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The Sacrifice of Right (Pt. 1) - SnorkackCatcher's Stories
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The Sacrifice of Right (Pt. 1)
Title: The Sacrifice of Right
Rating: PG-13
Length: 14,500 words, this part 7,850
Fandom: Harry Potter
Challenge: Harry Potter Holiday Genfic Exchange 2012
First posted: 24th December 2012, in hp_holidaygen

Summary: When Minerva McGonagall discovers a cryptic note among Dumbledore's old papers, she finds herself investigating a mystery involving goblins, ancient runes, and Beedle the Bard, with the invaluable assistance of Percy Weasley.

Notes:
Written for an original request by minnabird that included Minerva McGonagall and Percy Weasley among the requested characters, although in a way you get two stories for the price of one. :) Makes use of bits of secondary canon from Pottermore, but no prior knowledge of them is required to understand the story.

For the avoidance of confusion: a 'CV' (curriculum vitae) in British usage is the same as a 'resumé' in US usage -- a list of accomplishments submitted in support of a job application.



There was once a goblin smith of renown, Eretek by name, who was greatly skilled in the working of metal and unusually strong in his magic. In this he was esteemed among the goblins of his age, for none other could match the fineness and delicacy of his craftsmanship, nor the subtlety and power of the enchantments worked into the articles that he made. And so those of his kind came to his workshop from far and wide to marvel at what was forged there, and acclaimed him as the first among them.

The smith had a son, known as Alkteg, who studied dutifully in his father's workshop night and day in the hope that he might eventually come to attain some small portion of his skill. But while the father disliked and distrusted wizards and had no dealings with them except by necessity, in this matter the son did not follow his father's ways.

From 'The Tale of the Good Goblin' (Beedle book III tale 14)
A new translation from the original runes by Edd Marcomann
Obscurus Press 1906


Although Minerva McGonagall had been headmistress of Hogwarts for some five years, she still couldn't help but miss Albus Dumbledore -- her teacher for seven years, her colleague and friend for forty. She felt his absence keenly.

The real Albus, that is. His portrait version was still very much present, although it tactfully refrained from offering any comments about the running of the school unless specifically asked to do so. In fact, the occasions when its assistance was most useful arose when she was sorting through the many notes and papers that Dumbledore had left to the school, and which she did not expect to have explored fully by the time it came for her own retirement. Every now and again during the school holidays she would take out another box and work through it, to see what might be worthy of preservation or further investigation.

His picture would not always be able to offer assistance -- the memory of a portrait depended greatly on what had preoccupied the mind of its original, which meant that Albus's was pin-sharp on anything to do with the fight against Voldemort and often fuzzy on the academic questions that had occupied his attention in happier times -- but whenever he had something to contribute, it was always welcome.

The particular box she was sorting today had proven to be a mixed bag -- copies of letters to parents and governors, a number of old Transfiguration Today journals from the 1970s with marginal annotations (several of which she recognised as having led to further discoveries), and, at the bottom of the box, a real surprise: a packet of rough notes and commentaries on a few of the better-known works in The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Her eyebrows rose. Man of wide-ranging interests though he was, children's tales were not a field of study Albus had normally gone in for. Minerva read the notes with a mixture of amusement and regret. She laughed out loud at his tale of Professor Kettleburn's troubles with an Ashwinder, which had been before her time -- reckless though Hagrid could be sometimes, relatively speaking he represented a welcome dose of common sense, which in itself was a commentary on poor Silvanus's lack of it. The notes on The Tale of the Three Brothers were clearly written to mislead, and the story of Albus's altercations with Lucius Malfoy seemed almost innocent now, a reminder of the minor skirmishes that had taken place between the horrors of the two wars. She was about to put the notes aside when the final sheet fluttered to the floor.

She picked it up and glanced at it. The page contained only Albus's brief scrawled note to himself, cryptic but intriguing:
GG -- consult Cuthbert again re authenticity of documents
Not his period of expertise!
If genuine, needs reliable investigator

Kefrak CV???
She stared at this for a moment or two, trying to make sense of it, then called over her shoulder. "Albus?"

There was a short pause, and then a courteous "Yes, Minerva?" as Albus Dumbledore's portrait returned to his frame. "I was conversing with Montmorency Mellifluous in the Lake District landscape in the Charms corridor, a most pleasant pastime. How may I assist you?"

Minerva held up the piece of parchment for him to study. "Does this ring a bell? I found it among some of your notes -- on Beedle, of all things."

"Yes. Yes, I see. It does appear to be written in my hand." Albus looked apologetic, almost crestfallen. "Unfortunately, I retain only the vaguest recollection of writing it. I do remember drafting notes on certain tales, with the intention of relating them to the general history of wizardkind, but the finer points escape me at the moment."

