On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XXIII: 70% Cocoa Solids
The power station's lights and windows shattered, and the assembled snatchers instinctively dodged the falling glass and tried to grab their money from the table before reaching for their wands. They felt a sudden chill from the dementors circling the building. Then a glowing stag galloped through the window, through the table, and through the wall towards the prison area. Jugson jumped out of its way, swearing, and shouted "Potter's here!"
"Merlin's bloody jockstrap - that's his fucking Patronus, you morons! It's on his wanted poster! Right, you lot, if they're attacking, they'll have to come in though the windows or along the corridor from the lobby. Set up the tables and chairs as a barricade, we'll fight them right here."
The other snatchers began to move the tables, as Jugson cautiously moved to the window, ducking back as a dementor flew past, pursued by a glowing flying otter. Outside, unnoticed in the shrieking of the mechanical owl, the roar of a diesel engine was growing louder. There was an unearthly scream, like nothing he had ever heard before, and the tattered remnants of a dementors cloak fell past the window, the veiled figure inside it crumbling to dust as it fell. "Shit!" He turned back to the others, shouting "They can kill dementors!"
In the prison hall Hodge looked up to see a bright light, a huge glowing stag that was herding the dementors towards the ceiling. He looked around, and saw a pale-skinned dark-haired girl in muggle clothing, who was somehow outside the cages. He tried to draw his wand, and realised that it, and he, looked a little insubstantial. There was a body at his feet; he tried to kick it over to see the face, but his foot went through it without stirring it.
The girl smiled a little sadly, and said "You probably don't want to look at your face, it won't be very pretty."
"Wot? My face?"
"Might as well know straight away. That's your body, you're dead, and I'm Death."
"Would you prefer a skeleton with a scythe? I can do that if you like."
"I can't be dead, the Dark Lord wouldn't allow it!"
"Riiiight. Okay, well, let's do this the hard way." She touched his hand before he could back away, and suddenly he knew with utter certainty that she was telling the truth.
"Oh... What happens now then?"
"What do you expect?"
"Buggered if I know."
"Well, let's find out." She embraced him, and there was the sound of beating wings.
In the cage nearest the body Dean Thomas asked "Is he dead, dad?"
"Bloody better be." Dean's step-father pulled the body closer to the bars and Dean grabbed the Snatcher's wand and gave it an experimental flick, producing a weak light, while his parents rummaged through Hodges' clothing, looking for keys and weapons.
"This isn't a good match," said Dean, "but let's give it a shot. Alohamora!" There was a click and the door unlocked. "Magic!" he said gleefully. "Okay, that stag thing was Harry Potter's patronus. Let's get the cages open and see if we can find something to fight with, he'll need all the help he can get." There was a loud crash as something hit the vehicle entrance of the prison hall, a huge steel shutter which buckled slightly. "Sounds like a truck, must be Harry!" He started opening the cages to one side, while his father tried keys in the other direction.
Outside, Constantine gunned the engine and backed the dump truck away from the doors at full reverse speed.
"Can I toot the horn now?" asked Luna.
"Wait until we get inside, it'll be more dramatic."
He backed off about fifty yards, changed gears, and gunned the engine again, as Luna vanished a large hole in the windscreen and cast "Bombarda Maxima!" at the shutter moments before the truck hit it. There was a huge crash and the truck ploughed into the building, scattering wreckage in all directions. Dean hastily ducked out of the way, as Constantine slammed on the brakes and Luna hit the horn button. Once the truck stopped she climbed down and cast "Expecto Patronum" at the dementors lurking at the top of the hall; this time her wand produced a large shark followed by four silvery pilot fish with rabbit ears and a reasonably accurate silver model of the Yellow Submarine, making most of the remaining dementors flee, and driving the last two up to the ceiling far above the cages.
"Hello Dean," said Luna, "fancy meeting you here."
"I was sort of expecting Harry, but you'll do nicely. Nice patronuses... patroni.. whatever."
"Thanks! Harry and the others are outside."
"Which way are the death wankers?" Constantine asked from the cab of the truck.
Dean pointed; "Through that door."
