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

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Hubert Henry Ackerley,[1] small and owlishly bespectacled (to the point that Harry was, upon occasion, seeing him, momentarily stunned by an overpowering sense of déjà vu) and indomitably fierce (as one wants to be when told off to do the solo of ‘O for the wings of a dove’,[2] for the patronal festival, on fête weekend), planted himself squarely before Draco Malfoy in the porch, as, behind them, the usual slovenly bustle that succeeds a Church of England service was doddering on.

‘You’re Scorpius’ father,’ said he, sternly.

Draco smiled, nervously, rather like a man, afraid of dogs, suddenly confronted by a stout and quarrelsome dachshund. ‘Yes ...’

‘I s’pose you’re why Sir Harry has gone up to town today. Please know, he mustn’t be away tomorrow.’

Before Draco could formulate a reply, Al, coming up from behind Stewart’s stolid sprog, had caught the lad and tossed him into the air, from which he was expertly retrieved, with much hair-ruffling, by Scorpius. ‘Dad won’t let you down,’ said Albus. ‘Not even for Scorpius’ father’s sake.’

And Justin Finch-Fletchley, bending down to put himself on a level with Hubert Henry, said, ‘I’ve spoken with your parents, as it happens, and the Rector and the organist, and we’ve half an hour’s grace if you like: I’ve a few tips to give you on that tricksy solo. You know,’ said he, standing up and allowing Hubert Henry to slip a confiding hand in his, ‘before I got my Hogwarts letter, I was down for Eton, and expected to proceed thence to university – Cambridge, not that other place – in the usual pattern, as a Kingsman.[3] So naturally I was a chorister at my prepper ...’

As they trailed away into the nave, Draco murmured, ‘A birthday treat, I take it, tomorrow, that he’d not wish Potter to miss.’

Blaise, who had skived off any participation in schismatic mysteries[4] to meet them at the church porch, simply stared at him. ‘You do know what tomorrow is, don’t you?’

‘Of course I do,’ snapped Draco. ‘Monday. The 15th July. I do have a calendar, you know.’

‘Evidently not one of the right sort,’ said Narcissa.[5] Before she could add further and doubtless acidulated comment upon the situation, the world suddenly, instantly, unnaturally darkened about them; lightning arced through the clouds that had boiled up overhead and an immediate clap of thunder seemed almost to rock the church upon its one foundation. ‘And my point is made,’ said Narcissa, inscrutably. ‘Well, don’t stand there gaping, it’s time we were back to our charming cottages.’

‘In this?’

Pansy had been horrified had she known whom she was echoing, as she said, with no little exasperation, ‘Are you or are you not a Wizard?’ And casting a charm of the order Impervio, she led them into the sudden, driving rain.

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Harry had stopped at the Burrow, to which the last stragglers from church or the evasion thereof had begun to trail back in the sure and certain hope of Molly’s cooking. He found her in the kitchen, and, after allowing her to make much of him (and to press tea and biscuits upon him), he asked, ‘Molly Mum? D’you have the address – and I suppose he’s on the telephone – of that cousin of yours, the one who’s a chartered accountant?’

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Al, catching the Malfoy party up, had insisted that they go ’round to the lee of the tower and Apparate from there, rather than slogging, Impervius or no Impervius, through the wet; and in doing so, had contrived to get them all to Aveline House rather than their scattered cottages and what not.

This rather annoyed Draco, as it immured him beneath Potter’s roof, and, what was rather more, forced him to contemplate that even his ancestral roof – not that he wouldn’t be without a roof over his head come Friday, he glumly reflected – couldn’t match Potter’s, and this, they said, the least of the jammy bugger’s holdings. Scorpius and the middle Potterspawn he was so annoyingly friendly with appeared to have an entire wing to themselves, and he found himself duly ensconced in the Chinese Room of that same west wing, in which, surrounded by such a quantity of outsized porcelain, more than life-sized figures, and much less naïve and much more sympathetic (and authentic) Chinese motifs than those at Claydon House, he hardly dared breathe, let alone move.[6]

Scorpius, entering casually and flinging himself carelessly into a chair that Draco feared for, was far less impressed, much as one who held the freehold of all he surveyed. He had changed from the decent, summery subfusc he’d worn to service,[7] and was wearing a well-worn, not to say tatty, and unfamiliar Quidditch jersey,[8] which, to Draco’s bewilderment, gleamed with all the colours of the visible spectrum.

