Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Gringotts and its goblins.
A/N: Thanks to Alice1985, Belial666, and Endgames for their advice on this story. I've been wanting to address fanon's loose concept of justice for a while. Too often, the goblins and/or the Ministry think they can do anything they want without repercussions. Not this time. Reality ensues in three chapters.
On a related note, if you want to see a well-thought-out smack-down of Fudge's injustice in canon, I highly recommend Long Live the Queen by offsides.
I admit that goblin justice is actually portrayed as self-consistent in most cases and rarely operates outside the nominal borders of Gringotts, but it still often rises to the level of cruel and unusual punishment or worse. How would a modern western country react to that happening within its borders? Here's how it might go down. Please note that I'm not particularly familiar with British law, so I apologise for any mistakes.
Fifth Year: Obstruction of Goblin Justice
Dear Mr. Potter,
Gringotts has received notification that you have been recognised as an emancipated minor by the current Minister for Magic as of eight o'clock in the morning on the twelfth of August, 1995. Under Ministry of Magic law and the Gringotts Treaty of 1752, you are thereby considered a legal adult, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Congratulations on reaching this milestone.
Because of the unusual circumstances of your emancipation, Gringotts conducted an automatic review of your accounts in preparation for transferring properties currently held in trust to your full control, and we discovered several irregularities. We ask that you come to Gringotts at your earliest convenience to resolve these issues and take control of your accounts. Present this letter to the teller to make your appointment.
Head of Legal Division
"It's very simple, Mr. Potter," the goblin said. "You were entered in a Tournament that was exclusively reserved for of-age wizards—without the consent of your guardians, I might add. When Fudge himself announced you as a competitor in the Third Task, he formally recognised your right to compete, thus making a verbal contract for your emancipation as a Ministry official authorised to do so. At your hearing on the twelfth of August, you were tried as an adult, and that contract was entered into the record, making it official."
This goblin, Director Bogrod, apparently, wasn't especially friendly, but he seemed to know his stuff. "Does that mean I'm exempt from the underage magic rule now?" Harry Potter asked him hopefully.
"You'll have to take that up with your Ministry. Now, can we get down to business?"
"Good. As we explained in our letter, we reviewed all of your accounts in preparation for you to take control of them. Now, since you didn't see fit to respond to our missive when you were eleven—"
"When I was eleven?" Harry cut in, confused.
"Yes, Mr. Potter. You would have received a full account statement on your eleventh birthday along with a request to acknowledge receipt, as is standard procedure."
"I never got it, though, Mr. Bogrod," Harry said.
Bogrod scowled at him: "Are you sure you didn't simply misplace it, Mr. Potter?"
"No, I would've remembered that. I was in Diagon Alley with Hagrid all day that day…If it came to Privett Drive, Uncle Vernon probably burned it."
Now, Bogrod actually hissed: "Interfering with Gringotts business and destroying correspondence are serious charges. Are you quite sure that's what happened?"
"No…but that seems mostly likely."
"Hmm. We will look into that." He made a note on his parchment. "As I was saying, you will need to look over your account activity for the past fourteen years."
Bogrod produced a long roll of parchment with many line items of account activity. There were a few withdrawals from the past few years. Harry recognised those from when he bought his school supplies each year. The rest of the ledger constituted two line items for each month for the entire fourteen years. Harry frowned and furrowed his brow, trying to make sense of them. His jaw dropped open when he made the connection. One of the monthly items was an interest payment, but the other…
"Bloody hell! The Dursleys have been getting five hundred pounds a month for me?" he exclaimed.
"They have, Mr. Potter," Bogrod said, ignoring his coarse language. "I take it you didn't know about this?"
"No, no idea. They certainly didn't spend it on me."
"No, they didn't. They never spent a penny more on me than they had to."
Bogrod was busily making notes: "Then what did they spend it on, Mr. Potter?"
"Dudley, mostly. My cousin. Is this legit, Mr. Bogrod? I mean…I didn't think they even knew about my money."
"Interestingly enough, it was 'legit', as you say, when it was first set up. Albus Dumbledore set it up immediately after your parents' deaths for the purpose of your upkeep."
Harry's day was getting more and more surreal. "Dumbledore? He could do that?" he said weakly.
"Yes and no, Mr. Potter. We checked your parents' wills. They would have needed a trustee to manage their estate until you came of age to take control of it. Your muggle aunt could not have been the trustee because, as a wizard, your father's estate was required to have a magical trustee. Most of the people who were able to take the role were either dead or legally unfit, so Dumbledore was able to take the position as an emergency measure, but after going through all of the possibilities who were ineligible, the position should have been a woman named Andromeda Tonks."
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Is she related to Nymphadora Tonks?" he asked.
Bogrod shuffled some papers. "Our files say she has a daughter named Nymphadora," he confirmed. "The point is that Dumbledore used his emergency powers as Chief Warlock to set up the stipend, which was legal at the time, but he was negligent in his duty to transfer trusteeship to Andromeda Tonks. That is a purely Ministry matter and therefore does not concern us. However, the stipend should have stopped one year after your parents' deaths, when the trusteeship changed, and our records show that we informed Vernon and Petunia Dursley that it should have stopped."
"I bet they burned that, too," Harry grumbled.
"Whatever they did, we are still investigating why the stipend was not stopped, but the fact remains that your aunt and uncle knew or should have known that the stipend was fraudulent from that point onwards. That constitutes embezzlement, a crime against Gringotts itself. Also, for that first year when the stipend was legal, if they did not spend the money on your upkeep as they should have, that is breach of contract. And even your cousin, if he knew where the money they spent on him was coming from—"
"Wouldn't surprise me," Harry muttered. "It would've been a good laugh."
