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Why seek ye the living among the dead?: An Evelake Easter tale, 1/2 - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
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Why seek ye the living among the dead?: An Evelake Easter tale, 1/2

Why seek ye the living among the dead?

An Evelake Easter tale

____________________________________

 

The Springtide had come late – if one could say that it had come at all – to Evelake and district.  It remained relatively wet, and blowy, and cold, well past any decent date: Boat Race day had been miserable (particularly for the Rector, as the Tabs had won, although the triumphs and tragedies of those whom Dr Vickers dismissed as ‘wet bobs, bless’, did not at all exercise him to anything like the extent to which he solicitously fretted for Oxford’s success against That Place in East Anglia during June and July, at the Parks, or Fenner’s, and at Lord’s); and even a late Easter had not been late enough to promise proper Easter weather.  Evelake being Evelake, one can all too readily imagine how much worse the weather had been, and continued, in less favoured places in the Three Kingdoms.

 

On Easter Monday, then, the 21st April in the Year of Our Lord 2025, Sir Harry and Draco, Albus and Scorpius, were well withindoors, with a fire crackling merrily and the windows lashed with rain without.  Young Jamie, fresh from his promotion to Ancient and his second pip – in Muggle terms, a first lieutenant now – had joined them, and the Rector was mulling – inevitably – cider, surprisingly quietly (for the Rector).  Assisting in these preparations, although himself not partaking of their results, was a spare, scholarly, surprisingly wiry gentleman of great, if unconscious, dignity, the subprior of Ilchester, Fr Roger Brooke-Bollen OP.  (In fact, the lean, ascetic Dominican was properly Fr the Hon Roger Brooke-Bollen OP, second son of the earl of Martock, but he naturally regarded that worldly distinction as being as immaterial as his own polite refusal of mulled cider and sandwiches in favour of water and a few Bath Olivers.)  The party was completed by the ghostly comfort of a fat Franciscan friar – in fact, that most famous of Old Hufflepuffs, Brother Thomas of Bungay OFM – and by a white-haired, green-eyed, markedly hale and well-preserved figure in rusty tweeds whom Muggles should clearly have taken, quite correctly, for a kinsman of Sir Harry’s, and whom Wizards recognised with no little awe as that ancient tutelary figure of the moors, Old Crockern.

 

The little gathering in the smallest and most cosy of the public rooms of Aveline House – which was rather faint praise, as the vast pile was rather persistently grand even in its least appointments, and smallness and cosiness were but relative concepts when applied to Aveline House – was in the nature of a debriefing, not to say, in the American sense and very nearly in the literal, a post-mortem.  Dr Vickers, rising as ruddy and rubicund as the flames over which he had been stooping, and incautiously brandishing a steaming pannikin of cider about as Draco winced, said as much, in his customary Naval hail.

 

‘The trouble with young Wizards today,’ declared the Rector, ‘is that they read too much MR James.’

 

Mr Crockern laughed.  ‘Come, Rector, you’re showing your age, young though you be.  No one reads any longer, I fear.  Too much Dr Who might be nearer the mark.’

 

‘We English,’ said Friar Bungay, pacifically, ‘have always had a taste for the thing, as I suppose the Celts before us did –’

 

‘They did,’ said Mr Crockern.

 

‘– but it doesn’t do positively to sup upon horrors, you know.’

 

‘Are you certain you won’t take a sandwich, Father?’

 

‘Thank you, Mr Malfoy, but no,’ said Fr Brooke-Bollen.  ‘The English taste – and it is English: the Scots and the Welsh and of course my Irish brethren are not particularly drawn to them – the curious English taste for ghost stories and tales of eldritch horror is rather a peculiar form of nostalgia for the lost Catholic past, if I may say so with due reverence to the Rector’s particular cloth.  Certainly in James’ works – not to out-Ackroyd the good Peter of that name, now presumably with God – it is very much bound up in a species of half-remembered imaginative sympathy for my own communion and its past.’

 

The Fat Friar chortled.  ‘Ghost stories.  Quite.  I must say it seems a perverse pleasure for Wizards – certainly for Old Hogwartsians – to indulge, given Wizardkind’s familiarity with us.’

