On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XXI: Ethical and Moral Standards
"Ah... Mister Constantine, Princess Diana," said one of the angels. "Our new... celebrities."
Harry, Ron, and Hermione stared at the white-robed angel. It didn't look like Snape, and none of them could readily imagine Snape ending up as an angel, but the intonation was identical. The other angel hovered silently, studying a book, and seemingly paying them little attention.
"We're only passing through this realm," said Diana. "If we are not impeded, we will leave without further violence. Might we know who we are addressing?"
"I am Remiel, Angel of Hope. My colleague is Duma, Angel of Silence."
"They're the two that got lumbered with running Hell when Lucifer quit," said Constantine. "You must have really been on God's shit list."
"We are honoured by God's trust in us," said Remiel, "and committed to maintaining proper ethical and moral standards in reforming our guests."
"Translation, they're torturing the damned, and making it worse by saying that it's for their own good."
"I'm sure that you know all about being damned. The only reason that you are not here already is that your death will trigger a war between rival demon lords."
"You say that like I'm a bad person. I beat the system, mate, I made things so difficult for evil that they had to let me go. What have you done to upset the forces of darkness lately?"
"Our jobs. Why have you brought children here?"
"We were following a demon," said Hermione, "she led us here."
"Did you summon it?"
"What? No, of course not!"
"Then why follow it?"
"We're fighting Voldemort, he's..."
Remiel sneered. "We know of Voldemort. That is no reason to traffic with demons."
"She turned up on her own," said Harry, "She seems to be against Voldemort, she said he sold his soul then cheated on the deal."
"A Dark Lord who traffics with demons. How original... Princess Diana, you and the children may leave. Constantine, there must be further inquiries."
"No," said Harry. "We can't leave without John, and we've still got a demon running loose in our world, and a chance that Eclipso will break free, without him we don't have a hope of handling them."
"Why do you argue against God, boy?"
"I don't see God here. You're supposed to be stopping evil, so far as I can see you're just playing safe."
"We must follow God's plan."
"What about free will?"
"God gave you free will. It is largely the capacity to make mistakes. We do not suffer from that weakness."
"Everyone I've ever met with a plan has ended up screwing me over," said Harry. "What makes you so different?"
"Have a care, boy, or..."
"Don't take the piss," said Constantine. "We all know you're going to let us go. It's all part of God's will, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I've got good eyesight, and I can read Enochian. I know what book your pal is reading, and that tells me you're going to let us go." Everyone looked at the book, a leather-bound volume with Enochian characters on the cover. They meant nothing to the others. "Read ahead, and tell me I'm wrong."
"What does it say?" asked Hermione.
"Tell you later. Okay, Remiel, let's cut the crap. We've got that idiot Riddle to fight, and a couple of demons to stop, we can't do that here. We need to keep going another half mile or so, open up the portal I can feel there, and kick demon arse. If you stop us, if we don't do this, evil wins and it's at least partly your fault. Your choice, no pressure." Constantine looked at his watch ostentatiously. "But time's bloody flying, so make your choice soon."
Remiel looked at Duma, who held the book so that Remiel could look at the page. He turned forward a couple of pages, then back again, looking increasingly frustrated and a little sulky.
"Very well. You may continue in safety, as is foretold. No harm will befall you before you leave Hell."
Both angels rose into the sky, and vanished into the clouds.
"Come on," said Constantine. "Let's get the fuck out of here before he changes his mind." He started walking again, and the others followed.
"So what's so special about the book?" asked Hermione.
"You remember we were talking about free will?"
"What about it?" asked Harry.
"Might not be as free as we want to think it is. The title was 'Harry Potter and the Half-God Prince.'"
"We really need to do something about the swamp," said Fred Weasley.
George shrugged. "I think it adds character."
"We've already had to pull three kids out, and the neighbors are starting to complain."
"I don't think our spell is keeping it there. We've tried to cancel it enough times, it just stays there and bubbles occasionally."
"Maybe it's the swamp monster keeping it there."
"That's... disturbingly plausible, actually. What do we do about it?"
"Bribe it to go away?"
"What do swamp monsters like? Gold?"
"What would it use gold for? Maybe it wants feeding?"
"It's sort of made of plants, what do plants eat?"
Together, both said "Fertilizer!"
George picked up a box of dung bombs. "Maybe a few of these."
"Right idea, but I think it would have to be raw dung."
"We've got a few pounds of dragon dung left in the potions store, I think, want to give it a try?"
