Chapter 12 : Suit Up
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“What does this mean? I mean, they’ve been dead for thirty years or something. Does this mean that there are skeleton zombies up and walking around? Can we even kill skeletons? Maybe we can just reach over grab their femur, and then they’d just fall over and then basically we could declare ‘problem solved!’” Lorcan’s excitement at the grisly find made Hermione’s stomach turn, and she quickly looked away from the gaping, vacant holes in the ground.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, casting her eyes toward a group of imposing grey stratus clouds forming overhead. The frenzied murmurs of her group steadily grew louder as their ideas became even more outrageous.
A chilly wind rustled her hair as she tried to collect her thoughts, very acutely aware that the zombie Harry had some sort of awareness of those he knew in life. That explained how she seemed to attract zombies wherever she went; more alarmingly, it meant that somewhere Ron was most likely scraping the earth among the undead.
“Hermione? Are you alright?” Callum asked softly as the other two boys continued to brainstorm.
“I’m fine. Clearly this is going to be more difficult than originally thought.” She paused and performed a quick survey of her surroundings. “At least the rest of the cemetery is still intact. Quite possibly it means that the only one who can raise the dead is Harry.” Despite the mild nausea still gripping her stomach, Hermione took a deep, calming breath to regain focus. The object of this mission was to help refugees, not hypothesise the unfathomable.
“We need to regroup here. The best plan of action is to search the nearby buildings and houses.” She had finally gained their full attention. “We’re going to start with the buildings on this street and then work our way back through the south end. If for any reason a house looks unsafe, we won’t venture in that direction, does that sound fair?” Three heads bobbed up and down in unison. Pleased, she began to navigate away from their unsettling find, towards the empty cobbled street. The boys followed her like ducklings, their faces full of the excitement and anticipation that comes from being important.
“Always keep your wand at the ready. If you should happen across any zombies, the quickest thing you can do is cast a quick “incendio” spell towards them. You can also use a slicing spell to remove limbs. Dismembering will not kill them completely, you must set them on fire.” Her voice was firm and confident.
“We know, we heard all of this in the briefing,” Lorcan said impatiently as they came to a halt in front of an abandoned two storey brick building that had once been a grand wizarding apparel shop. Behind the dusty, cracked window panes, a mannequin posed wearing sensible green robes. Hermione had once owned a set just like them, before she had made the split second decision to char everything she had ever owned.
The awning jutted awkwardly from the building, pregnant with the weight of water and debris from the obvious struggle that had occurred. It had only been a few days since the zombies had begun their domination, but it felt like an entire lifetime.
“The door is boarded up, looks like a bit of a shoddy job,” Lysander observed, approaching the entrance with caution.
Dropping his bundle of brooms in front of the shop, Callum joined Lorcan for a quick survey of the perimeter. As they left, Hermione took the opportunity to survey the interior of the shop one last time. Past the mannequin, it appeared that the rows of robes hung untouched, as though the owner of the shop had simply stepped away quickly for lunch and would be back any moment.
“Should we knock?”
“I don’t see why not, I can’t imagine that there are zombies inside given the order of the merchandise.” She peered around the corner and noted the general disarray of the landscaping. “But they certainly have been outside this building, and by the look of it, have tried to get inside.”
Lysander delivered four sharp knocks to the wooden plank protecting any tenants from intruders.
“Ministry of magic rescue squad! We’re here to help you escape, please open your door!” he yelled, his deep voice rebounding in a thin echo. They waited a few minutes, but the effort yielded no response. Further attempts to summon anyone were unsuccessful. Lysander sighed in frustration as the other two rejoined them at the front.
“It’s a relatively small building. Scratch marks visible on the back door, but all the windows are intact. Do you think that we should go inside? Break down the door?” Lorcan asked, running a hand through his wavy blonde hair.
Shaking her head, Hermione was silent for a second before an idea sprang to her mind.
