Chapter 14 : Dinner Party
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The next morning George collected them from the hotel lobby at 10:00 am as promised. It was a beautiful sunny late autumn day, neither hot nor cold. After a quick car trip up George Street, they found themselves outside the Town Hall. To their right was a lovely though very elaborate building in the Romanesque style. It took up an entire city block.
“This is the Queen Victoria Building, built in the late nineteenth century,” said George. “Pierre Cardin described it as ‘the most beautiful shopping centre in the world’." Only Hermione had heard of Pierre Cardin.
“As far as muggles are concerned it has three levels above ground and one below.” He passed each of them a small slip of paper. “This is from the secret keeper for the building.”
As each of them read the paper the building appeared to grow upwards, with two new levels becoming visible between the roof with its glass domes and what used to be the top level.
“Welcome to Sydney’s ‘Diagon Alley’. We call it the Queen Victoria Extensions, or more usually, the QVE.”
As they entered the building they could see the interior was built ‘gallery’ style allowing natural light to penetrate from the glass domes to all levels of the building. They took the escalator to the fourth floor, the first ‘magical’ floor. It was quite busy. Many people were dressed in ordinary muggle clothing, though some wore more traditional wizarding robes. Most of the shops would not have looked out of place in Diagon Alley. There was Applebaum’s Apothecary selling ingredients for potions of all sorts, Mad Marge’s Magical Menagerie and even a branch of Flourish and Blotts. Hermione couldn’t resist entering dragging her companions along with her. Twenty minutes later they dragged her out, but not before she had bought a copy of Australia, a Magical History.
“I’m surprised you use ordinary muggle money in these shops,” remarked Hermione to George.
“Yes, we’ve never seen the need for a separate currency. It certainly makes things easier.”
They stopped outside Wanderful, their attention arrested not by the awful name but by a display of wand holsters. None of them had ever heard of a wand holster. They went inside to find out more. The young shop keeper gave an enthusiastic demonstration. The holster had two parts; a wrist band that had a miniature wand embedded in it and a small silk sheath that had a magical extension charm on it. You placed your wand in the sheath and put it in a pocket or anywhere convenient. The miniature wand has just enough power so you could use a sub vocal summoning charm that instantly placed the wand in your hand ready for instant action. Time and time again the shop keeper placed the wand in the sheath, placed the sheath in a pocket or a sock, and then instantly summoned the wand into his hand.
“How come the wand doesn’t rip your clothes when you summon it?” asked Hermione, amazed but perplexed.
“You don’t use Accio,” he replied “you use a variation developed by the inventor of the holster. The spell is Arcesso.”
He showed all four how to use the holster and after a few tries they were all succeeding in rapidly bringing their wands to hand.”
Hermione, Ron and Harry were all staring at each other in amazement. They were all thinking how useful these would have been during their last year.
What the shopkeeper said next bowled them over.
“The holster works with up to three wands. No self-respecting Aussie wizard would go into battle without at least one spare wand.”
“Who invented these?” asked Harry, determined to find out all he could.
“Anton Gregorovitch at your service, Mr Potter,” he said offering a handshake.
“You know who I am?” asked Harry not entirely surprised, shaking Anton’s hand.
“It’s not as if photos of all four of you haven’t been in our local papers at least half a dozen times in the last two weeks. And of course you’re walking around with George here, which always draws attention. I’d be surprised if anyone in this shopping centre doesn’t know who you are. ”
“I have noticed we’ve been getting a lot of furtive glances, but apart from people waving at George, no one has said anything.” Hermione was beginning to wonder exactly who George was.
“Well, word has been put out that your privacy is to be respected while you are visiting Australia.” replied Anton.
“Gregorovitch, any relation to---“ started Harry.
“Great grandson of the great Gregorovitch, My grandparents emigrated to Australia after the second world war. As you can see I’m still carrying on the family tradition. ”
“You’re not wrong there. These holsters are brilliant,” said Harry.
Each of them bought one. Harry bought three more. He intended to send them to Kingsley as quickly as possible for evaluation by the Auror’s office.
They spent the next hour exploring the QVE. There was even a joke shop called Newt’s Novelties. Ron took a copy of the catalogue and decided to come back later for a closer look at the stock.
They left the QVE by apparition arriving in a non-descript room with a single door that opened onto Circular Quay wharf.
“There is a network of apparition points in most public and many private buildings in Sydney, as in most Australian cities. To muggles they look like ordinary storage rooms, but they allow us to quickly navigate around the city without risk of detection,” explained George. He gave each of them a map of the public apparition points and showed them how to use it to find apparition points near their starting point and their destination.
“The map knows where you are and you can also zoom in and out to make navigating easier.”
“Wicked,” said Ron.