Fred looked out through a gap in the blinds. "Yeah. Better do it now, while things are quiet. Don't seem to be any Death Eaters around at all tonight, they must be busy somewhere."
"Okay, but let's be careful, he might not like it."
"The monster? How do you know it isn't a she?"
George scratched his remaining ear. "Good question. Maybe you should ask it if it wants to go on a date."
"Riiiiight. Okay, let's do this carefully. Dragon-hide gloves and coats, shield cloaks and hats, and don't let it pull us in."
A few minutes later Fred cautiously opened the door. George waited a moment, then said "Hello, if you're still there in the swamp, do you want some fertilizer?" The swamp bubbled and released a bubble of pungent gas.
"I think it might be interested." Fred lobbed in a small bag of dragon dung, tied with a red and gold ribbon. It sank into the swamp. "We've got some more if you want it, but we really need to move the swamp out of the way, it's blocking the alley."
A huge grey-green hand rose from the swamp and made a beckoning gesture. George shrugged, got a second, larger bag, and prepared to throw it. "This is all we have left now, I hope it's enough for you." He tossed it toward the hand, which snatched it from the air and pulled it down into the swamp. There was a brief pause then more bubbles rose, followed by a loud belching noise, and the swamp slowly shrank, leaving dry cobbles where it had been, until there was nothing left.
"That went well," said Fred.
"Indubitably. Let's lock up, with the swamp gone we might get more customers tomorrow."
"COME...." said a deep voice behind them. They turned, and the creature from the swamp was standing in another patch of swamp that now occupied a large chunk of the shop floor. "YOU ARE NEEDED..."
Fred and George backed away. "Needed where?" asked George.
"We can't go there," said Fred, "the wards won't let anyone onto the grounds, and it's being run by Death Eaters."
"I WILL TAKE YOU..."
"Who needs us?"
"HOGWARTS... YOUR SISTER... HARRY POTTER..."
"Let us lock the shop and get some supplies," said Fred, "and we're right with you."
"Is this the last load?" asked the goblin in charge of the mine cart train, newly arrived on shift.
"Last for now," said one of the goblin guards loading five unconscious Death Eaters into the middle three carts of five. "Might be more later."
"The dungeons, of course. But it might get a bit busy later on, if we get many more we'll have to start to use some of the vaults."
"Just my luck, I was looking forward to a quiet night."
"Right, that's the lot," said the talkative guard. He and the others climbed into the front and rear carts, the driver released the brakes, and the cart lurched into motion, running down the tracks at its usual breakneck speed.
"So what's the betting?" asked the driver.
"Even odds right now. Potter's got the Princess on his side, but the Death Eaters still have a lot of fire-power."
"Put me down for a galleon on Potter's side, he did pretty well in that tournament a couple of years ago."
"But since then he's lost Black, Dumbledore, and Moody, and... hang on, this isn't the way we came last time!"
"It's the usual route to the lower levels," said the driver, "what's the problem?"
Before the talkative guard could answer the reason became obvious, as the carts went under the Thief's Downfall: the potion showered down into the carts, and the prisoners began to revive as the spells on them were cancelled. Within moments a furious fight had begun, as the reviving Death Eaters tried to break free of their bonds and use wandless magic against the guards, and the guards retaliated with clubs and swords. By the time the carts braked at the dungeons the last prisoners were subdued.
"And that's why you don't use that route with prisoners," said the talkative guard. "Everyone all right?"
"No," said another guard, "I think this one's dead."
The talkative guard checked. "Do you know how much paperwork we'll have to do? How much money the bank stands to lose, if there's family that wants compensation."
"We could always say it was combat injuries before we got hold of them," said the driver.
"Works for me. Then we can blame it on Potter, he won't know the difference."
"Who is it anyway, anyone important?"
"I don't know, humans all look alike to me." The talkative guard checked the manifest. "Corban something."
"Never heard of him. Right, put him to one side, we'll get the prisoners tucked away, this one can go down to the morgue."
As the last residues of Corban Yaxley's magic dispersed several Imperius spells he had cast began to fail. In his official residence, a country mansion near Bath, the Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse, felt a sudden blinding headache, and began to realize what he had done.
Constantine held the portal open as the others came out, then shut it before anyone or anything else came out of Hell. The moon was still eclipsed, a reddish disc lit by light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere.
