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Percy Weasley and the Great Cauldron-Bottom Caper, Ch 2, Pt A - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
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Percy Weasley and the Great Cauldron-Bottom Caper, Ch 2, Pt A
 

And now for the second part of Percy Weasley and the Great Cauldron-Bottom Caper, being the first part of Chapter Two (‘Hocused’).

 

PERCY WEASLEY and the GREAT CAULDRON-BOTTOM CAPER

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Chapter Two: Hocused

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Today

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‘Harry?’

 

‘Hullo, Percy.’

 

‘Look – d’you have a moment?  I want to talk to you.’

 

‘Er.  Is it absolutely urgent?  Only, I’m slated to take the whole young intake, every blessed one of ’em, to the seaside.  If it can’t wait, of course –’

 

‘No.  No, that’s all right.  I mean, it can wait a day or so, I suppose.’

 

‘Oh, super.  Thank you, Percy.  I don’t know what I’d say to Hermione and Fleur and Molly and Andromeda – well, you take the point.’

 

‘Yes, of course.  Have you seen Malfoy lately?’

 

‘As a matter of fact, I believe he’s up in Hogsmeade today.  Jawing at Nev about potions ingredients, I rather think.’

 

Damn, thought Percy.  That means Nev’s not available either.

 

‘Look here, Percy, are you certain this can wait?  Because –’

 

‘No, no, it’s fine.  I’ll leave you to it.’

 

‘If you’re quite certain?  Right, then.  I think I’m short a spade and bucket, damn it.  Oh, well, if we find that we are when we get settled, I can always transfigure one….  Let’s see … ginger-beer?  Right.  Chocolate digestives?  Hmm….’

 

Percy left him to it, and went to find Ron.

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‘Well, Dinadan?’

 

‘All craic, Aurelian.’

 

‘Convey my thanks to the appropriate quarters.  The little shoemakers have done well.’

 

‘They have that.  And is it today then that young Bors is to join us?’

 

‘Dinadan.  For the third time, yes.  Don’t fidget, man.  It’s two hours yet wanting his arrival.’

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‘Hullo, Ron.  Busy?’

 

‘Just on my way out the door, Perce.  Me old dutch wants me sharpish.’

 

Percy sighed.  ‘I’d be a fool to stand in your way.  Is everything all right, then?’

 

‘Dunno, but Hermione wasn’t any more insistent than commonly, so I’m assuming the little buggers haven’t caused a crisis yet today.  Floo over for dinner tomorrow if you like – sorry, I’m damned late already –’

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‘Selwyn.  You have information, yes?’

 

The group were gathered in a dank cellarage in Wizarding London’s subterranean Docklands, in a warren of alleys that debouched, eventually, upon Indus Street, on the Isle of Crups in the Fleet Basin, in the shadow of Crutchedfriars Bridge.

 

‘I might have.’

 

Dolohov glared icily at him.  ‘You do or you do not.  Which is it?’

 

‘I have what might be information.  Might be duff gen.  That, by the way, is an English term meaning –’

 

‘I am wearisomely familiar with your mongrel language, Selwyn.  Please to cease this foolishment and give your report.’

 

‘For what it’s worth.’  Selwyn did not bother to mask his insubordination.  ‘There may be another group after the – fool’s gold, shall we say? – in addition to the Old Firm that believe themselves to be smuggling it in.’

 

‘Ministry poking around?’  It was Rowle who grunted the question.

 

‘No idea, old man.’  Selwyn was contemptuously casual and indifferent.

 

‘Not even Potter and his band of birdwatchers can long ignore.  This is excellent news, if true.  I do not wish to invoke the Crummles woman yet to make a stench.’

 

‘Who?’

 

Dolohov grimaced.  The elder Crabbe was even less intelligent than his late and very much unlamented son, and that was saying something.

 

Travers sniggered, whilst Yaxley answered the question with brisk impatience.  ‘That bleeding Aussie cow of a journo, you halfwit.  The one who makes Skeeter look like old Sprout, writes rubbishing goss about old Lovegood’s daughter being involved with Scamander’s lad and how that Squib of a Longbottom is shagging the Abbott wench.’

 

‘Oh.  Her.  Why would she be –’

 

‘Don’t ask questions, Crabbe, you will do yourself an injury.  If I must use her to direct the attention of those fool Aurors, you will be told.  But we wander from our items.’  Dolohov was growing increasingly brusque.  ‘Crabbe, Rowle, you will come with me, I may require brawn.  Selwyn, find better informations.  Travers, Yaxley, you will prepare to raise an Inferius.’

