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The fourth plinth: 4a - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The fourth plinth: 4a
Op Sibelius was on.
Den had asked Septimus Rankshaw-Pyke the ultimate question.
‘Who are these buggers and what do they want?’
‘Ostensibly, Colonel? A pureblood, Nordic, neo-pagan, National Socialist revolution.’
‘Odd then,’ had said Teddy, ‘that they include the Finns, and Finnish and Baltic myths.’
‘Yes, yes.’ Den was impatient of theory. ‘Can’t expect brains from this sort of bugger. What do they really want?’
‘The Danelaw. And they claim to have means of getting it. A talisman, a grail, a hallow, that sort of thing. A Sampo, they’ve called it, amongst other, ah, circumlocutory epithets. There seems to be a tapu….
‘The Finns didn’t name the bear without resorting to the same, either.’ Teddy had clearly been attending closely to the conversation whilst he had been studying the runestones in the graveyard. ‘Oddly similar in some ways to Ainu bear-reverence and the iomante, and the Korean creation myth – Ungyŏ, you know –’
‘Lupin. Put a sock in it. Now, young Septimus. The Danelaw?’
‘Planning to invade, are they? Seize territory, brandishing some damned piece of magical tat? Hmph. It was, what, five years ago, wasn’t it, the Revived Order of Assassins wished to make Britain a part of their magical caliphate. Harry had the remains of ’em, metaphorically, on toast points, to his tea. So what in buggery, young man, do this lot think themselves to be accomplishing, and how, hmm?’
Op Sibelius was on.
Den had reported promptly what Septimus Rankshaw-Pyke had related.
Harry was unmoved. ‘They want the Danelaw back? Do they include Essex? Because we may have a deal. Saving your presence, Justin, who’d want fens and marshes, inbred Norfolk dumplings, and Essex Girls wearing bronzer and an inch of slap?’
‘Harry….’ Draco admonished him, and not only because his late wife’s family, the Greengrasses, were East Anglian.
‘Yes, yes, all right, love. I’m feeling bloody-minded, I confess it. I’ll get on with it. Lils.’
‘Same question as Teddy raised. This alleged Sampo – which I suspect to be a MacGuffin, meaningful only to those who, like Mr Sludge the Medium, having fallen for their own nonsense.’
‘Like the Hallows, and marking one’s enemy, and prophecy orbs?’ Ron was grinning, shrewd-eyed as he exchanged a meaningful glance with Nev.
‘Precisely,’ said Harry, not at all perturbed. ‘Finno-Nordic syncretism, Lils? Really?’
‘Manufactured religions and neo-völkisch movements haven’t a monopoly on that sort of thing. Take the Danelaw, if you like. Britons never left: they were Saxonised in the Saxon period, they accepted Danish mores in the Viking age –’
‘Yes, yes, and Cerdic and his lot, when Arthur Imperator, the former dux bellorum et magister militum, was gone and the Aurelii Ambrosii dwindled, led their German federates, the Trusty Lads, the Gewisse, to found Hwicce and Wessex. Your point?’
‘Sacred sites change hands, not character. Artefacts are seized and renamed, not repurposed. Families do their Vicar of Bray turn and hang on – even royal families.’
‘I do know that, Lils. It’s not news to me that the Aurelii Ambrosii intermarried with the Scyldings well before the Viking Age; that Arthur, once adopted as an Aurelian so as to succeed as emperor, intervened in Scandinavian succession disputes to create client states and buffer zones; and that it’s no coincidence that the territory of the Iceni re-emerges as part of the land of the Iclingas. Nor have I forgotten Gibbon’s counterfactual had Martel lost at Tours. You needn’t look at me as if I’m yet a thick schoolboy, Hermione, I do have my Domdaniel MMA in military history.
‘You’re trying to tell me, Lils, that this band of buggers, this hapless few, believe that this ancient and oft burnt-over site holds some magical artefact that, they believe, can grant ’em the sovereignty of the old Danelaw – to Grantham and beyond, and beginning with London and the North Bank of Father Thames. Well, I don’t believe it – although they might do. Perhaps they think that it’s here and not at the White Tower that we keep the Head of Bran the Blessèd, I don’t know. Sod that for a game of Aurors.
‘But that can wait. Luna?’
‘Hmm? Oh. Harry, dear. What was it again you wanted?’
Harry’s patience was by no means great, but he always made time for Luna. Everyone did.
Op Sibelius was on.
‘Uncle Den. Sorry: Colonel. You see all these runestones. From an academic perspective, they’re quite interesting: Christian, pagan, both at once.’
‘From our perspective, however, what’s notable is this. Every last one of them says the same thing, in broad terms. Hann varð dauðr a Ænglandi. Hann varð dauðr a Ænglandi i liði. Ænglandsfari. Fioll uti a Ænglandi. For hæfila hann til Ænglands. Vas farinn til Ænglands. Varð drepinn a Ænglandi. Ændaðis a Ænglandi. Died in England, died in the retinue in England, fared to England, fell afar in England over Sea, travelled well-found – competently, safely – to England; fared, travelled, to England; was killed in England; met his end in England. Reassuring to know we banjoed a few of the sods.’
