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Harry Potter and the Demon Bowler, Part Two (B) - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
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wemyss
Harry Potter and the Demon Bowler, Part Two (B)

 

 

Whilst the new-minted Wessex Wanderers and their families and friends were faffing about with time-turners, and the Ministry were creating a glorious history for the Wanderers and an air of inevitability and naturalism to surround the match, at least for Muggle consumption, Millicent Bulstrode, with a slightly cowed Pansy Nott (formerly Parkinson) in tow – Pansy, even after bringing off a successful marriage to Theo, had never quite lived down her injudicious suggestion that Potter be turned over to Voldemort as the price of saving the rest of the students – was forgathered with her cousin Elspeth.  Millicent being the (surprisingly civil) civil partner of Susan Bones, and Susan being an increasingly senior Healer at Mungo’s, it was natural that Millie and Elspeth should take charge of combing the health records of Todmorden, the Hangletons, Upper Flagley and Brockdale, Mould-on-the-Wold and Chipping Clodbury, and Tinworth.  It was equally natural that Millie should have jollied, chivvied, and bullied Pansy into coming along and helping with the donkey-work.

 

The pattern that emerged was not an attractive one.

__________________________________________________

Harry, thanks to judicious use of the Ministry time-turners, also had, as it were, time on his hands; and that is why he was to be found in Todmorden, with Ron and Draco, having a substantial tea with a Dr Ainlee, whose surgery was in the town and who remembered, albeit as a very junior man to a very senior one, old Dr Evans.

__________________________________________________

It fell to Dudley to break the news to Harry – or to one of his iterations, at any rate, as the time-turners were still being given a thorough workout – and to a quite temporally undivided Kingsley.

 

‘Harry?  Those things that attacked us that time, the – Demon-ters?  Dementors, that’s right.  The ones you saved me from.  You said, once, something about how they … ate souls?  Ruddy weird, but.  Well.’

 

‘Yeah, D.  Dementors.  They do that, yeah.  Did Elspeth and Millie turn something up, then?’

 

‘Well, it’s rum, it was actually Pansy spotted it, but, yeah.  There was never a problem in Todmorden or Walsden before their side played a match in Little Hangleton.  But after that, in Little Hangleton, and then in Todmordon and Walsden, Lydgate, Cornholme, Mankinholes, and Lumbutts and all.  And then, wherever that Gul bloke went.  After a match he bowled in, people were suddenly being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Never a sign of it before, either, just a sudden onset, severe dementia, and a swift, almost immediate slide into absolute mindlessness.  Which sounds a bloody sight close to what those Dementor thingies do, and maybe it’s not really Alzheimer’s then at all.’

 

‘Who were affected?’

 

‘Sometimes it was people who’d turned out to watch the cricket, sometimes it was members of the other XI, and if it wasn’t them, it was friends or families or mates or people who worked with ’em.’

 

‘Kingsley?’

 

‘I’ll get Susan Bones and Poppy and Smethwyck and Pye to take a butcher’s at them all.  Sorry, not the most felicitous phrase, that, but you know what I mean.  Does this fit with what you learnt from Dr Ainlee?’

 

‘More with what we learnt when he handed us off to his junior, Dr Haigh.  Ainlee was simply our bona fides, thanks to his having known my grandfather – ours, Dud, Mum’s and Aunt Petunia’s dad.  Dr Haigh – funnily enough, some of the Haighs moved to Wales around what time the Evanses got stuck in in Todmorden, you’d think it was a trade-off – Dr Haigh mentioned a curious incidence of Alzheimer’s in the area, suddenly appearing, and centred on the Burnley Road cricket ground.  We’d been talking of the old mills and how polluted the River Calder had once been, back in grandfather Evans’s day, and that got him off onto environmental influences on disease.’

 

‘I’ll have the medical investigation team report directly to you.  Now: what else can we do with you in this timeline?’

 

‘I think the current versions of Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco, Nev, Luna, and I will be headed back to Todmorden.  I want to know everything there is to know about the journey a certain cricketing side set out on from Todmorden to Little Hangleton, just before people began falling ill and Mr Nazim Gul became an unstoppable demon bowler.’

