Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Harry Potter and the Aftermath

My Dinner With Wizards (and a Witch)

by RyanJenkins 0 reviews

Ryan, Jamie, Ron, and Hermione enjoy a sumptuous dinner at Claridge's Wizarding, and learn about each other. Then it's time to get ready for action.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: G - Genres: Humor - Characters: Bill Weasley,Harry,Hermione,Ron - Published: 2016-07-25 - 4177 words - Complete



Dinner – I mean, supper – at Claridge's Wizarding was excellent, and turned out to be a very efficient use of our time. We learned a lot. Hermione was wide-eyed at first, as we took in the magnificent lobby, but Ron's attempts to play the jaded aristocrat, to whom all this splendor was the merest routine, were so preposterous that she started giggling, and we all busted up laughing. I asked for a private dining room, which was (I think) simply conjured up on the spot – certainly the door to it was. It was a beautifully paneled little room, with inlay work all around, just the right size for a table with four very comfortable leather chairs. The table service was gold and crystal, on a pale purple tablecloth, and a golden chandelier with about fifty candles lit the room beautifully, but without heat or smoke.

We ordered from menus made of stiff golden cloth, embossed with purple lettering. After pouring wine for Hermione, apple juice for Jamie, and butterbeer for Ron and me, the waiter withdrew, and I pulled out my wand. “Let me just make sure we're completely private here...” I flicked the wand at each of us, drew an imaginary line around the borders of the room, and pronounced, “Sermo phono inconditus!”

“What's that?” Hermione immediately wanted to know.

“It's a security jinx I learned in Auror training,” I explained. “Anything we say now will be incomprehensible to anyone outside this room, or to anyone listening to our conversation via some device, whether magical or Muggle. It will sound like speech, but will have no meaning.”

“Cool!” said Ron, “then it'd block Extensible Ears, too?”

“It certainly should,” I answered, “although I haven't actually tested it.” Hermione wanted to know how to do it, so I taught them. “When the waiter comes in, he'll be within the perimeter, so we'll sound normal to him. In a crowded room, though, you can make the perimeter really small, just big enough for two heads.”

“This is excellent,” approved Hermione, “better than a Muffliato Charm, really, because that makes a buzz in your ears, and anybody familiar with it will know somebody's hiding something. With this, they can't be sure. We haven't heard of it before. Of course we haven't had Auror training, not formally. I'm sure Harry doesn't know – you really must teach it to him.” I promised to do so, and then she added, “And if you're ever worried about lip-readers, I know a charm for that.” Pulling out her wand, she pointed it at her lips and said ''Labiae Confundum!” And sure enough, her mouth movements then had apparently no relationship to her speech. We had to explain lip-readers to Ron (“No, really? Weird!”), but she taught us the charm in a few minutes. Then the door opened, and food began to arrive.

For awhile we were entirely attentive to the wonderful turtle soup and our various entrees, but the conversation soon came back and turned to Harry and Hogwarts. Jamie and I heard a good many new details about life at Hogwarts, and especially about Cornelius Fudge's disastrous attempt to suppress the news of Voldemort's return, and the incredibly nasty, sadistic Witch he'd sent to control the School, Dolores Umbridge, who had actually been given the title of “High Inquisitor!”

“Kind of reminds me of what happened to us in 1776,” I said mischievously.

“What – that's when your top Wizard, Franklin, gave up on us and went home, and you lot started a war against us, and decided to go off on your own, isn't it?” Ron asked.

“Yes, of course,” said Hermione, a little coolly. “Just what do you mean, exactly?”

“Well, I got American History twice, once in Muggle School and again at I-WU, so I got a handle on the subject from both points of view. Back in 1776, almost nobody in America, Muggles or Wizards, even Ben Franklin, really had any big problem with being British, or with the British people, or poor old King George the Third, for that matter, either.”
“What d'you mean, poor old?” Ron was indignant, but Hermione calmed him down. “No, Ron, he's right, George Third was the one who kept going mad every so often; they'd find him talking to his rosebushes or something. Very sad, actually.”

“My point was simply that there were certain people in the British Government at the time whose decisions – however good their intentions might have been – whose policies were...well, pretty hard to take, on the receiving end. Seems to me that people at Hogwarts were also driven to rebellion by a load of official crap dumped on their heads.”

