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Dragon's Blood by Alopex
Chapter 1 : A Cartographic Clue
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8

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A/N: This story is currently under construction, so the reader assumes all risk of confusion that may be incurred by reading beyond this chapter. This is a new chapter, inserted before the original chapter one, and is likely to be edited again in the future, as I’m still not happy with it, particularly toward the end.

This chapter was written for AndrinaBlack’s Non-Fiction Quote Challenge.

Percy Weasley eyed his desk with disgust. Normally, he kept it spotless and meticulously organized, but right now, it was in a shambles, with parchment strewn everywhere. A few sheets had even drifted to the floor. A growing ink stain was rapidly spreading, for he had just carelessly tipped over his inkwell. He righted it, smearing ink all over his fingers in the process.

Confident that the ink puddle was under control for now, he leaned back in his chair and pulled off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose against the headache that had formed. He knew he was getting ink on his face, but he couldn’t muster the energy to care. A quick glance at his watch revealed that it was not yet ten o’clock. It was going to be a long day.

It was that time of year again—time for the internal review which required him, as the head of the Department of Magical Transportation, to inspect all sorts of tedious paperwork and licenses issued by the department throughout the year, compile information about the department’s budget, and submit an official report. Some of the work he could delegate, of course. But there were some things he liked to keep back for himself. For instance, all of the work done by recent hires he preferred to review himself.

That was how he had come across . . . this.

Whatever this was. He wasn’t sure yet. It might very well be nothing. He hoped it was nothing.

He snorted softly and put his glasses back on his nose. No, after nearly forty years of experience, he knew it wasn’t nothing. He had seen the sorts of errors made by new employees out of ignorance or inexperience, and the sorts of errors made by old employees out of carelessness or boredom. He had seen them many times. This . . . well, this was something different. If he wasn’t so particular about checking the paperwork, he never would have found it.

During his years at the Ministry, he had gained a reputation for loving paperwork. It wasn’t that he loved paperwork. No. It was just that he was good at it.

He had made his decision. It was time to take this to Hermione and see what she made of it.

Percy strode to the door of his office and yanked it open. “Eleanor!” he barked at his secretary. “Send a note to Hermione Granger-Weasley to see if she can fit me in this afternoon. I want to speak to her personally, not some underling who isn’t important enough to be in meetings all day.”

“Right away, Mr. Weasley,” she said, reaching for the stack of blank memo parchments she kept on her desk. She glanced up and caught a glimpse of his face, which he belatedly remembered was likely smeared with ink. She looked from him to his uncharacteristically messy office. “Sir?” she ventured uncertainly. “Is everything all right? Do you need any help straightening up?”

“No thank you, Eleanor. The memo, if you please.” He withdrew into his office, closing the door quite firmly and muffling any response she might have made. He leaned against the door, feeling some momentary regret for being so abrupt with Eleanor. She was, after all, quite competent and efficient overall; he never would have kept her on otherwise. She was just a bit young still, and sometimes overeager, much like he had been at that age.

Percy sighed and made his way back to his desk. He picked up the parchments that had fallen to the floor and stacked them neatly. Then he pulled out his wand and siphoned up the spilled ink, taking extra care with the parchments that had been splattered. He then sat down again and began sorting them back into some semblance of order.

He was just pulling out a fresh inkwell from a drawer when there was a timid knock at his door. “Mr. Weasley? It’s me, Eleanor.”

“Come in.”

She opened the door and came in to set a note on his desk. “Mrs. Granger-Weasley will see you at three o’clock. She’s sorry it’s not sooner, but she’s in meetings until then.”

“That’s perfect. Thank you, Eleanor.” Percy smiled at her, and she retreated from his office, looking relieved to see him in a better mood.

Yes, three o’clock was perfect. That gave him a few hours to check the paperwork more carefully to see if he could discover anything else.

Just before three o’clock, Percy emerged from his office levitating a box of files before him. Almost immediately, Aydemir Acar swooped down on him, as if he’d been hovering about waiting for Percy to emerge. A quick glance at Eleanor confirmed it, as she shook her head slightly and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

“Let me carry that for you, sir,” Acar was saying. “You shouldn’t have to run errands like this yourself. I know exactly where Mrs. Granger-Weasley’s office is. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Percy frowned at Acar. “What makes you think I’m going to see Mrs. Granger-Weasley?”

“Oh, a friend over in Magical Law Enforcement told me Mrs. Granger-Weasley cleared a spot in her schedule for you this afternoon,” he said smoothly, his even, white teeth flashing in his face.

