On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
IX: A Whole Hurty Thing
"One more thing. When you meet him, don't offer to shake hands, and avoid any other physical contact."
Before anyone could ask questions Diana led them into a dimly lit and nearly empty bar and said something to the barman, who nodded toward a curtained arch. Inside there were two tables; two obvious bodyguards sat at one drinking coffee. The other was occupied by a tall thin black man, his skin oddly wrinkled and marked with pale patches, who was eating fettucini. He rose when he saw Diana.
"Bonjour, Diana" He had an oddly resonant voice.
"Salut, Joey, comment vas-tu?"
Joey shrugged, raising both hands expressively. Three of his fingers, two on the left hand and one on the right, were stubs without knuckles.
"Do you mind if we speak English? My young friends here don't speak French very well."
"Sure." He spoke English fluently. "Sit down, what would you like to drink?"
"I'm driving, so just an orange juice, please."
"What about the kids?"
"Sparkling mineral water, please," said Hermione
"Could I have a Coke, please?"
"A butterbeer would be nice."
"I don't think we have that," said Joey, "is it some sort of British brand?"
"He's from the west country," Hermione said hastily, pre-empting any chance Ron would ask for pumpkin juice instead, "it's the local name for ginger beer." For once Ron took the hint and didn't say anything.
"That we have. Rene, take care of it."
One of the bodyguards nodded and went into the bar.
"What's this about?"
"These three decided to have an adventure," said Diana, "and managed to strand themselves in France with no money and no passports. I can take care of the money, but for reasons I'd rather not get into we can't just go to the British embassy, and we need to keep it out of the news, so I need papers good enough to get them back into the country quietly. John Constantine said I should talk to you about seeing Anton Pouchard, so here we are."
"Constantine? How is the rat bastard?"
"Still alive. I saw him in London yesterday, at my namesake's funeral."
"How the hell did he get an invitation?"
"A girl he met in a bar gave it to him."
"Sounds like Constantine."
Rene came back with the drinks. Diana lifted her glass. "À votre santé!"
Diana nodded towards the teenagers, and they also said "Cheers!"
"How soon do you need these papers?"
"Friday at the latest, earlier if possible."
"It'll cost you, he doesn't have many passports suitable for kids their age. That and making it a rush job is going to add to the price. Fifteen thousand francs each. But if you return them undamaged he'll refund five thousand."
Diana didn't seem surprised by the price. "Okay."
"Are you sure you want to pay for this?" asked Hermione. "It's a lot of money, and we won't be able to pay you back for a while."
"Don't worry," said Diana, "I'm good for it."
"Okay," said Joey. "Drink up, I'm expecting more company and it isn't the kind any of you would like to meet." He scribbled some numbers on a napkin. "I'll let Anton know you're coming, call him on this number in about two hours and he'll tell you where to meet him. You'll need to pay the money into this account by noon Tuesday at the latest. Okay?"
"Okay. And thank you."
"Anything for a friend. And you, kids, any word of this gets out and I'll introduce you to my garbage management business. Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal," said Harry. Hermione and Ron nodded their agreement, though Harry suspected that he didn't know what garbage management meant. Harry wasn't certain either, but he was pretty sure that body parts came into it somewhere.
When they were outside Ron said "I know that bloke's your friend, but there was something very creepy about him."
"Joey has Hansen's disease," said Diana. "He's receiving regular treatment so it's not infectious, but it's never going to go away completely. It affects his voice, and indirectly his behavior. For example, he never shakes hands because he doesn't have much feeling in his fingers and can easily hurt them without noticing."
"Hansen's disease?" said Hermione. "Leprosy?"
"Yes. He's from New Orleans, they still have a few cases a year there. He came to France for clinical trials at the Institut Pasteur in the eighties, married a French woman, and ended up living here. Her family belonged to the Unione Corse, the French-Corsican version of the Mafia, he was a member of the New Orleans mob, and it apparently worked out well for all concerned."
"I wonder if there's a magical cure."
"I asked Nicholas Flaumel a few years ago, it's a magic-resistant organism, antibiotics actually work better than potions."
"I won't be able to pay you back until I can get into my vault," said Harry.
"The exchange rate is about 9.7 francs to the pound at the moment," said Hermione, "so it's about fifteen hundred and fifty pounds each with four hundred and ten back when the passports are returned. Or.. let's see... about three hundred and ten galleons each with an eighty galleon refund."
"You could buy enough brooms for a team with that sort of money. For two teams if you went a bit down-market."
"Let's not say that too loudly, Ron."
"Maybe we could work some sort of transfer through a French bank?"
"Not a good idea, Harry. All international transfers go through the Ministry."
"Definitely not," said Diana, leading them across the road. "We can sort out the finances when it's all over. For now I'm happy to pay for things."
"It's probably going to be a hell of a bill by the time we're done."
"Don't worry about it. If we run short I can get John to give us some racing tips. He's never wrong."
"How does he do that?" asked Hermione.
"Cartomancy mostly, I think. The big problem is apparently a lack of bookies who are still prepared to take his bets."
Instead of going back to the car, Diana led them to a restaurant on the next block. "We might as well stay in the area until I call Pouchard. He probably doesn't live too far away. Meanwhile I think I'd like some crepes and a coffee, how about you? Then if there's time we can see about your cosmetics, Hermione."
"Crepes?" asked Harry.