“Oh – I see what you mean.” Hermione smiled at me, then grimaced and shook her head. “Dolores...” She started to say something and visibly shut herself up. “Umbridge! And all her so-called 'Educational Decrees!' The word 'crap' is a very diplomatic way of describing them. I've never thought of it that way, but in the sense you mention, I think you're quite right.” She smiled impishly. “And we had a Declaration of Independence at Hogwarts, too!”

“Oh yeah – Fred and George!” Ron exclaimed joyfully, and then repeated, in a different tone of voice, “Fred and George...”

“We all seem to have had some difficulties declaring our independence from each other,” said Jamie, diverting Ron's attention with his usual perceptive quickness. Ron and Hermione were looking at each other; they didn't see when I pointed a finger at him, and inclined my head with a wry expression. He gave me a tiny nod and continued, “but don't leave us in suspense! What did Fred and George do?”

Harry had mentioned this incident with great admiration, but hearing it from Ron was a treat. He was hilarious, bursting with pride at his brothers' derring-do. They had declared outright war on High Inquisitor Umbridge one afternoon (to give Harry a chance to sneak into her office, Hermione put in) and caused chaos school-wide. They may well have had some fellow-travelers, once the fun started, because the number of things they were blamed for – or rather, credited with – is too many for even a pair of twins. Various (deserving, for the most part) people were covered with stinksap, pyrotechnics erupted everywhere, the corridor in front of Umbridge's office turned into a swamp, and they led her on a merry chase, along with some students she had recuited as her “Inqusitorial Squad.”

“Brown-nosing little bastards,” I hadn't thought I was muttering aloud, and was embarrassed when Hermione asked what that meant. Jamie was vastly amused. All I could say was, “Well, uhhh...think of it this way. If you kiss somebody's butt hard enough, what color do you think your nose is gonna be?”

Hermione dissolved into laughter, followed by Ron, after a moment when he looked like he thought he should start blushing. He wiped his eyes, and finished the tale. “And when they finally got cornered, with everybody watching, Umbridge announced she was going to have Filch flog them.”

“Argus Filch, he's caretaker at Hogwarts,” supplemented Hermione.

“And they didn't turn a hair, cool as icebergs both of them, and just said, 'Don't think so, time to go out and try ourselves in the wider world,' or something like that. Did I tell you that Umbridge had chained their brooms to the wall? Well, she had, but their summoning charm was strong enough to tear the chains out by the roots, and they got on their brooms and flew off.”

A summoning charm strong enough to tear iron out of stone got my respect, and Jamie's; I saw his eyes widen. But Ron wasn't finished yet. “It's sort of a legend at Hogwarts, I guess, and you'll hear people say they dive-bombed Umbridge with dung bombs on their way out and things like that, but they didn't, really. But as they left, they did tell Peeves – he was there, he's the school poltergeist – to give 'er hell from them, and he actually saluted as they flew away!”

“They gave orders to a poltergeist?” Jamie was deeply impressed.

“And he obeyed them faithfully,” chortled Ron. “I mean, how would you like to have a poltergeist following you around everywhere, making loud farting noises every time you tried to speak?” Jamie and I cracked up simultaneously, and Ron watched us with a huge grin.

The twins' spectacular exit had proved the signal for a general student revolt, taking the form of a sort of guerrilla war of pranks, disruptions, and magical booby traps. The members of the “Inquisitorial Squad” kept being carted up to the Infirmary with embarrassing magical maladies, and both Jamie and I were awed by the sheer imaginative scope, as well as the effectiveness, of the “Skiving Snackboxes” created by the Weasley twins. Even the teachers went out of their way to avoid helping Umbridge, and got lots of practice “turning a blind eye” to things. She had actually forbidden the teaching of any effective Defense Against The Dark Arts, and students had banded together to learn on their own.

In between bites of prime rib (done to melt-in-your-mouth perfection), I remarked “You know, when Harry was telling me about Dumbledore's Army, he mostly talked about how everybody pitched in and worked hard, and how much people improved once they had a chance to do practical exercises. Especially Neville, he went on at some length about how much Neville improved.”

“That's true,” Hermione agreed, and Ron nodded vigorously, his mouth full of wild duck, roasted with shallots and tarragon. She went on, “Neville was always so clumsy and forgetful – I mean we always liked him, he's such a good person really, but sometimes it seemed as if he just couldn't get anything right – until Harry started teaching us.”