Bogrod scowled again: "Well, then, it would also be receiving embezzled funds. All of your relatives would be liable under goblin law."
"So what does that mean?" asked Harry.
The four goblins approached Privett Drive under goblin magic similar to the Disillusionment Charm, looking like muggle businessmen so as not to attract attention. They quickly found Number Four and rang the bell.
"Vernon Dursley?" the goblin in front asked when the door opened, revealing a large, mustachioed man.
"That's me," Vernon said cautiously, wondering why a group of businessmen would suddenly show up at his house unannounced.
"You're under arrest for interfering with Gringotts business, destroying Gringotts correspondence—"
"Gringo-what?" Vernon cut him off and put the pieces together. "You're with those freaks, aren't you?"
"Freaks, are we?" The goblin in front dropped his disillusionment. "Be very careful what you say next, Dursley."
Vernon paled and jumped back, babbling incoherently.
"Vernon, what's happen—EEK!" Petunia screamed when she saw the freakish creatures at her door.
"Petunia Dursley, you're under arrest for embezzlement and breach of contract," the goblin said, and they quickly arrested them and dragged them off to the disillusioned carriage they had parked a short distance away. The Dursleys tried to fight, but they were soon subdued with the goblin weapons pointed at them. Dudley then made his appearance and, with more muscle than sense, tried to save his parents with his boxing skills. He was lucky enough not to be seriously injured, and the goblins arrested him too and made short work of subduing him.
As the carriage door with bars on the windows slammed shut on the three of them, the goblin warrior outside shouted at them, "And resisting arrest!"
Vernon Dursley was probably angrier than he'd ever been in his life, and given his infamous temper, that was saying something. But he was worried, too, and that worry was enough to make him put a filter between his brain and his mouth and reason his way through the situation. These—these creatures—goblins or whatever they were—had kidnapped him and his wife and son and dragged him off to a "trial" in some…some magical Star Chamber buried under London somewhere. They were currently in chains and being guarded by short, ugly little brutes with large axes as some supposed charges were read out to them. Dudley was scared stiff, and Petunia was insensible by now, but Vernon was thinking faster than he ever had in his life, trying to find a way out.
As a businessman, Vernon had to know a thing or two about the law, and this was, to use the technical term, illegal as hell. Even if he granted the existence of a magical government—a thought that made him want to spit on someone—they had no right to come into a nice, respectable, normal place like Little Whinging and drag them off to their caves. They had rights, dammit!
What were they even here for? He tried to focus as the complaint was read out. "…that, having been duly informed that the funds they had received were for the care and upkeep of Client Harry Potter, the accused, Vernon and Petunia Dursley—"
The accused? Vernon thought. Not the defendant? Do they not use Common Law here?
"—did knowingly misappropriate those funds for their own use and the use of their son and did wilfully neglect the care of Client Potter, providing only the basest of necessities, and did also wilfully destroy confidential correspondence between Gringotts and Client Potter…"
So it was all about the brat, Vernon thought. Wasn't he supposed to be expelled a few days ago? Maybe even had that magic wand of his snapped? How did that turn into this?
"…having been duly informed that the stipend was to have stopped or been reauthorized as of the first of November, 1982, Vernon and Petunia Dursley knew or should have known that the continued payment of the stipend was fraudulent and did not report the same, but continued to profit from the payments…"
Wait, they weren't even supposed to be getting the money for the brat now? He didn't remember hearing about any of that. But then, he'd always burnt any freakish-looking letters they received until that awful giant came for the boy, so he supposed they could have missed that.
"…that Dudley Dursley did knowingly receive payment in cash and in kind from misappropriated and embezzled funds, and that this amount was not less than one sixth of the total liability…"
What the hell? They were getting Dudley involved in this, too? How was that a crime? How was any of it a crime? And even if it was, how could they enforce it…like this?
"…Examiner of the Court asks for a judgement against Vernon and Petunia Dursley of punitive damages to Gringotts Bank and punitive and compensatory damages to Gringotts Client Harry Potter," the goblin read out. "The total compensatory damages to Client Potter—"
Okay, don't panic, Vernon thought. Five hundred pounds a month for fourteen years was eighty-four thousand pounds. It would be hard, but they could absorb that.
"—calculated according to our standard rates for muggle customers at the time of the fraudulent arrangement—"
Double bugger. Interest rates were sky-high back then.
"—are estimated at 5,280 galleons, nine sickles, and six knuts."
Vernon sat slack-jawed for a moment as the scribe wrote. They didn't even use normal money? After a minute's thought, he decided it would be safer to ask than not and said, "And how much is that in pounds?"
The goblin whom Vernon guessed was supposed to be his solicitor did some quick figuring and said, "At current exchange rates, 270,627 pounds and seventy-five pence."
So about fifty pounds to one of those galleon things. That was bad. That would take his retirement account, most of their assets and maybe even a second mortgage on the house.
"The punitive damages to Client Potter, taking into consideration the negative impact of the accused's fraudulent actions to Client Potter's long-term physical and mental health and well-being, are estimated at 4,700 galleons. For punitive damages to Gringotts Bank, taking into account the magnitude of the offences against Gringotts, the Examiner requests 5,300 galleons."
"The Examiner further requests a ruling that Dudley Dursley is liable for receiving embezzled funds from Gringotts Bank and for punitive damages to Gringotts in the amount of five hundred galleons. Also that Dudley Dursley is liable for compensatory damages to Harry Potter in the amount of sixteen and two-thirds percent, or 880 galleons, one sickle, and sixteen knuts."
Seventy thousand pounds! That was more than twice what they had in Dudley's account. What would the goblins do if they couldn't pay up? Vernon had a bad feeling he was about to find out.
