On Archive of Our Own
On Twisting the Hellmouth
Hedwig flew from the goddess and landed on Harry's shoulder, and began to nibble his ear.
"She likes you," said Athena, "but she might still live if she had never met you."
Harry remembered where he was, and who she was.She was beautiful, her dark gold hair braided into elaborate ringlets, but it was a stern ageless beauty, with no hint of humour. For some reason he was reminded of Minerva McGonagall. He kneeled, as Diana had instructed him, and bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Great Athena," he said, relieved that he wasn't forced to stumble on in Greek. "I hadn't expected to see her. You're right, your majesty, but I didn't knowingly endanger her. When I was given her, I had no idea that there was any threat. Nobody told me that my parents' killer was going to return from the dead, or that I was the one destined to fight him."
"According to one old fool who should have known better, and another fool who learned nothing from legend. Both of them would have done better to forget the prophecy. And so you find yourself here. Hmmm..." She turned from Harry and walked toward Voldemort, frowning as she examined him. "What in Hades did he think he was doing?"
"He wants to live forever, I think, but nobody can tell me why. Who'd want to live forever looking like that? And why kill so many people to do it? Why didn't he just learn alchemy and make a philosopher's stone?"
"Dumbledore distrusted him and refused to teach him."
"Is that why he went bad?"
She shrugged. "Perhaps. Or perhaps things would have been worse if he was an alchemist. It is an art of war as well as life." She turned back to Harry. "Speaking of war, why should I help you stop him?"
"Because it's the right thing to do?"
"He and his followers have killed hundreds, it'll be thousands or millions if he lives. He killed his father, my parents, his followers, innocents, even people who loved and trusted him. He has to be stopped."
"It really wasn't my idea, but I seem to be stuck with it."
"And what will you gain if you succeed?"
"Peace, for me and my friends, though I've a feeling there'll be a lot of problems before we get there."
"Good. Now, what would you offer me for my help?"
Harry dug into his pocket and found a matchbox lined with cotton wool. "Engorgio!" A wine bottle and an earthenware jar swelled to full size. "I offer these gifts of wine and olives, and promise to fund a scholarship at the school in your name if I survive."
She took the bottle and examined it critically. "Moschofilero... hmm... a good choice, and a good year."
"It was the best Greek wine I could get. Diana helped me choose it."
"It will suffice, and the olives are good. Very well... I can agree to the basilisk, you killed it, but the dragon is another matter. Why should I allow it?"
"My friend Hermione read about it in Hogwarts: A History. It was loaned to the school by the Welsh dragon reserve during the dragonpox epidemic of 1855. A lot of the students and teachers were affected, and back then they still had to make the cure fresh from the blood of a live dragon. They were bleeding it daily for nearly three weeks, and they didn't have a blood replenishing potion that worked on dragons. Eventually it just... well, it died. The dragon reserve donated the body to the school, and whoever signed the papers said it was for defence. So it died to protect the school, and it was given to the school for defence. We wondered if its teeth could defend the school again."
"A sad end for such a creature. Hmm... I like the way your friend thinks, and I am fond of scholarship. But no, it is not enough."
"If it helps, I have actually defeated a dragon, although I didn't kill it."
"I'm aware... perhaps it is enough. Barely. But again I must ask you, what would you offer me for this help?"
"I can't think of anything else I have that you might want."
"Are you sure?"
Hedwig bit Harry's ear again, then hooted softly, as if trying to tell him something. Harry felt a pang of grief as he realized what it might mean. "Is this something to do with Hedwig?"
"You brought Hedwig here for a reason, I think. I'm not sure if it was kind or cruel of you. She was my familiar; I don't know if the bond between us ended when she died. Do you want me to do something to break it?"
"I would never ask that of anyone," said Athena, "but yes, there is something you need to do. For both of you."
Harry raised his arm and Hedwig hooted again and hopped onto his wrist, her claws digging into his arm. He looked into her eyes. "Hedwig... when you were killed it was really sudden. I never had a chance to say... well, anything. I'm sorry we got you killed, I think we could have found a way to do things that didn't endanger you. But the Goddess has given us this chance to say goodbye. I think you need to go with her now... be good, and try not to steal too much of her bacon. Maybe I'll see you again one day, in the afterlife or something. Goodbye!"
