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Drink Up Thy Zider annotated part 6th - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
Drink Up Thy Zider annotated part 6th

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Across the Channel and afar, in the aromatic scrub country of inland Provence, Rubeus Hagrid, Fellow of Paracelsus and Potterian Professor of Magizoology at the University of Domdaniel, was dining with his perpetual fiancée, Olympe Maxime, the long-widowed Headmistress – a post she intended to hold until death, which was more or less when she intended to marry Hagrid – of Beauxbatons.

Their table-talk upon this occasion was markedly unromantic.

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‘... the church?’

‘Yes,’ said the Rector. ‘Some damned fool tried to make out – wrote an unreadable monograph on the subject in fact, won him a chair at some ghastly polytechnic in East Anglia –’ the Rector was referring, in fact, to Cambridge; High Church though he was, he had not been a Keble man, being a West Countryman first and foremost, and he regarded even other Oxford colleges as being inferior to his own Exeter by several orders of magnitude – ‘that it was a corruption of “St Margaret ante Porticus” or some damned thing. Parnell and Flannel –’ these were the incumbents of neighbouring parishes, both exceedingly learned antiquarians, as one might expect of the Devon descendants of Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel – ‘wrote a much better book to prove him wrong, which of course he was. Nor has St Maggie: ours, I mean, not St Margaret of Grantham,[1] as I call her: ever been depicted with a pig – she’s not Notburga or Anthony,[2] after all. Personally, I suspect an early clerical humorist.’

‘Perhaps,’ said Blaise, wickedly, ‘it’s for the South Hams.’

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Not so very far away, at the tasteful edifice that Draco had so lately mistaken for Aveline House – not unnaturally, as it rather resembled a stone rather than brick Uppark,[3] if one can imagine Uppark with the rusticated basement of Chatsworth[4] and the giant orders in ashlar of Easton Neston,[5] as naturally Talman had imagined them in combining his two notable designs with one of Hawksmoor’s imitations, to create the Dower House, now better known as Estate House – not so very far away, then, Stewart and Orla Ackerley were entertaining a noted Arithmancer to dinner. Although both the Wizarding and the Squib branches of Terry Boot’s family were best known for possessing a dab hand at potions, simples, and their Muggle pharmacological counterparts,[6] Terry himself served as a consultant to the Tally – the Ministry’s equivalent to the Muggle exchequer – and was the pre-eminent bookmaker in Wizarding Britain.

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Far to the Eastwards, in Vratsa, the distinguished former Minister, Anastas Oblansk, and his friends Simeon and Evdokiya Krum, were leaving the military commandant’s office at 10 Aleko Konstantinov str, accompanied by a set-faced Viktor Krum. Simeon was widely tipped to be the next Minister for Magic. Viktor feared that this might come too late; and, concluding that neither the British ministry nor the ICW could be trusted – rather to the contrary – was making his excuses. He had a letter to write, to the only man in whom, save his father, he had full trust and faith: Field-Auror Marshal Sir Harry Potter, KCVO.

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Not terribly far from Estate House, in the west wing of Aveline House itself, a wing in part reworked with an unexpectedly sympathetic hand by Sir John Soane, Scorpius Malfoy and his Special Friend, Albus Severus Potter, belying their schoolboy bye-names of ‘the Scorpion and the Asp’, were also lightly refreshing themselves. As the evening was yet warm with the Sun of Summertide, theirs was a very light collation, running mostly to soft fruits; as they were, after all, Albie and Scorpius, Special Friends, they were delicately nibbling their light repast off one another’s naked bodies, with lengthy pauses for erotic as well as alimentary recruitment.

‘I wonder,’ mused Scorpius, as he took a deep breath after diligent effort, ‘how the Pater is getting on at the Rectory.’

‘I hear no screams, nor any hexes,’ chuckled a temporarily sated Al.

Scorpius posed himself, delectably, in a listening attitude, a parody of alertness. ‘I wonder: might one hear the sound of all the bricks he’s surely dropping?’

Al silenced his lover with bramble and strawberry. ‘Dad’ll sort it,’ said he, with unshakeable faith.

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Eastwards, in the velvet darkness of early evenfall, in the village of Troisvierges, where, with typically Wizarding perversity, the International Confederation of Wizards have their administrative offices, a British Wizard whose devotion to the European ideal, coupled with his personal ambitions and resentments, had long since compromised his loyalties, was drinking brandy with a highly-placed ICW functionary. Both agreed that he had done well. The fonctionnaire said as much: ‘My good “Clanger”! You have done well.’

