Chapter Thirteen: Great Goblin Hospitality
A pale yellow light spilled through the newly dug portal in what had been the side of the Honeydukes-Hogwarts tunnel. Outlined in the steady stream of light was the shape of a squat figure holding an alarmingly large pick-axe.
"Out of the way, digger!" a rough voice insisted.
Harry, her wand drawn, saw that it belonged to a well-dressed goblin as the being approached her.
"Greetings, Vanquisher!" the goblin said before making a deep bow.
The witch stared at him in astonishment.
Rising, the being said, "Pardon the rude manner in which I have imposed my presence upon you. I am Cracknuckle, fifth son of Breakneck, third son of Twistarm, and the Voice of the Bones Family of the Ruling Clan of the Goblinate."
And that should mean something to me, shouldn't it? thought Harry, wishing that she had paid more attention in her History of Magic class. "Um . . . I'm Harry James, once-son of James Albert, son of . . . well, I'm afraid that I don't know my grandfather's name, Sir."
The digging goblin hissed in shock, only to be rewarded by a punch to his head by his superior that almost knocked him off of his feet.
"Back to the Hall, digger!" ordered Cracknuckle. "Forgive him, once-son of James Albert," the goblin told her, clearly intending to ameliorate any offence by the use of Harry's title. "He is only a digger."
"And an impressive one, at that," Harry replied quickly, not wanting to add to the digger's troubles. "Did you just call me 'Vanquisher'?"
"Your deeds are much talked of in the Great Goblin Hall, wife of Snape, and you are known as the wiliest member of the Gift Clan. It is an honor to stand before you."
"Wife? Of Snape? What are you talking about, Cracknuckle?"
"Vanquisher," the goblin said, unable to restrain his mirth, "your humor is not known, but I shall tell the tale as soon as you have been made welcome below."
"So you mean to kidnap me?"
Cracknuckle spat upon the ground. "Curse me for the offense of the digger! We have offended you!"
Harry lowered her wand, again wishing that she had paid more attention to Professor Binns' class. I have no idea what is going on here, but I'd better . . . . "No, you haven't offended me, but I don't quite understand what it is that you want with me—and how did you find me, anyway?"
"You are under the earth, clan-sister," Cracknuckle said, as if his answer should make everything clear. Seeing that it had not, he continued, "All movements here are known to us, Vanquisher. But time is short. Foreign beasts sift through the earth even now, defiling our territory in their search for you. We must repair this breach," he said, laying a hand on the edge of the new corridor, "and return to the safety of the Hall."
"'Foreign beasts'? Do you mean gob—"
"—I mean beasts," Cracknuckle spat as the tunnel again began to vibrate. "Hurry!"
Without thinking about it further, Harry raced after the goblin into the new passage and saw that digging goblins were feverishly working to close the tunnel behind them. Eventually, the vibrations stopped, and the pale yellow light grew more vibrant. Harry and Cracknuckle finally emerged into a large earthen chamber. There were about fifty tunnels leading from it, all apparently reinforced and gated, but one of them was not barred.
"This way, please," her guide said, ignoring the diggers who were racing past them from the open door.
The corridor they entered was inlaid with gleaming tan stone, and at the end of it, a massive metal door stood open. It was guarded by twelve goblins standing abreast and each wearing what Harry surmised to be different military uniforms.
I really should have paid more attention in school.
"Hail, Vanquisher!" the guards exclaimed, holding aloft gilt pick-axes of more reasonable size and parting to permit the witch and Cracknuckle to enter.
The Great Goblin Hall was not well-served by its name.
"This is magnificent!" Harry told Cracknuckle as she tried to take in the vast space, which she quickly realized wasn't possible to do.
"I thank you, Vanquisher. I am honored to have your approval of our works," the Voice of the Goblinate told her as he led her down a winding staircase that had been carved from the same stone she'd seen in the tunnels leading to the Hall. "In the Heart, you shall take meat and mead with me, and tell me of your plans."
Then I'd best make some.
The Heart was an intricately carved stone garden of statuary that wound from the floor of the chamber to the ceiling. At least Harry assumed that they did; she could not see how far the statue-pillars rose, as the diffuse light that glowed from the stonework coalesced to form a ball of light, like an interior sun of sorts, at some point above them.