"Okay, everyone keep back!" Constantine gunned the engine again and carefully drove between the cages until he reached the heavy steel door, and parked the truck to block it. It opened inward toward the hall, and there was no way anything short of major spellwork or explosives would get through.
Outside Harry, Hermione and Ron circled the building on their brooms, casting patronus spells to herd the remaining dementors back toward the roof where Diana lassoed them and Mazikeen ripped them apart with her bare hands. Intermittently Harry and Ron threw spells into the canteen windows, the only part of the building that had shown any signs of life. They didn't know if there were prisoners there, so limited themselves to incapacitating spells, nothing that was likely to cause permanent damage. Hermione was a less confident flier so stayed further back from the building and concentrated on the dementors. The snatchers were retaliating with killing curses and blasting hexes, which the boys easily dodged. On her next circuit of the building Hermione saw that the vehicle entrance was down and flew in, circled the prison hall, drove out the last dementor with her otter patronus, and slowed a few feet above Dean, saying "Are these all the prisoners?"
"Yes, but none of us are up to much. They haven't been feeding us, and the dementors..."
"Okay, we're sort of ready for that. Catch!" She threw a stack of four yellow matchbox-sized cardboard boxes to Luna and another to Dean, then flew out again, shouting "back soon!"
"What's that?" asked Dean, peering at the boxes in his hand. "The print is too small to read. Oh, wait a sec..." Both stacks began to expand until the printing was legible. "Chocolate!" he said gleefully, "Lindt Excellence 70%, ten hundred-gram bars per box." He ripped his top box open, snatched a bar and started to tear it open. He took a bite, drooling slightly, then started to hand out segments to the other prisoners as Luna opened another box. "It works!"
Outside Hermione forced the last dementor up to the roof then caught up with Harry and Ron. "The prisoners are safe for now, the only snatcher I saw was dead. Luna and Constantine have things under control, I think."
"Right," said Harry, "let's take these bastards down." Ron and Harry circled the building again, then flew past the smashed canteen windows in quick succession, casting spells as they passed then doubling back to cast again.
"Lumos Maxima!" Harry's spell filled the canteen with brilliantly actinic blue light; it wasn't quite enough to blind anyone, but it would ruin the snatchers' night vision.
"Reducto!" Ron's spell was deliberately aimed high, hitting the ceiling above the snatchers. Acoustic tiles and the remains of light fittings showered down onto them.
Bombarda Maxima!" With Harry's next spell the table barricade smashed to kindling, injuring most of the snatchers.
Ron cast "Incendio!" into the room, with unexpected results. The air was full of dust, fragments of paper, and tiny wooden splinters, and the spell ignited them as a short-lived fireball, engulfing the entire room for a couple of seconds then imploding as quickly as it formed.
Harry swore and threw in an over-powered stunner, then hovered in front of the window, counting on seeker reflexes to get out of the way if anyone was still up to casting a spell, and threw in more stunners, angling them to hit the walls and bounce back behind the little that was left of the snatcher barricade. There was no response.
The mechanical owl swooped in through one of the windows, still shrilling painfully loudly, circled the room without being attacked, then landed on the remains of the serving counter, folded its wings, and stopped shrieking.
"Cover me," said Harry, cautiously flying in through one of the windows. Ron and Hermione stayed back, ready to cast at anyone who attacked him. "Homenum Revelio!" Harry didn't spot any new threats, and started to cast "Stupefy!" and "Incarcerous!" at the Death Eaters before any of them recovered enough to attack him.
Above the roof Mazikeen killed the last dementor, and faked a loud burp as she absorbed the soul fragments from the body.
"Are there any more?" asked Diana.
"Not here." Mazikeen concentrated for a few seconds. "A few in Scotland near the school. Hardly worth the effort of going there."
"But you will," said Diana. "We will be resuming our conversation about the death of Severus Snape after Riddle is dealt with, and I'm sure that neither of us wants to play hide and seek before we settle the matter."
The visible half of Mazikeen's face smiled. "I wouldn't dream of it... and Lucifer would probably like me to witness Riddle's defeat and report back. Very well; we'll continue the truce for now."
