TRtH 1

The Road to Hell

Part I: The Gates of Hades

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”

— Homer

Chapter 1: Erebus

A wracking cough rattled up a throbbing throat and out between a chapped and swollen pair of lips.

Nothing pained him but his throat and lips. Drenched in sweat, the metallic something in his right hand felt like ice. He braced himself before moving. Just because his ribs no longer burned did not mean that they were healed.

A string of pops ran up his spine, but nothing else happened as he lifted his head.

The cavern looked the same, with its round walls and flickering torches, the now empty plinth and its ornately carved sarcophagus, but there was no sign of Voldemort. 

Harry’s right hand was curled around the scythe he had used to block the killing curse.

I thought it was destroyed. What was the burning? Did I imagine it?

His legs remained steady as he stood. His ankle felt like it had never snapped. His hip no longer strained and popped the way it had since a stray spell had struck it the night he had rescued Hermione from Malfoy Manor.

How’s that possible?

“Homenum Revelio.” Tendrils of magic probed to no avail. Did the others escape? How long had he been out? Shit!

One hand still clutching the scythe, he pointed the wand between his feet and conjured whistling winds that echoed off vast stone walls as he rose, robes swirling around him.

His stomach dropped when he crested the cliff edge he had tumbled from. The tunnel he had crawled down now ended abruptly in a sheer face of rock.

What happened?

Harry banished the wind and cast a summoning charm on the wall of stone. Unmoving and many times his weight, the rock pulled him forward with jarring speed.

A wordless Arresto Momentum halted his flight just before impact. Hot stabs of pain thrust up his spine, their sharp blades lingering at the base of his neck. Soaring around the way he just had exacted a steep price on his body.

He ran his wand tip along the wall. Not a trace of magic, so it hasn’t been conjured. He shook his head and stepped back. It didn’t matter; the important thing was getting out. “Fiendfyre.”

The rock melted like candle wax, scalding streams of lava gushing around him, emerald flames swirling and cackling their way through the countless tons of untouched stone. 

Light soon shone up ahead. He dispelled the Fiendfyre and swept his wand in a grand arc around him. Steam hissed up from the river of molten stone as it solidified into smoking mounds of glowing rock. 

Harry stepped out into warm summer air and a light breeze that blew black strands of hair across his sweat-soaked forehead.

He studied the land around him, scythe still in hand. Something fluttered in his chest. I must have come out on the wrong side of the mountain.

One loud crack later, he stood on the same cliff he had used to duel Voldemort.

The earth they had scorched was unscathed and a perfect shade of green. The hill he had melted held up a whole and healthy forest. Chirping birds flitted through the trees and branches swayed like waving arms in the summer breeze.

What the fuck is going on?

His hair stood on end as an unseen pressure closed around him. Wards.

A group of men appeared at the foot of his cliff, dressed in pale blue robes with their wands aimed up at him.

Harry rained down spells. A handful of them crumpled, but most remained calm. One group cast shield charms whilst others pelted the cliff face with blasting curses that cracked and crumbled stones. 

Harry appeared behind them and dropped half a dozen. The remaining men faced him, wands alight with scarlet curses that sparked against his silver shield.

Why so many stunners?

Air twisted vice-like around a group of men and sent their skulls bouncing across the grass like skipped stones. A crater opened beneath ten more, then snapped shut like a jagged pair of jaws.

His shield faltered and he slashed his wand, blasting the remaining men away.

More cracks echoed off the mountain at his back. There were more assailants this time, each one wearing dark red robes that were trimmed in gold.

I better hope this lot sticks to stunners too. His hopes were dashed by half a dozen killing curses. Fuck! He appeared on yet another cliff overlooking the mountainside.

“Stand down!” someone bellowed.

 Where have I heard that voice?

The men below remained tense and ready, but no one cast. A single wizard stepped forward, his wand pressed against his throat. “Come back down and lower your wand.”

That’s impossible; he’s dead.

Harry apparated directly in front of him. The man looked so much like Scrimgeour, but there were fewer lines etched into his face and his hair had not yet greyed. 

Harry felt the air thicken. He prodded these new wards but found them unyielding. There would be no apparition now they had him where they wanted.

“Who are you?” he asked the imposter.

“I am Rufus Scrimgeour. I act in accordance with the will of the emperors Dumbledore and Grindelwald.”