“Harry didn't say very much about his own part in things, other than he tried to help people.”

“He wouldn't,” said Ron, swallowing the last bite with a blissful look on his face. “This duck is amazing, brilliant suggestion, Hermione.” She smiled at him as he took a healthy slug of butterbeer. “He's not one to put himself forward, Harry. But honestly, without him it would never have happened. He'd faced Voldemort, beat him more than once, and it was him telling us lot that we could do it that made us think we could.”

“Yes it was.” It was Hermione's turn to nod emphatically. “Harry turned out to be a wonderful teacher, he really did, and we all discovered that we could do a lot more than we'd thought we could, once we had the confidence to try. Neville's self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds during those lessons, and it's never left him. He's stopped being clumsy.”

“Yeah, he has. Well, mostly, anyhow. Remember when we first met him, he told us his family was afraid he'd turn out a Squib?”

“That's right, he did!” Hermione tossed her head wistfully. “I'd forgotten. He was afraid he wouldn't be much of a Wizard, but he's turned out to be a very powerful one.”

“Yeah, he was pretty pathetic that first year, wasn't he? And now he fights like a lion. Remember how he took off old Nagini's head? Whack!” Ron recalled Neville's use of the Sword of Gryffindor with a grand gesture, which sent his butterbeer mug flying against the wall, where it shattered. That brought our waiter in (the privacy charm didn't do anything to impede the sound of breaking glass) who cleaned up the mess with efficient aplomb as Ron went pink in the face and said “Sorry about that!” while the rest of us tried not to grin.

By this time, Hermione had finished her souffle, Jamie had polished off his genuine, perfectly poached Dover Sole (“Never had fish quite like this. Delicious!”), and my plate was down to a few small puddles of au jus. “What's for pudding?” Ron asked the waiter, who flicked his wand and caused small golden cards to appear in front of each of us.

“Look at this,” I said, “you offer Baked Alaska?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the waiter, “it's something of a specialty of the house.”

“May I suggest we share it, as an American treat?” Ron and Hermione looked at each other and then at me; it was plain that they didn't know the dish. But they quickly nodded, and Jamie gave me a thumb's-up. The waiter returned in about two minutes, with an assistant pushing a golden cart, upon which lay a large lump of Neapolitan ice cream on a salver, a freshly-baked spongecake, and a bowl of meringue. He nodded at the assistant, who waved his wand, and the spongecake divided itself neatly into irregularly shaped pieces, which fitted themselves over the ice cream like a jigsaw puzzle, and fused into a solid mass. Another wand gesture caused the meringue to coat the outside, building itself up into a particular shape.

“Denali!” said Jamie in surprise.

“A precise replica of Mount McKinley,” announced the waiter with pride, “in Alaska – the tallest mountain in North America.” The assistant stepped back, and the waiter poised his wand with an imperious gesture. He paused for effect – and got it; we held our breath.

Dulcis Incendio!”

Music began, an intricate orchestral fanfare, building up with one cadenza after another, each more elaborate and ecstatic than the last.

Flames – tiny, separate, dancing flames – erupted from the tip of his wand and began to multiply and change and dance across the surface of the meringue. Literally dance, because they had become scores of tiny dancers with legs and arms moving in an exquisite choreography, swooping and spiraling and forming ever-melding patterns across the whole surface of “Mount McKinley,” (or rather Denali, its Inuit name) perfectly in synch with the music.

Mist began to form around the base, which thickened into miniature clouds, swirling and settling into place just as the fanfare came to its climax, and the dancing flames joined themselves into one foot-long flame over the mountain's summit. This flame bowed towards us, then twirled, spun like a drill, elongated, and launched itself to the ceiling in a golden fireworks display as the music ended. The Baked Alaska stood complete, rising from the clouds, toasty golden brown at the base and shading most realistically toward the pure white of snow on the peak.

We burst into applause.

This time, dawn came at 2 a.m., as arranged, but it looked just the same, except that when I peered out the window the sunlight was apparently streaming in through, the stars were out. After a quick shower and a couple of mugs of that lovely coffee, I was nearly awake when I met Jamie in the lobby and we took the floo network to the Ministry. In the Atrium, we found Harry and Elliott waiting for us.

