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A handsel: The fourth Plinth, Part 1a - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
A handsel: The fourth Plinth, Part 1a


The fourth Plinth


GMW Wemyss



The children of the Wizarding world – unless they be exceptionally unfortunate – know only Diagon. The less favoured by fortune may well know Knockturn from birth, although, since the Restoration, Knockturn today is not at all the Knockturn of evil memory.

When they shall have come to Wizard’s or Witch’s estate, they may well come to know much more of Wizarding London: Purse Lane and the Wizarding City, telling over its profits in the shadow of Gringotts; the cunning and craft of the law, in Ess Street and Plea Inn Bar and Inn Chancery; the commerce and trade and cheaping of Dye Urn Alley, tied to Purse Lane by Hedge Row, bustling purposefully towards Mist Steps and the Fleet Basin, the Docklands, Indus Street, Dutch Street, Pad Dock, Burr Dock, and the Isle of Crups; the riches and cultivation of Fore Square and of Mercia Square and its great church of St Cuthbert, rebuking those who dare forget their duty to the poor; the verdancy and respite of St Mungo’s Park and Merlin Walk ’round it, down the Duke of Kent’s Steps; or, of course, government, seated at Upping Street and beyond, and at the Palace of Thornminster.

It is left, however, to the Hit Wizards and the MLE, and the unsleeping vigilance of the Aurors at Daysbridge Barracks, to know the secret ways and hidden of Wizarding London.

Gay Verses Mews – formerly Gay’s Verse Mews – was once a reasonably reputable adjunct to the reasonably respectable Gay’s Verse Row, where the creator of Macheath and Polly Peachum lived when he wished to escape Muggle scenes: the creator of The Beggar’s Opera found, in his celebrity, the world not infrequently too much with him. Indeed, Lavinia Fenton, before she became first the mistress, and then the wife, of the duke of Bolton – by whom, in the person of their son the Revd Charles Powlett, she might claim to be the grandmother of cricket as we know it – had taken occasional refuge in Gay’s Verse Mews in its days of infant glory.

Inevitably, however, and helped upon the way by nominative determinism, Gay Verses Mews, as it soon became, descended into the haunt of the more rackety literary Wizards and Witches of the time, and the demimonde that naturally surrounds them. Brothels, molly-houses, and highly unrespectable inns, taverns, and public houses grew up along its length, and Gay’s Verse Row itself was afterward renamed Grandma Ho Row – or simply Grannie Ho!, on the analogy of Westward Ho! – after, by one account, a notorious procuress, or, after another, in reference to a truly dangerous drink concocted there, Old Grand-dam: in either case losing all connexion with the august shade of the Augustan poet and playwright.

Those of an artistic bent, and those merely bent with or without artistry, had long resorted at the most notorious public house in the district, if not of all Wizarding London, the very place reputed to have seen the invention of Old Grand-dam: the Need-Ablaze Plinth. It had been named for the most scandalous Wizarding – and thus animated – statue in Wizarding London (or at least for its plinth), which, had it not preceded the erection of the Shaftesbury Monument by a century and a half, might well have been thought a mocking answer to it. The gaily disreputable sculptor, Anteros Melling, who crafted it, was also the first landlord of the Plinth, and named his indecent alehouse for his equally indecent figure-group: for if the statuary group in the round, Need Ablaze, was unblushing, the bas-reliefs, alto-relievos, and intaglios of the plinth were simply blatant.

Melling was long dust, yet the Plinth remained – for all the efforts of licensing authorities (when there were any) – and remained in the family of the Vincents, descended of one of the models for Need Ablaze. (It was commonly held that the first Mr Vincent had been born, rather less than seventeen years prior his modelling, as Vincenzo God-knew-what somewhere near Taormina, and it was universally accepted that his relations with Anteros Melling had been rather closer than simply that of model to artist. Successive Vincents had tended to make their way in the world, before settling down to procreate and run the pub, in similar ways, whether for a Gloeden, a Plüschow, or a Tuke.) The old Plinth had survived everything that the years since the accession of the first George could send it, from war to Auroral disapproval, by the canniness of its landlords, the loyalty of its regulars, and, perhaps most of all, its reputation for serving up the best steak pies and the best cockles of any public house, magical or Muggle, in the Three Kingdoms.

Whether it could survive being the setting of a particularly lurid Boxing Day murder was, however, an open question.

John o’ Rank Shaw – ‘No Ark’ Jock – had scandalised his neighbours in the North, from the North Riding to the Border, some generations before, when Wyclif had been a babe in arms, by denying the literal truth of the Old Testament accounts. He bears some title to be acclaimed the first magi-geologist in the modern sense, as opposed a traditional geomancer; his researches in what is now called the Yaledon-Brampton Shale Formation remain a classic of the art.

