On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
Harry Potter and the Half-God Prince
II: A Bit Complicated
Hermione tried to think of an answer that wasn't a complete fabrication. "It's a bit complicated. We weren't really expecting to end up here, not exactly, Professor Snape left the machine but he had to leave in a hurry, we had to work it out for ourselves."
"I take it Voldemort is back, and Severus wants you out of the way."
All three of them winced, and Ron's stomach growled again.
"We'll talk in the kitchen, it sounds like you need something to eat."
"That'd be great," said Harry, "We've only had eggs the last couple of days, and they weren't very good."
They followed Diana through a large dining room to a modern muggle kitchen. "Let's see, what can I do quickly that isn't eggs... do you all like spaghetti?" They all agreed that they did, and Diana put on a pot of water onto the stove, got a plastic tub of Bolognese sauce from the freezer and put it into a microwave, then added salt, half a packet of dried spaghetti, and some dried herbs to the water. "This won't be as good as if I made it all fresh, but it's fast."
"Professor Snape didn't really explain things," said Harry, "are you his cousin or something? I know that his mother's name was Prince."
"Not exactly. The Prince family helped me many years ago, and part of the help was the use of their name when I needed a new identity. You could say I'm adopted." She turned back to them, her belt suddenly unwrapping from her waist and forming a coil of glowing rope in her hands. "Now... I've been patient, but I think we need a little more honesty here." Before they had time to react her hand snapped forward and they were caught in glowing coils. "Who exactly are you, and what is that... thing around your neck?"
"Oh crap," said Ron, trying to move his hand to his wand, and failing.
"It's a horcrux," said Harry, suddenly realizing that he couldn't lie. "And I'm Harry Potter."
"Which probably makes these two Hermione Granger and Robert Weasley."
"It's Ron, not Robert."
"What's a horcrux?"
"A soul fragment."
"What do you plan to do with it?"
"Destroy it, if we can figure out how."
"Did Severus actually give you the mechanism?"
"No. He left it in a house we were using, we grabbed it when we had to run."
"Then I don't owe you any obligations or life debts?"
"Um.. not that I know."
"Excellent." The rope fell from them, and wound itself back around her waist. "Let's eat, and then we'll work out what I can do to help you."
Ron pulled his wand, and the rope snapped out again, wrapping his hand and arm so that it would be impossible to use it to cast a spell. "Ron, I really mean you no harm, unless I am seriously provoked. Now are you willing to put that away?"
"You suppose what, Ron?"
"Yes, I'll put it away."
"Thank you, Ron." The rope flew back to her hand again. "Does anyone else have an objection to a quiet friendly meal?"
"Um, not me," said Harry.
"No," said Hermione.
"...so right at the end of the First World War my lover was gassed and caught in an exploding aeroplane, the gods alone know how he survived the fall, the burns, and the poison. He would have died in hours, but one of his friends was a squib and knew how to summon magical help. Rafael Prince helped Steve, and I swore a life debt to him and his descendants and took their name, partly because I needed to call myself something, and partly in tribute to their help. So far as I know only Severus remains from the family."
Ron swallowed a large mouthful of spaghetti. "Wait a minute. They helped you in 1918. That's.. um.. seventy-nine years ago."
"I know that witches and wizards can live a long time," said Hermione, "but that's not it, is it? You don't seem to have aged at all."
"No, I'm not a witch, although I do obviously know about them and have a little magical ability. Technically I'm what you'd call a magical creature. Amongst other things, I'm immortal."
"Oh Merlin." Harry put a hand to his forehead. "Don't tell us anything about how you do it. Vol... he sometimes knows what I'm thinking."
"It wouldn't help him if I told him personally," said Diana. "It's my nature, not something he can copy or steal."
"I'm a demigod."
Hermione's eyes widened. "A WHAT? And shouldn't that be demigoddess?"
"I am Princess Diana of Themyscira, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons and Zeus. I was born about five thousand years ago. And it's always demigod; it's a reference to divinity, not gender."
"I am real, Ron." Diana casually picked up the long steel ladle she'd used to serve the spaghetti sauce and bent it double, then twisted it into a knot.
"I try not to be. I am, however, limited by my oath to the Prince family and to Severus. In particular, I gave him my word that I would stay out of the war with Voldemort and provide a safe haven if needed. He mentioned his godson Draco, I was expecting him to send the boy here if things got too dangerous in Britain."
"Then you can't help us?"
"I didn't say that, Harry. I can't help you directly, at least not with the war, but there are other things I can do that may indirectly help your cause. For example, I can destroy the horcrux if you want me to."