“Well, we managed to get about six hours' sacktime,” Jamie said cheerfully. “How'd you do?”

“Pretty well.” Harry's reassuring tone was undermined somewhat by the yawn he was trying to stifle. Elliott looked more alert; he had gone home as usual, while Harry had stayed and “kipped” (another Britishism, meaning crashed, sacked out, or grabbed some shut-eye) on the couch in his office. I saw him shoot Elliott a grateful look, and suspected that he had been only just now woken by the pony-tailed Auror. It was hard to tell, though, because Harry's hair always looks like he just climbed out of bed. Jamie was looking resigned, and Harry was saying something about wishing for a cup of coffee, when green flame burst from the next fireplace over and Bill Weasley emerged, brushing at his robes.

“Good morning all,” he said with a cheerfulness to match Jamie's. “I understand there's a chance I might be able to earn my keep today – a little birdie told me.”

“Thanks for coming, Bill,” said Harry at once, blinking several times and straightening up a bit. “On such short notice. Sorry I didn't get the owl off earlier. We don't really know quite what we're going to find, and I reckon...” He broke off as green flame erupted once again on the other side, and out stepped Ron – and Hermione.

Harry was clearly surprised, as he said, “Hi Ron...Hermione! Er...I didn't – you didn't...”

“Hi Harry,” she said cheerfully, ignoring his confusion. “Your owl came when we got back to the Burrow, and I didn't want to send another message and wake you up...” she gave him a pointed look, as he was stifling another yawn, “ I thought I'd just come along. Here, I brought coffee...” Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a thermos bottle that looked too big to fit inside, and followed it with six assorted china mugs which, taken together, were definitely too big to fit inside the small cloth handbag.

The lobby was deserted at this hour, except for a sleepy wizard at the gate, down at the other end, so we discussed our plans in low voices as we absorbed Hermione's coffee. (It wasn't bad at all, really, although I thought it had a slight flavor of Listerine. I hoped it was Listerine.) The expedition was my responsibility, but I made it clear that Harry was in charge.

“The United States Embassy is legally American soil, Harry, but this isn't. Or at any rate, I can't prove that it is. Your people haven't found any official acknowledgment of extra-legal status in the Ministry files; I Wemailed the Secretary last night, and he confirmed that they have still not found any records of this place in the Department files.”

“That's odd,” said Harry, “they made the move with official permission, didn't they?”

“Oh yes, there's correspondence in the files about the need to move, and Parboil was fully authorized to do it. But there's no record of the usual diplomatic courtesy correspondence about the status of the property. And here's the oddest part: after the move was made, the actual location doesn't appear anywhere in Department of Magic records. I would have been here sooner if it had. Blackstone was so intrigued by this that he had massive searches made in all related files for any information about the Liaison Office in London. There was almost nothing. They found the address – nothing more – in a scribbled note in Parboil's handwriting. It was written on the back of something, if I remember right; anyhow, Blackstone thought somebody had cleaned out the files; the only thing we found was apparently overlooked.”

“Apparently.” Hermione was skeptical.

“Right,” I agreed. “That's why we're here this morning. Only one way to find out. We do, though, have a definite indication of something magical at this location.”

“You think it's hidden like Grimmauld Place?” Ron asked.

“Well, yeah, that's sort of what it looks like,” Harry replied, “A magically hidden, unplottable building and a Fidelius Charm. But if that's what it is, then we shouldn't be able to get inside.”

“Yeah, right – none of us is Secret-Keeper.” Ron shook his head. “Ryan, any idea who the Secret-Keeper would have been?”

“Not one that's likely to help any. The only other information I have comes from a single record, dated last year, found in the Accounting department. Again, it might have been overlooked. But it did give the names of three Wizards assigned to the Office: Palindrome Cutpurse Joey was listed as Comptroller – he's the one who cleaned out the vault at Gringotts – on April sixth, by the way – well before the Battle of Hogwarts.”

“That's interesting.” Bill's thoughtful comment spoke what everyone was thinking.

“Damocles Wright was Deputy Liaison Officer, and the Liaison Officer In Charge was Bangarulingam Fangboner.”

“You're making that up.” Ron pointed a finger at me.

