On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XIII: Muggle Mechanical Flying Carpet
A tall figure swathed in a grey hooded cloak appeared in Morpheus' throne room, a huge leather-bound book in its hands and chained to its body, saying "You're meddling."
"Just a moment." Morpheus signed the scroll he'd been writing and handed it to a pterodactyl which took it in one claw and flapped away. "Brother, always a pleasure. You were saying?"
"Voldemort. You're meddling." Destiny did not sound pleased.
"I haven't really done much, just protected a couple of artists who have been doing some good work with dreams. Oh, and our oldest sister has disposed of some soul fragments."
"I noticed. All of this stems from the discovery of one book, and the mystery it concealed. The House of Mystery is in your realm, and the Library of Dream contains all books."
"I'm aware, and I've checked. My library has two hundred and eighteen variant copies of Most Potent Potions, including seven with versions of that particular modification, none of them are missing."
"In all of my records, until things changed, Snape took the book with him when he left Grimmauld Place, and the secret of the machine died with him. It should take Potter nearly a year to overcome Voldemort, if he does. Now the path of events has shifted, and is still unstable."
Morpheus shrugged. "You're the master of fate, not me. I would have assumed that you were responsible if I didn't know better. Something made him change his mind, I suppose, but it's none of my doing. We have to cope with the consequences as best we can. Does it really matter?"
"If I knew exactly what triggered the change, I might be able to undo it."
"You really don't like surprises, do you?"
"Tough. It looks like you'll be getting some. Look, this is ridiculous. Say one or another wizard dies early, or a demon is raised that stayed in hell in the original timeline. Assume the worst case, thousands or millions of lives changed. Does it really matter? This is one world in one galaxy in one universe in endless trillions, a trivial change to the paths of your garden. A few millennia and nobody will remember or care."
"You are as short-sighted as your predecessor. Things should not change."
"I'm a realist. Things have changed, I'm not going to waste time trying to change them back. I'm going to go with the flow, and suggest that you do the same."
Destiny disappeared again without replying. Morpheus sighed and clapped his hands, calling "Lucien!"
A harried-looking man with straggly brown hair and pointed ears appeared, wearing an old-fashioned looking suit with a tailed coat and pinc-nez glasses, and carrying a tall stack of books. "My Lord?"
"The new book that you mentioned, the one about the Potter boy... what was the title again?"
"Harry Potter and the Half-God Prince?"
"That's the one. Find the copy with the most lurid and misleading dust-jacket picture, send it to my eldest brother with my compliments. Make sure to remind him that it's still a work in progress."
"Isn't your brother blind, sir?"
"He won't mind the cover then."
"At once, my Lord."
On Thursday Diana came back from another shopping trip with art supplies, suitcases and the passports. "I've booked us on the Boulogne-Dover hovercraft on Sunday afternoon, with backup tickets for the ferry if the hovercraft isn't running for any reason."
"What's a hovercraft?" asked Ron.
"Umm..." Harry thought for a moment. "It's a bit hard to describe. It's sort of a giant muggle mechanical flying carpet, big enough to carry a load of cars and passengers, but it only flies a couple of feet above the sea."
"Don't tell dad, he'll want one."
"He'd have a job getting it home," said Hermione, "I don't think you could fit one of the big ones into the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Why the hovercraft? Wouldn't a plane be better, or the Channel Tunnel? Or the ferry if you really want to go by sea?"
"It's much faster than the ferry," said Diana, "and I don't think many pure-blood wizards will know about it. It's fairly noisy, so the other passengers aren't likely to try to talk to us. Also, there are ways to escape from it quickly if there's an emergency, I don't think that would be so easy in a tunnel or a few miles up. The main down-side is that some passengers get a little seasick, but I think it's a risk worth taking."
"You've really thought this through."
"Steve and I were involved in Resistance operations during the Second World War, we had similar transport problems sometimes, especially when Grindlewald's thugs were working with the Gestapo."
"That sounds pretty horrible."
"It's in the past, thank Hera. Now, we need to work on the details of your cover identities, and our strategies for getting through customs..."
"I've been going through Umbridge's files," said Travers. "I've cancelled a few operations which seemed to advance her agenda rather than yours, My Lord, but there's one I think should be pursued." He unrolled a map of Diagon Alley and laid it the table in front of Voldemort's throne, pointing at one of the shops. "This new joke shop in Diagon Alley has repeatedly posted advertisements which might be interpreted as puerile attempt to mock you."
