?

Log in

entries friends calendar profile AT: Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn Previous Previous Next Next
A fragment. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
A fragment.

‘Yes, well,’ said Justin, ‘rather the sort of thing the Frogs did when they got Alsace-Lorraine back from the Hun in 1918.  Re-educatin’ the public palate and All That.  Fact is, as far as the local nosh goes, one might as well be in Styria, it’s all roast pork and sausages and pickled cabbage – “sauerkraut”, I believe: bloody Continentals – and boiled potato.’

 

‘Ah, yes,’ said Arthur, with evident amusement.  ‘Gryffindors.  Hearty but dim, manly but thick, gallant, yes, but rash, bears of little brain.  Examples, I suppose, being Minerva, Albus, Fred, George, Hermione, Lupin….  Hagrid spent decades doing illicit magic with his brolly and was never taken up for it, Ron is the youngest Grand Master in the history of Wizarding Chess, Harry beat Riddle: I quite see where one would get the idea that Gryffindors are thick.’

Draco turned an interesting shade of rose.  Damask-rose.

‘Don’t take the piss, Arthur,’ said Harry.  ‘If you mean to convey that this was not an oversight on your part, do so, and don’t abuse Draco for his having tried to put the interrogation politely and give you an out.’

Arthur just looked at them, and smiled.  ‘Harry, really.  I’ve made this point before, although Draco wasn’t then present.  It is to the benefit of a warrior caste to be regularly underestimated by its opponents and potential opponents.  Thus, the Gryffindor stereotype.  But it behoves us also not to underestimate those same opponents.  Of course my actions were and have been deliberate, and I suggest that you approve them.’

‘Arthur.  I respect you immensely, which why I’m extremely alarmed, and not a little disappointed, by this.’

‘Uncle Arthur,’ said Draco, ‘you wrote the decree in question.  What possible justification can you put forward for your repeated violations?  It’s not like you to scoff at the laws – laws you are sworn to uphold, laws you swore to uphold in particular when you were serving as Minister.’

‘You read Muggle Studies at Domdaniel, Draco.  You tell me.  Or did you never hear of Ralph Wigram?’

 

Justin was perfectly right.  Regardless of frontiers and political boundaries both Wizarding and Muggle, these lands long debatable between the Eagles of the Legions and the Double-Headed Eagle of the Habsburgs, were fundamentally Austrian.  Three families in five spoke the South German dialects withindoors, in the bosom of their kin.  The hearty fare and rustic piety of the region was characteristically Austro-Catholic.  Beside every footpath one might find a wayside shrine to Christ or His Blessed Mother or some fiercely-loved local saint whom a valley or a village treated as a family member, and these small sites of devotion were more Teutonic than Italian, wood-carven like Black Forest clocks and in much the same style, rustic and rusticated, far from the smooth, marmoreal assertions of the Roman Counter-Reformation and the bronze fluidity of Florence.  The very church towers were more slender and square, rising skyward clad in ochre plastering, already adumbrating the archetype that was realised just a few score miles to the North, seeming eager to burst forth into a rotundity of aspect in pumpkin dome or tower-top.  The very ochre of the plaster seemed already to tint towards the famously Habsburg colours of Melk Abbey and half Vienna, rather than the cadmium or orpiment of Italy: as if church towers were so many tall glasses of pilsner.  And yet in these rather rustic and determinedly unsophisticated churches and public buildings, these Tyrolean farmsteads and valley towns and hamlets, one could feel something in the air, something more than sweet meadows and Alpine wind, cow and sheep and goat, milk and herb and honey.  Here, halfway between the marble and brazen glories of triumphal Rome and the clamant assertions of Habsburg Vienna, something had stirred, once, and was stirring yet.  The interiors of church and town hall, of town house and farmstead, were rustic, particularistic, homely, and at first seeming, severe.  They possessed a local and inward looking charm, a fugal gravity not, in some fundamental way, unlike that of those Dutch churches and interiors that Vermeer so loved to paint: ordered, serene, disinterested in the great world beyond.  This was not the world of Bernini, this was not the world at once urbane and ecstatic of Bernini’s Cornaro Chapel, in which the metaphysical conceits of Scarlatti and Vivaldi would sound most clearly. And yet the homely joys of hearth and home, of local saint and local market, of home farm and village church-altar, here where Italian and Teuton met and were wed, quickened, if one but listened closely, from fugue to gigue, and there was a quiet joy hinted at that wanted but leisure to burst forth into the dancing delight of the third fugue, the Fugue in C-sharp major, of the First Book of The Well-Tempered Clavier.  This was where the Italian and Germanic strains were fused, and so it was here that there was germinated the seed that would bud forth and flower at last in the Vierzehnheilegen Pilgrimage Church, in Neumann’s and Fischer’s exuberances, in the Borromini-inspired pomp of Fischer von Erlach and Lucas von Hildebrandt, in plaster and gilt, in Carrara marble and gold leaf, in the Rococo joyousness of the Basilica at Ottobeuren, with its polychrome marble and gold and chaste white marble and riot of delicately painted forms that rivalled the best work of Fragonard and of Watteau, in the whole joyousness of a ‘more abundant life’ that made even church interiors into Honeydukes confectionary, finding the good in Good Friday and the felicity in felix culpa, celebratory, Eucharistic.  It was in these tiny hamlets and postage-stamp Alpine meadows, this Austro-Italian Tyrol of droning bows and melodic cowbells and rural churches, that the ideal that would later express itself in Munich and in Salzburg was conceived.

