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Ne'ersday handsel: The fourth Plinth, Part 1b - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
Ne'ersday handsel: The fourth Plinth, Part 1b

_______________________________

The generation that had fought – and won – the War had suffered consequences; not the least of these, that there were too few qualified Witches and Wizards even now of the requisite seniority for senior posts, save that those who had long since earnt the warrior’s just repose in the land of old and just renown, rotate in office and never retire, as they waited upon their sons and daughters to grow old enough to assume their mantles.

It meant at least that they did not become stuck in any ruts, for, in consequence, a Witch or Wizard of the Victors’ generation might very well be found serving as a master at Hogwarts, a don at Domdaniel, a Member of the Moot, a Cabinet minister, a company director, a farmer, and an inventor all in the space of as many years. Then again, these continual demands upon their time did tend to make them testy.

It was Kingsley’s private opinion, however, as one of the few in public life not related nearly to this lot, not of an age with them, and not having been their schoolmate – a private opinion he commonly unburdened himself of only when he was on an epic pub-crawl with Filius Flitwick, as befell once a month or so – that the real difficulty with the younger set of Victors was that they were all of them one another’s connexions, in-laws, and old schoolfellows. ADDER meetings, when they came – the convening in dire need of the All-Department Defence Emergency Response Committee – tended, to Kinglsey’s despair, to turn into something far too near a Black-Weasley-Potter family gathering, admixed with a Gaudy and a Defence Association (Dumbledore’s Army) regimental association piss-up. Personalities tended all too much dominate: a tendency not improved by the recent alliance of the Potter and Malfoy families.

This thesis of Kingsley’s (discreetly shared, did he but know it, by the Cabinet Secretary, Ernie Macmillan) had been vindicated to Filius, had the Headmaster been present, by what was going forward even now.

With a carefully wooden face, D/Supt Ashflow was reciting, from her well-stocked reserves of memory, the MLE potted history of offences at the Plinth public-house.

‘… 19 May, in the course of an investigation into illegal trading in familiars. Toad spawn stolen from familiars with – with, hmm, associational value, if I may – was recovered. The –’

Harry gestured to yet another newly-arrived Victor who was now a Very Senior Man indeed. Professor Longbottom was currently, to his great and unfeigned relief, ensconced blamelessly in the world of scholarship, and as celebrated a war poet as a gardener and Herbologist; yet he was a Herbologist of repute, and a former officer of Aurors, and his expertise might well be wanted, as his long experience of public affairs was wanted in any event.

‘Nev, you were involved in that, I think: Trevor’s descendants were targeted, as I recall?’

‘That’s certainly an associational value,’ said Draco. ‘There were times, when you were on the wireless as a panellist for “Herbologists’ Question Time”, when Trevor got more fan-owls than you did.’

Neville laughed.

‘That was one bloody famous toad,’ said Draco.

‘Actually,’ said Harry, ‘Trevor was a damned distinguished toad as well, in his own right. A toad of quality, you might say. Trevor was a pure-blooded toad.’

Draco simply looked at Harry with one brow raised, as Neville blushed.

‘You know Nev’s uncle, Algie, gave Trevor to him. Well, Trevor was descended of Algie’s grandfather’s toad.’

Draco contented himself with an interrogative sort of noise.

‘Right, then: Algie’s and Nev’s forebear was to go off to Hogwarts, of course, and his mother insisted he take an owl – which meant he mightn’t take his toad. He was an obedient little chap, and kept this disappointment to himself, but one day, he gave way, thinking there was no one about – he’d gone well out into the fields and was behind a hedgerow, and he’d seen no one on the highroad for hours.

‘You know how it happens when one is small: you get away from everyone, or so you think, before you blub – and it was very nearly September, and every day nearer to the start of term was another day nearer to leaving his pet toad – and as soon as you give way, someone pops up and you’re humiliated.’

Draco flushed, remembering that one needn’t be quite small for this shame-making fate to befall one.

‘Well. Sure enough, here’s this old gentleman, not a terribly big chap but a terrific swell, with a great beak of a nose and a nutcracker jaw, puts his head over the hedge, and says, “Come, come, this is no way for a young gentleman to behave. What’s the trouble?” Well, naturally, the little beggar’s mortified, but the old gentleman looks very kindly, and he finds himself snuffling the story out: “I must go away to school and I’m worried for my pet toad. There’s none else to care for him, not properly, Sir, and I shan’t know how he does.”

‘The old gentleman lets out this whoop of laughter and tousles the lad’s hair. “You leave him with me, Sir, if you like, and I shall attend to the matter personally.” So he does – the old man seems very kindly, after all.

