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Chapter XVII
MACUSA in Session

Seraphina Picquery rose to address the assembled representatives who were the MACUSA. Panty sat next to her, sipping his tea. Speaking with the authority of her office, she said, “It has come to my attention that we are witnessing a steady rise in criminal activity within the magical community since Grindelwald was unmasked. Whatever else he may have done, he did keep the criminal element under control. I feel it imperative that we increase our surveillance so as to improve our chance of identifying any infractions of the law as soon as possible.”

“Madam President,” interrupted the representative from the Great Plains territory. “This is not the proper time to introduce new laws. We are about to adjourn for the summer and we have not had time to consider new legislation. And if you will recall, we have already authorized Maitland to recruit more witches and wizards to the ranks of the aurors.”

Picquery had expected this. She smiled as she took a sip from her tea, confident that she would win. Those from the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountain, and South West territories often resisted new legislation. But they were too few and could not block anything if she could convince those from New England and the Mid-Atlantic territories where over half the wizarding population resided.

“You make a valid point, Mr. Griswold,” said Picquery, setting her cup down with a slight bang, as if she were gaveling Mr. Griswold into his seat. “However, the increased numbers will not have the desired effect without the needed tools at their disposal, as you so accurately pointed out during the debate about whether we should or should not increase the numbers of aurors.

“Our one most basic tool for effective surveillance by the aurors is the annual wand registration. It is through wand examination that we are able to notice criminal trends and begin close surveillance of the suspect.

“I propose that we require wand examinations four times a year.”

“What!” exclaimed Clement Griswold who had remained standing. “It’s bad enough that we have to come to New York once a year to have our wands examined. No one will comply with such a decree.”

“I further propose that we establish a number of wand examination centers in each territory so that no one will have to come to New York at all, if he doesn’t want to.”

The issue was broached. This was Jacob's signal to proceed. Queenie let go of his hand and removed the disillusionment spell, but no one noticed the small figure appear in the back of the room and begin to walk toward the center table from which invited guests would speak to address the representatives sitting to either side. It was the strike of the cane on the wooden floor that first alerted them to what they took to be a dark apparition. This was enough to silence the members who were each trying to make some point or another.

That apparition was a short woman dressed in black. She wore a mourning dress from a time past. Her skirt fell to the floor. From a black hat with a black feather, a heavy veil fell to her waist. None could see her face. She wore black gloves. Not a single spot of skin nor strand of hair could be seen. They did not know what they were facing. Their fear was evident in their expressions.

Placing her cane against the table and a newspaper on top, she grasped the edge of the table as if to steady herself and catch her breath. With heavy breathing she said, “You have heard the story. I come to tell you the truth. I come in mourning for William Wohlfort; I come to tell you the truth of Seraphina Picquery’s request.”

It was at this that Picquery leaned down to give Panty his orders, for she had no sooner spoken to him than hiding his wand he cast a stunning spell from his seat at the diminutive woman in mourning dress.

Queenie who was in the mind of Picquery knew that she would give the order to stun Jacob. She knew that her protections would stand up to the stunning spell; she waited for the fireworks.

The spell was scattered in a shower of sparks.

“I do wish you would not do that,” said the old woman somewhat breathlessly. “You have nothing to fear from me, and while I can protect myself to a certain extent, such aggressive actions are disruptive—and I am not young.”

She raised her hand toward Panty. This was the signal for Queenie to act. Immediately, Panty’s wand flew out of his hand, and high above their heads, in a loud crack, broke into two pieces which fell to the floor. Panty cowered in his seat, trying to make himself look smaller.

Once again steading herself with her hands on the table, the old woman said, “So, Seraphina Picquery, you would have these representatives not hear what I have to say. Perhaps you fear hearing the truth. Perhaps you fear discovering the truth. Perhaps you fear others learning how you have been using your position of authority!”

The old woman held her hand above the newspaper she had placed on the table—again a signal, this time to Mr. Zelos—and what was one paper was now 64 papers. Beckoning to the elves in attendance, she said, “Gentle elves, please distribute these newspapers to the officials in attendance and to anyone else who might want one.”

Then to the assembly, she said, “Please relax and take the time to read the front page article about the suicide of William Wohlfort. Pay particular attention to his last words.

“To put things into context, William Wohlfort was the husband of Elizabeth Wohlfort. If you have not guessed, Elizabeth is a witch and William was a no-mag.

“Everything about Seraphina Picquery’s request for increased wand examinations is the result of Elizabeth extracting herself from auror Maitland’s control and fleeing with her children after she saw this article in the paper. Before then, she believed Maitland’s lie that she and her children would be left with their memories as long as she could convince her children that their father had been killed when he was struck by a truck. Maitland even sent a Legilimens to verify that the children believed the story. Elizabeth Wohlfort complied with all of Maitland’s demands, thinking only to protect her children, knowing that her husband had been obliviated. But that was never the plan. It was always Maitland's plan to obliviate Elizabeth and her children. Panty knows! Don’t you Panty?”

