Chapter 8: Submission and Submersion.

Disclaimer: The copyright to Harry Potter characters belong to J. K. Rowling Any other characters are purely work of fiction and any resemblance is co-incidental. No money or profit is being made from this story.

Chapter 8: Submission and Submersion.

Geccemp was in his usual good mood when Hermione found him in his office around ten thirty in the morning. He hummed gently in a Goblin language as he hand-engraved the handle of a knife with a hammer and chisel in his workshop which was adjacent to the office.

Hermione patted her robes and stood expectedly by an arm chair, waiting for Geccemp to notice her presence. The goblin was working in rapt attention and she did not wish to break his concentration. Her patience paid up when Geccemp looked up from his work, smiling.

“Ah! Jean!” He cried out, greeting her like an old friend, “When did you come?” He asked brightly.

Hermione suppressed an urge to roll her eyes. The eccentric Goblin, as she knew it, loved to play very innocent tricks with his employees. She was sure he had heard her entering his office and he was, now, feigning otherwise. “Just now.” She replied to his query casually.

Nodding, Geccemp motioned Hermione to take a seat and left the tools on his workbench. He then wiped his hands on a piece of greasy cloth and carefully placing the knife he had been working on inside a box, brought it to Hermione.

“How does it look?” he asked, a spark in his beady eyes.

Hermione carefully took the box from Geccemp’s long-fingered hands. The knife in the box had a six-inches long steel blade with beveled edges and a handle with intricate designs. Hermione stared at it, marveled by its beauty. Truly! Geccemp’s goblin hands could bring life in the most simplest of the things.

“Marvelous!” Hermione whispered.

Geccemp beamed at her, satisfied by the one-word complement. “It is one of the twelve throwing knives that I am crafting for Monsieur Dufort.” he said and leaving the box in her hand, went to his seat behind the wide desk. “But I don’t think you visited my office on a Saturday morning as this to admire my handiwork, Jean.” he said skeptically. “What is it?” He raised a questioning eyebrow.

Hermione reached inside her robe and took out a roll of parchment. “I came to apply for a leave, sir.” she said, offering the roll to her boss. “I wish to take my son and family to a holiday this summer.”

“Holiday?” Geccemp snorted, “I had thought that you don’t know what a holiday is!” he commented, looking amused, “Never took one since you joined here!” He unrolled her parchment, read it silently, dipped his quill in the ink and signed without another question.

“Here! Granted! ” Geccemp returned the application to Hermione, “Enjoy your holiday!”He said, smiling.

“Merci, sir.” Hermione thanked his boss and pocketed her application. Now the only work left was sending it to the Administrative Division who would be notifying the other goblins and Curse Breakers that the Chief Curse Breaker would be on a two week’s leave.

“So, Jean? Are you staying in France or going abroad?” Geccemp asked, placing the tips of his fingers together.

Hermione smiled, “I am planning to visit Belgium, sir. Gringotts, Belgium is organizing a workshop on Cursed Belgian Diamonds. It was on the last issue of ‘The Curse Breaker’s Newsletter’. I think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually see and learn how to undo those curses that claimed so many lives.” Her eyes sparkled on the prospect of learning new things, “Like the famous ‘Le bleu de France’ or what the Muggles call Hope Diamond.”

“You know what, Jean?” Geccemp shook his head, half-exasperated and half-amused. “That is exactly why you are our Chief Curse Breaker and nobody else.” He commented, snorting audibly. “She is going to a holiday for the first time in four years and she is after cursed diamonds!” he threw his hands in the air, as if wondering what to do with his geek Chief Curse Breaker.

Hermione laughed out loud; with his reaction, Geccemp was reminding her of Ron’s incredulous looks at her perfectly rational behaviours. She was about to protest when a knock was issued on the office door.

“Enter!” Geccemp immediately became grave and called from his seat.

The door opened and a goblin who Hermione knew as Greepak entered the office. He strode straight to Geccemp’s desk and bowed. “Bonjour, Sir. Monsieur Malfoy is here and wishes to meet you.” He informed Geccemp in an official tone.

“Monsieur Julian Malfoy?” Geccemp enquired.

“Yes, sir.” Greepak affirmed. “Him and his cousin from Britain, Monsieur Draco Malfoy.”

