Chapter 4 : Inferno
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Chapter Image: By Mihali1432
The damp, dark perimeter of Hogwarts welcomed Hermione as she apparated next to the gates. The shock of watching Ginny succumb so easily to the zombies had left her shaky and sick, and she doubled over and fell onto the grass as sharp whispers from a few yards away wafted toward her.
“What the hell is going on here?!” Albus demanded, his eyes glowing fire in the moonlight.
“Albus, there’s no need for language like that--”
“My father was standing in my living room with his jaw half way unhinged!” He boomed, grabbing Hermione’s attention immediately. “You tell me just how the fuck my language is an issue!”
“Stop it! Stop it!” Lily began to cry, tears glistening on her pale face.
“Enough!” Hermione found her voice as she stood to wipe the mud from her trousers.
“Aunt Hermione, what is going on?” Lily asked quietly.
“Your father has been resurrected. But he did not come back normally or even as the form of a ghost.”
“Yeah, no shit,” Albus muttered.
“Albus just...stop. You can say your piece in a second but this is what you need to know. He is not exactly a human. He is what is...colloquially known...as...a zombie. Or the undead. He does not represent your father.”
“And how exactly did a spitting image of my father who, might I add, was bleeding from every orifice, end up in our living room?”
“Albus, I’ll tell you, I promise if you’ll just let me get to it--”
“Where’s Mum?” Lily’s voice rang clearly in Hermione’s ears, breaking up Albus’ biting angst.
“I--we need to get to safety.” Hermione made eye contact with Neville, and recognition clouded his face. He dropped his gaze and respectfully took a step back from the children.
“How will she know where to find us? Why didn’t she come with you? Where is she?” The 16 year old in front of her suddenly appeared to be no more than 5, clutching the soft pale folds of her night dress.
“Honey, I think after the night we’ve just had--”
“Answer her, Aunt Hermione. Where is Mum?” The tone of Albus’s voice had changed completely. Absolute and unrestrained fear replaced the anger on his young features.
“She...I-I don’t know what happened...she was in the middle of the room and I...I called out to her and it was like...she couldn’t hear me and...they started closing in. I tried to fight them off, but she wouldn’t...she was like stone. Her arm was heavy, I...I couldn’t...she was...it was like she was cursed or under a spell and she..she couldn’t hear me and I tried everything, I tried, and they were closing in and I had to...had to go because...they...”
She couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence, but the underlying meaning was clear. Ginny Weasley Potter was dead, and James, Albus, and Lily Potter were now orphans.
“W-what?” Lily’s voice quivered.
“Neville...” Hermione trailed off, stepping away from them so that she could allow her tears to fall without being noticed.
She heard Neville whisper something to the two grieving teenagers, and knew that Albus had wrapped Lily into a tight hug as they cried. She couldn’t explain anymore to them because truth be told, she didn’t know anymore. Why had Ginny just stayed there? She was seemingly dead the minute she made eye contact with the zombie, as though there was an invisible force rooting her to the spot.
Suddenly a stray thought snapped her back to reality, away from the maelstrom of confusion.
“Oh...my...NEVILLE!” The shrill octave of her voice pulled Neville out of his grief and empathy for the remaining Potters. “Neville...if...if this...thing...can find Ginny. He can find Hogwarts. He can find...he can find our families...Rose..Hugo...James...”
“We have to stop him,” Albus asserted, clinging to Lily’s small, sweaty palm. “Before he...he hurts anyone else. We have to protect our family...”
“Albus, that’s noble--”
“NO. You do not get to tell me what to do, Aunt Hermione. Both of my parents are dead, I am 18 years old, a year older than my father was when he defeated Voldemort. Now I don’t know if this is from dark wizards, or what. I don’t really care at this point. But I’m not going to let him destroy anything else that I love. Now I’m coming with you, to save our cousins. Lily, you’re going to stay here at the castle.”
“NO!” She shrieked. “I am not leaving you! Aunt Hermione, I’m coming with you. I’m coming to help.”
Hermione’s eyes darted back and forth between the two children, who looked so like their parents it made her heart ache desperately. What would Harry and Ginny want her to do? Would she have been able to battle, and possibly destroy, gross caricatures of her own parents? She made a snap decision, praying that she would not regret it.
“Fine,” she relented.
Albus nodded gruffly and grabbed Lily’s hand. “We should hurry. If they found us that easily before, we have to go now.”
“Neville, go to your family. And warn the headmaster of the school. Get the word out as best you can,” Hermione instructed. “Contact the prophet, contact whoever you can get a hold of. We have to stop this thing before it gets worse. And make sure Davies knows. We’ll need that report ASAP.”
