STORY NUMBER FOUR: A Reasonable Sanctuary 4
Tuesday, September 21, 1999
The hearing proper was in full swing the next day. The first witness was once again the ghost of Professor Severus Snape.
"First, Professor," said Robards gently after the ghost had taken the witness stand, "I should like to establish exactly how you are connected to everyone else in this case. Professor Snape was killed in 1998 by the wizard who called himself Lord Voldemort. You bear upon your person the marks of the serpent that attacked him. Was this the moment at which you became a ghost?"
The ghost grimaced. "I really don't know. I know that something held me back and prevented me from going on. I know that at some point I was locked within a coffin with a dead body. I really have no timeline, though. There are gaps."
"Is it possible that these 'gaps' may have lasted from May 1998 to April 1999?"
"I have no idea," the ghost said. "There was a moment when I experienced my own death; there was a moment when I realized I was trapped as the permanent companion of a corpse; there was a moment when I was released. I cannot tell you the time span between these different events. People have told me of the days before I was released, but I cannot personally fit it into a timeline. It doesn't work that way."
"So you don't, of personal experience, know at what exact moment you became a ghost?"
"I don't know."
"Tell me about your nephew, Richard Snape."
The ghost scowled. "I scarcely know anything about him. He's about eighteen or nineteen now, so he should have been born in 1980, at a time when I was working for… Lord Voldemort… when I would hardly have been likely to have taken any notice of a muggle or squib nephew. I still don't know why you consider him important."
"He is currently living in your grandmother's cottage in Weetsmoor."
"Oh, right!" chuckled the ghost of Snape. 'He's brought in all sorts of muggle experts to evaluate the property, hasn't he? They've rebuilt the cottage and added plumbing and wiring. Why, may I ask you, would I be interested in him?"
"Because he's the closest thing you have to a relative still in existence."
"No," said Snape, "he's only one step away from being a stranger, since I have actually met him. My parents never talked about my family. I don't recall meeting him or learning anything about him while I was growing up."
There was a little murmur at this until Robards asked, "Did you know that there even was a person named Richard Snape?"
"Oh, yes, I knew there was someone named Richard Snape. I tended to forget it most of the time, though."
"Have you met any of the other residents of the village?"
"Yes," said the ghost calmly. "At young Snape's housewarming after the reconstruction was finished. He invited me."
At this, a subdued pandemonium broke out in the chamber, with members of the Wizengamot crying that the ghost had broken wizarding law while others demanded explanations. Robards merely waited quietly until Shacklebolt insisted on, and got, order. Then…
"Were you aware of violating wizarding law by attending this… housewarming?"
The ghost shook his head. "I wasn't violating wizarding law because I'm no longer a wizard. I'm a ghost, and I can't perform magic. I can't even hold a wand. If you check the Statute of Secrecy and wade through the list of creatures muggles mustn't be allowed to know about, ghosts aren't on it. And need I remind the Council that ghosts figure prominently in muggle folklore, quite separate from magic and witches. Knowledge that there is a ghost does not lead to knowledge of the wizarding world. I am the ghost of Mrs. Prince's grandson, and it was logical that I should visit her old home. What was surprising was the ease with which everyone accepted the idea."
"Nobody was frightened?"
"Not a one. They treated me like part of the community."
"Are there other ghosts in Weetsmoor?
"I have no idea. You shall have to ask one of the locals."
"What do you know about the history of your family? You've already told us of your great-grandfather. What of the Prince side of the family?"
"Not very much," the ghost admitted. "My grandmother Snape gave me the most information, and I have since learned more from Sir Nicholas, as I have told you. From the late fifteenth to the mid twentieth century, they lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now part of Lancashire, isolated from most of the wizarding world. I know next to nothing of the Rossendales"
"If it please the Council," Robards announced, "we do have some information on the Rossendales which we will present later."
"You might have told it to me," the ghost complained. "It's my family."
"You're welcome to stay and listen," Robards informed him.
Harry did not at first recognize the next person to walk into the room. This is probably because Russ's hair was cut much shorter and neatly combed, and he was wearing a dark muggle suit with a blue necktie That and the fact he was blindfolded.
Robards walked over to him and laid a hand on his arm. "Do you recognize my voice?"
Russ turned his head toward the sound. "You've been talking to me about all the unusual phenomena around my house and the village. Your name is Robards."
"That's right. What is your name?"
"Do you know where you are now?"
"I'm supposed to be answering questions for some kind of council. About my home and the village, and the odd things that happen there."
"Were you asked to make a promise?"
"Yes. That I would never tell anyone what I saw or heard here."
Robards turned to the Wizengamot. "The next decision rests with you. Do we continue like this, or may I remove the blindfold?"
The blonde witch with the pug nose, who Harry had learned was named Mehitable Washburn, said, "Oh do take it off! I want to see if he really looks like Professor Snape."
Robards obliged, and the general consensus was that the young man looked very much like Professor Snape indeed. Except around the eyes and mouth. All agreed that the witness had much gentler eyes and that there was more humor around the mouth…
"Tell me," Robards continued. "Have you known for a long time that you were related to Professor Severus Snape?"