"Prek!" said Hedwig. She pecked his nose gently, turned, and flew back to Athena's shoulder.
Athena nodded. "Well said... you may have the dragon's teeth." For the first time she smiled. "Now, return to where you were standing when I interrupted the battle. You wouldn't want noseless there to think that you're cheating."
"Have you ever noticed how stupid they look like this?" asked Desire, watching the paused world from the battlements.
"Stopped in time?" asked Dream. "There are dreams like that, I've never found them to be particularly interesting. Or felt any need to stop time to see it in reality."
"It's useful if I need to make an accidental meeting happen, or slip a love potion into a drink."
"Tsk. Why not just have them dream of each other? Easily done, and no side effects."
"Sometimes the side effects are the best part. The morning after, the hangover, the horrible realization of exactly what they've done..."
"You're easily amused. Hmm, I think Athena's tempting the boy with his owl."
"Kinky. I like it."
They heard footsteps, and looked around to see someone coming toward them, a girl with mismatched eyes. She smiled and waved, glowing flower petals materializing and falling from her hand, vanishing as they hit the flagstones.
"Del?" asked Dream.
"There's three in one and one in three," said Delirium. "The dark side of the moon and me. Now shoo, we've all got places to be."
"Poetry?" asked Desire, watching Luna walk on.
"It probably comes from the girl or the demon, Del is rarely that coherent. But she's right, time is about to resume, and things will soon come to a head, we need to be ready."
Athena vanished, and time and the battle resumed. Harry ducked under Voldemort's flames, silently sent a flock of blackbirds flying towards his face, and cast "Sectumsempra!" at his knees. Voldemort contemptuously incinerated the birds, and the cutting curse fizzled out as it hit his robes. Another cutting spell, deflected by Diana's sword, narrowly missed his head.
"I tire of these games," said Voldemort, striding forward and raising his wand. The earth began to stir around his feet, and a dark hand grabbed his left ankle.
Bellatrix LeStrange tried to concentrate on the ward-sapping spell she was casting and ignore the cramping pains in her stomach. A white shape hurtled towards her, a translucent patronus in the form of a fox. As she cast the spell it stopped in front of her and said "I say, I say..."
She threw a quick blasting spell at the patronus, which ignored it.
"...My Dark Lord has no nose!" The patronus fizzled into nothingness. She could see another white shape approaching, and sent a jet of flame at it, and at the castle beyond, narrowly missing Amycus Carrow.
Unnoticed, a green form rose from the ground in the shadow of the whomping willow and touched its hands to the trunk. Dark energy flowed, and the plant elemental sank back into the soft soil as the willow pulled its roots from the ground and began to stride toward the Death Eaters.
Hagrid's ramshackle hut was aflame, hit by a stray spell, as Ron and Hermione hid under Harry's invisibility cloak and crept around the edge of the battle towards the nearest cover, one of the pens Hagrid used for magical creatures. Ron quietly cast "Alohomora!" at the gate and it swung open. There was a loud "Bang!" and a jet of flame spurted out several feet.
"What the hell was that?" whispered Hermione.
"Dunno, but we'd better not go in there," said Ron. They went on towards another pen. Behind them a gigantic blasted-end skrewt scuttled out of the pen and began to bound towards the castle.
At the back of one of the caves overlooking Hogsmeade a small hole opened in the rock, about four feet above the cave floor, and a dark eye stared out. After a minute or so part of the wall swung open, a cunningly disguised door, revealing a walled-off section of the cave currently occupied by a dozen goblin warriors and a mine cart train laden with equipment. Gleaming metal rails led deeper into the mountain, towards the nearest goblin mine and eventually, via a labyrinthine series of tunnels, towards Gringotts in London.
The first goblin out sniffed. "Smells of dog piss and wizard, with a hint of something else. Nobody here now though. What do you make of it, Switchblade?"
The tallest goblin sniffed then touched the floor and licked his fingers. "Werewolf. Not recent though, maybe a couple of years ago. Should be safe enough. Right, let's get up to the crest of the hill, we should be able to see the castle from there. And for Ragnuk's sake keep the noise down."