 

‘Ralph Wigram, Draco.  And Major Sir Desmond Morton.  And for that matter, Professor Frederick Lindemann, Lord Cherwell.  Have you never encountered their names?’

‘No, sorry.  What has this to do with –’

‘Patience, lads.  Wigram was with the Muggles’s Foreign Office, Lindemann – “the Prof”, as he was always called – was a German-born don at Oxford, and Morton was something on the Muggle Defence Staff.  In the 1930s, two successive Prime Ministers, Baldwin and Chamberlain, became committed to the policy of appeasing the German Reich.  That policy was overwhelmingly supported in the country at large, by the Crown, and by an insuperable majority of the House of Commons.’

‘Like the Fudge Years.’

‘Precisely.’

Harry was clearly interested.  ‘I remember, Remus always says that was the best Muggle parallel to what was happening in our world when people were in denial about the rise of Voldemort – both times.  And even I in my cupboard had heard of Churchill.’

‘Yes,’ said Arthur.  ‘These were the Wilderness Years for Churchill – a very old family, the Churchills, in the Otterys.  Well.  Churchill was out of power, it seemed for good, his open supporters could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and those who did support him were out of office and cut off from power also.  Indeed, to side with Churchill and oppose appeasement was a political death sentence under Baldwin and Chamberlain.  Those ministries refused to recognise the Nazi threat, but they were not so sanguine about the threat Churchill posed: they even tapped his fellytone, wholly illegally.’

‘Good Lord.’

‘Well, Draco, they were frightened of him, and they were particularly frightened by his seeming omniscience.  They were so committed to denying that the Nazis and their allies were a threat, that they suppressed intelligence showing the gravity of that threat.  Yet somehow, Churchill always seemed to have those estimates at his fingers’s ends, and would raise them in the House and humiliate the Front Bench.  They were convinced – to the point of paranoia – that Churchill had spies in the Civil Service.’

‘Like Fudge and Dumbledore and the Order.’

‘Oh, absolutely.  And they were quite right.  Wigram and Morton risked their places, and indeed their liberty, as they would unquestionably have been prosecuted had they been caught, in gathering and feeding information to Churchill.’

‘And wouldn’t he have been?  Churchill, I mean: wasn’t he in danger of gaol as well?’

‘Probably not, although they should undoubtedly have tried to put him there.  But he was a Privy Councillor, and there’s a very good argument, Remus tells me, that he should have been entitled to have any such prosecution stopped, on that ground.  Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that he was entitled by law to the information that the two premiers attempted to burke, and that they were violating the law by – fudging – intelligence to the House, the Privy Council, and so on.’

‘And of course, Albus was Chief Warlock in his time….’

‘Indeed, Harry.  You take the point.  Someone was wanted – several someones – to play Wigram and Morton, and I did my bit.’

 

But that elaboration, that complex and canonical complexity, came after, and elsewhere.  It was enough that they were there, in the Italian Tyrol, in winter, spare and clear and sharp as its winds, as profound and superficially simple, as complex and unitary and spare, and as compelling, as the First ’Cello Suite of Bach, in G major.

 

‘But – improperly charmed and illegal Muggle artefacts in your garden shed, Arthur?  Not only when Fudge and Scrimgeour were in power, but even now?  And using them yourself, in stark violation of the law?’

