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5 of the annotated Drink Up Thy Zider - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
5 of the annotated Drink Up Thy Zider
The Dower House

The most difficult task the lads – and lasses, to be sure – from Muggle-Worthy Excuses had had was to keep the National Trust, English Heritage, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings well away from ETS and district, as, had they discovered the place, they not only had never left, but they should also have so celebrated it as to have caused it to be overrun with the better sort of trippers, from the tweedily donnish and antiquarian to the stridently muesli-munching, be-sandaled, and Grauniad-ista. Even Draco, not notably abreast of Muggle passions, felt as much, as he and his serene and indomitable mother strolled towards the Rectory for alk and a cold collation (and, no doubt, that tastiest of dishes at any rural gathering, roast neighbour with a garnish of scurrilous gossip). Glimpsed through the trees – each grove nodding at the other – and beyond the justly famous ha-ha and emerald lawns, to which but the lightest finger of taste had been applied, he noted an imposing house that must surely have been at the least Grade II listed. It had rather evidently first been built in the latter years of the first Elizabeth, and extensively brought up to date in the latter years of the third William, after the death of Mary. Its dressed coursed stone and gleaming Beer stone quoins glowed in the long light of a Summer dimpsy,[1] with a self-assurance that raised Draco’s hackles in a way that only all things Potter could do.

‘Aveline House, no doubt?’

Narcissa blinked. ‘Hardly, darling. That is the farm house, the estate manager’s place, you know: Stewart Ackerley has it now, and his wife, Orla – dear child: she was a Quirke before her marriage, of course. It was previously the Dower House to Aveline – and eventually, no doubt, you shall come to know it rather well.’

‘Oh, shall I? Is Potter planning to extend his charity to the disgraced banker, then, and make me his servant?’

‘Oh, really, Draco, this is too tiresome. Dear Jamie is to have Pottersfield, and darling Lily, Griffin Priors, at Godric’s Hollow, you know, and Albie, the dear boy, has always been fond of, well, all this, and farming, and cidering and All That, so of course it will be his and Scorpius’ for a time until Albie shall have inherited Aveline House. Heaven knows what they’ll do with Sutton Littlecombe –’

‘His and Scorpius’, Mummy?’

Narcissa stopped and stared at him in only partly calculated disbelief. ‘Good God, Draco, I had not imagined that even your capacity for denial could extend beyond yourself, much less encompass your son and his Special Friend.’ And nose very much in air and out of joint, she swept regally on, leaving Draco standing and staring, agape.

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Far to the North, where the Sun delayed yet longer in taking to his bed of rest, Professor Neville Longbottom: Fellow of Paracelsus, Regius Professor of Herbology at the University of Domdaniel that re-emerged from its charmed sleep with the Restoration and the end of the Secrecy Regime to share once more the fabric of Hogwarts School, and Warden of Albertus Magnus College in plurality with his roles as Hogwarts Deputy Headmaster, Head of Gryffindor House, and Herbology master: Professor Neville Longbottom, then, ‘Oor Nev’ to all who knew him, was preparing to Apparate away, to dine at the Rectory and then put up at Aveline House for a fortnight, having left the portrait of Severus Snape, which Harry had insisted over vociferous opposition have its place in the Head’s office, in a most satisfactory bait of temper.

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‘Were it not for the principle of democracy,’ said Anthony Goldstein to his beloved wife Eleanor, as they read the latest owl-post from Hermione, ‘I don’t know why we bother to have a Ministry. We may as well leave it to Harry and our Old Crowd and have done with it.’

Eleanor chuckled, and poured him another cuppa.