‘School starts, and young Longbottom has an owl from his people; and then on the third day, he has an owl in a strange hand. He opens the parchment, and there it is.

‘“Field Marshal the duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Master Francis Longbottom, and is pleased to inform him that his toad is well.”’

Draco opened his mouth, shut it, and then managed to open it again and speak. ‘You’re quite right, that is a damned distinguished lineage of toads. Weasleys and Wellesleys, Wizards and Squibs both … your family, Neville, seem to make good choices in friends as a matter of course.’

It did not require Legilimency for Hermione to divine that D/Supt Ashflow was rapidly, if unobtrusively, losing patience with this discursion; Hermione certainly was.

‘Harry, either this is an emergency or it is not. If it is, I do not see that this is –’

‘Hermione, the man was not precisely an antiquary or historian, but his was an allied … trade. I am therefore attending to anything odd or freakish having to do with the past of this damned public house, the plot of land beneath it, and its neighbourhood of low life and criminal practice, in hopes that whatever curious fact or rumour caught his interest sufficiently to sodding well bring him here in this weather, may also catch mine.’

Hermione blinked, and nodded. The decades might pass, but she could not help but see Harry and Ron, even now, as the unlettered hearties of their schooldays: it was always with a sense of sudden shock that she encountered reminders that they had all of them grown up (although, of course, one wasn’t at all old).

‘So what you want,’ said D/Supt Ashflow, slowly, ‘is the really queer things that have fallen out here.’

‘For certain values of “queer”,’ murmured the Foreign Secretary, the ever-elegant Justin Finch-Fletchley. Blaise, who was present less in his capacity as a Gringotts governor than as Justin’s civil partner of many years, swatted him on the bum for that.

‘For all values,’ said Ron. ‘I mean, the place does have a reputation – rather hot stuff, by all accounts – and the poor sod mayn’t have been here at the behest of the mind rather than the body. More men have been led in broad daylight to more places they’d not otherwise visit in dead of night by a stiff –’

‘RON….’

‘All right, love, I’ll spare your blushes, damned if anyone else here’d blush.’

‘Actually,’ drawled Scorpius, ‘if half one hears is true, some of what goes on here suffices to make me and Albus blush.’

‘Unlikely,’ said Draco, at his most sardonic.

‘I should have thought it impossible,’ said Harry, with a very old-fashioned look at his son and son-in-law.

‘You’d be surprised,’ said D/Supt Ashflow, darkly. ‘Sir. My lord.’

‘Oh, bugger all that balls, Ashflow. Call me “Harry” and get on with it.’

‘Right. Historical criminal associations, first, then?  Right. You may all wish to sit, we’ll be here a bit.’

_______________________________

The Danish Arch-Auror and Acting Chief of Defence Staff (Wizarding), Jørgen Eigil Bjørnson, was well aware that one never took anything for granted with the British, who were almost all of them unnervingly mad, and that one never knew what to expect of Harry Potter, his British counterpart, who was, far more frighteningly, fearsomely sane, lucid, and deadly. Even so, when the Floo at the British Consulate (Magical), in Rønne, Bornholm, disgorged a powerfully-built, mannish middle-aged Witch, a lean, floppy-haired youth with a certain lupine grace, a fluffy middle-aged woman who seemed the epitome of feminine helplessness and vagueness save around the eyes, and a vixen of a young woman who could, surely, only just have left university, General-Auror Bjørnson felt a sudden pang of doubt: he had asked his British counterpart for the best team he could send him, and he couldn’t quite believe that this was the response.

For all his proficiency in Occlumency, it appeared that the tweedy Witch who was now lighting a cheroot knew to a nicety what he was thinking. ‘Y’ must be Bjørnson. M’ name’s Bulstrode.’

General-Auror Bjørnson’s breathing eased.

‘The gallant wand-fodder in the shiny uniforms’ll be here any moment,’ said Professor Bulstrode. ‘Though why you’d want the damned fools I can’t conceive. Su, darling?’

The fluffy little Witch with the dauntingly shrewd eyes fluttered over to Millie’s side.

‘Surgeon-Healer Bones. Doesn’t do all that much pathology these days, but she’s qualified. Teddy Lupin, Binns Professor of History at Domdaniel.’

The lupine young man grinned wolfishly, and greeted the Arch-Auror in fluent Bornholmsk, which rather took the Acting Chief of Defence Staff (Wizarding) aback, as he did not speak the island dialect, being from South Jutland himself.

‘And we brought-yer an archæologist.’

The dangerously pretty redheaded young woman took the Arch-Auror’s hand to shake, and he just managed to suppress a wince.

