Title: Blister Plagues
Chapter: 1: The Sluagh
Word Count: 7,750
Chapter Rating: T/PG-13
Characters (in chapter): Morag MacDougal, Mab MacDougal, Regulus Black
Era: New Generation
Spoilers: Regulus Black type spoilers
Summary: Witches and Wizards are disappearing. Debts are being paid in full. A question is asked on whether the cost of a favor is worth what comes next.
Author's Notes: Just something I've been toying around with for awhile, it centers around the 7th year students of Hogwarts in 2015, the MacDougal family, Regulus Black, and the whispers of disappearances happening to prominent and eccentric members of the wizarding community. Comments and concrit are welcome.
Mors Ultima Linea Rerum Est…
It was a final request and it was fulfilled out of something deeper than obligation; familial ties supposedly.
* * *
The duo paused on the beach; the younger half smeared her cigarette out in the sand, it stuck itself between the grooves on her boot and had to be picked out after she found no purchase on the sand to bang it out.
"Ready?" Asked by the older witch, the question was distorted by a swell of fresh waves.
"There's nothing in it for us." The teen's head slumped and lolled onto her shoulder. Her eyes rolled down to stare at the sand. She was whining, a trait that she had been told numerous times was unattractive.
"We're doing it anyway." The older witch told her.
"She should have done this." The teenager pushed her tongue against the inside of her cheek, it felt slimy and gnawed on. Her teeth pulled at a bit of loose flesh. Her lips tingled with the bitter sting of salt.
"She got old." The older witch lowered her raised shoulders, surrendering to the chill in the air and bowed her spine to its demands. "Are you worried?" It wasn't as teasing as it would have been if said in a different place or time or circumstance.
"I'm apprehensive." She paused and dug into the sand with her boot. "What do we do after we get it, where do we go with it?" She switched to chewing on her chapped lips, the small white bits of ragged skin she peeled off between her teeth gave her something to devote her attention to besides sand and water.
"He, not it."
"Who knows," The girl turned with her lip in her mouth and her hands buried in her robes clutching the lining of her pockets stiffly.
"… He might now be one of them and they are Its."
The older witch squinted against a wind that blew sand across the beach. "We'll see what's left, anyway." The woman watched the girl wince when she pulled a ragged hangnail from her cuticle and then suck the finger between a dry, blood-spotted pucker.
"What will we do with him?" The teen asked again taking the finger out of her mouth with a wet pop.
"We'll take him to his home." She didn't met the younger witch's persistent and over-eager gaze glazed over with disappointment at the answer.
"Convenient place." It was a response tinged with a bitter shade of sarcasm.
"Yes," The older witch gave the girl a narked glance that became pinched when sand sputtered across the beach at eye level, "…it is." She continued, distracted by granules in her right eye.
"I want to be inducted."
The girl did an odd springing sort of dance.
A turn towards the older witch.
A shift of weight to the left.
A tap with the right foot.
The tracing of an arc three times in the same place on the sand.
A transfer of weight to the balls of the feet.
A rocking motion onto her heels with her hands thrust tightly into her pockets.
A seemingly uncontrolled popping out of right knee.
A cocking out of the right hip.
An expectant look.
The woman did a parallel of the dance with her hands.
Smoothing out invisible wrinkles at the waist of her cloak.
Lacquered grey fingernails catching the seams of the denims she wore under her robes between the brittle hardness and soft nail-beds.
Rolling a stray thread into a knot.
A painful cracking of three stubborn knuckles.
"You're too young." Was her answer
"Not young enough to not do this." Was the counter.
The older witch closed her eyes. "This is a family matter."
The younger witch remained persistent with her glare and at the same time ready for disappointment.
"It'll turn into an Order matter when we bring him back. You're turning it into an Order matter."
The older witch relented, not because the girl was right but because she had nothing to say to her remark.
"We'll see how well this goes, and then…we'll see." Her lungs tightened tenderly behind her ribs.
The younger witch was dissatisfied with the reply; she turned her eyes towards the sea and the jutting crags of rock that spilled up from it. "Let's go, Aunt Morag."
"This will be quick, Mab."
"That doesn't mean everything after will be. Lots of questions, lots of mucking about, lots of 'waste time that I could be doing nothing with,' lots of 'cut into Mab's seventeen hour beauty rests that leave her so tired she needs to take a nap,' lots of that sort of bollocks. "
The mood had changed but it was forced by both of them, they tried to make it lighter than it was.
"Stop bumpin' your gums so much, everything that happens later gives you a good chance to do something useful with you time instead of lounging around, you clever girl." The woman tried to push even those forced boundaries towards something blithe.
