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The captains and the kings depart: 3 of 3 - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The captains and the kings depart: 3 of 3

There had been the Channel and Norman Aurors, too, to whom the Queen had been the duke of Normandy in their loyal toasts, what time Harry had had but one pip to his name: Celts and Norsemen speaking an elder French with their careful English, haunted by Black Dogs and Grims, attuned to the movements of the Ghost Ship and its spectral, misty voyages, wary of Ushant and of the Race, wary of the chalk coasts of High Normandy.  The Channel Islanders were as tough as the sea could make them, canny and cool, and the Normans, Vikings yet, devoted to the irresistible charge under volleys of spell-fire: together, they were a terror to the enemy.  In barracks, they were biddable and smart in their turnout, keen on tradition and hearty eaters, and their discipline in peace as in war was a thing of beauty.  They were justly proud of their regiment, and it was a family to be proud of.  Yet it was not his.


Nor was that other regiment of the chalk downs that faced them across the Channel and its gales, Ox-and-Berks with Hants and Sussex, barracked Unplottably near Firle Beacon on the South Downs, amidst the sheep.  Meadow-grass, fumitory, bugloss, and brome; bittersweet and cow-wheat, service-tree and wych elm: these wove powerful spells upon the land.  And the Witches and Wizards of the Southern Regiment, the Woolly-backs, from the Upper Thames of Oxfordshire and the deer-mast of Royal Berkshire, the chalk-streams of Hampshire, the Hilliard-miniature England of the Isle of Wight, and the sweeping South Downs of the Sussexes, wove their own spells, quite as powerfully.  Stolid, sure, taciturn and dry in humour, indomitable in battle and perfect on parade, they were not sheep but rather shepherds, Arcadians in peacetime and Davids of Israel gone to war.  The mess silver included a silver-gilt helmet lost by Vortigern to their predecessors at Wallop (it had been converted to a vessel for mulled ale) and a tea-urn forged of the spears Guthrum’s Great Army had cast aside when Alfred’s men broke him.  They were Arthur’s Own, and they infuriated regimental rivals by ostentatiously refusing to put on side over it.  It was a regimental family to be proud of, Harry knew.  Yet it was not his.


Nor yet, Evans though he was, were the fighting, cunning, darting Welsh, the Common Greens of the dragon mascot, hard as flint and capricious as goats (and as lecherous), singing as they swung into line and faced the foe, all the Welsh counties in one green and white, dragonish line: he’d known them in his youth, their sly humour and Chapel-bred enchanting, their music sounding through the nights in the Land of Songs, their hands equally ready to lift a sheep, strike Druid notes upon a harp, or turn a wand upon any enemy rash enough to challenge them.  They were Afon Carno’s Army (and damned, damned good were they), in their barracks at Caer Noddfa, and their battle honours were as long and storied as any in the Corps, their pride as great, and their fitness as keen.  It was a family to be proud of.  Yet it was not his.


The train sped on through the night.


No, Harry reflected, it had been an honour and a privilege that would not come again for those who succeeded him, to have known the embrace of these regimental families; and yet, when all was said and done, he remained now – with the crown and the crossed wand and sabre on his rank slide, as when he was a one-pipper years ago – he remained, after all, Staff or no Staff, a member of one regimental family.  From his days at Norsworthy – the Wizarding Sandhurst – in the deep pinewoods of Norsworthy between the Leat and the River Meavy, through his Staff College days at Bradninch, his heart had lifted to the West Country, from the Wiltshire Downs to the Cornish cliffs, moor and tor and Gloucestershire orchard.  This was where his line, and that of his wife’s family, had first emerged from the deeps of Wizarding time; this was the country of his heart, and of his long-fathers before him, the country of the Green Man and the Three Hares and the wild moors.  There had been a cadet line of the Potters had gone north, even unto Carlisle, the Evans family were Welsh of the Welsh, he was a Black, and as a Black, a Macmillan and Burke of Ireland and all manner of folk who had furnished forth the other regiments in their generations; yet in the end, he was a Potter, and the West Country was his home, and it was the Wessex Aurors to whom he had given his heart from the first, and never looked back.  The green and white roundel, the bustard and the wyvern of Wessex, the back-badge for Sarpenic, Arthur’s and Alfred’s and Merlin’s Own (Harry was careful not to hear the newer name they now bore of ‘Harry’s Own’), with their snug barracks, ancient of days, upon Exmoor, Cow Castle above the River Barle: these were his, and the Wessex Aurors, the ‘Farmer’s Aurors’, were his family, and a family to be proud of.