‘And? You’ve something up your tweedy sleeve, just like your father.’
Teddy grinned, wolfishly. ‘Oh, yes. Pray note the curious layout of the graveyard.’
Op Sibelius was on, whether Kingsley approved or not.
‘Yes? Oh. Of course. This was a … site.’
‘Yes.’ They’d established that, but there was no point in trying to hurry Luna.
‘Dear, people don’t ransack and burn their sacred sites – or, quite often, one another’s, they’d rather seize them and their powers intact.’
‘But this site has been.’
‘Which means ransacking and looting. There’s a school of thought, you know, that holds that the Sampo was a mint; it certainly milled gold as well as salt and meal, in the Kalevala.
‘And I, then,’ said Tony Goldstein, drily, ‘am to be your divining rod for treasure, the Court Jew?’
‘Don’t talk rot, Tony, you know me better than that. I’ve a Lombard already in Blaise, and the Goblin chief. It’s not only your fiscal acumen I want – I could have that from them – it’s your research hobby, jewellery and ancient hoards. I’d want that if you were an Elder of the Kirk and a member of the Gentile Tribe – just as, if I wanted to know the ins and outs of the music halls, I’d have summoned your third cousin.’
Tony smiled. It had been a scandal in its day, when a young Goldstein had left the family and the bank, changed his surname to Bennett, and founded the Sovereign Theatres group. ‘Saturday Night at the London Sovereign’ was even now the high point of many peoples’ weeks (and a turn at the Greenock Sovereign was regarded as a tortuous rite of passage for Dreary Lane artsistes – and as making their Muggle counterparts’ trials by ordeal at the Glasgow Empire look like school outings).
‘You must ask yourself,’ said Tony, ‘what do revolutionaries want?’
‘Power,’ said Ron.
‘Ye-eesss…. And what is the surest means to power? Draco?’
‘Oh, my father knew that … before he lost the plot and started toadying to Old Scaley. Bribery worked wonders. Money is power.’
‘Yes,’ said Harry, crisply. ‘And contrariwise. If you’ve enough of either, you needn’t the other. And one doesn’t kidnap envoys to the Hanse merchants in pursuit of Wizarding treasure unless one means to use it for its value in g.s.k. rather than as some magical weapon or talisman.’
Hermione was all but audibly berating herself for having missed that. It always unsettled her to confront the fact that Harry had matured and grown actually rather clever.
Op Sibelius was on.
‘The layout of the graveyard, Lupin?’
‘Oh, yes, Colonel. It’s laid out in a running rune. And the inner circle of runestones is the same pattern as the, ah, footprint of the Plinth. I make certain of it: the talisman that’s being sought has been incorporated in the very fabric of the Old Plinth.’
Op Sibelius was very much on.
‘All right, then. Seamus? You’ve the files?’
‘Aye, Harry.’
‘Excellent. Buck up. I am beginning to think you’ve not lost a man yet. Albus. Scorpius. You are familiar with the spell? Assist me then, as we cast the Trace.’
Op Sibelius was on.
Colonel Creevey, Teddy, the Aurors, Septimus Rankshaw-Pyke, and the rest of them were comfortably taking tea and awaiting their evening meal in the Arch-Auror’s offices.
‘You think they got all that?’ Den was clearly amused.
‘I do hope so,’ said Teddy. ‘I should hate to have to put up that rubbish all over again.’
Ærke-Auror Bjørnson stared at them. ‘You … they were listening in.’
‘Oh, yes. Naturally.’
‘We might have brought them to us and captured them.’
‘I do apologise, my dear Jørgen. Harry wants this lot on British soil, caught in the act. You Danes haven’t Dødsstraf, capital punishment, any longer, after all.’
‘Ah.’ The Danish Arch-Auror clearly could not decide whether to defend his country’s choices or to envy British Wizardom. ‘Harry shall deal with them, then.’
Teddy’s smile was that of the Wolf complete. ‘Deal with them? He’ll eat them. There’s a reason, now the war’s passing into legend, that Tom Riddle and his Death Eaters are being called, slangily, Lord Vol-au-vent and the Prawns, and the Death Sign mocked as the “Mors-d’œuvre”. Uncle Harry’ll have this lot for breakfast.’
Op Sibelius was on.
‘Ah, thank Christ,’ said Seamus. It was almost a sob.
‘Quite,’ said Harry. ‘Not a man lost – yet. I assume, provisionally, that the victim here, before being Polyjuiced and then murdered whilst in that form, after manner of Mrs Crouch, was Mr Vincent.’
‘Oh!’ Hermione’s hand flew to her open mouth.
‘Why is that? Sir.’ D/Supt Ashflow was undaunted.
‘Possibly because I noted within seven seconds of my arrival that the landlord-and-proprietor wasn’t standing about Assisting – shall we say – MLE with Its Enquiries.’
‘Father. The Trace returns … the others are alive also, and being held. The dead in Bornholm were likewise taken, Polyjuiced, and killed simply to leave a false trail, I suspect.’
‘Plotting them now.’
‘Right. Scorpius, Floo Su and Mils and tell them they’re prodding the wrong corpses. We’ll rescue the Rankshaw-Pykes – tomorrow.’
‘Harry, you cannot leave civilians at risk –’
