Author's Note: Thanks for your patience everyone on these chapters. EMS during COVID has been...well, the word 'interesting' comes to mind.

Blame Ruben for encouraging Dudley. Thank you Nauze for beta-reading most of this, and AsphodelRose and Charles for taking a peek at sections of it for me. I appreciate you lot!

I always loved the Dudley/Harry interaction in the books where Dudley said Harry wasn't a waste of space, so we are paying homage to that interaction here. We also have a discord where we post updates. If anyone is interested, link is in bio.


ECOTS


Chapter 81 ~ The Attack of Privet Drive: Burn Baby Burn

"A word of advice, if I may? Explosions are an excellent way to kill the undead. But you should probably take a few steps back first, kid."

~ Heather Brewer – First Kill


ECOTS


Fred Weasley winked, and then he dropped the match.

The match fell as if in slow motion, and Fred Weasley spun away in a fantastical blur of orange-red hair and freckles.

The entire road lit up like Guy-Friggin'-Fawkes.

There was a flash.

A scent of burnt oil.

A scream.

A burst of flame exploded up and out. It punched through the thick rain as if it were nothing, and the fog cloaking the street practically sizzled.

Kally didn't look away fast enough. It was bright and blinding, and the utter brilliance of it sent a flare of pain rocketing through her retinas. Her vision was blurred with blood and sweat and tears, but she saw every member of the undead – the undead that had been pounding at the barrier – as they jerked towards the light, drawn like moths to a flame.

White-hot pain erupted in Kally's eyes as it blazed brighter.

Someone was whimpering, and a distant part of her mind realized it was her.

The rain pounded down, the night dark and bright all at once.

"Wha-" Chang started, but she never finished.

As Kally lay on the tarmac, drenched in the deluge and shivering, her neck twisted back and her hair clenched in Chang's clawed hands, she watched the orange-white flames rise up from the center of Privet Drive. They rose from the flooding street and stretched towards the tops of the street lamps like a towering tsunami of pure lethal light.

For a second, just a second, within the flames she thought she saw a dragon.

Rain droplets poured down, and as each touched the fiery tidal wave they audibly crackled.

Through blurry eyes she could only watch.

It happened fast.

There was a roar of rushing flames, and like a single, all-consuming tidal wave of heat it launched itself straight towards them. At ground level Kally looked blurrily over the rippling water, watching the tidal wave hurtle forward. It followed the oily path. It was beautiful, in a way; the purples and greens and blues formed an oil slick straight down the road's center, the water rippling over the asphalt reflecting the blinding glare of death headed their way.

There was a roar.

The sound was deafening. A freight train would have been quieter.

It surged forward, and she saw the first of the undead consumed with nothing more than a whoosh. It had been a girl with peeling flesh and pigtails. Her age at death could have been no older than seven, and something cruel and terrible clenched in Kally's chest.

Those pigtails disappeared in a flickering ball of fire.

It came straight for them and all she could do was watch.

It got brighter and closer.

Overhead someone shouted.

The impossible angle of her neck screamed, pain lancing down her side as the heat built.

The thing about fire was it didn't have to touch you to burn. The radiating heat could do that all on its own.

Until that instant Kally had never thought about it.

The light flared, the fire striking the glowing orange barrier meters away from her face; the barrier that, until now, had held the hordes of the undead back, and for a second, just a second, it held the wall of fire back.

And then it exploded.

Kally's vision went white.

The Reach went blind right as the wall of heat punctured the barrier, vaporizing all in its path, the inferno striking her skin and beginning to bubble.

It lasted only a moment.

Barely a second.

She felt the heat, the incomprehensible and blazing pain, and above her Chang let loose an unearthly sound.

A burnt strand of dark black hair fluttered in the wind.

A sickly sweet stench of burning fat.

Not even a heartbeat later she felt something strike her from the side. It was cold and hard and burned in its own right.

Through white-spotted vision something blue, like finely cut glacial ice, exploded out and up, crackling as angrily as the flames, and Kally was fairly certain she screamed.

The last thing she saw was Fred Weasley's feet.


ECOTS


Dudley Dursley cast an underhanded look at the stairwell, waited a count of five to make sure no one had heard him, and then proceeded. He made sure to skip over that one floorboard that squeaked. His mum had doggish hearing, and it wouldn't do to wake them and be caught.

As he passed a window, he could hear the neighbors talking outside, which was bloody bizarre and annoying given it was midnight, but it was faint and far away enough to be ignored.

He made it to the living room, left the lights off, coiled a ham-like fist around the remote control, cast another backwards look at the stairs – best to be sure - and flopped onto the couch. Then he turned the television set on and immediately hit the mute button.

He knew from experience that you didn't need sound to enjoy this kind of thing.

Besides, the sound wasn't worth the risk. If he got caught, not only would he get strung up by the ears, but so would his dad, on account he was the one who had ordered it and all, and then Dudley really would be in trouble. It'd make what they did to Harry every summer seem trifling. Not to mention something even worse would happen: his mum would cancel it. He doubted even dad could convince her that the channel had been ordered for that one historical drama after getting caught watching that. Nope. His mum was gullible. She probably had no idea that's why his dad had ordered this. Plus, if he had the volume on he'd get distracted, and then he wouldn't hear someone coming. So, it was absolutely imperative that he keep the volume off.

Besides, the girls all sounded fake anyway.

Dudley shifted on the couch and rubbed his hands together in eager anticipation. He got comfortable. The entire house was so quiet that he could hear a pin drop. He tossed the dishtowel off to the side, set the remote 'just right' so he could switch it off quickly if need be, and out of his dressing gown unearthed the bottle of baby oil.

Seemed a bit wrong, when he thought about it. Baby oil?

Dudley shuddered – oh well - then began changing channels until a particularly buxom blonde and hirsute man showed up on the screen.

That would do.

He had just gotten ready when from the kitchen, directly behind him, came a distinct creek.

Dudley froze and his blood curdled more than a dead man that had been left in the sun to bake. He tried to jerk his hand out of the position it was in, only it got caught in the fabric, and-

A shadow fell across him, a figure having materialized out of seeming nowhere, and they gawked at him – openly.

"Oh. My. Gawd."

Dudley yelped.

The pink haired figure clapped her hands in seeming delight.

Dudley scrambled frantically, finally succeeding in yanking his hand out of his trousers. He'd never moved so fast in his life!

Too bad years of poor eating and sedentariness hadn't exactly made him agile. In the process he fell off the couch and onto the floor, scrambling to jerk his robe back around him, and somehow managed to kick the remote control straight off the couch. He made a mad grab for it, and only succeeded in knocking it clear across the room.

The sound came back on.

It came back on right as the blonde began yelling for "Big Daddy P" to ride her all the way to Cuxhaven and back, in loud and exaggerated German-accented moans.

The pink haired woman frowned at the TV set. "Cux-haven? Little on point for a porno don't you think?" She glanced back at him, as if seeking his opinion. "You know, cocks-haven? Like penis paradise? Get it?"

Dudley made a dying sound.

There was a muffled thunk thunking on the carpet, and from where he was, on all fours on the floor, Dudley caught sight of a wooden peg, one that served as a leg. Any thoughts of crawling for the remote died. He lifted his gaze, slowly-

Dudley gulped.

A gnarled man with an eye patch, grizzled hair and a wooden stick where his leg was supposed to be stood in his living room, glaring critically down with his one good eye.

"Vigilance isn't your strong suit, is it boy?" the man growled, giving him an unimpressed once over. "Not an auspicious start of the night either."

The pink haired woman actually bounced, and in his present state Dudley couldn't help but notice that her breast were rather…shapely, and pressing tight to her shirt.

"I know!" she said, delighted. "We caught him with his literal pants down!"

The old one scowled. "His pants appear to be up."

The woman pouted. "Well they were open." She then tilted her head, as if to get a better look. "So what you working with there, Dudders? You as hung as your cousin? Prowess a family trait or-"

Dudley jerked his robe around himself and fell back, flat on his ass.

Neither intruder seemed to notice. The wrinkly, one-legged one just shot the woman a look. "When exactly have you seen Potter's-"

"Grappling practice," she said, unabashed. "He does this move where he pins my shoulders with his knees and sticks his hips right in my-"

One-Eye was suddenly glaring, right at the hardened spots in her shirt that Dudley hadn't been able to tear his eyes off of. "Did you vanish your brassiere?"

She grinned wickedly. "Of course. I mean, come on, Moody, we interrupted the boy's special alone time. Least I could do was give him a substitute show before we destroy his block. Have a heart!"