Russ shook his head. "I'm afraid I knew nothing about him before this year. When I was first told that I was going to get a substantial reward for actions performed by Severus Snape, I was astounded. It was the last thing I expected."
"Have you known for a long time that you were related to Constantina Rossendale, the woman in whose house you now live?"
Again Russ shook his head. "Until this year, I'd never heard of her."
Harry was beginning to get uncomfortable. He understood why it was important that Russ not take the oath to tell the truth, but he couldn't accept out-and-out lying. It wasn't right…
"And until this year," Robards went on, "had you ever visited the village of Weetsmoor or even known of its existence?"
"No," Russ replied. "Not before this year."
And then it hit Harry like a bolt of lightning. They weren't lying! Before this year, the person of Russ Snape hadn't existed. He'd been a collection of random memories in a transfigured flask and a lock of hair wrapped in tissue and preserved in an envelope. For anything Robards asked, Russ could honestly reply, "Not before this year.'
"How did you acquire Constantina Rossendale's cottage?"
"I worked through a land agent. Your people told me Severus Snape was my uncle. There were papers about the cottage. I was put into contact with the agents who were selling the place, and when I wanted to view it, I took the train to Colne where they met me and drove me there."
"So you didn't have to find Weetsmoor on your own?"
Russ smiled; it was an attractive smile, not at all like the ghost's. "When they want to sell you something, they're very nice to you."
And that, Harry thought, is exactly how you contrive to not answer a question.
Robards, however, was nowhere near finished. "What did the property look like when you bought it?"
"I understood that someone had died in a fire about twenty years previously. Later owners, for some reason, had never been successful in rebuilding the place, but no one knew why. Most of the cottage was still a burned out shell, though some work had been done. Enough so you could live there, but not really comfortably. The great part was that it belonged to the family, and because of the damage, it was cheap."
"And beyond the cottage itself?"
Russ smiled again. "It was amazing. The land around the cottage is enormous. It's this immense yard, and it had clearly once been an extraordinary garden. And that garden was still there! It's still there now! Vegetables, herbs, fruit trees… They're all there, and they're healthy and thriving. All I had to do was clear out some of the overgrowth. They swore to me that no one had worked on it for twenty years, but once the weeds were gone, the garden was still there."
"Tell me," said Robards. "Have you heard rumors about something strange at the cottage?"
"The magic? Yeah, everybody knows about it. I thought they were daft at first, but so many strange things have been happening that now I'm not sure.
"What sorts of strange things?" Robards asked.
"Well, there's this owl. I never saw an owl like this before I moved to the cottage. He's very friendly, and he wears a little pouch on his leg." Russ looked rather sheepish. "He likes to carry notes."
"Really!" exclaimed Madam Scrimgeour, peering at the young man through her pince-nez. "To whom has he carried notes?"
"To our local grocer. He's also carried messages to the constable."
"And were either of these worthies surprised to receive a message by owl?"
Russ shook his head. "Not at all. They took it quite in stride."
"Could you give us another example?"
"There's a nest of birds in the chapel belfry. They're very quiet; I've never heard them sing. But when one got stuck in the tar – they'd just re-tarred the roof and it was sticky, you see – it made all these horrible noises as it died. Songs, traffic, people yelling, like it had been recording every sound it heard in the village."
"Mr. Snape," asked Madam Scrimgeour, "did you as a child ever make unusual things 'happen?' Things you couldn't explain?"
"No, ma'am," said Russ quietly.
"Were you born to parents either one of whom could make things 'happen' for no apparent reason?"
"No, ma'am. Before this year, I was unacquainted with the world of magic."
"Then how did you cure a sick horse by singing to it?"
"I don't know that I did. The vet may have made an error in diagnosis. All I know is that Mr. Allsop wanted me to do something and, since I didn't know what to do, I sang the poor animal a lullaby of sorts."
"What was the lullaby?"
"Not a real song. Just things that came into my head."
Robards asked the last question. "Mr. Snape, are you eating local food and drinking local water?"
"Why, yes. I have a well and use that water for most everything, and I'm eating the fruit and vegetables from the garden. That, plus I buy Mrs. Wainwright's eggs, and got some pork liver from Mr. Hackett. Most of the rest is from outside."
The next witness was Hugh Latimer, also neatly dressed in a suit, his gray eyes, soft brown hair, and impish smile a contrast to the more somber Russ.
"Constable Latimer," Robards asked after the witness had been identified to the Council, "how long have you known about magic in Weetsmoor?"
"All my life," Hugh replied. "Everyone knows about it."
"What do they say about Constantina Prince, née Rossendale."
"She was the local witch. Everyone used to go to her, including my parents, for medicines and charms. She could heal people, too, even from injuries that could have been fatal."
"What do they say about Richard Snape?"
Hugh smiled. "It shocked all the older residents when they first saw him because he looks exactly like Mrs. Prince's grandson did. He, the grandson, I mean, used to visit her from time to time, and they all knew about him. After she died, he never returned, so they remember him as a teenager."
"Did they think he was magical?"
"Of course. They say he helped her with her healing."
"So there is some logic behind their seeking Richard Snape out for help."
"It seemed perfectly natural to me."