‘Sorry,’ said she, unrepentantly. ‘Lils Potter. The Gran thinks digging and hammering unladylike, which is what put me on the path to doing Archæologimancy. Does make for a grip, I’m afraid.’

‘Lady Lily,’ said the Arch-Auror, with a wary bow. ‘I am of course familiar with the good Professor Bulstrode’s works also. On behalf of my Sovereign, I greet you all, and thank you for your assistance –’

The Floo roared to life once more, transmitting a faint and far-off military bark. ‘… can you not keep this lot in proper order, damn your eyes?’

The first visitor to emerge from the Floo was, even by liberal Danish standards, rather clearly not a member of HM Forces-Magical: a civilian attached, surely. He was a lithe and laughing faun-like youth, perfectly formed, with dancing green eyes in a laughing face as smooth as satin and coloured a delicate fawn. His hair, with a fugitive tint of red in to it, was an artful arrangement of seeming-casual dreadlocks, and a rhodium ring was in his nose.

Lady Lily Potter groaned. ‘My cousin Freddie,’ she explained. The Arch-Auror perhaps looked as unenlightened as he felt; Lily’s next words, however, sufficed to clarify the matter, as the fame of her uncles had certainly reached Denmark long before. ‘Freddie Weasley. Uncle George’s son.’

The Danish commander disguised his horror, swiftly; and not before time, as now – in perfectly unexceptionable order – British Aurors were arriving.

_______________________________

‘Be so good,’ said Harry, ‘to begin with events prior to this district’s becoming a sort of magical Metro-land, Super.’

‘I cannot do that. MLE records of the period when this was an unparished part of Middlesex were destroyed in a Goblin Rebellion, and please don’t ask which, I had Binns for History as you did. What I know comes from references in later records, and’s all third-hand at best.’

‘Then those must suffice for now.’

_______________________________

A section of the Midlands Aurors – of any of the regiments in the Royal Corps of Aurors, in fact – would commonly be commanded by a bright-eyed young corporal, with an equally go-ahead lance-jack as his 2IC. The small, cheerful, and preternaturally boyish colonel commanding a mere section of the Nogtails was bright-eyed enough, but, even had his decorations not proclaimed him and his quality, he was known to Arch-Auror Bjørnson as being as fearless as he was seasoned, and as seasoned as his salute was perfectly crisp.

The Arch-Auror of Denmark returned the salute, as crisply, very much on his mettle, and then clasped Colonel Creevey’s hand. One met heroes so rarely in these thin and piping times. ‘My dear Dennis. And they have recalled you also, then, to active duty?’

‘Hullo, Jørgen. Temporary assignment, actually.’

‘By assignment, you mean, I take it, that you Apparated to the Warren or Daysbridge Barracks or Auroralty House, and begged to step in when the trumpets sounded. And of course the good Harry indulged you.’

‘Dearly as I love Gabrielle and fascinating as the affairs of Coven and District FC may be, a man wants to get away from wife and retirement from time to time. May I present Mr Frederick Weasley: one of our Bright Lads, in both senses, I fear, but he’ll do in a pinch. My lads: Captain Kettle-Siveter, my adjutant, poor, long-suffering Witch that she is; Corporal Ferneyhough; Lance-Corporal Malpas; Aurors Waddams, Beddall, Spruce, Caunt, Jauncey, and Oseland. Now, sir: what assist are you wanting?’

_______________________________

‘Get Luna,’ said Harry. ‘God help us, get Xeno.’

_______________________________

Kingsley was perfectly right in his occasional despair that the world was henceforth to be run – without their willing it – as a family concern, by Potters, Weasleys, and various Black connexions, most of them ginger. The swift-rising and high-flying Wizarding Vice-Consul (Consular), acting in the stead of HM Consul-General-Magical over the hols, now joined the Danish Arch-Auror, the Auror section, Colonel Creevey, and the civilians, having politely effaced herself whilst they made their numbers and got sorted.

She was diplomatic in the extreme, but, as the British colonel was her Uncle Den, Freddie, Lily, and Teddy her cousins, and Mille-and-Su her honorary and supernumerary godmothers, it was not unevident that the fate she had – not unreasonably – sought to avoid by staying in post over Christmas, had found her despite her efforts. Freddie, with his usual tactlessness, wasted no time in salting the wound. ‘Rosie! Darling! It seems you’ll be with family after all, you gorgeous creature.’

Rose Weasley silenced him with one steely look from her hazel, kittenish eyes, which, when she chose, did far more execution than any spell for the purpose.

‘Arch-Auror. Colonel. Professors, Witches, Gentlewizards. Frederick. If you care to follow me, we can see off the formalities and I can show you the lodgings provided for you. You’ll quite like Bornholm, Professor Bulstrode, it’s rather like Crail in its way.’

