On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
XXV: Riotous Assemblies
XXV: Riotous Assemblies
"You're dead!" screamed Voldemort.
"Well yes, of course I am," Dumbledore said calmly. "So are you, if it comes to that. Repeatedly. Why are you surprised?"
"You always said that death would be your next adventure," said Voldemort, his voice still amplified by the Sonorus spell, "why are you still here?"
"The two are not mutually exclusive. I'm sure that there are many adventurous ghosts, and as for the undead... well, just ask Eldred Worple, he's collected some fascinating accounts in his books. As for your own method of survival..."
"For once in your life give me a straight answer, Dumbledore!" shouted Voldemort.
"In a moment, Tom. First, I believe that the Minister has something to say. Just a moment..." His face vanished into the writhing aurora they'd seen earlier, and Voldemort stood watching it, his anger growing with every second that passed. After a minute or so he cut the Sonorus spell, turned to Bellatrix, and told her to order the giants to advance as close as they could to the castle. Another minute passed as the orders were relayed, as the aurora firmed up into the face of Pius Thicknesse.
"Good evening," said Thicknesse. "It has come to my attention that there is a gathering in progress which seems likely to result in violence and riot. It is my duty as Minister for Magic to make the following announcement." He glanced down at something, then continued. "Our sovereign Lady the Queen chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, and ratified by the Wizengamut in the accords of 1735 and 1929, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. So mote it be. God save the Queen!" He was jeered by the assembled Death Eaters, and faded from view again.
"What the hell was that about?" asked Harry, who was watching from one of the fifth floor classrooms.
"I think it's a wizarding version of the old Riot Act," said Hermione. "Basically, it warns them to disperse before action is taken against them."
"What sort of action?" asked Ron.
"The muggle version was usually an attack by cavalry or mounted police. There was a massacre in the nineteenth century, a dozen or so people killed and hundreds injured. I think they repealed the act in the sixties, that would have been when Voldemort was first coming to power, I suppose they were too busy to change the Wizarding law."
"Not surprising," said Harry, "it's basically an old muggle law, the Wizengamut probably never took it seriously."
Percy appeared in the doorway, slightly out of breath. "Professor Dumbledore's going to talk to them again, but the Headmistress thinks you'll be needed soon."
"Okay, let's get up to her office. Sooner or later Riddle will realize what's going on, and it probably won't be pretty."
"We were wondering about the Minister's announcement," said Hermione, following them out. "Riddle never had any respect for the law, he pretty much controls it right now, so why would he pay any attention?"
"Because that wasn't just an announcement," said Percy. "It's a magically binding contract. Merlin knows who told him about it. I don't think it's been used since the forties, but if they don't obey it really won't go well for them..."
"Admit it," said Voldemort, "you fear death. Why else would you still be here?"
"To help, of course," said Dumbledore. "And to ask you to give up peacefully before more people are hurt."
"That's the third time he's said that," said Bellatrix. "In those exact words..."
Voldemort laughed. "So that's it. You're not even a ghost, are you? You're a portrait, just a faded echo of the old man."
"A little slow," said Dumbledore. "Slow, but you got there in the end. I think I'd give you an 'Acceptable' for that. But I'm sure you can do better, Tom."
"Don't call me Tom!" screamed Voldemort, stepping forward. He made an abrupt gesture with his wand, and a beam of cyan energy flew at the image of Dumbledore's face... and fizzled into nothingness as it hit the castle's shield.
"One question," said Dumbledore. "As I understand it, you used your father's bones to create your body. Is that correct?"
"What of it?"
"I was just wondering... he was a muggle, of course, and since you used his bones your nose is almost gone. Now, there can sometimes be a medical reason for that... Did he happen to have syphilis, by any chance?"
Voldemort snarled and fired a yellow spell at the image, with the same result; as he did so there was a startlingly loud farting noise. He snarled again, and cast a jet of fire instead. There was an improbable "beep-beep" noise like an old car horn, and the fire hung on the shield and slowly died.
"What is this, old man?" shouted Voldemort.
