CHAPTER 4: Porte de Versailles

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Plaintive hoots and rustlings came from the onboard owlery, joined by the clicks and bangs of carriage doors as strangers alighted or joined the train. They had arrived at Porte de Versailles in Paris. The clock chimed one. Late though the hour, suits and cloaks from many nations milled around the platform, their muted conversations sounding like the hum of an agitated beehive. Whispers were all the more guarded because not all on the platform were aware that the Eagle Engine and its carriages were different. Muggles believed this to be the metro line’s terminus. They were repelled from getting close to this triumph of magical engineering by an overwhelming fear of getting on the wrong train. They had no idea that the Eagle and the enigmas she carried would, in a few short hours, continue on through an archway which they could not see and along a track they believed to be bricked up and abandoned.

Muflatio charms were cast here and there to mask conversations. Such spells did not work entirely on those who could read minds and emotions. The atmosphere was tense and serious, determined, belligerent and optimistic all at the same time. War was on everyone’s lips. Conflicts past and still burning in the muggle world, peace treaties and the spoils of war. Lyndsay was ever more aware that there were others, like herself, in the wizarding world, who were all too aware that such battles in the non-magic world affected the magical world too. In the darkness of her cabin, she listened to the thunder of her heart and any clue about the secrets of the past years or what the future held.

Then, like a retreating tide, the passengers poured out of the station in a haze of steam. Three men clung to the shadows, talking in low, hushed tones. Lindsay caught their conversation and hesitated, wrapped in the dim light that curtained her window from view. Through the glass, Lindsay could see the men exchanging files. She recognized the taller, slightly older wizard as the Minister for International Cooperation, Leonard Spencer Moon, code name Moon, or simply ‘M’. The other two wizards had their back to her, but she thought she recognized the voice of Arnie Singh from Magical Cooperation.

“I fear the muggle war has not ended but has only changed. Indeed I sometimes question if it ever was purely a muggle war. ” Moon was saying.

“Do you think maybe the rumours are true? I’d heard there were dementor attacks, disappearances?” said a lanky, dark-haired wizard bending against the chill in the air.

“There is no clear evidence as yet.” the senior minister admonished.

There was a beat, a cough, the ruffle of papers.

“They’re calling The Muggle Prime-Minister ‘The Welsh Wizard’ after your last shift, Mr. Spencer-Moon,” said Arnie.

“I simply nudged proceedings by interpreting the thoughts of Clemenceau regarding his desire for a British-American guarantee of protection against possible unprovoked aggression from his neighbours. It was Lloyd George that sold the idea to Wilson” answered Moon.

“Apparently, Lloyd George wasn’t that surprised when the portrait of old Ulrik at no.10 told him about the Ministry of Magic. Acted as if he expected the picture to announce a visit from the Evermonde. Some say his great-aunt was one of us.” Arnie chuckled.

“Maybe, maybe,” said Moon, who exuded a calm authority the other two men were yet to master. “He was certainly excited when I told him how we travel here. He has been speaking about building a train tunnel under the sea to link France and Britain.”

“I’m surprised our Minister is permitting our help with this muggle peace treaty,” said Arnie, a clear note of bitterness in his voice, “Given that he passed emergency legislation forbidding us to get involved with the war.”

Lynsday heard something or someone outside her cabin door again. She held her breath but a second later whoever it was had passed by. She refocused her attention on Moon as he spoke in measured tones;

“Evermonde knows thousands defied his order to let the muggles fight alone. He would lose his position if he does not offer the muggle governments our assistance now. He also worries, I think, that if this muggle peace treaty doesn’t hold water, more witches and wizards may take up arms. That would risk far greater infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy” he sighed.

“But you say the war has not ended, M? I suppose it won’t end until the treaty is signed.” Said the tall, leggy wizard.

“We may be in some sort of cease-fire but this paperwork is a form of war in itself” Arnie was saying, earning him a swift nod of approval from both men.

“Precisely!” Moon replied. “Civil wars, boundary battles and fights for independence continue, even close to home in the British Isles. In the 4 months it took to get to this point Germany has remained under naval blockade, her children dying of hunger.”

“So are children in many countries after the war,” Arnie answered with quiet passion.

“Quite so, starving people do not always make rational decisions, nor do grieving ones”

“Some of us lost people in the war, Sir,” said Arnie.

“We all lost heavily, some, like yourself, more than others. That is why we are here, to prevent, if we can do, more deaths” Replied Spencer-Moon.