_______________________________

‘As we are awaiting the antiquaries – and I could do with a dram of the Antiquary just now – we really may as well canvass the other possibility, you know, Harry,’ said Justin.

‘Hmm. Seamus?’

‘Ah, Harry, we vetted the man-een, sure, and more than once or twice. I’d take me Unbreakable Vow he wasn’t corruptible and he hadn’t eyes for anyone save his wife.’

‘They were spending Christmas apart.’

‘Oh, not all of the hols. Their eldest – a fine lad, just down from Domdaniel, he had the gift, it was his da was the Squib – was fond of Bornholm, he was an angler, sure, and there’s good fly-fishing on the island, so there is, and he’d other interests there; and wasn’t it my fault his da had a job of work in hand at Christmas, after all?’

Harry pinned the Chief Unspeakable with a glance. ‘You were recruiting the son as well.’

‘Ah, now, Harry –’

‘Granted that the poor young bugger’s also been murdered, were you intending on mentioning this fact at all?  God damn it all, Seamus –’

‘Steady on, yer lourrrdship –’

‘Had he been vetted?’

‘O’ course he had been! D’ye take me for a fool?’

Harry clenched his jaw, visibly, as one refraining from an obvious answer.

‘Chrisht! Feck that, then! Am I an omadhaun then and Chief Unspeakable? Slipt in between the jigs and the reels, did I? They don’t make eejits “M” y’know! Ah, it’s foine, all the daft sojers in uni-form waving the Butcher’s Apron and rippin’ the piss of us who do the dirty work – yer own lad amongst us! Stop the feckin’ lights – ye shitehawk. The lad was vetted and passed fine, and it was he wanted to work for us, not all the recruitin’ was on our side, he axed on, y’ know, and dumb priest never got a parish! Jaysus.’

‘Oh, quite,’ said Harry, coldly, as calculatedly, offensively English and public school as ever any Malfoy or Finch-Fletchley had managed. ‘Had I wondered before – old boy – I’d make certain now: you’re hiding something.’

D/Supt Ashflow didn’t like the Funnies: MLE, like their Muggle police counterparts, disdained and distrusted the intelligence and security services. Yet there was something cruel in the CMGS’ breaking down of the Chief Unspeakable, who had just lost two of his officers, and she wished she could look away.

Harry continued in the same glacial vein, as even Draco looked sidelong at him. ‘And we ask ourself, as we have sent our daughter and our nephew Frederick to the scene of this other death, what, pray, is our Chief Unspeakable hiding, and two of his own murdered?’

Seamus’ head came up, and he looked for a moment as if he’d hex Harry; and then his face changed, white and working, and he and Harry were in one another’s arms, as Seamus sobbed. ‘Ah, Christ, Harry, Christ … two of my best … I fecked it, I buggered and banjaxed it…’ And Harry was holding him tightly, and saying, ‘No, no, hush, Seamus, we’ll see it through, it’s not your fault … it happens, you know it, no matter how we try … it’s the job and the duty; hush, now, it’s all right, we have you, we all have you….’

It was the most thoroughly un-British thing D/Supt Ashflow had ever seen. Except it wasn’t, and she’d been a part of such things, because she also had been at the sharp end when things had gone tits-up.

_______________________________

Susan Bones was examining the bodies; she had examined them in situ, briefly, and was now beginning a PM at St Lars’ Hospital at Gudhjem, where much of the Wizarding infrastructure of Bornholm was to be found.

Freddie Weasley and Millicent Bulstrode, with a disapproving Rose standing by, were surveying the scene of the murders. Wizarding and Muggle law enforcement had already been over it, but there was no harm in applying another perspective.

Millie was the first to notice the mislabelled potion.

‘Did you know the boy?’

‘Sorry, what?’

‘The young man, I should say. Septimus Rankshaw-Pyke.’

‘Not to my knowledge, Aunt Mil, why?’

‘Yes, it might well not be to your knowledge. Let me ask it another way. Here’s a snap of him. D’ you recognise him, and did y’ ever fuck him? Or he, you, knowing you.’

Rose coughed, meaningfully. ‘We really ought never to have allowed him to model himself on Uncle Blaise rather than upon Uncle Justin.’