Voldemort lifted his wand, seeming to study it, and ran his fingers along its length. "Have a care, Travers."
"Extremely puerile, My Lord, and almost too petty to mention, but Steiner reports that there may be some small effect on the morale of our enemies. I feel that they might usefully be made an object lesson. Accordingly, I would like to request permission for a limited operation in the Alley. A protest by an enraged group of citizens angered by their disrespect for authority, for example, ending in a 'tragic accident.' But..."
"Crucio!" Travers fell, writhing in agony for a few seconds. "Do not mime quotes in my presence, Travers, it's unseemly and leaves your hands wandless. The English language has ample ways to emphasize such things verbally, you don't need vulgar gestures. You were saying?"
Travers bowed deeply as he rose. "My apologies, My Lord. I was about to add that at this stage I feel that overt participation by Death Eaters might be counterproductive, suggesting that the petty jibes of shopkeepers actually matter or concern you."
Voldemort thought for a moment. "Very well, but make sure that nobody involved carries the Dark Mark. I'm sure that you can drum up a suitable mob easily enough. Some Imperios, a sufficiency of drink, a few paid thugs to make sure that things get out of hand..."
"Of course, My Lord."
"See to it. But take your time and do it right."
John checked that the protective and anti-eavesdropping runes on and around the phone were still in place and intact - he really didn't want his eardrums melting - then dialled Los Angeles.
"This is Lux." It was a woman's voice, one John didn't recognize.
"Mister Morningstar, please."
"John Constantine." The other phone hung up. "Bleeding wonderful." John dialled again.
"Thank you for calling Lux. All of our lines are busy right now, but if you'd like to hold we'll waste your time needlessly until you give up or die of old age. Preferably both."
They had caller ID, of course, or some magical equivalent. "Yeah, right. Tell Lucifer someone's trying to summon Akrasiel. I just want to check that the bugger's really dead."
John held and tried not to think about the phone bill. His chances of surviving until it was due were probably pretty low anyway...
"Constantine? What's this about Akrasiel?"
"Hello, Lucifer. You know about the Death Eaters?"
"Several were sent to my realm before I retired. Nasty little men, really didn't do their name justice. Such a shame their leader was too frightened to die properly, I was really hoping to collect the full set."
"He's back, and he's planning to summon a demon on the full moon, that's next Tuesday. Unless I've made a bad mistake with the translation he's after Akrasiel."
"That would be an interesting trick. Akrasiel has been... well, reinstated in Heaven, or will be once his rehabilitation is complete."
"I'd heard he was dead."
"Worse... he never actually fell. The bastard turns out to have been a double-agent working for Michael. He spent millennia worming his way into my inner circle and spying on us. When I retired the new management were proactive in purging my remaining supporters; he and Michael faked a messy death and went home. Fortunately I still have a few contacts up there, one of them told me the real story."
"I don't think the wand-wavers know that. Okay, if they tried it who would answer the call?"
"Not Akrasiel, he's still in rehab as far as I know; even if he wasn't, any ritual to summon or call him as a demon would most certainly fail unless he happened to feel like doing a little smiting. I doubt he'd bother for anything much short of Sodom and Gomorrah. They're more likely to get some bottom-feeder, I'd imagine. Although... you said they're doing it this month?"
"Yes, next Tuesday," John repeated.
"Ah... in Britain?"
"You may have a problem." Lucifer didn't sound too unhappy about it.
"I'd noticed. Etrigan seemed to be fixated on the date too. What am I missing?"
"You really don't know?"
"Not the foggiest."
"You've looked at a calendar, I'd imagine."
"Yeah, and all the usual sources. Doesn't seem to be a particularly apocalyptic date. No major religious festivals, no prophecies, nothing numerological of note."
"You're slipping, Constantine."
"Don't suppose you feel like dropping a hint?"
"I'm retired, Constantine, not reformed."
"Fair point. Oh, one other thing, there are some soul-sucking demons working for the Death Eaters, the wand wavers call them dementors. Look like crappy grim reapers. Tobin's Spirit Guide says they're from Hell. Know anything about them?"
"Ah yes, one of our more creative demons contracted to sell a few to their little government in the seventeenth century. What on earth are the death eaters doing with them?"