“But you fear we cannot?” said the tall stranger, a note of concern in his voice.

“I fear there is more at play here than perhaps there should be. My first job, you know, was as a tea boy in the Department of Magical Accidents. It was then I learned to listen and to try not to judge.”

“But couldn’t you always tune into people’s thoughts?”

“It was then I learned to listen. It is not always the same thing as hearing.”

“Quite so,” said the stranger.

“Not judging is often the privilege of those who have lost little,” said Arnie.

“True. But it may also be the last defence of those who have lost everything.” Replied the Minister for International Cooperation.

“They have 24hrs?” asked their tall colleague.

A nod, a whistle in the dark, then “Journey well boys, you know the details of your assignment. Time for you to swap your tales with X and Y. ”

Goodbyes were said. Lindsay listened as the carriage door opened and closed and two pairs of footsteps moved down the corridor. The minds of both men were on dementor attacks and their families. As she opened the door she heard soft breaths and noticed a faint smell of tobacco. Catching a reflection of a pale face in the polished wood panels she spun around, wand outstretched, but she saw no one. Nearby a train engine coughed into action, smoke stretching like the fingers of ghosts across the chill night air.

“I heard you both.” Said the now solitary figure of Leonard Spencer-Moon from the platform below looking up. “Your thoughts are loud this night. Fare you well.” And with this, he tapped his hat, turned sharply on his heel and disappeared into vapours of steam and coal dust.

Lyndsay had fallen asleep where she had sat, curled up against the circle of her window when she was awoken by a shriek. Bleary-eyed, Lyndsay checked her pocket watch. It was a little after half past three in the morning. In the distance, she could hear a dog barking and the strangled sobbing of a woman. Then a horrible, petulant voice ripped through the night air.

“What have you done with my wand, you mongrel? I’ll have your hide for this.”

“Woof” was the reply. The witch from Control of Magical Creatures had met the train in Paris to exact her revenge. Looking through the fogged up glass of her porthole, Lynsday could make out shadows taking shape in the darkness. That hateful witch seemed to be dragging Rosa outside into a small half-moon of waiting figures.

“Someone give me a wand so I can perform the curse,” she demanded, malice curling her words.

“Now, Miss Bulstrode, please be reasonable, we do not want an international incident,” said Arnie Singh.

“Under decree 19 of our wizarding law this unregistered mutt who stole ministry information and my wand …” the witch Lyndsay now knew to be Miss Bulstrode panted. She was sent backward in a hail of sparks. Someone had aimed a curse at her. “There are confidential spells on that wand!” Miss Bulstrode shrieked. “Of international wizarding importance.”

“I hardly think”, said the calm voice of Percy Fleamont, “that records of the creatures you’ve sized up or killed could be any serious security threat to wizarding kind.”

Miss Bulstrode sneered “The beast is under my jurisdiction; I am the only one from Control of Magical Creatures here. It is for me to say.”

“Est-ce votre démocratie?” a French official asked the group at large.

“No, Jean-Louis, my dear, it is not our democracy.” Cordelia Fancourt replied. Dorothia and Rosa’s friends were crowding around them in a shield.

“That dog savagely attacked me in the course of my work for the ministry!” pronounced Miss Bulstrode, pointing her finger at Rosa in a way that would have been comic if it had not had such lethal intent.

“Nous sommes en France. Rosa est une citoyenne français,” pronounced Dorethia, her voice shaking.

Suddenly, there was a furtive knock on her cabin door, followed by George’s strained voice, “Miss O’Brien?” Fearing the worst was about to happen, Lyndsay flung the Aran shawl over her nightdress and opened the door. George, apologetic and urgent in his manner, passed her a small package. It looked like wet firewood in a lace scarf, buzzed like a gas lamp and smelled like rotten fish. Seeing that she did not understand and clearly in a hurry, George whispered: “If they can’t find it they can’t prove Rosa did anything.”

Lyndsay now understood it was Bulstrode’s mangled wand she held in her hand.

“But why me?” she asked

“I knew your brother, Seamus,” George breathed in an undertone, “The wand needs to get to his Sophie.” With that pronouncement, he lunged away up the corridor into the darkness, as quietly and surely as a prowling cat, leaving Lyndsay stunned.

This was too much to take in all at once. George had just told her he’d known her missing twin. She’d searched for eighteen months for answers to Seamus’ disappearance and, she knew inside herself, his death. Was this half-digested magical object now in her hands finally a clue to what had happened to him, or was George simply pulling her strings? The siblings had been close but she knew precious little of Seamus’ last months. She wondered what information, if any,  could be found out from the wand itself. Frustration boiled up inside her when she tried to work out who ‘his Sophie’ could be and what she could want with the splintered elm and dragon heartstring in her grasp.

