Chapter 72 : Hogsmeade Burning
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Severus’ first and only thought was to get to Lily. He could not bear it if his wife and unborn child were caught in this attack and burned to death. He did not know if the Dark Lord had ordered the attack, or one of the upper echelon, like Lucius, Bella, or even Mulciber, had decided to teach those in the village a lesson, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding Lily and getting her to safety.
He dashed out of the castle and ran like hell down the path to the village. Smoke was already rising into the air, and not wisps from keeping the home fires burning. Well, home fires were certainly burning, he amended, but not friendly ones. He knew better than to try and Apparate into Hogsmeade, it wasn’t safe, he could be Apparating into a fire.
Smoke was mushrooming in a thick cloud overhead, stinging his eyes as he got closer and he cast a Fresh Air Charm over himself so he could breathe. He could see the flames leaping over on the eastern end of the village. Several of the shops were burning, and people were rushing to and fro, some trying to escape the village and others trying to battle the blaze. Severus saw a large signpost in the middle of the square, near Honeydukes, which was partially alight. The signpost was new and it bore the following inscription in black and red paint:
Let This Be a Warning
To All Who Defy
Will Not Be
Severus saw flashes of light streaking down and striking more buildings on the western side, near the Hogs Head. Those poor bastards, he thought sadly, he wanted to help them, but he had to make sure Lily was safe first. As he looked up, he saw masked gray robed Death Eaters on brooms flying away. Clearly this had been an object lesson. Severus wondered who among their number had carried it out. Then he supposed it didn’t matter. He knew he was lucky that Rhys’ vision had come in time for him to save Lily. He quickly made his way to the right of the Hogs Head, and down a side street. This was where his cottage was.
He burst through the door, calling Lily’s name. Too late he remembered he should be using her alias, but he was so agitated it had slipped his mind. Besides which, over the roar of the flames and the cries of the villagers, no one could have possibly heard him. His cottage and one other, which was rented to no one, were the only ones on this street. It was why they had picked it.
“Lily! Lily! Where are you?” he shouted frantically. “Hogsmeade’s on fire, you have to get out of here!”
He raced upstairs. But Lily was not asleep, as he had expected. She wasn’t in the bathroom either. He was horrified, wondering if perhaps she had been made to participate in the night’s vigilantism. Or perhaps she had gone out and was helping to fight the fire? He dashed downstairs and looked about. He could smell the smoke from outside, it was slowly permeating the house.
It was then he noticed the note next to the salt shaker on the table. It had his name written on the outside. He snatched it up and unfolded it.
Don’t worry, I went with Reg to find that which I saw in my dreams. I should be back soon. I love you, be safe.
Severus sagged against the table. She had not been here when the fire had started. But then he recalled what her last vision had been about and his heart went cold within him. The lake of fire and an army of burning corpses. That was worse than Hogsmeade burning. He knew that she had had no choice but to fulfill the vision, but he was still vastly annoyed that she hadn’t bothered to contact him in person to tell him where she would be going. He would have liked to hug and kiss her goodbye, at least!
He muttered a soft prayer that Lily and Regulus would come home again. Then he cast a Fire Protection Charm over himself and went out to help extinguish the fires in the village.
By then the Death Eaters who had started the fire were gone, and Severus could lend his magic as needed. Many houses and a few businesses had been hit hard and took many conjured water spells and Smothering Charms to put out the fires. Dumbledore and some of the wizards from the Ministry that worked for the Emergency Fire and Disaster Brigade came and helped put out the fires and take any injured people, of which there were about a dozen, to St. Mungos for smoke inhalation and burns. There were two fatalities, an elderly couple who had their home set on fire during the first wave of the attack—they had died in their sleep from the smoke and had been found after the fire was put out.
Severus saw Dumbledore studying the sign and shaking his head. “What a terrible tragedy! How did you find out, Severus? Did someone contact you?”
Severus shook his head. “No. But one of my Slytherins, Rhys Morgan, is a Seer and he predicted that Hogsmeade would burn tonight.”
“Ah, yes, Sybill’s nephew,” Dumbledore recalled. “It runs in the family.”
Severus snorted. “I believe he has more of the gift than she does. But it’s something to be grateful for. I’m going to pay close attention to him from now on, and if he has anymore visions, I shall inform you.”
“Is Zoey all right?”
“Yes. She is staying over Regulus and Cindy’s,” Severus lied glibly. He knew that Lily would not want to tell Dumbledore about her vision. There were some things the Headmaster need not know and that was one of them. “She wasn’t here when the fires were set. Our cottage was unharmed.”
“That’s good. Well, I may as well help finish cleaning up. My brother’s tavern was spared, at least. He’ll probably have a full house tonight, as people come to drink away their losses.”
Severus nodded wearily. He turned and made his way back to his cottage. All he wanted right now was a shower to wash away the stench of smoke and burnt cloth and wood, a cup of tea, and his wife to come home safely. He decided to wait for her, as he had a few things to say to her when she came back.
