On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XV: Warning Sticker
"Is there any way we can get a look at the manor?" Ron asked over breakfast. "Don't get me wrong, Diana, your sketches are pretty good, but it's not the same as seeing it for ourselves. Maybe we could fly over and take a look?"
Harry shrugged. "They're bound to have wards to detect anything magical coming anywhere near the place. Diana got away with it because she doesn't use our sort of magic, but I can't see flying over on a broom without them noticing, even if I was invisible. Going anywhere near there before we have to would probably be pushing our luck."
"Hmm... Let me check something." Diana went out, leaving the trio to eat, and came back a few minutes later. "We're in luck. There's an aircraft charter company at Old Sarum airfield, about ten miles from here, and I have a pilot's license. There's nobody there until ten, but with a little luck they'll have something we can charter that I'm qualified to fly. A sightseeing flight over Stonehenge that just happens to overfly the manor, without going within the area its wards protect, shouldn't be too difficult to arrange."
"That's going to cost a fortune," said Hermione.
"Let me worry about that."
"You're being very generous about this," said Harry, "but-"
"But nothing. I earn a very good salary. And you know who my father is, do you really think I'm short of money?"
Hermione looked at her oddly and blushed slightly. "I always thought that the shower of gold thing was a metaphor."
Diana blushed too. "Yes, well, that's a different matter. Gold isn't actually very useful in the muggle world, it attracts too much attention, but every now and again a windfall of some sort comes my way. In the month I bought my house I won a hundred and fifty thousand Francs in the French national lottery and a twenty-five thousand pound UK Premium Bond prize. Which was odd because I'd never actually bought any lottery tickets or bonds. Now, if you're satisfied I can pay to hire the aircraft?"
Harry realised that she was talking to him. "Oh... right, sorry. When do you want to leave?" He made a mental note to ask Hermione about the metaphor later.
"If we leave in an hour or so we ought to be there by the time they open. But we might have to wait a good while before we get airborne."
"Then we'd better make sure we don't get hungry while we're waiting," said Ron, heading back toward the buffet for a second helping of scrambled egg and bacon. Harry got up to join him.
"One question," said Hermione. "Wouldn't that have been a better way to get back to Britain?"
Diana looked startled. "You're right. There are a few practical problems, but I really ought to have thought of it. Apart from anything else, you could have bailed out on brooms once I was over the UK, avoided customs completely."
"Umm... if it's all the same to you, please don't suggest that to the boys, or they'll try sky-diving with brooms or something."
"Hmmm... sounds like fun, but maybe you're right."
"Diana's taking a hell of a long time," Harry said nervously.
Hermione looked up from the copy of Popular Mechanics she'd found on the waiting room table. "Not really. There's a lot of paperwork to fill in, and the office guy said that Diana had to be checked out on the controls, it's a model she hasn't flown before."
"Why doesn't that fill me with confidence?"
"Because you don't like the idea of someone else flying you? Relax, Harry, it's a legal requirement, not a sign that we're all going to die."
Ron looked over from the window. "Don't say things like that. The hover-thingy yesterday was bad enough."
"You were sick deliberately, Ron."
"I think I might have been anyway. It was horrible well before I ate the snack."
"Oh joy. Better get over it, it can't be much longer."
As if on cue the door opened, and Diana came in saying "...high time they introduced fuel injection, carburetters are a joke in a modern aircraft."
The man following her said "No argument here, it's... bloody hellfire!" He dropped his clipboard and pulled a wand from his sleeve. "Bloody hell, what are you doing here, you sodding idiot?"
"Hello Oliver," said Harry, his own wand already in his hand. "Nice to see you. It's been a while."
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes occupied a prime corner location in the Alley. On Monday at noon Travers was watching from a second-floor window across the street. Right on time the 'spontaneous demonstration' started, rapidly gaining numbers and volume as more 'outraged citizens' joined in, including a few that Travers hadn't hired. You could always count on a few drunks around lunchtime. He smiled as someone threw a brick at the window, then realised that it had turned into a squawking chicken and was trying to run away from the shop. The next brick bounced back, hit one of the protestors without doing any apparent harm, ricocheted onto another, and kept going until it was clear of the crowd and fell to the ground, then bounced off into the distance.
One of the hired thugs charged at the door, which spun round like a muggle revolving door and spat him out again at enormous speed.
"Hello Diagon Alley," said a voice obviously magnified by an Amplifying Charm, "Thanks for taking an interest in our products! We'll be demonstrating more in just a moment. Ten... Nine... Eight..."
Someone threw another brick, and Travers wondered why they bothered. It swerved in mid-air and flew back, shedding dozens of red envelopes. Howlers, from the look of it, except that they were opening by themselves.