"Fancy name for pancakes, mate."
"Oh, right. Yes please."
"That'd be nice," said Hermione.
Eventually Anton Pouchard came to them, driving a VW Camper van which was set up as a tiny photographic studio, with a four-lens Polaroid camera on a tripod and some neutrally-coloured backgrounds that could be pulled down like roller blinds. He was short fat man who reminded Harry and friends of a younger Horace Slughorn, and none of them trusted him an inch. He claimed not to speak English, and Diana had to translate for him.
He leafed through a loose-leaf file checking pictures and other details. "I don't often get asked for passports for teenagers. What's it about?"
"That's between us and Joey," said Diana.
"As you say, none of my business. You're lucky you want them now, next year the British switch to passports with digitally printed photos, not glued on and laminated, they'll be much harder to fake. Now then... I can do a fifteen year old girl, but... no, much too short. Wait, here we are, eighteen years, height is a couple of centimeters out but with the right shoes nobody would notice. Black hair, looks a little like her but she'd need hair dye and a bit of luck. If we replace the picture in the passport it'll stand routine checks, provided we don't change the name or the passport number. They're in the British computer system, I can't do anything to change them there."
"We'll go with the existing name and passport number for all of them."
Pouchard wrote down the name, Nan Pilgrim, and the passport number.
"Let's see... now for him... hmm... too old, too fat, too tall... Here we are... age sixteen, same height, even wears glasses and has black hair. We can get away with the original photo if he can do something about that scar. Five percent off if I don't have to change anything."
Diana nodded, and Pouchard added another name, Timothy Hunter, and another number.
"Now let's see about the redhead. Can he speak Italian?"
"No, and it really needs to be a British passport anyway."
"Okay, okay. Hmm.... Here we are. Right height, a couple of years older but I can fix that, definitely needs a new photo, only problem is that it expires in seven months and I can't change that."
"That's not a problem."
Luke Kirby joined the list. "I'll get the changes made. Give me twenty-four hours to double check that they're still okay before you start using the names and numbers for anything. I'll contact Joey if there's a problem, and he'll let you know when they're ready. Anything else? Joey said something about driving licenses. I can make them, but I can't get them into the British system, so they might be more trouble than they're worth."
"What about licenses for learner drivers?"
"Yes, I can do that. There's the same problem, but I guess the might not bother to check them for a minor offence."
"Get them one each, and anything else you can do easily.
"That will be an extra thousand francs each, fifteen hundred for the works."
"A used wallet or purse with bank cards, railway season tickets, that sort of thing, different for each of them. They won't actually work, but they add versimilitude."
"The works, then."
"What about you?"
"I've made my own arrangements."
He took pictures of Ron and Hermione and confirmed that Diana knew the payment method, then drove off.
Diana waited until he was out of sight, then said "We won't be able to see about tickets for at least another day. I think we need to sit down somewhere and decide what we're going to do once we get back to Britain."
"Deal with the demon thing, I suppose, then try to find another way to get rid of Vol... Riddle."
"First," said Ron, "we really need to know why you-know-who even wants to summon the thing. it's like one of those muggle things, a... a nike. It's just as much a threat to him as it is to us."
"Nuke," said Hermione. "And you're right, of course. He's winning at the moment, why would he even think it was necessary?"
"Let's head back the house and try to work it out."
Luna Lovegood fell to the Dark Arts classroom floor, sobbing with pain. Amycus Carrow stared around the room, defying the students to comment, holding the spell for several seconds. "In future you will bring a sharpened quill to my lessons. Sharpened, do you understand?" Luna lay there gasping.
"Do you understand?"
"Yes, Professer Sparrow."
"Crucio!" Luna screamed, and Carrow smiled. "Detention tonight, Miss Lovegood. You too, Weasley. I will have order in my classes. Now go to your next lesson."
Ginny helped Luna to her feet, and supported her as they left the room. "You shouldn't provoke the bastard."
"I'll be okay."
"Why do you do it? You know he seizes on any excuse."
"I want to learn to fight through the pain."
They passed a lavatory, and Luna stopped. "I need to wash. You go to potions, I'll catch up in a couple of minutes."
"Are you sure?"
Luna went into the lavatory, ran a tap, and washed her face, staring into the mirror. The face that stared back at her was her own for a moment, then one eye turned silver-grey, the other green. "Hello again."
Her reflection waved, and butterflies flew from her hand into the lavatory, settling in Luna's hair. "You won't find answers in pain. It's too easy to find. Answers are always the last place you look."
"I know... but if he hurts me, maybe he doesn't hurt someone else."
"People that like to hurt people like to hurt people, hurting people just makes them hurt more people. It's a whole hurty thing."
"So what do I do?"
"Let me be you."
"That's... would I come back from that?"
"Maybe, you don't know until you try. What have you got to lose? You're already talking to your own reflection..."
Notes: Joey Three-Fingers and associates are OCs. Nan Pilgrim was a young witch and the heroine of Diana Wynne Jones' Witch Week (1982). Timothy Hunter was a boy wizard (with magically created pet owl and glasses) and protagonist of Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic, (1990 onward). Luke Kirby was a boy wizard and protagonist of Summer Magic, a serial appearing intermittently in the comic 2000 AD (1988 onward). None of them will appear in this story, although Hunter is an associate of John Constantine. And yes, that was Delirium of the Endless talking to Luna.
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