The lake of fire:
The Inferi exploded from the depths of the lake, their corpse-like bodies shedding gobbets of putrid flaming flesh that fell like rain onto the surface of the water. Desiccated hands with long glistening fingernails reached for them, and Lily called upon her wellspring of triplefold magic to send them head over heels across the lake to the island with one well-placed Extinguishing Charm. Twenty of the burning corpses were smashed against the rocks and sank out of sight.
Regulus drove another six away from his side of the boat with a strong Repelling Charm. He brushed drops of sweat from his brow, as the temperature was scorching in the cave. He wished he knew how to make the boat go faster, as the Inferi surrounded them. “Nice hit, Lil!” he called to his partner. Wow, but she’s like her own army. Note to self: never get a pregnant witch angry with you.
He raised his wand and cast a funnel shaped Cone of Wind, which lifted the Inferi in front of the boat out of the water and threw them through the air. Now the boat had a clear path to the shore.
Unbidden, it picked up speed, the water lapping at the bow. The remaining Inferi groaned and grappled at the sides of the boat, trying to overturn it. Regulus yelled at Lily to watch her footing and he took a pole with a hook on the end that he found in the bottom of the boat and tried to scrape the Inferi off the sides before they either tipped over or one of the Inferi set the boat on fire. He knocked off several clinging Inferi before one seized the hook and nearly caused him to topple from the boat!
“Fuck!” he cried, struggling to keep from being dragged overboard.
“Reg!” Lily screamed, and she grabbed the waistband of his pants. Then she aimed a precise bolt of ice at the Inferi holding the boathook.
It hit the monster right in the face, and the Inferi screamed and fell backwards, releasing the boathook to sink into the depths.
Regulus straightened. “Thanks, Lily. I apologize for my mouth.”
Lily smirked at him. “Regulus Black, if I were almost pulled overboard like that, I’d be saying a whole lot more words than just fuck.” She released him.
Regulus chuckled. “Uh . . . well . . . I couldn’t get the rest of what I wanted to say out in time. I’m glad you’re on my side, Lily.”
“Me too!” she said, then she trained her wand on some more walking dead. “And it’s a good thing Cindy’s not here. She might think I was trying to get in your pants.”
“Oh? Is Sev not enough for you?” asked Reg, with a sly smirk, wriggling his hips suggestively.
“He’s more than enough, star boy!” Lily told him, laughing. “Now behave!” She gave him a firm pat on the backside.
“Yes, Mother,” Regulus laughed. Then his expression went grim as he saw several more Inferi, probably over fifty, approaching. “Dammit! They’re coming out of the bloody woodwork.”
“I know. He must have conjured an incredible amount of bodies and animated them. Is there a graveyard around here?”
“No idea. All I know is how to get here.” Regulus said. “You think we can take them? We’re only about two kilometers from the shore.”
“Yes. We’ll both cast an Extinguishing and Gust of Wind charm at the same time. You cast the Extinguishing Charm and I’ll do the wind.”
Regulus nodded. “I love it when a plan comes together. Ready?”
Witch and wizard gathered up all the magic they had left and in almost the same breath chanted their respective spells and unleashed their might upon the shambling Inferi.
Power blasted from their wands in a concentrated ripple and smashed into the Inferi to either side of the boat. They began to fall down like ninepins, and the magical blast was such that it radiated outward like a bomb exploding until all the Inferi that had barred their way were gone. The screams of the Inferi followed them as they sprang from the boat and onto dry land.
Then they ran from the cave, emerging on the rocky sea swept coast in a minute.
“We did it!” Lily cheered, moving forward to hug Reg.
“We make the best team, Lily!” Reg agreed and hugged her back, spinning her around. “Now all we have to do is figure out how to destroy them.”
“Yes.” Lily laughed. “But we can think about that later. Right now I just want to get home. I hope Sev found my note.”
They Apparated away, each heading back to their own residences and spouse.
As soon as she entered her home, Lily felt the strain of casting all of that magic at once. The air smelled oddly of smoke, but then she put it down to being in the fiery cave for so long, her clothes reeked of fire, smoke, and dead Inferi. She was just about to go upstairs to run a shower when she caught sight of her husband asleep on the couch.
“Sev,” she went over to him and shook his shoulder. “I’m back.”
Severus opened his eyes and stared into his wife’s green ones. “Lily, thank God!” He took her in his arms and hugged her tight. “You damn near gave me a bloody heart attack!” His eyes flashed.
“Sev, didn’t you get the note?”
“Yes. But you should have come to me in person,” he said sharply. “Hogsmeade was attacked by Death Eaters . . .We can discuss this later, after you take a shower.”
Lily arched an eyebrow. “Severus Snape, are you telling me that I smell?”
“No, Lily. You reek,” he replied, releasing her.
She glared at him for a moment, then shook her head and walked upstairs. Men! They had some nerve! Then again, it was true, she couldn’t deny it. She only hoped that her husband was not truly angry with her, for the last thing she wanted was a quarrel with him.
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