Minerva sighed. It was easy to be fooled by an excellent imprint of personality into thinking a portrait held greater depth than it did. It was only when you talked to one about matters of detail that it became clear how limited they were by comparison to the original. It was particularly painful when it was a portrait of someone you had known so well; the real Albus Dumbledore would almost certainly have remembered immediately when and why he had written the note, although admittedly he might well have been unwilling to explain himself further. "So you have no idea what it was about, then?"

"Very little." Albus shrugged in apology. "I seem to recall that it related to a potential new discovery at the Ministry that I had been informed of, and a task that was connected to goblins in some form -- perhaps related to one of the rebellions?" His mouth quirked. "That subject, combined with the text of the note, does of course suggest that I may have consulted Professor Binns on the matter at the time."

"Ah. Good point." Sometimes, however, a portrait could still surprise you with its perspicacity. "I'll try him and see what he says."


Eretek's ways were those commonly followed among goblinkind, not Alkteg's, for this was a time of dissension between the two races. The goblins were angry at the wizards for the slights they considered had been received, while the wizards were fearful that the goblins might attack them, as had happened many times before. And their fears were not unfounded, for one of the fiercest of the goblins was a mighty warrior by the name of Boldrund the Bearded, swift with both sword and curse, who declared himself the defender of goblin rights -- although at heart he lusted merely for power.

The goblins of Eretek's household did not mingle with the Muggles from the nearby village -- indeed, they would hex them if they approached too closely. But while travelling through the woods on errands for his father, Alkteg would often encounter a wizard boy by the name of Beauregard -- sent there to seek plants by his mother, a witch of great skill in herb lore and wise in their uses, for good or ill. And they would journey together, and a great friendship sprang up between them.

'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


"... and write to Lordruk -- he's taken over as Chief Cooperation Officer at Gringotts -- to schedule me a meeting to discuss the new ban on personal security spells in vaults. I've been getting a lot of pushback on the subject from the Diagon Alley Traders' Guild."

"Yes, sir." Percy sighed in resignation at this latest manifestation of what sections of the press were unhelpfully calling the 'Goblin Problem'. Then again, the title of 'Chief Cooperation Officer' was often a hollow joke at the best of times, which these ... weren't. Relations between wizards and goblins had been especially strained since the war, and attempts to reach a new general agreement on rights and responsibilities were constantly hitting snags. Each passing month seemed to produce yet another controversial rule promulgated by either the Gringotts board or a Ministry department, guaranteed to further increase friction between the two. It was trying even Minister Shacklebolt's patience.

Percy was beginning to wish that he'd never agreed to do a stint in the Goblin Liaison Office in the first place. It didn't help that the current Department Head, Demetrius Cadwallader, had been promoted to the job largely as a reward for his excellent war record, rather than for any special expertise he brought to the task.

"I don't suppose there's anything like this among the old stuff, is there?" asked Cadwallader, in what was clearly an afterthought.

"As a matter of fact there is. I checked the archives when we got the letter from the Guild; the matter has been raised several times, and in 1962 Gringotts gave serious consideration to a ban, but the Minister for Magic managed to head it off by offering concessions on access protocols --"

"OK, usual rubbish then," interrupted his boss. "Whose Ministry was that?"

He suppressed a sigh. "Minister Leach."

"So he'll be no help to us. Right, Percy, pass that over to your secretary and get that owl out the door."

"Yes, sir. I've left Minister Shacklebolt's comments on the matter on your desk."

Percy retreated to his own office with a feeling of unease. Cadwallader had begun with the relative favour of the goblins (as three of the numerous refugees he had concealed had been Gringotts officials), but that had soon dissipated; he had no real knowledge of wizard-goblin relations, and a declared preference for "making a fresh start". In practice, this meant policy was pulled out of the end of his wand. He had shown little inclination to consult the records to find out how previous Ministries ("villains, crooks, and old farts, Percy") had approached any subject that came across his desk.

In Percy's opinion, this was a serious mistake.

If there was one thing that he had learned about goblins, it was that they set great store by history and remembered exactly how wizards had treated them in the past, for good or for ill -- especially the latter. A slight by an official three years previously was remembered and complained about as if it had been yesterday. For that matter, so were confiscations by Aurors that had happened three decades ago, and these paled into insignificance compared to the perennial problem of the wand use ban enacted three centuries before. A breezy call of "let bygones be bygones, eh?" was likely to simply infuriate them when they wanted to talk about the redress of grievances.

Then again, he suspected that the current ban on spells in vaults was merely a bargaining chip that could be abandoned if necessary, just as it had been in 1962. His highly efficient secretary had placed a copy of the Evening Prophet on his desk, opened to page four, and he let out an involuntary groan when he saw it.