‘Poor choice of shirtings for a storm,’ said Draco. ‘You look like a rainbow.’

‘Well, it is my Pride strip, Father.’

Draco was quizzical. ‘Odd, I’d not heard that Portree had a new uniform.’

His son merely looked at him, pityingly.

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‘Oh, my,’ said Molly’s-Cousin-the-Chartered-Accountant. ‘How very odd.’ And, temporarily forgetting Harry’s amused presence, rapt with the fascination of columns of figures, he whipped forth his four-colour propelling pencil with the air of a Knight of the Table Round charging the forces of the Emperor Lucius.

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Almshouses



Simon Perryman-Avent and Oliver Thorning – or, to be properly specific, the organist of the Church of St Margaret ante Porcos, Simon Perryman-Avent MA (Oxon) FRCO[9] FRCM,[10] and the parish’s Director of Music Oliver Thorning MA (Oxon) DMus (Cantuar)[11] Dip ChD[12] ARSCM – had gone to ground in the nearest of the village pubs, the Horse and Waggon (which some antiquarians obscurely connected with the Great Wain,[13] the charioteer, and the misty figure of the Bear, Arthur the Dux Bellorum; but, then, antiquarians are full of queer notions). Those seeking a post-communion pint or simply shelter from the rain had crowded in to the Horse and Waggon as being a few steps nearer the church, in a wet dash, than were its equally comfortable and, on fairer days, equally well-frequented, rivals in the real ale and real cider pub trade, the Potter Arms and the Apple Press. (The Bell nowadays, consule[14] Mathews, was hardly worth the candle.) Nonetheless, the presiding spirits of that heavenly harmony from which this universal frame began, and of the sacred organ’s praise that mends the choirs above,[15] had managed to attain to seats where they could converse without shouting, and gaze out at the streaming rain. Across the street, rather uncomfortably for both Dissenters and pub-goers (who were not altogether discrete categories and conditions of mankind), was the sternly Victorian-Gothick Wesleyan chapel, on sunnier days be-charmed by the village population of cirl buntings,[16] who had made Evelake their last redoubt, and there prospered; next it, the range of stuccoed Georgian buildings of the commercial high street, here passing under its West Country appellation of Fore Street, with the shops and post office and all sorts. The rain was falling steadily now.

As anyone who had encountered the Rector could well imagine, Mr Perryman-Avent and Dr Thorning (an oddly Trollopean name, when one came to think upon it) were much-tried men. With the imminence of fête and patronal festival, and the Rector’s incessant attempt to reopen issues decided the year before, they could be forgiven the indecent haste with which they each of them downed their first pints of cider (Old Wormtail Traditional Varm-H’use Scrumpy for Dr Thorning, whose manner of putting on side took the form of being self-consciously downright and rural; dry, still Marauder for Mr Avent, whose personal quiddities encompassed a rather flauntingly egalitarian preference against his double-barrelled surname coupled with the cultivation of an air of urbane sophistication that seemed to yearn for more metropolitan scenes. The first took The Torygraph,[17] the second, The Indy).

The Rector was a sore trial at the best of times, naturally: Draco had been wiser than he knew in suspecting that the bellicose incumbent of so placid a parish would, had he had his own way, have caused the parish to subsist solely upon Stanford and Vaughan Williams for the sake of their nautical connexions, interspersed with the more martial hymns in favour with the Admiralty. When it came to such major ecclesial bean-feasts as the patronal festival,[18] the man was simply intolerably meddling. Fortunately, since the arrival of Sir Harry and his family to take up again the ancient mantle at ‘the big house’, there had been a check and balance upon the Rector, the more so as Sir Harry rang when needed – although the family’s campanological duties were falling more and more to Young Albie, who was a fanatical ringer, rapt by the maths of the thing, and would assuredly be tower captain before he died – and took his place as often as possible amongst the choir basses. It had been Sir Harry who had resolutely resolved, and maintained in the face of continuing clerical guerrilla insurgency, that the festival should be settled on early on so that the choir had a year to prepare. And it had been Sir Harry who had presided over the compromise – for all the competing claims of Howells (the Coll Reg,[19] which the Rector, oddly, backed, despite its Tab provenance) and Darke[20] in E – of tackling Sumsion[21] in A and D this year, whilst allowing the Rector some hymnodal and anthemic triumphalism to go with it.

