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A Chapter 5 Fragment - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
A Chapter 5 Fragment

‘My … predecessor … was wont to give a set speech to his First Years.  He claimed to be able to “teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death”.  I shan’t do, I haven’t the thespian talents to bring it off.  I will tell you only this – and it is the same thing I will tell any Head of House who believes that my academic discipline is amenable to the slipshod, or that my disciplinary measures are over-harsh – a mistake, a prank, an idiocy, or an act of childishness in Charms requires only reversal.  A folly, a lack of preparation, or simple stupidity in Transfiguration may lead to a painful result.  Inattention or misbehaviour in most of your lessons can be risky, but is reversible.  In my lessons, perhaps even more than in Care of Magical Creatures or Defence Against the Dark Arts, the slightest foolery or the slightest deviation from what I expect could result in your death and the deaths of those around you, too swiftly for any attempts at aid to matter.  In other words, if you act the goat or fail to follow instructions in this class, people die.


‘I therefore expect and will assure by all means in my power, including the harshest available disciplinary measures, that you will conduct yourselves properly in my Potions lessons.  Or may God Almighty have mercy upon your souls.’


Wiltshire, possessing the oldest County Constabulary in England – the first to organise under the County Police Act 1839 – rejoiced also, in these times, in a Chief Constable who could properly be addressed as ‘Colonel’. 


This was not the result of some unlikely throwback to the old way of appointing CCs.  Colonel Gunstone was indeed an eminently qualified copper, not a gentleman appointed to learn the job on the job.  Wiltshire takes its policing seriously, as evidenced by the intensive interest successive Lords Lieutenant have taken in the bench of magistrates and by their seeing that the Police Authority at all times had a Deputy Lieutenant on it, or was at the least quite close to the ear of one.  However, Wiltshire also, of course, houses a goodly portion of the defence establishment, which was why and how Colonel Gunstone, late Royal Military Police, had become, after a brief retirement, the – utterly civilian, wholly mufti-clad, resolutely un-regimental – Chief Constable for the county force.


Unlike the Brigadier, Colonel Gunstone, qua Chief Constable, did not care for or approve of Harry and Draco.  He would grant that they had done a bang-up job of reconciling Lady P to DI Maidment’s appointment.  He applauded whatever it was that they had done to gain the OMs that they never referred to and the record of which was so curiously elusive (there was, of course, no question but that they had merited appointment, and been duly appointed OM: they weren’t playing that form of fraudulent game, the Brigadier had seen official correspondence so denominating them, and they were thus addressed on letters from the MoD to Colonel Gunstone’s personal knowledge.  The Chief Constable’s distaste for the two was not based upon a suspicion that they were impostors of some sort: on the contrary).  He was willing to accept that they had almost certainly given some useful advice to the lads – wholly off the books, of course, no names, no pack drill – on various local villains and their doings.


But Colonel Gunstone was very much aware that the two were indeed the ludicrously youthful recipients of dignities, honours, and awards for services that were carefully not specified.  And that meant that they were of a breed that neither soldier nor policeman – and the Chief Constable was, of course, both at once – at all cared for.  They were spooks.  Ghosts.  Int Corps, MI, God and the Crown alone knew what, it didn’t matter.  They were Those Buggers.  And Colonel Gunstone, unlike Maidment, unlike the Brigadier, was not willing to allow his judicious approbation of their personal merits and qualities to overcome his adamant refusal to allow That Sort, spooks and spymasters, to have any hand in how his manor was run.  It was not in his power, nor, really, was it his desire, to keep them, say, off of the bench; but the suggestion, casually dropped from On High, that it might be rather nice to have one or the other take up the next billet to fall open on the Police Authority, was Not On, not if he could help.


That languid, drawling sod, Malfoy, had been as unenthused as had been the Chief Constable: he had smiled politely upon the Deputy Lieutenant who had insinuated the hint of the outline of the broaching of the possibility at a dinner where they’d all been thrown together, and murmured that he was already on too many commissions and committees, and had just taken up one that would simply devour his time….  Colonel Gunstone had been equally amused and affronted when it emerged, thereafter, that the more important and time-consuming duty to which Malfoy had alluded, was his becoming chairman of the Wine Committee at one of his clubs.


And that left young Potter as the threat.


‘– And let Death Eaters and werewolves into the school!  Bill might have died!  I mean, werewolves –


Remus rose to his feet as the Order members, now including Ron and Hermione as well as Harry, fell silent, not that Harry had joined in the uproar.


