On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XVIII: Puffskeins, Pumpkins and Potions
Smoke swirled above the melted remains of Hufflepuff's Cup, slowly solidifying into a humanoid form. Harry tried casting a blasting spell at it, but it winked out as it crossed the lines of the pentacle. None of the other spells they tried did any better.
"Won't work," said Constantine, "you've got an open portal there, anything you throw at it ends up diverted to Hell."
"Can anyone make a Portkey?" Harry shouted.
"If I can find a wand I can use," said Ollivander, who was gathering wands from the unconscious and dead bodies. "Where do you want to go?"
"Not for me - to get you and the other prisoners out of here. Think of somewhere safe, where you can go to ground for a few days. Hopefully it'll be over by then, if not just concentrate on running."
"And the house-elves," said Hermione, "get them out too, maybe they can help you all hide. But do it quickly!"
"Very well. I'll need a length of rope, or something long enough for all of us to touch."
Ron ran over to one of the dead Death Eaters and pulled off a cummerbund the body was wearing. "Will this do?"
"Just the job." He flourished one of the wands he had found, and it spurted a foot-long jet of flames. "Fourteen inch oak, quite whippy, with a unicorn hair core. This should do nicely. Portus! Everyone grab hold!"
"Quick," shouted Harry, "all of you get hold of that scarf thing."
The prisoners moved to get hold of it, some of them helped by the Malfoy elves. None of the latter seemed to be too sad about the death of their master. Harry absently noticed that smoke was coming out of some of the upper floor windows of the mansion, and guessed that burning quaffles had found their way inside.
"And three... two... one... GO!" As Ollivander said "GO!" a dozen prisoners and elves vanished.
Harry turned back to the pentacle, and realised that he was looking at Luna. "Oi, you were supposed to leave too."
"You need all the help you can get. I've got Narcissa's wand, I'll be okay."
"Okay, but stay back until we know what we're up against." A stray bludger whipped past his head, heading for one of the discarded masks, and he shouted "Mischief managed!" in Parseltongue. The remaining bludgers, quaffles and snitches floated down to the ground and rolled to a standstill. One of the burning quaffles set fire to Lucius' clothes.
The form in the pentacle finally solidified, the figure of a tall man in wizards robes, standing with his back to them. He turned slowly until he was in profile.
"What the...?" Ron said incredulously.
"Hello Ron," said Dumbledore. "Harry, Hermione. Thank you for bringing me back, but I seem to be trapped here."
"It isn't Dumbledore," said Constantine. "It's trying to trick you."
"I don't know you, but I do feel that's rather rude," said the figure. "Now, where's my wand? Accio Elder Wand!" The remains of the Elder Wand flew to him, but stopped at the pentacle, floating in the air. "Hmmmm... useless, the core's burned out. What a nuisance. I'll just have to do without." He floated into the air, rotating to face them. Harry gasped as he turned, revealing that only the right side of his face was Dumbledore's; the left was the noseless face of Voldemort.
"You might want to watch that," Constantine said calmly, "Mouldy Voldy's still alive, he'll sue you for trademark infringement."
"Is that..?" began Hermione.
"Not Voldemort, that soul fragment went phut when the cup melted. Eclipso? Buggered if I know for sure, but the face is a bit of a give-away."
"You're very rude," said Luna. "Your friend has another side to her face, it doesn't make her a bad person."
"I'm a demon," said Mazikeen, "don't insult me by calling me a person. Or good, for that matter."
"Sorry. By the way, whoever or whatever this is, he isn't actually confined to the pentacle. The hem of his robe has gone over the lines twice now."
"What a perceptive child," said the creature, "I think that you'll do very nicely." It raised a hand in apparent salute, then something dark flew at Luna. There was no time for anyone to react. She fell, a shard of dark crystal in her chest, piercing her heart, as Diana and Mazikeen rushed toward the pentacle, and the figure inside it collapsed in a cloud of billowing dust. Ron caught Luna as she fell.
"Don't touch the crystal!" shouted Constantine, running toward them. "I think that's the real Eclipso." He gestured, and a glowing pattern of lines and Enochian letters appeared in the air. "Shit! It's in her now. Don't try to pull it out, it'll probably keep her alive if you don't interfere."
Luna's eyes snapped open; one silver grey, the other swirling green. "He's right." She put a hand to the crystal. "Now I think I'm supposed to become an unstoppable monster and kill you all, unless you kill me first. That really won't do, I like you all too much. I.." She suddenly pushed the crystal the rest of the way into her heart, convulsed, and fell back. Blood trickled out around the wound for a moment then stopped.
"No!" shouted Ron. "Luna!"
"She's still alive," said Constantine, "but it's not just Luna or Eclipso. Something else is in there... apart from the girl, I mean."
"Another demon? Voldemort?"