"The Head didn't mention the Brotherhood's latest then, Mr Weasley?" asked his secretary anxiously.

"No. Unfortunately he didn't." He began to read. The Brotherhood of Goblins had issued yet another statement declaring their lack of confidence in the good faith of wizards, and demanding some grand gesture to show that goblins were appreciated and trusted as fellow members of the magical community. "They're asking for the wand ban to be lifted, I see."

"Aren't they always?" She began to smile, then quickly stopped, as if she wasn't sure it would be considered appropriate.

"Yes, but that's right out. Goblin magic is powerful enough already without extra channelling. Even Minister Shacklebolt doesn't think that would be a good idea." Percy put the paper down with a grimace. "Can you take a letter, please? Mr Cadwallader wants to arrange a meeting with the new Chief Cooperation Officer."

"Oh." The level of doubt expressed in that one syllable said everything.


Meanwhile, Boldrund raised an army of followers, telling his people that wizards wished to prevent them using a wand to control their magic because they feared the power of the goblins, and that they should rise up and drive the wizards from the land -- for he wished to rule it as the king. Many a battle was fought, but at the last of these the goblin army was defeated by a force of warlocks who had banded together to defend the wizarding settlements, and Boldrund barely escaped with his life, for two of his loyal lieutenants were struck down by curses aimed at himself.

Boldrund returned to his stronghold with his remaining followers and brooded deeply over the failure of his plans. Although defeat had made him hate the wizards even more, he realised that their power in battle was greater than his, and that he would never truly be able to defeat them unless he could lead all goblins in the land, though many of them now doubted his fitness to be king.

'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


Minerva wasn't sure what level of expectation she should have when consulting Cuthbert Binns. On the one hand, a ghost was a considerable step up from a portrait when it came to recollection of past details. On the other, the phrase 'not his period of expertise' suggested that whatever document was referred to was a relatively modern one, say from sometime in the last two and a half centuries. And 'investigator' combined with Albus's mention of a 'task' made her suspicious. If 'Kefrak CV' meant something submitted in support of a job application, it could be absolutely anything.

Then again, she would not have put it past Albus to have contemplated outraging the Ministry by hiring a goblin to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. With Umbridge as the alternative, she would gladly have hired one herself.

She caught Binns after the next staff meeting, just before he drifted away through the wall. "Cuthbert? A moment, please."

He turned in surprise. "Yes, er ... Headmistress?"

From the short pause, she deduced that he had almost certainly forgotten her name and had not wanted to risk offending her by a wild guess that she might be Dilys Derwent, as had happened on three previous occasions. She held up the note again. "I found this among Albus Dumbledore's papers. Did he by any chance consult you about it?"

Binns blinked. "Dumbledore? That bright young lad who they tell me is very good at Transfiguration?"

Minerva blinked in turn. "Well ... yes, but you may remember him better as our recent headmaster?"

"Oh ... yes, of course. Indeed."

She pressed on before he could forget again. "He suggested that this related to a new discovery and had something to do with goblins, possibly a rebellion. Does that ring a bell?"

"Dear me, a new document, you say?" That caught his attention at any rate. "If authentic that would be most interesting, as there are many grey areas in our knowledge of some of these conflicts. The rebellion of 1341 is especially poorly documented as far as reliable historical sources are concerned, although of course many fanciful tales of a heroic nature are told about the battles and the participants --"

"Is that what Dumbledore asked --"

"-- Surviving records include little detail on the causes or indeed the actual resolution of the conflict, which seems to have petered out when the goblins were unable to raise another rebel force, although this conclusion is a tentative one and may merely be an artefact caused by the shortcomings of the records of the Wizards' Council. These do include a list of those given the task of combating it, although the names of the goblin rebels are not recorded --"

"Yes, quite, but --"

"-- The proceedings of the Council meeting of 13th February show an incomplete understanding of the seriousness of the developing situation and mention it only briefly, but by the next meeting on 2nd March it is clear that --"

"Cuthbert!" Minerva held up a hand to stop her colleague before he recited his entire lecture on the subject, which he had doubtless delivered several dozen times already in class. She vaguely remembered being bored by it when she had been a student here, decades before; she wondered if it had ever been enthusiastically received. "Did Albus -- um, Professor Dumbledore -- tell you what document he was referring to?"

"I'm afraid not. He certainly never consulted me on the point."

Minerva groaned inwardly. There was of course no guarantee that Binns would remember if he had. "Very well. Thank you, Cuthbert." She let him drift away, and contemplated the note again. Was it worth following up? It was probably a wild pixie chase, but frankly, she was curious.

Well, if Albus had thought it might be connected with a discovery at the Ministry, there was only one thing for it -- to go there and check, and she thought she knew just the person to ask.