"They've got hundreds of the buggers, they've been roaming the country for the last month or so."
"Then they must be breeding. Well, I'll certainly have to put a stop to that, they give real demons a bad name. Are they likely to be present for the summoning?"
"It's possible, they might use them to guard the ritual, keep out gatecrashers."
"Let me have all the details."
"Are you planning a personal appearance?"
"I have minions for that sort of thing. Now, the details."
"Okay... if you'll tell me why this month is so special."
"Very well, spoil my fun. Take a look at an astronomical calendar, it will tell you all you need to know."
"Okay, thanks. Right, it's a place called Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire, near a village called Malfoy Intrinsica. Big mansion with a ton of spells to keep out the hoi palloi..."
Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself...
Diana switched off the car radio as they drove aboard the hovercraft, and followed directions to their parking spot in the hold.
"Shame, I was enjoying that," said Hermione.
Diana set the hand brake. "We can't stay with the car, it isn't safe if there's an emergency. You'll have plenty of chances to hear it, I imagine, it was only released yesterday and it's already at the top of the British charts." She looked around. "All right, we need to get to the passenger seats. Watch out for other cars boarding as we cross the hold. It's that door over there."
Looking back, Harry saw two crewman start to secure the car to the deck with heavy-duty straps, and wondered how rough the crossing would be if that was necessary.
"Blimey, you weren't kidding about the size of this thing," said Ron. "It really flies?"
"At about sixty or seventy miles an hour in calm weather, though it starts off slower. You'll see in a few minutes."
"In there, bitch." A masked guard pushed Luna Lovegood into one of the cells below Malfoy manor.
"There's no need to be rude."
"Crucio!" The guard laughed and slammed the door before she recovered, locking Luna in. There was dim light from a wizarding lamp, and she looked around to see several strangers and one familiar face, Garrick Ollivander.
"I thought you might be here."
"Are you all right, child?"
"I'm fine," said Luna. "They're not really very good at this. Pain only hurts if you let it bother you."
He looked at her again, and his eyes widened as he saw something he recognized in her eyes. "My Lady..."
She shook her head warningly. "Luna. Is everyone all right?"
"We're all hungry," said one of the other prisoners, "but they need us alive to be hostages. For now, anyway."
"For now." She carefully pulled some of the mushrooms from her hair, and threw them into a dark corner. "Give them a few hours to grow, and we ought to have plenty to eat."
"You were expecting to be taken prisoner?" murmured Ollivander.
"I was counting on it."
"Purpose of visit?" asked the customs official.
"I'm visiting Windsor," said Diana. "I need to check on some art restoration I did at the castle last year, these students are interning with me."
"Why are British students interning with someone who works at the Louvre?"
"We're on our gap year," said Hermione. "The idea is to see if we're cut out to be restorers before we start art school next year. If we are, the National Gallery and the Louvre will assist with extra training courses."
"We're always short of good restorers," said Diana.
"So far it's been brilliant," Harry said enthusiastically, "there's all sorts of weird techniques I'd never heard of. Some of the ways they used to make paint are really bizarre, and it all has to be matched perfectly."
"Tim's right," said Ron, then held a hand over his mouth. "Sorry, still a bit queasy from the... bleauuugh!" He hastily turned away and vomited onto the tarmac.
"Luke's not a good sailor," said Hermione, handing Ron a tissue. "He really didn't like the crossing."
The customs officer eyed him with distaste. "We get a few like that, even on days like this when the Channels like a mill-pond."
"Sorry," Ron wheezed, "I'll be OK once the ground stops heaving."
"Get some water once we're through." The official looked at the passports, opened one of the suitcases and looked through a mess of teenage clothes and art supplies, then stamped their passports and let them get back into the car and drive on. They stopped off at the terminal building, and Ron disappeared into the lavatory for a few minutes, coming out looking a little better but still very pale.
"We'd better stop off in town and get a meal before we get on the motorway," said Diana. "I think Luke will be better once he's had a good meal."
"If I can keep it down."
Once they were back in the car and driving away from the Hoverport Harry said "That was awesome! Your brothers are geniuses."
"Yeah, right. Bloody Puking Pastilles; I took the antidote, but my mouth still tastes like something died in it."