George then took them on a ferry ride to Manly. This suburb was on a peninsula with one side facing the harbour, the other the ocean.
“We could easily apparate but the ferry ride is so much more fun,” said George.
Indeed the four found it very enjoyable being out on the water on such a beautiful day. They were fascinated by all the varieties of sailing boats flying before the wind in vigorous competition around the harbour.
They had a light lunch at one of the many seafood restaurants overlooking the ocean beach. The maître de greeted George like a long lost friend. After some further exploration George announced he had to leave them but invited them to a dinner party that evening at his home where they could meet some other young Australians. They accepted.
After George left, Hermione announced she wanted to look at the place where her parents were living, even though she knew they weren’t due back till tomorrow. They were living in the suburb of Gordon to the north of the city. Using the map they found a public apparition point in a library within easy walking distance from the home and quickly travelled there.
Hermione’s parents were living in a pleasant leafy street. Their home was a little smaller than the one they had in England but looked fine. There was no sign of any potential danger, all looked peaceful and quiet. Realising there was nothing they could really do they decided to return to their hotel.
Early evening, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sitting on the balcony of their suite entranced by the light reflecting off the water of Circular Quay. To their right, the lights of the city office towers shimmered. In front, across the quay, the pearl white sails of the Opera House were brightly illuminated. The quay was busy with passenger ferries ploughing back and forth and various cruise boats loading passengers for dinner cruises on the harbour. It was a mesmerising scene. It was with some reluctance they tore themselves away and apparated to George’s apartment.
George’s other guests appeared to be in their early twenties and all seemed to know one another. George introduced each of them to the four.
“This is my sister, Michelle,” he said indicating a very attractive blonde. She was as short as Ginny but with a fuller figure.
”And this is Simon, Barry, Cara and Ariadne. Ariadne is my girlfriend,” George confided, “Or at least I hope she still is. The fact she is here is a good sign.”
“Very funny, George,” said Ariadne looking a little embarrassed. “We had a little contretemps last week, but I decided to forgive him, Merlin knows why.”
“I’m irresistible, that’s why, everyone says so,” replied George hamming it up.
“So, has my irresistible brother being showing you the sights?” asked Michelle.
“Oh yes,” replied Hermione “He’s been very kind. He certainly knows his way around. I’m surprised everywhere we go people seem to know him.”
All George’s friends smiled.
“He hasn’t told you has he?” asked Michelle with a knowing grin.
“Told us what?” asked Harry.
“Well if you ask George, he’ll tell you our father only has his job because George is so popular. Others, less kind, might suggest that George is so well known only because of our father. You’ll have to work out for yourselves where the truth lies.”
“Exactly who is your father?” asked Ron.
“Hopefully you’ll meet him later. His name is Kevin Lonnergan. He’s the Australian Minister of Magic,” answered Michelle.
“Blimey George, you could have told us,” swore Ron.
“People tend to treat me differently when they find out who my father is. I like to be judged on my own merits,” explained George. “The people I’ve gathered here to meet you tonight do just that. They are my true friends.”
Harry nodded with understanding. “I understand George. All my life I’ve been famous for something that happened when I was a baby. Something I don’t even remember. None of that mattered to Hermione or Ron here. To them I’ve always been just Harry. It is very precious.”
This little exchange broke the ice and everyone relaxed.
“So tell me,” asked Hermione deciding to get the ball rolling, “what do you all do?”
“I’m studying literature at Sydney University,” said Michelle.
“Muggle literature at a muggle university?” asked Hermione both surprised and excited.
“Yes, yes, it is quite common in Australia,” replied Michelle.
“I’m at Sydney Uni too,” added Barry. “I’m doing a Doctorate in Magical Physics.”
“Magical Physics?” asked Hermione.
“Yes it’s a combination of muggle physics and the theory of magic. It’s an attempt to understand the physical basis of magic and incorporate it into standard physics.”
“Your studying magic in a muggle physics school?”
“No, the analysis of magic is done in a hidden adjunct wizards only school at the university, but we use muggle techniques and we are also members of the muggle physics school,” clarified Barry.
Harry, Ron and Ginny were surprised but Hermione was reeling. She was like a little girl who thought she had read everything in the library only to find there were four more floors. Her mind was popping with all sorts of possibilities and she was becoming overwhelmed. She hardly heard Simon announce that he was a computer specialist. Her attention returned when he added he managed the Ministry of magic’s computer systems. Computer’s in the ministry of magic? What she heard next flawed not only Hermione, but Harry, Ron and Ginny as well.
“Simon is a muggle, by the way,” said George.
After a lengthy silence George added, “I think we’ve managed to overwhelm our English guests.” He paused for a moment then continued in a sympathetic tone.