"I have absolutely no idea," said Dumbledore's image. "Amusing, isn't it?"
"You have ten minutes to surrender!" Voldemort cast "Quietus!" to end the amplifying charm, simultaneously there was a loud "Clang" like cymbals. He returned to the tent, followed by Bellatrix.
"It seems to happen every time you cast a spell, My Lord," said Bellatrix. "Could they have hexed your wand in some way?"
"Is it just me? Bellatrix, a spell, please."
"Lumos!" The tip of her wand began to glow; simultaneously, there was a loud "Cuckoo!" noise. "It's not just you."
"How are you doing that?" asked Harry.
"Pestering pins," said George. "The regular ones are drawing pins that make a loud noise if they're in contact with someone casting a spell. We'll be introducing them in our next catalogue. The elves spread them out on the ground, by now most of them probably have one or two stuck in their shoes. These are our special model, they have a couple of extra features."
"That's annoying, but it's a bit petty, isn't it?"
Fred grinned. "Just wait until they try to stop it."
"Looking forward to it. Okay, he's stopped talking to the portrait, looks like we're on. Dobby, pop down and check if Constantine is ready. Make sure he knows not to start until I send word, then get back up here."
"Dobby understands." Dobby vanished, and reappeared about thirty seconds later. "He is ready."
"Okay, when I click my fingers pop back down and tell him to start." Harry cast "Quietus!" on Dumbledore's portrait and moved in front of it, so that he was in view of the magic mirror that was transmitting images to the astronomy tower. "Sonorus!" Harry looked out across the grounds beyond the castle walls, and waited for the Death Eaters to notice him. A green flash which he suspected was the Killing Curse hit the shield, accompanied by a loud "Boing!" like a clock striking. It hadn't come from anywhere near the tent, and Harry suspected that Voldemort would not be happy with whoever cast it. It was a waste of magic anyway, the mirror only transmitted images and sound, with protection against basilisks, the cries of mandrakes, legilimency and other attacks that might have otherwise been a danger.
"Hello Tom," said Harry, "Can you hear me? Is this on?"
Voldemort stepped out again and cast "Sonorus!", accompanied this time by the braying of an ass. "Potter. Here to plead for mercy?"
"Actually, I wanted to accept your surrender."
"He's delusional," said Bellatrix. Voldemort gestured for her to be quiet.
"Why should I surrender? We have you trapped!"
"Well, let's see, you've lost most of your top men, the vampires have dumped you, the last few dementors are being killed just about now, the taboo on your silly made-up name doesn't work any more, and you've managed to annoy Hell, Death, and at least one pantheon of gods. It really doesn't look good for you, I think."
"Gods! What do I care for gods! I am immortal. I AM a god!"
On the word 'immortal' Harry clicked his fingers, and Dobby vanished. A few seconds later the remains of Ravenclaw's diadem fell in front of Voldemort, followed by pieces of Huffelpuff's cup, the Gaunt ring, Nagini's head, and Slytherin's locket.
"I'm sorry," said Harry, "did that break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please continue. You were saying something about immortality, I think?"
"Do you think those trinkets scare me?"
"You were expecting six, I'd imagine. I'm afraid I didn't keep the one I destroyed in second year."
"Your diary was really very informative, or at least it was until I put a basilisk fang through it. Pity I had to kill Slytherin's basilisk to get it. I was wondering, does everyone here know that you had a basilisk let loose in their children's school?"
"Ask Lucius Malfoy, he seemed to think he was doing what you wanted. Oh sorry, I was forgetting, you can't." He didn't sound very sorry. "This is probably the point where you decide to send your minions to fight and bugger off to safety while nobody is looking. I'm afraid that isn't going to work this time. Nobody's leaving until this is over. You're welcome to try, but I don't think you'll like the results." It was largely a bluff, the Death Eaters were inside the castle's anti-apparation and portkey wards, but they probably couldn't stop a wizard with Voldemort's power. Of course right now Voldemort was missing a lot of his former power, so it might even be true. Unless he had a portkey he'd made before the fight at Malfoy Manor, or knew Constantine's method of opening portals or some other escape route Harry hadn't considered...