“No, Ron,” said Jamie, “Ryan knows perfectly well that if I thought he was, he'd be hanging in the air upside down at this very moment. A name like that! I mean – anyway, it's real, the Secretary told me too. Fangboner was Parboil's assistant for years until he got sent here, and the Secretary said he was known in the Department by several nicknames, of which 'Bangfang' is the only one suitable for a family audience.”

“So to answer your question, Ron, the Secret Keeper could be any one of those three, but it doesn't have to be. It could have been old Slimy, in which case we're out of luck.” I shook my head. “Harry, after this much time, I'd be amazed if you found any of those guys. They could have had TAPKeys and come back to the US, or gone almost anywhere, and anyhow it's entirely possible that they came down with a bad case of dead when Voldemort went. But anything you could turn up would be a big help.”

“Right. We'll have a look,” promised Harry, “but I reckon you're probably right.”

“But that doesn't get us any closer to getting into the building,” Hermione pointed out.

“There may be a way,” said Jamie. “Because Harry's place does not register on the Snifffer, but this place does. We don't know why – yet.”

“That is strange!” Hermione 's brow creased.

“If an unauthorized person should get into the place, they'd become a Secret-Keeper, wouldn't they? And then they could tell anyone, I think,” said Elliott.

“I'm not so sure,” answered Hermione. “I looked up Fidelius Charms in Spells To Keep Secrets And Spells To Find Them Out...” Behind her, Ron rolled his eyes. “...and it didn't mention unauthorized people. I do remember that if a Primary Secret Keeper dies, any Secondary Secret Keepers will all become new Primaries.”

“Yeah, but what happens if all the Secret Keepers cop it, and there's nobody left alive who remembers?”

Ron's question stopped us – we all looked around, and it was obvious nobody knew. “If somebody did find it, they wouldn't be bound by the Fidelius Charm.” Hermione said. “That's why we abandoned Grimmauld Place last year, the risk of that I mean.”

“That was after one of the Death Eaters spotted us on the doorstep – but an abandoned location isn't very likely to be found if it's unplottable and hidden,” pointed out Harry.

Elliott said in an awed voice, “Does this mean that there may be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of forgotten hidden places all over Britain?” The idea made everyone blink.

“There may be ways of finding such places.” That made everyone look at Jamie, and he smiled. “The Navaho people have great skill in concealment magic. All of their Wizards and Witches have some secret place, it's traditional, and my Navaho friend in Virginia told me of a method they use for just this purpose, when one of them dies without leaving a Secret Keeper. I think their magic works the same way as the Fidelius Charm, or close enough, that it may work here. I am prepared to try, if it will help.”

“Thanks, Jamie!” Harry nodded at him gratefully. “It's very likely you'll get your chance. Now. Here's how we'll set it up...”

Elliott and Kingsley had arranged for two Obliviators and two members of the Invisibility Task Force to enter the street ahead of us, put out the street lights, put freezing charms and such on alarm systems and security cameras, and stand by in case we had trouble with Muggles. We would arrive (with the Sniffer going) in a second Ministry car, camouflaged with a Disillusionment charm. We'd do a complete visual search of the outside of the buildings, front, roof, and back. If that drew a blank, Jamie would try his Navaho spell.

When I said he could run the computer as well as I, and I'd go out with the others to do the visual inspection, Jamie objected with a grin. “Hey, you got that backwards. Everybody knows Indians make better scouts! White guys sit around back in the Fort, waiting for reports and planning their next land grab.”

“Nice try, Jamie, but Heap Big Chief leads from the front.”

“Right you are. I certainly shall.” Harry's look was friendly, but definite, and I vowed to stop thinking of him as a seventeen-year-old, effective immediately. “Actually, Ryan, I think Jamie has a point. We want the most experienced operator working the Sniffer.”

“You da man, Harry.” When he looked at me blankly, I added, “that's American for 'Yes Sir, Roger, Wilco' and 'doggone it' all rolled into one. But if we do find the place, I'm going to have to go in.”

Hermione asked how I would tell them if something changed on the Sniffer display, suggesting that maybe I could send a Patronus, but I said “Got just the thing – Jamie?” and both of us held up our cellphones. Ron and Elliott hadn't seen cellphones before (Elliott had, once, on a raid, but hadn't known what it was), and after a bit of explanation, immediately saw how useful they were going to be.

“Maybe my Dad's right about some of this Muggle stuff,” Ron said wonderingly.
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