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Drink Up Thy Zider, annotated, pt 10 - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
Drink Up Thy Zider, annotated, pt 10

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The game was afoot. There are some rather odd clubs in London. Some of the odder are those reserved to Wizards. The very oddest are those whose membership compasses Squib, Wizard, and Muggle alike, all of them devoted to one or another curious obsession that transcends the magical boundary.

Perhaps the oddest of all London’s very odd clubs is Wright’s, with its premises quite near Carlton House Terrace, which – named for and indeed founded by the Elizabethan cartographer and mathematician[1] – has in its long history absorbed the Six Dimensions Club, Norwood’s, the Arithmancers’, the Mathematickal Club, and the Senior Wranglers’. Fanatical Arithmancers, maths dons, City types, theoretical physicists, logicians, and actuaries, Magical and Muggle alike, resort there, joined by an inexplicable and incommunicable passion for numbers and their properties. And it was there that Sir Bennett Goldstein was to dine on St Swithin’s Day with his fellow member, Molly’s-Cousin-the-Chartered-Accountant – on, naturally, quail financière.

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The game was afoot, for all that night was upon the land. Draco woke once more at two, his heart pounding from an intense and disturbing dream. He had not once or twice sneered – he blushed to realise that he had sneered – at the closeness of Potter and the Ginger Threat, insinuating that they were shagging illicitly in the Gryffindor Tower of nights. (How had he so long gone on in a state of denial?) Now to dream the scene, and wake to find that he, a widower in his forties, a father and a respectable Wizard, had been moved to adolescent orgasm by such dreams, was simply appalling. That he had found, in his dreams, not Potter only, but the Weasel also, fanciable, was utterly disgusting. Worse still was the realisation in the small hours, in the watches of the night, that the Weasel, from a distance, was not wholly unfanciable – had he been given a personality transplant. Or implant, as, Draco assured himself, the Ginger Menace certainly hadn’t a personality of his own to be going on with.

And the morning and the evening were St Swithin’s Day.[2]

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The game was afoot. Tuesday, the 16th July, dawned in flawless glory: a bronzen and azured glory, as Albie insisted, dubbing it a Truly Ravenclaw Morn, to Scorpius’ indulgent exasperation.

The Vale of Evelake recreates in Hilliard[3] miniature the characteristic underlying landforms of the South Hams. It is, within the embrace of the Pome Brook and the River Avelyn and the great Erme, itself a dissected plateau, and before Harry returned the Crockern-Potter magics to Aveline House, had long been liable to winter flooding that made it truly the Island-Valley of Avilion. In this fair morn of the world, no floods were, and Dean, trailing a sleepy Seamus, had gone up the Erme for the day, ostensibly to paint the shrunken mediæval village of Evelake Pomeroy (the Rector, once more, in a mournful bellow, at dinner on Sunday night: ‘We can’t even manage to run to a DMV, can we. Almost a Deserted Mediæval Village, Pomeroy – all given aptly[4] over to yet more of Harry’s damned apples, now – almost, but not, of course, quite. Bloody tiresome, I call it: plays silly buggers with planning permissions without being in the least interesting in compensation. And the trippers, good God: “do you really have a DMV”, they’re forever mooing, and all one can say, is, “Up to a point, Lord Copper”,[5] not that that registers in their silly heads. Oh, no: horrid little place, just sufficiently limping along and just sufficiently inhabited to qualify as a shrunken mediæval village, which is dead boring, really. And the old dodderers who limp along with the place mostly Romans with it. Bless you, I don’t mind a few Wesleyans in ETS, and our handful of RCs, and the Friends – eh, Longbottom? But whole hamlets blundering about outside the Church by Law Established – pitiable. In the next parish, over back beyond the howling wilderness that is Cleave, poor savage bastards, there’s a village that runs almost wholly to Methodists and Quakers, if you were to sit down and throw rocks at them, which I am rather often tempted to do, you’d run out of rocks before you ran out of Dissenters! And they’ve the bloody cheek in Exeter – that puling prelatical streak of piss and wind we’re to endure as bishop, and his gormless lot – damned fools expect me to be happy-clappy oecumenical with the sods, I ask you’). Dean, then, buggering off with his bog-trotting boyfriend to paint (ostensibly; Draco had forgotten that artists are quite often mathematically inclined and not infrequently Arithmantically gifted); Theo and Pansy God knew where; Blaise exemplifying the patience of a fond lover as Justin gravely assessed Harry’s pigs (Large Blacks[6] as well as the British Lops Draco had already encountered) with Acker as cicerone; Neville awaiting his loony wife’s arrival to go plant-hunting – mythical plants, no doubt: Lovegood-as-was wanted to be sectioned, the blasted woman was mad as a March jarvey.... Excellent. Potter would be deprived of allies.