They quickly unloaded the mine carts and shared out their equipment, then cautiously trekked a quarter-mile or so uphill, until they were looking out over the Forbidden Forest toward the castle. Four took up guard positions while the others set up a customized telescope, a tripod-mounted Russian MTO 1100mm mirror lens with added omniocular components, several goblin-built magical instruments, and a Magnavox satellite phone receiver the size of an attache case, linked to the Inmarsat network. A few minutes later the phone in Tonguetongs' off-site office rang.
"Chief Goblin? This is Switchblade, we have eyes on the school."
"About time. Make your report."
"The castle wards are raised and under heavy spell fire by Death Eaters, estimated numbers one hundred and fifty, that's one five zero. We can see the corpse of a giant floating in the water below the castle, no others visible. Several trolls among the Death Eater forces, but they appear to be trying to withdraw and under fire from both sides. No sign of any werewolves or vampires. There are minor fires and damage to the castle, but I think the defenses are holding well so far."
"Any sign of Riddle?"
"There's a lot of spell-fire between the castle and the surrounding area, and there seems to be some sort of fight going on near the lake, it's too far for positive identification but Riddle's characteristic fire magic is in use. I'm not sure who he's fighting. One of them is a woman in armour, the other might be Potter."
"Very well. Continue to observe, call me back if anything changes. And be prepared to withdraw quickly if you come under attack, your equipment cost thousands of galleons and I don't want it damaged. Collapse the tunnel behind you if you have to leave in a hurry. You're there to observe, not fight."
"Now get off the line, this call is costing nine sickles a minute!"
"Understood." Switchblade ended the call.
Toungetongs turned back to his typewriter and continued to draft a summary of the situation. MI5 and several overseas intelligence agencies, magical and mundane, were regular customers for reports on the British magical community.
"How does he smell?" asked the second patronus, a fox. A third in the form of a horse was rapidly approaching. Bellatrix tried to ignore it and continue her spell. Inevitably it said one word, "Terrible!" and disappeared. And as it faded Peeves appeared, threw a custard pie into her face, shouted "Boom boom!" and vanished again.
Bellatrix screamed in pain and anger as her tongue elongated and filled her mouth, hanging down to below the level of her breasts, her teeth grew into huge fangs, and her nose began to bleed. Warts swelled on her face and tongue, and her eyes, the lids also covered with warts, could barely open. Worse, she couldn't speak, or cast any verbal spell. She fumbled in her robes, found a bezoar, and swallowed it.
"I got her!" Peeves shouted as he materialized in the Defence classroom.
"Excellent," said Fred. "Anyone else out there worth a pie?"
"The Carrows," Ginny said grimly.
"Works for me."
"If I may make a suggestion," said Severus Snape, rising through the floor, "Alecto Carrow should be your priority, her brother is too cowardly to be a serious threat."
"Why should we listen to you?" asked Ginny, "You're a Death Eater."
"Which means I know what I'm talking about. Alecto is nearly as dangerous as Bellatrix, dispose of her." He stalked off through the wall, then put his head back into the room and added "If you have cause to make up that mixture again, adding a pennyweight of quicksilver to the third stage of brewing should have some interestingly lethal results." He pulled his head back out.
"Quicksilver?" said George. "Bloody hell, why didn't we think of that?"
"He's not actually wrong, I suppose," Ginny admitted. "Okay, Alecto it is."
Outside Bellatrix's tongue retracted into her tongue, taking with it the coating of potions left by the pie. The bezoar continued to react, neutralizing the poisons in the mixture... and freeing the other chemicals the twins had added to their brew. Smoke filled her lungs as the mix began to burn.
The castle shook as another salvo of spells hit the outer wards. Constantine studied the mirror in the head's office and said "Persistent buggers, aren't they?"
"The wards are holding up so far," said Minerva, "We've had a few burns and injuries from flying splinters, nothing Madame Pomfrey can't easily handle. Unfortunately they have a lot of wizards, the castle is a very large target, and none of us are as young as we used to be. If you have any suggestions I would be delighted to hear them. Or if you have nothing else to do I'm sure that Sybil Trelawney would be delighted to renew your acquaintance..."
"No need for that, love," Constantine said hastily. "Let's see..." He concentrated on the mirror then sketched a complex glowing pattern in the air and thrust forward with both hands, throwing the pattern into the mirror. A stylized image of a gigantic eye and eyelids appeared above the astronomy tower, and everyone who saw it was sure that it was staring at them.
