On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XVII: Performance Issues
"The moon is above the horizon, my Lord," said Lucius Malfoy, "the eclipse will be total in four minutes."
"Travers," said Lord Voldemort, "In tonight's ceremony you will be cup-bearer."
"Helga Hufflepuff's Cup. You will be carrying it." He gestured, and a padded tray floated towards Travers, the cup lying in a recess in the padding. "Follow instructions as I give them. Oh, and until I tell you otherwise, handle the tray only, not the cup."
"Yes, my lord."
"You may lead the way to the terrace. Lucius, with me please."
Behind his mask Lucius smiled. He had a feeling that Travers had just drawn a very short straw. "My Lord."
"Should anything happen to Travers," Voldemort murmured, "you will take his place to complete the ceremony."
"Oh bugger," thought Lucius, saying "Yes, my Lord."
"Did it seem to you that some were slow to arrive?"
"A little, my Lord. Especially since they were warned to expect a summons tonight."
"Hmm... We shall discuss this later."
They walked out to the terrace, where another ten masked Death Eaters stood around the pentacle, the innermost circle of the movement. Another thirteen watched from the edges of the terrace, including Severus Snape. Beyond the terrace all was dark, in contrast to the lights of the ceremony.
Lucius checked his pocket watch. "Two minutes, my Lord."
"Excellent." Voldemort walked forward and inspected the pentacle. As he did so, unknown to him, watchers a few hundred yards away released three boxes of Quidditch balls.
"My loyal followers," said Voldemort, raising his wand. "Shortly we will begin a ritual to initiate a new dawn for our movement, a better world where our power will be unopposed. As the Moon darkens, let us join together in..." He was interrupted by a loud bang, and a flare of flame. "What was that?"
"The wards, my Lord," said Lucius, "probably just.." There were another two bangs, then several more along a wide stretch of the perimeter "...a flock of birds." There were more bursts of flame, and the noise became a roar.
As the balls left the box, the first spell that triggered was the Doubling Curse that was cast on all of them. One set was incomplete, so three quaffles, six bludgers and two snitches left the boxes; the bludgers were enchanted to take the most direct path, but still took twenty seconds to reach the wards, doubling every two seconds. More than six thousand bludgers, fifty-four tons of iron, hit nearly simultaneously. The insane rate of duplication meant that most were already crumbling to rust, burning up in the flames, when the wards collapsed under more than two hundred tons of iron a few seconds later. Forty-one made it through as the curse finally died. As did thirty-seven quaffles, more than half of them on fire, and more than a hundred snitches.
Dobby heard the impacts and the roar of flames, pressed "Play" on the eight-track recorder in the truck, and apparated to his next task. The speakers crackled for a few seconds, as Voldemort said "Birds?" incredulously, watching blobs of fire fly toward him, and realised that he was hearing an extraordinarily loud guitar.
"Back in black" sang a deafeningly loud voice, amplified electronically and by Sonorus charms on each speaker,
"I hit the sack
I've been too long I'm glad to be back"
"BIRDS?!" Voldemort shouted over the din.
A bludger whizzed toward him, hit the anti-bullet spell around him, and reversed course abruptly. That sent it toward Snape, who dodged hastily; it flew on into the darkness, curving back toward the terrace once it was outside the area Hermione had defined as the Quidditch pitch. More flew at other Death Eaters, targeted at their common feature, the masks they all wore. Two smashed into Avery's head with a sickening crunch, killing him instantly, while Bellatrix LeStrange hastily transfigured one of her daggers into a beater's bat to send another bludger hurtling towards the Manor. It smashed in through a second-floor window, ricocheted around one of the guest bedrooms and destroyed an antique mirror and a wardrobe, then went out through another window and back toward the terrace. Meanwhile Bellatrix grinned maniacally, and looked for another target.
"IT'S POTTER!" screamed Voldemort, trying to target the bludgers without hitting too many of his supporters, and paying little attention to the slower quaffles, which were flying much higher. A snitch whizzed past him then began to orbit his head, followed by another. Moments later another half-dozen had joined them, spiralling in close but never hitting him.
"Forget the hearse 'cause I never die
I got nine lives..."
