Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile AT: Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn Previous Previous Next Next
A handsel to ring in the New Year: Fragment from Ch 5, UaDM - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
A handsel to ring in the New Year: Fragment from Ch 5, UaDM

‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”’

– Lines quoted by HM King George 6th, in his Christmas Broadcast of 1939.


The most soured and hopeless, the most foreboding and grim, settlements in these isles – not in England only, but in the Principality as well, and in the Duchy of Cornwall, and in Scotland, and throughout all of Ireland, North and South alike – ward and borough, street and neighbourhood, city, mill town, and village of ominous repute, all differ in detail, and a closer examination still would suggest that they differ in certain fundamental ways.  There exist pockets not only of hopelessness that no programme and no effort seems to ameliorate; there exist districts, houses, council estates, country cottages, and castles, flats and fens, moors and mansions, that exude so powerful a reek of evil that even the most imperceptive of Muggles is daunted, and not even the local authority’s glib tourist brochures can make light of – or a quick quid or two from – the ‘haunting’ Muggles sense there.  Such loci of malice and evil, adumbrations of the Void, Azkabans writ small, are distinguishable from those unfortunate but not unnatural sites and placesthat simply are what their history, and their innate corporate character, their civic spirit and ancestral memory, has made them: these sites of great dread are minatory, petrified as by a basilisk’s glare, set off from the common run of mere natural misfortune, and the stuff of lasting nightmare.


Naturally, a deeper look still – one that Muggles cannot essay – would reveal in these most dread sites, be they certain rooms in a block of flats or entire districts or parishes, one thing, at least, in common: the presence of Dark Wizards.  From the fatal year in which the secrecy regime was established, until – and, ominously after – the Restoration after Tom Riddle’s final defeat and the rebuilding that came in its train, these were those who withdrew from the Wizarding world, not in protest of the harshness of the Statute of Secrecy 1692, but of its leniency.  These were the Dark Wizards who were not willing to remain within – and, indeed, to subvert – their world, but were, rather, those whose hatred and fear of Muggles was so great that they went to ground amongst them in order to prey upon them: the heirs of Cromwell and of Matthew Hopkins, the ‘Witchfinder-General’, the followers in the footsteps of Frances, Countess of Essex and then of Somerset, whose poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury was the least, and least witching, of her manifold crimes.  Most of the Cunning Folk who hid themselves amongst the Muggles during the secrecy regime were the friends of the Muggles, akin in their views to the Weasleys and the Prewetts and most of the Potters (although the Potters were rather patronising of the Muggles, extending condescending aid de haute en bas, than advocates for their sundered non-magical cousins).  But the recurrent incidence of certain Cunning Folk leading witch scares and witch hunts, and sacrificing their Muggle neighbours by labelling them as what they themselves were in fact, leaves no doubt that there was a faction of Dark Wizards hiding in the Muggle world; and where they established themselves, the Dark took hold.


The fundamental fact is this, that the presence of magical folk in a community has strange effects, for ill as for good.  And only Hogsmeade, after all, in all of the Three Kingdoms, is a village that is solely Wizarding.


To say that certain towns, villages, and hamlets absorb a certain, imperceptible (to Muggles) character from the nearby presence or the actual residence of Wizarding folk, is not to say that the Witches or Wizards in question actively employ magic in pursuit of their ends and to influence their neighbours, though many do: the influence derives from their mere presence, however passive.  It is simply a function of magic that it causes ripples in the fabric of the created order of which it is a subtle and fugitive part.  Nonetheless, the Dark Ones who insinuated themselves, like parasites, like Dementors, into the Muggle world, the better to wreak ill upon it, were rarely content merely to corrupt it passively.  They posed as victims of malefic witchcraft rather than as its practitioners, and, so pretending, condemned as witches others who could not work evil magic by their very natures.  Like bigots who secretly fear that they themselves lack the factitious ‘purity’ they espouse, like closeted and conflicted homosexuals who raise a clamour against gay men and Lesbians, they used their innocent neighbours to play out their own psychodramas, to the death.


There are, alas, far too many places, from country house to council estate, that are tinged with the atmosphere of despair and wickedness, of old wrongs and old crimes, of ghosts that cannot be laid and tragedies that will never heal.  Not all places that exude a sense of evil and the loss of hope are twisted so by the past or present influence of hidden Dark wizards and witches: Muggles and Magical Folk alike are at base human, and apt to sin, having in them the Old Adam.  Yet places of great and lingering evil that are rooted not in mere human sinfulness, but in wicked sorcery, do exist, and when they are found, these lurking-places of old evil, the finder may be sure that there is or has been a Dark Wizard about, and responsible.