"How can you destroy it?"
"I've slain a god, I doubt that the amulet would put up as good a fight."
"Wouldn't that count as taking sides?" asked Hermione.
"You've brought it into my home, that means I have the right to treat it as a threat."
Harry smiled. "I'm not going to argue about that."
"I'm a little disappointed in the owl, actually, it shouldn't have brought anything dangerous to me."
"We were wondering about that," said Hermione. "Where does it come from? Is it really an Antikythera mechanism?"
"Yes and no. Hephestus built the original machines for us about three thousand years ago when Themiscyra had more trade with the outside world, without one it's almost impossible to find us. Some non-magical copies were built by followers of Archimedes around 250 BC, the mechanism that was found in the sea was one of them. They won't help you find Themiscyra, but they're good navigational aids for more mundane purposes."
"You must have added the date setting later."
"The servitor form was built in by Hephestus, I simply changed the activation date when I gave it to the Prince family."
"It's weird... I keep thinking I've seen something like the owl before."
Diana smiled. "I'd imagine that the reason you think you've seen it before is that you saw a film called Clash of the Titans, I was an art consultant for the production company and made a few suggestions for special effects."
"That's it! I saw it on TV years ago. Which reminds me, what was the point of all that rigmarole with the photos?"
"Well, Rafael knew the correct setting and should have passed it on to his heirs, but he wanted to make sure that if something happened the family would still have a way to contact me. It was unnecessarily complicated, but that's wizards for you."
"About the amulet..." said Harry.
"We'll deal with it after lunch. Which reminds me, the cheesecake should be defrosted by now, and I have ice cream and fruit to go with it. Are you all ready for dessert?"
Diana went out while they were eating, and came back a few minutes later wearing an outfit that had them staring; a sleeveless red and gold armoured girdle and short skirt that seemed to be made of strips of leather, metal bracers on her arms, a gold tiara, a sheathed sword, and a circular shield slung on her back. The coil of glowing rope hang by her side. Metallic boots completed the outfit. "If this thing is as dangerous as you think, I prefer to be armoured."
"That's an interesting costume," said Hermione. "Doesn't it get a little cold sometimes?"
"No. We'd better do this in the basement, there's more room to swing a sword, and less to break there if anything goes wrong." She led them downstairs. One side of the cellar was set up as a gymnasium, the other as a workshop. Diana effortlessly picked up a four foot piece of four by eight timber and put it across two trestles. "Put the amulet on there, at the mid-point between the trestles."
"Okay." Harry put the amulet where he was told, and backed away as Diana unsheathed her sword. "Should I command it to open?"
"Better not." The sword looked as lethal as the Sword of Gryffindor, with a golden hilt and a long silvery blade, with symbols none of them recognized engraved along its length. She held it in both hands, then raised it, seemed to meditate for a moment, then swung it round her head several times until the movement was a blur, and Hermione fancied she heard a whip-like crack, as though the blade was travelling faster than sound. Almost too fast to see she swung it down into the Horcrux. With a ringing noise that nearly deafened them the halves of the Horcrux and the timber flew apart, leaving a cloud of black smoke that pulsated and wailed, and the sword embedded nearly a foot into the concrete floor.
"Don't let it touch you!" shouted Harry.
Diana let go of the sword and snapped the rope toward the cloud. It wrapped around the smoke and somehow confined it, forming a loose ball which floated in mid-air and rapidly contracted, tighter and tighter until no smoke was visible, then continued to shrink until the shrieking stopped in a last agonized cry. She smiled and said "That's one problem solved" as she pulled the sword from the concrete. The floor around the blade cracked, but the sword was completely undamaged. As she wiped off some dust the rope unknotted itself and slithered back to her waist.
"Merlin's soggy underpants!"
"Don't be crude, Ron. What next?"
"There's still something here." Diana concentrated for a moment, then said "Now we find a way to get that thing out of Harry's head without killing him."
"I'm sorry, Harry, it's not just a scar. I think you've already guessed that."
Harry seemed to sag. "You're saying it's a Horcrux?"
"Some sort of soul fragment anyway. Now that the Horcrux is gone I can sense it, like a fainter version of the amulet. It isn't just a curse scar."
"What can we do to help?" asked Ron.
"There's a ritual to summon my uncle, he may be able to help, but we can't do it until tonight. Can any of you play a musical instrument? Or sing?"
"Which uncle are we talking about?" Hermione asked nervously.
"Hades, of course. Who else would you ask about souls?"
"I can play pan pipes but I'm not very good," said Harry.