Voldemort began to cast a silent fire rope spell, but something impeded his wand movement. He glanced down and saw a mass of snitches stuck to his wand, their wings beating and pulling the wand in random directions. They couldn't hit him, his defences prevented that, but the spell didn't account for Voldemort's own movements. He'd moved his wand and it touched them, sticking charms had done the rest.
Overhead one of the quaffles disintegrated, scraps of flaming leather showering down onto the crowd below. Travers screamed as his hair caught fire, and dropped the tray, Hufflepuff's Cup rolled toward the centre of the pentacle.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort overcame the snitches to cast his favourite spell, and Travers fell bonelessly. "Accio Cup!" The cup rolled on, indifferent to the summoning spell, and Voldemort realised that its anti-theft protection was still active. He wordlessly summoned Nagini to recover it, the huge snake dodging between the feet of the Death Eaters as it raced toward the pentacle.
Overhead smoke spread out from the burning quaffles, obscuring the fast-disappearing moon. One by one the remaining quaffles burst into flames, adding more smoke and pungent fumes. In the confusion few of the Death Eaters noticed, those that did were too busy dodging bludgers to pay much attention. Voldemort tried an overpowered Finite spell, which achieved nothing, then concentrated on blasting them.
Above the smoke, unseen, three brooms streaked toward the manor.
Voldemort wandlessly summoned a mesh of fiendfyre, burning within inches of his body, hands, and wand, and burned away most of the snitches. "Now where is the brat," he muttered, "why can't I feel him?"
In the tree line Constantine saw Voldemort destroy the snitches, and decided to up the pressure. He switched on his wireless microphone, cutting off the music abruptly, and said "Hello Tommy. You've been a naughty boy."
"Show yourself!" screamed Voldemort. The voice was too distorted to be sure, but it didn't sound much like Potter. As he spoke more snitches attached themselves to his wand. Constantine couldn't hear him over the noise from the terrace, but guessed he had his attention.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle. Really, Tommy? You took your name and made an anagram? 'I am Lord Voldemort?' What a load of bollocks. You're not a Lord, and that isn't your name." He switched the microphone off, and the music resumed: "...look at me now
I'm just makin' my play
Don't try to push your luck...
By now several windows were broken; Harry pointed to one and flew towards it, closely followed by Hermione and Ron. The intruder charm on the window was already blaring, unheard in the din from the terrace. More by luck than judgement, it led onto one of the main corridors, leading to the stairs.
Voldemort felt for the Taboo Spell that should have activated when his name was used. It was there but inactive, as though nothing had been said. Around him the smarter Death Eaters were ditching their masks; some bludgers repeatedly struck the masks on the ground, others pursued the slower-witted.
Lucius blasted another two bludgers out of the air, narrowly missing Snape, as another ricocheted off a mask on the ground and hit him in the stomach. The spells on his robes protected him from serious harm, but he was winded and dropped his wand. Antonin Dolohov was less fortunate; a ball hit him in the back of the head, just missing his robe, and fractured his skull. In the confusion nobody noticed in time to save his life.
As Nagini reached the cup a woman in archaic bronze armour seemed to fall from the sky, and decapitated the snake with a single blow, blood oozing towards the lines of the pentacle. Voldemort screamed "Aveda Kedavra!" and cast the killing curse; she swatted it out of the air with the blade of her sword, batting it toward one of the greenhouses which exploded violently a moment later. She stared at him for a moment, then walked forward, crossing the lines of the pentacle effortlessly. Another woman in steel plate, wearing a half mask, appeared behind her, half-crouched, sword and shield in hand, and used her shield to deflect a blasting hex across the terrace, narrowly missing Amycus Carrow. The conditioning protecting Snape's memories failed as he saw them, and remembered who Diana was.
"Yes, I'm in a bang
With a gang
They've got to catch me if they want me to hang"
Peter Pettigrew tried to apparate away, hoping that nobody would notice; the anti-apparation wards were still up and Bellatrix saw what he was doing. "Traitor! Avada Kedavra!" Pettigrew dropped and fled in rat form as the spell struck Thorfinn Rowle's back.
