Chapter 82 ~ The Attack of Privet Drive 3: You Set Me on Fire!
"Take what you fear, and make it afraid of you."
~ Someone who was probably very pissed off by one too many spiders.
DE DE DEDEDE DE DE DE DEE DE!
It was the circus theme song from hell.
DE DE DE DEDEDE DEE DEE!
It lasted for a good ten seconds, and then…
The music, that instantly recognizable loud and obnoxious ringside song, suddenly stopped.
Kally froze, glass digging painfully into her palms. Her hands sank in the mud, blades of grass and wet dirt seeping between her fingers as she hovered literally in the car window, having crawled halfway out the back passenger window.
Outside the car, her shaky breathing seemed incredibly loud.
Within the fog something moved.
Her head darted up, hazel eyes looking out into it.
It was raining, her hair sticking wetly to her cheeks. It pattered down with a steady ratta, tap, tap against the metal underside of the flipped vehicle, pitter pattering into the mud, splashing. A vaporous, murky cloud surrounded them, pressing slowly in, shifting subtly with the wind. Water droplets streaked down her face as she peered out into the night, and three meters in front of her face an unnatural mist hung above the grass, impenetrable to the eyes. Regulus had conjured it to protect them, but now…
It coiled, swirling and mixing with the natural English fog. The dark shadows of the night blended with a bright orange-red glow, the sheen of the not-so-distant fires. Water droplets in the air caught the light and seemed to glimmer.
Each gust of wind sent the mist dancing.
It also brought forth a new wave of stomach-recoiling smells. The reek was noxious. It stank of decay and rot, and her stomach churned as something not-quite-dead, but definitely not living, skulked about .
Their crushed vehicle lay at the calm center of a dangerous fog.
The rain pattered down, but otherwise…
It was preternaturally silent.
From behind her, the quiet sound of tinkling glass was heard. Regulus shifted in his seat, clutching at his ribcage in an unnatural way. "Just to be clear," he hissed, so soft even Kally strained to hear him above the pattering rain, "when the Wizengamot inquires, the killing was justified."
"You can't kill Fred," she breathed, but Kally's eyes remained glued to the fog, watching as the silhouette slinked further off into it. Her breaths were shallow, shaking. That thing out there…its eyes were bound to be clouded over with the glaze of death, its nostrils overwhelmed by the fumes of the fog, so it couldn't see or smell them right now.
But it could probably hear them.
"Why not?" Black heaved. "One twin down, one to go."
"That's my brother,you bastard,"Fred snarled, followed by a scuffling sound. He was clearly jerking at his leg frantically in a second attempt to free it from the steering wheel, and was probably in very real and serious danger of kicking the horn again.
"Guys," Kally hissed.
They ignored her.
A flash of light caught her attention, Kally's head darting back, over her shoulder, the non-witch peering beneath the window frame.
Judging from how slow Fred now seemed to be moving, Regulus had clearly hexed Fred. It looked like a slow motion recording on a Muggle television set, Fred's fight against the steering column almost comical.
Black was shooting a look so black even a wormhole would have been afraid. "Your imbecilic twin," he growled, "is fine. Now stop before you attract something."
She sucked in a breath, whispering, "Too late."
The self-appointed Muggle doctor directed narrowed eyes her way. "How close?"
"There's a silhouette."
Regulus scowled. A half second later a second spell freed Fred, his body jerking abruptly as his movements went back to normal speed. Kally screwed her eyes up tight at the rather blinding light – the inside of the vehicle made it brighter than it should have been – and it even left Fred blinking, looking dazed. "George!" he croaked. "So he's alri-"
"Yes." Black sounded patient. Oh so patient. "Though he won't be if something deigns to eat him."
Fred winced and glanced at the horn. "Maybe they didn't hear it?"
As if on cue, something growled, and her head shot back around in time to see the fog shift. Her breath froze. The fog parted, a shadowy thing – something huge – moving like a phantom, closer this time, only-
Nothing came through.
All she heard was a strange sort of sound, like something sniffing, searching…
The shadow retreated.
Her heart raced, hair strung in her face. "We have to get out of here."
"Ah, so glad to see we are still capable of stating the glaring obvious."
Kally felt like she was honestly trembling, terrified, but still managed to shoot a dark look back inside the car. Black, however, was looking pale and haggard, as if the simple act of talking had pained him. Her lips fell apart, a realization striking and sending her stomach straight down to her toes. "You're hurt!"
"Ah, is that what I am?" he drawled, clutching his side and managing to get onto his knees. Several deep breaths later he forced, "Here I thought I had just gotten old."
"You are," came a choked voice, "old."
Everyone's heads whipped up, George hanging there with a pained, mildly delirious expression.
Fred's face broke out in relief. "Georgie!"
'Georgie' rubbed at his head with his good arm, muttering, "That's it….next time, I'm driving."
Fred choked on a laugh.
Outside something heard him, and that disturbingly large shadow in the mist whipped in their direction.
Kally instantly backed up, crawling backwards into the car, bumping right into Regulus. He didn't yelp, snarl or hiss. In fact, he didn't make a sound.
None of them did.
They waited. Tension rippled the air, but they waited.
Ratta, tat, tat went the rain.
Kally was shaking, trying so, so hard to not let her head bump into anything – like the floor that was now the ceiling, or George, who might scream in pain – that might make a sound.
George hung suspended, directly above her. Strands of her hair shifted, blowing with each exhalation from his nostrils.
She stared through the busted out window, past the twisted and deformed frame, for so long that her vision legitimately blurred. She held her breath for so long a slow and long whine filled her head. She wasn't precisely sure when the shadow moved away, but her breath came out on a swift exhalation at the same time as George's above her.
Her hair blew chaotically as he breathed out his nose, but still….they remained silent.
Finally, the self-appointed Healer spoke, and when he did he spoke with calm, quiet, careful words. "My cloaking spell," he whispered, "will only conceal us so long. Blind luck is the only thing to keep it from stumbling through and onto us."
Another pause. Then George's whisper responded, and even though he was suspended directly above her, she still had to strain to hear.
"Oh good, 'cause you know," he croaked, "us Weasleys, get bored if there's not the distinct risk," a light groan, "of a disturbingly messy death by something eating our entrails."
"Yeah," Fred added so, so quietly, but relief bled from the sound, "that brother o' mine, he gets antsy."
"Bet my spleen tastes better than yours."
"As if. Pumpkin pastry diets don't make for a good entrée, Georgie."
They were so, so screwed.
And Ron was out there.
Her heart leapt in her throat. The only thing that kept her in the car and from rushing headlong out there was the fact that she hadn't yet heard any screaming or the crushing of bones.
Then again the ejection from the car alone could have killed him.
Ron could be laying out there, somewhere, dead.
She squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to scream.
Black was talking again. Quietly. Slowly.
"The two of us," he said, "are in no shape to run." He paused, giving it a long moment to ensure the sound of his voice did not attract the attention of the thing outside. "You two need to leave, and find the other Weasley." Another pause. "It'd be a shame if the only one I can actually stand got torn to shreds."
It took Kally a quarter second to realize he'd just complimented Ron.
The twins realized a second after that.
"That hurts, Reggie," George muttered, placing his good hand over his chest. "Right here." His hair flopped into his face, and for all-the-world it looked as if he had no idea that he was still hanging upside down. "Here I thought we had something special."
Her brow furrowed instantly. "How hard did he hit his head?" she whispered.
"Come now, it wasn't that-" George cut off, having attempted to move, and was now looking down at his broken limb in a daze. "My arm…"
He sounded completely and totally surprised to see it bent at such an odd angle.
Kally shot Regulus a look, the older wizard sighing. "I have a particular talent," he said lowly, "with numbing charms."
Her lips parted in a soft 'o' of understanding.
George just gave his misshapen arm a strange sort of flop. "When did this happen?"
Fred made a choked, reassured sound. "Don't worry Gred, won't let him amputate all of it."
George looked alarmed.
His twin snickered. "We'll get ya a peg for what's missing. You and Moody can matc-"
"You both have the intellectual capacity of a mentally challenged gnome," Regulus snapped.
From somewhere outside, something crunched in the grass.
"Gnomes," he repeated, hissing like an angry snake.
Kally sucked in a breath, just about done. "We have to go," she cut Fred off before he could do something asinine, like make more noise.
Without another word she gave a quick nod to Black, then crawled straight over him and right out the opposite window, finding herself on all fours on the ground, out in the downpour.
Rain pounded down, saturating her clothes, her shirt clinging wetly to her. The 'girl guides' red hair tie had long since fallen out, leaving her hair strung messily about. The skirt and shirt however were all she had left, and she was cold.
She hoped that was why she was shaking. She didn't want to think about being afraid.
Fred's voice drifted faintly out. "Did she just-"
"The Reach," Black drawled, "is going to get eaten."
There was cussing from inside the car and some scuffling from the front seat. The entire car seemed to sag into the wet ground, but Fred followed her out five seconds later, falling into place alongside the overturned vehicle.
He looked uncharacteristically displeased.
"Kallykins," he whispered, tone urgent and just a bit annoyed, "know you're prone to suicidal bouts of bravado from all that time spent with the surrogate brother, but you do realize there's an angry and undead yeti out here, yeah?"
Her head shot towards him, the car's hot exhaust system steaming directly behind his head, giving the illusion that his ears were emitting smoke. "A yeti?"
"Well, either that, or he was a seriously hairy man before he died. Caught a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror when we were flipping. Downright hirsute, like out of one of those tall tales those oxygen-deprived Muggles tell at elevation when climbing Everest."
She shot him a seriously concerned look.
"What? I know about Muggles. I'm cultured dammi-"
She smacked a muddy hand over his mouth, the rest of Fred's words cut off in a muffled mrmph.
Something had crunched, like a large animal walking over sticks.
Or, in this case, the neighbor's decimated rosebushes.
Fred slowly pried her fingers off his face, Kally barely noticing. Her eyes were directed out, tracking the fog, watching, waiting, willing whatever was out there to just leave them alone in a silent mantra. They both crouched there, scanning the fog that Black had conjured to conceal them, wrinkling their noses at the foul stench.
Finally, the thing seemed to move away.
Fred let go of her fingers. "Please tell me you're not expecting us to walk out there into certain death?"
"I'm open," she whispered, "to suggestions."
He seemed to pause, the rain plunking down.
"Still got that bag of tricks we gave ya?"
She searched her waist, feeling the disillusioned pack there. It was small, concealed, and she honestly had no idea how the twins had managed to make the thing fit so much inside, but…it was still there.
She was actually shocked. She hadn't even noticed.
"Yeah," she replied, "though I make no guarantees for how much stayed intact in the crash."
"You underestimate my power, Kallykins. My cushioning charms on that were sublime."
"Yeah? That's what you said about the car too."
"Don't insult Sheila. She can hear you, you know."
This time she shot an alarmed look at the car. As if sensing the scrutiny, it let out a metallic squeak, lifting what looked to be a fractured axel and giving a little wave.
Kally started to stammer and this time it was Fred who slammed a hand over her mouth.
They waited again for the large, hairy, undead man to move away.
"Remind me to snog Reggie for that cloaking spell," he muttered, right next to her head. "Don't think the thing can see us through that fog, or smell us over this," gagging, "fine odor."
"You snog the dark wizard with an intimate knowledge of human pain centers," Kally murmured back, just as quietly, "and you better have a casket picked out." Black didn't strike her as particularly affectionate, and she was someone he actually liked.
Fred grunted agreement, dark eyes already darting around. His hand hovered near his waist, rooting around in something invisible. Like a disillusioned and magically expanded fanny pack, perfectly capable of holding all kinds of goodies.
She already knew what he was thinking.
"You've got more of those birds, don't you?"
The grin he flashed spoke volumes.
Tonks whipped her head around and shouted at Dudley. "What took you so long?!"
The portly wizard skidded across the grass, clinging to the ruins of the cell phone. "My fingers were covered in blood and the touchscreen wouldn't work!"
"Pfft! Like that's an excuse!"
Dudley clearly didn't hear her. Instead, he made an upset sound and stared with wide, unblinking eyes, gaping at what had once been his street. "Ther-there's-"
"Bloody zombies everywhere. Believe me," she shouted, casting a hex and severing the head less-than-neatly off one such offense-to-nature, "I know! Did you get ahold of them?"
Dudley didn't answer.
He jerked, his dressing robe covered in dry vomit, blood and grass stains flopping in the wind. "Yeah. Yeah I did."
"Nymphadora!" a voice practically exploded from the drive, Moody quite literally conjuring a horizontal pit across the cement as an impromptu defense. For some reason, a lot of the zombies had favored walking right up the driveway, as if some primitive portion of their brains still remembered that it was impolite to walk on your neighbor's front lawn. "What's the status?"