"Oh Cuxhaven! Cuxhaven! I need your cocksha-"

With a snarl peg-leg whipped around and shot a beam of light at the TV, the sound instantly stopping, even if the bouncing continued. The wizard didn't spare it a second glance, so fixed on the girl was he. "Get your head in the game, Nymphadora! Or I'll do the Death Eaters a favor and hex it for you!"

"Stop calling me that infernal-"

One-Eye growled like a dog and rounded on him, brandishing a frightening looking cane in his direction. "And you – where's your dignity? Button those up and on your feet! Get on your shoes! You have work to do and not a lot of time to do it in! Unless you'd think it'd be funny to let the Death Eaters blow your neighbors and family to smithereens, while you've got your hand down your pants-"

"Please, Mad Eye, you know adults do it too." The woman rolled her eyes, before shooting him a wink. "We're just better about not getting caught."

'Mad Eye' didn't miss a syllable.

"-like an immature brat raised on the promises of overly indulgent fools!" the gnarled man finished, and Dudley felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. These were wizards. These were wizards, and this time his cousin wasn't here to do something about it. Like get them to leave.

He couldn't believe Harry spent most of his year with these kinds of people.

It struck Dudley that he was in a very vulnerable position, sitting there on the ground. "So you're-you're both like him then? Like Harry?"

It might be dark, but even he couldn't miss how the pink haired woman's hair suddenly shifted, turning crimson, then neon green, then to a bright blonde to match the woman on the screen, cycling back and forth in quick succession. "You mean magical? Yes, suppose you could say that. But that's not the only thing we can make 'magical' if you know what I'm saying." She gave a sharp head tilt towards the affair on the TV, sharply adding, "Amateurs."

The one called Mad Eye let out a distinct groan.

Dudley's jaw dropped, and despite the situation he couldn't help but think of all the wonderful things a woman like her could probably do in bed, changing like that.

He stammered anyway.

Nympha-something – her name even sounded like a porn name - bent down low, giving him a perfect view of her substantial cleavage, and waggled her finger in front of his nose. "Ah, ah, ah, now's not the time for those kinda thoughts, is it, Dudley-boy?"

"I wasn't-" he tried, only to get cut off by a scoff.

And a pointed flick of her eyes down.

Dudley followed the woman's gaze, saw the 'tent' in his pants, and turned bright red.

To make matters worse she patted him on the head before standing, saying, "Happens to the best of us."

From the side a new voice let out a soft laugh. "It does, does it? Didn't realize you were so familiar with those sort of masculine problems, Tonks. You might want to clue in Remus. Reckon he ought to know about any extra appendages you have prior to that 'getting hitched' thing you two are planning."

Dudley's eyes shot to the doorway leading to the kitchen – the kitchen and its squeaky floorboard – and to his complete and utter humiliation saw a tawny haired man standing there, a long bit of hair flicked casually in front of his face. In the relative dark of the room – he hadn't exactly turned on the lights, given that it wasn't, well…necessary – it was hard to get a clear picture of the man, but he could see that much.

And he spoke in an Australian accent.

"So," he said congenially, "you must be Harry's cousin?"

Dudley blinked.

"DUDLEY!" roared a voice from overhead. A loud pounding followed, along with muffled shouts. It came from upstairs. He looked straight at the ceiling in a panic, finally getting his feet underneath him to stand-

"Easy there," the Australian said, holding up a hand. "We've got your parents safely locked away."

Now Dudley just choked out, "You locked them up?"

"It's for their own good really," the woman said, sympathetically. "No sense of humor, either of that lot. 'Sides," she added with a wicked smile, "would think you'd be grateful, seeing how that's the only thing keeping them from catching you in the act."

She lowered her voice for this last part, whispering conspiratorially.

From upstairs the sounds of his parents shouting suddenly cut out.

It was safe to say that by now Dudley looked completely and wholly alarmed.

"They're fine," Tonks promised cheerily. "I'm sure it's just a muffling charm. They won't suffocate if it's done right."

One-Eye grunted, but the Australian cast a scolding look her way. "I think what my friend here means to say, is that your parents have a rather…poor constitution where magic is concerned, and I'm rather afraid things are about to get somewhat loud and eventful."

"After what they did to Potter every year, ought to do them good to have a little cage time," growled peg leg.

Dudley suddenly remembered him.

"You threatened my dad, last summer," he choked out.

"Yes," said One-Eye, "I did."

Dudley swallowed, and swallowed hard.

One-Eye took a step forward, and then another, until he hovered rather closer than Dudley was comfortable with. He lifted a gnarled hand and lifted up his eye patch, revealing a sinister-looking eye, the thing rolling around in its socket. In the dark of the room it practically glowed. "Are you saying I shouldn't of? Threatened him? Because I'll tell you what bully boy, I know what you did to Harry, and I never," voice dropping to a carnivorous growl, "put much stock in bullies."

Dudley clutched his robe around himself and took an abrupt step back. He stared straight at the lumbering, partially-assembled wizard, and blurted the first thing that came to his mind. "Th-they think he's a waste of space."

The wizard's voice dropped about eight octaves. "Do they now?"

He gave a weak nod.

"And what about you, boy?" One-Eye challenged. "What do you think?"

Once again, Dudley was caught off guard. He made a sputtering sound, and still backing away tripped on and almost fell over the bottle of baby oil. He caught his balance – barely.

One-Eye guffawed, snapping his eye patch back into place. "That's what I thought," he growled.

Dudley felt a stab of relief, now that the swirling and churning eye had disappeared, and worked up the courage to speak. He opened his mouth to blurt what he actually thought, but never got the chance.

Because another voice broke in.

"Technically, Moody, he didn't answer. But I am curious."

Dudley recognized that voice – he hadn't heard it in over a month. Even before that, his mum and dad had made sure that the 'family freak' did well to stay good and unseen in his room, as sickly as he'd looked. More than once he'd heard mum remark on how certain she was that he'd contracted some foul wizarding disease, and would no doubt be contagious and dead soon, just like his filthy wizarding parents. Dudley'd had his doubts, but had been smart enough not to voice them.

His head whipped around, fully expecting to see his cousin, only-

It wasn't his cousin.

A dark haired wizard leaned in the doorway, eyeing him with an unreadable expression. Shadows cloaked most of the man's face, a worn leather coat around the wizard's shoulders, similar to what Potter used to wear – some hand-me-down from a dead godfather, or something - but the stature was all wrong.

The person in the doorway wasn't scrawny. They weren't particularly tall, but…more filled out, healthy. They stood up straight. They didn't exude the sickliness and grayish pallor Harry'd had when he'd come back from his sixth year at the boarding academy, or whatever the hell it was a wizarding school was called.

There was no possible way this could be his cousin.

Not to mention every hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood on end.

What looked like a stick – their wand, Dudley realized – was held casually in their right hand, resting against their outer thigh. The air thrummed, something building on it, and something about the way the wizard stood made the Dursley uneasy, setting him instantly on edge. There was a hard look about him; a relaxed intensity, like someone who evaluated everyone they met, sizing them up, so they could decide at once whether they were or were not a threat. It was like looking at a raptor, the animal casually tensed, perfectly ready to strike, but equally happy to stay right where it was.

And that type of man was standing in the sitting room's door, looking right at him.

His cousin was nothing like that.

But that voice…he'd been sure of it!

Dudley stood there, in his dark living room in nothing but his pajama bottoms and poorly closed dressing gown, for so long that the figure actually quirked an eyebrow. It disappeared under a mess of thick, dark hair, the strands a bit longer, but still sticking up in so many directions that it was about his only recognizable feature.

"Well," asked the wizard with a measured calmness, "do you? Think that I'm a waste of space?"

When Dudley didn't answer, the figure stepped out of the shadows, still eyeing him with that same coolness. But it wasn't until the light of the TV reflected against the man's eyes, a flash of dark green in the irises, that Dudley knew for sure.

"You're not-you're not sick."

Harry Potter tilted his head in acknowledgement. "I got better."

"But I thought-I thought you moved out?" he stammered.

Potter's other eyebrow rose. "I'm getting around to it." He glanced around the room, evasive, eyes landing on the scattered remnants of Dudley's…late night activities. His cousin's lips imperceptively twitched. "Good summer, Big D?"

"Big D?" The woman looked intrigued.

"He's also," Harry said, "preferential to Dinky Diddydums."

Forgetting the situation, Dudley shot his cousin a full on glare. "Shut it, will you?"

"So," that lip twitch again, "I shouldn't tell her about Ickle Diddykins?"

Dudley scowled and clutched his robe closed. "What are you doing here?"

His cousin shrugged, unfazed. "Had to get my stuff."

He stared dumbly. "You don't have anything."

Peg-leg started to growl, Dudley realizing what that sounded like too late. He winced, muttering, "Just meant dad chucked it all…there's nothing left."