So it was, for example, at Catspray, near Ninfield, in the Rother District of East Sussex, where the Averys had long held sway: a place at once of open smuggling and of paraded piety, of Puritan leanings and reciprocal persecutions, persecutions egged on by the Averys time out of mind, of which perhaps their proudest accomplishment – achieved by cunning, seduction, Imperio, and Confunduscame in 1652, when they extended their reach all the way to Cranbrook, where, under the very noses of the implacable Crouches, the Muggles Anne Ashby, Ann Martyn, Mary Brown, Mildred Wright, and Ann Wilson were wrongfully convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death at Maidstone assizes.


So it was at Turgidwick, Winchfield (Hants), the ancestral holt of the Rookwoods, at Quillbury Down, Inkpen, Berks, where the Rosiers long practised forbidden arts, at the Wilkes’s ancient stead at Stockwitch, Wednesbury, Staffs, and on Foulness Moor, Gribthorpe, in the East Riding, where the Mulcibers had dug in.  Even the long-abandoned Jugson holdings at Blackwych, between Peopleton and White Ladies Aston, Worcs – for the Jugsons had now dwelt at Braunston-in-Rutland for some generations since being forcibly removed from Worcestershire – retained an air of menace.


In theory, such places were watched closely, monitored and warded, by the Ministry.  In theory.  But it was the Order, now in the aftermath of war as much as during the deceptive peace that tenuously held between Harry’s first defeat of Riddle and his final conquest over him, that kept the only actual and effective watch, not on these sites only, but on all places associated with Riddle’s late followers, even where – as at the Crouches’s Chittenstead, not far from Swattenden, near Cranbrook in the borough of Tunbridge Wells – those followers had risen from families not thitherto known for evil ways.


Until about the time of Albus’s early childhood, Aurors had been largely recruited from Muggle-borns, ‘half-bloods’, and the ‘pureblood’ families that had – and did not pretend not to have, but who, rather, kept up with – Squib and Muggle branches and septs: such as the Weasleys, and the Macmillans, and the Potters, who always maintained a rather amused and perhaps condescending, but nonetheless largely kindly, interest in those of their kin who married out of or left or did not possess sufficient active magic to participate in the Wizarding world.  (Many of these last emigrated and took up their lives in the Low Countries, from whom the Potters d’Indoye in Belgium arose, and the notable painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Pieter Symonsz. Potter and his son, Paulus Potter, a fellow-guildsman in the Delft painters’s guild with the great Vermeer.  The Potters have long displayed an artistic strain, as witness the result of the marriage of Theophilia Potter to the Revd Samuel Reynolds at Monkleigh, Devon, the fourth child and third son of that marriage, born at Plymouth Earls, being the renowned painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds.)  Even the political prejudices of the past century and more, which had so crippled the Aurors, had not been allowed to affect the Unspeakables, who were still in many cases drawn from those who had grown up around – or as – Muggles, which was an obvious advantage to them in their roles.  Kingsley himself, Auror though he had been, was from Bristol, Croaker from Shaldon, in Devon, and even that ass, Dawlish, from Bishopsteignton.  The Boneses, those great captains of the fight, had long lived in Muggle Ilford.  They and those like them well knew that it was not only in ancient refuges of the Dark, away from Muggle eyes, that wickedness grew, wickedness and the seductions of bigotry and of the Dark Arts.  Peter Pettigrew, after all, had come to Hogwarts from the meagreness of Gowkthrapple, Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, and Severus Snape, who had been seduced by the Dark for a time, from a North of England mill town.  The Yaxleys dwelt openly in the Muggle world, at Snailwell, near Soham, Cambs, and Walden McNair was born at and brought up in Stuckgowan.  Meigleholm, Galashiels, in the Borders, had been the holding of the Light family of the Hopkirks since the days of the Founders, but a Muggle family of Galashiels had thrown up a canny lad who’d made his way to Yorkshire and made his fortune and founded what he anticipated would be a dynasty of Radical MPs and local magnates, turning brass into land and honours; only to see the brass and the dreams fail in three generations, and the last son of the name, dubiously born of the family’s heir and a mysterious local slattern, bring all to ruin in two worlds before his own resounding fall, ruining from heav’n.  For the Riddles came of Galashiels in their beginnings.