"Depends!" she yelled, eyes frantically scanning the chaotic street. "How convincing were you and Harry to the Prime Minister?" She was genuinely curious, on account neither had let her within a kilometer of that impromptu meet-and-greet, better known as operation usurp the PM's security entourage to deliver a 'warning about wizardry' that the Minister of Magic sure as fuck wasn't about to do, on account Moody hadn't trusted her to not do something completely and totally clumsy to muck it all up.
Like trip and spill the coffee; he and Harry had, after all, posed as baristas.
Mad Eye conjured what looked suspiciously like tar into the pit. "That's what confounding the first responders and their dispatchers was for, woman! They can't get hurt if they ignore the calls!"
The tar began to bubble.
It bubbled dangerously. Like the Brea Tar Pits, on steroids.
Dudley stared at it, mouth agape like a guppy. "Wha-what did he do to our drive!?"
A particularly smart member of the undead heard and spotted Dudley's portly self, identified him as the best meal option the front lawn had to offer, and staggered past the tar pit drive to get at him.
A black blur shot out of it, snared the zombie by the ankle, and dragged it ruthlessly in.
The zombie, to its credit, screamed.
Mad Eye cackled, jabbing his wand at the pit. "What did I do to your drive, boy? I improved it! Take that you plague-carrying, skin-walking-bags of necrotizing fasciitis!"
The tar blurped happily, like a dog that had been told it was 'such a good boy.'
Tonks rolled her shoulders out. "Apparently, Mad Eye's taken up landscape design."
Off to the right Tres barked out a laugh. "Did he now? That right Alastor? Retirement was so boring it drove you to that?"
"Aye," Mad Eye snarled, flicking his eye patch, "and I'm a mean baker too."
Dudley stood there in the rain and mud, his excess weight slowly sinking his socks deeper into what had once been his front lawn, and his mouth flapped open and shut.
Clearly he was slowly – emphasis on slowly - processing the mass influx of information thrown at him.
Tonks, on the other hand, neatly severed an arm off a still mobile zombie and pondered a very deep, very serious question.
"Hey Mad Eye!"
"When you bake…do you wear an apron?"
"Unlike some, I'm secure in my masculinity, Nymphadora."
"Is it pink?" She fired off a spell. "Pleasssse tell me its pink!" -
Dudley paled, significantly, even more than when she'd blown up that zombie not a foot away from the front of his face, covering him in a shower of AB+.
And then he looked around at the chaos that had become his front lawn and street, before his gaze settled on the phone in his blood-covered hand.
The poor, mind-blown Muggle boy decided to fixate on that.
"Tha-that number I called… Was that-did I-did I just talk to the Prime bloody Minister?"
She snorted. "Course you did, what other Tony-the-Tiger-Blairs do you know of?"
"B-but," Dudley seemed to be having processing issues, "that was actually the Prime bloody Minister?"
"YES!" Tonks, Moody and Tres all responded at once.
Blood that wasn't Dudley's – it'd belonged to that rather drab looking and quite dead business man she'd gone and blown up – dripped down his front. "But-but you had him on speed dial!"
Tonks shot him a strange look. "Well what else would we have him on? He's the Prime bloody Minister, Dudders. Show Tony-Tones some respect, will ya?"
Dudley Dursley sputtered.
Mad Eye bared his teeth in a sinister smile.
Tres' voice burst through the downpour, shouting, "Please tell me you didn't save the leader of the UK's phone contact as Tony-Tones?"
Tonks waggled her eyebrows. "Should see what I've got you saved as."
The Australian opened his mouth, as if to protest, only got distracted by a high pitched whistling sound. His head jerked around, right as a flaming piece of broom came whizzing down from the storm clouds in a fast blur. Before anyone could do a single solitary thing it slammed into the ground in an explosion of dirt and sparks, a strange twang sound hurting her ears as the wood swung back and forth, the thing sticking up out of the ground like a misfired missile.
It'd nearly impaled Tres, missing him by mere centimeters. The wizard just stood there and eyed it for a moment, then plucked at his shirt. It had a hole in it.
The remnants of a Death Eater's cloak clung to the charred wood, melted right alongside what smelled suspiciously like flesh.
Tres gave himself a visible shake. "So," the Aussie said to the yard at large, "which one of you did this?"
"I did!" If a snarl could sound gleeful, Moody's did.
Tres frowned. "Would it be out of line to request a warning next time? Perhaps something easy, that even your vocabulary could grasp, like, perhaps, the word 'incoming'?"
"If you'd been vigilant, lad, you wouldn't have needed a warning."
Dudley was still staring at the charred broom. "There was a person on that?"
Moody spun around and fixed his magical eye on him. "What did you think an aerial attack meant, boy? Huh? There are dark wizards all around us! Give them a second of inattention and they'll happily hex your gullet right out of your-"
Tonks didn't hear the rest. There was movement to the right and she spun around with all the grace of a Swan-Lake-impressionist that'd been banned from ballet for the safety of the general public. Her wand whipped out anyway, casting a red hot wire of spell out of it. It swung out like a lasso and cut straight through the approaching human, slicing them right through the middle. This particular dead person – a pimple and pustule faced teenager that had been just a bit too tall for his age – blinked at her with wide white eyes, before the upper half of his torso slid neatly off his hips.
"And that," she announced in a rather loud voice, interrupting Moody's tirade, "is what a cross section of the pelvic girdle looks like. Take notes, Duddikins, there'll be an anatomy quiz later!"
The remains of the undead promptly began to twitch, the upper half trying to crawl.
Nothing a neatly aimed piercing hex to the back of the head couldn't take care of.
Harry's cousin stared at the remnants of what had once been a person, the one laying not a meter away from their feet, and dropped the phone. "I thought you said they couldn't get past the property line?!"
His voice was high pitched enough that Tonks briefly considered adding Dudlina to the moniker lineup.
"Ah, that," she said, so casually she might as well have been asked why a loaf of bread had been just a touch overcooked, "turns out we were wrong. The wards only applied to dark lord worshiping, dark mark branded types. But dead people can totally and easily get through, no problems whatsoever. So if one comes near you, don't let it eat you. Heard that hurts and all."
As if to emphasize her point, another such creature burst out of the misty downpour and charged, and Tonks levelled it with another whipping spell.
This one was much more precise, and it sliced the zombie straight through the head, nice and neat, right in the skull's middle. No need for a follow up brain-piercer.
She jumped up and down in the rain, delighted, the mud splashing up around her ankles. "Tres! I think I'm getting the hang of it!"
"Told you, you'd like it," the Australian shouted, now at the opposite end of the yard. Every strand of his ridiculously tawny brown, long hair was plastered to his face, but the wizard wore a wide sort of grin, like he hadn't had this sort of fun in ages. "Keep practicing and I'll show you the non-lethal variant. Can make a lasso out of it, drag 'em by their necks behind your steed and all that."
"Yeah, horse, car, unruly seventh year. Take your pick."
Tonks briefly wondered when exactly Tres had ridden a seventh year, whether or not Dumbledore or Minerva knew about it, and just as rapidly wondered if Remus would consent to being turned into one.
Then again they were getting married; consent probably didn't matter at this stage.
Tonks let out a delighted cackle.
From the drive came an angered growl, Moody having taken up position on top of what looked like the Dursley's unbelievably boring sedan. He stood there, peg leg indenting the roof with his leather trench whipping in the wind, looking like some sort of malevolent Zeus that had recently gone rabid. "Will you two stop making a game of this and stick to the matter at hand?" Unleashing a growl and taking careful aim up at the sky, he lifted his eye patch, looking at something that only he could apparently see – he spent way too much time bragging about that false eye of his – and fired off a stunning charm.
A disturbingly bright and powerful stunning charm.
From up in the sky a disillusioned figure let out a truncated scream, before it slammed into the concrete walk.
Tonks winced. "Damn boy, that had to of hurt."
"Ah," Tres commented, "so that's what happened to the one on the broom."
Dudley stammered. "He just-he just-"
Right. Dudley! She'd nearly forgotten. Tonks turned her evil grin on him, right as Tres 'lasso-spelled' the slightly smashed Death Eater and tried to jerk him inside the property line. It didn't work. The slightly smushed dark wizard got stuck at the barrier.
Tres gave another few experimental yanks, before loudly declaring, "Good news team, the wards work!"
No one had a chance to do something about 'securing the unconscious and possibly still alive Death Eater' before a young woman with mannish-short red hair and too many piercings threw herself on top of him, and promptly began tearing apart his nether regions.
And Tonks definitely meant the nether regions.
Every man within viewing distance winced and rubbed at his own genitals in sympathetic solidarity.
And then she got an idea.
An absolutely lovely and wonderful idea.
"Dudmeister!" She stalked forward through the rain, right as Ms. Undead Pixie Cut got her eyebrow piercing stuck in a piece of the Death Eater's flesh. The dead girl yanked a few times, before her white eyes seemed to say 'fuck it' and she attacked the man's lower abdomen instead.
Her troll-like teeth tore through the cloak and skin in no time, her entire face shoved into the abdominal cavity before jerking back out, throwing her head back and chewing in seeming delight. Judging from the smell, Tonks figured that was a piece of the man's entrails in the girl's mouth.
Seriously, what had the man eaten before he'd died? It took a lot for there to still be a noticeable stench in a rainstorm with several dozen dead and reanimated corpses in various stages of decay running around, but whatever shit the man had been holding back, its stench broke through.
The Auror wrinkled her nose, aimed her wand, and concentrated hard on the incantation she'd heard Tres shouting left and right, like some kind of old West wrangler. Then again, given him and Amarante's stories, he probably was one.
On the side.
When he wasn't taming the disturbingly venomous snakes of the Outback.
Tonks let loose the non-lethal lasso spell, snaring the zombie right around the ankle and giving her a good hard jerk off the Death Eater and onto the property.
Pity the girl didn't stop chewing the entrails. The shit-stained organ and intestines got yanked out of the man's gut, leaving a long line of intestine stretching from the walk straight up to the Dursley's carefully pruned petunias. Shit and piss covered the zombie's face, and it let out an unearthly screech at being torn away from her ball-ending meal.
Tonks dropped the zombie right at Dudley's feet. "Kill it."
Dudley made a sound not unlike a prey animal when confronted with a hawk. "What!?"
"Kill it, before she kills you."
Dudley took a stumbling step back, slipping in the grass. "Th-that's a girl."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh please she's hardly a girl. Besides, she wasn't even a pretty girl." Stopping and tilting her head to the side just a tad, water rolling off the tips of her hair, she frowned. "Looks a bit manly to me. Seriously Dudders, what's with these punk chicks your age?" She shook her head and her currently short pink hair moved on its own accord, like an anemone. "Not everyone can pull off that short haired, crazy-colored, bad ass feminine look you know. Honestly, don't know what they're thinking. They might as well call themselves butch and get it over with. Now me, I pull it off."
Dudley's head jerked to her and his mouth flapped like a fish.
Tonks gestured at her face and gave him a girlish smile. "It's the heart shaped face," she said. "Really makes or break the femme-fatale look, doncha think?"
Zombie girl spat out a chunk of what looked like literal shit, with a side of torn testicle, licked her lips and began eyeing Dudley.
Dudley just stood there. Poor boy, he was having trouble adapting.
"Look," Tonks said, taking mercy, "if it helps any, she was probably some unseemly sort of cheating bitch that broke some boy's heart. Looks the sort doesn't she? Some unintelligent, poor taste, look-at-me, look-at-me prone-to-hystrionics personality. See Duddikins? Backstories help."
The Muggle's head jerked back to her, wide eyed.
"She's eyeing your slippers," Tonks pointed out helpfully.
Dudley's head jerked back around, and given how quickly he did it, Tonks marveled at how he hadn't snapped his own neck. He stared at the zombie girl for a few seconds longer than necessary, looking rather like he was warring with himself, before visibly gulping. "I-I guess her nose does kinda looks like a witch."
Tonks mouth fell open. "Oi now! Us witches take offense to that kind of thing. I'll have you know that my nose is in perfect proportion to the rest of my face."
Dudley's head shot up, and for a second she swore to Merlin he actually looked sheepish. "Oh yeah, right."
Tonks gave him a stern look, but conjured a baseball bat out of a blade of grass and tossed it to him.
To her complete and utter shock he actually caught it.
"Tonks! What the hell are you doing, you infernal woman?!" Moody bellowed.
"That's not teaching."