Draco escaped the house – noting with horror that Mother Weasel had apparently stopped at Aveline House for the day, and that she and Narcissa were happily nattering away about different ways of making apple-cakes, whilst they knitted amicably in one of Aveline’s damned hypertrophied drawing rooms[7] (Harry’s bloody sheep, no doubt, White Face Dartmoors[8] and Devon Closewools,[9] had supplied the wool) – it was too bad of Mummy, really, shocking bad form. Aunt Andy, after all, was at least family, and had come through for them at the end, but Molly Weasley – cousin or no cousin, and damn the Black connexions, all of them, from Potters to Macmillans – well, Draco was grateful enough that Aunt Bella was gone, the woman had been less than human by the end, and mad as a box of choccy frogs, but, really, socialising with the blowsy harridan who had killed one’s sister, Mother? Simply not on – Draco escaped the house and turned towards the nearest orchard in which a Potter might be lurking.

As indeed one was. Sadly, it happened to be (he startled himself by admitting) his future son-in-law. Albus was rather more tousled than commonly, his ghastly Muggle clothes were grass-stained, and Scorpius, who was an absolute mess and looked to have dressed quite recently and in haste, was giggling, standing next him, and refusing quite to meet his father’s gaze. It struck Draco with renewed force how like them were their sons; how like was seeing their sons, to seeing him and Harry reflected in some legendary pool that showed the realisation of dreams. This, or something very like it, might have been.

Such disturbing possibilities sharpened his tone yet further. ‘If I’m not interrupting any local, rural fertility rites? Lovely. Albus Severus, I was looking for your father.’

‘Of course you were, sir.’ Scorpius giggled at his lover’s bland rejoinder, and tried immediately to look as if he hadn’t. Draco glared at him: bloody cheek. ‘Head northwards a few hundred yards and follow the shouting. I know he’ll be pleased to see you.

‘Will he, indeed?’

‘Well, given that he’s dropped everything to assist you with your being fitted up for this financial cock-up, I’d say he cares for you.’ Al was giving as good as he’d got, and was clearly in a politely implacable mood. ‘Missing Kingsbridge Fair[10] for this, after all.’

‘We’re just fortunate you didn’t blot your copy-parchment a week earlier, Father,’ said Scorpius. ‘Al and I helped coach the District Youth XI at cricket for the Devon Games,[11] back on 7 July. I expect you and Harry there next year.’

Draco’s furious rejoinder was blocked by the sudden lump in his throat. He had seen them with Hubert Henry. He could imagine them, readily, with the under-fifteens on the pitch. And he realised, with a sudden film of tears in his eyes, that these two sons of loving fathers were resigned to being forever ‘good with children’ and never to have sons and daughters of their own.

It was, Draco feared, that lump in his throat that made his next words – any furious rejoinder to his son’s impertinence put now forever aside – rather brusque. ‘Listen for the shouting, you say. That infamous temper of Potter’s hasn’t matured, then? Or is he with the Rector?’

This time, Albie all but laughed in Draco’s face. ‘Everyone shouts at Old Orchard, and not only because he’s deaf as a stock. He’s the council’s creature for woodlands and trees and whatnot, and as set and stubborn as a hedgebank. One of the ones on the way to Cleave, revetted in stone rather than turves. Even Orla’s had a go at him, and she’s practically a saint. You know – speaking of Orla Ackerley, and trees – she is the parish clerk. If you ever care to apply to be a tree warden here, she’s the one to speak with.’