Were it not for the intervals of the spoken Word and of Anglican chant – the Rector, quite rightly, maintained that at the very least, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed should be affirmed by the entirety of the congregation and not merely sung for them by the choir as a sort of spiritual agent – the programme would not have worked for the ear. As it was, it had great promise; and it depended, in the end, upon two trebles. All of the trebles were good enough, as trebles go, yet there were but two on whom Mr Avent and Dr Thorning could safely rest the responsibilities of the patronal festival; and its centrepiece, the Mendelssohn ‘Hear my prayer’ – the opening bars of which those smug Muggle pop-stars of Harry’s babyhood had snaffled for the chorus of their soggy ‘Feed the World (Let Them Know It’s Christmas Time)’ essay in self-righteous hectoring – rested wholly upon the shoulders of the nervelessly calm Cecil Stumbles, whose father was one of the larger farmers of the Vale of Evelake – in both senses, Clive Roger Petroc Stumbles the Younger being, if less imposing than his late father, yet over six feet in height and weighing a good 21 stone, all of it muscle (it had been suggested that, had Muggles Animagus forms, his had been that of a Shire horse) – and the inconceivably stolid Hubert Henry Ackerley, whose unnatural gravity at an early age was a byword in the district. (Mr Avent and Dr Thorning were naturally unaware that Hugo Weasley was Hubert Henry’s particular hero, or that Orla and Stewart Ackerley privately chaffed one another that either Percy Weasley or Ernie Macmillan must have Polyjuiced himself, like Uther Pendragon succumbing to a passion for Ygraine, and fathered the lad, his mother all unknowing – and, Orla always joked, undone by her own perilous and irresistible beauty. At which point in the proceedings a laughing Stewart commonly cast several contraceptive charms – one latter-born son of Hubert Henry’s kind was quite enough, ta ever so, love him though they did – and pounced upon his giggling wife.)

In any event, Cecil was to have the first part of the Mendelssohn, and Hubert Henry to take over the solo beginning, ‘O for the wings of a dove’, and how it would all go on the day was safely out of the Rector’s meaty paws and in the hands of God.

Wagging their heads over the Rector’s flightiness, they turned to their second pints.

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At Aveline House also, the rain had prompted a certain amount of rumination and self-examination. Draco had been moved to the less alarming Green Room: Scorpius had indulged him in this, although pointing out that everything in the Chinese Room was charmed into an unbreakability that would defy a Confringo cast by anyone this side of Harry – which had hardly mollified Draco – and had then muttered something inscrutable about Al’s ‘Ravenclaw sense of humour’ as he’d led his disgruntled father to his new quarters on the third floor.

They had been joined in their short journey by the ubiquitous Albus Severus, who never seemed far from Scorpius’ side (and contrariwise), which had not seemed unduly odd to Draco.

It had, rather, been a few moments after Scorpius and Al bade him a temporary farewell as he surveyed his new lodging, when Draco had found himself suddenly and fundamentally bouleversé. He had opened the door to call a trivial question after Scorpius before his son could get away; and then closed it rapidly and as silently as he could manage.

His first, inconsequent thought had been how odd it was that they did not look out of place: Scorpius in that queer, rainbow-coloured Quidditch jersey and those abominable Muggle denim trousers the name of which he could never call to mind, and Albus, parading about in absurdly short short trousers, barelegged and bare of foot, wearing only a singlet in Ravenclaw colours above his trim waist. They had by rights been an affront to the Baroque splendours of the grand staircase and painted ceiling, with their elaboration of carved balustrade and of moulded plasterwork that formed a cartouche for the ceiling paintings by Rubens and van Dyck, a scene – almost a backdrop to a coup de théâtre – that was but weakly approximated by the Muggle imitations of its separated elements at Sudbury Hall[22] and the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall.[23] Yet there they were, and in some odd way they fit the scene they dominated.