"Sure there was." Harry spun something small in his hand that Dudley couldn't quite see, then sealed his fingers tight around it. "Only thing worth getting."

The woman's eyes went wide, and she instantly tried to shove around one-eye to get a better look. "Oh Harry is that it!? Let me see!"

The gnarled man grabbed her by the back of her robes and jerked her back, the witch nearly tripping. "Honestly woman, have some decorum! Stop acting like a lovestruck little girl!"

The Australian chuckled, having moved alongside the windows. He used the tip of his wand to subtly shift the curtains, peering out. "You do know that she is, actually, a female, right Alastor?"

"Thank you, Tres!" She batted the old one's hand away. "At least someone here recognizes that."

"To be fair," Harry said blandly, "I've personally seen you masquerade as a man, complete with realistic genitalia when the mood strikes. Can hardly blame him for getting confused."

The woman tossed her hair back. "Please Harry, you wish you could grow breasts."

Dudley yanked his eyes away from where they'd fixed onto the witch's breasts again, and made a choking sound. "You mean she's a-she's a man?"

His cousin seemed unconcerned. "Only when the mood strikes."

Mad Eye let out a mad sounding chuckle and grinned like a jackal. "Bet you'll think twice before ogling one of my Auror's fun parts again, wontcha?"

Potter threw them both a dark, dark look.

And then he leveled a hard stare directly back on him.

Dudley took a physical step back. Outside, the neighbors were getting louder, only he was no longer sure those were the neighbors.

Potter's eyes barely shifted, but he spoke in a cool and level voice. "Tres, how are we on time?"

"Nearly there. Your girl, Ron and Hooch are antagonizing the good looking mean one. We probably have four, maybe five minutes."

His cousin nodded, something changing, hardening in his expression.

Peg leg just grunted. "Better get your ear plugs in now then. Can't have you losing your head."

The Aussie was already unearthing two sets of shockingly orange earplugs. What was even more shocking was when he tossed a pair to him, Dudley fumbling and nearly dropping the things.

His cousin huffed a mildly amused breath. "Footballs doing wonders for your eye-hand coordination, I see."

Dudley ignored that and held them up in front of Potter's face. "What am I supposed to do with these?"

Harry arched an eyebrow. "They're earplugs, Dudley," he informed slowly, as if speaking to a dullard. "Generally…we put them in our ears." He gave the side of his own head a pointed tap for emphasis.

He found himself oddly frozen, not willing to put the earplugs in and not willing to put them down. "Why? How do I know they're not going to-to do something to me?"

The woman laughed, but the gnarled one made a noise that sounded strangely approving. Potter tossed that wizard an annoyed look, before turning his attention back on him. "Because if you don't put them in," he said with complete and utter calm, "a witch outside is going to encourage you to kill yourself in about three hundred seconds."

Dudley gawked.

"Now it probably," his cousin continued, "won't affect you, since you're not a wizard, but…you're related to me, so on the off chance that you're even remotely magical and it's just not well-manifested, best to be cautious."

Dudley stared at his cousin, who barely resembled his cousin. Harry looked older, and there was a hardness to him that hadn't been there before.

Ultimately he didn't question him.

He struggled to get the first of the earplugs in. "What about mum?" he asked. "She could be-"

"Taken care of."

"Told you it was a muffling charm, Sir Duddykins," called the witch, who had plopped herself right in front of the television set, and appeared to be taking notes on one of the more crass sex scenes on the back of a napkin.

Mad Eye shot her a disapproving look. "Your precious wolf is out there. You're not concerned about him at all, are you?"

"Not in the least," she assured. "My Remus is a hunk of man, who can handle himself. You should just see how he-"

What she said next had each and every single person in the room scrunch their eyes and flinch, except for the Australian, whose earplugs were already in. That wizard simply hummed a merry tune, crouching down by the window with his wand aimed sneakily at it.

"-besides," she carried on, "it's either watch this, or go out and jump him. I've been celibate for nearly a year, Moody! A bleeding year! And you don't," she rounded around, brandishing a commandeered pen with a peacock feather, "want to see me throw down on the street with him when zombies are afoot! Because believe me, I'll do it! They can gnaw off my foot! I don't care! So unless you want to see exactly how I make Mister Moony howl you will let me return to my unscheduled viewing, because believe me, I'll do it!"

Potter closed his eyes, hissing, "I hate you, Tonks. Deeply."

"I told you," the one with the cane snarled, "you should have let me hex her deaf and dumb in Singapore."

Harry cracked his eyes and sent him a sidelong look. "That wouldn't have even begun to touch her sex drive, Moody. You know that."

There was a snarl. "Asexual. I'll transfigure her into something that reproduces asexually-"

"You seriously want her to be able to split anytime she wants? You know how many Tonks' there will be, running around?"

"It'd be delightful!"

Both Potter and one-eye snapped in unison, "No, it wouldn't."

The woman waved a hand in a vague circle over herself, as if to indicate multiple parties. "We take offense to that."

"Did she say zombies?" Dudley managed to croak.

His cousin turned his attention back to him, adjusting his jacket. "Think of it as undead plague carriers. Does that help?"

"The plague that's killing everyone?" It'd been in the news. Entire sections of the city had been cordoned off without a word. Entire countries had gone silent. Theories had been running rampant, and various Ministers, Presidents, and other national leaders had debated – heavily – about whether to send help into the 'silent zones', but the papers hadn't reported anything on the decisions, or if a decision had been made, and-

The plague meant death. That was something they all knew, so everyone had been staying inside, cancelling work, cancelling school….

Dudley'd been bored out of his skull. Then again, he hadn't had to see it, and he really didn't like the idea of it being on his front door.

Everyone was afraid of the silent zones. No one wanted to be in a silent zone.

"Yeah," Harry said calmly, "that one."

Dudley stiffened and tried not to freak out. "And it's outside? How are you so calm about this!?"

"Once you've had a few of the reanimated-"

"The what?!"

"-try to kill you a few times, kind of loses its touch."

The plague was magical. It had to be. Dudley wrapped his mind surprisingly fast around this new fact. The plague made zombies, and there was a Moody and a Moony, and a good looking bird that was sometimes a man sitting on the living room floor watching porn, and his cousin had gotten – in a word – intimidating, and he was having the most humiliating night of his life, while his parents were locked in an upstairs room.

That was a lot of information to process, so Dudley didn't process any of it. He just made a sound like a dying animal, and clutched at the front of his dressing gown like a security blanket.

His cousin gave him a pitying look, fixing his own jacket.

And that was what caught his attention.

His cousin was slipping what had been clutched in his fist, into an inner jacket pocket.

And that something sparkled.

Dudley seized onto that like a lifeline, that and the other tiny bits of information he'd heard, and a strange and twisted thing emerged in his head, because that was simultaneously the most semi-normal and weird thing of the entire night.

"You got yourself a girl?" he blurted.

Potter's head snapped back around, eyes sharp as flint. He didn't say a word.

"And that-that in your hand-" Dudley chanced pointing at him.

His cousin stared at him, but when he spoke there was a core of steel in it. "What do you care?"

His jaw about dropped. "That's-but that-is that what I think it is? That's huge."

There was a rare, strange moment. Both cousins looked at one another, the wizarding half narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "No offense Dudders, but you've never taken interest in my personal life before."

"I didn't know you had a personal life."

It took his cousin a long time to answer. Probably too long, because Dudley was well aware of the time count-down. But finally…

"You never asked," Potter pointed out.

"You never shared," Dudley challenged.

Dudley couldn't believe that his cousin had snagged a girl. Even he hadn't managed that yet. Not to mention either he'd just hallucinated or he'd seen Harry putting a ring into his pocket, and Harry looked a lot older.

He felt half-crazy asking it, but he did anyway. "How long have you been gone?"

At this his cousin released a breath, not dissimilar to the approving sound one makes when a dog learns a particularly complex new trick. "A year."

Dudley's eyes went wide. "Shut it."

"Can't. Could lie to you, but where'd be the fun in that? I'd miss all these crazy expressions you're making."

Dragging a hand over his face, he rubbed at his eyes and blinked a few times. Right. His cousin was here, older by a year – somehow – and he had a girl. This bothered him more than the idea of a person outside using magic to potentially make him off himself.

"Damn, that's-well that's-"

"Yeah," Potter agreed. His cousin continued to eye him like a strange and new specimen recently discovered by thrill-seeking spelunkers that had somehow managed to learn to SCUBA through hot lava, but narrowing his eyes he calmly added, "Her name's Kally."

From off to the side One-Eye glowered, grunting, "What is this, exactly?" gesturing between the two.