The teen had already started walking down the beach towards the inlet that pointed out into the sea. They would apparate to the rocks from there.
They would go when they ran out of an expanse of sand to walk on.
The girl turned, her hair blowing into her face and catching her in the mouth, she pushed it away and the woman could see the frown on her face and the way her brow crenulated. Her gaze was tight and her eyes lidded. The girl pushed a tongue between her lips and ran it over the cracked skin.
"I'm concise, not clever."
Morag faltered with a smile and in place of saying anything she walked forward towards the girl who stood waiting.
* * *
The woman knew what to look for.
If they got the wand they could get the boy.
Inferi were drab, boring, magicless things but that didn't make them any less dangerous.
For them to make a wizard, even one who was really just a boy, into one of them took magic.
The only source of substantial magic would have been the boy's wand or his house elf and it was doubtful that a creature of servitude would help turn his master into a soulless piece of filth, or so it was carefully assumed by herself and many others in the wizarding community.
It was doubtful at best that they would find his wand. It was doubtful that he was anything but one of them now anyway. It was doubtful that this trip was worth anything.
Still, it was a situation that needed to be looked into and there was the concern of not knowing what had ever really happened to the boy that needed to be assuaged in a woman who was going to die soon.
Unpaid debts were things that weighed heavily on the mind of someone who knew they weren't going to be around for much longer.
The woman walking on the beach hoped they didn't find a thing. She hoped that he was one of them. Then, at least, if that was the case, there would be nothing that they could do.
If he wasn't one of them then it was just bothersome.
If they found his wand they would have to get him out of the lake, they couldn't find his wand and then just leave; that was something they could not do.
The older witch would not leave a fellow wizard behind to a fate he had been suffering with for decades. Cold, alone, choked under the weight of the wants of a thousand soulless not-quite-dead, being pressed upon by evil will without help or way to fight.
She hoped he was already one of them, deeply hoped.
Thoughts of searching the cavern for the wand made her weary. Though, she thought in counter, the only place it would be was the centre island which wouldn't be hard to search with a careful charm.
That was assuming he hadn't lost it before that point or given it to his house elf.
They wouldn't even have to cross the water. They could summon the wand, if it was there.
From the war stories of Potter it was only the locket that had been charmed to cause the half-dead to rise from the water when summoned, not anything else in the cave.
The older witch hoped for all he was worth that Mr. Potter was correct in his assumptions, if he was not this excursion would prove to be more trouble than it was worth and then Mr. Potter would be doubly sorry for his mistaken supposition, she could guarantee that much.
That was of course, if any confirmation of any ineptitude on his part didn't incapacitate or kill her first.
It was one thing to come out here on an old woman's whim, on a mother's whim, it was another to get killed for the fancy of knowing something.
It didn't take one of great mental dexterity to figure out there were some things not worth sticking your neck out to find or know, in her opinion at least.
Some people would offer their throats to a ravenous gryphon if you told them it was good luck.
She herself was not one of those people.
The sand shifted softly under her booted feet, the air was damp and cool, her ears and the tip of her nose had turned a vivid raw pink from exposure to the briskness of the late summer wind whose chill was magnified by the churning angry sea.
* * *
The teen watched the water, how it shifted in on itself, how it rolled and tossed violently. She wondered, casually, how easy it would be to jump in and get swept away, how it was entirely possible that, even with her boots charmed with a water walking spell, she could be turned downward into the water. How one could drown so simply under the weight of water and salt.
It was a stray thought, a silly stupid thing her mind wandered to.
She liked to think the environment she was in reflected her mood, she tended to end up in the most drab of places anyway, dragged there by the older witch.
Places like half-deserted Rosemarkie or half-crazy Great Aunt Maeve's patch of dirt or half-worked-to-death Pap's two-floorer with the windae-hingers flashing their wallies from across the alley and not minding their own damn businesses were where she'd spent most of her life in the last few years when outside of school.
They were places that she liked despite the boredom, boredom ran out of meaning when one was stuck in the Highlands while they grew up.
She'd fancied she'd been in a perpetual state of boredom since she left her Pap to stay with her aunt.
Some places were just more pleasant to be bored in than others was all, there was a contentedness in boredom, the opportunity to sit and do nothing simply because there was nothing to do.
She rationalized the thought of boredom with twisted backwards logic.
Thoughts of Rosemarkie being home, and her loony great-aunt being all dying and like, and her Pap being tired made her feel jaded and unsurprisingly bored, a different kind of bad bored.
