Lovely Chapter by AccioHPFF and myself, LovlyRita
One of his favourite things about working at Hogwarts was marking homework parchments at his large mahogany desk at night by candlelight, with the vast expanse of twinkling stars a stunning back drop against the spooky forbidden forest serving as his scenery. Garbed in silk, ruby coloured pyjamas, Neville Longbottom had achieved success as the dedicated head of Gryffindor house and Herbology professor. He smiled as he marked a few corrections on a second year’s essay with his quill. His chambers were decorated with warm red tapestries, and the glowing flames in the fireplace chased the early spring chill from his bones. Life was absolutely grand for him. His children had grown up, his beautiful wife came to visit him every weekend during the school year, and being head of Gryffindor was one of the greatest honours he had ever dreamed to have.
It literally would have been impossible for Neville to have dreamed of a better or fuller life; he had everything on earth. So, when news of Harry Potter’s death swept through the castle like a poisoned fiendfyre, Neville found himself extremely saddened, and yet grateful for the blessings that life had bestowed upon him. Harry had been a treasured friend, and they had stayed close following the war. His children had spent weekends at Harry’s, and vice versa. Along with Ron and Hermione, the end of their youth and the flourish of adulthood hadn’t been a particularly smooth transition, but they had made it all work.
Neville shook his head and attempted to concentrate on his marking once more. He still had another stack of N.E.W.T. level essays to grade, which would be a much more tedious task than the second years’ essays, for sure. His head was swimming with tales of magical plants and herbs when a frantic knock came from the other side of the door into his chambers. Frowning slightly, Neville placed his quill on the desk and stood, wrapping himself in a large oversized terry cloth robe. He stole a quick glance at his receding hairline in the mirror and sighed before moving toward his door. The knock came again, louder this time.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming,” he muttered. He grabbed the golden handle and pulled back, only to be nearly run over by a figure dressed in black.
“Neville!” It was that same, familiar, yet raspy voice called. Disgruntled, he turned to meet his guest and was completely taken aback by her appearance. Her hair stood in every which direction, her clothes were torn and nearly hanging from her thin form, and she was bleeding from multiple sites on her forearms and face.
“Hermione? What the hell happened?” He pulled up a chair quickly for her to sit down.
“Neville, I’ve done something terrible...” she carried off, collapsing in the handsomely upholstered seat trimmed in gold.
“Tell me. Tell me everything.”
“Harry...it’s...I’ve created...and he...” She was stuttering, as though she could barely believe the words coming from her mouth.
“Hermione,” he began, the muscles in his face beginning to relax. “I think I understand. I miss him too. Of course life is hard without him, and it’ll be difficult to say goodbye, but we’ll move on, like we always do.”
“No! Neville, listen to me, you have to listen. I’ve done something, terrible. I have these--” she reached deeply into her pockets and pulled out shards of glass, all of which had varying shades of colourful residue on them, “--and you have to tell me what this is on it. Or help me find something, the potions master...someone...I’ve done something awful.”
“What are you on about?” he asked suspiciously, glancing around the room. Hermione seemed completely wild.
“It’s hard to explain. I thought...it’s silly, really. I thought that...if I used some spells...some healer magic, some ancient things, that I might...be able to revive Harry. And...it worked. Sort of.”
Neville’s jaw dropped, and he stood frozen in place, scarcely believing her words.
“You brought Harry back to life?”
“Yes. Well, no, but...” she met his gaze then, and he could feel the sheer terror in the weight of it. “I created a zombie. A Harry zombie.”
“You...you what? That’s not possible.” Perhaps she had a fever, or it could be stress from helping Ginny plan the funeral. Or perhaps she’d eaten some bad food.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It is possible, and I have proof in the basement of the Ministry.”
Neville raised his eyebrows incredulously before leaning against the edge of his desk. The impossible sentence she had just uttered danced in his brain. The proposition...the actuality of it...was more than just ridiculous. It was utterly terrifying.
“Why would there be a zombie in the basement? There are no such thing as zombies, just inferi, and Harry is no inferi.”