"If I kill her will I destroy it?" asked Mazikeen.
"Doubt it. Give me a moment." He stared at the shifting lines and patterns.
Mazikeen peered over his shoulder and said "She's quite healthy considering there's a crystal in her heart."
"I noticed. Not sure if it's Eclipso keeping her alive or whatever the other thing is."
Luna's eyes snapped open. Her green eye was glowing slightly. "I think it's more of a group effort, but things should be... uh... YOU WILL ALL BURN... no, bad demon, no gingerbread for you... should be working properly soon."
"Why did you push it in?" asked Ron.
"To make sure it didn't hurt anyone else, silly. Don't worry, it's stopped hurting already."
"Who are you?" Diana demanded.
"Call me Del."
"Can we talk to Luna?"
"You are, silly."
"He's here too, but we're keeping him busy. I don't think I've ever met crystalline life on Earth before, he's really interesting. Though that isn't really what he is."
"What is he, then?" asked Constantine. "A demon?"
There were a series of loud crashes as the near side of the mansion, half masonry and half gingerbread, collapsed back into the ruins, followed by parts of the upper floors and roof.
Luna watched, giggling slightly. "Oopsy. Well, not exactly a demon. He's more like one of those ideas that you get in your head and you can never get rid of and it goes round and around and around in circles and you see it everywhere you look and it's in the mirror and down the plughole and on license plates and you hear it on records when you play them backwards and in the crossword if you do it in runes and..." Constantine raised a finger to his lips, and she stopped.
"μίμημα?" asked Diana, "A meme?"
"Yes, one of those. People got the idea that there was a demon that caused eclipses, so when enough people believed it there was one, except that he isn't a fallen angel and God didn't make him, and once there was a demon of eclipses there had to be horrible things that happened at eclipses, so..."
"And Del?" asked Constantine.
"...it had to be more and more horrible. Me? I'm Luna's friend, and maybe one day we'll be me properly. I don't think she's had many friends before, and most of mine are much harder to talk to, so it's really nice and I think that we shall have cake and tea and maybe some little fish or eggs with toast cut in the shape of tiny little soldiers and snorkacks and platypussies and..."
"Del, would your full name happen to be Delirium?"
"...golden snidgets and doggies. You guessed it already? That's very clever!" She waved her hand, and a shower of small cupcakes fell around her.
Ron reached for one, and Hermione said "Better not, remember Gamp's Laws. Never eat conjured food."
"I'd be more worried about the hallucinogens," murmured Diana. Ron looked confused but didn't eat.
"Thanks, love," said Constantine. "Everybody, this is Delirium of the Endless. I think you said you've met her sister. And Luna and Eclipso, of course."
"Ooh," said Luna, "I haven't met her yet, and Del says she's really funny."
"She's pretty cool," said Harry, realising that Luna meant Death. "Helped me a lot."
"Del, Luna, can you keep Eclipso under control?"
One side of Luna's face seemed to darken. "WHY DON'T YOU ASK ME, MORTAL? Oh, sorry about that, he's a little YOU DARE TRY TO CONTROL now that's quite enough of that." Her face lightened again. "He isn't mister cooperative yet, but we're getting there. It's not like Del's going to let him out, neither am I, so he might as well make the best of it."
Diana moved closer to Constantine and murmured "What do you think?"
"Delirium's got enough power to take down any demon if she can stay focussed. Once the total eclipse ends he.. it.. whatever.. loses a lot of power... until the next one anyway."
"How long is that now?"
Constantine checked his watch. "'Bout thirty-five minutes."
"You're a little rude whispering about me," said Luna.
Diana kneeled and held Luna's hand, feeling her pulse. "I think that you and Del have probably saved our lives here, but maybe you ought to rest for a little while. You're going through a big change. Hermione, can you and Ron stay with her for bit, while Harry and John and I question the Death Eaters? We still need to find out where else they're keeping prisoners."
"Boring," said Mazikeen, "I already know all that. What did you think I've been doing since I got here on Saturday?"
"I really don't know," said Diana. "Like I didn't know that Voldemort had sold his soul to Lucifer. That would have been useful information."
"Seriously? You think that Lucifer handles petty crap like that? Get real. I didn't know until I got close, then I could feel the contract. Some demonic low-life that didn't know it was being cheated must have given him a power boost, I didn't even recognise the magical signature so it wasn't anyone important. I clawed it back anyway, why are you complaining?"
"Ladies," said Constantine, lighting a cigarette, "We're probably working against the clock here, so how about we try not to have a big confrontation? Okay, some idiot gave Voldemort a little extra power, he was pretty strong without it so I doubt it made a huge difference. Maze, if you have any locations for prisoners please tell Diana, she wants to rescue them. Harry, I know you want to get after Tommy, but we might get that done faster if we have more information. Diana, if we aren't questioning these morons we need to get rid of them. Okay?"