Inside the mansion Narcissa Malfoy was trying to find Draco, and wincing every time she heard something smash.
"Stupefy!" Narcissa collapsed, stunned from behind by Hermione and Ron. Harry took her wand while Hermione cut off a lock of her hair, added it to a vial of Polyjuice Potion, cast the activation spell and waited for it to transform, then swallowed it. "Eww. Sprouts mixed with petrol." She changed shape to Narcissa's form, transfigured her clothes to more or less match Narcissa's elegant gown, hid her own wand in her sleeve and took Narcissa's for show.
Dobby popped in. "Dobby is here for you, Harry Potter."
"Get her out of here. Grimmauld Place, tell Kreacher to keep her safe but don't let her leave."
"At once!" Dobby took her arm and vanished.
"Come on," hissed Ron, who was wearing a latex Frankenstein mask Hermione had found in a Paris shop. "I think the Bludgers must be running down, I haven't heard anything smash for a while. We need to get a move on." As if to answer him, there was a loud explosion outside. "Or maybe not."
Dobby reappeared alone. "Bad Master's wife is safe, Harry Potter."
"Dobby, can you find Draco?"
Dobby sniffed the air for a moment. "He is in cellars, Harry Potter."
"Lead us there, please."
"At once, Harry Potter."
Outside the music stopped as Constantine used the radio microphone again. "As I was saying, Tommy, Lord Voldemort isn't your real name. Come to that, neither is Tom Marvolo Riddle. Everyone called you that, but it was never true."
Voldemort screamed with rage, and tried an area effect spell on the armoured women. There was a deafening explosion, and a powerful shockwave sent some of the Death Eaters flying and destroyed most of the remaining snitches, but both women were unscathed.
"Oooh, temper temper. I'll let you into a little secret, Tommy-boy, I took the trouble to check your birth certificate. Know what I found? Your name isn't Tom, it never has been. Your mum wanted you to be a Thomas. And that means that everything you've done with your name since then, as Tom Riddle or Lord Voldemort, isn't magically binding. Not any more."
"Confringo!" screamed Bellatrix, casting the blasting hex at the ground ahead of Diana. The explosion threw her into the air, but she simply somersaulted forward and resumed her advance. Voldemort backed away again.
"Run, coward," said Mazikeen. "I am Mazikeen, General of the armies of Hell. My master Lord Lucifer finds you in default of your contract."
"Kill them!" screamed Voldemort, backing away. His mind raced, looking for a way out.
The unmasked part of her face grinned. "It will be my pleasure."
On the ridge Constantine switched back to the tape. By now Back to Black was over, but the guitars and drums of an instrumental version of Black Sabbath's Iron Man seemed quite appropriate to the occasion.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort cast again, and learned an important lesson in wand safety. The snitch stuck to the end of his wand exploded, splintering the last two inches of the wand, and the spell fizzled out. He screamed with range, threw the remains of the Elder Wand at Mazikeen, missing by several feet, and drew his old wand from his sleeve. Mazikeen casually threw knives at the Death Eaters, seemingly bored by him, as Diana used shield and sword to bat away spells that might hit either of them, and maneuvered to one side, intending to lasso Voldemort.
Unseen, Death kneeled to touch the remains of the Elder Wand. The spirit of a wood nymph appeared; they talked for a moment, then Death embraced her and there was the sound of beating wings. Simultaneously more instances of Death were collecting Nagini, the remnant of the horcrux in her head, Thorfinn Rowle, Antonin Dolohov and another ninety or so people and countless animals every minute around the world.
Rabastan Lestrange fell, his heart pierced by one of Mazikeen's knifes, another missed Peter Pettigrew, literally by a whisker. He squeaked and leapt back, then scuttled on toward safety.
In the dungeon Luna stood near the cell door, and said "Honestly Draco, everyone has performance issues sometimes, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I'm sure that there are lots of people that have trouble casting that spell."
"Draco, Draco, Draco, you'll damage the door if you go on like that. Well, if you can make it work a little better."
Draco kicked the door petulantly, and a voice behind him said "Draco? What on earth are you doing?"
"Punishing Lovegood, mother."