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Harry’s surprisingly pretty goddaughter, Harriet Dursley – daughter of Dudley Dursley and his lady wife, Elspeth, née Bulstrode (Millie’s Squib cousin) – said much the same thing to her lifelong best friend and cousin, Lily. Lily’s godmother, who was treating them to a slap-up tea before a Dreary Lane show (Derwent Shimpling was still gamely treading the boards of the music halls, bless him), cocked her head to one side, setting her objet trouvé earrings a-jangle, and answered, vaguely, ‘Yes, dear, but is that what Harry wishes?’: to which question the girls returned no answer. Their beaux for the evening, Lorcan and Lysander, kept shtum: there was no point in treating Mum’s questions as anything save rhetorical, they well knew, as had their late father – another victim of the King’s Cross attack – and as did their stepfather, Nev, whose first wife had likewise perished in the terror assault. Luna had been rather more otherworldly even than previously since that particular ghastliness, and it was best not to tread upon such treacherous ground.

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The Rector was briskly welcoming, and, as Narcissa had foreseen, had laid on rather more than drinks and nosh: in fact, what confronted them was all but a fully fledged Dinner-at-the-Rectory, with all that that implied.

Amongst the things that that implied was, naturally, the presence of Harry’s guests – including Blaise now, with Justin, as well as Pansy, and including also the newly arrived Neville, joined by Seamus-and-Dean – as well as the presence of Harry himself.

‘Going about and seeking whom you may devour, Harry?’[2]

‘I lead a very quiet and blameless life, Padre, as well you know. I’ve been by the mill, for one, and the piggery. One must use what slack time one has before August sets in and the orchards require all one’s efforts.’

‘Ha! July’s damned nearly the only time we’re graced with the presence of the Green Slime, isn’t it – for which we may be unfeignedly thankful.’

Draco bridled at what he took as a slagging-off of Slytherin, until Nev leant in and whispered, ‘Service slang for the Army’s Intelligence Corps, sithee, lad. No need to cut oop rough.’

Harry’s answer was not wholly lost on Draco, who caught the tail of it after Longbottom’s intervention: ‘– no intelligence in the Navy as a matter of course. But, then, what should one expect of the Andrew?[3] Take your name from a packet of fags –’[4]

The laughter at the Rector’s naval expense was cut short by the common means of servant’s announcements at the Rectory, in all its mad eccentricity, as Jack Tarr blew his boatswain’s whistle to announce dinner.

As they were seated, Draco between Longbottom and Pansy (the Rector being a widower of long standing, Pansy and Narcissa were the only ladies present), Neville asked, ‘Well, then, Draco, seen t’mill yet?’

‘You’ve industry here?’ Draco was being exceptionally supercilious, and as offensive as possible.

‘Not that order of mill, not here in your soft South, lad. Harry’s estate runs to a watermill, and it’s no exaggeration to say his wholemeal flour’s the best in the country ’round. Terrible sought after, it is. Mill itself, sithee, goes back well before Domesday Book, and well worth the look.’

‘So you’ve found your proper place, then, Potter, as a miller.’

Harry grinned, rather ferally. ‘I have leat skills.[5] Nev’s right, though: Ducksbill Mill, as it’s been called time out of mind, is rather historic, and repays investigation: you in particular might profit by it.’

Draco laughed, sneeringly. ‘“Ducksbill Mill”? How comically rural and yokelish.’

Even Pansy stared at him, along with everyone else, his mother’s glare being particularly damning and Blaise’s positively disdainful.

______________________________________________________________



One county to the Westwards, on the always self-consciously dramatic Cornish coast, Bill Weasley, having carefully not mentioned the matter to Fleur, who was safely up in town – a wise decision on his part, for all that he knew main well that he should pay for it later – was sitting over a dram of Ogden’s Hundred Year Old Port-Cask Conditioned single-malt firewhisky with yet another brother-in-law: in this case, little Den Creevey, uprooted from his blissfully quiet life near Coven, Staffs, where he dwelt happily with his Gabrielle. Den was no oil painting, perhaps, but he didn’t know the meaning of fear (Severus Snape had been wont to suggest he couldn’t spell the word, either), and Veela are notoriously of the belief that none but the brave deserve the fair.

The contrast of quiet domesticity within and the rugged Tinworth landscape without, mirrored the poised tension of what confronted them.