The Nymph, who had abandoned her TV set, smacked his hand down. "Ssshhh," she shushed, "you'll ruin it. They're adorable."

Potter didn't spare them even a glance, and at this point neither did Dudley.

"So, out with it? What'd you bag? Blonde or a brunette?" He paused, then said with actual interest, "Shit, don't tell me you bagged yourself a ginger?"

Harry huffed a breath, the vestige of a smirk there. "Try again."

Dudley frowned. "She an albino or something?"

Now his cousin flat out snorted. "She's magical. More like the gold on that watch Uncle Vernon wears."

He thought about it for a few seconds, trying to picture a living human that looked like that, and came up empty.

Ultimately he let out a low whistle. "Nice."

Harry's lips twitched into a small grin. "Damn right."

"It just escalated out there," the Australian called, and instantly Dudley knew the conversation was over. Any trace of a grin on his cousin's face vanished, it replaced with a look of stone.

"Get your earplugs in."

Dudley had the second earplug half inserted, when something else occurred to him. He stared at his cousin, who had stormed to the window to peer out, a stiff expression crossing his face. His hands coiled into fists, a breath like a growl rattling the room.

Whatever his cousin was seeing, it didn't look good.

"Harry?"

His cousin jerked around, and Dudley nearly twitched at the storm on his face. With a grimace, he held up the earplug and asked anyway. "What about you? Won't you-won't you lot get hurt?"

Harry looked at him, baffled. "You're serious?"

Dudley shifted on his feet, uncomfortable. "Well…yeah."

For a second he seemed to debate, and then-

He snapped the curtains shut. "There's a siren out there, about to order anyone that will listen, to kill themselves for her. Get your earplug in."

Right. Dudley Dursley did not take orders, not from anyone. Not his father, not his mother, not his aunt, and certainly not his scarily intimidating cousin.

He planted his feet and gave Harry a hard look. "You first."

His cousin gaped, and then grabbed at the hair on top of his head. "Oh for fuck's sake- look Dudders, if you're in love with somebody, really in love, a siren's voice doesn't affect you. So the three of us," he gestured around the room, "are safe. You however, are not."

Dudley blinked. Hell, he was almost offended. "Well how do you know I'm not?"

Harry leveled a look at the television set, and the bare ass man wearing nothing but chaps and the German 'cowgirl' he was currently riding, and didn't say a word.

Dudley cleared his throat. "Er…right then."

Without another word he shoved in his earplugs, and that was probably a good thing, because about a minute later there was a thunderous, ear-splitting, grandfather-glass-shattering BOOM.

He'd yelped, like a man, and dove to the floor.

It took him nearly a minute to realize that everyone else had simply crouched down, but when he looked up the look in his cousin's eyes was hard.

Long fingernails came up from behind and snagged onto his ear, yanking the earplug out, shouting overly loud, "-AN PROBABLY TAKE THOSE OUT NOW!"

Dudley hissed and flipped around, coming face-to-face with the grinning color-changing-hair-wonder. He rubbed at his ear, positive that he'd just lost an eardrum. "What in the bloody hell just happened?!"

The Australian by the window answered first. "A crazed red head blew up the street."

"And Harry's girl," the Nymph added helpfully.

Dudley's head shot towards his cousin, alarmed.

"She's fine," Harry said, but his tone was clipped as he growled in an undertone, "She better be."

This time he seemed to be growling it directly at One-Eye.

"Don't worry, Mad Eye saw it last time. Remmykins nailed her with an ice-covering charm. She'll get a bit of freezer burn. Nothing you can't dethaw with the right alone time, right Harry-Har-Har?"

And then she waggled her eyebrows, earning the darkest scowl yet.

Dudley stood there, eyes now glued to the closed drapes. Outside a bright, glaring orange-red light could be seen, flickering violently.

And he could hear crackling.

"Is that-"

"The street on fire? Yes."

His mouth flapped, wordless.

At some point his cousin had begun to walk around the room, and it reminded Dudley of one of those zoo animals circling their enclosure just before feeding time. He was flexing his fingers, and appeared to be counting.

"Don't mind him," Nymph said. "We just told him he can't go out for a count of eight minutes after that blast, you know, on account that he didn't last time. And since Kallykins is out there-"

"Stop with the kins, Tonks!"

She winced. "His humor's not improved much."

Dudley looked back and forth between the grinning witch, and where his cousin was pacing holes in the floor. And then he swallowed, hard. "That man," who had mysteriously disappeared, "said we had work to do. What'd he mean?"

And at that the witch with the large breasts, which now seemed to be shrinking even as her hair shortened down to a proper 'battle length', shot him a bright smile.

"Oh Dinky Diddydums, I thought you'd never ask."


ECOTS


Someone slapped her across the face.

Hard.

"Kally! Kal!"

"Fred! What the hell did you do to her?!"

"Ease off Ronniekins. She'll be just-"

There was a distinct crack, not unlike a fist connecting with somebody's jaw.

"-fine," came the finishing groan.

"You set her," came Ron's slow and distinct voice, "on fire."

"Only a little."

Someone slapped her again, her face curiously numb.

"WILL YOU STOP DOING THAT!?"

There was a pause, Fred sounding genuinely confused, "Well how else are we supposed to wake her up?"

"Idiots."

Something jabbed at her cheek, like the end of a stick, only this time a strange gel-like water was pouring over her skin. It felt nice. It felt…strange. It felt warm. It felt-

Everything in her face suddenly hurt.

With a choked gasp her eyes shot open in the dark space. It felt like every centimeter of her skin was burning; positively burning. Wherever she was, it was moving. Blindly she jerked up, only to run headlong into someone's face. Her skull cracked against theirs, pain erupted, and Kally wound up falling flat on her back, the surface lumpy and uneven.

She clutched at her head as pure, unadulterated pain erupted behind her eyes.

"Oh good, you're awake."

Kally let out a feeble groan.

"See Ronniekins? Told you she'd be fine."

This time the whimper she let out was downright pathetic.

"I'll meet that whimper," groused an annoyed voice from directly above, "and raise you a bloody ugh."

"Well you got the bloody part right, o'twin'o'mine. Your honker's bleeding like you face planted into a vat of our nosebleed nougats again."

Kally dragged a hand up to her face and rubbed at it, mildly surprised to find it was still intact. Unfortunately the thing she was laying on – legs, apparently- decided to move at that exact instant and she jabbed herself in the eye.

Their knee also jabbed her square in the kidney.

She squeaked unhappily.

"Stop beating her up, Gred. She just bloody well woke up."

"Me? She's the one that head butted me!"

"Be nice, Greddy, or that little brother of ours might get offended and-"

There was a loud BANG from outside, and quite suddenly everything jerked, Fred letting out a loud and jubilant holler. "Ten points!"

"I lament the day your freckled ancestors crawled out of the primordial ooze," someone said.

That someone sounded suspiciously like Regulus.

"Ten points is ten points, Reggie! Why? You want to drive? You can play with the spikes. Just hit that button right by your head there."

"Nah, better save the spikes, Forge. Might need 'em."

"Too true! Never know when we might encounter something-" another THUNK, as if they had run something over, followed by a loud whoop, "-ugly!"

"I so will enjoy scribing out your death certificates."

Fred gave a loud and overly exaggerated tisk. "That's right, Reggie. Let it all out. Talk to me. This anger you've got – your mother didn't hug you enough did she?"

"Reckon that'd be a good thing wouldn't it, Forge? I mean…we've all seen that banshee-esque portrait at number twelve."

"Right you are, Gred."

"No one wants to get hugged by that."

"Nope, not a Muggle-hating blood purist. That'd be downright-"

"Prickly."

"Was going to go with 'revolting', but prickly works." Another thunk-thunk, and Kally felt the vibration of something being run over beneath her back. "So what do you reckon? We get back to Grimmauld and coat it with an aggressive mold spore hex? That ought to shut ole Mother Black the hell up."

"Be like an early Christmas present for you, Reg!"

Regulus Black let out a low and very dangerous sounding growl.

"Down boy!"

"Cut him some slack, Forge. 'sides, reckon he's just jealous he didn't get to run over the last deado."

There was a pause from what had to be the front seat, as Fred contemplated this.

"My brother has got a point. You hate teenagers. Would wager running over some dead ones ought to be downright thera-" There was a pause. "What's that word again?"

"Therapeutic," came Regulus' distinctly familiar growl.

"That's the one! So what do you reckon? Tradsies? You take the wheel and I'll clamber over there to take point on fixing that one's head?"

"You know what? I'm with Black. If you lot don't shut it I'm rolling down the windows and letting the zombies do the rest."

That last voice had definitely been Ron.