Then she supposed that what she was doing, thinking, was how it was with everyone, how their thoughts worked, their brains, how the rambling and unraveling of simple things made the thoughts people thought monotonous and insane and worn down.
She thought that people were just influenced rather than influential.
She thought too much thinking was a horrible habit.
The Ravenclaw in her kicked her brain at that thought.
She realized her thoughts were jumbled enough to match what she said verbally.
She realized she had another horrible habit of never staying on the same subject long enough to finish her train of thought or what she was saying.
She then realized she was running out of sand to drag her feet through and grimly acknowledged that thoughts did nothing to wind time down to a stand still.
* * *
The duo glanced at each other when water had reached the point of swaying over the toes of their boots, with a nod as subtle as a blink from the older witch they apparated to the rocks.
* * *
They were giants of green and black stone and they were slick with sea spray and weeds from the deep water.
Arriving atop the pillars sprung from the sea was the hardest part, walking and traversing across them was the second about getting into the cave.
The pair founded themselves righting each other's balance equally. A quick catch of an elbow here for stability, a thrusting out of an arm to help the other avoid a particularly slick spot.
Slowly swaying on the thin precipice of a tall stretch of rock the younger witch bent at the knee and gripped the edge. She scrapped her knuckles and openly glared at her hand.
She swung down and bobbed shakily on the surface of the water, her knees wobbled and her stance fell forward.
Her fingers sought for purchase with the water but slipped down into the cold wetness of the dark rolling giant.
A grasping tug pulled her upwards and straightened her.
The look given to her from the older witch who landed with a dull splash of water behind her told her to be more careful.
The waves swayed, they made their legs quiver and their bodies rock.
The tide was low and the dark chasm between the rocks beckoned out to them with promises of dank dark warmth.
They walked into the cleft between rock walls.
The "Lumos" that came out of the woman's mouth bounced off the walls and the inside of both their ears. The dull light made the black dark mute itself a bit, if only for a few paces behind and ahead of them, it made little difference.
Rock walls coated with green and rough slickness stood as silent guards on either side.
The corridor of rock ended and a sliced palm from the older woman sufficed in opening the sealed cave.
It was dark, no substantial light penetrated the inner cavern.
There was once a green miasma that hung like dense fog in the cave, but that was a long time ago when a potion as lethal as a liquid dose of Avada Kadavra filled the basin on the island to its brim.
In the absence of natural light a sickly grey glow drifted upwards from the lake, the water's depths were black but its surface shone with the woolen mist.
There was a smell accompanying the mist, an organic rot that the younger witch was content to leave unidentified.
The older of the pair cast a brightening charm, it worked cheaply clinging to the rocks and reflecting metallic light around the walls.
"Look around will you," The older witch's voice sounded weighed down and gritty, like old porcelain covered in dust, she paused.
"…maybe you'll find a bit of cloth or something to bring back when we find nothing." She added dully, the bitterness and lack of interest dominated her tone.
The girl nodded and in the same moment chanted 'Lumos.' The tip of her wand shone overtly against the shadows curled in the corners of the cavern.
She toed the cracks in the stone, she felt the sharpness of rock against the leather of her boot, she couldn't see them but knew the rock had made deep scratches on the leather.
She ran a hand across the dripping walls.
While the older woman cast an eagle eye charm for better sight and peered out over the water and onto the small island in the centre of the lake the teen got on her knees and shoved her fingers into the dips and splits where the rock wall that had met the floor had fallen away under the violence of decay and age.
Her fingernails came away with wet dirt and foul smelling mildew trapped under them, the spot where she bit out a hangnail and scrapped her knuckles stung.
She wiped her clammy, dirty hands on her denims and shrugged her loose robe open in the front; she dragged her long sleeves up to her elbows and shivered.
Goose flesh pimpled her arms.
She yanked loose shells and green sea plants from the open gashes in the stone.
The cavern never filled with water at full tide but the pockets in the stone outside of it did and the pressure pushed gunk and junk of all kinds into the pockets between grottos.
Seaweed, a clam, a sliver of what could have been Inferi flesh (she tucked that into the pocket of her robe, a half-dead's flesh was worth a lot if you brought it to the right person in the right place), handfuls of sand, slivers of driftwood, things of little importance. She tossed them behind her sending them sliding over the wet stone ground.
The clearing of a throat made her turn. "No wand, let's go."
The older witch dusted her hands together in what her niece thought to be a symbolic dismissal of the whole affair.
The younger witch looked at the tired older one. Flickers caught her eye.