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In London, the Minister for Magic was pacing, frustrated and alarmed in equal measure. Within a quarter hour of having had Harry Bloody Potter descend upon him, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Sibylline Service, that bloody earnest Ernest Macmillan, had responded to his desperate pleas, and coolly informed him that the book of the rules – sodding reformers and their ministerial codes – prevented him – him, the Minister for Magic! – from discussing anything, with anybody, that anyone, let alone that buggering Potter, had spoken of with him on Magical Privy Council terms. Worse still, when he had incautiously shown a disposition to do so and damn the Book of Rules, that pompous pillock of a Macmillan had dispassionately pointed out the marked unpleasantness, not to say fatality, of invoking the Traitor’s Curse by violating his oath as a Privy Counsellor.

Well, thought the Minister, savagely, that usurious, clannish, hook-nosed sod of a banker must simply stand the racket and stand up to Bloody Potter on his own, then. Sodding Jews. The Minister was not a particularly decent man, any more than he was a courageous one. And, with despair and fury, he could see looming over him the crash of all his long-frustrated plans and ambitions. As for that bastard who’d led them down the garden path – that bloody, buggering, cut-rate Peter Mandelson, damn his eyes – well, if the ministry of the day were to be brought down, he’d damned well see to it that the conniving Euro-bugger was brought down with them, damn him.

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‘Cissy,’ said Harry, ‘unless you and Draco are both going to service in the morning, you might care to toddle over now and take a look at the church. I rather think you’ll both of you find it interesting.’

Whether or not Narcissa had any particular interest in ecclesiastical architecture or antiquities was never to be determined, as Draco’s immediate dismissal of the idea and the equally immediate assent of the rest of the company, including the Rector, who threatened to ‘look in at some point’, more than sufficed to persuade her to drag her recalcitrant son to St Margaret’s simply to remind him not to cross his mother.

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Long after the Minister had departed London, lights burnt at the Ministry, at the behest of the Cabinet Secretary: in the Department of Mysteries, in the offices of the Muggle-Worthy Excuses Committee, in the Department of Misinformation, in the post-Restoration Office of Coordination (Non-Magical Government Liaison), and in numerous offices of the DMLE. Nor was there a dearth of activity for the unsleeping watch-Crups of the State, the Royal Corps of Aurors at Daysbridge Barracks and at Aurorlty House.

Equally, Lee Jordan, Director-General of the WWN, had dined in select company, and to some purpose.

And across the Channel, in the summer night, others also were ware and waking: notably the well-connected Apollinaire and Apolline Delacour.

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The great Church of St Margaret ante Porcos rose against the darkling sky on its chamfered plinth, its nave long and low in the English style, its tower, bells brooding, standing august to the elements, curiously adorned with a heptagonal stair-turret upon its south-western face. The ancient, traceried porch, fantastically crocketed, dominated by a chalice motif that the night hid from the newcomers, welcomed them. Withindoors, lights sprang up as they entered, recognising their magic.

Draco, no frequenter of churches whether for art or for piety, gasped.

‘Pray observe,’ said Harry, dryly, ‘the piscina –’

Whereat the Rector, who had, predictably, wholly failed of his intention to stay away and not meddle for at least ten minutes, bellowed, ‘D- – dash it, Potter, you’re not a bl-, bl-, blessed verger! No one gives a ... curse about piscinas! I’m Higher than a stack of entombed Tractarians, and I don’t care! Show ’em what matters, man!’

Harry chuckled. Draco, oblivious to this comedy of clerical manners, was staring, rapt, at the window depicting the Seven Sacraments, which, therefore, was surely pre-Reformation. It was not the least old of the windows, some of which were pure mediæval grisaille. He turned in some unaccustomed awe to see the fan-vaulted rood screen, untouched by time. Against the wounded side of the Crucified, St John was holding a curiously carven cup.

The same, highly recognisable cup was represented again and again, with various levels of competence, throughout the church, in windows and upon pew-ends, amidst elements from the Potter arms, and repeatedly upon the bosses of the classical Devon waggon-roof vaulting, where it was interspersed with bosses representing the Three Hares[7] and the Green Man.[8]

‘And the Muggles – Cromwell and that shower – left all this untouched?’ Draco was stunned into polite enquiry.

‘That,’ said Dean, ‘is your next clue.’

Shaking his head, bewildered if no longer befuddled and flown with insolence and – cider,[9] Draco bent his gaze upon the great pulpit and the answering font. Like the stair-turret of the tower, each was seven-sided, with complex interrelations of the seven Roman sacraments, the Seven Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins duly vanquished, the seven Classical planets, the days of the week, and the Seven Works of Mercy; and each obsessively repeated the motif of the chalice that so dominated the church. Which, as even Pansy by now had twigged, with dawning discomfort, was another and very plain clue indeed. The only decorative element in the whole of the church that rivalled the chalice for ubiquity was, not the Green Man nor the Three Hares nor yet the elements of the Potter arms, but the humble apple. (Oddly, for a church dedicated to Margaret of Antioch, there was but one dragon represented,[10] in the rectilinear Perpendicular chancel windows. Draco was unnerved when it winked at him.)