While he was talking the werewolves finally arrived, led by Fenrir Greyback, with several wizards accompanying the pack on brooms and using spells to prevent them attacking the Death Eaters; there were less of them than Voldemort had expected, and some had wounds which he suspected were from centaur arrows. Only Greyback seemed more than a mindless beast, thanks to a minimal dose of wolfsbane potion; he refused to take enough to keep him docile, and forbade his pack to take it at all. "So, Mister Potter, you refuse to surrender?" said Voldemort, "Then I will show you - all of you - the folly of resistance. Quietus!" There was a loud "wheeee" noise, like a deflating balloon, and his voice was no longer amplified. "Bellatrix, follow me with Greyback and his wolves."
Voldemort rose into the air, accompanied by a rattle of castanets, floating without carpet or broom, and flew toward the Quidditch pitch. He landed a little North of the covered wooden bridge leading to the clock tower, raised both arms, and made a sweeping wand gesture, which was accompanied by a steam-engine whistling noise, and focused a beam of cyan energy on the castle shields covering the bridge. The beam seemed to slowly eat its way throuch the shields, then was suddenly unimpeded as it blasted through one end of the bridge. The northern end collapsed, but the rest of bridge leading to the castle was still well supported. He cast "Reducio!" (accompanied by a klaxon noise) and slashed his wand in a complex pattern. The support columns began to shrink, with those furthest from the castle shrinking the most, until the bridge formed a gently sloping ramp up to the clock tower door. He raised both hands in a "parting the waters" gesture (with accompanying banjo chords) and a glowing opening slowly appeared, penetrating the shields. "Bellatrix, open the doors for them! Greyback, strike hard and leave none unbitten!"
Harry said "Hey Greyback, have you and your friends noticed that he's letting you do all the dirty work and take all the risks, and done nothing to make life better for werewolves?"
The wolves followed Bellatrix to the ramp as Voldemort held the way open; she cast "Alohamora!" (with wolf-whistle accompaniment) up the ramp at the doors and they flew open. The wolves raced past her and up to the entrance. Ahead of them they saw only one man; Argus Filch, standing in the entrance holding a brightly-burning torch. There was something beside him, a faint gleam of metal, but Bellatrix couldn't make it out until he swept his arm down, and touched the torch to the brass cannon that was pointed down the ramp. There was a loud explosion; like Voldemort, Bellatrix had mastered the complex swapping spell that protected her from bullets and other projectiles, and remembered to cast it after the fight at Malfoy Manor, but she was still stunned for a moment by the blast. The werewolves weren't so lucky, as several pounds of sickles and scrap silver reduced the front rank to bloody corpses, and wounded all of them; some that hit Bellatrix's spell were fired back up the ramp, hitting the werewolves in the rear ranks. Their charge lost momentum as the doors slammed shut again, and the whimpering wolves turned to flee, leaving the corpses of Fenrir Greyback and several others behind. Bellatrix stumbled out behind them; as she escaped the remains of the bridge collapsed. Voldemort held the wards open until she was out then let the spell drop.
He was sweating heavily as he turned and cast his wandless fire serpent spell (with fart noise) and engulfed the werewolves in flames. Without Greyback to keep them in check they were a liability, too likely to turn on his Death Eaters, and better dead than in his way. He watched and maintained the spell until the last of them was dead, then walked back to his tent, with Bellatrix following him. Once they were inside he said "Have the giants see if they can get up onto the causeway from the lake, and enter the castle that way. Everyone else is to begin steady spellfire on the wards - keep up the pressure but pace themselves, it may take a while to break through. That ought to keep Potter and his friends busy. When you've done that I want to find out where the blasted noises are coming from."
The noise of constant spellfire and successive impacts was muted by the wards, but loud enough to be annoying. The castle was under a glowing dome lit by hundreds of fireballs, and Harry shut down the mirror projection; nobody would be able to see it anyway. "Bastard!" he said angrily, "I was taunting the werewolves for letting him use them, and he turned round and burned the lot of them alive."