__________________________________________________

The charabanc – as the witnesses jocularly referred to the coach – had, apparently, turned north on the A6033, leaving the A646 at Hebden Bridge to travel on to Keighley, Riddlesden, and thence to Little Hangleton.  The witnesses whom the team had interviewed, Nazim Gul’s former mates, remembered the trip well: those of them, at least, who were not now shells of their former selves, their minds gone: remembered it not least because the ’bus had suddenly shuddered, juddered, and died in the broad and lonely middle of Wadsworth Moor, before they had even reached Oxenhope, for no cause anyone could discern.  The match was not until the morrow, of course, but any delay would cut into the planned pub time they were anticipating at each stop on their journey and at their destination, and was resented accordingly. 

 

Gul had simply shrugged, resigned himself to the delay, and stepped onto the verge to practise his bowling with a partner (the witness James Butterworth, 32, Clogh Foot).  The sheep of the district had managed to crop the verge as well as the moorlands, so there was no reason to expect him to lose the ball.  Yet lose it he did, it hitting a concealed stone and bounding over the wall.  To the jeers of his mates, he leapt the lichened dry-stones of the ancient boundary wall and went to retrieve it, the Winny Stone to his eastwards and Bedlam to the westwards. 

 

For some reason, no one had ever quite been able to say, after, for just how long he had been gone; but upon his return, the conveyance suddenly sputtered into life, and they forgot the incident as they sped away northwards from the desolate stretch of moorland between Pecket Well and Dike Nook.

__________________________________________________

Mr Ollivander was hard put to conceal his excitement at being once more in the presence of, much less being asked to opine upon, the Wand of Destiny.  ‘Remarkable,’ he muttered with every intake of breath, ‘remarkable, indeed, Mr Potter.’

 

He had stopped at Pottersfield for a weekend to assist the Wanderers in living up to their names, by providing them with suitable Quicket bats that would pass for cricket bats.  Willow, after all, was a very well-known wand-wood: Lily Potter’s own wand, for example, had been willow (ten and a quarter inches, swishy, an excellent wand for Charms work).  Now, however, Minerva and Harry had between them sparked him to a leap of invention.  He would not, as was traditional, create for them Quicket bats of willow with embedded wand-cores.  Inspired by the Elder Wand and Minerva’s musings, he would create for them bats into the handles of which they could place their wands, which would extend into the blade itself.

 

‘And if I’m bowling, Mr Ollivander?’

 

‘My dear Mr Potter, in that event you’ll not be facing this Muggle’s bowling, now, will you?  In any event, Mr Potter, you’ve your own wand to hand … and I daresay, from what we are discovering of the Doomstick, that it will appear in your hand should you require it at any time.’

 

Later that evening, after their nursery tea, Hugo proclaimed that he now wished to become a wand-maker.  As, three days before, his goal had been to charm flying motorcars when he was older, this was almost a relief.

__________________________________________________

The team combing the moors for a lost cricket ball from a year and more before would have seemed barking mad to any passing Muggles, but any passing Muggles, after all, wouldn’t be glimpsing them under the charms they had placed upon themselves.

 

They need hardly have bothered.  Suddenly, without warning, a swift-rolling and impenetrable fog swaddled them, and showed no signs of dissipating or moving on, swiftly or otherwise.  The temperature, as well, was dropping, dank and miasmic. 

 

‘I must say, Neville,’ said Draco, ‘I quite see why you are so proud of your North Country weather.  Rates with the Riviera or the Costa del Sol, doesn’t it.’

 

‘Good thing we’ve Nev along,’ said Harry, smoothing things over.  ‘Neville, we shall rely upon your local knowledge.’

 

‘Booger that,’ said Neville, with studied calm, ‘happen we’ll rely the more on your own expertise.  This isn’t quite t’fog of Dementors, nor yet t’chill of ghosts, but it’s not a natural moor fog, sithee, not by a good, long chalk.’