"Sure it is! Just look at his progress! Before he was squealing and running away from everything! Now he's actually brandishing a bat!" Her voice dropped to a tone ordinarily reserved for infants and puppies. "There you go, boy. Now there's a good Dudley. You got this!"
"I think what Alastor means," Tres said, far more diplomatically, "is that time is something of an issue, so he's perhaps a touch concerned you're wasting it trying to man that one up." Tres paused, adding, "No offense, Dudley."
Dudley attempted to say something, but Tonks shushed him. "Exactly! I don't exactly have a lot of time to watch Diddle Duddiman's back here, and since I don't think Harry would be particularly happy if we just left him to get eaten-"
"Eaten?" Dudley croaked.
"-I figured we better test his monster killing skills before we start evacuating the stragglers to this safe zone. Someone's going to have to play zombie killer while his Muggle neighbors shriek and go to pieces at having their entire happy and safe suburban worldview shattered after all."
"Safe? What about this is safe!?"
"Safe zone is more of a relative term…"
There was a loud thunk, rather like a wooden peg being stomped on a car roof. "GET IT TOGETHER, BOY! Because if you don't and the zombies don't finish you, my trainee will!"
Tonks glared through the rain, droplets clinging to her eyelashes. "I take offense to that, Moody! I'm not a trainee!"
"I MEANT POTTER!"
Despite everything going on, Dudley had time to look seriously confused. "Harry's a trainee in something?"
"Kind of, yeah. Alastor over there's decided he's going to make an Auror out of him. Kind of like one of your police officers, only more bad ass. So a little bit of that, little bit of dark wizard chaser, a touch of contract killer." She gave a complacent shrug. "He's actually quite good at it."
"Wizard's a natural!" Moody barked.
Tres frowned. "Disturbingly so, come to think of it."
Dudley looked startled.
Zombie girl barfed up a chunk of flesh.
Little dead semen swam around on the ground. Then again, maybe those were maggots; the punk chick was decaying after all.
Duddikins stumbled back and gripped the bat like a lifeline.
The rain pounded down, fog rolling in, and looking around Tonks supposed she could understand Dudley's issue. He had, after all, had his 'happy time' interrupted. There he'd been, working on coaxing out his own little semen, and then he'd been rather unceremoniously tossed into the world of monsters and magic without so much as an oh yeah baby and a satisfyingly stick splatter that he'd have to explain on his mother's couch.
So maybe it was a 'little' harsh for them to expect him to adapt within a ten minute time span.
The zombie girl clambered to her knees, salivating at the mouth like a rabid dog.
Zombie girl stared back.
Blood mixed in the dirt.
Tonks stopped what she was doing, crossed her arms, and watched with a grin.
Zombie girl choked up what looked suspiciously like part of a ball sac.
And that was all it took.
Dudley barred his teeth, a look of resolution crossing his face. "I like my dick," he snarled, "where it is!"
The speed, power and exuberance the Muggle then exhibited in bashing in the girl's head shocked even Tonks.
What shocked her even more was when he continued bashing it, what was left of the skull cavity crunching and squelching, the Muggle screaming in a rage at the dead zombie.
Hell, he'd even thrown himself on top of her as he grabbed the bat with both hands and began bashing the hilt down over and over again, bits of brain matter splattering up into the air and raining down like little pink mush surprises.
Tonks lifted both eyebrows and looked to Moody. "What do you think? Can you work with this?"
Dudley heaved a tired breath, still hefting the bat and glaring at the zombie girl as if expecting her to make a move. Blood and chunks of brain matter slunk down his face, making him look rather like a deranged and mad serial killer on an all-night bender at a college sleepover.
Moody stopped what he was doing, which was mildly disturbing considering the current position of his peg leg in relation to a zombie's throat, and narrowed his one good eye. Finally….
"Yes. Atta boy, there's the family spirit we were looking for."
Unfortunately Dudley's eyes had gone wide and he was now staring at the remains – and she did mean remains – of the girl. "I-did- I just-"
"Went postal? Yup!" she said cheerfully. "Fun, iniit? Keep it up. Defend the keep. Remember, any of these guys get into your house and your dad's a dead man. He's got so much meat on him he'd be the prime course, remember." She paused, thinking of his rail thin mother, and added, "Your mum though, she might escape before they even see her, so guess you've got that goin' for ya."
Tonks was on her feet before Dudley could even respond. "MOODY!" she bellowed with all the grace of an auctioneer. "Do you got this?"
Mad Eye yanked his peg out of the zombie's neck with a loud suck and squelch, and gave her an annoyed shout, "Not the first time I've handled a zombie hoard, Nymphadora! Won't be the last!"
She had half a mind to ask when exactly he'd handled a zombie hoard before, but Tres had already grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and began dragging her towards the burning street.
They stood there, on the precipice of the Dursley's yard, on the threshold of the magical safety and wards created by Dumbledore. No Death Eater – no living one at any rate – could get onto the property line, let alone see over the property line. All they would see would be the quaint, quiet lawn of a suburban street, while everything else around them burned. Spells would even fail if fired across that threshold, if they came from the outside world aimed in.
Fortunately any spell aimed from the inside out would exit the wards just fine.
Dumbledore was a clever man.
"Ready?" Tres asked, eyes scanning the mayhem with unusual severity.
The Australian grimaced, but did not yet move. The coiling smoke and fog obscured the ambling undead until almost the last second; the stench of burnt flesh and kerosene was enough to make anyone still breathing dizzy, and there was another factor.
Tonks hair lengthened slowly, dropping down to around her shoulders, turning a strange gray-black to blend into the darkness. "You know your brother is out in this somewhere."
Tres nodded, and a strange expression crossed his face. "He thinks I'm dead."
Tonks pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Hrm…in that case, best let me go first then." Flashing him a smirk, she innocently told, "You know, just in case he mistakes you for a zombie and tries to take your head off. Brotherly love and all."
And with that Tonks lifted one foot, and with exaggerated dramatics stepped over the property line and out onto the battling street.
"Oh Remus," she called in a sing song voice, "wolfykins wolfmeister. Did you miss me?"
"You put caesium in it?"
Fred held up two pale fingers, spacing them rather far apart. "Just," he assured, "a little bit."
The little origami birds fluttered merrily off into the fog, glowing a sickly green, little lab vials dangling from their beaks. A silvery-golden metal moved strangely within each phial, as if the material within couldn't quite decide if it were a liquid or a solid. The protective glass encasing the caesium was apparently charmed to only shatter if touched by – as Fred had put it – anything 'already in a stage of appreciable decay'.
And then the thunderstorm's torrent would hit it.
The deluge around them continued, and Kally shifted in a panic onto her knees, sinking straight down into the mud. "Define a little?" she demanded.
Fred Weasley said a number that had her choke.
"Fred, it's raining!"
Her voice sounded shrill. Oh so shrill.
The Weasley scarred up a disturbingly vampiric grin. "I know, isn't it great? Georgie boy's idea, really. Put a little bit of a Muggle chemical into the fray, shatter it by a big bad boy's head in the rain, and then-"
He made a clapping sound that indicated certain doom for all parties.
Kally was going to kill him. Absolutely kill him. Alkali metals exploded if exposed to water, and caesium was the most explosive, stable of them. Any lower in the family of elements and you were talking radioactive explosions, and she didn't fancy turning Harry's home street into Chernobyl.
Grass stuck to her jeans and she shoved hair out of her face, sputtering on the water. "Couldn't you have picked something a bit, oh I don't know, higher on the periodic table?!"
"Nope." Fred was guileless. "Be happy. Thought about using Francium."
"That's radioactive!" she hissed.
For all-the-world, it looked like Fred didn't grasp the problem with this.
"Are you trying to get us all killed?" Black drawled, his voice muffled by layers of metal and the steady sound of the splattering rain. "Perhaps I didn't make myself quite clear before, but there is the rather trivial matter of not drawing attention. BE QUIET, lest you ring the dinner bell any louder than you already are and draw their attention right to us. Cloaking spells can only do so much you blithering sycophants."
This was followed by something inaudible, but it sounded vaguely like he was threatening to gut them like a fish.
The fact that he wasn't screaming as well made it plainly clear he hadn't heard the specifics of what Fred and his little birdies had done.
But right then Kally didn't care about being quiet. Keeping their voices down completely and totally didn't matter if they were about to be blown into the next century. Through the fog and thickening rain she watched the faint glow of the birds abruptly shift direction, heading at speed towards their target: the sound of that low, carnivorous growling. Every chemistry class she'd ever had roared through her head as she tried – desperately – to do the mental calculations to figure out just how large the explosion would be.
She couldn't be certain, but if her recollection was correct…
"Fred, that's going to blow a crater in the fucking street."
He blinked, red hair plastered messily to his head, and he looked genuinely surprised. "Kal, you just swore at me."
"Of course I fucking did!"
His eyebrows dipped together, water beading off to run down the bridge of his nose. He looked off quizzically into the downpour, frowning. "Maybe we should have rechecked those calculations."
Kally's heartbeat pounded, loud and thunderous in her ears, and she could practically feel the blood rushing in her chest. "Regulus," she whispered, "I hope you can still cast one hell of a shield charm."
There was silence.
A long, long silence. Finally….
"Dare I ask," came his acerbic drawl from within the ruins of Sheila, "what the imbecilic halfwit has done now?"
Kally ducked her head low to hiss through the window. "Caesium in a rainstorm."
Inside the car George cackled.
Fred just shot what remained of the rear door an offended look. "Imbecilic halfwit?" he repeated. "I'll have you know this is 'better fighting through chemistry', Reggie. Reckon would've earned me an O+ on our NEWTS, if, ya know, we hadn't dropped out."
There was a pause, where only the sounds of the rain and distant groans could be heard.
"You mean to tell me," came that same low drawl, "that you are playing with dangerous chemicals and you dropped out of your academia?"
Black had never sounded particularly friendly, but right now he sounded every bit as dangerous as the dark wizard he was purported to be.
Kally didn't really give a shit. She grabbed onto Fred's sleeve, gave a decisive and angry pull up, and then, slipping and sliding, clambered to a standing position.
She hovered there, unsteady on her feet for a full thirty seconds, catching her breath. The distant glow of the origami birds could be seen, green against the red-orange backdrop of the fires, and a large and overbearing shadow appeared to be moving through the fog straight towards them.
There were a dozen things flying through her mind, but right then only one permeated: the urgent need to run away. She took a wobbly step forward, and her entire left hip positively screamed, raw pain shooting down her leg.
Quite a few things hurt. Badly. The wreck hadn't exactly been gentle.
But…she could move.
She needed to.
"Casper," her voice actually shook,"about that shield charm…"
Through the rain she heard the thrum of it being incanted, relief flooding her.
Casting a swift look back at Fred, she wet her already wet lips, biting down on the lower. Fred met her eyes and grinned.
The bastard actually grinned.
Then he snagged her sleeve, and with a sharp tug sent them both stumbling off into the pouring rain, in the direction where Ron might have been thrown.
The fog swallowed them whole.
The world around her disappeared, the only truly visceral thing Fred's grip on her wrist. The moisture on her cheeks was cold, frigid, the mud sucking at her trainers.
There was a loud grunt, a growl, and the gentle tinkling of breaking glass.
Fred said something; she missed what it was.
A second later the front lawn of a kind, single, middle-aged woman named Olivia, along with what was left of her award-winning rose bushes, blew up.
The flames burning the tarmac flickered like a bonfire on crack.
Really, if Remus Lupin had not personally witnessed Fred Weasley and Lee Jordan light it up, he would have assumed Tonks was responsible. It would be just like her to return with a literal bang.
And he was marrying her.
He wept for their future children.
Something loud and vibrant and purple exploded, and Remus had to quite literally throw himself behind some Muggle family's sedan to avoid having his head taken off by a spiraling mess of fireworks.
The firework promptly paused mid-flight, looked around, then abruptly shifted directions, taking off to chase a Death Eater on a broom.
Ginny – having wisely sought shelter behind the same vehicle as him – watched the firework with narrowed eyes. "Oh good," she remarked, "it's sentient."
From besides him, Lee laughed.
The look Remus shot the Hogwarts' Quidditch announcer could only be described as 'withering.' "Was that," he asked slowly, "shaped like a pig?"
"Course," Lee told, completely unrepentant. "Minny said to keep a low profile. Do it like the Muggles would. Could hardly shape 'em like dragons, now could we?"
Remus scrubbed a hand over his face and fought back the overpowering ache in his skull. "While you embraced the spirit of her request, I believe you may have missed the point."
Lee actually frowned. "So what?" he asked, looking after the rampaging firework. It was a fiery pink pig in the sky. "You think we should of shaped it like a dog? Seems a bit pedestrian, doesn't it?"