Harry rose to the roof on his broom, the metal owl perched on the stick in front of him. "We've captured all the Death Eaters and freed about sixty prisoners, muggle-born and their families, we've fed them all chocolate but some of them are going to need a healer to get over it completely. And about half the Death Eaters will need healers too. Can you call the goblins again?"
"We're running out of time," said Diana, looking at the moon, "the eclipse is nearly over, when it ends Riddle will be able to use his werewolves. My guess is he'll try to recapture the school, he needs a quick victory and it's the obvious target."
"Then we'll have to take everyone there," Harry said decisively. "Mazikeen, can you open another route through Hell? Maybe a faster one?"
"Not if they've been affected by dementors, they'd need time to recover. Unless you want a bunch of soulless zombies for some reason."
"Try Constantine," said Diana. "He can open portals, they don't have to go through Hell if he knows where you're going."
"Okay. Better come down below, we're going to be moving fast if he can do it." He rolled the broom and dove toward the ground.
"Decisive," said Mazikeen.
"He's supposed to be winning this war, he needs to be. Let's go!"
"Mister Crabbe, Mister Goyle and Mister Nott" Crabbe and Goyle looked up, then stood as they recognised Severus Snape. Nott seemed to think about it, but got to his feet after a few seconds. "Gentlemen, I trust that you are all still loyal to the Dark Lord?"
"Sir! You're... you're a ghost!"
"Five points to Slytherin for observation, Crabbe. And lose ten for stating the bloody obvious. I am, as you say, a ghost. That unfortunately means that I must rely on others, rather than doing things for myself, and must be sure of their loyalty. Mister Crabbe, are you loyal to the Dark Lord?"
"I am, sir."
"Mister Goyle, are you loyal?"
"Of course, sir."
"And Mister Nott."
"Excellent, I have a task for you." He turned to the other boys in the seventh year dorm. "The rest of you will stay here until I call for you. All of you will have a chance to serve. You three, meet me outside the second year boys' dormitory." He walked through the wall, and they ran for the door and along the corridor. When they arrived Snape showed them a tiny indentation in the wall, and instructed Crabbe to insert the tip of his wand and cast an unlocking charm. A secret door opened, leading into another corridor that somehow fitted between the dorms on either side. "Follow me." He led them to an unused room in the dungeons, with a table and several chairs. There was a large map of Hogwarts on the table. "Sit down, gentlemen. Now then, are you familar with the seventh year greenhouse?"
"Yes sir, we.. oww!" "Ouch!" "Bastard!"
They slumped forward, with small darts in their necks. "Thank you, Peeves."
Peeves cackled as he became visible. "Sleeping they be, but not beauties."
"Get some house elves to move them to the deep dungeon, they can sleep it off down there. I'll be back in a few minutes with the worst of the girls."
"You'll be wanting me to dose them too?"
"Unless you want the Dark Lord to take over and have you exorcised or worse. He was already talking about torturing ghosts when I left."
Peeves' grin slipped. "At least you never did that. Even Dumbledick never hurt poor Peeves."
"Exactly. Now, you may need to move more quickly with the girls, Bullstrode is a lot sharper than these three..."
As Pius Thicknesse sneaked toward his office he noticed a glimmer of light under a door he was passing; Umbrige's room. She was out on medical leave, and the room was supposed to be locked and sealed pending a full investigation of her 'breakdown', but he suspected that the Death Eaters weren't paying much attention to that. He braced himself and drew his wand, then opened the door as quietly as he could.
There was a shadowy figure standing at Umbridge's desk, a tiny camera in its hands, caught in the act of photographing one of the files from her safe. "Stupefy!" The figure collapsed to the floor, and Thicknesse quickly shut the door and moved to investigate. The figure was wearing an invisibility cloak, one that was well past its best. The camera was some sort of tiny Muggle contraption, sleek but a little battered, older than he might have expected; maybe old enough that magic didn't stop it working? He'd spent time undercover in the Muggle world as an auror, it looked like the sort of thing he'd seen in muggle spy films in the sixties. The name, Minox, rang a very faint bell. He carefully lifted the cloak, revealing the man underneath.
"Incarcerous! Rennervate!" He waited for the spy's eyes to open. "Legilimens! What the hell do you think you're doing here, Weasley?"