“Neville.” Hermione’s voice had lost its distressed fluctuation. “I tried some spells I shouldn’t have. I didn’t have a firm knowledge of what I was doing. I had a flippant thought while grieving, while watching Ginny cry and the son Harry loved so much refusing to come out of his room for anyone. I thought of Ron, and the way that I’ve been forced to live my life and...I didn’t want that for Ginny. I didn’t want it for me. So I tried a stupid spell, I don’t think I ever actually thought it would work. When I started the spell, there was this warmth in the room, and then these vials...they burst.” She held out the shards of glass again. “The contents all combined into this thick black substance that ended up washing Harry when the spell was over. And a few minutes later...Harry looked at me with the darkest eyes I’ve ever seen on a person. And then he attacked me. I hurt my ankle and...Neville, I’m not lying to you. Harry is walking, and he can see. But he isn’t alive.”
Neville took in each word of her story, feeling himself escape further into despair. If what she said was true...
“We have to go to see Roger Davies. He’s the potions master now after Slughorn died a few years ago. He’ll be able to help us out with this. But Hermione...if what you’re saying is true, then that means he could infect other people if he comes into contact with them. The myths about zombies are that they feed on--”
“--human nervous tissue,” Hermione finished. “I know. They like human brain, it’s what drives them. And worst of all, they can’t be touched by magic, or at least Harry can’t. I tried everything except the killing curse. He just kept coming at me, moaning with this gargling voice. I don’t know what to do, but I need to figure out what these vials are.”
Neville sighed and stood upright, nodding. “Right. Come on then, off to Ravenclaw tower.”
"Wait, wait," Hermione breathed, rolling up the leg of her trousers. Her ankle had turned purple and was swollen three times its normal size. "I have to fix this before we go anywhere."'
"Alright," Neville eyed injury with uncertainty. "Shall I call upon the infirmary...or...?"
"No, no, I think I can do it, but it's going to be painful. Healing has not always been my strong suit." Hermione pointed her wand at her ankle, took a deep breath, and murmured a healing spell. She gritted her teeth to keep from screaming, and within minutes her skin had returned to its normal colour. "That'll do for now. Let's go."
The corridors of Hogwarts were deserted as the team bounded quickly, their footsteps echoing in the empty expanse. It seemed like hours before they reached the tower, and Hermione felt like she was a student again. If she wasn’t so terrified of her creation, she would have enjoyed it. Neville knocked on the large door to Davies’ quarters, and he opened it sleepily a minute later.
“Neville? Hermione Weasley? To what do I owe this honour?” His voice dripped heavily with the arrogance that had tainted his persona since youth.
“I need your help. Immediately,” Hermione started, inviting herself into his room.
“What’s the rush, Weasley? Surely this could have waited until morning, I do have classes tomorrow, you know.”
“Listen to her, Roger. It’s serious.” Neville was always the peacemaker.
“I need you to tell me what the residue on these glass shards are.” Hermione held out her hand and dumped them onto the corner of his desk. His room was decorated in cool Ravenclaw blue, and his desk sat in the corner of the room with a plaque announcing Ravenclaw as last year’s house cup winners adorning the wall behind him.
He raised his eyebrows at her and turned back to his desk, eying the pieces suspiciously.
“What’s the rush? That hardly seems to be something I should trouble myself with this late in the evening.”
“Just do it, Davies!” Hermione exclaimed in exasperation. “This is official Ministry business. It’s a special job, I’ll pay you if that’s what you’re looking for, I just need the results ASAP.”
“Well, I can’t just look at this and know what the substance is, can I? It’ll take a few days to run tests. Dreadful time of year, very busy.”
Suddenly Hermione drew her wand and pointed it at Roger Davies’ throat, leaving Neville’s mouth agape. Roger sucked in a breath in surprise and narrowed his eyes ominously.
“Listen to me. You will do it, and you will do it now. This is not up for debate. This is a matter of life and death...or...anyway, I need you to do this now. Look at them, and tell me what you know.” She pointed with her other hand, bidding him permission to turn to look.
“You’ll regret this, Weasley.”
“Not as much as you will if you don’t do this.”
“What are you going to do? You don’t have it in you, not perfect Hermione,” he gloated. Hermione felt her features grow dark as the anger she’d been fighting to abate grew around her.
“Oh don’t be stupid. I’m not going to kill you. But I work at the Ministry, and am just starting work for the department of Magical Law Enforcement. I’m sure I could find something. Failing to assist with an investigation, perhaps.”