“I’ll go home first, get Hannah and bring her here. I still believe Hogwarts is one of the safest places we could possibly keep everyone. I’ll contact all our relatives and try to get in contact with yours. But for now, go get Rosie,” Neville replied.
Hermione turned to the Potters. “Here’s what we’re going to do. Lily, you’re going to take my hand and we’re going to apparate to my house to get Rose. Albus, meet us by the large oak tree that’s a ways away from the property, do you know which one?”
“Yes,” Albus confirmed, standing a little taller now that he had been given an official responsibility.
“Ok. So we’ll go in, get Rose, and then we’ll figure out what to do next. Neville, we’ll send a patronous when we’ve figured it out.”
“You’re sure that’s safe? These creatures have some kind of magical ability, we’ve figured that out. Do you think that they’d be attracted to a patronous?”
“Well, we’ll either be coming to Hogwarts or...possibly the cabin that we owned in the woods. The one we used to go to on holiday at all the time?”
“Ok. Either place. We’ll wait for you. Good luck,” Neville said quietly, and Hermione gave him a curt nod.
“You too, Neville.”
She turned to her niece and nephew as Neville disapparated home.
“On my count, Al. Lily, take my hand.” A small, sweaty hand intertwined itself with her own. Hermione felt cold shivers run down her back as she sucked in a deep breath.
The familiar pull of apparition was brief as Hermione and Lily were transported to the oak tree outside the Weasley residence.
“Albus?” Hermione called out, panic flooding her thoughts. All traces of the placid calm she had felt before arriving home were destroyed. She could hear the familiar scraping sound accentuated by the drone of mindless humming. Before her lay a black ocean ebbing and flowing upon her front garden. There must have been 400 of them. Hermione watched incredulously as their broken, uncoordinated bodies fought for precious traction on the trampled grass.
“AL!” Lily screamed. Hermione’s heart fluttered quickly, pumping adrenaline throughout her body. “Where is he? Where is he?!”
“Lily, stay close to me and don’t move.” Hermione brandished her wand and pointed it at the gaggle of zombies before her. Spells sprinted through her mind, and she fleetingly wondered if a patronous would be an effective defensive measure. The light would most likely attract their attention but she had to do something quickly--Rose was in the house, alone.
Where in the hell was Albus? Scanning her surroundings quickly, she saw no trace of the raven-haired boy who looked so like his father. An idea sprang quickly to her mind, and she peered sideways at Lily before determining that it was the only course of action.
Hermione raised her shoulder toward the crowd and muttered the spell “Incendio.”
Flame burst from the tip of her wand, igniting the perimeter of the mob. Strangled growls erupted immediately, and the wave of awkward bodies briefly stopped their dance. For a moment, Hermione thought she had contained the threat, but the center began to move as a unit toward the forest.
“Albus!” Lily shrieked again. “Please!”
“Come here,” Hermione commanded. The large pack of undead humans inched toward them and she realised there was no hope for finding her nephew in the mess. He was lost to her.
“We can’t leave him!”
“Come Here!” Hermione repeated. She grabbed Lily’s hand and disapparated immediately.
Within seconds they stood in Hermione’s bedroom. It was dark but she could make out the shadow of her bed and the dresser in the corner.
“How could you do that?!” Lily sobbed, dropping to the bed. “He could be dead!”
Hermione surveyed the situation quickly. No zombies had yet crossed the threshold of her personal quarters.
“Lily, stay here.”
“Fine!” She seethed.
Grasping her wand, Hermione swallowed her fear and used the light of the nearly full moon pouring through her window to find the door. The hall was dark but she could hear Rose screaming from the front room, along with the resounding crash of breaking glass.
Her daughter was still alive! Hermione took off down the hall and toward the living room. The scene that met at the end of the hall would be nearly laughable if it wasn’t so terrifying.
“Mum!” Rose cried. She was backed up against the fireplace, flanked on either side by two tall, dark haired men.
“Aunt Hermione, watch out!” James called, shooting a spell toward a zombie approaching her on the right. Bits and pieces of poisoned flesh dotted the plush, light gray Italian carpeting. A stray head lolled aimlessly at her feet, and without thought she kicked it straight into the abdomen of another approaching creature.
James sliced his wand quickly through the air, violently severing arms off two zombies. Rose followed suit, decapitating a fair headed monster.
“Rose...the hallway is clear. Go into your room, grab whatever is most important to you that you can carry. Lily is in my room. Get her and wait there. Go.” Rose nodded, her eyes wide. She sprinted from the room.
“Albus, James, stand back.” With a soft sigh and a heavy heart, she raised her wand.
“Aunt Hermione, what--”
She whispered the spell first, knowing that the words could never be taken back. It was the only way.