Again Mrs. Scrimgeour leaned forward, adjusting the lenses perched on her nose. "Doesn't it trouble anyone that the people of the village attacked and killed Constantina Prince?"
Hugh's face grew grave. "It bothers a lot of people, especially the ones involved in the incident. Richard Snape, however, well he never knew the old lady, and we've since been informed by…" Hugh glanced quickly, as if involuntarily, at the ghost, "…by Mr.… Professor?… Snape that the villagers were placed under some kind of curse."
The ghost rose, impressively formal. "A full account is in the transcripts of my hearing from December 1981. There was no reason to hide the truth from people who were already aware of the wizarding world, and who could be eased by the knowledge."
Mr. Leach – once again permitted in the chamber provided he behave himself – spoke up, his mustache quivering violently. "That was a breach of the Statute of Secrecy!" he cried. "This man should be arrested and punished!"
The ghost allowed his hand to pass unhindered through the back of a chair. "I'd like to know how you plan to do that," he said quietly.
Leach was not to be put off. "Why hasn't any other ghost been charged with this crime? Why are you different? Why do you break the rules?"
The ghost twisted his mouth into something not quite passing as a smile. "Other ghosts never appear before this Council. You only know about me because I told you. What might they have done that they haven't told you about?"
The old wizard with the warty nose, Quintus Prendergast, spoke up. "Do you mean that ghosts routinely break our laws?"
"There," said the ghost of Professor Snape. "You have hit the proverbial nail. They are your laws. They are not, however, our laws. The equation changes when you reach the other side of the veil. Let me put your mind at rest, however. Most ghosts are haunts. Unless summoned or invited, they do not stray from their territory, and the chance of their spreading information is small."
"But you are not a haunt," said Madam Scrimgeour.
"No," the translucent Snape admitted. "I have no explanation for it, but I seem not to be tied to a particular place."
After that, Robards continued his questioning of Hugh Latimer.
"You know," Hugh admitted, his manner more that of a person conversing with friends than a witness testifying before a Council, "I never really thought about it before, but nobody simply finds the village. Walking tourists get a letter or an email from the inn about their reservations that gives them directions. Others have to be shown the way by an acquaintance who's part of the community."
"An email," Robards explained to the Wizengamot, "is an electronic form of communication involving muggle technology." He turned back to Hugh. "Has any of these 'walking tourists' ever revealed to the general public that there are odd animals and plants in the area?" he asked.
Hugh shook his head. "To the best of my knowledge, we have never been mentioned in any publication of any ornithological, botanical, herbal, geological, or any other kind of amateur scientific journal at all. No one talks about us."
"Why do outsiders come to Weetsmoor at all?"
"Word of mouth. It's a godsend to the economy of the village. Without them, the local businesses would have to close. We live within a delicate balance. We stay mostly to ourselves, but we get enough outsiders to keep us going. Is there something wrong with that?"
"No," said Robards. "Personally, I would think there was something very right with that."
There were a few more items to discuss, and then both Hugh and Russ were again blindfolded and escorted out. During the ensuing recess, Madam Scrimgeour sought out Robards.
"So fascinating," she said, "how that young man is the image of the cloned Snape we ruled on earlier this year."
"Isn't it?" Robards replied. "It never ceases to amaze me. But blood will tell."
"Do you know what house I was in, Gawain? It was long before your time."
"No, Madam. I did not check your file before this case started."
Madam Scrimgeour smiled a thoroughly patrician smile. "I was in Slytherin. I even knew Tom Riddle, though only as a lowly first year when he was seventh."
"It was an age of giants," said Robards, committing himself to nothing.
"It was." She sighed in reminiscence of her youth. "I have kept up with the houses and their members since. I was keen on inter-school rivalry, not just in Quidditch, but the lesser sports and games as well. Did you know Hogwarts once competed in Gobstones?"
"No," Robards admitted. "I didn't."
"Excellent team in the late forties and early fifties, especially under a Hufflepuff. Eileen Prince I think her name was. She married a muggle. Not a muggle-born, a muggle."
"Do tell," said Robards.
Madam Scrimgeour cleared her throat delicately. "Regarding that vote this spring. Did you happen to check what mine was?"
Robards smiled. "You voted to consider the clone a viable human being."
"And Gawain, you have no idea how pleased I am today with my perspicacity and empathy. That is a very sympathetic young man you brought before us today."
"Which of the three, Madam, are you referring to?"
Madam Scrimgeour tapped him playfully on the shoulder with her pince-nez. "You are a sly dog, Gawain Robards, and I don't wish to pop any of your bubbles. Have you called your last witness?"
"Are you convinced?" Robards asked.
"Not yet. I can't put my finger on it, but something more has to be put into the balance."
"Yes, ma'am," said Robards, grateful for the heads-up.
It was now mid-morning as the members of the Wizengamot returned to their places in the chamber. Robards rose to address the Council, not calling any witness. "I have twice," he reminded the gathered witches and wizards, "promised to tell you the story of the Rossendale family. The history is not yet – and may never be – complete, but we have garnered enough of it to make a cohesive narrative. I wish to thank at this time two young witches who have proven of invaluable service, although they are not present today. Both Miss Hermione Granger and Miss Ginevra Weasley have done hours of research for my department, and what I am about to tell you is primarily what they discovered.