Kally's head buzzed dully. It really, really hurt. In fact, it felt like her neck had been beaten with a bat: a very large and spiked bat, and the banter wasn't helping.

Not to mention that every inch of her skin felt like it was still burning, only it no longer felt like her flesh was literally peeling off. No. Now it felt like a lower key type of burn, as if she'd lain in the sun too long, gotten hexed immobile, and was now being laid out to baste over hundred and twenty degree concrete.

She'd pissed someone off in a past life. Surely she'd had to.

"What happened?" she croaked.

"Kally!"

"See Ron? She's alive."

A grunt came from what she presumed was Ron's direction.

Suffice it to say, she was disoriented.

Beneath her back a kneecap dug against her spine – she assumed it belonged to George at this point - but she could feel the car rumbling. At least she hoped it was a car. It was like the rumbling of a car engine whose oil had been so bad for so long that it had gotten irreconcilably clogged and was now at the point where it was contemplating exploding.

Either that, or Fred had finally made good on his word of abducting a Siberian tiger to tame, and she was now in the presence of a particularly large and pissed off cat.

She groaned pathetically, and someone patted her head as if to console her.

Outside something else struck the car, the entire vehicle thumping.

"Four wheel drive! That's right baby! Overland that zombified son of a-"

Her eyes flickered blurrily open. It took her a few times of blinking before she was able to fully see a thing. When she did she saw a shag carpet-covered ceiling with an obnoxious disco ball hanging from it.

It swung. It twinkled. It spat out glitter.

Yes, she was definitely in that car the twins had modified.

The one that had winked at her.

She let out a quiet groan, and George patted her head again, like she was a particularly well behaved house cat.

There was another hard thump and the entire car bounced, as if running something over.

Something large and squishy.

That was immediately followed by a squelching sound, and outside the rear window Kally saw the distinct outline of an undead man clinging to the trunk, his bloodied hands clutching at the car antenna in an attempt to hold on.

He was also licking at the rear window with a blackened tongue.

"Oh ho!" Fred sounded far too delighted. "We've got a live one! Ronniekins you want the honors or may I?"

"Has anyone considered, " George muttered, rubbing his nose, "informing my twin that he's driving?"

"Details, brother o' mine. Details!"

Slowly things came into a bit more focus. She was in the backseat of the vehicle, and it had been magically expanded. Fred was up front driving, as expected. Ron was up front in the passenger seat, and in the back were Regulus and George.

And for some reason she was sprawled out across George's lap, and Black was brandishing his wand in her general direction, ordering her to hold still.

It took her a horrifying second to realize it hadn't been her imagination; she legitimately was covered from head to toe in a frothy green goo.

Regulus did that creepy Slytherin thing and read her mind.

"It's for the burns, to keep you from scarring worse than a poorly mummified Egyptian cadaver whose maggots have had a millennia to gnaw on the remains," Regulus informed without an ounce of bedside manner, a purple mist pouring out of his wand and hovering over her. "How do your nerves feel? Can you feel this?"

And from out of nowhere a large needle was in hand, and the self-appointed Muggle-doctor jabbed her in the shin.

Hard.

It wasn't her fault that she kicked him.

George let out a booming laugh.

"You're all bloody idiots." Ron didn't sound pleased, and with the push of a button a portion of the shag-carpeted ceiling rolled back, revealing a skylight in the roof, and the very black, dark sky above it.

It took Kally precisely two seconds to realize that the sky was full of smoke and a strange red glow.

Like the world was on fire.

Rain was also sprinkling inside.

The zombie at the back window clawed at the glass, its nails making a screeching sound. Twisted around in the front seat Ron gave it a hard glare, and then made it a point to shoot her an equally annoyed look.

"Good of you not to die on us, Kaylens," he said, all business, "now get the hell up and help will you?"

Her head was still spinning, and with a solid click the skylight finished rolling all the way back.

Ron darted up and out of it, a bright spell flashing outside and sending the undead man attached to the trunk flying off in a burst of bright pink flesh and torn Levis. A second later Fred let out another half-deranged shout, the entire car jerking violently to the left, another thud following it.

The car bounced so violently that Ron would have flown straight out the skylight had Regulus not grabbed a hold of his thigh.

"What the hell, Fred!" Ron bellowed.

"Damn Reggie," George commented, "I'm okay if you swing that way. But that's my kid brother there. Least take him out to dinner first before you start groping his inner-"

A spell lanced out, silencing one Mister George Weasley. Regulus lay slumped against the opposing side of the vehicle, looking rumpled and entirely undignified, an ember of pure hellfire in his eyes.

Fred hit something else, running it over, and a spray of red mist erupted past every single window. Blood flew over the car and fell down like rain, splattering in through the skylight.

Fortunately Ron's body stopped most of the chunky parts.

There was a delay.

Followed by a choked, disgusted sputtering.

"I hate you," Ron groaned. "I really do."

A second later he slid back into the car, throwing Fred a glare. "Next time," he said darkly, pulling a pinkie out of his hair and tossing it at his brother, "I'm driving."

Then he slammed his hand against the button to close the skylight, right as a spell slammed into the roof, denting it in at least half a meter.

"Oh good," Ron deadpanned, "the Death Eaters found us."

"Should have left me there," Kally groaned. "I was safer with the siren."

"You mean sex-on-a-stick?"

Regulus released a long sigh. "I believe," he articulated, "her name was Chang." He paused, distastefully adding, "Always was a bit of a Dark Lord fan girl, even in our youth."

Kally closed her eyes and rubbed at her face. "The black haired bitch."

"That's the spirit!" Fred again.

Something jabbed her cheek. Kally cracked her eyes to find Ron twisted around, leaning into the backseat. His jaw was set, working through a few different expressions, but ultimately-

He looked worried.

"You alright?" he asked, and it sounded like he'd had to force himself to even ask.

She hissed a breath. "Peachy."

Ron eyed her as if he didn't quite believe her, and then grunted. "Well good. Get the hell up then. Left me with this lot." He disappeared back to the front seat. "Bloody cruel, that was."

She was left staring at the open space where his face had just been. "Sorry to have inconvenienced you." With an annoyed sound, she tried to sit up. "I'll keep that in mind next time I almost die."

Ron let out a 'not good enough' huff.

"Your propensity," Regulus growled, looking right at her and ignoring everyone else, "for injury has become somewhat taxing, girl. Tell me, was it a mythical being or a god of lore that you angered into casting such vicissitudes down upon your personage? And therefore mine since I am perpetually tasked with fixing you?"

"Didn't think you believed in God," Kally muttered.

"Your lot's continued existence has changed my mind," Black drawled so acidly it was a wonder the sides of the car didn't burn off there and then. "The degree of annoyance is pure proof that there is a conspiracy hellbent on setting me to suffer for my youthful transgressions before I return to the primordial dirt."

"Youthful transgressions?" Ron practically burst. "That's what you're calling Death Eater enlistment and Muggle murder? Seriously?"

Black growled.

Kally winced.

George took pity and fisted a hand in her shirt, propping her up.

"Hey Reg-man, mind un-silencing my brother there?" Fred called from up front. "Reckon he might need his voice to, you know, attack and counter-defend and all that."

Regulus' dark glare slid up front, but he reversed the spell, looking as if he were doing so against his better judgement.

George cracked his jaw and grimaced. "Sheesh, make one little joke about making it to second base with a man-"

"Think you mean third there, Georgio!" Fred called back.

George just frowned. "No, third's-"

"Please don't," Ron groaned.

George pouted. "Was going to say two and a half."

"No," Ron countered, "you weren't."

An incorrigible grin lit up George's face. "You're right, I wasn't."

"Kalliandra, would you mind leaning back a moment? I fear this vehicle has an infestation and the only way to remedy it, is to cut off the problem at the head."

Her head whipped around, mildly alarmed to see Regulus' wand out, an utterly calm look on his face.

Fred, unflummoxed by the death threat to his own twin, called, "Lighten up, Reggie. Have a little fun!"

Dark eyes swiveled towards the steering wheel. "Ah, my most formal apologies," Casper drawled, acid bleeding form his tongue, "and here I had mistaken this as a war zone. How foolish of me to not recognize it for what it truly was: a comedy club."

"A comedy club," George corrected, "on wheels."

"With defensive spikes!"

"And a hydraulic lift!"

Black's hand shot out, wand tip sparking-

"Woah! Ease off! Come on, Reggie, surely you know how to laugh, right?"

"Opinions," he drawled, "vary."

He sounded shockingly serious, and made no move to remove his wand from the general direction of George's throat.

Kally was getting seriously concerned about being in the middle of this, a hundred questions flying around her mind, when the roof dented in again.

This time their reactions were instantaneous.