The sound of barking bought her back from her reveries. The debate on Rosa’s future was continuing outside and Dorethia was crying, clinging to her now frightened dog.

“Yes, dear,” Cordelia was saying firmly to Bulstrode, “I quite understand what the regulations do say, but you see there is no wand so no proof Rosa stole one. Il n’y a aucune preuve; there is no evidence. None.”

“The eyewitnesses, madame …” an unknown official responded.

“They’ll tell you they heard an excitable witch making a scene while chasing a small dog, but if you’d like to wake up the rest of the train I’m sure they’ll be happy to answer your questions” concluded Fizzy.

“The regulations say that all magical creatures …” Bulstrode tried again.

“Must be registered, yes, but no one knows who you registered because you lost your wand. Le bâton est perdu. ”

Rosa was whining now as Dorethia was clinging to her cooing “Ma petite, ma petite. Elle n’est pas magique.”

“If the dog is not magical then she is nothing to do with the Department for Control of Magical Creatures,” said Arnie Singh.

“It ate my wand!” Miss Bulstrode spluttered.

The click of a train door, the clack of footsteps and a delicious smell of roses and violets announced the arrival of Annie Quirrel. The air around her was suddenly filled with a sense of comfort and calm; this must be Annie’s famous charm. Behind her Amos Quirrel bobbed in her wake.

“Well, I do declare, what a gorgeous creature!” she said, the warmth in her voice cutting through the chill night air. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced” she added, scooping Rosa out of Dorethia’s arms into her own and giving the dogs head a kiss.

“Ro..Rosa” Dorethia stammered, to an answering smile from the ice-melting Annie.

“Michael, would you show Rosa back to her cabin and get her a bone from the kitchen while Amos and I sort out this little confusion?” Annie continued, handing the quivering dog to the attendant and patting Dorethia’s hand.

The French official cleared his throat. “Assez!” he said, “I think if we cannot find the wand during the registration, we will draw a line under this whole affair.”

“Quite right, Jean-Louis” said Cordelia approvingly, “There are more important things than chasing around a dog with a stick. ”

Lyndsay started to panic, wondering where could she hide the wand. She considered what might happen if they used the Accio spell to retrieve it. She couldn’t put it in the cabin’s safe because only the rightful owner would then be able to retrieve it, and that Lyndsay most certainly was not. It would be a gift to the bloodthirsty Miss Bulstrode and a death sentence for Rosa. Added to this, Lyndsay would not and could not destroy anything that might lead to news about Seamus. She heard the door at the far end of the carriage open and knocking on nearby cabins, awakening the residents for wand re-registration. Lyndsay did not have much time to waste and Rosa’s life may be at stake.

In the corner of her eye she saw a glint of silver as the occamy repositioned herself on her treasured pensieve. Of course, only family could see this magical heirloom; only family could view or retrieve what was inside it. It would be the perfect place to hide the mangled magical thing in her hands. Still, Lyndsay hesitated, knowing that if she put Bulstrode’s wand into the basin it was sure to pollute or destroy some of the precious memories of her family. She would have no way of predicting which traces of lost loved ones and mislaid happy days she might lose forever. The occamy stirred, eyes watching expectantly, her beak open. Lyndsay dropped the wreckage of the wand into the basin’s depths just as there was a knock at the door. She saw the mystical beast unfurl, diving after the wand and catching it in its talons before disappearing into the swirling, sparking electric mists of memories inside the basin. Lyndsay starred after it, forlorn.

A second, more insistent knock on the door bought her back into action. Pulling her Aran scarf tightly around her shaking shoulders and touching her moonstone pendant, she opened the door.  A polite looking young wizard standing the other side was almost bowled over by Miss Bulstrode, who took his arm and waved it as if he was a puppet, pointing his wand into the room. Bulstrode’s fervor had obviously increased with each fruitless search of the Eagle’s passengers.

“Accio wands,” said the nasty little witch, her expression wild, but only one wand flew through the air to be counted and it was Lyndsay’s.

“I believe that is my wand you have there, Miss Bulstrode, could I have it back please?”

At that moment a fresh cry of outrage came from the far end of her carriage. It was Cordelia. “Oh No, George! Fizzy, Amos, anyone please come. Something has happened to George.”