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Draco was becoming a trifle tired of being repeatedly surveyed as if he were a mentally deficient performing dog. (It did not occur to him to consider that Potter must have felt rather the same for many years as he blundered along in an unfamiliar Wizarding world from the knowledge of whose customs, his by right, he had been unconscionably kept.)

‘It’s a perfectly sensible question,’ spat Draco. ‘It’s all Evelake this and Evelake that, isn’t it? Well, then, where in buggery is the lake?’

‘Draco!’

‘It’s quite all right, Cis. Malfoy has simply fallen into the trap of a false etymology, he’s hardly the first nor likely to be the last to do.’

Narcissa was neither to be appeased nor to be diverted, and replied with some heat. ‘I expect better of him than I should of a common hedgewizard.’ She rounded upon Draco, and asked, acidly, ‘Did your father teach you nothing?’

An appalled silence fell, as Narcissa herself went utterly white and put a hand to her mouth.

‘He taught him one important thing, at least,’ said Harry, gently, ‘or, rather, two: to know that even in their errors, his parents loved him before all else –’ and here he patted Narcissa’s other hand, which she received gracefully ‘– and to have the courage of his curiosity, which is no bad thing in its place.’

‘Aye,’ said Nev, with comic gloom. ‘Would there were more of it at Hogwarts and at University.’ Narcissa was not cheered by his attempt at humour, although grateful for it.

‘What you want to ask yourself, Malfoy, is what I, specifically, am doing here. Ducksbill Mill, Aveline House, the Pome Brook and the River Avelyn, Evelake: these are hardly the most obscure of clues. I’ll give you another: after the King’s Cross attacks, and Ginny’s death, it was Hermione – Molly was too distraught –, Cissy, and Aunt Andromeda who – shall we say, barged in – and decided that the right place for a wounded war leader to recover was here, growing apples. If you can’t get to the answer from that, you’re not as clever as I’ve always known you to be. And if you can’t get to the answer from all that, I suggest you stop by the church and take a good, hard dekko.’[6]

Draco was flushed, perhaps with anger, perhaps from another cause. ‘If you lot don’t wish to tell me, you can all of you sod off ’shtead of b-b-buggering me about.’ And with an attempt at a rapidly fraying dignity, he made to rise, and, doubtless, to storm out, only to slump in his chair, his head reeling, as his knees gave out.

‘Faith,’ said Seamus, ‘yon spalpeen’s had as much cider as is good for him.’

And, faintly, they heard Draco mutter, even as a most displeased Narcissa cast a sobering charm upon him, ‘God, that was more bloody cider I was drinking?’

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Horace Slughorn was, as he would have been the first to admit, a man of well-defined appetites. Yet he also had been bred up to have the courage of his curiosity, and his gluttonous, ravening appetite for knowledge and learning far exceeded his fleshly indulgences. It made him, in the end, beneath the gourmandise and bonhomie and naked social climbing, suddenly formidable: as formidable in his way as was Harry himself, or Neville.

Wherefore it was no surprise, or oughtn’t to have been, that even the temptations of a groaning board laden with his favourite delicacies had yielded to his overmastering intellectual passion, or that he was willing to endure the temperaments and whinging of Severus Snape’s portrait, temporarily entrusted to him by Hogwarts, in the pursuit of a compelling intellectual puzzle.

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‘Speaking of church,’ said the Rector, ‘do I understand, Harry my boy, that you’ll be going up to town tomorrow?’

‘Yes. So the match after will be cancelled as well: rain stops play, no doubt. I’ll be on parade for Evensong.’

‘Good, I shan’t be forced to find another reader, although, if I must – Finch-Fletchley? Right, good. We shall simply be forced to suffer the rain in your absence: the just and the unjust amongst us.’

‘That,’ said Blaise to a chastened and shaky Draco, in a parody of helpfulness, ‘is another clue, by the way.’

And Dean Thomas chimed in: ‘Idyllic place, ETS. When Harry’s here, of course.’