 

Hermione’s intake of breath was loud, although curiously flat-sounding, in the mists.

 

But Harry was as casual about it as Nev was, admirably unconcerned.  ‘Well, then, that’s all the better, isn’t it: shows we’re on the right track.’

 

‘Damned good thing it shows something,’ said Ron, quite as casually.  ‘Because I can still see Gin and Hermione and Nev and Cousin Ferret, vaguely, but you, Harry my lad, seem to have vanished.’

__________________________________________________

In Kilmington, Messrs Gul, Cucknell, Snook-Vincent, Ayliffe, Darvill Eastman, Rainsford, Dysmer, and Mr Cyril Pinnell (Penselwood, Somerset, wicket-keeper and left-hand batsman), were listening to their captain and vice-captain with attention. 

 

‘And do remember, please,’ said Jack (the Hon John) Seymour, ‘this is a friendly, a festival match, and a Royal charitable occasion.  Winning would be lovely, but it’s not precisely the point.  George –’ this was to Mr Ayliffe-the-Butcher’s address – ‘are we set for nosh?  Right, then.  Off you go, all of you, and we’ll be back tomorrow at 4.0 sharp for another bit of training in the nets.’

 

Jack Seymour would have made an admirable Hufflepuff, had he not been a Muggle.

__________________________________________________

‘Vanished?’  Harry’s voice was amused.  ‘So I have done.  Damned cloak.  If there is one thing that annoys me, it’s magical artefacts with minds of their own.  I may add that seem also to have acquired a rather ornate signet ring and a second wand.’

 

‘Ah,’ said Draco.  ‘Carry on, then, I assume they’re wanted, or soon shall be.  Wands out, I think.’

 

Ron winced in sympathy: he knew full well that, although Cousin Ferret had meant no harm by that remark, it would inevitably recall Cedric’s death to Harry’s mind.

 

Harry’s voice was still collected, however, when he answered.  ‘Quite.  And I think we should remain where we are, within sight or hail, so as not to lose one another.  I rather doubt we’ll need to search further; I imagine we’re quite soon to find what we seek, and a bit over.’

 

Luna giggled.  ‘Oh, Harry, I’m so glad it was a cloak rather than a dagger.  Otherwise, I could never read the Scottish play again without connecting Gruoch’s “damned spot” with Macbeth’s dagger-that-he-saw-before him.’

 

‘Bugger,’ said Hermione, as Ginny sniggered, ‘now I’ll never be able not to think about that when I read the play.’

 

‘That,’ said a cold and stony voice, a voice like the shattering of a menhir in a killing frost, ‘presumes you will ever return to hearth and lamp and books to read, living and with your red blood yet in you.  I should not count upon that, mortal.’  And from within the fog, in the direction whence the voice seemed to come, there was a cackling of many eldritch voices, full of malice.

 

It was Luna who just edged out Harry in replying.  ‘You know, it’s terribly rude not to identify oneself.  Will you introduce your companions and tell us your name?’

 

The voice was like iron on a freezing night in dark of moon, at once cold and burning, and infinitely cruel.  ‘You are brave, or foolhardy.  Perhaps these are the same thing.  You seek my name and those of my host?  Why?  It will avail you naught.  Surely you are not so foolish as to think that our giving them to you will grant you any power over us, even if your scent does proclaim you a magical wight.  And you cannot be such a fool as to imagine such knowledge will otherwise avail you: you shan’t, after all, live to pass the knowledge on.’

 

‘I shouldn’t be too damned cocksure of that,’ said Draco, sounding almost amused.  ‘Your name and station, at once, whilst yet you can give it.’

 

‘You are arrogant – cocksure – in your folly, boy.  Of damnation we shall speak anon.  As for our names and kind, we do not choose to reveal them to those who will not live to profit by the experience.  And what I am and how I am called, you have no true names for in your mortal tongue.’

 

‘Bugger doesn’t know when he should surrender, eh, Nev?’  Ron also was putting in a front, even as his sister whispered to his wife, if all this testosterone-posturing gets us killed, I swear I’ll haunt, well, somebody, see if I don’t.