His second thought had succeeded immediately upon the first, and sent him in haste back into his rooms, mindful to close the door as silently as he could do so as not to be known to have observed them. He rather fell into a chair than sat, heart labouring, his cheeks hectically flushed. He was mortified to realise that he panted as the hart; he was disgusted and horrified that he was as hard as – harder than – he’d been since he was less in age than they.

He had surprised them in a kiss, devouring and devoured, the kiss of settled lovers who had too long been forced to be decorous and were at last alone. Albus – so like his father in all save height, he not having starved in a cupboard in his youth – had clearly initiated the kiss to which Scorpius had so avidly responded, their hands buried in one another’s hair, their bodies moulded as if merging into one: Albus, leanly muscled, with his wild hair and startling eyes, and what seemed acres of smooth, biscuit-coloured skin almost wantonly on display, and Scorpius, an alabaster model of his father, all but swooning into Al.

That had been half an hour ago. Now Draco sat in the Tudor bay window that spanned three stories, Perpendicularly mullioned, staring into the soft grey curtain of streaming rain. Several things were suddenly and appallingly clear to him.

The first was what his mother and everyone else had meant by their delicate references to Scorpius’ and Albie’s Special Friendship.

The second realisation was more complex. Clearly, Scorpius must at all costs be protected and supported, even in this. Equally clearly, the family, the name and the line, must be preserved, which meant that Draco must marry, and soon, and get heirs who would carry it on. Equally clearly again, he must not do anything of the sort. It was appalling enough to realise, in retrospect, that he had lied so comprehensively to his late wife about himself, a lie in no wise ameliorated or excused by his having first utterly deceived himself; it were unconscionable, in light of his sudden epiphany of the flesh, to marry anew under false pretences.

And yet once more, it was all bound up in, and with, Potter. As it had ever been. For Draco could at the least comfort him in this, that his sudden overmastering self-realisation had not held any taint of desire for his own son (incest was, in fact, one of the few vices to which the Blacks and the Malfoys had not traditionally been given), but was wholly a consequence of seeing the two lads who might have been himself and Potter in their youth. Not that he was suddenly enamoured of Albus – as he supposed he had best become used to calling the middle Potterspawn – not at all. Albus was a trifle too tall. His eyes were the least bit too nearly hazel, not emerald. His hair was not quite as black, so black to be blued with shadow in certain lights, as that of the man Draco suddenly knew himself to desire obsessively. He was not, this future son-in-law, a patch upon his father, Draco’s lifelong enemy and obsession.

An amatory obsession all this time? Draco wondered: had all their rivalry – their mutual rivalry, for Draco like all their world now knew that Potter, after the death of the Weasley chit, had indulged himself with lads as much as with lasses – had all their long rivalry been merely resistance to the sharpest of spurs? He recalled, with hot shame, how erotic had been the feeling of holding to Harry as they had escaped the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement, which memory he had long repressed, or dismissed as a typically Freudian intersection of sex and death.

Not that it mattered: Scorpius must be protected, and if their world were to accept him as Al’s companion, it was more than ever impossible that he and Potter should draw the public obloquy that would surely follow any relationship – per impossibile – between them.

And yet ... he could not forget the shattering recognition in that late moment, and wonder if he and Potter had always been destined to an end precisely like that of their sons. (Had he but known, these well-worn speculations were by now almost an article of faith amongst his and Harry’s acquaintance, who were assured that their past quarrels had been so embittered precisely because they were quarrels of sublimated desire, and who confidently expected that the two widowers would, soon or late, give way to each other in a conflagration of passion: a likelihood accepted by all their friends and kin ever since Albie and Scorpius had first begun, in Ron’s wry phrase, ‘walking out, God save us’, to which George invariably intoned a mock-solemn, Amen.)

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Harry, moving swiftly, as he was due home in good time for Evensong, had run the Minister to earth.

‘Ah. This is convenient: curiously and alarmingly so. Minister. Herr Doktor-Doktor-Ministerpräsident Kotzendorffer von Bamberg,[24] you will excuse us a moment. Minister, a word in your shell-like?’

