troll began to fall just a fraction of a second after the first one.
She leapt over them and caught the crossbow as it came back down. The bodies of the two trolls hit the ground hard. The battleaxe smacked against the wall about forty feet down the tunnel. The dragon roared.
She moved as fast as she could, sprinting past the corpses of the trolls and shoving the crossbow into her bracelet before the dragon could fill the hallway with more fire. She released the Sticking Charm and pulled the rope behind her. She scooped up the battleaxe as she ran past. She was at the end of the tunnel.
A massive blast of flame filled the tunnel and turned the corpses into troll flambé. She ducked around the corner and ran silently for half a dozen seconds before she heard a storm of goblins rushing her way. She couldn’t tell how many of them were coming, but her inner Slayer told her it was a lot more than a handful. And she could hear armor clanking furiously as the goblins charged toward the Lestrange vault.
She threw the rubber weight high up on the wall of the open area, and it stuck about seventy feet up. She clambered up the rope, coiling the trailing end up after her. She climbed easily, only stopping when she was about five feet below the rubber ball. She had thought about bringing the rope, but it took a brain like Hermione’s to think up how to combine a magical spell and a Muggle toy to make a tool for a Slayer.
She watched silently as a small army of heavily armed goblins ran beneath her, their armor clanking loudly to her ears. She wondered if the armor was bespelled to block wand-based magics. That’s what she would do if she could. She didn’t know enough about goblin magics to know if they could do that, but she knew it was possible to put a spell on clothing to give it an automatic protection like a Shield Charm. The twins were already selling things like that.
She remained still, even though the closeness of the Horcrux was making her feel sick and belligerent. If only she had gotten ten seconds with the sword before Griphook betrayed her. If only she hadn’t been overwhelmed by the evil of the Horcrux when the vault door dissolved. If only…
The goblin brigade stopped just short of the tunnel opening, while another brigade took up position on the other side of the tunnel. A third brigade marched in, with Griphook and some others in suits following carefully behind the armed forces.
Ginny slid a couple feet down the rope until she found an outcropping with a good handhold. She made sure she had a good grip with her left hand, and she used her wand to unstick the rubber weight. Then she tucked the wand away and stuffed all the rope into her bracelet.
She reached out for another small outcropping and moved to her left, away from the armored brigades. She was guessing that they still thought she was inside the Lestrange vault. As soon as they found the dead trolls, they would probably figure she had escaped, maybe with help. An axe strike and a crossbow bolt weren’t very witch-like, so maybe they would figure she had brought some help. If she was lucky, they might assume she had help from some other Gringotts goblins, which would really muck things up.
She carefully used every handhold and toehold and fingergrip she could find. A couple times, she even considered taking off her shoes and socks, so she could really use her toes. But she worked across the rock wall a foot or two at a time, being careful to be absolutely silent. Silent and cautious. The last thing she wanted was to move in front of a distant torch or something and become visible.
She worked her way a hundred feet further to the left and fifty feet further up, until she moved around a curve in the rock and was out of sight of the goblin brigades. She could still hear as one brigade backed the dragon up and charged into the tunnel. She figured she only had seconds before they found the trolls, and she had no idea if they would be able to tell from the burnt remains how they died.
She pulled out the rope and weight again, and threw it high into the air. The weight just fell short of the tracks for another cart, so she clambered up twenty feet and tried again. Once the rubber weight stuck to the bottom of one of the tracks, she pulled herself up as quickly as she could. Then she clambered over the tracks and onto the rock surface of another level.
Now all she needed was a cart. Or something. She started running along the tracks at the best speed she could manage while not falling between the sleepers. She figured she was running at a bit more than half her best speed, which was still a lot faster than the goblins could expect any witch or wizard could possibly manage. If she was managing twenty or twenty-five miles an hour, then she could run all the way back out in less than half an hour. Unless she got lost, or she had really underestimated how fast the cart was moving, or one of a dozen other things.
She figured she ran for fifteen solid minutes before she heard anything. It sounded like it was a cart, coming her way. She hopped off the tracks and stepped into the shadows of an alcove. It was a good thing she was the Vampire Slayer, or she would have been a sweating, panting, exhausted mess by then. Instead, she had no trouble being completely silent and still.
And she finally had a bit of luck. The cart stopped not two hundred yards from where she lurked, and a middle-aged woman got out with a Gringotts goblin. She even knew the woman. Garvin Maringo worked in a department down the hall from Arthur Weasley, and her dad had introduced her to the Maringo family before. This was his wife Agatha. Their two boys had to be in their twenties now. Probably good little Ministry lackeys like their dad.
Ginny figured she had only a few minutes to do what she needed to do, and then hustle over to Mrs. Maringo’s cart before the woman completed her business in what was most likely the Maringo family vault.
Agatha Maringo made sure she had enough Galleons in her purse before she let the goblin close the vault door. Garvin was quite unhappy about unnecessary trips away from their home while Death Eaters were swarming unchecked about the countryside. She stepped back and nodded to the goblin, who slammed the vault door and locked it with her key. She reached out for the key.
“Ahem, ahem,” called out a syrupy-sweet voice she couldn’t mistake.
Agatha dropped the key. She hurried to find it and pick it back up, and then she turned to face one of the last Ministry people she wanted to face. She forced a smile onto her face. “Madame Umbridge! How… how nice to see you again!” She didn’t know what the old bat was doing, but she was already praying it had nothing to do with Garvin’s work. Or the boys’ jobs.
Dolores Umbridge waddled forward in a pink Ministry robe, with a matching pink bow in her hair. She glared at the goblin beside Agatha. “I prefer ‘Deputy Minister Umbridge’, thank you. I do hope you’re ready to return to the surface.”
“Why yes, I am,” Agatha said, managing not to stutter.
Deputy Minister Umbridge fumed, “I needed to visit one of the family vaults to look for some ancient documents, and the goblin I
was issued decided that he needed to rush off on some wild goose chase. As if anyone would consider breaking into Gringotts! And he simply expected me to wait idly until he could return for me! This is unacceptable! I shall be having words with Minister Thicknesse as soon as possible!”
Agatha managed, “Umm, that is… umm… shocking. Very shocking.”
Umbridge glared at the goblin and then said, “And so, Mrs. Maringo, is it not? I would like to take your cart back to the surface and get out of this goblin-ridden pit as soon as I can.”
“Oh yes, naturally, I mean, would you consider sharing with me? I’m sure there is room for the three of us.”
“Ahem. Very well…”
And so, not ten minutes later, Dolores Umbridge stormed out of Gringotts, angrily telling any goblin who would listen that they would regret their rudeness. No one was unhappy to see her waddle down the white steps of Gringotts and disapparate.