Freddie slewed ’round and spoke with unaccustomed heat. ‘Right, because there’s ever so many role models for me! It’s quite easy, isn’t it, being another toffee-nosed, bluestocking, ginger Weasley, girl or boy, you and Hugo hadn’t any difficulties fitting in, but I’d like to see you try fitting in, in this One Great Happy Weasley Family, as a mixed-race Wizard poof! We pride ourselves, don’t we, on our openness to Muggle attitudes – well, let me tell you, girl, they’ve their own blood-status! And it’s not just the colour bar. If you’re straight, you’re as good as a pureblood-to-a-Black, if you’re gay it’s as much as being Muggle-born, or simply Muggle, and when you’re bi like I am, you’re a half-blood, trusted by no one and but grudgingly accepted! You –’

‘Then perhaps your Uncle Dean had been a better counsellor,’ said Millie. Rose stood silently, her mouth open in an ‘O’, quite stricken.

Freddie slumped. ‘He has been. And Blaise, also. I’m not, actually, a complete slut.’

I knew that, boy. Wanted to see if you did. No more is Blaise, for all his manner: since he and Justin got together, they’ve been faithful as can be, as faithful as Dean and Seamus. Glad to see you learnt of him you can be as terrible a flirt as you like, and still not be a man-whore.’

‘You knew.’

‘I did. Damn me, boy, I’m not blind nor yet senile. Wanted to make certain you knew.’

‘God, when did we all become a pack of Slytherins? Er – sorry, Aunt Mil.’

‘When you learnt that service to Crown, Wand, and Country wanted slyness to go with loyalty, work, bravery, and brains. Same time we Old Slytherins twigged to the value of wisdom, dedication, and guts.

‘Now. Did y’ know the lad? Because what’s in that phial isn’t commonly used by heterosexual Wizards.’

_______________________________

Seamus sat wearily, defeated, in the midst of his old comrades, a hastily-summoned Dean supporting him, Harry, Draco, and even Ron with a hand on knee or forearm.

‘The lad. Young Septimus. Ah, Christ. There was something afoot here, we knew that. We didn’t know what. His da – who wasn’t t’ go inta the field, whatever, y’ see – not trained for it and not fit for it and well past it, even if he’d not been a Squib – his da was researching it. But I wanted more. I pushed, so I did.’

‘I imagine you’d no choice.’ Harry’s voice was bracing and kindly at once.

Seamus looked at him, bleakly. ‘Aye. You know how ’tis. And they were in different sections altogether, and neither one t’ know the other was on stren’th. We didn’t know, y’ see: it might’ve been something afoot that was in the da’s field, but then again, it mightn’t. And, ah, God, the lad was too perfect for the job. A Runemaster and a magi-historian whose da was an archæologist? Young, and personable, and all?’

‘Gay?’

‘Ah, no, that was the thing. He wasn’t. He wasn’t bisexual, either, as such. What is’t the Yanks call it? “Heteroflexible”? He could pass, and disengage before things went too far, he’d done it before, and God forgive me, we thought it a skill to be used. And, Mother of God, it may have got him kill’t.’

Draco spoke slowly, regretfully. ‘And his father, possibly. I mean to say, if he got hold of the wrong end of the wand, and you did say he’d no idea his son was working for you…. He might have been here trying to, ah –’

‘Seein’ if the lad was in trouble, assumin’ he’d heard something? So he might, don’t think I don’t know that, and feel the guilt of it.’

‘But surely,’ said Harry, ‘his father should first ask his son – and from all one hears of the goings-on here, the place is polymorphously perverse, and he could as well have wondered if the boy were in some entanglement other than a strictly homosexual one – surely he trusted the boy enough to ask, first.’

You should,’ said Blaise, quietly. ‘Draco should have done, were it Scorpius. But not all fathers … and, look here. Obviously, working for Seamus’ lot has its effects on a man. The father had doubtless taken on that sinuous Intel attitude. He’d’ve spotted evasion in the son, not realising it had the same professional cause. At that point, trust goes out the window.

‘And there’s this. I’ll accept from Seamus that the young man began without any crisis of identity. Nevertheless…. Look here: do you know the rarest magical being of all? Because one of them is a nephew to you lot. True bisexuals – men, at any rate – are as rare as phoenixes, in my experience; and I certainly don’t trust this modern rubbish about heteroflexibility, my darlings. One cannot count Teddy, he’s a Metamorph, after all.’

Harry frowned. ‘Seamus, you vetted him. Saving the necessary discretion attached to his job, was he not the sort who, if he came to a realisation about his sexuality, should inform his family?’

Blaise laughed, rather sadly. ‘Only you, Potter. You’re a sexy beast, but in some regards you’re as thick as I used to think you: thicker than Ron.’

‘Oi!’

‘Unless,’ said Blaise, unwontedly serious, ‘one is a major public figure of the Potter or Malfoy level, coming out isn’t an event, it’s a process. Look at Freddie.