As soon as the name Draco Malfoy reached her ears, Hermione’s smile died in her lips. She eyed Geccemp and Greepak with apprehension, her body shaking from head to foot. How could she have forgotten that Draco Malfoy was supposed to visit Gringotts on Saturday? She was leaving the country to avoid him and now he was standing outside her boss’s office! Merlin! How could she be such a fool?

Geccemp, the very clever and observant Goblin, immediately noticed Hermione’s sudden change of demeanor but preferred not to question it before his subordinate. Instead he looked at Greepak and said. “Please apologize to them on my behalf and tell them make themselves comfortable while I finish an important conversation.”

Greepak bowed and left without another word. As soon as he closed the door behind him, Hermione jumped to her feet.

“I am sorry sir but I must leave! Before the Malfoys come here!” she cried, her voice trembling and hysterical. No! This was not happening to her! THIS was not happening to her!

Geccemp eyed her with utmost concern. “But if you leave through that door now, Jean, you’ll definitely bump into them.” He said, not probing her for sudden eagerness to leave his office. “I think you should go and wait in my workshop until they leave.” He offered, motioning at his workshop’s direction.

Hermione could not think of any better option and, therefore, nodded. She would have casted a Disillusionment Charm upon herself had she not been in Gringotts, a place where any kind of concealing charm was prohibited.

Geccemp left his seat and ushered Hermione to his workshop. It was a large cavern, lit with torches and decorated elaborately with most intriguing of toolbars made by the goblin himself. He hid the place from prying eyes behind a stained glass window which acted as a screen.

“You are safe here, Jean.” Geccemp assured her with a gentle pat on the shoulder. “The window is enchanted in way so that only you can see or hear them but they can’t.” He informed her, “Take a seat and calm yourself.” he said and left the workshop, sealing the entrance behind him.

Hermione felt her legs go numb and she slumped on the nearest stool, waiting for the dreaded encounter as Geccemp walked to his office door, opened it and ushered the visitors inside.

•••••

Draco and Julian were not seated for more than five minutes when the silver door leading to the chief Goblin’s office swung open and he peeped out.

“Bonjour, Monsieur Malfoy.” he addressed, seeing them, “Please come in.” He gestured them inside.

“Bonjour!” Julian greeted back as he and Draco rose from their seats and followed the goblin. As he stepped in, Draco looked around the spacious office. It was quite large with a stained glass window on one side and a large mahogany table on the other. A large chandelier of what looked like a candle stubs on dinosaur skeleton was hanging from the ceiling. The goblin graciously offered them seats which he took with an air of disdain.

“I see you are alone, Chief Goblin Geccemp.” Julian commented, his grey eyes moving around the office in search of someone.

Geccemp settled behind his large desk, facing the Malfoys now. “I was not aware, Monsieur, that you were expecting someone else too.” he said confidently. He next fixed his beady eyes on Draco. “And this must be Monsieur Draco Malfoy.”

Draco decided not to reply. He was Draco Malfoy and there was no need to prove it before a goblin. Julian, however, smiled.

“Yes. He is.” He said with a glance at Draco’s direction. “Actually we were waiting outside your office when Greepak told us that the Chief Curse Breaker is inside, talking to you. So I thought, for a moment, that we will finally get to meet her. After all, Curse Breaker Jean’s skill on this particular field is legendary, isn’t it?”

Draco looked at Julian, stunned. What was he hearing? Gringotts France has a woman on the post of Chief Curse Breaker! “You mean, their Curse Breaker is a woman?” he asked incredulously.

Geccemp chuckled, looking very smug. “Yes, Monsieur Malfoy.” He replied on Julian’s stead. “Mademoiselle Jean is physically a woman but mentally she’s far ahead of her opposite sex. She is patient, brave and has a thirst for knowledge that is very rare these days. And that was why she was promoted to be the Chief Curse Breaker. She, as your cousin said, is the best.”  He did not endeavor to hide the pride in his voice. “But let us put this discussion aside.” he told Draco and turned to Julian, “Monsieur, I believe you wished to meet me for some important reasons.” He prompted.

“I do.” Julian nodded and reached inside his coat. He took out a small box and passed it to Geccemp who opened it to find a large diamond ring. “This ring was passed to us recently after one of mother’s aunts died. I heard that now-a-days diamonds are being subjected to innovative curses to prevent the new bearers from wearing them and therefore, thought it would be wise to consult you.” he said evenly, “That’s why the topic of Curse Breaker Jean came in.”

