Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile AT: Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn Previous Previous Next Next
And from the preceding comment-ficathon.... - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
And from the preceding comment-ficathon....


Major (retired) the Hon Rupert Alwyn Theodoric Miles Finch-Fletchley, late Royal Regiment of Artillery, of ffinch Hall, Fletchley Abbas, Burwell, Cambs, had his failings, naturally, yet he had never failed his Queen, his country, his regiment, his batteries, or his sons.  So when his second son, Justin, came into his study, he set aside the studbook and removed his thoughts from Newmarket to give the lad his full attention.


What Justin told him required the full measure of his attention.  It also filled him with quiet pride.  For various reasons, not limited to his being a Wizard, it was as well that Justin – grave, serious, and devout, if unfortunately Not Precisely Given to the Company of Women (well, Witches, one supposed) – it was as well that Justin should not have the estate.  But there was no question that Justin was shaping well, very well indeed: at least as well as his brother, in fact.


What Justin told his father filled him also with fury: a cold and calculating fury, as precise as a rangefinder, as targeted as his guns, and as dedicated to destruction.  Every Gunner in the Regiment would have recognised of old the expression on the Major’s face: it was not only for his East Anglian, Low Church antecedents that the Hon Rupert had been nicknamed throughout the Royal Artillery, ‘Old Noll’, and at the moment his Cromwellian side was very much to the fore.  Sodding BNP, National Front, Death Eating bastards … treason, nothing less than treason against the Crown … well, by God, they’d damned well see what a Muggle and a Muggle-born could do….


‘Right.  And this Potterwatch lot want your help, do they?  Mph.  D’you think being a backroom boy’s the best use of your talents, eh?’


‘I realise it’s not precisely the sharp end.  But I can’t very well go back to Hogwarts: there’d be no freedom of action there for a Muggle-born.’


‘No, I suppose there’d not be.  Right, then.  Well done.  You’d surprised, you know, how often one finds out odd things once one knows to look for them.  Other fathers, for example, of Wizarding sons, or chaps who’ve a Witch or Wizard in the family.  Well, come along.  We’ve two calls to make.  We’re off to see the Jimmies, the Gunners can’t help you – don’t dawdle, there’s a lad – we’ve to go to Colchester first….’


‘Finch-Fletchley, isn’t it.  Justin.  Hufflepuff House.’


‘Auror Shacklebolt, hullo.  My father –’


The Hon Rupert did not wait upon ceremony.  ‘Shacklebolt?  Yes, quite so.  Heard of you.  Rupert Finch-Fletchley.’


‘And I of you, Major.’  Kingsley turned to their host and mutual acquaintance, Brigadier Inkson.  ‘Brigadier?’


‘Kingsley.  The PM, I understand, regards this … displeasing and irregular situation … as a security threat, and he’s quite right to do.  As such, I am to place the resources of the Brigade at your disposal.’  As Brigadier Inkson was the commander of 2 (National Communications ) Signal Bde, Royal Corps of Signals, this was no idle offer.  Kingsley and the Muggle PM had done much; the old boy net, set to work by the Hon Rupert, rather more, from Colchester to Ilford.  ‘Now.  It was agreed your show would be equipped as necessary by us, and trained by various and sundry old soldiers no longer on strength – or not so far as the bumf reflects.  Rupert, your lad there is commanding, I take it?’


‘Oh, not at all,’ said the Hon Rupert, with a smile the inspiration of which would be clear to the Brigadier only a fortnight after, as he surveyed the havoc that several adolescent Wizards and a genteel werewolf with a taste for marauding had by that time wreaked upon his establishment.  ‘If we might have Weasley, Weasley, Jordan, and Professor Lupin in, please?’


Perhaps the Brigadier also had an unsuspected Wizard amongst his ancestors, for his immediate reaction was positively prophetic, even divinatory.  ‘Good God, it’s Bletchley Park all over again.’


The Awkward Squad that were the motive force and public voice of Potterwatch were supplied and kept on air through the good offices of R SIGNALS generally and 2 (NC) Signal Bde in particular; but after an initial – and, to the Weasley Twins, smashingly jolly – period with the Brigade as such, they were packed off, to the Brigadier’s wholly undissimulated relief, to Ilford, for 36 (Eastern) Signal Regt to deal with (‘And I wish ’em much joy of the mad buggers’ was Brigadier Inkson’s parting comment).  The majority of their training, however, bar Remus’s and Justin’s boffiny work with their boffiny counterparts, was provided by a few signallers seconded from 2 Signal Regt in York: specifically, from 246 Gurkha Sig Sqn.  Lee and the Weasleys had met their matches, and they and the Gurkha signallers, believers in magic to a man (Gurkhas never have recognised any distinction between Wizards and Muggles), became so famously friendly and created so thorough and interesting an uproar that the O/C, the adjutant, and half the sergeant’s mess threatened to quit the Army at least once a week.  When Lee’s tarantula and several prototype Wheezes were commandeered by the Gurkhas for a few interesting pranks, Brigadier Inkson and Kingsley in person had to come and restore order.  (Remus, smiling benignly and looking as innocent as only Moony the Marauder could do, had been no help whatever to the forces of discipline.)