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The rump of the Death Eaters had departed, Disillusioned, scattered to the surrounding alleys whence they had Apparated away.  Had they remained, they would have taken no account of the almost inaudible whirr that seemed to emanate from a scrap of metal rubbish in the cellars where they had met.  Certainly it would never have occurred to them that something inspired by Muggle technology and born of the scribbled notes left behind by the late Fred Weasley – something they could not have warded against and against which they would never have thought to ward themselves – would constitute any threat to them and their plans.

 

But then, they were hardly as clever as they believed themselves to be, or they would not have chosen to meet down the docks.  For the Docklands were the manor of the Aurors-turned-MLE-coppers Michael Corner and Eddie Carmichael; and they were the very ornaments of the Old Bill.

 

Within a quarter hour of the departure of Dolohov and his gang, Corner and Carmichael – the former being himself an Unspeakable seconded to the DMLE – had copied the whole of the conversation the Dark Wizards had had, transcribed it, and given both auditory copy and transcript to the Chief Unspeakable and a select few old members of the Order of the Phoenix.  It was all in the day’s work.

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A few hours later, a still motlier group were meeting in a Knockturn Alley knocking-shop.  The brothel in question, if it could be dignified with that name, occupied the back of the upper storeys of a Diagon Alley junkshop, one that occupied a corner formed by the two streets; the whorehouse had its own entrance and front on Knockturn, an alley of appropriately ill repute.  As a disorderly house, it wasn’t much: not even disorderly, in fact, as its inhabitants were almost pathologically shy of attracting any public or official interest.  And most of the business transacted there was less carnal than criminally commercial: it was the most secure thieves’s rookery and fence’s paradise in Knockturn.  The selling of insipid sex with insipid drabs was at best a mere sideline: ‘Honest Willy’ Wagstaff’s auntie, who owned the junk shop, a betting parlour, and the knocking-shop, had always had an eye to the main chance.

 

‘Honest Willy’ Wagstaff was himself seated at the foul and noisome deal table with the rest of them: one of Mr Borgin’s more dispensable agents; the disgraced former Auror, Dawlish; Arkie Philpott; Buckley Cooper; Ivor Dillonsby; Warty Harris; and old Willy Widdershins.  With them also were two small but fearsome figures, one rather older than the other, as best Wizarding eyes could tell: the goblins Griphook, whose career had been a casualty of the war and the post-War concordat, and Hodrod the Horny-Handed, pickled in the old radicalism of the Brotherhood of Goblins, a veteran of the Chipping Clodbury riots and many another episode of street-fighting, conspiracy, and insurrection.

 

To his discernible irritation, Wagstaff was not seated at the head of the table: that place awaited the king of Knockturn, Dung Fletcher.  The Wagstaffs were an ancient family of poachers and ne’er-do-wells from King’s Newnham, Warks, who had gravitated to the Smoke a few generations before in search of a wider scope for their inborn criminality, and Honest Willy was of the opinion that the headship of the shady parts of Wizarding London was no more than his due; but Mundungus Fletcher, with the splendour of his latest conviction upon him – admittedly, it was for impersonating an Inferius during an attempted burglary, yet there remained no little respect down Knockturn for a man who’d conned Dumbledore, stolen Sirius Black’s silver, and done porridge under every ministry yet – Dung, in all the glamour of his last stretch, was the baron of Knockturn and the acknowledged leader of the old lags of Wizard-dom.

 

And here he was, odorous and shabby as ever, their chief by acclamation and prime mover in their latest scam. 

 

Yet – and this worried Honest Willy, rather, although it did not worry him sufficiently, his greed having overcome his caution – this was not Old Dung’s game.  Fletcher might take the chair tonight, as every night, but it was vice his unnamed and unknown principal, the ‘Guvnor’ to whom even Dung referred with wary respect.  And it was from the Guvnor that Dung took his information and passed on their orders.

 

Dung peered at them and stroked his chin: doing a George, as they would have put it, asking if the coast were clear.  No one responded with an ear-tug or a nose-tweak, a Tom, and he nodded once, fumbled his way to his chair, and sat down with a thump.  ‘Guvnor says,’ began Dung, as he always did, ‘there’s news.  ’Nother mob.  Nobs.  Gentlemen.  Planning on letting us do the work then coming in and doing us the dirty.  Guvnor says.  And Guvnor says as he finds anyone grassed, and that includes dry-grassing, Gawd help you.’