 

‘Is – I’m sorry.’

 

‘No, no, my dear Scorpius, do go on.’

 

‘Is it not rather, well, offensive to you?  Ghost stories, I mean?’

 

‘Well,’ said the Fat Friar, ‘not to me.  But then, I don’t really think of myself as a ghost. I suppose.  One’s time in Purgatory, after all, even when it involves a sort of presence in both worlds, isn’t, actually, time, you know.’

 

‘Purgatory?’  Albie was startled into speech.  ‘Jamie and Father always said that Sir Nicholas – well, you tell it, Jamie.’

 

‘Sir Nick says that ghosts are those who funked moving on.  Sir.’

 

‘No need to wax apologetic, dear boy.  The good Nicholas … well.  A gallant knight, of course, who holds himself to quite a high standard of bodily – I may say, secular – courage.  But, really, he is – I apologise, Rector – Sir Nicholas is….’

 

‘Ha!’  The Rector scented battle.  ‘Nick’s a sound C of E chap, you were going to say, and therefore ignorant of doctrine?’

 

‘Rector.’  Harry’s voice was quiet, pleasant, and conversational.  It was also quite clearly the voice of command, and accomplished that which no other person of principal consequence in the district could manage.  ‘Thank you.  We’ll return to theological discussion another time, I think.  Father Brooke-Bollen, I think you were about to speak?’

 

The Dominican was at his most Thomistic in replying.  ‘The fundamental error is two-fold, as to your late experiences and the emotional reactions you – saving Harry’s presence – display when considering them.  Firstly, you assume that because a thing is hidden, it is dangerous, or wicked, or horrific.  Yet you know of your own knowledge that most of the Wizarding world is hidden away from the Muggle world.  Indeed, my own friary has been so hidden, to evade expropriation, since the Dissolution.  Secondly, you mistake the transitory for the permanent things.  Evil may triumph, when it does triumph, only for a time.’

 

The Fat Friar, nodding, broke in here.  ‘Yes, yes.  If I may paraphrase dear Winston, even a victory for Tom Riddle should at worst have begun a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted arts magical.  Yet Dark Ages pass.  Tyrants fall.  The permanent things endure: that is why they are the permanent things.  Love cannot be defeated, or grace, or joy, even natural joys as simple as the helical twining of flowering vines, you know.  Good abides and truth conquers.’

 

‘I had not,’ said Harry, consideringly, ‘regarded it in that light.’

 

‘No, of course not,’ said Mr Crockern.  ‘You’d a quest to complete in Riddle’s time, and since, well, as Master of the Hallows you’ve had no cause for fear even in the gravest straits and the most imminent danger, have you.  But I think there’s more to the point, eh, Padre?’

 

‘There is.  Quite simply, evil is in its nature transitory, and its success is necessarily temporary and local, so that even at the worst, the universe as a whole goes on until its good end, and death is but a passing into greater glory.  Attempting to erect a permanent evil is like trying to kill God: it can’t be done.  Or, rather, it can be – it’s been tried – but it doesn’t succeed: He rises again.  The gates of Hell, you know, cannot prevail, although I admit it may be difficult to recall the fact when facing them.’

 

‘Not for Dad,’ said Jamie, loyally.  ‘He’d charge ’em with a pail of water.’

 

‘Rubbish,’ said the Rector, roundly.  ‘You do Harry too little credit in his courage – and rather overstate his sense.  The man would charge Hell with a tin of petrol.’

 

‘Yes,’ said Draco, with a wry smile.  ‘And come out the other end un-singed and smelling of roses.  Or apples.  Very annoying man, Potter.’

 

Harry looked levelly at Draco.  ‘You weren’t quite so cool in the churchyard on Saturday.’

_____________________________________

 

The alarm had been raised by Hugo, in fact, on an excursion (it had not helped his cause that his mother, his courtesy-aunt Andromeda, his distant cousin Teddy, and Professor Slughorn, had all, as one, felt compelled to elaborate a laboured jest concerning ‘alarums and excursions’ when they might have been doing something to assist).