 

Whatever the beings were, they were perceptibly nearer, looming shapes of uttermost blackness in the unearthly fog.

 

Hermione whispered.  ‘Ginny, what if they’re impervious to spells?’

 

‘Not to recreate the scenes of your childhood,’ replied Ginny, whispering also, ‘but are you or are you not Muggle-born?  Ron has some of George’s new fireworks in his pocket, and Harry made sure that Nev had his Webley Mk IV in his.  Technology, darling, is your friend when magic fails.’

 

‘I’m half inclined,’ said Luna, to no-one in particular, ‘to apparate away from such rude creatures, but I’d not like it thought that we feared them.  Pity I haven’t a camera, this would make an excellent Sunday supplement alongside the Snorkacks.’

 

‘Quite right, Luna,’ said Neville.  ‘Draco, let’s not descend to their level.  Make introductions, there’s a good chap.’

 

‘Quite,’ drawled Draco.  ‘My name is Draco Malfoy.  With me are Hermione and Ron Weasley, Luna and Neville Longbottom, Ron’s exceedingly dangerous sister Ginny, and the Rt Hon Harry Potter, Order of Merlin First Class, Grand Sorcerer, and so on.  Any of this sounding at all familiar?’

 

‘Potter?’

 

‘Indeed,’ said Harry, clearly amused and as clearly exasperated.  ‘I suppose it’s as well that the fame has spread, but I really cannot be arsed to give out signed photos or autographs.’

 

‘There are many Potters,’ said the voice, grimly.

 

‘But only one Harry Potter,’ said Draco, his tone as languid as the being’s was grim.  ‘A fact for which, I may add, I have often given thanks.  Still, such as he is, this is he.  Some of the family, I understand, English the name as “Crocker”, particularly the senior branch on Dartmoor – I assume you moor-creatures stay in touch.  In any event, Harry Potter, scion of the first Wizard, direct descendant of Ignotus Peverell, sole remaining heir of Antioch Peverell and Cadmus Peverell, and all that, with all that that implies.’

 

‘All?’

 

‘All,’ said Harry, with evidently increasing impatience.

 

‘With Old Crockern of Darty-moor I am … familiar.’  The voice hesitated; yet it spoke again, and with the finality of the slamming of a crypt’s door.  ‘Yet however high-born and however magical, you are but mortal meat.’

 

‘Mortal I will admit,’ said Harry.  ‘As to the other, however, I should perhaps make clear that I am not merely the heir of the Brothers Peverell, but hold and am master of their gifts.  Upon my finger rests the Resurrection Stone, upon my shoulders the Cloak of Invisibility, in my hand, the Elder Wand, and I stand before you possessor of the Hallows, master of Time and Death.  Now, spirit or fell creature, be you what you may: Make.  Your.  Choice.’

 

It was immediately obvious that the beings had drawn back, almost flinched back, dwindling in the mist.  The voice, when it spoke, was hesitant.

 

‘What seek you here, master of the Hallows?’

 

‘Curiously enough, a lost cricket ball, from months ago.’

 

‘A … cricket ball.’

 

‘Yes, yes, and spare me the Fifth Doctor humour.  One lost here, as I suspect, some time hence, and something else taken away in its guise and stead.’

 

‘Yes….  Yes, we know of what you speak.  It was … yes.  Look down and you will find it at your feet.’

 

The fog thinned in a keen wind, revealing the turf of the moor and showing the silhouetted forms of the dark creatures that had drawn back from the threat of the Hallows.  Luna, naturally, was fumbling for a quill and parchment, to sketch them.

 

‘Very amusing.  One would swear, to look at it, that it was a stone.’

 

‘And the mortal who took away the stone would have sworn that he carried away a cricket ball.’