The surface of the lake shivered and rippled delicately. She watched thinking vaguely that the cavern was dripping.
The grey fingertips that ruined the flat surface made her stomach turn to water.
Her eyes caught the rubbish she'd been tossing away. The stick of old splintered wood rolling towards the flexing fingers made her dropped stomach spin. "Aunt Morag!"
"Incendio!" A quick flick of the older woman's hand had the surface splashing and the cavern lighting up, the fingers disappeared.
The teen dove for the broken wand, skidding across the wet ground the toe of her boot knocking the wand closer towards the black water. She shifted and rolled on the rock. Her fingers clutched the rough battered stick of a wand.
Her outstretched leg hung over the edge. She sagged in relief and the edge of her boot fell under the relaxation of her muscles, disturbing the silent water.
A moment went by; mounted anticipation was naked in both of the witches gazes towards the lake.
The minuscule movement roused the inhabitants of the lake from silent floating to leaping.
The younger witch stood and slid on the damp stone, she choked on strings of saliva at the sharp pain in her knees.
The Inferi sprung lithely from the water towards her pitched form. She cast Incendio at the gnarled, bony figures.
She'd spellcasted too close. She hit the wall, winding herself violently. The unpleasant pulsing in her right arm made her fingers squeeze tight, her wand sparked.
The Inferi retreated back but hung on the mist above the water waiting, watching.
She looked back at the older witch and gestured to her own wand. The crack in it was hairline but a deep nick at the tip exposed the bright yellow plume of a Fwooper feather core.
"Why are they waiting?" She yelled at the older witch.
The response she got was the older witch gaping at her, without answer. Panic painted her middle-aged features as the answer came to her.
"They're guarding! Where's the other wand?!" The older voice rebounded off the wet walls.
The younger witch saw it as it dropped into the water with a tiny splatter of frigid water.
She'd let go of it.
She felt like a git and that was partly why she dove for it.
Her boots stuck hard to the surface and she felt the sting of a strong heating spell coil around her limbs, it tingled painfully on her skin but she was thankful someone else was around to remember useful spells.
The Inferi on the surface converged; she leaned forward enough to tip herself into the icy water. Her body fell under with her feet fixed to the surface.
Her skin stung hotly but her lungs clenched coldly under the water.
She could feel them swimming next to her. They reached out for her hair, her clothes, her skin, the harsh heat spell sent them howling in response to their burned fingertips, water bubbled around her. A gurgled "Accio wand!" that she willed more than said sent the Inferus clutching the wand towards her.
It hit her. Her mouth opened wide sending air up to the surface; it'd felt like someone had hit her with a bludger.
She gurgled and choked on lake water.
The Inferus screamed as well as something could underwater.
She could see every bump on it's rotted away gums it was close enough to bite off a piece of her face and if it had had any teeth left it probably would have.
She could vividly imagine what the stink from its long howling throat smelt like. Fetid, like spoiled pork and old milk.
The water made her sluggish but still she made a grab for its arm.
The skin was paper thin and bloated, sores bleed openly into the water when pressed. Her fingers found a spot that felt like an overly ripe patch on a plum and her finger went in, easily, disgustingly.
The Inferus let go angrily and in pain propelling itself backwards, disappearing in the dark.
The wand floated for a moment and started to sink. She could see it drift past her face. Her lungs itched for air and her fingers rolled the wand towards her palm.
All too suddenly her body felt like ice and she couldn't breathe. An eruption of air sent a gusher of bubbles to the surface.
Her lungs felt small and tight, like raisins, like scabs.
Inferi were swimming in a sloppily formed circle around her, and were, in her opinion, all too quickly making that circle much closer to her than was her personal preference.
Something splashed and groped behind her head.
Her grip tightened on the wand.
She felt a tug on her robes.
Shaking her body violently she tried to cast the grabbing hands off of her.
The hands didn't relent. She tossed her head harshly, her throat burned and her vision was littered with black dots.
She saw dimly with stinging raw eyes a shaped congregated around by a grey ball of half-dead flesh. She thought with sick dread that soon enough that's what would be surrounding her.
Half-dead keeping her alive with their own sickly energies, the thought flickered through her mind quickly.
She felt a sense of upwards motion and she ceased struggling realizing it wasn't the Inferi yanking on her robes.
Pulled from the water she sputtered foul water and vibrated with tight shakes from the temperature of the water that dripped off her onto the cavern floor.
She couldn't find her voice to ask for a warming spell, whether it was because of her constricted lungs or for fear of spewing the contents of her stomach she wasn't sure.