"Six... five..." The voice was almost drowned out by the howlers as they started to sing, each bellowing the Hogwarts school song to a different off-pitch melody. Some of the rioters ran, clutching their ears, others tried to attack the envelopes. More retreated, injured by friendly fire.
"Two... one..." The giant mechanical head over the shop door raised its top hat, and half a dozen pyramidal boxes fell into the street, bouncing oddly until they were spread evenly along the sides of the shop, then suddenly seemed to erupt, spraying out something that looked like mud. As it spread the rioters started to sink, although the depth should have only been a fraction of an inch, and the rest fell back. Within a minute the street on both sides of the shop was awash, and reeds began to sprout from the surface of the mud, followed by dozens of woody stems that quickly grew upwards, sprouting green leaves when they were a few feet high. Mangroves, he guessed.
Down in the street one of the more intrepid rioters transformed his shoes into boat-like pontoons and started to shuffle across the swamp towards the shop. About half-way across something green rose from the mire, shedding mud and water. It was roughly the size and shape of a small troll or a very large man but seemed to be made of vegetation. The rioter nervously cast a stunner; the creature reacted, swatting him with the back of an enormous leafy hand, sending the man flying back across the mud. It roared, gazed at the mob contemptuously, and sank back into the swamp.
An amplified voice said "Fred, are you thinking what I'm thinking? Oops, finite incantum!"
It was suddenly quiet, apart from the last few howlers which were still serenading the rapidly retreating rioters. Travers wondered how he was going to explain the fiasco to Voldemort.
Inside the shop Fred said "Product recall?"
"Maybe, but I was wondering how much would it cost to add a sticker to each box. 'DANGER: DO NOT SET OFF MULTIPLE PORTABLE SWAMPS, SWAMP MONSTERS MAY APPEAR SPONTANEOUSLY!'"
"Well, I suppose it's accurate. Do you think it'll work?"
"'Course it will, everyone will buy loads of packs to see if they can get a monster to appear!"
"They don't pay reserve players a good living wage," said Oliver Wood, "so most of us have part-time jobs to make ends meet. Of course I have to keep it bloody quiet, people wouldn't like it if they knew I had such a muggle job."
"But how the hell does a wizard end up as a flying instructor?" asked Harry.
"Mum was a pureblood, but my grandfather on Dad's side is a muggle. He's a helicopter pilot on the oil rigs, he taught me to fly gliders and light aircraft during the holidays. It turns out that the reflexes for both types of flying aren't too different, you just have to learn to use the controls, and I got to be pretty good at it. Now get the hell out of here before someone spots you and we all end up in Azkaban. Do you realise how close we are to Malfoy Manor? They say... well, you know... is there."
"That's the whole point," said Harry, trusting his instincts and ignoring Hermione's angry glare, "We need to take a look at the place. There are prisoners there. Kids from Hogwarts."
Suddenly Diana's lasso flashed out and wrapped around Wood. "I'm sorry, but we can't take chances. Please tell us what you will do now that you know Harry is here."
"Help him, of course. What did you think I'll do?"
"And do you intend to tell anyone?"
"Not until this is all over. After that it ought to be good for a few drinks."
"You've got that right," said Ron.
"What will you do if you're questioned?" asked Diana.
"I don't know," said Wood. "They'd probaby Crucio me, I don't think I could take much of that."
"Would you be willing to let Hermione obliviate you once we're finished?" asked Harry.
"If you can do it without turning me into a vegetable. I heard about Lockhart!"
"That was a freak accident with a broken wand," said Hermione. "He did it to himself."
"I'm sorry I had to do that," said Diana, wrapping the lasso back around her waist. "You'll understand that we have to be careful."
"It's okay," said Wood. "I want to help, but there isn't really any organised resistance now the Ministry has fallen. I've flown a couple of muggle-born friends out of the country, but everyone else has been captured or gone into hiding, and I'm not going to risk exposing them by looking for them."
"You can help us by making sure this flight happens," said Harry. "One thing though... do you live locally?"
"No, I apparate in from Edinburgh."
"Are you going to be here tomorrow?"
"No, I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Team practices are Tuesday and Thursday, games on Saturday."
"Not ideal," Harry lied, relieved that Wood wouldn't be in immediate danger if anything went wrong, "but it's probably best if you don't change anything. If they do know you work here it would look odd. To be on the safe side we'd better go with obliviation, just enough for you to forget you saw us and discussed the manor. Okay?"
"Yeah, that's probably for the best." Behind him Diana nodded slightly.
"Okay... anything else we need to sort out before the flight?"