Percy Weasley defiantly stared at the blurry figure he almost saw, and Thicknesse put more power into the spell. For a moment he saw an endless array of filing cabinets and documents neatly flying from one to another in complex formations, then he was through Weasley's defences. "You're spying on the Ministry? For the ICW? What in Merlin's name..?"
Weasley sagged. "They're worried about the... the Death Eaters. They're afraid they'll break the Statute of Secrecy, especially now they're controlling the Ministry. Dumbledore recruited me when he was still Supreme Mugwump, I have diplomatic immunity..."
"For all the good that will do you if they catch you."
Weasley finally recognised Thicknesse's voice "Minister?"
"It's your lucky day, Weasley. They had me under the Imperius, it broke earlier this evening."
"Oh... Any chance you could release me, sir?"
"Just a moment... Diffindo!" The low-powered cutting spell opened Weasley's sleeve, and he checked for the Dark Mark. "That's better." He cast the spell again, cutting the ropes. "How are your defence skills?"
Percy carefully stood. "Reasonably good, I think, sir."
"You still work for me, even if you're on the ICW's payroll. I need to get to my office and activate the emergency protocols, you're going to give me covering fire if I need it. After that we're getting out of here. Any questions?"
"Will this help defeat you-know-who?"
"It will make things harder for him, I hope."
"Very good, sir." He checked his watch. "We've got about five minutes before the next guard patrol comes through."
"Then let's get cracking."
"Please explain something," said Voldemort. "Exactly how have we already lost four scouts in a forest that's barely five miles across?"
"My Lord, the forest can be deceptive," said Bellatrix. "It's like... like a wizarding tent... bigger on the inside than the outside, especially towards the middle, but it isn't uniform. It might be five miles across by one route, fifteen or twenty or fifty by another, and it changes constantly. There are centaurs in there, in the wild their herds would occupy hundreds of square miles. Not to mention acromantulas and every other creature that's been dumped there since the school was built. That can cause problems."
"One shot off his broom by centaurs. Two on the ground ran into an acromantula lair. And one idiot stung by tentaculas, they're apparently unusually active this year. He isn't dead but it's using potions we can ill-afford without Snape. Once the werewolves are ready they can take the lead on the ground, and we'll make better progress."
An owl swooped into the tent. Bellatrix read the note and grimaced. "Make that five scouts. Urqhuart tried to apparate across a stream, he's splinched himself."
"The balding auror that brought in the muggles we used for the last initiation ceremony."
"Oh, him. Badly hurt?"
"His legs are missing."
Voldemort shrugged. "The muggles weren't very good, it's no great loss. Hmm... We're wasting too much time; tell them to burn the acromantulas... Burn anything that might be a threat, but don't let the fire get out of control or block the route, the werewolves and giants are already on their way."
"Yes, My lord, I'll make sure that everyone knows."
"Kreacher," said Narcissa, looking at the tray of food the house elf had produced, "this cell seems to lack some essential features. Most notably a table and chairs so that we can eat like civilized members of the Black family. Oh, and some sanitary facilities will be needed eventually."
"Facilities are in the cupboard."
"Wholly inadequate. Am I supposed to use it in front of my son? Would you have us behave like primitive mudbloods?" She deliberately emphasised the last word, knowing that Kreacher shared the old Black pureblood beliefs.
"Master Harry Potter does not allow that word. He has half-blood friends with muggle parents."
"And you do not approve."
"It is not Kreacher's place to approve or disapprove, however he may be tempted. But Kreacher will improve the facilities." He concentrated for a moment, and a door appeared in one of the walls. "Facilities are in there now." A small table and two wooden chairs appeared, occupying most of the floor. He carefully placed the tray in the exact centre of the table.
"Thank you. Please release Draco and revive him. Hopefully the Dark Lord is no longer calling him, and he needs to eat."
"You is looking after him, Kreacher is not a healer." He reached under his pillow case and produced a small potions vial. "Calming potion." He waved his hand again and Draco's bonds vanished, and Kreacher disappeared with a soft pop.
"Merlin," said Draco, "my head is killing me."
"Is the Dark Lord still summoning you?"
"It's stopped now, I think."
"Good. Get up, there's food on the table, and I have a calming potion if it starts again."