Ginny snorted, un-ladylike as ever. "You and my brothers are an extra special kind of stupid, you know that, right Jordan?" Without another word she tossed herself flat on her stomach, army crawling beneath the sedan.
"Oi! My neurons take offense to that," Lee retorted, then, realizing that Ginny was no longer there, pointed a finger under the car. "Should we really let her crawl off like that?"
Remus huffed a breath, in a remarkable impersonation of a loyal pup. "Would you care to try to stop her?"
Lee seemed to mull it over. "Fair point. I like my testicles where they're at."
"Careful Jordan," came Ginny's muffled voice, "or you'll give me ideas." Her trainers stuck out from beneath the car, dangerously near the aforementioned testicles in question. Her left foot twitched in contemplation.
Remus grabbed her shoe with preternatural speed, purely out of concern to any future progeny that Lee may have if Alicia decided to spawn with the boy.
"Moony..." Ginny growled, giving a somewhat violent kick.
They were in the middle of a war zone, yet Remus Lupin somehow found himself praying for patience. "From your position," he asked, "how many of the undead can you see, Ginerva?"
Once more the youngest Weasley growled like a rabid wolverine, but she jerked her foot out of his hand and crawled a bit farther forward through the rain and muck, before no doubt reaching the opposite side of the vehicle and getting a better look. "Six that are still moving. The rest are burnt to a husk." She paused. "There's a lot of dead one's on the Dursley's front lawn too, actually. Piled up on the walk just outside of it. And there's someone standing on top of a car hexing like a lunatic…" she trailed off, and he could practically feel her squinting. "Can't really see too well with all the smoke."
One of the Order members had no doubt taken up post on the front lawn.
They'd also obviously gone mad.
With this group, that was entirely unsurprising.
"So?" Ginny demanded. "What's the plan?"
With the zealousness only found amongst the young, Lee shifted gears quickly and suggested an idea that truly, truly could go awry far too quickly for any of them to even hope to control.
Tonks would have loved it.
"So," Lee asked expectantly, "what do you figure?" His dreadlocks hung wetly from every inch of his scalp, exposing strangely pale and untouched flesh for a black man. Remus very nearly commented that there were hair thickening droughts he might want to consider, given that that amount of scalp wasn't something you usually saw short of going prematurely bald, but at the younger wizard's wide, white-toothed grin, the werewolf merely huffed.
Lee Jordan raised both eyebrows, and gave his head a tilt at the flames in silent question.
The Weasley twins had been a bad influence on him.
"I like it," Ginny said.
Come to think of it, the youngest one wasn't much better.
"I think," Remus said, drawing upon the patience of a saint, "that making the fire bigger so as to incinerate anyone left flying about on a broom might very well cause sparks to leap across a lawn, ignite a house, and subsequently burn down the entire street."
"So could the fireworks, but didn't see you protesting them."
Remus didn't even bother to point out that, had he known that the destructive trio had been planning to toss a large box of unregulated magi-works of questionable legality into the center of Privet Drive to serve as a distraction, that he certainly would not have approved. Instead he just fixed Lee with a patented Professor's stare. "There could be men, women and children still within the homes, Lee."
The Lee in question gave a shrug. "Doubt it. We evacuated all the ones here. 'sides, neighborhoods gone to shit now, hasn't it?"
The wizard had a point.
As if to emphasize that point, the SUV besides them chose that precise moment to explode.
It was LOUD.
The force threw the vehicle up, the tires leaping off the drive as over two thousand pounds soared a half meter high. The SUV's door tore straight off, a sizeable chunk of metal flying to impale itself in the nearest garage door, the shoddy aluminum vibrating like a tuning fork.
Metal zinged and launched in multiple directions, like whizzing bullets, and the shockwave heaved out through the fog and rain, Remus seeing a vague ripple of the air before it struck them with all the subtlety of an enraged and charging Buckbeak.
The force slammed Remus and Lee against the gray sedan they'd been using as a barricade, the impact physically rocking it. From beneath it Ginny let out a startled shout, something cracking, pieces of metal impaled into the sedan's passenger-side door.
Three meters off, the exploded vehicle bounced back down with a resounding CLANK. The axels broke, the exhaust system snapped off, clinking down to the concrete, and the entire front hood of what had once been a suburbanite's prized SUV burned merrily.
The garage door gave a loud groan, before it fell right off its tracks, smashing flat to the drive.
The property damage from this little venture alone would be astronomical.
With a groan, Remus rolled over on the wet pavement and peered blearily at it.
Lee, far more spritely in his youth, merely winced as he shoved himself up. "Hope they have good insurance," he muttered.
And then, from beneath the car, came a string of profanity so explicit that even Remus was shocked. Collapsing against the side of the sedan, he coughed. "Ginerva, are you quite alri-"
"What the hell was that?"
Well, that answered that.
"Stray spell?" Lee postulated, lifting a dreadlock and shaking a piece of debris out of it. "Either that or the fire got to the gas tank."
There was a silence.
A long, long silence.
"Jordan," Ginny practically growled, "where'd the fireworks you and my brothers made wind up?"
"Dunno. Probably 'round here somewh-"
"LEE! I'm under the gas tank of this-"
"Perhaps," Remus interjected tiredly, "you could crawl out from beneath there, in the interest of your mother not killing me when this is done?"
But Ginny didn't need asking. Her trainers abruptly disappeared, only for her head to reappear as she squirmed back out from under it, sloshing about in the puddles, hissing, "Please, like you're actually scared of my mother."
"I like to consider myself a learned man, Ginerva," Remus said, eyeing a piece of metal that had missed rendering Tonks a premature widow by mere centimeters. It was impaled in the sedan's door, and had nearly taken out his neck.
"What does that even mean?"
"It means that yes, I am scared of your mother."
The red head let out another one of those unlady-like snorts, having fully reemerged into a far less crushable position.
"So," Lee said cheerily, "reckon that spell-"
"Firework," Ginny muttered.
"-was aimed at us?"
Remus shook his head with immediacy. "If it was a spell meant for us they would have kept up the volley," he stated simply. But they hadn't. "Besides, I don't believe anyone's seen us yet. Had they, we'd have significantly more problems than just flying Death Eaters."
"Ah, you mean they'd be trying to make a meal out of Gin here."
"Right, right. Sorry, Gin. You're small, so would be more like an appetize-"
At this point the youngest Weasley reached right across Remus and outright smacked Lee upside the head, her arm managing to also whack the werewolf right in the nose in the process.
Remus rubbed at it, sending her a stern look.
Ginny shot him a sweet, totally impenitent smile.
The two wizards and witch sat there, in the pouring rain, in a random person's drive, using their damaged car as cover. The Order had succeeded in evacuating most of the Muggles before Fred and Lee had taken it upon themselves to blow up the entire city block, but breaking and entering into a stranger's home and forcibly dragging people not just from their beds, but through backyards, around fences, and through underbrush without being seen in a midnight stealth operation, whilst the undead skulked about didn't exactly sway Muggles to cooperating.
Copious confounding hexes had been used.
And confounding hexes made people, quite frankly, sluggish.
Jake had called them idiots, and idiots needed directed and corralled like cattle in a warzone – another Americanism of Jake's, which made Remus seriously concerned for what precisely he'd been doing with cattle to even have developed that expression – and that level of mass guidance required manpower.
A lot of Order members had been needed to escort the rather confused Muggles away, which had left just a few of them here on Privet Drive to defend the street and prevent any further members of the undead from getting away.
Which had been fine, until the additional Death Eaters had shown up.
This explained why he was now using a Muggle's undoubtedly overpriced sedan as battle cover.
"So," Lee asked, "what's the plan? Ya know, 'sides from not getting eaten."
Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Sorry, Gin. I'll correct that. 'sides from not letting Ginny get eaten."
Remus cursed teenagers and tilted his head back against the car, looking straight up at the sky. If he were lucky, James might take mercy on him and hit him with lightning before Nymphadora got back.
In that small slit of space between the garage and the car, he saw the air shift.
Lee, also looking up, saw it too.
The shift was barely noticeable. It looked like a chameleon blending into the night about ten meters above them, but the smoke from the burning street was parting, drifting, as if something were flying in lazy circles through it.
Lee glanced at him with uncharacteristic seriousness, and Remus nodded.
They reacted instantly.
Both wizards wands whipped up and shot out, Lee's knocking into something that sent the blurry-figure bouncing – most likely the broom handle – while Remus' hit dead on.
The figure snapped into the visible spectrum and spun, barely in control-
And then a third spell struck from the other side of the street, the final nail in the Death Eater's metaphorical coffin. All three of them stuck their heads out around the edge of the car to see where that hex had come from, Amarante's satisfied face visible through the coiling smoke for a brief second.
"Oh good," Lee said, "Amarante's still alive."
Remus shot him a stern look.
"What? We got separated when that one flying piece of dark-toe-kissing-scum-"
A disturbing scream cut him off.
The Dark Lord's follower they'd hexed down had crashed into the center of the street, right into the center of the literal flames, and several members of the undead – ones that hadn't finished burning to death – had leapt atop them.
The damn things seemed to be multiplying.
Remus suspected additional timed portkeys were to blame, the Death Eaters ensuring that a steady stream of the undead would be delivered to Privet Drive in periodic 'waves'.
The screams cut off abruptly.
Ginny dismissed this to shoot them both a dark scowl. "Clue me in will ya?" she muttered, her dark eyes now scanning the sky, clearly intent on finding her very own Death Eater action figure to hex.
Lee, on the other hand, turned back to him with a curious look. "You hit him head on. How'd you pull that one off?"
"Aim ahead of the flier," he instructed. "Their flight path takes them right into the hex."
"Ah." Lee looked thoughtful. "How do you figure where they're going then? Given they're, ya know, invisible?"
Lupin ducked beneath the passenger side window and kept his voice down, mainly to avoid attracting the attention of any of the undead that were now…a bit more awake, since they'd fed. "Track the direction the smoke moves in for a few seconds before firing," he told. "It'll provide their general trajectory and you can make an educated guess. Their momentum will do the rest."
At that Lee just made a face. "Sounds arduous."
"When we're done here, remind me to reinstate my classroom temporarily to provide a lecture on all the virtues of patience in battle."
Lee flipped a dreadlock out of his eyes. "Good luck on that, Prof. You could barely get me to sit still when I was actually enrolled."
And that was when a plethora of noise erupted across the road.
Both Lee and Remus ducked down, peering beneath the sedan across the flaming tarmac, while Ginny opted for crawling right underneath the car to get a better view.
Remus squinted, blinking smoke and rain out of his eyes, his vision slittening, sharpening-
Ginny let loose a suspicious sounding growl.
"You'd tell us if you hadn't had your shots, wouldn't ya?" Lee quipped.
This time, Remus didn't bother to scold either of them.
He didn't, because a voice hit his ears – his admittedly waterlogged ears – but with his heightened senses he would recognize that voice anywhere.
Remus' stomach lurched, the sensation one he was still completely ill-suited for.
Across the street, fully visible in a break through the smoke and flame, was Tonks.
And she was sitting on top of Amarante, the wizard's hands and feet tied behind his back as he wildly attempted to buck her off. She held onto the ropes like she was riding an untamed horse, and despite the fact that Remus knew there was absolutely no way for her to see them, under and behind the car as they were, she looked right at them, as if she knew exactly where they were
With far too wide a smile she gave them a casual wave.
And standing alongside them, brandishing his wand and casting curse after curse to keep the approaching undead away, was Tres Gai.
Alive and well.
Suddenly Remus understood why Amarante was shouting.
Beneath the sedan came a confused sounding growl. "That better be Professor Gai and not another polyjuiced DADA imposter."
Lee blinked like an owl. "But he's bloody dead."
"Yeah? And Harry had a time turner. What's your point?"
"That he's bloody dead."
There was a muffle huff. "Please. Harry went back for Buckbeak and fixed him, and he was decapitated."
Lee blinked again. "Wait, he what?" He paused, seeming to think about it. "And he didn't include all of us? We could have fun with that."
"Oh yes, because Harry's in the habit of inviting along complete strangers to do illegal thi-"
"Strangers? We were Quidditch mates! You wound me, Ginn-"
"You're the announcer!"
"Yeah, and a biased one in his favor I'll have you know!"
Remus completely and utterly ignored them. Instead he waved his wand, summoning that sensation, that feeling that could only be associated with her, thinking of this moment, in the here and now, surrounding by quarreling former students, blood and chaos.
"Expecto patronumn," he whispered, a silvery, misty wolf emerging from his wand's end. It crouched low beneath the sedan, its head ducked needlessly low beneath the exhaust system, and it glided swiftly around to stare at him with soulful, gray eyes.