"And I played violin in junior school, though I'm a bit rusty. And I sang in the choir."
"How about you, Ron?"
"I can sing a bit, and I used to have some bongo drums until Mum made me get rid of them."
"Good. We have some time. Can you transfigure the instruments? There's plenty of scrap wood here for you to use. If not we need to get some shopping."
"Harry! You can't just summon Hades and expect to get away unharmed! He's the god of death!" Hermione plucked one of the strings of the violin she'd made, decided it wasn't quite right, and tweaked the transfiguration a little more.
"I'm not asking him for a favour for myself. Vol... Tom's trying to cheat him, I'm trying to make sure he doesn't get away with it."
"What if he decides the way to do that is to kill you too?"
"If he's that ruthless he ought to go after Tom to get the rest of the Horcruxes."
"You'd still be dead, mate," said Ron, punctuating his words with a bongo beat.
"I know, but if I put Tom on Hades' radar I'd probably take him down with me. Anyway, can it hurt to ask? If Diana's there he shouldn't just attack us."
"I hope not," Diana said as she came in with tea, having switched back to her dress. "It's been a while since I've spoken to him, and he's not the kindest of gods. But he knows that I can kill him if I have to, and I will do so if it becomes necessary to protect you."
"That's not entirely reassuring."
Diana put her hand on the golden rope. "I'm sorry, I have a tendency to be blunt. This lasso compels truth in those it binds, but its magic affects me too. I find it difficult to lie or shade the truth about important things. I can do so if I must, if there is a greater good to be served or as a ruse of war, but it isn't easy for me."
"What happens if you kill Hades?" asked Hermione. "It seems a bit... difficult. And if you could, without death wouldn't there be a huge population crisis?"
"He isn't Death in the sense you mean. He's the Lord of the afterlife for my family's pantheon and their followers and friends. But he does have powers that might help."
Harry thought for a second, then asked "What happened the last time you spoke to him?"
Diana looked pensive. "It was in 1969. Steve was killed during an intelligence operation in Vietnam, I asked Hades if he could be spared."
"We reached a compromise. He was born again, somewhere in the world, and when the Moirai deem the time to be right we will be reunited."
"It sounds a bit vague," said Hermione. "What if he's really old when you meet?"
"Then we will enjoy the time we share together, and meet again in his next life if the Moirai will it."
"It might be a long wait."
Diana smiled. "Who says I'm waiting? I've had my share of lovers to while away the time. Look me up when you're older, I think you'll shape up quite nicely."
Harry blushed. "Er, I'm sort of dating someone."
"Actually I meant Hermione."
"Oh!" Hermione blushed an even brighter red. "Amazon, right... wow... umm... I'm... um... I'm not really into girls."
"Just teasing. But if you ever change your mind..." Diana winked. "Now, how are the instruments coming along?"
"I think we've more or less got them working," said Harry, trying to ignore some fairly lurid mental images and failing badly, "but what are we going to play?"
"It needs to be a good tune that speaks of death."
"That we can perform with pan pipes, a violin, bongos, and Ron and Hermione singing."
"It has to be your choice, not mine. I'm sure you'll think of something."
"Music about death. And I've got to think of it?"
"You'd be surprised how often it comes up in music. You can ask Ron and Hermione for suggestions, of course, but you must make the final decision. And make it a good choice; right now there must be many calling out to all of the lords of the afterlife."
"Why now?" asked Hermione.
"You hadn't heard? My namesake died two days ago. I'm going to her funeral service on Saturday."
"Your namesake? Do you mean Princess Diana?"
"Yes. She died in a car crash early on Sunday morning. A few kilometers from here, as it happens."
"Oh no! Mum's a huge fan, she'll be really upset."
"Anything to do with Voldemort?" asked Harry.
"I have some contacts in the Ministere des Affaires de la Magiques, as of yesterday they don't think so, and it's my impression that they are reasonably competent. Which reminds me, be careful with your spells, if you're arrested for any reason they'll probably deport you to Britain."
"And hand us over to the Ministry," said Harry.
"I'm afraid so. By the way, if you do go back to Britain don't mention the word Voldemort, there's some sort of magical trace, anyone using it is tracked. The Ministere posted a warning to travellers yesterday."
"Wonderful. Is there any good news?"
"I've thought of some tunes," said Hermione. "But they're muggle music, Ron, I hope you're a quick study."
At eleven-fifteen that night, shielded by Hermione's best muggle-repelling charm, they set out for Père Lachaise Cemetery, a mile or so from Diana's home. She was wearing her armour again under a black hooded cloak trimmed with feathers.