‘Yes, even now.  Your generation have made considerable progress, you know, but the Ministry remains … well.  There is not yet a professional and de-politicised Civil Service.  Even now, if less so than before the War, there are those who would leak against the Minister of the day, who are still inclined to the views that animated the Death Eaters, or who are simply venal.  And so long as Ministry employees remain a part of the talent pool of aspiring politicians and those seeking to become members of the Moot or Minister for Magic, there are the added temptations for them to act from political venality.

‘With respect, my dear young friends, I don’t consider the Ministry even now a safe place for certain tempting items, any more than I would have dreamt of leaving hexed Muggle artefacts in Ministry custody before the War, where any passing DE might have scooped them up and made off with them, probably taking them straight to Lucius or straight to Riddle.  And even now in peacetime, if not so urgently as in wartime or in the days of Fudge’s appeasement, I consider that these things must be investigated, and by some trusted Order member – I don’t insist it be me, but no one else was ever interested – and tested out, in the Lindemann manner, as with that Ford Anglia I seem to have lost –’ he winked, and it became Harry’s turn to blush – ‘and I, for my part, would willingly trade its being done by an inexpert but loyal investigator in place of entrusting such secrets to a Ministry boffin of greater competence but less certain loyalty.’

‘Arthur?’

‘Yes?’

‘You’re right.  The damned things are safer in a shed in the bottom of your garden than in a Ministry lock-up.  You may consider yourself authorised to continue secreting them away and testing them yourself, and if you want others to assist, the Order as a whole will give it a push.  As far as I am concerned, the matter is closed.  Draco?  Do you disagree?’

‘Not at all, Harry.  Save that you forgot to tell Uncle Arthur the most important thing of all.  It’s important to acknowledge that he was right.  Arthur, it’s more important still that we say, Thank you.’

‘Not at all.  Not at all, very kind of you, but unnecessary.  If that’s settled, then?  Right.’  Arthur stood, his enthusiasm obvious.  ‘Now.  Who wants to see my newly acquired flying bath mat?’

Tags: , , ,

6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: June 25th, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to admit that I've always been uncomfortable with the fact that Arthur, supposedly someone of such great integrity he'd no chance of achieving promotion under Fudge, was blatantly breaking a law he himself wrote. The logical end of this is Fred and George's willingness to sell Peruvian Darkness powder to anyone who wants to buy it and bugger the consequences.

I like this explanation of Arthur's behaviour much better :-).

Were the government of the day really bugging Churchill's phone? Bloody hell ...

MM
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 25th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Indeed, yes.

Reith kept Winston - and, as they sided with WSC, Eden, Duff Cooper, and the rest - off of the Beeb's precious airwaves, Dawson made The Times a mere Chamberlainite propaganda sheet and savaged Winston, and Chamberlain's personal Umbridge, Sir Horace Wilson, tapped Winston's phones.

Highly evocative of the Fudge Years.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: June 26th, 2006 05:24 am (UTC) (Link)
"It is to the benefit of a warrior caste to be regularly underestimated by its opponents and potential opponents."

You tell 'em, Uncle Arthur.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 26th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Quite so.

Stealth and surprise, what?
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: July 30th, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Quite so.

*nods* Godric had cat feet, after all.

(I rather suspect Salazar knew this perfectly well and liked him for it, at one point.)

I've been under the impression, myself, that the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts laws were constructed for the purpose of protecting Muggles but cast in terms of the Statute of Secrecy (and possibly trade protection, but I'm sketchy on that one; still, I think the flying carpets gave me the idea it might be mixed in) because that's what Arthur could get the Ministry to care about. As such, I wouldn't be surprised if they're pretty much only enforced when someone does slip enchanted Muggle artifacts back among Muggles, or appears likely to be planning to.

Um. Rambling. I enjoyed the story. :) And I like your explanation -- the idea of trying to accomplish anything by confiscating sinisterly enchanted objects and having to leave them lying around where Lucius or a pawn could palm or duplicate them....
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 31st, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, precisely.

The Ministry is perhaps the worst place imaginable, in canon, for keeping anything that's been confiscated.

And I'm sure that a large part of the act was couched, for political cover, in terms of trade restrictions. That is just the sort of thing the Moot wd accept.

Thank you for yr kind words.
6 comments or Leave a comment