And so these places were watched and warded, for the sure safety of the world.  It had been wiser to have watched as well such places as Succloin, Arrochar, Argyll and Bute; Grundgrum, Methven, Perth and Kinross; Ringmore, Devon, hard by Croaker’s ancestral Shaldon; and Spellbrook, Bishop’s Stortford, Herts.


‘Well,’ said Luna, distantly as was her wont, ‘I do hope you’ve all sworn off Ogden’s.’

Seamus’s answering ‘Whaaaat?’ was outraged.  But he soon found himself, along with the rest of them, less outraged than shuddering when Luna went on, her voice and manner seemingly unchanged, but somehow ringing with the prophetic force of the seeress, causing their spines to chill and their hackles to bristle: ‘We stand at the gate of the year.  The truth of the past and the lies of the past struggle for mastery in this present, and from their struggle is born what future we shall have.  The darkness surrounds the light, and the light shines in darkness, and the darkness cannot comprehend it.  In the dark, one once signed by the light and marked for goodness falls into blackness, and the son of filth shall seek to vindicate the lies of the past and choke the truth.’

‘Who, precisely, is the “son of filth”, I wonder,’ whispered Draco.

‘I imagine,’ said Harry, grimly, ‘we’ll find out soon enough.’

‘Oh, and Harry,’ said Luna, in the same sibylline tones, ‘your elf will arrive shortly.’

She paused, and blinked, and continued quite casually, ‘Hullo, Dobby, I see you’ve brought Khan.  And a chair.’

They looked about them wildly, and it was only then that Dobby arrived, popping into sight with a four-oven Aga cooker – duly enchanted, of course: it had been a wedding present from Molly and Arthur – and an opulently overstuffed, heavily Victorian armchair.

Dean levelled a hard look at Harry and Draco.  ‘I knew you had the bleedin’ thing, but.  You call your enchanted Aga, “Khan”?’

Draco shrugged, helplessly, tipping his head towards Harry, who simply smiled inscrutably.  ‘He calls the range cooker at
Seelie Court, “Sir Henry”,’ Draco sighed.

Harry shrugged.  ‘Well, it is a Rayburn.  Although it doesn’t paint.  I don’t think.’

Dobby, however, was not interested in Wizarding humour, but rather in his task.  ‘Oh, Harry Potter, sir, and Harry’s Dragon, sir, Dobby is being worried.  Dobby is thinking that the great Khan is the last thing he can bring to sirs from home, the last thing even elf-magic can bring to the Continent.  There is terrible things happening in
England, Harry Potter, sir!’

Draco gestured towards the chair.  ‘The last two things, I think you mean, Dobs – and we’ll get to that in a moment.  But had it not been you who brought it, that thing would be kindling already: I don’t recognise that chair and it certainly isn’t ours.  Dobby: why should I not blast that appallingly tasteless bit of upholstered tat into matchsticks?’

Harry snorted.  ‘Dobby was being precise,’ said he, evenly.  ‘You want to re-read
Alice, love, you can’t distinguish a carpenter from a walrus.’  He looked steadily at the chair, and smiled, faintly.  ‘Khan was the last thing to get out of England.  Not the last person.  Hullo, Horace.  Welcome to the Trentino.’

The chair quivered, shuddered, and transformed itself into the opulently overstuffed, heavily Victorian form of Professor Horace Slughorn, MMA: indeed, and very much at the moment, of the Rt Hon Horace Slughorn OM, WPC, Albion Principal King of Arms, plummy as ever and in full fig.

‘Ah, Harry, m’boy.  Draco.  Hermione, Ron, Blaise, Justin, Dean, Seamus.  Hullo, Luna, my dear; Neville.  Minerva, you look lovely as ever; as do the Graces who attend your train, hullo Tessa, Cissy, Molly.  Arthur, delighted to see you.  Dobby, thank you, I am in your debt.  Ah, young Master Rhys!  And are the children – I see they are, hullo Sirius, Lily, are you –’

Professor Slughorn,’ said Harry, firmly, ‘we can defer call-over to another time.  I cannot imagine how dire the emergency must be to have brought you here, and by stealth.  Whatever it is, it must be urgent, and I suggest we deal with it urgently.’

Horace looked crestfallen.  ‘Quite so, m’boy, quite so, I’m afraid.  Perhaps – if I may be permitted to switch the wireless on?’  He flicked his wand without staying for an answer.