The Goblin examined the diamond with a slight furrow between eye brows. “Very well Monsieur.” He looked up and closed the box with a snap, “The matter will be taken care of most earnestly.” he assured Julian.

“By Mademoiselle Jean, I hope?” Julian supplied, “If not, then I explicitly request her expertise in this matter. After all it will be worn by my mother, Lady Audré and I shall not tolerate any carelessness on her regard.” He pressed.

“As you wish, Monsieur Malfoy.” Geccemp ensured him with a dignified nod. “Anything else I can do for you?”

“Merci.” Julian replied. “That will be all.”

Draco, who had been silent during his cousin’s conversation, took the opportunity to voice the question nagging in his mind. “This Curse Breaker Jean, is she a Pureblood?” he asked Geccemp.

Geccemp eyed Draco carefully as Julian shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Why do you enquire so, Monsieur Draco?” he asked pointedly.

“Because only Pureblood Witches can have such kind of rare magical abilities – passed to them from generations of pureblood ancestors.” Draco replied proudly.

Geccemp’s eyes flashed dangerously. “But Monsieur, correct me if I am wrong, Lord Voldemort was a very powerful wizard and he was a Half-Blood. Surely you know better than I do, Sir, since you must have been blessed by his love.” Geccemp said, unmistakable tone of sarcasm in his voice.

He touched a nerve because Draco’s face reddened on his remark. “You speak of Dark Lord with such careless ease, Goblin.” he said coolly.

Geccemp smiled at Draco. “I do, Sir, since he’s no longer worth than a Knut in dirt. Pity he could not even afford a decent burial from his Pureblooded followers.” he remarked, smirking.

Julian sensed the dangerous turn in their conversation and stood up before Draco could retaliate. “Merci, Geccemp for giving us your valuable time.” He said, “Come Cousin. Let’s go.” He motioned Draco, who was glaring at the Goblin silently. “Au revoir, Geccemp.”

“The pleasure was only mine, Monsieur. Have a nice day.” Geccemp, like a professional, stood up and opened the office door for them. With last look of venom at his direction Draco followed his cousin out. After ensuring that they had really left he went to his workshop. The stained glass window slid aside and revealed a Hermione sitting ashen faced and tight-lipped on a stool.

“Jean?” Geccemp cried softly as he came to stand before her. “Are you alright?”

Hermione did not respond.

“Jean?” the Goblin looked worried.

His voice brought Hermione back to her senses. She looked down at him, her eyes blank. Silently, she rolled the sleeve of her left forearm and offered it to the Goblin. There was a thin bright cut across her skin that wrote: Mudblood.

“Draco Malfoy’s Aunt Bellatrix Lestrange did it.” she told her boss, her eyes tearful now, “I hope you understand why I don’t want to meet them.” She explained.

The Goblin had no words to convey his feelings. He eyed the scar, his lips between his sharp white teeth.

“I never showed it to anyone here at Gringotts, except for you, sir.” Hermione said. “In fact, I never thought I would. But today… when I saw you defending me… fiercely… you earned a place of trust in my heart…” she said tearfully and stood up. “…there can be no higher honour for me to work here… with you…” she clamped her mouth and left the office, almost running.

How Hermione reached her home she didn’t know. As soon as she came out of the special Floo from Gringotts, she started for her bedroom. It was blissfully empty there, Adrian must be playing with his friends in the garden. Feeling very hot, she left for the bathroom, fully dressed. All she needed was solitude and water. Lots of water!

She had seen him today! Draco Malfoy! She had seen him at last! Her tormentor!

Tears were streaming down her cheek and Hermione wiped them. She climbed into the bathtub and turned on the shower. As the cold water started pouring she settled herself on the floor beneath it and closed her eyes.

29th March, 1998. Hermione would never forget that date as long as she lived.

It was almost a week before Easter holidays and she had been planning to make something special for the occasion. On that day while her friends, Harry and Ron sat idly to catch up with the latest broadcast of Potterwatch in their small radio, she decided to visit the local food market for some eggs, chocolate, flour, sugar, butter and milk. She had been trying to remember her grandmother’s recipe for chocolate cake and these were all she could come up with.

She had borrowed Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and apparated near a small market. Once there she removed the cloak, folded and tucked it into the bag she had brought to carry her purchase.