"It's a simple enough request," Tonguetongs said in Gobbledegook, "If he's prepared to cooperate we can get this done tonight, otherwise I'll have to clear it with head office, and that could take days."
"All right," said Diana, "I'll ask him. I'll call you back." She snapped her mobile phone closed. "Harry, the Goblins are willing to take the prisoners, but you have to be part of it. They want to make a deal."
"What sort of deal?"
"Once the war is over you get interviewed in the Daily Prophet and appear on a Gringrott's poster, saying how much the goblins have helped you. In return they'll keep the prisoners secure. If you agree to appear in four advertisements over the next two years and another poster they'll also guard any additional prisoners we capture except Voldemort himself; they won't accept responsibility for him."
"Seriously? Why me?"
"Oh come on," said Ron, still cradling Luna, who was softly singing a song about puffskeins, pumpkins and potions, "who else would they want?"
"Stubby Boardman," said Luna. "Or Merlin, of course. Puffskeins and potions and pumpkins and..." Her voice tapered off incoherently.
"You're famous, Harry," said Hermione, "might as well get some benefit."
"Think of it this way," said Diana. "If you agree they'll pay for everything out of their advertising budget. The alternative is we pay for it ourselves, and I'm not sure I have that much gold at present."
"Okay," said Harry. "But start off by saying only one advertisement, if you don't haggle they won't take us seriously."
Fifteen minutes later a team of goblin guards were apparating out with the last prisoners and bodies, while Diana, Harry, and Hermione read through the papers that Tonguetongs wanted him to sign, and Ron looked after Luna.
"Clause eight has to go," said Hermione. "We can't guarantee that the adverts will have all of the effects you want. Harry will cooperate, but it's up to you to write them and do the PR work to get these results."
"Hmmph," said Tonguetongs, "you drive a hard bargain. One interview, not with Rita Skeeter, one poster, and three advertisements. Is that it, or do you want the clothes from my back too?"
"The rest of it looks okay to me. Harry?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"In clause twelve, the photography sessions, change it from 'to be scheduled by Gringrotts' to 'to be scheduled by mutual agreement between Mister Potter and Gringrotts.' That way Harry won't incur a penalty if you asked him at an hours notice or something. Apart from that I think it's all right."
"A very hard bargain. Very well." He amended the contract, then made three copies by the limited version of the Gemino spell. "Sign here and here on each contract and we're in business."
Harry waited until Diana and Hermione nodded, then signed. Tonguetongs added his own signature, Diana and Hermione witnessed them.
"Thank you," said Tonguetongs, "I think this will be the basis for a mutually profitable association. If you will excuse me, we must prepare for more prisoners, call us when you have them. Good luck in your own endeavors." He apparated out.
"Mercenary buggers aren't they," said Constantine.
"Tonguetongs really wanted to do it," said Diana, "or he would have never made the offer. But he had to show a way of profiting from it, or his masters would not allow it at all. It's a matter of goblin honour."
Mazikeen looked bemused. "Something wrong?" asked Constantine.
"Now I know why my Lord Lucifer does not trade in souls. Compared to the goblins, the contracts demons make are amateur's work."
"I'd better check on the Malfoys," said Harry, "Dobby!"
Dobby appeared with a soft pop. "Dobby is here, Harry Potter."
"Is everything okay at Grimauld Place?"
"Kreacher has put bad master's wife and son in Black dungeons," he said happily, "they will not be leaving without wands."
"Do they have beds and food and stuff?"
"Of course, Harry Potter."
"Great. Now I need you to go to Hogwarts, Dobby. Just a second." He scribbled a quick note. "Okay, I think that Professor McGonagall must be the acting head now, get this to her. It's a warning that trouble might be headed there. If you can't get in, get it to... Oh, Hagrid if he's outside the wards, or Professor Sprout, or Flitwick, or Ginny or Neville if you can't find a teacher. But not the Carrows or any other Death Eater."
"Dobby understands." Dobby took the note and vanished.
Harry looked at the smouldering ruins of the manor thoughtfully, feeling hungry as he smelled the burning gingerbread. "Hermione, are there still anti-muggle wards up?"
Hermione ran a quick diagnostic spell. "It looks like it; I think there's a secondary set of ward stones for that, further out from the manor."
"Probably why nobody turned up to complain about the noise," said Ron.
"Good thing too. Luna, what happens to the manor when the gingerbread spell is complete?"
Luna's eyes focused. "Back to bricks and stone, I think. I never tried it with anything bigger than a dollhouse before, that lasted about a week. Oooh, gulping plimpies!" A school of twenty or so globular yellow fish with legs appeared in the air, swimming in a lazy orbit around her in defiance of gravity and their need for water, and her eyes lost their focus again.