Flames ripped around the room, torching all her beloved memories.
“Mum, no!” Rose reappeared suddenly, distraught at the development.
“Go, James! Back of the house!” The zombies hissed as the flesh melted from them. Even the all consuming fire could not stop their charring bones from rattling on the floor, still impregnated with magic.
“Incendio,” she repeated more forcefully, ensuring the entirety of the room was aflame.
She disappeared into the hallway and heard a scream from the back. James frantically emerged from Rose’s room and ran toward the screaming.
“Are you kidding me?” James yelled. The zombies had violated the window and were clambering through as broken glass sliced their emaciated, sagging skin. Lily, wand in hand, was fighting them off alone, holding her ground as she did so.
“James!” Lily said loudly, cutting her wand violently through the air.
Tall and muscular, James ran into the room and picked up his younger sister, slinging over her shoulder like a rag doll.
“Put me down!” she yelped, still using all of her force to attack the window.
“Disapparate to the cabin we used to use on holiday. Do you know where it is?” Hermione called. “James first, then Albus, then Rose. James, take Lily with you.”
“Got it. Know where it is,” James responded. She watched as they disappeared one by one. The zombies that had come in through the window were closing in on her, and she turned and saw several escapees limping down the hallway. Without time to even consider any alternatives, she set fire to her room.
Despair inched its way into her darkening heart as she watched the flames lash around her wedding picture, slowly destroying the frame and memories into oblivion.
Ron’s face smiled out at her, waving happily as fire consumed the few remnants of his existence. Unable to take anymore, with zombies dying around her feet, she disapparated to the only thing left worth living for.
At the cabin, the remaining members of their respective families, minus Hugo, gathered around the large table that previously had served as the spot for lively games and hearty meals. Now it was a place to catch their collective breath, to rest if only for a second, and figure out what to do next.
“So what about Neville?” James was asking, after being filled in to the situation.
“He’s getting his own family, and warning people. We’ll probably eventually end back up at Hogwarts but I just wanted to clear our heads first,” Hermione said quietly. “We’ll make sure all your cousins are safe, and Hugo is at Hogwarts so he’s most likely safe.”
“Are we safe here?” Lily asked.
“I don’t know. We’re relatively secluded here, there’s a lot of forest. It seems as though the threat has quadrupled. They are multiplying so fast, I’ve never seen anything like it. And most interestingly is that Harry wasn’t there. Which means he must be somewhere else...just mass producing zombies.”
“James, how is it you knew to find me?” Rose asked.
“I...” His eyes clouded as he dropped his gaze to the floor. “I went home. I saw the mess left there. No sign of Mum. I thought she’d be with you but...she’s not, so I can only assume...”
“Mum’s dead,” Albus said simply.
“What?” Rose interrupted, startled. Lily nodded, her eyes dry as though she had no tears left to cry.
“I knew something was wrong, immediately,” James admitted. It was then that Hermione realised James’ words were slurring. He had been drinking prior to arriving home.
“James, go shower. Sober up. I’m going to make some food. We’ll need to keep our strength up. We’ll stay here the rest of the night, it must be 4 or 5 AM.”
James nodded, shame invading his dark features. The group broke apart then, leaving Hermione to her thoughts. She checked the pantries and was happy to learn that they still had some non-perishable food stocked from their last holiday. As she pulled something from the tallest cabinet, a flash outside the kitchen window made her freeze.
Reaching into her pockets, she pulled out her wand and tiptoed to the front door. Opening it a crack, she could not see anyone, or hear the familiar scraping noise the zombies tended to make.
“Hello?” She called. “Neville?” She stepped further out into the front garden. Much further, and she’d be in the trees, surrounded by the budding spring vegetation and whatever forest creatures that lurked in the night.
She heard a snap and turned around quickly, expecting Harry’s malevolent red eyes to meet her. The sallow, yellow gaze that pierced her made her gasp. As the figure stepped out of the shadows, Hermione felt her stomach lurch painfully. Her luck continued to spiral further downward as she dared to speak words she never thought she would ever utter again.
A/N: Updated 4/21/2012- Thanks to my beta AccioHPFF for cleaning this up for me and making it look better! I apparently still hate questions marks, lol!
Mihali1432 made the lovely chapter image you see above and also took the time to read it before it was posted, so yay! Also, I should point out that he is a graphic artist at TDA. And paint is not normally what he creates in :p
I did some research to see if Greyback was killed during the war, and according to canon, he actually is still alive. And thank God too, because y’all know what a canon writer I am! Definitely old old old...but alive. So! You can only imagine the type of hooligans that are about to go down!
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I’ll be getting started on another straight away! :)
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