Roger rolled his eyes dramatically and rolled up the sleeves of his robe.
“Very well. But I wasn’t lying about the time. It will take me a few days to run some tests to figure out exactly what the chemicals are.” He grabbed a few of pieces and held them up to the candle. One of them was dark brown in colour. “This one looks like juice from the sophorous bean which of course is used in draught of the living death.”
“Well that’s helpful,” Neville put in quietly.
“This piece...it’s hard to tell, I’m not sure. This other one, the purplish colour suggests that it was already a potion, maybe invigoration draught, maybe something else. Looks like this could be hellebore...it looks like it’s from a store of potions and ingredients, to be honest. I’ll have to run tests, like I said--Would you get that bloody thing out of my face!”
Hermione blinked several times before lowering her wand. “Sorry. Thanks for your help. Get to work and figure it out. I’ll check back later. Neville, Come on. I need you to come with me.”
“Wait!” Roger snarled, whipping around. “You need to tell me what I’m doing this for. I don’t work for free.”
“You’ll be rewarded for your time. Calm down. It’s for Ministry business.”
“I don’t buy that bullshit. This isn’t at all the Ministry way, I’ve worked on projects for them before. I demand to know what this work is going towards, and how I’ll be compensated.”
“You ought to show him what he’s working for. That’d shut him up,” Neville muttered, clearly unhappy to be of no use.
“Shut up, Neville,” Hermione urged. “Fine. I’ll pay you 120 galleons for it. And what it’s for is top secret.”
“Longbottom seems to know,” Roger put in.
“Well...all right then. If you want to see it, you’ll have to come to the Ministry with me.”
“I’m not about to be ‘escorted’ to the Ministry if that’s what you think.”
“Fine, don’t. Either way, I’ve got things I have to do. So thanks for your help at such short notice. The...Ministry...appreciates it.” Hermione smiled at him, almost daring him to come.
“Right. Find your own way out then. I’ll send a report to your office, most likely in 3-4 days.”
When they were back in Neville’s quarters, Hermione sat back down in her chair by the fire and put her head in her hands. Neville gave her a firm pat on the back.
“I’ll come with you if you want,” he said nervously, wringing his fingers together.
“Neville, don’t be silly. You’ve got classes tomorrow. This is my burden, my stress. I did this.” Her words seemed to sink in then for the first time all night. “Oh my...I did this. This is my fault. I...I ruined Harry. I ruined him! And his funeral...his funeral is tomorrow and I...Ginny will never forgive me and...” The tears slipped from her eyes again but she brushed them angrily away.
“Stop it,” Neville instructed. “This is not all your fault. You couldn’t have seen this coming. Either way, we need to get back to the Ministry and...kill him...again. Before he kills someone else.”
“How! How are we to kill him? Magic doesn’t seem to work!” She cried, exasperated.
“Well, I haven’t figured that out yet. But we’ll find a way. Knives maybe.”
“I’m coming with you,” he asserted.
“Then we should go. Because the longer we sit here, the more time we waste. I’ve been gone nearly two hours. Let’s go.”
The duo stole away into the night, and disapparated once they reached the edge of the Hogwarts grounds. Once they apparated into London, just outside the Ministry, Hermione immediately knew something was amiss. There were several witches and wizards roaming around outside the Ministry.
“What...” Neville started, but he was unable to finish. There was a clear path of destruction down the side street behind the dilapidated building that adequately hid the gorgeous architecture of the Ministry.
“Oh no...oh no...” Hermione repeated several times, looking around. There were several people in the road, blood surrounding their broken bodies. It was grotesque, and Neville diverted his gaze. “He’s escaped...I don’t know how...but he’s gone...”
A/N: Ok so there are definitely some people once again to thank. Giola for her guidance and reading this for me before I sent it out. Or at least part of it anyway. And AccioHPFF For the AMAZING chapter image and also for being so kind as to beta this chapter and the previous to pick out all my mistakes
Thank you to Roots in Water for pointing something important about the POV out, which I have since fixed :)
I know a story about zombies is a little bizarre and maybe not something you would normally read, but I am sincerely trying to take something that's often mocked and make it into something amazing! So, thanks for reading, and I've already started the next chapter :)
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