Hermione gave him a bottle of mineral water. "Drink it slowly, you're probably still a bit dehydrated. Anyway, it worked, he didn't ask you any questions. I was worried you'd say something weird. Weird for muggles, I mean."
"Where are we headed?" asked Harry.
"It's a three hour drive to Wiltshire, we really do need to get a meal first, and I need to contact Constantine, find out if he has any more information. There's a good Chinese restaurant in town, I've eaten there a few times. I've never seen a wizard there, too muggle and foreign for then, so it ought to be fairly safe."
"Works for me." The others agreed. She drove for a few minutes, then parked in the paved courtyard in front of a large restaurant. There were a couple of other cars and a taxi parked there, nothing that looked suspicious or magical.
"Usual rules," said Diana. "Keep the conversation boring and avoid references the public might not understand, we can talk properly once we're back on the road."
"Or I can cast an anti-eavesdropping spell," suggested Hermione, "it's really low power, nothing anyone would notice."
They went inside, and a smiling waiter intercepted them, bowing to Diana. "My lady, it is good that you visit our humble restaurant again. A table for five?"
"Ah, but your friend Mister Constantine is here, he said that you would be joining us."
"Did he now..." Diana frowned, then smiled. "Well, he always was good at reading the tea-leaves." At the waiter's confused look she added "We might as well join him."
"Any special warnings?" Harry asked as the waiter led them to the back of the restaurant.
"Not really. You'll see for yourself."
The waiter led them to a table where a scruffily-dressed blond man was drinking a glass of beer and reading the News of the World. He looked up as they approached and stood. "Ullo, Princess. Got some friends in tow, I see."
"I thought you were expecting us. Allow me to introduce my friends; Nan Pilgrim," she gestured to Hermione, "Luke Kirby," to Ron, "and Timothy Hunter."
"Are you indeed? I knew a Timothy Hunter once, nice lad. You look a lot like him. You'd better all sit down, we've got a lot to talk about."
The waiter produced menus and took a drinks order, then left them. Constantine waited until he'd turned away and made a quick intricate gesture with nicotine-stained fingers. A glowing circle crossed with a complex pattern of lines appeared and vanished again. "Right, now we can't be overheard, and nobody will recognize any of you."
"Mind if I check?" asked Hermione.
"No, but don't wave your wand around, there are limits on what the spell covers. And don't talk about anything important while the waiter is at the table."
"No problem." She cast a silent spell with her wand shielded by a menu. "Okay. That's pretty good for wandless magic."
"When will you people get it into your heads that there are other types of magic. A wand's just a focus, there are others just as powerful."
"What do you use?" asked Harry.
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
"So, you have news," said Diana.
"I finally got hold of Lucifer yesterday, didn't see much point in worrying you over the phone."
"Lucifer?" asked Ron, his eyes bulging. "The Lucifer?"
"You summoned Lucifer?" Hermione said incredulously.
"I phoned him. He's retired, hung up his wings and lives in Los Angeles. He was actually pretty helpful for once."
"Why would Lucifer be helpful?" asked Harry.
"At a guess, because he lives here, it's where he keeps his stuff. He doesn't want to see a global disaster any more than we do."
"What sort of global disaster did you have in mind?" asked Diana.
"Well, to cut a long story short, your pals won't get Akrasiel if they try to summon him, he's not actually a demon. That's the good news..."
Constantine paused while the waiter delivered wine for Diana and soft drinks for the teenagers.
"And the bad news?"
"Something I missed. I was so obsessed with spirits and demons I missed a fairly important detail. Tuesday evening isn't just a full moon, there's going to be a total Lunar eclipse."
"And?" asked Harry.
"Did you ever hear of a demon called Eclipso?"
Tobin's Spirit Guide is borrowed from Ghostbusters; the Ghostbusters will not be appearing.
Elton John's re-release of Candle in the Wind, referencing Princess Diana's death and supporting her charities, went on sale and straight to number one in the charts on Saturday September 13th 1997.
The cross-Channel hovercraft service no longer exists, it was made obsolete by faster conventional ferries and the Channel Tunnel, and finally shut down in October 2000. I travelled on it a couple of times in the 1960s but never by car so may have the details of vehicle travel wrong; apologies for any errors.
Congratulations to Vitruvian on Twisting the Hellmouth, who spotted where this was going and was kind enough to make his review private at my request.
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