He knew well enough that regiments had played and piped him off to the strains of ‘The Parting Glass’; he knew as well, what those who’d never stood to wands as Aurors did not, what they meant by it.  But since it falls unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not: those who’d never served construed that as a reproach, a suggestion (and an insubordinate one) that he could look with equanimity upon the fall of comrades, wryly toast them, and move on.  Well, one did toast the fallen, and move on, but there was no equanimity about it, no indifference to the sore loss, and pipe-sarn’ts and bandsmen, RSMs and adjutants and colonels commanding, officers and Other Ranks, had all known as he knew, having lived it through as he had lived it through, what was truly meant.  Oh, the generations in their passing had respected him, certainly, and had feared him a little in respecting him, for that was the way of it in the Aurory; yet they had loved him as well, and he them, for they were a family.  And it was not for what he’d done: not the great, lauded achievements that were never his alone, nor the operations that went from mess to mess in whispers, the singlehanded invasion of Picardy from a rowboat with muffled oars, the French begging for aid and in the same breath advising they must disavow it were he seen, the midnight banjoing of aspirant dark lords or the facing down of a mob with only three Other Ranks at his back, the incidents of glorious insubordination (and flat disobedience of orders) that had been tolerated, even in him, only because they had succeeded (mind, that difficulty in the Deccan very nearly went the other way), and that he would never tolerate in a subordinate unless success justified the act.  It was for who he was, an Auror amongst Aurors.  He never asked them to do anything he’d not do – hadn’t done, as a schoolboy, and not one wand in a thousand raised to aid him then – even as they knew he would, and might well order that they, endure anything, suffer anything, abandon every comfort and every pride and dignity, and if necessary, die, to uphold the Crown and the interests and safety of the subjects of the Crown: even of those subjects, magical and Muggle alike, who so cherished their peace and their liberty that they took the liberty of denigrating any defence of that peace, who thought war worse than slavery (not having encountered either) and who wanted to be kept free by the exertions of better Wizards and Witches than themselves.


And he did this duty, and demanded that his subordinates do theirs, uncomplainingly and to the fullest measure of devotion, because even those unruly and frightfully-superior subjects were family in a broader sense.  He and those he commanded would use any lawful – or justifiable – means to keep those families safe, whether they were rewarded with gratitude or with abuse.  His own immediate family was the template: Ginny exerting herself beyond her limits to prove herself outwith the shadow of her husband and her celebrated parents and brothers, and to point a path to others; Jamie, with his aspirations and his sulks alike; Al, with his private secrets and his public pride, and the world of words in which he lost himself in libraries; Lily, with her dragon’s temper and her subtle, Slytherin mind: and all the rest of the family, from Arthur and Molly to Andromeda and Teddy: what would he not do and suffer and endure and dare to keep them safe?  And Hermione might deplore those lengths, yet well he knew that, were her children or husband or parents or any Potter or Weasley threatened, she would make Bellatrix Lestrange of evil memory seem a prating schoolgirl caught in mischief.  And Malfoy, who went to such lengths to distinguish himself from Lucius’ memory, a man of law, an advocate of peaceful advocacy nowadays, and who was already tired of the law, soured upon it – for which Harry bore, and admitted he bore, and could not regret bearing (for all he had done, he had done in the defence of the realm, and the cost was not to be counted), much responsibility – Malfoy, at a loose end now with his marriage on the rocks, his ambitions turned to ash, and Scorpius soon to go off to Hogwarts for his first year, would likewise affect horror did he realise all of what Harry had done over the years at the sharp end, and yet, were Aster or Scorpius or Narcissa threatened, would surpass Lucius and Severus together in his willingness to destroy that threat.