‘Or better, look at this.’ Suddenly, Blaise stood, and opened his rather deplorably tailored, albeit ludicrously expensive, shirt. Justin silently took his unengaged hand and held it.

‘You hadn’t that scar at school,’ said Draco, sharply.

‘No, caro. It was – acquired – between my leaving school and my finding Justin.

‘His name was Tony. Lovely lad – to look at.’

Hermione frowned. ‘That was the one who looked like Stephen Warnock, wasn’t he? Narcissa, Molly, Pansy, and I once saw you with him in Diagon somewhere.’

‘Then it must have been at Gringotts, the mercenary little bitch. And please, bellisima, as if I’d date any man who looked like a player for Aston Villa; Spurs, perhaps, but Villa?

‘But, no. That would have been Anthony. The first ten inches of him were adorable. I was trying very hard at the time not to date anyone who at all resembled Harry, or Draco, or especially Justin….

‘You know what Napoleon said of commanders, gamblers, and whores: it’s the amateurs who can do you the most damage. It took me quite twenty thousand Galleons to learn that lesson. It wasn’t altogether his fault, darlings: I have never made any claim to innocence in most matters, but I had never before dealt with a Wizard addicted to potions, and I didn’t recognise the signs.’

‘You got that in a domestic.’ DI Orison was grim. ‘Did you report it, sir?’

‘No.’

‘With respect, sir, we cannot do our jobs if victims don’t report –’

‘And I set a very bad example, darling, yes, I know. But that’s the point. I suppose I am regarded as being the most “out” Wizard since the Headmaster’s biography was published, flaming like a torch … singer. But I simply could not go in cold blood to Mungo’s A&E or down the MLE nick and admit that I had been bilked of thousands by a potions-addled, purely amateur, rent boy, and then beaten and scarred. If nothing else, the familial irony was far, far too near my shapely knuckle, and what would madam my mother say – when she was done laughing at me?’

‘Oh, Blaise….’

‘It’s all right, Ronniekins, really. Hermione, were you aware your husband was sensitive after all?’

‘He has his moments. And you’re evading.’

‘Yes. Yes, my darlings, I am. But the point and moral of this charming cautionary tale is simple enough. No matter how out you feel you are, there’s always some closet door you’d as soon not open.’

‘Nevertheless, sir,’ said DI Orison, implacably, ‘I must ask you, now I know of this, if you will make a statement –’

‘Oh, you lovely man, I do so hate to put a look of disappointment on that ruggedly handsome MLE face, but there’s no point. Nemesis has a Slytherin sense of humour. I did in the end gather the tatters of my self-respect about me like a drag-queen’s boa and toss him out on his … ear: best thing I ever did for him. He got himself off the potions, moved to – was it Flintshire? I think it was – and married a Mediwitch.’

‘Even so, sir, and much as I’d not want to make trouble between them –’

‘And now he’s dead.’

‘Blaise?’

‘Oh, really, Draco, I didn’t kill him, I’m not so Slytherin as all that, and I’m not my mother.

‘You see, I’d thought he’d told her everything about his past – the new wife, I mean. But I suppose us all to have the closet doors we can’t bear to open before others. She knew he’d been with me – she attributed that to the potions, I think, and I let her do it, she obviously regarded him as basically straight and I imagine he proved that to her satisfaction. And she knew about the potions abuse: she was really a very nice Witch. I hadn’t known about his prior men-friends in any detail myself.

‘Well, apparently I was the first to tire of him before he tired of me. And one of the earlier … friends … who had supported him was a trifle obsessed, alas.’

D/Supt Ashflow nodded, suddenly and decisively. ‘I remember the case now. They were both killed, weren’t they: Fiendfyre, I think. He’d got her outside and gone back in for the dog – it was in the small hours, and I can’t imagine they were either of them thinking straight – and then she went back in after him. Oh, yes, and chummy turned out unfit to plead, so he’s in Bradninch rather than Azkaban.’

Harry shifted restlessly. ‘It’s all speculation at this point, though – damn it, where’s Neville?’

_______________________________

‘I don’t keep a list and there isn’t a directory, Aunt. We mayn’t be all that many, but I don’t know every gay or bi Wizard in Britain, damn it.’

‘You lot haven’t a directory?’ Millie chortled. ‘We Lesbians are much more organised. There’s a ledger, self-updating, like the one at Hogwarts –’

Freddie laughed, at last. ‘Oh, do leave off the piss-take. All right; I’ll stop moping and snarling. But, look here, Aunt. There’s a lot of merely situational buggery at school and University. Yes, they’re mixed institutions, but when you consider the Founders went so far as to charm the stairs to the girls’ rooms to not let boys pass –’

Rose frowned, startlingly like her mother in that instant. ‘Why didn’t they do the same as far as barring girls from the boys’ dormitory quarters?’