Panty nodded that he did.

“Speak up Panty,” insisted the old woman. “Tell us.”

“Yes, that was the plan,” he said fearfully.

“For years,” said the old woman, rapping the heavy knobby hand grip of the cane on the table. “we have all been told that wand registration was to protect us against the criminal element in our world, but look back!” she rapped the cane again. “If you look back at the arguments made at the time the wand registration laws were first proposed, you will find that there was great concern over the fact that the professors at Ilvermorny were not cooperating with the aurors in identifying marriages between mag and no-mag.

“But why ask for such a draconian measure? Surely Picquery and Maitland would have realized that there would be resistance. Mr. Griswold has already registered his displeasure. Why would Picquery seek a law that makes virtual house elves of wizards? How long before we are required to have our wand registration number tattooed on our arms so that we can be summoned at will?—Like a house elf,” another hard rap. “What is at the root of this? What is at the root of every politician’s and bureaucrat’s fear?—That his incompetence would be made manifest for all to see—that he might be removed from his seat of power.

“Isn’t that true, Picquery? Isn’t it true that you seek quarterly wand examinations to hide from your own failures?—from allowing anyone, even yourself, to know the extent of your prejudice?—from allowing anyone to know the extent of your love of power and your incompetence in wielding that power?”

Picquery said nothing. She just sat frozen in her chair, staring at the small woman in the mourning dress. She looked to some of the others. No one spoke—no one looked at her—all avoided her eyes.

“You cannot remain silent, woman!” said the old woman, rapping her cane so forcefully that Picquery gave a startled jerk in her seat. “Everyone wants to know where you stand, why you acted as you did. Everyone must know.”

“All right, yes, yes,” said Picquery, very much under the influence of the veritas serum/calming draft pair that a disillusioned Lady Caro had poured into the tea and coffee urns and who still disillusioned stood off to the side recording all with the omnioculars. “Elizabeth is gone—disappeared; we don’t know where. Maitland suggested that we have quarterly wand examinations to improve our chances of catching the miscegenators.”

“Well, Mr. Griswold, now you know why this out of order request is being made, and that you are being deceived,” said the old woman. “That you have always been deceived about the purpose of the Wand Permit Office.

“The incompetence of the obliviators has been made manifest in the last words of William Wohlfort. He retained residual memories that he could not comprehend. It drove him into depression and despair. It drove him to take his own life.”

“Madam, if I may, who are you?” asked Griswold.

“Who I am doesn’t matter,” said the old woman, removing a hat pin so that she could remove her veil and hat. “You do not know me. You may call me Joan.”

Everyone in the room was stunned to see Joan. She was old, the way no witch they had ever seen was. She was attractive in an strange way, but her face was sun burnt and lined. Her complexion seemed that of very old leather that had spent all its time in the sun and rain—wrinkled, cracked, stiff, weathered. She looked as if she had seen a very hard life. Witches did not look like this. A witch might be old and even ugly, but no witch lived a hard life. No witch ever looked so weather beaten.

The real Joan had been a no-mag, old when Queenie’s father first met her as a boy. She had traveled west by wagon train, taking months to make the trip. It would be years before the railroad enabled people to make such a trip in three weeks, which she had recently made to visit relatives in the East. Queenie’s father was advanced for his age. He could not do much magic, but he knew about polyjuice potion. He had learned about it practicing legilimency with his father. He knew it would be useful later. Joan was the beginning of his gathering.

“Yes, I am old. I am dying. I have had all but a few memories obliviated; it was my choice. I understand what William Wohlfort was suffering. I have been left with simple facts, such as what I am to say and knowledge of those spells I may need to defend myself—and that I once loved; my beloved, a no-mag, has been dead these many years hence.”

She continued, “The entire premise that it is possible to safely obliviate the memories of love is false. It is possible to safely remove a recent memory a no-mag has of some magic. It is possible to safely remove all the memories as Alexandros Metaxas did to those obliviators who tried to remove his wife’s memories of him and his daughter. But it is not possible to safely remove significant chunks of a person’s memories, of his life, while leaving other significant chunks intact.

“In my case, almost all my memories have been erased, but then I have no future. And it was my choice. I do not suffer as did William Wohlfort, but still I suffer. Others, whom I no longer remember will continue to seek out those witches and wizards who choose to love a no-mag. They will continue to remove them from your claws.”

“Why did you do it, Joan?” asked Griswold. “Why not just come and tell us? Why have others obliviate your memories?”

“As important as informing you was, I could not put the others in danger,” said Joan. “I knew that you might not let me leave, so they eventually acquiesced when I said that it must be me and they must obliviate my memories. I—we—could not take the chance that you might interrogate me. Ask Panty about how Maitland interrogated Elizabeth—with veritas serum and always the threat to obliviate her children.

“Now my friends can continue with our work. You know of them, but you do not know who they are. I could not allow you to wring that information from me.