She tossed the wand towards the other witch who caught it with a sharp jerk of movement, while sending another wave of fire towards the half-dead, to hold them back. "Is he in there?"
The younger witch nodded. She pawed her hair violently off her face.
It felt like sweet mercy when the older witch cast a less extreme heating charm on her.
She flopped onto her back and didn't move. She didn't ever want to get up again.
The older witch sat down against the wall. She tapped a boot against the stone and with her elbows on the tops of her bent knees she put her temples between thumb and forefinger. "You're alive right?"
The younger witch laughed wetly with a spluttering cough. "Unfortunately, I'm left here. With you. In this nasty bloody cave."
"Yes, you are. Now hush, I have to think."
Without opening her eyes the younger witch hummed without opening her eyes.
"Can I take a nap?"
"I'll wake you up when I need you."
Throwing and an arm over her damp, dirty face the teen grinned weakly.
"I don't think I can sleep knowing they're waiting to eat me."
"They went back under." The older witch mumbled not bothering to look if they really had.
The girl raised herself up on a shaky elbow and peaked at the lake with one open eye.
Inferi were drifting across the surface watching them, looking uninterested. She snorted.
"Still thinking, Mab."
The younger witch sagged boneless back onto the cavern floor spreading her arms out wide and crossing her ankles.
"You know, I don't care if they eat me. I hope I taste like shite! Serve them bloody rotters right."
"They won't eat you; they'll stay in the lake."
If her eyes were open the teen would have rolled them.
"I don't think you could save me from being eaten. I mean, you're eyes are closed. How much saving can you do with your eyes closed?"
"Mab, if you don't let me think by Merlin I will dump you in the Highlands with no wand and no broom when we get home."
She made a sound in her throat. "Sounds like a vacation compared to going back to Rosemarkie."
"I'll remember you said that."
"You're being a right miser, you know?"
"I'll remember you said that too."
"One more thing."
"I don't care."
"I almost died."
"My cigarettes are wet."
"Will you dry them?"
"Is that a yes?" The younger witch rolled over onto her stomach and propped her chin on a wet fist. The older witch took a hand away from her face, unobscuring the unamused look she was giving.
She gestured with the hand pulled away from her face.
With a cheeky grin her young companion fished around her denims, tight from getting wet, for her case. It skidded across the wet cavern floor fast enough to look like nothing but a shimmer of silver before it smacked the sole of the other witch's boot.
A quick charm and a flick of her wrist sent the case flying back towards the teen.
"Don't smoke too fast, you'll make yourself sick."
"Oh don't worry, I'll need awhile to find the proper motivation to sit up and light the bloody lovely piece of disease. Gotta get in a mood for killing myself slowly with an accumulating disease of my own doing."
Minutes went by slowly and the older witch was no more inspired than she was when she first started thinking. The younger half of the duo yanked her wand from the depths of her robe, she couldn't find it at first in the tangle of black fabric.
Her heart skipped frantically as she fell into the panic of thinking she'd lost it in the water.
Seconds away from complete alarm she found it.
Taking in the sight of it made her fall back with a wet sound.
She held it above her face and gave it a look of distaste.
It was missing a sliver, the yellow Fwooper feather core was wet, it wasn't worth much anymore.
"My wand is broken."
The older witch snapped to attention.
"I can bumble around a few spells, but I'll need a new one."
The older witch mumbled something that sounded like 'fantastic.'
The teen lit her cigarette. The spark from the wand jumped a bit too high, searing her index finger.
Wincing and nursing her burnt finger the teen sank into silence taking short puffs and clenching the fag's filter between her teeth. She thought hard about what to do next.
Minutes later, to amuse herself, the younger of the two flung her half-finished, still lit cigarette towards the Inferi.
"Don't taunt them Mab."
"I've got a plan."
"Do you now?"
"I think I can get him if you can get…," She thought about how to get him out, a battle strategy was not something to be thought up on the spot, which was what she was mostly doing because the alternative was waiting, which was boring.
"…if you can get the water out of my way…"
"Siphon spell." The older witch offered blandly looking towards the girl who was looking at the water rather than at the older witch.
"…and then if you could keep them off me. I could cut them off him. "
"Incendio, and Lanito."
The teen played connect the dots with what to do after that. "I could cast a…" she didn't know how to do a proper force spell yet, she tried to think of something to improvise with. "…a shield spell will work if I bounce him off it, right?"
"If you do it right it should. You'll have to throw him a bit and then run up on him."
"…and then he bounces up to you. I could run back up the water as the siphon spell wears off. What do you think?"