Millie flicked the ash of her cheroot into the Floo. ‘Any gel so abandoned as to go willingly to the boys’ dormitories wasn’t worth considerin’, is the way they thought, the old … well, never mind. But look here, damn it, Freddie-my-lad, you do recognise the potion in that discreetly mislabelled bottle.’

Rose had never been afraid to admit ignorance when seeking information. ‘I don’t.’

‘You wouldn’t.’

Freddie shifted uneasily from foot to foot. ‘But, Millie. I mean. Er.’ He couldn’t look at his cousin. ‘There are women who, um….’

‘Enjoy – or endure, as it may be – a bit of anal?’

Freddie and Rose both blushed. And winced.

‘Don’t be a fool, Freddie. Yes, there are, but they don’t want a pain-soothin’ lubricant potion with added ingredients to enhance prostate sensitivity and pleasure. Be sensible, boy.’

Freddie had actually managed to turn quite as red as had Rose.

‘Wherever do they get that sort of potion,’ blurted Rose.

The answer came from behind her. Teddy had loped silently in, and was grinning wolfishly.

‘From the Ministry, in this instance. Look very closely and you’ll see the Ministry seal in the phial. It’s not all swallows and Amazons out there, there are ravens as well.’

What are you on about? And how do you know about Ministry potions?’

‘Calm yourself, Rosie-Red. I not unnaturally take a profound interest in who’s brewing the not-quite-Wolfsbane Uncle Bill’s in want of once or twice a year in exceptionally bad months – it’s a friend, by the way, and if it ever becomes necessary, I can now brew it myself – and as for ravens and swallows, well, I suggest you look up “honeytraps”: we’ve learnt a bit from the Muggles since Uncle Harry and his generation took over after the War.’

Millie appeared to know what he was talking about. ‘So he mayn’t have been gay at all, only thorough in his tradecraft.’

Teddy nodded. ‘If I were posing as a nummily-seducible young antiquary and there was any possibility that someone might search my rooms, I’d make damned certain to have a pottle of that about in not-quite-plain view.’

‘And two sets of luggage.’

‘Oh, yes. And another set of rooms, and a few extra identities.’

‘And did he?’

‘Follow me. Lils is waiting on us.’

_______________________________

‘Damn it, Neville, I ordered Jamie and his lot not to use warming charms until the forensics were done.’

‘And I countermanded order, sithee. Or were I dragged here to stand about rather than to do the forensics? Harry…. If you’re going to bring in best Forensic Herbologist in Britain, stand out of his – my – road and let me do job. And I can’t do that in snow, or think when shrammed wi’ this wind.’

‘And?’

‘Your corpse picked a curious place to get killed.  Ah, ah, owdonabit. Xeno’ll be here soon. I’m fair pleased with Luna as my second, much as I loved Hannah, but I will say, first set of in-laws were less vexing than my current father-in-law. Very quiet, Hannah’s people were: restful. And here they are. Hullo, love. Xeno.’

Xenophilus Lovegood was staring about him with a foolish smile, barely noticing Neville or anyone else.

‘My,’ said he, ‘this is a site.’

‘A sight?’

Xeno appeared suddenly to notice Harry, who, despite being rather forcibly present, seemed not to have impinged upon his consciousness until now. ‘Oh, Harry, hullo. “Site”: S-I-T-E. May I go within?’

Harry sighed. ‘Oh, let’s.’

_______________________________

DI Orison, to D/Supt Ashflow’s unavailing despair, was another of those Wizards who, when on duty, impersonated to perfection the woodenly impersonal competence of the Platonic ideal of a senior MLE officer, whilst, annoyingly, revealing from time to time eccentricities and intellectual interests that were better grafted upon the Great Detective of popular fiction. This was not unusual in their world: Old Fortescue – whose heirs now kept his shop in Diagon, having been established in the ice-cream trade after the Restoration by quiet assistance from Harry and from George Weasley, once it was determined to a certainty that the old man had been killed by Riddle’s rabble; Molly Weasley was a very active investor and director in the new firm, having been blagged into it by Harry (she had never given it a moment’s thought had it been George who brought the suggestion to her) – Old Fortescue, after all, had been a don manqué, who published well-regarded historical monographs in the intervals of selling cornets to small children clasping Sickles and Knuts in their sticky hands. Polonius Orison was a well-regarded musicologist, when off duty, a correspondent of Hugo Weasley’s in their abstruse discipline, and even when on duty prone to ironic remarks that made sense only to the musically inclined, as when he greeted a new corpse with, ‘And it’s Köthens for the first Mrs Bach,’ or some equally irritating tag.

