They crept carefully through the Atrium of the Ministry. Getting in hadn’t been hard at all, just a matter of remembering the number to dial at the guest entrance and giving their names and telling the voice they were having a look around. It had never really been the getting in that had worried them, it was Ron and Hermione was getting back out again while the others were negotiating Sirius’ return that had them glancing around nervously. They were wearing glamours to keep anyone from recognizing them by either their true looks or their new identities, and had decided that tonight was the last time they would ever use their old wands. First thing in the morning, James, Stephan and Julia would be making a trip to Olivander’s.
Harry led the way to the Department of Mysteries without mishap, but luck had not blessed them tonight for an Unspeakable had left his sister’s anniversary gift on his desk and went back to retrieve it.
“Halt!” The man shouted.
“Run!” Ron yelled.
Everyone bolted through the door that led to the spinning room of many doors Harry marked the exit with a line of fire before closing it, and everyone checked the other doors for what they needed.
“Over here!” yelled Hermione and they sped through the door. Harry led Stormy and Leena to the arch while Ron and Hermione stayed behind to take care of anyone who tried to stop their friends.
Fred and George had provided enough of their merchandise to act as distractions and promised to keep the lights on for them, but they didn’t have secret identities and disguises, so they were left behind.
Ron grabbed a box of darkness powder from Hermione and threw the contents at the Unspeakable charging towards them. As the darkness settled in the man lost his bearing and ran headlong into a wall, putting himself out of the fight for several minutes.
“Hurry! Get that trip wire set quickly!” Ron snapped out.
“I’m going as fast as I can,” Hermione grumbled.
Hermione squeaked when someone tripped over the wire and jerked it from her hands. As the stranger fell she dashed from the room just behind Ron.
“Well, that works too,” Ron yelled as he looked back and saw the man trying to untangle his legs from the wire. It had been charmed to be and successfully entangled the man like a deer in an acromantula’s web.
Another Unspeakable came after them as they were leaving, but Hermione threw a flash bang over her shoulder to blind him. Fortunately for him, she knocked him out with the heavy ball before it fell to the floor and detonated with a dazzling flash, his unconscious state saved him from the worst of the flare and healers were later able to save his eyesight.
They ran from the Department of Mysteries to the sound of someone tripping over the first man and went sprawling to the floor to get entangled in the wire with him. The teens didn’t slow until they were outside and down the street, and even then they didn’t stay in the open. Looking around, they ducked into a side alley and pulled out the shoe string portkey Fred had made for them to portkey back to the Joke Shop to wait for Harry, Stormy and Leena.
“Can you believe we made it out of there without anyone getting worse than a bump on the head and that one bloke’s eyes,” Ron whispered in amazement.
“Do you think they’ll be alright?” Hermione asked as they stepped towards the joke shop.
“Of course, Harry always comes out alright, and the other two look like they can handle themselves as well,” Ron smiled reassuringly as he held the door open for her.
Harry led Stormy and Leena towards the gate to the sounds of Ron and Hermione drawing the Unspeakables away from them.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Harry asked.
The door behind them burst open and an Unspeakable stepped into the room.
“Well, I guess we’ll find out,” Stormy answered grabbing his and Leena’s hands and running towards the gate.
“Are you kids suicidal? You can’t go through there! Come back!” The Unspeakable called as he ran to stop them. He skidded to a halt as they jumped through the veil and he stood looking at it in horror. He slowly turned around and trudged back to his office to begin the paperwork on the case, knowing that this would be difficult to explain to his superiors.
Harry realized a little belatedly that they had no idea how or where they would arrive when his feet left the ground and didn’t return to it for several minutes. They landed in a dim and eerily lit cavern with a small, roughly cut tunnel as the only way in or out.
“Well, I guess it’s safe to assume the gravity down here is different than up there,” Leena postulated.
“Either that or they just don’t want to kill us before they get to play with us,” Stormy muttered pessimistically.
“Well aren’t we just a bloody ray of sunshine,” Harry snapped sarcastically.
Leena cut off Stormy’s retort and led the way into the tunnel. It was rough going at first because the tunnel was more dimly lit than the cavern had been, but they moved along much easier once their eyes had adjusted to it. When they finally exited the tunnel, they found themselves in a crystal cave with a river running through it.
“Should we just wade across? It doesn’t look very deep,” Harry asked stepping to the edge of the river.
“Don’t!” Stormy yelled jerking Harry back just as a wave lapped over the bank where Harry’s feet had just been. “Look on the other side of this little river; do you see a much larger river there?” she asked him.
“Yes, why?” Harry answered with a frown. He really didn’t like the tone of her voice.
“Of course you do, because that over there is the river Styx, where the souls of the dead enter the Underworld. This stream is a branch of that river, it is called the Lethe, river of forgetfulness,” Stormy told him scathingly.
“So?” Harry asked.
Before her sister could blow up and push him into the Lethe to make her point, Leena intervened and explained things to Harry. “If you step in that water you will forget everything, including why you’re here at all. Souls were made to drink from this river to forget their past lives before they moved on to eternity.”
“Well… I can see how that would be a bad thing. Ok then, how are we going to get across without getting wet?” Harry inquired.
“Are you a wizard or aren’t you?” Stormy asked sarcastically.
“Well you see, there’s a problem there. Back in that tunnel I tried to light my wand to see where we were going better, it didn’t work. I think the magic of this place may be overriding my own.” Harry replied sheepishly.
“What?! Are you joking? So now we’re going to have to make up for your short comings and we’re not even in school yet!” Stormy exclaimed.