Draco stood, painfully pulling himself erect, and stared at the table. "What is that?"
Narcissa lifted a silver dome from the main dish. "Let's see... baby quail, carrots, new potatoes and peas with cranberry sauce, I think. Now wash your hands before you eat, I can see that they're dirty."
Draco looked around and opened the door, revealing a small cubicle with a chamber pot, a wash basin, and no other facilities. Narcissa sighed; she had a feeling that she was not going to enjoy her captivity.
Fred and George took turns kicking the main door of the castle, while covering their ears to reduce the noise from the alarm wards. Eventually a small hatch opened and Filch peered out, sneering as he saw them. The alarm quietened slightly as he said "Go away, the school is locked down."
"Let us in, or we'll tell the Prophet about you and Mrs. Norris and Millicent Bulstrode's cat."
Filch paled, but said "Or I could leave you out there and the Dark Lord will have his giants grind your bones to make their bread when he gets here."
"That's rubbish," said George, "they don't grind bones, they roast them and suck out the marrow."
"And if you do that," said Fred, "you won't see all the fun stuff we've bought with us to use on mouldy Voldy."
"Better than that," they said in unison, "the best pranks our demented minds can come up with. Guaranteed to really ruin a Dark Lord's day."
Filch hesitated for a moment, then opened the door.
"Thirty seconds," said Thicknesse, carving a rune into a tablet next to his office's fireplace, as Percy fired another blasting hex down the corridor towards the Ministry security patrol, then dodged back inside and cast locking charms on the door. A glowing patronus in the form of a cat appeared through one of the walls, approached Percy, and in Minerva McGonagall's voice said "Hogwarts is under attack. Summon help!"
"Bloody hell. Minister..."
"I heard. It's as good a place to head to as any." He threw floo powder into the fire and added "Emergency overwide MOM one, codeword Basilisk. Hogwarts, the head's office!" The fire flared green, and he grabbed Percy's arm and pulled him into the fireplace. Seconds later the tablet flared to incandescent brightness, every filing cabinet and safe on the top level incinerated its contents, and the ceiling of the Minister's office collapsed, filling it with rubble. It would take weeks to reconstruct the missing files, meanwhile any attempt to use Ministry facilities would be effectively paralyzed.
Minerva looked up as Filch ushered Fred and George into her office and went out again. "Come to help?"
"More like hinder," said Fred. "We'll hinder Voldy until he's sick of us."
"We've got jokes we wouldn't dare sell to the public," said George. "Stuff so twisted we never even tried it on Umbridge."
"And we're not even charging for it!" they said together, "Though the publicity ought to be useful."
"All right, you scamps, get along to..." She was interupted by the grille over the fireplace retracting as it filled with green flame, and Thicknesse and Percy stumbled out. "Minister?"
"They've had me imperiused," said Thicknesse. "Weasley helped me escape."
"Why should we trust you, Percy?" asked George, "you've been following the Ministry line ever since Voldy took over."
"He had to," said Dumbledore's portrait, "he's been spying on them for the ICW."
"Thank you," Minerva said sarcastically, "I'm sure that the whole world needed to know that."
"Don't worry," said Percy, "the Minister already knows and these gits aren't actually stupid. Keep it to yourselves, or I'll dig out a few pranks of my own."
"No worries," said Fred, "you're still family, I suppose. Just make sure you tell Mum and Dad and Ginny before they hex your bollocks off."
One of the ornaments on the mantlepiece above the fireplace began to glow red. Minerva stared at it. "There are Death Eaters approaching the outer wards."
"Out of the frying pan," said Percy, "into the..."
A bell began to ring, and there was a loud crash from somewhere lower in the castle, accompanied by something that sounded like the roar of a muggle engine, and the blare of a loud horn.
"What in Merlin's name?" asked Minerva. They headed downstairs, and were met by Kingsley Shacklebolt on the second floor landing. "What was that infernal din?" she asked.
"Potter just arrived," said Shacklebolt, "and he's brought a few friends."
Notes: ..."we'll tell the Prophet about you and Mrs. Norris and Millicent Bulstrode's cat." A story for which the world is not yet prepared...
Comments please before I post to archives. Apologies for another hiatus.
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