‘Oh, go to Coventry, Minister.’ Harry had a way of saying ‘Minister’ that rivalled the fashion in which Snape had – and Draco, long ago – said ‘Potter’: as an insult. ‘I’ll be damned if I jeopardise this operation, and I’ll be damned if I want you to teach me my duty towards civilians and diplomats and even Seamus’ bright sparks. Do you have those locations plotted yet, Albus? I want them now, not in the next geologic age.
‘Kreacher! Winky!’
‘Master calls?’
‘Right. I want the best Elves you find – volunteers only, mind – to pop over to the Continent, we’ve people in durance vile. Albus’ll give you the names and locations. Heal ’em, feed ’em, comfort ’em; defend them by all means necessary. You’ll likely see various Weasleys and Scamanders, Viktor Krum and Cousin Dudley and Greg Goyle: you’ll aid them in exfiltrating these Wizards and Witches when time comes. I presume, Grotgrund, there’ll be Goblins assisting? Super.
‘Now. Minerva; Hermione. You’re the best by far at Animated Transfigurations. Come dawn, I want two slovenly “nothing-to-see-’ere-move-along-please” MLE constables on point duty, as our sole apparent presence here. Ron, put up perfunctory wards that shall have degraded by breakfast. For the Transfigurations, I’d suggest two of those extremely rude silver tankards behind the bar, save that I shouldn’t wish two ladies to have to look at the damned things.’
Minerva gave him a long, level look. ‘There’s nae poseetion in the Wizarding Kama Sutra I’ve no’ seen ower years o’ chasing Seventh Years frae the Astronomy To’er, Potter.’
‘And I,’ said Hermione, ‘have made one in house parties where you and Draco, Albie and Scorp, were present, I can’t imagine I can any longer be shocked.’ She frowned at the tankard she’d picked up. ‘Oh, honestly, no one is that flexible.
‘You’ve seen to the safety of the civilians, and Cho. What about your own teams?’
Kingsley spoke to that. ‘They’ll be disguised to the highest bent of our powers to do so, and the countermeasures are a close secret.’
‘Assuming,’ said Harry, coldly, ‘that the Ministry no longer leaks like the proverbial sieve within the meaning of the Act. And if there has been a leak, I’ll want blood, even if the leaker were Ernie in his cups.’ They all smiled, just, at that: Ernie Macmillan, the Cabinet Secretary, should fail to keep a secret when Draco were no longer an Old Slytherin and Harry were a Squib. ‘There shall be heads on pikes, Kingsley, I warn you, in the teeth of any opposition from any ministry of the day and any civil liberties ginger group going.’
Hermione was equally cold in response: that last had been to her address. ‘They’re my family too, Harry, going into danger. So long as they’re tried fairly, anyone who harms them may take what comes to them.’
‘And how are we certain we’ve until morning?’ Ron suspected he might know, but was damned well going to ask.
It was upon this cue that Jamie entered and saluted his father. ‘Sir. Signals reports a violation of the M-Notice.’
‘Thank you. The Weathervane, I take it?’ This was the tabloid and its associated Floo-site created by Romilda Vane and – after her having been sacked what time the Prophet was cleaned up – Rita Skeeter, and could always be relied upon for misinformation and sheer, politicised untruth beyond the capacity even of the Knockturn Star. ‘Excellent, Jamie. Thank you.
‘That’s that, then,’ said Harry, smugly. ‘Next we all ostentatiously depart before coming back without our being noted. And then we wait for the sods.’
He turned to D/Supt Ashflow and DI Orison. ‘You’ve heard all this?’
‘Yes. Sir.’ D/Supt Ashflow was admirably noncommittal.
‘Have you?’
DI Orison was quicker off the mark. ‘To know our roles? Yes. Officially? Not at all.’
Harry’s smile was as wintry as the weather. ‘Good lad. Hope for MLE yet. Obliviations, Unbreakable Vows, and precautionary Muffliatos are always so tedious.’

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4 comments or Leave a comment
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 16th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Good, good...

I feel much better now.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 17th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

How kind.

absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: October 16th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
‘Sacred sites change hands, not character. Artefacts are seized and renamed, not repurposed. Families do their Vicar of Bray turn and hang on – even royal families.’ Insightful!

‘And I, then,’ said Tony Goldstein, drily, ‘am to be your divining rod for treasure, the Court Jew?’

‘Don’t talk rot, Tony, you know me better than that. I’ve a Lombard already in Blaise, and the Goblin chief. It’s not only your fiscal acumen I want – I could have that from them – it’s your research hobby, jewellery and ancient hoards.

You never disappoint!


wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 17th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

It's not true, but it's kindly said.
4 comments or Leave a comment