And so Boldrund called for aid from the finest craftsmen from among his people, for the counsel of a goblin with the most subtle magical knowledge, so that they might devise together defences that would leave him invulnerable in battle. Alkteg's father heard the call, and he answered it, for he had no love for the wizards and was proud to help Boldrund in this endeavour.

He made for him an enchanted helmet of gleaming silver with a great ruby set in the centre; no weapon nor missile could strike the wearer, and none but the most powerful spell could affect him. And he created guardians that would go before him in battle, so that even a wizard who dared to use the killing curse would find him defended.

But an unhappy Alkteg watched his father laboriously craft these things over many weeks, putting into them the most cunning and dangerous magic that he knew, and he feared for what might come of it.


'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


Every morning when Percy arrived in the office, his secretary would present him with a neatly formatted schedule of appointments for the day. They generally consisted of a parade of Ministry bureaucrats and business spokespeople, with the occasional goblin official for variety. He was, therefore, rather taken aback to arrive one morning to find the name 'M. McGonagall' listed as his first appointment.

"M. McGonagall?" he said, bemused. "Minerva McGonagall?"

"Yes, Mr Weasley." His secretary bit her lip. "She wouldn't say exactly what she wanted, but I thought, well, she is quite a VIP, what with being the headmistress of Hogwarts and all, and I thought you'd want to see her --"

"No, no, it's not a problem." Percy hastened to stop the self-recriminations, which made him feel rather uncomfortable. His secretary was a thoroughly pleasant girl, and he certainly hadn't intended his question as criticism. Was he really the kind of boss who made his employees nervous? "I was just surprised to see the name, that's all. Must be years since I last talked to her."

To his surprise, the response was an impish grin. "The last time I talked to her, I was still at school. She was telling me off for, erm --"

"-- kissing Augustus Culpepper behind Greenhouse Three when you should have been concentrating on Professor Sprout's N.E.W.T. revision class," said a voice from the doorway, which produced a truly spectacular blush on his secretary's face. McGonagall observed this with a wry look. "But it made no difference to your grade in the end, so no harm done. And no doubt at your age I would have considered him eminently kissable," she added kindly.

Percy took pity on his secretary, who had by this point been reduced to complete incoherence. "Thank you, Audrey," he said, glancing at the appointments list. "If this overruns, please send Georgius Gamp a note asking him to reschedule. He's bound to be repeating the same old complaints anyway. Minerva, won't you come in?"

He sat and listened with increasing confusion as she explained what she had come for. "A note from Dumbledore?" he said, inspecting it with a slight shiver. "It's interesting, Professor, but why do you think I can help?"

"I was hoping that your department might have some record of what it referred to," she answered. "It suggests to me that Albus considered employing a goblin for a job, with the application backed up by some document that he wanted to make sure was genuine. Of course, the job might have been anything, and it might have been something completely different. He could be extremely cryptic when he wanted to be."

"Who's Kefrak?"

"I've no idea. A scholar or a treasure hunter, possibly? As a matter of fact, I was hoping the name might be familiar to you." Percy shook his head. "But if not, then perhaps your goblin contacts might be able to help?"

Percy grimaced before he could stop himself. "I'd rather not ask if I don't have to, if it's all the same with you." McGonagall looked taken aback, and Percy was forced to add, "If the job was something we wouldn't have approved of, under present circumstances they'd probably regard any Ministry questions as 'heavy-handed interference'."

"I see. I take it we are going through another phase where the situation is rather ... touchy?"

"Isn't it always? What does 'GG' stand for?"

"I don't know that, either. Well, I assume one of the Gs refers to 'goblin', but that's pure guesswork, of course. I consulted Cuthbert Binns, but unfortunately he had no recollection of Albus conferring with him." She rolled her eyes. "Not that that's surprising when he can't even remember the names of the students in his class at any given --"

Percy interrupted as a thought struck him. "Perhaps it wasn't Professor Binns."

"Who, then?"

"Old Cuthbert Mockridge was Head of the Goblin Liaison Office for a while between the wars. It would fit with the bit about it not really being his period."

McGonagall leaned forward. "Yes, of course: now I think about it, he had some interest in old documents even as a young man. I remember talking to him in the cafeteria when I worked at the Ministry --" She broke off with a stricken look. "I haven't heard his name mentioned for years. Is he still with us?"

"I'm afraid not, Professor." McGonagall's expression suggested that she had expected that answer. "He resigned on health grounds, you know, and he died shortly afterwards, as I recall; he must have been more ill than anyone knew." After a moment, Percy coughed gently. "I could put in a request to check his old correspondence files, Professor?"

"Excellent idea, Mr Weasley."

"Percy, please."

She gave him a half-smile. "Very well then, Percy it is. And in turn I shall expect you to use Minerva, not Professor. Deal?"

