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On Twisting the Hellmouth
Harry Potter and the Half-God Prince
XXVI: Grapeshot and Gods
"Is that the best you can do?" shouted Harry. "Missing the Elder Wand? Or did the demon take too much of your power?"
Harry flung himself to one side to dodge Voldemort's spell and silently cast a prank spell, guessing that Voldemort might be less ready for it than for anything more lethal, following it up with "Confringo!" The blasting spell fizzled out on Voldemort's shields. Behind Harry Diana deflected more spells, sending most of them in Voldemort's direction.
"Pathetic," said Voldemort. "You..." He was interrupted by something green and horrible, which oozed from his slitted nostrils and began to batter against his face. As usual the Bat-Bogey Hex was an effective distraction, and in the seconds he was dealing with it Harry got off another blasting spell, deliberately aiming short to break up the ground between him and Voldemort, threw the contents of a cloth bag into the broken soil, and cast another blasting spell to cover it with dirt. He shielded himself again and began to chant in badly accented Greek: "Megále Athená, parakaló ti boítheiá sas...""
"Quick now," said Filch, perched on a hastily-assembled platform made of stacked desks in a room overlooking the viaduct, "Get the powder clear, and pass up the grapeshot."
Two house-elves picked up the gunpowder barrel and popped away, as Hagrid held up a chest containing some bags of heavy lead balls. Filch grabbed one, pushed it into the barrel of the cannon, and forced it down the barrel with a ram-rod.
"Giantses is climbing over the wall," said another house-elf.
"Bugger that. Right, everyone stand well clear and cover your ears." The remaining house-elves popped away, as Filch trained the gun on the viaduct and waited for a good shot.
"Be careful, yeh've forgotten..."
The gun fired, and the stack of tables began to collapse. Filch leapt clear, while Hagrid caught the cannon and carefully lowered it to the floor. "Sod it," said Filch, "I forgot the bloody ram-rod."
"I was tryin' to tell yeh. Don' worry, I'm sure the Headmistress can transfigure another one fer yeh."
"She might not need to," said Filch, staring out of the window. Outside one of the giants was down, bleeding heavily from several wounds as the gargoyles and suits of armour pounded him with axes and swords, the other was roaring and staggering as he tried to pull the ram-rod from his eye. He pulled it out and collapsed, pitching over the edge of the viaduct and falling back into the lake.
"If yeh tell tha' story in the Three Broomsticks yeh'll never need to buy another round o' drinks."
Near the middle of the Death Eater force the trolls were restless. Some were dead in the forest, and there were still centaurs out there in the trees; they could smell them. They'd been promised a fight and plenty of loot, and it wasn't happening. Most of them had burnt feet. And they could feel magic building up around them, something strange and unfamiliar. Their leader grunted as another giant fell from the castle and smashed onto the rocks. Giants were clumsy but they weren't easy to kill, which meant that the castle wasn't going to be the push-over he'd been promised. And it was a long time since they'd been given anything to eat. Abruptly he bellowed at the other trolls, turned, and began to walk away from the castle, towards the forest. The other trolls followed, ignoring attempts to turn them back, and striking out with their clubs at any wizard who got in their way.
Watching through the magic mirror in the Head's office, Percy Weasley said "That's odd... do you think the trolls were affected by the spell?"
"It's not how it's supposed to work," said Thicknesse, "But maybe it's making them feel uneasy. I would have expected to see something happen by now, but I wouldn't have thought it would have much effect on trolls. Are any of the Death Eaters behaving oddly?"
"What's normal for a Death Eater?"
"Good point. Look for vomiting, nose bleeds, fits, that sort of thing."
"What exactly is this spell supposed to do?" asked Minerva.
"I'm not exactly sure," said Thicknesse. "It's described as turning the body's humours against themselves."
Minerva frowned. "That could be very bad."
"It isn't supposed to be lethal," he said defensively. "When they used it on the Magi-Fenians in Ulster in forty-one there were no fatalities."
"What about Harry and the others?" asked Minerva, "Won't they be affected too?"