‘I suggest,’ said Harry, with deceptive mildness, ‘you totter over for service in the morning if you wish to see just why the chalice motif is so strong here.’

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‘Hmm,’ observed Scorpius. ‘Lights up in the church. They must have managed to keep Father sober enough for antiquarian tourism.’

‘That’s a shock,’ said Al, sleepily, snuggling Scorpius closer. ‘Jack Tarr let slip that Rector planned to pour a good deal of Dad’s single-variety down your dad’s gullet, and if people think the scrumpy’s dangerous, they’ve no idea what the fully-fermented Bickington Grey[11] or Tremlett’s[12] can do.’

‘Yes, I know, “or Killerton”,[13] no doubt. You and your apples,’ said Scorpius, fondly, forgetting the world without as he subsided into his lover’s embrace. ‘And don’t you dare make a “Slack-ma-Girdle”[14] joke.’

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Even in the Lady Chapel, the South chapel, where the Potter banner hung before a Yorkist Potter’s tomb, the motif was apparent. A silent and thoughtful Draco was the last to leave the church, into the soft, clear night.

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The next morning dawned bright and fair, with no discernible threat of rain. Draco was determined not to go to church, whatever Narcissa – strangely allied to the abhorrent Potter – might wish, but his determination was unable to withstand the breakfast presence, at an all too godly hour, of his son, soberly tailored and with a prayer-book in one hand.

That Scorpius was inevitably accompanied by an equally elegant Albus Severus Potter was an annoyance, of course, yet Draco had long dedicated himself to Not Being Lucius, in the pursuit of which goal he had accepted without complaint far worse things than an unsuitable friendship (for example, Scorpius’ unfortunate sorting into Hufflepuff. At least the middle Potterspawn was a Ravenclaw, and not a Gryffindor like the eldest, although if Scorpius must associate with Potters, why not Lily, who was, to her credit, a Slytherin?).

It had been for Scorpius’ sake, not his own, that he had chosen to become a banker after Aster’s death: to burden the child with a stay-at-home father, sunk in misery and accidie, should have been too much the action of a Lucius Malfoy, and were to have done Scorpius less than no good. Narcissa had been determined to mind her grandson during the day in any event, when he was home from school; Draco’s presence had been a disturbing distraction.

It was for his son’s sake, and for the sake of rejecting his own father’s attitudes, that he had forced himself to go on with life and find something to occupy his time; and at the time, banking had seemed a reasonable option, he being unable to stick the Ministry after the loss of his wife. Looking back upon it, he thought he had done well enough, until this inexplicable disaster for which he knew himself blameless had intervened; it was only in the watches of the night that he sometimes wondered had it been better to have taken up a more eccentric task, working with hand as well as brain, as he had when the Dark Lord had forced him to repair the Vanishing Cabinet, a bitter episode he might better have exorcised by becoming a magical luthier[15] or an experimental simpler[16] and deviser of new potions. Nonetheless, all that he had done – he could comfort himself with this, at least – he had done for his shining, golden, lovable son: he had passed his test, he had not been his father over again.

For the same reason, he now resigned himself to going to morning service (choral, naturally: the choir’s weeks of rest did not begin until August, for two reasons, of which the first was the impossibility of allowing the Sunday nearest the 20th July go forward without a choir in a parish dedicated to Margaret of Antioch, Virgin and Martyr,[17] and the second had to do with the exigencies of rural labour in the district in August and September); at the least, he could amuse himself with a mental commentary on that ghastly clergyman’s no doubt appalling sermon.

This enjoyable task of criticism and carping diverted him for much of the service (Stanford in C,[18] naturally: the Rector, Draco happily reflected, was strikingly unoriginal and unremittingly naval. No doubt RVW[19] got a look-in only on the strength of his sea shanties), from the first notes of the Voluntary (what parish could possibly find two organs necessary?) through to the sermon – Draco presumed that it was the local obsession with Sir Harry’s orchards and cider that had led the Rector to take up the words of the Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity[20] that had asked that God ‘graft’ in the hearts of the congregation ‘the love of thy Name’, from which dubious bit of anagogical exegesis the florid old clergyman had inevitably moved, with an irresistible glancing reference to ‘apples of gold in settings of silver’,[21] to a peroration upon the Epistle’s ‘fruits of holiness’[22] – and the offertory.