"Ah, you are wondering about the light, I see."
"Yes, it's so clear, but it doesn't glare."
"Merlin blessed our works that they shine upon us always. It is the only wizarding magic that is permitted here."
Goblins of all descriptions and occupations bowed to Harry as she passed them, and when she and Cracknuckle sat down at a table in the Heart, one bearing food and drink served them immediately. Taking her cue from the other goblins eating, Harry did not talk as she ate the simple but delicious meal of roast beef and sweet wine.
"Food is for eating, Vanquisher," her host told her after swallowing his last morsel, "and we do not, as you see, prize conversation while at meat."
"Thank you for your hospitality. May I ask you something?"
"Why is it that you believe me to be married to Severus?"
"Because the stone behind which your child is laid bears his name."
"What?" Harry asked so vehemently that Cracknuckle sat back.
"Forgive me, Vanquisher. Was this done in error? The memorial was altered after Lily Peace Potter was visited by Friend Snape and the mother of Minister Weasley's fifth son's child. Did you not direct that this be done?"
Hermione's pregnant? She took Severus to the Hall of Monuments? She changed the marking stone? But that must mean . . . oh, thank Merlin! Oh! No wonder Severus is looking for me!
"Vanquisher? Are you well?"
"Forgive me, Cracknuckle. It's just . . . that I did not know who . . . my child's father was," Harry whispered, uncertain as to how the goblin would take the information.
The being's craggy face softened in embarrassed understanding before hardening again in anger. She did not lay the child in the tomb of her wizard husband, so . . . . "You gave much of yourself to end the war. . . . That need never be known."
"Thank you for that."
"Never thank me, clan-sister. All honor is due you, all respect. But I must speak to you now of the tracking beasts from the Roman earth. I do not understand the ways of wizards, but I fear that your family," Cracknuckle said, looking as though he wanted to spit, "has sent them to search for you."
"Giancarlo Zabini, yes."
The goblin did spit, then. "Yes! An evil wizard that you did—that is—your people did not kill, clan-sister. I meant no disrespect."
Harry sighed. "I don't understand the ways of wizards, either, my friend."
The goblin preened visibly at the honor the witch had bestowed upon him.
"And I don't enjoy killing, which is why . . . tell me, is Giancarlo Zabini still attempting to establish his own bank?"
"Yes, curse him! He would undo the Accords for his own purposes!"
"This may shock you, but I've been . . . I left to hide from him, so that I would not have to kill him."
Cracknuckle bowed his head before collecting his thoughts to speak. "To run is not our way, and that one has long needed killing—but you are tired of war, yes? Women—even those with a great warrior's heart—often grow tired of conflict."
"People do—even goblins, I expect."
"Indeed, you speak the truth, though my kind accepts peace made through strength more readily than politics."
"Cracknuckle, I'm not an executioner, and I have no proof that would send Zabini to Azkaban."
"The laws of wizards irritate me, clan-sister, though I obey Merlin's Compromise."
"The Wizard-Goblin Accords have kept the peace for centuries."
"Wizards seem to forget that, of late. Were it not for the law, my people would have long ago mixed Giancarlo Zabini's bone dust into mortar."
Harry shuddered as she realized that the bone dust of, perhaps, hundreds of wizards were now holding in place the stones of the Great Goblin Hall. We need this peace to hold. There are too few of us, too many of them . . . .
Cracknuckle chuckled as if he understood her mind. "Do not trouble yourself. They were not of your line, Vanquisher."
"My line. Cracknuckle, am I to understand that goblins view marriage as being between two people who have . . . ."
"Made a child? Yes, that is so."
The goblin explained to Harry Severus' connection to the Ruling Clan, and something of the workings of goblin government.
"And so, as Friend Snape is the Father of the Snape Family, which rules the Gift Clan, so you are its Mother."
"And as a member of the Goblinate, my Family, because we lead the Gift Clan, would have a say in the Goblinate?"
"Yes. Your clan's vote would be one in the now thirteen clans of the Goblinate, of which the Bones Family is the head. My Family rules and speaks for all of the clans."
"The Ruling Clan sends someone to Wizard Parliament?" Harry asked, remembering this from class.
"And does the voice have to come from the Ruling Clan?" Harry asked, making plans.
For the first time in years, she found herself feeling hopeful.