"They shouldn't be affected. They have a legal right to be on school grounds - they're still students. Everyone else out there is a trespasser."
"What about the princess?" asked Percy.
"I should think it will be all right if that's how it chooses who to affect," said Minerva. "She was a guest here a few weeks ago, and I welcomed her when they arrived tonight. She should be protected."
In the Forest of Dean Pansy Parkinson moodily poked a bonfire with a smouldering stick, and wondered where her life had gone wrong. By rights she should have been betrothed to Draco by now, ready to take his side as consort to the Malfoy heir, and a power in the Dark Lord's court. Instead it was months since she had seen Draco, people were saying that his father was dead, and for all she knew he was off with some other pureblood bitch...
"You look glum," said Daphne Greengrass, holding out a stick with an odd-looking white lump on the end. "Don't like camping out?"
"I should be with Draco, fighting for the Dark Lord, not... not hiding in bloody muggle woods."
"You didn't volunteer to be here, and nobody on either side can blame you for anything that happens at Hogwarts. Unless you've got a wand hidden away that wasn't confiscated?"
"No... How are we supposed to defend ourselves if the muggles find us here?"
"Worried they'll burn you at the stake?"
"They stopped doing that centuries ago. And as soon as we got here the 'Claw prefects put up muggle-repellant wards and the 'Puffs and 'Gryffs that didn't stay in the castle started standing watch. So let them worry about those rascally muggles..." She pulled the stick out of the fire, revealing that the white lump was now blackened and bubbling, and held it toward Pansy. "Want it?"
Pansy took the stick and stared at it dubiously. "What is it?"
"Muggle sweet called a marshmallow. You have to eat them hot, but don't burn yourself. Give it a few seconds to cool down a bit." She put another into the fire.
"I suppose it smells nice enough..."
"It's full of sugar, cooking it caramelizes the outside. These aren't as good as the ones the American muggles have, but they're okay."
"How do you know so much about muggle food?" Pansy asked suspiciously.
"My dad's company gets a lot of its raw materials from muggle sources. He's training me up to take over eventually, so I have to know about how muggles behave and how they do business. Just wish that the muggle studies course wasn't outdated crap."
Pansy tried a cautious taste, then ate the rest in a couple of bites. "Got another?"
"Maybe." Daphne dug into her robe and pulled out a bag made of some clear muggle material, like shiny transparent paper, and held it out to Pansy.
"Why are these all pink, not white?"
"I always eat the white ones first. The pink ones are a bit too girly."
"Weird and happy. Because in a day or two the war will probably be over, one way or another, and nobody's going to blame me for the outcome." Daphne got up. "I'd better check my sister, she's had five or six of these and she was already pretty excited, she'll be on a sugar high. Someone needs to sit on her and make sure she gets some sleep."
"Who do you think will win?"
"Zambini reckons the Dark Lord, and given how he's the only Slytherin I know who bet against Krum getting the snitch in the World Cup my money's on Potter."
"Don't say it too loudly."
"Snape died tonight, and someone said Malfoy Manor was destroyed. That doesn't make me think the Dark Lord is on a winning streak. Whether I'm right or wrong, he has more to fret about than some schoolgirl opinions, so I'll worry about it if it actually becomes an issue. And if I catch anyone making an issue of it, I'll just have to remind them why I'm in bloody Slytherin. See you in the morning." She walked off into the night, leaving Pansy alone with her thoughts and another marshmallow.
Concealed by Harry's cloak, Ron and Hermione appeared near Hagrid's hut, the light of the portal unnoticed in the flash of dozens of spells, and ducked for cover behind the wood pile. "Got the omnioculars?" whispered Ron - unnecessarily, he could have shouted and it probably would have gone unnoticed in the noise of battle.
Hermione reached into her bag and got him a pair, and took out another for herself. After a moment Ron said "It looks like Harry is OK so far. Down!" They both ducked down as a yellow fireball was deflected from Diana's shield, fizzled past overhead, smelling strongly of ozone, and disappeared into the trees.
"There's a group of trolls off to the left," said Hermione. "That's odd - they're fighting the Death Eaters for some reason, looks like they're trying to leave."