"From earliest times, apparently from the time of William the Conqueror and before even the founding of the county of Lancashire, the Honor of Clitheroe in Lancashire contained the Hundred of Blackburnshire, which in turn had four royal hunting preserves: the forests of Accrington, Pendle, Trawden and Rossendale. It is only the last of the four which concerns us, especially that part which is still called Rossendale valley, along the banks of the River Irwell."
At this point Robards paused to pass around sheets of paper that had a map of the area in question on them. Several of the members of the Council examined the papers carefully, Quintus Prendergast (the wizard with the warty nose) even trying to rub the ink off.
"I say, Gawain," he called down to the chamber floor, "I say, how did you manage this drafting job? Takes a mighty fine quill to draw a line this thin. And so many of them!"
"I can't take credit for it," Robards admitted. "Miss Granger provided them, using something called a photocopy machine. It takes about a minute to make a hundred copies."
"Can we get one for Magical Creatures?" Hooper asked plaintively, studying the quality of the reproduction. "It would save us a lot of time."
"And us," Robards concurred, "but it needs electricity, and things like paper and toner, and regular maintenance. I understand, however, that you can go into an ordinary muggle store, pay a token price, and copy anything you want on their machine."
"You're joking!" Hooper cried. "I've got to find one of those stores. We need three hundred copies for every 'Dangerous Beast Alert' we send out worldwide, and right now it takes a day and a half to do them."
"That's silly!" admonished Mr. Leach. "All you need is a duplicating spell."
"Sure," said Hooper, "assuming that you throw them out as soon as you get them. But most agencies archive them, and for that you need something more permanent… real paper and real ink."
"Excuse me," Robards murmured quietly, "may I continue?"
"Oh, right," said Hooper. "By all means. Go ahead."
"If you will look carefully at your maps," Robards said, causing every witch and wizard in the room to study the papers intently, "you will find near the source of the Irwell a village called Bacup. It's a town now, but it's been there forever… long before the area was designated a royal forest. It's major economy for centuries was sheep and wool.
"In the summer of 1097, there arrived in the village of Bacup a witch with a young son – a boy some thirteen or fourteen years old – apparently from in or near Wales. Both she and her son appeared exhausted, and the son was ill. She asked for shelter for the night, which the village was legally bound to give. They wished for her to move on the next day, however, since if they allowed her to stay they would become financially responsible for her, permanently."
"Gawain," Madam Scrimgeour asked, "was this a religious obligation or a legal one."
"Legal," Robards replied. "Homeless persons, widows and orphans of the place, illegitimate children whose fathers were unknown… all were the responsibility of the community. The wandering homeless became part of the community as soon as the community allowed them to reside longer than the law required. Getting rid of vagrants was a priority in England for many hundreds of years."
"What drove this woman to Bacup?" Prendergast asked.
"So far as we can tell, it was because of her son." Robards shuffled through his papers as thought trying to recall a point. It was a ruse, a pause for dramatic effect, but only Harry realized this.
"The king of England in 1097 was William II, known as William Rufus. Both he and his court were notorious at the time for non-heterosexual activities. Apparently the son had been targeted by one of William's 'friends,' and the mother was attempting to get the boy out of harm's way…"
(At this point, Mehitable Washburn's sister Tabitha tried to explain to her what Robards was talking about, causing poor Mehitable to blush crimson.)
"Desperate for a place to stay, the woman confessed to the villagers that she was one of the 'cunning folk'…"
"I know about that," interrupted a wizard in the upper rows. "They covered it in NEWT level History of Magic. Lots of muggles in England believed there were 'white witches,' people who helped with their magic instead of hurting."
"Indeed," Robards acknowledged. "and because of the proofs she was able to provide, they accepted her as a wise woman and allowed her to stay. What she then did was more profound. She cast a powerful spell on herself and her own family so that from that time they would have only girl children, so that never again would a young son become prey to a pederast."
"So explain to me, Gawain," Madam Scrimgeour said with a smirk, "how a daughter of this family gave birth to Severus Snape."
"In good time, Madam," Robards smiled back at her. "In good time."
"How long was this family in… what's it called? Bacup?" Prendergast was accumulating a considerable pile of notes scribbled on scraps of parchment.
"Over five hundred," Robards told the council, "and always there was one older witch and one younger witch, for each new generation in the family, reaching the proper age, would leave the village for a time and return with a baby daughter – thus there was never a male, a wizard, in the family. The conditions of the spell would not permit it."
"So!" cried Leach. "They were all bas…"
"Yes," Robards confirmed quickly. "They were illegitimate."
Minister Shacklebolt broke his long silence. "Did anything of note happen during these five hundred years, or can we skip forward to…?"
"No," interrupted Madam Scrimgeour, "I still have some questions. Was it always just mother – daughter? If the mother lived to be old, the daughter could pass childbearing age."
"An excellent point." Robards bowed slightly to his interrogator. "On several occasions there were three generations of wise women in the village, and once – from 1308 to 1312 – four. Great-grandmother and great-granddaughter together in the same house."
