TRtH 7

The Road to Hell

Chapter 7: The Spider’s Web

By ACI100

Their carriage passed through the high-winged gates, trundling down the path to Hogsmeade.

A pair of yellow leaves shuddered in the wind, plastered against the glass outside the window on Harry’s left. 

“But Lils,” Marlene was saying, “think about Honeydukes!”

Lily rolled her eyes. “It’s hard not to, with how much you talk about it. We’ll all enjoy Honeydukes more if we get necessities covered first.”

Marlene’s lips tugged down into a pout as she fluttered her lashes up at Harry. “Back me up! You’d rather start at Honeydukes, right?”

“Marlene, I doubt he knows what Honeydukes is,” Lily chided. “It’s his first time in Hogsmeade.”

Marlene bit her lip. “Oh right, sorry.”

Harry feigned confusion. “Local shop, I’m guessing?”

“Sweets shop,” Lily said.

“The best sweets shop,” chimed in Marlene.

“The best in Britain,” Lily admitted.

Mary huffed. “We’re not in Britain.”

Lily swatted at her arm. “Yes we are.

“I’ve heard a bit about Hogsmeade,” said Harry, recalling something that had been true in his own world and smothering a pang of longing down into the dark, empty place inside him. Soon. “Isn’t it one of the only all-wizarding settlements?”

Annoyance bit into him when three sympathetic faces looked his way. “Your memory’s acting up again,” said Lily.

“It was a purely wizarding settlement before the Surrender,” Marlene said. “You can hardly find any of them nowadays.”

Something about the way she said it cast his mind back to a bleak evening spent chatting with her in the common room as raindrops drummed against the high windows at their backs.

“They committed all sorts of crimes against wizards. I had ancestors who were burned or exiled.”

I wonder if she thought that way back where I came from. The echo of high, cold laughter curled his hands into fists. Before Voldemort killed her, that is. 

The carriage soon rattled to a halt, eliciting a squeak from Marlene, who was already bouncing in her seat.

Harry stepped down from the carriage and felt his jaw slacken. 

Familiar storefronts like the Three Broomsticks and Zonko’s Joke Shop remained, but no longer were they prominent. Buildings were packed nearly wall to wall on each side of the bustling main street, and countless side roads snaked off in all directions. There was a jeweller, a law firm, and a Gringotts all in sight, but beyond them…


Clustered around Gringotts and its towering marble columns was a muggle pet store, a hardware store, and even a car dealership. 

Cars… there are cars in Hogsmeade.

A warm hand squeezed his shoulder. “Are you okay?” Lily asked.

Harry nodded, still staring off through the maze of sprawling buildings. Is anything here the same? 

Lily and Mary slunk off into a clothing shop whilst Harry accompanied Marlene into Gringotts. The high counters were still manned by well-dressed goblins and he was sure the bustling crowd was comprised of nothing but witches and wizards. Apparently, some things really can be the same. 

A chill breeze snatched at their cloaks when the quartet had reunited outside the bank. Lily pulled hers tight around her shoulders. “Let’s get some lunch. Hopefully this wind will pass.” 

“What’s that?” Harry asked a minute or so later, gesturing to a storefront whose display was packed with fancifully carved wands and cheap-looking robes.

“Oh, those are pretty common,” Marlene explained. “They’re stores where muggles can buy things that witches and wizards use.”

“Why would they do that?” Harry ran his gaze along what was on display. “It’s not like they can use those wands.”

“Why wouldn’t they want to?” Mary asked. “It must be so sad, not having magic.”

Marlene twisted her heel and ground a leaf against the pavement. “They’ve always envied us.”

Mary smiled. “It’s cute. You should walk around more muggles; once they realize you’re a wizard, they’ll look at you all wide-eyed and stuff.”

Marlene scowled at a nearby shop selling muggle clothes. “Some of them will even ask you to cast magic for them.”

Mary hid a giggle in the folds of her cloak. “I think it’s adorable! They’re like pets looking up for treats!”

Harry missed a step that sent his stomach tumbling. Did she just compare muggles to pets? A leftward glance revealed knots of tension wound into Lily’s shoulders. The wind’s bite sharpened. Merlin, she did.