A genuine smile touched his prematurely aged face, his message charm whispered into the night.
There'd been an explosion. Again.
Kally didn't remember anything after that. There'd been the thunderous BOOM, the pressure-wave that had slanted the rain sideways, slamming into them and ripping her away from Fred, exploding her eardrums in a blinding pain, and then-
Now there was a big, gaping black hole in her memory.
It had to of lasted several seconds.
Rain pattered down against her back, soaking her. Inside her skull, her ears hurt; screamed, in fact. The ringing in her ears thrummed like a loud, high-pitched whine, like a speaker's audio feedback on the fritz, and it made Kally want to bury her face in the mud to please, please make it stop. It was hard to think. It was hard to do anything.
The world dizzingly spun, like the ground wasn't quite sure of itself yet. Nearby, someone let out a whimper. It took her longer than she was proud of to realize that it'd been her.
She had wound up face down in something dark and squishy. Mud.
Kally lifted her head, eyes tearing and blinking furiously. Earthy chunks of someone's front lawn clung to her eyelashes, tiny pieces of dirt and rock infiltrating her eyes and causing pain. Lots and lots of pain. Through that she could see a blurred sea of green directly in front of her nose. She tried to focus on it, but it was hazy, all out-of-focus. Water droplets clung to the green things and sparkled, reflecting a blurry, eerie, flickering red-orange glow. It reminded her of writhing flames.
Deep inside her chest, her heart pounded. Blood rushed through her ears. A magical tingling attempted to heal.
The magical tingling was burning her ears from the inside out. She'd felt it before: unicorn blood. Simply because it had healing properties, didn't mean it was pleasant.
The ringing in her ears reached a crescendo, the sounds of the storm muted by that high-pitched buzz. Again someone – herself – whimpered. The buzz of broken eardrums post concussive blast didn't care; it just buzzed louder. Healing blood rushed to them. A gust of wind howled overhead in the growing storm, and the sea of green directly in front of her nose danced.
Dimly, she realized that she was looking at dozens of blades of grass blowing in the wind.
They were also on fire.
Someone fisted a hand in the back of her shirt and jerked her unceremoniously to her feet.
"Kaylens, what the actual hell?"
She winced, reply near automatic, "I didn't do it."
"Oh sure," Ron muttered, "because someone else just blew up half a city block."
From off to the right came a ragged cough, followed by a familiar voice that she was definitely going to kill as soon as she could see straight. "Suburban block, little bro," Fred croaked, "if you want to get technical about it."
The hands on her arms stiffened, Ron's grip on her the only thing keeping her from swaying on her feet and falling right over. Her ears gave another high pitched, painful buzz.
The Gryffindor Keeper glowered at his brother. "You can't be bloody serious."
From out of the foul-stenched-mist stumbled the Weasley twin, his clothing singed and a small bit of hair still cindering, but he flashed them both a weak grin. "Course I am, little bro." His dark eyes shot to her, narrowing in a freckled-face-assessment as he looked her over. "Kally-kins! You alright?"
Fred sounded way too cheerful for someone who was about to die.
Ron snarled. "Kaylens," he replied for her, giving her a physical shake for emphasis, "is bloody fine!"
She let out a pathetic groan and nearly fell over.
Ron's head darted back to regard her, and now he was giving her that same narrow-eyed look Fred was. "Shit, you're not, are you?"
Kally closed her eyes and lifted a tired hand to rub at her temple. Even that small movement hurt. "I am spending way too much time today," she murmured quietly, "getting blown up."
Ron stared at her for precisely two seconds.
Then his head whipped around accusingly. "Why the hell do you keep blowing her up, Fred!?"
Fred's mouth fell open, as if to laugh, only he wound up choking on what looked suspiciously like a bit of ash and another clump of grassy sod.
Kally choked on a laugh herself.
Ron's head darted back and forth between the two of them, the wizard missing an entire sleeve of his shirt. A bloodied smear of sticky red-brown covered his right cheek, a lump of his hair quite literally missing, and so was a chunk of his right earlobe. The entire right leg of his pants also had been torn off at the knee, ragged, bloodied abrasions streaking all the way down to his ankle and missing shoe.
He looked dreadful.
But he was alive.
Kally stood there and swayed on her feet.
She let out a very relieved laugh.
Ron eyed her like she'd lost her mind.
Fred doubled over and continued to choke on pieces of the Muggle's front lawn.
As if on cue something loud popped, and a shock of heat erupted on her lower leg.
It wasn't until Ron doused her with even more water in the already heavy rain that she realized that her shoelaces had caught on literal fire. She blinked down at her now charred left trainer, and then looked up.
Ron looked, if possible, even more disgruntled.
Fred choked again.
And just like that a shadowy figure appeared behind the choking Weasley twin. The mist parted. There wasn't enough time to shout warning. Kally's heart leapt to her throat, her blood icened, and a shot of her magic flared out of her control-
"OW!" Ron abruptly let go of her, shaking out his hand and looking affronted. "Bleeding hell, Kaylens. You shocked me!"
He seemed completely and totally unfazed by his brother being ambushed.
A second later she realized why.
That shadowy figure had fully materialized into the form of a man – not a dead one hellbent on tearing out someone's throat, but into a living and breathing burly looking man.
All the man did was slam a large hand against Fred's back, while the twin pathetically hacked up a lung. "Try not to choke there, Freddo," the rather muscular man stated calmly, "that's bad for life expectancy I hear." The man - a wizard judging by the wand in his hand – turned his dark eyes in her and Ron's direction and looked them both over. Slowly. Calmly. As if they weren't standing in the middle of a half-charred lawn with a crater off to the side, with the faint sounds of zombies milling about, unseen in the rain and thick mist, and Death Eaters no doubt somewhere nearby.
He looked like this was a walk in the park compared to his normal day. Like Ron and Fred, he had shockingly bright red hair and freckles. He also looked far more alike Fred and George, stocky frame, than he did Ron.
Another brother, obviously. The name Charlie came to mind. A dragon handler, if she was remembering what Harry had said correctly.
It struck Kally that she'd definitely seen him before, possibly at an Order meeting, but had never actually spoken to the man. He must have had the same thought about her, because he gave her a stiff nod. "So you're Kally then? Ron's friend?"
Kally blinked stupidly at him.
Charlie shot Ron a curious look, Ron just shrugging as if to say, 'she's an imbecile, what can I do?'
She might have had half a mind to kick him if she wasn't already on sensory overload.
The stockily built man turned back to her and gave a stiff nod. "Ron, told me about you. You alright?"
Kally blinked again, and in her trauma-induced-state seized onto one thing. "Ron called me his friend?"
Ron made an annoyed sound.
She glanced at him and ignored the glower he was currently directing onto his older brother. "You called me your friend?"
Ron scowled. "Don't know what he's talking about."
Charlie just grinned slowly, then held up something mushy and pink looking. "Good news little bro, I found the rest of your ear."
The Gryffindor werewolf's eyebrows dipped low and he squinted, peering through the deluge. Thunder rumbled ominously overhead and Kally stumbled, Ron's hands shooting out blindly to steady her, but she too was gaping at the remains of what had once been his lower ear.
And his brother was brandishing it around like it was some kind of prized trophy.
"That looks….like it's been put through a meat grinder," she managed.
The dragon keeper grinned. "To be fair, I yanked it out of an old woman's mouth. The dead lady was chewing on it."
Fred began laughing harder and sunk to the ground.
Ron looked appalled.
Charlie cast the chunk of meat another assessing look. "Yeah, reckon he's better off without it at this rate." Then he tossed it back over his shoulder and into the fog, disposing of it.
"Oi! That was my ear!" Ron protested.
"Just," Fred choked out, holding up two muddy fingers, "a little bit of it."
"It was still my-"
"Stop being upset," Charlie said. "Pomfrey will regrow it."
Ron let out a threatening growl. "Says the man with two ears. Easy for you to say."
"Please, if you lot had any idea how many body parts I'd lost on the reserve-"
Fred's head perked up. "Lost?"
"Give it back," Ron threatened, "or I'm telling mum."
Now the dragon keeper rolled his eyes. "She'd have kittens, then would never let you out of her sight again. Bit hard to take Hermione out if you're locked in your room."
Ron bristled. "I'm of age."
"Yeah, like that'll matter when mum's worried about her ickle Ronniekins safety!" Fred was positively howling. "Hermione might corrupt her littlest boy! Quick, Charles! Lock him in his room before little 'Mione can deflower him!"
Kally felt Ron's grip grow tight on her upper arms, to the point it nearly hurt, his words a threatening grind, "You realize I'm bigger than you?"
Fred was impervious and promptly fell back on his ass in the mud, laying down to hold his stomach as he wheezed on laugh after laugh.
He too, looked positively dreadful. Covered in ash and mud, it looked like he'd rolled around in the remains of TNT detonation site.
Charlie eyed him with mild concern. "Move around any more, and you could make a mud angel."
Fred did exactly that.
Kally closed her eyes, felt the buzz return to her head, and muttered, "Can someone please tell me what is going on?"
"My brothers are dumbasses," Ron muttered.
"I meant," she breathed, "what happened to the zombie powerhouse that flipped the car we were in?"
Fred stopped laughing abruptly and sat up. "Georgie!"
Now Charlie looked concerned. "Is George okay?"
Kally cut Fred off before he could go on some twin-worried-rant. "He's fine. He-" she stopped. Rubbing her head, feeling that dizzying wave start again – that wave that always came whenever the unicorn blood's magic decided to take effect and do something pesky, like heal her - she murmured, "Sodding hell…"
Ron, ever the concerned friend, gave her another hard shake.
She cracked her eyes and shot him a mild glare. "Ow."
"Define fine?" Charlie requested, sounding suspicious.
The dizzying wave passed, and feeling somewhat less-ready-to-fall-over, she supplied, "George snapped his arm and has a concussion. Regulus stayed with him and cast a vision and scent cloaking spell to keep them hidden from the recently deceased and ear-chewing lot running amuck. But…last time we checked he was still stuck upside down."
Ron sent her a dark, dark glare.
She ignored it and made a gesture towards where the explosion had come from. "Zombie apocalypse? Can we please focus?"
Charlie grabbed his brother by the collar and jerked him back to his feet. Fred yelped. Charlie ignored it, telling, "It blew into about a dozen pieces and didn't get back up. We're good." He clapped Fred on the back. "Thanks for that, by the way. We were having a hard time taking care of that thing."
Fred beamed. "Told ya it would work, Kally-kins."
She hissed a breath and tried to not grit her teeth. "I can't help but notice," she said, "that we've been standing around talking and nothings tried to kill us. Last I checked everything was trying to kill us."
"Black's spellwork," Ron said only a little grudgingly, "is good. The undead have been staying out of the mist." He wiped at his face with his sleeve, muttering, "I was wondering where that came from. Half thought it was another little surprise from the Death Eaters when it showed up."
Given that Black had been a Death Eater... "Well technically…" she started.
"Whatever it was, it gave us a reprieve."
"And the others?" she asked.
Charlie tapped his wand against his outer thigh, looking between them all. "Order members are a street over dealing with the stragglers. That little trick Fred and Lee pulled incinerated most of them, even took out a few of the Death Eaters, and that roving bulldozing sports car took out more, but there's a fair few enough left to cause problems. Most of the Muggles we got evacuated, but there's a fair few that wouldn't let us into their houses without a fight, so rounding them up still."
It was eerily calm here, but Kally took a deep breath. "Shouldn't we go help?"
Charlie eyed her with open disbelief. "You just two just got blown up. I don't think either of you are exactly in primo condition to fight."
Fred laughed. "Woman gets bored if nothings tried to kill her for..." he paused, and appeared to be counting, "at least five minutes."
"Huh, so she's one of those woman?" 'Charles' said, frowning. "Guess it makes sense why Harry likes her then. Wizard's like a magnet for that kinda thing."
Fred made an exaggerated, triumphant sound. "It's settled. To the fray we go."
"Great," Ron deadpanned, before turning his attention fully to Fred and rolling out one of his shoulders. It gave a concerning crack. "And you," he accused, "I thought you said the car was supposed to be safe. What happened to all those modifications you lot allegedly made to it? It turned me into a projectile!"
Fred batted away Charlie's grip and grinned. "To be fair, little brother, didn't account for someone hanging half-way out of it and us getting bull-rammed by someone who couldn't say no to one-too-many extra pumpkin pastries in life."
"Is that a fat joke?" Ron blinked, then glanced at her for confirmation. "Did he seriously just call a zombie fat?"
She shrugged helplessly.
The dragon keeper variant of the Weasley family simply rolled his eyes.