"Deal." Percy smiled back at her.


When the helmet and the guardians were finally complete, Alkteg's father proudly took them to Boldrund, who to his joy found that they did all that had been required of them. He thanked Eretek in fine words, and then he ordered his followers to kill the goblin craftsman as he journeyed home, so that no one else should have anything like them.

And when they had done so, they travelled far and wide among the goblins telling the tale that the wizards had killed Eretek, in order to prevent any goblin from having a means of power against them. And the goblins were inflamed, and they crowned Boldrund as their king and cried out for warfare against the wizards.

But Alkteg, mistrusting Boldrund and his motives, had secretly followed his father and witnessed his murder, and knew that this was not so.

'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


After a very trying day, Minerva had just brewed a cup of tea and put her feet up when an owl flew through the office window at high speed. It dropped an envelope on her desk, scattering ginger biscuits far and wide, and flew out again without so much as a backward glance. Her annoyance abated quickly when she saw that the envelope bore a Ministry crest on the back flap, and that it was addressed in a small neat handwriting that she recognised immediately. She had marked numerous lengthy essays written in the same hand.

It turned out to contain both good and bad news.
Dear Minerva,
The middle of the 'M' was oddly shaped, rather as if the writer had begun a 'P' and then corrected himself part-way through.
I have the pleasure to inform you that I have located a letter sent by Albus Dumbledore to Cuthbert Mockridge, dated the seventeenth of March 1995 (a copy of which is attached for your information), which makes reference to a file in the Ministry archives. Unfortunately, as you will note, the nature of the file is not stated, although the reference number given should be sufficient to locate it.
Minerva turned to the attached copy; Albus's letter merely reminded Mockridge of their 'previous communication' and suggested that the documents in the file would bear examination by an expert. The reference number was unhelpful -- all she could tell was that it was to be found somewhere in the General Records Section for 1975. Since that section tended to be a dumping ground for anything not easily classifiable, doubtless she had a long search on her hands.
The file also contains a brief acknowledgement from Mockridge to the effect that he would make the requested check if he had the time, but although I have searched the records carefully, I can find no followup. I note that the letter is dated shortly before Mockridge's resignation on grounds of ill-health in favour of Dirk Cresswell.
Minerva pursed her lips. She remembered Cresswell, an outstanding student, one of Horace Slughorn's protégés; he had been spoken of as a possible candidate to follow in Nobby Leach's footsteps as the second Muggle-born Minister, until his murder during the year of nightmares. She hoped that Cadwallader was in good health -- if there were any further casualties among the staff, the office might get a reputation for being cursed.
If you would care to visit the Ministry again, I would be willing to offer you all possible assistance in locating the document.

Yours sincerely

Percy Weasley
Minerva snorted. That was progress, at any rate. She was probably putting more effort into this than it warranted, but ... well, she had to admit to herself that by now she'd become rather intrigued. And just occasionally, it was good to do something completely unconnected to school routine! It had been many years since she had worked at the Ministry, but she did not anticipate any problems in finding the document by herself. The keepers of the archive had been famous -- or at any rate, notorious -- for having left their filing system untouched for the previous century.

She was waiting outside their door at nine o'clock the following morning.

By noon she was beginning to regret her earlier confidence. She now recalled that the filing system had also been famed for its obscurity, and at some point in the intervening decades, it had occurred to some twisted genius that they could save space by shrinking entire shelves of old records down to the size of a shoebox. There was a large mirror mounted on the wall that had been charmed to page through the contents and display them at the original size, but this involved continually waving one's wand back and forth to try to find the one you wanted without overshooting, which was exceptionally tedious.

The archivist who had located the right shoebox for her hung around nearby while she struggled; she couldn't tell whether he was eagerly waiting to be called upon to help, or simply curious about what she could possibly be looking for in decades-old files that were usually surplus to requirements. Quite likely it was both of these at once. Whatever his motive, she found it extremely irritating.

With a grimace, she swallowed her pride and took the lift to Level Four.

"Having problems, Profess -- Minerva?" asked a smiling Percy when his secretary ushered her in.

"Yes, by damnation," she answered, trying not to appear too grumpy. "Who invented that torture device for reading the records?"

Percy laughed out loud, which surprised her more than she had expected. She couldn't recall him ever actually making a joke. "There's a search spell, but they don't like showing it to outsid -- er, people who don't work in the Ministry. I think they want to make sure their jobs are safe." He looked at his watch. "I can take lunch slightly early today. It's quite easy once you know how."

He was as good as his word; the spell located the file within minutes, although Minerva's disgruntlement was lessened by the observation that it annoyed the archivist immensely to see someone else finding a record without trouble. The result, however, was not at all what she had expected.