“Nice try. I’m giving you one chance — where is Voldemort?”

An odd expression passed across the imposter’s face. The steely mask slammed back over it too fast for Harry to process. “You’re surrounded by half a hundred venators, do not take that tone.”

Harry felt the wands trained on him ready. “Answer my questions and we can all be on our way.”

A vein throbbed just below the imposter’s chin. “You mean answer some crackpot question you pulled out of a hat?”

There were times he lamented never learning legilimency. What was the purpose of this farce?

“What about Dumbledore, then?” Ice formed in Harry’s stomach; this particular lie from the imposter was too far. “If he’s alive, where is he?” The man went for his wand, but Harry pressed his own against the imposter’s forehead faster than he could reach it. “No sudden movements.”

“Emperor Dumbledore has better things to do—” Green light flickered along the Elder Wand’s tip and the imposter froze.

Chips broke off from the block of ice and carved painful gouges in Harry’s stomach. “Albus Dumbledore is dead!”

“Sir,” another familiar voice said nearby, “I think he’s mad.”

The ice melted, its cold replaced by hollow numbness. It was like Kingsley had never seen him. Real concern showed across his face. What the fuck is going on?

The ice returned tenfold, chilling the blood in all four limbs. “Who are you and what have you done with Kingsley?”


Everything was consumed by crimson light; then, nothing.

Stiffness weighed down his limbs when he next woke. His neck twinged. Wherever he was, it had done that pain no favours.

He opened his eyes but was swiftly forced to blink. The room was brighter than he was accustomed to with its pale walls and ceilings. Sunlight seeped through silk drapings that hung around him, and for the first time in years, he was lying in a bed.

So why do I feel so stiff? He tried sitting up but found himself immobilized. That would explain it.

The curtain pulled back and a mousy-haired blonde dressed in clean white robes emblazoned with a crossed wand and serpent stuck her head inside. A small squeak escaped her when she saw he was awake. The curtain flapped closed and she was gone.

That was a St. Mungo’s uniform. But that could not be. The only way he would be transported back to Britain was for a public execution.

Panic gripped him. I can’t die! No one can stop him if I die!

“Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”

Breathe. Lucidity was returning slowly. If Voldemort wanted me dead, I’d be dead. Merlin only knew how long he had been unconscious in those caves.

The caves…

Memories of his most recent waking moments returned. Someone could have captured Kingsley and used his nails for polyjuice, but that doesn’t explain Scrimgeour. A sheen of sweat blossomed on his palms as he strained against the unseen bindings. 

The drapings retracted and the same petite blonde stuck her head inside. “Healer Dumbledore will s-s-see you now.”

That same rage from earlier welled up again and he snarled, still fighting to break free. “Albus Dumbledore is dead!” The blonde clasped both hands over her mouth and stumbled.

“It’s been a long time since someone’s had the stones to call my brother by his name.” 

The speaker stepped around the blonde and ushered her away. Harry’s breath hitched but soon returned when he realized his mistake. This man’s beard was too short, and his hair was grey, not silver.

“Aberforth? What’s going on? Everyone keeps saying your brother’s alive, but I saw Snape kill him, I—”

“Slow down, lad.” Aberforth drew his wand and conjured himself an armchair.

Harry took a deep breath. “I just don’t know what’s going on.”

“You really don’t, do you?” He strained to shake his head, but couldn’t. “You believe everything you’re saying, don’t you?”

“Of course I do!”

“The men who brought you in mentioned you were loony. Can’t say I was surprised. Anyone storming out of a mountain with nothing but a wand and scythe ought to be a bit cracked.”

Harry would have bolted upright had he been allowed. “Where is it? The scythe, I mean.” It had blocked the killing curse, it had to be important. 


His heart sank. “Confiscated where?”

“Hell if I know, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did. The boys who brought you in really think you’re mad. They heard you talking about my brother being dead, they did.”

He choked down a fat lump in his throat. Why was Aberforth acting like this? “I saw it.”

“What about me?” 

“What about you?”

“You know me. When did we meet?”

“A couple hours before the Battle of Hogwarts.”

“Did we meet alone?”

“No, I had Ron and Hermione with me.” All these years later and his voice still wavered. Get over it, they’re dead.

“Where did we meet?”