Kally, however, was studying Ron with a bit more concern. "You got thrown," she said slowly, "out of a moving vehicle. How on earth are you okay?"
A bull-like snort shot out of his nose. "I landed in a shrub. Remind me to thank number thirty four for not pruning that thing."
And then Ron rubbed his ass, shifting uncomfortably.
Fred's comment, upon seeing that, were merciless.
A stinging hex 'might' have been thrown.
After that they moved.
It didn't take long for them to stumble back towards the car, 'Sheila' looking no worse for the wear thanks to Black's prowess with shield charms. Rain pounded down, tinkering against the exhaust pipes – which mysteriously appeared to have untwisted themselves – and the headlights no longer seemed cracked.
Fred beamed like a proud father. "That's my girl!" he praised.
'Sheila' blinked her headlamps happily in response.
"Self-repair charms," he supplied, to a question no one had asked.
No one had asked because they were all staring at the blast zone, barely visible through the thick, coiling fog blanketing the area.
Not six meters away from the sentient automobile lay a sizeable hole, the charred ground steaming like a volcanic crater. Burnt pieces of grass and shrub littered the area, some still burning in stark defiance of nature's downpour. The burnt up husk and skeletal remains of what had once, clearly, been a very large man in life lay strewn haphazardly around the edges – a femur there, a piece of pelvis there – and pieces of its clothing also burned. The outer layer of flesh had burned away, melting down to reveal the man's considerable fat deposits. They were twisted and a foul yellow, acting like candle wax to fuel the fire burning it, and Merlin…
Kally backed away, bumping into something and nearly tripping. With a startled sound she spun around, only to find that she'd stumbled into a body part. A single, severed hand had landed far closer to the car. It'd landed stump down in a pile of debris, the middle finger sticking straight up, as if the zombie had been displeased with being exploded into dozens of pieces, and had decided to flip the entire world of -wizardry off as a last act of defiance.
The middle finger twitched, and Kally made another alarmed sound, hastily kicking it away.
It thumped and thudded deep into the crater, and she backed away shakily.
Ron stared at her like she was a dullard. "That's already dead, you know."
"Yeah well, didn't stop it the first time," she muttered. "Besides, you weren't around for the last one." Severed crawling hands weren't exactly high on her list of comforting visuals. She still had the occasional nightmares of Bellatrix's dark red nails digging into her own skin. Now that her memory had been restored, she at least understood what that was all about.
She was absolutely and positively going to kill Potter if she ever saw him again.
They managed to extricate George and Regulus within a few minutes, and with a hefty grunt Charlie supported Black, while Fred got his twin.
"Alright," Charlie said, as if suggesting a casual jaunt through the park, "let's get to the fallback zone. Drop these two off. Then we'll head back out to help finish off the rest of them. You two, lead the way."
Kally cast a skeptical look through the sheet of rain, and promptly decided that all Weasleys were insane. She wet her lips, water rolling into her eyes, the deluge near blinding. "And how exactly do you suppose we get to the Dursley's front lawn?" she asked warily, staring out at the fog. There could be a warzone, just on the other side of it. They could be taken out by stray spells – from either side – or the undead could sneak up on them before they had even half a chance to see them. A Muggle could even take them out – scared and armed with whatever they could find – like a gardening hoe.
Ron seemed to be thinking along the same line and came up alongside her, eyes narrowed and looking entirely unamused. "You man the left, I man the right?"
"Oh, sure," she said caustically, "just forget that small, little, teensy tiny, infinitesimal, inconsequential detail, where I can't hex. I'll just kill the approaching enemy with good wishes and smiles then?"
Ron bared his teeth and let out a growl, but when he spoke he was clearly no longer addressing her. "Told you to stop blowing her up, Fred," he muttered. "Not you've gone and pissed her off."
Fred chuckled. "Nah, blame Harry for that one. Witch has been in a foul mood ever since he stood her up for his 'happy I'm-of-age' date they were supposed to have on his birthday."
"Yeah," George wheezed, clinging to his twin, "you know, the extra special-"
"-haven't seen you in a couple o' months-"
"-alone time kinda date."
Her stomach wrenched and she hissed like a snake. "Harry can go fuck himself," she snapped. "I'm currently pissed because the five of you-"
Ron scowled. "Don't lump me in with this lot."
"-seem to think this is a doable thing." She gestured fruitlessly at the fog and barely, barely resisted stomping her foot.
The group was quiet for a long moment. Then…
"Guess we could just leave ole Reggie here to bleed on out," Fred proposed, "but then we'd have to find ourselves a brand new resident Dark-Lord-reprobate, and really, that kind of snark is just so hard to come by."
"Seriously," George choked, "self-serving psychopaths with no redeeming qualities?" he rasped out a laugh. "Not exactly like a pup you can pick up from a corner shop."
Charlie eyed them warily. "Please tell me they didn't get a dog." Spotting the twins' affronted looks, he doubled down. "What? You can barely not blow yourselves and others up. I'd pity any pet exposed to you on a daily basis."
Black sported an unhealthy shade of grey, but still managed to level a look that promised death to all parties, as soon as he got his internal bleeding under control. "Would it perhaps," he drawled, "be too much to ask, to mute the juvenile underlings?"
"Tempting, isn't it?" Ron agreed.
"Mute like temporarily silencing charm them," Charlie wisely sought clarification, "or mute like render them unconscious? Because the latter might cause some problems with that whole 'walking to safety' thing."
"Cutting out their tongues," Black said, "came to mind."
Charlie laughed. "If only!"
Kally shoved wet hair out of her eyes and sighed in frustration. "He's not kidding, Charlie."
The Dragon Keeper shot the man he was holding up, quite literally, an alarmed look.
Black simply smiled. It was not a nice expression.
"Bleeding hell," he muttered, as if truly realizing, for the very first time, that Regulus Black had really been a Death Eater, and might – just might – be as ruthless as his MLE RAP sheet claimed.
"Pfft," Fred dismissed, easily, "Reggie doesn't mean it. Besides Reggie, that wounds me. Here I was thinking we were friends and you liked listening to our chatter."
"We couldn't bear it to think you weren't our friend," George piled on.
"Second thought," Ron said, "I'm on Black's side. I'll do it." He took a menacing step forward-
Kally barely snagged him before he could bring his wand up to make good on the threat.
Black just sniffed in amusement. "And that's why I can stand that one," he drawled in Ron's direction, before closing his eyes, seeming to decide something. "My spell is starting to fade and the mist is clearing. We'll move now, and I'll continue to cast," he paused, wincing, "the fog as we move. It shall shield us from my former…comrades at the very….least…while we are in route."
Each pause was a wheezing breath, and they didn't sound particularly good.
"What's the incantation?" Charlie asked, adjusting Black to haul him a bit more easily. Kally had to agree it was a good question. "We'll cast it for you."
"Years of servitude with the Dark Lord himself taught me to cast it, and it is still not correct," the injured Healer drawled tiredly. "And you think you can learn to replicate within a matter of mere seconds?"
Charlie's muscles bulged, clearly tensing.
"It's not meant to be an insult," Black continued dispassionately. "Dark spells carry certain…stigmas. Far be it for me to sully your freckled hands."
For the first time, Kally realized that this unnatural mist was a dark spell.
She didn't want to even think about what it might do to them if it wasn't on their side. The sentient mist from the train ride, seemingly ages ago, came back. How it had coiled into visceral tentacles, snaring ruthlessly around people's legs and dragging them into its depths…
Charlie came to a decision. "We have two blocks to walk. Don't pass out."
Regulus huffed a breath, and genuine derision bled from his tone. "And leave my fate to the care of you vacuous primates?" he cocked an eyebrow. "I'd rather dip my jewelers in honey and go for a stroll with a ginger-furred-bear. Your genetic lineages are bound to be closely linked, after all."
Kally had to physically grab Ron's sleeve to keep him from lunging. Fred, however, just smirked. 'Damn Reggie, didn't know your weekend plans got so…creative."
"Yeah," George choked, "could probably arrange that, given enough lead time."
Charlie made an irritated sound and started to walk, dragging Black less than gently-
"Wait!" Kally released Ron's sleeve and practically jumped in front of them. "Are you all insane? We can't see through that. It might be nice and calm here, but one of those things could be on us in a matter of secon-"
Regulus sputtered wetly. "Are you an energy draining creature or are you not, girl? Last I checked, life-force detecting, without physically needing to see it was a part of your mutation's unnatural repertoire. Unless of course you've gone and decided to become completely useless when I wasn't looking?"
Ron bristled, snarling something in her defense, but she barely heard him.
She stared at Regulus Black for precisely three seconds, and knew exactly what he was suggesting.
It was what she'd done for them in Dublin, trapped inside that tiny room with extraordinarily strong members of the undead pounding in the doors from all sides. It was what she'd done on that island, seeking out the undead sharks patrolling the waters. It was what she'd done in the Three Broomsticks, so long ago, trapped with Death Eaters, when she hadn't had a clue of what she was doing.
And it was what she'd done to Hazel, or what was left of Hazel.
Kally spun on her heel, drenched to the bone, and stared out into the mist. The stench of it consumed her, assaulting her nostrils, reaching up them as if to delve into her very soul, but somehow…she held steady. Her wand slipped into her hand, cold and pale fingers clinging wetly to it, and she took a moment of slow, steady breathing to steel herself.
"Ron," she said softly, "could you…"
"Yeah, on it." He stopped, seeing her surprised look, and his brow creased as if disgruntled. "What? Cottoned on already. I don't need everything explained to me, you know."
Her lips parted in a silent apology that never came. Instead they snapped shut, turning into a small smile.
And then Kally stepped out into the fog, it swallowing her whole and blinding her to everything else. Ron was right beside her. She didn't have to even ask. And that…
It made her brave. She was trembling, scared. Something was wrong with this situation, and every cell in her rebelled, wanting nothing more than to turn and run, to get as far away from it as possible. It was unnatural. It was cold, despite the summer storm. Not so far away they could hear the distant sounds of intermittent spell-fire, the muted groaning of people that were no longer people, and in the mist…
It was otherwise silent. So, so unnaturally silent, that she instantly understood that there was something wrong with it, something unnatural.
It was a dark spell.
She wasn't certain she wanted to know why.
"Kaylens?" Ron asked, from beside her.
The fog wrapped around them like an unwelcomed blanket, but she nodded. Everything in front of them, by more than a meter, was nothing more than a murky gray-white miasma, an impenetrable haze, and Kally reached out to grasp onto Ron's sleeve, just to reassure herself that he was actually still there.
"For Merlin's sake…" he muttered, sounding irritated, "you did better with bloody man-eating sharks than a bit of weather."
She ignored that, glancing back, over her shoulder. She could no longer see Black, or Fred and George or Charlie. Just vague shadows, and truly…
Those could be anything.
"Anytime," came a faint drawl, as if the fog had swallowed the sound, "would be good."
Relief flooded her, out-of-place, but she forced herself to focus. Underfoot the ground was soggy, the grass torn up and a muddy murk. Ahead of her there was nothing to see but fog, the stench making her want to retch, but she swallowed hard, forcing herself to not.
It was unnaturally silent…
Until it wasn't.
Another explosion was heard, distant, as if from the street just over, and that was all it took.
She let go of Ron. Her breathing came swift and quick, the oppressive quality of the humid air changing, every centimeter of her skin beginning to tingle. Slowly the end of her wand began to glow. Faint, golden beads of light began to pool from her hands, like tiny droplets of sweat rolling towards the wood of her wand, and together they merged together, joining, reaching…
Behind them Regulus muttered an incantation, and the fog poured from his wand. It became even thicker as it wrapped around them tightly, concealing them from everything out there that roamed Privet Drive, from everything out there that was in it for the sheer joy of the hunt.
But that was okay, because Kally was every bit the predator those things were.
The pressure in the air increased, her heart pounding in her chest, and slowly, carefully, she let her magic slither out from her, sliding in all directions. It reached through the fog, crawling through it, feeling, searching…
That alone scared her, terrified her. There was something in the air, in the fog itself, that was almost alive, but almost…not. Kally pressed forth anyway, and at some point she began walking. Slowly. Step-by-step, foot over foot, picking her way carefully and near blindly over grass until her trainers touched upon concrete and the steady flow of water rushing down the street.
They crossed, uneventfully, and the unnatural fog followed. Ron's voice could be heard, every-so-often, quietly checking to make sure the others were still with them.
Her elbow brushed against a rose bush she hadn't seen, a thorn tearing at her elbow, and she nearly screamed. Ron snorted, and she shot him a withering glare, before their slow, stealthy movements resumed.