"I think…," The older witch started and paused. "…yes, that'll do, that's very good Mab." She finished after a moment of thought.
The girl nodded, water dripped off her hair with the action.
Her skin felt covered, filthy even, with a heavy film of ick.
The older witch met her eyes when the teen stood and looked back at her.
"How fast can you do all that?"
"I don't know, two minutes?" The younger witch paused and thought about just how long it would take with her wand in less than spectacular working condition.
"Can you use that piece of rubbish?" She pointed at the boy's broken wand.
The older witch examined it.
"Looks like Black Walnut…, I can't be too sure because of the discoloration"
She sniffed at what was left of the exposed core inside.
"…could be Erumpent hide, I'm not entirely sure about that either. It's a volatile wand with that type of core; I won't be able to get much use out of it. It's got maybe one more shot left before it's useless."
"It's not fun if it's easy."
The older woman sighed and looked agitated. "Don't be a git and get stuck." She stood and backed up a few paces.
Hands reached up from the water and swayed softly like reeds getting tossed about in the wind. They were waiting.
The teen stood near the edge of the lake. She turned her head and nodded. "Go on then."
The older witch schooled her features and raised the broken wand. It was grooved and chipped. A third of it had rotted away.
She thought which spell to use it for, to siphon the water or for the Incendio.
The girl glanced back impatiently. In response the older witch lowered the wand.
"This is not going to work. How are your transfiguration grades?" The older woman needed to know who was better because she herself was admittedly horrible at making things become other things.
Her niece looked back slack-jawed. "Oh, yes. Because now's the time to inquire about school." Her hip cocked to the side. She shrugged off her wet cloak and tossed it against the rock wall; it slid and hit the floor with a wet smack.
"Have you learned how to make dirt into flash powder yet?"
The teen looked thoughtful . "You mean 'Dragon's Breath'? That's juvenile. I got that down pat."
The older witch let out a breathe and lowered her chin. She rolled her eyes. "Flash powder is nothing like canistered dragon's breath. Only children can't tell the difference."
Her niece raised an eyebrow but said nothing in argument. "My mistake." She drawled. "Yes, I can make flash powder." It was said with an exasperated drawn out sigh and a bit of unbelief that older woman didn't know she had already learned something that simple.
"I can also wipe my own arse, is that helpful too?" Her mouth curved in a chapped-lipped smile with dirt in the corners.
"Do it to the rocks. I'm going to cast a barrier spell on you so you don't catch fire."
The older witch held out her solid wand as a response. The girl tugged on it sharply with a grin full of sass which in response got her a cloat to the back of her head.
The teen pointed the wand at the older woman with her other hand settled at home on her hip.
"That was not nice! Do you want to go swimming in the lake?" She gesticulated wildly at the water with the wand. Her upper body swayed and hunched towards the older woman.
The older witch pushed the teen's stiff wand arm towards a rock in the corner with flourish.
"And then," She added unperturbed at the younger witch's behavior. "…I'll levitate the powder around the lake so I get more use out of the one shot Incendio, and no, I do not want to go swimming in the lake. You're faster, with that 'youthful vigor' and all...," She waved a hand unable find the word she was looking for. "…that."
Her niece had long since moved her eyes away from her and went about breaking the rocks apart and turning the fragments into the proper substance. She stopped for a moment and then as if shaking a thought off went back to work.
"What? Something to say?" The older woman teased.
Without turning the teen nodded. "The tide'll be in soon"
The smile on the older woman's mouth faded. "Just a bit more of that."
When the younger witch was finished she tossed the wand back into its owner's grasp.
And then she waited.
Rolling the sleeves of her shirt up and leaving dirty streaks on her arms she watched the older witch levitate the powder over the lake.
Her toes were cold and she could hear the squish of wet socks between them.
She tightened the band holding her hair in a haphazard bun.
"I'm ready, Mab." The older woman broke the silence. Her stance was rigid with locked knees and pointed wands.
A brief sparkle came off the protective shell the older witch cast on the girl.
Picking up a handful of powder the younger witch stood ready in front of the lake.
She watched the fingers poking up swaying like reeds, it filled her belly with cold fear.
She tossed the powder with a flippant gesture and the older witch ignited it.
"Spirate!" The water spun wildly.
She jumped into the spiral from a brief running start. She heard the loud pop of the boy's wand when it exploded.
The powder hanging overhead was ablaze, a burning halo that spit bits of itself onto the jumping Inferi that bounced off the glittering spell barrier she wore.