“But, bare with me Mr. Griswold, I must continue with what I have come to say. You can see the evidence of the impossibility of what your obliviators attempt in the addled minds of witches and wizards who have had their memories of the no-mag they loved obliviated. Obliviated, even though they cooperated with their captors until the aurors had what they wanted and their cooperation was no longer needed, and they were then obliviated so they would be unaware of what had been done to them.

“You can also see it in the lives of the no-mags the aurors have destroyed, if you have not lost track of them. You don’t have to take my word for it. The aurors keep records with regard to all the witches and wizards they interrogate. Find those records; find them before they can be destroyed; find those witches and wizards, those who are still alive, and have them evaluated by healers. You will see that I am right.

“Elizabeth and William Wohlfort are just the latest to fall victim to those of you who pander to prejudice so as to gain and keep power over others—so as they may think better of themselves than they know they deserve.

“We were too late to help William, he is dead. But Elizabeth has taken her children and disappeared. She is safe and can set about putting her shattered life back together.

“It is Elizabeth’s disappearance that has precipitated Seraphina Picquery’s request to expand the Wand Permit Office. It is not needed. Wand registration is not necessary to the enforcement of the International Code of Wizarding Secrecy. It is a creature of Rappaport’s law. Shut it down! And, if you can’t repeal Rappaport’s law, at least shut down the Wand Permit Office. It has no purpose other than to hunt witches and wizards who want to love.

“You are doing Grindelwald’s work for him as you attempt to create the purified wizarding world he desires—as you enforce Rappaport’s law. Who knows what hatred the Wohlfort children will harbor against you as they grow and learn what you did to their father; as they become strong. How many witches and wizards harbor such a hatred? Can you look deep into your own minds? Can you see the depth of your own prejudice?—Can you see how you nurture that prejudice by your desire to think better of yourselves than you know you deserve?—Can you see how it is your own fear of discovering your mistakes and failures that nurtures this darkness?—Overcome your fear!”

These questions did not require an expressed answer, but the veritas serum each had drunk would compel every one of the officials present to answer it for himself—to experience the guilt that this inner knowledge demanded he experience.

Joan finished with a warning, “Rappaport’s law creates enemies of those who slip the shackles with which you would bind them.”

When Joan had stopped speaking, Mr. Griswold asked with genuine concern, “What will you do now?”

“I will go now. My friends will help me.

“Find a different way; the rest of the wizarding world has,” she pleaded before, holding her hat and veil, she pulled out the black feather and was gone.

Mr. Griswold who had remained standing, walked to the center floor where Joan had stood to address them. Looking around, he picked up the pieces of Panty’s wand and walking up to him sitting next to Picquery, he handed him the pieces, saying, “I believe these are yours.”

Turning to face the congress, he said, “Fellow delegates, President Picquery was right. We do have new legislation to consider before we adjourn. I think we should first dispense with the issue of quarterly wand exams.

“Can we all agree that we should reject President Picquery’s request?”

There was general mumbling as the delegates conferred with each other. None stood to address the congress until the head of the New England congressional delegation, Abigail Foote, stood to move that the congress reject the president’s request for quarterly wand examinations. Picquery’s request was voted down by a unanimous voice vote.

When the formalities of the vote were done, Abigail Foote stood to address the congress. “I think that before we adjourn for the summer, we should agree to seal the record of this session. It could prove troubling were what happened here to become general knowledge.”

There was no disagreement and again by unanimous voice vote, Foote’s motion to seal was passed. It was at this point that Mr. Griswold, still standing near a voiceless Picquery made a motion that they not adjourn so that they could further discuss the problems and recommendations recently presented to this congress by the weather beaten witch, Joan, who had just addressed them.

“Surely, Clement, you do not propose repealing Rappaport’s law in the next few minutes,” said Abigail Foote.

“Not at all, Abigail,” said Griswold. “The repeal of Rappaport’s law is not something that can be resolved in the short amount of time left to us. I am not even certain that it should be repealed. I do suggest that we not adjourn today, but rather remain in session to consider her other request—the request to eliminate the Wand Permit Office.”

“I hardly think that is necessary,” said Foote, thinking that Griswold was moving too fast. “It is better that we have the summer to consider this before bringing it before the congress.”

“I most emphatically disagree,” said Griswold, making use of his raised position next to Picquery to forcefully address the congress. “We may have sealed these proceedings, but by the end of the summer rumors of what happened will certainly be out amongst our constituents. We need to get ahead of this.”

“Do you expect us to stay all night, just because an old woman wants us to repeal Rappaport’s law,” said Foote.

“We do not have to stay all night,” said Griswold. “We can always extend this session for a few days more. This is a serious matter and we should address it while it is fresh in our minds. We need to give our people the impression that we are addressing the issues for when the rumors of this session begin to spread.”

And so what was to be a session of closing formalities continued into the night in heated discussion.

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