Fortunately, he was a Wizard, and fortunately, he was rather gifted at flame-freezing charms. In consequence, he lived to have issue, one of whom, a Squib don at a minor place in Cambridgeshire, by name Bramwell Rankshaw-Pyke, was newly dead in a welter of blood on the floor of the Plinth public house. DMLE were represented at the scene – grumbling at the cold and snow – in the persons of D/Supt Ashflow and DI Orison, and their usual ragtag and bobtail. Any other murder, of any other victim, in any other pub, should have been well within their remit.

This was not.

The powers of a Divinator-Superintendent of MLE, his Divinator-Inspector, attendant constabulary (including auspices and duumviri), and their Scene of Crime Augurs, are commonly broad, and those possessed of those powers know it. Equally, those possessed of those powers, ranks, and commissions are not generally fools: had they been, they shouldn’t have risen to become possessed of those powers, ranks, and commissions. Drakewood Yard do not suffer fools gladly, or indeed at all.

When the rising star of all Gnome Office pathologists, Scorpius Malfoy, Apparated in, Nicola Ashflow warily Exchanged a Meaningful Glance with Polonius Orison. When the young Malfoy was swiftly joined by Albus Potter, their eyebrows rose perceptibly: it was known to Drakewood Yard that the Hon. Albus Severus Potter was a director of one of the departments or directorates of the Security Service, Mag. I. 5, and tipped to become DDG in due course.

The arrival of Major-General Sir Ron Weasley caused them to still and stiffen.

The arrival of the Gnome Secretary, Hermione, Lady Weasley, and then of the Minister, did not notably disturb them: politicians were an occupational hazard, like press reporters and the sad odds-and-sods who stop down the nick to confess to whatever crime is then being made much of. And Drakewood Yard do not fail to stand up to governments of the day, knowing that those days are always short in the end.

When, however, the Chief of the Magical General Staff arrived, simultaneously with the arrival of the current Director of Public Denunciations, Ashflow and Orison began cautiously to efface themselves. The DPD was, strictly speaking, only Another Damned Minister; and the CMGS did not daunt them as being CMGS, a Field-Auror Marshal, or a peer of the realm.

Yet if Madam Justice Madley, as she now was, had made the DPD’s office greater than it might have been simply by her adorning it as a Formidable Figure, her successor was rather more so: no one, least of all Drakewood Yard, had been so foolish as to underestimate Draco Malfoy since he had been a young one-and-twenty.

And the Chief of the Magical General Staff was no common or garden Field-Auror Marshal, nor was it his title, that of the earl of Avelyn, that was a name to – quite literally – conjure with, nor yet was it in right of his innumerable honours and decorations that he was who he was. What prompted, and wisely prompted, D/Supt Ashflow and DI Orison and team to ‘gang warily’ was not that Harry Potter was CMGS again after long retirement, and earl of Avelyn: it was that Field-Auror Marshal Lord Avelyn, Chief of the Magical General Staff, was Harry Bloody Potter.

A rather tiresome murder in a regrettably notorious alehouse had, quite clearly, assumed a national importance and quite evidently involved the defence and security of the Realm.


‘Right,’ said Lord Avelyn, not that anyone ever called him that to his face save on State occasions. ‘Someone get on to Lee and the Press Buggers and get an M-Notice in, before this gets out. Kingsley, is there a reason you’re here when you might more profitably be governing?’

The wheel having once again turned – a fact of life with which the wartime generation, who never seemed able to retire once and for all, were all wearisomely familiar – the earl Shacklebolt of Frenchay had recently found himself once more called upon to kiss hands and assume – resume, with such grace as he could dredge up – the seals of office. He’d not been best pleased, for divers reasons, not least that it meant that he must once again confront overweening and over-mighty, not to say ungovernable, subjects: of whom one Harry Potter, under whatever title, was by far the foremost. It had been decades now since Kingsley had first had occasion to observe that Harry tended to give rather more aid to the civil power than the civil power could bear, and the passing years had rather increased that tendency in him than the reverse.

Kingsley adopted his mildest, blandest face and tone. ‘Harry.’

Harry nodded, a brief tribute to politesse, and then sent a Patronus to summon further forces. If the Minister were to loiter about, as even the best of Ministers will, he should be ignored until he got in the way: it had been Horace Slughorn who had once noted that it were unjust to compare Harry to Wellington, in that it had required Wellington and Peel together to have ‘no manners and no small talk’: which was unfair, as Harry cultivated both qualities when in mufti, but, then, he was so rarely, to his own considerable annoyance, left peaceably in mufti.

‘Ron. There’s a plan for this sort of thing: be so good as to execute it. Draco, Hermione, you’ll oblige me by instructing our faithful MLE in their roles – and the limitations thereof. Albus, Scorpius, I’ve been here well over a minute: I want being reported to. And where in buggery is – ah. Jamie. Not before time. Secure the area, if you please. No warming charms, I’m afraid, until the boffins are done without as within – and close the damned door, thank you, it’s perishing.’