"Ineffectively, it seems. Do I have to do everything? Open the door, Draco, I'll see to it."
Draco sulkily said "Yes mother," and turned to open the door.
Ron dragged Draco out of the way, while Harry worked on the lock.
"Hello Hermione," said Luna.
"How did you know it was me?"
"Your wand movements are more fluid than Narcissa's. Is that Harry with you?"
"Just a sec," said Harry, as Dobby vanished with Draco. He fiddled with the lock again, and it clicked open. The prisoners started to emerge, blinking in the brighter light of the main cellar.
"I think that dress quite suits Narcissa," said Luna, "but it will look a little odd on you. May I borrow Narcissa's wand a moment?"
There was another loud explosion from outside, and the building shook slightly.
Hermione handed the wand to Luna. "Be careful, I don't know that it's a good match to you."
"It'll be good enough, I think. Now, let me see...." She looked around and said "That wall will do nicely. She flourished the wand in a complex pattern: "Gingiberi Panem!" A river of reddish-brown sparks struck a blank wall for a few moments, then stopped.
"Was that supposed to do something?" asked Ron.
"I should think so, but it will take a few minutes. Shall we go?" The area of the wall hit by the spell was turning brown, and the brown patch was spreading outwards.
Ollivander looked distinctly uneasy. "I think that wall is load-bearing."
Hermione took the lead as they headed for the stairs, still disguised as Narcissa, with Luna and Harry behind her.
Harry took a closer look at the wall as they passed it, then touched it and sniffed his fingers. "You're turning the wall into gingerbread?"
"Not the wall, silly, the house. That's what the spell is for, though usually you start off with something a little smaller, to make Christmas decorations. You can't eat it, of course, unless you start off with something edible, like a house made of toast."
"You can turn a whole house into gingerbread? A big mansion like this?"
"It's a spell to make a gingerbread house," Luna said with a shrug, "nobody wants a gingerbread wall on its own, so it has to turn the whole house into gingerbread. But gingerbread isn't really very strong, I think it might not stay up very well."
"Harry," said Hermione, "we just made a couple of hundred tons of bludgers out of nothing, why are you surprised?"
"Well, if you put it that way... let's get the hell out of here before it collapses!"
Outside three more Death Eaters were dead, two killed by deflected spells and one by another knife, and Voldemort seemed to be slowing slightly, panting harder as he tried to keep up his rain of spells. Most of the flag-stones were cracked and cratered, and the lines of the pentacle were broken. The last bludgers, four of the six that Hermione had started out with, were still bouncing off discarded masks and circling round to hit them. Only Bellatrix still wore her mask.
"Thomas Marvolo Riddle," said Mazikeen, her voice clear despite the music and the noise of the spells, "In 1954 you negotiated with Hell under false pretences. You used a false name on the contract, and by dividing your soul you have ensured that the payment will be damaged goods. The power you purchased is forfeit." A glow appeared around Voldemort then faded into nothingness.
"Kill them!" screamed Voldemort, firing a Killing Curse that ricocheted from Diana's shield to kill Mulciber. "Attack them, cowards!"
As he spoke Diana's lasso lashed out and wrapped around him. "Tell them to surrender, Tom."
Voldemort struggled, tried to wave his wand again, but got nowhere. "Sssuuu... No sssuurrrender!"
The music segued into the introduction to Motörhead's Ace of Spades, and the surviving Death Eaters redoubled their fire. Diana batted another Killing Curse aside, most of her attention on Voldemort, but Mazikeen intercepted it with her own shield and sent it back to its source. Walden McNair died instantly.
"Where are the Horcruxes, Tom? Where did you put them?"
Bellatrix ran forward screaming, and was caught by a Crucio spell from Lucius Malfoy. She screamed and fell as Gibbon shouted "Traitor! Confringo!" and blasted Malfoy in the back, severing his spine. Lurking toward the rear, Snape cast "Sectumsempera!", supposedly at Diana but deliberately sending it off-target to sever Crabb's wand hand.
"Where are they, Tom?"
