I Fall(out) to Pieces

Chapter Sixteen

By DireSquirrel


War never changes.

October Twenty-Third, in the year 2077, the bombs fell. Those people who survived did so in vast underground vaults where they lived for decades, or in some cases, for over a century.

The prospective vault dwellers of the United States had suffered false alarm after false alarm and the Americans had found the story of the boy who cried wolf all too true. In Europe, already being consumed in the fires of the Resource Wars, both sides were caught with their trousers down around their ankles. When the bombs fell, the effects were devastating. Millions died in the initial impacts. Whole cities were reduced to radioactive rubble. Those who were lucky enough to live away from the most tempting of targets thought the worst was over. It was not.

Days later, the Black Rain came. Radioactive ash and clouds built up around the particles fell from the sky in broad swaths over the continents. Species that had survived everything humans had done unto that point went extinct. Others survived, if one could call it that, but happiness was redefined almost overnight.

Vault Tech had made contracts with a number of Western Nations before the war fell into such a downward spiral. Vault construction began even in the war torn regions of France, Norway, the Low Countries and West Germany, but were more successful in the islands off to the north west.

Of these, Ireland was perhaps the most successful above and below ground. Unlike in other nations, the Emerald Isle cherry picked their vault dwellers for preservation of culture, language and talent. People were not pleased by the perceived elitism, but the vaults were filled to government specifications with the best that Ireland had to offer.

When the missiles flew, without the same level of resources other nations claimed nor possessing nuclear missiles, only a few were aimed at the island. Of all the Irish cities, only Dublin turned into a true wasteland of radiation, fire and dust, the prevailing winds hauling the radiation eastward over the Irish Sea and into Great Britain. This alone saved the surviving above-ground Irish, with the Atlantic Ocean and warm Gulf Stream acting as a buffer to the deadly weather that hit so many other places. Power and infrastructure were broken, set back decades, perhaps even a century and a half, but Eire prevailed. Ireland's lack of hyper-industrialization was the ironic source of its post-Great War prosperity.

Mainland Europe did not fare quite so well. Already ravaged by war, only the allied West European nations of France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Spain participated in the Vault project with full enthusiasm. Their populations had already been quite depleted by war and the vaults were not quite so full as hoped. Experiments were abandoned and instead anyone able to pass a health test was sent inside. For these nations, the male vault population was quite low and those who did enter were mostly the elderly and children, the adult fathers and workers having been long since sent to war.

The Low Countries, having been Western Europe's highway to the east and Central Europe's highway to the west for centuries, was once more burdened by foreign armies fighting over them like feral dogs over a juicy stake. Construction on their vaults began and stopped multiple times. Only a third of the intended vaults were finished in time. Only two of those ten had populations sustainable enough to avoid dangerous inbreeding. Eight vaults were locked away, their secrets hidden from the world, as Soviet missiles shattered the dykes and the sea came rushing in.

Germany East and West, Austria, Hungary and Poland were hit from both sides. With the nations filled with armies, there had been no time to build any structure and the survivors of the fallout were on their own.

Eastern Europe, still mostly controlled by the communists, reportedly had their own programs of similar intent, but not even the spies could really give one the details. Each report was different from the others, each suspected location in disagreement with other reports. Perhaps they were all true and perhaps they were all false.

The United Kingdom, on the other hand, was not quite so successful as Ireland, but not as poor off as France or Germany. The nation had escaped most of the fighting by nature of being an island and allied to the closest nations. There had been non-nuclear bombing runs at times, but it had been nothing like the Blitz and most combat the British saw was at sea or in other countries. On the Mainland, Britain provided the allies with troops who, when those poor souls reached the continent, the Resource Wars made plots of richer soil as had a number of wars before.

It had been smart of Britain to have a specific date for the Vaults. The people were settled and in their routines for over two months before the Bombs hit. None of the vaults were in any danger, though many tried to break in, something Vault-Tech, in its Public/Private partnership with the Home Office, had discouraged with pride, prejudice and protectrons.