A mass of congealed Inferi flesh pulsated with knobby veins and a translucent watery caul affixed to it in the middle of the lake.
It smelled of fusty dead things and dripped weakly with milky vitreous fluid that hit the floor with dull slapping sounds.
She ran to it and touched it with her fingertips, it twitched, her fingers jerked.
She trained her wand.
A spiral of wood came off her wand.
A spiral of the mass in front of her sluiced off onto the basin floor.
A spiral of flesh ripped off her wand arm so fast it was like a rush of wind.
She barely felt it.
Pain came a breathe later.
She bit the inside of her cheek hard enough to taste the tang of bloody spittle and made a keening sound in the back of her throat.
Her wand sparked.
The membrane of Inferi flesh around the boy made a gasping sound as air escaped and the fluid inside sloshed out at her feet.
Her arm and hand were raw, she switched her wand to the other hand and ignored the bloody mess of it.
The powder fueling the fire keeping the Inferi occupied and at bay was almost done with.
She reached inside the casing of flesh and made a fist around a handful of what felt like hair.
A hard yank dragged the torso of an emaciated thing out of it.
What was once a person now looked like bones with skin that hung off it like a grandmother's well-worn nightgown.
It was still heavy and cumbersome with its height, but she could tell it was the boy.
She knew that much by the sad, shrunken penis between his legs.
He was missing bits of skin, he bleed weakly. She assumed it was from her horribly enacted slicing spell.
Forcing him out all the way and pushing him towards the wave of water she spellcasted on herself.
She ran towards him.
His body was thrown up towards the edge, his long limbs didn't quite clear the obstacle, he mimic a loose-limbed rag-doll thrown towards a toy-box with not quite enough force.
The girl watched a wayward knee smack the rim of the lake. A sickening crunch vibrated against the wet cavern walls, she could hear it even over the shrieks of angry, smoldering Inferi.
Something was falling on her.
Dust, powder, ash, and then there was no more fire.
The Inferi were putting themselves out by rolling on top of the spinning water.
There wasn't enough time to run. Rivets of water sluiced around the toe of her forward boot. The siphon spell was done.
A sharp tug in her belly winded her, it pulled her up and over the edge of the lake.
She was dimly intrigued by the way the water splashed back into place with the absence of something to make it spin around the deep basin.
She hated the feeling of being tugged on by magic, the pull stopped when she reached the point of retching on herself.
Water and stale morning caffeine frothed from her mouth.
Her unshredded elbow made a cracking sound when it slammed into the sopping wet rock floor of the cavern.
"You took three minutes." The older witch affirmed looking both damp and soggy.
"…and you've vomited on yourself, most of it is on the ground though, how charming."
The teen nodded, she didn't care enough to snark back at the older witch.
Her arm stung, it looked ugly and red. A sensation that was made to sooth washed over it.
"Stanching spell. You sent the boy flying into a wall, I'm sure he's shattered a knee, and I can see your cutting spell is what caused everything else." The older witch explained for her niece's benefit.
The teen couldn't talk; the hit to her elbow was still sending a thrum of pain though her left arm. She noted that the boy was wearing her wet, cast off robe, it all but swallowed him alive.
"Are you going to say anything?"
The younger witch ignored her older companion in place of watching what was happening behind her haughtily unaware stance.
"They're not supposed to be able to do that." She pointed.
Shock stuck itself to the older witch's face when she turned to look at what was happening near the edge of the lake.
"Shite! Get up, time to go!" She levitated the boy behind her, plucked the teen from her spot on the cavern floor, and skidded to the closed rock wall leaving the younger witch unsteady on her feet.
She touched a palm bloodied up from tending to the boy and her niece to the wall. It rumbled and started to open with a gnarled hungry sound to it.
The teen hadn't moved. She swayed on her feet.
They weren't supposed to be able to do that, the Inferi.
They weren't supposed to be able to leave the lake.
Siphoned lake water dripped off every inch of the cavern and they floated above it.
It had been a right and bloody stupid idea she had suggested to siphon all the water out of the bloody lake.
Her tactician skills were, in her opinion severely lacking.
The thought would have made her laugh if the Inferi weren't close enough to smell.
"Mab!" The older witch made a move to run over and grab her.
There was no way she could run to the older witch, the Inferi would reach out and not let go, there were too many, and with only one good wand between the two of them…
…and a cumbersome piece of human meat to drag along with them, what was needed was a distraction.
"Sorry if you slam into a wall." The teen raised her wand and willed for very large barrier to happen about out of it.
The older witch and the skeleton of a boy flew out the opening in the wall all billowing black robes and flailing limbs when the older witch tried to run towards the girl.