"That makes sense. Next, was there ever any anti-witch hysteria in the area? No threats to the family?"
"None that we know of. As has been mentioned, many rural areas of England believed that the 'cunning folk' could work magic quite separate from the church's idea of service to the devil…"
"And a very intelligent attitude it was!" interjected the wizard in the upper tier.
"I agree." Robards paused, again to let the effect sink in, then continued. "And remember, for most of this time, you could not charge a person with merely being a witch. If you wanted to get rid of a witch, you had to charge her with committing a crime using witchcraft. If the witch was well-known and respected in the community, you would have to be very sure of your facts before you brought charges."
"Well," commented Mehitable Washburn, "it's no wonder so many of our old families come from the countryside. City people can be so crazy."
Shacklebolt, having seized a bone, was not about to let it go. "But it changed, didn't it? Can we skip to that?"
"Yes, it did," Robards admitted. "In 1603. That was the year that Queen Elizabeth I died and her cousin, James VI of Scotland, became king of England as James I. James believed passionately, almost obsessively, that all witches were servants of the devil. He even wrote a book about it called Daemonologie. Suddenly it was very patriotic to find and root out witches. That book was not, however," he added quickly, "what caused the wise woman of Bacup to leave her village. What caused that was a civil war.
"Now I am not going to go into all the causes of that civil war. It was between the supporters of King Charles, James's son, and the supporters of Parliament. What is important is that Parliament had its biggest support in the south, while the north, which included Lancashire, was for the king. Rossendale forest was still a hunting preserve, and it was a meeting place for Tory troops. It was thus a precarious place for a known witch to be, and the current witch of Bacup headed north with her daughter to the Yorkshire border, where she found shelter in the village of Weetsmoor.
"Poor little Weetsmoor was in a difficult position. It was mostly non-conformist, which means that the people there did not follow the official religion of the Church of England. A new chapel had been built – which still stands – but the town was beginning to realize that, like the mighty merchant port of Liverpool, it was a Whig island in the Tory sea of Lancashire. Liverpool endured a siege of two and a half weeks before it fell to Prince Rupert. Weetsmoor would not have stood out for ten minutes.
"The fugitive witch understood this and, as proof of her good will, offered to make the town invisible to its enemies. The spell is an ancient one, so ancient that modern witchcraft has superseded and obscured it. Where the ancients used one spell, we now use two: the Fidelius Charm and the Unplottable Charm. The old charm used no single Secret Keeper, where the new one requires it. The modern spell dies with the Secret Keeper or the destruction of the ensecreted place. The old spell has lasted for three hundred fifty years."
"Does that mean," asked Quintus Prendergast, "that the town agreed – knowingly agreed – to this spell?"
"It does, though apparently that knowledge has not survived the passage of over three hundred years. The current residents, with a couple of exceptions, do not know of the existence of the spell. They have simply the quaint acceptance of the fact that the village is hard to find."
Madam Scrimgeour raised a hand. "And the exceptions are…?"
"Professor Snape's nephew Russ, Constable Latimer, and Mrs. Gillian Latimer, the constable's wife. The other residents are aware of the peculiarities, but accept them as normal. This is largely due to the fact that when they bring a newcomer to the village, they are not aware that they are divulging a Secret."
It was Leach's turn. "So why doesn't everybody in Britain know about this village?"
Robards smiled. "That's the ancient effect of what we today refer to as unplottability. Anyone given the secret is inhibited in passing it on. Telling one friend about the village is possible. Broadcasting the information to a thousand is not. Thus the impossibility of printing a map for general distribution."
Harry had made whispered inquiries of Hooper when he could do it unobtrusively, so when the wizard in the upper tier spoke up, Harry knew he was Sidney Urquhart. "Mr. Robards, what other secondary evidence do we have to support this history of yours?"
Robards bowed his head slightly in thought. After a few seconds, he said, "Go to the village. Every building there dates from the mid-seventeenth century or earlier. Their interiors are capable of remodeling, but not, apparently, the exteriors. Nor has any new construction been added until this year. Late this summer, Richard Snape reconstructed Constantina's cottage, which had been burned. Though I must point out that the new cottage retains a seventeenth-century appearance… with a few interesting modifications."
"What might those be?" Urquhart asked.
"I think it would be best for someone else to respond to that question… someone who has a more intimate experience with the place. If I could ask Mr. Harry Potter to come forward…?
"Me?" Harry exclaimed from his seat behind Robards's desk. "I'm not a witness!" He glanced toward Hooper for support, but that worthy turned his head away.
"That is quite true," Robards replied, "since this is not a trial and we are not discussing criminal activity. You are an expert advising the Council of your knowledge of an area of information on which they have to make a decision. I apologize for taking you by surprise like this, but I didn't know until this moment that your experience might be requested. Would you like a short recess to discuss this? I'm sure the Council wouldn't mind."
It struck Harry then that this was what Robards wanted – incontrovertible proof that the evidence had not been rigged. His own reaction had been immediate and unpremeditated, something the Wizengamot could not have failed to notice. No one would blame him if he asked for time to consult, yet going to questioning without coaching might leave a better impression. "No," Harry said firmly. "No, I don't need a recess." He rose and went forward.