"Where are we?" asked Harry, "and where are they keeping the prisoners?" He looked out across an industrial area and couldn't see any obvious signs of the Death Eaters, but there was the cold dead feeling that meant that there were dementors around. "And what the hell was the book thing about?"
"Better not to ask," said Constantine. "I'm pretty sure the book was writing itself while we were talking, so it's not like everything's set in stone."
Harry was still thinking about that when Mazikeen walked out of the shadows. "What kept you?"
"Fucking angels," said Constantine. "Remiel and Duma, ever met them?"
"Remiel turns up at the club once in a while to whine at Lucifer. You'd think he'd be honoured that God trusts him with Hell, but no..."
"Over there," said Ron, pointing at a huge building about half a mile away. "The shadows around the chimneys are moving, has to be Dementors."
"Looks like a power station," whispered Hermione, "Won't be easy to get in."
"We're going to have to improvise," said Harry. "We could fly over, crash in through the windows, but I don't fancy our chances if they spot us coming."
"I can create a diversion," said Diana. "Hermione, give me the mechanism, please."
Hermione groped in her beaded handbag, her arm in it up to the shoulder, and produced Diana's Antikythera mechanism.
Diana set the dials, waited as it transformed into an owl in her hand, then spoke to it rapid Greek none of the others could follow. The metal seemed to darken and it flexed its wings then flew off toward the factory. "It shouldn't be affected by the dementors."
"What did you tell it to do?" asked Harry
"Wait for my signal then start to break things."
"Windows, lights, anything that looks fragile. It should be a useful distraction."
Constantine smiled grimly as he picked the lock of a parked dump truck. "Maze, Diana, do you want to take care of the dementors while we deal with the Death idiots?" The cab door opened, and Constantine climbed in and started working on the ignition.
The side of Mazikeen's face that wasn't covered by her mask grinned. "Why else am I here?"
"Let's have the brooms," said Harry. "This lot shouldn't be their best fighters. Always assuming Tommy-boy isn't hiding out here, of course. We'll go in hard and fast, cause as much chaos as we can, and take the bastards out before they get their act together."
The truck started, and Constantine cracked his knuckles. "Right then, chaos it is. Any time you're ready."
"I'll ride with John," said Luna, climbing in on the passenger side. "It's where I'm needed."
"Okay," said Constantine, "but strap yourself in like this..." he fastened his seat belt "...or you're likely to end up with a broken neck, this is going to be a bumpy ride." Luna moved her wand in a looping motion, and her seat belt fastened itself.
"Okay, that works too."
"Take care of her," said Ron, "or I'll hex your bollocks off."
"All right," said Diana. "Mazikeen and I will keep the dementors away from you, the rest of you concentrate on capturing the Death Eaters and rescuing the prisoners. Are we agreed?"
"Sounds like a plan," said Constantine. "Wagons roll!" He slammed the door and put the truck into gear, as the others took to the air.
"How do I toot the horn?" Luna asked excitedly.
"Wait until we're closer, love, and I'll show you." He changed up to second gear and the truck picked up speed. Diana cupped her hands to her mouth and imitated an owl call then took to the air, followed by Mazikeen. Ahead they heard the noise of breaking glass.
Bellatrix entered the black silk tent she had conjured for Voldemort. "My Lord, I think most of our forces are here now, assuming that nobody else got away from Malfoy Manor."
Voldemort scowled. "So many of our best lost... well, we shall avenge them tenfold. Starting with Potter, Constantine and their hell-bitches. The giants and trolls?"
"They stand ready at your command."
"And the werewolves?"
"Greyback's wolves won't be much use before the total eclipse ends. Without true moonlight they can't change."
"And the other packs?"
Bellatrix shrugged. "The same problem, and we have them in the south, ready to deal with any uprising in London. Transporting them here might be possible, I suppose, if you feel that it's worthwhile."
"Hmmm.... no, I think not. They're little more than mindless brutes, and we may end up needing them where they are." He cast a non-verbal spell, and a small scroll appeared in his hand. "Let's see... The full eclipse ends at eight-seventeen, but the moon won't be back to normal until nearly nine-thirty. If we set out for Hogwarts then, we should arrive well before ten."
"My lord, that may be too late." Both of them stared as Severus Snape appeared in the tent.
"A ghost. Yes, I'd noticed."
Notes: The Harry Potter Wiki says that the prisoners were kept in a disused nuclear power plant, but the exterior shown in the film is the cooling towers of a coal-burning power plant, which makes more sense - disused nuclear reactors are not left unoccupied or unguarded.
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