“Which friend?” Percy persisted.

“You wouldn’t know him . . . he’s just a secretary,” Acar said. “Anyway, you looked like you could use some help. I’ll get that box for you.” He started to reach out for it, but Percy twitched his wand and moved it out of the way.

Percy continued to frown. “This is entirely routine,” he said. “I am following up personally on a case. Besides that, I quite enjoy speaking with my sister-in-law.” With that, he strode off, floating the box ahead of him. He got into the lifts and soon found himself outside Hermione’s office.

“Go right on in, Mr. Weasley,” her secretary said. “She’s expecting you.”

He tapped at the door and then entered the office. Hermione looked up with a smile.

“Percy, it’s nice to see you.” She took in the box that he made settle neatly beside her desk. “What’s this? I know you have an affinity for paperwork, but you don’t usually send so much.”

“Well, some of it is the last of the paperwork on the Pickwick case. But I brought something else that I wanted you to take a look at. I’ve been working on the internal review, and I came across some irregularities.”

“Irregularities?” she echoed.

“I’m particularly concerned about some paperwork filed by Aydemir Acar, one of my newer employees. A cruise ship, the Deniz Prenses, which primarily does Mediterranean cruises, came up for licensing renewal this year, and he was the chief inspector due to his prior experience with ships. All of the paperwork appears to have been filed the same day, when the process really should have taken several weeks. There are a few other problems as well. This summarizes most of what I’ve discovered so far.”

Percy extracted a document from the top of the box and handed it to her. She unrolled the parchment and began scanning it. Percy waited a few minutes until she had finished reading.

“Hmm,” Hermione said, rolling the parchment back up and tapping it against her palm. She went over to perch on the windowsill, looking out the “window.” His office had one too, an illusion, of course, since the entire Ministry was underground.

“This is certainly intriguing,” she said, “but are you certain this isn’t just some innocent mistake or sloppiness with the paperwork? This is hardly compelling evidence of illegal activity.”

“No,” Percy admitted. “In fact, that’s what I suspected at first. I see mistakes like this every year. However, I suspect this goes a little deeper. Once I began cross-referencing files, I realized that the internal dimensions Acar listed for this ship do not match up with the dimensions listed in the official record. The information regarding the cargo is also more vague than it should be, and there are far more entries for ‘perishable goods’ than is permitted. This all could still be sloppiness, but then I found this.”

He reached into the box again and triumphantly pulled out another sheet of parchment. Hermione took it and looked at it.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be looking for, Percy. This just looks like some notes about the ship to me. Without a bit of research, I don’t know if everything appears normal or not.”

“The front side seems to be in order. As you said, it’s just some notes. Turn it over. If you perform a simple Revealing Charm, you’ll see what I’m talking about.” He waited while she took out her wand and did as he suggested. Immediately, spidery lines of ink began fanning out from the tip of her wand to reveal a list as well as a roughly sketched map.

"Finally and most important, a legend or comment, which belongs almost by definition to a map, is apparently missing. Only by starting to read will you also start to understand the map, which gradually fills with information,"Percy said, pointing to the list. “There is nothing to positively identify what this map depicts, especially as rough as the drawing is, but I’ve compared it with some real maps, starting with the Mediterranean. I believe this is a part of the Turkish coast. If I’m not mistaken, this list includes some illegal substances. Some of the other words I’m not sure about. Based on this map, as well as the other irregularities, I believe the Deniz Prenses is involved with something illegal. Also, Acar waylaid me as I was leaving my office just now.”

“Oh?” Hermione raised her eyebrows again. “Interesting.”

“Isn’t it? He seemed very eager to deliver this box for me. He said a friend, a secretary in this department, tipped him off that we were meeting this afternoon. I’d advise you to be very careful about letting anyone see these documents.”

“Of course,” Hermione replied. “Thank you for bringing this to me. We’ve actually had our eye on Acar for a while now. I’ll see if there’s anything else we can discover in these files. Now, how is Lucy’s new job going?”

A/N: The bolded line is from p. 340 in Mapping the Ontologically Unreal – Counterfactual Spaces in Literature and Cartography by Barbara Piatti and Lorenz Hurni in The Cartographic Journal (and the page number is obviously the Journal's numbering. The article itself is not over 300 pages long).

Deniz Prenses means “sea princess” in Turkish, if I have correctly translated it with an online English-Turkish dictionary.

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