"Mr. Potter," Robards began, "how did Weetsmoor come to the attention of your unit in July of this year?"
Harry suppressed a smile. Robards controlled the questions. All Harry had to do was answer them. "We were getting blips of low-range, minor spell activity in an area where there had been no magic for twenty years."
"Why did you travel to Weetsmoor?"
"I was instructed to do so by the head of Magical Law Enforcement – as I am sure you recall, sir." The two incidents were reversed in time, but Harry had not been asked to comment on that point. He suddenly felt very calm about the proceedings.
"Did you meet any of the locals?"
"Yes, a shopkeeper and Constable Latimer."
"Were they surprised to see you?"
"Not at all. They assumed I was visiting Ru… Richard," – Harry realized at that moment that his biggest problem was going to be avoiding the name Russ – "and, as I learned later, they assumed I was a wizard."
"Tell us about the reconstruction at the Rossendale cottage."
"Well, as near as I could eventually learn, Richard Snape was talking to all the older people in the village about Mrs. Prince… Constantina Rossendale… and was trying to recreate the cottage not so much the way it was when she was living there, as the way she would have wanted it if she could have done the work herself."
"Let me remind the Council," interjected Robards, "that we are talking about permanent reconstruction and not temporary transfiguration. My department has ascertained that Constantina Rossendale did not have the financial means to remodel her cottage on a permanent basis. But," he turned again to Harry, "did Richard Snape have those means?"
"Of course," Harry answered. "He had the reward collected from the estate of Professor Snape."
"How was the house built? The materials and the labor?"
Harry thought for a moment. "He bought the materials through a local businessman, and his neighbors provided the labor to assemble the cottage." This answer was tricky, but Harry thought he'd pulled it off.
"Tell us what a septic system is."
"It's a muggle way to process and purify waste water from sinks, tubs… toilets… It uses gravity and natural bacteria to clean and distribute the waste water from a house."
"Is there anything in this process that would be a disruption of nature?"
"I don't know of anything."
"Describe solar panels."
Harry smiled. "They collect energy from the sun and use it to power muggle appliances."
"Does this depend on any muggle technology outside the house itself?"
"No, it doesn't."
"So," Robards pointed out to the Council, "Richard Snape's 'improvements' to Mrs. Prince's cottage would have been totally natural, and would not have disrupted any primitive magic in the least. It would seem he was the perfect tenant to preserve the magical nature of the place."
Harry was sent back to his seat and Robards continued. "I have also made certain investigations into the unusual nature of Weetsmoor, as has my esteemed colleague from Magical Creatures, Mr. Hooper. I would appreciate it if you would join me, Paul, and perhaps we could make quicker work of this. I don't wish to keep the council any longer than is necessary." This comment brought an emphatic nod from Shacklebolt.
Hooper rose and strode to the center of the chamber, managing to look both professional and boyish at the same time, a talent many barristers and defense attorneys would give their eyeteeth to share. "My first Ministry briefing on Weetsmoor came from Mr. Potter, who contacted me about the horses."
"Do these horses include the one Professor Snape's nephew is reported to have healed?" asked Tabitha Washburn.
"Indeed they do. It is a small stable, and the only horses in Weetsmoor."
"Are they magical horses?"
"No, ma'am." This was said in a respectful tone that nevertheless implied that Ms. Washburn was too young to be called 'Ma'am.' Harry, listening, was keenly aware that he would never be able to imitate it.
"Then why would your department become involved?"
"Porlocks. The horses had been attacked by vandals in the night, and Potter was suggesting porlocks as a rem…"
Pandemonium – small-scale but pandemonium none the less – again broke out, with wizards and witches exchanging gasps and comments of 'highly inappropriate,' 'clearly breaking the law,' and 'giving magical creatures to muggles? the nerve…'
"Stop!" cried Leach. "I have a whole list of questions to ask! You all have to be called to account for your actions!"
Amidst the hubbub, as his heart sank with the fear that the case was lost, Harry saw Robards and Hooper exchange a glance. Neither appeared worried. Harry took a deep breath; maybe this was planned.
"Mr. Leach!" Shacklebolt's voice boomed out. "You say you have questions formulated. Please ask them."
"Right!" Leach leapt into the fray. "First, why was the Ministry paying all this attention to a muggle? Richard Snape may be the nephew of Professor Snape, but as near as I can tell from my notes, he was not related to Constantina Rossendale, nor was he connected to the magical world in any…"
"No!" interjected Mehitable Washburn. "There was magic on that side. Professor Snape… let me see… yes! Professor Snape got his first magical instruction from his Snape great-grandfather, and his Snape grandmother was the one who knew all about the family history on both sides. You did say that, didn't you?"
The ghost, who had been floating about six inches off the floor, settled into place. "That is true. I did not, however, say that they were wizards. Nor were they from Weetsmoor. My father was, in fact, born in Barrowford. People in the area, however, all knew each other. The local people of the surrounding towns and villages… Barrowford and Barnoldswick, Foulridge, Earby, and Colne… They've known of Weetsmoor for generations. They don't have trouble finding it. Not everyone believed my grandmother was a witch, but many knew of the rumors. My great-grandfather was fascinated by the world of magic, and he wanted a witch in the family. He was the one who arranged the marriage between my father and my mother. My grandmother, who was not a Snape, knew the family history because that was what she did. She knew how everybody was related to everybody else. That my mother's family was magical was just part of it."