‘“… in effect, a vote of no confidence, or censure motion.  First, the main news in detail.  WWN Overseas Service News, with Barbara Celerant.  In a stunning and entirely unexpected occurrence in the Wizengamot late last night, the Government – in the caretaker’s hands of the Deputy Minister, the “night watchman”, the Rt Hon Percival Weasley – lost what amounts to a vote of confidence.  Specifically, the Government were surprised by a “loss of supply” when the Opposition and numerous backbenchers unexpectedly defeated a supply bill, that is, a money bill, or proposed budgetary and spending legislation.  As a matter of constitutional and parliamentary convention, the Minister is, under these circumstances, generally required either to resign the seals of office, or to request that the Crown dissolve the Moot and call a general election.  However, the circumstances surrounding last night’s late-sitting shocker pose grave questions. 

‘“Firstly, there is the fact that the Minister for Magic, the Rt Hon Neville Longbottom, together with a considerable number of the Magical Privy Council and most of the Government frontbench, are currently abroad – a point to which we shall return.

‘“Secondly, there is the issue of what the Government were defeated upon.  The adjournment of the Moot, so recently recalled after Christmas and New Year’s Day, for the post-New Year’s holidays – a recess – was, of course, imminent.  Accordingly, there was a late sitting – pursuant to an “any hours” motion – to entertain the adjournment motions that are commonly referred to as consolidated fund debates.  Simply put, a Consolidated Fund Bill is the measure – when passed, it becomes the Appropriation Act – that allows the Government to continue spending public funds whilst the Moot has risen and is in recess.  As such, it is a money or supply bill, the loss of which is tantamount to a repudiation of the Government: a vote of no confidence.

‘“Debate in the Moot became contentious over clauses in the bill that provided for policing and security appropriations, and overseas intelligence and diplomatic issues.  Former Chief Auror Gavin Robards, the Opposition MW for Spellbrook, led the attack, asserting that he had learnt that senior members of the Government, including the Minister for Magic, along with numerous other former members of the wartime Order of the Phoenix, had been engaged in “sexing up” the domestic threat from traditionally Dark families, whilst doing nothing to assist the Continental ministries to discover and detain the last remaining Death Eaters.  In what now appears to have been a coordinated, not to say choreographed, attack upon the Government, the member for Arrochar, Argyll & Bute, Mr Cormac McLaggan, MW, rose from the Government backbenches to repudiate the Government and resign the whip, alleging that he had received reliable intelligence that an incident had occurred in the town of Cavalese, in Italy, in which –”’

Harry silenced the wireless, wandlessly.  ‘He then crossed the floor, I suppose, gathering self-righteousness around him like a cloak, and was smugly welcomed by Robards, Rufie Scrimshaw our esteemed former Ministwat, and That Crowd.’

Minerva pinned him with a glare.  ‘It’s as well I’ve the presence of mind aye to cast Muffliato gin the bairns are in the room and the claik turns to politics, Mister Potter.  I but regret me I can no longer dock you the points.’

‘Sorry, Minerva.  You’re right, I just … good God.  Horace.  Clearly, there’s more to this than a political ambush.’

‘Well, I suppose … that is to say … well, not to put too fine a point on it: yes.’

‘It must be dire if you took only twenty words to answer.’

Horace hesitated.  ‘I fear, my dear fellow, that we may, perhaps, be upon the verge of … well … a Very British Coup.’

Tags: , , ,

4 comments or Leave a comment
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: January 2nd, 2007 10:56 am (UTC) (Link)
'In the dark, one once signed by the light and marked for goodness falls into blackness, and the son of filth shall seek to vindicate the lies of the past and choke the truth.’

*cackles*. Lovely; machinations, a War on Trrr, a squeaking Malfoy and an upholstered Horace.

I was up this morning at 6.30; there was a gorgeous almost-full moon, and instead of my thoughts for the last twenty years or so (of my grandmother, who was obsessed by moon phases to the extent of writing to calendar/diary printers to correct their mistakes); I wondered how miserable the winters are for arthritic werewolves. And then I remembered - they don't exist.

Happy New Year!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 9th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Don't exist?

Ha. I defy that Whiggish rationalism, that levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind that never looked out of the eye of a saint or out of drunkard's eye....

Thanks, love. Sorry I'm so appllingly late in replying. I don't deserve my fans.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: January 9th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

A Very British Coup

Lovely - I have just found this, and it cheered me greatly, particularly Draco's reaction to Horace's version of deep cover (or should that be upholstery?)

The Gala origins of the Riddles which you posit remind me of the fact that I do know a Tom Riddle, though only slightly. Poor soul - he's a minister; it must be rather a handicap when dealing with schoolchildren.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 9th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, my dear.

And now I'm wondering if the Grangers knew Ken Cranston....

Thank you, as ever.
4 comments or Leave a comment