Jamie Potter as was hadn’t cared to be called ‘Jamie’ – which of course had encouraged his siblings to call him nothing else – even by his late mother. His father had acceded to his preference for many years, but had pointed out, what time he passed out and got his first pip, that the eldest Potter child had chosen the Scots Aurors with his eyes open, and damned well knew it meant being called ‘Jamie’ in the Mess for the term of his natural life. To that indisputable fact, James Sirius Potter had bowed, eventually; to the equally indisputable fact that his father’s eminence had left him lumbered with the courtesy title of viscount Aveline, he was as yet not reconciled. He felt it faintly ridiculous in the abstract – an opinion with which his father privately sympathised, as Harry was rather bolshie about such things – and blatantly ludicrous in application: no overburdened captain of Aurors waiting impatiently upon his majority, Jamie had felt, wanted to be mocked with a damned handle to his name, and having since been promoted major he remained of that opinion even now: least of all when that courtesy title was, if spelt differently, called the same as his father’s title.

None of this in any way impeded Major Lord Aveline’s swift disposition of two companies of his Jocks in securing the perimeter ’round the pub.



Scorpius took Harry’s brusque query to himself. ‘Blunt trauma. Bludgeoning hex.’

Was it?’

‘Ultimate cause of death? Might have been. I cannot possibly say, as yet. But it was pre-mortem, it certainly’d sufficed even absent anything else I may find, and it happened here: look at the blood, the spatter, the lot.’

‘And of course,’ said Al, as one who bemoans the wickedness and perversity of Wizardkind, ‘no one’ll have seen a thing.’

‘Oh, won’t they?’ Harry was exceeding grim, even by his standards. ‘They’ll damned well have done when I’m finished with ’em.’

‘Why,’ asked Ron, ‘was he here?’

Al looked at his uncle with unassumed gravity. ‘Now, that is an excellent question. He might have popped in for a pie and a pint: it’s a pretty dire place, but the nosh and the cask ales are famous. But, well: it is a dire place, openly so, and Rankshaw-Pyke was a Squib, a married – we thought, a happily and faithfully married – man, and a father several times over.’

‘And why was a Squib, who was a Muggle archæologist at Caius, on strength with your lot, Al?’ Ron was a firm believer in asking elementary questions, particularly those beginning with, ‘Why’: they elicited such a devil of a lot of useful answers.

‘Because we want archæologists, sometimes.’

‘Don’t fence with your uncle,’ said Harry. ‘Do not take refuge in security classifications and all that balls.’

‘Sir –’

‘And don’t begin to imagine you can do the same with me.’

‘The point is, I don’t know.

‘Don’t you, though. You – Pyroclastic Cloud or whatever your name is. Yes, you, Super: tell the O/C outside to send for “M” – and my damned ADC.’

Hermione, who was watching closely, understood of old that, when Harry was thus peppery, the balloon, if it had not quite gone up, was at the least visibly straining at its moorings. She gave a quick, placatory smile to D/Supt Ashflow, and turned to Harry and Ron and the boys. (Albus and Scorpius would always be ‘the boys’ to her, and she made no secret of the fact; that Ron and Harry would also always be boys to her, she carefully dissimulated.) Harry in his turn was watching the by-play without seeming to, and noted Kingsley’s staying Nicole Ashflow and taking the errand to himself. He snorted – a habit he had picked up, all unknowing, from the very brief time he’d spent with his late godfather – and muttered something about old Aurors and tricks of the old rage. Hermione did not allow him to indulge the thought.

‘I don’t, of course, know what might have drawn the poor man here,’ said she, ‘but – if he were here for a legitimate purpose, as an archæologist, one might begin to guess. This is not a particularly ancient commercial concern, even by Muggle standards, and it’s certainly not an ancient building, although it’s always been rebuilt in the same way. It’s been destroyed once by flood, once by spells, and once by Fiendfyre. So this fabric is –’

‘The fourth Plinth?’ Harry was dry to the point of aridity. ‘Not terribly artistic.’

Hermione glared at him. ‘– the fabric, as I was saying, is of no great antiquity. This is also not a terribly ancient district of Wizarding London – even by Muggle standards of ancientry. Like its Muggle counterpart, Wizarding London grew in the 18th Century into formerly rural areas –’

‘God knows why,’ said Harry. ‘The less of the bloody place, the better.’

‘Honestly! Not everyone has this rabid hatred of London, Harry, some people quite like it –’

‘The more fool them.’

‘– as I do. And – if you don’t mind a word of advice from a London-loving fool –’

‘All right. Didn’t mean you. Sorry.’

‘– I’d suggest that he might have been interested in whatever was here before, when the area was part of your pastoral, unspoilt fantasy of muck and milkmaids.’