“Stormy, I think you should keep your voice down and begin backing towards the tunnel slowly,” Leena whispered.
“What, why?” Stormy asked.
Leena pointed towards the opposite end of the Styx where a giant three headed dog stood watching them.
“Cerberus!” Stormy whispered in awe.
“You know, he looks like Fluffy,” Harry said in amusement.
“A giant three headed dog looks like a dog named Fluffy?” Stormy asked incredulously.
“Well that’s the funny thing actually, Fluffy is a giant three headed dog. He’s one of Hagrid’s pet monsters,” Harry replied. “He was guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone in my first year at Hogwart’s. Little bit of music and he went right to sleep,”
“Well that’s great, but how are we going to get past Cerberus?” Leena asked.
“Has anyone ever tried to use Cerberus? I mean, he may have three heads but he is still just a dog. Why don’t we use him to get us in?” Harry asked as he looked at the dog baring his teeth at them.
“You know, I’ve never been afraid of dogs, but I’m still not about to let this one sniff my hand when it’s looking like that,” Stormy said practically.
“Hagrid says that monsters aren’t all that bad, you just have to know how to handle them, like Fluffy with the music. So what is Cerberus’ weakness?” Harry explained.
What makes you think he has a weakness? He is an ageless monster who has watched over the gates of the underworld for millennia, who says he has to have a weakness?” Stormy argued.
“Well, Heracles beat him without use of weapons and dragged him back to the land of the living in his final task,” Leena said.
“And Heracles was the son of Zeus, we are not demigods like him,” Stormy snapped at her sister.
“Did the myths ever say how he did it?” Harry asked. When only silence greeted him he continued, “Three headed monster or not, he is a dog, and all dogs need to be shown who is boss. If this doesn’t work how I hope it does, please don’t let me get eaten.” Harry walked towards Cerberus with a confidence he didn’t quite feel and hoped the dog didn’t realize he was just putting on a brave face. Stopping just out of the dog’s reach, Harry took a deep breath, looked the monster’s middle head in the eye and in a commanding voice said “Cerberus sit!”
Cerberus looked at him in confusion. Only his master commanded him, no other had ever dared to try. The dog whined and his rear half went down before he stood back up and looked at Harry in confusion.
“Sit!” Harry said again in his firm, commanding voice.
This time Cerberus sat and looked at him with all three heads cocked to the side.
“Good boy. Stay,” Harry whispered stepping closer to the monster. “Stay,” Harry said more firmly as the dog began to stand. Cerberus sat and stayed as instructed and Harry walked up and rubbed as high up on his foreleg as he could reach. Cerberus wagged his great tail and lay down so Harry could reach his massive head and Harry obligingly scratched his ears while motioning Stormy and Leena closer.
“Is it safe?” Leena asked stepping forward.
“I told you, appearances aside he’s just a dog. Now the real question is can he help us cross the river?” Harry said looking at Cerberus.
Stormy climbed onto his back and began scratching his neck and Leena and Harry climbed up behind her.
“Harry’s magic is muted, I wonder if ours is?” Stormy pondered as they sat astride Cerberus’ massive back.
“Only one way to find out, try whatever you have in mind,” Leena said.
Stormy closed her eyes and concentrated. An illusion of a giant tennis ball appeared in front of Cerberus and began to bounce. Cerberus jumped up as Stormy yelled “FETCH!” and mentally slung the illusion across the river. Cerberus bounded after it and they slid off his back on the far bank. “Good boy,” she said, adding “now go back”.
They walked to where a ferry was waiting to take the souls of the dead to their afterlife. Charon waiting with his pole to drive the boat.
“Quick, does anyone have some knuts to pay the ferryman?” Stormy asked as they neared the boat.
Everyone quickly searched their pockets, each pulling out a coin to bribe the man.
“Excuse me, we need passage. We are looking to meet with Hades and are quite prepared to pay for your troubles,” Leena said politely to the man. He looked at her with his rough Athenian features and nodded, extending his left hand to help them into the boat while he held his pole firmly in his right. He looked like an ancient seaman and was dressed in a reddish brown that almost seemed to be rust, or perhaps dried blood Leena thought with a shiver as she moved to make room for Stormy and Harry in the boat.
It seemed like hours that they rode on the river. The steady rhythm of the ferryman’s pole and the gentle lapping of the water against the boat lulled them into a stupor until Leena almost fell overboard while she dozed and after that they strained to keep themselves alert.
“So what exactly are we going to offer a god in exchange for Sirius? I mean, what could we possibly give him?” Harry asked suddenly.
“We hadn’t thought of that… We were kinda just planning to tell him to make an offer and then negotiate from there,” Stormy answered uncomfortably.
“Great. This has got to be the worst laid plan ever,” Harry grumbled.
“Well, think of it this way, if it fails then no one’s hopes are dashed,” Leena said brightly.
“Great,” Harry mumbled and stared into the water.
They turned a bend and suddenly they were staring at the most magnificent palace they had ever seen. It seemed to be made of black obsidian, with crystal windows that sparkled dazzlingly. There were strange rocks shaped like animals and people in artful clusters all around the pathways that reminded the girls of a fancy sculpted shrubbery garden. As they stood there the gates suddenly swung open as a man appeared to beckon them forward.
If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If you have constructive criticism to help make it better, please let me know. If you’re just going to be rude, don’t bother to review because you will be deleted.
Description of Charon taken from Wikipedia as described in attic funerary vases of the 4th century B.C.
Most accounts of the underworld associate the ferryman with the river Acheron, however I decided to use the geography of the Roman poets Ovid and Statius and place him on the river Styx