“What you need to understand is that in Australia the wizarding community is far less isolated from the muggle community than is common in Britain and Europe. We abide by the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, of course, and keep our existence hidden from the muggle population at large. We also hold onto our traditional culture, but we participate fully in the mainstream muggle culture as well.”
“How can you abide by the Statute if you have muggles working in the ministry?” asked Hermione dumbfounded.
“Your parents know about the magical world don’t they, Hermione?”
Ignoring that just at the moment they didn’t, Hermione replied “well yes, but that’s different.”
“How so?” pressed George.
“They don’t work in the ministry for a start, and they had to know because of me.”
“Well I don’t suppose there’s a great need for dentists in the Ministry, but what if there were? What would the British Ministry of Magic do if it needed dentists and no wizard was qualified?”
Hermione had no answer.
“As it happens Simon’s brother is a muggle born wizard, so Simon did ‘need to know’ as you put it, but he is employed by the ministry because of his skills.”
“There’s quite a few muggles working at the ministry,” added Simon, “and they don’t all have family connections as I do.”
“I’m just as surprised the Australian Ministry actually uses computers. The British Ministry wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole,” offered Harry.
“I can just imagine some old pure blood aristocratic English wizard trying to operate a computer, ’What do you mean I have to turn it on’,” mocked Barry. The Aussies all broke out laughing. Hermione and Harry tried to suppress a giggle looking guiltily at Ron and Ginny.
George held up his hands, looking at Ginny and Ron. “Sorry, we don’t mean to offend. It’s just that the level of ignorance of British and European wizards and witches about muggle society, especially among purebloods, strikes us as very odd.”
“Dangerous too,” added Ariadne, “We have some pure blood fanatics here too, but blood prejudice is very much a minority thing here. Most of us have at least one muggle friend.”
“We all go to a normal muggle primary school,” continued Michelle, “and although we go to special magical high school we follow the muggle high school curriculum as well as specialist magical subjects.”
“Wow, sounds like a heavy workload, I hope you still find time for important stuff like Quidditch,” said Ginny.
George put hand on heart and said “Quidditch is sacred Ginny; nothing gets in the way of Quidditch.” He then broke into boisterous rendition of what had to be a team song, promptly joined by Barry and Cara. Michelle and Hermione both rolled their eyes.
“Not here too?” said an exasperated Hermione.
“You shouldn’t have started George on Quidditch,” laughed Ariadne.
“Prize beater for the Sydney Fantasticals two years running, I was,” boasted George, “We beat Melbourne both years, I knocked their star seeker off his perch both times.” He demonstrated giving an almighty wack to a bludger. Harry winced.
“But how do you fit all the lessons in, surely something has to give,” asked Hermione trying desperately to get off Quidditch.
“I’m sure it does,” replied Michelle. “For example, you four probably know a lot more than any of us about making specific potions, apart from Cara who is a specialist potion maker. We concentrate on theory and learning techniques. Then we can always follow a procedure in a book if we need to. Frankly I don’t see the point of learning a whole lot of procedures off by heart like you Brits do.”
“But it’s not just rote learning, there is so much magic to learn and you have to learn the theory and then practice it to make it your own.”
“Yes, you’re right Hermione, it’s all about trade-offs really,” continued Michelle. “I don’t want to sound offensive, but there was no way I was going to give up studying literature and music so I could learn to transform a pencil into a porcupine in five different colours. I mean, when would I ever need to do that?”
“And there’s no way I would have given up studying muggle mathematics and science,” chipped in Barry.
Sensing his British guests were about to be overwhelmed again, George intervened. “It might be a good time to go into dinner. Could you all please move to the table. As they moved to the table Michelle got in one more shot. “You know, Hermione, you don’t have to learn everything while you’re still at school, you can still continue your education once you leave school.”
The first course was served, sesame prawns with beans sprout and snow pea salad. Ron was hungry enough that he would eat anything and Harry and Hermione both seemed to enjoy the dish. Ginny was a little more dubious but in the end seemed to enjoy the food as well.
“Up to your usual standards, George,” said Clara who truly seemed to relish the dish. Conversation settled onto what they had done in Sydney so far, and then moved onto suggestions for other things they might want to see and do. Ron then commented how long the flight was from London starting a general exchange of horror travel stories among the Aussies.
The main course was then served; slow cooked beef with a port wine reduction. “I thought you might like a touch of home,” said George.
Ron tucked right in with great gusto, winning a look of disapproval from Hermione.
“Wow,” said Ron, “this beef is brilliant. It is so tender. It puts the house elves at Hogwarts to shame.”
“The house elves at Hogwarts are slaves, aren’t they?” accused Ariadne frostily. An abrupt silence fell on the table. Hermione eventually spoke up.