‘Keep your hair on, Hermione,’ said Draco, attempting to soothe things: in which he was thwarted when Ron, regrettably, sniggered at the unfortunate choice of words, earning himself a glare from his lady wife, who also looked rather pointedly at Draco’s hairline, as who should say that he had not managed to keep his.

Any quarrel that might have arisen was throttled by the arrival of Harry’s latest languid exquisite of an ADC – Finch-Fletchley’s nephew, whose name, it was said in the Mess, was, judging from the Old Man’s usual form of address towards him, ‘You’re late, damn it’, which he was only in the sense that ten minutes early is only just On Time – with a number of file jackets in hand. ‘Steady the Buff Jackets,’ said Ron, in a voce that wasn’t altogether sotto. Immediately upon his arrival, Al’s governor also arrived, M, the Chief Unspeakable once more (for the third time of asking), the commonly irrepressible Seamus, seeming for once unaccountably repressed.

‘Ah.’ Harry’s tone was, if anything, drier still: drier, in fact, than a Band of Hope teetotal beano in the midst of a droughty summer. ‘Finners. Be so good as to tell me why, precisely, the late Professor Bramwell Rankshaw-Pyke, PhD – Durham, I think, which seems pointless, as he wasn’t, by his file, a cricketer or a rugger-bugger – now of the Faculty of Archæology or whatever they call it as at Cantab, a perfectly harmless and scholarly Squib, was working for you at some level of which even my second son is ignorant.’

‘Ah, Harry, now –’

‘Seamus.’ Harry’s voice was quiet, icy, and low. ‘I am CMGS. I am a Magical Privy Counsellor. I am, for my sins, a hereditary of the Moot. And I do not give a solitary damn if this bugger’s existence and employment was, until earlier this morning, Most Secret to us, Top Secret in the Muggle classification, NATSEN, AUSCANNZUKUS, and Hermetically Sodding Restricted. I don’t give that selfsame damn if Kingsley comes over and instructs you to keep shtum. I want an answer, I want a full answer, I want it now, and I’ll have it – now. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Ye do, so ye do, me ould Harry –’


The Chief Unspeakable abruptly dropped the stage-Irishman character he irregularly affected. ‘And you’ll have it, you will. But dear God, how is it you know of him, to his CV’s details, and why is it so important that it’s you and the Aurors here and all sorts, all for a dead scholar who did a bit consulting for me?’

Harry looked at his old friend coolly. ‘Because ten minutes before the first word of this man’s death came to MLE and thence to me, I had asked MLE to find him.

‘I had asked MLE to find him because, twelve minutes before the first word of this man’s death came to MLE and thence to me, my Danish counterpart had Flooed me to advise that Rankshaw-Pyke’s wife and children, on holiday in Årsdale in Bornholm, were found slaughtered in their B&B, with the Dark Mark hovering over the scene.

‘At the same time, Justin had received news that HM Ambassador to the Hanse has been taken hostage.

‘The acting Troldmand-Forsvarschefen, Ærke-Auror Jørgen Eigil Bjørnson, is Not Pleased – nor am I. That should do to be going on with.’

A profound silence fell.


To be continued…



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11 comments or Leave a comment
noeon From: noeon Date: January 2nd, 2011 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh dramatic! It always gets dramatic when Harry shows up on the scene.

Love the new ranks in the Gnome Office and the forensic Divinators. Ashflow and Orison? *ponders volcanic supplication* Will they be throwing in Madley, then?

I did have a good laugh at Pyroclastic Cloud.

drier, in fact, than a Band of Hope teetotal beano in the midst of a droughty summer *titters*

And the mystery is marvellously inroduced. \0/
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks, love.

And on we go.
being_here From: being_here Date: January 2nd, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Marvelous drama! And a new story for the new year!

(And the Beggar’s Opera! My violin teacher has been working on that with me for the past month. So many sections in 6/4 *sobs quietly*)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

And that's not a time I care for either.
being_here From: being_here Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you.

Ooooo - what do you play?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


I also am, although long retired as it were, a violinist of sorts, and formerly sang basso in the parish choir.
being_here From: being_here Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ah.

I've always pictured you singing in a choir. Unsure why.

Glad to know you btw. I think you're amazing.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 2nd, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're very kind.

Delighted to know you as well, of course.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 18th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

How kind of you to say so.

Thank you.
pcornelius From: pcornelius Date: April 25th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

I should hope, all things considered, to be forgiven…

…for sniggering at "the erection of the Shaftesbury Monument", & then wondering if it wants a stroke. Not that we should wish good Anteros to let loose — his arrow I mean, although I understand it (considering his posture, either it) was originally aimed at Westminster, which perhaps could use the help.

Edited at 2012-04-25 09:27 pm (UTC)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 27th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

After the last Budget...

... it shd be a kindness.
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