 

‘I don’t like this,’ said Dawlish.

 

‘Arrh.  You’re one of them gentlemen yourself, aintcha.  A nob down on his uppers.  Who’ve you been talking to, then, eh?’

 

‘Me?  You think I’d cock this up?  For them?  Those buggers cost me everything.

 

‘And I’d rather you had you a better reason than hate and revenge to be in on this, cocky.  You wants too much.  And if they’d take you back, maybe, that would be the score you wanted out of this, and leave us to stand the beef.  Guvnor says.  I’ve me eye on you, Dawlish, and the Guvnor has his eye on you, which is a damned sight more.  You damned well hope you’re not the grass, even accidental-like, mate, and you dummy up and keep schtum here on out’ards, or the Guvnor won’t be best pleased.  And when the Guvnor’s not pleased….  You hold your mud, Dawlish, or the best you can hope for’s to do your stretch – and the rest of your life, short as it’ll be – as a ding.  You’re a cell soldier, Dawlish, I can tell, all wind until you get the wind up, and then you’re on the leg with any screw who’ll give you the time of day.  You bring us a heat wave, sunshine, and you’ll hope you live long enough to check-in and hide.  Guvnor says.

 

‘Now, then.  What about them blamed Gringotts goblins, eh?  You two: you been talking where you didn’t ought to’ve done?’

 

‘Watch your tongue, human.’

 

Griphook put a restraining hand on Hodrod’s forearm.  When he spoke, however, he was clearly no less affronted.  ‘You cannot do this without us, Wizard.  Mind your language.’

 

‘Can’t do it without a goblin or two, right enough.  Doesn’t mean it has to be the two of you.  Merlin!  Give me a convict, an old lag who knows the code, who’s done bird.  You lot haven’t never been banged up.  You don’t know the ropes.  Square Johns, the both of you, and political with it.  Drinking and singing songs about the coming dawn and smashing shop-windows.  Pfft.  Just you see to it you watch them wide mouths of yours, right?  Right?  Guvnor says.

 

‘Guvnor says we go on.  Guvnor’ll deal with the nobs as want to get in the car.  So, we goes on.  Now.  What do I tell my Guvnor, then?  We got enough to be going on with?’

 

‘Two more shipments in, and the last lot to be swapsed out for them old cauldrons what has real bottoms, and we will do.’

 

‘How long?’

 

‘Month, maybe.’

 

‘Guvnor says fortnight.  Best not make him unhappy.  Well?  Don’t stand there with your gobs gaping!  Get stuck in!  Out, all of yer!  Time’s wasting, and the Guvnor’s not a patient man….’

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Violet Crummles, the Witch – she was certainly no lady – who had dethroned Rita Skeeter as the queen of the gutter tabloids within a month of her arrival from Oz, was a brassy creature whose whispers alone would have sufficed to drown out Brian Blessed in full spate.  This was unfortunate, for her, as it caused her not to hear other whispers, the whispers that journalists, even mud-lark journalists, listen for.  She would not realise until it was too late that this habit of hers had caused her to miss what would have been the scoop of a lifetime – which was just as well.

 

At the other end of the saloon bar, Percy Weasley was finally getting the chance he had hoped for: someone to speak with.  Someone who was willing to listen.  And listen she did, without blinking (it was one of her many unnerving habits, after all).

 

‘I shouldn’t worry about it, Percy,’ said Luna.  ‘Unless you’ve suffered an infestation of – well, never mind, I see you haven’t, one of the side-effects is an inability to roll one’s eyes like that – in that event, Parsifal, no one who meant you harm could have passed the wards darling William and dear Harry placed on your office and that charming little place you and Penny have.  Give her my love, won’t you?  Now I’m afraid I simply must be off, our lobby correspondent is out ill and I very much want to cover the current sitting myself.  It may yet expose the Rotfang conspiracy in the Opposition front bench!’

 

As she turned to leave, she stopped, and without turning ’round, added, ‘And, Percy, if I’m wrong and something gruesome does happen to you, I’ll make sure to tell everyone what you were working on and where I last saw you.  Unless they eliminate me as well, of course.  Toodles!’

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Comments
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: December 2nd, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good old Luna - that combination of sheer lunacy and practical common sense is just right, especially combined with the breeziness about the possibility of her own exctinction.

I do feel for poor old Parzival, though...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 5th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks, love.

And Percy will win through.
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