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Presentation

The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room
Chapter 5 of 12

Preceded by

Arrival

Followed by

Beautiful

Uploaded on

28 May 2006

Presentation is the fourth chapter of The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room.

SynopsisEdit

Draco is not impressed with his first encounter with Narnian royalty: a Queen screaming like a fishwife and a King acting the fool. The latter has invited them to accompany him back to the palace, implying that they might serve to keep him safe from his wife: Potter and Granger seem to be somewhat amused. When they reach the door, Gilles has to ask Potter to open it because he is carrying Freeman on his back. Steam billows out but he strides into it, his speech declaiming his return concluding prematurely with a yelp. A voice from inside admonishes him not to try "that Calormene nonsense" on her, as he shakes the hand she must have smacked: this has apparently been her kitchen for 27 years and she is clearly in charge. Addressing the voice as "Abra", he whines that he was only having fun, at which she scoffs and prompts him to introduce his companions. He waves them in through the door, which swings shut, and as he gives their names the steam clears away. The students are surprised to be confronted by a plump, red-haired woman with an apron and a wooden spoon…who is only just a little taller than Potter's waist! Draco recalls from what the Wizard told him that this must be a Red Dwarf; he also recalls Oren mentioning a family whose mum works at the palace. He is surprised to find himself missing the Dryad, who parted with them outside the palace in order to return home, and does his best to dismiss the feeling. In the meantime Abra does not think their appearance "proper" for meeting the High King and Queen, despite Gilles pleading that they will have all their lives to worry about "proper": she tells him to go and clean himself up and raps his knuckles again with her spoon when he swears, telling him to mind his language.[Note 1] He asks her meekly where his wife is, and Abra warns him to be careful: it transpires that Caelin was so cross because he distracted her which meant she burned a batch of cakes: not a particularly good cook, she had finally managed to get them to work! He makes great play of "going forth to meet his doom", wishing the students a dramatic farewell, and strides off. Meghan says she likes him even if he is silly, and Abra confirms that he is a kind and just king…when he can manage to concentrate long enough. She surmises—correctly as it happens—that they would all appreciate a bath and some fresh clothes, although Draco feigns nonchalance even though the closest he has been to a bath was the water fight at Silver Spring; he is looking forward to a chance to fix his hair. Abra calls out for "Kargin" and "Garnet" and two younger Red Dwarves, a boy and a girl, run in wearing some kind of livery. Abra instructs the former—Kargin—to show the boys to their rooms, and similarly the latter—Garnet—the girls. The two bow and curtsey respectively and Garnet asks politely for the girls' names: Kargin seems not so keen and has to be prompted by Abra to call them "Their Highnesses". As they leave the room, Potter catches up with Kargin and tells him not to bother being so formal unless there's someone present who will mind. Draco cuts in haughtily to inform the Dwarf that this does not apply to him: Kargin is to refer to him by his title at all times. Kargin responds so promptly that it is several seconds before Draco registers his tone of voice: he idly wonders what kind of punishments are applicable to cheeky servants…

Harry is curious about this "presentation" and asks Kargin, who tells him that his was quite simple: you get dressed up, kneel before the High King who blesses you, and leave. His voice turns a little envious when he says it might be different for Princes and Princesses, so Harry stops him. He explains that he never asked for all this, and in fact if he were given the chance he'd probably prefer to go home. Kargin is amazed that he might not want to be a king, but Harry shrugs: he never thought about it before, mainly because back home the Queen is just a figurehead. The two carry on discussing how parliament works, in the Muggle and Wizarding worlds, as they walk back to Harry and Malfoy's rooms, and continue over the racket of filling up the two tubs in their bathroom[Note 2]: Harry notes that Malfoy just sits on his bed looking snooty, probably practicing for his coronation. Kargin directs Harry to where soap and towels can be found, and Harry says not to worry about Malfoy, he'll deal with him. Kargin goes to leave, his parting shot a warning not to drown because his mum would never forgive him: to Harry's question he reveals that Abra is his mum, there's seven of them of which he and Garnet are the youngest.[Note 3] It turns out that Kargin is 15 and Garnet is a year younger: Harry remarks that he's coming up 15 and he thinks Malfoy might already be there. Kargin is not enthused at the possibility of Malfoy becoming High King, but Harry reassures him: as soon as Malfoy speaks they'll realise he's no good—not that Harry thinks he'd be much better but at least he's not a total git…he hopes. Kargin laughs and confirms that he seems OK so far before walking out, to be greeted by Malfoy demanding to know where he's been. Kargin replies rudely that he was talking with Harry, and that "His Highness' bath" is ready, and Malfoy proceeds to give him what he obviously thinks is a good telling-off. Kargin pretends to be obsequious, at which Harry is amused.