"What did that do?" asked Minerva.
"Just an illusion, with a little bit of compulsion on it. Anyone that aims at the castle is going to have to concentrate or they'll cast spells at the eye instead. And anyone who tries to apparate... well, they'll be materializing fifty feet above the tower, outside your wards, the wards are a curved dome so they ought to bounce off nicely and end up in the water."
He looked into the mirror again, and saw spellfire rising toward the illusion. "Okay, that works."
"And there's still plenty of time for you to talk to Sibyl. Unless you have some other ideas to improve our defenses, of course."
"Let me work on it."
Fire from Voldemort's wand blossomed around his feet, and he sneered at Harry - then frowned as more hands pulled on his legs, and naked men began to rise from the soil. There seemed to be two types; half a dozen relatively normal-looking muscular bronze-skinned men with beards and manes of long dark hair; and nine or ten slimmer figures, pallid and hairless and more sinuous in their movements, their eyes dark with slitted pupils, their fingers ending in long claws. All of them carried sharp curved white swords, resembling elongated fangs. Voldemort tried another burst of flame, with no more success, as Harry hit his wand arm with a cutting spell that tore his robe and left a long graze on his skin.
Voldemort gestured silently. For a moment his skin and clothing were covered with flickering lightning, and he leaped back a few yards as they released him.
"Eimí he basileîa Diána tes Them'yskas, kóre tou Di`os," said Diana, batting away more spells as she talked. Most of the newcomers stared at her. "Chaîre, stratiôtai! Âra boethêsete hemâs apollúnai kakò mágo?"
Simultaneously Voldemort hissed "Serve me, I am the heir of Slytherin," in Parseltongue. The hairless strangers seemed to pay a little attention, the bearded men looked puzzled. Harry guessed that the bearded men had risen from the dragon teeth, the hairless men from the basilisk fangs.
"He's a liar and a betrayer," Harry said Parseltongue, simultaneously casting a silent tripping jinx at Voldemort, "She is telling the truth."
"Alethès?" said one of the bearded warriors, "Eî hemíthea? Naì, apokteînomen mágous!" He thrust his sword at Voldemort.
In the best Greek he could manage, Harry shouted "Prosbállete tô andrì arhináto!", dodged another of Voldemort's silent flame spells, then cast the stiffening spell "Duro!" at Voldemort's robes, hampering his movements, as the warriors closed in on him.
Moving to their next target under the cloak, Ron and Hermione watched the Death Eaters slowly losing momentum; about one in five was vomiting or had collapsed, none of the others seemed to be entirely unaffected, and the battlefield now included an insanely violent skrewt, retreating trolls, and a walking whomping willow that between them were diverting a lot of attention. The skrewt seemed to be attacking anyone who cast spells at it, though they had little effect on it, and the tree was simply hitting everyone in range while moving slowly toward the castle. A few of the willow's branches were smouldering, releasing clouds of dense grey smoke that seemed to distress the Death Eaters more than the tree, and when it was hit with the killing curse all that happened was that a couple of branches broke off. Meanwhile the trolls were nearing the edge of the Forbidden Forest, and the Death Eaters were doing their best to keep out of the way.
"Ron, why is the Eye of Sauron floating above the Astronomy Tower?"
"What's a Sauron? That thing? Think it's a problem?"
"Not really - it just feels like it's staring at me."
"Don't be daft," said Ron, "we're invisible. Stop a sec, I want to set off a few decoy detonators."
Somehow Bellatrix managed to cast a silent Aguamenti, blasting herself in the face with a stream of water and extinguishing the flames, but she could barely breath or speak. She needed to find a healer fast. Had the Dark Lord actually brought any to the fight? Usually Snape took care of their healing, and Snape was dead...
A bolt of spellfire rained down from one of the castle windows, and she scrambled clear, unable to fight effectively, running towards the cover of some bushes near the edge of the lake. Another bolt was even closer, then a third as she reached the bushes. She felt the ground start to shake, then crack behind her, as the rocks started to collapse into the lake, taking her with them.
In the castle Neville holstered his wand and moved to another window. It looked like Bellatrix was down, he needed to find another target.
"Brackium..." screamed Harry.