Not wanting to thieve the foods that she would be using to make the Easter cake, she bought them all with the Muggle money she was carrying and put them on her bag along with the cloak.

Tired, after an hour of shopping and walking with a heavy bag, she had decided to return to their tent and surprise the boys.

Had she known what surprise was waiting for her there, she would have made sure to put on the Invisibility Cloak.

When Hermione appeared in the campsite the tent was as silent as grave. Panicking and not knowing what to do Hermione dropped her bag and called the first name that came in her mind: Harry!

Flashes of red jet hit her square on chest and she sprawled on the ground, stupified. When she came back to her senses she heard rough voices and felt someone carrying her.

“Delicious girl…what a treat…I do enjoy the softness of the skin…” said the horribly familiar, rasping voice. A shiver went down Hermione’s spine.

“We have caught Potter’s accomplice! Let’s take her to the Ministry, Greyback!” someone offered.

“To hell with the Ministry, Scabior!” Growled Greyback. “They’ll take the credit and we won’t get a look in. I say we take her straight to You-Know-Who.”

“Will you summon ‘im? ‘ere?” Scabior sounded terrified.

“No” snarled Greyback, “I haven’t got – they say he’s using the Malfoy’s place as a base. We’ll take the girl there.”

Hermione was terrified. How did this happen? How could they get caught like this? Everything was fine when she had left for market? What could have happened during her absence? And most importantly, where were Harry and Ron?

Questions after questions burst inside her head and she felt the familiar sensation of Apparition. After it was over, she squinted her eyes open an inch and saw that they had landed in a country lane. She saw a pair of wrought iron gates at the foot of a long drive. One of the snatchers strode to the gates and shook them.

“How do we get in? They’re locked, Greyback, I can’t – blimey.” he whipped his hands away in fright as the iron contorted, twisting itself into a frightening face, which spoke in a clanging, echoing voice: “State your purpose.”

“We’ve got Potter’s accomplice!” Greyback roared triumphantly, “We’ve captured Potter’s girlfriend!”

The gates swung open noiselessly.

“Come on!” Greyback snarled at his men and Hermione was hitched forward through the gates and up the drive, between the high hedges. She closed her eyes shut, feigning unconsciousness.

“What is this?” the sound of a door opening somewhere before her reached her ears and a woman’s cold voice demanded from the group.

“We are here to see He Who Must Not Be Named.” rasped Greyback.

“Who are you?” the woman asked indignantly.

“You know me, ma’am.” there was resentment in werewolf’s voice, “Fenrir Greyback. We have got Potter’s Mudblood girlfriend.”

Hermione felt herself being dragged forward and she landed painfully as they dropped her on the landing. With immense control she refrained herself from crying in pain.

“Bring her in.” she heard the cold female voice. “Follow me.” she instructed them.

Hermione was lifted by strong hands under her arms and carried while her knees made painful friction with the cold floor.  She dared not to open her eyes. Finally after what appeared like hours they brought her somewhere where floor was covered with rich carpet. She was thrown unceremoniously on the floor where she sprawled like a broken doll.

“What is this, Narcissa?” she heard dreadfully familiar drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy. Her heart skipped a beat.

“They say they have got Potter’s Mudblood.” said Narcissa’s cold voice. “Where is Draco? We need him to identify her.”

“He’s upstairs. I will call…” but he saw interrupted as a third voice echoed across the room.

“What’s this? What happened, Cissy?”

Hermione opened her right eye a fraction of an inch and saw Bellatrix Lestrange as she walked into the room. She approached Hermione who shut her eyes again.

Things certainly couldn’t turn any worse than this! Bellatrix was a pure maniac and took exceptional pleasure in torturing Muggleborns. Hermione was racking her brains for a way to escape. She heard footfalls approach her and then someone shifted her using a foot.

“But surely this is the Mudblood girl!” Bellatrix said quietly, a voice that had foreboding calmness “This is Granger.”

Hermione expected her to cast a Cruciatus on her immediately. She could no longer feign unconsciousness if Bellatrix did so. But then someone cut in.

“Are you sure?” Hermione heard Lucius’s uncertain voice, “Well, then the Dark Lord must be informed at once.” he said.

Hermione felt the footfalls move away from her, Bellatrix was leaving her for the time being untouched, buying her more time.

“I will call Him.” she cackled from somewhere near her head.