“Instead of breaking our way inside, I’ll try to send a message using a patronus charm.” They had discussed sending patronuses out to all the survivors before they had come on the rescue mission, but she had no idea if the plan had been successful. It was worth a try; anything was worth a try at this point.
Stepping forward, Hermione tried to clear her mind and focus on pleasant memories. A time when she was at peace, before the entire world had upended into hellish chaos. When had she last been happy?
Ron in the morning, his reading glasses slipping slightly down his nose as he reads the morning paper. Hermione sitting across the table, trying to scan the news upside down. His fiery red hair, peppered with grey, mussed from sleep as he makes some mild comment about the state of affairs at the ministry. Sipping tea from his favorite mug, a beat up, porcelain ode to the Chudley Canons in a horrifically tacky orange hue, steam from the boiling liquid fogging up the glasses. Her husband, smiling at her, patting her hand and asking what she has planned for her day at work. Her Ron, her rock.
A silvery whisp emanated from the end of her wand, and within seconds a fully formed otter bounded through the barricaded door, off to offer asylum to any refugees locked inside.
“We’ll check the next building. Looks like it was a bakery of some sort,” Lysander said authoritatively, leading his brother on toward the abandoned business.
“Be careful,” she cautioned whilst staring vacantly at the façade of the building in front of her.
“What if there are no survivors?”
Callum’s voice was small as he spoke, most likely because he understood the weight of his words. Shaking herself from the trance of erstwhile happiness, she turned to regard him. He was a tall boy - no, man - with coal black hair and wide, slate grey eyes. A very handsome lad, to be sure, and smart as well. The true meaning of his query had crossed her own mind more than once.
What if we’re the only ones left.
No, that was impossible. She pushed the thought from her mind as soon as it had entered. It was statistically impossible for the zombies to have completely devoured the entire population of Britain. Sure, they had invaded the reaches of Scotland all the way from London, but Hermione suspected there was some kind of magic that had occurred there —though she wasn’t entirely sure of how it had happened.
“I wouldn’t worry about that right now. We need to focus on finding as many people as we can, and thinking negatively won’t help us with—“
A loud smacking noise. A hoarse scream. The sound of a body falling with a thump. Hermione’s heart jumped up into her throat.
“Someone’s inside!” Callum exclaimed in a tone tantamount to absolute glee.
“No…” Hermione trailed off. “That wasn’t from inside the building.”
“Help!” A desperate wail from behind the building next door. The Bakery.
“Callum, stay here, do you understand me? Wait to see if anyone comes out. Don’t let go of your wand!”
She took off, sprinting as quickly as possible toward the voice that could only have belonged to Lorcan. Her legs pumped as furiously as her mind raced, attempting to calculate every possible outcome she was about to face. She figured it couldn’t have been zombies — she would have heard them. Turning the corner, she was greeted by absolute confusion and panic.
“What the hell happened!” she asked more harshly than she intended. Lysander was on his knees, his platinum blonde hair stained with viscous, red blood. Holding his head in his hands, he rocked slightly from side to side as his brother stood by, helping to apply pressure with a section of his robes.
“We were poking around back here, to see if there was any sort of entrance or sign of zombies and Lysander stepped on this board,” he began, pointing to a long plank of spruce wood. There was a rather sharp edge that jutted out the side, splattered with blood. “It knocked him out for a few seconds, but he seems to be ok now.”
“He seems to be ok? Lorcan, he’s on his knees! Lysander, can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he responded weakly, holding his hands against the wound. “I’m just dizzy, that’s all, if I could just have a moment.”
“No, we have to get you out of here, this wound is going to make us vulnerable.” She wasn’t exactly sure that this would be the case, but logic held that if a zombie was attracted to the very scent of a human, it was likely that the scent of blood would drive them absolutely mad.
“I’m fine. just give me a second.” He lifted his head, attempting to focus his clear blue eyes on Hermione. Blood dripped down his neck in fine rivulets, staining the collar of his shirt. His wavy hair was so long it brushed the tops of his narrow shoulders. With wide, inquisitive eyes and a generally easy smile, he looked so like his mother. But now his skin was ashen and slick with sweat, and she could see that any attempt to regain an upright position would be a struggle.