"That's Voldemort," said Percy. "Cut off his own nose to spite his face."
"No, I think it fell off when he was resurrected," said Minerva. "Shame, really, he was quite a handsome boy once."
Harry stared at her incredulously. "Did you two just make jokes about Voldemort's nose?"
"Well, somebody had to, and the twins aren't around," said Percy.
"How is the castle holding up?"
Minerva looked up from the assortment of weird gadgets on her desk, which seemed to be monitoring the damage. "So far so good. From what you've told me, he lost some of his strongest wands at Malfoy manor, and some of the rank and file when you rescued the prisoners. I think they'd be a lot closer to getting in if he was at full strength."
"Seriously? I think we got ten or so at Malfoy Manor, twelve if you count Draco and Narcissa, and another six or seven at the power station. Doesn't seem like it would make much difference."
"How many Death Eaters did you think there are? I'll be surprised if he has more than a couple of hundred fighting for him tonight, plus the giants, trolls, and wolves, and a third of them are probably only there because they're too scared to disobey him."
"Harry," said Diana, "I think we need to get ready for our part in this. Do you have everything we need?"
"I think so. Where do you want to do it?"
"We have to confront Voldemort directly or it really won't work. Maybe midway between his tent and the castle."
"That's suicide," said Minerva.
"I can protect him, I think," said Diana. "And if not, there is a place for him in the Elysian Fields."
"Okay," said Harry. "Let's do it."
Minerva looked stricken as she followed them out of the office.
On the battlements Fred turned to George. "I think we've given them enough rope, and by now Voldy is probably trying to figure out why everything is so noisy. Time to get nasty?"
"Yup." George reached into his pocket and got out two small glass vials; one contained some sealing wax, the other a drawing pin that seemed curiously difficult to see; Hermione guessed it had some variant of a disillusionment spell on it.
"We'll start with the bottles, then the pins say a minute later. Hermione, would you like to do the honours?"
"What exactly do you want me to do?" asked Hermione, ducking down as another fireball hit the wards seemingly only yards from her face.
"We have a dozen bottles hidden out there, and the seals are all linked magically, the old Law of Contagion. Break one, you break them all. The Death Eaters really won't like what happens next. Snap it in half, the magic will do the rest."
He tipped the seal out onto her hand, and she broke it in two. Out on the castle grounds the seals of a dozen bottles disintegrated, and the pressure inside them began to push out the stoppers. "So what's in the bottles?"
"Purified liquified phlogiston."
"There's no such thing - the whole idea was discredited in the eighteenth century!"
"Maybe for muggles," said Fred, "but alchemists have been using it since Paracelsus. Amazing stuff, there's a lot of it in our fireworks. For some reason Paracelsus could never get it lighter than air, the way it's supposed to be, but if you mix it with dirigible plum juice it works a treat. But tonight we're using the pure stuff."
Outside the contents of a dozen bottles were evaporating, spreading out as a faint green mist, almost invisible under the flashing lights of the attack, a layer of vapour rising a few inches above the ground.
"That ought to be long enough. George, on the count of three... one... two... three!
Fred cast "Reparifarge!" at the pin, cancelling its transfiguration, and it turned into a tightly twisted spiral, a long strip of silvery metal, then George cast "Incendio!". It began to burn, blindingly bright. Outside the wards three hundred and ninety-nine pins reverted to their original form then ignited. More than a hundred were embedded in Death Eater's shoes and in the feet of giants and trolls. The phlogiston made the flames much hotter, burning through the soles and setting their shoes and feet on fire in turn, and the flames swiftly spread to their clothing. The attack on the castle slackened off as the affected Death Eaters tried to extinguish the flames, and generally found that their attempts made things worse. Phlogiston couldn't quite make water burn but it came close, and extinguishing it was infuriatingly difficult.
"Where the hell did you get magnesium?" asked Hermione.