"The Examiner has performed a thorough audit of all of the Dursleys' assets and has found that they have insufficient funds to cover the requested judgements. Therefore, the Examiner further requests that collections enforcement be employed in the form of confiscation of all monetary assets and a sentence of seventeen years of hard labour against Vernon and Petunia Dursley, and a sentence of three years of hard labour against Dudley Dursley in payment of their remaining debts."
The goblin inquisitor on the high bench cleared his throat and looked down on the Dursleys with contempt. "The report of the Examiner is entered in the record. Messieurs Dursley, Mrs. Dursley, do each of you understand the charges against you?"
Seventeen years?! Vernon reeled in horror. That was insane! The most you could get for bank fraud was ten years, and that wasn't hard labour. This wasn't a prison; it was a damn gulag!
"Mr. Dursley?" the inquisitor repeated.
"How—how can you do this?" Vernon choked out. "We're not your kind. We don't live in your world. You don't have any authority over us. You kidnapped us from our home—!"
"Enough!" the inquisitor snapped. "Mr. Dursley, you have committed serious financial offences against Gringotts and one of our valued clients. By the provisions of our treaty with your human governments, we have every right to prosecute you to the fullest extent of our law. Now, do you understand the charges against you?"
Vernon could tell he didn't have a chance in this barbaric, medieval court. Yeah, he was guilty. Fine. But this was way beyond excessive punishment! This was insane! He was still in Britain! He was a British subject! How could they have a treaty like that? If the real government knew about this…Wait, maybe that was it. With a glimmer of hope, Vernon tried one last, desperate move: "Wait, do I at least have the right to name my own solicitor under this…treaty?"
"Yes," the inquisitor growled, looking a bit taken aback.
"Any solicitor I want? Even if they're not a…er, goblin?"
"Yes, if they agree to represent you."
"And you have to bring them in to consult on my case?"
The goblin inquisitor hissed in a way that reminded Vernon of an angry wild animal. "Human," he said sharply, "the treaty clearly states, and I quote, 'The Goblin Tribunal shall arrange for any solicitor requested by the accused to attend the trial and to be offered the opportunity to represent the accused's case.' But I warn you, if you engage in clearly dilatory tactics such as naming someone who isn't licensed to practice law, it will not go well for you."
That was no problem. The person he wanted was definitely licensed to practice law. He smiled and said, "Then I name as my solicitor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain!"
The entire goblin court stared at Vernon in silence for a moment. An angry murmuring began to rise, which became dramatically louder and angrier when he distinctly heard someone say the word "muggle". After that, there was shouting, and some goblin page was presumably asked to retrieve a copy of the treaty, though Vernon had to guess what was going on because they were all speaking some foreign language that sounded like gobbledegook to him.
"Vernon, what are you doing?" Petunia finally managed to speak.
"Saving our arses, I hope," Vernon said. He really hoped that treaty of theirs would apply to the real government. And that these goblins would actually follow it.
Finally, amid much grumbling, the court reached a conclusion. "Very well, human," the inquisitor growled at him, "we are bound by the treaty to honour your wishes, but know this: your impertinence will not be forgotten."
If it got him and his family out of here, Vernon could live with that.
Goblins and wizards lived in an uneasy peace, but it was said you wouldn't know it working the Goblin Liaison Office. Dealing with goblins, they said, was much like warfare: months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror. It wasn't quite that bad, but after just a year on the job as Head of the Goblin Liaison office, Dirk Cresswell could attest that it was true enough: the goblins rarely bothered to show up in the Goblin Liaison Office unless they were mad about something. It was a prestigious post, though, especially for a muggle-born, since it was without doubt the most important international relations office in the Ministry. It didn't have the "muggley" taint of the Muggle Liaison Office or the utter pointlessness of the Centaur Liaison Office, and it was certainly the office that needed the most sensitive diplomacy.
And Cresswell knew he'd need every ounce of his diplomatic skill when Ambassador Brodrig the Boss-Eyed stormed into his office.
The Ambassador looked more than characteristically angry—not just the surly look that most wizards thought all goblins had, nor, again, the general annoyance that one normally saw when they came to this office. Cresswell had learnt to read goblin faces pretty well, and he could tell something had genuinely enraged him. Fearing some stuck-up, entitled pureblood had gone and picked a fight inside Gringotts, he cautiously asked what was wrong.
"Muggles! That's what!" Brodrig shouted. "That vonirak Treaty of 1752 has got the muggles involved in our law."
Cresswell nearly gasped at the Gobbledegook curse, which was harsh even for Brodrig, but he quickly set himself into the stern pose that one needed to deal with goblins on their level and said, "What muggles, Ambassador? Why are you dealing with muggles at all?'
"Muggle solicitors! We were trying some muggles for embezzlement, and they demanded a muggle solicitor for their trial. The treaty says we have to give it to them."
"Trying muggles?" Cresswell's mind was suddenly trying to run on two tracks at once. He had worried about the day that muggles would find themselves ensnared in goblin justice ever since he started as in intern in this office, and part of his mind was already playing out scenarios. The rest of his mind was trying to figure out what on earth was going on. "Why were you trying muggles?" he demanded. "Shouldn't all of your transactions go through muggle-born wizards?"
"They're supposed to. That's exactly our problem. Somehow, these muggles got themselves on a stipend that should have been cancelled, defrauded Gringotts, and destroyed official correspondence. It should have been an open and shut case. Instead, the fat one demanded some muggle lord for his solicitor."
"Wait, wait, Brodrig. A lord?"
"Yes, yes, it's all here in the file."