For all these excitements (and incitements), Lee, Gred, and Forge learnt a good deal: not only how to keep a clandestine radio net on air, but how to evade and escape, how to live and sleep rough, and, most importantly, what war truly was.  It was to stand them in good stead in the months to come, although Fred would be careless when the chance of a jest distracted him, and no amount of training or telling would ever quite get through to him. 


Under their mentors – and particularly the Gurkhas, who were warriors first, last, and five-and-seventieth, and only incidentally signallers – they learnt to avoid, to endure, and, when necessary, to kill without magic; and at the end of it, the three were taken quietly aside and given the greatest of honours by the toughest soldiers on earth.


In the dark months that followed, Fred and Lee rarely slept beneath shelter; when they were not setting up, broadcasting, and vanishing before they could be found, they were passing on charms and devices, news and advice, and some dangerous Wheezes, to others on the run and sleeping rough.  They led the Snatchers a merry dance – although the Snatchers, a number of whom did not survive it, thought it anything but merry.  Remus and George were the two who popped back and forth, reporting to Kingsley, manufacturing more mayhem and magical ordnance and cunning traps, and causing alarm and despair behind enemy lines.  It was not the stuff of set-piece glory, but it was true war.


Refugees learnt that there was hope: not only the hope that Harry would soon bring the war to Voldemort, but more immediate hope.  Snatchers and Death Eaters failed and fell (Arthur’s beloved Muggle electricity did the most remarkable things when it was run through conjured pools, streams, meres, and the ever-reliable Portable Swamps); Wizards fleeing them would find from time to time a cache of food, a message of encouragement, directions to a safe-house.  Or, again, the weary, hiding, hunted enemies of Voldemort would see the leaves part in a wood, and a grinning face – Fred’s, George’s, Lee’s, sometimes, with a more diffident smile and donnish manner, Remus’s – emerge, with news, warnings, a few experimental charms to teach, an emergency kit of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder and lethal Wheezes.  And Snatchers and Death Eaters would regularly find themselves encountering terrain that was on no map, Apparating coordinates that left them splinched over three counties, and mysterious and unheard-of beasts that not even a Lovegood could imagine or a Hagrid love.  It was not the stuff of set-piece glory, but it was true war.


As for Justin, who equably, if with no small disappointment, accepted to remain and liaise with R SIGNALS to keep Potterwatch going, it never occurred to him to seek glory in place of doing such duties as were assigned to him: that sort of thing was for Frenchmen and what have you, and if not once or twice in our long island story, the path of duty had been the way to glory, it was equally true that the paths of glory led but to the grave; rather, what mattered was that duty was to be done.


Therefore, it was no surprise that the first programme of Potterwatch should have begun with ‘River’s’ tribute to ‘“Badger” and the Jimmies, without whom you would not be able to hear us today’; or that Death Eaters seeking to track down the presenters should so frequently find themselves sinking in one or another Portable Swamp; or that several Death Eaters who blundered out of the swamps at last, heard and saw – and it was always the last phrase they heard and the last sight they saw – the uncomprehended words, Ayo Gorkhali!, and the silver flash of a curious blade.  And it was no surprise that a tougher and leaner Kingsley and Remus accompanied three newly-hardened youths, veterans by now of cold bivouacs, short commons, and months of evasion and raw courage, to the last battle, at Hogwarts, as equals.


And it was no surprise at all when, at Fred’s funeral, a slightly choleric gentleman in a blue regimental tie with a claret-coloured zigzag stripe rather like a lightning bolt, whom the Wizards present vaguely recalled having seen at Remus’s funeral, went over to Molly and Arthur and spoke quietly with them.  Fred, like George and Lee, and Justin, to be sure, had done his full duty, in which fact his parents could take pride.  The Potterwatch team, if unfortunately reduced to working with, well, Signals, had deserved in its way the sole battle honour borne by the Royal Artillery: Ubique.  Everywhere.  And in carrying on the fight and doing their duty everywhere, whenever called, the lads had shaped uncommonly well.

Tags: ,

8 comments or Leave a comment
fpb From: fpb Date: April 3rd, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just wish the real England were half as efficient and uncorrupt as your fantasy version. But I love your stuff, and as it happens I just placed you on a list of writers to read for someone who was asking for guidance.

I have finally got a good overall idea for Italy-set magic stories, and one day I might even write one.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 3rd, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

How very kind of you. Thank you.

And there are of course ways to improve reality.

Voting Tory at the next general election, for one.... (Dodges things shied at him.)

In all seriousness, thank you. And I should love to see your Italian jobs when they're done.
tudorpot From: tudorpot Date: April 3rd, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
A critical missing scene (s) written better than dear JKR.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: April 4th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Signal Dogs

...and field rats. Nostalgia...
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: April 4th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)
From: tree_and_leaf Date: April 4th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, a fascinating and rather moving vignette.

‘Good God, it’s Bletchley Park all over again.’ Yes, rather!

And in carrying on the fight and doing their duty everywhere, whenever called, the lads had shaped uncommonly well.

Indeed. And it's always fascinating to see blank spots of the chronicle of the war filled in with such verve.
germankitty From: germankitty Date: September 17th, 2011 09:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you

for linking to this from "We Happy Few"; I wouldn't have wanted to miss this.

Once again I'm thrust back into the great War movies (not-so-secretly) love; I find myself wishing ever more often that your AU could be put to film. If it ever were, it'd take pride of place (among a select few others) in my film collection.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: September 17th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm obliged.
8 comments or Leave a comment