 

Hugo was rather a rum creature.  In form, he rather resembled his Uncle Charlie, a compact construct of thews and muscles (Albie and Scorp thought him by far the sexiest of the younger cousinage); and, somewhat to the despair of his parents, was a dedicated rower and rugger player (Hermione, of course, thought sport a waste of time and energy, and Ron couldn’t credit that his son preferred Muggle sport to Quidditch).  He spoke – rarely, at least when compared to his mother and his Gran Molly – when he did speak, in a pleasant, light tenor, and with the rather fussy precision of his Uncle Percy and of his mother herself.  He also shared, in his way, his mother’s blue-stocking intellectualism, and that of her parents in turn: he had sat his Newts a year early and left Hogwarts, at speed, for the Royal Academy of Magimusicology immediately thereafter, and he was already a recognised magimusicologist of repute and startling views, as well as a renowned virtuoso of the theorbo, archlute, orpharion, angélique, lute, and viola da gamba.  He had, what time his contemporaries were Hogwarts seventh-years, already performed with the Morley Consort at Muffley Hall in Manhattan, and was slated to do his DMus at Belmont there.  This had horrified his parents: Hermione, whilst conscientiously wishing the very best for her son, was dismayed at the prospect of his being too far away to be smotheringly mothered, and Ron regarded America as a wild and savage land where people preferred, or perversely professed to prefer, Quodpot to Quidditch.

 

In fact, Hugo was something of a perplexity, not to say an enigma, to his parents.  Ron, although he made great efforts to be conscientiously accepting (knowing, for one thing, that Hermione, Harry, and Al would all give him the wigging of his life were he not), had been inexpressibly relieved when, the year before, he had inadvertently barged in on his son having extremely athletic sex with several other persons (even with Uncle Bill’s tuition, Hugo’s wards were invariably shit) and had found that, despite his paternal suspicions, Hugo was the only male in the room.  (In fact, it had rather chuffed Ron, although he and Hugo had resolutely never spoken of the incident, to find that his quiet, bookish, softly-spoken son had been quite handsomely and sufficiently pleasuring a French witch – a Beauxbatons Old Girl three years Hugo’s senior – a dryad, and a Veela who was his Aunt Fleur’s third cousin four times removed.  It’s always the quiet ones, and as Hugo had confided to Teddy, his own combination of athletic form and rather mincing manner aided him greatly in pulling, as the number of Witches and Muggle birds who thought it their duty to ‘save him from going bent’ was apparently inexhaustible.  Hugo might be a bien-pensant luvvy in his way, but he was still a bloke, and a Weasley at that, with the usual strain of piggishness that went with those attributes.)

 

Nevertheless, Hugo remained rather a curious cuckoo in the brood of Weasley nestlings, and it was this that had prompted him to spend a few precious days of his hols in England, thereby pleasing his parents, and tramping the moors with friends and connexions who did not include his parents, thereby saving his sanity from the consequences of over-long exposure to Ron and Hermione en famille.  Hubert Henry Ackerley, still smallish, musical, owlishly bespectacled, and very much Hugo’s hero-worshipping acolyte, had made one of the party, which had otherwise consisted in Hugo’s cousins Dom, Louis, and Freddie, his sensible sister Rose, and, rather less sensibly, not to say dangerously, Lorcan and Lysander, who seemed bent upon proving that they could out-Twin Gred and Forge, Fabian and Gideon, and the infamous Llewellyn Twins, Dangerous Dai and Mad Madoc.

 

It was not, on sober consideration, a party one should have wished to have wandering about Dartmoor, far from the protective bounds of Avalon.

 

It had been the thoroughly conventional Rose who had insisted that they stop at a real inn on the Thursday, wash, rest, and take on at least the outward semblance of respectability, and attend service on Good Friday.  Rose, being very much her mother’s daughter, preserved a large scepticism concerning religious claims, but actual belief has long been optional in the Church of England.  What mattered was that Hubert Henry wished to attend service, and that it was Good For Him: Rose’s attitude was at bottom that of one of Gibbon’s Roman magistrates, that religious observance within the structure of the Church By Law Established was, if not carried to extremes, a Useful Social Control, and Gave a Lead to the Lower Classes. 