Al’s a tree warden,’ added Scorpius, proudly.

Draco opened his mouth to ask, thought better of it, and closed it with an audible snap. ‘Right: north, you said. And do go change and wash, there’s no reason everyone must know you’re rutting behind every convenient hedge, you incontinent little animals.’

He could still hear their laughter, like fauns in a wood, as he passed into the leaf-dapple of the morning orchard.

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The game was afoot. Young Mr Clearwater – old Mr Clearwater had retired a few years before at the hale and hearty age of 160 years[12] – had listened to Dudley with grave and gratifying attention. Even in the Wizarding surroundings of Cartulary Lane, just the Diagon side of Plea Inn Bar, dustily Dickensian solicitors’ offices were no different to their Muggle counterparts.

‘Theft from a charity is indeed, with our people as with yours, Mr Dursley, a Very Serious Thing Indeed. I suppose your cousin’s charity is properly registered as such, with our Ministry as well as with the Muggle – ah, yes, I see that it is: Dr Granger – Weasley, now – no doubt insisted. I see that your experience at Headway has been by no means wasted, my dear sir. Do you know, I knew – very slightly, of course – I did know, albeit slightly, your aunt, Mrs James Potter: we have acted for the Potters in the past. I trust it is not an impertinence to suggest that she would be very pleased indeed with you just now. Does your daughter Harriet take after her at all, Mr Dursley?’

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The game was afoot. Percy Weasley had also been touched by the sudden and devouring fire of the terror campaign that had bereaved so many. Injured as well as rendered a bewildered widower with two children he could not alone console, he had done, as one might have expected, the conventional thing, and fallen hopelessly in love with his Healer in the long months in hospital at Mungo’s. Equally conventionally, his second wife, formerly his Healer, was a love once lost, found again after much travail.

‘Penny?’

Her head appeared in the flames. ‘Yes, dear? Only, I do have rounds –’

Percy was guiltily aware of his tendency to prose on. ‘I shall be brief,’ he promised, with what was for Percy a remarkable lack of pomposity. ‘Hermione and Ron have agreed Molly and Lucy may dine with them tonight – God help them. Your grandfather and my uncle the accounting fellow expect us for dinner at Wright’s, and I, personally, dread to imagine what that means. No doubt Harry is Up To Something, bless the man.’

Penelope laughed. ‘Are the Ministry quaking, then?’

Percy’s smile was frighteningly reminiscent of the late Fred’s. ‘I devoutly hope so. So if we can give Our Harry an assist....’ Percy’s unabashed post-War idolising of Harry was no secret.

Penny laughed again, even as she made to end the fire-call. ‘You can always resign again, dear, I make twice what you do even after the latest Ministry pay rise.’

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The game was at last afoot. Mulgerrik, old Ragnok’s successor as Governor (as the post now was) of Gringotts, was at once alarmed and diverted by, and wholly absorbed in, the very interesting minute that Sir Bennett had had delivered to him in the strictest confidence. He was already looking very much forward to Friday afternoon.

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The game was at last afoot. As Draco made his way towards the sound of sledging – Potter had always been hot-tempered, of course, yet one must always approve even a Potter’s browbeating a bureaucrat: despicable creatures – his interest was piqued and his ears pricked. He all but ‘twitched his snout and whiskers’ like a ferret catching scent of rabbits.

‘... absolutely no reason, save that you lot are a parcel of old muckworms![13] The soil supports it and it in no ways changes the landscape character of the South Hams, damn it all, man: two centuries ago anyone’s farm that had the right soils grew pears for perry as well as apples for cider! And I’ll damned well see that they do again, in the teeth of your hidebound, obscurantist –’

‘Awroightansome! Just you hold on a bit.’ Old Orchard’s voice was rural, querulous, cracked with age, and possessed of that curious tonal quality that pertains to the very deaf and aged. ‘Colonel and knight, ay, and councillor, you may be. But I tell ’ee it bain’t that simple, no more ver you ’n ver any soul in the District. All they proposals o’ yourn be bound t’ attrack opposition state-ye-ments loike wopses ter a windvall, and Oi’ll zee they papers in moi office avore Thursd’y next – or, Colonel Zir Harry Potter of Avvyl’n, any notion o’ makin’ perry and a-plantin’ o’ wine-yards an’ all zorts be deader nor the Wisht Hounds upaway on the Moor.[14] Good day ter yeh an’ Oi’ll zee moizelf off’n yer lands on me yown.’