It was forgotten so soon as the Rector, in accordance with the rubric, ‘placed upon the Table so much Bread and Wine, as he thought sufficient’, and called upon the congregation, in a loud Naval hail that gave his words peculiarly militant aptness, to ‘pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth’: for there before them all was the cup, the chalice whose image was repeated upon roof-boss and reredos, upon pillar and pew-end poppy-head, ancient, reverend, and potent. A sensation of its power smote him where he knelt, and of its ancientry. The late Professor Binns, perhaps, had recognised its workmanship as that of 1st Century Judæa; Anthony Goldstein should immediately have identified it as a Kiddush cup for the Seder of Pesach. Even Neville, that staunch member of the Society of Friends, to whom the parish church was but an over-decorated meetinghouse in which the Inner Light was obscured by mummery, had recognised this chalice; even the Roman Irishman and the Chapel-bred Dean Thomas might have communed from this cup.

Knowledge as well as a sensation of power pressed upon Draco, there in the presence of that against which even the Hallows of Britain were mere trumpery, and he realised at last, sick at heart, why it was that the local mill appeared on old maps as the mill of the ‘dux bell~m’,[23] and how the country ’round, Afallach,[24] had gained its names, Aveline to Evelake, and why it was that three grave witches, his own mother amongst them, seeing the war leader wounded unto death and sick at heart, had carried him here to the Hesperidean land of apples.[25]

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In London, Sir Bennett Goldstein and Sir Harry Potter sat at ease, old friends between whom no dissension was, over a late breakfast in the Chairman’s private offices at the Bank.

‘Your apples, Harry? They will not be damaged? I understand, after all,’ said Sir Bennett, with a dry chuckle, ‘that it is only in your actual presence that your vale lies deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns, and knows not hail, or rain, or any snow, or ever wind blows loudly.’[26]

‘The village First XI will resign themselves to cancelling a match for rain, which as you say shall surely set in by noon.’

‘Having seen your spin-bowling, I imagine they may well be grateful not to be forced to proceed without their captain, as you are their only hope, as I recall. Now. What would you have of me, my boy? For this is not, I know, a social call.’

‘No more it is, I’m afraid. Draco Malfoy.’

‘Ah! And you don’t even care for the man.’

‘It’s the principle of the thing. And, as it involves banking, the interest as well. I find it curious – as does George – that it is our accounts that are most at risk.’

‘Are they? My word – yes, yes, I see. So your old rival has finally succeeded against you.’

‘Hardly. And he’s not much of a rival, and never was. Against his father, let alone Tom Riddle, well: as a villain, Draco made at best a reasonable Widow Twankey.’[27]

‘Then – what is it that brings you to me?’

‘Bennett, you’re a damned sight cleverer than the Minister, although that’s hardly a great compliment, is it. You’ve allowed the Ministry to bully you, and Gringotts. By all accounts – yes, yes, I know I oughtn’t to have heard; I have done, and I am after all at once the client primarily affected and a person of some authority here – by all accounts, man, this is an attack upon the British Wizarding economy that puts the State at risk. Its magnitude therefore suggests to me a State actor.’

‘Yes.’ Sir Bennett smiled. ‘You will note: I cooperated with the Ministry. You will also note that I carefully made certain that Tony, and Blaise, and any number of people were – unlike young Malfoy – not prohibited from bringing the matter to you. Yes, I thought that would fetch you – and it has fetched you, here. With very nearly a week left to resolve the matter, as well, and you’ve never taken long, have you.’

‘Too long on some occasions.’ Harry was clearly thinking of the war, and of his own failures then and in the more recent attacks.

‘You must not blame yourself, for Ginny any more than for young Sirius long ago, as you yet do, I know, after all these decades. Let us rather ask, Who benefits? Who has an interest in this plot in which they have dared use my bank? Or were you thinking that I intended that young Malfoy should die for the people – do I make a good Christian’s caricature of Caiaphas? If not of Yosef Bar Kayafa, then of Shylock, perhaps?’

Sir Bennett was clearly teasing. ‘You mistake me for the Minister,’ replied Harry, in a similar vein.

‘Never that! So we are agreed: the question is, cui bono, is it not.’

‘I imagine,’ said Harry, carefully, ‘that if the economy were to crash so resoundingly, the Ministry would be simply forced, with a great show of public reluctance, to go to Europe?’

‘You are a pleasure to do business with, my young friend.’

‘Then you’ll have no objection to my taking a copy of the relevant accounts.’

‘My dear Harry! As a valued client, you are entitled to your records. And as you are a Privy Counsellor and a Member,[28] how could I possibly deny you the right to see the other records in the name of State security?

‘More tea, Harry?’

‘Thank you, Bennett. I’m greatly obliged.’

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[1] The Baroness Thatcher, of course.

[2] Saints whose attributes include pigs.

[9] ‘… the sons / Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine’: Milton, Paradise Lost.

[17] Whose feast day is of course 20 July.

[19] Ralph Vaughan Williams.

[21] Prov. 25.11.

[22] Rom. 6.19.

[23] Dux bellorum (in a standardised Latin shorthand): war leader; the title given to Arthur.

[24] Place of apples: Avalon.

[28] Of the Wizengamot.

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