"Aveda.." shouted Voldemort, shaking off one of the hairless warriors. Another sunk its teeth into his leg.
"...Emendo!" Harry finished, ducking for cover
"...Kedevar!" Voldemort's wand fell from his suddenly limp hand, and green spellfire crackled into the ground around his feet.
"Brackium Emendo!" Voldemort's other arm was limp, and as Harry cast the spell a third time he collapsed, pulled down by the warriors.
"What did you do, boy?" said Voldemort, trying to struggle.
"Spell Gilderoy Lockhart used in second year," said Harry. "It's supposed to fix bones, but it vanishes them. Confringo!" The blasting curse hit Voldemort's stomach, and for once penetrated his robes. The warriors were showered with blood.
"You think you've won," Voldemort said weakly, "Niis de ol!"
On the battlements of Hogwarts Luna stretched out her arms and rose into the air. And as she rose, she began to change.
Notes: Traditional sacrifices to Athena include wine and olives, and other foods and drinks. Her association with knowledge and education is actually a much later tradition dating from the Renaissance, and is one of the reasons why owls are considered to be wise; I'm assuming that she's on board with it by 1997 and regards gifts of knowledge (such as books or a commitment to fund a scholarship) as valid sacrifices. Athena's additional requirement is a test, her way of making sure that Harry is committed to his cause; if he had refused to say goodbye to Hedwig things would not have gone well for him.
Custom telescopes based on Russian MTO 1100mm photographic mirror lenses were sold by a scientific instrument supplier on Sicilian Avenue, Holborn (a few hundred yards from the probable location of Diagon Alley) in the 1970s and 80s. They were smaller than equivalent conventional telescopes of the period, and were available with a range of accessories adapted from camera and microscope components. Since they were easily modified they seem a likely candidate for some wizarding upgrades. I can't now remember the name of the shop or the price, I think several hundred pounds.
Hogwarts appears to be remote enough that there was probably no cell phone service anywhere nearby in the 1990s. It's plausible that there can be no service in unplottable areas anyway, since cell-phone signals triangulate a phone's location if they are picked up by multiple masts. Sat-phones based on 1970s-90s technology such as the Inmarsat network might avoid this problem because the system does not rely on knowing the phone's precise location; they use a geostationary satellite which picks up signals from an area of tens of thousands of square miles, and transmits to the entire area rather than a narrow location. An Inmarsat receiver similar to the Magnavox unit I've mentioned cost 1.6 million Yen, around £8100 or 1625 Galleons, in the 1990s. Call charges were 520 Yen or around £2.60 a minute, roughly 9 sickles. I've converted everything from a price list for Japanese customers so can't guarantee complete accuracy for European services. Incidentally, later systems such as Iridium might not be usable in unplottable areas because the coverage area per satellite is much smaller and they routinely hand the signal from one satellite to another, making it much easier to plot a ground station's location. Many thanks to Major_Clanger who gave me a lot of information on Inmarsat including the price list, and to cdybedahl who found me some useful info on satellite phones of the period.
Spartoi, warriors grown from dragon's teeth, are one of the staples of Greek myth, granted as a favour from the gods. The version seen in the film Jason and the Argonauts, animated by Ray Harryhausen, is the most famous modern interpretation but has the warriors appear as animated skeletons, not living soldiers. Diana Wynne Jones' novel The Ogre Downstairs includes a fun version that is closer to the myth. I've gone for something a little different for the basilisk fangs. A version of the Harryhausen variant appeared in a story on Twisting the Hellmouth while I was working on the last two chapters, so it's obviously fanfic steam engine time for this myth!
Greek translations by whswhs on Livejournal, who has done his best to make sensible Greek from phrases that aren't easily translated:
Eimí he basileîa Diána tes Them'yskas, kóre tou Di`os. Chaîre, stratiôtai! Âra boethêsete hemâs apollúnai kakò mágo?
I am the princess Diana of Themiscyra, daughter of Zeus. Rejoice, warriors! Will you help us to destroy the evil wizard?
Alethès? Eî hemíthea? Naì, apokteînomen mágous!
Truly? Thou art a demigoddess? Right, let us slay some wizards!
Prosbállete tô andrì arhináto!
Strike the noseless man!
Enochian via various web sites:
Niis de ol!
Come to me!
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