The goblin slapped a file down on Cresswell's desk. Cresswell nervously picked it up and flipped through it, looking for the appropriate line. "Fortunately, I'm familiar with the muggle government—" he said, and then he saw it. "He demanded the Lord High Chancellor? Bollocks!"
"Approximately what we said, Cresswell. If I understand your government right, you'll have to go through your Muggle Liaison Office to get him."
"Yes, something like that. I still don't understand how this happened, though. How did muggles get involved in this?"
"Oh, it's in there somewhere," Brodrig said impatiently. "In where the charges are listed."
Cresswell found the page with the charges and tried to untangle the goblins' legalese. "Was set up for Vernon and Petunia Dursley for the care and upbringing of…Harry Potter?! Double Bollocks! We're gonna need more than the Muggle Liaison office for this."
Amelia Bones was not having a fine summer. She had it on good authority (namely, Albus Dumbledore) that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was back in the flesh. Unfortunately, Fudge was in denial about it, preferring to believe Dumbledore was after his job, and he had the power to fire both of them. Needless to say, she was very busy getting her Auror Department war-ready as much as she could under Fudge's narrow restrictions, looking the other way with regard to the ones who joined Dumbledore's little vigilante group, and trying not to get kicked out the door all at the same time. A brushfire on another front was the last thing she needed, and so she was not pleased when Dirk Cresswell from the Goblin Liaison Office rushed into her own office and said, "Madam Bones, we have a problem."
Amelia Bones rubbed her temples and said, "What is it, Cresswell? Please tell me we're not having a rebellion."
"Not yet, we aren't, but it could get messy. Here, look. Ambassador Brodrig gave me a case file. Short version: the goblins arrested and tried some muggles for embezzlement, and the muggles demanded a muggle solicitor. The Treaty of 1752 says they have to honour it."
"Tried some muggles?" she said in surprise. "Well, whatever. You need to fold this solicitor into the Statute of Secrecy? The Muggle Liaison Office can do that."
"That's what I thought, Madam Bones," he replied, "but they didn't ask for just any muggle. They asked for the Lord High Chancellor."
Bones's eyes snapped up. "The Lord High Chancellor?" she said incredulously. "Are you joking? Why not name the bloody Queen while they're at it?"
"The treaty says it has to be someone licensed to practice law, but it doesn't give any restrictions besides that because, honestly, how often would the accused know someone that high up in the muggle government? But I'm afraid that's not the worst of it, ma'am."
"Not the worst? How could it get worse?"
"The goblins arrested three muggles. They went into muggle territory, arrested them there, and hauled them into Gringotts in chains. When we tell the muggle government, they'll see it as a breach of their territorial sovereignty, and a big one—plus kidnapping."
"But Mr. Cresswell, the treaty says—"
"Most of the muggle government doesn't the treaty exists, ma'am, and the ones who do are going to resent it. They'll want complete control of our territory—goblin and wizard. The muggle government's changed so much in the last two hundred years—and then, there's the matter of the goblin justice system itself."
"What about it?"
"Ma'am, you know I'm muggle-born, right? When I first learnt about the goblin justice system, I was afraid something like this would happen sooner or later. Our systems are just too different. They heavily criminalise things that we would give a slap on the wrist. They use much harsher punishments than we do, and it's even worse compared with the muggle world. Did you know the muggles abolished the death penalty in 1965? The goblins still do summary executions. And the goblins use an inquisitorial court system instead of our adversarial one. We tolerate all that, but I don't think the muggles will."
Her eyes narrowed. "What do you think they'll do, then?"
"Worst case? They'll rip the treaty up entirely."
"My God," Bones gasped. "You're sure?"
"It's definitely possible, ma'am."
"I never realised…Do we have to honour this, Mr. Cresswell? The Lord Chancellor is only made privy to magic under extraordinary circumstances, and if it could start a war…"
"I think this counts as an extraordinary circumstance, ma'am. Brodrig and I both agree that we'll want to negotiate some amendments to the treaty when this is over, but for now, we're bound to honour it, or we renege on our agreements with the goblins."
Amelia sighed and closed her eyes: "Which would be just as bad…Alright, then. You go grab Warbeck from the Muggle Liaison Office. I'll tell Fudge to inform the Prime Minister. Then, we'll go talk to the Lord Chancellor."
James Mackay, Baron Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, was in for the shock of his life when the oddly-dressed woman and her two more normal-looking companions walked into his office completely unannounced.
"Excuse me, who are you? What are you doing here?" Lord Mackay demanded, standing from his desk.
"Lord Mackay, my name is Amelia Bones," the woman said. "My associates are Apollo Warbeck and Dirk Cresswell. And we're terribly sorry to spring this on you like this, but we have an international incident that only you can help us with."
Lord Mackay stood up straighter. That could explain the unannounced arrival, and, if true, it was a big deal. However, Amelia Bones didn't give him a chance to ask about it before she said, "Magic is real."
He blinked a couple of times. "What?" he said.
Bones reached into her oversize sleeve, and Lord Mackay tensed up, but she only drew a small stick. Then, she waved it at his desk, and his teacup turned into a tortoise.
"Ahh! What the hell?" he yelled.
"Magic is real," Bones repeated. "Again, we're very sorry to spring this on you like this, Lord Mackay, but we're short on time. I am a witch, and my two associates are wizards. There are several thousand of us in Britain, and we convene our own shadow government. The Queen and Prime Minister are aware. I am the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Mr. Warbeck is the head of the Muggle Liaison Office—that is, he is the normally the first point of contact for non-magical people such as yourself—and Mr. Cresswell is the head of the Goblin Liaison Office."
"Goblins?" Lord Mackay said faintly.