‘Yes.  Because we all know that all werewolves are naturally quite like Greyback.  And we all know that no Gryffindor ever became a traitorous rat.  And we all know that all Slytherins are inherently evil.  And we all know that all Purebloods are Dark.  And we all know that all children are mere clones of their parents, right down to their politics – and in their capacity, or lack of capacity, to reform, their ability to achieve redemption.  And we all know that these sort of traits – and taints – are in the blood, do we not, and that free will does not exist.  That is what you were saying, I believe, Miss Granger?  Weasley Minimus and Weasley Minima?  Mr Moody, Mr Shacklebolt, Mrs Weasley?  Here, in Sirius’s very house, in Albus’s own Order, in Harry’s hearing?


‘It was not for Snape’s sake, for example, that Albus extended him his trust, but for Albus’s own.  And if, as it appears, he was betrayed, that in no way changes the moral calculus.  For the first time since his death, I am glad that Albus is not here to see this.  For the first time since the cock-up at Department of Mysteries, I am glad that Sirius is not here to listen to this.  For the first time since that appalling All Hallows’s Eve, I am glad that James and Lily are not present to experience this: that Albus’s selected Order, meeting in Sirius’s old house, baying at Harry like a pack, would have made such perfect Death Eaters.


‘If you don’t mind, I am leaving now.’


‘No,’ said Harry, in the silence.  ‘If you go, you will not go alone.  But I see no reason either of us want to leave: this is my house, and you, Remus, have a life estate in an interest in it.  Our guests will be departing now.  The Order of the Phoenix is dissol- –’


‘WAIT!  Harry!’


‘Neville –’


‘No, it’s just that I’m with you and Professor Lupin.’


‘I think we can find you a toothbrush, then, if you’re stopping here.’


‘Harry,’ said Kingsley, hesitantly, ‘we….  Oh, sod it.  If –’


‘You – you really think that we’re as bad as, as, as the Death Eaters?’  Even Ron interrupted Kingsley but rarely, but the horror of what Remus had accused them of was too great for him to refrain.


‘Potentially,’ said Remus, coolly, even as Harry replied, ‘In your prejudices?  Too right, mate,’ with no small distaste.


‘Heedzamarley!  And would you dissolve the Order, then, boy, over th’ wee Ferret – oh, o’ course, f’r your principles, then, would ye?  Ask me bollocks!’


‘For our principles, yes,’ said Lupin.  His voice was steely.  ‘And for Albus’s word and promise that Harry now must redeem in his stead.’


Hermione didn’t so much as pause to barrack Moody for his language.  ‘But – but, let aside that he’s been so awful, to dissolve the Order over anyone, you can’t!  Harry!  Professor!  That would lose the war!’


‘And if we act in this way, Hermione?  Would we really win?  Would it be worth winning?’


‘And you, Mr Potter?’


Harry smiled.  ‘Oh, I can’t imagine ever contemplating serving on the police authority.  I quite like and admire our peelers and wish the work well, but I can’t see myself overseeing it.’


The Chief Constable chose to nail Potter down.  If the Deputy Lieutenant, disappointed of recruiting Malfoy, was so foolish as to turn immediately to Potter, and Potter were in a demurring mood, it was all to the good to get him committed to staying out of police business.  A good man, Potter, no doubt, and deserving, no doubt, but, as Colonel Gunstone may have observed before, he’d be damned if any retired Funnies were getting their fingers in his police pie.  ‘Why not, then?’


‘HARRY!  If you just throw all of this away, if you decide the war’s not worth winning – HARRY, PEOPLE WILL DIE!  MY PARENTS, RON’S FAMILY, DON’T YOU SEE WHAT’S AT STAKE?’


‘Why, yes, Hermione, I do.  Even without being screamed at by a harpy.  Do YOU?  If you do, as you claim, then you should all of you be mature enough to put aside your problems with Malfoy for at least so long as it takes to win the FUCKING war.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?’


Remus interrupted, still icy.  ‘You lot have five minutes to decide whether or not the end and objective of defeating Riddle and his followers is more important than your prejudices.  Harry and I – Nev, you come along, if you like – have something to attend to before we decide whether or not you stay on and whether or not we dispense with your services in Harry’s task.  For my part, I strongly suggest you think damned carefully about your own … principles.’


Colonel Gunstone had been a redcap, not an ALS lawyer (although, had he been, he should have been right at home: Trenchard Lines, Upavon).  He might yet make an excellent Chief Constable for the County, if ever he learnt the advocate’s trick of not asking questions that he didn’t know the answer to – and that could, if answered in the ‘wrong’ way, blow up in his face.