That had been, in its way, what had wrecked the world before, that Harry and his generation had so arduously rebuilt.  Over-obedience to orders clearly lawful and as clearly unjust; a countervailing willingness to slip the leash of law and of democratic legitimacy; and, above all, the inability to recognise, or to act upon the recognition, that all of Wizardom, and all of humanity, was a family, and the least of them deserving of the same protection and ardent defence as one’s own wife or child.  Even Ron, even Nev, even Kingsley, did not quite grasp that, or, grasping it, failed to give it its full due: in that, Harry was in select company, with a handful of like-minded persons: Laura Madley in the law; Arthur in politics and affairs of State.  They were a handful, but they were enough to keep the bridge at either hand.


The train was slowing now.  The compartment door was opened, and filled by six feet and a little over of military finery: RSM Patel.




‘Mr Patel.’


‘Two minutes to Forest of Bowland Halt, sah, and the Apparating Point for Clitheroe Barracks and HQ Northern Command, Newchurch in Pendle, sah!’


‘Very good, Sar’-Major.’  The Norroys were a fine regimental family, fined by the keen wind of the Pennines and drawn from Cheshire and Lancs, Westmorland and Cumberland, Yorkshire, Northumberland, and County Durham, magnificently reliable to the youngest Dukesman joined yesterday: a fine family, if not his own.  ‘You might, if you’d be so good, whistle up that languid exquisite who calls himself my ADC –’


A languid voice answered from the corridor.  ‘I’m here, sir.’


‘Ah. Young Captain Abercrombie.’  Albus Severus, Harry knew, had a shocking pash on Roddy Abercrombie, worse if anything than the schoolboy crush Harry had had on old Wood, bless the man; well, Al would outgrow it, or not, as his nature dictated, and at least one couldn’t – as Ginny had remarked, with fond resignation – fault Al’s taste.  ‘I’m sorry, Roderick, I cannot see you for the martial figure of the RSM.  Right, then, gentlemen.  Let us go and see if the regimental sons and daughters of Professor Longbottom are worthy of that high lineage, shall we?’


And as they detrained in the crisp Northern night, both Roddy Abercrombie and RSM Patel thought to themselves, with affection and admiration, that if by any unlikely chance the Norroys did not meet and exceed the Old Man’s expectations, there should be – as was right and proper, and in the best traditions of the Royal Corps of Aurors – hell to pay.





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3 comments or Leave a comment
noeon From: noeon Date: May 19th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Merlin's own cleverness and of course Harry belongs to the West Country.

I loved this bit:

The mess silver included a silver-gilt helmet lost by Vortigern to their predecessors at Wallop (it had been converted to a vessel for mulled ale) and a tea-urn forged of the spears Guthrum’s Great Army had cast aside when Alfred’s men broke him.

And Al would have excellent taste.

The fields have been surveyed and the tallies brought in. This is a charming map and more than map, encapsulation of the living history of the wizarding regiments after Harry's years of reform.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 20th, 2010 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm greatly obliged.

And there's more yet to come.
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: May 23rd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, how I love this. It makes me ache for Britain--and I haven't even stepped foot on the homeland yet. But the way you draw pictures of the various regions--oh, so lovely. And so filled with obvious love and affectionate warmth.

And the three generations of military men in my family (none career but all incredibly bonded to their companies even yet) would give you a resounding cheer at this moment, dear, for your description of the Auror regiments. So consider it passed on through me. What a wonderful, exquisite tribute to those in service.
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