“You’re not fine. I’m going to summon James, we’re going to get you out of here now.”
“Christ, just hold on—“ he leaned to his side and vomited.
“You have a concussion Lysander, come on.” Her voice was more gentle this time, a plea for him to just listen to her for a second. “We’ll try this mission again some other time.”
As she began to move toward him in order to examine his wound, she heard it.
“No,” she whispered. “Lysander, come on, we have to move you. Now. Lorcan, send sparks up with your wand.” Lorcan looked bewildered, his eyes darting back and forth between his brother and her.
“ Do it, Lorcan!” she hissed, “they are coming.” She couldn’t believe the calm in her voice despite the very real threat that was about to descend upon them. The droning of the zombies. They were here.
Somewhere far away on the other side of the small wizarding community, there was some sort of explosion. A dense cloud of smoke spewed up from the earth, spitting debris across town.
“What the bloody hell was that,” Lorcan cursed, his head whipping to the side quickly. The air filled with the smell of rot and burning flesh. She did not know if it belonged to zombies or her own team. Her heart sank. There was no way that there would be enough air support to help both of them. This entire operation had been folly.
She did not have a visual on the zombies yet, but she knew they were close. The area behind the bakery was not adequately closed off; it faced the back of what looked to be a personal residence. The only thing separating them was a poorly constructed fence with multiple holes, and there was a low stone wall dividing the back part of each of the neighbouring businesses.
There was nothing in the way of cover from attack. The entirety of the property was covered with concrete rather than grass. Near the fence there were bins overflowing with rubbish, and there appeared to be old pieces of equipment scattered on the ground, apparently picked through and discarded by in great haste. She could hear the screams of the other half of the rescue team, but could not see any of them because the sky was obscured by the acrid smoke. She prayed that Hugo was still safe in the air, his legs anchored around his flimsy broomstick.
Lorcan finally sprung into action, releasing his brother only for a moment in order to raise his wand and send a series of multicoloured sparks into the air.
“We have to move him. We have our apparition licenses now, we could try to disapparate from here,” he said once he was finished.
“No, it’s too risky, he’s not in good stable condition, and the chance of splinching is too great. Come on, we can pick him up.”
“I’m fine,” Lysander complained.
“Shut up, Lysander, you’re not ok for fuck’s sake, you’re bleeding out the side of your head! Be quiet and just let us help you! Can you hear them?” Gone was the smiling and the joking, as Lorcan finally realised the imminent threat before them. “Wingardium Leviosa!”
As Lysander Scamander was slowly lifted into the air, the zombies finally appeared, stumbling through the flimsy, worthless fence. It was as though they had come from nowhere, even though the sound of them had signaled plenty of warning. They were moving more quickly than she remembered.
With great relish, she aimed her wand at the growing hoard. “Get him out of here. Go. Find Callum, get the air team, send more sparks. Do what you have to do.” Her words were slow, even, and calculated. All the anxiety that had nearly crippled her during her last rendez-vous with the walking dead were gone. Instead, she felt nothing but serenity, and reckless abandon.
“Hermione you can’t face them all on your own.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said gently with a reassuring smile. “Get your brother out of here. Find Callum.”
They were coming at her now, their droning as loud as bees near a hive. An undulating ribbon, headed straight for her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she raised her wand, listening as they trampled the grass, inching ever closer.
“Incendio” she whispered half heartedly, feeling the slight quiver of her wand as fire spewed from its tip. She didn’t look as the zombies in front of her began to hiss. The black solitude behind her eyelids was welcoming, and she did not feel any fear. Waving the wand around, the fire continued to spill out, but it would not be enough to keep the entire pack at bay. Wondering whether or not back up would come, she still refused to open her eyes. She was finished with panic, finished with dread.