"Just the route," said Wood, turning to Diana and unfolding an aviation map. "There aren't any flying restrictions today, but there are several military bases in the area with helicopter traffic, it's a good idea to stay well clear. And you definitely want to avoid Porton Down, the Ministry of Defence always asks questions if anyone overflies without good reason. So, if the idea is to look like a sightseeing flight, I'd recommend this route here to Stonehenge, maybe orbit Stonehenge a couple of times, then fly back along this route. You'll be within a few hundred yards of Malfoy manor on approach and departure, and enough planes fly in the area that nobody should think it's suspicious..."
"There you are, Tommy boy," murmured John Constantine. He'd been looking through the microfilmed records at Lambeth Registry Office for nearly an hour before he found what he wanted; the birth record for Thomas Marvolo Riddle, New Year's Eve 1926. He fed ten pence into a slot on the machine then pressed the print button, and waited as the page emerged, copied onto fax paper. "Hmmmm... Careless. Very fucking careless. You're going to regret that..." He folded the paper and tucked it into a pocket, and headed home.
"All right," said Diana, "Malfoy Manor will be visible to our left in about thirty seconds. I'll bank left as it comes into view so we should be able to see it for about half a minute. Is everyone ready?"
"I think so," said Ron, raising his omnioculars to his eyes.
Harry practiced with his zoom control. "Ready."
Seated on the right side of the plane, Hermione didn't have a particularly good view, but she had other priorities anyway. "Picking up weak muggle repelling spells, nothing that would make us turn yet."
"Coming into view on the left beyond the ridge at ten o'clock."
"Got it," said Ron.
Harry nodded, his eyes still on the manor. "Me too."
"Spell intensity's rising slightly," Hermione said a few seconds later, "better curve away a little, muggles would."
Diana altered course slightly. "On it."
The next half minute passed all too quickly, with Harry and Ron scrambling for last views of the manor in the final seconds.
Harry played back his recording, and tried zooming in and out. "Okay, I've got good coverage of the back of the house, the terrace, and the grounds on the west side of the manor."
"I've got most of that and a bit of the front," said Ron.
Hermione checked a large sketch pad, where three quills with different coloured ink were plotting the nature and intensity of the wards onto Diana's drawing of the house and grounds. "I've got some good readings, but I need the other side of the house for a complete job. At the moment it's passive detection stuff and muggle repelling, but I think it can get pretty nasty if it has to. I can't see any obvious weaknesses."
"There probably aren't any," said Ron. "The Malfoys have had enemies ever since they came back to Britain, they'd have fixed any problems by now."
"Don't erase any recordings," said Diana. "When we come back you and Harry should each use another pair of omnioculars, we'll put everything together back at the motel. Hermione, can you keep the existing spells going, or will you have to cast them again?"
"So far it's okay. Just don't fly too low over Stonehenge, the power of that thing could overwhelm my spells completely."
"No problem. Right, relax and enjoy the scenery for the next few minutes, we'll fly a couple of nice leisurely circuits of Stonehenge then head back on the other side of the manor."
"Maybe a little higher," suggested Harry, "the zoom on the omnioculars can handle it, and we'll see it a few seconds longer."
Hermione shook her head. "Not too much higher or the spells will be unreliable."
"Another five hundred feet, say?"
"Two or three hundred would be better."
"All right. Now sit back and enjoy the view..."
"My Lord," said Lucius Malfoy, "we have interrogated the prisoners and have found no evidence that Potter was involved."
Voldemort lifted his wand, but didn't cast a spell. "Your reasons for this conclusion?"
"Firstly, there is no evidence for the use of a patronus, and it is known that Potter has used one on several occasions. Its form is a large stag."
"And the mudblood?"
"As I understand it, she is capable of casting the spell, but with great difficulty and little power, her form is a small otter."
"You heard this from...?"
"My son, my Lord."
"He is biased, of course. And a patronus might not be needed if Potter has found another way to attack dementors. Go on."
"Secondly, most of the guards were killed by fire, a few by blows of immense force. Potter has never been known to kill, neither has his mudblood accomplice, and there is no reason to believe he has mastered spells with these effects. Furthermore, the burns have a strong Dark taint, yet the cause cannot be identified. It is not Fiendfyre."
"Again, he might have found a new spell, or gone Dark to some extent."
"That is possible, of course, but it sees unlikely given Dumbledore's influence."
"Dumbledore was an influence in my life, Lucius. Crucio." Malfoy collapsed to the floor; Voldemort held the spell on him for thirty seconds. "A small demonstration; one may rise above childhood influences. You may stand."
"My Lord." Malfoy rose, shaking.
"Any other arguments against it being Potter?"
"Yes, my lord. The prisoners were not released, whoever killed the guards had ample time to do so. The deaths occurred approximately three hours before the shift changed."