“Yes, Ariadne, they are slaves, though most English wizards would object strongly to that term.”
“I don’t know how you could have eaten food prepared by slaves!” Ariadne continued.
“Now Ariadne, this isn’t the time or ---“
“Don’t you ‘Ariadne’ me, George, you feel just as strongly on this subject as I do.”
“Hermione went on a hunger strike when she first heard of the house elves at Hogwarts,” started Ron, “but she finally realised the only thing that was going to happen was she was going to starve to death. She then started S.P.E.W. to campaign for elf rights. Harry freed a house elf from a vicious master when he was in second year. We are not unsympathetic. The issue is complex though.”
“What’s complex, slavery is wrong, full stop,” asserted Ariadne.
“There is one free elf at Hogwarts,” said Harry. “She’s an alcoholic. She regards the worst day of her life as the day she was set free. I inherited an old house elf a little while ago. He went berserk when I offered to set him free, it nearly killed him. He begged me not to do it.”
“You own a slave!” shouted Ariadne, glaring at Harry as she jumped to her feet.
“No I don’t, as Kreacher knows he is able to choose freedom whenever he wants. He also has access to any funds he wants so he is paid too. I don’t like the situation and I didn’t ask for it, but I’m not going to apologise for it either.”
“Sit down Ariadne!” commanded George. “Do you remember who you are talking to, what they have done?”
Ariadne blushed and promptly sat down. “I’m sorry; it’s just that I care about this issue very much. You must think me very rude. Here you have been risking your lives, fighting real evil and all I’ve ever done is talk about it. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologise for passionately defending the things you care about, Ariadne,” said Ron. “I’d have to spend half my life apologising if I did that.”
“I don’t understand,” said Ginny. “How are house elves treated in Australia?”
“They were freed by an act of the Australian Convocation of Wizards in 1921,” explained Ariadne. “They can leave their employer whenever they choose, they must be paid a minimum amount and physical punishment is banned. The North Americans did the same in the 1960’s”
“How has that worked out,” asked Hermione very interested to find out.
“Well, there are still a lot of abuses,” replied Ariadne.
“Ariadne is a lawyer working in the area of the rights of magical creatures,” added George.
“I have always wanted to work in that area myself,” said Hermione thoughtfully, “although after recent events I’m wondering whether I should concentrate on the rights of muggles and the muggle-born and fighting blood prejudice.”
“It’s not for me to tell you where your priorities should lay, Hermione,” said George, “but I don’t think you can fight one without the other. We all read what you said in your press conference and what Harry said at the Memorial service. It seems to me that that is what you were saying too.”
“Your speech on respect moved me deeply, Harry,” continued Ariadne, “It hit home for a lot of us. I thought it was marvellous.”
“It was because of that speech that I asked my father for this assignment and made sure we put you up in decent accommodation,” added George. “Don’t get me wrong, there are an awful lot of folk who are both mightily impressed and appreciative of what you have done, but we don’t usually put visiting heroes and celebrities up at the Sydney Suite at the Park Hyatt.”
“So why have you done so this time. What do you really want from us? No offense George, but we’ve been wondering that since we arrived.”
“It’s simple really,” said George, “we want you to thrive. We want you to succeed. We want to encourage you to use your influence to push reform in your own country and perhaps Europe as well.”
“I think you vastly overestimate our importance,” said Harry.
“Perhaps, but I don’t think so,” replied George.
“This is all very well and good,” said Ron, “but I don’t see why you Australians should really care that much about what happens on the other side of the world.”
“Wizarding society in Australia is a true democracy. That’s very rare,” explained Barry, “only New Zealand and North America are the same. In most countries the old families control the government much like they do in England. Many of them don’t like what we are doing here. We’re too close to muggles, we’re losing our way, they say. They see us as a threat. There has even been talk of intervention.”
George took up the thread. “It’s in our interest to support reform wherever we can around the globe, even if all that means is opening up a dialogue with like-minded people. That’s my hidden agenda, Harry.”
There was silence for a moment, and then Hermione spoke for the four of them.
“George, I think that is something that we’d be happy to go along with. You are right; we do hope to have some impact on the way our society runs, though at this stage we are still not clear on our precise aims or how we are going to achieve them. We’re complete novices. We are not alone though. I’d very much like to learn more about the things discussed tonight, about the things you are doing here.”
“Good, good,” boomed George. “I’m sure we can organise a few more get togethers and introduce you to some other people you might find interesting. The next few days though I’m guessing you want to reserve for you parents, Hermione.”
“Definitely,” replied Hermione, feeling a little guilty that she hadn’t thought about them all night.
“But first, for something even more important,” said George, his eyes lighting up, “…dessert!”
Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please review if you can – thanks.
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