Harry shook his head, and turned to the watching Draco, who had thought himself unobserved. ‘It’s a wonder I don’t pelt him with unripe fruit, really, save that he’s quite right. People are forever telling us to put him to grass, but he’s just now passed my test. So long as the aggravating old fossil remains sea-green incorruptible[15] and can’t be overawed by persons of consequence, I shall be voting to keep him on strength. Mind you, my proposal will get its due imprimatur, there’s no earthly reason why we should be forced to cart in muck from Somerset and Glos.... Now: you were, I take it, looking for me?’

Albie and Scorpius, Disillusioned in an adjoining quincunx of apple trees, elbowed one another. ‘Go, Dad,’ Albus breathed, and Scorpius, agreeing, squeezed his hand.

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The game was at last afoot. Horace Slughorn, worn thin – metaphorically – by much labour, was indulging himself by lingering over breakfast, basking in the glow of accomplishment. He had very kindly placed Snape’s portrait next to a still life with a rather decent looking bit of fruit and cheese, but his ill-tempered collaborator had sulked off to a corresponding portrait somewhere else. He simply must remember, Horace reflected, to send the canvas back to Hogwarts to be replaced in the Head’s offices – with a polite note, of course, and perhaps some of those capital teacakes they did at the Tea Cosy? Pondering, he absently buttered more toast.

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The game was at last afoot. Narcissa’s less than subtle encouragements had been the last push Harry had been in want of. So Draco thought he got by on charm and luck, did he, and was hopelessly outmatched in cunning when not brigaded with and supported by Hermione and Ron, did he? (Draco, Harry reflected, really wanted to keep his Occlumency up: it wasn’t for want of telling.) Well, then, Harry intended to see just how far luck and charm (and cunning) took him.

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The game was at last afoot. A triumphant Rose and an exhilarated Jamie had finished their report, and as Rose’s owl flew away with it to Ernie Macmillan’s office, they spontaneously embraced, shouting, ‘We did it!’ And, ‘Rose, you darling, you did it,’ exulted Jamie.

‘“Subalterns”,’ said Ron, dryly, from the doorway, ‘“mustn’t marry” – or has that changed?’[16]

Rose whirled ‘round to confront her parents, rolling her eyes in such a way that Hermione, for a moment, could have imagined she saw her own reflection. ‘Honestly, P’pa, it’s not like that. And not because of the Tables in the prayer-book, either.[17] Jamie’s a lambykins, but, honestly, I’d as soon snog Mr Ollivander.

‘Oi!’

‘No offence, Jamie.’

‘None taken,’ said he, warily. Hermione suppressed a smile: it was good for Jamie, now and again, to be confronted with the fact that he was not, actually, God’s gift to the female sex.

Jamie’s mind was apparently otherwise occupied than in such necessary realisations. ‘Uncle Ron, isn’t another part of that rule that “colonels must marry”? Does that mean Dad, as a retired Field-Auror Marshal, wants to find a second?’

Ron groaned. ‘Oh, God, please, no.’

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The game was at last afoot. ‘Your son,’ said Draco, ‘has led mine into evil courses.’

‘I’d say they’re both evenly matched. Randy little buggers.’

Their unseen auditors squirmed.

‘Was that,’ asked Harry, ‘your purpose in seeking me out?’

‘What?’ Draco seemed distracted. ‘No, no. As I am immured here, awaiting, as you doubtless know all too well and without any justification for knowing, my fate, or of course my rescue at your hands, after which I will be expected to fawn upon you like the rest of the Wizarding sheep –’ Draco’s resolution to bear himself meekly and spy out the land had been doomed from the start, but its having failed him quite so swiftly was attributable to the latest shock he’d received from seeing Albie and Scorpius so very much together. ‘– I thought I might improve the shining hour by having you show me the mysteries of your, ah, trade.