Malfoy merges from the bathroom, just as Kargin returns with lunch on a tray, and demands clean clothes: Kargin directs him to the wardrobes. Harry quips that these are not to be climbed into and asks which is which: Kargin indicates the darker one, leaving the lighter for "His Highness".[Note 4] Malfoy immediately opens his wardrobe while grumbling about Kargin's teasing and when the latter points out that this nomenclature was requested makes a very rude suggestion and sends Kargin away. Kargin looks for confirmation to Harry, who leaves it up to him: Kargin admits that he does need to clean up himself before Court. He tells Harry that his room is just down the hall if there's anything he needs: when Malfoy asks what if he needs anything, Kargin replies in a similar vein to Malfoy's earlier suggestion, only even ruder, and bids him good afternoon. Malfoy throws a fork at him, which he dodges to Harry's great amusement.

Meanwhile, Garnet has been attending to Hermione and Meghan, and she is currently brushing the former's hair to remove some tangles. Meghan is poking through the jewelry supplied and remarks on the size of some of the hair clips: Garnet says that Queen Ilana insisted and a good thing too. She asks for some that match what Hermione will be wearing and Meghan obliges. However, she is puzzled by some of the other items she finds, wondering whether they come from a broken necklace. Hermione is not deceived by Garnet's apparent bafflement and immediately realises that the beads Meghan has found will go perfectly with the latter's hair. She begins to replace Meghan's existing beads with the new ones, passing the clips to Garnet. Meghan asks about who made the beads and Garnet recognises them as her brother's work—her second brother. Hermione asks how many she has:

Six. All older. Miners, craftsmen, builders. And two hopeful warriors. But only one of those is my brother.

Meghan asks who the other "hopeful warrior is": is it her sister?[Note 5] Garnet replies that she has no sisters and jumps down off the bed, closing the conversation. Hermione adds the last bead to Meghan's hair and they look at themselves in the mirror. Hermione is impressed: she looks at least as nice as she did for the Yule Ball and it's been much less trouble. Meghan thinks they look like princesses, which Garnet points out is entirely appropriate as she leaves to check on the boys. Meghan and Hermione exchange nervous reassurances while they wait.

The four students are given their instructions for attending "Afternoon Court" by the castle's majordomo, a very large man[Note 6] to whom Harry takes an instant liking. Meghan is very nervous prompting Harry to reassure her just as trumpets blare, at which point the majordomo announces them to the assembled masses. As their names are called, they step through the door: Meghan, Malfoy, Hermione, Harry. Harry concentrates on the back of Hermione's head to avoid gawking at the assembled Animals until they stop and turn to the right. They are quite close to the dais, facing Queen Caelin (who smiles at Meghan), King Gilles (who Harry thinks he sees winking), High Queen Ilana (who looks sad) and High King Ardan who is directly opposite Harry. The latter is broken out of his distraction by Hermione's hiss at which point he remembers to kneel. The High King greets them formally and then blesses each of them with the sign of the Knife: apparently they'll need the help because they're going to be tested. Harry notices that Malfoy seems disturbed by the blessing, rubbing his hands on his tunic. When they are dismissed, the four return to the antechamber. The majordomo congratulates them on a job well done and tells them to wait for Abra. Hermione collapses into a chair, saying she felt nervous, while Malfoy asks why they need blessing anyway: Meghan points out that they're taking on a big job which impresses him not at all. Abra arrives to escort them to the library where the Kings and Queens will meet them when Court finishes.