"Yes, and it is a diplomatic and legal dispute with the goblins that brings us to your office today…"
An hour later, Lord Mackay's head was spinning, but he had a basic understanding of the political situation between the "muggle" or real government, the Ministry of Magic, and the Goblin Nation in Great Britain. Two hours later, he was furious. If these goblins could kidnap British subjects on British soil without anybody even noticing, then, treaty be damned, they had far bigger problems than a simple case of child abuse and embezzlement.
"So that's the situation, Lord Chancellor," Mr. Cresswell concluded. "You're not obligated to take the case, but you are obligated to review it and render your decision."
Lord Mackay didn't hesitate. "Of course, I'll defend the Dursleys if it goes to trial," he said. "Even they don't deserve this. But we're going to need to bring the Prime Minister into this. Our problems go a lot deeper than that."
Ms. Bones sighed: "I was afraid you were going to say that."
Prime Minister John Major was, if it were possible, even angrier than Lord Mackay. Three utterly nonsensical visits from that Fudge character in five years, and then, out of the blue, three other wizards (well, one was a witch), showed up in his office with the Lord Chancellor in tow, of all people, and proceeded to give him a two-hour crash course in international politics for countries that supposedly existed within his own borders. At least he understood what the hell Fudge was talking about, now, but somehow, that didn't make him feel any better.
Wizard child's parents killed. Child placed with "muggle" (non-magical) relatives. Relatives abuse child and steal from his trust fund. Goblin bankers rule this an offence against the bank itself, which happens to be considered a sovereign nation, and arrest the muggle relatives outside their bloody jurisdiction. Relatives are poised to receive a sentence of seventeen years' hard labour without due process.
Yes, this was a problem.
That was why the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor were now walking down the street in a magical shopping district hidden in the heart of London with an "Auror" guard, Mr. Cresswell (being muggle-born, it was easier to go through him directly rather than through Mr. Warbeck), and a creature whose legal name was apparently "Brodrig the Boss-Eyed".
They came upon a compact marble building with slightly crooked columns, where two goblins with large battle-axes guarded the door. Only Amelia Bones came with them into the bank from among the Aurors, and Mr. Cresswell explained in hushed tones that the Aurors were only there to protect the muggle dignitaries from prejudiced wizards, not goblins.
Once inside the bank, where goblin tellers were sifting through a king's ransom in jewels as if it were a daily occurrence, Brodrig took the lead. None of the other goblins questioned him when they saw him. He led them to a mine cart that connected the bank floor to the vaults and the lower levels where a majority of the goblins apparently lived (although goblin families often had houses out in the country or even in wizarding communities, Mr. Cresswell had explained). The mine cart was built alarmingly like a roller coaster, but with fewer safety restraints, and the two muggles were greatly relieved when they made it to the courtrooms in one piece.
"You may consult with the prisoners now," Brodrig said, motioning to a hall of cells. "Once the Lord Chancellor has decided whether to represent them, we will set an expeditious trial date."
The muggles nodded and entered the cell block. It was mostly empty. With their small population and swift justice, the goblins rarely needed the cells in peacetime. Two of the cells were occupied by shadowed figures significantly larger than goblins.
"Vernon Dursley?" the Lord Chancellor said, "I am Lord Mackay. Are you here?"
In one of the cells, a fat man wearing ragged prison clothes and unkempt hair stood and approached the bars. When he stepped into the light, his haggard face brightened. "Bloody hell, it is the Lord Chancellor!" he said. "Boy, am I glad to see you, sir."
"Mr. Dursley, is the rest of your family here as well?" Major said, stepping up to see him.
"Oh, hallelujah! The Prime Minister came too, Petunia!" Vernon said.
Petunia was pretty sure that was the most enthusiastic religious pronouncement that Vernon had uttered since their marriage, and she rushed over to see. Sure enough, the Prime Minister was there outside the cell. "Oh, thank you, thank you for coming," she exclaimed.
"What? They're here? They're really here?" A big, burly boy of fifteen or so pressed himself against the bars of the opposite cell. "Thank God! We've saved!"
"'Saved', is a relative term, Mr. Dursley," Major interrupted. "Yes, we have come to help all of you. However, it is my duty to inform you before we begin, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley that we will pursue justice in all matters of this case. We still have evidence of child abuse and possible fraud committed against your nephew, and you will be prosecuted as is appropriate, but you'll be prosecuted under our law, and with a fair trial. And if the file I saw is complete, your son will probably get off with a caution. However, your imprisonment here is illegal under any reasonable measure, and I promise you the Lord Chancellor and I will do everything in our power to get you out of this place."
"Mr. Prime Minister, if it gets us out of this place, we'll take that deal," Vernon said. "You should have heard the things those creatures were saying they'd do to us."
"I think I can guess, Mr. Dursley," Major replied. "Lord Mackay, take down their statements. I'll see if I can talk to whoever's in charge of this place."
The Prime Minister rejoined Cresswell and Brodrig at the entrance to the cell block. He looked between the two and said, "Please refresh my memory. Who actually runs Gringotts?"
"Under normal circumstances, Director Bogrod," Cresswell said, "but if you mean the Goblin Nation as a whole, that would be His Majesty, King Ragnok VII."
They have their own king? he thought. Of course they do. "Then would it be possible to gain an audience with…His Majesty, then?"
Brodrig scoffed. "His Majesty is far too busy to deal with a simple criminal matter."
"I am a visiting head of government," Major insisted.
"And as Ambassador, I am fully empowered to receive you," Brodrig shot back. "Whatever you have to say, you can say to me."
"Alright then…" Major said testily. "What would you say if we demanded you release the prisoners immediately into our custody and shut down this entire court for human rights violations?"
"Oh, God, here we go," Cresswell muttered and rubbed his temples.
Brodrig ignored him. "That depends."