People had, of course, objected to the limits and restrictions of the vaults. Most vaults were for a maximum of two thousand people, twice that of American vaults, but still there was no possible way for the United Kingdom to build enough for the millions of people who called the British Isles home, necessitating the restrictions. Lawsuits were brought up, objecting to the fact they had been rejected, but those lawsuits ultimately failed when the bombs fell. One lawsuit was a rich man intended for Vault UK-09, who owned a skyscraper and wanted to count it as one of the five items. That lawsuit was thrown out of court, the man fined and his family's vault tickets revoked. There were few subsequent lawsuits.

The Prime Minister had arranged to have people make their own fallout structures filled with fresh water, canned goods and what not, but still, it was not possible to save everyone. People took refuge in caverns (especially in the Nottingham region), in bunkers made over a century previous for the last threat of nuclear war in the 1960s and in any other structure they could find.

When the bombs finally started to fly, people had but a few hours warning. Many dismissed it as another hoax. Many died.

It was particularly brisk that October morning when the Prime Minister called to his magical counterpart.

"Nonsense!" the stuffy Minister for Magic snorted, his round form jiggling in protest.

"I can assure you, Minister Fudge," the Prime Minister said with no ounce of anything but pure seriousness, "that I speak no lies. There are one hundred and three aeroplanes on flightplans aimed right at London. Hundreds more at other English cities. Similar numbers aimed at Scotland and Wales."

"I don't give one damn about any muggle airheads you might have," Cornelius Fudge protested. He sneered, turned and vanished in green flame as he stepped into the 10 Downing Street fireplace.

Cornelius Fudge would not learn to regret not heeding these warnings, both from the muggles and from Harry Potter himself, but that would not be true of others under the Minister's purview. Plenty of other magicals would live to regret Minister Fudge's errors in judgment. The area around Diagon Alley did not suffer a direct hit, but upstream an unexploded bomb would keep a steady supply of radiation into the sewers flowing beneath the streets, having dire consequences for those witches and wizards who survived the initial assault and atomic bombardment. Freeze flame charms do little when set against Oppenheimer's horror.

Not all magicals, however, were as complacent as Minister Fudge.

Kingsley Shacklebolt had been assigned as the magical guard over the Prime Minister for some time. Pretending to be a secretary, the man stood up when he saw his charge rush out of the door.

"Son, you'd best be getting to a safe place," the PM instructed.

"So it's coming," Kingsley said. It wasn't a question, but the PM nodded in confirmation regardless. "Thank you for the warning. How long do we have?"

"Five hours," the aid to the PM said before glancing at his watch. "And forty-three minutes."

"It's been a pleasure working with you, Prime Minister," Kingsley said with a solemn handshake. He pulled out his wand and apparated away, not caring about the breach of a certain Statute. The PM chuckled darkly at his aid's shock.

"We need to get the Queen to her Vault," The PM said.

Kingsley Shacklebolt's warning spread quickly through those in the know. He apparated to the Ministry atrium and quickly sent off a Patronus to his superior, then to others. His heart clenched when he realized how they'd cherry picked those they knew were trustworthy. John Dawlish nodded to him and apparated away. His messages sent, Shacklebolt apparated to his flat, grabbed his emergency bags, packed them magically with everything he owned, and portkeyed to Hogwarts.

"Percy, it's time to go," Arthur Weasley said to his third child.

"Father, I don't want to hear what you have to say," the stuck up child said with a sneer. "There's no need to pay attention to the whining of some attention seeking child."

"Perce," Bill said. "This isn't a joke. It's coming whether you like it or not. We need to be together as a family."

"Then you can subtract me from the family," Percy Weasley replied with his nose in the air as he glanced out the door towards the Minister's office. "Now, if you'll excuse me, Minister Fudge needs these files."

He stood up, tucked the rolls of parchment under one arm and turned to leave the room. Bill sighed, pulled out a beater bat and thwacked his younger brother across the back of his head. Percy fell to the ground, the scrolls rolling down the stairs.