"Luna... Luna, about the house. Will it be repaired when the spell ends?"
The fish vanished again. "I don't think so. My dollhouse wasn't."
Constantine looked up at the dim red moon, and checked his watch again. "Ten more minutes, after that it's a partial eclipse until about half past nine."
Harry moved closer and murmured "When can we be sure there's no risk from Eclipso?"
"He's a lot less powerful once the eclipse ends, but there's still danger until dawn tomorrow."
"Merlin, we can't wait that long. Could we stun Luna, would that stop him?"
"More likely give him a free hand if she's not conscious to oppose him."
"What happens if she falls asleep?"
"Same thing, I think."
"Okay." Harry knelt in front of Luna. "Luna, we've got a bit of a problem here. We've got a lot to do before dawn, and we can't leave you here. I know you must be pretty tired, but if you can help us things might go a lot better. We haven't got any invigoration draught, but would you mind drinking a double dose of pepper-up? That ought to help you stay awake."
Luna looked at him, cross-eyed and humming a tune Harry didn't recognize, but didn't answer. Harry put the potion bottle into her hand, and she stopped singing, stared at it, then knocked it back in a long swallow. Luna's eyes widened and seemed to be more focused, and she shook her head, burped loudly and said "Now that's more like it!" She struggled back to her feet with Ron's help, as steam began to puff out of her ears.
"If that doesn't work I'm pretty sure there's a couple of old six-packs of Jolt Cola in the sound truck," said Constantine. "Might be a bit flat though. Very useful when you're doing a really long ritual."
"Urgh," said Hermione. "That stuff's packed with caffeine and sugar. Think of your blood pressure. Think of your teeth!"
Suddenly Luna was paying a lot more attention. "Was it created by the Rotfang Conspiracy? Does it contain Wrackspurts?"
"Maybe you should investigate," said Diana. "Would you mind, John?"
Constantine murmured an incantation, conjured up a glowing portal about a foot across, reached in, and pulled out a garish cardboard pack, then another, and closed it again. "Okay, Diana and Maze can probably do without. If you four carry three cans each that ought to keep you going."
"What about you?" asked Harry.
"Sleep is for the weak, I'm used to doing without."
"What is this stuff?" asked Ron.
Hermione grimaced. "Think of each can as ten or twelve cups of black coffee with extra sugar, but fizzy. It's incredibly bad for you, but it'll keep you awake."
"Cool!" Ron fumbled at the can, but couldn't figure out how the ring-pull worked.
"Don't try to open them until you need one, they can't be re-sealed. And don't shake them too much, or you'll get covered in froth when you open them."
"Are you sure this isn't one of Fred and George's jokes?"
"No joke," said Harry, "but she's right, we've got a lot to do and we need to make this stuff last all night. Are we all..." There was another prolonged crash as the rest of the manor finally collapsed, filling the cellars and piling up as a mound of burning gingerbread.
"Now that's something you don't see every day," said Constantine. "Nice work, kid."
Luna giggled but didn't answer.
"The Muggleworthy Excuses people are going to have an interesting time explaining this one," said Hermione.
"As I was saying," said Harry, "are we all ready to leave?"
"Where to?" asked Ron.
"Mazikeen, you said that they were keeping most of the prisoners in an old power station, can you take us there?"
"I'm not a taxi."
"Still not a taxi."
"We'll probably have a big fight on our hands when we get there."
"I don't need you for that."
"How about me, love?" said Constantine. "Want to show me the way? Then I can bring this lot along and you won't need to lift a finger."
"You're going to try to follow me?" Mazikeen said incredulously. "This I've got to see."
"All right. Maze, if you can lead the way, we'll follow as close behind as we can."
"I'll leave the door open, you do the rest." She made an quick gesture with her hand, and a glowing red disk appeared in the air, and there was a slight smell of burning sulphur. She walked into it and vanished.
"Everyone follow me and stay close, this isn't going to be fun."
Constantine stepped into the circle and disappeared.
"Come on," said Diana, "Ron, I'll carry Luna, all of you have your wands ready." She picked up Luna effortlessly and held her half-covered by her shield, her sword in her other hand. Luna giggled and more steam puffed from her ears.
Eclipso has so many different origins that I thought it would be fun add another for story purposes. This is REALLY not canon!
The word 'Meme' originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but the idea is much older. The word ultimately derives from the ancient Greek word μίμημα, pronounced mīmēma, "imitated thing".
"Puffskeins and potions and pumpkins and..." is sung to the tune of My Favourite Things, of course.
In the end notes for the previous chapter I forgot to say that one of the inspirations for the bludgers was the Doctor Who episode The Sound of Drums, especially this scene: https://youtu.be/4h8NmjpiY1M
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