"Fine," snapped Leach. "That still doesn't explain the intense Ministerial interest in a non-magical nephew."
Harry was on his feet, headed to the center of the chamber. "That wasn't the Ministry," he said as loudly as he could without shouting. "That was me. I was interested in Richard Snape."
"Why?" asked Leach, somewhat taken aback at this turn of events.
"Yes," seconded the ghost. "By all means tell us why."
Harry sighed. "Because I wanted to do something right for once. For six years I lived and studied in the same school with a man who'd been my mother's best friend. He was working for the same thing I was working for – to get rid of Voldemort. He protected me, and tried to teach me – even when I was trying to kill him, he was trying to teach me – and I never recognized it until after he was dead and it was too late. If he'd had a son, or a sister, or anyone I could have gone to and talked to, I would have, but there was no one. And then, for a few short weeks, he was back, and I had the chance to learn all the things I needed to learn and make amends. Then he was gone again, and the only thing left was this 'nephew.' I just wanted to make sure he was all right. I know I was heavy-handed about it…"
"That's all right, Harry," said Robards gently as several of the witches on the council dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs, "your heart was in the right place."
"Now," continued Tabitha Washburn as if there had been no intervening debate, "about the porlocks…"
"They're an endangered species," said Hooper, with a bland expression that said that that explained everything.
"You are going to have to expand on that comment, you know," said Prendergast.
Hooper tilted his head in acknowledgement of the justice of the request. "Porlocks are magical creatures that for centuries have been living in a rural environment of small farms, private estates, and low technology. They, like many other creatures, have had difficulty adapting to the changes of the twentieth century. In fact, their difficulties have been greater since they, unlike most other magical creatures, live almost entirely in an environment dominated and controlled by muggles.
"Your average porlock thrives best in a modest stable with a handful of horses. This is where the porlock develops the best rapport with the animals and is able to guard them adequately. With the mechanization of agriculture and animal husbandry, we have seen a gradual decline in farm horses and an increase in large breeding businesses. Where once the porlock dealt with a family and possibly a few servants or hired workers, today the poor beast must confront a constant parade of outsiders – vets, farriers, trainers – and they are ill-suited to make the switch. We have observed a rise in what I can only describe as apparent clinical depression in our established porlocks, with a concurrent decline in the birth rate. The population of porlocks is going down rapidly.
"Added to this is a loss of pasturage. We in the wizarding world haven't noticed it too much, but for the past few years, British entrepreneurs have been experimenting with new and/or different types of meat production. Fields once devoted to pasturing cattle and horses have gone over to free-range pigs, herds of venison on the hoof, and even ostriches."
"Who would eat an ostrich?" demanded Mehitable Washburn.
Hooper smiled. "I understand the flesh has the texture of chicken or turkey, and the appearance and taste of beef. It is offered in quite a few restaurants."
Leach chimed in. "How does this affect Mr. Potter and Weetsmoor?"
"As was mentioned earlier, the horses in Weetsmoor's one stable were attacked by vandals. They nearly killed a foal. By this time, Mr. Potter had become aware of the magical nature of the place and hoped to find a safeguard for the horses that would not disturb that magical nature. My Department, at the same time, was trying to find a way to revitalize and restore the porlock population. I knew of one, tagged and observed for some months, that had recently lost its stable. We relocated it with, I must confess, an astonishing level of success. Its progress has been constantly monitored, and its experience may be vital in reversing the decline of the species as a whole."
There was silence for a moment as the council digested all this information, then Leach spoke up again. "If, as is claimed, Weetsmoor is secret and unplottable, how did the vandals get into the village to attack the horses?"
"I would assume," said Snape's ghost in an icy, spectral tone, deep and penetrating, "that they were local people. Not necessarily from Weetsmoor, but from one of the surrounding towns. They probably knew of the village from childhood. It is not just large cities, you realize, where depravity breeds. Was not the Dark Lord – Voldemort – from a Yorkshire village?"
Madam Scrimgeour redirected the questioning. "What else, Gawain, do you have for us? What other phenomena have been observed?"
At this prompting, Robards launched into a descriptive summary of long-lived gardens and self-seeding apple orchards, of ordinary tawny owls that passed a dedication to message delivery from generation to generation without human prompting, and a breed of border collies that responded to spells tailored specifically to familiars. He then spoke of what was new – infestations of bundimuns and bowtruckles, and the appearance of a whole nest of jobberknolls.
"Do you have," Madam Scrimgeour asked, "an event that might have stimulated this change?"
"Not for the garden or the apple orchard, nor for the owls and collies," Robards replied. "They come from a magic always there. But for the more recent arrivals, yes. They all came after Richard Snape began to reside in and restore the burned-out Rossendale cottage."
"It's a place-centered spell!" cried Prendergast. "The cottage is the epicenter."