They made it across one road and through another set of yards, straight into what she presumed was some Muggle's backyard. A swing set loomed up, out of the dark, like a behemoth creature of the night.
Sheer revulsion sunk in before she could consciously process what she saw.
An abandoned swing, covered in blackened blood, creaked in the fog. The swings were part of a multi-teared playhouse, the structure almost concerningly tall for a child. Despite its size, she'd not seen it until they'd been practically on top of it. A ladder led up past several flat platforms at varying heights, ultimately reaching the top level – a treehouse attached to a long, straight slide.
On one of those levels was a child.
It sat there, rocking back and forth, saying nothing in the night. Its little knees were drawn close to its chest, the stringy remains of its nightgown hanging in tatters around its pale skin, and for a second Kally thought it might still be alive.
As if sensing her thoughts it looked up. White, cloudy eyes stared out. Blood dripped from its teeth.
It had been eating something.
Kally vaguely realized it'd been missing an incisor. The sort of flaw that was adorable on a child, when they gave a wide, toothy grin.
The thing licked its lips, then curled those same lips back in a low snarl.
Ron didn't so much as blink. He just stepped forward, getting worryingly close to it, and brought his wand to bear.
Then he fired off a piercing curse, straight through its skull.
Kally saw the splatter fly out, spraying back against the tree and disappearing into the fog. The child hadn't even tried to attack. It was as if some small vestige of its humanity had remained, and as soon as it had gotten its food it had retreated to an instinctual place of comfort and safety; a child's place-of-revelry.
It was as if some small portion of the child's brain had still been working, some primitive habit.
With a shudder she pulled her eyes away and reached, searching the fog for others….
She found them immediately.
Her magic brushed subtly against those things, and just like in Dublin there was no mistaking them. She hissed a breath, the simple act of doing this while moving taxing, unbelievably taxing, but still she moved. "Ten o'clock," she whispered, feeling the air shift alongside her as Ron drew closer. One of the swings on the set rocked, creaking in the storm, the rain splattering against a child's plastic safety seat. "There's…there's a few of them."
She could feel the undead things. Their energy was different, wrong.
Ron didn't hesitate. His arm shot up, whipping past in an arc and sending the fog spinning, Latin words snapped forcefully into the night. Kally didn't understand them, over a year and she still spoke next to no Latin, but a wave of light and heat shot out like a dozen deadly arrows, slamming out blindly in the direction of the undead.
There was a strange whizzing through the air…
Then the sickening thunk, thunk, thunk of the spell striking home.
Kally knew the instant it hit, because that tenuous thread of magic between her and those creatures, those poor, undead things that had once been people, snapped like a rubber band under tension. It broke with each successive thunk, shooting back to her, and with a gasp Kally stumbled, grabbing onto the swing's chain, nearly dropping-
Ron's strong hand seized her and bodily hauled her up. "Not today, Kaylens," he groused. "Let you die and I'll never hear the fucking end of it."
She laughed shakily.
Ron just glanced at her, looking simultaneously irate at the situation and concerned. "I get them all?"
She nodded, somewhat weakly, then let her fingers slip off the slick metal rungs of the swing set and its chain.
Ron still eyed her like a hawk. "Shit Kaylens," he finally muttered, "you're better than a bat with radar."
"Think it's called echolocation, actually."
Ron looked at her. Just looked.
She shrugged, careless. "Radar uses electromagnetic waves. Echolocation is sound waves."
This time he raised a red and slightly burnt eyebrow. "Do I look like Hermione?"
She huffed in amusement. "Hard to tell," she murmured, closing her eyes, "what with your two's faces always being attached."
Ron snorted, turning his attention back to the fog, though he didn't release his hold on her. Kally simply prepared, gathering her magic to her, before she reached out, getting ready to move again.
That was when she felt it.
The wrongness of it hit her like a sledgehammer.
Her eyes shot open. "Ron!" she gasped, spinning in his grip towards the others. The others that she couldn't see. The others that were so, so much closer to it. "Fred! BEHIND YOU!"
There was a flurry of motion, followed by shouts. Kally hadn't severed the connection; she could still feel it, and as it ran, full force, towards them, approaching at a rapider pace than any member of the undead had the right to move, she knew with certain and complete clarity exactly why some of the undead were so much faster, stronger than the others.
She stumbled back and fell against a ladder, leading to a mock 'treehouse' attached to a slide.
Ron had spun, his wand aimed out into the dark fog, jerking in different directions as he swore. "Shit…Kaylens, where do I aim?" He couldn't cast spells wildly. Fred, George, Charlie and Regulus were still back there. Two were already disabled. If anyone else went down they were completely and totally fucked. Ron knew that as well as she did.
When she didn't answer, his head jerked around. "Kaylens! Where the hell do I aim!?"
Kally tried to talk, but her voice didn't come. Only a strangled sound emitted.
In the fog something disturbingly human snarled.
There was the sound of an impact and a shout-
A body flew past overhead, slamming into the monkey-bars with a splintering crack.
It fell bonelessly to the ground with an abrupt splash, blood rapidly pouring into the mud, and Kally screamed.
She actually screamed.
It was Fred.
Something splish-spashed across the ground, fucking crawling-
Panic reared up. Kally darted towards him, only for Ron to grab and haul her brutally back. She smacked against his chest as he snarled, "Wait!"
Regulus Black crawled under one of the swings; it had been knocked loose by the impact, now suspended by only a single creaking chain that blew around insanely in the wind, while the other chain's end lay coiled in the mud like a well-behaved viper. Relief flooded her, Ron releasing a relieved breath. "Never been so glad to see Black in my life," he muttered, eyes focused out, into the fog. "Fuck. Fuck."
Kally's eyes were glued to Fred.
Black flicked his wand, wheezing, and Fred's body flipped over, an ugly gash in his chest, a murky red-brown pouring out of it.
She tried to shake off Ron's grip-
"Focus girl!" Black snarled, waving his wand at the wound in an attempt to stem the flow. He planted a hand in the mud and nearly passed out in the process. "Directions…they'll need-"
Ron manhandled her some more and bodily hauled her around. "Where!?" he demanded, jabbing a fist in front of her face and towards the fog.
Earlier in the day, Kally hadn't been scared. She'd been too pissed off to be, but right now? Right now she shook like a leaf. Her teeth chattered in the unnatural cold of the conjured mist, and she tried desperately to focus, closing her eyes, feeling for it…
Deeper in the mist, not far off, everyone had gone quiet.
George and Charlie were clearly hiding, trying to remain undetected as that thing sniffed around for them. It sniffed and sniffed and it was so loud they could literally hear it. But the mist did its job; the stench hid their smell, the fog obscuring its already abysmal vision.
Everything was impossibly, distressingly still. Nothing moved. No one spoke. Not even Black as he desperately worked to heal Fred.
Water rolled steadily down the child's slide, the metal acting like a refreshing stream that poured down into a mud pile, sounding like one of those water features Muggles put up for ambiance. The storm howled and the rain poured vindictively down, whilst the mist whispered. Kally swore to god it whispered.
Besides her Ron audibly swallowed, his hands slowly turning into claws as he clutched at her arms to keep her upright. Even though his mouth was very, very near her ear, she barely heard him. "Whydidn't you sense that thing sooner?"
She tilted her head back, practically touching his skin with her lips. "It moved too fast," she breathed back.
Ron was silent for a quarter second. Then… "It got attracted by my spell, didn't it?"
Guilt drenched his voice, and she didn't have to look at him to see that he was looking at Fred. She didn't answer. She said nothing, because what was there to say? He was right. The flash of light…that was the only way something could have seen them in the mist, so it had charged.
Fred had just been unlucky enough to be in its way.
Ron shifted, the mud sucking loudly at his remaining shoe. The downpour partially masked it, but the interested snarl that drifted their way…
"Those things," she said softly, almost choking, "Ron…they're still alive." Swallowing, shaking, she near inaudibly added, "The fast ones, they're still livin-"
"They're decaying!" Ron interrupted, keeping his voice low and timing his words so thunder drowned it out. "How the hell is that possible?"
"I-I don't know," she stammered.
But she did. She so did. Voldemort had done the same thing to Hazel, suspending her dead body in a type of suspended animation. Leaving her mobile, sentient, in full possession of her mind even as her body rotted around her, until all that was left were her withered remains that wanted to move, but couldn't.
The thought of that girl – that poor, poor girl – clawing and trying desperately to break free of her chains, fighting against the concrete, the mold and decay, held prisoner down there in that dank and damp drainage system, spending years futilely struggling, tugging at her metal binds, while her muscles were still intact enough to allow it, only for them to inevitably degrade, leaving her stuck, near motionless, in pain…
It nearly knocked her legs out from under her.
Voldemort would do the same to her.
And somehow, the plague he'd unleashed had done something similar to some of its victims.
"Fuck," Ron muttered, and a claw dug into her arm and punctured her skin. Kally hissed a breath, but he didn't notice. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."
"Think you made your point," she murmured, grabbing at his claw to try to loosen his grip.
He eased up, muttering, "Now'd be a good time for you to do that thing-"
It took her a minute. It honestly took her a full minute to get her mind straight enough to try it, but when she did, the magic tingling her skin…she eventually reached.
Her magic shifted, traversing gently through the fog as it explored the backyard, and what it found…
She sucked in another breath, fully and completely terrified now. "Charlie and George…one of them…" her eyes flickered open, and she knew without being told that her eyes shone with that aberrant, faint sparkling, "is over there." She pointed into the fog, blindly at the ground. "The other one is there." She shifted her hand to point. She could feel them. She could feel the life and vitality of them, the blood pumping through their hearts, but they…
They weren't the only things there.
"That fast one is straight ahead of us, about thirty paces," she murmured, and Ron tugged her back against him just a bit tighter. It was almost like being hugged, or used as a human shield. His back hit the playhouse ladder, an overhanging 'roof' made of plastic giving them a temporary reprieve from the deluge. Water cascaded down in front of their faces, like a thin waterfall, and it went patter-pat-pat at a rapid pace.
She wet her lips, then added quietly, very, very quietly, "Ron, the noise…"
She leaned up to whisper what she'd felt, and even in the dark, even amidst the swirling and aberrant mist, she watched his face pale.
They were surrounded, by multiple members of the undead, stragglers that had been drawn by the sound.
They were outnumbered.
Not two meters off, barely visible anymore, they could see Regulus uncapping a cork and forcing it down Fred's throat. He'd already silencing charmed and enervated him, but Kally couldn't help but notice how Black was sticking to 'lightless' spells, ones that didn'tcause a flash of color.
And every spell he cast, he was doing nonverbally.
That limited him. That severely limited him.
But at least Fred's chest had stopped gushing. Whatever Black had done, had outright cauterized it, a slight sizzling in the air, but the rain masked it.
But he still looked bad. Real bad. She doubted he was moving on his own anytime soon, and Black….
Well, he didn't look much better.
He looked gray.
They needed to do something.
"What about more of those birds, Fred used?" Ron muttered, and she could feel him shifting behind her, taking off his remaining shoe. She didn't even ask why, just shook her head no, and given how closely Ron had trapped her to him, her hair smacked him right in the face.
He made a less than pleased sound. "How the hell does Harry deal with this? It gets everywhere."
She shot him an incredulous look. "And Hermione's is better?"
"Yes! Least hers tastes bloody good. Yours is like eating grass." Ron glanced towards Regulus and Fred. "Black. Blac-"
She smacked a hand over his mouth.
The Gryffindor Keeper stopped trying to talk, but lifted his eyebrows high in silent, annoyed question.
She lowered her hand, slowly. Emphasis on slowly. "I'm not even going to ask why you know what grass tastes like, but keep your voice down. Besides, I think Fred used all the birds already," she whispered urgently. "But even if he didn't, your brothers are insane, Ron. They used caesium. We can't be positive that George and Charlie won't be too close to the explosion." Those birds flew at 'dead things' and exploded upon contact. Or more precisely, their glass vials shattered, and then the rain, blood, wet flaps of flesh, or other bodily fluids did the rest. And as they'd already seen, the explosion that happened when caesium got wet was massive. "If that explodes near someone currently living the undead aren't going to be the only things dead."
"Can't you tell where they're at?" Ron demanded, frustrated.
She shot a fleeting glance out into the mist, knowing full well those creatures could be on top of them before they knew it, while her attention was divided. She gave a quick nod, telling, "Yeah but, what if one of those things moves closer? Those birds, or anything we use, if it glows even a little…"
Ron grunted understanding. "Light spurs them into moving and they might wind up too close to Charlie and George, and it'd be too fast to warn them. Yeah, yeah, I got it."