"Any reason for this particular cemetery?" asked Harry.
"Jim Morrison is buried there, which makes it a place of pilgrimage for rock fans, so it's a good place for the music you've chosen. And you can get in reasonably easily, the gates here shouldn't be protected against magic. The wizards mostly use Montparnasse, they have a lot of spells to keep out intruders."
"Okay." Harry had only the vaguest idea who Jim Morrison was, but was prepared to take her word for it.
"We need to start playing before midnight. But remember, it may take a while to get a response."
An hour later, in a vaguely Grecian mausoleum Diana had led them to, Harry played the last notes of Stairway to Heaven and they paused to sip some water before launching into the next song on their play-list, Another One Bites the Dust.
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Hermione asked at the next pause.
"He knows we're here," said Diana, pouring a glass of wine from a bottle, then pouring it out onto the flagstones. "He probably heard you rehearsing too, but these things have to be done the right way." She looked past them and added "Don't they, Uncle?"
"Well, well, well," said a wheezing voice, "what have we here? My favourite niece, and some... well, let's be charitable and say musicians." A figure walked into the circle of witch light at the centre of the mausoleum. He was about seven feet tall, wore a grey chiton, and carried a sceptre with two horns. Behind him loomed a huge three-headed dog, bigger than Fluffy, which Harry guessed was the original Cerebus. "What brings you here?"
"You already know," Diana said patiently, pouring another glass of wine and handing it to him.
He waved a hand; a stone throne appeared and he sat on it. "I know, but the supplicant must tell me in his own words."
Harry squared his shoulders, trying to feel some trust but not sure it was there. "Okay. Lord Hades, there's a wizard in Britain, he goes by a lot of different names but the real one is Tom Marvello Riddle. He's trying to become immortal, and he's made some Horcruxes from fragments of his soul. I think that one of them is inside my scar. He's already died once and come back to life, and he'll be unstoppable before long. We entreat your help before it's too late."
"My help doing what? Spit it out, boy."
"We want to stop him, Lord Hades. If we can destroy the Horcruxes it ends his immortality, and I might possibly be able to kill him."
"So what's in it for me?"
"You prove that nobody can escape death?"
"Nobody can. It doesn't matter if they live ten minutes or ten thousand years, everybody dies."
"You get to torment him for all eternity?"
"With the damage he's already done to his soul, he isn't getting an afterlife."
"Shouldn't people know that? Know the consequences of trying to escape you?"
"Hmmmm... No. The fewer people that know about Horcruxes the better. If you tell everyone that trying to escape death is bad, you're telling them that there's a way to try. Why do you think so many idiots poison themselves trying to make a Philosopher's Stone? Voldemort killed hundreds to make and protect his Horcruxes. So again I ask, what's in it for me?"
"Knowing it's the right thing to do?"
"Okay, maybe I'm asking the wrong question. What would you have me do?"
"Finally! Finally you ask the right question! Well, there's a trinket I've taken a fancy to, you could give it to me. Nothing that's useful to a mortal, just..."
"That's enough." A stranger walked into the circle of light. A young-looking woman, beautiful, with raven black hair and pale skin, wearing tight black jeans with a studded leather belt, a black tank top, high black leather boots, and a top hat with a long black feather in the band. There was an ankh amulet on a cord around her neck, and an odd mark, like an oval over an inverted question mark, marked in kohl around one eye. "You know that isn't for you. And definitely not for mortals." She reached up and scratched one of Cerebus's heads, and he wagged his tail.
"I'm sorry," said Harry, "you're...?"
"Death. Hello, Harry."
Author's notes: I'm mixing and matching different versions of Diana's back-story, her age is canon for the New 52 comics. Bubo the owl (a metal owl animated in stop-motion by Ray Harryhausen) was important to the plot of Clash of the Titans (1981); he makes a cameo appearance in the 2010 remake.
Diana, Princess of Wales died in Paris on Sunday 31st August 1997. It's Harry Potter canon that the trio steal the locket and escape to the country on September 2nd 1997; see timelines on the Harry Potter lexicon. The Ministere des Affaires de la Magiques is the French governing body for the Wizarding World according to Pottermore. All other French in this and later chapters courtesy of Google Translate, apologies for any errors.
There are multiple versions of Hades in DC comics and animated film, ranging from neutrality to supreme evil. I've chosen to go with more or less neutral but a bit self-serving. If you want to imagine him having the same voice as Mark Hamill playing Joker I won't object. And yes, that's Death of the Endless from the Sandman comics, also part of the DC universe, all disclaimers apply.
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