On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XIX: Imperil Your Soul
The other side of the portal was a desert of hot sand, sulfurous clouds and howling searingly-hot winds, fine airborne dust as abrasive as pumice, and yellow clouds blowing across a dark red sky. Hermione took one sniff then cast the bubble-head charm on herself, then on Luna and Diana, while Harry took care of himself and Ron. Constantine was a few yards ahead of them, crouched and looking ahead through a small pair of binoculars. "Come on, Maze isn't waiting for us, we've got to catch up." He didn't seem to be too bothered by the conditions, but didn't protest when Harry cast the spell on him.
"What is this place?" shouted Harry.
"Hell, of course. Come on, before something notices we're here." Constantine stood, and set out across the sand. "And don't use more magic than you have to, it attracts attention."
Harry thought he saw ruins in the distance, and something moving beyond them, but it was too dark to be sure. It wasn't the direction they were headed in, he decided to ignore it for the moment. "Okay."
Harry thought he heard a sourceless voice say "Ah, yes. Harry Potter. Our new... celebrity." as Hermione heard "You'll be next, Mudbloods!" and Ron "Weasley cannot save a thing, He cannot block a single ring..."
Constantine shook his head. "Something about this place stirs up memories, if you're hearing anything it's probably that."
"Probably?" asked Diana, as she heard Ares say "Look at this world. Mankind did this, not me."
"That or we've been noticed, and something's doing it deliberately. For Christ's sake keep moving, we don't have a lot of time."
Luna roared "FOOLS! YOU REALLY FEEL YOU WILL BE ALLOWED now stop that, just because we're in Hell there's no need to be rude. Sorry, he's being silly, he doesn't want to be TRAPPED HERE any more than we do."
"Why would a demon be trapped here?" asked Ron.
Constantine glanced back at them. "He can't leave unless someone summons him, or a human vessel like Luna leaves with him on board. Remember, he's just a bit of crystal on his own. Now for fuck's sake move it!"
"What happens if we leave Luna here?" asked Hermione, sounding alarmed. "If she's possessed by a demon..."
"I'll exorcise it later," said Constantine, "We're not leaving anyone behind. Now come on!" He stepped up his pace, and the others hurried after him.
"Hermione," said Diana. "I know that the demon is a threat, but leaving Luna will not end it, and abandoning her would imperil your own soul."
"Why would you even suggest that?" said Ron.
"It's this place," screamed Hermione. "Every second we're here..."
Harry pulled a vial of Calming Draught from one of his pockets and handed it to her. "Drink it!"
Hermione looked at it for a moment, then pinched her nose and swallowed it, grimaced, and said "Sorry. Ever since I heard about magic I think I've worried about my soul a little..." She stopped, looking embarrassed. "We can talk about it later."
There were things moving off to the left and right, skittering between boulders and piles of debris. It was impossible to see them clearly, but to Harry they looked like a cross between house elves, gargoyles, and trolls, stooped and moving on legs and long spindly arms, their features half-concealed by the mist and dust. Some sort of imp, he guessed. He hoped not to get a better look.
Constantine held up something that looked like a lump of stone on a string, let it dangle for a moment, then shouted "that way" and altered course slightly to the left.
"Are you sure?" shouted Diana.
"Sure as I can be without using active magic. Maze is an evil bitch but she plays by the rules, she wouldn't lead us here if there wasn't a way out."
"And if you're wrong?"
"Then the kids wheel out their mojo, and you get to show us how good you really are with that sword."
"Very well. Come on, all of you, follow Constantine!"
Abruptly Harry felt a familiar chill, and saw a moving patch of darkness to his right. "Dementors! Expecto Patronum!" His stag-like Patronus seemed to form reluctantly, and flew toward the Dementors at a fraction of its normal speed. Ron's terrier and Hermione's otter followed, equally slowly. Then Luna waved Narcissa's wand, but instead of her usual hare produced an anthropomorphic giant rabbit wearing plate mail and carrying a huge sword, that chased after the main group of dementors enthusiastically and soon had them retreating.
"Is it just me," Harry murmured to Hermione, as his patronus scattered another group, "or was that Bugs Bunny?"
"It's working, don't knock it." Hermione grinned tiredly as her otter teamed up with Ron's terrier to drive off the last stragglers. "Cover me for a second." She rummaged in a pocket and found one of the Jolt Cola cans, drank some, and handed the rest of the can to Ron. "Might as well drink the rest of this, it's pointless wasting it."
"Okay." Ron chugged some down, sputtered and spat some of it down again, then finished the can. "Muggles drink this stuff?"
"Sometimes. Not what you were expecting?"
"It's horrible. We've got to get the twins to try this stuff, best prank ever! Feels like my teeth are melting! Yess!" Ron speeded up, Harry and Hermione stepped up their pace to keep up with him.
"I think it's working," said Harry.
"I hope so. So long as it isn't one of those things that works differently on muggle-born and pure-bloods. It'd be a shame if it messed up his magic or something."
"Is that likely?" Harry asked, alarmed.
"Not really. He's had cola drinks before, just not anything like this strong."
The sky on their left was darkening. For a second Harry expected more dementors, then got a better view. Dozens of flying creatures, vaguely humanoid, with scaly reptilian skin and batlike wings, headed to intercept them. Most of them seemed to have spears or tridents in their hands.
"Ron," said Diana, "Look after Luna for a moment." She lowered Luna to the ground and Ron put her arm over his shoulder to support her. Diana yelled something, an ululating war cry, ran forward a few paces, and leaped into the air, flying toward the creatures.