‘I suppose,’ mused the Rector, ‘that, as there’s to be rain, I’d best warn PC Norsworthy and that markedly un-apostolic publican Mathews[7] – bloody incomer; the beer’s wholly rubbishing down the Bell since Palk sold up – forewarned is forearmed. Or would be if we weren’t policed by a damned Norsworthy.

Harry chuckled, and exchanged a glance with Dean, who had also been present what time the Rector had been banging on about Norsworthys to Sir Lewis and one of Duckworth’s guests from afar: ‘Criminal lot, the buggers! I don’t mind the poaching Norsworthys, it’s sporting at least, but, no, the damned fools in HMG have had to go out and educate the bastard litter! Bad enough that we’re to be policed – policed, I ask you! By a Norsworthy! – by one of the new lot, but d’you know, one of them’s managed to get through some piddling redbrick university, doubtless another of these jumped-up polys that scar the land, and is teaching at yet another of the damned institutes! Corrupting the minds, if they have minds, which I beg leave to doubt, of a mob of sheep-shagging, leek-eating, chapel-crawling louts at some hole in Wales!’ It had been at that point that Sir Lewis had introduced his guest, a very senior and very Welsh don – in fact, Llewellyn of Jesus.

‘But why must you warn the pub and the local plod of rain tomorrow?’ Pansy seemed to be posing the question seriously.

‘Ha!’ The Rector’s face was now a deep, liturgical purple. ‘Buggers’ll go to ground in the local! I well recall the last time we had unexpected rain, it was the fête some years ago now, bloody heavens opened and it came pissing down! One of the last public performances by the Wurzels, at that: three hours later, they were all yet in a beer tent, my choir, the village XI, and the Wurzels, and my choristers and the cricketers had taught the old buggers a new song that they were planning by then, bladdered as they were, to sing when the fête resumed – worst of the lot in teaching ’em were the lads in the children’s choir, of course – and there’s the whole damned district standing about listening as they bawl out,

‘Having one off at the wrist
‘Be a daily source of bliss
‘But a-movin’
Oooo’ me bowels’re th’ high point o’ me day!’

Narcissa sniggered, and Pansy collapsed utterly in uncontrolled laughter.

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Young Jamie – a name he hated but was perforce resigned to by now, the more so as his regiment within the Royal Corps of Aurors was a Scots one, and subalterns were not to protest such things – was already showing promise of becoming the sort of Auror who finds himself seconded to the Unspeakables. When, as now, he was once more working in tandem – and wholly unofficially – with his terrifyingly clever cousin Rose, there were few limits to the amount of havoc that might ensue.

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At the Rectory, Harry had skilfully turned the topic to the looming fête, and was discussing with the party what precisely it was in aid of.

The Rector being the Rector, there was no such thing as a safe topic.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘we’ve long supported the diocese in Tanzania. Sound chap, their bishop. All of them desperately poor, of course – Harry’s been a blessing, as has Neville, at least they eat now, and have draught animals, and veg. that actually feeds them – but damned faithful. Did I tell you, Potter, what happened last month? One of those damned Yank women took it into her head – I’m sure there was ample unused space – to jet out there. Well, she presents herself to their bish, who naturally assumes she’s there to do something with the sisters – they’ve an order there: formidable old woman, is the abbess, very sound – and then this Yank chit begins babbling about her being a bishop herself. Well, naturally, the local bishop coaxes her into a stout room and turns the key on her, as she’s evidently mad, and sends for the District Medical Officer or whatever they have there since independence; the mad Yank bint made a damnable scene, I gather, before leaving in hysterics.’

Harry buried his face in his hands, and could be heard to chant under his breath, We can’t not help them, they’re poor and starving, we can’t not help them, they’re poor and starving....

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[1] The West Country term for ‘dusk’ or ‘evenfall’.

[2] Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Pet. 5.8.

[3] Army slang for the Navy.

[4] As above: Senior Service cigarettes.

[7] The apostle Matthew was a publican. In a different sense of the word, mind.


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