Ron and George both jerked around, windows down and wands out, pointed skyward and blindly firing up. George fired a hex or ten – she lost count - while Ron bellowed profanities about really, really, really hating Death Eaters. Fred shut up, all traces of humor gone, and just drove.

Kally blinked, repeatedly, but everything outside the two meters of the car interior was spectacularly blurred.

"It's the burn gel," Regulus informed humorlessly, and an arm shoved her back against the seat with all the subtlety of a psych ward nurse restraining a combative patient. "Now hold still. I have to remove it and this…may hurt."

That was an understatement.

Kally's entire body screamed in pain, and so did she.

She didn't even notice the way the enchanted car undented itself, each and every single time a dent was made in the roof.

When the sheer, white-hot blindingness of it wore off she found herself strangely clean, her skin pale, but looking oddly moisturized, soft and supple.

She honestly had no clue what was going on beyond 'Fred had blown up the street, she'd been burnt, and now she was somehow in the car with a group of wizards who were so not suited for travel together.'

She fell back against the seat and winced. "What happened?" she gasped.

"The red headed ingrates who are offended by birth control," Black informed, "never taught their children to not play with fire."

"Or jet fuel," Fred growled, sounding far less amused now.

The car swerved, slamming into another body, the undead person flipping over the car and flying back.

She blinked and stared, trying to process this new information amidst the spellfire and chaos. "He set me on fire," she repeated, "with jet fuel."

"You and the entire street. Nothing personal Kal." Fred let out an angry shout, the whole car bouncing as it ran something large over with a sickening crunch.

Black scowled, still casting spells over her in rapid succession, checking for Merlin knew what.

Kally honestly felt like she were in a dream, and was having a hard time processing all of this. Being inside the interior of this car, unable to see everything outside, but hearing spellfire and sounds of battle reminded her eerily of the train back in Dublin.

She seized onto the only bit of information that made sense.

"Okay," she said slowly, "but if I was burnt," staring at a strand of perfectly intact hair on her head, "how is my hair still there?"

Black looked unamused. Decidedly unamused. "Apparently," he drawled, "that wolf friend of yours was a part of their contingency plan."

"Remus?"

His pale fingers clenched around his wand like a spider's legs clinging to a fine web of silk. "Yes," he spat the name like a profanity. "How kind of them to warn us in advance."

"You know those cloaked bastards can do legilimency," Fred shouted from up front. "The fewer people who knew Plan B the better!"

"Better known as the 'oh shit' plan!" George yelled, voice muffled from where his head hung outside the car window like a dog on a joy ride.

"The Kally-shish-kebobs plan!"

"The redecorate Harry's street plan!"

"The-"

"SHUT IT WILL YOU!?" Ron poked his head back in, long enough to shout.

Black scowled, addressing her in a scathing drawl. "You and that Cormac wizard were snatched up to be…tended to, while the rest continued to fight."

"And we, dear lady, are your valiant guard!"

"And valet service," George added, shouting from outside.

Ron groaned. Loudly.

Kally reached up and wiped a green glob of goo out of her eyes. "What about the Muggles? The street was crawling with-"

"Shocking as it might sound," Regulus drawled, "the incompetents you call comrades-in-arms succeeded in evacuating the vast majority of them to a safer local."

"Yeah! Anyone they didn't get out in time is going to your boyfriend's front lawn. Protective wards and shit!"

She felt a stab, deep inside her chest.

But now wasn't the time for that.

She wet her lips. "And the plague carriers?"

"You mean the undead?" Fred asked.

"No sense of humor, that lot!" George added, wind whipping in the window as another spell lanced down, narrowly missing taking off his left ear.

"Will you both bloody well focus?!" Ron shouted. "There's a battle going on you know!"

Kally still felt stunned, shaken. Like her muscles weren't quite working right. Holding out her left hand she looked at it, and was startled to find that it was actually, physically shaking.

Black ignored all of this and carried on, flicking his wand and removing another glob of green ooze. "Most of the undead were killed in the initial fire ball, however…that was not the only portkey utilized to bring the undead to Privet drive. The Order is working to eliminate them and the additional Death Eaters stationed about." He paused, adding, "There are, however…stragglers."

She eyed him warily. "Define stragglers."

Black didn't get the chance to answer.

There was a blur outside, like a fast moving rhinoceros.

A shadow burst through the fog and rain, rushing them.

A zombie the size of a linebacker slammed into the passenger side.

And that was when the entire car flipped.

By sheer luck George was thrown back inside, and that was the only thing that kept his head from being sheered right off. That side of the car slammed into a light post, metal-against-metal, the screech like amplified nails on a chalkboard, and the side mirror snapped off.

The car rolled.

Kally was thrown violently into the ceiling with a scream, Black letting out the most startled sound she'd ever heard him make, George's gangly limbs flying in every direction.

Something cracked alongside her, George's howl of pain making it very clear that it was him.

Up front Fred had slammed both hands against the roof and his legs against the floor, holding himself in place and whooping like he was on some type of rodeo ride.

Ron had disappeared.

The entire world upended.

Crunching, crashing, clanking.

The car flipped again, and again, and again.

The driver's side slammed into the ground with non-negotiable force, the ground beneath giving a strangely loud squelch. Mud splattered in through the broken glass, the saturated lawn of some Muggle's lawn acting like a well-needed cushion. For an instant the vehicle tilted on its side, hovering there like a sadistic sentient being, undecided if it was done or not…

And then it tipped over, right onto its roof.

There was a final thud as the dizzying world stopped.

A chunk of muddy water rolled up her cheek, into her eye. Immediately it teared, searing violently, Kally blinking the dirt out of it with a pained sound. She was crumpled at an awkward angle, half upside-down, laying on what had once been the ceiling, with a disco ball vibrating a centimeter in front of her nose. Overhead, on presumably what had once been the underside of the vehicle, the hot exhaust gave a loud hiss as rain tink-tink-tinked against it. The stench of burnt rubber and gas permeated the scene.

Metal groaned, the sound strangely high-pitched.

And then something whimpered, audibly.

It sounded disturbingly like the car.

It took her a second to realize that she was getting rained on, sort of. The drizzle was splattering down outside the back window, her face dangerously near it, and as it plunked down onto the muddy grass it splashed back inside to speckle her cheeks with mud.

Overhead, storm clouds rumbled.

Up front, the windshield had collapsed inwards, looking to be strangely still in one piece, strung together like stringy plastic. Under it, a foot twitched.

Kally tried to move and every muscle immediately screamed in protest. It hurt. It was a lancing pain that shot straight through her limbs, down to her toes and fingers, and she nearly screamed.

But she didn't.

It was a near thing.

For a moment she simply lay there, her body giving a spasmodic shudder as it protested her own stupidity for having ever shown up to this battle in the first place. Blood rushed her ears in time to her pulse, smoke and fog coiling just outside, while a light gold fluid dripped from what might have been the brake line. She tried to clear her vision, blinking rapidly, and slowly things came into more focus, her head spinning just a bit less.

It took a bit, but eventually she was able to twitch her arm. It felt like hours, but in reality was perhaps only a minute.

They appeared to have landed upside-down on someone's carefully manicured front lawn.

At least, it had been. Now each blade of evenly cut grass had been uprooted, entire chunks of sod torn up. One such patch had even landed inside the vehicle, squarely on Regulus' head. The wizard lay on his back, staring straight up, grimacing as he reached out, shoving it off his face, before pushing his wand out the broken window.

"Their bulletproof reinforcement spells," he groaned, "needed work. Shoddy excuse for sorcere-"

He choked off, face cringing in pain. Something on his chest appeared to move out of sequence, and a chill shot straight through Kally's spine. "Black…" she started-

She never got to finish.

From outside the vehicle came a deep, deep growl.

Black sucked in several deep breaths, clutching his ribcage. Then he flopped an arm out through the broken window, hissing a word in Latin, and Merlin…

It sounded like the act had taken everything he'd had.

A blue-gray mist erupted out the end of his wand, spilling out, expanding until it enveloped the entire car, obscuring them in thick fog. It also reeked, like something had died and been left outside to rot in the heat. It instantly overwhelmed the scent of oil and gas and dirt, replacing it with something far more foul and repugnant.

The second that she breathed in and the stench hit her throat her entire body jerked, instinctively recoiling, but suddenly she was able to move. Kally choked, gagging, shots of pain daggering through her entire body, but she could move!

She was over this day. So over it. "God," she croaked, "that's abhorrent."

Black was unperturbed. He was an unhealthy shade of white, the wizard dropping his wand onto his chest, taking a second to breathe. "It'll mask," he rasped, "our scent. But we need to relocate. Immediately." He paused, breathing hard. "That thing is out there."