 

And it had been the thoroughly conventional and sensible Rose who had first noticed that something was badly amiss, and had remembered that there was aid nearer even than Uncle Harry, so that whilst her companions were beginning to panic, she had it been who sent an urgent appeal to Old Mr Crockern first, whilst Hugo, in an unaccustomed access of blind fear, had sent his Patronus as a messenger to Uncle Harry at Evelake.

_____________________________________

 

Dartmoor, being thinly populated, is sparsely churched, and its parishes are large enough in all conscience even without having been, as they have often been, combined further.  Hugo, Rose, and party were unaware of this salient fact on Thursday, 17 April – Maundy Thursday.  It might have been thought that the landlord of the Red Pony might have mentioned it; there were, as it transpired, reasons why he did not.

 

The Springtide had come late – if one could say that it had come at all – to Old Dart-y-moor.  It was wet, and blowy, and cold, well into Holy Week.  The lowering clouds, intermittently spitting a chill and driving rain into the rising wind, were perhaps reason enough why the travellers failed to take much notice of their surroundings as, in the swift fall of even, they trudged into the centre of the village of Gothsbeer.  Their shoulders were bowed and their heads ducked low against the elements: they but vaguely noted the dark bulk of the old church to their right, and did not look up to see the inn-sign swinging out on its gibbet-like chains in the mounting storm.  Had they done so, perhaps, they had noted and been warned by it.  Perhaps.

 

They noticed nothing material of the inn, however, or of the odd constraint that was their welcome.  It was rustic but comfortable, the beer and cider quite passable for those old enough to have their pints, and the fabric reassuringly stout on a night that grew ever wilder without, with winds howling wolfishly amidst the rolls of thunder and the sluicing, lashing rain.  They eat well, and, uncommonly tired uncommonly swiftly, they retired early.  As they slept insensate, the storm gathered and raged, redoubled, the sign of the Red Pony now standing out horizontal to the flooding street.  Even had they looked out of their windows, shuttered soundly in the night, their thick panes blind in the storm, they might well not have noticed the sign of the Red Pony now: the raw head and bloody bones of a rearing, skeletal Dartmoor pony, picked out in ghastly corpse-light against an all but moonless midnight on the moors.

 

By morning, the unnatural violence of the storm had blown itself out, although the day was yet grey and dark and blustery under low clouds dark and gravid with further rains.  Breakfast, although excellent (and meatless), was rather quiet: with the exception of a conventionally silent and timorous serving-girl, they saw no other guests, nor any villagers.  Only the landlord and his wife appeared, rather stiff and nervy in manner even now, and asked after Hubert Henry several times in a marked manner, asking repeatedly how was the little lamb, and how old, again?

 

The atmosphere within and without was equally foreboding, then; the more so when the landlord informed them, apologetically but firmly, that after service, he would not be pulling another pint or plating another pie until the Sunday feast (‘never you mind, now, though, the Fell Lamb, other side the churchyard, will be trading and will do you well’).  Nevertheless, despite the steady sinking of the physical and spiritual barometer, they plashed dutifully, half an hour before noon, led by a determined Hubert Henry Ackerley, across the High to the low, stump-towered, oddly un-Devon-like parish church of St Rumon, of the parish of Gothsbeer with Hunsweek and Loupwood Omen.  (It was Rose’s sensible decree that they would stop there briefly, not for the entirety of the service, and then travel onwards.)  Had Hubert Henry been a trifle older, or as attentive to his church history as to his music, had Rose been less conventionally and more devoutly observant, had any of the party been more familiar with Dartmoor and its legendry, the events that befell had been rather less chancy.