"Depends on what?"
"On whether you caught us on a good day. On a good day, we'd laugh in your face and throw you out on your…what's the word? Oh, yes: your arse…You don't want to know what we'd do on a bad day."
Major stared hard at the goblin's face, trying to read his expression. All he was getting was annoyance. "Mr. Cresswell—?"
"Yes. He would," Cresswell answered the unspoken question.
"Then…is there a procedure to request an audience with the King?"
Brodrig sighed and retrieved some forms for him to fill out. Major did so, citing a reason of opening formal diplomatic relations between their two nations. A little while later, Lord Mackay finished questioning the Dursleys and informed them that he would indeed be taking the case with the Prime Minister's assistance.
"Very good," the goblin said. "The trial will take place at nine o'clock in the morning two days from now."
"Two days?" Lord Mackay said. "Ambassador, we need time to build our case."
"You will be provided with copies of the relevant laws and treaties. The trial will take place at nine o'clock in the morning, two days from now."
Major could tell the goblins weren't going to yield, so he made his exit while he could still do so in a dignified way. He waited till they got outside before speaking again: "Madam Bones, Mr. Cresswell, I don't know if I have any formal power over you, but we have less than forty-eight hours to do this, and we could really use your help."
Bones groaned, "We're going to regret this, aren't we Mr. Cresswell?"
"So the goblin notion of property is that objects are owned by their makers and only leased to their buyers?" Major said.
"That's right," Cresswell said. "It causes a lot of trouble since goblin-made heirlooms are so highly prized in our society. We've never really been able to set up a comfortable trade system."
"I don't see how you managed it at all with them controlling your money supply."
Cresswell didn't have an answer to that.
Madam Bones, Dirk Cresswell, the Prime Minister, and the Lord Chancellor were holed up in Number Ten Downing Street, poring over muggle, wizard, and goblin laws to try to make some sense of them. It wasn't going well, mainly because the muggles hadn't realised they'd be dealing with such an alien culture.
"And more importantly," Major continued, "it looks like the goblin notion of jurisdiction is tied to the blood. Crimes against goblins are prosecuted by goblins, and crimes against wizards are prosecuted by wizards."
"Exactly. But the goblins are always pretty obstructive when it comes to extraditing one of their own."
"But they've committed crimes against the Dursleys under our law. Maybe against the government itself. Can we use that?"
"I doubt it. Those things would fall under the treaty with the goblins. It gives them a lot more latitude than you would think."
"That can't be. When did we ever sign a treaty with the goblins?"
"I…honestly, I'm not sure," Cresswell conceded. "It might be covered under your treaty with the Ministry of Magic…I think I need to call Filius Flitwick, if you don't mind."
"Who's Filius Flitwick?"
"He was my tutor for my Goblin Studies independent study in school, and he's part goblin himself. He should be able to answer your questions."
Major's eyes grew wide. "You mean goblins and humans can have children together."
"Yes," Madam Bones said. "Everyone knows that. Why?"
"Because under our scientific definition, being able to interbreed makes us the same species."
"What?!" they gasped, and Bones added, "Don't go saying that around wizards."
"Or goblins," Cresswell added.
"It is the scientific definition," Major insisted. "And that means under our law, goblins are human beings and British subjects whether they like it or not."
"This is worse than I thought. I really hope you don't have to use that one," Cresswell told him.
Filius Flitwick was short even by goblin standards, but he actually looked more like a human dwarf than a goblin. The important part, though, was that as someone with one foot in both worlds, he had to know the law inside and out, which made him a welcome addition to their project.
"Here it is," Flitwick said. "The original Charter of the Ministry of Magic from 1707, signed by Queen Anne. It requires the muggle government to uphold certain key laws such as the Goblin Treaties and the Statute of Secrecy."
The Prime Minister read over the relevant provisions. "It also requires you to uphold certain key laws like the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights of 1689."
"That doesn't apply to the goblins," he insisted. "They weren't party to this agreement. And if you look here, the Charter gives the Ministry of Magic the power to negotiate treaties with the goblins and other races subject to the Statute of Secrecy."
"I see. And what, exactly, does the Charter say about this Statute of Secrecy of yours?"
Flitwick pointed to another section, and he read it: The Sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland, or Ministers acting in his or her stead, may inform all such officers of government about the existence of magic as are needful for the efficient maintenance of discreet and efficient relations between the two.
"Oh, this is good," he said. "I need to talk to the Queen."
Cresswell looked at that provision Major, and his eyes widened as he realised what the Prime Minister was planning. "Oh, no. Just when I thought it couldn't get worse," he muttered.
The goblin justice system was very carefully insulated from outside interference, but Prime Minister Major was confident he'd found their Achilles' heel. Now, it was time to act. Carrots and sticks, he told himself. Carrots and sticks. Although, given what he'd seen and heard about the goblins, he was pretty sure he'd need to start with the stick.
He had prevailed upon Ambassador Brodrig, Madam Bones, and Mr. Cresswell to bring enough pressure to get him an audience with the goblin king at eight o'clock in the morning, two days later—one hour before the Dursleys' trial. That was good. If he was especially lucky, he would be able to finish this before the trial started.
The throne room under Gringotts was one of the most lavish places Major had ever seen. The entire room was gilded all around and encrusted with precious stones that would disrupt the entire global market in the muggle world. The king's throne was a work of art that would have been the prize of any museum for its craftsmanship alone, not to mention its intrinsic value.
The goblin guards in the throne room wore steel plate armour and carried swords and axes that were so elaborate that they looked like ceremonial weapons, but Major was sure they were perfectly functional. Once he and Cresswell were in place, a goblin herald stepped forward and announced, "All kneel for His Majesty Ragnok VII, Grandmaster Craftsman, President of Gringotts Bank, and King of the Goblin Nation."