Instead of a modern document or the resume of someone called Kefrak written on normal parchment, the file contained several sheets of vellum covered in runic script and a number of sketched maps, some rough and ready, some carefully drawn and annotated. A simple cover note reading 'Good Goblin?' was attached.

"Um ... I can't make sense of this," said Percy, after a few minutes' perusal. His cheeks were pinker than usual. "I haven't studied Ancient Runes since I was in Professor Babbling's class, but I didn't think I'd forget them so easily."

"I'm not sure you have," said Minerva, squinting at the pages. She couldn't make sense of them either, but the lettering just seemed wrong to her eyes. As far as she could tell, there were at least three different hands present, and some of the vellum looked very old ... "I wonder if these are goblin runes?"

Percy's eyebrows rose. "Are they different from wizard runes?"

"A very good question. I haven't done any runic studies in the last twenty years, but Bathsheba Babbling once mentioned something to that effect in passing during a staff meeting, as I recall ... Can you make me a copy of these documents that I can take back to Hogwarts? I'll let her have a crack at them."

"Certainly, Minerva." There was apparently a special spell for that too. The archivist was still hovering nearby, and she was amused to note his displeasure that someone other than himself knew how to perform it.


King Boldrund summoned goblin warriors from throughout the land and began to raise a new army in his stronghold, although he took care that this was not known to the council of the wizards. And he declared Eretek a martyr to the goblin cause, and announced that his son and heir Alkteg was invited to a place of honour in the court of the king.

Alkteg was terrified, but even though he hated his father's murderer, he dared not ignore the summons. Boldrund paraded Alkteg before his growing army and told them that when they had full formed, the first place to be cleansed of wizard murderers would be the village close by the workshop of the martyr Eretek, to offer a just revenge to his son. And though Alkteg was acclaimed by all the goblins, he knew he must prevent Boldrund from carrying out his plans, although he did not yet know how he could.

'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


Percy found himself thinking about the unexplained documents on a regular basis over the next few days. He would doubtless have thought about them even more often if the Goblin Liaison Office had not been extremely busy; the actions of the goblins of today were causing him far more trouble than the scholarship of the goblins of the past.

"Lordruk was extremely angry about our pushback on the security spells," reported Cadwallader, who had unexpectedly dropped into Percy's office after his conference at Gringotts. That wasn't a good sign; the meeting must have broken up at least an hour before it was supposed to. "Touchy little bugger, really. He was going on and on about how goblin spells were perfectly adequate for the vaults, but when I pointed out that three teenagers managed to get in and out of one of the top security jobs without any horrible fate befalling them, he practically spat at me."

Percy's heart sank. He wasn't sure if Cadwallader would even be able to recognise the word 'tact', let alone grasp the application of the concept. "That's still a very sensitive issue for them, sir. You can understand them being unhappy that their bank was used as a battleground in a wizard's war. And Ron, Harry and Hermione did have goblin help."

"That's what Lordruk said. Funny, he seemed more miffed that I'd forgotten that than about anything else. Oh, apart from the use of an Unforgiveable Curse. Seemed to think that was unsporting or something. Well, no use crying over spilt potion -- I'll discuss it with Shacklebolt tomorrow." He left with a cheery wave, and Percy returned to his work, trying not to think what response this might provoke from Gringotts.

He looked up after a few minutes to see his secretary hovering in the doorway. "Professor McGonagall's waiting outside with a book and a whole load of notes," she said. "Do you want me to fit her into your schedule? You've got the monthly Auror liaison update in fifteen minutes, but that's all that's left today -- I allowed a couple of hours for it, but he won't mind if I put it back and cut it down to an hour, will he? I mean, he is your brother."

Percy considered that. "I don't think he'd mind if you made it ten minutes, actually. He's never exactly been keen on administrative work."

Audrey made an odd noise that sounded suspiciously like a suppressed giggle. "All right, I'll fold up a memo to him and send her in." She offered him a vaguely conspiratorial smile. "Do you two have some special top secret project on?"

"Not really," he replied. Or had they? He couldn't see why she would turn up out of the blue like this unless she had something important to tell him. "Well, maybe. We'll find out."

Minerva McGonagall came straight to the point. "How much do you know about goblin history?"

"Quite a lot, as it happens." Percy tried not to preen. "The goblins seem to remember every slight they ever suffered at the hands of wizards," he added, unable to keep a touch of bitterness from his voice. "But I don't know nearly as much as Professor Binns. Wouldn't he be a better man -- er, ghost -- to ask?"

She winced. "I spent three hours talking to Cuthbert Binns on the subject last night. What he had to tell me could have been said in three minutes, were it not for the hesitations, the caveats, the digressions, and the times when he forgot who he was talking to and started to repeat his classroom lecture from what passes for his memory. We really will have to look at this teaching situation ... but that's a question for another day. He did at least get one thing right. What do you remember about the 1341 goblin rebellion?"