Yet he was on duty, now, and when DI Orison was on duty, little got past him. He at least had heard and marked Harry’s statement that HM Ambassador to the Hanse had been kidnapped, and the presence here of the Foreign Secretary and a goodly chunk of the intelligence community was at once suggestive and disturbing. He was attending very closely to events, and wondering quite pointedly just who, precisely, was tasked with Doing Something about the kidnapping when it rather appeared that most of HM Magical Government were engaged in dealing with the deaths of two intelligence officers, here and in Denmark.

_______________________________

HM Privy Counsellor Magical Arthur Weasley had, for reasons that seemed good to him, declined to hold office yet again in the government of the day. Nevertheless, a Privy Counsellor he remained.

His son George had a Nelsonic tendency to turn a deaf, indeed, missing, ear to orders and suggestions he didn’t care for; yet when duty called, George was always willing to lend a hand in his own rather dangerous fashion. Arthur wasn’t terribly enthused by the idea that George, Bill, Percy, and the Scamander Twins, dear Neville’s stepsons, wanted to be let loose upon the unsuspecting kidnappers of HM Ambassador to the Hanse, but surely Percy’s and Bill’s influence should suffice to prevent Lorcan, Lysander, and George, who was by far the worst of the lot, in their more madcap courses.

There was of course no certain reason why anyone should accept that the kidnapping of a British envoy at the same moment as the murders of two British intelligence officers was anything more than a coincidence … yet short of certainty there was no reason not to believe that this coincidence was nothing of the sort, and it were bloody unlikely it were mere coincidence, and pull the other one, it has bells on.

The kidnappers, whoever they were – no one had yet claimed responsibility for the outrage – had in any event sadly miscalculated, so much so that Arthur almost found it within him to pity them their folly.

Firstly, Kingsley was inclined to give Harry his head in such matters, and Harry’s philosophy was discernibly one of Making an Example For the Ages of terrorists, in which category he included any foolish enough to offer insult to the British Crown: his attitude was rather more than Palmerstonian or Roman, and was notably akin to the policy adopted, when his emissaries were ill-treated, by Temujin Genghis Khan.

Secondly, Harry was at this point rather a mitigating influence, in that envoys to the Hanse, for obvious commercial reasons, were accredited not only by the Ministry in behalf of the Sovereign, but also by the Goblins, whose remedy for such outrages involved piles of skulls as a first resort, and escalated from that.

Thirdly, HM Ambassador to the Hanse was not precisely a helpless victim, having been a DA member in school, having fought at the Battle of Hogwarts, and being Extremely Clever in her own right; and no one in government or out of it was going to stand idly by and allow Cho to remain captive, if she didn’t free herself first, as she quite likely should, being, after all Extremely Clever and canny in her own right.

And of course, fourthly, the Scamander Twins and three Weasleys were being sent to get this sorted, which was hardly fair on any rash, unfortunate kidnappers who’d no idea what was about to descend upon them.

_______________________________

To be continued…

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Comments
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: January 1st, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay. When do I get more? Because I am very impatient and must Know Further Details.

Also, Freddie may be my new favourite character. <3
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Beavering away.

Mind, there IS the Sydney Test looming....
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hm. If I *must* wait...

Swanny and I want video of you doing the sprinkler.

(I am studiously being GOOD about your beaver comment, by the way. Because I am GOOD. I should be lauded for that.)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

All glory, laud, and honour...

Do be quiet and watch the Ashes, dear.
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: January 3rd, 2011 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)

*snort*

You do know how to distract me.
noeon From: noeon Date: January 2nd, 2011 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
This is too good. And it weaves all over the place but so satisfyingly that the reader marvels at each twist and clever turn (and not just of sexual identification) and begs for more (also not just in, well, leave it).

I am particularly happy to see the Next Generation working with their elders, and the Previous Generation also in good form. I think Xeno and Neville's relationship has me laughing the most. (And I forgot to comment on the toad in the first part - lovely little side anecdote :) )

This is both poignant and amusing, dangerous but also quite a romp. You manage all of the levels and the intersecting roles beautifully.

And it's great fun! I'll echo femme: MOAR, plz.

PS Damn you I'm shipping Freddie/Rose now and it's NOT RIGHT.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

You ARE in for a ride, then.

Although not much more of one until the Sydney Test is done and dusted.
noeon From: noeon Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Looking forward to it

until the Sydney Test is done and dusted

Speaking of...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, indeed.

Fourteen minutes before the baggy green muppets put themselves in to bat.
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