"William, was that really necessary?" their father asked. "Couldn't have you just stunned him?"

Bill shook his head. "Couldn't risk that he'd fall down the stairs. And besides that was a little cathartic. He's been a wicked prat these past few months."

His father gave a deep sigh and cast a levicorpus spell, grabbing both sons by the arm as Bill activated the Portkey. They arrived in the atrium of Hogwarts along side a number of other families, Molly rushed up to them.

"He'll be fine, love," Arthur said as his wife fussed over her unconscious son. "If a little angry. At least after Poppy looks after him."

"Oh, he's got a bump," Molly fussed.

"He, uh, hit his head after I stunned him," Bill said, refusing to meet her eyes.

"We'd best leave the atrium for others arriving," Arthur put in and that portion of the Weasley Family set off to the infirmary.

Charlie appeared a few minutes later by portkey, bearing an armful and backpack full of eggs of the smallest of dragons, a type whose adults were barely longer than a grown man's arm. It wasn't legal in Britain, but he wasn't about to let them die in muggle created hellfire.

"Fred, George," he called out as he attempted to haul his luggage and his precious incubating cargo all at the same time. The twins jogged over. "How are you?"

"Charlie!" they said excitedly. "We didn't know if you were going to make it."

"I meant to be here earlier, but it took some time to get things organized. There's more coming," he said. "Do we have time?"

"Yeah, a few hours," George, or Fred, replied. "Come on, Bill knocked out Percy, so Mum and Dad dragged them to the Infirmary. You can leave those around here somewhere." He nodded to the eggs tucked under one arm.

"Pardon me if I bring them with," Charlie commented with a smirk. "You two with an unattended dragon egg?"

"Oi! It's not like we're Hagrid," Fred, or George, protested lowly.

"Let's go see Mum and Dad," their second oldest brother replied with a roll of his eyes.

Other families arrived one by one. Hogsmeade was nearly empty as it appeared some enterprising young wizards were kidnapping residents with rubber portkey darts developed by the Weasley Twins. The house elves had been informed earlier of this eventuality and transported everything they could into a haphazard street within the enlarged Chamber of Secrets. The walls and corridors were now filled with the familiar sights of Hogsmeade, though in an unfamiliar fashion and with alleys rather than streets.

Animals expressed their displeasure at being transported in a cacophony of noises that moved as the sheep, goats, fowl and other farm animals meandered around the fake greens. The house elves herded the beasts into pens and went back to saving all the people and their homes as they could.

"Fawkes, go my friend," Albus Dumbledore said, giving his feathered friend a stack of letters and watching as his familiar burst into flames and vanish. He set a command, and the earth rumbled. He watched outside his window as a dull gray halves of a dome rose out of the ground like gigantic jaws clamping over the greenhouses and closed over it, the walkways similarly covered. The dome was charmed on the underside just as the Great Hall, to show the world outside and allow the plants to grow. The actual space was ten times the size of the previous greenhouses and hopefully enough to feed everyone.

The Headmaster turned away and tapped his wand in the air quickly.

"Tempus," he said. There were only two hours and fifty-seven minutes left. With a sigh of regret at what he was about to do, he shut down the Floo system. A moment later he sent out a message for everyone to gather in the Great Hall. He had a few errands, but as long as they didn't leave, they were safe.

"Thank you Fawkes," Mandragorian said, taking the letter from the phoenix. The bird chirped and vanished once more. The Eldest Centaur nodded as he opened the letter. "It has begun. Bane, get everyone to the caves."

"Are you sure?"

"Albus Dumbledore is convinced and he made sure we had ample warning," the wizened centaur said sadly. "Go. Gather everyone in the caves. We will survive; the stars have told us that much."

"Very well, father," Bane said sadly as he moved to gather the foals.