Doesn’t he remember? “A private room in the Hog’s Head. Your sister’s portrait was on the wall. It hid a tunnel into Hogwarts.”

Aberforth scratched his beard. “What’s the Hog’s Head?”

“What? But you—”

“Humour me.”

“It’s the pub you run in Hogsmeade.”

“How long have I run it?”

Harry yearned to fidget, but he was still bound too tight to move. “I don’t know. It’s been there for years.”

Lines deepened on Aberforth’s face. “I had to know how bad it is,” he muttered. “Sometimes rubbish like this unravels if you poke hard enough.”

Harry’s stomach lurched. “How bad what is?”

“Whatever’s scrambled your memory.”

“What do you mean? There’s nothing wrong with my memory!”

“There’s no good way of saying this, so I’ll tell it to you straight. My brother’s not dead, we’ve never met, and there’s no such thing as the Hog’s Head.”

Blood rushed in his ears. Why would Aberforth lie? “What do you do then?” Harry challenged.


“If you don’t run the Hog’s Head, what do you do?”

“I’m a mind healer, have been for decades.”

What the fuck is that? “And your brother? If he’s not dead, what’s he doing?”

Aberforth released a long, laboured breath. “That bad, huh?”

Harry ground his teeth. Drop the fucking act! “What do you mean ‘that bad’?”

“You really don’t know, do you?” He clamped his jaw and glared. “My mighty brother is an Emperor of the Order of Merlin.”

Silence reigned as he digested that; silence but for his own pounding heart, each beat audible in his ears. “The what?”

Aberforth closed his eyes. “The force that runs the world.”

“The… world?”

“Yes, the bloody world. Him and his old pal conquered it years ago.”

“I act in accordance with the will of the emperors Dumbledore and Grindelwald.”

The words melded with the way Aberforth’s expression hardened when mentioning his brother’s ‘old pal’.

“Grindelwald?” None of this could be real. Grindelwald was dead — murdered in his tower cell by Voldemort.

Aberforth summoned a sheet of paper and removed a pen from the pocket of his robes. Harry had never seen a wizard use pen and paper like that. “You know the important folk, but in all the wrong ways.”

“Grindelwald was a dark lord; the most dangerous ever before Voldemort came later and killed him.” He was rambling, but he didn’t care. Speaking the truth was liberating, much better than lying quietly and listening to lie after lie.

The pen paused. “You better learn to dull that tongue of yours.”

His anger flared again. “What—”

“My brother and Grindelwald aren’t talked about like that anymore. What you just said is probably slander if someone from the Department of Censure and Circenses hears it.”

The department of what?

“You’re not following any of this trash, are you?” Harry retried shaking his head, to no avail. “What year is it, lad?”

His heart froze. No… no, that can’t be… 


Aberforth flicked his wand and summoned a newspaper, wordlessly offering it to Harry, who at last found himself unbound.

June 27, 1977

His breath caught in his throat. He moved with the tepid care of prey slinking past a sleeping predator and took the paper in his hands. 

“Get some rest,” said Aberforth, brushing grey strands of hair from his eyes as he stood. “You’ll need it.”

“Wait!” Aberforth paused, one hand on the curtain. “What is all this? What’s the point of it?”

The old man just shook his head. “It’ll sink in, lad, don’t worry.”

“WAIT!” The curtain flapped closed and Harry was once again alone. 

He spent every waking hour trying to poke holes, but each time he was met with solid stone. The further he dug, the more it appeared the stories he was being told were built on bedrock. 

The healers tested his psyche and what he knew about the world. He had been excited at first, sure they would trip up and let him disprove this madness, but when they began explaining his mistakes in such vivid detail, cracks began forming in his confidence.

After three full days had passed, it became real.

That was when the panic set in. Magic had exploded out from him, shredding the curtains and levelling a nearby wall. A window must have shattered because the sound of breaking glass had lanced through the room, but a flash of crimson felled him before he could know for certain.

The fourth day dawned. Breakfast waited on his bedside table. The sun-soaked drapings were pulled shut around his bed and there were quiet sounds of bustling coming from beyond them.

It’s all still real.

The toast tasted like cardboard. Eating bacon was a chore for the first time in his life and the eggs remained untouched.

The hangings around his bed retracted and Aberforth stepped inside. “You look alive.”