‘Did you really? Well, I’ve no objection to trade, even rough trade.[18] But far be it from me to stifle an unmercenary intellectual curiosity.’ Harry was equally crisp. It had not been any freakish impulse that had prompted the Hat, long ago, to consider him equally for Ravenclaw as for all Houses, though putting Slytherin and Gryffindor joint first. And Harry, once freed of the parasitical influence of Tom Riddle, had educated himself as assiduously, as a young subaltern of Aurors, as had ever the young Churchill in a dusty Indian cantonment. In his maturity, he was a match even for Hermione. ‘Come along, and mind your step, we do graze sheep and pigs and give the poultry free range, here in the orchards.’

Draco’s face twisted. ‘Disgusting. Don’t you use apples that have fallen?’

‘For cidering? Very much so. Windfalls, if sound, are a ponderable part of the apple stock for cidering.’

‘Well I certainly hope you wash the bloody things!’

‘There are adapted Sano and Lavare charms that more than suffice, whilst leaving the wild yeasts on their skins intact. I never use added yeasts in my cider.’

‘The Wizarding variety, you mean.’ Draco, walking warily across the short turf, mindful of his shoes (and wisely: this part of this plantation was a favourite haunt of Harry’s Khaki Campbell[19] ducks), was artlessly artful.

Harry smirked. The man was painfully obvious. ‘It’s the same cider, Malfoy, made the same way, sold to Wizards and Muggles alike. Only the labels differ.’

‘Ah. How interesting.’ Draco rather too evidently felt that he had learnt something valuable for ransoming his future.

Scorpius, watching, disagreed. Father has no finesse when he’s gagging for Harry.

‘So,’ said Draco, in his most insinuating tones, ‘at the end of the day, you use the same, ah, processes to make all the cider you sell, to Muggles as well as Wizards, then?’

‘Oh, Father,’ breathed Scorpius, in an agony of humiliation.

‘Naturally,’ said Harry, carelessly. ‘Economy of scale and all that. You seem to be becoming interested in spite of yourself, Malfoy. I suppose it’s to be expected, given your financial acumen and – as I remember all too well: that damned Vanishing Cabinet – your surprising competence with the works of your hand. You are still good with your hands, are you not?’

‘Go, Dad,’ whispered Al.

‘Not as good as I understand you to be: one hears you’ve much more experience.’

‘I merely came to it earlier. You see, I’ve never been one to wait for a windfall, useful though as it may be; when I see the first windfall, I know my times are ripe, even if it means some effort in shaking the rest of the crop loose.’ Harry turned, and with a shocking swiftness, strode over to face Draco, whose shocked face he took in both hands. ‘When the fruit is ripe on the stem, you simply push up, like this.’ He gently cupped Draco’s rather pointy chin, and pressed upwards. ‘Fall right into your hands, they do.

‘Come along, you may as well start at the beginning and see where we crush them. A broken and a contrite heart’s the rubric for cider apples.’[20]

As a dazed Draco trailed away behind Harry’s purposefully-striding form, Albie could only slump against an equally stunned Scorpius. ‘Go, Dad, go.

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[2] You have at least read Genesis, I trust?

[4] Pomeroy: place of apples; orchard.

[5] Waugh, Scoop.

[7] I make quite certain that I tea-leafed that from Michael Innes at some point.

[12] This is pure Miss Read stuff, of course.

[13] And I’m reasonably certain I nicked this from Edmund Crispin. Fen’s last case, I rather think: Glimpses of the Moon.

[15] Carlyle on Robespierre. But you knew that.

[16] ‘A subaltern may not marry, captains might marry, majors should marry, and lieutenant-colonels must marry’, runs the Sappers’ version of this Army proverb. Then again, the Sappers are traditionally ‘all mad, married, or Methodist’.

[18] Look it up.

[20] Ps. 51.17.

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sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: November 30th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know why the breed associations insist on calling Devon Closewool white, with that distinctive, delicate blush-ivory color...
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