A moment later he lifted his hand, the effort looking Herculean, but the self-appointed-Healer began casting a series of orange-green spells over himself.

It looked like he was in very real and profound physical pain.

She tried to roll over-

A misshapen arm flopped to hang in front of her face, freckles covering the exposed and abraded skin, and a primitive part of her physically revolted at the sight. With a choked sound she gingerly turned, looking up-

George hung there, stuck between the headrests and ceiling, clearly unconscious.

Her stomach bottomed out.

"George…" Fumbling as she tried to get to him. Pieces of glass crinkled beneath her hands. More shards slid off her back – she'd been covered in them – tinkling down onto the car roof like shimmering pieces of deadly glitter, and her eyes shot towards Black. "Regulus, are you-"

"I should have cursed all of you when I had the chance." The response was annoyed and immediate.

Kally didn't even ask. She squirmed underneath George and the mutilated seat he'd been thrown above, his body wedged in there, and she wasted no time in flipping onto her back, making a pained sound as she peered up to inspect him, reaching out, then stopping, almost afraid to touch.

"Black, is he-"

Black's head lolled in the glass and debris, finally seeing what she was seeing.

He swore.

Violently.

A second later a spell lanced out towards where George was stuck, hanging like a marionette doll between the crushed remnants of the door and front headrest, the magic circling his body. Kally simply lay there, heart in her throat, afraid to move. Her entire left side throbbed painfully.

She watched and held her breath.

The spell swirled around his torso, lighting up the dark interior of the car for a blinding moment. It glowed blue-green. It glowed blue-green everywhere except his arm and head, and there it glowed a strange sort of yellow.

But it didn't glow red.

The spell died down, shadows closing back in.

It hadn't glowed red.

She'd been around Black long enough to know that diagnostic healing spells were meant to be blue-green. If they weren't, something was wrong. And if they were red or orange…

Then something was very wrong.

Like a damaged organ, profuse internal bleeding, about-to-keel-over-and-die kind of wrong.

She honestly didn't have a sodding clue what yellow meant though.

Harry'd told her once, how he'd felt, seeing so much red over her when she'd lain in the Forbidden Forest, nearly murdered from the killing curse's backlash. The thought alone, a memory that had been suspended in her mind for months until Black had extracted it out…

Black.

Sucking in a breath she shoved Potter out of her mind. She wouldn't think about Harry. She couldn't. It would paralyze her. She looked towards Regulus, her expression only a little desperate.

Black just made a bored sound. "Concussion and a broken arm," he rasped. "He'll be fine." Heaving another strained breath, his chest still seeming to move strangely, he hissed, "How lucky for him that his Neanderthalic ancestors passed down their thick skull. His concussion is mild." And with that…

He turned back to assessing and fixing himself.

She went to move again, and immediately regretted it, because the entire car positively spun.

Kally thudded back down and winced, squeezing her eyes closed and hissing a pained sound. She was hurt. She just didn't know how badly. She wasn't stupid. She just needed to lay still…and give it a moment.

She did.

The dizzying spell got worse, lightheadedness sweeping through her, and then-

A strange sensation swept through her veins, something unnatural.

A distant neighing filled her mind.

Her eyes cleared.

The car gave another one of those disturbingly realistic whimpers.

Kally, however, felt remarkably better.

For the thousandth time she was reminded of just how lucky she was that Angelina had gambled and injected her with Lightning's blood, all those months ago. If she hadn't, her genetic condition would have killed her a long, long time ago. Besides…

Unicorn blood had some fringe perks. Surviving car wrecks was just one of them.

She was just lucky she'd been in the middle of the backseat. It was probably the best position to have been in for the rollover.

With a final diagnostic spell and a groan Black lowered his wand, apparently satisfied with his own self-assessment – for the moment. He seemed to be breathing harder than was strictly necessary, but his eyes shot to hers in a dark, assessing glare, even as he unearthed a miraculously unbroken potion vial from somewhere on his personage, biting off the cork and drinking it down.

His face twisted into a foul expression at the taste.

She choked on an out-of-place place laugh.

Black spat at whatever lovely flavor it'd been. "You seem intact," he remarked, sounding strained. "Astounding. My healing efforts would have been wasted had you gone and broken yourself," he heaved another concerning breath, "not five minutes after I had fixed you. Selfish imbecilic witc-"

From up front, somebody groaned, drawing their attention. The windshield had completely caved in, the crushed remnants clinging together as one intact piece. It looked like tiny pieces of glass had been strung together by a bored child with spell-o-tape, and Kally dimly recalled her father once mentioning that newer cars had windshields infused with a strong plastic that prevented the glass from breaking as easily. The side and back windows had a different type of glass altogether, a kind that would simply shatter into a thousand glittering particles, rather than deadly chunks. The front however…

What was left had fallen atop Fred, and one of his legs appeared to be stuck in the steering wheel, but he was alive. He moved, rubbing his head.

He was also sprawled across the front seat.

The entire front seat.

The entire empty front seat.

She felt sick. Ron. Ron had been there!

Black noticed at the same time she did. "We appear," he drawled, "to be missing a Weasley."

Fred didn't seem to hear.

Kally wanted to scream for him, but knowing what was outside, what had hit them, she didn't dare. She didn't have the strength to either. So all she did was reach up to clutch blindly at George, clinging to him with trembling fingers, reassuring herself that he was still there, even if he was knocked out cold.

Outside, on the periphery of the thick fog, a figure growled. It hovered out there, in the smoke trailing off the car, hiding in the rain and mile, just out of their eye-line.

It was nothing more than a large, hulking shape, and just the shadow chilled her down to her very marrow.

"That," Black muttered lowly, "was what I was talking about."

Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

"You need to leave," Black whispered. "Now."

She caught the word 'you' and instantly understood that he couldn't, wouldn't be leaving with them. He was hurt; he was hurt bad, worse than he would let on. Her heart rate increased, rhythm skipping, but she was nodding. "I'll get-I'll get someone."

Black just grimaced, dropping his head back onto the ceiling, the shag carpet cushioning the thud.

Kally tried moving, keeping her voice lowered. "Fred," she hissed, scrambling gingerly onto all fours. "Fred are you alri-"

He let out a low groan. "Remind me….next time, add a rodeo clown setting." He cracked an eye and grumbled, "And more cushioning." A piece of glass cracked off, falling down to smack him square on the jaw, the wizard wincing. "And a sedative."

The disco ball in front of her nose spun as if in agreement.

She knocked it away, surveying the remains of the vehicle. Parts of it had been caved in by at least a foot, and the initial point of impact had indentations that looked suspiciously like hand marks.

Hand marks.

Regulus had lifted his wand again, albeit more slowly. "I thought you troglodytes reinforced this?"

Fred guffawed. "Yeah, imagine if we hadn't."

That was not a pleasant thought.

"Perhaps," Black ventured, casting a healing spell in the general vicinity of his own chest, "cushioning charms."

He sucked in a breath at the sting, and something about it sounded off, wheezing…

Kally's own breath caught.

"Know it's a shocker," Fred muttered, oblivious, "but we did." The Quidditch beater let out a low groan, and the apparently sentient car groaned in agreement. "Apparently…we needed more."

At least that explained why they all weren't dead.

"Atta girl, Sheila." Fred reached out and patted what was left of the dashboard. The car made a mildly contented sound.

Kally was still eyeing the hand marks in the metal, which were beginning to move. It looked like the car was slowly but surely trying to un-dent itself. It was a mark of how hard that monster had rammed them that it'd been dented at all. That thing had thrown the magically reinforced vehicle like it had weighed nothing.

And it was still outside, standing on two legs, a phantom looming shadow in the thick fog.

That meant only one thing.

"They transported a stronger one here," she said, keeping her voice down as she shifted, taking ahold of George's good arm and giving it a shake, trying to rouse him.

"Yes," Regulus drawled, "far be it for me to spell it out, but vulnerable as our present position is we need to be quiet."

Fred grunted agreement. "No shit."

"These creatures are dumb," the Healer continued, wheezing. "If it can't see us, or smell the difference between us and the other undead, we may…be able to hide."

He left it unsaid that that was only a stall.

She closed her eyes, whispering, "Ron's out there." And to that…

No one had anything to say. He'd been thrown. They would have to go get to him. That wasn't even a question.

At once she and Fred began to move.

"They should put this on the Surrey vacation brochure," Fred was muttering, disentangling his foot from the steering column, grunting and tugging at it. "Really, bet people would be lining up to-"

His voice stopped dead.

He'd caught sight of his brother.

All jovialness from his voice evaporated.

"George?"

George said nothing.