"1341?" Percy was taken aback. He racked his brains to see if he could remember anything at all, and came up with very little. "Er, isn't that the badly documented one? There are stories about it, but the Wizards' Council of the day were very inefficient when it came to keeping proper records, so we can't really tell which ones, if any, were true?"

Minerva nodded. "That, in essence, was what Cuthbert said. But among all the verbiage he did say something interesting. According to Bathsheba, what we have here --" she waved the parchment she was holding "-- are working notes written at various times by goblin scholars, who were aiming to deduce the location of something they considered important, based on the internal evidence of some other document that wasn't included. Naturally my heart sank when I heard that, but while Cuthbert was lecturing me that the tales of goblin kings with invulnerable armour were later fables, I happened to think of the cover note on the document -- and it was like somebody had just said Lumos. I feel morally certain that those scholars thought they had worked out where The Tale of the Good Goblin was really set."

Percy blinked at her. Then he blinked again, trying to work out if that should mean something to him. "The Tale of the who?"

"The Tale of the -- Percy, don't you remember it?" Minerva sounded genuinely startled. "It's supposed to be inspired by a real rebellion, I simply never connected it up before. Surely Molly would have read all the tales to you when you were a child?" Percy shook his head mutely. "I admit that I'd forgotten all about it, but then I never really had the chance to read Beedle until I knew I was going to Hogwarts, and my mother gave me her old copy." She waved the book at him. "At least, I prefer that to old age and failing memory as an explanation!"

"I don't think Mum read us that one," he said doubtfully. "Is it a bit -- erm, rude?"

She snorted. "Oh, Molly. No, it's not rude at all. I'm reassured to discover that it's less well known than I thought it was. Well then --" she opened her mother's book and made a wry face "-- settle down, Percy. I'm going to read you a story."


A fearful Alkteg returned to his home, and sought out Beauregard to warn him that he must flee with all of his family. But Beauregard was stubborn and refused to go; the village was his home, and had been the home of his parents and grandparents before him. He wanted to tell the great council of the wizards of Boldrund's plans, but Alkteg forestalled him, as they could not sit idle while an army was raised against them. There would be another war regardless, and Alkteg would undoubtedly be executed as a traitor.

Both Alkteg and Beauregard knew they must do something to stop Boldrund, for without his scheming there would surely be no war. Neither of them could hope to fight the king directly -- they were young boys, not warriors; they had no noticeable talent with weapons, nor were they powerful enough to assault him with curses. But as they talked the matter over they realised that through watching and learning, they had greater skills than they had known.

'The Tale of the Good Goblin'


Kingsley Shacklebolt looked harassed, which seemed understandable. She'd doubtless have felt the same way if she had to do his job. "All right, Minerva, you have an hour of my time -- not to mention a great deal of my curiosity. It's unprecedented for Percy here to bypass the proper channels and ask for a private meeting without informing his Head of Department."

Percy turned a beetroot colour and Minerva suppressed a smile. "Before we start, may I ask exactly how private this meeting is?" She nodded at the portraits on the walls of the Ministerial office, who included several former Ministers for Magic, a group portrait of the fallen members of the Order of the Phoenix (which had to be Kingsley's personal addition), and an odd small portrait of a scribe, all of whom were either paying close attention or unsuccessfully pretending not to.

"Nothing said here will be repeated without my agreement," said Kingsley. "The portraits in this office are sworn to assist the current Minister -- magically so, I might add."

"Indeed. That sounds familiar. Well then, I'd better explain." She rapidly outlined what she and Percy had uncovered. "So as you'll see," she concluded, "down in the archives you appear to have a set of maps that indicate the actual location where King Boldrund the Bearded supposedly met his doom. The working notes attached, such as they are, seem to match the story quite well. If there is anything in the tale, there's a hidden Helmet of Invulnerability to be found. That's a lot of maybes, but I would say this merits further investigation, wouldn't you?"

Kingsley didn't speak for a moment. He gave the impression that he didn't quite know what to say. "Surely these documents can't be genuine," he said eventually. "If they were written by goblin scholars, what were they doing in the Ministry archives?"

"I'm not sure. But according to our Ancient Runes Professor --" Kingsley looked alarmed -- "who has very little interest in any other subject, the calligraphy is classically goblin. I've carried out a number of diagnostic spells on the vellum, and all the sheets are at least two centuries old. Quite how or why they ended up in a file in the Ministry in 1975 though, I must admit I have no idea."

There was a gentle cough from the far side of the room, and everyone turned, startled. The figure of Albus Dumbledore had stepped into the foreground of the Order portrait, and was smiling at them. "Please pardon the interruption, but I do believe your conversation has enabled me to recall some of the circumstances in which my original self wrote that note. May I continue?"