"That," Robards said calmly, "is what we are investigating. That is one of the reasons we do not wish the magical/non-magical balance of the place disturbed. It is a phenomenon unique in wizarding Britain – an ancient village with wizarding/muggle interaction from before the time of the Act of Secrecy that not only remains unaffected by outside changes, but also holds within it the force of a spell that we can no longer perform. To pass up the opportunity of studying this place would be a crime. There is another factor."
The whispered babbled that had started when it seemed that Robards was winding up his case ceased. "What factor?" Shacklebolt asked.
"We have indications that a native of the village, Constable Latimer, although not himself a wizard in any sense, is nonetheless able to use a wand to perform very minor…" He was drowned out by the sudden upsurge of cries from the council.
"That's unheard of!" "How can a muggle…?" "There must be an error…"
Robards waited patiently until the uproar died down. "That is what we have to investigate. Richard Snape, who lives in the Rossendale cottage, eats food grown there, and drinks the water, has shown signs of magical ability as well. As have two young boys, also native to the place. We need to preserve the integrity of Weetsmoor in order to study this in greater depth."
He then knocked the final nail into place. "The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement understand that the Council may both approve the designation of Weetsmoor as a Reasonable Sanctuary, and rescind that designation at its pleasure should negative information surface as a result of our investigations."
How could anyone then vote against the designation when those in favor could point out that if it didn't work, they could take it back? There was only one further question.
"Gawain," crooned Madam Scrimgeour. "You haven't answered one of my questions yet. How was Severus Snape born into a family that could breed only girls?"
"My apologies, Madam, and thank you for reminding me. That has to do with laws passed in Britain after World War I. Among them were laws involving education that provided for the establishment of state schools all over Britain. Universal education was a new thing for muggles, and in Weetsmoor, every child started school regardless of background. In Weetsmoor, young Constantina Rossendale began her schooling at the same time as her contemporary Cora Cranmer, now Mrs. Wainwright.
"It was a totally new situation, that every young person in town had to attend school, and no one thought to restrict the attendance of the young Rossendale witch. Through this contact, Constantina was infected by middle class morality. When it came her time to leave the village and provide the next generation of witches, she did something unprecedented. She got married – to one Richard Prince. Thus, for the first time in more than seven hundred years, a wizard was introduced into the Rossendale family, and Constantina ceased to be a Rossendale.
"Her daughter was a witch but, as a Prince, she was a witch born outside the ancient spell. When it came her time to mate and breed, she was no longer bound by the spell to bear a daughter. Instead, she bore a son, Severus Snape. That ancient spell had been broken. It was broken on the day that Constantina Rossendale married Richard Prince. The other spell, the one that involved the village rather than the family, has not been broken. It is this second spell that we wish to study.
"Now, before I conclude, we still have our witnesses in a holding room. Is there any member of the council who wishes to question these witnesses further? Or who would like us to call new witnesses? Both of our departments would be pleased to accommodate any requests."
The ensuing debate lasted fifteen minutes, the upshot of which was that the Wizengamot had more than enough information to vote. One small snag was caused by the ghost, who wanted to stay and watch the vote. Since there was no way to force him to do anything he did not want to do, it took all of Robards's powers of persuasion to convince him that it was better to leave the council alone. That accomplished, however, the Wizengamot was allowed to conduct its poll in private.
"Do you think we'll win?" Harry demanded of Robards as he paced the chamber where they waited. Both Robards and Hooper were, by comparison, models of calm and confidence.
"What makes you think there are winners and losers?" Robards asked. "If the Sanctuary is designated, then everybody wins. Most of the members of the Wizengamot know that. They are not our adversaries."
"But that one wizard, Leach…"
"Oh, he opposes everything. They all know that and take it into consideration. Don't let him worry you."
"It would have helped if I'd known that," Harry huffed.
"Why? As it was, you behaved perfectly naturally, which was most beneficial. If you'd known about Leach and his reputation, you might have behaved differently and ruined everything."
"I wouldn't have!"
Robards smiled. "Harry, you're eighteen, and in many ways you're still a boy. You haven't steadied to the point where we know how you'll behave. It's best not to ask you for subterfuge, but to let you act from the heart. The less we coached you, the truer your voice was. Why mess with that?"
Grudgingly, Harry acquiesced. Luckily it was only a few minutes after that that they were called back into the chamber to be told that an Act establishing the village of Weetsmoor as a Reasonable Sanctuary had been passed. Harry want to shout about it. Robards simply thanked the council and shook a few hands.
The next to tell were Russ and Hugh. "That's it?" Hugh laughed. "I don't have to make a light at the end of a wand for them?"
"They're reasonable people," Robards reminded him. "They know which way is the right one."
"Sometimes," said Russ quietly. "Sometimes."
There was nothing more to do at that moment but to return to Weetsmoor and the cottage on the road running northwest out of the village, where Mrs. Hanson had tea, hot chocolate, apple pie, and shortbread waiting for them.
"I could get used to this," Robards said, on his second piece of shortbread.
"That," replied Russ, "sounds like you're planning on being a regular visitor."
Robards nodded. "I could get used to this," he repeated.
Here ends the fourth story. Further stories will be in Elementary, My Dear Potter: Part II if and when the author finishes them.