Major bristled at being told to kneel to someone other than the Queen on British soil, but he did it, and then, the goblin king entered the room. Ragnok VII didn't look like the typical image of a king, even with his regal robes. Nor did he look like a typical bank president. Instead, he bore the image of a blacksmith—large for a goblin, muscular, and with quite a few burns and scars. It seemed as if the "Grandmaster Craftsman" title was the most important part of his public image. He sat on his throne and growled, "Rise humans. Why have you sought an audience with me?"
Major stood and spoke the words he had prepared. "Your Majesty, I am John Major, Prime Minister. I have come on behalf of Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Queen. We wish to discuss our concerns with the Goblin Treaty of 1752, which was negotiated on our behalf by Minister for Magic Hephaestus Gore, and pursuant to those discussions, to plead the case of Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley Dursley, whom you are currently holding in custody pending trial."
Ragnok's eyes narrowed. "And what 'concerns' do you have about the Goblin Treaty of 1752, human?"
"It does not conform to our human rights legislation, sir," Major replied.
There was some murmuring in the goblin language around the throne room. "That is not our concern," Ragnok said. "The treaty does not provide for any such 'human rights legislation'."
"No, it doesn't, sir, because the treaty is over two hundred years old. However, our own law, which you would recognise as updating the Bill of Rights of 1689, has changed significantly in the intervening time, and it is our government's policy to update our other laws and treaties in step with these changes. Now, I admit that we have not exercised due diligence in notifying you of this. This was the fault of the wizards' Ministry, which deliberately kept us ignorant of our own laws. But, strictly speaking, in order to conform to our human rights laws, we must belatedly request to renegotiate the treaty."
As Cresswell had predicted, that got growls from most of the goblins in the room. But Cresswell had also said to stand firm and show confidence, so that was what Major did.
"You would end a treaty that has kept the peace for centuries?" Ragnok roared.
"Yes, sir, because as it stands now, it may be unable to do so for much longer, for we will soon face a diplomatic crisis."
"A diplomatic crisis?" the king said. "This is to do with the case of the humans we are holding prisoner?"
Major nodded. "It is, sir. The Dursley family are legally British subjects detained on British soil and thus are protected by our human rights legislation from unjust legal processes and cruel and unusual punishment."
"You dare question our authority?! I should kill you where you stand!" And Ragnok sprang to his feet and grabbed an enormous battle axe from one of his guards and advanced on him. Even being more than a head shorter than Major, the sight was terrifying to behold.
"Kill me, and others will take my place!" Major said quickly, hoping he still sounded confident. Ragnok stayed his hand and gazed at him suspiciously. "Everything I say today, I say with the full knowledge and approval of the Queen. Killing me would stop nothing and would only harden her against you."
Ragnok lowered his axe. "Very well," he growled, "as I see there is no profit in striking you down now, I will hear what you have to say. But know this, human: your queen is overstepping her bounds. Under goblin law, all crimes committed against goblins may be prosecuted under goblin justice, wherever they occur, and the treaty gives us the right to do so."
Major pressed on, trying to hide the fact that he was shaking in his shoes. (He guessed that Cresswell was doing the same.) "Yes, sir, but the Treaty does not give you the right to operate a military or police force outside your borders. You invaded our territory to detain the Dursleys from their own home, something that is exclusively the prerogative of the local muggle constabulary, or else our sovereignty means nothing. In order to prosecute them, you would first have to present your case for us to arrest them, which we would have done, and then file for extradition. However, because the Dursleys would be subject to cruel and unusual punishment in your courts, extradition would not be granted."
More shouts of indignation rang out, but to his surprise, Ragnok waved his attendants back and turned to Cresswell. "Ambassador Cresswell, do you agree with the Prime Minister?" he demanded.
Cresswell collected himself to show as little fear as possible and said, "Your Majesty, as a matter of law, I believe the Prime Minister is correct. However, it is the opinion of the Ministry of Magic and my personal opinion that Mr. Major's plan is ill-advised. As this issue does not directly concern the Ministry of Magic, though, I am here only in an advisory role."
"Hmm…and do you mean to take back those criminals by force, Prime Minister?" Ragnok said, his voice soft and menacing. Major could hear the axes and rattling around him.
"That is not how we operate, sir. I am merely informing you that if you subject the Dursleys to the cruel and unusual punishment outside your jurisdiction, we would consider it a violation of their human rights and our national sovereignty, declare the Treaty in abeyance, and impose economic sanctions."
What happened next was completely unexpected: the entire throne room roared with laughter. "Economic sanctions?!" the king said. "You muggles have no direct dealings with us! What sanctions could you possibly impose?"
Major smiled—a smile showing teeth—a smile that Cresswell had warned him should only be used in concert with a threat that equally had teeth: "Why, introducing the pound sterling to the wizarding economy."
The laughter stopped. "You try my patience, human," Ragnok said. "We control the entire economic system of the magical world. The treaty gives us a total monopoly. You can do nothing to us."
"I assure you we can, sir. No law prevents witches and wizards from using pounds. For muggle-borns and their families, it is required to function in society. The exchange rate is stable enough that we could exchange galleons for pounds ourselves and deposit them in the Royal Treasury."
Ragnok didn't miss a beat: "We will freeze the accounts of any wizards who violate our monopoly, and the owners will have no gold on hand to trade."
"If you freeze the accounts of non-criminals, we will consider it theft, compensate the victims, and demand repayment to the Crown."
"But we could freeze all of our accounts and confiscate all the gold. Where would the wizards be then?"