Harry fought the urge to scowl. “I guess.”

“You want the good news, or the bad news?”

“Good news would be great. I haven’t had much lately.”

“I’m done testing you; I’ve got all I need for now.”

His next swallow came without ease. “And what did you find?”

“That your mind got scrambled up real bad.”

Maybe my memories really were scrambled. Maybe this is how it’s always been. There was no rational explanation, but for that. Dumbledore and Grindelwald had never ruled the world. A hundred things on those damned tests had never existed.

No; it can’t be right. If it was, everything he had ever known meant nothing. No! My memories aren’t fake. I can still fix it!

“And the psychology tests?”

“Could be worse. You’re not stable, but you’re not insane.”

“Thanks, I guess?”

“Be happy, most of the lot they send me aren’t sane.”

“It’s a bit hard being happy when I don’t ever remember being unstable.”

Better to play into the amnesia they assumed responsible for this madness. If he told anyone what had really happened, they would think him worse than mad.

Aberforth’s expression softened. “I know, lad, but it’s not that bad. You’re still sharp and’ll function fine once you relearn the ropes. The physicals showed you’re about seventeen, so you’ll have a year at Hogwarts to help you settle in.”

Sure, I’m seven years younger, why not? Some of his long-time pains were gone and he did look less gaunt. 

“The bad news then?”

“You’ve got some work to do before you can just be let loose.”

Heads skipped across grass that reddened in his mind’s eye. Why would they ever let me loose? “What do you mean?”

“You’re pretty stable most of the time, but those panic attacks are a problem. Someone’s gonna get hurt real bad if you don’t learn some control.”

“So what? I’m stuck here until the school year starts, then I’ll be shipped off to Hogwarts? Aren’t I an adult?” And a murderer.

“It hasn’t worked that way for years.”

“How does it work now then?”

“You’re not an adult until you’re out of school.”

“So in June?”

“If you pass the entry exams for seventh year.”

“Entry exams?”

“Yes, entry exams.”

“I remember—”

“Useless nonsense.” He clamped his jaw closed. “You remember magic, do you? Good on you — you also remembered my brother being dead and me running some shabby bar that doesn’t exist.”

“So I’m stuck here until September, but if I pass the exams, I’ll be free to do whatever after June?”

“You aren’t stuck here. That’s the last thing you need — Merlin only knows what you’d blow up next if confined.”

“You’re letting me go?” No longer could he keep the shock or the suspicion from his voice.

“You did some bad, but you weren’t in your right mind. No one can blame you for that.”

The ministry I knew would spit in my face before letting me go. “And what about the rest of the time — the time when I’m not here.”

“You’ll go to a haven, same as all the other orphans.”

Ignotus’s Mantle was the name of a haven not far outside London. The central building was four stories tall and made from pearly marble. Accents done up in dark woods comprising the protruding roof framed the doors and windows. Nestled in a lush green field that stretched on behind the building, the haven was ringed by tall hedges and well-kept gardens. Multicoloured flowers drank in dying sunlight as the sky above turned from blue to orange.

A handsome set of gates parted when he inserted an aereum — a black coin ringed in bronze, marked with a pattern of concentric circles enclosing an ornate set of runes.

He continued down the cobbled path, stopping before a large, birch door and knocking.

The door opened to reveal a small elf hunched on its threshold. It blinked up at him and vanished, only to reappear with a tall woman half a minute later.

“Ah, yes,” she said, tightening her bun of greying hair, “you must be Harry.”

His stomach churned; he would not fidget. “Yes, ma’am.”

She smiled. “Right this way, dear.” A bright hallway led into some kind of congregation area. Low tables and old armchairs dotted a hardwood floor. Children of all ages milled, their varied, indistinct droning shattered off and on by louder outbursts. 

“My name is Mrs. Hatcher,” the matron was saying. “I’m a bit tied up, but I’ll find someone to show you around. Where’s Lily — ah, there she is!”


Mrs. Hatcher gestured to a red-haired girl wearing plain black robes and a badge he could not decipher from a distance. She looked over, then smiled, whispering in the ear of a boy with long black hair that looked in need of washing as she stood.
Harry’s knees trembled as she made her way towards them. Oh, Merlin…

“Zeus struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebus.”

— Hesiod

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