"Of course," said Kingsley, who looked as nonplussed as Minerva herself felt.

"How kind." There was a twinkle in the painted eyes. "Well then, Professor McGonagall's helpful mention of Cuthbert Mockridge reminds me that I received an owl from him, seeking advice on the subject of some documents he had discovered in the archives. I understood that they had been confiscated from the estate of a goblin who had helped the Death Eaters to -- um, take some gold to the laundry, I believe the phrase is? Of course, his letter was sent shortly before the return of Lord Voldemort, so doubtless I was unable to find the time to follow it up."

"I remember that case!" Alastor Moody stepped forward to join Dumbledore from among the crowd scene of former Order members. "That goblin was an idiot. Tried to cheat them, got his whole family killed and a Dark Mark over their home. We confiscated everything there as evidence, although the goblins never stopped moaning about it."

Kingsley clicked his fingers. "The Mansfield murders. 1975, when I was just starting out. All right, this is beginning to make sense now. Damn." He turned to Minerva. "What is this Tale you're referring to? I can't remember ever having heard of it before."

"Not you too!" cried Minerva in exasperation. "Am I the only person who remembers the Tale of the Good Goblin?"

There was another cough from the portrait Dumbledore. "You are not, Minerva, but these are -- er, members of a slightly younger generation? There have been numerous variant editions of Beedle over the years, and this tale is one of those frequently omitted. I do believe it may have been the connection Mockridge observed that inspired me to research and pen the short notes you found among my papers."

"There are tales omitted?" Percy sounded rather put out at the suggestion.

"If I may, Minister?" The voice emanated from a portrait in the corner, which currently contained only an empty chair set against the background of a large library. "The Department of Magical Education set up a revision committee in 1959, hang on a moment ..." After a few seconds, a wizard Minerva recognised as Nobby Leach appeared from behind one of the shelves, carrying a book. "This is their standard edition, dated 1962. The tale's not there, see!" He held the book open to show the contents page.

Minerva moved over to compare it with her own copy. "Quite a number of missing tales, I see. The Journey of Caleb -- I'm not surprised they left that out, frankly, it's interminably boring. Hector Bond and his Very Long Wand -- dear me, that one used to get us giggling in the Gryffindor girls' dormitories. They must have thought it would corrupt innocent minds. Never did me any harm." She observed with amusement the discomfort on the faces of Percy and Kingsley. "They don't have The Bride of the Latin Scholar any more, apparently -- hm, that's decidedly pro-Muggle, no doubt some pureblood threw a tantrum over it?" Leach nodded. "I suppose The Tale of the Good Goblin isn't exactly complimentary about goblins -- were they trying to build bridges?"

"They weren't. I was. The goblins were causing trouble as always and they'd often complained about that tale, so I decided that if we were going to prune the lesser-known stuff out of Beedle, we might as well make a gesture to keep them on board. Probably one of the things the establishment wanted me out of the job for," he added darkly.

"All right, that's enough!" Kingsley held a hand up to silence the portraits, several more of whom were looking as if they wanted to get involved in the discussion. Minerva sympathised; it could be rather overwhelming when that happened. "I really didn't need something like this to come up at the moment. It's just the sort of thing to stir up old resentments on both sides, even if there's nothing to it."

"Do you want us to suppress it, Minister?" asked Percy, with a worried look on his face.

"Can we?"

Percy considered this, but didn't seem to like the answer. "I'm not sure we can," he said eventually. "The archivist knows what we were searching for, and he's rather ... nosy. If he looks it up and puts two and two together like Minerva did, he might well pass it on to the press."

"So we need to send someone to investigate this as quickly and as quietly as possible." Kingsley did not look at all happy. "I'm going to have to find someone reliable and bring them into the loop. Not a goblin though! Is Bill available at the moment? This should be right up his street."

Percy shook his head. "He's in Egypt for the next few months. He could ask for a leave of absence, but ..."

"... that might make his employers suspicious about what he was doing," finished Kingsley. "I suppose I'll have to pull somebody out of the Auror Office, though we're -- er, they're always overworked as it is."

Minerva exchanged glances with Percy. She was fairly sure that he was thinking exactly what she was. "Having got this far, we'd like to see how it all works out. So you have two willing and -- if I say so myself -- very able volunteers right here in your office." She was relieved to see Percy nod.

Kingsley looked at her sharply. "Are you sure you can handle it? If there's anything in this, you might need the skills of a curse breaker."

Minerva snorted. "Don't worry about that, Kingsley. I have a few tricks up my sleeve."

"I see ... Very well," he said after a long pause. "But be careful."


Part Two

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