"Magnesium? It's an alchemical metal, Ardens Metallum, costs about twenty galleons a pound. Do you mean to say there's something that burns like this that isn't magical?"
In the tent Voldemort's boots were alight; because he used flame so often they had numerous protective spells and burned reluctantly, but they were stubbornly refusing to go out. Bellatrix worked frantically to remove her high-buttoned boots, setting fire to the carpet in her efforts, the fire spreading across the carpet and to the canvas sides of the tent with startling speed.
"Enough!" screamed Voldemort, casting the silent spell he usually used to control his own flames. A stream of fire rose from his boots, the carpet, the tent, and Bellatrix and into his wand. He noticed absently that there were no more sound effects. Outside he could hear screams. He walked out, wand in hand, and repeated the spell, ribbons of flame flowing from the Death Eaters to his wand, taking the phlogiston with it. The flames left five burnt corpses behind, men who'd had the misfortune to inhale flame or messed up their protective spells. Several more had severely burned feet and legs.
"Thank you, my Lord," said Bellatrix.
"Merlin!" said Fred, "How the hell did he do that?"
"Down!" shouted George. All three ducked as Voldemort fired an insanely powerful jet of fire and phlogiston at the castle. Mostly it slid down the shields, but a portion got through to the Astronomy Tower. There wasn't much to burn there, it was solid stone with a flat flagstone top to accommodate students and their telescopes, but with phlogiston in the mix the roof over the stairwell to one side was alight, and paving slabs were cracking. It wouldn't take long for the flames to reach something more flammable.
"Bastard really didn't like Dumbledore talking about his parents," said Hermione.
Above the flames, in the comparative quiet as most of the Death Eaters took a moment to drink healing potions and repair their clothes, the face of Pious Thicknesse appeared again. "This is your last warning." He glanced down at the scroll he had consulted before, then repeated "Our sovereign Lady the Queen chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, and ratified by the Wizengamut in the accords of 1735 and 1929, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. So mote it be. God save the Queen!" He paused, then added "You have five minutes to comply."
"I need to get downstairs, Harry and Diana will need help," said Hermione. She ran for the nearest tower and disappeared inside.
"What now?" asked Fred.
"Now we wait," said George. "If it all goes pear-shaped we still have the second batch of bottles to open."
"My Lord," said Bellatrix, "why is he repeating that nonsense?"
"There's something like that used by Muggles, I think. They read it out to rioters before sending soldiers to break up the riot. It sounds like the Wizengamut incorporated it into Wizarding law for some reason. Perhaps Thicknesse thinks that aurors will come running to his aid if he repeats it enough times. The fool should know that they're under our control."
"Perhaps, my Lord... but the way he repeats it word for word smacks of a ritual of some sort. An invocation of the law, perhaps?"
"Hmmm.... something like the magical contract of the Triwizard Tournament? It might be possible, I suppose. Find Yaxley for me, he ought to know."
"My Lord, Yaxley was lost at Malfoy Manor; since Thicknesse seems to be free of his imperius I think he is probably dead."
"Of course. Someone else with the Muggle-Born Registration Committee then. Runcorn, perhaps? Or perhaps one of our loyal aurors?"
"It's possible. I'll look for Runcorn first."
Voldemort cast "Sonorus!" again, and added "Resume the attack." Spells began to flash again, this time without the sound effects.
On the lake side of the castle the giants were finding the going difficult; the water near the castle was deep, and the cliff leading up to the castle was near vertical. The first was nearly out of the water, stretching up for another handhold, when a glowing circle of light appeared thirty feet above his head. As he stared up a muggle dump truck fell through it, shattering his skull and flinging his body into the lake. The next two giants below were showered with broken concrete, bricks, and shards of glass, injuring them both. The last was still waist-deep in the lake when a tentacle dragged him into the depths. The survivors kept climbing. On the causeway an army of animated gargoyles and suits of armour was waiting for them. Inside the castle Filch, Hagrid and a team of house elves were moving the cannon, powder and shot up to one of the rooms overlooking the causeway.