Swoosh. Her hair blew into a frenzy as a something flew quickly over her head. “Mum what are you doing?” Hugo screamed, and that made her eyes fly open, bringing everything back into focus. The zombies surrounded her on every side, the front line a mess of charred limbs as the rest tripped over the barricades. Hugo flew low on his broom, attempting to distract them, but not really managing to do so. His hair whipped around as he clumsily attempted to change directions, showing just what a novice he really was on a broom. No, no, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, he was supposed to be safe. She was supposed to be saving him, not the other way around.
“Hugo! Move! Get out of here!” She roared, her wand bursting to life as she began to hack away at the hoards, agile and swift, alternating between slices and spells of fire. But it was not enough; the incendio spell would only go so far, and it would do little to swallow the great mass that was moving ever closer. They were closing in, and she knew she didn’t have a chance, that the end was nigh. Her right arm throbbed as she thrust it again and again into the air, fighting for her life. What had she been thinking? Why had she waited so long to attack?
She knew why they were so horrifically aggressive - it was the smell of the blood, the sweet human flesh that had brought them from their dormancy. But Lysander was out of this area and hopefully far enough away that they would be able to escape unharmed.
Why hadn’t it occurred to her to turn and run? That would have been the smart thing to do, and no one would have blamed her or called her a coward. It wasn’t in her though; she had to protect the rest of them, protect her son, and she would die in the process if she had to. Running was never an option. Careless, reckless even, but no one would ever dare say she was anything but an Gryffindor.
Again and again she struck, postponing the inevitable, but doing so in an admirable and honourable fashion. More of them continued to drop before her as Hugo flew zigzags over their heads, picking off a few of them as they pushed toward the bakery. It would never be enough.
And then, an inferno. Out of nowhere, a fire so fierce and hot it singed her eyebrows, seemingly galloping across the decomposing masses, taking out everything in its path. Stunned from the sudden presence of what appeared to be something akin to fiendfyre, she finally found her feet and turned to run out of the path, but the blaze had risen all around her, creating a deadly cage, trapping her in with the zombies. Hugo was still there too, swooping in and out above the flames, whooping as though he had summoned the great flood of fire himself.
Where, where was the source? She pinned herself against the building as far from the death and the heat as possible, crouching down to shield her face with her arms. In her haste to escape the fire, she hadn’t even been aware that she’d dropped her wand until now. The emptiness in her hand shattered her heart - it had been years since she had been separated from the thin piece of wood that had forever changed her life as an eleven year old. If Hermione had not been in mortal peril before, she certainly was now.
Within seconds, her short reprieve was cruelly stolen as the building itself caught fire. She noted that the invaders had turned, retracing their steps as they tried to avoid the fire, and it was not lost on Hermione the absolute irony of the undead trying to escape death once more.
The crackling and hissing of the fire overtook the sound of the zombies as she remained plastered against the wall.
“Mum! Mum, grab my hand!” Looking up she saw Hugo hovering above her, the tail of his broom dangerously close the the flames that were inching ever closer to them.
“Hugo, no, it’s too dangerous! You have to get to safety!” She screamed back, quickly covering her head as one of the eaves fell from the top of the bakery. It smashed into the ground, spewing shards of fiery wood toward Hermione’s face. Oh, it was so hot. Tears leaked from her eyes as the sweltering heat and thick smoke began to take their toll on her body.
“Mum, it’s ok!” His voice was so strong, so confident. Always optimistic and full of hope, her Hugo. “It’s ok! Grab my hand! It’s going to be alright! You have to come now!”
“I’ll-I’m too heavy. I lost my wand-“
“-I have it!” She watched in disbelief as he reached within his robes and threw the missing object down to her, almost as an after thought. She had a million questions but didn’t bother to ask them. Instead, she caught the wand, noting that it was unharmed, and stood up immediately, her face still wet with tears. She coughed and spluttered through the unyielding smoke, and lifted her hands. After a quick nonverbal spell, a small passageway opened up to allow them to safely pass through the inferno. The alleyway between the buildings came into view, and Hermione took off into a sprint, Hugo following a safe distance overhead. Upon seeing the familiar cobblestoned street, Hermione collapsed onto her hands and knees, her body wracked with a harrowing mixture of sobs and dry coughing.