Out on the street, before Fred and Lee had gone and blown it up, they'd seen how these things operated. Even the fast ones.
They were ambush predators.
They would hold perfectly still until something moved, made enough noise, or shone enough light to get their attention.
And then they fed.
If they used more of those glowing birds it might spur the currently motionless undead into movement, and even if Kally reached out, to feel where they were, she wouldn't sense the movement with enough time to do anything productive about it. Like warn them.
There was nothing good about this situation, and right now they didn't even have Death Eaters to contend with.
Thunder rumbled ominously overhead. The neighborhood was completely silent, except for the storm. Not far off there were Death Eaters, Order members, Muggles, the undead, and undoubtedly fighting. Privet Drive still burned, and whenever the thunder waned the harsh crackling could still be faintly heard, but right here, right now, it was sodding surreal.
They needed to get to the safety of the wards, but for the moment they were trapped next to Susie Sunshine's swing set and fence, in a hopelessly domesticated backyard.
And thanks to the fog they couldn't see.
Then again, that stupid fog was the only thing keeping the undead from turning all of them into lunch.
"Shit," Ron said unnecessarily. A furrow creased between his eyes and he seemed to be thinking. "Alright, what about hexing? Would I have a clean shot at any of 'em?"
Kally closed her eyes, her fingers releasing Ron's sleeve, not wanting to feel any of him as she did this. It took her a moment, but eventually she nodded. "Yes…the fast one is just, hovering there, in the middle," she said, bringing her finger up to point, "but the others...your brothers are in the way."
Ron cussed beneath his breath, whispering in her ear. "Well are they standing? Sitting? I could aim over them?"
She shivered at his wet lips, words soft and incredulous. "I have no idea. It doesn't work like that."
"Well deal with the others," he finally muttered, seeming to make up his mind. With deliberate intention Ron seized her arm, shifting her to the side, the stream of water pouring off the swingset's roof hitting her right in the face. She sputtered, blinking and wiping it out of her eyes, when she noticed that Ron had succeeded in operation-shoe-ditching, his bare feet curling into the thick mud, clumps of dirt and sod oozing between his concerningly large toes.
And those toes were shifting, sprouting auburn hair, claws coming out where his nails had been.
A low, almost inaudible, pained sound rumbled deep in his throat. A quick glance at his face told her that transforming caused him literal, physical discomfort, and she wondered how in the hell she'd never noticed.
With a grimace he finished the partial transformation, breathing just a bit harder than before. "Think you can weaken that thing without playing lights out?" he asked, all business.
She honestly had no idea. "Maybe? But what about Fred and-"
"Got it covered," he muttered dourly. "Maybe's not good enough. You pass out, you get eaten. Keep yourself bloody conscious, Kaylens. I can't do everything."
She had half a mind to kick him.
She didn't. She just nodded.
And then Kally dropped to her knees, pressing her wand's tip deep into the earth, and she forced her breathing to slow. A heady pressure built in the air, the temperature of her own skin dropping. A subtle glow flickered from the ashy wood of her wand, it faint enough to be obscured by the fog, and then…
She was so much faster at it now, but they wouldn't have long before the creatures saw it.
She didn't have much choice.
Golden light coiled rapidly out, sliding along the grass like a snake. It weaved and writhed between the blades of grass with an aberrant life of its own. Kally gasped as she clung to her wand, the rain pouring down her shoulders, beading upon her clothing and skin. Her skirt - that ridiculous Girl Guides skirt! - flapped in the wind, exposing her thighs and chilling her to the bone, but she didn't, mustn't stop.
She was no longer playing a foggy game of hide and seek with the undead, and letting Ron deal with those she found.
Now she was seeking to maim.
"Not to rush you or anything," Ron announced, sarcasm bleeding into his voice as his wand shot up to track the incoming shadows, "but time is a bit of a bloody issue right now."
Kally ignored him. She ignored him because killing the living, even the partially living, was so, so much harder than killing the dead. It was why, practically a year ago, that killing Bagman had rendered her unconscious. The rain pounded down around them, a faint golden light pouring out of her wand, and eventually…
Eventually the undead noticed.
In the fog the dark shapes moved, drawn to the faint light like moths to a flame.
The stupid, stupid moths.
She ignored the moths. Ron swore at her. She ignored that too. Instead, her magic reached out and snared around the thing that wasn't entirely undead. The stronger, faster moving of the zombies. Its energy thrummed like an oily black plague from legend, and she felt tainted just from touching it.
But she did touch it.
And she took it by surprise.
It hadn't seen her coming.
All it took was a little push.
A push of will, and her magic snapped around it like a constrictor starved of food.
The creature roared.
"Now?" Ron demanded.
She practically fell forward. "Now!" she gasped.
It all happened in less than a second.
All at once they stopped being quiet.
She tried to kill it, and Ron moved; he grabbed a hold of Black with unnatural strength and heaved him onto the children's slide. Then in one quick motion he tossed him up it, the Healer sliding up and into the relative safety of the children's elevated 'treehouse' with a shout.
A second later he'd done the same with Fred.
A second after that the first wave of zombies hit.
Ron didn't even have the chance to turn around before they'd tackled him to the ground.
Kally didn't even realize that it was her who had screamed.
Black, however, had.
Light exploded out from the top of the playhouse, the force taking several zombies square in the chests and flinging them violently backwards and off Weasley. One's spine struck the swing set's support pillar with enough force to send its vertebral column snapping in half, the creature twitching and writhing and foaming at the mouth. Another struck the swing itself, its leg snared in the chain as it slammed to the ground, biting and snapping dangerously close to where Kally knelt. It flailed like a fish left to die on a dock, writhing and jerking in the muddy lawn as it became further entangled in the chain itself.
The others sailed wide, far back into the fog.
The zombie nearest launched itself at her.
Kally screamed and fell backwards, her head striking the ladder hard. The Reach's head spun, pain erupting and blackening her vision, and the zombie's teeth missed her by centimeters. It nearly tore off her left knee; it would have, had it not been for the chain it was caught in. It jerked it to a dead halt.
Before she could make any conscious decision about what to do next, Regulus decided for her.
His spell smacked into the chain already snared around the zombie's leg, and the metal links came to life. The broken off side that had been dangling in the mud leapt up, lassoing itself around the zombie's neck, the plastic seat acting like a muzzle over the zombie's snapping teeth while the chain links groaned with the applied force. It tightened with such brutal efficiency and speed that it ripped straight through the delicate flesh of the throat, snapping the undead man's neck clean in half, spraying a fine mist of brown-black before Kally could so much as blink.
"Concentrate, girl!" Black snarled from above, his tone strained and weak.
One zombie; one zombie was all it'd taken, and she'd lost her connection to that thing.
Which meant she'd left it free to move around.
Kally snapped her eyes closed, reigning in her magic to fight against the larger, faster moving member of the undead. She was trying to drain it, stop it. Living things were harder. So, so much harder. It was even harder to do it under pressure, when scared that something might leap out of the mist and literally eat her, but-
It was too late.
The wet slapping of footsteps rushed her, and her head shot up. An elderly woman with a gaping hole in her shirt and chest, where her left breast had once been, was rushing her.
With a gasp Kally released her hold on the large, still-partially-living member of the undead and flipped it towards the woman rushing her. She snapped the tenuous cord between the undead woman and the energy reanimating her like a twig.
The corpse went boneless and crashed headlong into the ladder, cracking the rungs, before flopping down to the ground beside her.
Kally choked at the sight. A bare rib peeked out from beneath the woman's clothing; the gray-white of a crinkled lung lay beneath; the stringy pieces of dark muscle and a flap of skin with a barely attached and rotted areola completely visible. A stench so strong that it overpowered the ever-constant reek of Regulus' conjured mist emanated out of that hole, and it spoke of cigarettes and cancerous rot.
Kally reflexively gagged.
Her inattention had been too long.
The fog parted, and a behemoth of a shadow launched itself right at her throat.
Kally threw herself out of the way, and the fast moving thing barely missed. It bashed into the treehouse at top speed, wood cracking as Kally slammed into the wet ground, and in the half second she had to react as it dazedly shook itself, she did the only thing she could.
She threw herself beneath the treehouse and its stilts, screaming as that undead thing launched itself down and tried to kill her. It had seen her and tried to follow. It swiped at her legs, again and again and again as it tried to crawl after her, but its behemoth size prevented it from fucking crawled, scrambling under planks of wood that formed a platform low to the ground. For that instant it protected her. She ducked her head low, mud and splinters and rock digging into every centimeter of her exposed skin as she tried to get away from that terrible, terrible thing.
Behind her she could hear that undead thing frantically clawing at the ground in that shallow space beneath the platform, digging like a wild and burrowing animal as it made desperate grabs at her legs, trying to follow her, trying to force its large body to fit beneath the level so it could kill her, flinging bits of dirt and grass in the process, only-
The sounds of pursuit suddenly stopped.
Kally froze and looked cautiously back.
Above her head the wooden platform practically exploded.
The zombie's fists slammed down, annihilating it in one punch. By some small miracle she wasn't impaled.
It didn't stop her magic from flaring, uncontrolled and un-reigned as the creature grabbed onto her ankle and crushed it with zero effort. Kally felt it break, felt it snap, and she let out a shrill scream.
A red-haired wolf slammed into it, throwing it off her, knocking into and shattering the remaining stilts of the multi-teared-playhouse in the process. There was a cacophonous crash as they tumbled out of sight, disappearing into the fog, snarling and sounds of raw brutalization loud in the night, and what was left of the treehouse and that metal slide came smashing down on top of her.
Metal bolts pinged and 2x4s snapped. The sharp shards of broken lumber sent wood dust scattering into the air, only for the thick rain to pound it back down. The slide gave a resounding clank against a conveniently discarded tricycle that'd been housed beneath it, and everything around Kally went suddenly dark.
She disappeared beneath a twisted and ruined pile of timber.
A second, maybe more, passed.
Someone yelled, farther off.
And then the pain hit.
Pain, shots of deep and acute pain ricocheted straight down to her foot and up her leg, firing through her hip, the nerves screaming from her broken ankle. It was so blinding, so severe, that she didn't even realize at first that there were piles and piles of wood and cheap plastic piled high on top of her.
She didn't realize that until she tried to move, the pressure on her back and head physically hurting.
Off to the side someone that sounded suspiciously like Fred groaned.
He and Regulus had been on top of the structure, and they'd already been hurt!
Kally looked for them; she did, but she couldn't see them! She tried to turn in the rubble but couldn't move. "Fred! Black?" she choked, but no one answered.
Through a tiny hole in the debris, she blearily saw three beams of light rocket outwards, knocking more of the approaching undead away from the wood pile that covered her. Flash after flash continued as someone out there kept up the barrage, and Kally tried to move again, only couldn't.
An overwhelming sense of claustrophobia struck, and she jerked like a trapped animal, only to nearly pass out from the pain. Her entire body stopped, just stopped, as if every skeletal muscle in her had come to the simultaneous decision that movement was a truly terrible idea. Pain lanced through her like a thousand razor blades, the agony so bad that her vision swam with darkness.
A terriblesound tore through the night, wrenching her away from the brink of unconsciousness.
It sounded like a dog's whimper.
Ron howled in the night.
It cut off in an abrupt whimper.
No! Kally stopped trying to escape. She was stuck. She was stuck, but she could still do something! She screwed her eyes shut, tears leaking from them, and she concentrated.
It took longer than it usually did. Water tumbled over the boards pinning her, creating dozens of tiny, makeshift waterfalls that rained down onto her, and her head positively screamed, but-
The tingling reminiscent of her magic reared up, and Kally reached.
She found that fucking zombie that had tried to crush her. She found Ron too, and without a second of indecision she let her magic loose.
It ripped out of her plywood confinement and shot out into the night, and this time it snared around the undead-but-still-alivemonster with ease, and without a solitary care in the world beyond her current, single-minded purpose to kill, Kally tore the life force right out of it.
She stopped its fucking heart.
Its heart that had still been beating.
She'd been right: the fast ones were still alive, part of them anyway, rotting from the inside.
The horror of that would wash over her later. For now that strong, fast moving zombie dropped, limp as a doll, right on top of the werewolf it'd been brawling with. Ron Weasley blinked up at it in shock, and the magical backlash slammed back into Kally.
The wand absorbed most of it.
But not all.
She dimly saw a shockwave of darkness slam out, and then for the third time in less than an hour Kalliandra Kaylens passed the hell out.
She completely and totally missed the spell that struck the pile of rubble, setting it promptly on fire with her, Fred and Regulus still inside.
She also missed the dark robed figure that tore the plywood off her unconscious form, yanking her unconscious form out of the rubble and into the night.