"Minus a few heirlooms, I'm sure, but not bankrupt, and I'm not convinced they'd be beating my door down rather than yours." Time for the stick. "The magical world is minuscule compared with the muggle one, King Ragnok. Her Majesty's Government is prepared, if necessary, to put up a sum of one billion pounds sterling—that is, about twenty million of your galleons—to buy up all of the gold in Gringotts on paper and convert the wizarding economy entirely over to pounds overnight."
"That would mean war!" Ragnok roared.
"You would lose."
There was silence as the goblin king stared at the Prime Minister. He had said it so plainly, as if it were the obvious response. "What did you say?"
"I said, you would lose. Your warriors could not possibly hope to prevail against our forces. Even if Gringotts itself can stand up to siege indefinitely, your people cannot."
"You are bound by the wizards' Statute of Secrecy. You cannot send your muggle soldiers."
"Her Majesty's Government has more leeway than the Ministry of Magic does. We are authorised by our agreement with them to inform whatever government officials we need to for efficient dealings with the magical world, and that includes our soldiers. We can make an entire regiment of our special forces privy to magic in a matter of days and field a force greater than your entire population."
"We will inflict casualties greater than our entire population!"
"You will still lose. By your standards, our forces are effectively limitless."
"We have dragons!"
"We have heat-seeking missiles."
They stared each other down again.
"The Goblin Nation cannot hope to survive a total war against the United Kingdom," Major added for emphasis.
"You would resort to total war?" Ragnok questioned.
"What do you mean?" he said in confusion.
"We know you muggles. You may think us aloof, but we listen to the words that are uttered within our doors. We deal with the muggle parents of wizard children. We know you people preach culture tolerance more than nearly all wizards, and yet you would resort to such destructive acts?"
"Cultural tolerance will only go so far. Try to push against our sacred values, and something will break. From your words, it's clear that the same is true of you, else we would not be having this conversation. To answer your question, we have clear rules of engagement. Our soldiers are trained and authorised to meet deadly force with deadly force. Any individual goblin who becomes a clear and present threat to wizards or muggles will be captured if possible or killed if necessary under our rules of engagement. Multiply that across your population, and how much of a nation will you have left?"
As Major watched, he thought he saw a flicker of surprise cross Ragnok's face, and Major wondering if he was now hiding a twinge of fear. Cresswell looked surprised at that himself. "You would threaten us with genocide, human?" Ragnok said softly.
"Not at all. We find genocide abhorrent; make no mistake about that. Nonetheless, our rules of engagement are clear. We will not seek out the death of any goblin, but any one who runs at our soldiers with an axe will not live long enough to swing it. It is up to you how far that goes."
"And if it came to that? You would destroy an entire nation over such a small matter?"
"A small spark can start the largest of fires. A single assassination began our First World War. A mere mistake nearly began a nuclear war on several occasions. It is not the small matter itself that is the ultimate cause, but the fundamental incompatibility of our systems. Such a situation is already primed for escalation…Certainly, we don't wish it. It is only careful negotiation that prevents such wars, and so, I petition you a second time to renegotiate the treaty…Your Majesty."
Ragnok sat back down on his throne. "Ambassador Cresswell, is all of this true?"
"It is, sir," he said. "The muggles can do all he says, and I believe they will if you press the issue to the utmost."
"Hmm, perhaps you have more goblin in you than I thought, Prime Minister," he said. "I truly thought you would back down from a threat like that. I assume you have demands?"
"We do, sir, but we've tried to keep them simple enough," Major said. Here came the carrot. "Release the Dursleys to us to face justice in our system, stop conducting police and military operations outside your territory, and end the practises of summary execution and corruption of blood. And if you want to renew our extradition agreement, you'll want to modernise a few aspects of your legal system. If you can do those things, I'm confident we can come to a more profitable arrangement between our two governments."
"Oh? What sort of profit?" Ragnok said, genuinely interested.
"Mr. Cresswell has been diligent in informing me of the state of goblin-wizard relations, sir. You feel that you have been chafing under the heel of the Ministry of Magic for centuries—allowed control of the monetary system, but little else, confined to narrow patches of sovereign territory, prohibited from using wands, and essentially rendered second-class citizens. Our law recognises no such partiality, and our resources are vast. We can offer you land in one of Her Majesty's sparsely inhabited or uninhabited territories, many material goods at prices competitive with the wizarding economy, and political backing for your cause of equal rights."
Major could see the goblins' eyes widening around the room, and he knew he was speaking their language now. If relations were as bad as he had suspected from Cresswell's description, this must be sound like the heavens opening for them if it panned out. But he saw Cresswell's eyes bulge out. "Mr. Major, what are you doing?" he whispered.
"What I have to. And you said yourself said you were only here in an advisory role."
"Well, I advise you to reconsider this. The Ministry will be livid."
"Their reaction concerns me no more than the goblins', Mr. Cresswell. The offer stands, Your Majesty."
Ragnok regarded him suspiciously. "Such largess will not come cheap, I am sure."
"No, sir, but it will be readily negotiable. I've told you what we ask, and we feel it is not onerous. We are certainly willing to respect your proprietary rights to your unique magic and your distinct property laws. You have little else we want or need at this time, except for your skills in magically protecting our government officials and buildings. We've been far too lax about that."
There was a muttered discussion between Ragnok and his advisers in the goblin language. It sounded heated, with considerable rattling of weapons. Major was pretty sure some of them still wanted to kill him, but after a couple of minutes, an agreement was reached."
"Well played, Prime Minister," Ragnok said, "your petition to renegotiate the Treaty of 1752 is granted. Now, since the hour of trial is near, I will release the human prisoners to your custody as a show of good faith. Don't make me regret it."
"You won't, Your Majesty. Let's get started."