The Three Broomsticks appeared unchanged at first glance. The same hum of noise was waiting for them inside and Madam Rosmerta still hurried from table to table, all bright smiles and sweet laughter.

But she’s not quite right. Her strides possessed a certain sway that had been absent during Harry’s proper time at Hogwarts. And she can’t be more than twenty-five — it’s not just Rosmerta, either. 

The sweet smell of butterbeer contrasted against the spicy scent of simmering ribs the same way it always had, but far more was buried underneath. 

Nearby, four groups of students worked their way through giant pizzas resting on circular serving trays set out between them. I’ve never seen a pizza in the wizarding world.

But then, this was not the wizarding world he had come to know. 

It actually makes sense. Seamus Finnigan — whose father was a muggle — had often complained of missing chicken strips, while Hermione had lamented the absence of spring rolls more than once.

It’s always the small things I’m unprepared for. Riddle’s tapestry was a crater carved deep into Harry’s picture of the world, but these small scorches could be almost as jarring. In some ways, the big things are easier. I’m used to being surprised by Riddle and all the fucked up shit he does. 

But pizza? Cars? Muggles wearing imitation robes? I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to things like that. 

Harry could sense Lily’s concern as they picked their way back through the crowd and towards the carriages, but his eyes remained ahead. 

Everything’s different. Paved streets, countless cars, muggle food, and a city the likes of which he had never seen. I should have expected things wouldn’t be the same, but I never imagined anything like this. 

“Which carriage?” Mary asked over the wind and chatter swirling around their quartet. 

Marlene pointed. “That one.”

Harry cast a final glance back towards the city as they neared the carriage. It just feels wrong. That sense was stronger now than ever — less a dazed sort of numbness and more a palpable buzzing just beneath his skin…


His friends faltered and several nearby students threw him nervous glances.

Marlene rested a hand on his arm. “Harry? Are you all right?”

The Elder Wand smacked against his palm. Specialis Revelio. His fingers tightened around the weathered grip. “Someone’s cursed the carriage.”

Mary took a swift step back. “What?”

“The steps,” he said. “There’s a curse on them.” It was a little-known paralysis curse. The Marauders’ work.

A fist closed around his innards and yanked them up towards his throat. Why can’t they just be decent? Unbidden, his mind provided an answer. I’m getting too close to Lily. James’s ego can’t handle it. That fist scraped its nails around inside him and he shut his eyes. Breathe. 

Harry removed the curse. “Come on,” he murmured. “I got rid of it.”

The bleak weather had blown itself out by the time that next morning dawned. Sunlight sparkled off gilded spoons, and brightly polished plates reflected the deep blue sky outside. White clouds gathered on the outskirts like bubbling lines of sea foam, but they drifted slowly off on smooth winds that were fading fast.

Mutters trailed him like rasping shadows as he crossed the hall. Maybe if I just ignore them, they might actually stop.

That had never worked where he had come from, but he was no longer the Boy-Who-Lived. Just the Boy-Who-Came-From-Nowhere. They’ll get over it eventually.

Something prodded at his consciousness when he neared the place he always sat. Lovely. There were three traps waiting for him this time. Maybe some people won’t ever get used to it.

Harry probed the bench. There was another paralysis curse, plus a breathlessness jinx and a nausea hex. Do they not realize how dangerous it would be to vomit while breathless and paralyzed?

Lily ate a fried egg sandwich as the mound of maple syrup Marlene poured wafted down the table in all its sweet-smelling glory, but none of it appealed to him. I just want things to be normal. Something snatched up at his breath. I should be in the library finding a way back home.

A beating storm of wings and talons blew in overhead before he could push himself upright. If I was going back in time, could I not have at least got Hedwig back? It took all his will not to glare across the hall at Prince.

Three owls landed in the midst of their quartet. One of the two before Lily tried snatching slices of bacon from her sandwich; she squeaked and shoved the owl back as bits of fried egg dribbled out between her lips.

Harry eyed his own letter the way he might have eyed a warded stronghold’s entrance. Who here would write me?