Harry cast a wandless Muffliato, as the Minister turned about so that the ICW head for the year, and his counterpart in the Prussian Ministry and thus Minister for Magic for all the Germanies, could not see his enraged face. ‘Potter, damn you, I am meeting with the – damn it all, you know damn well who I’m meeting with, don’t you! The man is currently rotating through as Supreme Mugwump of the bloody ICW! What do you mean by this unwarrantable –’

‘You know, it’s a curious thing, Minister. As an unintended consequence of pureblooded pigheadedness, the Moot missed out on any number of Muggle constitutional developments. Why, do you know, the Sovereign no longer has the power of veto over Acts in the Muggle Parliament? No, really. Can’t prorogue the rogues, either; why, the Muggle MP exercises the Crown’s prerogatives of, oh, declaring war and all that, without HM’s having a say in the matter. Shocking. Fortunately, I am in HM’s commission both in the Muggle world and in ours.’

Harry silently cancelled his Muffliato, without the Minister’s knowing. ‘I’ve just been by Buck House, actually, and not only to discuss organic orchards with a near neighbour. Mind you, there’s that clause in the oath we all take, when sworn to the Wizarding Privy Council: you recall it, the part that reads, “if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of HM, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof”? Now, my advice to you, Gawain, between now and Friday, is that you sit tight, look imposing (if you can), and don’t make any decisions. Twiggez-vous? No, of course not, you silly little ape, I’m simply a landed proprietor who grows apples. Speaking of which –’ and here Harry turned to the German minister, who was trying without conspicuous success to pretend he’d not been listening – ‘I think you don’t make cider – or apple-wine, I think you call it – in your area of the Germanies? I thought not. You’re familiar with winemaking, I trust. Excellent. It’s fascinating, really, apple lore. D’you know how to tell if a Cox is ready to eat? Shake it: if you can hear the pips rattle, it’s ready for your delectation. But I was telling you about cider-making. With grapes, all one need do is press them, until they burst and the juices run. You can’t do that with apples, you want wholly to crush them first, with cold steel.

‘I’ve always found that rather interesting: I’ve the same approach to interrogation, when there’s an urgent need to defend the realm. I start by rattling the pips, of course, before putting the windfalls in to be crushed. Now, if you’ll excuse me – it was lovely seeing you both, but I really must be off. Oh – and Gawain? Georg Junius? Don’t be an apple. Even grapes have an easier time of it, hmm?’

And leaving two thoroughly rattled men behind (and having indeed given them both the pip), Harry Apparated out with a rending crack.

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[1] Vaguely Asquithian, what. And reminiscent of several church music composers, as well.

[3] A student of King’s College, Cantab, as in Lessons and Carols from.

[4] Zabini is of course a Roman Catholic. Vide the duke in War in Heaven, a ‘spiritual thriller’ involving, er, the Grail.

[5] The date in question is, as any fule kno, St Swithin’s Day.

[7] Still a scholar, young Scorpius, and of undergraduate’s years. However, I am using the term in its wider, not-purely-academic (well, Oxbridge) sense.

[8] It gets chilly at those heights. This, by the way, is a classic sample of the perils of transatlantic English. I meant jersey: not shirt, singlet, tunic, or what have you. I had alas forgotten that in American, jersey not only means something different to, well, jersey (a jumper; there are also guernseys), but that the Yank meaning also makes perfect sense in context (team kit). The added proximity to the term ‘shirting’ only made things worse.

[12] Choral directing diploma.

[13] The Plough, the ‘Big Dipper’, the Great Waggon (Wain); Arthur’s Chariot (Arthur is sometimes called as the charioteer).

[14] In the time of the presiding over by. ‘The Bell is hardly worth the candle’ echoes the ancient rite of bell, book, and candle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell,_book,_and_candle; i.e., excommunication.

[15] Dryden: http://www.bartleby.com/101/399.html: ‘A Song for St Cecilia’s Day’, best known for its settings by Handel.

[17] The Telegraph, traditionally the Tory broadsheet of choice. The Independent (Indy) is commonly regarded as woolly-mindedly Leftish in an urban, bien-pensant sort of fashion.

[18] The feast day of the saint to whom the church is dedicated; in this instance, S Margaret of Antioch.

[20] Harold Darke, English church music composer.

[21] Herbert Sumsion, English church music composer.

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