 

‘Hermione?  A little revelatory spell-work, if you please.  Ah.  Yes.  Got it.  Well, that’s a turn up for the books.  Neville, if you’ve still that moke-skin wallet I gave you for Christmas last, the one with an outer covering and inner lining of Graphorn hide?  Excellent.  Draco, be so good as to levitate the stone, or, as it may be, cricket ball, into Nev’s bag, there’s a fellow.  Thank you.  Now, you black-cloaked, horse-skull-headed herd of whatsits, I believe you are going to quietly and peaceably lead us to the source from which the stone that’s currently out there, loose, masquerading as a cricket ball, came.  I most urgently advise that you not try any trickery.  Ginny, if any of the buggers so much as fidget, blast them.  Right.  Quick … march!’

 

They marched, the thin but persistent fog accompanying them, to the contortion of stone upon two horizontal slabs that was the Winny Stone.  The looming figures, their formless black cloaks writhing in the wind beneath horse-like skulls, in the eye sockets of which burnt infernal fires, left little doubt as to the name’s derivation.

 

‘The stone came from here, I take it.  Very clever.  I suppose you don’t feed as often as you’d like, hereabouts, waiting for walkers to wander past.  Well, I can certainly address that problem.’

 

‘You will send us meat, souls to feast upon, as payment for our help?’

 

Harry snorted.  ‘Not sodding likely.  Ligare vinctum!  You are bound forever within these rocks!’

 

The mist vanished, the wind dropped, and they stood blinking in the late autumnal sun.  ‘Very indifferent Latin,’ said Draco, ‘like most spells, but rather effective.’

 

‘Yes, well, I don’t approve of soul-eating.  Well.  Shall we find a floo?’

 

‘Let’s find a pub,’ said Ron.

 

‘Oh, is my big, fearless brother wanting a pint after all that?’

 

Nev laughed.  ‘Ron?  Lass, he’s not in want of a drink.  It’s Ron.  He wants food.

 

‘Well, work makes me hungry.

 

‘Honestly, Ron, we did none of the work.  Breathing makes you hungry.’

 

‘Scotch eggs and cask ales at t’Red Cap, in Heptonstall,’ said Nev, pacifically.

 

‘Lead on,’ said Ron.

__________________________________________________

At Pottersfield, their other iterations had not wasted time.  Physically, magically, and mentally, they were as well prepared for the match as they might be.  The match was, admittedly, a friendly; but there was to be, they all fully expected, nothing at all friendly about what they were really to face at the match.

 

To the glee of the assorted children, Mr Ollivander had been joined, for the purpose of creating the new model Quicket bats, by the veritable King of the Wood, Professor Rubeus Hagrid, who was immediately rushed by the smaller members, with Rose in the lead, shouting gladsomely and shrilly, ‘Oakfather!’  His black eyes dancing, beaming all over his honest face, Hagrid swept them all into his arms.

 

‘Now, then, now, then,’ said he, chortling.  ‘All right, young’n all.  Who’s coming along o’ me to look at these yere bat-willows down the riverbank?  Teddy, you take ’em in hand, and mind they get their wellies on proper, it be roight plashy in them pucksey rhynes where weem heading.  Now, now, none of thick yere nunny-fudgin’, there’s work to be done.  Off wi’ you, now.  Mornin’, Mr Ollivander, how bist?  You’m lookin’ brave this day, it’s good to see yer in health.  Just you let me to get my gurt axe, and when them unbelievin’ chillurn be ready, we be headin’ up-along a bit, I do know where’s some fine bat-willow fer yer to look at.’

 

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Comments
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 31st, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

‘Very indifferent Latin,’ said Draco, ‘like most spells..."

{hee, hee...}
(that's the teenage Classical Languages scholar giggling there.)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 1st, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

We are giggling in unison, for the selfsame reason.

Besides, could Draco possibly resist comment?
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 1st, 2007 12:05 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, the appearances of your barrow-wight-cum-dementors actually made me jump!

I must admit that I sympathise with Ron's food obsession: hunger never does much for my temper either.

Incidentally, I like the moleskine notebook - a nice touch, and the sort of thing that would be tremendously useful for a herbologist, even when not fighting against the Dark.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 1st, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, super.

You've no idea how gratified I am on all counts.
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