"Ah. Yes, that really doesn't sound like Potter or his little friends, I suppose. Hmmm... are we completely sure that Moody is dead?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"And that leaves...?"
"Hypothetically... Grindlewald, or an ambitious follower?"
"He's still alive, though imprisoned, and with Dumbledore gone he might believe that there is a chance to escape and complete his conquest of Europe."
"By killing our guards and dementors?"
"A follower might wish to reduce the strength of his main opposition."
"Have Grindlewald's status and condition checked. And find out how easy it would be to eliminate him."
"Yes, my Lord."
Hermione covered herself with Harry's cloak, only the tip of her wand protruding from the folds, and said "Miss Prince has completed her sightseeing flight. She chartered the Beechcraft rather than a smaller plane because she's familiar with the model, even though she flew alone. You think it's a bit extravagant but not worth worrying about. You need to give her back her deposit, then you've got a few chores to attend to. Tomorrow is a training day, you're looking forward to that, when you come back to work on Wednesday other things will seem a lot more important than a casual tourist flight."
"Okay," said Oliver, turning his back on Hermione and facing Diana.
"Obliviate!" For a moment Hermione concentrated on the memories she wanted to erase from him, then she covered the wand with the cloak and quietly slipped out while he was still dazed.
Oliver swayed a little, then focused on Diana. "Right, let me just give you your deposit back." He opened the safe and took out the envelope of banknotes she'd given him, checked the total, and got her to sign for it.
"Merci, you've been very helpful."
"Let me see you out."
"There's really no need, I'm sure you have other things to do."
"Yes, I suppose I do. Good afternoon."
"Au revoir!" Diana shook hands with Wood, and walked back to her car, where the others were waiting.
"Everything okay?" asked Ron.
Diana started the engine. "I think so, he didn't seem at all suspicious."
"Obliviation's like that if you do it right," said Hermione. "But it's still horribly manipulative."
"It's better than killing him to keep him quiet."
"No argument there."
"Let's get back to the motel and see what we've got."
"I am Lord Hamster Loved... a bit silly, but definitely a possiblity." John scribbled for a few moments. "I am Lord... Shoveled Tram? No... Wait a minute... I am Lord Revolted Sham!"
John twisted round and fell off his chair. "Oh bloody hell. That's twice this week. Would you mind at least looking a little human? You're putting me off me beer."
"Shochay." His visitor raised its hands to its face, and took them away looking considerably more human. For very broad definitions of human.
"Vhoo voss jour ovver vissitor, Consstinteem?"
"Und jett jou shtill livv."
"So far, unless you have other plans."
"Dzontt tempft mee."
"You know the Lords of Hell want to keep me alive."
"Dznt meen zi kent hurtz jou."
"True, but I'd prefer to avoid it. What do you want?"
"Vintruszz mee tzu ze prnzess zund zer lytl fzzends tzumuzzo."
"You planning a team-up?"
"Okay. But don't be surprised if she doesn't go for it."
"Zeee jou tzumuzzo." His visitor seemed to step sideways and disappear.
"Right." John rubbed his temples. "Let's go out and get rat-arsed, then see how I can share the word about Lord Revolted Sham..."
Notes: For anyone wondering, the big green guy was Swamp Thing. It's DC canon that he can appear in almost anything that approximates to a swamp if it has some vegetation. While vegetation wasn't mentioned when portable swamps were used in the Order of the Phoenix book, the film shows a swamp with reeds. I'm assuming that WWW put some magically fast-growing seeds in every pack.
Since I know very little about it, I'm probably underestimating the difficulty of chartering an aircraft; let's just assume that Diana does have all necessary qualifications and that the charter company really needs the money.
Some dialogue that may be a little hard to follow due to a new character's speech impediment:
"Nheeet." - Neat
"Shochay." - Okay
"Vhoo voss jour ovver vissitor, Consstinteem?" - Who was your visitor, Constantine?
"Und jett jou shtill livv." - And yet you still live.
"Dzontt tempft mee." - Don't tempt me.
"Dznt meen zi kent hurtz jou." - Doesn't mean I can't hurt you
"Vintruszz mee tzu ze prnzess zund zer lytl fzzends tzumuzzo." - Introduce me to the princess and her little friends tomorrow.
"Meevee." - Maybe
"Zeee jou tzumuzzo." - See you tomorrow.
In canon Constantine avoided death from cancer by selling his soul to three different demon lords. If he dies their nature will compel them to go to war for possession of his soul, and probably end with all three dead. Since they don't want that to happen they have a lot invested in him continuing to live until they can find an escape clause.
Apologies - another chapter that seems to have grown quite a bit as I wrote it and back-filled some details that should have been in previous chapters. Next time, hopefully, we'll get to Malfoy Manor...
Comments please before I post to archives.
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