Draco stares out of the library window while the others chatter with Kargin and Garnet behind him. He anticipates them being told off for "fraternising with the servants" while trying to work out why he reacted so negatively to the presentation. For some reason he has trouble focussing on it, like with the water fight at the Spring: a little voice inside insists that such things are not important to a young Prince who must be single-minded. He concentrates on the water fight first, and decides that he quite liked it, and might like to do it again, so long as it was private. The presentation is another thing entirely: he forces himself to admit that he should have felt elated that he was fooling everybody, that he ought to feel happy to be working to bring down the very people offering him protection. But he doesn't, and he can't work out what he does feel…

Meghan is startled, along with the others, when someone knocks at the library door. Harry bids them enter and it turns out to be Caelin and Gilles: the former takes off her crown and compliments their performance at Court. When Hermione calls Caelin "Majesty" she tells them to use her name when not in public; they already know Gilles from their "shocking performance" that afternoon. Caelin bemoans her abominable temper, but Gilles reassures her that Ardan is a skilled negotiator, able to smooth any ruffles. Speaking of whom, Ardan and Ilana have been delayed slightly: in the meantime Gilles makes personal introductions. Caelin embraces Hermione and Harry: she promises the latter an opportunity to talk later, about "wounds and healing", for which he seems grateful. Gilles puts an arm around Meghan and introduces her as "quite the prettiest", at which Caelin laughs and teases him that this is only because Meghan looks like her. She beckons Meghan over, noticing that her knees are trembling, and asks why she is frightened. Meghan says, all in a rush, that she is worried she won't be good enough to be a Queen. Caelin sits and pulls out a chair for Meghan: she explains that she felt the same when Ilana told of seeing Aslan, and actually refused to come to Caer Paravel for a time. When Meghan protests that she's just a kid, not grown-up yet, Caelin counters by pointing out that her youth is actually an advantage: she is more able to learn, and Caelin will do her best to help. Meghan launches herself into Caelin's arms and hugs her tightly. She hears Caelin tell the other students that they can receive the same help if they ask, and Gilles quipping that they could just demand help like everybody else does, but she stops listening when Harry replies so that she can wallow in the luxury of being hugged…

What Harry is saying is that they can prove they are worthy by not demanding help, they'll ask politely. Ilana, who is just coming in the door, congratulates him even though most people think it's the other way around. Malfoy mutters something inaudible: when Gilles picks him up on it he is startled. Ardan, arriving with Ilana, teases Gilles about his acute hearing which has apparently led him astray previously. Gilles withdraws his question, commenting that he's said plenty he would rather nobody else heard. Apropos of that, Ardan would like a private word with Malfoy, at which the latter preens noticeably. Harry is dismayed and pleads with Ilana, as soon as the two have left, that Malfoy can't be the High King not just because of his abominable record of bigotry, but also because Harry thinks he might already have some arrangement with the White Wizard. Ilana calms him: they have been observing Malfoy and they understand; furthermore the High King is not chosen merely on the basis of age. She asks whether he is speaking out because he wants to be High King to which he protests that he didn't actually want to be a King in the first place, but since he's here doesn't he have to? Caelin speaks up, assuring him that if he were dead set against it, Aslan would surely intervene but then again why would he have been brought here in that case? Gilles quietly wonders whether Malfoy himself should have been brought: from their observations of his short time in the palace, he has not distinguished himself. Ilana is smilingly confident that Aslan has it all in hand: Hermione hopes so because Draco Malfoy is very good at ruining things…

As he follows Ardan into the next room Draco is almost strutting: his place as High Prince is in the bag. He is disabused of this as soon as he sees Ardan's face: the latter is distinctly unimpressed with how Draco has been comporting himself, notably how he treated Kargin. It turns out that the latter and his sister, Garnet, are not servants as Draco supposed but are themselves in training just as the four Hogwarts students are to be. If Draco cannot prove himself worthy, Ardan and his fellow monarchs are willing to wait until Aslan presents them with another set of candidates. Draco is suitably chastened, even more so when he recalls the instructions from the White Wizard to go along with what his fellows did and to blend in: he hopes he has not forgotten anything else important. In the meantime he promises Ardan to do better, and himself to learn as much as he can about this place until the right time, at which point he will be the one in charge. He just has to wait…

AppearingEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Note the use of his full name!
  2. So Cair Paravel has indoor plumbing, at least in this version?
  3. Harry must have been whammied well hard not to notice the parallels…
  4. So Harry gets the dark one, Draco gets the light one: should be easy to remember!
  5. Yes, we'd like to know that too: is she perhaps referring to herself?
  6. Gosh, who could this possibly be?

ReferencesEdit

See alsoEdit

The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room
Royalty Arrival Presentation Beautiful Legend

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