"Are you ready?" asked Diana.
"I was born ready," said Harry. "Well, not born, but you know what I mean."
"I know. Okay, follow my lead and try not to get hurt. John, are you ready?"
Constantine took a drag from his cigarette. "Still think this is a bad idea, but if you want to be stupidly heroic I probably can't stop you. You still want me to put you right in front of that idiot's tent?"
"We might as well be sure we have his undivided attention."
"Wait!" Slughorn ran in with a potion vial full of purple liquid. "Fire protection potion, the strongest I've ever made. I think you'll need it."
"How many doses?" asked Harry.
"Four. More than that will poison you."
"Take one dose now," said Diana, "the rest if you need it."
"What about you?" asked Slughorn.
"I'll be all right."
Hermione ran in, shouting "Don't you dare start without us," closely followed by Ron.
"Are you sure?" asked Harry.
"We're dead either way if this goes wrong," said Ron, "we might as well go down fighting."
"All right... John, quick change of plans, put Diana and me down where we said, then put Ron and Hermione down somewhere where there's a bit of cover. You two can try and get close while Diana and I have Tom's attention. Quick, take a dose each." He handed Hermione the vial and they each swallowed some of the vile liquid, then gave the remainder back to Harry."
"Okay, sounds doable," said Constantine. "Everybody ready?"
He opened the first portal, and Harry and Diana stepped through. Within seconds they were fighting for their lives.
End Notes: The Riot Act of 1714 was a classic piece of British law which made it legal for the civil authorities to use lethal force provided that there was due warning and that the rioters were given time to disperse first. Almost uniquely, it invoked the power of the law by the use of a very specific speech, much like casting a spell. It was introduced more than two decades after the Statute of Secrecy (1692), but there is plenty of precedent in canon for Wizarding law using or adapting mainstream British law; I've assumed that the Wizengamut had their own problems with riots and adopted it after a suitable pause to consider it. They used a slightly modified version of the British law because by doing so they could draw on the collective will and belief of everyone in Britain, not just the wizards. The main changes are mention of the Wizengamut in the formal announcement, and spell-work to make the announcement itself a legally binding contract. The mainstream Riot Act was phased out in 1967, so the wizarding version has lost some of its power, and the wizards will probably change their laws eventually if they ever notice. See the Wikipedia article on the Riot Act for more. Many thanks to A.J. Hall for helping me get this right, and apologies for dumbing things down so much.
Britpick: Drawing pin - British name for thumb tacks, the type that's a flat disk with a sharp pin sticking out.
Harry quotes Pulp Fiction at Voldemort - "I'm sorry, did that break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please continue."
It's canon that Hogwarts owns at least one cannon (sorry), used to start the second and third tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. Filch either uses a bigger one, or the same one with some enlarging spells on it. There seems to be some debate as to whether silver harms werewolves in canon: to the best of my knowledge this was never clarified in the Harry Potter books, except to say that silver was used in treatment of werewolf bites, I'm ignoring other sources. Being hit by a large quantity of silver shrapnel probably isn't good for werewolves (or anyone else) even if it doesn't poison them.
Phlogiston was the element alchemy used to explain burning. Things that could burn contained it; when they burned the phlogiston escaped, leaving ashes. If there was excess phlogiston fire was more intense. Later it was decided that phlogiston had negative weight, since many things were heavier after burning. Muggle science eventually discovered oxygen and explained things differently, wizarding alchemists had other ideas, and eventually found a way to make the stuff. Muggles might think of it as a super-oxidiser, similar to pure ozone and even more dangerous; magnesium burns like thermite when exposed to it. See the Wikipedia article on Phlogiston for more.
Ardens Metallum (Latin for Burning Metal) is a scam; the vendors buy muggle magnesium ribbon and sell it on at inflated prices.
I think this is the longest chapter so far, about 4.4 thousand words plus end notes, so there are probably typos etc. Comments please before I post to archives.
Also posted at https://ffutures.dreamwidth.org/2200781.html, where there are comments. Please comment here or there using OpenID.