Still, the question had been asked, and asked at table, at a dinner graced by the presence of half the current police authority, a brace of Deputy Lieutenants, and various worthies. 


‘Why not, then, Mr Potter?  You’ll not consider participating.  Why not?’  Colonel Gunstone was determined to coax Potter into ruling himself right out – permanently. 


‘Oh, I suppose I haven’t the necessary intellectual dishonesty.’


There was a great stillness.  When the Chief Constable broke it, it was in tones that could be described only as Icelandic: glacial, but with a volcano imminently to erupt explosively beneath and through the ice.  ‘Are you suggesting that the officers and men of my force are corrupt, Potter?’


‘Not at all.  I’m asserting that they are honest men – and women, nowadays, of course – engaged in important work, but work that can become intellectually dishonest.  Look, the object of a police investigation is, in theory, to determine the facts.  In practise, it’s to create a sustainable prosecution that can be handed off to the Crown’s lawyers to bring or not bring.  As such, it’s not enough to hand up the sums: the steps, the calculations, are wanted.  Therefore, the police are required to plod.  I admire, applaud, and appreciate routine.  However – the routine of plod, the necessity of making cases, tends over time to mean that truth, as such, ceases to be kept sight of.  Instead, routine becomes its own end, and once a plausible case is constructed against, oh, anyone, the investigation ends.  It’s a very blunt instrument for seeking actual truth or finding the actual guilty party – although I’ll admit that what I’ve, er, seen and heard of intelligence work is equally removed from philosophical epistemology and the Search for Ultimate Truth.’


The elderly gentleman who was sat to the left of Geoff Sloper – Mr Sloper being, the Chief Constable recalled, the Head Teacher at the village C of E voluntary-aided school, and churchwarden, and quite a Big Pot locally, as well as being, as only Harry and Draco there were aware, Old Gryffindor Jack Sloper’s Muggle uncle – the elderly gentleman beside Mr Sloper chuckled, dryly.  ‘Quite right, young man.  Quite right.’


Colonel Gunstone looked coldly in the old bugger’s direction, but was silent as Mr Sloper made the introduction.  The old bugger, it transpired, was Mr Sloper’s uncle in turn, and namesake, and indeed predecessor: Geoffrey Shergold-Furnell, late Headmaster of what was now the selfsame village C of E voluntary-aided school of Geoff Sloper’s cure.


‘Quite right,’ said Mr Shergold-Furnell again.  The Brigadier, who had been watching keenly the polite duel between Harry and the Chief Constable, grinned.


‘Well,’ said the Brigadier, ‘you’d know, sir.’


Old Mr Shergold-Furnell chuckled: a dry rasp, as of leaves on gravel.  ‘Curious how a sound grounding in the grand old fortifying Classical curriculum affects one’s after life.  I never could get that across to you, Heskith-Wentworth, of course, even with the cane.’


‘In fact,’ said the Brigadier, ‘your MA led to your MC.  When I was boy,’ he went on, turning to the others at table, ‘we’d any number of names for our esteemed headmaster, but what we didn’t realise – rumours notwithstanding – was that, in the Hitler War and then after, in the Cold War’s icier early phases, he’d been a spymaster rather than a schoolmaster.  And, as that MC attests, rather more than a spymaster, in the sense of the traditional spider at the centre of the web: he was at the sharp end.  Long before he was “Old-Fleece”-the-Headmaster, MA Oxon, he was Major Shergold-Furnell, MC.  I think you and young Harry, sir, might have a good deal to talk over.’


‘So our young Jack tells me,’ said the aged scholar, with a meaningful grin.  ‘Potter and Malfoy both, in fact.  At least, Gunstone, though you mayn’t like the way it fell out, you can rest easy, knowing that the Funnies won’t and don’t wish to interfere on your patch, eh?’


‘Quite,’ said the Chief Constable, curtly, implicitly admitting the charge.  Harry and Draco, for their parts, were speculating as to what extent the ageing beak might be a Legilimens.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
woman_ironing From: woman_ironing Date: November 19th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

at one o'clock in the morning

wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 21st, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks, love.

I hope it still holds up as such in the cold light of day....
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: November 20th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Great stuff!!

Ooh, goody, another fragment.

When are you going to stop teasing us and give us a whole chapter?

wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 21st, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, thanks.

When are you going to stop teasing us and give us a whole chapter?

Just a wild guess, but ... I'm thinking it will be, oh, after the Ashes.
4 comments or Leave a comment