He withdrew the Elder Wand and ran its tip along the parchment, but there was no sign of curses. In for a knut, in for a galleon. A sharp pang knifed through him as he untied the envelope. Or I guess in for an aereum, in for an aurum. 


I host some small parties you might have heard about for some of my favourite students.

I’m sure Lily has told you about them — she certainly speaks highly of you, as do almost all of your professors.

I would be delighted if you would come join us in my office the Saturday after next for the second meeting this year. We’ll be having a jolly time and making plans for a grander party on the night of Samhain.

Professor H.E.F. Slughorn
Deputy Headmaster

Harry stared up at the staff table. Slughorn’s chins quivered as he waved around plump hands and chatted away at a smiling Riddle.

Fuck him! It felt like daggers were prodding at his heart. Fuck James! The daggers melted under the searing storm of Harry’s anger. Fuck all of this! 

The rain returned with the blooming of October, bringing frigid air and thin layers of frost that crept across the browning grass each morning.

An entire month gone, and I still have no clue how to get back. Anxiety soared up into his throat and choked him. How can I ever get back? There’s hardly anything written about time.

He dug his nails hard into his palms. Breathe! 

Harry cast himself back to a dark summer night long past. The scene unfurled through his mind’s eye like it had been yesterday — high hedges and the distant shadow of a quiet church, peeling headstones and the searing of his scar. 

I have to get back! 

His mother’s screams rattled around inside his skull, Ron’s headless corpse swayed back and forth from its place hanging in an apple tree, Hermione sneered up at him with hatred in her eyes, and over it all, high, cold laughter rumbled like approaching thunder.

No one can stop him if I don’t get back! 

Marlene was alone in their corner of the common room when he stepped in through the portrait hole.

“Are the others asleep?” he asked, throwing himself down into the chair nearest hers.

She reached her arms above her head — a long, languid stretch — until her shoulder popped. “Mary has, but Lils isn’t back yet.”

“Out with Prince, I’m guessing?”

A dreamy smile spread across Marlene’s lips. “No, Headmaster Riddle wanted to see her.”

Numbness flooded into his fingers. “What?”

“Mhm. Lucky bitch. I just wish Headmaster Riddle would look at me. I can’t believe Lils — hey! Where are you going?”

He bounded across the common room and back out the portrait hole, drawing the Elder Wand as he sprinted down the corridor. Flickering torches flashed past like orange blurs.

I’ll fucking kill him!

He skidded around a corner and bumped his shoulder against a suit of armour. A rattling clang echoed through the empty halls and a dense pain prodded his right arm, but he continued charging towards the headmaster’s office. 

If he’s touched her, he’s fucking dead!

A head of red hair bobbed around the next corner and he dug in his heels, lurching sideways to avoid collision and slamming that same shoulder hard against the wall. He grunted; the pain was now a constant throb as he staggered and just barely kept his feet.

Lily clutched a hand against her chest. “Don’t do that!”

Harry’s heart thundered against his ribs and the sharp stitch in his side stabbed each time it beat. “Sorry,” he gasped. “I was… I was…”

Saving you from the headmaster? Making sure you were okay? Riddle had everyone here charmed; she would think him mad if he tried explaining.


“I forgot my bag downstairs in the library.”

“The library’s closed, you dolt.” The tension ebbed out of her as she let out a dramatic sigh. “You shouldn’t be hiding down there after hours, let alone going back to get a bag. It will still be there in the morning.”

If only looking worried didn’t come so naturally. “I guess.”

She sighed again. “Come on, let’s see if the others are awake.”

I will be back down there in the morning, he vowed as they retraced his steps at a more sedate pace. But not just for this time bollocks. 

If Riddle was spinning some web around Lily…

No! There won’t be any murders here, and I won’t see her groomed by that bastard. It was the least he could do; researching Riddle’s wards while he studied time was feasible. If I kill the basilisk, that should distract him. Hopefully for long enough; if Lily graduated prior to being ensnared, then Riddle’s line of contact with her would be shattered. 

It’s all I can do; I don’t have much time, I still have to get back. High, cold laughter mocked him. No one can stop him if I don’t get back. 

“The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises, and is already on the road to perdition.”

— Carl Jung

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