"I didn't know she could do that," said Harry. "Did you?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, and you would have thought it might have come up in conversation. 'Oh by the way, as well as being a demigoddess I can fly without a broom.' No, I had no bloody idea. It might have been nice to know."
Diana flew into the swarm and over the wind they heard metallic clangs as spears, tridents, and an occasional scaly arm rained down onto the desert.
"Stop gawking and get a move on," said Constantine. "Okay, maybe it isn't something you see every day, but we haven't got time for sightseeing, and Xena's taking care of things. Keep your eyes open, there might be more trouble coming."
"Xena?" asked Ron.
"Muggle TV programme," said Hermione. "Don't worry about it."
Ron shrugged, and Luna took her arm from his shoulder and said "I think she flies very well. I think I'd like to try walking by myself, I don't feel so wobbly now." Small puffs of steam from her ears punctuated her words.
"I'll stay close until we're sure you're okay," said Ron, aiming his wand at a group of the flying creatures which seemed to be ignoring Diana and heading for the rest of them. He picked off their leader with a cutting curse, while Harry threw another patronus into the group to disrupt the attack.
Voldemort apparated to his inner circle's emergency rendezvous, a lock-up garage in Cambridge, and began to heal his wounds as first Bellatrix then the Carrows appeared. "Where are the others?" he snarled.
"Those bitches killed most of them," said Bellatrix. "Rodolphus is gone... oh, and Malfoy." She didn't seem to be too bothered by the death of her husband.
"My Lord, I think Snape betrayed us," said Amycus. "He tried to make it look like he was aiming at the women and missing, but he hit Scabior with a cutting curse and took off his arm, that's not an accidental injury."
"Sire," said Alecto Carrow, kneeling before him. "If Snape betrayed us, we can't stay here."
"Crucio!" He held both of the Carrows under the spell for ten seconds, leaving them whimpering. "Whom did Snape leave in charge of the school?"
"McGonegall," said Amycus.
"And neither of you queried it? One of Dumbledore's... cronies?"
Alecto shrugged. "She's the deputy Headmistress, and the Governors haven't dismissed her. To be honest, my Lord, I thought that you might have had plans that needed her there. It was not my place to ask." She braced herself, but Voldemort didn't curse her.
"Hmm... Amycus, apparate to the school and check the situation there, then come straight back."
"Yes, My Lord." He apparated out.
"Now, did either of you recognize the voice that we heard?"
"A common-sounding man," said Bellatrix, "with a Liverpool accent. But I didn't recognize it."
"Whoever it was," said Alecto, "he was working with a demon. Two, perhaps, if that's what those women were."
"Yesss... Ah, I have it," he said venomously. "Constantine!"
"My Lord?" said Bellatrix.
"John Constantine. A demonologist," he said with disdain, "wandless, little more than a squib, but allegedly dangerous. He was active in London in the seventies, but to the best of my knowledge never came to the Ministry's attention."
Amycus reappeared. "My Lord, the school wards are up, and barred me from entry."
"Then Severus is showing his true colours at last. We need to regroup... we shall apparate to... to... damn!"
"Constantine wasn't bluffing. I was about to name a place protected by a Fidelius Charm, but the memory is missing. Somehow he has dissociated my name from the spell, so I am no longer the Secret Keeper, without ending it."
"Does anyone else know?" asked Bellatrix.
"Malfoy knew, but he's dead. Bellatrix, my dear, you must think of a suitable location. Somewhere off the beaten track, where we can assemble in safety."
"Hmm... there's a hill a few miles north of Hogwarts, overlooking the Forbidden Forest. The hilltop is clear, there should be ample room for a large gathering."
"Think of the location, please. Legilimens. Yes, that will do nicely." He used the spell to force the location into the Carrows' minds. "Bellatrix, with me, wands drawn. Amycus, Alecto, wait thirty seconds then follow, be prepared to fight if necessary."
"Yes, My Lord."
Voldemort and Bellatrix apparated out.
"Fuck!" said Amycus. "If his name isn't working..."
"The Dark Mark's fading, and his curses are weaker."
"He's definitely losing it. Who summons demons?"
"We could try to run."
"He'd find us. Five seconds..."
They apparated out on schedule.
Draco Malfoy groaned and opened his eyes. He'd been punishing Luna then... why would his mother stun him?
He was in a small plain room... no, a cell... about six by ten feet, lying on the lower level of an uncomfortable bunk bed. The only other furniture was a wooden cupboard. There was a metal door with a small grille at eye level, and a slot near floor level which he suspected was for putting trays of food under the door. A hand dangled down from the upper bunk; he recognized the sleeve as the dress his mother had been wearing.
He stood, shakily, and checked that it really was his mother in the upper bunk, still asleep, then moved to the door and tried to open it. When that didn't work he tried kicking it, and hurt his foot.
There was a soft pop, his arms snapped to his sides in a full body bind, and he fell over backwards.
A house elf leaned over him and stared at his face. "Kreacher was told to keep Malfoys safe. You are safe. Kreacher was not told to keep Malfoys comfortable. Master will deal with you later, once false Lord Voldemort is dead." He giggled and vanished with another pop, leaving Draco helpless on the floor.
Apologies for the delay between chapters, the last few weeks have been a bit busy.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess both first aired in 1995. Both could be seen on satellite TV in the UK from 1996 onward.
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