Hugo landed in front of her, running to her side as she tried to catch her breath and calm herself. Her vision was slightly blurred; it was like she was peering through a long tunnel, and her eyes were dry and irritated. It appeared that Callum was standing to her right, his back turned. Lorcan was kneeling on the ground next to his brother.
“What—“ she tried to speak, but was interrupted by more coughing.
“Mum, I have to go, they need me over there. The other team ran into some trouble, I’ll tell you more about it when we get back!” Without another word he was off again, taking to the skies as though he were born to play this role. Wearily, she turned to face the direction she’d just come, and saw that the flames were still rippling toward the sky in a golden maelstrom.
Then she noticed something she hadn’t seen before. A figure, clothed in a yellow protective suit from head to toe, a mask of some sort obscuring his face, began to move toward her. He had a contraption strapped to his chest, and Hermione’s eyes widened when she realised what it was, what he was.
He moved toward her slowly, deliberately, as though he was savoring the moment, and it made her skin crawl. Unable to do anything due to her inability to gain an adequate breath, she collapsed onto the pavement, dizzy with the effort. She was just so tired, so weak, so finished. His footfalls were heavy, easily signaling how close he was to her.
“You okay?” The voice was a deep, scratchy tenor. Hermione looked up, dazed, and saw two large hazel eyes peering at her from behind protective plastic.
“Don’t speak, you’ll hurt yourself. I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were back there. I’ve been waiting to use this baby for a long time, didn’t mean for you to get caught in the crossfire, as it were.” He chucked softly to himself, as though he had just made the most hilarious pun on earth.
“Flame…thrower…” she choked out, pointing to the device. He smiled in return, nodding his head before turning to the others in her group.
“You’re going to want to get him back to safety if he’s gonna live. The rest of your team is in danger over there, I’d wager there’s about 300 of those bastards that’ve been unleashed. Don’t know why you came poking around these parts, but I can tell you there isn’t much to find. Godric’s Hollow is relatively abandoned, save for me and a few others.”
It was so hard to breathe. She tried, but it came out as a brittle wheeze. Closing her eyes she found the darkness to be welcoming once more. If she could just…catch her breath.
“Oh no now, don’t go closin’ your eyes on me, you have to stay awake, do you understand?”
His voice sounded so funny, sort of robotic, but in a tunnel. She wondered what Ron would have said about that. He would have laughed probably, because he thought robots were ridiculous. They’d had a discussion about robots once, to the great delight of Arthur Weasley.
“Come on girl, open your eyes!”
Rose was her girl. Where was Rose? She had blue eyes like her father. Ron, Rose, Hugo and Hermione. Her family, the most important thing to her in the world. She wanted to be with them right now, would give anything to be with them. They were her answer to everything, her reason for existing. And she let herself fall, if only so she could be with them once more.
A/N: Hello everyone! I know it's been quite a while but you should know that I have had the worst writer's block I've ever had, and it took me forever to get this chapter out, but I am so pleased to finally have it here for you! I am hoping to get updates out a little sooner now :)
I must thank tell_me_what_the_truth_is who goes by marinahill over here on the archive. Not only did she make that gorgeous CI up there, but she also beta'd this chapter and brit picked it for me, because as most of you know I'm pretty damn American :P I also want to thank the beta of my first 11 chapters, acciohpff because he was always really supportive of me from the beginning with this story, and even though he isn't betaing for me anymore, I'm still really grateful of all he's done for me.
So, what did you think? Thoughts on the mysterious man in the yellow suit?? How on earth did he get a flame thrower? Don't worry, I've got it all figured out and I can't wait to share with you. And how about those Lysander boys? Things are really heating up (hahahaha I'm hilarious) and I can't wait to get this story all out there for you! Thanks for reading, and please drop me a review if you have the time!
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