"Maybe someone has them imperiused."
"Okay... we want to keep things confused and mess things up as much as possible, and we mustn't distract Harry or Diana. I think we should concentrate on the wizards off to the sides to begin with."
"Right..." Ron pulled a strong rubber catapult from a pocket, carefully loaded a vial of Peruvian Darkness Powder into the sling, and ducked out from under the cloak, concealed by the wood pile. He fired it off on a high parabola to the right.
"Okay," said Hermione. "Nice one, right in the middle of one of their fire teams." She spotted a masked witch running past the trolls, and hit her with a silent tripping jinx. At the extreme range it only made her stumble for a moment, but that was enough. Before the witch recovered a troll's club caught her a glancing blow and she collapsed. Hermione winced but carried on looking for targets.
"Excellent!" Ron loaded a dung-bomb and fired again.
"We were summoned more than an hour ago," said Draco. "By now the Dark Lord must have realised we're not there."
"You were summoned," said Narcissa. "Your father had the sense to realise that it would be a good idea for at least one member of the family to be unmarked. Fortunately the Dark Lord saw the tactical advantages and didn't insist. If he had... well, let's just say that we might have found ourselves in a precarious situation if things went too badly wrong. Which I'm afraid they have."
"I don't understand."
"After the last war your father and many of his friends got away with a slap on the wrist. Some generous financial donations and the imperius defence got most of them a free pass. This time I really doubt that things will go so well for any proven Death Eater. If we lose, the least you can expect is a trial under veritaserum and punitive fines. You're marked, and you were an adult when you helped to kill Dumbledore. Fortunately you didn't finish him off, but you may still be sentenced to a few years in Azkaban." Draco's face whitened. "But enough of the estate is entailed or held in my name to ensure that you will be reasonably well off when you are released."
"That's... well, I suppose it's good to know."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Because the best lawyer I know that isn't a Death Eater is Muggle-born, and if we need his services you are going to have to be polite when you talk to him."
"We need to do more," said Fred. "What can we do to cause the maximum amount of chaos?"
"Some of the tricks we thought about trying on Umbitch? Plan P, perhaps?"
Fred shook his head. "I haven't seen her down there. I heard she's in hospital."
"We can't try that one on Voldemort, it might distract Harry. Who else fits the bill? The Carrows?"
"Has to be bloody Bellatrix then, doesn't it."
"Works for me. But we'll need help."
"Right then..." said George, "You round up Ginny and some more of the DA, I'll find Peeves."
As the Death Eaters continued their assault on the castle one started to cough, his spell misfiring, another abruptly vomited. Others had nose bleeds, violent headaches, dizziness, and sudden cramps. Nothing too life-threatening... so far. The anti-riot spell was still building momentum.
Diana deflected another blasting spell back into the crowd of Death Eaters as Harry chanted "...Xypnáte oi kynódontes tou basiliskou! xypnáte oi kynódontes tou drákou! Megále Athená, parakaló ti boítheiá sas!" He saw Voldemort starting to cast another spell, feigned the beginning movements of the disarming charm, but cast the Conjunctivitis Curse instead. Voldemort contemptuously caught the spell in his free hand as flames flew from his wand... and froze in mid-air.
Harry looked around. Everything was still and silent, nobody moved. Except for the woman who was abruptly standing to one side, wearing a spotless white chiton and a bronze helmet, a long spear in her hand. And on her shoulder...
Harry stared, forgetting everything they'd planned for him to say to the Goddess, as the owl on her shoulder gave him a distinctly unimpressed look, then gasped and said "Hedwig?"
Hagrid's dialogue courtesy of the Hagridizer
Greek translations (via Google Translate; apologies for any errors, with additional help by whswhs on Livejournal):
Megále Athená, parakaló ti boítheiá sas...
Great Athena, I implore your aid...
Xypnáte oi kynódontes tou basiliskou! Xypnáte oi kynódontes tou drákou!
Fangs of the basilisk awaken! Fangs of the dragon awaken!
Athena is traditionally depicted wearing a chiton and helmet and carrying a spear. She often has an owl on her shoulder.
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