The half-dead watched, distracted, unassuming.
The wand sputtered.
The wall closed and the Inferi has almost closed a circle around her.
She ran with lungs burning and smeared her arm across the rock.
A now familiar slow rumbling rang out.
Her heart tattooed a frantic rhythm against her ribs and her stomach spun tight, fast rotations inside her belly.
The wall was open enough then but something had fingers circled around her ankle and fingers tugging her hair making her head loll backwards.
She turned and pointed and hoped she was going to get very lucky.
"Incendio!" The wand exploded and shattered. She saw the pieces fly; she felt them in her left arm, the side of her face, pinching the skin under her denims.
Her hair was curling and glowing, she realized it was probably on fire.
The protection spell wasn't meant to last long anyway, she figured it had been done by the time the older witch had accioed her out of the lake.
She heard them howl out and watched the wall slam back into place with flaming bits of Inferi flesh brightening the damp hall leading out of the cave.
Something stopped her from flying.
It didn't feel like a wall, she wouldn't have cared much if it was though, she didn't care much for the feeling of being thrown through the air for a second time in as many minutes.
Something dragged and doused her in salty water.
Something slapped her sore, sooty face.
"Merlin and Morgan! You are a git!"
The same something slapped her harder.
Water rolled over her shoulders and onto her chest.
Her chest heaved and water washed down her torso.
Her vision was spotted and metallic.
"Stop smacking me! We're all alive." The teen took a ragged breath and clenched her fingers into a tight fist; her ragged nails irritated her palm and made her arm hurt worse.
Something smelt like burnt breakfast, slowly she realized it was her.
The teen opened her eyes at the smart remark from her elder.
"Save all that wit for the welcome witch when you check me into Mungos' I ache like a cheap whore." She tried to sit up in the rising tide water, she fell back with a splash.
"I don't think so. I'd rather like to see you scar a bit for your stupidity." The older witch paused and added with a harsh hiss, "Honesty Mab! I've never presided over so botched an operation in my life!"
"I am severely affronted by your lack of concern." The teen intoned raising her head a bit and then letting it fall back into the water.
She regretted the action, the salt water made her burns sting badly.
She sent a wave of the ocean water towards the older witch with a kicking foot.
The woman let out a breath, loudly. "Dry your eyes and get up while I still have the energy to apparate all three of us, or before we drown."
The older witch took notice of the tide coming in and made a move to button her robe; a broken fastener fell off into the water with a unexciting plop. She glared at it while it sunk into the sea water and drifted under, away from glance and out of sight.
"Can you get up?" The question was asked with a bit of actual concern. It made the younger witch grin.
"There's a plumb joke."
She made no move to get up after spouting off her smart remark, she fumbled with her cigarette case and realized in the midst of opening it that they would be wet, again. She flipped the metal band holding them inside and they fell into the water. Thin white cylinders floated around her head.
Loose pieces of wet tobacco fell onto her face, the way it felt on her ruined skin made her eyes tear.
She staggered heavily to her feet with help from the older witch.
Her temples throbbed and the water in her ears was making them sore.
With a cold, wet hand she wiped the particles of tobacco off her face.
"Here. Put this on. We'll have words when we get home." The older witch extended her own cloak towards the girl.
She reached for it, a stray thread pulled at a bit of loose nail.
"There are few greater pleasures, but words will hardly be our most pressing concern, one would think if one was here."
The cloak smelled like stale sweat and familiarity when she pulled it on. When she lifted the hood over her head fibers stuck themselves to her scorched skin.
"That's better. We'll get you taken care of soon. One would imagine Grimmauld Place to become quite popular during the summer term." There was an upwards twitch to her tightly drawn, middle-aged mouth.
The younger witch snorted unattractively.
"Yes, I assume it makes for quite the cheery professors' lie about. Let's go, I think I'm dying."
"You probably are." The older witch grinned openly.
"I want small children singing, calla lilies, and fireworks at my funeral." The teen joked.
"You can start writing your obituary when we get home."
The teen looked at their uninspiring bounty.
The boy was slumped against the wall, his pointy features almost completely obscured by the hood of the borrowed robe.
She hoped he was worth the trouble.
As best she could, she helped in lifting him holding his left arm in place around her neck and her right arm over her aunt's at his waist.
They disappeared with a pop, the lurch of apparition made her want to lurch, in a very different kind of way, cigarettes and morning marmalade.
A/N: If you dug this review and leave me some love, if you didn't well then that's alright too. Concrit is most certainly welcome.