Fleur Delacour looked on in worry as her grandmother gave the Hogwarts Headmaster's phoenix a kiss on the beak as she took the letter. As much as she wanted to be with Bill, her new-found boyfriend, she knew this was a time for family. She clutched her tiny sister closely. Her grandmother held out a length of rope for her family and they all, veela, witch, blends there-of, and wizards, clutched, appearing in the ancient Citadel of the veela in the Pyrenees. The wind was cold as it cut through the mountains. She shivered as they all wandered up into the ancient castle that had protected them from so many things in the past.

She knew this was not like Napoleon's Army, nor Grindlewald's magical SS. She just hoped it was enough.

Water sizzled as Fawkes appeared, his flames sending up a burst of steam bubbles from the depths of Black Lake. The Merfolk took their letter and retreated to the greatest depths, bidding goodbye to the giant squid and hoping it survived what was to come.

The giant squid, being a very wise and ancient creature, had suspicions that things were not going to be all fun and games. They were very prescient thoughts.

Fawkes made more trips, each time to those groups who would be least likely to get a more traditional warning. The Vampires clans, the Werewolf packs, the Giants of Russia. Some heeded the warnings, some did not. Fawkes cared little as it was their own decision. In the end he flamed to London and took up perch on the face of Big Ben, waiting for Oppenheimer's Light to shine.

The Great Hall had been enchanted for many things. The most famous and most obvious was the ceiling, showing the outside at all times. The next was less obvious, but equally important. The Great Hall would enlarge or contract to fit as many people as it needed to and it had expanded quite a bit as Dumbledore looked on as families clutched each other. Some of the plan was unethical, taking people's free will away and there were already Prophet subscribers yelling at him for his impertinence and illegal abductions.

He ignored them all and strode to the great chair at the head table. When the noise rose with Delores Umbridge getting people riled up, he'd had enough. He lifted his wand and a cannonblast let out.

"There, that's better," he said. "You may be wondering why I've summoned you here today."

He went on to explain the situation, why he had taken such drastic measures and had summarily ignored anyone who attempted to interrupt. He'd eventually had one too many "ahem" calls from his left. "Delores Umbridge! Cease your idiotic prattle!"

"The Minister will hear of this!"

"No, he will not because in just a few minutes he'll be dead or worse," the Headmaster replied flatly, all humor vanished from his voice, no twinkle in his eyes. There was a hush over the crowd.

"You damn fool!" Draco Malfoy yelled out.

"Detention, Malfoy," McGonagall said quickly, hitting him with a full body bind.

"Thank you, Minerva," Dumbledore said. "Tempus. Fifteen minutes. Well, I suppose if you don't believe me, you'll just have to see for yourselves."

He flicked his wand and his communication mirror stuck to the wall behind him. Another flick and a twist widened the glass to fill the entire back room.

"Old Bailey," Albus commanded and soon an image of the London Skyscape appeared. It looked down on the city. People seemed so small. Cars and lorries like ants crawling along predestined pathways through traffic lined up side by side, bumper to bumper as everyone tried to leave the city at the same time.

He glanced up and noticed shapes appearing on the horizon. They grew closer and closer until the red hammer and sickle could be seen on the nose. Their payload doors opened and bombs fell like dribbled crumbs from a child's hand.

"Oh, it seems they're early," the old man said sadly. He tapped his wand to the table three times, and the walls of Hogwarts sealed shut, every door, window, crack and crevice sealed as tight as magic could. He sat down as the assembled witches and wizards watched in horror as the world burned. The mirror toned down the light so they were able to see in detail the horrors human kind was capable of.

"See what your minister has wrote by ignoring Mr. Potter's warnings, Delores. See what you fools have done to the Wizarding World," Albus said darkly, his voice suddenly heavy, seeming to shake through everyone present. "I take no pride in saying 'I told you so' but even so, told you, I did." Albus Dumbledore sat down in his chair and sobbed for those he could not save.

AN: Thanks so much to the Caer Azkaban crew for all their critiques and advice.

The next chapter will focus on the events of Grimmauld Place.