"My diary... Hufflepuff's cup... Ravenclaw's..." He seemed to be about to collapse, and Diana made the mistake of reducing the pressure for a moment. Voldemort gasped, screamed "Yolcam Akrasiel!" and twisted, somehow disapparating out of the lasso. Belltrix guessed that the wards were down, and found the strength to stagger to her feet and apparate out. The Carrows took her departure as a cue to escape the same way. The rest of the Death Eaters were too caught up in the fight, or too badly injured, to follow.
Snape abandoned his pretence of fighting for Voldemort, and began to pick off some of the remaining Death Eaters with precision spellfire, while Diana and Mazikeen made short work of the rest, until only Snape was standing. He dropped his wand and raised his hands. Before Diana could say anything Mazikeen threw her last dagger at him, the blade severing his carotid arteries.
"He was on our side!" screamed Diana.
"He was a traitor," Mazikeen said coldly. "Now he will betray no more." She looked out into the darkness, somehow saw Constantine in the gloom, made a throat-cutting gesture, and gestured for him to come to them. A moment later the music stopped, and his amplified voice said "All over?"
In Scotland Minerva McGonagall sensed a shift in the castle magics, knew that she was acting Headmistress again, and guessed that Snape was dead. She sent house elves to check that the Carrows had left the building, began disciplinary procedures to suspend their teaching posts, which would bar them from the castle and grounds until the governors formally reinstated them, and called an immediate staff meeting. She had a feeling that the next few days would be interesting.
As Constantine was crossing the last stretch of lawn before the terrace, Harry and the others cautiously emerged from a side door. "I think it's all over," said Hermione.
Something rustled, and Harry spotted a familiar-looking rat scuttling away. "Stupefy!" He cautiously picked it up by the tail, checked its paws, grinned, and said "Now it's over."
"Almost," said Diana. "The fight's over, but Severus is dead and Riddle and a couple of others escaped. He's badly weakened. I think they're going after the horcruxes."
For some reason Harry found it hard to care much about Snape. "Are there any left?"
"We still have to destroy Hufflepuff's Cup, and Riddle said something about Ravenclaw before he escaped, but he didn't finish."
"That's easy," said Luna. "It'll be Ravenclaw's Diadem. There's a statue of her that shows what it's like in our Tower." Behind them there was a loud creak, and a rumbling noise as part of the dungeon wall collapsed, and the ground floor of the manor began to sag into it. The Malfoys' remaining house elves apparated out, looking lost.
"Oi!" shouted Constantine. "I thought you said it was over!"
They turned to see him standing in front of the remains of the pentacle, which were suddenly glowing dull red. A cloud of black smoke was forming in the central pentagon over Hufflepuff's Cup, which seemed to be melting.
"I thought you realised," Mazikeen said calmly, "the last thing Riddle shouted was a summons. I'm really not too sure what we're going to get, he did it all wrong. This ought to be interesting."
The smoke was rapidly solidifying into a humanoid form.
The Doubling Curse really does work like this, and Hermione knows how to cast it in canon. It can be combined with other spells that carry over to the copies - a heating spell in Deathly Hallows - but the copies are generally inferior; for my purposes they corrode and fall apart easily, and the spell stops working when they do. If anything I've made this spell LESS effective and slower than canon; see the bank vault scene in Deathly Hallows, and try not to think about conservation of mass and energy. For those of a mathematical bent, I assumed a doubling every two seconds, and a small bludger weighing about 20lb - Quidditch Through the Ages describes them as solid iron balls 10" in diameter, which would weigh about 150lb, but this isn't borne out by the damage they do, or their appearance in the films. If they did weigh 150lb more than 418 tons of balls would have hit the wards at about 60 MPH, with the energy of a train crash. The exact numbers are easy to calculate, I leave it as an exercise for the bored... See
for an analysis of Bludger speed.
If the launch paragraph reads a little like a David Weber missile launch scene it isn't entirely unintentional.
Back in Black by AC/DC is a candidate for "Loudest rock song ever," as are the other songs mentioned.
The Gingerbread spell is not canon; I think I may have seen the idea used in a short story in a fantasy anthology, but I can't now remember the author or where it appeared.
Riddle's summons is in (sort of) Enochian as found on various web sites, and probably not even slightly authentic.
Comments please before I post to archives.
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