_____________________________________

 

What St Dominic founded was, and is, quite specifically the Order of Preachers: and it is the task and glory of the Dominican Order to preach in season and out.  Such minor inconveniences as the Dissolution and the Henrician Reformation have not been suffered to prevent them in their undertakings, and the friary at Ilchester – habited then as now by Muggle, Squib, and Wizarding brethren alike – had simply hidden itself from Muggle ken in those turbulent times, allowing the Tudors to despoil an illusion only, and got on with the job.  Fr Brooke-Bollen was amongst those who kept a watch and ward upon the ancient parishes of Exmoor, Dartmoor, and Bodmin, and it was his regular duty to go forth into those lands and preach the Gospel – and apply a little muscular and Wizarding Christianity where wanted.  It was his especial charge to go about on the great fasts and feasts of Holy Church and fly the flag – that of the Church Militant, terrible as an army with banners – particularly at abandoned sites and at churches scheduled redundant and deconsecrated, where there was an ever-present prospect of the nastier sorts of trouble.

 

The DMV – the deserted mediæval village – of Gothsbeer was one such.  It was now – on most nights and more days – but a huddle of ruins ’round a small, 13th Century church of astonishing outward plainness (in both senses), the whole of it surrounded by a circle of standing stones.  The long-untrodden lanes encircled church and churchyard, where the yew flourished.  The church itself, squat and plain and stumpily-towered, was a pile of ill-coursed sandstone, the colour of dried blood, rather resembling a first attempt at St Nectan’s, Ashcombe – one that had not quite come off.  Gothsbeer itself was quite adequately accounted for, as a potential trouble spot, by the consideration that it was commonly called as ‘Goat’s Bier’; yet, as Fr Brooke-Bollen well knew, the abandoned church and its churchyard, built upon an ancient pagan burial site that formed a lunar crescent beneath the after-hallowed soil, remained yet part, as all the world was, of the patrimony of God.  And within the lann that had been erected to surround the ground now consecrated was yet the church, however disused, that had succeeded the first chapel, and the site of the preaching cross that had preceded the chapel earlier still.  And on Good Friday, Fr Brooke-Bullen purposed to preach at the foot of the remnant ruins of that cross, were it only for the birds of the air and the watching company of angels, an adequate cloud of witnesses in any case.

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Comments
noeon From: noeon Date: April 5th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
*shivers*

Oooh. This is a good 'un and building up beautifully.

Dr Vickers' concerns sound surprisingly familiar.

And oh, Harry! Of course Old Crockern is a relation. And this

The man would charge Hell with a tin of petrol.’

‘Yes,’ said Draco, with a wry smile. ‘And come out the other end un-singed and smelling of roses. Or apples. Very annoying man, Potter.’


is fab, as is the doctrinal sniping across the aisles.

The children WOULD get into trouble of this sort. Love Hugo, piggish and opportunistic though he may be.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 6th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, my dear.

The offspring, I find, are a rich resource.
noeon From: noeon Date: April 9th, 2010 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Next Gentes

They swell the numbers, show us the once-children's generation as parents and Responsible Figures, and emulate their elders' knack for Getting Into Serious Trouble. And since they're mostly related, they forage in packs, with the notable exception of Scorpius.(Also I can't help but imagine them as mostly good natured but hopelessly spoilt - this Hugo fits the bill admirably and Rose's fey practicality is Hermione rediviva, filtered through an easier light)

The Parilia is a lovely coincidence when one reads the days of the week properly.

Edited at 2010-04-09 06:53 am (UTC)
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: April 6th, 2010 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)

*flails at you pre-reading*

Evelake! You wrote Evelake Easter fic! This makes me so gleeful I may have to overuse the exclamation point!! \0/

Okay! Going to read now! But I just had to say YAY, YOU first!

*squees softly*

EVELAKE!

:D
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 6th, 2010 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Enthused punctuation is always arresting.

I only hope it meets yr expectations.
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: April 7th, 2010 02:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Enthused punctuation is always arresting.

Oh, more than met. It was well worthy of copious exclamation. :)

As an aside, I have to tell you that your Shepton Mallet icons are making me smile lately. Two of my aunts and I have taken on compiling various family histories and we recently uncovered a line that goes back to the Malets. Evidently one of my Malet ancestors was born in Shepton Mallet quite a few hundred years back. (The rest all seem to have come from Curry Mallet; he's the one anomaly.)

Anyway. All that to say your icon delights me on a personal level now. :D
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