“I was about to call him, Bella!” Lucius shouted, “I shall summon him, Potter’s Mudblood was brought into my house and it is therefore upon my authority…”

“Your authority?” roared Bellatrix, “You lost your authority when you lost your wand, Lucius. How dare you? Take your hands off me.” she shrieked.

“This has nothing to do with you, you did not capture the Mudblood–“ protested Lucius.

“Begging your pardon Mr. Malfoy,” interjected Greyback, “But it is us who caught Potter’s Mudblood.”

Hermione took advantage of the commotion and opened her eyes fully to see Narcissa standing by her, her wand in her hand, watching the tri-party conflict. It was now or never.

She jumped to her feet, yanked Narcissa’s wand from her hand and took her hostage, pointing Narcissa’s wand to her own neck before she could even flinch.

The commotion died instantly as all the other occupants glared at Hermione.

“If anyone dares to approach me,” Hermione said through gritted teeth, “She dies. I swear it.”

“You won’t dare touch my wife, Mudblood.” Lucius warned her, releasing Bellatrix’s hand.

“Try me, Lucius Malfoy!” Hermione said as she started to back away from the room, gripping Narcissa tightly. “No foul play, Mrs. Malfoy!” she warned her, “Take me to the entrance. Now!” she ordered.

“You can’t get away with this, Mudblood!” Bellatrix said, pointing her wand to them.

“I swear I’ll kill your sister if you try to stop me!” Hermione was desperate to put as much distance as possible between them. She knew she couldn’t kill Narcissa even if she wanted to but her threat seemed to do its job because both Lucius and Bellatrix were eyeing her warily.

And then suddenly someone grabbed her hair and pulled it painfully. Hermione lost control of her body and released Narcissa.

“How dare you touch my mother?” she heard familiar drawl of Draco Malfoy from behind her. “How dare you threaten to kill my Pureblood mother, Mudblood?” he pulled her hair more painfully.

Hermione’s eyes watered in pain. “Bravo, Draco!” she heard Bellatrix cackle in delight. “Leave the Mudblood to me and I will teach her the meaning of pain.”

“No!” Draco snarled, “It will be me!” he dragged Hermione by her hairs only, who struggled to release his iron grips. “I will teach her to behave properly with her superiors.” he said maliciously.

“Be careful Draco. She must be alive for the Dark Lord.” Lucius warned his son.

“She will be alive, father. Physically, at least.” Draco replied.

“Take your hands off me, you twitchy little Ferret!” Hermione struggled vigorously.

“Ferret, huh!” Draco said as he opened a door and started dragging her downstairs by her hair.

Hermione screamed in pain as her body hit the stone steps but Draco paid no heed. He was panting as he pulled her deeper and deeper in the dungeons. Her body then met rough cold stones as the stone steps ended and Draco threw her on hard floor. Hermione groaned in pain.

“You wanted to kill my mother?” he said and kicked her on her stomach and she rolled on her side, clutching her stomach painfully. He kicked her several times there, relentlessly. “I will kill the Dark Lord, himself if he lays a hand on my mother and you, a Mudblood dare to touch her?” he shouted.

“Malfoy, I did not mean to do it!” Hermione panted. “Try to understand! I was desperate!”

“You did not mean to!” Draco laughed maniacally, “You did not mean to, Mudblood? But I mean to do what I want to do.” He screamed at her as he stooped and grabbed her jeans.

Hermione froze. She grabbed his hands, “What are you doing, Malfoy?” she asked, horrified.

“Teaching you your proper place!” he spat as he yanked open her jeans and Hermione screamed.

•••••

Hermione was screaming hysterically, clutching her skirts when the bathroom door burst open.

“What happened? What happened?” came Apolline’s panicked voice as she entered the bathroom and found Hermione shaking uncontrollably under cold shower, screaming and clutching her skirt tightly, her eyes squeezed shut.

“Oh my poor child!” she exclaimed and ran to her; she climbed into the bathtub, turned off the shower and embraced the soaked woman tightly.

In reply Hermione only cried harder.

“Ssssshh! Sssshh! It’s alright! Mother is here.” Apolline tried to console the crying woman, “What’s wrong, deary?” she kissed on her wet head.

“He is here! He is here! He is here!” Hermione cried, her voice demented, “Draco Malfoy is here! I saw him! Today!”

And then everything went blank.