Kally had been halfway crawled out of the car when this happened, and opened her mouth to reassure him that his twin wasn't dead, but Fred made a choking sound. A wild-eyed look of panic entered his eyes and he jerked like a wild animal snared in a trap, making a frantic grab for his twin-

His foot bashed into the steering column.

And when it bashed into the steering column, it hit the horn.

The magically enhanced, utterly loud, horn.

Music erupted, loud and blaring.

And it went on for a good ten seconds.


ECOTS


The tense bundle of anger better known as Harry snapped out the final number from between ground teeth, making Tonks seriously concerned for the integrity of his enamel.

"Four hundred and twenty two."

And just like that Harry burst into flames.

Literal flames.

A fiery flash erupted, right there in the Dursley's living room, leaving a circular scorch mark behind on the still cindering carpet.

Harry was gone.

Moody smacked at an ember that landed on his wooden leg, ostensibly to keep his limb from being reduced to common kindling, cursing foully. Dudley yelped, falling back onto the couch and inadvertently resuming his 'late night position of comfort', and Tres calmly sent a spray of water at the damage.

Tonks hissed a breath between her own teeth. "I hate when he does that."

Dudley made a dying sound, staring blankly at the smoking spot where his cousin had just been. "He-he-"

Ruthlessly Tonks grabbed him by the collar and jerked him up. "Spontaneously combusted. Yeah, yeah I know. Does it at least twice a week. Bloody phoenix letting him get bloody 'winged up'," making air quotes as she all but dragged the catatonic tub o' lard, "as if it's not already bloody bad enough that there's two of 'em!"

Without ceremony she shoved the fairly useless Muggle into the foyer and towards the front of the house, kicked the front door wide open, and burst out onto the front lawn.

And a wave of heat promptly slammed into her, knocking her right back onto her arse into the foyer. Dudders at least had enough padding on his derriere to bounce, and as Tonks lay there, her nostrils quite literally singed, she rubbed her own rear end and shot him a jealously annoyed glare.

Then she promised herself that she'd start eating all the treacle tarts she wanted, on account she reckoned that, given the disproportionate amount of time she spent getting knocked violently down onto her arse, that the extra padding was more than likely to save her life than the fatty heart disease was to kill her.

Really, it was all about playing the odds, after all.

She hoped Remus liked plump women.

"NYMPHADORA! Get your infernal arse up!"

She staggered up, choking on the hot air, and shot Moody the finger.

Outside the Dudley's front door, like some kind of portal to another word, an inferno rippled across the flooded street. Water flowed swiftly down it, pouring over the curbs onto people's front lawns, and fire danced in an orange-white fury across the water and naphtha-kerosene blend that had once been the tarmac. It was like some giant god had made lines of fire straight down the road to presumably snort up their oversized noses as they worshiped a volcanic goddess of destruction, and she had a suspicion the goddess' name was Fredericka.

The Dursley's tree lawn was also on literal fire.

But hey, that was just a tiny detail.

Her dark eyes went wide and she blinked to clear her vision. "Bloody hell Moody," she said, sticking her head out the door and looking around, "I think you actually undersold this."

The clack clack of Moody's peg leg against the foyer tile came up from behind. "My exact words woman, were complete and total destruction. What did you think that meant?"

Coughing up a piece of soot – it'd floated inside on a particularly hot wind current – she hacked up words. "Dunno," she choked, "but 'ccording to Remus, I can manage that on a Tuesday before breakfast. Didn't think you meant they blew up the literal street."

Really, standing in the Dursley's doorway and looking out was like standing in a deceptively calm suburbanite bubble and peering out into a fiery world of hellfire.

Well…hellfire and undead things, because quite a few of those seemed to still be moving around.

Something flashed overhead, the mere specter of a figure on a broom, and Tonks mentally added 'flying Death Eaters' to the list of things they had to contend with.

"Avery!" Moody snarled and shoved past, wand moving like a whip as he fired a spell at the property's boundary. It struck an invisible barricade and flared blue. Runes carved inconspicuously in the grass lit up like a Christmas light show that had been designed by a Muggle on acid.

The wards protecting the property all flared to life.

Every shrub, every flower, every piece of grass suddenly glowed.

Tres walked up, stopped besides her in the doorway, tilted his head and eyed the spectacle of colorful lights. "Wonder if that was extra on the landscaping bill?"

"Think that's called a Dumbledore special, actually," she snorted out.

"You sound," Moody called from where he had conjured an axe and begun hacking up large chunks of sod, surely angering the homeowner's association and the resident lawn squirrels, "like an undignified pig!"

Tonks made an angry sound and stomped her foot. "For the last time, Moody! I'm a lady. Not a barnyard mammal prone to rolling around in the-"

"Sorry about this, kid," Tres apologized to Dudley, "they do this a lot."

"-MUD! And besides, I'm not the one we caught sleeping with that goat in Alberforth's cellar!"

"Leave Bartholomew out of this!"

Tonks flat out snorted, and it was ladylike dammit!

Tres shook his head. Then he walked past, whistling calmly, as if he hadn't just strolled out the front door and into a verifiable war zone.

"Try not to get killed again!" she hollered after him. "It was a real bitch bringing you back to life the first time!"

From the floor Dudley made a distressed sound.

She cast him an odd look. "What? He was only dead for a little bit." Seeing his terrified expression, she rolled her eyes. "For Merlin's sakes Dudders, don't hold it against him. Least he's not one of those walking undead out there. He didn't come back with bloodlust or anything unseemly like that." She paused, frowning thoughtfully. 'sides, I don't think he's torn out anyone's throats…"

"That we know of!" shouted Moody.

"Dynamite drop in, Mad Eye!" she shouted back, right as Dudley began to frantically scoot back on the floor, dragging his ass like a dog wiping shit from its rump. "Way to set the excitable Muggle at ease!"

Dudley stammered, and it was coherent. So coherent.

A spell slammed into the periphery of the yard, and an invisible barrier flared a bright and shocking pink. Neither Tres nor Moody looked particularly flummoxed about the matter, both casting ward-reinforcement charms at opposite sides of the property line. Moody then resumed digging in the ground like a mad sort-of rabid marmot.

Tonks rolled her eyes, already mentally planning her next move. See the thing was, she hadn't seen any of this the first go around. None of them had. Truth-be-told, they were all operating on next to no information, and that intel was limited to what the papers had published. Hell, she had only seen the beginning of that bloody news article from the Daily Prophet. Two days from now she would be gaping at the first paragraph when Mad-Eye would notice (or was it noticed) and slam (or was it slammed – thinking about future events that hadn't happened yet, but that were actually in her own past, was rather taxing) a hand down over it, blocking it from her view. "Shut your eyes, woman! It's bad enough one of us had to read it!"

Mad Eye really was a grouch.

The fire crept up the tree lawn and threatened a row of finely pruned shrubs. Well…they had been finely pruned. Currently a rather charred and crisp looking zombie was sprawled across them, speared through the middle by a rose bush, the slimy tubular structures that could only be intestines spilling out all over the place as it tried to move.

It rather looked like a bug speared on a stick.

But hey, at least the Dursley's garden would be nice and well fertilized.

Dudley Dursley threw up.

Tonks let out a low whistle. "Duddikins, your mum is going to be piiiiised."

The sound of dry heaving met her ears, and spinning on her heel she stalked over, grabbed him by the scruff of his robes, and yanked his portly self to his feet.

"Duddy," she purred, ignoring his uncoordinated scrambling. "Duddikins. Calm down. None of those big bad monsters can get past the property line."

Abruptly Harry's cousin stopped trying to escape. "Th-they can't?"

"Nope!" she said, far too cheerily. "Technically Harry still lives here, so you ungrateful lot are still protected. But I have the perfect way for you to do good by him and redeem yourself. You game?"

The lesser version of Harry's genetics suddenly looked wary. "Do I have a choice?"

"Not really." She said this with the sort of smile that any sane judge at an incompetency hearing would take one look at, then immediately lock up for the good of the community.

Dudley appeared to be shaking, but the Muggle lifted a ham-like hand and wiped at his mouth several times, getting the left over chunky bits off.

And then he looked past her, out the door to evil Narnia, and made an upset sound. "It's those…those people Harry talked about?" He seemed to hesitate. "The ones that tried to hurt him? That came after us?"

Us? Now that sounded like quite the story. She would pout at Harry for not sharing it with her later. For now she narrowed her brown eyes and said, "If you mean evil dark-lord-toe-kissing-dogmatists, then yup. That's them!"

And to Tonks great, great surprise, something changed in Dudley's expression. The cowardly Muggle still shook, but he stood there in his vomit-strained dressing gown, and made a strange sort of face.

And then he nodded.

"Okay, what-what do you need me to do?"

Tonks grinned an evil smile.